Quick Roundup 342

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Obama's "Message" Hasn't Changed? Indeed!

RealClear Politics headlines a story (by a lefty) about Obama's recent tacking to the right as, "Obama's Message Hasn't Changed." That's funny, since the message consists of nothing more than a promise of near-universal "change" -- except for the Earth's thermostat, of course. And the curious consistency.

Yesterday evening, my mind randomly tossed out the observation that the Democrats on the campaign trail sound an awful lot like the homeless/zombies in South Park's "Night of the Living Homeless".

Someone else, however, beat me to the punch long ago as the above YouTube video shows. But I'd have spared you that frontal view of Michael Moore at the beginning....

Social Networking as CB Radio

I ran into this Robert X. Cringely article on social networking awhile back that I noticed among some links of things I'd thought about blogging, but never quite got around to. Since a comment yesterday made the article interesting to me, I'll link to it now.

Z thinks that social networking could be used to support rebuilding the World Trade Center the right way. Sounds good to me, but I have to admit that I don't do social networking. Myrhaf thinks it's a waste of time and Cringely sees much of it as part passing fad, part bad business model.
Social networking has a lot of problems as both a business and a cultural phenomenon. To start with there is generally no true business model. This can vary a bit from application to application but most are vying simply for eyeballs and hoping for Google ads to pay the bills until Time Warner or News Corp make them an acquisition offer they can't refuse. That might be okay for Facebook or MySpace and maybe Linked-In, but there are more than 350 general-purpose social networks out there and I will guarantee you that no more than 5 percent of those will be still operating two years from today.


It's not that I don't see value to social networks, it's that I generally don't see ENOUGH value. Yes, keeping my address book synchronized with reality is nice, but isn't that likely to be shortly absorbed into the operating system or perhaps into networked applications like Gmail and Yahoo Mail? [bold added]
I'm too swamped to add something (on top of blogging) to (a) work, (b) getting ready to move across the country, and (c) finding a job. I have no plans to get involved in that time sink, but I am curious. If there are any social networkers out there, what say you? Is Cringely right? Is Myrhaf missing the big picture after having tried MySpace for awhile?

Whatever you say, if you comment at all, I think Z's idea has merit. So if you're a social networker, follow his advice and stand up for building a taller and better WTC!

Racism at Three!

Even though I attended a racially mixed grade school in Mississippi, I don't think I was really even aware of the existence of different races until about third grade. I suspect that my experience is typical, know that this would be easy to study, and can't imagine any child reaching a sufficient stage of cognitive development to even be a racist until at least second or third grade. (Not that racism has any intellectual merit, but you do first need to (a) be aware of racial classifications and (b) associate them with specific attitudes and behaviors.) In any event, the notion that someone could be a racist at age three is preposterous.

And yet, ...
The National Children's Bureau, which receives £12 million a year, mainly from Government funded organisations, has issued guidance to play leaders and nursery teachers advising them to be alert for racist incidents among youngsters in their care.

This could include a child of as young as three who says "yuk" in response to being served unfamiliar foreign food.
Andrew Dalton surmises, rightly, that, "There must be a special version of Poe's Law that applies to multiculturalists."

-- CAV

This post was composed in advance and scheduled for publication at 5:00 A.M. on July 10, 2008.

Updates: Added a missing hyperlink.


z said...

I'd just like to make a few quick comments about social networking sites.

First of all, they really ARE just online address books. I've been out of high school for a while now and just in the last two years, reconnected with dozens of people with whom I grew up. After high school everybody scattered. Keeping in touch was hard because of the huge changes of moving away from our homes and families. Going to college and settling in, I couldn't keep up with where everybody was and what they were doing. Now, every one of them has a webpage and I can access all of their webpages through one portal. That is very convenient.

I get updates constantly. If someone gets engaged, or has a birthday coming up, a note appears on my news feed. I can see pictures of their fourth of july bar-b-ques or whatever, or their newborn children.

