peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
When last I shared, I noted that we in the United States have no liberal media bias, at least not when it comes to the mainstream, commercially-supported variety so dominant in our society. No sooner did I dare to mention this then the trickle of disclaimers dripped in. "Ah!," some deigned to note, "but look at these examples! Your thesis is therefore bunk!" And indeed, a link had helpfully collected the most egregious examples of pinko commie liberalism from broadcast and major print outlets.

I invite you to check them out. It won't take long; the examples run from September, 2009 to October 2013. All 13 examples.

And here we find a sampling error, exactly the same kind that failed to note the sudden extinction of ammonites following the Chicxulub asteroid impact that also killed the larger dinosaurs. Shall we sample more properly? )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Whoever has made observation on the characters of nations will find it generally true that the manners of a nation, or of a party, can be better ascertained from the character of its press than from any other public circumstance.

-Thomas Paine



Once again, I tripped over a tired trope tossed like a caltrop on an online discussion, the myth that our main news reports are "liberal," aka that they lean to the political left. To be fair, this particular discussor provided a link to a study. All well and good.

Well and good, until you read the darned thing. )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Just yesterday, I read that the belief "that we could have utopian prosperity if we got rid of private businesses and had the government run everything" should be marked down to "stubborn stupidity." Fair enough. As hyperbolic and Straw Manned-up as that statement is, thwarting all independent economic activity would be a bit delusional, given that nobody even agrees upon the definition of "individual", let alone of "collective."

That said, I find it fascinating how many screeds railing against "statism" (again, whatever that might be) completely ignore the actual clear and present danger that non-state actors are continuously exacting on the right of countries to exercise any semblance of sovereignty, and all under the geas of "free trade." Don't these folks know that given enough size, a corporation today has—via the power granted by over-reaching trade agreements—greater legal right than most countries? )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I recently banged out a post commenting on a news source I still (kinda) trust, National Public Radio involving the "hidden" disability benefits story. I called it a "great piece of investigative journalism" without considering the flaws in the story. Worse, I didn't consider what I myself have been noticing for years now, that private forces have infiltrated NPR (and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NPR's parent organization which is connected to NPR) distorting the once excellent reporting as a result.

I here apologize to all who read that post of mine. I dropped the ball, and I am sorry. In my excitement over hearing former Pacific North West reporter Joffe-Walt, formerly of Tacoma's "public" station KPLU just an hour south and nestled in my parent's alma mater, I neglected to fact check her story. I blew it.

Though her points were often not completely inaccurate, they were presented in a misleading way that led listeners to some damning conclusions. Beyond the cut lie my angry corrections on what I feel is really important here. )

X-posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Just took a road trip, flying down to Phoenix and driving the folks' car back to the North West. Grabbed lunch with [livejournal.com profile] geezer_also on the way and visited various friends that have relocated south.

What I did not do, though, was watch or listen to any news. None. It was bliss, it was; but now I'm back. )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Just stumbled upon a New York Times article concerning sustainable development that posits a problem with a popular model, that of the Three Pillars of Sustainable Development. Those pillars are the Environment, Society, and the Economy. Here's a National Council for Science and the Environment page discussing the issue, and an image from the same page depicting the pillars in question:



Hmmmm. . . . )
peristaltor: (Default)
Just caught a piece of rage-inducing news: a Washington State House bill proposing selling naming rights to elements of public transportation to raise money. As he almost always does, I think Goldy says it best:

Personally, I'm opposed to selling the naming rights on state bridges and highways because I think it cheapens the commons and reinforces our irresponsible something-for-nothing political narrative. . . .


Exactly. The presence of commons is a necessity to a functional civic life. We all need places we can gather where we are more than targeted consumers, where we participate in public life apart from the needs for individuals — be they naturally born or formed through legal fiction — to engage in the truck and barter of their commerce and the agenda attendant thereto.

