March 2008

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Cable is not a monopoly. You can choose from any cable company you want in America, just by moving your house. — Brad Templeton, at F2C

Follow Freedom

Freedom to Connect, where I am now, is streaming live.

Before crashing in bed at 3am, I heard the last (third) movement of what may be my favorite piece of music: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. It was an amazing version, subtle and silky-smooth, yet highly emphatic. The phrasing verged on speech. Turns out it was Anne-Sophie Mutter with the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Herbert Von Karajan. I’m not surprised, being a Von Karajan fan. I’m exceptionally fond of his 1963 recordings of the nine Beethoven symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic. (I have two sets in vinyl and one on CD.)

Anyway, I just went looking for the recording, and here it is on YouTube. Sounds a bit more allegro than what I just heard on the radio, but I’m sleepy and not sure. It’s giving me chills, again. There just isn’t a more beautiful piece of music. Nice. Check it out.

After a delayed plane that got to Dulles around midnight, a car rental agency that took most of an hour to get me a car that worked, a long drive to D.C., and three tries at getting a hotel room with a door that would open (with an equal number os schleps up and down the elevator with all three of my bags), I’m finally in my room. Now jacked in to the hotel ethernet, I’m watching Flickr upload photos at a rate of one every few seconds. The measured bandwidth is 7.05Mbps down and 1.53Mbps up. The hotel, a Ramada Limited, is beat to crap and in a scary neighborhood. (The reception counter is behind bulletproof glass, and business is transacted through one of those bowls under the botttom edge.) But the Internet is free. And it works real well.

Which, once again, makes my case.

The only reason to close state geography data is to protect a few existing monopoly businesses.

Making that data available to the public is a good idea in any case. But the big pro-business reason is that it makes countless businesses possible. Remember the world without GPS? The world with it is better. For countless businesses, as well as ordinary citizens. Geodata should be a rising tide that lifts all boats.

When pro-business means pro-monopoly, something is wrong.

Thanks to Tara for the pointer.

I upload a lot of photos. It’s almost always an ordeal unless I’m at home or work. That’s because I get fast upload speeds in both places. At home I have a fiber connection to the Net with 20Mb symmetrical service — a rare and good thing. I don’t know the upstream speed at work, but it’s plenty fast enough and it always works.

When I hit the road, though, it’s aarg all the way.

Most hotels have crappy service. There are some exceptions among the expensive hotels. The Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles seemed pretty good a few days ago. But before that, neither the University of Redlands nor the Hilton in Loma Linda was worth a damn. The problem at Redlands was all kinds of blocked stuff: ping, ssh and IM protocols all seemed to be blocked, when anybody could get on at all. The Hilton was just slow and lame. Most of the low- to mid-price hotels in which I tend to stay are good for browsing, email and not much more.

Generally speaking, the cheap hotels with free connectivity are okay.

Anyway, I’m at Logan Airport in Boston now, waiting for a late plane, paying $4.95 for “roaming” on MassPort’s system as a t-Mobile customer, for which I’m already paying $29 or so per month. Last time I flew, a few days ago, T-Mobile’s system didn’t work at LAX. Since I’m also without my EvDO service right now, there’s no way to bypass MassPort here at Logan.

Right now I’m watching Flickr’s in-browser uploading system fail on photo after photo. Of the eight shots it has tried to upload so far, only two have made it. The rest turned red. A few seconds ago I gave up on them.

A speedtest now says my download speed is 4.4Mbps, and uploads are just 109kbps.

The problem here is that the Net is seen by too many hotels and airports as a way to make money rather than a way to keep customers happy. That’s because it’s seen as a private business rather than as a public utility. It would be better for everybody if we admitted that it’s the latter, even when private businesses provide access to it.

Yes, it has costs. So do electricity, water, waste collection and road maintenance, and neither airports nor hotels charge for those. They lump the costs with something else.

Thing is, the Net is not a steady scarcity, such as parking. Nor is it simple. But making it gratis removes the billing complexities that are one of its main costs and a frequent cause of failure.

So here’s a message to the aviation and hospitality industries: You’re not in the pay toilet business. Quit trying to turn the Internet into one.

And here’s a plea to the marketplace: Somebody come up with a Net connection business for airports and hotels that’s all about installing a simple and symmetrical utility that’s easy to maintain and keeps users happy.

Take it from somebody who lost at least one whole blog entirely from the consequences not upgrading WordPress: Upgrading your installation or patch is essential. So read this from Ian Kallen.

Also what he added by IM yesterday:

  What’s happening is: spammers are taking over blogs, posting link farm links on them, obscuring their human visibility with CSS tricks but the links are still visible to crawlers…
  All wordpress users that haven’t patched or upgraded to v2.3.3 are vulnerable.
  WordPress does not auto-update security fixes.
  …Any help you can provide getting the word out would be a mitzvah

I added the last link. 🙂

Taking notes on the Media Re:public gathering here in Los Angeles.

“Its not clear to me that one unit of increase in media equals one unit of increase in democracy” — Ernest Wilson, of the USC Annenberg School of Communications.

