Life is a Mystery

6 October 2009 . Comments Off on Free ride disclosed

Free ride disclosed

The blogosphere is bubbling with concern over new FTC rules, due to go into effect in December, which would require disclosure of any relationship between reviewer and reviewee. For example, if a reviewer received an advance review copy (ARC) of something they then reviewed, they would have to disclose that fact in the review. This is an effort by the FCC to stem the tide of viral marketing that appears “authentic” to the reader, but is in fact “paid for” in some sense by the manufacturer or publisher.

The rules seem, on the whole, reasonable to me. Granted, I’ve never reviewed something I’m paid for or received for free, so I’m not the “target” of these changes.

The one troubling objection I’ve seen made is that the new rules may hold the manufacturers or publishers liable in some way for false statements made by bloggers. In other words, the rules may treat blog posts and tweets as traditional advertising subject, in some way, to “false advertising” claims. As one blogger laments:

Like I want publishers breathing down my neck while I try to write fair and honest reviews. We’ve already turned away publishers who wanted to have oversight over our reviews. And frankly, I feel like I should be giving instruction to publishers on labeling issues.

This would, indeed, be a problem. I hope the FTC does not equate an ARC to the kind of payment and responsibility an advertiser assumes for an ad that they place. But on the whole I am glad to see the FTC thinking about the future of marketing and the consumer protections we need in place to be able to judge the information we get via the web.


18 May 2009 . Comments Off on On with whose show?

On with whose show?

Mary points to a great summary of license terms for online video sites. It turns out that appears to claim many fewer rights to your video than YouTube and Vimeo. YouTube and Vimeo say, essentially, that they can do anything they want with your video so long as you leave it on their site. And after you remove your video? They still retain rights to do anything they want for an undefined “commercially reasonable” amount of time. Yikes, maybe it is time to try


1 April 2009 . Comments Off on Investigative Fund

Investigative Fund

And so it begins. Just a couple weeks ago I was telling my brother that I thought a new model of journalism was emerging. It is a model I’ve been anticipating since Max Headroom. Essentially an independent investigative reporter with some kind of funding mechanism that allows her or his audience to help pay the freight for the investigations.

That’s not quite what emerged this week, but the Huffington Post took a step toward this future by creating a new Investigative Fund as a separate organization.

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This model is not quite the independent reporter. Here we have a staff of editors being funded by an initial $1.75 million.

Picture a large pool of reporters — some on staff, and many freelancers — proposing stories and also receiving assignments from Investigative Fund editors.

But these reporters will not be producing news for any single outlet. Instead, the content they create will be open for anyone to run.

The pieces developed by the Fund will range from long-form investigations to short breaking news stories and will be presented in a variety of media, including text, audio and video. And, in the open source spirit of the Web, all of the content the Fund produces will be free for anyone to publish.

This sounds like an important experiment. I still feel the model is not quite as radical as we will see in the future. But it does represent the further unravelling of journalism as we have funded it to date.

13 March 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: TagExplorer

FFR: TagExplorer

I like using images when I put together presentations and posts. I usually find these on Flickr, where if I do an advanced search I can ask it to only return images with Creative Commons licenses. Now I’ve found an easier way, while it lasts, using Yahoo’s experimental TagExplorer. All the images returned by TagExplorer are CC licensed!

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16 January 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: Scrapblog

FFR: Scrapblog

Scrapblog might be fun, especially for kids.

21 December 2008 . Comments Off on Fixing broken WordPress XMLRPC

Fixing broken WordPress XMLRPC

Today is a nice snowy Sunday, but I spent almost the whole day in front of my computer. It turns out that the WordPress installations we run were all compromised. This was quite a headache and took a bit of sleuthing to nail down, so I thought I’d at least document what we learned in case it is helpful to anyone else. Read on for the details. Read the rest of this entry »

14 April 2008 . Comments Off on Where the MSM gets its news

Where the MSM gets its news

I’ve been trying to avoid the bittergate news, I’m just tired of the back and forth and I have a great deal of confidence in Obama and his ability to handle himself under fire. I don’t need the aggravation of people making political hay out of statements that, to my ear, sound perfectly reasonable. That said, some of it slips through and once in a while I’m glad it does. TechPresident pointed to this wonderful peek behind the curtains at HuffingtonPost where this story was broken by an Obama supporter and amateur journalist. It is an instructive case of high standards and lowbrow MSM mixed into a campaign firestorm.

27 March 2008 . Comments Off on Viral news

Viral news

Perhaps not surprising to anyone who would find this posting here on a blog, but the NYT reports that youth (surprise!) copy, link to, and share video and news. In fact, they seem to be replacing traditional filters (think CNN or NYT) with social filters (think Facebook and email).

Rather than treating video-sharing Web sites as traditional news sources, young people use them as tools and act as editors themselves.

“We’re talking about a generation that doesn’t just like seeing the video in addition to the story — they expect it,” said Danny Shea, 23, the associate media editor for The Huffington Post ( “And they’ll find it elsewhere if you don’t give it to them, and then that’s the link that’s going to be passed around over e-mail and instant message.”

The Times notes, for example, that even at the NYT site the transcript of the Obama speech last week was more emailed than any story their reporters wrote about the speech. Why does that make me feel so good? Imagine, people are learning to reach out for primary sources. On the web!

25 February 2008 . Comments Off on Moving


Well, a lot has happened since I last blogged. I don’t suppose I’m much of a blogger after all. I did keep quite a few notes about our trip to Austria last year on our Austria 2007 web site. But since leaving the University of Minnesota last year I’ve been looking for a way to move my blog off UThink. Unfortunately, even though I asked for it years ago, there is still no “export” available from the U’s Movable Type installation. So I finally took a deep breath and spent 90 minutes moving all the entries by hand. I guess it’s a good thing I was not more prolific! So, from here on, this blog will be hosted at my own site.

6 April 2005 . Comments Off on Visitors from Spain

Visitors from Spain

We had a wonderful visit from a crew from Spain today. Gave an overview of our digital initiatives. This entry is part of a demonstration of UThink.

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /