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How The Web Can Change Education July 18, 2011

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, News, Reviews, Trends.
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by Joanne KY Teoh
The Web has freed people from the “tyranny of time and distance” and is now poised to create a culture for learning innovation, expanding classroom walls to bring the best learning resources for kids of the world.

No surprise Rupert Murdoch of News Corp has been enthusing about the commercial potential of eLearning, using the e-G8 Forum “The Internet: Accelerating Growth” in Paris to talk up the Web’s power to transform education in his presentation.

Of course, Murdoch lauds commercial educational initiatives and products while ignoring Open Access resources like MIT OpenCourseWare, and many others. While one should beware ruthless tycoons peddling their wares, the point is that even Murdoch sees the future of education, and his words are accurate in many respects.

If schools today have not changed much, and the classroom is still defined by a teacher with a book and a blackboard, what should change? Computers aren’t enough. Software that engage students are also critical. If possible, equip students with tablets to let them become more interactive in their learning.

Digital technology allows for personalized or individualized learning. Students can work at their own pace with online tutors and videos featuring, for example, master teachers from anywhere in the world to monitor each student’s performance.

What does it look like when the Web positively impacts the daily practice of a learning community through communication and collaboration? Some schools have shifted their thinking to transform best practices, utilize project-based learning activities, and implement school communication initiatives that involve blogging, wikis, and social networking tools.

Education and creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson also criticized outdated schools in his classical 2008 A Change of Paradigms lecture at the Royal Society of Art. But he addressed technology from the viewpoint of its effect on cognition and culture, and how educational politics should take this into account. Certainly a more fruitful and far-sighted approach than Murdoch’s promotion of exclusively commercial tech solutions.

Animation: Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson

While Murdoch advocates for less government in education as a software seller, Lawrence Lessig advocates socially ethical “less government.” Below is a video of his e-G8 keynote which focuses on his slides.

We should say to modern democratic government, you need to beware of incumbents bearing policy fixes. Because their job, the job of the incumbents, is not the same as your job, the job of the public policy maker.

Their job is profit for them. Your job is the public good. And it is completely fair, for us to say, that until this addiction is solved, we should insist on minimalism in what government does.

The kind of minimalism Jeff Jarvis spoke off when he spoke of “do no harm”. An Internet that embraces principles of open and free access, a neutral network to guarantee this open access, to protect the outsider.

But here is the one thing we know about this meeting, and its relationship to the future of the internet. The future of the internet is not Twitter, it is not Facebook, it is not Google, it is not even Rupert Murdoch.

The future of the internet is not here. It wasn’t invited, it does not even know how to be invited, because it doesn’t yet focus on policies and fora like this. The least we can do is to preserve the architecture of this network that protects this future that is not here.

Lawrence Lessig, Professor, Harvard Law School

Keynote – e-G8 from lessig on Vimeo.

Reads
e-G8 – Rupert Murdoch: Education Is the Last Digital Holdout

Connect For Real Please May 28, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, Reviews, Social Media, Trends.
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Hello Facebook, please understand connections are built on friendship and meaningful experiences with friends. Please create a context of trust, safety, and true connections. Your network has eroded our confidence as users and limiting our ability to actually connect.

Research shows instant intense connections affect the overall tenor of the ensuing relationship. Specific factors trigger such connections – physical proximity, vulnerability and a clearly defined community. They are all seriously lacking in Facebook.

Teams that click tend to work more effectively together. Couples in love at first sight are more passionate with each other. What makes people actually click and form instant intense connections? Think – meeting someone at a party, that spark on a first date.

Distance separating people greatly influences likelihood of a connection. The pal in school who sat beside you is probably your closer friend today. Likewise, scientists proved more likely to collaborate with other scientists who sat in the same corridor.

Those last few feet separating people really matter. While Facebook might create digital proximity, it’s impossible to recreate the intimacy of sitting next to someone. Facebook can’t do much about proximity, but there are two other factors it can do something about – Foster vulnerability and community.

It’s now difficult to be vulnerable on Facebook, that once intimate community that only included your college buddies. Vulnerability builds trust. Psychologists found that personal revelations make us more likely to connect because we become vulnerable and open, showing we trust those we disclose to.

Facebook is seen as Big Brother-like. It’s as if the company is a hidden microphone that threatens to expose what we’d really like to say. Who will see what we write on someone’s wall? If we comment on someone’s status, whose newsfeed will it show up in? Without that ability to be vulnerable, it is difficult to really connect with friends.

It’s really about a sense of community. Think of how close people get with their freshman dorm mates. You’re all new at school and together you form a clear, delineated community. Research shows that when people feel they belong to a community that experiences real world together, they’re much more likely to bond.

It used to be that a group of Facebook friends felt like a separate and delineated group. As the site shares more and more information with the “outside,” the walls of the community — that clear delineation — are becoming more porous and less effective at building bonds.

By dishing out a never-ending assault on privacy, Facebook is uniting its users at least. Nothing like a healthy dose of shared adversity to bond users, like soldiers in battle, into a coalition of Facebook quitters.

Clinton Urges Web Freedom January 22, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Essays, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, YouTube.
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Boo China, yay Web neutrality! Fasten your belts for the “next great global battle of ideas!” Depending on which side of the great firewall you’re on, the “iconic infrastructure of our age” will be the site for a cyber showdown.

And that’s to ensure that the Web remains “a tool of openness, opportunity, expression, and possibility rather than of one of control, surveillance, suppression.”

American State Secretary Hillary Clinton underlined that reality when she called for an unfettered Internet and delivered a tongue lashing to China in an impassioned policy speech at the Newseum journalism museum in Washington.

Read entire transcript of Clinton’s speech here. The virtual volleys have begun, with China slamming the speech as “information imperialism.” Read the rebuff on China’s foreign ministry Website here.

We are also supporting the development of new tools that enable citizens to exercise their rights of free expression by circumventing politically motivated censorship.

We are providing funds to groups around the world to make sure that those tools get to the people who need them in local languages, and with the training they need to access the internet safely.

Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State

That America’s top diplomat champions “freedom to connect” as a basic human right is a huge stake, especially when the US State Department is funding the development of tools to help Web users circumvent government censorship online.

Poised to be the Web’s first diplomat, Hillary Clinton has jumped right into the fray of the Google vs China spat, calling Web curbs the modern equivalent of the Berlin Wall and warning of a new information curtain descending on the world.

It’s fascinating how Google’s corporate move has turned into an international incident. Web freedom has joined trade imbalances, currency values, human rights and Tibet among the quarrels straining ties between the world’s biggest and third-biggest economies.

Clinton’s call for global condemnation of those who conduct cyber attacks is an important opportunity to counter governments who want to censor and conduct surveillance on individuals. The challenge is how the State Department will walk the talk by incorporating Web freedom into diplomacy, trade policy, and meaningful pressure on companies to act responsibly.

The speech is a huge stake in net neutrality and its meaning cannot be overstated. The Web was born and nurtured in America, with input from other countries. Now a top US official and arguably the most prominent female political figure is seeking to shape the Web’s evolving ethos and guiding principles.

In parts of the Middle East, women are beaten and killed in “honor” beatings by relatives who find out they are using sites like Twitter and Facebook. China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are among countries that censor the Web or harass bloggers. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked in China.

Early in her primary campaign, Clinton was considered less Web-savvy than Barack Obama and online attack ad that spread on YouTube foreshadowed the narrative of her fight for the Democratic nomination, portraying Clinton as the old PC and Obama as the shiny new Mac.


