Friday, February 27, 2015

"Spock Out"

We've lost a legend today 
and it will be a long time before we see his like again.

No long winded testimonials or empty accolades for link bait.  



Leonard Nimoy


What the FCC's ruling means to you

So for the past year the battle has raged between the proponents of a free and open Internet and corporate interest.

It seems everyone had an opinion from podcasters to John Oliver and most of them rose in opposition to the flimsy pleas of poverty from the likes of multibillion dollar corporations with names like Time Warner and Comcast.

To listen to the ISP's you'd think that Net Neutrality or at least Netflix would be the death of them.  "They use 30% of the bandwidth!"  and "Somebody's got to pay for this"  All the time failing to mention the thousands of miles of "Dark Fiber" sitting unused for decades.   

And what of the promises not kept?  When AT&T threatened to curtail its services if the FCC changed its rules, the company seems to have conveniently forgotten its own obligations.  Time and time again they promise 100% broadband coverage if only they were allowed to gobble up another competitor or get another tax break.  They rarely deliver.  When it comes to ISP's you need to have a conversion chart to figure out what they mean by 100%

But that's all in the past now and and Wednesday's FCC's ruling makes a free and open Internet all but guaranteed, right? 

After all, the FCC has changed its rules and barring a successful legal challenge (unlikely as the changes follow court recommendations from their last go-around) ISP's are now just like your local power or water company.


Of course there'll be the requisite court battles waged by the ISP's where every "I" will be checked for the appropriate dot and every "T" scrutinized for the correct cross.  But in the end, it will happen.

But to you and me, it really doesn't matter.

The argument has been all about Internet Fast lanes with current rules allowing the "theoretical" throttling of services who can't "pay to play."  Treating ISP's like any other public utility puts an end to such a prioritization of services.  

Of course there's merit in that but for the average consumer it's the argument of an idealist.  Yes corporate interests should always take a back seat but if you're really expecting more competition and lower prices for your Internet services I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed.

Here's why...

ISP's are either regional monopolies or down-level customers of services from those monopolies.  That means no matter what, they still hold all the marbles ( or fibers ).  If Google comes to your town that's great but if AT&T, Verizon or Comcast have a lock on the right of way Google's out of luck.  

You need look no further than other regional utility providers currently under Title 2 for an example.   In many parts of the country your choice of a power company is dictated entirely by your geography.  Meaning the only competition consumers enjoy comes from a moving truck.  It also means that with little oversight, rates can be set on a whim.

It's true that there are no fast lanes in water and power utilities but there's also little to no competition.  Where you are dictates your service and your bill.

The same can now be said of ISP's with many areas only having one or two providers who more often than not have completely different offerings ultimately negating any equivalency.  Worse, due to the broken promises of coverage from companies like AT&T and Verizon, millions of customers are still lacking the barest minimum of broadband capability (now 25Mbps.)

So in the end, Netflix may come to you as quickly as Hulu but that's about the extent of the FCC's ruling.  You're still at the mercy of geography and you won't have much recourse when they jack up your Internet bill.

This was a ruling based largely on a "potential" injustice not a current one.

The FCC may have allowed us a moral victory but we have a lot further to go before consumers see any real benefit to their own bottom line.

TWIT: No reprieve!

"The report of my death was an exaggeration..." Mark Twain

A few weeks back the skies were darkening over at Totaldrama.EU.  It seemed that TWIT would finally find it's conscience silenced.  The site had become a victim of its own popularity as former TWIT faithful flocked to a kindred spirit.  Normally such affirmation would be a good thing but with increased traffic comes increased expenses and without benefit of Leo's Tip Jar it seemed the end was near.

But not so fast...

Skip ahead a few weeks to February 18th when it was announced that oblivion had been averted.  Apparently the pullback from the edge came in the form of an anonymous angel investor.

That's a good thing...

Because when someone is selling you a bill of goods you need to have the information to make an informed decision.  You may not agree but at least you have the benefit of another perspective.

Over the past 3 years TWIT has transformed from a trusted source for the geek republic to a propaganda factory running in full tilt denial mode. 

Truth be told, I could care less about TWIT anymore.  I've gone from having a constant loop of TWIT content running in the background of my daily routine to struggling to even get through an episode of what was my favorite TWIT show, Windows Weekly.

To watch a Sunday episode of This Week In Tech has literally become an insomnia cure populated with B-list TWIT personalities (to be honest, that's all that's really left) and hanger's on desperate for some measure of media attention.

But where I'm little more than a consumer, Totaldrama is a watchdog.   Given, it's often a snarling, pee on your shoes, dig up the trees in the yard kind of watchdog but all the same still a watchdog.

I still wonder, however, what will happen to when TWIT meets its inevitable demise.  I'd like to think that what's been started as a parody could evolve into something resembling a mashup between The Onion and Snopes

Heaven knows that TWIT isn't the only online media outlet guilty of believing its own marketing.  There's far too many prairie pancakes (aka: BS) on the wild web to go unchallenged.

