Is an Infoviz of MetaFilter copying, stealing, or remixing? April 7, 2008 7:33 PM   Subscribe

I wanted to take one of AskMeFi's most awesome threads (the one about life-altering experiences) and turn it into an art project. This project is already done, except that nobody knows about it. Here is the link. I am using copies of almost every single post in that thread. This is potentially problematic. I'm asking the MetaFilter Community here, what do you think?

Arguments in favor of what I'm doing:
- I'm not going to put any ads on the page.
- I've removed usernames associated with the posts (although people can click on the link buttons to find out)
- I consider the project art, and the work is simply a transformation of a thread (fair use)
- It feels like I'm doing as much harm as re-posting an RSS feed of that thread

Arguments against what I'm doing:
- Some people may not like it. (And while I offer an opportunity for people to e-mail me and request the story removed, it's still an "opt-out" system)
- The brand called me is aided by this, and I do intend to eventually make a book based on these kinds of stories (for those, I will get explicit permissions from writers). So I indirectly profit.
posted by philosophistry to Etiquette/Policy at 7:33 PM (142 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

© 1999-2008 MetaFilter Network LLC
All posts are © their original authors.

posted by Sys Rq at 7:37 PM on April 7, 2008


(I'm playing devil's advocate there; I'm fairly anti-© in real life.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:40 PM on April 7, 2008


Hey, you're doing a project. I hear projects is good for that.
posted by blacklite at 7:40 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is almost certainly not fair use in the legal sense. So I'd say you shouldn't be doing this without permission from the posters.

(and this isn't MetaFilter Projects, so I'm not sure what this post is doing here)
posted by dhammond at 7:40 PM on April 7, 2008


Doesn't this belong in Projects?
/pedant (humorless)
posted by yhbc at 7:40 PM on April 7, 2008


I posted here because I wanted to know whether I should even be doing the project in the first place.
posted by philosophistry at 7:41 PM on April 7, 2008


Honestly, I do think that's what Projects is better at.

Hi! I've run a script of all the comments from MetaFilter over the last eight years and graphed them all onto a grid of anglo-saxon vs. latinate word origin. What do you think?

Same difference, really.
posted by yhbc at 7:44 PM on April 7, 2008


It's an etiquette policy/question. Not a look at my project and tell me if you likey.
posted by philosophistry at 7:47 PM on April 7, 2008


I was all set to say "you should have asked first" but it's a pretty cool thing to scroll down and mouseover stuff. It's like a page from the wiki summarizing all the best threads on a subject. I kinda like it.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:48 PM on April 7, 2008


I like that you did this cause I'm reading a bunch of it again, and that is indeed some Gold of Aggregate Humanity.. I am however puzzled because I don't see what your presentation does to add to the original besides perhaps separating wheat from chaff. (c) issues aside, I'd be more inclined to praise or quiet nods of respect if it was all just simply formatted and laid out - no distraction from the relentless gush of humanity that it is. Not to knock the amount of effort you have surely put into this, but it feels more like a web design project that I am not artistically inclined toward than a Brilliant Monument to What the Internet is For.
posted by 31d1 at 7:53 PM on April 7, 2008


Careful font selection would help the appearance.

And, oh yeah, hurfdurf projects hurfdurf.
posted by slogger at 7:53 PM on April 7, 2008


Doesn't this belong in Projects?

I think that as a vetting-of-propriety, this is fine as a Metatalk thread.

My first-blush reactions:

- The project looks damned neat. I just spent a couple minutes glancing through it, and it's exactly the sort of cool digestive stuff I'm ga-ga for, so (a) I've got no beef with it but (b) I'm curious what Matt and Jess think as folks maybe less predisposed toward this sort of thing.

- The thorough, be damned sure thing to do is to drop an email/mefimail to every one of those users and ask permission and post only those that you receive permission for.

- That said, linking to askme content is generally considered totally kosher when it's done in good faith and without some effort to expose or identify people. The comments you've worked through are all publicly viewable in the first place, and your decision to not make the usernames directly viewable on the page but reachable via link seems like a decent one.

So, yeah. I think you're fine, I think it's pretty cool, but you should absolutely make a point of being responsive as hell to any specific requests from folks cited.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:53 PM on April 7, 2008


This belongs here not in Projects. Re-read the post if you're confused.

mathowie - what do the newspapers who quote Mefites do? Is attribution to username enough, or do they directly contact users?
posted by spiderskull at 7:53 PM on April 7, 2008


I've never heard the term "infoviz" and I'm having a hard time parsing it.

I think you first should have asked the people whose posts you used. I don't think I posted in that thread but if this is how I found out that my post was being reprinted/interpreted on another site I might feel a tiny bit put off.
posted by loiseau at 7:54 PM on April 7, 2008


On a creative level: I don't think you're changing up the formatting enough to make it original. Why would you say your site is more worthwhile than the original thread? You don't give any compelling reasons for the project, only pre-emptive defenses against people who would criticize it.

Morally, I think it's kinda crappy to take people's answers outside of the place they were first posted in (a community of helpful answery folk), and turn it into something that non-community members are encouraged to look at. It feels a little touristic, a little drive-by-and-gawk about statements that were originally shared in good faith by people who didn't suspect they were about to become the raw materials for art.

This strikes me as a bad idea.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:54 PM on April 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


Nicely done, philosophistry.
posted by gwint at 7:57 PM on April 7, 2008


The text which appears directly on the page seems to be summaries in philosophistry's words, and not a copy of the exact words of the original posters, so that part is OK as far as copyright is concerned. The AJAXy pop-ups which contain the original comment text may well be a copyright violation, unless you have the permission of the people who wrote them. If you simply linked back to the original comments on Ask you'd probably be OK.

IANAL, although I do work with IP lawyers.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:57 PM on April 7, 2008


One reason it's good to post this here is so that people who posted in that thread have a greater chance of seeing this than a project -- and thereby realizing that they need to decide whether to opt out.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:59 PM on April 7, 2008


Oh wait, I just realized the clicking leads to grouping by type of revelation. That's pretty cool. I like that.

It does still strike me as a little uncomfortable, though; I'd say only use ones by people who have already given you their express permission, and then you'll be golden.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:00 PM on April 7, 2008


Great project, IMO. (I just wish I'd contributed to that thread).

So long as askme questions and comments are linkable from the public web, I don't see any problem with displaying the responses, especially since you remove the usernames.

I would, however, remove the "link" option. That does feel a bit invasive somehow. If someone is inspired enough to research the answer cited, let him or her do the work.
posted by treepour at 8:04 PM on April 7, 2008


I think if this were a compilation of things found on the net in general, it would be a cool art project. That it is all exclusively from askme, where people spill their guts and expect things to be kept in this venue, it is a little creepy. It seems almost like a way to establish your own known, popular post secret type project off the back of the metafilter network, which is, as said before, kind of creepy and kind of hackish.

So, as a project: cool. Limited to AskMe: less cool. Without the explicit permission of everyone who wrote the words you've copied: wrong.
posted by necessitas at 8:07 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


The difficulty with an opt-in situation is that I'll only have maybe 40 stories that I'll have permission to work with. The whole point of the project is to summarize the entire thread and find patterns and connections.

As far as Greg Nog's comment: Morally, I think it's kinda crappy to take people's answers outside of the place they were first posted in (a community of helpful answery folk), and turn it into something that non-community members are encouraged to look at. It feels a little touristic, a little drive-by-and-gawk about statements that were originally shared in good faith by people who didn't suspect they were about to become the raw materials for art.

If you look at the profile of Jeremias (the one who asked the question in the first place), the thread itself already received incredible coverage outside of the MeFi community by being linked off waxy.org and lifehacker. My project won't give it any more attention than those sites did.
posted by philosophistry at 8:10 PM on April 7, 2008


I don't have much of a dog in this fight, since I don't have an answer in the thread. However, I pretty much second Greg Nog.

You're summarizing people's answers; I wouldn't consider that art. Neat info project, maybe; but not art. It feels like Cliffs Notes / Coles Notes claiming to great literature because they condense Shakespeare.

