Tuesday May 12, 2009

Multiple Sources and Simple Gadgets

At North Hall, professors constantly remind the students of the importance of multiple sources in getting to the story.

Some 6 years ago, soon after I installed our Free-to-Air (FTA) stallite dish and box, the remote control to the set top box broke. Without a remote control, it was impossible to "program" the box and I had to rely on factory settings for channels and occasional updates through a pre-canned search of the channels.

Last week, I had a brief moment to order a new remote control by phone. It arrived yesterday, and I "programmed" the box yesterday evening to receive FTA channels Press TV (Iran) and Russia Today (Russia). These are both English channels hosted by professional journalists, with quality productions of a whole range of forums and views one rarely finds in British or American mass media. I'm not sure if these channels are also available through community cables.

These days, among other topices, Press TV reports on Iran's presidental elections, 2009. RT is currently broadcasting a whole range of reports, including some from Moscow's Eurovision 2009.

I am also able to receive Al-Jazzira in English and a wide range of Arabic TV. I have had to adjust and search about 4 different satellites for these FTA channels.

A simple little tool, like a proper remote control, can do wonders to one's capabilities to get to things.  Without the remote, it was impossible for me to edit satellite transponder settings.

Saturday Feb 28, 2009

Measuring Twitter Mania

The San Francisco Chronicle summarizes the Pew Internet & American Life Project's report on Twitter.  

Thursday Sep 25, 2008

The Echo Chamber

Paul Jay, CEO of The Real News Network, talks to Daljit Dhaliwal about the echo chamber:

Thursday Jul 24, 2008

OSCon Presentations

Until O'Reilly gets the slides for OSCon 2008 posted, you can find some of the slide-sets and more at SlideShare.

Sun Microsystems was a platinum sponsor of the conference and had some free, slickly-published guerrilla booklets on operating systems and OpenSolaris, and several un-conference presentations at their booth, including some amazing presentations on DTrace and ZFS. I was also happy to hear the Erleng packages will be available directly as an OpenSolaris IPS.

All this, until O'Reilly posts the presentation for public viewing.

Tuesday May 06, 2008

Connecting News Sources

As I was driving back from Java One in San Francisco Monday evening, I listened to the BBC report on KQED.

The BBC carried a 5-minute-long report on Iraq, describing the "conflict" there and the immense rise in poverty and lack of basic services, without once managing to mention that taboo word: "occupation".

In the morning, Financial Times carried a picture on the front page describing how sophisticated military equipment was being used to create an exclusion zone around the oil terminals in southern Iraq, from whence 1.5  million barrels of oil were carried away every day on British, Australian and American ships.

For how long can a country be dispossessed of its resources, supply the world with vast quantities of oil and live under military occupation by foreign powers, with vast parts of its population reduced to abject poverty with every passing day?

Sunday Feb 03, 2008

Rotating Videos in the World of Images

Tonight, I discovered that the m.youtube.com works extremely well with Sony-Ericsson P1i. The quality and rendition far exceeded my expectations.

Some P1i users have complained on the internet that m.youtube.com does not work well with their P1i even when using WiFi but it worked fine for me when the device connected with my WLAN at home, which runs on a 6-year-old NetGear MR314 wireless router.  In fact, I was able to watch the m.youtube.com mobile version of the video to the left, which could not be rotated, at least not trivially, either by youtube, by my camera or by my home iMac. However, it could still be viewed on the P1i in the correct direction—just turn the mobile device 90 degrees!

I should note that it appears m.youtube.com encodes and streams the video using 3gp and  RTSP. Either the P1i does much better at rendering the 3gp format with its Media Viewer or it has a much better RTSP stack than the RealPlayer (on my iMac). The image quality is much sharper and jitter almost non-existent with with Media Viewer on the P1i! In fact, the image quality on the RealPlayer on iMac pales by comparison. Who would have guessed?

Finally, and again as can be seen in the embedded video here, I shot it with a simple mobile camera (DSC W-30), but in the "wrong" direction.

It is so much easier to rotate a mobile device that it is to rotate a desktop screen! 

Wednesday Oct 03, 2007

New Media: From Blog to Online Newspaper

The newspaper format responds to real demands, and as popular blogs grow, they gravitate to that format. See the Financial Times piece by Joshua Chaffin, "Blogs get the old-media habit," which reports changes at the Arianna Huffington's Post. (Should we guess the exit strategy to be an acquisition of the type that gripped the WSJ?)

