Jon Stewart Blasts Viacom For Stupid Blackout; Viacom Sheepishly Turns Web Streams Back On [Techdirt] – Geography isn’t the only rationale behind imposing digital distance: “Last week, we wrote about Viacom’s really short-sighted decision to use its fans as hostages in a silly dispute with DirecTV over fees. To prevent any DirecTV customer from seeing any of its key shows, Viacom stopped streaming them online… for all customers, meaning that even those who had nothing to do with any of this couldn’t legally watch the shows they liked. As we noted, this would likely only serve to drive more people to find unauthorized versions…. Of course, one of Viacom’s most popular shows — and one of the key ones turned off from streaming — is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which had been on break last week anyway. However, it returned last night with a vengeance, and target number one: his corporate masters at Viacom for acting as if they were China in blocking the internet, and likely driving more fans to unauthorized streams.”
Face blurring: when footage requires anonymity [YouTube Blog] – YouTube launches a face-blurring tool within YouTube: “Whether you want to share sensitive protest footage without exposing the faces of the activists involved, or share the winning point in your 8-year-old’s basketball game without broadcasting the children’s faces to the world, our face blurring technology is a first step towards providing visual anonymity for video on YouTube.”
Shell social media oil spill a ‘coordinated online assassination’ [The Age] – Shell’s brand has been hijacked in what marketing experts say is a “social media oil spill” and a “coordinated online assassination of the Shell brand”. It’s a fake PR disaster that has snowballed into a very real one for Shell as web users are under the impression that it is an official company campaign. It started when an Arctic Ready website appeared online about two months ago that looked almost identical to the Arctic section on Shell’s own site. The site appeared to be an educational site about Shell’s oil drilling in the Arctic – complete with “Angry Bergs” kids game – but invited people to create their own ads by adding their own marketing copy over supplied photographs of the Arctic. User-generated ads could then be shared on social media. … For all intents and purposes, it looks like a real Shell marketing idea that has spun out of control …
But in reality … the Arctic Ready website, and the viral video, were created by activists Greenpeace and The Yes Men.”
Downloads: ‘It’s cheaper to pay a wage, fly to the US and back twice’ [SMH]– “Australians are paying 50 per cent more than American shoppers for downloaded music and games, as well as computer software and hardware, consumer watchdog Choice says. In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into IT Pricing, Choice says Australians are on the wrong end of of international price discrimination by copyright holders. New research carried out by the group found price differences across a range of IT products including iTunes downloads, PC games, personal and business software, Wii console games and computer hardware. “In Australia you pay, on average, 52 per cent more than an American consumer will for the same 50 top iTunes songs,” says Choice head of campaigns, Matt Levey.””A selection of 44 popular home and business software products were, on average, 34 per cent more expensive in Australia than the US.”
Facebook scans chats and posts for criminal activity [Internet & Media – CNET News] – Facebook is intensively data-mining Facebook chat; the justification: “If [Facebook] detects suspicious behavior, it flags the content and determines if further steps, such as informing the police, are required. The new tidbit about the company’s monitoring system comes from a Reuters interview with Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan. Here’s the lead-in to the Reuters story: “A man in his early 30s was chatting about sex with a 13-year-old South Florida girl and planned to meet her after middle-school classes the next day. Facebook’s extensive but little-discussed technology for scanning postings and chats for criminal activity automatically flagged the conversation for employees, who read it and quickly called police. Officers took control of the teenager’s computer and arrested the man the next day.” Facebook’s software focuses on conversations between members who have a loose relationship on the social network.”
Facebook set to unfriend anonymous snooping[The Independent]– I genuinely doubt this will be rolled out on Timelines; it’d reduce time spent on Facebook. Stalking – more advertising views, after all.”The end is nigh for anonymous stalking on the social media website Facebook. The website has announced that it is going to start letting users know who has viewed items on the social network, a change which is expected to cause the amount of online snooping to plummet. For now, the change to the Facebook website, which has more than 900m active users, applies to group pages, meaning users can see who has visited any group of which they are a member. But already there are suggestions that Facebook may unfurl the technology across the site, meaning the naughty-naughty-stalky-stalky generation may soon see their fingerprint-free snooping habits curtailed, or face the embarrassment of their ex’s new boyfriend/girlfriend realising they were too curious to resist an online-curtain twitch.”
