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September 21, 2005

Apple Claims iTunes FixEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Apple Claims iTunes Fix"

September 20, 2005

Google Flattens the WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Google Flattens the World"

September 19, 2005

The Internet as Shopping MallEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Internet as Shopping Mall"

Gittin' While the Gittin's GoodEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Gittin' While the Gittin's Good"

September 14, 2005

Where to Find the Times' ColumnistsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Where to Find the Times' Columnists"

Financial Battle for the New InterfaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Financial Battle for the New Interface"

September 10, 2005

Don't Take iTunes 5.0 for Windows (For Now)Email This EntryPrint This Article

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.

September 09, 2005

Murdoch's Internet StrategyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Murdoch's Internet Strategy"

September 08, 2005

Vinton What's the Frequency?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Vinton What's the Frequency?"

September 04, 2005

This Week's Clue: Journalism With Google MapsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "This Week's Clue: Journalism With Google Maps"

August 29, 2005

Fight for the New InterfaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Fight for the New Interface"

The Killer App for BroadbandEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Killer App for Broadband"

August 28, 2005

The Other KatrinaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Other Katrina"

August 27, 2005

Save the Internet!Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Save the Internet!"

August 26, 2005

Google-ologyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Google-ology"

August 24, 2005

Google's VOIP PlayEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Google's VOIP Play"

August 22, 2005

Artificial ScarcityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Artificial Scarcity"

Not All HotSpot Advantages ObviousEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Not All HotSpot Advantages Obvious"

The Best Way to Save GasEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Best Way to Save Gas"

August 18, 2005

Google's ChoiceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Google's Choice"

Verizon's Futuristic "Vision"Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Verizon's Futuristic "Vision""

August 17, 2005

The Value of CredibilityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Value of Credibility"

August 16, 2005

Bush Cuts Off DNS IntelligenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Bush Cuts Off DNS Intelligence"

Refusing to LearnEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Refusing to Learn"

August 15, 2005

A Basic Threat To The WebEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "A Basic Threat To The Web"

August 09, 2005

Fox Calls for Better Henhouse SecurityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Fox Calls for Better Henhouse Security"

HIPAA and Unintended ConsequencesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "HIPAA and Unintended Consequences"

August 08, 2005

Intel Fights the PowerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Intel Fights the Power"

August 07, 2005

The WiMax ImperativeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The WiMax Imperative"

August 06, 2005

Outgrowing the GrownupEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Outgrowing the Grownup"

August 05, 2005

Wi-Fi and Real EstateEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Wi-Fi and Real Estate"

The Mystery of Overstock.ComEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Mystery of Overstock.Com"

Gangs of New BlogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Gangs of New Blog"

August 04, 2005

Above the LawEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Above the Law"

August 02, 2005

The Moore's Law DialecticEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Moore's Law Dialectic"

July 31, 2005

The Identity WarsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Identity Wars"

July 29, 2005

The Tech-Politics ContradictionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Tech-Politics Contradiction"

July 28, 2005

Payday Loans, Now OnlineEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Payday Loans, Now Online"

July 27, 2005

Cheap Shot in a Good CauseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Cheap Shot in a Good Cause"

July 23, 2005

Marc Canter's ClueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Marc Canter's Clue"

Qwest Seeks Yet More SubsidiesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Qwest Seeks Yet More Subsidies"

July 21, 2005

Lazy Reporter Calls Reporter LazyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Lazy Reporter Calls Reporter Lazy"

Seattle Weekly Discovers VRWCEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Seattle Weekly Discovers VRWC"

Pay for Play Is Already HereEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Pay for Play Is Already Here"

July 20, 2005

The Web is Already BalkanizedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Web is Already Balkanized"

July 19, 2005

Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth (Gumby)Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth (Gumby)"

Is Chris DeWolfe Worth $580 million?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Is Chris DeWolfe Worth $580 million?"

July 16, 2005

America's Shame: Spam War Heats Up AgainEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "America's Shame: Spam War Heats Up Again"

July 15, 2005

Technorati Should Be For SaleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Technorati Should Be For Sale"

The New Interfaces (co-starring Steve Stroh as "The Expert")Email This EntryPrint This Article

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

July 13, 2005

My Personal Spam WarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "My Personal Spam War"

CBS Bets On VerversEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "CBS Bets On Ververs"

July 12, 2005

Fight for One InternetEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Fight for One Internet"

July 11, 2005

The Citizen Journalism FadEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Citizen Journalism Fad"

This Week's Clue: Mr. Pulitzer, Tear Down This Wall!Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "This Week's Clue: Mr. Pulitzer, Tear Down This Wall!"

A Blogger's Plea for TruthEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "A Blogger's Plea for Truth"

July 08, 2005

The Moblog DisasterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Moblog Disaster"

Orwell's FCC ChairEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Orwell's FCC Chair"

July 07, 2005

Lasica: King of IronyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Lasica: King of Irony"

London CallingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "London Calling"

July 01, 2005

J.D. Lasica's "Darknet"Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "J.D. Lasica's "Darknet""

Has The Internet War Been Declared?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Has The Internet War Been Declared?"

June 30, 2005

Congressional SpamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Congressional Spam"

Pressure on the Good GuysEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Pressure on the Good Guys"

T-Mobile Jumps Over The WallEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "T-Mobile Jumps Over The Wall"

June 29, 2005

An Always-On EndorsementEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "An Always-On Endorsement"

June 28, 2005

The OTHER Supreme Court DecisionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The OTHER Supreme Court Decision"

Identity Theft Turning Point?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Identity Theft Turning Point?"

June 27, 2005

A Digital Brown? Or A Digital Plessy?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "A Digital Brown? Or A Digital Plessy?"

