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Steve Rubel Says Journalism is a Shade of Gray

Question: Where do bloggers fit in the world of journalism?

Steve Rubel: You know, what we like to do is, as a society, is put things in boxes and label things.  And, you know, we like to be able to say this is an elephant and this is a zebra and it was very easy to do that with blogs and journalism. It was easier than it is now, even a couple of years ago.

So, bloggers operate in a certain way, they want to be treated in a certain way, they have an expectation level, there was an ethos of transparency and an ethos of, you know, things that you do and you don’t do with bloggers. That was kind of an unwritten rule that was published. 

But what we’ve seen over the last couple of years though is that the elephants and the zebras have mated and I don’t know what’s what anymore so we have journalists that blog all the time and are on Twitter and yet we still have to treat them like professional journalists and there’s absolutely, and it’s our way of operating with them. 

There are bloggers that basically run little media companies and we have to, they expect to be treated in certain way but not quite in the same way that the Times wants, but with different kinds of rules of their own and then we have individuals that maybe have no rules whatsoever they’re just individuals who had day jobs who are publishing for passion. 

So, it’s very blurry and so the rules of engagement really vary and the blending of what’s a journalist and what’s a blogger is you know, it’s obliterated.  I mean, it’s more clear if you work for a major media organization that you’re a journalist, that’s pretty clear cut, but, you know, let’s take an example like TechCrunch which is one of the most popular blogs in the web which is independent. You know, is that a media company? Do we treat them like we do journalists?  I don’t know, or Talking Points Memo is another example. 

So I think that, I think that each individual is going to develop their own rules of engagement. Each company will develop their own rules and engagement and some of those will be written and some of those will be unwritten and we’ll have to test them in an ethical way and see and we’ll see what works and what doesn’t, I mean, I’ll give you an example with blogging, you know blogging is, as a company and not with people or fake blogs never went anywhere. It was something that was kind of a non-starter. 

On Twitter, there seems to be more receptivity towards that kind of stuff. I don’t know if it is as effective but there seems to be some more acceptance there.  So, every community, every site seems, every person seems to have their own rules and it’s extraordinarily messy and it’s not easy to just, you know, box things up.

Question: Do you have any blog horror stories?

Steve Rubel: So I joined Edelman in 2006, and I started my blog in 2004 and when I was, the first two years I was blogging I was in a small PR company with 30 people so we had, you know, 15 clients and you know, that gave me a canvas that was huge. I could write about anything, anybody and not be concerned about it because I didn’t really have to worry about getting tripped up.

When I went to Edelman, you know, that’s a client, that’s an organization with 3,500 people around the world and, you know, we have thousands of clients and I don’t even know who our clients are, I mean, it’s just so, it’s just huge and, you know, we could represent one company in one market and not represent them anywhere else, I mean, you know, so it’s really.  It’s a very huge organization.

The wakeup call I’ve got was about two years ago. When I got on Twitter actually, in a stream of consciousness I just begun to write about my media habits and one of the things that I, at that time I was getting a complementary subscription to the print edition of PC magazine and so what I ended up writing was, I get a copy of PC Magazine for free but I throw it away. Now, the reason I said that is because actually I was reading it online at that time. 

Well, somebody who doesn’t like us and doesn’t like Edelman reached out to the editor of PC Magazine at that time and, you know, he was understandably upset about it, and he wrote a pretty nasty up op-ed criticizing not just me but basically threatening to blacklist our entire PR firm. 

So, he was basically saying, he was posturing that he would, you know, any approach from our firm to him or his editors will just be a non-starter because of this little tweet that I wrote. And that was a huge wakeup call. I had to go on my blog and write an apology. I mean, it wasn’t like somebody twisted my arm, I was all ready to do that. I had no intention of slamming it. I was just something I wrote in the stream of consciousness and then Twitter didn’t give me a lot of room and it was early, early days for Twitter but that was a sign to me that I can’t do what I was doing before. I don’t have that level of freedom, it’s not because somebody is watching over me but because I just, you know, I have to protect the firm, I’ve got to protect our clients and obviously a part of that,  I’ve got to protect me. So that was a pretty bad experience then. But you know, I came out better for it and I think so did Edelman.

Recorded on: May 27, 2009

Bloggers have leveled the playing field in the journalism industry.

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.