Corante

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 27, 2006

The Legend of Dennis Hayes

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

dennis_Hayes.gifThose of you under 30 may never have heard of Dennis Hayes.

But once he was somebody. I knew him. His was one of the first tech stories I wrote in Atlanta, back in 1982.

Dennis Hayes made modems. His company, Hayes Microcomputer Products Inc., dominated the market for PC modems in the 1980s. A modem, short for modulator-demodulator, would turn data into tones, then send those tones along the phone line, so an analog system could mimic a digital one.

As modems approached the 64,000 bit/second speed level, in the early 1990s, Hayes wanted to move data faster. He called me in one day to show me what he was up to.

It was something called ISDN. It was an all-digital system. It was faster than modems. It was cool.

But in order to get to ISDN, Hayes needed the cooperation of the Bell companies. They promised cooperation. They said they were committed. He waited and waited. He bet the company on ISDN.

And he lost. He lost it all. By the time the Bells began offering real digital services, in the late 1990s, they were offering ADSL. Originally considered an alternative to cable TV (yes, really), ADSL offered 1.5 Mbps downloads and 384 kbps uploads, while sharing the line with your phone. But by the time ADSL became a player, Hayes was bankrupt, gone, out of business by 1998.

The moral: don’t trust a Bell company. Don’t bet on a Bell company fulfilling its promises. Ever.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Journalism | Politics | Telecommunications | personal

February 23, 2006

What Must Craigslist Do?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

legal%20scals%20Image.gif
News of the Civil Rights lawsuit aimed at making Craigslist mediate its listings has hit The New York Times.

The Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law says that the company’s current ads often violate laws against non-discrimination. People advertise to hire folks, or to rent apartments, and don’t think that “whites only” applies to them.

The newspaper industry is downright gleeful over this. Julie Bosman’s lead is dripping with sarcasm.

FOR several years, Craigslist.org has been aggressively taking classified advertising from newspapers.

Now Craigslist is the one under attack.

The story, and the suit, are deliberately misleading. They both ignore the fact that the ads in question are free.

In that way they’re not really ads at all. They are speech.

Which changes the legal principle. To force on site managers a responsibility to police all speech for all potential legal violations would render free speech impossible.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

No Such Thing as Free WiFi

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

earthlink%20logo.jpgEarthlink is busy turning all those dreams of free municipal WiFi into broken promises.

Both the municipal deal they signed in Philly and the one they’ve joined in San Francisco (with Google) carry user price tags. In Philly they say they will re-sell capacity to other ISPs for just $9 per user per month. In San Francisco the plan is to give away 300 Kbps links, but charge $20/month for true ADSL-like speeds.

I’m of two minds on this. Let me talk out of both sides of my mouth for a moment:


  • Earthlink is betting the company on this new way of doing business. The San Francisco investment alone is estimated at $25 million. They have to get their money out somehow. And they have to gain some control of infrastructure in order to stay in business, now that the Bells and cable guys have gotten Bushie permission to monopolize the rate-payers’ infrastructure.
  • On the other hand what happened to free? And how can the cities promise any exclusivity in these deals? They don’t have any more right to the frequencies than Google. Why should taxpayers let them offer exclusive access to traffic lights and other city-owned infrastructure, and grant an “exclusive” cloud license to anyone?

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | B2B | Business Models | Digital Divide | Internet | Investment | Politics

February 22, 2006

The Internet As A Political Issue

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

moveon%20logo.gifGenerally, political issues involving the Internet are handled by elites.

Voters don't understand things like the "Brand X" decision, or the ICANN mess. All they care about is that the resource is there when they want it, at some price they can afford.

The practical result for the last decade is that a handful of large corporations have determined Internet policy. This is no longer working, because many of those corporations are engaged in a greed-fest aimed at making temporary advantages (often gained through government lobbying) into permanent taxes on Internet users.

The first hint we got that people were starting to pay attention was a few weeks ago, after BellSouth and AT&T said they should be able to charge those with data available, who were paying ISP charges, for access to "their" customers, who were also paying ISP charges. They wanted to hold you hostage, because your customer relationship to them made you "theirs." They actually said those things.

That fight is far from over, and the latest news should tell every Internet user why they need to get involved in the political side of the resource.. After paying a lot of lip service to the idea of network neutrality, a House subcommittee has passed a bill that says nothing about it, and in so doing endorses the Bells' position.

The ironic thing here is that, on Internet issues, activists on the left and right are in wholehearted agreement, as are activists in the center. The only "people" on the other side are giant corporations, which should not be people at all. It's the corporate control of America's government which makes this kind of nonsense possible, and everyone involved in online politics, no matter their views on the issues (or each other) needs to be up in arms about this.

Unfortunately, it turns out this is not what they're up in arms about.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Politics | law | personal

Google Images Ruled Illegal

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

HowardMatz_small.JPGGoogle's Image Search service is illegal.

U.S. District Judge Harold Matz of Los Angeles delivered this stunner in a suit originally filed by a porn firm, Perfect 10.

At issue is the Google Image Search caching and delivery of "thumbnail" images, which is the only way to tell someone what an image hit consists of. Perfect 10 not only sells its images to Web sites, but sells smaller "thumbnails" of those images to people with mobile phones, and those thumbnails, by themselves, represent product it wants money for.

Last March Agence France-Presse also filed suit against Google, claiming its delivery of thumbnails as well as portions of its news stories violated its copyright.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Telecommunications | e-commerce | law | online advertising

February 17, 2006

Blog Pimple About to Pop?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

pimple.jpgSlate has another of those "blog bubble about to pop" stories out. (The doll's name is pimple, available here. We are not into grossing y'all out here at Mooreslore.)

As a business story it may be 100% accurate. As a barometer of blogging itself, it's dead wrong.

Blogging is not a separate business from the Internet. Blogging is simply another way of producing a Web site. It brings coherent, regularly-updated Web sites within the budgets of every business, every individual, everywhere.

Blogging can be journalism. A blog can be a personal journal. A blog can be a store. A blog, like a Web page itself, can be anything you want it to be.

So when someone writes "blogging bubble about to pop" and cites a few business case studies involving the creation, purchase and selling of companies involved solely in blogging, I laugh. Because that's not blogging.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Investment | Journalism | blogging | marketing | online advertising

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 Moveon.org, 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 09, 2006

The TV Barrier

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bruceATpiano.GIFOn another list I’ve been discussing the nefarious Bell plan to kill the Internet by hoarding digital bandwidth.

Bruce Kushnick’s e-book, “The $200 Billion Broadband Scandal,” is fascinating in this regard.

But what if the Bells aren’t solely to blame?

The thought occurred to me when Kushnick began talking about “The TV Barrier.” The TV Barrier is the speed at which the real-time exchange of HDTV video becomes possible over the Internet.

Right now we could breach this barrier. Other countries – Korea, China, Japan – already have. We don’t really need fiber. We can do it with copper, we can do it with wireless. Stop wasting copper bandwidth on voice and your DSL line could deliver it. Give us enough unlicensed frequencies and your WiFi set-up could deliver it. Stop hoarding local bandwidth for cable competition that will never happen and it would be easy.

But here’s the problem. If bits are just bits (and they are just bits) then how do we get continuing revenue for our movies and TV shows? Cable does this by dividing bandwidth into “channels” and charging both sides of the transaction for everything that goes through, whether you watch it or not. Everyone gets paid. The channels get their monthly fees even if you leave the TV off.

This doesn’t happen when bits are bits.

Even the iPod “compromise” doesn’t answer this business model problem. OK, we’ll pay for songs we value. But what about songs we don’t value? What about TV shows we don’t value? Where is the payment for that?

Fact is, it costs just as much to make a bad TV show or a bad movie as it does a good one. Hollywood is limited in its ability to produce by what it can expect to get out of its many flops, plus the profits it can get from its few hits.

It costs more money to produce good video than it does good text, and the percentage of hits is just as low. It’s this continuing revenue stream for failure that “Tellywood” wants to protect, and in this their interests are aligned perfectly with the Bells which are hoarding broadband bits, and the cable operators who are doing the same.

The only way these industries will allow the Internet to burst through the TV Barrier is by solving this business model problem. And they’re perfectly willing to take the U.S. economy down with them while they wait.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet

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

A World of Rationed Liberty

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

jet%20li%20hero.jpgIf you want to launch a lynch mob against the "Chinese Communists," I'll probably be there with a pitchfork. I'm an American who believes in ordered liberty, after all.

Of course, when Congress tried to get the leaders of the search engine business to launch such a party today there were no takers.

All the major search engines are now in China, and all censor the results they deliver from their Chinese servers. (Outside China they all operate differently.) Thus China's "great firewall" seems, from the outside, to be effective in keeping citizens there from knowing anything about political issues other than what the government chooses to let them know.

All true. But something else is happening.

China is rationing liberty for its own survival.

China has nearly 1.5 billion people. China has been destroyed, literally destroyed, in ways only Southerners and American Indians can imagine, by politics several times over the last century. First came the democratic revolution against the Emperor, then came the Japanese invasion, then came the Communist Revolution, and finally several renewals of that revolution which left literal starvation in their wake.

Before that, for 2,400 years, China's system of rationed liberty, run by Mandarins, kept the nation fairly stable, at peace, and whole. Since the death of Mao Zedong China has returned to this pre-democratic order. It is run by Mandarins. Except for the facade of Communism it's run a lot like Japan (which retains a facade of democracy).

By that I mean there's an educated elite at the top, and a long series of steps which can lead a Chinese child into that elite:

  1. Rural peasants have almost no freedom, and little contact with the outside world. Government can take their land (and does), natural disasters can wipe them out (and do). A peasant who is fortunate will have relatives in the city, and their knowledge, their freedom, will be limited by what those relatives choose to share.
  2. Urban workers have a little more freedom. They live in cities, where there are many people, and many ideas. But their ambition is channeled totally into earning more money, because with each raise comes a little more liberty. A TV, a refrigerator, eventually (maybe) a computer.
  3. Urban professionals have a little more freedom, but it's limited. They may have phones with data capacity, and they may have broadband Internet service, but what they can do with both is limited. They learn what not to ask, what not to say, and in finding these boundaries begin to test them. Their ambition is for education, which leads to promotion, and for trust, which leads them to become
  4. Chinese travelers have the full Internet. Once a Chinese goes overseas they see it all, the decadence, the rhetoric, the full panoply of what freedom can be, and what freedom can do. By this time, however, they have background, and enter the fire of liberty with eyes wide-open to its dangers. Which may lead them to become
  5. Mandarins. People who have high positions in the government are truly free. Those who are part of the system must know the world, all of it, or they can't function. Their liberty is full, but it is tempered by responsibility, for the ranks below them, and for the nation.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | Politics | Security | Telecommunications | cellular | war

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

February 01, 2006

St. Google and the Dragons

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

st%20george%20and%20the%20dragon.jpgChange is the one business constant. Those who embrace it succeed, those who resist it fail.

But change also dislocates.

Workers threatened by change organize unions and seek protection from government. The Luddite movement was a call by workers to smash the new textile mills that threatened their jobs.

Business calls against change are heeded more often, because they may speak the language of change and back it up with cash. In autocratic societies the cash is called a bribe. In a democracy it’s called a campaign contribution.

History proves that in every case, the public interest governments must follow is to embrace change. This is tough when the threatened industries have enormous political power.

Yet America has done this for 200 years.

  • 19th Century Whigs embraced change as “public works,” ports, canals, and (later) railroads and telegraph companies that needed scarce capital.
  • Turn of the Century Progressives embraced change as antitrust, worker protection and (perhaps most important) the income tax, which replaced the tariff as the funder of government and made America the world’s business leader.
  • Mid-century Europeans forged free trade agreements, starting with Iron and Steel, evolving into the European Community. America embraced this movement through the WTO and such treaties as NAFTA.

Cars replaced railroads, oil replaced coal, suburbs replaced cities, and as the American blackboard was erased, rewritten and erased again, incumbents were allowed to wither away.

Today Google is the face of corporate change. Google has become a corporate stand-in for the changes the Internet makes necessary. Thus the incumbents have their knives out for it:

  • Telephone companies threatened by the Internet’s end-to-end principle, in which services are defined at the edge, want government to give them power to define services within their networks that everyone – including Google – will be forced to pay for.
  • TV and movie studios threatened by the fact that video can be passed as bits have demanded, and gotten, the power to halt distribution of bits they own.
  • Newspapers threatened by the Internet’s power to organize everything and make it available through links want government to make Google (and then the rest of us) pay for “linking rights.”
These forces are made more powerful by the fact that networks, studios, and reporters have no new business models to replace what’s lost as Google and its followers (Level 3, Craigslist, eBay, Amazon) march forward.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | e-commerce | law

January 31, 2006

HIPAA Worse Than The Disease

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

hipaa2.gifInfo-Tech has a release out that says they analyzed the HIPAA law and found it useless. (The image is from the blog of David Hoffman.)

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was signed by President Clinton in 1996, when he was trying to triangulate the new Republican majority in Congress with the idea of regulation, but managed by the private sector.

”HIPAA is a toothless tiger,” says Info-Tech analyst Ross Armstrong. “The first problem is that HIPAA is complaint driven, and complaint-driven enforcement doesn’t work. The second problem is that in the one HIPAA-related conviction that has occurred, only the individual was charged, not the organization itself."

“If HIPAA is to be truly protective and useful, healthcare entities and their executives must be held accountable in the same way that Sarbanes-Oxley holds CEOs and CFOs responsible.”

I'll go Armstrong one better. HIPAA is worse-than-useless.

HIPAA isn't entirely to blame for this, but it has driven the bulk of the medical profession into a very expensive case of Luddism. That's because HIPAA:

  • Theoretically makes hospitals and insurance companies liable for mistakes; and
  • Lets small practices out of this problem by refusing to computerize.

Mistakes in records and their release can happen. They do quite often. By accident. Not on purpose. But because there are automatic penalties (if someone complains) two things happen. The handling of all patient information becomes heavily bureaucratized, and patients are given legal gobbledygook aimed solely at keeping them from pursuing their rights if they arre violated.

It's the small practice exemption that really bites, however.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Economics | Internet | Politics | law | medicine

January 30, 2006

The Internet Necessity

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bob%20frankston.gifA few years ago some wags talked about people having a "right" to Internet service, and they got laughed at.

Let's try it another way.

America's economic future requires every citizen have access to Internet resources, and full freedom to use them.

Everyone needs Internet access, and literacy, to be part of the modern world.

FAST Internet access. Just as it's stupid to tell someone an 8086 machine is equivalent to a modern computer, so it is sheer ignorance to claim the availability of dial-up means everyone has Internet access. It's got to be fast enough so all modern applications run.

In a recent essay Visicalc co-founder Bob Frankston compares the Internet to roads. In a recent piece here at Mooreslore , I offered something similar. What if the railroads had a veto over road development, I asked, even after the car became popular?

But this dramatically underestimates what we're talking about.

The Internet is becoming a universal database, a universal discussion, almost a hive mind for humanity in the 21st century. If you don't have access you can't contribute. And you can't benefit, either.

This is the Century of the Mind. We've already seen business gravitate to those cities with the best connectivity, with the best chances for minds to connect. That's what Silicon Valley is about. That's what Boston is about, what New York is about, what Atlanta and Austin and Washington are about. Connections.

But with the Internet it's not just cities which are judged on their connectivity. It's nations.

And we're falling behind. Already, just in the last few years, we've fallen to 19th in broadband penetration. We're about to be passed by Slovenia, for God's sakes! Slovenia! Slovenia was, in the 1990s, part of Yugoslavia, a country which destroyed itself in civil war. Now Slovenia is passing us in the access its citizens have to the Essential Resource of our Time.

Why is this? Simple.

We've allowed Internet service to be monopolized by two sets of companies - Bell companies and cable operators - who are paying for obsolete infrastructure, who are forcing us to pay for that infrastructure before they deliver more, and who think only in terms of billing for specific services, not selling bits.

The Internet is just bits. Video bits, sound bits, e-mail bits, Web bits, text bits. The meaning of the bits are defined at the edge, on the computers that exchange them. All producers are consumers, all consumers can be producers. But the gatekeepers won't accept that. They see the Internet as services - TV, phone, e-mail - billable events which they define and they control.

And so, with Internet connectivity held hostage to these so-called "service providers," your ability to be part of the future atrophies, disappears, dot by dot, bit by bit. So does America's competitiveness.

Frankston calls the process through which this has happened the Regulatorium. He's talking about a network of political connections, state and federal agencies, think tanks and Bell-sponsored "consumer groups" who push the Bell-Cable duopoly more effectively than Jack Abramoff's K Street Project dreamed of.

Here, he says, is what we need instead. Some simple statements:

  • Connectivity is fundamental. The Internet is not a service. The Regulatorium doesn't have the language for this. Giving it the language is the leverage point.
  • Speed is useless if you can't communicate. It's easy to speed up the network - what we need is pervasive connectivity. This means that wireless connectivity - be it Wi-Fi or other protocols is our basic right.
  • Rather than giving carriers the ability to define our services, connectivity must be infrastructure like roads and power lines and "just be there". We can then create services and solutions.

This is light years from the way the world works today. But we have to get there.

I've written a lot about these issues here, tangentially. Moore's Law drives the world, not just as it relates to chips but as it relates to telecomm technology too. Moore's Law of Fiber shows that optical fiber capacity can grow exponentially, just by changing out hardware. Moore's Law of Radios shows we can have the same capacity increases using the air that we have with fiber.

All the laws and rules we have in place for telecommunications are based on the idea of scarcity. Capital to build networks is scarce, so only a few big companies can play. The frequency spectrum is a scarce good government must distribute.

I don't know of a better way to say this, so I'll just say it.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | law

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 23, 2006

Sexual Monsters Inc.

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

monsters%20inc%20sulley.gifSomething occurred to me when reading of how the Justice Department wants a week of Google search records, ostensibly to enforce the failed law against Internet pornography, but with authority under the Patriot Act.

This is getting someone’s rocks off.

We all know that, for many people, fear is part of their sex drive. Whether it’s fear of discovery or the ability to instill fear in others, it’s real. And both these fantasies are threatened in an open sexual environment. It’s like the movie Monsters Inc. – what are you going to do if the kids can’t be scared anymore? (In the end Sulley, pictured, found he could produce a lot more energy with laughter than with fear. That’s an important lesson.)

This aspect of sexuality is, on the whole, far less healthy than an appetite for seeing naked bodies, private parts, even things going into things. Fear can be harnessed in sexual play of many kinds, but its abuse is more physically dangerous than, say, voyeurism is. Abusive voyeurism is a Peeping Tom. Abusive fear junkies become sadists, rapists and murderers.

But it’s obvious, from the history of the last few decades, that many of those advocating the elimination of porn have sexual kinks themselves. For some it’s mere repression, but for others it’s a form of sadism. Keeping others down gets them off.

And this sadism, under the guise of moral certitude, is driving much of our sexual law enforcement. Make it dirty, make it forbidden, make it sordid, make it hidden. Then, in the dark, where no one can see, the sadist can do whatever he wants.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | History | Internet | Politics | law | personal

January 21, 2006

Railroaded

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

NOTE: The following entry is being mirrored at the new Infrastructure Held Hostage blog.



old-roundhouse.jpgWe live in an uneasy relationship with the past.Photograph courtesy RPI.)

The whole past is available to us, there to teach us lessons, to give us Clues that can help us avoid yesterday’s mistakes.

We can find multiple analogies within it. While our politics may seem, to some, analogous to those of the early years of the Cold War, in terms of technology they’re far more like those of the early Progressive Era, the early 1900s.

So imagine if the railroads of that time controlled all the roads.

That’s precisely what AT&T and Verizon, aka Bell East and Bell West (making Qwest and BellSouth into Bell North and, what do you know?) are doing to the Internet right now.

Jay Gould should have been so clever.

They’ve gotten away with it (so far) because the Internet uses the old phone network (cars using the old railroad tracks) for transport. As with railroad tracks and cars, the phone network brings irrelevant, even obnoxious, artifacts with it.

Take out the frequencies used for phone calls (which you can easily do with VOIP) and your DSL line could handle up to 7 Mbps down, no problem, without changing out the underlying technology.

Still don’t believe me? If you have a home LAN (and millions do) you’re assigning IP addresses to each PC on the network, creating your own private Internet.

Your transport to the Internet backbone could be delivered just as easily with a cable modem as with the phone.


  • When the cable company offers you phone service they’re not rebuilding the old infrastructure, just modeling it on data.
  • Internet transport could be delivered over power lines, and where my inlaws live, in Flatonia, Texas, it is.
  • Internet transport could even be delivered using radios, through a Wireless ISP (WISP) using the shared unlicensed WiFi frequencies your home network (and garage door opener, and cordless phone) use.

Whether that WiFi cloud is owned by your city or a private company is irrelevant – it would work.

power%20line.jpg
Many large companies create their own networks, linking to the Internet only at competitive peering locations where they can get the best prices on fiber transport. Long distance fiber remains a competitive market (for now). Their fear is that, with so much of the U.S. transport market now held by the Bells, their prices could be squeezed just as yours are.

Given that the cable operators have powerful lobbies, and cable does not cover everyone, the phone companies are, in their own lobbying for privilege, allowing them to exist. It’s also convenient. Their current efforts at “improvement” are aimed solely at delivering TV to homes, as cable does, not at improving Internet service.

By allowing this dual-monopoly on consumer Internet transport, or duopoly, the cable and phone monopolies mask reality. Having a choice between only cable and a Bell for ISP service is like having a choice between only Coke and Pepsi for the liquid you need to live. It’s a false choice.

In his book $200 Billion Broadband Scandal, Bruce Kushnick details how we got from the open, competitive market of 10 years ago to today’s duopoly. But I’m more interested in how we get out of this, and what a truly competitive Internet market might look like.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | e-commerce

January 18, 2006

The Video Fiction

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

AN%20OLD%20TV.jpgVideo is NOT the future of the Web. (This picture, by the way, comes from a fine student project at the University of North Carolina on Webcasting rights. Go Tar Heels.)

It’s part of the future, no doubt. It’s even part of the present.

But the assumptions that Internet traffic is growing mainly in response to video, that Internet-capable networks must give video 99% of their capacity, or that Internet Law must be changed to accommodate video are fictions.

The Video Fictions are relics of the pre-Internet age. They’re wrong for three reasons:

  1. Video is passive -- When you’re watching a video you’re watching, you’re not interacting. The Internet is all about interaction. It’s about ideas. It’s about interruptibility. It’s about cutting your attention into as many pieces as you can, multi-tasking in order to do more. Video takes all your attention, and demand for it is limited by audience attention.
  2. Video is expensive -- A quality blog item, like this one, can be created by one person in a few hours. A quality video takes the work of many people over many days, and bad video takes just as much time to make as good video. You can’t have both good video and interactive video. Good video just takes too long to make.
  3. Video has plenty of channels – Most of your cable bill is taken up by worthless nonsense already. There isn’t enough quality programming to fill the DirecTv and Dish Network satellites. Broadcasting has worked for almost 90 years. All these deliver more programming at far less cost than the Internet ever could. The Internet, as a video medium, is best served for tiny niches, with low demand, and it already does this.

The assumption that “the future of the Internet is video” is driving just about all the stupidity we see among big companies and policymakers today.

There are video applications which have value on the Internet, but they don’t need the bandwidth or Quality of Service (QoS) up-sells of true video. Videoconferences are of value (sometimes) and video VOIP calls can be of value (to long-separated family members). But the idea that we need the Internet to watch the same TV that comes to us via satellite and cable is nonsense.

There are also some applications that can use QoS standards, and payments. Interactive games can use QoS, especially when players are going against one another in real time. Medical applications can use QoS, although those applications that really need it should be done in clinics or hospitals with ample bandwidth, not the home.

Meanwhile, there is an enormous, and growing bandwidth shortage in the average Internet home. I face it every day. Why?

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Always On | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | computer interfaces | law

January 15, 2006

It's the Process, Stupid

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

matt-cutts.jpgThe Windows Metafile Format (.WMF) dates from 1990.

Personally, I'd hate to have to take responsibility for what I did back in 1990, but I haven't made $50 billion in the last 15 years so I don't have to.

The WMF format was designed to move graphics among Windows programs, and one of its features was to allow the execution of code within images. I'm calling this a feature because, at the time it was written that's what it was. What we now know is it was also a flaw.

It means that exploit code can be hidden in any Internet graphic, not just those with the .wmf extension. And it will run. It can turn into a keylogger, or a virus, or any other type of malware. And since the relevant code has now gone online, malware authors are hard at work creating exploits, all of which will continue to steal from innocent people until Microsoft finishes testing and distributing its own fix.

This has a lot of people, like the folks at Softprose, very mad at Microsoft. But it's not the code, or the vulnerability, which troubles me. It's the process.

I understand the need to be certain before pushing out a cure that may be worse than the disease. But we're not talking about a flu vaccine here. We're talking about code and a computer feature.

The easy thing to do, as Google software engineer Matt Cutts notes, is to turn off the vulnerable code. "You’ll lose some thumbnail previews and such, but if you want to be safe until a patch is available, click Start->Run and then type “regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll” to disable the vulnerable DLL."

Of course, this can cause other problems, Cutts admits, but there's a way around those

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | Linux | Security

January 11, 2006

The Content Chimera

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The Media PC ain't gonna happen. The "walled gardens" of the cell companies are going to come down. The telcos' plans in cable are non-starters.

All these huge corporations are subject to the Content Chimera, the idea that networks are pipes for selling content to people, and that it will all "converge" somewhere.

This is nonsense:

  1. TV standards are moving toward those of movies. None of the "Media PC" offerings at CES took HDTV into account.
  2. Networks are not pipes for selling content to people. They are two-way bit pipes. The future is synchronoussymmetrical, not asynchronousassymmetrical.
  3. It's not all going to "converge" in any particular place. We will seek to consumer entertainment where we are, with whatever attention we can give. But we also create, we communicate, we interact. Different levels of attention require different types of devices.

The Content Chimera goes nowhere. It's the technology version of the Oil Chimera that now drives America's relations with the world. The solutions in both cases are remarkably similar.

Interactivity.

The "choke point" for the content market is NOT in production, or distribution, or marketing. It's in each one of us. It's in the time we have to consume, and the attention we can give to creation. Creation of content, by its nature, involves the consumption of older content, and the laws must reflect this, or they're economically non-productive. (Energy creation and consumption must similarly become a two-way street, all of us creating what we can from the Sun or wind or heat around us, and the current grid evolving into something remarkably like the Internet. But that's anoither show.)

So what happens now?

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Politics | blogging | computer interfaces | law

January 10, 2006

A Government Action I Like

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Too bad it's not my government.

The Korean government has jawboned an agreement from that nation's mobile operators to get rid of the walled gardens and make mobile Internet service, well, Internet service.

Mike over at TechDirt picked up this story yesterday and noted that Helio, formerly SK Earthlink, could use the lesson to pick up some market share here. He's right.

But the example shows just how far away we are from rational government policy in the U.S., and how easy it would be to make radical improvements with just minor changes to that policy.

If the Bush Administration would put its foot down and DEMAND network neutrality, the Bells would quickly shut up about violating the policy.

If FCC chairman Kevin Martin were to go to the March CTIA convention and say, for instance, that walled gardens are wrong, and that the industry would be wise to do away with them, it would have a major impact. Especially if he were willing to back up his soft words with a big stick.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces | law | marketing

January 09, 2006

The Watermarking of the Web

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

afp-logo-1.jpgThe news business is going to try cracking down on the Web this year.

Already, I'm seeing all news pictures, even common mug shots of celebrities, given labels. They're small, usually in a corner. They read AP or AFP or Reuters. But they mark these pictures as property, and allow the rights-owners to track them as they're used on other Web sites.

The next step, of course, is to send out RIAA letters to Web sites, demanding that the pictures be taken down or (more likely) that the news agencies be paid cash money for their use.

Personally, I'm avoiding the issue by avoiding the pictures, but that's not likely to be viable over the long run. Because just about every image file out there is owned by someone, and most don't have Creative Commons logos on them.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: B2B | Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Digital Divide | Internet | Journalism

Congress Passes Blatantly Unconstitutional Law Against Internet Speech

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

noid.gifIf Congress thought Netizens were angry before, now we're furious.

Declan McCullagh revealed today that buried inside some must-pass legislation from last year is a provision from Sen. Arlen Spector, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that bans all anonymous Internet speech that "annoys."

Annoys? Excuse me? You may not know this, Arlen, but the Federalist Papers were extremely annoying. So were the anti-federalist papers. (You may not have known such existed, but they did.) All of this debate, which is at the heart of our system (and which predates the Bill of Rights, not coincidentally) was conducted anonymously. The Founders rightfully feared legal harassment from the several states for their annoying speech, and kept their names to themselves as they debated the questions publicly. One thing to emerge from all this, of course, was a promise to cofify specific rights of the people, of which Freedom of Speech would come in the First Amendment.

Since then we've had ample precedent and rhetoric upholding the principle that annoying speech, even anonymous annoying speech, is OK. (The legal problem emerges when you get into deliberate falsehoods, into libel or slander, not annoyance.) Among the most recent such defenses is one from Mr. Justice Thomas, in McIntyre vs. Ohio Election Comm., 1995.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | History | Internet | Journalism | Politics | law | personal

January 06, 2006

Making Microsoft Disappear

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

risk.jpgEver play the old board game Risk?

There were two winners at the end, and one ultimate winner. The first kid would pile all his counters up in one spot (usually Greenland, because it was big on the Risk board) and place one or two on adjacent squares. The second kid, the one who won, would right their way across the board strategically, taking on the first kid only at the end. Once the final battle started, and everyone knew how it was going to go (the first kid was going down), they'd walk away, someone would upend the board, and the first kid would claim he won, or got a draw, or something.

In computing Bill Gates is the first kid. The desktop is Greenland. Everything is focused on Windows and Office. And when computing was based on the desktop -- in the early days of the Great Game -- Gates looked dominant.

But the world is connected. Larry Page is playing the role of the other kid. He's sweeping the board right now, thanks to the Google Bubble, and today at CES he showed the hand he'll play against Gates over the next year.

The talk is going to all be about Google TV, and the scuttlebutt will all be about the Google PC, while software types (like me) will look really closely at the Google Pack of software.

It's what the Google Pack doesn't contain that most intrigues me.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

January 05, 2006

The Google Bubble

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bubble.jpgWe haven't had that kind of spirit here since, 1999.

And watch out. It lies like cocaine.

How else do you explain Google supposedly heading to $600/share? How else do you explain a company with $500,000 in revenues over its entire lifetime thinking it can go public at $270 million? How else do you explain rumors of Google replacing the phone company with WiFi or bringing out its own PC? Where else do you get rumors of Microsoft offering $80 billion for Yahoo, and Yahoo (worth under $60 billion currently) saying no?

Now Google is not to blame for this, and Google has a responsibility to shareholders to use its virtual wealth and create long-term value, something it is trying hard to do. Bubbles are not born in Silicon Valley. They are born on Wall Street. They are born by salesmen, stock salesmen, people pretending that "this time will be different," as they've done since the 19th century.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | History | Internet | Investment

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

January 02, 2006

Fox' MySpace Violates Net Neutrality

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Rupert%20murdoch.jpgFolks who were wondering how Rupert Murdoch and Fox would try and capitalize on the purchase of MySpace over the summer don't have to wait any longer.

They're doing it by trying to break network neutrality, from inside a Web site.

Net neutrality is a basic principle of the Internet. It means you can go where you want. But if you are a registered user of Murdoch's MySpace today, you can't go to YouTube, which MySpace has deemed (without telling anyone) a competitor.

Alice Marshall's Technoflak reports that Murdoch's site has blocked access to YouTube from MySpace users, giving them white space instead. The site has also erased all references to YouTube from MySpace posts.

I thought that as word of this gets around the MySpace site it would be interesting to see how enthusiastic people are to remain there, and how many might be looking for a new online home. Oh, wait, it's already getting around. (Things happen fast in the blogosphere.)

Here is the story at the BlogHerald, with more details (the idiots are even modifying user profiles to erase references to YouTube) and while the rebels tried to get organized against this, they made the mistake of trying to launch their campaign from within MySpace.

...continue reading.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | Investment | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising

December 28, 2005

Om mane padme WRONG

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

om-malik.jpgI always wanted to write that headline, and finally got the chance today.

