8 Aug 2003 bjf   » (Journeyer)

I got back from Melbourne a few days ago, having visited an old friend, caught up with family and did tons of sightseeing. Holidays happy-snaps are here. The scans, unfortunately, are up to snuff, partly due to careless handling of camera and negatives, and partly due to the useless chump in the campus photo lab; I spent a better half of an afternoon explaining why I didn't want pictures scanned reversed or with a bright magenta cast :-)

I use a Nikon FM3A body and a 50mm prime lens. Despite being a brand new and very current piece of equipment, the user interface is perfect and highly evolved to do just one thing, and do it well. Rather than being laden with a complex array of controls, options, onboard computers and labour-saving gadgets, it has about half a dozen controls at the most, each doing exactly one thing and one thing only. The result is a robust and eminently usable user interface. The closest comparison I could make off the top of my head, in the Open Source world would be Sound-Juicer versus Grip, although in fairness, you couldn't compare a Nikon F5 with, say, Grip's user interface, not in a million years (the analogy breaks quite badly :-)).

Note to self: the GNOME HIG would make interesting reading.

At work, I've been asked to evaluate Java web application development frameworks. There's certainly no shortage of them. I've been meaning to play with a couple of them in my own time, but I never find the time or energy.

On a change of tack, a discussion arose recently on the HUMBUG forums about the promise of blogging for bypassing conventional media and giving the unwashed masses a hope of getting news unfiltered by an elite agenda. My answer to that, of course, is that it won't happen.

It is the job of the professional journalist to gather news, interpret it and present it. They operate in a highly-evolved (but nonetheless imperfect) environment of standards of fairness, even-handedness and integrity. A blog, even if it's written in a combat zone, is merely a soapbox for ordinary people to sound off, much like a beefed up and totally unfiltered version of the Letters to the Editor. You don't realistically expect to get your news from op-eds and letters to the editor, do you?

It does not appear to me that bloggers feel the need to do as much fact-checking or be as honest or fair as conventional media, nor would they expect to be, since blogs tend to be, by their very nature, highly subjective. To attempt to assimilate and understand the news in an objective way, a reader would have to read a vast amount of material and then draw his own conclusions. This is unlikely, because most of us have lives and jobs, we tend to read material that we agree with, and bloggers tend to move in packs (the war-bloggers being a decent example).

Of course, a typical example would be Tim Blair, a washed up journalist reject who was once hired by the Australian ABC, laughably, as a 'right-wing Phillip Adams'. It turned out that Tim Blair didn't make the cut and had his contract not renewed. The poor sod now runs a very popular blog (where he gets to bash Aunty and sneer at Arabs and little-L liberals), which of course suits everybody right down to the ground, because he is no longer restricted by journalistic rules of fair play, fact-checking, intellectual honesty and the like, and most normal people can safely ignore him. One look at his blog and the two-dozen linked blogs delivers epiphany: the blog world will never, ever hold a light to conventional media in terms of quality or usefulness. Real journalists writing for real media have to abide by minimum standards of integrity and intellectual honesty, Chomsky's media filter model notwithstanding.

Me? I read blogs, but I read them for entertainment, mostly. Although seeing the perspectives of others can be enlightening especially if they thoughtfully and fairly challenge one's own held beliefs, I don't expect quality. Any dickhead with an agenda can set up a blog, and they often do.

This probably explains the very large right-wing pundit and blogger community: it's an extension of Alan Jones or John Laws (Rush Limbaugh for the Americans). The Internet now gives any old joe too lazy to think for himself or consider the perspectives, feelings or rights of others the opportunity to sound off (and gullible people to believe their self-serving rhetoric) without being criticised by the hated shiny-arsed 'elite' academic types for being stupid, insensitive, wilfully ignorant and lazy. Stop reading blogs, buy the newspaper and help support real journalism with real standards.

Like it or hate it, the conventional media, despite it's flaws is probably here to stay, and like pet rocks and hula-hoops, the blog will die a quiet and lonely (if not slightly overdue) death, at least in it's vain, hyped, hypertropied-ego form.

While I'm here sledging conservatives, did anybody see that Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen wants $AU335 million dollars compensation for 'hurt and suffering' and 'lost income' caused by an government enquiry into the corrupt activities of various members and hangers-on during his long reign? Gotta admire his chutzpah.

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