« A twist on the espresso and books combo | Main | Oslo close-ups »

July 14, 2009

The IT news I couldn't be bothered to report on today

Today's IT news must have set some kind of boredom record. Here's what the internet had to say today.

1. Microsoft is slow

Microsoft announced that Microsoft Office is going online. I replied: "What? They haven't done that already?"

Turns out the announcement is technically old news Even if it weren't, the fact that I hadn't noticed that Microsoft Office Online didn't exist yet, proves that I don't need it, and I've been cheering for ThinkFree and Wikis for some time.

Digi reported on Microsoft's online move in Norwegian, subtly pointing out that this wasn't really sensational. Digi's Eirik Rossen writes:

"This is happening three years after Google launched Google Apps, a year and a half after Microsoft formally revealed a more web-centered strategy, and nine months after announcing their own free web applications,"

My favorite comment was from Stephen Fry on Twitter: Citing Microsoft's "We believe the web has a lot to offer in terms of connectivity", Fry says: "Wow! So ahead of the curve, MS."

2. Some people are not on Twitter

Yesterday I learned via TechCrunch that teenagers aren't using Twitter because it doesn't feel safe. At least, Matthew Robson's friends aren't using Twitter.

Robson, 15, wrote a "report" on teen media habits. Actually, he wrote a blog post about his own friends, but since he happens to be an intern at Morgan Stanley, we'll call this a report on teen media habits. And then we'll give it plenty of coverage in various online news sources.

I think TechDirt's take on this was the best. Under the headline "Teenager Talks About What His Friends Do Online; Media Flips Out", Michael Masnick writes:

"It certainly gives a decent view of what's happening in one kid's social circle. Nothing in it seems all that surprising. Kids communicate a lot on the internet. They don't buy music (oh yeah, he contradicts that "other" questionable study of the day that claimed streaming was replacing downloads by noting that his friends prefer to actually have the files, but don't pay for them). It's difficult to see why this is a big deal, but because Morgan Stanley put its logo on it, suddenly it's getting a ton of coverage from Bloomberg, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Financial Times and others. It's as if none of them have ever thought to actually ask a teenager what kind of media and technology he or she uses. But the key point here is that while there are some useful insights raised by the kid (though, nothing too surprising) it's still just the anecdotal musings of one kid."

Part of the reason Robson's friends don't use Twitter is that they can't be bothered to pay for it. If these kids don't even know how to use Twitter for free, why should we listen to their thoughts on social media?

Furthermore, the most surprising thing I've read from Robson's "report" is that kids are afraid of putting their thoughts out on the web where everyone can read them. Hello? What about LiveJournal and MySpace and every other kind of blog? Does Robson's social circle think that blogs are private? You'd think a Morgan Stanley intern had smarter friends.

Don't get me wrong. It's great that someone is listening to what fifteen-year-olds really have to say, and I'm sure Robson has done an excellent job at explaining his thoughts. The saddest thing about this is the echo of Norwegian media's joy when they discovered Facebook as a source of information on kids. "Hurray! I can count the number of members of this fan group and come off as all insightful about the youth of today." Doesn't anyone talk to children anymore?

3. Internet addiction cannot be cured by electric shock therapy

Yes. Someone actually thought it could be.

Of course, there is a story here. It's about abuse, censorship and horrific maltreatment. But putting that aside (cringing inwardly, but even so) and thinking about the IT angle of this, I'm not really buying the obsession with internet addiction at all.

Last month, Norwegian researcher Petter Bae Brandtzæg concluded that 1 per cent of Norway's internet users suffer from internet addiction. (And yes, that time my magazine mentioned it, but we only quoted the Norwegian version of Reuters/AP)

Back to the story: The reason Brandtzæg knew these people were addicted, was because they spent more than five hours using social media per day. I'll admit I'm not an expert on addiction, but I didn't think that it was diagnosed simply by determining how much the patient is exposed to what he or she is possibly addicted to. Correct me if I'm wrong, but whether or not you're an alcoholic isn't a question of how much you drink, but why you drink and how you feel if you don't.

My job is to be online, so I feel I'm speaking with some authority here: Having a Twitter tab open in your browser for hours at a time doesn't qualify for being in need of medical assistance. But on a more fundamental level: an unhealthy habit is not a disease. Having some kind of problem does not necessarily make you sick. I'm not addicted to eating more potato chips than I should, forgetting to water my plants or buying stuff I don't need. It just happens sometimes. I don't expect anyone to cure me.

And if you think I'm being unnecessarily harsh here, think of it this way: I'm willing to take responsibility for my own constant Twitter-refreshing, in the hope that the authorities will have time to help out with peoples' real (but similarly vague) disorders like chronic fatigue, depression and phobias.

P.S. Italian bloggers are on strike today

I'm obviously sympathetic to bloggers, and I'm obviously against internet censorship. But if someone tells you to shut up, don't respond by shutting up.

I'm working full time at Teknisk Ukeblad this summer, where I write and publish technology news. But it has to be real news.

Posted by Julie at July 14, 2009 8:40 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Not since Stan's dad in South Park have I laughed so much at something addiction-related. (Unfortunately my giggles had to be internal, since I'm at a library)

Posted by: Hanne at July 17, 2009 9:24 AM