Belated updates to this year’s stories

You don’t have to run a correction when a story changes after you’ve written about it–but it is polite to follow up. Here’s a not-so-short list of updates to stories I’ve done this year.

Old stories sepia toneWhen I wrote that Google’s new, unified privacy policy would almost certainly be recast to let users opt out of having the company assemble a detailed portrait of them based on their use of separate Google services, I was wrong; that has yet to happen.

Sonic.net’s groundbreaking fiber-to-the-home service–a steal at $69.95 a month for 1 billion bits per second–seems to be off to a fine start in Sonoma County, but the planned expansion to San Francisco’s Sunset District is still on the way. It hasn’t shown up as an advertised offering on this Santa Rosa, Calif., Internet provider’s home-services page either.

Remember when adjacent-friend-discovery apps were going to blow up after their moment in the sun at SXSW in March? Didn’t happen. Facebook bought Glancee (and has yet to do much publicly with its technology), while Highlight seems to have fallen off the map (maybe I’m not hanging out with the right crowd?).

The ethics of outsourced manufacturing, fortunately, have stayed in the headlines since I wrote about them in March for CEA. And we may even be seeing legitimate progress, to judge from the New York Times’ story earlier this week recounting upgrades in pay and working conditions at contract manufacturers Foxconn and Quanta’s Chinese factories.

I’m still waiting to see comparable progress in liberating e-books from “digital rights management.” The sci-fi publisher Tor/Forge–a subsidiary of Macmillan–went DRM-free in July, but other branches of the major publishing houses have clung to this self-defeating measure. 

After saying so many good things about the car2go car-sharing service–and seeing that story get picked up in a few other places–I have to confess that I, ahem, haven’t used the service since. Capital Bikeshare is even more convenient and cheaper for trips under two miles, plus I need to make my way into the District to jump into one of car2go’s Smart fortwo vehicles.

I tempered my praise for Sprint’s Evo 4G LTE by wondering how long its users would wait to get Google’s software updates. Answer: almost six months, the time it took HTC and Sprint to deliver the Android 4.1 release Google shipped in June.

I was pretty sure I’d buy a Nexus 7 tablet after liking it as much as I did in July. But now that I own an iPad mini, that purchase seems like it would be redundant. Am I making a mistake there?

After teeing off on Apple Maps in the first chapter of my iPhone 5 review for CNNMoney.com, I have to give Apple credit for fixing the two worst flaws I called out. It now lists the correct address for the Kennedy Center as its first search result and provides a route to Dulles Airport that don’t cross any runways. But it still doesn’t know about Yards Park or the new 11th Street Bridges across the Anacostia–and the latter omission means its directions will now send you on a closed stretch of freeway.

My upbeat review of Samsung’s $249 Google Chromebook noted some build-quality concerns, in the form of a loose corner of the screen bezel. I found out the hard way that it’s more delicate than that; its LCD is now broken, and I don’t even know how. (We do have a two-year-old at home, but it’s also possible that I dropped something on it.)

My advice about enabling multiple-calendar Google Calendar sync on an iOS device by setting up your Google account as a Microsoft Exchange account will soon be obsolete. Effective January 30, Google will no longer support Exchange syncing on new setups (although existing ones will still work). Fortunately, it’s also posted instructions to enable multiple-calendar sync without the Exchange workaround.

3/23/2013: Updated the link for the car2go review after the post vanished in a site redesign and, for CMS-driven reasons that escape me, could not be re-posted at the same address. 

Attribution is accuracy

One of the less exciting but even less avoidable parts of my work as a journalist and a citizen of the Web is proper attribution. You can’t count on a tweet, a Facebook update or a blog post accurately identifying whoever first posted the fact, witticism, image or video in question; you have to keep clicking “via” and “source” links until you reach the headwaters of the story and can credit the author by name.

This is both good manners and part of telling the truth. Passing off somebody else’s work as your own is wrong, and passing off somebody else’s work as a third party’s isn’t much better–especially if that third party did a quick copy-and-paste job.

But everybody’s busy, especially in most newsrooms, and it’s easy to link to whoever brought something to your attention and leave it at that. I also often see sites reserve their attribution for a short, vague link that may not even be in the body of a story.

I had a reminder of this risk earlier this week. My review of the car2go service for Discovery featured a number I hadn’t seen before: the $578,000 this car-sharing service paid the District of Columbia to obtain free on-street parking for its Smart Fortwo vehicles.

(This did not require any great reporting. I only thought to inquire about that as I was finishing the post; after an amazingly efficient PR interaction, a program manager with D.C.’s Department of Transportation e-mailed the figure.)

John Hendel, who writes the TBDOnFoot blog for (what’s left of) the local-news site TBD, saw that and added more details about car2go’s deal with DDOT in a post that linked to mine. And then the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis wrote a summary of the situation that credited Hendel for digging up the $578k number. Oops.

Things ended fine–I e-mailed DeBonis about it, he updated the post more prominently than I would have, we’re all good. But now I’m worrying if I myself have forgotten to credit somebody for a good quote or interesting factoid in any recent posts. If that somebody is you, please let me know.

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Weekly output: cordless charging, Vivek Kundra, car2go, hard-drive lifespans, camera cables

This list includes a rarity for me: a story that appeared in print–glossy print, no less–before showing up online.

5/2/2012: Cordless Charging Awaits A Jump Start, CEA Digital Dialogue

I’ve been talking to the people at CEA about revisiting some past stories from CES–we in the media often fail to follow up on show debuts to see how they’ve fared, while the association, obviously enough, would not mind more publicity for its signature event. This post looks at the fragmented market for cordless and wireless charging; the next day, Samsung announced its Galaxy S III smartphone with a wireless-charging option that, to judge from its membership in a new, vaguely defined trade group, may not work with either of the current semi-standards.

5/3/2012: Vivek Kundra: Boiling The Ocean, Washingtonian

In my first piece for the monthly magazine, I interviewed former federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra about his experiences working in IT at local, state and federal levels. (The article would have run sooner had I asked more big-picture, non-techie questions in our first conversation.) He has some harsh things to say about how the government does computing–the phrase “boiling the ocean” is Kundra’s term of art for doomed IT projects that try to solve every possible problem out of fear that the currently available funding won’t be around next year–but also remains optimistic about the difference you can make there.

5/5/2012: The Borrow-At-Will, Park-Anywhere Smart Car, Discovery News

I was introduced to Daimler’s point-to-point car-sharing service at SXSW, when one of the people I stayed with ran me around town a few times one of car2go’s Smart Fortwo vehicles. Two weeks later, the company set up shop in Washington, and I took advantage of a free-registration discount code (“CAPITAL,” expiring today) to open an account and use the service for a couple of crosstown drives. In the bargain, I got to shift gears in a car without a tach for the first time since maybe 1993.

5/6/2012: Will audio files kill my hard drive, USA Today

A reader asked if using a new iMac as a home recording studio would shorten the hard drive’s lifespan; I don’t think so, but the question gave me the opportunity to talk about how the drive usually is the first thing to go–and can be one of the most difficult components to replace. The column also has a tip for those of you still habitually reaching for your camera’s USB cable to transfer photos to a camera: Set it aside and pop its SD Card into your computer’s slot instead.

3/23/2013: Updated the car2go link after the post somehow vanished in a site redesign and, for CMS-driven reasons that escape me, could not be re-posted at the same address.