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Saint Isidore of Seville, Patron Saint of the Internet

Do you need a bit of trivia to spice-up your conversations at the upcoming holiday party? You can proudly show you supreme geekness by proudly stating you know who is considered the patron saint of the internet.

Did you even know there is such a patron saint? “Lo and behold” there is. Well technically, he is also the patron saint of computers, computer users, and programmers/technicians.

Not being raised in the Catholic tradition, I too had never heard of Saint Isidore of Seville or seen his portrait. Born is the year 560 in Cartagena, Spain, he was a famous writer who published his own dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history of the Goths, and a history of the world beginning with creation.  His most important work is the Etymologiae, a twenty chapter encyclopedia whose structure is similar to that of the databases used on the Internet today.  The document summarizes all the known classical and Christian knowledge of law, metallurgy, geography, medicine, mathematics, history, theology, games and much more until near the end of his life in the 636 AD. You might describe him as his age’s one-man Wikipedia author.

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Windows Shopping


According to Forrester Research we’ve all cut back on reading newspapers and magazines, as well as, listening to radio over the airwaves.

We are watching more TV and browsing the internet more than twice as long each week as compared to only five years ago.

What are we doing while online? Why shopping, of course.

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Mark Zuckerberg 2010 Man of the Year

Time's Magazine's 2010 Person of the Year

According to Time Magazine editors the path to becoming the 2010 Man of the Year was quite simple. The nominee needed to:

  1. Be “very affable, … in the moment, … quick-witted”
  2. “Accomplish… something that’s never been done before.”
  3. Have “a warm presence, not a cold one.“
  4. Have a “quick smile” and don’t “shy away from eye contact.”
  5. Be one who can ‘think fast and talk fast, but want you to keep up.’
  6. Be one who “exudes not anger or social anxiety, but a weird calm”
  7. Be liked by one’s co-workers, and lastly
  8. ‘Create a new system of exchanging information’ – one ‘that has become both indispensable and sometimes a little frightening” — and it’s changing our lives “in ways that are innovative and even optimistic.”

Time’s choice for 2010 is Mark Zuckerberg. Unlike the year 2006, “You” weren’t selected again.

The person who garnered the most public, online votes and who especially matched all eight criteria is Julian Assange.

Now I realize that since 1979 when Time Magazine nominated Ayatollah Khomeini as the Man of the Year, the editors have limited their choice to people who are not controversial in the US. By that standard Assange and WikiLeaks clearly are out of the running. Zuckerberg, however, is not without his own flaws considering how Facebook got its start.

Look at reason #8 again. Is there not a strong case that whistleblower systems like WikiLeaks are ultimately more indispensable to humanity and yet also, simultaneously frightening, innovative and optimistic?

Would you rather have a society where there is a free, transparent and uncensored exchange of ideas? Or do your priorities rest with chatting across cyberspace with friends and playing Farmville?

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Wikileaks LogoThe world has developed a love-hate relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Some are praising WikiLeaks for using the internet to champion freedom of information and expose the lies and deceptions of government. Conversely, self-described entertainers like Glen Beck assert that Assange is “a dangerous man” who “believes in global chaos and bringing down the system.” Others have accused Wikileaks of selling secrets for commercial gain.

A range of US political figures have called for criminal prosecution of Assange. Potential Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, said the person who leaked the information to Assange should be tried for treason and executed. Sarah Palin says WikiLeaks should be hunted with the “same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.” Some extremists have called for the assassination of Assange. Others like Michigan’s Representative have criticized WikiLeaks while demonstrating their ignorance of technology and international law.

Sarah's Second Amendment Remedies?

Conservative commentator William Kristol questions

“Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are? Why can’t we disrupt and destroy WikiLeaks in both cyberspace and physical space, to the extent possible? Why can’t we warn others of repercussions from assisting this criminal enterprise hostile to the United States?”

All this furor is happening because government officials and corporations are in a dither about the current release of classified US diplomatic cables over the internet and the earlier release of military documents pertaining to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They fear exposure of secret and often embarrassing comments and past actions. Officials have cited potential risks to lives, but no proof has yet been provided to support that position. No charges related to the document releases have been filed against Julian Assange so far.

