<-- The Filter --> January 2007

January 31, 2015
[0] From the Center
[1] Features
[2] Networked: Bookmarks, Webcasts, Podcasts, Tags, and Blogposts
[3] Global Voices: Digital Dose of Global Conversations
[4] Community Links
[5] Upcoming Conferences
[6] Staying Connected
[7] Filter Facts

[0] From the Center

The new year may have started slowly, but it has wasted precious little time in gathering a full head of steam.  Whether the significant changes in Massachusetts Statehouse or the US capitol, the ever-evolving social or digital media spaces, or the host of exciting courses, research projects and events at the Berkman Center, dynamism seems to be the only constant.  With two great winter-terms courses at Harvard Law School, workshops in Cambridge, Switzerland and Vietnam, and an unconference and reception in San Francisco, our agenda has been packed with stimulating, insightful and promising interactions.  These events have afforded us the great opportunity to both re-connect with long-time friends and colleagues and establish and deepen new relationships.  The generous and frequent observation that we are doing a lot of great work has never been more true, so long as the "we" is broad and inclusive, referring to our extended community, which is truly amazing and not-so-secretly, the main asset upon which the Center relies.  Moving forward, there is so much to be done, but we are confident that this networked and loosely coordinated approach will continue to drive us all onward and upward.  

-- Colin Maclay, Managing Director, Berkman Center--



[1] FEATURES: a bit of what’s going on at Berkman and where to read more

BioMed Central and Open Science Endeavors
By David Weinberger

BioMed Central is a commercial publisher of peer-reviewed scientific research that permits open (= free) access to all of its content. In so doing, it happens to exemplify a whole bunch of trends, many of which are associated with "Web 2.0." It is not a voice from the future, describing visions we cannot yet imagine. It's in some ways more valuable than that, for it's an existing business, dealing with the future in practical ways. In it we can see not just where the Web may go, but where it is right now:

BMC mixes the commercial and non-commercial. As with typical scientific research journals, authors—or, more likely, their sponsoring institutions—pay for the privilege of being included. But, unlike most scientific journals, at BMC readers don't pay. Why not? Because putting knowledge behind a wall with a slot for dollar bills makes our species stupider. And given the economic differences in the ability to pay, it cuts off too much of the world. So, BMC's business model incorporates a sense of responsibility to the community, not just to the investors. In fact, the founder, Matthew Cockerill, started it in 1999 after working for Elsevier for two years; Elsevier has traditionally wrung every penny it can from institutions by pricing some subscriptions north of $10,000/year, a fee well beyond what poorer nations can afford. (Elsevier now provides over 1,000 journals for free to developing countries.) Open access is being forced on the scientific publishing industry: Last year, CERN decided to publish the results of the upcoming runs of their new supercollider only in open access journals. As Cockerill put it when I interviewed him last week, "CERN is in the position to call the shots."
BMC makes its processes as transparent as possible. Many of its publications and "all the medical journals in the BMC series" use open peer review, says Cockerill, in which the comments of the reviewers are public and non-anonymous. So are the revisions to the paper. For example, if you wonder why "A population-based study of human immunodeficiency virus in south India reveals major differences from sentinel surveillance-based estimates" is the way it is, you can read the original submission, two reviewer's reports, the resubmission, the reviewer's report, and the third resubmission. What's working at BMC failed in a trial at Nature, however, which this summer allowed authors of submissions to have their articles posted for public comment. Or, more exactly, Nature's admirable attempt—it is the very prototype of an Establishment journal and thus might instead be expected to be far more resistant to change—got some of the variables wrong. It's hard to know which, but it could be something as small as not allowing pseudonyms to something as large as the fact that comments did not affect the editors' decisions. Nature is treating this precisely as a single failed experiment, not as a proof that the traditional peer review process is sacrosanct.
BMC includes more data than is necessary. It urges scientists to publish their raw data so that others can mine it for knowledge. That data may not be "cleaned up" (the term scientists use when they remove inconvenient anomalies) but it is useful even in its less than perfect condition.

