I will be the first to admit that I am a sucker for a good listicle. That’s probably a result of being overly prone to making lists myself. I am also not offended by native advertising per se. After all it completely predates the internet. Thumbing through pretty much any fashion magazine or one of the glossy local publications like “Westchester" will make that instantly evident. All of this is to say that I am happy for Jonah Peretti and the folks at Buzzfeed about the recent financing led by Chris Dixon for A16Z.
But I feel very differently when it comes to original news coverage and investigative journalism. There I am completely with John Oliver: I don’t want native advertising anywhere near it. Or any other advertising. Or even an editorial board for that matter (cf the disastrous NY Times coverage of many topics). So what is the alternative funding model? Crowdfunding. That’s why i have been a big fan of Beacon Reader (where I just supported sending an independent journalist to Ferguson, Missouri). Similar efforts are underway in other parts of the world, including Contributoria (UK), De Correspondent (Netherlands) and Krautreporter (Germany).
Our elected representatives are busy at work coming up with misguided laws. Leading the charge once again is Lamar Smith, this time proposing to replace peer review of NSF grants with congressional criteria (Congress of course is not exactly known for its scientists). Now that is not to say that we shouldn’t look into how NSF funding works and propose changes to it. For instance, with crowdfunding platforms for science like Mircoryza emerging, it would be interesting to see if these can be used to make the NSF process more transparent and even route some NSF money through these types of platforms.
Another misguided effort comes from a state senator in California who is proposing to require registration of 3D printers because they could be used to print guns. This comes on the heels of the US government requiring a website to remove the files for a 3D printable gun. Why is this misguided even though I have been calling in general for more regulation of gun ownership? Because regulation should be about making it harder on the margin to obtain high performance weapons for the average person, not a one off weapon for the determined. It is the same reason why locking your front door makes sense even though you have a large glass window next to it.
I am somewhat hopeful that neither one of these will go anywhere. Still the rate at which legislation like this gets suggested or actually introduced is a good argument for having shorter sessions or otherwise limiting how many bills lawmakers can propose!