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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.
"I'll take Bubble for $100, Alex." (That's 2004 Jeopardy mega-winner Ken Jennings, whose 15 minutes of fame are now up.)
And the answer is, "The final proof of the second Internet bubble, in 2005."
"Correct. eBay paid $2.6 million in cash and stock for a company that had few revenues, no profits, and hardly any business model, and whose operations were completely incompatible with eBay's own."
"I could understand the stock, and even understand the press claims the deal was worth $4.1 billion. It's the cash that gets me."
Richard Wingard has figured out a way to fund cutting-edge technology with angel investors, and hold them in their investments for nearly 7 years. (The picture is courtesy the University of New Hampshire alumni association.)
Wingard runs Euclid Discoveries, which is working on an object-based video compression technology he says will deliver 10 times the performance of MPEG-4, enough to "turn your iPod into a DVD player."
And he's done it all with angel investors, who are best-known for backing only early-stage customers. Wingard has rejected the entreaties of venture capital firms, saying their time frames for pay-outs are too short. Yet he has succeeded in getting angels who will wait as much as 7 years for a private auction of his technology, and a distribution.
Want to know how he did it?
After $2 billion, Rupert Murdoch's Internet strategy has become clear.
Murdoch finished off his buying spree by putting $680 million into IGN, which runs Web sites devoted to video games. This followed his earlier purchases of Scout Media, which runs sports sites for various sports teams, and the company that owned Myspace.com, the music fan site.
Murdoch has called a special "summit" of his top corporate chiefs for this weekend at his California ranch. Prince Alwaleed bin Talals Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia has apparently endorsed his strategy. (Didn't know the Saudis had their hooks into Murdoch quite that deeply, did you?)
So, is this going to be a gusher or a dry hole?
The folks at Google write that they've appointed Vinton Cerf as their Chief Internet Evangelist, and brag on his nickname "Father of the Internet."
But what is he going to do? And what can he accomplish?
While Cerf was a fine engineer in his day, his record as an executive leaves a lot to be desired. Those with memories recall that he was with MCI all through the Worldcom disaster. He gave speeches, he took awards, and he had nothing to do with the fraud. He was out of the loop.
He was lipstick on that pig.
Will he be any closer to the loop at Google? Or does this mean Google is about to turn itself into another MCI?
The sad fact is that Google is rapidly becoming a bureaucratized mess. Current CEO Eric Schmidt ignored Blogger, he gave his corporate credibility a padding, he has loaded up on his personal fortune and generally made a hash of those things it was in his power to make a hash of.
Over at ZDNet, Steve Gillmor (left) has a wonderful commentary that got me thinking about a financial disease, one to which corporations like Microsoft are addicted and by which users like us are burdened.
I call it Upgrade-itis.
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.
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:
Om Malik has a wise commentary today on how peer-to-peer services (p2p) is the killer app for broadband.
He offers a Cachelogic chart showing how p2p services (but more specifically eDonkey) are driving total Internet traffic. In fact, more than half the total Internet traffic monitored by Cachelogic, according to the chart, is eDonkey traffic. (The illustration was copied from Malik's blog, but credit should go to Cachelogic.)
Then Malik makes some really key points (boldfacing is mine):
While using the Web to track Hurricane Katrina (get out of New Orleans and Biloxi while you still can) I found the high-ranking site for another Katrina, Katrina Leskanich.
Don't remember her? How about her band Katrina and the Waves? Still nothing? OK, how about this:
Now I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
And Don't it Feel Good (Hey) (All right now) And Don't it Feel Good (Hey)
If you're of a certain age (anywhere from 35 to about 45) that should send you running screaming from the room. The band made a living off that for years, but by the mid-1990s even the Germans were tired of them.
So Katrina, who was an American Army Brat but has been in England since 1976, went back to the drawing board. She actually had some success, even winning the Eurovision Song Contest for England in 1997, but she wanted back in the pop game.
So how do you make a comeback in 2005?
The fastest way to save energy in this country is to build-out the Local Web. (The illustration is from the PRBlog, in a story about a local Web conflict.)
Every day I find limits in the local Web. Right now, for instance, I need a USB Bluetooth connector for my laptop. It's on the Staple's Web site, but delivery is three days away, and it's not at Staple's. It's on the Best Buy Web site, but it's not at the local Best Buy. I'm going to Fry's tomorrow (a 40-mile roundtrip) and if it's not there I'll have to wait for delivery.
All this driving would not be necessary if local inventories were rourtinely tied to Web sites (as they sometimes are at BestBuy.Com). That's one Local Web application.
There are many others.
Mark Glaser has an OJR piece up about Cook's Illustrated, which has drawn 80,000 paid subscribers.
Glaser credits "cross-promotion and deep research" with the site's financial success.
The truth is simpler, and comes in one word -- credibility. Glaser sums it up this way, "the Consumer Reports of food." (That's publisher Chistopher Kimball, from an appearance on CBS.)
It's an apt description. I pay for Consumer Reports online. I don't use it often, but when I face a big purchase, I get my money out. Because CR is absolutely, 100% credible. There are no ads. There are no conflicts of interest. Everything they do is about earning my trust -- mine, not any vendors -- and they succeed at that.
The recent contretemps over Google's Digital Library plan proves that the essential conflict between copyright and connectivity has not been resolved.
I was chilled by this comment from Karl Auerbach, (right, the cartoon featured on his home page) former ICANN governor and certified "good guy" of Internet governance, to Dave Farber's list:
I've become concerned with how search engine companies are making a buck off of web-based works without letting the authors share in the wealth.
I've looked at my web logs and noticed the intense degree to which search engine companies dredge through my writings - which are explicitly marked as copyrighted and published subject to a clearly articulated license.
The search engine companies take my works and from those they create derivative works.
Oil, like other commodities, is priced based on a contunuous auction, demand measured against supply. (The picture is from a primer on peak oil, courtesy Energybulletin.net.)
Supply has become inelastic. Not just the oil, but its refining. No one is building new refineries (not in this country). When supply gets really tight we actually import gasoline.
The problem is that demand has also become inelastic. I'm talking to you, mister. No one seems willing to make a change, to reduce their demand for oil, gas, and electricity. Back in the 1970s people switched to smaller cars, they didn't drive as much, they even boosted the thermostat. Now, nothing. We get in our SUVs, we take the freeway 40 miles to work and back, we drive all over hell-and-gone for various reasons (kids, shopping, etc.) and we usually leave the A/C on high while we're gone.
So we have an episode of the BBC's show Cash in the Attic.
A number of items have come across my desk today advertising cool mobile stuff, but failing to offer anything resembling a business model.
Here is one of them -- Navizon.
It's advertised as a "peer to peer location service" combining "WiFi, cellular and GPS." But what exactly are you supposed to do with it? Where are the applications that will get Navizon's money out, let alone a profit? No clue.
Back in the 1980s, Wall Street played a game on Microsoft's duo of Gates and Ballmer, demanding "grown-up supervision" for the then 20-something computer software duo.
Fortunately, Bill and Steve did not take the hint (get lost). They kept their stock, kept control, isolated a succession of adults, and finally came out the other side, billionaires and still in control to this day.
Well, I think Google has now outgrown its grownup.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin not only founded Google, but set many of its most important standards. They understand Google's corporate direction in their bones. But, like Gates and Ballmer back in the day, they were forced by Wall Street to get "adult supervision" in the form of Dr. Eric Schmidt.
Schmidt is, at heart, a computer scientist, and a good one. He is known as the "Father of Java," for his work on that language while at Sun. Then he went to Novell, and nearly rode the thing into the ground. (This should have been a hint, boys.)
Two really stupid predications crossed my desk this morning. (The image is by Katie Guenther. From the University of Vermont.)
While a straight look at technology and the desires of consumers could lead you to these conclusions, they're dumber than dirt.
Let's start with the first one.
Even if people start leaving their laptops at home, laptop sales are not threatened by mobile phones, because laptops are replacing desktops. It's basic ergonomics. Where does your lap go when you stand up? If you're standing, or walking, you can't use a laptop, you have to use some sort of handheld device. As PDA functionality moves into phones, as the two markets merge, then, yes, phones become the handheld of choice. But that doesn't mean they replace laptops. It means they replace PDAs.
Now for the second prediction.
Sam Walton was devoted, first and foremost, to his employees. (That's the cover of his autobiography at right.)
He was famous for driving around the country, arriving unannounced at stores, leading employees in cheers. It was almost Japanese.
People forget today, but Wal-Mart salaries in its early days represented big raises for rural people who otherwise faced lives of poverty, absent the small luxuries city folk took for granted. Thanks to Sam Walton, Wal-Mart employees could afford to shop at Wal-Mart. He transformed America from a land of rich city-poor country to one of middle class uniformity, and if you once lived on the poorer side of that divide it made him a great man.
Henry Ford was the same way. His River Rouge plant didn't just turn out a low-cost car (the Model T) . It turned out well-paid workers who could buy those cars. Ford, too, revolutionized America, making this a nation on-the-move.
My point today is that, in both cases, there were side-effects, which demanded renewal and change. And the refusal to change just delayed these crises -- it didn't prevent them.
The big trend of this decade, in technology, is a move toward openness.
It started with open frequencies like 802.11. It then moved into software, with open source operating systems and applications. Now we have open source business models. The ball keeps rolling along.
Open source has proven superior in all these areas due to simple math. The more people working a problem, the better. No single organization can out-do the multitudes.
But this simple, and rather elegant, fact, is at odds with all political trends.
I believe that one of the cruelest businesses of our time are the so-called "payday loan" folks.
You see these shops in every ghetto. Victims write checks that are due to be made good when they get paid. The interest rates on these things can be as high as 100%.
Banks think that, at this rate, it's good business.
Now the business has come online through a San Diego outfit called Spotya.
They're both brilliant. They're both A-list bloggers. They're both rich. I've known both for about two decades.
But I think Marc has a vital Clue Joi has missed, about one of the most important trends of our time, the rise of the open source business process.
Here's why I think that.
Joi has put a lot of money into SixApart, which runs Movable Type, which powers this blog. It's good stuff. But it's being left behind because it is, at heart, proprietary. It doesn't interconnect with other software. It isn't modular, scalable, and it can only be improved by the SixApart team.
In other words, it doesn't take advantage of the open source business process, and thus there are whole new worlds it hasn't been able to scale into. It's not a Community Network Service (like Drupal), and it's not a social networking system (like MySpace).
