Wednesday, March 30, 2011

UPDATE: Microsoft, Apple Hire Linguists To Duel Over 'App Store' Name -

More on a recurring theme of this blog: language and the law.  For previous posts on this theme, see this and this.

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)--Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Apple Inc. (AAPL) have both hired linguists to serve as experts in the tech titan's ongoing battle over whether or not the government can grant a trademark for the term "app store."

Microsoft on Tuesday filed its latest argument with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which included the opinions of a linguistic expert who supported the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant's argument that the term "app store" was generic and shouldn't be trademarked by Apple.

"The compound noun app store means simply 'store at which apps are offered for sale,' which is merely a definition of the thing itself--a generic characterization," linguist Ronald Butters wrote.

Microsoft hired Butters to counter Apple's own linguistic expert, Robert Leonard, who asserted that the electronics giant's "App Store" was a proper noun and deserved to be trademarked, even though the words are generic when separated. Leonard was paid $350 per hour for his services while Butters was paid $400 per hour for his, according to the filings.

UPDATE: Microsoft, Apple Hire Linguists To Duel Over 'App Store' Name -

Monday, March 28, 2011

Site Helps Slighted Stars Feeling Internet’s Sting -

A quick visit (just a few minutes ago) reveals corrections by Kate Moss, Cherie Blair, the Chelsea Football Club, and Michael Caine.

Suing is too stressful and quixotic. Besides, it’s the Internet: how can anyone erase the inerasable? But courtesy of a new Web site called ICorrect, people who feel unhappy about “obvious misinterpretations, misinformation and what some might call total lies,” in the words of the site’s founder, Sir David Tang, can now attempt to set the record straight.

Site Helps Slighted Stars Feeling Internet’s Sting -

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On The Media: Transcript of "Does Public Radio Have a Liberal Bias? The Finale!" (March 25, 2011)

Here are a few comments on a fascinating self-examination by NPR, presented as part of the excellent program “On The Media.” 

(Before we begin: Note that the ideas in this blog post are intended to be politically neutral.  I am commenting on how ardor at either end of the political spectrum can compromise our ability to recognize the legitimacy of politically neutral questions.  As you read this post, if your blood begins to boil and you start to feel that I am your ideological enemy… hold on to that thought.  You may be experiencing the very ardor-induced polarization that I am commenting on.)

Here is an audio of a story from NPR’s On The Media from 25 March 2011.  The entire story is 18 minutes and 40 seconds, but the excerpt in question starts at the 3:45 mark and ends at the 6:30 mark.  This post will make the most sense if you listen to that three-minute excerpt now.

The conservative critic perceived liberal bias in Michelle Norris's question--"Can the country afford that right now?"

The case be made the listener perceives bias not because Michelle Norris has a liberal slant, but because the listener has a conservative one.

Conservatives tend to believe that low business taxes are good for the country. Especially dogmatic conservatives believe that the corporate tax issue is beyond dispute, and that anyone who doubts the merits of such policies must be merely spewing liberal dogma.

Likewise, especially dogmatic liberals believe that low corporate taxes are an affront to the individual citizen and ultimately bad for the country, and that anyone who promotes low corporate taxes must be deluded or corrupt.

Fortunately, non-dogmatic liberals and non-dogmatic conservatives exist, and they can agree that the question about merits of low corporate taxes continues to deserve scrutiny. A non-dogmatic listener (of either stripe) would recognize Michelle Norris's question as legitimate.

Furthermore, the conservative listener seems to invoke a form of no-middle-ground reasoning that might be paraphrased as "if you aren't agreeing with me, then you must be disagreeing with me." The listener says (at around the 4:55 mark): "To me, it [Norris's question] sounds like the presumption that forgoing any tax revenue right now is a bad policy idea."

Why does that question sound like a presumption to the listener? I, for one, hear no such presumption in the question. Norris did not phrase the question using any manipulative double-negative constructions (e.g., "Isn't it true that the country cannot afford that right now?") Rather, Norris asked the question in a direct, straightforward way, a way that is consistent with someone who is not convinced--one way or the other--about the merits of the proposed policy.

So we have: a) a straightforward question, asked about b) a complex policy that non-dogmatic citizens recognize as worthy of debate, c) as an off-the-cuff follow-up during an interview.

