I posted yesterday about Mike Knutson’s discussion of the importance of broadband for rural economic development. I juxtaposes this with a new analysis showing the U.S. is 23rd globally in getting broadband to all of its citizens. My neighbor the Displaced Plainsman adds that we are 27th in average download speeds.

Our laggardly broadband deployment is not simply a product of our big wide open spaces and all the cable we have to lay. Only 12 U.S. cities make the list of the 100 fastest wired cities in the world. More than half of the cities on that list are in Japan.

Check out Akamai’s cool map to visualize how far behind the United States is on broadband.


Peter Bregman may think the iPad is too ubiquitous, but not fellow South Dakota blogger Corey Vilhauer. He says using the iPad is like holding the Internet. Vilhauer says the iPad condenses and simplifies the Internet experience, making it seem as if “the Internet [were] a physical tangible thing.” Now that’s important!

Five billion people can’t be wrong, can they?

I don’t put complete trust in the wisdom of crowds, but this new BBC/GlobeScan survey shows how quickly the Internet has assumed an essential role in the daily activities and the political thinking of people around the world. The survey of 27,973 adults in 26 countries found the following percentages of respondents consider Internet access a fundamental right:

  • 79% of adults worldwide
  • 87% of Internet users
  • 71% of Internet non-users
  • 87% of Chinese
  • 76% of Americans

Similar percentages — 78% worldwide — say that the Internet has increased their freedom.

As a sign of how quickly we have integrated the Internet into our lives, 44% of respondents said they they think they could not cope without the Internet. Those percentages showed huge variety from country to country: the folks most likely to go bonkers without Web access are in Japan (84%), Mexico
(81%), and Russia (71%). Folks in Turkey (27%), the Philippines (21%), and Pakistan (19%) are the least likely to think they’ve gotta have signal. 36% of Americans indicated they’d have trouble going Web-free.

Remember, we’re talking about a technology that has been somewhat accessible for barely two decades and which still has global penetration of just slightly over 25%. Yet the vast majority of mankind appears to recognize the enormous value of a global communications network that every citizen can afford to use.

The South Dakota blogosphere was all a-fluster this month over two proposed bills, House Bills 1277 and 1278, which sought to impose some accountability on anonymous blog commenters. I tried to use my powers for good, offering some counterproposals that might address concerns about online defamation. I was surprised that Dakota State University folks weren’t more involved in this debate. We are the most wired campus in the state; DSU profs and students ought to be at the nexus of any debate involving online technology and culture.

Both bills died in committee Monday. But overseas (and on the Internet, is there any such thing as overseas?), there’s plenty more news about Internet law and policy:

In Italy yesterday, a Milan judge convicted three of four Google executives charged with violations of Italy’s privacy code. In 2006, some punks posted a video of themselves bullying an autistic kid. Google removed the video when notified by Italian police, but the court still pressed charges against the Google employees. The Google guys got out of defamation charges, but Google says the convictions establish a criminal liability for Internet providers that could destroy the Web:

Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming. European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy. If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them — every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video — then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear [Matt Sucherman, “Serious Threat to the Web in Italy,” Google Blog, 2010.02.24].

Google is appealing the convictions.

China is requiring anyone who wants to start a website come down to City Hall for a chat with Uncle Mao. Most of us can get a domain name and start posting content from the comfort of our couch in minutes with a few clicks and a credit card. China wants domain seekers to meet with regulators and provide identity documents. The Communist government says they’re just trying to control online pornography, but rights activists know a chilling effect when they see one. Hmm… using offensive online content as an excuse for oppressive Web regulations… sound familiar?

Our friends the Poles at least are getting it right. Poland’s government just abandoned an Internet censorship plan. The plan to create a government registry of banned websites was part of a plan to crack down on gambling, but activists for Internet rights and free speech saw the potential for the government to abuse such a registry and start adding other sites various officials might find disagreeable.

The Grapes of Wrath: it’s all about the turtle!
—The Internet: it’s all about hyperlinks!

Hyperlinks are one of the most important inventions of the last hundred years (Paul Otlet, 1934… worth remembering!). You don’t need to know any code to use the Internet, but Web literacy means knowing how to consume and produce Web content. Producing Web content requires not just speaking but connecting. If you want to connect, you have to know how to make a link.

I showed my Speech 101 students how to code hyperlinks in HTML today. Only a minority among my tech-savvy, Tablet-armed DSU students appeared to be familiar with the process, so the lesson is worth repeating.

There are lots of WYSIWYG editors with their own little buttons and shortcuts for inserting links (Ctrl+K in Word; Ctrl+Shift+A in Blogger; Alt+Shift+K in WordPress). But if you’re in a plain text editor and can’t find the magic button, you need a little HTML. Here are the steps:

  1. Decide which text you want to turn into a hyperlink. For instance, suppose I have the sentence Our president Dr. Knowlton said it was an “awesome” year and I want to make Dr. Knowlton said a hyperlink to his blog.
  2. Right before the text you want to “linkify,” enter the following tag:
    <a href="">


    Our president <a href="">Dr. Knowlton said it was....
  3. Right after the text you want to linkify, enter the following tag:


    Our president <a href="">Dr. Knowlton said</a> it was....
  4. Now, switch to the web page you want your link to open when a reader clicks on it.
  5. Up in the browser address bar, select the URL—you know, the stuff at the top, next the buttons, all that “http://www…&#8221; stuff. In this case, I want this URL:
  6. Copy that URL.
  7. Switch back to the window where you are building this link.
  8. Paste the URL into the quote marks in the <a href=””> tag:
    <a href="paste your URL here!">


    Our president <a href="http://presidentspage.blogspot.com/2009/04/reflections.html">Dr. Knowlton s aid</a> it was....

That should do it! Hit Submit or Publish or whatever the button says, and your content should appear in your browser like this:

Our president Dr. Knowlton said it was an awesome year.

Click on the link—zoom! awesome! your browser jumps to the page!

And thus began a revolution in human communication.


Bonus tricks:

  • Want your link to open a new browser window? Some people hate this, but others like to have the new document open in a separate window while leaving the original open. If you want/dare to make this happen, add the target=”_blank” attribute to the <a> tag:
    <a href="http://www.nytimes.com" target="_blank">

    click here to see this tag in action

  • Little pop-up messages on links are another love-’em-or-hate-’em feature. I like to add them to alert folks a link opens a PDF or to sneak in a comment. I’ve also used them to provide English-teacher commentary on corrections to an online essay. To add such a message, add the title=”message” attribute to the <a> tag:
    <a href="http://www.nytimes.com" title="a really impressive newspaper">
cross-posted from the Madville Times… because this is too stinking cool for me to maintain any scholarly detachment!

Holy flipping cow! Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, just commented on my blog! On Saturday, I posted on the seeming difficulty of making the Semantic Web (technology for embedding machine-readable meaning in Web content) work on a large scale. I may be biased against Semantic Web technology based on a course I took on it this summer that left me thinking, “Wow, this is hard!”

And then along comes Tim Berners-Lee, MIT professor, director of the World Wide Web Consortium and World Wide Web Foundation, and long-time explainer of the Semantic Web to tell me I may have Semantic Web all wrong:

There is an interesting reason for which Semantic Web does scale: that it has interesting scale-free properties. Or rather, the world has interesting scale-free properties and the Sem Web technologies allow one to take advantage of. It doesn’t require a ruling elite, just everyone doing their bit, in different contexts, which then are stitched together at the edges. See http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/Fractal#tco and compare that to the models used by previous systems.

I feel like I just got an autograph… and didn’t have to ask for it! I’ll never wash my blog again!

And anyone who says blogs are a waste of time promoting mindless jabber that leaves us teetering on the edge of cultural catastrophe is flat wrong.

Here’s more from Berners-Lee on Semantic Web technology:

…and a longer (58 minutes!) interview from MIT.

I may be teaching a section or two of Speech 101 this fall. Yahoo! I love teaching speech. The study of public speaking requires a discussion of so many diverse yet interconnected topics: politics, democracy, civic responsibility, philosophy, psychology, language…. Speech class is a chance to discover your inner Renaissance man.

Among the many topics we can discuss in an introductory speech class is information literacy. Actually, literacy, the ability to make sense letters and words, may no longer be a sufficient term. Aaron Barlow suggests neteracy, a term that perhpas better captures the idea that we have to understand not only the words on the page but where those pages come from and how they relate to other pages in the many networks of knowledge and knowers.

Given how much information speakers get from the Internet (will any of my students cite books?), it is vital that we talk about critically evaluating Internet sources. Howard Rheingold posts a wonderful article on SFGate’s City Brights on how to evaluate information on the World Wide Web. He honed his online crap detection skills in the crucible of practice, teaching his daughter how to filter the good from the bad online just as search engines took off at the turn of the century. He lists a number of useful tips and resources for evaluating the quality of sources:

  • Look for real people. Hidden identity is signal #1 for suspicion (shades of my stance on anonymity online).
  • Use easywhois.com to see who owns the website.
  • Look at who the author links to and who links to the author (in Google, do the latter by searching “link:http://&#8230; and the URL of interest”)
  • Triangulate: check mulitple sources!

Expect this article to make my reading list for Speech 101.