May 24, 2010
Zuckerberg Sorry (again) (for now)
On Facebook & privacy from today's Chronicle, which refers to an op-ed piece Zuckerberg wrote in today's Washington Post as well as an e-mail to Scoble that was posted (after Zuckerberg gave it the okay).
May 19, 2010
Should You Pack Candles for the World Cup?
In January of 2008 South Africa endured blackouts that crippled the country, shutting down some of the major industries for days and causing a general drag on the economy.
Power has been rationed to the major consumers and general public since then and other conservation measures have been in effect.
Yet blackouts continue, in spite of a reduction in demand due to the global recession's effects on South Africa's economy. The problem is a result of decades of neglect in capacity generation and is exacerbated by power cable theft. Increased supply is supposed to help the problem but this isn't coming until 2012.
The problems were serious enough to draw the world's attention and questions have been raised about whether the country would be able to power the World Cup.
A trip to South Africa 18 months ago included a meeting with Eskom, the public utility which supplies 95% of the country's electricity and is one of the world's ten largest producers, and a meeting with FIFA, the international football organization presenting the tournament.
Questions to Eskom were met with brief and confident responses, and FIFA's answers focused on the games themselves, with reassurances that power generators would provide sufficient electricity for the stadiums during play.
When the same questions were asked of business leaders and the general citizenry the responses were much less certain. Many people mentioned crime and public safety as a trouble spot, but electricity was the primary infrastructure concern cited, with ground transportation a distant second (freight transport workers are on strike and the passenger train unions joined them earlier this week).
Now with the tournament less than a month away it is clear that authorities are worried. Eskom recently released a statement saying that they "expect quantities to be sufficient" but acknowledge pressure on the system and increased their calls to spare usage. Color-coded referees will appear on television to alert citizens and visitors about imminent reductions in power, at which point people will be asked to limit their usage to one light and one television.
Hopefully they are also asking people to "power pool," something that would make sense for a social activity like watching football. Perhaps an ad campaign of "Got Torch?" (We call them flashlights in the States).
The scheduling of matches can't help. FIFA understandably wants to avoid overlap. But 19 of the preliminary round's 48 matches are at night, with an additional 19 finishing after dark. Only 10 are day games. Among South Africa's biggest electricity consumers are the natural-resource extractors, but these consume electricity day and night. Residential consumption increases dramatically in the evening, and the games are taking place during South Africa's winter, so people are going to need heat as well as light.
In addition to concerns about the effect on the games themselves, there is the considerable matter of public safety, particularly with large crowds. It's not going to matter that FIFA has sufficient generator capacity to keep the bulbs on in the stadium if the traffic lights, street lights and public transit are shut down.
Meanwhile, here in San Francisco the first matches begin at 4:30 in the morning, or at nautical twilight, which is the point at which seafarers are able to discern a soccer ball against the horizon. Our biggest concerns are whether to stay up all night or wake up early, and how to change the city's liquor laws so that the game's first match can be met with a civilizing Bloody Mary or Mimosa. How about a new pub tradition called Groggy Hour? Ah, the problems of a first-world nation in consumptive decline.
Which brings us to the matter of global perception. This is being pitched as South Africa's coming-out party. It's been 17 years since the end of white rule, close to a generation, and the country is eager to demonstrate its modernity and readiness for a prominent place among the many new players in the global economy.
But what happens if the lights go out while everyone is watching?
May 10, 2010
Web 2.Ouch: Facebook Wants Your Testicles Too
Vancouver Canuck defenseman Sami Salo blocked a slapshot with his crotch in a playoff game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night.
Salo is recovering and taking inventory at a Chicago hospital. In lieu of flowers, please send your thoughts to his testicle's Facebook fan page.
The announcer said Salo "took that one in a bad spot." Well, sure, now it is.
It is amusing the care that was taken to prevent the camera from intruding as Salo was loaded onto the ambulance, only to have his testicle splattered all over the internet in a matter of hours.
Looks like a scene from Wagner...
March 28, 2010
Sarah Palin: the Dangerous AirheadThis past week in the Huffington Post, Mona Gable writes an amusing but scary account of Palin's most recent examples of her ongoing hunger to become a celebrity and folksy hero, regardless what it takes.
Her first example is Palin's documentary deal on Alaska she struck with The Discovery Channel.
Gable writes: "beyond semantics, what were the folks at Discovery Channel thinking? Did anyone there consider the irony of hiring a woman to host a "nature" show who disdains nature? I mean, before she fleeced you for more than $1 million an episode, (for that matter, John McPhee would have been excellent, and I'm sure he'd have done it for much less), that maybe it wasn't the smartest choice given her strange relationship to the truth and her polarizing politics? Did you forget that in her brief and erratic tenure as governor, Palin had a dreadful environmental record, championing such animal-friendly policies as the aerial shooting of wolves? Or refusing to give protected status to such endangered species as the beluga whale? Even now, Palin proudly and avidly flaunts her ignorance about climate change."
