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Here is the situation:
Below is a typical Feedburner RSS ad, which appears in Newsreaders but not on Web pages. We'll discuss it after the flip:
UPDATE: After this was posted, Feedburner vice president-business development Rick Klau wrote the following. It is directly on point (as the lawyers say):
While I can only speak for FeedBurner, we only splice ads into feeds for publishers, on behalf of the publisher. We never splice ads in a feed that the publisher didn't ask for, make money from, or know about, ever. It's the same type of model as web advertising solutions that you use on your site, and you make most of the money.
FeedBurner is a publisher service. We only perform those services on a feed that a publisher wants us to perform, and that goes for everything, whether it's splicing ads, applying a stylesheet, or tracking statistics.
No blog site manager running our service can be unaware that their feeds have ads in them because it is impossible to get ads in your feed at FeedBurner without either directly contacting us or selecting the AdSense for Feeds program and providing us with all the details needed to splice in those ads.
Specifically, I'm looking at the impact of Google Maps on our business, and how we practice journalism, as well as how we deliver it to readers. (Speaking of which, Google has satellite imagery of New Orleans taken at 10 AM on August 31 available here.)
Talk about shock and awe...)
There's a saying that bloggers are journalists who won't make a five-minute phone call, while journalists are bloggers who won't spend five minutes on Google.
Both views have something to them, although I'd say that Google keeps getting better, while the phone doesn't.
But there's a bigger secret neither side tells you.
We seldom leave our desks.
There is a long-running charge, or meme, on the left that President George W. Bush is a "dry drunk," an alcoholic who hasn't dealt with the roots of his alcoholism, and thus exhibits alcoholic behavior even when sober.
Dr. Justin Frank explored this in a book called Bush on the Couch. Katherine Van Wormer made the charge in 2002 and Malachy McCourt has gone further, writing in his short 2004 book, Bush Lies in State that hes still an alcoholic.
So here is my point. Given his falling popularity and recent bizarre behaviors (running away from Cindy Sheehan, comparing Iraq to World War II while New Orleans died) I'm wondering if this meme isn't about to move.
The fight has barely begun for control of the new Internet interface, the RSS reader.
NOTE: We were honored to get two important responses to what follows.
Markos Moulitas says he never had an "exclusive" on Cindy Sheehan (I usually reserve the term for the first to get a story, but Sheehan's words have since been on many other blogs) and that there are RSS feeds to Dailykos diaries. (My point is the feeds are separate from the main subscription.)
Nick Bradbury, creator of FeedDemon, wrote to say that FeedDemon inserts no ads in feeds, that those ads are placed by sites. (This may mean the New York Times has a major ad campaign underway, using blogs as delivered by feeds. If you use another reader, let me know if you see Times ads.)
CORRECTION: Upon further investigation, I have learned that the Times ads come from Feedburner.Com, which is in the feed creation-and-management business. So Nick's right.
Please note that the data in parantheses does not question the honesty or truthfulness or veracity of either correspondent's words, but simply describes the responses I gave them, and the thoughts I had in writing this post.
We're always honored here at Mooreslore when newsmakers respond to our posts about them, when they correct what I write or report. Thanks again. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled post.
But already it's getting interesting.
I have written before how publishers have been placing ads in raw RSS feeds. this means my e-mail list of RSS stories is cluttered with "brought to you by" notices. This is on top of the outright advertisements sent as RSS, which if they hit a keyword you like means they're coming right at you.
What's more interesting, perhaps, is what's happening in stand-along RSS readers.
There are many in the market, but the examples here are going to be concerning FeedDemon (logo at left), now owned by Newsgator, which I have been using a few months:
People often ask me what's wrong with journalism.
The answer comes down to one word -- arrogance. Even junior members of the trade think they're in a profession, whose job it is to rule on what's true and what's not, all decisions final.
Take William Beutler of The National Journal, for instance. Beutler just got a pretty amazing gig. As editor of the Hotline Blogometer he spends the day scouring the political blogosphere and tallying up the points. (He is still listed as writing The Washington Canard, but he doesn't update it often anymore. The picture is from that Web site. Beutler's a shy fella.)
It's hard work, as some in Washington might say. And mistakes will happen. Journalists complain that bloggers won't spend 5 minutes on the phone to get something right. Well, journalists won't spend 20 seconds on Google to do the same thing. And Google's improving much faster than the phone.
Anyway, Beutler's August 15 missive began by referencing Cindy Sheehan as an "alleged" gold star mother. I went ballistic. Whatever you think of Sheehan's protest, no one can argue that she is, in fact, a Gold Star Mother (all caps), this being " an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of our country."
After considering my e-mail for some time, Beutler made a slight change. He didn't acknowledge the mistake. He just took the alleged out. And gold star is still lower case, still in quotation marks.
Now, before you click below, get out your hankies.
There's an interesting case study up right now about what blogging does to journalism.
In simple terms, it reduces the distance. You're no longer a star. They're no longer the audience.
The example today is that of MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann, who has been writing a blog (actually, a series of columns) for about a year now. When Peter Jennings died, Keith didn't think (like most careerists) "wow, now there's a job opening for me!" He was genuinely moved.
Then he looked for the hidden lesson -- smoking. Olbermann was once a smoker, and it gave him a tumor. Fortunately the tumor was benign. So he blogged about it. And given that the non-distancing becomes a habit to one who enters the blogosphere, he talked about it on his show as well.
Om Malik's pointing to Robert Scoble's friends hammering Andrew Orlowski over the IE7 beta got me thinking about blogging social structures. (The image is from the archives of Johnstown, New York's Colonial Little Theater.)
It's becoming gang warfare, done on a psychological level.
Every top blogger has a gang of toadie blogs that will do its bidding. I got a little taste of that with the Ev Williams mistake (not that I didn't deserve the hammering) When a top blogger identifies a target for ridicule, others can jump in like wolves.
It works the other way, too. When an individual becomes a target a mob of bloggers may take them down, unled. This is what happened to Dan Rather. The story about Bush being a chickenhawk was sound. There was a problem on one of the sources. But a mob of bloggers brought him down, and now they celebrate this, daily.
Today's politics is cultural.
Even economic and foreign policy issues are, in the end, defined in terms of social issues. This creates identification, and coalitions among people who might not otherwise find common ground -- hedonistic Wall Street investment bankers and small town Kansas preachers, for instance.
I am coming to believe the next political divide will be technological. That is, your politics will be defined by your attitude toward technology.
On one side you will find open source technophiles. On the other you will find proprietary technophobes.
It's a process that will take time to work itself out, just as millions of Southern Democrats initially resisted the pull of Nixon. Because there are are divisions within each grand coalition we have today, on this subject.
This latter split gets most of the publicity, because more writers are in the cyber-libertarian school than anywhere else.
Initially, the proprietary, security-oriented side of this new political divide has the initiative. It has the government and, if a poll were taken, it probably has a majority on most issues.
But open source advocates have something more powerful on their side, history. You might call it the Moore's Law Dialectic.
But the bottom line is simpler. Our identification system is broken.
It's no longer a question of this system or some other system. There is no system.
What that means, in real terms, if your own identity hangs by a thread, a very thin thread that can break anywhere, and leave you an un-person.
VRWC is shorthand for "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy."
It's something conservatives laugh at. But it's real.
UPDATE: Various people, some affiliated with this site, have been issuing comments here over the last few days. Most have been taken down. I stand by this story, the opinions expressed in it, and my opinion concerning sympathizers with these bozos.
It's the lynch mob mentality fostered by preachers, by politicians, by demagogues, a mentality used to attack Miami vote-counters, Vince Foster, Joe Wilson -- the list goes on and on.
