From Twitter to Quitter

Reuters reports that Twitter’s retention rate after one month is about 40 percent.  In other words 6 out of 10 new users stop using it within 30 days.  Facebook’s current retention rate is about 70 percent.  I understand how a user could find it difficult to compete with celebrity tweets from Oprah, Miley Cyrus, and Ashton Kutcher, which is why I offer gratis my suggestions for Twitter offshoots:

  • Jitter, for users addicted to coffee and energy drinks;
  • Bitter, for users upset by relationship and work setbacks;
  • Critter, for pet-centric users; and
  • Litter, for 100% disposable messages

The possibilities are endless.

Internet Law Sampler

Here are a few of things accumulating in my browser tabs:

  • Google:  Most takedown notices are illegitimate.  (This is over a month old.  Where have I been?)  “According to a story in PC World, Google says 57 percent of the takedown notices it has received under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act were sent by businesses trying to undermine a competitor.  About 37 percent of the notices weren’t valid copyright claims.”  Remember these figures when discussing whether CDA Section 230 should be amended to include a notice-and-take-down requirement.   A takedown provision’s incentives to lash back at critical but protected speech would do little to enhance the quality of online discussion and add more fodder for disputes.
  • Philip Markoff allegedly killed a woman in a Boston hotel room in a robbery gone awry, a liaison arranged through Craigslist’s erotic services section.  Markoff is also accused of robbing two other women in Craigslist-mediated hotel hook-ups.  The bulletin board website’s role has led, predictably, to calls for Craigslist to monitor its postings for prostitution and other similar activities.  An article on quotes Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal as saying “Craigslist has the means — and moral obligation — to stop the pimping and prostitution in plain sight.”  Blumenthal spearheaded a similar effort last year that led to a consent agreement between Craigslist and 40 state attorneys general in which Craigslist agreed to collect phone and credit card numbers from those who advertise erotic services.  Of this agreement Blumenthal said “Requiring phone numbers, credit cards and identifying details will provide a roadmap to prostitutes and sex traffickers – so we can track them down and lock them up.”  The accountability procedures had an immediate effect; erotic service ads declined by 80%–and in some cities by 90%–after Craigslist adopted them.  Still, after the Boston murder, Blumenthal believes Craigslist should be doing more.  What, or how much more, Craigslist should do is not clear to me.  Calling Markoff the “Craigslist Killer” is inevitable and more alliteratively appealing than “BU Medical School Killer,” but unfair to Craigslist.  The site is not responsible for this murder.  As the Supreme Court stated in Aschcroft v Free Speech Coalition-in a different context, but the principle still works–“[t]here are many things innocent in themselves, however, such as cartoons, video games, and candy, that might be used for immoral purposes, yet we would not expect those to be prohibited because they can be misused.”  That something–a candy bar, an Internet bulletin board, file-sharing technology–can be used for unlawful ends should rarely be grounds for limiting its use.  I understand the human desire after bad things happen to “do something!” but most often what we choose to do has a poor fit with what should be our objectives.
  • The National Security Agency wants to be your cyberspace supercop.  It is in the middle of a bureaucratic battle over which federal agency has responsibility for Internet security.  The same agency that conducted the Bush Administration’s warrentless wiretapping, wants to have the power to access every network in the country for the ostensible purpose of security.  The same agency that can only peek at our purely domestic communications if it has judicial approval wants the unfettered right to see it all.   Seems like a bad idea.

Mental-Health Break

I’ll repeat:  April is a tough time for blog posts.  Students lament the crush of projects and papers they must complete in the weeks before semester-end; teachers lament the piles (literal and digital) of projects and papers we must grade.  [I feel there is an obvious win-win solution staring me in the face, if only I were smart enough to see it.]  The work interrupts sleep and exercise regimens, we drink too much coffee, and a warm spring day feels like a cruel trick because we cannot enjoy it without paying a price.  I have over 30 browser tabs open with articles, cases, blog posts, and other stuff I want to write about.  They will have to wait.  I have a case to edit and post (which idiot assigned an 8o-page case for the last day of class?) and a smorgasbord of papers to read.

I am not complaining, just statin’ the facts.  I will be done in ten days.

Back to it.

Fun at Fenway

Yesterday’s Red Sox-Yankees game may have been the most entertaining baseball game I’ve seen live.  Not the best baseball, but the most over-the-top baseball show.  The 4 hour 21 minute long game featured six lead changes, 28 hits, 15 walks, 16 runners left on base (12 by NY), 6 home runs, 7 Yankee and 5 Red Sox pitchers throwing a total of 386 pitches (215 by the Sox), over 37,000 fans, and untold sunburns from the first hot day of spring (82 degrees at the 4:10 PM start).  The Sox came back from six runs down in the 4th inning and once they were back in the game I felt they would win.  It was a wonderful day at the ballpark in this new era of the Sox-Yankees rivalry, when the Sox collapse is not inevitable.   Judy and I had a great time but I’m glad I don’t have tickets for tonight’s game, which starts at 8:00 PM because it is on national tv.  I’m still tired from yesterday.

