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January 07 2011


This Week in Review: The FCC’s big compromise, WikiLeaks wrestles with the media, and a look at 2011

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week's top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

A net neutrality compromise: The Review might have taken two weeks off for the holidays, but the rest of the future-of-news world kept on humming. Consider this more your “Holidays in Review” than your “Week in Review.” Let’s get to it.

The biggest news development of the past few weeks came just before Christmas, when the FCC passed a set of Internet regulations that were widely characterized as a compromise between net neutrality advocates and big Internet service providers. In essence, the rules will keep ISPs from blocking or slowing services on the traditional wired Internet, but leave the future of wireless regulation more unclear. (Here’s a copy of the order and a helpful explainer from GigaOM.)

In the political realm, the order drew predictable responses from both sides of the aisle: Conservatives (including at least one Republican FCC commissioner) were skeptical of a move toward net neutrality, while liberals (like Democratic Sen. Al Franken) fervently argued for it. In the media-tech world, it was greeted — as compromises usually are — with near-universal disdain. The Economist ran down the list of concerns for net neutrality proponents, led by the worry that the FCC “has handed the wireless carriers a free pass.” This was especially troubling to j-prof Dan Kennedy, who argued that wireless networks will be far more important to the Internet’s future than wired ones.

Salon’s Dan Gillmor said the FCC paid lip service to net neutrality, paving the way for a future more like cable TV than the open web we have now. Newsweek’s Dan Lyons compressed his problems with the order into one statement: “There will soon be a fast Internet for the rich and a slow Internet for the poor.”

From the other side, Slate media critic Jack Shafer, a libertarian, questioned whether the FCC had the power to regulate the Internet at all, and imagined what the early Internet would have been like if the FCC had regulated it then. The Los Angeles Times’ James Rainey told both sides to calm down, and at the Knight Digital Media Center, Amy Gahran used the story as an object lesson for news organizations in getting and linking to the source documents in question.

WikiLeaks and the media’s awkward dance: The long tail of this fall’s WikiLeaks story continues to run on, meandering into several different areas over the holidays. There are, of course, ongoing efforts to silence WikiLeaks, both corporate (Apple pulled the WikiLeaks app from its store) and governmental (a bill to punish circulation of similar classified information was introduced, and criticized by law prof Geoffrey Stone).

In addition, Vanity Fair published a long piece examining the relationship between WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and The Guardian, the first newspaper to partner with him. Based on the story, Slate’s Jack Shafer marveled at Assange’s shrewdness and gamesmanship (“unequaled in the history of journalism”), Reuters’ Felix Salmon questioned Assange’s mental health, and The Atlantic’s Nicholas Jackson wondered why The Guardian still seems to be playing by Assange’s rules.

We also saw the blowup of Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald’s feud with Wired over some chat logs between alleged WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning and the man who turned him in. It’s a complicated fight I’m not going to delve into here, but if you’d like to know more, here are two good blow-by-blows, one more partial to Wired, and another more sympathetic to Greenwald.

Greenwald has also continued to be one of the people leading the inquiries into the traditional media’s lack of support for WikiLeaks. Alternet rebutted several media misconceptions about WikiLeaks, and Newsweek attempted to explain why the American press is so lukewarm on WikiLeaks — they aren’t into advocacy, and they don’t like Assange’s purpose or methods. One of the central questions to that media cold-shoulder might be whether Assange is considered a journalist, something GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram tried to tackle.

Other, more open critiques of WikiLeaks continue to trickle out, including ones from author Jaron Lanier and Floyd Abrams, a lawyer who argued for The New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case. Abrams’ argument prompted rebuttals from Jack Shafer and NYU prof Clay Shirky. Shirky in particular offered a nuanced comparison of the Pentagon Papers-era Times and the globally oriented WikiLeaks, concluding that “the old rules will not produce the old outcomes.” If you’re still hungry for WikiLeaks analysis, John Bracken’s rounded up the best of the year here.