It was also used to attack Andy Stephenson.
Stephenson was a blogger. He worked with sites like Democratic Underground and BlackBox Voting. He died this week of pancreatic cancer.
But not before teaching us all just what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
I'm not trying to start a rumor here. I have no insight into whether Dave Sifry (left, from Marc Cantor's blog) has considered any offers for his Technorati site, nor how he would react if one came in.
But since Barry Diller bought Bloglines (via AskJeeves) Technorati's performance has been falling behind that of its rival.
Robert Scoble (who works for a possible acquirer, Microsoft) offers the numbers, three times as many links to Sifry's own blog from Bloglines as from his own engine.
There is a vital lesson here about the technology space:
For people who like gaming, their games (or online environments) are their main interface to the Web. This has been true for some time, and unremarked upon.
There are other new interfaces that many people depend upon. The iTunes player can be an interface, when linked to Apple's Music Store. Any music player, or multimedia player, is a separate Web interface, which may or may not connect to a Web page at any time. People who swap files use those programs as interfaces.
The point is in many niches the Web browser has already been replaced as the main interface to the Internet. Microsoft's five-year campaign to dislodge Netscape was worthless, which may be why they're letting Firefox run off with so much market share.
And now, even readers are getting their own, separate interface, the RSS reader.
I use FeedDemon. Steve Stroh uses NetNewsWire on his Mac and calls it fabulous. This field has yet to shake out.
I have noticed some big differences occur in my work when I'm using FeedDemon instead of the browser as my interface to the Web:
Steve Stroh has more after the break:
CBS has decided to do a Web log.
It sounds stupid, but isnt necessarily. The Public Eye will be written by Vaughan Ververs, formerly editor of The Hotline, which has been drawing crowds of paying customers for The National Journal since 1992.
In its earliest incarnation the Hotline made Mike McCurry a star. McCurry was then the spokesman for candidate Bruce Babbitt, and his missives there gave Babbitt a boomlet. Later he was a Clinton press secretary. The point is there's a history of online financial success here.
The point is that Ververs, rightly or wrongly, is being given credit for some long-term success, and told to duplicate it on a larger stage, just as local anchors are often given the network gig and expected to produce big numbers.
The papers are full today with stories about "citizen journalists." (That's Will Ferrell as Anchorman Ron Burgundy to the left.)
All these stories convey a common misconception. They assume this is a trend, and they assume that mainstream media will be able to dominate this new field.
Both assumptions are wrong.
In many ways this is a fad. It's a fad because, as camera phones proliferate, the volume of such pictures available is just going to become overwhelming. Making sense of what's out there, and getting rights to the good stuff, are going to be keys to success.
Also there is nothing really new here. Cable shows have been taking calls from individuals at news sites for decades. Talk radio is all about the callers. What's new here are the means the the medium, not the phenomenon.
But there's a more important point being missed in all the self-congratulation:
I believe there is a truth in any situation, which can be found through investigation.
This should not be controversial. But Ive learned that it is.
The blogosphere's quick reaction to the London strikes was driven in large part by the mass market in camera phones and video phones.
Within minutes of the bombs going off pictures and short videos began appearing online. In many the smoke from the blasts was clearly visible. Cameras worked even where phone functionality was absent, and images could be sent as soon as connections returned.
A second notable fact was the willingness, especially at the BBC, to get this footage up quickly. One amateur picture, of a double-decker bus with its top end ripped off, was the site's feature picture for most of the day. (That's the picture, above, from the BBC Web site.)
The blasts that hit central London today struck a city with vast experience in dealing with terror, its aftermath, and the issues underneath it.
It also represented the first time that the blogosphere actually gave better coverage to a major event than any news organization.
London suffered a decades-long IRA bombing campaign which killed hundreds. It was able to bring many bombers to justice, and discredit their cause in the eyes of their Irish-American sponsors, before finally reaching a political settlement which, while tenuous and setback-filled, is still an ongoing process.
Each time an event like this happens, moreover, we learn more about what citizens can do to cover it, and how media can adapt to citizen journalism.
The picture above, for instance, was taken by commuter Keith Tagg and quickly posted to photo-blogging sites like Picturephone. It's not a great picture, it's certainly not professional, but it does catch the immediacy of an eyewitness. That's probably why the BBC quickly adapted it in its own photo coverage, adding a second photo of commuters moving along the tracks from Alexander Chadwick.
The BBC Online site in general scored high marks for innovation and audience participation, teaching the important lesson that most people don't want to be journalists, but to be heard, and that those who listen will win their loyalty.
David Stephenson, looking to increase his exposure as a security expert, quickly linked to several important documents, including the London Strategic Emergency Plan, which guides the city's response to such events. (Does your city have one? Great follow-up story.) And John Robb offered the real low-down on all this at Global Guerillas.
Prime Minister Tony Blair also needs to be singled out here. He understands that, in a time of crisis like this, the head of government becomes, in essence, a mayor, and needs to act like one. He left the G8 Summit but didn't cancel it, quickly convening a meeting of his emergency committee, dubbed Cobra. (The Brits are much better at naming things than Americans.)
A blog called Geepster quickly linked the blast sites to Google Maps, using their API to deliver an excellent map and RSS news feed within a few hours of the event. Flickr created a quick pool of London blast photos.
Overall the blogosphere coverage of this act was an Internet year (at least) ahead of what we saw during the winter's tsunami, let alone the Madrid 3-11 blasts of 2003. The fact this happened in London had something to do with it. So did advances in blogging technology.
The question, of course, is what can we learn from this?
Politically I think Senator Russ Feingold is one of the Good Guys. So, to be perfectly bipartisan about it, is Senator John McCain. (You know what McCain looks like, so here's Feingold.)
This is especally true regarding campaign finance. Proponents of reform have been pushing uphill with scant success ever since the 1976 decision in Buckley v. Vallejo, which basically said money is speech, and those with more money can out-shout the rest of us.
McCain and Feingold tried to fit that decision inside their eponymous campaign finance act, and while on most counts the Supreme Court ruled they did, that act also covered the Internet, and both men have insisted to this day that's true.
Now that the blogosphere has pushed-back on this, pushed back hard, from both sides of the aisle, the good guys have not been heard from.
Blogging is filled with comings-and-goings. Mostly comings these days.
But some goings as well. Some, in fact, are quite sad.
Put this on the sad list. TheFeature is no more. I found out about it a few minutes ago, and confirmed it at the site.
TheFeature was among the best blogs I've seen on the mobile Internet. Their "columnists" ("bloggers") were good writers, with good sources and real insight.
You can see the reactions of some of those columnists here. Russell Buckley, who clued me in on all this, has also announced his own blog, Mobhappy, and one of TheFeature's best, executive editor Carlo Longino (above), is moving over there.
For the last few months Ive been trying to help the Media Bloggers Association, mainly via e-mail.
Ive been appointed to three committees, none of which Ive been much use to. I started in publicity, moved over to membership, and Im now on ethics.
Publicity they had in hand. Membership passed over a list of prospective members, but I had no basis on which to judge them so I just approved the list. This got me interested in ethics.
I think it's important to note that the Mark Cuban of those novels is a fictional character. He has the same name, face, and background as the real Mark Cuban, but his motivations and actions are purely imaginary. The world of my alternate histories diverge from the real world right after the last election, with the imagined meeting of an American ambassador and a Chinese official. From there on out it's my world, not your world, not the real world.
There is, of course, a real Mark Cuban. You can find this Mark Cuban at his personal blog, BlogMaverick. It's telling that, to my knowledge, Cuban is the only blogging billionaire. I hope it's telling in a good way.
