The Daily Tab for 2017_06_06

toomuchinformation I’ve decided I need to keep a public list on stuff that interests me, and to do it in a way that’s good to read now and easy to find later. The headline above is my first whack at a title. Required viewing::: A Good American. It’s a documentary on Bill Binney and the NSA by @FriedrichMoser. IMHO, this is the real Snowden movie. And I say that with full respect for Snowden. Please watch it. (Disclosure: I have spent quality time with both Bill and Fritz, and believe them both.) Bonus dude: @KirkWiebe, also ex-NSA and a colleague of Bill’s. (In case you think this is all lefty propaganda, read Kirk’s tweets.) Ice agents are out of control. And they are only getting worse (@TrevorTimm in The Guardian) WillRobotsTakeMyJob is brilliant. Check out its suggested jobs for titles it has no stats for. Yo to WaPo and the Continue reading "The Daily Tab for 2017_06_06"

Loose Links

Jamie Bartlett in The GuardianForget far-right populism – crypto-anarchists are the new masters. Well, yes, no and maybe. Hard to tell. At least it’s a good look around many curves. Says here Robert E. Lee was a bad guy. Specifically, a white supremacist and slave abuser. You’re hundreds (or thousands) of miles but only one click away from The Wall Drug Store. Bonus link. Both courtesy of Country Living, which is new to me. As a magazine, that is. Everybody, it seems, (or, well, 93% of them) likes the new Wonder Woman movie. Not Jill Lepore. South China Morning PostThe rise of the QR code and how it has forever changed China’s social habits. The subhead explains,
“It’s being used to encourage tipping at restaurants, receive cash gifts at weddings…even beggars are using it to collect handouts. The little barcode is driving China’s rapid Continue reading "Loose Links"

Brands need to fire adtech

Two days ago, the New York Times said the U.S. that AT&T and Johnson & Johnson are pulling their ads from YouTube. They’re concerned that “Google is not doing enough to prevent brands from appearing next to offensive material, like hate speech.” Yesterday, Business Insider said “more than 250” advertisers were bailing as well. These came after one Guardian report said Audi, HSBC, Lloyds, McDonald’s, L’Oréal, Sainsbury’s, Argos, the BBC and Sky were doing the same in the U.K., and another Guardian report said O2, Royal Mail and Vodaphone were also joining the boycott.

Agencies placing those ads on YouTube are shocked, shocked! that ads for these fine brands are showing up next to “extremist material,” and therefore sponsoring it. They blame Google, and so does most of the coverage as well.

Here’s what almost nobody reporting on this debacle is saying: Brands think they’re placing ads in Continue reading "Brands need to fire adtech"

Saving High Mountain

  highmountainI’ve long thought that the most consequential thing I’ve ever done was write a newspaper editorial that helped stop development atop the highest wooded hilltop overlooking the New York metro. The hill is called High Mountain, and it is now home to the High Mountain Park Preserve in Wayne, New Jersey. That’s it above, highlighted by a rectangle on a shot I took from a passenger plane on approach to LaGuardia in 2008. The year was 1970, and I was a 23-year-old reporter for a suburban daily called Wayne Today (which may still exist). One day, while at the police station picking up copies of the previous day’s reports, I found a detailed plan to develop the top of High Mountain, and decided to pay the place a visit. So I took a fun hike through thick woods and a din of screaming cicadas (Brood X,
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How True Advertising Can Save Journalism From Drowning in a Sea of Content

adtech-content-journalism Journalism is in a world of hurt because it has been marginalized by a new business model that requires maximizing “content” instead. That model is called adtech. We can see adtech’s effects in The New York TimesIn New Jersey, Only a Few Media Watchdogs Are Left, by David Chen. His prime example is the Newark Star-Ledger, “which almost halved its newsroom eight years ago,” and “has mutated into a digital media company requiring most reporters to reach an ever-increasing quota of page views as part of their compensation.” That quota is to attract adtech placements. While adtech is called advertising and looks like advertising, it’s actually a breed of direct marketing, which is a cousin of spam and descended from what we still call junk mail. Like junk mail, adtech is driven by data, intrusively personal, looking for success in tiny-percentage responses, and Continue reading "How True Advertising Can Save Journalism From Drowning in a Sea of Content"