Saturday Aug 04, 2007

Aljazeera on the Net

As far as I know, no major U.S. cable carrier currently offers Aljazeera English, but if you are in the U.S., you can still watch Aljazeera English programs on YouTube or directly from Aljazeera.net/English.

Thursday May 17, 2007

Labels, The Internet and The Musician


Internet, as a giant copy and distribution machine, may and should continue to afford artists with greater autonomy well into the future. Reports of musicians' success in using this copy-and-distribution tool continue to pour in.

For example, Wall Street Journal's John Jurgensen writes about how musicians use the Internet to promote their work ("Singers Bypass Lables for Prime-Time Exposure," May 17, 2007, WSJ, B1). The report focuses on the case of singer and musician Ingrid Michaelson, "a 26-year-old Staten Island native who ... was discovered on MySpace by a management company that specializes in finding little-known acts and placing their works in soundtracks for TV shows, commercials, movies and videogames."

Many shows will only pay unsigned artists about $1,000 for the use of their music on TV, while artists on major labels might garner more than $30,000. Since she has been signed to Secret Road [Music Services, not a label], Ms. Michaelson has been paid up to $15,000 each time her music has been featured on a show or commercial, according to someone familiar with the deals. Secret Road says its cut of Ms. Michaelson's income is in keeping with industry standards of between 15% and 20%.

TV, of course, has become an increasingly powerful force for driving music sales. Apart from "American Idol" and "Saturday Night Live," possibly the most coveted TV slots for musicians are on "Grey's Anatomy," which has helped make songs like "How to Save a Life" by the Fray into top sellers on iTunes. A finale spot on "Grey's" is considered a particularly plum slot. Last year, the finale allowed Scottish band Snow Patrol to break through to a broad audience and played a role in making its featured song, "Chasing Cars," a hit.

Because Ms. Michaelson doesn't have a record-label contract, she stands to make substantially more from online sales of her music. For each 99-cent sale on iTunes, Ms. Michaelson grosses 63 cents, compared with perhaps 10 or 15 cents that typical major-label artists receives via their label. So far she has sold about 60,000 copies of her songs on iTunes and other digital stores. Ms. Michaelson is pouring most of her profits into pressing her own CDs and T-shirts, hiring a marketing company to produce promotional podcasts and setting up distribution for her CDS.

The fact that much good music today is discovered on the Internet before it ever makes it to the labels demonstrates that the labels need to reconsider their full "supply chain" and continue to review their policies and rules governing the protection and distribution of cultural content they come to license ("for a limited time").

On the same day as the report above, The Wall Street Journal also reported a significant move away from DRM which indicates the labels are recognizing the role of the Internet as a means to build networks of fans for artists through low-cost copy-and-distribution of content:

EMI Group PLC, the world's third-largest recorded-music company by sales (and the fourth-largest in the U.S. market) announced yesterday it would license its catalog to Amazon's DRM-free service. The three other major music companies haven't said publicly whether they expect to play ball with Amazon, but people close to all three companies said they don't expect to license content to Amazon in the near future. That means consumers shopping for downloads on Amazon will be able to buy tracks from EMI artists like Norah Jones and Coldplay, but are unlikely to be able to find music by most other major artists, including, for instance, each of the top-10 selling albums last week. Another complication: Apple's iTunes is moving toward offering music without copy protection, and also plans to release EMI's catalog in that format.

Much of the early use of DRM technologies has focused on limiting the power of digital copy and distribution of content.

Friday May 04, 2007

News, Blogs and Sun Microsytems Inc.



We are witnessing the close of a decade when blogs might begin to mirror meaningless news and when meaningful news might begin to appear as blogs, like these Reuters Alternet Blogs.

Note that Sun Microsystems Inc. powers Reuters Alternet for the Reuters Foundation.

With its independent board, Reuters continues as one the most independent media and news organizations in the world. 

Tuesday May 01, 2007

Dow Jones, Wall Street Journal and News Corp

Financial Times has several stories about the recent News Corp bid for that American tradition of a newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. (Earlier I wrote about the Journal's recent redesign here.) Perhaps, now, some folks will put greater value on the independence of the Reuter's board.

Tuesday Apr 17, 2007

The Kingdom of Content

Thomas Hazlett, professor of law and economics at George Mason university, writes about how "content" has become "king": 

In 1983, US cable operators paid an average of just $2 annually per subscriber in license fees – and over $238 in 2005. In aggregate, total payments to cable programmers from cable operators went from just $60m in 1983 to $16bn in 2005.

