The Bush Era in a nutshell

U.S. Poverty Rate Was Up Last Year – New York Times:

Even as the economy grew, incomes stagnated last year and the poverty rate rose, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. It was the first time on record that household incomes failed to increase for five straight years.

A rotten record that even exceeds the indifference toward the lot of the average person of the Hoover Administration.

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This Just In is just in with U.S. agency privacy reviews and the Katrina/Guard piece

Here’s the second installment of This Just In, my news commentary program. Today’s installment (actually produced yesterday, as I am working on process) is on U.S. government privacy findings and the role of the National Guard in times of domestic crisis.

Again, the files are available in three formats, two free untargeted Audible files, which give you a much more compact file and more control over the listening experience (bookmark support, etc.) and the big old MP3 file.

Here are the links (if anyone has a convenient way to manage multiple feeds of multiple programs, let me know):

Audible voice-optimized file (941KB)

Audible high-quality audio file (1.8MB) YOUR BEST CHOICE, IMO.

MP3 file (7.3MB)

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Must be a video iPod….

Macworld: News: Apple plans “special event” on Sep. 7:

Apple on Monday sent out invitations to select media and VIPs for a “special event” planned on September 7, 2005 at 10:00 AM Pacific Time, at the Moscone Center West in San Francisco, Calif.

The e-mailed invitation shows a pair of denim jeans. At the top of the image reads a caption, “1000 songs in your pocket changed everything. Here we go again.”

Even money that this is the video iPod announcement. My guess is it will initially support synchronized playback of images, like the photo iPod does but in this case synchronized programming will be created and offered to customers, with audio and video downloaded from an iTunes-like portal…..

UPDATE: Peter Van Dijck agrees, with additional detailed thoughts on the features.

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Evolution Media debuts

After lots of preparation, I’m returning to audio production with two new programs. The first, This Just In, made its debut Thursday and will be an almost daily news commentary and, dare I call it such, comedy program.

The other project is much more like the old Adventures In Technology program I did for Audible back between 1997 and 2001. Evolution Media, which makes its debut today, will feature long-form commentaries—the first is about the need for more bridges between new and established media producers—with some occasional interviews and discussions.

An important note: I am releasing these programs in an untargetted Audible file, meaning they are freely playable by anyone with iTunes, an AudibleReady portable player or the Windows AudibleManager program. There are several reasons for this, the first is that the .AA format is far more compact than MP3. For example, the MP3 version of the first installment of Evolution Media is 53 MB, compared to 10.6 MB for the MP3-comparable quality .AA version or 5.3 MB for the voice optimized version.

So, you have your choice and I am going to be tracking total downloads of each format, but I urge you, both for convenience and because it will save you lots of storage space (and me, bandwidth), to try the .aa files. If you can’t be troubled to listen, the text version follows—but it does not include any of the ad libs that pepper my programs; you also don’t get the original music arrangements, another first for me.

Here’s the link for the high-quality Audible file (10.6 MB)

Here’s the link for the voice-optimized Audible file (5.3 MB)

and here’s the MP3 file (53 MB).

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Continue reading “Evolution Media debuts”

Our Guard is down

I was deeply struck by the images of people lined up outside the Superdome in New Orleans, hoping for shelter from Hurricane Katrina because they didn’t have the ability to escape the region.

Where is the National Guard, which used to show up with trucks to get those in greatest need out of a disaster area?

Of course, the answer is “They are in Iraq, protecting us.” The State Police are heading the evacuation, even though the state is already a Federal disaster area, which allows deployment of the National Guard. In the West, firefighting has been hampered by shortages of personnel once filled by the National Guard—it’s not a regional problem but a national one that we can see most clearly in a crisis. Unfortunately, this is a crisis that leaves hundreds of thousands of people—many of whom appear to have wanted to leave but can’t—in the path of a huge storm.

According to reports, the Guard is standing ready to help people after the storm, but many people who could have been evacuated with the appropriate resources are being left behind. This despite the fact that there is a mandatory evacuation going on.

The transformation of the Guard from homeland defense to offensive force for the first time since World War II has depleted the resources people have been able to depend on at home during a disaster. Currently almost half the Army National Guard is deployed and re-enlistment is down overall, leading to a tighter squeeze on regional disaster response. Moreover, the equipment and vehicles that would be broken out in response to a hurricane are unavailable, as they too are in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The “transformation” of U.S. military strategy has taxed local economies and, in Louisiana, among many other states, special arrangements have had to be made to keep enlistment high enough to staff a war; but the core mission of the Guard, to be available for governors’ to call upon for service in or near their home state is now neglected by Federal planners.