It sounds to me like the listener (identified as a "life-long conservative") was biased in his assessment of the interviewer and the legitimacy of the question. And it seems that the source of that bias could be a failure to recognize that challenging questions might come from a legitimate desire to understand, rather than from the opposite end of the political spectrum, where your enemies lurk, hatching schemes to destroy the country you love.

By the way, if you asked me if the country can afford the tax policy proposed during the interview, my answer would be: "I don't know."  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t decided whether I’m liberal or conservative.  It just means that I’m not dogmatic.  Being a knee-jerk anything is a failure of information responsibility.

On The Media: Transcript of "Does Public Radio Have a Liberal Bias? The Finale!" (March 25, 2011)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Language Log » Celebrity voices

Here is a personal reminiscence about recording news for the radio.  The first, not very surprising message is that words written to be read silently can be awkward when read aloud. 

The second message is that the format of the radio station affects how the news reader delivers the words.  In this excerpt, the newsreader is a radio personality who, in her voice-over career, goes by the smart-alecky name “Miss Audix.”

In the first place, she [Miss Audix] explained, newswire stories are not written to be read out loud. As a professional newsreader, she would need to rewrite the stories and mark them up in various ways before reading them.

And in the second place, she insisted, the clash of personas was just too much. Happy secretaries are not newsreaders, nor vice versa. OK, I said, just read them as you would normally.

But that was not a clear enough instruction, because she had worked at several different kinds of radio stations. And she gave a fascinating demonstration of the acting method behind her different ways of reading the same story on a public radio station, on an all-news AM station, or on a top-40 music station.

On an NPR outlet, she explained, her presentation would embody the idea that "This is really complicated stuff, but I'm intelligent, and you're intelligent, so I'm going to lay the ideas out in a way that intelligently reflects their structure, and since you're paying careful and intelligent attention, you'll understand." And her sample exhibited a correspondingly elaborate modulation of amplitude, pitch, and time.

On an all-news AM station, she explained, the idea is "This is really important and you're really busy so just listen for a minute and you'll get all the essential stuff you need to know". And in her sample, she talked fast and loud and urgently, with great but generally uniform emphasis.

And on a music station her message was "You don't want to hear this, and I don't want to read this either, but the FCC makes us do it, so just ignore me for a minute and we'll get back to the tunes." The corresponding was rapid, soothing, unemphatic and easily backgrounded.

Language Log » Celebrity voices

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hunting Ghosts

It’s hard to consider the source when the source is concealed…

Still, according to researchers such as Adriane Fugh-Berman of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and Leemon McHenry, a medical ethicist at California State University in Northridge, the practice of industry ghostwriting persists. "Pharmaceutical and medical communication companies have just found more clever ways of concealing their activities," Fugh-Berman says.

Ghost authorship occurs when an unacknowledged author makes substantial contributions to an article that appears under the names of other scientists, who may contribute little. Accounts from court records reveal instances of pharmaceutical companies paying medical communications companies to draft articles favorable to their products, then hiring well-known academics to publish the papers under their own names without disclosing the papers' origins.

Hunting Ghosts - Science Careers - Biotech, Pharmaceutical, Faculty, Postdoc jobs on Science Careers

Why Last Chapters Disappoint - Essay -

Not sure if there is an “information responsibility” message here. 

The weakness of last chapters is in large part a function of the sheer difficulty of devising answers to complex social problems that are sound, practicable and not blindingly obvious. Besides, those who give the most subtle diagnoses may not have the problem-solving disposition needed to come up with concrete, practical recommendations.

But if the rousing what-to-do chapter is usually so disappointing, why do so many books include them? One reason is that editors expect them.

For this blog post, the little editor in my head is demanding some message germane to information responsibility, so here goes:

  • For book authors:  Do not try to be all things to all people.  Realize that an incisive description of a problem is a worthy contribution.  Resist the urge (internal or external) to provide obvious solutions.
  • For book critics:  Praise any non-fiction book that manages to: a) shed light on a problem, b) make clear that the problem will yield to no simple solutions, and c) offers no seat-of-the-pants solutions based on bromides, platitudes, and clichés.  Resist the urge to demand solutions for everything.
  • For readers and other media consumers:  Do not allow news organizations to dismiss books about complex social problems merely because those books do not offer solutions.  Be especially wary of politically motivated news organizations that use this technique to disparage ideas considered distasteful by that organization’s editorial apparatus.


