brianstorms

Twitter's new user registration page with a little added twist.

On the bright side, it'd provide huge job security to resume screeners and background checkers in HR.

Sign Up On Twitter, Apply For CEO Job

cellphones in the year 7575

For years I have been uncomfortable about The Daily Show. It mocks politicians and media and we all laugh. And nobody does mockery of politicians and media better than Jon Stewart and the Daily Show.

But it's been over 15 years and nothing has changed. Indeed, everything has gotten worse. Each night, Jon Stewart points out the latest lies, misdirection, and idiocy spewing from, say, Fox News. And we laugh and shake our heads and wonder how anyone could listen to that nonsense. Each month, each year, more lies and the rest are presented as evidence for how pernicious Fox News is to the nation. And nothing changes.

Jon Stewart accomplished his mission. (So did Colbert, and he's smartly also quit already.) He made it blatantly, glaringly, painfully, side-splittingly obvious how nasty a piece of work are Fox News, Roger Ailes, the Koch Brothers, the Republican Party, and so on.

What use would it be for Jon Stewart to continue? I think he is smart enough to realize the answer is, "no use." I wonder if Stewart has come to the realization that he too is "hurting America," just like he told CNN's Crossfire host all those years ago.

We have become Skinner's pigeons pecking for morsels of food. We get rewarded for the same behaviors night after night. We laugh, we roll on the floor, we have tears flowing from the brilliance of how Jon Stewart and his team have identified the madness that is American politics and media. And we do nothing about it. No action gets taken. Nothing changes. Fox News continues its blatant lying. Greedy politicians continue taking bribes (stop calling it campaign contributions) from corporate interests. All the folly persists. And the laughs continue. The comfortable continue afflicting, and the afflicted never get comfortable.

This has become a very cozy media ecosystem for liberals and conservatives. The conservatives know that the Daily Show is, in the end, and always has been, harmless. No need to change one's ways, however unethical, immoral, or illegal, simply because Jon Stewart has pointed out those ways. Nobody will remember by the next evening, when a new parade of folly is presented for the Daily Show's audience.

A lot of people, including a lot of media types and pundits, are bemoaning Stewart's departure. "We need you," they say. Especially for the 2016 presidential race. How will we possibly digest the goings on in 2016 without Stewart's commentary?

And there lies the rub. It's high time we LEARN to. Fun and scathingly satirical the Daily Show may be, its mission has been accomplished for years. It's time to stop treating the nation's problems as entertainment. It's time to start treating them as problems actually needing solving, instead of fodder for momentary satire. I have for years felt that the very scrutiny that the Daily Show has provided on outrageous corporate, media, and political misdeeds was in fact making it easier for such misdeeds to squeak out of actual scrutiny that might actually stop the misdeeds in the first place. Instead of an Inspector General documenting the failures of government in a way that might force change, we have a talented comedian amusing the nation and now for a commercial break.

The Comedy Central channel has succeeded in creating an entity that could thrive right in the thick of the political/media/corporate ecosystem. Over its 15+ years CC's Daily Show has taken on a key role in that ecosystem. It's a player. It's a platform. It can be used by all parties, good and evil, liberal and conservative. It found an audience, and got them hooked. But nothing's changed. Stewart is a one-percenter just like the one-percenters he mocks every night on TV. He lives in a completely different world than most people. I suspect he knows this, dislikes the irony of it, and perhaps this is another reason he chose to get out.

I am glad he's getting out before the real insanity of the 2016 presidential race begins. We, the audience members of The Daily Show, don't need it anymore to know what is bullshit and what is not. Stewart spent a huge chunk of his life educating us, honing (if we were paying attention) our bullshit detectors to spot from a million miles away the slightest nonsense spoken as fact anywhere in the news.

Of all the Daily Show people, I think John Oliver is being the most effective right now. His new show goes deep on issues, and he makes valid points. The question is, will anything change, or will we once again just turn to Oliver's show for mild amusement, perhaps a momentary dose of outrage, and then switch back to selfies and cat photos on Instagram, what outrage, what issue? Who? La de da.

