Saturday, May 30, 2009

How charging for articles could hobble the future of journalism

Newspapers are gearing up for a last-ditch attempt to fight back against the Internet - which seems like a hopeless cause. Nonetheless, there are signs that big media is considering withdrawing from the Internet. This is a strategy that Scott Rosenberg says won't work, and I agree: In this blog post Scott lays out the situation and why he thinks publishers have it backwards:
"Apparently there was a big meeting of news executives today in Chicago under the auspices of the Newspaper Association of America. The de jure name for the topic at hand was ‘Models to Monetize Content’ but the de facto subject of the conclave seems to be building paywalls and ending what James Warren glibly calls ‘the age of content theft.’ Such conversation needed to take place under the watchful eye of a legal counsel to avoid antitrust problems; but who can doubt that some sort of collective action — simultaneous, if ostentatiously uncoordinated — is at hand?

We are, then, nearing a moment of real decision on the part of the beleaguered newspaper industry, a genuine fork in the road. The papers can decide to keep participating in the open Web, which would require accepting that their legacy business — the old paper bundle and the broadcast model — is going to change into something almost unrecognizable. Or they can decide to put up the walls and gates and behave as if it’s 1997 again, and the Web is just a better delivery truck rather than an intricately evolving social organism. Down one path, dissolve into the Web; down the other, secede from the Web.

These two paths map neatly onto the two camps into which you can group virtually everyone in the old argument about the news business and the Web. On one side, you have the people who feel that newspapers simply took a wrong turn on their journey to the Internet. They were seduced by the Web hypesters! They should have charged for their articles from day one! Because they didn’t, they’re in a bind now — but their only hope is to shut the door belatedly and salvage what can be salvaged. We heard this same cry back in 2000-2002, during the last Web-business ice age.
(Read the rest at Scott Rosenberg's Wordyard.)

How Chryslers are made: chipper stop-motion film from 1939 World's Fair

This is just fabulous. Via Boing Boing:

How Chryslers are made: chipper stop-motion film from 1939 World's Fair: "

Ben sez, 'A film from the 1939 World's Fair showing a Chrysler being built in Stop Action animation. Originally filmed in 'Three-Dimensional Polaroid Film.''

Man, this thing has got it all: golden age World's Fair, that fantastic chipper music, dancing brightly colored machine-parts... I want to crawl in and nestle among the sparkplugs.

Exclusive: Chrysler Builds a Car
(Thanks, Ben!)

(Via Boing Boing.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A virtual weed remover would be cool

As I write this, the sun is still shining in the back yard, highlighting all the holes in the lawn where weeds used to be.

I’ve spent the better part of the past two days cleaning up the lawn in our new house. We’ve been enjoying seeing what comes up in the spring, since we bought our home in the middle of the winter, with little idea what the landscaping would look like.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the variety. While things haven’t been tended for awhile, a lot of thought has gone into what went where and it looks like we’ll have plenty of variety and colour during the growing season.

However, our lawn is another story. I have mixed feelings about lawns. In other cities, we’ve had both grass and grass-free yards. But no matter what, you still have to pull weeds regularly.

We are able to do so much with our computers, wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a way to use them to keep our gardens looking good? I wonder what Google says...

I did find a program that lets you plant a virtual garden and watch it grow every month. You can see what the flowers and shrubs look like at different stage of the year. But you can’t take your laptop outside and put it to work. Too bad. You can see the program yourself here.

So I’m left with pulling the weeds myself.

But maybe a more philosophical approach towards the weeds could make a difference. Instead of thinking of dandelions as weeds, I should marvel at their resilient nature and their near-perfect blooms.

And if you have trouble getting your head around that, check out this YouTube video to see what I mean. (Click on the HQ button to see it in high-quality mode.)

Here’s to good times in your garden, real or virtual.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

From the 'It's a small world" department

Kelly&Kat.jpgThis past weekend, my youngest daughter, Kelly, (on the left) who goes to school in Louisville, KY and is on the womens' rowing team there, was participating in the regional finals for The Big East Conference at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

While Louisville did all right, it wasn't the kind of finish they were hoping for to their season, and that elusive entry into the NCAA National Finals won't happen this year. But there's still time for Kelly to get there. She's entering her senior (and final) year at Louisville in the fall.

I would have loved to have been at the regatta but getting there from here on the West Coast proved to be more than I could handle this year. Heather and I are hoping to be there next year.

However, my cousin, Charles Traynor, was at the regatta, since his daughter, Kat, (on the right in the photo) who is a year older than Kelly, goes to school at the University of Iowa and is also a rower at that school.

As luck would have it, both cousins are the strokes for their respective boats and they were lined up side-by-side on Saturday. Charles sent me a note that tactfully said it was a "great" race. Kelly put it more bluntly in a text message - "Iowa dominated."

After the race, Charles caught up with Kelly and Kat and grabbed this picture. There's something kind of cool about the fact that those two cousins grew up on different sides of the continent (Hamilton and Victoria) but ended up racing against each other in Oak Ridge, Tennesee. And I'm glad that Charles was there to capture the moment.

