I’m back

My family and I escaped the sodden Northeast for a week in — where else? — the Pacific Northwest. I apologize, especially to several readers who wrote in alarm and withdrawal, for not posting my customary notice that I would be gone for awhile. It won’t happen again (the radio silence, I mean…). A belated happy new year to Jewish readers, an auspicious Ramadan to any Muslims who read this, and happy Thanksgiving to Canadian ones. [If you want to be prepared, I will be travelling again for several weeks in February…]


Blogger Help : What is the "Flag" button?

If you visit a Blogspot (Blogger’s web hosting vehicle) weblog which uses the Blogger navbar at the top, you now have the ability to flag its content as objectionable. Google (recall: the Blogger parent company now) reserves the right, if they agree that the content is potentially offensive (by whatever standards they wish to apply), to place a Content Warning Page in front of the weblog and to unlist it, although its content will still be available.

Some would argue that this is censorship, while others insist that because the content is not restricted this is reasonable. On FmH, in the weblogging world and in the web in general, it has seemed to me that pointing to content assumes an inherently more and more important role in proffering information and opinion. So it is arguable that removing pointers to something becomes perilously increasingly akin to restricting speech, which seems indefensible no matter how vile the speech is.

A great reason not to host with Blogspot, it would seem. On the other hand, the demands of any other weblogging platform will probably weed out many of the mindless dolts who promulgate hate speech and vulgarity, because it is so braindead-easy to do on Blogspot.

…as it is braindead-easy for the great unwashed masses who read weblogs to react with a click on the “flag” button to anything with which they disagree. Google is going to have its hands full investigating all the spiteful would-be stool pigeons (see story below). Perversely, it actually makes me wish I had a “flag” button here on FmH. After all, from its beginnings six years ago I have said you should let me know as soon as I offend you. After Steve Baum, “I like to keep track of those times when I get something right.”


Get Out My Life

One fifth of your genes are patented. A new study in this week’s Science reveals that a full 20 percent of the human genome has been patented in the United States. Of that 20 percent of patented genes — about 4,000 in total — around 63 percent are assigned to private firms while 28 percent are held by universities. Researchers patent genes as valuable research tools, for use in diagnostic tests, or to discover and produce new drugs. In the U.S., an isolated DNA sequence is treated by the patent system like other natural chemical products, such that a sequence of DNA can be patented in exactly the same way as a new medicine purified from a plant source could be patented.” (Medical Informatics Insider)