Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

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The Rise Of Fake News Amidst The Fall Of News Media


The Fake News epidemic is a direct result of our continued failure to create a stable business model around professional news media. We seem to have forgotten that the news media sector continues to be in turmoil.

Take a look at a few of the headlines above from last year. And in just the first few days of 2017:

- Medium — one of the most popular online publishing sites says it will cut 50 jobs and change to an unspecified business model. Medium was founded by Ev Williams, founder of Blogger, co-founder of Twitter.

It doesn't pay for much of its content yet this digital-first social media savvy media company is struggling. All media companies are in the disruptive path - not just digital.

Ev Williams wrote:

Story continues...

Financial Times: Every Company Will Have To Become A Media Company

Financial Times Media Editor Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson wrote an interesting article:

PR and news boundaries are being redrawn -

His report concludes that

... search and social media trends suggest corporate content will only grow. Whether media outlets like it or not, every company will have to become a content company.

It's good to see that this important concept becoming mainstream. I've been pointing this out since early 2005.

At the moment, PR and marketing people own this topic. What's needed is input from top media professionals who aren't employees. Because PR and marketing people will meddle and produce corporate marketing speak, and that's not progress.

(Hat tip: Robert Manetta.)

The Fly On The Wall And Its Social Effects - A Short Story From The Near Future...

We live in a world of ubiquitous computing -- there are ever more computing devices everywhere.

We will soon live in a world of ubiquitous video cameras. You probably have one staring at you right now just inches away from your face -- the camera in your laptop or desktop.

There are video cameras on street corners, business premises, highways. The Brits have the most video cameras per head of population but other countries are catching up. The CCTV technology is cheap to install and operate.

Consumer video cameras are cheap and getting cheaper and better quality. A Flip HD camera from Cisco is under $200 and there are consumer HD video cameras for under $100. HD video is found in smart phones, such as the iPhone 4. Soon, every phone will have a high quality video camera, and not just phones.

The circuitry and the mechanism for a HD video camera is tiny. It can be fitted into ever smaller formats, such as pens: Brookstone sells a video spy pen for $99.95, and there are cheaper versions available elsewhere.

As computers become more ubiquitous so will video cameras. It won't be long before there are video cameras all around and in places where we aren't used to having them.

It won't be long before we have always-on video cameras operating in all our social spaces.

Imagine living in a world where nearly every conversation, every meeting, every step you take in the physical world is recorded and archived in the cloud.

If you knew that every conversation with your kids, with your parents, with your friends -- was possibly being recorded and stored -- would you think twice, maybe thrice about what you had to say?

The Facebook effect...

We have become used to the possibility that all our online conversations and interactions are recorded and stored somewhere. We are much more guarded about what we say or do online.

But we think of our offline conversations and interactions as mostly personal and private. We don't exhibit the same cautious behavior offline as we do online.

If I meet a friend walking down the street and stop to chat for a few minutes -- I'm pretty sure that that conversation and meeting isn't recorded.

That won't be true in the near future. And it won't be because of government "Big Brother" surveillance. It will be because of personal surveillance devices that people will carry out of choice for personal protection.

It will be as if there is always a "fly on the wall" watching and recording everything.

People will carry what I call a "personal fly" -- a personal security device containing a tiny video camera fitted into a pendant or broach, embedded in clothing, earrings, or in eye glasses.

If you are attacked it will have video and audio records of that event.

Why will people carry a personal fly? Because they can, and because the technology will be cheap enough and good enough to be used as a very effective personal security device.

A personal fly...

A personal fly will be able to wirelessly record many hours of video and audio onto a flash memory chip; some "flies" will use the cell phone in your pocket to send continuous video and audio data to a cloud-based storage service.

If you were mugged, your personal fly would record the event and police could use its images and audio to track down the mugger.

- A criminal could try to destroy the flash card storing that video -- but since some personal fly devices send their data into the cloud, a criminal could never be sure that destroying the chip covered their tracks.

Thus, all people wearing a personal fly would be protected as if they were all storing their data off-corpus.

- A personal fly might even be equipped with a panic button alerting the police, and local public surveillance cameras to retain their video footage to track escaping assailants.

- Children will be a prime market. Parents will use these inexpensive personal security devices to protect their kids. It might even be considered neglectful if parents didn't protect their children with such devices.

- Adults will wear a personal fly throughout the day for protection. At the end of the day, or week, the video collected could be erased, or not, depending on what settings you keep

-Telcos will market them as part of the many wireless applications and services they provide.