Mark Zuckerberg

There is an ironic familiarity with this controversy. Recall that the largest social media company in the US, Facebook, got its start through theft of government data. Mark Zuckerberg hacked private student records on the Harvard University computer network and compiled student photographs and names into an “online facebook”. So far, he’s had a fair amount of success in his career and has never been targeted for assassination by US officials. Despite being caught and sanctioned for his crime, Zuckerberg said “I thought that the information should be available.”

Obviously, he couldn’t have made the student data available without both the cajones to risk his reputation and skills with internet technology. There would be no online documents to reveal, no means of distribution, and no immediate and robust way to share the data with the world without the internet technology platform.

Daniel Ellsberg Photo

Daniel Ellsberg

History seems to be repeating itself in other ways too, but the issues are far more serious than the release of college Harvard student photographs. One might wonder if Julian Assange is the newest incarnation of the “most dangerous man in America?” Shades of the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg!  Those critical of WikiLeaks including Fox News first accused the organization of being a terrorist organization, then they went after its leader on unrelated sex charges, and now they are accusing WikiLeaks supporters of being enemy combatants at war with the United States.

I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision. ~ Daniel Ellsberg, 1971

Et tu, Julian?

Supporters of WikiLeaks seem to be falling into four camps:

  1. The Who Cares? camp.
  2. The Whisperers – a camp that dare not speak too loud for fear of being ostracized, fired or arrested.
  3. The We Want the Truth camp that demands government be far more transparent.
  4. The Warriors camp that is willing to fight back against perceived injustice.

The Warriors camp strongly identifies with Assange and WikiLeaks and is attacking the corporations alleged to be unfairly treating WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. So far, the growing list of targets includes Amazon, VISA Europe, MasterCard, PayPal, SarahPAC, Moneybookers (Skrill Holdings Ltd.), Swiss PostFinance, and others. Their members include an international network of web activists self-named Anonymous that are implementing Operation Payback. Their mantra: information wants to be free.

Hell hath no fury like a hacker scorned.

WikiLeaks certainly has friends in cyberspace and the international free speech community. The We Want the Truth camp members appear to be growing in number. Initially, 28,000+ Australians signed a letter to President Obama supporting WikiLeaks and Assange. The WikiLeaks Facebook page already has more than 1.2 million fans. In 2008 WikiLeaks received the Economist Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award and the 2009 Amnesty International human rights reporting award.

The number of international websites that mirror WikiLeaks content has soared to over 1885 and will likely increase. Despite the loss of its original website host, WikiLeaks is able operate from its modern, underground data/bomb shelter in Switzerland with just an IP address (213.251.145.96). The number can change should it also become blocked. It already uses more than a dozen name servers to guide web browsers to the correct site. This configuration significantly immunizes WikiLeaks data from becoming inaccessible. Completely stopping spread of WikiLeaks material is nearly impossible.

This information war is the historic equivalent to trying to stop the distribution of the Bible after Gutenberg invented the printing press. Information, once released with the speed and complexity of the internet, is difficult to hide, but it does not prevent governments from prosecuting those they define as criminal.

OpenLeaks LogoSpurred by both the success and dissention within the ranks of WikiLeaks plus the desire to operate under more democratic procedures, similar whistleblower organizations are forming. One or more groups using the name of OpenLeaks is expected to launch. One report says a new organization will not receive and publish information directly. Instead, organizations will allow the source to choose any media or non-governmental organizations he or she wants to receive the information for independent fact-checking, redaction and publication.

Everything you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight” (Luke 12:2-3)

The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are deeply skeptical that US prosecution of WikiLeaks will pass a constitutional test because Julianne Assange is not a US citizen. He is an Australian hacker turned journalist. The US might attempt prosecution by using or amending the Espionage Act of 1917, but they would need to prove Assange was either aware that the documents could harm US national security, or that he had a hand stealing them from the government. Assange claims to have contacted the US Ambassador in London, Louis Susman, seeking help to redact information that could put people at risk. The US government refused assistance. Instead Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., released the a statement on 12/9/10 in support of companies that have severed their business relationships with WikiLeaks. Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, reportedly said the Australian government will offer him no support although the Australian consulate in the UK has offered him access to their services.

