Give the Earth a Hug Today

It’s Earth Day. How about some technological energy saving ideas to help you celebrate the event?

  • Turn off your electronics when not in use. Save over 1,000 lbs of carbon dioxide and $256 per year.
  • Snakes at SXSW
    Unplug anything with a transformer. Even when the device is turned off, the transformer keeps using energy.
  • Instead of using a screensaver, use your computer’s sleep mode.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. There are some now that you can control with your phone.
  • If you travel frequently, there are apps to help make your travel greener.
  • Find a place in your city where you can recycle electronics instead of throwing them in a landfill where they leach dangerous chemicals.

You can find many more energy saving action items at StopGlobalWarming.org. You might want to send your photo in support of the Earth Day Network. The photo should show yourself with a sign that says “The Face of Climate Change.”

Shared Streaming – Good or Bad?

I was fascinated by a recent article in The New York Times, No TV? No Subscription? No Problem that explained how many people stream TV shows and movies to their devices using shared passwords or shared accounts on sites like HBO Go and Netflix.

the producers poster
A recent streaming choice from the family thespian

The Times article described how a group of friends all watched the premier of “Game of Thrones” on the same evening via HBO Go but only some of them had accounts there. The others were logging in using the passwords of friends.

This story caught my eye because my son and I share a Netflix account. That means that sometimes one or the other of us log in from my house, or from his house, or from somewhere totally not our own homes to watch movies and TV shows. I’ve logged with no problem in from my daughter’s house in Texas.

I often open up Neflix and get a good laugh because the “top 10 recommendations for you” are such a mashup of tastes. Netflix might recommend a Japanese anime cartoon series (my granddaughter likes these) or a macho action flick (my son likes these) or an independent drama with a strong female lead (guess who likes these).

What does this mean to the companies like HBO Go and Netflix who have a business model that depends on paid subscriptions? Do they plan to crack down on people who share accounts the way my son and I do?

According to New York Times reporter Jenna Wortham, who spoke to some of the companies,

. . . the companies with whom I spoke seemed to have little to no interest in curbing our sharing behavior — in part because they can’t. They have little ability to track and curtail their customers who are sharing account information, according to Jeff Cusson, senior vice president for corporate affairs at HBO. And, he said, the network doesn’t view the sharing “as a pervasive problem at this time.”

In fact, some companies don’t allow shared streaming, meaning two different users cannot stream music or movies at the same time. Spotify and Hulu Plus are examples of this technique. I don’t know about your household, but I can imagine families where three or four people with three or four devices in three or four different rooms of the house all want to use the same service at the same time. Restrictions on streaming would rankle in situations like this.

When my granddaughter spends the night at my house, she may be in the bedroom watching something from Netflix on her computer, while I’m in the living room watching something from Netflix on my TV. If that wasn’t possible, Netflix would really be of no use to me. The reason we can do this is because I don’t have the streaming only plan at Netflix. Digital Trends reported on howNetflix explained their policy about shared streaming, and it applies to some accounts but not others. According to this article,

The volume of devices that can access Netflix streaming is dependent on the current plan. If a Netflix user is on the 2-disc-at-a-time plan in addition to paying for streaming service, that account can access content on two different devices at the same time. However, these combo packages start at $19.98 and range up to $29.98 for four discs with streaming. Consumers also have the option of purchasing multiple streaming subscriptions to increase the number of devices that can access streaming content at an additional cost of $7.99 per account.

It also makes a difference whether you are streaming movies or TV shows.

I’m of two minds about this. If I’m paying for a service, I should be able to let my family share it with me. But I also understand that companies have to have a way to collect subscription dollars from people who use their services if they are going to survive. Would setting up higher priced accounts that allow more users to stream simultaneously be the answer for all providers, not just Netflix?

Are you using shared streaming? What’s your take on the future of this practice?

Note: This post was originally published on BlogHer.

Useful links: Sexism defined, assholes moderated

Two posts that complement each other well caught my attention. I hope you’ll read both of them completely, they aren’t too long.

Yup. That's my man. In an apron, cooking japchae. :)

First there is What is sexism? by Lea Verou. Lea explains the idea in simple terms.

Both prejudice and gender-based discrimination are sexism. Prescriptive gender stereotypes are sexist (e.g. women have to be nurturing, men have to be tough) as they oppress the part of the population that doesn’t conform to them. Statistics aren’t sexist (e.g. “Many women are nurturing” isn’t a sexist statement, “Women are nurturing” or even worse “women should be nurturing” both are).

