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Here's something you probably already knew.
Actually I added the word "national" to the sentence above. The New York Times failed to. Because local business newspapers are doing just fine thank you very much. The Times, as usual, has about half the story.
National magazines are out of favor because (ironically) they never created a real business proposition for the advertiser. Look at the ads. They're all corporate self-congratulation. Where's the business in that? It doesn't exist.
Beyond that Forbes, Fortune and Business Week mainly existed to tout stocks and stock touters. The collapse of the dot-bomb meant bad news for both, and in fact the Dow Jones has yet to match its pre-bust high. (The NASDAQ remains at about 40% of that high.) Fast Company, Red Herring and their ilk had an even weaker business case -- they pre-touted what vulture capitalists pushed.
But like I said, this is just half the story.
In order to succeed a blog must be spontaneous, fun, news-oriented and irreverent. If it sounds like a corporate communication it will be treated as such, and either be ignored or laughed-at.
There is a risk the blogger may reveal more than you want known, about corporate strategy or what you're really up to. And, let's face it, most corporations are sausage factories, on the order of Ricky Gervais' The Office or Scott Adams' Dilbert.
How can you avoid this? Some good advice follows:
As the graph shows, the phenomenon is familiar to anyone who blogs, and the challenge is to find a way to profit from it.
Stuff on the left side of the curve has business models. Stuff in the middle is struggling for a business model. Stuff on the right has no business model.
As you can see by looking at the endorsements on the left side of Anderson's blog, the Digirati are reacting like Anderson just discovered fire. And the Long Tail is no less obvious.
What's non-trivial is finding a way to profit from these atomized markets.
Google does it. TiVo does it (sometimes). But must those who profit from the "market of one" all be scaled? What about the creators? And what are the consequences of that?
What we've seen in the market, since the rise of the Internet, is an increasingly-shorter tail. Middle market books don't sell. Independent movies are having more trouble getting produced, not less. Musicians who used to live decent lives on record company contracts find today they can't get a sniff.
I've been a professional writer for over 25 years now. And what is most striking about the last few years, besides the rise of open source and blogging, is the rise of forced amateurism.
I've written about this before regarding Fuat Kircaali. He has built a fortune on the backs of unpaid labor. (No, that's not Fuat to the right, it's St. Martin and the Beggar, by El Greco, from iBiblio.com.)
He's not alone. Far from it, in fact. Three years into a supposed tech recovery and most of the offers I'm getting, still, are for "exposure" or "contacts," not dollars. Even those publishers who do profess to pay something, such as Newsfactor, in fact pay very little. Professional tech journalism, the field I've been part of for 20 years, is circling the drain.
The same is increasingly true of professional software development. The rise of open source disguises a disquieting fact. Many programmers today can't get work, and salaries are down. Most commentary is to the effect that programmers should "get over it." No wonder fewer want to be in the profession. I notice that CEO and sales pay rates in that industry aren't falling.
The fact is that trends designed to liberate this business, so far, are succeeding only in impoverishing the people in it. I've said this before, but the problem here is one of business models.
One pictures John Von Neumann.
Von Neumann made major contributions to quantum mechanics, he practically invented game theory, but what got him on the stamp was his "invention" of "modern computer design."
It's now obsolete.
Von Neumann architecture required that a computer do one thing, then the next, and on through the program. It led to things like the Cray Supercomputer, a huge, very expensive machine that could do this very, very quickly.
The solution to really amazing speed was to break up the work into parts and run those parts in parallel. This was first done in the 1980s, it was applied to networks in the 1990s, and now it's being applied to chips as "dual-core."
As the BBC reports:
This is the first major campaign in France in which the internet has become a key weapon, with bloggers and internet-users becoming the "No" campaign's front-line troops - not just in terms of influencing public opinion but also in rallying the French public to attend its campaign events.
If it happens, and the Web is credited after-the-fact, it would be a first, and it would be important.
As for Europe? I have a cunning plan...
One of the most common, and most damaging things civilized man has done to the environment is to pre-empt predation.
Predators are a vital part of any environment. They remove the sick from the herd. They keep the genetic line of prey strong. And they keep prey species from overpopulating.
It's natural that we don't want our oldsters or little kids eaten by wolves (which was a major theme of the old fairy tales). So in most of the civilized world we've removed predators from the scene.
Outside the cities and suburbs, of course, we've replaced the predators with hunters . One big difference, however. While animal predators prey on the old, the sick, and the stupid young, hunters (or sportsmen) want big antlers to hang on their walls.
But let's take off our orange vests and get back into town....(I found this guy at NASA. Heh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh.)
One of my continuing themes is the World of Always On, with wireless networking as a platform, running applications that use data from your daily life.
But before we get there we all have to become network managers. In today's issue I consider that question.
I'm a network manager. (MG-Soft of Slovenia makes products for network managers. That's their mascot, Mr. Monet, at left.)
It's not that I want to be. I'm a homeowner. My kids have PCs. My wife and I have PCs. Some years ago a friend ran wires among the rooms so everyone could share my DSL line.
There are now millions of us network managers. Recently I sat on my porch, opened my laptop, and learned that three of my five immediate neighbors now have WiFi networking in their homes. The signals were faint, but my copy of Windows found them all as soon as I booted-up. And the nearest of the three was totally unsecured. If I had larceny in my heart I could have entered my neighbor's network, used their bandwidth, even prowled around in their PCs looking for porn, passwords or blackmail material. (Fortunately for them, I'm a very nice person.)
The other two neighbors had nets which, like mine, are protected by long identifiers, input once, which validate valid PCs. One even had encryption on their system (very nice). The neighbors on the unprotected net insisted later they had the same system I do, but I suspect they haven't taken time to activate the security features.
The point is that wireless networks make many of us network managers, and Always On applications will make most of us network managers. We're not qualified for the work. We may never be qualified. Those who do become qualified become that way as I did recently, in extremis.
