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Business & Technology Media Comment & Crimes

Like Johnstown, but there's only a glass of water

<![CDATA[NBC Universal Floods iTunes With 11 Shows;

NBC Universal sees Disney’s bet and raises it with a major iTunes content deal: 11 primetime, late-night, cable and “Vintage NBC”

It’s the headline I take issue with. It suggests a “flood,” when this is a mere trickle. An experiment. A gesture.

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Business & Technology

Wikipedia's glaring weakness is also its strength; too bad its strength runs so deep

<![CDATA[The fracas over Wikipedia editing to favor one version of reality over another is exactly the problem I wrote about back in October in Quality, Quantity and Critical Thinking, so I’m not going to repeat myself and get involved in this argument to a great degree. The problem is a lack of process to ensure that the flaws in the system don’t overwhelm the benefits of a very powerful tool for collaboration; the problem is not that people are involved.
The fact Wikipedia is easy to use is a Good Thing. The fact that people can act on information in Wikipedia without any accountability is a Bad Thing that needs fixing.
Dave Winer says the solution to the problem of the podcasting entry on Wikipedia is to get the Berkman Center at Harvard involved as a kind of fair broker of fact. That’s not going to work, because Dave was a fellow there and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is today—the organization is conflicted on a number of levels, not just because it has participants in the debate over who “invented” podcasting on staff (and formerly on staff), but also because the Berkman Center has an interest in emphasizing the role it may have played—what Ivy League school doesn’t like to take a little credit?
How about we get someone with no stake in the game to do the research? Let them publish the research and the participants in the events described can edit publicly and on the record? Then let the researchers counter, and so forth. (The real secret of “objective truth” laid bare by Wikipedia is that information is always evolving, the mistake people make is attributing authority to one version of information.)



A solution to the general problem of achieving some form of objective truth in Wikipedia is to make the editing process more transparent. Eliminating anonymous article creation is a good first step, but I agree with the Librarian In Black that anonymous editing is a bigger hole for memetic bad guys to use; much more is needed, such as the disclosure of conflicts by editors and an easily navigable view of the changes in an entry.
On the podcasting thing, John Robb hit the proverbial nail on the head in Podcasting reputation squabble unveiled:

I guess Dave’s currency wasn’t only recognition –<Winer quote cut>– as I suggested earlier. He was also interested in Adam’s currency, the cash he would get from the sale of the new podcasting businesses he was building. So, this spat was ultimately all about money. LOL.

Touché.

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Social & Political

We haven't made any yet?

<![CDATA[Rice says US may make mistakes in war on terror

Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, on Tuesday defended US security policy but also made a rare concession of US fallibility by admitting the world’s only superpower could err in its anti-terror policies.

“Any policy will sometimes result in errors, and when it happens, we will do everything we can to rectify it,” Ms Rice said in Berlin.



All future tense? Talk about your spin. Let’s not look back and review what we can learn from our mistakes, let’s only issue excuses for what we may do in the future.

Humans fuck up and learn from the experience, but the Bush Administration just fucks up and accuses critics of destroying the nation.

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Business & Technology

Weirdly authoritarian programming

<![CDATA[So, I went to take a look at the iTunes video store and the "classic" programming the network chose to put out. It speaks to a concern with security.
There's Adam-12, the classic LA police drama in which officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed rarely looked where they were driving (see the photo below). Another Jack Webb-produced drama, the Webb-starrer Dragnet, is also featured, as is Knight Rider, in which a hunk and his car punish wrong-doers. Finally, there’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents, in which the universe punishes the evils of blondes and wrong-doers.
I’m looking for something a little less authoritarian in my viewing.
adam12

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Social & Political

It's the process, and a whole lot more

<![CDATA[All tomorrow’s parties from Guardian Unlimited: News blog: Salam Pax writes of the trial of Saddam….

