Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blaming the Internet

John C. Dvorak, recently wrote that everyone is losing perspective, in large part, because of the Internet. I found it hard to believe that someone as knowledgeable about technology would be so mislead as to fear it. He writes that there is a "decline in general perspective," which he defines "generalized or common knowledge." Further, this is due to the explosion of the Internet contributing bloggers, podcasts, etc. Mr. Dvorak leads us to believe that because of the Internet, people only read the news they want to read and fail to get a general, standard perspective.

However, there are a few problems with this theory. First, at no time was there ever a general, standard perspective. Everyone has their own perspective, which may be similar to others' perspective, but is still wholly unique. The idea that there ever was a single, unique interpretation speaks of thought control (cue Pink Floyd... "Teacher leave them kids alone").

Second, how was this general perspective even decided? Majority vote? Nope. By a handful of "middle-aged white men [sitting] around a table in a room" (quote from Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger). It's not general knowledge that Dvorak is begging to return, but the knowledge deemed important by a small group of people from a limited demography. Further, there has always been bias in reporting. It has only been recently that it has come to the spotlight. Despite Fox New's stance, there is no such thing as "fair and balanced" (ask any liberal). In fact, Mr. Dvorak's example of The New York Times is hardly bias-free (ask any conservative).

Mr. Dvorak believes that custom newspapers, which tailor to a reader's interests, makes people only read news they want. While this is potentially possible, newspapers have never exactly been a solution to this either. How many people read the newspaper from front to back, never missing an article? From experience, I can safely say that my Mom read the sports about as much as I read the Home and Garden section, which was... never!

Another cause for concern according to Mr. Dvorak is that those "gosh darn kids today" do not read newspapers and are the ones who really fail to get the "general perspective" (quotes are added to this from now on because the thought is complete rubbish). Maybe when Mr. Dvorak gets back from yelling at the kids to get off his lawn he'll ask himself a few questions such as:

How many kids where reading the newspaper before the Internet?
How many kids just read the sections that interested them (e.g., Sports, Comics, etc.)?
How many kids now have replaced reading those sections with similar sites on the Internet (e.g.,,,

Sadly, Mr. Dvorak gives no data on any of this or any of his other claims. The truth is that we have a wealth of resources available to us. True, some are fictitious and utter nonsense, but it is not like these viewpoints only came about with the rise of the Internet or blogs. There were idiots in the past, there are idiots now, and there will continue to be idiots in the future. The Internet is a medium and nothing more. In fact, I couldn't be happier that these people have found a medium on the Internet because I can now board a plane without being harassed.

I think that Mr. Dvorak assumes that a newspaper is akin to an Encyclopedia, but again, even an Encyclopedia may have an implicit bias. As Mr. Weinberger points out in Everything is Miscellaneous, the wisdom of the crowds as lead to a truly consensus view (e.g., Wikipedia). Further, Mr. Weinberger states that one can actually view the degree to which consensus has been reached by looking at the history of pages. This allows for one to see if the post is new, is being changed a lot, or has settled into a stable state (i.e., consensus has been reached).

I am not really sure if it was Mr. Dvorak's hope of looking like someone who is afraid of technology or someone who is nostalgic for the "old ways," but he succeeded in both. The true cause of the decline in traditional media is that it is too static and mankind has evolved. Simply put, traditional media is just not enough anymore and is no longer a "good thing".

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Science to the Rescue!

This isn't intended to have a political side, but it was just a cool example of how science can ultimately solve a problem. A teenager finds out how to decompose a plastic bag in months. Note: I have only seen news articles on this and as far as I know, it's not been tried by others yet. However, if this is true, it's kind of cool. This is also a lot more promising than praying that no more plastic bags are made.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sounds familiar

The Leading Question and Music Ally have teamed up to state the five ways the music industry can save its sorry a$$. Of course, this is just a repeat from what other have said (recycled isn't just left for RSS feeds). For instance:

1) Gerd Leonhard already stated the need to bundle music into other products.

3) Kurtis Jacobson already stated that freeing music will lead to increased revenues.

4) and 5) David Jennings stated in his book, that charts are vastly out-dated because they "lost their 'water cooler' effect". Also, half his book is on the need for more power to be given to Savants.

Even point 2) could be seen as a part of the solution proposed by David Weinberger. Judging from the speed that companies and the government seem to work, one wonders if its a good idea to listen to the consumer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Multi-tag search

Elias demonstrates the new playground. I love the multi-tag search. I wonder if after 10-20 years of music sites like and Pandora, which cater to individual taste, might start to change the vocabulary we use to describe music. Specifically, will genre labels go the way of the 8-track? Too vague and highly variable. Thinking about, genre was a product of record companies. Makes sense that as record companies are forced to change their structure that the vocabulary would go with it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Science Fiction movies that do it right

I'm not much of a science fiction fan, but I did like that none of the five science fiction movies that get the science right mentioned neural networks. We've all heard the plot line: engineers develop a neural network, it becomes "aware," and then decides that the most logical thing to do is to go on a massive killing spree (of course!). For all of those who worry about technological advances and specifically the dangers of neural networks: there is NOTHING to worry about. This is not how they work and it is not even close. True, they are "inspired" by the early ideas of how neurons work, but of course, the 1950s science is outdated. The brain is much more complex than anything built with neural networks. Sorry, but I always have to roll my eyes whenever I watch Terminator. I now know how my parents feel when they watch ER. (Case in point, on TV, a person who needs CPR in the hospital will survive on Chicago Hope with a 64% of the time, but real-life the highest number is 40% and the long-term survival rate is no more than 30%).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Piracy hurts public health?

It seems I can always count on California to overreact and come to some illogical conclusions. While music and video piracy is still a problem for the major record labels, I find it hard to believe that there is any detriment to public health. I have never heard of anyone being physically or even emotionally hurt by such a crime. There has never been anyone dragged to the emergency room due to an illegal download. In fact, unless you are traveling around the coastal waters of Somalia and other parts of the Indian Ocean, I would have to say your chances of being hurt by anyone engaged in piracy is minimal. I'm starting to wonder if those running the Los Angeles government have confused The Pirates of the Caribbean with the nightly news. They even go to say the welfare of the country's citizens are at stake. I know the RIAA believes that dead people and pre-teens are a horrible aggitators and need to be stopped, I have never been in any immediate threat because on of my neighbors may have obtained the newest Sun Kil Moon album illegally. This whole statement screams of such ridiculous overstatements that it should trigger one's skeptic sense.