Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Oct 30

Hurricane Sandy Coverage on Storify: An Inflection Point?

Posted: under Community, Current Affairs, New Media Strategery, Unconventional Research.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Major news outlets use Storify to aggregate & make sense of social media flow about Hurricane Sandy

In the last two days, as we’ve all been inundated (pardon the lame water-related pun) with near-constant TV, radio, web & social media updates on the progress of Hurricane Sandy, one thing that stands out this time around (as opposed to previous disasters) is that, having had time to prepare, the major media outlets turned to Storify to pull together live coverage of the storm, via the thousands (millions?) of ad-hoc citizen reporters who were posting so many TwitPics and Facebook updates.

storify front page showing stories about hurricane sandy

The front page design of Storify has gotten much better over the past year, and shows the clear stamp of the current trend towards “Pinteresting” everything. Still, when you look at the content mix that has made it to the front page, you can see just how widespread the Storification of Sandy has been…

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Jun 03

Growing Pains: Daredevil Construction and the Future of Ethiopia

Posted: under Current Affairs, Politix, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Africa’s fastest-growing economy balances between dreams of the future and the shackles of the past

For those libertarians who feel that OSHA and any and all regulations on workplace safety are the very essence of neo-Stalinism, I submit the construction industry in modern Ethiopia. Please note that the scaffolding supporting this multi-story concrete building is basically lashed-together sapling trunks, and that while the workers are all wearing hardhats, the basic safety equipment you routinely see on construction sites in the West is pretty much lacking – no safety lines, no walkie-talkies to communicate with the crane operator, no nets or wind barriers at the periphery. Feel free to apply for a gig here, fellas.

building under construction at addis ababa university

This picture was taken under the baking-hot noonday African sun. The bucketful of cement on the way up seems to arrive at irregular intervals, and sometimes much to the surprise of the workers on the roof. I saw one bucket swing a little wildly and clip a guy off his feet. A little lower and to the side, and he would have been spread across the roof like grisly human jam on unyielding toast. (Click to enlarge)

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Jan 24

A Social Media Milestone: A Crowdsourced State of the Union Address?

Posted: under Amusing Nonsense, Community, Conspiracy Theories, Current Affairs, Politics & New Media, Politix, Pop Culture Quirkiness.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Teleprompter is Us

Tonight’s State of the Union address is being billed as “the most interactive political act ever.”

Well, other than the crowdsourcing that brought people to the guillotine during the French Revolution. Although, if you read through the comments sections on some of the danker political blogs, there’s certainly reason to look back on The Terror as a relatively sane & genteel epoch.

Anyway – it appears that Obama’s web team has spent the past year (or more) preparing to swing into full campaign mode.

From ReadWriteWeb:

In December 2011, I wrote in the ReadWriteWeb Predictions for 2012 that the presidential candidate with the best social media campaign would be the one to win the White House in November 2012. I also said that President Obama would likely be reelected. While social media is not the be all, end all factor in determining the results of elections, pundits will argue that it has greater weight now than it ever has. Candidates pay attention to what their Twitter followers are saying.

(snip)

To a certain extent, tonight’s State Of The Union will be the biggest campaign stump speech that Obama will give all year, except for maybe the Democratic National Convention. Around the State of the Union speech, the President has built a robust social media campaign to give citizens a voice. This is how government should be run. Open. Transparent. Interactive. Go to where the people are as opposed to making them come to you.

 

UPDATE:

Let’s see how that interactive thingy worked, shall we? ue

The YouTube questions were pretty much what you’d expect – a mix of the rude, the longwinded, the unanswerable and the insane.