The essence of Gable's piece however is about her "refusal to take responsibility for stirring up violence on the right with her incendiary rhetoric."
She writes about Palin's suggestion that Obama was "paling around with terrorists" when she was running for vice president. Mona also reminds us of her other vocal assertions, when she "claimed that the president had inserted "death panels" in the health care bill, precisely so they could kill her Down syndrome infant and her aging parents."
Read more, including her final plea for someone to hold Palin accountable and set things straight.
March 04, 2010
Get WILDLY Creative About South Africa Online BUZZ CampaignThis week, South Africa marked the start of the 100 days countdown to the 2010 Fifa World Cup with a variety of patriotic celebrations and flag-flying spectacles. The football spectacular kicks off on June 11, 2010.
The newly announced "Get Wildly Creative About South Africa" online advertising contest aims to inspire South Africans to get together as a nation, use their creativity, collaborate with the international community, and come up with ways to promote the country as a vibrant destination ahead of the World Cup.
The eight-week, people-inspired, online ad contest, which starts on March 15, is part of a major nation branding research project undertaken by the CMO Council and the International Marketing Council (IMC) of South Africa.
The IMC is responsible for defining and shaping Brand South Africa’s image throughout the world.
With social media networks hosting billions of monthly visitors, conversations and connections, the CMO Council’s new GeoBranding Centre is looking to evaluate the level of voice, influence and creative pull in these interactive online communities, particularly as it relates to shaping perceptions of countries, destinations, locations and origin of products.
GOING VIRAL BABY
The Get Wildly Creative About South Africa ad contest will be hosted on the Zooppa.com people-inspired advertising platform and will use viral communications, online conversations, blogging and cyber-chatter to pump up the interest and participation in this country branding program targeted at the world’s 1.7-billion Internet users.
Current and aspiring creative professionals, digital media buffs, South African citizens and expatriates, and anyone with a lust for travel to Africa, are invited to come up with inventive ways to produce a fresh and evocative message about a country that has gone from tragedy to triumph in less than two decades.
Cash and prizes - donated by SA Tourism, in-country partners and creative technology solution providers - will be awarded to the top submissions within each category. These are Best Print Campaign, Best Online Banner Campaign, and Best Video Segment or Commercial.
Among other things, the Winning entrants will have their work showcased globally to the CMO Council’s 5K+ members who control more than US$150 billion (R1.2-billion) in annual marketing spend and recognized at a special IMC-hosted reception in New York City, the world’s media centre and creative hub.
August 20, 2009
George Gombossy: From Column to Blog
This week I heard from old journalist pal George Gombossy about his departure from Hartford Courant, not a pretty one in the eyes of traditional journalists and bloggers alike.
Those who care about ethical journalism and who are trying to protect their credibility inside the walls of their blogs are routing for George. It's already hit the New York Times and countless other sites, so the the buzz is very alive.
He worked at the paper for four decades. Can you believe? Four decades. He writes in an official statement: "the Courant fired me, for speaking out on issues of public concern as the paper’s Watchdog columnist: as the voice and protector of consumers and taxpayers."
More about his story for those who haven't heard the details: "During the past three years, my marching orders had been to expose any institution or authority abusing consumers or taxpayers. Consistent with journalistic ethics and favoring no one, the Courant’s advertisers were fair game and were given no special treatment. In fact there were occasions where my editors were dubious of certain claims by our advertisers and urged me to investigate.
It was a public-interest platform that thousands of readers actively helped build into a powerful voice for consumers. It resulted in profound changes in the way some Connecticut businesses operated, among which are the state’s largest utility company and the nation's largest retailer of consumer electronics."
He received heat over investigating a large advertiser of the paper, the investigation was over a company that may have been taking advantage of the elderly. Apparently the advertiser wrote a complaint letter and Gombossy was urged to play nice in the sandbox because a $500K advertising contract was on the line. (which turned out later to be worth less)
Yikes. The list goes on. It doesn't end there.
I've worked with Gombossy on and off for a decade and a half so the news came as quite a blow. Even though Gombossy has left the dinosaur newspaper world (and trust me, I'm a fan), he has forty years of investigative journalism experience that can be poured into a blog, his own blog and his loyal readers will follow.
CTWATCHDOG.com is now live. He'll be showering us with more tips, complaints and untold stories consumers should know about.
