Tag Archives: Wikipedia

Shame Day: Internet Bullying Harassment

We have all heard the stories. Here in B.C. one of the most publicized internet harassment cases was regarding Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old who commited suicide not long after posting this video.

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Free Information Culture

The last of my installments (for now) in looking at these rising alternative cultures is “Free Information Culture,”  which shares the same problem with “science” culture in that there’s really no good name for it yet. I’ve referred to it before as “internet culture,” only the problem with that is that, like “science culture,” it isn’t so much the culture of the thing itself as the culture of the fanbase. In simpler terms, it’s the difference between Hollywood culture and movie-lover culture- it’s the end product that’s valued.
So what’s the internet’s “end product”?

Besides porn and stuff like this…

Free Information.

Whether it’s the news, or Wikipedia, or TED Talks, or Imgur, or anything else imaginable, it’s on the internet for free and public use. It’s something of a great equalizer. No matter where you’re from, what language you speak, what class you hail from- you can create or say anything and then get called gay in the comment section.

And while that last bit is sort of a joke, it does play a role in developing the “free information culture.” Granted, general anonymity can make us vicious and vile people, but it also (to some extent) strips us of our egos. When you make something online, you really don’t get much, if any, credit, but that’s alright since it isn’t the point. It’s just about creating, nothing more or less. Who drew the first rage face? Who started up Bad Luck Brian? Who edited and sourced that one Wikipedia page you used to stitch your last minute term-paper together? Who puts together those monthly fail compilation videos? I don’t know and will probably never know, but I do know that they’ll keep coming because of the simple joy of creating them. I and every other person with a half-decent internet connection.

And all of this simply isn’t understood by some people.

Recall the massive outcry against the SOPA and PIPA bills? What prompted the creation of  these acts was that some people- certain corporations in particular- couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the idea of free and unlimited access. Now maybe you agree with them, and maintain that posting copyrighted material of any kind is piracy and immoral, however, what needs to be understood is that this was viewed as an act on the very nature of the internet and everything it had come to represent.

Again excluding porn and stuff like this…

Now more and more companies are catching on to the idea that it’s wiser to try to work with the faceless and vengeful cat-worshippers of the internet than against them- just look at video game companies that are starting to work in tandem with modders. The game Minecraft in particular is a good example of this, as many of the new aspects of each update to the game coming from the fan-forums themselves. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of people out there (I’m looking at you, Music Industry) who continue to struggle (vainly) against the dissemination of what they view to be the “information wants to be free” crowd.

Again, it all boils down the core of the culture that the internet has produced, gravitating around the concepts of freedom and egalitarianism. Look at Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange.

If he did his work back in the early 90s, we can be pretty sure he’d be viewed overwhelmingly as a candidate for a James Bond villain. But today we (for the most part) view him as being a heroic (or at least positive) figure in a world that’s become increasingly secretive and unequal. Why this dramatic shift in perception? Again, it’s the internet and it’s affect on us. In a time of economic crisis we might not be able to go to the movies, or eat out, or drive for miles to see a friend, but we can watch something online, or browse recipes, or video-chat with the same buddies that you’d otherwise not be able to see. Any threat to your full and unrestricted access to the internet is, by proxy, a threat to some of the last pleasures you have left.

Hence the formation of a culture obsessed with the values of free speech, free access to information, and freedom from censorship. And with every development of the internet or our access to it serving as another leap in the evolution of the culture, it’s safe to say that the howl of anger that the governments of the world met when trying to create such bills as ACTA is only going to intensify.

Here Be Unwise Internet Purchases

Sometime last week I was on the lookout for books on webcomics, searching for covers to inspire a Graphic Design project. Somehow, through liberal use of the keywords “webcomic,” “history,” and “book,” I was led to a book entitled “Webcomics By Year, including: Penny Arcade (webcomic), Jerry Holkins, Mike Krahulik, Child’s Play (charity), Penny Arcade Expo, Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-slick Precipice Of Darkness, Robert Khoo, Poker Night At The Inventory, User Friendly,” the cover of which you can see below.

The first thing you may notice from the cover, after the ridiculous length of the title, is that the book can’t be attributed to any specific author. Instead, the only evidence of there being an origin for the book are the words “Hephaestus Books,” centred and in small print at the bottom of the cover.

Fully intrigued at that point, I checked to see what else Barnes and Noble had to say about this publishing company, and was aghast at my findings. There were tens of thousands of books attributed to Hephaestus Books,  each featuring a title just as [if not more] lengthy and list-like as the first I found. They covered topics ranging from Judy Blume novels to the 1950s in British television. It seemed that Barnes and Noble could show me more, but not explain, and so began my investigation.

A social reading site of sorts, Goodreads ‘ page on Hephaestus Books featured a description about the “author” that goes as follows:

“Hephaestus Books represents a new publishing paradigm, allowing disparate content sources to be curated into cohesive, relevant, and informative books. To date, this content has been curated from Wikipedia articles and images under Creative Commons licensing, although as Hephaestus Books continues to increase in scope and dimension, more licensed and public domain content is being added. We believe books such as this represent a new and exciting lexicon in the sharing of human knowledge.”

In other words it publishes print-on-demand compilations of Wikipedia articles not original works. Caveat Emptor

Author Robin Hobb wrote about the series of books on her website early this month, stating that the concept of Hephaestus Books is one that “offends [her] mightily.” Science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle wrote on his own site that he was concerned in that he had “never authorized ANYONE to make a compilation of a lot of [his] books and sell them in a single volume.” His confusion is well-founded, but in reality what appears to be a single book containing multiple novels is nothing more than, as mentioned above, Wikipedia articles.

Hephaestus isn’t even the only malefactor out there. Fonte Wikipedia and Book LLC are both “publishing companies” that do the exact same thing. A blog post I found entitled Beware the Wikipedia Scrapers exposed both of those examples, and also has a helpful list on how to “avoid this junk.”

I’m not altogether surprised by this scam; it’s one I stumbled upon years ago but have only recently found again. It sadden me, however, that it’s ongoing, and that there have been people who have fallen for it, as evidenced by the used books on sale on these sites.

As writers have said before me, watch out. Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware. Be on your guard. Please mind the gap. This is a swindle that has befallen others, and as much as a book titled “Novels By R. A. Salvatore, including: Vector Prime, The Dark Elf Trilogy, Legacy Of The Drow, The Woods Out Back, The Icewind Dale Trilogy, The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy, Paths Of Darkness, The Cleric Quintet, The Dragon’s Dagger, Dragonslayer’s Return” might catch your eye, it might be better to stop and think about what you’re doing.