Joho the BlogJuly 2008 - Joho the Blog

July 31, 2008

Blogs, journalism, community

Terrific piece, out of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation, by Dan Kennedy on getting news within the embrace of one’s community. It won’t settle the hash about the danger of only talking with like-minded people (a danger I’m less worried about than others), but it puts the positive well.

Here’s the final paragraph:

Critics of blogs have been looking at the wrong thing. While traditionalists disparage bloggers for their indulgence of opinion and hyperbole, they overlook the sense of community and conversation that blogs have fostered around the news. What bloggers do well, and what news organizations do poorly or not at all, is give their readers someone to sit with. News consumers — the public, citizens, us — still want the truth. But we also want to share it and talk about it with our like-minded neighbors and friends. The challenge for journalism is not that we’ll lose our objectivity; it’s that we won’t find a way to rebuild a sense of community.

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Crowdsourcing cliches

I’m reading a pretty bad serial killer book by a well-known writer in the genre.

The first chapter describes a brutal killing by an unnamed gent.

The second chapter beings with a description of the hero doing something illustrative of her character. In this case, she’s jogging, pushing her physical limits, reminiscing about her time as an Olympic rower, yada yada.

The first words of that second chapter are our hero’s name.

I’m wondering how many other books begin exactly and precisely this way, right down to the hero’s name showing up as the very first words.

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Pithy comment on post-Feyerabend philosophy

From an interview with Gonzalo Munévar by Paul Newall about Paul Feyerabend:

PN: How would you describe the relevance of Feyerabend’s thinking today and his legacy for the future?

GM: The big philosophical problem about science was that the scientific method worked but we could not prove so: classical skepticism, Popper’s efforts notwithstanding. Feyerabend came in and cleaned house: the so-called “scientific method” did not work; it actually got in the way of scientific progress (as defined by the empiricists themselves). I think this is a finding of the greatest importance, although not his only contribution. Philosophy cannot – should not – be the same after that, even though professional philosophers will keep on doing pretty much the same things for as long as they can get away with it. I am reminded of Romero’s film “The Dawn of the Dead”, in which the zombies go to the shopping mall to walk around and window-shop as they used to do when they were alive. Analytic philosophy no longer makes sense, in great part thanks to Feyerabend, but there you have it: a philosophy for zombies. But the zombies are still in charge, so who knows how Feyerabend’s legacy will play in the years to come.

Based on Gonzalo’s recommendation, I have ordered a copy of Feyerabend’s posthumous book, The Conquest of Abundance.

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July 30, 2008

Rebecca MacKinnon on liberty and the Net

Rebecca MacMKinnon has an important and discomforting post that aims to shake us out of our complacency about handing the Net and our liberty to ventures that do not have that liberty as their primary value.

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The Ar Side

A current Twitter conversation topic: Is the daily comic F Minus the rightful heir to the Far Side?

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Net neutrality everywhere

Matt Stoller reports that every major Democratic candidate for Senate supports Net neutrality. Need I add that Obama’s tech policy is way closer to what we need to save the Internet than what we’ve gotten so far from McCain?

And Tim Wu (the coiner of the phrase “Net neutrality”) has another frame-bender in a NY Times op-ed. He says Americans spend about as much on broadband as on energy, and calls for liberation from the Soviet-style control of spectrum (which he also compares to OPEC) to encourage entrepreneuristic advances.

And now the WSJ has attacked FCC chairman Kevin Martin for supporting Net neutrality. It remains to be seen, however, whether Martin’s ruling against Comcast’s blocking of BitTorrent has any teeth. Poor Kevin! Incoming from all sides.

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July 29, 2008

Dark Knight – Review and two questions

Saw it last night. It was that or its polar opposite: That ABBA movie.

It left me oddly unsatisfied — odd given its virtues — the way professional wrestling does. The plot has no natural momentum, which is disappointing given that it was written by the folks who brought us Memento and The Prestige, two movies driven by strong plot ideas and ornate, wonderful plotting. Instead, it seems to be a movie written by The Joker, the principle of chaos. So, you’re left with booms, beatings, and a dark mood. It kept my attention without actually being entertaining, and I came out feeling worse than when I went in.

I also came out with two questions:

1. I found the car chase (ok, so now I spoiled it; there’s a car chase) hard to follow. It wasn’t the worse of the shaky-cam extravaganzas we’ve seen in the past few years, but it was bad enough. Shaky-cam editing has become so common that I’m beginning to think it’s my problem, not the director’s. Maybe I’m just too old to keep up with the rapid, blurry editing. Is it just me?

2. If you saw The Dark Knight, were you also bothered by the implicit endorsement of torture as a morally acceptable (i.e., Batman’s) way of getting information when dealing with terrorists?

NOTE: There are some spoilers in the comments …

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Reason #12,563 I love the Web

I’m a-lovin’ Marijn Haverbeke’s Eloquent Javascript, an interactive javascript tutorial. It’s clear, nicely written, nice looking, handy (what with its embedded console for trying scripts out), free, and Creative Commons licensed. It’s easily downloadable so you can run/read it even when you don’t have any of that newfangled “broadband” the kids are so excited about.

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July 28, 2008

Newspaper readership steady among the old and dying

The Readership Institute of Northwestern U has a new study out that shows that, compared to its 2006 study, those 45 years and older continue to read newspapers, while the 18-24 year olds continue to drift away from their daily exercise in origami.

Further, people continue to spend 27 minutes a day reading the paper, except on Sundays when the new average of 57 minutes continues its decline since 2002. Maybe we’re just getting better at doing the sudokus. People say they complete 60% of the paper on weekdays and 62% on Sunday.

By the way, Google tells me that the average reading speed is 230 words per minute. That means people on average read 6,200 words of their paper on weekdays. According to a person at Metafilter, if you read all the articles on the front page of the NY Times (including their continuation inside), you would have read 12,900 words.

Therefore, people are reading 60% of the newspaper only if by that you mean that they read half the articles on the front page and then stop.

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July 27, 2008

Citizen media satire

The Guardian’s satire of citizen media has some biting lines, but it’ll be interesting to see how funny — that is, truthful — it seems in, say, five years.

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