BMC makes the reliability of its information apparent. When you're providing lots of data, it's important to let readers know what the quality of that information is. Since BMC is peer-reviewed, the articles have an evident imprimatur of quality. But the backing data is understood to be published as-is.
BMC spreads authority around. Commenters can comment on the articles, disputing and clarifying, supporting and denouncing, focus and extending. Compare this to traditional scientific journals at which the only authority belongs to the anonymous reviewers and the editors, and all we are told is that the Deciders have given it a thumbs up.

BMC does not believe in moments of time. Because paper publishing requires committing ink to absorbent paper, there is a publication date. Before that, the information is not public. After, is public and pretty much unalterable. But at BMC, once it's published, it's open for comment.(Pre-pub sites such as arXiv.org are also good examples of this.)

BMC provides a mix of top-down and bottom-up metadata. It's trying to find the right network of ontologies or controlled vocabularies to make it easier for researchers to find everything that's relevant to their interests; Cockerill says the permitted keywords may be presented to authors through an AJAX-y interface that suggests words as the user types into the form. The site does not provide end-user tagging, but it does "work closely with CiteULike," says Cockerill. "We have some plans to incorporate their tagging within our own journals. We definitely see data coming from users helping to fit articles together." Tagging can of course also be done using an external resource, such as del.icio.us.

BMC confronts the endless granularity of information. It's trying to get metadata associated not just with articles but with the elements of articles.
BMC provides multiple authorities to guide us to worthwhile research. For example, its Faculty of 1000 provides recommendations based on the judgment of over 1,000 "leading scientists." BMC also does the expected reader-based guidance by publishing a "most viewed" articles list, as well as having a "similar articles" function. (We need tags, dammit! Tags!)

BMC "intertwingles" its content, spinning a Web of links. It lists other articles that cite a particular BMC article via Google Scholar, ISI Web of Science and PubMed Central. It lists other articles by the same authors. It creates a permanent record "card" for each article, listing a unique identifier so other articles can reference it unambiguously.

It has lots of feeds. Feeds let users keep up with the latest articles of interest without having to check the BMC site itself. Feeds distribute information. They are an info diaspora. Many businesses don't like feeds because they keep people from spending time on the site. But such short-sighted sites are short cited.

BMC experiments. As Clay Shirky points out with his characteristic sharpness (in an HBR article that is available for free only this February), the Web is innovation-friendly because it lowers the cost of failure. But institutions that have traditionally relied upon their authority for their value still have difficult embracing experimentation. Not BMC. For example, BMC's Biology Direct says it uses a "novel system of peer review" in which the author is responsible for getting members of the editorial board to review her article. Rather than revising the article, the author can instead publish the comments and suggested revisions as an additional section of the manuscript. Interesting experiment.

BMC does not pretend it's perfect. Cockerill is quick to say (in an email) that at BMC, "[S]oundness is paramount, and BioMed Central has proven its commitment to scientific accuracy over the last 6 years." But by showing us the sausage being made, we are simultaneously confronted with our species' fallibility and are given additional reason to trust the final result.

It's not just open, it's generous. Openness implies a passive potential. But openness on the Web is active. It encourages others to take content and make more of it. Generosity has built the Web.

Now, I don't single out BMC because it is the single greatest site ever, or that it's the answer to science's prayers. There are a number of sites doing open access science in really interesting ways. In fact, it seems the BMC PR person called me because BMC wants some of the notice that Public Library of Science is getting and deserves. BMC is not the most open and most free of all the open access endeavors. It's commercial, which may turn out to be what enables open access science to maintain itself or may be a debilitating weakness, or neither, or both. But the fact that BMC is just one example—an excellent one—of what's going on is exactly the point.

David's Blog:

Workshop on ICT-Interoperability and e-Innovation in Weissbad, Switzerland
By Richard Staeuber & Urs Gasser

The Berkman Center is collaborating with the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen in a transatlantic research initiative aimed at exploring the relationship between innovation and interoperability in information and communication technologies (ICTs). The research project seeks to raise our understanding of the nature of interoperability, the costs and benefits associated with it, and the various elements influencing interoperability, including standards, law and markets.

