Friday, November 26, 2010

ESPN's Craig James thinks Cam Newton will get Heisman

Just got off Twitter, sharing a few tweets with ESPN Personality Craig James. James was as quick on Twitter (@craigjames32) as he was on ESPN's College Football Show, sharing that he thinks Auburn Quarterback Cam Newton will win the Heisman Trophy, after Newton's stunning rally of his Auburn Tigers from 24 points down to beat Alabama 28 to 27.

You may remember Craig James as the father of Texas Tech Wide Receiver Adam James, and in the role of angry father, so much so that he, the elder James arguably cost Head Coach Mike Leach his job.

But this blogger remembers Mr. James as the fullback for a Southern Methodist University team that was one of the nation's best in the early 80s. That was the time SMU had a certain halfback named Eric Dickerson, and the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) had a certain student named Zennie Abraham.

It was the time of my first car, a 1978 Thunderbird, that I drove from Arlington to Dallas on the weekends to hang at a place called The Greenville Avenue Country Club.   That bar was known for its pool and totally hot SMU women hanging out at it, wearing next to not much.

One Thursday night, I was just five feet away from the beer-swigging running back tandem KRLD's Brad Sham had christened "DickerJames."  No, they were on their best behavior off the field; on it, they ran all over UTA and everyone else..

Fast Forward to tonights tweets, and James thinks Oklahoma will run all over Oklahoma State, and Nebraska will fall to Boise State.

Rachel Berry: Miss Orange after The Oscars and MTV-U

This is for those who wonder "what happened to.." In the case of 2009-2010 Oscars and MTV-U College Correspondent Competition finalist Rachel Berry, she went on to become Miss Orange.

That's right. Rachel Berry went from college broadcast journalist to beauty queen.

When this blogger met her at the press conference for the Oscars / MTV-U College Correspondent Competition on the Saturday before the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, it was obvious she had great legs...

Great dancer's legs.

Yep.  That's Rachel Berry smoking up the floor last October for the Miss California 2010 Competition, where she placed as a finalist.   As for doing another "go" at the MTV-U Oscar Competition, can one do it again if they've done it the year before?

Stay tuned.

In closing, here's a cool video featuring Rachel's Oscars Red Carpet appearance:

Oscars and MTVU Correspondent Contest: 12 Days to deadline

This Oscars news update is on the Academy Awards / MTV-U Third Annual "Oscars®
Correspondent Contest" for College Journalists. With December 6th approaching, you have just 12 days remaining to get in your video showing your interviewing skills and explaining why you're the best choice to cover the 83rd Annual Academy Awards in 2011.  (Update: Rachel Berry after the 2009-2010 contest.)

This blogger highly recommends that you enter the contest; the end result of being on the Red Carpet for the Oscars will be not just a great learning experience, but a moment in time you will never forget.

Moreover, as a winner, you will be treated like a star, yourself. Last year's participants were the focus of a major press conference on the Saturday before the 2010 82nd Annual Academy Awards. Here's this blogger's video highlight from that event:

Here are the details from the AMPAS press release:

From October 27 through December 6, college students are invited to submit a video at, showcasing their interviewing skills and proving why they deserve to cover the Oscars. All videos submitted must be from teams made up of one reporter and one videographer. The Academy and mtvU will select the top ten videos to be posted online at, where students and other viewers can watch and vote for their favorite journalists from January 10 through January 28.

The three teams whose videos capture the most votes will advance to the final round of online voting from February 7 through February 18. All three teams will be flown to Los Angeles to cover Academy Awards pre-events, including the Animated Feature Symposium, Foreign Language Film Award press event, the Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Symposium and the Governors Ball preview.

The Grand Prize-winning team will be revealed on Saturday, February 26, at an Academy press conference. The reporter and videographer will be awarded a spot on the red carpet for the 83rd Academy Awards arrivals, as well as credentials for access to backstage press rooms. The winning team’s coverage will be aired on MTV News and mtvU. The two finalist teams will receive bleacher seats along the red carpet and admission to an Oscar® viewing party.

