About this Author
Dana Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
About this Site
Moore’s Law defines the history of technology. It held that the number of circuits etched on a given piece of silicon could double every 18 months as far as its author, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, could see. Moore’s Law has spawned constant revolutions since then, not just in computing but in communications, in science, in a host of areas. Moore’s Law applies to radios, and to optical fiber, but there are some areas where it doesn’t apply. In this blog we’ll take a daily look at new implications of Moore’s Law in real time, as it rolls forward to create our future.
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February 15, 2006

Show Trial

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Christopher%20H%20Smith.jpgDuring Mao's Cultural Revolution, show trials were used to cover-up the evils of the regime. Innocent parties were brought in, tried without justice, then either killed or sent to "re-education" camps.

The U.S. House held its own version of such a trial today, only without the education.

Nominally, the hearings were held to investigate the censorship of the Internet in China, with the connivance of U.S. search companies like Microsoft, Yahoo and Google.

But the hearing was chaired by Rep. Christopher Smith, (right) who has never questioned the Bush Administration’s use of the same firms for the same purposes. To see Smith perform in this role is just like watching Libya heading the UN Human Rights Commission. To hear him fulminating against China on CNBC, as I had to do last night, with absolutely no rebuttal, is to feel like I am indeed living in Mao's China.

Here we have an Administration that claims the absolute right to spy on all its citizens, to record their phone calls and search their Internet files, to imprison American citizens without trial – merely on the assertion they’re an “enemy combatant” – to torture and murder hundreds at secret detention centers all in the name of an amorphous “war” it claims might last generations.

And a chief supporter of that policy is attacking Google on human rights?

Oh, I hear you say, but you’re writing this, and I’m reading this. How can be this be Maoist?

Maybe we’re just not that efficient. Yet.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Digital Divide | Futurism | History | Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | ethics | law | personal | war

February 14, 2006

Yahoo Gets Lost in Translation (Badda-Boom, Badda-Bing)

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

freedom.jpg Yahoo tried to draw some favorable press coverage today.

(That's actress Charlize Theron, but she's very small, hard to recognize. That's deliberate, as you'll see.)

In the wake of a scandal over the fact its Chinese affiliate cooperated with authorities to silence dissidents, the story Americans were told by Yahoo today was that it will do everything it can to fight Web censorship.

That’s not the way the story was carried in China. An American correspondent to Dave Farber’s list wrote:

“In my Beijing hotel room this morning CNN aired a piece about Yahoo calling for search engines to cooperate to deal with China's ‘search engine rules.’”

As the TV correspondent was about to say the word censorship, this writer added, the sound went blank, so it might have appeared to Chinese that Yahoo was, in fact, continuing to cooperate with its government. The Farber correspondent used asterisks in writing the word censorship, in order, he said, to get it past possible Chinese censorship. It got through.

The use of asterisks, of inference, of badda-boom badda-bing, in discussing subjects like freedom in China is widespread. It’s titillating – as sex was in America under the Hays Office. The level of sex in America didn’t decline under the code, but many Americans who were alive then say it was enjoyed more than it is in today’s era of free Web porn.

Could this be true for freedom as well? Chinese people share the government’s fear of anarchy. Americans, fortunately, have not faced the prospect in centuries, and this generation firmly shied away from it in the 1960s. We still prefer Nixon to Woodstock.

Should the Chinese be any different? Must they be?

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Futurism | History | Internet | Journalism | Politics | Security | blogging | ethics | faith | law | personal

February 12, 2006

The Phony Fon "Scandal"

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

fon-logo.pngBy ignoring what blogging is about, The Wall Street Journal has created a scandal out of whole cloth.

Here's the conflation, in a nutshell. Journalists can blog, and blogs can be journalism. Thus many journalists assume all blogging is journalism.

Uh, wrong. Much blogging, perhaps most blogging, is anything but journalism. Experts can blog, executives can blog, little children can blog, players in a story can blog about the games they are playing.

Thus, Rebecca Buckman's "story" claiming corruption in that Fon has a number of bloggers on its advisory council, who blogged about Fon once the company announced its entry into the market.

She hangs her charge on a single dubious claim by The Poynter Institute, which does have some claim on journalists but not on anyone else:

Some lawyers and academics with expertise in the Internet said the disclosures by the FON advisers were adequate and appropriate. But Bob Steele, an ethics specialist with the Poynter Institute, a journalism organization in St. Petersburg, Fla., says bloggers with financial ties to companies -- disclosed or not -- have "competing loyalties" that could taint their independence as writers. "It's still a problem," he says. While many bloggers don't consider themselves journalists, anyone putting information into the public domain about people or companies has certain ethical responsibilities, Mr. Steele says.

Over at Roughtype, Nicholas Carr calls this "unsavory buzz."

Some news for Nick, Rebecca, and the rest:

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: 802.11 | Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | ethics

February 10, 2006

The Return of Political Spam

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

roger%20a%20stone%20small.jpgSpam is back in politics.

But this time, the industry insists, it's different. This time it's e-mail marketing.

Leading the charge is an outfit called Advocacy Inc., headed by Roger Alan Stone (he uses Alan so you won't confuse him with the OTHER Roger Stone). Their client list includes a large number of names and organizations from the left side of the aisle, including Tim Kaine, who won Virginia's governor's race last year.

What makes it different? Stone insists his company is using all the disciplines of the old paper direct mail business to trim lists down to names of real prospects. That means he prospects from existing lists, like those of, which he knows are opt-in. And he limits his mailings further through targeting, so liberals don't get e-mail about Oregon candidates if they're living in Georgia.

Had the e-mail marketing business been doing this 10 years ago today's spam problem would not have happened. But it did, and it did. As a result, any list to which people are sent e-mail without notice is considered spam by most users.

But not the government. In writing the CAN-SPAM Act the government was very careful to make itself (and the politicians who work for it) immune from the legal charge. What Stone is sending is spam-that-is-not-spam. It is legal.

But is it ethical?

The National Journal Hotline has a feature up on Stone today, which conflates Stone's story with those of other folks, notably Tim Yale of VButtons Inc., who are actually in different businesses. (In VButtons' case, it's embedding webcast ads in Web pages.)

What they wind up doing is merely confusing the issue.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consulting | Internet | Politics | ethics | marketing | spam

February 05, 2006

AOL, Yahoo Will Sell You Out for a Penny (Maybe Less)

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

goodmail%20partners.gifAOL and Yahoo have begun offering corporations "preferential delivery" of their marketing e-mails to users for prices ranging from .25-1 cent per message.

The scam is being run by Goodmail Systems, whose home page advertises "if it's certified, it's safe." (The illustration, from the Goodmail Web site, is an animated .gif of the company's "partners.")

The claim is that this is "opt-in" only and "not spam." But the incoming lists aren't audited. This is, in fact, a pay-off to let "spam that is not spam" through the company's spam filters.

Here's the real Clue to what is going on, from the New York Times piece found on the International Herald Tribune:

The two companies also stand to earn millions of dollars a year from the system if it is widely adopted.

Get it? They want to charge protection to spammers.

For outfits which have been part of the Internet for a decade and more, Yahoo and AOL don't know much about the Internet, do they?

I run a mailing list which may be subject to the charges, and I can tell you right away it's no sale. No operator of a free e-mail newsletter service is going to pay protection on what is legal opt-in traffic.

Who will? Marketers .

...continue reading.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | e-commerce | ethics | law | online advertising | spam

February 02, 2006

Corruption On The Web

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

sclavos.gifVerisign CEO Stratton Sclavos is a big investor in incumbency. And he gets value for money.

OpenSecrets.Org reports that he gave $84,000 in political contributions during the 2004 cycle, and has (with his wife) given another $24,700 in 2005. The Verisign PAC, meanwhile, has spent another $36,200 this cycle, in hard money contributions.

That’s not all. The same Web site reports Verisign put out $124,000 in “soft money” contributions during 2002, and $88,600 in the 2000 cycle. While some of the money (about 15%) goes to Democratic incumbents, the vast majority goes to Republicans.

That's just the money I found searching OpenSecrets under Verisign and Sclavos. It doesn't count other money that may have been sent from Verisign executives, or their families, or third parties under Verisign's direction.

What does Verisign get for this money? It gets the full legal authority to rob the Internet, to take you, for everything it can grab.

And it's grabbing with both hands.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | Politics | e-commerce | ethics | law | online advertising | personal

January 30, 2006

The Law and Google

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

googlesignII.jpgGoogle has to obey the law.

Doesn’t matter if the law is oppressive, as in China. If Google wants to do business in China, it must obey the law.

Google can fight stupid laws, as in the EU Google can argue in court against some laws, as it’s doing in the U.S.

But Google must, in the end, obey the law.

I’m sick and tired of sanctimonious claptrap from people who state, baldly, that Google’s stated intent to “do no evil” means it must defy the law. Google is a public company. Google can’t do that. No public company can.

You can complain all you want about Google’s actions within the law. People do. They complain about its cookies, about its tracking usage patterns. They complain about its habit of leaving projects out to dry if they don’t work, about how some projects aren’t worth the spin that’s placed on them. They complain about its lack of lobbying prowess, or how little it has spent lobbying.

But Google has to obey the law.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Politics | e-commerce | ethics | law | marketing | online advertising

January 24, 2006

A Curious Theory of Conservatism

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

conscience%20of%20a%20conservative.jpgIn his latest diatribe against a la carte cable pricing Capitalist Tool Adam Thierer of the "Progress and Freedom Foundation" claims that arguments by his opponents in this debate represent "a curious theory of conservatism."

I couldn't let that go by without a comment.

  • It's a curious theory of conservatism that ignores the 20th century Progressive movement and approves of duopolies from the age of the Robber Barons.
  • It's a curious theory of conservatism that rejects the idea of free consumer choice and tells them corporations know what's best for them.