Why hasn't the World of Always On arrived?
The ingredients are all here, and they're cheap-as-chips: (An example is this nifty little camera, from yoursecurity.us.)
I'm convinced the hurdles facing Always On applications aren't technical, and aren't artifacts of the market.
Let's run them down, shall we?
When will we get effective political pushback against Hollywood's absolutism on copyright?
I once thought it would happen when people were jailed for linking.
I was wrong.
The filing of criminal charges against the people who ran Elite Torrents, a BitTorrent "tracking site," and the complete take-down of the site, has caused few ripples. Washington remains as absolutist as ever.
Instead, it's technology that retains our confidence. BitTorrent is now becoming trackerless. No trackers, no tracking sites to take down, no track linkers to toss in jail.
But that's not good enough for me. This is like depending on super weapons to defend us in an atomic age. Without peace, soon, between copyright owners and copyright users, the Internet will be effectively destroyed.
It doesn't take much imagination to see Al Qaeda propaganda, or even terrorist plans, being distributed via a Torrent. Especially a trackerless torrent.
From there it is a very quick move to seeing politicians equate file sharing with terrorism, Torrent users with Al Qaeda, and demands for a complete shut-down on any technology that can benefit the enemy.
Are you an American in e-mail contact with your doctor?
I didn't think so. (This fine bronze of a cadeusus, the medical profession's symbol, is by James Nathan Muir, who wants patrons for putting copies on all the world's continents.)
There are two reasons why you're probably not in e-mail touch with any of your physicians:
As a result most doctors remain in the Land of Lud. And the cost to their patients is immense. I just spitballed a few:
Often the very thing you criticize others for is your own blind spot.
This was never more true than in Nick Kristof's piece (that's him at the left) yesterday called Death by a Thousand Blogs. China's authorities can't keep up with the content produced by broadband, he says. Their legitimacy is drowning in the resulting revelations.
He could have added the impact of cellphones to that. The ideographic Chinese language lends itself to delivering great meaning, even in small files, as the country's cell phone novella make clear. With 90 million new phone users just last year, with every year's phones becoming more data-ready, there's no way the Great Firewall of China can stand.
But what's good for the goose is also sauce for the gander. Kristof's very point speaks to the bankruptcy of pulling his column, and those of others, behind a paid firewall. They are too easy to replace. Their financial value is minimal compared to their value to the discussion. Losing the latter to gain some of the former is truly cutting off your nose to spite your face.
This is not the only lesson.
Juan Cole today headlines a think piece on Iraq, "Sometimes You are Just Screwed."
I don't disagree. The insurgency has become a meat grinder, but bugging out would mean total defeat. The Army lacks volunteers, and there's no appetite for a draft. It is (as I feared it would be years ago) a Tar Baby, and it's destroying our economy as well as our military.
If that were all that was going wrong it would be bad enough. Vietnam cost 58,000 American lives and Iraq has already wounded one-third that number -- over 12,000 troops, over 6,000 contractors.
Getting into a second Vietnam is bad enough. But that's just one of three terrible fates facing the U.S. today.
I looked into it. Won't work.
Local blogs don't scale, except in a small number of instances, in localities that are in fact quite large. You can, in theory, have New York blogs, covering the whole city, but how local are we talking about?
There's not enough of an audience for a single local blogger to cover, say, school board meetings, or crime, or even business, and bring in any money at all.
The answer to scale is comprehension. But that brings its own problems.
Decisions by BP and Morgan Stanley requiring prior restraint on any publication where they advertise represent great news for the blogosphere. (The BP logo here comes from the University of Nebraska Cycling team -- Go Huskers.)
For the sake of blogs I hope they're copied by many other companies.
These decisions strike at the heart of traditional journalism business models, and give publishers a Hobson's Choice. They can either:
I'm generally all in favor of anything to fight spam. And regular readers of this space will recall how much I like my own anti-spam tool, Mailwasher from FireTrust.
But this pissed me off.
UPDATE: After posting this I learned the spam database I'm about to describe is not necessary for Mailwasher to work. My complaint here is solely regarding issues of marketing and notice. Mailwasher remains my anti-spam solution of choice.
The latest version of the product, Version 5.0 to be precise, supports a company spam datebase, called FirstAlert! This is a commendable thing, on balance.
But in order to pay for maintaining this database, FireTrust has changed its business model. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Essentially they're going to a subscription model built around FirstAlert!
I was asked to download the "upgrade" to Mailwasher, by FireTrust, roughly a week ago. I did so. It's now a $37 product but, if you want to maintain your own POP3 mailbox and a public e-mail address, it's a necessity. Upgrading was transparent, easy-peasy.
Suddenly this morning I get a pop-up, inside Mailwasher, reading "your subscription to FirstAlert has expired," with a link to renew. The link goes to a page inside the FireTrust site, and they want $9.95 for the subscription. The page doesn't indicate how long this "subscription" lasts.
Because of the way in which this was done, it can look to a consumer like a classic bait-and-switch. I bought this thing just last week and now you want MORE money?
Fortunately it's very easy for FireTrust to fix this:
The filibuster, as we knew it, is dead.
Who should we thank for this? Why, Dr. Bill Frist, M.D. (right, from eparent.)
Until U.S. Senate Majority Leader Frist acted it took 60 Senators to assure passage of anything. That was the number needed to invoke cloture, a motion to limit debate in the self-styled "world's greatest deliberative body." Any group of 41 Senators could hold questions open through this filibuster-lite tactic.
Now the number needed for passage is less than 60. Depending on the unity of the proponents of a person or position, it could be as many as 59 or as little as 50.
So a Democratic Administration with a thin Democratic Senate majority could, if its Senate members were unified, pass strong environmental laws with 50 votes (and the Vice President), voting to ignore the chamber's rules and go ahead. It could pass national health care legislation, or a gay marriage bill, on a wafer-thin majority. It could make Hillary Clinton the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. (Heck, it could make Monica Lewinsky Chief Justice. Get thee to law school, girl!)
