Archive for April, 2009

Sun 5 Apr 2009 7:00 am   //   Posted in: Transit

The “Long Train”

According to The Daily News, the MTA did a test-run of an F Train with eleven cars, instead of the usual ten (or eight, depending on the kind of car they’re running). The Long Train would help alleviate overcrowding on the F line, one of the slowest, twistiest and most problem-prone subway lines.

Difficulty: The platforms aren’t long enough to accommodate 11 cars. And the MTA can’t invest any money in making things better right now.

My prediction is that crowding will go down once 30-day Metrocards go up to $103 (from $81). A lot of people will start walking, driving, riding bikes, or hopping turnstiles.

(Pictured: Manhattan-bound F Train departing Smith and 9th, 2005)




Fri 3 Apr 2009 7:00 am   //   Posted in: Books

A recommended book

I just finished reading When Skateboards Will Be Free: A Memoir of a Political Childhood by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh. The book recounts Saïd’s life growing up with parents who were members of the Socialist Workers Party. Following marching orders from this fringe political group, his parents acted irrationally, to the detriment of their family. Saïd wrote this book with the best kind of journalistic detachment. We already know that he is totally invested in his own life story, so he has no need to over-explain his feelings. He just writes what he saw, and how he acted. It took courage to write like this. I actually feel wiser for having read his book.

Of course, I have a bias, given that I used to work with Saïd and his now-wife Karen. I met Saïd soon after I moved here in 2002. A fellow cyclist, he taught me the rules of the road for bike riding in New York City. (Rule 1: Buy the $100 bike lock, or your bike will get stolen.) In 2004, he and I organized a series of low-stakes office bets on the outcomes of the presidential primaries. (We both predicted Howard Dean would be elected.) He was one of the good guys at our office.

I’m really pleased to see Saïd’s name on such a high-quality book!




Thu 2 Apr 2009 8:27 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, Media

Bad news

Yesterday afternoon (after my post poking fun at Wired), there was a report of 20 people laid off at Wired.com. Turns out it was more like three. Or maybe it was mostly freelancers. Hard to say. Even Keith Kelly kept it vague in his column today.

The odd thing about the media covering the media is that there are fewer of us. Inevitably, coverage suffers. You need to get the stories right, and post lots of them, and post them fast. I do my best to keep standards high. I tend to avoid rumor stories of the Gawker template: “We’ve heard XYZ, but we can’t confirm. E-mail us if you know more.” Almost nobody ever e-mails in response to those queries. And when somebody does, they’ve often heard the same rumor from somebody who read it on your blog. I still feel bad when I post something that turns out to be inaccurate, so I work hard not to.

But with pressure to write good stories, and lots of them, something else has to give. These days I sometimes I take a pass on a good story just because it will be time-consuming to fact-check. In journalism school terminology, I might be accused of practicing “poor news judgment.” But in J-school they also taught us to fight management for bigger news budgets and spend as much as we could on good journalism. As if.




Wed 1 Apr 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, Technology

Impressions officially recognized as currency

NEW YORK, N.Y. April 1, 2009 — Bowing to pressure from technology companies, major currency exchanges announced today that they will recognize the Impression as a form of money.

Google, Facebook and numerous media companies were expected to immediately switch their accounting systems to Impressions.

“We believe recording Impressions, rather than traditional accounting, is a true measure of our business performance,” said Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL. “Also, effective immediately, we will begin paying our employees and suppliers by driving them Impressions, rather than writing them checks in U.S. dollars.”

Since the Web 2.0 boom began in 2006, programmers, designers, bloggers, writers, photographers, musicians, filmmakers and other content creators have been gradually transitioning to an Impression-based economy. That is, the only payment they earn for their services is massive amounts of viewers visiting the Web sites they create.

“Under the economic model we pioneered, we generate Impressions by aggregating content, and we compensate the content providers by driving traffic to them,” said Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. “The audience dictates whether work is valuable. What could be more democratic?”

Huffington also noted that the new model sidesteps the old-fashioned problems of contracts, taxes and labor relations, since no money ever changes hands.

Through a process known as “linking back,” a site that amasses a wealth of Impressions can drive traffic to other sites, continuing the cycle. A thriving economy has emerged in trading Impressions, but until now it has been difficult, and in some cases impossible, to convert Impressions into any other currency. Some bloggers reported that despite generating thousands of Impressions for their work, they were earning less than $1 a day in advertising revenue, barely enough to pay for the electricity that powers their computers.

Some economists warn that the popularity of free Internet content will lead to rapid Impression inflation. “Web sites can effectively mint impressions,” cautioned New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in a Twitter update that almost instantly generated 250,000 Impressions.

Wired editor-in-chief and leading Internet thinker Chris Anderson said the new Impression-based economy will yield rich dividends, including a limitless supply of free information available to everyone everywhere. Under the “freemium” business model Anderson has advanced, the economy was already on track to converting Impressions into dollars organically. “Declaring Impressions are a new currency is only formalizing an inevitable shift in the economy,” Anderson said. “Just give it time. Yes, more time. I don’t know, a few more years? After the recession! Gimme a break here!”

Some naysayers note that workers are still unable to exchange Impressions for goods and services, leading many media employees to move back in with their parents or eat nothing but Cheerios and ramen noodles.