And it sort of gives me icky feelings that you'd "indirectly" (I would say it's directly) profit by CliffsNoting people baring their souls. There's people talking about having been abused, deaths in the family, divorces... You'd be taking advantage of that.
posted by CKmtl at 8:12 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


what do the newspapers who quote Mefites do? Is attribution to username enough, or do they directly contact users?

They never ask before doing shorter quotes from users and rarely contact posters if they want to reprint something longer or get their OK first (which is really rare).

This project is definitely using the text without permission, but I like the summaries he made up and I re-read a ton of comments I hadn't seen in a while and clicked through a few to see who said them.

As long as this page doesn't have ads on it and keeps linking to the originals, I don't see what harm is done and think it's fine, even though the legal thing would have been to ask first, then publish ones you got the OK to.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:19 PM on April 7, 2008


philosophistry: The difficulty with an opt-in situation is that I'll only have maybe 40 stories that I'll have permission to work with. The whole point of the project is to summarize the entire thread and find patterns and connections.

If you're worried that people won't agree to have their comments on your site, then you shouldn't be doing it without people's permission.

And if there's been editing of the comments that are then attributed back then you should most certainly be asking.
posted by loiseau at 8:20 PM on April 7, 2008


If you're worried that people won't agree to have their comments on your site, then you shouldn't be doing it without people's permission.

I totally agree.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:22 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


That it is all exclusively from askme, where people spill their guts and expect things to be kept in this venue

But is that a reasonable expectation? Anyone in the world with an internet connection can browse and link to questions and answers. And, as has already been pointed out, it's not like askme is some obscure, rarely-visited-or-linked-to internet cul-de-sac.
posted by treepour at 8:26 PM on April 7, 2008


But is that a reasonable expectation? Anyone in the world with an internet connection can browse and link to questions and answers.

Expecting that no one outside of AskMe will read them? No, that wouldn't be a reasonable expectation.

But another blog linking to that thread doesn't strike me as the same thing as someone appropriating it, in a slightly transformed form, as their own work and eventually marketing it as a book.
posted by CKmtl at 8:35 PM on April 7, 2008


And, as has already been pointed out, it's not like askme is some obscure, rarely-visited-or-linked-to internet cul-de-sac.

It was far more so then than now. AskMe has grown the way it has because of threads like those and the people who wrote for them so freely. When I participated in that thread I had no idea it would become such a touchstone, and I highly doubt too many other people writing in it did either.

Whatever the case, "opt out" is the language my cell phone company uses to infringe on my privacy if I'm not paying attention, not language I expect to see from someone trying to create art. If philosophistry wants to use community members' writing here wholesale with the goal of eventually writing a book using these stories, I don't understand why he can't contact each of them right now to ask permission.
posted by melissa may at 8:40 PM on April 7, 2008


If you're worried that people won't agree to have their comments on your site, then you shouldn't be doing it without people's permission.

I totally agree.


If people don't want their comments on the world-readable internet they'd best not put them on there.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:43 PM on April 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


If people don't want their comments on the world-readable internet they'd best not put them on there.

I agree with that, too, but if you're going to ask if you should ask permission, then the answer is yes. Moral of the story: it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:46 PM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I know that the point of this post isn't to have people look at your project and tell you whether they like it. But I still want to tell you that I like your project and I like your site.
posted by painquale at 9:01 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, no offence to the people who found this intrusive, and I'm all for getting peoples permission if that's the general consensus, but I really really like the idea. Sure, the thread's great on its own, but this is like paying a homage to it. Again, I can understand if you wouldn't like your post to have been reposted on another website, which philosophistry should remove if that's the case, but until then I wouldn't mind if it's up unless the contributors to that thread feel strongly against it.

Also, I'm not too enthusiastic about the book for some reason; somehow making money off of it, just doesn't seem right to me. (One of the huge plus points about the website though is that people who didn't get a chance to participate in the original thread can now do so if they like.)

By the way, this is how I'd found Mefi almost two years ago. It was linked on some random girl's blog as one of the best things she'd ever read on the internet and I just had to click on it; glad I did!
posted by hadjiboy at 9:04 PM on April 7, 2008


I don't think linking to something someone wrote on a web page is an issue. I think where I see a problem is that you're planning on writing a book based on the stories, at which point you intend to get permission. I could be wrong, but doesn't that make what you've done less an art project and more a marketing tool for your future book? That is sorta kinda how it comes off to me. You're using the "art project" to gauge consumer interest.

Yes, I am a cynic.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:06 PM on April 7, 2008


The difficulty with an opt-in situation is that I'll only have maybe 40 stories that I'll have permission to work with. The whole point of the project is to summarize the entire thread and find patterns and connections.

It's not good for anything if you don't have permission from people.

Summaries in your own words are fine and really interesting in the context of the page you linked to. However, yeah, shining a bright spotlight on an AskMe thread full of personal information while technically kosher is something that you should be totally checking in with people about. If they don't say "yes" (i.e. not "write me back, if I don't hear from you by May 1, I'll assume it's okay to use...") then you should not proceed with using their stories, period.

the thread itself already received incredible coverage outside of the MeFi community by being linked off waxy.org and lifehacker. My project won't give it any more attention than those sites did.

That's not true, unless you're unsuccessful at what you're trying to do. Having the thread in general linked by waxy/lifehacker is totally different than linking comment by comment to the orignal thread, with commentary.

I don't mean to toss cold water on your idea, I just feel that anything short of express permission by people whose stories you intend to work into your book [which means no shopping around stories you don't have permission for when looking for a publisher] isn't kosher.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:21 PM on April 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


Would it be worth adding a function to user pages where people can specify the level of copyright on their posts? The default for existing users would have to be full copyright as stated in the footer, but people could choose a Creative Commons license under which they release all of their posts. New users could be required to choose a category at sign-up, or a default could be chosen which they can choose to change at any time. The only catch I can see is that anyone using other people's words would have to retain proof that, at the time they used them, said use was within the permissions granted at that time. Unless you stored a history of permissions, allowing use of posts within the applicable time frame.
posted by dg at 9:28 PM on April 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think it's totally fine to be doing this and people are taking it way too seriously. It's a post on a blog, for heaven's sake....
posted by Rumple at 10:05 PM on April 7, 2008


First off, this response may not be of much help as I'm too close to this topic, not sure how objective I can be.

As the author of the question, philosophistry reached out to me last week to get my thoughts on a possible project based on the question. We both acknowledged it was a strange area, and in fact, is one actually considered an "author" of a question? (If I had known how the thread would continue to live, I would have spent a bit more time cleaning up the slightly awkward syntax. Hey, it was posted at 7:45 am, ok?)

Looking at the project I think it has transformed the thread a bit with it's grouping of questions and answers. Getting into the question of "is it art?" isn't something I have the energy for at the moment, but I do think something would be lost if it were edited due to "opt outs".

The sum of the parts are greater than the whole with the thread. Individually, people's contributions only carry a bit of weight, it's the combined effect that feels significant. All of the contributor's heartfelt responses, combined with the medium of the Web are what have turned this into something unique.

What holds this thread together are these stories which make us feel connected to being human and childlike and the way we perceive this through a public forum, each member of the community taking turns. So this project is intriguing, because it's hard to separate the context from the content. Part of me would want to see a cross-section from the "complete" thread, but I also understand how this is not your average content, either.
posted by jeremias at 10:08 PM on April 7, 2008


Man, I missed the book part. I remain pretty hunky-dorey with the current web project as such, but, yeah, that's a whole different can of worms there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:15 PM on April 7, 2008


The difficulty with an opt-in situation is that I'll only have maybe 40 stories that I'll have permission to work with. The whole point of the project is to summarize the entire thread and find patterns and connections.

This is the difficulty with using other people's work as sources for your own work.

You must ask permission. Really, it's not that hard. There's a finite number of people to ask. I know its "real work" compared to copy-pasting some text and massaging it with some algorithms.

It would be much more difficult to sort things out later if you did make a book or something.

I would be furious to the point of calling a lawyer if I found my words/text in a book (or other project) without my permission - profits or no.

The fact that, on MetaFilter, the copyright on my comments is owned exlusively by myself is one of the reasons I feel comfortable investing so much time writing some of the comments that I do.

Eventually there may be a book of my own, there. I'm probably not the only one thinking along these lines.

