Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Media is older than you think - Part 2

YouTube is perhaps the most blatant example of the "New Media" hypocrisy. Their motto is "Broadcast Yourself" although it's hard to find on their webpage anymore.  Here's their current claimed reason for being...

Founded in February 2005, YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.

The real truth is that only thing YouTube cares about since the Google acquisition is becoming the Internet equivalent of NBC. They've invested a few million in a Los Angeles production studio called the "Creation Space" supposedly to support the YouTube community.  What you find in the small print, however, is that you don't get to use it unless you've been "invited."    

To get that golden ticket you need to  have at least 300,000 average views with the first crop of "invitees" being closer to a half million or more.  Check out the bulk of the channels and  you're going to find a lot of crossover from old media interests, entertainment figures and those with a popular following elsewhere. 

Sorry guys, your chances of getting in on the new digs is pretty slim with videos of your new kittens produced with Windows Movie Maker.

By the way, a common thread among successful YouTube channels is a partnership agreement with an even  larger channel. 

Oh yeah, and being a pop star with a record company backing the production of your new "Internet only" video wouldn't hurt either.

So what exactly is this New Media then?  A shortcut for old media billionaires to make more money by spending less on production?

Seems that way which means supporting your tiny channel is not their focus.  In fact since the Google acquisition, the service has become increasingly hostile to small content creators.  The recommendation is to sign up with bigger partners if you want to increase your views. 

That means revenue sharing or basically paying the bigger partner a percentage of your monetized views on top of YouTube's normal cut.  Kind of like a pyramid scheme.  Paying for views, by the way, is something YouTube actively discourages anywhere but partner agreements.  They can't turn a profit outside that structure so they make sure you don't either.

The only thing YouTube is nurturing is its own fortunes.  Don't expect to get a call to reserve your slot in the "Creation Space" if you're not in the less than 1% of YouTubers able to live off your partner income.  It's not going to happen for smaller channels simply because their take isn't lucrative enough for them.

YouTube will reap millions from its relatively paltry investment in facilities and you're going to pay for it with deeper cuts into your monetization.  Even if you never get to use it.  So much for their philanthropic motives.

Why?  Simple, it's a corporate interest and  you're just a consumer of their product.  Your "partner" status just gives them license to hijack your content for their own ends with minimal benefit for you.  So while you spend hours hoping that all that slaving over the perfect upload will go viral, know that YouTube has your back.  Well at least so long as they can turn a profit on you.  Oh yeah and you don't do anything to threaten the sensibilities of their advertisers or even suggest the possibility of a copyright infringement. 

Do either of those and you'll quickly be branded "Not Advertiser Friendly" which at the minimum denies your videos monetization or at worst gets them pulled down.

Sound familiar?  It's the same dynamic that got your favorite show kicked off of network TV and drove innovative cable networks like TechTV into the ground. 

So dry your tears New Media pundits, it's the same old crap in a new package.  Nothing's really changed as the same "old media" gatekeepers are still collecting the tolls.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from engaging in this "New Media" just don't believe everything you hear about it.  It's definitely fun but it's far from free and not as lucrative as it seems so don't quit your day job.   

You can start a blog, post hundreds of videos on YouTube and spam all your Facebook friends with them  and still not earn a dime.  Without the backing of the gatekeepers you may as well post your blogs on telephone poles.  Just remember the "New Media" isn't all that new so take it with a grain of salt.  Most of the hype you're hearing is the same kind of noise you get from an "Internet Millions" infomercial. 


New Media is older than you think - Part 1

The Internet is delusional. More precisely, people who see it as something other than a shill for corporate interests are delusional. I suppose that means I'm raining on somebody's parade but then again, I've never thought Felicia Day was that big of a deal. The promise of "New Media" was broken the day the term was coined.

So it should be no surprise when you suddenly find your creative expression cut short by some mysterious mechanism that's denied your 15 minutes of fame.

 I've watched a lot of misty eyed podcast pundits proclaiming the impending doom of the "old" media model and the rise of the "New Media" model. They postulate on how all those silly old men in their corporate towers are powerless to prevent the tidal wave of content in this brave new media world. Surely the tables are turning and the rise of entertainment by mob rule will conquer the day.

They fondly recall short lived television shows that to their minds were unfairly struck down only to find rebirth in a new medium. A feat not possible without the promise of the... Internet!

