Tuesday, 29 May 2012

BBC confuses Halo for the UN

Some of the things I like to point out on this site are those instances where in quality journalistic organs occasionally slip up and misreport video game footage or content as if it were the stuff of the 'meat-space'. Earlier in the year ITV got in trouble for mistaking footage form the game ArmA 2 for IRA training videos and there are often scare stories about the increasingly photo-realistic graphics of contemporary games.

So it should come as no surprise that the BBC have found themselves on the receiving end of what can only be described as a 'face-palm fail' moment wherein they mistakenly used the logo from the United Nations Space Command instead of the the logo from the United Nations Security Council. One is a fictional body from the popular first person shooter gaming series Halo, while the other is one of the principal powers within the UN charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.

The incident tool place during a lunch time One O'Clock News broadcast last Thursday in which the BBC were reporting on the current conflict taking place in Syria. From the screen shot Sophie Raworth can be seen discussing an Amnesty International report alongside the logo of the fictional UNSC. It would appear that a Google image search for the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) brought back multiple images from the Halo game that were then used in the broadcast. Currently, the UNSC has very little ambition to police the Covenant and are more focussed on Earthly incidents.

A BBC spokesperson told Eurogamer 'mistakes do happen' but this image was not broadcast in later bulletins. A segment of the video has been uploaded to YouTube and is embedded below.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Harvard Reference System and citing tweets

Earlier this year The Modern Language Association (MLA) decided to devise a standard format to assist students and researchers who liked to cite data found on Twitter. Given that Twitter is increasingly becoming a place in which news can break, frequently ahead of mainstream channels, then it makes perfect sense to attempt to accommodate this platform. The MLA system works well with how Twitter functions.

They advise researchers that citation should being the entry in the works cited list (aka the bibliography) with the author's real name followed by the Twitter user name in parentheses. When only the user name is known, default to that. What should follow this is the entire text from the tween in quotation marks. Spelling mistakes and capitalisation should remain exact (don't change anything!). Finally, the entry should include the date and time of the message and the medium of the publication (in this case, Tweet). Here's an example:
Jewitt, Rob (@rob_jewitt). "The problem with nerd politics gu.com/p/37hyb" 14 May 2012, 8:55pm. Tweet 
If citing the tweet in the body of a paper the MLA recommends it is cited in its entirety.

Now this might seem fairly straightforwards but I do find it curious that the MLA ignores the unique URL provided by a tweet. After all, every status posted has it's own page. The above example could easily be supplemented by the link: http://twitter.com/#!/rob_jewitt/status/202124949522104322. I'd have thought that this would have been essential given that the exact timings on Twitter are subject to the timezone of the reader rather than the poster, meaning errors can occur.

The Harvard Reference system and web sources

At the time of writing there is no formal guidance for how to cite a tweet within the structure of the Harvard Reference (HR) system , but it should be possible to work within the current guidance dealing with websites and adapt the MLA system to come up with a solution. There are even automated tools like the CiteThisForMe page that attempt to auto format sources but it struggles with Twitter.

Students at Sunderland are encouraged to use the HR system as outlined by the resources over on the University Library Services site (direct link to "Cite them right" guide).

The common approach to citing an electronic source, like a website is to include the following info in this order:

  • Author
  • Year that the site was published/last updated (in parentheses)
  • Title of Internet site (in italics)
  • Available at: URL
  • (Accessed: date)
There may be instances where the author is not known but the page includes a title, so that should be used instead. There may even be instances where neither of these can be identified, meaning that the only information that can be provided is the page URL. As you can see, this is less than ideal. Many sites and blogs are happy to identify an author or contributor, so where these are provided then they should be used accordingly. There are also extra fields (highlighted) to deal with:
  • Author of message
  • Year that the site was published/last updated (in parentheses)
  • Title of message (in quotation marks)
  • Title of Internet site (in italics)
  • Day / month of posted message
  • Available at: URL
  • (Accessed: date)
So, following these rules,  this authored Lifehacker article should look something like this:
Thorin Klosowski (2012) 'Living in Public: What Happens When You Throw Privacy Out The Window', Lifehacker, 26 April. Available at http://lifehacker.com/5905347/living-in-public-what-happens-when-you-throw-privacy-out-the-window (Accessed: 15 May 2012)
Citing a tweet in the Harvard Reference system

