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Thursday, March 27

'The bloggin' bosses'

No, not another insult to throw on the picket lines, Paul Caplan has an interesting update about which CEOs are blogging and how they're getting on.

Not that many are, Paul calls it:

imagine the leap of faith needed by a Boss. Like King Theoden in Lord of the Rings, they have their own (usually paid) Wormtongues whispering in their ears.
But the ones doing it are enthusiastic. Hardly surprising because CEOs tend to like to, well, speak and give their opinions!

And as Steve says:
They make it easier for those of us who are talking to the frontline troops in the public sector and saying: “Yes it’s OK to get out there and have conversations. Yes it’s OK to talk like a human being and tell stories.” Because now we can add: “… because look, your Boss is doing it!”
He has lots of links to these 'heroes/heroines'. Now I wonder how many union leaders are doing it ...

What Rev. Wright actually said


Pass it around.

Wednesday, March 26

Google: like to-tally white, dude

Secret's out. Or should be.

There are no black people at Google. I saw one throughout my entire tour, (other than the man I mentioned outside of the elevator,) and he might have been visiting too. Indians, Asians, Canadians: yes. African Americans: no. Really. Forget about China. Somebody call Al Sharpton.
Asked about this in Congress today, Laszlo Bock, Google's white vice president of 'people operations', was asked:
"How many [of Google's employees] are African-American?"

"I don't actually have that data at my fingertips," was Bock's reply. "I apologize."
You have to be, like, shitting me man.

Someone tell Trevor Phillips. Seriously.

Five years on: rare American TV Iraq debate

It's been reported that when 4,000 US soldiers had died, only two US newspapers put it on their front page.

Surprise, coverage is biased. Which makes this debate with Iraqis Sinan Antoon and Ali Fadhil, hosted by Charlie Rose on PBS, of particular, rare, interest.

Well worth 18' of your time.

Hat-tip: Glenn Greenwald, who comments:

In the American media's discussions of Iraq, when are the perspectives expressed here about our ongoing occupation -- views extremely common among Iraqis of all types and grounded in clear, indisputable facts -- ever heard by the average American news consumer? The answer is: "virtually never."
You could say the same of the UK.

AdBlock shock: still no threat there

Back in September, Nicholas Carr posted a long, highly combustible diatribe invoking Geezuz against AdBlock Plus: the Firefox extension which will stop practically all those revolving, screaming ads (that's one way, my way, of looking at it). Much online advertising is still stuck in the throw-mud-at-wall stage and, sorry, but I can't read when I have intense visual or auditory distraction. So, like a few other useful extensions (list in right-hand column), AdBlock saves my time and energy.

I explained, at length, how Carr was plain wrong and more than a tad hysterical (although he was timid compared to some hysterics who think it's all about Marxism in disguise). This was simply because it remained and would remain largely a geeky thing. At that point, the only numbers which anyone could source on AdBlock's worldwide usage was 2.5 million, which is nothing.

Because I was reading him again I thought I'd try and find some numbers on AdBlock usage seven months later.

It's now 3 million 'active daily numbers' (where the 2.5 million came from) and probably X3 - 9 million, not-daily, say the geeks who are very excited it's that many. Here's the details.

When Firefox claims it is approaching 20% of worldwide browsers and in a month where China finally eclimpsed the USA as #1 for web users, even 9 million is a pittance.

I suppose getting-a-grip in a follow-up would be out of the question, Nicholas?

How piracy helps business

Karen Croxson, a Junior Research Fellow in Economics at New College, Oxford, gave a lecture at the Royal Economic Society Annual Conference explaining how software and music piracy can actually help businesses.

While piracy may harm sales, it can also serve to provide free marketing, helping to create ‘buzz’ about a product.
This is product specific and may explain certain protections: console games vs. office software for example.
The unauthorised copying of digital goods such as software, music and films – a practice referred to as ‘digital piracy’ – has been claimed to place in peril the viability of whole industries. With perceived losses running so high, one might expect to see all sellers moving mountains to safeguard their intellectual property technologically. In fact there are some puzzling differences in attitudes.
Piracy can displace sales but highlights the importance of being realistic about this: not every copy implies a lost purchase. In any market there are some who value the product but never would buy (perhaps children with limited pocket money) and their piracy poses no threat to sales.

