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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

WordPress, It’s More Like Flying Low Than Driving Fast

In Media, Technology, Updates on July 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

The web developer’s business model is changing again.

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The free blogging host WordPress.com now has 50 million sites–sites that take just a fraction of the time needed to construct custom websites; sites that don’t necessarily look or feel like blogs; sites that include those of MTV, Forbes, Harvard University’s Neimann Journalism Lab and the Boston University Study Abroad program.

We web developers–the guys who’ve been leveraging open-source software and cheap reliable hosting into the new standard for custom-built websites–should revisit our toolboxes once again. Open-source software and mainstreamed hosting made things more viable for us. Now, WordPress.com makes things less intimidating for them. It’s time we offered our help in setting up those wordpress.com blogsites that are already taking clients away from us anyway.

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Dot Now

In Media, Technology on October 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Communications paradigms are not tectonic plates. They’ve already shifted, without the earth shaking drum-roll.

Before printing presses, in the time of hand-copied manuscripts, the tattler was the medium for dissemination. But the tattler, a herald by a more regal name, was not limited nor defined by sources of words written.  He or she could gather news by other faculties. By taste, giving a review of a just opened public house’s fish and chips. By smell, voicing disgust over the village’s delay in finding its next garbage dump. Or by hearing, of course, relaying news on the state of the besieged castle over yonder hill.  Even back then, the tattler knew enough not to be bound to the tempo of scribblers.

Today, the prime presence of any media outlet is on the Internet.  To think otherwise is to harbor nostalgia for the days when newsletters and mailing lists were on the cutting edge.  Step back and consider your sources. See how the publishers of information and entertainment, the corporate entities themselves, have stepped out and in front of the media they own.  When you discuss breaking news with friends, do you attribute your info to “the online edition of …”, or do you simply say “from ABS-CBN” or “from GMANEWS”, while also meaning “of course online, helloooo”?  There are simply too many ways for getting the news now. And you don’t have to pause in your hearsay just to state if you got it by newspaper, TV, radio, Twitter, Facebook, Rappler, or the news aggregators of Google and Yahoo.  The timeliness and plausibility of your news already suggest how you got it.  Which is to say, if it happened just now, its not from newspapers, not TV, maybe the radio, but most definitely from the Internet.

Forget embargoes. Instead think “icebergs”. When the lifeline of the Allies stretched across the Atlantic in the Second World War and more than half of their matériel were going to the sea-bottom because of U-Boat wolf-packs, the British War Office never thought of declaring a self-imposed embargo, never thought of postponing their convoys. They instead came up with tactics to honor the threat of interdiction.  One tactic considered was to disguise freighters as icebergs.  Quickly discarded, the germ of the notion was developed further into dazzle camouflage that made it difficult for U-Boat skippers to estimate the range, speed and heading of each merchantman—key parameters for torpedo target solutions.  An entertaining digression, little more than a pun really.  But the ramifications of choosing between embargoes and icebergs are just as dire, here and now.

Press releases, not to mention breaking news, infest the Internet.  Should you embargo it? Sit on the news, wait for your evening broadcast, wait until next day’s print, or, forsooth, shelve it until next month’s edition? If you willingly, eyes open blindly, take this route, then forever stay silent about how you’re helplessly losing audience share in the face of this online onslaught.

Or, will you iceberg it? It takes little to notify your audience of this news.  Add some cross references to substantiate and qualify, finish with analysis that relates it to inhabitants in your corner of the world, and voila, you have an update with genuine value add for instant and free posting to online communities.  Then follow up in your less rabidly timed medium—in a broadcast block, a news section, or as a full magazine feature—with in-depth coverage, with interviews possibly, or even a human interest spin, if you must. Post it quickly, spotlight the tip of the iceberg first, and steer your audience into the news’ path. Then publish it well, dive to reveal what is frozen in glacial ice, to answer the succeeding questions that any sentient being would demand answers for.

The broadcast networks already know this; they are already practicing it;  they need to do it because they have billions at stake. The smaller players, with just one or several programs or publications to speak of, can see well enough to start doing it themselves.  Paradigms have already shifted, so do let’s KBO (keep buggering on), shall we?

