Tag Archives: Social Issues

Why the Sunday Sun is a No-Brainer

There’s lots of talk now that Murdoch is going to sell up his UK newspapers, all his newspapers, and that he’s not going to launch a Sunday edition of The Sun. They may all be true. But if he did any of those, he’d be throwing money away.

2011 07 Newspapers in UK

Take a look at the readership figures, courtesy of the National Readership Survey – Latest Top line Readership. All the UK newspapers have a Sunday edition, with the exception of the Financial Times. And, with the exception of The Times and the Sunday Times, there’s a close relationship between those who buy the dailies and the Sunday, in terms of numbers, and of their socio-economic group:

To me it’s pretty obvious that the News of the World was, in essence, the Sunday edition of The Sun in all but name. Of course, Murdoch may have bigger fish to fry, but in raw numbers, the way to go is obvious.

Myth 1: ICTs will save the world. « The ICT4D Jester

My bet, though, is that even in 2020, 10 years after this writing, the poor – even the mobile-owning, Internet-surfing, technology-savvy poor – will still be with us. Mobile phone owners won’t be much better off than they were before, and owning a mobile phone, however fancy and Internet-enabled, won’t do squat for helping a person out of poverty, illness, ignorance, or misery. Sure, we’ll hear a heart-warming story of a poor basket weaver climbing out of poverty because of the dial-a-job-mobile-service-for-migrant-laborers, but that will be a handful of cases. Meanwhile, we’ll also see the heart-wrenching story of the parents who forewent food for their children to feed their phones (see Kathleen Diga’s PhD thesis for early evidence in Uganda [x]). Technology will help some and hurt some, and in the end, it’ll all come out a wash.

Powerful stuff. And probably true. My sense, though, is that cellphones tend to defy the notion that technology is impoverishing–poor people going into debt to buy televions, cars, refrigerators and computers–because of what I would call ‘coping technologies’, not least the missed call. Which is a way of transfering the cost to someone else (either the person who has to call back, or, more likely, the operator whose masts the missed calls travels over.

The other thing is that cellphones are getting cheaper, both to buy and use. I wonder whether there’s a point at which it does become, like the telephone before it, a social and economic enabler? Maybe the Jester is only half right?

Citizen Journalists vs Journalists

Citizen journalists are usually passionate about what they cover. That’s the problem. As a journalist you can’t be passionate about it because 

  • you are supposed to be impartial (this doesn’t mean you don’t care; it means you listen with a detached but compassionate ear). And I reject arguments that this is not possible. Of course it’s not always possible, but it’s an aspiration. That’s the key difference 
  • you may have to cover something you don’t care about. A professional journalist would cover a topic whether they cared about it or not; that’s what a professional does. 

I’m not rejecting citizen journalism. I’m arguing that citizen journalism is a deeply flawed model if it’s supposed to supplant traditional journalism, because it’s rooted in a misunderstanding of what the profession actually does. 

Google’s Suicide Watch

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I don’t really know what to make of this, but I occasionally trawl Google Search Trends/Insights to see what people are looking for, and whether they’re changing much over the past few years.

This seems to me to be as good an indicator of things as anything else.

I did it back in 2005 with Web 2.0, the tsunami,the economic crisis and seinfeld and tina fey.

But how about this one: the rise and fall of the search for “commit suicide painlessly”: things had been pretty flat since 2004 and then suddenly, over a period of three or four months from October 2008 to March 2009, the index goes from about 18 to 100:

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It’s not good to read too much into Google Insights for Search, but I reckon there’s some interesting stuff in here. For one thing, the spike is a real one. That’s no blip.

(I should point out that these figures are relative. What Google does is to take the highest point—the largest volume of searches for that term since they started saving data in 2004, and then work out the volume in relation to that.)

Secondly, by mid April things on a global scale return, more or less, to where they had been in August 2008, before the crisis hit:

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But if you look at individual countries, the picture is more complex:

In the U.S., where the search term rose from a relatively low base (actually it shows up as zero, meaning not enough data) it rises to 100, and then falls back by April to around 20. Only in the past few weeks does it seem to have returned to where it was to start with:

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Look at the UK, by comparison, and we’re not there yet: From zero it rose—a week or so earlier, apparently to 100 by January, and then dropped, but only to around 40. It’s now around 35:

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In other words, if one could take this data literally, the British are still very depressed and are still likely to be exploring ways of committing suicide. That’s pretty scary.

By the way, if you take these figures and compare them with the official UK statistics [PDF], they don’t tell you a lot. Brits have been killing themselves less since the late 1990s (though without figures from 2008 until now):

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This pretty much dovetails with the Google results, 2004-9

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PS I should point out that I used the term above because, having searched for “how to commit suicide” on the Google Trends page, I noticed that “commit suicide painlessly” was a popular search, rising 190%. Confusingly, “how to commit suicide” has, as a search been trending downward since 2004:

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PPS Google’s nonprofit arm does use its data for this kind of thing, at least in the area of flu. It now carries data on Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the U.S.:

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“Tiny, Feisty Women”, Internet Costs (And a Survey)

 I love an AP story in a recent IHT about Le Hien Duc, a gray-haired 75-year-old grandmother who has become the scourge of corrupt officials in Vietnam. But it was one sentence towards the end of the piece that caught my eye:

Duc runs her crusade from her narrow, three-story home in Hanoi, where her desk is covered with stacks of mail from people seeking help from all corners of Vietnam. She spends about two-thirds of her US$80 monthly pension on the Internet, phone calls, photocopying and motorbike taxis.

I’ve been researching a piece about the digital divide in this part of the world and that kind of figure reminds me how much people still have to pay. So I thought I’d do another one of my surveys, this time on connectivity costs. Please drop by and fill it in it the mood takes you.

LinkedIn to Attention Streams

TechCrunch spots a new feature on LinkedIn, the business network service, that allows people to see who has been looking at their profile. Commenters liken it to MyBlogLog and call it a social networking feature, which is true, but only part of the story. I’d say it is also an example of an early foray into the world of attention data. From the point of the person doing the viewing, who they view and what they click on would be the kind of information that would feed into an attention stream (i.e. outgoing data) and go to tailoring the content of that person’s data feed (i.e. the incoming information):

clipped from www.techcrunch.com

Users choose what information they’d like to disclose when viewing a profile (name and headline, anonymous profile characteristiscs, or don’t show any info). The default choice is the anonymous profile information.

The Next Web 2.0 Frontier?

If you use software and want to share what you know, and find out what others know, then your prayers are answered. Below is my ten minute review of “software gone social”. Not for everyone, but worth a look. 
clipped from tenminut.es

Wakoopa-logoWhat is it: Wakoopa is “software gone social” — a sort of software equivalent of Last.fm. Share with the world what software you’re using and see what other people are using too. Official version here.

Information I’d Prefer Not To Get Via SMS

Some thing you don’t want to hear via SMS. Students in India can receive their exam results by text message (along with a free bottle of beer or something): not sure I want the most important news in my young life to pop up on my cellphone when I’m dancing the night away. And now the UK is planing to inform immigrants their visas have expired via SMS: “Hey Johnny Foreigner. Your time’s up. Get out” type thing, presumably:

Mr Reid said the plans for a text messaging pilot scheme to remind immigrants about their visas were a “tiny” part of a new enforcement strategy designed to “block the benefits” of Britain to those in the country illegally.