 I guess they forgot about that whole thing with VCR's and DVD box sets. Oh yeah, and the fact that 90% of television programming couldn't draw 1000 views in a YouTube channel anyway. Worse, YouTube probably wouldn't let them monetize it due to some BS about "commercial use rights".
What they fail to mention is that the "rebirth" found its conception with an sympathetic ear who had control of the content. And why not, they had nothing to lose by offering up these "lost gems" on the web. All the better if they could squeeze a few more bucks out that old crap too.

So it goes with most of the New Media superstars as well. Most of whom started with more than just a laptop and a webcam.

People like to point to podcasting and YouTube as the best examples of new media. Look behind the curtains of the most popular "visionary" media offerings, however, and you find a deep bench of old media. 

Take the example of Leo Laporte's TWIT netcast (podcast) network. Built on decades of broadcast experience on radio and television as America's favorite tech pundit, Laporte's TWIT it is the wet dream of anyone with a YouTube channel. With over 20 shows built around technology related topics from social media to law it's frequently held up as the example of successful "New Media."

The part that gets glossed over is that without Laporte's "Old Media" gravitas and a few handpicked hosts from his TechTV days, TWIT would be just another hobbyist channel on YouTube. Not surprisingly, the collective TWIT resume is heavy in traditional media as well as technology luminaries like Steve Gibson, Bob Heil and Alex Lindsay. Not exactly the kind of talent easily accessible to the average podcaster trying to make their way in the world.

There's nothing wrong with leveraging your strengths but you can't hold TWIT up as a pure example of New Media precisely because of them. It's existence is entirely reliant on leveraging old media concepts if not its on-air personalities.

I mean, really now, TWIT would literally have to start airing "This week in gym socks" and "The Social Terrorist Today" to fail with their talent lineup.

While tightly controlled, TWIT still relies on advertising and audience metrics for a revenue stream. Programming that doesn't meet a revenue threshold no matter how popular can find itself cancelled, which isn't exactly a new idea. We're still being asked to vote with our wallets instead of our interests. Even popular hosts organically grown from this "New Media" that run afoul of "old media" hierarchies can quickly find themselves out on the cold.

Perhaps the most vivid example was the ousting of a rising star on the TWIT network in 2011. Erik Lanigan came fresh out of college and worked for TWIT as an editor before beginning the rise to the ranks of a show host after Laporte recognized his talent. Toward the end he gained a loyal following and was reportedly being groomed to substitute for Laporte on his weekend "Tech Guy" syndicated radio show.

From available information Lanigan wasn't receiving adequate support for his fledgling overnight show not to mention a paycheck in general. It culminated in a chat conversation where he admitted as much. Viewers of the live broadcast were none the wiser, however, with even Laporte struggling to find anything derogatory in the show's recorded video. It appears Lanigans sin, was to admit that he wasn't being fairly treated by TWIT management to chatroom friends.

Laporte's commentary on the subject was probably the most emblematic of old media icons when in response to questions about Lanigan's firing he said, "I had to kiss a lot of butt in the first 20 years, that's why I'm here...You kiss butt in media for a long ass time"

Isn't this the core issue of old media that the New Media is supposed to correct? Isn't the rule that the quality of the content should supersede ego or advertiser metric? So the old maxim of brown nosing to the top is part of the new revolution in media? It calls into question if New Media outlets are really the incubators of fresh ideas or just a new medium for the old guard to monetize.


Monday, January 28, 2013

The value of the written word or are you smarter than an 8th grader?

Lately I've become aware of two schools of thought on blogging.  One says it's just an overblown diary of regurgitated diatribe while the other holds it up as the purest form of writing.  Funny thing is, there's merit in both opinions determined entirely by whose stuff you happen to be reading.

The question I have to ask myself is:  Does the value of the work depend on popular opinion or the actual quality of the content? 

Take the example of a textbook.  It can be invaluable in teaching you a new skill but you can be certain it will never make it to anyone's bestseller's list.  On the other hand, the most popular book in the world still happens to be the Bible.  The value of which is debatable depending on whether you think it should be shelved in Fiction or Non-Fiction.  I'm not touching that one...

The point is, nobody ever raved about their favorite textbook.  It's full of cold, boring facts arranged in the most uninteresting and tedious manner possible.  No fun. 

If you're a Boomer whose outgrown Harlequin Romance novels, however, "50 shades of grey" is on par with Hemingway. 

It's said that a good writer writes to their audience, nothing more, nothing less.  To do otherwise dooms you to perpetual anonymity.  So it's not enough to "know thyself", we have to know everybody else too. 

Considering the literary company "50 Shades of Grey" keeps, it's unlikely to end up on anyone's list of great classical literature.  E.L. James, however, knew her audience and has found great success because of it.

