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Wednesday News: The Washington Post’s new CEO, Disney v Deadmau5, pseudonymity enhances commenting, and red “warps the mind” (?)

Wednesday News: The Washington Post’s new CEO, Disney v Deadmau5, pseudonymity...

Jeff Bezos Ends Washington Post Publishing Dynasty With Politico Alum – So after a year of owning The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos is replacing Publisher and CEO Katharine Graham Weymouth with Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., a former member of Ronald Reagan’s presidential administration and co-founder of Politico. Weymouth will be staying on for a year to smooth Ryan’s transition into power, but the new appointment is definitely raising questions — and some eyebrows:

Bezos declined to comment, but in a letter to the staff Weymouth said it was time to “explore new opportunities” and that “it is time for new leadership.” Ryan has experience at one of the leading digital politics sites, but as The Post notes Ryan, who was a top presidential aide, is “certain to raise questions about the direction of The Post’s editorial page.” –The Wire

TRADEMARK: Disney Makes Good on Deadmau5 Extermination Threat Read more: TRADEMARK: Disney Makes Good on Deadmau5 Extermination Threat – So Disney is now going after Deadmau5, who has filed for trademark of a logo also makes use of cartoonish mouse ears. Citing consumer confusion in their 171-page oppositional filing, Disney is either protecting its trademark (which is a necessary duty of trademark holders) or exercising predatory behavior, depending on your perspective. Deadmau5′s trademark filing can be accessed here, and according to a comment on Twitter seems undeterred by Disney’s action.

Disney lays claims to the representation going back to ‘at least 1928? (the year Steamboat Willie and Mickey Mouse were introduced to the world) and goes on to demonstrate the use of said mouse ears in several commercial uses, but also relies heavily on the fame of Mickey Mouse himself, citing the popularity of the 1950?s television series, ‘The Mickey Mouse Club,’ and states that mouse ears have been a core element of Disney’s consumer products ‘at least as early as 1955.’ –Stich Kingdom

Research shows that if you remove anonymity, you won’t hear from most of your readers – Honestly, I’m amazed this is a debate at all, but then I’ve been working with speech issues for more than a decade now, and have absolutely no trouble believing that the study cited in this Gigaom article and additional research by Disqus demonstrate that forcing people to comment under their real names disincentivizes engagement on the part of some of the most ardent and consistent site users/readers.

What that means in practice is that if a site like The Huffington Post or ESPN requires their users to login with Facebook or provide a “real” identity in some other way, they are likely shutting out as many as 80 percent of their readers. While at least some of these may be trolls or bad actors of some kind, it’s reasonable to assume that a significant number are loyal members of that site’s community, who may have something important or worthwhile to contribute. As David Williams, community manager for CNN Digital, said in an interview with Managing Communities:

Anonymous commenting isn’t the problem. The problem is when commenters feel anonymous. It is really important to let your community know that you’re listening and that you value what they have to say… If you don’t pay attention, people will misbehave until you are forced to pay attention. –Gigaom and Disqus

How the colour red warps the mind – So color psychology looks at the effect of colors on mood, perception, and behavior. Red, long perceived as a power color (which may explain why boys, and not girls, used to be associated with pink, as screwed up as the whole blue/pink dichotomy is), is now being studied for its potential effects on any number of behaviors, from athletic matches (who wins) to romantic gestures. As usual, I’m skeptical of the overlap between social conditioning and physiological effect.

Perhaps the most studied effect concerns the shade’s association with desire, seduction, and sin – a link that can be seen in everything from the Scarlet Whore of Babylon to Chris de Burgh’s Lady in Red. A string of experiments, by Elliot and other colleagues, have all confirmed that men and women are both rated as being more attractive when wearing red compared to other shades. Although many of the studies were conducted in the laboratory, with subjects passively rating static photos, it also seems to translate to real-world behaviour; waitresses in red also tend to get bigger tips from male customers, for instance; wearing a red t-shirt can also increase female hitchhikers’ chances of getting a ride. –BBC Future

Friday News: BuzzFeed is following you, Amazon, Hachette, and DRM, interesting beauty experiment, and online content v. comments

Friday News: BuzzFeed is following you, Amazon, Hachette, and DRM, interesting...

BuzzFeed is Watching You – In my everlasting quest to understand the phenomenon that is BuzzFeed, I come across pieces like this. Which makes me think of Facebook. Which makes me even more wary of BuzzFeed and its seemingly enormous online reach. Want to know what kinds of information BuzzFeed likes to collect about you — especially when you’re taking those nifty quizzes, check out Dan Barker’s breakdown. And be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

In other words, if I had access to the BuzzFeed Google Analytics data, I could query data for people who got to the end of the quiz & indicated – by not checking that particular answer – that they have had an eating disorder. Or that they have tried to change their gender. Or I could run a query along the following lines if I wished:

Show me all the data for anyone who answered the “Check Your Privelege” quiz but did not check “I have never taken medication for my mental health”. –Dan Barker

How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage – Well, this is interesting. While I think the article’s title is bullshit, I love the idea that Hachette’s dogged support of DRM is now turning back on them. Amazon, the argument goes, is putting their DRM on Hachette’s books, which means that Hachette cannot engage in encouraging people to buy their digital books from other outlets, stripping DRM, and reading them on their Kindle. I don’t know how big a deal this really is, given the number of people who already do strip DRM, but it is a nice little illustration of how antediluvian DRM has become in our rapidly evolving digital marketplace.

It is an own-goal masterstroke. It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can’t afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers. The law of DRM means that neither the writer who created a book, nor the publisher who invested in it, gets to control its digital destiny: the lion’s share of copyright control goes to the ebook retailer whose sole contribution to the book was running it through a formatting script that locked it up with Amazon’s DRM. –The Guardian

Before & After – Esther Honig introduces her project by noting that “In the U.S. Photoshop has become a symbol of our society’s unobtainable standards for beauty. My project, Before & After, examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level.” So she sent an unadorned photo of herself to 40 individuals in 25 countries and asked them to use Photoshop to “make her beautiful.” The experiment is intended to demonstrate different standards of beauty in different cultural contexts. Honig is caucasian, which significantly limits and qualifies the results, I think (e.g. are the Photoshoppers interpreting the standard of beauty relative to the model or to their own cultural/racial/national/ethnic standards), and it would be really cool if the project could be more diversified in regard to the model, but I think the concept is fascinating and revealing, and is something to build on. –Esther Honig

Social media is important for journos but let’s keep things in proportion – Perhaps some of those websites that have shut down comments might instead want to post a copy of this article for readers to chew on. Here’s the upshot: a ridiculously small proportion of people who read articles online actually comment, and those who don’t comment are often the ones who consider information and arguments without the need to let everyone witness the friction their braincells produce in the form of commentary. Boy, do we all need to remember this, because, as the article points out, if we become too consumed by online comments, our content can be ruled by them — or, more importantly, by fear of or desire for them.

Martin Belam, digital editor at the Trinity Mirror group, crunched the numbers and made a startling calculation. If 2,600 people post at least 40 comments each, then their total must be more than 104,000, which means that a maximum of 496,000 comments are written by everyone else. In other words, at least 20 per cent of the comments on the website each month come from just 0.0037 per cent of the Guardian’s declared monthly audience.
. . .
Let me make the counter-argument. The vast majority of readers do not comment on articles or write to journalists using Twitter. Instead, these people read, consider the arguments and reach their own conclusions, without leaving much of a digital footprint. That it is extremely difficult – impossible, even – to decipher what they believe does not mean they do not exist. Indeed, they are often exactly the people who may consider changing their minds. The silent majority, sceptical and open to new arguments, is the very audience journalists should try to reach. –New Statesman