Tag Archives: the Far Eastern Economic Review

Beat The Cellphone Blues II

In this week’s column I wrote about how to counter cellphone rudeness. For the full text I’m afraid you’ll have to subscribe to the publications I work for (here’s the Far Eastern Economic Review version; the WSJ version will appear later today), but here’s some idea of what seems to get people going:

While it’s pretty obvious that people talking loudly in a restaurant, movie, concert or funeral are going to upset those around them, both alive and deceased, who would have thought that what drives some folk berserk is people who carry more than one cellphone around? Or the vibrating noise a cellphone makes? Or people who hide their number, so the recipient of the call can’t tell who is calling? Or those horrible men who hang their phones on their belts? Or people who don’t turn their cellphones off on aircraft until they’re told to, and then turn them on the instant the flight lands, as if they’re the most important people in the world? Or couples in public places interacting more with their phones than with each other? Or the sounds that a cellphone’s keypad makes when folk are tapping in a number or a text message?

Sadly, there just wasn’t enough space to include all of the gripes I found in my very scientific survey, so here are one or two more findings:

  • The attitude that ‘because it’s a cellphone you must answer it all the time’. Example from UN friend: “A guy at the UN was chairing a meeting and answered his cellphone. He then proceeded to berate the person for calling him and then hung up. “My rule of thumb,” (my friend goes on): “Unless your wife is expecting in hospital why bother answering? What kind of message can’t wait for an hour after the meeting?”
  • This tends to fly in the face of some other pet peeves, such as from a friend I shall call ‘Burt’ (not his real name, really), who complains about ‘people’ (i.e. me) screening calls. So should you answer the phone if it rings? I don’t think so. If you’re in the middle of a conversation, a meeting, a meal, a bath or a sleep, I think those activities take precedence. Likewise, if you call someone’s cellphone, you should assume they might not be in a position to answer it.
  • Ring tones are rarely beautiful: Please choose a simple melody or sound for your cellphone, and always answer it on the first ring. Don’t gawp at the display while wondering who is calling, or whether to answer it. You’ll drive everyone mad. Nowadays phones allow you to stop the ringing without actually answering it (a great way to screen calls without people knowing you’re doing so, of course, but don’t tell ‘Burt’.)
  • Bad cellphone manners bug men more than they do women. Out of my thoroughly representative sample, only 10% of those who had responded to my text message request for input 15 minutes before deadline were women. (OK, there’s a slim chance this may also indicate men just don’t have anything better to do than frame long SMS messages at 9 o’clock in the morning, or, equally likely, that I don’t know many women.)
  • Sending text messages in the middle of the night: Some people have to leave their phones on for the office, so don’t send messages unless it’s urgent after hours.
  • The intentional “Missed Call”, so that you have to call back. Usually done by skint teenagers and parsimonious adults.
  • Cellphones ringing during Friday prayers (a submission from a Muslim friend): Phone starts ringing in the mosque; The cellphone owner does not act immediately to turn off the phone, reasoning that once we are all in praying mode we should ignore as much as possible everything around us.
  • Expensive text messages: Sending short text messages overseas — OK being a favourite — ends up almost as expensive as a phone call, letter for letter.
  • Cellphone spam.

More peeves as they come in. Please do send more. Especially solutions.

This week’s column – Visualizing Tools

This week’s Loose Wire column takes a look at programs that visualize your hard disk.

ONE OF THE CRAZY THINGS about computers is that the more we use them, the more of a mystery they become. Think of all the things you’ve done with your computer: reading and writing e-mail, browsing Web sites, downloading (and making) music, editing and watching video, storing photos. All these things take up valuable space, but are impossible to find without a team of forensic experts to help. In short, finding what’s valuable and what’s not is easier in your loft, basement, garage or den than on your own hard disk.

That’s the problem. Here’s the solution: Software that allows you to view your hard disk as if you were X-raying it. These programs take a close look at your hard drive–or whatever disk you want it to, from a USB drive to a CD-ROM–and present it as a graphic, broken down into little coloured blocks that represent the files and folders that make up your data. The size of the blocks depends on the size of the files and folders they represent, and their colour depends on whether they are photos, music files, documents or whatever. Your hard drive will look like mosaic, with the various files and folders all separately adding little rectangular bits to make up the whole picture. Such programs, for want of a better term, are called disk-visualization tools

Full text at the Far Eastern Economic Review (subscription required, trial available) or at WSJ.com  (subscription required). Old columns at feer.com here.

This week’s column – What Price Privacy?

This week’s Loose Wire column is about Gmail, Plaxo and privacy:

PRIVACY IS ONE OF those things you either obsess over, or don’t see what all the fuss is about. You’re either someone who gets indignant when a shop assistant asks you for your home address at the checkout, or you’re not. You either hate the idea that your credit card is a mine of information about your shopping habits, or you couldn’t care less.

This debate is timeless, but the Internet and in particular two recent new phenomena have brought it into focus. The first is a crop of on-line networking services that range from automatically updating your contacts’ details, such as Plaxo Inc.’s address-book software to networking Web sites like Friendster and LinkedIn, which allow you to hook up with other users with similar tastes or business interests on-line. The other phenomenon is something called Gmail, the soon-to-be-launched e-mail service from the soon-to-be-listed search-engine company Google.

