Friday, April 20, 2007

Fame and the Future of Mass Murder

Yesterday, I took NBC to task for its willingness eagerness to advance a killer's agenda of becoming famous. On Huffington Post, Cintra Wilson takes it further. Reminding us that Cho explicitly aligned with the Columbine killers and sought to top them, she asks whether NBC hasn't contributed to raising the bar and ensuring that the next sick mass murderer will do even more damage than Cho.

I think we can cut through the arguments about whether future "copycat" killers are likely. They're inevitable. The VTech killer himself tells us that he was a disciple of the Columbine killers. Some tiny fraction of human brains turn out to be horribly buggy. And some of the buggy ones will inevitably be drawn to the fame game. As with TV ratings, movie grosses, and IPOs, unique visitors, and Technorati rankings, the infamy game has a scoreboard.

How long will we wait for the next buggy-brained sociopath to go off his meds and play a round of "Can you top this?" It might be years, but it will happen.

Next time, however, the mediation of a major broadcast network may not be necessary. (for the early-adopter crowd, it wasn't necessary this time.) Dave Winer contemplates the marriage of our evolving arsenal of social media services and abuser-generated content. Dave also has some worthwhile links to other voices in this grim conversation.

Earlier in the week Dave and Doc Searls argued for the release of the entire package unedited and unexpurgated. Doc views it as an application of crowd-sourced debugging:
"More eyes will make the this bug shallower. It may save lives. Even if we see a zillion mashups of the original video, which we'll see eventually anyway."
Doc expanded on that on an NPR interview with Xeni Jardin and in his own blog.

Jeff Jarvis
takes the same position that got Tex Antoine fired many consciousness-raising revolutions ago.

Mickeleh's Take: NBC should have used their editorial judgment, but reversed the filter. Instead of broadcasting and posting the Rambo-glam dress-up movie posters and the bling-envy poetry, they should have aired the sickest, most profanity-laced, and least comprehensible rantings of the killer. That would have serve two purposes: If Doc is right and crowd-sourcing the bugs will help us fix them, then NBC should have put the buggiest bugs out there. If Cintra is right and copycats will look to Cho for guidance, then NBC should have made it really hard for anyone to latch on by showing Cho only at his least accessible, and most incomprehensible.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

By Airing Cho's Video, NBC Became His Willing Accomplice

VTech killer Cho Seung-Hui had a grandiose suicide plan that began with mass murder and concluded with a worldwide airing of his raving grievances and poses. He accomplished the murders by himself. But to complete his scheme he enlisted NBC. They were more than happy to carry out his wishes, confirming a killer's right to show under the guise of the public's right to know.

At long last, having recovered a sense of decency and firing Imus for hate speech, NBC dropped to full pander and gave Cho more coverage than he could have hoped for.

Even Keith Olbermann, who a week earlier had pressed his managment to drop Don Imus, participated in the spectacle of all-Cho all-the-time.

Fame, notoriety, and attention are prime motivators for the deranged, tormented souls who do mass murder. By fulfilling Cho's desire to be the auteur of his own world-wide video portrait, dumb-as-a-peacock NBC became his willing accomplice. They've demonstrated to other carriers of simmering, ungoverned rage, that major broadcast networks will assist them in reaching a worldwide audience.

Mickeleh's Take: Where advertisers have to pay cash for airtime, NBC offers it to mass murderers for the price of bullets and corpses. This is not comforting.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Senator Edwards' Statement on the Shootings

I don't look to presidential candidates for comfort and grace in times of disaster.
But this morning I found it in Senator Edwards' statement on the Virginia Tech shootings.
"We are simply heartbroken by the deaths and injuries suffered at Virginia Tech. We know what an unspeakable, life-changing moment this is for these families and how, in this moment, it is hard to feel anything but overwhelming grief, much less the love and support around you. But the love and support is there. We pray that these families, these students, and the entire Virginia Tech community know that they are being embraced by a nation. There is a Methodist hymn that gave us solace in such a moment as this, and we repeat its final verse here, in hopes it will help these families, as it helped us:

'In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.'