Conservatism, in fact, has gotten curiouser and curiouser over the last few years, especially as regards tech policy.

I didn't know conservatism was about supporting only those with the most money, or that government policy should be for sale to the highest bidder. I thought conservatives believed in less government, not more, and less intrusive government by free men, not more intrusive government by Supermen with ears that hear everything, eyes that see everything, and no need to tell the people anything. I certainly don't remember Barry Goldwater writing even once on behalf of monopoly or the police state. In fact, I distinctly remember Goldwater, in his 1964 acceptance speech, castigating as liberal the idea that government should hide facts about wars from the American people. "Enough of it has gone by," he said.

...continue reading.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Politics | ethics | law | personal

4 Years For Spammer: How Much For His Enablers?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

spam.gifCalifornia spammer Jeanson James Ancheta, who turns out to be a 20-year old kid, has pled guilty to computer misuse and fraud charges which should draw him a four-year sentence.


Ancheta is the first to be convicted of creating a "botnet," a network of infected computers hired-out to spammers and other malware authors.


Now for the big question. We've established that bots are bad. We've established that the people who create this poison deserve prison.

Now what about those who enable the crime? What about the people who bought spam generated by these botnets, or who bought ads sent by that malware? This was an economic crime, after all. It can't exist without both sides of the transaction.

Like drugs.

We don't just want to throw the pot producers in jail, the Pedro Escobars and their ilk. Isn't the point of our law enforcement to get at the "street dealers" and "users," those whose dollars enable the crime? I've seen tons and tons and tons of ads along those lines, produced by the federal government, over the last decade and more. The propaganda is accepted. We all agree.

So why not here?

Why isn't it a crime to buy the services of a spammer, or to buy the services of a botnet? Why isn't it a crime to advertise through someone's stolen bandwidth, using their stolen PC?

Spam and malware would be a lot easier to stop if those who paid for it faced hard time, too. And I don't want to hear any garbage about "distribution channels." Don't give me that nonsense that you can't police your distribution channels. Of course you can.

Or you, too, should be going to jail.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: e-commerce | ethics | law | online advertising | spam

January 19, 2006

Murder the Beloved Country

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

shalimar%20the%20clown.jpgOne reason I haven't been around much lately is I have been (finally) reading Salman Rushdie's latest 2005 1997classic Shalimar the Clown.

Like all great writers Rushdie tends to be ahead of his time, sometimes far ahead. Just as his Satanic Verses presaged the new Age of Blasphemy, and made Rushdie itself was one of the first victims, so Shalimar describes a national suicide that could yet befall America.

Rushdie's subject is his beloved Kashmir, whose suicide remains an ongoing tragedy. His theme is that intolerance, not tolerance, is the norm, and that no one is immune. His final scene, in fact, takes place in a Beverly Hills bedroom.

There is no way for me to spoil this for you. Rushdie is the greatest writer living in the English language, because he knows so many forms of English. When he writes from India, his sentences are long, filled with the fragrance of allusion, often hilarious. When he writes from America his sentences become shorter, his adjectives fewer, his immigrant wonder clear. When he writes from Europe everything becomes action. I know of no other writer who can truly become different places like that. Some can become different people, Rushdie becomes the flavor of places.

The heart of the book is one page-long paragraph that starts on page 296 of the hard cover edition, after India has decided that the only way to end the crisis over Kashmir is to destroy its people. I'm going to quote only one sentence, and I hope it doesn't violate fair use (because it's a long sentence). Suffice it to say you want to read the first half of the paragraph, along with this, and then you'll be ready for a good, long cry:

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Copyright | History | Journalism | Politics | ethics | fun stuff | personal | war

January 04, 2006

File Hoarding 1.0 Proves Bad Business

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

riaa-logo.jpgThe AP had a headline yestoday that Luddites and the RIAA will love. "File-Sharing Barons Face Day of Reckoning."

The story is that old file-sharing sites are closing up shop. The RIAA beat them.

But what really beat these shops was technology.

Systems like BitTorrent don't depend on a central site. Its legitimate uses -- for distributing software, and for breaking international censorship regimes -- are compelling. Many copyright holders, like GE, have found that releasing videos (like CC-Chronicles of Narnia) directly to sites like YouTube is good for business. MySpace (and its imitators) are giving music lovers what they really wanted, community. A host of companies are now working to make file sales online a legitimate business, and some, like Apple, are succeeding.

This is what users wanted. They wanted access to files, they wanted the copyright industries to come to them. Gradually, grudgingly, the industry is obeying the market. But the market won't sit around and wait forever. That's why music sales are declining. (That and things like Sony's Rootkit fiasco, which causes people to distrust all CDs and DVDs they see.)

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | ethics | law

December 16, 2005

This Week's Clue: Slouching Toward Armageddon

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

This week's issue of A-Clue.Com is my annual Year in Review essay.

You're invited to join the A-Clue.Com community by clicking this link. Always free.

bush%20bubble%20newsweek_cover.jpgThere are many forms of depression.

There's the economic kind.

There's the personal kind.

There's also the political kind. It's this last America is suffering from right now. Left and right are reacting to one another with anger and hatred, while the rest shake their heads and mutter curses on both.

When this era is over, and we're able to get all the facts on it, we may conclude that George W. Bush and his minions were truly alien to the American culture. We may find that he stole both his elections (and others), that he corrupted our entire system -- economic, tax, spending, judicial, media - that he worked systematically all his life to destroy America and replace it with his own warped Theocratic Fascism.

That view will be wrong.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Economics | History | Journalism | Politics | ethics | law | personal | war

December 12, 2005

This Just In: People Can Be Bad

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

andrew%20orlowski.jpgLet's review the results of Wikipedia-gate:

  • The perpetrator was found in less than a week.
  • The item in question has been changed.
  • The change has gotten a lot more publicity than the original mistake -- try getting that out of a daily newspaper.
  • The person who falsified the record has lost his job.

The result: someone is trying to use lawsuits to get the site shut down. (Their registration data tells us nothing about who they are.)

So what's the problem?

The problem, Andrew Orlowski of The Register thinks, (that's him to the right) is that Wikipedia dares call itself an encyclopedia. You see, that's -pedia at the end of the word. (That's the only source for the claim I can find.)

But the front of the word is wiki. The origin is supposedly Hawaiian for "quick," but the word itself dates from 1995 -- it is wholly a product of the Web. It means "a collaborative Web site set up to allow user editing and adding of content." (By the way, Andrew, there is no definition of pedia.)

Is there any claim to great authority or accuracy in that word? No. No more than what the people involved might have both together and separately.

And that's the real problem here.

Not everyone is good. Not all the time.

Sometimes people are nasty. Sometimes people lie. And sometimes (gasp) a wiki can be polluted by this. As can a newspaper.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Digital Divide | Internet | Journalism | ethics | law

November 24, 2005

The al-Jazeerah Story

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

aljazeera.jpgI don't know, frankly, whether President Bush sought to bomb Qatar in order to destroy al-Jazeerah TV.

But the way this story has been reported, and not reported, makes me question just how freedom-loving the U.S. and Britain really are.

Let me summarize that:

  • The story has been virtually ignored by the U.S. press. It has been left to political blogs to carry it forward.
  • The British government is prosecuting those who leaked the story under its Official Secrets Act, and the BBC has given it no coverage, making it appear to be a government propaganda organ.

Clearly there is circumstantial evidence for the charge. The agency's offices in Afghanistan and Baghdad were bombed. Both times the U.S. claimed it was an accident. The U.S.-backed government in Baghdad later kicked Al-jazeerah out of the country. The U.S. said Iraq was acting on its own.

But the direct evidence of a 2004 memo on the subject of bombing Al-Jazeerah's main office in Doha, Qatar, if it's real, shows George W. Bush to be nothing more than Saddam Hussein in a business suit. Add the use of white phosphorous (it's a chemical weapon), the horrors of Abu Ghraib, the Cheney fight to maintain torture as an option, and impartial observers will draw their own conclusion.

The point is, simply, that this was an important story.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: History | Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | ethics | law | war

November 15, 2005

Sony's Crocodile Tears

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

howard%20stringer%202.jpgSony says it's (sort of) sorry. They say they'll take the CDs back (although they don't say how they will find the things). They say they won't do that again, exactly, but might do something close to it.

Too late.

Wired estimates the "rootkit" (a virus kernel) distributed without notice by Sony's BMG Music now affects a half-million networks. Microsoft says it will have its security software disable the virus.

Not enough. Because by this action Sony has done more to encourage the piracy of intellectual property than a million real pirates could have. Sony has also poisoned its entire sales channel, and for years to come. How many small used CD stores are going to go out of business over this?

A CD is not like most products. CDs have an active after-market. Since you can't tell which CDs have the virus, all CDs are suspect. So Sony hasn't just ruined its own business, but the businesses of its competitors. It has destroyed their goodwill, and made the entire industry out to be a bunch of crooks who don't care about their customers. (And by the way, why haven't we heard from the RIAA on this issue?)

This is not an honorable company right now. Sony's honored ancestor and great founder, Akio Morita, is spinning in his grave over this.

At the very minimum Sony CEO Howard Stringer MUST BE FIRED. NOW. If he's not then some district attorney somewhere is going to come up with a piracy charge that will throw top executives in jail. And deservedly so. If anyone else had mass produced a virus precursor and infected CDs with it, they would be in jail. Just because Sony claims a clean motive doesn't change the facts of the case.

