Posts tagged ‘Murdoch Press’


Google, hacks, privacy breaches, and ad codes: there’s a pattern emerging here

11.04.2013

In all my recent posts, I’ve stopped short of saying that Google hacked us, but that the code inserted had Google’s name all over it.
   But if Google was party to or had profited from hacking, then it wouldn’t be the first time, right?
   Remember when Google hacked the Safari browser to track Iphone users?
   That time, it used a trick inside its Doubleclick ad code to fool the Safari browser, so that it provided tracking data back to Google and related ad networks, even when users had opted out of being tracked.
   But we all know about how opting out does not mean opting out when it comes to Google. We know how Google did not respect your privacy when it came to advertising in the case that was exposed on this blog in 2011, and lied about what its Ads Preferences Manager’s opt-out feature did.
   The warning signs were all there in the early 2010s, and if any code should be classed as malicious, it’s Doubleclick’s. I bet Google’s malware bots never picked up those as being malicious in 2012 when they were sending Apple Iphone data back to the company.
   Despite all this, a lot of people still believe that Google’s culture is ‘Don’t be evil.’ The way I see it: it takes quite a bit of effort to engage in these techniques.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


Instaspam: has Instagram jumped the shark?

30.03.2013


The tipping-point has been reached: on some of my photos, fake Instagram account likers outnumber human beings. In terms of comments, spam outnumbers real ones. Of my last ten likers, nine were fake accounts. And we know that when some sites get to this point, they begin dying.
   Yet it’s frightfully easy to spot the fake accounts. Many have the same description, or a mixed combination of various sentences (e.g. ‘Bacon trailblazer. Friendly pop culture ninja. Unapologetic gamer. Beer enthusiast’). Many have the same photographs—both profile and content.
   The problem has gone on for weeks, even months, but on the social networks now is the hashtag #Instaspam—something Facebook’s thousand million-dollar purchase might come to be known by, if the company doesn’t get a handle on fake accounts.
   A few of the ones I reported a fortnight ago still have active accounts, so I wonder if anyone there cares.
   Yet, if folks like us can spot a fake account a mile away, how come the real experts—the boffins whose Nginx servers are being dragged down by this—haven’t been able to target them?
   But this is Facebook, I remind myself: a company that stopped caring years ago.
   I remember the good old days when I received replies from Facebook staff, from basic issues to trade mark disputes. Those days are long gone, and Instagram is now part of the big machine.
   In the last few weeks, I’ve been losing feature after feature on Facebook, with links that can no longer be clicked on, tags that can no longer be done with a person’s first name alone, and other little glitches. But we know that Facebook is broken, and even bug reports are now considered spam.
   It’s in direct contrast to Tumblr, which reached 100,000,000 users over the last week. The company is still in the habit of replying to emails and while some of those are copy-and-paste ones, at least you know something is being looked at. Since a lot of fake Instagram accounts have fake Tumblogs tied to them, I’ve reported my fair share—and received either an automated response or a personal one from Tumblr.
   It makes you wonder if Tumblr staff use their service and understand the user experience—all of its recent changes actually work and are bug-free, and are improvements on the service—while Instagram is now in the Facebook culture of “too big to care”.
   And that’s the distinction between understanding your public and being locked up in your ivory tower, dealing with only the issues at hand.
   If I deal with a company, I’d like to know that the leaders have a good grasp of their communities, as well as the world at large. If it’s just about them and their boards, then it’s a cinch that things aren’t healthy there—and, sometimes, a clue to dropping share prices.
   Even at the city or state level, that engagement is vital—which brings me to this interview with California Lieutenant-Governor Gavin Newsom.
   It’s been fascinating reading Gavin’s views in this interview, where he mirrors some of my thoughts about bottom-up governance and citizen engagement (you know, the stuff I talked about in my 2010 campaign). Sometimes, if you elect politicians, you get politics as usual. Put in someone who has had real business experience—Gavin has 17 businesses—and you might start getting ideas for real change.
   Stop engaging, as Facebook and Instagram have, and we may be looking at another Vox: a site which, in the late 2000s, also let spam get out of hand. Splogs were being set up in an automated fashion, left, right and centre. Legitimate bloggers, as I was on that site, were locked out. Eventually, Six Apart, which owned Vox, shut the place down—despite a healthy community of real bloggers. But even toward the end, things were looking less and less viable. Instagram could well have jumped the shark—and if the issue isn’t fixed, it could be to Facebook what Myspace was to the Murdoch Press.

