The country is in recession, the unions are getting away with murder and the people in charge desperately need to get a grip… so what does the MP for Hereford do? He tries to divert attention away from his abject failure as an MP by claiming Google Maps is going to put the SAS at risk from a terrorist attack.
It doesn’t help that Paul Keetch is one of the fattest and sleekest of MPs, a real local firebrand who promised change when he was elected in 1997, but who quickly went native and realised that the home of parliament wasn’t called a Palace for nothing, and who has been an outstanding non-entity since.
He’s also a member of the UK’s official luddite party, the Liberal Democrats, who recently intervened in the impasse over the Digital Economy bill and actually managed to make it worse just as it was about to become law!! God help the UK if these ignorant morons hold the balance of power in a hung parliament after the elections in May.
It’s quite clear that it’s election year when a sitting MP has to resort to such tub-thumping, jingoistic stunts like this, claiming that the cameras of American company Google will give potential terrorists assistance and encouragement to attack the base of the UK’s elite military unit.
Sadly Mr Keetch, like most MPs, hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about, and is so out-of-touch, I’d be surprised if he even knew what Google Maps was.
He’s certainly never used it, if he had he would know that Google Maps only shows the user what can be seen from the public road which runs outside the base; nothing that can’t seen for the cost of a coach ticket to Hereford.
It’s also a sign of Paul Keetch’s blinkered self-obsession (another trait he shares with all his parliamentary colleagues) that he thinks Britain’s foremost military unit, one of the most feared regiments in the world, needs the protection of a fat, spineless buffoon like him.
According to a friend who lived in Hull it was known universally as the Dull Daily Mail – the newspaper that served the readers of Hull and East Yorkshire was never known for its journalistic prowess and from all accounts spent most of its time rehashing the day’s breakfast headlines from BBC Radio Humberside.
In the last 24 hours though the Hull Daily Mail has put itself right on the map as the local paper that completely lost the plot, embedded its foot firmly in its mouth and reaped a whirlwind of 21st century feedback that will serve as an object lesson in social media that will be repeated by journalism teachers around the world for years to come.
A few days ago the HDM led its tatty tabloid edition with an exposé of a local website producer, Paul Smith, who also happened to be the mind behind a hyper-local news site HU17.net, which covers the town of Beverley and surrounding areas.
Much to the HDM’s disgust, Mr Smith had, in the past, built the infrastructure for various porn websites, so they mounted an ‘elaborate’ sting operation involving a reporter posing as an escort (complete with fake Facebook site), and lined up various clueless local councillors to heap on the moral approbium, then produced an article which stayed just the right side of the defamation laws but still managed to suggest the Mr Smith was responsible for the content of hundreds of porn sites, and using inneundo even suggested paedophilia!
Of course they failed to point out a few salient facts, like the fact that Mr Smith’s site was a direct competitor to their monopolistic presence, was a better and more popular website than theirs (those in the know say the HDM’s coverage of Beverley was always woeful and doesn’t seem to have improved much), and that the HDM is financed by large number of ads, many of which offer escort and massage services (see the screenshot to the right).
They also only just managed to point out that Mr Smith’s business is entirely legal, and while I leave it up to you to judge the morality, it is a fact that one of the few business sectors making a resounding profit out of the interwebs these days is the pornography industry, so they, along with the online bookies, tend to pay website builders pretty well compared to most other clients.
Mr Smith’s response to the ‘sting’ operation was to pose for a picture and invite the hapless reporter in for a cup of tea so they could see for themselves the purely business relationship he had with the website owners in question, and he himself posted a rebuttal on his own website outlining the facts for his readers.
What the HDM didn’t point out was that there is a world of difference between building the infrastructure for a website and providing the content, they also failed to make any inquiries about domain name ownership, which would have shown that website contractors usually own the domain names on behalf of their clients because the clients don’t usully have the experience or training to secure and manage these themselves.
So that fact that Mr Smith “owned” these websites was, in their view, proof positive of their case, and of course, they’re not going to let the facts get in the way of a good story, and the HDM has, in its zeal, posted some follow-ups to their story which, of course, they claim are all in the public interest. So, no self-interest there then.
Aside from the fact that this is a deeply distasteful article and a great example of truly appalling journalism, what’s been interesting is the huge backlash that the HDM has reaped from the online community, where hundreds of posts have appeared in the last 24-48 hours supporting Mr Smith.
Even on the HDM’s own site comments have been suspended after hundreds of people took them to task for running the article, only a handful were on their side; John Meehan, the HDM’s editor, then tried to defend his mistake with weasel words and sophistry … and then made things worse by suggesting that those whose criticised the HDM were “misinformed”, and claimed the comments facility was still open (it’s not).
