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30 posts from July 2007

Free pizza and soft drinks *from an airline*? in 2007? in a terminal? (Yes, it's true...)

Burlington, VT, airport.  Gate 15, Jet Blue's gate.  It's 6:15pm.  For almost all of us, our flight out was supposed to be close to 2 hours ago at 4:30pm - and they are saying we won't now leave until 7:30pm at the earliest. Severe thunderstorms in New York City/Philadelphia have completely screwed up air travel on the East Coast.  Something like 18 connecting flights out of JFK have been canceled - including my own.  I've been rebooked on a 9:45 connection that will get me in to Florida now at something like 1am (instead of 10:30pm).  People all around have been talking in their cell phones trying to rebook flights - or using their laptops with the free WiFi... or standing in long lines at the gate.  As the gate agent makes her periodic announcements of more connecting flights that will be missed, there are audible groans around the large room.

But right now... for at least a little while... the mood here in the terminal is pretty darn happy, with smiles around and a bit of light-hearted banter.

Why?   Simple...

Jet Blue brought in pizza and soft drinks for everyone to share!

Yes, indeed, a few minutes ago the Jet Blue ground crew brought in about 20 or so pizzas from Dominos.  This after having previous cracked open a few cases of soft drinks and water for people to have.   People lined up nicely and everyone in the gate area got at least one if not two pieces of pizza.

As readers of my various blogs know, I travel a good deal (probably a week or two a month), but I have to say that in probably 15 years of regular flying, this is the first time I can honestly say I've ever had this experience.    What a simple thing to do...  what did it cost them?  Maybe $200?  Probably less with a discount.  But what a wonderful way to just help improve the customer experience.

True... our flights are still all messed up.  The odds that we will actually get out of here at 7:30pm tonight are probably right up there with the odds of the Pope converting to Judaism.  The odds that all of us will make our connecting flights in JFK are probably quite similarly slim.  It's pretty clear that today's a pretty lousy day to be flying on the East Coast of the US. 

But up here in Vermont at the Jet Blue gate... at least for a moment... instead of a terminal full of grumpy, angry, upset customers whining and complaining about the airline, there is instead a crowd of calmer people who have at least had the edge taken off of their hunger.

Way to go, Jet Blue!

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FriendWheel provides an interesting (and pretty) way of visualizing the connections between your friends

image As I've always been fascinated by ways of visualizing data, I naturally had to try out the "FriendWheel" application now available inside of Facebook.  One result, taking all the defaults, is now visible on the right (click for a much larger image).  The "What is this?" link on the page says this:

The circle shows part of a social network. Around the edge of the circle are Dan York's friends. If two of them are connected by a line, it means that they are friends with each other. Relationships between different groups of friends (eg. "Home friends" and "University/College friends") can often be seen in the circle. It's also brightly coloured and looks pretty.

Once you add the app to your Facebook profile, you can then configure it using a range of settings and then generate the wheel image.  It takes a little bit because it has to get information about your friends and their connections in order to generate the information. 

Naturally, I was a bit concerned about the fact that data about all my friends and their connections were going to someone else's computers, at least for the time required to generate the image, and so did read the privacy policy, which states this:

Friend Wheel will retrieve the names of all your friends and all links between your friends. This data will be shown on the friend wheel image. This image is not publically viewable (but you can show it to whoever you want by sending them the entire URL of the enlarged image).
Your Friend Wheel will be accessible to anyone who knows the pass-code for your wheel. This is shown (as part of the URL) in the "Friend Wheel" box on your profile, so anyone who can see this will be able to see your wheel.
To configure who can see the wheel on your profile, visit the
Applications Settings page (click on "edit settings" next to Friend Wheel and choose from the drop-down box).
You can remove the application at any time. Your Friend Wheel will then be deleted.

