I’ve bumped into a series of issues related to publishing recently. I don’t know that they ever will or should combine to form a coherent idea, but it feels like I should record them as though in a design notebook…
Well, the new year is upon us and I’m already 3 days late with my new year’s revolutions. But I have a good excuse: I got laid off from the OpenLaszlo project on November 16, and so I’ve been very busy with the day job and the holidays. No, wait. I don’t have a day job. I must have been busy with something else. Perhaps I was busy thinking. Or raking the leaves. Or thinking while raking the leaves. Let me check my notes and get back to you on that. Rather, I suppose I should resolve not to bore yzall with formulaic blog posts, so let’s drop the whole subject. I hereby resolve to not resolve.
Resolutions aside, I do have a Wetmachine goal for 2008, and that’s to increase readership by at least a factor of ten over 2007. While leaf-raking, I came up with some startling ideas about how to do that–starting with a free toaster for every single one of you who clicks on a “Read More” link, and including:
* an upgrade of the Bonehead Computer Museum to Croquet 3-D space
* podcasts of my novels as radio plays featuring William Shatner, Kay Parker, and Tom Hulce
* “Bloggers of Wetmachine” swimsuit calendar
* switching to lolcat dialect for all entries about software or writing
* Videoblogging Harold Feld vs Kevin J. Martin in steel cage ultimate boxing match
Stay tuned, as somebody around here said. This is going to be the best year yet, for you, and you, and you! Amen.
I wish my employer, Media Access Project, had sufficient funds to hire me a research assistant. But they don’t. So I’m going to turn to the collective readership for a bit of fast research to help me refute the pack of lies the cable industry is spreading.
Turns out, however, that Martin did not just pull the numbers out of his posterior. They came from the Warren Communications News Television and Cable Factbook, a neutral and respected industry reporter. According to the Warrens data, cable serves over 71.4% of the relevant market — more than enough to trigger the 70/70 threshold and give the FCC authority to reregulate cable to promote diversity.
To my considerable surprise — given how much Warrens depends on their reputation for accuracy to convince customers to pay many thousands of dollars for this research — the cable industry prevailed on the managing editor of The TV and Cable Factbook to declare their own research unreliable. In fairness, they claim the research is unreliable only when used to prove that the cable industry has passed the 70/70 threshold, so I assume all the advertisers and businesses that rely on this data will not be troubled. They also claim tat the data are unreliable due to systemic underreporting by cable which, as my friend and fellow Wetmachine blogger Greg Rose observed, means that the number of households served must be even more than the 71% Warrens initially found.
Such is the power of cable, however, that the industry reporters following this have uncritically lapped up the NCTA party line while failing the elementary school math noted above (ironically, proving the point about how media consolidation is all about serving corporate interests). Martin’s fellow Republicans on the Commission, McDowell and Tate, apparently determined to make sure that everyone knows that they would never pursue a ”vendetta“ against an industry merely because it has demonstrated market power, sent this letter to Warrens asking for more information (and apparently missing the elementary school math that if you underreport cable subscribers that means they serve more than the number reported). The letter takes a rather nasty shot at Martin, as well as inviting explanation for why the other reporters come in so much lower and looking for validation of the numbers.
Of course, as Rose pointed out in his post, the other numbers come in lower because they are estimates where the cable operators provided even less info than they did to Warrens. But it occurred to me that there is a rather simple way to make the point that even incumbent cable operators passed the 70% threshold sometime ago.
Back for the 2005 cable report, NCTA submitted numbers ranging from 62% to 68.9%. Since then, with the exception of the most recent cable quarter, the cable operators enjoyed consistent growth in their basic subscriber numbers. I would like to find out the quarterly basic subscriber statistics for the largest cable operators (Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, Cox, and Charter). If the largest operators enjoyed significant growth after NCTA condeded 68.9% as a valid measurement, then we can have reasonable assurance that findings above 70% are accurate. Problem is, I’m a little strapped for time here.
So I’m turning to the distributed power of the web for help meet the McDowell/Tate Challenge of ensuring that the data meet the highest standards of ”trustworthiness, truthfulness, and viability” (which, I have to say, has not exactly been the case with Commission cable reports before Martin took over. Either make a donation to MAP to get me a research assistant, or send me an email with useful cable statistics.