Of Cybercrime Laws And Criminally Awful Movies

In Media, Society, Technology on September 28, 2012 at 12:33 am
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The Internet was conceived to be an immensely robust network of interconnected networks—infrastructure that would survive, as a whole or as a fraction of itself, even the ravages of a holocaust. Such durable reach comes at the cost of complete decentralization, of utter freedom, of unqualified chaos. And this is why we treat the Web as a place where the default posture is of desire trumping diligence, of people believing and writing what they damned well want to.

So every time real world denizens admit to using an Internet source, their friends would naturally roll their eyes before giving them more rope and asking who else, among common buddies or elite celebrities, might support their views. But without this crowd-sourced credibility, any online content is greeted as entertainment or the effluence of crackpot rants. Social media is not a place for facts but rather for doubts and for questions often asinine but also, on rare yet globally vindicating occasions, sometimes profound. It is where outsiders looking in can interrogate any establishment, asking “if that were absolutely true then why is it other guys say …” It’s where anything can be scrutinized with varying degrees of competence yes, but also with the constant of some user’s personal investment.

Users of social media trend themselves into natural agitators for the establishment’s accountability. In response, with frank if not proud admission of being meant to enforce accountability among erstwhile bloggers, the anti-cybercrime law provides the establishment with the supreme defense, a direct and countering offense. So the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 does not just even the playing field, but turns the tables on these online critics.

But, this other world, this channel for passionate opinion from people who might otherwise remain unengaged, is what transforms our ideals of tolerance and integrity into actual imperatives for humane coexistence, for it is in this other world where we keep or set the pace along with the other peoples of our planet. The new social of this new media world is the old subversive of old-school thought. So to keep our small part of this other world in the backwaters of censorship would be to invite the kind of regression that made men murderous as they avenged a B movie’s besmirching of their God’s prophet.

The Fifth Estate

In Media, Society on August 30, 2012 at 9:31 am
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John Paul II’s papacy caused the dissolution of the USSR. 1989 Europe: The Soviet house of cards collapsed, from Poland down south to Hungary, back north again to Czechoslovakia, west to East Germany and then the breakout further west that demolished the Berlin Wall and reunified Germany. Before it all, diplomatically, saintly, pervasively and while holding back his own dogs of war, the man born Karol Wojtyla of Wadowice sought congress with the Soviets and caused the return of the Catholic Church to his Poland. The churches then became the backdrops for the stump speeches of the shipyard worker who would be president of the new Poland, Lech Walesa. The rest is recent history.

Any institution has political power, and occasionally, enough power to cause revolution. The Catholic Church is one of the most powerful institutions the world has ever seen. And, it not only knows the game, it is one of the few remaining entities that invented it. Now, those tactics of contriving consensus to create it, of asking for forgiveness after the fact instead of permission for the acts, and of testing the thin boundaries between them and the state, shows us that they retain the political will to defend their precepts.

In their measure, and as history’s record may eventually concur, their current crusade for families of heterosexual parents and for their unborn flock is of the same ilk as their incursions to bring religious freedom back into the Communist Bloc. It is just that the roles have now been reversed. The difference now, more than two decades later, is that their intent aligns them with the status quo. It is a static and necessarily overt campaign. Instead of digging out the ground from under creaky conventions, failing experiments and declining superpowers, it is them who now have to protect the ramparts, man the battlements and be ever vigilant against efforts to undermine their walls.

My point is this:  The Catholic Church will and must find ways to be a part of the conversation.  And the New World ideal of separating church and state is not a crucifix that common men can now turn on them like they are the monsters. Hardly monsters, just men with a mission. Men who are well schooled and very competent in the politics of all men. In this Digital Age of blogs, citizen journalism and the ubiquitous tweet, do not be surprised, do not feign scandal, if they find ways to maneuver and outflank opponents despite being anchored to old principles. Whether for or against them, we all would do better if we remember that they are serious political operatives, and treat them as such.

All The News, All The Time

In Media, Society on August 3, 2012 at 10:38 am

Recent TV news coverage of the damage caused by Typhoon Gener showed footage with digitally blurred portions obscuring what are obviously product ads at large — on store signs, outdoor billboards, bystander t-shirts and the like. Why go to the trouble of editing these out?  If all news is reported factually, without influence of any contractual consideration with any individual, party or TV network advertiser, who then do they serve by keeping such images from their news air?

Admittedly, this entry is little more than several probing questions. But, I don’t want to have to revisit this story to add the proper nouns that would paint a picture of collusion between newsmen who are supposed to hold the public trust, and private enterprises that want their share of the public purse.  I’d rather be told by a faceless face-saver that this turn of events was simply the fault of an overzealous editor (maybe even a recent transfer from their in-house ad production department). Here’s hoping.

