The big media monopoly on scoops is over

Big News Forges Its Own Path:

Traditional news organizations used to be free to break news — or not — in their backyard and on their chosen beats. Now they have to be looking over their shoulder — at everyone. And in virtually every aspect of culture, from business to technology to fashion, the big guys now compete with a range of Web sites that break their share of news through obsessiveness and hyperfocus.

The big news that Rupert Murdoch was getting a divorce after a 14-year marriage to Wendi Murdoch did not come from tabloid newspapers, gossip magazines or E!, but from Deadline Hollywood, the business entertainment site run by Nikki Finke.

The business disruption in the media world caused by the Internet has been well documented. But a monopoly on scoops, long a cherished franchise for established and muscular news organizations, is disappearing. Big news will now carve its own route to the ocean, and no one feels the need to work with the traditional power players to make it happen.

Being a big organization with sources at all the major players in every industry isn’t so valuable when other sites can take your big scoop and get as many or more page views by giving a more eye-catching headline and some photos or extra context.

For instance, yesterday the Wall Street Journal broke the story that Google is making an Android-powered game console. Here’s a Google search for “Google game console”.

80,500,000 results and the WSJ article doesn’t even get the top spot.

The New York Times brings metered paywall to mobile

The New York Times plans to limit non-subscribers to just 3 articles per day on mobile:

The restrictions mean that non-subscribers will have access to just three stories per day from across all sections of the site including blogs and slideshows, the company said, although video content remains free within the app. While in some ways it’s a reduction in the number of articles that people can read per day (currently, mobile readers can only view news from the ‘Top News’ section) it does at least provide a better choice of which three articles or sections those can come from. Subscribers get unlimited access to all the content from a mobile.

I’m glad that The New York Times is bringing its metered paywall to mobile. What with the relative success of its paywall on the web and its struggle to sell ad space, I’m hoping the company will do what it takes to keep its wonderful newsroom afloat (as long as quality doesn’t suffer for it, of course).

New Mac Pro has decent CPU, insane graphics

Far Too Much Analysis Of The Alleged New Mac Pro Geekbench Score:

The new Mac Pro is also extremely power-lopsided: it will initially max out at 12 cores (almost certainly this exact CPU), which is upper-midrange by Xeon standards, but it comes with a ridiculous amount of GPU power. This is overkill to just be about future desktop Retina Displays — clearly, Apple’s pushing for pro and scientific apps to shift more of the heavy lifting to OpenCL.

Also perfect for professional photo/video editing and graphic designers. To be honest, I almost wish I had a reason to buy one of these bad boys. Maybe I’ll get one for doing continuous integration with Xcode Server when my projects start involving more people.

Poor and middle class students more likely to get stuck with unpaid internships

The Second-Biggest Myth About Unpaid Internships: They’re Just for the Rich:

If anything, poor and middle class students are extra likely to get stuck in unpaid internships. Rich kids, by and large, seem to prefer collecting a paycheck.

Such were the findings of a fascinating 2010 study conducted for Intern Bridge, a consulting firm that specializes in college recruiting, and one of the few major sources of data on the internship market. After analyzing survey responses from thousands of college students, the paper concluded: “Our findings do not support the common contention that students from the wealthiest families have greater access to unpaid internships, even among most for profit companies. Low income students have a much higher level of participation in unpaid internships than students from high income families.”

This was a myth that I believed until I read this article. Turns out I wasn’t completely wrong though: rich kids do tend to take a large share of the unpaid internships in Hollywood and Wall Street.

No, we don’t live in ‘1984’

Sorry, We’re Not Living in Orwell’s ‘1984’:

The information leaked by Snowden should cause alarm as should the loose legal oversight governing the NSA’s massive data-mining campaign. Nevertheless, the invocations of Orwell are not unlike Bush-era claims of an emerging strain of American fascism, or the Tea Party’s frequent panting that Obama is indistinguishable from Fidel Castro. A few points of similarity, like the monitoring of huge amounts of data without sufficient congressional or legal oversight, do not establish the literary analogy. The rule here is simple: If you are invoking 1984 in a country in which 1984 is available for purchase and can be freely deployed as a rhetorical device, you likely don’t understand the point of 1984.