This became the de-facto rule as soon as Frist moved toward what its advocates called (at the time) the Nuclear Option (probably because it's so gosh-darned funny when the President tries to say the word "nuclear").
Yesterday's historic agreement was in fact a fig leaf over this accomplished fact.
You may remember him. Long-haired weirdo. Crazy hair. Counter-cultural kind of guy.
Some 30 years ago he and another friend named Steve hung around with the losers at something called the Homebrew Computer Club.
They had this neat idea for a new kind of box, using a TV, tape recorder, and typewriter as interfaces for a self-contained computer. One of them (I think it was the other Steve) shopped the idea to Hewlett-Packard.
Which rejected it. Turned them down flat. Questioned whether it had "serious thought behind it."
Well, you do have to listen to your elders, after all. I'm sure that discouraged Steve. Probably discouraged everyone else around him. Their thing never saw the light of day, as I recall.
Whatever happened to that kid, anyway?
NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.
The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.
It was our first fight in Africa.
Those 17 girls who drowned in Richards Bay werent ours, but the fact they were from Johannesburg had the American community buzzing.
Jenni had picked up the buzz. She was scared of South Africas AIDS epidemic, scared of South Africas high crime rate, scared for her children. Who wouldnt be?
Thats the way it is on the frontier, I said. Theres risk. But theres also vitality. Theres opportunity. I suffered an ordeal, but I came through it, and Im stronger now than before.
The kids are going to grow up anyway.
And why should these people listen? They have what they consider success. I'm a "low traffic blog." If I'm so clever I should be doing it, not talking about it, right? (Right.)
But the plain fact is, most of today's top blogs are using the wrong business model.
Their model is a media model. I tell you, you listen, and maybe I advertise to you on the side. This is what newspapers do, what magazines do, what radio does, what TV does.
But is the Internet a newspaper? Is it radio or a magazine or TV? No, it is not. The IN in the word Internet is short for Intimate. So why then should a business model imported from one of these other industries be appropriate? Only because, like TV entrepreneurs in the late 1940s, you can't think of a more appropriate one. You don't have the right vocabulary. You weren't born to this medium.
What would work better?
The community business model would work better. This is driven, not so much by what bloggers want to say as what their readers want to say. There are many high-traffic sites now using the community model -- Slashdot, Plastic, Groklaw, DailyKos. What they have in common is true community software -- Scoop, Slash, even Drupal.
The problem (and this is the nut of the issue) is that most of these community sites have deliberately shied away from having a business model. The only site I mentioned above that has a true business model is Slashdot, and Slashdot is so unusual people with an editorial background can't get their arms around what that business model is.
Good news (at least in the short term) for file hoarders.
Given that both sides in the Copyright Wars know about language and framing, I'm urging use of this new term for the heavy hobbyist users on peer to peer networks.
I think the word hoarding says more about the motives of the users, and the way toward ending the practice, than anything else. Thanks in part to the industry's rhetoric, and in part to its actions, many lovers of music and other files are afraid they will lose access to the culture they crave. Thus they demand to have physical copies of its artifacts, and grab all they can. It's classic hoarding behavior.
But time is the limit here, not space. You can only listen to one song at a time, watch one movie at a time. It doesn't matter how big your collection is, the only way to get enjoyment out of it is to play the files.
Many hoarders today already "own" more files than they can play in their remaining lifetimes. When you get your arms around this concept, you begin to see how self-defeating hoarding is.
So how can hoarding be stopped?
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights. After every item. Could one BE more lawyer-whipped?
This week I continued the discussion, asking why so many responded to that piece denying they had any such thing as A Clue, let alone A-Clue.Com.
There was an interesting reaction to my piece last week, denial.
Many of the leaders in the blogging business read it, and all of them denied its inherent truth, namely that they had A Clue.
I'm not a business, insisted Jason Calacanis. Never mind that he has 65 blogs, a uniform look-and-feel, that his writers don't even get their pictures on their blogs and, when they leave, they leave with nothing. No, it's all about passion, he insists. We do this for love, he says. Business? We're not building one of those.
So it went.
I'm not a success, insisted Rafat Ali of Paidcontent. I'm not powerful, insisted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. I'm a dilletante, said Glenn Reynolds. I'm only here for the beer, said Dave Winer. I'm no one at all, said Pamela Jones of Groklaw.
Despite his ponytail and his sometimes counter-cultural language, despite being what I like to call a Truly Handsome Man (it's a brighter term for bald, people) Ted Waitt was always a follower, not a leader. (The picture is from a 2002 profile in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Argus-Leader.)
Waitt was Gimbel's to Michael Dell's Macy's. He wanted to be Pepsi to Dell's Coke.
But computing lacks the stability of the retailing or the soda business. So when Waitt announced his resignation today (at 42 it wouldn't sound right to call it a retirement) it wasn't big news.
Waitt and Gateway did well in the 1990s, following Dell into mass customization. He made his big mistake when he tried to out-think Dell, opening a chain of retail stores that caused $2.4 billion in losses, according to The New York Times.
But I personally think the mistake was more basic than that.
"One of our regular posters here (OK, it was Brad) suggested that our piece yesterday on changes at Google were just a way to track clickthroughs.
We both underestimated it. In the biggest change since the service launched Google will scrap its small clean interface and, just for you (because they like your smile) let you produce a personalized My Google page all your own.
I was planning on writing this afternoon about Broadcom's new patent suit against Qualcomm. Regardless of the merits, it looks like a good corporate strategy, creating uncertainty about a market opponent just as you're entering their space.
But in researching the story I learned something new about Google that may distress you. And that's a better blog item than the one I started with.
