My letter to my MEP representative opposing flawed updates proposed to 2001 Copyright Directive

I am contacting you in advance of the committee vote regarding the proposed updates to the EU 2001 Copyright Directive to express my opposition to parts of it as they are currently being proposed.

It is my understanding that Article 13 of the proposal would see websites become responsible for filtering for any copy written material posted to their site. A complex process that thus far has not been solved perfectly at scale by any company e.g. YouTube. All I can see this doing is stifling start-ups and small websites through an approach to copyright which would seem to be contradictory to the founding ideas and spirit of the internet and World Wide Web which has seen the internet flourish in the way that it has.

I don’t agree with the unreasonable burden Article 13 places on companies. Would Wikipedia exist in its breadth, depth and accessibility today if it had been created under such a regulation? I personally doubt this.

This is not the only article that sounds problematic. According to vice.com, Article 11 of the process is also misguided. To quote from Karl Bode’s article (https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/a3aa5b/europes-new-copyright-rules-will-be-devastating-to-the-internet-as-we-know-it): ‘Spain’s implementation of this concept resulted in Google News shutting down in the country entirely, resulting in publishers actually seeing a notable decline in overall traffic.’

Thank you for hearing my concerns and I hope you will agree and express the same concerns to the committee, and vote against these proposed updates if they make it through to a parliamentary vote.

Yours faithfully,
Dave Underwood

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How To Get Great Long Form Journalism Sent To Your Kindle Automatically

Introduction

These are my instructions to get great long form journalism regularly delivered to your Kindle e-reader. Fair warning: there is some work involved to choose the articles that you would like to read on your Kindle, so you will probably want to be a fan of long articles to justify the time doing this takes.

Using this approach, when you see a long form article online you will send it to something called Instapaper which will automatically send a digest to your Kindle once a week. In the Instructions below I suggest some good sources of new long form journalism for you to use.

Requirements

  • Access to Wifi internet
  • An Amazon Kindle that has been connected to the Wifi Internet
  • An Amazon account
  • An Instapaper account: https://www.instapaper.com. You may also want to download the Instapaper app for your phone/tablet, up to you.
  • A desktop/laptop computer that lets you click on bookmarks in your browser. A tablet should work as well but that’s just a guess.

Instructions

1. Firstly, you will need to find out your “send to my Kindle” email address. If you use Amazon.co.uk like I do, you should be able to find out the email address on this page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/mn/dcw/myx.html/ref=kinw_myk_redirect#/home/devices/1

2. Create an Instapaper.com account and log in to it. You may want to make your Instapaper Profile private unless you are comfortable with people being able to see what articles you are choosing to read: https://www.instapaper.com/user.

3. Get some good sources of new long form journalism. My preferred sources are the weekly emails from Longform.orgLongreads.com and Medium.com. Also by having an Instapaper.com account you can also choose to receive their weekly email which also has good articles.

Some other sources I like for good new long reads are:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Longreads
https://www.reddit.com/r/longform
https://www.reddit.com/r/indepthstories
https://www.reddit.com/r/Foodforthought
https://twitter.com/longform
https://twitter.com/Longreads

Because the Instapaper digest is sent to your Kindle once a week, the weekly emails from Longform.org and Longreads.com in particular set you up with a good rhythm where those websites send you their favourite Longreads from around the web for that week and then you add them to Instapaper to read on your Kindle in your next Instapaper digest.

4. Add a ‘Send to Kindle’ button to your web browser. This is where things start to get a little technical but don’t worry, I’m going to step you through it all slowly. This button you are adding is technically a “bookmarklet”. Basically this means it’s like a smart bookmark. What you are going to do is create a bookmark in your web browser that, when you click on it, will send an article to Instapaper.