What's the real Mark Cuban like?
For the last few months I have had a keyword search on Newsgator covering topics of interest here, things like cellular telephony and open source. (Last call to buy the book.)
I have watched as it has gradually become worse than useless.
I'm getting nearly 500 e-mails a day on this feed, but the signal-noise ratio keeps going up. Newsgator has begun designating some of these posts as spam, but they're missing most of them, including this one.
Even some of the "editorial" hits on this list are worse than useless. Here's one. No offense to the writer but it doesn't belong in a keyword feed for cellular, despite the fact that one of the entries in this list is "I have a mobile phone."
It gets worse, but maybe I have a solution.
It should surprise no one that "professional" journalists hate Wikis and blogs.
A little history lesson shows you why. Only this one's fun. As part of your summer reading get yourself a copy of H.L. Mencken's Newspaper Days. (That's Mencken to the left.) It's his memoir of Baltimore's newspaper business around the turn of the last century.
Newspapermen at that time were lower class, hard drinking, smoking, swearing, worthless ne'er do wells. You wouldn't bring one home to mother. They hid in saloons, spun lies, spied on people, made less than the corner grocer, and were generally shiftless, lazy bums. Despite this, they considered themselves a class apart.
This last is still the case. But today's newspaper writers are either middle-class bores or upper-class twits. Those who report on Washington, write columns or work on editorials are among the most twittish. Many make more than the people they cover, especially if their faces are on television.
Blogs, wikis and the whole Internet Business Model Crisis threaten these happy homes. (Although I've got news for them -- stock analysts treat newspaper stocks like tobacco stocks and their ranks are being thinned like turkey herds in September. They'd be a dieing breed even without the Net.)
What's most galling to "professional" journalists is not the loss of jobs, or money, but their continuing loss of prestige. On the upper rungs of the ladder they're being replaced by "players" -- sports stars, lawyers, politicians, former entertainers. On the lower rungs they're being driven into poverty -- we've talked before of the corrupted tech press. And in the middle rungs you've got these blogs, wikis and the continuing problems of being treated like a mushroom. (You're in the dark and they're throwing manure on you.)
Our times are, in many ways, a mirror image of the 1890s.
John F. McMullen today posted, to Dave Farber's list, what he says is a transcript of the commencement address Steve Jobs (a college dropout) gave at Stanford yesterday. (The picture is from Stanford.)
What they fail, utterly, to do is really give you a flavor for the wisdom Jobs imparted, so I have taken the liberty, starting below, of posting the entire transcript, as offered by McMullen.
Sit back and enjoy. Assuming again that the transcript is accurate, this may be the best commencement speech ever.
Thank you. I'm honored to be with you today for your commencement
from one of the finest universities in the world. Truth be told, I
never graduated from college and this is the closest I've ever gotten
to a college graduation.
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No
big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the
The people you want working for you are not necessarily the people who want to work for you.
This is one of those hard truths that everyone knows and no one talks about.
Because it's not just a truth at Microsoft.
Ledgard's post, which she later felt duty-bound to soften, told a real truth, and the fact she felt compelled to soften her tone speaks loudly to just how bad the problem is -- across corporate America.
The people doing the hiring, and the people seeking those positions, both think working at Microsoft (or wherever) is the greatest thing since pasteurized milk. In some ways it is. Look at the medicine cabinet you get to use at Microsoft (at the top of this item). Look at the salaries, the benefits, the family-friendly attitude. It's paradise.
Due to low salaries and high turnover, journalism continues to face the problem of reporters seeing failed trends repeated, not spotting them, and repeating the same failed cliches of earlier years, mainly due to orgnaizational inertia.
First, from the Financial Times, a piece on Internet sites being bought by media companies, "falling prey" to them being the operative cliche. On the whole these are market losers cashing out. The buyers aren't getting much, and the story doesn't examine the track records of the sellers. There's a story here, but not the one written.
Second, we have the BBC with the idea that consumer demands drive tech developments. If the iPod were possible 20 years ago does anyone deny we would buy it?
One reason I (unreasonably) went off on Jamais Cascio is because I'm sickened at how the press generally treats Always On solutions. They only see the threats to civil liberties and tend to demean the potential user base.
After Jamais (rightfully) went after me I began looking for an article illustrating this point. It didn't take long to find one. (And the picture at right is from that very story.)
Here it is. It's a piece by Thomas Ricker of EnGadget on what are some really nifty Always On applications in the medical field.
He gets it all down, the fear of "Big Brother watching you" and the outright contempt for the infants, parents and older folks who might need this stuff.
Given all the deaths from SIDS I would think parents would love a mattress that could warn you before your child dies. Given the ravages caregivers face with Alzheimers (not to mention patients), a network of motion sensors telling you when you really need to help grandma (and when you don't) sounds like a very, very good thing indeed.
Note: The following, based on Orson Scott Card's original Secular Humanist Revival Meeting, is designed to be presented as a podcast. Potential producers should feel free to drop me a line.
Two decades ago, a saint came before us to preach the American values of a secular nation in the humanist tradition.
His name was Orson Scott Card. He called his preaching the Secular Humanist Revival Meeting. He was a Saint of the Latter Day.
And as time went on the warnings he gave came true. Religion crept into our science classrooms. Children were told how to pray by bureaucrats. Churches were corrupted by government money, corrupting themselves in the process.
Now we are engaged in a great World War, a Crusade between the Christian and the Muslim world, bomb matched by bomb, atrocity by atrocity.
And in that conflict, where are we? For that matter, where is Card? Gone to the other side, Im afraid, writing plays and books where only those of the One True Faith find redemption, where only the Chosen are heroes, where action is motivated mainly by belief.
Do you hear me? Am I talking loud enough?
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.
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...
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 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:
Short answer. No.
It can be, of course.
When journalists blog, when we ask hard questions, dig for facts, and take mistakes seriously, well then yes journalism can happen on a blog. (Cartoon from Cox and Forkum.com,)
But a blog can be a diary. If you invite just a few people to post, and those same people are all who can read it, a blog is groupware.
A blog can be a community. Let a lot of people offer posts, organize the comments, add polls and ratings.
And that is not all, oh no, that is not all...
There was some misunderstanding about a recent item that caused me to re-think a lot of what I'd considered standards in publishing items on a blog. (A reader writes that this picture was originally published in The New York Times, and I apologize for not acknowledging it earlier (but I didn't know)).
The standard used here is to write an item, bring it to its own inside page, and then write another item. I was convinced this was right by Nick Denton (left), who found that Google Ad revenue jumped on inside pages, because high CPM ads were brought to more specific content.
Not everyone works that way.
What brought these thoughts to a head?
In The Lost Point, I wrote that Google risked being outmanuevered because it didn't pay proper attention to Blogger.
Today Duncan Riley of The Blog Herald goes further. He says the game is already over, that Microsoft won, that the field is consolidating into the three big portal players so Movable Type needs to sell out to Yahoo, quick.
Riley is right as far as he goes.
But if you click below, we'll go a bit further.
Today I want to introduce you to another new member of our blogroll.
It's Tom Abate, whose blog is called MiniMediaGuy. He doesn't post nearly as often as I do, but his posts are always thoughtful.
Tom's blog is in the media space. He's constantly brainstorming about how the "minimedia" of blogs and mobiles and podcasts can succeed against Big Media types who are constantly looking for new ideas.
The point lost by my stupid mistake is that Google, despite its enormous short-term success, is showing cracks in the armor.
I'm going to divide this into lessons to bloggers (including myself) and lessons applicable to site managers or editors. And there's a special section at the end just for you.
Let the scourging begin!