The state-owned TV station broadcasting the trial showed a little operetta, sung by kids, during the court’s recess. It is set at the trial, and the singing lawyer demands that the sentence be “a thousand deaths, a thousand deaths, for he is a war criminal”, calling Saddam’s lawyers men without honour.

The judge, after some musical deliberations, sings: “We sentence you to death, to death to death”. Case closed. And the official newspaper used the lower part of the front page on the day of the trial for a montage of pictures including a sign saying “death to Saddam”. There is no question what the people want.

And before you write long dissertations on human rights to me, try to consider, for a moment, how absurd the talk about human rights is to those who had had to suffer under Saddam’s total disregard for those rights – those who had their tongues cut off for talking badly of him, ears cut off for refusing to fight his futile wars, and the thousands who spent years in his prisons. It’s a tough one, but this trial was never going to be easy.

I understand that it is hard and even absurd feeling to give Saddam a trial, but where do you start other than giving the worst person imaginable his rights? If, after seeing this, the Iraqi people don’t find it in themselves to give lesser criminals their rights, there is no hope of a modern rule of law. I am not lecturing about human rights here, rather about the kind of process of recovery that the United States went through during Reconstruction.
Lincoln, against the desire of many in the North, simply forgave the South and, except for a requirement that Southerners sign a loyalty oath, there was nothing more to becoming a participating citizen (I have copies of several of my ancestors’ oaths—though one of my ancestors was not allowed to sign an oath and never regained his U.S. citizenship because he’d been president of the Confederacy). As a result, the country was forced to confront itself as a whole, with a shared process for meting out justice. That’s due process, that’s the rule of law. If the people can simply say “We want this man dead,” and the execution happens, the path is open for another Saddam.
So, no disrespect to Salam Pax or anyone angry at Saddam, who was unquestionably a monster, but if you find it in yourself to sit through the trial of a monster you will find the building blocks of tolerance for others in your society with whom you disagree, some with whom you feel you have a blood feud, and that’s the first step toward a rule of law instead of the rule of man or one monstrous man.

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Business & Technology

NBC goes iTunes: More control of your viewing times and places

<![CDATA[NBC Universal & Apple Offer New Primetime, Cable, Late-Night & Classic TV Shows on the iTunes Music Store:

NBC Universal and Apple® today announced an unprecedented lineup of new primetime, cable, late-night and classic TV shows, including primetime hits such as “Law & Order” and late-night favorites such as sketches from “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on the iTunes® Music Store

Further evidence that the network schedule is a dinosaur just waiting to die. But, it is also the death knell for carriers that rely on providing exclusive access to channels, unless cable fees are unbundled and the cost of viewing becomes the key differentiator.
The FCC last week said it would force cable companies to allow per-channel subscriptions to TV; it did it only after its client industry was being dissembled by the competition from the Net, so don’t chalk up any progressiveness for the FCC. It was just spinning its too-close relationship with broadcasters. Maybe the FCC will serve the people, again, but I doubt it.
Likewise, the time-/place-shifted world heralds the beginning of more direct head-to-head competition between talent, who now have the opportunity to build one-to-one relationships with their audience/community (“community” is the keystone of success, if you ask me). See my 1995 article on the rise of the online personality, or “OPie,” which is playing out now.
The question is, will Apple, in the guise of iTunes, be the new cable monopoly? It will certainly try for big-media programming, but the plurality of distribution channels for audio and video mean that the creator is more in charge than ever. Lest we discount the role of the marketer, I do think there is a reason to believe producers have worked with marketers for hundreds of years in order to gain market share.
UPDATE: The Unofficial Apple Weblog points out that pricing flexibility is at hand, as I predicted a while back.

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Brilliant Human Achievement

Record productivity doesn't mean record earning for workers?

<![CDATA[Productivity and Costs, Third Quarter 2005, Revised :

The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor today reported revised productivity data–as measured by output per hour of all persons–for the third quarter of 2005. The seasonally adjusted annual rates of productivity growth in the third quarter were:

5.4 percent in the business sector and

4.7 percent in the nonfarm business sector.