CV Dazzle: Camouflage From Computer Vision by Adam Harvey – “CV Dazzle™ is camouflage from computer vision (CV). It is a form of expressive interference that combines makeup and hair styling (or other modifications) with face-detection thwarting designs. The name is derived from a type of camouflage used during WWI, called Dazzle, which was used to break apart the gestalt-image of warships, making it hard to discern their directionality, size, and orientation. Likewise, the goal of CV Dazzle is to break apart the gestalt of a face, or object, and make it undetectable to computer vision algorithms, in particular face detection. Because face detection is the first step in automated facial recognition, CV Dazzle can be used in any environment where automated face recognition systems are in use, such as Google’s Picasa, Flickr, or Facebook (see CV Dazzle vs PhotoTagger by Face.com). [Via Jill]
Tangerinegate… by Robert Popper [BBC Comedy Blog] – What happens when a prank call alleging the British PM’s temper got the best of him is aired live? Fact checking? Verification? Nope: straight to the daily newspapers! Popper’s tale: “So I switched on LBC (a London talk radio station) where the topic was Gordon Brown’s alleged bad temper. I called up and got through almost instantly. “What do you want to talk about?” asked the LBC operator. Without time to think I replied, “Gordon Brown visited my place of work and lost his temper right in front of me”. Very soon I was on air, explaining how Gordon Brown had toured my workshop – a ‘lamination factory’ – and thrown a tangerine into one of the machines, breaking it, before calling a member of staff a ‘citric idiot’. It was all I could think of at the time. A load of nonsense. But I was quite proud of the phrase, ‘citric idiot’.”
If you blog unauthorized “Daily Show” or “Colbert” clips, Viacom will sue your ass [Boing Boing] – Couldn’t agree with Xeni more on this one: “The Hollywood Reporter asked Viacom if the network intends to go after websites or bloggers who post unauthorized clips. “Yes, we intend to do so,” PR rep Tony Fox told THR. “My feeling is if (websites) are making money on our copyrighted content, then that is a problem.” What a big steaming pile of epic fail. How ’bout blogs (like, oh, let’s say Boing Boing) start suing Viacom for every time a Comedy Central writer lifts an idea, a blog post, a funny turn of phrase, or a story—and fails to credit, namecheck or pay us? Cmon guys, you know you do it. Television suit-people, when will you ever learn: we are the internet. We are your traffic machine. We are your idea machine. We are the engine that propels your shows.”
Ballmer: Google’s culture isn’t responsible for its success [Technology | guardian.co.uk] – Steve Ballmer proves he doesn’t get irony (or: how does he think Windows got its dominance?!?): “Ask Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer why he thinks Google is the internet’s most powerful company, however, and he’ll offer a straightforward alternative: it got there first. Speaking at the SMX West conference in California on Tuesday, the man in charge of rival search engine Bing said that Google’s success today was not tangibly linked to the company’s culture, but simply spun out of the fact that it became successful in web search before its rivals. “The number one thing that Google benefits from in search is that they did it right, first,” he said. “There’s a value to incumbency.” “You can ascribe these things to things like culture, but it’s never clear which came first – incumbency or culture,” he added.”
Researchers Suspect “Perfect Storm” of Political Opportunism in Game Violence Studies [GamePolitics] – Debunking videogames = violence:
“* In the last 10 years, video games studies have been overwhelmingly popular compared to studies on other media.
* Less than half of studies (41%) used well validated aggression measures.
* Poorly standardized and unreliable measures of aggression tended to produce the highest effects, possibly because their unstandardized format allows researchers to pick and choose from a range of possible outcomes.
* The closer aggression measures got to actual violent behavior, the weaker the effects seen.
* Experimental studies produced much higher effects than correlational or longitudinal studies. As experimental studies were most likely to use aggression measures of poor quality, this may be the reason why.
* There was no evidence that video games produce higher effects than other media, despite their interactive nature.
* Overall, effects were negligible, and we conclude that media violence generally has little demonstrable effect on aggressive behavior.”
Picnik Acquired by Google [Picnik Blog] – So Google have purchased the online photo editing service Picnik. I’ve always found Picnik really useful for quite edits and found their integration into Flickr really useful. Of course, Flickr is owned by Yahoo, and while the noise initially is “nothing will change” we’ll have to see how Flickr’s integration with Google Picnik continues. In the meantime, I’m hoping to see a lot more of Picnik in Picasa! 🙂
Understanding the Participatory News Consumer [Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project] – “The internet is now the third most-popular news platform, behind local and national television news and ahead of national print newspapers, local print newspapers and radio. Getting news online fits into a broad pattern of news consumption by Americans; six in ten (59%) get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day. The internet and mobile technologies are at the center of the story of how people’s relationship to news is changing. In today’s new multi-platform media environment, news is becoming portable, personalized, and participatory: portable – 33% of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones; personalized – 28% of internet users have customized their home page to include news from sources and on topics that particularly interest them; participatory – 37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.”
Links of interest for October 23rd 2008 through October 24th 2008:
Musician defends Sony game song [BBC NEWS | World | Africa] – “The Malian musician whose song is being removed from a Sony video game because of concern it may offend Muslims has denied the music was blasphemous. Grammy award-winning Toumani Diabate said the song celebrated the Koran. “In my family there are only two things we know – the Koran and the kora [West African harp],” he told the BBC. The release of the much-anticipated LittleBigPlanet was delayed when it was found that a background music track included two phrases from the Koran. Copies of the game are being removed from shops around the world.” (I don’t know enough to comment on the religious implications, but I’m fascinated by the power and seriousness with which the politics of in-game music.)
