Sips from the Firehose


Apr 06

Institutionalized piracy in Russia – Russia’s Facebook (vKontakte) sued by music labels


Posted: under music.
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Russian ISPs openly brag about how much pirated content they have – it’s their market differentiator

Years ago, working in Russia, back when the whole “Content Pirates” project was just the mere glimmering of an instinct, I was talking with the local techies about how the web works in Russia. At the time, we were trying to implement an internet-centric business model for a publishing company, and were coming up against massive cultural differences in how to make money off of content.

Pavel Durov's profile on vKontakte

This profile for vKontakte founder Pavel Durov is particularly ironic, since he just bailed out of the company, citing intense pressure from Kremlin-backed investors. The site has 143 million users worldwide, 88 million in Russia. They generate about $170 million a year in revenues, mostly from advertising. And the site is rife with pirated works.

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Jan 18

Truth Vigilantes and Online Reputation


Posted: under Digital Migration, new media.
Tags: , , , ,

This was originally a comment to Robert Niles’ excellent piece on the Online Journalism Review, on whether or not the New York Times should be a “Truth Vigilante”. I’m republishing it here, because it looks like the commenting feature on OJR (always a little hinky) is b0rked again, and this issue is one that touches a really raw nerve in me.

First, the background:

On Friday, Arthur Brisbane, the public editor (I guess it’s another way of saying “Ombudsman” or “Sacrificial Flak-Catcher”) of the New York Times published a now-famous piece, asking, Should the Times be a Truth Vigitlante?

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news
reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they
write about.

(snip)

This message was typical of mail from some readers who, fed up with
the distortions and evasions that are common in public life, look to The
Times to set the record straight. They worry less about reporters
imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true.

Is that
the prevailing view? And if so, how can The Times do this in a way
that is objective and fair? Is it possible to be objective and fair when
the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another? Are there
other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?

The reaction has been pretty heated. MetaFilter pithily said “Duh.”  Jay Rosen wrote a post name-checking his longstanding criticism of the whole “View from Nowhere” approach adopted by the press. And Gawker snarked that the NYT should instead just make stuff up.

Here was my reaction, republished here:

It’s interesting to see this issue break out into the open like this. In retrospect, the only thing that’s surprising is that it’s taken this long. Consider: internet sites like Snopes & PolitiFact owe their very existence to the breakdown of trust in our existing news institutions on the part of the audience. We read stuff (often sent via e-mail from the semi-mythical disgruntled conspiracy theorist uncle). Checking our newspaper/TV/radio/whatever, there’s a he-said/she-said story. So we go elsewhere to figure out if what we were originally sent is true or not.

Steve Yelvington long ago identified this as the most crucial (but neglected) part of the media in a societal ecosystem: being the “Town Expert.” (The other two roles are of “Town Crier” and “Town Square” – which media orgs more or less have a handle on.)

Can’t tell you the number of proposed startups that came through the Knight News Challenge in the last two years aimed at resolving this basic issue – how can we trust what we read? Many of them are seeking to assign some kind of a numeric “reliability score” to the source of the information. Which is interesting in theory – a published climate scientist getting a 99 score, for example, while a Big Oil-funded hack gets a 12.

But in practice, systems like this would probably fall prey to the same phenomenon that plagues Digg or other sites that rely on crowdsourcing to determine importance/credibility — the efforts of a committed radical few to rig the results in their favor. Still, it would be interesting to see a major media outlet start to offer little links in superscript next to attribution, that lead back to a page describing where that quote came from, who the person is, and what their history/agenda is.

We’re all struggling with the effects of the disintermediation taking place because of web technology – that much is evident to just about anybody working in media, advertising or marketing. The problem is that this is taking place at the end of a long, slow movement toward the utter blandification of content. The reasons for that are complex – some of them have to do with the influence of “risk management” thinking at media organizations, where the litigiousness of modern American society has driven deep-pocketed news organizations to water down stories out of fear, in order to evade expensive libel suits. The rest do have to do with the drumbeat these past 40 years of accusations of “liberal bias” in the press, and the attempts to defuse such accusations by applying the aforementioned “he-said/she-said” construction to stories, so that we can say, “Well, at least we gave them a chance to reply.”

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Dec 15

“Filter Bubbles” and the Raison d’Etre for This Here Blog


Posted: under Conspiracy Theories, Digital Migration.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Eli Pariser’s TED talk on the dangers of allowing someone else to choose what you see/hear/feel

If I were a weaker man, I’d just fold up my tent and move on.

However, upon closer inspection, I find myself saying “Yahbut …” a lot throughout this FUD screed.

Pariser has an entire web site devoted to this concept, called, The Filter Bubble. 

To all this sturm und drang, I can only respond by calling upon the wisdom of the Great Philosopher, Sgt. Hulka:

Lighten up, Francis.

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Jun 12

Rep. Karen Bass uses QR codes at town hall meeting


Posted: under Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This got written up in the Congressional Quarterly; considering that the constituents in Cal-33 overindex for mobile web use, this is a real stroke of genius. After the meeting was over, I helped at least 3 people load the QR reader software onto their phones so they could take advantage of this…

20110612-062116.jpg

IF QR codes are starting to cross over into political messaging like this, does that mean that they’re finally going to make the jump from gimmicks on soft-drink cartons to something that’s actually useful in our daily lives? I know that they’ve done the “BoomSplat” at least two times in the last four years, since I first started studying them as part of the case study I did on mobile advertising for the NAA. Part of that is the hucksterism of some of their more ardent proponents, who have harebrained schemes like affixing QR codes to every object of note in an urban environment, all in service to the concept of providing “historical context” to the objects we encounter every day. Which sounds like a really great stoner-grade dorm room concept, but which breaks down right about the time that a muffler shop owner gives you the Louisville Slugger shampoo for slapping what looks like graffiti on his store.

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Jan 20

The Warriors – With a Different Ending


Posted: under Uncategorized.
Tags: ,

Obama as Cyrus… can you dig it!!

Glad the inauguration didn’t turn out the way this scene did.  I couldn’t watch this in real-time.  I was too nervous that the Klan or Michigan Militia or Arizona Vipers or whatever ding-har yar-yar group would smuggle a TOW missile into the reflecting pool.

Amazing how much traffic on Twitter is dedicated to the inauguration.

And yeah, I kinda wish Obama had ended the speech with a rousing, “Can … you … DIG IT??”

Yeah!

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