Hot on the Web
Lost in Cyberspace
Online San Diego
Feature Articles
Book Reviews and Reading Diary
Music Reviews
Favorite quotates
Contact Me

Hot on the Web

Public disclosure

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on October 31, 2003
(Issue 2144, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night)

Within minutes of the polls closing at 8 p.m. on Election Night in California, the secretary of state's office was posting the election returns in the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

Now, that's been true for at least the last 50 years, ever since election officials started using computer technology to tabulate results. (Before that, voters marked a ballot with a pencil or pen, and then all votes were hand-counted – hard to believe people ever lived like that, eh?)

But in past years, those results were only made available to the media, and only at the various county election headquarters.

In recent years, election officials have moved to start posting voting results online for the public as well. But I don't recall a year when the public was getting the results just as fast as the media. In fact, at many newsrooms, reporters were simply logging into the California secretary of state's web site in order to get the latest figures – the same ones your or I had access to.

A big splash

What was also somewhat surprising was the level of international media interest in the recall. The web pages for the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Buenos Aires, Argentina newspaper La Nacion, and the Paris daily Le Monde all carried the recall vote on their home page.

Now, having a big-time movie star as a leading candidate undoubtedly fed much of that curiosity, but so did the fact that it was California having the recall. A recall in Iowa or Ohio would not have likely produced such prominent overseas coverage.

Think about it: Would American media outlets cover a recall campaign in Leeds or Bordeaux?

Well, perhaps if Rowan Atkinson or Gerard Depardieu were running. Maybe ...

The further democratization of the 'Net

Another exhibit in the case for technology driving down the costs of creativity, Internet Video Magazine is sponsoring a movie contest.

Just a generation ago, the costs to create a movie would have been substantial. In the age of film, even a low-end 8 mm movie camera cost several hundred dollars. Film wasn't cheap either. And who was going to win with an 8 mm?

Further, even a decade ago, running such a contest and getting the word out would have entailed expensive advertisements, perhaps direct-mail pieces.

Now, the folks at Internet Video Magazine can promote their contest through e-mail and their own online presence and hope for a decent number of entries. A big reason for such optimism would be the low cost of a video camera and the absence of any recurring film costs, and the reality that you don't even need a camera anymore if you're interests run to animation.

Dfilm offered an online moviemaking contest for a few years as well, although the site seems to be on a bit of hiatus in terms of any new content.

And now for something completely different

Yes, yes, it's a tired old line from Monty Python, but PersonaCheck really is so oddly new that it merits mention here.

In a day and age when we seemingly can't go a week without reading about some poor sucker or other being swindled or attacked by someone they met in an Internet romance, PersonaCheck offers perhaps the ultimate online dating tool: Identity verification.

PersonaCheck allows you to obtain online verification of who you are, to set your dates' minds at ease. You submit personal information via secure form (name, place of employment, residence, etc.), and they go out and verify it so that your potential dates don't have to worry that you're a fraud.

They charge you for it, of course – but perhaps this sort of service will become as normal a part of the singles scene as breath mints.