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This is not your Granddad’s Myspace

26.09.2012

The new Myspace from Myspace on Vimeo

Justin Timberlake may have played Sean Parker in The Social Network, but he’s had a real-life social networking role to play as an investor as Myspace (sans intercapitalized S) showed off its new look yesterday.
   And I like it.
   After being frustrated with another attempt at ordering photos in a Facebook album (viz. it doesn’t work any more), seeing that fan page views had gone way down (as Facebook forces us to pay for promoted statuses), and noticing that I was largely using Facebook as a glorified version of Digg, it dawned on me: there must be a better way. As I told Facebook in a survey tonight:

These are actually reasons to leave Facebook or to find an alternative—and right now, the MySpace reboot is looking way better. Facebook is little more to me than a glorified Digg now where I share some bookmarks, but not where I share my real statuses. And we all know what happened to Digg.

It’s a slight exaggeration as some of my closer friends get some status updates, but the majority come via Twitter, and that’s plugged in to my Facebook.
   Twitter, too, no longer has the effectiveness it once had in itself, unless you are directly contacting someone.
   About the only newer (2007 and on) platform I get any pleasure out of is Tumblr, but that’s not what I call a social network.
   It’s funny, because one year ago, I was raving about Facebook Timeline. How Facebook gave me instant gratification through “likes” and how it looked so clever. But then, as with the Oldsmobile Toronado, designers tinkered with it. They added unnecessary features, such as the second friends’ box. Anything that was ingenious about the original Timeline, such as the way it could guess your most significant past moments, disappeared or was pushed down—or rendered useless. The fact that fan pages still don’t update on the 1st of each month—a bug that existed when Facebook first created Timeline—suggests to me that the company doesn’t really care any more about the user experience. It’s all about the money, and when that happens, the lovin’ feeling’s gone—just as it had with Google, which I also used to rave about.
   While the pundits are saying that Myspace is great because it focuses on music, they are missing the other angle. Based on the preview, it’s a visual delight. It makes updating your social network look good, and you have a fleeting moment of pride as you see the next status go live. We’re so spoiled with technology now that we like those experiences—and the new Myspace user interface, created by Australian firm Josephmark, captures that part of us. I can dig updating in News Gothic.
   Freed from the clutches of the Murdoch Press, Myspace might come good again—at the perfect time as Facebook fatigue—and even a bit of Twitter fatigue—sets in. I never thought I would say that.
   I just hope the new management keep the website clean: don’t do a Facebook.
   And I still have more friends on Myspace than I do on Google Plus, so I am starting from a bigger number than I did on Facebook all those years ago.

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Posted in business, design, interests, internet, media, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


Occupy, the brand

27.11.2011

Serious! "Occupy Wall St"
VBlessNYC, under Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