Given that the cost of piracy is likely to come down to a personal calculation (related to such things as the value of time, fear of penalties and moral costs), there may be variation across markets in the genuine sales threat – the temptation to pirate by those who would otherwise buy.
Croxson using the example of the Arctic Monkeys to explain how valuable 'word-of-mouth' is, although putting a sterling value on this is very hard to do.
The instant success of the music group's first album was due not to traditional marketing muscle but to the energy of early consumers who hyped its songs through social networking site

Hat-tip: Etre

Think before you blog!

Object lesson for bloggers in the story of the Medway Tory Councillor, John Ward, now resigned, who posted about sterilising so-called 'welfare mothers' on his blog:

"A pushy cold caller at the door got me so irate and upset that I didn't finish what I was doing correctly".
Despite his rather Nazi-like sympathies (Lynne Fetherstone gave a good example of where this thinking would lead), I actually felt sorry for him. He can think what he likes (and one look at the Mail's comments shows just how prevalent this type of thinking actually is) — it helps no-one if he blogs it without thinking through and in anger (or blaming someone else who's trying to make a probably very small living).

There are lots of resources and support for blogging councillors and many have now been doing it for ages: all the perils are well understood, explained and out there. Did the council actually support his blogging and do any of that, I wonder?

Try Designing for civil society, David Wilcox's blog, and a host of others in my eGov links.

NB: Ward has a really badly designed site - but it's not as bad as this ... get out the sunglasses.

Sarkozy: what is he on?

Er, doesn't that affect your sperm count or something ...

Free our bills

If you haven't seen this and you're British, go and sign up for MySociety's Free Our Bills Campaign.

It's about getting Parliament to produce Bills in a way that others can reuse the content online, rather than having to retype from parchment or whatever they do currently. i.e. It's 2008 FFS!

This is because TheyWorkForYou cannot currently do things like:

  • We can’t give you email alerts to tell you when a bill mentions something you might be interested in.
  • We can’t tell you what amendments your own MP is asking for, or voting on.
  • We can’t help people who know about bills annotate them to explain what they’re really going on about for everyone else.
  • We can’t build services that would help MPs and their staff notice when they were being asked to vote on dumb or dubious things.
  • We can’t really give a rounded view of how useful your MP is if we can’t see their involvement with the bill making process.
  • We can’t do about 12 zillion other things that we’re not even bright enough to think of yet.
They are resorting to their first campaign because lobbying failed:
  • There’s some vague notion that it’ll all get done one day, as part of some miraculous project plan to make everything OK, but we understand ‘sod off’, even when spoken in Whitehall-speak.
And I love the Aussie freshwater marsupial they're using for the emblem. Any campness gets a big tick in my book (and she's camp).

Quite interesting stories about platypuses: when the first specimens arrived back in London, they were assumed to be fakes (Engels was one who thought 'those damned English are trying to fool me!'). Then they thought it was a bird. They puzzled scientists for years. They're also venomous, though it won't kill you. And it's a snout, not a bill :} Though 'free our snouts!' sounds like something MPs would support ...

Tuesday, March 25

Guido is pathetic

Paul Staines aka Guido Fawkes shows his true colours in today's bigoted attack on Chris Bryant. Lots of lovely undeleted comments follow on.

Gives me a chance to run the video again of when Michael White casually exposed him on Newsnight.

What a pathetic little man he is.

Postscript: Tim Ireland and others have been doing some digging on Mr Staines ...

Monday, March 24

The coming 'tracking' storm

Greg Sterling has an excellent analysis of the coming storm over online tracking by advertisers - prompted by a first legal move in the New York State Assembly:

Here’s where we are today:
  • Traditional media are less and less effective because of audience fragmentation
  • Agencies are still largely clinging to traditional media because of “inertia” and familiarity
  • The Internet is where huge audiences are today but they’re harder to effectively reach
  • Arguably search is the most effective online ad medium
  • Brands generally don’t want to spend money on search
  • Taking the lessons of search to heart, display advertising — where most of the brand advertising is seeking to go online — is tapping behavioral targeting (BT) and other, similar strategies to make display more “relevant”
After reading about how Internet companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo collect information about people online and use it for targeted advertising, one New York assemblyman said there ought to be a law — Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, the sponsor of a New York bill to limit how companies collect data on computer users.

And because it would be extraordinarily difficult for the companies that collect such data to adhere to stricter rules for people in New York alone, these companies would probably have to adjust their rules everywhere, effectively turning the New York legislation into national law.

