Tag Archives: reporting

Hit and Run: The Solution

solutionYesterday, while feeling angry after watching the news, I spewed some aggression in the form of a blog post about the heinous problem of hit-and-run drivers.

Today, I’m back for more of the same, but this time without the aggression. This time I have the solution.

Google and the like may be feverishly pouring millions (billions?) into pie-in-the-sky dreams about cars that can drive themselves. Ostensibly this will solve the hit-and-run problem once and for all. I hope they spare a few subroutines for things like hit-and-run morality. (With embedded advertising, of course.) Perhaps a Fourth Law of Robotics? “This robot will not allow asshole human beings to override operation after an accident in an attempt to break the law. Check out the hot deals on polar fleece at Old Navy.”

One can dream.

Meanwhile, we need a solution in the here and now. We can’t afford to wait.

What I propose is simple: A federal law that mandates installation of an Accident Reporting Device (ARD) in all vehicles. This device will, when an accident is detected, immediately communicate, via satellite, the following information to a national law enforcement database:

  • Unique vehicle ID
  • Date/time
  • GPS coordinates
  • Collected accident data (location on vehicle, type of impact, force of impact, etc.)

The law will be written in such a way that operating a motor vehicle with an ARD that has been tampered with or disabled in any way will be a serious crime. This will be treated in similar fashion to refusal to submit to a sobriety test.

When vehicles are stopped by law enforcement they shall have the authority to conduct an inspection of the ARD to ensure compliance. This is similar to the authority to ask for proof of insurance.

Costs of the ARD program will be passed on to consumers.

Vehicles will be required to pass ARD compliance testing every 24 months before vehicle registration is issued.

Any ARD compliance violation will result in suspension of driving privileges for one year (or more for each subsequent violation).

The purpose of the program is to give law enforcement a simple yet powerful tool to fight crimes like hit-and-run. In the event of an accident involving hit-and-run, the database can be checked to easily determine which vehicles were involved. The database may have other uses, like identifying vehicles involved in large incidents, etc.

Some might raise objections to a program like this on privacy grounds or that it creates more bureaucracy. Both are legitimate concerns.

Regarding privacy, the program is mostly non-invasive in that it only “pings” during an event and the law should be written with privacy in mind. (For example, the database can only be queried, by law enforcement, when certain criteria is met.) Further, since the ARD only reports during an accident, privacy concerns are minimal. The ARDs shall be designed and constructed in such a way “on-demand” or continuous tracking is impossible.

As with all bureaucracy, the question becomes one of cost (both money and rights) vs. public benefit. I would argue that a program like this is minimal in cost while providing almost incalculable benefit. The cost of doing nothing is to continue to allow those responsible for death, serious injury and property damage to have an opportunity to escape unchecked. Approximately ten percent of all vehicle accidents in the United States currently involve hit-and-run. Some of them are never solved.

It’s just that simple. Problem solved. You’re welcome.

You wanted to view our contents?

See the gentle respectful treatment of the content? That should tell you something.

See the gentle and respectful treatment of the content? That should tell you something. Advertisers are subtle.

Every book on building websites and blogs has stressed the following point since ancient humans first described their hunts using stick figures scrabbled onto cave walls:

Content is king.

I guess that’s why the latest It Thing that makes the internet go is building innumerable barriers to content. A new day dawns. Welcome to the Lack of Information Age.

The paradigm shift away from content is now complete. Content is an old and busted philosophy. The new reality is stark and simple. It’s called Money Grub. Low class, I know, but somehow it always comes back to the almighty dollar.

One website I really enjoy recently sent out a bulk email containing the urgent news. Web traffic is surging while revenue (dependent on advertising) is plummeting into the toilet. As you might imagine, that’s not a very effective combination. This immensely successful website is now asking for donations and characterizes the situation as their very survival at stake.

Being one of the biggest and best websites on the web is no longer good enough to guarantee survival.

Meanwhile, the assault on our eyeballs, patience and intelligence is is full swing. How do they ignore the old adage “Content is King?” Let me count the ways.
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Politics in Tweets: Electorals go to College

I find that I’m unable to skip the politics today. I shall endeavor to be brief.

Obama was working out at the gym. Romney was giving the rowing machine a good go. He glanced over at Obama with his shirt off and said, “Dude. Nice electorals.”

That’s the cue. It’s time for another bit of inciteful political analysis from the Abyss.

The Electoral College as it stands right now, Wednesday morning, is Obama 303, Romney 206 with Florida (29) still up for grabs.

My prediction back on Sept. 9, 2012, was Obama 304 and Romney 234. If Florida breaks for Romney this may be one of the most accurate presidential prognostications of all time. And I did it two months out.