The YouTube video, which mashes up Apple’s 1984 ad with Hillary Clinton’s own campaign imagery.

Clinton is now leading the way within the Obama administration in recognizing the transformational opportunities of the Internet. Speaking in broad strokes and finer details, she outlined what she called the five key freedoms of the Internet age: Freedom to connect online anywhere. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from fear of cyber attacks.

Of course that didn’t sit well with the “What Internet censorship?” crowd on the other side of the planet. There’s an argument that the technical architecture of the Web is different from the values of people who use it. If parents can limit what teenagers can see, then governments can limit what citizens see. If citizens can circumvent governments, teenagers will be able to circumvent parents.

But we’re talking about a generation of citizens who have never typed the words “Falun Gong,” “Dalai Lama,” or “Tiananmen Square massacre” into their search engines. Information openness for them is just a crack in a dark room without electricity.


A Chinese flag flutters near the Google logo on top of Google’s China headquarters in Beijing.

The blowback against Google’s announcement that it was hacked by Chinese cyber agents – and in response would be lifting the restrictions that keep users of its Chinese search engine in the dark – has been fascinating. Clinton upped the ante by calling for global Internet freedom.

When Google threw down the gauntlet to China’s Web censors, it also challenged the loyalties of the nation’s wired generation. Tech-savvy Chinese in their 20s and 30s grew up in greater affluence and openness than their parents. Many are pulled between patriotic pride and a yearning for more say over their own lives.

The Google dispute may become a telling test of how China’s wired generation balance loyalties to their country with their desire for free expression and access to information, and this response could shape how Beijing handles the dispute.

The Obama administration has shown it wants to court this emerging generation of connected Chinese. China’s latest survey of Web use found 60 percent of the nation’s online population of 384 million was aged 10 to 29.

Despite censorship, China’s Internet can be a potent public forum, with bloggers and amorphous online groups hectoring the government over pollution and corruption. Last year, the government abruptly abandoned a plan to force all new personal computers to come with a copy of “Green Dam” Internet-filtering software that had been derided by online critics as intrusive and ineffective.

Related reads
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are Tools for Diplomacy.
China Slam’s Clinton’s Internet Speech as Information Imperialism
China rebuffs US Internet demands
Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC?

China Missteps Shatter Olympic Myth April 10, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Essays, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, YouTube.
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The Beijing Olympics is the one global event everybody shares. It will be shared in bits and bytes across media platforms. The whole world is watching. Missteps over these next few months will affect the Olympic brand and Brand China.

Within the Middle Kingdom, Chinese leaders have misjudged the force of images and symbols. Odd, for a culture whose language is built on both. Sending the Olympic Flame across the globe is meant – symbolically – to draw one and all to a moment, shared.

Yet the passing of the Olympic Flame, person to person, became last week a moment of its own. The intended images were crowded out. The intended symbolism was out of tune; Chinese leaders and Olympic organizers appeared out of touch.

If China wants to play in the Big League it needs to step up and show what it’s got. Control of images and symbols is no longer top-down. The Web has democratized media and given it its finest moments. Those who use it create the message. They have all the votes and they vote one by one, moment to moment.

It’s a hard lesson. It may be lost on leaders – and the Chinese are not alone – intent on message management and gatekeeping. Chinese authorities have consistently misjudged a media world in which they, as a subject, have no control.

Banishing the BBC, buying radio jamming systems, cutting satellite and cellphone transmissions and enlisting more censors serves only to raise the sense that terrible things are happening and they are keeping terrible secrets.

Human rights, press freedom, corruption and the environment are serious issues in China and elsewhere. Third parties representing special interests are putting the screws on China to keep promises made back in 2001 when awarded the Olympic Games. The Chinese had given the appearance of loosening things. Then came Tibet to prove the sham of it all.

Sending thugs to guard the Olympic Flame, bloodying the Free Tibet protestors and jailing journalists serve only to illustrate, boldly, the greater concern about China. If that nation has made its Great Leap Forward to modernity can it make the next leap to post-modernity?

Olympic sponsors find themselves in a bind. They risk guilt by association, for which they’ve paid $$$. They face certain wrath of the Chinese government, grantor of access to the worlds fastest growing consumer market as well as its significant manufacturing center. No one doubts the swift reaction of the Chinese authorities to a sponsor pulling out.

Just as naive as saying the Olympic Games are for the athletes, the notion of separating the athletics, the business and the political is disingenuous. With the world riven by conflict, the Olympic Games remain a pillar of hope. Emerging media that communicate images and symbols across physical boundaries will share that hope.

Political Engagement and the Web August 29, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Essays, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.
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Online politics anyone? Way to GO! The Web gives anyone — candidates, advocacy groups, corporate interests and ordinary folks — affordable and powerful means to mold policy, influence elections and shift the direction of public discourse. Welcome to the politics of participation in the age of digital dialogues.

The all important role of the Web is making politicians sit up. So core is Web to politics today that a certain anxiety pervades the political classes. And it comes from the perception that folks have become disaffected with traditional media. Indeed, the wired generation who have deserted MSM are using social networking to move their political activism from cyberspace to the real world.

The term, participatory culture, contrasts with older notions of passive media spectatorship. Rather than talk about media producers and consumers as occupying separate roles, we might now see them as participants who interact with each other according to a new set of rules that none of us fully understands.

HENRY JENKINS
Director, MIT Comparative Media Studies

It is apparent that new people, coming together in new ways to participate in a process we do not yet understand are changing the way we understand the medium and the way we understand politics. I would argue that video is key. When this generation wants to find out about a candidate, the first and probably only thing they do is watch videos of the person online. The first place they go for videos is the candidate’s website.

So it is important that a candidate’s website is easy to find and use so that it becomes the main source of information about the politician. Barack Obama does this really well. Many people regardless of whether they support Obama, have seen his official videos on his Website, allowing him to have much more control over his message.

Obama’s comparative advantage is the level of 2.0 technology in his Website that allows digital natives to forge online community. You can join “the movement” in his Website and meet supporters, ask questions, learn about campaign events, donate money, and canvass with phone numbers and addresses taken off the site.

This is a great way for keeping volunteers informed, organized, and motivated. It is a very important tool for engaging young people in the campaign. It remains to be seen whether the Web will bring about a shift from indifference to engagement in politics among the young in Singapore.

In Singapore, a panel advising the Singapore government on the impact of new media in society today released its clutch of proposals. Many are overly cautious and miss the point of wielding political e-engagement as a new tool of governance. The government-appointed panel says the key reason for going online is that new rules of engagement are going to have a profound effect on the electoral process, citing how the Internet played a key role in the Malaysian elections and is continuing to do in the American elections.

Those interested in how the new media scene in Singapore is shaping up can read the report by the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society, or AIMS. It focuses on four areas: E-Engagement, Online Political Content, Protection of Minors, Intermediary Immunity for Online Defamation.

My question – how ready is government to take risks to achieve successful online engagement and foster political entrepreneurialship? Technology now permits anyone to transact information without mediation. Webs at work have rendered obsolete the role of traditional gate keepers in mainstream media. Airtime and newspaper coverage have outlived their functions as political engagement migrate online.

Plugging the Loopholes

Plugging New Media Loopholes


Cartoon courtesy sei-ji rakugaki

Virtual and political forces intersect to forge communities online, co-opting citizen powered media to build dialogue with constituents. Not just smart politics and good governance but innovative technology and political prowess to organize movements and run a smarter campaign with strategies like Facebook outreach.

