Tag Archives: AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATED PRESS PTY LIMITED

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Today’s twin bombings in Jakarta—their implications for Indonesia aside—should bring home to conventional media that social media is a multifaceted force, one that is evolving so quickly it’s fast becoming the primary channel that users tune in to for urgent news.

Some conclusions to draw from Jakarta (or are reinforced by the sad episode):

  • Social media is not just about issues that concern the kind of things that people think social media type people are going to be interested in. This was a bomb that went off in a hotel in the developing world, not a pop star who died in California. Admittedly at the heart of the wealthy quarter of the country, but still not LA.
  • The two tweets below could not really be faulted for their content. OK, the second one should perhaps be “explosion” until it’s confirmed that it’s a “bom”, but that’s a quibble. The 140 characters of twitter have already converted us—both user and consumer—into the headline/alert shorthand that was once the preserve of conventional media.
  • TV was reporting a third bomb—and casualties—in north Jakarta long after a twitterer and his photo had shown it was not so. (I don’t have a timeline for that. Contributions welcome).

Lastly, friends and colleagues have made the point I’m stressing the timeliness of all this too much. They say who reports something first doesn’t matter. Well, in some ways that’s true. But a lot of conventional media still believe it to be so, indeed make that a key part of their business model. I highlight speed here because of the still prevailing sense that twitter is full of noise. To still think that is to fail to see how quickly the medium is evolving. The rise of hashtags, retweets and tools like tweetdeck has made it easier for anyone interested to monitor and contribute twitter—so much so that for many it’s the best way to:

  • be alerted to the fact that something is going on/has happened
  • update oneself quickly
  • bypass news and newspaper sites that are often slowed down by traffic during a big event
  • share the information with friends and others
  • pursue and confirm/refute unconfirmed information
  • and, perhaps most interestingly, expand one’s network of ‘information sharers’ so that the experience of watching an event becomes a social one. (Not as in cocktail party social, but in terms of sharing shock, grief, outrage etc, as in the case of the Jakarta bombing. We journalists tend to hide our feelings a lot but that’s not the case on Twitter. It helps to remind one that the casualties are real people, and the suffering being felt is by people who may be on the same vast network as yourself and reading your tweets.)

Here’s an initial timeline of how the story broke, from what I can gather (all times Jakarta time, WIB). Claims that eyewitnesses beat traditional media by 20 minutes are a little exaggerated—it was probably closer to 10 or 12.

0751 WIB: @dregar (Andre Siregar) “Something going in Mega Kuningan. Explosion? In Ritz CArlton and felt building shaking. Marriott hotel has some broken glasses”

indonesia bomb first tweet 2

 0752 WIB:@danieltumiwa (Daniel Tumiwa) “Bom @ marriot and ritz Carlton kuningan jakarta”

indonesia bomb -first tweet 0852

These tweets were forwarded extensively.

The first conventional media coverage I can find is by Reuters, quoting local television, 15 minutes later (all timings are from Factiva. There may well be stories and updates missing):

0807 WIB: INDONESIA EXPLOSION HEARD, FELT AT RITZ-CARLTON KUNINGAN HOTEL IN JAKARTA -METRO TV

@BreakingNews put out their alert eight minutes after that:

0814 WIB: BULLETIN — EXPLOSIONS HITS NEAR JAKARTA’S MARRIOT HOTEL

Followed by two more, quoting the Associated Press.

AP itself put out a bulletin at 8.20 am (I couldn’t find the original despatch that BNO was quoting):

0820 WIB: Bombs explode at Ritz-Carlton, Marriott hotels in Indonesian capital; at least 3 injured

The Reuters fullout came out nine minutes after that:

0829: UPDATE 1-Explosions heard at two central Jakarta hotels –TV

Please correct any omissions. Just to stress, I’m not having a go at my colleagues in conventional media here. Just recording the sequence of events for future dissection.

