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Soup of This Day #124: You Better Free Your Mind Instead

January 17, 2012

Filitheyo Island, the Maldives
Filitheyo Island, the Maldives. The Maldives consists of 1,190 coral islands across 26 atolls. The average height above sea-level is 1.5m. The highest point in the Republic of Maldives is at 2.3m. They’re a touch worried about global warming there – Photo: Rachel Dearlove, 2006. Rachel Dearlove has no affiliation with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This brief Soup is a community service announcement:

Tomorrow, as of 5:00am Greenwich Mean Time, the Web will be on strike.

This is not a joke. Although the part where I just linked to a joke via the statement that it wasn’t a joke may somewhat cloud that impression.

It’s also not entirely accurate – The World Wide Web will not wholly be on strike – What will happen is that the English language version of Wikipedia will initiate a full blackout of their content for 24 hours, replacing it with a single letter explaining their actions and asking users to call law-makers. They are doing this to protest against SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), both mooted pieces of US legislation.

While a glance at their titles might give the impression that these proposed laws have legitimate and fair aims there are concerns that they will be wielded more as heavy-handed clubs bludgeoning freedom of speech rather than smart sophisticated tools protecting the rightful owners of information. Media owners such as Rupert Murdoch disagree and the latter has protested about tomorrow’s… protest.

I’m not entirely convinced by either argument and have a natural inclination against strikes but since I; a.) Rate Wikipedia very highly and b.) Don’t rate Rupert Murdoch very highly, I’m prepared to give this a shot in the hope that it prompts US lawmakers to sit down and have a good hard think. Preferably without Rupert’s Twitter account open in front of them.

What will this mean for you? I’m not sure about the impact to each of you personally but if you read this blog then you might note that a substantial number of the links on this site, many of which provide further information on subjects touched upon by Longworth72, won’t work for a day.

That’s right – For tomorrow, January 18th I can tell you that the rare Maldives Articulated Swallow, which nests only above altitudes of 9000m, has the largest…ummm… beak… in the avian universe, and you’ll be obliged to believe me.

If you’re reading this at any other time outside of the afore-mentioned 24hr window then I can tell you that I made that last bit up. Wikipedia does far more than just give the lie to my ironic humour though – It’s a truly valuable source of information that I personally use, not just for this blog, but also when The Noah asks his Dad a question and my wife is around to head off my occasional factorally-challenged answers.

The word ‘factorally’ is probably a good example. Wikipedia it – It doesn’t exist. Please note that you will end up at a page about factorials.

You’ll hear Wikipedia cop some flack from educators and authorative sources but I’ve always taken it as a ‘kicking-off’ point for information rather than the be-all-and-end-all. As such I use other sources to complement the framework laid down by the world’s kickingest-arseiest online encyclopaedia. And yes, I just made up ‘kickingest-arseiest’ but for tomorrow you just go ahead and prove that the term is not valid.

Some of that corroborating information is provided by Rupert and friends. Some of it comes from TMZ. All of it is enhanced by Wikipedia and the free content we take for granted.

I’ll wind this broadcast up with some tweeted messages from Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s kickingest-arseiest founder:

‘Rumours of the death of SOPA may be premature. We have no indication that SOPA is fully off the table. PIPA is still alive and kicking. We need to send Washington a BIG message… Full steam ahead!’

‘The emerging consensus of the community seems to be for a global blackout of English Wikipedia. Finer details under consideration but consensus seems to be for ‘full’ rather than ‘soft’ blackout… This is going to be wow.’

Wow indeed, Jimmy. Bring it on.

You Better Free Your Mind Instead

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