Saturday, October 18, 2008

Those Beastly Words

In recent elections, the Republican hate word has been “liberal,” or “Massachusetts,” or “Gore.” In this election, it has increasingly been “words.” Barack Obama has been denounced again and again as a privileged wordsmith, a man of mere words who has “authored” two books (to use Sarah Palin’s verb), and done little else. The leathery extremist Phyllis Schlafly had this to say, at the Republican Convention, about Palin: “I like her because she’s a woman who’s worked with her hands, which Barack Obama never did, he was just an élitist who worked with words.”

James Wood in the New Yorker.

Hanging on the telephone

“It is a disgusting form of negative campaigning,” Mr. Shoff said in an interview, “calling people randomly off a computerized list, during dinner time, and reciting a message that is misleading, as I knew it to be. Republicans should be talking about serious issues.”

Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, said the “Hollywood” robocall was based in fact. “I would argue that much of these calls are based on hardened facts that American voters should consider,” Mr. Bounds said.

From the NYT.

Friday, October 17, 2008

So not the new "The Queen" then?

Among the film’s most literally incredible moments are those that show President George H.W. Bush (Bush 41), played by James Cromwell without the slightest effort to resemble the man, being decisive, authoritative, forceful, and even manly, qualities he managed to keep under wraps during three decades in the public eye. Playing the title role, Josh Brolin misreads the president’s stiff, just got-off-a-horse body language as a reason to stay in motion at all times, notably during his initial encounter with Laura (Elizabeth Banks, who gives the only restrained performance) at a barbecue. Here and elsewhere W.’s body flits around as if he’s undergoing shock therapy; here and elsewhere, W. speaks, disgustingly, with his mouth open as if he just blew in from the trailer park instead of Skull and Bones.

Pajamasmedia kaels over. Where is Helen Mirren when you need her to play Barbara Bush?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Queen visits Google

As Paxman says the BBC can't get its tone right, here is CNN.

All the time I feel I must justify my existence.
Charles, Prince Of Wales

Joy in the Morning

Turning left?

A long night with Wolf and Obama and John and that absurd (but compelling) CNN popularity-o-meter and all those scowls and sneers and several coffees later I take Sunny the dog for a walk. The sun is out and this is the IPod Playlist:

Tell Me Something Good - Rufus
I'll Take You There - The Staple Singers
Whatever It Takes - Ron Sexsmith
Gospel with No Lord - Camille
Tell Me What It Is - Graham Central Station
I Feel It All - Feist
Body and Soul - Anita Baker
Wrestlers - Hot Chip
Offshore banking business - The Members
Duke's Place - Joya Sherill (but the link is Louis and Duke)
Wishing - A Flock of Seagulls
Paris - Friendly Fires
Devil May Care - Raul Midon
John, I'm only dancing - David Bowie
Something's Coming - Oscar Peterson (as close as I could get - sounds right)
Yes We Can -

What can I have been thinking about?

All pictures: Sunny, the dog. Oh happy day!

Ho! Mobility

Camden High Street
London, October
Robin Hunt

“Give it five years time, and I think people will choose to surf news on the mobile, because the mobile will have functionality [e.g GPS] that the internet doesn’t,” Fredrik Oscarson told

Five years?

Self portrait after Wembley

Wembley Park tube
Robin Hunt

Three basic stories about the Internet

Just as it's said that there are only a handful of basic plots in literature, the "internet and truth" topic seems to have only a very few things that are commonly written about it: first, there's a huge amount of material available; second, there's no good way to sort the true from the false; third, it would be great if there were some easy means to find reliable information.

Entire papers, conferences, consultancies and even startup businesses, can be spun out of those shibboleths. And similarly, some bad ideas are continually being reinvented and touted anew. One common problematic path is to think only in technological terms. I

Seth Finkelstein in The Guardian

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Somers Town

Marx 2, Faust 0

Good grief, what next? A Three Day Week?

More surprising is the comment of Peer Steinbrück, the [German] finance minister, who has been in the thick of recent discussions to find a way out of the financial crisis. "Generally one has to admit that certain parts of Marx's theory are really not so bad," he reportedly told Der Spiegel.