To set the scene, here’s approximately what it is going to look like on your bookmarks bar in your browser once you have set it up:

bookmarklet

To set up the Send to Kindle button, log into Instapaper.com and navigate to the ‘Settings’ page which is here: https://www.instapaper.com/user. Then scroll down the page till you see the button that says ‘Get Kindle Bookmarklet’ and click on it. You should then see the instructions to set up the button which will look something like this:

get-Kindle-bookmarklet

As the instructions say, drag the Send to Kindle button onto your bookmarks bar. If you can’t see your bookmarks bar you may need to make it visible. If you use the Google Chrome browser like I do you can make it visible by clicking the three vertical dots at the top right of the browser then clicking ‘Bookmarks’ and then clicking ‘Show bookmarks bar’ as shown in this image:

show-bookmarks-bar

In Microsoft Windows 10 you can also achieve the same thing by pressing Ctrl + Shift + B on your keyboard.

You should hopefully now have a Send to Kindle button on your web browser. To test it out, find a long form piece or a news article on the web and then click the Send to Kindle button. Once you’ve done that, navigate to this URL: https://www.instapaper.com/u and all things going well you should see the web page listed there. If you do, well done. Here is an example of my Instapaper homepage with some articles I have sent to Instapaper:

instapaper-screenshot

5. Set up Instapaper to automatically deliver a digest of your saved articles to your Kindle once a week. You may remember earlier in the Requirements I said you needed to have a Kindle connected to Wifi internet. You need this because this is how Instapaper will deliver its weekly digest to your Kindle. To set Instapaper up to send this digest navigate to this URL https://www.instapaper.com/user and scroll down the page to the ‘Kindle’ section.

In this section you will need to paste your “send to my Kindle” email address from step 1 of these Instructions into the ‘Your Kindle Email Address’ field.

Make sure that ‘Kindle Automatic Delivery’ is checked, like in the image below:

Kindle-automatic-delivery

Under ‘Delivery Frequency’ choose the settings which make the most sense to you. If weekly delivery appeals to you then set to deliver every week, the digest will arrive on your Kindle on the weekend.

MAKE SURE YOU CLICK ‘Save Kindle Preferences’ before you finish with this step!

6. Regularly add longform articles that you want to read on your Kindle by clicking on your Send to Kindle button. The articles will arrive regularly automatically:

Kindle

Enjoy!

 

Bonus advice

Q: What if the Send to Kindle button doesn’t work for an article?

A: If this happens here are three things worth trying:

1. On the Instapaper homepage, try clicking the ‘Add Link’ link at the top right and try adding the URL of the article you want that way.

2. If that doesn’t work, try entering the URL of the article into the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and once you have found the page in the archive try clicking the Send to Kindle button again.

3. If the first two suggestions haven’t worked, a final suggestion is to save the text of the article to a rich text editor, e.g. WordPad in Microsoft Windows, save the text to a .rtf file and email that file as an attachment to your “send to my Kindle” email address. You will want to use a .rtf file as your Kindle will then let you change the text size once you are reading it on there. To tidy up the text before you copy & paste it to WordPad I like to use the Mercury Reader extension in Chrome.

(Last updated: 8/December/2017)

How To Stop Windows 10 Collecting More Of Your Data Than It Needs To

If you are someone who uses Windows 10, you may or may not know Windows 10 is sending a whole lot of data about your computer back to base including potentially your personal files.

In Windows 10, under ‘Diagnostic and usage data’, is a setting for how much of your data gets sent back to Microsoft. To get an idea of just how much data Microsoft is grabbing, it is only on the lowest setting called “Security” that “No user content, such as user files or communications, is gathered“.

If you are a Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Professional user (you can find out what versions of Windows 10 you have by searching for ‘System Information’) you will not even get the option of setting the data grab to Security: for Home/Pro users the lowest setting you can go down to is Basic. What a lot of people don’t realise is Home/Pro both default to Full, the highest possible setting for hoovering up your data.

For Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Professional users, here are the steps to change your system privacy settings down to Basic:

1. Click in the search bar at the bottom left of your screen and type in “Feedback”
2. Click ‘Feedback settings’ under Best match
3. When the ‘Feedback’ window appears, you should see a section called ‘Diagnostic and usage data’ which has a drop-down menu. Change this to ‘Basic’.
4. Nice job! You have now changed your system privacy settings. The drop-down should now look like this:

Capture

One Of The Central Problems With Facebook

A great post from John Battelle. (As Rand Fishkin commented: “I’m both afraid of the time suck & unwilling to subject myself to the obligation of the feed.”).