I'm not adverse to people naming what they build; what seems to be happening more and more is the construction/remodeling of civic institutions by one group, who later sells the naming rights for as much as they can. Seattle's football stadium might be the third most expensive at $75 million for 15 years, but that proves a bead of sweat compared to the $430 million it cost to build, quite a bit of that chunk of change backed by taxpayer-funded bonds.

There are a few problems with this whole naming rights fiasco. First, glean from the CLF Wiki that the stadium is next to the WaMu Theater, named (using the same procedure) by the now-defunct Seattle-based bank Washington Mutual. The bank is gone, but we are stuck with the name. Hey, it could be worse for us. In Boston, their opera house is named for a computer company that hasn't produced a named product in decades.

I've got a possible solution to this ongoing train wreck. We as citizens need simply to define how much the public must receive from the namers in return for the sacrifice of our civic spaces. We as a state should simply define what percentage of a structure's construction/remodeling cost the namers must present before the naming rights goes to them. I'm thinking 2/3 of total construction and ongoing maintenance costs sounds fair. In fact, I think I'll be contacting a legal friend to see how we might draft this proposal into a State-wide initiative.

What do you think?

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Okay, I need to rant. A few years ago, our local Cumcasters demanded, and The Wife™ and I were forced to comply. In the process, I nearly started a riot. Fun story, but first some technical background might be appropriate. )

I know, you want to hear about my quiet riot. )

So here's my chief question, one to which I don't yet have an answer. Somewhere in the mix and history, that big-assed digital tuner, the one I needed for the Tivo, allowed the Cumcasters to limit the bandwidth problem even more than before. Instead of the clunky scramblers outside every cable customers' house (perched on the pole, I assume), the pay-per-view stations like the soft core porn, boxing matches and movie channels all got changed from a strictly down-stream delivery system to a two-way demand and deliver system. Viewers at home would change their tuners to the desired event, agree to pay the premium (which would later appear on their bills) and wait. Their digitally signaled desire to pay more went to Cumcast central. Cumcast central then sent a digital stream to the set-top box, a stream which was decoded into audio-visual entertainment.

This is important. For the first time, the box communicated with central headquarters, kinda like the intertubes you are quite probably using to read my long-winded question. Two-way communication; Cumcast is here using a proprietary internet to deliver telly content. That's why they have such "blinding fast" internet speeds; those cables carry a lot of info. Trouble is, this blinding fastness only appears when none of your neighbors is watching the telly. It really slows down on Fridays when a tired bill payer just decides to tube veg with a bourbon and coke. Put both Game of Thrones or Dexter on at the same time and I can imagine your six tabs of You tube might have to stumble buffer.

Cumcast has transformed over the years from actual telly-read signal to a proprietary on-demand video streaming service.




Which brings me to the million-dollar question. At what point does Cumcast transform itself from delivering digital television into an entity delivering streamed digital content? The distinction is significant, simply because they insist that they are local monopolies legally allowed to perform a certain task; when they no longer perform that task, perhaps it's time to transform them into a utility, much like neighboring Tacoma did.

Years ago, tired of the local cable monopoly missing their upgrade promises, Tacoma simply yanked the monopoly. They bought the cable infrastructure and turned it over to a newly-formed utility that maintained and installed cable just like the phone, water, sewer or power utilities. They then opened that infrastructure to any company that would like to provide Tacoma service. The system that digitally streams video to the home could now do so from a variety of different companies. They home bill for service went down for just about everyone.

(Of course, soon thereafter cable monopolies passed a law saying that this private-to-public transformation was no longer an option, but hey. It happened once; it can happen again.)

So, if your telly can no longer read the cable directly, can what comes through that coax wire be properly called "cable television?"
peristaltor: (Default)
In typical denial-of-death American tradition, tonight we celebrate the night before the Day of the Dead, pretend the ghouls walk the earth and look oh-so-cute, and engorge ourselves into early graves on sugary treats completely oblivious to the irony.