Tell EMINEM to Put another Album out..(Name is E=Mc2)
Are you going to liglize weed?
What are your plans for a Zombie Apocalypse? Because you know, if you planned for zombies, you planned for everything.
Dear Obama, is the republican primaries as hilarious for you as it is for me?

im scared of this year. Do u think that think year that the world might end (by the simi-end of Dec. 2012) or it’s completely a myth?

mjh186, Santa Monica, CA
What are you going to do with all the police who think they are all that, just because they can do almost anything they want without getting caught doesn’t make them better. Also my friend told me a police was setting a role model of cussing a 5 grdr
Will you tell us why you passed the SOPA? Do you have anything againsy gay people? Can YOU stop making Cigars? What do people have to have in order to become the president? Is the world gonna end in 2012? PLEASE ANSWER ALL THESE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS!!
mr.president wat do u think about the immagrashin are you think about giving paper 2 those in need
123deadmau5, sunvally cal
I would love to know why marijuana not legal. It is really good for you they said on cnn News it don’t do anything to your lungs compared to people who smoke cigarettes. Also it kills Brain cancer cells and blocks heart blockages.
panterafan6969, Richmond, Virginia
Mr. President, Church’s Chicken or KFC?
train2failure, Long Beach
Why you are spending more money to grab genitles at airports, sell children, traffic weapons, drugs, eugincs depopulation…rather than allowing non corrupt technicians associated with The Venus Project to solve every human need including yours?
Mr. President, if you want my vote again this November, please answer this: WHERE IS THE CHANGE!?Minimum wage still doesn’t cover our basic necessities.A human being cannot survive on these wages with children. How are your children doing? Quite well
I’ll keep my guns, money and freedom You can keep the change you communist bastard!
Can you speak to the American people about the Fema camps ? Maybe quell some of the fear that’s spreading thru the country ?
I can has moonbase?
commanderq, Australia

The Quora questions were a helluva lot better.

Some are pretty interesting: What are the estimated costs to taxpayers of the new agencies proposed by President Obama, such as the Trade Enforcement Unit?

Others are clearly partisan: Why did Obama just rag on George W/Republicans? Was it merely because it’s an election year?

Some are just goofy: Did Jon Favreau write the 2012 State of the Union?

 

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Nov 30

US Consumers = Monkeys on Crack

Posted: under Current Affairs, Politix.

I saw this comment over at a political blog today:

We are likely to see a weak GOP and a democratic party beset by infighting. Get ready for a decade of political chaos on top of economic chaos. There is no way to take even an educated guess of what will arise from the ashes.

Which, actually, might be the best thing for this country.

Seriously.

The news this weekend about frenzied shoppers KILLING A MAN in their lust to … what? … save $1.50 on a Wiimote?

We have learned nothing from The Crash yet. Which means that we aren’t yet going to change our behavior. Monkey coke

It’s like operant conditioning. If you don’t give the monkey the shock, it won’t stop pushing the lever that used to deliver it hits of cocaine. Well, the government has been working overtime to try to stave off that shock. Which is all well & good – nobody likes getting high-voltage shocks – but my concern is that if we don’t in some way start changing our mindless consumerist behavior, the eventual shock is going to be much, much worse than what we’ve got coming in the next year or so, if we just stand & take our medicine.

I”m looking at the long-term effects of jamming this much cash into our economy – at last count, we’re getting up near $10 TRILLION in so-called “bailout” cash. Yeah, for the next year or so, we’re going to cushion the comedown from the last 8 (or 28, really) years of borrowing & spending like drunken sailors while not really producing anything.

The problem is that long-term, the effect of waving a magic wand to create that much cash is going to be … well, you’re familiar with supply & demand, right? When supply exceeds demand, value goes down.

So when an extra 10 trillion of the commodity known as “dollars” gets jammed into the system … what does that mean for the value of the dollar?

Buy gold, folks. Gold, silver, or arable land. I’d like to think that there’s some greater plan for doing these crazy macroeconomic borrowing policies in the short term & fixing them in the mid-term, but I just don’t see it happening yet.

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Jun 28

For All the Frustrated, Passive-Aggressive IT Dweebs Out There…

Posted: under Current Affairs, Found Genius Artifacts, Online (Multi)Media, Pop Culture Quirkiness, Web/Tech.

…the makers of this YouTube hit video (it just got Fark‘d and Arrington‘d) are now your patron saints.

This little NSFW gem will bring a rueful (vindictive?) smile to anyone who’s had to deal with dim-bulb non-techies who can’t articulate what’s wrong, what they want, and least of all, understand what the solutions that they are demanding will actually do.

Great moment where the vid starts getting really brilliant comes about 1/3 of the way through – Salesguy: “Now I can’t get to the home page!”

Web Dude: “What the –!?? But you said the website was down? You mean you could see the home page?”

I particularly liked the little touches in this video – as Web Dude gets more and more frustrated and annoyed, he starts taking it out on the characters in Halo, shooting them repeatedly in the crotch and attaching grenades to their faces.

I’ve never done IT fulltime myself, but I’ve usually been one of the “go-to” guys in the office when IT isn’t available. Thus, I’ve spent my share of time ostentatiously rolling my eyes and sighing. I did like, however, how both sides took their shots – the sales dweebs are demanding, ignorant and try to evade responsibility for the chaos they cause. The IT dweebs are more interested in playing Halo than actually dealing with anything, and snort dismissively in that way that makes users retreat and get defensive.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

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Jun 19

Obama Reaches Out on LinkedIn

Posted: under Current Affairs, Found Genius Artifacts, New Media Strategery, Online (Multi)Media, Politix, Weblogs.

Yet another quick hit – just checked to see how many more answers I’m getting from the LinkedIn question I posted earlier this week, and noticed that the Obama campaign today posted a question on what the best ideas are to “keep America competitive in the years ahead.”

What ideas do you have to keep America competitive in the years ahead?

In a recent speech, I proposed a new competiveness agenda centered
around education and energy, innovation and infrastructure, fair trade
and reform.

You can watch it, and read the full-text, here: http://my.barackobama.com/competitiveness

What ideas do you have to keep America competitive in the years ahead?

Smart. Very smart. These people “get it.” They are using Web 2.0 in a very inclusive, forward-thinking way; the mere fact that they’re posing such a question in a professional forum means that they are reaching out to business professionals in an unprecedented way.

Again, I’m going to have to get back to this in a later post, but it’s tying into what I call the “Help Line Mollification Effect.” You know – how you dial customer support, mashing the buttons on your phone with excessive force, blood pressure up around nuclear reactor containment sphere levels … and you yowl at the poor schlub on the other end … until he helps you out and gently leads you through the answer … and by the end of the call, after the problem is resolved, you feel like a total ass, and want to send him something from his Amazon wishlist. Or is that just me?

Look folks, a lot of the anger simmering under the surface of our society is because everyone feels that no one is listening. The fact that Obama & his people are actually reaching out to people – well, hell. That’s disarming. It breaks down the resistance – that whole “Obama is a dangerous socialist who’s going to destroy the country with his hippie/commie ways” meme that’s been festering on the internets. It kinda says, “Hey, if you’ve got a great idea on how to fix things, let’s hear it.”

Who knows? Maybe the answer is that all of us are indeed smarter than any of us, and that out of this question will arise some fantastic new strategy that will restore the U.S. to greatness.

Or a buncha Digg kids will all get together, rig the question-answering, and we’ll wind up with an army of giant killer robots that all look like Lara Croft.

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Jun 12

“Moral Imperative” for Google to Help Newspapers to Survive

Posted: under Current Affairs, journalism, New Media Strategery, newspaper crisis, Online (Multi)Media.
Tags:

…some might say the train has already left the station on that one…

Not sure what it is that’s behind this announcement. Perhaps someone at Google belatedly came to the realization that without newspapers, there’s no real fresh content on the web, and thus nothing for Google to sell its ads against? Schmidt was short on specifics as to how it is that Google plans to “help,” but this graf has got to make business managers cringe:

Still, he acknowledged the boost probably won’t be enough to restore the hefty profit margins that newspaper publishers historically have enjoyed from print advertising.

Interestingly, later in the story, Schmidt continues to bang the drum for its mobile advertising platform, Android. Now, I’ve been looking into online advertising pretty thoroughly for the last three months, and I gotta say, predicting that Google is going to make more money from mobile than from the web within five years … well, I want some of what he’s been smoking.

Then again, not too many people have made fortunes lately by betting against Google. And yeah, I realize that what he’s doing is banging the drum for a very expensive product that Google has poured resources into, in the hopes that the market will catch the hype virus, and start migrating their ads to mobile. If anyone thinks that Google is going to have an easy time recovering their investment from Android, well, check out the ROI numbers (if you can find them) for YouTube. Have they really managed to monetize all the vids there yet? Magic 8-ball says “Answer Cloudy – Ask Again Later.”