Full text at the Far Eastern Economic Review (subscription required, trial available) or at WSJ.com (subscription required). Old columns at feer.com here.

This week’s column – Mailbag

This week’s Loose Wire column answers readers’ questions on Bluesnarfing, the unpleasant term for the unpleasant process of remotely stealing the data from a Bluetooth-equipped cellphones, the wonders of PowerDesk and ExplorerPlus, and browser wars.

Full text at the Far Eastern Economic Review (subscription required, trial available) or at WSJ.com (subscription required). Old columns at feer.com here.

This week’s column – Snarf

This week’s Loose Wire column is about Bluetooth security:

 Next time you’re carrying your whiz-bang Bluetooth phone watch out: Serious flaws mean your contact numbers and other info stored in the phone could be stolen without you even knowing it. This latest threat is called Bluesnarfing.  

Full text at the Far Eastern Economic Review (subscription required, trial available) or at WSJ.com (subscription required). Old columns at feer.com here.

For readers looking for more resources on snarfing, check out the snarf page on Loose Wire Cache.

This week’s column – TheBrain

This week’s Loose Wire column is about TheBrain organizing and brainstorming software:

Expand Your Mind: There’s software to help you do it. TheBrain not only aids in organizing your thoughts but could also stimulate new ideas and connections

When you chat with someone who says, “My brain right this minute is 105 megabytes and there are 52,365 thoughts in there,” you can (a) run a mile, or (b) figure you’re talking to someone who might have something useful to say and stick around. Luckily I chose the latter.

Full text at the Far Eastern Economic Review (subscription required, trial available) or at WSJ.com (subscription required). Old columns at feer.com here.

For readers looking for more resources on TheBrain, check out the Brain page on Loose Wire Cache and some readers’ accounts of how the use the software.

This Week’s Column – Squarespace

This week’s Loose Wire column is about Squarespace:

WHY, AFTER ALL THIS TIME, is it still so hard for us ordinary Joes to publish something on the Internet without having a doctorate in HTML, or having to settle for a Web site that looks like the home page of a four-year-old with a Hello Kitty obsession?

This was the question–or something like it, minus the Hello Kitty bit–of a 21-year-old student called Anthony Casalena. Which is why he came up with Squarespace.

Full text at the Far Eastern Economic Review (subscription required, trial available) or at WSJ.com (subscription required). Old columns at feer.com here.

My new Squarespace site, Loose Wire Cache, is here.

The Digital Fallout Of Journalistic Plagiarism and Fakery

How do you correct the Internet?

All these reports of plagiarism and fakery in U.S. journalism — at least 10, according to the New York Times — raise a question I haven’t seen addressed elsewhere. What should newspapers and other publications which have carried the reports do about setting the record straight?

A USA Today report says of disgraced reporter Jack Kelley that it has “found strong evidence that Kelley fabricated substantial portions of at least eight major stories, lifted nearly two dozen quotes or other material from competing publications, lied in speeches he gave for the newspaper and conspired to mislead those investigating his work.”

Here’s a taster: ”An extensive examination of about 100 of the 720 stories uncovered evidence that found Kelley’s journalistic sins were sweeping and substantial. The evidence strongly contradicted Kelley’s published accounts that he spent a night with Egyptian terrorists in 1997; met a vigilante Jewish settler named Avi Shapiro in 2001; watched a Pakistani student unfold a picture of the Sears Tower and say, “This one is mine,” in 2001; visited a suspected terrorist crossing point on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2002; interviewed the daughter of an Iraqi general in 2003; or went on a high-speed hunt for Osama bin Laden in 2003.”

That’s quite a lot of correcting to do. USA Today says it will withdraw all prize entries it made on Kelley’s behalf (including five Pulitzer nominations) and “will flag stories of concern in its online archive”.

But is that enough? Correcting the “online archive” would have to include all secondary databases such as Factiva (part-owned by Dow Jones, publisher of the Far Eastern Economic Review, The Wall Street Journal, and my employer; There are 1,495 USA Today stories with Jack Kelley’s name either on them or in them prior to this year). Strictly speaking, it should also include all Internet copies of those stories on the Internet (a Google search of [“Jack Kelly” and “USA Today”] threw up 3,470 matches; while many of those are accounts of the plagiarism charge, many precede that). And what about blog references to Kelley’s stories?

I’ll take an example. In 2001 Jack Kelley wrote about a vigilante Jewish settler named Avi Shapiro in 2001. According to USA Today, this was one of the stories where “the evidence strongly contradicted Kelley’s published accounts”. That story has been posted on dozens of websites (I counted 60). Who’s going to correct, or raise flags on all those?

Then there’s the doubt. With Kelley claiming, according to the USA Today report, that he was “being set up”, there’s no way that even a serious investigation by the paper (which included a eight-person team, a 20-hour interview with Kelly by three veteran journalists from outside the company and extensive use of plagiarism-detection software) is going to confirm with any sense of certainty what was faked or plagiarised. So what, exactly, do you correct? Do you delete his whole oeuvre?

It’s a tough one, and perhaps a sober reminder for journalists (and bloggers) using the Internet as a source that it’s not just emails that appear to come from our bank that we need to double check. Is there a technological solution to this? A digital watermark or trace that can allow someone to instantly correct a story, or at least notify those hosting the material that there’s a problem?