Category: Uncategorized

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Amazon Echo Is All About You

While professing not to be a geek, sometimes I act like one. This afternoon, I requested an invite to buy Amazon Echo, which promises to bring Star Trek-like responsive computing to the home. The cylindrical device, announced today, is a Bluetooth- and WiFi-enabled streaming speaker that responds to users’ questions. Just say “Alexa” and ask something.  “What’s the weather?” “What is the largest dinosaur?” This is how search information should be, assuming Echo resounds as strongly as Amazon’s product information and demo video claim.

Voice response is exactly what consumers need from a personal device, and many others used every day that pack chips and operating systems. While humans are tool users, for which touch interfaces make sense, the ability to communicate with language sets us apart from all other species. What is more familiar than talking, and expecting response because of it? 

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iPod is Classic

In my professional life as a journalist, I only wrote one rumor story for which sourcing was truly sketchy. Generally my rule is this: Write what you know to be true in the moment based on the most reliable—and identified, meaning we directly communicated—sources available. But I didn’t feel confident about my Oct. 17, 2001 iPod story. My source (only one) confirmed that six days later Apple would unveil a “digital music device”, but it wasn’t clear what that meant, something the story reflects.

I reminisce about iPod because it’s gone. CNET, where I worked when writing about the mystery music device, reported the device’s disappearance yesterday. The link for iPod Classic now goes to iPod Touch, and the music player is no longer sold at Apple Store Online—not even refurbished. The extended name, adopted in 2007, is appropriate. The original iPod is a “classic”. It is one of four foundational products released in 2001 that still drive everything Apple in 2014. Music changed the fruit-logo company long before iPhone established the world’s largest tech company. 

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Ten Months, 26 Stories About Apple

As a personal exercise exploring the tone of my BetaNews stories about Apple, I reviewed all of them written over the past 10 months—just 26, which isn’t many. I did this because, despite the last two posts (here and here) about Apple apologists, reader response does matter. Some critics harp about balance, and I admit there’s no glowing love for the company expressed in most of my stories.

There shouldn’t be. What some people call negativity, I see as constructive criticism. Then there is straight news reporting, which needn’t praise or raze. I prepared the list for myself and post it here mostly for my reference. But it’s a good look at my most recent news stories and analyses about Apple. 

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WTF is the Right Domain Question

I must thank Todd Bishop, whose tweet about a GeekWire story alerted me to the then forthcoming .wtf domain extension, which is now available. Generally, I think these dot-com wannabes are just plain stupid, but someone wants them—or ICANN decision-makers believe so. I ignored every domain registrar solicitation to grab one until .wtf.

My first concern is brand protection. I’ve pissed off more than a few fanboys over the years and I worried about someone snagging and using that as a platform against me. You should worry, too, if you have any kind of brand to protect. “What the fuck?” is right. If your name is your brand, grab .wtf before someone else does.

Tofu the Vegan Zombie

I am in one of my moods, basking in the glow of those people lucky enough to make San Diego Comic-Con 2014 pre-registration. This will be my sixth year attending as official press. From SDDC 2013, I wrote Comic-Con Heroes: The Fans Who Make the Greatest Show on Earth. Previous years, I focused on video interviews and photos. In reviewing the vids, I see that many are stuck in YouTube oblivion, and that I never blogged them. So let’s catch up with some oldies, most of which still have shelf life.

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Be a Better Blogger

I start off February by launching my first crowdfunding campaign, which seeks to raise money for my forthcoming book Be a Better Blogger. The sorry state of news reporting troubles me, particularly sourcing (or lack of it) and rumormongering—as eloquently expressed four years ago in post “The Difference Between Blogging and Journalism“. Triple B seeks to be a remedy, by identifying the problems and offering tips on writing well and reporting responsibly.

While the title refers to blogging, that is more a naming convention. The book is meant for anyone who wants to write well and responsibly online, applying past principles of good editing, writing, and storytelling to future-now.

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Better Place to Be

My last post on this site is dated December 2010. Luckily no squatters took residence in my absence. I stopped writing here simply because I didn’t have time. My responsibilities for BetaNews commanded too much of me, and I shifted personal blogging to Google+. Both are fine places to live—shared common areas—but I seek solitude and escape from the daily news grind; also, I’m sick to death of tech.

I’m not a computer or gadget geek. It’s just my career path. Twenty years ago this autumn, what was then Washington Journalism Review, now American Journalism Review, posted a story that changed my life: “The Future is Now” by Kate McKenna.

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Canadian Strife along 'The Border'

I grew up watching Canadian TV from the CBC station across the St. John River in New Brunswick. Programs like “The Beachcombers”, “The Friendly Giant”, “Mr. Dressup” and “North of 60”, among many others, delighted. In 1995, my wife, daughter and I moved home to Maine for 18 months, and my daughter watched “Big Comfy Couch” before its stateside debut. Many successful American TV shows were produced in Canada, such as “Battlestar Galactica” and “X-Files” and many HGTV programs.

The Canadian shows have a much different tone than their American counterparts that reminds of British TV. Well, they’re both part of the Commonwealth, eh. Yesterday I discovered CBC drama “The Border” on Netflix and have since streamed four episodes. I like it so far.

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Michael Arrington is Right

No one could honestly call me a Michael Arrington defender, but he has a point in post “Marissa’s Mean and Kevin’s a Quitter: The Tech Press Shineth“. Arrington is in too many ways Mr. Conflict of Interest, which raises lots of reasonable concerns about bias—because he does business with the people he reports about, or did when running TechCrunch.

But bias is unavoidable. It’s everywhere, and every journalist seeking balance when writing stories fools himself or herself when denying this. There’s no such thing as unbiased reporting. Bias is built into the fabric of culture. If, for example, you’re a registered Democrat reporting on Mitt Romney’s campaign, isn’t that conflict of interest, too? Isn’t there inherit bias if you voted for Barrack Obama and plan to do so again?