Looking back, and looking forward: We rang in the new year last week, and that, of course, always means two things in the media world: year-end retrospectives, and previews of the year to come. The Lab wrapped up its own year in review/preview before Christmas with a review of Martin Langeveld’s predictions for 2010. PBS’ MediaShift also put together a good set of year-end reviews, including ones on self-publishing, the rapidly shifting magazine industry, a top-ten list of media stories (led by WikiLeaks, Facebook, and the iPad). You can also get a pretty good snapshot of the media year that was by taking a look at AOL’s list of the top tech writing of 2010.

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds examined the year in newspaper stock prices (not great, but could’ve been worse), while media consultant Alan Mutter explained that investors tended to stay away from debt-laden newspaper companies in particular.

As for the year to come, the Lab’s readers weighed in — you like ProPublica, The Huffington Post, and Clay Shirky, and you’re split on paywalls — and several others chimed in with their predictions, too. Among the more interesting prognostications: New York Times media critic David Carr sees tablets accelerating our ongoing media convergence, The Next Web forecasts a lot of blogs making the Gawker-esque beyond the blog format, Mashable’s Vadim Lavrusik predicts the death of the foreign correspondent, TBD’s Steve Buttry sees many journalism trade organizations merging, and the Lab’s Martin Langeveld thinks we’ll see John Paton’s innovative measures at the Journal Register Co. slowly begin to be emulated elsewhere in the newspaper industry.

Two other folks went outside the predictions mold for their 2011 previews: media analyst Ken Doctor looked at 11 pieces of conventional wisdom the media industry will test this year, and the University of Colorado’s Steve Outing outlined his wishes for the new year. Specifically, he wants to see News Corp. and The New York Times’ paid-content plans fail, and to see news execs try a value-added membership model instead. “This will require that news publishers actually work their butts off to sell, rather than sit back and expect people to fork over money “just because” everyone should support journalism,” he wrote.

Rethinking publishing for the tablet: One theme for the new year in media that’s already emerged is the impending dominance of the tablet. As The New York Times’ Joshua Brustein wrote, that was supposed to be the theme last year, too, but only the iPad was the only device able to get off the ground in any meaningful way. Several of Apple’s competitors are gearing up to make their push this year instead; The Times’ Nick Bilton predicted that companies that try to one-up Apple with bells and whistles will fail, though Google may come up with a legitimate iPad rival.

Google has begun work toward that end, looking for support from publishers to develop a newsstand to compete with Apple’s app store. And Amazon’s Kindle is doing fine despite the iPad’s popularity, TechCrunch argued. Meanwhile, Women’s Wear Daily reported that magazine app sales on the iPad are down from earlier in the year, though Mashable’s Lauren Indvik argued that the numbers aren’t as bad as they seem.

The magazine numbers prompted quite a bit of analysis of what’s gone wrong with magazine apps. British entrepreneur Andrew Walkingshaw ripped news organizations for a lack of innovation in their tablet editions — “tablets are always-on, tactile, completely reconfigurable, great-looking, permanently jacked into the Internet plumbing, and you’re using them to make skeumorphic newspaper clones?” — and French media consultant Frederic Filloux made similar points, urging publishers to come up with new design concepts and develop a coherent pricing structure (something Econsultancy’s Patricio Robles had a problem with, too).

There were plenty of other suggestions for tablet publications, too: GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram said they should focus on filtering the web, MG Siegler of TechCrunch asked for an easy-to-use newsstand rather than a system of standalone apps, and Alan Mutter suggested magazines lower the prices and cut down on the technical glitches.

Three others focused specifically on the tablet publishing business model: At the Lab, Ken Doctor gave us three big numbers to watch in determining where this is headed, entrepreneur Bradford Cross proposed a more ad-based model revolving around connections to the open web, and venture capitalist Fred Wilson predicted that the mobile economy will soon begin looking more like the web economy.

Reading roundup: A few items worth taking a look at over the weekend:

— The flare-up du jour in the tech world is over RSS, and specifically, whether or not it is indeed still alive. Web designer Kroc Camen suggested it might be dying, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler fingered Twitter and Facebook as the cause, Dave Winer (who helped develop RSS) took umbrage, and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram and The Guardian’s Martin Belam defended RSS’ relevance.

