Creating infographics that are both graphically engaging and more importantly informative… 1

Creating infographics that are both graphically engaging and more importantly informative is by no means a trivial matter

This is especially true if you are trying to create a visualization of how the US presidential election could turn out. The New York Times team that created the Path to the White House graphic did a fabulous job of addressing the vagaries of the electoral college system. 

The biggest issue with conventional color coded maps is that the vast majority of states rarely change allegiance leaving about a dozen or so battlegrounds. There is also the problem of uneven population density so the map appears to be predominantly republican by area, but most of the 24 states that went red have small populations and correspondingly few electoral votes. 

The interactive tree created by the Times let users follow the potential paths and see what the results would be. I can see others doing something similar in 2016. 

How the NYT created its “512 Paths to the White House” data tool
When the New York Times started working on its electoral calculations tool for the 2012 election, Shan Carter said at the Visualized conference Friday, they decided two things: “It shouldn’t include e…

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If the cable companies really gave a damn, they would look at changing their business… 2

If the cable companies really gave a damn, they would look at changing their business models and forcing the networks to unbundle all the channels we don't want to watch or pay for.  Stop forcing those of us with no interest in watching sports to subsidize Disney and ESPN and don't make us pay for stuff like the Golf channel. Let us create our own bundles for a reasonable price.

Cable companies want to ‘re-energize’ TV with new Silicon Valley research center
Cable TV executives are to establish a new research center in the heart of Silicon Valley to try to halt the emerging trend of “cord-cutting,” according to Reuters. CableLabs, a non-profit research……

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It's long past time for not only judges but lawyers and politicians to be educated…

It's long past time for not only judges but lawyers and politicians to be educated on the modern world of communications and intellectual property. There is far too much muddle-headed thinking and a complete lack of proportion and common sense.

If a judge can't look at a case like Paul Chambers with some reasonable context and immediately dismiss it, they should instantly removed from the bench. Similarly, a prosecutor that would even bring such a case should be fired.

#modernworld #law

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Where are the judges fit for the internet age?
Nick Cohen: Twitter and Facebook are having a transformational effect on the nature of secrecy and access

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Paulo Coehlo is living proof that we don't need more anti-piracy laws

He made a very healthy living after "pirating" his own book by posting it on Once readers had the opportunity to experience his writing for free, word spread and people actually started buying his books and made them bestsellers.

#acta #sopa #pipa

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I really expect better from David Kiley, but I guess in the current environment of…

I really expect better from David Kiley, but I guess in the current environment of AOL/Huffpo I should know better.

I'm not going to support what they have done today with a link, but I fail to see the point of running a post with an embedded video from Fox News featuring a woman with an absurdly large surgically enhanced chest. The woman who ran her car into a tree while not wearing a seatbelt claims to have been saved by her silicone.

To top it off, Kiley has posted the story over on that other social network under the status update "We are ashamed, Yes"

Sorry Dave but if you are so ashamed, you should not have run the story in the first place.

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Straight from the horse's mouth, take that wingnuts 3

Straight from the horse's mouth, take that wingnuts

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Eastwood Calls Criticism of Chrysler Ad “Daydreaming”
Actor/Director Clint Eastwood is firing back at those who criticized his “Halftime in America” Chrysler ad.

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John Voelker takes a good look at the so-called "reporting" on Fisker and… 1

John Voelker takes a good look at the so-called "reporting" on Fisker and its DoE loans since last week. The trigger for all this was the release of the EPA efficiency estimates for the Karma, Fisker's first product which I wrote about at the time.

In short, while the Karma's numbers are disappointing, any criticism of the ATVM program (the DoE low interest loan program) because the Karma is assembled in Finland is disingenuous. Fisker always planned to have the Karma assembled in Finland by contract builder Valmet. The bulk of the loan money was meant for development and production of the second Fisker model which should eventually emerge from a former GM plant in Delaware. Check out John's story for more.

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Fisker's Federal Fiasco: Loans, 20-MPG Electric Cars, Shoddy Reporting
Today, if the news cycle cooperates, ABC News will air a segment on its Nightline program that looks at Fisker Automotive–makers of the 2012 Karma plug-in luxury sport sedan–and the low-interest loa…

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Ideas are not property

In the days before the G8 summit in France last week, French president Nicolas Sarkozy decided to invite influential people from the technology and content fields to discuss the role of the internet in society in a forum dubbed eG8.  Unfortunately what Sarkozy had in mind was less of an open discussion on modern communications and more of a rubber stamp on his intention to increase control over content and copyright.  Sarkozy has been a strong proponent of so-called “three strikes” rules that would ban people from using the net if they are accused of copyright infringement three times.

Note that was accused not convicted. Major media companies have shown no aversion over the past decade to accuse people of theft and infringement often in cases where the appearance of a piece of media was merely incidental such as a radio playing a song in the background of a video on youtube. Companies like Viacom have gone further by suing Youtube for serving up infringing material that in many cases has been posted by agents of Viacom itself for promotional purposes.

The major media companies clearly have no credibility in this game, nor does Sarkozy.

“Now that the Internet is an integral part of most people’s live, it would be contradictory to exclude governments from this huge forum,” said Sarkozy. “Nobody could nor should forget that these governments are the only legitimate representatives of the will of the people in our democracies. To forget this is to take the risk of democratic chaos and hence anarchy.”

Here Sarkozy couldn’t be more wrong.  Even in a democracy – or especially in a democracy – government is NOT the sole legitimate representative of the people. The people themselves in a modern country can be a far better representative of their own will than a government that is typically more beholden to huge corporate donors than to its own constituents. To imply otherwise indicates that control is far more important that freedom.  Freedom is messy and people like Sarkozy and the heads of big business need to learn to deal with that.