Do you have any idea how badly you could screw up a contract or legal obligation for a writer if you violated a "first publication rights" clause for them?

That would be very difficult to unravel and make good on, as well as expensive.

Ask permission. It's much easier in the long run, and you'll sleep better at night.
posted by loquacious at 10:19 PM on April 7, 2008


painquale: I know that the point of this post isn't to have people look at your project

I'm not sure I buy that at all. There's something suspiciously disingenuous about this, from the way that it's described as an "art project" when it's just an aggregation of answers in a format (slightly) more digestible to the general public (coincidentally, the same people more likely to buy an inspirational list book) to the fact that the poster put this in MetaTalk instead of projects by way of a question about "policy."
posted by dhammond at 10:24 PM on April 7, 2008


Man, I missed the book part. I remain pretty hunky-dorey with the current web project as such, but, yeah, that's a whole different can of worms there.

Same here, I just thought this was a "art project" summarizing the thread and presenting a new display of it. Hearing of plans for a book really rubs me the wrong way since this seems like a way to gauge and attract interest instead of being a one-off thing you did for fun.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:25 PM on April 7, 2008


to the fact that the poster put this in MetaTalk instead of projects by way of a question about "policy."

Yeah, and linked to it.

"This project is already done, except that nobody knows about it. Here is the link"

Indeed.
posted by katillathehun at 10:43 PM on April 7, 2008


Privacy? Those who post personal information on a publicly available website have already given up any expectation of privacy.
posted by Cranberry at 11:02 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


philosophistry, would you mind please elaborating on the artistic angle of what you've created? I know you've gone into it a little bit above, but I'm having a hard time understanding the piece as an art project (vs. a design/layout project, or a homage to a thread, or a creatively presented catalogue). I do very much like what you've done, because it reinvents the original thread in a way that lured me back into reading the stories, but I see that as analogous to a band doing a cover of a song and having that remind me of what I liked about the song in the first place. If that's what you're going for, great, I get it. But if there's something else I'm missing, then I'd love to hear more about your motivation, intention, feelings, process, etc. Thanks!
posted by iamkimiam at 11:02 PM on April 7, 2008


This project is already done, except that nobody knows about it. Here is the link"

ouch, but, kind of.. I agree.
posted by localhuman at 11:04 PM on April 7, 2008


When ethical questions about internet stuff come up, I always revert to the tired ole metaphor of rooms at a party. Metafilter is one giant party, and we're all engaged in discussion here. Anybody can listen in on what we're saying, and the whole thing is being taped...we know this when we walk in the door. Plus, we've probably all relived some of the choice words we've said to others here, and that reminds us to choose our words more carefully, or suffer the consequences. (Hey, lookie! Its just like talking to REAL PEOPLE!)

The problem occurs when you take those records and bring 'em to another party. None of us agreed to that. And we'd probably NOT talk about Mary Sue or Joe Bob quite the way we did if we knew that what we said was going to be rumoured around town to other parties. We have no control over that.

What we share, even in public spaces, is done within bounds. When I speak on record, I do so knowing that everyone can read it, within the boundaries of the place, time and other constraints that I am aware of and choosing to abide by. You start moving those boundaries, and all of the sudden what I've said is taken out of context...because context was defined by the boundaries that were agreed to at the time of the utterance/post.

You need to ask permission, so that others have the chance to take ownership for what they've said in new context with different boundaries.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:16 PM on April 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Privacy? Those who post personal information on a publicly available website have already given up any expectation of privacy.

That was a bad example and poor word to use. Here is what I actually meant: whenever some entity has used the words "opt-out system" with me in the past it's been because they are doing something I don't like and are making ME responsible for 1). being aware of the crappy thing that they are doing and 2). letting them know that I don't want to participate in it. I've had to opt out of junk mail, opt out of telemarketing calls, opt out of having potential disputes with various companies settled by arbitrage -- and it's bullshit. If this is a worthwhile project it shouldn't have to resort to similar legalisms to get cooperation from people.

There's a way to do this project that is respectful and thoughtful of other people here and that is to ask permission from them.
posted by melissa may at 11:37 PM on April 7, 2008


When ethical questions about internet stuff come up, I always revert to the tired ole metaphor of rooms at a party. Metafilter is one giant party, and we're all engaged in discussion here. Anybody can listen in on what we're saying, and the whole thing is being taped...we know this when we walk in the door.

The problem with this metaphor is that Metafilter is not a room at a party. There are no walls to MetaFilter, there are no boundaries. Anybody, anywhere, with an Internet connection can read anything posted on this site, and they can link to it, take it out of context, what have you, at any time. MetaFilter threads show up in Google searches, they get linked to in blogs, etc. The problem with spatial metaphors applied to the Internet (and they are rampant) is that the default is openness, not boundedness. You have to build in boundaries if you want them, like requiring passwords to read posts. MetaFilter has no such boundaries, and thus I see no ethical problem with re-presenting publicly available web content on the web.

putting comments in a book, presumably for sale, raises copyright issues that are separate from the ethical dilemma also being discussed
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:43 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


which means no shopping around stories you don't have permission for when looking for a publisher

TBH, I'm pretty sure no legitimate publisher would buy such a book without explicit written permission assigning copyright from each of the people quoted. The last thing they need is to have their investment pulped, or have to pay over all of their royalties in damages because one of the people sues.

Other than that, everything jess says.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:29 AM on April 8, 2008


Wait, the linked site is art? I was expecting a collage or paintings or poetry or, well, something interesting and novel and pretty. But it's just an ugly-looking dumbed down summary of something I can already read here. Where's the actual artistic bit?
posted by shelleycat at 12:34 AM on April 8, 2008


Also:
I consider the project art, and the work is simply a transformation of a thread (fair use)

Consider all you like. The test though, will be in the courts. If you take the whole of a post that somebody wrote, and quote it in its entirity, it's hard to see how that is transformative of each individual copyright holder's intellectual property.

What's more, the courts have been slapping down this attempt to claim fair use repeatedly. If three guitar notes doesn't count as transformative fair use, then it's hard to see how they'd interpret this any differently.

FWIW, I don't personally give a flying fuck about copyright and grant use rights freely, but I didn't post in that thread so haven't got a dog in this fight.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:39 AM on April 8, 2008


Oops. On a third re-read, I see you intend to get explicit permission for any book use. Consider me a moron, and my last two comments moot.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:42 AM on April 8, 2008


MetaFilter has no such boundaries, and thus I see no ethical problem with re-presenting publicly available web content on the web.

Well, except for the bit about "All posts are © their original authors" which is about as firm a boundary as it gets - outside of not posting or locking everything away behind a password.

Which means that in a court of law you have no such rights to "re-present" - IE, copy - anything at all without express permission.

Ethically (and more importantly, legally) doing so would be wrong - despite your personal opinion.


Look, I'm all for fair use, and I'm about as anti-copyright as I can possibly be - but legally speaking these things have been decided already in numerous trials.


Asking for permission isn't that hard. Arguing against asking permission by way of "it's too hard!" is fucking lazy and a dereliction of duty.

Look at it this way: Asking permission is fun. I've written to a number of (traditional, dead-tree book) authors to ask for permission to use extensive, well beyond fair use quotes in various essays I've written online.

So far, every single time I've written to ask for permission it has been a real pleasure and a joy. I got a chance to chat with some of my favorite authors and express my thanks for their work. I've always recieved enthusiastic written permission, clearly stated.

That in itself is its own reward. The fact that I can sleep soundly about it knowing I did the right thing is just icing on the cake.
posted by loquacious at 12:45 AM on April 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


This MetaTalk thread has gotten a little out-of-hand. Let me correct the mis-interpretation. This supposed book I'm making is totally opt-in and permission-based. Everybody who wants their stories in the book has responded with graciously to my requests. They and I both know their stories are touching and we want to share them.

I'm genuinely interested in how people change their lives. I love those stories a lot. I also like the idea of finding patterns among those stories. By clicking around on the summaries, you learn a lot about the kind of things that change people's lives. I feel already that I'm more informed about parenting simply by my own efforts to organize and summarize all those comments.

