media, web 2.0

Yesterday’s news today…

Sure, search engines are a great tool to prestructure the ever increasing amount of information available out there. But if you ever wondered if there will always be humans involved in selecting and presenting news, here’s a preliminary answer – yesterday’s news became news again:

The SEO Blog: Google News Credibility Foiled By 15-Year Old

“Reading through SEO focused blog entries, Vandetta found an article that explained how to fool Google’s news system by writing fake press releases. Sensing an opportunity to experiment and play a joke on his friends, the self-described “Google fanboy” decided to see what would happen if he submitted a fake Google press release claiming the 15-year old New Jersey student was Google’s youngest employee.

The press release was issued through the free service I-Newswire and contained a number of spelling mistakes. Short and to the point, the release, which appeared to have been sent by a Google spokesperson Sonya Johnson (who’s actually existence is unconfirmed and is assumed to be imaginary), read:

“(I-Newswire) – 15 year old student, Tom Vendetta has been hired by search engine giant Google Inc. The student will receive a lowered salary, which will be placed into a bank account for future education, said Google CEO Larry Page. When asked what role Vendetta will play at the Tech Giant’s offices, Page said he wouldnt have a role at the Main Offices. Instead he would work from his home in the New Jersey suburbs. Vendetta will be incharge of working with recent security flaw’s in Google’s beta e-mail service, “Gmail”. Google said they first found out about him when they discovered the student’s blog, at The media giant said they looked forward to working with Vendetta’s expertise in JavaScript and AJAX.”

A few hours after posting the fake press release, Vandetta logged into the news search tool Digg after receiving an automated email from MAKEBot (Digg’s Spider), to find his practical joke had become a credible international tech story. Google was even displaying reference to the press release in Google News and at in the news results placed above search results relating to Google employment or hiring.

web 2.0

Germany Blogs (a little)

Wie ich blogge?!True, the relatively small size of the German blogosphere, just as the relatively large size of the French one, has always been an interesting phenomenon leading to all kinds of cultural hypotheses and repetitions of all too common stereotypes. But, believe it or not – Germany Blogs!

At least that’s the hypothesis – and in order to find out more about the endangered species “German blogger”, Jan Schmidt at the University of Bamberg is conducting a survey called “Weblogs 2005 – Bloggen im deutschsprachigen Raum”.

So, whether you’ve started yesterday or in 1999, or, like me, in 2002 – fill out the survey to demonstrate clearly that the claim is actually true : Germany blogs!

almost a diary, Economics, web 2.0

Blogging the GDR.

About two weeks ago I had dinner with my parents and one of their oldest friends who was in town for a day. Like my mother, he hails from the eastern part of Germany, the part formerly known as German Democratic Republic. Unlike my mother, he stayed there until the bitter end.

I was inclined to think that someone like him would be most confident when it comes to Schumpeterian processes, the creative destruction and recreation of social and economic governance mechanisms. Well, I was wrong.

compulsory reading, intellectual property rights, media, web 2.0

Blogs are really different.

To those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to read about Loic LeMeur’s efforts in bringing together the loose ends of the Germanic blogosphere, I say – do so.

When I went to meet him and some other bloggers I had never seen or even heard of before, I was not too sure what to expect beyond a pint of wheat beer. But what developed were indeed very intristing debates about the future -as we develop it.

quicklink, US Politics, web 2.0

Georgy Update

The Ventura County Star thinks George may have stolen Georgy’s votes. Not that George (W.) though, who is probably innocent, for once. Here’s what the newspaper’s Colleen Cason believes:

“A heretofore unknown candidate named George Schwartzman placed ninth statewide. Although the San Diego County businessman insists his fresh ideas won him those 11,000 votes, his stellar showing more likely results from a case of mistaken identity. Voters no doubt confused George Schwartzman with Georgy Russell – the candidate who marketed herself on thong undies.”

media, quicklink, web 2.0

Mainstream Blogging.

Maureen Dowd reflects about the mainstreaming of blogging –

“Don’t get me started on the Blaster virus sabotaging Microsoft systems, or the cram of spam reminding us that the average American is an impotent, insecure, overweight, tired, depressed loser desperately seeking to refinance. The most telling sign that the Internet is no longer the cool American frontier? Blogs, which sprang up to sass the establishment, have been overrun by the establishment.” (from the NY Times)

Iraq, media, web 2.0

Blogging Your Way To A Civil Society?