[…]

In his 1941 essay “England Your England,” Orwell took pains to highlight this distinction. While identifying the United Kingdom’s numerous “barbarities and anachronisms”—and even declaring the country not a “genuine democracy”—he argued that these defects meant that ideas like “democracy is ‘just the same as’ or ‘just as bad as’ totalitarianism” were colossally wrong, employing fallacious “arguments [that] boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as no bread.”

Yes, the NSA is collecting a lot of data about our communications. That doesn’t mean we live under a totalitarian state. To claim that we do is overly reactionary and keeps us from looking at realistic reforms.

The New York Times is struggling to sell all of its ad space

The New York Times is making ads for the future — but where’s the money right now?:

According to Haskell, the New York Times‘ digital story-telling machinery is appealing to companies as a way to convey heritage and complicated brand stories. He adds that clients like Prudential say they have had tremendous response to their campaigns, including huge lifts from social media.

But despite the promise of such ad tools — and clever platform tools like Ricochet and Sparking Stories – the Times’ overall ad performance is limping. Recent earnings results show that digital ad sales are not just flat but actually declining — a troubling development at a time when digital revenue is supposed to stabilize the company as it faces a permanent decline in its print business.

Haskell says the company has been unable to pre-sell all its inventory, and attributes the overall ad challenges to two factors — “an explosion of inventory from social channels” (read Facebook) and the rise of automated or “programmatic” buying which lets advertisers purchase digital ads on real time exchanges.

Why isn’t The New York Times using programmatic ad buying? Haskell, the company’s VP of advertising, thinks that their reader data and performance metrics can woo companies over from more automatic ad placement options. Why not give advertisers access to those metrics as part of a programmatic buying toolset?

Keynes was right: less than a third of our working hours go towards basic needs

How Much is Enough? Why do we Work so Much and Enjoy so Little Leisure?:

Yet the surprising fact, unnoticed by the Skidelskys, is that we already spend less than 15 hours a week, on average, working in the areas of agriculture, mining, and manufacture. In that sense, Keynes’ prediction has already come true, fifteen years ahead of schedule. Let’s look at some numbers.

[…]

Instead of starting with employment, let’s look at data for GDP. Consumer goods (including durable and nondurable, farm and nonfarm, but excluding services) account for 25.5 percent of U.S. GDP. That includes consumption of imported goods. (Imports of goods are equal to 13.5 percent of U.S. GDP and exports of goods to 9.4 percent, making net imports, including both consumer and non-consumer products, equal to about 4.1 percent of GDP.) Let’s suppose that Americans were to produce all goods consumed in the United States, at an average level of productivity, and at the same time were to drop production of goods for export. Even so, it would still only take 9 hours of our average 35-hour week to meet our demand for consumer goods in full–well below Keynes’ prediction of “three hours a day to satisfy the old Adam in most of us.”

These numbers cast a different light on the puzzle of leisure. The question is not why we spend so many hours a week producing wet suits and golf clubs that we don’t really need. The fact is that goods production doesn’t really occupy much of our working time. The puzzle, instead, is what is important enough to occupy the rest of our working hours, rather than devoting more of them to leisure?

Keynes thought that we’d all be working 15-hour weeks by now. Instead of being content, we work more in order to maintain the services that we associate with a first-world standard of living. The majority of the hours we work don’t go towards basic needs like food and shelter – they finance the government, health care, and education.

Arrested Development shows us the downside to binge-watching

Arrested Development and the case against binge-watching:

How strange that it already feels too late to talk about the return of Arrested Development. After all, fans waited, and lobbied, and agitated for seven years -before the arrival of a treasure trove of 15 fresh episodes of the cult comedy, and as I write this, it’s been only two weeks since Netflix unveiled them in its signature open-all-your-Christmas-presents-at-once style. But it turns out that even a binge viewer’s paradise has a dark side: If supersizing your TV portions is so great, why does Arrested Development feel so…over? And why didn’t people have more fun with something they wanted so badly and were so happy to get?