I've done similar projects in two other instances:
100 People Who Are Screwing Up America and The Perfect Album, by Plastic users.

Those two projects and now this project bring order and a new insight into a large mass of data. This is what information visualization (or InfoViz) means to me.
posted by philosophistry at 1:11 AM on April 8, 2008


Embrace the remix, folks. Third-party composition is culture. And a copyright statement at the bottom of the page doesn't change the fact that you posted to a public forum on a global telecommunications network distinguished by its very openness.

I'd like to respectfully suggest that those advocating an "ask permission first" policy are dramatically underestimating its (unintended?) consequences. It raises the barrier to entry so much that it completely eliminates entire categories of creative work. The web has become an astonishing success only because it threw the old rules out the window. You can't pick and choose when it comes to the web; you want the ubiquity without the openness? Sorry, the web's openness and success are two sides of the same coin. (Feel free to try to build a closed alternative, but CompuServer, Prodigy, and AOL all failed before you.)
posted by sdodd at 1:41 AM on April 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


In that thread I linked to something I'd written a short term earlier rather than posting in-thread, but if I had posted in-thread, I would have been a little put off if I had not been asked for permission.

Embrace the remix, folks.

Oh, I do. I personally am all about the information-wants-to-be-free remixy creative mashup ferment websplosion digital clusterfuck that we're all building out here on the wires, but I'll tell you, every single time in the last decade or so that something I've written online has appeared somewhere else without someone asking, it's appeared because someone either wanted the world at large to believe they'd written it, or they were trying to make money off it. In several cases, everything I'd written over the course of 7 years had been mirrored on some other site, with ads slapped all over it. It's left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, even though I stopped doing anything but shrugging about it years back.

I'm not in any way saying philosophistry was doing anything of the kind here, and his information visualization is pretty spiffy, but I do think that it would have shown a little more, I dunno, respect for the community we have here to have a) posted this thread before it was built to see if people objected and/or b) mailed people for permission to use their stories.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:06 AM on April 8, 2008


what's not to like? philosophistry's web remix w/o permission seems fine, as it appears nobody profits. It's a little prissy IMO to post something on a public website and then complain when that post shows up on another public website. Yet he has come here to ask about the etiquette, which at least implies that he'd back off in the face of strong opposition. The book? philosophistry does intend that as a for-profit, and he's getting permission from everybody involved. Seems like he's acting out of respect in all this.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:12 AM on April 8, 2008


*preens, prettily and prissily, publically, potentially pornographically*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:28 AM on April 8, 2008


Don't hate me because I love to alliterate. Hate me because I'm so sexay.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:57 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's a little prissy IMO to post something on a public website and then complain when that post shows up on another public website. Yet he has come here to ask about the etiquette, which at least implies that he'd back off in the face of strong opposition.

Then I'm taking this opportunity to say that I strongly oppose this project. It's not so hard to ask permission for each answer philosophistry wants to use, and if that's limited to 40 answers, then all right, the project is exactly 40 answers long. It does strike me as hell of whiny to say "but then it's too short!"

I definitely wouldn't call it "prissy" to be worried about records of one's life being taken out of their original context. Even if it is legally sound, it just seems like kind of a dick move; no one in the thread likely thought they would have their stories reduced to broad categories and hosted on another site that stripped them of their context.

For those talking about profit, I should point out that that doesn't even enter into the question, as far as I'm concerned. As far as the purpose of art goes, my feeling is that it's more valuable as a tool for indiviuals to accumulate ideas and wisdom about humanity than it is as a money-making scheme. And I think a large part of that accruing of wisdom is each person's construction and selective sharing of a personal narrative of self. For someone else to recontextualize an individual's voluntary sharing without asking permission -- I dunno, my opinion is that that has faint undertones of bullying. It's shifting the control over how information is presented away from the originator and towards someone who doesn't have as much personal investment in the story.

You can't pick and choose when it comes to the web; you want the ubiquity without the openness?

I can't ensure that I won't get mugged when I walk down a dark street, but I still think mugging is a pretty mean thing to do. If a mugger posted signs in on the street first, saying "Do you want to be mugged Circle one Yes No," I would definitely circle "No."
posted by Greg Nog at 5:12 AM on April 8, 2008


It's a little prissy IMO to post something on a public website and then complain when that post shows up on another public website.

I've already had my writing stolen, rebranded and profited upon from advertisements.

It sucks. A lot. There's a lot of feelings of things being out of ones control, and a fair amount of rage about what amounts to having your own work stolen and passed off as the work of someone else.

Granted, I'm just some shitty, half-assed, wanna-be writer on the web. Beyond enjoying the content and context of the MeFi community, I post here because I trust Matt and I trust his ethics, and because the copyright ownership issue is very clearly stated on each page and in the EULA.

Maybe it's true that a conservative is just a liberal who has been mugged, I don't know, but I do know this whole issue is provoking a rather unexpected and strong emotional response in me.

Maybe I'm just getting old.


I don't have so much as a problem with non-profit remixes - as I do with the slippery slope of (paraphrasing) 'You're posting on a public website. You have no reasonable rights to reserve in regards to your work' - which is total bullshit.

Bullshit as decided by current law and by ethics. Just because it's available to the public doesn't mean that the author in question hasn't reserved any or all other rights. Maybe the author merely prefers having said works presented on a single, particular website, in a particular fashion, in a particular context.

That's not your right to change that. Outside of the doctrine of fair use - you have exactly ZERO rights, here


Am I splitting hairs? Damn fucking right I am. But these are important issues that we - as a society - are facing.

Obviously copyright is broken, as a system. But that system currently exists, now, and fighting that system through ad-hoc lawlessness isn't going to "fix" it.

Obviously, information wants to be free. But the conduits and pathways to make it truly "free" don't exist yet. Information has real world costs. Information is the only real currency left, and it's the only thing of value I have to offer to anyone, for free or for money.

I reserve all (ethical) rights granted to me to protect that.
posted by loquacious at 5:13 AM on April 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


It doesn't matter that nobody profits. Commercial or not commercial is not the sole arbiter of copyright infringement or of Fair Use. Using quotes is "limited use" and that's fine, but you've taken entire posts from individuals and ported them to your own personal project page.

That is copyright infringement. The poster owns the copyright to the posts they make on MeFi. If you do not have a poster's permission, you cannot use their post in its entirety. I can take all of my posts and re-post them to my own personal blog, commercial or not; I cannot ANY post you make and re-post it to my blog. I can take a small bit, in the same way quotes appear in book reviews, but I cannot take the whole thing.

It has nothing at all to do with how cool the project is. It has everything to do with the reality of copyright law.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:15 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


loq, buddy, since you kind of brought up the whole writing thing: I really wish you'd Choose Paragraphs. Please? Just as a favour to me? They rock, really: trust me!

I've read very little that Smedleyman wrote, to be honest, mostly because he didn't seem to understand (or refused to conform to) the normal structure of written language, and it may just be me, but I haven't got the goddamn time for that messydesk shit. What I forced myself to wade through of his, I liked a lot, but it wasn't all that much, because.

I don't read all the way through much of what you write anymore either these days, to be honest, because a sentence or two with double spaces or maybe just one separating them from the next sentence or two, concrete-poetryriffic as that may be... well, I just can't be fucked. Sorry, mate, to say, because I really do like to bathe in your energetic phloooshPKOW, but I'm weird, I guess, about architectorthography (I made that word up because I don't know the right one for what I'm talking about).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:30 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey! Those are paragraphs, dorkfucker! I just choose my words with greater care these days - and I use less of them in general.

Paragraphs delineate individual statements, topics or concepts. Would you really prefer I just mashed those all together willy-nilly, or would you prefer I filled up the space between topics with random bullshit?
posted by loquacious at 5:39 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


They rock, really: trust me!

Also, this is an inappropriate use of a colon.

You may read that however your dirty mind wishes to.
posted by loquacious at 5:40 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm all about language being bent all to fuck to try and claw that burning god out of the forehead down into the character sequence on the page. Don't mistake me, brother: freestyle the fuck out of it.