How True Advertising Can Save Journalism From Drowning in a Sea of Content

adtech-content-journalism Journalism is in a world of hurt because it has been marginalized by a new business model that requires maximizing “content” instead. That model is called adtech. We can see adtech’s effects in The New York TimesIn New Jersey, Only a Few Media Watchdogs Are Left, by David Chen. His prime example is the Newark Star-Ledger, “which almost halved its newsroom eight years ago,” and “has mutated into a digital media company requiring most reporters to reach an ever-increasing quota of page views as part of their compensation.” That quota is to attract adtech placements. While adtech is called advertising and looks like advertising, it’s actually a breed of direct marketing, which is a cousin of spam and descended from what we still call junk mail. Like junk mail, adtech is driven by data, intrusively personal, looking for success in tiny-percentage responses, and Continue reading "How True Advertising Can Save Journalism From Drowning in a Sea of Content"

Exploring the business behind digital media’s invisibility cloaks

  amsterdam-streetImagine you’re on a busy city street where everybody who disagrees with you disappears. We have that city now. It’s called media—especially the social kind. You can see how this works on Wall Street Journal‘s Blue Feed, Red Feed page. Here’s a screen shot of the feed for “Hillary Clinton” (one among eight polarized topics): blue-red-wsj Both invisible to the other. We didn’t have that in the old print and broadcast worlds, and still don’t, where they persist. (For example, on news stands, or when you hit SCAN on a car radio.) But we have it in digital media. Here’s another difference: a lot of the stuff that gets shared is outright fake. There’s a lot of concern about that right now: fakenews Why? Well, there’s a business in it. More eyeballs, more advertising, more money, for more eyeballs for more advertising. And so on. Those ads are aimed
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The problem for people isn’t advertising, and the problem for advertising isn’t blocking. The problem for both is tracking.

Ingeyes Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking, @JuliaAngwin and @ProPublica unpack what the subhead says well enough: “Google is the latest tech company to drop the longstanding wall between anonymous online ad tracking and user’s names.” Here’s a message from humanity to Google and all the other spy organizations in the surveillance economy: Tracking is no less an invasion of privacy in apps and browsers than it is in homes, cars, purses, pants and wallets. That’s because our apps and browsers are personal and private. So are the devices on which we use them. Simple as that. (HT to @Apple for digging that fact.) To help online advertising business and the publications they support understand what ought to be obvious (but isn’t yet), let’s clear up some misconceptions:
  1. Tracking people without their clear and conscious permission is wrong. (Meaning The Castle Doctrine Continue reading "The problem for people isn’t advertising, and the problem for advertising isn’t blocking. The problem for both is tracking."

Toward an ethics of influence

2016-05-02berkman Stop now and go to TimeWellSpent.io, where @TristanHarris, the guy on the left above, has produced and gathered much wisdom about a subject most of us think little about and all of us cannot value more: our time. Both of us will be co-investing some time tomorrow afternoon at the @BerkmanCenter, talking about Tristan’s work and visiting the question he raises above with guidance from S.J. Klein. (Shortlink for the event: http://j.mp/8thix. And a caution: it’s a small room.) So, to help us get started, here’s a quick story, and a context in the dimension of time…
Many years ago a reporter told me a certain corporate marketing chief “abuses the principle of instrumentality.” Totally knocked me out. I mean, nobody in marketing talked much about “influencers” then. Instead it was “contacts.” This reporter was one of those. And he was exposing something
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Get it right, @Forbes

tracking-forbes I just followed this link at Digg to Forbes, where I was met by the message above. Problem is, I don’t have an ad blocker installed. I have tracking protection. Three kinds, in fact. (Before you give me shit for running more than one at a time: my work requires experimenting with many different privacy protection tools. It just happens that right now I have these three working in Firefox, my default browser.) Here is what Ghostery sees: ghostery-on-forbes Here is what Disconnect sees: disconnect-on-forbes And here is what Privacy Badger sees: privacybadger-on-forbes So I’m guessing what blocked the ad was one of the two red sliders in Privacy Badger. I tried sliding b.scorecardresearch.com to yellow and it seemed to load the desired page without a problem, but I don’t know if Forbes would have let me though anyway or not at that point. There is no way to Continue reading "Get it right, @Forbes"

Old wise in news bottles

That headline just came to me and I don’t want to lose it. So I’ll post it now and fill in the large blank below later.