Unless Stringer is fired, and restitution is paid, this scandal is going to destroy the company. They're still behind the curve, and they will remain behind it until they make a clean break with the policies that got them into trouble in the first place.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Copyright | ethics | law | marketing

November 10, 2005

Binary Thinking in an Analog World

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

howard%20stringer%202.jpgTwo press releases came in today and demonstrated to me that the biggest problem we have in this world right now is a lack of ethics.

In one a business research group, Info-Tech, is asking us to ban eBay's Skype from corporate system, saying the software is dangerous. In the other, the Electronic Fronter Foundation basically wants us to boycott Sony CDs because they're secretly installing malware disguised as a DRM that keeps people from fairly using what they thought they bought.

What these stories share is an assumption, a very dangerous assumption in an interconnected world.

The assumption is a lack of ethics by all. Sony is treating all its customers like criminals, and acting in a criminal manner in response. Info-Tech is assuming that Skype, along with other "peer to peer technologies" such as "IM," (as noted in their press release) is dangerous and must be outlawed from corporate networks.

We can speculate over why this has happened, but a fish rots from the top. CEOs get the big money because they're responsible. So in the case of Sony Corp., it rots from Howard Stringer. In the case of Skype, it rots from eBay CEO Meg Whitman. If we can't assume good ethics in their products, nothing their employees do matters much.

It's one thing for large institutions to be on guard against consumers or employees, to take precautions against theft. It's quite another for them to take the law into their own hands, or to take on the characters of a police state in response, to assume by their actions that everyone is a thief.

Once that line is crossed, all bets are off and the market becomes a war of all against all.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Internet | ethics

November 09, 2005

How To Be A Big Time 21st Century Brand

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

dana05b.jpgEasy to say, tough to do.

Ready? OK.

  1. One thing. Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) must be simple, powerful, easily understood by everyone you do business with -- employees, suppliers, customers.
  2. Fulfill the promise. Do what you say you will do, always, Any failure to meet your USP can be fatal. But failures will happen. Meet them with kindness, and redemptive behavior. Think of the result as customer make-up sex.
  3. Don't lie. This starts with no lieing to yourself. Delusion is the first temptation of success. Always keep someone close who will tell you the truth about yourself, and let them. It's going to come out, whatever it is. The rule is not, don't let it. The rule is, don't do it.
  4. Identify with your customer. It's not just, the customer is always right. It's, you're the customer. Your interests are their interests.
  5. We're all publishers now. Your job is to organize and advocate a community or lifestyle. That's your business. Organize what your customers want into one place, and be an advocate for their interests.
  6. Keep it simple. Don't let the complexity of a growing business tear you away from a simple, coherent message. Some profits aren't worth chasing. Stay in your niche.

Like I said, easier said than done.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Investment | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce | ethics | fun stuff | marketing | online advertising | personal

November 02, 2005

Where Bloggers Go For News

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

PRESS%20hat.jpgJoe Strupp of Editor & Publisher wonders why bloggers haven’t joined the White House Press Gaggle.

A better question might be, why haven’t others left?

What exactly does “covering” the White House bring any reporter, or news organization (regardless of size)? You’re not told anything you can’t get out of a press release. The media spokesman lies and stonewalls. This has been the case for decades. What most White House reporters do, when they're not being lied to in person, is sit on the phones, something they could just as easily do from somewhere else, maybe with bunny slippers on.

The more important question Strupp is asking is, how do bloggers gather news. It’s true, most start with the work product of the MainStream Media. But if AP or UPI refused to link we’d still have the press releases and TV reports. (The White House Gaggle often appears on C-Span.) What most bloggers try to do, it seems to me, is go beyond the basic report. Among our resources are the Web and e-mail. These are increasingly powerful resources.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Journalism | blogging | ethics | personal

October 28, 2005

The New Credibility

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

forbes_logo.jpgWal-Mart is under fire for its lack of benefits. It's running ads where an employee calls the company her "support system" after a liver transplant. Oil companies are under fire for price-gouging. They run ads claiming to be green. Mutual fund operators who've pled guilty to stealing from customers run ads saying they've earned our trust.

This is par for the course in corporate America. Advertising is used to make people forget. As the press moves on to other stories, it often works.

But it doesn't work in the blogosphere. There is no business model corporations can use to induce forgetfulness among bloggers who oppose corporate actions.

That's why Forbes has placed, behind its registration firewall, a front-page feature on "dealing with blogs" through lawsuits and intimidation. There have long been powerful weapons employed against whistle-blowers and individual muckrakers. Forbes suggests these be deployed against individual bloggers.

But there is a problem with that, the same problem that befits the copyright industries. Copying.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | blogging | ethics | marketing

October 21, 2005

Economic Lesson of Google Print

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

little red hen.jpgI have been reluctant to dive into the Google Print controversy because all the rhetoric is phony.

The rhetoric is about principles, fair use vs. copyright.

The reality is this is about money, about monetizing something that had no previous value and the obligation that places on the person doing the monetizing.

The plain fact is that everything Google has done, and everything Yahoo did before it, is based on monetizing fair use. The concept of fair use arose based on the idea it had no economic meaning, that it represented a necessary intermediate step on the way to meaning (and money).

But now we find, 10 years after the Web was spun, that fair use has enormous economic value. Through the magic of databasing, finding is now more valuable than having.

What then is the obligation of those who extracted this value to the holders of the data providing the raw material? The legal question has been answered, there is none. If publishers can stop Google from offering books online without payment, they can stop Google from linking to books without payment, because Google is only going to offer extracts that represent fair use free. It's the physical equivalent of the "deep linking" proposition we dealt with in the 1990s. If a book isn't read because it can't be located it makes no sound.

The moral question is something different entirely. If Google extracts a profit from Google Print, I think it does have a moral obligation to spend some of that money on activities that benefit writers and other content creators.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Copyright | Internet | e-commerce | ethics | law | online advertising

October 19, 2005

Is the Blogosphere Really Better?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The question is serious.

I have seen a ton of blogs lately which have all the pretentiousness, all the assumed (rather than earned) authority, and all the tone-deafness to reality of anything in the so-called Main Stream Media they're criticizing.

We live in a time of immense selfishness, and hollow ethics. This is true in both parties. This is also true in all media -- including the blogosphere.

Just because reporting is "open source" does not mean you believe all sources. It means you take responsibility, as part of the conversation.

An example follows.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | ethics | personal

October 07, 2005

This Week's Clue: Second Acts

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

We all grow older, even tech executives. And this week, my free weekly newsletter, A-Clue.Com offers some thoughts on that. (Subscribe here.)

Think of it as another product of...the aging process (you should live so long).


web 20 conference.gif
I have been thinking a lot about second acts lately.

Part of it is my work with Voic.Us. I'm having to become a system administrator, at least part-time. I am trying to recruit a staff, some paid and some not. I'm trying to be an executive.

These are roles I never took on before. I wrote about them, I critiqued them, but I never had to play them before. And there are times when they make me tired.
There are other reasons, on my regular tech beat, for me to think of second acts. The great tech companies founded by my generation - Microsoft, Dell, Apple - are all into the second act thing these days. Apple's is highly successful, as Steve Jobs has become a consumer electronics mogul, a content gatekeeper. Microsoft's second act has not been so successful. Bill Gates keeps fiddling with the deck chairs, and in the latest fiddling a guy near my age, Jim Allchin, found himself forced into retirement.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Futurism | History | Journalism | Politics | Security | blogging | ethics | fun stuff | personal

September 26, 2005

Trust and the Network Boundary

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Trust!.gifThe movement of network boundaries ties together all the trends of the present time.

By the network boundary I mean the point where your client, which you control, ends and a network which is beyond your control begins.

Crossing the network boundary requires more than a cost-benefit analysis. It also requires a trust-benefit analysis. You have to trust the network, and the network owner, before you make the jump. (The illustration of the word Trust is from Professor Myoung Lee of the University of Missouri.)

So trust is a vital asset to any company seeking to lure people across the boundary. This is why Google's credibility is so vital, and why CEO Eric Schmidt has to go, because he doesn't understand that and his actions threaten Google's credibility.

The frontier in computing today is the placing of personal data and applications on the other side of the network boundary. GMail represents both data and applications. That's what makes it an important product.

But there are many other appications that could be handled on the other side of the network boundary. All the things we consider desktop applications could be handled on the other side of that boundary. Trust,. or the lack of it, is what keeps those assets on our side of the boundary.

We have known for years there are many benefits in placing our data and applications on the network side of the boundary. Our clients can become simpler, for one thing. Our costs can be reduced, for another thing. Our stuff is more accessible, especially if we build access to it into all our clients.

But there are risks to doing this, trust risks. Government could get into our stuff if it's on the other side of hte boundary. So could private actors -- bosses, competitors, hackers. And then there's the question of how fast and reliable the network connection is, which now separates us from our stuff and our applications.

This is why the U.S. technology lead is threatened by politics today. Our lack of trust in the government keeps us from moving our stuff and our appilications across. And the government's asinine policy on networks -- private unregulated duopolies of cable and phone giants -- means the cost benefits of moving these things across is lower for Americans than for people in other countries, in Asia and Europe.

The speed of networks determines our technical ability to cross the network boundary.

But that's just one of many questions.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Always On | Business Models | Consulting | Copyright | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Telecommunications | ethics | law

September 08, 2005

Vinton What's the Frequency?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

vintcerf_pr.jpgThe 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.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Telecommunications | ethics

Your Money is Magnetic Ink

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bank vault.jpgIn an era where money is magnetic ink, even the rich of New Orleans may not be safe.

A friend forwarded an American Banker feature (all content is behind their firewall, only the headlines are in front) that explains all this.

The story, by Steve Bills, details the problems banks had in the impacted area, and as many as five banks were still out of action as of Tuesday.

Those banks hurt worst were small community banks that did not outsource their financial processing.

