Transparency is No Substitute for Integrity

Summary: Disclosure of conflicts of interest isn’t enough, in fact in may make matter worse. But conflicts of interest may also be inevitable. Integrity is what matters, but that’s hard to measure.

Disclosure: I work for SiliconAngle, a TechCrunch competitor.

I love transparency. I think it’s an important for governments, and institutions like the press, to be as transparent as reasonably possible. I also agree with Jay Rosen that if the “view from nowhere” – the faux-objectivity of the mainstream press – were replaced by “this is where I’m coming from” we’d all be better off. Everyone has biases, and it’s better to get those out of the way than to pretend they don’t exist.

But transparency isn’t a cure-all.

In the debate over Michael Arrington’s “Crunch” branded venture capital fund, many suggest that Arrington if discloses to his potential conflicts of interest, and therefore his biases, that will be good enough. In fact, that might be better than pretending to be objective. But is this the case?

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DARPA Looks to “Counteract” Propaganda in Social Networks

Egyptian bloggers

The Pentagon is asking scientists to figure out how to detect and counter propaganda on social media networks in the aftermath of Arab uprisings driven by Twitter and Facebook.

The US military’s high-tech research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has put out a request for experts to look at “a new science of social networks” that would attempt to get ahead of the curve of events unfolding on new media.

The program’s goal was to track “purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation” in social networks and to pursue “counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations,” according to DARPA’s request for proposals issued on July 14.

Physorg: Pentagon looks to social media as new battlefield

See also:

The Air Force’s “persona management” project and its blog comment propaganda project.

Cass Sunstein’s “cognitive infiltration” proposal.

Fox News Trying to Confuse Viewers Into Thinking News of the World Was the Victim of Hacking

I haven’t had much to say about the News International hacking scandal. But I’m really interested in how other News Corp owned media are covering it. The Wall Street Journal is burying it, for example.

But Fox News is taking a more aggressive approach. Boing Boing’s Rob Beschizza points out a Fox and Friends appearance by PR rep (though as far as I can tell, not a PR rep for News Corp?) Bob Dilenschneider. Dilenschneider’s spin is unbelievable (emphasis mine):

Bob: The NOTW is a hacking scandal, it can’t be denied. But the real issue is, why are so many people piling on at this point? We know it’s a hacking scandal, shouldn’t we get beyond it and deal with the issue of hacking? Citicorp has been hacked into, Bank of America has been hacked into, American Express has been hacked into, insurance companies have been hacked into, we’ve got a serious hacking problem in this country, and the government’s obviously been hacked into, 24,000 files. So we’ve got to figure out a way to deal with this hacking problem.
Host: The company has come forward to say that it happened a long time ago, at a tabloid, in London, someone did something really bad and the company reacted. They closed the newspaper, all those people got fired, even though 99 percent of them didn’t do anything.

Bob: And if I’m not mistaken. Murdoch, who owns it, has apologized, but for some reason, the public and the media going over this, again and again.

Host: The piling on!

Bob: It’s a little bit too much. The bigger issue is really hacking and how we as the public going to protect our privacy and deal with it. I would also say, by the way, Citigroup, great bank. Bank of America, great bank. Are they getting the same attention for hacking that took place less than a year ago, that News Corp is getting today.

[They recap other news; China, martians, debt default, etc.]

Host: … We’re teetering on default, and what to they do? They’re talking about this.

Bob: … and we’re dealing with something that happened in London over a decade ago. I don’t quite understand it.

What Dilenschneider seems to be doing is trying to confuse the issue in the minds of Fox’s viewership, many of whom may not be familiar with what the scandal actually entails. Dilenschneider seems to be trying to trick the viewers into thinking that News of the World was the victim of hacking instead of the perpetrator.

The Future of Journalism Is … Comics?

Here’s a panel on comics as journalism with Sarah Jaffee of Grit TV, Erin Polgreen of Media Consortium and Graphic Ladies, Matt Bors of, nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist Susie Cagle, and comic-book graphic-mixologist Ronald Wimberly.

(Thanks Ian)

When Pamela Anderson Read Neuromancer (But Not Really)


The Guardian on a documentary about Tom Kummer:

He discovered hidden depths in Bruce Willis, who revealed a particularly bleak philosophy when he said: “I understood pretty early on that we do not advance through morality, but immorality, vices, cynicism.”

