Daily Disaffirmations: The Good, Bad and Ugly of Murdoch’s Vision for iPad “Journalism”
Apr 15th, 2011 by scaredpoet

The “Carousel,” a feature for browsing content on The Daily


I don’t think anyone disagrees anymore at the notion that newspapers are probably going extinct within the next few years.  Aside from older generations who grew up with the traditional media, a greater number of mobile individuals are finding that their existing smart devices are giving them their news fix just fine.  And so, to survive, the traditional newspapers are trying to adapt.

The New York Times, one of the better heralded newspapers of its era, is going the paywall route.  In a nutshell, they will deliver the same thing they’ve delivered online for years, but now you’ll have to pay for it if you happen to read the website a lot.

Other ventures, however, are going the subscription model, but are trying to make it worth your while.  The Daily is one such venture, and I recently had an opportunity to get my hands on an iPad and try it out.

First things first: The Daily is a very well-executed, visually-appealing app.  The design and delivery of the content takes full advantage of the iPad.  It’s visually appealing, the interactive features and graphics are very well executed, and from a design perspective, it’s exactly what modern media SHOULD be.  If newspaper companies could actually grasp the current technology like this app has and make some use of it, they probably wouldn’t be failing right now.

Unfortunately, for all the looks and polish, the actual content is utter rubbish.  Every news piece is heavy editorialized, and parrots Fox News (in fact, a lot of the articles pretty much attribute Fox News as their source).  Since this app is essentially Murdoch’s baby, it shouldn’t be a surprise there’s going to be some right-leaning opinions, but the propaganda is EVERYWHERE.  News isn’t news in the Daily: it’s all editorialism, unabashed and unapologetic.

I can’t even recommend this app if your political views are right-leaning.  You’d basically be paying for a copy-and-paste of whatever blather is coming out of Fox News that day… something you probably already get, and probably at less of a cost than the subscription for this app’s content.  None of the pieces really bother to go in-depth.  The editors for The Daily are all about quantity, not quality.

Perhaps you are extremely affluent and hard-right-leaning, and don’t have time to read more than a half-screen of an article at a time.  So, maybe parting with an extra $40 a year for a subscription to this content is chump change.  That’s fine, that’s your decision…  just bear in mind that President Obama recently unveiled a government spending plan that would raise taxes for the top 2% of wealthy individuals.  Only, The Daily isn’t really interested in reporting THAT to you, because it was MORE interested in posting a video about Biden falling asleep during the budget speech.



So, I’m telling you now – for free, no less – something that The Daily won’t: you should save your money.


The NAB: Old technology, lousy content, national security?
Aug 29th, 2010 by scaredpoet

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is a lobbying group that caters to something that hasn’t been relevant in many people’s lives for years: terrestrial, FM radio. And there’s a really good reason why FM radio hasn’t been relevant to lots of people for a good long time: FM radio sucks.

The NAB is of course aware that people aren’t listening much to FM radio these days, and they want to do something about it.  Of course, a common sense thing would be to improve the content that FM radio stations provide: like, say, good music from artists people actually want to listen to.  But common sense doesn’t seem to be something that the NAB has a lot of.  So instead, they’d rather do something else: force phone manufacturers to embed FM receivers in all cell phones and mobile devices, in the hopes that people will be compelled to listen to their crappy content. To do this, they’ve gone to Congress:

...mid-way in the article was something which really caught my attention. Part of the “deal”—and like all things political, it is a deal—would require that all cell phone handsets must have an FM-radio function built in. Wait a second, I thought . . . whether implemented as a separate IC, or added to an existing RF/mixed-signal chipset, it will add cost, power consumption, antenna-design issues, and more to the handset design. And all for what purpose, exactly? To force people to listen the FM band? Yeah, right, that will do it, absolutely.

One of the arguments behind this mandate is the tried-and-true, instill-fear argument that every desperate party turns to: national security and public safety.  The argument goes that people will need to turn to FM radios in the event of a serious crisis or national emergency.  Makes sense, right?

But the public safety argument is merely a red herring.  This isn’t about public safety in the least. The NAB is trying to legislate the foisting of old technology on electronics vendors in the vain hope that it will compel people to listen to FM stations, without their constituency having to make any effort to draw listeners back to them.

But even if those folks at the NAB really were compassionate, well-meaning souls who just want to make sure everyone stays safe and informed, where should this type of nanny-state legislation stop? How about we pass laws that require every US resident to subscribe to a minimum level of cable TV service, since over-the-air or satellite TV might be subject to weather conditions or transmitter failures due to terrorists attacks, and new video technologies like FiOS and UVerse are simply too new? How about we also mandate that every household subscribe to copper POTS wireline phone service (again, Fiber is “too new” and untested) and connect rotary corded phones to that service?

