Froot loops, search addicits, and augmented reality

Quote of the day goes to David Coen: “I wish I could just “command-F” for C.T.C (Cinnamon Toast Crunch).”

Amen! My pinky finger twitches for the “/” key (old-school Firefox shortcut) all the time: when I’m scanning ingredients, reading a news story, and finding my location on a map.

After a taste of what the web can do, I’m hooked. I need it all the time.

cereal aisle, by Ben McLeod
cereal aisle, by Ben McLeod

More from Señor Coen:

If you wanted to know what happened in the world you either turned on the TV or checked the headlines in your morning newspaper. Google has them beat. It’s too late to try and become the aisle sign (the first thing people go to). But there is still room to become the helpful employee roaming the aisle. That’s where news organizations can still make their mark.

So, paper is out, and journalists will become be the online guides. Boing Boing does this remarkably well. They post the stories that matter to me, and a whole lot of people like me. (Who knew copyleft, unicorns, and cryptozoology could command such an audience?)

But we’re still trapped in our computers

Find as you type makes the web livable. But off-screen search, now that would make reality livable. Epiphany, the just-barely-science-fiction augmented reality device from Vernor Vinge’s excellent book Rainbows End, gives the wearer queryable visual (and haptic) overlays of the real world:

If you override the defaults you can see in any direction you want. You can qualify default requests — like to make a query about something in an overlay. You can blend video from multiple viewpoints so you can ‘be’ where there is no physical viewpoint. That’s called ghosting. If you’re really slick, you can run simulations in real time and use the results as physical advice. That’s how the Radners do so well in baseball.

This is the sort of stuff journalists need to be geeked about. If we’re to be the sensemakers, as David’s post implies, we can’t let ourselves get stuck in the narrative tar pits.

We must create new ways to make sense of the world.

(I’ll happily host the first meeting of the sci-fi for journalists book club. Who’s bringing the chips?)

Surviving newspapers: don’t get caught in the undertow

Are we sinking or sunk?  Alfred Hermida writes that, at least in Canada, new research shows that nobody buys the paper for local news:

The main reason for choosing newspapers was out of habit. People were either daily readers or subscribers.

But only 8% said they choose newspapers because they were a source of local news. And even less said it was because they like holding a physical paper.

101_2510 by Br3nda
101_2510 by Br3nda

How to keep your head above water

Amy Gahran, Swimming Lessons for Journalists:

So where will today’s journos find tomorrow’s jobs? Here’s my take: Not in news organizations. At least, not in news orgs as we’ve grown accustomed to them over the last century. That ship is quite obviously sinking.

Mindy McAdams, The survival of journalism, 10 simple facts:

Newspapers were a nice business. Publishers could make the product insanely cheap (remember the penny press), and the advertising would cover the expenses, plus generate fantastic profits. However, this is clearly over. It’s done. It worked for a long time, but now, like trans-Atlantic leisure travel in big passenger ships, it will never work again.

Who runs newspapers? Who should run news web sites?

Joel Spolsky from Inc. Magazine (via SVN):

Watching nonprogrammers trying to run software companies is like watching someone who doesn’t know how to surf trying to surf. Even if he has great advisers standing on the shore telling him what to do, he still falls off the board again and again. The cult of the M.B.A. likes to believe that you can run organizations that do things that you don’t understand. But often, you can’t.

Readers, I need a hand.  Can you answer two questions for a newbie?

  1. I don’t know who runs newspapers.  Are publishers usually former journalists?  Or are they more frequently experts in publishing topics like ads, printing and distribution?
  2. Who should run news web sites?

I’m constantly amazed at how bad news web sites are.

For example: Search the Chicago Tribune for my dean’s name, “Lavine.”  It returns no results.  There were at least a half dozen articles about Dean Lavine printed in the last six months, I promise.  What gives?

My suspicion is that the folks running the news sites just don’t understand the web.  If the web is the future of news, should technologists be the publishers?  I’m thinking no, instead it should probably be tech-saavy journalists.

The only strong feeling I have is that it should *not* be ink and paper newspaper publishers.

Drama trumps truth and importance, Seth Godin on the news

Marketing guru Seth Godin wrote two great bits last week on how the news is screwed up.

First: The New York Times should only publish something if it’s true and important.

If I were editing the Times, I’d look at every single editorial feature, every single article and ask if it met either of the two things the Times could stand for. If not, that piece should be gone, deleted, unassigned. No sports section, for example. If you can’t be the best in the world, don’t bother, because someone else is going to get my attention. The Times needs 50 more bestseller lists, 20 more trusted stories about real political fact and insight, ten more cultural touchstone features… and a lot less filler, a lot less copycat stuff and nothing, nothing about Barbara Walters.

Second: Even reporting on hard news like election results CNN favors drama over truth.

There isn’t media bias in favor of Hillary…. Nor is there media bias in favor of floods. There’s media bias in favor of drama.

Most of us are inclined to believe that government officials, doctors and the media are making an effort to tell us the truth. Actually, just like all marketers, they tell us a story.

Here Comes Everybody: the Internet as a catalyst for social change

So, I’m not quite finished with Clay Shirky’s new book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, but it’s too good to hold off posting. His take on the state of the newspaper is especially great:

We’ve long regarded the newspaper as a sensible object because it has been such a stable one, but there isn’t any logical connection among its many elements: stories from Iraq, box scores from the baseball games, and ads for everything from shoes to real estate all exist side by side in an idiosyncratic bundle. What holds a newspaper together is primarily the cost of paper, ink, and distribution; a newspaper is whatever group of printed items a publisher can bundle together and deliver profitably. The corollary is also true: what doesn’t go into a newspaper is whatever is too expensive to print and deliver. The old bargain of the newspaper — world news lumped in with horoscopes and ads from the pizza parlor — has now ended. The future presented by the internet is the mass amateurization of publishing and a switch from “Why publish this?” to “Why not?”

Here Comes Everybody

Newspapers stopped making sense when the cost of publishing disappeared. They no longer own the written word. It’s been given to everybody. Pulp used to be the most effective way to spread the word — this is no longer true.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Shirky’s take on the transformative power of social software is spot on. It’s an excellent, fast-reading, example-packed companion to Yochai Benkler’s incredible, though slightly chewier, book The Wealth of Networks.

Highly recommended.