Internet Borders – use the off switch

A handful of videos offensive to the Thai king have caused Thailand to ban YouTube access in the country. Apparently such acts in Thailand can lead to serious prison time.

Apparently the king is regarded as semi-divine – he is 79 and apparently the world’s longest-reigning monarch. I kinda think the hat could make him a comedy target, but then it never hurt the British Beefeater guards at Buckingham Palace.

The Thai communications minister claims that YouTube told him that there was “much worse ridicule of President Bush on the site” which is kept there. One of the offending clips replaced the monarch’s face with a monkey’s face – imagine that with Bush and decide for yourself how many people would bat an eyelid – good ol’ USian free-speech. These are clearly different cultures. While Thailand holds its monarch in high regard, it also has a quite public thriving hospitality industry 😉 which the US would frown upon for the most part even if it has a similar industry covertly operating too (as do um… most countries?).

This brings up the discussion of Internet culture borders and jurisdiction. Quite frankly I’m surprised that a more blunt stance is not taken in Thailand (compared to say China). If YouTube is under the jurisdiction of the US constitution, which would seem to allow rights that are most definately not in line with Thai national laws and morals (once you’ve figured out who is in charge after the 18 coups in 75 years), then why would Thailand condone access to it in the first place?

If you don’t like something on TV (allowing for the fact that in some countries like UK there are watershed times during the day before which mature content is not allowed), you can turn it off. If Thailand doesn’t like US morals, they can turn it off too – in fact why did they even allow it in the first place?

UPDATE:
These Turks know how to do it. But then again, it makes me wonder if the only really effective remaining democratic action one can take is moving country. It’s just a shame you can’t make your own with its own set of rules – ah well there’s always Second Life or um Weblo(?) but even the US Feds are starting to look into those.

Frankenstein parents

So I was out driving along at 7am this morning when I hear an ad on the local radio station for a company that will do cosmetic surgey on babies. The ad mentions how babies and young children are still adaptable, etc. It even promotes the service as good for beauty pageant hopefuls.

I’m pretty sure it was an April Fool joke, or at least I hope it was and I couldn’t remember the web address they gave.

However I bet there are parents out there who do get elective cosmetic surgey for their children for the purpose of enhancing their beauty pageant chances.

Anyone who caught the pilot episode of “The Great American Dream Vote” (the cheesiest show on TV by far and hosted by Donny Osmond) on Mon March 26th 2007, can see the enthusiam some people have for getting their children in pageants, enough that a contestant mentioned twice that kids had died from cancer but were buried with pageant crowns on their heads that her daughter raised money to buy. The contestant’s dream was for her daughter to be Miss America. OK, the girl visits dying kids and keeps them company, but come on… I think people tend to have one of two extreme reactions to this story. The fact that Jimmy Kimmel was joking about it on Tuesday night gives you the general impression out there. Perhaps this is where the radio station got their idea for the joke from – I really hope it was a joke.

Life… Art… Life, etc.

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.

Retail zombies

When was the last time you went for a browsing in a large furniture outlet? Did you make it passed the greeter? Did you end up with a new living room set? If like me, you dodge the greeter you’re probably familiar with that feeling of the sales people slowly homing in on you… it’s unnerving – like a game of PacMan especially in those larger stores which are like mazes. At they don’t feed on captured prey in packs.

What really grinds my gears (as Peter Griffin would say) is that in most of these situations you’ve barely taken a step inside the building when the crouching tiger pounches and you’re not ready, but when you have real questions there’s no-one to be seen (they have moved to other prey) or they can’t answer the important questions like “OK so what is the call out time on that warranty service you wont shut up about?”.

I was going to called this “retail vultures” (getting people signed up on credit or extended warranties aka “profitable insurance”) but “zombies” better reflects the pace of the encroaching movement.

I happened to walk through a used car lot this week and was greeted with “Hello, are you aware of our sales this week?”. Now of course this is a no-win baited question – the trick is to give them a completely different line that will throw them off long enough so you can run away, or to ask a question that you know will not get an answer but at least requires consultation.

Of course the point is that these tactics and scripted conversations work on the majority of people and result in real sales, but I think I may invest in a t-shirt that says “Yes I’m already being helped” 🙂 I know these are nice people doing what they do well. In other cases they are following marketing orders and I hate to see it extending to undeserving retail checkout people turned into robots with lines like “Do you have a predisposition-spending-more-because-we-said-you-are-loyal card… No? Would you like one?”. Worse than that is the “Will you be using your more-money-for-share-holders loyalty/points/credit card today?” – a presumptuous and potentially insulting question.

How long can you cruise around your local whatever store without being incercepted?