News feeds still better than Twitter

Twitter may be great for picking up stories that fly under the radar of mainstream news stories and trusted blogs. People, such as tech writers, who need to obtain news a little earlier may also need to follow Twitter. However for real news reading I find it a better use of time to go to primary news sources or news feeds. Lately on Twitter I've been turning up stories that, far from being cutting-edge, are just old news, no longer relevant. Other stories sometimes turn out to be baseless rumor. To filter through all the chaff takes time - the more populous the stream, the longer it takes. It's both a lazy and a tedious way to follow news. Every click takes time.

No doubt building up a large number of relatively trusted streams, then reading them through filtering mechanisms like Twitter Times, can be effective. But it's easier to accomplish a useful news stream using Feedly, for example.

It would be good if Google (or Feedly) could weight stories in one's news stream by checking all interactions with a given story, by shares, retweets, Url shortening, Diggs, etc., and also emphasize links with activity from friends across social networks. No doubt that will come, just as Google is trying out a similar feature for general search results. But even without it I think that RSS streams are the way to go, and an easier choice for obtaining a good balance of news than attempting to obtain the same from social networking services like Twitter.

Twitter Times and Feedly: interesting to compare the results

Feedly takes all of one's RSS feeds in Google Reader and produces from them a compelling newspaper. It's a joy to look at, and a joy to read. Everyone who tries Feedly loves what it can do.

Twitter Times has the harder job of taking one's twitter stream and producing a news stream. It selects for stories that are capturing the attention of one's twitter friends, and even friends of friends. The result is that Twitter becomes much more useful as a source of news and stories.

Both are great news readers, depending on the quality of the material they are given to work with. Twitter Times has the advantage that the "newspaper" produced goes public. Mine is here. The Twitter Times homepage has better examples from famous bloggers. Still, Jack Schofield's Times had at least three separate almost identical stories on the new Google phone, so robotic editors do have their limitations.

Shoddy journalism

Haaretz is considered to be Israel's most important daily newspaper but in terms of professionalism it's a mixed bag. Even more so the English web version. Today there was an article about an appeal by British professors to Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned Israel gig. The article relies for content almost entirely on the professors' letter. The letter itself isn't a great work of literature. By taking parts of it out of context, the article makes it appear worse than it is. The original letter was about 500 words. The Haaretz article is around half of that. If the online newspaper is somehow short of space, it could at least link back to the original. I suggested that in a talkback, and provided the link, but they didn't publish it. That's how I discovered that although the newspaper permits all kinds of racist and bigotted talk-backs, a simple matter like the original link to a letter that has been badly quoted, is out of the question.

Doesn't that just typify "old journalism"? Present a mangled version of an opposing viewpoint, and deny your readers access to the original. Wouldn't want them to form an independent opinion.

The Palestine Chronicle blocking entry from Israel?

Anyone know if The Palestine Chronicle blocks access from Israel, or perhaps just certain ISPs (mine's Bezeq)?  If so, it may be a punitive reaction to damage done by Israeli hackers:  "Palestine Chronicle Hacked" (from early January 2009).  Or maybe it's PACBI .  But I'm intrigued as it's the first time I've come across something like this.


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Happy Super Tuesday, Americans

Happy Super Tuesday, Americans. In Israel/Palestine it's just an ordinary day but, as in every other corner of the world, many are watching the long and creaky old election process with bated breath. We know that the next president won't bring salvation or even undo much of the damage of the incumbent. All the candidates take care to signal to Israel that Nothing Will Change with regard to America's historic alliance, and also make sure not to speak of embarrassments like the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, lest a suicide belt goes off on the Israeli side (as happened yesterday), and they will be forced to apologize for ever mentioning Palestinian suffering.

Here in Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam our American intern is ardently rooting for the first black president. Just like so many hopeful young people, she is convinced that something will definitely move if he is elected. While some of us would like to see Hillary come in, if only in order to say she was here and we shook hands with her.

Being over 50 tends to have a dampening effect on expectations while heightening the perception of danger, but I think the question today is not whether America will change, but whether it will manage to change quickly enough to deal with the currents that are anyway affecting it. Global warming, economic woes, declining influence and challenges to U.S. hegemony are some of the issues that the next president is going to have to confront, with bravery, wisdom and determination.

In the face of America's changed and changing position in the world, the temptation before the U.S. president will be to act in a reactionary way, and stubbornly resist the tide. However, the key to success, and maybe the country's last chance to regain credibility and quell the world's growing impatience, will be to assume a responsible position among other nations. That means that America will need to use its still enormous resources and influence wisely, to treat the nations of the world as partners rather than as vassals, to implement policies that encourage development among the world's poorest countries, and to address the economic hardships affecting millions at home.


Nine Burmese demonstrators killed in one day. The news sites say that the conflict in Burma pits the country's two most powerful forces, the monasteries and the Junta against one another. Guns against spiritual force - a kind of symmetry.

Eleven killed in Palestine the same day. Israel may be hoping the events in Burma will keep Palestine out of the news. The same day, eleven rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. All of them missed, it's true, but now everyone has a reason to continue.

A friend writes that we should all wear red shirts for Burma on Friday. Is it the red of the blood spilled, or the red of the monks whose blood has been spilled? Either way it's a suitable colour.

Tourism in Afghanistan

Calling all tourists to Bamiyan (BBC)

What a pity that I missed Bamyan, or the lakes of Bandar Abbas, when visiting Afghanistan around 1975. But I did catch the Blue Mosque in Mazar i-Sharif and other nice things. Back then, the accommodation was halfway decent. If there didn't happen to be a hotel, you could always stay in a {chai-khana} (a tea house), and as for security, you went wherever you pleased - except to approach the yurts of nomads - I was told that to do so unannounced could mean to be shot on sight.