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In an era where money is magnetic ink, even the rich of New Orleans may not be safe.
A friend forwarded an American Banker feature (all content is behind their firewall, only the headlines are in front) that explains all this.
The story, by Steve Bills, details the problems banks had in the impacted area, and as many as five banks were still out of action as of Tuesday.
Those banks hurt worst were small community banks that did not outsource their financial processing.
Customers of those banks who managed to escape may be unable to get to their money, although they may not all know that because financial networks do have a limited ability to "stand-in" for their absent customers.
This could happen again-and-again, because only 40% of small banks out-source. Would out-sourcing solve the problem? Not necessarily. One of the bigger outsourcers, Fiserv, has operations in New Orleans (fortunately they're based in Wisconsin) and eight employees are still missing.
Given all this there are some basic things that need to be required:
That's the day the new bankruptcy law kicks-in, and credit card banks get hit by a double-whammy of their own creation. (Illustration is from Howstuffworks.) Be careful of what you ask for, because you just might get it:
How can this be bad for banks, who after all pushed for the legislation?
People often ask me what's wrong with journalism.
The answer comes down to one word -- arrogance. Even junior members of the trade think they're in a profession, whose job it is to rule on what's true and what's not, all decisions final.
Take William Beutler of The National Journal, for instance. Beutler just got a pretty amazing gig. As editor of the Hotline Blogometer he spends the day scouring the political blogosphere and tallying up the points. (He is still listed as writing The Washington Canard, but he doesn't update it often anymore. The picture is from that Web site. Beutler's a shy fella.)
It's hard work, as some in Washington might say. And mistakes will happen. Journalists complain that bloggers won't spend 5 minutes on the phone to get something right. Well, journalists won't spend 20 seconds on Google to do the same thing. And Google's improving much faster than the phone.
Anyway, Beutler's August 15 missive began by referencing Cindy Sheehan as an "alleged" gold star mother. I went ballistic. Whatever you think of Sheehan's protest, no one can argue that she is, in fact, a Gold Star Mother (all caps), this being " an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of our country."
After considering my e-mail for some time, Beutler made a slight change. He didn't acknowledge the mistake. He just took the alleged out. And gold star is still lower case, still in quotation marks.
Now, before you click below, get out your hankies.
Today's politics is cultural.
Even economic and foreign policy issues are, in the end, defined in terms of social issues. This creates identification, and coalitions among people who might not otherwise find common ground -- hedonistic Wall Street investment bankers and small town Kansas preachers, for instance.
I am coming to believe the next political divide will be technological. That is, your politics will be defined by your attitude toward technology.
On one side you will find open source technophiles. On the other you will find proprietary technophobes.
It's a process that will take time to work itself out, just as millions of Southern Democrats initially resisted the pull of Nixon. Because there are are divisions within each grand coalition we have today, on this subject.
This latter split gets most of the publicity, because more writers are in the cyber-libertarian school than anywhere else.
Initially, the proprietary, security-oriented side of this new political divide has the initiative. It has the government and, if a poll were taken, it probably has a majority on most issues.
But open source advocates have something more powerful on their side, history. You might call it the Moore's Law Dialectic.
The papers are full today with stories about "citizen journalists." (That's Will Ferrell as Anchorman Ron Burgundy to the left.)
All these stories convey a common misconception. They assume this is a trend, and they assume that mainstream media will be able to dominate this new field.
Both assumptions are wrong.
In many ways this is a fad. It's a fad because, as camera phones proliferate, the volume of such pictures available is just going to become overwhelming. Making sense of what's out there, and getting rights to the good stuff, are going to be keys to success.
Also there is nothing really new here. Cable shows have been taking calls from individuals at news sites for decades. Talk radio is all about the callers. What's new here are the means the the medium, not the phenomenon.
But there's a more important point being missed in all the self-congratulation:
Don'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.
Politically I think Senator Russ Feingold is one of the Good Guys. So, to be perfectly bipartisan about it, is Senator John McCain. (You know what McCain looks like, so here's Feingold.)
This is especally true regarding campaign finance. Proponents of reform have been pushing uphill with scant success ever since the 1976 decision in Buckley v. Vallejo, which basically said money is speech, and those with more money can out-shout the rest of us.
McCain and Feingold tried to fit that decision inside their eponymous campaign finance act, and while on most counts the Supreme Court ruled they did, that act also covered the Internet, and both men have insisted to this day that's true.
Now that the blogosphere has pushed-back on this, pushed back hard, from both sides of the aisle, the good guys have not been heard from.
It's nice when "real" (paid) market analysts agree with one of your premises. Especially when it's a key premise to you, as Always On is to me. (This is advertised as an Always On Server, from Virtual Access.)
So I was pleased to read Chris Jablonski's recent piece at ZDNet, Forget P2P, M2M is where the next party is.
M2M stands for Machine to Machine (ironically this sits right below an item about how poor most tech nicknames are) but we're talking about the same thing, intelligent sensors linked to wireless networks. Programming the sensors to deliver some result, then automating delivery of the result in some way (sending an alarm, telling the user, etc.) is what I mean by an Always-On application.
As I have said here many times the tools are already at hand, and cheap. We're talking here about RFID chips, WiFi and cellular networks, along with standards like Zigbee that let these things run for years on a single battery charge.
There are problems with every application space, however:
John F. McMullen today posted, to Dave Farber's list, what he says is a transcript of the commencement address Steve Jobs (a college dropout) gave at Stanford yesterday. (The picture is from Stanford.)
What they fail, utterly, to do is really give you a flavor for the wisdom Jobs imparted, so I have taken the liberty, starting below, of posting the entire transcript, as offered by McMullen.
