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Bloggers are not journalists, and blogs are not newspapers

I've been meaning to blog about this but many things are happening...

Anyway, as readers of joshuaongys or *fourfeetnine* may have noticed, I appeared in an article by NST ten days ago.
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Being interviewed was new to me - I've been asked my opinion on blogs a few times (e.g. by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the NST (last year sometime) and - but nothing ever seemed to come out of it. This time, the journalist turned up with a photographer and the interview lasted almost an hour - with the photographer hovering around and snapping away constantly. It was an interesting chat, but it made me realise one thing for future reference - the journalist knows less about the subject than me, and therefore may not always be able to ask the right questions. No disrespect to the journalist here, who did a good job condensing my ramblings into coherent and concise points: it's a journalist's job to get information obviously, and if they knew everything they wouldn't have to interview people. But it made me understand more how politicians and people in the public eye must approach journalists - wanting to make sure that their own message is heard, whatever the journalist actually asks.

Another thought is how, as a blogger, I have already got quite used to putting stuff out there for all to see - which was initially a little worrying sometimes. With the interview it was different, however, because I had no control over what was written - the journalist was kind enough to do 'quote check' and show me the draft article for feedback, but in the end she could write whatever she wanted. With a blog I can think about it beforehand, and even if I want take it down afterwards (though that's not usually a good thing for bloggers to do).

Anyway, you can read the article and tell me what you think (click to enlarge).

In terms of research ethics, I also found myself thinking about how much I can say - I have done a few interviews with bloggers already, and learnt some things during them. But part of the conditions of the interview are that I only use that information for academic purposes, and also that I keep the information anonymised. So, for example in relation to how much people are paid for advertorials, I actually have more specific information but I thought that I had better not use it.

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Another thing that was weird was being asked for my 'Personal Top 10' of various types of blogs. Suddenly I felt some pressure about who I should mention - what if someone felt snubbed that I didn't mention them!? There are really so many blogs out there that are interesting in their own way and I wasn't sure how to choose. Anyway, I decided that the easiest is just to be honest and mention the ones I'm most likely to read, and that are the most likely to appeal to the general reader out there. But in a way I suddenly found myself in a position of potential influence - maybe I would affect the readership of those blogs that I mentioned.

But in fact - not at all. It's been noted before (e.g. by ShaolinTiger) that appearing in the newspaper has little to no effect on incoming blog traffic; the same happened to me. See on the 18th (when the article came out) there is no change, but I got a huge boost of about 1800 hits on the 21st from Audrey whom I had mentioned in my Top 10 (check her out – refreshing attitude and daily whatevers are her thing). This really suggests one thing - people who read newspapers don't read blogs much, and vice-versa.

So, it's interesting to see how there are so many similarities between blogs and newspapers - they use words and images, they appear regularly and articles are written by individuals - but there are key differences. The blog is under the control of one person (with whom the readers can have some sort of direct relationship), but a newspaper is a large organisation; and although in theory they may share similar interests and concerns, their audiences are from different groups.

Long-distance relationships - volunteers for new technology?

I quite often read blogs where the blogger is involved in long-distance relationships (LDR) - typically they will be students, or ex-students who met as students. I also met my partner at university and, before we got married, me and WW also had to spend time apart and it was never easy, especially when you feel lonely and all you want is a cuddle and to fall asleep with the one you love... Thankfully, we had phones and emails, and we stuck it out - in a way, it may have made our relationship stronger as we learnt to appreciate each other in different ways.

Anyway - if any of you are in a LDR and one of you lives within 250 miles of Edinburgh, you can volunteer for an experiment with a new technology called 'Mutsugoto' (no idea what that means) - it is "an interactive installation that invites couples to experience an intimate communication over a distance." (Mutsugoto)
"Mutsugto allows distant partners to communicate through the language of touch as expressed on the canvas of the human body.
A custom projection system allows the two users to draw in light on each other's bodies whilst they lie in bed. Drawings are transmitted live between their two locations, enabling a different kind of communication that leverages the emotional quality of physical gesture." (Mutsugoto)

From what I can gather, each person has a 'ring' which they wear on their hand and while they see a real-time image of the other person, they move their hand and the other person sees that movement as light patterns on his/her body. It sounds like an interesting idea, and I can imagine that if we had had that we could have used it to increase our sense of intimacy and connectedness. I wonder what it's like in practice though... what happens if the connection is slow and the other person keeps moving! :-D
"A computer vision system tracks the movement of the ring and projects virtual pen strokes on your body. At the same time these pen strokes are transmitted to and projected on the body of your remote partner. If you follow your partner's movements and your strokes cross, the lines will react with each other and reflect your synchrony." (Mutsugoto)

Well, anyway, if you're living near Edinburgh and in a LDR - I wouldn't hesitate to volunteer. At a minimum your partner will appreciate the effort you make! The most difficult thing about a LDR is the fear that the other one is slipping away from you and not making as much effort as you do to keep the relationship going.

Star Trek with AMBP!

A little known fact about Star Trek is that it was the first series to have an onscreen interracial kiss in 1968 (first in America anyway – though there’s some debate about the whole thing).