As far as spreading messages on these sites, I didn't mean that it would be effective. Many of my friends will ignore that I joined that WTC group, which now has 18 members. But say I have 100 friends, when I join the group WTC 2011, they all get a news feed item which says "z just became a fan of WTC 2011". Maybe 3 or 4 of them will be interested and click on it. Then, on my profile, it will have a list of all the groups I've joined: Camp Cowabunga Alumni, Bayside High School Alumni, WTC 2011. Any of my 100 friends may click, who knows. Gus, how many readers do you have who also use Facebook?

By the way, I recently became a fan of Sparrowhawk and Ed Cline on Facebook. We only have 10 members, so anyone on Facebook should search for that and join. Yaron Brook is on Facebook. So's John Lewis. Maybe we could get Leonard Peikoff to start using it!

Gus Van Horn said...

The notification and viral marketing aspects of it sound worthwhile, but I think Cringely is on to something WRT using a big-name social network.

Perhaps when the dust settles for me, I'll give it a shot.

Dismuke said...

It is rare that I disagree with Myrhaf but this is one instance in which I very much do.

I think myspace is wonderful. Can one pull up some myspace profiles and say "gee, this is mindless?" Of course one can. One can also turn on a television set or rent movies on DVDs and make the exact same observation. But to say that is not a slight against televison or movies as a medium. It is merely a reflection of a certain subset - albeit a very large one - of people who watch those mediums. There have also been television programs and movies that have been outstanding. And, likewise, there are some really outstanding myspace profiles out there - outstanding both aesthetically and in terms of the information that they convey. Sure there are mindless profiles - because there are many mindless people using the service. But they are NOT the only ones who use it.

I started a myspace profile for Radio Dismuke a couple of years ago. See: http://www.myspace.com/radiodismuke
It has been an outstanding and totally free way of making new people aware of the station. There are now fans of 1920s and 1930s pop and jazz who might not have discovered it had I not put up the myspace page.

Furthermore, I quickly discovered that there is a huge community of aficionados of early 1900s popular culture on myspace. Many of these people I would not have known about had it not been for myspace.

If you visit any of the friends that are displayed on the first page of my profile - well, I don't think you will find a mindless one among them. Some of them are highly informative tribute profiles that people have put up about long forgotten artists I feature on my station. The Lee Morse profile is especially well done example. Included are also a few profiles of contemporary artists and groups that play vintage pop in an authentic style. For example, check out the video clips on Bratislava Hot Serenaders, an excellent band out of Slovakia, of all places. If you are in California, the Maxwell DeMille Productions profile will keep you up-to-date on all sorts of 1920s/1930s events that it produces - and the profile is pretty cool in its own right. Some are just personal profiles of friends here in Texas that I know personally or people I have met online. But even those personal profiles are interesting in their own right as they are neat people - and there is nothing mindless about them. Indeed, I think such personal profiles provide comforting proof that there are some really neat people in this world.

The common denominator in all of the top friends on my profile is some sort of interest in the popular culture of the early 1900s decades. And if you look at their friends lists, you will see many of the same people who are on my friends list. What you are basically seeing is the emergence of a brand new subculture that simply was not possible before the advent of the Internet - an emergence that has been sped up even more thanks to myspace. Yes, people who were interested in such stuff existed prior to the Internet. But they were so few in number and spread out that they had little way of knowing about and finding each other. Today they do - and thanks to the Internet, their numbers are growing as young people stumble across websites, Internet radio stations and myspace profiles and discover an aliveness, richness, grandeur and vibrancy that is utterly lacking in today's pop cultural sewer.

Now, my station has several hundred friends and if you go further into the list you will see some pretty bizarre stuff mixed in with the good. I put through all friends request that I suspect are legitimate and not just spam. I always post a "thank you for the add" in their comments section after I put the request though along with a cool looking image of a vintage radio which, in turn, draws more people to my profile. From these friends requests I have learned a lot about the very wide diversity of my listenership. For example, there is a sub-sect of the so-called "goth" subculture that is into nostalgia from the Victorian era though the 1920s - and, as a result, some of the friends profiles are somewhat morbid. Without myspace I probably would never have known that my station had a following amongst the goth scene. And there have been plenty of others who have communicated to me via myspace that they were fans who I would NEVER have guessed would listen based on their profiles. That suggests to me that my hunch about the music having a potentially wide appeal if anyone ever had the money to promote it properly is probably valid. In other words, thanks to myspace, I am able to do informal "market research" about my audience and their interests that I otherwise simply would NOT be able to do on my shoestring budget.

