Bits – 22 January 2017

Bits is back! With a different name and focus, though. It used to be “Bitcoin Bits”, but I’m going to drop the “Bitcoin” because 1) it’s soooo 2015, and 2) the scope will not just be bitcoin or even blockchain, but will expand to include anything I find interesting.

Plus, I now curate the CoinDesk newsletters, and the Weekly has a roundup of good blockchain-related articles from the mainstream media. No need to duplicate that. (You can subscribe here.) I’ll probably include blockchain-related stuff here (just not today), while taking care to avoid a conflict of interest.

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Some moving and thought-provoking articles found this week:

The America We Lost When Trump Won”, by Kevin Baker for The New York Times

“From assorted commentators I have heard that it is unfair or condescending to say that all Trump voters were racists, or sexists, or that they hated foreigners. All right. But if they were not, they were willing to accept an awful lot of racism and sexism and xenophobia in the deal they made with their champion, and demanded precious few particulars in return.”

Why 2017 May Be the Best Year Ever”, by Nicholas Kristof for The New York Times

“Remember: The most important thing happening is not a Trump tweet. What’s infinitely more important is that today some 18,000 children who in the past would have died of simple diseases will survive, about 300,000 people will gain electricity and a cool 250,000 will graduate from extreme poverty.”

WhatsApp, Signal, and dangerously ignorant journalism“, by Jon Evans, TechCrunch

“Whether we like it or not, usability is an essential aspect of security. Any “secure” systems which pretend this is not true will fail from disuse.”

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(by  Mantas Kristijonas Kuliešis, via My Modern Met)

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I had to read this headline twice:

“Scientists have caught viruses talking to each other—and that could be the key to a new age of anti-viral drugs”

(from Quartz)

I didn’t know that talking to each other could cause them to catch a virus… Until I realized that the viruses were talking to each other. Sentence structure can be tough…

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Some great tweets from the past week:

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And check out the difference between these two headlines:

With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift 

(New York Times article here)

White House press secretary attacks media for accurately reporting inauguration crowds

(CNN article here)

It may seem like they say the same thing. But they don’t.

The first is objective reporting, even if it calls Trump’s claims “false”. It can be verified that they are false. The article quotes authorities that contradict the allegations, and back-up of those negations would not be hard to find if anyone decided to dig deeper. Neither the headline nor the article say that Trump was being unfair, just that his claims were false. True, emphasis was on the ridiculousness (my interpretation, it wasn’t explicit) of his CIA speech and his press secretary’s version of the inauguration. But the tone was objective.

The second, however, sounds like a “I’m right and you’re wrong” gripe. “My reporting was accurate” is a brave claim to make, and when it’s positioned next to an accusation of “attack”, it almost sounds whiny (even though the NYT headline used the same strong word).

Conclusion: while both headlines seem to convey the same message (Trump is off his rocker), the first seems like good reporting and the second seems like a complaint.

In what is turning out to be a petulant start to the next administration, it would be a pity if respected news organisations descended to the same level of finger-pointing and whining.

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