Customers of those banks who managed to escape may be unable to get to their money, although they may not all know that because financial networks do have a limited ability to "stand-in" for their absent customers.

This could happen again-and-again, because only 40% of small banks out-source. Would out-sourcing solve the problem? Not necessarily. One of the bigger outsourcers, Fiserv, has operations in New Orleans (fortunately they're based in Wisconsin) and eight employees are still missing.

Given all this there are some basic things that need to be required:

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Security | e-commerce | ethics

September 04, 2005

Sacrifice to Get 'R Done

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

new orleans helicopter.jpgI think nearly all Americans can now agree that the biggest mistake made after 9-11 was avoiding a call to sacrifice.
(Picture from the BBC.)

My generation has never been "in" to sacrifice. It was our parents' thing. They went hungry during the Depression, they risked their lives during World War II, and then they stayed together, working hard, so that their kids (us) would have "everything."

Which we do. Our lives are very comfortable. Most Americans have cars, and TVs, and air conditioning, and healthy food in our refrigerators whenever we want it. We can take vacations. We can get fat. Then we can pay to have the fat stripped away and get fat again.

Maybe that's the real Vietnam syndrome. Those of my generation who felt the call to sacrifice as young people died in rice paddies, or had their dreams shot away. Frankly it doesn't matter why anymore. No matter what side you took in that war, get over it. We're in a different era.

These days sacrifice must be forced on us. And for many this week it has been.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Futurism | History | Investment | ethics | personal

August 15, 2005

A Basic Threat To The Web

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

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.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Copyright | Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | ethics | law | personal

August 10, 2005

What blogging does to Journalists

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Blogggerman.jpgThere's an interesting case study up right now about what blogging does to journalism.

In simple terms, it reduces the distance. You're no longer a star. They're no longer the audience.

The example today is that of MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann, who has been writing a blog (actually, a series of columns) for about a year now. When Peter Jennings died, Keith didn't think (like most careerists) "wow, now there's a job opening for me!" He was genuinely moved.

Then he looked for the hidden lesson -- smoking. Olbermann was once a smoker, and it gave him a tumor. Fortunately the tumor was benign. So he blogged about it. And given that the non-distancing becomes a habit to one who enters the blogosphere, he talked about it on his show as well.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Journalism | blogging | ethics

August 09, 2005

Fox Calls for Better Henhouse Security

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

michael-pousti.jpgSMS.Ac is hoping for a PR boost from a press release offering a cellular customer bill of rights. (The release went out over the signature of CEO Michael Pousti, right. from

But this had many of us falling out of our chairs laughing. As Oliver Starr of the Mobile Weblog notes (and my experience is identical) the business of SMS.AC is built on spam.

Here's Oliver's charge:

This is a company about which DOZENS of websites have multitudes of individuals complaining of things such as spamming everyone in their personal address books, which they exposed to during what can only be described as a deliberately deceptive sign-up process where unsuspecting people, many of them young or speaking English as a second or third language unwittingly provide the username and password to their primary email accounts, thus making it possible for to scour their friends and family member's addresses and solicit them with messages that look as if they come not from directly but from the known individual that subscribed to the service.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | cellular | ethics | spam

August 06, 2005

Outgrowing the Grownup

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

larry page and sergey brin.jpgBack 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.)

...continue reading.

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | computer interfaces | e-commerce | ethics | online advertising | personal

August 01, 2005

What's a Brother Gotta Do (to get fired around here?)

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

armstrong-williams.jpgNews that Armstrong Williams is making a comeback, that he is back on the air (that he hardly ever left), leaves a nagging question in my mind.

What do you got to do to get fired around here?

The question is serious. Unless we have a way of getting rid of those who violate some ethical standard, why should anyone believe any of us? Why have any standards if we can't get rid of violators?

For those who don't know, Williams got caught in January taking bribes from the Bush Administration for touting its education policies. Yet the next month, WWRL in New York put him back on the air, in afternoon drive. Now he's got a book coming out, one which calls liberals like myself racists.

If being a racist means hating crooks who happen to be black, I'm a racist. (It doesn't mean that, so Armstrong, take your black skin outta my face.) Armstrong Williams is a crook, corrupt. He should be on an unemployment line alongside Jayson Blair and hundreds of others -- of every color -- who can't be trusted. Yet he's heard loud and clear while honest men (and women) aren't. Including honest black, male conservatives, many with great speaking voices and stories to tell. Just look around the blogosphere for five minutes if you don't believe me.

Williams tells The Hill that he's "changed," that he doesn't harrangue Democrats anymore.

But that wasn't the point of the scandal. It's like a bank robber telling me he doesn't beat his wife anymore. It's irrelevant.

Armstrong Williams put himself out as a journalist, as an independent voice, when in fact he was in the pay of the government. That was the scandal. That remains a scandal.

But there is no way to fire people who violate even such basic ethical precepts anymore. If nothing else, he could go out and blog -- make big bucks like Andrew Sullivan. Who'd know? Who'd care?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | History | Journalism | Politics | ethics | personal

July 27, 2005

Becoming an Un-Person

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

sscard.jpgA lot has been written about identity theft, data leaks and how to fix them. A lot has been written about identity technology, and how all of it is bad.

But the bottom line is simpler. Our identification system is broken.

It's no longer a question of this system or some other system. There is no system.

What that means, in real terms, if your own identity hangs by a thread, a very thin thread that can break anywhere, and leave you an un-person.

Like me.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Futurism | Journalism | Moore's Lore | blogging | ethics | law

July 18, 2005

Press Bias

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

ap_logo.jpgConservatives 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.

Here's why.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Copyright | Journalism | ethics

July 15, 2005

This Week's Clue: The Good German

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

If I had my druthers, every issue of A-Clue.Com would be chock-full of stories concerning e-commerce, Moore's Law, and mobile technology.

But as a human being, I sometimes feel compelled to state what I feel, and whatever happens as a result, happens.

For the first time in my career I've been afraid this week, afraid to write what I feel.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Politics | ethics | law | personal | war

July 13, 2005

My Personal Spam War

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

spam.gifE-mail service here may experience some delays as I undergo a personal trial by spam.

In this case it's a Joe Jobber, most likely a spam gang, that has grabbed both my e-mail address and my server's IP address to illegally sell prescription drugs without prescription.

For the last few days I've been firing off myriad alerts to, the government's address dedicated to fighting fraudulent spam, with no response.

A domain registrar called Yesnic is apparently cooperating with this spam gang. They're the registrar of record on every Joe Job in this bunch. Most of the registrations, on investigation by me, seem to be made-up, but two carry the actual name, and a legal address, fo someone in Columbia, SC. This criminal should be easy to find if someone is interested.

Meanwhile, we learned today that the most popular anti-spam technique, like the so-called CAN SPAM Act that enables spam in the U.S., is in fact becoming a spammer favorite.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | ethics | law | marketing | medicine | spam

July 11, 2005

A Blogger's Plea for Truth

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

I believe there is a truth in any situation, which can be found through investigation.

This should not be controversial. But I’ve learned that it is.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | blogging | ethics | personal

June 30, 2005

Congressional Spam

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

mmusgrave.jpgI just got my first piece of franked spam.

It came from Rep. Madilyn Musgrave of Colorado. (That's her, from a Congressional Web site.)

I don't know how, but my Mindspring address somehow landed on her Congressional e-mail list. The spam is filled with news of her efforts on behalf of Colorado's Fourth Congressional District, about 2,000 miles from my home in Atlanta.

You know what I can do about this spam? Absolutely nothing. That's because the federal CAN-SPAM Act (wonderful name, since it means you can spam all you want) states that I must opt-out of this spam, by hitting a link inside the letter.

The law she passed says her spam is not spam.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | ethics | law | spam

Media Anarchy

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

MBA logoFor the last few months I’ve been trying to help the Media Bloggers Association, mainly via e-mail.

I’ve been appointed to three committees, none of which I’ve been much use to. I started in publicity, moved over to membership, and I’m now on ethics.

Publicity they had in hand. Membership passed over a list of prospective members, but I had no basis on which to judge them so I just approved the list. This got me interested in ethics.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Journalism | blogging | ethics | personal

June 29, 2005

The Crazy Frog Scandal

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

crazy-frog.jpgCellular operators love to go on about how much better their walled data gardens are than that nasty Internet, because consumers are safer.


Jamster and mBlox created the Crazy Frog phenomenon with a very addictive, and heavily advertised ringtone that topped the British pop charts for five weeks.

But there was a sting in the tail. People (mostly kids, but at least one BBC reporter as well) found they didn't just buy a 3 pound ringtone, but a "premium SMS" service that charged them as much as 3 pounds more for each add Jamster then sent them.

The two companies are being investigated but according to the BBC the maximum penalty could be a mere 100,000 pounds to mBlox, plus loss of its British business license. It's estimated the scam has earned over 10 million pounds so far.

But do you want to know the rest of the story, the bit the Brits don't know (yet)?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | cellular | e-commerce | ethics | law | marketing

June 20, 2005

House of Card

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

orson card.jpgThanks to his political involvement many liberals are treating Orson Scott Card as a pariah.

I’m certain he doesn’t care. Many great writers have been men and women of uncertain, even unwelcome politics. Like all people they’re products of their environment.

This is especially true in science fiction, a subset of literature devoted to worlds far removed from our own time and space. I didn’t like Robert Heinlein’s politics, and I don’t discuss politics with Jerry Pournelle, either. But I enjoy both, immensely.

I also enjoy Card's work. I'm a fan, with eyes wide open to his faults and limits, but a fan nonetheless.

...continue reading.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Politics | ethics | fiction | personal

June 14, 2005

MacGates, or The Tragedy of the Uncommon

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

macbeth.jpgWriting about Microsoft earlier today got me thinking more deeply about the company. (The image is from the Pioneer Theater Co., at the University of Utah.)

