Category Archives: media

WWE’s Dolph Ziggler: wrestling with reality

WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler uses Twitter to practice stand-up material.

WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler uses Twitter to practice stand-up comedy material.

So I had a chance to sit down with pro wrestler Dolph Ziggler for an interview the other day while the WWE was in town. But before we get to that, some back story is necessary.

When I was a kid in the 1980s, I loved wrestling. Saturday mornings were the best – I’d wake up, pour a bowl of cereal and watch the Macho Man Randy Savage and Mr. Perfect beat the crap out of the likes of Hulk Hogan and Ricky Steamboat, or vice-versa. But eventually, us kids grew up and moved on while the business itself became mired in steroid scandals, which led to the near bankruptcy of the World Wrestling Federation in the mid-nineties. By the end of the decade, however, wrestling as a whole bounced back thanks to newfound competition from Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. The company hired away many of the WWF’s biggest stars and began airing more contemporary and risque programming. The all-American Hulk Hogan – who used to preach to kids to train, say their prayers and take their vitamins – ditched his good-guy yellow-and-red ring gear in favour of black and went bad.

The WWF, which was forced to abandon the “federation” in its name for “entertainment” after losing a court battle to the World Wildlife Fund, raised its game and went full-bore into edgy content to compete. The violence and profanity were cranked up, the women wrestlers routinely posed nude in Playboy and a host of new anti-hero stars from Stone Cold Steve Austin to The Rock arose. For a few years heading into the 2000s, wrestling rode a massive wave of popularity during this “Attitude” era – it was a new golden age, bigger than even Hogan’s hey-day. Those of us who had watched as kids were amazed at the changes – it was like the PG cartoon we grew up with had morphed, much to our delight, into an R-rated movie.

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Posted by on April 28, 2014 in media, television


Easter: a time for skills renewal

sbb-screenLast week I lamented the dark clouds swirling over the profession of journalism; what with the continual layoffs, frequent rejection and criticism from the public, it’s not what most people would consider to be a great job. As with people working in many fields that have been disrupted by the internet, today’s journalists need to learn new skills to remain employable – and competitive – in these turbulent times.

In a religious sense Easter is a time of renewal, but on a personal level I’m also trying to drink my own Kool Aid, which is why I recently took a course on how to use WordPress, the popular software for designing websites. I have a few big projects in the works that I’ll be talking about very soon, but they will all involve the web, hence my interest in the course. Now is as good a time as any to refresh those skills.

For some quick practice, I decided to rejig the site for my book Sex, Bombs and Burgers. The new site, I think, is simple and straightforward, and miles ahead of what I was able to manage five years ago by using iWeb. Have a look and please send along any comments, questions or criticisms. Any feedback will certainly help with what I’m working on next. And have a great Easter!


Posted by on April 18, 2014 in books, media


Beware the garbage served up by ‘viral’ sites

newcastleThis is probably not breaking news to anyone, but there’s a lot of garbage on the internet. What continues to surprise, however, is how easily people buy into it.

The latest example is something called Viralscape, which looks to be a month-old website devoted to “the most viral stories online.” That’s about all that can be deciphered about the site, since it has no “about” section, descriptions, contact information, writer names or even publication dates on its posts. But of course, it serves up ads.

Despite all those warning bells, people are still sharing “stories” that appear on the site. One such listicle caught my eye on Wednesday and made my blood boil, since it deals with a topic I hold dear: beer. In “8 beers that you should stop drinking immediately,” Viralscape – through an unknown author on an unknown date – presumes to tell readers what beers they should and shouldn’t drink. As of my writing this, the article had been shared more than 217,000 people on Facebook and 1,149 people on Twitter. And yet, the article is utter bullcrap. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in media


More weapons for the war on manipulative headlines

My post the other day about manipulative headlines looks to have struck a chord. Evidently there are lots of people out there who are fed up with sensationalist headlines and tweets that have clickbait written all over them, but that then link to stories or content that are otherwise a giant waste of time.

A few people messaged me on Twitter to let me know about other tools and resources that can be used to either detect or deflate some of this unfortunate trend. Similar to the @HuffPoSpoilers Twitter account I mentioned in my post, there’s @UpworthySpoiler, which takes the steam out of tweets from Upworthy, another of the worst practitioners of this sort of thing (thanks to @tweetsbykate88 for the tip).