When Internet radio stations had a "Day of Silence" and urged people to contact their representatives regarding the RIAA's lobbying effort to effectively shut down all Internet stations that do not play RIAA approved material, I sent out a "bulletin" to all of my myspace friends urging them to call their representatives. Several of them, in turn, forwarded it on in the form of a bulletin to their friends. Others passed along the information on their blogs and websites. My act of sending out that bulletin undoubtedly resulted in a number of phone calls that otherwise would not have happened. The Day of Silence did not solve the webcasters' problems - but, the flood of calls and the subsequent media attention forced the RIAA to call off its attack dogs who were prepared to place most Internet stations in immediate bankruptcy in July 2007. Today, the whole issue is a stalemate and is being fought in the courts. That is not a good situation - but it is better than being out of business and bankrupt. I was not the only broadcaster using myspace to get the message out - and myspace undoubtedly helped contribute to the flood of phone calls.

The RIAA labels also HATE myspace because it offers emerging bands and musical genres a way of finding new audiences without having to mortgage their future earnings to the RIAA labels who, in the past, would have been the ONLY path to acquiring a large audience. Thanks to myspace, musical artists can find new audiences, keep their fans up-to-date on their performances and activities, and, if they wish, either give away or sell their recordings as downloads. Thanks in large part to myspace, the role of the RIAA labels as "gatekeepers" of who gets to be introduced to the public and who gets exposure is coming to a very quick and painful (for them) halt.

My only problem with myspace is keeping up with the friends requests takes time. I always try to visit profiles before I put friends requests through just to weed out those I suspect are simply submitting pseudo-spam requests to EVERY profile they run across. The myspace site can be clunky and slow at times - and some people, unfortunately, overload their profiles with images to the point that it actually clogs up my computer's memory. Friends requests disappear after 30 days if they are not responded to and occasionally I become busy and stay away from myspace for months at a time. When I do, I end up losing the potential publicity such friends can provide and, in a few cases, my lack of response to friends requests has been interpreted as a slight. Myspace is WONDERFUL free publicity - but it does come at the price of keeping up with it.

I also should point out that I do NOT think myspace is especially well suited towards spreading explicit ideas or a philosophy. It is just not a good context for that. It could perhaps be a good place for people who share certain ideas or who are, let's say, Ayn Rand fans, find each other and network. But the context does not lend itself towards intellectual activism. Myspace functions best on a sense-of-life level. Radio Dismuke is very much an example of sense of life activism on my part. Intellectual activism is much more difficult and requires contexts very different than what myspace can provide. Sense of life activism, on the other hand, involves exposing people to things such as music and art and opening up to them a world that they might not have even been aware ever existed. Myspace is great for that. I don't ever expect 1920s and 1930s music to ever again top the charts. But I do hope that future generations will know what it is and that it will be a widely recognized and respected musical genre genre. And if I can expose people to the music and the culture of that period, then perhaps some of the wonderful values which have since been lost or vastly diminished such as style, grace, beauty, grandeur and, with regard to music, melody might be rediscovered and incorporated into creative new works for the future. And the good news is that what I describe is actually starting to happen - on myspace and elsewhere on the Internet.

A blog is a much better venue for Gus Van Horn's intellectual activism. Myspace would be a waste of time if that is one's only objective in using it. On the other hand, if you ever had enough odd moments of free time to do it, you might personally come across all sorts of really interesting people who are into things such as ska and home brewing and perhaps other interests as well. And discovering and connecting with others who share your rational values - intellectual or otherwise - is certainly a wonderful thing and is most definitely not mindless.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you. That is exactly the kind of input I was looking for,