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Archive for January 2006

BBC Google documentary

Posted on Mon, Jan 23, 2006 at 4:53 PM by Andrew Chadwick

The World According to Google

Last weekend's BBC television documentary about Google has been made available online at the BBC site. Don't expect any major surprises, but it is a useful digest of the company's origins, philosophy and business model. It also deals with the issue of click fraud, a potential threat to Google's dominance.

Update: just when we think Google's surprise-ometer has been turned down, it emerges that they have made a deal with the Chinese state to apply filters to their Chinese search engine. At the same time they are under pressure from the US Department of Justice to provide search logs to assist in investigations.

Web services

Posted on Mon, Jan 23, 2006 at 4:53 PM by Andrew Chadwick

Some small, but extremely interesting new things over the last few months in the field of genuinely useful web services:

Writely - a web-based web processor.

Foldershare - free file storage and synchronization. Recently bought by Microsoft to fit with their new Windows Live service, so I wonder how long it will stay free.

Yousendit - not that new, but brilliant.

Wordpress.com - hosted version of the free and open source Wordpress blogging platform

Foxmarks - Free bookmarks synch that actually works.

The political impact of blogs

Posted on Mon, Jan 23, 2006 at 4:11 PM by Andrew Chadwick

An excellent article by K. Daniel Glover at Beltway Blogroll on the political impact of blogs in the United States. It's packed with good examples, and has an evolutionary perspective that's often lacking in this area. Highly recommended.

For a surprising complement to this, see the recent article by former prime ministerial spinner Alastair Campbell enthusing about the power of the Net to reshape parties. Thanks to my third year student, Kerri Mackay for alerting me to this.

Congress Votes Database

Posted on Sun, Jan 22, 2006 at 12:52 PM by Andrew Chadwick

The Washington Post's Congressional votes database is an excellent resource.


Posted on Fri, Jan 13, 2006 at 10:57 AM by Andrew Chadwick

Bristol City Council have launched Campaigncreator, a website and set of basic tools to get citizens started. It is quite similar to the BBC's Action Network, launched a couple of years ago. But take a look at Campaigncreator's 'Terms and Conditions':


CampaignCreator provides users with access to information and online tools intended to be used solely for the purposes of community campaigning (“Service”). You understand and agree that the Service is part of a pilot project and is provided "as is" and that CampaignCreator assumes no responsibility for failures within the system.

The Campaign Creator application and guidance can only be used to support “community campaigns”.

A “community campaign” in the context of this project is recognised to be separate from

(1) a “political campaign” (which is primarily concerned with securing stated party political objectives or has the aim of securing political office),

(2) a “marketing campaign” (whose primary objective is increasing take up of a specific product or service) and,

(3) “national” or “international” campaigns (whose initial intent is to operate over the widest geographical area).

In the context of this project, “a community campaign” is likely to concern an issue, idea, proposal, policy or action that is intended to bring benefits or improvements to

(1) a local geographical area (a street, ward, neighbourhood or small geographical area within Bristol, UK) or

(2) a community of interest such as a demographic group (older people, younger people, disabled people etc) or a group linked by a shared concern (use or non-use of a service etc).

Where there is a question as to whether CampaignCreator is being used to support a “community campaign” the Project Manager, or representative,will seek to establish agreement with the principal campaigner. Where agreement cannot be reached the judgement of the project board will be final."

I can see what they're trying to achieve, but I'm not sure if it's wise to try to circumscribe things in this way. How many 'local' campaigns do not touch on 'party political objectives'? They're going to lose quite a few potential activists if they strictly enforce the 'non-party political' condition. Also, how many local issues in a unitary political system like the United Kingdom are untouched by 'national' or 'international' policy domains? Think of environmental issues, for example. They're going to lose quite a few potential activists there too, especially among younger citizens.

The NSA's unpalatable cookies

Posted on Mon, Jan 09, 2006 at 11:09 AM by Andrew Chadwick

A story emerged over the New Year period about US government websites' use of tracking cookies. Such "persistent" cookies are in violation of a code of conduct issued during the late Clinton era regulating what information government websites should be permitted to gather about web surfers. This appears to have been updated by the Office of Management and Budget in 2003, but includes mention of permitting persistent cookies where there is a "compelling need".

If you wanted to be conspiratorial, you could argue that the NSA knew about this all along, but it might be pointed out that the NSA and other agencies probably have better ways to gather information.

Also, this is more a product of the way government websites have emerged. They are an ad hoc patchwork of literally tens of thousands of sites. Many of these are developed by outsource firms or departmental hobbyists who are simply not aware of codes of conduct such as those governing cookies.

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