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May 18

Seesmic: Video Comments on Blogs?

Posted: under Current Affairs, Online (Multi)Media, Web/Tech, Weblogs.

Not sure if I want to have to make sure that my hair is all on the correct tangent from my head, and that there’s no broccoli in my teeth before participating in my next online pie-fight in the comments section of Sadly, No!

Then again, it’s only a matter of time before people start offering plug-ins to do the video commenting, and we get animated snowmen (like in the CNN Democratic debate last summer), World of Warcraft avatars or Second Life furries chiming in …

Anyway, check out Seesmic – the webnoscenti are saying that it’s the "next Twitter" – which I guess, means that all the early adopters will ooh and aah over it, as it suffers weekly outages from lack of scalability, while the rest of the webmob blithely ignores it in favor of seeing the latest Pirate Bay porno.

UPDATE: It appears that there is a use for this – Jemima Kiss at the Guardian, used it to interview Spielberg, Lucas and Harrison Ford. 

VIz:

FirefoxScreenSnapz006.jpg Guardian Journalist Jemima Kiss was
one of the Seesmic community members who asked questions to Steven
Spielberg, Harisson Ford, George Lucas, Shia Laboeuf, Karen Allen and
Cate Blanchett
. Here is how Jemima describes the experience (you can see here all Jemima questions and reactions):

 

"It’s a simple
enough idea but incredibly exciting; I just posted a few direct
questions to Spielberg and Karen Allen (Marian was always one of my
favourite heroines) and it’s quite a buzz watching them reply directly
to your own questions. Seesmic is quite intimate too – like most
people, I just use my webcam and was still wearing my pyjamas when I
recorded. But hey, pyjamas have a good internet heritage."

 

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May 17

TV as We Know It is Dead: Shift to Web-based Video Costs Producers 88% of Ad Revenues

Posted: under Current Affairs, Film, journalism, music, New Media Strategery, newspaper crisis, Online (Multi)Media, television, Web/Tech.

Can you say “Doomed”?

Apparently, a report called “And Now for the News,” written by Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research, came out this week, and it’s got both Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and, not coincidentally, HDNet, and the pundits at Digital Media Wire all atwitter over the stark economic realities.

Cuban made billions of dollars in the internet video game, and, while he’s acted the fool at various Maverick games over the years, nobody has ever accused him of either being stupid or lacking passion. So when he starts winding up the air-raid siren, it gets my attention.

From Cuban’s blog:

Starting with the disappointing but expected news that journalism is no
longer a service consumers desire to pay for, he moves on to the
problems facing Internet video.

(snip)

Five years into the video-over-the-Internet revolution, we have learned
two things. First; consumers won’t pay for content on the web, so it
will have to be ad supported. And second; it won’t be ad supported.

Oh, shit. (*stomach lurches*)

On the web, early evidence suggests that consumers will tune out –
click away – if they are forced to watch more than 30 seconds or so of
advertising up front, and maybe another 90 seconds of advertising over
the next thirty minutes. Hulu.com, for example, which has already been
lionized by many as the future of TV, serves two minutes of advertising
for every 22 minutes of programming(i.e. the programming duration of a
typical half hour show from television). Assuming identical CPMs for
web video and TV, and after accounting for lost affiliate fees, a 30
minute program on the web with two minutes of advertising yields
approximately 1/8th as much revenue per viewer.

Are content producers prepared to reduce production costs…by 88%?

In fact, the actual economics of web-based video are far, far worse than this.

Sweetie, can you get me a hemlock cocktail, please? Easy on the ice. And see if there are any razor blades in the junk drawer?

88%? Are you freakin’ kidding me? That kind of revenue restructuring would be in line with what newspapers have experienced since classified ads migrated to the web (i.e. the “Craigslist effect”). And yeah, I know, there are some shellshocked newspaper reporters/editors who will nod wearily, taking schadenfreude satisfaction that the arrogant pacotillos in local TV are about to take the bollocking that print has taken these last 10 years.