"Dad, the Internet's broken again."
update I finally surrendered in this case and renewed my daughter's antiviral, for $55. I would rather have her choose when to make the Linux switch. The anti-viral did, finally, get rid of all the malware, although we lost a second evening to it and she wound up writing her last paper on my own machine.
Actually it had been breaking for some time, I learned. My lovely daughter is a big fan of Fanfiction.Net, a site where kids are allowed to post their own stories based on popular characters. (Think Harry Potter meets the Three Stooges.)
It's a harmless avocation but it comes with a price. Fanfiction is filled, absolutely filled, with spyware and malware. Ad pop-ups were filling her screen, and no matter how many I clicked away (even if the browser was turned off) more appeared. She had been running an anti-spyware program, but it had not been updated. And her anti-viral had just expired.
The solution seemed simple enough. Her anti-spyware program was updated and deployed. But here's a dirty secret of our time. Most adware today is no different from a virus.
All the tricks of the virus creep were deployed to keep crap like eZula infesting my girl's PC. Copies were hidden in memory, in the restore directory, in directories under program files. (None had ever asked permission, nor told her what it would do.)
When I deployed Spybot in normal boot, the spyware was so thick (download this, click here) the program actually stopped -- the pop-ups and demands to download more garbage were a primeval forest. When deployed in "safe mode," there were several "problems" that couldn't be eliminated. Re-boot and start Spybot again? Well, dozens more spy-virii popped up during the re-boot.
But wait, there's more.
Newsweek didn't kill anyone. Anyone who claims different is selling something.
Newsweek reported old news. The reporter, Michael Isikoff, had good sources in the Administration. He did all the right things. He had what he considered to be a reliable source. It was even buried deep in the back of the magazine.
The fact that people rioted, and people died, after the story came out is not the fault of Newsweek. It's the fault of whoever stuffed a Quran down the toilet. It's the fault of those who committed torture in our name, those who turned a blind eye to it, and ultimately those at the top. In the end I'm guessing that for every potential life saved by anything given under torture, at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, wherever, we created 100 terrorists, maybe more.
So let's get the story straight.
Some time in the next month the copyright world may (or may not) reel from the Supreme Court's decision in the Grokster case.
The facts on their face are as favorable as the plaintiffs can make them. Grokster is all about making money for itself off the property of others. Its business model is to sell ads, including adware (sometimes a polite word for spyware and malware). It hoses both sides of every transaction. And the software really does little more than a good FTP server (with an automated database) would.
The vast majority of Grokster's use is driven by hoarding. People fear losing access to the music they love (or might love). So they load up, until they have gigs-and-gigs of it they have to haul around. (Thanks to Moore's Law of storage this gets lighter and less expensive over time, but it still has to be kept.)
The hoarding in turn is driven by the industry's threats. Threats of rising prices. Threats of lawsuits. Threats of copy-protected CDs.
The market solution to the facts is already in the pipeline. Many have proposed the idea of taxing people for unlimited access to the industry's wares and in fact schemes like Yahoo's Music Unlimited work just that way. Pay the "tax" (which starts at $5/month but could go up subject to negotiations with the industry) and download all you want. No need to hoard. Stop paying and all your files magically disappear. (The genie is found in Microsoft's DRM.)
More on the jump.
I didn't blog much yesterday because I was researching the state of play in Always On. (The illustration is from Georgia Tech.)
I had a book proposal before Wiley rejected out of hand. But when I then suggested to step back and do a book on RFID for the home, I got real interest. Just make it a hands-on book, I was told.
Thus, the research.
As regular readers here know well there are many Always On application spaces, that is, functions fit for wireless networking applications.
Absent this understanding that a unified platform already exists so that all these applications can be created together, what is the state of play specifically regarding Radio Frequency Identification? (Or, if you prefer, spychips, although since I'm talking about home applications you're spying on yourself.)
My saintly wife will tell you how I do sometimes rant-and-rail, about this-or-that, how I promise to pull up stakes and move to, say, South Africa. But I never do. Because at the end of the day, I believe, we'll muddle through. Americans have seen worse and gotten by, I tell myself. The system is resilient. This too shall pass.
Not necessarily. I have spent the last few weeks reading Salman Rushdie's most recent masterwork, The Ground Beneath Her Feet. The Earth is constantly shaking, people are always dying, nothing is permanent in this book. Everything and everyone around the narrator is subject to sudden disaster and destruction. The survivor's job is to witness, then tell the tale.
In many ways 9-11 was a visit from Rushdie World. Rushdie himself had moved to New York by then, trading in his beloved Tottenham Hotspur for a New York Yankee cap. And the tragedy is a sub-text to the book. It can happen here. It does. It will. Think of it as evolution in action. Too many people are just no darned good. Their greed, their causes, their passions make them all like nitroglycerin. And the Earth itself is no better.
Yet Rushdie is still here. And I'm still here. And you're still here. For how long we can't know. And we all seem fairly prosperous. Those with talent, and those who are willing to change themselves, may witness more, may survive longer, and may (like Rushdie) leave a mark.
Now that high-tech corporations are being held up (by smaller companies) there's a move afoot to reform the patent system.
Here is a simpler proposal, one in keeping with the intent of the Founders.
In trying to make its $50/year archives access charge appear reasonable (coming in September), The New York Times will put its columnists inside the pay tier.
Why write a column if it can't reach the people?
...no giant leap for wino-kind.
The Supreme Court decision legalizing cross-state wine shipments is limited.
First it applies only to states where delivery of wines to homes is legal in the first place. Georgia is not one of those states. (Although that law is not always enforced -- once I got some Michelob in a press packet.)
"If a state chooses to allow direct shipments of wine, it must do so on even-handed terms," Justice Anthony Kennedy said. If it doesn't you still got tough luck.
Second the case applies only to direct from-the-vineyard sales of U.S. wine. Imported wines aren't included. Importers can't ship to consumers, only vintners can.