George ends his statement with this reminder: advertisers don’t take out ads because they like the columnists or reporters. They take out ads based on a newspaper's circulation, which is based on its credibility. The less credibility a newspaper has, the less readers it should have. And if that happens everyone will suffer consequences beyond our ability to now measure.
He tells me he'll be on CNN this Sunday so be sure to tune in.
November 13, 2008
Recession? Raise Your Rates!
Here's a cheerful contrarian argument in The New York Times. If you're weary of all the miserable economic news, it's a tonic and a reminder that at least some of the gloom is in the perception and that there are always reasons to act positively, particularly if you're a small business owner.
November 05, 2008
A Global Celebration Of A Tomorrow
A Venezuelan storekeeper told The New York Times last night, "A few hours ago the world felt like a different place." Of all the words offered last night those best captured the evening's mood.
When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, a number of liberal baby-boomers I knew got misty-eyed talking about it the next morning. They spoke of deliverance from 12 long years of Reagan and Bush and they invoked JFK and RFK.
I thought of that tonight when I walked into a SOMA club that had a shared and celebratory energy, uncommon for a place reserved for entertainment. A release from eight long years of misery under alien, incompetent leadership, a kind of Guantanamo Bay incarceration with one piece of bad news after another.
Every time I hear the airport threat level speech I think not of 9/11, which I lived through in downtown Manhattan, but the consistent manipulation of public fear, President Bush's favorite tactic. The people of San Francisco and Boulder and Manhattan deserve this night.
How can you not want to commit your own energy when you see the Biden and Obama extended families join onstage, a moment that speaks to our best efforts to hold hands across racial and generational lines? The disbelieving faces, across the country, of all those old black people, children and grandchildren of slaves, who lived through segregation to see this day. The scene from inside Dr. King's old church in Atlanta when the election was called.
People danced in the streets like it was the millennial New Year's all over again. It's still hard to believe the size of the crowds at Obama's rallies in the last few weeks. Aren't we supposed to be too cynical about leaders, about government? The money that the campaign raised was a sign of how many people wanted to contribute.
They were dancing in Kenya and Germany and Australia. "The World Enters America," said the Hindustan Times. A world that had turned its back clearly just wanted a reason to look to us again for some positive example. Whatever your suspicions may be of the global economy and the United Nations and the World Bank and the Hague, it's a better neighborhood when we can find ways to make friends.
And confound enemies - the United States did what? A black man whose middle name is Hussein? The imperialist crusaders? Winning this kind of war will do more lasting good for democracy overseas than anything we can do with a gun.
Senator McCain's speech also made one proud, a hero's words, the best of what is American. Like so many of us I've always liked him and admired him. Much was made of the liberal media's sense of being betrayed - where was the "old McCain?" This was of course in part a personal disappointment for the reporters and Obama certainly got favorable treatment from the mainstream media, but McCain did put on a new coat for this season.
Someone said last night that they thought McCain was so angry lately because he knew that he traded in some of his principles in order to win, and then they didn't deliver the victory for him anyway. A tough fighter, his campaign was hijacked by the worst sludge from the social right-wing.
The weekend before the election found his managers and supporters such as Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas clearly, casually lying to a news-hungry media about how close the election was. Tied in Iowa. A couple of points in Pennsylvania. Even Karl Rove's maps showed otherwise and the states were called minutes after the polls closed But let's generate some more fear so we can pretend to have hope. That's your best argument?
47% of the voters in this country voted for McCain. Some of those were a vote for him or for party, and others were a vote against Obama. Many are afraid of a black president and terrified of the country's demographic shifts. The worst of Sarah Palin's references to Obama tapped into that fear, and her visceral appeal to that part of the electorate is a reminder that the culture wars are not over.
The cheerful, can-do totalitarian Mormon church poured money into what looks to be a successful effort to ban gay marriage in California, so intolerance and fear are not going away. Palin said she was sorry for her comments about "real America," but it was a campaign apology. I grew up in her "real America." She meant what she said and so did those who cheered her comment.
But her argument lost last night. Who knows how much Obama will be able to follow through and what that will look like? But when you look at Obama's face and his name, when you see a global response like this, the size of the crowds here at home, and the transformative requirements of the economic and global challenges in front of us, it's hard not to see a change beyond Washington politics, but in what America is going to make of itself next.
Obama Gets the Vote: History Made Tonight
What a historical night we are living through tonight. The people of San Francisco are on fire.......from my balcony, I can hear people screaming and shouting through the streets celebrating Obama's victory.
I went to a couple of election parties tonight. McCain's speech was dignified, respectful, touching and authentic. Instead of playing politics, he came into his own and became real, a rare moment during the campaign.
When Obama read his speech, tears were shed and it only got worse when Biden came out onto the stage, followed shortly thereafter by both sets of families. Chicago is also on fire and no doubt every other blue state. His victory makes history not just in the U.S. but worldwide. Take a look.
THE LONDON'S GUARDIAN
THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE
OUR OWN NEW YORK TIMES
THE JERUSALEM POST
SOUTH AFRICAN MAIL & GUARDIAN
GERMANY'S BERLINER ZEITUNG
DOWN UNDER'S THE AUSTRALIAN
LE MONDE IN PARIS
THE GLASCOW HERALD IN SCOTLAND
WALL STREET JOURNAL
IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL
November 03, 2008
Kissing Your Electoral Sister
November 5 - It's a tie. After two years, four debates, hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands of polls, millions of pundits, and more plot twists than a dozen mystery thrillers, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama stand deadlocked with 269 electoral votes each.
McCain overcame deficits in Ohio, Virginia and Colorado and carried the traditionally Republican but hotly-contested states of Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Indiana to hold a five-vote lead late into the evening. The nation's bleary eyes turned to Nevada, where at 3 a.m. local time Obama was awarded the state's five electoral votes, launching this eternal campaign into uncharted political and constitutional waters.
Both parties have marshaled legal teams in 12 states to contest votes, demand recounts and challenge ballots. Furthermore, Republicans and Democrats are already positioning themselves to attempt to sway the mind of even one electoral voter before the electoral college meets on December 15th to cast its votes.
Should the popular vote results withstand review and the electors keep to their commitments, the decision moves to the House of Representatives in early January, in which........
December 15 - The American political system buckled today when an elector from the state of Wisconsin named John McCain (no relation, but allegedly a clone engineered by a geneticist/dairy farmer with ties to the Republican party) switched his vote from Democrat to Republican, in spite of agreements by both sides to honor precedent and follow the results of each state's popular vote.
Following a month of pitched legal battles in a dozen states over the validity of the results on November 4th, none of which reversed the outcomes, today's vote was expected to be a formality. And so it was for 48 states and the District of Columbia.
But with Wisconsin as the next-to-last state, the stunning swap seemed to throw the election to Senator McCain. However, the last elector in Wyoming, Annie Oakley III, switched her vote, claiming that in the part of America where she came from - "real America," she called it - a deal was a deal. (Vice-President and Wyoming native Dick Cheney, upon hearing the news, disappeared into the White House bunker muttering something about launch codes.)
Attention shifted to the House of Representatives, where the McCain team is......
January 13 - In a result that promises to shake the foundations of the Republic, John McCain was able to convince the Democratic Congressional delegation of Indiana to switch its vote, giving the Arizona Senator 26 state votes and a final victory in the overtime campaign for the Presidency.
The petitioning of the Hoosier State was the final move of a brilliant campaign conducted by Karl Rove to convince delegations from traditionally center-right states that the results of each state's popular vote should be the criterion used, not the political party of the delegation itself.
The Democratic rout in the House of Representatives on election night in November seemed to set the table for an easy victory for Senator Obama in the newly-convened House. 33 state delegations had a majority of Democratic representatives, compared to 14 for the Republicans with three split evenly.
But the Republican political machine, led by Mr. Rove, began a quiet pitch shortly after Election Day to convince states that their obligation was to honor the results of the popular vote in their state. McCain won the vote in 28 states, and tremendous pressure was applied on Democratic legislators in those states to "vote the will of the people" or risk being ousted by their constituents in two years.
McCain was easily able to convince the three states with a split delegation. Idaho and Kansas gave McCain large margins of victory, and Arizona is the Senator's home state.
Once it was clear that some states were considering this option it gave political covers to others. Still nine votes shy, the next targets were the states with a single member in the House. Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana all agreed in fairly short order, giving McCain 21 votes, still needing five more states out of seven in which he won the popular vote.
Colorado and North Carolina refused early on and did not bend, leaving McCain to twist the arms of the delegations from Arkansas, West Virginia, Tennessee and Mississippi. Given Republican strength in the south and a fiery populist campaign run by Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the states turned one by one, with West Virginia deciding yesterday morning.
After running a disciplined and unflappable campaign, the Democratic party seemed unable to make a compelling case to the public to counter the Republican claim that their approach reflected the will of the people, even though, for the second time in three elections, the Democratic candidate won the national popular vote.
It was an eerie repeat of the successful public relations and political strong-arm campaign conducted by the Republican party in Florida in 2000. The Obama team was able to convince only the sole Republican representative from Delaware to switch his allegiance to the Democratic side, a lonely and inadequate victory.
Attention now turns to the Senate, where a traditional vote would seem to favor the election of Joe Biden as Vice-President, an extraordinarily awkward result. But would it be foolish to assume this considering how many imponderables have already occurred? You betcha.