Earlier this year, we were disappointed to see Facebook agree to settle with ConnectU. ConnectU was another wannabe social network that Mark Zuckerberg worked for briefly before going off to found Facebook. The brothers behind ConnectU were unsuccessful in doing much with ConnectU, but it wasn't because Zuckerberg "stole their idea." It was because he executed much better. The "idea" itself was hardly novel at the time, as there were already a number of social networks out there. While it may have made economic sense in the short term for Facebook to settle with ConnectU (just to get the lawsuit hassle out of the way), that sort of settlement leads to more people claiming credit for something they have no real rights over.
Yet, if you thought the case was now over, you'd be wrong. Apparently the brothers behind ConnectU suddenly claim that they've come up with a "smoking gun" and they want to cancel the settlement and get back to the lawsuit. This is clearly a pure moneygrab at this point. Even if the brothers could prove that every bit of Facebook is based on code that Zuckerberg directly copied from ConnectU, it wouldn't change the reality of the situation -- which was that Zuckerberg created a service people wanted to use, and the ConnectU guys did not. They're basically demanding money to pay for their own failure to execute well. In this society, we want to reward the winners in the marketplace, not the losers.
Time and time again we see headlines blaring out about how dangerous violent video games are, with politicians insisting they need to do something to "protect the children." However, every time you look closely at the research, you discover there's no real evidence that violent video games lead to violent behavior. At best, the research appears to show that violent video games makes kids emotional and excited (which... er... is what they're supposed to do) and that might lead to very slightly more aggressive behavior for a very short time. And, of course, the most damning evidence against the claim that violent video games leads to more violence is that violent crimes keep dropping as violent video games get more popular. Video gaming site Kotaku is highlighting a video interview of two Harvard professors who have written a book called Grand Theft Childhood that reviews plenty of the previously done research, as well as contributes additional research. Most of their findings support exactly what we've noticed. The previous studies don't really show an impact. But, the most interesting point is made towards the end of the video interview. In looking at boys who are more "at risk" of getting into trouble, it's the ones who don't play video games at all who show a statistically significant greater likelihood of getting into trouble, suggesting that playing video games is part of a boy's normal social setting. To be fair, the study also found that kids who played almost exclusively violent or mature video games for very long periods of time were also more at risk -- though, with no evidence of causality.
While MIT has received plenty of attention over the years for its effort to free up all course materials a potentially equally as interesting move happened at Harvard yesterday, where Arts & Sciences faculty agreed to free up their research. For many years, there's been a push by some to change the process for publishing research. Typically, academic research would appear in journals that were incredibly expensive, potentially limiting the access to that research, even if the research was publicly funded. However, what this group of Harvard faculty have now done is agree that any research they publish will also be available for free online. As mentioned recently, in an age where everyone is so focused on intellectual property, it suddenly makes things like teaching and learning appear to be mighty similar to what others call theft or infringement. It's nice to see some universities starting to push back on that.