A decade ago Microsoft reached a tipping point. Maybe this came with its release of Windows 95. It was obvious in its obsession over destroying Netscape.

Before 1995 Microsoft was about creating capabilities for others. Since then its mission has been embracing and extending, bringing the great ideas of others into its own operating system, destroying rather than creating niches.

It all sounds like a Jon Stewart set-up. "Aw, Bill, it used to be about the world domination." But in truth, at some point, people do come to dominate their worlds.

And then it all starts to go wrong.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | History | Journalism | Moore's Lore | ethics | personal

June 02, 2005

Short Term Values

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Transfer-Values.jpgWe do have a values problem in this country. (The illustration is from a Mormon-oriented marketing outfit.)

Too many of us have short-term values.

I could go off on our leaders over this, but leaders need followers, so I'm going after you instead.

  • Why can't businesses see past the current quarter?
  • Why is the environment so easily dismissed?
  • Why does the news care more about the idiot on the Buckhead crane than what is happening in Iraq?
  • Why are religious leaders so anxious to take the state's money?

We see this on the Internet all the time. I think this new XXX TLD is a perfect example. It doesn't answer the question -- what's sexual and what should we do about it? Just build a ghetto and toss Jenna Jameson in there -- oh and Planned Parenthood too. Then what, Adolf?

Americans won't move toward IPv6 because we got a ton of addresses back in the day. Besides, NATs work fine, right?

It is so easy to outsource our software production, to let Taiwan and China make our chips, to do everything we can to discourage kids from getting into tech. Our kids want to win American Idol. India, meanwhile, has a reality show called "the search for India's smartest kid."

Which country do you think is going to win the future, hmmm?

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | Politics | ethics | personal

June 01, 2005

Uncounted Costs of Spam

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Templeton.jpgWhen we count the costs of spam we usually think in terms of bandwidth, the hours spent clearing it out of our systems, and (sometimes) the cost of our anti-spam solution sets.

But there are other, uncounted costs to spam which dwarf those.

One is the loss in productivity we get from being unable to get in touch with people when we need to. On my ZDNet blog for instance I did a piece today on EFF chairman Brad Templeton (right), based on something he'd written on Dave Farber's list.

I e-mailed him as a courtesy. I had no questions. I just wanted to thank him for his wisdom and let him know I would use it.

What I wound up facing was Brad's spam filter, a double opt-in system dubbed Viking. Apparently I didn't respond quickly enough to Viking's commands, because its response to my opting-in again was to send me a second message demanding an opt-in. (All this was done with the laudable goal of proving I'm a man and not a machine.)

The bottom line. We never connected. I had a deadline, and used Brad's words. Perhaps there was no harm done.

But frequently there is harm done in these situations. I've had occasion to accidentally delete someone's note in my Mailwasher system, and then call the person in question asking for a re-send.

What if they're not in on that call? What if they sent something I needed? What if I were disagreeing with Brad in my Open Source post, or he decided after publication I was twisting his words?

The point is this sort of thing happens every day. People can't be reached in the way e-mail promised they would be, due to spam. This raises the cost of doing business for everyone, and the mistakes that result can be catastrophic -- to people, to companies, to relationships.

Now, in honor of the man formerly known as Deep Throat, I'm going to offer yet-another anti-spam solution.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | ethics | law | marketing | online advertising | spam

May 18, 2005

Newsweek and 2+2

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

newsweek_logo_180x180.gifI didn't want to blog this. But when a good friend repeats a lie as truth and gets upset over it, truth just has to get its shoes on. So here goes.

Newsweek didn't kill anyone. Anyone who claims different is selling something.

Newsweek reported old news. The reporter, Michael Isikoff, had good sources in the Administration. He did all the right things. He had what he considered to be a reliable source. It was even buried deep in the back of the magazine.

The fact that people rioted, and people died, after the story came out is not the fault of Newsweek. It's the fault of whoever stuffed a Quran down the toilet. It's the fault of those who committed torture in our name, those who turned a blind eye to it, and ultimately those at the top. In the end I'm guessing that for every potential life saved by anything given under torture, at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, wherever, we created 100 terrorists, maybe more.

So let's get the story straight.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Journalism | Politics | ethics

May 16, 2005


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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Payola.jpgThere's a reason why journalists should be paid, one that people like Fuad Kircaali ignore at their peril.

Corruption. Another word for it is payola. (The illustration is actually the cover of an album by the eponymous German band. Rock on, jungen und madchen.)

If you're a "volunteer" (unpaid) editor at a Sys-Con publication, and a vendor offers you money to spin a story their way, what's the risk in your taking it? Sure, if the boss finds out you might lose your job. But you're not being paid. And this assumes that you're being closely monitored -- the quid pro quo of being a volunteer editor is generally that you're not.

On the other hand, if you're a working journalist and your income (thus your family) is dependent on pleasing the publisher, we have a different calculus. Now a vendor approaches you with an offer and you see a risk in taking it. Not only will you surely lose this job, but you're likely to lose all hope of future employment. (If you're a volunteer editor your employment is not in journalism, remember.)

You can only hold professional journalists to journalistic ethics. Publishers who don't pay editors hand their good name to people beyond their control.

Where does blogging fit into this?

...continue reading.

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Economics | Internet | Journalism | blogging | ethics | personal

May 15, 2005

PARTI Hearty

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

joi ito.jpgTwo decades ago I was part of new social movement called online conferencing.

People from all around the world used a Unix package called PARTIcipate to discuss issues and their lives with one another. I made some good friends then, among them Joi Ito. (That's him to the left.)

But we quickly learned the dark side of this text-based technology. Misunderstandings could happen. They could escalate. Without the visual cues we get in face-to-face conversation, flame wars could erupt. Moderation became essential.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | History | Internet | blogging | ethics | personal

May 14, 2005

A Publisher's Ethics

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

fuat kircaali.jpgBy and large publishers do not share journalism's ethical sense.

Instead they apply business ethics.

While a journalist's ethics, like that of any other claimed profession, may hold them well short of what's illegal, businessmen must go right up to the legal line, even risk crossing it, to stay ahead of the competition. Businessmen who don't think that way are easily crushed by those who do.

In journalism, business ethics often push journalists over lines they should not cross. Robert Novak practices business ethics. The National Enquirer practices business ethics. Those who choose to believe Novak or the Enquirer accept it.

And Fuat Kircaali (right), CEO of Sys-Con Media, has apparently chosen to apply business ethics in the Maureen O'Gara scandal. (He has hinted at this before.)

This weekend this blog was told that Kircaali accepted the resignations of three senior LinuxWorld editors -- James Turner, Dee-Ann LeBlanc, and Steve Suehring, rather than personally release and renounce O'Gara.

UPDATE: "We were unpaid editors but we devoted a lot of time and energy to it," according to Suehring's blog. This makes sense given Kircaali's business model, as we will discuss later on.

Apparently, Kircaali even approved O'Gara's assault on Pamela Jones of Groklaw in advance. Here's what he told Free Software Magazine.

"The language of the story is in the typical style of Ms. O’Gara, generally entertaining and easy to read, and sometimes it could be regarded as offensive, depending on how you look at it. I decided to publish the article. It was published because it was an accurate news story."

More after the break.

...continue reading.

Comments (37) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | Linux | e-commerce | ethics | law | marketing | personal

May 13, 2005

The Times vs. Sullivan Boundary

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

lb sullivan.jpg Times vs. Sullivan , as anyone who has taken law or journalism knows, holds that public figures have a much higher burden in libel actions than other people. (That's L.B. Sullivan, then police chief of Montgomery, Alabama to the right. From the University of Missouri in Kansas City.)

To win at trial, public figures must show that a story about them showed "a reckless disregard for the truth" or that a lie was deliberate. This makes it very hard for public figures to win libel awards, although to this day some do.

The question comes up because I was chatting via e-mail with Steve Ross, a journalism professor at Columbia, who said Markos Moulitsas had over-reacted to a question on his annual journalism survey. The survey asked how people felt about campaigns "buying" journalists, citing a deal between the Dean campaign and "bloggers" in 2003.

Readers here know I covered that story, that the bloggers weren't bought but hired as consultants, that they didn't act bought, and that their righteous recommendations were then ignored, so Moulitsas to this day fills a role now DNC chair Howard Dean should by rights be filling. But what brought me up short was Steve's statement that Moulitsas, alias Daily Kos, should know better, since he is "a public figure."

A public figure, eh? A blogger a public figure?

atrios.jpg Well that's interesting. I assume, then, that Glenn Reynolds is a public figure, and any suit he might file for libel is going to have a very difficult time. (Lucky me.) We can't very well have anonymous public figures and thus the "outing" of Atrios as Duncan Black, a Philadelphia economics teacher (left), last year becomes just a public service.

And if that's true, then, is Pamela Jones, a public figure? Would that mitigate any possibility of a successful legal action against Maureen O'Gara? (I don't know if anything has been filed or might be -- I'm just spitballing here.)

Wait, there's more.

...continue reading.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Futurism | Internet | Journalism | blogging | ethics | law | personal

May 05, 2005

Scaled Credibility

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

PRESS hat.jpgDmitri Eroshenko is warning the Internet advertising space that the sky is falling due to click fraud. (Illustration from Coolstuff4writers.)

There is click fraud, and the higher the value attached to a click the more likely it is. There are both human and automated click fraud programs out there.

But the sky is not falling. Click fraud is not destroying Internet advertising. In fact, business is booming. CP/M (as in cost-per-thousand) programs are making a comeback. Sponsorships are on the rise.

Besides, Eroshenko's hands aren't clean. He writes as an executive with ClickLab, a company in the business of solutions for click fraud. In other words, he's selling something.

