Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two comprehensive sources of data

"OpenMicroData (OMD) offers an opportunity for those in the possession of micro data to share them with the world. Sharing can be done anonymously. In this way OpenMicroData limits the ability of statistics agencies and governments to be selective in who is permitted to use data. "

"The most comprehensive database of information on mobile tech for social change on the Web."

Thanks, Rakesh!

The cost of advertising (newspapers)

I found this PDF file listing prices for advertising with the Daily News company in Tanzania.

I was suprised to see a full-page color advertisement costing almost TSH 3 million! I was recently told it takes about TSH 1.7 million to produce a music video in the market... just to compare.

At what cost are advertisements created? Do they transfer the same value to the onlooker that the company being advertised seeks to transfer?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sub-Saharan Africa in April 2011

I found this Al Jazeera article from April 12, which is a solid overview of socio-political disputes across the Sub-Saharan region of Africa.

I thought it was a useful move by Al Jazeera to expose these disputes, considering that many of them would not make international media waves (see previous post).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sgolbew: A story about newspapers and opinions

Cross-posted on Vijana FM | May 25, 2011

Have we ceased to read between the lines? Do opinion pieces in the media conflict with fact-based pieces? This is a short story to explore potential answers to these two questions.

A short time ago in human history, three friends from different corners of the world decided to get involved with the printing press.

Rashidi was an avid reader, and had loved to read written works of his friends Nur and Nick throughout their days in school. As well as reading everything else, Rashidi was especially interested in reading his two friends’ works because they seemed to compliment eachother well in their perspectives.

Nur was also a big reader, but an even bigger writer. She was known for her acute representation of facts. Brought up by parents who both worked for the national archives, Nur knew her history well. She believed that telling stories with fair treatment to all subjects was essential to writing. She was less enthusiastic about opinions, because she felt that with opinions, people lost track of the facts.

Nick was somewhat of a rogue writer. He aspired to be an architect, but wrote as a hobby. As a result, he never wrote with fair consideration for all subjects. Nick wrote things that involved taking an opinion, which sometimes lead to taking a side and supporting it. For some reason, the fact that most people in school actively criticized his writing never discouraged him. Instead, Nick found that he arose in people feelings that Nur’s writing did not. In criticizing his writing, people sometimes had to take the opposite side of his arguments, consequently taking a side themselves.

In this way, Nick and Nur both found that Nick’s writing complemented Nur’s writing. They saw that if Nur did not provide raw facts from which opinions could be formulated, Nick’s work would be baseless. And if Nick did not reflect on the facts provided by Nur, they would be read with little meaning to peoples’ lives.

For Rashid, of course, all of this seemed beautiful. As far as he was concerned, the more intelligent words he was given to read, the better.

And so the three decided to publish a newspaper every month, called Sgolbew. They collectively picked topics to discuss beforehand, such as politics, economics, health, philosophy among other topics. First, Nuha would write a few factual articles for each edition, quoting primary sources and credible secondary sources. Then, Nick would read her articles and write opinions for each one, observing the facts with different biases. Finally, Rashidi would read both their articles and include either comments or a general letter as a reader in the newspaper.

And so, the three existed in harmony with the production of Sgolbew. All their readers from around the world looked forward to each monthly edition of Sgolbew, and sometimes, the three even received letters from fans asking if they could work for Sgolbew.

Until the day came when Nick wrote more opinions for a certain edition of Sgolbew than Nur had provided fact-based articles. In that particular edition, Rashid saw works by Nick that were going back on older opinions of his own and even older facts from Nur. Thinking this had been agreed upon by Nur and Nick, Rashidi naturally wrote extra comments for Nick’s extra work.

When this particular edition of Sgolbew with more opinions from Nick was published, Nur asked Nick why he had published more opinion pieces than the number of fact-based pieces she had written. She was very concerned that they were breaking away from the traditional agreement they had made.

“Well, I had more to say about what I think, and I thought we had a good system set up here for me to do that,” replied Nick.

Nur grew more concerned. She was stuck with one question: Was it good for Sgolbew to publish more opinions from Nick about all kinds of facts that he and his fans were thinking of?

So she consulted Rashidi. Rashidi thought that Nick’s opinions were worth reading, and didn’t think here was a problem in continuing to publish Sgolbew this way.

So Nur called a group meeting and asked both Nick and Rashidi: “Can we only publish some of Nick’s opinions, which are about the facts I bring into the publication? And can we let Nick do whatever he wants with the rest of his opinions, since they are worth discussing in the world?”