Marc, on the other hand, has just released GoingOn. It's a new engine for digital communities, like MySpace. He launched with Tony Perkins, who will use the system as the new heart of his AlwaysOn network (no relation to my wireless network application idea of the same title).
But Marc also understands that his stuff can't be the be-all and end-all. Let him explain it:
That headline could have been written about me. (But let's see if I can't make it up to you right now.)
It's the oldest dodge in the blogging world. You call another reporter lazy in order to cover up the fact you haven't looked at a story.
Just how lazy is that? Click below and find out.
Adam Penenberg channels
IDC IDG head Pat Kenealy (left, by Jay Sandred) on another of those occasional "you're going to have to pay for Web content someday" pieces we see every so often.
Well, he's right. But he's also wrong.
He's right because there's already some Web content people do pay for. Dow Jones loses reach and influence, but does make money selling online subscriptions. Lexis-Nexis and Dialog haven't gone free with the dawn of the Web. Last time I checked iTunes was selling songs online, at a profit.
He's wrong because he insists that "micro-payment technology" will stimulate the growth of pay-for-play content. We've been hearing that one for 10 years now, and it's as wrong now as it was in 1995.
There's already a micro-payment program in place. A very successful one.
That's what Rupert Murdoch has paid for him, buying his Intermix Media and its prime asset, MySpace.
Fox has never had an Internet strategy. This was partly because Murdoch wouldn't pay top dollar for Internet assets. But it was also because he has kept his Internet operations on a short leash.
By spending big to get MySpace, which has taken over the business of social networking around music in the last year, Murdoch is changing his tune.
But it doesn't matter unless DeWolfe, who launched MySpace just two years ago with Tom Anderson, has a second strategic act in him.
Conservatives have long complained the press is biased against them. Lately liberals have taken up the same cry.
Now technologists have the right to call out the media as well. When an organization that claims to be totally dedicated to the search for objective truth, like the Associated Press, starts slipping bias into its tech coverage, watch out.
I first saw the story, and headline, in the Rocky Mountain News. Opera has placed BitTorrent support directly into its browser, hoping that will help it pick up market share against Firefox and Explorer.
But the headline? Piracy tool turns legit. And the text was no better. " The Opera Web browser will soon support a file-transfer tool commonly associated with online movie piracy."
Excuse me, AP, but bull-cookies. BitTorrent is not Kazaa. It's a technology. There's no business there. Blaming BitTorrent for piracy is like blaming FTP or SMTP or even HTTP for piracy, because you can move copyrighted files. You can move copyrighted content across all Internet protocols. They are value-neutral. And the head of Opera even told you why he did this -- because it enabled the rapid distribution of Opera itself and Opera wanted such a capability widely-available.
Techdirt went ape-biscuits over this, as they should have, but never considered why the AP acted as it did.
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:
The search for online business models is a continuing fascination of mine at A-Clue.Com.
You may have great merchandise, you may have great service, you may have a nifty shopping cart. But if you can't bring the values of your shop floor to your Web site, you won't succeed online. Over time you may not succeed offline either.
An editorial mission replicates the value of your store online. What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? For Amazon it's a database, a huge variety of merchandise. Works for Amazon, works for Wal-Mart, but it won't work for you.
In fact, Wal-Mart's failures online can be attributed to this editorial mission failure. They were unable to replicate the values of a real Wal-Mart in their online efforts. While the store looks a jumble, regular shoppers know you can actually get what you want there fairly quickly. What they should have enabled was a form of "shopping lists" that people could print-and-use at home, adapting to their own needs, then input regularly on the site, along with a delivery service.
The difference between editorial values and commercial values is that the one defines what you are, and the other puts your name in mind. If branding is to be worthwhile you must deliver the values the brand promises. That is exactly how editors think, too. What you call your reputation they call credibility.
NOTE: That's the royal crown magnolia from mytho-fleurs.com. Like it? It's yours.
A long evening spent reading Lasica's book brought the title to me: King of Irony.
Remember, this is a book. Thus it is subject both to a book's business model and its rights regime.
Want a copy? $25.95 plus tax and (if you buy it online) shipping get it for you. Or wait for it to appear at your local library. Or borrow one from a friend, free. Or wait some months for it to appear in a discount bin, or a remainder lot, or a garage sale. The price you pay is a function is a function of the time you're willing to wait for it.
What can you do with this book? I typed an excerpt today by hand. The length of the excerpt, again, is a function of time, and the cost of my time to produce it, unless I want to string it out a page or two. In that case, technology might be deployed -- a scanner -- plus a few minutes with the scanner's OCR software, some cutting-and-pasting, and voila!
Want to steal some more? Production costs are going to get you. A Xerography process may give you a bound book for just a few dollars, if your order is small. An offset process costs less per book, but the order in that case must be bigger. I guarantee the printer will want to know you're a Wiley fella (or lady) before they take the order.
And we haven't even cracked the cover yet. Easy to see where Lasica's crown comes from.
It's nice when "real" (paid) market analysts agree with one of your premises. Especially when it's a key premise to you, as Always On is to me. (This is advertised as an Always On Server, from Virtual Access.)
So I was pleased to read Chris Jablonski's recent piece at ZDNet, Forget P2P, M2M is where the next party is.
M2M stands for Machine to Machine (ironically this sits right below an item about how poor most tech nicknames are) but we're talking about the same thing, intelligent sensors linked to wireless networks. Programming the sensors to deliver some result, then automating delivery of the result in some way (sending an alarm, telling the user, etc.) is what I mean by an Always-On application.
As I have said here many times the tools are already at hand, and cheap. We're talking here about RFID chips, WiFi and cellular networks, along with standards like Zigbee that let these things run for years on a single battery charge.
There are problems with every application space, however:
AMD is the most infuriating company imaginable.
If Intel is the big dog of the chip world, AMD is the little dog jumping around it, nipping at its heels, acting like it (not Chipzilla) owns the street.
Its latest legal assault may be its dumbest move yet.
Strictly from a timing standpoint, it sucks.
This Administration does not look kindly at anti-trust claims. They settled with Microsoft, they gave the cables and Bells a duopoly (leaving America a third-world broadband country), and they seem content to let China monopolize world trade while India gains control of services. All this is in pursuit of an ideology that becomes less-and-less distinguishable from Putinism and Kleptocracy by the day.
Short form. If they had a case they should have filed it in Europe.
By a 9-0 count the Supreme Court has held that Grokster (and its ilk) can be sued.
The decision was written by David Souter (right, in an old picture from Wikipedia), a conservative-turned-liberal appointed by the first President Bush.
Here's the key bit:
"We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by the clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties."
I've highlighted the most relevant portion. To me it looks like they wouldn't hold against BitTorrent, but that Grokster's business model, which did sell the service as a way to infringe, crossed a legal line.
As written I find it hard to argue against the language, but I guarantee I'll disagree with the interpretation, especially the spin being placed on this by the copyright industries.
As I see it the decision puts a limit on the "non-infringing uses" language of the Betamax decision, but does not overturn it. Grokster falls because its business model is based on infringement. BitTorrent has no business model, and thus may be exempt.
Trouble is that is an assertion that will be tested in courts that will twist this result just as the DMCA was twisted to reach this decision. Congress was told by the Copyright industries in 1998 that the DMCA would not overturn Betamax, that it would protect fair use, that it would not be extended in that direction and should not be interpreted as going there.
With this decision -- a unanimous decision as opposed to the 6-3 Betamax ruling -- I guarantee you the industry's lawyers will try and turn this into open season on the Internet.
But can they?
I spent last week in Texas, dependent on free WiFi hotspots, and I learned a powerful lesson.
There is no such thing as free WiFi.
When "free" WiFi is provided by a bar, coffee shop or restaurant, there is a quid pro quo. You're going to eat. You're going to drink. And when you're no longer eating and/or drinking (and ordering) you're going to get nasty looks until you leave.
There is a cost to a shop's WiFi that goes beyond the cost of the set-up. That is the cost of the real estate, the cost of the table, and the cost to a shop's ambience when a bunch of hosers come in and spend all day staring at laptops.
Now here's an even-more controversial point.
Former RIAA president Hilary Rosen finally gets it about copyright.
This volume needs to be embraced and managed becasue it cannot be vanquished. And a tone must be set that allows future innovation to stimulate negotiation and not just confrontation.
Her column at the Huffington Post (she apparently chose not to take feedback on it) is filled with honesty about both the tech and copyright industries, honesty she never admitted to (in my memory) while shilling for the RIAA.
But is it possible that this honesty is what finally caused her to leave? (Or did her life, and its imperatives for action, take precedence?)
That would be a shame, because the fact is, as she writes, that the answers here must lie in the market, not the law courts. For every step the copyright industries take in court, technologists take two steps away from them. This will continue until the copyright industries really engage consumers with offerings that are worth what they charge, and which aren't burdened with DRMs that restrict fair use.
The topic this week might be called the new media's old media problem, with a proposal for solving it. (I have no idea whether the book here is good or not. If someone can send me a link to sales, we'll see.)
In software terms blogging and commerce are incompatible. They're two trains running on different tracks.
Bloggers aren't really thinking of making money. They may put up begging bowls, and they make take BlogAds, or put in Google AdSense, but their Achilles Heel is that, when they think of money at all, it's in Old Media terms.
Let's sell ads.
Community Networking Systems like Scoop, Slash and Drupal also share this problem. They have an advantage over blogging systems in that they can scale. They can take a lot of traffic, and a lot of users. Those users are empowered to create their own diaries, or polls, or multi-threaded comments. But again commerce is secondary, in this case even tertiary. The most successful "commercial" community sites are those, like DailyKos and Slashdot, that direct people off-site to give money or time to important causes. There is no built-in business model.
Despite what the snarky set may say, medical applications for Always On technologies are starting to get real interest from people with money.
An outfit called Wirelesshealthcare in the UK has come out with a report called "101 Things To Do With A Mobile Phone In Healthcare."
The only unfortunate thing here is that the writers of the release on this interesting report call the area eHealth.
My problem is not with their intent. A rose by any other name and all that. My problem is that the term eHealth is stifling, limiting. It minimizes what is actually happening, and isolates wireless network applications to one small field.
The story is about how some coffee houses are turning off the WiFi because they don't like the fact that their shops become offices. People shut up around WiFi. They bring in their PCs, turn on, and tune out the world around them. They may buy a coffee (increasingly they don't) but that's all you're going to get out of them.