What everything isn’t

We know shit. I mean, in respect to the Everything that surrounds us, and the culture in which we are pickled from start to finish, what we know rounds to nothing and is, with the provisional exception of the subjects and people we study and love, incomplete and therefore somewhere between questionable and wrong. But we can’t operate in the present without some regard for the future, which brings me to a comparison of futurist related ideologies, from H+pedia, which was new to me when I saw this in a post to a list I’m on: ists Here is my reply to the same list:
Must we all be “ists?” I mean, is a historian a “pastist?” I’m into making the future better than the present by understanding everything I can. Most of what I can understand is located in the past, but I’ve only lived through Continue reading "What everything isn’t"

Valley Fire losses

Here is the current perimeter of the Valley Fire, according to the USGS’ GEOMAC viewer: ValleyFire 2015-09-13 at 3.10.24 PM_a As you see, no places are identified there. One in particular, however, is of extremely special interest to me: Harbin Hot Springs. It is where I met my wife and more friends than I can count. It is also one of the most lovely places on Earth, inhabited and lovingly maintained by wonderful people. I just matched up a section of the map above with Google Maps’ Earth view, and see that Harbin and its neighborhood are in the perimeter: Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 3.12.19 PM Still we’re talking about a perimeter here. Not everything within one burns. Harbin is mostly in a valley. Could be the fire jumped from ridge to ridge and missed it. But I suspect that instead we are looking at very sad news here, especially after seeing this picture here, which looks northwest
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If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them

What follows is my comment (the first one!) under Confusion Reigns as Apple Puts the Spotlight on Mobile Ad Blocking, in AdAge. I’ve added some links.
Bury_your_head_in_the_sandMarketers should be looking at what the market wants, and why. The market is customers, and they are speaking to marketers today by making ad blockers the most popular browser extensions, and by telling survey after survey that they dislike of having their privacy invaded by unwanted tracking (TRUSTe, Pew, Customer Commons) and that they are resigned to a status quo they don’t like (Wharton). In other words, the “key link between brands and customers” that customers sever with ad blocking isn’t a link at all. It’s a pain in the customer’s ass, or they wouldn’t be severing it. Apple knows ads and tracking are pains in the customers’ ass, because Apple is a B2C company Continue reading "If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them"

An old lesson in how to automate journalism with war and sports metaphors

What I’ve always loved most about the Web† is how it allows each of us to publish on our own, as individuals, for the whole world. I started doing that as soon as I could get a dial-up account with a nearby ISP (the late Batnet of Palo Alto). Here is one of my first pieces, which I published in December 1995 at my self-hosted publication, Reality 2.0. I’m running it here because it does a good job of explaining how easy it is to automate journalism by framing a story in terms of war or sports. (It also tees up my next post.) So here ya go, copied from HTML 1 and morphed on pasting by WordPress into HTML 4:

MICROSOFT + NETSCAPE
WHY THE PRESS NEEDS TO SNAP OUT OF ITS WAR-COVERAGE TRANCE

By Doc Searls
December 11, 1995

Outline

Web Wars?
What are
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The greatest western I’ve ever read

10-17-Love— is John McPhee‘s Rising From the Plains. It’s one book among five collected in Annals of the Former World, which won a Pulitzer in 1999. In all five, McPhee follows a geologist around; and all five of the geologists are interesting characters. None, however, is more interesting than J. David Love, who grew up on a hardscrabble ranch in the center of Wyoming and became one of the most accomplished geologists in the history of the field. And yet Love is still less interesting than both his parents — one an endlessly resourceful Scottish builder and re-builder of the family ranch (also possibly, McPhee suggests, a one-time member of Butch Cassidy’s gang), and the other one of the finest diarists ever to put pen to paper in a time and place that was still the Old West. I’ve read and re-read Rising From the Plains so Continue reading "The greatest western I’ve ever read"