From a legal standpoint this law wouldn’t survive a court challenge because, assuming it passed, it would violate the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, which doesn’t allow individual states to regulate “interstate commerce.” Of course there are exceptions one can find but this wouldn’t be one of them.

What’s significant here is that it represents a first step in what is sure to be an ongoing legislative and regulatory discussion of consumer privacy. This is analogous to what happened with Click Fraud only more extreme: the search engines failed to “get out in front” of the issue from a PR perspective until they’d been repeatedly hammered in the press.
He's right. Web companies aren't good with PR. I can see the Panorama 'expose' now ... maybe written by the 'ubiquitous' Nicholas Carr, who goes all paranoid again in this post about a new Google ad-serving patent.

MPs: We're afraid of embarrasment on YouTube

This actually made me laugh.

Parliament's youngest MP (and that's relevant), Jo Swinson, has called for an end to the ban on reuse of clips of Parliament on YouTube .. and blogs ... and news sites - it's about a lot more than YouTube.

Parliament should be embracing new technology as a way to reconnect with the public, so isn't it about time we ditched the ridiculous ban on Parliamentary clips being shown on YouTube?

If there is a copyright issue, will the House authorities review the current contracts and bring Parliament into the 21st century?

Video clips of debates in Parliament can be hosted on MPs' personal websites, but the rules currently ban their use on YouTube and other video streaming sites.

I personally think that the more people see what goes on in Parliament, the better, which is why I am pushing for the rules to be changed.

This is fundamentally an issue about Parliament reforming itself to keep up-to-date with modern technology.
Er, unfortunately she's not got a clip of her saying this on her own blog (which is allowed), but I'd be breaking the law if I added it here anyway.

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Another LibDem (you mean they don't have a policy?!), Nick Harvey, who represents MPs interests in such pant-wetting matters and whose website is down at writing, responded that:
At the moment the rule is that the clips can be streamed to be viewed in real time, but not downloaded in such a way that they can be manipulated at a future point
My god! The horror! MPs manipulated! Stop it before I s*%@t myself for the fear of it :{} Must leave that to the TV satirists and not the public!

You can see why I'm laughing.

NB: I 'manipulated' Mr Harvey's image. I believe that's still legal.

Serious point: I would have liked to have shown you the Home Office's response to intense questioning in the Lords over Mehdi Kazemi and gay refugees. Not only can't I do that without flouting the law, also I couldn't find the b****y thing in a 7 hour session. God help the general public. I could, however, legally republish clips from the European Parliament - who obviously don't hide in fear of 'manipulation' by evil bloggers.

Postscript: Jo tells me that she actually has to buy the clips, hence not yet on her blog ... ya laugh, ya cry ...

Michael Moore gem

Cheney spent Wednesday, the 5th anniversary of the war, not mourning the dead he killed, but fishing off the Sultan of Oman's royal yacht

Spitzer twister: He was after GW Bush

Greg Palast has an interesting twist to the Spitzer-hooker scandal.

While New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was paying an ‘escort’ $4,300 in a hotel room in Washington, just down the road, George Bush’s new Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was secretly handing over $200 billion in a tryst with mortgage bank industry speculators.

Both acts were wanton, wicked and lewd. But there’s a BIG difference. The Governor was using his own checkbook. Bush’s man Bernanke was using ours.
Three weeks before the FBI leaked information to the New York Times, Spitzer wrote a Washington Post piece titled:
Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime
How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers
Spitzer was after how Bush was stopping States Attorneys General who wanted to sue loan-sharking banks. They had engaged in illegal 'predatory' loans: this is 'the mortgage crisis' which hit Northern Rock and may lead to an economic downturn.

When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners the Bush administration will not be judged favorably.
As in the UK, Banks have been bailed out with hundreds of billions of dollars and the White House stopped the states from pursuing the lenders through the courts.

I posted about how a booker for a 'high class escort agency' in her reflections had noted:
Show me a rich and powerful man between the ages of 35 and 60 who has never paid an escort for sex, and I will show you a man who is a very rare exception.
Interesting how Spitzer is the one exposed: via the FBI ...

Tesco: Brilliant SEO but Satan in disguise

Owh, they're good, but evil... you have to get past the tenth (standard) Tesco Google hit before you get Tesco critics cited on (even) the BBC and Guardian. Mega-tricks. Don't know whether to raise my hat or let loose a blast ...

