American Jihad

Steven and Paul get stuck into the great American horror story of willful ignorance on episode 82 of Nothing Serious. Pope Francis stirs the pot stating the evolution is not inconsistent with creation, but could this be a ploy rather than an acceptance of science. Fox News, not content with trotting out Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman to declare that the Polar Bears are happy and global warming is a myth, lets Dr. Keith Ablow declare the need for an “American Jihad”.

Stories mentioned in this episode of the Nothing Serious Podcast include:

That’s Not How You Stir It!

The primates get aggravated on Nothing Serious 75 as we discuss sibling sex, Doctor Who, and is editing entertainment to avoid hurt feelings a mark of respect or simply avoiding flack from the vocal minority? A Canadian nine-year-old makes off with a bus, sloppy reporting and how many Americans are actually single, and the boys get pissy about making tea.

Stories mentioned in this episode of the Nothing Serious Podcast include:

GALLUP – Americans Say Social Media Has Little Sway on Purchases

Oh oh! It’s time to go back to traditional media advertising! Right, right?

Gallup surveyed more than 18,000 American adults in December 2012 and January 2013 for the poll you see below.

A clear majority of Americans say social media have no effect at all on their purchasing decisions. Although many companies run aggressive marketing campaigns on social media, 62% in the U.S. say Facebook and Twitter, among other sites, do not have any influence on their decisions to purchase products.

Influence of Social Media On Americans Purchasing Decisions

Or maybe, just maybe, a large percentage of those who say that social media has “no influence at all” don’t realize when they’re being influenced by their friends and family.

We know that the actual ads aren’t working all that well, that’s no secret.

Facebook users hate the ads, we use scripts and blockers to remove them. Most of us – a whopping 94% – use social media primarily to connect with friends and family. We don’t want your stinking ads, we want to know how Grannies hemorrhoid surgery went and if the doctors will let her take one home in a jar. Oh, and pics or it didn’t happen!

Was that $5.1 Billion spent on social media advertising in 2013 wasted? Well, not ALL of it was wasted. Those brands and companies that were telling stories and creating content that people wanted to engage with and talk about – they most definitely were not wasting their money.

Those brands hammering out the same old drone of “buy this, buy this”…. Yeah, they were wasting their money.

WOM (word of mouth) is and always will be the most trusted medium that makes or breaks a brand, and the beauty of it is that most of the time people don’t realize they’re being marketed to or acting as an evangelist.

Those jeans your friend was raving about at work, and  you bought two pairs of! How do you think she found out about them in the first place? Someone else was raving about them on her Facebook stream.

U.S. companies spent a combined $5.1 billion on social media advertising in 2013, and they obviously believe that this presents them with a return on investment. However, a solid majority of American adults say that social media have no influence at all on their purchasing decisions — suggesting that the advertising may be reaching smaller segments of the market, or that the influence on consumers is indirect or goes unnoticed.

In the State of the American Consumer report, Gallup reveals that consumers who engage with brands often do so when they are already attached to a product or service. Companies that engage their customers — by providing exceptional service and a pleasurable in-store experience — will, in turn, drive those customers to interact with them on social media. Simply promoting products and services on Facebook or Twitter is unlikely to lead to sales.

The key to reaching new customers and growing your brand via social media – give people something to talk about.

Spend wisely!

America – I Can’t Wait For You To Wake Up And Be Great Again

Anybody who’s been following my twitter stream probably knows that I’m disturbed by recent events here in the U.S, such as the introduction of the E-PARASITES / PROTECT-IP act and the Stop Online Piracy Act – “SOPA”.

I’m not the only one concerned, and Mathew Ingram over at GigaOm even went as far as to say that “congress has declared war on the internet“. Strong words, maybe not strong enough.

As a damn dirty foreigner, lefty European, filthy liberal, foreign bastard who is leaching of the U.S. and contributing nothing and who should gtfo out of America if he doesn’t like it a technology buff and an “outsider” living in the U.S., I’m increasingly concerned at the apparent erosion of the rights of the individual in favor of the rights of the corporation.

Growing up in Ireland (in the 80’s) I watched the great innovations that were happening here, learnt about the formation of the United States in school, read about the U.S. Constitution, and everywhere I turned we were bombarded with concept of the “American Dream”.

Much (95%) of this bombardment came from American media.

Back in the 80’s Ireland was broke. Our tiny population wasn’t able to afford to create much in the way of TV, so our radios were full of American and British music and our TV’s showed countless re-runs of American classics, and occasionally a high pressure weather system would come in, and with a little fiddling of the antenna, we’d pick up ITV or some other station broadcasting out of Wales.

We were bombarded with the best and worst (RTE, the national broadcaster, couldn’t always afford the good stuff) of American culture. We learned to love the American dream, but to loath the “Hollywood” version of America that was being pushed, with it’s thinly veiled veneer of style, racial undertones and obvious xenophobia.

We loved the idea of freedom of speech, particularly in a country that was still under the boot-heel of the Catholic Church, freedom from religion (although a secular Ireland would take another 15 – 20 years to arrive) and the idea that with lot of work and determination, somebody in America could achieve almost anything they desired.