Sit back and enjoy. Assuming again that the transcript is accurate, this may be the best commencement speech ever.
Thank you. I'm honored to be with you today for your commencement
from one of the finest universities in the world. Truth be told, I
never graduated from college and this is the closest I've ever gotten
to a college graduation.
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No
big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the
This 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.
This week I returned to the topic.
The reason why publishers have no editorial budgets with the move to the Web is simple. (Image from Websitecenter.)
None engage in Deep Commerce. Instead, they still just sell ads.
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:
Are you an American in e-mail contact with your doctor?
I didn't think so. (This fine bronze of a cadeusus, the medical profession's symbol, is by James Nathan Muir, who wants patrons for putting copies on all the world's continents.)
There are two reasons why you're probably not in e-mail touch with any of your physicians:
As a result most doctors remain in the Land of Lud. And the cost to their patients is immense. I just spitballed a few:
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.
"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.
I didn't blog much yesterday because I was researching the state of play in Always On. (The illustration is from Georgia Tech.)
I had a book proposal before Wiley rejected out of hand. But when I then suggested to step back and do a book on RFID for the home, I got real interest. Just make it a hands-on book, I was told.
Thus, the research.
As regular readers here know well there are many Always On application spaces, that is, functions fit for wireless networking applications.
Absent this understanding that a unified platform already exists so that all these applications can be created together, what is the state of play specifically regarding Radio Frequency Identification? (Or, if you prefer, spychips, although since I'm talking about home applications you're spying on yourself.)
Two decades ago I was part of new social movement called online conferencing.
People from all around the world used a Unix package called PARTIcipate to discuss issues and their lives with one another. I made some good friends then, among them Joi Ito. (That's him to the left.)
But we quickly learned the dark side of this text-based technology. Misunderstandings could happen. They could escalate. Without the visual cues we get in face-to-face conversation, flame wars could erupt. Moderation became essential.
As previously noted I will be at blognashville this weekend.
I will be taking notes. Service here will be intermittant.
Meanwhile I urge you to enjoy one of my favorite people, venture capitalist-musician Roger McNamee. His latest, on the necessary separation between distribution and content, is especially fine.
Or if you prefer just put on his latest album and rock on.
Personally I dont think this is necessarily the case. Newspaper companies will be able to use computers and on-demand pagination to mass produce paper products that are relevant to future audiences. Just as radio and TV only forced the industry to change, not disappear, so it will be in this case.
But lets assume Murdoch is right. How can incumbent newspaper companies achieve anything on the new medium? His speech read like someone anxious to learn. I'll take him at his word.
Following are some ideas.
The best way to understand the future is to look into how chips are changing.
Two transitions are transforming Moore's Law. The original article, in 1964, described only the density of circuits on silicon substrate.
The rule implied that chips could get better-and-better, faster-and-faster. Doubling bigger numbers means bigger incremental changes in the same time. Over the years chemists and electrical engineers learned to apply this exponential improvement concept to fiber cables, to magnetic storage, to optical storage, even to radios, so that 802.11n radios will transmit data at over 100 Mbps -- twice what earlier 802.11g models could deliver, but still 50 Mbps more.
The transitions have to do with what we mean by better.
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.
The following will seem to contradict the item below it.
The secret to success in every field is found in the skills of the journalist.
Whatever you wish to be -- a scientist, an artist, an entrepreneur, a preacher, an economist, a politician -- you will go further if you have a journalist's basic tool set.
Research thoroughly. Ask good questions. Listen carefully. Write clearly. Explain simply.
These are the skills of journalism. You can pick them up in a few college courses. Some are even taught in journalism schools. Most are learned in the School of Hard Knocks.
The rest of what passes for journalism education is bunk. So learn rhetoric, learn public speaking, learn writing, read as widely as you can. That's what newspapers and TV stations are looking for. They know they can teach the rest of the skill set on-the-fly. Most journalists never went to j-school.
How do I know this is true?
Want a career in the exciting, fast-paced world of 21st century journalism?
Don't go to journalism school. You can learn to write anywhere. The way to write better is to practice. If you love writing you can pick up the rest on-the-fly.
Instead, go to business school. Why? Because the only way you're going to have a good career in this business is to have the skills of a publisher. And those are the skills taught in business school.
In my first lecture at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, in 1977, we were told firmly that if you wanted to make a good living there was a fine businesss school on campus, the Kellogg School, and we should go there. So I've got their logo at the top of this item. I should have taken the advice.
More on why you should go to business school to learn journalism after the break.
It's already starting to bite.
I often feel it in reaction to items I write here or on ZDNet. Excuses. Reasons not to try. That will never work.
Young people new to a field don't think like that. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, we didn't think like that. Whether or not our politics become more conservative as we age, our lifestyles do. A 50-year old programmer worries more about what they're making and fears the future, while a 20-year old thinks about what they might make and embraces the future.
It's a cliche, but that doesn't make it less true. Young Americans are shunning technology for business, for real estate, for law, for things that redistribute wealth rather than create it.
Leaving the future to be made by others.
Because technology changes so rapidly, we feel the impact of change here very, very quickly, and this is like a cold wind in November.
Want some good news?
The key benefit of open source is transparency. (That's a transparent Mozambique garnet, from CLDJewelry in Tucson, Arizona. Transparency doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.)
The key benefit is not that the software is free. It's not that you can edit it. It has nothing to do with the obligations of the General Public License. It's inherent in every open source license out there.
