Friday, January 9. 2015
This is a strong sign of defending free speech
These....not so much
It is of course a given that every right thinking media organ in the Free World believes in Free Speech, and all would of course passionately and vehemently subscribe to Voltaire's maxim* that:
"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it"
Until the Charlie Hebdo shootings.
Then it immediately became very clear that defending Charlie Hebdo's right to say what they said may actually mean defending it to (your) death. And at this point we started to see a certain amount of wilting of resolve. The main resort of the brave free world mediarati was to backward shuffle to clicktivism, to wit "Je Suis Charlie" - easy to tweet, blog, say etc - but what precisely does it mean?. Will those proclaiming it from their barricades actually defend free speech to their deaths?
One can actually measure just how much any media outlet is "je suis" Charlie. There is an arcane part of game theory that looks at the actions people take to prove how strongly they support a proposition, idea or movement. The wording changes for these actions, they were called "tells" in my day (before poker grabbed the term) so I will use "tells". In general a strong "tell" is when someone gives something significant of themself (time, money, effort), or puts something of theirs at risk to back a position. A weak tell is when they will put very little of their assets or themselves at any risk.
Thus "clicktivism" - activists clicking buttons on social media - is a very weak tell. It's part of a general trend towards weak tell approaches that the digital world has facilitated, aka "slacktivism" - it's an easy and convenient out. Je Suis Charlie is, on its own, is merely one of these - you risk nothing, commit nothing, it just takes a click of a button to show how deeply you care. So of course most of the chatterati became Charlie for the day.
But what shouid be the response of those brave "free world" agencies with real voices, i.e our free press, be? Many ordinary people actually came out onto the streets that night, which is in itself a stronger tell than any form of slacktivism, and from a game theory "tells" point of view made it clear that our brave mediarati were leading from the rear. So what was the press going to do with their organs of mass distribution the next day?
Should they exhibit "strong tells" - prove their refusal to bow down, publish the same cartoons that got Charlie Hebdo staff killed and be damned?. Or publically proclaim they will subscribe to Charlie Hebdo (as Arnold Schwarzeneger has), or will they financially support Charlie Hebdo (as Google et al have). Or maybe even make it clear you will retaliate (As Anonymous has).
Or should one exhibit very "weak tells" - fulminate on one's op-ed pages about the right to free speech, draw a few "safe for work" cartoons, clicktivise "Je Suis Charlie Hebdo" prominently - but don't publish anything directly risky, and then argue for a host of reasons one couldn't possibly take the risk of upsetting people who may want to hurt you.
There is of course the tried and trusted victim blaming gambit - blaming the Charlie Hebdo people for bringing it all on themselves, as the FT (among others) tried - the game theory of the anti-tell I suppose.
In effect, quite a few continental European media outlets, Huffpo and many independent bloggers & cartoonists chose the strong tell, publishing Hebdo or other strongly satirical cartoons and being potentially damned, whereas most of the Anglo American free press and chatterati pundits - those proud upholders of free speech in their own lunchtimes - basically bottled it and then resorted to various Chamberlainesque arguments to excuse themselves. Je sort of suis Charlie for today isn't very convincing.
By their tells shall ye know them.....
By the way - Voltaire also said:
To hold a pen is to be at war.
You heard it in 1766 first, so it should hardly be a surprise now....
*Actually, it wasn't Voltaire who said that about defending free speech, strictly speaking, it was one of his biographers - but it is the sort of thing he would say. And arguably if anyone needed defending from the religious and other fundamentalists of the day it was Voltaire, who was one of the founders of the hard edged satirical tradition that people like Charlie Hebdo continue, and he did it at a time when many people did kill you for your opinions. If Voltaire was alive today, and lampooned todays' sacred cows as vociferously as he did those of the 1700's in his books like Candide, he would be strung from the gibbet of every religious and special interest extremist group on the planet today, and the Anglo-American chatterati would be baying for his blood along with them)
Friday, February 28. 2014
The Tube, if it told the Truth - Kudos Buzzfeed
Every time you think that Twitter has become more silly than it was, something existential like the above emerges in your feed and you stay hooked. That is all you need to know about Twitter's ongoing value proposition.
(Actually.....I have a meeting in town today, I can either get there from Tourist Tat or Eric Pickles.....oh the choices)
Monday, February 24. 2014
The (non) regulatory annual Bitcoin crash
News today that Mt Gox may well have been turned over - Forbes:
This was always going to happen, as we've pointed out before, and there is no restitution - no one is insuring bitcoin holders against losses. And, just as predictably, post crash there will be regulation:
It's probably going to happen again before that though, as Bitcoin's decentralisation and lack of oversight is both its strength and Achilles heel
Saturday, February 8. 2014
Eddie Izzard de Latine
Vel potest esse solebas, nunc demum urget ab Anglis translate it lorem fermentum. Post haec audivi quasi. Et omnia, quæ sunt Cæsaris Caesar reddens. Quod ultimum test, nimirum, est ut in ipsum interprentatur interprentatorum:
Non ne forte....
Hmmm...Dies ne des opus
Thursday, February 6. 2014
There is a new head of the Borg. But it is the Borg*. He will be assimilated. Resistance is Futile. That is all you need to know.
