News vs propaganda

News vs propaganda

A day after watching the Netflix documentary The Great Hack, which is mostly about modern propaganda, I had an exchange on social media that got me thinking about news vs propaganda. What’s the difference? It can be subtle, but here are things I look for, as a former journalist myself.

News follows several rules, but the most important rules are named sources and the quantity. If a story doesn’t have three sources, it’s not news.

Read more

Why is Wikipedia not a reliable source?

Why is Wikipedia not a reliable source?

I have mixed feelings about Wikipedia. Maybe that makes me unique, as it seems most people think either too highly of it, or give it zero respect. In its early days, I was a top-1,000 contributor. But I have serious problems with the site. So why is Wikipedia not a reliable source? Let’s dig into the problems.

The problems are serious enough that you’ll never see it cited directly in an academic journal, or in most good research papers. But it can still be useful. You just need to know how to use it with caution.

Read more

Vox dusts off old content, should the rest of us?

I found a story earlier this year about Vox’s decision to dust off, slightly update, and re-run old content as new.

The practice happens a lot more often than anyone realizes in the print world, especially magazines, and as Gigaom says, there are implications when doing this. The questions got me thinking, and in the case of blogging, I think there’s something to learn but the practice is probably unnecessary. Read more

Identify bad guys through writing style

This month’s Social Engineer podcast discussed a tactic to identify bad guys through writing style, something the hosts expressed surprise was possible.

This won’t be news to anyone who minored in English or Communications or Journalism. A lot of factors go into style—where we grew up, where our parents are from, what we read growing up, our life experience, and it really is like a fingerprint. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby called everyone “Old Sport,” and we all have something like that, it’s just usually more subtle. I’ll say, “taste this,” when my wife or mother in law will say “taste of this.” That’s a regional thing. I pick up on that because I’m interested in language. A really good linguist can pick up on a lot more than that, and machine learning can potentially pick up on still more.

If you recall, it was the Unabomber’s long manifesto that brought down Ted Kaczynski.  Other forensics proved it, but the investigation began with his brother’s observation that the manifesto “sounded like Ted.”

Read more

How I blog

I’ve had a couple of people this year express admiration at the frequency and quality of my blog posts. I know the quality isn’t always where I’d like it to be, but I appreciate their sentiment.

It occurred to me that I’ve been doing this a little more than 15 years now–I don’t remember anymore exactly when I started and that early material is long gone, but I know it was sometime in October 1999–and in the last couple of years I think I’ve finally come up with a method that works reasonably well.

Yes, I have my methods. Read more

The dwindling writing market

I get the occasional query from people who say I should promote my blog more, so that I can get an audience and write a book about this or that, and then I read stuff like this. Basically, writing is getting more and more commoditized, and writers are making less and less, not that they ever made much in the first place. And then I heard on a podcast that the average technical book sells 5,000 copies.

Fifteen years ago, I was in the home stretch of writing a book–my first, and so far only book. All told, I made around $13,000 off that book, between book royalties and publishing derivative articles in magazines, all before taxes, of course. I wrote about 20 hours a week for six months to do it, so, perhaps if I’d made it my full-time gig, I might have been able to make $52,000 a year. But that was when computer books were hot and big-box book stores were booming. I’m not confident I could make $52,000 as an author today. Read more

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux