Traditional, New and Social Media Confusion

While I have been aware of all the confusion about “traditional” and “new” media, I have followed with interest some journalism discussions about “social media” and “new media” being used interchangeably by today’s generation. I am not surprised that the use of the word “media” suggests to some that social media is related to news media, but in the case of social media, it refers to the delivery platform, or medium. New media is perceived as the transition—and re-invention — of journalism (or at least journalism-like) practices for the Internet, and social media as social networks for communication and sharing. I do not doubt the lines of understanding may get blurred, but I do not get the sense that media consumers think there are camera crews and reporters from social networks out there gathering news, conducting interviews, soliciting comments and verifying sources.

It definitely does not help, though, when news outlets think they can re-invent themselves as social networks. No wonder that in one case of a French media company, journalists were picking up the proverbial pitchforks in protest.

I admit, I do not have a Facebook account (apparently, some people think that is suspicious; what is the world coming to?), I do not follow anyone with my Twitter account (I do not even have an app for that), and I do not Instagram my meals. Still, a lot of times news reach me through the cacophony of the Internet by the way of a social outlet, because social reposts propagate so rapidly (such an accurate description calling it “viral”), it is impossible to avoid stumbling on one.

What I see as an even bigger problem these days is that audiences do not care much about journalistic values, and they do not see journalism as a service for keeping constituents in a democracy informed. People actually think that recycled press releases, public statements and celebrity appearances are actual news. We encounter intellectual-sounding but totally meaningless jabs at “the mainstream media”, referred to it as “MSM” (because someone heard somewhere that sounds cool and informed) without ever getting an explanation of who allegedly does or does not belong to this massive “MSM” cabal. We hear people enthuse about how they get their news from the latest and the greatest Web phenomenon, but it is clear they fall short in understanding the difference between news reporting and aggregation.

Of course, I am not letting journalists off the hook,, either. I understand job security concerns, I understand that a news outlet as a business has to survive, and I understand the race to report something first. I also know that news outlets do not operate in a vacuum where their editors, producers, managers, stakeholders and owners do not have to worry about playing politics and diplomacy with influential entities.

With all that said: no excuses. “Reporting” that a Web site posted something and quoting some reactions to it from other Web sites is a cheap way to meet a column quota. “Reporting” on something going viral is basically saying that many other parties are reporting. Editorializing headlines in “news” reports, calling something “controversial” or “polarizing” (Is there a Ministry of Controversy issuing these declarations?), asking headline questions knowing the answer is “no” just to lure in attention-deficient audiences, sponsored content, native advertising… It all does not seem to be getting better.

Public officials will get elected, appointed, re-elected, re-appointed, sometimes one party is in power, other times the other one is. The world, leaders, the economy, politics, trends, and even the business, form and practices of journalism change. The principles and ethics of journalism must remain constant in keeping the pubic informed and keeping a watch on the powers in charge. A journalist only has to betray the principles of the trade once to forever lose the trust and confidence of the public.

Social Media Reposting Is Not Journalism

There is a lot of buzz about social media being so revolutionary and the new form of journalism. For communications and interaction, there is no argument about social media making a huge impact. However,  as long as a social media post or site is a link to or an aggregation of stories from external sites produced by someone else, it is just simply not journalism by itself.

On the subject of journalism, I have been seeing online news outlets taking a public relations beating with their pay wall business model.  In all honesty, I cannot blame news media publishers for this desperate measure to secure some profits. Distributing free samples to “lure” you in then make you pay for the full experience is not exactly a new business model invented by the journalism industry, anyway. I support the idea of journalists making a living from their craft, and I equally support holding journalists–who ideally should perform a service in the public interest as a watchdog for democracy–accountable for the quality and accuracy of their work.

I know some (or many) “information wants to be free” advocates would balk at me dor saying this, but I have no problem paying for quality content, and that includes journalism products. There are simply good products out there that are worth their price. Information, in the news gathering sense, will not become free if nobody is paying for it. It will cease to be gathered. All social media will have left to “report” is press releases, recycled blog posts, public statements and the occasional spreading of viral content.

I did not see too many embedded microbloggers, social media “gurus”, “ninjas”, “experts” or “mavens” running around in South Central Asian deserts actually gathering news, taking pictures, or doing interviews, research and verification from a mobile phone. However, I did encounter “traditional” news crews, journalists, camera crews, reporters, some using social media to create awareness of their reporting, but ultimately, their finished products ended up posted on news sites and broadcast on news television programs.

I know I am an eternal idealist when it comes to the roles and principles of journalism, but that also lets me express my belief that if a person uses all the good journalistic principles and publishes work on a social media outlet, it can still be responsible journalism. It is not the medium, but the practice that matters.

Why Is Microsoft Azure Signup So Difficult?