Last year, Terry Stackhouse and Zach Cusson from Emerson College captured the Grand Prize and covered the red carpet at the 82nd Academy Awards. Runners-up Rachel Berry and Christian Hartnett of Chapman University and Brandon McCaskill and Kiarra Hart of Florida A&M University earned bleacher seats along the red carpet and admission to an Oscar viewing party.

For a complete list of rules and regulations for the “Oscars Correspondent Contest,” please visit

Google News Meta Tags Program killing blogs - update

The first two blog posts in this series reported how the Google News Meta Tag program was killing news partnerships and blog listings. But more conversations with bloggers revealed that its killing some blogs as well, many of them Liberal Blogs, and with traffic losses as great as 90 percent in one known case.

The entire affair, said to be "experimental" by Google News staff, is triggering so much consternation in the blogosphere that the end result will be if not one, then several complaints filed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The Google News Meta Tag program was created to establish one "canonical" URL for a thread of news articles and blog posts. In other words, the system asks the authors to favor the post where the news "originated" from. But in implementing the system last week, Google's machines removed a very large number - perhaps over 100 - blogs from Google News, leaving legacy news sites like The New York Post or The Wall Street Journal.

The legal problem is that Google News action results in a surpression of a certain form of speech. That claim is not hyperbole.

First, Google News staff has sent emails pointing to the overall idea of "news quality" as being the reason for the actions taken. But the problem is websites that exhibit obvious use of writing approaches to gain traffic, specifically from Associated Content are allowed to remain on Google News, where small, independent blogs, which have better track records of non-abuse, are taken off Google News.

This happened to, even though this blogger has taken great steps - even to blocking other Zennie62 bloggers from posting "illegal" blogs - to maintain quality blog posts. (The good news for Zennie62, is that the traffic impact has only been a negative 10 percent to 18 percent per day, from overall page view count data. That's far less than the 50 percent to 90 percent in other blog cases.)

Second, Google News staff's actions have resulted in an uncomfortably large number of Liberal Blogs being removed from Google News, like VF Daily, the blog of Vanity Fair, while Conservative Blogs, like Red State, curiously remain in place on Google News.  The other blogs are "banished" to Google Blog Search level.  Google Blog Search is not shown as a first-click option in Google search results.

In claiming "news quality" as the reason for the blog taken down action, Google News staff is harming free expression and overall diversity of opinions expressed, and flat out telling a lie as well. "News quality" is attacked whenever the person issuing the attack disagrees with the content of the blog that's being questioned. Rare is the case that a person will attack a blog who's content they agree with.

Google's other claim is that the blog post does not "add new information" to the news.  But in that claim Google unknowingly shows its actions to be not legal, for blogs are and have been considered an "echo" chamber, where one idea is commonly repeated by other blogs (this is confirmed in a study called Blogs Are Echo Chambers).  That's the reason the media refers to the "blogosphere's" take, be it the Liberal, Conservative, or Tech blogosphere.  It's not the blog's role to necessarily create new news, but to reflect the overall speech Zeitgeist of the day.

That's why Google News staff is not telling the truth, and if it is, then what it's doing is not legal - Google can't win. That's why the entire Google News action is subject to legal review. It is unconstitutional purely because of the overall size of Google.   But with that, Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing will have to fall in line with what happens to Google in the wake of this skirmish.

Google's market share for search, estimated at 63 percent as of this writing, is such that Google News becomes the online "controller" of what is news for everyone because Google News results are prominently displayed on the front page of a search result.

What must happen is that the FCC and perhaps ultimately The Supreme Court, will have to step in and set a standard for the presentation of online news that does not harm free speech and represents the FCC's calls for diversity and openness online.   Right now, Google's actions are destroying those objectives in practice.

