The TikTok Addition: Has a Fortune Magazine Editor Been Up Swiping?

June 2, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

A colleague called my attention to the Fortune Magazine article boldly titled “Gen Z Teens Are So Unruly in Malls, Fed by Their TikTok Addition, That a Growing Number Are requiring Chaperones and Supervision.” A few items I noted in this headline:

  1. Malls. I thought those were dead horses. There is a YouTube channel devoted to these real estate gems; for example, Urbex Offlimits and a creator named Brandon Moretti’s videos.
  2. Gen Z. I just looked up how old Gen Zs are. According to Mental Floss, these denizens of empty spaces are 11 to 26 years old. Hmmm. For what purpose are 21 to 25 year olds hanging out in empty malls? (Could that be a story for Fortune?)
  3. The “TikTok addition” gaffe. My spelling checker helps me out too. But I learned from a super-duper former Fortune writer whom I shall label Peter V, “Fortune is meticulous about its thorough research, its fact checking, and its proofreading.” Well, super-duper Peter, not in 2023. Please, explain in 25 words of less this image from the write up:


I did notice several factoids and comments in the write up; to wit:

Interesting item one:

“On Friday and Saturdays, it’s just been a madhouse,” she said on a recent Friday night while shopping for Mother’s Day gifts with Jorden and her 4-month-old daughter.

A madhouse is, according to the Cambridge dictionary is “a place of great disorder and confusion.” I think of malls as places of no people. But Fortune does the great fact checking, according to the attestation of Peter V.

Interesting item two:

Even a Chik-fil-A franchise in southeast Pennsylvania caused a stir with its social media post earlier this year that announced its policy of banning kids under 16 without an adult chaperone, citing unruly behavior.

I thought Chik-fil-A was a saintly, reserved institution with restaurants emulating Medieval monasteries. No longer. No wonder so many cars line up for a chickwich.

Interesting item three:

Cohen [a mall expert] said the restrictions will help boost spending among adults who must now accompany kids but they will also likely reduce the number of trips by teens, so the overall financial impact is unclear.

What these snippets tell me is that there is precious little factual data in the write up. The headline leading “TikTok addiction” is not the guts of the write up. Maybe the idea that kids who can’t go to the mall will play online games? I think it is more likely that kids and those lost little 21 to 25 year olds will find other interesting things to do with their time.

But malls? Kids can prowl Snapchat and TikTok, but those 21 to 25 year olds? Drink or other chemical activities?

Hey, Fortune, let’s get addicted to the Peter V. baloney: “Fortune is meticulous about its thorough research, its fact checking, and its proofreading.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 2, 2023

The Death of Digital News Upstarts: Woohoo!

May 31, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]_thumb_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

When I worked at a “real” newspaper, I learned that obituaries were cooked; that is, the newspaper reports of death were written whilst the subject was still alive and presumably buying advertisements in the paper or at least subscribing. The Guardian ran its obituary for upstart digital news outfits. No, the opinion writer did not include the word “woohoo.” I just picked up the Hopf vibration with my spidey sense.

The essay is “Vice Is Boing Bankrupt, BuzzFeed News Is Dead. What Does It Mean?” I don’t want to be picky, but these are two separate entities and each, as far as I know, is still breathing. There may be life support equipment involved, but neither entity’s online presence delivers a cheerful 404 message… yet.

The essay sails forward with no interest in my online check or the fact that two separate entities do not in my mind comprise an “it”. I am not going to differentiate because if the Guardian sees two identical Lego blocks, that’s the reality.

The write up says via a quote from the “brilliant” Clay Shirky, author and meme generator:

“This is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place,” Shirky wrote. And, amid the ensuing chaos, it’s extremely hard to see what’s going next: “The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears, big changes stall, small changes spread.”

There are some bright spots; for example, ProPublica, the Gray Lady of Wordle fame, the Bezos news service, and most important, The Guardian, “owned by the Scott Trust and sustained by its endowment” and supported by readers who roll over for the jazzy pop ups in blue and yellow saying, “Give cash.”

Too bad the write up did not include the woohoo.

Stephen E Arnold, May 31, 2023

The Gray Lady: Objective Gloating about Vice

May 15, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Do you have dreams about the church lady on Saturday Night Live. That skit frightened me. A flashback shook my placid mental state when I read “Vice, Decayed Digital Colossus, Files for Bankruptcy.” I conjured up without the assistance of smart software, the image of Dana Carvey talking about the pundit spawning machine named Vice with the statement, “Well, isn’t that special?”

The New York Times’s article reported:

Vice Media filed for bankruptcy on Monday, punctuating a years long descent from a new-media darling to a cautionary tale of the problems facing the digital publishing industry.

The write up omits any reference to the New York Times’s failure with its own online venture under the guidance of Jeff Pemberton, the flame out with its LexisNexis play, the fraught effort to index its own content, and the misadventures which have become the Wordle success story. The past Don Quixote-like sallies into the digital world are either Irrelevant or unknown to the current crop of Gray Lady “real” news hounds I surmise.

The article states:

Investments from media titans like Disney and shrewd financial investors like TPG, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars, will
be rendered worthless by the bankruptcy, cementing Vice’s status among the most notable bad bets in the media industry. [Emphasis added.]

Well, isn’t that special? Perhaps similar to the Times’s first online adventure in the late 1970s?

The article includes a quote from a community journalism company too:

“We now know that a brand tethered to social media for its growth and audience alone is not sustainable.”

Perhaps like the desire for more money than the Times’s LexisNexis deal provided? Perhaps?

Is Vice that special? I think the story is a footnote to the Gray Lady’s own adventures in the digital realm?

Isn’t that special too?

Stephen E Arnold, May 15, 2023

Publishers: Why Not Replace Authors with ChatGPT and Raise Subscription Rates?

May 11, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read another article about professional publishers. Nature Magazine reports that 40 editors have bailed from medical journals due to the fees Elsevier imposes on authors. The individuals who publish peer reviewed journal articles are often desperate for getting their name in what one supposes is a prestigious journal. I remember hearing at the Cornell Theory Center years ago that online “free” publications would not be considered for tenure evaluation or for certain grant applications. Why? Hey, that’s what universities want: Old school scholarship, thank you. Professional publishers cheerfully support the scheme. Libraries have to pay big subscription fees; commercial database producers are hamstrung due to restrictions on certain content; and the aspiring PhD student or starving adjunct professor is supposed to pay hundreds of dollars for output to proof. Yeah, that’s a great approach.

Now some professors (presumably with tenure) are doing a bit of the crawfish thing; that is, backing up and getting away from what is now viewed as a bit of a scam. I used to review articles for publishers. Guess what? I did not get paid. I was improving the quality of the publication. Yeah, right. As soon as I rejected papers written in incomprehensible English with statistics which actually did not add up, I learned via a friendly chat that I should not reject so many papers.

Oh, right. I quit. What baloney.

If you want to read about Elsevier’s explanation of the fees in today’s Word to typeset page fees, check out the original. I am not an academic, a fact I happily share with crazy publishers who want me to write for their “prestigious” journals. I write stuff and have for decades. Now I post information in my blog and I write monographs which I make available to those in my lectures.

Publishers are not for me. Most are dead tree types, snared in the craziness of slicing and dicing non reproducible research results, specious cross references to legal and accounting content, and pretending that their industry is essential to the smooth running of the knowledge centric world.

Nope. Too bad it has taken decades for a handful of editors to wake up and smell the ersatz which passes for real coffee.

Stephen E Arnold, May 11, 2023

Digital Tech Journalism Killed by a Digital Elephant

May 4, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read a labored explanation, analysis, and rhetorical howl from The article is “Digital Media’s Original Sin: The Big Tech Bubble Burst and the News Industry Got Splattered with Shrapnel.” The article states:

For years, the tech industry has propped up digital journalism with advertising revenue, venture capital injections, and far-reaching social platforms.