Apparently, Microsoft is having issues using phone numbers located in our Nation’s Capital for verification. Online search shows the Redmond tech giant has difficulties with some IP telephone numbers. Do they realize how many businesses run on IP telephony? Customer support says they will be back with me in “1-2 business days”. You can spin up cloud servers in a matter of minutes from even a mobile phone with other providers. Is Microsoft driving away potential customers on purpose? No support for IP telephone numbers and up to two business days just to sign up? In the 21st Century? Why should we work so hard for the “privilege” of giving Microsoft our money?

I Get Face Detection Camouflage, but an App?

I can see the creativity and art behind CV Dazzle’s fashion-based solutions to hide from face-detection technology.

However, I am trying to understand the point behind a mobile app doing the same to someone’s picture.

I may be trying to simplify people’s privacy concerns here, but is it not easier to just not post a picture of yourself if you are so worried about having your face recognized? Let us say you are trying to share a photo of yourself on a social network, is your online album going to be full of pixelated and “dazzled” images? What if your grandparents are trying to–you know, that last Century thing, what do you call it… –’print’ your photo? Are they going to be forced to endure their precious grandchild staring back at them from what looks like an 80s new wave album cover?

The concept itself is nothing new, military forces have been using camouflage to break up their outline, the human features of their faces, and the recognizable geometries of military vehicles and equipment.

I wonder how long it takes before a jurisdiction somewhere makes a law banning fashion that can evade facial recognition technologies…

Veterans Day 2013

To mark Veterans Day this year, I am listing a few organizations that support those who serve. This is not an official endorsement list, just recommendations to give something to our men and women in uniform to express appreciation for their continued hard work and sacrifices.

Air Force Aid Society

Army Emergency Relief

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

Semper Fi Fund

Wounded Warrior Project

Apple: Consumer Rights Speech Is Verboten

Sure, I understand that consumer electronics companies are not charities. Yes, there are many ways to tout technology with words like “beautiful”, “amazing”, “revolutionary” and such, but the bottom line in the end is always… the bottom line.

So it is not too surprising that Apple did not look kindly at visitors on its forums being reminded by fellow frustrated iOS 7 users of their consumer rights. In certain countries, such as the UK, these rights  allow owners of defective products to return the affected devices to the store.

Here comes this story’s David, Mr. Lawrence Lessig, who experienced wi-fi shutdowns on his iOS device after upgrading to iOS 7.0.3. After not getting much (read: any) help from Apple (the Goliath of the story) on  the company’s own forums, Mr. Lessig noticed that forum administrators removed comments dealing with the subject. When inquiring about the removals, Mr. Lessig’s own comments were removed.

I am just wondering how much, if at all, Apple learned from being on the receiving end of the lawsuit over the iPod battery-Gate uproar in 2005. ( , ).

Read Mr. Lessig’s description of the events here:

Read Violet Blue’s take on the subject:!

A Dream Mobile Device

1. Open source
You can never fully trust closed-source software. If you cannot audit the code, it is unsecured and compromised. There is no security in obfuscation, patents, licenses or proprietary source. Notice, I am not saying software must cost no money, I just want the freedom to pop the hood on a car before and after buying it.

2. Security upgrades not tied to carrier.
OK, so in a perfect world, I could apt-get, emerge, freebsd-update, pacman, yast or yum my mobile device and be up to date in a heartbeat. Even if that is way too utopian, there must be something better than the “exploit-in-the-pocket” model of unpatched devices millions of users currently suffer under.

3. Unlocked with SIM card support
I decide whose network I want to be on.

4. Root/admin access to everything
I paid for the freaking thing, I own it, I want the ability to do whatever I can do with it.

5. Runs GNU/Linux or *nix-like operating system
There are huge communities behind those platforms already, so we would not have to start from scratch with a brand new OS.

6. Runs GNU/Linux or *nix-like applications
They are already out there, and if this dream mobile device supports the above-listed operating systems, why not be able to install the applications? They might need a re-designed interface, but at least software would not have to be rebuilt from the ground up.

7. Mounts file systems
Kind of goes with the root access, but access alone does not mean support. Sure, I may not be able to mount a ZFS Raid-Z array with a stack of memory cards in my phone in the near future, but what true geek does not dream of the idea, right?

8. Expandable storage
Because, be honest, hardware manufacturers, you do not have memory card slots on your products so you can charge us additional hundreds of dollars for a few extra gigs of storage memory.

9. Front and rear camera
Pictures and video telecommunications. Self explanatory. “Flash” LED would be nice extra.

10. Standard Micro-USB port for charging and for mounting device as storage on a computer.
Proprietary plugs? Fancy designer chargers? Paying premium for cables? No way!

11. GPS
Navigation, time source, backup for no-mobile-network-coverage areas.

12. Bluetooth
Accessories, file transfer, audio, headsets; the usual suspects…

13. Improved battery life
Let us face it, no matter how good your mobile device is, it just never seems to have enough juice. If case manufacturers had a larger selection of solutions supporting extended batteries, I would happily put up with the extra weight and dimensions to get more operating time, but I am certain many users would prefer something that resembles a brick just a bit less.

