Monday, November 29, 2004
More comment on blogsperiment.
*Wikipedia is already a fantastic online resource for those wanting an expert and up to date encyclopedia. One of those ideas that makes the most of the net's potential, it's a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, so of course it evolves over time and with people's additions and corrections. Less well-known are sister sites Wiktionary, Wikisource, and others accessible from the Meta-Wiki page.
Meanwhile, over here the Institute of Public Policy Research has suggested that online communities could encourage public debate and build trust, according to the BBC. Interestingly, the suggestion comes on the Manifesto for a Digital Britain blog, set up by the IPPR and where you can post your own comments (or indeed subscribe for updates). If only more government thinking was done this way.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Free images, video, sound...
The wonders of RSS
Now the benefits of Bloglines are a little clearer. Once you've registered, if you see a nice blog (say, this one), you click on my lovely new button and it's added to your list of feeds (or, if there's no button, you can use this clever feature to subscribe anyway). What does this mean? Well, effectively you're creating your own news website (there's that Daily Me again - I've already decided to set it as my homepage.). Every time you log onto Bloglines you get a list of blogs down the left hand column, complete with the number of postings added since you last checked. You click to see those new postings.
Now this is very similar to RSS Reader, another nifty bit of software I've been using for some time. You install it, select which 'feeds' you're interested in, and how often you want an update. Then, say twice a day, a little window appears in the bottom right corner of your screen with a list of the latest headlines.
And this is where I come back to Technorati. Now that I'm a 'member', I can subscribe to my blog watchlist through them. This is basically a list of any sites that link to mine (as long as they're a Technorati member). So if you want to know who's linking to your blog, or indeed any blog you like, log into Technorati, click on Settings, and in the 'Add a Watchlist' box type the address of the blog in question. Click 'Create' to generate a URL, switch to RSS Reader, click on the + sign, and paste the address into the window that appears.
And one more button has appeared since I began writing this post: My Yahoo! now incorporates syndication too.
(I shouldn't mock. The CIA may be listening in.)
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
My favourite quote comes from Dr. Martha Burk, president of the Center for Advancement of Public Policy: "The retailers have standards for other products," she said. "Would Wal-Mart sell a board game where a player has to have sex with a prostitute to move forward four spaces and then kill her to move forward another six spaces? I don't think so."
Grand Theft Auto Monopoly, anyone?
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Meanwhile, bigger fish Microsoft is looking to challenge Google with its own search technology, expected to be bundled in its next OS (a la Explorer) in 2006. Apparently if you type in "more evil than Satan" Google comes up top, partly because the Google motto is apparently 'Do no evil', which is better than those bland corporate mottos you usually get (although the company is doing a good deal of its own gobbling, including Blogger.com and Usenet).
Monday, November 22, 2004
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
For more background, see this debate between author Jimmy Walter and Gerald Posner.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Losing readers to the Net
One concerns a recent survey which found that Europeans were spending nearly twice as much time online (20% of media consumption) as they did reading newspapers (11%). Of course, this was conducted by the European Interactive Advertising Association, so they do have a vested interest, and while most people went online to check email (88%), only 61% used the web for news.
Meanwhile, the eminent Roy Greenslade twins the decline in newspaper readership with the increase in newspaper website use, and envisages "a potentially disastrous situation for printed newspapers in which their sales have fallen to levels that are hard to sustain, yet their website offshoots will be hugely popular. [...] Just as worrying", he notes, "is the fact that many people get their news from net sources unconnected to newspapers, especially the BBC. There are hosts of sites offering news of varying quality and integrity, including those famous solo journalists known as bloggers."
Roy quotes Pete Picton, the Sun's online editor, as believing that the balance between what appears in print and online requires investigation. "The question of cannibalisation", Picton told last month's Association of Online Publishers' annual conference, "is worthy of a whole separate debate in our industry."
This is certainly an issue. I buy a paper perhaps a couple times a week these days, but most of my news consumption comes from electronic sources: my two homepages are the Guardian NewsBlog and the website of the journalist George Monbiot; I receive email briefings from the Guardian, NewsIsFree.com and the Online Publishers Association to name a few; and I've installed RSS reader on my computer, which duly chimes in twice a day with headlines from the areas that interest me.
We're getting closer to that Daily Me that Nicholas Negroponte talked about almost ten years ago, but rather than being supplied by media organisations it's being crafted by ourselves out of available sources. The important factor here is what those sources are. RSS Reader, for instance, leans heavily on American feeds, and when writing a blog it's easy to fall into the trap of "If it ain't online, it doesn't exist" - because you can't link to it.
This is perhaps the more immediately important debate. The low resolution of computer screens and the portability of newspapers will ensure they remain popular for a time yet. It may also be that online sources are offering something that newspapers are not. Newspapers face a journalistic and technical challenge; readers and bloggers face one of trust and reliability.
Changing my browser
So my reason is this: a cute little function hidden away in Netscape that allows you to have more than one homepage. This is how you do it: open up all the webpages you want as your homepages (the other nice thing about Netscape is the way it allows you to have a series of pages on different tabs, rather than as separate windows as in Explorer). Go to Edit > Preferences and select the Navigator tab. Under Home Page click Use Current Group. Want another reason? How about security issues with IE?
