The full name of the book is Civility in the Digital Age: How Companies and People Can Triumph over Haters, Trolls, Bullies, and Other Jerks.

Author Andrea Weckerle gave me a free copy* to look over Chapter 9 entitled “Legal Aspects of Online Disputes and Conflicts.”  The legal basics are adequately covered, but I found myself more intrigued by the rest of the book for good reason.

I would encourage any brand manager, PR professional, lawyer that work with brands and social media, dispute resolution professionals and marketing people to read this book.  This is a rare book that looks at how to handle online criticism from all of these angles with a nice mix-in of sociology and psychology as well.

I was able to implement some of the gems while reading the book.  Being an attorney and counselor at law requires more than simply explaining and advocating a client’s legal rights.  There is meaning behind the “counselor” aspect of our profession and this book helped me advise of ways to quietly and quickly handle and resolve more than one online issue before it reached a full-blown crisis.

There are lists of resources you can immediately use, sample policies and plans.  Before the book culminates with a 30-day action plan to “for better conflict management online,” it includes a chapter with real world good and bad examples along with hypotheticals to implement the concepts and strategies explained in the book.

This book is not a cure-all and by reading it, you will not avoid online criticism or disputes.  It also won’t let you lose 20 pounds without exercising or eating less either.  By reading it though, you and your organization, will be better equipped to react to online issues and even better yet, be proactive to manage conflict and criticism.  I plan to keep the book handy to share its insights with clients and colleagues.

When not writing books, Andrea runs Civilination.org which is a non-profit that promotes more civility in our online discourse.  When trying to resolve some of our online bullying disputes, we often discuss a donation to a non-profit entity to show the aggrieved party is not after the money.  Civilination is now on that list.

*Notice the online disclosure – practicing what we preach about online endorsements.

Notwithstanding my area of practice, I have so far successfully avoided the iPhone craze.  In fact, I have managed to avoid the entire i-craze.  No iPhone, no iPad, no iPod. 

I’m not trying to make some social statement against the closed nature of Apple products.  I’ve just gotten by with other mp3 players.  On the phone, our firm used to be tied to Blackberry and I was tied to Verizon.  Our law firm will now support the iPhone and if the predictions are right, the iPhone will be on the Verizon network tomorrow.

Then, my friend in the oil and gas business is trying to shame me into getting a tablet.  An oil and gas business CFO?  Of course, his biggest selling effort was some game he and his kids play. 

Then, I spent last week reading all the CES coverage.  Click here for the Wired two-minute video recap.

So, thoughtx?  Go iPhone?  Stick with the Blackberry touchscreen and get a tablet?  Is the Samsung Galaxy really better than the iPad?  Hit me with your best shot other lawyers, marketers, and yes, even the oil and gas CFO’s.

While I love staying up with the online legal issues, I have been more focused on trying to conquer mountains, rocks and rapids this past week.

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So, that means I will just send some links of some interesting things I’ve read while on the road.

Yelp! successfully defended its defamation and DTPA case from Evan Brown

Lawyers can Google potential jurors

I can stalk u using twitter.

Check out what the UK is doing to regulate online advertisers.

Before I left for vacation, I attended a Houston Interactive Marketing Association presentation on accessibility of the web for those with disabilities.  Regretfully, it was something I had not spent much time thinking about, but the Government is.

Then, there were two articles questioning the Texas Attorney General’s anti-trust investigation of Google:  one from Professor Goldman’s Technology and Marketing Law Blog; and one from the LexDigerati blog.

Are Yahoo’s cost-per-click prices falling?  From Domain Name Wire.

For my partner’s Texas Physician Law Blog by Darrell Armer, here is a story on using social media to recruit medical study participants.

Why competitor vs. competitor pay-per-click trademark litigation is so much hotter from Professor Goldman.  I’ll sue one of the search engines if you really want me to–the retainer is three times as much.

Arrested for not tweeting

Losing insurance benefits because of Facebook?

Google apologizes for racist image of Michelle Obama, but won’t remove it.

I’m thankful there’s so much to discuss and thankful that I don’t really have time right now to discuss it all.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Future of the Internet Book CoverIn a slight deviation today, I will talk about the Jonathan Zittrain’s book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It.  I wouldn’t call this a review of the book because not having written a book myself, I don’t have the temerity to “review” it.  You can find a “review” here.  For the Amazon page on the book, click here.