The lessons for editors are especially important, because it's a new job. Editing is what turns blogs into journalism, and a lot can be done after the fact.
No one elseis responsible.
I was in such a hurry to make a point that I didnt double-check to see that the object of my attack was still on the job.
Its a fair cop. The criticism is richly-deserved.
But there is also a compliment there. (Not the obvious one about being able to put myself and Dan Rather into the same sentence.)
Corante has grown a lot since I joined it nearly two years ago. It has evolved from a few individual blogs into a virtual news network, with a host of vertical and geographic beats.
People depend on Corante to get it right. Theyre surprised and upset when we dont.
This is a good thing.
It means were not just a collection of blogs. Were a news outlet. Were doing real journalism. You, our audience, expect quality.
You will get it henceforth, from this reporter. I will double check everything I can. I will still hold strong opinions, and write on a variety of subjects. But I will make sure Im certain of my ground in the future.
To all those whove dumped on me the last few words, I have but one word.
So, as Dana agrees, his post the other day about Evan Williams was off-base and embarrassingly misinformed. I'm sure he'll have more to say about his own lessons learned from the experience but suffice it to say that he sincerely regrets it, knows his credibility has taken a hit, and has apologized to Evan and me.
But as I wrote briefly last night the mistake wasn't his alone: it was mine as well for not handling the situation better and for taking too long to respond.
To recap what happened:
Dana posted the article in question and I, in the middle of a meeting, pinged him back, curtly and without a recommended course of corrective action, with the info most everyone knows: that Ev left Blogger/Google last year.
I (Hylton) will be posting more in this space in the coming hours but wanted to make this space available for those who'd like to comment on the issues raised by Dana's post the other day about Evan Williams and Google and how we handled it. The original post. Dana's blogging to resume shortly.
But the danger is like that identified every week by Mythbusters. Don't try this at home. We're what you call experts.
The problem is that the press defines any provocative statement as a "good quote," but those made by experts like Ornstein merely place context in the obvious. In reaching for a good quote, you can easily reopen old wounds, start new controversies, and make yourself foolish at the same time.
Exhibit A. James Governor of Red Monk decided to re-open the (rapidly closing) question of the GPL's legality in order to get into a local magazine, and to suck-up to a potential client, Fortinet.
There's nothing about this "point" on Governor's blog, and Red Monk has issued no press release, although the point is highly provocative. In fact, Governor advertises his willingness to mouth off. "Need a quick reaction to a breaking story? A detailed explanation of the signficance of a recent merger? Whatever your needs, feel free to contact us."
Fine, if you're not just going to throw bombs. And here's where I get in trouble...
The success of Google has been based on the fact that technology drives its train. Technical success is the most-sought value.
This is becoming a problem.
In many of the new businesses Google has launched, technical values (while important) are not going to be the sole drivers of success. In blogging, in RSS, in Google News, in Google Desktop, in Google Local, and in other areas, other skills are required.
Business skills. Marketing schools. Journalism skills. Political skills. Artistic skills.
Leonardo DaVinci (celebrated above) could not get a job at Google today. In a well-rounded company, his genius would find a place.
The need for these various skills will only increase with time. Google must find a way to recruit these skills, and to reward these skills, without giving the people with these skills control of the company.
This will not be easy.
I'm not just talking about RSS items that are in fact links to ad pages, but RSS items that, while containing links to stories, have additional ads inserted into them.
Now there's another, far more dangerous abuse of the RSS system, phony links.
Phony Links are RSS items from registration-only sites. Most U.S. newspapers are now requiring registration. RSS feeds from these sites now go to sign-in pages, not to the stories themselves. In other words the link is a bait-and-switch. It doesn't go to content, but to a sales pitch.
The AP is abetting that requirement by demanding royalties for online content.
Having done this work for a few years now, I do sometimes ask myself what the best bloggers have that I might lack.
The answer comes down to one thing. The best stay on one thing. They know their beats, know their limits, they do the research, and they don't flit around outside those subjects (the way I often do).
The most important blogger of our time is probably Pamela Jones of Groklaw. Groklaw is more a community than a blog (but so is DailyKos). Despite the extensive help her audience gives her, Jones still gives her beat rigid attention, tons of supporting materials, and she gives her enemies plenty of rope for hanging themselves so that, when she does speak her mind, she has both authority and supporters.
A friend introduced me to a blog I'm adding to the blog roll, one that is only marginally about technology.
Seth Goldstein runs Majestic Research, a New York outfit that produces very high-end (and I hope very expensive) reports on trends for hedge fund managers. Before that he ran Site Specific. He advises Del.Icio.Us. He's smart.
His blog consists of long essays, published at long (for me) intervals, on a wide range of subjects. Recent pieces include one relating client Del.icio.us to German essayist Walter Benjamin, whose Frankfurt School was overwhelmed by the horrors of the Hitler era, another calling APIs "the new HTML," and a third seeking a system of PeopleRanking, very similar to my own piece Finding the Good Stuff.
Criminals have discovered blogging.
The BBC reports this quite breathlessly, but there's no need to be either surprised or unduly alarmed.
There are two types of scams going on, according to Websense, which was the BBC's source for the story:
In both these cases you can substitute the words "Web site" for "blog" and pre-date the release to 1997. Free Web page companies found this problem fairly early-on in their evolution, and now those offering space to bloggers need to be aware as well.
One problem journalists have with blogging is it does away with gatekeepers.
Printers are gatekeepers. They cost money and make you think before you publish.
Editors are gatekeepers. That's their job. They assign stories and edit them carefully so you don't mispel words.
Publishers are also gatekeepers. Traditionally their role has been to shield the poor, innocent journalist from the nasty world of business.
Mark Glaser of OJR examined this today without reaching any conclusions (as good journalists are taught to do). (The recent picture of Nick Denton is from the OJR story.)
Glaser interviewed three people whose blogging companies seem to be bringing in bucks -- Denton (of Gawker, Wonkette, etc.), Jason Calacanis (of Weblogsinc) , and Rafat Ali (of Paid Content) -- about how they pay people who work for them.
By the month, said Calacanis. By the story, said Ali. By the reader, said Denton.
Shock! Shock and dismay, responded the folks at Slate and Salon, representing the traditional industry.
To which I respond, huh?
There is a tyranny to having a narrow beat. (The image, by the way, is from the Oak Ridge National Lab.)
Yes, you can develop sources. Yes, you can develop expertise. But with a narrow beat you're limiting yourself, and you're becoming increasingly dependent on your employer, since beat knowledge is often non-transferrable. You're also more likely to "go native" with a beat, internalizing sources' views as your own without analyzing them.
Blogging and RSS are, at their heart, designed to let us do away with this Tyranny of the Beat. Your subject can be read based on its subject matter, or you can develop your own personal fan club.
I have always resisted having a narrow beat in my work. You'll see stories here ranging from Internet Commerce to Always On to law, science, even politics, along with what Hylton thought was my beat when he took me on -- semiconductors.
I think this keeps me fresh. It keeps me interested. That keeps the quality high.
But that's not the way publishers look at things, even blogging publishers. There are now several companies that run a stable of blogs, besides Corante, and each one places writers in narrowly-defined beats. Weblogsinc may be the most aggressive in de-personalizing their blogs. They now have 75. Most can change out the staff in a nano-second and keep going. Good for them, bad for writers.
And weren't blogs created so we'd have something that was good for writers?
A look at the Technorati Top 100 offers a good illustration on the rise of these corporate blogs.
Like Kremlinologists of the past, people are now analyzing Google's every move the way they once followed Microsoft.
