DateThursday 20 January 2005

A very brief word on George Bush: why “freedom” but not “democracy”?

A linguistic nicety? Not necessarily. Notice how he didn’t scribble “let democracy reign!” on that little bit of paper when the US pretended to hand over control of Iraq. No, it was “let freedom reign!” instead.

Why? Because democracy is such a tricky beast. It can lead you to elect the “wrong” leaders. Imagine if you had a “freed” country full of people who then backed an anti-US regime. Gracious, no. That would be dreadful. Let them be free – but not democratic. If Saudi Arabia introduced a democratic regime, wiser heads than me think its people wouldn’t be hurrying to elect a pro-US government.

How The Sun turned a vast profit on those ‘Harry Nazi’ photos

From a lesson in Media Economics, taken from the Popbitch newsletter.

“This simple example should go some way to explain why Rupert Murdoch is an exceedingly rich man:

The infamous Harry Nazi snap was taken by a reveller at the ludicrious ‘colonialists and natives’ party, but the photos were mainly of William rather than his brother. The snapper took them to the men at the Sun, who instantly noticed Harry, and paid £8,000 to the dimwit in exchange for signing away the copyright.

The result? The Sun will make upwards of 500,000 pounds from people using the photo. The Mail alone paid the Sun £50k to use it the very next day. The tabloid has also insisted that the Sun’s logo appears when the photo is used on TV.

So let’s have a look at the math:
Within 12 hours The Sun had turned a 556 per cent profit on the pictures
In total they expect to earn a colossal 5,560 per cent profit on picture sales alone (this is likely to be earned over a three month period)
Plus the increased newspaper sales
Plus the equivalent advertising value of having The Sun’s logo on UK prime time television news.”

(Via renaissance chambara.)

Google, Yahoo and MSN to fight comment spam with “don’t follow” link instruction; spammers unlikely to be worried

Nice to know they have been thinking about this. Over at Google Blog there’s a new posting on how the big search engines are getting together to fight the comment spam blight. (The clueless spammer referred to below is still at it on this site, by the way.)

So here’s the (a?) solution:

we’ve been testing a new tag that blocks it. From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=’nofollow’) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn’t a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it’s just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.

It’ll probably require an update of blogging software to get this added automagically to links put into comments. Ah, and there’s the rub. With millions of blogs out there, can you force everyone to upgrade? It’s the Microsoft problem – once the faulty software is out there in individual hands, you can’t recall it en masse. Upgrading is a really gradual process unless there’s a very urgent reason to do so. For example, I should upgrade this version of WP to 1.2.2, as presently the main feed doesn’t validate. But there’s always something more urgent to do. This could be a great technical solution. Now we just have to solve the human side..

Update 0035 (honest): I think Andrew Orlowski has this right in a piece over at The Register; as does Michael Pollitt in a comment on this post. Comment spam is, like email and Usenet spam, a ‘tragedy of the commons’ problem (everybody owns it, so nobody looks after it); made even worse in blogs because spammers can set up their own. And you can bet that they’re not going to be using “rel=nofollow” on the links they put there.

What’s also certain – as Andrew also points out – is that Robert Scoble has, as usual, completely failed to stop and think about how this will really work in practice. Furrfu! The guy’s 40, for gawsake. Is he ever going to learn?

(Via MacMegasite.)