Saturday, April 30, 2005
Open-source developer Edd Dumbill is dissatisfied with how the GNOME developer community is overly reluctant to make decisions about using higher-level programming languages. This article is useful as an insight into the problems that sometimes plague projects developed by communities even if you aren't a Linux type. OSNews discussion.
Americans want bloggers to have the same protections as journalists, according to survey. A bill currently in the federal House judiciary committee is trying to create a quasi-journalistic immunity but it does not include bloggers, at least not explicitly.
Ezra Klein endorses controlled nuclear proliferation, at least compared to the alternative which is unrestrained weapons development. This is a pretty heretical notion in foreign policy circles but one I think will catch on. I'm glad, too, because I think the ability of Pakistan and India to nuke each other now probably will avert their desire to invade each other. I'm not sure controlled proliferation is a good policy in all cases, but it's a proven fact that nuclear nations do not attack each other.
Michelle Malkin surveys several state governments' efforts to require photo identification in order to vote. If Republicans were smart, they'd make more of an issue of Democratic opposition to such sensible laws.
Bits: BBC launches big RSS effort. Virus takes down Reuters's internal IM system which was based on MSN Messenger. Samsung to release combo hard drive/flash disk for mobile systems to reduce power consumption. Steve Jobs bans all of publisher's books from Apple stores after it prints unauthorized biography. In-depth look at Wikipedia's Wikinews project.
A provision in the $284 billion highway bill under consideration on Capitol Hill could open the way for more tolls on the nation's congested interstates, marking a departure from long-standing federal highway policy that has traditionally frowned on collecting tolls to pay for roads built with federal tax dollars.It's already happening in my neck of the woods. Naturally, the government doesn't want to give up the tolls even after the construction is paid for. What happened to the idea of public service?
Under the transportation bill passed by the House of Representatives last month, states would be allowed to convert overall up to 25 segments of the interstate highway system into toll roads over the next six years. The Senate is expected to vote on similar legislation this month.
Any poll giving the Greens 10 percent should be automatically suspect in my book.
Related: U2 invites Prime Minister Paul Martin onstage, prompts crowd to boo him to increase foreign aid spending. Still, "he's a great leader for Canada." This came after band lead singer Bono bashed Martin on Canadian radio and told fill up his comment line with requests for more international spending to "end poverty."
And since you didn't ask, Canadian politics has always been one of my interests. The past few years have been decidedly so with the merger of two right parties, the rise of the NDP, and the ethical collapse of the Liberal party. I should also add that I'm a supporter of Quebec independence.
UPDATE: At least two Canadian MPs--Monte Soldberg of Alberta and Steven Fletcher of Manitoba--have a blog on their sites. For more on political blogging in Canada, see this from Stephen Taylor.
UPDATE: And you thought Canadian politics was boring: Conservative MP calls liberals "whores."
"Family Guy" returns to Fox, Sunday, May, 1. Will it be able to withstand the primetime grind or is it just a late-night cable phenom?
UPDATE: C-SPAN's archive of the event is here (RealPlayer required).
UPDATE: The ratings are in for "Family Guy." Not too shabby.
"Word for word, the best American broadcaster in history has to be Mike Wallace. The guy turns 87 in a few days and he's still hitting cleanup for CBS on Sunday night," he writes. "Wallace must have some kind of Dorian Gray thing going on, because he looks 25 years younger than he is, and can still put your fanny on the canvas during an interview. Here's the absolute bottom line on Mike Wallace: If you see him in a restaurant, have what he's having."
One other good line: "As everyone knows, the old school of broadcasters is closing down. Brokaw, Walters, Rather, Koppel, and maybe even Jennings are cutting back. In their place are some highly skilled people without much panache. Americans are incredibly distracted with all the new gadgets, and to get their attention, you almost have to break into their homes. The age of broadcast superstars is almost over. The age of 'Who's that, again?' is just about here.
Say what you will about his personality, but Bill O'Reilly has an intuitive feel for the medium of television.
Friday, April 29, 2005
The Dave Matthews Band, settling a lawsuit stemming from human waste dumped from a tour bus onto people touring the Chicago River, has agreed to pay $200,000 to an environmental fund and take measures to avoid a repeat of the incident, the Illinois attorney general said Friday.
The bus was crossing a bridge last summer when the waste poured through metal grates onto the open deck of an architectural tour boat carrying more than 100 passengers. The agreement with Attorney General Lisa Madigan does not settle several personal-injury lawsuits that also have been filed.
The band agreed to record when and where its tour buses empty septic tanks.
More at SF Chronicle.
Pajamas Media was announced at a celebration of the LA Times's pioneering "Outside the Tent" feature where many of those present said lots about the impending death of newspapers. Coverage from: LAVoice.org, Patterico's roundup, Ezra Klein, LA Observed, Jay Rosen, Hugh Hewitt.
My take: newspapers are to computers what news is to data. The first two exist only for the sake of the second. Data processing is why we use computers. News is why people read the newspaper.
For decades, the tech world has been continually updating its data delivery systems, now, the media world needs to do the same with news delivery. As a physical medium, news publications are doomed, as a virtual medium, they have a chance if they adapt. Otherwise, Pajama Media and its successors and rivals will dispose of them.
UPDATE: The Associated Press recently set off many of its members by announcing that it will begin charging for online distribution of its content. Writing at Online Journalism Review, two Scripps Newspapers execs call for a true peer-to-peer replacement for AP. Will there be two noveau news services in the near future?
UPDATE: Jim Pinkerton and Glenn Reynolds write about the videogame and movie industries, two sectors of media I think are destined for collision and eventual merger. One-way news is on the way out. One-way entertainment will be as well.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall gives more details on the group blog project he's been dropping hints about.