Om in this case is Om Malik, whose broadband blog has become one of my regular stops in daily newsgathering.

Om's view? Speed doesn't matter. Who cares if it's 1 Mbps or 2 or 10 or 20? The applications are all the same. What are you going to do with it?

Well in one sense he's right. The faster speeds being sold and claimed by cable and Bell companies right now are bogus. I switched to cable a few months ago and I'm switching back. The cable claims it's running at 5 Mbps, but not really. It's like a hose that sputters and drips. Sometimes it works at that speed, but usually it doesn't. When it comes to such things as latency and real throughput, an ADSL line, like the one I had before, is faster. (I'm sorry Earthlink. I'll hurry home as fast as I can.)

But in the broader sense, he's full of, well, the remains of holiday food. Because just as faster chips meant new applications (and interfaces) in the 1980s and 1990s, so faster broadband can mean that today.

...continue reading.

Comments (13) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: 802.11 | Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | Politics | computer interfaces

December 27, 2005

Memo to Soros

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

george%20soros.jpgGeorge Soros (left) has emerged as one of the primary boogeymen of the Right Wing. Not only do the Warbloggers invoke his name in order to justify their continuing to wear Vast Leftwing Conspiracy tinfoil hats, but so do corporate conservatives, who resent his interference in their feeding at the Republican trough, and the scare he helped put into them during 2004.

But in fact Soros has been quiet since Kerry lost. Very quiet. Too quiet. On the whole he's gone back to doing what he did before, make money arbitraging currencies and commodities. This is a noble profession that dates back to the days of George Peabody. (Maybe you heard of the man Peabody left in charge of his enterprises. Junius Morgan. No? How about Junius' son, the one he named for the preacher, J.P.? Getting warmer?)

Anyway, George may be looking for a good, cheap way to turn America into a new, more profitable direction, and here's one right here. Fund TeleTruth.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Internet | Investment | Journalism | Politics | Telecommunications | law

December 23, 2005

Family Fun, for Christmas

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

myheritage%20mingaling.jpgJust in time for Christmas, Atlanta blogger Mingaling (right) offered me (and therefore you) access to a great family fun game for the holidays.

It's actually the beta test for something called MyHeritage. It will act as a genealogical research site, helping folks find relatives based on facial characteristics.

The beta test lets you input a mug shot into the site, and have it select, from a collection of 2,000 celebrities, who you most look like. I know of one family where the father looks like Donald Rumsfeld (supposedly), the mother looks like Shirley Temple (supposedly) and the kids look like Muhammed Ali (also supposedly). And they're not even black!

Mingaling looks like Luci Liu (lucky girl). Who do you look like?

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Internet | fun stuff | marketing | online advertising

December 22, 2005

The Social Generation

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

rjchristmas.JPGA posting from Bernie Goldbach in Ireland helped remind me of just how much progress we've seen in the last decade.

The best way to see it is through the eyes of people who are growing up.

I've got two right here.

Robin and John are part of the Internet Generation, just as I am part of the TV Generation. It's their vocabulary. It's where they're most comfortable. We have one TV in our house, and not too many fights over it, because both kids are more likely to be spending time online than slumped in front of the Idiot Box. (He likes Comedy Central, though, and she still likes cartoons.)

A decade ago they were well ahead of the curve.They're not anymore, which is fine by me.

A few points about their own use of technology:


  • They assume technology. (Robin's shirt refers to a robot her club made this fall.)
  • They assume an immense amount of choice.
  • They assume a PC will be available, at hand.
  • They take e-mail connections as a given. Also IM.
  • They type fast, although they don't know they're doing it.
  • They assume broadband is available. When it was down earlier this fall, well, it was rough.
  • They know how to avoid bad people, liars, and predators.
  • They are dedicated to favorite activities, no more likely to stray from them than, say, I am. The difference is their favorite activities change.

Your mileage, of course, will vary.

There are also the usual accoutrements of youth -- an assumption and acceptance of constant, even accelerating change. Optimism, impatience, curiousity, energy, humor, mood swings. And something I can't explain -- they get along with their parents. (I have no idea how we lucked into that one, frankly. But I treasure it.)

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | fun stuff | personal

December 21, 2005

Web Bloatware

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bloatware.gifOne of my favorite Web bugaboos has always been bloatware. (This cute guy came up in a search for the term, but he's a blowfish, delicious batter-fried with tarter sauce. Like an aquatic drumstick.)

My first run-in with this imperative was over a decade ago now, at the old Interactive Age. The art director wanted to force folks to go through her home page before getting to my daily news hole. The home page was pretty, a mock-up of each magazine's cover. But it was bloatware.

Bloatware wastes time without providing value. And it's creeping into the Web again.

Two examples:

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | computer interfaces | e-commerce | online advertising

December 20, 2005

The eBay Myth

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

ebaylogo.jpgThe eBay Myth is that you are somehow safe there.

This has never been true. From the beginnings of the service, in the 1990s, eBay deliberately tried to hold its security expenses to a minimum.

First, "the community": was to be relied upon. Then you were told, it's your risk. The eBay financial system has never been a member of Visa because achieving that level of security would be too expensive. So eBay bought PayPal and tried to turn it into a private bank -- only it lacked banking security.

It is natural to rely on cops in the financial world -- after you have done everything possible to protect yourself. That costs money, and money is something eBay has always been reluctant to spend, at least on computer security.

Now eBay admits that many accounts are being hijacked by crooks, and it acts surprised. Once again, they seem to blame crime victims and "phishing" e-mails when in fact it's their own security (or lack of it) that is at fault.

Successful eBay merchants have been pushing-back on this story, with letters claiming they're happy bunnies, but they're insiders here.

The fact is that eBay has never paid-out what was necessary to assure any level of security. It has pocketed that money as profit, and now it's reaping the whirlwind for that.

Want to prove me wrong?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Security | e-commerce

December 19, 2005

Time Warner Dips Into the Funny Money Again

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

aol-timewarner.jpgLike an addict going into a bar after just getting out of jail for their last bender, Time Warner is going for the Internet funny money again.

This time it's Google, which has promised to rescue Time Warner's AOL investment by valuing the failing online service at $20 billion.

For Google, this is funny money. When your stock is like gold, while you know it's water, it's easy to give everyone a drink. Bubble companies always go through this phase. Yahoo did, Microsoft did, and now Google could buy Time Warner about five times over so why not toss it a bone?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Internet | Investment | marketing | online advertising

December 16, 2005

The Traffic Economy

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

blogger%20traffic.gifWhat motivates a blogger most? (Image from the blog of James P. MacLennan.

Traffic.

It's not really money, although money is nice. What bloggers want more than anything is traffic, and the attention that traffic generates.

Traffic validates. Traffic defines our value within the blogosphere.

There have been many attempts to calculate this over the last few years. There were blogrolls. There are link numbers. But these are mere approximations. What we want are page views, audience, comment strings so long that we ignore them or (maybe better) turn them off (because we're now so powerful and important).

Despite the talk among bloggers about how we transcend the "old media," what jazzes us more than anything is a TV or radio appearance. Then, unless we already work in TV or radio (in which case our blog starts with a huge head start) we put on our best suits, we luxuriate in the makeup chair, and we preen for the cameras.

I've often said writers are shy egomaniacs, and it's on display all over the blogosphere. Even though the talents needed in writing, blogging, and TV appearances are all quite different, what most bloggers really want is to be, in some small way, "king of all media" (at least in our minds).

Now, what are the business implications of all this?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Digital Divide | Internet | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce | personal

Is This Google's Riskiest Move Yet?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

googlelogo.gifGoogle has launched a music search service, just a week after the Music Publishers' Association launched a legal move to close lyric sites and put their owners in jail.

Google has been at the forefront of the Copyright Wars and has always taken an aggressive position in favor of the free flow of information. It has yet to back down in court, although it has watched some things (newsgroups and Blogger) wither on its watch.

In this case, Google insists it will only act as a link, using legitimate "music partners" like iTunes and providing only snippets of data on its own, like song lists. In fact, there is no Google "tab" as there is with News, for instance. Instead, a "search music" button appears when you do a search on a relevant term in the regular Google search box. This can be based on a specific term, or the button can lead you to music-related results even on a general term.
By combining with other tech companies in this effort, Google seems to be pushing a compromise on the recording industry, which has tried to force users into accepting its technology choices, its terms and conditions.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | Podcasting | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

December 15, 2005

Windows Live Why?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

windows%20live%20local.pngI was attracted to Windows Live by a Web blog I respect, but whose name I have somehow lost.

The claim which struck me was images with Windows Live were clearer than those with Google Earth. Some examples were shown.

I tried it. The differences are marginal. In many ways Google Earth is better. In some ways Wndows Live is better.

But I'm left with a question. Why is Microsoft wasting money copying what someone else is doing, when it could be using that money doing what no one else can? This is a question that has been bothering me ever since Google rose to challenge Microsoft.

The only answer I can come up with is that this is the way Microsoft has always operated. It copies others' innovations, then crushes them with its marketing might. The difference is that Google operates on the Internet, not inside a client Windows can crush. Netscape, the challenger a decade ago, offered a browser, a client program which Microsoft could copy, throw inside its operating system, and crush.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Software

Nationalize the Phone Network

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

leakyrowboat.jpgIt's a crazy notion that is going nowhere.

But it would solve a lot of problems, most especially for the Bells, who would be the idea's staunchest opponents, if it were proposed. (It's not being proposed. I'm just blogging here. This is a thought experiment.)

The problem is there is billions of dollars in copper infrastructure that is becoming worthless faster than the loans made to build it can be paid off. This fact is the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about.

So throw those assets, and the debt behind them, into a pot. Sign yearly management contracts with the present owners (mainly the Bells) to keep those assets going.

Then anyone who wants to build on those assets (including the Bells) or provide services using those assets (like ADSL) can do so without discrimination. The Bells no longer have an incentive to stifle competition. They do have an incentive to build, to build fiber, to build what amounts to a cable system, because every dime they use in that effort is a new dime, and every dime that comes in as a result of that effort is their dime.

The Bells would all create management arms, and cash flow from the contracts. But the corporation as a whole would have a different set of incentives. It would want those costs kept down. It would be pushing all its assets into advanced services, and seeing the management company as a cash drain. Fine. If they try to starve the management company, there would be a process by which customers could complain and have a new manager appointed.

Why should the Bells agree to this?

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Digital Divide | Economics | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | fun stuff | personal

December 14, 2005

Monopolists at the Academic Gates

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

fondren%20library.jpgFor the last few days I've been needlessly obsessed with a study I found at Georgia State University, about peer-reviewed journals. (The image is of Fondren Library at Rice University, where I got some really great naps during the 1970s, and worked for a peer-reviewed journal.)

The article cites a study from England indicating academics prefer peer review to simply posting studies on the Web and letting everyone criticize them.

I grabbed hold of a telling detail, while nearly half believed open access (as using the Web is called) would undermine the current system, 41% said that would be a good thing.

I should have waited, because today the folks at Georgia State gave me (as they say) "the rest of the story."

It's an article in Library Journal which the publisher (Reed-Elsevier) has conveniently declined to make available on their Web site, which offers the smoking gun.

The article, by Theodore Bergstrom and R. Preston McAfee, charged that the publishers of peer-reviewed journals are collecting monopoly profits on labor donated to them by universities.

It's time to recognize a simple fact and react to it: the symbiotic relationship between academics and for-profit publishers has broken down. Large for-profit publishers are gouging the academic community for as much as the market will bear. Moreover, they will not stop pricing journals at the monopoly level, because shareholders demand it.

So far, universities have failed to use one of the most powerful tools they possess: charging for their valuable input. Journal editing employs a great deal of professorial and staff time, as well as supplies, office space, and computers, all provided by universities.

Academic journals cost very little to print or distribute. They are produced, in fact, by researchers who agree to be part of the peer-review process. They are a bottleneck through which knowledge must pass before the rest of us get a crack at it.

Yet these same journals are owned by for-profit publishers, who keep raising their prices, forcing universities to pay for them, often with government money

At ZDNet Open Source recently I called this a battle between academe and open source. But in fact there's more to it than that. There's the abuse of monopoly power, and the acceptance of an abusive relationship by the academic community.

When private companies are allowed to gain monopoly profits, often paid-for by government funds, and act as a bottleneck to knowledge, something is clearly very wrong.

With apologies to Bergstrom and McAfee there are, in fact, several things schools could do:

...continue reading.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: B2B | Business Models | Copyright | Digital Divide | Economics | Internet | Science

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 Dictionary.com 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

December 06, 2005

Web 1.0 Bust on Web 2.0 Boom

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

ecost_logo.gifOne of the hidden ironies in the present Web 2.0 boom is that it occurs against the backdrop of a continuing Web 1.0 bust.

Companies that arose in the 1990s in such niches as e-commerce have never really recovered from the dot-bomb of 2000. In particular online department stores like Buy.Com, Overstock.Com and eCost.com have come to look as faded as old Penney's and Sears department stores did a decade ago.

Nothing unusual here. The reason we've had so few recessions in recent decades, and such short ones, is that new booms pile on behind the old ones, so that a failure in one segment is matched by the rise of another.

Anyway, Buy.Com is planning an IPO because they need the capital, eCost is being de-listed, and Overstock.Com lost money in its last quarter.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

December 05, 2005

Lessons From Virgin Mobile

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

virginmobile.gifWired phone assets are plunging in value.

It's that simple. Wireless assets are rising in value, wired assets are plunging in value, so the Bells figure if they can run the wired like the wireless they'll create more value.

The problem is they're looking at the wrong lesson. As usual, the Bellheads are being dumber than dirt.

The light bulb went off in my head when I saw, today, that NTL (a cable company) offer abougt $1.5 billion (817 million pounds in real money) for Virgin Mobile, which is no more than a reseller.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Internet | Telecommunications | cellular

December 01, 2005

Bells Formally Seek End of Network Neutrality

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

wsmith.jpgBellSouth has joined AT&T's call to end "network neutrality" and let it charge rents for sites' access to customers.

BellSouth CTO William Smith said he only wanted to charge some sites for "better" access, but he used the exact same rationale as AT&T head Ed Whitacre, that BellSouth's investment in lines justifies its killing the basic principle behind the Internet. .

A House subcommittee has begun auctioning off the end of network neutrality as it considers new broadband legislation. The Bells have all the money in the world, and can win this fight with a corrupt Congress unless you act now.

If you have an AT&T or BellSouth DSL line, you need to seek out an alternative and send those companies a letter saying you will switch unless they back off. A marketplace response to a marketplace threat is the correct alternative here.

...continue reading.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (2) | Category: Internet | Telecommunications | law

November 28, 2005

Finally, Some Decent Podcast Aggregation

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

po-di-um.pngOne of my biggest problems with the whole podcasting "phenomenon" is the shortage of good aggregation tools.

There are many Podcast organizers out there, in other words, but no one place you can go to see it all.

Until now. A Japanese outfit called Podium has launched a beta of just such a service. Here, on one page, you have all the major podcast "networks," and their top downloads, one-through-ten, along with direct links to the sites themselves. (Given its location, it's no surprise that the page is available in Japanese, Chinese, and English. The link is to the English-language page.)

The same page also features quick links to the RSS feeds of any existing aggregator. One-stop shopping.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Podcasting

Mapquest Going Down

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

mapquest.jpgMapquest, the AOL-owned first-mover in online mapping, is about to fall.(That's their map of Cancun to the right.)

The Clue here is an AP story that looks like it was ordered-up by the AOL marketing department, but which can't resist showing cracks in the veneer.

The headline is about Mapquest pushing mobile mapping (which is good). The unwritten story is how Mapquest may be signing carriers to exclusive deals that keep rivals off, something that is possible since mobile "Internet" service is not Internet service at all, but private networks controlled by carriers.

Still, there are big problems revealed here, such as:

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces | e-commerce | online advertising

November 25, 2005

Where China is Vulnerable

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

china%20pollution.jpgStories like this are getting to be old hat.

A blogger is arrested after being nominated for a "freedom of expression" award. Chat sites are closed for allowing dissent. To many western eyes the Middle Kingdom seems secure, a totalitarian state which works and will keep working until its economic success buries us.

That's not true, although I no longer believe that the Internet, by itself, will make the difference.

Instead, it's stories like this that will turn the tide. Harbin, a city of 3.8 million (bigger than Chicago), had its water system completely shut down because of a chemical spill. Hundreds of villages nearby have been evacuated, the BBC reports, because of some 100 million tons of benzene which were released into the river after a chemical plant exploded.

The Western media is focused on the fact that China is actually allowing its state-owned media to report the event. But there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of smaller spills occurring every year throughout the country. The skies above Beijing are a sickly yellow, and it's environmental issues that are the most common cause for political protest throughout the country.

In this, as in the West, China is traveling down a well-trod path. And it's a path that has led, in every country, in the same direction -- democratization.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Journalism

November 24, 2005

How A Titty Bar Visit Could Cost You Big Time

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

rob%20mccormick.jpgAT&T and MCI are a giant step closer to pricing power over the Internet backbone because of a 2003 visit to a topless bar.

The visitor was apparently Savvis CEO Rob McCormick (left), , who with just three friends ran up a bill of $241,000, paid for it with an AmEx card, then disputed the charge for two years.

McCormick, 40, was canned Wednesday.

But this was no ordinary lover of the dance. McCormick transformed Savvis after joining it in 1999 from Bridge Information (later bought by Reuters).

Back then St. Louis-based Savvis was a medium-sized backbone and hosting provider whose big innovation was the use of Private Network Access Points (PNAPs) to reduce latency. McCormick transformed the company, taking it public in 2000, then buying Cable & Wireless' U.S. assets in 2004 for a reported bargain basement $155 million. While Moore's Law of Fiber was turning backbone provision into a killing field, in other words, McCormick was one of the killers.

Savvis is now known as a data center company and tthe leader in what McCormick calls "utility computing" -- virtualizing services and breaking the link between the applications and the hardware they supposedly run on. Here's how he put it to Infoconomy in July:

"You should not buy from someone who says they can cut your spending by 3%. The real problem is to cut your spending in half, or you are not going to get anywhere. Unless you fundamentally change something, rather than incrementally change it, then you are not going to fix it."


...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Telecommunications

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 23, 2005

We're Number 21

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

feedster.gifEvaluating blog traffic has always been a dicey proposition.

There have been many attempts, with many different methodologies. There were blogrolls, hits, unique visitors, all sorts of nonsense.

Feedster has recently adjusted their methodology. They try to count all links, and discount the spam ones. The most interesting innovation here is the tag cloud, which you can see to the right of the list. Notice that popular tags are bigger than less-popular ones. The biggest remain politics and tech, followed by gadgets (which is a sub-set of tech). (Oh, and let's not forget to send a little link love to Robert Scoble (number 76), who turned me on to this.

What's interesting here is that these are subjects for which print publishers either have poor publishing models or failing ones. If you were invested in computer magazines over the last decade, you lost your shirt. Political publications have always been money holes.

As you will note from the headline, Corante is number 21 on the list, with 18,446 adjusted links. That's well ahead of such reportedly popular sites as Gawker, TalkingPointsMemo, Eschaton and Kottke..

You can see some of the unfairness right there.

Here I'm comparing a whole bunch of people (of which I'm proud to be one) to the sites of individuals. And, in fact, the big MSM blogging headline of 2005 has been the rise of "group blogs," so-called blogs that are actually running some sort of Community Network Service, like Dailykos (number four on the list), and the Huffington Post (number seven).

So let's be fair, with a bunch of group blogs Corante out-polled:

And that's just in the first 150.Don't you wish there were some solid business models on that list somewhere?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce

November 18, 2005

Open Source Political Opportunity

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

boycott-riaa.jpgThe year 2006 is shaping up to be a bad political year for incumbents, a good one for challengers of all sorts.

It may be the best opportunity ever to end the Copyright Wars and gain political neutrality (at least) for issues like unlicensed spectrum (WiFi) and open source.

Challengers may have Karl Rove's K Street Project to thank for this chance. As soon as Bush took office, Rove began pressing lobbyists to end their even-handed treatment of the parties and put all their eggs in the Republican basket. The result is most corporate lobbies are locked-in to supporting GOP incumbents, which until now let them write their own tickets.

But in a democracy political winds shift. Democrats are not interested in doing lobbyists any favors, even with the wind at their backs.
markos2.jpg
And Democratic challengers may be downright antagonistic, especially if they come to office as so-called "netroots" candidates. That's because one of the main policy differences between Washington and the netroots involves technology policy, such issues as copyright, network neutrality, and competition for broadband.

But that's not all.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | Politics | blogging | law

Blogging Bubble

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bubble.jpgThe launch of so-called Open Source Media (no, they're not open source, in fact they try to keep people from even using fair use quotation through a EULA, don't get me started ) is proof that a Blogging Bubble is well underway.

Why? No business model.

Everyone doing a blogging network, whether AOL (Weblogsinc), Gawker Media, Metroblogs, Huffington Post, OSM, you name it -- they're all using a media strategy. And Dana's First Law of Internet Commerce is:

It's not publishing, it's not TV, it's the Internet.

Any strategy based on bulk advertising, based on pure page views, is going to fail. No strategy based on pure star power can succeed, because it doesn't take into account the fact that stars fade and stars emerge. (It's not who you are, it's what you're saying, that counts.)

So, smart guy, what do we REALLY want?

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Investment | blogging | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

November 16, 2005

What Becomes a Blog Most?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

kent.gifI just spent several hours working (free) for a friend, tearing through and reviewing several dozen blogs he thought were pretty good. (That's George Reeves, at right.)

This helped me a great deal. I learned a lot about what I like to see in a blog, and what I don't like to see.

Let's start with what I like to see:

  • Good thoughtful writing.
  • Unpredictability.
  • The feeling that there's a person there.
  • Availability of comments.
  • An RSS feed that at least tells me what I need to know about an item before it's truncated because they're looking for ad revenue.
  • Some reporting that involves more than a hotlink would be nice.

This is part of what's wrong with corporate blogging. Whether it's an executive blog, a publisher blog, or a product blog, it's just too predictable. The writing is often so strait-jacketed (in order to make it replicable and corporate-approved) that the life is knocked out of it.

Blogging is a very human activity. So is reading blogs. Given that general topics such as "politics" or "technology" are going to result in a lot of coverage of the same things, it helps if the writer has a unique take. There better be someone home. Talking points, whether corporate or political, are a waste of my time.

Which leads me to what I don't want to see in blogs:

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Digital Divide | Internet | Journalism | blogging | personal

November 15, 2005

Give Me Hotzones or Give Me Death

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Patrick%20Henry.gifThere's a lot of hyperbole there. (Patrick Henry, right, was nothing if not hyperbolic.)

But the fact is that the tools and technologies needed to create a "hot zone" -- an area that can get 802.11 wireless coverage -- keeps going down.

There is no need for such zones to be defined by political boundaries. There is no need for there to be just one such network in an area. There are tons of places near me that have multiple networks in reach. That's the beauty of the unlicensed band.

What you need to deliver a HotZone to a corner, a neighborhood, or a development are:

The biggest danger to this vision is coming, the mergers of local and Internet backhaul outfits to be known as Verizon and AT&T.

If those companies are allowed to consolidate and control Internet backhaul and sell it through an eye-dropper, as they now sell broadband through an eye-dropper, then they can halt the American wireless revolution in its tracks.

But there's a dirty little secret for these boys.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Models | Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Internet | Investment | Moore's Lore | Politics | Telecommunications

Phishing and Terrorism

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

john%20robb.JPGJohn Robb, at his Global Guerillas site, today has one of his most fascinating posts yet, a comparison between terrorism networks and phishing networks.

He starts with an analysis of the phishing business from Chris Abad of Cloudmark, which found that its vertical integration is very loose. Instead it consists of specialists in various horizontal skills -- mass e-mail, templates, chat rooms, fences - which individual gangs then put together. Then he notes this is just the way the IED market is run in Iraq.

The result is intense competition at each stage of the supply chain, and incredibly low prices for phishers and terrorists. A terrorist can get an IED to blow up an American convoy for just $50.

The bazaar for such transactions is the key. It's virtual.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Digital Divide | Internet | Politics | Security | law | spam | war

Content Fetish

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

brian%20roberts%20comcast.jpgOne of the strangest aspects of the post Bell break-up era has been the continuing Bell fascination with content.

The reason for it: cable envy.

While phone service, and Internet service, take money only for bits, cable companies have long made money three ways. They make money on the bits they transmit, they make money from the content companies sending those bits, and they make money from local advertising.

Seen from that point of view, Ed Whitacre’s nonsense about charging Google rent for reaching “his” customers makes a little sense. It makes more sense when you look at history. ADSL was first launched a decade ago as a way for phone companies to offer cable service. BellSouth, Sprint, and MCI all bought MMDS bandwidth in the 1990s to deliver wireless cable service.

The triple play has nothing to do with consumers, in other words. It has to do with revenue streams.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | History | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications

November 11, 2005

The Fall of eBay

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

MegWhitman.jpgeBay is going down.

The collapse of its stock price may be followed by the collapse of the entire company. Certainly a fire sale is in the offing.

I can say this with some certainty because eBay has bought itself an enormous political problem with Skype, a fight it can't win because of its diminishing goodwill.

...continue reading.

Comments (23) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | e-commerce | law

Analysts, Advocates and Journalists

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

thinksecret.pngThe real difference between mere "blogging" and "journalism" is a functional one.

And here is the test. What does the opinionated blogger do when the story goes against them?

Analysts cover the story. They may or may not admit to error, but they write through the pain. The real journalists among them put their feelings about the event completely aside, they go into the winner's locker room, they get the quotes, they describe what happened, and (based on the facts they gathered) they help the reader or viewer understand what may happen next.

The advocates drift away. They change the subject. They're full of "oh, yeah" because they were never in the fight to begin with, just in the crowd.

There are many people who are paid to do journalism who are, in fact, merely doing advocacy today. They're the columnists who write about something else when events go the other way. I find such behavior all over the blogosphere -- liberals who were quiet through November 2004, conservatives who are now silent on the Administration's scandals. I also find it in the nation's biggest newspapers, and on the TV news.

Advocates wait for the talking points, or they change the subject and keep attacking rather than dealing with what anyone else may be saying.

Analysts admit defeat, and try to see what is next.

Journalists act like they don't care, and that's a good thing. They look for facts, they write up what they find, and they move on.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | personal

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

The Achilles Heel of Web 2.0

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

eBayLogoTM.gifThe hidden flaw, or Achilles Heel, of scaled technology systems like Amazon, eBay and Google is that the technology replaces human action.

Techdirt's recent story of the angriest eBay seller is just one example. The folks at eBay have always been lax in putting human resources against their computerized auction house, and frankly I won't do business with it as a result. A seller who threatens buyers physically should not be on the system, period.

It's an open secret that eBay is beset by fraud, on both sides of transactions, that Google results can be clickfrauded, that Amazon is robbed by identity thieves. These companies regularly calculate the cost of real police against the perceived benefits from better policing and keep the wallets in the pocket. We all suffer from that.

The danger is that every Web 2.0 start-up I've seen or heard of goes the same route. Computer interactions are replacing human interaction, cutting the costs of transactions. Perhaps we're cutting too deeply.

The problem, technocrats insist, is that people "don't scale." I can only do a certain amount of work each day. Same with you. When it comes to computer work, just put in another server, another T-3 line, and the same software's impact is multiplied.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Economics | Futurism | Internet | e-commerce

November 07, 2005

The End of Online Freedom?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

left%20blogistan.jpgThe failure of the Online Freedom of Speech Act has provoked intense anger in Left Blogistan (pictured), directed mainly at its own representatives in Congress, and those interest groups supporting "government reform."

It's easily dismissed as a left-wing copy of the right's anger over the Miers nomination, except that while Bush eventually pulled Miers and gave the right what it wanted, liberal bloggers are not going to get what they want, which is an exemption from the demands of the McCain-Feingold Act.

The rage is especially acute against the Pew Charitable Trusts, which worked with other liberal foundations to pass campaign reform and then beat back the Online Freedom of Speech Act. For the first time, liberal bloggers are comparing Pew with the right-wing Scaife, Olin and Heritage Foundations, and not in a good way either.

Regulations for the Internet under McCain-Feingold have not yet been finailized, and while the left rages, let me offer another view..

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Digital Divide | Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | law

November 04, 2005

This Week's Clue: 20th Century Limited

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

lightning.jpgWith a "crack" of thunder last Friday I was plunged into the deep past, into the 20th century.

The sound fried my phone line. More important, it knocked me off the Internet.

The world of the 20th century, I quickly learned, is a world of limited information. I had to watch Hurricane Wilma on TV. I couldn't get any word on my favorite football team (Sheffield Wednesday). My view of the local scene was limited to what my newspaper chose to print.

It took me back to my own life in that century. I gathered information by phone. I entered it on a typewriter. I flashed my eyes across typewritten notes to produce my copy, and I filed the results in real file folders.

I also worked within a functional business model, one I'm still trying to replace.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Digital Divide | Internet | Investment | Journalism | personal

Viruses Cut out the Middleman

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Instead of attacking Windows, Linux, or the Mac, today's hip, new virus writers are going after the anti-virus programs.

Russian-born Israeli Andrey Bayora has documented how this is done at his company, SecurityElf. He dubs the attack, "The Magic Byte." and the trick is simply to hide from anti-virus scans the type of file you've inserted into the system.

In hexadecimal (which is where all software actually lives, no matter how it's written) all executable, or .EXE programs start with the characters MZ, expressed in hex as 0x4D5A. But many files let the header start anywhere, not just the head, so by just adding a byte in front of that header, or prepending, you're giving an anti-viral scan the equivalent of "go on along, there are no droids here." When in fact there are.

This problem affects just about every anti-viral scanner out there, including the one you're probably using, and definitely including the one I'm using. Bayora took some old, easily-disabled viruses, used this trick on them, and bango - they were invisible (but still active).

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Internet | Security | Software

November 02, 2005

The Second Great Reversal

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

There was a reversal in American politics during the 20th century. Democrats went from Woodrow Wilson's racism to Bill Clinton's liberalism. Republicans went from being the Party of Lincoln to the Party of Reagan.

We may be seeing a second reversal here in the early 21st century. Republicans who once preached deregulation are now micro-managing the market and defying science. Democrats who urged regulation are now calling for it to end and embracing technology.

The reasons for this reversal come down to money and power Republicans see money as fueling their power. Democrats are stuck relying on bits. But bits can set you free.

bob%20frankston.gifBob Frankston's latest essay, called "Reality vs Regulation," illustrates this profound shift. Copyright and telecomm businesses threatened by rapid change have gone to Washington, campaign contributions in hand, to halt technology in its tracks. Moore's Laws of fiber, storage and radios, on the other hand, have moved us from an age of information scarcity to one of abundance.

Until this week, however, the rhetoric had not decisively shifted. Republican regulators still pretended to be in the deregulation business. Democrats were calling mainly for different regulations, not deregulation.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications

SBC Worldcom?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

worldcom_logo.jpgWorldcom was a classic “roll-up” which hid the truth behind accounting tricks, clever lies meant to create the appearance of profits where there were none.

Now TeleTruth charges SBC with doing the same thing (PDF warning on that link), except this time the lies were told to government regulators across the nation.

Writes analyst Bruce Kushnick, “It cut the fiber optic deployments in 13 states, California, Texas, SNET Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc. and in all all of the states, the companies got billions extra in higher phone rates, higher USF (Universal Service Fees), tax breaks, etc. And they all promised fiber to the home, 45mps, 500+ hannels. And when SBC merged, every fiber optic service was cancelled.” (Boldface is mine.)

Is this actionable? Were any of these promises made in contracts, or under oath? Is there a state attorney general willing to take this on as a case of fraud? And if they do, what can they turn up in discovery?

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Economics | Internet | Journalism | Telecommunications | law

November 01, 2005

Cops vs. Robbers

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Cops_Robbers.jpgSome recent posts at Techdirt have me thinking of some basic questions, about the pace of change and the continuing battle between cops and robbers.

In successive entries, we have dismissal of new anti-crime ideas from the banking industry, copyright cops taking on tricks of online robbers, and the same industry trying to push DRM technology onto analog devices. (I know, the order should be reversed, because the last item was written first, and the first last, but what can you do?)

