November 29, 2005
Hacking baby cheetahs and hunger strikes
Here are some interesting stats for all you media hackers1 out there to mull over. They help answer the ever-pressing question for jornalists - what do readers actually want to read.
ETHIOPIA: Jailed opposition leaders to go on hunger strike
20 related stories on Google news
ETHIOPIA: Troops rescue cheetah cubs
141 related stories on Google news
1 Phrase coined, I think, by Ethan Zuckerman, of My Heart's in Accra and the now award-winning Global Voices. Media hacking means something like using blogging and internet statistics to get the inside story on where stories are being read and how they are being used. There are some good examples of the practice here and here.
Posted by aheavens at November 29, 2005 6:48 AM
When did U.S. soldiers start working in Ethiopia? There has long been stories/rumors/sightings of American soldiers on the ground in Ethiopia, but now there appears to be some truth to the issue.
Posted by: Bob at November 30, 2005 2:02 PM
May be Ethiopia has one of those secret and illegal prisons of the Pentagon. That is probably why Meles is enjoying such a support from the US in spite of his attrocities.
Posted by: selam at December 1, 2005 1:42 PM
Thanks for the tip of the hat regarding "media hacking". While research is definitely part of the larger media hacking toolkit (and the example you show here is a good example of one of my favorite techniques, comparative counting), the ultimate goal of hacking is to get the media to cover the "right" things, in this case, hunger strikers, not cheetah cubs. But showing a comparative count is a great way to get reporters thinking about what they are and aren't covering. Hack away!
Posted by: EthanZ at December 1, 2005 3:23 PM
Dear Bob and Selam - there is nothing secret about the US military presence in Ethiopia. If you go anywhere near one of the country's more controversial borders - with Somalia for example - you will see US soldiers walking around quite openly, hanging around the airports and staying in hotels.
When I came down for breakfast at a hotel in Jijiga earlier this year, I sat down next to three young soldiers with their assault rifles leaning against the table. One carried a mysterious black case which he kept close to him through the meal. Later in the day, I heard the case had contained nothing more dramatic than a Playstation 2. One of my travelling companions had heard him playing a loud shoot-em-up game on it through most of the night.
I'm not sure what their official mandate is. It is something to do with helping Ethiopia check the spread of Al Qaeda over the border.
Posted by: andrew at December 1, 2005 6:01 PM
I have been looking at your blog for the past few months now as I gear up to leave for my new job in Addis in January. I hope to meet you and Amber when I come over.
As far as your media hacking skills, I might have this wrong but, just because it comes at the top of google, doesn't mean that it is being read more...what it means is that CNN.com and AP.com gave that story a "higher" rating in its news service. Which means in the technical world, it has stronger search mechanisms on it which makes it come up higher in google's news searches. So, it was actually the news Web sites that boosted its number, NOT the number of readers. So, it doesn't indicate what people want to read, it indicates that news agencies such as AP and CNN THINK that is what people want to read. After all, cubs are more warm and fuzzy than hunger strikes and Web site advertisers are more likely to be drawn to those warm and fuzzies. Hopefully blogs like yours will help alliviate such bad news-making decisions.
Keep up your good work and I will try to track you down when I land.
-Katie from Cincinnati
Posted by: Katie from Cincinnati at December 1, 2005 9:44 PM
Thanks for the insight, but you have not disproved the possibility of the presence of secret illegal Pentagon prisons. In fact, you made it more plausible. You may have seen the guards come out to Jijiga for R and R.
The concern is that the Pentagon is doing in Ethiopia what it can't do in its own country. This goes in line with supporting a regime that imprisons all free press journalists.
Posted by: selam at December 2, 2005 12:49 AM
You are quite right Katie. The numbers in brackets showed the number of publications picking up the story, not the number of readers. They was more an indication of what news editors think their reader want to read than what readers are actually reading. Having said that, news editors are generally pretty good at guessing what their readers want to read. This could go on for ever.
Looking forward to meeting you in January.
Posted by: Andrew at December 3, 2005 6:13 AM