But let's make this sporting, shall we?
There's a reason why journalists should be paid, one that people like Fuad Kircaali ignore at their peril.
If you're a "volunteer" (unpaid) editor at a Sys-Con publication, and a vendor offers you money to spin a story their way, what's the risk in your taking it? Sure, if the boss finds out you might lose your job. But you're not being paid. And this assumes that you're being closely monitored -- the quid pro quo of being a volunteer editor is generally that you're not.
On the other hand, if you're a working journalist and your income (thus your family) is dependent on pleasing the publisher, we have a different calculus. Now a vendor approaches you with an offer and you see a risk in taking it. Not only will you surely lose this job, but you're likely to lose all hope of future employment. (If you're a volunteer editor your employment is not in journalism, remember.)
You can only hold professional journalists to journalistic ethics. Publishers who don't pay editors hand their good name to people beyond their control.
Where does blogging fit into this?
You probably don't know this but Canada is in a world of hurt right now. And it's about to get worse.
The hurt is of self-inflicted. The governing Liberal Party is caught up in scandal , and the opposition is very regional - a Bush-like party based in the middle provinces, seperatists in Quebec and socialists in British Columbia.
But the big problem isn't political. It's regulatory.
Two decades ago I was part of new social movement called online conferencing.
People from all around the world used a Unix package called PARTIcipate to discuss issues and their lives with one another. I made some good friends then, among them Joi Ito. (That's him to the left.)
But we quickly learned the dark side of this text-based technology. Misunderstandings could happen. They could escalate. Without the visual cues we get in face-to-face conversation, flame wars could erupt. Moderation became essential.
By and large publishers do not share journalism's ethical sense.
Instead they apply business ethics.
While a journalist's ethics, like that of any other claimed profession, may hold them well short of what's illegal, businessmen must go right up to the legal line, even risk crossing it, to stay ahead of the competition. Businessmen who don't think that way are easily crushed by those who do.
In journalism, business ethics often push journalists over lines they should not cross. Robert Novak practices business ethics. The National Enquirer practices business ethics. Those who choose to believe Novak or the Enquirer accept it.
This weekend this blog was told that Kircaali accepted the resignations of three senior LinuxWorld editors -- James Turner, Dee-Ann LeBlanc, and Steve Suehring, rather than personally release and renounce O'Gara.
UPDATE: "We were unpaid editors but we devoted a lot of time and energy to it," according to Suehring's blog. This makes sense given Kircaali's business model, as we will discuss later on.
Apparently, Kircaali even approved O'Gara's assault on Pamela Jones of Groklaw in advance. Here's what he told Free Software Magazine.
"The language of the story is in the typical style of Ms. OGara, generally entertaining and easy to read, and sometimes it could be regarded as offensive, depending on how you look at it. I decided to publish the article. It was published because it was an accurate news story."
More after the break.
B.L. Ochman (the picture is from her Whatsnextblog) has already broken this, but this week's a-clue.com newsletter features a piece on blogging business models, written following the Blognashville conference.
I spent the weekend at Blognashville, a gab-and-egofest for about 100 (mostly male, mostly middle-aged) bloggers at Belmont University in Nashville (a pricey pimple on the bottom of Vanderbilt) to fuss over Glenn Reynolds (much nicer in person than online) and to search for meaning.
The big question: how will we make money off this?
People are investing a ton of time and effort in blogging. Volunteers get burned out if they can't find money. All institutions are built on money. At Nashville we all felt we were in the gold fields and no one seemed to have made a strike.
There's a Clue there. Nearly all those 49'ers (and Alaska 98'ers) who went in with pick and shovel failed. It was those who went in with a business model, professional mining companies or merchants such as Levi Strauss, who succeeded.
Some 99% of blogs (including mine) go about the publishing question backwards. That is, we look at the process from the writer's point of view, not the reader's. This is forgivable in that bloggers are writers, but this is one of the key differences between writers and publishers. Publishers create for the market.
That is, publishers define the readers they want, the content those readers need, and the advertisers they will hit-up to pay the bills. They then order the production of the product, and keep an eye out to make sure it meets the readers' requirements.
In other words, the difference between blogging and journalism lies entirely on the business side of the shop. Publishers are just as likely to pay for lies as bloggers are to make stuff up. The difference is the publishers create lies that appeal to their audiences, while bloggers write lies that appeal to themselves.
This is easy to understand when you look at the professional blogs that are run by publishers - Weblogsinc, Gawker Media, and Paid Content. Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton and Rafat Ali defined the readers they wanted, created a business model, then hired writers to fulfill the mission.
In contrast I found, at blognashville, that even the most-popular bloggers are mere dilletantes. This is a term Glenn Reynolds applied to himself. Dave Winer, with whom I spent pleasant hours, is also doing his blog on-the-side - his business is RSS. I was surprised to find myself the most knowledgeable businessperson in the room, and I'm a complete failure.
When you're led by amateurs you can't expect professional standards to be upheld. Yet, on the editorial side, blogs often do just that. It's on the business side where they all fall down.
Still, I saw several potential business models at the conference:
Unitarian Jihad was declared last month by Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle. Enjoy.
Times vs. Sullivan , as anyone who has taken law or journalism knows, holds that public figures have a much higher burden in libel actions than other people. (That's L.B. Sullivan, then police chief of Montgomery, Alabama to the right. From the University of Missouri in Kansas City.)
To win at trial, public figures must show that a story about them showed "a reckless disregard for the truth" or that a lie was deliberate. This makes it very hard for public figures to win libel awards, although to this day some do.
The question comes up because I was chatting via e-mail with Steve Ross, a journalism professor at Columbia, who said Markos Moulitsas had over-reacted to a question on his annual journalism survey. The survey asked how people felt about campaigns "buying" journalists, citing a deal between the Dean campaign and "bloggers" in 2003.
