Media Technology

The HuffPo/Tasini Suit: It Pays to Have a T&C

Say what you will about HuffPo or its blogging system, it pays to have a Terms and Conditions policy whenever you’re blogging or publishing online. The suit more or less proves that point pretty clearly.

Because Tasini’s case would have more than a little merit to it in lieu of HuffPo’s T&C: simply offering “exposure” as compensation for writing when the company itself if making huge profits is like saying I should work for Kodak for free because it looks good on my resume. That might wash for a college intern, but not for adults.

Still, Tasini agreed to blog for HuffPo and they have a policy that states that there will be no monetary compensation. Having such language in your site’s policy is by no means the end of the road, but it certainly makes the case much more winnable for the defendant.

For the rest of us, careful consideration of just where any random visitor can leave their own thoughts or content – and careful language aimed at mitigating the potential disasters they can inflict – is something no self-publisher can be without. I’m actually surprised that there isn’t more support for such language. That would be an excellent money-making scheme for some enterprising young lawyer. Any takers?

HuffPo Tells Judge: Tasini Blogged For Fame, Not Cash—Throw Out His Lawsuit | paidContent.


Game of Thrones, Fantasy and Allegorical Racism

If you haven’t been watching Game of Thrones, I have to say, I’m surprised by good it has been. HBO has turned its unique brand of moral relativism, sliding loyalties and gritty realism to the world of fantasy and given the old Dungeons and Dragons set something real to think about:

HBO: Game of Thrones: Homepage.

But as I watched last night, it finally struck me that fantasy writing is inherently racist. You would never expect Tolkien’s dwarves to ride horses, nor his elves to dig tunnels through the earth. Such things are simply not done by those races. They stay within their very narrow scope of definition.

The races in Game of Thrones are at least as unidimensional as anything you’re likely to see in other fantasy novels. What makes the whole thing stand out is that, in an attempt to make that world more real and less about dragons and fairies, the show drops all pretense of genuine genetic difference and merely makes each race a slightly modified version of some half-identifiable human nationality.

You could have at least understood that Ents would not have cross-bred with Elves. Nor Hobbits with Dwarves for that matter, despite the presumably much more compatible genital-to-toes scale. No, they’re just very different creatures and there’s no reason to suspect they would intermingle.

In Game of Thrones, races are even less distinct than the nasal-modified races of modern Star Trek series – and not from other planets, either. There’s every reason to believe that they could and should intermarry. But with rare exceptions, they do not. Everything stays within an orderly set of stereotypes which are not stereotypes: of course, these are not races of Earth, but a completely different thing!

And I call this type of racism “allegorical” because it is not generally thought of as racism, but rather a vector by which more profound truths are to be revealed. There’s no malice, just storytelling. By reducing each race to even less of a caricature than the worst Earthly stereotypes, the author provides a parable about human life. Tolkien’s dwarves are hard-working but riddled by avarice; his elves wise to the point of folly; humans are filled with limitless courage and not much else. Each tells the story of both the good and the bad of what are generally considered positive attributes. And in general, I feel like my early years are the better for having read Tolkien and Tad Williams and all the rest.

But I wonder if anyone else gets the same uneasy feeling watching Game of Thrones that I do?

Economy Media

The NYT: Where, oh Where Has Our Little Bubble Gone?

You’ve really got to hand it to the New York Times this time: this is the most clueless headline ever:

Builders of New Homes Seeing No Sign of Recovery

Ok, let me refresh your memory: the thing that got us into this mess in the first place was loosely-given credit that allowed a glut of new home purchases over the course of a decade and a half. That includes an artificially-inflated demand for new home construction, as anyone who has ever driven through Mendon can tell you. We currently sit on a huge unsold stock level in the housing market and even existing home sales are down by 28 percent, per the same article.

I can appreciate the fact that new home construction is an industry like any other, with lots of individual tradesmen and professionals relying on that industry for employment. But the tone of the article suggests that, without a consonant recovery of pre-recession home building, there is no recovery. My suggestion to anyone relying on *new* home construction would be to find another niche within which to ply your trade, because we cannot sustain another “recovery” such as that.

Media Politics Rochester Technology

The Twenty-Dollar Online News: Could it Be a Good Thing?

Noting that the New York Times( @nytimes ) has had a respectable start to its new paywall system, I wonder if the twenty dollar subscription fee ends up being a workable model for former print media companies in other markets. And by other markets, clearly, I mean Rochester.

The NYT enjoys huge a huge national audience as well as a history of being something of a status symbol paper. You cannot think of their audience as quite reliably local as would be the case here in Rochester with the Democrat and Chronicle( @dandc ). But for the sake of scale, if you think in terms of subscribers to population, they’ve got about eight percent of the city in three months time.

Its obviously much too early to tell whether the Times will be able to keep up with those numbers once readers get charged full price. But its not too early to think about what a paywalled news media might mean.

Personally, the volume of news I read – and the variety of sources – makes the prospect of paying twenty dollars for each impossible. I’d have to cut down my reading considerably. Which would at first blush seem cut down on my reason for blogging considerably.

But then there is something intriguing about the prospect of a city full of bloggers, Tumblr accounts, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages with only the D&C in common. Of a community where notoriety might come from being the first to spot a crucial detail missing from an article. It could be a very good thing for journalism in Rochester, the effect quite apart from the information doomsday that media consolidation normally brings to mind. My mind, anyway.

We shall see….

Economy Media Technology

#NYT Paywall, Three Weeks In: How’s it Doing?

The big news out in the tech world (apart from Amazon‘s entry into the tablet race and the Microsoft / Nokia deal) is that the New York Times’ paywall subscription service has garnered 100,000 subscribers in the first two months three weeks:

New York Times Sells 100,000+ Digital Subscriptions in First 3 Weeks.

That’s a pretty impressive start, though as the article notes, the introductory offer was for $.99 a month, whereas the actual subscription service is more like $15 to $35. That’s a big jump that may be hard to sustain come next month.

What will be required is for the New York Times to sell its readers on the necessity of their paywalled service, a feat which as I’ve noted in the past, the current model works directly against.

Media Politics

CNN Says Twitter Users are Obviously “Narcissistic.”

Just thought I’d post this to the blog. AP reporters are being encouraged by their union not to tweet news articles while they’re negotiating their contract. Certainly, it makes sense. Probably, it will reveal information of great interest to anyone who studies the flow of information in social networks. But @CNN opts not to bother going into any detail with this and chooses instead to focus on getting a nice dig in for all us Twitter users:

Reporters often volunteer to spread links out of good will for their employer or for obvious narcissistic reasons. The labor union is discouraging people who’s job explicitly entails using social-networking services from participating in the boycott.

Good of CNN to point out the obvious: that anyone who uses Twitter is a narcissist. Or perhaps, anyone not tweeting out of a sense of “good will for their employer” is doing it for narcissistic reasons.

Now as it happens, I am a narcissist. But I keep that separate from my Twitter usage. Because I’m a pro. And I’m sure the “Worldwide Leader in News” who urges us to “Go Beyond Borders” and has “The Best Political Team on Television” would readily recognize such egotism when they see it. So, its not like they’re completely wrong.

But let’s not drag everybody down to our level, shall we, CNN?