But does 65 million copies sold worldwide make her work any more relevant than the heartfelt musings found in a blog about the daily struggles of single mom?   What about the cancer researcher whose passion to find a cure finds an outlet in her blog?  Is this work any less deserving of attention because it doesn't cater to our lowest selves?

I found an article recently about a formula used to determine the grade equivalency level of your writing.  It's said anything above the 8th grade reading level is difficult for most people to understand.  Think about what you were reading in 8th grade and the landscape looks pretty bleak.  It's suggested to "write down" to your readers. 
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So far, according to the formula, this article's written at a 9th grade level by the way. 

I think that's the wrong direction.  It's offensive to me that instead of striving to improve our comprehension we're encouraged to "dumb down" our content.   If it's true that knowledge is power then we should be actively pursuing it not waiting for someone to package it for us.

And you know, sometimes, that's not fun...


It's the pursuit of our better selves that provides the greatest reward.  I'm not looking to talk down to anyone, I just want to be able have an intelligent conversation.  That anyone would suggest that you're not entitled to be any smarter than the average 8th grader should be revolting to you.  Yet that's exactly the message we're assaulted with every day.

We're a society that's become dependent on devices without any concept of how they work.  If they break we just buy another.  Even popular entertainment is less about a good story than the spectacle.  Consider that if a television series like Star Trek, Bonanza or Perry Mason were produced today as they were decades ago, they wouldn't have lasted a season.

We now embrace a popular culture based almost entirely on image instead of talent.  Let's get real here, Elvis could sing, Justin Bieber can't (and Lady Gaga is suspect too.)

A generation ago economic status had a direct relationship to the pursuit of knowledge.  Our boomer parents were encouraged to better themselves because a civilized society depended on it.  Whether or not your education was formal its value was unquestioned.  Now we step over PHD's who've taken up residence in alleyways. 


Which is why I find intensely offensive any formula that calls itself a "readability index calculator" that purports that good writing requires no participation from the reader.

Something's changed since I was in grade school because that's 180 degrees from what I was taught.  It's not that I believe every reader should have a Master's degree but if you don't understand something, look it up.  That's what Google is for!  It's called learning and painful as it may be you have no excuse not to know something.  Unfortunately for most, the information is not always neatly packaged like some  Android app so they just forget about it and try to level up in Angry Birds.

It's amazing that the very thing that offers the best chance for human advancement is the same thing that devalues all of us.  Don't allow anyone to package your point of view for you, the world has enough fundamentalist morons running around.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

X79, the last Intel Enthusiast platform?

Article first published as X79 - The Last Intel Enthusiast Platform? on Technorati.

It started a few months back when a leaked Intel road map suggested that socketed CPU's were on the way out.  With half of the upcoming Haswell processor offerings designated as BGA (surface mounted) assemblies and only a question mark in the "enthusiast" row, it looked as though Intel was moving away from the DIY/enthusiast market.  The cornerstone of which is the ability to mix and match motherboards and CPU's at will. 

Within days, Intel's closest competitor, AMD, announced its undying affection for sockets.  Proclaiming no end in sight in satiating desires for devotees of the free and open CPU socket.  That resulted in an almost instantaneous response from Intel asserting that socketed designs would continue for the "foreseeable future." Which from current roadmaps appears to be at least 2015.

Last week came official word from team Blue that the release of Haswell would be the last Intel branded motherboards to be offered by the company.  Signaling an intention to focus resources on the more lucrative mobile and SOC markets dominated by Nvidia and Apple.

Again speculation swirled that this was the beginning of the end of the desktop market.  Intel was never as big a player selling motherboards to the enthusiast market as the likes of ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI.   Still, their presence was often the foundation for many OEM PC builds and served as a kind of reference design.  If Intel made a board, consumers knew that this was going to be the foundation for all the rest to build on.
With plans to exit the motherboard market that raises the question of the veracity of their commitment to desktops in general.  Chipsets are planned up to at least Haswell (x87) but a look at  the family's  enthusiast offering  shows an a flagship CPU that runs not on a new chipset but rather repurposes the Sandy Bridge-E X79 platform.  You read that right, Intel will likely offer four different Haswell chips as an upgrade option for an aging 2 year old platform. 