This sort of thing happens all the time. The mobile phone virus scare is driven, in part, by people who want to sell you mobile phone anti-virus software.

What has changed?

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Journalism | e-commerce | ethics | marketing | online advertising

May 04, 2005

East of the Blog, West of the Media

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

blog-mad.jpgI will be in Nashville this weekend, attending the meeting of the Media Bloggers Association. (The image is from a cool Brazilian blog I found, apparently written by a 16-year old.)

Before I could pack, leader Robert Cox sent me a list of new applicants for membership. Given the fact I felt my own journalistic credentials were under a microscope for months, waiting for his yea-or-nay (turned out I was lost in the shuffle) and given my own recent mistakes here, I was loathe to pass on the qualifications of others.

Generally, my opinion in the past was that the market decided who should be a journalist, and who was "just" a blogger. But that may not be right. After all, bloggers can go on-and-on until they exhaust themselves, and much journalism is subsidized by politicians, so that the requirement to lie becomes a lifestyle, and the liars become institutions whose credentials no one can question. Robert Novak is a journalist only because he's paid to play one on TV.

But then came news from Reporters Without Borders that 53 journalists died last year trying to report the news. That's paid journalists, real journalists, reporters, editors and publishers.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | ethics | law

April 29, 2005

Is Blogging Journalism?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

rathergate cartoon.gifNext weekend I'll be at Blognashville, helping out the Media Bloggers Association, where the question will be asked again, "Is blogging journalism?"

Short answer. No.

It can be, of course.

When journalists blog, when we ask hard questions, dig for facts, and take mistakes seriously, well then yes journalism can happen on a blog. (Cartoon from Cox and,)

But a blog can be a diary. If you invite just a few people to post, and those same people are all who can read it, a blog is groupware.

A blog can be a community. Let a lot of people offer posts, organize the comments, add polls and ratings.

A blog can be your picture collection. It can be a record of what you saw today.

And that is not all, oh no, that is not all...

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Software | blogging | computer interfaces | e-commerce | ethics | personal

April 27, 2005

The Spam Fight Continues

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

andrew ferguson.jpgA few weeks ago we were bombarded with news items claiming spam isn't all that bad, that we don't care about it anymore.

Not everyone has given up the fight. In fact some have escalated it. One such is Andrew Ferguson, a technically-gifted blogger out of Colorado. (That's him, above, from his blog.)

Ferguson is using SkypeOut. He calls the spammer's contact number using SkypeOut and leverages Skype's inherent cost advantage to keep that phone busy, so victims can't get through. No victims, no money to the spammer.

Ferguson can go even further, automating his SkypeOut calling so each call takes just three seconds, barely long enough for the spammer's phone to ring. That line is continually tied-down and Ferguson's SkypeOut charges remain minimal.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ethics | law | spam

April 22, 2005

Ornstein Syndrome

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

norm ornstein.jpgNorman Ornstein has made a career out of giving good quotes. (The picture is from his agent.)

But the danger is like that identified every week by Mythbusters. Don't try this at home. We're what you call experts.

The problem is that the press defines any provocative statement as a "good quote," but those made by experts like Ornstein merely place context in the obvious. In reaching for a good quote, you can easily reopen old wounds, start new controversies, and make yourself foolish at the same time.

Exhibit A. James Governor of Red Monk decided to re-open the (rapidly closing) question of the GPL's legality in order to get into a local magazine, and to suck-up to a potential client, Fortinet.

There's nothing about this "point" on Governor's blog, and Red Monk has issued no press release, although the point is highly provocative. In fact, Governor advertises his willingness to mouth off. "Need a quick reaction to a breaking story? A detailed explanation of the signficance of a recent merger? Whatever your needs, feel free to contact us."

Fine, if you're not just going to throw bombs. And here's where I get in trouble...

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Journalism | blogging | ethics | personal

April 18, 2005

Blogger of the Year

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Having done this work for a few years now, I do sometimes ask myself what the best bloggers have that I might lack.

The answer comes down to one thing. The best stay on one thing. They know their beats, know their limits, they do the research, and they don't flit around outside those subjects (the way I often do).

The most important blogger of our time is probably Pamela Jones of Groklaw. Groklaw is more a community than a blog (but so is DailyKos). Despite the extensive help her audience gives her, Jones still gives her beat rigid attention, tons of supporting materials, and she gives her enemies plenty of rope for hanging themselves so that, when she does speak her mind, she has both authority and supporters.

...continue reading.

Comments (14) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | ethics | law

Mobile Phone Backlash

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

cellphone_manners.jpgEvidence is increasing of a backlash against mobile phones and the behavior of those who over-use them. (The image comes from a page on celliquette from

  • Increasing numbers of people are actually faking calls, either to embarrass people, impress them, or just make them go away.
  • The most popular ringtone? It's the sound of a ringing phone says MatrixM, which has no reason to lie about this since they sell ringtones.
  • The heavily-hyped IDC mobility study indicates nearly 20% of mobile consumers consider themselves "minimalists," with basic needs, no desire for frills, and a great need for comfort and simplicity.

What is the meaning of all this?

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces | ethics

April 14, 2005

Criminals Discover Blogging

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Criminals have discovered blogging.

The BBC reports this quite breathlessly, but there's no need to be either surprised or unduly alarmed.

There are two types of scams going on, according to Websense, which was the BBC's source for the story:

  1. Blog addresses loaded with malware, advertised via e-mail or IM spam.
  2. Blog addresses loaded with malware waiting to be tripped by zombie machines.

In both these cases you can substitute the words "Web site" for "blog" and pre-date the release to 1997. Free Web page companies found this problem fairly early-on in their evolution, and now those offering space to bloggers need to be aware as well.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | blogging | ethics | law | spam

April 11, 2005

Today's Big Lie: Spam Is OK

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

spam.gif Today's big lie is a misinterpretation of the latest Pew Internet Survey. We think spam is no big deal.

(The great-tasting pork-shoulder-and-ham concoction from Hormel pictured to the left is still a very big deal in Alaska and Hawaii. They love the stuff.)

"Email users are starting to get comfy with the spamvertisers" claims Internet Users Unruffled by Spam, says TopTechNews. Internet users more accepting of spam, says Forbes.

Well, nonsense. (I would use stronger language, but I want everyone to get the point.)

Here are some facts from the same study. Barely half of us now trust e-mail, down 11% from a year ago. Over one-fifth of us have cut down our e-mail use because of spam, just in the last year.

As for the rest...users have learned to deal. We have spam filters. I use Mailwasher. We don't get as much as before because more of it is being stopped at the server level.

That doesn't mean we like it. And it's deliberately misleading to say it is. It's like the battered wife syndrome. Why doesn't she leave the jerk? Why don't you just go offline?

It's the same question with the same answer. You find ways.

But if someone would finally arrest the batterer and throw his butt in the slammer for a good long time she'd learn to be grateful.

Which reminds me...

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Politics | ethics | law | personal | spam

April 07, 2005


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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

jamster.gifI'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?

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | cellular | ethics | law

March 29, 2005

Google vs. News Inc.

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

hg otis.jpg
The real Hardball isn't the game show on MSNBC, where politicians lie and yap at one another.

It's something far more serious, played every day, by huge corporations that masquerade as guardians of the public interest, but are in fact as corrupt as the rest of us. (That's LA Times founder Harrison Gray Otis on the right. More about Harry Otis here, near the bottom of the page. I direct David Shaw's attention to the quote from Theodore Roosevelt.)

The prerogatives of these corporations and their hirelings, who call themselves journalists (then deny this status to you and me) is under threat on this medium as never before. They're scared, and they're playing Hardball.

Their right, earned by corporate might, to define what is and what isn't news, what is and what isn't fair comment, is under threat, right here, right now.

And they don't like it one bit.

The game is being played mainly on three search engines. On MSN note how these corporations are given, not dominance, but exclusivity. The same is true on Yahoo. Note the list of "resources" at the top-right of the Yahoo page. Note too the prominence given one outfit's stories, the newspaper co-op called AP.

In both cases what you see on your screen is the result of business negotiation. News value is determined by people, meeting in rooms, and (perhaps) money changes hands (we're not told).

Is this fair? It may well be. It's certainly business as usual. And -- here is the key point -- the process is completely opaque.

On the other hand, we have Google News. What you see here looks similar but it is, in fact, quite different. While the stories of the giants do get prominent play, so do other organizations, and other types of news coverage.

At 11:15 AM for instance I checked Google's "coverage" of Laura Bush's trip to Afghanistan, sorted by relevance. Position four was held by a right-wing group, the Conservative Voice. Position seven was held by a left-wing site, Counter Currents, posting a blog item from Counterpunch.

The results on all stories change moment-to-moment, and only a small part of what we call the blogosphere is represented, but the fact is that Google News is offering a far wider set of sources than its rivals. These include "official" outlets like Voice of America and Pravda. They include newspaper sites requiring registration. They also include many sites from outside the U.S.

In some cases, they even include blogs. Yes, even this one.

But that's not the full extent of Google's challenge to the news industry.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Journalism | Politics | Telecommunications | blogging | ethics | personal

March 28, 2005

The Schiavo Spammer

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

tacm.jpgHere is the problem I have with special pleading. Anyone can do it.

But once we let one do it, all do it.

And so I call upon whoever hosts the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries to pull the plug on its ISP account.

And I call on all other ISPs to refuse the pastor's money.

I do this because his site just spammed me from the e-mail address

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Politics | ethics | spam

Gator Comes To Yahoo

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

john dowdell.jpgOf all the things that Gator (and its ilk) did, the worst may have been how they corrupted the file download process.

Click download and you get...who knows what?

