My Photo
Location: Cheverly, Maryland, United States

I'm a geek and musician in the Washington DC-area.

Friday, January 20, 2006

News Thump - A Play about Old Media and New Media

Setting - In the publisher's office at a major city newspaper in the United States.

The conversation is between the publisher of the newspaper and Stanley, the person in charge of the newspaper's web site.

"Stanley, I hear there have been some problems with our company's web site. Fill me in."

"Sir, the problem is we've been having a spike in web traffic every hour."

"Isn't that a good thing? Don't we want visitors to our web site?"

"In general, yes. But the quantity of visitors hitting our web site at the top of the hour is very large. Our web servers are not able to respond to that intensity of web traffic."

"What's this about, Stanley? Is this some prank? A bunch of teenagers having a laugh?"

"Sir, it appears to be more than a prank. The news thump is happening every hour, on the hour, 24-hours a day. It's not just people in the United States causing the news thump. People in other parts of the world have joined in."

"This sounds crazy. Have you been able to figure out anything about this?"

"I looked at our web site traffic logs and noticed that we're getting a large number of Firefox visitors at the top of the hour."

"Firefox? What's Firefox?

"Firefox is the web browser that's rapidly growing in popularity. I sent you a memo about it a few months ago recommending that we switch the whole newsroom to Firefox."

"Stanley, you know I don't have time to read your memos. I'm trying to publish a newspaper here. Can you think of any reason these Firefox people would be visiting our site exactly once an hour? Why is this happening?"

"Sir, I think I'm beginning to figure this out. Firefox users tend to be idealistic people. They want news media to be more participatory - sort of like"

" What's"

"Sir, I sent you a memo about Digg last month. It's a tech news web site that is edited by the community."

"Well, if it's edited by the community, it can't be any good, can it?"

"Sir, Digg is rising so rapidly in popularity it looks like it might be one of the top 50 most visited web sites."

"I still don't understand it. Why are Firefox users visiting our newspapers web site once an hour - exactly at the top of the hour?"

"Sir, I think these people want us to hear their footsteps."

"Footsteps? What is this? Some kind of horror film?"

"You're not going to like what I'm going to say next. The footsteps are getting louder."

"I don't understand. How does this news thump thing work?"

"Sir, the Firefox web browser has something called extensions. An extension is a small program that extends the capabilities of the browser. Someone has created an extension called "News Thump" that makes Firefox automatically visit major newspaper and other media sites around the world once an hour - at exactly the top of the hour."

"But surely these web browsers can only visit one web site at a time?"

"Sir, in Firefox you can open multiple web sites at the same time using tabs."

"Tabs? Tabs? Why don't I have tabs in Internet Explorer?"

"Sir, Internet Explorer is several years behind the times in browser technology."

"What jackass standardized the use of Internet Explorer in our newsroom? Wait! Don't answer that Stanley. Just tell me what do these news thumpers want? What do they want to extort out of us?"

"Sir, it's not quite extortion they're looking for. It seems to me they're looking for greater participation in the news process."

"Greater participation in the news process? Do these teenagers want me to give them the keys to our editors' offices? You know, I thought we had dealt with all these hippy activists once and for all back in the 1960's."

"Sir, from what I can tell, the news thumpers are equally conservative and liberal."

"Stanley, it sounds like you're on their side at times."

"Sir, I'm not on their side. I do need to explain their point of view to you so you can understand about the news thumping problem."

"Stanley, I've spent my life as a newspaper man working my way up through this company. Forty years of toil and travails. And what do I get when I reach the top? People thumping me over the head. Next you're going to tell me that the Firefox web browser was designed by some teenager."

"Sir, the Firefox web browser was designed by some teenager."

"I'm at wit's end, Stanley. I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do. Our subscribers are canceling their subscriptions in droves, our advertisers are fleeing us and an extension to a web browser designed by a teenager is thumping me over the head….

Stanley, I need your help with this."


"Send me a memo."

Phil Shapiro

This skit may be freely shared for any nonprofit purpose.

"The world is made of stories, not atoms." - Muriel Rukeyser