The Wrong Guy Goes to Hollywood

The ‘Wrong Guy’ story just keeps going. The Congo-Brazzaville man who was interviewed on the BBC mistakenly as a computer pundit back in May could have his own movie, according to the BBC:

The incident involving Guy Goma is the basis for a film being planned by Alison Rosenzweig, who produced the 2002 Nicolas Cage film Windtalkers. “If they want to do a movie, I don’t mind talking with them,” Mr Goma, 38, told the Associated Press news agency. .. “He’s a fun, kind of internationally famous person that I think is an interesting source for movie material,” Ms Rosenzweig said. “We’re developing the project, and hopefully we’ll be able to set it up on a major studio.” She added that the amount of money Mr Goma could make would depend on the financing of the project.

Lovely stuff, although I’m not sure the one incident may suffice for a movie. Anyway, he’s big enough to have his own Wikipedia entry, his own web-page, and lots of half-baked news stories that turn out not to be true. No one loves a celeb more than the Brits.
 

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Life In Indonesia

Folk ask why I live in Indonesia. Here’s why.

The Associated Press reported today that villagers in the South Sulawesi town of Watampone were protesting Tuesday outside the local police station demanding action against a local man they accused of practising black magic when it started raining. The police invited the protesters to shelter inside. Waiting for the storm to pass, some of the protesters wandered into the police armoury, which was unlocked, where they started playing with some explosive material. Some of it fell on the floor. The resulting explosion left four villagers injured. Local police chief Lt. Col. Oya Zulfikar was quoted as saying the four would be questioned when they were discharged from hospital.

Electronic Voting And The Criminal Connection

The story of electronic voting machines, and the company that makes many of them, continues to roll along. I wrote in a column a few weeks back (Beware E-Voting, 20 November 2003, Far Eastern Economic Review; subscription required) about Bev Harris, a 52-year old grandmother from near Seattle, who discovered 40,000 computer files at the website of a Diebold Inc subsidiary, Global Elections Systems Inc, beginning a public campaign against a company she believed was responsible for a seriously flawed e-voting system., already in use in several states.

Anyway, now she’s turned up more explosive material, it seems. The Associated Press yesterday quoted her as saying that managers of Global Elections Systems “included a cocaine trafficker, a man who conducted fraudulent stock transactions, and a programmer jailed for falsifying computer records”. The programmer, Jeffrey Dean, AP reports, wrote and maintained proprietary code used to count hundreds of thousands of votes as senior vice president of Global Election Systems Inc. Previously, according to a public court document released before GES hired him, Dean served time in a Washington correctional facility for stealing money and tampering with computer files in a scheme that “involved a high degree of sophistication and planning.”

Needless to say this is all somewhat worrying. When I followed the story I tried to concern myself merely with the technological aspects, which were pretty worrying in themselves; The e-voting system being pushed by Diebold seemed to have too many security flaws to be usable in its present state. But Ms. Harris’ digging seems to reveal a company that is, to put it tactfully, less than thorough in its background checks.

So what’s Diebold’s version? AP quoted a company spokesman as saying that the company performs background checks on all managers and programmers. He also said many GES managers left at the time of the acquisition. “We can’t speak for the hiring process of a company before we acquired it”. Acccording to Ms. Harris’ website, however, that’s misleading. Quoting a memo issued shortly after Diebold bought GES in early 2002, Dean had “elected to maintain his affiliation with the company in a consulting role”. Diebold, the memo says, “greatly values Jeff’s contribution to this business and is looking forward to his continued expertise in this market place”. AP said Dean could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon and I cannot find any subsequent report online.

It’s hard to see how Diebold is going to recover from what has been a series of body blows to its credibility in such a sensitive field as voting. The same day as Ms. Harris revealed her latest bombshell, the company announced “a complete restructuring of the way the company handles qualification and certification processes for its software, hardware and firmware”. Diebold hopes the announcement will “ensure the public’s confidence that all of our hardware, software and firmware products are fully certified and qualified by all of the appropriate federal, state and local authorities prior to use in any election”.

Clearly the whole fracas has done serious damage to public confidence in electronic voting. But it’s important to keep perspective. There’s nothing wrong intrinsically with e-voting — it’s a sensible way to speed up the process, make it easier for citizens and, perhaps, to extend the use of such mechanisms to allow the population to have a greater and more regular say in how their lives are governed. But like every technological innovation, it’s got to be done right, by the right people, with the right checks and balances built in, and it can’t be done quickly and shoddily. Most importantly, it’s got to be done transparently, and those involved in building the machines must never be allowed to conceal their incompetence by preventing others from inspecting their work and assessing its worthiness.