Why Last Chapters Disappoint - Essay -

You Cannot Un-Ring A Bell

My previous post suggests that it is never too late for information quality.  If it’s not too late, I’d like to revise that assertion.

We have this from p. 112 of the dead-tree version of Sleights of Mind: What The Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions, by Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde with Sandra Blakeslee:

“Were eyewitnesses lying?  A lasting human foible, Lamont Says, is that people will believe hoaxes and rumors to be true despite all evidence to the contrary, including denials by their originators [emphasis mine], if assertions of truth are repeated often enough. In this regard, the Indian rope trick shares features with modern political ‘controversies’ such as the claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, or that astronauts never set foot on the moon.”

Hmm… If denial by the originator cannot squelch a rumor, perhaps it sometimes can be too late for information quality.

The Death of Barney Darnton, Updated (Finally) -

It is never too late for information responsibility…

Editor’s Note (slightly overdue). An article on Oct. 21, 1942, about the death of Byron Darnton, a war correspondent for The New York Times, described the death as “accidental” without any elaboration. Two subsequent articles said the boat he was traveling on “was bombed from the air.” It was many years before The Times explained further: Mr. Darnton was killed by friendly fire in an attack by an American B-25 bomber on the Australian fishing boat that was carrying the reporter and a force of American troops to Buna, in New Guinea. The circumstances of his death quickly became known to his family and were recounted correctly in Meyer Berger’s 1951 history, “The Story of The New York Times: 1851-1951,” and in a 1975 article in The Times by Martin Arnold reporting on the discovery of Mr. Darnton’s last notebook, the one in which he was writing when he died.

The Death of Barney Darnton, Updated (Finally) -

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Teaching to the Text Message -

Uh oh…

I’VE been teaching college freshmen to write the five-paragraph essay and its bully of a cousin, the research paper, for years. But these forms invite font-size manipulation, plagiarism and clichés. We need to set our sights not lower, but shorter.

I don’t expect all my graduates to go on to Twitter-based careers, but learning how to write concisely, to express one key detail succinctly and eloquently, is an incredibly useful skill, and more in tune with most students’ daily chatter, as well as the world’s conversation. The photo caption has never been more vital. 

Teaching to the Text Message -

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Job Hunters, Prepare to Be Keyword-Friendly - Edward Tenner - Technology - The Atlantic

A perspective on automatic resume filtering…

Without blaming developers of software or the understaffed recruiters who often need to identify candidates from hundreds of applicants, I'm starting to wonder if automated screening may be blocking the peripheral vision that some candidates might have brought to their new jobs, their recognition of possibilities unknown to people too close to the narrow job description. War, exile, and forced migration can catalyze invention, filling what the sociologist Ronald S. Burt has called structural holes.

If everybody in an organization fits their job too well, the organization may become less fit.

Job Hunters, Prepare to Be Keyword-Friendly - Edward Tenner - Technology - The Atlantic

From Filing Cabinets to Digital Thought - James Fallows - Technology - The Atlantic

(Note: I refer to an entry on James Fallows’ blog, but the entry was written by a guest blogger.)

Why strictly hierarchical meta-models will never suffice…

Simply put, our brains naturally extend beyond our filing cabinets. We think associatively. Ideas and documents rarely fit into just one folder. As a result critical information gets buried, duplicated, or lost. We end up searching through our rigid directories and, more importantly, fail to capture the connections and relationships that crystalize our knowledge and drive our businesses.

From Filing Cabinets to Digital Thought - James Fallows - Technology - The Atlantic

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

AP’s new curveball: Wire service will tell baseball stories two ways to help cost-cutting clients for road games » Nieman Journalism Lab » Pushing to the Future of Journalism

A cornerstone of old media admits that the internet echo chamber must be acknowledged, and its denizens kept happy, even when they read their local newspaper.  (Hey, it’s only sports, right?)

Say the Red Sox beat the Royals at Fenway. The lede of a traditional AP game story would focus on the Sox. But the hometown version for Kansas City AP clients would put the emphasis on the other dugout: “The Kansas City Royals continued a six-game losing streak last night, falling to the Boston Red Sox 6-2…”

A good editor can handle a basic rewrite in 10 minutes, Petrak said — but those minutes are precious when it’s 12:20 a.m. and the paper has to be on the lawn at 6. Sometimes, if there isn’t time, an AP story is printed without editing, “and the readers aren’t getting what they want,” he said

AP’s new curveball: Wire service will tell baseball stories two ways to help cost-cutting clients for road games » Nieman Journalism Lab » Pushing to the Future of Journalism

Washington Post publishes story with all the editor’s notes in it

From Gawker, further evidence that information is the result of a manufacturing process.

