Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Comments in News Stories

I mostly do my reading on an electronic device - be it a laptop or a tablet or a phone. I still subscribe to a few magazines but often find that I don't have time to really peruse them because I am too busy using one of the other devices!

The other day while reading an actual magazine in paper form. It was a mildly controversial story - and what isn't controversial these days! I reached the end of the story, formed an opinion on the subject of the story and instinctively tried to look for reader comments. Obviously there are no reader comments in paper magazines other that letters to the editors. This got me wondering on the practice of allowing reader comments in online news media.

Different media outlets allow comments in different ways. Some websites allow comments in certain stories only while others allow comments in all. I think most people look at these comments to seek reassurance that their views are indeed shared by others. Also, often a liberal website have comments that are preponderantly liberal and a conservative site has overwhelmingly conservative commentary.

This seems to reinforce that we are creatures of habit and seek our comfort zones. We prefer to be lulled into points of views that agree with are belief.

But a broader implication, something I am trying to put my finger on is how comments affect what we read or choose to consume. Sometimes I see myself scan the headline, read some comments and then read the story. Just like I read reviews for a product before buying it from and online retailer, I am - in a way - trying to see if a news story is worth reading. I wonder if doing so is preventing me from consuming a wider cross section of information based on feedback. It appears that I am consuming the feedback before consuming the message itself.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

iPhone and Life

The iPhone has changed my morning routine. It usually rests on my dresser getting charged throughout the night. The first thing I do every morning is to roll off the bed and walk bleary eyed to the dresser to check my emails.

The sad thing though is that I don't get too many interesting emails. It is either notifications from various merchants about sales, or forwarded junk. And nestled among them may be be a personal email or two.

My job fortunately or unfortunately is such that I don't need to constantly check my emails. If something momentous is happening, I get called. But otherwise, typically, I first check my email when I get to work. That was when I normally checked my personal email too. But that has changed with the iPhone.

I had a mild epiphany when I realized this is what is meant by sticky technology. Over the years many of us may have been guilty of buying gadgets that we soon set aside. The iPhone it appears is the exact opposite. It never lets you set it aside. You use it as a still camera, a video camera, an email device, a map device, for restaurant reviews, as a flashlight, to play games, to ignore the world...the list is endless and probably enumerated better elsewhere. True many of the apps are crap, but it is your fault that you downloaded them isn't it? And deleting them is easy too.

There are those who bemoan the closed proprietary nature of the iPhone ecosystem, but for most of us - including computer geeks (self described or actual) - we are just glad to have a device that works. We don't want to be bothered learning the ins and outs and all the "secrets". We want to surf the web, access audio and video content, read, browse and do other simple things. We feel rewarded when we can to these things without compromise and feel it is money well spent even though this device may be capable of doing other great things from measuring your blood pressure to probably launching a moon shot for all I know.

Competitors to this device should take note of that. Do the simple things unfailingly and competently first. If you can't, you don't have a hope to succeed. It is almost a metaphor for living a successful life...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The end or the beginning...or more of the same?

The Arab world - at least parts of it - is in flames. Over the last few months, the people of Tunisia and Egypt have overthrown long ruling heads of state. This unrest has spread to other countries in the region including Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and others.

What is unclear however is what happens after. In Egypt, Mubarak has fled. However a case of limbo seems to remain. The military are in control, but neither secular nor Islamist parties have succeeded in taking power. It remains to be seen if elections will be held as promised and who will come to power.

While this feeble mind would like to express hope, it tends to demur...cynically perhaps. Too often revolution has produced misery rather than opportunity. Will a more religious form of governance take root? What are the implications if this were to happen? Apart from this however, it is uplifting to see people come out to attempt to change their lot. Over the next few years the machination behind the uprising may come to light. However, for many ordinary people, it appears that they were biding their time to rise against ruling despots and did so in a selfless and patriotic manner. One hopes that their sacrifice does not result in another quasi despotic or myopically religious state.

What one sees in the people is a sense of fed-upness at cynical attempts to garner favors by invoking the patriotic or the religious or the "foreign power" card. It appears that people just want to be left alone and given freedom to pursue their dreams without an overbearing nanny state that decides their every move and punishes harshly if they stray.

Is that too much to ask for?