Our dearest wish is that this day could start again, with the promise of these young people alive. Knowing that cannot be, our prayer is for God's grace and whatever measure of peace can be reached on this terrible day."
CNN has compiled this with statements from other candidates.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Information on Gonzo-gate: Did Bush OK Firing Iglesias?

There's new information linking Bush to Gonzo-gate. I just posted about it on the Soapbox.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Why Imus Had to Go—David Carr Nails It

David Carr in The New York Times analyzes the perfect storm of forces that converged to force Imus off the air (and the cable). Why was "nappy-headed hos" any more egregious than previous bits of nasty Imus insult that passed without consequences? Carr explains why Imus was doomed this time.

Mickeleh's Take
: The fatal Imus flap sullied the brands of both NBC News and CBS while driving away advertisers. That Imus was suddenly unsustainable while Savage, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Beck, Boortz, and Gibson continue to cruise along pleasing their audiences, advertisers, and networks is outrageous. Imus was simply was crude and mean (not that I'm defending crude and mean). But these other guys are not only cheapening discourse, they're aligned with forces and agendas that are ruining our environment, trashing our constitution, depleting our military, and keeping us at war. If you sully brand CBS, you're fired. But if you trash brand USA, you get to keep your microphone? Before this firestorm abates, I wonder if it can take out one or two of the truly bad guys. (Media Matters has transcripts on these verbal vermin).

Amen to Al Franken, who told Larry King that CNN needs to can Beck.

Questions: Anyone listen to Howard Stern this week? Did he have anything to say about it? Will Imus pack it in this time or wind up with another (maybe satellite) show.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Haiku About Twitter

A haiku (not a Jaiku)about Twitter.

Messages online
From people I've never met,
Junk food for the brain.

Mickeleh's Take: Find me on Twitter, here.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thanks to Scoble and His Twitter Friends for Hot Mac Software Recommendations

Now that Macs can run Windows (thanks to their Intel processor and Parallels), Robert Scoble has decided it's safe to switch. As a Mac newbie, he reached out to his vast followership on Twitter (more than 2500) for software recommendations and they came pouring in. If you're a Mac user, it's a good list to peruse.

Mickeleh's Take: I've been on Mac since 1984 and I found a few gems I hadn't known about. If you have some to add, you might leave a comment on Scobleizer.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Dave Winer: The 10-year Anniversary That Almost Wasn't

Last year, April Fool's day fell on March 13. On that day, Dave Winer posted on why he would stop blogging. Thank goodness he thought better of that and Scripting News persists. Yesterday, it passed its tenth anniversary. Mazel Tov.

Mickeleh's Take: Dave earned my eternal gratitude for writing Think Tank and More. He could have stopped there. But he didn't and he still hasn't. Consider that for most of his career he's worked as an individual or as leader of very small companies, yet he has done more to shape what I and many others do on the net on a daily basis than most of the giants. Thank you for being a hero not only to me, but to scads of my other heroes. Keep the fires lit. And keep holding everyone's feet to them.

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Last Year On Mickeleh's Take: Pesach, Roosevelt, and us

Pesach begins tonight. Because of the way the Hebrew lunar-solar calendar occasionally adds a leap month instead of a leap day, Pesach coincided with the anniversary of FDR's death. I wrote this on that occasion.

Mickeleh's Take
: Still holds.

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EMI Deal: iTunes Gets First Dibs... But EMI Will Offer to Other Retailers

There are two reasons why I (usually) buy CDs from Amazon rather than download them from iTunes: no DRM and higher sound quality. Those reasons went away (for some recordings) when EMI and Apple announced a new tier of DRM-free, higher bit-rate tunes. (At least that's how Steve Jobs sees it. It remains to be heard how the well the improved--but still lossy--tracks compare to CD quality.)

