Tag Archives: Media

Vote For Brown Note

My friend Tarra has a T-shirt design approved for voting on Threadless.com. If enough people vote for her design, it will not only be offered for sale on Threadless, but she stands to win $2000 and $500 worth of shirts. With that in mind, I have decided to use what little social media leverage I have to make sure it gets as many votes as possible. Sign up and vote for Brown Note!
Brown Note - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

The 90-9-1 Rule of Social Media

I want to direct your attention over to this rule often quoted by social media start-ups, the 90-9-1 rule for participation. It’s basically a ratio for internet users. 90% of them are lurkers. They just read posts and articles, they never comment, never share, and never click on one of those ajax-powered “thumbs-up” links. 9% are part-time contributers, you might hear from them only once in a while. 1% is the ratio of users on any given website or online community that produces 90% of the content. You almost begin to wonder if they ever see sunlight, but you see them over and over again on all your favorite websites.

With statistics like this, you begin to wonder, how democratic is the internet, really? If such a small ratio of users is producing all the content, are we really that much better served by the internet than traditional forms of media? There are several recommendations for addressing the inequality in participation by rewarding contributing users and making it easier to contribute in the first place. I think even deeper concerns about our society will have to be addressed before we make the internet the free speech utopia that we hope it to be. No one wants to write anything they’ll regret later. The media is full of moral panic stories about public figures posting information on the internet that they would later regret, as was the case with NDP candidate Ray Lam in the last BC election. On the other hand, people might avoid contributing because they fear they’ll be ignored. By the time they’ve come up with something witty to post in the comments section, the article they were reading is buried underneath dozens of subsequent posts. I’d like everyone reading this to consider what goes through their head when they post a comment, or decide not to. Either way, if I am lucky, perhaps you will post your results in the comments below.

Dr. Drew Pinsky and the Mirror Effect


People like to complain about the weather, but no one seems to be doing anything about it. When it comes to tawdry celebrity stories about addiction, Dr. Drew takes it on the way only an actual medical doctor can.

I found out about Dr. Drew through stories told by Adam Carolla on his podcast. They both hosted a radio call in show called Loveline for 11 years. He’s also been practicing addiction medicine for over twenty years, making him one of the most knowledgeable people in the media on the subject. While most drug use critics and advocates are motivated by politics, Dr. Drew talks more about the science behind drug addiction rather than the moral posturing surrounding it. A common thread among his patients, which include some celebrities, is a high level of narcissism, which he talks about in his new book, The Mirror Effect.

Narcisissm. That sounds about right, doesn’t it? That’s the reason we’re bombarded by celebrity news, featuring empty-headed young slackers in a competition to see who can go on the worst bender, isn’t it? Well, it is, but not in the way you would think. Narcissism is not the same thing as vanity. In fact, it’s the product of intense self-loathing. People who have a high level of narcissism create a persona that is outgoing and confident to make up for their lack of self-esteem. Actually, most healthy people do this. Celebrities have high narcissism because it helps them deal with the rejection that comes with trying to be an actor or a musician. It becomes a problem when it divorces people from reality. Narcissistic people turn to drugs, sexual promiscuity, and other dangerous behavior in order to cope with their lack of self esteem and any other trauma they might have. The mirror effect the book refers to is the concern that the pervasiveness of celebrity bad behavior will serve as modeling behavior to people with high narcissism, including children and young adults. Narcissism is not necessarily the cause of these problems, but it does increase the severity and scale of them.

If there is one thing that I took away from Dr. Drew’s book, it’s that addictive behavior is an extremely complex psychological problem. Each individual’s path to recovery is different, and it’s achieved through slow, incremental changes. I’ve also been listening to Dr. Drew’s new radio show as a podcast on iTunes. One of the things that he said that really stuck with me was that a patient’s prognosis for cancer is better than drug addiction. If you walk into a hospital with lymphoma, you have a better chance of walking out of there than the guy who’s hooked on Demerol. I would really like to know what he thinks of the problem of the Downtown Eastside. Vancouver may have some advantages since the addicts are crowded around such a small area, but it would be nice to actually see addiction treated as a disease from a medical science point of view.

The Great Maginot Line of China

Via Mayerson on Animation

Here’s a video by Clay Shirky, author of the recent bestseller “Here comes Everybody”. He gives a little more detail to the kind of changes that are happening to mass media. I love it when he describes the Great Fire Wall of China as the Maginot line of the digital age. If you think about it, any countermeasures against transmitting or processing data are ultimately just as avoidable as the Maginot Line was. It goes against the basic tenets of what a computer is supposed to do, kind of like trying to stop an internal combustion engine using a fire extinguisher.  It’s especially ironic considering that China manufactures most of the devices that it’s so desperately trying to hobble.

Iran and the Death of Mass Media


The wording of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s speech last Friday was so earnest that I almost believed it myself. He really believed that the election was a divine assessment. He also believed that he could blame the recent troubles on Iran’s enemies, who were all living a higher standard of living despite never having heard of such things as a secret morality police. From the hard-liner’s perspective, the regime still seems to be doing all the right things. They are manufacturing reports on state television, throwing out dissenting foreign journalists, confiscating cameras, and applying truncheons to anyone who gets in their way. The methods may seem harsh, but it’s all in a day’s work for defending the Islamic Republic. The only problem is that they are trying to fight an information war in 2009 with techniques that belong in 1979.

Back when the Islamic Revolution was young, print was still the primary source of information. Radio and Television were transmitted through massive antennae using machinery that would fill a small room. Media was still thought of as infrastructure back then. If you had control of it, legitimacy came by default. Today, that sort of centralization of media power doesn’t exist. Your average Best Buy has at least enough media creation equipment to start a revolution. All it took was the video from a single camcorder to set an entire city on fire in the 1992 LA riots. The Iranian Revolutionary regime now faces devices 1/10th the size, with 1000 times the storage capacity, and the ability to connect to a global network that not even President Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions could threaten.

Iran Expert Afshin Molavi claims that if Khamenei were to call for another election, it would be an extreme blow to the regime’s credibility. In my opinion, all hope of the regime’s credibility was dashed in Friday’s speech. He didn’t realize that he had brought a knife to a gun convention. In days passed, his was the only channel on TV. Now he is but a single voice among millions. One of the great myths of the 20th century was that if the footage going through the camera or the sound coming through the microphone didn’t lie, then anyone that had such equipment wouldn’t lie either. Even if the imagery was obviously false, individuals couldn’t come up with something vivid enough to compete with the propaganda. When that kind of power is the hands of all instead of the hands of the few, we begin to see that reality is once again decided by the agreement of people, not by an appeal to any authority, divine or otherwise. So now, along with the Divine Right of Kings before it, the myth of ultimate truth through mass media has been dashed, hopefully forever.