Now you can have cutting edge technology hamstrung by features made obsolete by the last  year's bargain bin ultrabook.  Intel's been slow to add features like SATA 6 and USB 3.0 on even its newest chipsets let alone mature examples.  It seems Intel is throwing the enthusiast community a bone without any meat on it. 
That leaves remaining motherboard manufacturers scratching their heads when considering how to position their higher margin "enthusiast class" boards.  Remember that this is Intel's last hurrah in the space and it's unlikely there will be much more than a BIOS update for current X79 offerings. 

How will ASUS or EVGA justify asking upwards of $300 for an X79 motherboard with tacked on features to fill in the obvious gaps?  Let's also not forget that half of the Haswell chips are BGA designs which are conspicuously mainstream.  Forcing third party board makers to support not only their boards but the CPU opens up new and exciting opportunities for them to go broke with warranty claims. 

With mainstream board designs moving away from replaceable sockets and Intel making a half hearted attempt at an enthusiast Haswell product, Intel's sending a message to the DIY market...
It's not our problem anymore but hey! have you seen our new NUC!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Inauguration that may never have happened

January 21st 2013 was not only the observance of Martin Luther King day but also the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.   Mainstream conservatives must now at least acknowledge the legitimacy of his agenda but some on the right still question whether he should have won a second term. 

Consider the endorsement of RNC chairman Reince Preiebus for a plan in a number of Republican controlled state legislatures to change how their votes for the electoral college are counted.  The plan already adopted by a few states would change the electoral college voting from a winner take all approach to a one that would divide electoral votes based on popular vote percentages. 

There's a belief by some in the GOP that if such an accounting change were in place today we may well have seen the inauguration of a President Romney instead of a second term for Obama.  Barack Obama captured 51.1 percent of the popular vote but under such a change could have lost the electoral vote thus  echoing the election of 2000.  An outcome the popular electorate would rather not repeat but the President's opposition would welcome.  

On its surface the plan seems reasonable and in theory would be a more accurate representation of the popular vote on the electoral college.  All things being equal, that would be true until you factor in the work by largely conservative legislators to gerrymander entire districts to their advantage.  The results of which have diminished the voting power of traditionally Democratic leaning populations by reapportioning them into smaller or more conservative leaning districts.

Remember that electoral college electors are selected by political parties and not popular vote.  Population is the only commonality with the figure determined in the same manner as the number of  representatives to the House from each state.  Using election voting percentages per district to assign electoral votes could effectively negate the popular vote of a state while still appearing to be reflective of it.

Perhaps it is indeed time to rid ourselves of the electoral college as its weaknesses appear to be the latest target for abuse by those who seek to invalidate the popular vote.  


Of fallacies and firearms

It's no secret that the furor over gun control given recent events has overshadowed even the economy as the issue at the forefront of most people's minds.  Violent acts against the innocent, especially children,  shock us out of our complacency turning even the most apathetic into fair weather activists. 

So it's no surprise that the cause du jour on capitol hill is stamping out those things perceived as encouraging the worst aspects of humanity.  Perhaps more correctly, the lack of said humanity.  
Guns, video games and violent movies are easy targets with many proposing removal or strict regulation could provide society with a kind of pacifism vaccine.  Others see such action as an erosion of  civil liberties and further evidence of the heavy hand of big government. 

They're both wrong...

If you believe in the rhetoric of the NRA you probably think the government is somehow just over the next hill coming to take away your right to defend yourself.  Their defense is distraction suggesting that perhaps the opposition got one thing right. 

Click Here for TV Deals!Yes of course!  It's those violent video games, says the NRA, that turns normal human beings into inhuman murderers urged on by the virtual bloodbath that is Starcraft 2!  The opposition is quick to point out, however, that nobody's ever been murdered by a video game no matter how violent.

The opposition is no better, however.  The proverbial baby is thrown out with the bathwater seeking to eliminate all that is perceived to be unpleasant or an affront to civil society.  To them, the government may be imperfect but its judgment ultimately superior for the sake of the public good.

The problem with regulation for the "public good" is that it often treads on civil liberties.  Look no further than internment camps detaining Japanese-American citizens during World War 2.  Of course most people aren't aware of history past Ronald Reagan's presidency so a more recent example may be in order.

There were laws put in place for the "public good" not so long ago that allow warrant less wire taps and searches under powers granted by the ironically named "Patriot Act."
All ammunition (no pun intended) for the Tea Party crowd. 

I'm going to attempt to bring this all together for you so bear with me.

First, the biggest fear of gun advocates is government "interference" with the ownership of their weapons.  They feel that government regulation seeks to eventually leave them defenseless and subjugated to an oppressive regime. 