But restraint and teeth-gritted order are sometimes the better part of valor. I honestly do believe that the structure and style of the way people express themselves in writing tells me something about the quality of their thinking. I am an elitist fuck in that way. And I do not mean to denigrate the thinking of illiterate pigfuckers I've met and loved the world around -- I've learned as much or more from people who couldn't sign their goddamn name as I have from the tenured professors back in my university years centuries ago.

But here, in text, it's all about the characters, and the order in which we type them. And, like I tried to make clear, I have a (perhaps grandfatherly) feeling that the way one speaks if one wishes to be heard and understood is in connected series of well-crafted sentences, which are themselves fractally upresolved into series of well-crafted paragraphs, and from there to well-crafted stories and ideas, and from there into a well-crafted and well-understood life.

That said, my own writing is mostly laughably parenthetical, ungrammatical, and berserk half the goddamn time.

I'm just talkin', you know? But the best talk is poetry, is song, not kickdrum hammerblows. For what it's worth.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:54 AM on April 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


By which I mean, write the way you like, always. I just find the style you've settled on in the last year or so a little offputting, but it's entirely possible that that's just me, because even though I pay no goddamn attention to the 'rules' and shit, I still think that some stylistic choices are just intrinsically better than others, out of the very nature of written communication. And I usually make the wrong choices, consciously, but I'm old and set in my ways, and you're young and pregnant with potential, and I do talk some shit sometimes. So yeah.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:02 AM on April 8, 2008


So noted. I think I'm just getting old and bitter. And I'm not as young as you'd think I am.
posted by loquacious at 6:05 AM on April 8, 2008


Clash. Of. The. Titans.
posted by Dizzy at 6:26 AM on April 8, 2008


No clash. I got nothin' but love for the loquacious one. He is the goddamn king.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:31 AM on April 8, 2008


Love. Story.
posted by Dizzy at 6:38 AM on April 8, 2008


I don't like this.

Now, if you provided us with a link to a site where folks could go and spill their guts, THEN made an art project out of that, I could go for it. That way people know up front what you would be doing.

As it is, I think it is inappropriate. Note that I didn't contribute to the thread in question (at least I don't think I did) so I don't have a personal interest that way-I just think that people had a reasonable expectation they were sharing amongst friends, even if anyone conceivably could read what they had written there-it would still be in context of THIS site.

So I guess I vote no.
posted by konolia at 6:44 AM on April 8, 2008


No clash. I'm just used to people telling me to use more paragraphs, not less.

stavrosthewonderchicken has already fessed up in a private message that he's been drinking, and that when he drinks he talks some mad shit.

He also offered me my choice of a number of rather dubious sexual positions as long as he can wear his life-like animatronic wombat costume - which I naturally declined.

I'm more into otters, really.
posted by loquacious at 6:47 AM on April 8, 2008


I've done similar projects in two other instances: 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America and The Perfect Album, by Plastic users.*

And, you include advertising on those two websites. Additionally, on your Plastic remix you state:
"Disclaimer: I get a commission on the CD, mp3, and iTunes sales."
Do you intend to generate online advertising and revenue from your remix of the MetaFilter thread/content? If so, will you compensate any of the authors who participate in this remixed "anthology?"
posted by ericb at 6:48 AM on April 8, 2008


*Do you intend to generate online advertising any revenue ...*

You do indeed say in the FPP - "I'm not going to put any ads on the page."
posted by ericb at 6:55 AM on April 8, 2008


Mash note. Of. The. Titans.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:55 AM on April 8, 2008


Brokeback. Mountain.
posted by Dizzy at 6:59 AM on April 8, 2008


stavrosthewonderchicken has already fessed up in a private message that he's been drinking, and that when he drinks he talks some mad shit.

HEY! That shit's totally unfucking kosher, that is. WTF? Hell, I've spent years trying to live down the reputation I acquired like 5 years back that I was a big boozeposter. I haven't PUI'd in any substantive way here for literally years, and you're gonna fucking out me this one time, this evening, when I was trying to connect with you privately, hoping to smooth any ruffled feathers because apparently you're all sensitive and shit, I've heard?

Well, fuck you buddy. Guess I misjudged you. Holy shit. Seriously. Fuck you.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:00 AM on April 8, 2008


This MetaTalk thread has gotten a little out-of-hand. Let me correct the mis-interpretation. This supposed book I'm making is totally opt-in and permission-based.

You also said in your original post that the web site you are making is opt-out and nonpermission-based, and that is what I and many others, including the moderators, are concerned about. Please respond definitively about whether you will change that.
posted by melissa may at 7:09 AM on April 8, 2008


Seriously. Fuck you.

Yep, Brokeback Mountain.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:19 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


As someone whose story was used in the project, I have no problem with this. He wrote summaries of our posts. That's fair use to my mind.
posted by orange swan at 7:21 AM on April 8, 2008


Craptastic. This is the MeFi Mail I sent to loquacious that he referred to, which I now regret.

I think he has unfairly made me look like Mr Not Very Nice Fellow by poorly paraphrasing, when I was trying to be his friend, and I don't understand why he would do that, but I'm about to go to bed and don't want to argue, and so, even though nobody gives a fuck, I'm sure, dramaqueen++, here:
I love you brother, you have the goddamn sun shining out of your eyeballs, you rock like fuck, I want you to know that.

The stuff i was saying there in the meta thread was just plain talk because, well, even though I don't usually, I'm drinking and posting, and I'd say that stuff if you were here with me having some beverages.

For what it's worth always, and it's not worth much, because, like I said, I do talk some shit sometimes.
The subject line was (in allcaps): I LOVE YOU.

As far as that last part goes, I think I may have changed my mind.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:22 AM on April 8, 2008


It's like creating an index.
posted by orange swan at 7:22 AM on April 8, 2008


I'm the #2 poster quoted in your project. Please explain how this is art. Please explain your page's title: Meta Life-Change.

And while I mostly don't mind being accurately quoted, I hate -- like really really hate -- your presumptive labeling of my story as "developed an idea of my ideal man." Speaking as if those are my words! That is not what my story means to me and I would never use the phrase "my ideal man".
posted by thinkpiece at 7:37 AM on April 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't see what harm is done and think it's fine, even though the legal thing would have been to ask first

Matt, I missed this comment in my first breeze by.

I'm concerned you think this is fine. Your website states that posts are (c) their original authors. People have posted here on that premise in good faith. For you to blow off a blatant, wholesale breech of this (even a well-intentioned one) as "fine" is monumentally uncool.

Aside from that, it's a slippery slope. You are setting a precedent here. This is a currently non-commercial project by a MeFi member. There are about a dozen permutations between that and transparent commercial use by a non-MeFi member and at some point, you're going to have to draw the line.

I suggest you draw it here, at the point where the copyright terms we have all posted by until now have been breeched. "I know what you did with 42 posters words isn't legal but I think it's sort of nifty so that's OK" doesn't really cut it.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:40 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


How do I turn off split-screen on this website? Is it shift-F8?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:45 AM on April 8, 2008


I didn't participate in the thread, but I feel you thinkpiece. The rephrasing is really facile and presumptive.
The fact that he paraphrases in the first person is fairly creepy.
Also, the project adds nothing to the original thread, in fact takes away from it by decontextualizing it. There are no new relations found, no new readings of the posts (except for the already mentioned not-so-great rephrasings).
Not so much art as bare appropriation.
posted by signal at 7:46 AM on April 8, 2008


All my posts are in the public domain, just so everyone knows.

So are all of yours, but at least I won't pretend otherwise.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:53 AM on April 8, 2008


This all is very much a tempest in a thimble, no?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:02 AM on April 8, 2008


Like most MeTa threads, Burhanistan. The nerd quotient of this place gets to me sometimes. We're a Christopher Guest mockumentary waiting to be filmed.
posted by orange swan at 8:05 AM on April 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, there's like fourteen different flavours of awkward in this MeTa.

