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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Storm CLOUD in a teacup

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , ,

or How Ghosts in the Machine Provide Comic Relief.

It's odd how technology can provide unintended humor sometimes. The latest incident has to do with how a tag cloud (or more precisely, a search criteria cloud) displayed on New Straits Times (NST) online alluded to a not-so-complementary statement about Tun Dr. Mahathir.

Image hosting by PhotobucketAttack of the Ghost in the Machine
(taken from Rocky's Bru screen-capture yesterday)

Walski first noticed this yesterday afternoon, and the same phenomenon was highlighted by Rocky's Bru later the same day. Rocky seems to think that Kali, Brendan and the crew was up to more mischief again.

Tag clouds, by the way, are a nice way to present a weighted list, such as how Technorati tags are displayed, in a visual way to represent which tag is used more, or the frequency searches for these tags are requested.

But nice technology can sometimes produce unintended results, as this stormy cloud has shown. And the unintended result, of course, is further mistrust of a media house already synonymous with bending the truth, and adding bias to how news gets reported. But Walski had a good laugh over it, nevertheless.

The same stormy cloud observation was made on the Malaysian Bloggerhood Penghulu's site (at this post). Penghulu Jeff also posted an update, giving another perspective.

Ironically, it's been the NST group that's been very vocally against the Tun, particularly with respect to the on-going war of tongues between TDM and Pak Lah, over certain questions raised by the Tun. Not surprising, though, being the Government's mouthpiece and all that.

Walski's take on this? Ghosts in the Machine playing a mischevious prank on us all...
(more ghostly pondering in the full post)

Incidentally, NST has modified the way the search criteria cloud is displayed, as of this morning. But what they have done is merely make it less obtrusive to the eye, displaying a significantly smaller cloud box.

Image hosting by PhotobucketScreen-shot of NST taken earlier this morning

Despite this, zooming in shows that there is still the possiblity of inadvertently sending out unintended insinuations.

Image hosting by Photobucket"Datuk-Mahathir-Police-who-Rape"?

Walski suggests that NST changes their algorithm to instead display the number of searches for each search term, rather than displaying those terms in a cloud configuration. Clouds are neat, no doubt, but not all technology can be blindly applied in all instances. NST has shown us why.

And the whole NST cloud thing has become the catalyst for another wave of NST-bashing (see comments related to the Rocky's Bru post, as well as the two Screenshots posts, here and here). As much as Walski thinks that the New Straits Times group of newspapers aren't worth the newsprint they're printed on, the whole uproar is pretty much a storm in a teacup. At worst, it's simply a case of careless technology misapplication, and we shouldn't get too excitable over small things like this.

Having said that, one commenter at Rocky's Bru did make a valid point, that NST should be a lot more careful with these snafus.

Or maybe the Ghosts in the Machine are teaching NST a bitter lesson of karmic justice? You know - what goes around, comes around? Truth, they say, is many times, stranger than fiction - NST's version of the truth, stranger still...

Image hosting by PhotobucketWalski's (somewhat) totally unrelated music trivia tidbit: "Ghost in the Machine" is the title of The Police's 4th studio album, released in 1981. The title was inspired by Arthur Koestler's essay, "The Ghost in the Machine". Sting, in his younger days was an avid reader of Koestler's work, which also became the inspiration for a later album, Synchronicity. Ghost in the Machine features some of the more memorable songs by The Police, including "Spirits in a material world", "One World (not three)", "Invisible Sun", and 8 other classics. (Information presented here was excerpted from Wikipedia)