Friday, July 24, 2009

Privacy concerns raised about Google Books deal

Google Books' settlement with authors has prompted privacy concerns. It seems the more we know about how cavalier our digital media companies are with our privacy, the more scared we get.

The digital rights group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, says it believes the recent settlement leaves out basic protections, allowing Google (and, by extension, government agencies) to track what we read, how much time we spend, even what we write on margins. Google, of course, says it's ridiculous, and that it doesn't even have a policy yet.

See ya in court, although, for now, the foundation is asking that we users email Google to voice our concerns.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Advertising continues it's downward spiral

MediaDailyNews reports that advertising is off as much as 15 percent the first quarter of this year, and it's going to get worse before it gets better. The Paris-based Publis Groupe predicts advertising will hit its bottom in July or August, with a slow recovery not hitting any significant improvement until the middle of next year. It's more fun to read summer books than industry reports, these days.

Anonymous blog commentators want to stay that way

     Interesting experiment in digital media. The Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World interviewed its ten most prolific commentators. Two used their real names, one is no longer active. The seven anonymous commentators all refused to reveal their names, most citing employment concerns although a couple mentioned concern about harassment due to comments.  For a fictional exploration of commenting on blogs, read the current Jeffery Deaver book, Roadside Crosses. As usual for Deaver, it's quite well-done.

Once again, Leonard Pitts hits the nail on the head

       The most perceptive national columnist writing these days, Leonard Pitts, has a current column about the late Walter Cronkite that is as devastating a critique of modern television as one could ask. Cronkite's greatest gift, Pitts writes, is integrity. He doesn't need to say that Uncle Walter would never perform in something like the "run every ratings period" piece on "How to catch an online predator." It's well worth reading.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kindle deletion waves continue

Amazon's deleting the book 1984 (and Animal Farm) from Kindle users continues to make waves.

On Salon, digital book advocate has an essay pointing out that the technology used by Amazon to delete George Orwell's novels also allows governments or courts to totally ban books, once we have eliminated paper copies. It's certainly an Orwellian thought.

I love the new technology. I spend hours a day on one of the three computers I use at least once a day (a regular PC at home and at the office and a Mac PowerBook). I get an average of more than a hundred e-mails a day from a vast array of sources. I regularly run though my list of more than 50 bookmarked sites (at least once every other day). I check my Facebook and Twitter pages every day. I am envious of how the new technology adds to the abilities of reporters to do their jobs.

But I still fear technology -- or at least how it can be misused by, often well-meaning, computer programmers and site developers. As I scroll over an online newspaper or magazine page, trying to read the text, only to be constantly stopped when Flash attachments show me a photo of the author or tell me that India has approximately 1.17 billion people or Volvo was rated the safest car by someone or other, I wonder again about this tendency that if something is possible, we should do it. If I were tsar of Amazon, I'd root out that ability to delete things from Kindle, even though it's too late and even if Amazon said it had, many of us (me included) wouldn't believe it couldn't be restored by typing in a line of code. Just as my iPod frustrates me daily by the fact that all of its functions are in one bar (how many times must I find myself changing tracks or artists while trying to adjust the sound?), computers bring such awesome tools to the game that the potential for harm may, at some point, outweigh the good.

That's one reason why I still read books on paper, and intend to continue to do so.

Monday, July 20, 2009

NY Times looking at foundations for funds

The New York Times is considering seeking news-gathering funding from foundations, like "the kind of support that NPR does from foundations for its journalism." Looks like another avenue for retaining community newspapers may go the way of all small- to medium-sized American businesses as the big guys scrabble up all available funding. That business model's really working out well for the American economy, aina?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New media promotes multi-tasking, study finds

       A new study found that new media is eating up more of our time, especially social media. The study, conducted by Experian Simmons, found the top five activities that use our time are sleeping (6.1 hrs), working (6.6 hrs), watching television (3 hrs), surfing the net at home (2.4 hrs), listening to the radio (1.7 hrs) and reading books (1.5 hrs).  Note that surfing the net is now third and right behind watching television. 

       The study found, not surprisingly, that we multi-task among all of these. And Internet use tops the list. Twenty-seven percent of us admit to doing something else while surfing the net. That was the top category; other top ones were using a cell phone (26 percent) and emailing (23 percent).

      I'll admit to my own addiction to the Internet. I find myself grabbing up a laptop just about whenever I start watching television. It's not unusual in my household to find everyone in the house (up to five of us depending on who's visiting) watching the same television show on as many as three screens, all of us with a computer.  Probably the worst was when my daughter and I had a lengthy Facebook i.m. session while sitting in adjoining chairs watching television (OK, we were trying not to disturb the others also watching the show so it's not as lame as it sounds).