On presuming competence

A few weeks ago, while our car honked its way through dense traffic in Delhi, I imagined an Onion headline: American Visitor Seeks To Explain What He’ll Never Understand About India.

By the norms of traffic laws in countries where people’s tendency is largely to obey them, vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the dense parts of Indian cities appears to be chaotic to an extreme. Yet it’s clearly at least … well, organic. People do seem to go where they want, individually and collectively. Somehow. Some way. Or ways. Many of them. Alone and together. Never mind that a four-lane divided highway will have traffic moving constantly, occasionally in both directions on both sides—and that it includes humans, dogs, cattle, rickshaws and bikes, some laden with bags of cargo that look like they belong in a truck, in addition to cars, trucks and motorcycles, all packed together and honking constantly.

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GDPR will pop the adtech bubble

In The Big Short, investor Michael Burry says “One hallmark of mania is the rapid rise in the incidence and complexity of fraud.” (Burry shorted the mania- and fraud-filled subprime mortgage market and made a mint in the process.)

One would be equally smart to bet against the mania for the tracking-based form of advertising called adtech.

Since tracking people took off in the late ’00s, adtech has grown to become a four-dimensional shell game played by hundreds (or, if you include martech, thousands) of companies, none of which can see the whole mess, or can control the fraud, malware and other forms of bad acting that thrive in the midst of it.

And that’s on top of the main problem: tracking people without their knowledge, approval or a court order is just flat-out wrong. The fact that it can be done is no excuse. Nor

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For privacy we need tech more than policy

Nature and the Internet both came without privacy.

The difference is that we’ve invented privacy tech in the natural world, starting with clothing and shelter, and we haven’t yet done the same in the digital world.

When we go outside in the digital world, most of us are still walking around naked. Worse, nearly every commercial website we visit plants tracking beacons on us to support the extractive economy in personal data called adtech: tracking-based advertising.

In the natural world, we also have long-established norms for signaling what’s private, what isn’t, and how to respect both. Laws have grown up around those norms as well. But let’s be clear: the tech and the norms came first.

Yet for some reason many of us see personal privacy as a grace of policy. It’s like, “The answer is policy. What is the question?”

Two such answers arrived with this morning’s  Continue reading "For privacy we need tech more than policy"

Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica problems are nothing compared to what’s coming for all of online publishing

Let’s start with Facebook’s Surveillance Machine, by Zeynep Tufekci in last Monday’s New York Times. Among other things (all correct), Zeynep explains that “Facebook makes money, in other words, by profiling us and then selling our attention to advertisers, political actors and others. These are Facebook’s true customers, whom it works hard to please.”

Giant Irony Alert: the same is true for the Times, along with every other publication that lives off adtech: surveillance-based advertising. These pubs don’t just open the kimonos of their readers. They treat them as naked beings whose necks are bared to vampires ravenous for the blood of personal data, all ostensibly so those persons can be served with “interest-based” advertising.

With no control by readers (beyond tracking protection which relatively few know how to use), and damn little care or control by the publishers who bare those readers’ necks to the vampires,

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Making sense of what happened to Montecito

Note the date on this map:

That was more than a month before huge rains revised to red the colors in the mountains above Montecito. The LA Times also ran a story a week before last, warning about debris flows, which are like mud slides, but with lots of rocks.

When rains locals called “biblical” hit in the darkest hours last Tuesday morning, debris flows gooped down the mountainside canyons that feed  creeks that weave downhill across Montecito, depositing lots of geology on top of what was already there. At last count twenty people were dead and another three missing.

Our home, one zip code west of Montecito, was fine. But we can’t count how many people we know who are affected directly. Some victims were friends of friends. It’s pretty damn awful.

We all process tragedies like this in the ways we know best, and mine is

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The real problem is Decoy News (and decoy content of all kinds)—and the platforms can’t fix it

The term “fake news” was a casual phrase until it became clear to news media that a flood of it had been deployed during last year’s presidential election in the U.S. Starting in November 2016, fake news was the subject of strong and well-researched coverage by NPR (here and here), Buzzfeed, CBS (here and here), Wired, the BBC, Snopes, CNN (here and here), Rolling Stone and others. It thus became a thing…

… until Donald Trump started using it as an epithet for news media he didn’t like. He did that first during a press conference on February 16, and then the next day on Twitter:

And he hasn’t stopped. To Trump, any stick he can whup non-Fox mainstream media with is a good stick, and FAKE NEWS is the best.

So that pretty much took

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Requiem for a great magazine

Linux Journal is folding.

Carlie Fairchild, who has run the magazine almost since it started in 1994, posted Linux Journal Ceases Publication today on the website. So far all of the comments have been positive, which they should be. Throughout its life, Linux Journal has been about as valuable as a trade pub can be, and it’s a damn shame to see it go. I just hope a way can be found to keep the site and the archives alive for the duration, as a living legacy.

I suppose a rescue might still be possible. But, as Carlie wrote in her post, “While we see a future like publishing’s past—a time when advertisers sponsor a publication because they value its brand and readers—the advertising world we have today would rather chase eyeballs, preferably by planting tracking beacons in readers’ browsers and zapping them with ads anywhere those readers show Continue reading "Requiem for a great magazine"

Still no serious coverage of pirate radio

Here’s what I wrote about pirate radio in New York, back in 2013 . I hoped to bait major media attention with that. Got zip.

Then I wrote this in 2015 (when I also took the screen shot, above, of a local pirate’s ID on my kitchen radio). I got a couple people interested, including one college student, but we couldn’t coordinate our schedules and the moments were lost.

Now comes news of pirate radio crackdowns by the FCC*, yet little of that news concerns the demand these stations supply. The default story is about FCC vs. Pirates, not how pirates address the inadequacies of FCC-licensed broadcast radio. (One good exception: this story in the Miami Herald about an FCC-fined pirate that programs for a population licensed radio doesn’t serve.)

To sample the situation, drive your car up Broadway north of 181st Street in Manhattan (above which Continue reading "Still no serious coverage of pirate radio"

Tab closings

These are all the non-advertising-related items I just moved out of this post here on doc.blog.

This Wired piece on podcasting’s history fails to mention either Dave Winer or RSS. Huge oversights, those. Without mentioning the Wired piece, Dave offers many corrections.

Mount Hope Cemetery in Lander, Wyoming: the final resting place of many memorable characters in Ethel Waxham Love’s Lady’s Choice, which I am reading and re-reading right now. Such an amazing character. I visited her family’s abandoned ranch house (“one hundred miles from water, women and wood,” her son David said) this summer, for The Eclipse.

Radio ratings in Canadian cities. Which I want so I can complete this post about sports radio. I expected that post to be hugely provocative ad popular, by the way. The opposite was true. Still, I want to finish it.

Aeonyour brain is not a computer. No surprise there, Continue reading "Tab closings"

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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googletrends-influencer-marketing
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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.