Readers here know I covered that story, that the bloggers weren't bought but hired as consultants, that they didn't act bought, and that their righteous recommendations were then ignored, so Moulitsas to this day fills a role now DNC chair Howard Dean should by rights be filling. But what brought me up short was Steve's statement that Moulitsas, alias Daily Kos, should know better, since he is "a public figure."
A public figure, eh? A blogger a public figure?
Well that's interesting. I assume, then, that Glenn Reynolds is a public figure, and any suit he might file for libel is going to have a very difficult time. (Lucky me.) We can't very well have anonymous public figures and thus the "outing" of Atrios as Duncan Black, a Philadelphia economics teacher (left), last year becomes just a public service.
And if that's true, then, is Pamela Jones, a public figure? Would that mitigate any possibility of a successful legal action against Maureen O'Gara? (I don't know if anything has been filed or might be -- I'm just spitballing here.)
Wait, there's more.
The U.S. is in the process of losing its last friends, the Brits.
I'm not just talking here of recent elections, where Labour lost much of its majority specifically due to its support of the Iraq war.
No, I'm talking about Malcolm Glazer.
Malcolm who, you ask? Glazer owns the Tampa Bay Bucs. You may remember his eldest son Avram from the dot-boom, as the head of some nonsense called Zap.com, which tried to roll-up a bunch of disparate Internet assets into some super-duper-something. They got less than nowhere. (The parent outfit, Zapata Corp., had as its co-founder one George H.W. Bush. We'll just let that one sink into the heads of Manchester's tinfoil hat crowd.) Zap.Com also gives us an excuse for discussing this sports story in this here tech blog.
Anyway, yesterday daddykins bought England's true crown jewel, the Manchester United football club. And he seems to have bought it the way LBO artists did it in the 80s, aiming to "unlock value" by dumping his debt onto the books. Needless to say you don't want to be wearing a Bucs' hat in Greater Manchester this afternoon.
The feud between Maureen O'Gara of Linux Business Week (left) and Pamela Jones of Groklaw has ended with O'Gara's professional destruction.
Days after SCO CEO Darl McBride claimed "Jones is not who she claims she is," O'Gara weighed in with a long, highly-researched piece filled with intimate personal details of Jones' life. It did not, however, substantiate McBride's charge. Pamela Jones is precisely who she claims to be, a paralegal turned journalist, a meticulous researcher, and an ethical human being. (No link to the story -- the reason will soon become clear.)
Jones responded with a Groklaw post accusing O'Gara of stalking her and trying to intimidate her into silence. Jones' supporters in the open source community responded to that with a letter-writing campaign and, one editor claimed, a denial-of-service attack against the company that posted O'Gara's work, Sys-Con Media.
First off, you all should know that the entire Sys-Con set of sites has been under multiple Denial of Service Attacks since the beginning of the week, basically making the place unusuable. So if the editorial staff (and especially Sys-Con management) seems a little distracted, there's a good reason.
There's been a bit more clarification on exactly what the future will look like here. From this day forward, there will be no more new material published by Maureen O'Gara. All links from the LinuxWorld site to Maureen O'Gara's work have been eliminated. All of Maureen's SCO coverage has been removed (in fact, except to the degree that we as the editorial staff choose to cover it, all SCO coverage period has been removed.)
So you'll continue to see the MoG byline showing up, especially on Linux Business Week, for a while. It will slowly dillute out as no new material is added, until it disappears entirely. This should make those of you who objected to her deletion en masse happy.
As far as apologies go, there's only so much that can be done from this end. The editorial staff of the magazine is certainly sorry that it happened, but we're not sorry for any action on our part. Other parties (most notably Ms O'Gara, who has a lot of 'splaining to do) must search their own souls and make their own decisions in this matter. I would say this though: actions speak louder than words.
Not only did they sever ties with O'Gara, they tried to erase all her stories. (That doesn't work kids. Take my word for it.)
Many think the secret of Fox' dominance of news is political. A generation brought up on the myth that an objective press is biased to the left, then given a right-wing Pravda, sees the latter as "fair and balanced."
That's a small part of the story. Identifying a niche and serving it is as old as the magazine business. Older. It's as old as Poor Richard's Almanack.
The real secret is much simpler. The "network" is actually a studio. Few bureaus, no big investigation team, no bench, little support. Who needs writers when most hosts can wing it. It's talking heads. It's radio economics.
No, it's blog economics, or Blogonomics.
NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.
The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.
The Lady was home at last.
With CNN's decision, now reflected on its air, to become a national version of local TV news, with "it bleeds, it leads" sensibilities and a complete emphasis on simple stories told in front of courthouses rather than anything researched, the word needs to go out.
They have surrendered to the blogosphere.
With local TV news no longer covering politics or policy, and with cable news now virtually ignoring it, what other conclusion can be drawn?
It's not as if politics has no audience. Political blogs have the highest audiences, and highest degree of audience participation, in the blogosphere. Many are profitable, some wildly so. Many also break real news stories, either through the efforts of the people running them or just from common posters who do their own investigations and report the results.
In the history of journalism this is big news.
But it's not being reported as such.
As of 9 AM Eastern on May 11, most of the U.S. media seemed to be ignoring a very important medical story from the Netherlands.
Only UPI, according to Google News, had written it up.
The story is that some very common drugs have been implicated in sudden death from heart attack. The study was done at the Erasmus Medical College and published in Europe's leading journal on cardiology. A press release on behalf of the journal was released in Washington.
The drugs examined were:
One thing I got my first crack at over the weekend was the actual practice of Wi-Fi-in'. (The picture comes from a Free WiFi hotspot list site.)
While I have had WiFi in my home for years now I only recently got a laptop that can truly take advantage of it on the road. I brought it to Nashville with me.