14. HDMI port would be nice
Sure, I realize that the majority of mobile device users do not regularly connect their hardware to television sets or projectors, and that screen mirroring can can be achieved through wireless means. That is why it is a “would be nice” feature only.

15. At least 1920 X 1080 screen
But we really want 4K, since we are talking about dreaming…

A Guide for Greedy Studios to Encourage Piracy

1. Wait until your movie or television show product becomes popular.
2. Put in extra effort to hook children, who do not give a break to their parents when it comes to repeatedly watching the same children’s program.
3. Decide to become greedy, and pull your shows from all legal streaming and on-demand video sites such as Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. Bonus level of greediness: demand outrageous licensing terms from anyone who dares to think about helping your product gain exposure.
4. Make sure your programs are only available on premium subscription channels, and force fans who do not subscribe to wait until the physical media release. Especially in this age of advanced technology.
5. Pretend the Internet does not exist. If that does not work, you can always stick your head in a patch of sand somewhere.
6. Do not make your shows available on physical media for purchase.
7. Now all you have to do is sit back, and watch as millions of raging children force their desperate parents into illegally downloading your programs, and millions of raging fans hit file sharing networks.
8. Bonus step: sue children, the disabled and the elderly. This will endear you to everyone, and will make you mega-popular.
9. Power bonus step: try to convince courts and politicians to revoke your audience’s Constitutional rights. After all, you are a studio, you are above everyone’s human, civil, Constitutional and legal rights!

Tourism Guide for Rich, Ignorant and Spoiled Celebrities

1. Pick a country to visit, but make sure you do not speak its language. Cultural awareness and sensitivity are not cool for celebrities of your caliber. You have an image to project and protect!
2. Convince yourself that learning about a country, its culture and its people is best done by fancy, upscale shopping.
3. Visit one of these fancy, upscale stores in your selected country.
5. Make sure not to attempt to speak the country’s language with the salesperson at any time.
6. Keep stressing the salesperson, who makes less in a year than you make in a day, until there is a language misunderstanding.
7. And here it is, the secret power step in this guide: claim discrimination!
8. Optionally, if your claim of discrimination gets disproved, claim a different type of discrimination.
9. Bonus step: sue your critics!

End the Ignorance: Hackers Are Not Crackers

There are two primary reasons the general public views hackers as criminals: the media and ignorance.

In the cutthroat business of producing news that bring in viewers and—consequently– advertising dollars and page views, media outlets are quick to headline their news about computer crimes with the word “hack” peppered all over in heavy doses. Do not get me wrong, I understand that buzzwords sell, and that most news presenters either do not have a profound understanding of computer terminology or the interest to research and explain it. They can also not count on news consumers to take the time in the middle of cyclic-rate channel surfing to pause for a few seconds on a news broadcast to research terminology. With a smartphone permanently glued to many hands even on the couch at home, the majority of viewers probably cannot be bothered to look up a word online. Not even if “there is an app for that”.

Which leads to the second reason hackers get a bad rep: ignorance. The term ”hacker” has an interesting history both in language and in culture. While the primary dictionary definition of “hacker” is someone who hacks, with the secondary being someone who is without talent or skill, computing-related definitions only start at third place, with “computer enthusiast” coming before computer criminal.

There is a whole “controversy” about the use of the word “hacker”, as many computer experts and enthusiasts, who—by dictionary definition—are non-criminal hackers, believe there are better suited terms (cracker, black hat, etc…) to describe cyber criminals.

The question is, will people make an effort to familiarize themselves with relevant terminology to avoid making poor judgments? As our attention spans shorten exponentially, will anyone take time to understand what people who are simply smart with computers do?

If you are inclined to ask ”why bother?”, here is a perfect example of how disastrous ignorance, when combined with power, can be. In 2009, campus police at Boston College applied for a warrant to seize computers from a student with the following justifications:

“…the student being seen with “unknown laptop computers,” which he “says” he was fixing for other students; the student uses multiple names to log on to his computer; and the student uses two different operating systems, including one that is not the “regular B.C. operating system” but instead has “a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on.”

In the warrant application, the campus police justified the request by listing police training courses and seminars about computer crime that they attended. I cannot imagine the offensively poor quality of these training sessions (probably some copied-and-pasted slide presentations by a “hacker” (in its definition for someone lacking skill or talent) instructor. Apparently, if someone does not have a graphical user interface, or types fast into the command line, that makes him or her a computer criminal. You can read more about the case at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s page.

Then there is the news coverage of Anonymous and LulzSec, which are “hacktivist” groups, meaning their members use their computer skills to bring public attention to ideological issues. They are hailed as champions of justice by some, and condemned as criminals by others.

A positive result of the sensationalism surrounding such groups is a discussion about rights and wrongs in computing, and, in a hopeful manner, a better public understanding of the difference between computer “geeks” and criminals.

The important thing is to educate oneself before mass classifying everyone who does not use a mouse or a touch interface as a criminal.