The key advantage of open source is you can see the code. You can see how it works. You can take it apart. You can fix it. You can improve it. Most people do none of these things, but all benefit from this transparency.
The benefit became clear when I got responses to a ZDNet post called Is Linux Becoming Windows? The news hook was a Peter Galli story about how some folks were getting upset over the feature bloat now taking place in the Linux 2.6 kernel.
Those who responded said simply that the complainents, and I, had lost our minds. Kernel features aren't mandatory. Just because something is supported doesn't mean you have to do it. You can pick and choose among features, because you can see the whole code base -- it's transparent. You can look at the various builds out there and, if there's something you don't like, something you can do better, you can fork it, and maintain your own enhanced code base.
When Microsoft changes its software it makes things incompatible. When Linux software changes this doesn't happen, because the change is transparent. New builds are transparent, and if you come to a fork in your operating system road you can take it.
Transparency is the key term. And it doesn't just apply to software:
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.
In a nice commentary about how Wired is now Tired, David P. Reed (left) got me thinking about what today's key economic good might be.
The answer is attention. The world is entering an attention economy.
In many ways this is not news. What's news is how we're bifurcating our attention -- splitting it into parts -- and how media must now compete for slices of it. (Would this item get more hits if I called it The ADD Economy?)
It's a worldwide phenomenom because cellular or mobile service is worldwide. Mobile service competes well in the Attention Economy. Watch people chat on their phones while driving. (It's like elephants tap-dancing -- what's amazing is they do it.)
More after the break.
Glenn Fleischman and I disagree so seldom, we both get confused when it happens.
Long story short I thought it would help if I described what might be a better plan for citywide WiFi. Apologies to those of you who have read this before.
The short answer is WiMax. The long version follows the break.
I am a big supporter of free WiFi. But Philadelphia's project will go down in history as a failure.
Those are the obvious problems. But wait, there's more:
Now that youve 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.)
Its really quite simple.
Click below and I'll tell you.
I have made few comments about the so-called conspiracy against the Apple iPhone.
The story was that Motorola was ready to release a cellular phone that was also an iPod device, but it couldn't find any carriers for it.
What's more interesting to me is the tug of war now taking place among entrepreneurs between these two technologies.
And, surprisingly, cellular is losing.
The reason has to do with business models and open standards. (Thus the picture above of standard pawns, available from the good people at Rolcogames.)
This weekend Slate offers a feature of Philip Anschutz, a conservative businessman (and big soccer fan) who has launched printed papers under the name the Examiner in Washington and San Francisco.
Jack Shafer syggests Anschutz needs to invest more in editorial and consider the Web in order to be taken seriously.
Correct and double correct.
I wrote about this several weeks ago, and what follows is that original copy. You can get it free
I have a love-hate relationship with newspapers. (This newsboy is advertising news of the Titanic's sinking.)
The business has been at the heart of my "profession" for a century. The whole idea of a journalist as a professional is also a product of this business. I took my graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism. Joseph Medill was the old reprobate who built the Chicago Tribune empire.
But as I've said many times here this whole idea of a "journalism profession" is a fraud. Professionals can make it on their own. Journalists can't. If you don't have a job you are not part of the fraternity. Even if you build a journalism company based on your vision of what the profession should be, you are always nothing more than a businessman.
The New York Times recently quoted a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."
Here in one sentence we have the utter cluelessness of the industry. Here is an opportunity waiting for someone to exploit it.
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.
Who is to blame for the vapid nonsense of celebrity journalism?
To some extent, you are.
Partly as a result our most popular blogs are the cattiest, the most like the worst of the Main Stream Media attitude I criticized.
Is this an attack on Jeff Jarvis? (That's him on CNN.) No, it's not. He's responding to the market, to the audience, to you.
Now I'm going to tell you how to apply permission to the highest levels of personal transactions, the selling of homes and cars.
Bill Gates has finally hired himself a new CTO.
Groove does collaboration tools, and Microsoft (an early investor) is interested in those things. But I don't think Gates signed off on this deal to get Groove's technology, otherwise he never would have un-retired Nathan Myhrvold's title. (Microsoft currently has three people with the CTO title, meaning no one really has the power.)
The bottom line is that Gates needs Ray Ozzie, and he needs him bad.
Microsoft puts more dollars into new technology development than just about anyone else in the world, but it gets less bang for its buck than any outfit since Xerox PARC. Microsoft Research has a ton of high bandwidth people, they're doing all sorts of high bandwidth things, but when was the last time Microsoft introduced anything of real importance?
That's what Ray will be tasked with sorting out.
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.
Podcasting is the trend of 2005.
It's driven by simple facts.
The result is millions of units and millions of hours waiting to be used by someone.
What else is the result?
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:
As mentioned in the previous item, I was honored last weekend to speak at the Virginia Journal on Law and Technology (VJOLT) Symposium, "Real Law and Online Rights."
I'd expected an argument. The vast majority of copyright lawyers today are employed by copyright holders. Instead, I was given the lead-off slot, the small congregation nodded in time to my music, and the speakers all advocated a balanced view of copyright and patent law.
One of the best (in my opinion), was Geraldine Moohr, who teaches at the University of Houston Law School, a short bike ride from my old stomping grounds at Rice. She based her talk on a paper she wrote last year on copyright criminal law.
The short version. It doesn't work. "There is a lack of a social norm that would condemn personal use infringement," she said. "Civil penalties may be good enough. They have a a punitive quality to them."
While Susan Crawford was asking whether Ben Franklin would blog, (and Donna Wentworth was pointing the world to her piece) I was being asked a similar question "would Jefferson file share" at a VJOLT conference in Charlottesville.