AIMS media conference to release its recommendations to the Government on August 29.

Covering China’s Uncensored Quake May 15, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.
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In the end, it took a national tragedy of horrific proportions for a country with a history of contempt for free speech online to loosen its grip – but only a bit, and perhaps in a mere flirtation with unfettered information gathering.

The Web and mainstream media are abuzz with news and commentary of Monday’s earthquake in China. Amid the outpouring of grief and anger, a one-party state long wary of citizens’ access to sensitive information is letting a lot more reporting out, and with uncommon candor.

To be sure, scenes of devastation and suffering are staple media fare in the coverage of catastrophes. I’ve seen my share in the wires and feeds from international news organizations such as Reuters, AP, IPTV, APTN.

But the news of this quake disseminated by journalists and witnesses in China is remarkable because images and information are being let out uncensored from a country long suspicious of citizens and foreigners conspiring to undermine the state.

Thanks to lessons of the past, China’s media is living up to global standards for once – and about time. Lest we think this is a defining moment, remember that the men in Beijing are trying to balance hardline impulses with a nimbler grip on information as they limber for the Olympics.

This country with a history of covering up natural calamities and bungling responses is set to stage the Olympics in the full glare of international media. A media with third-world repute is trying to live up to first-world expectations. In experimenting with a new openness, a recent law requires public officials to provide information to the news media during natural disasters.

China knows the world is watching its behavior in a humanitarian crisis. Certainly it wants to avert the international scorn that the junta in Myanmar earned for their xenophobic response to the cyclone in Irrawaddy Delta.

As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them. Certainly, you can’t keep the digital arena sterile when a disaster of such magnitude hits home. You can’t muzzle netizens when you lead the world for mobile phone and Internet users.

You can’t dam the flood of searing images from being uploaded to the Web with mobile phones and digital cameras wielded by tens of millions of citizens. You can’t silence the blogs, the chatter and the Twitter on the Web. You can’t cover up. You can’t hide.

The Great Firewall that has kept the Chinese digital realm sanitized cracked this week, yielding to the murderous temblor that united the country in grief and mourning. Chinese mainstream media have found greater freedoms to show graphic images of devastation without the sanitizing that censors demand. Foreign media are getting unrestricted access.

Images of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao directing disaster relief officials and comforting survivors dominate the airwaves. This openness appears to be paying off. Websites and chatrooms are full of praise for the rescue response.

Witnesses to the devastation have been flooding the Web with homemade videos, filling chat rooms and Twittering tidbits of information from their mobile phones at a furious pace. Popular video-sharing site, tudou.com, now has about 1000 clips related to the quake, including appeals to locate relatives.

With uncharacteristic vigor, party organ Xinhua News Agency has stepped up to plate, offering a stream of updates on the rescue operation. Here’s a roundup of other compelling quake-related acts of journalism from China and elsewhere on the Web:

Global Voices Online: Roundup of blogging and local nonprofessional reporting on the quake.

QQ.com: Chinese video-sharing service has a special page aggregating contributed videos.

Yupoo: Gallery of earthquake photos from a major Chinese photo-sharing site.

CNN iReport: Aggregator page of all contributed content posted about the quake.

NowPublic: All submissions tagged “earthquake” on this citizen reporting site.

Shanghaiist: “Metroblogging” site offers several quake-related stories.

Flickr: All photos on this photo-sharing site tagged “China” and “earthquake.”

Tweet Scan: What the Twitterati is talking regarding the China quake.

Related read:
Chinese Internet Censorship

Journalism Meets Virtual Reality May 1, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Convergence, Essays, Journalism, News, Trends.
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The first wired generation raised in the virtual realm is coming of age and recreating the world in their image. Digital natives are deserting traditional sources of information for an emerging journalism of interactive multimedia experiences informed by the timeless dynamics of story.

This was the theme of my talk this week at a conference in Singapore on computer games and multimedia. I spoke about how news organizations are experimenting with storytelling in virtual worlds and the need to re-imagine journalism in a game environment.

Serious games and their potential for interactive, player-directed storytelling are great at illustrating complex situations. The concept is not far-fetched. Journalists must re-imagine story narratives and experiment with computer simulations to help digital natives learn about news events and trends.

Such an approach envisions new narrative forms as sophisticated play to engage a tribe of gamers who demand stimulating complex systems. The medium of games has matured along with the digital natives who grew up with it. In a galaxy not too far away, this generation will be learning about politics – not by reading or watching the news – but by playing games with peers in virtual worlds.

For example, news on the Olympic Torch and the shadows that dog it can be created as a game that immerses people in the real world, full of real-time political crises. Players create avatars modeled on characters such as the Dalai Lama and politicians caught in the fray. The route to Beijing offers rich scenarios for the virtual reconstruction of real cityscapes.

In his keynote, David Wortley of the Serious Games Institute in UK shared a glimpse of the future of serious play. The movement has serious brain power behind it. Advocates and nonprofit groups have joined forces to search for new ways to reach young people, while tech-savvy academics are keen to explore video games’ education potential.

Serious games are already being developed to help players learn about health, social, political and economic issues. The United Nations has released Food Force, a game that helps people understand the difficulties of dispensing aid to war zones.

A newspaper or other local news organization needs to be more than just a pipeline for informing people about current news and events.

PAUL GRABOWICZ University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

News games are more than voyeuristic mindless fun. They can be a medium for change. At Carnegie Mellon University, a game on the Middle East conflict is being developed. In the game Peacemaker, players assume the role of either the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinian president.

The idea of games for journalistic storytelling is in the skunkworks. The New York Times has published a game to help readers understand immigration legislation that was up for debate.

News media can use games to provide context for young people to understand their community and its history. Journalism professor Paul Grabowicz says video games let people re-live the history of their communities and understand not just what’s happening today but what came before.

Funded by a Knight News Challenge grant, Grabowicz and his students are developing Remembering 7th Street, a virtual reality game that replicates an Oakland street known for its jazz and blues club scene in the ’40s and ’50s.

Educators and traditional media approach games with fear. There is much to celebrate and little to fear when a young medium and old media converge on new media to reach a post-MTV audience. When information is retooled as enthralling experiences that tap the emotion and intellect through the interplay of narrative, performance and play, the consequences of this fundamental shift in media creation and use are profound and promising.

Through their ability to renew age-old modes of cultural expression, games can be adjuncts to topical issues, providing fresh experiences to spur community interactions. Augmenting play with media narratives can connect audiences to current events and issues.

We need best practices to re-imagine a knowledge aesthetic that provides core journalistic services built around a community of media producers, visual storytellers, information designers, narrative architects and game developers.

Serious Games sites:
Water Cooler Games
Social Impact Games
Games for Change
Impact Games

Related Read:
Why Journalists Should Develop Video Games
Using Video Games to Tell the News

A Uniquely Singapore Toilet Break. March 2, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, News, Singapore, YouTube.
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It’s been four days since Mas Selamat Kastari answered nature’s call and put Singapore in the global spotlight. The city’s most wanted man, and now ubiquitous poster boy, gave his guards the slip during a toilet break in a top security detention facility on the island. Accused of plotting to crash a plane into Changi Airport in 2001, Mas Selamat was never charged in court. At the time of his escape, he was being held under an internal security law that allows for detention without trial.

huhhhhhhhhhwa5-1.jpg

The circumstances surrounding the prison break in a city-state that touts itself tops in everything – from being a terror target to policing and ministerial pay – are as incredulous as the escape is audacious. It’s been 86 hours. Tens of thousands of police and security personnel are still looking for this middle-aged Singaporean national with a limp.

