Sunday, July 30, 2017

Entrepreneurs, paywalls, self-starters, and preppers

Here’s an idea for Shark Tank.  Since more city newspapers want to charge through paywalls for content, why not set up a collective subscription system that newspapers could join, to collect fees from consumers who would join and get various plans, so many articles per month, to unlimited, rather like a utility bill.  This would be a content access mechanism, but I don’t think it would relate to any changes in net neutrality.

Facebook might do this for its own news feeds.  But it seems logical that an entrepreneur could do it for general web use.

So, you ask, why don’t I do it?  I’m am a “journalist”, but I don’t go around asking people for money.  But that’s a good question.

Look at Thomas Friedman’s recent New York Times   “Self-driving people, enabled by Airbnb”.   Given the way I’ve lived my life, in segments and sometimes as a “double life”, I’ve never been much for the sharing economy.  “Collections held him”, so go the lyrics to one of the “art songs” behind the miniature piano pieces that build up this large episodic symphony I worked out for the use.
Those who do Airbnb may be better prepared to house others in catastrophic need situations, ranging from refugees and asylum seekers to total national catastrophes.  They could come.  Pay attention to the DPRK. 

Update: July 31

Another idea would be to set up a charity distribution product to connect to banks, and still be able to connect to matching donation efforts, which is very time consuming process right now.  That is, make more direct giving a more streamlined and less time-consuming process for the donor. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Did Senate repeal-only vote justify mass collective grass roots activism?

David Leonhardt offered an op-ed today urging that citizen’s become aggressive in calling their legislators as an emergency to stop the Obamacare repeal, New York Times link here. 

I don’t think these mass actions work reliably when there are too many of them for every issue, so I don’t respond to them.  This one could be different if people are really going to lose coverage altogether. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Incident on a Florida pond brings up moral (and maybe legal) questions about the duty to rescue others in peril, maybe at risk to self. Should everyone be able to swim?

Authorities scrounge around for a misdemeanor charge to levy against up to five teens in Florida (near Cocoa Beach) for failure to report a death they had seen, after they took video of a disabled man who drowned in a pond and did not come to an aid.  Police learned of the incident only when the kids posted the incident on social media a few days later.

The New York Post story is here.  An Orlando television station has a story on the “heartless” behavior here.

And there are calls to pass a state law requiring people to assist those in need.  Sounds moral, but htee libertarian crowd will surely resist this one.

One obvious question: could the two tweens swim?  Could they have done anything (besides call 911)?  Is this a good reason for high schools to require people to be able to swim to graduate? (There was a question on ABC Millionaire Friday on Cornell University’s swimming graduation requirement.)

It’s pretty obvious that trying to require people to assist as a matter of law (which usually does apply to traffic accidents you are involved in) can run into other snags.  It can be dangerous to play good Samaritan.  We don’t expect people to pick up hitchhikers.  What about being able to change a tire for a stranded motorist in the desert?

I recall a Dateline episode where a man on horseback rescued a girl who had crashed a private plane in Wyoming (TV blog, July 6).

Recall the 2002 film “Gerry” (Matt Damon, Casey Affleck) about two men lost in the Mojave Desert?

I’ll come back to this later.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Facebook will pursue charging users to read "paywall" newspaper articles

Facebook is working on a way to allow newspapers to charge readers through Facebook when they read embedded news articles that would normally be behind a paywall.

Currently, major newspaper stories expand automatically as embeds and are free when viewed on Facebook.

When a blogger links to such a story, the newspaper may, on its choosing, invoke the paywall when the user clicks on the link  (newspaper stories don’t normally expand automatically within blog postings). 

That’s why there is some preference in using news stories from broadcast networks rather than newspapers, but often major papers do have major scoops first, or major opinions. 

The Washington Post has the story here
Another copy of the story is on WWLP.  Facebook may need permission from Congress to do this.

