Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, September 04, 2021

I typically don’t post much in the way of celebrity obituaries. It’s usually too macabre a subject, and not particularly conducive to my usual smart-ass humor (even as I keep in mind that, when it comes to celebrity, all’s fair game).

Still, I couldn’t let today’s demise of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, from a freakish stingray stab through the heart, go by without an acknowledgement.

Mainly, I just want to reminisce about how I first learned about him. That would be the “South Park” episode “Prehistoric Ice Man”, first aired in 1999. Irwin was a parody subject, with his character being given the tagline, “stick my finger in his bumhole!”. I was amused by this, and the whole enhanced Australian accent schtick. When I was informed that this character was based on a real-life television wildlife personality, I just assumed that the “South Park” version was a typically over-the-top caricature, and the real thing was much more sedate.

Well… I got around to catching the real-deal “Crocodile Hunter” show shortly thereafter. And I was stunned to see that, if anything, the “South Park” rendition was actually understated, and didn’t do Irwin justice! Somehow, the live-action version turned out to be more manic than anything depicted in animation. It was an unexpected surprise.

And with that: Rest in peace, Croc Hunter.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/04/2021 11:19pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, TV
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Why create your own authoritative Web content when you can rely upon the iffy contributions of enthusiastic visitors? That’s the rationale behind the drive to monetize wiki-based websites.

There’s enough faith in the acceptance of wikis — chiefly through the growth of Wikipedia — that some are tossing mad money at mere parked domains, ala Internet circa 1998:

Last month John Gotts, an entrepreneur known for buying the rights to domain names, agreed to buy the site Wiki.com for $2.86 million.

“I would never have paid this much for any other domain,” Mr. Gotts said. “I can’t think of one that would be worth more.” He pointed out that the site Wiki.com drew traffic before he bought it, even though it had little content.

It’s important to recognize what’s really being valued here. It’s not the actual wiki functionality, although that’s essential. It’s really the growing public conception that something labeled “wiki” represents a certain channel of information, and thus translates to a source that can be referenced. Much like blogs, wikis are seen as the next online media format that people will trust not so much because of what they contain, but more because of the way they’re structured. If the audience makes a wiki the preferred destination for their eyeballs, the money will follow. Basically, this land rush is rooted in the idea of the wiki as a brand — and a highly marketable brand at that.

Personally, I think this is a bit premature. Wikipedia has gained critical mass, thanks to effective Google indexing (which is due more to the way that site’s content is structured, more than illusory “relevance”). But as the Times article points out, other wiki sites haven’t been able to ride the coattails. Fact is, even Wikipedia is still largely unknown outside intermediate and above Web users — it’s a long way from being as mainstream as familiar sites like Google or Amazon. So it’s still a blind bet as to whether or not the “wiki” brand really catches on for a wider user audience.

I can think of something that will sink this wikimania fairly quickly: The exploitation of widely-disseminated wikis as splogs and linkfarms. I can attest to that development right here on this blog: My comment/trackback filters are picking up an increasing number of spams that contain wiki-generated and -hosted URLs, chiefly based from universities and other clueless hosts. I’m sure most of them are meant to be temporary drive-by splog pages, even poisoning-the-well attempts. But regardless, they’re already gearing up and causing me headaches — and I’m sure, plenty of other sites out there.

Much like open-access blog creation sites like BlogSpot, they represent free-of-charge open online acreage for polluting the Web. I’m sure there’s a couple of automation wiki-populating programs out there that will make it easy to unleash tons of wiki-splogs on us. Then where will the wikis-for-dollars scheme be?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/04/2021 08:27pm
Category: Business, Internet
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It’s a truism that empires tend not to fall as the result of outward pressures, as much as from inward implosion. When everyone’s fat and happy, it’s easy to ignore the spreading decay.

With that happy thought, concern over neglected infrastructure maintenance in the United States, evidenced by recent power grid and emergency reaction failures, should serve as a wide-awake warning sign.

But it won’t, thanks to basic human nature:

“There’s a growing understanding that these programs are at best inefficient and at worst corrupt,” said Everett Ehrlich, executive director of the CSIS public infrastructure commission.

Ehrlich and others cite several reasons for the lack of action:

- The political system is geared to reacting to crises instead of averting them.

- Some politicians don’t see infrastructure as a federal responsibility.

- And many problems are out of sight and — for the public — out of mind.

“You see bridges and roads and potholes, but so much else is hidden and taken for granted,” said Dinges of the Society of Civil Engineers. “As a result, people just don’t get stirred up and alarmed.”

I’d say regular rounds of tax cuts also have a lot to do with letting things slide. But again, nobody wants to hear about all the details when they’re getting that fat tax rebate check!

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/04/2021 06:33pm
Category: Political, Society
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I don’t know how widespread this is, but this weekend I’ve noticed more than one Labor Day sale being promoted with star-spangled trappings.

For instance, Circuit City has actually branded its sales event the “Red, White & Blue Sale”. And Macy’s has used the American flag in most print and television ads I’ve seen for their Labor Day advertising.

I’m just not seeing a natural affinity for Fourth of July-style imagery with Labor Day. I guess it’s hard to latch onto another marketable theme for this holiday. I guess you could hit upon a “celebration of the working world” campaign without coming off as too proletariat; but maybe it’s safer to just stick with unassailable patriotic colors (even though it strikes me as somewhat bland, in this context).

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/04/2021 05:39pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society
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