Ironic News International

Rupert Murdoch and his son & heir and employees are getting a bit stressed about the world-wide-web as a threat to their unfeasibly large income stream. For instance, in today’s Guardian,

Rupert Murdoch: ‘There’s no such thing as a free news story’
News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch tells US regulators that users will pay for news – and aggregation is theft

He is terrified that the net is killing his print titles – like the British newspaper, the Sun (:-) What a loss to the written word that would be, not) by offering free news. He is so convinced that people will happily pay for trash content that he’s been busy trying to get every one who will listen – including a federal trade commission – to support this idea. Which rather seems to contradict the whole concept of people’s willingness to pay. If that were true, wouldn’t people just happily pay. Surely, he’s not demanding preferential treatment? Isn’t the untrammelled market the perfect mechanism any more? Gosh, you shock and stun me, Mr Murdoch.

I think the “News International threatened by technological change” think qualifies as being “hoist by his own petard” (whatever a petard is.)

For those of you with an interest in ancient history, Murdoch was at the centre of a bitter labour dispute in the 1980s, based on his determination to break the print unions through the use of new computer technology.

Whosoever diggeth a pit, etc….

Byronic flights of fancy

Wow, “danger”, “perils” to children, “help – before it’s too late”. What a scary Times headline! I am already shaking with fear before I’ve read it. Won’t anyone think of the children, and so on?

What is this scary thing? Of course, it’s the internet.

Mind the gap: The perils of failing to keep pace with your child online
A dangerous gap has emerged between web-savvy kids and parents. Professor Tanya Byron has launched a new campaign to help — before it’s too late

Hmm. This is to mark the launch of a campaign, a “grassroots campaign” no less. (There’s a beautiful phrase in US politics for a campaign that pretends to be a genuine upsurge of democratic will but actually, well, isn’t. Oh yes, the word is “Astroturf”)

The campaign seems to involve asking kids if they can use any tech and getting very afraid when they say yes..

The campaign’s catalyst is Byron, known for her television programmes The House of Tiny Tearaways and Am I Normal?, as well as the author of the government-backed 2008 Byron Review Safer Children in a Digital World, which resulted in the creation of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety.

So, a tv child psychologist heads it. Hmm, why am I less than convinced by this whole thing? A tv child psychologist who also writes for the Times. And gets written about in the Times. Because, she’s also in the news today. (In the Times):

Ministers need to act swiftly on child safety, warns adviser

It’s Tanya, now known as “Gordon Brown’s adviser.”

Well who else could the government call on? Obviously, no amount of experience or qualifications or all-round peer-reviewed respect gained by any other child psychologist, or by any person who actually knows anything about the internet, could stand up against the fact that she’s got tv programmes.

(If you ever doubted that senior politicians are in thrall to the cult of celebrity at least as much as the people who read Heat (etc) magazines, Tanya is the living proof of your naivete.)

The busy Tanya is panicking about the UK not implementing some European directive on games classification. Or all of her recommendations, really. So she’s going from school to school asking questions, to support the idea that kids may know things about using the internet that their parents don’t. And that this is somehow inherently terrifying….

The games classification thing is typical of the kneejerk reactions of this “grassroots” campaign. For a start, it’s inherently counter-productive, in terms of their supposed goals. Would anything make a game more attractive to an early teenager than an 18 certificate?

Is there any evidence that playing pc or console games that are “too old for them” harms kids? Any evidence at all?

Is there any evidence whatsoever that parents are all in a strange population subgroup that failed to notice anything that happened over the last twenty years? Like the arrival of the Internet. How many adults do you know who don’t use computers or the net?

There’s a more internet and computer nonsense on the BBC today.

Tech addiction ‘harms learning’
Technology addiction among young people is having a disruptive effect on their learning, researchers have warned.

The study – Techno Addicts: Young Person Addiction to Technology – was carried out by researchers at Cranfield School of Management, Northampton Business School and academic consultancy AJM Associates.

(The AJM website mission statement says:
“Providing outstanding returns for investors along with excellent leadership in managing real estate projects is the AJM Associates mission.” I, for one, admire the conduct of educational research by profit-oriented real-estate companies and management schools….In your face, stuffy old educational academics. )

You can buy the study from Siigel Press for about $25. It’s on their “Bestseller” list. (Hardly surprising that it’s a best-seller. It got a free plug on the BBC, ffs)

The blurb talks up the shock value of this “bestseller”.

Technology addiction amongst young people, particularly in terms of facilitating social networking, is having a disruptive effect on positive attitudes towards learning. Read the results of this collaborative study spearheaded by Cranfield School of Management, Northampton Business School and AJM Associates. While students expressed little concern of addiction, technology obsession is hindering spelling skills, encouraging plagiarism and disrupting classroom learning. Download this report to learn the full details and the disturbing impact technology is having on today’s youth.