Papascott links to Jeff Jarvis, who believes that Salam Pax – the blogger who shared the sights and sounds of his life in Baghdad and is now writing a forthnightly column in the British Guardian – is an example of how sponsoring Iraqi blogging could create a true Iraqi Civil Society –

“What comes out of this: A hundred Salam Paxes. A thousand Salam Paxes. The intelligent, caring, involved future of Iraq will come online to share their experiences and opinions and hopes and fears and Iraq will be better for it; so will the world, for we will build bridges to Iraqis online. History has never had a better, cheaper, easier, faster means of publishing content and distributing it worldwide. Now is the time to take advantage of this for sake of democracy and freedom and nothing less than that.”

I am not too convinced that the outcome of setting up “blogspots” in Baghdad would necessarily be the creation of a happy modern all-Iraqi civil society, even assuming that enough people would care to learn how to use the technology. I suppose there is hardly anyone who would be able to tell how blogging would fit into institutionalised Iraqi patterns of societal communication.

Thinking of the almost violent way the pro-/anti-war debate evolved in the western blogosphere in the first few months this year, I would say that there is no guarantee that blogging does enhance the way any civil society works – just read my post about Rebecca Lucas below. In fact, remembering how Karl Deutsch has described long ago in “Nationalism and Social Communication” that increased communication does not per se translate into more understanding between the communicating parties, one might be tempted to think that blogging actually requires a significant amount of civil society and mutual understanding to start with in order to deal with all the Rachel Lucases around. Otherwise, it might just ignite a fire no one wanted to light.

I am not saying this would be the case in Iraq. But given the way a “modern/pseudo-socialist” authoritarian government has been superimposed on a semi-tribally-organised, ethnically and religiously diverse country I’d say that there is a certain chance for a negative development.

So while I think that the idea put forth by Mr Jarvis is clearly worth to be tested, those involved would have to be very attentive and careful not to become too hopeful about the possible positive effects of such a project.

almost a diary, Political Theory, USA, web 2.0

Stupid, stupid, stupid idiots!

Lillimarleen links to “pro-gun” tirade by Rachel Lucas called just like this entry. Rachel furiously tries to point out why previous cases of civil strife, ethnic persecution, or class warfare are valid arguments in favour of uninhibited gun ownership in general, and specifically in the USA –

“If you make self-defense illegal, or even problematic, you’re making life easier for criminals and tyrants.”

Well, if I were living in a Hobbesian state of nature I would probably have to subscribe to the strict version of that theory, too. But, luckily, I am not. Maybe she is – she lives in Texas, according to her webpage – that would explain her position.

In the real world however, it just doesn’t make much sense. But just like I am, Rachel and everybody else is entitled to tell the world about his or her opinions.

So when there’s nothing to argue, what am I doing here? Well, I am not really concerned with the substance of her rant, but rather with the style.

Unfortunately, Rachel (although she’s far from the worst) seemingly believes in the bizarre discourse theory a lot of bloggers, in my experience predominantly American right-wing bloggers, are spreading these days – that calling people who don’t share their opinions “idiots” as frequently as possible is making their points more convincing. Generally, they seem to follow the rule “the more aggressive, and insulting, the better.”

Rachel herself admits this practice on her FAQ page

Q: ‘How does Rachel expect to make her point by insulting people she disagrees with?’
A: Easy. I don’t expect to make my point to people who can’t see past the insults. Also, this is just a blog, not the New York Times op-ed page.”

Don’t get me wrong here, there are instances for the application of “idiot”. But the word’s inflationary use is a kind of verbal pollution, is simply annoying, and possibly preventing a good deal of the debate theoretically made possible by advances in communication technologies – who likes to talk to people who begin the discussion by saying “shut up, you idiot”? In Rachel’s words – why should they want to see past the insults?

I wonder if some phd student is already trying to capture the early changes personal publishing is making to the style of written opinion in general – can anyone imagine a NY Times op-ed headline that reads “Stupid, stupid, stupid idiots”? Probably not – for the time being. But who knows what the future, and the effects of personal publishing will have on other forms of media?