It was in the fourth quarter of the year that Occupy became a brand. Just capitalize it, and everyone knows what you mean. The original geographical indicator of Wall Street disappeared—to be fair, it began disappearing when similar protests began happening across the United States and then, the world—but I’ve only noticed in the last few weeks that the simple utterance of the word Occupy brought with it a multitude of values. That’s what a brand does: it’s shorthand or code for a range of associations.
   But what associations? If one believes some of the media, then Occupy is unfocused, with its protesters simply upset at the status quo. Others see it as an attack on the technocratic agenda and the multiple facets they possess, whether it’s the financial system being broken (something Chris Macrae brought up at my first Medinge meeting back in 2002) or corruption in politics.
   The truth, at least initially, was probably somewhere in between. I never believed Occupy was one where there was some “protester class” (at least one media outlet believed that), and that its members came from a cross-section of society, even if a few of the international protests brought out a few of the usual suspects from antiestablishment groups. It was clear, early on, certainly from the social networks that brought more direct news than the mainstream corporate media, that everyday people were involved. To me, the most poignant images were probably that of retired cop Capt Ray Lewis getting cuffed by the NYPD.
   However, there were so many conflicting emotions at Occupy that it would be hard to sum up just what people opposed. Maybe it was very hard to voice because there are so many parts to the system that they see is broken. I know when we did our post-Enron session at Medinge, we probably had three dozen Post-It notes on a whiteboard summarizing what we thought was wrong with the business system. They were then synthesized into eight points, not without some effort.
   As the protests wore on, the synthesis has taken place. It’s not an unusual phenomenon: gatherings of people can take time to figure out, through dialogue, what their common grounds are. Better doing it this way, codifying through dialogue, than having a set of values imposed on you from above: it’s a way to preserve authenticity in the movement. A good set of values that represents an organization, in a formal, corporate setting, is usually the result of in-depth research into staff, channel members and external audiences. In the branding world, especially with social networks empowering communications, it makes more sense to harness people’s thoughts through the technology we have at our disposal.
   It was interesting reading what Naomi Wolf had to say about Occupy in The Guardian. The crux of her article is not about brand whatsoever—she highlights potentially dangerous patterns as crackdowns take place and their implication for the US—but read on and she finds out there are certain things that Occupy wants through simply asking its supporters online:

  • get the money out of politics (e.g. ‘legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process’);
  • ‘reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act … This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks’;
  • ‘draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.’

       No doubt there will be variations of these with Occupy movements in other parts of the planet.
       I don’t know Ms Wolf’s processes, or how academic this Q&A was, but perhaps that is not the question here. What we should realize is that the movement is taking a more defined shape, and the media’s contention that this is something unfocused is getting weaker by the day.

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    Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, media, politics, USA | 2 Comments »


    The Murdoch apology does not let us off the hook

    16.07.2011

    News International full-page apology

    Above is Rupert Murdoch’s apology for the actions of the News of the World, to run in the UK in the wake of the resignations of Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton.
       They’re great words, and they’re straight out of the PR 101 playbook.
       Some might say they’re a trifle too late, as was Mr Murdoch’s meeting with the parents and sister of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
       Some might question whether this apology would even have been issued if the Murdoch Press could have kept a lid on the scandal, if the Metropolitan Police had not rediscovered its bottle, and if The Guardian had not been persistent.
       More telling about this apology’s sincerity is whether real steps will be taken to change the culture within the Murdoch Press.
       We still have an organization with nearly half a century’s worth of bullying tactics, skirting the boundaries of the law and allegedly breaking them, and a culture of the ends justify the means.
       Shifting that culture is going to be a tough call, not while so much of the behaviour has been institutionalized.
       It is going to take some effort on Rupert Murdoch’s own behalf, because, like all organizations where the boss’s personality is so strong, it’s going to rest on him to lead a cultural change. Allowing an insider who has always tolerated such behaviour to take the helm is not going to do an awful lot: you don’t get change by reinventing the past.
       I remain sceptical when I think back to all the scandals that the Murdoch Press not only uncovered, but had a hand in generating.
       I remain sceptical when I think back to the victories Murdoch has had over earlier controversies, and whether he believes he can weather this one simply with the passage of time.
       The world is a different place, and he may just be compelled to see this out.
       He may be 80, but he still has young kids by his third wife. Let’s hope he understands that he needs to do right by the 21st century, when people in the occident are more alert to corporate moves and their unsavoury hand in our daily lives. Given that his youngest children won’t have him around for as long as his oldest ones, what he has is his legacy—and unlike Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James, Grace and Chloe will spend more of their lives hearing about their Dad second-hand than first-hand.
       I think back to when we wrote Beyond Branding, and how we forecast that consumers would drive integrity and transparency through their demand. It looks like this is being played out now.
       The question I have is this: is this merely the first salvo in everyday people taking back their power, and will we sink back into disinterest in a month or two?
       Rupert Murdoch would not be in this position if we didn’t have a love of the gossip in The Sun and News of the World. We, the people, made this man rich.
       If the Murdoch that critics write about is the real man, he’s betting the farm on disinterest being the order of the day come the autumn.
       In my own world, I recall that last September, when the Fairfax Press reported on the possibility of the resurrection of the Wellywood sign, the silence on even the anti-sign Facebook group was deafening. One person even said he would vote for my rival and eventual winner, Celia Wade-Brown, because I did not do enough to fight the sign.
       All it took was five months for one man to forget that I was the only mayoral candidate who actively fought it. I am not picking on him alone, because I don’t believe he was the only one to suffer from a short memory. We all do it.
       Instead, this one issue alone, trivial by the standards of the Murdoch story, took 14 months before anger subsided enough for it to resurface in force with a new news report.
       This is the defence of the bully boss and the pompous politician: the hope people forget, thanks to our lives being harder during a recession. The tougher the economy gets, the more they think they can get away with, since they hope our attention will be swayed. Without a comfortable life, will we have the luxury of monitoring those in power?
       It’s up to us to get wiser and realize there’s more important news than what the tabloid press tells us is interesting.
       It’s up to us to realize that celebrity news really does not affect us, unless it’s truly inspirational. And 99 per cent of it isn’t.
       It’s up to us to understand that ‘sources close to’ do not constitute the truth, nor are those sources capable of the mind-reading of their subjects.
       And it’s up to us to remember the past, rather than look fondly on it with rose-coloured glasses.
       Corporate misbehaviour alone can fill a newspaper, as can the incompetence of our leaders. Yet we see little of either since advertising is affected by blowing the lid on the first, and a power base is affected by blowing the lid on the second.
       The first is what killed the News of the World, not a sudden crisis of confidence by James Murdoch, who put his name to the announcement of its closure.
       The second contributed to the delay in a Murdoch apology, in the hope that the Murdoch Press’s close ties to the Conservative government would be sufficient to weather it through the scandal.
       Look around, especially in this election year in New Zealand, and you see very similar forces at work.
       Regardless of what Murdoch does, real change starts with us.

