Philosophical Musings

November 25, 2007

Just Say No to Linda O’Connor (and Yes to Wikipedia)

Filed under: Digital Culture,postmodernism — Elad Kehat @ 8:12 am

Linda O’Connor, a middle school librarian from New Jersey, has launched a campaign in her school to “Just Say No” to Wikipedia. You have probably heard the reasons before:

“Teachers and students have found at least two cases of incorrect information while using Wikipedia”

Wow, at least two errors, that’s nothing new, but here’s the real problem:

“Kids just take it for gospel, they really do, and that’s my concern about it.”

Apparently, wisdom does not transfer by diffusion. Just spending your life in a library with books all around you  is no guarantee that you’ll become smart. Let us try and see then whether our dear librarian could have come up with a better solution, in just two steps.

First, teach the kids that what they read online isn’t gospel. While you’re at it, why don’t you teach them that what they read offline isn’t gospel either. (Neither is the gospel gospel for that matter, but this is a pro-real education rant, not an anti-organized religion rant so I’ll stop there). Teach them to think for themselves. Teach them to corroborate the “facts”.

“A teacher researching Martin Luther King Jr. found white supremacist information in his entry”

If you taught students the bare minimum of rationale and critical thinking, then they should be able to recognize white supremacist information when they see it, realize that it has no place in a Martin Luther King article, and seek additional sources.

“The problem with Wikipedia, the school officials said, is it can be modified by anyone.”

And here comes the second step – realize that your students are people too  – “can be modified by anyone” includes them. Why not let them contribute something?

Instead of launching a “just say no” campaign, I’d rather see Ms. O’Connor suggest that her students take up a subject, learn all about it from various “authoritative” sources, then go into Wikipedia, look for errors and fix them. This way students could learn that there are inaccuracies in Wikipedia, learn how to look for additional sources and corroborate information they find online, and even give something back to society by making Wikipedia, a free source that’s easily available for everyone, more accurate.

Unlikely. I just hope that the digital generation are smarter than their parents.


November 13, 2007

Content is King… Louis XVI

Filed under: business,Digital Culture,entrepreneurship,movies — Elad Kehat @ 9:47 pm

Marc Andreessen has a thesis that Holywood (where big studios rule) might become something more like Silicon Valley (where entrepreneurs usually remain stock holders in their creation). He describes it as:

“a shift of power from studios and conglomerates towards creators and talent”

And the very next day I found two interesting items that corroborate his thesis:

First, check out Killer Bean Forever – a full feature animation film apparently created single-handedly. Here’s how Jeff Lew, it’s creator describes his work:

“For the past 4 years, I’ve been working at my computer 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’ve spent my entire life savings and maxed out credit cards. After all this time and effort, my movie is almost done. I present to you a preview of my feature film directorial debut… Killer Bean Forever.”

Sounds just like a technology entrepreneur describing his startup.

Second, here’s yet another example for how marketing doesn’t need big budget – “Producer Thanks Pirates for Stealing His Film.”:

“Our independent movie had next to no advertising budget and very little going for it until somebody ripped one of the DVD screeners and put the movie online for all to download. Most of the feedback from everyone who has downloaded “The Man From Earth” has been overwhelmingly positive. People like our movie and are talking about it, all thanks to piracy on the net!”

Obviously, that wouldn’t work if the film sucks – then you’ll need a serious marketing budget to push it.

In any case, I’m banking on this trend to deliver some good movies instead of the crap that’s produced by Holywood studios today. I just watched Ocean’s 13 (yet another crappy sequel) on DVD, and one of the previews was for No Reservations – which seems like a crappy rip-off of a very good German film I watched a while back – Bella Martha. If content is king in Holywood then right now it’s King Louis XVI.

MLM 2.0

Filed under: business,Digital Culture — Elad Kehat @ 3:15 pm

“Consumers trust their friends and acquaintances far more than any other source.”

So says a Forrester “strategist”. Makes sense. But the corollary is wrong:

“Facebook, which brings a unique solution evolves advertisements to endorsements and encourages members to subscribe to a brand in what we are calling “Fan-Sumers” (an evolution of the consumer). As consumers share their affinities, brands can advertise using trusted social relationships.”

Apparently, in order to be a strategist at Forrester you need to be good at coining new terms (fan-sumers), that are rip-offs from your betters (Toffler’s prosumers – Update: Jeremiah says it wasn’t a rip-off, and I apologize. Nevertheless, Toffler is basic reading if you’re any kind of strategist). However, Mr. Strategist doesn’t have to ask “why?” – why do consumers trust their friends and acquaintances more than other source?

Here’s why I sometimes trust a friend’s opinion more than an expert, and always more than an ad – because it’s honest. It’s because I believe that my friends have my own interests in mind when they recommend a product, and not any commercial interest. More than that – if a friend was ever to try to promote some product to me in order to receive a benefit from a third party without disclosing that, I’d never trust their opinion again, and would seriously question whether they’re actually my friend.

Facebook’s “amazing” strategy that Forrester is touting seems more like MLM 2.0. Make money working from home, touting products to your social network friends, only you don’t even make money…

Fortunately some clear thinkers realize that. Nick Carr’s “The medium is the message from our sponsor” had me rolling on the floor…

(Real) Competition-Blindness

Filed under: business,Copyrights — Elad Kehat @ 2:46 pm

So a major TV network (NBC) has finally launched a service that lets you download shows to your PC. Not surprisingly, they still don’t get it right:

“First off, it’s Internet Explorer only, then once you download the player, if you don’t have the latest .NET framework, you’ll be downloading that also. Next: Windows Media needed a security update on top of it all. On a Mac? Sorry, can’t help. Outside of the US? You’re out of luck too.

Don’t they realize that they have to be better than competition?  They probably do. It’s just that they choose to ignore the real competition. Let’s parse those (non)issues:

1. It’s internet explorer only. Mininova etc. work on firefox as well.

2. You need to download the latest .NET framework. I guess I could live with that one 🙂

3. Windows media needs a security update. Screw you.  Playing DivX torrents doesn’t require any “security” updates that securely send information about me somewhere else.

4. On a Mac? No problem. Lots of bittorrent clients work on the Mac.

5. Outside of the US? Even better, in most countries MPAA hasn’t got lawmakers in their pocket (yet).

November 2, 2007

Why Digital Text Trumps Analog

Filed under: Digital Culture — Elad Kehat @ 1:08 pm

I often find myself trying to explain why it is that I read so much more today than ever before but dead trees never play a part in this activity.

The preamble to this blog post by Nick Carr caught my attention, as a good explanation:

 My column in today’s Guardian looks at Marshall McLuhan’s second life as a prophet of internet media. A couple of my references had to be cut from the column for space reasons. Here’s the full text, with links.

Read the second and third sentences again. Each sentence contains an important point, but it’s mentioned in a very casual way so it’s easy to miss.

Didn’t catch it yet? Take a look at David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous.

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