- Manufacturers will produce different types of personal fly, in different disguises, and with an array of capabilities.

I have no doubt that these types of personal security devices will prevent many attacks and other types of criminal acts.

(BTW, I'm working with potential partners on manufacturing this concept -- let me know if you'd like to chat.)

The social fly...

What interests me is how such personal security devices (PSDs) will affect our behavior in our social spaces. What will be the new manners?

- Will it be rude to wear a personal security device at a dinner party?

- WIll it be rude to ask someone to turn off their PSD?

- How can you know if someone's PSD is on or off? (You can't know for sure...)

- Will it be rude to archive all your recordings?

- Will it be illegal to use a PSD in situations without informing all persons in the vicinity, similar to getting consent to record telephone conversations?

- Will we need new laws?

- Will people getting together, have to sync up their personal archive settings and come to some kind of agreement over recording their conversation -- before any conversation takes place?

- How will we behave in our social spaces knowing that everything we say is being recorded and possibly archived for many years?

- How will kids grow up with such personal surveillance systems? Parents will likely want to peek into how they do in the classroom, their conversations with friends, etc.

Stunted conversations...

The number of personal attacks is rare but people's fear of them is much larger, and that will drive the sales of these devices.

Surely, it will have a chilling effect on our society and our behavior...

The threat here is not from "Big Brother" but from each other; we will constantly be aware of a shadow haunting all our interactions, recording everything we see, hear and say. We will always be on guard, second guessing ourselves in all our social interactions

Surveillance by Big Brother is less scary than surveillance by each other, by people you know and know you.

- Say goodbye to casual drinking or anything at casual at parties.

- The opportunities for mischief by disgruntled friends and lovers are immense.

- The question of trust between friends and family members will be tested to the extreme.

- Living in an ambient surveillance world policed by the people around you is going to be challenging.

These things can't be good. But they will happen because they can.

Welcome to your future.

- - -

[If you like this post you might like some of my other posts, collected in my new book - In My Humble Opinion: Notes from a Silicon Valley Watcher - available in paper or electron.]

Saturday Post: The Beatnik To Blogger Connection...

It's interesting that blogging started off in the San Francisco area because here, there is a long tradition of new forms of writing. I've long been fascinated with the literature of the Beatniks -- a word coined by San Francisco columnist Herb Caen in 1958.

Here are a few of my prior posts exploring the Beatnik to blogger connection.

For a long while I've felt a strong connection between the culture of the Beat generation and the Blogging generation. Both celebrate a raw and passionate expression, and a use of language that is both novel and designed to snag the reader's social sensibilities.

Both communities found themselves at the forefront of major changes in their societies. And both took advantage of a lapse in the controls that societies usually place on publishing outsider ideas.

In October 1955 Allen Ginsberg performed his "Howl" poem for the first time in public at the "6poets at 6 Gallery" in San Francisco.

The performance was in a dilapidated storefront on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Yet this small event had a huge effect on the entire country. It eventually led to a show trial on obscenity charges and propelled a small writers colony, dubbed "Beatniks" by San Francisco columnist Herb Caen, into media superstars.

This period of the late 1950s was a tumultuous one because of the escalating Cold War. Although the Beatnik writers had begun developing their ideas and their works in the late 1940s, it was now that their seed fell on fertile ground. Their message of rebellion and a world gone mad was now easily understood and the mechanisms of mass media enabled it wide distribution.

The Beatniks were mostly white middle and upper class kids and completely out of odds with the confined culture that limited nearly all forms of artistic expression. It's a familiar story to us today, of youth in rebellion, but there is much more about the 1950s that is familiar too.

The Second World War had created a massive government propaganda machine with help from newspapers, radio, TV and Hollywood. This seemed necessary during a time of war but it kept on going after the end of the war, and it created a belief that there was a permanent state of war - the Cold War. It's similar to our "unending" state of war against terrorism.

The writers of the Beat generation were initially apolitical, amoral, and hedonistic. That was all you needed to be a rebel in those days. They found they could shakeup society simply through their hedonism, their joy in the creation of literature; and the overall exploration of the edges of our mortal experience.

In the mid 1950s there was a thaw in the Cold war and this helped thaw American society and helped it discover the Beat Generation.

This thaw showed itself in events such as the Hungarian uprising in 1956, which led to liberal reforms in neighboring countries and a general cultural and artistic renaissance.

1956 is the time when my parents managed to escape Poland. There was a slight raising of the Iron Curtain that divided Europe. For the first time Poles were allowed to visit Western countries. My parents queued up for three days, (not to buy an iPhone) to get onto the first organized vacation trips to Vienna, Austria.