In many ways robbers have natural advantages over cops in technology crime. Cops have to stop everything. Robbers only have to succeed once. But that's misleading, because once a robber is caught they're "in the system" -- you only have to be caught a few times to have your life ruined.

Robbers can also use many open source advantages, sharing tips freely while cops obsess over secrecy, engaging in innovation while cops have to maintain standards.

These are some of the concepts John Robb deals with in his Global Guerillas blog. How popular must an uprising become before it becomes impossible to take down? Put in terms of more ordinary crime, how many must oppose a law before it becomes virtually unenforceable?

What cops, and civilization, fear more than anything else is that the answer to that question drops as technological sophistication rises. They see civilization as digital, either existing or not existing.

This is the great false assumption of our time. It's false in two ways.

First, technology does increase the need for consensus, rather than narrow majorities, in order to hold society together, because the percentage of "objectors" needed to threaten society does go down as technological sophistication increases. This is not a bad thing. In fact, consensus is far more stable than democracy. Consensus is what keeps the Internet together.

Second, civilization is analog, not digital. The alternative to the absolute triumph of law and order is not chaos. We're talking about a much more complex structure. A certain amount of chaos must be acceptable in order for progress to continue. Shrinkage is natural. We work to balance shrinkage with costs in all our enforcement efforts. It's the only rational way to go.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | Moore's Lore | Politics | Security | law | war

Net Neutrality Will Triumph

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

at%26t%20logo.JPGA lot of people are (rightfully) upset over SBC CEO Ed Whitacre's recent statements dismissing the concept of network neutrality.

Given that SBC will take the AT&T name once its merger with that company is complete it has many fearfully humming the theme from "Empire Strikes Back," seeing the Death Star in the sky again, preparing to see the Internet lights turned off all over the world. (The song is now a favorite of every Enormous State University band, usually played in the Third Quarter as Little Sisters of the Poor are crushed.)

Frankly, Mr. Whitacre is an idiot. There are many reasons why net neutrality, and not paid content access, will triumph in the U.S.:


  • Google is one of the largest owners of dark fiber in the world. That's what their San Francisco WiFi bid is really all about. They need to fill that fiber, and WiFi can easily render wired phones (and lines) obsolete.
  • Sprint has some interesting deals going with cable companies that create a "triple play" with cable networks combining phone, mobile, and television service. Network neutrality in that offering could cause millions to switch off their phones.
  • Level 3 can easily link their fiber backhaul capacity to new providers via WiFi and WiMax, delivering another alternative for consumers.
  • People aren't stupid. Consumers understand what the concept of network neutrality means. If it's threatened they will demand it from regulators and Congress.
  • The U.S. is an increasingly small portion of the Internet. Continued slow growth will make the U.S. an economic backwater, and people know that.

...continue reading.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | e-commerce | marketing

October 31, 2005

The Collectors

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

shrage.jpgA friend tells me that Eric Schmidt isn't really in charge of Google, that it's still Sergey and Larry's show.

I don't know. That might be. If it is they have tipped their hand as to their corporate culture.

They're collectors. They collect great minds. Whether they listen to these minds is unclear. But they love to collect them. Get the whole set, like other kids collect trading stamps.

The latest "great mind" to join the collection is Elliot Schrage (above). He follows Vinton Cerf, "the father of the Internet" (so called) and Dr. Schmidt himself, the "father of Java" (also so-called).
The collectors like those kinds of titles. They like credentials. They're Stanford guys. They want proof of quality. Credentials are proof of quality.

Schrage is considered a "guru" on "sustainable sourcing." He's a lawyer, not just a PR guy, although the title he takes includes PR. He's a Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations.

He's a Big Head.

...continue reading.

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

The Return of AT&T

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Frankenstein.gifHiow is this for a Halloween story?

Like Frankenstein's monster, AT&T is coming back from the dead.

The genesis of this stupidity is probably the old North Carolina National Bank. It acquired dozens of banks, large and small, and became NationsBank. That was a new, powerful brand. Then it acquired the Bank of America, based in San Francisco. After the deal was done it took that name. Now, in downtown Charlotte, there are homages to the old BofA on the cornices of its downtown office campus, along with some of its other kills. The bank thinks it's a nod to history, but I think it's more like the old hunter who puts deer heads on his wall.

In this case, it's SBC chairman Ed Whitacre who has the big ambition. He thinks that, by using the AT&T name, he can inherit the Bell System and, eventually, recreate it. Put back together what was torn asunder, only this time with no regulation, no controls, all powerful.

And in control of your Internet.

In his first move with the power of AT&T, Whitacre wants to start charging sites rent in order to reach his customers. Forget network neutrality. Forget about the nature of the Internet, which is that users route around attempts at control. If you're using SBC (excuse me, AT&T) DSL, Ed Whitacre will decide what sites you can see, what services you can use, what protocols you can support. My guess is he won't start by demanding rents from Google. He may go after smaller sites, like Corante, first, in order to set the precedent. But this is his promise.

This is the way Bellheads think, and it's good to get it out in the open. It's all about control of the customer, total control. Whitacre seems under the impression that today's political status quo will survive forever, that he will be allowed to control his customers as he wants.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | e-commerce

October 30, 2005

Final Exam for CAN-SPAM

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

alt="spam.gif"Since its passage the CAN-SPAM act has done more to enable spam than any other act by anyone. It legalized specific forms of spam, it overturned stiffer state laws, and it has gone unenforced.

The primary enforcement of this "law" has come from private parties. Microsoft, which urged the act's passage, has been the most aggressive. And they're making one more attempt to make it work, suing 13 spam gangs that use malware to turn ordinary PCs into "spam zombies."

The lawsuits should make clear a dirty little secret of the spam wars. It's homegrown. Much of the spam supposedly coming from Korea, Russia or China is actually being bounced off servers there to mask its origins.

The likelihood of this being effective in stopping spam is nil. I also disagree on the need for new laws. Instead of going after spammers, go after the people who pay for spam to be sent.

A lot of spam represents fraudulent offers and those who make those offers should be prosecuted. Shaming corporations into policing their distribution channels and re-sellers would get rid of another hunk. Illegal offes should be prosecuted under fraud statutes. Attorney General Gonzalez might enjoy prosecuting porn spammers under obscenity statutes.

Shaming can work. There is little political spam for that very reason. Candidates and causes who spam lose support. When this happens to corporations, they will take the appropriate action.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | law | spam

Should I Kill My Phone Line?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bellsouth%20logo.gifOm Malik has an article that goes inside the Bells’ loss of DSL market share (and then phone lines).

In order to serve customers, phone companies must install expensive DSLAM equipment in each switch, and when that’s maxed-out they must install more. Cable operators, by contrast, made all their capital investment up-front. The “burden” of a higher market share is borne by the customers (who must share a limited resource), not the company.

Last week, as I noted here, I switched from DSL to cable modem for my broadband service. This was not the fault of BellSouth. It wasn’t really the fault of Earthlink, my DSL provider. A lightning strike hit my phone system, and the only way to learn that it also killed my PC’s Ethernet circuit was to come in and test it. The cable modem guy did that.

The question occurs, then, what about the rest of my phone service? I’m paying $60 for a single phone line, one I’ve used for nearly a quarter century, one I’m known for. That’s a lot to pay for a brand that, in theory, I can switch to a cell phone.

A decade ago, when I was with Interactive Age my employer, CMP Media, made me install an extra phone line they would be billed on. BellSouth actually had to replace the box outside my house with a new unit that could handle as many as six lines. Now one line lives where six were supposed to…and it’s hanging by a thread.

Is it time for me to kill my personal Bell?

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Internet | Telecommunications | 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 27, 2005

Saved by the Cable Guy

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

the%20cable%20guy.jpgI was ready to write a slam against Earthlink this morning. Twice they have lost my order for a new DSL modem. On the phone yesterday I grew quite testy.

But this morning the UPS guy showed up at my door, with a box from Earthlink. A DSL modem. Hooray!

Well, not hooray. First I had trouble getting it to go on. Turns out one of the plugs on my UPS was fried in Friday's lightning strike. Then I couldn't get the DSL light to go on, indicating the modem was working. After several hours on the phone (and several times on my knees) I was sent to a local Radio Shack for a DSL filter.

I had just installed the filter, and the green DSL light was still not there, when a miracle occurred.

It was a cable guy.

In my anger on the phone the previous day, I followed through on my threat to call the cable company. I told them I was a long-time cable subscriber (true) and asked how long it would take to get modem service. Three to five days, I was told. So I forgot about it.

Yet here on my doorstep was a cable guy, in a white truck, promising to have me on the Internet within minutes. Oh, frabjous day, calloo callay! I chortled as he worked.

But the install took longer than expected, and the explanation showed why I was wrong to curse Earthlink.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Internet | Telecommunications | personal

October 25, 2005

Comeback of the Year: Chris Anderson Leads Wired Back

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

wired=anderson.jpgThe naming of Chris Anderson as AdAge's "Editor of the Year" caps one of the biggest comeback stories in publishing history.

While Wired wasn't tjhe biggest boom-and-bust magazine story of the 1990s (The Industry Standard holds that honor) its sale to corporate America was seen as an ending. I (and many others) wrote often that Wired is Tired, using a cliche from the magazine's own pages. The magazine's horizons shifted inward, from revolution against the corporate system to service on its behalf.

Under Conde Nast, Anderson has turned that around. He has made Wired relevant again. He did this in part by thinking big thoughts himself, as in his own Weblog-book The Long Tail. But this is a team event. Anderson built a great team, which managed to produce many articles that turned heads.

I have great respect for this award, and new respect for Anderson, because I once wrote for AdAge and I know the process that goes into making this kind of announcement. AdAge's staff is putting its own prestige on the line by honoring Anderson. It does not do this lightly.

Congratulations, Chris. You obviously earned it. You're obviously Clued-in. Keep up the good work. And best of all, you're a Truly Handsome Man.

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

October 24, 2005

Off Line

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Panera Bread.jpgRegular readers of this space may wonder where I've gone.

There's a story there.

It starts Friday evening, when a sudden lightning strike knocked me offline. Turned out that my phone service was knocked out -- not the cable, not the electrical, just the phone.

I called for help from my cell phone, and (fortunately) the phone company was nice enough to make an appointment with a serviceman for this morning, Monday.

So what happened Monday you ask.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Futurism | Internet | personal | spam

October 21, 2005

This Week's Clue: The Entrepreneurial Mind Set

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

In my spare time I'm helping a start-up.

This has given my e-commerce newsletter, A-Clue.Com a realism it never had before. (Subscribe here.)

Now, as in this week's issue, it's the thinking of a real entrepreneur, inside the process. Strange days, indeed.

Enjoy.


Young people are naturally entrepreneurial.

I have two in my house. One wants to be a lawyer. The other isn't sure what she wants to be. But both work very hard, they are on the lookout for opportunity, and when something comes along they grab it.

I wish one of them knew PHP.

An aging society naturally has fewer people who will grab for a chance, who will move, who are willing to learn new things in order to make something happen. As the pool dwindles, many young people start getting old habits. They grow lethargic. They want to be shown. They want a guarantee. We see it in Japan, we see it in Europe, we see it in the U.S.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Investment | personal

eCraig

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

craig newmark.jpgWhen Craig Newmark sold 25% of his Craigslist to eBay last year, there was some skepticism. "This is a mistake. eBay bad and robotic, Craig's List human and good. And now on the way to selling out."

Well, that writer need not have worried. Craigslist can be robotic, too.

Before, and since, eBay bought an early executive's stake in his company, Newmark has been busy trying to control what the Internet says you can't control -- links.

Techdirt has a summary of the latest. Just as eBay blocked out people who tried to link its auctions with those of other companies, Craigslist has forbidden aggregation, even searches across multiple Craigslist sites.

Had Craigslist not sold its stake to eBay it might be difficult for it to get away with this. But lawyers are wonderfully useful creatures, able to stop even obviously-legal things, like linking into the site, by firing papers and money over the bow.

The queston isn't, is this right. (It's not.) The question is, is this helpful to Craigslist?

The simple fact is that, in the short term, it's not, but in the long term, it may be.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | e-commerce | law

Walter Scott's Internet Power Play

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

walter scott jr.jpg A childhood friend of Warren Buffett is engaged in a power play that could raise your Internet bills.

NOTE: I have been informed by commenters, and confirmed, that Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway sold its Level 3 stake in November 2003. Level 3 founder Walter Scott, however, is a childhood friend of Buffett's, and a member of the Berkshire-Hathaway board. The correct headline should thus be "Walter Scott's Internet Power Play." I deeply regret the error.

He's doing it through Level 3. Buffett owns bought a big, quiet stake in Level 3, through secured notes bought by Berkshire- I Hathaway in 2002. Also, Level 3 chairman Walter Scott is on the Berkshire-Hathaway board.

Level 3, one of the largest Internet backbone operators not owned by a Bell company, is losing money. It's trying to change this by getting tough on peering, the linking of its network to other ISPs.

Specifically it cut connectons with Cogent Communications, a smaller backbone provider, early this month, and plans to do it again next month. The effect is to render 15% of the Internet invisible to Cogent customers, and vice versa.

...continue reading.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Telecommunications

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 14, 2005

Yahoo's Blogging Dilemma

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

yahoo news.gifYahoo has begun offering some blogging results on its News search page. This, they think, puts them a step ahead of Google, which isolates blog results caught in the RSS net to a separate blogsearch page. (Both sites are in beta.)

Yahoo thinks this puts them ahead of Google in an important functionality. I think the folks at Yahoo would actually use a word like functionality.

But it does them little good (or this is barely alpha software):


  • Most blogs aren't indexed. This blog isn't indexed in Yahoo News.
  • No more than the first page of results are really available in any search that comes up with blogs. I got timed-out repeatedly trying to get past the first page of results today.
  • Blog results are segregated to the right of the news results. I think this will continue.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | online advertising

October 13, 2005

WYGIWYS -- What You Get Is What You See

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

jakob_nielsen.jpgThe Macintosh interface has been around, in one way or another, for 30 years. It has been the dominant computing interface for 15 years.

Jakob Nielsen (left), the King of Internet Usability (my title for him), says it is time for this to change.

The first attempt at that, he adds, will be in the next version of (wait for it) Microsoft Office.

The new interface displays galleries of possible end-states, each of which combine many formatting operations. From this gallery, you select the complete look of your target -- say an org chart or an entire document -- and watch it change shape as you mouse over the alternatives in the gallery. The interaction paradigm has been reversed; it's now What You Get Is What You See, or WYGIWYS.

I don't know how far this will get. We already have elementary versions of this interface in blogs. Blogs are based on templates, which specify typefaces, page design, and other elements before the writer starts to work. Here at Corante, these specifications are made centrally, and all Corante blogs look similar. That's also the way it works with such community network services as Drupal. Drupal calls such designs "themes," and the theme you choose for your community is the design every user gets -- reader, writer or administrator.

...continue reading.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Consumer Electronics | Internet | Moore's Lore | Software | blogging | computer interfaces

October 06, 2005

The Secret Behind the Quick Sales?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

myspace logo.gifInternet businesses are easy to get into, easy to compete with, easy to replace.

This is a truth Internet entrepreneurs know and big media companies have yet to find out.

That's why Jason Calacanis sold out Weblogsinc after just two years. That's why the owners of MySpace were willing to take Rupert Murdoch's money so quickly.

They know they can come up with another idea quickly, and compete effectively with it quickly, if they get unhappy with their new corporate parents. They also know that their peers in this business know this, and would gladly sell out to the same companies if they don't.

Thus, as soon as a position is a established, and a big company thinks, "ah hah, a barrier to new competition," the owners of those companies are going to take the money.

weblogsinclogo.gif
They know there's no such thing as a "barrier to entry."

The cost of building a scaled Web site is falling, not rising. It's attention and talent which are the quantities in short supply. So talent will take the money and look for the exits every time, knowing that, since no one online knows you're a dog, no one knows that you've slipped your chain, either.

What does this mean about today's Weblogsinc deal?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising

Thoughts on Web 2.0

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

web 20 conference.gifSan Francisco is hopping this week over Web 2.0.

What is it? It's a database.

When you use a database as your basic site design template, then everything becomes a database call or a database interface. Thus, you can do anything. You can do blogging, you can do identity, you can do customization, you can do community.

The problem is getting stuff into that database. Can you share data among databases? Users don't like that. But how do you get permission for all the relevant, needed data to get into the database?

The obvious answer to that is that users have to live inside the database. A lot. This restricts choices, because time is limited. It means there are only a few "winners" -- a few sites will scale to get everyone's data and everyone else will lose out.

Thus there's a self-liimiting aspect to Web 2.0 trials. Unless....as with Sxip, you can take your personal data (the stuff that would fill a database) with you, and control it. Then you point that data to whatever database you choose to be a member of.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

October 05, 2005

Who Should Lead Google?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Eric Schmidt.gifI wrote something today suggesting that Dr. Eric Schmidt leave Google.

I was told, by my editor, that it was over-the-top. "A series of cheap swipes," "rather than a reasoned case."

Maybe it was. I didn't post it. I wrote something much milder, more humble, more seeking of counsel rather than snarky and smart. (I like editors. They save us from ourselves. They're very important people. Buy an editor lunch today.)

But like many people here I feel a personal kinship to Google. And I think that is the company's chief asset. Mess with my GoogleLove, and you're messing with your own GoogleSelf.

...continue reading.

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

October 04, 2005

More on The Internet Break-Up

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Paul vixie.jpgDiscussion of the possible DNS fork by the UN or ITU continues on Dave Farber's always interesting Interesting People list. (And if Dave Coursey doesn't like it, he can leave.)

Perhaps the most interesting comment was this from Paul Vixie, father of BIND:

I've pondered the meaning of all of this within the context of the dns protocol and of my company's open source
implementation of that protocol, and I think I can see a way to define and support alternate roots in a way that will reduce their chaos -- but not their harm. Given that the US-DoC/VeriSign/ICANN trinity pursuing "a policy contrary to their own interests" and that the inevitable result of this will be hundreds if not thousands of chaotically interrelated dns namespaces, i'm ready to consider ways that DNS and BIND might be extended to make that inevitable condition less painful to live in.

But if i do it, it will be with rage in my heart against hose who could have helped us preserve name universality but who squandered that opportunity for short term political or financial gain. (Emphasis mine.)

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Internet | Journalism | Politics | Telecommunications

October 03, 2005

Mesh Era Finally Arrives

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

mesh2.jpgThe mesh networking era is finally here, according to InStat.

A mesh, in which all devices on a network are connected to all other devices, finally has a hockey-stick chart. InStat's new report has last year's $33.5 million in sales growing to $974.3 million in 2009, a classic hockey stick formation.

InStat credits military needs with developing the technology, but there are many advantages to installing a mesh as opposed to a single hotspot:

  • A mesh can cover a large area.
  • A mesh can make certain the coverage area is completely covered.
  • Mesh can connect to many different access technologies, not just WiFi but UWB and WiMax on the wireless end, or WiMax and a fiber pipe on the backhaul end.
  • Mesh is primarily a North American technology.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Futurism | Internet | Telecommunications

October 02, 2005

This Tower of Babel Has Fallen

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

tower-of-babel-dark-big.jpgI'm about to go off on the Bush Administration again, but at least this time it's on a subject near to this blog's stated purpose.

Some days I think George W. Bush was imposed on us by our enemies. If there were a Manchurian Candidate, he is doing that candidate's bidding.

Our brave armies have been destroyed in Iraq. Our budget has gone from surplus to unrecoverable deficit, and our currency is heading south. The Gulf Coast lies in ruins while a system of kleptocracy that would make Vladimir Putin blush rules in Washington.

And now the Internet's gone.

What follows is from Milton Mueller of Internet Governance:

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | law | personal | war

September 30, 2005

Internet War Begins...in the U.S.?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

KeystoneKops.jpgThe Internet War we've warned about here for years has begun, but in a most unexpected way.

While most attention was being placed on the UN and ITU, which were making noises about seizing control of Internet resources, perhaps by building their own DNS root servers, a private U.S. company just went up and did it.

The company is Neustar, and they have created a root DNS server for their .gprs domain, which will serve the mobile phone industry. (Warning -- that link above is to a PDF file.)

NOTE: As reader Jesse Kopelman has correctly noted, this action was taken on behalf of the GSM Association, a trade group of mobile operators based in London. Here's their press release. Essentially, the GSM Association has created its own private Internet. And no one has done anything about it.

Tne Neustar move is a direct challenge to ICANN, which previously approved a domain for mobile phone services called .mobi. But carriers may prefer the Neustar "solution," as it might enable them to control what users have access to on "their" Internet, and to shakedown information providers wishing to be accessed. A private Internet with private gatekeepers. Is this what the government meant when it said it preferred private control to government?

Meanwhile, the U.S. government (a Mack Sennett production) was attacking EU proposals to even consider obsoleting ICANN. "Some countries want that. We think that's unacceptable," said Ambassador David Gross, the US coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Economics | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | cellular | law | war

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

Murdoch MySpace Deal Going Pear-Shaped?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

intermixmedia.jp.jpgRegular readers here will recall how I called Rupert Murdoch's deal to buy the owner of MySpace, well, ill-advised.

It may be worse than that. The company now finds itself fighting a rear-guard action by former CEO Brad Greenspan, who wants to buy a controlling interest for more than Murdoch's paying.

But it doesn't stop there. Greenspan is also making some serious charges against Intermix management in his Web site on the deal, Intermixedup. He charges, among other things, insider trading the price-kiting, essentially saying they used pump-and-dump tactics.

Despite all this chicanery, Greenspan charges that MySpace is worth far more than Murdoch is paying, and he could get a better price. Which leads to some questions:

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | online advertising

September 25, 2005

The Source of the Times' Strategy

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

espn_logo_150.jpgWith The New York Times' new Web strategy having been in place for a week now, and with its having been debated for months before implementation, it amazes me that no one has identified where that strategy came from.

ESPN.

ESPN has been a part-pay site for years now, and did it the same way the Times is trying to, by putting what it considered valuable content behind a paid firewall.

Even the tiny thumbnail "in" icons used on the two sites to designate content that is behind the firewall are nearly identical.

So, why did it work for ESPN but it isn't working for the Times?

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | Telecommunications | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

September 23, 2005

Wrong Number, It Must be 2005

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

india-pakistan-nuclear.gif Here's a story that illustrates well the time we're living in. (The picture, from Pravda, shows Indian and Pakistani nuclear sites. Its meaning will become clear in due course.)

I had a meeting scheduled with a programmer for around 9 AM. I booted up my computer, and as soon as it came up Google Talk woke up with "hi" from Tariq Mustafa.

I immediately began trying to set up Tariq with my boss here in Atlanta, who was on his own IM connection, to get our meeting started. As I did so the doorbell rang, and in walked a co-worker, who promptly sat down at my home network to join in.

There was just one problem.


...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Digital Divide | Internet | Telecommunications | computer interfaces | fun stuff

September 21, 2005

Apple Claims iTunes Fix

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

itunes.jpgApple has released iTunes 5.0.1, which it says fixes problems found on iTunes 5.0.

I was frankly surprised at the number and vehemence of responses to my earlier item about iTunes 5.0 The reason? Reports on the problems have gotten very little traction in the mainstream press.

George W. Bush must envy Steve Jobs in some ways. Kanye West, who famously dissed the President during a Katrina fund-raiser, actually sang at the Apple iTunes 5.0 announcement, and didn't go off-message either. This story is being carried mainly in the blogosphere, where there are currently 176 posts under iTunes 5.0 problem (although not all are on-point).

Instead, Jobs and Apple continue to be hailed as heroes in the mainstream press:

...continue reading.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Internet | Podcasting | computer interfaces | e-commerce

September 20, 2005

Google Flattens the World

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

googlelogo.gifLet me take a stab at explaining Google's grand strategy.

My friends at ZDNet call this the Google PC, or a network computer.

Well, sort of. You may, instead of buying Microsoft Office, suscribe to Google's GMail and have a rudimentary office system with a gigabyte or two of storage.

But to say Google is going after Microsoft, the way we said Microsoft was going after IBM, is really to damn with faint praise.

If that were all there were to it, why would Google be planning on building out WiFi, or build out an optical network?

Google isn't aiming at Microsoft, or at IBM. It's aiming at the entire computing-telecommunications complex, building out what I'll call the Google TeleComputing Environment.

The idea is to take advantage of not only the Internet's ability to disintermediate clients, but its ability to disintermediate the phone network at the same time, and to do this in an entirely open source way.

What do I mean? Here are the ingredients:

  • Universally-accessible applications, based on search.
  • Universally-acessible networks, at broadband speeds.
  • Universally-competitive systems, worldwide.

Google is flattening the world. More on what this means after the flip.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces | e-commerce

September 19, 2005

The Internet as Shopping Mall

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

cellphones.jpgAmericans are finally following the rest of the world toward the controlled interface of the cellular phone.

This has profound implications. Mobile carriers are not Internet Service Providers. They control where you go and what you do on their networks. They act as gatekeepers, and take a proprietary attitude toward every bit transmitted.

The difference between the Internet and a mobile network is like the difference between a downtown city center and a shopping mall. There is nothing inherently wrong with a shopping mall, but it is controlled by the mall owner, and everything which happens there must be aimed at making the mall owner (and his tenants) money, all assumptions of liberty to the contrary.

In other words, cellular turns the Internet into a shopping mall, neutering it, and making it solely a means toward a commercial end.

Thus, is has been difficult for mobile (Americans call it cellular) to gain the kind of reach and use that we find even in Africa. But that is changing:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Futurism | Internet | Telecommunications | cellular | e-commerce

Gittin' While the Gittin's Good

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

joebarton.jpgThe winds of change are blowing hurricane-force in Washington. Every politician in town knows it. So the natural inclination is to push the envelope as far as possible, knowing that it will be pulled back fairly quickly.

This is as true regarding the Internet as anywhere else. The Bell-cable duopoly hangs by a thread. Wireless ISPs have Moore's Law on their side. The incumbents need something very strong to counter.

This is precisely what they're going for with a bill in the House that would raise entry barriers to the sky and prevent independent ISPs from ever gaining a market toehold. (That's the chairman of the committee proposing the legislation, Joe Barton, up above.)

Naturally they call it "pro-competitive," but in the Orwellian Washington of today those with a Clue should never listen to what they say but look at what they do.

The bill is also filled with goodies for broadcasters and TV networks, such as:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | law

September 14, 2005

Where to Find the Times' Columnists

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

newyorktimes-logo small.jpgAmidst all the wailing over the Times' experiment in forcing people to pay subscriptions for Internet newspaper content, an important fact is being lost.

The International Herald Tribune.

I have seen no announcement that the IHT is changing its policies, or changing what content it offers. (The Tribune is owned by the Times Co., which bought out The Washington Post Co.'s interest a few years ago.) Here's today's opinion front page.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | Politics | e-commerce

Financial Battle for the New Interface

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Here is the situation:


  1. If blogging has a business model, it is based on advertising.
  2. Blogs are posted on Web sites, which carry the advertising.
  3. RSS feeds are increasingly adding ads to the feeds, BUT
  4. The revenue from the ads goes to those providing the feed, not to the content creators.

Below is a typical Feedburner RSS ad, which appears in Newsreaders but not on Web pages. We'll discuss it after the flip:

tpmcafe-main.gif

UPDATE: After this was posted, Feedburner vice president-business development Rick Klau wrote the following. It is directly on point (as the lawyers say):

While I can only speak for FeedBurner, we only splice ads into feeds for publishers, on behalf of the publisher. We never splice ads in a feed that the publisher didn't ask for, make money from, or know about, ever. It's the same type of model as web advertising solutions that you use on your site, and you make most of the money.

FeedBurner is a publisher service. We only perform those services on a feed that a publisher wants us to perform, and that goes for everything, whether it's splicing ads, applying a stylesheet, or tracking statistics.

No blog site manager running our service can be unaware that their feeds have ads in them because it is impossible to get ads in your feed at FeedBurner without either directly contacting us or selecting the AdSense for Feeds program and providing us with all the details needed to splice in those ads.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | blogging | computer interfaces | e-commerce | online advertising

September 10, 2005

Don't Take iTunes 5.0 for Windows (For Now)

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

NOTE: There is an update to this article. Please go here to view it.

itunes.jpgThere are apparently serious problems with Version 5.0 of iTunes for Windows, which comes bundled with Version 7.0 of QuickTime.

Users are reporting that not only doesn't the software work, but they can't back out of it, and can't load older versions, once the upgrade button is pressed. Some complete computer failures have been reported.

Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People For Internet Responsibility, reported on this to Dave Farber's Interesting-People list today:

I've personally now seen two systems that have fallen into this black
hole -- no working iTunes, no working QuickTime, and attempts to
install older versions (even just of QuickTime) fail miserably, even
after complex (and in some cases dangerous) attempts at cleaning out
the leftover muck. It's really a mess -- reminds me of early DOS
days.

Hopefully this is a short-term problem.

Comments (43) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Internet | Podcasting | Software | computer interfaces

September 09, 2005

Murdoch's Internet Strategy

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Rupert murdoch.jpgAfter $2 billion, Rupert Murdoch's Internet strategy has become clear.

Capture kids.

Murdoch finished off his buying spree by putting $680 million into IGN, which runs Web sites devoted to video games. This followed his earlier purchases of Scout Media, which runs sports sites for various sports teams, and the company that owned Myspace.com, the music fan site.

Murdoch has called a special "summit" of his top corporate chiefs for this weekend at his California ranch. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia has apparently endorsed his strategy. (Didn't know the Saudis had their hooks into Murdoch quite that deeply, did you?)

So, is this going to be a gusher or a dry hole?

...continue reading.

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

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

September 04, 2005

This Week's Clue: Journalism With Google Maps

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

This week's issue of my free weekly newsletter, A-Clue.Com, dealt with journalism. (Subscribe here.)

Specifically, I'm looking at the impact of Google Maps on our business, and how we practice journalism, as well as how we deliver it to readers. (Speaking of which, Google has satellite imagery of New Orleans taken at 10 AM on August 31 available here.)

Talk about shock and awe...)


google maps_res_logo.gifThere's a saying that bloggers are journalists who won't make a five-minute phone call, while journalists are bloggers who won't spend five minutes on Google.

Both views have something to them, although I'd say that Google keeps getting better, while the phone doesn't.

But there's a bigger secret neither side tells you.

We seldom leave our desks.

...continue reading.

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

August 29, 2005

Fight for the New Interface

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

feeddemon_logo.gifThe fight has barely begun for control of the new Internet interface, the RSS reader.

NOTE: We were honored to get two important responses to what follows.

Markos Moulitas says he never had an "exclusive" on Cindy Sheehan (I usually reserve the term for the first to get a story, but Sheehan's words have since been on many other blogs) and that there are RSS feeds to Dailykos diaries. (My point is the feeds are separate from the main subscription.)

Nick Bradbury, creator of FeedDemon, wrote to say that FeedDemon inserts no ads in feeds, that those ads are placed by sites. (This may mean the New York Times has a major ad campaign underway, using blogs as delivered by feeds. If you use another reader, let me know if you see Times ads.)

CORRECTION: Upon further investigation, I have learned that the Times ads come from Feedburner.Com, which is in the feed creation-and-management business. So Nick's right.

Please note that the data in parantheses does not question the honesty or truthfulness or veracity of either correspondent's words, but simply describes the responses I gave them, and the thoughts I had in writing this post.

We're always honored here at Mooreslore when newsmakers respond to our posts about them, when they correct what I write or report. Thanks again. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled post.

But already it's getting interesting.

I have written before how publishers have been placing ads in raw RSS feeds. this means my e-mail list of RSS stories is cluttered with "brought to you by" notices. This is on top of the outright advertisements sent as RSS, which if they hit a keyword you like means they're coming right at you.

What's more interesting, perhaps, is what's happening in stand-along RSS readers.