No Such Thing As Free WiFiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "No Such Thing As Free WiFi"

Hilary Rosen Gets It (Too Late)Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Hilary Rosen Gets It (Too Late)"

June 17, 2005

This Week's Clue: Two TrainsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "This Week's Clue: Two Trains"

June 16, 2005

The Real Mark CubanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Real Mark Cuban"

Death of RSS KeywordsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Death of RSS Keywords"

June 15, 2005

The Journalism CrisisEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Journalism Crisis"

June 13, 2005

Even Free WiFi Needs a Business ModelEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Even Free WiFi Needs a Business Model"

June 10, 2005

A Note to PewEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "A Note to Pew"

Dismissing Always On ApplicationsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Dismissing Always On Applications"

This Week's Clue: Destroying the VillageEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "This Week's Clue: Destroying the Village"

June 09, 2005

Dana's Law of BellheadsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Dana's Law of Bellheads"

June 08, 2005

BubblesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Bubbles"

June 07, 2005

Should the Internet be Governed?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Should the Internet be Governed?"

June 03, 2005

This Week's Clue: Deep CommerceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "This Week's Clue: Deep Commerce"

June 02, 2005

Short Term ValuesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Short Term Values"

Glaser's Best is Just a StartEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Glaser's Best is Just a Start"

June 01, 2005

Uncounted Costs of SpamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Uncounted Costs of Spam"

May 31, 2005

Seven Rules for Corporate BlogsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Seven Rules for Corporate Blogs"

The Short TailEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Short Tail"

May 29, 2005

The Real Open Source Challenge is Getting PaidEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Real Open Source Challenge is Getting Paid"

May 28, 2005

One for the Web?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "One for the Web?"

May 27, 2005

This Week's Clue: Personal Network ManagementEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "This Week's Clue: Personal Network Management"

May 25, 2005

Doctors in the Land of LudEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Doctors in the Land of Lud"

The Fog of BlogsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Fog of Blogs"

The News CartelEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The News Cartel"

May 24, 2005

Et Tu, Frodo?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Et Tu, Frodo?"

May 23, 2005

The Right Blogging Business ModelEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Right Blogging Business Model"

File Hoarders Get BitTorrent WinEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "File Hoarders Get BitTorrent Win"

May 21, 2005

This Week's Clue: Jerimoth HillEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "This Week's Clue: Jerimoth Hill"

May 20, 2005

My Google?Email This EntryPrint This Article

"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 "My Google?"

May 19, 2005

Google's New Strategy Serves ShareholdersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Google's New Strategy Serves Shareholders"

From The Security Manager's DeskEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "From The Security Manager's Desk"

May 18, 2005

Waiting for GroksterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Waiting for Grokster"

Always On Is RFIDEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Always On Is RFID"

May 16, 2005

That's One Small Step for Wine...Email This EntryPrint This Article

...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 "That's One Small Step for Wine..."

PayolaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Payola"

Oy, CanadaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Oy, Canada"

May 15, 2005

PARTI HeartyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "PARTI Hearty"

May 14, 2005

A Publisher's EthicsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "A Publisher's Ethics"

May 13, 2005

Blogging Business ModelsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Blogging Business Models"

The Times vs. Sullivan BoundaryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Times vs. Sullivan Boundary"

Last Friend GoneEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Last Friend Gone"

May 12, 2005

BlogonomicsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Blogonomics"

May 11, 2005

CNN Surrenders to BlogosphereEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "CNN Surrenders to Blogosphere"

May 09, 2005

Wi-Fi-in'Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Wi-Fi-in'"

Googlejuice, Googlejuice, GooglejuiceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Googlejuice, Googlejuice, Googlejuice"

The Real Difference Between Blogging and JournalismEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Real Difference Between Blogging and Journalism"

Dirty Little Secret: Glenn Reynolds Is OKEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Dirty Little Secret: Glenn Reynolds Is OK"

May 04, 2005

East of the Blog, West of the MediaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "East of the Blog, West of the Media"

Social MobilityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Social Mobility"

May 03, 2005

Pitch CredibilityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Pitch Credibility"

Where A Blog Business Model StartsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Where A Blog Business Model Starts"

May 02, 2005

The Myth of ScarcityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Myth of Scarcity"

Last Word on VOIPEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Last Word on VOIP"

WiFi Ground WarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "WiFi Ground War"

April 29, 2005

Is Blogging Journalism?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Is Blogging Journalism?"

April 28, 2005

14 Clues Murdoch Won't UseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "14 Clues Murdoch Won't Use"

April 27, 2005

Blog Item Placement FluxEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Blog Item Placement Flux"

The New Digital DivideEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The New Digital Divide"

April 26, 2005

Two Blogging MarketsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Two Blogging Markets"

April 25, 2005

The Open Source Political ChallengeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Open Source Political Challenge"

New Week, New Reading ListEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "New Week, New Reading List"

The Lost PointEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The point lost by my stupid mistake is that Google, despite its enormous short-term success, is showing cracks in the armor.