The most extreme of the group will stockpile quantities of assault weapons in preparation for the coming "showdown."  They also frequently cite the second amendment to the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence as the foundation for their beliefs.  The right to obtain any weapon they choose without obstruction is to their mind central to a constitutionally protected right to overthrow an oppressive government.

Two major, glaring problems with those lines of reasoning.

First, all it takes is one well placed shot from a shoulder launched missile and your little revolution is over.  That's assuming they even bother to send troops and instead just have a drone take you out.

Second, there's a flaw in their logic concerning the constitutional basis for their position.  The Declaration of Independence was written as a response to the oppression of King George on the colonies not the United States.  You can copy and paste if you want but you can't cite the original for your position. 

Turning to the Constitutional argument.  The Second Amendment allows citizens to defend themselves from an invading foreign army via an organized state militia otherwise known as the National Guard.  That's it folks, nothing more, put those A-Team and Rambo fantasies to bed.

Nobody wants to be defended by an unruly band of weekend warriors running around humming the theme to the Green Berets.

Does anyone actually believe that any government document would be written with a provision to allow its own overthrow?  Sorry, but expecting constitutional protections from the very government you oppose is utter nonsense. 

One more thing, extremists are generally not good students of history and forget that there would never have been a United States without help.  Countries like France and Spain provided money, munitions and even troops to the fledgling nation.  Admittedly born more out of a hatred for Britain and economic opportunism than any great magnanimity. 

With British warships effectively blockading all major ports and choking commerce the American  revolution could have been nothing more than a skirmish without outside help.  Great Britain could have simply starved the rebellious colonies out much like the UN uses economic sanctions to punish rogue states. 

So unless you've got some superpower-sized assistance lined up, best forget your revolution and put your guns back in the trophy case.  Of course I'm probably completely wrong so I invite you to find the nearest mountain cabin from which to plot your revolution.  Let me know how that works out for you. 
Hey, at least you'll get your 15 minutes of fame on CNN before they move on to the latest Kardashian fiasco.

On the other side of the aisle, the expectation of the ideal violence-free society resembling something out of a Woodstock hallucination is equally flawed.

Congress seems to have an affinity for regulation.  Problem is, it's usually for the wrong things.  Classify Marijuana as a controlled substance and they create a booming illegal underground market.  Relax FDA regulations and late night television is crowded with ads for lawyers participating in class action lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. 

There used to be an assault weapons ban but it was given an expiration date like a container of milk.  I suppose that was so they'd be safer when they became legal again...

The problem with regulation is that it's black and white when there should be shades of gray and vice versa. 
Remember when congress managed to give away 700 Billion dollars to bail out Wall street interests in 2008?  You'd think that kind of investment of public funds would have some kind of oversight, right?  Not only was the 3 page bill passed with virtually no accountability for the recipients but with specific language to prevent it. 

LC65E77UMThere were regulations passed to be overseen by the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but the agency is largely toothless in its enforcement.  It's forced to depend on the good graces of the entities it monitors.  The foxes are assumed to be on their best behavior in the hen house.

Of course, a lobby-fed congress being necessary to the security of the state...  Yes, I did it, I ripped off the second amendment for that.  And why not, it might as well be in the bill of rights. 

Deregulation of the financial markets over the past 3 decades created a fertile environment for the Wall street sideshow.  A performance that resulted in the world's economy coming to the brink of collapse.  Still, even in a period of time short enough to match the average attention span lobbyists keep congress from passing meaningful reforms in the financial market.

 So can we actually expect congress to pass meaningful legislation about anything?  Their history is to either provide toothless agencies hampered by legislative loopholes you can drive a truck through or to disenfranchise an entire segment of the population.

I'm personally frustrated by the reactionary politicians that cause this mess.  They're always on the lookout for the quick fix that'll play well to the short attention span of the constituency.  You need only look at the recent Republican Presidential campaigns for evidence.  They actually tried to use current economic conditions to unseat a sitting president, for example. 

Never mind that the country was still recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  To the Mitt Romney's and Ben Quayle's, the economy should have recovered in 90 days.  Let's also not forget about the congressional logjam fueled by ideologies that only served to further delay any recovery.
What does all this have to do with gun control?  Simple, it's not about the subject, it's about the process.  We'll either get overreaching legislation or nothing at all. 

My proposal?  Quit blaming the straw man.  It's not the guns, video games, or violent media causing these bloodthirsty rampages. No, It's a flawed system easily taken advantage of by a disturbed individual at a gun show.  It's the unsecured weapon in the home of a troubled teenager.  It's not incorporating technologies into weapons that only allow them to operate when keyed to a specific owner.  So called Smart guns have been in development for the past decade by the way but adoption's been blocked by groups like the NRA citing privacy issues. 

