or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Series of Tubes

The trouble with new words is that even though people sort of understand what they mean, they might miss some of the finer points, and in so doing misuse them. It's no particular tragedy, but for those of us who like precision (i.e. nitpickers such as I), it's kind of an annoyance.

Here's a paragraph from Dahlia Lithwick's latest Slate.com column:

Changes in technology and the explosion of the mass media make the resolution of this question about the contours of a right to privacy even more urgent. Because if Brandeis was horrified by the paparazzi at a society wedding, what would he make of men who can snap photographs up unsuspecting women's skirts and download them on the Internet for all to see?

Maybe what threw her was that she'd already used the word "up" just before the fateful word, but what she was reaching for was "upload", not "download". You upload things to the Internet, and download them from the Internet. More broadly, you upload data to a central location so that many people have access to it, and download from that central storehouse to your own individual computer so that you personally have access.

I don't think it's particularly hard to remember, but I suppose one could think of data transfer as a water tower. What goes up is for everyone to share: what comes down is your own individual share of it.


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