Coffee shops and restaurants have beren the leaders in the WiFi "hotspot" movement based on the assumption they will be good for business, that people who WiFi also eat and drink.
Turns out we don't. Not that much, anyway. And we don't leave the table, either.
All of which leaves these shops without a valid business model. Would those using free WiFi object too much if they grabbed a piece of your browser's real estate and forced ads on you while you worked? How about if they put in a WiFi tip jar? I'm open to suggestions here.
This week I returned to the topic.
The reason why publishers have no editorial budgets with the move to the Web is simple. (Image from Websitecenter.)
None engage in Deep Commerce. Instead, they still just sell ads.
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.
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.
I'm generally all in favor of anything to fight spam. And regular readers of this space will recall how much I like my own anti-spam tool, Mailwasher from FireTrust.
But this pissed me off.
UPDATE: After posting this I learned the spam database I'm about to describe is not necessary for Mailwasher to work. My complaint here is solely regarding issues of marketing and notice. Mailwasher remains my anti-spam solution of choice.
The latest version of the product, Version 5.0 to be precise, supports a company spam datebase, called FirstAlert! This is a commendable thing, on balance.
But in order to pay for maintaining this database, FireTrust has changed its business model. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Essentially they're going to a subscription model built around FirstAlert!
I was asked to download the "upgrade" to Mailwasher, by FireTrust, roughly a week ago. I did so. It's now a $37 product but, if you want to maintain your own POP3 mailbox and a public e-mail address, it's a necessity. Upgrading was transparent, easy-peasy.
Suddenly this morning I get a pop-up, inside Mailwasher, reading "your subscription to FirstAlert has expired," with a link to renew. The link goes to a page inside the FireTrust site, and they want $9.95 for the subscription. The page doesn't indicate how long this "subscription" lasts.
Because of the way in which this was done, it can look to a consumer like a classic bait-and-switch. I bought this thing just last week and now you want MORE money?
Fortunately it's very easy for FireTrust to fix this:
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.
Good news (at least in the short term) for file hoarders.
Given that both sides in the Copyright Wars know about language and framing, I'm urging use of this new term for the heavy hobbyist users on peer to peer networks.
I think the word hoarding says more about the motives of the users, and the way toward ending the practice, than anything else. Thanks in part to the industry's rhetoric, and in part to its actions, many lovers of music and other files are afraid they will lose access to the culture they crave. Thus they demand to have physical copies of its artifacts, and grab all they can. It's classic hoarding behavior.
But time is the limit here, not space. You can only listen to one song at a time, watch one movie at a time. It doesn't matter how big your collection is, the only way to get enjoyment out of it is to play the files.
Many hoarders today already "own" more files than they can play in their remaining lifetimes. When you get your arms around this concept, you begin to see how self-defeating hoarding is.
So how can hoarding be stopped?
This week I continued the discussion, asking why so many responded to that piece denying they had any such thing as A Clue, let alone A-Clue.Com.
There was an interesting reaction to my piece last week, denial.
Many of the leaders in the blogging business read it, and all of them denied its inherent truth, namely that they had A Clue.
I'm not a business, insisted Jason Calacanis. Never mind that he has 65 blogs, a uniform look-and-feel, that his writers don't even get their pictures on their blogs and, when they leave, they leave with nothing. No, it's all about passion, he insists. We do this for love, he says. Business? We're not building one of those.
So it went.
I'm not a success, insisted Rafat Ali of Paidcontent. I'm not powerful, insisted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. I'm a dilletante, said Glenn Reynolds. I'm only here for the beer, said Dave Winer. I'm no one at all, said Pamela Jones of Groklaw.
Despite his ponytail and his sometimes counter-cultural language, despite being what I like to call a Truly Handsome Man (it's a brighter term for bald, people) Ted Waitt was always a follower, not a leader. (The picture is from a 2002 profile in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Argus-Leader.)
Waitt was Gimbel's to Michael Dell's Macy's. He wanted to be Pepsi to Dell's Coke.
But computing lacks the stability of the retailing or the soda business. So when Waitt announced his resignation today (at 42 it wouldn't sound right to call it a retirement) it wasn't big news.
Waitt and Gateway did well in the 1990s, following Dell into mass customization. He made his big mistake when he tried to out-think Dell, opening a chain of retail stores that caused $2.4 billion in losses, according to The New York Times.
But I personally think the mistake was more basic than that.
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:
Many think the secret of Fox' dominance of news is political. A generation brought up on the myth that an objective press is biased to the left, then given a right-wing Pravda, sees the latter as "fair and balanced."
That's a small part of the story. Identifying a niche and serving it is as old as the magazine business. Older. It's as old as Poor Richard's Almanack.
The real secret is much simpler. The "network" is actually a studio. Few bureaus, no big investigation team, no bench, little support. Who needs writers when most hosts can wing it. It's talking heads. It's radio economics.
No, it's blog economics, or Blogonomics.
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.
The secret's out.
Intel is re-interpreting Moore's Law. Not repealing it. Not rejecting it.
They're reinterpreting it. That's the significance of the change incoming CEO Paul Otellini (right) is making.
Before Moore's Law was like Samuel Gomper's famous quote about what labor wanted. More. More circuits, more speed, more cycles, more bits. More.
As of today Intel's new direction is better. Better doesn't always mean more. In the case of microprocessors it can mean putting more computers on each chip (multi-core) or running with lower power. In terms of communications it can mean a host of attributes, from security to coverage to throughput.
The strength of an economy, like that of a society, depends on social mobility. That means the poor can rise to wealth. It also means the wealthy can end up poor. (This old cartoon, from what folks like to call THE Ohio State University, pre-dates Wal-Mart by generations.)
A recent online conversation with Vijay Gill brought this home to me. The topic was actually our recent piece on The Myth of Scarcity. I liked it, posted it to Dave Farber's list, and Vijay responded quite thoughtfully, his point being that telecommunications is hard, some parts are scarce, and real technical knowledge is even scarcer. Maintaining total connectivity in the last mile without protecting the monopoly is harder than I make it sound.
This set me thinking in two directions at once.
Why is it that politicians have done a better job on the Internet than publishers?
It has to do with a concept I call Pitch Credibility.
Journalists understand the concept of credibility. It's the trust readers place in us. If there is a journalism profession, it's based on this idea of credibility. I took a huge hit to my own credibility when I screwed-up an item on Ev Williams. I went through hell on that not to regain my credibility, but to minimize the losses, and in hope the damage would not spread to innocent Corante authors.
But just as editorial work must have credibility, so must advertising. That is the innovation the Internet makes necessary.
Moveon.org understood this right away. It knew that if it suggested you give to Candidate X, then Candidate X better fit the desires of the Moveon audience, or the endorsement would damage Moveon. Because it had pitch credibility with its audience, Moveon was able to gain honest information (a mailing list) from its members, and even financial support, based solely on its promise to deliver.
While Moveon failed in these last two cycles as a political force (ask Presidents Gore, Dean and Kerry) it has succeeded in creating a business model that everyone else on the Internet needs to pay attention to.
So if Roger Simon, for instance, is to succeed in his efforts to unite the right-wing blogosphere and extract money from its members, he must retain pitch credibility. He better not let anyone like me in because I'd damage it. And he better use that credibility only to solicit for products, services and people the audience will surely endorse.
Perhaps you can see now why this idea is easier for a politician to understand than a businessman. Politicians are attached to what they're selling in ways businessmen aren't.
Belief is at the heart of pitch credibility.
How can we take advantage of this in the business realm?
Click to find out.
The Associated Press was created by publishers to let papers share stories and reduce editorial costs, in an age where everyone knew their business model and barriers to entry were rising.
Today barriers to entry are at rock-bottom and valid business models are hard to come by.
So naturally, everyone's trying to create an AP.
This is going about things backward. Business models aren't for sharing. They must first be created by entrepreneurs, then expanded upon. Only once they're established can you expect the kind of consolidation an AP represents.
What we have, then, is a business opportunity. What is that opportunity?
A shared registration database would be a good place to start. One sign-in, and one cookie, might get a reader posting privileges at hundreds of sites. The database would provide advertisers with a working profile of the readers (demographics and psychographics) justifying a higher cost per thousand on ads. Blogs on the network could be bundled based on politics, subject matter, or geography, just as is done in the magazine business.
The result would be a brand offering the services of an ad network. It should also be able to aggregate other business opportunities for the members of the network, so it would have aspects of a talent agency as well.
How close are we to something like that? Not very close at all:
Market research companies specialize in the third kind of lie, namely statistics. While these companies were originally created to help clients deal coherently with the market, that's no longer the sole source of income.
The process of market research has been corrupted by paid research done on behalf of:
Yes, the categories do overlap. More, and what to do about all this, after the break.
I have not written much about Voice Over IP in this space because I'm not an expert in it. (Yes, I hear you say, this never stopped you before.)
Actually I didn't think I had anything original to add to the conversation. I still don't. But I want to point you to someone who does.
That someone is Tom Evslin (left). Evslin recently completed a wonderful series on the economics, politics, past and future of VOIP, on his blog, which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in this area.
Evslin calls this year a "flipping point" driven bythe mass distribution of VOIP software. It's not really free although, once you have your set-up, each call carries no incremental cost. The market battle between Skype and Vonage are driven by Metcalfe's Law, control of end points. Evslin offers the best explanation I've yet seen of Skype and its business model, which is rapidly evolving into an alternative phone network.
I have one suggestion.
The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is learning how to handle NO.
I learned this lesson from an entrepreneurial friend of mine today, and it's so important I had to blog it.
Entrepreneurs bring ideas to businesses and people. They sell these ideas, as businesses. They take a lot of meetings. And most of the time, maybe over 99% of the time, the answer at the end of the day is No.
"You have to turn it into an opportunity," my friend said. You do that by finding someone else -- a money source, another business -- who will either run with your idea, finance your idea, or buy it outright.
And you keep moving.
The difference between entrepreneurs and other businesspeople is that most businesspeople are in the yes business. In a going concern you mostly hear yes. People do come in the door, people are satisfied, you do create systems that wind up giving value for money. If you're not doing this, you're out of business quickly.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are constantly being told no. It's only when they get the yes that they have the chance to build that business they were describing, and this is usually the end of a long, long process. Yet the businesses an entrepreneur launches are often much better than those run by businesspeople, because they've been tested, vetted, and designed to grow fast.