From The Economist's Certain Ideas of Europe blog.

Meanwhile, Facebook replaces drunken fumble

A survey of 221 first year students conducted between April and June this year found that more than half (55 per cent) had joined Facebook to make new friends prior to entering university, while a further 43 per cent joined immediately after starting university. Nearly three quarters said Facebook had played an important part in helping them to settle in at university.

Over a third of respondents also said they used Facebook to discuss academic work with other students on a weekly basis, and more than half responded positively to the idea of using Facebook for more formal teaching and learning – although only 7 per cent had actually done so. Many suggested ways in which Facebook could be used, such as providing social support for students in departments and informing students about changing lecture times.


Mass illiteracy hits the web many people can actually create interactive games, animations, or simulations? Not very many. So, in my mind, very few people are truly literate with new media. Would we consider someone literate with traditional media if they could only read but not write?

Mitchel Resnick at the Media Shift Idea lab.

Google is the new Guinness: good for you

"The bottom line is, when older people read a simulated book page, we see areas of the brain activated that you'd expect, the visual cortex, and areas that control language and reading," he said. "When they search on the Internet, they use the same areas, but there was much greater activation particularly in the front part, which controls decision-making and complex reasoning. But it was only for the people who had previous experience with the Internet."

CNN on search and the brain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog Action Day, tomorrow

Tomorrow is Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

There's radio too.

Welcome to web science

This new discipline will model the Web’s structure, articulate the architectural principles that have fueled its phenomenal growth, and discover how online human interactions are driven by and can change social conventions. It will elucidate the principles that can ensure that the network continues to grow productively and settle complex issues such as privacy protection and intellectual-property rights. To achieve these ends, Web science will draw on mathematics, physics, computer science, psychology, ecology, sociology, law, political science, economics, and more.

From Scientific American.


Britain's journalists, unlike America's, were never as pompous and po-faced as their US counterparts.

Roy Greenslade in the Guardian.

Where the last swing votes are? Obama is on Xbox 360

Last week we noted unconfirmed sightings of an “Obama for President” billboard in the Xbox 360 racing game Burnout Paradise. Today we’re able to report that it is, in fact, an official advertisement placed by the senator’s campaign team.

Thanks to Gigaom.

Neither oversexed, nor over there

Fitzrovia, London
Robin Hunt

Only four American newspapers now have foreign desks. And for a network, it’s very expensive to base a correspondent in London or Tokyo, and so much easier to film two people yelling at each other in a studio.

An older piece, that I stumbled over.

Another kind of foreign correspondent.

Vanity Fairness?

Strong majorities of the public say the press has been fair to John McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. But fewer than four-in-ten (38%) say the press has been fair to Sarah Palin. Many more believe the press has been too tough on Palin (38%) than say it has been too easy (21%).

From Pew.

Squatters rights?

Edelman, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and an advisor to McAfee, says there are as many as 80,000 domains "typo-squatting" on the United States' top 2,000 websites alone, including MySpace, FaceBook and Craigslist...

...Google is profiting from millions of typo-squatting websites that earn advertising from Google's Adsense advertising program, Harvard University professor Ben Edelman says.

From Wired.
Typosquatting, the definition.

Story by Post Code

Launched on the Liverpool Echo and Liverpool Daily Post (LDP) websites, the maps let readers search for news by postcode.

And the Merseyside maps.

Monday, October 13, 2008

North & Central London - before the Fall

Near the mayor's office, London
Sunday Morning
Robin Hunt

Backstage at the Moscow State Circus, London,
August 2008
Robin Hunt

When Woody was Funny, or Bananas Remixed for the 2008 Fall

Above from Vanity Fair.

When the original that this parodies came out - 1971 - we hadn't even had Watergate.

There was a sort of half-truth to what they said. But they would have been very much nearer the mark—and rather more ironic and revealing at their own expense—if they had completed the sentence and described the actual situation as what it is: “socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the rest.”

I have heard arguments about whether it was Milton Friedman or Gore Vidal who first came up with this apt summary of a collusion between the overweening state and certain favored monopolistic concerns, whereby the profits can be privatized and the debts conveniently socialized, but another term for the same system would be “banana republic.”

Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair.

I found the Vanity Fair piece through this:

which I am now trying out. News Trust Net.

Trusted Out? Trust Net

With its oodles of information, the Internet is laden with falsehoods, but, in fact, these recent cases show how critical are amplifying sites like Drudge or Google News or Digg to getting reports from the backwoods before the public.

Says the NYT.
“There is almost a short-seller mentality in the blogosphere,” he said. “We allow anyone to submit on a level playing field. We allow the digital democracy to be the fact checkers. There is definitely some risk to that.”

While only 150 or so items make the Digg home page, Mr. Adelson said its tools for “syndicating” an interesting item to friends could help create a cascade, since the way young people “consume is through the push.”

So why not try News Trust Net?

Somewhere in here is the future

"Mobile internet devices represent a category of truly mobile consumer devices that enable the best internet experience in your pocket and allow users to communicate, entertain, access information and be productive. The MID category is comprised of mobile devices with a display size no larger than six inches and a simplified user interface. There are expected to be over 100 million units in the range over the next three to five years."

From TechRadar.

Turing minus not very much

In a series conversations with people, the winning robot, named Elbot, fooled 25% of its interlocutors into believing it was a genuine human being. A score of 30% would have been sufficient to pass Turing's criterion for a true artificial intelligence.

From Nicholas Carr

The University of Reading explains more.
As part of the 18th Loebner Prize, all of the artificial conversational entities (ACEs) competing to pass the Turing Test have managed to fool at least one of their human interrogators that they were in fact communicating with a human rather than a machine. One of the ACEs, the eventual winner of the 2008 Loebner Prize, got even closer to the 30% Turing Test threshold set by 20th-century British mathematician, Alan Turing in 1950, by fooling 25% of human interrogators.

Stories by Googlers

“If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again.”

Groucho Marx

Citizen Journalism unplugged, or - indeed - naked

As PR people, we will have to be more agile in story creation and to be satisfied with smaller audiences around niche topics. Jessica's comment reinforces the requirement for all PR people to become content creators. We, in essence, must grasp opportunities to create broadcast packages, complete with video and robust storytelling. Use your HD cameras and your writing skills, and make it easy for these news professionals to say "yes." To achieve the same audience reach as a decade ago will require many more placements and more specificity of topics; this is the age of “narrow-casting.”

Richard Edelman on why PR people have to work a little harder - as journalists. And plenty more about old-school networks.

NYT goes, like, deep into advertising

“Maybe advertisers should start selling different stuff,” I said.

The moderator shot me a look of scorn. “That doesn’t make sense,” he said. And he turned to someone else.

I still think of this and cringe. Sell different stuff? Advertisers don’t make what they sell!

The always interesting Medium.

Evolutionary science helps explain Stevie Nicks

By using the tools of evolutionary theory and new approaches to mathematical modeling, researchers are drawing a clearer picture of how and why rumors spread. As they do, they are finding that far from being merely idle or malicious gossip, rumor is deeply entwined with our history as a species. It serves some basic social purposes and provides a valuable window on not just what people talk to each other about, but why.

Our behavior, McAndrew suggests, evolved in an environment in which information about others was crucially important. Back when humans lived in small groups, he theorizes, information about those higher than us on the totem pole - especially information about their weaknesses - would have been hugely valuable, and the only source we had for such information was other people. (McAndrew's work, much of which focuses on our obsession with celebrity culture, suggests our brains aren't terribly adept at distinguishing people who are "actually" important from people who simply receive a lot of attention.)

The Death of Privacy, part nine

When users sign up for an account, they are given a personal profile page that lists, stores, and displays what they've searched for and where. That information can be made public as well, so that friends can share the results and help refine the search. This could be particularly useful for group projects such as apartment hunting with roommates, for example.

Yotify, as explained in the Technology Review, and by itself.

Sitting on the new new media fence

Is that the kind of democracy we want – where anyone can determine the information that the public can access, regardless of their level of knowledge, expertise or agenda?

Donnacha Delong writes in The Journalist, the National Union of Journalists magazine. Article titled: Web 2.0 Is Rubbish.