We have to rethink this use of the National Guard, both because of the severe consequences of having a shortage of citizen soldiers available to respond to disasters and the recognizable shortage of homeland defenses, where borders, shipping and other points of entry for would-be terrorists go unguarded. While President Bush argues this week that if we don’t fight the terrorists over there, they’ll attack us at home, we also have to take into account the consequences of his policy on people who don’t see the National Guard when they are needed at home.

I was born in Baton Rouge and have my fingers crossed for the folks down there.

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What’s Google’s Ad Agenda?

A couple weeks ago, I posted a piece criticizing President Bush that attracted Google AdSense ads soliciting Republican singles. I mocked that. Now, after posting a critical comment about telejihadist Pat Robertson, every Google-served ad on my site is skewed Christian, offering to tell the story of Jesus, art for Christians, Christian credit counseling, advice on planning for the Rapture—everything that doesn’t fit with my critique of Rev. Robertson and the general tone of this blog toward organized religion (Jesus said great stuff, it’s much of the history of what is done in his name that is revolting).

I was going to chalk it up to really bad natural language analysis, but then, I wondered, is it simply that Google is targeting or, more likely, is used to target commentators, burying their messages under pro-conservative, pro-fundamentalist advertising?

There is no rational reason for placing these ads here, as it is highly unlikely that Republican singles or Christian fundamentalists are reading this blog, except in anger or as they assemble their lists of people destined for the camps, so what gives? Is Google really that bad at ad placement or is it a vast right-wing conspiracy (the tongue planted firmly in my cheek will be missed by the right, but there it is)? I know Google claims to be “not evil,” but I didn’t realize they were taking sides in the ecclesiastical debates….

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Lemur wants no cookies in his pants

The Head Lemur is pissed off about the crumbs companies leave all over his Web experience:

Imagine you are in a mall, walking by stores, and every merchant came out, said nothing to you, opened your clothing and photographed your breasts or penis. Imagine your children being touched like this. Now imagine these merchants selling these photos to anybody with a checkbook. And then they want you to buy their stuff.

I think that with metrics based on gathering places and intent, we can eliminate much of the privacy-busting marketers believe they need to do today. Then, the challenge will be to keep the whole Web from seeming like a shopping mall, which is the next dumb assumption most marketers will fall on.

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This Just In: Pat Robertson’s New Gospel of Death

My new report, This Just In, is just in with this:

…Robertson, in a startling revelation, claimed his 700 Hundred Club has come into possession of a previously unknown gospel that justifies his position as in keeping with the teaching of Christ. The Gospel of Herschel, alledgedly written by a camp follower of the Apostles, records several sermons of Jesus that apparently occurred at approximately the same time as the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

According to the Gospel of Herschel, the authenticity of which Robertson personally vouched, Jesus only a few days later delivered the “Harangue in the valley,” in which he complained about the service he received at a Galilean bakery and is said to have acknowledged both his own humanity and the difficulty of following a Godly path in life when he said: “You have heard that I was denied my discount at Bernard’s Bakery last Monday. I say to you now that those who would cheat you or withhold vital resources should be punished not by my father, but by those of us in this world with the courage to beat a man or, if need be, assassinate him. I’m not saying Bernard should be taken out, but I wouldn’t feel bad if someone did it. My father wouldn’t hesitate to drop a little rain on Bernard’s grave.”

Robertson could not explain the circumstances of the discovery of the Gospel of Herschel, nor the fact it was written with crayon in a spiral binder that was supposedly found in a jar with some IOUs and a handful of silver. But, the devout evangelist claimed, “it sure does make you think, doesn’t it? If Jesus could lose his cool, what are we mortals to do when some strongman threatens our Southern borders?”

Robertson on Thursday said he would return to his regular programming practice of praying for God to open vacancies on the Supreme Court, a course of action Robertson described as “a more peaceful approach to social change,” as justices tend to die in their sleep rather than in a hail of gunfire.

You can listen to the whole report here. RSS feeds to follow.

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Cloudmakers R Us

In response to Mary’s excellent series of postings that wrap up a lot of fine thinking about illustrating blog relationships, Adina writes at BookBlog:

The cloud would be a picture of a conversation surrounding a person or a topic. The picture would show the relationships between the participants in a conversation. The densest areas would represent people who frequently cross-reference each other over time.