That doesn't mean there aren't scary things out there ready to go bump in the night, on one's head if need be. And the usual suspects have been bumping the noggins of The Wife™ and I for far too long, clogging the interstitial spaces of our media programming with Boo! and LOOK OUT! and OMG Socialism!!! warnings of all sorts. We can't even answer the phone for fear of being nabbed by a robocaller promoting this Referendum or that Candidate, all hiding behind innocuous caller IDs like "TOLL FREE" or "Seattle" or "Out of Area." Danger, Will Robinson!

I am, of course, referring to our campaign season. Yes, one of our better presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, did say that "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Thing is, things changed. )

If you like the story of Uppie's campaign but don't want to wade through a doorstop of a book or even a New Yorker article, check out the On The Media piece, The World's First Political Consulting Firm for a good interview with Jill Lepore, the author of the NY piece.

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] jwz shares this delightful and disturbing "debate" about the Do Not Track feature of browsers. When someone proposed "marketing" be allowed on a list of "Permitted Uses for Third Parties and Service Providers" in future standards definitions, a few expressed confusion. This prompted Marketer Rage-On:

Marketing fuels the world. It is as American as apple pie and delivers relevant advertising to consumers about products they will be interested at a time they are interested. DNT should permit it as one of the most important values of civil society. Its byproduct also furthers democracy, free speech, and – most importantly in these times – JOBS. It is as critical to society – and the economy – as fraud prevention and IP protection and should be treated the same way.

Marketing as a permitted use would allow the use of the data to send relevant offers to consumers through specific devices they have used. The data could not be used for other purposes, such as eligibility for employment, insurance, etc. Thus, we move to a harm consideration. Ads and offers are just offers – users/consumers can simply not respond to those offers – there is no associated harm.

(Yup. I emphasized his stupidity.)


The Do Not Track feature was implemented for privacy and security-conscious people, yes, but it should have been motivated by the public's healthy desire to etch the emboldened phrase on a burred piece of rough-cut steel and have that shoved up the ass of the author above while at least a hundred people shouted "Bullshit!" in unison.

There is harm in advertising. There is harm. It hurts enough to have it stop.
peristaltor: (Default)
On recommendation of the guys at Radiolab, I started listening to and thoroughly enjoying 99% Invisible. Short, well-produced, thought provoking; just darned good podcasting. There was the little turd at the end of each episode, though, a commercial plug for some shit or another that simply doesn't belong on public radio, even good public radio.

So when producer Roman Mars turned to Kickstarter to fund his third season, and got not just the target but over a hundred grand more than that, making it "the most funded journalism project in Kickstarter’s history," things were looking up ad-wise. With this much funding, goodbye ads!

Or so dreamers like me would think.

Alas, when Episode 61: A Series of Tubes went out to the public, the obligatory commercial dunning from the obligatory shitty businesses that dun tainted the tail end of an otherwise wonderful and informative piece of audio journalism, demonstrating once again that advertising is not about the money. It is obviously about something else.

Here's the letter to Mr. Mars. )

As you can read above, I'm done suggesting "solutions," especially to Mr. Mars. He had the solution. He squandered the opportunity it presented. Public radio has become commercial, and no amount of public contributions is going to apparently change that. The lesson, therefore, is don't give money to public radio ever again.
peristaltor: (Default)
The Planet Money blog mentioned the new iPhone 5 coming out soon, and quoted a note from someone at JPMorgan. The claim, according to Planet Money:

The JPMorgan note seems very mathy and precise. It starts with the full cost of the new phone, subtracts the value of the imports in each phone (imports are subtracted from economic growth numbers) and estimates the total number of phones likely to be sold in the last three months of the year.

Bottom line, according to the note: The new iPhone could add 0.33 percent to U.S. economic growth. That's actually a lot, when you consider that total economic growth is only about 2 percent.