We're required to be tested and licensed to operate a motor vehicle.  That vehicle is required to be registered to operate on the public roadways.  At any time law enforcement can, for cause, stop you if they suspect a violation of the law. 

Most of us accept those conditions to participate in our daily commute.  Why then should there be an issue with registering a device whose very design is intended to harm?  Now, don't try to paint me with a broad brush for that.  I really could care less what kind of firearm you own so long as you're willing to take responsibility for it. 

You can be sure that if you blow the front of my house off with a military surplus RPG, however, I'm going to be showing up at your door.  I would not, however, suggest that you couldn't have it rather just that I and everyone else knows that you do. 

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Does that mean the police are going to show up every time somebody's house gets blown up by a rocket?  Probably, but it comes with the territory. 

It's no different than the police escort you'll get every rush hour because you happen to be driving an "arrest me Red" Corvette.

It comes down to taking personal responsibility for your actions.  If you don't want the government interfering with your "rights" then you're going to need to join civil society and ditch the Rambo fantasies.
We're never going to completely eliminate the possibility of a determined psychopath causing another Sandy Hook no matter how strict our gun laws are.  There is a better chance of heading it off, however, by requiring gun owners to take personal responsibility for their actions.  That comes from measures like registration, background checks, training and smart gun technology.

I'm putting the onus on you, not the government, not the entertainment industry nor the NRA to solve the problem of gun violence.  You're the one with the guns.

Status Quo is Latin for "the way things are" and it's not going to work anymore.  Change will happen and it's best to have a say in it unless you're comfortable with someone else doing your thinking for you...

Yeah, I didn't think so...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A lifestyle event, now with stereotypes!

Article originally published on Technorati as: A lifestyle event, now with stereotypes!

It's January in Scottsdale, Arizona and that huge traffic jam on the 101 freeway can only mean one thing, Barrett-Jackson's back With examples from classic to wild custom there's always something to drool over at this largest of the four Barrett-Jackson auctions. 

It's said to be "The" automotive event of the year that both collector's and wannabe's alike use to value their dreams.  Is that all original Hemi RoadRunner in your garage  a good investment or is it just another Satellite?  Barrett-Jackson will clear that up for you.

Since 1993 Speed Channel, now called just "Speed" and recently acquired by Fox networks has broadcast the event.  Each year a week's worth of coverage in the middle of January dominates the otherwise Nascar centric programming on the channel.  It offers a view into not only the cars but the lifestyle and people that surround them. 

Watch it for an hour and you notice that the "lifestyle" is populated by primarily affluent 50'ish white men.  None of which seem to have any compunction against throwing ridiculous sums of money at cars your parents probably couldn't wait to get rid of back in the day.  They call it an investment but it's dubious reasoning.  The collector car market is as fickle as Wall street.  It's more likely an attempt to recapture lost youth with a bit of braggadocio thrown in at their financial ability to try.
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Speed has always been good about staffing the event with veteran commentators from across motorsports.  Whether they've been covering Nascar or writing articles for Hot Rod there's sure to be at least one you can identify with.

Which makes a recent change to the event coverage perplexing.  Last year saw the addition of what can only be described as a "booth bunny" to the lineup.  I appreciate an attractive woman as much as the next guy but does shoehorning a stereotype from a bikini contest really add anything to the broadcast?

There's nothing wrong with female broadcasters so let's get that out of the way.  Speed's choice, however,  is little more than a foil for dumb blonde jokes.  Is there a dearth of female motorsports commentators versed in their subject? If this is the way motorsports views women I wouldn't blame them for staying away. 
Still, it's not as though Speed hasn't had access to female journalists at least familiar with motorsports.  Is it too much to ask to not perpetuate a stereotype?  It's demeaning.  On Wednesday night's broadcast for example,April Rose (of Maxim fame) was seated in a driving simulator and actually said,

"They should make one of these for women drivers where everyone stayed far away" 

I hate Internet shorthand but...O M G ! 

She even did the hair flip thing! 

Gender equality set back 50 years in 20 seconds.  Were I an affluent woman considering the purchase of one of these shining examples of lost youth I'd likely have switched off Speed channel's coverage left the auction and headed across the street to Russo and Steele instead..

I'd like to say it was an isolated incident but unfortunately it was only one of many.  It's obvious that to the old white men in charge of Fox, she is the pinnacle of female broadcasting.  