Exhibit A today is a piece from Jim Hedger on Google's latest patent application. But the same things can be found any day of the week. Just enter the word Google at Google News and here's what you'll come up with today:
And that's just on regular news sites. We're not yet talking about the blogosphere:
Eric Rice (left), responding to Dana's Law of Content, asked a real good question yesterday:
And who will be the ultimate judge of what is and is not good and compelling?
The short answer is you would. Not you, Eric. You. The person reading this. And you. And you.
The biggest problem blogging faces right now is it's hard to find the good stuff. Oh, much of the good stuff does get found. And, of course, what constitutes good stuff is all in the eye of the beholder.
What do we do about this?
When CNN was new they decided to cover a Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. What I remember was how the anchors chose to talk over everything, so you felt their ego trips rather than the ceremony.
I got the same feeling, in triplicate, watching coverage of Pope John Paul II's death today. Grief is shared through human interaction, but all we got on TV today was a simulation.
Catholicism is the most ritualistic of America's major religions, but viewers saw little of the power in this ritual. Instead we listened to talking heads on all channels, complete with anchors' ego trips, experts speculating, and cameras thrust in peoples' faces when they had nothing to say.
If you looked at major media Web sites you got more of the same. It was about them, not about him, and certainly not about us.
What about the blogosphere?
The cost of making something good is directly proportional to the complexity of the tools needed to create it. (The picture is from Freeadvice.com.)
This blog item is quite good. The tools needed to create words are very cheap. Even if the tools were more expensive, as they were when I began writing, my cost to create this text would not go up much. And the likelihood of its being of high quality would be just as high.
If I read this on the radio it would not be as good. The tools needed to create a Podcast require knowledge of radio or music production values. Even if Podcasts were as cheap to make as blog items, the proportion of good ones would be smaller than they are for blog items.
The real Hardball isn't the game show on MSNBC, where politicians lie and yap at one another.
It's something far more serious, played every day, by huge corporations that masquerade as guardians of the public interest, but are in fact as corrupt as the rest of us. (That's LA Times founder Harrison Gray Otis on the right. More about Harry Otis here, near the bottom of the page. I direct David Shaw's attention to the quote from Theodore Roosevelt.)
The prerogatives of these corporations and their hirelings, who call themselves journalists (then deny this status to you and me) is under threat on this medium as never before. They're scared, and they're playing Hardball.
Their right, earned by corporate might, to define what is and what isn't news, what is and what isn't fair comment, is under threat, right here, right now.
And they don't like it one bit.
The game is being played mainly on three search engines. On MSN note how these corporations are given, not dominance, but exclusivity. The same is true on Yahoo. Note the list of "resources" at the top-right of the Yahoo page. Note too the prominence given one outfit's stories, the newspaper co-op called AP.
In both cases what you see on your screen is the result of business negotiation. News value is determined by people, meeting in rooms, and (perhaps) money changes hands (we're not told).
Is this fair? It may well be. It's certainly business as usual. And -- here is the key point -- the process is completely opaque.
On the other hand, we have Google News. What you see here looks similar but it is, in fact, quite different. While the stories of the giants do get prominent play, so do other organizations, and other types of news coverage.
At 11:15 AM for instance I checked Google's "coverage" of Laura Bush's trip to Afghanistan, sorted by relevance. Position four was held by a right-wing group, the Conservative Voice. Position seven was held by a left-wing site, Counter Currents, posting a blog item from Counterpunch.
The results on all stories change moment-to-moment, and only a small part of what we call the blogosphere is represented, but the fact is that Google News is offering a far wider set of sources than its rivals. These include "official" outlets like Voice of America and Pravda. They include newspaper sites requiring registration. They also include many sites from outside the U.S.
In some cases, they even include blogs. Yes, even this one.
But that's not the full extent of Google's challenge to the news industry.
At the heart of the First Amendment is the idea that you don't need a license to do journalism. (Take a close look at the Wikipedia picture -- there will be a test later.)
Now, in the name of fighting competition from a new technology, some journalists are calling for just such a license.
The bleating is seen best in today's column by David Shaw of the LA Times. Shaw feels that privileges his industry worked hard to create will be threatened if bloggers can avail themselves of the same protections.
I hope I'm getting the best of his argument in the following quote:
Companies large and small are hiring bloggers, full or part time, are launching their own staff-written blogs, or are seeking to have bloggers publish on company-owned sites.
The weapons they wield are money (I'm up for that), the machinery of publicity, and credibility.
Much of that credibility, however, is being defined by search engines, especially Google, which refuses to spider blog entries on equal terms with media-fed blogs.
If you want to find this entry, for instance, you must look in the main search engine. Specialized blog search engines get a fraction of a regular search engine's traffic, and are based on RSS, meaning they're self-organized rather than spidered.
The result is that the independent blogger today has the same problems finding an audience as an independent Web site would have had in, say, 1998.
As I noted yesterday Agence France-Presse's suit against Google News is silly.
But just because it's silly doesn't mean it can't be won.
Come along after the break and see how that might happen.
Who is to blame for the vapid nonsense of celebrity journalism?
To some extent, you are.
Partly as a result our most popular blogs are the cattiest, the most like the worst of the Main Stream Media attitude I criticized.
Is this an attack on Jeff Jarvis? (That's him on CNN.) No, it's not. He's responding to the market, to the audience, to you.
I have some pretty harsh words for the Main Stream Media (MSM) below.
There is a solution for this malaise, and it's ironic that a national audience caught it first on a comedy show.
The solution is "boots on the ground," as Tom Fenton (right) told The Daily Show's Jon Stewart this week.
Bloggers provide that. Not all blogs do. Saying "blogs" or "bloggers" as though they were a unitary whole is as misleading as saying "Internets" or "Web sites."
But we've seen bloggers capture many stories, and even beats, by doing reporting that the MSM wasn't willing or able to do. I'm thinking here of Raed in Iraq and, more recently, Riverbend. (She is now much better than he is, by the way.) I'm thinking of Boingboing and Juan Cole and 100 others, people who've broken stories, created new niches, and done real journalism.
There are many, many bad blogs. There are many popular blogs that are very bad. I'm not saying the one should replace the other.
What we need are business models that will enable willing journalists (like myself) to make decent livings (not great, decent) doing what we love to do -- reporting, writing, editing, researching, listening, being careful.
MSM journalism no longer provides that. With the help of people like Hylton Joliffe, maybe blogging will, in time. I'm proud to be part of the effort.
Want some more ranting? You'll have to click for it.
Dem's fighting words, ma'am.
The words are from Tina Brown (right, from the syndicator of her column), at the Washington Post, and they are among the greatest pieces of chutzpah I have ever seen. (Although, personally, I'd love a syndicator. And I could do a job for one, too.)
Careful about clicking below, because I'm about to get mad and my language is about to get very blue indeed.
A new version of Google News is out.
It is still listed as beta code, and it has some neat improvements. But it's still skewing the news business in dangerous directions.
First the good news. Google News now has cookie-based customization (if you have multiple browsers you need to customize it separately for each). This means you can create your own headline term, like WiFi, and have its stories appear on your Google News page. You can also get rid of existing Google News headings (except for the two top stories).
You can change these settings on the fly, getting your World headlines from, say, the French Canadian version of the site, or changing the name of a custom heading (the Always On heading becomes a search for WiFi stories).
But you are still subject to Google's rules about what is and what is not a news story.
And on Google News a news story is something that appears in the Main Stream Media (MSM), nowhere else.
The USC Online Journalism Review is too filled with major media types to be truly clued-in about the blogosphere. Although they try. And to the major media they really seem to "get it."
Instead, Glaser cries censorship, acts like there's nothing to be done, and downplays the very-active role other Indian bloggers are taking in publicizing what has happened and working around the problem.
