Trepidity writes: "The extensive NASA Technical Report Archive was just taken offline, following pressure from members of U.S. Congress, worried that Chinese researchers could be reading the reports. U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) demanded that "NASA should immediately take down all publicly available technical data sources until all documents that have not been subjected to export control review have received such a review", and NASA appears to have complied. Although all reports are in the public domain, there doesn't appear to be a third-party mirror available (some university libraries do have subsets on microfiche)."
Trepidity writes: "United States Navy Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert stirred a controversy by questioning much of the thinking underlying current U.S. defense technology. He argues that stealth technology is unlikely to retain its usefulness much into the future, and so focus should switch towards standoff weapons. In addition, he criticizes the focus on expensive all-in-one platforms such as the F-35 fighter, arguing for a payload-centric, flexible approach he compares to trucks rather than luxury cars."
Trepidity writes: "In a decision today (pdf), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act "does not extend to violations of use restrictions", and therefore violating terms of service and corporate use policies is not a federal crime. Law profesor Orin Kerr cheered the decision, but since three other Courts of Appeals have reached opposite decisions, it might be heading to the Supreme Court."
Trepidity writes: "In a case being closely watched by companies like Amazon and Google, for the implications it could have for their own cloud-based "music locker" services, a judge ruled in the case of MP3Tunes that the way such services operate is generally legal. In particular, they are eligible for DMCA safe-harbor protections, and de-duplication of identical files uploaded by different users does not create a "master copy" that would make the company liable for public-performance royalties. Furthermore, if a fingerprint finds an exact match with an already-uploaded file, the company can legally skip the actual uploading step, rather than only de-duplicating after upload. While this is good news for many other such services, MP3Tunes itself partially lost, because they hadn't properly responded to DMCA takedown notices, and the company's founder had made the bone-headed move of personally distributing public links to some of the "privately" stored copyrighted music. Full decision here (PDF)."
Trepidity writes: "Controversy continues over the seemingly unstoppable trend of "gamification" (something Slashdot's covered previously). The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business held a Gamification Symposium entitled "For The Win" this week, indicating apparent academic respectability. But in the opening panel debating definitions of "gamification", one participant, game scholar Ian Bogost, defined it as "bullshit". Elsewhere, Jon Radoff responds that it may not be bullshit, but is too focused on superficial behaviorism rather than deeper gameplay. For my part, I wonder if by claiming gamification is a completely new thing, rather than just a new word, we're missing out on important past lessons, like the very strange history of Soviet gamification."
Trepidity writes: "Wikipedia has been making an effort to mark up articles with latitude-longitude coordinates when they refer to a specific location. It's now done so for over a million articles (across all languages). I was curious which parts of the world have gotten the most coverage. The answer is: Florence, Italy has the most articles within a 1-km-diameter circle; and London tops both the 10-km and 100-km lists. Here are the full results."
Trepidity writes: "Cow Clicker distilled Facebook games down to their essence: clicking on cows. Since then, though, social games have upped their sights, focusing on lofty goals like solving hunger, disease, and poverty. Not wanting to miss this utopian gaming trend, Cow Clicktivism turns clicks on cows into real cows, via Oxfam America. Even better, anyone with a revolutionary idea for how clicking on cows can fix the world can now implement it, using the Cow Clicker API."
mjn writes: "Game designer and academic Ian Bogost announces Cow Clicker, a Facebook game implementing the mechanics of the Facebook-games genre stripped to their core. You get a cow, which you can click on every six hours. You earn additional clicks if your friends in your pasture also click. You can buy premium cows with 'mooney', and also use your mooney to buy more clicks. You can buy mooney with real dollars, or earn some free bonus mooney if you spam up your feed with Cow Clicker activity. A satire of Facebook games, but actually as genuine a game as the non-satirical games are. And people actually play it, perhaps confirming Bogost's view that the genre of games is largely just "brain hacks that exploit human psychology in order to make money", which continue to work even when the users are openly told what's going on."
mjn writes: "Continuing their recent push to archive more digital content, the U.S. Library of Congress announced a deal with Twitter to archive all public tweets, dating back to Twitter's inception in March 2006. More details at their blog. No word yet on precisely what will be done with the collection, but besides entering your friends' important updates on the quality of breakfast into the permanent archival record, the deal may improve access for researchers wanting to analyze and mine Twitter's giant database."
Trepidity writes: "In a case that has been winding its way through the courts for a bit, a Wisconsin prison banned inmates from playing Dungeons & Dragons, using the justification that 'one player is denoted the Dungeon Master... [who] is tasked with giving directions to other players... [which] mimics the organization of a gang'. The prison also cited some sparse evidence that a handful of non-inmate D&D players once committed some crimes that allegedly were related to their D&D playing. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld [pdf] the regulation Monday against challenges from inmates. The court appeared skeptical of the ban, sarcastically referring to it as the 'war on D&D', but nonetheless upheld it as having a 'rational basis'. Law prof. Ilya Somin suggests that the court may have had no choice, given how deferential rational-basis review usually is."
mjn writes: "Computational media researcher Nick Montfort traces the murky origins of Zork's name. It's well known that the word was used in MIT hacker jargon around that time, but how did it get there? Candidates are the term "zorch" from late 1950s DIY electronics slang, the use of the term as a placeholder in some early 1970s textbooks, the typo a QWERTY user would get if he typed "work" on an AZERTY keyboard, and several uses in obscure sci-fi. No solid answers so far, though, as there are problems with many of the possible explanations, that would have made MIT hackers unlikely to have run across them at the right time."
Trepidity writes: "The U.S. Supreme Court held oral argument Monday in Bilski, a business-methods patent case that might also have important implications for software patents (Slashdot's previously covered the case severaltimes). The tone of the argument appears to be good news, as the justices were very skeptical of the broad patentability claims. They even brought up a parade of absurd hypothetical patents quite similar to the ones Slashdotters tend to mention in these kinds of debates. Roberts surmised that "buy low, sell high" might be a patentable business method, Sotomayor wondered if speed-dating could be patentable, Breyer questioned whether a professor could patent a lesson plan that kept his students from falling asleep, and Scalia brought up the old-time radio soap opera Lorenzo Jones, featuring a hare-brained inventor with delusions of getting rich."