For details of Ms. Harris allegations, check out her website Blackbox Voting. A summary of the press conference is here, as are the supporting documents (both PDF files.)

Update: Worms Still Worming

 Viruses still plague many networks and not everyone is taking it lightly: U.S. colleges are getting tough on students with infected PCs, unplugging them and fining them, Associated Press reports.
 
Back-to-back waves of devastating infections that spread quickly across the Internet during August crippled some college and high school networks just before the start of the fall semester. At the University of North Texas, technicians are removing viruses from roughly 16 computers every 90 minutes — plus assessing a mandatory $30 cleaning fee. Vanderbilt University found infections in computers of roughly one-fourth its returning 5,000 students. Stunned technicians shut off connections to nearly 1,200 computers they determined were infected and gradually restored service over the next several days after ensuring each machine was clean.

News: The RIAA Are After You

If you’re in the U.S., and have ever used Grokster, KaZaa or another file sharing program to download mp3 files, expect a call. The RIAA are out to get you, and they don’t care whether you’re a granny. According to Associated Press, one 50 year-old grandfather in California was shocked to learn this week that the RIAA had subpoenaed his ISP to provide his name and address for downloading songs from the internet. But the man was not the downloader – it was a member of his family.

The RIAA has served subpoenas to Internet service providers, which will ultimately end in lawsuits. TechTV has published a number of the P2P user names filed with the US District Court in Washington, DC, mainly Kazaa users. In the end this list could be massive, raising the possibility of a backlash and a half.

My tupennies’ worth? I think the RIAA should have been more circumspect. My understanding is that the vast majority of mp3 files out there are from a small number of uploaders, and if they can be closed down, the file-sharing world will be less appealing. Get rid of them and you may have little more than an informal ‘tasting net’ where folk can check out music without having to pay for it first (a little like the old cassette days). Or am I being hopelessly romantic?

News: Man Beats Donkey

 From the It Was a Silly Game But I Loved It Too Dept, Associated Press reports that a guy called Steve Wiebe has become the first player to get a million points on Donkey Kong Junior, the sequel to the original game.
 
 
Last week, the 32 year-old broke an 879,200-point record set last year by a New York man, which edged past one set nearly 20 years ago by Billy Mitchell, a Florida man generally consider the Don of the Arcade Game. The record was big enough news to video-game enthusiasts that they crashed the organization’s Web site, said Robert Mruczek, chief referee at Twin Galaxies.
 
And this is what I didn’t know: Donkey Kong means ‘stubborn monkey’ in Japanese according to Nintendo, who make the thing.
 

News: “You Can Do What You Like With Your Ink Cartridge in North Carolina”

 The North Carolina Senate has deliberated and its verdict is clear: You can pretty much do what you like with your Ford, so why not your printer cartridge? The Associated Press reported that the state House agreed Tuesday to Senate changes to a bill that would give printer owners the right to refill any printer ink cartridge, voiding purchase agreements that ban the practice. In effect it means that if you want, you can get your printer cartridge refilled elsewhere — legally.
 
The bill was prompted by a lawsuit filed by printer company Lexmark International against Static Control Components of Sanford, which makes components for the laser printer cartridge industry, AP reports from Raleigh. Static Control makes computer chips that allow less expensive ink cartridges to be adapted to Lexmark printers. After Lexmark sued Static Control to try to stop it from manufacturing the chips, the Sanford company filed its own lawsuit, accusing Lexmark of monopolizing the toner cartridge market and falsely representing their products. The Static Control chips mean consumers don’t have to send their cartridges back to Lexmark for refills. Many Lexmark buyers agree to return the cartridges to Lexmark’s factory in Kentucky in exchange for a rebate. The agreement is found on the box or in paperwork inside.
 
 
(No, that’s not an ink cartridge spill, it’s Static’s logo.)
 
Here’s Static’s view of the battle, along with a picture of the executives looking grim, undergunned, but determined. Here’s Lexmark’s, sadly without any grim-looking execs although they do have a picture, seemingly obligatory these days, of a corporate woman with glasses.