Monday, February 23, 2009

"the Cult of the Amateur": A Review




While going through the list of books recommended to me by Amazon, the above title for some reason, entered the list. As I read the publisher's review my interest was piqued. I looked over the page and noticed that through the wonderful Amazon Marketplace, the book could be picked up for a mere $5.00 plus shipping and handling. As I thought about it, I became very interested and so with a simple 'click' of the mouse, I ordered a copy through the Marketplace. Honestly, why wouldn't you do the same, that is order through the Marketplace rather then through the main bookselling page.

But I digress; the author, Andrew Keen, is an observer and commentator on technology and its affect upon our society and culture. He reveals in this book an undying hatred on all things Web 2.0. For him it is the opening of a Pandora's box of problems that will lead to the erosion of culture and learning. He fears, and this is quite obvious from his writings that Web 2.0 will bring about the end of Culture as we know it and replace it with something not as appealing. He mourns the potential loss of newspapers and magazines, not just because he likes holding and reading them, but what they represent, and that is, journalistic integrity. In the place of journalists are the bloggers who lack the ability, in his words, to write news or to even take the time to digest the news in order to develop a proper understanding of the news.

This is not to say Andrew Keen is some sort of luddite. He confesses in the first chapter as being part of the Web 1.0 bubble. He writes:
Back in the Nineties, I was a pioneer in the First Internet Goldrush. With a dream of making the world a more musical place, I founded Audiocafe.com, one of the earliest digital music sites.


He has also embraced much of Web 2.0, he blogs and can be followed on Twitter. It is on the latter you can learn he has an addiction to PG tea, drinking 25 cups a day, for example.

What is his concern? He comments on the saying of T.H. Huxley, that if you give a million monkeys, a million typewriters and infinite time, they would type all the works of William Shakespeare. To Keen, it has happened, for there are millions of people banging away on their keyboards, bringing their limited opinions to the world of literature, learning and news gathering.

To Keen, blogging might mean the end of journalism as we know it, and replace with a shallowness that defies definition. He states that people are blogging and giving their opinion on news without having the proper learning to understand what it takes to gather news.

The genesis of the book was from an article he wrote in the Weekly Standard entitled Web 2.0. He began the article with this observation:
THE ANCIENTS were good at resisting seduction. Odysseus fought the seductive song of the Sirens by having his men tie him to the mast of his ship as it sailed past the Siren's Isle. Socrates was so intent on protecting citizens from the seductive opinions of artists and writers, that he outlawed them from his imaginary republic.

We moderns are less nimble at resisting great seductions, particularly those utopian visions that promise grand political or cultural salvation. From the French and Russian revolutions to the counter-cultural upheavals of the '60s and the digital revolution of the '90s, we have been seduced, time after time and text after text, by the vision of a political or economic utopia.

Rather than Paris, Moscow, or Berkeley, the grand utopian movement of our contemporary age is headquartered in Silicon Valley, whose great seduction is actually a fusion of two historical movements: the counter-cultural utopianism of the '60s and the techno-economic utopianism of the '90s. Here in Silicon Valley, this seduction has announced itself to the world as the "Web 2.0" movement.


To him the seduction is the rise in both numbers and prestige of the glorified amateur, who has the wisdom and knowledge that can challenge that of an expert. With this as the basis, he is able to write about the dangers of Wikipedia, where amateur can opine about a wide gamut of subjects and even take on the workers of experts. He gave the example of Dr. William Connolley, a climate modeler from the British Antartic Survey. He found an error in the article on Global Warming. Unfortunately, he Point of View was different from one of the editors of Wikipedia and he was almost banned from the 'pedia. His crime, not following the prevalent 'political' point of view. So the amateur can bully the expert is what Andrew Keen laments.

His concern about Web 2.0 goes into other realms, such as the end of music, through piracy of music files, Internet porn and online gambling.

He offers a solution and most of it has to do through stronger laws and stronger enforcement.

Some of the high points, he calls Lawrence Lessig, an "intellectual property communist'. He also refers to Google as a parasite.

He brings up a number of very good points, in particular how in his view, the Internet of Web 2.0 is narcissistic and it is simply a matter of us reporting on ourselves, without the vantage of a third party giving us the proper view of ourselves. In this regard, his book is good to read to bring balance to the cheerleaders of Web 2.0. He does not that many of the most popular bloggers either contain links to mainstream media, or are hiring journalists as part of their staff to bring the proper level of professionalism to their blogs.

What he fears most, is a world without the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

There are some concerns with this book, one is his discounting of any and everything done by the amateur. It seems to him, culture is only the product of the professional and the rich. He almost ignores the fact that culture has, through most of human history, been grassroots. It is the people gathering around a fire, or enjoying time together, sharing a song or a story, that is the birth of culture and not something brought about through committee. He mourns the 'death' of music, when the question should be asked, why as the music industry not kept pace with technology, or used technology as a means of bringing its music to people.

Other concerns is the fact he tends to blame "Web 2.0" for things that happened prior to its coming, such as Internet Gambling. By doing this, he weakens his argument rather then strengthens it.

While newspapers and magazines are going through a hard time, it is for them to evolve and work with the technology rather then allow it to bury them. I truly hope there will be newspapers and I think as long as we need professional newsgatherers, and they will never be replaced by bloggers, news media will exist. Also he complains about the number of new blogs, but my question is how many blogs continue and thrive. A quick search of blogs will reveal many as only having a number of posting and then the author quits and moves on to something else.

He also complains over such thing as the rise of plagerism because of the 'copy and paste' culture. This is a good complaint and it is up to the schools and universities to enforce the rules of plagarism. It has always been there and it is only through vigilance can it be kept at bay. Plus the stress should be on independent thought and not simply reguritating facts.

I would suggest this book as a good read. It will help you understand what is happening in the Internet, but I suggest you read with a critical eye. He makes good points, but he must be kept honest and not simply complain about everything to do with 'web 2.0'

Friday, February 20, 2009

Classic Dr. Who!




I was reading a few messages from the Doctor Who Information Network message group:

While we was channel surfing tonight, we stumbled across Doctor Who on
BBC kids. They are current airing Tom Baker episode "Image of the
Fendahl".


I thought to myself "Self, this is interesting", and so I went to the BBCKids website and went to the channel schedule. I went through it and there it was: Doctor Who, Monday to Friday, from 10PM-11PM Eastern.

Wow.

Classic Dr. Who! With the Fourth Doctor.

As you may know, Tom Baker was the longest serving Doctor of all time, including the present. He was probably the most popular Doctor of them all. This is due, in some degree to the fact he was the first Doctor most of us in North America ever met.

Right now, its season 16 and it is one of the story arcs of Doctor Who. It is the Key to Time arc, in which the Doctor and his companion, a female Time Lord, Lady Romanadvoratrelundar, or Romana, or Fred, the latter given to her by the Doctor as a joke.

She was played by Mary Tamm.

It is great to see the Doctor in action again.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Android? Canada?


As I mentioned in a previous blog, I've been watching and listening to the live feed from the World Mobile Congress. Perhaps all this has got me thinking again about cellphones and their effect in Canada. I was curious about my cellphone company and so I wrote a letter asking about the type of network and whether or not they are planning to introduce any Android based cellphones. Android is the Linux or Open-Sourced based operating system for cellphones that is being championed by Google. One of the first phones was introduced by T-Mobile. The T-Mobile G1 uses the Android OS and it offers users a real keyboard and a totally new web experience. The idea behind this, and the new generation of smartphones is to make is bring the internet to the cellphone, and have it copy the computer experience. What all cellphone manufacturers and carriers understand is the cellphone is for more then simply making calls. It is for text messaging, listening to music, taking videos and photographs, surfing the web and sharing said photos and videos in sites such as Facebook, Brightkite and 12seconds.tv. Or to take photographs or videos and email them to family, friends, or the local news outlet. In other words the cellphone is a more then a phone.

So I was wrote the letter and got a reply:

uses the GSM Network. At this time there is no talk of bringing Android based cell phones


They aren't alone, an article in itworldcanada informed its readers that there are no plans to bring any Android based phones to Canada. In other words, Canada is going to be off the map as far as open source is concerned. Another blogger decided to consider the various carriers in Canada and opined whether any of them would carry an Android based cellphone. Basically he was waiting for the new carriers that are coming in 2010 as possible carriers.

Speaking of Android, there has been a few articles regarding how Android made no presence at the World Congress. It made some wonder what is going on with Android. There was the introduction of the HTC Magic, but not much else.

Then again, there was no introduction of the Microsoft Phone either. Although some have suggested that Microsoft may have killed Android with it's announced release of Windows Mobile 6.5.

Should there be a place for the Android in Canada? Why not, why should we be at the bottom end of cellphone technology. We seem to be a few years behind, after all, let's remember how many countries got the iPhone before we did.

Monday, February 16, 2009

DellPhone?


A little over a month ago some buzz made it onto the Internet regarding the possibility of Dell entering the smartphone market. It was reported in the Business Insider and the AppleInsider. The rumour is that Dell will announce said phone during the Mobile World Congress which started today in Barcalona.

When a person thinks Dell, one thinks "computers" and it's direct to consumer market. It has been rather innovative in this field, including the first, I believe, 'no shipping charges' for its products. It has also had some adventures into the consumer electronics market. It has its own line of printers and flat screen televisions. It has also had some success in the PDA market with the Dell Axim. As you know from reading previous blogs, I am a fan of the Dell Axim, I still own a X3i which I use for both work and home. I use it to quickly surf the web, read email, do spreadsheets for both work and home and take notes while in meetings. In fact it rarely leaves my side or my briefcase. I can't imagine a situation in which I would not bring my Axim, with the exception of the gym.

In fact when Dell was producing the Axim, it received a number of positive reviews; especially in the features it packed into the device for such a reasonable price. It was the first company to offer WI-FI on a PDA for under #300.00US, for example. While the x3 and x30 tended to look boxy, there was some aesthics with the later x50 and x51 models.

Of course detractors will opine about the not lamented jukebox, Dell's foray into personal music device. One person on the appleinsider forum posted this comment:

"This would be a break from the past when Dell's Axim was a line of Windows Mobile-powered Pocket PC personal data assistants, discontinued in April 2007.* Another Dell smaller form factor hardware device, the Dell DJ music player, was shelved in 2006."
With success like that why wouldn't you try the smart phone market?!?!

While being a smartmouth, the question is a good one, does Dell have the moxy and knowledge to enter an already crowded consumer market such as the cellphone market. What about its flops? I can't speak for the Jukebox since I never owned one, but I will speak for the Axim. It is a good product. Why Dell stopped production may have had to do with the convergence of the PDA with the cellphone ( Smartphone), and the belief people don't want to cart around three or four products at once.

Now in other news, Microsoft did announce its new Mobile OS, the Windows Mobile 6.5 at the Conference. Gizmodo seems to have liked it.

Already a number of phones have been launched featuring the new OS, phones such as LG's GM730 for example.

Will Dell go with Microsoft? or go with Google? That is the question, whatever way, it needs to move fast, while the market is growing, it is also becoming crowded. Should Dell use the name 'Axim' or choose something else. Perhaps the way to go would be to direct market it and give the purchaser the freedom to choose their own carriers. This would beat out the iPhone which has tended towards exclusive agreements, such as with ATT or Rogers here in Canada.

I shall be keeping an eye on this one.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Re-enactment Cancelled


The celebrations that have been announced were not something that showed respect for our ancestors. ''

``If it had been the Quebec state that had decided to organize this event with respect and seriousness, we would not have had any problem with that. But because it's the federal government that's involved, it's disrespectful.''

Patrick Bourgeois

So Patrick Bourgeois is proud of himself. He's proud that is fringe group the Réseau de résistance du Québécois, forced the National Battlefields Commission to re-think and then cancel their plans to stage a re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. This reenactment was to be part of the 400th anniversary celebrations of the founding of Quebec City, also it would mark the 250th anniversary of the Battle.

Of course the sovereignist claim that such an re-enactment would be an insult to their ancestors and a reminder that they, the Quebec people, "lost" the battle and thus fell under the oppression of the English.

Yes and we all know how oppressed the Quebec have been under Canada.

Let's do some comparison of oppression shall we?

The Holocaust was sort of an act of oppression against the Jews of Europe.

The Tutsis were kind of oppressed by the Hutus during the Rwanda Genocide.

Shall I continue? I thought not.

But for some reason, a re-enactment of a famous battle in Quebec is considered an insult. For some reason, there are battle re-enactments take place all over the place, including places like Gettysburg. From what I understand, no one suggests the battle re-enactment is an insult against Southerners. Yet in Quebec, such an act, which causes us to remember and honour those who fought, is an insult.

Patrick goes on and says that until the re-enactment is sponsored by the Quebec State, it will continue to be an insult. How so Patrick, would the Sovereign Quebec State decide that the Army of the Marquis de Montcalm actually won the battle and later the war?

Of course it sounds like M. Bourgeois was planning a little re-enactment of his own:

"We were not going to be violent," he said. "But we planned to do whatever civil disobedience was necessary." In a written statement on his website, Bourgeois warned any tourist who visited Quebec City for the re-enactment that "they would not forget their visit for a very long time." Bourgeois said he didn't know for sure how many activists are in his group.



Sure, nothing like a little violence. Let's face it, it wouldn't have taken long for civil disobedience to degenerate into violence.

I just want to close by saying to M. Bourgeois, and others such as M. Duceppe,

"Get over yourselves"

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Jackson's Point


I thought I'd share a few more photographs of Jackson's Point, so you can appreciate the winter scene:






Of course, not all things are outside:



A piece of information I was told:

John Wesley was not known for his personal hygiene. In fact he often went without bathing and changing his clothes. I did a search on this subject and have come up with nothing. Further digging makes me wonder the truth of this bit of history since many believe it was John Wesley that came up with the saying:

Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness.

So if you can come up with the definitive answer to that bit of Wesley trivia, let me know.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A week of Retreat


This past week Jo-Anne and I were away at Jackson's Point Conference Centre, it was the usual annual event for officers of the Ontario Great Lakes Division. To be honest and probably this is due to experience, Jackson's can be a bit boring, especially after places such as Harrison Hotsprings Resort or the Lamplighter Inn. It is a nice place, don't get me wrong, but it lacks some of the amenities, such as swimming pools, exercise rooms, or wireless internet. Apparently they lost their wifi because it was open and too many people had trojans on their computers and were unleashing all sorts of spam. At least that's what Rogers reported. But there are some ethernet access sites set up, so things aren't a total loss. I had thought of going to facebook and recording some videos, but there were problems with servers at the facebook end. That is a shame, because it could have been fun.

The guests for the week were the Territorial Leaders of Canada and Bermuda, Commissioners William and Marilyn Francis. They are a tremendously gifted couple and I think the Territory is being well served by their leadership. They both have different gift mix, which is why they work so well as a team. He's an excellent teacher and she's gifted musically. I know some people find her colourful and she is.

The overall theme was holiness and the sessions took the form of Bible Studies, consider the various scripture passages dealing with the subject. There was a discussion of different views on the subject but as a whole it was more dealing with scripture. There was one different session and that was the Thursday night. For that session, it was a study of the songs in the Songbook. It began with a study of the five songs that were written by William Booth. It sounds as if he wrote only five songs, unlike Charles Wesley, who managed to write some 5500+ hymns.

It began with a rousing rendition of O Boundless Salvation, all seven verses, with no break. It was one of the few times I was glad I didn't volunteer to be part of the band. That's a great song to play but you do need a break. He gave us the history of each song, the unique circumstances behind the composition and information about the composer. There was a good mix of Salvationist, Methodist and other denominations. I think everyone did enjoy themselves, there was a smile on everyone's face at the end of the 90 minutes.

I managed to take some photographs of the Commissioners in action:





Of course, there was a few others taking photographs:



Being February, it was cold:




As good as it was to be away, it's good to be home. The cats seem to appreciate us being back.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Email Warnings and a little Life Lesson



Recently Jo-Anne got an email about a missing 16 year old young man. Here is the sad story:
Amber Alert.

Staff Sergeant Rick Williams
Wichita Falls Police Dept.
1007 N. Elm St .
Wichita Falls , Texas 76310
(940) 696-3671
Fax (940) 691-6346

Please look at the picture, read what his mother says, then forward this message on.
My 15 year old boy, Evan Trembley, is missing.
He has been missing for now two weeks.

Maybe if everyone passes this on, someone will see this child.
That is how the girl from Stevens Point was found by circulation
of her picture on tv. The internet circulates even overseas,
South America , and Canada etc.
Please pass this to everyone in your address book.
With GOD on his side he will be found.

"I am asking you all, begging you to please
forward this email on to anyone and everyone
you know, PLEASE.

It is still not too late. Please help us. If anyone
knows anything, please contact me at:
HelpfindEvanTrembley@yahoocom
I am including a picture of him.

All prayers are appreciated! ! "

It only takes 2 seconds to forward this.


This is so sad, any one who is a parent can feel the pain the mom must be going through. The sad part of this story is, it's totally false. While there is a Evan Trembly, he is not missing, he is doing good, thank you very much. The whole thing is a hoax. You can read the story here. Now the story Jo-Anne received puts young Evan in the BC Interior, in fact this story went through official channels before it reached her. The locations have been changed and will be changed, but its the same thing, a total hoax.

If the Internet has done anything, besides Dragostea tin dei, its breath new life into urban legends. It is so prevalent that a number of sites have arisen just to give us information on urban legends. One of the best is snopes.com.

Now for the life lesson; if you receive an email about an Amber Alert, there will be a very good chance it is false. Police for some reason would rather inform the public of an Amber Alert through the news media rather then through email. I suppose it has to do with the fact that most local police departments do not have everyone's email. Sure CSIS probably does (Hi Andrew), but most police don't. In fact to give an example, did you notice very few emails were sent about Brandon Crisp. Almost none.

If you get any email that you are suspicious may be a hoax, simply do a google search, you suspicions may be validated when the first result has the word "hoax" some where in the title.

That's it for the life lesson. Now you'll have to excuse me, I've got to help this poor woman get 51 Million Dollars out of her country.

Just kidding.