In one of Kummer’s early hits, Pamela Anderson shared her thoughts on William Gibson’s Neuromancer, a radical and difficult work which has become the set text of the cyberpunk sci-fi genre.

There was only one problem with Kummer’s exclusives. He had made them all up.

The Guardian: Journalist who faked celebrity scoops stars in film about his life and lies

(via William Gibson, from whom I swiped the headline)

Will Flipboard, RSS, etc. Kill Online Advertising?

Frédéric Filloux writes at Monday Note:

The social web’s economics are paradoxical: The more it blossoms, the more it destroys value. In recent months, we’ve seen a flurry of innovative tools for reading and sharing contents. Or, even better, for basing one’s readings on other people’s shared contents. In Web 2.5 parlance, this is called Social Reading. For this, the obvious vector of choice is the iPad: it possesses a (so far) unparalleled ability to transform online reading into a cozy lean-back experience.

Filloux goes on to talk about applications ranging from Flipboard to Instapaper that provide users with ad-free, highly curated experiences. (For the fellow non-iPad crowd, I recommend TweetedTimes with Read It Later.)

In other words, between RSS feeds aggregated by mobile apps, “Read Later” features, and ad-free web curators, you can enjoy the web without bumping into ads. Great for users, not-so-great for the publishing business.

This ad-free threat explains the bold move a few publishers just made. If readers (humans) loathe advertising and favor bare-bones reading interfaces, let’s see if we can make them pay for such. That was the idea behind Ongo. This official paid-for aggregator, backed by several news organizations, hasn’t shown a great deal of progress since I reviewed it in a previous Monday Note (see Ongo…Where?). Its nice look aside, it persists in putting on the same page a story on US troops withdrawing from Iraq next to an article featuring a murderer identified thanks to its tattoos. Some editing is badly needed here…

Monday Note: Read, Share and Destroy

At the moment, three things still hold true:

1) Very few readers use browser plugins that block ads.
2) The number of readers using apps like Flipboard and Instapaper is relatively small
3) Far from leaching traffic, social media like Facebook and Twitter (and not-so-social sites like Google News and The Huffington Post) still drive a lot of traffic to sites.

But this could change, especially as tablets become more common. I’m not yet sure what that’s going to mean for publishers. Filloux worries about reduced ad revenue, which is very possible. I think blogs and other online publications have overdone it with ads and sidebars in recent years, leading to cluttered distracted messes (I’m in the process of slowly redesigning my own sites to be less cluttered). But new devices and social sharing are important driving forces for change in how we consume digital media s well.

Some things I suspect we’ll see:

1) More ads embedded into the text of articles so that they’re harder to excise (In my interview with him, Richard Metzger also suggested we’ll see more online video that makes it harder to remove ads as well)
2) More ways of tracking reader behavior off-site to feed the data hoarders
3) More attempts at pay walls

Update: In an interesting twist of events, Flipboard competitor Zite (which received cease and desist orders from publishers) says it will stop stripping ads from content and work with publishers on monetization.

Interview with Klint on Media, Technology, PR and More

Matt Nagel from the PR firm Shift Communications did an interview with me for the firm’s blog Slice. Here’s me talking about technology and media trends:

In technology, I’ve been covering the consumerization of IT. But I’m also interested in the enterprization of personal life. It’s interesting to see families and groups of friends using “groupware” such as calendar sharing, wikis and Google Docs – or even something like Facebook Events – to coordinate. RIM is offering enterprise security tools to consumer BlackBerry users now. And this new crop of mobile messaging services is inspired by BlackBerry Messenger.

How might consumers take advantage of predictive analytics, mashups, data mining or real-time intelligence? We’re already seeing some of this happening with the “quantified self” movement – stuff like, Rescue Time and RunKeeper. Stuff that gives people what they call in business “actionable insights.”

Last year Google released App Inventor, enabling people without programming experience to build Android applications. Adam Greenfield wrote a post about it, and I followed that up with some of my own thoughts about how consumers could start using the same sorts of visual programming and data mashup tools that BPM and business intelligence professionals are using.

In media, I think we’re going to see more evolution and refinement of how we present news and information online. List posts and infographics are often associated with fluff right now, but there’s no reason that serious journalism couldn’t be presented in an easier-to-digest format. If the Watergate scandal were to happen today, perhaps it could be presented as “5 Ways the Nixon Administration Broke the Law” or whatever. You could still tell the story and present all the information without dumbing it down. That said, there still needs to be a way of funding this sort of investigative journalism, as it will still be time-consuming to research and craft important stories. I’m a little cynical about funding models for journalism, but as the cliché goes, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Pressing the Press: Meet Klint Finley

i09 Interviews the Editors of Coilhouse

Coilhouse editors

Your magazine feels deeply science-fictional to me, though it doesn’t exactly define itself that way, because it showcases real people who are working on the sorts of art and inventions that seem to belong within the realm of fantasy and SF. We tend to think of such creations as imaginary or futuristic, but they’re actually happening all around the planet. You even dig up the oddest artifacts from the distant past! How do you find all these artists, musicians, mad scientists, writers, and fringe people making fantastical things? What do you look for? What pulls them all together as belonging under the Coilhouse masthead?

NL: All sci-fi worlds are really alternative cultures to our own. Sci-fi was always the first place where progressive ideas got tested. It was a “safe” way to introduce such ideas to a larger mainstream audience, and our culture’s slowly but surely catching up. Good sci-fi still exists to question the taboos, inequalities and problems of our culture. Genderbending, magic, atheism, polyamory, alternative family structures – everything that the religious right fears the most also happens to be the stuff of great science fiction. The people who enjoy science fiction and say “this is the world I want to live in” – that’s us, that’s the majority of our readers. That’s why it was important for us to kick off Issue 01 with a piece by Samuel Delany, an excerpt from an upcoming novel about a utopian community for gay black men, and why we continually interview science fiction creators and come back to science fictional themes in the art and fashion we cover. It’s no coincidence that so much of “weird/alternative fashion” is very futuristic, very much inspired by costume design from films like Dune and Blade Runner (which, in turn, were inspired by underground/punk fashion of the time). It’s just another way for all of us to signal to one another: “Let’s see how far we can take our existence here, to remake the world in our image.”

Crime, Cryptohistory, Cthulhu, Culture, & Cyberpunk: Inside Coilhouse Magazine

Coilhouse is offering some free PDF samples from the magazine, as well as selling downloadable PDFs of sold-out back issues.

How to Deal with Information Overload: Just Relax and Don’t Worry About Missing Stuff

Cory Doctorow writes about how to deal with information overload for the Guardian.

I’m not sure how well this applies to me, since I have to monitor information sources for work. Getting a story early is important. But I have generally found this to be true:

There is a world of difference between reading every word uttered in a community and reading just a few choice ones. But soon the anxiety gave way to contentment and even delight: it turned out that “overload” has a wonderful corollary: redundancy.

Anything really worth seeing wouldn’t just appear once and vanish. The really interesting stuff would find its way into other discussions, and early conferencing systems made it easy enough to back my way through the forums I was ignoring or skimming to find the important thing I’d missed. […]

Again and again, this pattern re-emerges: once I could read all the tweets emitted by everyone I followed on Twitter; now I just skim the last 20 or 30 a few times a day and rely on retweets to bubble the good stuff to the top (I do my bit by retweeting things when I think they deserve it).

Once I could read every item in my list of RSS feeds; now I periodically mark them all as read without looking at any of them, just to clear the decks: if there’s something good in the missed material, someone will repost it and I’ll see it then.

Cory Doctorow: Information overload? Time to relax then

It’s sound advice. Heck, even in professional blogging an old story can still get good page views – because there are going to be people who missed it the first time around.

NY Times Considering Building Its Own Wikileaks-esque Leaking System, Al Jazeera Alerady Has One

This is slightly old news, especially considering the launch of Local Leaks, but I wanted to make note of it here anyway:

The New York Times is considering options to create an in-house submission system that could make it easier for would-be leakers to provide large files to the paper.

Executive editor Bill Keller told The Cutline that he couldn’t go into details, “especially since nothing is nailed down.” But when asked if he could envision a system like Al Jazeera’s  Transparency Unit, Keller said the paper has been “looking at something along those lines.”

Yahoo News: NY Times considers creating an ‘EZ Pass lane for leakers

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