Bloggers not protected by Constitution, says Apple. That's the headline in EarthTimes over a story stating a judge ordered several online sites to hand over the names of their anonymous sources.
Even well-meaning blogs like BoingBoing get it wrong. In Apple case, court says bloggers' sources not protected is their headline. (I think they're copying a San Jose Mercury-News headline here.)
The first headline is a lie and the second is misleading. (But the picture, from the University of Houston in Clear Lake, is really cool, don't you think?)
Fact is, no journalists have that protection. Didn't these people read the result of the Judith Miller case?
No journalist has the right to protect anonymous sources. But all journalists have a responsibility to protect them.
Those who protect such sources, who are willing to go to jail for them after they promise to protect sources, and who do in fact go to jail under court order, without revealing their sources...those people are journalists. The others are not.
And I don't care how much money you make, or what your so-called employer says you are. If you're not willing to go to jail to protect a promise you have made to a source, you're not a journalist.
To many journalists today bloggers seem to be the new plague.
Someone does something or says something "the mob" doesn't like and within days there's a virtual lynching.
But Paul McMasters is wrong. The problem is not that bloggers are attacking.
The problem is that no one's defending. And no one is getting underneath the mob, finding its sources, and placing the same spotlight on its leaders that they place on the powerful.
In his heartfelt commentary on the subject McMasters fails at that job, too. He wants "them" to stop, but to let "mainstream media" go on, as before. It comes off as special pleading.
Podcasting is the trend of 2005.
It's driven by simple facts.
The result is millions of units and millions of hours waiting to be used by someone.
What else is the result?
There's nothing journalists like better than a good old fashioned catfight. (The animated gif catfight is from Supah.Com. I guess you can send it to friends as a postcard.)
And in tech journalism today it doesn't get any better than Pamela Jones vs. Maureen O'Gara.
Jones edits Groklaw, the free community blog which has covered the open source revolution's legal defense so expertly. Her stuff is so good that SCO talked about putting together a rival site, called Prosco.Net, last year. (As of this writing that site is still empty.) Jones is so ethical she actually quit a really good job to stay on the beat, writing "money is nice, but integrity is everything." (I think I'm in love.)
O'Gara edits the $195/year LinuxGram newsletter. She writes fast, tight, "insider-type" stuff, with tabloid headlines like "Ray Noorda's Competence in Question." She learned her trade at CMP, and calls her company G2 Computer Intelligence.
Conflict was natural because of their differing styles. Jones is careful and shy to the point of near-invisibility. She writes like a lawyer. O'Gara is brassy and bold and uses the rest of the press as her PR machine. She writes like a journalist.
What got the feud rolling was a stunt O'Gara pulled before the court in the case of SCO vs. IBM. She filed her own motion to unseal the records, then did a story on her heroic act.
Newspaper companies do this all the time. They fight to unseal records of criminal trials or government decisions, writing a series of stories on the filings and the reaction. But Jones didn't like O'Gara's headline, nor the attitude in her story which was (to say the least) self-congratulatory.
No hostility there. Maybe a little around the edges, oozing out? Leapin' Lizards, Batman, the heroine action figure who apparently wishes to Take the Open Source Movement Down singlehandedly is none other than Maureen O'Gara, who is asking the Utah court to unseal all the sealed records:
While Susan Crawford was asking whether Ben Franklin would blog, (and Donna Wentworth was pointing the world to her piece) I was being asked a similar question "would Jefferson file share" at a VJOLT conference in Charlottesville.
The answer, in both cases, would depend on which Franklin or Jefferson you were talking about.
Franklin was desperate to publish as a young man, and the 1721 Franklin would doubtless have blogged. As a printer, Franklin routinely used copyrighted material without payment, and as a raconteur/diplomat he was far more often on the receiving end, so if he had blogged then he would have done it very carefully, judiciously, with an eye toward public opinion.
Jefferson was the first consumer, and doubtless would have used Grokster in his dorm at William & Mary. But later, as he became a public figure, he would have been far more conscious of the need for anonymity. As a politician, he would have no more admitted to copyright violation than George W. Bush would admit to smoking pot.
Both men, however, learned to live as though their private lives were public. Franklin used his fame to win an alliance with France, even letting himself be pictured in a beaver hat. Jefferson dealt with the Sally Hemings affair throughout the 1800 campaign, not to mention his lifelong reputation as a spendthrift, a wastral and, in the end, a bankrupt.
A better question might be this. Could you, or I, have done as well, then or now?
I doubt it. But we all should try.
For decades employed journalists have considered themselves a class apart. Charged by their employers with deciding what was relevant, they took fame and turned it to infamy, often violating confidences, and said they were just doing their jobs.
They ignored the concentration of power in their own business -- a journalist is someone who works for someone (who buys ink by the barrel, spectrum by the megahertz, bandwidth by the terabyte) -- and expected a legal shield to protect them and no one else.
Well, uh-uh. No more. And Thank God.
I've seen a lot of stories lately about people blogging themselves out of jobs.
It makes me laugh.
Middleware was a very big buzzword a few years ago. (Image from the Southern Regional Development Center.)
By middleware, vendors meant software that let people below take advantage of resources above. Queries that delivered reports to managers on how stores were doing, or that placed real corporate data into neat little graphs.
But every organization of any size is based on human middleware. School principals are human middleware. Store managers are human middleware. Party committeemen are human middleware.
These people sit between the decision-makers at the top and those who carry out orders on the bottom. When we like them we call them "sir" or "ma'am." When we want to disparage them we call them bureaucrats.
America has the greatest bureaucracies in the world. We have done more for our human middleware than people in other societies. (Try getting your driver's license renewed in Mumbai if you don't believe me.)
But we can do much, much better.
Software can be part of that solution, but it's only a part.
Hylton Jolliffe has been a busy man lately. In addition to adding a bunch of new products here at Corante he has also been working to enhance the visibility of existing products, including this one.
One change you may notice is the name of this piece (and other recent pieces). Instead of using numbers to denote names, we're now using headlines. The hope is this will make our work more visible -- I've noticed some other news sites doing the same thing lately.
Wish us luck!
NOTE: Howard Dean will become chairman of the Democratic Party this weekend. Consider this an open letter to the new boss, from the bottom of the grassroots.
The year 2004 did not represent a generational election because people live longer than they used to. Thus, the Nixon Coalition was able to get the knees to jerk by turning 2004 into 1968. Democrats went along by nominating a man of the 60s.
Had this been a true generational election Vietnam would have been irrelevant, just as the New Deal was irrelevant to those marching in 1968, and the Spanish-American War was history to the hungry of 1932.
Will 2008 be the generational election? Maybe, but maybe not. In that year a person born in 1955, at the height of the baby boom, will be only 53. Thats still old enough to matter.
But a new generation is coming along, and thats where Democrats should concentrate their attention.
The last generation had a name, Baby Boom. The new generation has a name, too.
The new generation is the Internet Generation.
Ever since the Web was spun I've been looking for a better way to track the news.
I have created some in my time. I launched the Interactive Age Daily for CMP. I created the A-Clue.Com weekly newsletter.I like to think this blog helps.
But the raw material I use has changed constantly. Maybe that's a good thing, because some of my value as a journalist lies in my ability to dig through this raw material and give you the good stuff.
The full story, by Spamhaus' Steve Linford (below) was distributed online today. It charges that MCI knowingly hosts Send-Safe.Com, which sells a spam virus that takes over innocent computers and turns them into spam-sending proxies. Linford tracked Send-Safe to a Russian, Ruslan Ibragimov. Linford estimates MCI earns $5 million/year from its work supporting spammers.