Over at Digital Media Wire, Paul Sweeting
explains the problem that video producers here in Hollywood face, seeing as how they’re making the same goddam mistakes that music labels made when the internet came calling:


There’s no reason to believe that video producers’ experience will be
any different. Like it or not, the web simply isn’t very kind to
publishers, packagers and distributors. It rewards enablers. Search is
an enabling technology–perhaps the ultimate enabling technology. And
as Google shareholders can tell you, it’s been rewarded. The challenge
for publishers is not to figure out how to force the web to reward
them. It’s to figure out how to capture the value created by enabling
technology.




In that sense, Cuban is right. It may not make sense for the networks
simply to make their schedules available for free on the Internet. That
doesn’t really create any new value; it mostly just drains value from
linear platforms.




What the networks need is to figure out how to capture the value
created by enabling consumers to access, select, aggregate, transform,
embed and share content–in a word, to use it. Anything else is just TV with buffering.


For scripted TV entertainment, well, I’m not sure what the survival strategy is yet. I do know that there is not much love in the ad world for a CPM rate hike for online video that would bridge that 88% gap. There’s just too much other product out there screaming for attention … not to mention the fact that the scripted TV content (and movie content, for that matter) is a melting sandcastle to the surging broadband tide. Trying to make back a $160 million budget from some exotic cocktail of online subscription, advertising and branded sponsorship … well, let’s just say that I’m glad I’m not writing the checks on that one. I don’t know how you can possibly monetize the budgets that Hollywood is used to.

And folks, we know – dammit, we know all too well – how the media megalopalies react to revenue reductions. For a time, they throw money at the problem. And then come the cutbacks. “We have to do more with less.”

It comes down to our old friends, supply and demand. If there is
demand for the kind of spectacle that you get in Iron Man or Raiders 4,
or whatever, there will be someone out there that will supply it …
but at the price point that the people on the demand side set.

Kiss those expense-account lunches at The Ivy goodbye. All the little perks that pampered writers, directors, producers and stars have gotten used to over the years. There is going to be a lot of screaming and whining hereabouts in the next decade or so.

I think that my clients over in newspapers have actually got a significant advantage in this arena. The future of video is going to be like the future of news: disaggregated and hyperlocal. Papers can do this. Papers ARE doing this.

I can’t figure out how to take a 2 1/2 hour piece of video – hell, video of any length, from a blipvert to the entire back catalog of the Museum of Radio and TV – and make it pay off a $320 million opening weekend return.

But I can teach you how to monetize short clips shot by reporters that go along with local news stories. That’s do-able.
One last thing: in the comments was this gem, sure to be included in my next series of trainings for newspapers migrating to video on the web:

I’ve never seen ABC.com and the rest put an RSS, Email, or text message subscribe/alert button on their video pages. Instead they want us all to *remember* show schedules, come back, and sit through ads. They’re blowing a huge chance to have a relationship with the audience. The sad truth is that TV networks don’t want a relationship. They want us all to sit around the glowing box together on *their* schedule as if it were 1966.

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May 16

June 1 Protest for Photographer’s Rights

Posted: under Current Affairs, journalism, New Media Strategery, newspaper crisis, Web/Tech.

As someone who has spent much, much more than my share of time being hassled by cops for doing my job, face jammed onto the hot, stinking hood of a patrol car, I felt it necessary just to acknowledge this protest event being held at Hollywood & Highland on June 1.

More and more, I find that the police have been infected by the “well, we’re just trying to be cautious” bug, spread by the geeks at Homeland Security that show up every six months with their PowerPoints demonstrating how the eeee-vil Mooslim terr’rists are going to set of a nuke right here in River City if the beat cops slack up even for a second. Sheesh. Mostly, the induced paranoia is nothing more than a fig leaf for some overzealous freaks to throw their weight around.

So yeah, join the group, send some supportive e-mails, whatever it takes. Taking a picture in a public place is not a crime. Should not be a crime. Idiots that want to clamp down on people obeying the law because they feel justified … that is the bigger danger to our republic.

I particularly liked this question from the comments on the blog: “what if a bunch of art students sat down and sketched a public place? would that be a crime?”

This image of a shirt was posted on Flickr – go there and join the group, even if you don’t plan to show up

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