Continue reading "The Lost Point"

April 22, 2005

Ornstein SyndromeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Ornstein Syndrome"

April 20, 2005

The Crisis at Google (and how to solve it)Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Crisis at Google (and how to solve it)"

Advice for Young JournalistsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Advice for Young Journalists"

Verizon Buying the Internet CoreEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Verizon Buying the Internet Core"

Broken Links, RSS Abuse and BeyondEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Broken Links, RSS Abuse and Beyond"

April 19, 2005

The Hole In Intel's WiMax StrategyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Hole In Intel's WiMax Strategy"

April 18, 2005

Blogger of the YearEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Blogger of the Year"

The Real P2P ThreatEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Real P2P Threat"

April 15, 2005

Your Weekend ReadingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Your Weekend Reading"

Components of the Always On WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Components of the Always On World"

Business Week Almost Writes About Always OnEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Business Week Almost Writes About Always On"

How Intel Can Fix Its Mobility Problems Right NowEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "How Intel Can Fix Its Mobility Problems Right Now"

April 14, 2005

Criminals Discover BloggingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Criminals Discover Blogging"

April 13, 2005

Citizen BlogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Citizen Blog"

BBC Brown-outEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "BBC Brown-out"

WiFi Movement in DisarrayEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "WiFi Movement in Disarray"

April 11, 2005

Today's Big Lie: Spam Is OKEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Today's Big Lie: Spam Is OK"

Tyranny of the BeatEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Tyranny of the Beat"

GooglesphereEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Googlesphere"

Why Philly WiFi Will FailEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Why Philly WiFi Will Fail"

April 10, 2005

DNS Poisoning Threatens IntranetsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "DNS Poisoning Threatens Intranets"

Online Gaming For Some Means Online Gaming For AllEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Online Gaming For Some Means Online Gaming For All"

April 04, 2005

Who Sets The Agenda?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Who Sets The Agenda?"

April 03, 2005

Finding the Good StuffEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Finding the Good Stuff"

April 02, 2005

Which Medium Shares Grief Best?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Which Medium Shares Grief Best?"

April 01, 2005

We Love Vint CerfEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "We Love Vint Cerf"

March 31, 2005

Dana's Law of ContentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Dana's Law of Content"

The Right Telecomm PolicyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Right Telecomm Policy"

March 29, 2005

Google vs. News Inc.Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Google vs. News Inc."

March 28, 2005

The Schiavo SpammerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Schiavo Spammer"

The Demonization of Google Has BegunEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Demonization of Google Has Begun"

Gator Comes To YahooEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Gator Comes To Yahoo"

The Grokster Case Is IrrelevantEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Grokster Case Is Irrelevant"

March 25, 2005

How To Kill Your NewspaperEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "How To Kill Your Newspaper"

March 24, 2005

The Blogging Co-OptersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Blogging Co-Opters"

The Bandwidth RestaurantEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Bandwidth Restaurant"

March 23, 2005

Microsoft Patents IPv6Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Microsoft Patents IPv6"

March 22, 2005

End The Gore TaxEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "End The Gore Tax"

March 21, 2005

Et Tu, Barry Diller?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Et Tu, Barry Diller?"

AOL Surrenders To The Net (AFP Take Note)Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "AOL Surrenders To The Net (AFP Take Note)"

Yahoo and Google Party Like It's 1999Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Yahoo and Google Party Like It's 1999"

War Against Hotspots BeginsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "War Against Hotspots Begins"

AFP Robot.Txt File FoundEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "AFP Robot.Txt File Found"

March 20, 2005

How AFP Can Win Its SuitEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "How AFP Can Win Its Suit"

March 19, 2005

AFP Sues Google Rather Than Write Robots.Txt FileEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "AFP Sues Google Rather Than Write Robots.Txt File"

March 18, 2005

VOIP Hot Now, Not LaterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "VOIP Hot Now, Not Later"

So Now You Notice...Why?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "So Now You Notice...Why?"

March 17, 2005

Microsoft adCenter Ignores 90s' LessonsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Microsoft adCenter Ignores 90s' Lessons"

Bloggers are the new Stasi?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Bloggers are the new Stasi?"

Google News Tilting Blog Playing FieldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Google News Tilting Blog Playing Field"

March 16, 2005

OJR Still CluelessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "OJR Still Clueless"

March 14, 2005

Newspapers Are Your Big OpportunityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Newspapers Are Your Big Opportunity"

March 10, 2005

Where EDGE Cellular Makes SenseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Where EDGE Cellular Makes Sense"

One More Step for Always OnEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "One More Step for Always On"

March 09, 2005

BBC Gets It Wrong On ChinaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "BBC Gets It Wrong On China"

Yahoo-Google War Goes MobileEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Yahoo-Google War Goes Mobile"

Two Ways To WiFi CoverageEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Two Ways To WiFi Coverage"

March 07, 2005

Google Desktop Search Goes GoldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Google Desktop Search Goes Gold"

Who Will Sa-ave Your Soul (for those lies that you told)Email This EntryPrint This Article

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

March 02, 2005

A Waste of RSSEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "A Waste of RSS"

IM Wars ContinueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "IM Wars Continue"

March 01, 2005

The Best Copyright ArgumentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Best Copyright Argument"

BellSouth: Clued-in or Clueless?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "BellSouth: Clued-in or Clueless?"

The PHP-Mainframe RevolutionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The PHP-Mainframe Revolution"

February 28, 2005

The Blog CrucibleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Blog Crucible"

February 26, 2005

Media TimidityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Media Timidity"

February 25, 2005

Aloha Means CompetitionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Aloha Means Competition"

February 23, 2005

Rock or Hard Place?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Rock or Hard Place?"

Fibbies Get The Paris Hilton TreatmentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Fibbies Get The Paris Hilton Treatment"

February 21, 2005

Law of the HorseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Law of the Horse"

The Jordan AffairEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Jordan Affair"

February 18, 2005

Google's KeyholeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Google's Keyhole"

February 17, 2005

The Value of ReputationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Value of Reputation"

February 15, 2005

Your Favorite Web Addresses, Hit HardEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Your Favorite Web Addresses, Hit Hard"

Facts Are Stubborn ThingsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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.