The theft of broadband-connected PCs by viruses, mainly Send Safe and another Russian-made program, Alexey Panov's Direct Mail Sender ("DMS"), is responsible for 90% of the spam coming into AOL and other major ISPs, Linford charged.
Here's the nut graph:
MCI Worldcom not only knows very well they are hosting the Send Safe spam operation, MCI's executives know send-safe.com uses the MCI network to sell and distribute the illegal Send Safe proxy hijacking bulk mailer, yet MCI has been providing service to send-safe.com for more than a year.
Want this made a little more explicit? Read on.
I have written a bit on RSS here, often wrongly. (The illustration is from the blog of Andrew Grumet, who brings the complexity of video feeds to the process.)
I have bemoaned the delivery of ads via RSS, both as content and within feeds, as "RSS spam."
My complaints were misdirected, as I learned. The problem was not in the feeds, but in the reader. After I patiently explained my problem to my newsreader maker, I was told "we'll work on it."
And what is my problem?
My problem is I want all the real news and commentary on the field I cover, and that's all I want. You don't get that with a simple keyword field.
As always in technology, problems are usually opportunities turned on their head. New start-ups are emerging that hope to use RSS as a true intelligence gathering service, instead of as a garbage in-garbage out collector.
What they say is what I've said, that separating wheat from chaff is very difficult. They are going about that in different ways. Rojo is doing it privately, just letting a few people in, while Bloglines is doing is publicly, creating a versoin of Google's PageRank algorithm.
Corante is interested in this as well.
Dylan Thomas had it right.
Ivan Noble did not go gently, or unforgotten, or uncelebrated. It wasn't the end he sought, it wasn't the notoreity he worked for.
Trained as a tech journalist, he became, for many, the world's leading expert on dying of cancer. And now it has taken him.
Before leaving, he left this.
Historical perspective after the break.
I wrote this for the GreaterDemocracyblog, but I'm also posting it here, because I can.
The software you have on your PC determines what you can do with it. The software a campaign or political movement uses reflects what it can do.
The biggest mistake Howard Dean made in his 2004 campaign wasnt his attacks on Gephardt, and it wasnt the scream. It was his softwares failure to scale the intimacy, to give the 1 millionth, or 10 millionth, campaign participant the same features, and the same sense of belonging, given the 10th and 100th.
Throughout the campaign, and even to this day, Dean and his Democracy for America have relied on Movable Type as their interface with supporters. MT is a good product, but its interactivity is limited. You enter an item on the blog, and comments flow from it in a straight line.
A "blogger" named "Oscar" has dozens of blogs on Blogger, which seem to have no purpose other than to to churn out spam. (Like the image? It's from Rhetorica, which was talking at the time about comment spam.)
Blogger does have some fine features for the spammer. You can set it to e-mail everyone on a list whenever the blog is updated. So if you're a "master spammer" all the little spammers get the updated script simultaneously.
New entries also act as "RSS spam," as in this example, "Oscar's" cell phone "blog."
Google, which owns Blogger, is either blind or willfully complicit to what's going on here. (I'm guessing blind. It's a big virtual world out there, and Google does try to get things right.)
The more significant point is that what's going on is the systematic destruction of RSS as a medium for conveying thought. Already it's becoming impossible to maintain a "keyword" RSS feed. By that I mean that if I tell Newsgator, "send me everything on cellular," I'm going to get a lot of junk, not just from Oscar, but from direct sales sites, resume sites, and "wrap" sites, which place their ads around other sites' content and broadcast it via RSS. (What I need, Newsgator, is a way to create keyword-searches while at the same time blacklisting specific URLs -- then I wouldn't be able to write items like this one.)
But that is not all, oh no, that is not all. Because wherever crooks go unmolested, honest businesses are going to follow.
Panix.Com has apparently had its domain hijacked.
Panix, a 16-year old ISP in New York, told its users that ownership of the domain was apparently moved to Australia, the DNS records were moved to the United Kingdom, and its e-mail was directed to Canada.
This should be a matter for criminal prosecution.
Some journalists are bloggers, but not all bloggers are journalists.
A blogger is a journalist if they act like a journalist. When anyone researches a story and broadcasts the results on a blog they are a journalist.
When a blogger doesn't identify their role, you should treat them as a journalist until they indicate otherwise. Don't tell them something you don't expect to see published. Give them all the information you would any other journalist.
Journalism, in other words, is a process. It's not defined by a paycheck. It's defined by what you do. UPDATE: A new Gallup poll shows that only 5% rate journalists "very high" in honesty. Would bloggers do worse?
All this is prelude to reporting a contretemps Slate reported about The Wall Street Journal. Apparently when Dean campaign chairman Joe Trippi and aide Zephyr Teachout first approached bloggers MyDD and DailyKos in 2003 it "was explicitly to buy their airtime" in the words of Ms. Teachout (right and above, the one without the hat).
The bloggers weren't told this. Markos Moulitas (Kos) and Jerome Armstrong (MyDD) thought they were being treated as consultants, and consulted. Neither wrote anything on their blogs to disqualify the work as journalism.
Click below to see the rest of the story.
The Six Apart-LiveJournal merger is not a roll-up.
Roll-ups happen when there is an established way to make money at something. No one has really found a way to make a reliable dollar from blogging.
Not that people aren't trying. There are tons of new blogging programs out there, tons of new file types to blog, tons of new blogs (of course) and tons of new paradigms.
It's an industry in the process of discovering itself.
Here's the short-form. Roll-ups are about money. Without money, mergers are about people.
From reading the statements of the principals, this merger is what I call a "team-building" exercise. The VCs behind Six Apart (the company that owns Movable Type) are trying to build a winning team. That's one of them over there to the left, Joi Ito.
Let me explain.
Over at Many-2-Many we have a fascinating post, called Fukuyama's Penguin, speculating on why Chinese isn't better-represented in online contributions.
This got me to singing:
Many too many have stood where I stand
Many more will stand here too,
Why isn't there more Chinese here? There are many reasons:
And so millions-upon-millions of people are now on their way to that something else. You and I cannot imagine the lives they live, just off the 15th century, coming upon the 19th and seeing all around them the 21st.
There's a quote from my online novel The Chinese Century that is relevant here. It's an an imagined speech from Jiang Zemin, given near the top of Shanghai's Oriental Pearl Tower. NOTE: The following quote is fictional:
This reads like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it?
Blogging is instant publishing. Part of the idea is that you're getting a raw feed.
But in fact most blogs are edited. Because most blogs are produced with words.
You don't need Microsoft Word to edit a blog. I am editing this in the blogging window. But for most people, coherence requires a bit of editing. You need to step back, put things in a proper order for the reader, and link what you've gotten so it makes sense as a story told, rather than a story experienced.
You can see this clearly when you see the liveblog of an event. Last year's conventions are a bad example. Because the stage happenings were broadcast there was no need to type what was said and put it out. Bloggers reverted to their normal role there of looking for "inside" stories, and wound up as near-clones of their "big media" counterparts, only without as many sources. They edited on-the-fly to create coherence.
What does this say about other types of blogging, using bigger files like audio (audblogging), mobile phones (moblogging) or video (vidblogging).
Sportswriters have to work Sundays and holidays.
Political writers have to work long into the night.
War correspondents work in horrible conditions, and editors face a world of trouble.
But technology writers, for some reason unknown to me, have some of the easiest hours in the journalism profession. Weekdays only, and around Christmas the news slows to a slow trickle.
So if I'm not around much the next few weeks I have an excuse. I also have a family. So from my family to yours...all the best.
Think of etiquette, netiquette...thus blogiquette.