Whatever your views on the story itself, this is a perfect example of the fights to come, as the old media press barons struggle to hold onto their readership and their incomes in the face of growing competition from smaller, leaner and more agile publishers who know their community way better than the press barons’ lackeys could ever do.
The bottom line is that in this age of media literacy and instant interactivity, misguided old farts like John Meehan (and his head-in-the-sand overseers at DMGT) insult the intelligence of their audience at their own peril.
Interestingly The Register also provide coverage, although if I were them, I’d check their headline with a good libel lawyer.
There’s revolution formenting in Iran and outrage among the people of Britain, so what does our beleaguered and spineless Government go and do? It releases Lord Carter’s report on Digital Britain, yes, all 245 pages of it.
The introduction started thus:
On 26 August 1768, when Captain James Cook set sail for Australia, it took 2 years and 320 days before he returned to describe what he found there.
and that’s where I gave up, because that told me everything I needed to know about Lord Carter’s report.
First of all, Captain James Cook did not set sail for Australia (which at that time was almost unknown, and the bits that were known of had been named New Holland by the Dutch), the Admiralty (at the behest of the Royal Society) ordered him to travel to the Pacific so that astronomer Charles Green could observe and record the transit of Venus across the sun.
It was only when this part of the voyage was complete that Cook opened sealed orders instructing him to search for the southern continent of Terra Australis, which the Royal Society were convinced was somewhere in the southern Pacific, and that the voyage to Tahiti would be an inconspicuous cover for a voyage of colonial expansion.
So off he went, eventually visiting and mapping New Zealand, Tasmania and Australia, and claiming them for the British Empire.
He got back to England in 1771 but it was months before accounts of his voyage were published, and the Royal Society weren’t happy because the land mass Cook found (known today as Australia) didn’t meet their expectations, so they sent Cook off again in 1772 to search for Terra Australis, which Cook found – we know it today as Antarctica.
So here we have a modern day report on the state of Digital Britain which contains, in the very first sentence, a dumbed down statement of remarkable inaccuracy, and which was confirmed as such in seconds with a Google search.
In the time is has taken for this report to be drawn up, the world has already changed, politicians have been discredited, the credibility of government is in tatters and anyone who’s ever used the interwebs knows that any government attempt to stop downloading simply won’t stop people getting hold of free content.
It’s also interesting about the “basic level” of broadband being described at 2mbps, on which even YouTube struggles, and this also conveniently ignores another ignaminious bit of British history.
The newly formed British Telecom had a plan to run optical fibre to every home in Britain in the early 1980s; the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher decided instead to privatise BT to raise money for tax cuts and to pay-off government debt, so the whole project was cancelled, and 20 years on we’re still paying for the lack of investment.
Lord Carter has wasted a massive opportunity to announce some real changes, instead what we have is the same tired old debate about top slicing the licence fee to shore up failing businesses and a stealth tax on landline telephones – which guarantees to penalise the poor and the elderly and force them to pay for services they don’t use.
How ironic then that Lord Carter evokes the name of the great Captain Cook to launch such a pitiful report – in the 18th Century Cook risked life and limb several times for the glory of his country, advancing science and understanding and making history.
Meanwhile here in the 21st Century Lord Carter spinelessly fleeces the poor, ignores the country, dithers and disappoints and all of this while trying to re-write history.
It’s all just too pathetic for words.
Google’s network bosses have probably been feeling the heat after their services were unavailable for over an hour yesterday; the outage, which affected many Google sites was widespread, being reported in the US, the UK, France, Australia and China.
The reaction from users of the interwebs was swift and severe, sometimes way too severe – some of the postings on Twitter (#googlefail) defy any measure of reason and coherence, and the people posting them either need serious psychological help, maybe anger management courses or at the very least a good slap.
The problem is that even though it is only a few years old, we all take the internet for granted, and almost as many of us take Google for granted – it is always there, it is never unavailable, you go to it, it fires up. no questions asked.
Google will, however, take this outage very seriously; they’ve staked their future on the concept of “cloud computing“, and anything which makes users wary about leaving their personal content in the cloud, and therefore potentially unavailable if there is an outage, is going to have serious consequences.
For those who are already sharpening their knives to stab Google in the back (or maybe the front) I would advise caution, and a hearty measure of reality.
A standard service level agreement in the technology business usually defines acceptable downtime as 0.001% per month, which is roughly about one hour.
Given that this is the first such outage for a long time, and it falls roughly within what the industry considers acceptable, I don’t think anyone has the right to complain in the way that some of the twitter-birds did.
It it even more interesting to note that where Twitter is concerned, it would actually be considered an abnormal month if the service hadn’t been subject to an outage of an hour or more.