The record profits at many companies are coming not only from investment and managers, but the people doing the work. Yet the average family’s earnings are falling behind inflation for the fifth year in a row. Meanwhile, President Bush has cut (later restored by Congress) minimum wage laws in disaster areas to make it easier for companies to exploit the situation along the Gulf Coast. The Republican-managed economy is one where the rich only get richer while the rest of us hope for scraps from the table.
There’s something divisive astride the United States and it’s going to contribute to increased anger among Americans, which is not what we need at a time when pulling together is the most important thing we can do.]]>

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Business & Technology

Starting where newspapers finish

<![CDATA[Digital Deliverance Archive: Why ‘Verified’ Circulation Is Now Separate From ‘Paid’ Circulation:

The Audit Bureau of Circulations, the organization that since 1914 has verified the circulation claims of newspapers and magazines in the United States, this year created a new circulation category called “verified” circulation. Yes, you read that correctly. For decades, publishers have driven so many loopholes through the ABC’s auditing rules that the organization now has had to make verified circulation a separate category than paid circulation. Folio magazine, the trade journal of the magazine industry, tries to explain the permutations.

The “pass-along rates” that have defined the inflated readership of magazines for decades are finally being eliminated—by moving circulation claimed through the readers who pick up magazines in public places into its own category.
Despite the brouhaha, folks have been positive about the Audible Wordcast platform’s ability to audit actual listeners. As I explained when Wordcast was announced, this auditing capability is essential to making audio a step forward rather than a retrograde move compared to print and online display ads. Having an audited listenership will drive higher CPMs, because advertisers will have confidence their message is really reaching the audience they pay for, unlike radio and podcasting today.

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Business & Technology Social & Political

This growth isn't trickling down

<![CDATA[
WSJ.com – Bush Plugs Economy, Hinting at Thrust Of 2006 Campaign:

Mr. Bush told a crowd of several hundred at a Deere-Hitachi construction- equipment plant that the economy is growing and added 215,000 jobs in November. He called on Congress to extend tax cuts that are due to expire and urged passage of long-pending health and energy legislation.

“This economy is strong, and the best days are yet to come for the American economy,” the president said.

Unfortunately, while Mr. Bush’s richest one-percenters are doing great, the majority of folks are actually seeing their real income decline. I pointed to this in August and Paul Krugman makes it plain in his column, “The Joyless Economy,” today:

Back in August the Census bureau released family income data for 2004. The report, which was overshadowed by Hurricane Katrina, showed a remarkable disconnect between overall economic growth and the economic fortunes of most American families.

It should have been a good year for American families: the economy grew 4.2 percent, its best performance since 1999. Yet most families actually lost economic ground. Real median household income – the income of households in the middle of the income distribution, adjusted for inflation – fell for the fifth year in a row. And one key source of economic insecurity got worse, as the number of Americans without health insurance continued to rise.

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Social & Political

A clear target any jury can see

<![CDATA[WSJ.com – Texas Judge Upholds Charges Of Money-Laundering for DeLay:

A judge upheld money-laundering charges against Republican Rep. Tom DeLay but dismissed charges related to any conspiracy to violate Texas’s election code. The ruling ends, for now, Mr. DeLay’s hopes of quickly reclaiming his post as House majority leader.

Mr. DeLay and two GOP fundraisers, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, are accused of illegally funneling $190,000 in corporate donations to 2002 Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature. Under Texas law, corporate money cannot be directly used for political campaigns, but it can be used for administrative purposes.

So, DeLay gets off of the conspiracy charge, because the election law he was charged with violating came into force after he allegedly laundered money. But doesn’t laundering money—there were multiple parties in the plot to redirect funds—involve a conspiracy? DeLay didn’t really get off any hook, he merely made it easier to be convicted on the key charge.

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