Personally I dont think this is necessarily the case. Newspaper companies will be able to use computers and on-demand pagination to mass produce paper products that are relevant to future audiences. Just as radio and TV only forced the industry to change, not disappear, so it will be in this case.
But lets assume Murdoch is right. How can incumbent newspaper companies achieve anything on the new medium? His speech read like someone anxious to learn. I'll take him at his word.
Following are some ideas.
The best way to understand the future is to look into how chips are changing.
Two transitions are transforming Moore's Law. The original article, in 1964, described only the density of circuits on silicon substrate.
The rule implied that chips could get better-and-better, faster-and-faster. Doubling bigger numbers means bigger incremental changes in the same time. Over the years chemists and electrical engineers learned to apply this exponential improvement concept to fiber cables, to magnetic storage, to optical storage, even to radios, so that 802.11n radios will transmit data at over 100 Mbps -- twice what earlier 802.11g models could deliver, but still 50 Mbps more.
The transitions have to do with what we mean by better.
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.
The point lost by my stupid mistake is that Google, despite its enormous short-term success, is showing cracks in the armor.
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.
Want a career in the exciting, fast-paced world of 21st century journalism?
Don't go to journalism school. You can learn to write anywhere. The way to write better is to practice. If you love writing you can pick up the rest on-the-fly.
Instead, go to business school. Why? Because the only way you're going to have a good career in this business is to have the skills of a publisher. And those are the skills taught in business school.
In my first lecture at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, in 1977, we were told firmly that if you wanted to make a good living there was a fine businesss school on campus, the Kellogg School, and we should go there. So I've got their logo at the top of this item. I should have taken the advice.
More on why you should go to business school to learn journalism after the break.
The key benefit of open source is transparency. (That's a transparent Mozambique garnet, from CLDJewelry in Tucson, Arizona. Transparency doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.)
The key benefit is not that the software is free. It's not that you can edit it. It has nothing to do with the obligations of the General Public License. It's inherent in every open source license out there.
The key advantage of open source is you can see the code. You can see how it works. You can take it apart. You can fix it. You can improve it. Most people do none of these things, but all benefit from this transparency.
The benefit became clear when I got responses to a ZDNet post called Is Linux Becoming Windows? The news hook was a Peter Galli story about how some folks were getting upset over the feature bloat now taking place in the Linux 2.6 kernel.
Those who responded said simply that the complainents, and I, had lost our minds. Kernel features aren't mandatory. Just because something is supported doesn't mean you have to do it. You can pick and choose among features, because you can see the whole code base -- it's transparent. You can look at the various builds out there and, if there's something you don't like, something you can do better, you can fork it, and maintain your own enhanced code base.
When Microsoft changes its software it makes things incompatible. When Linux software changes this doesn't happen, because the change is transparent. New builds are transparent, and if you come to a fork in your operating system road you can take it.
Transparency is the key term. And it doesn't just apply to software:
Last month Intel's mobility chief Sean Maloney was in the hunt to head H-P, a job that eventually went to Mark Hurd of NCR. (Watch out. Dana is about to criticize a fellow Truly Handsome Man.)
But how well is Maloney doing his current job?
Intel's role in the development of Always On is crucial, and its strategy today seems muddled. It's not just its support for two different WiMax standards, and its delay in delivering fixed backhaul silicon while it prepares truly mobile solutions.
I'm more concerned with Maloney's failure to articulate a near-and-medium-term wireless platform story, one that tells vendors what they should sell today that will be useful tomorrow.
Intel seems more interested in desktops and today's applications than it is in the wireless networking platform and tomorrow's applications.
Incoming CEO Paul Otellini says Intel is going to sell a platforms story, not a pure technology story. Platforms are things you build on.
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?
Glenn Fleischman and I disagree so seldom, we both get confused when it happens.
Long story short I thought it would help if I described what might be a better plan for citywide WiFi. Apologies to those of you who have read this before.
The short answer is WiMax. The long version follows the break.
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:
I've seen the TV ads and maybe you have, too. "Get a free ringtone. Simply text (whatever) and get (name of hit song) as a ringtone!"
Well, it's a scam. It's not free. In fact, writes Stephen Lawson for The Industry Standard, it's a lot more costly than a regular ringtone. This is because you get multiple texts in reply, with directions for the download, and these texts cost money -- $1.99 plus call charges each. It's an easy case to make, it's simple consumer fraud, it's aimed at teenagers. A state attorney general who wants to make a name for himself (or herself) can have a field day with this.
Want to know the best part?
Here's an interesting juxtaposition of headlines. (The lovely idiot is from UC Berkeley.)
Hitachi Eyes 1 Terabyte Drives, writes MacWorld, noting new technology the Japanese company says lets it put 4.5 Gigabytes of data on a single centimeter of hard drive.
I'm like, don't the first people read the second paper?
Moore's Law of Storage is rocketing along right now even faster than Moore's other "laws" (as described in The Blankenhorn Effect). Magnetic storage is eliminating the cost of physically maintaining content, any content, with profound implications for everyone.
Neither effort is serious, in terms of 2005 serious. Both are attempts to place markers on the future and gain agreements with the content industries they think will mark the future.
And this is just what's wrong with them.
You don't open up a new market by focusing on the seller side of the transaction.
You open up a new market by focusing on the buyer side.
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?
I have made few comments about the so-called conspiracy against the Apple iPhone.
The story was that Motorola was ready to release a cellular phone that was also an iPod device, but it couldn't find any carriers for it.
What's more interesting to me is the tug of war now taking place among entrepreneurs between these two technologies.
And, surprisingly, cellular is losing.
The reason has to do with business models and open standards. (Thus the picture above of standard pawns, available from the good people at Rolcogames.)
It's one of the great laws of politics. As soon as people decide you have power, and you can be moved, everyone and his auntie is going to try and move you.
I hinted that something might be happening more than a month ago, but it was probably the controversy over Google News that tipped it over.
With Google News, from the very beginning, Google did something it claimed it wasnt doing. That is, it exercised editorial judgement. As SearchEngine Journal noted, While an algorithm based on publishing popularity chooses which articles are found under which keyword phrases, the news-authority sources themselves are supposed to be pre-screened by a human. And some immediately started writing programs to see what those humans might be doing.
But just as I was objecting, wanting to get in, others were objecting wanting to stay out. Agence France-Presse has won an agreement from Google that News wont even spider stories sent to its affiliates, while Jeff Jarvis is crowing that Google News no longer spiders hate sites.
And now the atmosphere of controversy has spilled into the main site. French law demands that ads for competitors not be placed against trademarks. Google complies, on its French site, but continues to employ them on its U.S. site, where the standard is different. So the French sue.
This weekend Slate offers a feature of Philip Anschutz, a conservative businessman (and big soccer fan) who has launched printed papers under the name the Examiner in Washington and San Francisco.
Jack Shafer syggests Anschutz needs to invest more in editorial and consider the Web in order to be taken seriously.
Correct and double correct.
I wrote about this several weeks ago, and what follows is that original copy. You can get it free
I have a love-hate relationship with newspapers. (This newsboy is advertising news of the Titanic's sinking.)
The business has been at the heart of my "profession" for a century. The whole idea of a journalist as a professional is also a product of this business. I took my graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism. Joseph Medill was the old reprobate who built the Chicago Tribune empire.
But as I've said many times here this whole idea of a "journalism profession" is a fraud. Professionals can make it on their own. Journalists can't. If you don't have a job you are not part of the fraternity. Even if you build a journalism company based on your vision of what the profession should be, you are always nothing more than a businessman.
The New York Times recently quoted a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."
Here in one sentence we have the utter cluelessness of the industry. Here is an opportunity waiting for someone to exploit it.
In all the arguments over copyright and patents the interests of the middle class creator are constantly invoked, then discarded.
The fact is that, while most western countries are middle class, the structure of their creative classes is pre-Marxist. That is there are a few writers, artists, musicians and actors who get rich from it, and a lot who get virtually nothing.
Unless you have business acumen, or constant success in your field, you're very likely to end up poor. And without a big hit, you're nearly certain to end up relatively poor from your work in the content industries.
At the same time, those who manage the industry, whether or not they have any talent, nearly all wind up rich.
Thus there's a difference between what we find in society as a whole and the content society.
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.
It is finally going to be possible to transfer MMS messages between U.S. carriers.
Yes, X.400 is finally here.
X.400, I should note, was an interoperability system for moving messages betwen X.25 networks, and for billing the costs through the carriers. It took years to negotiate, it was difficult to implement, and it was made obsolete by the Internet's basic agreement to move the bits first and settle later.
Today's mobile or cellular operators (take your pick on the name) are much like the old X.25 operators, such as GEIS and CompuServe. The networks they operate are walled gardens, very proprietary, so it takes both technology and diplomacy to get stuff over the walls.
This is not cool, once customers start taking pictures with their camera phones and (under operator urging) want to share them.
You may have caught the nasty 509 error which hit this site yesterday.
Here it was no big deal. It was a technical problem. It was fixed.
But it did occur to me that, finally, the market for core bandwidth is starting to turn around and Web hosts are finding themselves in the position of restauranteurs. (Thus, we're repeating our picture of Italian restauranteur Mario Batali.)
You may now think about Parmesan Reggiano, some nice Balsamico, the cool breezes of Tuscany, an artisanal bread and a fine bottle of red. I'll explain.
Whatever idiot at Agence France-Presse is pushing to keep its stories from being linked widely might want to do a re-think after reading this.
AOL is far more powerful than Agence France-Presse. At one time its walled garden was the most powerful force online. Its shareholders took 45% of Time Warner's equity in 2000, and while that's now worth a fraction of what it was (thanks to the fact they weren't really worth the price), it's still a lovely parting gift (and thanks for playing our game).
Well, after spending billions of dollars and five years fighting the inevitable, AOL has succumbed.
When a currency becomes overvalued it gets tossed like confetti. This is what happened in the late 1990s, and it's happening again. (The allusion, of course, is to the hit song 1999 by the man at left, known again by his given name, Prince Rogers Nelson.)
It doesn't matter whether acquisitions are made with cash or stock. Cash acquisitions, after all, can easily be handled by the company selling stock. Yahoo has been especially active in this area.
Companies of all sorts want this currency, and thus we have both Yahoo and Google on an acquisition binge.
This summer will be the peak of the Voice Over IP (VOIP) boom. (The illustration, by the way, is from Poland. No, he doesn't look Polish.)
It's an easy prediction because Philips announced at CTIA a reference design for "converged handsets," with 802.11 and GSM or GPRS cellular in the same package.
We've seen the success of Vonage and Skype. We've seen the growth of 802.11 "hot spots" in hotels, airports, and on campuses. We've now seen the cellular industry adopt to VOIP. It's happy days.
So why am I predicting it's all going to end?
One of the biggest problems we face in cellular data is the lack of MMS interoperability.
If I'm on Cingular, and you're on Verizon, and our friend is with U.S. Cellular, in other words, we can easily exchange short text messages. But exchanging, say, photos or music is nearly impossible.
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.
Video clips, sold like ringtones. The mobile Web is TV, just as last year's mobile Web was radio. (The picture is from the story linked-to in this paragraph, at PocketPCMag.com.)
I think this is wrong-headed thinking.
That's not to say video won't have a place. It will, especially where desktop Internet penetration is low. Within a few years, I suspect, we'll see a "mobile BitTorrent", because the kind of video that will be in highest demand will be that which is most likely to be suppressed, and not shown on TV.
But video still isn't the Killer App for the next wave. Video is going to remain a niche.
What is the Next Big Thing? Glad you asked.
The New York Times quotes a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."
Here in one sentence we the utter cluelessness of the industry.
Newspapers have always given away their content. Always. The money you pay for your daily paper goes only toward its distribution costs. The ink, the paper, the printing, and the entire editorial budget (which is just 8% of the total, although publishers act like it's the whole thing) -- that comes from advertising.
Where does the money come from? Many sources:
Cynthia Webb (left) is sporting a collection of recent U.S. media reports claiming a "renaissance" in America's consumer electronic market share.
There are more American labels around. Apple. Motorola. Microsoft. The U.S. companies are good at seeing the opportunity and writing software that works.
Our balance of payments is not helped by it.
As Cynthia notes (deep in the article), these boxes are being made in China. (Actually most of them are being made in Taiwan.) Some of the software conceptualizing is being done here, as is the marketing (although I suspect some of that software work was off-loaded to India).
Those failing, flailing Japanese outfits she mentions, meanwhile, are still doing everything in Japan. Or they're doing "too much" in Japan. Except for Sony and Nintendo Japanese companies were never good at anticipating demand. Mitsubishi, Canon, C. Itoh, Ricoh, et al -- they were manufacturing houses. They were China before China was cool.
But the Japanese are getting wise. American Howard Stringer is Sony's new CEO. He knows the game. Expect most Sony stuff soon to come with a "Made in China" label.
What's the real story?
Now I'm going to tell you how to apply permission to the highest levels of personal transactions, the selling of homes and cars.
Bill Gates has finally hired himself a new CTO.
Groove does collaboration tools, and Microsoft (an early investor) is interested in those things. But I don't think Gates signed off on this deal to get Groove's technology, otherwise he never would have un-retired Nathan Myhrvold's title. (Microsoft currently has three people with the CTO title, meaning no one really has the power.)
The bottom line is that Gates needs Ray Ozzie, and he needs him bad.
Microsoft puts more dollars into new technology development than just about anyone else in the world, but it gets less bang for its buck than any outfit since Xerox PARC. Microsoft Research has a ton of high bandwidth people, they're doing all sorts of high bandwidth things, but when was the last time Microsoft introduced anything of real importance?
That's what Ray will be tasked with sorting out.
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:
With Bluetooth viruses causing all kinds of havoc, and forcing millions to close the open ports on their phones, it seems strange to be writing about a "Bluetooth Network" connection.
But that's Wideray.
Here's the deal. Wideray customers put kiosks in the stores, and when someone comes over with a Bluetooth device they can feed whatever they want -- games, demos, product details. (It also works with Infrared or WiFi.)
I have used the system at trade shows, and its effectiveness is limited by the client device. If the device has limited power and storage, the effect of the download is minimal.
From Medgadget comes word that Always On was a theme of the Demo conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, last week, even if they didn't use the name.
It's all quite wonderful, but there is one big problem.
Lusora's medical gadget uses Zigbee, and its hub, on the surface, looks proprietary, even though it's based on industry standards like WiFi and TCP/IP.
I could be wrong. I hope so. I've contacted their PR folks to see if they can be helpful. And I'm certain they can be.
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.
Perhaps the most vital asset to any technology company today is its reputation.
It's not money. It's not assets. It's certainly not patents.
It's what people think of you, your reputation.
Paul Robichaux recently wrote that he thinks Google is pulling a fast one, with a Toolbar feature called AutoLink that turns unlinked items on a page into linked ones, automatically.
When Microsoft tried extending its Smart Tags feature, which sounded awfully similar, into Internet Explorer, Robichaux wrote in Exchange Security, "the furor was incredible. Walt Mossberg, Dave Winer, Dan Gillmor, and a host of other influencers immediately started screaming that Microsoft was taking control over web content and generally acting like an 800-lb gorilla. The EFF even opined that the MS smart tag implementation might be illegal."
He's right. But does it matter?
Microsoft has used its power for a decade to extend its monopoly across desktop applications and into the Internet itself. As a result it has a very poor reputation.
Google, on the other hand, has offered optional services, in software, on top of its search service. It has a stellar reputation.
A few years ago I speculated publicly about Sony buying Apple. (That's Sony chairman Nobuyuki Idei at right, from his biography on the Sony.Com site.)
It was a popular thought back then.
Sony blazed new trails among Japanese manufacturers, preferring proprietary control of its technologies, emphasizing design and its brand name, acquiring American firms and integrating them. In the 1990s, on the other hand, Apple was a troubled PC maker with a small market share.
This was before two things happened. Apple's genius returned to his throne, and Sony's faded from the scene.
Sony Founder Akio Morita, who passed away in 1999, was a legendary entrepreneur, a visionary, a genius. In Tokyo, Elvis has indeed left the building.
Still, in the first year after Morita's death, Sony could have done the deal easily. And the spirit of a man equal to Morita in vision, Steve Jobs, would be working for Japan Inc.
In a New Yorker profile of chef Mario Batali (left) there's a wonderful scene of Mario rooting around a waste pail, looking for what the author-turned-prep chef has tossed away.
Our job is to sell food for more than we paid for it, Mario lectures him. You're throwing money away.
Apple Computer is the greatest exponent today of what I call Batali's Clue. Your job, as the maker of products, is to get more for your creation than the cost of the electronic "food" that goes into it.
It's a vital Clue because components in the Moore's Law age spoil like dead fish on a wharf.
Here's an example plucked from today's headlines. (Well, the ad pages.)
It's nice when someone in the "major media" gets the Always On vision, no matter how they get there.
The vision is simple. It's a wireless Internet platform. You get there by combining robust scalable PC applications with Internet connectivity and WiFi.
The BBC's Ian Hardy gets it, but he approaches it backwards, from the media side.
However you get there is fine with me.
I'm fascinated with how Western technology filters into the developing world and changes lives.
For instance. Back in the mid-1990s we had the idea of the "Internet Cafe." It would be flash, it would have broadband, it would have great food. We were crazy.
In the developing world, however, the Internet Cafe idea lives on (and on and on and on). There, though, it's a little shop with some PCs and basic connectivity. It's a lifeline to families, to markets. After the tsunami one was set-up quickly in the disaster area. It was a lifesaver.
Now we have cellular, or mobile service. (Whichever you prefer.) In the West, it means everyone has a phone, and they're on it all the time. Young girls drive like little old ladies. Guys look crazy seemingly talking to themselves, but then you see the little bud in their ear -- oh.
Then it filters down. Read how it filters down in Cameroon, from the Cameroon Tribune in Yaounde. (Then get the scene at the top of this item as desktop wallpaper, free, from Dane Jacob Crawfurd.)
Mobile carriers are trying to make an impossible transition.
They want to move from a data world where every bit is precious, and where every file is controlled, into a broadband world where phones have PC functions. And they want to do it without changing their business models.
It can't happen. The industry's dirty little secret prevents it.
That secret is that most cellular minutes today are wasted. Perhaps as many as 80% of the minutes customers are allocated in their contracts each month aren't used. And this has been the source of immense profits. (The illustration, in time for Valentine's Day weekend, is a Korean product for women that also enables the creation of twin secrets.)
Modern cellular marketing is all built around contracts, with a fixed monthly charge for a fixed number of minutes over a fixed term. To get contracts incentives are offered, including free phones.
But look at what happens. Marketing convinces people to pay high prices for plans with high limits. Cingular's "rollover" plan costs a mininum of $40/month, which comes out to about $45 with taxes and other fees. Advertising convinces people they need high limits to deal with "ugly over-age charges." But it's difficult to measure your usage in the middle of the month, and the vast majority of customers don't come close to their limits.
When the contract term expires, usually in a year, customers can theoretically leave that carrier for another one, taking their phone number with them, and even get a new set of incentives, like a new, more advanced phone. But most are as ignorant of their contract expirations as they are of the status of their minute bucket. (Quick: what's your contract expiration date?)
Carrier profitability thus depends on ignorance, customers with old phones who don't take out new contracts and don't use their gear. And in that environment, who needs broadband? Where is the market for PC functionality?
Exactly. It doesn't exist.
Everyone sees events through the prism of their own knowledge and expertise.
The H-P brand is about teamwork, Frankel writes, but Carly transformed it into executive fiat. The brand became Carly, not the team spirit that built the company.
For me this is the money quote:
Some big news went unnoticed last week .
This is fascinating because Sprint, alone among U.S. telcos, has a unique business model, at least in cellular.
Lots of companies, from Virgin to Earthlink to Disney, have gotten into the cellular game by re-selling Sprint's capacity. They all have their reasons. They all have their own branding, their own marketing, and their own niches.
The point is Sprint is profiting from wholesaling capacity to these companies. Profiting big time.
Why hasn't this been pointed out?
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.
Now that Star Trek is officially dead (no new shows or movies, even in production) the time has come for a new idea.
It's an anthology series, built around various scientific "principles" that define the Star Trek franchise.
Think of it as Science made into Drama.
Yes, it's an excuse to make science exciting. (Just think of the educational spin-offs we can produce!) And the production costs are low enough to put this on the SciFi channel (where Enterprise should have been all along). Or might I suggest a pitch to Discovery Networks, which has got proven talent in making science fun with shows like Mythbusters?
