Weekly output: Cookies and IP addresses, memes, Aereo, new iPad, SXSW

First SXSW ate up a chunk of my schedule, then a bizarre laptop malfunction on the way to the conference left me offline for most of a day. (On the first flight Friday, I realized that the keyboard wasn’t registering some keystrokes, then realized that it was no mere freak software malfunction; the entire damn thing is broken. Hi-larious.) So I’ve got less writing to my name than on average, much less compared to a week ago, and this recap comes to you a day late.

3/4/2012:  How Online Marketers Target You, USA Today

This week’s column explains two ways that advertisers can track you–or, more exactly, your computers and individual browsers on them. (Recommended follow-up reading: Atlantic tech writer Alexis Madrigal’s extended analysis of how close ad tracking might get to piercing the veil provided when sites only know us by IP addresses and cookies.) I also endorse using a site called Know Your Meme to figure out what all those crazy kids online are talking about this week.

3/7/2012: The Aereo Scenario: A TV Tune-Up On Trial, CEA Digital Dialogue

This research for this post began almost a year ago. One of my last acts as a Post reporter was a dinner meeting with the founders of a company then called Bamboom Labs, which hoped to bring over-the-air TV to reception-starved New Yorkers via the Internet. Since then the company has launched and drawn the inevitable lawsuits from broadcasters, and I’m not thrilled with the idea of banning a company from trying to sell what amounts to a better antenna. An express-permission-required economy is no formula for innovation.

3/7/2012: Things Unsaid In Apple’s New iPad News, Discovery News

In case you hadn’t heard, Apple sells a popular tablet computer called the iPad, and it announced a new version on Wednesday. Here, I take a look at some of the tradeoffs Apple made to upgrade this thing’s screen and camera resolutions and wireless data speeds–I’m particularly impressed with how much more battery capacity it holds on the inside.

3/10/2012: Why Doesn’t Congress Grok The Internet?, SXSW

Sadly, there’s no transcript or video of my session. But you can follow the real-time recaps of audience members by searching for the two Twitter hashtags the conference organizers suggested, #sxgroknet and #groknet.

Update, 3/24/2012: Since those Twitter links have expired, I used Topsy’s search tool to dig up those tweets; you can now read them in chronological order after the jump.

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Help improve my SXSW panel: Why doesn’t Congress grok the Internet?

My SXSW suckup was not in vain, even if it wasn’t efficient either. After a prolonged round of back-and-forth with the conference’s management, including one outright swap of topics, my panel on “Why Doesn’t Congress Grok the Internet?” is scheduled for 3:30-4:30 this Saturday afternoon in Austin.

The theme is pretty straightforward: Sixteen years after the Communications Decency Act, Congress still comes damn close to passing tech-policy legislation almost as boneheaded as that bill; what gives?

I’ll be discussing that topic with two staffers for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.): Jayme White, staff director of the Senate Committee on Finance’s Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness subcommittee and senior tech advisor to Wyden; and Jennifer Hoelzer, deputy chief of staff and communications director for the senator. Both worked on Wyden’s successful opposition to the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts.

I don’t intend for this panel to be a “Congress sucks” beatdown, as fun as that might be. I want to get into the institutional, political and economic factors that lead to tech-ignorant bills appearing as often as they do. Here are some of the questions I have in mind:

  • The stereotype of Congressional knowledge of the Internet is Ted Stevens’ “series of tubes” monologue. Is that a fair perception these days?
  • Looking at the relative influences of the entertainment and tech industries in Washington, how much of a difference can that make on a relatively obscure tech-policy bill? What about one that’s become a headline item?
  • Describe the feedback your boss’s constituents typically provide about tech-policy issues. How often do they bring up the subject at all?
  • How much does the need to raise campaign funds from people who may have intense interests in these matters tilt the legislative process?
  • How would you grade the traditional media’s coverage of recent tech-policy disputes? Has it been part of the problem or part of the solution?
  • What sort of input did your office get from entertainment and tech-industry types, respectively, in the run-up to SOPA?
  • The revolving door is a reality on Capitol Hill (and, I should note, in many newsrooms). How much can the prospect of more profitable employment in private industry weigh on a staffer’s conduct? Among your former colleagues who worked on tech policy on the Hill, where did most of them end up?
  • Did the way Hollywood got rolled on SOPA and PIPA represent a fundamental change in these debates, or was it the product of good timing and good luck?

Now it’s your turn: What questions would you add to that list? Would you strike any of those above?