Congrats Kelly and Kat.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Remember the magic?

I remember the excitement of space travel, the awe of those first launches and the thrill of watching a man land on the moon. But the thrill is gone, as they say, for most people. Today, NASA struggles to justify its existence and the future of space exploration remains uncertain.

That's why I recommend that you take a look at The Big Picture this week. They've got a bunch of photos from the Space Shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. If you need a good reason to justify spending money in space, look no further than the Hubble. We've all marvelled at those amazing images that we've seen over the years. I really hope this repair mission works.

The pictures of the mission are outstanding. You can't look at them, especially on a large screen, and not feel that old magic rising up again.

Go ahead, take a look and see if you don't agree. It may not make financial sense, but there's a lot to be said for being breathtaking as a reason for doing something.

Here's the link.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shel Holtz on the need for pro journalists

journalist-1.pngI've written before about the evolution of the news business, particularly the problems facing newspapers and TV - the so-called mainstream media - in these tough financial times.

While I am a fan of the increasing use of social media for getting messages out, creating conversations and analyzing important issues, I am not comfortable with the argument that old-style journalism is increasingly irrelevant.

Shel Holtz is an influential PR professional, who is well-known as an early adopter of social media and a popular blogger, podcaster, author and speaker in the PR and communications fields. In a post today, called "The continuing need for professional journalism," Shel lays out his views on why bloggers and other forms of social media (as important as they are) are not a substitute for professional journalists.

It's a great post and I recommend you read it yourself. But if you just want the wrap-up, Here's his conclusion:
The bottom line: Professional journalism is still sorely needed and won’t be replaced by social media. Instead, they will co-exist, complement one another, and ultimately produce a new ecosystem of news in which both forms of reporting play an integral part. The notion that bloggers eliminate the need for voices like Seymour Hersch, Ernie Pyle, or Edward R. Murrow (go rewatch “Harvest of Shame” and tell me anybody without training and professional standards could duplicate it.)

Where great journalism will be practiced remains an open question.... I’m confident that one or more models ultimately will prove effective and the rigor and professionalism journalists bring to the table will continue to provide a valuable mix to the enlarged world of news coverage. I hope I’m right. Without it—despite the smug assertions by bloggers that they can pick up the mantle and deliver us to a true golden age of journalism—we’re sunk without it.

Good stuff.

The photo was taken from Shel's post.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Abbot and Costello buy a computer

Chris Breen of MacWorld wrote a delightful article about the strange things that happen when you try to do computer support over the telephone. Here's the link to his original article, called Remotely Fixing the family printer.

One of the commenters posted a modern update of the old Abbot and Costello routine, "Who's on First?" that I'm going to reprint here. It's a bit longish for a blog post, but it's very funny and worth reading. And it's a very clever adaptation...

UPDATE - I had a note from Tom King, who was the original author of this adaptation, asking me to include a link to his original posting, which I'm happy to provide. Note that I am now posting this with his permission.

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.


COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.

ABBOTT: Your computer?

COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.


COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.

ABBOTT: What about Windows?

COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?

COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?

ABBOTT: Wallpaper.

COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.

ABBOTT: Software for Windows?

COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to writeproposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?

ABBOTT: I just did.

COSTELLO: You just did what?

ABBOTT: Recommend something.

COSTELLO: You recommended something?


COSTELLO: For my office?


COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!

ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.

COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just sayI'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?


COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: Word in Office.

COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?

ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue "W".

COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue "w" if you don't start withsome straight answers. OK, forget that. Can I watch movies on the Internet?

ABBOTT: Yes, you want Real One.

COSTELLO: Maybe a real one, maybe a cartoon. What I watch is none ofyour business. Just tell me what I need!

ABBOTT: Real One.

COSTELLO: If it's a long movie, I also want to watch reels 2, 3 and 4.Can I watch them?

ABBOTT: Of course.

COSTELLO: Great! With what?

ABBOTT: Real One.

COSTELLO: OK, I'm at my computer and I want to watch a movie. What do I do?

ABBOTT: You click the blue "1".

COSTELLO: I click the blue one what?

ABBOTT: The blue "1".

COSTELLO: Is that different from the blue w?

ABBOTT: The blue "1" is Real One and the blue "W" is Word.

COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: But there are three words in "office for windows"!

ABBOTT: No, just one. But it's the most popular Word in the world.


ABBOTT: Yes, but to be fair, there aren't many other Words left.It pretty much wiped out all the other Words out there.

COSTELLO: And that word is real one?

ABBOTT: Real One has nothing to do with Word. Real One isn't even part of Office.

COSTELLO: STOP! Don't start that again. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?

ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.

COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?

ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.

COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?

ABBOTT: One copy.

COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?

ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.

COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?


(A few days later...)

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?

ABBOTT: Click on "START".

(c) 2004 by Tom King - used by permission

And if that whetted your appetite for the real thing, here's a great clip of Abbot and Costello performing the skit from the 1945 movie, The Naughty Nineties

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

No electoral reform in BC

The proposal to switch to electing BC MLAs using proportional representation was defeated in yesterday's provincial election, much to my and others' disappointment.

