World Cup Coverage Standoff

I love watching the World Cup, maybe even too much. As a recent MBA graduate I should be spending all of my time looking a job and helping my wife with her new acupuncture clinic. I just can’t help it. The World Cup is the greatest sporting event in the world and it only happens once every four years. So, I’ve accepted the prolonged start date and decided to indulge in the spectacle in South Africa.

The combination of my wife starting a new business and me being a recent graduate equates to low funds. To combat this we’ve been cutting corners where we can to save money. One measure we’ve taking has been to drop our Time Warner Cable TV service. We only pay for Internet. In 9 out of 10 situations this suites us fine. Unfortunately the World Cup is the 1 in 10 problem.

For the first 10 days of the World Cup I was able to view all of the matches on ESPN3.com. They provide HD streams, great commentators and pipe it all straight to my PC at no cost other than my Internet bill, brilliant. Unfortunately, just as the second round of the tournament got going I was no longer able to access ESPN3 streams. Instead I am prompted to verify my approved ISP provider. Missing from the list of over 150 providers is Time Warner Cable (TWC). I called TWC to ask why I can’t access content I thought I was already paying for. All I got was an apology without an explanation.

Then I started watching games on a handful of sites that provide peer-2-peer streaming, which wasn’t too bad. Watching matches in Arabic, French, German, Polish, and Russian exposed me to some interesting half-time advertisements. Now, I’m watching matches on UnivisionFutbol.com, who is ISP agnostic. But, since I’m paying for the Internet I feel that I should be able to access all of it. No gatekeepers please.

Turns out that I’m one of many caught in the crossfire between ESPN and TWC. ESPN charges the ISPs to carry their streaming content and TWC isn’t having it. I agree with TWC’s point that paying for Internet content is like old the old TV model. However, I highly doubt that ESPN’s asking price for content will sink TWC. The result of this standoff is that consumers lose.

I would love it if the ISPs became basic utility providers, like electric companies. If there are websites or services out there that interest me, I want to decide whether or not I get them.

In the end I view TWC’s position as anti-consumer and a reason to switch. If only I had know this would have been a problem at the beginning of the World Cup I would have switched.

A Primer for Video Games in the Classroom

Recently I got together with a friend of mine who teaches middle school age kids. When I asked him if he had ever tried to use video games in the classroom, not only did he say no, but also that he didn’t buy into the idea. Surprised by his response I felt compelled to convince him that video games could be a great asset in the classroom. I’ve felt this way since my dad helped introduce the Apple 2e to my elementary school. Oregon Trial, Number Munchers, and Turtle Graphics among others left a lasting impression on me that learning can be fun. I mean, who else but Carmen Sandiego could get me willfully read The World Almanac?

I offered to send him an email with more resources to help him see the power of video games. The list below represents a tiny slice of the enormous amount of material out there for those that want to learn more about how video games and technology can help in the classroom. Please comment and add your own favorite video games and resources.

Video Game Ideas, some games were designed to be used in the classroom, but don’t let that stop you from trying traditional games too.

Afrika, A virtual safari through Africa for the PlayStation 3

Dimension U, Various high-quality PC games focused on algebra

Endless Ocean, Explore the oceans on the Nintendo Wii

Fun Brain, Various web-based games for k-8 students covering a range of topics

Game Show Wizard, Games for your digital projector or monitor

Global Conflicts, A series of PC games that teaches students about current conflicts in the world

Immune Attack, Created by the Federation of American Scientist to teach biology

Jungle Extreem, Facebook farming simulation game (not Farmville)

Organizations and News:

Edutopia, article “Let the Games Begin: Entertainment Meets Education

eSchool News

Institute for the Future,

Check out the talk Jane McGonigal gave at TED, “Gaming can make a better world”

LearningWorks for Kids

Persuasive Games

What They Play

Festivals:

Games Education Summit

Games For Change

Meaningful Play

LinkedIn Groups

Games Based Learning

e-Learning Professional Network

Serious Games Group

Reflections on EduGaming from Game On! Texas 2010

I was fortunate to attend the first annual Game On! Texas symposium put together by the Skillpoint Alliance on April 7. By the end of the day I had started to re-think how I thought video games could be used in the classroom.

The symposium brought together educators, developers, and community activists, primarily from Texas, to discuss how video games could enrich the education of school kids. Even Texas Governor Rick Perry gave the opening keynote to show his support for the event and the ideas it promoted.

Some of the speakers discussed the potential of video games as a learning tool. In particular Alan Gershenfeld, the Chairman of the Games For Change festival, talked about Impact Games. He described Impact Games, as games that use a challenge and reward system to motivate students. These games also teach that failure is not only an acceptable, but also a fun part of the learning process. However, the overarching theme of Game On! Texas focused more on encouraging children to purse a career in video game production, and less on utilizing video games creation to aid children in their learning.