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    Posted in business, culture, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


    As News of the World closes, we might be getting better at making business accountable

    08.07.2011

    So James Murdoch has announced the end of the News of the World. It’s no biggie: as others have discovered, a domain name for The Sun on Sunday has been registered, and if this is by an agent of News International, it simply makes sense for the Murdoch Press to consolidate its tabloid brands and raise the circulation of The Sun.
       Chatting about it here at work today, my view was that the problems plaguing the Murdoch Press were cultural, and shuttering one paper really wouldn’t make much difference. I described Rupert’s former hands-on style and, like him or not, the man was the master of his craft for years. He knew the sort of headlines that would shock and get sales. Whether one admires the craft is another matter, though, it should be noted, it made the guy a multimillionaire.
       It’s easy to forecast that News will allow the shock of the death of the 168-year-old newspaper brand to set in, push through with the BSkyB deal, and relaunch the paper under its new name, hiring some of the 200 staff back.
       It’s not the first time Murdochs have rejigged or renamed a newspaper. Already I can envisage a ‘Reach for your new Sun’ headline being proclaimed in a Saturday edition, apeing what happened in the 1960s.
       Interestingly, another writer also believes in the cultural explanation. Simon Dumenco points to how News behaves in the US, seemingly operating in a fantasy-land.
       In Britain, on Wednesday morning, every newspaper carried the hacking scandal on the front page—with the notable exception of The Sun, which led with a pregnant Victoria Beckham. (The Guardian had all 10 papers, but The Sun’s page one has since disappeared, presumably due to a copyright complaint. I have put that front page below.) The hacking scandal appeared on p. 6. Dumenco points out that when gay marriage became legal in New York, everyone there carried that news prominently, except for the Murdoch Press, which relegated it to a bottom-of-page headline in its New York Post, and a second ‘What’s News’ in-brief item in The Wall Street Journal.
       Dumenco predicts that the public will tire of it, though, as I blogged earlier this week, in 1997 a lot of people swore off tabloids. Not a lot changed in the immediate years after that. But we can only hope: one of our predictions in Beyond Branding was that consumers would demand greater transparency and integrity. That certainly has held true for a lot of sectors. They are true, even of media, but the cycle is longer thanks in no small part to the habits some people have with news providers. Nevertheless, it is happening.
       As news consumers move online—and there is plenty of evidence of this shift—it’s possible that the audience will shift to media that are perceived to be fairer. Those wanting confirmation of various biases can find them in niche media or blogs. There are more people analysing the media, so it may be easier for people to discover critical thinking behind the stories.
       There’ll always be a mob mentality (people have banded together since they began socializing) and tabloid journalism will not disappear (there’s a sense of Schadenfreude, especially of celebrity stories, while there’s inequality in society). But this week’s example of the fairly rapid withdrawals of advertising accounts from the News of the World—Ford, Reckitt Benckiser and Renault come to mind—shows that the public has a line that shouldn’t be crossed. The internet has allowed people to group together to make their viewpoints known, and it’s refreshing to note that, more often than not, we do so for good causes and a sense of justice, rather than for divisiveness or harm.