Now Yahoo, desperate to catch up with Google, has corrupted the downloading of basic Web tools, by sticking its toolbar in with Macromedia Flash.

The attempts by Macromedia officials like John Dowdell (right) to explain this away speaks to a growing lack of ethics within the Internet business community.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | computer interfaces | ethics | online advertising

March 18, 2005

So Now You Notice...Why?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

jeff jarvis.jpg
Who is to blame for the vapid nonsense of celebrity journalism?

To some extent, you are.

When I write about things that are really important, about space or futurism or how our lives are changing with cellular, few notice. This is normal service.

When I step on the tail of Tina Brown, suddenly the blogosphere pays attention.

Partly as a result our most popular blogs are the cattiest, the most like the worst of the Main Stream Media attitude I criticized.

Is this an attack on Jeff Jarvis? (That's him on CNN.) No, it's not. He's responding to the market, to the audience, to you.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Futurism | History | Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | ethics | personal

March 17, 2005

Fixing the MSM

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

tom fenton.jpg
I have some pretty harsh words for the Main Stream Media (MSM) below.

There is a solution for this malaise, and it's ironic that a national audience caught it first on a comedy show.

The solution is "boots on the ground," as Tom Fenton (right) told The Daily Show's Jon Stewart this week.

Bloggers provide that. Not all blogs do. Saying "blogs" or "bloggers" as though they were a unitary whole is as misleading as saying "Internets" or "Web sites."

But we've seen bloggers capture many stories, and even beats, by doing reporting that the MSM wasn't willing or able to do. I'm thinking here of Raed in Iraq and, more recently, Riverbend. (She is now much better than he is, by the way.) I'm thinking of Boingboing and Juan Cole and 100 others, people who've broken stories, created new niches, and done real journalism.

There are many, many bad blogs. There are many popular blogs that are very bad. I'm not saying the one should replace the other.

What we need are business models that will enable willing journalists (like myself) to make decent livings (not great, decent) doing what we love to do -- reporting, writing, editing, researching, listening, being careful.

MSM journalism no longer provides that. With the help of people like Hylton Joliffe, maybe blogging will, in time. I'm proud to be part of the effort.

Want some more ranting? You'll have to click for it.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Journalism | blogging | ethics | personal

Bloggers are the new Stasi?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

google stpatricks_05.gif
Dem's fighting words, ma'am.

The words are from Tina Brown (right, from the syndicator of her column), at the Washington Post, and they are among the greatest pieces of chutzpah I have ever seen. (Although, personally, I'd love a syndicator. And I could do a job for one, too.)

Careful about clicking below, because I'm about to get mad and my language is about to get very blue indeed.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | ethics

Google News Tilting Blog Playing Field

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

google stpatricks_05.gif
A new version of Google News is out.

It is still listed as beta code, and it has some neat improvements. But it's still skewing the news business in dangerous directions.

First the good news. Google News now has cookie-based customization (if you have multiple browsers you need to customize it separately for each). This means you can create your own headline term, like WiFi, and have its stories appear on your Google News page. You can also get rid of existing Google News headings (except for the two top stories).

You can change these settings on the fly, getting your World headlines from, say, the French Canadian version of the site, or changing the name of a custom heading (the Always On heading becomes a search for WiFi stories).

But you are still subject to Google's rules about what is and what is not a news story.

And on Google News a news story is something that appears in the Main Stream Media (MSM), nowhere else.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | blogging | ethics | personal

March 16, 2005

OJR Still Clueless

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

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."

They don't.

How else do you explain this, a long whiny piece from Mark Glaser moaning over a professional journalist's decision to shutter a personal site due to his conflict of interest.

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.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Journalism | blogging | ethics

March 14, 2005

Who Will Break The Chain Against DRM?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Digital Rights Management is a conspiracy.

Once someone breaks it, it's broken.

That's the view of Cory Doctorow, a short version of what he told TheFeature recently.

There was a similar conspiracy against TV in the 1950s, he noted. None of the studios would produce programming for TV, and anyone who worked in TV was blacklisted.

Then one brave company broke the chain. Disney. Walt Disney needed money to open his amusement park, TV offered it. The move gave him an enormous competitive advantage, as big as Ted Turner's advantage in using satellites 20 years later.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Futurism | ethics | law | marketing

March 07, 2005

Who Will Sa-ave Your Soul (for those lies that you told)

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

When Canadian Michael Geist started his "Law Bytes" column some years ago, I didn't think much of it, or him. It was conventional, and usually took the side of industry.

Either he grew, or I did, because lately he has been rocking. He's loosened up, his writing has gotten better, and increasingly he's on the side of the angels. (Special Mooreslore game now. Guess the headline reference. No peeking.)

Here's an example. In one column he goes after attempts by the Canadian government to wiretap Internet conversations, ISPs' cutting off Vonage ports, efforts to extort money from Canadian schools just-in-case some content they view is copyrighted, and the music industry's incredible ability to get content taken-down on just a say-so.

There's a theme here. And the theme is right-on. It is that the Internet is threatened as never before, by cops, by greed, and by fear. If we allow these to dominate the conversation we lose. And we must not let that happen.

There's something else.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | ethics | law

March 05, 2005

Headlines Lie: No One Is Protected

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Bloggers not protected by Constitution, says Apple. That's the headline in EarthTimes over a story stating a judge ordered several online sites to hand over the names of their anonymous sources.

Even well-meaning blogs like BoingBoing get it wrong. In Apple case, court says bloggers' sources not protected is their headline. (I think they're copying a San Jose Mercury-News headline here.)

The first headline is a lie and the second is misleading. (But the picture, from the University of Houston in Clear Lake, is really cool, don't you think?)

Fact is, no journalists have that protection. Didn't these people read the result of the Judith Miller case?

No journalist has the right to protect anonymous sources. But all journalists have a responsibility to protect them.

Those who protect such sources, who are willing to go to jail for them after they promise to protect sources, and who do in fact go to jail under court order, without revealing their sources...those people are journalists. The others are not.

And I don't care how much money you make, or what your so-called employer says you are. If you're not willing to go to jail to protect a promise you have made to a source, you're not a journalist.


Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Journalism | blogging | ethics | personal

February 28, 2005

The Blog Crucible

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

To many journalists today bloggers seem to be the new plague.

Someone does something or says something "the mob" doesn't like and within days there's a virtual lynching.

But Paul McMasters is wrong. The problem is not that bloggers are attacking.

The problem is that no one's defending. And no one is getting underneath the mob, finding its sources, and placing the same spotlight on its leaders that they place on the powerful.

In his heartfelt commentary on the subject McMasters fails at that job, too. He wants "them" to stop, but to let "mainstream media" go on, as before. It comes off as special pleading.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | blogging | ethics

Girl Scouts, Kidneys and Slippery Slopes

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Back when e-commerce was new, some Girl Scout troops decided to get a jump on their neighbors by offering their wares online.

The national organization successfully snuffed out this form of e-commerce. Check out Google on any keyword relating to the cookies (which go on sale soon in your neighborhood and mine) and you won't find any outlets.

The Girl Scouts got away with this restraint of trade because, frankly, it wasn't fair for the non-savvy girls to see money flowing only to those whose parents knew the online ropes. Money raised from sales is shared, after all, between the national organization, the local troop, and its community organization.

What does this have to do with kidneys? Plenty.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Journalism | e-commerce | ethics | marketing | medicine | online advertising

February 26, 2005

Media Timidity

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Good journalism stories have clear leads, a point of view, and publishers have the courage to defend the results.

There is very little good journalism going on today, which may be why the profession's reputation is shot. In today's class we have two examples of this to show you.

Exhibit A is Spectrum Wars, a long National Journal feature proudly sent to the Interesting People by its author, Drew Clark of their Technology Daily.

It's a solid, workmanlike overview of efforts to free-up spectrum going back over a decade. But it fails to put across any point of view, other than repeating that broadcasters want to keep their frequencies, including those given for HDTV.

It refuses to answer key questions:

  1. Should frequencies be sold or made part of the commons?
  2. Should we be broadcasting or data-casting?

In fact, it doesn't even effectively ask them.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Politics | ethics | spam

February 25, 2005

The Climax State

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Note: The following was published today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, which celebrates its 8th birthday next week. Join us -- always free.

Karl Marx was one of the great moral philosophers of the 19th century. But his vision was perverted, in the 20th century, and made the center of a system that imprisoned billions of people, one that required decades of war to eradicate.

Ayn Rand, who was born 100 years ago, was one of the great moral philosophers of the 20th century. Her novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged , have become as important as Marx' Das Kapital was to Communists, in defining the ideology of modern Conservativism.

It's just as imprisoning.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Futurism | History | Politics | ethics | personal

February 21, 2005

Would Franklin Blog, Would Jefferson Fileshare

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

While Susan Crawford was asking whether Ben Franklin would blog, (and Donna Wentworth was pointing the world to her piece) I was being asked a similar question "would Jefferson file share" at a VJOLT conference in Charlottesville.

The answer, in both cases, would depend on which Franklin or Jefferson you were talking about.

Franklin was desperate to publish as a young man, and the 1721 Franklin would doubtless have blogged. As a printer, Franklin routinely used copyrighted material without payment, and as a raconteur/diplomat he was far more often on the receiving end, so if he had blogged then he would have done it very carefully, judiciously, with an eye toward public opinion.

Jefferson was the first consumer, and doubtless would have used Grokster in his dorm at William & Mary. But later, as he became a public figure, he would have been far more conscious of the need for anonymity. As a politician, he would have no more admitted to copyright violation than George W. Bush would admit to smoking pot.