CNN, meanwhile, attracts the more watching-the-news-is-good-for-you types who have steadier viewing patterns. Thus, its ratings haven't fallen as much post-election.
Another thing: if FNC's and Bush's ratings are directly proportional, doesn't this mean that the Bush-is-alienating-the-moderates idea that Kaus posted on just four hours earlier (while endorsing that Ron Brownstein piece I mentioned earlier) is wrong?
If conservatives are tuning out Bush and FNC, then that must mean Bush needs to be even more right-wing to win them back. If there is a hole in the center, then the Bush/FNC ratings are not tied together. Both can't be true.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
If that's true and it's wrong for ABC to do this, why did I catch a promo on Thursday's FNC informing me about a report on tomorrow's "O'Reilly Factor" investigating whether ABC has "gone too far?"
I doubt that either media giant's news division has been asked to play the flack by the suits upstairs, but surely there is some desire to please them at work here on both sides.
Now if only we could get them to do a reenactment of the fight scene from "Anchorman."
ABC is testing the live anchoring skills of Elizabeth Vargas by continuing into the 9:00 hour and occupying more of its Thursday deadzone. NBC rotates to "Apprentice," CBS to "Survivor."
UPDATE: Is it just me or is George Stephanopolous starting to look more like Terry Moran?
UPDATE: 9:07, someone's phone goes off in the background at ABC.
UPDATE 4/29: BCBeat offers a helpful guide to telling the difference between Moran and Stephanopolous
MediaLife reports the ratings.
Forums: Instant reactions from Free Republic and Democratic Underground seem to indicate that both sides of the spectrum didn't have much use for her show.
While she was a bit bland at times, I think "Inside" improved in fairness and quality in the past few months. It was also one of the few respites on cable news from trial/celebrity/missing persons stuff. I hope CNN keeps the same focus in this timeslot.
Ratings data (old)
I'd say its partly because they're filling their meager foreign news holes with Iraq stuff and that foreign affairs in this country is too often perceived as our dealings with Europeans. On this point, I note that Oxblog hasn't touched the scandal at all according to Google.
The next version of Windows will include a new document format, code-named "Metro," to print and share documents, Microsoft said Monday. Metro appears to rival Adobe Systems's PostScript and PDF (portable document format) technologies.More at Computerworld.
Metro was demonstrated during Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates' keynote at the start of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) on Monday in Seattle.
The format, based on XML (extensible markup language), will be licensed royalty free and users will be able to open Metro files without a special client. In the demonstration, a Metro file was opened and printed from Internet Explorer, Microsoft's Web browser.
To buy the support of the entertainment industry, the law has provisions making it an explicit federal offense to make a recording in a theater of a movie, and to try to crack down on people who share movies, songs, or software before their official release dates.
Of course, this law isn't going to stop dedicated pirates who will simply move their warez to some country where it's not illegal to share them or where cyberlaw enforcement is minimal. I also think the way portions of it are worded might (accidentally) give cover to institutions whose members use their networks to pirate stuff with a value of less than $1,000 without the institution's knowledge.
Another positive provision in the law is a title that makes it easier for libraries to make copies of "orphan movies" (non-commercially exploitable films) during the last 20 years of their copyright. We need a similar law for abandoned software for history's sake.
Considering that this law could have been the infamous Induce Act, I think things didn't turn out so badly.
(For those wondering, the donkey picture does not represent a Democrat, but is the logo of eMule, a popular file-sharing program. Merci à Cont@ct.)
Related: Slashdot, DU, Hollywood Reporter, N. Todd Pritsky
UPDATE: French judge bans DVD copy protection (hat tip: PaidContent)
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
In the political sphere, this attitude periodically manifests itself in anguished essays saying that America is going to hell, or if the author doesn't believe in that, becoming a theocracy.
During the late 90s after Republicans ran a crappy presidential candidate and had no message in the 1998 elections, it was the social conservatives' turn to whine about how terrible and stupid America was. Now, with the passage of many traditional marriage amendments, the victory of George W. Bush, and the terrible evil of Republicans trying to stop Terri Schiavo from dying, it's social liberals who are practically cutting themselves over how their fellow Americans suck.
Bill Clinton and his supporters did not destroy America after winning reelection or managing to avoid being removed from office. George Bush, Rick Santorum and their supporters aren't about (or willing) to turn America into a totalitiarian religious state. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to get over themselves and stop being such an extremist.
UPDATE: Dean Esmay lampoons the "fundamentalism is upon us" folks.
Having changed majors in college a number of times and going to a few schools, I see a lot of truth in Burton's argument, particularly when it comes to socially "conservative" (or even moderate traditionalist) views. I think that liberal and libertarian intolerance for these ideas is actually the main reason there are not many believing Christians on campus. I'd bet that Orthodox Jews and moderate, believing Muslims are similarly underrepresented as well. This is a real disservice to the worthy goal of academic diversity.
One of the studies I mentioned previously, that by Rothman & Lichter, makes glancing reference to this phenomenon, when they note that Christians, like conservatives and Republicans, "teach at lower quality schools than their professional accomplishments would predict." But they offer no details and do not pursue the issue. What I am suggesting here is that what Rothman & Lichter have detected are not two separate phenomena, but, rather, two aspects of one and the same phenomenon: the relative under-representation of believing Christians in academia.
