All the fish gone by 2048?

Post ImageIn the last week we’ve heard a lot about recent research that suggests fish stocks will completely collapse by 2048. The research, led by Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, found essentially that marine biodiversity matters. An article at The Economist explains:

The findings suggest that governments should rethink the way they try to manage fisheries. Marine reserves are common in the tropics, but policymakers in temperate countries tend to focus on one species at a time to control numbers of that species caught. They might do better to spend more time thinking about ecosystems and less haggling over quotas.

I guess I’m what economists would call a “frontier” thinker. Now that we know about the issue, I think we’ll be able to apply our science and technology to solve any potential problems. I am pretty confident that by 2048, we won’t have to worry about disappearing fish stocks.

Read: The Economist

Teenagers listening to less radio? I'm shocked!

Post ImageIn case you missed it, that was sarcasm in the title. A sort of recent study by Edison Media Research shows that people aged 12 to 24 are listening to far less radio than they used to. I found this study via Podcasting News, but I hate the fact that they do not link to their sources, so I am not linking to them. Instead you can read about the study right from Edison Media Research (because they deserve the traffic):

A new study by Edison Media Research shows sharp declines in Time Spent Listening (TSL), Persons Using Radio (PUR) and most importantly attitudes about radio among the 12-to-24-age group, the listeners who represent both terrestrial radio’s future and its greatest challenge.

Perhaps of most concern, tracking of questions on attitudes about radio among this crucial group trend down as well. Fewer young people expect radio to be an important part of their future lives.

Almost every teenager I know owns an iPod or some other sort of portable media device. I don’t find it surprising at all that time spent listening for this age group is down. Teenagers today make their own radio station every day by creating playlists.

Read: Edison Media Research

Students using Wikipedia

Post ImageWikipedia has become pretty popular in the last couple years, and I am sure that most students have at least seen the site, even if they don’t use it regularly. I think the online encyclopedia is an excellent resource, full of really great information. I also think it should be treated like any other resource, whether online or offline – with caution. That said, I don’t think there’s any reason students should not use it. An intern at CNET thinks otherwise:

Wikipedia is one of the Internet’s latest additions to the information revolution. More importantly, it’s the reason I was able to finish my massive second-semester AP English research final project in less than 45 minutes.

As the deadline loomed, I knew there was no way I would be able to sort through thousands of Google search results or go to the library to research while simultaneously performing other vital homework completion functions like talking online, reading celebrity gossip and downloading music. So I did what any desperate, procrastinating student would do–I logged on to Wikipedia, pulled up the entries on Renaissance literature and filled in the gaps until I had a presentable product.

Until recently, many kids in my high school, myself included, used Wikipedia without questioning the integrity of its content. Before Colbert highlighted the unreliability of the site’s information, I doubt many people even realized it isn’t an authoritative, credible source.

So please take my advice, students: Wikipedia is a great place to find out about local bands or start doing research. However, before including Wikipedia information in a term paper or using Wikipedia entries to study for exams, make sure you support your findings with more legitimate sources.

So let me get this straight – you’re an advanced placement English student, with a major research project, and you’re waiting until the last minute? Then you rely solely on Wikipedia entries and a few blanks you filled in? As one student to another, I hope you failed. And are you really so unable to think for yourself that you just assume Wikipedia is the be all end all of accurate information? Pretty sad it takes a comedian on television to teach you that it isn’t.

Wikipedia has been found to be just as accurate as Britannica (granted, I would like to see some additional studies back this up). The difference is that Britannica entries are shorter and contain a neutral perspective, while Wikipedia entries can be longer, include multiple perspectives, links to other resources, pictures and other multimedia, and much more. Wikipedia is also able to offer a much wider range of topics, including some very specific articles on niche subjects. There’s no reason to think that Wikipedia can’t be as comprehensive or accurate as traditional encyclopedias, though it varies from article to article. In fact, on average, I bet it is better.

I guess this really isn’t so much about whether students should use Wikipedia or not – to me, it’s clear they should. The point that needs to be made is that students always need to find multiple sources for information they want to use, and they’ve always got to add something extra. Even in a research paper, a little commentary and anaylsis will help your paper rise to the top of the pile when the time comes for it to be graded.

Don’t use only Wikipedia, but don’t be afraid to use it in addition to your other resources either.

Read: CNET

Does the Bush Veto matter?

Post ImageAs you have probably heard by now, US President Bush made the first veto of his presidency yesterday, rejecting legislation that would have expanded federal support for embryonic stem cell research. While I applaud his ability to make a decision and stick to it (something he has done throughout the last six years, for better or for worse) I think that his veto was a little short-sighted. The issue is a touchy one, no doubt, but there is lots of support for such research.

And if I understand things correctly, ignoring the political drama the veto has and will continue to create, it doesn’t really matter anyway. The result of Bush’s decision is that federal funding for such research will not happen any time soon, but that doesn’t prevent private research from taking place. Do some reading on the subject, and you’ll find that medical research is starting to undergo something of a revolution – from taking place only in huge labs and Universities to taking place almost everywhere thanks to recent technology advances, falling costs, and “open source” type methodologies. I think we’ll start to see more and more research happen in the unlikliest of places, without any need for federal funding.

That’s why I think the Bush veto doesn’t matter in the long run.


Podcasting is not more popular than blogging

Post ImageI want podcasting to be as popular as anyone else does (hey, my business depends on it) but at the same time, I am not naive enough to think that podcasting is more popular than blogging. That’s precisely how Podcasting News interpreted some recent Nielsen/NetRatings data however:

Nielsen//NetRatings announced today that 6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population, or 9.2 million Web users, have recently downloaded an audio podcast. 4.0 percent, or 5.6 million Web users, have recently downloaded a video podcast. These figures put the podcasting population on a par with those who publish blogs, 4.8 percent, and online daters, 3.9 percent.

The key word there is “publish” – not people who have read a blog, but people who actually create one. You can’t compare listeners for podcasting to creators for blogs and call it a fair comparison! When the number of people creating podcasts gets to be the same as for blogs, there might be a story.

You’ve really got to think about what you’re reading these days.

Read: Podcasting News

Entrepreneurial Genes

Post ImageBad news for the business associations of the world who try to foster growth in small business – genetics make the entrepreneur, not environment, according to a recent study:

A study of identical twins by researchers in Britain and the United States suggests family environment has little influence because nearly half of a person’s propensity to be self-employed, or entrepreneurial, is due to genes.

The rate of entrepreneurs among twins is the same as in the general population. [Prof. Tim Spector of St Thomas’ Hospital in London] and his team found that identical twins increased the odds of their twins following the same path more than nonidentical twins, which suggests genes are important.

I always knew there was some special about me 😉

While I find this study and it’s conclusions very interesting, I try to keep an open mind. I don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking that genetics determines everything. If they manage to isolate the gene(s) responsible however, I bet someone could turn that into a nice little business!

Read: CNET

Podtrac Survey Results

Post ImageI am happy to see a large number of podcasting surveys and research efforts lately. The latest comes from Podtrac, who claims to have developed the largest podcasting demographics database in the world, with over 55,000 detailed demographic profiles. Some of the findings:

  • 56% of podcast audiences listen to and view podcasts on their computer, compared with 46% on a mobile device.
  • A huge majority, 88%, listen to or view podcast episodes in their entirety.
  • 76% of podcast users are also online shoppers.
  • 41% of U.S. online adults were aware of the term “podcasting” at the end of Q1 2006, compared with just 32% at the end of Q4 2005.

The results are more or less the same as some other similar surveys. Perhaps the only one that seems low is the number that listen/watch on their computers. I think the true number is actually quite a bit higher. I also wonder about the 88% who listen to an entire episode – I am willing to bet that will go down over time.

Read: Podcasting News

Canadian Podcasting Survey

Post ImageFound this item via Podcasting News this morning – there’s a new survey aimed at discovering what is happening with podcasting in Canada. I just took the survey, which was relatively quick and painless, so you should too.

Toronto-based Sequentia Communications and Caprica Interacitve Marketing Inc. have joined forces to launch this podcast listeners survey. All of the findings will be part of a whitepaper on Canadian podcasting habits and audience size, to be released in June 2006.

The goal of this survey and its findings are to better understand the growth of podcasting in Canada and how quickly Canadians are adopting this new form of technology.

Apparently the survey is only available until tomorrow, so you better hurry if you want to fill it out! At the end of the survey you can enter an email address to get a summary of the results.

Read: Take The Survey

Podcasting and Radio

Post ImageRadio industry research firm Arbitron has released a new report that has some information related to podcasting, though they consider it a form of radio. I wondered the other day, as I have in the past, if podcasting was stealing some of the audience away from traditional radio, and the Arbitron report seems to answer no:

According to the report, “Seventy-seven percent of Americans say they expect to listen to AM/FM radio as much as they do now despite increasing advancements in technology.” For people that have listened to podcasts, 27% expect to listen to less radio, and among satellite radio users, 36% expect to listen to less radio.

I guess we’ll find out won’t we? The report also states that 22% of Americans have heard of podcasting, and that 11% have actually tried podcasting. Evidently, the people that are using podcasts are young and relatively affluent.

Read: Podcasting News

How many podcasters are there?

Post ImageI read some of the comments and other blog posts that referenced the Forrester report I linked to yesterday, and it seems that most people think the numbers are far too low. John Furrier has an excellent roundup of estimates, and Todd Cochrane said he thinks the unique listener number of 700,000 is actually “about 10 times that many.”

After I thought about things a little more, I realized that the problem is not whether they are too high or too low, but rather that we have no idea how many people are creating podcasts. Seems to me you need to have creators actually producing something before you can have listeners! I know there’s more to it than that, but a good idea of the number of people who are creating podcasts might help in trying to establish a credible number for how many listeners there are.

So far I haven’t really been able to find any such data. Our own estimates here at Paramagnus peg the number of creators at somewhere around 30,000 worldwide, but that is an extremely “back of the envelope” guess, and I would not be surprised to find it is wrong. Does anyone have reliable data on this sort of thing? Also, we haven’t yet bought the Forrester report – does it contain information on podcast creation, or just the listener side of things?