3.9 million mobile subscribers in the city will receive a photo of Mas Selamat via multimedia messaging from Singapore’s three main telecommunications companies. Singtel, the country’s biggest telco, will also send the fugitive’s photograph and a physical description to Internet subscribers.

There is no official word on how Mas Selamat breached one of the tightest security apparatus in the world. MSM has not raised the tough questions which are being asked on the Web with increasing derision. Mas Selamat’s face in possible guises are beginning to appear on blogs and portals. As much as the case is grist for conspiracy theorists, The Great Singapore Escape is becoming fodder for Photoshop artists and mash-ups. Here’s a sampling of the fare:

Possible Guises of Mas Selamat from NEW PAPER
mas1.jpg

Possible Guises of Mas Selamat from TALKINGCOCK.COM
selamatspotter.jpg

Spoof: Mas Selamat Kastari – Confession of a Terrorist

Apology: DPM Wong Kan Seng Informs Parliament

Related Reads:
Interpol Global Red Alert
Comments by Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng on 2 March 2008 at the Visit to the Special Operation Command
MHA Press Release: Escape Of JI Detainee Mas Selamat From Detention

The Great Escape
Was Mas Selamat Kastari Assisted in His Escape? And By Whom?
Questions That Wong Kan Seng Must Answer
My Theory of the Great Escape of Mas Selamat

Bye to an Old Friend, Netscape. February 29, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Convergence, Essays, News.
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_41162701_netscape203index.jpg

Farewell Netscape, thanks for the surfing memories. You started it all for me in the early days of the Web. Though your graphical user interface is a relic in my memory, you were the Web for me back in 1994.

In a few hours time, the icon that gave people their first experience of the Web will no longer be around. Owner AOL will no longer support Netscape Navigator from 1 March 2008 and recommends users to upgrade to Firefox or Flock which are based on the Navigator technology.

Created by Marc Andreessen, Netscape helped make the Internet a mass market phenomenon when it was launched in the mid 1990s. But it could not compete. Its hey days were numbered when its user base and market share were eroded by Microsoft, which bundles Internet Explorer with its Windows operating systems.

Recent surveys suggest that Netscape currently has only 0.6% market share among browsers, compared to IE’s 77.35% and Firefox’s 16.01%. This same underdog once claimed more than 90 percent of the market, sparking the browser wars of the 1990s and the subsequent Microsoft antitrust trial.

Users can visit the UFAQ and the Netscape Community Forum for support. AOL is also setting up a Netscape Archive where users will be able to download old versions of Netscape, without any support.

Netscape Navigator introduced me to the World Wide Web by enabling me to access information online. Those were the good old times, but I won’t miss Netscape. I write this on the Safari browser which I have come to love. No doubt an underdog touches a soft spot, but Netscape had its day. Rest in peace Navigator. The Web and I will cherish your legacy.

Related reads:
Official Netscape Blog: End of Support for Netscape web browsers

Wikileaks: Web Censorship Won’t Work February 23, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Essays, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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The order by a California court to muzzle anti-corruption site Wikileaks smacks of contempt for free speech online that parallels practices in repressive countries committed to Web censorship. As feeble as it is offensive, this abuse refocuses attention on the idea of a whistle-blower wiki whose time has come.

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Prompted not by government but corporate interests, the restraining order on Wikileaks betrays an ignorance of the Internet domain system and an unfamiliarity with the instinct of Web communities to counter hostile action against free online speech. Outraged netizens have rushed to publicize alternate addresses of backup sites that remain online in defiance. The gag order has the opposite effect of what it intended.

Wikileaks is up from Sweden at (http://88.80.13.160) and mirror sites hosted in Belgium (http://wikileaks.be/), Germany (http://wikileaks.de) and the Christmas Islands (http://wikileaks.cx). Fans of Wikileaks have distributed copies of the offending bank information on their sites and via peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Now even folks who have not heard of Wikileaks or Julius Baer know about the fiasco.

Swiss Bank Julius Baer, registered in the Cayman Islands, sued Wikileaks and successfully requested that its Website be blocked. Wikileaks had posted documents about off-shore trust structures in the Cayman Islands which allegedly implicate Baer in money laundering and tax evasion. Baer claims Wikileaks published and altered documents stolen by a former executive. A recap of Wikileaks coverage of Bank Julius Baer is mirrored here.

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Founded in 2006 by dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and computer specialists from around the world, Wikileaks is a wiki platform for whistle-blowers to safely post documents in a manner that cannot be traced. Other users could then analyse the information and discuss its reliability and significance.

Wikileaks says it has published more than 1.2 million documents. They uncover dirt ranging from rules of engagement for American troops in Iraq to the operation of prison at Guantánamo Bay. Though it focuses on government and corporate wrong-doing in Asia, Africa and Middle East, Wikileaks has received most attention with secrets revealed in the US, Europe and Caribbean.

This major test of First Amendment rights is unheard of in the West. As the case heads for the appeals court, one wonders why Wikileaks must explain the meaning of the First Amendment in the land of free speech. “There is no justification under the First Amendment for shutting down an entire Web site,” say David Ardia, Director of Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School:

First, the banks overreached. They worked out what appears to be a sweetheart deal with Wikileaks’ domain name registrar, Dynadot. Even though Dynadot appears to bear no liability for the material at issue, the banks added Dynadot as a defendant in the case.

No doubt thinking they had come up with a legal “silver bullet,” the banks and Dynadot signed a joint stipulation in which Dynadot agreed to, among other things, “lock” and “disable the wikileaks.org domain name” in exchange for being dismissed from the case (a case in which, it appears, Dynadot bore no liability). To give their stipulation the force of law, the banks slipped an order to the judge, which he promptly signed.

DAVID ARDIA
Director of Citizen Media Law Project, Harvard Law School

Wikileaks is getting legal help in its court fight. Freedom of speech group, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and digital rights advocacy, Electronic Frontier Foundation plan to argue on its behalf at a legal hearing on 29 February.

On another note, the European Parliament has accepted a move by Dutch conservative member Jules Maaten to consider Web censorship a trade barrier. This was first reported in Dutch, on the Web site of Maaten’s political party, the VVD. When the proposal is accepted, the EU has to take measure against countries who deploy Web censorship.

Related reads
Wikileak Blog
A Coming Chill over Internet Freedom

Web Matters, But Will It Deliver Votes? February 10, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Advertising, Essays, Social Media, Trends, Web Video, YouTube.
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The heartbeat of electoral politics in the US has moved online, and Barak Obama is leading the charge. In bringing about new levels of civic engagement, the participatory culture of the Web is changing not just the face of politics, but the way presidential candidates are marketed.

DREAM TEAM?
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Obama campaign managers say their focus online is to drive supporters to the Web site so that people can participate in the process by hosting house parties, writing their own campaign blogs and starting grass-roots groups in their communities.

Techpresident.com, a nonpartisan “group blog,” tracks the effect presidential candidates are having online. For example, in terms of MySpace friends, Obama is leading Democratic rival Clinton, with more than 268,400 friends linked to his MySpace page while Clinton has more than 179,300 friends.

Not since the fireside chats of Franklin Roosevelt has a communication medium played such a pivotal role in electoral politics. With the presidential election shaping up to be truly the first of the digital age, hearts and minds are being shaped online.

