Two Pundits and Their Punditry

March 31, 2012

I find the notion of pundits fascinating. The US in 2012 pivots on a news hook, the Warhol fame thing, and a desire to share viewpoints to Flipbook and Pulse users.

This morning I was listening to the crackle of small arms fire in rural Kentucky. Dawn had not yet extended its crepuscular reach to my hollow but two write ups did. Neither is one of those magnum loads squirrel hunters desire here in the Commonwealth. Nope, these were birdshot, but each write up is interesting nonetheless.

Both indirectly concern search and retrieval. Both found their way into my “gems of the poobahs” folder.

First, I noted the digital Atlantic’s write up “The Advertising Industry’s Definition of ‘Do Not Track’ Doesn’t Make Sense.” What caught my attention was the juxtaposition of the word “advertising” with the phrase “doesn’t make sense.” Advertising making sense? The Atlantic “real” journalist has not watched television with a 67 year old. More than half of the TV commercials which I find embedded in basketball games every four minutes don’t make sense. Advertising is about creating a demand for must-have products. Advertising is part of the popular culture and an engine of growth for companies unable to generate sales without the craft and skill of psychological tactics. Check out an advertisement for Kentucky bourbon. Does this headline make sense?

“Honk if you’re proud to be a redneck?

As a resident of Kentucky, I am not sure I know what a redneck is, but I bet those folks in Boston do. But what’s “making sense” part. What advertising does is tickle the brain to make some folks want to drink. And we all know how important it is to imbibe whiskey, engage in “real” journalism, ferry children to soccer practice. Yep, makes “sense” to me.

But here’s the passage which caught my attention:

Stanford’s Aleecia McDonald found that 61 percent of people expect that clicking a Do Not Track button should shut off *all* data collection. Only 7 percent of people expected that websites could collect the same data before and after clicking a ‘Do Not Track’ button. That is to say, 93 percent of people do not understand the industry’s definition of DNT. Which totally makes sense! Who would ever think saying, “Do not track me,” actually means, “It’s fine to collect data on me, but don’t show me any signs that you’re doing so.” Simply because the industry itself has defined ‘Do Not Track’ in an idiosyncratic way doesn’t mean their self-serving decision should be the basis for all policy and practice in this field.

Almost any redneck would understand this passage, the implications of persistent cookies, and the distinction between various types of tracking, including my favorite, iFrames-based method.

Second, I read “Debunking Senator Al Franken On Google, The Internet & Privacy.” This screed is from a “real” journalist and favorite source of juicy quotes on the subject of search and retrieval. The point of the write up is that despite the author’s affection for a US senator as a comedian, the US senator does not know beans about tracking, Google, and, by extension, search and retrieval. Now “search” does not mean find. Search, I believe, means to the “real” journalist using methods to generate traffic to a Web site. I define “search” differently, but the good part in my opinion is this passage:

Ya think? But I mean, Facebook kind of does sell my friends. I can export all of them out to Yahoo and Bing, because Facebook and Yahoo and Bing all have deals. I can’t export them to Google, because, you know, they aren’t friends. Would you call that selling to the highest bidder? When I go over to search on Bing, by default, all my Facebook friends are being used to personalize my search results. Oh, I can opt-out, but you know how hard that is. Since that’s part of a Bing-Facebook deal, is that a line that’s crossed?

Please, read the entire “real” journalistic analysis of a talk by a US senator. I must admit I don’t relate to the questions and analytic points in this paragraph. I recognize the names of the companies mentioned, but “the deal” baffles me.

Why do I care? Three points:

  1. I sense the emotion in these write ups. Passion is good for advertising and good for capturing attention. However, I am struggling to figure out what the problem is. Advertising seems to be what America is. Untangling the warp and woof of this fabric is difficult for me.
  2. The ad hominem method and charged language causes me to think that the lingo of advertising has become the common parlance of “real” journalists.
  3. I struggle to unravel the meaning of certain parts of these two write ups. Am I alone?

Net net: technology and advertising are an interesting compound. Now “real” journalism is quite similar. To quote one “real” journalist, “Ya think?” Well, not much.

Stephen E Arnold, March 31, 2012

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