Gongol.com Archives: April 2010
Brian Gongol

April 13, 2010

Science and Technology The laws that govern your Internet privacy haven't really been updated since 1986
In an era when it's difficult to get Americans to agree on a wide range of social issues, there is considerable room for improvements to laws governing subjects upon which we all might agree, like technology. It should be to our shame that the main statute governing the privacy of electronic communications comes from an age before Prodigy (much less Google or Facebook), and that it fails to apply a consistent standard to the communications tools many of us use every day. The law has to keep pace with the technology, or else it will be abused and so will the people.

Agriculture Thousand-year-old mounds show that ancient farmers were quite clever
It appears that they figured out how to mound the soil in areas that flooded often, creating well-fertilized lands for raising crops where otherwise the conditions would have been prohibitive. One has to wonder sometimes whether we appreciate just how sophisticated the human brain has been for thousands of years -- well before we had the technology to communicate with one another -- and how much we have left to gain in terms of improved human welfare, just through the better distribution of what knowledge we collect. Sometimes we get so caught up in the latest announcements about what the technology might be (Microsoft's new Kin phone is just the latest example), without realizing that what really matters is that we use those tools for knowledge transfer between people and (especially) across generations. That we can use our phones to take videos and check stocks might be superficially satisfying, what we really need to do with that technology is make sure we're teaching and learning all the time. Are we using our knowledge to better understand saving and investing, or are we just pursuing stock tips? Are we learning how to raise a little food at home, or just trying to find out who's the Foursquare mayor of the corner coffee shop? (If there's a more pointless endeavor than telling the world where you are on Foursquare, it might just be better not to know.)

Science and Technology Twitter introduces its monetization method
Promoted posts from paid advertisers will get special treatment in search pages, much like the paid links found in Google. Gather ye rosebuds, Twitter: Your time as top dog in the microblogging universe is limited.

Broadcasting Have the bosses at WGN Radio gone completely mad?
They've hired a convicted felon to do their evening show, booted one of the most-listenable sports shows anywhere from the air, and made it pretty clear that they don't want the funny and talented Steve Cochran around anymore. Under ordinary circumstances, it would be completely insane for a radio host to try to do six straight hours of talk radio, but with things going that far off the rails in Chicago, perhaps the reasonably amusing John Williams is just setting up a backup plan by getting an afternoon show on WCCO in Minneapolis following his four-hour shift on WGN. It will be completely impossible for him to keep up that long a stretch of live radio with any degree of quality -- a good show requires twice as much prep time as live airtime -- but with management apparently determined to completely dismantle everything that made WGN a legendary station, Williams is probably just getting an insurance policy on his future by picking up the WCCO gig. It's really sad.

Water News Old warships battle the environment now