Scripting News for 3/25/2007

The Do It Yourself country 

Another thought before calling it a night.

I am not a lawyer.

I am not a judge.

But I have done jury duty.

And in doing so I became an amateur judge.

The noblest kind of judge there is.

It was a wonderful experience, and while, like everyone else, I felt inconvenienced at first to be dragged into court, by the time it was over, I saw the value in it, was glad I did it — it changed my life forever, for the better.

So when people wonder if it makes sense for every educated person to spend a semester in college learning to be a journalist, think of jury duty as being an amateur judgement, and then think how wise our founders were for designing a system where we are judged by amateurs, our peers, not by our supposed superiors, and ask yourself if journalism is any less noble a trade than judgement.

I heard a report in this week’s On The Media about a law in Rwanda that requires journalists to be licensed. The justification was that the law requires doctors and lawyers to be licensed, because a lawyer can lose your freedom, and a doctor can lose your life, and they found that in Rwanda that journalists can help create genocide. Pause for thought. Journalism is powerful stuff. Too powerful to be left to the pros.

The United States is the Do It Yourself country. To the extent that we don’t remember that, that is the extent we’ve lost our way.

It’s good that everyone gets a chance to be a journalist. That doesn’t mean that everyone will be one, but it’s important that everyone can be one if they want to. So teach the kids to be journalists, take the mystique out of it, show them how to vet a source, what integrity means, how to think for themselves. The gatekeepers are losing their power to keep us out. The naysayers can say their nays, but it doesn’t change a thing.

Over and out.

Geek love 

Sometimes people fall in love with geek toys for reasons they can’t express.

It could be that they love iPod because it’s a hard drive that you can put massive quantities of free music on and take with you everywhere. It may have nothing to do with the cool UI (which I don’t think is really all that cool).

And Apple TV may be fun for geeks who have never had a computer hooked up to a HD TV, while its fatal flaw is –> no BitTorrent content, no Netflix content, just what Apple says you should have.

It may solve the “problem” with the iPod that was really core to why people loved the iPod.

That’s just a theory, I don’t have an Apple TV, but I do have a Mac Mini connected to my TV and on the net and I think that’s the coolest toy ever, even after almost six months.

PS: I wrote this as a series of Twitter tweets.

InfoWorld, we hardly knew ye 

I read Jim Forbes’s memorial for InfoWorld with goose bumps. It turns out they finally pulled the plug on the magazine, which used to be known in the very early days (which I am old enough to remember) The Intelligent Machines Journal. I first heard about it at one of the early West Coast Computer Faires, the same one where I met Ted Nelson, Mitch Kapor and Dan Bricklin.

Lots of great reporters got their start at InfoWorld. I rolled out all my products of the 80s through it. I was friends with all the editors, including Stewart Alsop, Jim Fawcette and Jonathan Sacks. And Michael Miller, before he went to PC Mag, set the standard on software reviews. More great people I’ve worked with when they were at InfoWorld: John Dvorak, John Markoff, Paul Freiberger, Denise Caruso, Laurie Flynn, Adam Osborne, Deborah Branscum, Michael Swaine, Scott Mace, Maggie Canon, Rachel Parker, Brett Glass; and of course Jim Forbes.

They were the second publication to review ThinkTank, in 1983, and they put us over the top, with four perfect ratings. We raised two million dollars on the Doug and Denise Green review, in a very real sense, InfoWorld put me in business. That review also got Guy Kawasaki to call me, just before he took his first job at Apple. I remember his first words — “They say your product walks on water.” And that got me one of the first Macs, when it was still a secret, and as they say, the rest is history.

InfoWorld was the first tech publication that gave you sweaty palms when it arrived in the mail. This was before the web, so news came in weekly installments. When InfoWorld arrived, everything else stopped. I read it from cover to cover.

Truth be told, I thought they had stopped printing InfoWorld a long time ago. it’s amazing it lasted so long. We grew up together, all the great people who worked there. But we’re grown up now, the news happens much more quickly, and as I’m fond of saying, it’s distributed now, but I’ll never forget the great times we had, way back when.

One week from today 

Is April 1, the 10th birthday of Scripting News.

Right now, nothing special planned.

If you have an idea, post something and point to this post. We’ll all see it in Technorati.

If I had a hammer 

Ian Betteridge thinks my view of journalism is “frankly, nonsense,” comparing journalism to carpentry. “This is as silly as saying that carpenters are middlemen for wood merchants,” he says.

Interesting point, but in carpentry the raw materials are dead things — wood, nails, screws. In journalism the raw material are sources, living people, who can, if they want go direct, if they get tired of being misquoted, or if no reporter ever asks what they think, or if when asked, they don’t understand. That’s the sense in which reporters are intermediaries.

I suggest a visit inside the sausage factory. Ask a reporter what dumbing down means, and how they feel about the headlines that have appeared over their writing.

Charles Hope: “Who can believe any breathless hagiography about journalists?”

5 responses to this post.

  1. The fact that the raw materials of journalism are living things is, surely, something that backs my point up: after all, living things are rather harder to understand and interpret than dead ones 🙂

    Yes, of course people can go direct. But the job of a journalist often involves people who either cannot go direct and be named, or actually don’t want what they know or have done to be public knowledge. Or it involves putting what someone claims into context – the context of a locality or an industry, and the context of what other people are saying about a topic too.

    That “big picture” knowledge is part of the experience of being a journalist, and experience is something that takes time and practice to develop. WIth the best will in the world, an amatuer has less time to gain experience than a professional does. In that sense, journalism is just like any craft – even coding 🙂

    By the way, I’ve been on both sides of the fence re: headlines, as I’ve been both a news editor and a reporter. So I understand entirely your point about headlines!


  2. Thanks for that retrospective om Infoworld Dave. Good stuff.


  3. Posted by Jason Ehrlich on March 25, 2007 at 6:54 pm


    You can put whatever you want on your AppleTV. You are surely not even a little bit restricted to “what Apple says you should have.” You can put any compatibly formatted video into it, and it’s easy to convert video into the right format.

    I’m sure Apple will put more internet-enabled video features into it once they come up with an Apple-compatible business model 🙂 But you can take your BitTorrents and make them into AppleTV compatible videos and drop those into it via iTunes already.



  4. Posted by Larry on March 25, 2007 at 8:13 pm


    Based on your passion for it, and advice. I just purchased a Mac Mini to hook up to our trade show booths HD TV’s. It-is-awesone.

    Also thought pruchased an Apple TV on Friday, and as your buddy Scoble stated, it rocks.

    I have ripped several DVD’s now with Handbrake, from my collection, and have/can watch them on the Apple TV. This is akin to ripping CD’s into iTunes, and I believe for the same reasons (the ability to mix ones own collection of media, with stuff from the iTunes store, and video podcasts, etc.) that helped iTunes take off, Apple TV will soar.


  5. Posted by Leland on March 26, 2007 at 6:22 am

    Hi Dave,

    Wouldn’t it be cool to have an mp3 player that not only receive RSS from the internet but also recieve and broadcast RSS wirelessly from and to other mp3 player? It could also serve as a mobile bit torrent device?


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