Both men, however, learned to live as though their private lives were public. Franklin used his fame to win an alliance with France, even letting himself be pictured in a beaver hat. Jefferson dealt with the Sally Hemings affair throughout the 1800 campaign, not to mention his lifelong reputation as a spendthrift, a wastral and, in the end, a bankrupt.

A better question might be this. Could you, or I, have done as well, then or now?

I doubt it. But we all should try.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | History | Politics | blogging | ethics | law

February 16, 2005

Real Reporters Pack Toothbrushes

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

There is much commentary emerging from a court ruling stating that reporters (like the one at right) must testify to a grand jury or go to jail.

Editor & Publisher wants a federal shield law. I have been a journalist for 25 years, and had the kant of a "journalist's privilege" drilled into me from the start. A shield law would be a good thing, but only if it protected all reporters, not just those few with jobs at major corporations.

But do you know what the reporter's privilege really is?

You have the right to go to jail. You also have the right to be killed in the line of duty, as dozens were in Iraq, some by U.S. soldiers. You have the right to be tortured in many countries around the world, and to rot in jail hoping someone can get you out.

These are your rights. No, these are your responsibilities as a journalist. You have the right to fight for the right to do your job. This is why journalists, the ones willing to accept these rights and responsibilities, are among the most important people on Earth. We know why the caged bird sings, because often it's us.

So if I quote you anonymously, and I promise you anonymity in exchange for your statements, I will protect that. I will risk jail for you, I will risk torture for you, I will risk death for you. If I decide your statements are that vital, and your anonymity that valuable, that's what I will do for you as a journalist. That's my job.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Journalism | ethics | law | personal | war

February 05, 2005

MCI Fingered for Spam Flood

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

MCI grossed an estimated $5 million/year violating the law in its home state of Virginia, by knowingly hosting sales of a Russian virus used to turn PCs into spam zombies.

The full story, by Spamhaus' Steve Linford (below) was distributed online today. It charges that MCI knowingly hosts Send-Safe.Com, which sells a spam virus that takes over innocent computers and turns them into spam-sending proxies. Linford tracked Send-Safe to a Russian, Ruslan Ibragimov. Linford estimates MCI earns $5 million/year from its work supporting spammers.

The theft of broadband-connected PCs by viruses, mainly Send Safe and another Russian-made program, Alexey Panov's Direct Mail Sender ("DMS"), is responsible for 90% of the spam coming into AOL and other major ISPs, Linford charged.

Here's the nut graph:

MCI Worldcom not only knows very well they are hosting the Send Safe spam operation, MCI's executives know uses the MCI network to sell and distribute the illegal Send Safe proxy hijacking bulk mailer, yet MCI has been providing service to for more than a year.

Want this made a little more explicit? Read on.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: B2B | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | Politics | Security | Software | blogging | ethics | law | online advertising | spam

February 04, 2005

The E-Mail Meltdown

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The final destruction of e-mail as an Internet service has begun. (This is as serious as Comic Book Guy's heart attack, right.)

Mainline spam software publishers have added a new worm to their product that not only turns PCs into spam zombies, but runs that spam through the zombies' e-mail server. This on top of an "industry" that already costs legitimate businesses $22 billion.

The result is spam that looks like it's coming from a legitimate address, and despite all the warnings most people still don't update their anti-virals so as to prevent this kind of infection.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Security | Software | ethics | law | spam

February 01, 2005

The Closeted Generation

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

There is much wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth going on concerning a poll showing U.S. high school students are indifferent to freedom. (The image, by the way, is from The Minhdonian National Gallery.)

There should be no surprise. This may be the most closeted generation of young people ever. How in the world do you expect them to value something none of them have ever been given?

Today's high schoolers have been told "no" in the loudest possible terms since they were babies. Say no to drugs. Say no to sex. Get your rock from the Disney Channel. Get your rebellion from Nickelodeon.

If they have newspapers in high school these are routinely censored. Even college papers are censored, and closed if they trouble authorities in any way. Kids are even punished for publishing diaries on the Web, even anonymously.

Kids live in a world of V-Chips and drug tests, of mass media with Cyber-Nanny software. It's a comfortable world, for most of them. They're driven from school to ball-field, from day care to proms, but constantly warned that one step over the line will kill them, literally kill them.

No wonder they don't care about freedom.

And I'm not saying this from a sense of moral superiority. I've got two teenagers of my own. They're as closeted as their peers. Although I love them dearly.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Futurism | History | Politics | ethics | personal

January 24, 2005

Spam Blogging

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

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.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Software | blogging | e-commerce | ethics | online advertising

December 07, 2004

TotalNews Bahrain

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

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.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | ethics | law

November 30, 2004


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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

I was hammered here recently for a piece in which I warned of what I called RSS Spam. (The image is from the home page of Geekzone, and it's a Clue to what comes next.)

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:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | e-commerce | ethics | online advertising

August 25, 2004

New Confirmation: We Spam Like Mad

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

New confirmation that the U.S. remains the world spamming leader comes from Sophos. Sophos, which gets its data from spam-attracting "honeypots," said 43% of the world's spam comes from the U.S., 27% combined comes from China and Korea. (The caricature is from Sophos' French site.)

Earlier this month, readers of this blog will remember, we reported on a CipherTrust study that 86% of the spam it collects at client sites comes from U.S. addresses, although many spoof foreign addresses.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | ethics | law | spam

August 05, 2004

The Internet Is Inherently Insecure

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

This is not news.

On the other hand it is big news. (One more reason to love O'Reilly is at left. They do better parodies of themselves than any rival can.)

At the DefCon show in Las Vegas, a few weeks ago, a speaker from Avaya noted that DNS, the Internet's "white pages," makes it inherently easy to attack. At another conference in the same town a speaker noted that the best tool for hackers is...Google.

Shock. Consternation. Anger.

What should we do about this?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Security | ethics

July 06, 2004

Tim O'Reilly's Clue

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Tim O'Reilly could have been a lot of things on the Internet. (The image is from the HollandSentinel.Com.)

He could have dominated it. A decade ago his Global Network Navigator was THE place to start every Internet session. Launched in 1993 it was the Web's first real home.

Of course, the Web outgrew it very quickly, and Tim had to decide where he wanted to fit into what would quickly become a whole new World. So he sold GNN to AOL, in 1995, and remained true to himself, as publisher of esoteric technology books with woodcuts of animals on their covers.

Since then, of course, O'Reilly & Associates has become an important brand for technical types who need a deep, honest understanding of a language, a protocol, or an Internet technology.

And O'Reilly himself has continued to speak out on things that interest him.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Futurism | History | Internet | Journalism | Linux | Software | Telecommunications | ethics

May 24, 2004

Saint Fred

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Note: The following ran this week in my newsletter, and drew such a reaction I decided to offer it here as well. (Picture from a French fractal artist.)

My late father was no saint.

But consider the record.

Frederick H. Blankenhorn (1920-1999) had an 8th grade education yet raised four children in suburban plenitude. Among us we have seven college degrees, four marriages, no divorces, no felonies, and our kids are all doing all right. How many Hiltons or Kennedys or even Bushes could say the same?

My Dad had an unerring ear for what was coming. He got out of TV repair just before computers made it obsolete. He built a water garden and a mulch pit in the 1960s when such things were unheard of. He was into heat pumps in the 1950s, and our homes always appreciated in value.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ethics

May 20, 2004

Do The Right Thing

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Sprinter Kelli White admits she used performance enhancing drugs and, despite a lack of "drug test" evidence, has accepted punishment. She won't run in 2004.

For this she's being condemned from here to Sydney and back. (In fact, the picture is from the Sydney Morning Herald.)

I can feel her pain.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ethics

May 19, 2004

Dracula Inc.

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The TV financial news today is filled with ads for outfits that, to my way of thinking, should not be sucking financial oxygen.

There's MCI and Putnam Investments. There are Citigroup and Janus Funds. Tyco is still around (it's making money I hear). Even Enron has yet to be totally liquidated.

What happens when you or I commit a crime is we are tried and convicted. This is very hard to do when the crime is done with a pen, behind the corporate shield. The states' batting average is low. What usually happens, instead, is that the company pays a fine -- sometimes a massive fine -- but usually without admitting wrongdoing. The cover-up, in other words, winds up being sanctioned by the court.

Add to that the complete failure of corporate governance in catching these crooks before the vaults are looted, and you have what I call Dracula Inc., corporate immortality, and immortal immorality. (Somehow, Bela Lugosi will always be Dracula to me, and obviously, to the folks at Shillpages too.)

I think it's time to stick a stake through some corporate hearts.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Economics | Investment | Journalism | ethics

April 13, 2004

Cops Close In On Computer Associates

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

I've always had a funny feeling about Computer Associates. (The picture is from a 2003 CNN story on the company.)

The company is a classic roll-up, essentially a melange of old products from other companies. This can work in some businesses like funeral homes and restaurants. I've never seen it win long-term success in technology. Yet CA seems to stay up nicely, growing year-by-year, defying the laws of financial gravity.

It could be something is rotten in the state of New York, city of Islandia, county of Suffolk.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ethics

March 06, 2004

Hippocrates? Hypocrisy!

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

In Texas doctors have forgotten their oath. (And don't forget you can buy your own cadeusus badge here.)

The Hippocratic Oath is pretty clear. Your first priority is always the patient. This is why we have cost-shifting. Poor people are cared for in emergency rooms, and the doctors (through the hospitals) find ways to raise prices to everyone else to pay for that free care. They don't have a choice. Their oath says give care.

A doctor who stands around and lets a patient die over money does not deserve the honorific. He (or she) is a money-grubbing quack.

So I'm not arguing here over issues like "database compilations." Texas doctors, or third parties, are free to compile whatever databases they want to. In this case, we have a database of people who've sued doctors in the past, real and alleged victims of malpractice.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: ethics