Going by the Twitter reactions and the recaps that started to appear just hours after the show was made available, many viewers seem to have taken in too much too fast. Some expressed disappointment at the pacing of the episodes; some objected to a complicated and repetitive story line in which jokes pay off only after circling back to the same event multiple times. I’ll leave that debate to more devoted buffs (I’m a latecomer), but I will point out that if you take in several episodes of anything in a row, the word repetitive will likely come to mind. No wonder many AD fans sounded a bit green around the gills in those first few days, like Cartman overeating until all he can do is gasp, “No…more…pie.”

I’ve been spacing out my viewing of the latest season of Arrested Development – I’m only on episode 4 – and so far, I’ve found that I’m enjoying it more than people who rushed through half a season the day it came out.

Of course, some people genuinely don’t like the new format for the show – it’s very different from the three seasons that ran on Fox. If you liked the original series but haven’t given the fourth season a shot, I recommend watching the first two episodes (the first is rather mediocre by itself) and then giving yourself a few days before trying more.

General Zod is a Krypto-Zionist

Connor Kilpatrick, in his review of Man of Steel for Jacobin:

If anything, Shannon’s Zod reminded me of an ultra-right Likudnik. The big, loud climax of the movie comes when Zod sends two gigantic robo-drills to terraform Earth into a New Krypton, which would of course end with the total extinction of the human race. But Zod’s not too worried about that. He all but says “can’t make Space-Zion without breaking a few eggs.”

For a character dreamed up by two Jewish boys in Cleveland as a kind of Moses-cum-Christ figure, it’s bizarre that no one’s made this connection yet. Which goes to show you just how off-the-radar the plight of the Palestinians is for both mainstream America as well as our circle of liberal film critics.

Zod’s fervent Krypto-Zionism versus Kal-El’s pluralism and universalism reminded me of a passage from Eric Hobsbawm’s memoir:

“As a historian I observe that, if there is any justification for the claim that the 0.25 per cent of the global population in the year 2000 which constitute the tribe into which I was born are a ‘chosen’ or special people, it rests not on what it has done within the ghettos or special territories, self-chosen or imposed by others, past, present or future. It rests on its quite disproportionate and remarkable contribution to humanity in the wider world, mainly in the two centuries or so since the Jews were allowed to leave the ghettos, and chose to do so. We are, to quote the title of the book of my friend Richard Marienstras, Polish Jew, French Resistance fighter, defender of Yiddish culture and his country’s chief expert on Shakespeare, ‘un peuple en diaspora.’”

Of Liberty and Underemployment

Every summer hundreds of Irish students disembark Berkeley BART station to earn their keep for a summer in San Fran. They come with a J-1 Visa; find a job within a month or go home. These new arrivals go out in groups to drop their CV’s (Irish for resume) wherever mass transit will take them. They wander until their feet hurt, and return with sunburns to their new abodes, perhaps a room full of mattresses in a busy frat house.

Within weeks, the Irish have taken hundreds of openings in stores and restaurants within a forty mile range. Along Telegraph, Piedmont, and Shattuck, chances are you’ll hear that familiar lilt coming from your cook, cashier, or pale and pretty hostess. They are here for a good time, but they are invited to work. The area loses work when the students go home to the summer, and the Irish fill the gap and maintain the nightlife.

I am an American and I need a job. I am 23, I graduated college last year with a degree in the humanities, and I’m still hanging around the college scene. I’m not saying I don’t know other 23 year olds. Who says I don’t go out every other weekend with my girlfriend and ten other coupled 23 year olds to bars with wood paneling and craft beer specials? The point is, I am between two phases and a bit adrift on what to do next. I do know, and we all know, that I now need a job to duck destitution rather than deportation.

I’m not looking for a job in a shop or a restaurant; I’m ready for an office, just to pay my bills in between now and grad school. We all want to go to grad school. I have dress shirts, a clothes iron, and I can tie a bow tie. I try to take to the classic professional approach; it adds some charm to my quivering upstart base. I need a job that one, the Irish don’t have, and two, that pays my bills with some to spare.

Then I saw a flyer on one of the many construction sites around campus. SUMMER JOBS: ACLU canvassers wanted. The Irish can’t take it because of their type of visa. Sometimes I take the role of a college student, and sometimes a college graduate. The former got me this time. I took a tab thinking I’d hit pay dirt. I showed up to the interview all quaffed in a grey suit and discovered I’d hit dirt pay.

I was a millennial clipboard jerk. Hi my name is Eric and I’m a paid fundraiser working on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union. They looked at me like I was a mosquito eater. Sure you don’t bite but go away anyways. This was a door to door job that had me in Anywhere, Oakland selling vague Utopian promises with all the credibility of a paper name tag.

The day started in an office. Pro tips: once you get to the office, choose a clipboard first thing so you can get one of the good ones. If you bring your own pens, you’ll have a pen. The shirts are damp with another’s sweat but you’re more likely to make quota with a shirt than with a name tag. We got in, practiced, slumped into a clown car and went out all day with a clipboard and a name tag. In the day it was hot, past 7:30 people were irritated, and it was cold until 9. My feet hurt and I wanted a beer, day after day.

I was good at it. I made quota and got promoted. Then I got chased by a dog. Then I trekked a mile out of territory to relieve myself in a sketchy homeless person bathroom. Then Anywhere, Oakland, was anywhere in Oakland, which wasn’t always hospitable. Then there was no real possibility of commission and it became clear that I couldn’t pay my bills with it. I fulfilled my administrative responsibilities for the day and politely excused myself from my employer.

So I am a college graduate and not a college student. So now what? Both of the roles I’m tackling agree that the ACLU is a fine organization. With our friends the Democrats presiding over a land of cameras and prisons, who else will keep the guns pointed away from us while we cloak ourselves in entitlement and dive into a brave new world? Then who did I represent: the ACLU or the company they contracted to raise funds for their political lobby? Either way, organizations with such strong ties to the labor movement should have higher labor standards. It’s part of dealing with our lot.

Then what is the lot of my age group? We are more educated than our parents, yet we approach a world that demands us to be ever more refined cogs. Broad interests are no interests at all. Office software familiarity is as common as typing skills. You have no skills, no network, and wipe that smirk off your face. While I’m betting on being presentable and capable, will this land me work or land me in the same situation as millions of college graduates who move back in with their parents until they are twenty six and find a job that will be twice as specialized as it is now.

Now I’m a young man. I want to find love, have friends, and have the sense of freedom that comes with taking care of oneself. Then I went home on Father’s Day and hear thirty is the new twenty and life is only going to get more demanding. Do I take a college student job and tough it out like the Irish so I can return home to poverty and a bit of fun, let the mounting abyss of indecision paralyze me, or supplicate myself like a company man to squeeze a job I won’t be qualified for in three years? If you’re saying the world is bleak and I am meek now, don’t despair.

We will inherit the Earth. Clipboard jerking for the ACLU reminded me I’m capable and willing to work hard. We struggle for a place that we will eventually take for ourselves. We are more educated than our parents. Last week two of my friends went bust and are moving back with mom. They had jobs and came home worn and hungry from them to a nice house in a bad neighborhood. They’ve still got time but whose patient? The man has a towering intellect and the woman has the qualifications to run her own theater. Too bad for now, but their abilities remain. We’re all taking the same beating.

Your parents took the beating. The beating has always been around. Your backwards ancestors wanted creationism taught in schools because they felt evolution and the implied competition in that philosophy would subject us to a level of dehumanization not fit for their Christian social progress. The ACLU fought against this in court, most famously in the Scopes trial, for the same reasons you’d favor science today. While you wouldn’t call the current face of Christian politics progressive, we might take that a feeling of dread and dehumanization is and has been universal no matter which political umbrella one cowers under.

So then don’t cower. Are you feeling alienated in your own homeland? The Irish are foreigners and yet they are able to make their own place every year. Remind yourself, this is our land and we are the most able bodied, and the most educated. The coveted youth vote is still ours to be diverted into any project whatsoever. The technology and culture of tomorrow is ours to invent. Our work is valuable, desirable, and innovative. We’ve navigated the most dynamic time in human history our entire lives and will handle it better than our predecessors. Keep producing work, and aim for the work you are entitled to.