I’m all in favour of attempts like that of the World Wide Web Foundation to make in their words “multi-dimensional measures of the Web’s growth, utility and impact on people and nations” but to call it the “first” such attempt would seem to be overlooking the strikingly similar ITU “Measuring the Information Society” programme or The World Economic Forum’s “Network Readiness Index” (there are and have been probably others too). There’s plenty of room for all though and each group of scholars has something to contribute (indeed the Web Index draws from ITU figures among others). If you are interested in the digital divide, check them all out!
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Storyful is a news agency based on an interesting idea that a lot of journalism scholars are talking up – journalists as curators, bringing together and highlighting the best news from social media. It is still in beta, so it’s perhaps premature to criticize the product but when I registered and went to take a look at the first story which interested me it had some flaws which indicate some of the potential problems with this kind of service.
Having recently visited Cambodia, the story on Cambodian child prostitution caught my eye. So what do I get? A prominent photo and trailer from a documentary on the subject which is (as far as I can tell) a product of the mainstream media. An introductory paragraph of information and claims, some of them quite controversial but without sourcing of any kind. A tweet from a Chicago-based comedian pointing to a related story – from the mainstream media. “Some informed opinion on the Cambodian sex industry” is two comments selected out of 84 youtube comments found on a two year old Al Jazeera news item. And lastly there are links to and excerpts from the Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation and Human Rights Watch.
Leaving aside problems of design and implementation (which can be fixed) this suggests two linked problems. First, that because of digital divide and linguistic difficulties, it can be hard to find social media sources for news from outside the industrialized world and that as a result a lot of what one can find eventually links back to the work of (more or less) mainstream journalists rather than citizen journalists. Also see Gonzalez-Bailon (2009) on how the mainstream news organizations and those they link to get most online buzz and Paterson (2007) on how the online news environment is still dominated by output from two major news agencies.
This is not in any way to denigrate the work of those behind storyful and other projects – it’s just to point out that social media does not (yet?) provide would-be news providers easy-to-process rich seams of raw news material unless such material is on subjects that appeal to social media users (see Thelwall 2010) and in countries where social media use is widespread. What’s needed first is more citizen journalistic capacity building in developing countries by organizations like the World Service Trust, OneWorld and Global Voices and more and cheaper internet there (eg you can’t get decent citizen journalism out of the Central African Republic if broadband costs 40 times the average salary there).
PS UK readers may be interested that there is an (as far as I know unrelated) BBC Three programme about sex trafficking in Cambodia coming up next Thursday at 21:00.
Non-UK readers can stop here… Tech-savvy UK readers I could use some advice.
Sky’s heavy-handed efforts to get us to switch to Sky Talk have caused us to re-examine our TV/broadband/phone mix completely. The long & short of it is:
We’re contemplating dumping Sky for Freesat plus a broadband supplier and a telecoms supplier. Though we’re in London we are only in an analogue area for Virgin so that’s a non-starter. Overall we don’t call much but we call a lot to France and Canada. I don’t know how much broadband we use but I think it is substantially more than 2-3Gb a month. The current shortlist is:
- Sky+Sky Talk Unlimited+mid broadband+2 channel packs
- Plusnet “Option 2” (15Gb/mo) and BT and 1899 for international calls
Price-wise TalkTalk is a no-brainer – half the price of the other options (£200 a year for 20Gb a month broadband plus almost unlimited calls except for national daytime) – but its customer service has a lousy reputation. Does anyone here use them? Are they any better than they were? How can they afford to be so much cheaper than anyone else? Do they make it up on volume?
Are there any other ISPs you could recommend that offer good service and un-capped or high-cap broadband for a low price (with or without an inexpensive telephony option)?
If we go freesat should we go ahead and get the Humax PVR or are there other good freesat PVRs on the near horizon?
BBC iPlayer now available on Mac – great! (What they mean is that you can download iPlayer programmes on these new platforms – before you could only watch streamed video).
Just one good reason to learn to love the European Union:
The rules put a retail price cap of 11 euro cents (9p) on texts sent while roaming – a substantial cut on the European average of 29 euro cents (24p). The ministers backed a cap of 1 euro per megabyte (83p) on the price of downloading data – though this applies only to the charges operators levy on each other.
I’m busy downloading the demo of Red Alert 3 to celebrate making progress on my thesis and I thought I would try out BBC iPlayer’s streaming video option to watch Survivors at “high definition”. To my surprise the BBC video is quite close to download quality even while I’m downloading the demo at 400Kbps! I was dismissive of the likelihood that people would bother watching BBC TV live on iPlayer but at this quality it would be quite bearable.
And I’m old enough to remember waiting for plain text web pages to load in Mosaic…
PS I am enjoying Survivors so far even though it is hardly sophisticated entertainment…
British Telecom has just announced its fibre to the home trial offering (potentially) 40MBits/sec Internet and data connections. One of the two telephone exchanges where it will be trialled is in Muswell Hill, just 2km away – unfortunately, our exchange is Upper Holloway, 1.3km away in the other direction.
Thanks to a house move I have been trapped on dialup at home – at least for the next week or so – and I have been reminded about just how painful using the Internet is when you have to do it at less than 10Kb/s. All Internet users are definitely not equal in their ability to get things done. It has taken me 20 minutes just to check my email and read a minimal number of pages very slowly. By contrast once my broadband is installed, £5/$10 a month will get me a scorching fast (up to) 8Mbps (because it is bundled with my satellite TV). I can hardly wait!
Just found out that the reason my wife’s PC wouldn’t connect to the Internet is that I had entered the WEP password wrongly. But Intel’s software reported a good connection to my router! Would it have been so hard to code in a “physical connection good but password is wrong please try again” dialog box? Billions of blue blistering barnacles!
Later And to compound the annoyance, I nearly thought my connection had broken again but then I realised that if you fix the password on one user account it doesn’t fix it on any of the others. Mightn’t it be a good idea to allow administrators to change all the passwords for wireless access to a given point at the same time?
For ages now I have only been able to connect two of our three computers to the network at the same time (though there were four addresses available via the DHCP server on our Linksys router). So I upgraded the router to the latest software and reconnected everything. The Mac and my desktop connected fine. My wife’s Dell laptop? Blue screen of death with a helpful “driver IRQL not less or equal” message. I upgraded the Intel Pro 2200BG wireless card software in the Dell (which was two years old) but still no joy. Now waiting (in the doghouse) for a call from Dell tech support. I wish I could say this rarely happens but in my experience wireless networking almost never goes smoothly – and if it does, G*d help you if you change anything!