Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thanks Feedly, Every news site needs this...

Every news site needs this. I have stated before that I don't care what's popular. Just show me the articles in (reverse) chronological order and let me pick the ones I want to read. Just because something is popular doesn't mean that it's interesting to me or relevant to anything that I care about.

This is the configuration panel from Feedly on the Web and it's GREAT. I can eliminate the display of "popular" articles in favor of just seeing articles in reverse chronological order.

Thanks Feedly. Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Post-Truth in the Trump Era

Politifact Truth-o-Meter
I just read an interesting article by Christiane Amanpour of CNN. She has grave doubts about the freedom of the press in the Trump era of "Post-Truth".

I never in a million years thought I would be up here on stage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home.

I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth.
And we have to be prepared to fight especially hard for the truth in a world where the Oxford English Dictionary just announced its word of 2016: "post-truth."

Post-truth is defined as an adjective "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief," according to the dictionary. [source]
 Trump and those who support him have no respect for the truth. In fact, they benefit from the lies they tell. The "Trump dictionary" seems to define things in terms of how they reflect on Donald Trump. For example, "rigged" is anything which makes Trump look bad. He, and those who support him, will lie without any regret if it benefits them. And, they will fight anyone who support a differing view of the truth.

Is Amanpour right to fear for journalism and journalists?

Wael Ghonim, one of the fathers of the Arab spring, dubbed the social media revolution, now says:
"The same medium that so effectively transmits a howling message of change also appears to undermine the ability to make it. Social media amplifies the human tendency to bind with one's own kind. It tends to reduce complex social challenges to mobilizing slogans that reverberate in echo chambers of the like-minded rather than engage in persuasion, dialogue, and the reach for consensus. Hate speech and untruths appear alongside good intentions and truths." [emphasis added]
Yes, I think she does. We all do.

However, the media can be viewed as much to blame as are the people who post false news and those who believe it. All the major news organizations are really out for one thing -- profit. They want people to follow them, read them, and most of all, buy from the advertisers who drive their profit. If you don't believe this, just look at some of the stories about celebrities or promoting other shows on their networks that are presented as news.

In the Internet age, the pursuit of profit seems to mean that you need to be first and you need to be popular. Notice there is nothing here about being truthful. The rush to immediacy means that even reputable journalists can sacrifice truth for ratings. EVERYONE must STOP trying to be first and make sure they are accurate!

But, what about those who benefit from lies? How do we deal with them? We, as consumers of social media, must be willing to approach even articles expressing views with which we agree with healthy skepticism. We need to question everything, read disparate sources and keep up with the information from those who don't necessarily agree with us.

It's just as important to question those with whom we agree as it is those with whom we disagree. Sights like Breitbart are obvious. Facebook, Twitter, CNN are a bit less obvious.

The point is that we need to realize profits and power drive much of the media we read. We need to investigate, research, and doubt all that we read until we, as discerning American Persons, find they have satisfied our curiosity.

Who will protect us from people, like Trump, who live in a world of "fluid truth", who benefit from lies?

WE will.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fake News, ya gotta love it!

So, why does fake news do so well? It's the fact that we're always looking for things that tend to support our world view. When the fake news does that, it tends to get very little critical verification, if any at all.

When a believer sees the news, the first thing they want to do is share it. After all, they'll tend to get likes from the other fanatics that they tend to friend -- you know, those with similar world views. And, as we all know, popularity is all that counts. Well, that and speed. Everyone, even the mainstream media seems to sacrifice accuracy for speed. In the Internet world, it seems to be more important to be first rather than factual.

...and let's talk about algorithms. You know those bits of code that want to arrange what we see by popularity rather than merit or even truth. Yeah, it's even better if you're first and also at the top of the page. How do you get to the top of the page? By being popular, by having more links pointing to you. And, if you support my world view, hey, let me send you to more friends.

So what do we do about it? Put down that selfie stick and apply some healthy skepticism to everything you read. Just because it's at the top of your stream or promoted or came from one of your friends, question it. It's a lot like those e-mails that, "if you don't send to 50 friends will cause your nose to fall off..." Just don't do it. Even if it is something that support your deepest held views, take some time to check it out. We all need to do our parts. HEY! media sites of all types, this means you also.

We all need to do our parts to stop fake news from spreading. After all, if not us, who?

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Trump Dictionary

Rigged: Anything that doesn't benefit Donald Trump
Crooked: Anyone who doesn't benefit Donald Trump

See a pattern here?