Recent events in Barcelona (thoughts with all those affected) got me thinking again about how I consume news.

I first wrote seven years ago about social media versus traditional news outlets as a source of news – blog post here.

I no longer look at news websites on a daily basis. In fact only during the football season do I look on such sites – and this is only to look at Spanish and German results, a somewhat obscure use of such a sprawling resource of information.

Last weekend I choose not to listen to the radio while driving (schedule nowhere near as good as during the week) and instead listened to Led Zeppelin IV, which |I forgot how much I liked, so kept on listening repeatedly all week as I drove.

Only after I saw reactions on Facebook to the events in Barcelona did it occur to me I hadn’t consumed any news this week I hadn’t found on social media.

I almost never read national newspapers (If I have an empty Sunday I may be the Sunday Times, but that is maybe a couple of occasions a year). Only rarely do I read a physical copy of the local paper where I live. I follow them on Facebook and I can see anything relevant to me in my stream, so why spend the 95p?

And it took a terrible event the week I skipped radio for me to notice this media was my main source of news these days outside social media. And I only catch those bulletins because they interrupt the music I listen to while driving.

But doesn’t your job involve monitoring the media for your organisation, you probably won’t ask, Well, yes it does. But I let Google Alerts take care of the media monitoring for me. Every mention pops right into my inbox and so far the alerts I have set up have never failed me.

By not watching TV news, nor reading print or websites direct, the editorial choice about what potential news stories I am served comes from the algorithms of Facebook and Twitter. I have no complaints about what I see in my feeds. But, is that because these algorithms serve me exactly the news I want because they know me, or is it because I don’t know what they don’t tell me? The answer to this is unclear to me.

What is clear as social media becomes my gateway to the world is my choices about who to follow, what I like, comment on and share feed into these algorithms which shape how I see the world.

The Swiss referendum on the basic income was backed by just under a quarter of the country’s population.
So, while it will not be introduced, a large minority of the voters see a need for it as a way of dealing with the rise of automation.

In a recent post I mentioned the concept of basic income. The idea being due to robot labour there will be less work for humans in the future.
Today Switzerland is having a referendum with this idea on the ballot paper.
The article also cites this idea being tested in two other European countries.

A recent article in the UK press discusses how robots may steal our jobs and ruin the economy.
This is a topic I have covered before – quite some time ago.
Anyone got any thoughts on this issue?

An earth sized planet, within a habitable zone is soon to be announced according to sources.

That is fantastic news – I have been following the Kelper project for some years and this is the breakthrough that I – and many others – have been waiting for.

Kelper has found tons and tons of planets, of varying distances from stars and differing sizes, so why does this one matter?

For life as we know it to exist, there is a distance from a star (based on how much warmth it pushes out into its solar system) where it can happen. Within this habitable range around a star there needs to be a rocky planet for an atmosphere to grow up around. My understanding of this project is that  the scientific opinion is planets much larger than ours are likely to be gaseous in composition rather than rocky. So the closer to earth size the higher the probability of a rocky planet with the potential for an atmosphere, liquid water and life.

Humans have been pointing radio telescopes at different star systems for decades in the hope of hearing radio waves and therefore signs of intelligent life. Kelper will tell us if we have been pointing at the right ones so far – and certainly ensure we point our expensive radio telescopes at the star systems with the potential for life from now on.

Kelper has told us stars with planets are common in our galaxy, including near earth size in habitable zones  – and it is reasonably safe to extrapolate this across other galaxies across the universe. With so many planets, it is not hard to jump to the conclusion that somewhere life similar to us exists.

And that is what makes this announcement really exciting news.

If this earth size planet, around a dwarf star, is in our galactic neighbourhood. What does that mean for our space programmes? There is currently talk various national space programmes are looking back at the moon (where mankind haven’t been for almost half a century) as well as our near neighbour, (intelligent) lifeless Mars.

Would a nearby earth-like planet in a habitable zone spark a new interstellar space race?

What do you think?

Robert Stewart murdered his cell mate Zahid Mubarek in March 2000.
How did a prisoner with a history of violence and racism come to share a cell with a man of Asian descent?

This difficult period in British prison history is examined by crime writer Ian Hitchings in his book Robert Stewart: Portrait of a Prison Killer.

Out now, published by Oktober Books.

Using Firefox approved

August 1, 2011

Only the other day someone commented it was good to see I used Firefox and having seen this study, I am now doubly pleased with the compliment.

My brother introduced me to the term PowerPoint-lessness a few years ago – explaining about how awful some of his lectures at uni could be.

(He went to uni several years after I did, he was a mature student, and now has a great job thanks to his hard work in a vocational degree).

I have often advocated the need to use PowerPoint as an effective tool – which it can be if done properly.

I am an advocate of the six slide rule – ie if you need more than six slides to give a presentation, you are doing it wrong. The important rule here is that the slides support your presentation rather than, for example, you reading out every word on the 54 slides you are presenting.

I once presented the entire plot of Lost in a six slide presentation Lost Presentation_2upload

(in fact I did it in five and the sixth slide was used as a trailer for the new series of V).

(This was a challenge from a friend of mine – you know who you are!)

As someone who understands that badly used PowerPoint can drive you nuts (and well used is a great tool), I was intrigued to read about the  Swiss Anti PowerPoint Party.

Taking the issue to extremes in my humble opinion.

This dude has a point

June 30, 2011

Ben Huh is famous for creating Cheezburger, not something I am hugely into, but he is making a good living off the web as far as I can tell.

But, as well as this fun site, he is also working on a project which is close to my heart. (I used to be a print journalist, and it is so clear to me the industry is in need of a massive overhaul.)

He explains it best in his blog, so please have a read of it here.


Google doing good…

June 2, 2011

This is an interesting article about what Google are doing for the good of mankind.

I heard about its work to tackle flu pandamics too.

But, if they can use Google trends to predict the spread of disease, how are they harnessing this knowledge of interpreting search terms to sell me stuff I neither want nor need.


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