According to this “developing” story, it may be even worse than you think. Shocking, but hardly surprising.
UPDATE: Well, it looks like Kos has taken down the story. Matt Drudge’s reputation, such as it is, will carry on another day, safe from snarky satire on DailyKos. For any who are curious, the linked to story was a satirical piece like you might see in The Onion that used Drudge Report-style innuendo and unsourced quotes to hint that a big story was about to break that would implicate Drudge in sleaze. At no point did it say that Drudge had been caught with child porn; rather it used weasel-wording like “sources say that Drudge will be caught with. . .” etc. This is a technique that Drudge has perfected for sliming Democrats, liberals and progressives, and the corporate media frequently runs with whatever nonsense he promotes. I thought it would be fun to give him a little taste of his own medicine (although a very small dose. Tens of mllions of people get news from Drudge directly or indirectly; Wetmachine’s readership is a tad smaller.) It was intended to be obvious satire, although at least one Wetmachine reader (see comments) didn’t realize that I knew what I was doing. And actually, it *was* fun.
UPDATE April 4
Reader JG makes a good point in the comments, that is, and I quote: “Spreading lies about someone in order to damage their character is wrong.” So, we agree upon that, and accordingly I’ve edited the headline of this story to reflect all that is currently publicly known about Matt Drudge’s possible pedophillic predilictions. I have no reason at all to suspect that Matt Drudge is a pedophile. So we’re clear on that. I was just “making shit up,” in the Matt Drudge way. (Although, in homage to Drudge, I have let stand the innuendo of the “all that that is currently publicly known” bit. Here, obviously, I’m merely demonstrating the technique of innuendo, the hinting without saying, of something nasty.) Now, when we get to the point we JG realizes that “spreading lies about someone in order to damage their character” is Matt Drudge’s stock in trade, a regular part of what he does for a living, when JG will admit that innuendo is a regular part of Drudge’s schtick, then we’ll be getting somewhere.
And one final update (April 4): Please note that *I* never said Matt Drudge was a pedophile. I certainly implied it, which was the point. My original headline was Matt Drudge, Pedophile. That sentence  no verb. It’s just a list. If I had a headline “Octopus, banana” would it mean that I was asserting that an octopus was a banana? No, of course not. I do admit that when a noun follows a proper name set off by a comma, it’s usually an instance of apposition, and the verb is implied. However, if one wanted to be weasely, one could deny that any implication had been intended. These are the rhetorical tricks and techniques of slimeball “journalism,” of which Drudge is an exemplar.
I went to a wedding last Saturday. The bride (a native of North Carolina) and the groom (a long-time resident of Massachusetts) met in an online discussion group. I had met & had become friends with the groom through a different online group. Before and after the wedding, Dear Wife Betty and I stayed at the home of another friend, whom I also had met through an online discussion group. And at the wedding reception were other friends that I knew from Kuro5hin (or the K5 spinoff site HuSi). As a technoskeptic with strong technoparanoidish tendencies I find it odd that so many of my best friends are people that I met online, and I also note with raised eyebrow that the bride and groom, who were married in an ultra-traditional High Spook Episcopalian mass, are both introverted people. One is a fifty year old astrophysicist and the other is a thirty year old (former) instructor of English. It’s hard to imagine they would have found each other had it not been for teh Intarweb.
Some other time I will write about the notion of community as it relates to “online community.” I used to think that this subject was played out enough that there was little new to say about it. I’ve changed my mind about that, so Stay Tuned, as Harold says.
The Copyright Office has begun an important proceeding on ways to allow works where copyright status cannot be determined (called “orphan works”) to become accessible to the public. The good folks at Public Knowledge have this useful blurb and links. For my take, see below . . .
Hi, it’s Gary, the guy who maintains the drunken machinery here at Wetmachine.
John has asked me to install a Soundblox MP3 player on Wetmachine for your listening pleasure (don’t panic, it won’t start playing automatically, and it’s a lot better than those cheesy MIDI tunes of yesteryear).