Call me a pedant – despite my possible incipient adult-onset internet addiction – but “While students expressed little concern of addiction,” doesn’t seem like correct grammar to me.
And surely they don’t really mean to claim that technology addiction is “facilitating social networking”?

If it was only possible to channel the energy that goes into manufacturing internet scares and turn it to a useful purpose, we could all be driving round in hot-air powered vehicles and could stop worrying about global warming,

Otherwise, I think that – if you really want to protect your kids online – you actually talk to them.

Atheist Blogroll Photography Competition

I was going to post about this last weekend, but I figured it would be better waiting a while so this can serve as both an advertisement and a reminder.

Mojoey has initiated the 2009 Atheist Blogroll Photography Competition and you have from now until 15 September 2009 to get your entries in. In the words of the great man himself:

I am pleased to announce the 2009  Atheist Blogroll photography contest. This year’s contest is open to any member of the Atheist Blogroll, their family, friends or significant others. By request, I’ve also opened the contest up to members of the Atheist Nexus too. We have five categories this year.

  • Atheism/Religion
  • Travel and People
  • Self-Portrait
  • Altered Images
  • The Natural World

The deadline for submissions is September 15, 2009.  Send your photographs as a .jpg file to the Atheist Blogroll.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? As always there are rules (but these are not onerous):

  1. Contestants may send up to three photos per category.
  2. Each submission must be an original work and may not have won any other contests.
  3. When sending your photographs, you must adhere to the following restriction: Actual file size may not exceed 2,048 KB (2 MB) and must be in .jpg, .jpeg.
  4. Submissions by persons under that age of 18 require parental consent.
  5. No Pornography – I follow the, “I know porn when I see it rule.”

Some important points to note about your submissions:

These fields are required.

  1. Category
  2. Title
  3. Caption and camera information
  4. Where and when the photo was taken: Los Angeles, May 2008
  5. The name or pseudonym of the photographer.
  6. A link the the artists blog or Atheist Nexus page. If a friend of an Atheist Blogroll member, then a link the members blog is appropriate.

By sending a photo you are granting the right for the photo to be displayed at Deep Thoughts as part of the 2009 photography contest or as part of a Google collection linked to the 2009 photography collection. All other rights remain with the artist.

If you are interested and want to find out more – such as how to enter – then check out the original post on Deep Thoughts. This is a great, fun, competition which seems very easy to enter so get out your SLR/Compact/Phone/Whatever and take some pictures. When you’ve done that (and turned them into JPEG if needed) get them off to Mojoey and see if you can win.

Also, Mojoey is looking for people to help with the judging so, if that is more up your street give it a go – but make sure you let my pictures win 🙂

Bloggery Madness

Aside

This backend of this blog is continuing its descent into madness. Following on from the problems where no posts would accept tags, this seems to have fixed itself while simultaneously stopping the blog posting anything but the most recent article on the home page. All of this has taken place without user intervention. It seems the glue, velco and staples holding the back end together have finally given up the ghost. Hopefully we will be able to find time this weekend to fix things. Sorry for any weirdness until then and during the “improvements.”

WordPress upgrade mildly broken

Bits keep falling off this blog like so many bits of newspaper escaping from the recycling van cage. (E.g. the Atheist blogroll became landfill months ago, although I see it still works fine on dozens of sites.)

After bowing to WordPress’s nagging requests and upgrading WordPress to version x (I can’t remember) two days ago, I find that I can’t attach tags to posts.

Any ideas?

Strangely Popular

While I have been busy over the last few weeks I’ve been unable to spend time looking at the stats for my Flickr images – this is unusual because all of us at WhyDontYou towers are somewhat stats obsessed. However, I found time to catch up today and what a bit surprised.

Now there is a fairly consistent amount of views on the photos in my Flickr stream with predictable changes when I add new photos or put some effort into getting them more visibility. Unsurprisingly, almost all my visitors come from Flickr with a rare few being driven from various blogs (hardly ever here…shame on you all) or other sites. Today this consistency was there, with one exception – this image:

Lemur Boxing

For some reason, this image has been getting more traffic than any other image over the last month, and almost all this traffic is coming from google images. Over the last month, 91% of the traffic to this image has come from google images (almost all using “Animals” as the search term) while a further 8% has come from Yahoo Images (even more bizarrely, this is normally from a search for “Boxing”…) with almost none coming from organic Flickr searches. I have tried both google and Yahoo searches and I cant make this image appear in the first 10 pages or so of either engine.

I find it a bit strange that enough people are searching for animal and / or boxing images to wade through pages of results before deciding to visit this one. I find it equally strange that, given the number of animal images I have on flickr, this effect seems isolated to this image. It has gone from relative obscurity (around 1000 views in total) to one of the most viewed images in my photostream – currently 5,556 views in just over a month. (Not that I am complaining but none of these people even leave comments!)

If anyone has any insight as what may be causing this, I’d love to hear it.