They were part of a group of 60 tourists. And once they were in Vienna, they and their friends snuck away in the middle of the night and took a train to Salzburg where they turned themselves in as political refugees.

They were housed in one of the refugee camps still in place from the war. Six months later I was born in that refugee camp and six months later we left for London, where I lived until I moved to the US in 1984.

This period of my parents' escape from Poland and the Beat Generation's newly found success came during a time when there was a global lifting of the normal restraints on politics and the arts.

By the mid-1950s McCarthyism had run its course and the Beatniks found themselves in the vanguard of a new culture, and become a new intelligentsia that felt able to challenge the rules of the day and win. That challenge came in the form of an authentic literature that still holds its power.

Today [March 2006] blogging challenges the rules of today -- is it journalism? Is it rubbish? Is it a new literature? Is it all those things?

I used to think blogging might be a subset of literature, a cousin to journalism. Now, I think of it as a superset of all other forms of writing because all other forms of writing can fit into its format.

We are entering another period of big changes, just as in the late 1950s, and blogging is the most revolutionary and most exciting literature to emerge since the Beat Generation, imho.

- - -

I get to meet the son of Neal Cassady, the most fascinating character of the Beat Generation...

It's a warm Wednesday evening in North Beach, San Francisco, and it is Neal Cassady's 80th birthday, and the remnants of the Beat generation, including Neal Cassady's son John are inside a small storefront.

The event also marked the opening of the Beat Museum. I've lately become very interested in the Beat generation, the mostly East Coast/New York intellectuals that came to San Francisco in the 1950s and were chosen by the media to represent the rebellious youth of those times.

From Wikipedia:

"The members of the Beat Generation were new bohemian libertines, who engaged in a spontaneous, sometimes messy, creativity. The beat writers produced a body of written work controversial both for its advocacy of non-conformity and for its non-conforming style..."

The Beat Generation influence has lasted a long time, reflected in the Hippie and Punk cultures, and I see its influence in blogging too.

The Beat Generation created a literature that was passionate, raw and emotional. Blogging can be like that too.

I've become interested in Neal Cassady who was somewhat of a mysterious character because his writings are rare. Yet Neal Cassady became a very important muse for many, influencing the writings of many of the Beat Generation such as Jack Kerouac, Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and in later generations Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson and many more. Yet Neal Cassady did not write much himself.

What makes him even more interesting is that Neal Cassady was not of their world -- the privileged, well educated, middle class world of the Beat Generation's intellectuals. He was a working class kid, or rather a skid row kid.

When he was six he came under the care of his alcoholic father, a part-time barber, and lived with him in Denver's skid row. These were depression times and brutal to families living on the edge. He learned the survival skills of a hobo, train hopping, etc.

I had just finished reading a book by Neal Cassady, called the "The First Third" so it was great thrill to chat with his son John.

John Cassady looks to be in his mid-50s, white hair, lots of energy, and he talks a mile a second. I asked him about the book. "That was something we found in the corner of his closet, very little of his writing survived. But I'll tell you what happened to his writings...I don't think this story has been published yet."

Brilliant. A potential scoop.

John tells me that most of his father's written work was lost when he parked his car for two weeks at a friend's place then took off for two or so weeks of carousing -- in the very same North Beach neighborhood that we are standing. When he returned to pick up his car it was gone. And so was nearly all of his father's literary work.

Wow. I wondered if they might still exist in some garage, attic or in the trunk of some car in a junkyard.

John Cassady went on to tell me about how the term "Beatniks" was hated by his father and his friends.

John adds, "The bongo playing, dressed in black, and beret wearing Beatnik was a complete invention of the media. The closest they got to bongos was one time at a rent party just around the corner from here. ...[A rent party charged a modest admission to help the hosts pay their rent]. Jack (Kerouac) was handed some bongos and he noticed the skins needed tightening so he went to the kitchen and lit the gas burner to heat and tighten the skins. He was distracted and he burnt right through the skins."

More stories followed and then Wavy Gravy showed up and held court, telling more stories as people passed a jug of red wine around... Neal Cassady would be very pleased.

- - -

Evelyn Rodriguez, a blogger friend at Crossroads Dispatches, found a fascinating essay about writing authored by Jack Kerouac. In it you can see some of the connection between Beatnik and Blogger.

Here is an extract of Jack Kerouac's writing advice from "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose." It's worth reading the essay in full.

PROCEDURE Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image.