Of course, Star Trek is better known for being a science fiction series, with enthusiastic fans known as ‘Trekkies’ or ‘Trekkers’ who have spawned an impressive subculture. One minor 'celebrity’ Trekkie is Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, who was jilted by Mrs Krabappel at a Klingon wedding ceremony

In that episode, some of the characters speak in Klingon, the language of the alien race that usually tries to blow up the Starship Enterprise. Surprisingly, it’s a recognised language which you can learn at The Klingon Language Institute (seriously!)

"Is there a word in Klingon for loneliness? Ah, yes: Gar-dacchk!" (**)

As an example, here’s a powerful insult in Klingon
Hab SoSlI' Quch!

It means – “Your mother has a smooth forehead!” :-D Go here to see some more and to hear some Klingon.

In case you’re wondering where my sudden interest in Star Trek comes from – check out the AllMalaysian Bloggers site. There’s going to be a bloggers’ gathering on the 1st May, and they will be showing the Premiere of the new Star Trek movie , which is being produced by J.J. Abrams, who also did Lost and Alias. It’s “A chronicle of the early days of James T. Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members” (IMDB) and is being touted as a ‘new direction’ in Star Trek movies; so far it has 8.5/10 in IMDB, so it could be good!

See you there - I hope! :-)

** OK I know that this phrase was: 1) Not used in that episode of the Simpsons ("My Big Fat Geek Wedding"), but was in "The Worst Episode Ever"; 2) Comic Book Guy obviously cannot speak Klingon as the closest proper phrase would be " 'jImobqu' (pronounced jhi-mobe-koo), which means 'I'm so alone!'" (The Simpsons Archive). I just thought it would be fun like this. :-)

Web Marketing - FAIL!

I'm sure most of you have heard about the Twitter virus/worm that spread around last weekend - it was not very serious, in that it wasn't deleting information or anything, but still I'm sure it pissed off many Tweeters out there.

As has often been the case, it was created by a 17 year old teenager with nothing better to do; in fact the guy seems quite talented as he has created his own Twitter-like service (which I'm not going to link - seeing as that was what the worm was doing) - which I suppose is not very easy.

The thing that is mind-blogging is the reason he gave: apart from being "bored", and the standard 'exposing security problems', he said that he wanted to
"promot[e] myself or my website." (

Think about it: you want to attract people away from Twitter, what is a good way to do this?
1. Provide a better service, do promotions, get media/blog coverage, convince Microsoft to buy you out, etc. etc?
2. Hijack their accounts and piss them off forever?

The future of cheating

When I was a lecturer I only remember one specific case where I caught a student red-handed cheating - she had a cheat sheet filled with small and crammed notes on the topic (World Religions 101). No doubt there were some I missed, but generally I don't think it happens an awful lot (at least in the type of place I taught). Copying/passing answers probably happens relatively often, but what I'm talking about is the preplanned full-scale operation.

I remember trying it once, in physics or chemistry: I was scared that I wouldn't remember certain formulas so I copied them onto a small piece of paper and was able to consult it during the test. The thing was, because I had spent the time copying them down so carefully, I actually didn't need the cheat sheet in the test! :-O

Anyway - today's musing is inspired by an article on BBC - China hi-tech exam cheats jailed. Basically, they either got hold of the exam papers from a teacher (who faxed them once the exam started), or scanned them in the exam hall and transmitted them to people outside - then the answers were told to the students using "tiny earpieces"

Invigilating in exams is an extremely boring thing to do, so I would sometimes amuse myself by thinking of different strategies for cheating, and the key thing that stood out was obviously the phone and other wireless devices. The current way of dealing with that is to ban all handphones, PDSs, etc. from the exam halls, but as time goes on - it will become easier and easier to have hidden cameras, transmitter/receivers, etc. (as has been used in China). Looking even further ahead, there will come a time when people can have chips wired in to their brain to 'hear' calls and so on.

Therefore, ultimately, the solution will have to be either use some form of wireless phone jammer, or just go straight ahead and build customised exam halls that are designed like a secure room where no signals can come in or out - i.e. copper in the walls and stuff like that.

The other solution is just to do away with exams - the principle of an exam is that it proves that you have a certain level of knowledge, and you can deliver it in a useful manner while under pressure. This is a very good skill for a doctor, for example, or a lawyer perhaps; but most of us will work with easy access to lots of information, and our key skill has to be able to locate the proper information and use it appropriately. With that in mind, maybe there should be less remember-and-regurgitate exams, and more of the problem-solving type - i.e. you're given a problem, resources (books, certain websites on a restricted intranet) and you have to come up with a solution in a relatively short time.

Three hundred and thirty three thousand kilometres

Well I'm feeling a bit down, disoriented, and blehh - work stress, dealing with people stress, and general planet misalignment I suppose... Solution? Do a random blog post to feel like I've done something useful! :-D

I have an old Nissan Sunny 130Y (aka 'Sunny Boy'); it's about 16 years old, and I paid RM6,000 for it in 2005 - honestly it's probably the best car I've had, if one takes into account its age. It still works wonderfully and I've never had a significant problem {touching wood :-O } (though it needs new aircon now).

A couple of days ago I noticed that it has done 333,003 kilometres!

I've decided that is a good luck number, and therefore I feel better! :-P

Have a good day all!