Man, how times have changed. Seriously, the internet fucked things up royally for America when it comes to how Americans are viewed abroad. Maybe not the internet on it’s own, but certainly as up to the minute news became available, the veneer of America’s greatness began to get severely scratched.

As the results of America’s foreign policies filtered into our lives, as the fruits of America’s xenophobic attitude to education (there is America, and the sun orbits America), became readily apparent in discussions, forums, international politics and filtered into the lives of the common man – as we watched the once great nation succumb to fear, political shenanigans, religious bigotry and relinquish more and more personal freedoms for that ever elusive “hope” that you might be a little more safe, we’ve found ourselves asking how could this happen?

How could a country, founded on people wanting a better life for themselves, let things get so out of hand? How could the yoke of religion take such a hold in a country that prided itself on having separation of church and state written into the constitution? It’s perhaps ironic to note that England, who’s head of state is also the head of the Church and armed forces is today, essentially secular.

How could people willing give up basic freedoms, day in day out and allow themselves to fall prey to, heck, ask for and demand, a nanny state that serves only the corporate interest?

I don’t really have an answer to many of these questions, except to postulate “greed”.

There’s really not much wrong with America that you can’t trace back to simple greed.

Religion is huge in America. Ridiculously huge. To the rest of the western civilized world it’s bordering on insanity. It’s greed. Religion is a big, big, tax exempt business.

All political decisions are made by people on corporate payrolls. Talk around it anyway you want, but the simple fact is that bribery, by any other name is still bribery, even when it’s wrapped up nicely and spun as lobbying.

Education receives cutbacks and CEO’s making millions receive tax cuts, breaks and exemptions. Industries that should have been allowed collapse and the individual players absorb each other, which makes way for new start-ups, new innovation and new business, get hand-outs in the billions.

Again the problem is greed. An educated American instinctively shirks off certain intellectual shackles. Educated people tend to push away from religion, which is bad for the business of religion, which in the U.S. and lets not beat around the bush here, is the business of making money. It’s the great con. It’s not about saving your soul so that you can be rewarded in some divine after life, it’s about lying to you now so that those who peddle religion can reap the rewards in this life.

Educated people also tend to question things – purchases, advice, media, authority and none of those things are good for big business. Big business would prefer that you know just enough to make money and to spend it on what they tell you to, but not enough that you question them, their motives or authority.

They want you to be sheep.

I don’t blame them (the corporations) for that. If I were in charge I’d want exactly the same thing. It makes perfect business sense.

So, what do education, religion, greed and corporations have to do with PROTECT-IP, and SOPA?

Education, or more importantly, the limiting of access to information by essentially creating the “Great Firewall of America”. Despite what you may be told by those people introducing these bills, the fact of the matter is they are far more wide reaching than just blocking access to pirate sites outside the U.S.

…law would not only require ISPs to remove websites from the global network at the request of the government or the courts (by blocking any requests to the central domain-name system that directs internet traffic), but would also be forced to monitor their users’ behavior in order to police acts of copyright infringement. Providers who do not comply with these requests and requirements would be subject to sanctions. And in many cases, legal hearings would not be required. As Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said of the PROTECT-IP Act:

At the expense of legitimate commerce, PIPA’s prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.

In effect, the new law would route around many of the protections in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, including the “safe harbor” provisions (a number of law professors have said that they believe the proposed legislation would be unconstitutional because it is a restraint on freedom of speech). The idea that ISPs and internet users can avoid penalties if they remove content once they have been notified that it is infringing, for example, wouldn’t apply under the new legislation — and anyone who provides tools that allow users to access blacklisted sites would also be subject to penalties.

It gets worse:

Techdirt’s Mike Masnick notes that the new bill actually expandsthe range of websites that could be targeted by the bill: the previous version referred to sites that were “dedicated to infringing activities” with no other obvious purpose, but the new law would allow the government to target any site that has “only limited purpose or use” other than infringement (by the government’s definition).

The bottom line is that if it passes and becomes law, the new act would give the government and copyright holders a giant stick — if not an automatic weapon — with which to pursue websites and services they believe are infringing on their content. With little or no requirement for a court hearing, they could remove websites from the internet and shut down their ability to be found by search engines or to process payments from users. DMCA takedown notices would effectively be replaced by this nuclear option…

Great firewall indeed. More liberties being eroded, (and don’t give me the bullshit that this is just about piracy.- this goes WAY beyond piracy and hits your freedom of speech directly) and there doesn’t appear to be a peep about it from mainstream America.

Perhaps mainstream America doesn’t care… right now. But they will care if one day they wake up and find that core parts of their online lives which they take for granted are gone.

But caring only goes so far as the uneducated (and that’s how they are trying to keep America) tend not to question things for long (if at all) and just move on.