However, this doesn't answer the larger question to me about the fact that the data about all my friends and their connections is at least temporarily residing in "Thomas Fletcher's" computers while the script is running.  I guess we have to hope he's not doing anything with the data (or else we don't use the app).

image In any event, potential privacy concerns aside, the tool is quite interesting.  You can choose to graph only a subset of your friends, graph one of your networks, graph a random assortment of friends, graph mutual friends of one of your friends... and more.  Lots of other tweaks you can make to it.  In the image to the left, I changed the "grouping algorithm" from the default of "FriendGroupster-4000", which appears to put blocks of your friends together, to just a straight alphabetical grouping.  This, obviously, doesn't really help you see a whole lot.

I noticed today that the developer has added an "Interactive Flash Map" which lets you play even more with the data:

You can mouseover friends to highlight their links, click and drag to move friends around, zoom in and out by using the buttons in the top left, and pan by clicking and dragging in white space.

All in all an intriguing little app that helps highlight the connections between your various "friends" within Facebook.

UPDATE: I meant to note that where I first saw Friend Wheel being used was in Phil Wolff's new banner for Skype Journal (described here).

Slidecasting nicely shows off my 243-slides-in-15-minutes presentation...

What if you have a set of slides that really needs audio to make sense?  That all alone doesn't really work?  That was the case with my "story of SysAdmin Steve" presentation that I did back at O'Reilly's Emerging Telephony conference earlier this year.  A number of people commented that without the audio, it was hard to really know how it went.  This was deliberate, really - there was a reason for me doing it that way.

Well, I'm now delighted that the SlideShare folks already updated their "slidecasting" audio synchronization tool so that now I can show the presentation in line with the audio.  So here it is... in all of its 243-slides-in-15-minutes glory... enjoy my little story (and I think that even if you aren't interested in VoIP security, you may (or may not) find the story entertaining):

Press the green play button to begin.  The first slide starts changing about 3:45 seconds into the show - and then they start changing at a rate averaging about once every 2-3 seconds.  I tried as best I could to sync the slides to the audio... I may adjust it in some places (and the cool part is that you can adjust it!).

Feedback is, as always, quite welcome.  This was a fun presentation to do... and using SlideShare's slidecasting interface does let me relive a bit of that fun!

Slidecasting - a new way to sync audio/podcasts to PowerPoint slides for conference presentations, training and more

image Have you ever heard a podcast or recording of a presentation and wished you could see the slides or materials that went along with it?  Or perhaps even worse - you have the slides, but you wish you could know when the speaker advanced to the next slide?  Wouldn't it be great if there was some way you get the audio synced to the slides?

Welcome to the world of "slidecasting"!  Later today, will be rolling out a new audio interface that lets you sync an MP3 file to a set of slides.  The process is ridiculously simple:

  1. Upload a slide set to (after creating an account if you don't have one)
  2. Click on Edit and then the "Edit Slidecast" tab.
  3. Provide the URL for an MP3 file to link to. (the file will then be retrieved and loaded into the interface)
  4. Use the synchronization interface to indicate the beginning and end markers for each slide.
  5. Preview (if you want) and then publish.

The result can be seen in this sync'd presentation below.  It takes the audio podcast from Blue Box Special Edition #16 and combines it with the appropriate set of slides. The slides start changing about 3 minutes into the presentation (since there is the intro and such):

(If you are incredibly impatient and can't wait the 3 minutes, you can click the arrow button to advance to the first slide and then you'll see the slide movement.)  Other examples are also available on the blog of SlideShare CEO Rashmi Sinha.

The slidecasting interface (step #4 in my list above) itself is quite trivial to use (click on the image below  to see a larger version):


You simply click on the slide you want to sync, starting with the first one, and then adjust the start and end markers with the mouse.  You can obviously play the audio (shown by the red line on the image) and then sync the slides as you go along.  Very easy to do. It's all AJAX/Flash/etc. so it just works in a standard browser. Kudos to the SlideShare team for making it as easy as it is.