We do not need Stewart or Colbert anymore. I believe they know this. They're smart guys. I think they realized the time had come to kick themselves, and us, out of the nest. It is time for us all to fly and fend for ourselves.

Monday, July 21, 1969, 46 years ago tomorrow, the front page of The New York Times looked like this:

What an amazing time. I mean, just look at that front page. Back on July 20, 1969, the paper only cost---it's right there, up at the top right---"10 CENTS." Can you imagine that? What a time to be alive. Big, thick newspapers full of news. Might take hours to read. Only set you back a dime. How did they do it? What amazing technology did they use to accomplish such a feat? At that price, why, everybody could afford to read the paper.

You know how some bloggers and news sites have occasional posts called "I get email..." which then print some crazy email that was sent, followed by pithy commentary?

Well, this is sort of like that. Only weirder.

See, I get LinkedIn invites....

I get a steady stream of them. I'm sure many of you do. Today I got one from this woman, let's call her Zoe G. (not her real name), from NBC Universal. Wants to connect via LinkedIn. So I am thinking to myself, who the heck is Zoe G.? How do I know her? How does she know me? Usually the invites I get are from exotic unpronouncable names of people in India or Thailand or Russia or somewhere, and it's clearly spam. Occasionally some sales rep or someone I shook hands with at some event or exchanged 10 words in a single email with 5 years ago or something...

Zoe G... how would I know this person? I view her LinkedIn page. Recent college grad. Huge red flag, that. Usually means I don't know the person. Current job: Account Executive at NBC Universal. Meaning: sales rep. Right.

When in doubt, go search old emails. So I go search old emails. Boom, a bunch of back-and-forth emails from September/October 2014. In August 2014 I'd gone to an NBCUniversal website that media people use to get access to clips from NBC's giant archive going back many decades. I'd found this NBC News special program that aired during the summer of 1967 about computers in education, featuring a segment on the PLATO system. Naturally I had to see it. There is so little footage of PLATO and the PLATO folks from the 60s that any such finding is a major eureka moment. So, I filled out an account on NBCUniversal and submitted my request. And waited.Then, I get an email from this Zoe G.:

Hi Brian,

Thanks for registering on the NBCUniversal site! I wanted to check-in with you to see if you found everything you needed.

Please let me know if you need further assistance. If you would like to send me a bit about your project, I can put you in touch with the appropriate person on this end to help you get some research together.

Thanks again for visiting the site!

I replied with details on my project, and reiterated everything I had already submitted to NBC Universal when I originally filled out the form. (I was thinking, why is some seeming sales rep contacting me asking for info on my project when I already submitted all that info, through their own web form? Can't she just go look that up?)

A month goes by. Silence.

Then, on October 14, I sent a follow-up email asking, well, what's up? You wrote to me, I replied, then silence... On October 15 I get the reply:

Hi Brian,

We only license footage on a commercial basis. You'll have to fill out a personal request form on the site for purchase.

Thanks, etc

I sat there shaking my head. What about her offer to help? What about her willingness to make sure I found everything that I needed? What about her willingness to put me in touch with the appropriate person on her end to help me "get some research together [sic]"?

What is it about the TV industry anyway. You try to abide by their rights process, and they're too stupid and lazy to even follow their own protocol. So I replied and reminded Zoe that I had already filled out a personal request form on day one of signing up on NBCUniversal.

That triggered this breezy reply:

Sorry about that - I don't handle that department, good luck in your search!

Shaking my head in disgust again. I tell you, what one has to go through to get documents, videos, and other research materials from archives, when it is the very archives that hold on to them make it nigh impossible to get said access. I've had this situation dozens of times over the years. The banality of a disinterested bureaucracy supposedly set up to help researchers obtain material out of their archive...