A pretty bold claim, do you think? Jacob Goldstein thinks so, and savages the note's claim as the blog post continues: "But to arrive at that conclusion, JPMorgan assumes that every single dollar people spend on new iPhones would not otherwise have been spent on anything else during the last three months of the year." Goldstein goes on to explain Keynes' paradox of thrift, where money spent in one sector of the economy is simply taken from another, so a growth in one sector is not necessarily a boost for the economy as a whole. Got that?

So, what did Mr. Goldstein miss, and why might the JPMorgan note be accurate? Let's consult Ellen Brown for the answer:

Here is how the credit card scheme works: when you sign a merchant's credit card slip, you are creating a "negotiable instrument." A negotiable instrument is anything that is signed and convertible into money or that can be used as money. The merchant takes this negotiable instrument and deposits it into his merchant's checking account, a special account required of all businesses that accept credit. The account goes up by the amount on the slip, indicating that the merchant has been paid. The charge slip is forwarded to the credit card company (Visa, MasterCard, etc.), which bundles your charges and sends them to a bank. The bank then sends you a statement, which you pay with a check, causing your transaction account to be debited at your bank. At no point has a bank lent you its money or its depositors' money. Rather, your charge slip (a negotiable instrument) has become an "asset" against which credit has been advanced. The bank has done nothing but monetize your own I.O.U. or promise to repay.

When you lend someone your own money, your assets go down by the amount that the borrower's assets go up. But when a bank lends you money, its assets go up. Its liabilities also go up, since its depostis are counted as liabilities; but the money isn't really there. It is simply a liability -- something that is owed back to the depositor. The bank turns your promise to pay into an asset and a liability at the same time, balancing its books without actually transferring any pre-existing money to you.

(Ellen Hodgson Brown, Web of Debt, Third Millennium Press, 2008, p. 284, italics Brown's, emboldening mine.)


For further evidence that Planet Money is missing the bigger picture, let's consider the "mathy" bit of the JPMorgan note, which opens with "We believe the release of iPhone 5 could potentially add between 1/4 to 1/2%-point to fourth quarter annualized GDP growth." That's a very specific claim. He or she goes on to explain that $400 of the estimated $600 purchase price will stay in the US and thus boost GDP, the balance going to pay the factory in China.

And here's what Mr. Goldstein is missing, and what the JPM analyst might be getting: Most iPhones are probably purchased with credit cards. Seriously, have you been to an Apple store? Credit cards are no problem; every sales rep carries a wireless card swiper unit. Pull cash from your pocket, and the sales person immediately has to take you to another part of the store where the hidden cash drawer is stashed; if the purchase is a sizable one, you'd best hope you brought exact change.

Most iPhone purchases will therefore generate bank debt money, only a fraction of which will likely be paid off immediately. Most of these Number 5 Units will generate debt that will probably linger on the balance sheets of the holders for months, debt money that Apple will spend here in the US.

And as I've mentioned before, Planet Money correspondents have never, ever showed even an inkling of understanding how our bank debt money generating system works. Seriously, now that they have a transcript of the story that incited my linked ire, head over and read what they missed.

I'll cut what they said. )

As you can see, they display nothing but mysticism and/or ignorance for the role banks smaller than the Federal Reserve play in creating money. The only difference between the Fed and the smaller depository banks is the fractional reserve requirement, something absent from the Fed itself. They even, if I remember correctly, fail to note that the Fed itself is a conglomeration of private banks.

So, sorry, Planet Money folks, but if every iPhone is bought with a credit card and the balance carried for just three months, then yes, that new money will circulate in the fourth quarter and thus boost our nation's economic activity, just as the egghead at JPMorgan claims. Ellen Brown explains why above. If you don't understand that excerpt—and I have every expectation that you won't—it's time for you to become reporters and do some actual research.

Or is how banks literally make our nation's money something your sole sponsor Ally Bank would rather the American people not learn?