Throughout the day I began to see teaching video game creation in high school as part of a well-rounded education, not just a technical trade.  High school educators at the symposium were looking to improve their student’s employment opportunities, but I think specialization should be saved for college. While I can see how learning C++ versus the Unity Engine, would be an important decision to a budding programmer, this myopic debate misses the larger potential for gaming in education.

Some of the speakers there were promoting their college’s video game programs, which were impressive. Peter Raad from Guildhall made a key point while talking about his program. He remarked that the acronym STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, should be changed to STEAM. The A recognizes that the arts are also an important silo of learning. Why not go further?

The process of video game creation could be part of a well-rounded education. By incorporating research from a history class, drawings from an art class, and calculus from a math class, video games would inspire learning. It made me think that video games could be used the way research papers are today. I’m not trying to knock the Game On! Texas symposium, on the contrary I think it was a great beginning for a new forum where educators can connect with developers.

There was a huge amount of interest from the high school education community. They understand that video games have a great appeal to students, and ultimately they want to help their students. Maybe it’s time to think about video games the way we have been thinking about writing papers. Imagine drafting an outline, doing research and then instead of writing a term paper, you write a simple game. Now that would have kept me more motivated and interested in my high school classes.

Hopefully future Game On! Texas symposiums will lead to partnerships between educators and developer that will make research video games a reality.

SXSW recap; March 12

In Code We Trust: Open Government Awesomeness

Panelists: Alissa Black, Noel Hidalgo, Dmitry Kachaev

#incodewetrust

How can we create a sustainable model to engage voters with their elected officials? Open source software platforms such as Drupal and wikis are being used to increase transparency and participation in the creation of government as a social platform. The discussion focused on examples of open source government websites and how to maintain a high level of participation. They stressed that these sites are not just e-government pages where you can file forms online. Open Government applications are places for people to collect and view various types of data including, how elected officials voted, crime, population data, and how much money is allocated to various municipal projects.

One example of an Open Government initiative is San Francisco’s Open Data Directive. Mayor Gavin Newsom signed this directive on October 21, 2009 to, “enhance open government, transparency, and accountability by improving access to City data that adheres to privacy and security policies”. RecoverySF is a site that is taking advantage of these open data policies.

For more information on Open Government initiatives check out:

Apps For Democracy

Transparency Camp

GovLoop

OpenMuni Wiki

Open 311

Battledecks 2010

#battledecks

This was a fun one. Battledecks is an ad-libbed PowerPoint presentation contest. Contestants are given 5 minutes to present a topic that they are unaware of until it’s their turn. During the presentation the judges flip through 10 slides that the contestants have never seen before. Scores are assessed based on the contestants interaction with the crowd, use of buzzwords, humor, and other factors that may be made up along the way.

There are a few clips of the Battledecks 2010 on Vimeo posted by Mangrove.

Google in China: Context and Consequences

Presenter: Kaiser Kuo

#googleinchina

Some of this talk’s questions have already been answered by Google’s recent redirection of users to Hong Kong. However, there are still many issues surrounding China’s Internet policies that merit attention. In China business such as Google are supposed to police themselves with, “self-discipline” to censor questionable content. Where questionable content remains the Chinese authorities are there to help warn users that they are viewing content that may be offensive. Jingjing and Chacha will appear on your screen should you click too far.

Restrictions on the Internet in China are often refereed to as, The Great Firewall. As a result the Chinese Internet is becoming more of an entertainment superhighway rather than an information superhighway.  Lokman Tsui stated that, “The Great Firewall is the Iron Curtain 2.0”.

Exploring the ACTA pt.3; The Silent Hands

The U.S. Government claims that ACTA is needed to, “combat the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods…”. OK, that sounds like a legitimate concern, but the next part of that sentence seems extreme, “which, undermines legitimate trade and the sustainable development of the world economy”. Illegally downloaded mp3 files hinder the development of the world economy, really? I call baloney on that last charge.

So, are governments coming up with ACTA on their own? No.

We can agree that rights holders are losing money and thus illegal downloads should be dealt with, reasonably. Maybe both sides of the ideally balanced copyright equation; the rights holders and the consumers, can come together and work it out. Nope, ACTA is a definitively one sided agreement in favor of rights holders. In fact the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and others sent a letter to Congress encouraging their efforts.

