“Yellow journalism”

November 22, 2016

This alarming picture of political clickbait on Facebook from @terrence_mccoy in the Washington Post prompted me to have a quick look at the history of “yellow journalism”.

From Wikipedia:

Frank Luther Mott defines yellow journalism in terms of five characteristics:[4]

  1. scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
  2. lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
  3. use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts
  4. emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips
  5. dramatic sympathy with the “underdog” against the system.”

My italics. A good definition of “clickbait”…


Links: “today’s Internet is a shanty town next to a festering garbage dump”

October 27, 2016

1. I don’t believe the robots are coming.

Because as soon as they got outside London they wouldn’t get a decent Wifi signal and would grid to a halt.

We are sold a shiny and/or scary vision of an automated future.  Martin Geddes (@martingeddes) explains why on current infrastructure it won’t happen:

“The Internet needs a security and performance upgrade”:

“The Internet’s security model is completely unsuitable for these connected devices. The default is that anyone can route to anyone, and that all routes are always active. This is completely backwards.”

2. “The Rise of Dating App Fatique” by Julie Beck (@juliebeck) is a fascinating study of how people have become disillusioned with the likes of Tinder.

I haven’t been dating for a long time, (in fact in those days we called it “going out”), but I thought that Julie’s analysis could apply more widely. Again we are promised a shiny world of efficiency. Often the reality is clunky and poor.

Is there a built in conflict of interest? App makers want you to carry on using their app, so its not in their interest for you to find what you want (whatever that is), because you would then stop using the app:

“So if there’s a fundamental problem with dating apps, one baked into their very nature, it is this: They facilitate our culture’s worst impulses for efficiency in the arena where we most need to resist those impulses.  Research has shown that people who you aren’t necessarily attracted to at first sight, can become attractive to you over time, as you get to know them better. Evaluating someone’s fitness as a partner within the span of a single date—or a single swipe—eliminates this possibility.”

3. Are Progressives Being Played By WikiLeaks And Julian Assange?” asks Katherine Cross.

Perhaps another sign of a current mood of increasing skepticism with the digital world.

At what point did Assange change from hero to villain?

“In the case of WikiLeaks, this includes especially egregious cases like leaking the name of a Saudi man arrested for being gay, or the names of rape victims in the Kingdom. In the wake of the failed Turkish coup, meanwhile, Assange also recklessly published troves of information on nearly every woman in the country, as well as potentially outing anti-government demonstrators and rank and file government party voters—hardly wise in the wake of a violent coup attempt. The leak was supposed to be Premier Recep Erdogan’s private emails, exposing more of his increasingly authoritarian government; instead, the dump contained nothing from Erdogan and reams of sensitive information on private Turkish citizens.”

(“You can judge a nation, and how successful it will be, based on how it treats its women and its girls.” @BarackObama )

#Facebook / links

September 25, 2016

1. An entertaining summary of the story so far on Facebook’s news feed and algorithmic biases from the PBS ideas channel

2. “Facebook ‘overestimated’ video viewing time” from BBC News

3.  “Low-income families face eviction as building ‘rebrands’ for Facebook workers” from the Guardian

4. “Facebook and Israel to work to monitor posts that incite violence” from the Guardian

Gulp… so Facebook is going to get involved in policing one of the most contentious conflicts in the world… good luck with that one…

5. Interesting article from Tanya Kant which contains this paragraph:

In an in-depth qualitative study of 36 web users, upon seeing advertising for weight loss products on Facebook some female users reported that they assumed that Facebook had profiled them as overweight or fitness-oriented. In fact, these weight loss ads were delivered generically to women aged 24-30. However, because users can be unaware of the impersonal nature of some personalisation systems, such targeted ads can have a detrimental impact on how these users view themselves: to put it crudely, they must be overweight, because Facebook tells them they are.

So maybe Facebook has a lot of power… or maybe we think it has more power than it actually does…

Facebook Facebook Facebook Facebook Facebook

September 13, 2016

So Facebook can censor a iconic photograph from the Vietnam war featuring a naked child

…then uncensor it

…and apologise (privately) to a head of state

…but it can’t stop another picture of a naked girl appearing on Facebook

…and it’s being used (among other social media platforms) by inmates in American prisons to co-ordinate prison strikes

(echoes of a blog post I wrote two years ago)…

So Facebook is now a platform, a network and a media company

“Norway is a big investor in Facebook. Its $891bn sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, had a stake of 0.52% in Facebook, worth $1.54bn at the start of 2016.”