Facebook could offer users the advantage of consolidated billing, which would enable users to read behind many paywalls much more cheaply than paying for each one separately through the Web. 

Not sure if Twitter can do anything similar. 

Update: March 14, 2018

It would be well to mention Facebook Instant Articles here.  We'll look at them in more detail again. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Privilege of Being Listened to, revisited

I occasionally send people, who have shared their business cards, emails with links to blog posts about critical events in my own life (like the William and Mary Expulsion in 1961, and the “online reputation” fiasco when I was substitute teaching in northern Virginia, particularly at West Potomac High School, in 2005), as well as Amazon links for my books and Facebook and Twitter direct links, and cell phone.

I certainly realize there is a lot of detail buried in a few of these life history incidents that people ordinarily don’t have to time to parse.  To me they seem like mysteries with deception (foreshadowing the 2016 election) and enough nuance to make independent movie plots.  And then I am disappointed that I don’t get more reaction.

Part of the issue is that while these events were bizarre and traumatic  for me at the time and do sound like movie scripts, they don’t seem as “bad” (in the “lifelong process piece” sense) as what has happened to a lot of other people, especially LGBT.  I wasn’t thrown out of home and didn’t wind up in the streets hustling. 

True, I don’t see the world through identity politics, or the filter of some people being marginalized merely for belonging to a maligned group (as in Gode Davis’s unfinished symphony, “American Lynching”). I see history in terms of individual people being challenged in era-specific ways because of external challenges to their families and communities and countries, history that today’s younger generations has often forgotten.  In fact, today’s activists would often prefer that these older points never be brought up again, because they give potential fuel to enemies at a certain existential level.
So, I stay on my own path, not joining in other more conventional activism and particularly “resistance”.  So opposition to the current “regime” seems to get all the weaker. You wonder how Putin and company get away with it.  I didn’t see this underground attack on “elitism” coming. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Amazon "panics" some bloggers with changes in its affiliate system

The Verge (a Vox site) has a story about Amazon’s affiliate system, which I use to post links for books and movies on my own blogs.  Apparently there has been a reduction in the rate for some links, while giving a premium for some others, like video games and “luxury beauty”.  It seems rather amusing that the story says that some bloggers are “panicking”.  In fact, Blogtyrant doesn’t think a lot of depending on ads in blogs, but would rather see Bloggers provide subscription content or services to customers – but that’s only possible with narrow niche businesses  (like coaching chess players on endgame play).

Amazon has announced it is ending its "aStore" in October and has said, on my account, that my "pending associate invitations" for my "store" have expired.  That's a little odd, as I really don't spend significant time in retail activities because I leave that to them!
It’s a little disturbing to see online platforms wanting bloggers to pimp self-indulgent products.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Should independent bloggers need press credentials to ask questions at open, outdoor-ish events?

I did attend a small demonstration today at the Internet-Wide Day of Action, on the north side of the Capitol, toward the Senate Office buildings (leading to Union Station) in Washington DC. 

I’ve covered the speeches elsewhere (see my Network Neutrality Blog from my profile). But there was a small problem at the end.

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), who was leading the event, called for questions from the audience, which was small. True, he did ask for organizational or press affiliation. One woman asked a question (from Politico, I think). Then I raised my hand.  When he called on me and I said I was “independent” he cut me off, and said something like “press only”.  I guess I could have said “” and gotten away with it.

I do understand that you need official press credentials to attend some events, like Trump’s notorious White House press briefings.  There’s only so much room inside, and there is security.  But this was outdoors (in the heat) and a small gathering, maybe 50 people in the audience.  There was no barrage of questions, as at a movie screening.  If Markey’s (and other left wing speakers) point is to allow the “little guys” to have the floor (and that is partly what the network neutrality debate could come down to), then he is contradicting his own beliefs with his own actions.  The Left is even more jealous of its own establishment than the Right.

