Tag Archives: Online Journalism Review

BT Brings Broadband To ‘Remote’ Milton Keynes

I couldn’t help passing this one on, though I don’t mean to mock either Milton Keynes, a charming artificial town in England, or Online Journalism, a very worthy project of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review.

Online Journalism today picks up a piece from the BBC about how British Telecom is trying to extend broadband connections across the country. (I’ve written about this before after visiting a village in Northamptonshire, which got around the problem of BT’s glacial broadband program by building their own Wifi network.)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the BBC article talked about extending ADSL reach from its present range from a broadband-enabled exchange from 6 km to 10. Testing site: Milton Keynes, a town that could not be more in the middle of England since that was why it was built there a few decades back. It’s a garden city, and its sprawling layout and majestic avenues make it the butt of jokes, and more importantly, broadband a hotbutton issue. not But remote it’s not: An hour from London, an hour from Birmingham, an hour from more or less everywhere.

Unfortunately Online Journalism got the wrong end of the stick and wrote about “Remote towns in U.K. to get broadband service: Soon, remote areas in the U.K. will have broadband Internet access, reports the BBC News. BT, the leading ISP in the U.K., is currently running a test in the remote town of Milton Keynes in hopes of establishing broadband service for the area. The town was chosen because 18% of residents experience great frustration over Internet access, a higher percentage than in most U.K. towns due to the city’s remote location.”

I don’t know whether Milton Keynesians are going to be happy about this. The Shetlands are remote. The Scilly Isles, maybe. Milton Keynes? No.

Can Software End Plagiarism?

With all this gadgetry, you’d think that plagiarism was a thing of the past.

OK, it wasn’t plagiarism, more like fiction, but the point is the same: Watching Shattered Glass, the movie about fabulating New Republic ‘journalist’ Stephen Glass, the other night, I couldn’t help wondering why no one had picked up on his lies earlier. I mean this was 1998, so the Internet existed, search engines existed. (The only solution I could reach was that the people who read The New Republic were not that bright, but that can’t be right, it’s the inflight magazine of Air Force One.)

Anyway, according to Editor & Publisher, the technology exists to check plagiarism quite easily. The problem is that newspapers and other publications don’t want to use it. John Barrie, president of iParadigms LLC, is quoted as saying (via the daily news Weblog of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review) that newspapers generally don’t want to use his online detection program to prevent plagiarism because they don’t want to admit there is a problem, reports Editor & Publisher. The software compares documents with databases containing news sources and encyclopedias.

So far the only journalistic use of Barrie’s software has been in revealing that Central Connecticut State University’s president, Richard Judd, plagiarized from several sources (including The New York Times) for an opinion piece he wrote for The Hartford Courant. Barrie is quoted as saying tha ombudsmen and public editors — a common feature nowadays at U.S. papers — are not enough. “It’s essentially as good as doing nothing,” he said. He believes that just having iThenticate around would deter writers from copying material because they know their work will be vigorously checked. 

The company’s website indicates the work they do is mainly for student essays, where the software is “now deterring plagiarism for nearly 6 million students and educators worldwide”. Editor & Publisher says iParadigms was founded in 1996 as a computer program that UC Berkeley researchers used to inspect undergraduate research papers. Folk wanting to use the software pay a $1,000 licensing fee and $10 per page. They then send the document to iThenticate and receive a report within minutes, detailing what (if anything) has been plagiarized and where it originally came from.

Could Moblogging Replace Photojournalism?

A panel at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas last weekend discussed the future of moblogging — the art of creating online journals composed mostly of photos uploaded in part direct from camera-phones — and, in part, whether such activities may threaten journalism. With so many folk armed with camera phones — and some even knowing how to use them — might they be better placed to record momentous events than journalists and photographers?

Heather Somers, managing editor of the excellent Weblog of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review, reports from the conference that at least one panelist was unconvinced. Molly Steenson, a professor at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy, said journalists should have no fear that they will be replaced by roving digital chroniclers. “They’re not a threat — we shouldn’t even be going there,” Somers quoted her as saying.

I’d agree. A blurry lo-res snap is not the same as a decent photo professionally taken. But camera phones bring to the table two important things: immediacy and ubiquity. If we can get pictures onto the web within seconds of an event occurring, that means that events small and large are likely to be available to a lot of people very quickly (remember that camera phones work both ways: It’s possible to receive photos as well as transmit them.) The ubiquity thing — everyone has them, and everyone is everywhere — also means that few events are likely to be witnessed without someone with access to a cameraphone.

The bottom line: While journalists are used to writing history’s first draft, I think they (we, I guess) need to get used to the idea that there may be an even earlier draft, written by tech-savvy individuals who are on the spot and have the technology to get their version, along with pictures, out to the world more quickly than we can. We need to adjust to that. In fact it’s a great resource: Now we have witnesses who can show what they saw. Would we still be in a state of confusion if moblogging had been available at the time of JFK’s assassination?

Will mobloggers replace photojournalism? No, but I think they will change it.

Counting The Cost Of Online Crime

Phishing is beginning to bite.

British police at a high-tech crime congress (noted by USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review) say that 83% of Britain’s 201 largest companies reported experiencing some form of cybercrime. The damage has cost them more than £195 million ($368 million) from downtime, lost productivity and perceived damage to their brand or stock price.