There are many in the market, but the examples here are going to be concerning FeedDemon (logo at left), now owned by Newsgator, which I have been using a few months:

  • Some advertisers, notably the New York Times, have taken to advertising within these products. I have gotten a steady stream of Times ads in FeedDemon, a reader I paid for. (Before, ads only came in shareware.)
  • Some site owners, like that of Josh Marshall, have begun truncating their RSS feeds to near-meaninglessless, in order to force users to go from the reader to the site, which then displays in the feeder's window, exposing you to their ads. Full disclsoure demands I mention that Corante is a leader in truncation. If you see Mooreslore through FeedDemon you see just a few lines of content, not enough to know what the story is about.
  • Other sites, like TPMCafe, meanwhile, publish everything in a feed, but without the paragraphing. Go figure, since TPMCafe and TPM are run by the same people.
  • Sites that use "diaries," based on Scoop, don't automatically send out RSS on what's in the diaries, only what's on the main site. Dailykos, which at first seemed to have an exclusive on the thoughts of anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan, may have lost that because of this. (That's speculation on my part, but on a blog you speculate, and if you're wrong someone writes to correct it. Hint, hint.)

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Software | blogging | online advertising

The Killer App for Broadband

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

p2ptraffic.pngOm Malik has a wise commentary today on how peer-to-peer services (p2p) is the killer app for broadband.

He offers a Cachelogic chart showing how p2p services (but more specifically eDonkey) are driving total Internet traffic. In fact, more than half the total Internet traffic monitored by Cachelogic, according to the chart, is eDonkey traffic. (The illustration was copied from Malik's blog, but credit should go to Cachelogic.)

Then Malik makes some really key points (boldfacing is mine):


  • In the long term, however P2P traffic if not managed properly is going to become a big problem.
  • The explosion in P2P traffic is going to have an impact on the people who don’t use the P2P services as well.
  • Due to P2P’s symmetrical nature on average 80% of upstream capacity is consumed by P2P.


...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Telecommunications

August 28, 2005

The Other Katrina

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

While using the Web to track Hurricane Katrina (get out of New Orleans and Biloxi while you still can) I found the high-ranking site for another Katrina, Katrina Leskanich.

Don't remember her? How about her band Katrina and the Waves? Still nothing? OK, how about this:

Now I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
And Don't it Feel Good (Hey) (All right now) And Don't it Feel Good (Hey)
(Yeah)

If you're of a certain age (anywhere from 35 to about 45) that should send you running screaming from the room. The band made a living off that for years, but by the mid-1990s even the Germans were tired of them.

So Katrina, who was an American Army Brat but has been in England since 1976, went back to the drawing board. She actually had some success, even winning the Eurovision Song Contest for England in 1997, but she wanted back in the pop game.

So how do you make a comeback in 2005?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Internet | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

August 27, 2005

Save the Internet!

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

HoS-XXX-5_Front.jpgMilton Mueller and the Internet Governance Project, whom we interviewed in June, has entered the political arena with a petition against U.S. interference in ICANN. (The illustration chosen has little to do with the subject, it's the cover of an Hour of Slack CD called XXX, from Subgenius.com.)

Mueller and the IGP were moved to act by the government's unilateral decision to shut-down .XXX after it was approved by ICANN. In his note to Dave Farber's list Mueller writes, "IGP urges everyone not to let the
advocates of content regulation be the only voices
heard by the Commerce Department."

Read it carefully.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Internet | Politics | law | war

August 26, 2005

Google-ology

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

googlelogo.gifOne sad headline from this year is how Google has become so opaque and observers so suspicious that its moves are now studied the way Microsoft once was.

CEO Eric Schmidt did neither himself nor his company any favors when he cut-off News.Com reporters, after one of them questioned the privacy implications of the service by Googling him.

The launch of Google Talk (in beta) and the official launch of Google Mail (out of beta) sent this into overdrive.

I contributed with a positive comment on Google Talk, helped by a Pakistani friend. Other observers noted how Google Mail is now open to cellphones.

But not all the commentary was positive, either to myself or to Google. In fact, ZDNet colleague (and longtime friend) Russell Shaw gave me a right padding:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications

August 24, 2005

Google's VOIP Play

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

NOTE: Many of the claims made in the item below have been questioned by Russell Shaw. See the full story here.

google talk_logo.gif
It's ironic, but my first invitation to use Google Talk came from Pakistan. From Karachi, actually.

Specifically it was from a long-time online friend named Tariq Mustafa (known as Tee Emm), who works in the high-tech sector there.

I am really excited on this Google IM thing (and so would be tens of millions of users very soon). I think I was ahead of you just because of the time-zone difference. Anyway, here is the summary I wanted to share with you of the excitement.

Why the excitement? IM has been around for ages.

The excitement is because this isn't really IM. Or it's not just IM. It's VOIP, integrated from the start with IM.

What this does is absolutely kill international long distance in a way Skype only dreamt of. I'm actually a naive user, but I was able to download, and load, a VOIP client (with IM) in less than a minute.

So can anyone else, anywhere else.

More from Tariq after the break.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Digital Divide | Economics | Internet | Telecommunications | fun stuff

August 22, 2005

Artificial Scarcity

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bob frankston.gifDavid Berlind, one of my bosses over at ZDNet, came up with an incredible statistic recently that deserves a lot more play than it got.

His source on this is Bob Frankston, co-founder of Visicalc and one of those great online friends I've never met personally. (As you can see by this picture, he's also well on his way to being a Truly Handsome Man (that is to say bald)).

Here's the key bit, as Berlind saw it:

By Frankston's calculations, for example, Verizon is reserving 99 percent of its government-ordained right of way (in the form of bandwidth that should be available to us as well as its competitors) for itself so that it may compete in the IPTV market.

Frankston's got the whole story, in hiw own words, here.

More on the flip.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | cellular

Not All HotSpot Advantages Obvious

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Krystal.gifKrystal restaurants (think White Castle with mustard, Kumar) have finished a full year with their free WiFi hotspot program, and have decided to extend it to all 243 company-owned restaurants (as well as recommend it to their 180 franchises.)

The evidence of increased sales are anecdotal, but CIO David Reid told CMO Magazine he has already tracked a bottom-line advantage.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | marketing

The Best Way to Save Gas

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

local web.jpgThe fastest way to save energy in this country is to build-out the Local Web. (The illustration is from the PRBlog, in a story about a local Web conflict.)

Every day I find limits in the local Web. Right now, for instance, I need a USB Bluetooth connector for my laptop. It's on the Staple's Web site, but delivery is three days away, and it's not at Staple's. It's on the Best Buy Web site, but it's not at the local Best Buy. I'm going to Fry's tomorrow (a 40-mile roundtrip) and if it's not there I'll have to wait for delivery.

All this driving would not be necessary if local inventories were rourtinely tied to Web sites (as they sometimes are at BestBuy.Com). That's one Local Web application.

There are many others.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Telecommunications | computer interfaces | e-commerce | energy

August 18, 2005

Google's Choice

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

googlelogo.gifWhen people are throwing money at you, then you're really foolish not to take some of it.

At nearly $280/share, Google is Bubble-Priced. So it makes sense for Google to take some of this money. Over 14 million shares means more than $4 billion in cash, a Microsoft-like horde (especially as earnings continue to accelerate).

How can they do better with this cash than Microsoft has?

Analysts are already speculating on what Google will do with the money. It's burning a hole in the M&A pocket. Will they buy China's Baidu? Will they take out American start-ups, like Technorati? Who will they hire next? How plush can the offices be made? (If spokesman David Krane were given enough money to buy me a beer and a nice dinner, I wouldn't object.)

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment

Verizon's Futuristic "Vision"

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

vzone_backnew2.jpg
Verizon has begun selling one of the dumbest machines I've ever seen, a "DSL modem," (their term), wireless router and cordless phone combination dubbed Verizon One.

Essentially this ties together the obsolete telephone network with the Internet Verizon is actually selling and tells customers it's the same thing. It pushes fancy PBX capabilities on residential customers who don't need them. (Just to make things a little better, it locks them into its cellular service, too.)

The FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) can be easily seen in the phrase "DSL modem." DSL is a digital service. It doesn't need modulation or demodulation to trick an analog line into taking a digital connection, which is what a modem does. It is an oxymoron.

Dave Burstein wrote in to say this is a Westell device. Westell has a long history of making things on-demand for phone companies, so Verizon gets all the "credit" for this piece of nonsense.

What's ironic is I happen to know Verizon was talking to Netopia two years ago about a massive contract for DSL gateways that would have been far superior to this piece of nonsense. (Here's a 2001 press release, delivered in the early days of the relationship.) I have one of these gateways in my house now, a review unit. What would have made them powerful was a promised co-branded service providing full security to home users, saving them as much as $200/year on "security suites" from various software vendors. (There are currently no Netopia press releases, going back to 2002, referencing Verizon.)

More on what a truly clued-in person feels after the break.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces | marketing

August 17, 2005

The Value of Credibility

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

chris kimball.jpgMark Glaser has an OJR piece up about Cook's Illustrated, which has drawn 80,000 paid subscribers.

Glaser credits "cross-promotion and deep research" with the site's financial success.

The truth is simpler, and comes in one word -- credibility. Glaser sums it up this way, "the Consumer Reports of food." (That's publisher Chistopher Kimball, from an appearance on CBS.)

It's an apt description. I pay for Consumer Reports online. I don't use it often, but when I face a big purchase, I get my money out. Because CR is absolutely, 100% credible. There are no ads. There are no conflicts of interest. Everything they do is about earning my trust -- mine, not any vendors -- and they succeed at that.


...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce

August 16, 2005

Bush Cuts Off DNS Intelligence

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

signposts5.gif
The Computer Science and Telecommunication Board has released a fairly Clueful report on the Domain Name System that manages the Internet.

Unfortunately the Bush Administration has, on the very day the report came out, moved to undercut its key recommendation.

Here's the key bit:

Before completing the transfer of its stewardship to ICANN (or any other organization), the Department of Commerce should seek ways to protect that organization from undue commercial or governmental pressures and to provide some form of oversight of performance.

The report, in other words, supports ICANN under the U.S. government because it sees this as keeping ICANN independent of government or commercial interests. Moving toward ICANN's independence is desireable, the report says, in order to minimize the perception that the U.S. government is controlling the Internet.

So far, so good.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | law

Refusing to Learn

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

washington canard.jpgPeople often ask me what's wrong with journalism.

The answer comes down to one word -- arrogance. Even junior members of the trade think they're in a profession, whose job it is to rule on what's true and what's not, all decisions final.

Take William Beutler of The National Journal, for instance. Beutler just got a pretty amazing gig. As editor of the Hotline Blogometer he spends the day scouring the political blogosphere and tallying up the points. (He is still listed as writing The Washington Canard, but he doesn't update it often anymore. The picture is from that Web site. Beutler's a shy fella.)

It's hard work, as some in Washington might say. And mistakes will happen. Journalists complain that bloggers won't spend 5 minutes on the phone to get something right. Well, journalists won't spend 20 seconds on Google to do the same thing. And Google's improving much faster than the phone.

Anyway, Beutler's August 15 missive began by referencing Cindy Sheehan as an "alleged" gold star mother. I went ballistic. Whatever you think of Sheehan's protest, no one can argue that she is, in fact, a Gold Star Mother (all caps), this being " an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of our country."

After considering my e-mail for some time, Beutler made a slight change. He didn't acknowledge the mistake. He just took the alleged out. And gold star is still lower case, still in quotation marks.

Now, before you click below, get out your hankies.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | personal

August 15, 2005

A Basic Threat To The Web

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

cavebear.gif
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 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 sms-report.com.)

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 SMS.ac 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 SMS.ac to scour their friends and family member's addresses and solicit them with messages that look as if they come not from SMS.ac 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

HIPAA and Unintended Consequences

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

hipaa-lock.jpgLike many protective laws, the HIPAA law covering the protection of your medical records comes with a small business exemption.

The exemption works both ways. Small businesses who fund their own plans don't have to comply. Neither do medical providers who don't computerize. As an NFIB alert on the law states, "Health-care providers -- such as doctors, nurses, on-site clinics, etc. -- are exempt from these regulations if they do not transmit electronically, but this exemption applies only to providers, not to group health plans." (Boldface is mine.)

The result of this is that small practices now have a major incentive not to computerize, and not to transmit anything electronically. Thus, they don't.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: B2B | Business Strategy | Internet | law | medicine

August 08, 2005

Intel Fights the Power

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Intel_Logo.gifIntel holds the telecommunications balance of power in its hand.

Here's how The Register puts it, with its usual hyperbole:

Intel is throwing its financial, technical and lobbying weight behind the rising tide of municipally run broadband wireless networks, seeing these as a way to stimulate uptake of Wi-Fi and WiMAX and so sell more of its chips and increase its influence over the communications world.

And Intel is not going to back down. As ZDNet notes today, there's money to be made.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | law | marketing

August 07, 2005

The WiMax Imperative

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

kevin martin.jpgCoke and Pepsi do not represent competition. It's a shared monopoly, the Drinks Trust.

The same is true for Wal-Mart and Target, Home Depot and Lowe's, and, to cut to the chase, your phone and cable companies.

By endorsing duopoly calling "competition" what is in fact a Trust, new FCC chair Kevin Martin has shown us clearly where the Bushies stand. Those who believe in competitive markets that can compete in the world need to digest this.

china.map.gifAnd Martin's model for the Internet policy? China.

So, do you want to be an ISP?

There is only one way to do it now. You have to be a WISP. You have to connect WiFi to WiMax, and reach competitive fiber.

Otherwise you're officially dead.

The FCC ruled, over Friday and Saturday, that Bell companies no longer have to wholesale their lines to competitive ISPs. They don't even have to charge competitive prices for backhaul to the Internet. They essentially repealed the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Those phonr lines that were built with government-controlled monopoly powers over decades? They're now the sole property of four corporate entities. And they can do with this monopoly power whatever they want.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | law

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 05, 2005

Wi-Fi and Real Estate

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

logan_airport.jpgThe question of Wi-Fi and real estate is about to come to a head, at Boston's Logan Airport. (Picture from MIT.)

Declan McCullagh reports that the Airport is trying to close Continental Air's free WiFi service, based in its Frequent Flyer lounge, in favor of a paid service on which it gets a 20% cut of revenue.

Continental has appealed to the FCC under the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Massport, which runs the airport, is making bogus arguments about security (its paid service uses the same spectrum as Continental so if one goes under its argument, both go).

If this thing goes to trial it will be a very important case. Here's why.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Internet | Moore's Lore | Telecommunications

The Mystery of Overstock.Com

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

sabine-ehrenfeld.jpgThe mystery is, how are these people still in the game?

Overstock is a money-losing Amazon clone which seems to spend its entire marketing budget on cable television.

Maybe it's the salt water. Overstock is based in Utah, former home of Novell, current home of SCO, the place where me-too tech ideas get a family-friendly makeover, then die.

The TV ads are mostly image pieces, a spokesmodel in her 30s oohing about the various departments -- clothes, office supplies, video, jewelry. (Her name is Sabine Ehrenfeld, and she's actually 42. She's done some other work, but she's best known for these ads.)

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | e-commerce

Gangs of New Blog

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

the crucible.gifOm Malik's pointing to Robert Scoble's friends hammering Andrew Orlowski over the IE7 beta got me thinking about blogging social structures. (The image is from the archives of Johnstown, New York's Colonial Little Theater.)

It's becoming gang warfare, done on a psychological level.

Every top blogger has a gang of toadie blogs that will do its bidding. I got a little taste of that with the Ev Williams mistake (not that I didn't deserve the hammering) When a top blogger identifies a target for ridicule, others can jump in like wolves.

It works the other way, too. When an individual becomes a target a mob of bloggers may take them down, unled. This is what happened to Dan Rather. The story about Bush being a chickenhawk was sound. There was a problem on one of the sources. But a mob of bloggers brought him down, and now they celebrate this, daily.

...continue reading.

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

August 04, 2005

Above the Law

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

chambers.jpgThere is no way to put this nicely.

Cisco Systems considers itself above the law. (Did you know Cisco chairman CEO John Chambers (right, from USA Today) was an alumnus of West Virginia University? I didn't, until now.)

Justin Rood of Congressional Quarterly looked into the recent Black Hat incident and shared his story with Dave Farber's Interesting People list.

Apparently Cisco didn't even tell the Department of Homeland Security about the bug in its software that leaves the Internet as we know it vulnerable to hacker attack. This despite the fact that Cisco's notification would have been confidential, and that it is required.

DHS learned of the flaw just like you and I did -- through the presentation of Michael Lynn at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. Before his talk, Cisco sued to prevent it, Lynn's employer (ISS) demanded he desist, and Lynn quit his lucrative job at ISS.

In other words, had Lynn not been willing to quit his job, the Department of Homeland Security would still not know about a critical flaw in Cisco equipment impacting the entire Internet, a flaw the vendor was supposed to notify it of.

...continue reading.

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

August 02, 2005

The Moore's Law Dialectic

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

gordon moore.jpgToday's politics is cultural.

Even economic and foreign policy issues are, in the end, defined in terms of social issues. This creates identification, and coalitions among people who might not otherwise find common ground -- hedonistic Wall Street investment bankers and small town Kansas preachers, for instance.

I am coming to believe the next political divide will be technological. That is, your politics will be defined by your attitude toward technology.

On one side you will find open source technophiles. On the other you will find proprietary technophobes.

It's a process that will take time to work itself out, just as millions of Southern Democrats initially resisted the pull of Nixon. Because there are are divisions within each grand coalition we have today, on this subject.

  • On the right you see many people who work in open source, or who worry about their privacy, asking hard questions of security buffs and corporate insiders.
  • On the left you see many people who consider themselves cyber-libertarians facing off against Hollywood types and those who create proprietary software.

This latter split gets most of the publicity, because more writers are in the cyber-libertarian school than anywhere else.

Initially, the proprietary, security-oriented side of this new political divide has the initiative. It has the government and, if a poll were taken, it probably has a majority on most issues.

But open source advocates have something more powerful on their side, history. You might call it the Moore's Law Dialectic.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Copyright | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Moore's Lore | Politics | blogging | law | personal

July 31, 2005

The Identity Wars

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Real-ID-Act10feb05.gifAs previously noted, I became an un-person last week as the Social Security decided to waste my time over a "mistake" some one made back in 1970. (Image from Mindfully.Org.)

Either my wonderful mother (who still walks among us, to my great joy) failed to check the box indicating I was a citizen on my Social Security application, or some clerk failed to do so when the data was entered because there were separate forms then for citizens and non-citizens.

The clerk who put me through this hell blamed "Homeland Security." But I think he was really responding to the reality of how this number is used.

As I've noted many times before, the Social Security Number is an index term. Everybody has one. Everyone's number is different. By indexing databases based on Social Security Numbers (SSNs), government and businesses alike can make certain there's a one-to-one correspondence between records and people.

Stories like this AP feature don't really address this need, this fact about how data is stored. Without the SSN we'd have to create one. Some companies like Acxiom do just that. Every business and individual in their database has their own unique identifier, created by the company. Which also means that the Acxiom indexing scheme is proprietary. The only way toward a non-proprietary indexing scheme, in other words, is for government to provide one. Which gets us back to the need for an SSN.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Futurism | Internet | Moore's Lore | Security | law

July 29, 2005

The Tech-Politics Contradiction

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

cisco_logo.jpgThe big trend of this decade, in technology, is a move toward openness.

It started with open frequencies like 802.11. It then moved into software, with open source operating systems and applications. Now we have open source business models. The ball keeps rolling along.

Open source has proven superior in all these areas due to simple math. The more people working a problem, the better. No single organization can out-do the multitudes.

But this simple, and rather elegant, fact, is at odds with all political trends.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Futurism | Internet | Moore's Lore | Politics | Security

July 28, 2005

Payday Loans, Now Online

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

spotya.gifI believe that one of the cruelest businesses of our time are the so-called "payday loan" folks.

You see these shops in every ghetto. Victims write checks that are due to be made good when they get paid. The interest rates on these things can be as high as 100%.

Banks think that, at this rate, it's good business.

Now the business has come online through a San Diego outfit called Spotya.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Digital Divide | Internet | Investment | e-commerce

July 27, 2005

Cheap Shot in a Good Cause

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

rebecca mckimmon.jpgRebecca McKimmon (left, from her blog) took a shot at Cisco's China policy recently, confirming through a spokesman that the company does indeed cooperate with the government.

This is not news. So does nearly every other U.S. tech company.

The U.S. policy is, and has been, full engagement with China. This has already hurt Cisco. Back in the 1990s one of the prices for getting into the market was to share technology. Cisco did so, and a few years later Huawei, a Chinese company, had routers and bridges very similar to Cisco's old stuff, along with most of the Asian market (thanks to lower prices).

McKimmon's point now is that China Cisco is cooperating with the worst excesses of the China government, which is seeking to have both the world's best Internet technology and full control over what people do with it.

That is a good point, but I don't think you don't go after Cisco to make it.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Journalism | Politics | Semiconductors | Telecommunications

July 23, 2005

Marc Canter's Clue

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

marc cantor closeup.jpgI'm a big fan of both Marc Canter (right) and Joi Ito . (NOTE: The picture, by Dan Farber of News.Com (and ZDNet fame), was taken off Marc's blog.)

They're both brilliant. They're both A-list bloggers. They're both rich. I've known both for about two decades.

But I think Marc has a vital Clue Joi has missed, about one of the most important trends of our time, the rise of the open source business process.

Here's why I think that.

Joi has put a lot of money into SixApart, which runs Movable Type, which powers this blog. It's good stuff. But it's being left behind because it is, at heart, proprietary. It doesn't interconnect with other software. It isn't modular, scalable, and it can only be improved by the SixApart team.

In other words, it doesn't take advantage of the open source business process, and thus there are whole new worlds it hasn't been able to scale into. It's not a Community Network Service (like Drupal), and it's not a social networking system (like MySpace).

Marc, on the other hand, has just released GoingOn. It's a new engine for digital communities, like MySpace. He launched with Tony Perkins, who will use the system as the new heart of his AlwaysOn network (no relation to my wireless network application idea of the same title).

Marc calls GoingOn an Identity Hub, something to which other identity systems can connect. (It's interoperable with Sxip Networks, for instance.)

But Marc also understands that his stuff can't be the be-all and end-all. Let him explain it:

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Always On | B2B | Business Models | Business Strategy | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Software | computer interfaces | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

Qwest Seeks Yet More Subsidies

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Let's review.

The Bells promised to serve us broadband if we let them run over Wireless ISPs. Done. No broadband.

So they promised us broadband if we would give them absolute control over their lines, ending any requirement for wholesaling. Done. No broadband.

Then they promised us broadband if we'd stop cities from buildig out wireless networks that might compete with them. Nearly done. Still no broadband.

Now, Qwest is pushing a plan in Congress to tax your broadband access and hand it the money, promising broadband in rural areas.

It's amazing anyone would believe such hollow promises, given the history. Color Democrat Byron Dorgan and Republican Gordon Smith (both represent areas covered by Qwest) as believers. The National Journal reports the two Senators are working together on just a Qwest-subsidy bill.

Here's a quote from the National Journal article:

Aides to Smith said the bill would make money in the Universal Service Fund available so telecommunications providers could build out broadband facilities. "It would be built into the same structure, and might end up as a stand-alone fund, within the current system next to the high-cost fund," an aide said.

Here's why this is not only theft, but stupid.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications

July 21, 2005

Lazy Reporter Calls Reporter Lazy

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

rafat ali.jpgThat headline could have been written about me. (But let's see if I can't make it up to you right now.)

It's the oldest dodge in the blogging world. You call another reporter lazy in order to cover up the fact you haven't looked at a story.

The usually-reliable Rafat Ali (right) did just that this week in his PaidContent, calling out The Guardian's Emily Bell for her skeptical take on Rupert Murdoch's $580 purchase of Intermix.

Just how lazy is that? Click below and find out.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Journalism | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

Seattle Weekly Discovers VRWC

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

free republic.jpgVRWC is shorthand for "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy."

It's something conservatives laugh at. But it's real.

UPDATE: Various people, some affiliated with this site, have been issuing comments here over the last few days. Most have been taken down. I stand by this story, the opinions expressed in it, and my opinion concerning sympathizers with these bozos.

It's the lynch mob mentality fostered by preachers, by politicians, by demagogues, a mentality used to attack Miami vote-counters, Vince Foster, Joe Wilson -- the list goes on and on.

It was also used to attack Andy Stephenson.

Stephenson was a blogger. He worked with sites like Democratic Underground and BlackBox Voting. He died this week of pancreatic cancer.

But not before teaching us all just what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

...continue reading.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Politics | blogging | personal

Pay for Play Is Already Here

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Pat Kenealy.jpgAdam Penenberg channels IDC IDG head Pat Kenealy (left, by Jay Sandred) on another of those occasional "you're going to have to pay for Web content someday" pieces we see every so often.

Well, he's right. But he's also wrong.

He's right because there's already some Web content people do pay for. Dow Jones loses reach and influence, but does make money selling online subscriptions. Lexis-Nexis and Dialog haven't gone free with the dawn of the Web. Last time I checked iTunes was selling songs online, at a profit.

He's wrong because he insists that "micro-payment technology" will stimulate the growth of pay-for-play content. We've been hearing that one for 10 years now, and it's as wrong now as it was in 1995.

There's already a micro-payment program in place. A very successful one.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

July 20, 2005

The Web is Already Balkanized

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

balkans.jpgI was giving more thought to a recent item, based on Joi Ito's brilliant piece on The Internets, and it occurred to me that the fight for "One Internet" has, in many ways, already been lost.

(The term Balkanize, or Balkanization, is often used in English to refer to this splitting up, which often (as in the 1990s) is accompanied by enormous violence. This picture of the Balkans as they are today is from Theodora.com.)

Think about it. How often do you use a Web site outside your own country? If you're an American, the answer is not very often. This is true for most people.

A lot more follows.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | Telecommunications | law | war

July 19, 2005

Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth (Gumby)

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

gumby.jpgMonty Python used to have a running gag called the Gumbys. They would put on moustaches, shorts, place diapers on their heads, and talk sheer lunacy for effect. CORRECTION: There's an update to this piece below the fold which could make this reference even-more apt.

Former FCC commissioner Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth, now a fellow of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute , is a Gumby.

This guy is so Clueless that, in an age when any wingnut can practically become a millionaire by snapping his fingers, he can apparently get his stuff published only in the New York Sun, a right-wing daily with few readers, no business model, and a crappy Web site that won't let you inside its home page without giving them tons of personal information. So no link.

Instead, you'll have to read the whole thing:

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Politics | personal | war

Is Chris DeWolfe Worth $580 million?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Rupert murdoch.jpgThat's what Rupert Murdoch has paid for him, buying his Intermix Media and its prime asset, MySpace.

UPDATE: Techdirt is pointing out that Intermix, the parent company, is also a notorious producer of adware and spyware.

Fox has never had an Internet strategy. This was partly because Murdoch wouldn't pay top dollar for Internet assets. But it was also because he has kept his Internet operations on a short leash.

By spending big to get MySpace, which has taken over the business of social networking around music in the last year, Murdoch is changing his tune.

But it doesn't matter unless DeWolfe, who launched MySpace just two years ago with Tom Anderson, has a second strategic act in him.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Investment | Podcasting | e-commerce | medicine

July 16, 2005

America's Shame: Spam War Heats Up Again

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

us flag.gifThat's the title of the most "popular" spam in my inbox right now, and maybe in your inbox as well.

It represents a new form of brazenness by U.S. spammers against the Net, because when you input the phone number in the message into Google you find the same message, as comment spam, attached to a host of different topics.

When you publicize a phone number like that, and get away with it, it's pretty obvious that the authorities are simply not interested in pursuing you. The CAN-SPAM act has gone from sick joke to tissue paper, a dead letter, and the entire Internet is now under attack from American spammers.

So am I.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Politics | law | spam

July 15, 2005

Technorati Should Be For Sale

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

dave sifry.jpegI'm not trying to start a rumor here. I have no insight into whether Dave Sifry (left, from Marc Cantor's blog) has considered any offers for his Technorati site, nor how he would react if one came in.

But since Barry Diller bought Bloglines (via AskJeeves) Technorati's performance has been falling behind that of its rival.

Robert Scoble (who works for a possible acquirer, Microsoft) offers the numbers, three times as many links to Sifry's own blog from Bloglines as from his own engine.

There is a vital lesson here about the technology space:

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | blogging | e-commerce | marketing

The New Interfaces (co-starring Steve Stroh as "The Expert")

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

rss feedreader.gifFor people who like gaming, their games (or online environments) are their main interface to the Web. This has been true for some time, and unremarked upon.

There are other new interfaces that many people depend upon. The iTunes player can be an interface, when linked to Apple's Music Store. Any music player, or multimedia player, is a separate Web interface, which may or may not connect to a Web page at any time. People who swap files use those programs as interfaces.

The point is in many niches the Web browser has already been replaced as the main interface to the Internet. Microsoft's five-year campaign to dislodge Netscape was worthless, which may be why they're letting Firefox run off with so much market share.

And now, even readers are getting their own, separate interface, the RSS reader.

I use FeedDemon. Steve Stroh uses NetNewsWire on his Mac and calls it fabulous. This field has yet to shake out.

I have noticed some big differences occur in my work when I'm using FeedDemon instead of the browser as my interface to the Web:

  • I'm seeing more content, faster.
  • I'm seeing fewer ads.
  • I'm finding great differences among sources in how they react to readers. Some post just a few sentences to the reader, others let the whole article run. The latter sites are seeing far fewer "hits" on their pages than the former, thus far fewer page-views overall, and far-fewer ad reads.
  • Publishers are waking up to this by shortening, even eliminating, the text that goes into the "newspaper" format of feedreaders. The Wall Street Journal is especially aggressive in this. US News is especially lenient.

Steve Stroh has more after the break:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Internet | blogging | online advertising

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 uce@ftc.gov, 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

CBS Bets On Ververs

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

vaughan ververs.JPG CBS has decided to do a Web log.

It sounds stupid, but isn’t necessarily. The Public Eye will be written by Vaughan Ververs, formerly editor of The Hotline, which has been drawing crowds of paying customers for The National Journal since 1992.

In its earliest incarnation the Hotline made Mike McCurry a star. McCurry was then the spokesman for candidate Bruce Babbitt, and his missives there gave Babbitt a boomlet. Later he was a Clinton press secretary. The point is there's a history of online financial success here.

The point is that Ververs, rightly or wrongly, is being given credit for some long-term success, and told to duplicate it on a larger stage, just as local anchors are often given the network gig and expected to produce big numbers.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | blogging | online advertising

July 12, 2005

Fight for One Internet

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

joi ito.jpgJoi Ito took up a challenge I laid down recently, in my piece on the possibility of Internet War.

Joi's point is that the Internet split has already begun, and it is based on language. Chinese and Japanese people don't care for English. People want URLs in their own language. And these URLs are unreachable by those whose keyboards only write what the Japanese call "Romaji," Roman letters.

"Why should these people be forced to learn some sort of roman transliteration in order to access the company page where they know the official Chinese characters for the names" he writes. (This is a very short excerpt. I urge you to read the whole post -- it is very wise.)

The peculiarities of language provide an excellent source of control for tyranny. Most Chinese don't leave the Chinese Internet, leaving them at the mercy of the authorities. Many Japanese choose not to leave their own language, leaving them ignorant of how others feel.

Language can also provide cover for terrorists. We can't translate all the Arabic-language e-mail or Web sites out there. We can't even find the URLs, unless we know how to look for them. So many of our problems in the War on Terror are exacerbated by a shortage of translators, or mis-translations. This problem continues to get worse.

There's more, of course.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | Politics

July 11, 2005

The Citizen Journalism Fad

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

will ferrell.jpgThe papers are full today with stories about "citizen journalists." (That's Will Ferrell as Anchorman Ron Burgundy to the left.)

Here's one in the Wall Street Journal. Here's one in The Washington Post. Editor and Publisher ran the official AP story. The Salt Lake Tribune copied the Chicago Tribune's coverage.

All these stories convey a common misconception. They assume this is a trend, and they assume that mainstream media will be able to dominate this new field.

Both assumptions are wrong.

In many ways this is a fad. It's a fad because, as camera phones proliferate, the volume of such pictures available is just going to become overwhelming. Making sense of what's out there, and getting rights to the good stuff, are going to be keys to success.

Also there is nothing really new here. Cable shows have been taking calls from individuals at news sites for decades. Talk radio is all about the callers. What's new here are the means the the medium, not the phenomenon.

But there's a more important point being missed in all the self-congratulation:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | Journalism | blogging | online advertising

This Week's Clue: Mr. Pulitzer, Tear Down This Wall!

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The search for online business models is a continuing fascination of mine at A-Clue.Com.

