I Fear Change - Appease Me!

02.48.46 - Mark

Earlier this week Flickr added the ability to post short (90 seconds or less) videos to the site for it's pro users (people that fork over $25 a year for the service) and now a while bunch of people are up in arms saying that by adding video the site is going to turn into youtube, which is complete crock, and are boycotting groups that allow video, block people that post video, and some claim they'll be defecting from the site or otherwise demanding the new feature be taken offline and thrown into a deep dark dungeon and never be allowed to see the light of day again.

They may as well be chanting "I fear change - appease me!", which would be preferable since it would 1) do just as much for their "cause" 2) would tell you more about how far along they are in terms of mental and emotional development and 3) would simply be more entertaining.

For one thing Flickr is a business. Sure it's a business that makes you feel like it's all warm and soft and friendly and that it's totally hip to it's friends customers interests, and to be fair it does to a lot to be customer friendly (it is a community site after all) but it's still a business, and this is a business move.

Videos uploads are only open to those with pro accounts, so to upload video you have to pay. New pro membership benefit == more members == more money. Then there's the fact that yahoo (which owns flickr) doesn't exactly have a strong video presence, and flickr is a closer fit than a lot of things it could have tried.

Second, comparing Flickr to YouTube is pretty silly when you look at it. YouTube is free to all, and after a few family friendly parental type controls the site is pretty much a free for all. YouTube also isn't exactly interested in quality. Flickr seems to be sort of the opposite. The video clip I uploaded to flickr looks almost as good there as it does when I play it locally, and the player interface isn't bloated or bland. So you don't have the total dreck we've all come to expect from youtube clips.

The third thing is since you have to pay to use the service, you're setting a good barrier to entry. Everyone has seen a myspace page that made you want to suck your own eyes out with a drinking straw, and look at all the number of craptacular free blogs and websites out there. Now how many sites have you seen with a registered domain name (and I'm not talking a .tk or some other free domain) and real paid hosting? Nowhere near as many. Pay walls keep a certain level of junk out, so again, none of the youtube free for all.

Should flickr added a "Don't show me video" option? Probably, and it would surprise me if they don't (or if someone fails to come up with a no video hack) but I'm finding it a useful feature. I've got a bunch of short clips that are neat, and worth sharing, but nothing I really care to piece together into a video. So while things like youtube and blip (another video service) fail, flickr video works, and gives me more of a reason to keep up my pro account.

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Aborted Discussions

22.14.58 - Mark

The abortion issue is an ugly one for a lot of reasons, the obvious one is because the core issue is talking about ending the life of a something* that has a potential to be a living, breathing, contributing member of the human race. The topic only gets uglier there when you start looking at the physically disturbing subtopics like how a something* is aborted, the final minutes of a something*'s "life", the psychological trauma of those directly involved, the political maneuvering around the issues, the ethical questions that always get phrased with a steep bias then left unanswered, the history of violence around the subject, and the blatant (often intentional) ignorance of people who talk about this issue.

This last point isn't helped by the fact that both sides use language so carefully selected it puts most marketing departments and spin doctors to shame, which combined with a lack of clear cut definitions of the unloaded language makes it extremely hard to find unbiased information. Add in a heaping pile of religious extremists and you have such an ugly mess that most people won't look at the topic, let alone touch it with a 30 foot pole.

Those who try are usually blasted from the other side, and moderates tend to get yelled at from everyone. This is an old issue (abortion was mentioned in the original Hippocratic oath) but it's become so politically and morally charged the level of discourse has plummeted. Even smart people who love talking about politics and policy want to avoid the topic. It's infuriating before you even attempt to drag politics into the matter.

Just like in "civil" conversation, the abortion issue is a topic politicians don't want to spend time with. Unlike in civil conversation however they have a harder time ignoring it. So rather than holding intelligent debates on the subject they craft utterly useless legislation designed to appease the anti-abortionists (I voted for XYZ bill) without creating a law that dose anything new and only vaguely reinforces things already on the books so they don't piss off the other side. Or, if they're feeling confident (or don't mind being self-serving assholes), craft the language of the bill in a way that everyone who reads the thing knows that it will fail at some other level of government.