The untold pirate radio story in New York

The radio dial here IMG_8116in “upstate” Manhattan and the Bronx is packed with pirate radio signals. Many are smack next to New York’s licensed landmarks. Here’s what I’m getting right now on our kitchen radio…
  • 88.1 “Romantica New York” Spanish announcers, music in English and Spanish. Right next to WBGO (@wbgo), New York’s jazz station (licensed to Newark).
  • 89.3 Spanish. Right next to WFDU and WNYU (@wnyu), the Fairleigh Dickenson and NYU stations that share time on 89.1.
  • 89.7 Spanish. Talk. Call-ins. Right next to WKCR (@wkcrfm), the Columbia University station on 89.9.
  • 91.3 Spanish, as I recall. It just popped off the air. Right next to WNYE on 91.5.
  • 92.1 Spanish, currently playing traditional Mexican (e.g. Mariachi) music and talking up a Mexican restaurant. Right next to 92.3 WBMP “Amp radio” (@923amp)
    Continue reading "The untold pirate radio story in New York"

Dear Magazines: please quit screwing loyal subscribers

When my main credit card got yanked for some kind of fraud activity earlier this month (as it seems all of them do, sooner or later) I had the unpleasant task of going back over my bills to see what companies I’d need to give a new credit card number. Among those many (Amazon, Apple, PayPal, Dish Network, EasyPass…) were a bunch of magazines that get renewed annually. These include:
  • The New Yorker
  • Vanity Fair
  • Wired
  • New York
  • Consumer Reports
At my wife’s urging (for she is more mindful of money and scams than I am), I compared the last automatic renewal fee to the current best subscription rates offered to new subscribers by the magazines directly, or through intermediaries such as Amazon. All but Consumer Reports offered lower prices to new subscribers. Take The New Yorker for example. Here’s my last automatic payment, from July of last year: Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 6.06.55 PM And
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New Yorker chat
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Newsstands are à la carte. How about online as well?

I travel a lot, and buy newspapers wherever I happen to be. That would be true online as well, if I could do it. But I can’t, because that’s not an option. For example, my butt is in California right now, but my nose is in Boston, where I’m reading the Globe. I don’t want a subscription to the Globe, but I would like to pay for today’s paper, or for at least the right to read a few stories from it. Not easy. Or even possible, after the first one or two. Because, soon enough this paywall thingie comes up: Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.13.36 AM It’ a subscription come-on, modeled after the one the New York Times has been using for years, and I wrote about back in 2012, here. (The switch after the above bait: “$.99… That’s less than $1 for 4 full weeks! Then pay the regular low rate of $3.99 per week.”) I had some advice for the Times at that last link, and I’ve got some for all papers today: create an à la carte option. I know there are lots of reasons not to, all of which arise from system-based considerations on the sell side of the relationship with newspaper buyers. What I’m saying is that the newsstand option has worked fine for more than a century in the physical world, and should be an option in the networked one as well. At least think about it. Constructively, as in Let’s see… how can we do that? Not “It’s too hard.” Or “People only want free stuff.” Those are all echoes inside the old box. I want us to think and work outside of that box. People are willing to pay value for value if it’s easy. So let’s make it easy. The ideas I vetted three years ago are still good, but don’t cover the à la carte option. Let’s just focus on that one, and consider what’s possible.  

Sports as a propaganda laboratory

TBasketballhe other day a friend shared this quote from Michael Choukas‘ Propaganda Comes of Age (Public Affairs Press, 1965):
This is not the propagandist’s aim. For him the validity of an image must be measured not by the degree of its fidelity, but by the response it may evoke. If it will induce the action he wishes, its fidelity is high; if not, low. … The standard that he uses in choosing the images to be disseminated — his “truths” — would be a scale based on the range of possible human responses to an image. His criterion thus is established on the basis of overt action.
At first this made me think about journalism, and how it might fit Choukas’ definition of propaganda. Then it made me think about how we might confine the study of propaganda to a harmless subset of human story-telling. That’s when sports jumped to mind. Sports are almost entirely narrative. They also have, as social phenomena go, less importance outside themselves than such highly fraught concerns as politics, religion and business. To the cynic, sports are Kurt Vonnegut‘s foma: “harmless untruths, intended to comfort simple souls…Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.” Yes, sports are more than that, but my soul at its simplest is a fan of the Mets. (And, less simply, a fan of the Red Sox.) Likewise, among my least productive time is spent listening to sports talk radio — unless I count as valuable the communing of my simplest self with the souls of others who share the same mostly-harmless affections. But how much more productive is the time I spend listening to NPR, or reading The New York Times?
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