153 - Digital Newspaper

Digital newspaper, ipad news, downloaded puzzles, political participation.

I have been looking for a news source as a part of the need for stimulation. Obviously, I want something that provokes thought. I want to read something that informs me (tells me things I didn’t know), that encourages me to apply some skills of discrimination between ideas and, hopefully, at the same time entertains.

Equally, I know what I don’t want: I am disinterested by football, indeed by many sports; I find the reporting of politics far too personal and much too shallow; I am largely uninterested in the Arts and indeed quite uninterested in the world at large, but that is because I have been hoping to find a source of news that makes it interesting. Instead, I find the same old same old.

I seem to have done myself no harm whatsoever in being without a newspaper forever. Worse, I seem to be informed even while ignoring all news input. That seems a terrible criticism of the fourth estate1.

But it could be so much more. Examples of this are found in the puzzles section of any newspaper; some are even engineered. Take the crossword, for example. The interactive version of Times lets you make mistakes onscreen and shows errors (only?) when you have filled all spaces. The Guardian lets you ‘check’ the latest entry and to ‘check all’ [and provides for a good deal of help]. Comments on crosswords have a convention to not give an answer, but [Guardian observation] to indicate which clues were enjoyed and/or gave trouble (where that word includes education, resorting to research, dictionaries, etc).

Sudoku, of which I am a long-established practitioner, is another example. Most of my daily supply (I exceed ten a day of the various types) provides the work-horse input of possibles and removes possibles when definite entries are made, reducing perhaps the fun but certainly the time spent. So any app that changes or challenges these conventions (habits) is uncomfortable. I like having three levels on offer; the extreme version will take an hour on paper and typically 15 minutes digitally. So, for me, the digital, tablet version is attractive because I’m getting the stimulation I think I want in a quarter of the time, so this is perceived as efficient.

Of course, puzzles are not the complete solution to brain training, which in turn is part of the fight against senescence. My reading says that the biggest contributor is exercise (increased blood flow, specifically) and that the next most effective element of behaviour is stimulation - something new, some analytical thinking, not (merely) the practice of an existing skill2.  As in physical fitness, the question is not “Are you fit?” but should be “For what are you fit?”. A previous essay describes the complaint of long-term cyclists failing to compare well with long-term runners simply because the test given favoured one muscle set. Therefore one recognises that flexibility and variety are valuable. Favouring one sport / pastime surely helps (in my case helps cardio-vascular wellness) but does little for one’s ability to go do something unusual, such as, say, cricket, yoga or even kayaking. The different muscle sets will / would leave one sore, perhaps even damaged, and injury is a dread for the older, since we mend so slowly.

I won’t read something that insults my intelligence (what there is of it) and I won’t read much of stuff I disagree with. I’d rather form my own opinions, but I don’t mind comparing ideas with others - and I can see there are possibilities for becoming involved in discussions of such things.

I tried to use The Times (two caps required, apparently). There appear to be two versions of the app, one of which is simply a scan of the paper version. That latter permits swipe and zoom, but little else. In the sense that this is a condense form of the paper, it is a fine substitute – if that is what you want. I have also tried the Guardian and am now looking at the i(ndependent), the Telegraph - and at alternatives to all of these.

What I want to see from a digital newspaper is far more than I have yet found. An article on the first page may well lead on paper to other pages, but digitally it will (should, please) have links to related entries, including those that disagree; what I expect to find is direction to the source material. I expect to be asked if I want ‘more like this’, but also ‘opposing views’, ‘disputed content’ and ‘source material’. Thus if a politician is quoting official figures I have available a link so I can go read those for myself and thus learn the extent to which I am hearing spin, so I can perhaps go understand far better the issue being discussed. I expect to be directed to parliamentary committee minutes, to government papers and to previous newspaper entries. Politicians are often accused of dumbing down but, to be fair, they are not often given the (large and uninterrupted) time to explain thoroughly what it is that they are concerned over, so we are continually confused over opinion (personal, party, press), fact (so rarely found) and possibility - and it is this last that we should be politically active over, since possibility is what directs opinion. As I wrote about in Devolution.