There are a lot of people who claim that if we "respect life" the problems of our world will go away. Aside from that fact that this is code for "believe in my god and you'll be saved" many of these people are the same ones who almost instantly called for this country to go to war after 9/11/01, and who don't see a little racism or homophobia as wrong - even when it means some unlucky people get beaten to death by hicks. We don't need to "respect life", we need to be more open minded, push for better communication, less radically religious opinions, and most of all more accepting of others and the decisions they make. Until we all agree to stop using loaded language and stop attempts at legislating according to some moral guidelines written over 2000 years ago, we're not going to find an acceptable solution to a topic that is in despite need of a fair, unbiased position.

* About the "something*": fetus, embryo, baby, and infant are all too often interchangeable terms in the abortion issue, and none of them seem to really do a good job of accurately describing a potential life. I'm tired of the loaded language used by both sides of the argument and in this post I tried to avoid using politically charged terms

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Morbid Facinations

12.22.53 - Mark

If you've been under a rock for the last 24 hours, you might not know about the Virginia Tech Shootings. I didn't pay any attention to it yesterday, aside from opening up a CNN article or two, but this morning I was watching some of the various news channel coverage for a couple hours, and I really should have pried myself away from the coverage sooner than I did. The act of watching rampant speculation from a slew of talking heads - qualified or otherwise - and seeing the networks scramble for the next inconsequential piece of information like hyperactive 10 year olds looking for easter eggs was an eerie reminder of 9/11 for me.

I'm not disputing that the VT shootings is an important news story, but the morbid fascination that the news networks and by extension the American people have with it, and any number of other disasters, is frankly disturbing. They present continuous coverage of these drive by disasters, with limited commercial interruption, but what point is there to watching 24/7 coverage when most of it is speculation and none of it helps resolve the situation?

It almost feels like a form of manipulation. We all know that yesterday's events is going to be dredging up a handful of hot button issues, from gun control and security to immigration policy. Is the media just preparing us for the debates that will occur over the coming weeks and months?

I'm ready for the real stories to come out from this. From the uses of social networking and the technology gaps between organizations and individuals, the use of camera phones and 1st person accounts online to get the story, to how security theater failed and situational awareness succeeded. I've just had enough with the speculation, repetition, shallow political condolences, and false empathy. Let's move on. There are much better uses for our time.

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Stupid Schemes

00.26.42 - Mark

You should give blood. Specifically you own blood, and preferably for free. That's the gist of every post I make after attempting to give the American Red Cross some of my own blood. I usually either compliment them for making it a more or less pleasant experience or thrash them for making it damned near impossible to contribute to the betterment of society (with the kinder posts coming after they leach off a pint or two)

Regardless of how messed up the donation process can be, you can't deny that they have good intentions. However, they've got the most ass backwards methods of getting people to take action. I've probably received 3 or 4 different donor cards (so far) and it seems like every month I get the same tacky form letter (the lead in is "S me things are just n t the same with ut it." - Guess what blood type I am) not to mention the plethora of postcards and phone calls I get letting me know of nearly every blood drive within 50 miles the moment they think I can drop another unit. It's pretty insane, especially when you consider that they have some excessively stringent donor requirements.

So when you see chapters of the American Red Cross turning to fear mongering to cajole citizens into action, it's a bit twisted. Fear Mongering Billboard

To be fair, the Red Cross does a lot more than run blood banks. The campaign itself is focusing on disaster preparedness (planning and training) rather than blood donation, but really, how effective is fear mongering? It's barely worked for the Bush administration, and it clearly doesn't work for very long. If anything, I think the Red Cross would be better off appealing directly to people's self-preservation instincts. Something like "Millions of people are affected by disasters every year. They thought they were ready. Are you? (catchy domain name here)"

In the end however, I think the Red Cross and its various chapters would be much better off if they better allocated their resources. When they have my email address, do they really need to send me a small pile of snail mail every year? Is it better to design silly ad campaigns or get volunteers out into schools and churches? Obviously the Red Cross has a ton of resources at its disposal, and it does do a whole lot of good, but I really wish they would find a better way of spreading their messages.

Terrorizing Billboard story via BoingBoing

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Do not iron.

13.46.31 - Mark

In a way you have to admire the lawsuit culture that has developed in America. Without it we wouldn't have hilarious warning labels like "ďDonít try to dry your phone in a microwave oven." We also wouldn't have contests dedicated to finding the most bizarre and inane warnings.