Can Web 2.0 technologies bring about a sea change in politics, much like TV swayed political behavior in the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960?. They were the first major presidential debates on television, a venue in which a youthful John Kennedy outshone Richard Nixon, who was less telegenic on camera.

PEW Research Center found that the Web is living up to its potential as a major source for news about the 2008 presidential campaign. Online is the key place to get news about the elections, with almost a quarter of Americans now learning about the campaigns online on a regular basis.

Partnering between old and new media adds even more legitimacy to emerging technologies. Like MTV and MySpace, teaming up to feature real time, dialogues between candidates and voters.

Certainly the rules of the game have changed and the politics much more distributed. There are many aspects of Web social marketing in this race. Campaigns are happening on people’s screens and no longer run from headquarters or driven by centralized purchases of TV advertising time.

What YouTube and other Internet sites seem to have done is they enable people to talk to one another. Allow voters to talk to one another without necessarily going to the campaigns. And so you see people making their own ads for candidates and that might be part of what is getting people so excited and what’s leading to this record turnout as well.

Much has changed since Democrat Howard Dean tapped into an online community for support and money in his 2004 campaign. Today top Web experts are hired to outfit candidates’ sites with fundraising tools, blogs and videos and post profiles on social networking sites.

Republican candidates are using the web to grab donations and build communities. McCainSpace allows users to build their own sites hosted on the John McCain site. Other Web features used by campaigns mimic those of YouTube, Google and Amazon.com. But instead of generating a sale or linking to an advertisement, candidates pitch supporters, pick up fundraising leads and potentially land votes.

Well the Internet has certainly been a big target of campaigns for two reasons. One, fundraising. It has made fundraising a lot easier. You can go out and find people to make donations. I think Internet has played a strong role in this record amount of campaign contributions that are flowing to the campaigns. The Internet also enables you to target voters and to target advertising. So it’s brought a lot of change to how campaigns operate in terms of fundraising and in terms of targeting

As people turn to the Web for shopping, banking and news, will getting and being influenced by political information be any different? Certainly, the ‘pull’ type of media on the Web may not get to the masses who are still unwired, and who need political information pushed to them by TV or newspapers.

What remains to be seen is how web-marketing techniques change as the electoral field is narrowed to two primary candidates. While the Web will matter in this election, will it also determine outcomes? Will these tools make or break a candidate?

Spare the Presidential C H A N G E February 3, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, Journalism, News, Trends, YouTube.
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Mirror mirror on the tube, who’s the changiest of them all? Notice how the political rhetoric in the US presidential elections is now down to a single word – change? Once upon a time in elections past, candidates fought to distance themselves from change – or flip-flopping – as it was called then.

Now change is so hot candidates are falling over themselves to flaunt their change credentials. Whatever the political stripes, whether in a dress or in suits, everybody wants to change their spots. Any change will do it seems. String these voices and mash ‘em up and presto! The Changiness Chorus:

Spare the change! It’s a word that has inflamed defenders of the status quo and media watchers. Jeff Jarvis, Associate Professor at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism rants in his blog that change is the “emptiest” word in politics:

“It’s an utterly empty word. Meaningless. The worst of political rhetoric. The worst of political bullshit. Pure spin. Cynical marketing. Juvenile pandering… Oh, just shut up and do something.”

I might be persuaded that progress comes through change, but don’t tell me all change is progress. Democrats will be a big change from Bush. Duh, but change in what terms? Didn’t America vote for change in 2000? Does change imply electing a female or a black President?

Change is the word of choice for an uncritical political culture. Any politician of any stripe can stand behind it without specifics or fear of contradiction:

Notice, when you hear the word “change,” whether the speaker or writer is using it as a noun or a verb. As a noun, the word is an empty abstraction. You don’t have to explain it, or give examples. You can simply invoke it, like “freedom” or “terrorism” or “amnesty.”

As an intransitive verb, “change” rarely helps: as in “I will change!” The politician who offers us the transitive, who gives us an object of the verb — “I will change the way we wage this war” — is at least giving us a small peg on which to hang.

POYNTER INSTITUTE

Out in the field, Obama is cool as a symbol and vessel for change. Clinton is cold and shrill in her naked ambition. Excuse me, is anybody thinking for a change? Changing the face and name in the White House is not change. Holding different perspectives and acting on those ideas is.

Blame it on TV and tube talk in an attention economy. So last century to be sure. Throw in the social networkers of MySpace and Facebook and you get a growing disconnect with the cuckolds. Can user generated politics predict election outcomes?

As people begin to switch off their TV and “live” online, the Web will define politics. If this has become a contest about who represents change, perhaps it makes more sense to talk about who owns the change. Voters own change, not candidates. Voters can vote out representatives and replace them with candidates who deliver more than promises.

Come to think of it, change is no big deal. Talking is the easy part. In the final scrutiny, who can change his or her spots?

Can Blogs do Journalism? January 13, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Essays, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video, YouTube.
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There’s a zero-sum flavor to the arguments of Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, at the Hugo Young memorial lecture in London. Misdiagnosing the threat facing media today, he warned that reliable news reporting is dwindling in the face of bloggers.

Dubbing the Internet a “media tsunami,” Keller flailed at blogs and pilloried sites like Wikipedia and Google News, insulting the Web products for not having things like foreign bureaus in war zones and because they don’t create content but aggregate it from other media.

“The civic labour performed by journalists on the ground cannot be replicated by legions of bloggers sitting hunched over their computer screens,” he declared. Hold it a sec. Google News and Wikipedia never claimed to be a news organization.

While the dinosaurs lay their last eggs and take swings at the new pamphleteers, perhaps we should revisit the history of The Press to remind ourselves why it exists. Perhaps at the top of their pyramids, old media dinosaurs fail to see that they have lost their monopoly on information.

Rather than being the sole source of information they once was, the press and TV are now part of a new information distribution structure. Content will always be king, and readers will go to wherever they can get the highest quality, most credible news. Good journalism is always in demand, whoever delivers it.

There is room for bloggers to contribute to the conversation. Instead of competing, bloggers and journalists should focus on good reporting. No model has worked so far. In a truly robust press, trained journalists and ordinary folks work to improve understanding of the communities. Professionals form the backbone with citizens in their various communities providing ideas, information, and old-fashioned legwork.

Well and good, problem is why would people offer time and knowledge to help out the journalists? The results of the Assignment Zero debacle portend the potential of citizen journalism. The concept of user-generated content is in danger of becoming a distraction from the real discussion about how professional journalism will navigate the rapids of technological evolution.

Steve Outing said recently in an item on the demise of his user content-powered Enthusiast Group, “I believe that what user content needs to succeed as a business is professional editors to be the ones to sift through it all to find the stuff that people will care about.”

Crowd sourcing works fine if you want to buy stuff and exchange verifiable info with peers in a Web forum. But news consumers want accurate, reliable, fair, credible, relevant and useful information which the citizen journalism model has yet to provide.

Michael Hedges notes in his Follow the Media post that citizen journalism, a term invented by accountants, is past its prime when listeners, viewers and readers lost interest in ‘reports’ from the 16-year old on the corner with a cell-phone camera:

Blogs, touted as giving voice to many, became, largely, ranters ranting to themselves or PR people posting the daily spin. Blog creation has peaked, wrote the Pew Research Center in a 2007 report. The successful became niche publishers, albeit of the traditional media model. The rest are just out there, hanging by the Web.