February 14, 2005

Iron Chef SiliconEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Iron Chef Silicon"

How Miracles Filter DownEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "How Miracles Filter Down"

February 10, 2005

The Human Middleware ProblemEmail This EntryPrint This Article


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 "The Human Middleware Problem"

Open Source PoliticsEmail This EntryPrint This Article


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 "Open Source Politics"

February 05, 2005

MCI Fingered for Spam FloodEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "MCI Fingered for Spam Flood"

February 04, 2005

RSS DreamsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "RSS Dreams"

The E-Mail MeltdownEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The E-Mail Meltdown"

February 01, 2005

MSN Search Just AllrightEmail This EntryPrint This Article


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 "MSN Search Just Allright"

January 27, 2005

Why Regulate TV?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Why Regulate TV?"

An Intimate WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "An Intimate World"

January 26, 2005

Open Source CampaignsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Open Source Campaigns"

January 25, 2005

Bush's Great FavorEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Bush's Great Favor"

January 24, 2005

Spam BloggingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Spam Blogging"

January 21, 2005

Verizon Blows You OffEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Verizon Blows You Off"

January 17, 2005

Why Would Google Want Dark Fiber?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Why Would Google Want Dark Fiber?"

Verizon Halts Internet ServiceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Verizon Halts Internet Service"

Googling The WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Googling The World"

A Rose By Any Other NameEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "A Rose By Any Other Name"

January 16, 2005

Panix AttackEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Panix Attack"

January 14, 2005

Seuss and BrinEmail This EntryPrint This Article


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 "Seuss and Brin"

January 13, 2005

Where To Learn Net SecurityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Where To Learn Net Security"

January 11, 2005

DNS TerrorismEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Spammers and phishers have responded to increased law enforcement by launching a program of terrorism.

Continue reading "DNS Terrorism"

The Broadband AnswerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Broadband Answer"

January 10, 2005

Last Word on the SixApart-LiveJournal MergerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Last Word on the SixApart-LiveJournal Merger"

The Great RaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Great Race"

January 06, 2005

Kings of Always-OnEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Kings of Always-On"

January 04, 2005

Editing BlogsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Editing Blogs"

January 01, 2005

Programs That DO SomethingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Programs That DO Something"

December 27, 2004

The Real EnemyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "The Real Enemy"

What Open Source Outlook Could MeanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "What Open Source Outlook Could Mean"

December 21, 2004

Are Courts Irrelevant To Copyright?Email This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Are Courts Irrelevant To Copyright?"

December 19, 2004

India vs. The NetEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "India vs. The Net"

Good HacksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Good Hacks"

December 16, 2004

UbiCompEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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.

Bus (Jet) RideEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Bus (Jet) Ride"

December 15, 2004

Liberal LudEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Liberal Lud"

December 14, 2004

Microsofting GoogleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Microsofting Google"

December 10, 2004

AOL Surrenders To The WebEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "AOL Surrenders To The Web"

December 08, 2004

Long Arm Of The LANEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Long Arm Of The LAN"

Have Nets, Have NotsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Have Nets, Have Nots"

Japan's Suicide ClubsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Japan's Suicide Clubs"

December 07, 2004

TotalNews BahrainEmail This EntryPrint This Article


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 "TotalNews Bahrain"

December 06, 2004

Digerati News BlackoutEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 "Digerati News Blackout"

Microsoft's Chinese ExperimentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Microsoft has launched an experiment in tightly-controlled liberty called MSN Spaces whose attitude is very oriental, nearly Chinese.

Spaces is a blogging tool (Microsoft loves to own the language, thus blogs become spaces as bookmarks became favorites) with a difference, namely central control and censorship.

However it's defended, and whatever it's called, control is the essence of the Microsoft experience. You will only use Microsoft tools, and Microsoft formats, under Microsoft rules, and write what Microsoft allows.

What could be more Chinese? (The link preceding is to the location of the art at the right.)

Continue reading "Microsoft's Chinese Experiment"

December 02, 2004

Blink, BlinkEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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....

December 01, 2004

Read The Fine Print: Pennsylvania's ShameEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Philadelphians are celebrating an agreement with Verizon which, they say, allows them to offer a citywide Wi-Fi network despite a law, signed (shamefully) by Governor Ed Rendell yesterday, aimed at stopping the municipal WiFi movement.

But they need to read the fine print.

Wetmachine has the story:


HB 30 prohibits the state or any municipality (or any municipally owned or operated entity) from providing any sort of telecom or broadband service for any kind of remuneration. The bill grandfathers any existing systems, tho, so no one will get cut off.

Sound good? Read on:

Continue reading "Read The Fine Print: Pennsylvania's Shame"

November 30, 2004

RSS AdsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

Well it's my own fault, I figured. I'm looking for everything on a specific keyword, and if some store is keyed to that word I'm going to get their stuff. Yes, a good RSS editor should be able to filter-out that stuff, allowing me to unsubscribe to anything that I don't like, but still...

But now that trend has taken another step, so I feel compelled to come back to the subject of my humiliation.

If you don't want to hear about it, don't click below:

Continue reading "RSS Ads"

November 17, 2004

Fat Lady Singing For Opera?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Has "the fat lady sung" for Opera, the Norwegian Web browser?

Opera's parent company reported a wide loss for its last quarter. Internet Explorer is losing share, but the share is being lost to Firefox, not Opera.

The question is no longer, do we need an alternative browser? The question is, do we need another browser company?

Continue reading "Fat Lady Singing For Opera?"

RSS SpamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Thanks to those lovely folks at Newsgator, I've been enjoying an RSS feed on topics of interest, sent to my e-mail box, for the last month.

