Weekend news roundup

8 Jun 201029 Views

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A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

Paying a mental price for gadget addiction

The New York Times over the weekend carried an interesting story about Kord Campbell, a San Francisco web entrepreneur who is displaying all the signs of gadget addiction. He has so much information flowing at him that he almost missed an email where an investor was looking to put US$1.3m into his company. Even after he unplugs, he craves the stimulation he gets from his electronic gadgets. He forgets things like dinner plans, and he has trouble focusing on his family.

His wife, Brenda, complains, “It seems like he can no longer be fully in the moment.”

Scientists say juggling email, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information. These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when mobile phone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks. And for millions of people like Campbell, these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.

Publishers banking on iPad money

USA Today reported at the weekend that newspaper and magazine publishers are banking on devices like the iPad helping them to recover lost revenue sources. According to the report, companies are paying newspapers and magazines up to five times as much to place ads in their iPad applications as what similar advertising costs on regular websites.

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This doesn’t mean Apple‘s tablet computer will live up to its hype as a potential lifeline for the media industry. Online ads still generate a small fraction of news companies’ advertising revenue, and it’s an open question whether print ads will return to what they totalled before the recession.

But early evidence suggests the iPad is at least offering publishers a way to get more money out of advertisers than they otherwise would. That bolsters their hope that portable touchscreen computers could start turning the economics of digital advertising in publishers’ favour.

"I think it will redefine publishing and also redefine how advertisers connect with our audience," said Lou Cona, executive vice-president at Conde Nast Media Group, the privately held publisher of such magazines as Vogue, GQ and Wired.

Careful about the ‘Like’ button

The Observer’s Charles Arthur warned that the ‘Like’ button that Facebook is encouraging publishers and retailers to add to their websites is potentially a gift to scammers and malware authors who take advantage of its simple JavaScript to write exploits. He said that such "clickjacking" exploits first began appearing last week, though with no "payload" other than to spread pages virally throughout the site. However, anti-virus companies such as Sophos are warning that it could turn into a much more aggressive technique that will end up installing malware on peoples’ machines when they think that all they’re doing is going to hit a "Like" button on an innocent site.

What about the imminent State CIO appointment?

The Sunday Business Post’s Adrian Weckler asks what’s the story with the long-promised State CIO role? He suggests numerous figures from Iona’s Chris Horn to Nua’s Gerry McGovern for the role, but argues what is clear, it cannot be a politician. Since 2002, successive governments have appointed ministers of state with the specific responsibility of implementing an ‘‘information society’’ agenda. He rightly points out that this policy hasn’t worked and that a fresh approach is needed.

John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist who served as editor of Siliconrepublic.com for 17 years.