Indeed, I suspect that jewish and non-religious Republicans and conservatives may have little or nothing to complain about; if anything, I suspect that they, like their Democratic and liberal colleagues (though perhaps not to the same degree) are over-represented on campus, in comparison to their numbers in the population at large. Just do the math: Jewish and non-religious Republicans make up less than 2% of all Americans. I fear that those of us who spend a lot of time in the "blogosphere" may be prone to an exaggerated idea of how many jewish and non-religious conservatives and libertarians there are out there. The answer is: not many - but we seem to engage in a disproportionate amount of internet chatter.
I've gotten a ton of e-mails asking me what I'm up to. Here it is:I like the attitude but will he and the others be able to make a success? I'm skeptical but we'll see.
The New York Times got it right -- I am amicably leaving the Drudge Report after a long and close working relationship with Matt Drudge, a man who will rightfully take his place in the history books as an Internet news pioneer. I am also excited to be a partner in an inspired new endeavor, the Huffington Post. The last time I worked with Arianna she got a guy who didn't deserve to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery disinterred. That was cool. I admit: I like to go where the action is.
As for my politics, I am, quite literally, an open book. 'Hollywood, Interrupted' spells it out perfectly. I am a raucous, opinionated, red meat eating libertarian-leaning conservative who refuses to be relegated to a conservative ghetto. I have lived on L.A.'s liberal Westside for all of my life. I went to the liberal Brentwood School. Most of my friends and extended family lean left and will all attest that at gatherings I gleefully disagree with them. Yet I still love them, and refuse to give up on getting them to see things my way. But the last election cycle gave me an ulcer. As a Dennis Miller/South Park kind of Republican, I am offended by both 'Bush is Hitler' rhetoric and fetus-in-a-jar political speech.
What the world needs more of is amicable -- even jocular -- disagreement. Bringing my former boss and longtime friend Arianna 's intriguing friends to the blogosphere, the ultimate level playing field, makes perfect sense to me, and I am thrilled to be committed to such a groundbreaking project. Will my pals on the right have a place to offer their two cents at the Huffington Post? Absolutely. Will I agree with everyone's written word? Of course not. But that's precisely the point. May the best ideas win.
Some of these free icon sets include Kids and Crystal by Everaldo Cohen, as well as the Nuvola set by David Vignoni. There are also many more (along with previews of each set) available at KDE-Look.org or art.gnome.org.
Many free icon artists also produce art on demand for companies. If you like their work, consider hiring one of these guys to design your next business logo.
But are rogue marketers using the same tactics to do the opposite: use "comment spam" to bump web pages that criticize a product or company out of the top rankings by Google since the search engine penalizes pages that "stuff" keywords and links?
In one of the more explosive media-related blog stories in a while, Nick Lewis thinks he has the evidence to prove that CNN is using comment spam to drive down the hit rankings of web sites that criticize it.
Last week, CNN attempted an unusual marketing campaign in the blogosphere. The campaign combined blackhat search engine optimization techniques, viral marketing tactics, and guerrilla comment spam. Unlike the majority of comment spam, this spam appears to only target blogs that have discussed CNN in the past 3 months. So far, 13 separate instances of the spam have been found. Most alarmingly, CNN may have also left malicious keywords at least 3 out of 13 with the intent of using Google's keyword stuffing detectors to censor them. As of now CNN has not returned my request for a confirmation or denial. [...]
Does CNN has the ability to carry out targeted spamming campaigns? Yes. In fact, they already have carried out similar campaigns, and my source is no less than "the paper of record."
Why would CNN care about blogs? Well, first of all I cite that prior to Jordan’s ousting, Jon Stuart’s appearance on Crossfire. Indeed few events could have made a clearer argument to CNN that they are at the mercy of the blogs. Consider this: according to the ratings, the now famous episode of Crossfire only reached about 400,000 viewers via cable. However, the online video of Stuart’s reached an estimated 5 million people  – and there was nothing CNN could do to stop it. Re-read that statistic and ask yourself, “Is it likely that CNN understands the power of weblogs?”
Many people have asked me "Why would CNN try to use keyword stuffing to censor posts that are critical? Who cares what the blogosphere is saying?" Well, as David Dunne, the director of world's largest independent PR firm explained, "Search is inextricably tied to your reputation," Dunne reminds, "Your audiences seek answers in search engines, where your messages are competing with those of NGOs, class action firms, and special interest groups." Dunne went on to emphasize that good web PR must be unified, and managing your companies reputation on Google is among the most important strategies. Dunne recommends, "You need to listen, identify trends, and watch communications around a brand to gain insight and the opportunity to respond on multiple levels."
CNN is in the process of a major transformation that began when Eason Jordan resigned. And for the record, I thought those who attacked Jordan behaved like a lynch mob; and I consider his ousting to not be a success for the blogosphere, but rather a mark of shame. That said, CNN’s new management is a bit more open to accepting that blogs are powerful, and here to stay. Indeed, their new CEO, I think, is taking that realization one step further. I cannot emphasize how impressed I am, as much as I despise their tactics. This guerrilla marketing campaign is evidence that not only is CNN serious about using blogs to their advantage, but that they are thinking about the nature of the blogosphere on a very sophisticated level. Their competitors have not tried any strategy that comes close to topping this one.
Did this really happen? I think it very well could have. Maverick employees or rogue marketing companies have been known to do stuff like this. But would such a strategy be approved by a corporate-level exec? But then again, the Education Department's paying of radio host Armstrong Williams certainly showed that high-level people can be dumb enough to engage in a boneheaded PR strategy. So far, CNN has not responded to Lewis's accusations. That will change if this story moves beyond the blogs.
As a preliminary to the physical discussion, Curt Hopkins, who will be heading up the roundtable, started a Yahoo group discussion which is open to the public. Recently, the topic has turned to the technical aspects of allowing bloggers in repressive systems to exercise their free speech. Sites like Anonymizer and were floated as possible solutions, and indeed, they work well-enough as ways of circumventing censorware. But they don't offer enough to truly protect anonymity since they don't offer the safety of a group.