This week I returned to the theme, and readers of A-Clue.com got an earful. (You can get one too -- always free.)


pulitzer.jpg
Most online stores fail their editorial mission. (That's Joseph Pulitzer to the right, from his eponymous journalism school at Columbia University in New York.)

You may have great merchandise, you may have great service, you may have a nifty shopping cart. But if you can't bring the values of your shop floor to your Web site, you won't succeed online. Over time you may not succeed offline either.

An editorial mission replicates the value of your store online. What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? For Amazon it's a database, a huge variety of merchandise. Works for Amazon, works for Wal-Mart, but it won't work for you.

In fact, Wal-Mart's failures online can be attributed to this editorial mission failure. They were unable to replicate the values of a real Wal-Mart in their online efforts. While the store looks a jumble, regular shoppers know you can actually get what you want there fairly quickly. What they should have enabled was a form of "shopping lists" that people could print-and-use at home, adapting to their own needs, then input regularly on the site, along with a delivery service.

The difference between editorial values and commercial values is that the one defines what you are, and the other puts your name in mind. If branding is to be worthwhile you must deliver the values the brand promises. That is exactly how editors think, too. What you call your reputation they call credibility.

...continue reading.

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

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

July 08, 2005

The Moblog Disaster

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The blogosphere's quick reaction to the London strikes was driven in large part by the mass market in camera phones and video phones.

Within minutes of the bombs going off pictures and short videos began appearing online. In many the smoke from the blasts was clearly visible. Cameras worked even where phone functionality was absent, and images could be sent as soon as connections returned.

A second notable fact was the willingness, especially at the BBC, to get this footage up quickly. One amateur picture, of a double-decker bus with its top end ripped off, was the site's feature picture for most of the day. (That's the picture, above, from the BBC Web site.)

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Internet | Journalism | blogging | war

Orwell's FCC Chair

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

kevin martin.jpgAmericans pay more for less broadband service than citizens of any other industrial country, and our take-up rate for fast Internet service is approaching Third World levels.

The reason? Lack of competition. Phone and cable networks, created under government control, have been made the private monopolies of corporate interests whose lobbyists dominate all capitals against the public interest.

Does new FCC chairman Kevin Martin see any of this? No. Just the opposite, in fact.

The Supreme Court affirmed the FCC's decision to refrain from regulating cable companies' provision of broadband services. This was an important victory for broadband providers and consumers. Cable companies will continue to have incentives to invest in broadband networks without fear of having to provide their rivals access at unfair discounts. The decision also paves the way for the FCC to place telephone companies on equal footing with cable providers. We can now move forward and remove the legacy regulation that reduces telephone companies' incentives to provide broadband.

This is Orwell's FCC. Monopoly is called competition. Martin claims there is intense competition from Wireless ISPs and satellite providers, when in fact those companies are being driven out of the market. The vast majority of consumers and businesses today have just two choices for broadband -- their local phone monopoly and local cable monopoly, who together enjoy a duopoly and monopoly profits that lets them write-down their 30-year property in a world best served by three-year write-offs.

There's more spin after the break.

...continue reading.

Comments (15) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | law | personal

July 07, 2005

Lasica: King of Irony

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

royal crown magnolia.JPGSince I was handing out royal titles last week I thought it might be fun to consider what J.D. Lasica might deserve for Darknet.

NOTE: That's the royal crown magnolia from mytho-fleurs.com. Like it? It's yours.

A long evening spent reading Lasica's book brought the title to me: King of Irony.

Remember, this is a book. Thus it is subject both to a book's business model and its rights regime.

Want a copy? $25.95 plus tax and (if you buy it online) shipping get it for you. Or wait for it to appear at your local library. Or borrow one from a friend, free. Or wait some months for it to appear in a discount bin, or a remainder lot, or a garage sale. The price you pay is a function is a function of the time you're willing to wait for it.

What can you do with this book? I typed an excerpt today by hand. The length of the excerpt, again, is a function of time, and the cost of my time to produce it, unless I want to string it out a page or two. In that case, technology might be deployed -- a scanner -- plus a few minutes with the scanner's OCR software, some cutting-and-pasting, and voila!

Want to steal some more? Production costs are going to get you. A Xerography process may give you a bound book for just a few dollars, if your order is small. An offset process costs less per book, but the order in that case must be bigger. I guarantee the printer will want to know you're a Wiley fella (or lady) before they take the order.

And we haven't even cracked the cover yet. Easy to see where Lasica's crown comes from.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | Software | computer interfaces | e-commerce

London Calling

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

london blast.jpgThe blasts that hit central London today struck a city with vast experience in dealing with terror, its aftermath, and the issues underneath it.

It also represented the first time that the blogosphere actually gave better coverage to a major event than any news organization.

UPDATE: Media outlets like the BBC and GMTV are featuring calls for photos and eyewitness accounts as part of their ongoing coverage.

London suffered a decades-long IRA bombing campaign which killed hundreds. It was able to bring many bombers to justice, and discredit their cause in the eyes of their Irish-American sponsors, before finally reaching a political settlement which, while tenuous and setback-filled, is still an ongoing process.

Each time an event like this happens, moreover, we learn more about what citizens can do to cover it, and how media can adapt to citizen journalism.

The picture above, for instance, was taken by commuter Keith Tagg and quickly posted to photo-blogging sites like Picturephone. It's not a great picture, it's certainly not professional, but it does catch the immediacy of an eyewitness. That's probably why the BBC quickly adapted it in its own photo coverage, adding a second photo of commuters moving along the tracks from Alexander Chadwick.

The BBC Online site in general scored high marks for innovation and audience participation, teaching the important lesson that most people don't want to be journalists, but to be heard, and that those who listen will win their loyalty.

David Stephenson, looking to increase his exposure as a security expert, quickly linked to several important documents, including the London Strategic Emergency Plan, which guides the city's response to such events. (Does your city have one? Great follow-up story.) And John Robb offered the real low-down on all this at Global Guerillas.

Prime Minister Tony Blair also needs to be singled out here. He understands that, in a time of crisis like this, the head of government becomes, in essence, a mayor, and needs to act like one. He left the G8 Summit but didn't cancel it, quickly convening a meeting of his emergency committee, dubbed Cobra. (The Brits are much better at naming things than Americans.)

A blog called Geepster quickly linked the blast sites to Google Maps, using their API to deliver an excellent map and RSS news feed within a few hours of the event. Flickr created a quick pool of London blast photos.

Overall the blogosphere coverage of this act was an Internet year (at least) ahead of what we saw during the winter's tsunami, let alone the Madrid 3-11 blasts of 2003. The fact this happened in London had something to do with it. So did advances in blogging technology.

The question, of course, is what can we learn from this?

...continue reading.

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

July 01, 2005

J.D. Lasica's "Darknet"

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

jd_lasica.jpgDon't like fiction? I understand.

But you still need your summer reading. The season is upon us.

So might I offer you the latest from my new friend J.D. Lasica, Darknet

I've been covering the Copyright Wars for nearly a decade, and wish I had looked up from the day-to-day to try something like this book. Its subtitle is Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation, and it covers a ton of ground.

If you're not familiar with the digital underground, or what digital editing is capable of, then Lasica's book will be a revelation to you. Even for old hands like me it's good sometimes to get it all down so you can ponder it as a whole.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | law

Has The Internet War Been Declared?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

richard forno.jpgThe U.S. government has announced it will continue to control the DNS root structure, indefinitely.

Is this how the Internet War starts?

Until today the U.S. position was that it wanted to transition control of the root over to ICANN, a private entity, and several extensions were given.

Earlier this year, ICANN hesitated in extending Verisign's control of the .Net registry, following the SiteFinder scandal, where Verisign redirected "page not found" errors to a site it controlled (and sold ads against). Control was finally given, through 2011, but Verisign's ethical attitudes have not changed. As we noted earlier this week, it is Verisign that is behind the Crazy Frog Scandal.

Some felt that ICANN caved under U.S. government pressure. What you have here is assurance that such pressure will continue to be effective, and on behalf of a very corrupt company. If that is not seen as a provocation by the ITU I will be very surprised.

So how can that result in Internet War?

The problem, as former ICANN board member Karl Auerbach noted to Dave Farber's list today, "the only reason that the NTIA root zone is 'authoritative' is because a lot of people adhere to it voluntarily." Security expert Richard Forno (top) noted, to the same list, that "the timing is weird, coming as it does only a short time before the forthcoming meeting of the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)."

I would assert that the timing is not weird at all. The U.S. government has told the U.N. that it can shove any thoughts of international control over the DNS where the sun don't shine. It has, in effect, thrown down a gauntlet and dared the international community to challenge it.

More after the break.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Politics | law | war

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

Pressure on the Good Guys

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

feingold.jpgPolitically I think Senator Russ Feingold is one of the Good Guys. So, to be perfectly bipartisan about it, is Senator John McCain. (You know what McCain looks like, so here's Feingold.)

This is especally true regarding campaign finance. Proponents of reform have been pushing uphill with scant success ever since the 1976 decision in Buckley v. Vallejo, which basically said money is speech, and those with more money can out-shout the rest of us.

McCain and Feingold tried to fit that decision inside their eponymous campaign finance act, and while on most counts the Supreme Court ruled they did, that act also covered the Internet, and both men have insisted to this day that's true.

Now that the blogosphere has pushed-back on this, pushed back hard, from both sides of the aisle, the good guys have not been heard from.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | History | Internet | Politics | blogging | law

T-Mobile Jumps Over The Wall

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

catherine2.jpgT-Mobile has become the first cellular operator to offer full Internet service on its mobile phones.

The service will be sold under the name Web'n'walk, with Google.Com as the designated home page. (Yeah, I know, in the real Internet world you could change the default to, say, http://www.corante.com/mooreslore. But one step at a time.) New devices, with larger screens, will also be sold as part of the campaign.

The decision is critical, because up until now all cellular providers have offered only their own "walled gardens," sometimes using a small i (for Internet, customers think) on their phones, but in fact offering only a tiny fraction of the Internet connectivity customers are used to.

But as phones move to offering true broadband speeds, and some users use cellular broadband on their PCs because of its better coverage, this is finally breaking down.

It will be interesting to see how, and when, T-Mobile starts advertising this feature, and what Verizon and Cingular will say (or do) in response. T-Mobile, while owned by Germany's formerly state-owned phone company, is the smallest of four major operators in the U.S.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Internet | cellular | computer interfaces

June 29, 2005

An Always-On Endorsement

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Always On Server_small.jpgIt's nice when "real" (paid) market analysts agree with one of your premises. Especially when it's a key premise to you, as Always On is to me. (This is advertised as an Always On Server, from Virtual Access.)

So I was pleased to read Chris Jablonski's recent piece at ZDNet, Forget P2P, M2M is where the next party is.

M2M stands for Machine to Machine (ironically this sits right below an item about how poor most tech nicknames are) but we're talking about the same thing, intelligent sensors linked to wireless networks. Programming the sensors to deliver some result, then automating delivery of the result in some way (sending an alarm, telling the user, etc.) is what I mean by an Always-On application.

As I have said here many times the tools are already at hand, and cheap. We're talking here about RFID chips, WiFi and cellular networks, along with standards like Zigbee that let these things run for years on a single battery charge.

There are problems with every application space, however:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Security | medicine

June 28, 2005

The OTHER Supreme Court Decision

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

brandxrocket.jpgThe Supreme Court has decided that cable networks, created under government franchises, under monopoly conditions, are entirely the property of their corporate owners who don't have to wholesale. (That's the BrandX rocket ship -- they lost the case. What follows is directed to them as much as anyone else.)

Some ISPs bemoaned this bitterly. In the near term it means most of us have two choices for broadband service, the local Bell and the local Cable Head-End, both known for poor service, high prices, and loaded with equipment it will take decades to write off.

Smart folks, however, should be celebrating.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Strategy | Internet | Telecommunications | law

Identity Theft Turning Point?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

credit cards.jpgThe recent theft of 40 million card numbers at CardSystem Solutions is a turning point in the identity theft wars.

Previous thefts involved third parties, insiders or numbers left in bins, things that are easily fixed.

The CardSystems case stands out, first, because it happened at an actual processor and second, because it involved the use of a computer worm.

My wife works at a payment processor in Atlanta (most processors, for some reason, including CardSystems, are based here) that has (knock on wood) not been hit (yet).

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Futurism | Internet | Security | computer interfaces | e-commerce

June 27, 2005

A Digital Brown? Or A Digital Plessy?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

DavidSouter.jpg

It's unanimous.

By a 9-0 count the Supreme Court has held that Grokster (and its ilk) can be sued.

The decision was written by David Souter (right, in an old picture from Wikipedia), a conservative-turned-liberal appointed by the first President Bush.

Here's the key bit:

"We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by the clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties."

I've highlighted the most relevant portion. To me it looks like they wouldn't hold against BitTorrent, but that Grokster's business model, which did sell the service as a way to infringe, crossed a legal line.

As written I find it hard to argue against the language, but I guarantee I'll disagree with the interpretation, especially the spin being placed on this by the copyright industries.

As I see it the decision puts a limit on the "non-infringing uses" language of the Betamax decision, but does not overturn it. Grokster falls because its business model is based on infringement. BitTorrent has no business model, and thus may be exempt.

Trouble is that is an assertion that will be tested in courts that will twist this result just as the DMCA was twisted to reach this decision. Congress was told by the Copyright industries in 1998 that the DMCA would not overturn Betamax, that it would protect fair use, that it would not be extended in that direction and should not be interpreted as going there.

With this decision -- a unanimous decision as opposed to the 6-3 Betamax ruling -- I guarantee you the industry's lawyers will try and turn this into open season on the Internet.

But can they?

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Copyright | Internet | Politics | law

No Such Thing As Free WiFi

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

freewifispot.gifI spent last week in Texas, dependent on free WiFi hotspots, and I learned a powerful lesson.

There is no such thing as free WiFi.

When "free" WiFi is provided by a bar, coffee shop or restaurant, there is a quid pro quo. You're going to eat. You're going to drink. And when you're no longer eating and/or drinking (and ordering) you're going to get nasty looks until you leave.

There is a cost to a shop's WiFi that goes beyond the cost of the set-up. That is the cost of the real estate, the cost of the table, and the cost to a shop's ambience when a bunch of hosers come in and spend all day staring at laptops.

Now here's an even-more controversial point.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Models | Digital Divide | Internet | Investment

Hilary Rosen Gets It (Too Late)

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Hilary rosen.jpgFormer RIAA president Hilary Rosen finally gets it about copyright.

This volume needs to be embraced and managed becasue it cannot be vanquished. And a tone must be set that allows future innovation to stimulate negotiation and not just confrontation.

Her column at the Huffington Post (she apparently chose not to take feedback on it) is filled with honesty about both the tech and copyright industries, honesty she never admitted to (in my memory) while shilling for the RIAA.

But is it possible that this honesty is what finally caused her to leave? (Or did her life, and its imperatives for action, take precedence?)

That would be a shame, because the fact is, as she writes, that the answers here must lie in the market, not the law courts. For every step the copyright industries take in court, technologists take two steps away from them. This will continue until the copyright industries really engage consumers with offerings that are worth what they charge, and which aren't burdened with DRMs that restrict fair use.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | e-commerce | law

June 17, 2005

This Week's Clue: Two Trains

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

blogging time copy.jpgWe returned to the topic of e-commerce, and the effort to make money in journalism, with this week's A-Clue.Com, which went out to subscribers this morning. (You can get one too -- always free.)

The topic this week might be called the new media's old media problem, with a proposal for solving it. (I have no idea whether the book here is good or not. If someone can send me a link to sales, we'll see.)

Enjoy.


In software terms blogging and commerce are incompatible. They're two trains running on different tracks.

Bloggers aren't really thinking of making money. They may put up begging bowls, and they make take BlogAds, or put in Google AdSense, but their Achilles Heel is that, when they think of money at all, it's in Old Media terms.

Let's sell ads.

Community Networking Systems like Scoop, Slash and Drupal also share this problem. They have an advantage over blogging systems in that they can scale. They can take a lot of traffic, and a lot of users. Those users are empowered to create their own diaries, or polls, or multi-threaded comments. But again commerce is secondary, in this case even tertiary. The most successful "commercial" community sites are those, like DailyKos and Slashdot, that direct people off-site to give money or time to important causes. There is no built-in business model.

...continue reading.

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

June 16, 2005

The Real Mark Cuban

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

cuban.jpgRegular readers of this space will know Mark Cuban as a recurring character in my two online novels, The Chinese Century and The American Diaspora.

I think it's important to note that the Mark Cuban of those novels is a fictional character. He has the same name, face, and background as the real Mark Cuban, but his motivations and actions are purely imaginary. The world of my alternate histories diverge from the real world right after the last election, with the imagined meeting of an American ambassador and a Chinese official. From there on out it's my world, not your world, not the real world.

There is, of course, a real Mark Cuban. You can find this Mark Cuban at his personal blog, BlogMaverick. It's telling that, to my knowledge, Cuban is the only blogging billionaire. I hope it's telling in a good way.

What's the real Mark Cuban like?

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | blogging | fiction | fun stuff | personal

Death of RSS Keywords

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

rss.jpgFor the last few months I have had a keyword search on Newsgator covering topics of interest here, things like cellular telephony and open source. (Last call to buy the book.)

I have watched as it has gradually become worse than useless.

I'm getting nearly 500 e-mails a day on this feed, but the signal-noise ratio keeps going up. Newsgator has begun designating some of these posts as spam, but they're missing most of them, including this one.

Even some of the "editorial" hits on this list are worse than useless. Here's one. No offense to the writer but it doesn't belong in a keyword feed for cellular, despite the fact that one of the entries in this list is "I have a mobile phone."

It gets worse, but maybe I have a solution.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | blogging | spam

June 15, 2005

The Journalism Crisis

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

mencken387x250.gifIt should surprise no one that "professional" journalists hate Wikis and blogs.

A little history lesson shows you why. Only this one's fun. As part of your summer reading get yourself a copy of H.L. Mencken's Newspaper Days. (That's Mencken to the left.) It's his memoir of Baltimore's newspaper business around the turn of the last century.

Newspapermen at that time were lower class, hard drinking, smoking, swearing, worthless ne'er do wells. You wouldn't bring one home to mother. They hid in saloons, spun lies, spied on people, made less than the corner grocer, and were generally shiftless, lazy bums. Despite this, they considered themselves a class apart.

This last is still the case. But today's newspaper writers are either middle-class bores or upper-class twits. Those who report on Washington, write columns or work on editorials are among the most twittish. Many make more than the people they cover, especially if their faces are on television.

Blogs, wikis and the whole Internet Business Model Crisis threaten these happy homes. (Although I've got news for them -- stock analysts treat newspaper stocks like tobacco stocks and their ranks are being thinned like turkey herds in September. They'd be a dieing breed even without the Net.)

What's most galling to "professional" journalists is not the loss of jobs, or money, but their continuing loss of prestige. On the upper rungs of the ladder they're being replaced by "players" -- sports stars, lawyers, politicians, former entertainers. On the lower rungs they're being driven into poverty -- we've talked before of the corrupted tech press. And in the middle rungs you've got these blogs, wikis and the continuing problems of being treated like a mushroom. (You're in the dark and they're throwing manure on you.)

Our times are, in many ways, a mirror image of the 1890s.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | History | Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging

June 13, 2005

Even Free WiFi Needs a Business Model

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

freewifispot.gifGlenn Fleishman shared a piece he freelanced to The New York Times whose point is, simply, that even free WiFi needs a business model.

The story is about how some coffee houses are turning off the WiFi because they don't like the fact that their shops become offices. People shut up around WiFi. They bring in their PCs, turn on, and tune out the world around them. They may buy a coffee (increasingly they don't) but that's all you're going to get out of them.

Coffee shops and restaurants have beren the leaders in the WiFi "hotspot" movement based on the assumption they will be good for business, that people who WiFi also eat and drink.

Turns out we don't. Not that much, anyway. And we don't leave the table, either.

All of which leaves these shops without a valid business model. Would those using free WiFi object too much if they grabbed a piece of your browser's real estate and forced ads on you while you worked? How about if they put in a WiFi tip jar? I'm open to suggestions here.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Business Models | Digital Divide | Internet | Telecommunications

June 10, 2005

A Note to Pew

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

carol darr.jpgThis is a note to the nice people at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Some of your money has gone astray. Specifically, it has gone to George Washington University for something called the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, formerly the Democracy Online Project.

GWU put a woman named Carol Darr (right, from the Center for National Policy) in charge of this group, and she has proven to be, well, not to put too fine a point on it, an idiot. Clueless, in the parlance of this blog. To be blunt about it, she is using money given for promoting democracy on the Internet in order to destroy it.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Internet | Journalism | Politics | law | marketing | online advertising

Dismissing Always On Applications

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

engadget crying baby.GIFOne reason I (unreasonably) went off on Jamais Cascio is because I'm sickened at how the press generally treats Always On solutions. They only see the threats to civil liberties and tend to demean the potential user base.

After Jamais (rightfully) went after me I began looking for an article illustrating this point. It didn't take long to find one. (And the picture at right is from that very story.)

Here it is. It's a piece by Thomas Ricker of EnGadget on what are some really nifty Always On applications in the medical field.

He gets it all down, the fear of "Big Brother watching you" and the outright contempt for the infants, parents and older folks who might need this stuff.

Given all the deaths from SIDS I would think parents would love a mattress that could warn you before your child dies. Given the ravages caregivers face with Alzheimers (not to mention patients), a network of motion sensors telling you when you really need to help grandma (and when you don't) sounds like a very, very good thing indeed.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Internet | Journalism | Software | blogging | medicine

This Week's Clue: Destroying the Village

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

vietnam war.jpgI guess I felt a little down this week -- about the direction of technology, about the economy, about a lot of things.

So the readers of A-Clue.com got an earful. (You can get one too -- always free.)


There are times when history, like television, goes into re-runs.

We have literally turned Iraq into another Vietnam. But we've seen this movie before, so when Rumsfeld does his McNamara imitations, or Bush plays like LBJ's dumber brother, we change the channel.

Yet the fact is that when history repeats (unlike television) it does so in spades, in triplicate.

World War I was horrible. World War II was worse.

Iraq is not the only Vietnam repeat out there. We're doing the same thing with the Internet.

We're ignoring history. We know what would work to secure our computers, and the networks they run on. But we don't act. So we get this incremental escalation, this drip-drip-drip that leaves us, in the end, worse off than we would be had we taken decisive action at the start.

There are laws on the books that should deal with spam, with spyware, and with the problems of identity theft. They can be found under headings like fraud, theft, and fiduciary responsibility. Nothing is being done today that wasn't done before - only the means have changed.

Instead of moving against these problems together, as was attempted in the 1990s, we're leaving everyone on their own, and sometimes the cure winds up being worse than the disease.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Politics | war

June 09, 2005

Dana's Law of Bellheads

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

icon_the_boss.gifWhen evolution accelerates size becomes a disadvantage.

It's true in nature, and it's true in technology as well.

The Bells (and Comcast) are the big bottlenecks in our technology universe. With Moore's Law sweeping through the telecomm landscape they are competitive liabilities in our economic ecosystem.

There is no malice in saying this. The Bells can't help being pointy-headed bosses. They are bureaucrats. Their loyalty is to the inside of their system, not to the customer. In a stable environment the ability to retain such people is a boon. In an unstable one it's disaster.

More proof comes today from Techdirt. It's a so-called BellSouthWiMax trial. But it isn't WiMax. It isn't new technology. It's an excuse to keep charging $110/month for DSL ($60 for the phone line) when the phone component is (with VOIP) unnecessary.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | personal

June 08, 2005

Bubbles

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

google frank_lloyd_wright.gif
When something is overpriced there are always excuses.

I had a friend tell me the other day, with a straight face, that housing is still a great buy because the population will keep growing. Maybe so, but prices are a function of the amount of capital available to buy the goods, not the size of the population. Just because there are a lot of people in Soweto doesn't mean you should plunk down 100 million rand for a shanty.

The housing bubble, in other words, is based on unrealistic expectations. People are taking out interest-only loans, adjustable rate loans, and loans of over 100% of the purchase price, because they expect prices to go up faster than interest rates, indefinitely. True the length of a bubble economy is indefinite, but it definitely bursts in time.

Here's another bubble. Google. Sorry, it's not worth $80 billion. It's worth some multiple of its earnings, and with earnings growing quickly it's worth a premium on that. But it's not worth 25 times its sales of $3.2 billion. No company is. Some part of that valuation, maybe a large part of it, is pure speculation.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Internet | Investment | personal

June 07, 2005

Should the Internet be Governed?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

mm-headaction.gifFor my ZDNet blog this morning I interviewed Milton Mueller of the Internet Governance Project asking how the Internet should be governed.

The real problem is that most users, especially most Americans, don't believe it should be governed at all.

But it is governed.

The Internet is governed by the U.S. government, through ICANN, so anything the U.S. wants goes, and everyone else can go scratch. If the U.S. wants to violate the privacy of foreigners it does so. If it wants servers shut down -- even in other countries -- they're shut down. And all the "taxes" earned from site registration goes to those favored by the U.S. security apparatus.

In the 1990s there was a bit of whispering about this. But now those whispers have become a roar, because this government's obsessions with its own security (at the expense of everyone else's) and "intellectual property" (a phrase that does not appear in its Constitution) are becoming too much to bear.

That's why the ITU and the UN are sniffing around the issues involved in taking control of the root DNS away from ICANN. The coup would occur by these groups simply rolling their own, turning them on, and having member states point to them, instead of those offered by ICANN.

At first you wouldn't notice. But very shortly, as ITU and U.S. policies began to diverge there would be two Internets. Americans wouldn't be able to reach ITU pointers not recognized by ICANN roots, and vice versa for everyone else.

In a way it's already happening.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | Telecommunications | law

June 03, 2005

This Week's Clue: Deep Commerce

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

logocartmanager.gifMy free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.com was launched in 1997 as a discussion of e-commerce.

This week I returned to the topic.

Enjoy.


The reason why publishers have no editorial budgets with the move to the Web is simple. (Image from Websitecenter.)

None engage in Deep Commerce. Instead, they still just sell ads.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consulting | Economics | Internet | Investment | Journalism | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

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

Glaser's Best is Just a Start

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

mark glaser.jpgMark Glaser's best column yet for USC's Online Journalism Review is on the subject of Googlebombing. (The picture is from Kristenlandreville.)

He works off a case study on Quixtar, which has apparently hired a number of people to make sure its reputation looks stellar and critics aren't found. Yet one of those critics, Quixtarblog, is the third result I found just now, on Google, with Quixtar as my sole keyword.

So it works both ways.

Glaser identifies one of the pro-Quixtar Googlebombers as Margaret S. Ross, identifying her as a Quixtar IBO. But a few more minutes on Google would have picked up this, a Peachtree City, GA outfit called the Kamaron Institute, which she runs, that has been accused of manipulating search results for, among others, CNN. Glaser also identifies Ross as a "writer" for something called esourcenews.com, while in fact she's the registered owner of that domain.

My point here isn't to dump on Mark's work here. It's very good. I just want to make two important points:

...continue reading.

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

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 31, 2005

Seven Rules for Corporate Blogs

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

klaus eck.jpgA corporate blog may reveal more than you want to without revealing anything at all. (That's PR Blogger Klaus Eck.)

In order to succeed a blog must be spontaneous, fun, news-oriented and irreverent. If it sounds like a corporate communication it will be treated as such, and either be ignored or laughed-at.

There is a risk the blogger may reveal more than you want known, about corporate strategy or what you're really up to. And, let's face it, most corporations are sausage factories, on the order of Ricky Gervais' The Office or Scott Adams' Dilbert.

How can you avoid this? Some good advice follows:

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Internet | Telecommunications | blogging | e-commerce

The Short Tail

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

obligatory_1.jpegChris Anderson's blog, The Long Tail , is a "public diary on the way to a book" about the economic impact of mass customization.

As the graph shows, the phenomenon is familiar to anyone who blogs, and the challenge is to find a way to profit from it.

Stuff on the left side of the curve has business models. Stuff in the middle is struggling for a business model. Stuff on the right has no business model.

As you can see by looking at the endorsements on the left side of Anderson's blog, the Digirati are reacting like Anderson just discovered fire. And the Long Tail is no less obvious.

What's non-trivial is finding a way to profit from these atomized markets.

Google does it. TiVo does it (sometimes). But must those who profit from the "market of one" all be scaled? What about the creators? And what are the consequences of that?

What we've seen in the market, since the rise of the Internet, is an increasingly-shorter tail. Middle market books don't sell. Independent movies are having more trouble getting produced, not less. Musicians who used to live decent lives on record company contracts find today they can't get a sniff.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising

May 29, 2005

The Real Open Source Challenge is Getting Paid

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

greco.st-martin-beggar.jpgI've been a professional writer for over 25 years now. And what is most striking about the last few years, besides the rise of open source and blogging, is the rise of forced amateurism.

I've written about this before regarding Fuat Kircaali. He has built a fortune on the backs of unpaid labor. (No, that's not Fuat to the right, it's St. Martin and the Beggar, by El Greco, from iBiblio.com.)

He's not alone. Far from it, in fact. Three years into a supposed tech recovery and most of the offers I'm getting, still, are for "exposure" or "contacts," not dollars. Even those publishers who do profess to pay something, such as Newsfactor, in fact pay very little. Professional tech journalism, the field I've been part of for 20 years, is circling the drain.

The same is increasingly true of professional software development. The rise of open source disguises a disquieting fact. Many programmers today can't get work, and salaries are down. Most commentary is to the effect that programmers should "get over it." No wonder fewer want to be in the profession. I notice that CEO and sales pay rates in that industry aren't falling.

The fact is that trends designed to liberate this business, so far, are succeeding only in impoverishing the people in it. I've said this before, but the problem here is one of business models.

...continue reading.

Comments (12) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | blogging

May 28, 2005

One for the Web?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

eiffel tower.jpgThe European Constitution's impending failure in France is being credited to the Web. (Picture from Wikitravel.)

As the BBC reports:

This is the first major campaign in France in which the internet has become a key weapon, with bloggers and internet-users becoming the "No" campaign's front-line troops - not just in terms of influencing public opinion but also in rallying the French public to attend its campaign events.

If it happens, and the Web is credited after-the-fact, it would be a first, and it would be important.

As for Europe? I have a cunning plan...

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Politics | blogging

May 27, 2005

This Week's Clue: Personal Network Management

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

My free free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.com, has become very wide-ranging since its launch in 1997 as a discussion of e-commerce.

One of my continuing themes is the World of Always On, with wireless networking as a platform, running applications that use data from your daily life.

But before we get there we all have to become network managers. In today's issue I consider that question.

Enjoy.


mr_monet.gif

I'm a network manager. (MG-Soft of Slovenia makes products for network managers. That's their mascot, Mr. Monet, at left.)

It's not that I want to be. I'm a homeowner. My kids have PCs. My wife and I have PCs. Some years ago a friend ran wires among the rooms so everyone could share my DSL line.

There are now millions of us network managers. Recently I sat on my porch, opened my laptop, and learned that three of my five immediate neighbors now have WiFi networking in their homes. The signals were faint, but my copy of Windows found them all as soon as I booted-up. And the nearest of the three was totally unsecured. If I had larceny in my heart I could have entered my neighbor's network, used their bandwidth, even prowled around in their PCs looking for porn, passwords or blackmail material. (Fortunately for them, I'm a very nice person.)

The other two neighbors had nets which, like mine, are protected by long identifiers, input once, which validate valid PCs. One even had encryption on their system (very nice). The neighbors on the unprotected net insisted later they had the same system I do, but I suspect they haven't taken time to activate the security features.

The point is that wireless networks make many of us network managers, and Always On applications will make most of us network managers. We're not qualified for the work. We may never be qualified. Those who do become qualified become that way as I did recently, in extremis.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Consumer Electronics | Internet | Software | personal

May 25, 2005

Doctors in the Land of Lud

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

caduceusstlouis.jpgAre you an American in e-mail contact with your doctor?

No?

I didn't think so. (This fine bronze of a cadeusus, the medical profession's symbol, is by James Nathan Muir, who wants patrons for putting copies on all the world's continents.)