The interface will still evolve, too.  During the beta period (I was a participant), there were some issues found. For instance, I would very much like to sync the audio for my "Black Bag Security Review" presentation since it is a presentation that really needs syncing with the audio to make sense.  However, the slide set is 243 slides in about 15 minutes, which works out to about 3 seconds a slide.  In many cases the transition is about 2 seconds!  However, the user interface only allowed for the smallest interval to be about 5 seconds.  For 99% of presentations out there, that's probably perfectly fine... for this "story" presentation, though, I need that shorter time.  The SlideShare folks are looking into what can be done, so hopefully I'll be able to get that out there soon.

In any event, the slidecasting interface will apparently be made available to all SlideShare users later today and it will be very interesting to see what people do with it.  For me, given that I speak at conferences and also record my presentations and put them out as podcasts, it's a wonderful way to sync the two pieces and give people who could not attend a bit closer of a view of how the presentation went.  I could see this being used for corporate presentations... for training materials, etc.  I imagine one the primary uses may be conferences that record the speakers and then want to sync them to slides.

A criticism, of course, is that you could just take this type of material and create a video out of it.  Either directly record the presentation and slides using a video camera, or use a tool like Camtasia to create a "screencast" of a presentation and then upload the resulting video somewhere.  That's certainly true... although I would wonder if screencasting tools are out there that sync the audio with slides as nicely as this. Obviously you could have the presenter doing the recording on the PC and moving through the slides, which would result in a great screencast.  However, this does involve the presenter being involved with the recording, whereas the SlideShare slidecasting capability can take the audio from a presentation and have it be synced to slides much later.

I'll write more as I use the interface more, but in the meantime, you can head over to and try it out yourself.  The interface should be out of beta sometime today. (We were asked to hold off on blogging about it, but once TechCrunch posted about it, the embargo request was lifted.)

What do you think?  How do you see this service being used?  What would you use it for?  Do you currently use other services? 

If Facebook is the new "Internet portal", why are you not supposed to do business on it? (aka more on Facebook's TOS, privacy (or the actual lack thereof), content license, etc.)

Last week I wrote about Facebook's Terms of Service and the fact that they basically own all the content you upload, but over the weekend legal student and blogger Andres Flusche wrote: "Facebook Isn't Private, and 7 Other Things You Should Know".   He nicely summarize the content licensing issue (that was at the heart of my own post on the subject) with this:

In plain English, this means you’re giving up copyright control of your material. If you upload a photo to Facebook, they can sell copies of it without paying you a cent. If you write lengthy notes (or import your blog posts!), Facebook can turn them into a book, sell a million copies, and pay you nothing. This deserves careful consideration!

Indeed it does deserve careful consideration!  For instance, I'm debating whether the additional visibility garnered by importing this blog's postings into Facebook Notes balances out with the fact that, as Andres notes, Facebook can do whatever they want with them.  For the moment, I'm continuing to import my entries... but I'm debating and may very well stop the import.

Another point he makes is the "personal use only" nature of Facebook.  He quotes the Facebook Terms of Service:

You understand that except for advertising programs offered by us on the Site (e.g., Facebook Flyers, Facebook Marketplace), the Service and the Site are available for your personal, non-commercial use only.

One wonders then, how Facebook aims to be the "social operating system" if it is all to be for your "personal, non-commercial use only".  What about the large number of "business" users flocking to Facebook?  If I bring in my business contacts is that a personal or commercial use?  What if we exchange Facebook messages about a potential opportunity?

His other points about the ability to change the terms, legal issues, etc. are well worth a read.

Melcrum Communicators' Network now offers reviews and ratings of blogs, podcasts, websites and more

image If you are involved with PR or communications, how do you find out what blogs make sense to follow?  Or which podcasts makes sense to listen to in your limited time?  If you are looking for a site or resource about a particular topic but don't want to have to sort through a zillion results in Google or Technorati, where can you go?

Well, in a new addition to the site, Melcrum's Communicators' Network would like to be that answer. Back in May, I wrote about my initial experience but haven't written much since then.  The site, though, has continued to expand and grow and just recently rolled out a "Reviews" section which lets users of the site review - and rate - blogs, podcasts, websites and more.  The idea is that these are reviews and comments by communicators and for communicators.  So in theory you should be able to tap into the collective views of other communicators to find resources that might be of value to you.    Over time, as more people use the site and contribute, the "top-rated" blogs, podcasts, etc. should in theory drift to the top.

