Browser-Newsreader M&A?

Last week, Ranchero Software released a public beta of the new version of my favorite computer program, NetNewsWire (NNW). NNW is a news aggregator. In other words, it collects information from websites, like this one, which publish RSS/Atom feeds containing headlines, posts or articles. netnewswireIconlarge.png
In addition to feeling snappier, the new version of NNW includes a number of new features which make the program even more powerful and easy to use. Perhaps the most interesting is the fact that NNW now includes web browsing capability within the program itself. Instead of opening scores of tabs in Safari, one can open scores of tabs in NetNewswire. Unlike Safari, NNW remembers the state you leave it in. This makes it easier to work with a set of open pages without worrying about a crash.
Not only is this feature immediately useful, but suggests that soon the web browser and the news aggregator may simply merge into a single application. While NetNewsWire adds simple browsing, the next version of Safari will add simple news aggregating.
NetNewsWire will soon be able to sync with Bloglines (the kickass web-based news aggregator), making it possible to conveniently read the same news on multiple computers and across different platforms. Bloglines will also sync with FeedDemon and BlogBot, two aggregators for Windows.
marseditIconLarge.png While the aggregator and browser may be merging, the blog editor may be divorcing the aggregator. Earlier versions of NNW Pro included a weblog editor. That weblog editor has left the familiar home of NNW to become its own application, MarsEdit. I am typing this entry in MarsEdit, which is generally an improvement over the NNW weblog editor. All in all, the only feature I find lacking in MarsEdit is the image uploading– it is no easier to use than the image upload feature in the Movable Type web interface. Hopefully an upcoming version MarsEdit will allow one to drag and drop images into the entry edit screen and have the program upload and create thumbnails for multiple photos at once.
Best of all, the new NNW and MarsEdit are free for prior purchasers of NetNewsWire Pro. Yes, free.

Free Stuff!

In addition to trying to addict students by giving away unlimited access, the legal research duopoly (Lexis and West) attempts to win the battle for the legal research clicks of students by giving away free stuff, like this Westlaw-branded Nalgene bottle:
Playing into the idea that lawyers have time for frivolities like hobbies, the bottle came with a carabiner branded with the Westlaw URL, because you never know when and where you might have internet access and need to do some research:
Westlaw: your trusted source for legal research and mountaineering supplies. Well, perhaps a trusted source for legal research. Perhaps the promotional item is not quite sturdy enough to hold more than a water bottle:
(It is somewhat blurry in the photos, but the back of the clip reads “Not for hiking.”)

Radio, Radio

Lately, the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC has explored some interesting topics, including Media Ownership [Real Audio stream] and FCC regulations. The show’s blog hosts additional comments: Media Ownership and What the FCC.
The Media Ownership discussion is part of 30 issues in 30 days— a series of discussions about actual issues in the campaign.
Today, Lehrer discussed sampling and copyright with Robert Greenwald (creator of “Outfoxed,” which I happened to watch last night) and Mike Bell-Smith (creator of Downhill Battle’s Three Notes and Running): Video Sampling.


iPac is a new political action committee which seeks to “preserve individual freedom through balanced intellectual property policy.”

1. Creators of ideas and inventions have the right to be compensated for their work, but not to limit political expression, veto technological innovation, or restrict education and scientific research.
2. Intellectual property laws should be judged by their potential to foster new creativity, as required by the U.S. Constitution.
3. Intellectual property laws should be clear and explicit, so anybody can create without fear of lawsuits.

So far, this group has endorsed six candidates– three Democrats and three Republicans.

Auto Madness

Although he never learned how to drive, Robert Moses championed designing cities to accommodate automobiles. Using state and federal funds as well as public authority revenues from the public authorities, he cut wide highways through the five boroughs and across Long Island while preventing federal funding or Triborough revenues from subsidizing public transportation. Whether this was because of Moses’s personal contempt for the poor or for policy reasons, the result was roads clogged with traffic and no reasonable alternative for travel outside of the city aside from the automobile.
While the Moses philosophy of transportation planning may have waned slightly in the past 25 years, the car-centric philosophy has never disappeared. In the New York Times Magazine, John Tierney writes about advocates of the automobile who argue that public transportation is a crazy socialist idea and that America’s traffic problems will disappear if we get poor people off the road by charging variable access fees for roads: The Autonomist Manifesto (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Road).

These thinkers acknowledge the social and environmental problems caused by the car but argue that these would not be solved — in fact, would be mostly made worse — by the proposals coming from the car’s critics. They call smart growth a dumb idea, the result not of rational planning but of class snobbery and intellectual arrogance. They prefer to promote smart driving, which means more tolls, more roads and, yes, more cars.

The RAND Institute finds that Suburban sprawl is linked to the incidence of many chronic health ailments. RAND researcher Deborah Cohen thinks one way to improve health is to “build cities where people feel comfortable walking and are not so dependent on cars.”
Cities should not have to choose between highways or mass transit. Sensible urban planning requires a balance between mass transit and autonomous transport.

Is the Patent System Broken?

NYY Times: Does the Patent System Need an Overhaul?

Two professors conclude in a new book that a couple of unrelated and seemingly innocuous administrative reforms of the patent system have caused a shift away from encouraging innovation in favor of exploiting patents largely for lawsuits.
Josh Lerner and Adam B. Jaffe have written a book with a title: “Innovation and Its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What To Do About It,” to be published in November by Princeton University Press.


Is The Daily Show the best political reporting on television?

The Annenberg Public Policy Center finds that viewers of The Daily Show are knowledgeable about current political issues.:

Daily Show viewers have higher campaign knowledge than national news viewers and newspaper readers – even when education, party identification, following politics, watching cable news, receiving campaign information online, age, and gender are taken into consideration.

This study does not show that viewers are informed because they watch The Daily Show, but merely that TDS attracts viewers who are more informed than average. The study goes on to praise The Daily Show for using “irony to explore policy issues, news events, and even the media’s coverage of the campaign,” rather than going for quick jokes.
Comedy Central refutes O’Reilly’s claim and finds that “viewers of Jon Stewart’s show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch ‘The O’Reilly Factor,’ according to Nielsen Media Research.”
Informed viewers are watching The Daily Show not only because it is funny, but offers some of the best political reporting on television. Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk looked at this year’s political reporting to date and assembled a “Hall of Not Half Bad and Sometimes Actually Pretty Good.” The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart was the only television journalist among the top 10. It says something about the state of television news when the medium’s top political reporter works for a fake news show.
The Washington Post hosted a chat with TDS Executive Producer Ben Karlin: “Many people in this country have strong bullshit detectors. For some reason, most major media outlets have turned theirs off out of fear of being labeled partisan.”
Previously: Fake Journalists, Real Questions.