    The Sun, Wednesday, July 6, 2011

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    Will we dump tabloids now we know more about the Milly Dowler hacking?

    05.07.2011

    I don’t think there are too many people prepared to condone the News of the World’s alleged hacking of the cellphone of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler in 2002. Not only did the Murdoch Press paper hack the phone, but when her voicemail filled up, The Guardian alleges that the News of the World began deleting newer messages—giving the Dowler family hope that their daughter was still alive and checking messages. By that time she had already been murdered, though it didn’t stop the same newspaper from interviewing her parents and asking them if they had hope that Milly was still alive.
       There’s an outcry today, of course, as this news became public, and the Murdoch Press has said it would cooperate with authorities.
       Although it must be noted that its article in The Sun on the subject this morning merited a grand total of 95 words.
       The best punishment that everyday consumers can make is to stop buying their papers. But I don’t think it’ll happen.
       After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, we received so many comments from readers at another publication along the lines of, ‘I will never buy a tabloid again.’ What happened? Those readers might have stuck to their commitment, but tabloid circulation actually rose after Diana’s death.
       I’ve no doubt that the print numbers have since fallen—we are now in the 21st century, and the daily dead-tree industry looks increasingly anachronistic—but the appetite for tabloids and tabloid journalism remains.
       We still live in a world where ‘sources close to’ are interpreted as gospel, even by some so-called qualities and broadsheets.
       If Milly Dowler’s case is to mean anything, these commitments to dump tabloids, on- or offline, had better stick.

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    Posted in business, internet, media, publishing, UK | 1 Comment »


    Facebook hates The Scotsman, and other xenophobic bugs

    08.06.2011

    Some very interesting errors on the internet today.
       Facebook blocked an innocent link about the price of electricity in Scotland, from The Scotsman, because it was deemed ‘abusive or spammy’. Maybe Scottish accents don’t go down well in California. Hang on, didn’t they import Craig Ferguson?
       I am told by Colvin Inglis on my wall that it isn’t the first time Facebook has blocked The Scotsman. He blames the English. Maybe they’re still sore about the genealogical accounting error that James VI a.k.a. James I caused.
       A little later today, I wasn’t allowed to Tweet to my friend Kai in German but all my other Tweets in English went through. I had to conclude that German does not go down well in California. Hang on, didn’t their former governor speak the language?
       You can’t expect me to let Google off the hook, of course, even when being humorous.
       Here’s what clicking on a Google advertiser on the Lucire website netted me:

    Google 404

    ‘That’s all we know,’ proclaims Google.
       Well, you’d better know more, because that’s one of your customers you’re not servicing correctly.
       The Google Dashboard continues to be faulty and despite not being on Buzz or Gmail, I continue getting followers.
       As explained numerous times before, Google says that if you don’t fill out your profile, you won’t be on Buzz. When the big privacy breaches occurred, I deleted all my personal info from Google, leaving only my name (the bare minimum).