There are two reasons why you're probably not in e-mail touch with any of your physicians:

  • Many doctors are afraid to put anything down, in writing, which might come back to bite them. This is often recommended to them by their peers and professions.
  • Many doctors use a loophole in the HIPAA statute which makes them exempt from its requirements so long as they don't computerize.

As a result most doctors remain in the Land of Lud. And the cost to their patients is immense. I just spitballed a few:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Economics | Internet | law | medicine

The Fog of Blogs

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

nick kristof.jpgOften the very thing you criticize others for is your own blind spot.

This was never more true than in Nick Kristof's piece (that's him at the left) yesterday called Death by a Thousand Blogs. China's authorities can't keep up with the content produced by broadband, he says. Their legitimacy is drowning in the resulting revelations.

He could have added the impact of cellphones to that. The ideographic Chinese language lends itself to delivering great meaning, even in small files, as the country's cell phone novella make clear. With 90 million new phone users just last year, with every year's phones becoming more data-ready, there's no way the Great Firewall of China can stand.

But what's good for the goose is also sauce for the gander. Kristof's very point speaks to the bankruptcy of pulling his column, and those of others, behind a paid firewall. They are too easy to replace. Their financial value is minimal compared to their value to the discussion. Losing the latter to gain some of the former is truly cutting off your nose to spite your face.

This is not the only lesson.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Journalism | blogging | war

The News Cartel

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

local-news.jpgOne of the most interesting ideas I heard at the recent Blognashville event was Glenn Reynolds' suggestion of "local blogs." (The image is from Notbored.)

I looked into it. Won't work.

Local blogs don't scale, except in a small number of instances, in localities that are in fact quite large. You can, in theory, have New York blogs, covering the whole city, but how local are we talking about?

There's not enough of an audience for a single local blogger to cover, say, school board meetings, or crime, or even business, and bring in any money at all.

The answer to scale is comprehension. But that brings its own problems.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising

May 24, 2005

Et Tu, Frodo?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

firetrust logo.gifI'm generally all in favor of anything to fight spam. And regular readers of this space will recall how much I like my own anti-spam tool, Mailwasher from FireTrust.

But this pissed me off.


UPDATE: After posting this I learned the spam database I'm about to describe is not necessary for Mailwasher to work. My complaint here is solely regarding issues of marketing and notice. Mailwasher remains my anti-spam solution of choice.


The latest version of the product, Version 5.0 to be precise, supports a company spam datebase, called FirstAlert! This is a commendable thing, on balance.

But in order to pay for maintaining this database, FireTrust has changed its business model. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Essentially they're going to a subscription model built around FirstAlert!

I was asked to download the "upgrade" to Mailwasher, by FireTrust, roughly a week ago. I did so. It's now a $37 product but, if you want to maintain your own POP3 mailbox and a public e-mail address, it's a necessity. Upgrading was transparent, easy-peasy.

Suddenly this morning I get a pop-up, inside Mailwasher, reading "your subscription to FirstAlert has expired," with a link to renew. The link goes to a page inside the FireTrust site, and they want $9.95 for the subscription. The page doesn't indicate how long this "subscription" lasts.

Because of the way in which this was done, it can look to a consumer like a classic bait-and-switch. I bought this thing just last week and now you want MORE money?

Fortunately it's very easy for FireTrust to fix this:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Software | e-commerce | marketing | spam

May 23, 2005

The Right Blogging Business Model

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

jason calacanis.jpgI have been criticized soundly here by the early leaders of the blogging business community,(Pictured is one of these leaders, Jason Calacanis. From Vertikal.Dk.)

And why should these people listen? They have what they consider success. I'm a "low traffic blog." If I'm so clever I should be doing it, not talking about it, right? (Right.)

But the plain fact is, most of today's top blogs are using the wrong business model.

Their model is a media model. I tell you, you listen, and maybe I advertise to you on the side. This is what newspapers do, what magazines do, what radio does, what TV does.

But is the Internet a newspaper? Is it radio or a magazine or TV? No, it is not. The IN in the word Internet is short for Intimate. So why then should a business model imported from one of these other industries be appropriate? Only because, like TV entrepreneurs in the late 1940s, you can't think of a more appropriate one. You don't have the right vocabulary. You weren't born to this medium.

What would work better?

The community business model would work better. This is driven, not so much by what bloggers want to say as what their readers want to say. There are many high-traffic sites now using the community model -- Slashdot, Plastic, Groklaw, DailyKos. What they have in common is true community software -- Scoop, Slash, even Drupal.

The problem (and this is the nut of the issue) is that most of these community sites have deliberately shied away from having a business model. The only site I mentioned above that has a true business model is Slashdot, and Slashdot is so unusual people with an editorial background can't get their arms around what that business model is.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | Investment | Journalism | blogging | computer interfaces | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

File Hoarders Get BitTorrent Win

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

BitTorrent -- now trackerless!

Good news (at least in the short term) for file hoarders.

Given that both sides in the Copyright Wars know about language and framing, I'm urging use of this new term for the heavy hobbyist users on peer to peer networks.

  • Pirates (the copyright industries' term) is false. There is no economic motive behind most file trades. There is no assurance that, if trading ended tomorrow, sales would rise appreciably.
  • Traders (the term favored by users) isn't correct either. Most traders are asymmetric. Most are downloaders, not uploaders.

I think the word hoarding says more about the motives of the users, and the way toward ending the practice, than anything else. Thanks in part to the industry's rhetoric, and in part to its actions, many lovers of music and other files are afraid they will lose access to the culture they crave. Thus they demand to have physical copies of its artifacts, and grab all they can. It's classic hoarding behavior.

But time is the limit here, not space. You can only listen to one song at a time, watch one movie at a time. It doesn't matter how big your collection is, the only way to get enjoyment out of it is to play the files.

Many hoarders today already "own" more files than they can play in their remaining lifetimes. When you get your arms around this concept, you begin to see how self-defeating hoarding is.

So how can hoarding be stopped?

...continue reading.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Internet | personal

May 21, 2005

This Week's Clue: Jerimoth Hill

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

belmont statue01.jpegIn last week's issue of my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.com, I took a look at business models , following a weekend at beautiful Belmont University in Nashville (left).

This week I continued the discussion, asking why so many responded to that piece denying they had any such thing as A Clue, let alone A-Clue.Com.

Enjoy.


There was an interesting reaction to my piece last week, denial.

Many of the leaders in the blogging business read it, and all of them denied its inherent truth, namely that they had A Clue.

I'm not a business, insisted Jason Calacanis. Never mind that he has 65 blogs, a uniform look-and-feel, that his writers don't even get their pictures on their blogs and, when they leave, they leave with nothing. No, it's all about passion, he insists. We do this for love, he says. Business? We're not building one of those.

So it went.

I'm not a success, insisted Rafat Ali of Paidcontent. I'm not powerful, insisted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. I'm a dilletante, said Glenn Reynolds. I'm only here for the beer, said Dave Winer. I'm no one at all, said Pamela Jones of Groklaw.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Journalism | Politics | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising | personal

May 20, 2005

My Google?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

"One of our regular posters here (OK, it was Brad) suggested that our piece yesterday on changes at Google were just a way to track clickthroughs.

We both underestimated it. In the biggest change since the service launched Google will scrap its small clean interface and, just for you (because they like your smile) let you produce a personalized My Google page all your own.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | marketing

May 19, 2005

Google's New Strategy Serves Shareholders

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

google natl_teachers.gifI was planning on writing this afternoon about Broadcom's new patent suit against Qualcomm. Regardless of the merits, it looks like a good corporate strategy, creating uncertainty about a market opponent just as you're entering their space.

But in researching the story I learned something new about Google that may distress you. And that's a better blog item than the one I started with.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

From The Security Manager's Desk

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

trend micro pc-cillin.gif"Dad, the Internet's broken again."

update I finally surrendered in this case and renewed my daughter's antiviral, for $55. I would rather have her choose when to make the Linux switch. The anti-viral did, finally, get rid of all the malware, although we lost a second evening to it and she wound up writing her last paper on my own machine.

Actually it had been breaking for some time, I learned. My lovely daughter is a big fan of Fanfiction.Net, a site where kids are allowed to post their own stories based on popular characters. (Think Harry Potter meets the Three Stooges.)

It's a harmless avocation but it comes with a price. Fanfiction is filled, absolutely filled, with spyware and malware. Ad pop-ups were filling her screen, and no matter how many I clicked away (even if the browser was turned off) more appeared. She had been running an anti-spyware program, but it had not been updated. And her anti-viral had just expired.

The solution seemed simple enough. Her anti-spyware program was updated and deployed. But here's a dirty secret of our time. Most adware today is no different from a virus.

All the tricks of the virus creep were deployed to keep crap like eZula infesting my girl's PC. Copies were hidden in memory, in the restore directory, in directories under program files. (None had ever asked permission, nor told her what it would do.)

When I deployed Spybot in normal boot, the spyware was so thick (download this, click here) the program actually stopped -- the pop-ups and demands to download more garbage were a primeval forest. When deployed in "safe mode," there were several "problems" that couldn't be eliminated. Re-boot and start Spybot again? Well, dozens more spy-virii popped up during the re-boot.

But wait, there's more.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | Security | Software | personal

May 18, 2005

Waiting for Grokster

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

grokster.gifSome time in the next month the copyright world may (or may not) reel from the Supreme Court's decision in the Grokster case.

The facts on their face are as favorable as the plaintiffs can make them. Grokster is all about making money for itself off the property of others. Its business model is to sell ads, including adware (sometimes a polite word for spyware and malware). It hoses both sides of every transaction. And the software really does little more than a good FTP server (with an automated database) would.

The vast majority of Grokster's use is driven by hoarding. People fear losing access to the music they love (or might love). So they load up, until they have gigs-and-gigs of it they have to haul around. (Thanks to Moore's Law of storage this gets lighter and less expensive over time, but it still has to be kept.)

The hoarding in turn is driven by the industry's threats. Threats of rising prices. Threats of lawsuits. Threats of copy-protected CDs.

The market solution to the facts is already in the pipeline. Many have proposed the idea of taxing people for unlimited access to the industry's wares and in fact schemes like Yahoo's Music Unlimited work just that way. Pay the "tax" (which starts at $5/month but could go up subject to negotiations with the industry) and download all you want. No need to hoard. Stop paying and all your files magically disappear. (The genie is found in Microsoft's DRM.)

More on the jump.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Internet | Software | e-commerce | law | online advertising

Always On Is RFID

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

gesture pendant.jpgI didn't blog much yesterday because I was researching the state of play in Always On. (The illustration is from Georgia Tech.)

I had a book proposal before Wiley rejected out of hand. But when I then suggested to step back and do a book on RFID for the home, I got real interest. Just make it a hands-on book, I was told.

Thus, the research.

As regular readers here know well there are many Always On application spaces, that is, functions fit for wireless networking applications.

  • Medical monitoring
  • Home Automation
  • Entertainment
  • Inventory

Absent this understanding that a unified platform already exists so that all these applications can be created together, what is the state of play specifically regarding Radio Frequency Identification? (Or, if you prefer, spychips, although since I'm talking about home applications you're spying on yourself.)

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Strategy | Consulting | Futurism | Internet | Science | cellular | computer interfaces

May 16, 2005

That's One Small Step for Wine...

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

...no giant leap for wino-kind.

The Supreme Court decision legalizing cross-state wine shipments is limited.

First it applies only to states where delivery of wines to homes is legal in the first place. Georgia is not one of those states. (Although that law is not always enforced -- once I got some Michelob in a press packet.)

"If a state chooses to allow direct shipments of wine, it must do so on even-handed terms," Justice Anthony Kennedy said. If it doesn't you still got tough luck.

Second the case applies only to direct from-the-vineyard sales of U.S. wine. Imported wines aren't included. Importers can't ship to consumers, only vintners can.

But let's make this sporting, shall we?

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | e-commerce | fun stuff | law | personal

Payola

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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

Oy, Canada

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

canada_flag.gifYou probably don't know this but Canada is in a world of hurt right now. And it's about to get worse.

The hurt is of self-inflicted. The governing Liberal Party is caught up in scandal , and the opposition is very regional - a Bush-like party based in the middle provinces, seperatists in Quebec and socialists in British Columbia.

But the big problem isn't political. It's regulatory.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Politics | Telecommunications

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

Blogging Business Models

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bl_ochman.jpgB.L. Ochman (the picture is from her Whatsnextblog) has already broken this, but this week's a-clue.com newsletter features a piece on blogging business models, written following the Blognashville conference.

Enjoy.


I spent the weekend at Blognashville, a gab-and-egofest for about 100 (mostly male, mostly middle-aged) bloggers at Belmont University in Nashville (a pricey pimple on the bottom of Vanderbilt) to fuss over Glenn Reynolds (much nicer in person than online) and to search for meaning.

The big question: how will we make money off this?

People are investing a ton of time and effort in blogging. Volunteers get burned out if they can't find money. All institutions are built on money. At Nashville we all felt we were in the gold fields and no one seemed to have made a strike.

There's a Clue there. Nearly all those 49'ers (and Alaska 98'ers) who went in with pick and shovel failed. It was those who went in with a business model, professional mining companies or merchants such as Levi Strauss, who succeeded.

Some 99% of blogs (including mine) go about the publishing question backwards. That is, we look at the process from the writer's point of view, not the reader's. This is forgivable in that bloggers are writers, but this is one of the key differences between writers and publishers. Publishers create for the market.

That is, publishers define the readers they want, the content those readers need, and the advertisers they will hit-up to pay the bills. They then order the production of the product, and keep an eye out to make sure it meets the readers' requirements.

In other words, the difference between blogging and journalism lies entirely on the business side of the shop. Publishers are just as likely to pay for lies as bloggers are to make stuff up. The difference is the publishers create lies that appeal to their audiences, while bloggers write lies that appeal to themselves.

This is easy to understand when you look at the professional blogs that are run by publishers - Weblogsinc, Gawker Media, and Paid Content. Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton and Rafat Ali defined the readers they wanted, created a business model, then hired writers to fulfill the mission.

In contrast I found, at blognashville, that even the most-popular bloggers are mere dilletantes. This is a term Glenn Reynolds applied to himself. Dave Winer, with whom I spent pleasant hours, is also doing his blog on-the-side - his business is RSS. I was surprised to find myself the most knowledgeable businessperson in the room, and I'm a complete failure.

When you're led by amateurs you can't expect professional standards to be upheld. Yet, on the editorial side, blogs often do just that. It's on the business side where they all fall down.

Still, I saw several potential business models at the conference:

...continue reading.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising

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

Last Friend Gone

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Malcolm_Glazer.jpgThe U.S. is in the process of losing its last friends, the Brits.

I'm not just talking here of recent elections, where Labour lost much of its majority specifically due to its support of the Iraq war.

No, I'm talking about Malcolm Glazer.

Malcolm who, you ask? Glazer owns the Tampa Bay Bucs. You may remember his eldest son Avram from the dot-boom, as the head of some nonsense called Zap.com, which tried to roll-up a bunch of disparate Internet assets into some super-duper-something. They got less than nowhere. (The parent outfit, Zapata Corp., had as its co-founder one George H.W. Bush. We'll just let that one sink into the heads of Manchester's tinfoil hat crowd.) Zap.Com also gives us an excuse for discussing this sports story in this here tech blog.

Anyway, yesterday daddykins bought England's true crown jewel, the Manchester United football club. And he seems to have bought it the way LBO artists did it in the 80s, aiming to "unlock value" by dumping his debt onto the books. Needless to say you don't want to be wearing a Bucs' hat in Greater Manchester this afternoon.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | fun stuff

May 12, 2005

Blogonomics

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Fox News Radio Logo.jpgMany think the secret of Fox' dominance of news is political. A generation brought up on the myth that an objective press is biased to the left, then given a right-wing Pravda, sees the latter as "fair and balanced."

That's a small part of the story. Identifying a niche and serving it is as old as the magazine business. Older. It's as old as Poor Richard's Almanack.

The real secret is much simpler. The "network" is actually a studio. Few bureaus, no big investigation team, no bench, little support. Who needs writers when most hosts can wing it. It's talking heads. It's radio economics.

No, it's blog economics, or Blogonomics.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Journalism

May 11, 2005

CNN Surrenders to Blogosphere

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

CNN-logo.jpgWith CNN's decision, now reflected on its air, to become a national version of local TV news, with "it bleeds, it leads" sensibilities and a complete emphasis on simple stories told in front of courthouses rather than anything researched, the word needs to go out.

They have surrendered to the blogosphere.

With local TV news no longer covering politics or policy, and with cable news now virtually ignoring it, what other conclusion can be drawn?

It's not as if politics has no audience. Political blogs have the highest audiences, and highest degree of audience participation, in the blogosphere. Many are profitable, some wildly so. Many also break real news stories, either through the efforts of the people running them or just from common posters who do their own investigations and report the results.

In the history of journalism this is big news.

But it's not being reported as such.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging

May 09, 2005

Wi-Fi-in'

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

freewifispot.gifOne thing I got my first crack at over the weekend was the actual practice of Wi-Fi-in'. (The picture comes from a Free WiFi hotspot list site.)

While I have had WiFi in my home for years now I only recently got a laptop that can truly take advantage of it on the road. I brought it to Nashville with me.

Wi-Fi'-in means opening up the box, booting up, and hoping for an unsecured 802.11 connection you can log into. It's best done in a city, preferably close to a University campus. But don't expect to do this on the campus itself -- most college systems these days are secured, at least by passwords.

It was amazing to me how lost and alone I felt when I couldn't find a free spot around me. My hotel advertised the service, but during the day the radio waves couldn't reach my room. (This is a fact of life with radio -- the bands are all more crowded during the day.) As I noted the campus where I was hanging on Friday had their access password-protected, and I'm not into breaking-and-surfing (yet).

But all was not lost. I was about to learn a powerful lesson.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Business Strategy | Internet | Telecommunications | personal

Googlejuice, Googlejuice, Googlejuice

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

google mothers day.gifGooglejuice is that precious elixir which makes the difference between a site or blog that has tons of regular traffic, and those that don't.

Getting Googlejuice, legitimately or not, is a real industry. It iranges from Search Engine Optimization to spamdexing.

Google is constantly adjusting and re-adjusting its algorithms in this area to be fairer, and keep people from playing games with it. Just last week it sought a patent on new Google News technology it claims will enhance that site's credibility. This may backfire, because the major media certain to get more Google Newsjuice out of this are the same companies looking to charge for links.

But that's another show.

One of the great ironies of my recent mistake here was that it actually increased this blog's Googlejuice. Between those who linked to complain, my responses in apology, and those who followed up on my explanation saying they hadn't seen my apology, the incoming link traffic here actually rose 50%. If some of those people stick around (maybe wondering when I'll fall on my face next) it's actually a good thing.

Jonathan Peterson, who did the Amateur Hour blog here for a while, made this observation to me over the weekend.

I think there are a few good lessons - the most important of which you
already knew - the firestorm around an error is good for your link
popularity. Andrew Orlowski has been playing this game at the Register for years (and it's the reason I stopped
reading The Register, but his anti-blog idiocy brings in the googlejuice.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | blogging | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

The Real Difference Between Blogging and Journalism

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

henry copeland.jpgThe real difference between blogging and journalism is on the business side, not the creative. (That's Henry Copeland of Blogads on the left of the picture, taken last year from Dan Bricklin's blog.)

On the creative side, blogs are just as likely to care about journalism, public service, and lies as any other media.

On the business side, however, nearly all bloggers do things backwards.

That is, we look at the content from the writer's point of view. Journalism looks at all content from the reader's point of view.

This is no small point. You can see it clearly in examining the "blog journalism" companies which have found success -- Weblogsinc, Gawker Media, and Paid Content. Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton and Rafat Ali all defined the readers they wanted, created a business model, then hired writers to fulfill the mission.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Economics | Internet | Journalism | blogging | online advertising

Dirty Little Secret: Glenn Reynolds Is OK

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

GlennReynolds.jpgThe dirty little secret I uncovered at Blognashville is that Glenn Reynolds is actually a very nice guy. Smart, too. (Not truly handsome like I am but OK for a hair-head.)

Reynolds, who teaches law at UT Knoxville and apparently enjoys it, also plays a right-wing crank on his Instapundit site. He does this part-time and, in part thanks to first-mover advantage, he dominates the right half of the political blogosphere, with over 15,000 incomng links at last count. (This blog, by contrast, has 262.)

Reading Reynolds, and those who admire him, one gets a completely false impression of the man.

In Nashville I found an erudite, intelligent, and amused gentleman of the old school, always in a suit and tie, never seeming to sweat, with a genuine smile that looked nothing like the MegaChurch preacher readers might expect. The haircut looks like something out of a 1968 Young Republican Club, and the blog reads like that as well, but the mind and the man behind them are quite different.

There was some real wisdom in the man as well. Don't believe me? Following are some quotes lifted directly from my notebook during the event:

...continue reading.

Comments (28) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | e-commerce | 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

Social Mobility

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Dept_Store_anti-monopoly.jpgThe strength of an economy, like that of a society, depends on social mobility. That means the poor can rise to wealth. It also means the wealthy can end up poor. (This old cartoon, from what folks like to call THE Ohio State University, pre-dates Wal-Mart by generations.)

A recent online conversation with Vijay Gill brought this home to me. The topic was actually our recent piece on The Myth of Scarcity. I liked it, posted it to Dave Farber's list, and Vijay responded quite thoughtfully, his point being that telecommunications is hard, some parts are scarce, and real technical knowledge is even scarcer. Maintaining total connectivity in the last mile without protecting the monopoly is harder than I make it sound.

This set me thinking in two directions at once.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Telecommunications

May 03, 2005

Pitch Credibility

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Dak2000.gifWhy is it that politicians have done a better job on the Internet than publishers?

It has to do with a concept I call Pitch Credibility.

Journalists understand the concept of credibility. It's the trust readers place in us. If there is a journalism profession, it's based on this idea of credibility. I took a huge hit to my own credibility when I screwed-up an item on Ev Williams. I went through hell on that not to regain my credibility, but to minimize the losses, and in hope the damage would not spread to innocent Corante authors.

But just as editorial work must have credibility, so must advertising. That is the innovation the Internet makes necessary.

Moveon.org understood this right away. It knew that if it suggested you give to Candidate X, then Candidate X better fit the desires of the Moveon audience, or the endorsement would damage Moveon. Because it had pitch credibility with its audience, Moveon was able to gain honest information (a mailing list) from its members, and even financial support, based solely on its promise to deliver.

While Moveon failed in these last two cycles as a political force (ask Presidents Gore, Dean and Kerry) it has succeeded in creating a business model that everyone else on the Internet needs to pay attention to.

So if Roger Simon, for instance, is to succeed in his efforts to unite the right-wing blogosphere and extract money from its members, he must retain pitch credibility. He better not let anyone like me in because I'd damage it. And he better use that credibility only to solicit for products, services and people the audience will surely endorse.

Perhaps you can see now why this idea is easier for a politician to understand than a businessman. Politicians are attached to what they're selling in ways businessmen aren't.

Belief is at the heart of pitch credibility.

How can we take advantage of this in the business realm?

Click to find out.

...continue reading.

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

Where A Blog Business Model Starts

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The Associated Press was created by publishers to let papers share stories and reduce editorial costs, in an age where everyone knew their business model and barriers to entry were rising.

Today barriers to entry are at rock-bottom and valid business models are hard to come by.

So naturally, everyone's trying to create an AP.

This is going about things backward. Business models aren't for sharing. They must first be created by entrepreneurs, then expanded upon. Only once they're established can you expect the kind of consolidation an AP represents.

What we have, then, is a business opportunity. What is that opportunity?

A shared registration database would be a good place to start. One sign-in, and one cookie, might get a reader posting privileges at hundreds of sites. The database would provide advertisers with a working profile of the readers (demographics and psychographics) justifying a higher cost per thousand on ads. Blogs on the network could be bundled based on politics, subject matter, or geography, just as is done in the magazine business.

The result would be a brand offering the services of an ad network. It should also be able to aggregate other business opportunities for the members of the network, so it would have aspects of a talent agency as well.

How close are we to something like that? Not very close at all:

...continue reading.

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

May 02, 2005

The Myth of Scarcity

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The bidding war between Verizon and Qwest for MCI is based on a myth of scarcity. That is, both think they can make the deal pay by squeezing customers for the scarce resources represented by the MCI network.

Moores Law of Fiber rendered that inoperative many years ago. There is no shortage of fiber backbone capacity. And there are ample replacements for Plain Old Telephone Service -- not just cable but wireless.

The myth on which this deal is based is, simply, untrue.

Yet the myth persists, and not just in the telecommunications business.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Investment | Journalism | Politics | Telecommunications | personal

Last Word on VOIP

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

tom evslin.jpgI have not written much about Voice Over IP in this space because I'm not an expert in it. (Yes, I hear you say, this never stopped you before.)

Actually I didn't think I had anything original to add to the conversation. I still don't. But I want to point you to someone who does.

That someone is Tom Evslin (left). Evslin recently completed a wonderful series on the economics, politics, past and future of VOIP, on his blog, which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in this area.

Evslin calls this year a "flipping point" driven bythe mass distribution of VOIP software. It's not really free although, once you have your set-up, each call carries no incremental cost. The market battle between Skype and Vonage are driven by Metcalfe's Law, control of end points. Evslin offers the best explanation I've yet seen of Skype and its business model, which is rapidly evolving into an alternative phone network.

I have one suggestion.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Internet | Software | Telecommunications

WiFi Ground War

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

remax balloon.jpgThe political battle over WiFi shapes up as a classic match between private interests and the commons.

But it is in fact a battle over real estate. (Thus, the balloon, which is the logo of a very innovative real estate brokerage.)

Verizon pulled a bait-and-switch on New York phone booths. It installed 802.11 equipment based on the promise of free WiFi service on adjoining streets, then pulled them all back into its paid network.

Politically this makes no sense. In real estate terms it makes perfect sense.

The challenge to this looks technological, but it's really political. You can see this challenge by simply turning on your WiFi equipped laptop.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Strategy | Internet | Telecommunications | 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 Forkum.com,)

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

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

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 28, 2005

14 Clues Murdoch Won't Use

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Rupert murdoch.jpgYesterday we reported on a speech by Rupert Murdoch (left, from Wikipedia) to newspaper editors in which he so much as said their industry will be killed by the Internet.

Personally I don’t think this is necessarily the case. Newspaper companies will be able to use computers and on-demand pagination to mass produce paper products that are relevant to future audiences. Just as radio and TV only forced the industry to change, not disappear, so it will be in this case.

But let’s assume Murdoch is right. How can incumbent newspaper companies achieve anything on the new medium? His speech read like someone anxious to learn. I'll take him at his word.

Following are some ideas.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Journalism

April 27, 2005

Blog Item Placement Flux

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Nick_Denton_web.jpgThere was some misunderstanding about a recent item that caused me to re-think a lot of what I'd considered standards in publishing items on a blog. (A reader writes that this picture was originally published in The New York Times, and I apologize for not acknowledging it earlier (but I didn't know)).

The standard used here is to write an item, bring it to its own inside page, and then write another item. I was convinced this was right by Nick Denton (left), who found that Google Ad revenue jumped on inside pages, because high CPM ads were brought to more specific content.

Not everyone works that way.


  • Many publications use multiple pages, so they can put many sets of ads before the readers of a story.
  • Some blogs place multiple news stories under the same item, so readers get a full day's worth of news at once.

What brought these thoughts to a head?

...continue reading.

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

The New Digital Divide

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

digital divide 2.jpg Back in the 1990s a lot of Americans wasted a lot of bandwidth worrying about the Digital Divide.

Americans were wealthy. We could afford PCs and fast networks. Those poor black and brown people were being left behind by the future. There were even proposals that Americans tax themselves so that poor people could get broadband faster.

Now, a decade later, the digital divide is back.

And this time Americans are on the other side of it.

Our broadband networks now stand 13th in the world, behind those of our trade rivals. Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are being offered speeds and prices we can only dream of. Asian cellular networks are years ahead of those here, and mobile broadband is common. In the most remote parts of Africa, cellphones are being turned into makeshift phone kiosks, or simply rented on a per-call basis, so folks can stay in touch with markets and the growing world economy.

Meanwhile, a decade of growing monopolism in this country means broadband take-up is now below the rates elsewhere. Cellular networks are two years behind those in Asia. You pay more to get less bandwidth than people in most of the world, and the situation is getting worse.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Economics | Internet | Telecommunications

April 26, 2005

Two Blogging Markets

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

the blog herald.jpg In The Lost Point, I wrote that Google risked being outmanuevered because it didn't pay proper attention to Blogger.

Today Duncan Riley of The Blog Herald goes further. He says the game is already over, that Microsoft won, that the field is consolidating into the three big portal players so Movable Type needs to sell out to Yahoo, quick.

Riley is right as far as he goes.

But if you click below, we'll go a bit further.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Software | Telecommunications | blogging | computer interfaces | online advertising

April 25, 2005

The Open Source Political Challenge

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

lobbyist.jpgIn politics a committed minority usually wins. (The lobbyist image originally appeared in New York's Gotham Gazzette, but I found it at Italy's e-laser.)

That's because, on most issues, there is no majority view. Most people don't care.

Learning an issue, and becoming committed to it, teaches you the source code of politics.

If your organization is tightly-knit, if your issues are driven by corporate interests, then your politics is closed source. On issues that mainly interest businesses this is determinative. Lobbyists and financial contributions fight and often come to settlements that aren't half bad. Traditionally most issues before regulators, from the EPA and FTC to the FDA and FCC, have been closed-source arguments.

If your organization is loosely knit, and if your issues are driven by personal feeling, then your politics is open source. Open source politics defines social issues, and the numbers involved in turn drive American politics as a whole. Politicians can win with only committed minorities on their side, if those minorities stand united.

What happens when closed source and open source politics collide? It depends on how much real interest those on the open source end can manage.

This collision is now apparent in telecommunications.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Digital Divide | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | law

New Week, New Reading List

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Today I want to introduce you to another new member of our blogroll.

It's Tom Abate, whose blog is called MiniMediaGuy. He doesn't post nearly as often as I do, but his posts are always thoughtful.

Tom's blog is in the media space. He's constantly brainstorming about how the "minimedia" of blogs and mobiles and podcasts can succeed against Big Media types who are constantly looking for new ideas.

...continue reading.

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

The Lost Point

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The point lost by my stupid mistake is that Google, despite its enormous short-term success, is showing cracks in the armor.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Investment | blogging | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

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 20, 2005

The Crisis at Google (and how to solve it)

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The success of Google has been based on the fact that technology drives its train. Technical success is the most-sought value.

This is becoming a problem.

In many of the new businesses Google has launched, technical values (while important) are not going to be the sole drivers of success. In blogging, in RSS, in Google News, in Google Desktop, in Google Local, and in other areas, other skills are required.

Business skills. Marketing schools. Journalism skills. Political skills. Artistic skills.

Leonardo DaVinci (celebrated above) could not get a job at Google today. In a well-rounded company, his genius would find a place.

The need for these various skills will only increase with time. Google must find a way to recruit these skills, and to reward these skills, without giving the people with these skills control of the company.

This will not be easy.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | blogging | e-commerce | marketing

Advice for Young Journalists

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Want a career in the exciting, fast-paced world of 21st century journalism?

Get an MBA.

Don't go to journalism school. You can learn to write anywhere. The way to write better is to practice. If you love writing you can pick up the rest on-the-fly.

Instead, go to business school. Why? Because the only way you're going to have a good career in this business is to have the skills of a publisher. And those are the skills taught in business school.

In my first lecture at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, in 1977, we were told firmly that if you wanted to make a good living there was a fine businesss school on campus, the Kellogg School, and we should go there. So I've got their logo at the top of this item. I should have taken the advice.

More on why you should go to business school to learn journalism after the break.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consulting | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising | personal

Verizon Buying the Internet Core

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

seidenberg1b.jpgThere was a gratifying reaction to my calling out Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg the other day.

But here's a question no one asks, and getting in tune with Seidenberg's arrogance actually keeps us from asking this.

What's he buying in MCI? For $6.7 billion it's not much.

Then again, maybe it's everything.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications

Broken Links, RSS Abuse and Beyond

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

I have written before about advertising being inserted into RSS feeds, and that is increasing. (Image from Case Western Reserve.)

I'm not just talking about RSS items that are in fact links to ad pages, but RSS items that, while containing links to stories, have additional ads inserted into them.