Awesome.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:08 AM on April 8, 2008


Everyone's a Muslim!
posted by Burhanistan at 8:11 AM on April 8, 2008


loquacious and stavros, you are both equally able to manglefly the language into unchartered territories and we all absolutely sometimes occasionally love it.

loqacious, it was a bit uncalled for mentioning the email contents. stavros, your character has not been harmed by it. Please both just carry on as you both like to carry on.

philosophistry reminds me of a friend who steals your car to drive down to the shops, returns it without your knowing and then asks if he can borrow the car. If you know that something is iffy, you ask beforehand and you don't just go ahead and do it and then come here afterwards looking to assuage the guilt.
posted by peacay at 8:16 AM on April 8, 2008


I'm concerned you think this is fine. Your website states that posts are (c) their original authors. People have posted here on that premise in good faith. For you to blow off a blatant, wholesale breech of this (even a well-intentioned one) as "fine" is monumentally uncool.

DarlingBri, if you read my follow-ups, you can see that I changed my tune. I know what the copyright law is, and I know you cannot reproduce any part of this site beyond fair use quotes without express permission from every poster, but my first impression was this was an innocuous page of someone summarizing the best parts of a long thread for easy scanning and why I said it seemed fine. Once I heard about some sort of book and the original poster admitted he didn't want to ask for permission first, I changed my position.

Of course, I know this is a slippery slope and the next person to do this would likely put ads on it or would do even less modifying of the content and merely repost it whole hog. But I also know that even though copyright (and trademark) law is pretty tight, I don't want to immediately shout down anyone trying to do anything potentially cool with mefi content. If I wanted to be hardline about this, I'd ask for the immediate shut down of the MeFi wiki and demand that any page repeating content from this site be scrubbed from the wiki. I'd also have to chase down any and all blogs that use the trademarked "MetaFilter" name in their titles as confusing to consumers and declare the contents as derivative works done without permission.

I don't want to do any of that, but I am aware of people looking to profit off our stuff here without permission (every blog I have gets snarfed up by spamblogs and covered in Adsense ads), but my first impression was this wasn't too bad, but the more I've heard from the creator and his intentions/plans, the less happy I am with it.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:19 AM on April 8, 2008


I asked philosophistry to remove the "View" links on that page, which would remove the reproduced content and remove any copyright problems with the project.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:24 AM on April 8, 2008


Holy shit! I just found out Google is index all our posts for money!
posted by sdodd at 8:26 AM on April 8, 2008


"I can't ensure that I won't get mugged when I walk down a dark street, but I still think mugging is a pretty mean thing to do. If a mugger posted signs in on the street first, saying "Do you want to be mugged Circle one Yes No," I would definitely circle "No.""

Being summarized is the same as being mugged?

Lighten up, Francis. The page, as it stands, is pretty much fine. If Philosophistry wants to further clear himself, using more summarizations and fewer direct quotes would help. Aside from that, y'all a buncha goddamned babies about this.

What's the remedy? DMCA for folks with full quotes? There's no profit, there's no infringement on the right to profit, the book will be opt-in.

As for the project, I think it's kinda thin, but this is weaker than Gilbert O'Sullivan, and it annoys me to see a bunch of copy-left folks gettin' all sobby about being sampled. All of you who have never enjoyed a mix tape swap, feel free to tell him to take it down. Otherwise, its a bunch of middling complaints from cranks who should be ignored and left to opt out if they have a problem.
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stavros, my direct apology is in your inbox. I've never thought of you as some kind of drunk-poster, and I've always appreciated your contributions here. I appreciated the private message. I wasn't trying to "out" you or make you look bad at all. Mea culpa.

If it helps you any, I'm probably more and more often drunk while posting than anyone here. I'll drink every one of you dorks under the table, I will.

So does this mean we can't still make out? I didn't mean those mean things I said about wombats.

I just can't quit you.

posted by loquacious at 8:33 AM on April 8, 2008


Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing (Google video) A fascinating 30 minute documentary about ARPAnet - the precursor to today's Internet. (Can you spot the real ubernerd mover and shaker at BBN? Hint: He wears no tie!) (via: all over the place)
posted by loquacious (30 comments total) [add to favorites] [!] 4 users marked this as a favorite Other [1/6]: ·≡»


I'm a TV director - my stuff is [illegally] on the net and you don't seem to mind promulgating the exploitation of TV copyright. Want to not share copyrighted material on the internet before mounting that high horse?

By the way - video is down, willing to back down and look like a dick if it turns out this is a public domain documentary.
posted by meech at 8:35 AM on April 8, 2008


Being summarized is the same as being mugged?

No, it was a metaphor.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:42 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


"The problem with this metaphor is that Metafilter is not a room at a party. There are no walls to MetaFilter, there are no boundaries...

...The problem with spatial metaphors applied to the Internet (and they are rampant) is that the default is openness, not boundedness. You have to build in boundaries if you want them, like requiring passwords to read posts. MetaFilter has no such boundaries, and thus I see no ethical problem with re-presenting publicly available web content on the web..."
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:43 PM on April 7 [+] [!] No other comments.


I'm glad you brought up these points! This is exactly where we disagree.

For me, the metaphor goes further (ie. you see wall-lessness, where I see boundaries; you see the default as openness, where I see it as closed (by the frames/pages/topics of the site)). Not saying either of us is right or wrong, but the fact that we see it differently is what's causing the problem.

We don't have an overall consensus of who owns what on the internet. Hell, we don't even agree on how to act, or the rules of politeness. Sure, there may be laws in place, but until we all have a general sense of where fair lines should be drawn between what is mine and what is no longer mine once on the internet, we are going to run into these dilemmas. Which is exactly why we are discussing it, and that's great!

I really think philosophistry's post/project is a great construct for discussing this and fleshing out the boundaries. How fortunate that the situation that brought the infringement issue up is a non-emotionally charged one, that there's no ill intent, and that no crime has been committed. It allows us to look at the whole thing somewhat objectively, and focus on the real issue, which is setting a precedent and determining what is ok for this type of use.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:45 AM on April 8, 2008


By the way - video is down, willing to back down and look like a dick if it turns out this is a public domain documentary.

Get ready to look like a dick.

As far as I can tell, "Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing" is a DARPA-funded project, which by benefit of being created by a US Federal agency - AFAIR - places it in the public domain the instant it was created.

Reference: http://www.archive.org/details/ResourceSharingComputerNetworks

Fresh Google video link, here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4989933629762859961


Now that that is out of the way - there's a HUGE fucking difference between the sort of plagirism-for-profit I'm talking about and the so-called "theft" of media. I never said I created that video. I didn't remix that video, I didn't copy it, I didn't post it, I didn't rip it, and I never even came anywhere close to claiming that I owned it or that I created it.

The fact that you're trying to conflate the two vastly different scenarios is idiotic and sophmoric.
posted by loquacious at 8:49 AM on April 8, 2008


I know what the copyright law is, and I know you cannot reproduce any part of this site beyond fair use quotes without express permission from every poster

Right, exactly - I know you did a lot of work with CC over a number of years so I didn't expect anything less from you. I just think it's worth highlighting that part again for the folks who seem to have a really narrow commercial/non-commercial understanding of copyright and Fair Use. It's the quotes part that makes not seeking permission work within the legal guidelines.

I asked philosophistry to remove the "View" links on that page, which would remove the reproduced content and remove any copyright problems with the project.

I think that's a perfect compromise - the project can carry on and people's copyright can remain unbreeched. Thank you very much.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:06 AM on April 8, 2008


Aside from that, y'all a buncha goddamned babies about this.

klangklangston, maybe so, maybe so. But, again, as a poster in the original thread, this "project" gives me pause. Hey, it's no great loss, but now I'll second guess when I am inspired on occasion, by Metafilter, to stop, remember, write.

Now, in the back of my mind, it's no longer a precious buried memory that I enjoy bringing to life, it's a reconstituted, recontextualized (or no-contextualized) item on somebody's simplistic list-look of the world. "My ideal man," indeed.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:07 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you don't want people interpreting, criticizing, recontextualizing, misinterpreting, and decontextualizing your words, you REALLY had best not put them on the public internet.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:16 AM on April 8, 2008


Get ready to look like a dick.
True.

Still think that many people on Metafilter are prepared to stretch the copyright of the individual - it's my photo, they are my words but when it comes to the corporate world, it's all fuck RIAA and where can I get a torrent of Battlestar Galactica.

For the record, I'm all for information being free, I just get upset by the hypocrisy.
posted by meech at 9:20 AM on April 8, 2008


I got that, TheOnlyCoolTim. That's what I'm sayin'. Sometimes inspired by a great topic to post, will now second guess that impulse, no great loss.