    Google Dashboard

    It’s not the first time (that was in February 2010), and, as with the last few times, the follower is totally unknown to me.
       You’ll notice I underlined the entry under Blogger. I haven’t had a Blogger blog since I deleted everything off the service in early 2010. It claims I have one, but, checking into Blogger (and yes, this is what it looks like on my computer), I am told I have none.

    Google Blogger

       I know, bugs happen all the time. Even on Lucire, which strangely became inaccessible for some moments last night (thank goodness for Cloudflare, which served cached versions). I’m going to bite my tongue on Google today since I’ve already discussed the above errors (and far worse privacy breaches) in previous posts.
       I’ll simply reflect on the humorous, non-scientific observation that if you are Scottish or German, Facebook and Twitter have it in for you today.
       Bit like how being Geordie gets you fired from the Murdoch Press.

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    It’s about content, especially when reality is more appealing than reality TV

    10.04.2011

    The Apprentice logo
    It’s shows like The Apprentice that have kept me away from watching TV.

    I was surprised to learn, in conversation last week, that TV viewership is up, while print is down.
       Shows you can’t base too much of what the general public does on your own experience.
       I estimate my magazine and book consumption is roughly where it was for the last half-decade, but I watch around seven hours of broadcast television (not online stuff) per month at the top end.
       The reason I have a television set is to show DVDs, and little more. If I had a more advanced unit, I might consider sticking USB sticks containing short films from friends into it, but it’s little more than a display unit for other media.
       It surprises me, because I would say I watched a lot of telly in the 1970s and 1980s.
       As to newspapers, the last time I bought or subscribed to one was 1993.
       My attention does seem to be on the computer, and that’s been growing since the 1990s.
       Part of it came from the business—getting news from Reuter Textline, for instance—but when a lot of this stuff became mainstream and everyone could get it, I joined in.
       I don’t think it’s down to the fact that a lot of it is free—though having said that I do not miss the Murdoch Press’s paywalled (sic) publications one iota—but the fact that everything can be tailored to my tastes. As much as I rip into Google, I have always said Google News was a fine product that allows me to do just that. (I use the UK one, ever since the US one turned into something unusable.)
       What it boils down to is the long shift from top–down media to participatory media, something that’s not new, by any means.
       At the core, it’s all driven by content.
       My dissatisfaction with, say, the newspapers, was due to the small amount of international coverage we were getting in the early 1990s. The Dominion had cut its coverage down to less than a page a day. The last time I saw a copy of The Dominion Post was at the airport on a flight—I collected it from the gate—and spent more time on the crosswords than I did on the world news. It’s not as bad as a single page, but it could be better. (Don’t get me started on the wasted opportunity of not reducing the page size with its last redesign, especially as I only seem to read it on the plane.)
       And telly is much the same. I simply found shows of yesteryear more appealing—but it’s not as though shows of a similar ilk aren’t being made. They just aren’t shown by the terrestrial channels.
       With my apologies to those friends who like these shows, I just cannot find competitive cookery shows, the various Idols or Simon Cowell’s X Factors terribly interesting. Even when I appeared on TV regularly here, I didn’t watch the show. I have not watched a single episode of Survivor, and if the Donald gets his way and The Apprentice is set from the Oval Office, I still wouldn’t find it terribly interesting.
       I was one of those idiots who stayed up to watch Hustle or Daybreak, and these days, about the only things I do watch are Top Gear and Doctor Who. (Lucky for Prime.)
       Shows cut from everyday experiences bore me, especially this genre called ‘reality TV’, especially when there’s something more interesting. It’s called ‘reality’.
       In a city like Wellington, there’s always something to do, and everything’s so close by, it wouldn’t surprise me if that particular genre of television was more dead here than in some other cities. And, if you really wanted to emulate television, you can even see roughly the same people each week.
       While there is some truth in saying that a lot of content has become a commodity—check out some of the sites that Google News has let in occasionally—the good stuff, content that is differentiated and smart, is still prized. (Strangely, that’s the Murdoch Press argument for its paywall—but I guess we all have different ideas over the definition of prized.)
       So upping my television watching or even newspaper-reading is dead easy. Customized printing is already here, or will it be down to tablet apps? Either way, that’s one way to deliver a decent newspaper experience that I might subscribe to.
       However, I can’t see television exactly catering for my whims in the near future, not while more people watched Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Masterchef for Sweatshop Kids—or whatever the heck that has diversified to—than Life on Mars (the original) down here. Bringing up the percentage of drama to where it once was would work for me and the tiny minority that I represent, and commercially, it looks like we aren’t worth it.
       Anyway, I am hooked on this ‘reality’ at the moment, and it’s in part thanks to reality TV breaking me out of my old habits. I didn’t think I’d be grateful for reality TV, but, there you go, I am: it got me away from the box.