The RIAA also submitted a wishlist of “Enforcement Best Practices” to the USTR which amongst other things states,

2. Establish appropriate rules regarding liability of service/content providers:
(a) Establishing primary liability where a party is involved in direct infringement; and ensure the application of principles of secondary liability, including contributory liability and vicarious civil liability, as well as criminal liability and abetting if appropriate.
(b) Establishing liability for actions which, taken as a whole, encourage infringement by third parties, in particular with respect to products, components and/or services whose predominant application is the facilitation of infringement.

This passage takes direct aim at the DMCA’s “safe harbor” protections.  These protections provide shelter for ISPs and remove them from any liability associated with their user’s actions. If the above language makes it into ACTA, ISPs will become a tool of the RIAA, MPAA and others to hunt down alleged violators. The copyright equation would become imbalanced and distinctly in favor of the rights holders, leaving the rest of us at a disadvantage.

Keep in mind that unlike ACTA the DMCA hearings were open to public input. The DMCA is also an Act, which requires Congressional approval. ACTA on the other hand is a Trade Agreement, which means no Congressional approval is required.

ACTA is shaping up to be one fine example of corporate influenced policy twice removed from the citizenry.

Exploring the ACTA pt.2; Who’s Involved?

ACTA negotiations began in 2007 between a few countries. Since then several corporations and a couple consumer groups have also been allowed to sit at the table. First the countries;

the United States (Office of the US Trade Representative, USTR), the European Community, Switzerland and Japan were first. A short time later;  Australia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Mexico, Jordan, Morocco, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Canada joined the negotiations.

Some of the countries missing from the negotiation’s member list appear on the U.S.’s “Priority Watch List“;  Algeria, Argentina, Canada, China, Chile, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand and Venezuela. The Priority Watch List is part of the annual “Special 301 Report” that the US government compiles to highlight, “the global state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement”.

I found it interesting that Canada appears on both the US Priority Watch List, and is part of the ACTA negotiations. The 2009 Special 301 Report, which added Canada to the list, first thanked them for their IPR commitments, but then stated that Canada has, “not delivered on these commitments by promptly and effectively implementing key copyright reforms”. The report seems to pressure Canada to increase IPR enforcement by, “giving its customs officers the authority to seize products suspected of being pirated or counterfeit without the need for a court order”.

I can’t imagine that the Canadian people appreciate having their neighbor to the south twisting their government’s arm by blacklisting them to pass laws that would remove civil liberties at the borders. More disturbing is that this may be an indicator that ACTA will include a provision giving all member countries a loophole to disregard their court’s involvement prior to search and seizure actions.

The US Constitution’s 4th Amendment protects US residents from unreasonable search and seizures.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

If language in the Special 301 Report is an accurate indicator, ACTA would be in direct conflict with language in the 4th Amendment.

So what about the corporations? I found a post on the not for profit non governmental organization, Knowledge Ecology International’s (KEI) site that provides some answers. In order to obtain the information KEI submitted a FOIA request to see which companies had signed the USTR’s NDA. The list includes representatives from;

Business Software Alliance, Google, eBay, Verizon, Dell, Intel, News Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment and, Time Warner.

Clearly these companies are interested in finding out how their business models may need to change, but do they care how ACTA will effect their customers?

Finally, the KEI post also shows that Public Knowledge and The Center for Democracy and Technology consumer interest groups have signed the USTR’s NDA. Unfortunately, due to the NDA they cannot disclose the ACTA text. However, once the text is made public they will be able to help consumers understand what it means to them.

Exploring the ACTA pt.1

A new class I’ve started titled, “Global Digital Media”, is having us look at the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, (ACTA). This agreement is being secretly negotiated between the US and other governments, but will likely impact all consumers of digital media. Why all the secrets?

Admittedly I had not been paying too much attention to this secretive agreement and know very little about it. In fact, nobody really knows many of the specifics since the Obama administration has said that information is, “classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958“.

Efforts to gain detailed knowledge of the agreement have not been successful. In June of 2008, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, (EFF) and Public Knowledge filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for records on the treaty and the negotiations surrounding the deal. Then on June 17, 2009 the EFF decided to drop the lawsuit citing, “we’re not going to obtain information before ACTA is finalized”, due to Executive Order 12958. Knowledge on ACTA has been limited to what has come out in leaks, so it might not all be accurate.

However, what has leaked indicates that ACTA may have huge implications on copyright claims against ISPs, possibly conflicting with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, (DMCA pdf), and against consumer privacy.

My task for the class is to research, review, and analyze the available information surrounding ACTA and determine how it might impact US and foreign intellectual property law.  I thought I would report some of my findings here as the outcome of the final ACTA agreement will impact all of us.

My next post will focus on who the major players are in ACTA.


what’s on my mind