Friday, June 25, 2010

"Once sent out, a word takes wing beyond recall"

--- Roman poet Horace, Horace 65-8 bc: Epistles, source Oxford Quotations database

From the translation on
Moreover, that I may advise you (if in aught you stand in need of an adviser), take great circumspection what you say to any man, and to whom. Avoid an inquisitive impertinent, for such a one is also a tattler, nor do open ears faithfully retain what is intrusted to them; and a word, once sent abroad, flies irrevocably.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"The problem with such newspapers is that, although they do much that is excellent, they do little that is distinctive enough for people to pay for it"

--- The Economist in a leader on the American newspaper business, June 12th 2010

Quote in context:

Thanks to family connections, Chandler ended up in control of the Los Angeles Times in 1960. The paper he inherited was parochial and conservative, reflecting the city it served. Chandler jettisoned the anti-union dogma and set about building a west-coast rival to the New York Times. His paper was heavy on foreign news and serious, objective reporting. The result was hugely impressive—but not, as it turned out, suited to the internet era. In the past few years the paper has suffered repeated staff cuts. In 2007 it was acquired by a property magnate and in 2008 filed for bankruptcy protection.

The problem with such newspapers is that, although they do much that is excellent, they do little that is distinctive enough for people to pay for it. The Los Angeles Times’s foreign reporting is extremely good. But it is hard to argue that it is better than the stuff supplied by the New York Times or foreign papers—sources to which the residents of Los Angeles now have unfettered, largely free access via their laptops and iPhones. Similarly, it has never been clear why each major newspaper needs its own car reviewer: a Corolla is a Corolla, whether it is driven in Albuquerque or Atlanta. And by extension, it is not clear why presidential candidates or sport teams require huge journalistic entourages. Papers should concentrate on what they do best, which means, in many cases, local news and sport. If the rest is bought in from wire services or national outfits, readers are unlikely to complain—as long as there is enough competition between those larger providers to keep up standards (and thanks to the internet there probably is now). Specialisation generally means higher quality.

"a gloriously over-engineered stand-up scooter"

--- The Economist's description of the Segway, in a profile of Dean Kamen, "Mr Segway's difficult path", Technology Quaterly, June 12th 2010.  Classic Economist.

In context:
The invention for which Mr Kamen is best known is the Segway Transporter, a gloriously over-engineered stand-up scooter that had the misfortune to emerge just after the dotcom crash in 2001, just as the disillusioned technology industry was looking for the next big thing. Before its unveiling, Mr Kamen’s mysterious new invention was the subject of feverish speculation. Steve Jobs of Apple said it was “as big a deal as the PC” and John Doerr, a venture capitalist, mused that it would be “bigger than the internet”. It was, in fact, a rather clever two-wheeled, self-balancing scooter, using technology similar to the iBot. But after all the hype it could not possibly live up to expectations.