WikiLeaks has a history breaking major stories in major media outlets and robustly protecting sources and press freedoms. We have never revealed a source. We do not censor material. Since formation in 2007, WikiLeaks has been victorious over every legal (and illegal) attack, including those from the Pentagon, the Chinese Public Security Bureau, the Former president of Kenya, the Premier of Bermuda, Scientology, the Catholic & Mormon Church, the largest Swiss private bank, and Russian companies. WikiLeaks has released more classified intelligence documents than the rest of the world press combined. ~ WikiLeaks

Welcome to the new age of radical transparency and cyberwar.

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City of Des MoinesIn its 10th annual USA Digital Cities Survey the Center for Digital Government ranks Des Moines, Iowa in 10th place for cities of its size. The designation recognizes Des Moines government for its information technology policies and best practices in state and local government.

The survey recognizes municipalities that successfully incorporate information technology into operations to better serve constituents and businesses. Recognized cities have continued to realize operational objectives despite financial challenges, strategically investing to maximize dollars and effectively conduct the business of government.

Des Moines tied for the 10th place with Santa Clarita, California. It’s been five years since Des Moines made the list. The last time was 2005 when it ranked 5th. Des Moines had ranked first, second or third in the first four annual surveys.

The 2010 Digital Cities Survey was underwritten by AT&T; Cisco; EMC; Hyland Software, developers of OnBase; McAfee; and Microsoft.

The survey winners will be honored at a special awards ceremony in Denver, Colorado on December 2nd.
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Bob Pauls writes regularly for There’s More to Technology… on appropriate technology and computers in business, education, and community development. Follow Bob on Twitter @desmoinestech. E-mail him a: …..Click Here…..@dsmtechsupport.com

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Internet Censorship

Comcast is once again trying to censor the Internet. They, like some other internet providers, oppose Net Neutrality. Stop them!

What’s this all about?  It’s a battle between democracy and the control of information by a few corporations. Watch Net Neutrality 101.

Comcast says that government should just get out of their way and trust corporations like Comcast to negotiate equitable business relationships that end the problem of network congestion and “unwanted” bandwidth demand. Comcast says they should have the right to control information flow. Those that started and know the history of the internet understand that it’s really about greed, controlling information, and free speech.

SaveTheInternet.com supports Net Neutrality because

Net Neutrality is the reason the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation and free speech online. It protects the consumer’s right to use any equipment, content, application or service without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network’s only job is to move data — not to choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.

The creator of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berner-Lee’s, takes the position that net neutrality must be preserved. Do you? I do. That’s why I’ve written this blog and signed this petition. Take a stand to protect your internet.

Related Post:

Social Media in a Walled Garden

Subsequent developments:  Level 3, Comcast Battle Continues, Netflix Unaffected

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Bob Pauls writes for Des Moines Tech Support about appropriate technology and computers in business, education, and community development. Follow Bob on Twitter @desmoinestech.  E-mail him at bpauls@dsmtechsupport.com

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Social Media BrandsIn my recent blog about dangers of social media I made reference to my IT work over the last twenty years. It wasn’t until after the blog was published that the significance of the time span hit me like a 2 x 4. Twenty years! How many of us remember that the first website was created only 20 years ago in December.

How did I pick that topic at this time? Was my subconscious directing me write on the subject because of the anniversary? Serendipity? Some unter-geek, genetic, internal clock awakening my limbic brain? I don’t know.

How interesting then to see a far more prescient, but related article by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, just published by Scientific American Magazine on the web: Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality

Berners-Lee assails the corporatization of the web, governmental threats to freedom of speech, and the `walled garden’ approach to social media sites.

The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.

He remains hopeful that OUR internet can be saved from itself and draws a line in the sand.

As long as the web’s basic principles are upheld, its ongoing evolution is not in the hands of any one person or organization—neither mine nor anyone else’s. If we can preserve the principles, the Web promises some fantastic future capabilities.   …

The goal of the Web is to serve humanity. We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine.

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Bob Pauls writes for his company, Des Moines Tech Support, about appropriate technology and computers in business, education, and community development. You can follow Bob on Twitter @desmoinestech.  Bob’s e-mail address is bpauls@dsmtechsupport.com

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