*Though interestingly, he attributes his rise to cricket Maybe the Borg will be assimilated instead, cricket being a very subtle, insidious Force....
Friday, December 6. 2013
The Onion's Nelson Mandela Obituary
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Rolihlala, his given Xhosa forename, means "troublemaker" by the way ) died yesterday. I've never been a fan of the "Great Man" theory of history, believing that it is systemic - but in this one case, I'd make an exception. There is no need for the Beloved Country to cry, but to rejoice in what he has achieved, not least the prevention of bloody civil war. In my view the principles of Truth and Reconciliation should be made globally mandatory after any conflict.
Satire has a marvellous way of telling deep truths via humour, and internet newspaper The Onion sums up Madiba's impact perfectly (above)
(We went to the same university, so I like to think I walked in his footsteps just a tiny bit - mainly to the canteen, I suspect, in my case......)
Monday, November 11. 2013
Tuesday, October 15. 2013
Today is Ada Lovelace Day, celebrating women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Elaine Morgan died this year, she helped develop a fascinating thesis of a part of human evolutuion, and was a very talented woman.
On her thesis - like many I was curious about why, of all the land mammals, only humans and pigs have little body hair and do have subcutaneous fat, whereas all sea living mammals have them. Morgan wrote about the Aquatic Ape theory. (Wikipedia):
Morgan first became drawn into scientific writing when reading popularizers of the savannah hypothesis of human evolution such as Desmond Morris. She described her reaction as one of irritation because the explanations were largely male-centered. For instance, she thought that if humans lost their hair because they needed to sweat while chasing game on the savannah that did not explain why women should also lose their hair as, according to the savannah hypothesis, they would be looking after the children. On re-reading Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape she encountered a reference to a hypothesis that humans had for a time gone through a water phase, the so-called aquatic ape hypothesis. She contacted Morris on this and he directed her to Alister Hardy. Her first book The Descent of Woman (1972) was originally planned to pave the way for Hardy's more academic book, but Hardy never published his book.
I remember being delighted when I read "The Descent of Woman" in the late 70's, as it was clear it was both a fascinating hypothesis and tweaked the nose of the existing heirarchy. The theory is still at the sidelines of scientific thought (though there is still no good explanation of why we and pigs are more like Dolphins in so many ways), but good for Elaine for squaring up to the scientific establishment and rocking it.
She was also a fascinating character and quite the Renaissance woman (Wikipedia again) :
RIP Elaine, Renaissance Woman in an over specialised age.
Tuesday, September 3. 2013
Ronald Coase died yesterday, he won his Nobel Prize for understanding transaction costs in business value chains and externalisation of costs (eg pollution), these have been critical to understand online economics and tehe volution of digital business, social business just being the latest iteration. Wikipedia:
Coase is best known for two articles in particular: "The Nature of the Firm" (1937), which introduces the concept of transaction costs to explain the nature and limits of firms, and "The Problem of Social Cost" (1960), which suggests that well-defined property rights could overcome the problems of externalities (see Coase Theorem). Coase is also often referred to as the "father" of reform in the policy for allocation of the electromagnetic spectrum, based on his article "The Federal Communications Commission" (1959), where he criticizes spectrum licensing, suggesting property rights as a more efficient method of allocating spectrum to users. Additionally, Coase's transaction costs approach is currently influential in modern organizational economics
He is also famous for his take on lies, damn lies and statistics - "If you torture the data enough, nature will always confess"
Tuesday, July 23. 2013
MG Siegler on Tech Blog News:
A few months ago, I found myself in an odd position — with some time off. A lot of it. Naturally, I decided to use the time not to disconnect, but instead to double-down on tech news. I set out to achieve “Pocket Zero” and catch up on nearly everything I had saved to read later but never got to over the past year or so.
Only 20% is complete bullshit? I think that way underestimates it! When you get large numbers of scribblers who barely understand the technology, have little grasp of economics and Kiplings 5 Servants, but loaded to the gunwales with opinions and funded by vested interests, you are not going o get a lot of truth.
MG references the PandoDaily whoopsie, where whispered innuendo, repeated enough times, eventually got reported as fact, but as he notes they are just a notable outlier in the dynamic:
There has long been a “speed versus accuracy” debate within the tech blogosphere. When I was in that world, I was definitely in the “speed” camp. Get something out there and let the truth reveal itself — process journalism, baby. If the readers aren’t comfortable with that, let them read elsewhere.
Siegler does note that the mainstream media is generally more accurate, which, 10 years after the Great Blogging Revolution began, signals the beginning of the end of the Pirate Days, when newcomers invade with alternate funding and agressive business practices to steal market hare off incumbents (see chart above, predicting in 2008 that the end would have begun by 2013, oddly enough)
Anyway, I think the figure of 95% of news being somewhere on the spectrum of complete bullshit to somewhat bullshit is probably about right, which is of course what has given Broadstuff such a rich ecosystem to feed on. Finding material to write mildly satirical stories about the industry since 2006 has been like shooting fish in a barrel*
*And the fishy story stocks are not depleting, either. We could push out Tech satire Onion style, in Mashable volumes if we desired.
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