The one problem is it does mean your browser takes longer to boot up (which is why at home I use Explorer and set the homepage to Blank).
Meanwhile, Mozilla's Firefox is making up significant ground on the two big names, as it hits version 1.0. It includes a clever little search function, apparently. I finally tried it today and have to admit to being an instant convert. It's fast, intuitive in design and combines the best of both Netscape and Explorer. This includes multiple homepages too.
UPDATE (23.Nov.04): Firefox is already cutting into IE's market, according to CNET - although IE still has 90% share.
There's some excellent work here from both winners and nominees, giving a good sense of the great potential of the web for reportage. Particularly mindblowing is the Washington Post's interactive feature on the Israel-Palestine barrier, combining video, animation, an interactive map, panoramas, and sound. More amusing is the Gotham Gazette's games and quizzes illustrating topical issues and showing how a small news site can compete on creativity. Likewise, JournalNow's piece on a controversial murder case where the (black) suspect was wrongly imprisoned - including a wealth of original documentation.
At the same time one writer bemoans big media companies eating up the competition in new media, as Dow Jones takes over CBS MarketWatch.
Any other examples, stick a comment in.
Expect this post to be updated as I add more stuff about online advertising.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Now that may be easy with the slow pouty pans in a Girls Aloud video but you'll have to time it just right to catch Charlie Busted in between guitar-slashing jumps.
Using mobile phones to take news pictures
But it seems things may be heading in this direction: the BBC reports that one tabloid newspaper in LA is giving photographers camera phones to catch celebrities, while some picture agencies are already paying for exclusive phone pictures.
The same article lists a number of stories where mobile phone photography featured. This included:
- The daily Amsterdam newspaper De Telegraaf publishing a mobile phone-photo of murdered film maker Mr van Gogh's body taken moments after he was killed. The BBC quotes the editor as saying, "The picture was the story".
- A flight from Switzerland to the Dominican Republic which turned around after someone took a picture of a piece of metal falling from the plane as it took off from Zurich (reported by the Swiss daily Le Matin).
- Two crooks who robbed a bank in Denmark were snapped before they carried out the crime waiting for the doors of the building to be opened (reported by the Danish regional paper Aarhus Stiftstidende).
In a related story, how about this great photographic response to Bush's election victory at sorryeverybody.com? Here the half of America who voted for something less vague than 'moral values' express their sincere apologies to the rest of the world for messing up our lives and environment for another four years. In the true tradition of the Net, it didn't take long for a response from the unapologetic half. Quite a few images seem to consist of toddlers posed with pro-Bush statements, which I'll leave you to make your own conclusions about.
UPDATE (16.Nov.04): In a timely move, the Consumer Electronics Association in America has issued a code of conduct regarding use of mobile phone cameras (PDF version here). This includes not using them where cameras are normally not allowed, and using 'discretion' when taking images of under-18s. The article that reports this move also mentions the fact that Saudi Arabia banned mobile phone cameras two years ago.
UPDATE 2 (18.Nov.04): Meanwhile, this Slashdot posting mentions a BBC news report that Privacy International is asking that all camera phones incorporate an automatic flash to prevent covert pictures being taken. The same posting mentions "In Korea, the government would like phones to make a loud sound when taking a picture".
Friday, November 12, 2004
Kofi Annan resolves Sesame Street dispute
Reporting environmental stories
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Blog resources and stats
Miscellaneous interesting/useful blogs/resources include:
- Guardian Newsblog: Has useful links to different blogs every day.
- David Neiwert, winner of the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000.
- Photoblogs.org – visual diaries, often a picture a day.
- Technorati: "a real-time search engine that keeps track of what is going on in the world of weblogs". Has a nice feature where it lists the top 100 sites, books and news items of the moment (based on blog links). "Technorati tracks over three million weblogs, up from 100,000 two years ago. The Pew Internet study estimates that about 11%, or about 50 million, of Internet users are regular blog readers. A new weblog is created every 5.8 seconds, which means there are about 15,000 new blogs a day. Bloggers — people who write weblogs — update their weblogs regularly; there are about 275,000 posts daily, or about 10,800 blog updates an hour." So now you know.
Suppression of Indymedia
A silver lining
"Yeah I'm bummed. Four more years of the pseudo-Christian Taliban, I fear for my country and I fear for my family. But I can tell you, I'm also elated. When I started working on this election my main and only goal was to keep my dear and beloved state of Wisconsin out of the neo-con grip of the Bush administration. We had a thousand volunteers in Superior and Northern Wisconsin with the same thought in mind. These beloved people gave their hearts and souls to this very cause. Signs went up everywhere, no phone was left uncalled and no door unknocked. My time canvassing for Kerry was some of the hardest and most fulfilling work I had ever attempted. I talked to the affluent and I talked with the poor. The young and the old. The people struggling in quiet desperation just to put food on their table; working three jobs so their kids would have shoes and their house would be heated. A ninety year old gentleman in a trailer court who had just lost his wife of 63 years but still had voted his absentee ballot because in all of his many years he had never seen this country in such crisis.Meanwhile, for another silver lining, check out this response to the Bush defeat by underfunded scientists in California, although if you read further into the article, you'll see it could actually harm science for decades to come, as government may withdraw funding generally as they leave states to raise their own funds. Also worth reading to see how those states concerned about environmental policy are making their own policies.
"This was all inspiring and I' ll never forget it. Seeing my daughters get involved, to sense that this was their future being squandered and to watch them campaign for peace and justice brings tears to an old man's eyes. I've never been prouder.
"And the good news is their work was rewarded. Superior and Douglas County had the biggest most unexpected turnout in history. They had to photocopy ballots because they ran out. People stood in line for hours to cast their ballot; and the end result was that the home of fighting Bob Lafollet, Gaylord nelson and Bill Proxmie stayed in the Dem. column. Kerry won by 10,000 votes in Northern Wisconsin and that was his margin of victory. We kept Frank Boyle and Gary Sherman in the Assembly. Two of the most progressive and brilliant representatives that this state has ever seen. And who can forget Russ Feingold; the most courageous man in the Senate.
"It was a good fight and we did good.
"Northern Wisconsin was not fooled by the politics of hate and fear. We were motivated by a vision of peace and hope. God I love it here. Rick."
Sex, Lies and Rainbow
So unless someone's done some particularly amazing lip-synching, or they made this but never broadcast it, I find my sceptical self corrected.
How the actors kept their faces straight, I don't know.
Wind farms not environmentally neutral
"A group of Canadian and U.S. scientists reported Tuesday that computer simulations show that a large-scale use of wind farms to generate electrical power could create a significant temperature change over Earth's land masses.And no, I don't routinely read the Globe and Mail. It was linked to by the excellent Slashdot.
"While the precise tradeoff between the climate changes from wind farms versus that from carbon-based power systems is still a matter of contention, the fact that wind power isn't climate neutral leaps out of the simulations."
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
- Rebecca Blood's 'Weblogs: a history and perspective' (she's also written a book on the subject)
- Dave Winer's history of weblogs
- The results from my Google search have yet to be thoroughly rummaged, but I'll update this posting as and when.
- The Baghdad Blog: Salam Pax’s diary of his experiences during the bombing of Baghdad became world famous, and have now been published as a book. Also worth checking out is Christopher Allbritton's coverage at Back to Iraq: he set himself up as the war's first independent correspondent, and, with contributions from readers, managed to successfully report from the country without the restrictions that conventional journalists operated under - restrictions such as those of CNN, who asked their correspondent Kevin Sites to suspend his (independently written) blog.
- Also published as a book was Breakup Babe, albeit somewhat less journalistically relevant.
- Mariah Carey famously went into emotional meltdown live on her blog.
- Queen of the Sky: Semi-fictional account of a US air hostess’s life. She was sacked as a result of the blog - not the only one to suffer such repercussions, as this Wired article attests.
- The blogs that exposed CBS: well, there were a few. This one - not actually a blog, but a message board post - supposedly started it all. This article gives an overview of what happened, but strangely, no links. For those you need to look at this article on the always useful Cyberjournalist.net.
- Cyberjournalist.net also gives the detail behind blogs that led to the resignation of the senate GOP leader. Yes, it passed me by too.
If you can think of any more (is anyone out there?) let me know.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
100 words that define one hour of news
Contrary to first impressions, it is the words that are the most important for the hour, and the images only support those. You can also click on 'history' at the bottom to see snapshots from previous times - although this only goes back to the beginning of November.
The guy who created the site is also behind Wordcount - "an interactive presentation of the 88,000 most frequently used English words, arranged as one very long sentence." In fact, just go to his site and spend your afternoon browsing through his previous projects. You've nothing really important to do, have you?
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Creative Commons licence
Me, I'm not so precious about what I produce. This may be to do with the fact that once upon a time I would be producing thousands of words of copy every week, but it seems to me that the value lies not in what I've put on paper once upon a time, but with what's in my head and RSI-raddled fingers, so I will continue to refrain from putting copyright symbols on the bottoms of pages.
UPDATE (Nov 11 2004): Creative Commons have now branched out into patents and scientific publishing, in case you were interested.
A collective groan
Cursor.org recorded the whole thing beautifully, including the fact that:
"International election monitors in Florida told the International Herald Tribune that they "had less access to polls than in Kazakhstan, that the electronic voting had fewer fail-safes than in Venezuela, that the ballots were not so simple as in the Republic of Georgia and that no other country had such a complex national election system." Plus: 'Foreign monitors barred from some US polling stations.'"The collective groan around the world at Bush's reelection was recorded best on the BBC site, while The Daily Mirror's hilarious front page ("How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?") was backed up with such subtle journalism as God help America.
The Power of Nightmares
Anyway, aside from the style, there were some very useful facts for those debates I've been having recently with people via online scrabble. These include
- 'dirty bombs' being ineffective and unlikely to kill anyone (Iraq and US tested them years ago but found them to be useless), and
- despite hundreds of arrests in the UK and US, not one person has been convicted of plotting a terrorist act in connection with Islam.