All posts by Brock Read


24 Songs Shared, Nearly $2-Million in Fines

Jammie Thomas-Rasset’s 2007 trial didn’t end well. That fall Ms. Thomas-Rasset, the first peer-to-peer-piracy suspect whose case reached a civil trial, was found guilty of sharing 24 songs on KaZaA, the once-popular file-sharing service, and ordered to pay $220,000 to Capitol Records. Then she got a second shot: The judge who had heard that case called a mistrial, explaining that he had given the jury improper instructions.

But for Ms. Thomas-Rasset, trial No. 2 turned out far worse than the fi…


Have Wikis Run Out of Steam?

Just a few years ago, it seemed nearly everyone, in academe and out, was hailing the wiki as the next great transformative technology — or, at the very least, a tool worth getting a bit excited about. Fast forward to 2009, though, and much of the enthusiastic talk has died down.

So says Renay San Miguel in an article for Linux Insider, and he’s got something of a point. Wikipedia aside, there really aren’t many heavily hyped wiki projects, and social-networking tools like Facebook and Twitter se…


Microsoft’s Encarta, Rendered Obsolete by Wikipedia, Will Shut Down

Microsoft has announced that it will soon euthanize Encarta, the onetime encyclopedia-of-the-future that has lost much of its luster in the last decade. But the company really didn’t have much choice in the matter: For all intents and purposes, Wikipedia had fatally shivved Encarta some time ago.

And Microsoft admits that. In recent years, “the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed,” the company said in a statement on the shutdown. “People today seek and consu…


A Wikipedia Administrator Tells the Web Site’s Story

By now, if you’re even moderately interested in Wikipedia, you’ve probably had the chance to read any number of lengthy articles on the Web site’s meteoric rise. So why bother with a whole book on the topic? In the case of Andrew Lih’s new tome, The Wikipedia Revolution, the answer is simple: The author is a longtime site administrator, and he has enough pull in the community to get Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, to write a foreword. So, for all intents and purposes, this is Wikipedia: The Au…


The Open-Source Encyclopedia, Now in Hardcover

Need a gift for that open-source enthusiast in your life who happens to have some bookshelf space to fill? A German company called PediaPress has come to the rescue: For a not-unreasonable fee, it will create a book that compiles your favorite Wikipedia articles.

PediaPress has been at this since January, when it started printing volumes drawn from Wikipedia’s German-language edition, but late last month it added to its repertoire six new languages: French, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, a…


Wikipedia and Twitter Drive a Web 2.0 Whodunit

When Jeremy Boggs, a graduate student in history at George Mason University, stepped away from American Idol to look up Langston Hughes’s Wikipedia page Tuesday night, he could scarcely have imagined that he’d end up helping to inform police about a threatened school shooting in St. Louis. Then again, the Internet can be a strange place, as an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out.

The Post-Dispatch has a complete blow-by-blow of Mr. Boggs’s unusual evening, but here’s the quick vers…


What Does Wikipedia Mean for the Future of Expertise?

The rise of Wikipedia seems to have afflicted some scholars with a mild case of existential panic. And understandably so: When the world’s most popular reference tool is such an egalitarian outfit, that can be interpreted as a fairly stiff challenge to the value of expertise, right?

It most certainly can, writes Larry Sanger in a new article on “The Fate of Expertise After Wikipedia.” But fear not, scholars: Expertise, he says, will win out in the end.

Seasoned Wikipedia watchers are already fam…


York U. Students Take to Facebook to Protest a Campus Strike

Thousands of teaching assistants, contract faculty members, and graduate assistants at York University, in Toronto, have gone on strike, bringing classes and other campus activities to a halt. Now students — some of whom worry that the school year will eventually be extended into the summer term — are taking to Facebook to complain.

The York University Anti-Strike group, which now boasts just over 800 members, is circulating a position statement urging that the labor dispute be resolved through …


The New Face of Piracy Prevention?

Colleges that want to fight piracy without resorting to draconian peer-to-peer clampdowns might be intrigued by an Ars Technica report about a new project that aims to turn illegal downloaders into legitimate consumers.

But there’s no way to know yet whether Brilliant Digital Entertainment — a venture started by an Australian music-industry official and a former employee of KaZaA — will have a hit or a flop on its hands. Here’s how the service, called the GlobalFileRegistry, is supposed to work…


Where Have All the Legal Downloading Services Gone?

In its new report, “The Campus Costs of P2P Compliance,” the Campus Computing Project makes clear that many colleges are spending a lot of money — more than they’d like — to keep students from downloading pirated music and movies. But one of the report’s most interesting findings concerns what colleges aren’t paying for: legal alternatives to peer-to-peer piracy.

Just three of the 321 institutions surveyed for the study reported spending money on a legal music or movie library, says Kenneth C. …