What should good blogging behavior consist of? It's easier to start with pet peeves:
Charles Leadbetter, a freelance analyst who works with Demos of the UK and others (sort of like me but with better management), offered some great insights into the need for regulation recently that have been making the rounds of the blogosphere. (That's one of his books over there.)
How to Profit from Ignorance posits that regulation is needed to regulate ignorance. As life gets more complicated, we become more dependent on experts. Regulation becomes the experts' stamp of approval.
But there's another way of putting the same point -- transparency.
I have finally figured out why this blog isn't more popular.
Fill out this survey. Put your own data at the end of it. Pass it on.
Don't break the chain.
Why didn't I think of tiat?
The Digerati are about to undergo a serious news blackout.
Dave Farber (the picture is from Joi Ito's blog) will be putting up his Interesting People list for 10 days starting Friday as he travels to an undisclosed location with poor Internet access.
This is news because Farber's list has morphed, in the last few years, from a way for Farber to tell friends what he thinks into a real community, where talented people pass stories back-and-forth and comment on them.
It's truly remarkable because, in a technological sense, this should be obsolete, no news at all. Farber's is essentially a shared, moderated mailing list. When someone sends something interesting he forwards it along, and the digerati who are part of the list depend on his unerring sense of what's important (and what isn't) to keep the signal-noise ratio extremely high.
What happens when Farber goes dark isn't just that we lose a news source. We lose contact with all the other people on the list, because we don't have any other place in common.
So if this blog, or your other favorite news source, reads like it's one-eye blind next week you'll know why.
Microsoft has launched an experiment in tightly-controlled liberty called MSN Spaces whose attitude is very oriental, nearly Chinese.
Spaces is a blogging tool (Microsoft loves to own the language, thus blogs become spaces as bookmarks became favorites) with a difference, namely central control and censorship.
However it's defended, and whatever it's called, control is the essence of the Microsoft experience. You will only use Microsoft tools, and Microsoft formats, under Microsoft rules, and write what Microsoft allows.
What could be more Chinese? (The link preceding is to the location of the art at the right.)
The two brief items below are examples of a new feature here at Corante, called Blink.
Blinks are quick hits, references to stories happening within our beats. Just a link, maybe a few words, based on something we found of interest but have yet to think about thoroughly.
I get no credit for any of this. Your encomiums should go to Hylton Jolliffe (right), our fearless leader, who has also been implementing other changes to make our blogs more "competitive" for reader interest (and advertiser dollars) as we go into 2005. It's true his forehead is too small and narrow for him to be a truly "handsome man" as I am, but we at Mooreslore are hopeful the course of time may change that.
I have been privileged to have written with Hylton for nearly two years now. He is honest, innovative, fair-minded, a good man in every way. I've chided him in the past that he should be rich as well.
Maybe (blink, blink) we can get to work on that now....
Thanks to those lovely folks at Newsgator, I've been enjoying an RSS feed on topics of interest, sent to my e-mail box, for the last month.
It's useful. It gives me great stories. But here's a dirty little secret. It's also filled with spam.
Want some examples? Let's go to my inbox today and find a few:
Warren Buffett (left, from Slate) was probably the first big-time executive to really "get" blogging. That's really what his annual letter to shareholders is Read them in turn, going backward in time, and see if I'm right. It's a pre-blog blog.
Jonathan Schwartz, COO of Sun, understands this. His blog entries are longer than most, often being fairly-detailed position statements on Sun's view of issues, but his is a true blog, which aims to participate in and prod ongoing discussion.
Corante is taking it to the next level. We're going to be doing more marketing, we're going through a redesign, and we hope to bring in advertisers who will keep this candy store operating.
Turns out our timing is pretty good. Whats New Online says blog advertising is efficient, powerful, and good for you, too.
Who am I to argue? Following the fold is what we in the journalism business call the "nut graph:"
Most major media companies today are trying to incorporate blogging into what they do.
They are finding it exceedingly difficult.
That's because good blogging comes from passion. It's spontaneous. The best media efforts I've seen so far have lived in one of three categories:
John Naisbitt and a herd of library assistants basically looked at news stories from all over the world in order to divine underlying trends -- they extrapolated the recent past to describe the future.
He made a bundle.
The title of the piece is "Google With Judgement," a title suggested by McLean. What he does is monitor 7,000 political sources (probably everything with an RSS feed) in an attempt to catch trends before they start.
McLean is cagey on his specific methodology. He's trying to sell the process for big bucks to corporations that need to know what the market's thinking quickly enough to act on it. But it sounds like he's databased a bunch of feeds and learned to distill their meaning pretty accurately.
The online photofinishing wars were supposed to be simple.
There would be Kodak (of course), their big photofinishing partners, and maybe some competitors.
That's not the way it worked out.
What we've got instead are a host of Web sites working to top one another in offering free tools. It's not a photo market, but an Internet market.
Blogging software can be used to create a media site. But as I've said many times here, it can be used for many other things. (Note that the Movable Type logo to the right, from their site, calls it a Publishing Platform.)
Since blogging software is based on a database metaphor it can easily be used to sell goods. Comments thus become customer feedback. Your search box becomes a link to the inventory. Any site can be a blog.
But most of those who talk about blogging talk about it as a medium, as a way to do journalism.
In line with that, we're saddened by the news that Billmon, a popular blogger known for his Whiskey Bar, has decided to fold up his tent. And I'm afraid that what he wrote (fortunately it was in a newspaper) as he left the field was both obvious and wrong.
There are many heroes in the blogosphere, and you may have your favorite.
For my money I'll take Hossein Derakhshan. Hossein works in Toronto and has been fighting the Iranian government online since 2000. (For more, see this great interview Jesse Elve of Blog Canada conducted with him recently.)
Hossein told Johotheblog last year there were 1,200 blogs in Iran. The BBC now estimates the number at 10-15,000.
More important, they represent the only free press left in that country.
In a feature on comment spam the OJR's Mark Glaser asked Dave Winer a silly question, and got an equally silly answer.
The question had to do with the nature of comments on blogs. Winer's answer had to do with the nature of blogs.
"I think a blog is a publication, and publications have proven that letters to the editor are useful," Winer said.
I'm not going to simply state that Dave's wrong. I'm going to prove why.
This blog doesn't have that millions of readers, but it does have fans.
Among those fans I'm highly credible. I work hard with every piece to justify that faith, and when I fall down they let me have it.
This transparent relationship is at the heart of blogging credibility. J.D. Lasica tried to explain this to the "media industry" in a recent OJR piece. (The illustration of transparency is from a cool Shodor.Org entry on Fractals and Chaos Theory.)
Every day, it seems, I see more and more people trying to use the blogging metaphor to make money. (The image, naturally, comes from business-blog.com.)
The question remains whether blogging will become subsumed into other media (lots of high-tech publishers, like Business 2.0, now have things they call blogs), whether new journalism businesses can be built on blogging, and whether blogging will be an individual or community endeavor.
Following are some Clues to this future:
The secret to turning a blog into a financial success lies in the word community.
Community is what lets a blog scale from one person spouting off into a true online service, with enough traffic to pay the bills with advertising.
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (left, from his site) revealed this today on his site, Daily Kos, but I am NOT making a political point here. The most successful conservative sites, from FreeRepublic to Lucianne.Com to Andrew Sullivan, all do the exact same things.
What do they do?
Dan Bricklin, as usual, has it exactly right.
Last week was a test. It was not a final exam.
Charles Cooper was among those quick to call the Boston blogging experiment a failure, based mainly on the fact that some bloggers failed to perform as journalists, while some journalists given blogging tools did rather well.
That's not the point. I'm going to have to repeat a great truth here, and I expect Cooper to finally "get it."