Much of the damage is being done to financial companies, three of whom lost lost more than £60 million ($130 million). Phishing has hit banks like Barclays, NatWest, Lloyds TSB and 50 other British businesses, Reuters quoted Len Hynds, head of Britain’s National Hi-Tech Crime
Unit (NHTCU) as saying.

Of course, it’s probably much worse than this. Most companies don’t report ‘cyber-crime’ to the police for fear that making the matter public would harm their reputation.  The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) said that of the companies hit by cyber-crime, less than one-quarter reported the matter to police. But that’s better than two years ago, when NO companies were reporting.

Security experts warn that a new wave of cybercrime attacks will be nastier than what companies have already experienced. David Aucsmith, chief technology officer for Microsoft Corporation’s security and business unit predicted criminals would target banking systems, company payroll and business transaction data.

Here are some other interestnig facts from Bernhard Warner’s Reuters report:

  •  Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they were the victim of a virus attack, costing nearly 28 million pounds.
  •  Criminal use of the Internet, primarily by employees, was reported by 17 percent of firms at a cost of 23 million pounds.
  •  More than a quarter of firms surveyed did not undertake regular security audits.

Smelly Emails

From the Really Silly Ideas That May Catch On So I Better Not Be Too Rude About It Dept, here’s word of a device that will deliver you scented emails. Sort of.

The BBC (via the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review) reports that British Internet provider Telewest Broadband is testing an air freshener that is designed to spray the smell linked to a email message. So you plug the “scent dome” (no, really) which will contain 20 basic smells that can combine to give 60 scents (no, really) and hey presto! the email will trigger the odor. 

Chad Raube, director of Internet services at Telewest Broadband, said the obvious, according to the Beeb: “This could bring an extra whiff of realism to the Internet.”

Actually, this is whiff of realism: Telewest reckons the dome will cost around £250 ($474 U.S.) and will only work with a high-speed, broadband connection. 

Daftness aside, this could be a good idea. Wouldn’t it be great to market smells you really miss? Your mom’s baking, new-mown hay, marzipan, your old roommate’s socks? Or to be able to send a smell to your doctor to gauge the gangrenous state of a festering wound without having to arrange a visit to the clinic? Or the bouquet of a wine you’re thinking of ordering over the Internet?

Google and The Future Of Libraries

Will all libraries eventually be digital?

Seems a pretty obvious question (answer: yes) but the process is surprisingly slow. I do research online and use databases like Questia but there’s still a hell of a lot that hasn’t been made available. And a lot of what is scanned has not been scanned well, unless the original material contained a lot of misspelled names.

Anyway, here’s a glimpse of what may be happening soon. From the excellent OnlineJournalism.com Newsletter — the daily news Weblog of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review — is a link to a report from CyberJournalist.net, which in turn “keyed in on an anonymous tip buried deep inside a Sunday New York Times feature” on Google and Microsoft: “Apparently Google plans to digitize every post-1923 [[correction: should be pre-1923; makes more sense. Thanks Jim]] text within the Stanford University Library, creating an enormous copyright-free resource available solely to Google users. The ambitious operation is codenamed Project
Ocean, according to The Times’ unnamed source.”

Wow. That’s about 18 libraries, ranging from the Art and Architecture Library to the Linear Accelerator Center Library (although that link doesn’t work, which doesn’t augur particularly well…)

This on top of Google Print blurb search and Amazon’s Inside the book search (both are shameless links to postings on this very site.)

Updates: RSS And The Dailies

 Interesting to see how many newspapers are now offering RSS newsfeeds. (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and started out as a way for folk to obtain updates from blogs like this one, rather than having to visit the website.) Here’s a roundup from Editor & Publisher Online (via the OnlineJournalism.com Newsletter, the daily news Weblog of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review).

News: Beware Your GSM Phone

 Pointed out by OnlineJournalism.com, the daily news Weblog of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review, there’s a problem with your GSM phone. An Israeli scientist and his team, Reuters reports, have found a way to break into mobile phone calls, enabling them to know the calling party’s identity and even listen to the conversation. The call could be zeroed in on, even at the ringing stage and overheard from that point on.
Yikes. Mind you, I always assumed the spooks were monitoring my phone calls anyway. What a boring life they must lead.

News: Pier to Pier, or WiFi on the Beach

Brighton Beach is the world’s first free WiFi beach, reports The Guardian.

A Web site called Trepia has begun to explore possibilities, and can find out who else is using WiFi in your vicinity, and thus can exchange personal profiles similar to an Internet dating site. Alex Studd, who works for Moving Edge, created Brighton’s “Pier to Pier” network. (Thanks to the OnlineJournalism.com Newsletter, the daily news Weblog of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review for this link)

News: The Law and Blogging Revisited

 Further to my earlier posting about a court ruling last week that Web loggers, website operators and e-mail list editors can’t be held responsible for libel for information they republish, Mark Glaser of the University of Southern California’s Online Journalism Review takes a more nuanced view, saying “What really happened in this ruling is much more complex than that and only protects third-party content that’s being passed along to an e-mail listserv, a forum or perhaps a Weblog’s comments section. When a blogger starts making original commentary, he/she is liable for these comments.”