Virginia Tech @ The Social Web

The public spaces on the internet served as the most important arena for exchange of information on the events yesterday. Almost every news story cited a Facebook or Myspace page or a livejournal entry as a source. The Wikipedia entry and discussion on the event hashed out validity of sources and the semantics of tragedy. And then the jarring cell phone footage on Liveleak was among the realest indicators that this gruesome event had actually happened. The events as documented on the social web became the authority.

… These past two days have made it ever so much more apparent that our social lives on the web are intractable, crucial, and part of the news and the historical record.
booktruck

Sign of the Times

Spot the change in the new logo at the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE ):

Before

ASNE's old logo

And After

ASNE's new logo

Yep, “newspaper” is so 20th Century.

ASNE president Dave Zeeck thinks ASME may eventually drop “newspaper” altogether for something more up to date.
Strupp’s Notebook

Hello Microsoft, Goodbye

Hired by Microsoft to be an “enthusiast evangelist”, to “go out and mingle, bond and touch influential end users and show them all the cool things that Microsoft has to offer”, lifestyle blogger Stephanie Quilao quit after only nine and a half weeks.

It wasn’t just that working for Microsoft made her feel like Martha Stewart trying to fit in at a Star Trek convention — “I wanted to play with style and they wanted to play with robots.”

Comparing Microsoft’s desktop software to the Web 2.0 services available online, Quilao says that Microsoft doesn’t cut it for everyday people:

I created my blog business for less than $100, and it costs me about the price of a pair of nice jeans a month to run beyond my time and energy. I cannot do this with the current MS products or services. And I tried… I can use CSS and be creative in my blog design, and control what is advertised on my space. You can’t do that in Live Spaces. To buy Office 2007 Home edition is $150, and Vista Home Premium is $240. (Buying Vista Basic is really kind of pointless.) With that $150 and $240, many people can use that for more pressing things like health insurance, car insurance, debt elimination, rent, food, or gas…

… what MS has forgotten is that small business owners either left or despise the  Enterprise culture. The last thing they want is something that makes them feel Enterprise-y especially the creative types. When I speak to a group of Pro level bloggers, my passion group, I had nothing much to sell them on. When MS develops something as robust and creative as TypePad, Blogger, or WordPress, then it will be interesting.
Stephanie Quilao, Back in skinny jeans

And it’s not just Quilao. Two other MS workers leaving for vistas new: Microsoft’s top search exec Christopher Payne and yet another enthusiast evangelist — hired way back in mid-February — Michael Gartenberg.

Viacom Sues YouTube

YouTube uses its users to steal from the work of honest artists toiling to create original content, says Viacom as it finally sues YouTube for “massive intentional copyright infringement”:

YouTube is a significant, for-profit organization that has built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others’ creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google. Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws. In fact, YouTube’s strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site, thus generating significant traffic and revenues for itself while shifting the entire burden – and high cost – of monitoring YouTube onto the victims of its infringement.
Viacom Press Release

Viacom wants $1 billion in damages and an injunction stopping YouTube from showing any more of its content.

Cookie-Cutter Journalism

Flip away from the enthusiasms of the Web 2.0/participatory media crowd; the future suddenly loses its shine.

In a paper published last year by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, Robert G Picard gives a detailed account of what’s gone wrong with American news journalism:

Many of the challenges of news organization today exist because the professionalism of journalism and journalism education have determined the values and value of the news, commoditized the product, and turned most journalists into relatively interchangeable information factory workers. Average journalists share the same skills sets and the same approaches to stories, seek out the same sources, ask similar questions, and produce relatively similar stories. Few journalists encounter skills-related problems changing from one news organization to another and the average journalist is easily replaced by another. This interchangeability is one reason why salaries for average journalists are relatively low and why columnists, cartoonists, and journalists with special skills (such as enhanced ability to cover finance, science, and health) are able to command higher wages. Across the news industry, processes and procedures for news gathering are guided by standardized news values, producing standardized stories in standardized formats that are presented in standardized styles. The result is extraordinary sameness and minimal differentiation.
Robert G Picard, Journalism, Value Creation and the Future of News Organizations
(Google’s cached version; click here for pdf)

Of course, it takes two to dumb news down to its lowest common denominator. Hart Van Denburg, an online news editor in Minneapolis, agreeing with Picard, adds:

Americans treat their news the same way they treat their road trips. They could get off the interstate/internet for five minutes to visit a local diner and meet some local folks and get a sense of whether they’re in Brooklyn, N.Y., or Brooklyn Park, Minn., but they won’t. This is a country wallpapered with tens of thousands of square miles of beige suburbs populated by millions of fearful field mice with no desire to experience anything more unique than a sesame seed out of place on a Big Mac bun. Can we really expect such folks to give a hoot about anything outside their cul-de-sacs?
Hart’s Big Picture, Picard, Sameness, Passion

Manipulating Media

Steve Bryant only buys (into) media he can do stuff with:

Media is changing from entertainment into utility. Media that can’t be manipulated is almost useless. When I listen to NPR, I wish I could freeze the broadcast and pull a link from the radio, send it to a friend. When I watch TV, same thing. When I go to the movies, same thing. But I can’t. I can only do that online.

Those tiny transactions I make online make a greater imprint on my psyche than any single media event inside a theater — or inside a DVD — could have. It’s simple reward/response psychology. Online, I can track who watches my clips, who reads my posts, who liked my mash-up. The Internet flatters us with attention in a way Hollywood no longer can.
Steve Bryant, Hollywood Reporter

Class Acts

Curious to note that sensitive US indie-rock band Death Cab for Cutie — catch them on Atlantic Records, a subsidiary of the colossal Warner Music Group, catch them on the OC, Fox’s top-rating TV drama about the affluent youth of Orange County, CA — ultimately gets its name from sociologist Richard Hoggart, from The Uses of Literacy, his 1957 critique of British popular culture.

In conversation with the once angry young man, now grand old man of British cultural studies, DJ Taylor evaluates Hoggart’s thesis 50 years on — a culture devised by ordinary people for themselves is being stamped out by a mass culture devised by corporations for maximising shareholder profit.