Pundit Ignores Information Retrieval Reality

August 1, 2010

Short honk: I don’t have the energy to deal with “Cookie Madness”, an essay that appeared in the Buzz Machine. Maybe academics are afflicted with “a certain blindness” to use William James’s brilliant phrase? Maybe academics forget that most of the people using computers don’t know that their online activities can be tracked, including hover time, mouse movement, and cursor movement patterns?

More important is the penchant for publishers and reporters to embrace the roots of American journalism. The catch phrase for this approach to information fit nicely under the precept at the Courier Journal’s WHAS television unit as “If it bleeds, it leads.” Why? Money. Simple. Fear, controversy, and explosive allegations are the chemicals that feed the modern Venus Fly Trap of journalism. Nothing is more effective than creating an issue and then huffing with indignation about that issue. Quite an information ecosystem, right?

The Wall Street Journal is owned by a modern media mogul, presumably an owner of properties employing journalism school graduates, new media specialists, and even PhDs in social collaboration (whatever that means). When these rosy cheeked warriors arrive, those titanium tipped diggers will ferret out what sells.

The Wall Street Journal is focusing on fear and breathless explanations of how a computer system can track a user’s every online action. Hey, as long as it generates sales and gets the pundits’ panties in a bind, the Wall Street Journal’s story about tracking is doing its job. At least the journalists working on the story have jobs, for a while at least.

Sigh. Next Hyde Park moment coming up. Film at 11. Now this word.

Stephen E Arnold, August 1, 2010



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