a feminist technology blog

Month: August 2009

American Prospect article on the death of Geocities

Phoebe Connolly quotes me in an excellent American Prospect article about the death of Geocities:

Other online platforms began to spring up, and soon GeoCities became a fond memory for most users. Blogger was introduced in 1999 (and purchased by Google in 2003), making it easy for anyone to start a blog. MetaFilter, a community blog, was launched in 1999. The social networking site My-Space was founded in 2003. These services also marked the entrance of a very public form of socializing–where, unlike email or listservs, the conversation, and content, was accessible to those not part of the conversation. In offering a platform for creating online identities, GeoCities started a trend that has been replicated by companies ever since.

But once those online identities are created, are they the property of the users or the corporations that host them? David Bollier, author of Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own, calls corporate-controlled spaces like GeoCities and Facebook, “faux commons.” For him, true online community spaces are defined by users having control over the terms of their interaction and owning the software or infrastructure. Corporate spaces come with “terms of service” agreements that lay out the rules users must abide by and what control they agree to surrender in exchange for using the product. “Oftentimes corporate-controlled communities are benign, functional, and perfectly OK,” Bollier says. “It’s just that the terms of services those companies have or the competitive pressures of business may compel them to take steps that are not in the interest of the community.”

I really enjoy internet history and although Geocities was something we all made fun of at its peak, it was a useful free hosting solution, and it certainly has a place that should be remembered. It’s sad to think of all those Backstreet Boys fan pages and web diaries disappearing for good.

Transcription: Do not use MT-Stat

So I’m spending a lot of time reading over my transcripts from interviews and meetings. I used two companies. I would absolutely recommend CastingWords for any non-confidential transcripts; they use Mechanical Turk and do a generally excellent job for very little cost.

I would not, at all, recommend MT-Stat transcripts. Their work is very shoddy. I’ll have to redo most of the transcripts myself. It clearly hasn’t been edited, checked, or in any way proofed by anyone, because the transcripts are incoherent. Here’s an example:

Interviewer: I’m constantly finding new areas of stuff that I didn’t know with the children. I’m like, “That’s what I should be working with Mr. Jason.” In fact, massive reaming, he has uh.. he took out bull or cow—

Interviewee: Yeah.

Interviewer: One of them is like, they’re the picker of like, you know, he’s kind of sad rabbit wearing his shoe, you know, grinding some sad rabbit and it’s like.. how do we know… how to postpone the fear of not getting a job and finishing graduate school and duh, duh, duh, duh, and play, what kind of dissertation is that, read another book. [LAUGHS]. It’s totally true like you can.. you can spend.. I can spend five years doing reading just some sort of that as long.”

Useful, right? Clear and precise, well-edited, right? No. In contrast, here’s the ACTUAL transcript, which I did myself, and which didn’t take very long:

Interviewer: Oh God, I mean, I’m constantly finding new areas of stuff that I didn’t know existed, I’m like, “That needs to be worked into the dissertation.” In fact, Matt Groening, he has a– this book called School is Hell —

Interviewee: Yeah.

Interviewer: –and one, it goes through every single, I mean, have you read it? like, anyway, there’s one…it goes through every single year at school, there’s one page for graduate school and every single thing on that page and I’ve had this…I got this book when I was like thirteen, and I got…I constantly think about because they’re all 100% true. One of them is like, there’s a picture of like, you know, his kind of sad rabbit wearing a suit, you know, the Groening sad rabbit and it’s like, how to, how to postpone the fear of not getting a job and finishing graduate school and da da da da da, and by working on your dissertation is that, read another book. [LAUGHS] It’s totally true like you can…you can spend…I could spend five years doing reading just on social status alone.”

I’m not saying this is particularly scintillating material. It’s chit chat. But the transcript provided by MT-Stat is just awful. And I paid them more than $400 for a series of transcriptions (I will also mention that they quoted me a specific number, and then a month later tried to charge me more than $300 more than that, and then claimed that they had never given me the original quote, which I obviously had in my email). Please do not work with this company Mt-Stat (aka MT Stat or MT-S.T.A.T). They’re terrible, especially when a company like CastingWords will do far superior work for the same price.

(I do have some issues with the use of Mechanical Turk, but I suspect that Mt-Stat also uses them and isn’t upfront about it. Either that or they’re using non-English speakers. They are definitely not using professional transcribers. CastingWords has an extensive editing process which contributes to the superior quality of the manuscripts.)

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