We only hurt the ones we love: phoning in more bad news

1300 words

Everyone I talk to concedes smartphones are bad for us. Very few agree on exactly what the harms are — let alone what to do about them.

Experts have two main takes on where to look for digital harms. One is directed at the reader. Your digital life is a misery, here’s what to do. Author Paul Greenberg will soon publish iQuit: 50 Things to Do iNstead — and gives us a foretaste in a piece titled “In Search of Lost Screen Time.” With a forthright sub-title: “Imagine what we could do with our money, and hours, if we set our phones aside for a year.”

The other approach is to blame everything on Silicon Valley, and these days who wouldn’t. One recent example is A People’s History of Silicon Valley by Keith Spencer, with another forthright sub-title: “How the tech industry exploits workers, erodes privacy and undermines democracy.”

Continue reading

A downside to Netflix-style binge viewing? Say it ain’t so!

tv-banana1From Wired.com, March 2013.

Yesterday I landed on the Web page that’s home to tech omnivore Pete Nowak, where I was stunned to read the headline, The downside of Netflix-exclusive series. Impossible, I thought. Must be a typo, mental or otherwise.

As luck would have it, I’ve been posting notes myself on how the boob tube is morphing – including notes for my interminable series of posts on must-carry TV. Moreover, I’m a devoted Netflix subscriber and big fan of Reed Hastings and his disruptive business activities (apart from occasional lapses like his privacy-busting partnership with Facebook). Continue reading

Stursberg speaks: CBC part 2, better late than never

 “He has been variously been described as brilliant, bad, overbearing, charming, Machiavellian and unpleasant.”

Not to mention one of the sexiest men in Canada.

And here he is, back for Part 2 of our exclusive interview. A little late in coming? Trust us, we’ve had to deal with some really overwhelming technical issues to bring this to you – seriously. Big technical issues.

But that’s all behind us for this week. So you can now enjoy Richard at his best, talking about some of his and your favorite topics…

  • becoming a content company, chasing audiences across all the platforms
  • what happens when Ottawa’s CBC deciders decide not to watch TV
  • how being arrogant affected Richard’s job, or not
  • CBC’s cozy relationship with Apple and the great CBC app it spawned
  • CBC-pinko-bashing at the National Post.

[One of my notes-in-passing… And one of my all-time favorites, especially with a post brewing here on our poor TV broadcasters losing a subsidy – the Local Programming Improvement Fund. Did you realize that, in the province of Ontario, three-quarters of the TV audience belongs to just two of the conglomerates: Bell, at 41%, and Shaw (inc Corus) at 35% – a grand total of 76%! (source: R. Stursberg)

[With the CRTC ripping the heart out of their tiny local businesses, Bell’s chief regulatory officer says loss of the LPIF is “obviously a major concern. It reinforces the very real need for a secondary revenue stream.” We’re Bell, give us back our freaking money! Thus spake Mirko Bibic, the Bell EVP who was last heard telling us congestion was so bad on their access networks they could only survive by driving their competitors into bankruptcy. Hang on to your wallets and watch for the post coming here: “Boo-hoo: Canadian TV owners losing one of their subsidies.”]

Meanwhile, Part 3 of Stursberg Speaks will be up before you know it, or whenever we figure out the rest of those pesky computing, compression, filtering, splicing and FTPing problems, whichever comes first. Oh right, the interview. Here we are…

[haiku url=”post-21-8-12-rbs2.mp3″]


Is blabbing about yourself on Facebook like getting laid?

Your brain on Facebook

One of my favorite blogs is Techdirt, especially the posts written by Mike Masnick. Apart from being breathlessly prolific, he has a sharp eye – and tongue – for the idiotic measures promoted by governments, Hollywood and other would-be cyber-gatekeepers in the name of saving Western civilization from IP piracy and other putative evils.

Sometimes, however, Mike can be irritatingly dismissive. Witness the Friday post entitled “Sharing On Social Networks Triggers The Same Part Of Our Brains As Sex… Sorta,” which he files under the but-other-than-that-is-nothing-like-sex dept. He’s referring to a recent study by two Harvard psychologists that has achieved some notoriety, namely “Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding” – pdf here. (And btw, self-disclosure is a lot like sex, at least the kind practised without a second party.)

Mike trivializes the findings of a series of lab experiments that have something important to tell us about the things people do and say on social network sites – and why they do them, based on lots of MRI brain imaging. Mike claims the authors have done nothing more than point out that sharing information about yourself is “intrinsically rewarding” – as in what else is new? (“I don’t think that’s a particularly surprising finding.”) The handy example is all those relentlessly annoying tweets about what you’re having for lunch – which people obviously indulge in “because it feels good.” We also learn that attention-getting is “the same kind of thing as getting a brief glimpse of attractive members of the opposite sex.” From which we conclude what? That “science has proved that talking about yourself to lots of people and seeing attractive people make your brain happy.”

Mike’s punchline: “Case closed.”

Continue reading