Apple Goes McCain On Microsoft With Mocking Attack Ads [TechCrunch] – “The advertising war between Apple and Microsoft continues. Apple’s latest TV spots mock Microsoft’s $350 million ad campaign for Windows Vista, suggesting that some of that money would be better spent fixing Vista. The ad is funny (see above), but it does seem petty and elitist.” (See the ad.) I’m not sure this was a smart move by Apple – while they have the hearts and minds of a significant user base, the the demographic for whom ‘it just works out of the box’ is the main selling point probably don’t see themselves as ‘better’ than PC users; the elitism just might rub a few people the wrong way (that said, the critique seems fairly accurate!).
Our media freedom lags behind most other democracies [PerthNow] – “Australia trails other democracies in media freedom due to “outrageous” anti-terror laws and lack of protection for journalists’ sources, a report says. Australia is ranked 28th in the annual Press Freedom Index released this week by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. Australia’s ranking is the same as last year’s and puts it behind New Zealand (ranked 7th), the United Kingdom (23), Canada (13) and Scandinavian countries. Iceland, Luxembourg and Norway were jointly named the nations with the most press freedom, while Eritrea was named as the country with the least media freedom. “
Tigh/Roslin 2008: When Politics Turn Fictional by Emily Regan Wills [Flow 8.10, October 16, 2008] – Great article exploring the Tigh/Roslin parody by Battlestar Galactica fans regarding the McCain/Palin ticket. An excerpt: “… Battlestar Galactica is sufficiently complex, and sufficiently political, that it is possible to interpellate political positions for its characters. Fans know where Roslin falls on abortion policy: the plot of an episode revolved around her decision whether or not to make abortion illegal in the fleet, and included arguments based on religion, civil liberties, and population structure. Her general style of governance, her position on separation of church and state, even how she feels about wildlife conservation: it is plausible to deduce political positions for Roslin on each of these contemporary political questions. ” (There are a bunch of other great articles in the special issue of Flow about Sarah Palin, too. )
Interesting links for August 19th 2008 through August 20th 2008:
Facebook, MySpace users warned of cyber crime risk [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – “The Victorian Government has warned users of social networking sites not to post private information online. The Government has released a list of security tips for users of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace in response to the emergence of cyber crime, such as identity theft. Tips include urging users to think twice before posting private information such as addresses and phone numbers online.”
I Was There. Just Ask Photoshop. [NYTimes.com] – Photoshop, from realfact to goodfact: “REMOVING her ex-husband from more than a decade of memories may take a lifetime for Laura Horn… But removing him from a dozen years of vacation photographs took only hours, with some deft mouse work from a willing friend who was proficient in Photoshop, the popular digital-image editing program. Like a Stalin-era technician in the Kremlin removing all traces of an out-of-favor official from state photos, the friend erased the husband from numerous cherished pictures taken on cruises and at Caribbean cottages, where he had been standing alongside Ms. Horn, now 50, and other traveling companions. “In my own reality, I know that these things did happen,” Ms. Horn said. But “without him in them, I can display them. I can look at those pictures and think of the laughter we were sharing, the places we went to.” “This new reality,” she added, “is a lot more pleasant.””
Unleashed VC is a blog’s best friend [The Australian] – Steven Schwartz on being Australia’s first blogging Vice-Chancellor: “…the blog has given me the opportunity to express my views on such issues as “the idea of a university today”, reprising Cardinal Newman’s famous essay in a new context; the development of a new code of ethics at the university; if governments can make us happy; how to develop a fairer higher-education system; and expanding equality of opportunity in universities. I have also discussed philanthropy, research, innovation, the role of the humanities, what the future may hold, health, depression, literacy, education, marketing and, by way of making an argument about the importance of scholarship, Tiger Woods. It has been rewarding, and a lot of fun. There is a downside to blogging: a large amount of spam that needs clearing out each morning, and some comments are rude, hostile, or unintelligible.” [Via Andrew Bartlett]
Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America? [Television – NYTimes.com] – An engaging profile of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, charting where politics met parody: “Mr. Stewart’s comedic gifts — his high-frequency radar for hypocrisy, his talent for excavating ur-narratives from mountains of information, his ability, in Ms. Corn’s words, “to name things that don’t seem to have a name” — proved to be perfect tools for explicating and parsing the foibles of an administration known for its secrecy, ideological certainty and impatience with dissenting viewpoints.”
Gaming surgeons quash technology fears [The Australian] – “”…playing smarter computer games can actually help modify our abilities in problem solving, visual attention, working memory, forming and modifying strategies, even creativity.” Professor Westwell said the study on keyhole surgeons, published by the Archives of Surgery, found that while operating and playing computer games, the doctors made decisions and responded quickly to the consequences of those decisions and any unexpected changes that occurred.”
IOC Wants Olympic Torrents Off The Pirate Bay [TorrentFreak] – “In an official letter to Swedish Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has asked for “assistance” from the Swedish government with preventing video clips from the Olympics in Beijing to be shared on The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Bay, however, does not plan to take anything down, and renamed their tracker to The Beijing Bay.”