Postscript, in advance of perhaps rewriting the whole. Discussion on Facebook - I posted some sort of prompt to read this page - showed I have not explained my position at all well. In response to Mike O’Neill asking whether I had looked at magazines, I wrote: It is the interconnection that is missing. It is not any clamouring for news; I wish to learn, not be told; to understand and to be persuaded, not to be hectored. I tried the European as paper, but what I'm looking for is intelligent use of the digital opportunity. Not happening. What I'm looking for is an umbrella that gives balance to the information, that helps distinguish fact from opinion (and perhaps truth from fact). At the moment I seem to produce better opinions from no information than I am from partial information - I'm not sure how to quantify that statement, but it feels a bit like having a test on a topic before a subject is taught and then scoring fewer marks on a similar test AFTER the lesson. I discover a topic, have an uninformed opinion, read around it, change my opinion, read more and discover my original 'uninformed' opinion is far nearer then the intermediate one. I say this is not good, but I would like to be able to justify the result from something more concrete than having been around a while.

And, so prompted, I have looked at magazines. I am impressed with this article I found on The Atlantic and I shall read more of that. The writing was enjoyable but the expected links were missing (that may be because I didn’t pay to look at it). I looked at (an article in) the Daily Mail and found sufficient links but I dislike the targeted market result. I then found this comment from 2013 telling me that The Atlantic was ahead then and suggesting I look at Time, Newsweek, The Economist and The Week. Which I shall. the same article tells me that it is likely that a paywall will become standard, so we fork out small amounts for each unit accessed. you might read up on gated access, metered access, content restriction and user revenues. Start here, I suggest. An issue for papers is that articles can be (reposted and) discovered by non-paying routes (e.g. through social media, leading to suggestions of ‘first-click free’ models. underlying all of this is how one is ever to be paid for writing in the modern age. Maybe “Comment is Free”, as the Guardian says, is correct.

DJS 20150218

with thanks to the commentators on FB.

I accept GOM3 status.

I bought The Times digital version and did not enjoy the experience, neither of the purchase nor the subsequent newspaper, so cancelled the subscription, rapidly.

DJS 20150221

On price, I observe that you can get the Guardian crosswords for free. The times is set up so you must pay for it. For Sudoku [not SoDuKu, please!], I recommend Cool Sudoku (one-off fee, six daily forever), but there is a huge range across the ‘net of these from easy to really extreme and with down to no support at all. For Codeword I have found bestforpuzzles much too easy, as in I don’t want that much help at the start; I have not found a better source yet. I continue to hunt for better puzzles and will perhaps give links here

New (i.e. additional) typing problems with caps.

1    Classically, we accept three estates of the realm, the clergy, the nobility and the commoners, with royalty outside the system. This was historically part of the Ancien Régime in pre-revolutionary France and referred to within Britain as the three estates of parliament, the lords, Spiritual, the lord Temporal and the Commons. The fourth estate refers to the independent press or media, originally any societal/political force not officially recognised [Edmund Burke, 1787]. In this century (already) the networked 4th estate includes non-traditional journalistic media as evidence by blogging, including wikileaks. Please see wikipedia on this. For some, the 4th estate is the body of lawyers (selling justice to the rich, Montaigne, 1580).

You might prefer to reserve the phrase fifth estate for bloggers and journalists outside the mainstream. This has nice overtones of fifth column, too. I expect this term to become generally accepted as blogs are increasingly effective (have an effect upon) - look at modern news reporting from inside conflict zones, look at the change of opinion over political matters, look at the spread of insider information (not dissimilar to info from within a conflict zone). Look also at how we tend to believe / trust such sources out of proportion with other sources, which is curious, since this is personal experience and opinion, i.e. highly localised. I am amused at the press (4th estate) using the 5th to improve its performance, such as when they are able to inspect the level of behaviour ‘set up for the cameras’, such as when there is ‘a riot’ but only where the visual press are located. this is then performance, soon to be called art, not a truly public reaction. yes it is public and it is reaction, but it is orchestrated in some way and exaggerated by the presence of cameras. To me, a public reaction is a spontaneous response, but then I question whether I often do such, especially in public. Given the propensity for people to take offence, public reaction seems to be a bad thing, as one learned and re-learned in China. Big Brother is watching.

2    (i) more fuel (ii) more (new) work.

3    Grumpy Old Man




© David Scoins 2017