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Headline News’ Social Media-Focused Reboot Is Beyond Ridiculous


Source: xkcd

Oof. Cable news network HLN, originally a CNN off-shoot, has taken the page from the strategy of networks like TLC or AMC: abandoning the original concept for the station (Headline News, The Learning Channel, and American Movie Classics, respectively) but keeping the original acronym. The new, refurbished HLN is doing away with the endlessly repeated news cycle and the Nancy Grace-like “outrage news” segments, and replacing them with new material targeted to the millennial demographic.

Apparently the people at Turner Broadcasting don’t have a very high opinion of your demographic.

Here are the new show titles, ranked in increasing order of absurdity:

  • Keywords
  • Vacation Hunters
  • Videocracy
  • One.Click.Away
  • I Can Haz NewsToons
  • #What’sYourFomo

The idea behind the network reboot is to integrate social media with news in original ways that encourage greater levels of engagement. That’s nothing inherently wrong with this idea, but you’d think they could have found some people to come up with ideas that actually understand the advantages online and social news have over cable news, not somebody who browsed Urban Dictionary and KnowYourMeme for an hour.

I don’t understand what the network could possibly offer that couldn’t also be found online without 8 minutes of advertising per half hour. For example, from the description, I Can Haz NewsToons (just typing that makes me shudder) will apparently just show off politically minded e-cards and webcomics. How is that a show? Will the host just read them to us? Will they be crudely animated? I’m not sure which is worse. Why would anybody sit through 2 parts slideshow and 1 part ads for half an hour when they can just scroll through a Tumblr that gives them the exact same thing in two minutes?

Look, HLN, I understand you have a challenge to face trying to reach a younger audience. But if you want to engage with people, you don’t need gimmicks, you need better content. You’re not going to out-Internet the Internet. The fact that you’re trying to shows just how clueless you really are.

Millennials do engage with the news. Really. But almost never through cable. There’s no reason to. This generation is not used to passively consuming information. Young people want the ability to comment, to discuss, to share, and to control how much news to consume. It’s an active experience, as anyone who’s ever done a deep-dive through link after link knows. And no amount of misused hashtagging is going to make cable look more appealing.

(Quick aside, didn’t anyone point out that punctuation closes hashtags? That show can’t even use its own dumb name as a functional hashtag.)

The only way to get millennials to pay attention to cable as a news source is with a strong personality. If you want a model for that, look to Stewart and Colbert. No gimmicks other than entertaining commentary and spot-on satire. It doesn’t even have to be funny, just engaging and… read carefully, because this is the important part… NOT TALKING DOWN TO THE AUDIENCE.

Why Facebook Might Add a ‘Sympathize’ Button (But Probably Won’t)

You don’t really “Like” everything your friends post on Facebook. Whether it’s a commemoration of a recently deceased pet, a “_____ is now single” relationship update, or something that enrages your inner activist, there’s plenty of potential interaction on social networks that isn’t built into the native application.

You might have heard the rumor that Facebook may be adding a “sympathize” button for these sorts of situations. I’m here to tell you that, while weirder things have certainly happened, I wouldn’t hold my breath for this new feature anytime soon. Why?

Simple. Companies can’t use it.

Facebook’s long-term strategy has always been to prove that it is essential. It’s done that socially. As long as you know more people with Facebook accounts than without, it’s a vital part of modern life. Even if you’re a bigger fan of Twitter or Tumblr, you probably still keep that Facebook account around just as a way to stay connected.

But Facebook hasn’t yet 100% proved its value to companies, and companies give Facebook money. Sure, Facebook has ads and promoted posts. (Bookbyte runs a few.) It gives companies access to user data and a platform to reach them. But many companies are still wary about the effectiveness of these ads. Ads on Google are designed to lead people right to what they’re looking for. Ads on Facebook are designed to make somebody Like something they haven’t yet. There’s a lot of value in that, but it’s harder to explain.

A “sympathize” button, which I guess would look like two people hugging or something, doesn’t really connect with company goals. It’s too nuanced, and companies aren’t looking for nuanced reactions. They just want people to Like what they’re doing.

I really have no idea what the "Sympathize" icon would be. A sympathetic flower, or something?

I really have no idea what the “Sympathize” icon would be. A sympathetic flower, or something?

If you remember the old days of Facebook, you used to have a number of fields where you were free to enter whatever information you want. Your profile might have looked something like this:

  • Movies: Either horror or romantic comedies
  • TV Shows: The Sopranos, telenovelas, some reality shows when I’m bored
  • Music: Pretty much anything I can dance to

With the introduction of fan pages, all of this information was wiped clean if it couldn’t be categorized and linked directly to a page. The above information then looked like:

  • Movies: 
  • TV Shows: The Sopranos
  • Music:

The nuance was removed. You simply Liked a page, or you had nothing to say about the topic. “Sympathize” would add a new interaction but not add any way to quantify it.