Let's try a blast.

Tesco offers Sheringham £1.2million

COUNCIL coffers will get £1.2m (sounds like Shirley Porter's hairdressing bill) from super-market giant Tesco if the controversial store at Sheringham gets the go-ahead. But North Norfolk District Council has stressed that the deal does not affect the long-running planning saga - which is due to come to a head at an inquiry, which will take place in July.
Sheringham is a North Norfolk small town I have connections to (and love). It and it's small selection of, albeit slightly 1950s (some close for lunch but 'sell everything') shops (I believe people appreciate 'siestas' and 'work-life balance' in España), face decimation - really - if Tesco moves in.

And like the massively profitable juggernaut they are, Tesco ain't giving in.

Their attempts at a store in the town have, literally, been going on for years despite massive opposition.

They are trying to do the same in the one remaining 'character' (i.e. non-bog standard) shopping street left in Cambridge. This is their moot point: they never give up. They is evil. They will dominate all. Profit. Profit. Profit.
  • 'Tesco hell' - 'anything-dot-Hell' sites are somewhat infamous, but, somewhere with this one, I gave up. The SEO maestros defeated them or tell me if I'm missing something.
These sites I found relatively quickly, no such luck for the general public I would guessLesson 1: yes, search positioning (SEO) is very important for online campaigning but T*sco is fu****g loaded and has search tricks down pat;
Lesson 2: I've tagged this 'censorship' because that's what it - effectively - is.

More Obama speech reaction - it's positive but you won't read about it

I've been following the reaction to Obama's speech on race (which you can watch in full in this previous blog post).

The only polling done that I can find (for CBS) gave 69% of Americans who had heard or read about it giving it a positive reaction.

63% agree with Obama's views on race relations. Seventy-one percent say he did a good job explaining his relationship with Rev. Wright - the pastor of his church whose sermons have been edited and received blanket news coverage.

The only negative was when people were asked if Obama would unite the country 52% said yes. This is down from 67% last month.

Most voters following the events say they will make no difference in their vote.

Nearly a quarter of Democrats say the events have made them more likely to back Obama, while a similar number of Republicans say they are now less likely to do so. Three in four independents say the events make no difference, and the remainder are nearly evenly split between those more likely to support him and those less likely to do so.

As well, his overall poll numbers have returned to a lead over Clinton (via Andrew Sullivan)

Another Gallup Poll
shows a 'Perceived Honesty Gap for Clinton Versus Obama, McCain'.

Nevertheless, reporters continue to assume a negative reaction for Obama (see the Times/BBC) and US Networks have continued to selectively edit both the original sermons by Rev. Wright as well as comments by Obama himself.

The BBC's North America Editor Justin Webb posted the following about Wright:

"The fact that he is shouting in the clips, and swaying about, does not do him any favours."
Which is astonishing, given that this is how black pastors preach: something you'd assume he would know about and understand. This sort of comment reflects the tenor of the BBC's coverage of Obama and Wright and is also to be found in some of the broadsheets.

Some commentators have noted that the real reason that Wright's comments continue to dominate TV News coverage of Obama - despite, for example, a lengthy speech last week further explaining his position on Iraq - is because they need the Democratic race to continue for their own reasons.

Despite there being little chance that Hillary will win, the media needs the conflict and is unwilling to call the reality: baring acts-of-god, Obama will be the Democratic nominee. Plus, it's a statistical tie with McCain vs Obama (post 'race speech' polling).

Journalists have become partners with the Clinton campaign in pretending that the contest is closer than it really is. Most coverage breathlessly portrays the race as a down-to-the-wire sprint between two well-matched candidates, one only slightly better situated than the other to win in August at the national convention in Denver.

One important, if subliminal, reason is self-interest. Reporters and editors love a close race — it’s more fun and it’s good for business.
Just this week, Clinton made the bizarre claim that she had to run to avoid sniper fire when visiting Tuzla in Bosnia with her daughter in 1996. This, well, lie, has received no play at all. However some have rebelled over the 'loop' on Rev. Wright and Obama.

CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 looked at the actual tapes of Wright, rather than the excerpts and discovered that one of the most quoted excerpts, made just after 9/11, was actually Wright quoting somebody else, a former Ambassador.
“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”
They said:
His sermon thesis:
1. This is a time for self-examination of ourselves and our families.
2. This is a time for social transformation (then he went on to say they won’t put me on PBS or national cable for what I’m about to say. Talk about prophetic!)
The Washington Post provided more context by highlighting similar comments made by Martin Luther King:
Listen to what King said about the Vietnam War at his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1968: "God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war. . . . And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place." King then predicted this response from the Almighty: "And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power."
And imagined what would have happened to King's campaign if today's technology had existed then.

Even on arch right-wing News Channel Fox News, the 'loop' so outraged two anchors that one upped and left and another berated his fellow anchors.

On another channel, the 'loop' was challenged by someone whose comments surprised many - Mike Huckerbee (comment @ 3' 20" — notice the lead male with his arms crossed):

In their reaction to Obama's historic speech - the tenor and content broke new ground for any leading American politician, black or white - much of the media, both in the USA and UK, appears a/ ignorant of Black America and b/ determined to continue to pump up the Democratic primary election for their own reasons.

Where to turn to for accurate reporting?

Previous: NB: "20 hour days"! 20 "hits" in the morning! Something lost in the translation ...

Sunday, March 23

Tibet and boycotts

Jack P has blogged about Tibet, writing that people should boycott Chinese-made goods and suggested that:

If you know of anyone who was due to compete in the Beijing Olympics this year, ask them to consider what is more important: taking a stand against ethnic cleansing, or their own personal achievement.

Now I can remember the only really successful boycotts, of Moscow and then Los Angeles in 1980 and 1984, over Afghanistan. People said much the same about British athletes who went to Moscow, one of whom was Sebastian Coe.

This time though, the Tibetans, through the Dalai Lama and the Free Tibet Campaign, aren't calling for a boycott.

This year, the Chinese people are proudly and eagerly awaiting the opening of the Olympic Games. I have, from the very beginning, supported the idea that China should be granted the opportunity to host the Olympic Games. Since such international sporting events, and especially the Olympics, uphold the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, equality and friendship, China should prove herself a good host by providing these freedoms. Therefore, besides sending their athletes, the international community should remind the Chinese government of these issues. I have come to know that many parliaments, individuals and non-governmental organisations around the globe are undertaking a number of activities in view of the opportunity that exists for China to make a positive change. I admire their sincerity. I would like to state emphatically that it will be very important to observe the period following the conclusion of the Games. The Olympic Games no doubt will greatly impact the minds of the Chinese people. The world should, therefore, explore ways of investing their collective energies in producing a continuous positive change inside China even after the Olympics have come to an end.

Here is his full statement about the Tibet events.

Instead, they say that they want pressure on our government and our Olympic authorities.
As Britain has become a fellow custodian with China of the Olympic ideal, Free Tibet Campaign is calling upon the UK Government to commit to a special initiative that will secure a negotiated settlement for Tibet and improve human rights in China before the Beijing Games of 2008.

"If our Government really wants to make Britain proud, it will back Tibet," said Yael Weisz-Rind, Director of Free Tibet Campaign. "We have no doubt that London is capable of hosting a truly great Olympics, but unless there is substantial progress on Tibet and human rights in China, the 2008 Games in Beijing will be badly tarnished."
Jack also suggest that people boycott Chinese-made goods, but recognises how difficult this might be.

The Dali Lama isn't calling for that either:
China is emerging as a powerful country due to her great economic progress. This is to be welcomed, but it has also provided China an opportunity to play an important role on the global stage.

I think people should be aware of the conditions under which much ‘Made in China’ imports are produced - they have been compared to modern-day slavery.

Organisations involved in this, again, suggest that protests be directed closer to home - to the British retailers who don't ask about those conditions as well as politicians who don't consider labour issues in trade relations with China.

The Free Tibet campaign has a number of ways in which people can get involved in some way, including spending your money on some lovely goods like this teeshirt over the web :}

Postscript: Jack P has responded to my post. To which I added these points:

From my previous work with Aboriginal people as well as past anti-Apartheid work, I do think it's important to take a lead from the people themselves: those you want to help.

Unfortunately, writing to your MP and/or Gordon Brown and/or the Olympic Authorities is often seen as boring. However this is what they - the Tibetan leaders - say they want: pressure at home. It's also, from my experience, part of the long-haul thankless process by which change happens.