Right now, of course, it is just getting started and so the reviews/ratings are a bit sparse and the rankings represent the input of only a very small number of people.  Over time, though, this should even out and, assuming people are ethical in their rankings, the reviews should be useful.

If you are a member of the Communicator's Network, do login and check it out (and while you are there, please add some comments with ratings and reviews!).  Note that it's very easy to add more resources to the lists if you want to add one that isn't there. If you aren't a member, it's easy to join.

Facebook and the giant sucking sound of all your content coming in... and never leaving... forever... (and Facebook can do whatever it wants with it!)

Three vignettes to set the stage for the entry. First, Chris Brogan realizes that Facebook is a walled garden through his Twitter stream:

Facebook messages doesn't have FORWARD??? WTF??? You can't be an email product and not have the BASICS. 09:59 AM July 16, 2007
So, when you're *IN* facebook, using the messaging feature is cool. @Spin and I are having a video conversation and it's so cool! 10:09 AM July 16, 2007
but I just realized, I can't DO anything with the last video, that made me laugh and roar. I wanted to remix it. No download. No embed code. 10:10 AM July 16, 2007
Dan York wrote the article I was going to write tomorrow. Just read his: 01:14 PM July 16, 2007
Sick of Facebook not letting out data. Mr. Zuckerberg : TEAR DOWN YOUR WALLS! 12:59 PM July 17, 2007

Second, a friend  and I are having an IM chat:

<name> says: I looked at your blog and noticed also the facebook entries
<name> says: Do you think that it is a cool stuff?
<name> says: I wasn' t quite sure.
<name> says: Whenever I looked at it I just didn't see anything where I could have said "That's really cool".
Dan York says: Facebook is... well... "interesting".
Dan York says: What intrigues me the most is that there is now a whole class of (typically younger) people who are basically experiencing "the Internet" through the lens of Facebook.
<name> says: That does not make sense to me.
Dan York says: Basically, they don't use "the web", per se, but instead use Facebook and have components of the web brought into them that way.
Dan York says: They are always logged into Facebook.
<name> says: Really?
Dan York says: Instead of email, they use Facebook messages.
<name> says: Why would someone want todo that?
<name> says: That's quite restrictive.

Third, Jeff Pulver makes the declaration in multiple blog entries, such as this one:

Facebook IS the internet portal of 2007. And it is where you will find me.

Let's face it... at the end of the day, Facebook is a "portal play".  If you want to use Facebook as your "lens through which to see the Internet", it has amazing capabilities and possibilities.  There are an incredible number of applications now being developed.  Facebook now reports having over 30 million active users.  They say their search engine is now among the top 20 on the web.

You would be completely and utterly stupid to not think about a "Facebook strategy".  With its growth curve and the sheer amount of content flowing into it, I think you ignore it at your own peril. 

To be honest, I like Facebook. I have an account there which, at this point, I am in pretty much daily.  I've been using "groups" there to see about building stronger communities.  There is now a "network" of employees at my company.  The "Facebook Platform" is quite intriguing and it's fascinating to see the apps that people are developing.


The challenge remains that the walls around Facebook are actually open a bit - but only in one direction - inbound!  Through the "Platform", you can bring into Facebook all sorts of content.  On my Facebook profile page, you can find such things as:

  • Updates I've made through Twitter
  • Blog entries that have been automatically pulled in from an RSS feed
  • My Skype status
  • My latest links
  • My latest Pownce post
  • The status of my SIP phone connected to

And much, much, MUCH more... basically at this point I can pull pretty much anything in and display it on my Facebook profile page - and also have it in my "Newsfeed" that I can see and monitor on my home page.

image Ah, but wait, if you aren't a Facebook user, you couldn't see it, could you?  No, you have to login first in order to see any of that content.  Only once inside the Facebook walls can you see it all.  Naturally you could go to any of those services individually and see the information from a standard web browser, but if you want it all aggregated and displayed along with other content, you have to login and become part of the portal.

