Friday, 14 July 2017

Quora—A Web of Thought

I had avoided getting on Quora, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc., keeping my social media presence to a dull roar at Twitter and Facebook. I was pleased with this success. I know how easily I can fall down the rabbit hole and I had a big enough warren as it was.

My nephew, however, is very active on Quora, and he knows me well and from time to time would come across things he thought I'd find interesting, and send them to me. Sooner or later something came up that I really wanted to respond to, and that was it. I signed up, I was hooked.

What is Quora?

According to their website,
Quora is a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. Its publisher, Quora, Inc., is based in Mountain View, California. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users' answers.More at Wikipedia

Fair enough. So why do I bring it up here?

I do so because it is, in a way, all about writing in its deepest senseat least, for me. There are endless categories of questions and ways to find specific people or categories of people to answer them, or you just let your question swim out into the waters and see who (if anyone) responds. I'm not much of an asker of questions. Not many pop to mind when I am at the site. But I am very often drawn in to answering.

The first and most satisfying question experience I had was when a spider half-drowned in my shower and when it recovered several hours later, it began performing odd movements. I asked the question,

Why would Pholcus phalangiodes do deep knee bends (see my comment below)?

Then I used the search field that allows you to find specific people to request a response from. I put "arachnologist" in the field, found several, asked them, and got some interesting ideas, though no definitive answer. Quora pointed me to a related question, which had received no answers, so again I requested the help of arachnologists. Between the two questions and the folk who responded I learned a ton about my spider neighbours, connected with some lovely people, really enjoyed myself, and found a satisfactory answer to the question (which turned out to be what I had hypothesized in the first place, so that was cool). The key thing is that the behaviour I was interested in is not mentioned in writeups about this beast, yet within a couple of hours I had contacted people who knew the species well and were able to help me think it through. Citizen science lives!

A second satisfying question I asked was,

How are Irish people reacting to Leo Varadkar's politicals goals?

This was excellent because to be honest I hadn't even heard through Canadian media (though perhaps it was said) that Enda Kenny had stepped down as Taoiseach (Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, whose job Varadkar now has), and the little I found on the internet about Varadkar was pretty cheery and meatless. So it was great to get on the ground responses to his presence in a political scene I can't easily espy from where I live.

Mostly, though, my time on Quora is spent answering questions. Sometimes my answers are off the cuff and meant to be amusing, as well as giving some genuine response. Sometimes I am drawn to think very deeply, take risks in exposing my own vulnerabilities, and work to find the best way I can to transmit my thinking, perhaps to someone who is in a position of fear or depression. That's what I mean about "writing in its deepest sense". I find myself challenged brainwise, heartwise, couragewise, and of course, stylewise. The wrong writing style will kill your message, but the right might carry it home.

I have no idea if any of my answers mean much to anyone, but I think that Quora is helping me to broaden my appreciation of the struggles people are facing, and their hopes and perspectives. I get to talk to people I would normally never encounter. And I get to dig into my foggy brain and do my best for someone, one Quora comment at a time.

Here are a few of my comments, fyi. They aren't perfect, but I think they are slowly improving.

Sara Ralph
Sara Ralph upvoted this
Casey Wolf
Casey Wolf, former Spy for the Far Centre.

I love spiders! My job as a little kid was to be summoned to every closet where my mother saw a spider, rescue the critter and take it outside for release. I felt awfully proud of myself because everyone else on earth, as far as I could tell, was either afraid of them or hated them, and spiders were in grave danger when those people were around. In fact, I was proud of my mother, too, who cared enough about both me and spiders that she didn’t let them get killed, which she knew would upset me, but let me help them out instead.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Good News for Creators and Publishers in Canada

Well this is happy news.

For several years there has been dismay among writers, illustrators, publishers, et al because of the reimagining of the copyright laws by educational institutions, who were essentially allowing themselves out of paying creators and publishers fairly for their work. At last the federal court has ruled against the practice, as we heard from Access Copyright yesterday. And bravo to that, say I.

I will not labour the point. Hundreds have explored it more fully than I am able to. But I will say that where I of course sympathize with cash-strapped schools, their ways of trying to get around the deficits too often fall on the shoulders of the very people who make those schools great--from creators and publishers, in this instance, to employees such as sessional instructors, who are ill-used six ways to Sunday.

Perhaps in these enlightened times we can start funding education, health, and the like to the extent that over-zealous (or panicked) administrators will be less destructively creative in their attempts to economize.

Here's the poop from Access:

Access Copyright is pleased that the Federal Court of Canada upheld the rights of creators and publishers with its judgment on fair dealing which has helped to clarify its application in the context of the educational system.
On July 12, 2017, the Federal Court issued its decision in the action between Access Copyright and York University.  Access Copyright, a copyright collective that represents the creators and publishers of printed and digital works, brought the proceeding in the Federal Court to uphold the rights of its members.
The legal decision, which is the first to review the Fair Dealing Guidelines adopted by the education sector, in this case York University, concludes that “York’s Fair Dealing Guidelines are not fair in either their terms or their application.”
The Court concluded that the guidelines do not meet the test for fair dealing established by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Court also found that tariffs are mandatory and confirms that, “There is no opting out.”
The Court noted that, “There is a mutual dependence between libraries/professors and the copyright regime which may suggest that a better system of protection and more certain criteria (such as in a licence or in a tariff) would assist all parties interested in education and access to educational materials.”
 “The Court struck the right balance between the public good that is education and the need to reward creators to ensure that this public good continues to be well supported by quality Canadian content. Up until today, the state of the law regarding fair dealing left creators and the institutions that copy copyright protected works in a state of uncertainty.” said Roanie Levy, CEO & President of Access Copyright. “This decision will help the parties understand what can be done and paves the way to re-establish stability and royalties to creators.”
Access Copyright would welcome the opportunity for all interested stakeholders to entertain a meaningful dialogue with a view to resolving any outstanding issues between them and establish a relationship that emphasizes the common ground between those who create and those who teach and learn.

“This does not have to be a zero sum game.” said Cameron Macdonald, Chair of the Access Copyright Board of Directors. “We – creators, publishers and educators – have an opportunity and responsibility to serve the considerable common interest between content creation and education.”

Read the full decision here.

Roanie Levy
CEO & President
Access Copyright
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