Category Archives: law

Readings: The Web at 40, and how we’re still kids

I’ll admit it: I’m looking forward to a good long Labor Day respite, and so are you. So I’ll post some really good links here on a Thursday that I usually save for weekend reading. Will return on Tuesday after I get off the griddle for a few days (and I really mean it this time).

The first connection between two computers in September 1969 was a quiet event, eclipsed by such events as Woodstock. Now, some of my fellow aging Baby Boomers are trying to come to grips with the Web and all that it has wrought before we head for the rocking chairs.

What has become a major life-changing event for many of us in the media fields took place right after Richie Havens played his bongos on an upstate New York farm, Richard Nixon summoned the silent majority to speak up, a car careened off a bridge on Chappaquiddick and two men walked on the moon. There was a lot going on.

Various overview thoughts on the Web at early middle age here, here, and here, plus some goodies about the Web and digital life below that have many of us feeling like rebellious teenagers in the face of it all:

The Web Does Not Equal More Civic Engagement: “The impact of these new tools on the future of online political involvement depends in large part upon what happens as this younger cohort of ‘digital natives’ gets older. Are we witnessing a generational change or a life-cycle phenomenon that will change as these younger users age? Will the civic divide close, or will rapidly evolving technologies continue to leave behind those with lower levels of education and income?”

Bill would give President emergency control of Internet: “Rockefeller’s revised legislation seeks to reshuffle the way the federal government addresses the topic. It requires a ‘cybersecurity workforce plan’ from every federal agency, a ‘dashboard’ pilot project, measurements of hiring effectiveness, and the implementation of a ‘comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy’ in six months–even though its mandatory legal review will take a year to complete.”

The erosion of privacy in the Internet era: “Do we want to live in a society where the government can—regardless of whether they use the power or not—have access to all of our communications? So that they can, if they feel the need, drill down and find us?”

Multitaskers beware: your divided attention comes at a price: “Heavy multitaskers tended to be more readily distracted by extraneous information than their more focused peers. That doesn’t mean that multitasking is a total loss, as there may be benefits that weren’t tested in this study, but it does make the case that heavy multitaskers might want to consider the limits of their habits.”

Why Studies About Multitasking Are Missing The Point: “I reject the notion that media is a stream of soulless ‘content’ that I am ‘consuming’. As a result, I read differently than than someone who simply wants to scan the headlines. An article may cause me to look something up, and I read that, and I need to let some inchoate idea at the back of my mind bubble for a day before taking any measurable action.”

Sentiment Analysis Takes the Pulse of the Internet: “Social media used to be this cute project for 25-year-old consultants. Now, top executives are recognizing it as an incredibly rich vein of market intelligence.”

‘Social Networking’; Give me a break: “Granted, there are people spending too much time on social media, just as others 10 years ago spent too much time surfing the Web, or using AIM. I’m old enough to remember people who spent the entire morning pouring over every word in a newspaper sports section, or checking their stocks. Those who are non-productive in the workplace are obvious, whether they are addicted to Twitter or online puzzles. Why should companies spoil it for everyone else?”

How Twitter saved my career . . . and my life: “Over the course of my unemployment, my Twitter account grew from roughly 2,000 followers to more than 5,000, and it was undoubtedly these impressive numbers and a demonstrated knowledge of the power of social media that played a role in my hiring and differentiated me from others with similar skills.”

A history of blogging, and why it matters: “I am now one of them, although, like half of registered bloggers, I rarely update. As such, I can attest it’s possible to accept blogging with neither cynicism nor Rosenberg’s unequivocal enthusiasm. Blogging is time-consuming no matter what your profession, and if you happen to be in the business of selling your intellectual and creative capital, giving it away free can be a mystifying and maddening expectation.”

Race to Be an Early Adopter Goes Mainstream: “There’s really no group out of the tech loop. America is becoming a digital nation. Technology adoption continues to roll along, picking up more and more mainstream consumers every year.”

Readings: On brawny work, memory and Google, social media misuse and serendipity-doo-dah

Lots of good long-form and think pieces about journalism, the media and the digital realm are served up here for your weekend reading. There’s plenty to choose from here, so enjoy:

But it feels like the first time: Slate’s Jack Shafer says the print-Web wars have nothing on the way the newspaper industry faced its first competitive threat, at a time when it was in much better health:

“Some print journalists and industry leaders claimed that radio content was inaccurate, skimpy, sensationalist, and trivial and that its practitioners were amateurs. When radio news was accurate, they asserted, it was either a bunch of headlines from a newspaper or a story directly pilfered from one. Does any of this sound familiar?”

