One letter makes all the difference

Last week, Tom Cruise was the recipient of an Ernie Award, handed out by a clique of powerful Australian women to acknowledge the most sexist remarks of the previous year. Cruise scored for this comment about his then-pregnant partner Katie Holmes: “I’ve got Katie tucked away so no one will get to us until my child is born.”

Unfortunately for the organisers, it turns out that Cruise denied making the comment (it was the usual tabloid tattle sourced from ‘friends’) though, as the organisers pointed out, his irrational arguments against the use of medication to treat post-natal depression would have qualified him anyway.

What’s equally amusing is how quickly the story itself has become mangled. In the version running at the The Times of India, Cruise has moved from being a “sexist celebrity” to being the “sexiest celebrity”. The story opens: “Actor Tom Cruise has a new award from Australia to add to his collection. He’s been adjudged the sexiest celebrity.” I know the people who do this kind of media monitoring-driven reporting aren’t well-paid, but that’s not entirely an excuse for being that stupid.

The ultimate proof of a Google outage

An unlikely result

Let’s face it, if that search doesn’t work, then nothing will. As of this writing, google.com.au is reporting no results for any Web searches at all, though it’s most likely only a temporary outage (news searches work OK). Note, however, that the ad serving continues unabated — more evidence of where Google’s ultimate priorities lie.

Update: My ZDNet story on the issue is now live — this is clearly a bigger problem than I first thought.

Foreign correspondent?

IT Journo summarised my recent trip to the US as follows:

If the IT Journo community has a foreign correspondent, his name is Angus Kidman. Going well beyond the title of “junketeer?, the globe-trotting Kidman regularly pops up at overseas events but always feeds valuable news stories back to whichever head office is willing to publish his nuggets. This time around he was at a Sun gabfest for ZDNet, listening to Scott McNealy wax lyrical about his new focus as chairman. “I will have more time to do what is important, which is to get the message out. The hardest part of the [CEO] job was getting back jet-lagged, and having to lead the staff meetings,? Kidman quoted McNealy. No doubt Kidman could sympathise with McNealy over jet-lag, if not renumeration.

Actually, McNealy wins on jet lag too — he has his own private jet, which means he never needs to worry about if he’s going to get a business-class upgrade. (Although, happily, I did on the return trip.)

Going large

So I’m in my hotel room, watching Dynasty Reunion: Catfights And Caviar. Laugh all you want; I was a huge Dynasty fan back in the day, and this was a fun special, albeit somewhat slim on content (the bloopers were fun) and missing a few key returning faces (Jeff and Sammy Jo in particular; presumably Heather Locklear was too busy having marital woes to attend).

But what really struck me was an ad for Domino’s XLP extra large pizza, which included the claim that the pizza has “30% more extra largeness than our large”. Yes, those were the exact words they used. Shouldn’t someone at the ad agency be helping them avoid that kind of horrendous phrasing? Or is Domino’s secretly pursuing the sub-literate market?

The ins and outs of Skype

I’ve just finished a radio interview with Richard Glover on the ABC in Sydney, talking about Skype and other VOIP services. It went pretty well, even though the alleged news event that triggered it (Skype’s launch of a SkypeIn service for Australia) is, in the grand scheme of things, not that big a story.

The fact that we were talking about it at all was because there’d been a brief mention of it in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, thereby demonstrating one of the classic principles of true mass media: they only notice stuff when other mass media mention it. The SkypeIn launch got covered online pretty extensively yesterday, but radio producers still get far more ideas from reading conventional papers than from reading blogs.

The other interesting aspect of the discussion was that when the phone lines were opened for listener comment, one of the first people to get through raved about their use of engin and how much money it had saved them. I’d bet London to a brick that the caller, who was quite astoundingly specific, was a plant — of all the VOIP services out there, engin has put the most effort into marketing and PR. Why you’d pay them $10 a month when Skype is, if you configure it right and sort your friends and family, entirely free is another question.

Contradictory texts for the Queen

Queen Elizabeth II is about to turn 80, so New Idea decided to celebrate by publishing a list of “80 little-known facts” about Britain’s fourth-longest-serving monarch. Leaving aside that one of these allegedly rare facts is her birth date, there’s also another impressive contradiction:

Fact 27: Her Majesty is up to date with modern technology — she text messages her grandchildren from wherever she is in the world.

Fact 45: Prince Andrew gave her a mobile phone five years ago, but she hardly ever uses it.

I suppose it’s possible that she’s sending the text messages from a phone given by one of her children that she actually likes, but a more feasible explanation is that no-one at New Idea gives a toss about logic, consistency or accuracy.

Insert your own No Idea gag here

The nick of time

Last night, I was finishing up an article about Wikipedia, which, inevitably, involved lots of referring to the site itself. I’m glad I did it last night and not this morning, because for the past few hours the site has been “experiencing technical difficulties” and completely unavailable. Such outages are far from Wikipedia’s exclusive preserve, of course, but it is a useful reminder never to leave things until the very last minute. Interestingly, Wikipedia’s error page includes a link to the Google cache for the article you’re trying to access, which for anyone just looking to read (rather than edit) might well prove sufficient. Unless, of course, Google’s cache servers go down as well . . .

It’s a thrill just to be nominated . . .

I’ve scored a couple of nominations in the Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards, otherwise known as The Lizzies. I’m a finalist for the Helen Dancer Best Consumer Technology Journalist gong, and also the Best Features Journalist category. I’ll be rocking along to the awards dinner on April 28, although I don’t rate my chances of winning either very highly!

Sub-fab

As seen in The Sun
It’s no real news that online publications don’t devote enough resources to sub-editing, and this appears to be true even in the largest of titles. Take this example from UK uber-tabloid The Sun. The teaser for a minor story about Jane Horrocks proclaims unambiguously: “BRIT actress Jane Horrocks reveals her weaver great-gran was reason she appeared in Ab Fab”. Yet this turns out to be a quite serious mis-reading, as the first couple of paragraphs make clear:

In the fifth of this six-part series of Who Do You Think You Are?, Jane, who made her name playing ditzy Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous, reveals her great-grandma Sarah was the reason she agreed to appear in the show. “I look quite like her and wanted to find out more about her,” explains Jane, 42.

Clearly, some overworked online slave didn’t skim far enough to discover the truth. Hardly an earth-shattering error, but you’d think The Sun, which is still Britain’s biggest-selling paper, could afford to avoid that kind of problem.