Arianna Huffington: “Bloggers suffer from compulsive disclosure disorder, and journalists suffer from attention deficit disorder.” (Damn, I’m both, though one is — mostly — under control.) Quoted by Richard Sambrook, currently on stage. Might have that a bit off. Also, “The DNA of big media is absolutely hard-wired to the one-to-many model.” He continuers, UGC is “way too narrowly defined”. And “this kind of participation is still a minority sport”. Great line: “The notion that you need a business model for accountability is an interesting one.”

“YouTube, I understand, is about to go live”. That’ll be fun.

“Personalization has overpromised and underdelivered for fifteen years. But I think it’s about to happen.” And “Web 3.0 … the data driven Web… is about to break hard upon us.”

“Reinvent a social purpose for media that resonates with the public”: A challenge to the room.

EthanZ to Richard: Do you believe citizens can shape the agenda? Rather than you guys choose first and (and then the audience reacts)? He advises “really sophisticated media monitoring”; but of the blogosphere, and not just other traditional media.

Susan Mernit on reconnecting media with social purpose… We only see two kinds of coverage: events that happen, and events that people make (e.g. civic leaders).

Much more (than what I’ve written here) from David Weinberger and Ethan Zuckerman.

Roberto Suro, USC Annenberg: We conflate journalism as a business enterprise with journalism as a social actor.

David Weinberger, speaking, being deep and funny as usual: We spend most of our time online trying to figure out what we came in to do… Every tag is a front page. Every tag is a bookshelf.

DW: In an age of abundance of good, the struggle is over metadata. And, I have trouble applying the ‘commodification’ term to everything here, because it suggests that all things have equal value. Or low value.

Tag: .

Back last Fall, when news came that the Medill School of Journalism was thinking about changing its name (and in fact had already dropped “of Journalism” from its website index page), I wrote a post saying, basically, that this was wrong as well as dumb. In fact, I thought it was so wrong, and so lacking in support, that it would die on the vine.

Well, apparently not. Eric Zorn reports in the Chicago Tribune that the idea is not only alive, but wrong as ever. Names “reportedly under consideration” (by a secretive committee) include “The Medill School of —

  • Journalism
  • Journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications
  • News Media and Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Audience and Consumer Information
  • Media Arts and Sciences
  • Information and Influence

In The Future of News, Steve Boriss writes,

  More than most, I am sympathetic to scrapping the word “journalism,” which has come to be associated with a failing model that only its practitioners still believe delivers objective, verified truths. But do we really want to combine news gathering with sales and entertainment disciplines like marketing, media, and persuasion? And, isn’t the public tired of journalism insisting it is providing pure “information,” and in fact showing increased interest in a more helpful and stimulating combination of fact and opinion?
  The right answer must be too simple for j-school eggheads — the “Medill School of News.” By news, I mean “new information about a subject of common interest that is shared within a community.” Everything from as small as news of family and friends, which is now being served by Facebook and MySpace, to as large as news of our universe. Not just news of government, but also news of the private sector, our neighborhoods, our vocations, and our avocations. The public no longer believes in “journalism.” But renaming it “news” is a change they can believe in.

I almost like “School of News”. And I agree that it’s wacky to combine news (or journalism, or both) with “entertainment disciplines” (though I wouldn’t cal them that. I even agree that “the public no longer believes…” but I’m not sure it’s journalism that they doubt.

As it happens I’m sitting in the Annenberg School for Communication, where Media Re:public is about to begin. On the wall of the vast lobby are six big flat-screen TVs, four in the middle with news channels, one on the right with ESPN and one on the left with CNN. Sound comes from the last two. Nobody is watching. Yet at our table we can’t ignore the CNN one, which is blabbing behind our heads, which are turned away. For most of the last hour CNN has been obsessing on the murder of a Rutgers student in front of her toddler son. I’ve heard “stabbed multiple times” so many times that my inner Mona Shaw wants to take a hammer to the screen. I can’t find the story on the index page, but maybe I’m not looking hard enough. In any case, I’m sure that what they’re pushing out the tube is news yet not journalism.

And I think I’d rather have Medill teach the latter. No matter what they call the place.

The Kurse of KFI

I just learned that KFI’s new tower went down while it was going up. This was the long-awaited replacement for the tower that was knocked down in 2004. Here’s what I wrote about it back then. It was delayed by local opposition to reconstruction, and the tower was a compromise design. (Here’s a story from the Orange County Register.)

When I used to listen to KFI at night in New Jersey as a radio-obsessed kid, I was hearing the signal from the old tower, which was installed in 1947. (As was I.) Back then the site was in an open field in La Mirada, CA, near the border of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Later I-5 ran nearby. Now it’s in the midst of office buildings and parking. It’s lucky nobody was seriously hurt. (There was one minor injury.)

I try not to care about this kind of stuff, because my concerns these days are with the leading rather than the trailing edge of technology. But what the hell. I know too much about it not to be interested.

[Later…] Mary Lu has a nice long report.

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