That won’t stop Google pulling out all the stops to try and ensure it doesn’t happen again – ever.
Fortunately, for those of us not obesessed by hype and fads like Twitter, which falls over so regularly it’s downtime has actually become part of the twitter-bird’s routine, Google outages are still so rare, they make the headlines when they do happen.
Lots of huffing and puffing over on another blog about claims that a picture of Air Force One flying over the Statue of Liberty have been faked, or photoshopped by the White House.
Proof, if ever there were any, that the Obama administration is as bad as its predecessor, according to those who believe it.
The flyover is already controversial because there were no warnings about it, and in a city which collectively ducks every time it sees a low-flying plane after the tragic events of 9-11, it was a spectacular PR blunder by the new White House staff.
So of course, the conspiracy theorists, especially those with an axe to grind over Obama’s presidency, have jumped on the bandwagon; first there was whinging about the pictures not being released even though they were funded by the taxpayer. Then they were released, which shut those whingers up.
Now come claims that the pictures have been doctored, and that some allegedly slipshod use of the Photoshop cloning tool means there are two flag poles on the island beside the Statue of Liberty.
Except it hasn’t been doctored.
It took me five minutes with Photoshop to show that while there are two similar shaped objects next to each other, one of which is the American flag at the top of it’s pole, the object to the left is not a clone of the flag.
The cloning tool does exactly what it says on the tin, the individual pixels are recreated somewhere else on the canvas, so the pixels of the two objects should be identical. That’s the definition of cloning.
They are not. Having sampled the hue and opacity of all the pixels in both objects, they are very different, which means they cannot have been cloned.
What the claimant has also cleverly done is place a bright pink up-arrow (^) in the space where, if you examine the original, the bottom of the second flag post should be (but isn’t).
Rather interesting that the original blog post was written by someone called “texasdarlin”, one wonders how close this person lives to Crawford, TX – if this is the best that the anti-Obama camp can come up with after he’s had 100 days in office then they may as well pack up and go home now, and write off the 2012 election right now.
Go back to your lives citizens, nothing to see here…
There’s growing speculation that The Independent newspaper will become the latest, and biggest, casualty of the credit crunch/digital revolution which has finally cut the rug out from under most newspapers.
The demise of the newspaper is a sad, but inevitable, result of the growth in digital media which began 10-15 years ago, and which has already claimed many smaller titles around the world, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer which switched to online only earlier this year.
But while the obit writers are wringing their hands about The Indy already, there were a couple points which jumped out at me, and which I am very curious about:
1. Why does a sell-off automatically mean The Independent and The Independent on Sunday have to close completely? What’s the state of their new media and what kind of balance sheet does that have? Even respected commentators like Roy Greenslade and Dan Sabbagh aren’t addressing the Seattle PI.com option. Why?
2. Why is everyone so worried about these newspapers in the first place? According to all reports The Independent titles are losing £10m a year, but their parent company, Independent News & Media made a loss in 2008 of £142.6m. So what was responsible for the other £132.6m in losses, and isn’t that a bigger priority than the newspapers? It might seem like a corporately naive question, but since no-one’s answering it, maybe someone should at least ask it.
3. What happens when the newspapers move to their new home, sharing a building with the Daily Mail in Kensington, a move which could reduce its losses by up to 75%?
4. Isn’t anyone giving The Independent some credit for having reduced costs substantially in the last couple of years with several rounds of swingeing cut-backs and redundancies?
5. How much has the feud between the owners and “dissient shareholder” Denis O’Brien added to the company’s woes? Someone should be asking some serious questions about his corporate responsibility and holding him to account.
The bottom line though is that there is a much bigger picture here – people simply aren’t buying physical newspapers anymore, and having established the formula of giving content away for free on the web (supported, just, by advertising), newspapers have pretty well backed themselves into a corner.
Local newspapers in the UK have also been feeling the heat, though they didn’t help matters by shooting themselves in the foot over the issue of video news.
(Regional newspapers objected to an ultra-local video news service being pilotted by the BBC, and forced the BBC Trust to stop it, on the grounds that it would undercut their businesses; what the idiotic lemmings didn’t grasp was that they couldn’t actually afford to make video themselves anyway, and that their only realistic way to achieve it was to have someone like the BBC invest £68m in an ultra-local video news service which they could then syndicate … D’OH!!!!)
Until someone makes robust and affordable electronic paper and a ubiquitous Wi-Fi delivery system for content (as seen in Minority Report), it seems the decline of the physical newspaper is inevitable, and the demise of The Independent will simply be a sad milestone on that long and painful road.
[EDIT/Update: Looks like the BBC may be trying again, and making it painfully clear to local newspapers where they went wrong, while other agencies like the Press Association are also spotting the potential]