I might have to look for the book they just released next time I'm in a book store, but until then I can laugh over some of the past winners

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They're Everywhere

23.42.43 - Mark

I managed to get past easter without making radical statements against organized religion, but these maps of the United States colored by religion is pretty neat. If I wasn't so tired/lazy at the moment I might even mess around with them in GIMP or Photoshop to see what sort of Master map could be drawn. Just glancing over them I could see patterns in some areas.

I tend to not want to really bury myself in it however. Segmenting the population by religion is pretty pointless, bordering on dangerous. In the end, we are all citizens of one (no matter how fucked up) nation.

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10.47.12 - Mark

The whole controversy over the .xxx top level domain is a silly example of clueless people trying to impliment technical changes that will never stick. Porn sites are not going to magically shift from .com addresses to .xxx become some silly little organization wants them to. You're going to need legal and/or financial incentives The first is near impossible to get international support for and the latter will never have enough finacial value to get porn sites sequester themselves in the .xxx domains and only the .xxx domains.

Despite that plain and simple (and overlooked) fact, I'm kind of sad to see that the plans for .xxx domains have been shelved. I'm crazy enough to buy a .xxx domain just to have it on an email address.

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Good Night, and Good Luck.

19.04.12 - Mark

I just got back from seeing Good Night, and Good Luck. and I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

It is unquestionably well written and edited, and it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between the archival footage and the freshly filmed material, and it flows wonderfully. Its not a typical story archetype, with introduction, conflict, more conflict, climax and resolution, it felt more like a debate in a way, point after point with slight transistions between them and a slow fading of the characters.

That might be a problem from some people, and I'm not quite sure why Clooney insists on staring in everything he works on. Its not that his performance was bad per say, but he's developing a case of Tom Cruise Syndrome (the apperaing in every film whether he needs to or not variety, not the jumping on the couch ranting lunitic variety)

I'm fairly confident I liked it, but I'm not sure what's hooked me more about the film, the ideas Murrow had about Journalism and Television as a medium, or the politicians he challeneged while on the air. In both cases its as relevent now as it was then, if not more. All of us seem to have a tendency towards treating televisions and computers as entertainment, and not to their full potential as social catalysts.

...those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful. --Edward R. Murrow at the RTNDA Convention, October 15, 1958

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23.18.50 - Mark

This story just makes you feel all warm and cuddly about human nature. Kid finds camera, parents find owner, owner gives them money for its return, parents can't bear to part kid from camera and therefore screw the owner. The 336+ comments the own has received from don't help. Everything from calls for mobs of people to harass the parents and kid, to cries of public humiliation, to calling the owner a liar, to offering to donate cameras to the kid and or former owner. There's an up and a down to being internet famous on any level. Up is it gets things done. The down is that more often than not its not the thing that needs to be done.

The other link is to guidelines for podcasters and is a few days old. I agree with nearly everything the author says, although like everything else in life there are plenty of exceptions. The one I disagree with the most has got to be the get a buddy / "couplecast". While there's a support staff behind a few of my favorites, most of my favorite podcasts have a single host. I'm also willing to more that time limit up. To me 40 minutes per feed per week is workable (not that I want all my shows to be eating that much time). More than that and you've got to be offering something really compelling to avoid slipping down my playlists.

Fortunately podcasts are flexible and I get to be my own network programmer.

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Quasi Zombie States of Being

12.48.43 - Mark

I'm slowly returning to the land of the living from the near death state I've been in since Monday. I'm not 100%, I'm probably not 66%, but I managed to drag my non corpse-ified body into class today. Didn't accomplish much. Didn't accomplish anything other than keeping some of my attendance numbers up. While I don't skip classes, its something schools mange to force you to worry about. I've been out since Tuesday (and should have stayed home Monday) but I've been telling myself I "need" to go to class since Wednesday for one reason or another. I "need" to take the test, or I "need" to make that lecture. It's really a sad comment on schools, and society as a whole.

You might be sick, you could give the entire class/office the flu, we might even manage to make you sicker, but take your pills and show up so we know you're not having fun.

I can't help but wonder how much that mentality contributes to the health and well-being problems around the world.

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