On one level, I definitely appreciate what Facebook is doing.  They are succeeding as a portal where things like Yahoo!'s personalized pages or Google's iGoogle or <pick your portal play> have not... in part because of the API that let's so many users in, in part because of the "social networking" elements of the site, in part because of the "News Feed" that let's you see what your friends are doing and contributes to the viral flow of information.  There's a really nice aggregation of various social services going on.

But what if I want to make content inside of Facebook visible outside?  As Chris said:

but I just realized, I can't DO anything with the last video, that made me laugh and roar. I wanted to remix it. No download. No embed code.

It can't be shared with anyone who isn't inside of Facebook.  It can't be posted to YouTube or made available as a blog entry.  Outside of widgets to show your status and the one single RSS feed that seems to be available for your friends' status messages, everything else is inside of Facebook.  If someone sends you a great message, you can't forward that outside of Facebook.  You can't share content you create with those on the outside.

It's there... inside Facebook.  In fact, if you take a look at Facebook's Terms of Service, basically anything you create inside of Facebook really belongs to them (down under "User Content Posted on the Site", second paragraph):

When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

Note especially the part in bold.  All your content belongs to us. Irrevocably. Perpetually.  "To use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute... to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works..."  Even after leave, they will have an archive of your content.  Forever.

Translation:  All your content belongs to us.

Now consider this... through the various applications, I'm bringing into Facebook my entries from this blog, my Twitter posts (tweets), my bookmarks.  Potentially videos and pictures.

It would certainly appear from the ToS that I'm giving Facebook a license to do whatever it wants with all of that content.  Forever.


If you are a Facebook user, are you aware that you are giving Facebook that right to all of whatever content you bring in?  (Do you care?  Perhaps not.)

And do you care that in order to really use Facebook to its fullest, everyone with which you communicate really needs to be a Facebook user?

Don't get me wrong.  I have no intention of not using Facebook.  With its incredible growth in terms of users and apps, I do believe you ignore it at your peril.  It may very well be "THE Internet portal of 2007".

But let's realize that that is what it is... a portal... a "lens" through which you can see Internet content and collaborate with friends.  Granted, it's a portal with a really nice platform for bringing in content from the rest of the Internet into its own private garden. But the walls around the garden are quite high... and no one can really play inside that garden unless, they, too, come inside the walls.  (And bring their content with them...)

UPDATE: There is some synchronicity happening on the web today... shortly after posting this article, I noticed two other posts today related to the same theme:

Jing - a new "project" that lets you quickly add links to screenshots to IM, email, Twitter, etc.

image Have you ever been in an IM or email conversation and wanted to quickly show someone a screenshot or screencast/video of something on your screen?  But didn't want to go through the hassle of saving a file and then uploading it or attaching it?  Or you wanted to add something to your Twitter feed but didn't want to put the image somewhere first?

Well, yesterday the folks over at TechSmith (makers of SnagIT and Camtasia Studio) released an "experiment" to do just that in the form of a project called Jing at the URL  As they talk about on the Jing blog, and also on the TechSmith Visual Lounge blog, this is truly an experiment in how to enhance communication:

The Jing Project is our journey to discover how we can improve everyday conversation. Think of all those IM chats, emails, blog posts and comments you’ve made over the years. Now imagine a more visual world where integrating screen captures and screencasts into those took nothing more than a matter of seconds. Can you imagine it? I can - I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it - it’s Jing.

Our goal is to explore this with all of you and together see how we can bridge the visual world and our daily conversations into a richer, more effective way to communicate.

I have to say I'd admire any company that experiments publicly (although one could argue that pretty much all of "Web 2.0" is one big "beta") and they have been very up front about the fact that Jing is really a "proof-of-concept" more than a "product"... they aren't sure what this will turn into, what the business model will be, etc.  They are more just throwing it out there to watch what people do with it.

