Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Decline of reading?

On November 19th 2007 the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced the release of To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence, (PDF format 3.32 MB; 98 pages) a new and comprehensive analysis of reading patterns in the United States. To Read or Not To Read gathers statistics from more than 40 studies on the reading habits and skills of children, teenagers, and adults. The compendium reveals recent declines in voluntary reading and test scores alike, exposing trends that have severe consequences for American society.

Among the key findings:
- Americans are reading less
- Americans are reading less well
- The declines in reading have civic, social, and economic implications

On January 16th 2008, a new study (in the UK) overturns the common assumption that the "Google Generation" - youngsters born or brought up in the Internet age - is the most web-literate. The first ever virtual longitudinal study carried out by the CIBER research team at University College London claims that, although young people demonstrate an apparent ease and familiarity with computers, they rely heavily on search engines, view rather than read and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to assess the information that they find on the web. The report Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future (PDF format; 1.67MB; 35 pages) also shows that research-behaviour traits that are commonly associated with younger users – impatience in search and navigation, and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs – are now becoming the norm for all age-groups, from younger pupils and undergraduates through to professors.

Steven Berlin Johnson (1968) is an american popular science author and he's widely known for his book "Everything bad is good for you: How today's popular culture is actually making us smarter"; Johnson is very sceptical about about the decline of reading described in the 2 studies and he wrote it in The Guardian:

"We've been hearing about the decline of reading for so long now that it's amazing a contemporary teenager can even recognise a book, much less read one. The US (where I am) seems to be cycling through yet another "Johnny can't read" mini-panic, sparked by the release of a National Endowment for the Arts study, called To Read Or Not To Read, which chronicles in exhaustive statistical detail the waning of literary culture and its dire consequences for society. Newspapers dutifully editorialised about America's literacy crisis.

It's the sort of "our kids in peril" story - right up there with threats of MySpace predators - that plays well as a three-minute television newsbite or a three-paragraph op-ed piece. But if you actually read the report, what you find are some startling omissions - omissions that ultimately lead to a heavily distorted view of the Google generation and its prospects." full article

Director (Sunil Iyengar) of the Office of Research & Analysis at the United States' National Endowment for the Arts and former director (Mark Bauerlein) replied to Steven Johnson:

"Steven Johnson diminished the significance of reading problems in the Britain and the United States, and misrepresented our research into the issue (Dawn of the digital natives, February 7). His biggest error was to assert that "in almost every study [the US National Endowment for the Arts] city, screen-based reading is excluded from the data." full article

Monday, 17 March 2008

Mobile tv in Europe: another step for DVB-H

Good news for DVB-H (and bad news for T-DMB ?)

July 2007
Commission proposed a strategy for promoting Mobile TV across Europe.
It included the use of the open standard DVB-H as the common standard for
terrestrial Mobile TV across Europe

November 2007
The Council of Telecoms Ministers endorsed the European Commission's
strategy on Mobile TV

Today, 17/03/2008
Commission endorses addition of DVB-H to EU List of Official standards

"For Mobile TV to take off in Europe, there must first be certainty about the technology. This is why I am glad that with today's decision, taken by the Commission in close coordination with the Member States and the European Parliament, the EU endorse DVB-H as the preferred technology for terrestrial mobile broadcasting," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media. The next steps for implementing the EU strategy on mobile broadcasting will include guidance on the authorisation regimes as well as the promotion of rights management systems based, as is DVB-H, on open standards"

Shall I ever read Viviane Reding saying "For digital radio to take off in Europe, there must first be certainty about the technology"??

DVB-H is an open standard developed by the open Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) Consortium. It is part of a family of interoperable standards that dominate digital broadcasting around the world, together with DVB-S for digital satellite TV, DVB-C for digital cable TV and DVB-T for digital terrestrial TV

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Observer: most powerful blogs

Nine journalists of Observer wrote a list of the world's 50 most powerful
blogs (from Observer, March 9 2008)

1 The Huffington Post
Huffington Post is a liberal online news site and aggregated blog founded (in 2005) by millionaire Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington (1950) and Kenneth Lerer
2 Boing Boing
Boing Boing was launched in January 2000 and has had an immeasurable influence on the style and idiom of blogging. But hidden among the pictures of steam-powered CD players and Darth Vader tea towels there is a steely, ultra-liberal political agenda: championing the web as a global medium free of state and corporate control
3 Techcrunch
Techcrunch began in 2005 as a blog about dotcom start-ups in Silicon Valley, but has quickly become one of the most influential news websites across the entire technology industry. Founder Michael Arrington had lived through the internet goldrush as a lawyer and entrepreneur before deciding that writing about new companies was more of an opportunity than starting them himself. His site is now ranked the third-most popular blog in the world by search engine Technorati, spawning a mini-empire of websites and conferences as a result. Business Week named Arrington one of the 25 most influential people on the web, and Techcrunch has even scored interviews with Barack Obama and John McCain
4 Kottke
one of the early wave of blogging pioneers, web designer Jason Kottke started keeping track of interesting things on the internet as far back as 1998. The site took off, boosted partly through close links to popular blog-building website Blogger
5 Dooce
Heather B. Armstrong (1975) is an american blogger who writes her personal blog under the pseudonym of Dooce
6 Perezhilton
Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr (1978) blogs at Perez Hilton about gossip items about musicians, actors and celebrities
7 Talking Points Memo
TPM is a centre-left political blog created (in November 2000) and run by Josh Marshall
8 Icanhascheezburger
ICHC (I Can Has Cheezburger?) was created in January 2007 and it shows lolcats (images combining a photograph of an animal with a funny caption in broken english)
9 Beppe Grillo
probably the most famous blog in Italy
10 Gawker
a New York blog of 'snarky' gossip and commentary about the media industry, Gawker was founded in 2002 by journalist Nick Denton
11 The Drudge Report
it's a US-based news aggregation site (blog?) run by Matt Drudge; it became famous worldwide when it was the first to talk about Monica Lewinksy
12 Xu Jinglei
Jinglei is a popular actress in China, who in 2005 began a blog ('I got the joy of expressing myself') which within a few months had garnered 11.5m visits and spurred thousands of other Chinese to blog. In 2006 statisticians at Technorati, having previously not factored China into their calculations, realised Jinglei's blog was the most popular in the world; the blog is in chinese language
13 Treehugger
green consumer blog with a mission to bring a sustainable lifestyle to the masses
14 Microsiervos
founded in 2001, it's a spanish-language blog run by 3 guys in Madrid
15 TMZ
entertainment news, celebrity gossip and Hollywood rumours
16 Engadget
popular blog on gadgets and consumer electronics
17 Marbury
a british commentary on the 2008 US presidential race
18 Chez Pim
Pim grew up in Bangkok and she moved to San Francisco; she travels a lot and she blogs about restaurants, recipes and anything about food
19 Basic Thinking
german-language blog, recently rated the 18th most influential blog in the world by Wikio, Basic Thinking, which has the tag line 'Mein Haus, Mein Himmel, Mein Blog', is run by Robert Basic of Usingen, Germany, who aims 'to boldly blog what no one has blogged before', and recently posted his 10,000th entry
20 The Sartorialist
fashion blog run by Scott Schuman, the blog attracts more than 70,000 readers a day and has been named one of Time's Top 100 Design Influences
21 Students for a Free Tibet
global, grassroots network of students campaigning to free Tibet
22 Jezebel
celebrity, sex and fashion: a blog like a women's magazine
23 Gigazine
japanese-language blog, it's the most popular blog in Japan
24 Girl with a one-track mind
following in the footsteps of Belle de Jour – the anonymous blogger claiming to be a sex worker – the girl with a one track mind started writing in open, explicit terms about her lively sex life in 2004
25 Mashable
created by Peter Cashmore in 2005, it's a is a social-networking news blog, reporting on and reviewing the latest developments, applications and features available in or for MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and other social-networking sites and services
26 Greek tragedy
Stephanie Tara Klein's blog allows her to 'create an online scrapbook of my life, complete with drawings, photos and my daily musings' or, rather, tell tawdry tales of dating nightmares, sexual encounters and bodily dysfunctions
27 Holy Moly
latest celebrity gossip & entertainment news for UK, Hollywood & more
28 Michelle Malkin
Michelle Malkin, a conservative newspaper columnist and author with one of the most widely read conservative blogs in the US
29 Cranky flier
Brett Snyder is obsessed with airports and airplanes and he gives us all the information we may ever need about planes
30 Go fug yourself
comedy blog about fashion gossip run by Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks
31 Gaping void
Hugh MacLeod is a cartoonist and professional blogger, known for his ideas about how "Web 2.0" affects advertising and marketing
32 DirtyDirtyDancing
pictures from parties in London (is it a blog?)
33 Crooked timber
formed as an internet supergroup, pulling several popular intellectual blogs together, Crooked Timber now has 16 members – largely academics – across the US, Europe, Australia and Asia. The site has built itself a reputation as something of an intellectual powerhouse; a sort of global philosophical thinktank conducted via blog
34 Bean sprouts
combining diary, opinion and green lifestyle tips, Beansprouts is a blog that covers one family's 'search for the good life'. Melanie Rimmer and her family of five live in a 'small ex-council house' with a garden on the edge of farmland in Poynton, Cheshire (UK)
35 The offside
UK-based blog covering football leagues globally
36 Peteite Anglaise
bored at work one day in 2004, expat secretary Catherine Sanderson happened upon the concept of blogging. With a few clicks and an impulse she created her own blog, and quickly gathered fans who followed her life in Paris, the strained relationship with her partner and adventures with her toddler
37 Crooks and liars
founded in 2004 by John Amato, it's a progressive/liberal-leaning political blog
38 Chocolate and zucchini
it's a blog written by Clotilde Dusoulier, a 28-year-old Parisian woman who lives in Montmartre and shares her passion for all things food-related -- thoughts, recipes, musings, cookbook acquisitions, quirky products, nifty tools, restaurant experiences, ideas, and inspirations
39 Samizdata
written by a bunch of anarcho-libertarians, tax rebels, Eurosceptics and Wildean individualists, it has a special niche in the political blogosphere: like a dive bar, on the rational side of the border between fringe opinion and foam-flecked paranoid ranting
40 Andrew Sullivan - The daily dish
Andrew Sullivan (1963) is an english man living in US and he's been blogging since 2000; he supported Bush in 2000, Kerry in 2004 and he's supporting Barack Obama now
41 The f word
contemporary UK feminism
42 Jonny B's private secret diary
growing in popularity since its debut in 2003, Jonny B's diary catalogues the rock and bowls lifestyle of one man in the depths of rural Norfolk
43 Popjustice
founded in May 2000, the most famous blog about pop music
44 Waiter rant
rant isn't quite the right word for this collection of carefully crafted stories from the sharp end of the service industry in a busy New York restaurant. 'The Waiter', as the author is known, has been blogging his experiences with fussy customers and bad tippers since 2004, winning a gong at blogging's biggest awards, the Bloggies, in 2007
45 Hecklerspray
sharply written and often laugh-out-loud funny, Hecklerspray has been called the British alternative to Perez Hilton, but it's different in important ways: the emphasis here is on style and wit, with a stated aim to 'chronicle the ups and downs of all that is populist and niche within the murky world of entertainment'
46 WOW Insider
blog about the World of Warcraft, the role-playing game
47 AngryBlackBitch
Angry Black Bitch, which has the tagline, 'Practising the Fine Art of Bitchitude', is the four-year-old blog of Shark Fu of St Louis, Missouri
48 Style bubble
Susie Bubble lives in London and she blogs about fashion
49 After Ellen
news, reviews & commentary on lesbian and bisexual women in entertainment and the media
50 Copyblogger
Copyblogger was founded in 2006 by Brian Clark, who blogs about copywriting skills