So just to be clear to @Aelkus in case he’s reading…

Do I think Facebook has “undue power over information flow?

Possibly… that’s a question for regulators…

Do I think Facebook is in danger of becoming a totalitarian control system?

Obviously not, since if it did have that kind of power, it wouldn’t be making these kinds of mistakes in public..



Sunday listening: #rocknroll

August 7, 2016

Rock ‘n’ roll.

Pronounced dead in 1959, but still alive and with a unique power to excite the senses and annoy people who should be annoyed…

1. “Glow in the Dark” by Death Valley Girls

Throbbing, edgy garage rock. The album sounds fantastic played loud in the car. Did Poison Ivy have some daughters she hasn’t told us about?

Extract from their recent live set from Pressure Drop TV:

2. “Battle Cry” by Marvellous She

Sombre, sober, conscious rock music. Bearing in mind the bloody awful state of the planet, “on point“.

3. “Chihuahua” by MAGNO 800

A long, long time ago I was in a rock ‘n’ roll band with my friend Jack. Now, he’s in Spain, but he still knows how to play rock ‘n’ roll guitar, and he’s still very cool…

Reading Elena Ferrante

July 20, 2016

I’m reading Elena Ferrante‘s “The Story of  a New Name”, the second of her Neapolitan series of novels.

But such is the power of Ferrante’s writing, it feels like the book is reading me, rather than me reading the book…

#AntiquesRoadshow / @BBC_ARoadshow / @thedebbiemcgee / @BBCBerkshire / #proudofthebbc

July 2, 2016

So last Sunday I had the great privilege of being a steward at the Antiques Roadshow, which happened in the grounds of the place where I work: Caversham Park.

It was amazing.

Apart from the opportunity to wear a straw boater (and I can never resist an opportunity to put something daft on my head) I was blown away by the whole thing.


Show Business! It’s in the blood!

It was wonderful to be part of something so well organised, but in a thoroughly relaxed and happy way. No one was left out or was excluded, no one got cross or insulted anyone else, everyone queued politely, it didn’t rain…

After a week when the word “chaos” as applied to the political class, seemed for once like an accurate description rather than hyperbole, I found myself thinking, why can’t politics be like this? Politicians need to get out more…IMG_7868

I got interviewed by Debbie McGee! On BBC Radio Berkshire! I’m on @BBCiPlayer on demand! (from 36′ in)

A truly wonderful day. Surely this is what the BBC was put on earth to do…



Sunday listening: “Light Touch Regulator”

June 12, 2016

An old English folk song…

Down by the river where the Alphas and the bureaucrats play…

Thanks as always to Simon Hopkins.

Weekend listening: #chilcottjazz & Coltrane lives!

May 21, 2016

Three years ago, well before I had a Soundcloud account, my good friend Simon Hopkins kindly consented to making some music with me. And now in the spirit of #chilcottjazz, I’m publishing some of what we did.

Thanks to Simon, whose own music (and he’s operating on a much higher level) can be found on his blog  and on iTunes.

And particular thanks to Claire Hayes of Universal Music for her generosity in allowing me to publish this cover of a classic by John Coltrane.



Boom Logistics: “Fifth”

April 23, 2016

Huge, enveloping tunnels of sound.

Thick wires clanking together.

Guitars? No,  massive engines humming in a monumental power station somewhere on a vast, desolate plain.

“Unfamiliar Sands” is a beach scape with seagulls and flies buzzing. But half way through the picture shifts and dissolves, a seaside postcard melting in front of your ears.

“Thermocline” clinks in and out of phase, cubist perspectives on a Victorian clock.

I should declare an interest. Simon Hopkins, the creator of Boom Logistics, is a good friend, and my clarinet is one of many sound sources for this particular set of  his music. However before the small group of people who have heard me playing the clarinet smile politely and start to back out of the room, let me offer you some reassurance. There’s some nasty looped squawking on “Arkansas and Blake Light Tragedy”:  brutal death improv played by a giant. But apart from that whatever I was doing has been, and I use the word correctly, transformed.

I’ve been listening to Boom Logistics loud in my car. The effect is sometimes scary, and sometimes curiously calming.

Why? I don’t think I can put it into words…

Boom Logistics “Fifth” is now available to download on iTunes. More information can be found on DGMFS.