What should Google do to right this wrong?  It goes beyond just reinstating the blogs removed from Google News.  This solution offered will open Google News to blogs and citizen journalists and give a much-needed and understood roadmap for the blogger to follow:

1) The Google News results should include a list of the latest keyword-relevant blog posts from Google Blog Search, and the top blog posts from that should be on the front of the search page.  Of course, because of the constant addition and indexing of blog posts, the results will change frequently, much like those for Twitter on Google, but that's better than what exists today.  
2) A clear set of instructions on how to redesign a blog for inclusion into Google News, must be posted and accessible via link from the results for Google News searches.   Also, all blogs, owned by Google, should have a Newssite map code that can be installed.  Currently, Google subordinates its own blogspot blogs, and does not tell users of Blogger how to upgrade their blog templates for better results in search or inclusion to Google News.  
3) Google News staff must give takedown warnings one month before such actions are done, and explain what the problem is to the webmaster.  That would eliminate the current appearance of favoritism and give the webmaster a chance to correct a problem, if it does exist.   

Google News 'Massacre' Affects Small Business Bloggers

As Zennie pointed out earlier in his post, "
Google News Meta Tags Program Killing Blog Listings" Google News has done a lot to "clean out" their database of small publishers. Basically, the decision was made without warning, without explanation, and without any input from Google Staff to publishers.

There are a couple of things at play, here and many unanswered questions. First, many blog owners have been sent out generic emails which state that their blogs don't meet "quality guidelines."

Really? What are the quality guidelines? I'd link to a list of them...but guess what? There are none! A review of some of the publishers who have reported their blogs to be de-listed leaves one scratching their head. Why are publishers who have been listed for several years, who give credit to their sources via links, and who engage readers in meaningful conversations de-listed while some content mills get to stay listed?

Scott Rosenberg at called out one Associated Content writer for his overuse of the popular search key "Dr. Laura n-word" back in August. A cursory glance at the link to the piece
leads you to the
author's page...
and guess what? The same author is still using practices, which Rosenberg describes as "vein, cobbled together with no care beyond an effortful -- and, I guess, successful -- determination to catch Google's eye by repeating the many times as possible."

A quick look at Google's small amount of guidelines that are available in the Webmaster tools claims that you are supposed to make your content "primarily for users, not search engines" and that a Webmaster should ask him/herself before posting anything "does this help my users, would I do this if search engines didn't exist?" It's important to note that these are quality guidelines in general - not just for Google News. There are no such guidelines, to this blogger's knowledge, of any special quality guidelines for Google News alone.

The whole "content farm" and small publisher backlash has been a long time coming. Last year, Belinda Luscombe at Time Magazine wrote an article titled "Why Does Google Search Love" The article goes on to say that articles on the site are a compendium of tidbits culled from other websites, neither advancing the story nor bringing any insight (a description, it should be noted, that can be just as fairly applied to many offerings of more mainstream media). Most Examiners are not journalists, and their prose is not edited."

This all goes against the premise of Google News which is "original" content - which you will find on sites like and also ours and several other recently banned publishers.

There are a couple of questions that I, along with thousands of other small business bloggers, want answered. 1) What determined who got erased from the Google News database 2) Why isn't everyone treated the same? Why are there still small publishers in News? And most importantly...why aren't Google employees responding to the many publisher pleas in their "help" forum?

The Effects of Google's Blog 'Massacre' On Me

How has this affected this small business blogger? Our traffic has declined about 90%, and our ad revenue about the same. Therefore, it's not only our small business that has been affected - it's also the small business ad networks that we used in addition to Google Adsense. In addition, we had to tell our writers to 'hold off' on hyper posting until we can either get re-listed with Google News or figure out how to build our traffic up to a base where we can afford to pay writers.

