Thursday, October 19, 2006

"What will make the Web universal is video"

Virginia Heffernan unfortunately chose her New York TimesScreens” blog Tuesday to make what I thought were some excellent observations about YouTube’s most popular videos, and Web video overall -- and I do mean "over all."

I say unfortunately only because the NYT requires a "free" (in return for your e-mail) subscription to read, which makes linking awkward. But that's carping, isn't it? I mean, you used to have to pay 50 cents a day for the paper. And only today we see again that "Ad Sales Continue to Sag at Major Newspapers." (According to them, it's all Craig's fault.)
Now, if what she proposes is true, it’s not exactly good news around here, because as you’ve no doubt noticed I consider myself, ahem, a writer, and this could easily be seen as implying that there ain’t no big need for me or my kind in the brave new video Webworld.

But though we writers will probably still have something to do for a while yet, I think she’s right, in what reads like a loud manifesto, about where it’s mainly going.
The Breakthrough of That Dance Video, the Future of YouTube and the Wisdom of Google
NYT, October 17, 2006

"Why is an overlong mollycoddle mime dancing sketch, 'The Evolution of Dance,' YouTube’s top-viewed video?

"It’s hokey and did I say long and it’s like a chumpy cousin at a family reunion, which is to say — so I’m relenting a little — not entirely without corny charm, but far from groundbreaking or bellwether or cool or Web 2.0. ...

" 'The Evolution of Dance' has drawn more than 34 million views, nearly double the number of the runner-up, because it’s . . .

" . . . not in English. That’s all. No talking. No dialogue, no voice-over, no monologue. No language but lyrics.

"...blogs are not the form that makes the web universal. Neither are news sites, or databases, or Wikipedia, or anything else that’s restricted by language. What will make the web universal, what will turn us into one magical networked planet, what will blow our minds with how much can be said in icons and images and film — and, above all, why Google didn’t overpay for YouTube — is video.”
Just for the record, we are not at all sure about the "magical networked planet" invocation there, just so you don't think including it was an endorsement of the dream.

That's a great, swinging paragraph, and we didn't want to risk disturbing the music.

We know it's coming, to some degree or another. The question is, what type of magic will it be?

Monday, October 16, 2006

"H.P. Names Ethics Officer"

(This was just too funny:)

...Because, uh, well, it's kinda complicated, see? We guess what happened was,

"PALO ALTO, Calif., Oct. 12 (AP) — Hewlett-Packard said Thursday that it had named Jon Hoak, former general counsel for the NCR Corporation, as its vice president and chief ethics and compliance officer.

"Mr. Hoak, 57, replaces Kevin T. Hunsaker, who was ousted after his involvement in a boardroom spying inquiry was disclosed last month. Mr. Hunsaker was charged with several felonies in the case..."
Oh, but we're sure we've got a ethical Ethics Officer this time, for real!

(This phrase will forever remind me of a little girl named Janet I once knew, at the time she had just discovered those magic words. She was so thrilled with the tool of "for real" that she used it as the suffix for every statement she made, including the plainly false -- which, bless her heart, accounted for the lion's share of her expression. But we're sure the new New HP will do much better -- for real!)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Armstrong Quote Scores Some More Points

Having paraphrased and commented around a month back on the usage in Neil Armstrong's justly famed Moon-landing quote, it was funny to see his score for grammar improve only the other day with the news that they found his missing "a."

It turns out that Armstrong always intended to say, " small step for a man," but the recording said otherwise. Ah-ha, until some restless Australian programmer went hunting for this legendary beast in the sonic outback, and brought back at least some pictures.

And it only took about 37 years to find out.

One small word is one giant sigh of relief for Armstrong

Times Online, UK - Oct 1, 2006

Software proves Armstrong’s moon quote was grammatically correct

Mumbai Mirror, India - Oct 1, 2006

= = =

In here on Aug. 30, commenting on the second part of the statement, in "Another Giant Leap For Humankind... (TV-B-Gone)" --

Note on the title:
We’ve tweaked an historic quote there, but are sure that if Neil Armstrong had first set foot up yonder in recent times, he’d have put it that way. Kudos and appreciations to Mr. Armstrong, btw, for realizing that was a hugely historical moment, and rising to the occasion. He could have just said, "Roger, Houston, that's a big 10-4, we have touch-down," or something equally dull and functional.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dell Starts Recycling Program with Free Home Pickup

Since I recall making some snarky comments in here recently about the need for a greater sense of social responsibility from tech companies (and we're currently on a theme of giving credit where due), it's only fair to point out Dell Computer's news, this time for something other than flaming laptops or incomprehensible customer support.*

On Friday (9/29), Dell began a U.S. recycling program that features free home pickup of any Dell computer or peripheral. The program was announced in June. "Unlike recycling programs offered by many other manufacturers, the Dell program does not require people to purchase a new product," CNet's story explained.

Here's the Dell site's page on the program, where you can sign up, and they further explain that if you do buy a new computer from them, they'll take anybody's boxes to recycle.

“Among tech companies, environmental advocacy group Greenpeace has singled out Dell and mobile-phone maker Nokia for their ecologically conscientious policies,” CNet said.

Excellent! I’d add that it’s about time a computer manufacturer offered this, but since this is a congratulatory announcement, let's hold off on that for now. (Apple will take your old stuff, too, but only when you bring it in and buy a new machine from them.)

These companies have made fortunes filling the land and landfills with boxes that contain a good dose of toxic substances, poisons that are seeping into the earth under the dumps they’ve been thrown upon. It only seems fair that they pick up their garbage.

CNet: "Dell's no-excuse recycling program begins"

...via the Boston Globe's Business Filter, with links to a number of related stories, notably including:

Where computers go to die...and kill

"30 million U.S. computers become obsolete each year and yet we have no nationally-coordinated recycling policy."

Full story from:
* - (But you should have heard me own Mum's distress and frustration at trying to understand what the Indian gentleman was trying to tell her about fixing something on her Dell -- which was probably to reinstall Windows. Apparently it was a very trying experience for all involved).

Monday, October 02, 2006

"Giving Credit Where It’s Due" Dept.

One spirit which I've always found sadly missing from the Internet in general, from smaller, personal websites and pages to the e-mail output of the general populace, is of giving credit for things. Ever notice how few of those eternally popular e-mail collections of witticisms, the ones that thousands of people find just right and send around again and again, are absent any credit for authorship?

It's an odd psychology; I’ve always imagined it was the original senders fearfully thinking, 'If we take out the name of the person who wrote this, then we won't get caught for using it.' Not that this makes any sense, but why else?

So we've decided to start a series on the theme of Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due. (But don't worry, not in the common sense of, “Giving Credit Where We Reserve The Right To Jack Up The Rate Later.") The first subject:

The “Washington Post Style (not ‘Mensa’) Invitational”

No sooner had a friend reminded me recently of this highly witty collection of original words, which I remembered seeing a few years back, than a fresh copy of the same bit arrived from a family member. It was titled “The Washington Post Mensa Invitational,” where readers were invited to change just one letter of a word and supply a new meaning. Chances are you’ve seen these:

Intaxification: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize that it was your money to start with.”

Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.”

Decafalon: The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.”

Bozone: The substance surrounding slow-witted people that stops bright ideas from penetrating.”
But as funny as they were again, they were familiar; so since I’ve got the World’s Library plugged into my fingertips here, I got curious and decided to look into it a little further. Maybe I could find some editions from other years with more such clever nuggets. I did a search (I know, you’re supposed to say, “Googled it,” but do they really need any further endorsements?), and sure enough one of the first few entries noted some anomalies.

"The fact is, there is no such thing as a Washington Post Mensa Invitational. But a Factiva search shows that a few of these words appeared in a ‘Washington Post Style Invitational’ back in August 2, 1998,” some since-delinked commenter claimed. Further digging eventually revealed that this had indeed been one instalment in the regular Post feature, the Style Invitational (recent archives), which was begun and conducted at the time by one Gene Weingarten.

When I found this, I kept looking at his name, thinking it looked familiar. Well, sure enough, Gene used to be the editor of the Miami Herald’s Tropic Magazine, and as a former, unintentionally longtime Miami resident, I was very familiar with his name and photo.

It turns out that the Gene was the clever man, you might even say visionary, who got Dave Barry hired by the Herald, having discovered him "toiling in obscurity" for a small paper in an even smaller Pennsylvania town. (More twinned words: people never simply "work" in obscurity, they always "toil.")

Together, if I remember correctly, Weingarten, Barry and Tom Schroder also brainstormed and put on the Tropic Hunt, an annual scavenger hunt that savagely taxed the brains of the couple thousand people who would turn out every year, to spend a comical, frenzied afternoon racing around trying to interpret sheets of riddles for clues to a master puzzle. People would howl, with some mix of mock indignation and astonishment, when the unimaginably intricate solutions to each step were read out loud by Barry at the end.

So, Gene Weingarten, This Is Your Life (according to the Wikipedia). Thanks for facilitating all that fun, and glad to see you're still at it.