That Was Then, This is Now.

Which brings us to today. I get a LinkedIn Invite from . . . Zoe G. The same person who blew me off last October when I was trying to get access to the 1967 NBC News video. Now she wants to connect via LinkedIn. Can you believe it? I mean, think about it.

I wrote back to her and told her how mind-bogglingly weird it was to receive a request from her on LinkedIn considering the only interactions we ever had were back last year when she blew me off at the virtual counter waiting in virtual line to get access to stuff in their vast archive. I told her, look, you want to be best buddies over LinkedIn, here's what you do: get me the video. I don't care how you do it. Just get me the video so I can review it for my book. You do that, and not only will we connect via LinkedIn, but I'll profusely publicly thank you in the Acknowledgements section of my book once it comes out.

Ball is now in her court.

Time spent using iPhone 4

You've probably seen this classic XKCD cartoon:

xkcd duty cartoon

Even before the internet, long before it, in fact, computer nerds were annoyed when people Got The Facts Wrong. Here's J.P. Nash, who happens to be Dr. John Purcell Nash, one of the creators of the ORDVAC and ILLIAC pair of computers in the early 1950s, complaining about an article on the ILLIAC by some reporter named Steve Anderson that appeared in the January 27, 1955 issue of the student-run Daily Illini newspaper:

JP Nash letter to the editor, Daily Illini, Jan 1955

Nash left the University of Illinois within two years of that letter, and wound up as an executive at a new aerospace firm named Lockheed Missile Space Corporation. I suppose if there'd been a reporter who misreported about a Lockheed missle, we'd be reading about it in the history books (or maybe not).

Yesterday, there was a lot of coverage of Google sharing information about workplace diversity. In a post on their official blog, they state, in the very first sentence, "We've always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it's time to be candid about the issues." They go on to then say "So, here are our numbers" and they show some numbers. And the numbers are about two things. Gender, and Race. And that's it.

That struck a chord with me because it is no secret that companies in Silicon Valley have long been notorious for discriminating based on age. Truth be told, I once spent a day interviewing at Google, many years ago, and the age discrimination was not only palpable in every interview, one of the last interviewers admitted to me that Google's hiring practices were hopelessly out of control. Google's hiring style left me with the impression, as I walked shaking my head, wondering what I'd just witnessed, out to the parking lot after a day inside the company, that it was more about whether you were a Stanford grad -- or better yet, a current student -- and would you be fun to hang out with in dorm parties and not what you knew or your experience. In fact it was clear if you had experience it was a liability. They wanted empty minds with no baggage.

Google has been in courtrooms in the past because of age discrimination, with a famous case involving a fifty-something employee who was dismissed. I remember following that case with great interest.

So when Google finally blogs about diversity, and says "we were wrong" and "it's time to be candid about the issues" I was hoping to see that "the issues" included age.

They don't.

Google Diversity

Now, don't get me wrong, gender and race issues are equally important and deserve scrutiny, and Google's numbers --- including that the company is 70% male and only 30% female, and mostly white --- indicate it still has a long way to go to be a more diverse organization. But the silence on age is deafening.

Google shared their EEO-1 report (PDF link), a survey the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires big employers to file regarding diversity in their workplace. Google included a link to their actual EEO-1 document. I made a bee-line to read that because I was hoping that it would shed more light on matters than the blog post was shedding.

To my surprise, the EEO-1 document only talks about gender and race. So I called the EEOC to ask, "what about age?" The woman at the EEOC who answered the phone told me, "We just collect it for race and gender, we don't do age."

How convenient for Google. If you visit Google's "Diversity" corporate pages, the big headline is "Making Google a workplace for everyone". The big graph is described as "What our Googlers look like today" and shows gender and ethnicity. Not a peep about age anywhere in the entire Diversity pages except buried in a list of "Employee Resource Groups" is a section called "Greyglers" featuring a photo of 70-year-old Vint Cerf. That's it. The rest of the Diversity site's photos are almost entirely young people. To the point that one might think Google was a college campus. and nobody over 40 worked there.