By drawing on the guidance for citing blogs, then it's possible to come up with some easy to follow rules for citing Twitter. It is a micro-blogging service after all. The following example will use the tweet I employed in the MLA example above coupled with the HR advice for citing blogs. I propose the following method:
  • Author of message (Twitter user name in parentheses)
  • Year that the status was published (in parentheses)
  • Full message (in quotation marks)
  • Title of Internet site (in italics)
  • Day / month / time of posted message
  • Available at: URL
  • (Accessed: date)
The aforementioned tweet should look something like this in the bibliography:
Rob Jewitt (@rob_jewitt) (2012), "The problem with nerd politics gu.com/p/37hyb", Twitter, 14 May 2012, 8:55pm. Available at http://twitter.com/#!/rob_jewitt/status/202124949522104322 (Accessed: 15 May 2012)
It might look a little cumbersome but it has the advantage over the MLA system in that it is more accurate and helpful for anyone else who might want to refer to the same message, or even check its veracity. This is by no means a definitive solution but it is an attempt to be consistent. Comments and feedback welcome

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Virgin Media's blocking of the Pirate Bay: consequences

According to a report over at the BBC it seems like the hacker group Anonymous have taken down the Virgin Media website as a response to the company's blocking of the Pirate Bay. A tweet appearing to be attributed to @AnonCircle carried the hashtags #OpBayBack and #OpTPB, clearly referencing the infamous website.
Piracy research

Meanwhile, The Pirate Bay website is currently hosting a link to a research project ran by the good people at the Cybernorms Research Group (based at Lund University). In this follow-up study they are seeking to understand online norms and values in relation to effective laws and polices so are asking for help. This link will take you to a short questionnaire (no personal data or IP address info is collected). It really will take next to no time and will help contest the industry-led lobby-led research. More information can be found over at cybernorms.net.


I was also contacted via email by the founder of TheSlyrateBay -  a website currently helping online users bypass the Pirate Bay blocks. The founder suggests that the site allows you to log in to your personal Piratebay account without the need for any other external proxies or Virtual Private Networks (VPN). It's free and can be accessed form a browser. You use it at your own risk but it might help fill your Pirate Bay fix. At the very least, you can use it to get access to the non-infringing Pirate Bay blog.

EDIT: It seems like Orange are the second UK ISP to implement a block on the Pirate Bay judging by this post

EDIT #2: The Pirate Bay have taken to Facebook to criticise the DDoS attack on Virgin Media, critiquing the method as a form of censorship equivalent to web blocking.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Virgin Media blocks the Pirate Bay and how it doesn't even matter

As of yesterday Virgin Media customers were no longer able to reach the standard domain address for the Pirate Bay (thepiratebay.se/) after an earlier high court ruling demanded that the UK's biggest ISPs block access to the site on the grounds that it breaches copyright laws. This move has brought with it criticisms from several internet advocacy groups.

Speaking over at guardian.co.uk Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said:
Blocking The Pirate Bay is pointless and dangerous. It will fuel calls for further, wider and even more drastic calls for Internet censorship of many kinds, from pornography to extremism ... Internet censorship is growing in scope and becoming easier. Yet it never has the effect desired. It simply turns criminals into heroes.
Part of the problem is that in an attempt to block access to copyrighted material, Virgin Media have also cut off access to the Pirate Bay blog - leading to a rather chilling effect on free speech.

It seems like the block has had an inverse effect as TorrentFreak carried a report in which the Pirate Bay stated they witnessed a surge in traffic to the site - after the block came into effect. Traffic levels saw a spike totalling an extra 12 million visitors as web users came to see what the fuss was about (a classic case  of the Streisland Effect).

Access to the site can still be achieved if web users are committed enough to seek out alternate ways to reach The Pirate Bay. The UK arm of the Pirate Party have a proxy server setup to help people bypass the rather clumsy attempt at enforcing domain level censorship. How long this link stays available remains to be seen.

Over on the Pirate Bay's blog is an overview of the different ways in which users can still access the site:
As usual there are easy ways to circumvent the block. Use a VPN service to be anonymous and get an uncensored internet access, you should do this anyhow. Or use TOR, I2P or some other darknet with access to the internets. Change your DNS settings with OpenDNS. Or use googles DNS servers... we could go on...
 There are a range of different VPN services - some free, some expensive - that provide web users with alternate ways to route around censorship. The very real danger in the future lies with the potential misuse of domain level blocking. The Pirate Bay has been blocked as a consequence of successful lobbying by the entertainment industry (due to hosting links to files that may violate various copyright claims), but as the web becomes more and more a commodified experience, one wonders how long it will be before censorship of domains occurs at the expense of websites that carry material other powerful lobbyists disagree with

In the mean time, the blocking doesn't matter. The video below shows one way round the block. However, the future of the Internet doesn't look quite so open today.