NBC #Fail

Choking the Olympic spirit for profit.

I’m violating my first rule. I’m writing angry. But…

I love the olympics. I love sport. And the olympics, still, despite it all, seem to me an incredible distillation of sport’s dedication, intensity, joy, humanity, and drama. Whether it’s the higher order game theory playing out in the biking peloton, the slowly evolving drama of the marathon, the sheer primal athleticism of weighlifting, or the H2O-immersed VO2max test that is the 400m individual medley, I just can’t get enough of it.

But NBC insists on forcibly reminding me at every turn that the Games are also something else. Like college football players, the athletes are mere “content” in a much bigger game. In this case what amounts to a two week utopian experiment in Nationalist Corporatism. A frenzy of metal counts, extractive economics and mind numbing cultural absurdity – where countries are reduced during their introduction to an association with their biggest historical monster.

But you had to wait to hear it because Costa’s idiotic commentary was held on tape until NBC’s $1B worth of sponsors were ready for you to see it: PrimeMonetizationTime. So, a giant fence surrounds the proceedings, put there by the IOC, NBC, and Akamai, where even tweets are controlled and the biggest event on the planet is dribbled out in a maddening temporal shift. But even then we had to endure systematic editing to make sure no one in the Kingdom of TeaMerica might be offended by anything, or bored. It doesn’t have to be this way. This was such a lost opportunity to make it great.

I still haven’t seen the opening ceremony from Beijing (same reasons, same perp), and I missed the one last night too. Well, I didn’t miss it exactly. When my tweet stream started lighting up late yesterday afternoon with visions of giant babies and Voldemort and flying bicycles and all the other British trippiness I ran to my TV. Work can wait, I want to see this! But I was blocked at every turn. Like an Iranian dissident I finally managed via a secret proxy to get a glimpse. But it lasted only a moment before some well-compensated gatekeeper sussed it out and blocked my subversive stream. I couldn’t deal with the asymmetry of the commentary without the thing, so I just shut down Twitter.

Read more…

Comments: 50

Rethinking regulatory reform in the Internet age

Rep. Issa advocates for applying evidence-based thinking to regulatory reform.

As the cover story of a February issue of The Economist highlighted, concerns about an over-regulated America are cresting in this election year, with headlines from that same magazine decrying “excessive environmental regulation” and calling for more accurate measurement of the cost of regulations. Deleting regulations is far from easy to do but there does appear to be a political tailwind behind doing so.

As a legislator and chairman of the Government Oversight and Reform Committee, it’s fair to say that Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) been quite active in publicly discussing the issue of regulations and regulatory burdens upon business. As a former technology entrepreneur, and a successful one at that (he’s the wealthiest member of Congress) Rep. Issa does have first-hand knowledge of what it takes to run a business, to bring products to market, and to deal with the various regulations.

In a wide-ranging interview earlier this summer, Rep. Issa commented on a number of issues related to open government and the work of the committee. When we talked about smart disclosure and the reforming the Freedom of Information Act, I posed several questions about regulatory data, in the context of its role in the marketplace for products and services. Our interview on regulation is below, followed by a look at how his office and the White House are trying to use the Web to improve regulatory reform and involve citizens in the debate.

Read more…

Comment
“It’s impossible for me to die”

“It’s impossible for me to die”

Julien Smith on the realities of modern safety and our misfiring flinch reflexes.

Julien Smith believes I won’t let him die.

The subject came up during our interview at Foo Camp 2012 — part of our ongoing foo interview series — in which Smith argued that our brains and innate responses don’t always map to the safety of our modern world:

“We’re in a place where it’s fundamentally almost impossible to die. I could literally — there’s a table in front of me made of glass — I could throw myself onto the table. I could attempt to even cut myself in the face or the throat, and before I did that, all these things would stop me. You would find a way to stop me. It’s impossible for me to die.”

[Discussed at the 5:16 mark in the associated video interview.]

Smith didn’t test his theory, but he makes a good point. The way we respond to the world often doesn’t correspond with the world’s true state. And he’s right about that not-letting-him-die thing; myself and the other people in the room would have jumped in had he crashed through a pane of glass. He would have then gone to an emergency room where the doctors and nurses would usher him through a life-saving process. The whole thing is set up to keep him among the living.

Acknowledging the safety of an environment isn’t something most people do by default. Perhaps we don’t want to tempt fate. Or maybe we’re wired to identify threats even when they’re not present. This disconnect between our ancient physical responses and our modern environments is one of the things Smith explores in his book The Flinch.

Read more…

Comments: 2

Some sideways thinking about cyberwarfare

Cyberwarfare needs to be framed far more broadly.

When we hear the term “cyberwarfare” we think of government-backed hackers stealing data, or releasing viruses or other software exploits to disrupt another country’s capabilities, communications, or operations. We imagine terrorists or foreign hackers planning to destroy America’s power grid, financial systems, or communications networks, or stealing our secrets.

I’ve been thinking, though, that it may be useful to frame the notion of cyberwarfare far more broadly.  What if we thought of JP Morgan’s recent trading losses not simply as a “bad bet” but as the outcome of a cyberwar between JP Morgan and hedge funds?  More importantly, what if we thought of the Euro’s current troubles in part as the result of a cyberwar between the financial industry and the EU?

When two nations with differing goals attack each other, we call it warfare.  But when financial firms attack each other, or the financial industry attacks the economy of nations, we tell ourselves that it’s “the efficient market” at work.  In fact the Eurozone crisis is  a tooth-and-claw battle between central bankers and firms seeking  profit for themselves despite damage to the livelihoods of millions.

When I see headlines like “Merkel says Euro Rescue Funds Needed Against Speculators” or “Speculators Attacking the Euro” or “Banksters Take Us to the Brink” it’s pretty clear to me that we need to stop thinking of the self-interested choices made by financial firms as “just how it is,” and to think of them instead as hostile activities.  And these activities are largely carried out by software trading bots, making them, essentially, a cyberwar between profiteers and national economies (i.e. the rest of us).
Read more…

Comments: 13

The web as legacy technology

Examples of our evolving media landscape.

This tweet from @jamesrbuk (James Ball) caught my eye: “Average age of @guardian Facebook audience is 29. Website is 37, print paper 44. Amazing channel effect, really. #newsrw”

I’ve been thinking for some time how the web is “legacy” software, and that so many media companies just getting on the web are already behind the curve. This tweet says it all.

Or almost all. Because of course, the web isn’t just one thing. At Vidcon a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the remark of one panelist, a young YouTube video star, advising his peers to get a Facebook page as well as their YouTube channel: “The audience there is older, and more male, but it’s still worthwhile….”

So even though YouTube is older than Facebook, the audience is younger…

It’s a wonderful, evolving media landscape these days. So much change, so much opportunity!

Read more…

Comments: 9
You still need your own website

You still need your own website

Brett Slatkin on the federated social web and why a website still matters.

Brett Slatkin's hope for a federated social web hasn't worked out as expected, so he's shifting perspective from infrastructure to user behavior. Here he explains why you shouldn't abandon your website for third-party platforms.

Comments: 2