Sunday, December 9, 2007

Be vewy qwiet. Syrians stop Israelis, Microsoft stops employees, and the Easton librarian stops everybody

Shhh! It's one thing to share a door with an Israel, but it appears that sharing an online social connection with an Israeli is just as dangerous (h/t Jeff Nolan):

Syrian authorities have blocked Facebook, the popular Internet hangout, over what seems to be fears of Israeli "infiltration" of Syrian social networks on the Net, according to residents and media reports.

Residents of Damascus said that they have not been able to enter Facebook for more than two weeks. An Associated Press reporter got a blank page when he tried to open Facebook's home page Friday from the Syrian capital.

Syrian officials were not available for comment Friday because of the Muslim weekend, but some reports have suggested that the ban was intended to prevent Israeli users from infiltrating Syrian social networks.

Lebanon's daily As-Safir reported that Facebook was blocked on Nov. 18. It said the authorities took the step because Israelis have been entering Syria-based groups.

Meanwhile, some of my own views about business non-acceptance of bidirectional customer engagement are being confirmed, if this article is true:

[W]ithin the hallowed halls of Redmond there is a PR muzzle being readied to make sure any news coming from Redmond follows the company line....

Long Zheng has a post describing a new position being created within Microsoft being billed as as a highly strategic role. The position - Director of Windows Client Disclosure - means that everything; whether it be PR pieces or blog posts that has to do with Windows 7, Vista, XP and related products, has to go through this Director’s office....

But at the same time, there's some "genie out of the bottle talk":

[I]t would seem that the Scoble [days] of blogging freedom may be coming to an end....

The question is though will the Blue Monster be as easily put back in its cage without making a sound. A lot has been made over the last year of a new Microsoft, a Microsoft that listens, a Microsoft that isn’t evil and one has to wonder if all those blogging voices of Microsoft will easily be silenced or will we begin to see even more Mini-Microsoft or MSFTExtrememakeover types of blogs begin to popup.

But the biggest muzzles aren't political or business in nature, but educational. Maybe. Russell Shaw links to a BBC article in which Jimmy Wales claims that teachers are prohibiting students from accessing Wikipedia:

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has said teachers who refuse younger students access to the site are "bad educators"....

He said young students should be able to reference the online encyclopaedia in their work.

Mr Wales said the site, which is edited by users, should be seen as a "stepping stone" to other sources.

As long as an article included accurate citations, he said he had "no problem" with it being used as a reference for younger students, although academics would "probably be better off doing their own research".

"You can ban kids from listening to rock 'n' roll music, but they're going to anyway," he added. "It's the same with information, and it's a bad educator that bans their students from reading Wikipedia."

I thought that this was a bunch of urban legend, but it turns out that Wikipedia is being blocked - and ironically enough, at least one librarian is supporting the move.

EASTON, Pa. — Linda O'Connor regards Wikipedia the same way former first lady Nancy Reagan campaigned against drugs.

She urges people to "Just Say No."

The Great Meadows (N.J.) Middle School librarian hasn't been a fan of the online encyclopedia for years. This fall, she decided it was time to make others at her school aware of the Web site's pitfalls.

She put up a sign saying "Just Say 'No' to Wikipedia" over the computers in the school library.

Several other school officials feel similarly about the Web site. Wikipedia is blocked on all computers in the Warren Hills Regional School District....

O'Connor said many of her students don't realize Wikipedia can contain inaccuracies.

"Kids just take it for gospel, they really do, and that's my concern about it," she said.

The implications of this statement are troubling - not only that there is an implicit assumption that all of the materials IN the library are accurate (i.e. every statement in Ford's autobiography AND every statement in Carter's autobiography are true), but there is also an assumption that it is the librarian's role to determine what is true and what is not.

Of course, if the librarian were an Israeli, she couldn't warn the Syrians about this. And if she were within Microsoft, she couldn't warn anybody.

[mrontemp business] | [mrontemp politics] | [mrontemp technology] | [mrontemp tags]

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