The Washington Post mistakenly posted this health story by Laura Ungar online with ALL OF THE EDITOR'S ALL-CAPS NOTES INCLUDED. [The final version of the story hasn't been published yet.] We've pasted it below in case it gets pulled.


Are Cloud Companies in Denial About Risk? | Arik Hesseldahl | NewEnterprise | AllThingsD

From an interview with Drew Bartkiewicz of CyberFactors.

Right now the norm is that cloud companies cap their indemnification at the value of the contract. So if you spend $10,000 a year on a cloud application, the maximum you can get in the case of a breach is $10,000. But the data in question could be worth many times that. The average cyber-incident in our models costs $4.5 million.

Are Cloud Companies in Denial About Risk? | Arik Hesseldahl | NewEnterprise | AllThingsD

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Confessions of a Recovering Op-Ed Columnist -

From Frank Rich’s valedictory column for the New York Times.  The perils of producing opinion on a schedule can distort the output of industry analysts too.

I didn’t like what the relentless production of a newspaper column was doing to my writing. That routine can push you to have stronger opinions than you actually have, or contrived opinions about subjects you may not care deeply about, or to run roughshod over nuance to reach an unambiguous conclusion.

Confessions of a Recovering Op-Ed Columnist -

Haley Barbour, Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Right to Judge -

Stanley Fish on (among other things) the distinctions between fairness and accuracy.

What Pitts is urging (implicitly) is not the condemnation of Ku Klux Klan founders, but the principle that condemnation or the withdrawal from condemnation must be evenhanded. You get the right to say something critical of what someone of the opposite party said or did only if you would be similarly critical when members of your own party said or did something similar. And you get the right to refrain from criticizing some only if you will also refrain from criticizing others.

This is a familiar move in political argument (it is related to the tu quoque, or “so’s your old man” move). We saw it in spades a while ago when Democrats lamented the incivility of public discourse and blamed right-wingers for proclaiming over and over that President Obama was a foreign Islamic usurper working to undermine American values. The right replied by rehearsing the litany of things said by democrats about George Bush — he was a tool of corporate interests, a warmonger and an enemy of civil liberties. So what gives you the high moral ground, those on the right asked, when you were equally vile in your accusations?

I want to say that this is a bad move (and a cheap trick) because it deflects attention from the substantive claims being made and puts the spotlight instead on propositional consistency. The better move (by either party) would have been to insist that Obama or Bush was in fact those things and to back up the assertion with the marshaling of evidence. The better move, in short, would have been to take a stand on truth rather than shifting the focus to a calculation of reciprocal fairness.

Haley Barbour, Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Right to Judge -

Monday, March 14, 2011

Speeling lesson

Something a bit more light-hearted than the previous two posts…

The name of the elementary school winner of Thursday’s Miami Herald Spelling Bee was misspelled. Reva Dixit won first place at the competition for Miami-Dade and Monroe students.

Until further notice, do not use “fallout” metaphorically when talking about the Japanese earthquake

Responsible creation of information sometimes requires that writers become explicitly aware of the metaphors they use.  This is hard because metaphors are everywhere and most of them are subconscious.  (In the previous sentence, hard, everywhere, and the sub- of subconscious are all metaphorical.)  Full-time, permanent attention to every metaphor we use would be paralyzing.

Nevertheless, attention must be paid.  Years ago I tut-tutted the prose of some engineering students who used the word “bypass” metaphorically (e.g., Our method bypasses many of the intricacies of more invasive surgeries…) in a paragraph that was comparing medical responses to clogged cardiac arteries.  A previous sentence (in the very same paragraph!) had mentioned coronary bypass surgery. 

The students grumbled that they had used the word bypass in a completely legitimate way so they should not be penalized.  My point to them: When comparing cardiac interventions, readers are almost guaranteed to misinterpret a metaphorical use of the word bypass. Metaphorical use of the word is frequently legitimate, but in this context, using it metaphorically imposes an unnecessary cognitive burden on readers, who will naturally think about bypassing arteries in physical space, not bypassing intricacies in abstract space.

