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A Web Hoax, Transformed

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"SAVE NPR and PBS," reads an e-mail petition being circulated by MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group. "Really. Check the footnotes if you don't believe us."

The group was one of dozens to solicit signatures after a House committee voted to cut federal support of National Public Radio and television shows like "Sesame Street." But many found they had to first persuade a jaded Internet citizenry that their petitions were authentic.

That was necessary because, according to folklorists of the online world, two students at the University of Northern Colorado had sent out a similar "Save NPR/PBS" petition way back in 1995, shortly after Republican legislators began a push to eliminate public broadcasting.

What happened next was in some ways characteristic of what happens to information on the Internet: the students' e-mail campaign soon got out of hand. The petition kept circulating, this time as a hoax, long after the threat to public radio and television had disappeared.

Then, in a reminder of the slippery distinction between digital fact and fiction, current events turned the e-mail's oft-debunked but never killed message into reality. In a classically surreal Internet moment, the new e-mail was taken for the bogus old one, and the old one, for many years a hoax, suddenly became true.

The e-mail's metamorphosis has caused confusion among those long used to seeing "Save NPR/PBS" in an inbox subject line and deleting the message. It also highlights the ongoing clash between the credulous and the skeptical on the Internet.

Full Story.

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OSS Leftovers

  • What motivates the open-source community?
    Many of us will have been involved in a free-software community that ran out of steam, and either ended up moribund or just plain died. Some of us will have gone through such cycles more than once; it's never nice to watch something that used to be a vibrant community in its death throes. Knowing what motivates the sort of people who get heavily involved in free software projects is really useful when trying to keep them motivated, and a systematic approach to understanding this is what Rina Jensen, Strategist at Mozilla, talked about at FOSDEM 2017. Mozilla talks a lot about promoting innovation and opportunity on the web, and the organization does care a lot about those objectives, but the realities of day-to-day life can interfere and make working toward them tedious. The thinking was that if Mozilla could help make the experience for contributors better, then the contributors could make Mozilla better — but doing that required understanding how things could be better for contributors.
  • Shuttle Music Player is now Open Source
    Music is a major part of everyone’s life, and our smartphones allow us to truly enjoy our music anywhere. Over the years, Android has received a fair share of excellent music player apps, and Shuttle Music Player has managed to stand out. Shuttle is a music player following Google’s Material Design guidelines, and its listing is nearing 4 Million downloads. Currently, the app offers two versions: free and paid. The paid version is priced at $0.99 and has received over 50 thousand downloads on the Play Store already.
  • OpenStack isn’t dead. It’s boring. That’s a good thing.
    The first OpenStack Project Teams Gathering (PTG) event was held this week in Atlanta. The week was broken into two parts: cross-project work on Monday and Tuesday, and individual projects Wednesday through Friday. I was there for the first two days and heard a few discussions that started the same way.
  • NetBSD 7.1_RC2 available
  • NetBSD 7.1 RC2 Released
    The second release candidate to the upcoming NetBSD 7.1 is now available for testing. NetBSD 7.1 RC2 is primarily comprised of fixes since 7.1 RC1, and in particular, security fixes. The raw list of NetBSD 7.1 changes can be found here.
  • Pentagon Launches Open-Source Experiment
    With a new website showcasing federal software code, the Pentagon is the latest government entity to join the open-source movement. The Defense Department this week launched Code.mil, a public site that will eventually showcase unclassified code written by federal employees. Citizens will be able to use that code for personal and public projects. Code written by government employees can be shared with the public because that material usually isn't covered by copyright protections in the U.S., according to the Pentagon.
  • Coder Dojo: Kids Teaching Themselves Programming
    Despite not much advertising, word has gotten around and we typically have 5-7 kids on Dojo nights, enough that all the makerspace's Raspberry Pi workstations are filled and we sometimes have to scrounge for more machines for the kids who don't bring their own laptops. A fun moment early on came when we had a mentor meeting, and Neil, our head organizer (who deserves most of the credit for making this program work so well), looked around and said "One thing that might be good at some point is to get more men involved." Sure enough -- he was the only man in the room! For whatever reason, most of the programmers who have gotten involved have been women. A refreshing change from the usual programming group. (Come to think of it, the PEEC web development team is three women. A girl could get a skewed idea of gender demographics, living here.) The kids who come to program are about 40% girls.
  • Microsoft hasn't turned a phone into a PC just yet [Ed: copying GNU/Linux again]
    Using the Lapdock wired to the X3 charges the phone and provides the most reliable connection for Continuum. I found the wireless connection made things a little unreliable and choppy on some more graphically intense things like full-screen video playback. Connecting the phone is as simple as just plugging it in and watching a Windows 10 desktop burst to life on the Lapdock. While the Windows 10 desktop looks familiar, this is exactly when I realized just how limited Continuum really is. There’s a Start Menu that’s basically the home screen of a Windows phone, and access to Cortana, but there’s a lot missing. Things like putting apps side by side simply don’t exist in this Continuum world, nor do a lot of the typical places you’d right-click on apps or use keyboard shortcuts to get to the desktop. If you’re a Windows power user like me, or even if you’re just used to a standard window management system, it’s immediately frustrating.

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