Instead of relying on the mercies or tenacity of companies or other intermediary groups, would-be bloggers living in oppressive regimes should use an anonymous file peer-to-peer file sharing protocol which transmits all data in an encrypted format, and then have someone on the outside post the information on a blog.
There are several anonymous file-sharing apps (sometimes called third-generation p2p clients) including Freenet, MUTE, GNUnet, and ANts. GNUnet and MUTE are the most secure with MUTE being the best since it never gives out your IP address to anyone on the network, can be configured to use common ports like HTTP, and has native clients for Windows, Linux, and Mac.
Another (much less safe) option is to use an SSH-based darknet with proxy servers using variable IP addresses running on network ports typically associated with the web to get into a system and use a text-based browser (or by creating an SSL tunnel) to post entries on a fourth-party blog site.
For maximum protection, secret information can be embedded and encrypted inside innocuous files with steganographic software and then distributed on a p2p network.
In summary, if I were trying to create some sort of system for transmitting data out of a repressive government, I would do it in the following ways:
- Establish contact (either directly or through a cell system) with at least one trusted individual on the outside, tell that person to download whichever steganographic and p2p software will be used.
- Decide with that person which types of audio (do not use images since they are not as common on p2p networks) files will be used.
- Offer the encoded files over an anonymous network.
- Get the contact person to download and decrypt the file and then publish (through a secure anonymous web surfing system) the info on the blog without revealing their real name.
The most likely breaking point in this scenario would be in the cellular chain or a governmental block at the point of public distribution (such as by blocking the blog host's IP). While the first is often irreparable, one could always bypass the second problem by using a different domain or IP.
Links of interest:
- Overview on differences between file-sharing programs and why traditional apps like Napster or Limewire compromise your privacy (on MUTE site)
- infoAnarchy, a wiki site with lots of good information on privacy protections online
- Wikipedia on steganography
- Book blog on darknets by my fellow Media Bloggers Association member J.D. Lasica
ABC has been warned in writing it could face legal fallout for airing its scathing behind-the-scenes look at FOX's AMERICAN IDOL, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
FOX owner Rupert Murdoch has informed executives that it appears ABC is attempting to maliciously "destroy" the nation's most-watched series as it heads into the final weeks.
Sounds like overheated rhetoric to me though certainly ABC (or NBC and CBS) wouldn't shed any tears over lower ratings of the "Idol" juggernaut.
Low ratings for "Evening News" are a setback for CBS, which had received plenty of critical acclaim for the Schieffer-led broadcast. Schieffer scored a notable scoop on the Minnesota school shooting story in his first week on the air, and the newscast showcased his conversational style via live Q&As with correspondents.
CBS has averaged a little more than 6.8 million viewers in Schieffer's first six weeks at the helm, down 7% from the same period last year. NBC also was down 7% in the same period from last year, while ABC was flat.
This should come as no surprise since Dan Rather had basically managed to whittle his audience down to a small core of extremely loyal fans. With him out of the picture, the ratings will go down. With no real structural changes to the CBS news division, it's hard to see how Schieffer can win over disaffected viewers, especially those who perceive the network as liberally biased.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Monday, April 25, 2005
Now that LA Times writer Ron Brownstein, in cooperation with the inefficient and overrated Joe Trippi, is peddling this swill, Marshall Wittmann at the Bull Moose blog (who still hasn't dropped the annoying old media habit of referring to himself in the third person) is eating it up.
I'm not one to rule out basically anything--but barring a tremendous, long-term electoral collapse among either party, there is almost zero chance of a smaller party becoming a national force, particularly because the existing ones are too stupid to concentrate on just one or two states. (Tthe Free State Project doesn't count since they picked the state of New Hampshire, future home of one-third of Massachusetts, thereby assuring their failure to take over the state and impose libertarian governance.)
Many of my fellow political independents often woe the fact that the American electoral systems "create an opening in the center of the electorate" (as Trippi puts it) which no one seems to want to fill. This is true to an extent. Looked at from an up-close perspective, it seems like extremists dominate our politics. But compared to other countries' systems, the American way of doing things is remarkably stable and centrist.
In over 200 years of existence, the U.S. hasn't had a single major coup attempt or a party trying to maintain control of the executive branch after losing an election. Compared to their foreign counterparts, the Republican and Democratic parties are resoundingly centrist. Extreme socialist or nazi movements have always had trouble getting traction in our duopolistic system. That is a remarkable record and one we should be proud of rather than frustrated at.
Even in the event that a hole in the center does open up, both parties are too smart to let it remain empty for long. Their voters are, too. The 2004 Democratic primary was a perfect example of this. Initially, it seemed as though Howard Dean was poised to get the nomination until people realized that he was too far to the left to defeat George W. Bush. They were right. While it's true that most liberals find the current Iraq war an outrage while most conservatives deem it essential, most Americans aren't particularly for or against it. An anti-war candidate would have been creamed at the polls since Americans will support any war up to a certain point.
For more smackdowns of the third-party fantasy argument, see this post from Ezra Klein on the problem of ballot access and this one from Brendan Nyhan on how a plurality, single-member system is conducive to two party governance.
appeal on "Good Morning America" is not that she is new and exciting, but that she is a consistently smooth, even restful, presence. Her golden good looks never change, and she handles interviews and chatter with her genial co-host Charles Gibson with a poised, creamy insincerity that never varies or falters.I agree with all of this but I wonder, would a TV columnist ever say such a thing (read the article for similar digs) about a male anchor? I don't recall such things being printed about Brokaw, Jennings, or Rather. Are there certain things about female anchors it's OK to say, particularly regarding their physical appearance, that are taboo about male anchors?
Ms. Couric made her mark in television by being natural and unaffected, but nobody can stay that way in that job for long. "Today" might be better served by easing its anchor-centric style and giving its stars and viewers a bit of a break.
I've never liked Blackberries because I always thought the keys were too small even compared to my trusty HP 200LX which has keys roughly about 1 x 0.5 mm. I figured out a way to type on them using four fingers on each hand to avoid thumb-typing which I found to be slower and unergonomic. Eventually, I managed to get to about 50wpm on my keyboard with no real tendon stress.
Bette R. Keltner, dean of the Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies, has been forced to put her BlackBerry down. After two years of constant use, her hands were in so much pain, she had to stop typing. She remembers the trigger point: It was a 10-hour conference one Saturday where she answered about 150 e-mails. "Days later, I was in excruciating pain," she said.
The American Society of Hand Therapists issued a consumer alert in January saying that handheld electronics are causing an increasing amount of carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. With that warning, the society included directions on how to properly hold the devices, urging users to take breaks and, if possible, place pillows in their laps so their wrists are in a more upright position.
But at airports and hearing rooms and other places where handheld users while away pauses by thumbing their keyboards, there are no pillows in evidence and very few breaks from the tap-tap-click of e-mailing.
I take issue with this line from the article:
Also, though many handheld game devices also use thumb-operated controls, they typically don't require as much range of motion as keyboards spanning the entire alphabet as well as punctuation marks.In my experience, the Playstation2 controller is far more unergonomic than any handheld computer keyboard. The stress its directional pad put on my left thumb was so bad, I almost never use it.
Incidentally, the HP 100/200LX palmtops had text-messaging on them almost a decade before it became cool. In 1994, HP debuted its StarLink service which offered two-way paging and email.
Turned on the TV app for a second and caught this little fact from C-SPAN: Including Bush and Cheney, there have been only eight presidential administrations in which no lawyers served as prez or veep.
UPDATE: Dean Esmay posts on American politicians' predilection toward cleanshavenness. The last president to have facial hair was William Taft who left office in 1913.
What would happen to the European Union if France, the lead architect of unionism, rejects the European constitution? The Times of London has details.
Jeff Jarvis: TV is good for you and is getting better. Partly right. TV is getting better but it's also getting worse. We're just getting more of both. I think you can make the case that drama on television has improved and grownup cartoons like "King of the Hill" and "Ghost in the Shell" are far better than Roger Rabbit, but sitcoms still suck, local news is getting worse, and celebrity/trial shows are proliferating like never before.
Disaffected Anglicans make overtures to new pope. When will people who want religion out of politics learn to keep their politics out of others' religion?
Republican supporter targeted newspapers with hundreds of letters to editors using different names. Try starting a blog, dude. (Via Dan Gillmor)
BBC gives microphones to anti-Conservative hecklers. Surprising, isn't it? Biased BBC's reaction: "If I were Michael Howard I'd announce that no Tory would appear on any BBC programme or answer questions from any BBC journalist until after the election."
Microsoft's Internet Explorer team give a few details on the next version. Finally transparent PNG support. But will it be enough to stop savvier netizens from migrating to Firefox or Opera? More MS news: Apple accuses it of "shamelessly" copying. MS trades lawsuits with company over JPEG patents.
That's kind of too bad because the format of the show is definitely better and arguably less biased (I haven't watched it enough to say definitively). By all accounts, Schieffer seems to be a nice guy, but he's too conventional and never has been known as a sharp analyst. No matter what format CBS puts him in, it's hard to see him winning over new or former viewers. Everyone in the TV biz seems to have forgotten that the only reason Schieffer managed to get himself out of third-place in the Sunday show derby was because George Stephanopolous is so terrible.
There also don't seem to be any real structural changes made at CBS News since Rather's ouster. In the absence of that, I don't see how they can win over viewers who were offended at the CBS's record of unfairness.
UPDATE: Jay emails in to say that he does have a full-text feed but forgot to announce it to everyone.
If my dream for the Tennessee blogosphereI'm as much of a blog proponent as the next web writer, but if Hobbes's dream were realized, I wonder how things would get done in Tennessee. And what value to the citizenry is gained if every state senator and representative copies and pastes his talking points up on the web? And who would read the things anyway? Most people don't care much at all about local government. Would blogging really make them care?
waswere realized, every elected official in Tennessee above the rank of constable would blog, and every last one of them would be watch-dogged by at least two bloggers.
I think citizens would be better served by blogs run by the various parties and interest groups rather than by the government, because part of being a true blogger is to be a watchdog. I'd feel the same if government officials started printing out newspapers for the public.
Until I actually see some binaries or source, count me as a skeptic on this one.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Speaking of that, in the current battle over what to call the Republican idea to break the Democratic threat to filibuster President Bush's judicial nominees, Josh Marshall and his readers discovered (via LexisNexis I'm sure) that it was Republican Sen. Trent Lott who actually coined the phrase "nuclear option" as bit of tough insider rhetoric. Now, Democrats have adopted "nuclear option" as their own term while Republicans are starting to use a new phrase, "constitutional option." Talk about having to eat your words.
Marshall howls that Republican pressmeisters are trying to put the kibosh on the media's usage of "nuclear option" as a term of art to describe ending the filibuster. If I were editing big media's capitol reports, I would ban shorthand usage of both terms since they are nondescriptive and politically charged.
