Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, August 02, 2021


Ready for a “television homepage”? Current TV has rolled out in all it’s Al-Gore, Internet-meets-boob-tube glory.

I happen to have it at home (Channel 366 on DirecTV), and have checked out a few minutes of it. Everything I’ve seen has been micro-documentary format: Something about the birth of a young couple’s first child; a short chronicle about a surfer who perseveres despite a debilitating injury; and a mentoring session with none other than Deepak Chopra.

All the while, that little iPod-like timemeter bar resided at the bottom of the screen — except, of course, during the host appearances and commercials. I’ve gotta say, I mainly tuned in just to see that little thing in action. I can see that bar becoming the iconic symbol for Current, a visual shorthand on par with Nike’s swoosh and the like.

I do have one gripe about the timemeter: It doesn’t actually display the amount of time it’s counting down. It doesn’t tell you if a segment is running for, say, 5 minutes and 35 seconds; rather, “Start” and “End” anchor each end, and the bar slowly fills with color from left to right as the video progresses. I guess you can figure out the duration within a few seconds of watching, and the lack of specificity is deliberate. Still, I’d rather know right off the bat how much time is involved.

The strict limit of 3 to 7 minutes per clip has some critics grousing that Gore is assuming a brain-dead audience. I don’t know about that; just because the content is bite-sized, it doesn’t mean it can’t be compelling.

And Current certainly is intriguing; it reminds me of early MTV (mostly due to the VJ-like hosts) crossed with PBS/Discovery Channel. I don’t know that all the segments, or “pods”, will be as no-nonsense as the ones I saw in my sample viewing; I guess there’s the possibility of injecting all sorts of genres into the pod format.

This is reminiscent of ManiaTV, which I pretty much dismissed and haven’t heard about since. The main difference seems to be the catalyst: ManiaTV is intended to be wholly driven by real-time user requests, while Current is more traditionally programmed (while encouraging heavy viewer feedback and contributions to shape its content).

If I had to bet, I’m not sure Current will last. There doesn’t seem to be a center around which to coalesce. The format is the selling point, which has inherent dangers: Viewers tune in to watch content, mostly independent of format. Most people don’t approach this type of entertainment with a hankering for watching “something short” — they want to watch something funny, something sexy, or something informative. If they don’t know what Current’s going to deliver, I doubt they’ll just put it on, wait out the timemeter and hope that something of interest will tick up.

If there is an impulse to check out pod-like content, viewing it through the computer — where the user can control the selection and playback thoroughly — is the likelier option (this is the same gripe I had about ManiaTV). Counting on the couch-potato mentality to sustain a constant stream of shorty videoclips seems flimsy.

Still, the experiment is fun to watch. Whether or not it gets anywhere is almost besides the point.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/02/2021 11:17pm
Category: TV
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After months of speculation that Apple was finally ditching that ancient one-button mouse, it finally has — sorta.

Mighty Mouse actually takes the Mac from one button to, technically, no buttons. This new-fangled mouse is modularly smooth, with no visible click areas that represent buttons, and only the tiniest of bumps that suggests a scrollwheel.

But the trick is that, in fact, Mighty Mouse is a wholly programmable interface device. It’s got pressure areas at the top finger-resting areas that can be configured to behave like a one-button or multi-button model. And the scroll button can move the onscreen navigation 360 degrees, instead of only up and down. So it’s intended to be all things to all users.

As usual, Apple gets props for the innovative concept and design. The company apparently didn’t want to adopt the PC-standard two-button mouse that’s evolved somewhat clumsily over the years. It also didn’t want to thoroughly spook its core Mac user base, which seems irrationally befuddled by a mouse that possesses more than one button. (Macheads apparently can’t dope out basic human finger dexterity — and this is coming from someone who joyfully uses a Mac with a two-button mouse every workday.)

But it seems the speculated intent — moving to a multi-button mouse as standard Mac equipment in order to attract more PC switchers — has gone out the window. The Mighty Mouse gives me the impression of being too advanced for a layperson to embrace; the idea of having to assign programmable functions would probably scare away casual users. I don’t doubt that many or all of this next-generation mouse’s capabilities will be incorporated into mainstream mouse technology over the next few years, but for now, it’s probably too far ahead of its time — a typical Apple curse.

One thing: It appears this thing has a chord on it… I’d have guessed Apple would have gone the wireless route, since wireless mice are becoming more and more standard. I wonder what the rationale is to keeping it tethered to the computer.

And before Steve Jobs gets too carried away: Better check with the lawyers about using “Mighty Mouse” as a name. Last I checked, Viacom had a certain rodent with that moniker in its intellectual property stable.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/02/2021 11:00pm
Category: Tech
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There’s some dispute over status, but for the time being, there’s a new planet in our Solar System neighborhood, and name suggestions are welcomed.

Some provisos, though:

Under the [International Astronomical Union's] nomenclature guidelines, names should be pronounceable, non-offensive, 16 characters or less in length and preferably one word.

Names should not be too similar to an existing name of a minor planet or natural planetary satellite.

In addition, names for persons or events known primarily for their military or political activities are acceptable only after 100 years have elapsed since the person died or the event occurred.

Commercial names are not allowed, and the names of pet animals are discouraged.

So much for Planet Fido, Reaganworld, or Uranus (better check on that last one…). And think of the unexploited corporate naming-rights opportunities — Planet Nike, The Real Disneyworld, etc.!

If we’re forced to be serious… I can’t recall the story or book, but I believe Arthur C. Clarke once dubbed the anticipated tenth planet Persephone. I’d go with that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/02/2021 10:29pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Science
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So MySpace users are spooked by the prospect of big-bad Rupert Murdoch buying up their playground, fearful of a muzzling.

My solution? Set up a real blog. Maybe then you could actually stick it to the man, instead of being under the current mistaken circle-jerk impression.

MySpace is a fad community anyway; it’s not like it would have lasted much longer regardless of whether News Corp. or any other media conglomerate had thrown money at it.

Besides, it shouldn’t bother anyone to be in the same corporate bed with Fox News. The company’s got so many far-flung media properties, representing a range (if limited) of viewpoints, that no one should think for a minute that Murdoch is looking to stifle divergent opinion.

The only value in MySpace is the demographic makeup of its user base, and how attractive that is to advertisers. No one gives a shit what they rant about on blogs that no one reads. News Corp. recognizes this, and is moving in for the kill. To imagine any other motive is delusional and childish.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/02/2021 10:11pm
Category: Business, Internet, Media
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