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Thursday, May 15

"Shut the hell up"

Anyone who thinks American news is a monolith, Keith Olbermann is an exception. On his MSNBC show he goes on this quite fantastic rant against Bush, which I commend to you:

  • To Bush, "freedom is just a brand name,"
  • To Bush's statement that he was "told by people" that there were WMDs in Iraq: "People? What people?... Mr. Bush, you destroyed the evidence that contradicted the resolution you jammed down the Congress's throat, the way you jammed it down the nation's throat."
Substitute Blair for Bush and - yes - this is relevant to us.

West Midlands Police finally apologise ...

... but only after being taken to court.

Last year I covered how Channel Four's 'Dispatches' sent undercover reporters into British mosques and filmed preachers saying amongst other things:

“Do you practise homosexuality with men? Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain.”

“If I were to call homosexuals perverted, dirty, filthy dogs that should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech isn’t it? They’ll say: “No”, I’m not tolerant. But they feel that it’s okay to say something about the Prophet.”

"Whoever changes his religion from Al Islam to anything else – kill him"
And how, after a ridiculous 'investigation', West Midlands Police (and the Crown Prosecution Service) instead of prosecuting these people for inciting violence made a complaint to Ofcom about the editing of the programme claiming it was 'stirring up racial hatred'. A complaint which itself was technically odd.

I noted that this was the same police who had a fraught relationship with their local gay and lesbian community.

And how police in general had had to be forced into taking action against murder music, dancehall reggae which is all about how to kill gays and lesbians.

I even found myself on the same side as the Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore, who said:

I do not know whether the Dispatches programme is right in every detail. But it clearly raises serious, important questions - about extremists in our midst, about the way apparently moderate organisations give them shelter, about the Saudi Arabian network that supports them.

What security agencies call "thematic analyses" show that, at present, the problems of Islamist extremism are particularly acute, especially in prisons and universities, in the West Midlands area.

Yet the West Midlands police and the Crown Prosecution Service decide that the target of their wrath should be not people who want to undermine this country, but some journalists who want to expose them.

Are they fit to protect us?

Late last year, Ofcom threw the complaint out and Channel Four then decided to launch a court action for defamation.

Andy Duncan, Channel 4 chief executive, said at the time:
West Midlands Police acted in a calculated fashion - they made no attempt to discuss their concerns about the film with us in advance of going public with their complaint to Ofcom knowing that an allegation of 'fakery' would generate significant media interest. Their action gave legitimacy to people preaching a message of hate to British citizens.
After being dragged to court, this apology and £100k payout is the result (half of the payout covers costs, the other goes to the Rory Peck Trust for freelance news gatherers and their families in times of need).
Following an independent investigation by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, we now accept that we were wrong to make these allegations. We now accept that there was no evidence that the broadcaster or programme makers had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity. A review of the evidence (including untransmitted footage and scripts) by Ofcom demonstrated that the programme had accurately represented the material it had gathered and dealt with the subject matter responsibly and in context.

We accept, without reservation, the conclusions of Ofcom and apologise to the programme makers for the damage and distress caused by our original press release.
[CPS apology]

I think they should apologise to the gay and lesbian community - infact the whole community - as well, for 'wasting police time'.

The people who were responsible and should suffer some consequences are:
  • CPS lawyer, Bethan David
  • Assistant Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police, Anil Patani
  • West Midlands Chief Constable, Paul Scott-Lee
Amongst others who weighed in against Channel Four were
  • The secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Muhammad Abdul Bari
  • Press spokesperson of the Muslim Council of Britain, Inayat Bunglawala
I would also be interested to know who, if any, of Birmingham's MPs supported Channel Four.

And whether any prosecutions for 'incitement to violence' against the hate preachers exposed in the documentary will ever follow.

Wednesday, May 14

Hits and anniversaries

Dave Briggs posted something about his stats and Jeremy Gould missed his anniversary.

Dave also posted something along the lines of 'wail! Is anyone listening!'. I've now gone past my anniversary so they're both reminding me to cover this terrain ...

I actually started this because I was posting long thoughts elsewhere and I clipped a lot and passed that on - which can become annoying. I should have done this earlier but really the blog is primarily for me! I dig up ideas and clips all the time; it's an online dump for me, this blog.

I actually got a comment from someone on one of my Google Reader dumps complaining that I 'didn't know how to have a structured conversation'. Well, doh! Some posts definitely are worked up in that sense and others aren't. What's a 'my links' dump? Not a 'conversation', that's for sure.

Some posts are more about my trying to get attention for something - like my recent stuff on searches for suicide and trying to take on the BMJ. That's also how my Mehdi Kazemi work started. Doing this attention-seeking is hard work though - I know this from doing online work for Mehdi, hours of adding comments and sending out email (worked though - we won).

Mostly I'm not thinking that hard about getting attention, it's me working through an argument and stretching myself a bit or just following an interest - like the use of web in the US primaries. It definitely isn't some kind of service! If it was an extension of my business I'd pay more attention to promotion - but my work is on the other side of a Chinese Wall.

There's a lot of posts I've done I'm quite pleased/proud about and the blog's been extremely useful for networking and raising issues in my main area of interest - egov.

Some others I've done, like the Kenyan blogosphere posts, have given me a big smile when I've had feedback from people working in that area. Same happened with the BMJ stuff actually.

So, since last April I've done 616 posts. These have covered a lot of subjects because I have fairly wide interests though most have been web related in some way.

The web is something I've lived with now for thirteen years. I've a post which I'll finish (soon!) which is about how I first saw it in 1994 (wait, that's fourteen years ... ). And I've seen numerous times, first-hand, the power of it in changing lives of people and communities. I'm pretty much an evangelist on that score, both commercially and socially.

I've been and gone with looking too closely at stats or technorati authority. I do look sometimes to see if certain people have been (i.p. address tells you a lot), and to see if I have a new referrer. But doing this has been about learning how to understand stats more than anything. I now have three sources, so Google Analytics tels me only part of the picture. I now get some RSS numbers through Feedster for example. In a year I've had 21,000 vists but the best number is 3000 returning visitors. Must be doing something right.

Most of my traffic comes from Google search, so my top content has included:

All got hundreds of hits, a couple got over a thousand.

Which tells me a lot about the power of titles.

When I have had a major referrer this has blown out traffic. So
All also got hundreds. The BBC link still sends lots of clicks through but this also shows to some extent how viral happens because none were sought and some were from very odd referrers (there's been 724 in all)

Almost all of these pages are recent but some older content has also built up hundreds of hits, such as:
Hits in general have been going up and that's a reflection of Google, including Image Search, being my main referrer and positioning improving, as well as some other new or growing referrers like BBC, GoogleBlog and technorati.

What doesn't get huge numbers is egov posts, but I know this doesn't mean they don't get read.

I'm also not hugely bothered by getting comments or not. When I see something I just agree with, I rarely comment. So I'm often assuming that!

Enough. Not really one for too much self-analysis and this is plenty ;]

Monday, May 12

French legal shocker

This is bizarre. Richard Best reports that in an Out-Law podcast they carried the news that a French court has decided you're liable for libelous RSS feeds you carry.

The Court didn't agree that sites had no control over what was automatically updated, they didn't accept no 'editorial control'.

Richard says:

Under New Zealand law [which is based on English law], there is not necessarily a ubiquitous answer to the question of whether populating one’s website with third party content - via an incoming and automatically-updating RSS feed - that breaches someone else’s rights, will render the website owner liable to that “someone else”. It is likely to depend on the nature of the offending content, the cause(s) of action to which publication may give rise and the possible defences to those causes of action. So, for example, causes of action could include defamation, breach of copyright, invasion of privacy or breach of confidence. Also potentially relevant in some cases will be whether the website owner added the RSS feed to its site itself, or allowed site users to add an RSS feed (as is now possible with some web services).

He doesn't see the decision as a bad thing, more about the web 'growing up', and suggests that aggregators/website owners "seek warranties and/or indemnities from the feed providers" — I just can't see this happening until there's a US case.