User-generated content is another concept designed to warm the accountants’ books. Couple it with the much vaunted social networking sites and zillions of web hits are created. All content may, indeed, be equal for 20 year old user/creators but an adult looking for knowledge and clarity is left empty. Unfortunately, sources for adults have evaporated into the dither of click-through ads

All said, is there a self-sustaining Website that actually practices journalism out there? Kara Swisher, who covers technology for the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital said this of Keller’s speech:

Actually, I think Keller’s real problem is the audience, especially young people, who are increasingly using those sites and others. The fact of the matter for an awfully long time now is that consumers of information are sampling all over the Web and don’t just rely solely on the New York Times for info.

That’s too bad for Keller, I guess, but not bad at all for consumers, who Keller never assumes are discerning at understanding what they are getting. But they are and are simply not a mass of dumb sheep just taking it all in and not questioning anything.

But I cannot imagine he lives in the present-day world when he claimed in the speech: “Most of the blog world does not even attempt to report. It recycles. It riffs on the news. That’s not bad. It’s just not enough. Not nearly enough.”

This is simply not true going forward, and he should have done some reporting on the subject to find out. There is an ever-increasing number of online outlets who are doing most excellent online reporting.

Read his full text here.

Dire Straits of Singapore Civic Media November 4, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, Journalism, News, Social Media.
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In the domain of civic media, Singapore is a poor cousin to its Third World neighbors in South East Asia. Given the hype of its First World online opportunities, the city does not have a single professionally-run, stand-alone Website delivering local news.

A few ventures are mere branding opportunities for old-media outlets looking to stay relevant. STOMP, the online portal of the Straits Times newspaper showcases almost every trick in the social media toolbox including user contributed content, blogs, social networking, auctions and classifieds. Its Singapore Seen allows people to tell stories about their community in video.

But you don’t have to click deep to encounter a sludge of hyper-local trivia such as “Seamstress leaves needle in bridal gown, injures bride;” “Waiter hurt while catching thief at restaurant;” and “Python at Potong Pasir swallows animal.” Citizen journalism? Nowhere close.

Where is content that foster real sharing of ideas and socio-political commentary? For all the hype, these supposed opportunities for citizen engagement in Singapore ring hollow when they happen on mainstream media platforms controlled by the state.

Information is most useful when thrown into a digital pile to be organized by users and creators themselves, as David Weinberger contends in Everything is Miscellaneous. User-generated content cannot pass for citizen journalism when co-opted by MSM as a commodity vetted by salaried gatekeepers.

BlogTV.sg and its purported agenda to bring the hard talk of the blogosphere to the idiot-box mustered merely tired banter on trivia tricked up with digital bells and whistles.

The cyber activism of Think Centre and Sintercom’s harnessing of a virtual community hold out in an arena where online dissent is thwarted through threats of jail or legal suits. In cyber activism, neighboring Malaysia has several more well-organised activist sites than Singapore.

The Web has empowered a new digital disorder whose principles are remaking media with far reaching consequences for how we live and work. It has set the stage for a civic journalism where groups of passionate people use its tools to make meaning and invent their own ways of what they know and want without the protocols of the newsroom.

A TV Website is a Product, Duh. October 28, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Advertising, Convergence, Essays, Journalism, News, Trends.
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TV folks still don’t get it! When I’m consulted by broadcasters planning to launch an accompanying Website for a TV series, I am often floored by the silo-thinking that an online presence is merely something nice to have to reinforce the brand and generate awareness.

Little wonder that so many micro-sites purporting to be the online arm of a TV show are, well, so small and mono-dimensional. Sure, the bean counters on the board ask for the business case. It’s about time they drop the blinkers and TV-centric thinking and build the Website as a product.

The Website cannot be conceived as a brochure for reinforcing the TV brand, but rather as unique content sold as its own entity. It’s about leveraging the resources unique to broadcasters to implement a successful online strategy.

With Web content eating into the profit pies of print and TV, online financial success for broadcasters lies in creating true cross-platform integration with the TV side of their business. Traditional media are not getting the share of advertising because they have not got past the ways to monetize their Websites.

ESPN.com and CNN.com got it. And it’s simply that people will pay for content if it is valuable to them. What ESPN and CNN have done is increase cross-platform reach to their audiences by investing in and building their Websites. It’s about taking the information the networks have and knowing how to feature it.

ESPN.com developed cross-platform storytelling by streaming video and creating interactive games for their users. CNN.com emphasized the cable network’s strength in delivering breaking news by expanding on the I-Report feature which allows the portal to receive a large volume of breaking news without actively soliciting.

So instead of using third-party and costly software, broadcasters should create a local network of sites, organize the local Web and take advantage of what’s already available to create unique community. Some of the brightest minds in the industry know where the future lies and are steering their online products in that direction.

Burma: Junta Draw Veil of Ignorance September 29, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, Journalism, News, Web Video.
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Surely and swiftly the military junta in Burma have returned a veil of ignorance to the country while they shoot people on the streets. But the week has been an extraordinary moment for civic media and the Web, with grassroots witnesses to a pacifist struggle posting images and accounts out of Burma for global scrutiny.

The last time Burmese soldiers fired on their own people there were few witnesses, and those who were there had no way of telling the story. This time, the demonstrations had persisted and spread in part because of new technologies.

What’s amazing is the cadre of people on the ground, gathering and disseminating information through the sieve of the state despite low internet penetration, low connection speeds and the need for proxy servers. This uprising in Burma is a compelling argument for citizen media forcing the world to confront a reclusive regime with draconian Internet control.

People sharing photographs and writing blogs aren’t doing it because they are journalists, but because it is a natural impulse to want to share experiences. Images of chaos and casualties have circulated with a battery of videos and an outpouring of comments (see here and here)

The Burmese people know must keep international attention on themselves if they want to succeed. Armed with mobile phone cameras, they have become the eyes of the “saffron revolution”. For days they risked their lives to stand in for the hundreds of foreign journalists banned by a government with much to hide.

To be sure, citizen media will not be the only source of information in events like a revolution, coup or civil war. They are welcome complements and sources of experts.

It is a risk. The soldiers arrest anyone who takes photos, destroy their phones and beat them up. But we have to show the world what is happening. Kyaw, medical student

I’m scared that if we stop sending photos and video the world will forget about us. Lynn, Burmese

Raw footage capturing the last gasps of Kenji Nagai has been aired on Japanese TV and posted on the Web, raising official suspicion that the 50-year old photo-journalist was murdered by Burmese troops.

The footage shows Nagai on the edge of a crowd of panic-stricken demonstrators, shoved to the ground by a soldier and shot at point-blank range, clutching his video camera to protect it from the fall. Evidence like this contradicts official Burmese explanation that Nagai was killed by a “stray bullet”.

The monks were moral shields; without them the marchers had lost a lucky charm. They felt less like crusaders for justice and more like what they resembled – scared, angry kids in T-shirts facing well-drilled troops with automatic weapons. TIMES ONLINE

The images have certainly spoken louder than words, catalyzing action by the international community. So far, UN talk of sanctions has been mere slaps on the wrist that failed to force the junta’s hand.

Weasely diplomatic response by Burma’s allies did not lead to wider influences. The tired rhetoric of outrage from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is motivated more by threat of financial sanctions from the West than compassion.

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Elements of the armed forces may rebel and overthrow the old guard. But this has not happened yet. The junta will ignore international calls for restraint, unless China, ASEAN and other nations that hold the most leverage on Burma join the outcry.