— Add the Dallas Morning News to the list of paywalled (or soon-to-be-paywalled) papers to watch: It announced it will launch a paid-content plan Feb. 15. The Lab’s Justin Ellis shed light on Morning News’ thinking behind the plan. PaidContent’s Staci Kramer also broke down a Pew report on paying for online content.

— For the many writers are considering how to balance social media and longer-form writing, two thoughtful pieces to take a look at: Wired’s Clive Thompson on the way tweets and texts can work in concert in-depth analysis, and Anil Dash on the importance of blogging good ideas.

— Finally, NPR’s Matt Thompson put together 10 fantastic lessons for the future of media, all coming from women who putting them into action. It’s an encouraging, inspiring set of insights.

January 03 2011


Most popular posts in 2010

As a new year of blogging starts, here’s a look back at what was read over 2010.

The top five posts were:

  1. What a word cloud says about this blog
  2. Principles of journalism as a word cloud
  3. Alan Rusbridger on why Twitter matters for journalists
  4. How print dominates the design of newspaper websites
  5. How to find out anything about anyone online

The bulk of referrals came from Twitter, followed by Google Reader, Facebook, Hootsuiteciberjornalismo.com and blogs.journalism.co.uk.

Thanks to everyone who made time to visit and who retweeted a link to the site.

December 21 2010


2010 Year in Review: Community Highlights

As the year comes to a close, we're reminded to reflect back on some of the highlights from the last 12 months. This is the last in our series of year in review posts I've been sharing to highlight some of the exciting moments for NetSquared and our global community in 2010. 

The NetSquared Community is a global network of people who connect both on- and offline to talk, learn, and share their experiences with using technology for social impact. In this post, I'll share some information about the current state of our global community - and some of the great things that happened in 2010!

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2010 Year in Review: Interviews to Inspire

http://www.flickr.com/photos/brtsergio/1275188911/in/photostream/As the year comes to a close, we're reminded to reflect back on some of the highlights from the last 12 months. This is the third of four year in review posts I'll be sharing to highlight some of the exciting moments for NetSquared and our global community in 2010.

In this post, I'm taking a look back at all of the Interviews from 2010. I hope these amazing people bring you some inspiration for the new year!

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December 17 2010


2010 Year in Review: Think Tanks to Keep You Thinking

As the year comes to a close, we're reminded to reflect back on some of the highlights from the last 12 months. This is the second of four year in review posts I'll be sharing to highlight some of the exciting moments for NetSquared and our global community in 2010. In this post, I'm taking a look back at all of the Net2 Think Tanks from 2010.

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December 15 2010


November 13 2010


The Great Mandella…

…of life continues. What comes around, goes around. The above visual is from the McNair Fall Choir Concert – a poster to promote excellence for display in the library. Just can’t stay away from that place.

So here I am in my nth month of retirement and STILL trying to catch up with myself when I find myself once again leading students thru visual learning. Today it’s 4H photography, video, and poultry (don’t laugh please – I LOVE my chickens). The latter will most likely become subjects for the two former projects. Nothing cuter than a baby chick.

Today’s focus is just the basics – what do YOU expect to learn as well as intro the the camera and photo/video terms. Since we’re only meeting bout half a dozen times this year, they will have homework of sorts…but as usual, my 4H kiddos are motivated and want to be here. Let’s see how this goes…

October 09 2010


February 13 2010


2010 Will Bring Some Exciting New Technology to EReaders

2009 has been an exciting year for ereaders and the readers who love them. Not only did we have a variety of new models with ever improving features and technology, but also it has been a year in which the ereader has really started to make its presence known to the mass consciousness. We have also seen prices driven down by the ever-increasing competition in the ebook reader market.

2010 promises even more technical advances and increased adaptation by the general public. I will take a quick look at what I feel are some of the new technologies that will make the most impact on ereaders in 2010.