Matt Yglesias thinks either side could win a judicial battle, which is a reasonable supposition in my opinion. Given that Democrats have a sound advantage in the correspondent corps, that should give them somewhat of an edge in the battle for the public mind in the event of a government shutdown (it was the real reason the "Gingrich who stole Christmas" Republicans lost to then-pres. Clinton during the shutdowns in those years)
All of this assumes, however, that people actually will care about an intra-congressional battle. In the end, a filibuster fight will mainly serve to motivate each party's base, which will likely cause some trouble for Republican senators in Democratic states and vice versa. This makes me wonder if both parties' Senate leaderships won't work out some sort of semi-compromise given that now is a little early to have base rallying do any good. But then again, this could be part of the trend toward the permanent campaign in a congressional setting.
One thing I think is pretty certain, though: however the filibuster fight plays out will set the tone for the Bush admin's relations with Congress for the next couple of years
Gawker (which is run by rival blog entrepreneur Nick Denton and has ridiculed the venture since its initial announcement) reprints an email it says Huffington sent out claiming a launch date of next month.
Reading this article in the NYT, I'm not quite sure why anyone would want to read her site. True, there are some interesting names in the list of promised contributors (Gary Hart, Walter Cronkite, David Mamet, Nora Ephron, Warren Beatty, James Fallows, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Maggie Gyllenhaal, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Diane Keaton, Norman Mailer, Mort Zuckerman, Tony Blankley, David Frum, etc.), but I'm not quite sure any of these people will be willing to fit within the form, particularly the older folks like Cronkite and Schlesinger who probably use a computer little, if at all.
Also, is it just me or does this whole venture sort of seem like a Salon.com remake? Back in the early days of the mag, David Talbot et al. tried to make a splash by hiring the likes of Sydney Blumenthal, Camille Paglia, David Horowitz, and Garrison Keillor and then distributing this expensive content online for nothing. It didn't work out so well. Except for Blumenthal, none of these people is left at Salon. (Incidentally, Huffington herself is on retainer there as a columnist.)
Unless Huffington's stable of contributors is willing to work at low cost, an unlikely prospect, I don't see how this venture is going to be successful: it's got a big payroll full of prima donnas, being run by people (including former Drudge staffer Andrew Breitbart) who don't seem to understand blogs, and it's got a lame moniker: The Huffington Post.
There probably is a Windows equivalent of it somewhere (shareware more than likely) but one of my favorite features of Unix is the handy little program on the KDE desktop called Klipper that keeps a history of the items you've recently copied onto the system clipboard. Just click on the icon and you can recall the most recent (I use 20) things, allowing you to switch back and forth between them.
There is a GNOME application (GCM) of similar functionality but I don't find it very stable. I've also found the MS Office Clipboard tool interesting but ultimately not very useful since you can't use it with non-Office programs
Another feature of KDE I really miss when using some other desktop environment is the ability to pick a program from the Alt+Tab tasklist and switch to it instantly. This is very useful when you have a whole bunch of programs running. Apple copied this feature and prettified it (making it more time-wasting in the process) into its Exposé feature.
Click thumbnail for larger image:
Saturday, April 23, 2005
At any rate, I'm currently reviewing the latest version of Libranet Linux and in the course of doing so, I loaded up one of its included RSS readers and stumbled (via ChangeLog) on a fun little survey that tries to determine what American dialect you speak.
They don't seem to make any claims of accuracy, although I think it pegged my speaking style fairly well as "General American English" considering that I grew up in basically every region of the country except the west coast. Any of my handful of readers care to share your results?
Your Linguistic Profile:
65% General American English
10% Upper Midwestern
The company needs major changes to its business model in order to survive. Here's my list:
- Discard superfluous brands (Buick, GMC, Pontiac) that were useful back when Americans didn't have a lot of auto brand choices.
- Relocate manufacturing to the south and western US, away from overpriced union shops. I think unions do good work ensuring that workers aren't abused, but they can be just as greedy as the companies for whom they work. No one deserves $60,000 a year to mop the floor.
- Target young people better. Who made the dumb decision to kill off the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird/Trans Am in 2003 without any kind of replacement until 2006's GTO? The pitiful Pontiac Aztec and ghastly Chevy Aveo are perfect examples of how to build a car that won't appeal to anyone. And how about building more than one convertible that costs less than $50k (the just-released 2006 Pontiac Solstice finally put GM into the low-end convertible market)?
- Stop ignoring the compact and midsize sedan markets. People want a choices in this area. Now that gas prices seem likely to stay above $2/gallon for the long-term, GM and Ford are feeling the pinch along with the American consumer.
- Upper-middle-class people are more likely to buy new cars, and yet, GM does not court this large group of consumers with much beyond SUVs. Instead, this crowd is turning to the sporty Mazda 6 and lower-priced offerings from BMW, Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti.
- Improve your quality. Yes, it's easier for people to buy parts and service for American vehicles, but this should not be an excuse for poor quality control. The formerly reviled Hyundai is a perfect example of how an improved commitment to reliability can boost sales and improve consumer confidence in the brand. It's gone from being perceived as the rival of Yugo, to tying with Honda as the most trusted car brand.
- Bring more distinction to your brands. Chevrolet should be the flagship which mostly targets middle-aged men and economy buyers, Saturn should look to the young buyer, Cadillac should improve its vehicle performance, and Pontiac should produce only sports cars (if any at all).
- One more: spin off Saab and Saturn. They're distinct enough brands to be able to survive on their own. Free them from the big conglomerate.
Others' thoughts on GM:
Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes, Rand Simberg, Adfunk Auto, Glenn Reynolds, Blog for America.
Friday, April 22, 2005
So magazines are dead, too? I think not. The era of the mass-circulation daily or weekly is arguably over, but I'm not sure that can be said for the niche publication.