We, too, contacted Google News explaining that we had installed a plugin to solve the "meta tag" compliance issues Zennie has discussed earlier. We explained that we hired an editor (who we will try to retain, but may not be able to), and outlined all we have done to "comply" with the implied quality guidelines.

The response we got was the same response Zennie got which read:We periodically review news sources, particularly following user complaints, to ensure Google News offers a high quality experience for our

Upon reviewing your site, we found that we can no longer include it in Google News at this time. We have certain guidelines in place regarding the quality of sites which are included in the Google News index

If your site is in violation of these guidelines, it will not be added to Google News. Please feel free to review these guidelines at the following link:]Please note that you'll still be able to find your site in Google Web Search and other Google services.

Thanks for your interest in Google News.

The Google News Team

Back to the drawing board.

This isn't right. There are too many weird factors at play. Is Google trying to suppress the voice of the independent blogger? Is Google giving in to "big media", paving the way to the day where we will have to pay publications for their online information?

All I know is that the actions are blatantly un-American, infringe on our rights, and borderline on violating first Amendment rights....but Why? Who's behind this recent action by Google? The same action which has added quite possibly 10-20 more people to the ranks of the unemployed - just on my publication (which has no relation to alone? Why was this move made over the holiday, and why won't Google reply to any inquiries from frantic publishers willing to bend over backwards and do whatever is necessary to keep Google happy?

Cyber Monday deals? How about free?

Today, Friday, is "Black Friday," but we're already talking about "Cyber Monday." America's into the period, the holidays, where consumption of goods, far more than services, is pushed.

At a time when unemployment rates are still high, and the unemployed are, in some cases, waiting to determine if Congress is going to extend the Unemployment Benefits they get, how about one day that's free? Why not have the Cyber Monday deals be for free?

While scary at first, a series of free Cyber Monday deals would help businesses clear out inventories, while allowing people to get what they need even while they don't have money coming in. To make it better, the firm's offering such deep discounts would be able to write them off.

That's right. Offering free deals is a form of charity, as this logic goes, so why not allow the businesses doing so to write off the cost of each item? It's a kind of tax credit for doing good.

Who could benefit from this? Large retailers with strong online sales programs, for one and enough reserves to be able to offer the program, then enjoy the tax benefits the next year.

Cyber Monday doesn't have to be a "let's see if we can make them part with their money" time in our lives. With so many people in need of a helping hand, this idea is just the solution for them, and helps the companies who chose to help them, too.

Happy Thanksgiving thoughts, happy to be alive

This Thanksgiving blog post is backwards; its supposed to be done in the morning. But now, with my belly full of food and drink it just seemed like a good idea to jot a few thoughts down in brief.

I'm thankful to be alive. Especially since two of my fathers and a number of my friends have died and passed on to Heaven. I think of people like Michael McQuire, who died at 48 of heart failure, and Pernell Harris who died at 40 of what appeared to be an aneurysm.  Then my father Zenophon Abraham, Sr, who passed away from Prostate Cancer, as did my stepfather Chester Yerger, Jr. and both in 2005.  And from Skyline High School, Ann Lucas passed at just 47 from cancer.  

And when people I knew passed in their 20s it was generally from a car accident, which was the case for the great Sam Peters, who was my friend at Cal Berkeley.   I think of all the people who have passed on and wonder what I'm doing here and what this is about.  That's why I turn to God.

Then, I think of all of my blessings.  Like my current good health and appearance.  I think of my Mom and how I'm blessed to have her here.  And I think of how happy I am to have been able to craft a living from my talent, and not be trapped in doing something just to make money.  

I'm blessed to have met a number of amazing people, from professors, to actors and actresses and movie producers and NFL team owners, and NFL commissioners.  The list goes on.  

I'm happy for the people I know and the few really good friends I have.  I do wish some people I knew were more genuine.  That is disappointing.

But overall, I've got a lot to be thankful for.  Overall, my Mom's here and she's my only direct family remaining.  

I'm also thankful for Roosters in Oakland.