From the point of view of TV, the situation is the same as it was in 1988. No foreign TV crews have been able to enter Burma and networks such as BBC and CNN have been reporting from neighboring Thailand.

The junta has calculated that it can again win the propaganda battle if it controls traditional media. It is countering the impact of information smuggled out of Burma with news broadcasts, and surreal official versions describing the soldiers as victims.

Indeed, TV has made us so used to seeing popular uprisings topple authoritarian regimes that the difficulties involved can be underestimated. The first flush of images and accounts from citizen witnesses may create premature expectations about a new era of public protest.

It is unclear how much this “saffron revolution” resembles the “color revolutions” that took place in Georgia and Ukraine, where “networked” movements maximized cell phone technology and used the Internet as a platform in political mobilization for new elections.

To be sure, protesters in Burma faced an implacable military junta that showed subtle and malignant cunning in moving against the monks. The crackdown is a reminder that street protests do not necessarily lead to revolution.

Citizen journalism is a movement in progress. Where sovereignty is at stake, there will be the struggle between the Utopian roots of the Web, and the hegemony of the state. As much as we would like to think the Web is an unbridled new frontier, realistically on the ground, the force of law, or in Burma’s case – the might of the fist – will be invoked at tipping point.

It would be naive to think that a media of the people has immediate power to undermine hard power. While the Web ensures that the world will continue to keep watch, the question is whether this will sway a regime which cares nought about its image.

In many countries of Asia, journalism is battle ground territory between authority and media. It is worth remembering that however cyber the space is, it is also real and subject to real space power.

Since Thursday the military junta have made themselves felt in cyberspace, blocking Websites and cutting mobile phone lines while they shoot people on the streets. But a handful of people has already ensured that the perpetrators will face some measure of accountability for their repression.

Related:
Trade and Security Trump Democracy in Burma

New York Times Free At Last September 18, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Advertising, Essays, Journalism, News, Trends.
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So it’s no sale with paid content. The New York Times is joining the crescendo of falling walls at news sites including The Economist and CNN by ending its experiment with charging for select online content. The Times today restored free access to most of its columnists along with many articles, blogs, video, podcasts and archives.

It sure is good Maureen Dowd and the cast of Times columnists are firmly back into the public conversation. Columnists like her must be clicking their champagne glasses now their verbiage is accessible to a larger audience. But I’m raising my glass to a move that opens access to journalism’s most definitive moments on the Web.

The more important meaning for journalism here I say, is opening up the Times archives. With a perma-link on each article, Times’ stories will become the de facto primary sources for people around the Web, and around the world. So on topic after topic, the Times stories will move near or to the top of the search engine rankings. They will become more valuable for keyword and advertising once people click through to the actual stories.

Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.

New YorK Times

This was a money decision to be sure, and it could well be the start of the end for paid news on the Web. It is not so much that ads on the columnist pages will bring in that much new revenue but rather people looking at those pages will then go elsewhere on the site and the more eyeballs looking at more advertising, the better.

By lifting the gates on Times Select and returning its website to a completely ad-supported model, the larger significance is a resounding victory for the idea that information wants to be free. The Times site, nytimes.com, is the most popular newspaper site on the Web, with 13.1 million unique visitors. But its middling results with paid content, neither validation nor failure, strongly suggest that very few content publishers should even consider playing in the pay arena.

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Lifting the ramparts on paid content shows the Times is taking seriously the prospect that Rupert Murdoch will drop access charges for most or all of The Wall Street Journal Online. The Journal is now the only major newspaper charging subscriptions for most of its online content.

Incidentally, Murdoch gave his strongest statements to date the WSJ.com will go free. He says the company doesn’t feel it would hurt subscriptions and any lost revenue would be more than made up from increased readership and search engine traffic.

There’s talk the UK’s Financial Times web site with around 100,000 subscribers will also open up. Which begs that question – if we can read newspapers for free on the Web, why should we pay to read it in print? How come one model works for the Web and another model is used for print. The print model needs revisiting.

The once hot online-newspaper ad revenue is slowing as a result of competition from Web portals and TV networks. Nielsen/NetRatings show Yahoo News and Time Warner CNN Web sites posting strong growth over newspaper sites. Although online ads still make up a small portion of total newspaper revenues, the downward spiral of print revenues, has pushed print media to grab as big a slice of the online-ad pie as they can.

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The Times introduced Times Select in September 2005 to wring subscription revenue from its website and shore up sales in print, where ad rates remain much higher than they are online. It admitted that the power of search engines, which often drive traffic to the Times Online even when people looking for information don’t necessarily set out to find it, meant there was too much potential to pass up in free access underwritten by marketers.

2007 is emerging as a watershed for advertising, once seen as only part of a broader revenue play. Media owners are recognizing there is more money to be made reducing barriers to usage and selling advertising against that increased usage. So far in 2007, publishers have abandoned the paid ramparts at outlets including CNN, The Economist and The Financial Times.

Sure it’s nice for advertisers to know that a consumer loves a publisher’s site enough to pay for it. Opening the gates do let in riffraff who may not be so desirable. But from a marketer perspective, the more, the better. You potentially create greater scale for advertisers, and they want as much scale as possible.

Essentially, the Times is betting it can generate enough advertising revenue and/or goodwill to more than make up the loss of $10 million in subscription revenue. That’s a lot of ads, but the popular columns and archives that were behind the pay wall are popular material and should generate a lot of page views.

Of course, niche sites with unduplicated or especially compelling content will always be able to charge something for content. In addition to the free photos and articles Playboy posts online, it sells three tiers of paid access.

The Times is ending its premium service with 227,000 paying subscribers, 471,200 people who got access as part of their print subscriptions and 89,200 college students and employees who signed up for free access. It has sold sponsorship ads to American Express across The Content Formerly Known as Times Select.

We Get the Web We Deserve July 22, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, Social Media.
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Talents prosper in connections with others in the new digital disorder. But then, connections have been with us forever – from the Guanxi of Chinese society, to the deep external European connections that were integral to the breakthroughs of Picasso and Gutenberg.

Web 2.0 just made connecting so much easier, bypassing institutions that have decided what is talent and what is not. This is what gets the goat of Andrew Keen in Cult of the Amateur. To be sure, he’s raising controversy with an eye to top the non-fiction bestsellers list.

His polemic goes something like this – people on the Web, thou shalt not criticize the gatekeepers of institutions such as the Beeb, the NY Times, Le Monde, etc. because they are professionals. But after the Beeb phone-in fakes, can we trust the gatekeepers? See my post, Can You Still Trust Your National TV?

In Keen’s universe, people who use the Web – wikis, blogs, forums, mailing lists – for activism and to develop communities are no different from the chimps who fling poo on primetime for profit. The Wall Street Journal online has published a debate between author of Everything is Miscellaneous, Dave Weinberger and Keen.

Their central point of disagreement is about the importance of authority. Bear in mind that both have books to sell. Keen is a non-authority arguing for the importance of authority on the web. Weinberger is an authority on the emergence of a non-authoritative new world order. Two books, two views – no agreement, but certainly a lot of sparks when both square off. The dustup is well worth reading.

Keen argues that a user-driven web is undermining our institutions, values and culture. Not unlike the mass media that gave us TV drivel, Keen asserts a “dot com” sound-bite about the Web that is neither about its ideas nor the people among those ideas. To him, the Internet is full of junk and by killing off the conventional media we are losing all our good information sources.

