On many topics outside our expertise area, we lack the extra information to extract informed opinions — we lack the capacity and context to judge. Anyone can read the topic sentences of paragraphs to extract a summary (a “tl;dr”) from any piece of writing of any length. The action in this space is to get at the hidden message that lies behind the words.
I imagine I get two types of readers on my blog. Someone who googles something and just happens to wander here. As is the case for the crazy amounts of people who still find their way here after searching for “Verizon FIOS review“.
The second group is probably friends of mine. I can’t imagine they come here looking for updates in my personal life, because I rarely post about that. They might stumble here because they know I keep up with a few specific topics and post about big developments in those areas.
With that in mind, I wanted to point to a few new projects I’m playing around with. Flipboard is an iOS and Android app that takes web content and re-formats it into a magazine style.
Recently they updated their system and are letting users curate magazines of their own. So I submit stories I like to a magazine style template and other users can read my magazine. Considering how Google just killed
RSS Reader, this might be a new popular way to subscribe to news.
I am working on four currently. I encourage you to check them out if you use Flipboard. Thanks!
Tech Today – This one is about technology as you can imagine. It focuses mainly on consumer tech, so new products and services that you might be interested in. (Sources include: The Verge, Engadget, Techmeme)
Hollywood Happenings - Unlike most most entertainment news sources, this is not a celebrity gossip magazine. This will focus on industry and insider news and developments. The Business side of Show-business. Sources include: THR, Variety, Deadline Hollywood
Be A Better Guy – Designed to give you advice on fashion, life lessons, and other things to help you navigate being a man in the new millennium. Sources include: GQ, Esquire
Intellectual Policy - Just for the law nerds. This focuses on IP law, mainly copyright, and a slight tech and hollywood tilt. Sources: Copyright Law Blogs
There has been a lot of discussion about the future of journalism. Are blogs and independent writers going to replace old school institutions of news reporting? Is The Huffington Post the replacement for the New York Times?
I have argued strongly before that we need traditional media news outlets. Sure, a blogger can write a good first hand report of something happening near them. But we need larger institutions with more resources to do the kind of in-depth, deep reporting that is needed. Further, it is far to easy to just make things up. We need accountability in our news media, and if you just cobble together reports from individuals, how can any entity carry a badge of reliability?
However, this week I ran across something that made me adjust my thinking just a bit. The New York Times ran a editorial discussing why Tide seems to be stolen in disproportionally large amounts. What makes something so utilitarian, and so widely available so attractive for theft? The author didn’t really come up with a final conclusion noting:
My best guess is that decisions about what products people steal are just as irrational and fashion-driven as decisions about what people buy. The “must-have” brands of last season become the brands that one would not be caught dead with this season – think of Crocs. No one knows exactly why consumers make some brands popular and others not – for marketers, that is the Holy Grail. Similarly, no one knows exactly why thieves choose to steal certain products over others. Yet, as unlikely as it seems, Tide detergent has become the “must-steal” product of the season.
But when you look to the comments, from readers of the site, they come up with solid rational reasons that sound a bit like they know this from experience.
TIDE is stolen not from everywhere, but from grocery stores that are within the vicinity of other (smaller) grocery stores that are independently owned. A person can palm off a pack of Tide at a discount. When it reappears on the shelf, it is indistinguishable (there is no RFID on pack).
I.e., there is a ready market for it.
Everyone overlooks one important factor, the people who steal Tide do not have washing machines in their residence, they go to laundromats. Like a pub owner who buys a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey for $15 and sells 20 shots, the Tide thieves are selling “shots” of Tide in the laundromat.
That same commenter notes that perhaps the writers of the Times don’t likely use public laundromats and so don’t run across this activity and just arent aware of it. Smacks a little bit of classism, but I think its true.
So, is this the future of journalism? Where we can not just watch a screen or read an article, but help follow up with clarifications and counterpoints? There is a concern for drowning out real discussion and trolls when things get too popular. I’d hate to see the NYTimes comment area become the scummy comment underworld of YouTube.
I think our society has taken being “fair” to an extreme. We have confused the freedoms we have to be an excuse to be able to have a stupid opinion and for that wrong opinion to be worth as much as a correct valid opinion supported by facts.