I’ll wrap this post up with this sound bite from Hillary Clinton which she gave during a BBC Television interview recently (thanks to No Agenda for the clip), where she’s talking about training people to bypass the Iranian regimes control of the internet:

[audio http://assets.scrwmedia.com/hillary_clinton_iran_bbc.mp3|width=450|bgcolor=0×000000|titles=Hillary Clinton Talking About Iran On BBC|bgcolor=ffffffff|animation=no|remaining=yes]

This is one of my highest priorities. I’ve spoke out repeatedly about the right of people to have access to the Internet. It is freedom of speech and expression and assembly – values that we think every human being is entitled to.

How can American politicians say those kind of things about the need for internet access in other countries, about it being a basic human right, and then allow the introduction of such bills on their home turf?

I think you know the answer.

Why not do something about it? Make your voice heard. Take a step towards being great again.

America Hates Pedestrians

Monty Python Traffic Lights
Yes, it's this silly!

In the good old U.S. of A there’s one thing that can be consistently relied upon: when you are tasked with having to negotiate a pedestrian crossing you need to be an Olympic sprinter in order to make it across the road within the allotted time.

I’ve noticed this wandering around Chicago with Sara, while I was in downtown Mobile today, and basically anytime I’ve had to use my feet to propel me across the asphalt in the U.S.

I’m no slow coach either.

I’m a relatively fit(ish), semi muscular, Irish bloke who is constantly being asked to slow down when walking with others because I trot along at a fair pace.

I’d hate to be old, fat, slow, have mobility issues or all of the above! I’d never make it across the road in the allotted time. I’d end up like so many possums I see around here – road kill!

When my beautiful wife has to jog to make it across the road in time, then you know that the lights are changing too damn fast!

I know America is the great car culture but can’t we spare just a few seconds for those of us who like to walk and take in the sights every now and then?

Must Listen: Matt Flaherty On American Liberty

The Pod DelusionMatt Flaherty on the erosion of civil liberties in “the land of the free”.

This is an excerpt from episode #74 of The Pod Delusion. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before:

The Pod Delusion is a weekly news magazine podcast about interesting things. From politics, to science to culture and philosophy, it’s commentary from a secular, rationalist, skeptical, somewhat lefty-liberal, sort of perspective.

I subscribed to The Pod Delusion yesterday and have been catching up on back episodes. I’d urge like minded readers of this blog to drop along to the site and subscribe.

SourceForge: Nobody Is Asking Why Now?

sourceforge hands tied
Bound by the law?

Sourceforge is now blocking access to sites from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

Since 2003, the SourceForge.net Terms and Conditions of Use have prohibited certain persons from receiving services pursuant to U.S. laws, including, without limitations, the Denied Persons List and the Entity List, and other lists issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security. The specific list of sanctions that affect our users concern the transfer and export of certain technology to foreign persons and governments on the sanctions list. This means users residing in countries on the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanction list, including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria, may not post content to, or access content available through, SourceForge.net. Last week, SourceForge.net began automatic blocking of certain IP addresses to enforce those conditions of use.

In all the commentary I am seeing, nobody has asked the very simplest and perhaps most obvious of questions: Why now?

These terms have been in place for nearly 7 years now. (The Entities list has existed since 1997)

Lets forget for the minute that one hell of a lot of the software hosted by Sourceforge is developed with the help of, or even entirely by, people living outside the U.S.

Lets also bear in mind that SourceForge has claimed that this is because of the “transfer and export of certain technology” to foreign persons and governments on the sanctions list, yet doesn’t give any details about what this technology is?

Surely everything on SourceForge can’t contain dangerous technology? Why not just restrict the programs which contain those technologies?

Not to mention the fact that everybody knows that any idiot, never mind some evil axis human overlord wannabe wouldn’t be able to use a proxy or Tor to get past the IP filtering!

Or is there something more at play here?

Google and China perhaps? Did the U.S. government pay SourceForge a call and “politely” remind them that these laws exist? Maybe because the government wants to show that it is willing to enforce it’s laws and send a subtle hint to China that the hacking of U.S. companies and theft of their I.P. might get them added to these lists?

I find it very hard to believe that the guys at SourceForge have had a sudden moment of conscience and, out of the blue, decided to comply with laws that have existed for almost 12 years and to their own terms and conditions which they have ignored for the past 7 years.

When Will The Web Stop Being U.S. Centric?

I’ve given out before about the fact that America and American internet users are not the end all and be all of the web.

In fact, if every single internet user in North America were to shuffle off this mortal coil simultaneously then the internet would loose less than 1/7th (one seventh) of its user base.

Just compare the numbers for 2009 as posted by Royal Pingdom and ask yourself why people look to America and the U.S. market for everything when even the European market has almost double the users?

  • 1.73 billion – Internet users worldwide (September 2009).
  • 18% – Increase in Internet users since the previous year.
  • 738,257,230 – Internet users in Asia.
  • 418,029,796 – Internet users in Europe.
  • 252,908,000 – Internet users in North America.
  • 179,031,479 – Internet users in Latin America / Caribbean.
  • 67,371,700 – Internet users in Africa.
  • 57,425,046 – Internet users in the Middle East.
  • 20,970,490 – Internet users in Oceania / Australia.

us centric globe