For host, might I recommend Stephen Hawking? Playing the role Alistair Cooke made famous, he opens each show by describing the science (and the Star Trek technology) on which the show will be based. (I might recommend getting several scientists for this role, perhaps one for each specialty. But Hawking is a name. He'll do great for starters.) Or, with confidence this show will last for decades, Lance Armstrong, who's already under contract to Discovery, who knows how to read a cue card, and who owes his life to science?
More after the break.
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.
An ink-jet printer that makes gourmet food?
The printer is in Moto, a Chicago restaurant, and it's programmed by executive chef Homaro Cantu. The paper is the same stuff you see on some birthday cakes, made of soybeans and cornstarch. The ink is edible, and the flavors are powders placed on the paper after it's printed. This means he can create a 10-course "tasting menu" that won't leave you bloated -- just well-read and out several Benjamins.
Cantu is making paper sushi and menus that can be crunched into his gazpacho for "alphabet soup."
Now that we have proof of concept, what next?
Many companies re-sell cellular capacity. It's a simple branding exercise.
Earthlink is the first to enter this business with a vision. The vision comes from founder Sky Dayton, who kept the chairman title for years after leaving for Boingo, but has now relinquished it to run this new joint venture, SK-Earthlink. (Glenn Fleishman interviewed Dayton and has a great story on him.)
Dayton's vision, since the beginning, has been based on the idea that spectrum is plentiful, that WiFi can be connected, and that a telecom firm doesn't consist of wires and switches but software and marketing.
Earthlink itself is based on the idea of re-sale. Its dial-up service rides on top of the existing phone network. Its DSL offerings are based on the same networks. It's not a stretch.
So, what's the vision? Jump over there with me and I'll tell you.
It's not capitalism. Capitalism does not by itself guarantee competition. (Image from Clint Sprott at the University of Wisconsin. Go Badgers.)
That is does is the biggest lie told by political conservatives.
Capitalism, in fact, evolves toward monopoly, or to its cousins duopoly and oligopoly, just as ecosystems evolve toward a "climax" state that can only be re-set by catastrophe.
The only mechanism we have to protect competition against this natural tendency is government.
Only a government strong enough to stand up against the biggest enterprises can guarantee competition.
This is difficult to assure.
It's difficult to assure because money corrupts, and corporations -- not government -- are the source of money. It's your money, and unfortunately corporations are considered as people under U.S. law -- immortal people who can't be jailed.
If the last several months proves anything, it is that there are many ways to grow in the cellular business. (Birthdaycraftsandsupplies.com offers a fine selection of Pinatas. Ask them to bring back the dollar sign one to the right. Don't you agree it looks cool?)
Assuming SBC does swallow AT&T (no doubt for less than BellSouth was offering earlier) would provide important lessons. (The image is from FreeBSD developer Greg Lehey, and was originally produced in 2002.)
First and foremost, it would be the murder of a great company by the government. It was government that broke up AT&T in the 1980s, and it was government that made AT&T non-competitive in our time.
Second, of course, it means that business tributes to the U.S. government are even more important than previously imagined. If the government can murder the nation's largest company (albeit over time and in chunks) it means no company is safe from a rapacious government, regardless of party. (Is is coincidence that AT&T was forced to divest during the Reagan Administration, and killed under Bush II? Check the campaign contribution files for the answer to that one.)
But wait, there are more lessons.
Word that mobile phone makers (and some networks) want to embed WiFi and VOIP into phones brings up a crucial point about the VOIP market, and about how technology works in general.
There are two major threads of VOIP software out there. Most, like Vonage, work along a standard. Then there's one who doesn't.
But that one is Skype.
Guess which of these two "standards" leads?
Skype. By a bunch. This puts another twist into the whole discussion of VOIP, and VOIP-cellular in general. Because there are multiple models to choose from:
Gary Wolf has a piece at Wired which had me shaking my head for some time.
Several folks have pointed me to it. It's an imagined memo, dated three years into the future, after Linus Torvalds has supposedly gone to work for Mr. Bill Gates.
The idea behind the imagined memo, something I've written about extensively recently over at ZDNet's Open Source, is based upon building a Linux desktop suite. Wolf's point, apparently, is that Microsoft moving to Windows isn't that far-fetched, that Steve Ballmer doesn't get it, and that Gates has the imagination to listen to the market rather than the yes-men in Redmond.
Well, yeah. But so what? Ain't gonna happen.
The significance of WiFi-cellular roaming doesn't lie in cutting voice costs. (The picture, by the way, comes from Novinky, a Czech online magazine, a story about DSL.)
The significance of WiFi-cellular roaming lies in Always On applications.
Think about it. Cellular channels are relatively low in bandwidth, WiFi channels are high in bandwidth.
Now, you're wearing an application, like a heart monitor. When you're at home, or in your office, this thing can be generating, and immediately disgorging, tons and tons of data, detailed stuff that may be fun for your doctor to analyze later.
I have talked about this before, but now everyone else is talking, too. So we will, again. (The picture, by the way, is of a single-chip radio from two years ago, a "mote" from Cal Berkeley. The link is very worthwhile.)
What does it mean for TI to make, and Nokia to sell, a complete cellular phone on a single chip? For one thing, it means phones can be one-chip cheap.
Right, cheap as chips.
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.
Does your cell phone help you pick up attractive women? (Or men?)
Well, it might if you subscribed to Dodgeball, a social service for mobiles whose founders, Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert, talked to our own Russell Shaw (right) recently.
The idea is that you and your friends subscribe to Dodgeball, then text your location to one another at night, so you can get together. (And if they have friends with them, and those friends are attractive, voila!)
Absolut Vodka sponsored a "nightlife channel" on the service last year, like a traditional media buy, so Dodgeball members could associate the brand as a "friend." (Beats having an AA sponsor, I guess.) Now they're looking to make more money from things like Premium SMS and applications.
Take a picture of a painting and get an audio recording, through your phone, all about it. Take a picture of a restaurant and get a review.
Declan's point is that it's available. Critics point out that it's slow, expensive, and more people have it in other countries than here.
The question they're all asking is, how can the situation be improved.
The correct answer is one word.
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.
A few years ago Jackson, Mississippi was the center of the telecom universe.
That's because it was the home of Canadian-born Bernard Ebbers . He married a Mississippi girl, Linda Pigott. On such chances does history turn.
Ebbers launched a long distance outfit called LDDS in the early 1980s and turned it into a classic "roll-up," buying other companies (usually for stock) and managing to the numbers.
Eventually he named his monstrosity Worldcom.
The result was the MCI scandal.
Roll-ups usually end this way.
For the last year I've been harping here on the subject of Always On.
The idea is that you have a wireless network based on a scalable, robust operating system that can power real, extensible applications for home automation, security, medical monitoring, home inventory, and more.
As I wrote I often came back to Motorola and its CEO, Ed Zander. They would be the perfect outfit to do this, I wrote.
Little did I know (until now) but they did. A year ago.
It's called the MS1000.
The product was introduced at last year's CES, and re-introduced at various vertical market shows during the year. It's based on Linux, responds to OSGi standards, and creates an 802.11g network on which applications can then be built.
At this year's CES show, Motorola is pushing a home security solution based on the device, with 10 new peripherals like cameras and motion sensors that can be easily set-up with the network in place, along with a service offering called ShellGenie.
Previously the company bought Premise, which has been involved in IP-based home control since 1999, and pushed a version of the same thing called the Media Station for moving entertainment around the home.
What should Motorola do now? Well, the platform is pretty dependent on having a home PC. The MS1000 could use space for slots so needed programs could be added as program modules. They need to look at medical and home inventory markets, not just entertainment and security.
But they've made an excellent start. And from here on out everyone else is playing catch-up.
Oh, and one more thing...
The most dangerous word in telecommunications today is bundling. (This is the kind of bundling we're talking about by the way, the kind represented by this shrinkwrap machine, from the good people at Pierce Packaging Equipment.)
All the carriers are doing it, more and more. The cable company wants to bundle Internet service for you. The phone company wants to bundle mobile service, Internet, and maybe a dish (so you won't need the cable company).
The deals go by names like "triple play," and it's getting worse, as Time Warner aims to become a Sprint re-seller simply so it can offer a "quadruple play" of phone, Internet, cable and mobile. BellSouth already offers something like this, and SBC wants to add TiVo-like services to its bundle.
What can be wrong with this, especially when they're offering a bargain price on the bundle? (Some are, while others are just stressing the "convenience" of having one bill.)
As a struggling artist I'm always on the look-out for new ways to make money. (That's Paul and Stan of the Housemartins singing for their supper in 1984, from an Australian fan's site.)
Once I had a Web site and made it run, made it race against time. That was in the 1990s. Since the new millenium dawned, I've been in buddy-can-you-spare-a-dime mode.
I can laugh about it since my sainted spouse has a good job and shows no signs of leaving (she likes my cooking). But it would be good for the old ego to be something other than a kept man, y'know? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
I've tried many things. I was a highly-respected market analyst for a time but the firm turned out the be a scam that took a year of my pay off to Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, opening again under a new name. I've done some columns, I've had some freelance gigs, and Corante has gotten me some scratch working for ZDNet.
For most bloggers the choices are stark. They can get a few quid from Google AdSense, they can try BlogAds, they can stick Amazon affiliate links everywhere of put out a begging bowl. It's all busking.
You want to know the latest? I'm gonna make you click for it.
When UTStarcom announced it had a "WiFi Phone" (right) no one noticed.
Now that Vonage says it's putting its name on the thing, the carrier world is up in arms.
As usual the press is being plain silly. This is not a threat to mobile carriers because WiFi, as yet, offers no real mobility. And that's just not likely to happen because most WiFi connections are not networked.
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).
Over the weekend C|Net ran a story indicating the Mozilla Foundation hopes to add calendaring functions to its Thunderbird e-mail client (right), turning an open source Outlook Express clone into something more like Microsoft Outlook.
What follows is pure speculation, but this could make Firefox the big story of 2005, and beyond.
A few months ago Forbes had a nice article on NTT DoCoMo's iMode service, and Kei-Ichi Enoki, the man behind it. (Forbes stories are all about heroic executives, since the rich strivers are the only people who matter to it.)
The point, for us, is the direction mobile data services may take after the obvious niches, like e-mail and games, have burned out.
Enoki's answer -- remote controls. Not in the sense of point it at your TV, but in the sense of remote control of life functions. Enoki is turning iModes into electronic wallets, personal shoppers, GameBoy and iPod replacement.
There's also an answer to the item that follow this (and was written a few minutes before):
The enormous popularity of the iPod, and its dominant share of the market (some say as high as 95%) has created a new family fun game for reporters this Winter, which I call "Get Steven."
The idea is to find someone, somewhere, who can threaten the iPod's market dominance, then spin a story around it.
Most reporters do the easy story, interviewing all known competitors and repeating their claims.
Others, like Hiawatha Bray (right, from Dan Bricklin), know what their editors really want -- a local guy who claims he can take down the giant.
And that's what Bray delivered, in today's Boston Globe. (This is why he gets a fat paycheck and I'm just a blogger.)
Bray found a little outfit in suburban Andover, Massachusetts called Chaoticom. Chaoticom is OEM'ing technology for putting music functionality into new mobile phones, the kind with hard drives in them.
Good story. And since in the Chaoticom universe the music delivery is under the control of the carrier, there's some momentum.
Here's why it won't work.
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'm dating myself here, but back in the 1970s, at Wiess College on the Rice campus, there was a four-square court. Four players, you bounce a dodge ball into one square or another, and the person who can't get it into another square on the bounce is replaced, with everyone rotating around.
Sometimes the ball would fly into the crowd of waiting players and passers-by. We'd shout "IBD," which stands for Innocent Bystander Drilled.
If the Sprint-Nextel deal goes down, Motorola is IBD. (You might want to get Motorola CEO Ed Zander one of these nifty t-shirts.)
I've been looking up-and-down this proposed $35 billion acquisition of Nextel by Sprint.
It's the worst deal I've seen since Time Warner bought AOL. And it's going to hurt the whole industry.
With many companies now substituting WiFi for wired networks, it's natural that those with multiple locations would want to tie them all together.
Bluesocket Inc. of Burlington, Mass. (right, from their home page) is among those getting into this game. Their home page describes them as "building an enterprise-class WLAN" and they claim their new WG-400 Wireless Gateway can handle as many as 50 users at the same time, which is pretty nifty.
But is there a general problem here? Perhaps there is.
There are hazards to both the free and paid hotspot model.
There is a lot of wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth going on about ESPN entering the mobile phone business, through an agreement with Sprint.
It's not that big a deal. Sprint made these co-branding deals, called MVNO in the biz, a big part of its strategy. Virgin, Carphone Warehouse and 7-Eleven are signed-up, and Wal-Mart is reportedly taking a look.
What do you need to become a Big Time Mobile Phone Brand?
Back in the 1990s one of the bigger stories I covered concerned an outfit called TotalNews.
TotalNews tried to make a living for itself by putting its trade dress around others' news stories, even covering the original ads with its own. After a legal fight it backed off, but it did not disappear.
Fast-forward nearly a decade. Since getting access to an RSS feed I've seen a lot of links from something called BigNewsNetwork. Here's one. It looks like a story from Israel, a panel complaining about regulators.
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....
The bandwagon on behalf of "Mobile TV" is coming down your street, just in time for the holidays.
If you're a kid it's pretty exciting. But I've seen this parade before, many times. I can enjoy your pleasure, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to join "Santa" later at our favorite bar for a few pops and expect he'll make me pick up the tab.
The big truth is that it's now pretty trivial to put a TV tuner into a mobile phone. Yes, the days of Dick Tracy's wristwatch TV are really here. (Image from USA Today.)
Of course you remember what Tracy used the technology for? To see his boss while he was talking to him. I did the same thing at the 1964 World's Fair, where AT&T had a videophone demonstration. It was no big deal then, and it's no big deal now.
Entrepreneurs like Blake Krikorian of Sling Media, who is profiled in the Business Week story above, think you'll use the capability to watch their streams. Most people watch brief snippets of TV anyway, not whole shows, he says. No time. So offer them such streams for the moments where they're standing in line at the Airport, or waiting for a meeting to start, and they will pay through the nose for them.
Maybe. But maybe not.
Well it's my own fault, I figured. I'm looking for everything on a specific keyword, and if some store is keyed to that word I'm going to get their stuff. Yes, a good RSS editor should be able to filter-out that stuff, allowing me to unsubscribe to anything that I don't like, but still...
But now that trend has taken another step, so I feel compelled to come back to the subject of my humiliation.
If you don't want to hear about it, don't click below:
Stephen Wolfram is one of the most amazing people of our time.
He is known to the lay person, if at all, for a program called Mathematica, which has done as much for the acceleration of change as Moore's Law itself.
By boiling down what you can do with mathematics into a computer program, Mathematica freed science from waiting on mathematics to analyze data. The program helps you devise formulae that work, so the results you get are proven. When people would say "it's not rocket science" they were often referring to the combination of math and science required to launch a rocket. Now, thanks to Wolfram, even rocket science isn't rocket science anymore.
Not only that, but Mathematica made Wolfram's Wolfram Research a going concern, a real business. It freed him from the demands of academe. He truly became the elephant that could tap dance. (He's no Gates, but he's pretty good at it.)
Still, as they always say, what have you done for me lately?
Something quite amazing, actually.
Nokia's Preminet is a direct lift from Brew's business model. It solves a lot of problems, but leaves some intact.
The idea is to simplify how developers get their products certified, marketed, and paid for. All good. But there's one big problem that isn't addressed.
Here are some of the questions you might ask if you're a mobile phone user:
Russell Beattie (pictured) thinks he's figured out what mobility needs.
Syncing. That is, we need to be able to synchronize what's on our mobile devices with what's on our home PC, our PDA, and the network as a whole.
He calls this the "killer app" for mobility.
Russell's article is long and recommended, but let me tell you what I think.
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:
At a recent Mobile conference in the United Kingdom David Wood (pictured), executive vice president for research at Symbian (a small kernel OS maker for mobiles) brought two slides that really show you what Moore's Law means.
NOTE: The above paragraph originally said the conference was in England, but Chris Potts corrected me. Also, the folks at Semacode deserve credit for extracting the slides and pointing them out to us.
First was a chart tracking the cost of making a smartphone over time, going back two years and forward six. (These are PDF files.) Despite the fact they're getting a lot better, they're also getting cheaper -- the bill of materials cost could be cut in half in four years.
How is this possible?
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.
I was late to Seach Engine Optimization (SEO). It seemed to me like a parlor trick.
The idea of manipulating a search engine's algorithm so as to dictate the first results a user sees feels like...cheating.
But I know a lot of people who use it, honest people. I've seen the good work SEO voodoo can do. And I've learned that, when done in conjunction with a complete online marketing campaign, instead of just in isolation, SEO is an important tool in the online marketer's toolbook.
And so it is becoming. (I will explain that logo to the right if you just click below.)
Don't believe surveys. Any surveys.
I'm talking about more than the Presidential Polls. I'm talking about any survey, public or private, no matter the subject, that claims statistical validity based on calling people on the telephone.
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.
When people see a meter their wallets freeze up. People would much rather pay a higher price over a fixed time than a tiny price each time they use something.
Elsevier, one of several academic publishers to try pay-per-view pricing in the mid-1990s, it found that "as soon as the usage is metered on a per-article basis, there is an inhibition on use or a concern about exceeding some budget allocation."
There are other problems, too.
I have written several times about how antiquated computing is in the area of health care.
Politicians are starting to take notice of the same thing. (Registration Required)
Fortunately this is a bipartisan recognition. The Post comment above is written by the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist (right, from CNN), and a leader of the minority Democrats, Hillary Clinton.
But what are they really proposing?
InterContinental Hotels last week decided to stop listing its properties with Expedia and instead list exclusively with Travelocity. (Travelocity logo from the BBC.)
Few people noticed it, but it's an important event in the evolution of e-commerce, especially as travel is concerned.
These ladies aren't discussing the battle between Real Networks and Apple. But there's an important Clue to be derived here nonetheless.
The dispute between Real Networks and Apple Computer over getting Real songs onto the iPod is a business dispute, even a legal dispute. It's not supposed to be about politics or religion. (The illustration, from the Portland Tribune, is from a political rally.)
Customer loyalty, usually a wonderful thing, can be turned into passion that looks very political indeed. And when Real tried to make this political, through a petition, the backlash began.
The power of Windows lies in your ability to create and market profitable applications using it.
Yes, there's a limit. Once Microsoft decides it wants your market, your cost of defending the market will likely exceed any incremental sales from that effort.
But Linux lacks Windows' ability to make software profitable. And that is why Windows, not Linux, will lead the next evolution in cellular equipment.
SSEYO has announced miniMIXA, an audio mixer for Windows smartphones.
As part of the roll-out a Reading, England arts festival will use it this weekend to mix what is being played on-the-fly..
This could do to the cell phone market what programs like Musicmatch did to PCs.
The impact could be massive. Ringtones could be created at concerts, and sold right after the show. On the other hand, concert-goers could potentially bootleg the same concert and offer better mixes, free, within hours after the show.
This leads to Dana's Law of Creativity Software.
The cheaper it is, the more people can use it, and the lower the premium paid for poor results.
If you want to see what this thing is capable of, check out these sample mixes for yourself. Or, if you don't have a Windows cell phone, get a taste for the technology by downloading Sseyo's PC plug-in.
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:
If H-P Chairman Carl Fiorina had to report a bad quarter, which he could blame on one group, and if he then sacked the heads of that group, we'd call Carl one tough hombre.
But the H-P Chair's name is Carly, not Carl. (Actually, it's Carleton.) So guess what you were thinking when you read the news? (Picture from PBS.)
Yes, indeed, sexism is alive and well, even after you break through the glass ceiling.
Each time a member of my family needs any type of medical care I'm frustrated. (The image is from the good people at Tympanitis.com, fighting the good fight against otitis media, and is used here completely out of context.)
Mainly I'm frustrated by paperwork and waste. I'm frustrated with filling out forms, and dealing with bureaucratic clerks.
I'm frustrated because it's all so expensive, and all so unnecessary. There are technologies available today that will cure this problem, solutions that can be implemented now.
If big insurers gave clients smart cards, and insisted that all members of their networks take smart card readers, it would be a big start. Entire medical histories, and biometric identification, could be mounted on the cards cheaply. Read the card and the doctor's network automatically knows what it needs to do, about the patient and the billing.
Why hasn't this happened yet? In a word, privacy.
Michael Eisner would you please go now?
Disney has announced it is entering the PC market. (The illustration is from the Times' story.)
There are so many things wrong with this, on so many levels. I hardly know where to begin.
What began as an attempt to de-fang the wolves of Wall Street has descended into a Silicon Valley farce.