My view is that the reason for the problem in digital tech journalism is the elephant. When electronic information flows, it acts in a way similar to water eroding soil. In short, flows of electronic information have what I call a “deconstructive element.” The “information business” once consisted of discrete platforms, essentially isolated by choice and by accident. Who in your immediate locale pays attention to the information published in the American Journal of Mathematics? Who reads Craigslist for listings of low-ball vacation rentals near Alex Murdaugh’s “estate”?

Convert this content to digital form and dump the physical form of the data. Then live in a dream world in which those who want the information will flock to a specific digital destination and pay big money for the one story or the privilege of browsing information which may or may not be  accurate. Slate points out that it did not work out.

But what’s the elephant? Digital information to people today is like water to the goldfish in a bowl. It is just there.

The elephant was spawned by a few outfits which figured out that paying money to put content in front of eyeballs. The elephant grew and developed new capabilities; for example, the “pay to play” model of morphed into and became something thought would be super duper. However, the Google was inspired by “pay to play” and had the technical ability to create a system for creating a market from traffic, charging people to put content in front of the eyeballs, and charge anyone in the enabling chain money to use the Google system.

The combination of digital flows’ deconstructive operation plus the quasi-monopolization of online advertising death lethal blows to the crowd Slate addresses. Now the elephant has morphed again, and it is stomping around in the space defined by TikTok. A visual medium with advertising poses a threat to the remaining information producers as well as to Google itself.

The elephant is not immortal. But right now no group is armed with Mossberg Patriot Laminate Marinecotes and the skill to kill the elephant. Electronic information gulping advertising revenue may prove to be harder to kill than a cockroach. Maybe that’s why most people ask, “What elephant?”

Stephen E Arnold, May 4, 2023

Libraries: Who Needs Them? Perhaps Everyone

May 3, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

How dare libraries try to make the works they purchase more easily accessible to their patrons! The Nation ponders, “When You Buy a Book, You Can Loan It to Anyone. This Judge Says Libraries Can’t. Why Not?” The case was brought before the U.S. District Court in Manhattan by four publishers unhappy with the Internet Archive’s (IA) controlled digital lending (CDL) program. We learn the IA does plan to appeal the decision. Writer Michelle M. Wu explains:

“At issue was whether a library could legally digitize the books it already owned and lend the digital copies in place of the print. The IA maintained that it could, as long as it lent only the same number of copies it owned and locked down the digital copies so that a borrower could not copy or redistribute them. It would be doing what libraries had always done, lend books—just in a different format. The publishers, on the other hand, asserted that CDL infringed on authors’ copyrights, making unauthorized copies and sharing these with libraries and borrowers, thereby depriving the authors and publishers of rightful e-book sales. They viewed CDL as piracy. While Judge John G. Koeltl’s opinion addressed many issues, all his reasoning was based on one assumption: that copyright primarily is about authors’ and publishers’ right to profit. Despite the pervasiveness of this belief, the history of copyright tells us something different.”

Wu recounts copyright’s evolution from a means to promote the sharing of knowledge to a way for publishers to rake in every possible dime. The shift was driven by a series of developments in technology. In the 1980s, the new ability to record content to video tape upset Hollywood studios. Apparently, being able to (re)watch a show after its initial broadcast was so beyond the pale a lawsuit was required. Later, Internet-based innovations prompted more legal proceedings. On the other hand, tools evolved that enabled publishers to enforce their interpretation of copyright, no judicial review required. Wu asserts:

“Increasing the impact on the end user, publishers—not booksellers or authors—now control prices and access. They can charge libraries multiple times what they charge an individual and bill them repeatedly for the same content. They can limit the number of copies a library buys, or even refuse to sell e-books to libraries at all. Such actions ultimately reduce the amount of content that libraries can provide to their readers.”

So that is how the original intention of copyright law has been turned on its head. And how publishers are undermining the whole purpose of libraries, which are valiantly trying to keep pace with technology. Perhaps the IA will win it’s appeal and the valuable CDL program will be allowed to continue. Either way, their litigious history suggests publishers will keep fighting for control over content.