Thankfully not everyone on hand was simply a lacky for Sarkozy and the entrenched incumbents.  Among the luminaries participating in eG8 were the great prof. Lawrence Lessig and musician/writer/activist John Perry Barlow.  Lessig’s comments about the importance of taking a more hands-off approach to copyright and the internet are in the video at the top of this post.

Barlow was on panel with the French culture minister and the heads of 20th Century Fox, Universal Music France, Bertelsmann, and a French publisher.  Those other participants defended the need to protect the works they own, as opposed to created,  since none of them are actual creators of anything.  They are merely salespeople. After hearing everyone else speak Barlow summed up with the fundamental truth that IDEAS ARE NOT PROPERTY

I may be one of very few people in this room who actually makes his living personally by creating what these gentlemen are pleased to call “intellectual property.” I don’t regard my expression as a form of property. Property is something that can be taken from me. If I don’t have it, somebody else does.

Expression is not like that. The notion that expression is like that is entirely a consequence of taking a system of expression and transporting it around, which was necessary before there was the Internet, which has the capacity to do this infinitely at almost no cost.

This is a concept that Lessig has also been expressing for many years and it’s one of the driving forces behind creative commons. Unlike tangible property, when someone else uses or expresses your idea, it doesn’t preclude you from using it yourself.  What makes it special is what you do with it.

Flawed TV ratings behind move to block TV streaming to tablets

Recently Time Warner Cable made a new iPad app available to its subscribers that allows them to stream live TV signals directly to the tablet and immediately a number of networks jumped on TWC and demanded that their channels be removed from the app. Now, you might be asking yourself why any TV broadcaster would want to reduce the size of its potential audience? While the networks make noise about licensing restrictions, the truth of the matter is something completely different and it poses a threat to the whole revenue stream of mainstream media.

The TWC app is actually quite restrictive in how it lets users stream content. In order to watch anything, users have to be at home on their local network, meaning that you can’t watch your shows when you are traveling or just standing in line somewhere. Time Warner’s argument is that this limitation means the iPad is just like any other TV in the house showing content.  The networks argue that their licenses with cable companies only allow feeding shows to TVs over the cable and not over WiFi.

The real problem however is not the type of device being used to view shows or how the signal gets there. It’s about the fundamentally flawed way in which traditional TV viewership is measured.  Broadcasters make their money by selling advertising during programming. The prices charged for ads are based on how many people watch a show.  For decades, AC Nielsen has provided the ratings numbers that everyone in TV uses to set ad rates. For nearly as long, everyone that uses Nielsen numbers has known that the survey results which are based on surveys of viewers are highly inaccurate. Unfortunately they tend to err on the high side which meant that advertisers were probably paying too much for advertising time.  However, since everyone was using the same numbers all broadcasters went and advertisers went along with it.

Now however, the advent of internet broadcasting turns the whole ratings game on its head. Unlike traditional broadcasts, internet streams can be counted precisely. A quick check of server logs can reveal exactly how many times a program was watched and for how long. The result is a far more accurate measure of ratings that is likely to be substantially lower than traditional measures. Rather than embracing the new technology, and finding ways to make money off it, broadcasters are shunning it in order to protect an old unsustainable measurement method.

Of course the old guard won’t be able to maintain this facade for long. Just as the music and publishing industries have had to evolve, it’s only a matter of time before traditional broadcast channels go away.  Viewers increasingly watch what they want, when they want and where they want. More accurate measurements of viewer engagement will mean allow some programming to flourish while other material fades away.

Jeremy Clarkson is wrong about offensive humor

Jeremy Clarkson has always been an offensive blowhard, that’s his schtick. However, on last week’s episode of Top Gear, he and his sidekicks Richard Hammond and James May went too far. During the news segment of the show, they brought up the Mastretta MXT, a new sports car intended to be built in Mexico. Instead of discussing the merits of this machine, the trio veered off into a racist attack on Mexicans, calling them lazy, feckless and flatulent. This sort of thing is nothing new for Clarkson who is no stranger to misogyny and political incorrectness, but this time he and his cohorts went way too far.

Since the broadcast Mexican officials have of course called for an apology, but comedian Steve Coogan has penned a brilliant counter-attack on Clarkson in the Guardian.  Coogan calls out Clarkson for attacking groups that he sees as easy targets, in this case Mexicans.  Clarkson doesn’t attack muslims or jews, but those that don’t have large organized groups defending them are in his crosshairs.

The beauty of Top Gear has long been the brilliant cinematography and the interaction between the hosts. Even people that don’t care about cars watch the show and are entertained by antics like the trek through the Amazon jungle, driving across the spine of Africa or the challenge where the trio had to create amphibious vehicles.  There is no shortage of comedic moments in these episodes. Racist attacks and bullying are simply unnecessary and uncalled for.

As Stephen Colbert has demonstrated so deftly over the years, the best comedy comes from speaking truthiness to power, not attacking the powerless. Clarkson provides a lame defense of his jokes with

“there are calls in Britain at the moment for all offensive humour to be banned. But what people don’t realise is that without offence, there can be no jokes.”

However, this is not about offensive humor. There was nothing humorous about what Jezza, Hamster and Captain Slow said last week. There is plenty of truly funny material that is offensive but comedy is best targeted at those sitting at the top of the hill abusing power. The butt of the joke should be the overweight, pompous master being carried aloft, not the impoverished litter bearers.

Attacking those that you perceive as weak only serves to demonstrate your own weakness.