Liking on the other hand, provides a glimpse into how a person might want to spend money, even in ways Facebook has yet to do. Imagine if companies could target you based on the content of the posts you Liked. Did you Like that video of a 90-yard punt return touchdown? Maybe you’d be interested in buying the team jersey. “Sympathize,” on the other hand, there’s simply no way to monetize it.

Honestly, I don’t mean any of the above as a knock on Facebook. Companies are always going to try to make money, no reason to hate them for it.

And to tell the truth, I’m not crazy about the “Sympathize” button idea either. If you really sympathize with someone who’s going through something tough, you can take the time to write them a comment telling them so.

Should All Tests Be Open Book?

Posted by Reddit user snerro

Posted by Reddit user snerro

A thread on Reddit with the above image kicked off an interesting discussion by teachers and students on the value of memorization in education. As often happens with stuff we find on Reddit, we carried the discussion back into the office, and not all of us were on the same page. Here’s what we thought:


I’m a big promoter of practical testing. I don’t think ‘multiple guess’ tests really show anyone what you know or how well you can apply that knowledge, but mostly if you are a good test taker or not. Out in the real world you are rewarded for your ability to problem solve and find the answers, rather than knowing an answer from memory. Furthermore I am also a fan of portfolios vs. test scores to showcase one’s knowledge and achievements. I would say I strongly agree with the puffin.


While having an open book test could encourage resourcefulness, you still have to know, roughly, where in your notes or text the answer can be found.  To me, it sounds like you’re taking the risk of spending more time on the back end, during the physical test, than on the front end by actually knowing and understanding the material. If I’m having open heart surgery do I want my surgeon to have an anatomy chart open on the table while he’s cutting me open? Or how much time does it waste when your cashier has to look up each and every code of every item you purchase? I’ll take my chances on a med student that’s been forced to memorize everything or general edu student that’s taken the time and effort to memorize their class materials over someone who hasn’t.


I’m not a fan of standardized testing as I don’t believe it accurately reflects one’s intelligence. People in the real world are allowed to use their resources, pool their knowledge with others, collaborate and problem solve to come to a conclusion. I think the meme is accurate in that memorization is not education; memorization is just one of many tools that you have. One’s score or overall intelligence shouldn’t be solely tied to that.


Textbooks can be a convoluted mess. I always thought that I would do a better job on a test if it was open book, but I spent so much time searching for answers that I would skirt the line of completing a test on time. Cramming for a test only helped me to take tests faster. Memorizing enough information to answer correctly or with an educated guess always proved successful for me, so I didn’t have a problem with it. I disagree with the advice puffin. Yes, it’s true that in real life you have an opportunity to ask someone for help. But it’s also important to have a base knowledge in place.


I don’t think this issue is as much about the merits of memorization as it is about whether or not a test is well-designed. The point of a test is to apply knowledge, sure, but writing a persuasive essay, making an educated guess, and solving for X are all different valid ways to apply knowledge. That variety is important, since each type of test exercises a different skill set. I wouldn’t ever argue that all tests should be open book, but I think they get too needlessly stressful when they’re designed in a way that tries both your ability to recall and your ability to apply, like an art history final where you need to remember exact spelling for Islamic art and artists. (This one happened to me, extra ridiculousness points because those names and terms were transliterated from Arabic anyway.)

What do you think?

The Finest Acts of Wikipedia Vandalism

It’s nothing short of shocking that Wikipedia is as useful, functional, and accurate as it is, considering the incredibly high potential for sabotaging edits. Instead of having a scholarly Encyclopedia Britannica-style essay or a random collection of gibberish, we have both, where you can occasionally find an insane gem hidden in the otherwise staid article. Here are a few of the best of those insane gems.

(Always remember, college students, Wikipedia is not an acceptable citation, but it is a pretty great springboard for primary sources. Scroll down to “References.”)

  • Pony controversy. People tend to get passionate about their hobbies.pony
  • Hockey player Zach Parise officially elevated to “hero” seconds after scoring a goal in 2010 Olympics. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Zach Parise scored a game-tying shot 24 seconds before the end of the gold-medal match between the US and Canada. Canada would eventually secure victory in overtime, but for several minutes, Parise was king in the eyes of Wikipedia and all Americans watching.Zachary Andrew Praise (born July 28, 1984) is an Goddamn American Hero and the US Olympic Team..."
  • Gary Oldman is a really, really good actor. oldman (more…)

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