Cynthia Murrell, May 3, 2023

Professional Publishers: You Have Failed Big Time

April 14, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Over the years, I have done some small tasks for professional publishers. Don’t get me wrong. I love these firms, their editorial policies, their pricing models, and the quality of the content. (I won’t raise the issue of commercial funding of research-centric papers, the role of special interests related to certain medical articles, or the marketing-centric rah rah about smart software from grant seekers and frightened online advertising vendors. Will I mention non-reproducible results? Sure, many peer reviewed articles are glorified tweets. There you go.)

roll of baloney

Midjourney’s rendering of a big roll of baloney similar to that contained in many peer reviewed articles.

I will, however, point you toward the essay “A Whole Lotta Money for Nothin’.” The article explains that the peer-review methods have not worked to advance knowledge. What has been advanced is movement on a tenure track, “proof” that a government entity granting funds has evidence about the location of the institution to which the grant is delivered, and revenue for professional publishing outfits.

I noted this statement in the essay:

Does peer review actually do the thing it’s supposed to do? Does it catch bad research and prevent it from being published? It doesn’t.

Plus, papers have errors or made up data (hello, president of Stanford University, have you resolved your data issue yet?)

I noted this passage as well:

When one editor started asking authors to add their raw data after they submitted a paper to his journal, half of them declined and retracted their submissions. This suggests, in the editor’s words, “a possibility that the raw data did not exist from the beginning.”

As I recall, I learned how to do footnotes following assorted style sheets. The discipline of mastering the correct style was more interesting to me than the baloney in some of the journal articles I cited.

Professional publishers, what’s up besides charging libraries so much for subscriptions to journals with questionable research? Never mind. Don’t answer. I know already.

Stephen E Arnold, April 14, 2023

A Trend? Silicon Valley Type Media Squabbles

April 13, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.
In rural Kentucky the Silicon Valley type media don’t capture the attention of too many in Harrod’s Creek. I noted several stories from what I call the Sillycon Valley “real” news outfits which may suggest a trend. And what is the OMG slay?
Let’s let three examples shape what’s shakin’ in “real” news:
ONE: The write up “Mehdi Hasan Dismantles The Entire Foundation Of The Twitter Files As Matt Taibbi Stumbles To Defend It” makes clear that author Matt Taibbi is not up to the “real” news standards of an online publication called “TechDirt.” The charges are interesting; for instance, “Taibbi shrugs, sighs, and makes it clear he’s totally out of his depth when confronted with facts.” That’s clear: Facts are important.

TWO: A publication with a logo I find minty but at odds with the silly idea of legible typography published “Substack CEO Pushes Back at Elon Musk, Says Twitter Situation Is Very Frustrating.” The article explains that a financially challenged Silicon Valley reinterpretation of old-fashioned magazine publishing called Substack is struggling with the vibe checked outfit Twitter. The article provides examples of some back and forth or what my deceased grandmother called “tit for tat” talk.

THREE: The world-changing owner of Twitter (an old school TikTok) labeled the very sensitive National Public Radio as state sponsored radio. Apart from the fact that NPR runs ads, I suppose the label would annoy some people. However, the old school Fortune Magazine reported that the “real” news outfit Twitter had changed the facts. “Elon Musk Changes NPR’s Twitter Label to Government Funded Media after US State Affiliated Media Draws Heavy Criticism.” said, “Musk is known for being impulsive, and on Friday he tweeted, “I am dumb way more often than I’d like to be.”

Is the trend navel gazing at drip outfits. If one takes each of the publications as outfits which want to capture the spirit of Silicon Valley (oh, please, exclude Fortune Magazine from the Silicon Valley set. The Time Inc. legacy and New York attitude make its stories different, well, sort of.)

I find the uptick in criticism about the ripples in the “real” news pond originating from Sillycon Valley interesting. I am watching for the scrutiny to vibrate in social media. Who knows? Maybe “real” TV will pick up the story? One can hope. Ad hominem, spiteful remarks, and political characterizations — yes, “real” news Sillycon Valley style.