As much as I like getting my news through the computer or phone, there's still something about holding a finely printed book or magazine that you just can't duplicate with a meager display quality of a handheld or laptop computer which cannot even render smooth text without resorting to cheating. Print news companies can survive if they can figure out a way to combine the interactivity and choice of computer-delivered news with the comfort and readability of print.
Print, as we know it, is destined for death, though I think it has the capability to reemerge in a different-but-similar form.
Dave Weinberger, who had been a blogger involved in the MNSBC segments, says he feels uncomfortable doing them:
They want reports on what moderate left and right wing bloggers — "Nothing out of the mainstream," the producer told me yesterday — say about a "major" topic. What the hell does that have to do with blogging? And when two of the producers yesterday independently suggested that I report on the blogosphere's reaction to a Vietnam veteran spitting on Jane Fonda, I blurted out — because the flu had lowered my normal Walls of Timidity — that this wasn't a job I'm comfortable with.Ed Cone, who has also done a few blog report segments as well, says while he is going to continue doing them, he also has some problems with the format.
What makes the blogosphere interesting to me is not that there are moderate left and right voices talking about mainstream topics. Mainstream major stories are about issues such as freakish celebrity pedophiles, a spit match over a fight from 30 years ago that the press is hoping to revive, and whatever unfortunate child has been reported missing and presumed (better for the story) murdered. I'm in the blogosphere to escape from this degradation of values.
The rigid format did bite me this week, when they told me I couldn't talk about blog reactions to anti-Semitism at the Air Force Academy because there weren't two sides of the story presented (in an earlier show, they went with my suggestion to cover bipartisan blasting of Senator Cornyn's threatening remarks about judges). In this case, I argued that it was one of the most interesting blog topics of the day, and that I wasn't interested in presenting a pro-anti-Semitism POV if I found one (not they suggested I do so), but to no avail. I lose fights with editors all the time; this week's example struck me as limiting the quality of our product, but not as a hill to die for.I've been somewhat disappointed that "Connected" seems to be turning into a regular daytime cable talk show instead of the more innovative approach it started to have. The problem seems to be that the show's producers don't realize that simply saying the word blog a lot (or even a little) and reading emails isn't going to get people to tune in. You have to do something different.
That said, like David, I've been doing this for free (they did buy me a web cam and headset). The experience has been worth it, but I can't see continuing to do it on a frequent basis for nothing.
Yes, it's true that Fox News Channel has found success by reaching out to the conservative viewer (who do constitute the plurality of cable news watchers), but it's also been successful because it was willing to try new things and new people. After starting out promising on that account, "Connected" has fizzled somewhat, reverting to the old forms of "interactive" integration: reading viewer email, doing webcams, and quoting text. No one wants to see that stuff because it's both old hat (who really wants to see a webcam on TV when we can get just as good of a picture quality with a videophone from the Himalayan mountains?), and because it's not very interesting.
Blogs work because they provoke conversation in real time. Taking that conversation and freezing it for later presentation on TV loses the meaning of the medium. The only way blogging's power can be harnessed is through integrating the people who do it with the people they talk about and critique.
UPDATE: Weinberger's post I quoted above (here's the link again) provoked quite a bit of debate in the comments of the entry. Jeff Jarvis, who has decided along with Ed Cone to keep doing blog summaries, defended himself at his site, saying that "Blogs don't need mainstream media. Mainstream media needs blogs."
I posted a response over at David's site (unfortunately he has no comment permalinks so you'll have to scroll a bit) but after thinking about it a bit more, I came to the conclusion that Jeff and I disagree somewhat less than I initially stated. When he said the media needs blogs, he meant that they need to learn from them.
I sent this note to Jeff moments ago:
After rereading your media-needs-blogs response, I came to the conclusion that we disagree less than I initially assumed. I realized then (and was later confirmed by reading your email clarification) that when you said the "media needs blogs," you meant they need to copy aspects of the blogger ethos. So essentially on that point we were saying the same thing.
I'll amend my argument to say that systematically, the established media needs to learn from blogs, but they don't really need them to increase their marketshare. Blogs, meanwhile, definitely need the establishment media to provide facts, but also to help provide an ideal (which almost no big journalism outfit regularly meets) of depth and fairness.
What worries me about the "Connected" segments (and the ones on CNN's "Inside Politics" as well) is that they seem to be more about marketing than about truly integrating the principles of approachability and dialogue into their overall operations.
Instead, they seem to be more designed (at least from what I've seen from watching and from having been on them) to attract interest to shows that needs a ratings boost. If the shows don't end up making inroads against their FNC competition, I hope that won't poison the well against learning from blogs.
I think the Larry Kudlow (the CNBC host of "Kudlow and Company" who has a blog of his own and regularly invites them on his show) approach to blog integration is ultimately more interesting and true to the blogger ethos of lively debate between the big and small media than just summarizing what people are saying. As someone who reads blogs very often and integrates them into public relations strategies for a living, I don't like summary segments. Imagine what a person who isn't obsessed with blogs thinks of them.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Unified computing was first introduced as a concept in the world of local area networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs). It allowed people to maintain the same documents and system settings no matter what computer on the network they were using.
The next step in this process is to integrate the LAN with the Web. With more and more people acquiring second, third, and even fourth computers, people need a way to synchronize their data, especially if they can't always be connected to their home or office networks. That's where unified computing comes in. The first company to devise a way to integrate documents, emails, spreadsheets, media, passwords, bookmarks, and user settings into a system that can be accessed through local applications or the web will make a killing.