I still say philosophistry should not be attributing his interpretation of my quote to me.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:22 AM on April 8, 2008


I just uploaded an updated version that doesn't include copies of the stories. The project has a whole different feel to it to it now.
posted by philosophistry at 9:29 AM on April 8, 2008


Get ready to look like a dick.

I think this would be a great start to an on the MAKE blog about sewing your own Halloween penis costume.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:29 AM on April 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Here's a great way to get a sense of the poster's comments in that thread.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:37 AM on April 8, 2008


Oops, rickroll.it doesn't do ending slashes well.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:39 AM on April 8, 2008


Just want to acknowledge, philosophistry has reached out via email to solicit feedback. Appreciate it.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:48 AM on April 8, 2008


Get ready to look like a dick.
True.


And, err, apologies. On second read of my reply, I kinda look like a dick. I didn't mean to lord it over you or rub it in. (Wow, that's a lot of homosexual innuendo and tension. Thanks a lot, Patriarchal ancestors, for totally fucking up English with your barely submerged sexual hangups!)

I just got lucky, really. I didn't really care if it was public domain or not, for a number of valid reasons above and beyond the invalid one of sheer apathy.

The fact that it is a historical document, for starters.


Still think that many people on Metafilter are prepared to stretch the copyright of the individual - it's my photo, they are my words but when it comes to the corporate world, it's all fuck RIAA and where can I get a torrent of Battlestar Galactica.

For the record, I'm all for information being free, I just get upset by the hypocrisy.


Well, the RIAA and MPAA have proven themselves through their actions and words (as organizations) that they're a bunch of unprincipled fuckheads who don't actually care about the art they're selling forming anti-competitive and anti-fair-use protection rackets over. Moreover, they protect profits not artists, and if current evidence is any guide, the artist rarely if ever sees any of these collected/extorted "missing" profits.

In the other corner, we have the rest of the world. The little guys, mostly, the independent artists and creators, the folks that are pleased just to be appreciated and heard, and overwhelmed with joy if they happen to make a little money at it.

So, corporations vs. people it is, then. Corporations which get to act as though they have all the rights of a real, live human - an individual - without any of the responsibility. Meanwhile, I'd like everyone in the room who has not felt fucked over at least once by a faceless, irresponsible corporation to raise their hands. Anyone? Anyone at all? No?

Is that actually hypocrisy? Is it merely rooting for the underdog?

Or is it just a working example of common sense and human decency?


Lastly: Battlestar Galactica is the success that it is BECAUSE of the torrenting, not IN SPITE of. I mean, its a success because the story is good, the plot is engaging, the photography and filming is enjoyable and so on and so forth... but it wouldn't be where it is today, right now, with millions of nerds clamoring for the 4th season if it wasn't for the hot-and-heavy filesharing going on.

The SciFi channel knows this. They know that it is free promotion and free bandwidth. They also know that the torrented rips will never satisfy the same way a DVD with extras will satisfy. They have a monopoly on the real product, which last I heard is selling like icewater in a desert.


Again, I maintain that there is a difference between downloading content and plagarising content. I wouldn't have any problems with someone downloading the "content" I produce for later use. Obviously, merely viewing the text in a browser is downloading it, but I wouldn't mind if someone took it farther and saved it to a text file for use on whatever etext reader they chose. I don't care if they archive it. I don't care if they print it out on toilet paper and wipe their ass with it, frankly.

I do have a problem with my "content" being "re-presented" without permission - even with full attribution given. A quote is one thing, even extensive quotes. But repackaging something entirely and passing it off as your own is something I have a problem with. (Not that this is what philosophistry is doing, but it's what we're discussing.)
posted by loquacious at 9:56 AM on April 8, 2008


There are lots of public spaces I attend where I don't expect that the things I do or say will be recorded and reused. And if they are recorded, I don't expect that they'll be reused without my permission or in some way that misrepresents what I've done or said. Now, I understand that the internet currently doesn't work that way. But give me one good legitimate reason why we shouldn't work toward the goal of making our virtual spaces carry these same rights and obligations as our RL spaces?

Instead of saying "well, it's the internet! What do you expect?! It's a public forum/freeforall!", why aren't we trying to promote the safety and sanctity of the places online in which we speak and act? This would afford us the comfort of speaking more freely, without having to worry as much about misrepresentation or infringement, and would elevate the status of, and our membership in, the communities in which we participate.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:59 AM on April 8, 2008


philosophistry: Those two projects and now this project bring order and a new insight into a large mass of data. This is what information visualization (or InfoViz) means to me.

In the realm of social science research, it's customary (read: pretty much mandatory) to get informed consent prior to the collection of data. That's one reason the project ethically squiks me out... you're doing a bit of amateur psychology-ish / sociology-ish research and data crunching, using someone else's found questionnaire and with only after-the-fact consent. If you had re-posted the question, in terms of "I'm doing a project on life-changing experiences, with the possibility of writing a book about it", and used those answers, then I'd have no problem with it.

Not that my having a problem with it ultimately matters.
posted by CKmtl at 10:09 AM on April 8, 2008


Just in case my small comment gets buried in the conversation, I'm going to re-iterate that I've updated the site and removed other people's stories.

Those people didn't submit those stories to me, they submitted them to AskMeFi, so it should remain "there."
posted by philosophistry at 10:15 AM on April 8, 2008


"They also know that the torrented rips will never satisfy the same way a DVD with extras will satisfy. They have a monopoly on the real product, which last I heard is selling like icewater in a desert."

They have a monopoly on glossy-printed Battlestar Galactica DVD Cases, I guess.

Instead of saying "well, it's the internet! What do you expect?! It's a public forum/freeforall!", why aren't we trying to promote the safety and sanctity of the places online in which we speak and act?

I find the internet very safe. So far, I have never injured myself on it and I understand such events to be pretty rare. You can get robbed on the internet, but that doesn't happen in the context of writing comments on weblogs. The "safety and sanctity" you speak of seems to be the evasion of public responsibility for publicly made comments and the evasion of the "risk" of one's comments being appropriated, summarized, interpreted, and remixed, but these things are part and parcel of a public forum. Most of the internet is like the letters to the editor: public and on the record. There are places on the internet set up as private clubs and presumably some where mentioning the discussion outside of the private club is grounds for punishment, and I encourage you to seek them out if that is the experience you would like, though any private forums I've been on have been for small specific groups. Most of the internet has decided on the public forum model.

Imagine Metafilter as a private forum, with a login required to view the site. It would never take off, so it is publicly viewable. Pretending a publicly viewable forum is a private club is just and only that: pretending.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:36 AM on April 8, 2008


Making an edited synopsis of a thread is fine and Philosophistry, you did a fine job of it and gave it your time. As an art project, it summarizes how many human experiences are so similar. I certainly found the original thread informative rereading it.
I preferred reading the original though, because of the flow and the fact you now only link to the original, it's too much back and forth and as you mentioned, a whole different feel to it now. I preferred your bubble summary for a quick preview.

However, if as an author you intend to write and publish the thread as a book [using real person's stories], you must get their permission and approval or you'd be faced with a lawsuit by them all. It doesn't matter whether you had their story told you directly or taking it from the original thread, permission to use it must be granted.

Having now been informed, your opt-out is a no go proposition.

I do appreciate you bringing this up though [although I didn't contribute to the original thread], many would have just gone ahead and faced the err of their ways if and when they got found out and ended up in a lawsuit.
posted by alicesshoe at 10:54 AM on April 8, 2008


"No, it was a metaphor."

It was stupid hyperbole, and a bad metaphor. For a metaphor to work, there has to be an equivalence or truth that connects the two parts. You might as well have cast yourself as a Native American, having your land appropriated and cursed with small pox, if I may inflate your concern by the same exponent.
posted by klangklangston at 11:03 AM on April 8, 2008


No, it was a great metaphor! In both, personal ownership was being removed by someone else. It worked perfectly!