What those fine, well-meaning (I’m sure) folks at the NAB don’t understand is, people like me aren’t listening to FM not because we don’t have FM radios, but because the stations we can receive on those radios provide us with no reason to listen. Perhaps if they innovated, and provided compelling programming, and didn’t play the same 6 songs over and over between 20+ minutes of a commercials per hour, their audience numbers would grow.

What’s worse, most of these FM radio stations no longer have news departments of their own, having sacrificed them as cost-saving measures, in the (quite ironic) belief that people won’t want to listen to the news all the time. As such, most FM stations are not equipped to provide news and information on their own in a serious crisis or emergency. In fact, during past crises, since September 11 on, many have tended to cut over to the audio of CNN or similar news feeds. So… what’s the point? A potential listener like me could just go to CNN to get the video that goes with the audio.

There are of course, pure news stations on terrestrial radio, but the majority of them are on the AM band, and so, such stations would still not be accessible to mobile phone users with their required-by-law FM receivers.  So much for that.

There are entities like satellite radio, online broadcasting stations and online music stores that don’t mandate by law that everyone be forced to own equipment capable of receiving their content, and yet they do just fine. The NAB could learn from their example.

Apple’s vision of the iPhone/iPad… 23 years ago.
Aug 21st, 2010 by scaredpoet

Before cellular networks could even come close to providing high speed data. Before Color LCD and OLED screens were even close to being usable, much less common. Before touch screens were viable… Apple already had an idea of how these technologies would come together and change computing.

Considering the fine gadgets they’ve provided us with today, some people might not find this so amazing. But the interesting twist is this vision wasn’t dreamed up by Steve Jobs.

The year was 1987, and Jobs had actually been ousted by his own corporate board at Apple. At the helm was John Sculley, an individual Jobs had recruited to Apple from PepsiCo, ultimately clashed with, and ended up losing a battle for control of the company to. Unfortunately, Sculley didn’t turn out to be the management wunderkind the board believed him to be: his reign started a dark era at Apple where internal politics, aimless development projects and screwed up product lines may have nearly sent the company into bankruptcy.

And talk about narcissism! If you think Steve Jobs is eccentric, consider that Sculley wrote an autobiography, then made Apple buy a copy for every employee, to promote “excellence.”

But, one concept he DID come up with in 1987, and should probably at least get a little bit of credit for, is this tablet-like device… with a touch screen, integrated video conferencing and messaging, and access to a vast network of data that allows a user to search and retrieve all kinds of information.

Unfortunately with Jobs gone, there was no “i” in Apple at the time, and so it lacked a catchy name. Instead, this concept had the very un-cool title “Knowledge Navigator.” And while no tech conpany could build it in 1987, Sculley figured it would be commonplace around 2010, and even produced a video to demonstrate what it might look like.

For the record: I’m actually glad that current technology didn’t quite evolve this way. I’d be totally annoyed if my iPhone had this priggish, smug bowtied “assistant” constantly nagging me about my appointments and phone calls. And I also noticed something… the professor keeps this thing on his desk, and the thought never crosses his mind that this highly compact device can be picked up and taken with him. I guess nobody’s perfect.

Everything’s Amazing, and Nobody’s Happy
Jul 17th, 2010 by scaredpoet

In case you’re sitting there, annoyed at your balky iPhone, or otherwise annoyed by the challenges of modern technology, please watch the following video. It pretty much sums up what I’ve been thinking as of late:

The comedian is Louis C.K. and he’s VERY funny.

Extreme Recycling
May 9th, 2009 by scaredpoet

So, I came across these knick-knacks while picking up a few things at a local tar-zhey:

Just so you know: the Vinyl LP picture frames are indeed made of real vinyl records. you can even see the tracks on what’s left of the platters. It makes you wonder if some of the stuff they’ve cut up into photo frames might have been rare collectibles, or actual worthless crap.

It was definitely an attention-grabber, seeing old vinyl records and printed circuit boards turned into coasters and picture frames. This is one of many products marketed by firm called Terracycle:

It all started in 2001 when two Princeton University students set out to change the way people do business. Inspired by a box of worms, these students had a dream: a company could be financially successful while being ecologically and socially responsible.

They also have an “eco-capitalists’ guidebook,” which as expected, is an online tome steeped high with MBA jargon and doublespeak, clearly aimed at trying to sell the idea to investors that green equals green. Will it work? I’ve seen their household cleaning products and now these novelties on display, but I haven’t really been motivated to buy them. Interesting idea though.

These particular items raise some questions, however. Do they know for certain the “cultural artifacts” like the vinyl records they’re “upcycling” are truly worthless. and not containing any audio content that might be some rare album collector’s wet dream? And, what are they doing about the lead content in their circuit board picture frames and coasters?

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