Geritopia

Aug. 13th, 2012 04:32 pm
peristaltor: (Default)
Just finished yet another book that gives me that Our Future Is Soooo Fucked feeling, Andrew Blechman's Leisureville, a more in-depth look into America's planned retirement communities than, surprisingly, anyone has yet undertaken. These places are hardly new; Ben Schleifer developed the first ironically named Youngtown in 1954 by simply buying an old dude ranch, gussying up the barracks and transforming them to a community center, parking mobile homes on lots and paving the roads to them. Add water, sewer and power, price the units low enough that people could pay for a lot with their meager Social Security allotment and pensions, and open for business. Youngtown's initial open house caused a traffic jam three hours long when ten times the ten thousand expected to turnout jammed the narrow county road north of Phoenix, then just a sleepy burg itself.

What Schleifer started has been copied again and again; but now certain copies have metastasized into engines of social change, sadly probably not for the better. )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
In an out-of-town visitor induced haste, I briefly posted one of my pet peeves about what news has become, notably a race to the bottom of the attention span, constantly trying to keep the attention of the viewer despite a complete lack of engaging detail and even though there are a lot of stories they could be covering. Years ago, This Hour Has 22 Minutes did the best parody of this phenomenon, reporters blathering on about how a door will soon open and someone will say something important, complete with a crawl talking about "The Doors first album was released in 1969," just as a tangental observation. (One day more advanced online search will allow me to share gems like this.)

Today, though, I thought I would go over my observations about current news coverage and how they are hobbled by their chief reason for existence, their need to keep corporate sponsors coughing up that corporate cash. )

X-posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
Yes, people are dead in Colorado. Spectacularly. Rather than dwell on the spectacularness-ness, I'll focus on how most of us know about it. [livejournal.com profile] theferrett has it exactly right:

You’re a cable news reporter. You have an ugly choice.

If you just run the news as normal, then you miss out on ratings. Because if you bring it up at the top of every twenty minutes, like normal news cycles, then you look out of touch. This is the biggest news! People are shocked by it, hungry for information! If you don’t have it up every five minutes, then people risk turning away as you go to the usual political stories.

So you have to keep rolling it, infinitely. The same news. Over and over, because your new viewers haven’t heard about it yet and they need to – because with a story this big, they’ll stay tuned to find the details.

Except you don’t have details. You don’t know shit, it’s hardly been eight hours since this happened. So you keep repeating the same details over and over again, a mantra of terror, in an attempt to fill air space. Repetition isn’t going to keep people tuned in, so what do you need to fill these gaps? Speculation! So to keep people hooked on the line, you bring in talking heads to discuss what might have happened, people to debate what this means, folks who will tell you what this means for the upcoming election. It’s not news, but your goal here is not news. It’s ratings.


It's ratings. Ratings determine how much the stations can charge for ads. Ratings are money, and money is everything. Not news, not facts, not the "truth" (whatever that is). Money is everything.

As I noted over four years ago, Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast revealed how people in a panic keep listening, even when details are sketchy and completely far-fetched. Rather than learn from this, cable and other news has embraced this to keep people watching the ads, rather than delay reporting and to wait for details to emerge.

Because money is everything, and fear can be used not just to get it, but to keep it coming. And the result? A growing number of people (like myself) have simply given up on the broadcast news altogether. Yet we continue to breath and walk upright without assistance. Yes, folks, you, too, can abandon the Money Is Everything paradigm and live to tell the tale.

/rant . . . for now.

X-posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
I got another rude interruption to my podcast listening the other day, this time from The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, a podcast I've shoved in my ears now for over four years. The interruption came this time from two of the skeptics themselves schlepping wares for an online audio book purveyor. I'll cut the gory details of this particular campaign. )




For a fascinating perspective on new communications media and the patterns they historically follow as they developed, I cannot recommend Tim Wu's The Master Switch enough. It's a long excerpt, but a good one. )




So here we are, folks, at the dawn of yet another new technology, "bright with promise and possibility." And already the success of early podcasters has prompted them to embrace the very force that, in my opinion, if not destroyed at least hobbled the creativity of the internet's predecessors. And here I am, seemingly a lone voice trying to rein in the hobblers before everyone accepts that advertising must happen before a production can be considered legitimate.

