Tag Archives: news

The Onion on the Science Channel

Via The Onion:

SILVER SPRING, MD—Frustrated by continued demands from viewers for more
awesome and extreme programming, Science Channel president Clark
Bunting told reporters Tuesday that his cable network was “completely
incapable” of watering down science any further than it already had.

“Look, we’ve tried, we really have, but it’s simply not possible to set
the bar any lower,” said a visibly exhausted Bunting, adding that he
“could not in good conscience” make science any more mindless or
insultingly juvenile. “We already have a show called Really Big Things, which is just ridiculous if you think about it, and one called Heavy Metal Taskforce, which I guess deals with science on some distant level, though I don’t know what it is. Plus, there’s Punkin Chunkin.”

Punkin Chunkin, for Christ’s sake,” added Bunting,
referring to the popular program in which contestants launch oversized
pumpkins into the air using catapults. “What more do you people want?”

The entire article is hilarious, go read it.  Seriously, this is how I typically feel when I see stuff coming through on any of the Discovery properties.  The History channel isn’t doing much better of late either.

My Father makes the paper

The Burlington Freepress is a Gannett site (like our own Poughkeepsie Journal), so this link will probably be useless in a week.  However, right now there is a 4 page article on the EC Fiber project, to bring Fiber to the home for 22 rural towns.  My father gets the photo and quoted a few times in the article.


Jim Dague, a Granville road commissioner and the town’s liaison to the East Central Vermont Community Fiber Network, or EC Fiber, is waiting along with 21 other rural Vermont communities to hear whether the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service will award a $69 million stimulus loan to the high-speed Internet project.

The article itself is largely an attack piece against the project, citing a failed venture in 2004 in New Hampshire, and quoting another company that is competing for the stimulus money.  It is curious how the troops get rallied by the telcos any time a municipality wants to build out their own network.  Having watched, and participated in, the brain drain of central Vermont due to lack of modern infrastructure, I’m very much hoping EC fiber gets the stimulus funds and succeeds.

Does your phone affect your news coverage?

I’ve noticed an interesting behavior, recently, which is geek gadget validation syndrome.  If you buy something as a geek, your purchase is validated if someone else buys the same thing after you’ve shown in / recommended it to them.  You see it with the cult of iPhone quite often, and with all the android devices out there now, I’ve seen the same thing between owners of different models.  Given that there is no ultimate device, they all have plus and minus, the validation syndrome tends to be ever worse.  It’s sort of like a close political race, or the eternal vi / emacs “war”.

Given that behavior, I’d really like it if tech news writers disclosed what laptop they are working with and what their cell phone is, much like people reporting on financial institutions will often disclose if they are an investor in the company.  I’m not sure it would make the news reporting any better, but it would at least be easier to figure out the sources of bias.

iTunes will not be the savior of the news media

I was listening to Fresh Air last night on the author of new book on google.  It started with a nice lay person description of a lot of what Google has been working on, and how the company evolved into the worlds biggest advertising firm.  When the laundry list of Google properties got to Google News, the interviewy made the following statement:

On the other hand, there is evidence that it can be done, and
Apple’s iTunes is a classic piece of evidence in this regard. I mean,
the idea that music – I mean, just think about five years ago, the
music companies were suing their customers on college campuses for what
they called illegally downloading their music. And it was illegal, by
the way. You know, they were breaking the law to do that, but it was so
commonplace that no one thought it was against the law to do it.

Apple comes along and they said we’ll charge you only $.99 and you can
pick the music you want. You could listen to a little segment of it
before you buy it, and you could buy individual songs. You don’t have
to get stuck with buying an entire CD for X many more dollars. And it
took off like gangbusters, and it’s been a great success for Apple and
something the customers who were used to free music have accepted. So
there are some models that suggest it can be done, but it won’t be

When looking for a general purpose solution to the fall off of newspapers, there are 3 models that are always put out there which “prove” that paywalls will work: The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and iTunes.  And they are all wrong, and present an over simplification.  The issue is, none of these things apply generally to the local newspaper model.  Clay Shirky does a better job of explaining why than I, but I will take a stab at the iTunes front.