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Not Advertiser Friendly"

Stroll through YouTube for awhile and you're bound to be offended by something.  I've been told I'm guilty of it myself as evidenced by the three videos YouTube has most recently deemed "Not Advertiser Friendly."  As opposed to YouTube itself which is by and large "Not Partner Friendly."
Personally I'd like to see a viable alternative to YouTube as they've only become increasingly Draconian since the Google acquisition. 

Do these videos offend? That depends on your point of view.  Do I advocate hate speech or present vile or disgusting content?  Not as far as I'm concerned but your mileage may vary.  I know I'm not the most attractive guy but I do keep my clothes on at least. 

Worse, if you're falsely accused of a copyright violation (I've won 2 of those BTW) YouTube will deny you compensation but has no compunction to place ads for their own benefit. 

If the content is deemed questionable how can they justify drawing revenue from it when you cannot?  It's corporatism at its worst. 

It seems the rule of the Internet is that if it's convenient it's going to cost you something.  In most cases it's free speech in others it's your privacy.  See Facebook and Twitter for other examples.

YouTube isn't leading, its following.  Their grand new idea appears to be to emulate old media with all its bias and pandering to advertisers.  Instead of pleasing advertisers perhaps advertisers need to learn to go where the eyeballs are most engaged.

The bulk of content on the service would safely fit onto a third tier cable channel that runs infomercials  between reruns of Cops all day.  Most of those fail within a couple of years so unless it's a money laundering operation it's not a viable business model.  In that light how can YouTube defend "Advertiser Friendly" denials of monetization?

Too bad, it could be so much more but YouTube chooses the path of a coward and dies 1000 deaths every day with each new upload of a "Jackass" wannabe.

See how I get myself into trouble below...




Tuesday, January 8, 2013

CES 2012, So What

Note:  I wrote this article last year for Technorati.  I bring it forward now to see if anything's really changed. My bet is that it hasn't...

Article originally published on Technorati as CES 2012 So What

CES 2012, so what...

Spend any time on the Internet and it's hard to avoid coverage of the Technology industries biggest show and tell.  But is it really?

This year, it seems the big story has centered around LG's 55 inch OLED display and an onslaught of "me too" tablets and ultrabooks.

Oh yeah, and that whole Microsoft pulling out of the show next year thing.  Even their keynote was a yawn inspiring parade of old information and lackluster demonstrations.   As I watched it I thought to myself that it was the first time I've ever seen Steve Ballmer struggle to not look bored.

Now we have the last of the two most recognized names in technology eschewing the event for other venues.  The other notable absence of course being Apple.

It's been suggested that it's far more effective and less costly to make major announcements on the Internet or via more focused events like Microsoft's Build or Apple's Worldwide Developer conference. .  If you're Microsoft or Apple, CES is not the avenue it once was to get your product in front of the consumer.

That makes sense.  CES is supposed to primarily be a venue for manufacturers to test new products out on potential customers.  By "customers" I'm not talking about you and me, rather I'm referring to purchasing agents for Big Box stores like Best Buy and second string manufacturers that want to use components from companies like LG.  So you don't get in unless you're either tech press or in the "industry".  

It seems strange that an event touting itself as a "Consumer Electronics Show" has no interest in showing their wares to consumers.  Instead they'd rather have the information filtered through technology media with their own biases or vendor PR departments.  That may explain why so many innovative products fail to gain any traction in the "real" world.  You can't gauge public interest if you don't give them opportunity to talk to you.
As I've watched the coverage from a number or sources I've noticed that even the best technology press gets little more than a sales pitch and evasion when pressed for details.  With all due sarcasm, it seems completely logical to spend millions on a flashy booth and provide no information on the products it contains.  After all who cares if the product actually exists let alone when it will be released.  In the end it's likely that we could have gained more information from a press release.

I've been to a number of industry tradeshows and I can tell you I'm usually bored after an hour or two.  While a trip to Vegas is usually a good thing I can understand the tech pundits bemoaning having to attend a show like CES.  Let's face it, they were probably bored the first day and spent the rest of the week desperately trying to find something interesting to report

CES gained a lot of its current popularity when Comdex left the scene around 2004.  Even with the exit of Comdex the show currently brings in only 150,000 visitors on average during its yearly run which is quite a bit less than the quarter million in years past.  Perhaps the writing is on the wall and like many brick and mortar retailers, the Internet has a lot to do with the decline.

 It's also possible that the whole concept of CES has become outdated.  Technology changes faster than old avenues of promotion can keep up with making it difficult to forecast demand for six months let alone a year out. 