AP’s copyright cluelessness: Erik Sherman at BNET lets the news collective have it over its threat to sue sites merely linking to its content. “Idiots” and “pinheads” are among his kinder epithets:

I’m not someone who buys into the whole ‘information wants to be free’ ethos. I make a living off my intellectual property of writing and have a lot of sympathy for print publications, where much of my work appears. However, you can’t run a business on how you wish the world operated. Instead, you must find a model that operates within reality. And that’s why the AP, and other media companies that long for the good old days, are doomed.”

Going down with the ship?: Ex-Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reporter Michael Sokolove talks to Brian Tierney, publisher of both papers and who unapologetically defends the print-and-ink process:

“The Web efforts, they add something. I congratulate them. Let a thousand flowers bloom. But if somebody thinks in any short term, or even medium term, that the answers are those things, they’re kidding themselves. I know I sound like a heretic in that I won’t come out and say, ‘They’re the future.’ But they’re not. The brawny work is what we’re doing, and the brawny vehicle to carry it is the printed product.”

Murdoch’s big paywall gamble: Shane Richmond at The Daily Telegraph says the media mogul is serving up a big gift to his competitors, which include, er, The Daily Telegraph, although not in this particular sentence:

“This is a great opportunity for the Mirror, The Daily Star and, I suppose, producers of pictures of topless women, to hoover up those Sun readers who aren’t sure whether they want to pay.”

Drinking from a firehose: Danielle Maestretti at the Utne Reader is looking for a few good people who know how to help the masses navigate their way around the Web:

“All of this fretting over the death of reading might sound more genuine if it wasn’t usually articulated by and for people who’ve staked their lives and careers on traditional media models—authors, academics, journalists, publishers, and the like. More importantly, it’s often beside the point. The debate over how we read, perpetuated largely by media insiders, is starting to seem like little more than a distraction from the real problem: We have access to more information than ever, yet we do not know what to do with it. We are desperately information-illiterate.”

What was that again?: Librarian Emily Walshe isn’t exactly hand-wringing, and she isn’t the first to worry about how cognition is being altered because of the ease of the search engine:

“With so many of us slave to tin can memory, our human capacity for identification is jeopardized. Because when we commit things to mind, we become the authors of experience. When we choose to remember, we relate to our most fundamental resource and, in so doing, achieve a unique and perfect balance between representation and meaning.”

Commodify your Tweets: Before Twitter’s denial of service attack on Thursday, Jasmin Tragas did a Google search on a topic that’s been bugging her and came up with a question directed at novelist Rick Moody. It confirmed her suspicions about the exploitation of social media:

“Have we gotten to a point where the commodification of personality has become so overbearing that it’s impossible for us to separate self-promotion from expression?”

A very fine wine: Along those same lines, British freelancer David Lloyd takes a dim view of Web wine impresario Gary Vaynerchuk’s yammering about personal branding:

“The blogs I visit most aren’t written to be ‘monetised’. They’re written because their owners have something to say. Or they want to offer a service, or advice, or, maybe, they just want to write. And isn’t that where all the best sites originated anyway? Money might follow. It might not. Really, Gary, don’t sweat it.”

How many years of blogs? David Silversmith argues that given the 500-year head start by the printed word, it’s far too soon to determine the longevity of blogs. But he predicts they won’t be very egalitarian and could end up being dominated by blogging Darwinians. I think that’s already the case:

The world can’t support 184 million blogs. . . . The few, the mighty and the strong blogs will survive and thrive – but the age of blogging offering everybody a voice will fade away.”

(via Amy Vernon)

Serendipity-doo-dah: New York Times technology editor Damon Darlin ignited a firestorm over his assertion that the digital age isn’t good for information meandering:

Ah, the techies say, no worries. We have Facebook and Twitter, spewing a stream of suggestions about what to read, hear, see and do. . . . But that isn’t serendipity. It’s really group-think. Everything we need to know comes filtered and vetted. We are discovering what everyone else is learning, and usually from people we have selected because they share our tastes.”

Big Digerati Dog Steven Johnson got the logrolling going emphatically:

“Do these people actually use the Web?”

More pushback here and here. Even some of Darlin’s fans are scratching their heads. But he does have some defenders on this point.

And of course, there has to be some over-the-top snark for good measure.

I revel in all forms of serendipity, though I lean toward Darlin’s point that “group-think” could be a negative consequence of too much, or the wrong kind, of filtering. (What I compile here each Friday is a combination of serendipity and filtering by others, both in print and on the Web.)

During that testy interview with Der Spiegel last week, Chris Anderson admitted he really doesn’t do serendipity:

“I figure by the time something gets to me it’s been vetted by those I trust. So the stupid stuff that doesn’t matter is not going to get to me.”