I can't help shaking the realization that I may be very, very alone in my quixotic tilt at advertisement windmills. But tilt I will, my keyboard as my lance. You, dear reader, may be my Sancho or just entertained by a very public display of amusing delusion, I don't know. Me and my pygmy pony will ride all along the borderline either way.
peristaltor: (J' Acuse!)
[livejournal.com profile] solarbird is a musician, someone who writes, performs and records songs. She is both familiar with our current recording industry and not happy about what is has become. She notes the pain of losing the old recording industry business model:

Now, people who came up in that system find it collapsing around them. That’s brutal, and there is real suffering for it which should not be ignored. Leaving aside the corporate end, and the gatekeepers, and the eat-all-your-money-and-own-your-everything and lawsuit-happy RIAA and MPAA ass monkeys, there are artistic contributors – musicians – of the old system who used to make a living and now don’t.

That sucks. I sing the praises of trying to find new ways to do all this a lot, and of the opportunities, but the wreckage is real. A lot of it’s deserved – Burn, Warner Pigs, Burn – but as always, a lot of artists are going to take the worst of it. That’s unfair.


Sadly, in an effort to preserve a dying business model, the recording industry has taken the scorched-earth approach, suing here and there and here again in a vain attempt to assert its former dominance and protect their phoney-baloney jobs. DRM, for example, has crippled computer functionality based not on an actual threat, but on the threat of a future threat if the hardware or software manufacturer preserved that functionality.

Ah, but the really sad result? Taken to the nth extreme, it now seems we no longer actually own the music we buy.

People not only see music “ownership” as meaningless, they see themselves as being played for suckers and contemptible rubes. They see examples being made of people like them in court. They hear clowns from the MPAA talking about how leaving the room during commercials is stealing from TV networks. They post a family video with music from an album they bought and paid for in the background, and get a DMCA takedown and threatened with loss of internet access.

Music fans see constant haranguing from the industry telling them what they can’t do. And they see other people saying fuck that, and doing it anyway. . . .

So guess what: people aren’t buying music so much anymore! Is it surprising that people won’t pay for something they do not see as having value? It’d be far more surprising if they did. Forced sales through threat and intimidation only get you so far. “Here, give me $5 for absolutely nothing. Oh, I might sue and destroy you, but it’s even more likely if you don’t pay.” “Fuck you, no! Oh hai, bittorrent.”

Once you’ve shattered that money-for-value association – and it’s good and shattered – even DRM-free music files become clutter. They’re something to have to keep track of and back up and worry and think about. And with little to no ownership value, who wants to bother?


I've been angry about this situation ever since Napster, but recently have noticed that, like so much in modern society, the ability of someone who had no hand in the production of a given piece of art to profit as long as the rights can be renewed on that art proves a fairly recent experience. Every one so many decades ago who drew Steamboat Willie and made Mickey Mouse an icon are dead, dead, dead, yet the Maus himself is still marking legal boundaries like so many mousey urine trails and enriching those that today manage the Disney rat warren. Again, that never happened before the reproduction of individual pieces of animation and sound were both technically possible and difficult to reproduce. Songs are no different here, sadly. Anyone can sing them, but few can own a particularly good sung version.

Queerly, what's coming down the pike is territory humans covered a hundred years ago. Sheet music used to be sold then like recordings are today; but everyone who read and memorized that music could perform it wherever they liked. Likewise with plays. Buy the scripts and have at it. What worries me is the continuing battle against the inevitable that [livejournal.com profile] solarbird notes is waged by dynastic recording executives. When the internets can be turned against anyone through intrusive skullduggery to reveal the "content" hidden on all our drives, thus allowing them to cry havoc and let slip the legal dogs of war, we are all potential criminals in society's eyes. And since so many of the news outlets are outright owned by dynastic rights holders of entertainment content, don't expect a fair trial in the court of public opinion any time soon.