This is dedicated* . . .

This site now has a dedicated IP address.  The transition caused some minor glitches; they lasted less than 12 hours but before I knew their duration I felt badly enough about their potential impact on students posting wiki projects on AFC Legal Resources that I extended the project deadline by two days.   One student thanked the DNS gods responsible for the extension with “now I can get back to perendinating,” warming my heart by (1) showing she reads the blog, (2) properly using a form of “to perendinate,” and (3) acknowledging that the projects would still be completed at the last minute, which is how I would spend the extra time.

The IP address is  If you are on the other side of the world, need your Randall blog fix, and cannot remember “” then just type the IP address into your browser’s address bar and you will be good to go.  It’s easy to remember:

  • 67 = my age
  • 222 = my IQ
  • 61 = the number of years until my investment portfolio recovers sufficiently for me to retire, and
  • 203 = the number of times this semester I’ve reminded students to check my BU Calendar if they want to find when and where I’ll be at the school.

Nothing could be simpler.

*if you don’t complete this sentence with “to the one I love” and hear the Shirelles singing, then you are just too young.

I’m Concentrating in Law and Perendination

Thanks to Anu Garg’s A.Word.A.Day (AWAD) newsletter I learned a term my fellow procrastinators — and legions of current college seniors — will embrace: perendinate. It means “to put off until the day after tomorrow” (Garg quotes Mark Twain: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow”) or, a definition that will resonate with many, “to stay at a college for an extended time.”   Isn’t that just great?  You aren’t ducking from the horrible economy or refusing to grow up;  you are perendinating!

The Rule of Seven

It’s April, which means I follow the Rule of Seven.* The Rule of Seven works like this: I have stacks, literal and figurative, of case analyses to score, draft papers to review and comment on, wiki projects to grade, prospective commencement speeches to read and rank, emails to read and respond to, articles to read, and classes to prepare. Each requires a different combination of left brain/right brain activities and if I stay overlong at any one task my attention wanders and I spin my mental wheels. So I approach the work in each task in groups of seven**. I read seven Internet law case analyses, then I read seven speeches, then I pay seven bills, then I respond to seven emails, then I have seven shots of espresso***, and so on.

It works. Try it.

*or, depending on my attention span, the Rule of Ten or the Rule of Five.
**or five. Or ten.
***or cookies. Or York Peppermint Patties.

“two idiots with a video camera”

The food-prep gross-out video that two Domino’s employees–make that two former Domino’s employees–posted this week on YouTube provides much at which to marvel.

  • How could these employees not realize Domino would learn about the video?  It’s hard to fathom anyone not getting that, um, hundreds of millions of people use the Internet and these are not wet-behind-the-ears 14 year-olds posting nude pictures on MySpace.  These are adults, chronologically speaking.
  • How could these employees not realize Domino would be appalled by the video, and wouldn’t accept “but we didn’t really deliver the food” as a good excuse for making?
  • It’s no longer your father’s world when companies must closely monitor Twitter to sniff out nascent scandals and rumors, and then respond to them immediately so the non-response does not fuel the story.  “It’s been 5 minutes since the story broke and Domino’s hasn’t put out a press release! WTF!?” (Yes, I know that the first sentence in my Twitter hypothetical does not follow Twitter style conventions.)
  • Isn’t “idiots with video cameras” a great name for a website?

Kiss Tax-Free Internet Sales Goodbye?

It has been a question of when, not if, Congress would allow the states to tax Internet sales that until now have been beyond their reach.  The weak economy is converging the forces represented by the National Conference of State Legislatures, who’ve been pushing Congress for such taxing authority for years, and the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement, a multi-state agreement to simplify the confusing array of state and local sales tax rates and definitions.  In Tax-free Internet shopping may be at an end Declan McCullagh reports about a bill that could be filed in Congress as soon as Monday to “rewrite the ground rules for mail order and Internet sales by eliminating what its supports view as a ‘loophole” that, in many cases, allows Americans to shop over the Internet without paying sales taxes. McCullagh provides a brief and informative overview of the current law; Internet law students can work their understanding of the Supreme Court’s decision in Quill v North Dakota into discussions about the proposed law with friends, family members, and prospective employers.