About the Author

Professor Zittrain has street cred on this topic.  He is the Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University and co-founder of Harvard Law School’s Berkam Center for Internet & Society.  With a group of students, he helped found Chilling Effects, which is a website used to track legal threats against content providers and has been discussed and linked to from here before.

First, the summary . . .

Professor Zittrain first talks about the history of the internet and how it developed from a government project and then really blossomed only after the amateurs tinkered with the technology usually for their pure amusement.  The book distinguishes between “generative” components and technology versus what he calls “tethered appliances.”  Computers and the internet began as generative technologies because almost anyone could create code to offer new functions not previously available on the computer.  Tethered appliances, like your cell phone, DVR, mp3 players do not allow for people to introduce new code or change functions.  The tethered part comes from the manufacturers’ ability to allow for upgrades or control the devices from afar. 

Professor Zittrain opines computers, and the internet specifically, are going the way of closed technology.  Some of this is born out of necessity to prevent SPAM and viruses.  Some of it is based purely out of commercial realities.  Professor Zittrain is obviously against that.

He believes there should be open access to allow the users to manipulate both software and hardware at their own risks creating innovation  and opportunities.  From history, he cites the telephone companies not wanting to allow cordless phones and other innovations the monopolistic phone companies had no incentive to embrace.  He cites to Wikipedia as an example of a self-governed open source success.  Yes, Wikipedia can be the victim of “vandalism,” but the community often polices itself to correct such issues through moral social norms rather than legal or technical adjustments.   Of course, Wikipedia has it critics like Andrew Keen in his book The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture. (Amazon page here and New York Times review is here). 

Some of the Book’s Solutions

Professor Zittrain suggests computer users be allowed to decide whether they want to open their computers to possible virus and SPAM attacks for the sake of innovating and tinkering.  Other users, like my parents, who are not early adapters, could choose a safe feature that would authorize only safe websites and downloading only extremely safe programs from trusted sources who would have a vested commercial interest from the outset.

Already seeing improvement

Despite the dire title, there is hope in the book for continued progress without government interference or overly restrictive “tethered” restraints.  Recent examples show the world is heeding Professor Zittrain’s warnings.  The newer version of the iPhone allows apps to be downloaded, albeit in a very controlled fashion that commercially benefits Apple.  Google’s Chrome is open sourced and encourages additional development. 

Same analysis applies to the content side

The book did not address one part of the “future” that concerns me on the media/content side more than the technology side.  Professor Zittain preaches a police your own or else the government will police you and not do a good job of it.  The same would apply to the content side.  More and more states are passing cyber-bullying laws and state agencies are going after gossip and other sites.  Smut, pornography and anonymous gossip sites aren’t going away, but the industry needs to improve age and identification verification, editorial practices and allow for corrective actions and self-policing. The site operators need to do a better job of policing themselves, lest they be policed by the government or amendments to the Communications Decency Act protections. 

The topic is interesting and worth examination, but my suspicion that I was reading a legal article as opposed to a book more geared toward the masses was confirmed when it talked about how the book is the progeny of an initial law review article.  I would have a hard time recommending this book to a general audience as opposed to more pop-culture books like the aforementioned Cult of the Amateur or John Battelle’s Search (which hopefully will have an updated version or follow-up soon). 

The book does include some interesting tidbits.  For example, I did not know the government was able to remotely turn on a car’s travel assistance program to eavesdrop on the occupants without them knowing.   Otherwise, it is geared for your die hards and not the general public that loved books like Freakanomics or The Tipping Point.  But then again, the current and future internet allows people like me to freely offer these opinions — for now.

Let me know what books you think are essential reading for understanding the role of the law and the internet. 

Because of a week long arbitration, I am still working on catching up on the interesting reading from the week. For the sake of expediency, I will simply list some items of interest from the last week.

From the Citizen’s Media Law Project, read here about a case where the judge ruled the Communications Decency Act does not protect a web operator from state law intellectual property claims.

Reuters reports here about a record internet libel award in the U.K.

Reuters also reports here about Congress’s struggle with the legislating online gambling.