In order to keep the peace between the three, they mutually agreed to this. Nur would continue to write fact-based articles. Nick would also continue to write opinions about facts, but his work now had to be read by Nur before the whole draft went to Rashidi before publication. Sometimes Nuha had to change the opinion pieces so they would not divert too much from her facts. Then Rashidi, as usual, would comment or write a general letter as a participant reader.

What did Nick do with the rest of the opinions he wrote that didn’t make it into Sgolbew every month?

Nick found ways to publish his opinions through other means which were usually less organized than the Sgolbew newspaper operation.

And so time passed, and Sgolbew became famous. But as time passed, Nur continued to control what she thought was fact. Nick continued to publish his opinions, with or without Sgolbew. Rashidi continued to want to read more and more. And over time, because Sgolbew was famous for writing about the most popular topics, it sold well and made good money.

Nick spent most of his money on trying to get more and more of his opinions published with the help of his fans because people seemed to be reading them somewhere. He could never discuss this with Nur or Rashidi because he knew it would complicate things at Sgolbew.

And so even more time passed, and more Nurs, Nicks and Rashidis came into the world. And here we are today.

We treat media like it is another industry, but rarely understand it is as something that is affecting our daily behaviour, attitude, and taste. If we haven’t heard or seen something on credible media like Sgolbew, we fear we might get our facts wrong. More importantly, we seem so think we’ll get our opinions wrong. Since when did the words “opinion” and “right” or “wrong” fit in the same sentence?

We forget that credible media itself comes out of opinions, and that the Nicks, Nurs and Rashidis of the past used to work together, in equal respect for one anothers’ perspective. We forget that blogs are simply op-ed pieces without corporate control, and are necessary to contribute to a diverse truth of any situation presented in commercial media. Lastly, we forget to read between lines by Nick and Nur, like Rashidi used to. Instead, we choose to follow either Nur or Nick and end up emotionally disputed among one another.

Let us try and return to the time when reading anything if not everything was encouraged and making an effort to understand something beyond our immediate selves was a noble deed. Perhaps we will find that the harmony that once existed between (a) learning facts, (b) learning opinions of facts and (c) observations between the two still survives today, and can grow.

This story is based on fictitious names, and was inspired by SN’s recent post Mbwa wa Pavlov.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Syncronicity again

A few days ago, SN wrote this on Vijana FM, defending our outlook into the distant future. And just yesterday, I saw this article from an Al Jazeera political analyst, encouraging President Obama to step things up and have a conversation with the integrated news network.

Are we becoming skeptical of the media? Or is the media changing and becoming skeptical of its users?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Better, worse or no change?

Since Hosni Mubarak stepped down as Egypt's president about 3 months ago, the country still faces difficulties in formulating a government that the people will approve.

Most recently, clashes between Muslims and Christians have been recorded.

So, has the peoples' revolution in Egypt revolutionized fully yet? It is difficult to tell.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What's with all the shelling?

Considering the modern concept of a "nation state", I can understand the different ways in which a government can become upset at its constituents, and vice versa.

But what I continue to find puzzling since public protests began in many MENA states is why any government would bomb its own cities?

It makes no logical (economical, especially) sense to me.

Monday, May 9, 2011


"What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence."

- LW, Tractatus (1921)

More on this later.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Teaching and learning

Teaching is not the same as learning. While they each fulfill some part of the definition of "education", they are not education on their own.

Learning is probably more akin to the first definition of education, because it does not entail an authority from which the learning takes place. It could be from a person, a non-living object or an event involving both.

Teaching seems to be more inclusive of an authority which guides what is taught. Even when we say "this experience taught me", we're saying the experience involved something specific that was worth learning.

Is it necessary for the process of education to contain both of these; teaching as well as learning?

Image source courtesy of Projects Abroad.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Deja Vu (Mix 2)

The counterpart can be downloaded here.

1. Stardust & Daftpunk: I feel like one more time (Arno Cost rework)
2. Morgan Page: Fight for you (Sultan & Ned Shepard mix)
3. Andy Duguid feat. Leah: Don't belong (Rasmus Farber club mix)

Genre: Progressive vocal house
Size: 18.1 MB / 19 minutes 47 Seconds

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Introducing the Deja Vu mixes

Finally set up some decks again! To get things warmed up, I put together a quick mix of three progressive house tracks: Deja Vu (Mix 1).

1. 16 Bit Lolitas: In my room without Paris (Original mix)
2. John Dahlback: Kairo (Original mix)
3. Alex Kenji & Bass Kleph: Melocoton (Original mix)

Genre: Progressive house
Size: 15.6 MB / 17 minutes 07 Seconds

Sunday, May 1, 2011