So what is "Jing"?  Well, essentially it is a screen capture program that sits on your Windows or Mac and, when triggered, captures an image or records a video/screencast - and then uploads the image/video to and... this is the key... gives you a URL on your clipboard that you can paste into an IM chat, email, Twitter post, whatever.  So the Jing logo I have above is now also available as a screenshot at:

It's pretty cool in that you can just make a quick screen capture or a quick video/screencast.  For instance, here's an incredibly riveting video of me updating my status on Facebook:

Now, not terribly exciting in a blog, where I can just embed a video, but could be quite useful in an IM chat, Twitter/Jaiku/Pownce post or an email. For instance, just this morning I used it to email my corporate help desk and included a pointer to a screen capture of my Task Manager while trying to diagnose some performance problems. (And being security paranoid as I am, I didn't have an issue putting the screen cap on an external server because it didn't really show anything about my machine other than the fact that I'm pushing my laptop way beyond what I should! ;-)

  Since it's hosted on, you can actually login there and then find other ways to share the screencast or screen capture.  For instance, I can do the much more blog-appropriate thing and embed the screencast right here:

So in my limited experimentation, I can definitely see the use for it.  The one "catch" that some of the others playing with the released version have latched onto is that right now it is tied to, which actually is a commercial hosting service that you have to pay $70/year to have an account there.  Right now, and according to TechSmith "for the life of the Jing project", however long that may be, you don't have to pay to use it.  This is again an experiment and TechSmith seems to be figuring out how or if they can turn this into a business.  At the moment, Jing and the associated hosting on is free.

imageNow the program does show its pre-release rough edges a bit when you first download and install it.  For one thing, because it uses Windows Presentation Framework on a PC you have to download Microsoft .Net 3.0 which took a while and was a separate install process.  The other major issue I had was that once you do the install... it seems like nothing happens.  If you are an astute observer (or have been clued in by someone) you will notice that you now have a new icon in your systray - image  If you click on that icon and choose "Preferences" you get the big yellowish-orangish ball that you see in the image on the right.  Yes, that's the preferences screen. (The TechSmith folks are perhaps going a bit overboard on the "experiment" angle, although it is at least interesting to see someone thinking about a different UI for dialog boxes.)  The middle button gets you into the preferences where you can create a account and set up a hot key to trigger the Jing capture.  (And yes, I submitted feedback with my concerns about some of the UI roughness.)  When you are done, you press the checkmark icon and you're set to go.

After that, it's just a matter of triggering Jing to take a capture.  You do that either through the hot key you assigned or through the strange little ball (half-circle, really) that appears at the top middle of your screen above all other windows in the title bar area:


When you go up to that ball with your mouse, it expands and you can initiate the capture. (Funny, but I can't seem to find a way to capture a video of it because the ball disappears as soon as you start the capture.)  Personally, I'm a keyboard guy, so configuring it to be Ctrl+Shift+S worked fine for me.

I guess my only major knock is  that even just sitting there idle waiting to be triggered Jing seems to consume about 15-20% of my CPU (per Task Manager). The TechSmith folks seem to think this is related to .Net 3.0 but it is a bit annoying (see previous mention of performance problems on laptop).

All in all, I think it's an interesting "experiment" and it's great that TechSmith has made it available for people to play with.  It's definitely still got some rough edges, but I know that the TechSmith folks are currently drowning in feedback right now so I'd expect they'll be making some changes.   I don't know how much I'll honestly use it, in part because I'm a bit reluctant to put content on a service where I'm not sure how long the service will be available... but I will continue to experiment with it when I have the need to add visuals into IM or other communication.

Could you see yourself using something like this which makes it easy to include images or video?  What do you think about it?

 UPDATE: There is a good amount of conversation going on right now about Jing. Some posts you may find interesting:

Does your employer have rights to your Facebook profile or LinkedIn contacts list?