When you buy (if you buy) music, you are buying a durable good.  It’s something that in 2 years, you’ll still probably be listening to, and yes, in this disposable age, that’s considered durable :).  It’s something you listen to dozens if not hundreds of times.  For this pattern, $0.99 seems like a fair trade off.  But even for that low low price, studies show that the people that buy the most music, as the ones that download the most first.  You can charge for music because it’s not ephemeral.  News paper articles aren’t like this.  When was the last time you reread a news article from your local paper 10 times.

I heard a great statement recently when listening to The Media Project, which looked at the Titanic.  This issue with the Titanic wasn’t that it was too big, or going too fast, or not enough life boats.  The issue was that 15 years prior the wright brothers invented the airplane.  Even if the Titanic hadn’t sunk, the company would have gone out of business in a decade anyway, because they were in the wrong line of business.

What this means for local news is sort of scary, but as Clay Shirky is found of saying: “A revolution doesn’t go from point A to B… it goes from point A to chaos, then after a long time someone figures out what B is.”

Cable news needs to go back to science class

I missed the whole balloon boy thing, it was a busy day, and happily none of the people I follow on twitter seemed to get wrapped up in it.  So it wasn’t until later that night, once local news rolled on after network tv, that I saw the balloon soaring through the air.  After 2 seconds of footage I was really baffled that anyone thought there was a kid in there.

Balloon’s rise because they are lighter than air.  Effectively that creates a force that pulls the thing up (that’s a big simplification, but good enough).  If there had been a child amount of weight in the balloon the thing would have a pretty substantial force pulling down.  The balloon would be vertically stretched.  It was not.  This is pretty basic stuff, and not very hard to figure out.  The folks at Wired just posted something that goes through this in even more detail.

The whole story cycle represented the 2 things that I hate most about cable news at this point.  Giving far too much coverage to totally inane events (creating a self fulfilling prophecy and creating more of them), and spending so little time fact checking anything that goes on the air.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given that the science team was deemed expendable, but I’m still disappointed.

Death Sentence for Internet Radio

A new rate and rules change is being pushed down by the RIAA at the moment, which will mean that most internet radio stations will be kicked off the air. Stations like RadioParadise would be required to pay 125% of their annual budget just to come up with the fees required to pay for their current subscriber base.

More information here.

If you listen to internet radio, consider writing congress on this, otherwise you may loose one of the great new inventions of the internet.

Viacom: “All your Creative Commons are belong to us!”

Apparently when Viacom issued their statement of 100,000 videos on youtube infringing their copyright, they didn’t really bother to look at many of them to verify that. There was a youtube video based on “Re: Your Brains”, a Jonathan Coulton song licensed under CC, that also got pulled:

Yeah, Viacom issued a massive takedown notice to YouTube, and a bunch of user-created content got caught in the crossfire. It seems like they just did a rough search on Viacom property names, and compiled the ENTIRE results into their takedown. So there was probably nothing in Spiff’s video that violated YouTube’s ToU, but some comment or tag that referenced a Viacom property to make it show up in the legal team’s search.

More details on the unfolding story on Jonathan’s blog.

Mooninites and the Media

On the way back from Vermont, On the Media had a very good story on the reporting around the Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerrilla marketing fiasco in Boston. What is most interesting is how much CNN and all the other cable news media whipped up a storm around the “bomb like devices” for hours before any real information was in, and how CNN (owned by the same parent company as Cartoon Network) appeared to be the first to break the news that these things weren’t bombs after all, but just LED light boards.

The amount of freak out that occurred around a set of 6 LED light boards is truly amazing. I guess we did get our own War of the Worlds afterall, which no one believed could happen again. I wonder if the sense of humor around the incident back in Orson Wells day was as lacking as it appears to be today.

Code Monkey on NPR

Listening to NPR’s Weekend Edition this morning, and there was an interview with Jonathan Coulton who wrote and performed the song Code Monkey as part of his Thing-a-week blog this past year. had brought up Code Monkey during the past couple of weeks, and I hadn’t gotten around to finding it yet.

If you are a software person, listen to the song. It will make you crack a smile, if not laugh out loud. Jonathan Coulton also has other songs which I would link here, except it appears that his site has been cratered temporarily by the NPR story. Hopefully it will be back soon.