Another problem is the saturation of product markets.  For example, this year seems to be the year of tablet and ultralight laptops.  What we see is a mild upgrade to devices we already know with little in the way of revolutionary products. 

Take TV's for example.  Everybody knows about HD now and the only big advance we've had is screen size and gimmicks like 3D over the past few years.  OLED is nice as is 4K resolution but it's still just a TV which is still a commodity product no matter how good it looks.  Couple that with astronomical pricing  when they finally decide to release the "upgraded"  product and all that "innovation" goes out the window.
(2013 note:OLED 55" said to be 10K when released only in Japan this summer BTW.  They blame low yields of only 10 to 15 percent of the large OLED panels for the scarcity and price.)

In the end it's likely that CES will eventually fade away in favor of more consumer focused promotions in smaller shows and on the Internet. 

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Raincheck on the Fiscal Cliff

Article originally posted on Technorati as Raincheck on the Fiscal Cliff

If your thoughts have been occupied by the "fiscal cliff"  like a bad New Year's hangover there is some relief, at least for now.  Today's passage of HR-8 (The Tax relief Extension Act) provides among other things a 1 year extension to Federal emergency unemployment benefits as well as a permanent extension of tax cuts for those making less than $400,000.  Both measures that could keep the economy from slipping back into recession in the near term. 

Still, on both sides of the aisle this last minute bipartisan agreement comes up far short of the "Grand Bargain."  Spending cuts are only "deferred" for two months leaving plenty of debate for the incoming 113th congress.  It seems the only part of a comprehensive overhaul of government spending cuts and revenue increases that either side can agree on is the name.

To most Republicans on the hill, a "Grand Bargain" must include severe cuts in funding and tighter eligibility requirements for "entitlement" programs including Social security and Medicare.  Any new government program must have a corresponding funding source either from cuts in other entitlements or quantifiable revenue streams otherwise known as tax increases.  With most of the House Republicans still adhering to the Norquist pledge they're going to need different shorthand for "revenue." 

Republicans also chafe at the prospect of "overburdening" the well heeled with a bigger tax bill for fear of hurting job creation.  It is large, not small business that drives the economy in the conservative view.   Increasing taxes on them can only result in economic retaliation.  If it sounds familiar it is indeed the theory of trickledown economics from the Reagan era.

To most Democrats in congress, a "Grand Bargain" encourages investment in social programs, protection of entitlements and increased taxation on high earners.  Incidentally, what constitutes a "High earner" has been a major bone of contention during the haggling over the fiscal cliff.  Tax loopholes long employed by businesses to shelter income as well as subsidies to large corporations like big oil would also be eliminated under the "ideal" democratic plan.  

All of this under the banner of "tax fairness" which asks more of those who have "benefitted the most"  to help those who have not.  Of course bearing the label of "tax and spend" democrats makes their proposals subject to increased scrutiny from their Republican counterparts. A condemnation seemingly validated by funding sources that often look more like a sidewalk shell game than a legitimate revenue stream.  Republicans often cite President Obama's$700 billion Medicare savings plan as a revenue source as an example. 

571713_Perfect Pen – promote your business with custom imprinted products!Where republicans now argue the need for "fiscal responsibility" in funding social programs,  Democrats are quick to remind them of their lack of the virtue in recent history.   A 4trillion dollar price tag for the Iraq war and 1.2trillion for the Afghan war to date has only added to the balance on the national "credit card."  Numbers republicans refuse to address and democrats love to remind them of.

While disaster has been averted for now expect little in the way of increased cooperation going forward.  The deal passed Tuesday night by the House was born more of self-preservation than magnanimity.  None in congress wanted to bear the heat of a constituency thrown back into a crippling recession born out of legislative inaction. 

The logjam of the "Fiscal Cliff"  is born once again out of political dogma.  Where Democrats believe in government being a catalyst for economic growth Republicans see it as an impediment.  Not since the Civil war has a congressional body been so divided by ideology and put the fortunes of the country in such peril. 
If you require evidence, look no further than the close  of Tuesday night's House session.

Amidst impassioned pleas to act on a Senate bill that would authorize 60.4 billion in Sandy relief, the Republican leadership decided instead to end the session.  Cries of "Speaker!, Speaker!" left hanging in the air as the Speaker pro tempore Steve Womack (R-Ar) quickly left the chair, his only response a shrug and outstretched hands.

Fanatical ideology still holds the reigns of congress.  It remains to be seen if progress can replace it.  

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