Price on a single tune goes up from $.99 to $1.29, but the album price stays the same. (This is the second move from iTunes aimed at offering incentives to buying the album rather than cherry-picking favorite cuts. Last week they offered to allow people to complete albums for the price they would have paid in the first place.)

A neat deet: If you have already bought the lower-quality DRM-shackled version of the song for $.99, you can upgrade for the price difference--$.30.

While iTunes gets first crack at this deal, EMI said it will offer the same deal to other retailers in a choice of formats (AAC, MP3, WMA, and others).

Mickeleh's Take
: I'm seeing one of those movie scenes in an aquarium where the camera cuts to a small crack in the glass. And then keeps cutting back as the crack lengthens, until, with a great roar and a rush of waters, all the actors are drenched and covered in fish. Thanks, in advance, for all the fish.

You don't suppose that EMI decided to set the music free in honor of Pesach (also known by it's slave name, Passover.)

More at Techmeme

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

One Week With Apple TV

What's wrong with these pictures? The copy in this Apple promotional graphic says "widescreen TV," but all of the TV images are standard 4:3 format. Hmmm. It's a good metaphor for the gap between the promise of Apple TV and the reality. But for me, the reality is plenty good (for now).
I'm late with my promised Apple TV review because I can't stop watching and listening to it. The boob tube is back and this boob is glued to the couch. All in all, though, I'm watching much less of the stuff that comes down the cable channels. (We used to call that stuff TV, but I think we're going to need a retronym for it à la "snail mail" and "acoustic guitar.")

Apple TV has been one of the year's most anticipated, reported, reviewed, analyzed, (and, now, hacked) products. So, if it's a topic that interests you, you probably know more about it than I'm about to reveal. But that's blogging for you, thousands of people writing more or less the same thing over and over. Let me thank you in advance for reading it here.

What you've heard and read is all true: Setup is astonishingly smooth and effortless, the U-I is engaging and clean, with a dash of tasteful eye candy (iCandy?).

Apple TV performs as advertised. It does not, however, perform as fantasized. As you probably know by now, it has its limits. It presents in last year's sound and picture quality (last century's, actually). It doesn't get YouTube. It's not a DVR. The movie section in the iTunes Store has bupkis. Apple TV has a tiny hard drive by today's expectations (40GB). It gets very warm to the touch. And, yes, XBox not only does more, but Xbox Live offers true HDTV. (And they announced more HD titles this week.) how much more does Xbox do? Jodie Cadieux reminded me that XBox is even stopping drug and gun trafficking in Mexico as officials there are giving out a free Xbox for every gun turned in to law enforcers. Match that, Apple TV.

That Apple TV, despite its limitations, has captured so much attention and early success mystifies some and infuriates others. I'm not here to argue the case. I'm just here to testify that I'm happily enjoying my Apple TV for what it delivers, and I'm not fretting about what's missing. It will get here.

I took Apple at their word: iTunes on my TV. That, right there, is enough to give me two things I've been waiting for: I wanted to connect the music collection on my office computer to the really good sound system in my living room. Second, I made a pledge to Scoble to watch ScobleShow, when I could do it on Apple TV. (is that a recursive reason?) Well, there's lots of other good video podcasts worth subscribing to. Kasper Hauser and other video podcasts on the big screen. Turns out that, even though Ze Frank has ended The Show has putting the archives up on iTunes.

More than I expected

I can tell you that I not only got the two things I bought it for, but I found some bonuses: It was easy to convert my own videos into Apple TV format (QuickTime Pro 7.1.5 has a command "export movie to Apple TV). Now I have Day of the Longtail and a bunch of other videos I worked on with Peter Hirshberg, Michael Witlin Associates, etc. into Apple TV format where they stand ready to inflict on unsuspecting house guests. What's more, it's not a big chore to download clips from YouTube and convert them to play on Apple TV.

