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The Predictive Power of Satire

Many have pondered why some Americans look to such comedic outlets as The Daily Show and The Onion as primary news sources.

It's not because they are fair and balanced. It's not because they do a better job of chronicling the day's events than The New York Times or CNN. It's not even because they are funny.

It's because they can see the future.


The Inherent Friction in the Web

The Internet has always been a struggle between openness and anonymity, between the public and the private. This is why the Web, and its derivative technologies, is labeled disruptive.

This is also why businesses still largely haven't figured out how to effectively harness the Web.

Business success is determined by branding—by becoming so distinctive that your company's name is synonymous with the product or service, such as Xerox&trade or Band-Aid&trade . Branding includes controlling a company's public identity.

But the Web is about ceding control to the masses. The Internet's history and evolution, driven by sex and socializing, is proof of the power of the hoards.

So, how do you take center stage and stand in the spotlight, the way most companies want to, without having to dodge a few rotten tomatoes? Or, in digital terms, how do companies provide mostly decent, but sometimes faulty, customer service, without having to answer to streams of Tweets denouncing their service?


The Dissolution of New Jersey's Public Libraries

New Jersey's state assembly is considering legislation to put in place a referendum mechanism for the dissolution of public libraries. The bill was introduced by Assemblymen Alex DeCroce (District 26) and Jay Webber (District 26) and Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein (District 14) in late June. According to the bill:

This addresses a recent judicial decision of the Passaic County Superior Court which held there was no mechanism in New Jersey statutory law to facilitate the dissolution of free public libraries. Municipalities may find it cost effective to dissolve their free public library as a result of decreased circulation or a desire to share library services with an adjoining municipality.
The remainder of the legislation can be seen below or found in PDF on the New Jersey Library Association's site.

Read this document on Scribd: demunicipalization

If a municipality chooses no longer to support its public library, it's their choice. And it's up to librarians to convince them that the library is an indispensable service. However, what alarms me about this bill is that only ten days' notice in five public locations and two newspapers is required in advance of a referendum that decides the fate of a major public service, not to mention the jobs of dozens or more of skilled knowledge workers.

Let's face it: few people read the newspaper, fewer pay attention to referendum notices on public cork boards, and fewer still even vote in referendums. Therefore, it's entirely likely that an anti-library or lower-my-taxes contingent could use this mechanism to bull rush their agenda through local government.

Just imagine if former Wasilla, Alaska, Mayor Sarah Palin, an eager banner of books, had such a legislative mechanism at her disposal?


Vicarious Friendship Supplants Vicarious Sex

To those who think the Web isn't changing people's behavior, I offer this Reuters article by Belinda Goldsmith as a counter. Goldsmith's subject is Bill Tancer, general manager of global research at Hitwise, an Internet tracking company, and author of the new book Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters.

After analyzing millions of Web searches, Tancer discovered that searches for pornography, which once accounted for 20% of all searches, are down by half and have been supplanted in popularity by searches for social networking sites.

"As social networking traffic has increased, visits to porn sites have decreased," said Tancer, indicated [sic] that the 18-24 year old age group particularly was searching less for porn.

"My theory is that young users spend so much time on social networks that they don't have time to look at adult sites."
Of course, young users might simply be getting their porn on through social sites.

Another of Tancer's predictions is the development of software to automatically vet for accuracy, in response to the proliferation of false information on the Internet. Weren't social sites and crowdsourcing supposed to take care of that?


In the Wake of Microblogging

A fair amount of speculation as to the influence microblogging might exert on people has appeared on info-centered listservs and in the press lately, most notably in Clive Thompson's New York Times Magazine piece. Will the 140-character bursts change the way people write or how we define relationships? Too soon to tell.

However, there is one medium where we can observe the effects of microblogging: the good old-fashioned static Web page. Since the advent of such services as Twitter, the public has rediscovered its taste for minimalist aphoristic sites. For evidence, just look to the recent popularity of Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle and Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed the Earth Yet?.

Lipstick on a Cunt

Thanks to Cliff Schecter's book The Real McCain, the word cunt found its way into newspapers across the, ahem, country this past April. Reportedly, McCain directed that affectionate term at his wife, as well as the word trollop, which hasn't seen print since Defoe penned The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders.

Does anyone else wonder why the campaign of a man known for such salty talk would try to give Barack Obama a lesson in gender sensitivity for his use of a metaphor that they pulled completely out of context?


New Plastic Logic Reading Device

Via Slog and a tip from Mrs. Librarian [who keeps me Playful]:
Plastic Logic Ceo Richard Archuleta may not be the showman Steve Jobs is, but his product shows significant advances over the design failure that is Amazon's Kindle.

Plastic Logic's electronic reader is, like the Kindle, essentially trying to mimic an old medium, paper, with a new one, which never bodes well for the new medium's survival. However, it pushes the technology forward enough that I can imagine a day in the not-too-distant future when the graphical, processing, wireless communication, and touch-screen capabilities of a tablet computer or the iPhone will fit into the form factor of such a thin device.


Do No Evil? Really?

Google's release of their browser, Chrome, has caused a stir, as all things new and Google usually do. Google amped up the usual hype with an explanatory comic by famed artist Scott McCloud.

But as Ed Champion rightly points out, the interesting thing about Chrome has less to do with what's under the hood than what Google claims they have rights to through the browser. From the Content License section of Chrome's Terms of Service:

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.
Additional coverage of this issue can be found here and here.

Does this really mean Google can do whatever with whatever one generates as content through Chrome? Who knows if this would ever hold up in court, but why wait to find out? While I don't get anything but self-aggrandizement personal satisfaction from writing this blog, I'd like to think that I don't have to sign over some rights to my work for simply using a tool. Do Bic and Mead have a stake in my notebook scribblings? Does Craftsman take a small percentage of our homes for every nail we strike with hammers made by them?

It might be time for this blog, apparently owned by Google, to migrate elsewhere.