YouTube, the search engine?
This New York Times story about about the use of YouTube as a search engine caught my eye. Apparently, people — particularly kids — are using YouTube as their primary search engine for research projects, news, and other information. The Times paints this trend as the inevitable march of technology but I can't help but see it as the devolution of our collective brain. What we don't get in this story in the fact that defaulting to video-only search is, um, pretty stupid. While I can understand why a 9-year old would do it, you've got to wonder where his teachers are to give him a basic lesson in media literacy: video and text communicate differently and each has its strengths and weaknesses.
To use an example from the article, let's say you need info to do a school paper on the wallaby. A search on YouTube brings up, on the first page, two home movies of people encountering wallabies, a vodka commercial, and kids singing a Raffi song. Even if there was a documentary about wallabies, the student would have to sit, watch, and wait to see if any relevant information appeared. He would then have to transcribe it and check the spelling for any proper nouns or unusual words.
A Google search for "wallaby," however, brings up Wikipedia's wallaby page, a National Geographic factsheet about wallabies, and several other wallaby-relate websites. The information here is laid out clearly, and is easy to scan. The user doesn't have to worry about transcribing or spelling. And several items are hyperlinked in case he wants to find more information about particular points.
Clearly, there are smart uses of YouTube, and it's an essential resource for hunting down TV and video clips but there is no need to uncritically embrace it as a primary source for research.
Do I get a gold star?
Senators McCain and Feingold have responded to FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith's irresponsible statement regarding campaign finance law and blogging. In the words of the senators:
This issue has nothing to with private citizens communicating on the Internet. There is simply no reason - none - to think that the FEC should or intends to regulate blogs or other Internet communications by private citizens. Suggestions to the contrary are simply the latest attempt by opponents of reform to whip up baseless fears. BCRA was intended to empower ordinary citizens, and it has been successful in doing so. We will continue to fight for that goal.
It is no surprise that Commissioner Smith has long been a critic of any campaign finance reform. What better job, then, than Commissioner of the agency responsible for enforcing the current law. Thanks again, Mr. President.
Like regular sci-fi and fantasy dipshits, but with slaves
If you're like me, you've wasted a reasonable amount of time on the web rolling your eyes at the insanely detailed websites dedicated to any number of dorky D&D or fantasy books or some similar crap. And yet if they were set into your head with ball bearings you'd never be able to roll your eyes enough at the Goreans.
The Goreans are a group of seemingly run-of-the-mill fantasy dweebs inexplicably hooked on a series of books from the 60s and 70s by author John Norman. The novels are awful, but what makes them stand out is the very prominent theme of sadomasochistic slavery of the women in the books. While this may make them appealing to horny, lonely, acne-ridden teen boys, what's really creepy is how many people are out there actually trying to live their lives based on this. And, even creepier, some of them are actually women.
I'll let these links speak for themselves. It's sad, fascinating reading, and you'll probably want to take a moment afterwards to thank whatever you believe in that you don't have to deal with any of these dipshits.
Oh, I was going to do an article on this for SF!, but it looks like Salon did one about 5 years ago:
Some Gorean links:
Oh, this guy's good.
And look! He's deluded this poor woman!
Most Goreans don't seem to look like Jonrhus' woman, though.
And they don't seem to like people not taking this seriously.
And this guy even wonders about letting his slaves vote.
Anyway, creepy stuff. Enjoy.