The is most evident in being “fair” in media reports. The media is so concerned with being labeled biased, that they give equal time and weight to stupid opposing arguments. This is best summed up by the popular quote from Paul Krugman:
The media are desperately afraid of being accused of bias. And that’s partly because there’s a whole machine out there, an organized attempt to accuse them of bias whenever they say anything that the Right doesn’t like. So rather than really try to report things objectively, they settle for being even-handed, which is not the same thing. One of my lines in a column—in which a number of people thought I was insulting them personally—was that if Bush said the Earth was flat, the mainstream media would have stories with the headline: ‘Shape of Earth—Views Differ.’ Then they’d quote some Democrats saying that it was round.
This is the key difference in being objective. Being objective means not letting personal biases change your reporting or opinion of something. If something is obviously true, you shouldn’t say it could be false just because that fits your world view or would benefit you in some way.
Stop being fair. Be objective.
One of my least favorite arguments is that “we have to give tax cuts to the rich, because they are the job creators and so they will employ more workers and thus stimulate the economy.” I believe the exact opposite is true. If the middle and lower classes don’t purchase the upper class’s goods the economy sputters to a stop. The employers won’t hire more workers while sales are slumped. Giving them tax cuts simply gives them more money to save, not spend. You have to help the middle class spend money to spur the economy. When they start purchasing goods, the employers are encouraged to hire in order to continue growing.
In line with this thinking, from Daring Fireball:
Robert Reich in the NY Times:
Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.
I.e., the evidence overwhelmingly shows that “trickle-down economics” has it exactly backwards. The infographic that accompanies Reich’s article is just terrific.
See the infographic after the jump. Continue reading
For many in the US, expertise has taken on a negative cultural value; experts are part of an elite that thinks it knows better than the average citizen. (This is accurate, for what it’s worth.) Very few object to that sort of expertise when it comes time to, say, put the space shuttle into orbit, but expertise can become a problem when the experts have reached a consensus that runs against cultural values.
And, for many in our society, scientific expertise has done just that. Abstinence-only sex education has been largely ineffective. Carbon emissions are creating a risk of climate change. Humanity originated via an evolutionary process. All of these findings have threatened various aspects of people’s cultural identity. By rejecting both the science and the expertise behind it, candidates can essentially send a signal that says, “I’m one of you, and I’m with you where it counts.”
A friend from undergrad has started a blog. It is far more highbrow than the average blog I link to. He is posting some fascinating thoughts and theories on “innovations in political science, economics, public policy, philosophy, business, finance, art, development, or science broadly speaking” as he puts it.
Go check out Prospects: Exploring Possibilities.
I’m sure you haven’t escaped the media hype surrounding evangelical nutjob predictions that May 21 will be the end of the world and the second coming. I am pretty sure I will be “left behind” because my first thought when I heard this is “what a great theme party that would make!”
Think about it. Dress in either white or red depending on where you think you will go, or what mood you are in that night – naughty or nice. You could have themed foods and drinks like death by chocolate, devil’s food cake, and angel food cake. Decorate half the house like hell and half the house bask in bright lights and neutral tones. Basically a heaven and hell theme party.
At midnight have a countdown, new year’s eve style. You could even have kool-aid you could encourage people to drink.
Also, since it is the end of the world, if you have anything you want to tell me, you better let me know.
The new version of COICA was unveiled today. This is a big overhaul of IP protections in the United States. A lot of analysis will come out in the next few days, but if you want to see the bill yourself you can read the announcement and summary here. If you want to read the actual text of the bill you can also see that here.
Some of the key protections:
The PROTECT IP Act will provide law enforcement with important tools to stop websites dedicated to online piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods, which range from new movie and music releases, to pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Key updates to the PROTECT IP Act include:
- A narrower definition of an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities”;
- Authorization for the Attorney General to serve an issued court order on a search engine, in addition to payment processors, advertising networks and Internet service providers;
- Authorization for both the Attorney General and rights holders to bring actions against online infringers operating an internet site or domain where the site is “dedicated to infringing activities,” but with remedies limited to eliminating the financial viability of the site, not blocking access;
- Requirement of plaintiffs to attempt to bring an action against the owner or registrant of the domain name used to access an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities” before bringing an action against the domain name itself;
- Protection for domain name registries, registrars, search engines, payment processors, and advertising networks from damages resulting from their voluntary action against an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities,” where that site also “endangers the public health,” by offering controlled or non-controlled prescription medication.