Excerpt from Hey Facebook: Put Your Users In Control:

But unlike me, most of my true friends put a lot of care and feeding into their Facebook pages. It’s become a place where they announce important milestones, like births, graduations, separations, deaths, the works. These insanely important moments, alas, are all interspersed with random shots of pie, flowers, cocktails, sunsets, and endless, endless, endless advertisements for s**t I really don’t care about.

Taken together, the Facebook newsfeed is a place that I’ve decided isn’t worth the time it demands to truly be useful. I know, I could invest the time to mute this and like that, and perhaps Facebook’s great algos would deliver me a better feed. But I don’t, and I feel alone in this determination. And lately it’s begun to seriously f**k up my relationships with important people in my life, namely, my…true friends.

I won’t go into details (it’s personal, after all), but suffice to say I’ve missed some pretty important events in my friends’ lives because everyone else is paying attention to Facebook, but I am not. As a result, I’ve come off looking like an asshole. No, wait, let me rephrase that. I have become an actual asshole, because the definition of an asshole is someone who puts themself above others, and by not paying attention to Facebook, that’s what I’ve done.

That kind of sucks.

Read the full post: Hey Facebook: Put Your Users In Control

Watching Over Us Lovingly

cctv

In 2014, on holiday in Cornwall with my wife’s family, we were talking about CCTV and the government scanning emails. And I remember my wife’s brother-in-law saying “if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear”. At the time I didn’t know what to say. It felt like if I disagreed with that statement I was saying I had something to hide.

Recently I have been thinking about that statement a lot. According to this article written by Daniel J. Solove on thechronicle.com in 2011 ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear’ was once the official slogan used by the British government in a campaign to promote mass surveillance. Now, I couldn’t find any evidence of this, and it might be true but just from 50 years ago. But however the argument got into popular consciousness, I think it has become a kind of justification for submitting to mass surveillance and mass monitoring.

We live in a post-Snowden era, meaning it is now known that the NSA is scanning the electronic communication of American citizens. And, to be honest, I was surprised when President Obama came out in support of this NSA program. I guess I had hoped he would come out and say something along the lines of “no, this is too far-reaching, we need to take another look at this”. His support to me implies there are scary things that are prevented from happening because of the work the NSA does.

Thinking about this reminds me of a conversation I once had with an ex-girlfriend. She was a doctor and this was when I was living in New Zealand. And a big issue at the time was whether there should be a law preventing parents from physically disciplining their children, the issue particularly centring on smacking and the concern some parents were hitting their kids too hard when they were disciplining them. She said to me that even though some parents were capable of restricting their physical discipline to a light tap, some parents were not, and the right thing for the responsible parents to do was to give up some of their freedom to protect the children of parents who were poor at physical discipline.

I think the issues of mass surveillance and mass monitoring are also about the exchange of freedoms for other perceived needs. I think this is what David Foster Wallace was getting at in his essay ‘Just Asking‘ for The Atlantic. I do think there are costs to freedom and I think we should be having a conversation about what we are willing to give up. But I don’t think we are, partly because it is a complicated topic. But I think it is important because I think the quote ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is true, and what concerns me about mass surveillance and mass monitoring is I can only see power becoming concentrated.

If we are going to try to get people thinking & talking about freedom in the context of mass surveillance and mass monitoring, I personally think privacy is a good place to start because most people can relate to this (The Open Rights Group has a good blog post that touches on the importance of privacy). 2016 was the first year I have seen articles online that have warned people against clicking on links contained within the article in case your employer or the government is monitoring your internet connection. In one example an article was linking to a white nationalist website that was supporting Donald Trump. Is that the world we want to live in? Where we have to trust that whatever artificial intelligence is reviewing our internet traffic will be advanced enough to know whether we agree or disagree with every worldview we read online? Or is privacy sufficiently important enough to freedom to keep intact?