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

London is not calling anymore (on shortwave)

The BBC decided to stop broadcasting BBC World Service to Europe on shortwave (with amplitude modulation) on 18th February 2008: after decades it's an end of an era.
This is the statement from BBC official site:

"Shortwave changes for Europe February 2008

The remaining BBC World Service shortwave transmissions* to Europe closed on 18th February 2008.

This change was made in line with listener trends in radio. Increasing numbers of people around the world are choosing to listen to radio on a range of other platforms including FM, satellite and online, with fewer listening on shortwave.

This is particularly the case in Europe, where the majority of shortwave transmissions ceased in March 2007. The current closures affect the remaining transmissions heard in southern Europe.

Please note these changes also affect English short wave transmissions to North Africa.

* Digital shortwave radio (DRM - Digital Radio Mondiale) for north-east continental Europe will not be affected "

BBC World Service (called BBC Empire Service) started on December 1932 and it gained a lot of credibility through years, becoming a real legend. In a time of dictators ruling several countries in Europe, BBC offered news in many languages (" by the time war ended in 1945, the BBC was offering programmes in 45 languages worldwide"); and the purpose of BBC was not propaganda: "unlike the american stations, for instance, the BBC did not encourage the Hungarians' failed uprising against the Soviet Union in 1956".

The Guardian wrote about the shutdown and we can read:

"There comes a point where the shortwave audience in a given region becomes so small that spending money on it can no longer be justified," the World Service said.


"It is a landmark in as much that the BBC and other international broadcasters have been using shortwave for the last three-quarters of a century and it is now coming to an end," said Simon Spanswick, the chief executive of the Association for International Broadcasting, the industry association for the international broadcast community.

"Everybody now has to use different ways to engage listeners. Nobody in the developed world listens on noisy, crackly shortwave anymore," Spanswick added.

New York Times didn't miss the news and added:

“Europe is very developed and so is America,” said Michael Gardner, a spokesman for BBC World Service. “Shortwave is not the best way of reaching those audiences there. They all have FM, AM stations close by. Some of them have satellites, or they can pull it down on their TV screens and there are alternatives online. There are lots of ways of interacting with the BBC.”


Andy Sennitt, a media specialist with the Dutch public broadcaster, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, said that he got his start 30 years ago working on BBC shortwave broadcasts and had mixed feelings about the end of the transmissions.

“For die-hard shortwave listeners, this is negative,” he said. “What they don’t understand is the huge cost of powering transmitters. The cost of diesel fuel has doubled.”

Don't miss this post of a blog where there are more than 30 interesting comments.

In 1932 Christmas Message (the message was written by Rudyard Kipling) King George V used BBC saying:

"I speak now from my home and my heart to you all; to men and women so cut off by the snows, the desert or the sea that only voices out of the air can reach them".

Today people cut off by the snows, the desert or the sea do need a satellite dish or an Internet connection
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