Wi-Fi'-in means opening up the box, booting up, and hoping for an unsecured 802.11 connection you can log into. It's best done in a city, preferably close to a University campus. But don't expect to do this on the campus itself -- most college systems these days are secured, at least by passwords.
It was amazing to me how lost and alone I felt when I couldn't find a free spot around me. My hotel advertised the service, but during the day the radio waves couldn't reach my room. (This is a fact of life with radio -- the bands are all more crowded during the day.) As I noted the campus where I was hanging on Friday had their access password-protected, and I'm not into breaking-and-surfing (yet).
But all was not lost. I was about to learn a powerful lesson.
Googlejuice is that precious elixir which makes the difference between a site or blog that has tons of regular traffic, and those that don't.
Google is constantly adjusting and re-adjusting its algorithms in this area to be fairer, and keep people from playing games with it. Just last week it sought a patent on new Google News technology it claims will enhance that site's credibility. This may backfire, because the major media certain to get more Google Newsjuice out of this are the same companies looking to charge for links.
But that's another show.
One of the great ironies of my recent mistake here was that it actually increased this blog's Googlejuice. Between those who linked to complain, my responses in apology, and those who followed up on my explanation saying they hadn't seen my apology, the incoming link traffic here actually rose 50%. If some of those people stick around (maybe wondering when I'll fall on my face next) it's actually a good thing.
Jonathan Peterson, who did the Amateur Hour blog here for a while, made this observation to me over the weekend.
I think there are a few good lessons - the most important of which you
already knew - the firestorm around an error is good for your link
popularity. Andrew Orlowski has been playing this game at the Register for years (and it's the reason I stopped
reading The Register, but his anti-blog idiocy brings in the googlejuice.
On the creative side, blogs are just as likely to care about journalism, public service, and lies as any other media.
On the business side, however, nearly all bloggers do things backwards.
That is, we look at the content from the writer's point of view. Journalism looks at all content from the reader's point of view.
This is no small point. You can see it clearly in examining the "blog journalism" companies which have found success -- Weblogsinc, Gawker Media, and Paid Content. Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton and Rafat Ali all defined the readers they wanted, created a business model, then hired writers to fulfill the mission.
Reynolds, who teaches law at UT Knoxville and apparently enjoys it, also plays a right-wing crank on his Instapundit site. He does this part-time and, in part thanks to first-mover advantage, he dominates the right half of the political blogosphere, with over 15,000 incomng links at last count. (This blog, by contrast, has 262.)
Reading Reynolds, and those who admire him, one gets a completely false impression of the man.
In Nashville I found an erudite, intelligent, and amused gentleman of the old school, always in a suit and tie, never seeming to sweat, with a genuine smile that looked nothing like the MegaChurch preacher readers might expect. The haircut looks like something out of a 1968 Young Republican Club, and the blog reads like that as well, but the mind and the man behind them are quite different.
There was some real wisdom in the man as well. Don't believe me? Following are some quotes lifted directly from my notebook during the event:
There are days when I dream of a White House presser where a reporter snaps a Queen of Hearts at the President, just to see if they can trigger something.
If this guy were created by our enemies to destroy us he couldn't be doing a better job.
As previously noted I will be at blognashville this weekend.
I will be taking notes. Service here will be intermittant.
Meanwhile I urge you to enjoy one of my favorite people, venture capitalist-musician Roger McNamee. His latest, on the necessary separation between distribution and content, is especially fine.
Or if you prefer just put on his latest album and rock on.
The secret's out.
Intel is re-interpreting Moore's Law. Not repealing it. Not rejecting it.
They're reinterpreting it. That's the significance of the change incoming CEO Paul Otellini (right) is making.
Before Moore's Law was like Samuel Gomper's famous quote about what labor wanted. More. More circuits, more speed, more cycles, more bits. More.
As of today Intel's new direction is better. Better doesn't always mean more. In the case of microprocessors it can mean putting more computers on each chip (multi-core) or running with lower power. In terms of communications it can mean a host of attributes, from security to coverage to throughput.
There is click fraud, and the higher the value attached to a click the more likely it is. There are both human and automated click fraud programs out there.
But the sky is not falling. Click fraud is not destroying Internet advertising. In fact, business is booming. CP/M (as in cost-per-thousand) programs are making a comeback. Sponsorships are on the rise.
Besides, Eroshenko's hands aren't clean. He writes as an executive with ClickLab, a company in the business of solutions for click fraud. In other words, he's selling something.
This sort of thing happens all the time. The mobile phone virus scare is driven, in part, by people who want to sell you mobile phone anti-virus software.
What has changed?
After 1964, history shows, American liberalism went off the rails.
It started slowly, but it eventually accelerated until liberalism, as an ideal, became anathema to the majority of a generation.
While most 1960s liberals remained wedded to the principles of the New Deal, and the system it created, other voices demanded more radical change. A continuing land war in Asia drained the moderates' legitimacy, inflation rose, and in frustration many leftists dropped out, demanding a revolution against legal authority.
In 2005 a lot of liberals are scared of right-wing extremism, the way their parents were scared of long hair back in the day. There are loonies trying to re-condition gays into playing straight. In Kansas the state government is trying to toss science in favor of miracles. In Washington there's a court-packing scheme reminescent of Roosevelt's own in 1937 (which is just as popular).
And, of course, there's Ann Coulter (above). I think of her as Grace Slick for the neo-Nazi crowd. Since she's anti-drug (and apparently anti-food) she has to talk mighty big trash to get her little followers hot-and-bothered. Why get mad? Why not just laugh?
Unfortunately most liberals are responding to this by wailing almost as loudly as Goldwater conservatives (like my dad) did in the mid-1960s. Liberals seem both apoplectic and incompetent in the face of opponents run riot.
Personally, I think liberals ought to keep their cool, preach values to Wall Street, and simply look sober.
