Friday, February 24, 2012

Is it OK to tweet "fire" in a crowded theater?

Evidently not.

Or at least, it's not a good idea to tweet in jest that you'll blow an airport sky-high if it remains closed for snow, so preventing you from visiting your girlfriend.  Paul Chambers of Doncaster, England found this out the hard way, paying a fine of £1000, gaining a criminal record and losing his job in the bargain.  His appeal will be heard before the high court of the UK and his defense has had at least one high-profile fundraiser, but it's all a bit sobering, to say the least.

This lack of humo(u)r on the part of airport security is not new, by the way, nor limited to the UK.  I remember as a kid -- so, ahem, well before 9/11 -- noticing a sign at the airport we were flying out of saying it was a federal crime even to joke about hijacking, bombs and such, and promptly blanching and making a mental note not to make any smart comments to the nice folks by the metal detector.

With that in mind, the remarkable aspect of the case isn't so much that it involves Twitter, though it is one of the first such cases, but that the authorities chose to prosecute for this particular remark at all.  I don't know how often such cases are prosecuted, but I'd guess it's not too often.  They certainly don't seem to make the press much.  I doubt the story would have been less remarkable had Mr. Chambers been brought in for making the same remark in person at the ticket counter.

In any case, caveat tweetor.

[Paul Chambers' conviction was eventually quashed, two and a half years later on the third appeal, the case having attracted considerable attention and celebrity involvement.  It's not clear if his job was reinstated, but according to Wikipedia he and his girlfriend did eventually marry.]

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Now I've seen everything

Sorry, horrible title.  I couldn't resist.

"Blind photographer" isn't a phrase that would spring to most people's minds readily, but not only are there such, there is -- of course -- a blog dedicated to blind photography.  From what I can tell, the photographers featured here aren't totally blind, but they are legally blind.  For example, I originally stumbled on this blog after reading about Craig Royal, who writes "My peripheral vision is blurred and the central vision is obscured by a white blindspot." and who processes his pictures with the aid of Photoshop and a telescope.

In other words, the blindness in question, while not complete, is very real and has a real effect on the images produced.  Indeed, the photographs on the site have a character all their own and, in my personal estimation, are just plain good art.

Clever copy and paste

Generally, if you select some part of a web page, copy it and paste it somewhere else, you'd expect to see pretty much what you'd selected, maybe with the formatting munged a bit.  Recently, though, I copied something (small enough for fair use) from one of the major sports outlets and was mildly surprised to see that it pasted with a handy "Read more" link including the URL of the article I'd quoted.  You can do that sort of thing in today's wonderful world of AJAX.

I suppose one could see this as an attempt to control copying of copyrighted material, which was muddled somewhere into my initial reaction, but really it seems like a more or less useful thing to do, and completely legitimate for a commercial publication.  For that matter, even in a non-commercial context attribution matters and an automatic backlink could be a nice feature.