Now there's another, far more dangerous abuse of the RSS system, phony links.

Phony Links are RSS items from registration-only sites. Most U.S. newspapers are now requiring registration. RSS feeds from these sites now go to sign-in pages, not to the stories themselves. In other words the link is a bait-and-switch. It doesn't go to content, but to a sales pitch.

The AP is abetting that requirement by demanding royalties for online content.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Investment | Journalism | blogging | computer interfaces | e-commerce | online advertising

April 19, 2005

The Hole In Intel's WiMax Strategy

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The hole is the whole U.S.

Intel plans on mass producing WiMax chips and going into rapid deployment, offering end-user speeds far in excess of what U.S. phone outfits provide with DSL.

The problem is that's the speed limit for most backhauls. Go to most WiFi hotspots, or most home networks, and DSL is the backhaul platform. We're talking 1.5 Mbps, max.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Moore's Lore | Semiconductors | Telecommunications

April 18, 2005

Blogger of the Year

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

groklaw.gif
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

The Real P2P Threat

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

A Cachelogic study claims two-thirds of Internet traffic is now P2P, by implication the trading of copyrighted files. (That's a Cachelogic product there to the left.)

But is this just another Marty Rimm study?

Rimm, you may or may not remember, wrote a paper at Georgetown Law in 1995 claiming 85% of Web traffic was dirty pictures. This was later disproved, but the damage was done and Congress passed the ill-fated Communications Decency Act.

Mike Godwin, the former EFF counsel who fought the Rimm study and is now senior counsel at Public Knowledge, remains skeptical, noting that the Cachelogic study hasn't gone through peer review. He also notes that, since Cachelogic sells systems to control P2P traffic, it has a natural bias.

The Cachelogic claims may have logic behind them, however. Many ISPs do report that over half their traffic is on ports commonly used by P2P applications. Brett Glass of Lariat.Net, near the University of Wyoming, says the claim seems accurate, noting that unless ISPs cut-back capacity to those ports (a process called P2P Mitigation), the applications quickly discover the fat pipe and divert everyone's traffic to it, filling it at the cost of thousands per month.

And that is at the heart of the problem.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Digital Divide | Economics | Internet | Investment | Moore's Lore | Telecommunications | law

April 15, 2005

Your Weekend Reading

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

seth goldstein.jpgA friend introduced me to a blog I'm adding to the blog roll, one that is only marginally about technology.

Seth Goldstein runs Majestic Research, a New York outfit that produces very high-end (and I hope very expensive) reports on trends for hedge fund managers. Before that he ran Site Specific. He advises Del.Icio.Us. He's smart.

His blog consists of long essays, published at long (for me) intervals, on a wide range of subjects. Recent pieces include one relating client Del.icio.us to German essayist Walter Benjamin, whose Frankfurt School was overwhelmed by the horrors of the Hitler era, another calling APIs "the new HTML," and a third seeking a system of PeopleRanking, very similar to my own piece Finding the Good Stuff.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | History | Internet | Investment | blogging | fun stuff | marketing

Components of the Always On World

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

rfid chip.jpg There are two types of chips key to the Always On world.

These are sensor chips and RFID chips.

Both contain tiny radios. The two can also be combined.

A sensor chip, as its name implies, tests specific conditions, and is reporting back with data on those conditions. A motion sensor is an example. A heart monitor is an example.

An RFID chip merely identifies the item it’s on. The chips that will go onto passports will be RFID chips, and RFID identification is at the heart of efforts by retailers by Wal-Mart, as well as service providers like Grantex.

I’ve also written, recently, about applications that combine RFID and sensor ships. Bulldog Technologies is rolling out a line of these chips that not only identify containers in transit, but monitor their condition and shippers know the contents are safe.

Always On applications will use all these types of chips as clients on WiFi or cellular networks, with applications located on gateways that run at low power, with battery back-up, and have constant connections to the Internet.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Strategy | Futurism | Internet | Semiconductors

Business Week Almost Writes About Always On

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

businessweek_logo.gif The coming issue of Business Week features a short story on the Internet of Things, or Machine to Machine (M2) applications, which this blog calls Always On.

The story focuses on cheap cellular radios and industrial applications.

The story misses the opportunity and the market.

It's a good example of the Intel failure noted below because if no one is going to tell the story a reporter can't write it.

Cellular can enhance an Always On application, making it mobile and ubiquitous. If you have a heart monitor in your shirt you don't want to die just because you walked outside the reach of your Local Area Network.

But these are enhancements. And the industrial market is just the tip of the Always On iceberg.

The big money, as I've said, is based on the wireless broadband platform.

It's true that wireless broadband isn't seen as a platform now. It's seen as an end-point. It's seen as a way for you to link your PC to broadband resources. It is seen as an extension of an existing IP protocol. And a lot of people are waiting for IPv6 to tag every device with a unique number before getting excited over linking such devices.

This is very misguided. You can build true PC functionality into something that runs on rechargeable batteries for just a few hundred dollars. Instead of placing the processing of applications on a desktop PC that's turned off, or a laptop that might be taken away, this puts processing for these new applications on the network itself.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | computer interfaces

How Intel Can Fix Its Mobility Problems Right Now

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

sean maloney.jpgLast month Intel's mobility chief Sean Maloney was in the hunt to head H-P, a job that eventually went to Mark Hurd of NCR. (Watch out. Dana is about to criticize a fellow Truly Handsome Man.)

But how well is Maloney doing his current job?

Intel's role in the development of Always On is crucial, and its strategy today seems muddled. It's not just its support for two different WiMax standards, and its delay in delivering fixed backhaul silicon while it prepares truly mobile solutions.

I'm more concerned with Maloney's failure to articulate a near-and-medium-term wireless platform story, one that tells vendors what they should sell today that will be useful tomorrow.

Intel seems more interested in desktops and today's applications than it is in the wireless networking platform and tomorrow's applications.

Incoming CEO Paul Otellini says Intel is going to sell a platforms story, not a pure technology story. Platforms are things you build on.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Moore's Lore | Semiconductors

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 13, 2005

Citizen Blog

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Nick_Denton_web.jpgOne problem journalists have with blogging is it does away with gatekeepers.

Printers are gatekeepers. They cost money and make you think before you publish.

Editors are gatekeepers. That's their job. They assign stories and edit them carefully so you don't mispel words.

Publishers are also gatekeepers. Traditionally their role has been to shield the poor, innocent journalist from the nasty world of business.

Mark Glaser of OJR examined this today without reaching any conclusions (as good journalists are taught to do). (The recent picture of Nick Denton is from the OJR story.)

Glaser interviewed three people whose blogging companies seem to be bringing in bucks -- Denton (of Gawker, Wonkette, etc.), Jason Calacanis (of Weblogsinc) , and Rafat Ali (of Paid Content) -- about how they pay people who work for them.

By the month, said Calacanis. By the story, said Ali. By the reader, said Denton.

Shock! Shock and dismay, responded the folks at Slate and Salon, representing the traditional industry.

To which I respond, huh?

...continue reading.

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

BBC Brown-out

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

BBC_News.JPG I depend on the BBC.

I'm not alone in this. Hundreds of millions of non-Brits do. The BBC's high quality and impeccable impartiality are what give the UK its continued relevance in the world.

But the BBC is in the midst of a brown-out.

The government-funded corporation is in the midst of a forced turnover plan. It's cutting staff now, but planning on hiring new staff later. It wants to get younger people with new ideas in the door, and get those who've grown stale out the door.

Sounds like a good idea. But meanwhile quality suffers. Especially in their reporting on tech issues.

...continue reading.

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

WiFi Movement in Disarray

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Lenin named his small movement the Bolsheviks, a word meaning majority. He called his majority opponents Mensheviks, a word meaning minority.

The point is that if one side is large and undisciplined while the other side is smaller but tightly disciplined, the smaller group can win a political struggle.

That seems to be the case with municipal wifi. It's an undeniable good everyone wants. It's relatively cheap to install and maintain. It should be a no-brainer.

But it's losing to telephone monopolies because of lax discipline.

I've gotten a taste of that this week in criticisms of my recent pieces on Philly's WiFi plan.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Consulting | Digital Divide | Internet | Journalism | Politics | Telecommunications

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 Silicon.com. 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

Tyranny of the Beat

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

reporter.gif There is a tyranny to having a narrow beat. (The image, by the way, is from the Oak Ridge National Lab.)

Yes, you can develop sources. Yes, you can develop expertise. But with a narrow beat you're limiting yourself, and you're becoming increasingly dependent on your employer, since beat knowledge is often non-transferrable. You're also more likely to "go native" with a beat, internalizing sources' views as your own without analyzing them.

Blogging and RSS are, at their heart, designed to let us do away with this Tyranny of the Beat. Your subject can be read based on its subject matter, or you can develop your own personal fan club.

I have always resisted having a narrow beat in my work. You'll see stories here ranging from Internet Commerce to Always On to law, science, even politics, along with what Hylton thought was my beat when he took me on -- semiconductors.

I think this keeps me fresh. It keeps me interested. That keeps the quality high.

But that's not the way publishers look at things, even blogging publishers. There are now several companies that run a stable of blogs, besides Corante, and each one places writers in narrowly-defined beats. Weblogsinc may be the most aggressive in de-personalizing their blogs. They now have 75. Most can change out the staff in a nano-second and keep going. Good for them, bad for writers.

And weren't blogs created so we'd have something that was good for writers?

A look at the Technorati Top 100 offers a good illustration on the rise of these corporate blogs.

...continue reading.

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

Googlesphere

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Like Kremlinologists of the past, people are now analyzing Google's every move the way they once followed Microsoft.

Exhibit A today is a piece from Jim Hedger on Google's latest patent application. But the same things can be found any day of the week. Just enter the word Google at Google News and here's what you'll come up with today:

And that's just on regular news sites. We're not yet talking about the blogosphere:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | blogging

Why Philly WiFi Will Fail

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

philadelphia.jpgI am a big supporter of free WiFi. But Philadelphia's project will go down in history as a failure.

Here's why:

  • Costs are already starting to spiral. The build was expected to cost $10 million. Now it's at least $15 million.
  • Corruption is a cost of doing business. Someone's already going to jail over graft on the Airport WiFi system. You think no one's going to take a dime here they don't deserve?
  • This is paid access. This is not going to benefit the poor people who supported this project. Philly is actually building a WiFi cloud that ISPs and others will re-sell.
  • Verizon will sabotage it. As we saw with CLECs in the late 1990s there are lots of ways an incumbent carrier can sabotage a competitor, simply by stalling cooperation. Verizon has every incentive to see this fail, and they're going to make sure it does.

Those are the obvious problems. But wait, there's more:

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Consulting | Digital Divide | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications

April 10, 2005

DNS Poisoning Threatens Intranets

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Hacker 2.gifIf your company runs all its Internet traffic through an internal server, and that server runs Microsoft Windows, then you're vulnerable to a new type of hack known as DNS Cache Poisoning. (The illustration here comes from a Brazilian blog, marketinghacker.br.)

The alert went out about a month ago. The idea has been around for a decade, but it's now being adopted by sophisticated criminal gangs.

Here's how it works.

Criminals break into a Windows server caching DNS requests for an Intranet, then insert instructions redirecting users to poisoned pages. The 12-digit IP address chosen by the criminal is thus linked to a chosen Internet address, and requests for Google.Com (for instance) could go to a site that downloads spyware or key-logging software in the background.

What can be done about it?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Security | Telecommunications | computer interfaces | law

Online Gaming For Some Means Online Gaming For All

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

lottery bank.jpgOnce any state legalizes any form of gambling online, competition can come from anywhere, even overseas. (The image is from Goodsgallery, Bensalem, Pennsylvania.)

That's the gist of last week's WTO ruling which both the U.S. and Antigua are spinning as victories for their side.

My guess is this will stop in its tracks efforts in Illinois and Georgia toward allowing online sales of lottery tickets, since it would open all Americans up to competitors around the world.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | e-commerce | law

April 04, 2005

Who Sets The Agenda?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

thomas friedman.gifThe great struggle of our time, between "major media journalism" and "blogging" involves who sets the agenda.

Exhibit A. I've been writing about the economic threat of India and China for years now. I've called the War on Terror a mere distraction from the real game. I know other bloggers have done the same.

But suddenly, wonder of wonders, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times goes to Bangalore, discovers we're right and now it's on everyone's radar.

I've written before here of the methods by which the major media is trying to co-opt the blogosphere and eliminate the threat. They're taking on some people, attacking others, and in this case, just taking others' ideas and claiming them for their own.


...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Digital Divide | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | Politics | personal

April 03, 2005

Finding the Good Stuff

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

eric-rice.JPGEric Rice (left), responding to Dana's Law of Content, asked a real good question yesterday:

And who will be the ultimate judge of what is and is not good and compelling?

The short answer is you would. Not you, Eric. You. The person reading this. And you. And you.

The biggest problem blogging faces right now is it's hard to find the good stuff. Oh, much of the good stuff does get found. And, of course, what constitutes good stuff is all in the eye of the beholder.

What do we do about this?

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Journalism | Podcasting | Software | blogging | marketing

April 02, 2005

Which Medium Shares Grief Best?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

john paul II on time.jpgWhen CNN was new they decided to cover a Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. What I remember was how the anchors chose to talk over everything, so you felt their ego trips rather than the ceremony.

I got the same feeling, in triplicate, watching coverage of Pope John Paul II's death today. Grief is shared through human interaction, but all we got on TV today was a simulation.

Catholicism is the most ritualistic of America's major religions, but viewers saw little of the power in this ritual. Instead we listened to talking heads on all channels, complete with anchors' ego trips, experts speculating, and cameras thrust in peoples' faces when they had nothing to say.

If you looked at major media Web sites you got more of the same. It was about them, not about him, and certainly not about us.

What about the blogosphere?

...continue reading.

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

April 01, 2005

We Love Vint Cerf

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

vint cerf.jpg Over the years I've been critical of Vint Cerf, one of the original gearheads credited with TCP/IP.

(One look at the hairline, of course, and one must admit he's a Truly Handsome Man. The picture is from Computerhistory.org, a page describing his early work.)

When Cert looks into the future today, he gets it. He understands where we should be going, and perhaps more importantly where we should not be going, in regards to the Internet.

He shared some of that wisdom Wednesday at a dinner called Freedom to Connect.

Following are some of the high points:

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Futurism | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | law

March 31, 2005

Dana's Law of Content

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

lawbook.gifThe cost of making something good is directly proportional to the complexity of the tools needed to create it. (The picture is from Freeadvice.com.)

This blog item is quite good. The tools needed to create words are very cheap. Even if the tools were more expensive, as they were when I began writing, my cost to create this text would not go up much. And the likelihood of its being of high quality would be just as high.

If I read this on the radio it would not be as good. The tools needed to create a Podcast require knowledge of radio or music production values. Even if Podcasts were as cheap to make as blog items, the proportion of good ones would be smaller than they are for blog items.

And so we come to the latest moves by Microsoft and Sony to deliver consumer video.

...continue reading.

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | Investment | Moore's Lore | Podcasting | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising

The Right Telecomm Policy

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

simplicity.jpg

Now that you’ve read my latest dismissive screed against the government, the question may have occurred to you.

What might a proper telecommunications policy consist of? (Very pretty flower, I know. Here's where I got it. The picture is called Simplicity.)

It’s really quite simple.

Click below and I'll tell you.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Economics | Internet | Investment | Moore's Lore | Politics | Telecommunications | 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 tlthe5th@myway.com.

...continue reading.

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

The Demonization of Google Has Begun

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

google_fark.jpgThe demonization of Google has begun. (Image from InternetWeekly.org.)

It's one of the great laws of politics. As soon as people decide you have power, and you can be moved, everyone and his auntie is going to try and move you.

I hinted that something might be happening more than a month ago, but it was probably the controversy over Google News that tipped it over.

With Google News, from the very beginning, Google did something it claimed it wasn’t doing. That is, it exercised editorial judgement. As SearchEngine Journal noted, “While an algorithm based on publishing popularity chooses which articles are found under which keyword phrases, the news-authority sources themselves are supposed to be pre-screened by a human.” And some immediately started writing programs to see what those humans might be doing.

But just as I was objecting, wanting to get in, others were objecting wanting to stay out. Agence France-Presse has won an agreement from Google that News won’t even spider stories sent to its affiliates, while Jeff Jarvis is crowing that Google News no longer spiders “hate sites.”

And now the atmosphere of controversy has spilled into the main site. French law demands that ads for competitors not be placed against trademarks. Google complies, on its French site, but continues to employ them on its U.S. site, where the standard is different. So the French sue.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Investment | Journalism | Politics | e-commerce | online advertising

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

The Grokster Case Is Irrelevant

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

As the Supremes prepare to take on the Grokster case, with commenters predicting terrible doom whichever way the wind blows, let me offer a dissenting view.

The Grokster case is irrelevant. The studios have already lost.

The court cannot make file transfers illegal. There are too many ways to transfer them. They can be transferred in e-mail attachments. They can be transferred through Instant Messaging. They can be transferred via MMS.

File transfers are basic to networking. Without the ability to transfer files we're down to typing.

Here's a compromise that rings true to me.

...continue reading.

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

March 25, 2005

How To Kill Your Newspaper

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

newsboy.jpg

This weekend Slate offers a feature of Philip Anschutz, a conservative businessman (and big soccer fan) who has launched printed papers under the name the Examiner in Washington and San Francisco.

Jack Shafer syggests Anschutz needs to invest more in editorial and consider the Web in order to be taken seriously.

Correct and double correct.

I wrote about this several weeks ago, and what follows is that original copy. You can get it free
any time.


I have a love-hate relationship with newspapers. (This newsboy is advertising news of the Titanic's sinking.)

The business has been at the heart of my "profession" for a century. The whole idea of a journalist as a professional is also a product of this business. I took my graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism. Joseph Medill was the old reprobate who built the Chicago Tribune empire.

But as I've said many times here this whole idea of a "journalism profession" is a fraud. Professionals can make it on their own. Journalists can't. If you don't have a job you are not part of the fraternity. Even if you build a journalism company based on your vision of what the profession should be, you are always nothing more than a businessman.

The New York Times recently quoted a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."

Here in one sentence we have the utter cluelessness of the industry. Here is an opportunity waiting for someone to exploit it.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Investment | Journalism | e-commerce | online advertising

March 24, 2005

The Blogging Co-Opters

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

muzzled.gifThe big news in blogging today is not the FEC, but a concerted effort by media companies to kill it by co-opting it. (The illustration is from an Investigator.Biz feature on the slave trade.)

Companies large and small are hiring bloggers, full or part time, are launching their own staff-written blogs, or are seeking to have bloggers publish on company-owned sites.

The weapons they wield are money (I'm up for that), the machinery of publicity, and credibility.

Much of that credibility, however, is being defined by search engines, especially Google, which refuses to spider blog entries on equal terms with media-fed blogs.

If you want to find this entry, for instance, you must look in the main search engine. Specialized blog search engines get a fraction of a regular search engine's traffic, and are based on RSS, meaning they're self-organized rather than spidered.

The result is that the independent blogger today has the same problems finding an audience as an independent Web site would have had in, say, 1998.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | Journalism | blogging | personal

The Bandwidth Restaurant

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

You may have caught the nasty 509 error which hit this site yesterday.

Here it was no big deal. It was a technical problem. It was fixed.

But it did occur to me that, finally, the market for core bandwidth is starting to turn around and Web hosts are finding themselves in the position of restauranteurs. (Thus, we're repeating our picture of Italian restauranteur Mario Batali.)

You may now think about Parmesan Reggiano, some nice Balsamico, the cool breezes of Tuscany, an artisanal bread and a fine bottle of red. I'll explain.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | e-commerce

March 23, 2005

Microsoft Patents IPv6

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Eben_Moglen.jpegThey shouldn't have been allowed to do this, but according to Eben Moglen (right, from Wikipedia) they did.

Microsoft got a patent in 1998 on technology that is eerily similar to IPv6.

Moglen, who now runs the Software Freedom Law Center in New York, says IPv6 represents prior art not disclosed in Microsoft's patent application, meaning the patent should be invalidated.

He also says members of the Internet Engineering Task Force are ready to testify, creating a "smoking gun" against Microsoft, he told eWeek:

...continue reading.

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

March 22, 2005

End The Gore Tax

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

declan_mccullagh_d2.jpgThat’s what Republicans called it, when they were campaigning for power a few years ago.

The “Gore Tax” was their name for the E-Rate program. Its aim was to help poor schools cross the digital divide by subsidizing their access costs.

It has been a bipartisan disaster. In practice it’s nothing more than a subsidy for the Bells, who had the law written in such a way so that they got the money automatically unless they refused it for some reason.

This means, in practice, that the subsidized rate schools pay may in fact be higher than the alternative market rate. Bells are charging hundreds of dollars per month for T-1 customers who could easily be supplied by WISP DSL service at a fraction of the cost.

It gets worse. The E-Rate was also used for hardware, so schools stuck themselves with obsolete PC technology to boot. You’ve got obsolete PCs held by captive customers who can’t upgrade.

Now Declan McCullagh reports that Rep. Joe Barton wants to put the E-Rate out of its misery and I’ve got to applaud it.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Internet | Telecommunications | law

March 21, 2005

Et Tu, Barry Diller?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

barry diller.jpgThroughout the dot-boom Barry Diller stood aloof. He promised he would never overpay for "Internet real estate," that he would grow his business by finding bargains. (The picture is from this Wired article where he displays far more wisdom about Internet valuations than displayed today.)

For several years he stayed true to that. You can justify the prices paid for Home Shopping Network, Expedia.Com, Hotels.Com, and Ticketmaster based on revenues and earnings. They sold stuff -- toasters, travel packages, concert tickets -- and earned real money.

But $1.85 billion for an outfit with trailing year sales of $261 million? That's over 7 times sales, about 40 times earnings.

Sorry, Barry, you finally drank the Kool-Aid.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | online advertising

AOL Surrenders To The Net (AFP Take Note)

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Whatever idiot at Agence France-Presse is pushing to keep its stories from being linked widely might want to do a re-think after reading this.

AOL is far more powerful than Agence France-Presse. At one time its walled garden was the most powerful force online. Its shareholders took 45% of Time Warner's equity in 2000, and while that's now worth a fraction of what it was (thanks to the fact they weren't really worth the price), it's still a lovely parting gift (and thanks for playing our game).

Well, after spending billions of dollars and five years fighting the inevitable, AOL has succumbed.

...continue reading.

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

Yahoo and Google Party Like It's 1999

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

prince.jpgWhen a currency becomes overvalued it gets tossed like confetti. This is what happened in the late 1990s, and it's happening again. (The allusion, of course, is to the hit song 1999 by the man at left, known again by his given name, Prince Rogers Nelson.)

Yahoo's P/E is at 54, Google's is 123. Their stocks are overvalued in a market where the average P/E is still said to be near historic highs.

It doesn't matter whether acquisitions are made with cash or stock. Cash acquisitions, after all, can easily be handled by the company selling stock. Yahoo has been especially active in this area.

Companies of all sorts want this currency, and thus we have both Yahoo and Google on an acquisition binge.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Economics | History | Internet | Investment

War Against Hotspots Begins

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

wi-fi-zone.jpgThe war against 802.11 hotspots, which I predicted last week, has already begun.

I don't expect free access to survive it.

The fact is that a hotspot without registration allows hackers to insert viruses undetected, allows criminals to hack into databases undetected, and allows spammers to spam undetected.

The New York Times had a feature this weekend , picked up by the Financial Express, alleging half the crooks caught in a recent sweep dubbed Operation Firewall were using public hotspots.

A recent piece from the Medill News Service (my j-school alma mater), picked up by PC Advisor, suggested that people should never conduct personal business through a hotspot, for fear it is actually an "evil twin" set up by a hacker to grab passwords from the unwary. An IBM spokesman also detailed this scam for Newsfactor.

Here are the facts:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Digital Divide | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | e-commerce

AFP Robot.Txt File Found

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

As we reported over the weekend Agence France-Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million. We reported that Agence France-Presse doesn't know how to write a robots.txt file.

We were wrong on that. Carl Malamud (no picture, sorry -- he's shy) found a reference to a robots.txt file on the Agence France-Presse site at http://www.afp.com/robots.txt

While AFP stories are not directly linked to Google News as of March 21, affiliates' publishing of those stories are.

...continue reading.

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

March 20, 2005

How AFP Can Win Its Suit

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

afp-logo-1.jpgAs I noted yesterday Agence France-Presse's suit against Google News is silly.

But just because it's silly doesn't mean it can't be won.

Come along after the break and see how that might happen.

...continue reading.

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

March 19, 2005

AFP Sues Google Rather Than Write Robots.Txt File

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Pepe1.jpgAgence France-Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million, apparently, because Agence France-Presse doesn't know how to write a robots.txt file. (The image of the faux-French cartoon character, Pepe LePew, is linked from a German site.)

The Agence suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleges Google News "stole" its content by linkig to it, with headlines and inserting thumbnails of photos. No claim is made that Google cached whole copies of the news agency's stories.

A U.S. court ruled in 2000 that it's perfectly legal to link deep into another site. But it is also legal to write a program that prevents robots from linking to any page.

On the next page is the code Agence France-Presse could easily insert into a file, robots.txt, linked to its home page, preventing all links from its site:

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Journalism | law

March 18, 2005

VOIP Hot Now, Not Later

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

voip.jpgThis summer will be the peak of the Voice Over IP (VOIP) boom. (The illustration, by the way, is from Poland. No, he doesn't look Polish.)

It's an easy prediction because Philips announced at CTIA a reference design for "converged handsets," with 802.11 and GSM or GPRS cellular in the same package.

We've seen the success of Vonage and Skype. We've seen the growth of 802.11 "hot spots" in hotels, airports, and on campuses. We've now seen the cellular industry adopt to VOIP. It's happy days.

So why am I predicting it's all going to end?

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Models | Internet | Telecommunications | cellular

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

Microsoft adCenter Ignores 90s' Lessons

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

adcenter.jpgBack in the 1990s (not that there's anything wrong with that) a lot of companies drew a lot of venture capital promising to target ads based on who you were rather than what you were looking at.

The ploy failed. It turned out the cost of targeting exceeded the premium advertisers could charge for the space.

On the other hand context-based ads, targetting based on the content of a page or a search, continued to draw premium prices. It still works.

So Microsoft actually took a step backward this week when it launched adCenter, which targets based on users' use of Microsoft resources, plus Experian credit scores.

They also, once again, didn't do a complete trademark search. Finding this particular example, which I don't believe has any affiliation with Microsoft, took me all of 10 seconds. (On Google.)

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | History | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

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

Newspapers Are Your Big Opportunity

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The New York Times quotes a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."

Here in one sentence we the utter cluelessness of the industry.

Newspapers have always given away their content. Always. The money you pay for your daily paper goes only toward its distribution costs. The ink, the paper, the printing, and the entire editorial budget (which is just 8% of the total, although publishers act like it's the whole thing) -- that comes from advertising.

Where does the money come from? Many sources:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | online advertising

March 10, 2005

Where EDGE Cellular Makes Sense

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The cellular technology called EDGE doesn't make sense for the U.S.

It's not that fast. It costs real money. By the time a carrier installs EDGE his competitor may have true 3G available, and now you've spent your budget but lost the market.

But in the developing world, in places like Africa (the future users pictured here live in Benin), EDGE may make perfect sense. Stuff of New Zealand offers some glimpses of it today.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Futurism | Internet | Investment | cellular

One More Step for Always On

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Wind River is continuing its slow march toward the computing mainstream. (The illustration, from the Wind River site, shows the engagement model the company follows with its customers in producing products. It's careful and complicated.)

It's easy for someone to criticize Wind River's strategy as an attempt to maintain proprietary control in a world of open source, but the fact is there are opportunities here for the Always On world that need to be explained, and then seized.

Fact is Wind River's VxWorks is the leading RTOS out there. RTOS stands for Real Time Operating System, folks. An RTOS is used to make a device, not a system. You find RTOS's in things like your stereo, and your TV remote. What the device can do is strictly defined, and strictly limited. Your interaction with the device is also defined and limited.

An RTOS is not a robust, scalable, modular operating system like, say, Linux. And over the last few years, Wind River has been creeping into your world. VxWorks is used in most of your common WiFi gateways. This limits what they can do. They become "point" solutions. You can't run applications directly off a gateway, only off one of the PCs it's attached to.

Now, slowly, this is changing.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | B2B | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Internet | Linux | Security | Software | computer interfaces

March 09, 2005

BBC Gets It Wrong On China

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The BBC has a feature today claiming China's censorship of the Internet is highly effective.

In some ways China has been effective. All ISPs and access points are licensed and monitored. The Great Firewall of China rejects controversial queries. A blogger who criticized the authorities using their own name would be quickly arrested.

But there's a lot more to the story than that:

...continue reading.

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

Yahoo-Google War Goes Mobile

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Yahoo is what it has been since 1997, a portal. Google is a search service. Now, with the rise of the Mobile Internet (we're still at 1994 with this, in fact) Yahoo is gigging Google and calling it "limited."

This is not just rhetoric. Yahoo has long been a leader in mobile services. And it's extending that lead with a new games service.

But this does not mean, as Business Week writes, that Google is a "one-trick pony," that its offerings are "limited." This is pure spin from Yahoo's PR people.

Forrester (via the Pondering Primate) offers some better suggestions. Provide other ways in which people can use Google to search for things outside the Web.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | cellular | marketing

Two Ways To WiFi Coverage

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Should WiFi cover every inch of ground or should it be concentrated where people congregate.

Today we have two designs in the news, one meeting each need.

From Steve Stroh comes the idea of smartBridges, a directional antenna providing enormous bandwidth, and backhaul, within a small defined area.

"There are many, many service providers that have very profitably deployed such a hybrid infrastructure - use Wi-Fi where it makes sense - where it can be highly localized and you can take advantage of higher power, more sensitive receiver, and directional antennas on an outdoor Access Point."

But there's another way, too.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Internet | Telecommunications

March 07, 2005

Google Desktop Search Goes Gold

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Google's Desktop Search is out of beta and available for download. (Going Gold is a phrase from "back in the day" when software ready to be release would be put onto a "gold" master for reproduction and shipping.)

The final version adds support for the text in PDF files, and meta data from music, video and picture files. System requirements are Windows XP or Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above, 500 MBytes of disk space, 128 MBytes of RAM, and a 400 MHz processor.

But wait, there's more.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Software

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

Google's Biggest Achievement

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

ZDNet has revealed Google's biggest technical achievement.

PCs crash, and Google deals with it.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Always On | Internet | Linux | e-commerce

March 02, 2005

A Waste of RSS

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

I have written several times about RSS in this space, often wrongly.

But now I have something which, I hope, will prove non-controversial. (For those who want to know more about RSS, O'Reilly has a fine book out on the subject.)

If your story is behind a registration firewall, don't put it in your RSS feed.

Many newspapers today routinely run RSS feeds on all stories, often through Moreover. Many also have registration firewalls. If you're not willing to deliver your personal data (and remember a new password for each publisher) they don't want to see you.

Well, I don't want to see them, either.

Fortunately, there are solutions.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | online advertising

IM Wars Continue

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

It's time for the IM wars to return.

The main feature of this market battle over the years hasn't been features, but alliances. As a result the world has divided into two warring camps, that of AOL and that of Microsoft.

Both are making moves again. This time they're going in two different directions. AOL is aiming at a bigger user base, Microsoft is aiming straight at the wallet.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Software

March 01, 2005

The Best Copyright Argument

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

As the Grokster case approaches the Supreme Court the "friends" of the court briefs (called amicus curiae) are flying.

The best is the technical brief, from a host of distinguished computer scientists including Dave Farber of Carnegie-Mellon (and the Interesting People list).

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted a PDF copy.

The short version. If a law against software is strong enough to do good it will do harm. And if it's weak enough not to do harm it can't possibly do any good. Thus the Sony vs. Betamax "test," that technology is legal if it can be used for legal purposes, should be upheld.

A few details after the break:

...continue reading.

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

BellSouth: Clued-in or Clueless?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Is BellSouth being smart or stupid in avoiding the merger mania now sweeping its business?

Rivals and investment bankers say it's stupid. BellSouth must either eat or be eaten, they claim, and once SBC has finished eating AT&T it wll chow down on BellSouth.

