Slate discovers the bus plunge story

The rise and fall of the “bus plunge” story. – By Jack Shafer – Slate Magazine

I was on this meme last winter. Now Slate has it. Thanks to Connie Mack for the pointer.

“As recently as 1980, the New York Times reserved an honored—if small—place in its pages for “bus plunge” news. Whenever buses nose-dived down mountainsides; off bridges and cliffs; over embankments, escarpments, and precipices; through abutments and guardrails; or into ravines, gorges, valleys, culverts, chasms, canyons, canals, lakes, and oceans, the news wires moved accounts of the deadly tragedies, and the Times would reliably edit them down to one paragraph and publish.”As an example of the genre, it’s hard to beat this 30-word gem I culled from the March 5, 1959, edition of the Times:

15 Africans Die in Bus Plunge
MATTAIELE, Union of South Africa, March 5 (Reuters)—Fifteen Africans were killed and thirty others were injured today when a bus careened out of control off a cliff near the Mabusa mission station, about fifteen miles from here.

The 3.0 Vapors

Markoff’s front page opus in the Times on Web 3.0 has blogistan infected with a serious case of the vapors over the next big thing. This time its the “semantic” web renamed with a new dot.release moniker and blessed with the pixie dust of artificial intelligence. Whatever … while Markoff has been way ahead of the curve in the past — with the first mainstream media mention of the Web in ’93, etc. — this one seems to be much ado about nothing, and timed to prick the Web 2.0 O’Reilly conference bubble as that overwrought conference concluded last week.

“Their goal is to add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide — and even provide the foundation for systems that can reason in a human fashion. That level of artificial intelligence, with machines doing the thinking instead of simply following commands, has eluded researchers for more than half a century.”

The notion, as I understand it, is that the act of searching becomes more relevant in the returns due to some machine intelligence assembling a cross-site result that is tuned more accurately to the searcher’s intentions. Whatever.  Markoff may be onto something, but I didn’t reach the end of the piece with any “aha” moment of revelation.

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