You can start with a participant (the url of a person’s weblog), or a search term (a word or tag) Nodes are clustered based on closeness, measured by number of links and reverse links over a period of time (comments, too, if you can measure them).

I’ve been following this discussion, mostly holding my tongue because it may look self-serving to respond with “here are the pictures you want of blog relationships” by pointing at the MyDensity site we’ve put together to show off the social analysis tools built by Persuadio. I also realize it would be incorrect, as we’ve focused on the big picture to the detriment of a small world.

Simply put, like many of the indexers, we’ve tried to capture the role of any blog or Web site in any conversation (being about more than blogs has been important to us from the very beginning). Meanwhile, it would have been simple all along to provide what Adina calls a “conversational cloud” that shows the relationships around a single posting or Web page. And, frankly, it took someone asking for that simple solution to realize it was the first thing we should have offered instead of trying to solve the really huge problems we’re wrestling.

Influence Backbone

The current MyDensity maps show all the relationships around a blog, rather than the links to a single page (which we can do, but just hadn’t).

Unfortunately, we hear often from customers that they want a “top” this or “top” that list and had decided to focus on that. With limited resources and real money coming from these people, we paid attention. It is what they are ready for.

The desire to see the big picture is endemic in a changing market. Top 10, Top 20 or Top 500 lists make a certain amount of sense if you are trying to aim for plain old low cost-per-thousand (CPM) or cost-per-impression advertising deals. Most advertising and marketing people aren’t prepared to think outside the CPM box, and if they do, they think about relatively ineffective cost-per-click (CPC) ads.

The contours of this market are very poorly understood. ComScore, the Reston, Va.-based research firm, in an August 2005 report describes visitor traffic to the top blog hosting sites in aggregate even though the blogs hosted by those services, their authors and readers share few demographic or behavioral characteristics. For marketing and advertising purposes they are separate publications, not a monolith that can be compared to the traffic of the New York Times—however, ComScore does make that spurious comparison. Yes, more readers (ComScore does not distinguish between readers and bloggers visiting BlogSpot to author their own sites, confounding any attempt to characterize audience size) may visit BlogSpot in a month, but the information they are consuming and commenting on there is disorganized; by contrast, the editorially coherent sections of the New York Times create viable venues for addressing audiences with specific interests.

Marketers are stuck between that familiar composed environment of the Times, with all its shortcomings, and the apparent anarchy—from their perspective—of the blogosphere with all the opportunities it represents. Every discussion of a “top” list is predicated on mapping the reach of a site to the community around a blog or group of blogs. There’s a hunger for something recognizable to grab hold of, which is why I keep harping on the question of how to get today’s content owners to start across a bridge to content sharing.

If we can solve all these problems by laying out the flow of influence, the role of trust and conflict in discussions, magical things will happen to the marketplace of ideas.

When it comes to conversations about specific topics or just conversations between people, though, there are multiple dimensions of value, some personal—the kind of information in the clouds around a single posting—and some profoundly economic: If you can target advertising based on behavioral characteristics, the value of an ad can soar. If you know what people are talking about, you can guess why and position a contextually relevant and high-value CPC ad alongside the content of the page.

If the marketer were really radical, the ads would go away and the message, with all necessary disclaimers so that it would not pollute the content, would come through as part of the conversation.

When it comes to blogs, the content is so personal and bloggers so interested in understanding the intellectual currents around their writing, audio or video, that the first responsibility of a company that wants to be of service to the market is to be of service to the bloggers. So far, Persuadio has been of service to a couple customers, but if we cannot get more information to bloggers we’ll forever be outside the market we most want to serve. For most of us bloggers, it really is about the neighborhood (Ross Mayfield’s discussion of the Rule of 150 play well, even years later) we’re talking with than our rank in the whole blogosphere (though such ranking is a guilty pleasure the honest blogger will cop to).

That said, as we map blogs we also map the rest of the Web and the relationships between all information, individuals and organizations we are often confused as primarily a mapping service rather than an analytics service. We want to offer information about who is talking, their relationships (even the hidden ones) so that everyone can judge ideas and movements based on the fullest information. We’ve been aiming at that, but thinking like an old-style analytics company, so we’re going to change, but I hope you’ll remember that there is a lot of social measurement going on in the background that have both social and economic value.

We’ll have link clouds for you very shortly. Allow us a bit more time and we’ll let you configure the variables of the map, so that you choose to include current or archival links in the calculation of influence, as well. We’re awake to this, now.

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