Interesting Stuff on the Web: 12/28/09

Cat Cams: What DO Cats Do Home Alone?

Based on the photos, about 22 percent of the cats’ time was spent looking out of windows, 12 percent was used to interact with other family pets and 8 percent was spent climbing on chairs or kitty condos. Just 6 percent of their hours were spent sleeping.

[…]  The 777 photos studied by Villarreal showed the cats looking at a television, computer, DVDs or other media 6 percent of the time and hiding under tables 6 percent of the time.

Coming in at 5 percent was playing with toys; eating or looking at food finished at 4 percent.

There goes the theory that cats just lay around sleeping all day.

Lessons from Obama’s first year

A decent analysis of Obama as a person and a president.

As books go beyond printed page to multisensory experience, what about reading?

A fairly extensive article on the developing technology of reading.

Adding Fees and Fences on Media Sites

People who have studied the problem argue that charging online would work only if consumers were offered a much-improved product with the convenience of access anywhere, on any digital device — the core idea behind the magazine consortium and its planned online store.

By that standard, much of the talk of wringing more money from Internet users rings hollow, said Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University and a prominent blogger on media subjects. “People who really think we have to charge or the industry is sunk would be more persuasive if they said at the same time we have to add more value than we’ve been adding,” he said.

And, most industry experts agree, entertainment will be easier to charge for than news. It may be hard to prevent free distribution of an episode of “The Office” or “NCIS,” but the product is unique, with no substitute being created by someone else.

A small number of publications already charge for Internet access, including The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Newsday, Consumer Reports and The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. But they tend to be either specialty products or near-monopolies in local markets, and they generally do not charge enough to fundamentally alter their profit pictures.

But for most general-interest news, any paid site would be competing with alternative versions of the same articles, delivered by multiple free news sources.

“One of the problems is newspapers fired so many journalists and turned them loose to start so many blogs,” Mr. Mutter said. “They should have executed them. They wouldn’t have had competition. But they foolishly let them out alive.”

I’ve never had a subscription to a newspaper or even any mainstream news magazine.  Even with speciality magazines, I only by them rarely and have only had one subscription in my adult life.  When I go to work, there is are various local newspapers laying around that I read sometimes, but that was true before the internet as well.  I actually read the newspaper more since the newspapers have gone online.  If I read a an article in a physical publication, it’s not unusual for me then to visit the article on the web to see if there are comments.

I’m not willing to pay nor will I ever be willing to pay for most publications.  However, I might be willing to pay for a site that provided access to a wide variety of publications.  At the moment, the only online products I’m willing to pay for are Netflix, Rhapsody and certain tv shows available from Amazon Video On Demand.  Oddly, though, I spend maybe most of my time watching Hulu which is a free service supported by advertising. 

I agree with the article that there is, however, a big difference between news and entertainment.  There are plenty of free online news sources and many of them are quality, but I actually enjoy quite a bit the online news sources that only came into existence after the internet.  As long as quality free news reporting, I won’t feel very motivated to support large news organizations that have high overhead.  The only way I’d feel overly motivated to pay for access to a news website is if they offered massive investigative reporting, long interviews with experts rather than just professional tallking heads, and in-depth analysis and commentary.  At present, the major paid news sources aren’t offering anything worth paying much for.

Gay Candidates Get Support That Causes May Not

Some political scientists say the rise in openly gay candidates’ winning public office is a better barometer of societal attitudes than are the high-profile fights over same-sex marriage.

“Gay marriage ballot measures are not the best measure,” said Patrick J. Egan, a political scientist at New York University who studies issues surrounding gay politicians. “They happen to be about the one issue the public is most uncomfortable with. In a sense, they don’t give us a real good picture of the opinion trend over the last 30 years.”

For instance, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago has been polling people since 1973 about whether homosexual behavior is morally wrong. In 1973, 73 percent of the people polled described it as always wrong and only 11 percent as “not wrong.” By 2006, those saying homosexuality was “always wrong” had dropped to 56 percent, and 32 percent said it was not wrong.

One reason for the shift in attitudes, some political scientists contend, is a rising number of gays acknowledging their sexual preference openly in various walks of life, from workers on factory floors to Hollywood stars.

“More and more people have been coming out,” said Sean Theriault, a political scientist at the University of Texas who tracks gay politics. “Ten years ago, you could talk to a lot of people who didn’t know a single gay person, and now, especially in the cities, you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know anyone who is gay.”

Yet, most of the openly gay politicians who have won races recently have done so by avoiding being labeled as single-issue candidates, several gay politicians said.

[…] their opponents are often unwilling to attack them directly about their sexual orientation, though smear campaigns often are carried out through proxies, as happened in Houston.

[…]  One key to victory for gay politicians has been building reputations in their communities as candidates well qualified for the job. Voters who may be uncomfortable with homosexuality in the abstract are often willing to vote for a gay individual they feel they know, political strategists said.

[…]  “It’s like anything else,” Ms. Valdez said in an interview. “When it becomes close and personal, it’s not hateful anymore.”

Despite the politicians and the news media focusing on divisive wedge issues, homosexuality has become socially acceptable and normalized.  The wedge issues will remain potent political fodder for some time to come, but they’ll become ever less useful as campaign platforms.  The problem the GOP is experiencing now is that their focus on divisive issues is dividing the party itself and so many people have stopped identifying as Republicans.

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