Does your employer have the right to request access to your Facebook profile or LinkedIn contacts list if you leave the company?  That's essentially the question asked in yesterday's Register article: "Your boss could own your Facebook profile." The article is primarily about a legal case where someone (Junior Isles) was leaving a publisher (PennWell) to go set up a rival firm and was insistent on taking his contact list with him.  He had brought some of that list with him to PennWell, but had then added to that list while there. The key paragraphs to me are:

The Court ruled that the list belonged to PennWell. It said that if he had maintained a separate list of contacts for personal purposes and added selectively to it, he could have kept that. It also said that he could have taken his personal contacts and any that he brought to the firm in the first place with him.

Because Isles had tried to take the whole list, PennWell was allowed to keep the database of contacts and was also granted an injunction preventing Isles from using the database. The company did allow Isles to keep and use the contacts he had brought to the firm, though.

The ruling confirmed the right of an employer to treat as its own property the creations of its employees if they were made in the course of business. That includes digital creations, even if some of that creation is for personal purposes.

There is no direct connection here to Facebook, but the article makes the connection to social networking services and quotes IP lawyer Catrin Turner of Pinsent Masons:

"If [the employer] can argue that you have created something and it's in the course of your employment, it's irrelevant where it's stored because the law doesn't look at where it's stored, the law looks at the circumstances in which it was created," she said. "If you create a contact list or any sort of document during working hours using your work PC that relates in some way to your job or is of value to your employer they would have a very strong argument that that belongs to them."

And then later this:

"The basic law is that if you create copyright material, something you write or type into a computer, you take photographs, you do cartoons, you potentially create film, if that is created in the course of your employment then the assumption is that that belongs to your employer, so that doesn't have to be written down by your employer," she said.

All in all it's an interesting question that will no doubt be sorted out in legal cases over the next few years.  Once upon a time (and still, in many/most cases), we built contact lists for our employer inside the firewall... in CRM systems, databases, spreadsheets, etc.  While we still do that, we also build those contact lists externally through Facebook, LinkedIn and the many other social networking sites - as well as our IM contact lists.  Where does the dividing line exist between what is your employer's intellectual property and what is yours?  (Especially given that most corporate folks are probably accessing all those sites and services using their corporate PC or laptop!)

It shall be an interesting time to see how this all gets sorted out as the line between work and personal time/space gets increasingly blurred or even erased.  There's probably going to be a whole lot of job security in being a lawyer dealing with such matters...

(Tip of the hat to Denise Howell's Lawgarithms ZDNet blog, where I saw this link.)

Does Merriam-Webster adding "ginormous" to their dictionary bother anyone else?

image Is anyone else bothered by "ginormous" being added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary?  Last week, the pedantic linguist (or is it "linguistic pedant"?) in me cringed when I heard the news that "ginormous" was among the 100 new words added to the M-W collegiate dictionary.

I mean... are they serious?

Obviously they are and had this to say:

“There will be linguistic conservatives who will turn their nose up at a word like `ginormous,”' said John Morse, Merriam-Webster's president. “But it's become a part of our language. It's used by professional writers in mainstream publications. It clearly has staying power.”

Okay, perhaps I'm a "linguistic conservative" but I think my major issue is that "ginormous" just sounds stupid!  The article goes on:

Visitors to the Springfield-based dictionary publisher's Web site picked “ginormous” as their favorite word that's not in the dictionary in 2005, and Merriam-Webster editors have spotted it in countless newspaper and magazine articles since 2000. 

That's essentially the criteria for making it into the collegiate dictionary — if a word shows up often enough in mainstream writing, the editors consider defining it.

Intellectually, I understand.  Languages are living things that evolve over time.  A good dictionary will attempt to keep pace with the times.  So I understand it at that level, but still....  ginormous?

But as editor Jim Lowe puts it: “Nobody has to use `ginormous' if they don't want to.”

Yes, you can count me as one of those, too.  I have an extremely hard time ever imagining a circumstance in which "ginormous" would leave my lips or be something I wrote.

How about you?