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    Posted in business, culture, interests, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, TV, UK, Wellington | 2 Comments »


    A bad choice of word, but what does the gay community actually think?

    19.03.2011

    While I was out, I had noticed on Twitter a news item about an octogenarian, working for American Airlines, who was sacked for his use of the word faggot.
       I despise words like that, just as much as chink or nigger, but the question arises: should he have been sacked, losing some of his benefits after 54 years’ service?
       He wasn’t a homophobe. The story, which may have surfaced in the Murdoch Press (where else?), was that Freddy Schmitt backed the right of gay soldiers to serve openly. He said, ‘Back then, a faggot coulda saved my life.’
       Bad choice of word? Absolutely.
       But the man is 82, and probably grew up at a time when such words were not deemed unacceptable. Maybe we can say he should have kept up with the times, but sometimes, new learning slips your mind and you fall back on the old.
       I have a father who grew up at a time when Negro and Negress were acceptable words, and, while he rarely uses them (the last time I heard him use Negress was 2004), the guy is 75.
       I’m not sure if this is playing the age card: it’s simply understanding that we’re not that good at retaining knowledge we gain later in life. In Dad’s case, even more so, when you’re talking about a language he only started learning at 14.
       After a while, you just don’t feel like keeping up with the vernacular, foreign or not.
       I asked my American friends of African ethnicity what they thought was acceptable, and they didn’t have a problem with people of Dad’s generation using these two words, as long as he kept away from the n word itself. (Which he does, as it was probably derogatory for a long time.)
       The gay community is more than capable of speaking out for themselves without my second-guessing their reaction to Mr Schmitt. With that in mind, I popped into the Pink News site (‘Europe’s largest gay news service’) to see readers’ reactions, and mostly, they felt Mr Schmitt should be taught proper usage and not be given an apology, but that he should not have lost his job over it.
       A minority backed American Airlines’ move.
       So, judging by the readers of one publication, it seems that Mr Schmitt should be told off, especially if he’s still working as a trainer and contacting the public, but many of those whom he supposedly offended are far more tolerant than the airline might think.
       Not unlike the 1970s’ British TV series, Mind Your Language, where it seemed the majority deemed it politically incorrect as it was supposedly offensive to minorities.
       I don’t find the show offensive, the actors (most of whom were of the ethnic groups they portrayed) didn’t, and I have yet to meet any member of a minority who does.
       The fact that the majority thought us so weak and so unable to speak for ourselves that they made that judgement for us is more offensive.
       â€˜Oh, those poor [insert minority race here]. They will be so offended by that. Let’s cancel the show.’
       I’m sorry, we have a voice, thank you. Engaging in dialogue with us is not that hard.
       Just as the gay community has a voice in this instance. They don’t need me, or American Airlines, or anyone else, to speak for them about the utterance of an 82-year-old man.
       â€˜Oh, those poor gays. They will be so offended by that. Let’s fire the man.’
       Of course we should speak out in defence of our fellow human beings, but we should also engage in dialogue, too (that’s an invitation: everyone’s comments are welcome). We shouldn’t presume that, somehow, one group is superior, and that the other’s voice should not be heard.
       I just hope the motive for the article isn’t to separate people, because, as one reader on Pink News pointed out:

    Political correctness run amuck! Aside from being unfair this is EXACTLY the sort of PC BS that causes moderate Str8s to think ‘gosh, the queers ARE getting out of hand’.

       It’s not the ‘queers’ doing it, it’s a corporation which likely had heterosexuals making the judgement to fire Mr Schmitt.

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