In the past (up to a few months) ago, there was a lot of buzz in the tech world about the "portal wars" between Yahoo, MSN, Excite, and a few others. The rise of Google and the solidification of Yahoo and MSN's business ended those wars. Excite and other sites like Webcrawler, Lycos, and Altavista were the biggest casualties. As big as the portal wars were compared to the earlier browser battle between Microsoft and Netscape, the battle for unified computing will be even bigger.
Google and Microsoft will certainly be competitors in this war for the user space, but there will be others as well. The next few years should be pretty interesting.
There's truth in that, but I think the main reason our attitudes differ so much from theirs stems from the fact that while America and USSR dominated Europe politically after the war ended, it was France that shaped the European cultural and intellectual environment more than the decaying British Empire or the disunited and war-torn Germany. (All the countries were either too small physically or economically to make a real cultural impact.) Simply by its virtue of being on the winning side, France resumed its prior role, one it had not played in decades, as the intellectual eminence of Europe.
To a large degree, I believe this French intellectual dominance set the tone for Europe in the area of religion. France has been the most secular country in Europe since its first revolution or even before that. It's only natural that since many other European states had similar corrupt religiopolitical regimes that this resentment would spread. Thanks to our constitutional structure, we've never had such problems, and by extension, such resentments.
Not coming from our democratic tradition, Europeans interpret common presidential utterances like "God bless America" through a metafilter of Richlieu and Henry VIII. Will this change? That's hard to say. Applebaum, who covered Europe for years for the Post, thinks it might through a combination of a Western European pope and an influx of Muslim immigrants into the region. I'm doubtful, however. Decades of cultural history are harder to reverse than political history.
The most immediate rhetorical error in Downie's speech is his adoption of a fallacy that is commonly advanced by many professional writers and editors: our critics did or believe this stupid thing, therefore, their criticism is irrelevant. This is a perfectly illogical but it also happens to be a distortion as well. Quoting Downie:
As Washington Post journalist Dana Milbank wrote recently, "outlets once seen as alternative have become a new mainstream media. Conservatives tune in to Rush Limbaugh (who has 20 million weekly listeners) or Sean Hannity (who has 12 millions) and log on to the Drudge Report (which claims 10 million daily visitors on the Internet). Liberals opt for the late-night commentary of Jon Stewart, Web sites such as Salon and Daily Kos, and films of Michael Moore. Those on either side can scan the Google’s news headlines and click on those that fit their worldview."
It should not be surprising, as a result, that a majority of the Bush voters in the last election still believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and close ties to al Qaeda, while many who voted against him are convinced that he was coached during the presidential debates via a transmitter that made a bulge in the back of his suit jacket.
Not satisfied with these opinionated alternative media choices, activists on the both the right and the left have been putting increasing pressure on the mainstream news media to slant the news toward their point of view. When that does not happen, these activists then attack the news media as being biased.
Critics on the right have charged that the coverage of the war in Iraq was mostly negative, for example. But a comprehensive study for the Project for Excellent in Journalism of coverage of the war by 16 daily newspapers, the morning and evening news shows on the four major television networks, 9 different cable news shows and 9 different Web sites showed that the majority of the war coverage was either neutral or positive.
Critics on the left, meanwhile, have charged that the mainstream news media let President Bush off easy during the 2004 election campaign. But studies showed that the coverage by major newspapers and television networks was, in fact, somewhat tougher on Bush than on John Kerry, which should be expected when a President is seeking a second term and the election is something of a referendum on his record in office.
Unfortunately, though, most of these arguments are canards. Yes, it's true, there were a few people in the media who kept saying the American-led coalition was going to lose the initial war, but by and large, most of the coverage was pretty free from that type of poor analysis. In fact, had Downie bothered to do some research on this point, he'd have noticed that back in April of 2003, the Media Research Center gave only one national news anchor out of eight a grade of F. The rest got As and Bs.
And really, how many liberals are there out there who really believe that President Bush had a prompt box in his suit during the first debate? I think there was some base-manipulating rhetoric to that effect but no sane person seriously believes in the Bush box.
As for Downie's third point, he is correct that Bush came off worse in media coverage than Senator Kerry. He attributes this to the fact that Bush was running for reelection. That's only partly true. I will be updating this post when I get some time to reflect that.
I'm starting to wonder how long I will be able to maintain a free blog without becoming too frustrated with all the restrictions.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Thankfully, there are plenty of companies like Feedburner out there that are willing to compensate for Google's laziness. The icon is at the bottom of the sidebar now.
Should I even be wasting my time with Blogger, though? I poked around the web and found a site called Blogthing that offers a free WordPress installation. Should I move in over there (with its dumb-sounding domain name) or continue to slog it out with Blogger? Decisions. Decisions.
Everyone knows that FNC well because it fulfilled an unmet need, but it also gets eyeballs is because its hosts project an aura of likeability (even O'Reilly in his own way) but they also don't take prisoners which makes them more entertaining, which is, after all, the main reason why people watch TV in the first place.
Related to this is an op-ed in today's NYT from my old favorite Don Hewitt, formerly of CBS, in which he says that broadcast news needs to have more labeled opinion pieces in it. He's right on the money. No one wants to watch slightly toned-down opinion pieces that talk down to them and imply that opposing policy X is the equivalent of eating your veggies. It's crap and no one under 40 wants to watch it, especially since most people think TV on-air people are airheads.
Of course, any such effort in order to be successful needs to be both interesting and have opposing points of view. In the past, CBS tried boring balance (Remember those Clinton v. Dole segments on "60?" Neither do I.), and bombasticism (Bill Moyers). Neither went very well with the viewers. What such segments would entail would be to get people like Mark Steyn or James Wolcott to come on in solo commentaries without the dog-and-pony show "debates."