Give it some thought guys...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Commercials: Barometer of a society

Have you been watching TV lately?

I don't mean becoming one with your comfy couch binging on entire seasons of Game of Thrones.  No I'm talking about plain old TV, commercials and all.

In a world where just about everything is on Demand from your dinner to your favorite sitcom you probably haven't noticed the latest trends in advertising.  With the curated experience of services like Netflix and Amazon Instant video you'd be excused if you haven't seen a commercial in months.

The vast majority of viewers, however, aren't completely detached from the advertiser-driven TV experience.  That means there's still an audience to watch somebody's commercial.  

Regardless of how irrelevant they may be to you, commercials aren't created in a vacuum.  Whatever they're selling,  you can be sure somebody wants it.

Ok, so we're all used to ads from everything from cars we can't afford to phones we don't really need and food we really shouldn't be eating.  I don't care about those.  I'm more interested in the filler commercials.  The ones about things like prescription drugs and ambulance chasing attorneys.  The ones you see far more often.

In the past few years I've seen more commercials about one-off gambling casinos, lottery games, settlement funding and prescription drugs for every ill than anything else.  Even the ambulance chasers have upped their game from simple fender-bender litigation to multi-billion dollar payouts from big pharma.

That there are so many means the U.S. isn't as much about consumption anymore.  It's more about want.  We're underpaid, poorly fed and sick and we can't seem to find relief.

We can't count on much these days.  Careers are transient and so are people.  It seems the ground is ever shifting under our feet. 

They sell us the promise of stability, the righting of a wrong or just something to make us feel a little better about our situation.

Maybe that's the classic advertising formula, sell a belief instead of a product.

The trouble is, what they sell is a reflection of the world we live in.  A world where needs can only be met by indebtedness to monoliths that profit from continuing our suffering.

We want the lottery win, the big settlement, the freedom from worry and want.  That desire has become an industry in itself.

We are a country forever searching for the light at the end of the tunnel but the tunnel never ends.  The joke has long been that the light is an oncoming train.  That's wrong.  Were that the case at least there'd be some hope of an end but the light seems ever out of reach.

So am I making too much out of a bunch of stupid ads? 
I don't think so. 

If the "product" is security and freedom from want then it stands to reason that those are commodities we're sorely lacking.  I don't find it acceptable to be "sold" on a dream of self-sufficiency.  I shouldn't "need" a mason jar full of pills to live another day or settlement funding to catch up on my bills. 

Trading on fear is a dark negotiation. 

Not the mark of a healthy society.

Think about it...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TWIT: Why the Totaldrama's of the world ever existed...

It's fairly obvious at this point that TWIT has lost a lot of fan base.  With popular hosts exiting and shady personal dramas playing out in front of all those Canon G10's in the studio, it's been a wild 4 years.  The net result is a network short on talent and long on expenses.

Even Laporte's "The Tech Guy" radio show hasn't escaped the black cloud that hangs over the network.  Just in the past 6 months for example, the show has virtually disappeared from the Phoenix area. 

Dropped entirely from  station 1480 AM KPHX, the only area frequency the show is still heard is the relative backwater 1000 watt 1230AM KFYI.  A station better known for its "B-list" conservative talk-radio programming.  That may not seem like a big deal until you realize that the Phoenix market ranks 13 (of 272) in the most recent Nielsen Market rankings.

I've often said that perhaps the problem with TWIT is that we see too much of the sausage being made.  From poorly timed sexting messages exposing an illicit affair to the brutal dressing down of a fan favorite host, TWIT's transparency has had a large role in dismantling a facade that Laporte has spent a career nurturing.

Blame him, blame his so-called "CEO," blame whomever you want but the simple fact of the matter is that Laporte is blatantly fallible and unapologetically so.

So when the banner of wholesome, family friendly content is hoisted nobody is buying it anymore. 

Meaning TWIT's days are numbered.  Nobody likes to see the seedy underbelly of their heroes especially advertisers.

Which leads us to or more recently

It is (soon to be was) a site devoted exclusively to badgering the TWIT network and more specifically Laporte himself. 

Irreverent isn't an adequate enough adjective to describe the vitriol slung at TWIT by the site.  It chronicles every misstep, every crude remark and every gaff.

It fed a disgruntled fan base looking for an outlet but soon that outlet will be no more.  While entertaining, the site could never be accused of having much in the way of journalistic integrity.  Most recent posts were trending toward outright rants and insults based on little more than unsubstantiated personal opinion.

While it's true that controversy is far more popular than more thoughtful content on the web, it's not a sustainable business model.  Especially when the target of your attacks has a shrinking audience.

The failure of shouldn't be looked upon as a vindication of TWIT's current course, however.  TWIT's not gaining any fans and the shows continue to fall in the podcast rankings.  The simple truth is that it's far more likely that the failure of has far more to do with an apathy toward TWIT.

In short we just don't care anymore...