Music from background to foreground

Even though the product has "TV" in its name, what I value most is is being able to hear my iTunes music on my best speakers. (Sneaker-netting the iPod into the living room or using AirTunes with Airport Express wasn't cutting it because there's no big screen U-I for browsing.)

Apple TV's oh-so-tasty screen saver is simple and satisfying, offering a multi-plane display of over lapping album art. (memo to self: resist temptation to re-scan all album art to higher resolution.)

About that Teeny Hard Disk Drive

I'm not overly concerned about the small hard drive. The drive is required only for photos. For all other content, you can stream from your computer(s) to Apple TV. I'm having no problems, no glitches streaming over my home WiFi network . (Your mileage may vary.)

The catch is that I have to have my computer on and iTunes running. If I could fit all my content onto the internal Apple TV drive, I could leave my computer off while using Apple TV. If you're running from a notebook, you can leave the house with it, and the folks back home can still enjoy the Apple TV. With content on the internal drive, you can even unplug Apple TV, take it over to a friend's house.

In order to manage what actually gets sync'd to Apple TV, iTunes 7.1.1 has set of panels, similar to the panels for managing the content that syncs to your iPod. You set set which playlists, photo albums, or podcasts should sync to Apple TV.

Up to Six Computers Can Play

Up to six separate computers can register to stream to a single Apple TV, so if your household members have multiple computers, they can share a single Apple TV. Only one computer, however, can register to sync content to the Apple TV hard drive. You can mix and match PCs and Macs.

How good is the picture?

Depending on the source, it varies from yuck to not-half-bad to pretty close to DVD—and occasionally better. So if your goal is a new source of HDTV quality programming, look elsewhere.

How good is the sound?

Quality is fine. But it's stereo or Dolby pro-logic only. Despite the presence of a digital audio port (optical S/PDIF), Apple TV does not now support discreet 5.1 or 7.1 surround formats.

Ben Drawbaugh
offers a clear table on the technical limitations of Apple TV vs HD DVD

Mickeleh's Take: March has seen some huge steps aimed at flipping TV away from the established cable and satellite walled gardens for delivering TV shows and movies. Online video is moving in. Amazon Unbox started downloading movies to TiVo. NBC Universal and News Corp. initiated an everybody-but-Google consortium with AOL, MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo planning to put a vast film and TV catalog online. Joost beta went live. And Om Malik launched a redesigned NewTeeVee to report on it all.

There's little doubt that a revolutionary change is underway, but it's one that will be years in the making. Bandwidth and intellectual property battles are the biggest constraints.

What's makes Apple TV successful despite its limitations is that it fits well with the current state of things. For me, cable is still my only source of HD programming. But for music, podcasts, and TV access to my own videos, Apple TV is proving well worth it.

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Hey, Internets: Stop Spoiling the Jokes. I Mean it.

Hey, Internets: Here's what's not cool on April Fool's Day. It's not cool to say so-and-so has a Great Joke up on the web. Stop spoiling the gags.

If you spot a great bit of fraud, perpetuate it. Comment on it. Go along with the gag and rope more people into it. Or just keep your frickin' fingers off the keyboard and let it be.

But please stop blogging, twittering, emailing that so-and-so has a Great Joke. We won't think you're a sucker if you pretend to fall for it. Or even if you do fall for it. We'll thank you.

If you want to heap praise on an April Fool's story or confess that you fell for it, please wait until tomorrow. And that includes A-listers. You don't get a pass on this.

Mickeleh's Take: I will never forgive the anonymous fanboy who passed me as he was leaving the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard on May 21, 1980 while I was standing in line for the second showing on the opening day of The Empire Strikes Back and who proclaimed loudly to his companions, "Who woulda believed that Darth Vader was Luke's father." It was only after I saw the film that I learned the correct response to such a revelation: Make a screwy looking face and scream, "No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-." (Yeah, it serves me right for waiting for the second showing. But hey, I was at the first showing of what was then called Star Wars on May 25th 1977 at the Charles Theatre in Boston.)

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