The advent of cable brought forth many legal questions: 

Where it all comes out is difficult to tell. In the early days of cable television, US law was a puzzle. Should cable systems be allowed to abscond with over-the-air signals of broadcast TV stations, re-transmitting them to subscribers? Or should cable operators – then called “Community Antenna Television” (CATV) systems – give broadcast TV stations a slice of the subscription fee pie?

This question went to the US Supreme Court in 1968 and again in 1974, an era when cable TV delivered only broadcast TV signals (ESPN, CNN, Discovery, A&E and the rest were to come years later). Both times the court held that cable operators retransmitting local signals owed nothing. In extending broadcast signals they improved reception for households, like a large antenna.

Now, we have a battle between the super copy-and-distribute machine and the "copyright-protected" content. As many have argued, in the case of the Internet, the increasingly more strict protections granted through copyrights can put stringent constraints on  cultural creativity.

Friday Apr 06, 2007


In his MetaMedia blog, Thomas Crampton gives a nod to Joost, and the folks behind it, who also brought Kazaa and Skype to the Internet users.

By the way, did you know that Skype uses PostgreSQL as its system DB?

Tuesday Feb 27, 2007

Design Advice for The Wall Street Journal Editors

Dear WSJ Editors,

Selectivity is the key to productive media consumption in the electronic age.

Since you already use HTML when sending the daily "IN TODAY'S PAPER from The Wall Street Journal Online" e-mail to subscribers like me, why not use the same variety of font types and sizes as the one appearing in the print edition.

The font size and type variety provide the readers with immediate visual evidence of what mattered to the editors, helping them select what they want to read. 


P.S. The same problem exists in the online edition of the WSJ: Little or no font size and type variety that would parallel the paper edition's. Is this a design puzzle or is there something else behind it? A look at the online edition of The Washington Post makes it clear that they have understood this problem and taken some serious steps towards solving it.

Thursday Feb 01, 2007

Print vs. Digital Media

Even as papers have gone far in changing their business models to accommodate to digital media, the paper editions remain superior to their digital versions targeted to desktop readers not only because of the technological qualities of paper but also because of the design of the paper editions.

Everything from font face and size of the headings to the arrangement of columns and stories on the print pages guide the reader to the intended destination. Take a paper edition of Financial Times, and you'll know what I mean. (Note that Financial Times has not yet broken the folding symmetry, which The Wall Street Journal did break on Jan. 1, 2007, by reducing its columns from an even to an odd number.)

Of course, I cannot help write about the paper edition without mentionting that while the designer of Financial Times does a good job, its opinion columns and editorials remain what they are as is expected in all papers with editors.

For example, one of the Financial Times opinion columnists, the slate.com editor Jacob Weisberg, seems to be on a solid contract to write a regular but a rather poor column on Iran in every so many issues.  While the intent of Weisberg's column reminds me quite a bit of Michael Ledeen's "work" on the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal back in 2002 - 2003 era (before he got caught with the serial lies he kept stringing together almost at will), Wiesberg may yet prove to be a better poetic writer, has a better sense of drama (as in plays) and has taken upon himself to offer somewhat more fanciful strategum.

In all this, what surprises me most is that these writers actually get paid to feed propaganda to their hapless readers and write with confidence and an air of authority about subjects they know so very little about.

We can think of this nauseating activity in two apparently distinct ways: Propaganda for Pay or Pay for Propaganda. Take your pick -- but you need to pick one as if it matters. Any way, why does the first seem a bit more shameless?

In the same vain, I truly wonder and am quite curious to know whether Weisberg's dreamy columns on Iran actually see the light of the day in the European print editions of Financial Times or whether only we, the naive American readers of the print edition, have the fortune of being regularly subjected to the drama in his columns.

The topics captured in the above paragraphs remind me again that in the world I live, form, farce and fiction continue to matter way more than substance, seriousness and certainty.

Friday Jan 19, 2007

How Things Change

Things have changed in America since 28 years ago when I first arrived here as a very young teenager.[Read More]

Thursday Jan 04, 2007

President on YouTube

Jeff Pulver asks some questions regarding Senator John Edward's candidacy announcement on YouTube.

Tuesday Jan 02, 2007

Breaking The Symmetry

The new design of the paper edition of The Wall Street Journal debuted today, January 2, 2007.  (See L. Gordon Crovitz, "Annual Letter from the Publisher: A Report to Our Readers," WSJ, Jan 2, 2007.) The video report of this change including commentary by Crovitz, managing editor Paul E. Steiger and design consultant Mario Garcia can be found here. These changes may save costs and capture greater readership for The Wall Street Journal.