The answer, in both cases, would depend on which Franklin or Jefferson you were talking about.
Franklin was desperate to publish as a young man, and the 1721 Franklin would doubtless have blogged. As a printer, Franklin routinely used copyrighted material without payment, and as a raconteur/diplomat he was far more often on the receiving end, so if he had blogged then he would have done it very carefully, judiciously, with an eye toward public opinion.
Jefferson was the first consumer, and doubtless would have used Grokster in his dorm at William & Mary. But later, as he became a public figure, he would have been far more conscious of the need for anonymity. As a politician, he would have no more admitted to copyright violation than George W. Bush would admit to smoking pot.
Both men, however, learned to live as though their private lives were public. Franklin used his fame to win an alliance with France, even letting himself be pictured in a beaver hat. Jefferson dealt with the Sally Hemings affair throughout the 1800 campaign, not to mention his lifelong reputation as a spendthrift, a wastral and, in the end, a bankrupt.
A better question might be this. Could you, or I, have done as well, then or now?
I doubt it. But we all should try.
For decades employed journalists have considered themselves a class apart. Charged by their employers with deciding what was relevant, they took fame and turned it to infamy, often violating confidences, and said they were just doing their jobs.
They ignored the concentration of power in their own business -- a journalist is someone who works for someone (who buys ink by the barrel, spectrum by the megahertz, bandwidth by the terabyte) -- and expected a legal shield to protect them and no one else.
Well, uh-uh. No more. And Thank God.
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.
The Cato Institute claims to be an advocate of free enterprise, by which we are meant to think free and open competition. (That's the logo from one of their standard online products.)
They are, in fact, huge supporters of untrammeled business power, of oligopoly. Hey, where do you think their funding comes from, rabbits?
Here's a great example. It's a blog they call Tech Liberation. It takes a few clicks to learn this is a Cato shop, but they're not really hiding it.
The piece is by Adam Thierer (left), who works full-time at Cato as "director of telecommunication studies.". Its theme is the latest round of telecom mergers. Its message is don't worry, be happy.
"We can safely conclude that the communications / broadband networking business can be very competitive with 2 or 3 or even 4 major backbone providers in each region providing some mix of voice, video and data services."
Evidence for this? A Wall Street Journal piece noting that SBC wants to get into cable television. Other than that, a lot of chirping crickets. And some very nasty lies.
Want a taste?
One way I can tell that America's conservatives have become ideologues, akin to Communists, Fascists, and other idiots, is how they have turned everything into politics.
I'm not talking about the ongoing debate over teaching science or religion on the schools. It's easy to see how so-called "intelligent design" is religion because you can't do anything with the insight "God did it" -- it leads to no experiment, and ends questioning. Evolution, on the other hand, constantly brings new questions with it. Theories are used to stimulate questions, not end them.
I'm talking instead about how, when you get some of these advocates in a corner, they will flat-out admit that the whole thing is politics, just another way to fight the liberal impulse on behalf of their ideology.
The canary in this coal mine is named George Gilder, (above, from Forbes), and in Wired this month he sings this tune like Sinatra.
Watch him build (then knock down) his evolution straw man:
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.
Katie Hafner has a story today on one of those subjects that makes me want to scream. (Image from Hackvan.Com.)
It's about "pseudo-ADD" and continuing efforts by employers to make knowledge workers pay closer attention to what they're doing.
If they really want to help they should stop interrupting us with meetings, with memoes, and (sometimes) with bosses poking their heads in our doors to see how we're getting on.
Two can play the distraction game. But wait, there's more.
NOTE: Howard Dean will become chairman of the Democratic Party this weekend. Consider this an open letter to the new boss, from the bottom of the grassroots.
The year 2004 did not represent a generational election because people live longer than they used to. Thus, the Nixon Coalition was able to get the knees to jerk by turning 2004 into 1968. Democrats went along by nominating a man of the 60s.
Had this been a true generational election Vietnam would have been irrelevant, just as the New Deal was irrelevant to those marching in 1968, and the Spanish-American War was history to the hungry of 1932.
Will 2008 be the generational election? Maybe, but maybe not. In that year a person born in 1955, at the height of the baby boom, will be only 53. Thats still old enough to matter.
But a new generation is coming along, and thats where Democrats should concentrate their attention.
The last generation had a name, Baby Boom. The new generation has a name, too.
The new generation is the Internet Generation.
Rajesh Jain (left) quotes one of my recent items today and adds this somewhat cryptic comment.
"I think the next platform will be a service-centric platform, built on the Internet and assuming the presence of computers and cellphones."
Once again, we have wisdom from the East. (If I were in California instead of Georgia, of course, it would be coming from the West.)
The digirati are in a fury today over claims by an outfit called i-mature which claims to have solved the problem of age verification with a $25 device that checks a finger's bone density to determine just how old you are.
The image, by the way, is from Vanderbilt University, which has no affiliation with either Corante, i-Mature, or this blog. It describes x-rays of a finger taken at different power settings. Go Commodores.
RSA announced "a joint research collaboration" with the company. But there is skepticism over exactly how precisely a bone scan can measure age, and the more people investigate, the more questions they raise.
We have read for the last year about the death of the PDA, and it's true the stand-alone version (one without a phone) is fast disappearing.
As Tom's Hardware notes, PDA sales have fallen to a five-year low. I have one, but it was free.
As David Linsalata, the IDC analyst who delivered the report noted, ""Consumers don't see the need to invest $600 in a handheld device if a smart phone can do the same basic tasks."
