Is CNN Calling For Curbs On Free Speech?

On July 23, 2010, CNN anchors Kyra Phillips and John Roberts discussed on air the idea that bloggers should be somehow “held accountable” or perhaps regulated in some way. Here’s the video of that exchange.

It’s no secret that CNN and other so-called mainstream media outlets, both broadcast and print, have had for some time now an ongoing loss of viewers and readers. A number of traditional journalists from time to time have had and expressed an almost open hostility towards bloggers and the Internet. They perceive the Internet as a threat to their business models, and their vaunted self-appointed job as information “gatekeepers.”

If you look back over the past few years, almost every major story, particularly scandal stories, originated first on blogs. In many cases the mainstream media were dragged kicking and screaming into reporting stories. The clearly forged National Guard documents that ultimately ended up forcing CBS to fire evening news anchor Dan Rather comes to mind from a few years ago. Bloggers quickly picked up on the fact that the supposed National Guard documents had been typed up in the default template for Microsoft Word and then ran through a fax and/or copy machine a number of times to make the documents look dirty and/or old. The trouble was, Microsoft Word didn’t exist in 1973. If it weren’t for bloggers, this story would have likely never come to public light, and what is clearly a forgery and a made-up story would have passed into the public mind as the truth.

Should free speech be curbed? Should bloggers somehow be licensed or officially regulated in what is purportedly a free country? Should we be forced to get our news from “professional” or even “licensed” journalists?

Mini Review of SquareSpace.Com

From time-to-time I develop websites for clients and they generally want something reasonable (cheap) and easy to Squarespacemaintain. I’ve been hearing about a new company, SquareSpace, and how great it was so I decided to try it for myself. I was generating a proposal to update a website and decided to implement a prototype in Squarespace so the client could actually test drive my ideas.

I signed up for the 14 day free trial and watched a few “getting started” videos to help understand the interface. The site uses a visual interface and it’s very easy to get started. You pick a template style and color scheme depending on the type of site you want to create: blog, photo gallery, commercial/business. The templates are just a starting point because everything can be customized. You can even start with a blank screen and build your site from scratch. The templates are really CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) pages that can be customized by a visual interface or directly adding/modifying the CSS code.

In the site editor you can add pages and sections in sidebars that appear on every page. When you create a page or section you specify what “widget” to use. Widgets determine the type of content you want to add (journal/blog, html/text, links, search, map, forum, etc.). You can add/remove widgets and even change templates on the fly.

The site editor has four modes: Style Editor, Structure Editor, Content Editor, and Preview. The Style editor is where you pick/change your template, change column layouts, adjust fonts, colors and sizes, and customize the CSS. The Structure editor is where you add sections and pages. The Content editor is the section you will use the most after your site is configured the way you want it. This is where you add blog content, upload photos to your gallery, and change the information that your visitors will see. The last mode, Preview, shows you what your visitors will see when they visit your site.

Since this is a mini review I won’t go into all the details but I will tell you that I had a simple site up and running in four hours without any CSS or HTML coding. The site was mostly functional but it didn’t have the exact look and feel I wanted. I started switching templates to find a feature or a look I wanted for certain parts of my site and looked to see how it was implemented. In some cases it was a simple setting change in the visual interface and in others it was CSS overrides that made the difference (this is where watching the advanced help videos really helped). In one case I wanted to create a HTML page and add links to other pages. Since the linked pages were not created through the normal “add page” process, I couldn’t find a way to do it. I searched the Squarespace Help forum and found a mention of creating a hidden section on the sidebar and creating my pages there. This worked but seemed to be a kludge in the overall design.

Squarespace pricing starts out at $8/month for the Basic package and runs to $50/month for the Community package. You will need the $14/month Pro package if you want to map the website you create to your own domain name.

Pros:

  • Easy to create a website in minutes.
  • Lots of features for creating, maintaining, and monitoring your site.
  • Import content from other blogging sites: WordPress, Movable Type/Type Pad, and Blogger.
  • Detailed website analytics available.
  • Private site areas (password protected) and multiple editors.
  • Supports RSS and iTunes tags.
  • 100% customizable.
  • Great pricing.

Cons:

  • Website must be hosted by SquareSpace.
  • May require some HTML and CSS knowledge to really tweak the site the way you want (you may need to hire a consultant to finish the design).
  • No direct support for adding audio and video content. You can embed flash players using HTML Injection points but that feature is not available in the Basic or Pro packages. This may be supported with new widgets in the future.

In conclusion I was very impressed with what Squarespace offers. They have so many great features that I can’t possibly talked about of all of them here. I would suggest checking it out for yourself (14 day free trial) if for no other reason than to see how easy it is to create your own website.

73’s, Tom

State of the Blogsphere

David Sifry’s state of the Blogsphere has been released and some of the numbers are truly incredible. A new blog is being created every second of every day. Along with the numbers of posting after 3 months is on the increase. Good read as always. [www.sifry.com]

Blogger users can now use Microsoft word to publish Blog Entries

Seems like Microsoft and Google have jumped into bed and now Blogger users have a cool plugin for word. My question is why did they not create a similar plugin for OneNote that would have been really cool. Now we will see if someone can get Microsoft to make it work with other blogging tools. The API is their and should take about a hour of a good programmers time to do it.. [Blogger]

Apple probably sued Bloggers to keep lid on Intel deal!

Companies will go to great lengths to protect their bottom lines. Just yesterday I was getting my twice monthly Shiatsu session and I was talking with the gentleman that has allowed me to live with less pain. He had a brand new powerbook sitting their, and I asked him what he thought about the Intel deal. His comment was, if I had known they were going to do this I would have waited a year.

I am hearing this comment a lot, and I am sure that Apple will have slower sales in the notebook arena till the next generation of power books are sitting in Apple stores with Intel inside.

Getting back to the point, an article on Infoworld is speculating that Apple did their gestapo tactics to keep the lid on the Intel deal. It was a warning across the bow, you talk about the deal and we will smash you, because we need to make sure that our stock holders get some return on their investment before we make this announcement, which will have sales going south on the powerbook front. [Infoworld]