It's useful. It gives me great stories. But here's a dirty little secret. It's also filled with spam.

Want some examples? Let's go to my inbox today and find a few:

Continue reading "RSS Spam"

November 12, 2004

Skype's GameEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One point often missed in the rush to Voice Over IP is how it leaves us all at the mercy of software companies playing games with standards.

For instance. Most Voice Over IP products are fairly standard. The telephone industry's VoIP efforts will all be fairly interoperable.

The exception is Skype. And guess who dominates the market.

Right now this is no big deal. It's trivial to load two VoIP programs on a PC, and to use the one the person you're calling prefers.

But this is about to change.

Continue reading "Skype's Game"

November 08, 2004

The Second Life (of lawyers)Email This EntryPrint This Article


A big highlight of the Accelerating Change conference at Stanford last weekend was a demonstration by Linden Labs of Second Life. (The image is from Second Life's Web site, meant to explain the game.) It is, as its home page notes, "a 3D digital world imagined, created and owned by its Residents."

Second Life lives in a server rack somewhere in San Francisco. Each server represents 16 acres of virtual space, where users' avatars can live, work and play. So far there are about 500, but 10 more are added each week. Think of it as Everquest without the plot.

In Second Life the users own what they create. It's a simple concept, but one that is extremely hard to implement. For instance, the demonstrator couldn't pass around any of the work done in Second Life because Second Life doesn't own it. Thus, he couldn't sign the conference's standard release form, which lets the organizers have rights to what's shown.

Continue reading "The Second Life (of lawyers)"

October 26, 2004

Intel-ClearwireEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Intel is trying to buy a wireless Clue.

That's the story it's telling by investing in Craig McCaw's Clearwire.

The deal, announced at the CTIA's San Francisco conference, is that Clearwire will use Intel WiMax gear and, in exchange, Intel will invest in Clearwire. Essentially Clearwire gets the gear for stock.

Of course there's more to it than that.

Continue reading "Intel-Clearwire"

October 25, 2004

Google vs. YahooEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Yahoo bought a second e-mail technology company. Speculation is they're going to roll out a competitor to Google's Gmail, one offering users more control over e-mail from multiple accounts.

That would be a good thing.

But there's a larger point to be made from all this, about how Google and Yahoo do business.

Continue reading "Google vs. Yahoo"

October 19, 2004

Germany's Internet TaxEmail This EntryPrint This Article


Germany has begun requiring registration and taxation of all Internet users.

Ostensibly this is an extension of TV license fees, paid on behalf of state broadcasters ARD and ZDF, and enforced by a board called the GEZ.

Users must register all their PCs by the end of March, then pay about 17 Euros per month per unit, offset by proof they've registered TV sets and radios.

The government promises mobile phones will be next.

Anyone want to question again why Germany's vaunted technology prowess is drying up?

October 13, 2004

The Return of SpamfordEmail This EntryPrint This Article


There is something to be said for the concept of a career criminal.

That is, there are some people who just have a criminal mindset, who will always look to cheat people, or steal from them in some way, and jails exist to keep such people out of sight.

The business world has a variant, people who have what I call a "sucker mentality." That is, consumers are rubes, you don't have to provide them value for money, just get into their pockets, use their greed against them, or make them pay you to sell them. Suckers.

This is the attitude of Sanford Wallace. (The picture is from a 1997 interview.) In my opinion, allowing such people to call themselves "small businessmen" puts all business in disrepute.

My word for them is thieves.

Continue reading "The Return of Spamford"

Blogging On DemandEmail This EntryPrint This Article


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:


  1. Media company hires a blogger to do what the blogger was doing anyway.
  2. Media company blogs an event live.
  3. Media company lets its writers blog on their own time, within the media company's site, and someone runs with it.

When a media company says, you will do X number of words per day on our blog about subject Y, what you have isn't a blog at all, but a column.

Continue reading "Blogging On Demand"

Paypal: Banking Is Hard WorkEmail This EntryPrint This Article


The folks at eBay have made a basic mistake with Paypal. (Image from the BBC.)

They have treated it like a regular Internet company, and it's not.

It's a bank.

And online banking is very, very hard. The headline writers got a taste of this over the last week, when a software upgrade caused Paypal to hiccup mightily.

But the problem goes much deeper.

Continue reading "Paypal: Banking Is Hard Work"

October 08, 2004

The New Home Of Dana's Greatest HitsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Russell Shaw pointed me toward a resource I hadn't seen before, which apparently keeps my golden oldies.

Highbeam Research is a paid site that defines itself as doing "research" but a lot of its stuff comes from the online world. This is not to insult the company. A lot of it comes from the OLD online world.

Continue reading "The New Home Of Dana's Greatest Hits"

This Is The Very Model Of A Modern Major MediumEmail This EntryPrint This Article

In the latest (fourth) edition of its Digital Future study (on PDF), USC's Annenberg School has discovered that people who use and trust the Internet don't get as much of their news from TV.

Given that three-quarters of us are now online, for an average of over 12 hours per week, this is no longer trivial.

Let's get the quotes right:


  • In the 10 years since online technology became generally available to the public...the Internet has become one of the most important sources of information for the vast majority of users.
  • Among very experienced users...the Internet outranks all other media.

Continue reading "This Is The Very Model Of A Modern Major Medium"

October 06, 2004

Megatrends on SteroidsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Remember Megatrends?

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.

Now a man named Charles McLean, working at an outfit called the Denver Research Group, has updated the concept using RSS feeds. David Ignatius (pictured, in his official portrait) has the story.

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.