METHOD No periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas-but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)--"measured pauses which are the essentials of our speech"--"divisions of the sounds we hear"-"time and how to note it down." (William Carlos Williams)

SCOPING Not "selectivity' of expression but following free deviation (association) of mind into limitless blow-on-subject seas of thought, swimming in sea of English with no discipline other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement, like a fist coming down on a table with each complete utterance, bang! (the space dash)-Blow as deep as you want-write as deeply, fish as far down as you want, satisfy yourself first, then reader cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning-excitement by same laws operating in his own human mind.

- - -

There are more posts like this in my new book:

In My Humble Opinion

IMHO: We Are Becoming Nomadig...

Mobile, fragmented, and unrooted. These days our culture is becoming more mobile because we are more mobile.

We have a vast torrent of mobile digital devices and the infrastructure to allow us to be on the move constantly, to become more nomadic.

We are no longer tied to the desktop PC, nor to the laptop; and we can have access to our digital lives from nearly any device anywhere, anytime and anyplace. Anything with a browser and an Internet connection allows us to access our applications and our files, and our networks of colleagues, friends and families.

We are becoming digitally enabled mobile/nomadic peoples. Airliners will fly the equivalent of the entire population of the earth in the next three years.

We are also more mobile in our thinking, more able to spot the obstacles to progress that regional based gender, ethnic, and economic divisions create.

Is this a return to our nomadic roots?

The first humans lived as nomads for more than 100,000 years, that's how humans spread and colonized new regions, moved across glacial wastelands, and found passes through massive mountain ranges.

Papa was a rolling stone, wherever he laid his hat was his home; and papa before him, and on, and on, into our common ancestry. It's in our blood.

We seem to be going back to our roots and becoming nomadic peoples again -- or maybe it's "nomadig" people: nomads living in digitally enabled groups.

We are no longer tied to a specific geography, and nor is our thinking. We can easily pull up and move from the West coast to the East coast or anywhere else. And we can easily collaborate in teams across huge geographies and multiple time zones.

We often travel thousands of miles in the course of a month, a week, even a day. It doesn't matter where we are physically, we can still maintain our family connections, friendships, and business contacts.

We're in constant motion yet we remain rooted within our online worlds as if we hadn't budged an inch. Our physical address changes more often than our online address.

We're nomads again.

- - -

If you liked this post you can find another just like it next Saturday at 4pm PDT, and also in my new book:

In My Humble Opinion

Saturday Post: The West Coast Corridor: 1400 Miles Of Innovation - Disruptive Creation On The Fault Line

California has by far the largest number of tech workers. According to TechAmerica Foundation's Cyberstates 2010 report, it has 993,000 tech workers, and its largest center is Silicon Valley.

But it's not just Silicon Valley that impresses me. If you fly north along the West Coast starting at San Diego, take a look at what you'll be flying over:

- San Diego, with its large communications, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. This is where Qualcomm is based, the world leader in mobile communications technologies.

- Orange County has a very large number of electronics companies. This is where Broadcom, one of the largest chip companies is based.

- Hollywood with its massive entertainment businesses, all incredibly creative and innovative (3-D movies, animation, etc).

- Santa Monica, where the entertainment industry and technology combine to produce leading online media ventures. This is where Yahoo, AOL, and many others have large centers.

- Silicon Valley and San Francisco, with its huge number of tech, biotech, clean tech companies.

- Portland, Oregon, a rapidly expanding tech community anchored by Intel, which is larger here than its HQ in Silicon Valley.

- Seattle, Washington, with Microsoft and all the other tech companies and aerospace.

- Vancouver, British Columbia, and its large software and graphics technology companies.

From San Diego to Vancouver, you'll be flying along a narrow corridor 1400 miles long, packed with some of the world's most innovative and creative communities.

I can't think of any other region anywhere in the world that is crammed with so many incredibly successful companies, generating so many ground-breaking technologies, decade after decade...

But that's not all...

This West Coast Corridor of innovation, is sitting on top of one of the most unstable fault lines in the world. It's the western edge of the North American Plate, part of the Ring of Fire, where 90% of the world's earthquakes occur, and where 75% of all volcanoes are found.

It's one of the most disruptive geological zones on the planet.

Is there a connection between living in an area of such abundant innovation and where physical reality is disrupted so often?

I've always believed that innovation must contain a strong disruptive element otherwise it's not really innovation.

- - -

Backstage Pass- Tom Foremski says disruptive tech linked to fault lines - Sky's Blog

If you liked this post you can find another just like it next Saturday at 4pm PDT, and also in my new book:

In My Humble Opinion