What is Content?

Really interesting post by Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine.com.  Hat tip to bosacks.com for bringing this to my attention.  The post uses the often commented on question about  iPad is a content creation device, content consumption device or some blend of the two as a starting point to ask the bigger question – what is content?

As of this writing there were already 61 comments on the original post.  I read the first several and felt that most missed the point entirely. The interesting element of Jarvis’ comments are not about the iPad per se.  Rather, the key point is that we need to think differently (no pun intended) about what content is.  Every action we take that is logged somewhere is or has the potential to be “content.”  Jarvis writes:

When we email a link to a friend, that act creates content. When we comment on content, we create content. When we mention a movie in Twitter — that’s just useless chatter, right? — our tweets add up to valuable content: a predictor of movie box office that’s 97.3% accurate. When we take a picture and load it up to Flickr — 4 billion times — that’s content. When we say something about those photos — tagging them or captioning them or saying where they were taken — that’s content. When we do these things on Facebook, which can see our social graph, that creates a meta layer that adds more value to our content. On Foursquare, our actions become content (the fact that this bar is more popular than that bar is information worth having). When we file a health complaint about a restaurant, that’s content. Our movements on highways, tracked through our cellphones, creates content: traffic reports.

This is all something that most of us intuitively know and yet that we don’t spend time thinking about. It is worth thinking about.

I’m adding BuzzMachine.com to the list of sites I follow.

And I’m free, oh! free fallin’

The title notwithstanding, this post isn’t about a classic Tom Petty song.

According to the progress bar on my Kindle, I am about 19% of the way through Freefall: American, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy by Joseph E. Stiglitz.  I started reading this just a few days ago after learning that Stiglitz would be giving a talk to the Columbia alumni community in NYC on October 12th.  (I’m planning to attend.)

I’ll reserve final judgement until I finish the book.  If you have been following news accounts related to the financial crash and the ensuing Great Recession, a lot of the ground Stiglitz covers won’t be new to you.  However, he lays out in a way is clear, compelling and sure to get your blood boiling at least just a little bit.  His narrative reinforces the conclusions that (a) the mess we are in wasn’t inevitable and (b) the sub-optimal policy repsonses of the Bush and Obama administrations took a bad situation and made it worse.

As  I noted above, I am only about one-fifth of the way through the book.  Thus far I have found most interesting Stiglitz’ seven principles for a well-designed stimulus program:

  1. It should be fast. Economic policies take months to be fully effective. It is therefore imperative to get money into the economy quickly.
  2. It should be effective. Effectiveness means a big bang for the buck—every dollar spent should give rise to a large increase in employment and output. In other words, focus on spending with the biggest multiplier effect.
  3. It should address the country’s long-term problems. Low national savings, huge trade deficits, long-term financial problems for Social Security and other programs for the elderly, decaying infrastructure, and global warming all cloud the country’s long-term outlook. An effective stimulus would target them, or at the very least not make them worse.
  4. It should focus on investment. If stimulus money is invested in assets that increase the country’s long-run productivity, the country will be in a better shape in the long run as a result of the stimulus—even as short-run output and employment are increased.
  5. It should be fair. Middle-class Americans have fared far worse in recent years compared to those at the top.3 Any stimulus should be designed with that in mind.
  6. It should deal with the short-run exigencies created by the crisis. In a downturn, states often run out of money and have to start cutting jobs. The jobless are left without healthcare insurance. People struggling to make mortgage payments may default on their mortgage if they lose their jobs.  A well-designed stimulus should deal with as many of these issues as possible.
  7. The stimulus should be targeted at areas of job loss. If the job losses are likely to be permanent, the stimulus should be directed at retraining workers with the skills they will need for their future jobs.

Stiglitz acknowledges that sometimes these objectives are in conflict.  Nevertheless, I find this framework helpful in thinking about what has been done already and discussions about what needs to be done moving forward.

I am interested to read/hear Stiglitz’ take, but my three-cents going in is as follows:

  • Probably could have been faster.  My recollection is that the Bush administration spent a long time trying to reassure us that all was well when educated observers knew that we were in trouble.
  • Given the size of the relief given to the banks, this probably small in comparison.  But the investments made under ARRA will likely have positive impacts down the road.  For instance, spending to encourage physicians to adopt EHR (Electronic Health Record) systems.
  • Extensions to unemployment insurance and subsidies for COBRA payments likely helped to mitigate the severity of the downturns impact on millions of families. In so doing, it likely also had a significant multiplier effect, thereby helping the broader economy.

Oh, and back to Tom Petty.  He sings “I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart” and this apparently leads to his Free Fallin’.  Well, we’ve got more than our share of “bad boys” responsible for sending our economy into a Freefall, don’t you think?

How much more can I take?

I’m joking.  OK, I’m mostly joking.  Apple’s iPad has been released into the wild and I don’t have one.  Haven’t planned to buy one and almost certainly won’t anytime soon.  I don’t (absolutely) have to have the very latest gadget out there, right.  I’ve made peace with that.  But following so quickly on the 4/2 intro of the iPad is news that this Thursday Apple will release the details on the new iPhone OS 4.0.  If this announcement is accompanied by news of a new iPhone, I don’t know how I’ll handle being even further behind the state-of-the-art Apple  times.  Like I said above, I am mostly joking!

MacUpdate – Highly Recommended for my Mac-using friends

If you pretty much stick to running a plain-vanilla Mac environment, using only the applications that came with your Mac plus maybe Microsoft Office, then this post isn’t for you.  However, if you like to tweak you Mac with lots of different software applications and extensions, read on.

For a long time I’ve visited MacUpdate.com on a regular basis to check out their Mac software “deal of the day.”  While I’ve purchased several items from them, up until a week or so ago I hadn’t subscribed to their core MacUpdate offering.  I have now done so and am really glad that I did.  Their application installs on your machine and will automatically scan the applications on your machine and let you know which ones are out of date.  In most cases, each application can be brought up-to-date with a single click.  MacUpdate handles all of the normal install-process dialogs behind the scenes.  If you attempt to update an application to a beta release, you will be notified and given the adoption to abort the update process.

Highly recommended and worth the $20 annual subscription price.