Tag Archives: news

Two thumbs up for Bloomberg

“This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

“For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.

His speech has shown up many places, this transcription is on Salon.  It’s really worth reading in it’s entirety.

Readability

Via twitter yesterday I found out about Readability, which is damn impressive.  It’s a button for your browser that contains a bunch of javascript code that reforms the page you are looking at into something that’s easy to read.  It’s worked really nicely on many of the cluttered news sites that I end up on regular basis.

I’m sure this will end up in an arms race at some point, but for now, I’m really enjoying it.

Will you pay for news on the web?

I finally have the answer as to whether I would pay for news on the web, and the answer is yes.  Last night after reading the 5th zero content vapid gadget news story that was front page content on wired.com, I realized how much I really appreciate the quality bar that’s been set over at Ars Technica.

While most web outlets seem to be degrading in the content they put out there, Ars seems to just be getting better.  They have some quite in depth writing on most of the science and tech space, and aren’t afraid to dive deep into subjects with original research, not just falling back on the lazy opinion model that most others have.  I also realized that while not having wired around would mean nothing to me, loosing Ars would be something I’d actually really miss.

Ars’s pay model is simple.  If you by a premier account ($50 / year, so roughly magazine cost), you stop being presented with ads on their site, you get access to stories slightly ahead of the public site, and you get personalized rss feeds which provide full stories (their free rss gives you just the first 2 or 3 paragraphs).  There are some other benefits, but the full rss and just knowing I’m helping to keep Ars around is what I care about.

That second point is key.  If the news industry wants people to actually pay for things, they need to stop racing to the bottom on cost, and start racing to the top on quality.

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.

RYAN MERCER, Free Press

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.

Well,
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
easy.

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.”