The problem with Google's IPO delay does not lie in the technical glitches of the system. And it doesn't lie in the really silly price being quoted -- $110 per share.
It lies in the great scandal of the 1990s -- stock options.
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?
For all the hoo-ha over blogging it's important to put the "industry" into its proper perspective.
A recent item at Daily Kos, one of the more popular political Web sites, did this very neatly.
The purpose of the chart was to show Kos edging past a rival site, Instapundit. But for our purposes it's more illustrative to look at the left side of the scale, unique visitors per month.
You ever leave a pot of coffee on the counter too long? I have. After several days it starts tasting really funky, and these nasty white organisms start partying on the top of it. (BREW logo from Vayusphere.)
Well, that's what seems to be happening to Qualcomm's BREW development environment, in which Verizon is demanding all applications on its cellular network be written. There's no circulation in a proprietary environment . If the creator doesn't apply regular heat (and risk that nasty, metallic taste) things are going to get funky fast.
The U.S. newspaper industry is cutting itself off from the Net, putting registration in front of users before letting them read stories.
They're doing this because they can't make money from advertisers until they can convince advertisers who they are reaching. That's what they say, anyway.
Me, I find there are very, very few stories written in any U.S. newspaper that I can't find somewhere. Most papers get by on a mix of AP and syndicated copy, with a few kids rewriting press releases or listening to police radios for flavor, and a crank in the back writing political screeds.
But there are exceptions. If you don't like forced registration, but you want to get into these sites, here's how.
I'm probably talking through my hat here.
National had been 83% owned by a bank anyway so this doesn't really change the balance of power between "independent" processors and "bank" processors.
The fact is big banks have been taking this territory over for years, at increasingly high prices. It's part of a general consolidation of banking in the U.S., and that's what we should worry about.
His first hit was called Ogre. (This image is from Goingfaster.com, a gaming enthusiast and Jackson fan.) At a time when the big cost of producing games was making, and printing, all the cardboard game pieces, Steve cut costs in half by having one player take one piece, the Ogre.
In the real world, of course, the Ogre can't win.
Spam does not just hurt the spam-ee. It is also destroying the spammers, their customers, and the entire effort to turn e-mail marketing into a legitimate business.
The reason isn't in your cluttered inbox, but in a simple falsehood. The falsehood is that spam costs nothing. (The picture is of a good book on writing for direct marketing, which you may buy here.)
Everyone believes this lie. Spammers certainly believe it. Their customers believe it. So, too, do those brand names that run "e-mail marketing campaigns."
More important, so do very legitimate marketers engaged in very legitimate double opt-in e-mail marketing campaigns.
Even legendary marketers are failing to understand this Clue. Let me give you an example.
Some say people are asking about me. Others say they have information to share.
Registering for this site provides no real insight on what's going on, and the site is hawking "premium memberships" that, in the absence of hard data, sound like a scam.
Feel free to use the comment thread if you know anything. Your comments are still not being posted (owing to comment spam) but I will give you a personal reply.
I took the kids to see Shrek 2 today.
Good movie. Thumbs up and all that. Fun for the whole family. (The image is from Cinepop in Brazil.)
The Dreamworks picture is breaking all sorts of box office records. And the use of technology is astounding. I actually recognized Jennifer Saunders (as the Fairy Godmother) before she spoke -- computer animation has gotten that good.
But the theater where we saw it was practically empty. Now, this was a matinee, and the movie was playing on six of the theater's 18 screens. But the place was empty.
This got my spidey-sense tingling. (Sorry, wrong movie.) Let's just say it made me think.
Google is trying to reclaim the high ground in add-in software through redefinition.
But whatever its own motives, others are using the same concept in far more sinister ways. They push pop-up ads that block others' sites. They steal data on your Internet usage and sell it. Or they hide what malware inside their packages.
All this infects the credibility of every software vendor, including Google.
But can Google really turn things around?
Way back in high school, nearly 35 years ago now, I lost my first newspaper job. (The illustration is from a Buddhist temple. Cute, huh? Keep reading for enlightenment.)
Well it wasn't a job, actually. I was canned from the school newspaper, along with the rest of the staff, after some editorials appeared against the Vietnam War.
Most of the "old" staff did what you expect. They went to their parents and got the money to distribute their own paper, one that was just as slick as the regular paper.
I took a different route. I went to the market. I sold ads. I kept my costs down and generally broke even. Kept it up for nearly three years.
The lesson stuck with me. Begging isn't a business model.
I associate this lesson with conservatism, but in our time it's often ignored. Young conservatives have an easy time getting money -- from parents, from foundations, and from publishers more interested in propaganda than truth.
Anyone else is left to beg.
Here's a note to the beggars. Get off your knees.
I am no genius, but in my field I'm smarter than some people.
Simmons, rap's Barry Gordy, told CTIA last Tuesday that the industry should forget about data for a while, and concentrate on making its voice service better.
Nice try. Click to learn why:
I don't know if you noticed it, but there is a Central Planning aspect to Moore's Law. (The chart, found on a University of Vermont server, is credited there to Smart Computing 1999.)
By making economic change predictable, Moore's Law lets a chipmaker set a five year plan, from a central office, and even (unlike the Communists) execute to it.
I well remember an early-1990s keynote from then-Intel chairman Andy Grove, in which he talked about making the "686" (they weren't using the name Pentium then) at a plant in Ireland. Intel does indeed have facilities in Shannon, and the Pentium II came out precisely as envisioned in the speech.
To read the entry above you would think that the tech game is over, and America has lost.
But America has not lost. Ford's Law wasn't the end of the automotive industry.
Ford had not counted on Alfred P. Sloan.
While "Bet-A-Billion" Bill Gates is sometimes (mistakenly) compared to Henry Ford, he himself recommends Sloan's own autobiography as the best book about business you could ever read. (The picture is from a University of Chicago Press page selling "Sloan Rules," by David Farber. It's a better picture of Sloan than on the current edition of the autobiography.)
If you can't find a publisher (and most middle-list authors can't any more) then you can publish yourself.
I published my Moores Law book, "The Blankenhorn Effect," (right) all by myself. While the results to date haven't been financially thrilling, all it took me to get going was $1,000, which was reasonable.
Now the price has plunged. Borders is trialing a $200 price point in some Philadelphia stores. For another $300, you get an ISBN number and the store in question stocks five copies.
I love short stories.
I love to read them, and I love to write them.
Short stories are very, very powerful. They can, when done right, pack the punch of a novel into just a few pages.
But short stories have nearly disappeared from most writers' repertoirre because of business models.
Ever since O. Henry's time, however, markets for short stories have been drying up. There was a vogue for "pulp" magazines, from which modern science fiction emerged, and a few publications, like The New Yorker, still buy a few. Once a writer becomes established they can pull their old short stories out of a drawer and make a book out of them. Some, like Orson Scott Card, even lend their names, their sensibility, and their editing to whole collections of short stories in book form.
But that's rare. There is, on the whole, nothing between the "heights" in the short story format and the "dregs." There's no way to make a living there. You either write novels or you go hungry.
I'm not complaining. I'm simply stating that business models, or the lack of them, can control what we read, see and hear. What's true in fiction is also true in music and movies.
But, as we're seeing, maybe not in music any longer.
For two generations now the business model in music has revolved around the album. The format moved easily from vinyl to CD. Singles were created to sell albums. Albums had arcs. Listeners might complain, at first, "why am I buying 10 songs when I only care about one," but after they played the thing enough times they were usually satisfied.
Musicians, meanwhile, issued albums the way novelists released books. Every year or two your favorite artist had something new in the stores, new hits on the radio, and fans would add this to their collections. Concerts became "live albums," and for those who only wanted to hear one or two songs a year, there were "greatest hits" collections.
Apple's iTunes (the illustration is by Jason Schneider of iLevel Designs) has made this start to break down. Suddenly there is a business model for singles that people might accept. How long before an artist, say one not tied to the old system but popular nonetheless, starts releasing singles on a monthly basis? They can sell the singles now, through iTunes, and sell the collection later, when they're all hits.
One more interesting point that is often missed. The Apple iTunes site has a book store. Prices range from $3 to $16 per book.
But how about a short story, a new one, from someone you like, at, say 50 cents? How about if Apple started giving these stories away, to folks who registered for an online "book club?" Sure, at first you'd just see popular novelists in there, name-above-the-title brands. But a contest, say (an online answer to "American Idol") might bring new people into the mix, short story specialists whose work we'd pay for.
I use analogies all the time here at Mooreslore. I prefer historical ones.
But I also know that, while patterns repeat leaving Clues in their wake, that history never repeats itself exactly. Karl Rove may compare his boss, George W. Bush, to William McKinley. This does not mean Mr. Bush need fear Buffalo, New York. (Although come to think of it, Tim Russert does come from around there...)
But analogies can be over-done. Such is the case, I fear, with John Dvorak's latest column, reprinted at ABC News today.
Dvorak's headline calls the ethics of music distribution a complex issue, but his analogy is overly simple. It's the story of a kid with candy. Is it OK if you take my candy, should I leave it lying about, he asks. Is it OK to take it if the other neighborhood kids all say it is?
(The image above, by the way, is a computer fractal print, by Jeanne Brickman of Elmhurst, Illinois. If you like the image, consider buying a copy here.)
The trouble with the analogy is it isn't accurate. The first kid actually stole the candy, with the help of a big brother who's a lawyer. And it's not candy we're talking about, but the soul of a writer, a singer, an artist, that we're talking about. Not only that but the candy isn't even real. We're talking about a copy of the candy. There's just as much candy in the bowl after the "theft" as there was before. Someone left it out in the rain, and the "victim" (the record company) fears it may never have that recipe again...
The kid with the candy, in this case, wants to be paid any time any other kid eats a piece of that kind of candy. And the kid got the candy recipe by forcing another kid, who made the candy, to fork it over, saying he was the only one with access to all the world's other kids, and a candy maker without candy eaters is nothing more than a sugar hoarder.
Now does it matter that the kid with the candy got the recipe by controlling access to all the other kids, and that the kid who had the recipie for the candy is only getting paid on, say, every 20th piece of candy, and then with "expenses" taken out? Does it matter that the contract between the kid with the candy and the kid who made the candy stipulates that not only this candy recipe, but all future candy recipes, will be held by the kid, under the same onorous terms? Does it matter if the kid with the candy recipe is hungry, while the kid who got the candy with him under these forced conditions has more bling-bling than a Detroit pimp?
Beware analogies...even sweet ones.