Even better is Downworthy, a web browser plug-in designed by Alison Gianotto, chief technology officer for creative agency firm noise. The Chrome plug-in searches out the worst-offending phrases and replaces them with more honest terms, often with hilarious results. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in media


You’ll never believe what this blog post is about

Was there really anyone who didn't believe Miley Cyrus kissed Ryan Seacrest?

Was there really anyone who *didn’t* believe Miley Cyrus kissed Ryan Seacrest?

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to avoid clicking on headlines and/or Tweets that are obviously designed to be seductive and alluring. It’s simply because I don’t like being manipulated, and this festering phenomenon is all about that sort of thing.

We’ve all seen them and we’ve probably all been suckered in by them. They’re headlines or Tweets that reveal only partial information, tantalizing us with the rest if we only click and thereby add to the purveyor’s traffic numbers.

The Huffington Post is a particularly big practitioner of this dark art. The news site’s Tweets are practically scientifically crafted to manipulate. Take “The country all food lovers need to visit, ASAP,” just one of the site’s many, many examples (posted Tuesday). Who doesn’t love food? And therefore, who doesn’t want to click on that Tweet? Not clicking would forever deny you information that you simply cannot get through life without.

It’s too bad the country in question is Belgium, a place that no one considers to be a hotbed of culinary creations. The site’s editors know this, which is why they didn’t go with the more informative – and more honest – Twitter headline on what is essentially a photo gallery of Belgian foods. Something like, “Check out Belgium’s underrated cuisine” would have been way more straight-up, but it probably would have attracted far fewer clicks. And yes, it’s clicks – not readers. I know I didn’t read the article after discovering it was about Belgium, but who cares – I added to the metrics anyway. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 22, 2014 in media, Twitter


Why are we hipsters when it comes to technology?

Commuters reading newspapers on a train in Philadelphia, circa 1955.

Commuters reading newspapers on a train in Philadelphia, circa 1955.

The New York Times Magazine had a great story over the weekend with a headline that pretty much explained it: “Technology is not driving us apart after all.” The piece focused on research done by Rutgers professor Keith Hampton, a Canadian sociologist, on whether technology really is causing separation between people, as the conventional wisdom goes.

Hampton and his team decided to recreate a series of ground-breaking experiments performed in the 1960s and 1970s by fellow sociologist William H. Whyte, who sought to study how people used public spaces. In his time, Whyte set up cameras and filmed people congregating in public, taking notes along the way on how they behaved, where they migrated to, how long their conversations lasted, and so on.

His data and methods were ultimately very useful to urban planners, who discovered many facts, such as people don’t really like wide open spaces – they prefer intimate surroundings because they feel more secure. They also learned that public fountains should never be roped off because people like to dip their toes and throw coins into them, and that dense greenery make places feel unsafe, among other tidbits.

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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in media


2013 blog in review: it was (almost) all telecom

Thanks for the clicks, Becel.

Thanks for the clicks, Becel.

What a year it was. 2013 was a year of ups and downs, both in the news world and for myself personally. Over the past few weeks, I’ve covered off some of the highlights and low-lights of the past year’s news events. Closer to home, my wife and I lost a beloved pet, but on the plus side we bought a house and I finally finished off my second book. Here’s hoping that 2014 has more upsides than downsides for everyone out there.

This coming year will also mark the five-year anniversary of this blog, which I launched back in 2009 as a promotional vehicle for my first book. Along the way, it morphed from into this site, with the focus also shifting dramatically when I dove into the freelance world three years ago. At first, most of my posts were devoted to developments in the three industries covered off in the book – military, fast food and pornography – but that ultimately expanded to all technology.

The early days seem funny now as a result, with my first few year-end summaries tending to turn up porn-related posts as the most-read of the year. Taking a look at this year’s most-read list is a good snapshot of just how distant those days are, with an entirely different topic – telecommunications – now overwhelmingly dominant.

10. How cellphone negotiations go in Canada (Jan. 14)

This one was a tongue-in-cheek conversation between a fictional customer looking to buy an iPhone and a wireless carrier service agent, but it was really a thinly veiled attempt to dissemble numerous industry talking points. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in blogging, media, roku, telecommunications