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Month: April 2009

Syllabus for parody course too true

One of the great things about parody, of course, is that it is all at once funny and not-funny-because-it’s-too-true. Robert Lanham has produced a syllabus for a course called Internet-Age Writing, and it makes me laugh and cry, just like those people I heard about in a student’s speech who named their dog “Fungus.” What worries me is the number of people who will not get the cultural references on either side of this thing. Note: if you skim it instead of read it, you are already Too Far Gone.

Likeability and competence are related, but not the same

Liz Strauss has some good insights into the relationship of these two elements of credibility, as well as some good observations about the possible effect that social networking media have on perceptions we develop of people through those media. Check out her article “Hidden Assumptions and Business Likeability.”

Look behind the curtain

As someone who tries to teach students about evidence, support, reasoning, etc., stuff like this just makes me mad, and I”m not sure if it’s because the cartoonist is ignorant of basic background information and economics, or because he thinks his  readers are that ignorant, or because he’s right. (I’m sure he’s right a lot, I’m just not sure how right).

The cartoon is correct as far as it goes, but it leaves out a key point, a point that would establish whatever blame there is in this more accurately.

Even if you didn’t know about the Community Reinvestment Act (which we’ll consider in a moment), a little bit of thinking based on what’s presented here should bring you to a different conclusion than the cartoonist implies, and it’s contained in this statement: “And taxpayers with no connection to the bank had to pay all the money to fix it.”

The eye-opening question should be: “Why?” To expand a little bit, “Why did the taxpayers have to fix it?” Because they told the banker ahead of time through their congresscritters that they would. Continue reading

US Patent Office: Blackboard didn’t invent what it claims

Barry Dahl sums it up and comments on it; D2L announces it succinctly. Bottom line: D2L’s pre-existing art shows Blackboard just didn’t invent what it says it invented, so there is no patent infringement.

Pardon me while I offer an editorial opinion, that is mine alone (i.e., it does not necessarily represent the opinion of anyone except me): duh! Now, Bb, can you leave them alone so they can focus on educating students instead of enriching lawyers?

Full US Patent Office report is available in PDF format.

Intellectual property in the age of blogs

Merlin Mann keeps the 43 Folders site. In “Free as in ‘Me’” he does an elaborate but interesting examination into issues of intellectual property and ownership that go beyond the merely commercial. My opinion: the assumption that intellectual property is mainly about commercial interests taints the discussion on the part of both proponents of protecting intellectual property and opponents. Commercial interests matter, but mainly because of far larger issues that lie behind commercial interests and transcend them.

Given the nature of the article, I am certainly not going to summarize it–not because I fear Mann’s reaction (I doubt he’ll ever know about this post), but because I respect his point, and I would like for you to see what he has to say.

A new look at journalism

Kristen King (no relation to me, as far as I know) attended the Region 2 conference of the Society of Professional Journalists, and shared her summaries of several of the sessions. This is very useful information for information workers of any sort, but particularly for journalism and even PR students. This is boiled-down, pure, cutting-edge information. Take the time.

Thinking in terms of benefits

Speech and PR students, listen up: “Website Copy with Benefits: James’ Take” gets at a critical component of persuasion concretely. Unsurprisingly, it gets at audience analysis, in the sense of “understanding your audience, look at it from their point of view.” Go, go, read it all. Please, before your next persuasive speech or copywriting exercise.

Writing for audio gives speech insights

Producers of audio material (for example, educational or motivational CDs) have a writing task not unlike that faced by speakers. They seek to prepare for the delivery of solid information in a conversational manner. Because of that, Brian Clark’s post concerning “Four Copywriting Techniques for Engaging Podcasts and Audio Presentations” comprises useful ways of thinking about a speech and “writing” it.

The myth of government source reliability

When we teach speech students about evaluating sources, we usually tell them that government figures are more reliable than others. We teach journalism students the same thing. Maybe the operative word here is “more” and “than others.”

The greater lesson, perhaps, is to be skeptical of anything that any source tells you until you see the original data and understand how it was gathered and what it means.

As FOXNews reports in The Myth of 90 Percent, a “fact” that has been floated around by a whole bunch of government officials and passed on uncritically by a number of media outlets is just flat wrong, i.e., the “fact” that 90% of the guns used in Mexican crime comes from the United States.

It’s not just a little wrong. It’s a lot wrong. A more accurate way to look at the facts is this: about 17% of recovered weapons used in a crime in Mexico could be traced to the U.S. Continue reading

Why we need problem-solving skills

According to everything I’m reading, this is not an April Fool’s joke. A woman in Kissimmee, Florida, called 911 because she was locked in her car. She was locked in her car because nothing electrical was working, and her car had electric door locks.

Yep, that’s right. She didn’t know what that little plunger thingie up by the window was for. After all, it wasn’t electric.

Here’s the actual recording of the call.

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