Since it is impossible to treat interoperability as a purely abstract concept and detached from a specific set of facts, in this research project, we will initially focus on three concrete cases that will contribute different perspectives  to the overall study (white paper). The three case studies are: digital media (DRM interoperability in the digital music space in particular), digital identity, and a third primary case which may be e-Communications, web services or office applications. We concentrate on issues such as describing (1) the characteristics of interoperability and innovation in these areas; (2) the benefits of different approaches for achieving interoperability  - ranging from laissez-faire on the one end of the spectrum to government-based approaches on the other end; (3) the best means for identifying and evaluating these benefits, the conditions under which they are present, and the best manner to achieve them; (4) the extent to which other countervailing criteria, such as security, reliability, privacy, and product maturity, should also be considered in the interoperability analysis under different market conditions; and (5) the extent to which the answers to these questions (and the level of interoperability and innovation) may depend upon the relevant customer-base, applications, products and services, markets, and uses.

This research project not only calls for knowledge of multiple factual settings, but also presupposes skills in a variety of disciplines such as technology, economics and law, as well as the integration of perspectives from different regions and cultures. In view of this need for an interdisciplinary and international group of researchers or research contributions, the Berkman Center and the Research Center for Information Law, St. Gallen, hosted an expert workshop on 19 and 20 January 2007 in Weissbad, Switzerland. The workshop was intended to both foster discussion of some of the research hypotheses and initial findings related to the case studies, and to inform our own work in interoperability and its relationship to innovation. The group was composed of 20 experts—primarily from European institutions and backgrounds—representing ICT industries, policy bodies, NGOs and academia, and addressed the complex subject of interoperability in its interplay with innovation (in the identified areas) from technological, economic, legal and policy perspectives.

The expertise as well as diversity of the participants ensured a high-level and partly controversial discussion, especially with regard to the role that governments may play in the ICT interoperability ecosystem with a view to innovative activity. One important root of these heterogeneous views is the fact that there is no clear empirical evidence as to the extent interoperability has an impact on innovation. One important thrust of this research project is, therefore, to try to establish models of analysis that might assist the task of identifying the costs and benefits of a certain regulatory decision under varying factual circumstances.

This research effort is supported primarily by a gift from Microsoft (which is, as always in the work with corporate sponsors, unrestricted and mixed with other unrestricted funds in order to mitigate the potential risk that the work is influenced by virtue of sponsorship). We have been generously supported by our partners in industry by their willingness to share with us an in-depth view of their work across a range of areas on interoperability, and we will continue to collaborate with outside stakeholders such as corporations, industry associations, ICT purchasers, coalitions of critics and supporters. We would, therefore, appreciate input from anyone with an interest in the field, for example by way of editing our project wiki at http://cyber.harvard.edu/interop (work in progress).

ICT-Interoper Workshop website:

Safer Searching Update
By Christina Olson

Several months ago we entered into a new phase here at StopBadware.org. Google – which is one of our partners – began creating warning pages for websites they found that hosted or distributed badware. They would then report those sites to StopBadware.org, and we would investigate and create quick reports explaining the badware that we found.

Over the past couple of months, our focus at StopBadware has evolved from reviewing and writing "quick reports" on the sites that Google reported to us, to handling appeals from sites that have fixed the badware problems that led them to be flagged in the first place. Although all of the quick reports we previously did will still be accessible on our site, we thought it was time to let everyone know of our new focus. We have recently rolled out the Badware Website Clearinghouse, which contains a list of all the sites that Google has reported to us, and hopefully other partners will step forward and add to this resource.

To clarify some misconceptions, the decision to post a warning page is, and has always been, an independent decision made by Google, not by StopBadware, and does not reflect any testing or review by us in advance. Google independently finds sites that cause users to be infected with badware and displays a warning page to users to try to visit these sites when they appear as search results on Google.com. Web searchers see the warning page instead of being sent directly to the potentially harmful site; the page informs searchers that the site they are trying to reach may contain badware and recommends looking for another site, but also offers the option of continuing on to the originally requested page at the searcher’s own risk. Nothing is blocking anyone from actually accessing the website—if web searchers choose to type or paste the URL into their browser they will still go to the site – but they will have better information to make more informed choices about where they surf.

It is not possible for someone to falsely report a website to Google or us and have a warning created for it in search engine results. A Google warning page means that Google’s testing process has found the site to be hosting or distributing badware and thus potentially harmful. Google does not post warning pages merely in response to reports from the public but only after, and as a result of, its own testing of the site.

Read more at:



Links to Berkman conversations happening online

Internet Politics, Governance, and Regulation:

[BLOGPOST] John Palfrey looks at candidate's web presence early in the Presidential Campaign.

[BLOGPOST] David Weinberger points out the latest online Democracy tools.

[PODCAST] Susan Crawford discusses the unique requirements of Internet regulation.

Citizen Media and the Future of Journalism:

[BLOGPOST] Dan Gillmor considers "connecting readership with pay."

[BLOGPOST] Ethan Zuckerman discusses Jill Carroll and foreign reporting.

[BLOGPOST] Rebecca MacKinnon explains why Asia leads the world in blog readership.

Digital Media:

[ONLINE] Prof. Charles Nesson and his Evidence course hold a mock trial in Second Life.

[PODCAST] Steve Schultze explains the hypothesis for Beyond Broadcast 2007: from Participatory Culture to Participatory Democracy.

Security and Anonymity:

[REPORT] StopBadware.org releases report on FastMP3Search Plugin.

[PODCAST] Ron Diebert looks to secure human rights online.

[BLOGPOST] Doc Searls' thoughts on Mobile ID.



[3] Global Voices:
Digital Dose of Global Conversations

David Sasaki, Global Voices Latin America Regional Editor, put together the monthly digest below, a collection of links to the most interesting conversations happening in the global blogosphere. Please check out Global Voices here: <http://www.globalvoicesonline.org>

If you are short on time today (really, who isn’t?), then drop what you’re reading and have a listen to Georgia Popplewell’s incredible podosphere audio collage as she fills your earbuds with celebrity scandal analysis from India, slam poetry from Zimbabwe, a recent report from the World Social Forum in Kenya, and an invaluable language lesson for lovers of Chinese food who are chopstick challenged.

“Hello! Save us! We’ve been stuck in Libya for over a year now and we’re about to go crazy.” So begins a desperate plea for help on one of China’s most widely-read BBS forums after three Chinese citizens had their passports revoked by Libyan authorities. John Kennedy tells the tale.

Hamid Tehrani has put together a fabulous portrait of Iranian prisons through the windows of weblogs. We are introduced to Dr. Hesam Firouzi, a human rights activist and medical doctor who is fresh out of jail; Ghomarasheghaneh and Memarian, both bloggers who were jailed for political reasons; and the poet, Kasra Anghai who describes the significance of prison in prose.

2007 has kicked off in Peru with a flurry of social protests taking advantage of new media tools and the publicity that stems from blogging’s echo chamber. Juan Arellano describes the mounting campaign against a seaside resort's policy of prohibiting housekeepers from visiting the beach during the day and, back in Lima, the ongoing protest against President García’s proposed reinstatement of the death penalty.

Has Ukraine’s celebrated Orange Revolution turned to apple sauce? Reflecting on the progress of the former Soviet state two years after the inauguration of President Victor Yushchenko, LiveJournal user “didaio” argues that Yushchenko is not to blame, “but rather ourselves - those people who overthrew Kuchma and led Yushchenko to power. We lost when we switched to our personal affairs, thinking that the revolution had been won.”

Compared with “Black February” and “Black October” of 2003, the already-dubbed “Black January” of 2007 is distinguished by a flood of citizen media - including Flickr photos, YouTube videos, and blog postings galore - that covered the clash in Cochabamba between rural coca farmers and urban opposition protesters. The revolution might not be televised, but controversy cannot seem to evade the net.