I wonder. Imagine if Sergey Brin and Larry Page were not Google's founders, but everything else about Google was exactly as it is. What would happen if 40-year-old Brin and 41-year-old Page showed up for interviews at Google? Would they be hired?

A Challenge To Google Itself

Google, this is for you directly: if you want to be fully candid about "the issues" you have to acknowledge that in addition to the extremely important gender and race issues, age is another one that you need to look at and be transparent about. In fact I would urge you to take a leadership position in Silicon Valley and show the way for other companies who are equally shy about admitting their age demographics. I challenge you to share a breakdown of ages within the Google workforce. Will you do that?

Kottke recently wrote about the Slow TV phenomenon which I've been following for a while. YouTube also has great recordings that go on for hours of tropical rainforests during thunderstorms and things of that nature. Just aim the camera and record and come back in a few hours. Wonderful stuff.

I call this stuff Ambient TV and I think people would watch more of it if they could get it. Years ago when I first got an HD projector with a 12' screen at home (order of magnitude cheaper than buying a big LCD/Plasma display at the time), one of the first channels I started watching a lot was Mark Cuban's HDNet, because all they did was feature HD content which was still rare to intermittent on other channels. Another channel I loved watching was NASA TV, which would air Shuttle launches without any blathering network/cable news nabobs talking over the entire countdown as if the audience had to be constantly spoken to. With NASA TV, you just watched the video feed and whatever announcements happened to come from mission control or launch control, otherwise they kept quiet.

At times, NASA TV would broadcast long segments of an ISS camera's view of the Earth, live, or even recorded, it didn't matter. No sound, just a silent, gliding voyage over the Earth. That's when I got an idea.

What occurred to me was, why isn't anyone offering a live feed, in glorious HD, of the view of the Earth from the International Space Station? As in 24/7, just aim the camera, turn it on, and leave it alone? I would pay for that.

In fact it got me thinking, why don't some of the geosynchronous satellites offer a live camera?

If 20% of the Norwegian population will sit and watch a train's journey, or a ship's voyage, for hours on end, I bet they, and many others in the world, would tune their TVs into a live shot from space, especially considering the ISS is traveling at some 18,000 miles per hour, and circles the globe every ~90 minutes, so you get new sunrises and sunsets and amazing vistas all the time.

How many consumers at home, not to mention schools and universities, all around the world, would pay, say, $10 a month for a 24-hour live, uninterrupted, unedited, un-narrated, ad-free HD view of the Earth? 10 million? 20? 50? That'd be $100 million, $200 million, $500 million . . . a month, or $1.2 billion, $2.4 billion, $6 billion a year, respectively.

A nice chunk of that could go right back to the ISS project itself, and to pay for missions to and from the station.

In time, you could install multiple cameras with different views, and even offer multiple channels. Or land a really nice HD camera on the moon, or on Mars, or land a Rover on the Moon or Mars that does two things really well: slowly drives around, and never stops sending a gorgeous HD video signal back to subscribers on Earth.

This isn't the first time I've blogged about this, see my post from 2005. Here it is 2014. Well? It's time. Somebody should be doing this. Seems to me it's so lucrative it'd be like printing money. Whatcha say, Elon? Should SpaceX take the lead?

As for Ambient TV, I would subscribe to cable TV again if there were dozens of channels of commercial-free, human-free live uninterrupted high-definition feeds of places around the world. Maybe it's dinnertime and you'd like to switch to the live feed of Paris or Tokyo or Bora-Bora or Victoria Falls during dinner? If there were a cable TV package of say 50 Ambient TV channels to flip around and enjoy, from live Space to live undersea, and that is all you got, no CNN, no HBO, no ABC, no ESPN, none of that crap, I would gladly pay 50-100/month for it. And I bet a lot of other people would too.