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Tuesday News: Reddit’s dilemma, Adobe Digital Edition 4, Baptist responds to The Economist, and authors buying reviews

Tuesday News: Reddit’s dilemma, Adobe Digital Edition 4, Baptist responds to...

It is pretty much impossible to be a free speech absolutist without having to defend the right to publicize some really skeevy stuff. And for absolutist First Amendment attorneys and scholars, the principle might be enough. But for the corporate entity Reddit (which is largely owned by Conde Nast’s parent company), the “ideal” of unfettered free speech is unlikely to remain uncompromised – for good and bad.

The challenge for Reddit now is: How does it retain its commitment to such free-speech principles while it is trying to raise money from a group of what could be nervous or conservative venture funds? Twitter has also wrestled with its early commitment to being the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party,” and its desire to grow and generate revenue for its public shareholders has led to a form of quasi-censorship in which certain tweets and accounts are banned or hidden from users at the request of governments. But Twitter’s challenges are like a day at the beach compared with Reddit’s.

Remaining committed to free speech is hard enough when the speech you are trying to protect is violent or homophobic or repulsive in a number of other ways, but it becomes exponentially more difficult when you have investors with hundreds of millions of dollars on the line breathing down your neck. Will Reddit start to water down its commitment, in the hope that it can bridge those two divides without losing its soul? Or will it be forced to mimic Facebook, which routinely removes photos of women breast-feeding and never says why? –Gigaom

For example, Adobe DE 4.0 does not support embedded audio or video, and it is also lacking support for basics like right to left languages (Arabic, Hebrew, etc) . The search function is incomplete, and the app is also lacking advanced rendering features (such as knockout, overprint, and non-separable blend modes). And last but not least, mouse wheel scrolling is officially not supported for Epub3 ebooks. –The Digital Reader

But the Economist didn’t apologize for dismissing what slaves said about slavery. That kind of arrogance remains part of a wider, more subtle pattern in how black testimony often gets treated – sometimes unknowingly – as less reliable than white. The Economist reviewer was saying that the key sources of my book, African Americans – black people – cannot be believed.

As the historian Jelani Cobb pointed out to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Friday night, the reviewer’s ideas about slavery’s history are not actually as uncommon as many of us would like to believe. He’s right: All across the American south, you can go to historic plantation sites still pushing the idea that slaves who had a “good” master were happy, and “faithful.” –The Guardian

To date — it’s currently Sunday, 7 September 2014 — no Goodreads author has lost her or his account due to buying of fiverr reviews. Even though Patrick, Director of Author Marketing (or whatever his official title is) hinted that authors could be deleted if they were buying fiverr reviews, not one has been so terminated.
. . .
Frustration with Goodreads’ lack of action on this issue prompted me to announce publicly that I would no longer spend my limited free time doing their job for them. I would not track down the information, collect the screen shots, do the leg work to clean up their site of fraudulent — and illegal — “ads” masquerading as customer reviews. I didn’t say I’d stop doing it; I just wasn’t going to give the information to Goodreads any more. I was, shall we say, moving house. –Linda Hilton

Thursday News: Twitter user languages, hidden costs of Getty Images, crowdsourcing book material, and Scribd’s stubborn piracy rumor

Thursday News: Twitter user languages, hidden costs of Getty Images, crowdsourcing...

The Languages of Twitter Users – This is a pretty nifty little chart detailing the different languages used on Twitter, and how their combination has changed since 2007. Although English still represents the largest percentage, its share of the Twitter marketplace has decreased over the past seven years, and several new languages have been added to the mix over the last couple of years (including Swedish, Chinese, Polish, and Thai). –New York Times

Getty Images Allows Free Embedding, but at What Cost to Privacy? – I should have known this was too good to be true. Or, rather, that the use of these images would be far from “free.” In addition to all the normal privacy concerns you have when you use certain types of third-party content, Getty is going to be amassing a massive database on user data that it might “monetize,” which would be an indirect, but no less worrying, charge to image users. Let’s hope that Getty looks at better, less invasive and ethically suspect methods to profit from doing the right thing.

For one thing, given its scale and popularity, Getty Images embeds may appear on a significant number of different sites that a single user visits. That would allow Getty to correlate more information about a user’s browsing history than any single site could. That information, in turn, is subject to government requests, sales to data brokers, or even breaches or leaks.

These concerns might be mitigated by a strong privacy policy or some indication of what Getty intends to log and how it’s going to use it. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten the opposite. –EFF

Aziz Ansari Is Crowdsourcing Reddit for His New Book Modern Romance – So Aziz Ansari has set up a subreddit through which he can source material for his new book on dating and romance, especially within a social media environment. On the one hand it seems an obvious, even genius, strategy, but on the other, it’s going to be interesting to see if anyone objects to having their words used in Ansari’s book, even though he’s clearly stated that all of the responses can be used in his project. And I’ll admit that I’m getting increasingly uncomfortable with the trend of crowdsourcing intellectual property (Kindle Worlds, I’m looking at you). I mean, who’s profiting most here – contributors, individual creators, or corporations?

As Famously points out, r/modernromantics acts as a reverse AMA: Instead of answering Redditors’ queries, Ansari is asking the questions. (There used to be a joke thread posted by a different user, titled something like “Would you leave your significant other for Aziz?”, but it’s since been removed.) So far, Redditors are engaging in the kind of open-minded discussion I see on other dating subs (I frequent r/okcupid), but with far more optimism –Huffington Post Books

Scribd, Piracy, and Why You Can’t Always Believe What You Read Online – Nate Hoffelder addresses the tenacious rumor that users of Scribd can easily pirate books downloaded from that site. Rich Meyer at indies Unlimited has been urging authors to remove their Smashwords books from Scribd based on this rumor. Beyond the ongoing hysteria over piracy, this rumor demonstrates — as Hoffelder points out — a lack of understanding about how technology works, specifically about how publishing technology works.

Juli [Monroe] and I both think that Scribd stores their ebooks in a folder called documents_cache. We came to this conclusion independently, and if that is where Scribd puts the ebooks then I seriously doubt the average user will be able to strip the DRM. The ebooks aren’t stored as ebooks; instead they are stored as collections of JSON, CSS, and image files. And while I can’t speak for the JSON files, the image files have DRM of some kind. –The Digital Reader