A tech writer returns to the internet after a year away from it
Without the retreat of a smartphone, I was forced to come out of my shell in difficult social situations. Without constant distraction, I found I was more aware of others in the moment. I couldn’t have all my interactions on Twitter anymore; I had to find them in real life. My sister, who has dealt with the frustration of trying to talk to me while I’m half listening, half computing for her entire life, loves the way I talk to her now. She says I’m less detached emotionally, more concerned with her well-being — less of a jerk, basically. Additionally, and I don’t know what this has to do with anything, but I cried during Les Miserables. It seemed then, in those first few months, that my hypothesis was right. The internet had held me back from my true self, the better Paul. I had pulled the plug and found the light.— I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet
Even magicians fall victim to online pirating and Chinese knockoffs
Magicians argue that for young people to become interested in magic, and continue the tradition, they need to learn from the masters of the day, and need access to existing tricks. Selling tricks is also how many magicians make enough money to stay in the business. But James has had numerous tricks copied and sold at knock-down prices on Chinese websites - using his name and branding. “They use my advertising, they use my photos, they use my video on their websites, they use my text to sell it. They make it look like it’s my product - only a third the price,” he says.— The magicians who rip off other conjurers’ tricks
Why hasn’t the internet increased our productivity?
For a time, the Labor Department’s productivity figures appeared to support the idea of an Internet-based productivity miracle. Between 1996 and 2000, output per hour in the non-farm business sector—the standard measure of labor productivity—grew at an annual rate of 2.75 per cent, well above the 1.5 per cent rate that was seen between 1973 and 1996. The difference between 1.5 per cent annual productivity growth and and 2.75 per cent growth is enormous. With 2.75 per cent growth (assuming higher productivity leads to higher wages) it takes about twenty-six years for living standards to double. With 1.5 per cent growth, it takes a lot longer—forty-eight years—for living standards to double …. Since the start of 2005, productivity growth has fallen all the way back to the levels seen before the Web was commercialized, and before smart phones were invented. During the eight years from 2005 to 2012, output per hour expanded at an annual rate of just 1.5 per cent—the same as it grew between 1973 and 1996. More recently, productivity growth has been lower still. In 2011, output per hour rose by a mere 0.6 per cent, according to the latest update from the Labor Department, and last year there was more of the same: an increase of just 0.7 per cent. In the last quarter of 2012, output per hour actually fell, at an annual rate of 1.9 per cent. Americans got less productive—or so the figures said.— WHAT HAPPENED TO THE INTERNET PRODUCTIVITY MIRACLE?
Internet journalism is great for international news but terrible for local
State, county, and local coverage almost everywhere in the United States is now significantly worse than it was in the pre-Internet era, when local newspapers enjoyed a virtual monopoly on classified advertising and invested part of the resulting largesse in local reporting. As a curious person who enjoys learning about the world, the rich store of readily available information about Cyprus thrills me, but it does very little to help me better fulfill my civic obligations. Were I living in Rancho Cucamonga, California, a veteran city-hall reporter who improved my understanding of local affairs by just 10 percent would increase my civic utility far more than if I completely mastered the intricacies of events in Cyprus over which I have no influence.— American News Consumers Have Gained the World but Lost Their Backyards
Why you shouldn’t believe the hype over free government wi-fi
The frenzy began Monday morning when the Washington Post reported that “the federal government wants to create super Wi-Fi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month.” Best of all, network access would be free. “If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas,” the Post reported. The clear implication: this was a bold—and entirely brand-new—plan. Unfortunately, the piece was basically nonsense. What had really happened was in fact unbelievably boring: the Post simply observed an incremental development in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) at the Federal Communications Commission over the issue of incentive auctions that might free up some additional unlicensed spectrum for so-called “White Space Devices” (read our explainer) operating in and around the current over-the-air TV bands. (I told you it was boring; in addition, the basic debate over White Space Devices was actually settled in 2008.) From this thin material, which basically consisted of Internet service providers and tech companies sniping at each other in long legal documents, with no decisions being made by anyone and no new proposals of anything, the Post then reported—on the front page, above the fold of the country’s eighth-most highly circulated newspaper—that the FCC plan could lead to free Internet for most US residents.— Wi-Fi “as free as air”—the totally false story that refuses to die