Today is a good day to apply the same principle of good writing to the word fallout.  Some quick internet search reveals the following examples:

  • BAD:  An irresponsible headline atop a story on the website of the Toronto Star:  TXL opens lower as investors assess fallout of Japan disaster.
  • GOOD:  The use of an adjective (economic) to clearly eliminate the terrifying interpretation of fallout as nuclear fallout (from a story in the Wall Street Journal on line):  European stocks fell Monday, led by the insurance sector as investors worried about the economic fallout from the Japanese earthquake and resultant tsunami.
  • BAD:  A sentence from an AFP News StoryEurope's main stock markets fell Monday, hit by fallout from the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan…
  • VERY BAD: A sub-headline from a story on  U.S. stock index futures fell on Monday as investors fretted about the fallout from Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami.  This one qualifies as VERY BAD because even after parsing and interpreting the entire sentence, readers cannot tell whether the word fallout refers to a physical phenomenon (nuclear fallout) or a metaphorical phenomenon (economic disruption).

What the Media Doesn't Get About Meltdowns - Cristine Russell - International - The Atlantic

Responsible creation and dissemination of information can be as mundane as making sure you define your terms explicitly—especially those terms that are simultaneously technical and terrifying.

Of immediate concern is the prospect of a so-called "meltdown" at one or more of the Japanese reactors. But part of the problem in understanding the potential dangers is continued indiscriminate use, by experts and the media, of this inherently frightening term without explanation or perspective. There are varying degrees of melting or meltdown of the nuclear fuel rods in a given reactor; but there are also multiple safety systems, or containment barriers, in a given plant's design that are intended to keep radioactive materials from escaping into the general environment in the event of a partial or complete meltdown of the reactor core.

On CNN's Reliable Sources show Sunday, host Howard Kurtz raised questions about the difficult balance between legitimate concern and fear mongering in the around-the-clock coverage of an evolving emergency. Radio host Callie Crossley criticized the repeated media warnings of possible nuclear meltdown: "Nobody told me what it meant....I thought that was extremely irresponsible." Guest Mike Chinoy, a former CNN Asia correspondent, countered that the media "don't have the luxury of putting something together....This is a scary story."

What the Media Doesn't Get About Meltdowns - Cristine Russell - International - The Atlantic

Monday, March 7, 2011

Social epistemology and climate denialism | Serendipity

If you assume that education gives you a leg up on becoming a responsible information consumer, the following graph should—if you’re willing to interpret it responsibly—give you pause.


Note:  Do not over interpret the left portion of the graph; the sample included very few strong democrats or strong republicans with such minimal education.

Social epistemology and climate denialism | Serendipity

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gutierrez v. Ada, 528 US 250 - Supreme Court 2000 - Google Scholar

A recent post referred to this week’s SCOTUS decision in FCC v. ATT (strictly speaking, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION ET AL. v. AT&T INC. ET AL.), a decision backed up by linguistic research into several electronic corpora (plural of corpus).  A corpus is a large collection of texts, which can be analyzed for usage patterns, concordances, and patterns in language evolution.

SCOTUS has a long history of trying to ferret out the meaning of words; the approach predates the availability of electronic corpora.  For example, in Gutierrez v. Ada, the court grappled with the meaning of the word election.  For information management professionals, Gutierrez v. Ada is noteworthy because the initial ambiguity in the law would have been avoided if the original legislators had started with a conceptual data model.

To data modelers, there is an important difference between FCC v. ATT and Gutierrez v. Ada.  In FCC v. ATT, the linguistic ambiguity concerns the meaning of an adjective (“personal”).  In Gutierrez v. Ada, the ambiguity concerns the meaning of a noun (“election”).  The semantic dispute of Gutierrez v. Ada could have been avoided with a conceptual data model, but the ambiguity in FCC v. ATT would not.  Data models define nouns, not adjectives.

Here’s a snippet from the 8-0 decision in Gutierrez v. Ada:

Respondents' position boils down to the claim that the phrase "majority of the votes cast in any election" requires that a slate of candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor receive a majority of the total number of ballots cast in the general election, regardless of the number of votes for all gubernatorial slates by those casting ballots. If this is the correct reading of the phrase, the parties agree that a runoff was required. If, however, the phrase refers only to votes cast for gubernatorial slates, no runoff was in order, and petitioners were elected Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

Gutierrez v. Ada, 528 US 250 - Supreme Court 2000 - Google Scholar

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Neighborhood’s DNA » Article », Digital Journalism

Here’s a message for those who believe that unique identifiers are merely an an artifact of software…

I’ve noticed DNA spray notices springing up around Amsterdam.  I assumed it was a fairly standard anti-theft device:  A crime is committed, a little nozzle is activated by the offended shop owner, and the criminal is coated in a long-lasting UV-dye.  So far, a more advanced update of the standard ‘exploding ink in a wad of money’ trick, but nothing unusual.  The DNA angle seemed like a marketing ploy to make a banal technology sound bio-futuristic.