The editors and publishers have written a whole section defending the new design and font on the paper edition.  They note that the new design comes in response to readers' feedback and the realities of online information distribution, including the evolving role of the online edition of the Journal itself. In fact, the Journal has also published a Readers Guide to explain the changes and various venues for getting the content it publishes.

While some readers may find advantages in the information lay-out on the Journal and some of the new services, including the free online Markets Data Center (in lieu of printed market data) and the printing of major economic and financial indexes on top of the front page, the narrower format of the new paper edition of the Journal is a real setback. It breaks the symmetry of the paper, which used to have 6 columns. It now has 5 columns, with an absent left column, and folding the paper in the middle renders one of the columns (the middle column) totally unreadable.

In short, something as mundane as the narrower format used for the new print edition of The Wall Street Journal seems to break the basic rules of using paper as technology.

The Wall Street Journal, despite the controversies and usual biases of its opinion and editorial pages which are to be expected, has published some of the best works American journalism has had to offer.  Some of this work has appeared on the "infamous" left column of the Journal, which will now be harder to find and read than it used to be simply because it is no longer there, on the left, at the top of the front page. While the online Journal has continually improved, the new paper edition seems to have some room for further "evolutionary" improvements.

By contrast, the paper edition of Financial Times (as distributed in the U.S.) continues with the (folding) symmetry of 8 columns in 2007. This symmetry preserves the resizing (i.e. folding) capabilities of the viewing platform the paper edition offers.

In the meantime and somewhat relevant to the Journal's change, Aline van Duyn of Financial Times reports the following surprising fact ("Media groups are grappling with a drift of revenue to the web," FT, Jan 2, 2007):

An analysis by Bain & Company, a consultancy, illustrates the problem. For an average US newspaper, a subscriber generates about $1,000 a year from advertising. For those newspapers that base their internet strategy around being a content destination, each viewer generates an average of $5.50 of advertising revenue. Losing one print subscriber can therefore be hard to recoup in terms of advertising, even as advertising dollars shift online.

Capturing online viewers do not seem to be keeping up with loss of print readers. So many analysts believe that traditional media need to deploy new business models for capturing revenue from online advertising, perhaps by taking a cut from transactions initiated through the online ads. On the other hand, there are ways to improve the number of print readers. Anyone traveling internationally will have noticed the wide availability of free papers for travelers. There are of course other means for improving print readership. Successful traditional media will probably emphasize both modes of reaching their audience.

It is of interest to note that The Wall Street Journal has actually added print subscribers at a rate of 10% last year.

Perhaps, the next evolutionary change in the print edition should be a reduction of the columnn width so that 6 columns can still fit on the Journal's page. FT's columns now are much narrower than the Journal's. So, this change should not be too disturbing although font size might have to be reduced a bit.

Monday Dec 18, 2006

Watch That Video!

I still do not have cable at my home and while I may be willing to tolerate some advertising or exchange some micropayments for some particular programming, I do not have an urge to consume all the programming that comes with various types of cable subscription. I simply do not have time to digest (or should I say "to be digested by") that amount of programming.

I should confess that I would rather read a book than watch a video whether on the web, on my home entertainment center or through cable or satellite. However, given that large numbers of consumers now have multiple computers and boradband access,  most can easily search, select and watch videos on the web.

For example, my own children have found videos on the web quite entertaining. The content they are interested in may vary from sports events and footwear advertisements to movie trailers to home-made comedies about school and family, not to mention music videos from the 1970s to the present. The home-made comedies (often made by the generation in whose life web has always been present) have become an immediate hit with the kids of the same age.

Video on the web offers fast distribution, unique programming and self-selection through search. Search-based self-selection by consumers must be most intriguing for advertisers. (In the meantime, Wired's Robert Lemos tries it all for himself.)

Thursday Dec 14, 2006

Disruptive with TV

Roberto Chinnici puts some probing questions to non-mainstream English language TV channels. His solution to their problems to break into the U.S. market: Use the web to your advantage to be disruptive with conventional TV programming.

To address the complaint regarding economic cost of bandwidth, finding a way to include decent advertising may prove sufficient. Furthermore, there can be a web-based subscription model that collects small subscription fees (or micropayments) for access to programming. This will work because bandwidth will still be able to serve all users particularly if programming does not emphasize real, real-time news and breaks content into pieces available separately.




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