But isn't this "death of the PDA" business simply a matter of semantics? Isn't this merely the creation of analysts who put technology in boxes, when everyone knows the first thing people do when they get technology is take it out of the box?
Maybe. Here's the headline on a recent story published in Ireland on the subject. "Smartphone and PDA sales go skyward."
Erin go wha?
Perhaps no technology today splits analysts to the degree that WiMax does.
Which is it?
Maybe both. Maybe neither.
This is because WiMax is still vapor. The delivery of a final standard has been delayed until summer, which means products won't come out until late this year.
There's also Intel's move to make WiMax mobile to consider. Making the 802.16 standard mobile will take more time, mobile operators are building 3G networks as fast as possible, and purchases of the coming standard may be delayed by people waiting for the better one.
Unlike the situation with 802.11 we have no guarantee that 802.16 implementations will be fully backward-compatible. The gear out there now isn't even guaranteed to be compatible with itself.
So what will WiMax become?
Now that Star Trek is officially dead (no new shows or movies, even in production) the time has come for a new idea.
It's an anthology series, built around various scientific "principles" that define the Star Trek franchise.
Think of it as Science made into Drama.
Yes, it's an excuse to make science exciting. (Just think of the educational spin-offs we can produce!) And the production costs are low enough to put this on the SciFi channel (where Enterprise should have been all along). Or might I suggest a pitch to Discovery Networks, which has got proven talent in making science fun with shows like Mythbusters?
For host, might I recommend Stephen Hawking? Playing the role Alistair Cooke made famous, he opens each show by describing the science (and the Star Trek technology) on which the show will be based. (I might recommend getting several scientists for this role, perhaps one for each specialty. But Hawking is a name. He'll do great for starters.) Or, with confidence this show will last for decades, Lance Armstrong, who's already under contract to Discovery, who knows how to read a cue card, and who owes his life to science?
More after the break.
I have written a bit on RSS here, often wrongly. (The illustration is from the blog of Andrew Grumet, who brings the complexity of video feeds to the process.)
I have bemoaned the delivery of ads via RSS, both as content and within feeds, as "RSS spam."
My complaints were misdirected, as I learned. The problem was not in the feeds, but in the reader. After I patiently explained my problem to my newsreader maker, I was told "we'll work on it."
And what is my problem?
My problem is I want all the real news and commentary on the field I cover, and that's all I want. You don't get that with a simple keyword field.
As always in technology, problems are usually opportunities turned on their head. New start-ups are emerging that hope to use RSS as a true intelligence gathering service, instead of as a garbage in-garbage out collector.
What they say is what I've said, that separating wheat from chaff is very difficult. They are going about that in different ways. Rojo is doing it privately, just letting a few people in, while Bloglines is doing is publicly, creating a versoin of Google's PageRank algorithm.
Corante is interested in this as well.
An ink-jet printer that makes gourmet food?
The printer is in Moto, a Chicago restaurant, and it's programmed by executive chef Homaro Cantu. The paper is the same stuff you see on some birthday cakes, made of soybeans and cornstarch. The ink is edible, and the flavors are powders placed on the paper after it's printed. This means he can create a 10-course "tasting menu" that won't leave you bloated -- just well-read and out several Benjamins.
Cantu is making paper sushi and menus that can be crunched into his gazpacho for "alphabet soup."
Now that we have proof of concept, what next?
It's not capitalism. Capitalism does not by itself guarantee competition. (Image from Clint Sprott at the University of Wisconsin. Go Badgers.)
That is does is the biggest lie told by political conservatives.
Capitalism, in fact, evolves toward monopoly, or to its cousins duopoly and oligopoly, just as ecosystems evolve toward a "climax" state that can only be re-set by catastrophe.
The only mechanism we have to protect competition against this natural tendency is government.
Only a government strong enough to stand up against the biggest enterprises can guarantee competition.
This is difficult to assure.
It's difficult to assure because money corrupts, and corporations -- not government -- are the source of money. It's your money, and unfortunately corporations are considered as people under U.S. law -- immortal people who can't be jailed.
If the last several months proves anything, it is that there are many ways to grow in the cellular business. (Birthdaycraftsandsupplies.com offers a fine selection of Pinatas. Ask them to bring back the dollar sign one to the right. Don't you agree it looks cool?)
One big difference between IBM and Microsoft today is that, while both are filled with "high bandwidth" people, those at IBM seem to have a greater creative freedom.
This presses all kinds of buttons for me. I'm a Wolfram fan. I like open source (and IBM is still rumored to be working on an open source JDK). I like music. I love the link between science and art. And the idea of an engineer learning to play music (or tap dance) is also attractive. Something else to think about is how Reiners pushed most of his links into a resources sub-head at the bottom of the story.
Now where does this take us?
I wrote this for the GreaterDemocracyblog, but I'm also posting it here, because I can.
The software you have on your PC determines what you can do with it. The software a campaign or political movement uses reflects what it can do.
The biggest mistake Howard Dean made in his 2004 campaign wasnt his attacks on Gephardt, and it wasnt the scream. It was his softwares failure to scale the intimacy, to give the 1 millionth, or 10 millionth, campaign participant the same features, and the same sense of belonging, given the 10th and 100th.
Throughout the campaign, and even to this day, Dean and his Democracy for America have relied on Movable Type as their interface with supporters. MT is a good product, but its interactivity is limited. You enter an item on the blog, and comments flow from it in a straight line.
The significance of WiFi-cellular roaming doesn't lie in cutting voice costs. (The picture, by the way, comes from Novinky, a Czech online magazine, a story about DSL.)
The significance of WiFi-cellular roaming lies in Always On applications.
