Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Olympia Snowe, you're next

Slate has a really interesting take on why Olympia Snowe should follow Arlen Specter's lead and jump to the Democratic party. Using a social-Web-style cluster map where Senators are connected if they vote together 65% of the time, it's clear she's pretty much a Democrat already:

Slate didn't add an embed code to this animated map (which is really annoying because they're usually more Web-friendly, being a Web-only magazine and all) so I took a screen capture while mousing over Snowe's dot. As you can see, she's tied to far more Democrats than Republicans already. She's the mirror image of Ben Nelson, the center-right Democrat from Nebraska.

Hell, by this measure, Susan Collins (the the left and slightly below Snowe's dot) is the only true independent left in the Senate. Specter was far more right-leaning than her, but made the jump because of political circumstance. But if you think back to the amount of shit Specter, Snowe and Collins took for supporting the stimulus bill, you can see why they are gravitating away from the Republican Party. This was all only a matter of time.

TPM's "Day in 100 Seconds" video gives you a good look at the reaction from both sides. Please note the Fiddling While Rome is Burning attitude of Michael Steele, who is RNC chair, and thus, in charge of making sure his party grows its electoral clout, not piss it away:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fun Fact Monday: The Milky Way Tastes Like Raspberries

God love the scientists who figured this one out.

(h/t to Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me for bringing this up during his week's show)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Scream F--k If You Love America!

Shep Smith goes ballistic listening to some yahoo try to defend torture as an effective means for the CIA:

Don't "Oops" yourself, Shep. It's good to finally see someone show that level of disgust about the CIA's torturing suspects. It should make everyone furious. I sometimes think Shepard needs to be rescued from Fox News, but I'm glad he's there to every once in a while blurt out some truth on the air.

(h/t: Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Is This a Slugger Which I See Before Me?

(h/t: my pal Jascha)

UPDATE: As it is Patriot's Day, I would be remiss to have a baseball post and not include the greatest Patriot's Day video clip of all time, The "Here Comes a Pizza!" incident of 2007:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Let's Save the Globe!

Dan Kennedy has consistently has some of the most cogent, thoughtful ideas about how to find a new model for newspapers to survive in the Internet age. I strongly recommend anyone interested in the topic go back and read his different pieces on the topic. Hopefully, he'll take my advice and put together an eBook about it.

In his latest post, he advocated the Boston Globe give away Amazon Kindles in return for a three-year subscription, and then stop producing a paper version altogether. I think it's a great, forward-looking premise, but there are some details that maybe should change to make sure this is a working model for the future.
I wrote on his blog:

1. The Kindle is crippled with Amazon's DRM. And the company seems willing to mess with your Kindle if it whenever it wants. The Globe should be careful not to make an exclusivity deal with Amazon, or
2. Skip the Kindle altogether and wait for Plastic Logic's device to come out. It looks to be far superior a device to the Kindle, has a bigger screen and, most importantly, is open source. I think newspaper readers would really prefer the screen real estate Plastic Logic is promising.
Open Source really is key here, because it guarantee's the Globe's content is not a slave to Amazon's device or its business practices. Plus, PL says a second generation device will be foldable, making it even more portable.
3. Consider a paid iPhone app that offers better readability and multi-touch tools than the online version. The idea is to charge for added portability and convenience, so why not try this across several platforms? Palm's coming out with an iPhone competitor, too, so make an app for that. And for Google's Android mobile OS, etc.
In short, what you'd be charging for is not the content, but the enhanced access to that content, and charging advertisers for access to subscribers willing to pay money for what they want. That mirrors the old system of paying for newspapers where consumers paid for subscriptions for access to the content, and advertisers bought ad space for access to those consumers.

I have other ideas for how papers in general (and the Globe in particular) can try to enhance revenue as they transition to a digital-only existence:

1. Grow the social aspects of your sites.'s new commenting system allows users to create profiles, add avatars, and track other people's comments, show a history of their commetns, and more. This is a great idea. If you create a social web and foster a community on your pages, people will return to for their news, instead of relying on RSS feeds and Google news. It gives readers a compelling reason to return and view more pages (and thus, view more ads). It also gives you a chance to more directly target ads to users, which should generate more revenue and a higher asking proce for those ads.

