A new Google watch and some necropants.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google could be mere “months away” from launching a smartwatch.

The watch will run Google’s Android operating system and use Google Now, a kind of digital personal assistant, to give you up-to-date advice on travel sport etc. straight to your wrist, based on your location and preferences.

A new craze in devices, with smaller screens, could well change the way we view news. Writing for the internet requires shorter paragraphs and quotable facts put in bold to allow for faster skim reading. Sub headings are more frequent to break the articles down, and shocking details are emboldened or put in the article title as link bait.

How people read stuff and human skin trousers

As this article from Slate shows most internet users never finish an article anyway. How many people are going to finish an article on a watch?

Will there be a divergence of content, into made for watch stuff and online stuff, and how will smartphone use change as a result? That same article from the WSJ suggests profits may be peaking in the mobile phone world, at least in developed markets.

Apps such as circa already provide a tailored news service with any flamboyance chopped out. You follow a story and get any new content diced up into 50 word nuggets. This could become the norm.

Finally, while on the subject of wearable technology, what about a pair of trousers made from human skin? High-waisted, they do include the genitals and some wiry hair. 

Hats off to the Huffpost for their opening para:

“If you thought skinny pants were a new trend, think again — they’ve been around in Iceland since the 17th century.”

Nábrók, they call them apparently.

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Making money from the Maasai

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An article in Bloomberg Business week interested me as an illustration of a meeting of worlds.

Kenyan/Tanzanian Maasai, unaware that their name was being used for marketing by global brands, are planning to take on companies such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein to regain intellectual copyright. 

The revenue made beggars belief:

“Layton [the lawyer representing the Maasai] estimates six companies have each made more than $100 million in annual sales during the last decade using the Maasai name.” says BBW. 

The legal ground is uncertain, and success far from assured; there have been battles fought along similar lines before, with varied success.

“’It’s a nice idea, but if it would work, the French deficit would be gone by asking for royalties on French fries,’ says Seth Siegel, co-founder of the Beanstalk Group, a trademark licensing agency and consultant.”

The Maasai were mostly unaware of the meaning of the vast sums made off the back of their culture. The cost of a Masai (sic) pen, $600, had to be explained to them in terms of cows. Three or four good ones. 

If they were to receive the $10million a year royalties quoted in the BBW article their material requests would be modest. 

“’We’re not going so far as to ask for electricity,’ says Saitoti Oloishiro, 42, a chief from northern Tanzania and one of the Maasai behind the project. ‘That would be a daydream. What we are saying is, we need maybe some water for our families and our animals, a dispensary. We need schools nearby.’” 

1 Lunatic 1 Icepick

It’s been an interesting few days for arguing the limits of online press freedom.

The European Court of Human Rights said in its ruling on Delfi AS v. Estonia that websites must keep tabs on their comments sections too. 

News sites, it appears, and more than just passive conduits and are responsible for both welcome comment and the abusive froth that sometimes accumulates beneath some posts. 

The argument has gone a step further however. Tech website The Verge reports that the owner/operator of website Best Gore, a site famed for its visceral content, has been charged after helping to disseminate a video of a real murder, horrifically entitled 1 Lunatic 1 Icepick. 

The site’s owner, Mark Marek, is to go on trial in Canada. He claims merely to have been passing on the information, and that only by people showing the crime online was the killer brought to justice.

This raises an interesting question: is there any difference between a site like Best Gore showing murder footage and conventional media outlets showing images of war or gruesome gang killings in Mexico? Papers in other countries have stronger stomachs for disturbing images than our own.

Do the limits of the public interest argument stop suddenly at the doors of traditional news outlets? 

If sites are liable for the nature of the content they or users post, this could be seen as damaging to freedom of expression. And what if a site doesn’t post a snuff clip but instead links to it, could it too be on dubious moral ground?