Think about it. Cellular channels are relatively low in bandwidth, WiFi channels are high in bandwidth.
Now, you're wearing an application, like a heart monitor. When you're at home, or in your office, this thing can be generating, and immediately disgorging, tons and tons of data, detailed stuff that may be fun for your doctor to analyze later.
I have been singing the good news about Moore's Law for many years now. It spurs productivity, it spreads knowledge, it increases the rate of change across the board, etc. etc.
But there is a dark side to all this that most who write on technology don't talk about. (The image is from Youngstown State University in Ohio.)
That's what I call Moore's Inverse Law of Labor.
Simply put, Moore's Law makes large productivity gains absolutely necessary. To compete in a Moore's Law world, you have to continually replace people with technology, and move folks' time into more productive tasks, or they fall behind.
This is true for individuals, for business, for government, for nations. It has very profound implications for all of us.
Let's think about some of them:
Does your cell phone help you pick up attractive women? (Or men?)
Well, it might if you subscribed to Dodgeball, a social service for mobiles whose founders, Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert, talked to our own Russell Shaw (right) recently.
The idea is that you and your friends subscribe to Dodgeball, then text your location to one another at night, so you can get together. (And if they have friends with them, and those friends are attractive, voila!)
Absolut Vodka sponsored a "nightlife channel" on the service last year, like a traditional media buy, so Dodgeball members could associate the brand as a "friend." (Beats having an AA sponsor, I guess.) Now they're looking to make more money from things like Premium SMS and applications.
I recently wrote in high praise of Motorola for the MS1000, calling them The Kings of Always On.
The following does not detract from that call. Motorola has come closer to building an Always On platform (as I envision one) than anyone else.
But there are still a few things they could easily add:
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.
Stan Gibson feels Gartner's acquisition of the Meta Group is an anti-trust problem.
Consulting is not like other businesses. There is always ease of entry. (I'm available -- just write. And I'm very good.)
But the fact is that the technology consulting business is shrinking. Technology is getting easier to understand. Demand is down.
Meta couldn't keep up so they got out for what they could get. Good for them.
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.
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...
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).
Charles Leadbetter, a freelance analyst who works with Demos of the UK and others (sort of like me but with better management), offered some great insights into the need for regulation recently that have been making the rounds of the blogosphere. (That's one of his books over there.)
How to Profit from Ignorance posits that regulation is needed to regulate ignorance. As life gets more complicated, we become more dependent on experts. Regulation becomes the experts' stamp of approval.
But there's another way of putting the same point -- transparency.
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.
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.
Glenn Fleishman drew a lot of admiring attention over the weekend for his experiment in frugality, trying to see just how little he could pay for the telecom service he needs. (The picture is the thumbnail from Glenn's blog.)
Basically he moved calls to his mobile phone and DSL line, using Vonage and SkypeOut. He also spent $3/month for a Cingular service called FastForward that moves all calls to his DSL when he hits the limits on his calling plan.
Glenn figures he's saving $130/month. (Your mileage may vary.) I wish I could do as well.
The two brief items below are examples of a new feature here at Corante, called Blink.
Blinks are quick hits, references to stories happening within our beats. Just a link, maybe a few words, based on something we found of interest but have yet to think about thoroughly.
I get no credit for any of this. Your encomiums should go to Hylton Jolliffe (right), our fearless leader, who has also been implementing other changes to make our blogs more "competitive" for reader interest (and advertiser dollars) as we go into 2005. It's true his forehead is too small and narrow for him to be a truly "handsome man" as I am, but we at Mooreslore are hopeful the course of time may change that.
I have been privileged to have written with Hylton for nearly two years now. He is honest, innovative, fair-minded, a good man in every way. I've chided him in the past that he should be rich as well.
Maybe (blink, blink) we can get to work on that now....
Warren Buffett (left, from Slate) was probably the first big-time executive to really "get" blogging. That's really what his annual letter to shareholders is Read them in turn, going backward in time, and see if I'm right. It's a pre-blog blog.
Jonathan Schwartz, COO of Sun, understands this. His blog entries are longer than most, often being fairly-detailed position statements on Sun's view of issues, but his is a true blog, which aims to participate in and prod ongoing discussion.
Most major media companies today are trying to incorporate blogging into what they do.
They are finding it exceedingly difficult.
That's because good blogging comes from passion. It's spontaneous. The best media efforts I've seen so far have lived in one of three categories:
John Naisbitt and a herd of library assistants basically looked at news stories from all over the world in order to divine underlying trends -- they extrapolated the recent past to describe the future.
He made a bundle.
The title of the piece is "Google With Judgement," a title suggested by McLean. What he does is monitor 7,000 political sources (probably everything with an RSS feed) in an attempt to catch trends before they start.
McLean is cagey on his specific methodology. He's trying to sell the process for big bucks to corporations that need to know what the market's thinking quickly enough to act on it. But it sounds like he's databased a bunch of feeds and learned to distill their meaning pretty accurately.
Don't believe surveys. Any surveys.
I'm talking about more than the Presidential Polls. I'm talking about any survey, public or private, no matter the subject, that claims statistical validity based on calling people on the telephone.
In the end peer-to-peer has nothing to do with copyright. It's the way the Earth links.
For linking people and ideas, P2P is simply a better topology than client-server. It conforms to the way people are. Capitalism is a peer-to-peer economic system. Socialism is client-server. Democracy is a peer-to-peer political system. Autocracy is client-server.
The difference is just that stark.
The myth of the "Intellectual Property cult" is that the products of intellect are unique, complete, all-in-all. They are not. "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." That's Sir Isaac Newton.
