Media whoring over today’s shooting in the US

I knew something had happened today – I saw the headline on cnn.com

I went to watch CNN on TV – the live news conference with the police chief at Virginia tech was just starting.

Questions asked (by reporters from undeclared news companies) included:
‘Can you describe the scene?’ and ‘Was it execution style?’

There’s the asking of questions that everyone is thinking but too afraid to ask, and there’s these kinds of questions – they serve no useful purpose at all. Those and the accusatory ones about campus authorities. I’d be the first to question the organisational prowess of some educational institutions, but this is not the forum for that. These guys have a campus police force.

This kind of tabloid journalism has seeped into mainstream news reporting and it is sickening.

Even CNN has gone down hill. News anchors stand infront of tacky looking multi-screen displays and ask these kinds of questions. The fundamental issue is that these news anchors don’t come over as representing the concerned voice of a nation (though they do their best to spread it on with a thick knife with an acid edge), but often as egotistical people who seem to be trying only to beat down the interviewee (or put them on a pedastal as seems to fit the mood) and raise interest in how good the show is. It stinks of insincerity. I’ve watched UK TV news go the same way.

This is not every journalist of course; just a handful. However, the fact that they are not taken to task makes me think that their ‘showmanship’ must be bringing in the bacon for the network.

In relative terms, horrible things happened in Virginia today and it’s a definate loss for the related family and friends. Systems will be improved. Sensationalising it and chipping away at the campus authorities will not bring back those people and will not necessarily even help avoid future issues.

UPDATE (Apr 17): To check up on this story today I read the most recent CNN article. It included a link to “watch how quickly these guns can be fired, reloaded” after the paragraph talking about a doctor’s quote regarding the number of bullet holes! It did not include a link to the gunman’s ‘vitriolic’ note which may have shed some light on why this happened and how to prevent it. I turned on CNN: there was the live broadcast of a Virginia Tech service going on (presumably to share the moment with those who could not attend), only to hear announcers commentating during the ‘moment of silence’ to talk about a guy being helped out of the service – why must they commentate on everything?

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Shatner video phone mad cow

Rogers in Canada recently announced their video phone call service on their new HSDPA high speed wireless network (with very limited coverage and even disclaimers that service make be intermittent as the network is built out).

HSDPA offers huge mobile data possibilities but video calling is the vehicle that (sadly, and clearly not learning from Three’s failure in the UK) Rogers has chosen to use because quite frankly, it’s really hard to figure out how to convince consumers to spend extra money on a new network investment.

They had William Shatner (who is Canadian – and why can’t the Canadian media resist the urge to tell everyone about someone being Canadian every time they sneeze) show up to do some kind of tongue-in-cheek launch event.

However, in a seperate media interview (and I’m paraphrasing/remembering here) he talks about science fiction become reality – bear in mind that they only had voice communicators on Star Trek, vs. say Space 1999 – but then started to go on about how text messaging was not a very warm way to communicate with people, etc. I think he was trying to say that video phone calls were much more ‘in-person’ and friendly but didn’t specifically say that as far as I remember, and remember sheep need to be herded.

I was wondering if Rogers executives were cringing at Bill’s words though. The point of having a celebrity is that it lends some persuasion to influence all those susceptible people out there. Now, imagine how much money Rogers makes from text messaging, and now Bill has told lots of people that text messaging is bad, and yet this new service is only available around Toronto…

I didn’t get to see the full media launch video, so hopefully, for Rogers’ sake, not many people will get to see this ‘mad-cow’ (see Boston Legal), i.e. confusing media clip. Yeah, OK… the texters are addicted so Rogers is safe, but it was a little like watching Denny Crane put his foot in it.

All-in-one mobile phone & wireless headset

Someone finally getting close on this one. I’ve been saying for a while that it would be great if a bluetooth headset could clip in/out of a mobile phone to avoid worrying about where to keep it (other than hanging like a pendant or on an ear).

This is the closest I’ve seen, though it’s not clear which phones, if any, are ready to accept this headset. This device has a whole other angle: it can be charged in a notebook PCMCIA/ExpressCard slot – great for VOIP use and storage – though it’s not clear if it sticks out when inserted.

The last newspaper you’ll ever read…

…unless it needs to go in for repairs.

I’m going at this from a different angle than Robert Scoble.

As much as I’m a gadget and software nut, I recognise that there are still millions of people reading a news paper today, as even more tabloidish as they are on a Sunday.

My angle is about form-factor and consumer device adoption rather than recognising journalism through blogging, etc.

Electronic ink will come along and have a profound effect on the world. One day you (if you read newspapers in paper form today) will acquire a newspaper; it will feel like a newspaper (and you can have the sheet size you want) but it will be the last one you buy (more or less). Its contents will be replaced when the daily newspaper would normally be published. If you don’t have a computer, you’ll do this at the newsagent for a few pennies. It may need also have pages since one sheet or folder out may be enough if you can electronically flick through the pages.

When this happens, it will be adopted by the masses, because it will be an easy substitute and cost far less than a yearly paper subscription. Once the transition has occured then we’ll see the convergence of form-factor between newspaper and PDA like we have today between computer and phone.

I think this, more than the source of the news (which doesn’t necessarily concern the individual newspaper reader today), will affect journalism in a democratising way. This will largely be because the user will be in control of content but in a way that feels familiar.

Later models will animate (perhaps showing video and even maybe sound), have colour and possibly be interactive (at which point you can watch the text book go the same way).

Add wifi/wimax/’wifad’, along with wearable computing and you have a realistic view of the future on what you can expect to see people doing on the train/bus/car(!) within a decade.

So newspapers are not dead, but their form-factor and delivery will almost certainly change.

Slow release product marketing

Do you suppose that every year or so someone at Gillette thinks “Actually, the best a man can get now includes one more blade – we never thought of that before”? Probably not. But I wonder how long they can keep adding blades – OK, I admit to having a Power Fusion razor with the 5+1 blades.

So yesterday I heard the recently released Rogers (Canada) commercial again saying that their Home Phone service (which they say is not VOIP but I’m sure it technically is – they try to differentiate it because it’s locked down so home-brewers need not apply for the most part), now has free calls between anywhere in Canada if both ends are on the service. Wow – image that, free in-network VOIP calls – how generous… after how long now? OK, so they maybe wanted a certain critical mass of adopters for their service. I’ve been having free VOIP calls for years and I don’t have to pay any fixed rental for it. Rogers is getting my money for a cable connection, so why should I pay to just send data over it? Cue the marketing script response…

This is what I call slow release product marketing. All the potential is practically/probably already in there, but for economic and/or investment-recouping and/or profit milking purposes, you just don’t get the benefit of it, and most people are oblivious enough to think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

Look me in the eye and tell me…

I recently got a SeeEye2Eye; actually I got two after a clerical error on my part. I envisioned something like this some time ago and happily someone went to the trouble of making one. It basically allows you to look in the camera at the same time as looking at the other person in a video conferencing app; put one of these on each end of the conversation and you are looking at each other eye to eye.

In action picture from the product website

It certainly works but you really need the person on the other end to have one. On the downside: it is bulky; it darkens the image; the depth of the unit needed to incorporate the angled one-way mirror means it can’t be arranged well on one side of a large wide-screen monitor; with a bright screen, lines are added to your camera image due to the reflection of the screen on the plastic ridges in the top of the unit.

Windows Live Messenger can’t be positioned quite properly with it because of the hidden windows/menu frame that prevents the conversation window from being flush with the top of the screen, but that’s a WLM issue and not a show stopper.

So I thought of this a few years ago and someone has made it. Now I’m going to wish for a USB 2.0 device that has a screen and camera combined with eye-to-eye alignment that either can be treated as an additional display that I can position the video window on, or has an SDK that is used by apps like WLM so it can be a dedicated desktop eye-to-eye video conference solution – anyone?