Weinberger thwarts with bite and intellectual grace – sure, there are lots of bad stuff on the Web as in the real world. But there are lots of good stuff too. More importantly, new mechanisms are being developed to let us find good stuff faster and sieve bad stuff easier. And guess what, the Web may make good stuff easier to find than currently possible in the analog world. Hear hear, pass the pizza Dave!

My own sense is that as a professional I am good at what I do and sometimes a poor excuse for a human being. As a professional many of us live in one of the “iron cages” that Max Weber describes, held in place by a business model, a business plan, an org chart, a supervisory mechanism, a regulatory mechanism, a public relations dept, a corporate style guide, a dress code, an annual performance review, a mid-year check point, a salary and bonus incentive system, a code of civility, and on and on.

As an amateur, well, then all bets are off. I am far more interested in what a Pundit thinks as an amateur, off the record, talking with a few close friends over a beer than I am in the talking points the Pundit iterates on Company Time or in the Corporate Media at the behest of their Supervisor and their Funders. Another name for professional is hireling. That was Jonathan Swift’s word. Another name for amateur is “citizen.” The web is a citizen-driven public space. To make it a medium for rich, branded, professional, corporate controlled, content would be a true tragedy of the commons.

PHIL CUBETA, the Gift Hub blog

Can You Still Trust Your National TV? July 20, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, News.
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Every country has a right to expect its national broadcaster to maintain rigorous levels of integrity. Every time you think a national broadcaster has sunk lower, a new breach in viewers’ trust hits the headlines.

The BBC admitted Wednesday that a series of flagship children’s and charity phone-in programs had deliberately deceived viewers. The moral rectitude revealed in the Beeb’s deception is an issue not only for the British broadcasting icon, but national broadcasters in general and Asia in particular.

Hit your remote. Deceit come in many guises over the airwaves where authority lies in the hands of the few. Look around and you see editorial failings; slants endorsing pay and political masters.

Look around and you see manufactured non-news; advertorials couched as content; sponsored lifestyle programs pimped by moonlighting news readers; product placements and commercial puff.

We’re talking stitched-up productions, stretched-out crews and big pay-offs. The only surprise is that it took this long. Auntie – the moniker for the once honored and trusted broadcaster, is now seen as a bunch of ‘crooks and liars’.

BBC production staff lied to the audience by posing as winners of phone quizzes (never mind that practices like this is a criminal offence). The programs identified are:

Comic Relief – Friday 16 March 2007 on BBC One
A caller was heard on air answering a question to win prizes belonging to a famous couple when in fact the caller was a member of the production team.

TMi – 16 September 2006 on BBC Two and CBBC
A member of the production team posed as a member of the audience who had won a competition which was open to the public.

Sport Relief – 15 July 2006 on BBC One
Viewers were led to believe that a member of the public had won a competition open to the public when it was a member of the crew.

Children in Need – 18 November 2005 on BBC One Scotland
A fictitious competition winner was announced during a segment called Raven: The Island following technical problems.

The Liz Kershaw Show – 2005/6 on BBC 6 Music
During pre-recorded programmes presented as live, listeners were led to believe genuine competitions were held when in fact there were no contests or prizes and all callers were production staff or their friends.

White Label – World Service until April 2006
On more than once occasion a fake winner was announced when no winning entries had been received.

The same day, media regulator Ofcom published a damning inquiry into recent phone-in scandals and concluded there is a “systemic failure” in the way broadcasters operate premium rate lines. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.

“If broadcasters want audiences to go on spending millions calling in, they need to show they take consumer protection as seriously as programme content,” said former Deputy Chief Executive of BBC News Richard Ayre, who led the inquiry.

Ofcom accused telecoms operators, producers and broadcasters of a lack of transparency. It said there was a need for clearer pricing schemes, fairer competitions, and greater external auditing. The investigation looked at 20 alleged phone-in quiz scandals involving networks.

Related: What A Month For The BBC’s Reputation For Excellence.

Record Industry Lawsuits: Take a Hike July 11, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays.
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Suits brought against students by the record industry bring up issues around the role and identity of University and copyright. Go take a hike, say Harvard Law School professors Charles Nesson and John Palfrey of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Their essay is reproduced below:

Recently, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, Cary Sherman, wrote to Harvard to challenge the university administration to stop acting as a “passive conduit” for students downloading music. We agree. Harvard and the 22 universities to which the RIAA has sent “pre-litigation notices” ought to take strong, direct action…and tell the RIAA to take a hike.

This Spring, 1,200 pre-litigation letters arrived unannounced at universities across the country. The RIAA promises more will follow. These letters tell the university which students the RIAA plans on suing, identifying the students only by their IP addresses, the “license plates” of Internet connections. Because the RIAA does not know the names behind the IP addresses, the letters ask the universities to deliver the notices to the proper students, rather than relying upon the ordinary legal mechanisms.

Universities should have no part in this extraordinary process. The RIAA’s charter is to promote the financial interests of its corporate members – even if that means preserving an obsolete business model for its members. The university’s charter is quite different. Harvard’s charter reflects the purposes for which it was founded in 1636: “The advancement of all good literature, arts, and sciences; the advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences; and all other necessary provisions that may conduce to the education of the … youth of this country….”

The university strives to create knowledge, to open the minds of students to that knowledge, and to enable students to take best advantage of their educational opportunities. The university has no legal obligation to deliver the RIAA’s messages. It should do so only if it believes that’s consonant with the university’s mission.

We believe it is not.

Universities are special places, set off in time and space for students to have an opportunity most will not again have: to learn together in a community that cherishes openness above all else. If the university is perceived as doing the bidding of any particular industry, the message we’re sending to students is that the university is willing to let commercial interests intrude.

Of course there are times when that intrusion is warranted. The horror of Virginia Tech is on all our minds and in our hearts. There are far lesser justifications for allowing the arms of government and commerce to interrupt the secular sanctity of the university’s educational space. But protecting claims of copyright – whether or not legitimate claims – by passing along messages requiring students to pay lump sums to record companies just doesn’t warrant the betrayal of student’s trust and privacy.

The university does have an obligation to teach our students to be good citizens. Good citizens should be accountable for their actions. If our students are breaking the law, they should pay the price. That’s not the issue here. The RIAA has already sued well over 10,000 people, including many students, directly. They seem to be engaging in a classic tactic of the bully facing someone much weaker: threatening such dire consequences that the students settle without the issue going to court. The issue is that the university should not be carrying the industry’s water in bringing lawsuits.

The subtitle of the RIAA’s own press release puts a far more pleasant gloss on this: “New Program Invigorates Campus Conversations About Consequences For Illegal Downloading.”

If the RIAA wants to stimulate conversation, then it should engage in genuine dialogue. Come join us on campus. Come talk to the digital natives who are our students, to the faculty who care about fair intellectual property protections, and to the university counsel and technical teams who manage our strategies and operations in cyberspace. The RIAA should be asking, along with the rest of us, if we can come up with models that reward artists for their work while allowing the maximum circulation and use of their creations, as our Founding Fathers intended.

We should also be discussing the most important issue of all. Universities provide an open space in which every idea can be heard and discussed. Every limitation on the circulation of ideas works directly against the university’s mission. How can we open up more ideas, more works, more conversations, while, of course, preserving the legitimate rights of creators? How can we make the university far more open than it is now? How can universities – just like the RIAA – embrace a digital future and make the most of its opportunities?

Being the unpaid enforcement arm of the provincial interests of the RIAA is no part of the answer to these questions.

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