2. Get comfortable linking elsewhere, and being linked from elsewhere. Now that you've created a social element to, make it compatible with facebook, myspace and other social Web sites. I can't tell you how many people link to news stories on their Facebook accounts: Allow users to link what they comment to their facebook account, and make it possible to do so in a single step. Same thing for friendfeed, myspace, digg, reddit, and anything else you can think of.

3. Promote Web specials like blog posts, videos and the like with the same prominence as your news articles. The Globe has hidden away some great features like Globe 10.0 and Take 2 in the bowels of sub pages for sections of the paper. should have a videos, articles, blog posts and a twitter feed on the front page. The videos create drawing power and interest. The articles provide authoritative news. The blogs provide up to date opinion and developing news. The tweets provide up-to-the-moment updates. is a good example of how this might look.

4. Find ways to sell premiums: Your content should be free online, but that doesn't mean it can't make revenue for you in other ways. Make yearbooks for the sports teams, which can include all your coverage for that year. Pitch them to customers as a yearly purchase for their kids as they grow up into big Sox fans. Do the same for election coverage, major issues (like Big Dig coverage), etc. Host live events with your reporters, columnists and staff. Each year, This American Life sells tickets for a live broadcast of their show. I and thousands of others across the country pay $20 to listen to something I get for free every week via podcast and on the radio.

If you enhance your Web site, you can charge more for advertising there. If you create premium access points via eReaders, Mobile phone platforms and the like, you create a new subscriber base. Piecing these things together puts you where your readers now go and makes you relevant again. Don't be afraid to fail, and don't ever, EVER eschew new technology as a fad again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

And Jumpsuits For All

Other headlines I considered for this post:
Creeping Debt
Master of Pantsuits
Enter Sandals Man
Fade to Is the New Black
Leopard-print Messiah

(h/t: My friends Danielle and Ty, who found it as a twitpic, but the original has disappeared)

Monday, April 13, 2009

"It was definitely a piece of work"

It has to be a joke, right? If it's not, then the model (Divine Dutchess, in what will surely be her breakthrough role as "Skank pressed against the Hancock Tower") delivers one of the all-time great non-compliments at the 2:44 mark. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Berto-Approved This Week

  • My beloved and hated city of Revere is going to start buying abandoned properties, fix them up, and sell them to first-time home buyers. In essence, the city is tired out banks that foreclose on properties and then lets them rot like a tomato in the Sun. It's far better to use a non-profit agency to buy the depressed space, put a little money into it, and then sell it, hopefully at a modest profit. It's a smart move that addresses the housing and financial crisis all at the same time. I've said it before about Mayor Ambrosino, but it's nice to have a guy in office who actually cares about the city and not his own pocket.

  • Boston's trying to set up a bike share program like the one they have in Paris. It's a great idea, and shouldn't cost the city any money. So of course, Brett, the Universal Hub crank, hates the idea, and gets spanked pretty hard in the comments. heh.

  • There's this flower called Duckweed, and it apparently grows all over the world. It can survive in wastewater, and has five to six times the starch as corn. And scientists have figured out you can turn it into ethanol with the same process farms all across America use for corn ethanol. So, same process, same legacy costs, but five to six times the energy, which makes it way more cost effective! Hooray Duckweed!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Stuck In My Head: Les Savy Fav

Les Savy Fav have been dominating my iPod lately. Let's Stay Friends has officially made it to the list of albums that consistently resurface for extended play every few months*

This video sort of sums up everything a love and hate about hipsters. The forced quirkiness, the intentional nonchalance, the meticulous dishevelment. All that is lame and makes me nuts. But the music kicks ass, the girl is oddly cute, and the whole thing comes together and is pretty awesome.

*Who else is on that list? Descendents' Somery, Cake's Fashion Nugget, Neil Young's Live in Massey Hall, 1971, Elliot Smith's Either/Or, Radiohead's In Rainbows and OK Computer, The Clash's London Calling, Hole's Live Through This, Nirvana's Unplugged in New York, and a few others. And we're talking about years and years. I've had some of these albums for well over 15 years, and still go back to them.