This applies to all products of the intellect:
The 802.11 market is stalling.
I know because Broadcom has warned that its sales are flat.
Broadcom absolutely rocks in the Wi-Fi chip market. It is constantly ahead of the curve. It has great relationships with OEMs and product marketers. TI and Intel look good, but no one plays the inside game as well as Broadcom, trust me.
And if Broadcom is catching a cold, then everyone else has pneumonia.
Why is this?
I have written several times about how antiquated computing is in the area of health care.
Politicians are starting to take notice of the same thing. (Registration Required)
Fortunately this is a bipartisan recognition. The Post comment above is written by the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist (right, from CNN), and a leader of the minority Democrats, Hillary Clinton.
But what are they really proposing?
These ladies aren't discussing the battle between Real Networks and Apple. But there's an important Clue to be derived here nonetheless.
The dispute between Real Networks and Apple Computer over getting Real songs onto the iPod is a business dispute, even a legal dispute. It's not supposed to be about politics or religion. (The illustration, from the Portland Tribune, is from a political rally.)
Customer loyalty, usually a wonderful thing, can be turned into passion that looks very political indeed. And when Real tried to make this political, through a petition, the backlash began.
Spam's dirtiest secret is that so-called "legitimate" businesses are footing the bills. (That's CipherTrust's Paul Judge, one of the "good guys" in the anti-spam fight, at right. Read more on him here. And if you see him, buy him a beer, or whatever he wants.)
They seldom do this directly. Mostly it's through "affiliate marketing" agreements, often created by re-sellers. The legitimate companies put stuff into their channel. The re-sellers are part of the channel. If the affiliate gets busted for spam it's "Mission Impossible" -- the secretary disavows any knowledge of their actions.
This is why, not that spam has swallowed the legitimate business of e-mail marketing, it's becoming seasonal. You get sex spam in the summer, financial scams in the fall.
This could, if someone were clever, create a way in which to reduce the spam problem.
SSEYO has announced miniMIXA, an audio mixer for Windows smartphones.
As part of the roll-out a Reading, England arts festival will use it this weekend to mix what is being played on-the-fly..
This could do to the cell phone market what programs like Musicmatch did to PCs.
The impact could be massive. Ringtones could be created at concerts, and sold right after the show. On the other hand, concert-goers could potentially bootleg the same concert and offer better mixes, free, within hours after the show.
This leads to Dana's Law of Creativity Software.
The cheaper it is, the more people can use it, and the lower the premium paid for poor results.
If you want to see what this thing is capable of, check out these sample mixes for yourself. Or, if you don't have a Windows cell phone, get a taste for the technology by downloading Sseyo's PC plug-in.
Every day, it seems, I see more and more people trying to use the blogging metaphor to make money. (The image, naturally, comes from business-blog.com.)
The question remains whether blogging will become subsumed into other media (lots of high-tech publishers, like Business 2.0, now have things they call blogs), whether new journalism businesses can be built on blogging, and whether blogging will be an individual or community endeavor.
Following are some Clues to this future:
Each time a member of my family needs any type of medical care I'm frustrated. (The image is from the good people at Tympanitis.com, fighting the good fight against otitis media, and is used here completely out of context.)
Mainly I'm frustrated by paperwork and waste. I'm frustrated with filling out forms, and dealing with bureaucratic clerks.
I'm frustrated because it's all so expensive, and all so unnecessary. There are technologies available today that will cure this problem, solutions that can be implemented now.
If big insurers gave clients smart cards, and insisted that all members of their networks take smart card readers, it would be a big start. Entire medical histories, and biometric identification, could be mounted on the cards cheaply. Read the card and the doctor's network automatically knows what it needs to do, about the patient and the billing.
Why hasn't this happened yet? In a word, privacy.
Michael Eisner would you please go now?
Disney has announced it is entering the PC market. (The illustration is from the Times' story.)
There are so many things wrong with this, on so many levels. I hardly know where to begin.
The secret to turning a blog into a financial success lies in the word community.
Community is what lets a blog scale from one person spouting off into a true online service, with enough traffic to pay the bills with advertising.
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (left, from his site) revealed this today on his site, Daily Kos, but I am NOT making a political point here. The most successful conservative sites, from FreeRepublic to Lucianne.Com to Andrew Sullivan, all do the exact same things.
What do they do?
It's a lack of entrepreneurs.
Microsoft hires smart people, who have good ideas. But Microsoft has just one entrepreneur. His name is Bill Gates. Everyone else is a manager.
This is why Microsoft is looking more and more like IBM. This is precisely what happened to IBM itself, as Tom Watson Jr. exhausted his Last Big Idea (the IBM 360), suffered some heart problems (he recovered), and left the company in 1971, aged 55.
IBM, in the 1970s, became bureaucratic, it became backward-looking, it devoted itself wholly to the interests of its big customers. It became vulnerable to the first kid to come along with a Clue.
How can Microsoft solve its mid-life crisis?
Remember those stories a week ago to the effect that there was a shortage of Google AdWords? (I don't think OneWebHosting will mind my linking to that illustration, especially when I link to their own ad as well.)
I noticed, on these pages and on my own newsletter's home page, that this is no longer the case. In fact, many technology terms are now going begging. I know this because Public Service Ads from Google have been appearing in both locations.
All of which gave me an idea for "gaming the system."
His first hit was called Ogre. (This image is from Goingfaster.com, a gaming enthusiast and Jackson fan.) At a time when the big cost of producing games was making, and printing, all the cardboard game pieces, Steve cut costs in half by having one player take one piece, the Ogre.
In the real world, of course, the Ogre can't win.
Tim O'Reilly could have been a lot of things on the Internet. (The image is from the HollandSentinel.Com.)
He could have dominated it. A decade ago his Global Network Navigator was THE place to start every Internet session. Launched in 1993 it was the Web's first real home.
Of course, the Web outgrew it very quickly, and Tim had to decide where he wanted to fit into what would quickly become a whole new World. So he sold GNN to AOL, in 1995, and remained true to himself, as publisher of esoteric technology books with woodcuts of animals on their covers.
Since then, of course, O'Reilly & Associates has become an important brand for technical types who need a deep, honest understanding of a language, a protocol, or an Internet technology.
And O'Reilly himself has continued to speak out on things that interest him.
Here is a story that will give you some idea of exactly where e-mail marketing stands, midway through 2004.
And how you can make money from it.
Back when I was at CMP Media, in the mid-1990s, we had a corporate slogan. We were about "the builders, the sellers, and the users" of technology. (Illustration from Time Magazine.)
All CMP publications fit into one of those boxes. Computer Reseller News was for the sellers. EE Times was for the builders. Windows was for the users.
This caused a problem for those of us at Interactive Age, the new Internet book. We didn't fit neatly into any box. The ad sellers said we were a builder book, but personally I was writing for the users, and many of our stories were about the sellers.
Needless to say, the magazine was dead within months. We missed the whole Internet boom because the bosses couldn't figure out what box to put us in.
Spam does not just hurt the spam-ee. It is also destroying the spammers, their customers, and the entire effort to turn e-mail marketing into a legitimate business.
The reason isn't in your cluttered inbox, but in a simple falsehood. The falsehood is that spam costs nothing. (The picture is of a good book on writing for direct marketing, which you may buy here.)
Everyone believes this lie. Spammers certainly believe it. Their customers believe it. So, too, do those brand names that run "e-mail marketing campaigns."
More important, so do very legitimate marketers engaged in very legitimate double opt-in e-mail marketing campaigns.
Even legendary marketers are failing to understand this Clue. Let me give you an example.
I took the kids to see Shrek 2 today.
Good movie. Thumbs up and all that. Fun for the whole family. (The image is from Cinepop in Brazil.)
The Dreamworks picture is breaking all sorts of box office records. And the use of technology is astounding. I actually recognized Jennifer Saunders (as the Fairy Godmother) before she spoke -- computer animation has gotten that good.
But the theater where we saw it was practically empty. Now, this was a matinee, and the movie was playing on six of the theater's 18 screens. But the place was empty.
This got my spidey-sense tingling. (Sorry, wrong movie.) Let's just say it made me think.
The TV financial news today is filled with ads for outfits that, to my way of thinking, should not be sucking financial oxygen.
There's MCI and Putnam Investments. There are Citigroup and Janus Funds. Tyco is still around (it's making money I hear). Even Enron has yet to be totally liquidated.
What happens when you or I commit a crime is we are tried and convicted. This is very hard to do when the crime is done with a pen, behind the corporate shield. The states' batting average is low. What usually happens, instead, is that the company pays a fine -- sometimes a massive fine -- but usually without admitting wrongdoing. The cover-up, in other words, winds up being sanctioned by the court.
Add to that the complete failure of corporate governance in catching these crooks before the vaults are looted, and you have what I call Dracula Inc., corporate immortality, and immortal immorality. (Somehow, Bela Lugosi will always be Dracula to me, and obviously, to the folks at Shillpages too.)
I think it's time to stick a stake through some corporate hearts.
Way back in high school, nearly 35 years ago now, I lost my first newspaper job. (The illustration is from a Buddhist temple. Cute, huh? Keep reading for enlightenment.)
Well it wasn't a job, actually. I was canned from the school newspaper, along with the rest of the staff, after some editorials appeared against the Vietnam War.
Most of the "old" staff did what you expect. They went to their parents and got the money to distribute their own paper, one that was just as slick as the regular paper.
I took a different route. I went to the market. I sold ads. I kept my costs down and generally broke even. Kept it up for nearly three years.
The lesson stuck with me. Begging isn't a business model.
I associate this lesson with conservatism, but in our time it's often ignored. Young conservatives have an easy time getting money -- from parents, from foundations, and from publishers more interested in propaganda than truth.
Anyone else is left to beg.
Here's a note to the beggars. Get off your knees.
In over 20 years as a freelance journalist I've always had the same policy. No one pays me until they are satisfied.
Here's the lesson of Martin Bayne's item, for those of you who just care about things like sales and technology.
Knowledge is power. If you really want to sell something, immerse yourself in it, and immerse yourself in your customer. Become your customer, insofar as you can. Go native.
You don't have to have Parkinson's or live in a facility to do that. You just have to reach out, to care, to empathize, and try to help.
Here's a good movie which teaches the lesson.
The lead character, Bill Porter, has cerebral palsy, but this is not a movie about a handicap. It's a movie about selling, about caring, about how you, as a salesman, can really make a difference in other peoples' lives. Porter made a difference selling cheap household products door-to-door. Imagine the difference you can make selling something really worthwhile.
And you can. Now take it away, Mr. Bayne.
A comment from Brad Hutchings to the item below stimulated further thought.
He wrote how many of the dot-bombs he worked with "back in the day" lacked what we like to call "adult supervision." (The picture to the right is being used here to sell latex gloves.)
Which leads to the question of what adults know.
Adults know failure. They know the lessons of failure. They know the obvious pitfalls, the obvious routes to failure, but they also know that the surest route to failure is to over-react.
Adults know more than that.