Although pollsters had predicted the loss, I was holding out hope that voters would surprise us. But it didn't happen.

And now it looks like electoral reform is unlikely here in BC, or anywhere else in Canada, for the foreseeable future.

I'm not sure why voters weren't interested in changing the existing first past the post system. But I suspect that the recent federal experience with minority governments, especially the failed attempt at forming a Liberal/NDP coalition supported by the Bloc Quebecois, played a role. I heard people talking about how they didn't want the uncertainty that comes with minorities. And they figured that STV would give small, fringe parties control over government.

What seems fairly obvious is that the issue as not debated on its merits. For example, read the comments that follow this story on the CTV website. You'd think that the proposal was being put forward by communists and green supporters - instead of a group of ordinary citizens who spent a year of their lives coming up with this alternative. But that history got shunted aside during the referendum.

Ironically, Premier Gordon Campbell used his acceptance speech to talk about how important it is for political parties to work together to find solutions to the tough problems facing us during this economic downturn. But thanks to the existing system, which gave him a solid majority government with about 42% of the vote, he doesn't need to build consensus. He has a clean slate to proceed with anything he wants to.

The referendum campaign never caught fire. It did end up being supported by some prominent figures but that support came late and didn't attract a lot of attention. Overall, the No campaign's message that STV was too complicated and would dilute voters' connection to their MLA carried the day. That's democracy - the people have spoken and electoral reform is off the table for now.

Too bad. It would have made politics really interesting again.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Good article on living roofs in National Geographic

Perhaps its because I'm now a homeowner again, after a few years of renting, that I've been thinking more and more about the long-term benefits of various building options, such as improving windows, insulation, lighting, etc.

One thing I've been intrigued by for a long time is the "Living Roof" or Green Roof, as it's also know by. There are getting to be more and more buildings that are adding natural elements to their roofs, like plants and grasses. And in some countries, the law mandates that new buildings incorporate designs into their structures.

I came across a good article at the National Geographic's website on this topic, which I enjoyed and I thought you might too.

And if you're interested in the subject, there are some other websites out there to explore, such as:

- Wikipedia article on green roofs

- City of Toronto article

- Centre for Architectural Ecology - Collaborations in Green Roofs and Living Walls

And here's a video about the Vancouver Convention Centre's Green Roof, which is mentioned in the Geographic article.

Photo Credit: Victoria's Marriot Hotel from pnwra on Flickr

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The corner seat

Retail corner
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
This photo shows a corner window in the new retail area of my cousin's organic bread bakery, La Boulange, in Qualicum Beach. It's a great operation and I was visiting with him on Sunday afternoon.

This picture is from a set of photos of John's newly-renovated operation that I've posted on my Flickr site.

You can read more about his operation there.

I was up there to visit John's Dad, my Uncle Alan, who will be 97 this month. He's recuperating in hospital in Nanaimo from a recent stroke and a broken wrist. But he was in good spirits today, still able to quiz me about all of my family and tell me all kinds of stories about the "old days." He's the only link left of my Dad's family, so he's very special and I'm glad he's doing so well.

Friday, May 01, 2009

New media vs old media in STV referendum

There's an interesting subtext to BC's referendum on the current system of electing MLAs.

The government decided that in order to be fair, they'd give each side of the debate - those in favour of changing the current system to one using a single transferable vote (STV) and those against changing from the current First Past The Post system.

bcstv.jpgEach side received $500,000 in funding. The Yes side (disclosure - I'm in support of STV - I've even got a lawn sign) has used a lot of its money in building a website, organizing people on the ground, holding local meetings, recruiting and training volunteers, printing pamphlets and lawnsigns and generally employing "people power" to get the word out. Social media also figures prominently, through their website, email updates, twitter posts, YouTube and on Facebook (There are over 100 groups, most Yes, but some No.)

The No side decided not to organize at a local level, choosing to spend almost all of it's money on TV and radio ads, as well as a website. Here's their rationale, according to No-STV President Bill Tieleman. He wrote this in a letter to a No supporter who wondered why there was no local presence in the campaign:
The Yes STV side has a great many volunteers organized for the past several years through Fair Voting BC. No STV has approached the referendum completely differently and is putting almost all resources into television, radio and print advertising - TV starts today. We do not have lawn signs and you will not see any this campaign unless individuals make their own, which would be great. But the Yes STV side has spent an awful lot of their money on leaflets, signs, offices, staff, etc., more than half of their $500,000 government funding. We believe we can reach far more people through advertising and our website.
The No side doesn't seem to be making much use of social media, although individuals are starting to do it. But in some ways, their reliance on mainstream media ads makes for an interesting comparison to the Yes side, which is putting a lot of faith in brining its supporters together using new media, on the Barack Obama model.

Of course, there's a lot more to any campaign than just the ads. But it's interesting to note that the No side of the debate seems to consist entirely of talking about how the BCSTV proposal is a bad one. "We are in favour of reform, just not this version," is their standard statement. I have yet to hear anyone defend the current system. The last 12 days are going to be interesting.