Joho the Blogpdf Archives - Joho the Blog

June 3, 2010

[pdf] Truth, factchecking and online media

Brendan Greeley is moderating a panel on truth and factchecking. He begins by wondering if we need argument-checking as well as fact-checking.

Bill Adair of Michelle Bachman.) They also check pundits. And they have an Obameter that tracks how Obama is delivering on his 500+ campaign promises. They have also begun state sites. “It’s a whole new form of journalism,” he concludes.

Brendan: Couldn’t you have done this before the Net? No, says Bill. You couldn’t do the research. Plus, the corrections would have only run in the one edition of the paper, and if you missed it, you would have missed it forever.

There is a jurisprudence to the Truthometer, Bill says. They’ve had to invent how to distinguish an “untrue” from a “pants on fire.”

Jay Rosen says that 58 yrs ago, Joe McCarthy exploited defects in the media to make a name for himself, at great cost. Charges are news. What happens today is news. Senators are worth reporting on and have some credibility. News can’t be untold. Eventually, the media figured out that they’d been exploited; the press had been put in the service of untruth. So, reporters changed the rules: It suddenly became ok to do “interpretation.” I.e., it was ok for them to point out that a public official might have another motive for what he said. Fifty years later, politicians are exploiting different weaknesses. The best known is “he said she said” journalism. That’s a response to the quest for innocence, i.e., a demonstration that you are neutral in the cultural/political wars. Rather than having an agenda for the left or right, the press has an innocence agenda. He-said-she-said also helps journalists make their deadlines: you don’t have time to interrupt, so you get someone to state the other side.

In December, Jay tweeted that Meet the Press ought to fact check its guests and run the results on Wednesday. ABC has started doing it, for ABC This Week. MtP has refused, possibly because the person who’s been the most frequent guest is John McCain, who Politifact rates as a pants-on-fire liar. But, some college students have put up to

Marc Ambinder says that he’s getting more comfortable going outside of traditional journalism’s box, and getting angry about being told to stay inside of it. E.g., there’s nothing to the story of the White House offering a job to Sestak, but the press is covering it as if it’s an issue. The solution is for reputable journalists to say that it isn’t a story and then covering something else, but you’re dealing with an entrenched set of habits.

Bill points to TechCrunch as his favorite voice on the Web, which, as he says, is strongly voiced and non-neutral. Jay says that it used to be that you lost credibility if you judged, but that has flipped. This is part of a culture war in which the press is an object of attack, Jay says.

Brendan says that Jay was right 5 yrs ago to say that the war between journalism and blogging is over. Now there’s the same sort of controversy over factchecking. How do we get past the conflict, Brendan asks. Bill says we need to get past the “bucket of quotes” mentality. Factchecking should be a standard part of the journalist’s toolkit. Jay says that the birther phenomenon is interesting. That Obama was born in the US is as verified as a fact can get. But, within politics, the overriding of that fact has given rise to a political movement. There is no journalistic response to this. They can’t treat it as a claim within the spectrum; it’s actually a repudiation of journalism. Marc and Jay agree that the remedy is not within journalism but within the political system: Republicans ought to shame the birthers.

Q: What about factchecking that goes wrong?
A: There’s still room for journalists.
A: (jay) Reputation systems work.
A: (brendan) But email is anonymous.

Q: Reputation systems can be gamed. And we need the Sunday shows to do the factchecking on the same episode so people can see it.
A: Yes. We’re seeing progress, but… ABC deserves credit.

Brendan: There’s selection bias in factchecking. Factcheckers decide what to count as worth checking?
Bill: Is it something that Mabel — our typical reader — would wonder about?
Jay: News orgs used to establish trust by advertising their viewlessness. now they need to say where they’re coming from.


July 1, 2009

PDF: The takeway

PDF was an unusually rich conference. Great folks there and an especially good year to be talking about the effect of the Net on politics and governance.

My take-away (although having a single take-away from a conference I just said is rich is rather contradictory, don’t you think?): The Web has won in a bigger way than I’d thought. The people President Obama is appointing to make use of the Web for increased citizen participation and greater democracy (well, at least as access to the Web and the skills required are distributed more evenly) are our best, brightest, and webbiest. And they are doing remarkable things.

Douglas Rushkoff interviewed me for his radio show yesterday or was it the day before? Anyway, here it is. We talked about PDF and about my presentation there, which was about transparency and the changing role of facts.

[Tags: ]


June 29, 2009

[pdf09] Mayor Bloomberg rides the Skype

Mayor Bloomberg skypes in, slightly Max Headroomy. He touts NYC’s e-ness. Info is key to good mgt. #311. Five new initiatives:

1. 311 has a skype account (NYC 311)
2. Twitter: @311nyc

3. 311 online via
4. Tracking the stats to improve the service. E.g., with Google see what services people are most searching for.
5. New annual competition — Big Apps [clever] — to challenge us to come up with new ways to use data at E.g., someone should make an iPhone app to check out the cleanliness grades of restaurants (which now will also be posted in restaurant windows).

[Tags: ]

Comments Off on [pdf09] Mayor Bloomberg rides the Skype


At Personal Democracy Forum, announces itself as a “marketplace for challenges” of theX Prize sort. You can create a challenge at their site, or create a “wish” by using #cpost at Twitter.

[Tags: ]

Comments Off on [pdf09]

May 5, 2009

Scanning in a book

Over the past year, I’ve digitized a bunch of my family’s old photo albums by photographing the pages with a digital camera. This is far faster than scanning them, and the quality is good enough and infinitely better than not having any digitized versions.

Now I’m contemplating using the same technique to make a digital copy of my 1978 doctoral dissertation. The object consists of 350 pages of typed, double-spaced 8.5″x11″ pages, bound. At 15 secs per page, that’s about 1.5 hours of time (= 4 Daily Shows, or 3 SNLs with the dross fast-forwarded).

I’d appreciate advice about the digital side of it, given that I’d like the “scans” to be readable online and, ultimately, be OCR-able.

1. My camera goes up to 10 megapixels, which I assume is way more than I need for this project. I don’t care about reproducing the pages as physical artifacts. I’m only interested in the text on them. How many mpixies should I be shooting at?

2. What would be the most convenient way to post these from a reader’s point of view? Anything other than PDF? (Google Books lets you submit your books in PDF format, so I’d like to produce a PDF version in any case.)

3. Depending on your answer to #2, do you have any suggestions of tools to use? (I’m doing this on a Mac.)

4. Any other advice?


[Tags: ]


June 28, 2008

Ethanz on PDF and GV

Conference coverage like this and this makes me sorry that Ethan Zuckerman is chairing the Global Voices meeting instead of live blogging it. We need an “and,” not an “or” here. Clearly it’s time that Ethan cloned himself.

[Tags: ]

1 Comment »