Small pox wouldn't have worked in this metaphor because there was no disease being transferred through blankets.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:27 AM on April 8, 2008


So, where were you copyright hawks when dmd was "stealing" Metafilter comments to put 'em next to YouTube comments the other day?
posted by sdodd at 11:33 AM on April 8, 2008


...why aren't we trying to promote the safety and sanctity of the places online in which we speak and act?

To build on TheOnlyCoolTim's answer: Because "All Rights Reserved" kills culture. The Constitutional justification for copyright is To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts. Your bizarrely restrictive policy is antithetical to progress. Copyright is a mess; it took the 'Net to show us just how bad.
posted by sdodd at 11:44 AM on April 8, 2008


Also, to philosophistry:

You probably shouldn't take much of the kefluffle in this thread personally. Your project was just one small part of a seed that started this conversation, and we've probably needed to discuss a few of these items as a community for a while. You just happened to be at the right time and place, I think.
posted by loquacious at 12:05 PM on April 8, 2008


Yeah, I want to second what loquacious said, and also reiterate that I think it's a really keen project. My biggest beef was with the lack of permission, but if people give express consent to participate, I think it would be a deeply cool way of looking at the thread.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:22 PM on April 8, 2008


I'm glad to see loquacious and stavros have had the make-up sex and all, because they are two people whose writing I hold as a shining example of why I'm too self-conscious to say anything here, sometimes. They (and many others) are the main reason why I hardly ever participate on MeFi, although I often follow the conversations. There are so many people here who can write the wheels off the English language that I get worried every time I comment because people will see me for the semi-literate fool that I am.

I liked the project, although it could have been presented to the community in a way that didn't start with a perceived raspberry towards people's ownership of their words. As loquacious says, this thread is a symptom, not a cause and this won't be the last time we have this conversation.

On the slim chance that anyone ever wants to reproduce anything I say here, I'm adding a release to my user page. If you're that desperate for content, you're welcome to mine.
posted by dg at 2:19 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just in case my small comment gets buried in the conversation, I'm going to re-iterate that I've updated the site and removed other people's stories.

Those people didn't submit those stories to me, they submitted them to AskMeFi, so it should remain "there."
posted by philosophistry

I looked at the update. Nice.

You probably shouldn't take much of the kefluffle in this thread personally. Your project was just one small part of a seed that started this conversation, and we've probably needed to discuss a few of these items as a community for a while. You just happened to be at the right time and place, I think. posted by loquacious

And that.
posted by wafaa at 3:39 PM on April 8, 2008


Happily. Ever. After.
posted by Dizzy at 6:14 PM on April 8, 2008


I'm glad everything worked out okay.

I didn't notice until just now that I had commented in that thread. I do have to say that my feelings are along the lines of thinkpiece's and signal's... your summary of what I said bears little or no resemblance to what I was trying to get across. Maybe I was unclear, but I think it's that different people see what they want to see in other people's stories which is one of the things that I think this experiment is really good at uncovering but also why it's probably a good idea to make it crystal clear (as you have) who said what and who drew what conclusions.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:29 PM on April 8, 2008


I would be furious to the point of calling a lawyer if I found my words/text in a book (or other project) without my permission - profits or no.

I'd like to second this, as someone who did answer that question, and whose comment is "summarized" on the site.

It's a neat organization technique, but any farther and it's definitely wading into dangerous legal territory.
posted by odinsdream at 8:11 PM on April 8, 2008


Just for the record, I wasn't suggesting we instate laws and legislate behavior. That never works! I just meant that we should work toward the goal of treating people on public forums with the same safety and sanctity measures we use when we speak to them in public spaces, common sense stylie. So that we can speak freely and LESS restrictively (more uninhibited, the "norm" being that people would generally NOT take our words out of context or use them for nefarious purposes). It's not more complicated than that, and making policy for it would be wee ridiculous. I find that having to explain this "radical" idea equally so. I know underlyingly we probably agree on this want, but it seems that the way it actually is gets in the way of the possibility of it happening.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:03 PM on April 8, 2008


Metafilter and similar are not analogous to say, talking with your friends in the park or having a business meeting. That's a chat room, IM, or a private forum.

Metafilter is analogous to the letters to the editor or the city council meeting. What you say is on the record and for everyone.

Your "out of context" is someone else's interpretation or misinterpretation, and I think it's hardly sensible to have the sort of social strictures that would be required to prevent people from publicly misinterpreting your public words. We have enough fans of all sorts of bullshit coming from postmodernism here, so I think we can at least agree with one of the decent postmodern ideas that it's the reader, not the writer, who interprets the words.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:23 PM on April 8, 2008


No Brokeback Mountain?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:19 AM on April 9, 2008


Born. Yesterday.
Dead. Again.
posted by Dizzy at 6:39 AM on April 9, 2008


I think it's hardly sensible to have the sort of social strictures that would be required to prevent people from publicly misinterpreting your public words. We have enough fans of all sorts of bullshit coming from postmodernism here, so I think we can at least agree with one of the decent postmodern ideas that it's the reader, not the writer, who interprets the words.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim


Let me be clear, the crazy social strictures I'm speaking of are as follows:

1. Ask permission before you use other people's stuff (that includes ideas, words, stories, etc.)
2. Give credit where credit is due
3. Give people the benefit of the doubt

I could go on. But I hardly think that what I'm suggesting is so wild. It's kindergarten, not postmodernism.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:23 PM on April 9, 2008


iamkimiam---

I wrote a paper on this for my Junior Thesis.
I got an 87. (formatting issues; review pending.)
But I think I can help:

Postmodernism---disillusionment distilled into a complex, ambiguous dumping on modernism.
Kindergarten---disillusionment distilled into a dump in your pants.
Postmodernism---a generalised substitution of spatial for temporal coordinates.
Kindergarten---spinning in circles feels good.
Postmodernism---dissolution of standard social normatives and narration.
Kindergarten---after milk, naps.

Please feel free to contact me.
posted by Dizzy at 3:38 PM on April 9, 2008


Well, regarding No. 1, maybe you shouldn't have recontextualized and italicized my words without permission like that, or maybe we can realize that's actually a pretty silly rule. I mean, you just did to me essentially the same thing you're dumping on this guy for doing. Your quotation is a form of summarizing that is more correct than this project's summarization of your post, as you only extracted a continuous piece and did not reword, but we can't have a rule that you're only allowed to quote/summarize if you "get it right."

In No. 2, plagiarism is made of lies and fraud and I do not support it.

As for No. 3 it's broad and meaningless. Might as well have No. 4, be nice.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:02 PM on April 9, 2008


Great idea!
4. Be nice.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:23 PM on April 9, 2008


Tim, I appreciate that you're doing the "information just wants to be free" thing and embracing the idea that copyright kills culture and all of that. But making misleading statements based on an alternate reality is really counter-productive.

"All my posts are in the public domain, just so everyone knows. So are all of yours, but at least I won't pretend otherwise."

If that is how you would like copyright law to work, I wish you well in building that utopian dream. But your statement is just factually incorrect. That kind of misinformation can get other people into legal hot water if they're stupid enough to believe what some guy on MetaFilter told them.

Please, stop pretending that the way you think things should be, no matter how tiresome and morally superior they may be, are the way things are. They are not.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:40 PM on April 9, 2008


To clarify, I certainly do not believe everyone's posts are legally in the public domain under the current system. My belief is that the practical reality is that things released to the public are "public domain" because there's no way to stop that anymore and that trying to stop that isn't good. It's not even so much a "copyright kills culture" or "lack of copyright will bring forth a golden cultural age" thing as a recognition of practical realities.

Information does not want to be free, excepting living informational structures to which we can assign "wants." Information - to be more precise, copies of existing information - are free, because that is literally true in that they cost nothing to make and there is no scarcity.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:58 PM on April 9, 2008


If what you're arguing is not that things are public domain in the literal sense but rather just effectively or practically speaking in a state functionally similar to public domain, it'd probably be better to avoid the actual term. I mean, I hear ya, but the DarlingBri's objection makes sense.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:03 PM on April 9, 2008


TheOnlyCoolTim, I would have to agree with cortex. Public Domain has a specific legal meaning, distinct from "this is out there and the public can see it." It's not effective to use the term without recognizing this.
posted by odinsdream at 6:45 AM on April 25, 2008


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