The second post, from Anil Dash, is If Your Website’s Full of Assholes, It’s Your Fault. Anil discusses a set of principles that will keep your website from turning into a morass of bad behavior. He introduces the principles with,

As it turns out, we have a way to prevent gangs of humans from acting like savage packs of animals. In fact, we’ve developed entire disciplines based around this goal over thousands of years. We just ignore most of the lessons that have been learned when we create our communities online. But, by simply learning from disciplines like urban planning, zoning regulations, crowd control, effective and humane policing, and the simple practices it takes to stage an effective public event, we can come up with a set of principles to prevent the overwhelming majority of the worst behaviors on the Internet.

Logical, clear-thinking words from two different sources that can help Internet communities that suffer from a plethora of assholes change to more productive and useful environments.

Useful links: Copyright, new apps, RSS readers

Cory Doctorow, writing at Boing Boing, talks about an important copyright case in Supreme Court to Wiley publishers: your insane theory of copyright is wrong.

I get so many PR pitches for apps that I mostly just ignore them all. I seldom mention any of them.  But a couple of new ones somehow managed to catch my eye. EQuala plays songs your friends listen to. They call it social radio. Dubbler is used to create voice messages instead of text messages. The voice message can include a photo and be sent to Twitter and Facebook.

Have you been trying out alternatives to Google Reader? I’ve been using both Netvibes and Feedly in an effort to figure out which one I like better. So far I’m not crazy about either one – neither have the ease of use Google Reader did, and neither make it easy to find what you want quickly. I’m sort of leaning toward Feedly as my final choice, but everything is still in the running.

Useful links: browser lab closes, web standards, FTC guidelines

Adobe is closing its browser lab. All you Dreamweaver teachers take note.

There’s a good summary of all the latest news in web standartds at .net magazine: Hot in Web Standards.

If you’re a blogger who does reviews (as I do) you should take a look at the new FTC guidelines for disclosing info in product reviews.

Alyson Hannigan’s Online Stalker Gets Three Year Posting Ban

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When a New Hampshire man posted online comments about actress Alyson Hannigan, including threats to kill her and her family, she took the matter to court. The result was a three year restraining order banning him from posting anything online about her or her family and from making any effort to meet her.

The stalker, John Hobbs, apparently agreed to the terms the judge set down. There were no fines, no jail time, just a warning in the form of a restraining order.

Hannigan, known for her roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Pie and How I Met Your Mother, is married to her former Buffy co-star Alexis Denisof. They have two children.

According to this report in The Mary Sue, there had been a temporary restraining order against the man earlier in the year.

Earlier this year, E! News reported Hannigan got a temporary restraining order against a New Hampshire man after he threatened not only her, but her family, online. They write the man “has possessed a pistol permit since 2000 and was recently discharged from a mental hospital.”

Hannigan is married to former Buffy co-star Alexis Denisof and the couple have two girls together. The individual in question posted threats of violence and death on Facebook more than once with one directly mentioning Denisof. In her original filing, Hannigan reported local police visiting the man who “fully acknowledged his interest” in the actress. They say he agree to visit a mental-health clinic but still said he would be traveling to California to find her.

Question: Are Restraining Orders the Answer

The case involving Alyson Hannigan is just one in a long string of similar cases. Sometimes when the identity of the person doing the harassing is revealed, all anyone gets is a public apology. At least in this case, there is a rule of law to provide more clout.

But my question is this: are restraining orders enough in this type of situation? A restraining order is just a piece of paper. It provides no physical restraint. Should there be more? Should there be fines, jail sentences, required mental health counseling? Should stalkers be put on probation and required to wear ankle bracelets so that police can track their location at all times?

At the very least, couldn’t people who threaten others online be deprived of Internet service and a data plan on their cell phone?

We live in a very public world, a very small world. Privacy for anyone, not just celebrities, is more and more an issue. We know women get threatened online just for speaking at conferences or being bloggers. You don’t have to be a well-known celebrity to be threatened in our current online culture of haters, trolls, and crazies. Are legislators and the legal system in step with the current culture, or do we need some changes – fast?

Note: Originally published on BlogHer.

Useful links: being human, Marissa Mayer, women’s history, Jared Smith on ARIA, captioning

Hello, I’m a human being is from Elliot Jay Stocks. May I repeat: we need an internet etiquette training movement.

While we are on the topic of how to use language to disagree and/or present your own point of view in a respectful yet effective manner, read this post by Lauren Bacon: On Marissa Mayer’s Disavowal of Feminism. It’s a great example of how to make a point without being a jerk about it.

Did you know this year’s Women’s History Month theme honors women in STEM? Yay, women in STEM.

Here’s a great post about how to use WebVTT and captioning on the web with the HTML5 video element.

Jared Smith made his slides from his ARIA Gone Wild talk available on Slideshare. Good stuff.