Before I could pack, leader Robert Cox sent me a list of new applicants for membership. Given the fact I felt my own journalistic credentials were under a microscope for months, waiting for his yea-or-nay (turned out I was lost in the shuffle) and given my own recent mistakes here, I was loathe to pass on the qualifications of others.
Generally, my opinion in the past was that the market decided who should be a journalist, and who was "just" a blogger. But that may not be right. After all, bloggers can go on-and-on until they exhaust themselves, and much journalism is subsidized by politicians, so that the requirement to lie becomes a lifestyle, and the liars become institutions whose credentials no one can question. Robert Novak is a journalist only because he's paid to play one on TV.
But then came news from Reporters Without Borders that 53 journalists died last year trying to report the news. That's paid journalists, real journalists, reporters, editors and publishers.
The strength of an economy, like that of a society, depends on social mobility. That means the poor can rise to wealth. It also means the wealthy can end up poor. (This old cartoon, from what folks like to call THE Ohio State University, pre-dates Wal-Mart by generations.)
A recent online conversation with Vijay Gill brought this home to me. The topic was actually our recent piece on The Myth of Scarcity. I liked it, posted it to Dave Farber's list, and Vijay responded quite thoughtfully, his point being that telecommunications is hard, some parts are scarce, and real technical knowledge is even scarcer. Maintaining total connectivity in the last mile without protecting the monopoly is harder than I make it sound.
This set me thinking in two directions at once.
Why is it that politicians have done a better job on the Internet than publishers?
It has to do with a concept I call Pitch Credibility.
Journalists understand the concept of credibility. It's the trust readers place in us. If there is a journalism profession, it's based on this idea of credibility. I took a huge hit to my own credibility when I screwed-up an item on Ev Williams. I went through hell on that not to regain my credibility, but to minimize the losses, and in hope the damage would not spread to innocent Corante authors.
But just as editorial work must have credibility, so must advertising. That is the innovation the Internet makes necessary.
Moveon.org understood this right away. It knew that if it suggested you give to Candidate X, then Candidate X better fit the desires of the Moveon audience, or the endorsement would damage Moveon. Because it had pitch credibility with its audience, Moveon was able to gain honest information (a mailing list) from its members, and even financial support, based solely on its promise to deliver.
While Moveon failed in these last two cycles as a political force (ask Presidents Gore, Dean and Kerry) it has succeeded in creating a business model that everyone else on the Internet needs to pay attention to.
So if Roger Simon, for instance, is to succeed in his efforts to unite the right-wing blogosphere and extract money from its members, he must retain pitch credibility. He better not let anyone like me in because I'd damage it. And he better use that credibility only to solicit for products, services and people the audience will surely endorse.
Perhaps you can see now why this idea is easier for a politician to understand than a businessman. Politicians are attached to what they're selling in ways businessmen aren't.
Belief is at the heart of pitch credibility.
How can we take advantage of this in the business realm?
Click to find out.
The Associated Press was created by publishers to let papers share stories and reduce editorial costs, in an age where everyone knew their business model and barriers to entry were rising.
Today barriers to entry are at rock-bottom and valid business models are hard to come by.
So naturally, everyone's trying to create an AP.
This is going about things backward. Business models aren't for sharing. They must first be created by entrepreneurs, then expanded upon. Only once they're established can you expect the kind of consolidation an AP represents.
What we have, then, is a business opportunity. What is that opportunity?
A shared registration database would be a good place to start. One sign-in, and one cookie, might get a reader posting privileges at hundreds of sites. The database would provide advertisers with a working profile of the readers (demographics and psychographics) justifying a higher cost per thousand on ads. Blogs on the network could be bundled based on politics, subject matter, or geography, just as is done in the magazine business.
The result would be a brand offering the services of an ad network. It should also be able to aggregate other business opportunities for the members of the network, so it would have aspects of a talent agency as well.
How close are we to something like that? Not very close at all:
The bidding war between Verizon and Qwest for MCI is based on a myth of scarcity. That is, both think they can make the deal pay by squeezing customers for the scarce resources represented by the MCI network.
Moores Law of Fiber rendered that inoperative many years ago. There is no shortage of fiber backbone capacity. And there are ample replacements for Plain Old Telephone Service -- not just cable but wireless.
The myth on which this deal is based is, simply, untrue.
Yet the myth persists, and not just in the telecommunications business.
Market research companies specialize in the third kind of lie, namely statistics. While these companies were originally created to help clients deal coherently with the market, that's no longer the sole source of income.
The process of market research has been corrupted by paid research done on behalf of:
Yes, the categories do overlap. More, and what to do about all this, after the break.
NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.
The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.
Mark Cuban was facing a personal crisis.
And he would get no sympathy from anyone.
I have not written much about Voice Over IP in this space because I'm not an expert in it. (Yes, I hear you say, this never stopped you before.)
Actually I didn't think I had anything original to add to the conversation. I still don't. But I want to point you to someone who does.
That someone is Tom Evslin (left). Evslin recently completed a wonderful series on the economics, politics, past and future of VOIP, on his blog, which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in this area.
Evslin calls this year a "flipping point" driven bythe mass distribution of VOIP software. It's not really free although, once you have your set-up, each call carries no incremental cost. The market battle between Skype and Vonage are driven by Metcalfe's Law, control of end points. Evslin offers the best explanation I've yet seen of Skype and its business model, which is rapidly evolving into an alternative phone network.
I have one suggestion.
The political battle over WiFi shapes up as a classic match between private interests and the commons.
But it is in fact a battle over real estate. (Thus, the balloon, which is the logo of a very innovative real estate brokerage.)
Verizon pulled a bait-and-switch on New York phone booths. It installed 802.11 equipment based on the promise of free WiFi service on adjoining streets, then pulled them all back into its paid network.
Politically this makes no sense. In real estate terms it makes perfect sense.
The challenge to this looks technological, but it's really political. You can see this challenge by simply turning on your WiFi equipped laptop.