Faster Chips

Faster chipsets for ereaders will mean faster page turns and quicker and easier library management and navigation. Marvell has developed a new System-on-a-Chip that is much faster than the chipsets that current ereaders are using. Marvell’s Armada 166E SoC will not only triple page turning speeds when compared to today’s ereaders; it also will help lower manufacturing costs, as it integrates features including WiFi, Bluetooth, a 3G modem and other features onto one SoC. This should help to continue bringing the prices of ereaders down.

Marvell’s Armada SoC is also designed to make fast renderings of high-resolution PDF documents, so we can probably expect to see improved PDF handling in next-gen ereaders.

Marvell has partnered with e-Ink, which makes ereader display screens, to integrate their products. A few ereaders have already been announced that make use of the Armada 166E SoC. These include the Plastic Logic Que, Spring Design’s Alex and the enTourage eDGe. I would also expect the next generation of Kindle ereaders to make use of this new chipset.

Flexible Displays

Flexible display technology as applied to ereaders probably doesn’t mean something that you can wrap around your wrist (though someone will probably make that too); rather I’m referring to shatterproof plastic based displays instead of the relatively easily cracked glass screens found on today’s ereaders.

A more durable display is necessary to bring ereaders to children, Kindles for Kids and to usher in the widespread use of ereaders in schools.

Several manufacturers are working on flexible ereader displays, including e-Ink and even Bridgestone. Plastic Logic’s Que ereader will have a shatterproof screen and is due out in the first part of 2010.

Color eReaders

There are a number of manufacturers that are working on color display technology for ereaders. I don’t expect any of this tech to be in production until the third or fourth quarter of 2010, and it remains to be seen whether or not color ereaders can actually make it to market by Christmas 2010.

E-Ink, which makes most of the displays for the ereaders currently on the market, is working on color but has said it will probably be 2011 before it can bring a color product to market. Perhaps one of the most interesting color display technologies and one with the best chance of making it to market by holiday season 2010 is Qualcomm’s Mirasol. This technology, which was apparently inspired by the iridescence of butterfly wings, also has very good video capabilities.

Pixel Qi

Pixel Qi is based on LCD technology, but has the ability to switch between transmissive (like a regular LCD) and transflective (like e-ink) modes. Production has already begun at the end of 2009, but devices using Pixel Qi displays have not been announced as of yet. Probably there will be a few at CES.

It remains to be seen if any dedicated ereaders will use Pixel Qi, but this type of display could serve to turn netbooks, notebooks and tablets into very viable ebook readers. While using an LCD screen for casual reading is fine, the backlighting can cause eyestrain and discomfort when used for longer periods of time. Pixel Qi should have the capability to solve this problem.

We should see more multifunction and convergent devices with ereader capabilities introduced in the coming year, and Pixel Qi displays will probably play an important role in this type of device.

An Increasingly Crowded eReader Market

Consumer demand for ebook readers will be increasing next year, and consumers will likely be barraged with a flood of me-too ereader clones with few standout features to differentiate themselves from the competition. While perhaps being confusing to the consumer, this increased competition between devices should help to bring prices down even further and continue to drive innovation.

If you will be in the market for an ereader in the coming year, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind.

First of all, an ereader is primarily for reading books – so if you are a serious reader you will want a non-backlit display that you can read for long periods of time without eyestrain. You also don’t want a device that keeps distracting you from your reading. Multipurpose devices are great, but in many cases they don’t perform as well at particular tasks as do devices designed for dedicated purposes.

Also keep in mind that an ereader is only as good as the ebook stores that it is tied to. Most ereaders will have a good supply of public domain ebooks, but what about DRM’ed current titles? Currently I think that Amazon’s Kindle store has the widest selection and best ebook prices, but that could change.

For more ereader news and reviews please visit me at www.findebookreaders.com.

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December 05 2009


Ushahidi named by World Economic Forum to Technology Pioneers 2010: Embracing Disruption

Ushahidi is one of 11 "Information Technologies and New Media" enterprises that have been named by the WEF to their Technology Pioneers awards for Embracing Disruption. They share this award with Amiando, Amobee, CollabNet, Dilithium Networks, Innovid, Obopay, Playfish, RingCentral, StreamBase, and Twitter.

Ushahidi won first place winner at N2Y3 (May 2008). http://www.ushahidi.com/


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