I’ll SEO Your Thousand And Raise You A Million

In Media, Technology on July 17, 2012 at 9:03 am

While reviewing my old webwork rate card, I realized that SEO, at least from my perspective, is now just snake oil. A plot device from back when websites were the territory of technorati who would have you believe that on the Internet the world is your audience and you should pay accordingly, through the nose gladly. As if a game of semantics will render people none the wiser about how your site over-reaches to reach the users whom you use to ramp up your stats.

Users, like the people you actually do know and converse with, eventually become savvy after you dangle a whole lot of red herrings. And, like an exchange of saliva between ants, their visceral hearsay about yours will eventually be your undoing. It’s not about search algorithms and word dropping, it never was. It’s always been about relevance.

The relevance of search results was the ideal pursued by mathematicians and theorists who had no choice but to objectify our curiosity in order to feed it. But, their Curious Man can be fooled, by visible catch words muscled in with a crowbar, or by subliminal code tucked in under the radar.

Where search results used to hope for relevance, social media now gives us the candor and context with which to discover it. If its important to the people close to me either figuratively or literally, then it must have claim to my interest. And only then, after I hear about it from people I know, will I want to know more and okay, finally, search for more about it.

On Buying Milk And Not The Cow

In Media, Technology on July 29, 2011 at 4:55 am

The further you get from the Internet backbone in the First World, economies of scale make labor costs lower, while also making data-center costs go higher.   Fortunately, because of the glut in capacity left behind by the dot com bubble, and because of the mainstreaming  of open-source software,  our server options are equivalent to the whole gamut of hosting services on the Internet.

FIRST, SOME JARGON

Domain names are pointers to entities on the Internet—any organization, company or person wanting a named presence on the net.   While each domain name can have multiple sub-domains.  For example, this blog at mediumelectric.wordpress.com is posted in the mediumelectric sub-domain of the wordpress.com main domain.

A computer is turned into a server box, a platform for providing Internet content and services, with software;for the basic operating system, for serving up web content, for mounting the relational database that feeds dynamic and interactive web pages, and for the text pre-processor that elegantly parses dynamic data into lay-outs meaningful to us humans.

The software now used for mounting servers on the Internet, because of legendary reliability and cost-free licenses, are the open-source commodities collectively referred to as LAMPs …

  • Linux – or any Unix derivative, with Linus Torvald’s creation having become the icon for an amazingly robust operating system that continues to be improved by a huge public community of, as it turns out, very talented techies.
  • Apache – the correspondingly robust web-server developed and improved by the open-source community for the Unix operating system (and now, in a backhanded compliment, also available in a Windows version).
  • MySQL – the fully relational and distributed database-server, again developed and improved by the open-source community for Apache on Unix (or Windows) boxes.
  • PHP – the text pre-processor, developed and improved by the open-source community for Apache, that provides a rich programming language for data-visualization—executing complex database queries and presenting the results real-time in web pages that look like painstakingly laid out content and show no hint of being generated on the fly.

SOME PERSPECTIVE

The www is a throwback.  The www typically prefixing website addresses such as http://www.wordpress.com is actually a default sub-domain for the serving up of web content, separate from other types of services for email and file transfers–an old practice when bandwidth and computing power were  far less than what are commonly available today. Now however, any given computer can be a server not only for web content, email and file transfers, but also for multiple and separate organizations or customers.

THE BOTTOM-LINE

How we acquire and use Internet resources (although crucial) remains secondary to our role of simply, promptly and very reliably taking full responsibility for the work-flow, the modest part in the value-chain, that our clients entrust to us.  So, we trivialize the technology, and very consciously keep its cost in proper proportion to our product, by aggressively steering a fleet of websites onto multiple high quality data-centers that straddle the Internet backbone in theUnited States.

Abstract away the hardware details and you can quickly see how we are able to implement work-flows that scale-up to match our clients’ needs.  We have common-use portals, shared by clients that are just starting to do business with us, but whose content are firmly separated by rigid security containers.  We can set up break-out portals, under new domain names or sub-domains (that we are not above making cryptic as an added privacy measure, masking them from curious eyes) exclusively for clients doing more business with us.  And, we can set up tailored portals with work-flows adapted to the practices of large-volume clients.

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