It's the ultimate disservice to the citizenry, when the specter of lost profit quells the needed debate over who owns what and why.

Collusion

Jun. 13th, 2012 01:19 pm
peristaltor: (Default)
Years ago, an ad executive noted that half of all ad dollars were wasted. The trouble was, no one knew which half. That's changing now that new technology allows advertising to become a two-way communication.

I've been interested in private company surveillance for years now. I would highly recommend both Shane Harris' The Watchers, a book concerning government surveillance in the digital age, and Eli Pariser's The Filter Bubble, which deals with private watching.

A fun bit from Pariser's book: Target (perfect store for this story, don't you think?) implemented an analysis of shopping habits. By looking at what women bought and later bought, they were able to determine with a high degree of certainty what they might be interested in buying later based on what they bought now, and would send coupons to prompt that purchase. This went south when a man found they had mailed his 15-year-old daughter coupons for cribs and diapers. It gets better: It turned out Target was right. They figured out the girl was pregnant before she did.

Worried about these various entities colluding to build a highly-accurate and therefore potentially invasive profile of you based simply on your habits? You should be. It's the next growing industry.



Ted Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla, has a wonderful new add-on for Firefox: Collusion. I highly recommend this. This add-on shows you which companies are stuffing cookies on your machine for further refinement of their advertising algorithms in the hopes of turning you into a target-rich environment for click-through non-sense. After a few clicks, they graph can morph into a surveillance monster, even on some pretty innocuous sites. Enjoy!
peristaltor: (Default)
Almost a year ago, I wrote a plea letter to Radiolab, a most enjoyable show tainted by the bane of an increasing number of podcasts, commercial advertising. I begged them to abandon the commercial model, perhaps to replace it with an option giving listeners commercial-free content in return for a modest donation.

Their most recent podcast opens with a counter-argument, and offer of extras for a donation of $75, quite a bit more than the $5/year I suggested. Ah, but then they blew it. Immediately after the donation plea came the fucking ads, this time for REI and some anti-virus pusher.

Which really pissed me off, since I like REI. Their flagship store here in Seattle is beautiful, a joy to visit. I even buy their stuff (on occasion; it's an indulgence). Sadly, that must end now. One does not do business with those that promote actions contrary to the common good.

Of course, it does me no good to do this without notice. Though I haven't written it, the letter to them will probably look something like this. )

After that is written, I will enclose it in another letter, this one to Radiolab proper. It might look something like this. )




So, that was my bellyaching. A question might be asked: Why? Why am I tilting my joust at such silly windmill dragons? It's a fair question. )
peristaltor: (Default)
Just a bit ago, [livejournal.com profile] badlydrawnjeff brought up priming, the concept that preparing people can affect perceptions, especially of ambiguous or even non-sense material. Fair enough, that.

I think we should, however, pursue this concept just a bit farther. Consider the following graphic:



Just about everyone who took intro courses in psychology knows this is the chief image used in the famous Asch conformity experiments. In a nutshell, if you want a significant number of people to say that the line in the left-most box is the same length as lines A or B in the right-most box, all you have to do is have four people agree that this is the case. It doesn't matter that C is clearly of equal length; a significant amount of social persuasion will make a significant number of people conform.

The Asch study simply had a single study participant in a study group of 5 to 7 other people, all confederates in on the study, confederates told to give either right or wrong answers. When the single non-confederate was asked to answer which line was the same after the confederates all agreed on the wrong answer, 41% of them would agree with the wrong answer.

41% would say something just about everyone could see wasn't true.

With a little help from our friend technology, the Asch results become clearer, but a tad scarier. )

X-posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.

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