Let’s review how my prediction happened. First up a link to the proof to verify my claim.

Shoutabyss Electoral Prediction Map

#Awarkward front page caginess at #WSJ

There was something a skosh awkward with the print edition of the Wall Street Journal today (Friday, August 31st). And I’m speaking as a reader of news, not as a forward observer in the partisan wars.

You just know the WSJ wanted to be in on Romney’s big night. It was finally time for the big acceptance speech. No doubt the WSJ wanted it so bad they could taste it.

There was just one wee problem. The event would occur after their print deadline. I’ve seen newspapers in local markets push back deadlines for things like important sporting events in the evening and such. Editorial closes late, which pushed back pre-production, press deadlines and cascades all the way to distribution. The trucks run late. In my experience it takes an edict from the CEO to push back reliability benchmarks on home delivery. It’s a rather big deal.

Apparently the wait time was too long or WSJ doesn’t have such an option. Under the headline “Romney Vows to ‘Restore’ U.S.’ came news “coverage” (air quotes) consisting of several predictions. I guess we could call it a case of “pre-reporting” (air quotes) the news. In that vein the WSJ became the equivalent of a bulletin board system or newsletter.

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News Blues Clues

In the eighties I worked at a major daily newspaper. No, I is was not as a writer thing then back ago. I worked in a different department. I did learn a thing or two about journalism, though. Spend a decade or two in an industry and you pick up a few things.

Surprisingly times were already lean for newspapers, even way back then. The population in our county was growing and our circulation numbers were up. But they were not keeping pace with the population growth. In other words, our penetration was decreasing. Our key metric was households and the percentage of households choosing to partake of our product was dropping.

It was generally surmised that this was a result of people’s lifestyles changing. The fast pace of modern life left little time for a cup of coffee and reading something in the morning before rushing out to the door to get to work. It also seemed generational. Younger folks seemed to like their news in smaller chunks from more entertaining, bite-sized chunks, like television and the expanding world of cable.

Eventually circulation numbers peaked and then started to decline. It was no longer just a penetration thing accompanied by actual growth. The bleeding had started. And this was all happening before the internet. Oops.
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Oh noes, gubment is out to get us

Today’s misleading headline comes to us from the good folks at CBS News who tell us:

TSA to Block “Controversial Opinion” on the Web

Yikes! This raises so many questions like: Is free speech brewing terrorism on the net? Why else would the TSA of all things be involved in something like this? What I mean is that the Transportation Safety Administration is tasked with security for all modes of transportation. This must be something extremely serious for them to be involved, right?

Actually read the story, though, and one just might come away with a slightly different interpretation.

You see, the story is actually about TSA computers, not the “web.” Computers that are supposed to be used by TSA employees in the performance of their job duties, you know, doing things to make transportation safe and stuff.

And the “controversial opinion” that TSA employees will be blocked from? (Check out those quotation marks in action, used for dramatic effect, to make things sound so chilling.) One example is that employees will be blocked from playing online games.

Wow. That is chilling. Oops, please excuse me. I just accidentally snorted some Jack Daniels up my nose.

TSA employees will also be blocked from other things like criminal activity, extreme violence, chat/messaging, and yes, even the aforementioned “controversial opinion.”

In other words, they’ll probably have to spend more time doing their jobs. We can only hope that surfing porn (like they do at the SEC) will fall under one of those broad (no pun intended) categories.

So here’s a tip of the hat to CBS News and their attempt to sensationalize their headline to induce clicks. It certainly worked on me.

A tale of two headlines

Yes, my little liebchens. The posting blitzkreig continues. Is there no limit to how far I’ll whore myself out for some stats? Apparently not. Now post, damn you, post! Schnell!

Some dipshit from BP testified before Congress today. Or something. Whatever.

So I log in to my iGoogle home page tonight.

I normally eschew the iGoogle thing. It’s a bit lame. But I got this new widget thingie with a hamster that runs in a wheel, and, well, frankly, it makes it worth the trip.

Anyway. I get on iGoogle and the following two headlines blast me right in the face:

Fox News: BP CEO’s Day in Congress’ Kangaroo Court

New York Times: BP Chief Offers Few Answers, Frustrating Lawmakers

Oh, God. What a treat. Seriously, I just adore Dove moisturizing liquid, relaxing baths in Calgon, boxes of fine chocolates, sweet Zinfendel wine, and, of course, good belly laughs. Voila! My after work pick-me-up of the day.

Neither link went to a page that was clearly labeled as “opinion.” Remember in the newspaper they actually denoted which pieces were news and which were editorials? “Opinion” had its own page. On the web these days those lines seem to be blurred. To be fair, however, the Fox News piece was served up under the heading “Common Sense.” Riiiiiiiight.

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