Maybe yes, maybe no. It must be admitted that rivals who've merged, and bankers who are selling deals, both have reasons to diss the company refusing to dance.

But there's another way for things to go. Because while there will soon be fewer players in the telecomm space, there will also be fewer real assets.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | Moore's Lore | Telecommunications

The PHP-Mainframe Revolution

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

I'll admit that when I read yesterday IBM is putting its corporate might behind PHP, creating a product that combines its Cloudscape database with Zend's PHP tools, my first thought was what's PHP?

(By the way, that PHP pinup girl comes from a Lithuanian PHP tool maker.)

Then I took a look at the recent output of this blog. All recent stories here carry the .php extension. They're no longer HTML. The output is still readable by any browser as an HTML file, they're just not written with a pure HTML tool.

The real news, however, is much bigger.

We're seeing nothing less than a mainframe revolution.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Linux | Software

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

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

Aloha Means Competition

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Former Corante blogger (and FOD) Steve Stroh has the goods this month on Aloha Networks, which is aiming to provide wireless broadband service in the 700 MHz spectrum area. (That's the high 50s on your UHF dial.)

Apparently, they've gotten FCC approval to test their services in Tucson. The real test is whether this lives-and-plays with existing users, and Tucson currently has TV at Channel 58.

What exactly does this mean? (FOD means Friend Of Dana, of course.)

Let Steve explain:

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Business Strategy | Consulting | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | Telecommunications

February 23, 2005

Rock or Hard Place?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

As of now, all class action lawsuits must go through the federal courts.

The Bushies may be sorry they made this change, because a very big class action is likely to head their way very soon.

The action will be against ChoicePoint, which managed to sell 145,000 credit dossiers to criminal gangs.

That's a big class. Every single victim may have had their identity stolen, either now or sometime later. At minimum, each victim faces a daunting task to re-establish their identity, and the impact of this theft is likely to follow them for years.

That's what lawyers call an actionable tort.

So far only one lawsuit has been filed, an individual suit in California. Expect many more.

The press coverage of this scandal has, so far, been horrendous. Most stories, like CNN's, act like the victims here somehow did something wrong.

They didn't. This was a deliberate act by a company too greedy to take proper care. They deserve whatever the legal system can dish out -- which right now is a lot less than it was a few weeks ago.

And that's the problem.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Investment | Politics | e-commerce | law

Fibbies Get The Paris Hilton Treatment

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

What does the FBI have in common with Paris Hilton?

They're both making news this week as victims of hackers. (The image is from a conservative humor site. Some of the stuff is pretty good.)

We wrote about Paris earlier this week. (Here's a poem for the occasion. Ahem. I've seen Paris, I've seen France, girl pull on some underpants.)

Now ZDNet reports a new virus comes in the form of an e-mail claiming to be from the FBI. (Not to be undone, Ms. Hilton herself is the subject of a new e-mail virus, called Sober.K.)

As Matt Hines writes, "The mail is disguised as correspondence warning people that their Internet use has been monitored by the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center and that they have 'accessed illegal Web sites.' The e-mails then direct recipients to open the virus-laden attachment to answer a series of questions."

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Security | fun stuff | law | spam

February 21, 2005

Law of the Horse

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

As the legislative season swings into high gear, spyware is high on the agenda.

Some 14 states are looking at bills specifically aimed at spyware. Utah is on its second go-round, having had an earlier bill tossed by the courts.

But speakers at the VJOLT Symposium last weekend agreed that spyware bills are wrong. Instead of going after the means by which privacy is stolen, strengthen the privacy laws so they cover what bad spyware does.

In stating this they all referenced a seminal 1996 talk by Frank Easterbrook of the University of Chicago (right), titled "Cyberspace and the Law of the Horse."

In it he argued against any specific laws for cyberspace, saying standards of "meat space" law should be sufficient to deal with problems that look unique.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Software | law

The Jordan Affair

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

What goes around comes around.

For decades employed journalists have considered themselves a class apart. Charged by their employers with deciding what was relevant, they took fame and turned it to infamy, often violating confidences, and said they were just doing their jobs.

They ignored the concentration of power in their own business -- a journalist is someone who works for someone (who buys ink by the barrel, spectrum by the megahertz, bandwidth by the terabyte) -- and expected a legal shield to protect them and no one else.

Well, uh-uh. No more. And Thank God.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consulting | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | blogging | personal

February 18, 2005

Google's Keyhole

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

After writing (briefly) about Google's Keyhole I decided to try the free review.

The software licenses for $30/year, $600/year for professionals, but anyone can download it for a two-week free trial. So I tried it. There should be a screenshot over there to the left, but the e-mail system on the software doesn't work with Outlook Express...I guess you'll have to get your own.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Investment | Software

February 17, 2005

The Value of Reputation

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Perhaps the most vital asset to any technology company today is its reputation.

It's not money. It's not assets. It's certainly not patents.

It's what people think of you, your reputation.

Paul Robichaux recently wrote that he thinks Google is pulling a fast one, with a Toolbar feature called AutoLink that turns unlinked items on a page into linked ones, automatically.

When Microsoft tried extending its Smart Tags feature, which sounded awfully similar, into Internet Explorer, Robichaux wrote in Exchange Security, "the furor was incredible. Walt Mossberg, Dave Winer, Dan Gillmor, and a host of other influencers immediately started screaming that Microsoft was taking control over web content and generally acting like an 800-lb gorilla. The EFF even opined that the MS smart tag implementation might be illegal."

He's right. But does it matter?

Microsoft has used its power for a decade to extend its monopoly across desktop applications and into the Internet itself. As a result it has a very poor reputation.

Google, on the other hand, has offered optional services, in software, on top of its search service. It has a stellar reputation.

Google is now doing to Microsoft precisely what Microsoft did to IBM back in the day. Microsoft's price-earnings ratio today is 28. Google's is 137.

What happened?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Investment | Journalism | personal

February 15, 2005

Your Favorite Web Addresses, Hit Hard

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Did you get in on the ground floor of those great .nu addresses? (You know, like whats.nu. How about the .tv domain? (Perfect for every broadcaster.)

Well, those are places. The .nu is the Pacific Island nation of Niue. And .tv is the Pacific Island nation of Tuvulu.

And they're in trouble. Big trouble.

...continue reading.

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

Facts Are Stubborn Things

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The Copyright Police keep coming up against stubborn facts, some of their own making, that throw their arguments into the dumper.

Two are making headlines today.

First is a joint study by Harvard and University of North Carolina researchers indicating "Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically
indistinguishable from zero." Felix Oberholzer (Harvard) and Koleman Strumpf (UNC) matched a set of downloads to record sales in coming to this conclusion. "Even in the most pessimistic specification, five thousand downloads are needed to displace a single album sale," they write.

The second piece of news comes from the industry itself.

It is, simply, the launch of Napster's "rental" service. For $15/month, you can download all you want. It all disappears when you stop paying, but the industry approved this business model, which estimates the actual value of unlimited downloads at $180/year. Spread that over 10 years, give Napster 15%, and you get an actual industry-estimated "loss" from unlimited downloading of $1,500. Not much.

This will make for some fun when I speak this weekend at the University of Virginia's VJOLT Symposium.


Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | law

February 14, 2005

Iron Chef Silicon

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

In a New Yorker profile of chef Mario Batali (left) there's a wonderful scene of Mario rooting around a waste pail, looking for what the author-turned-prep chef has tossed away.

Our job is to sell food for more than we paid for it, Mario lectures him. You're throwing money away.

Apple Computer is the greatest exponent today of what I call Batali's Clue. Your job, as the maker of products, is to get more for your creation than the cost of the electronic "food" that goes into it.

It's a vital Clue because components in the Moore's Law age spoil like dead fish on a wharf.

Here's an example plucked from today's headlines. (Well, the ad pages.)

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Internet | Moore's Lore | Semiconductors | computer interfaces

February 11, 2005

Blog Your Way Out Of A Job

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

I've seen a lot of stories lately about people blogging themselves out of jobs.

It makes me laugh.

...continue reading.

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

How Miracles Filter Down

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

I'm fascinated with how Western technology filters into the developing world and changes lives.

For instance. Back in the mid-1990s we had the idea of the "Internet Cafe." It would be flash, it would have broadband, it would have great food. We were crazy.

In the developing world, however, the Internet Cafe idea lives on (and on and on and on). There, though, it's a little shop with some PCs and basic connectivity. It's a lifeline to families, to markets. After the tsunami one was set-up quickly in the disaster area. It was a lifesaver.

Now we have cellular, or mobile service. (Whichever you prefer.) In the West, it means everyone has a phone, and they're on it all the time. Young girls drive like little old ladies. Guys look crazy seemingly talking to themselves, but then you see the little bud in their ear -- oh.

Then it filters down. Read how it filters down in Cameroon, from the Cameroon Tribune in Yaounde. (Then get the scene at the top of this item as desktop wallpaper, free, from Dane Jacob Crawfurd.)

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | cellular

February 10, 2005

The Human Middleware Problem

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn


Middleware was a very big buzzword a few years ago. (Image from the Southern Regional Development Center.)

By middleware, vendors meant software that let people below take advantage of resources above. Queries that delivered reports to managers on how stores were doing, or that placed real corporate data into neat little graphs.

But every organization of any size is based on human middleware. School principals are human middleware. Store managers are human middleware. Party committeemen are human middleware.

These people sit between the decision-makers at the top and those who carry out orders on the bottom. When we like them we call them "sir" or "ma'am." When we want to disparage them we call them bureaucrats.

America has the greatest bureaucracies in the world. We have done more for our human middleware than people in other societies. (Try getting your driver's license renewed in Mumbai if you don't believe me.)

But we can do much, much better.

Software can be part of that solution, but it's only a part.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Software | Telecommunications | blogging | cellular | e-commerce

Open Source Politics

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn


NOTE: Howard Dean will become chairman of the Democratic Party this weekend. Consider this an open letter to the new boss, from the bottom of the grassroots.



I was wrong about something important last year.

The year 2004 did not represent a “generational election” because people live longer than they used to. Thus, the Nixon Coalition was able to get the knees to jerk by turning 2004 into 1968. Democrats went along by nominating a man of the 60s.

Had this been a true generational election Vietnam would have been irrelevant, just as the New Deal was irrelevant to those marching in 1968, and the Spanish-American War was history to the hungry of 1932.

Will 2008 be the generational election? Maybe, but maybe not. In that year a person born in 1955, at the height of the “baby boom,” will be only 53. That’s still old enough to matter.

But a new generation is coming along, and that’s where Democrats should concentrate their attention.

The last generation had a name, Baby Boom. The new generation has a name, too.

The new generation is the Internet Generation.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Futurism | Internet | Politics | blogging | personal

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 send-safe.com uses the MCI network to sell and distribute the illegal Send Safe proxy hijacking bulk mailer, yet MCI has been providing service to send-safe.com for more than a year.

Want this made a little more explicit? Read on.

...continue reading.

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

February 04, 2005

RSS Dreams

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

I have written a bit on RSS here, often wrongly. (The illustration is from the blog of Andrew Grumet, who brings the complexity of video feeds to the process.)

I have bemoaned the delivery of ads via RSS, both as content and within feeds, as "RSS spam."

My complaints were misdirected, as I learned. The problem was not in the feeds, but in the reader. After I patiently explained my problem to my newsreader maker, I was told "we'll work on it."

And what is my problem?

My problem is I want all the real news and commentary on the field I cover, and that's all I want. You don't get that with a simple keyword field.

As always in technology, problems are usually opportunities turned on their head. New start-ups are emerging that hope to use RSS as a true intelligence gathering service, instead of as a garbage in-garbage out collector.

Recently C|Net profiled two of these start-ups, Bloglines and Rojo.

What they say is what I've said, that separating wheat from chaff is very difficult. They are going about that in different ways. Rojo is doing it privately, just letting a few people in, while Bloglines is doing is publicly, creating a versoin of Google's PageRank algorithm.

Corante is interested in this as well.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Copyright | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | blogging | computer interfaces | e-commerce

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

MSN Search Just Allright

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn


Version 1.0 of Microsoft's new MSN Search is up. No thumbs up, more like a hand palm down, waggling a bit. (This is the closest I could come to that, from Gerhard Schaber's thesis on computer hand gesture recognition.)

MSN Search is not bad, for a Google clone. That's cruel and wrong. It's not a clone, because there is just a ton of stuff missing. Newsgroups are missing, shopping is missing, a directory is missing (although Google itself now hides that behind a "more" button.) Yes, Yahoo is better.

What you get are Web, images, and news. The main news page (previously seen at their MSNBC site) only lists one story, then adds the word "similar" which leads to a limited search of official and licensed media. They're using Moreover to get behind some registration firewalls.

But let's talk about the search itself.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Software | computer interfaces

January 27, 2005

Why Regulate TV?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

In the U.S., the only excuse for regulating TV content is based on spectrum scarcity. Spectrum is scarce, it's licensed, and because of that there is a public interest test, which the agency sometimes uses to crack down on content.

Absent the excuse of spectrum scarcity, the only grounds for regulating TV content are based on the First Amendment. (The Hayes Office, which kept movies chaste for decades, was private regulation, not public.) This is not an absolute. Any conservative will tell you "obscenity is not protected," citing chapter and verse, calling in Ashcroft's Dogs of War.

The point is this is not the case outside the U.S. In England, for instance, TV content is regulated because, well, it's powerful. Thus dangerous. And so Oftel, the U.K's new "super-regulator," is sniffing around regulating the Internet.

Fortunately some there have a Clue.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Internet | Journalism | Telecommunications | law

An Intimate World

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Steve Stroh pointed me to a John Perry Barlow piece (that's Barlow, at right, from his blog) illustrating the power of the medium as few stories can.

It seems that Barlow was recently jolted by a random Skype phone call from Vietnam. He got to know the caller well because she shared a wireless broadband connection with some neighbors. Thus he was able to talk with her, see her work, see her photos, to learn all about her, without leaving his desk in New York. Then he got a similar call from China, and later one from Australia.

Here's the bottom line:

One doesn't get random phone calls from Viet Nam or China, or at least one never could before.Skype changes all that. Now anybody can talk to anybody, anywhere. At zero cost. This changes everything. When we can talk, really talk, to one another, we can connect at the heart.

And there's more after the break.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | Telecommunications | computer interfaces

January 26, 2005

Open Source Campaigns

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

gdtop3.jpg
I wrote this for the GreaterDemocracyblog, but I'm also posting it here, because I can.



The software you have on your PC determines what you can do with it. The software a campaign or political movement uses reflects what it can do.

The biggest mistake Howard Dean made in his 2004 campaign wasn’t his attacks on Gephardt, and it wasn’t the scream. It was his software’s failure to “scale the intimacy,” to give the 1 millionth, or 10 millionth, campaign participant the same features, and the same sense of belonging, given the 10th and 100th.

Throughout the campaign, and even to this day, Dean and his Democracy for America have relied on Movable Type as their interface with supporters. MT is a good product, but its interactivity is limited. You enter an item on the blog, and comments flow from it in a straight line.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | Politics | Software | blogging | computer interfaces | personal

January 25, 2005

Bush's Great Favor

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The Administration has begun its campaign against Iran through infiltration (which it denies) and by trying to cut Iran's arguments off the Internet. (Picture from CNN.)

This is an immense favor, both to Iran and to the neighboring Arab world. It forces Iran to seek alternate Internet server access for its arguments, and it will. Maybe these will be in Bahrain or Dubai (I'm guessing the former). Maybe they will be in the Ukraine. Or Russia. Or China.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Internet | Journalism | Politics | war

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

January 21, 2005

Verizon Blows You Off

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

In response to concerns over Verizon's cuting-off e-mail service from Europe, which we reported on here, the world finally got a response yesterday.

It was pure nonsense. Totally non-responsive. PR cow-excrement. They changed the issue from cutting customers off from Europe to the anti-spam problem, pulled some standard boilerplate off a shelf, and they think we'll eat it.

Those who like to read such things should click below. All I'll say is they just don't get it. Or, as Alice Kehoe told Dave Farber's list, "Ah yes, a carefully formulated and rational plan of action ... right up there with, 'if I shut my eyes, Mama can't see me taking these chocolates.'"

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet

January 17, 2005

Why Would Google Want Dark Fiber?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Mirroring.

It's that simple.

Google has a huge amount of data, spread over many international locations. And there are many people in, say, France, who might want to query data held elsewhere, say, in the U.S.

As Google's translation services grow, this becomes more likely.

Google's telecommunications bills must already be extraordinary, in order to handle this traffic.

If Google had its own dark fiber network, it could light that fiber and drive those costs to the ground.

Then the fiber would be open to other applications, such as:

...continue reading.

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

Verizon Halts Internet Service

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Verizon, the second-largest phone network in the U.S., and the second-largest wireless operator, has decided it will no longer offer Internet service.

The question is what the Internet and its users will do in response (if anything).

The company's decision was made public this week in the form of a unilateral halt to all deliveries of e-mail from Europe by default based on a claim this is an anti-spam measure.

The claim is laughable since far more spam traffic moves from the U.S. to Europe than the other way around, thanks to real European statutes requiring opt-in and the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act, which legalized many types of spam.

But there is a larger point.

An Internet Service Provider, by definition, provides service to the entire Internet. This is usually put in the fine print of Internet service contracts. Will Verizon now modify its contracts, or simply ignore them?

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | law

Googling The World

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Hartmut Neven, who does research in computer vision at USC, dreams of using cameraphones to build a database that would essentially Google the world.

Take a picture of a painting and get an audio recording, through your phone, all about it. Take a picture of a restaurant and get a review.

There's even a sound business model for such a plan. But, as Google's local service illustrates, there's also one big hurdle toward creating it.

...continue reading.

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

A Rose By Any Other Name

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

One of the dumbest things a company can do is pay big bucks for a domain name. (That's CSpan's flower, by the way.)

What does eBay mean? What does Amazon mean? For that matter, what does Google mean? They mean what they have become. There was no intrinsic value to the name when it was purchased.

So why should picturephone.com be worth $1 million? There's no good reason. The fact that the company which owned the name changed its name so as to sell-on the old name is proof of this.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Investment | online advertising

January 16, 2005

Panix Attack

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Panix.Com has apparently had its domain hijacked.

Panix, a 16-year old ISP in New York, told its users that ownership of the domain was apparently moved to Australia, the DNS records were moved to the United Kingdom, and its e-mail was directed to Canada.

This should be a matter for criminal prosecution.

...continue reading.

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

January 14, 2005

Seuss and Brin

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn


The Bee Watcher-Watcher watched the Bee Watcher.
He didn’t watch well. So another Hawtch-Hawtcher
had to come in as a Watch-Watcher-Watcher!
And today all the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch
are watching on Watch-Watcher-Watchering-Watch,
Watch-Watching the Watcher who’s watching that bee.
You’re not a Hawtch-Watcher. You’re lucky, you see!!!

Dr. Seuss's "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?" is as subversive now as it ever was, and always finds a new context.

Today the context lies in the proliferation of cameras, which seem to be watching us, all the time, and whether our "privacy" means we should turn them off.

With every Hawtch-Hawtcher out watching each other, does privacy really exist?

The answer may surprise you.

...continue reading.

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

January 13, 2005

Where To Learn Net Security

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Where's the best place to learn the art of network security?

My guess is it's an online gambling site.

Most such sites are based in either the UK, the Caribbean or Australia. Because of U.S. legal pressure they were already in the forefront of isolating traffic geographically, at the ISP level. Also because of U.S. pressure, they are frequently on their own when it comes to defending their business interests. (UK police, however, are apparently cooperative.)

All this means that, if you're into security, this is an opportunity.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Futurism | Internet | Security

January 11, 2005

DNS Terrorism

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Spammers and phishers have responded to increased law enforcement by launching a program of terrorism.

...continue reading.

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

The Broadband Answer

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

There's a good discussion going on at Dave Farber's list today, following a Declan McCullagh article that claims the U.S. is doing fine in broadband. (Image from Mystro Satellite of Canada.)

Declan's point is that it's available. Critics point out that it's slow, expensive, and more people have it in other countries than here.

The question they're all asking is, how can the situation be improved.

The correct answer is one word.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Economics | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications

January 10, 2005

Last Word on the SixApart-LiveJournal Merger

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The Six Apart-LiveJournal merger is not a roll-up.

Roll-ups happen when there is an established way to make money at something. No one has really found a way to make a reliable dollar from blogging.

Not that people aren't trying. There are tons of new blogging programs out there, tons of new file types to blog, tons of new blogs (of course) and tons of new paradigms.

It's an industry in the process of discovering itself.

Here's the short-form. Roll-ups are about money. Without money, mergers are about people.

From reading the statements of the principals, this merger is what I call a "team-building" exercise. The VCs behind Six Apart (the company that owns Movable Type) are trying to build a winning team. That's one of them over there to the left, Joi Ito.

Let me explain.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Software | blogging | computer interfaces

The Great Race

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

NOTE: The following was published in this week's edition of my free e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com. You can get on the list here.



The Great Race has always been between tyranny and freedom, with order as tyranny's worthy handmaiden, and crime as freedom's ugly stepsister.

The triumph of liberty in the 20th century was basically a technological triumph. It was Moore's Law that did it. Moore's Law, and all its antecedents, changed the rules of the economic game, of the power game, and the balance between rulers and the ruled.

Moore's Law, the idea that things get better-and-better faster-and-faster, means that trained minds are the key to economic growth. Willing hands, the key to economic growth in the industrial age, matter far less than they did. Chains may keep trained hands working. They don't do so well with trained minds.

In America the result, as Dr. Richard Florida (left) wrote, was the rise of a new "Creative Class" that could dominate societies and drive economic growth. These were people, accused of wealth and guilty of education, whose values were intellectual and meritocratic, and (perhaps most important) were capable of economic satiation. Creative people have, on the whole, risen through Maslow's "hierarchy of needs," and are in search of self-actualization, not food or even luxury.

...continue reading.

Comments (10) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Moore's Lore | Politics | personal

January 06, 2005

Kings of Always-On

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

For the last year I've been harping here on the subject of Always On.

The idea is that you have a wireless network based on a scalable, robust operating system that can power real, extensible applications for home automation, security, medical monitoring, home inventory, and more.

As I wrote I often came back to Motorola and its CEO, Ed Zander. They would be the perfect outfit to do this, I wrote.

Little did I know (until now) but they did. A year ago.

It's called the MS1000.

The product was introduced at last year's CES, and re-introduced at various vertical market shows during the year. It's based on Linux, responds to OSGi standards, and creates an 802.11g network on which applications can then be built.

At this year's CES show, Motorola is pushing a home security solution based on the device, with 10 new peripherals like cameras and motion sensors that can be easily set-up with the network in place, along with a service offering called ShellGenie.

Previously the company bought Premise, which has been involved in IP-based home control since 1999, and pushed a version of the same thing called the Media Station for moving entertainment around the home.

What should Motorola do now? Well, the platform is pretty dependent on having a home PC. The MS1000 could use space for slots so needed programs could be added as program modules. They need to look at medical and home inventory markets, not just entertainment and security.

But they've made an excellent start. And from here on out everyone else is playing catch-up.

Oh, and one more thing...

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Consumer Electronics | Internet | Moore's Lore | Security | Software | Telecommunications | personal

January 04, 2005

Editing Blogs

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

This reads like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it?

Blogging is instant publishing. Part of the idea is that you're getting a raw feed.

But in fact most blogs are edited. Because most blogs are produced with words.

You don't need Microsoft Word to edit a blog. I am editing this in the blogging window. But for most people, coherence requires a bit of editing. You need to step back, put things in a proper order for the reader, and link what you've gotten so it makes sense as a story told, rather than a story experienced.

You can see this clearly when you see the liveblog of an event. Last year's conventions are a bad example. Because the stage happenings were broadcast there was no need to type what was said and put it out. Bloggers reverted to their normal role there of looking for "inside" stories, and wound up as near-clones of their "big media" counterparts, only without as many sources. They edited on-the-fly to create coherence.

What does this say about other types of blogging, using bigger files like audio (audblogging), mobile phones (moblogging) or video (vidblogging).

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | Journalism | blogging | computer interfaces

January 01, 2005

Programs That DO Something

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

When my lovely wife took her present job, many years ago, she said she was happy to be working with programs that actually did something.

She works in transaction processing. Back then each time her program ran her company made a nickel. It's a service business.

The point today is she was way ahead of her time. Still is. Let me explain.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Investment | Journalism | Software | e-commerce

December 27, 2004

The Real Enemy

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

NOTE: The following appeared in my FREE weekly newsletter, a-clue.com, for the issue of December 27. (The illustration, an image of defeat, is available as desktop wallpaper at Ngame.Com.)

For the last month liberals have been looking for scapegoats and excuses to explain what has happened to this poor country.

It was the fundamentalists. It was Karl Rove. It was the young people. It was the media.

All these explanations are wrong.

The fault does not lie in our stars. It lies in ourselves.

...continue reading.

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

What Open Source Outlook Could Mean

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Over the weekend C|Net ran a story indicating the Mozilla Foundation hopes to add calendaring functions to its Thunderbird e-mail client (right), turning an open source Outlook Express clone into something more like Microsoft Outlook.

What follows is pure speculation, but this could make Firefox the big story of 2005, and beyond.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Copyright | Internet | Linux | Software | computer interfaces

December 21, 2004

Are Courts Irrelevant To Copyright?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

That's the question asked at Copyfutures recently, speculating on what might happen in the Copyright Wars next year.

The highlight should be the Supreme Court's pending Grokster decision, which might establish a right to technology that might infringe on copyright, or might overturn the old Betamax case.

But John Amone is asking a deeper question.

Namely, does it matter what the court holds at all?

...continue reading.

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

December 19, 2004

India vs. The Net

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

We don't usually think of India, the world's largest democracy, as being against the Internet. (They still have India shirts at Sunsite.)

The nature of how Indians use the Internet -- mainly using cyber-cafes -- makes tracing real crimes that start on the Internet very hard. Criminals are not supposed to have anonymity under any law I know of, and once evidence of a crime is in the hands of police, they don't like to hit dead-ends.

Bangalore has begun demanding identification of Internet cafe users, with other cities expected to follow. Needless to say, users are not amused. And I'd love to hear from the Indian readers of Mooreslore (I know y'all are out there) what you think.

The problems (and the problems with solving the problems) don't end there. They barely even start...

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet

Good Hacks

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Back in the day (a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) the word "hack" meant to write something elegant in as little code as possibe. The idea was to be efficient with scarce computer resources. Someone who could do that wrote a "good hack" and was called a hacker. (The image, by the way, is from the SRP Gallery, Finland, maintained by the inestimable Mikko Kurki-Suonio.)

As Moore's Law has advanced this ideal has gone the way of bell bottoms, padded shoulders and Monica Lewinsky jokes. Compute power is just too plentiful -- it's far more important for programmers to be productive, to get things done quickly, than it is for them to use the equipment efficiently.

Well, get out your old disco ball.

...continue reading.

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

December 16, 2004

UbiComp

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Over at Internet Time, Jay Cross (right) is trotting out a new possible buzzword for 2005.

UbiComp.

Short for ubiquitous computng.

He looks at real computing in the palm of your hand (via a mobile phone), IPv6 giving every device its own address, wired and wireless broadband everywhere, and calls it a singular moment in technology.

Then he turns to Adam Greenfield, with an essay on ethical ways to design this new user experience. (He also uses the term Always-On.)

Not sure if I like the term, but I buy the idea. And I think it's going to change the world as nothing has, by making rapid change and rapid technology evolution inevitable, for everyone, everywhere.

Lead, follow, or some Kid With A Clue in Botswana (left) will push you out of the way.

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

Bus (Jet) Ride

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

For a long time I've equated a domestic plane flight to a bus ride. The only way to survive the experience is to cocoon within yourself, in as tight a space as possible, to keep your mouth shut, and to live in the airline's world for a while. (Especially if your jet has a face, like this cartoon jet on TV Five.)

That world has been changing. You can't get an "airline meal" even on a cross-country flight. Instead, carriers like America West try to sell you overpriced sandwiches, which cost a litle bit more and have a little less quality than what you find on the ground.

But the big changes, as we all know, are here and coming on the technology front. Your neighbor may spend the whole flight jabbering on their mobile. And you're going to be able to buy broadband Internet service, too.

...continue reading.

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

December 15, 2004

Liberal Lud

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

I am a big Lauren Weinstein fan. But his reasoning for being suspicious of Google leaves me thinking of two words -- Ned Lud.

But let's be fair, and offer his entire post to Dave Farber, in full:

...continue reading.

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

December 14, 2004

Microsofting Google

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Since completing its IPO I have seen an entire cottage industry emerge disparaging Google.

Skepticism regarding Google is warranted. No company is perfect. But some of what I'm seeing rises to near-Microsoft proportions. There's a fine line between skepticism and cynicism, and in this case I think it's being crossed.

This is especially true in relation to issues of copyright and privacy.

...continue reading.

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

December 10, 2004

AOL Surrenders To The Web

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

That's the message hidden in news that AOL cut 750 jobs this week.

The original assumption of the Time Warner acquisition was that it would control customers through the online service. You can't control customers on the Internet, but you can if they're inside your walled garden.

Time Warner tried a lot of different things in trying to make this happen. It made its content "exclusive" to AOL. It created "AOL for Broadband."

The fact is nothing worked. In fact, Time Warner's content was badly hurt by being exclusive to AOL. Time Warner made its stuff invisible to much of the market.

Now those days are done. As ZDNet noted in its story on this, "The new layoffs come weeks after AOL announced its intention to realign the company and focus more of its resources on the free Web."

The people leaving were devoted to the online service. In its previous set of lay-offs Time Warner dumped the Netscape people who who were working on "the free Web." (Under Mozilla, they're doing fine.)

So what's AOL's real problem?

...continue reading.

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

December 08, 2004

Long Arm Of The LAN

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

With many companies now substituting WiFi for wired networks, it's natural that those with multiple locations would want to tie them all together.

Bluesocket Inc. of Burlington, Mass. (right, from their home page) is among those getting into this game. Their home page describes them as "building an enterprise-class WLAN" and they claim their new WG-400 Wireless Gateway can handle as many as 50 users at the same time, which is pretty nifty.

But is there a general problem here? Perhaps there is.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Business Models | Consulting | Internet | law

Have Nets, Have Nots

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

A new study from England says that, in the year 2025, 40% of Britons will still have no Internet access at home (if man is still alive). (I believe the image, from MIT, shows the Kanji characters for 2025. Could someone tap Joi Ito on the shoulder and have him check for me?

There is a faulty assumption at the base of these predictions. Those who wrote this study thought of the Internet in the way we currently think of it, as something you access with a PC, speaking with your fingers and hearing with your eyes.

As I've said here many times, that's not all there is to it. That is not the way it is going to go down. The old and the poor may never have use for a mouse and a screen. But just because that's what the Internet is, that's not what the Internet is going to be.

...continue reading.

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

Japan's Suicide Clubs

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Speaking of Japan, the Internet is getting blamed for a steep rise in suicide among young people there. (For more on this image, go to the end of the article.)

Apparently young people interested in doing away with themselves are meeting one another online, arranging to get together offline, and then actually going through with it. Some 26 people have gone out this way in the last two months, according to the BBC story.

But is the Internet to blame for any of this?

...continue reading.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet

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

December 06, 2004

Digerati News Blackout

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The Digerati are about to undergo a serious news blackout.

Dave Farber (the picture is from Joi Ito's blog) will be putting up his Interesting People list for 10 days starting Friday as he travels to an undisclosed location with poor Internet access.

This is news because Farber's list has morphed, in the last few years, from a way for Farber to tell friends what he thinks into a real community, where talented people pass stories back-and-forth and comment on them.

It's truly remarkable because, in a technological sense, this should be obsolete, no news at all. Farber's is essentially a shared, moderated mailing list. When someone sends something interesting he forwards it along, and the digerati who are part of the list depend on his unerring sense of what's important (and what isn't) to keep the signal-noise ratio extremely high.

What happens when Farber goes dark isn't just that we lose a news source. We lose contact with all the other people on the list, because we don't have any other place in common.

So if this blog, or your other favorite news source, reads like it's one-eye blind next week you'll know why.

...continue reading.

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

Microsoft's Chinese Experiment

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Microsoft has launched an experiment in tightly-controlled liberty called MSN Spa