Continue reading "Megatrends on Steroids"

October 04, 2004

Clusty the Clown?Email This EntryPrint This Article

There's a new search engine in town -- Clusty.

Clusty works by grouping similar references to a site and showing you the links to the left of your main results. In my case you see various aspects of my writing life on the left, and the most-popular links in the main table.

Will this give Google a run for its money? Can any search engine rise from the ashes and avoid selling-out to a larger rival? Time of course will tell.

Meanwhile, some other early observations:

Continue reading "Clusty the Clown?"

Rushing To The RailEmail This EntryPrint This Article

It's a problem I wish I had.

Internet old-timers are well-acquainted with the phrase "rushing to the rail." It happens when a Web site is deluged with traffic in the wake of a major news event. (Remember the Heavens Gate mess?) Sometimes the whole media decides you did something funny (Atom Films' "This Land").

The question is what do you do about it?

Continue reading "Rushing To The Rail"

September 29, 2004

RSS-HappyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've been looking for a good RSS Newsreader for some time.

The folks at Newsgator have a good one, and offered a review unit months ago. Turns out to work with Outlook, not Outlook Express.

But never fear, they have an OE version. With this, Newsgator does the work and just sends you e-mails when your keywords get hit with a relevant item.

So what about it?

Continue reading "RSS-Happy"

September 28, 2004

The New YahooEmail This EntryPrint This Article


Yahoo has been redesigned. Now with more ads than ever! (Image from Mosdev.)

I'm old enough to remember the original Yahoo, a site that deliberately toned down its graphics to load faster. I know that's old-fashioned today, now that so many people have broadband connections.

But did they have to turn it into Excite?

Continue reading "The New Yahoo"

The Sell-BlogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The online photofinishing wars were supposed to be simple.

There would be Kodak (of course), their big photofinishing partners, and maybe some competitors.

That's not the way it worked out.

What we've got instead are a host of Web sites working to top one another in offering free tools. It's not a photo market, but an Internet market.

Flickr understands this. The site, which is registered in Vancouver, BC, has hitched itself to the blogging star.

Continue reading "The Sell-Blog"

September 27, 2004

More On News SpamdexingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

We got a lot of feedback (for us) on the recent note about Spamdexing Google News.

Brad Hutchings called it bunk. J.D. Lasica, who wrote the story on which the item was based, wrote in to defend the point. (That's J.D. from his blog to the right.)

I know J.D.'s aim was true because I saw the same thing early this year when I worked with Howard Dean. News searches on his name turned up tons of stories, often multiple copies of the same story, from Chronwatch and sites affiliated with it. Defenses of Dean somehow didn't make it in.

We now know the reason. Chronwatch was using Search Engine Optimization techniques to get its stories to the top of the rankings on that keyword.

Of course, that was an early beta version of Google News.

Continue reading "More On News Spamdexing"

Ireland's Second Cyber-WarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

That's right, kiddies. Ireland has gotten into its second major cyber-scrape, one big enough to use the word "war" in describing. (You will also notice that the ancestral home of my mom's people, the O'Donnells, is not shown on this Irish map from the Goingonvacation site.)

Ireland's first cyber-war came in the late 1990s, when an Irish entrepreneur, Connect-Ireland, won the contract to manage East Timor's registration service. East Timor at that time was trying to break away from Indonesia. So Indonesian hackers engaged in a cyber-war to try and take the Irish site down.

Its latest effort is more offensive-minded.

Continue reading "Ireland's Second Cyber-War"

September 24, 2004

Googlebombing the NewsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I had wondered for some time why Google News highlighted right-wing crank sites like ChronWatch, often at the expense of, say, The New York Times.

The answer, JD Lasica writes in the Online Journalism Review, turns out to be SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Conservatives are simply spamming the directory.

It's a Googlebomb. And they're bragging about it.

"I completely rebuilt the site to better organize, categorize and display the content, to ease the process of adding articles to the site, and to especially be more search-engine friendly," ChronWatch Web developer Thomas Krafft told Lasica in an e-mail.

Continue reading "Googlebombing the News"

September 20, 2004

SIPShare Shows Why Peer-to-Peer Can't Be StoppedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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:

Continue reading "SIPShare Shows Why Peer-to-Peer Can't Be Stopped"

September 18, 2004

The Great Shout-OutEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What's unique about the Internet's hypertext structure is that anything can link to anything. You never know, when you hit a page like this, just who you're connecting with.

So, just for fun, I want to give a big shout-out here to some of the blogs that have recently put me on their blogroll, as detailed by Technorati.

Let's see who your friends are:

Continue reading "The Great Shout-Out"

September 16, 2004

RSS: The New PointcastEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Remember Pointcast? It was great. The news came to you, rather than you having to find the news.

The problem was it was a bandwidth hog. If 1,000 people wanted Pointcast, every one of them needed to be updated every time a new story hit their preferences. Pointcast died in 2000.

Well, RSS newsreaders are the new Pointcast, and the pushback has begun.

Continue reading "RSS: The New Pointcast"

Internet Explorer Is DeadEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Microsoft is deliberately letting Internet Explorer lose the browser market to Mozilla's Firefox.

Microsoft won't admit this publicly but it makes sense. The company hasn't had a major upgrade to the program in years. It was relatively trivial for Mozilla, descended ultimately from Netscape, to match those features, even go slightly beyond them.

The question is why.

Continue reading "Internet Explorer Is Dead"

September 10, 2004

A Narrower Intel VisionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Intel Developer Forum has become where the company offers its big ideas, its visions. In past conferences CTO Pat Gelsinger has introduced Always-On, sensor networks, and electronic dust.

This year, he talked about...the Internet?