Anyone familiar with Turkish history knows that “we are all Armenians” is not the catch-phrase one should expect to be chanted by thousands of Turks marching the streets of Istanbul. Yet that is precisely what happened on Friday following the murder of Turkish-Armenian editor, Hrant Dink. Has Turkey finally found the sacrificial lamb to deal openly with its greatest taboo?



Featuring our friends and affiliates

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, "Cease and Desist Notices"

Center for Citizen Media, “Political Transparency Project”

Science Commons, “The Neurocommons”

Protect the Net


Sunlight Foundation, "Sunlight Blog"




*February 12-14: At The Interface: The Value of Knowledge - Sydney, Australia:

*February 13-14: DELOS Conference on Digital Libraries - Pisa, Italy:

*February 13-14: FTC Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy Workshop - Washington, D.C.:

*February 13-15: The IASTED International Conference on Software Engineering - Innsbruck, Austria:

*February 14-16: Wainhouse Research Collaboration Summit - Sydney, Australia:

*February 15-17: Tangible and Embedded Interaction - Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

*February 18-20: International Association for Development of the Information Society Web Based Communities 2007 Conference - Salamanca, Spain:

*February 21-23: International Conference on Semantic Web and Digital Libraries - Bangalore, India:

*February 22: The Future of Ambient Intelligence - Amsterdam, Netherlands:

*February 22-24: Electronic Resources & Libraries 2007 - Atlanta, GA:

*February 22-24: International Conference on Signal Processing, Communications and Networking - Chennai, India:

*February 22-23: Alliance for Community Media Midwest Regional Conference - Minneapolis, MN:

*February 26-27: Tech Policy Summit - San Jose, CA:

*February 28-March 2: 2007 Code4Lib - Athens, GA:

*February 28-March 2: Integrating Brand Messaging Across Media - Boston, MA:


*March 5-6: Ohio Digital Commons for Education (ODCE) 2007 Conference: The Convergence of Learning, Libraries and Technology - Columbus, OH:

*March 7-9: International Association for Technology, Education and Development Conference - Valencia, Spain:

*March 8-9: The European e-ID Card Conference - Leuven, Belgium:

*March 12-17: Amazing e-Learning International Conference and Workshop: Edutainment - Suan Dusit Rajabhat University, Bangkok

*March 14–16: IASTED Internet and Multimedia Systems and Applications - Chamonix, France:

*March 21-23: European The Alternative Authoring Conference eLearning - Randers, Denmark:

*March 22-25: The International Conference On Cross Media Interaction Design - Hemavan, Sweden:

*March 26-28: American Association for Artificial Intelligence Conference on Interaction Challenges for Intelligent Assistants - Stanford University, CA:

*March 27-29: 10th Annual Distance Learning Association Conference - Galveston, TX:

*March 29-30: IDA Information Design Conference 2007 - Greenwich, London:

*March 30: MIT Spam Conference 2007: Spam, Phishing and Other Cybercrimes - Cambridge, MA:



How to find out about Berkman's weekly events

If you'd like to be notified of outgoing Berkman research, please sign up for our report release email list: <http://cyber.harvard.edu/signup>

Every Friday we feature the week's online conversations in the Berkman Buzz. If you would like to receive the Buzz via email, please  send an email to pmckiernan AT cyber.harvard.edu with "Buzz subscribe" as the subject line. To take a look at last week's Berkman Buzz, go here:

We webcast every Tuesday Luncheon Speakers event. Luncheon Series events start at 12:30 pm Eastern Time. The webcast link is <rtsp:// harmony.law.harvard.edu/webcast.sdp>. You can participate live in our lunch discussions through our IRC chat channel: <irc://irc.freenode.net/Berkman> or on our island in Second Life: <http://tinyurl.com/s6tv4>. Tune in!

If you are unable to tune in to one of our events, please check out Berkman's Audio Event Archive: <http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/audioberkman>

The Berkman Center’s audio and podcasts are also available through iTunes, ODEO, and Podnova.

* iTunes: <http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/ viewPodcast?id=135238584&s=143441>
* ODEO: <http://odeo.com/channel/79770/view>
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The Filter is a publication of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.
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Last updated

January 16, 2008