Okay, maybe he feared I was an alt-right or Breitbart-ish provocateur, like a “Milo II”.  I was wearing a Washington Nationals baseball cap, the day after the All Star Game.  Maybe big league sports is “right wing”, but MLB has been quite emphatic about ending discrimination in all policies regarding players, including gay players and employees (or that is the libertarian position, too).  Actually, all I was going to say was that I had noticed some slowdowns that morning, on Facebook and the Washington Blade. 


When I got home and opened my email (Okay, I can see it on my smartphone) I saw a whiney email from FTFF which read “we just checked our records and you haven’t spoken out on this yet”.  Well, I have a lot, on blogs and social media. And I attended their event and tried to ask a question of a leading Democratic Senator.  But I just haven’t spoken through “them” or let “them” be my mouthpiece. How rude!  (Truthout does this a lot.) 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Can Backpage really use Section 230 even as applied today?

The Washington Post has a scathing story by Tom Jackman and Jonathan O’Connell, on Tuesday, July 11, 2017, concerning Backpage and its claim of protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, link here.

The story claims that Backpage used a company in the Philippines to come up with content that could take consumers away from competing sites.  The scheme presented in the article was quite complicated. When pressured later, Backpage reportedly stopped running sex ads.

Offhand, given the truth of the Post story, Section 230 might not apply as a defense in some of the litigation.  The fact pattern will be important because many people want to gut Section 230, seeing user-generated content as gratuitous and not actually generating any real wealth.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Could Facebook provide 3rd-party charity supervision of contributions among "Friends" (especially overseas)

Just a note on Facebook etiquette or expectations.

Does confirming a Friend request mean that one should be opening to “helping out” anyone in trouble (foreign or domestic)?  Yup, obviously you have to worry about the scams, but some pleas are more credible than others.  There seems to be an expectation that, for example, that people will hire friends looking for work or help them find work, including people overseas.

And on that point, it’s not as easy for people to get work visas and enter legally as it used to be, given the political climate and Trump.  Yet, among some people, there is a culture of doing things under the table or off the books

I’ve used Facebook as a quick publishing platform.  I haven’t gotten the “followers” in place of “Friends” which would clarify things.  But some people think, if you weigh in on things, you need to have your own skin in the game, and be supporting other people.  That was a big topic in my own (mildly Milo-esque) DADT-III book (“being listened to is a privilege”).

I think Facebook could consider doing more to hookup people in need with certain kinds of charities that make cash gifts (particularly overseas) directly (“Give Direct”), that Vox has written about. The third-party charities could provide some sort of supervision to avoid scams.

Again, I’ve talked about going back to work at age 74.  I would help Facebook do this.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

CNN-Reddit-alt-right dox-gate (with Trump acting as WWE)

Here’s a Vox story about how some on the alt-right retaliated against a CNN journalist for his coy handling of withholding the identity of the person who created the WWE gif that Trump used as a phantom metaphorical swat against CNN.  It’s by Garet Williams, here. Of course, you can turn this whole thing around and say that CNN threatened to dox the Reddit user, as Milo Yiannopoulos writes.

It’s all pretty scary.  A news network threatens to dox an ordinary user for creating a image that, by a stretch, could be interpreted as a “threat” against journalists, when it more properly belongs on NBC’s SNL.  Then someone one the political opposition of the network (this time, someone on the alt-right) threatens to dox (or at least reports the doxing and targeting) the news network reporter.

I suppose I could get caught up in something like this.  In fact, as I’ve covered before, I did when I was substitute teaching. 

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Getting my work done; rumors of my relocation

I just want to provide an update on my “work” and “situation”.  You can also look at a correlated post on the “Information Technology Job Market” blog (check Blogger profile).

My goals right now are to have a publishable draft of my novel “Angel’s Brother” by the end of 2017, and to have some of my music in performable format (with some contacts with others who could perform it – and it might be in the bits and pieces, or Schumanesque miniatures), to have a video that communicates the substance of my books, and to start marketing the feature screenplay “Epiphany” on my books.

