Nick Davies at Wolfson College

John Naughton links to an event taking place in Cambridge on 19th May:

Nick Davies, a well-known and award-winning investigative journalist, has recently published Flat Earth News, a controversial and highly-critical analysis of the British news media in which he argues that the business of truth has been “slowly subverted by the mass production of ignorance”. The book examines national news stories which, Davies argues, “turn out to be pseudo events manufactured by the PR industry and the global news stories which prove to be fiction generated by a new machinery of international propaganda.” With the help of researchers from Cardiff University, who ran a detailed analysis of the contents and sources for our daily news, Davies found that “most reporters most of the time are not allowed to dig up stories or check their facts”, leading him to describe UK journalism as “a profession corrupted at the core”. In the book, he also presents a new model for understanding news.

I’ll be there – anyone else?

It’s Eeeasy

John Naughton’s Observer column is required reading. Today he casts his eye on the Asus Eee PC:

Besides, the limitations of Mark I ought not to blind us to its significance – which is the cruel way it highlights the baroque complexity of conventional computing machines with their bloated operating systems, security problems, flaky hard drives, overheating processors and overweight chassis. Some day, our great-grandchildren will marvel that the industry once standardised on software that required its users to press the ‘Start’ button when they wished to stop their machine. Especially when all we really needed was a life-support system for a browser.


John Naughton turns his eye to the latest attempts by the music industry to stop people sending each other stuff on the interweb:

Through a staggering combination of ignorance, inertia, incompetence and paranoia, the record industry missed the significance of the internet for its business. It continued to distribute its product on plastic disks long after the net became widespread, and insisted on selling albums rather than tracks. In other words, it persisted with a comfortable business model long after it became obsolete. This couldn’t last – and it didn’t. Eventually Shawn Fanning came up with the idea of sharing tracks over the internet and Napster was born. The industry refused to offer a legal alternative, and in doing so embossed its own death certificate. The last convulsive jerk of the corpse is the BPI’s attempt to intimidate ISPs and to lobby the government for legislation which would compel ISPs to become data policemen.

John Naughton on Flickr

From his column in Sunday’s Observer:

Flickr’s designers also displayed a shrewd grasp of the essence of Web 2.0 thinking – namely that the big rewards come from making it easy for other developers to hook into your stuff. So they were quick to publish the application programming interface (API), the technical details other programmers needed to link into Flickr’s databases. This then made it easy for bloggers and users of social networking sites to create links to their Flickr ‘photostreams’. The results are clear for all to see. On 12 November last year, Flickr images passed the 2 billion mark. At present, between three and five million photographs are uploaded to the service every day…

Future of the cloud

Interesting column from John Naughton in today’s Observer on the potential issues of an increased focus on ‘cloud computing’ ie using online services like Google Docs, etc. Firstly he talks about the recent outages in Asia caused by the Pakistani authorities re-routing YouTube to nowhere – in other words, just how stable is the web? – and secondly he discusses the environmental issues.

A comprehensively networked world requires unconscionable numbers of ‘server farms’ – huge warehouses stuffed with computers consuming vast quantities of electrical power. We haven’t yet begun to think seriously about the environmental footprint of this kind of technology, but it’s clearly significant.

Some companies are already aware of the looming environmental issues. Google’s senior executives are reportedly obsessed with their company’s power consumption. And last week IBM launched a new mainframe which provides the computing power of 1,500 PC-based servers but with 85 per cent lower energy costs. Perhaps this is a token of what’s to come: the mainframe is dead; long live the mainframe!

Or, the network is the computer. Interesting, the green angle on this. I had always equated innovative methods of online working as being environmentally friendly. This aspect has taken me rather by surprise.