Actually, he talked about PlanetLab, an Intel-sponsored initiative aimed at solving some of the Internet's biggest problems, like contention and spam.

But in comparison to past talks, this year's seemed...well, small.

September 07, 2004

Breakthrough! (Let's Scare People)Email This EntryPrint This Article

A proof for the Riemann hypothesis, an explanation for how prime numbers are distributed, may be at hand.

This is one of the great "Millenium Prizes" for mathematics on which the Clay Mathematics Institute is offering a $1 million prize.

The claimant is Louis de Branges de Bourcia of Purdue, We should all be patting him on the back, congratulating him, and offering to stake him to at least a round of his favorite beverage. (The Doc is French, and might prefer a fine Merlot, but Purdue's teams are known as the Boilermakers.)

Instead, what's the press doing? They're running about like Chicken Littles screaming "e-commerce is broken."

Continue reading "Breakthrough! (Let's Scare People)"

September 03, 2004

Hard-Hitting Political CommentaryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I woke up this morning to read some hard-hitting political commentary. It was unflinching, it was personal. It was highly effective.

It came from neither George W. Bush or John F. Kerry. It came from Bill Thompson, a commentator for the BBC. And the man in Thompson's sights was Bill Gates.

It's good reading.

Microsoft has worked with other companies to define a useful way of limiting spam, but has decided that its own interests are greater than those of the wider community.

What may well happen is that the standard will be ratified even with Microsoft's licensing conditions, but it will only be fully implemented in proprietary mail systems.

The free software and open source communities will then be outside the charmed circle when it comes to blocking spam, making life difficult for companies that use their software.

This, of course, may be exactly what Microsoft is hoping for, as it would damage the credibility of free or open source software and give it a marketing advantage.

In the calm waters of the engineering community this is called "ripping your opponent a new one."

Continue reading "Hard-Hitting Political Commentary"

August 25, 2004

VOIP Hardware Go-AheadEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Despite a regulatory regime that is impossible to obey (isolating data traffic that's to be turned into voice on a network with trillions of transactions going through it each second) hardware makers are going ahead with the production of Voice Over IP (VOIP) hardware.

Linksys and Netgear are the latest to say that voice support will become part of their residential gateways Real Soon Now. (For more on VOIP, buy O'Reilly's VOIP book, right.)

In this case, however, the Feds will be glad to know there's actually less here than meets the eye.

Continue reading "VOIP Hardware Go-Ahead"

New Confirmation: We Spam Like MadEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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


Continue reading "New Confirmation: We Spam Like Mad"

August 23, 2004

Control In The CenterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This is much bigger news than you think.

Cisco's purchase of p-Cube for $200 million (the logo image is from p-Cube's home page) is important because of what p-Cube does, and what it has been unable to do. It makes boxes that control Internet content and messaging at the center of the network (as opposed to the edge) and until now it has been unable to sell its boxes to U.S. ISPs who fear being charged with "censors" by both users and rivals.

But what happens when that box says Cisco, instead of p-Cube?

Continue reading "Control In The Center"

Extorting The MarketplaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

InterContinental Hotels last week decided to stop listing its properties with Expedia and instead list exclusively with Travelocity. (Travelocity logo from the BBC.)

Few people noticed it, but it's an important event in the evolution of e-commerce, especially as travel is concerned.

Continue reading "Extorting The Marketplace"

August 20, 2004

The ClickZ ModelEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Wired did a story recently about how TidBits, a Mac-oriented newsletter, had “stumbled” on a way to profit from the Web by creating fast-turnaround e-books.

The e-books, dubbed “Take Control,” are PDF files priced at $5-10 each and they come with free updates. They’re laid out to print out on home printers, and have lots of links. Most important, they’re very timely. Engst says he has total sales of $20,000, and pays out a hefty percentage of that to his authors. His transactions are handled by eSellerate. Advertising is free – the TidBits mailing list is about 50,000 names long.

This is all great stuff. There’ just one problem. It’s not new at all. ClickZ did this, back in the 1990s, and I know others who did the same thing.

Continue reading "The ClickZ Model"

August 18, 2004

Dana's Law of Creativity SoftwareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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.

August 17, 2004

More Thoughts On The Blogging BusinessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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:

Continue reading "More Thoughts On The Blogging Business"

August 16, 2004

PR BloggingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The New York Times recently featured a (rather tortured) story on the attempt by Warner Music to influence blogging.

The headline summed up the paper's attitude -- Warner's Tryst With Bloggers Hits Sour Note.

But the story revealed more about the Times' relationship to blogging, and the nature of blogging as journalism, than it did about the Warner case study. (I love O'Reilly covers, and I'm sure their book on blogging is quite good.)

Continue reading "PR Blogging"

Plenty of Good Names Still AvailableEmail This EntryPrint This Article

You can still buy a .com name, at the regular price, that gets your point across, that's memorable, and that gives you a platform for what you want to do.

OK, the name may be a bit long....

August 12, 2004

Digital Phone Tap RulesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Over at Freedom to Tinker, Edward Felton has taken a close look at the FCC's proposed rules on digital wiretapping. (This software isn't mentioned in the new rules, but if you want it, here it is, come and get it.)

Felton's verdict: it could be worse.

The question of whether to wiretap isn't on the table, he notes, because the requirement is explicit in law. What the FCC had to do, in thise case, was find rules that would enable the law, rules that might not be too burdensome to network operators.

How did they do? Not bad, he says:

Continue reading "Digital Phone Tap Rules"

August 10, 2004

Gross InjusticeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Business method patents should not exist.

It should not be possible to patent a way of doing business and force everyone else who wants to do business in that way to pay you for the privilege.