There are a couple of caveats. There is something to the rumors, but nothing to announce yet.  There is a possibility that I will sell my trust’s “inherited house” later this summer and relocate.  It’s possible that I could consider a lower cost purchase in a city like Dallas, Charlotte, etc.  There are a number of scenarios and I won’t go into them in detail here. During the months of July and August I expect to make a more concentrated due diligence to see if I should do this.  One purpose is to make it easier for others to work with me, and to make some kinds of travel simpler to set up if I should wind up on the road a lot.  (If there is a “Do Ask, Do Tell” feature movie, you can bet my life will play out “on the road”). 

Another is that I have discussed a couple of scenarios where I could go back to work (on the IT blog I mentioned above). 

All of this brings back the deja vu of workplace experience in the weeks immediately preceding a merger announcement.  It's "business as usual" in the meantime.  But it's unsettling.  Well, change is good. 

I’ve made some progress on all the components of my work, with essentially two cycles of self-assigned tasks since the end of 2015 (after a summer and fall that year of a lot of travel).  I have some pieces of a documentary DADT video self-filmed, but I would need to find some professional help with editing and re-shooting to make them effective.

One particular effort will be setting up my screenplay and especially the novel so that they would sell. I have some concerns about both:  people may feel that I am pandering to old-fashioned, cis-gender, white-centric paradigms of virtuous protagonist characters.  Well, so did “Smallville” and “Everwood” less than 15 years ago.  But in the past few years, identity politics seems to have entered art, with the idea that specific groups of people need to be raised up (as in Groban’s song), and that doing so would sell books or movies.  I definitely see this in some feedback.  I certainly have a lot of interesting ideas that could sell a book, including how the next pandemic could creep up on us, or what provable alien contact would be like if it really happened, and even the idea of a novel way to get “proof of heaven”. Normally, these kinds of ideas could sell well.  In very recent times, people seem to want much more reassurance from the characters an author develops;  they want to really find themselves in these fictional people.
It's difficult to make concrete progress on unpublished material.  A blog post becomes a "deliverable" and a concrete result, so sometimes I do post discussions or extracts of my progress. 
In the future, I expect to make my postings about my “strategic planning” on my Wordpress blogs:  the Notes blog, when I considered how these different components work together, and the baseline Media Reviews blog, when individual components (like the music compositions or novel plot) are discussed “hands separately”.

There is a write-up of “projects in progress” on the “Media Reviews Executor” page here. 
There is a directory to all my sites on the “Notes” blog here

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Proposals to break up big social media companies could jeopardize user-generated content

There are rather interesting modest proposals in Europe to collar American media companies, which could take root here later.

For example, consider the article by Luigi Zingales and Guy Rolnik, “A Way to Own Your Social Media Data”.  One idea is to consider the meta-data behind your Internet use sold to marketeers as your “property right”, transferrable if you move to a different social media company.  This would supposedly encourage more competition with companies like Facebook.  It sounds rather pseudo-libertaian.

Back in April, Jonathan Taplin authored an op-ed “Is it time to break up Google?” and probably Facebook.  Besides some comparison to phone companies (very relevant to discussions of network neutrality abolition going on right now) and their previous past lives as “regulated monopolies” during my own coming of age, Taplin suggests abolishing DMCA “Safe Harbor” (and probably Section 230), which he says would force Google/YouTube and others to “pay” users for content they post.  Guess what?  No more self-publishing for free.  That has been my whole “business model” for 20 years.  I guess I took a real chance.

In the meantime, there are a couple of important WSJ articles about European pressure on big social media companies, such as about Germany’s demands on deleting hate-speech (which can cast a rather larger dragnet)   Fox has a story by Sam Schnechner et al about EU pressure on major social media companies and their supposed free ride to profits.  That’s what makes user-generated content possible.