Stephen E Arnold, April 13, 2023

The Great Firewall of Florida Threatens the Chinese Culture!

April 13, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read an amusing write up presented as “real news.” The story was distributed by the Associated Press and made available to its licensees / owners. The title is “Chinese Student Groups at UF condemn Banning of TikTok at Florida Universities.” Note that you will have to pay to view this article, which seems reasonable to me because I live in rural Kentucky and survive intellectually on outputs from the AP and newspapers in Florida.

The main point of the article is that Chinese students have written an essay which expresses outrage at the banning of Chinese applications. What applications? TikTok for one and a couple of messaging applications. The method for banning the applications relies on WiFi filtering and prohibiting the applications on university-owned computing devices.

The action, as I understand the write up, makes it difficult for a Chinese student to talk with relatives. Furthermore, the grousing students might lose their cultural identity.

A couple of observations:

  1. Are the Chinese students unaware and unable to work around the Great Firewall of Florida? The methods seem simple, cheap, and quick to me, but I, of course, am not in a mental tizzy about TikTok.
  2. What happens to Chinese students within the span of the nation state of China when these individuals use Facebook, Google, and other applications? My perception is that one’s social credit score drops and interesting opportunities to learn new skills in a work camp often become available?
  3. Is the old adage “A Chinese person remains Chinese regardless of where the citizen lives” no longer true? If it is true, how is one’s cultural identity impinged upon? If it is not true, what’s the big deal? Make a phone call.

Net net: The letter strikes me as little more than a propaganda effort. What disappoints me is that the AP article does not ask anyone about the possibility of a weaponized information action. The reasons:

  1. Not our job at the AP
  2. The reporter (stringer) did not think of the angle
  3. The editors did not have sufficient time to do what editors once did
  4. The extra work is too difficult and would get in the way of the Starbucks’ break.

Stephen E Arnold, April 13, 2023

PS: Why didn’t I quote from the AP story? Years ago some big wheel at the AP whose name I don’t recall told me, “You must not quote from our stories”; therefore, no quote, and my perception that an important facet of this student essay has been ignored. I wonder if ChatGPT-type software wrote the article. I am not sure that’s my job. I cannot think of this angle. My editor did not have time. Plus, the “extra” work screws up our trip to Panera. The Starbucks’ near my office is — how shall I say this — a bit like the modern news business.

Useful Scholarly / Semi-Scholarly Research System with Deduplicated Results

March 24, 2023

I was delighted to receive a link to OpenAIRE Explore. The service is sponsored by a non-profit partnership established in 2018 as a legal outfit. The objective is to “ensure a permanent open scholarly communication infrastructure to support European research.” (I am not sure whoever wrote the description has read “Book Publishers Won’t Stop Until Libraries Are Dead.)

The specific service I found interesting is Explore located at The service is described by OpenAIRE this way:

A comprehensive and open dataset of research information covering 161m publications, 58m research data, 317k research software items, from 124k data sources, linked to 3m grants and 196k organizations.

Maybe looking at that TechDirt article will be useful.

I ran a number of queries. The probably unreadable screenshot below illustrates the nice interface and the results to my query for Hopf fibrations (if this query doesn’t make sense to you, there’s not much I can do. Perhaps OpenAIRE Explore is ill-suited to queries about Taylor Swift and Ticketmaster?):


The query returned 127 “hits” and identified four organizations as having people interested in the subject. (Hopf fibrations are quite important, in my opinion.) No ads, no crazy SEO baloney, but probably some non-error checked equations. Plus, the result set was deduplicated. Imagine that. A use Vivisimo-type function available again.

Observation: Some professional publishers are likely to find the service objectionable. Four of the giants are watching their legal eagles circle the hapless Internet Archive. But soon… maybe OpenAIRE will attract some scrutiny.

For now, OpenAIRE Explore is indeed useful.

Stephen E Arnold, March 24, 2023

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