It turns out that the dye actually does contain synthetic DNA unique to each location.  The company is a bit cagey is to the exact composition of their ‘DNA solution,’ assuring customers only that it contains all relevant information and is 100% non-toxic.  The genome may be synthetic, but if it is composed of a double-helix polymer made of nucleotides, then it is certainly not fake.

The Neighborhood’s DNA » Article », Digital Journalism

Analysis: A word game over “privacy” : SCOTUSblog

Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in FCC v. ATT that corporations cannot cite the “personal privacy” exemption when refusing to respond to Freedom Of Information Act requests.

Monitoring the U.S. appellate court system offers some rewards to data professionals because the decisions often hinge on matters near and dear to the hearts of data modelers and requirements analysts: the meaning of words, the names of categories, the boundaries of categories, and the rules for determining when an instance qualifies as a member of a category.  (An earlier post discusses one example: Does Rahm Immanuel qualify as a member of the category Chicago residents?) 

For information professionals, FCC v. ATT is noteworthy for two reasons.  First, it shows a serious attempt to determine the meaning of words in a system that requires rigorous interpretation.  The word whose meaning was in question is “personal.”

Second, its opinion relied on an amicus brief that used exhaustive searches through several large electronic corpora of text.  I expect that the appellate courts system will increasingly rely on large text databases to research what words mean by scrutinizing how those words have been used in written material spanning wide ranges of history.

Here’s a snippet about FCC v. ATT from SCOTUSblog:

In 12 pages of teacher-like explanation of the varying meaning of words, the Supreme Court on Tuesday told business companies organized as corporations the sad news that they are not entitled to the same privacy as human beings enjoy, at least when it comes to records that corporations have handed over to federal government agencies.  But, at the end of the 12 pages, in what read like an intentionally clever gesture to make the ruling easier to accept, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., actually  implied that corporations do have feelings, and are therefore capable of being offended. “We trust,” the concluding line said, “that AT&T will not take it personally.”  In fact, that seemed contradictory to the ruling itself.

Analysis: A word game over “privacy” : SCOTUSblog

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mediactive - Creating a User's Guide to Democratized Media

Speaking of data journalism (as I was in my previous post)… Someday soon, a massively popular event that is captured on video by many citizen journalists from many vantage points will yield a 3-D holographic rendering of important moments.

Imagine where we will be a decade from now in a technological sense, and then let’s return briefly to November 22, 1963. Dozens or hundreds of people in Dealey Plaza would have been capturing high-definition videos of the Kennedy assassination, most likely via their camera-equipped mobile phones as well as single-purpose digital cameras and video recorders. They’d have been capturing those images from multiple perspectives. And—this is key—all of those devices would have been attached to digital networks.

If the soon-to-be-ubiquitous technology had been in use back in 1963, several things are clear. One is that videos of this event would have been posted online almost instantly. Professional news organizations, which would also have had their own videos, would have been competing with a blizzard of other material almost from the start—and given traditional media’s usually appropriate reluctance to broadcast the most gruesome images (e.g., the beheading of the American businessman Nick Berg in Iraq), the online accounts might well have been a primary source.

And think about this: We’d also soon have a three-dimensional hologram of the event, given the number of cameras capturing it from various angles.

Mediactive - Creating a User's Guide to Democratized Media

Media Companies Must Become Trusted Data Hubs » Article », Digital Journalism

Perhaps a path forward for the press: data journalism.

Journalists and media companies in general have had to answer a fundamental question ever since their traditional business model collapsed: What are we?

In the old days, it was easy. Media barons could see themselves as selling attention to advertisers, while journalists could see themselves as holding the powers that be to account, free of all business-related interference. And in those days, everybody was right.

Today, the two branches of the business have split, possibly forever. Advertising and journalism do not complement each other the way they used to. In that case, companies and people will have to specialize in one business or the other.

Those who prefer to run Google adwords next to user-generated product reviews have made their choice: they’ve left the journalism business. For others, the existential crisis continues. But there might be a way out – if media companies realize what data could mean for media business models.

The first step on that path is to understand that successful media companies of the future have to build an infrastructure that turns them into reliable data hubs, able to analyze even very large and complex datasets internally and to build stories on their insights.

There is a reason why media companies are still referred to as “the press.” For a long, long time the printing machine was the core technology that provided a comfortable competitive edge. The ability to produce a million copies overnight and distribute them before breakfast offered a solid foundation for making money.

No more.

Enter the “trust market”. Trust, not information, is the scarce resource in today’s world. Trust is something that is hard to earn and easy to lose. And it is a core element of journalism, few other professions are so dependent on trust.

But it is not just a requirement, it is also an enormous underserved market. Media companies will learn that it is trust, not SEO, branding, or content farming that’s the road to success. And that road points right to data journalism.

Media Companies Must Become Trusted Data Hubs » Article », Digital Journalism

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

“Like,” “share,” and “recommend”: How the warring verbs of social media will influence the news’ future » Nieman Journalism Lab » Pushing to the Future of Journalism

Wow!  This story gives me a tingling feeling all over!

I can tell you, anecdotally, that for our Twitter feed, @niemanlab, one of the best predictors of how much a tweet will get retweeted is the degree to which it expresses positive emotion. If we tweet with wonderment and excitement (“Wow, this new WordPress levitation plugin is amazing!”), it’ll get more clicks and more retweets than if we play it straight (“New WordPress plugin allows user levitation”).

For harder data, check out some work done by Anatoliy Gruzd and colleagues at Dalhousie University, presented at a conference last month. Their study looked at a sample of 46,000 tweets during the Vancouver Winter Olympics and judged them on whether they expressed a positive, negative, or neutral emotion. They found that positive tweets were retweeted an average of 6.6 times, versus 2.6 times for negative tweets and 2.2 times for neutral ones. That’s two and a half times as many acts of sharing for positive tweets. (Slide deck here.)

“Like,” “share,” and “recommend”: How the warring verbs of social media will influence the news’ future » Nieman Journalism Lab » Pushing to the Future of Journalism

Children Will Listen: Choosing Words Carefully in the Classroom : Teachers at Work : Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus

Buried in an interesting essay about teaching is this snippet about the shortcomings of pounding the square peg of natural language into the round hole of structured data (or more specifically, the round hole of enumerated data types).

Report Card Syndrome. The way report cards work at my school, the comments section allows me to plug in any one of about 200 phrases. Even 200 phrases, though, is not enough, and the phrases that are there must be baffling for some students. "Works to completion" comes to mind. "Inconsistent response to grade-level tasks" also.

Children Will Listen: Choosing Words Carefully in the Classroom : Teachers at Work : Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus

Baseball Analytics « MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

Baseball fans often claim that baseball is deliberate (critics might say ponderously slow) because baseball does not have a game clock.  That’s nonsense; schoolyard basketball has no clock either, and it is fast.  Table tennis has no clock, and it is almost too fast for the human eye.  What makes baseball deliberate is not the absence of a game clock, but the unusual fact that the defense controls the ball. This lets managers fine-tune defense alignments between each pitch, which in turn encourages a contemplative, analytical approach to strategy.

The idea of using advanced analytics to measure athletes’ performance originated in baseball and has probably had more impact on this sport than on any other. This panel, returning now for its fifth year, will explore how the use of analytics in baseball has evolved, looking at how teams measure their players and evaluate potential draft, trade and free agent acquisitions. Panelists are all industry thought leaders in the use of analytics for personnel management and bring perspectives ranging from external consultants and authors to internal baseball operations personnel.

Thanks to modern data analytics, other sports are catching up to baseball.  This weekend, MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference will cover many aspects of sport analytics, including team and individual performance metrics; strategies for player development, selecting draft picks, and arranging trades; evaluating referees and umpires; gambling; and the economics of ticket sales.

This panel will explore the importance of analytics in basketball. As more teams employ advanced metrics and use statistical tools, this panel will examine the changes in how players are scouted, drafted, developed, and even changes in how basketball is played today. Panelists representing the analytical community, and NBA teams, will examine topics revolving around player/team evaluation, player development, and team performance.

Baseball Analytics « MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference