Ex Machina

It’s been a long day.  As the 10th anniversary of Barataria approaches, it’s time to refresh and renew.  This piece from nearly ten years ago is possibly even more relevant today.

When people talk to each other, there is a social code of acceptable behavior. When they interact with machines, there is no such code. If there is a machine between two people, the rules seem to not apply as easily, and people often act as if they are dealing with a machine – because that is what they have in front of them.

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Original Source

Robotics season and new work means I have to run a repeat.  This one, while a bit dated, has a message that needs to be repeated anyway.

The internet is a wide, rolling river of information. It can be treacherous and dangerous to wade into if you’re not careful. If you’re looking for a cool drink of truth, the muddy brown of this mighty Mississippi of data often has a harsh stench of bias bubbling along with the waves. What can a reader thirsty for knowledge do?

The answer is to seek the source – the cool, clear stream that feeds into the torment at the headwaters. I call it the “Urquelle”, a German word meaning “original source” favored in the mountains and rolling hills that are the source of so many great rivers in Bavaria and Bohemia. This process of seeking out primary sources is valuable not just for writers, for whom primary sources have long been a staple of good, useful prose. As surely as reading is writing, today’s discerning reader should also seek the Urquelle.
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Can We … Talk?

People’s Economics,” the three-part series of talks held at the Sidhe Brewing Company in St Paul, are over. Viddy will be up soon so that everyone can see the result for themselves, but I’ll give you my take. It was a great experience and, as usual, the comments after my li’l schtick were the highlight.

There’s nothing better than people sitting down over a few beers and talking about real stuff.

For that reason, the rumors that this will be followed by “Barataria on Ice” are completely untrue. Besides, I can’t skate. The most important part wasn’t the performance but the chance for people to sit down and simply talk. Non-partisan, totally real, honest talk. And I think that we’re going to start seeing more of it, too.

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Online Ad Bust

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
– John Wanamaker, Philadelphia retail giant, circa 1893

During the internet boom that defined the previous bull market, before 2000, one thing was clear. Advertising as we knew it was dead. Any maven or guru of the ‘net pointed to the ability to target audiences with pinpoint precision and collect real-time data on how effective the spending was. It was a feature that broadcast, direct mail, and print media would never be able to achieve.

Fifteen years on, we can see just how this has worked out. The short answer is that advertising is just as wasteful and untargeted as ever, even online. Worse, advertisers have not substantially moved away from broadcast ads, with teevee still the largest category of spending.

Is internet advertising a flop, or was the hype just ahead of the promise?

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Net Neutrality Heats Up

“Above all else, we must strive to keep the highways of commerce open to all on equal terms.”
President Theodore Roosevelt, 1905

When President Obama came out in favor of Net Neutrality, the debate suddenly flared up. Ted Cruz and the Tea Party wing reflexively started campaigning hard against it, signaling a big battle ahead. Perhaps Obama should issue a statement claiming that “The sky is blue” just to see what fun ensues.

For all the noise, this is an important debate that is now settling in to become another political battle. The nuances are almost certainly going to be lost, especially with very mixed messages coming from the voting public. It is, however, one of the most important issues of our time – who controls the media, or for that matter, what exactly is “the media” today?

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Seek the Original Source

The internet is a wide, rolling river of information. It can be treacherous and dangerous to wade into if you’re not careful. If you’re looking for a cool drink of truth, the muddy brown of this mighty Mississippi of data often has a harsh stench of bias bubbling along with the waves. What can a reader thirsty for knowledge do?

The answer is to seek the source – the cool, clear stream that feeds into the torment at the headwaters. I call it the “Urquelle”, a German word meaning “original source” favored in the mountains and rolling hills that are the source of so many great rivers in Bavaria and Bohemia. This process of seeking out primary sources is valuable not just for writers, for whom primary sources have long been a staple of good, useful prose. As surely as reading is writing, today’s discerning reader should also seek the Urquelle.
Continue reading