That is an obscenity.

But that obscenity is the law, and that obscenity has given Yahoo what may end up being a controlling interest in Google.

Continue reading "Gross Injustice"

August 06, 2004

Google Gets ScammyEmail This EntryPrint This Article


What began as an attempt to de-fang the wolves of Wall Street has descended into a Silicon Valley farce.

The problem with Google's IPO delay does not lie in the technical glitches of the system. And it doesn't lie in the really silly price being quoted -- $110 per share.

It lies in the great scandal of the 1990s -- stock options.

Continue reading "Google Gets Scammy"

August 05, 2004

The Internet Is Inherently InsecureEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This is not news.

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

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

Shock. Consternation. Anger.

What should we do about this?

Continue reading "The Internet Is Inherently Insecure"

Secrets of Blog SuccessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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?

Continue reading "Secrets of Blog Success"

August 04, 2004

Encryption Wars, Back AgainEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Once again we have to relearn one of those great Internet truths.

On a global network national law is a local ordinance.

With the ominous words, "the hammer drops on VOIP," and other allusions to FCC chairman Michael Powell, Brock Meeks reported today on a 5-0 FCC vote that the CALEA law applies to the technology. All providers of Voice Over IP (VOIP) services must provide "back doors" through which government can tap into the conversations.

So once again we're back to Phil Zimmerman (right, from his own Web site). Back in the 1990s Zimmerman created Pretty Good Privacy, an encryption scheme for which police would have no key. After winning his own liberty (the government arrested him for "distributing" the code by posting it on the Internet) Zimmerman took his technology to Ireland, where it became part of Hushmail. When the heat died down he came back.

The encryption war was won by the market, not the government.

So it will be again.

Continue reading "Encryption Wars, Back Again"

August 03, 2004

The Blogging Of The President 2004Email This EntryPrint This Article

Dan Bricklin, as usual, has it exactly right.

Last week was a test. It was not a final exam.

Charles Cooper was among those quick to call the Boston blogging experiment a failure, based mainly on the fact that some bloggers failed to perform as journalists, while some journalists given blogging tools did rather well.

That's not the point. I'm going to have to repeat a great truth here, and I expect Cooper to finally "get it."

Continue reading "The Blogging Of The President 2004"

August 02, 2004

Blogging In PerspectiveEmail This EntryPrint This Article

For all the hoo-ha over blogging it's important to put the "industry" into its proper perspective.

A recent item at Daily Kos, one of the more popular political Web sites, did this very neatly.

The purpose of the chart was to show Kos edging past a rival site, Instapundit. But for our purposes it's more illustrative to look at the left side of the scale, unique visitors per month.

Continue reading "Blogging In Perspective"

July 31, 2004

Blogstreet, And An InstaFallEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Recently I reported on the new Technorati Top 100, which held a lot of surprises for me.

The folks at Blogstreet have not been changing their algorithms nearly as aggressively, but they have kept spidering, and their most recent list also shows surprises, albeit slightly different ones.

The one thing both lists share is the fall of Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit. (That's him, linked from his own site.) He's still #3 at Blogstreet, while going off the list completely at Technorati, but even here the fall is dramatic.

Pressed for a theory as to why, I guess Reynolds has become predictable, in both style and outlook. Liberal-leaning bloggers have been dropping him aggressively and he has been unable to grow his audience in other directions. (The fall isn't because of his politics -- other conservative bloggers hold their place on both lists.) He's a one trick pony.

Continue reading "Blogstreet, And An InstaFall"

July 30, 2004

Why Blogging Is VitalEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Economist Paul Krugman (left) writes a political column, so my mention of him now may cause half of you to click away (and some to never come back).

But this is not a political point.

Krugman recently spent a lot of time reading TV news transcripts. What he found was that political substance has disappeared, in favor of trivia. And most Americans get their news from TV, not from newspapers.

Thus few Americans know either party's plans, or records, on the issues facing the country. They vote based on character impressions that may be wrong or biased.

And that's why the Internet, why blogging, is so vital.

Yes, blogs are all biased. No, blogs aren't read by the majority. And many of them are just horrible. (Not the great blogs here at Corante, of course -- I'm talking about those other blogs, and you know who you are.)

But the messages of blogs do resonate into the larger culture. There are already too many examples to count. And (most important) blogs are interactive.

So where does blogging go now?

Continue reading "Why Blogging Is Vital"

July 29, 2004

All (Media) Creatures Great And SmallEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've been pretty hard on the bloggers covering the Democratic Conventon. The "major media" have pushed them aside, doing what the bloggers thought was their job (interpretation) more aggressively, and getting those interpretations out the door efficiently. (That's the official convention logo, from volunteer organizers.)

But there are two stories the bloggers have grabbed, and both are important. The first is a tech story. The second might be termed the atmospherics. And they're closely related.

Continue reading "All (Media) Creatures Great And Small"

July 28, 2004

2004: The Year Of The PhotoBlogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The winner for Big Trend of 2004 has been chosen. Nominations are closed. (The image is from a Brazilian blog - it's a worldwide trend.)

As it was portals in 1998, and blogs in 2003, 2004 is all about photoblogging.

The idea of posting photos easily to the Web and sharing them is the trend of the year, without question. Kodak was the first to get into this, but like everything else they've tried they missed the wave. Other photofinishers like Ritz jumped in, but they missed the main chance as well.

They missed the main chance because they tried to charge people for sharing a few photos among a few friends, without context.

The main chance is to let people post photos free, to let them do it from their cameras, to post it all to public Web sites, and to call it blogging.

Continue reading "2004: The Year Of The PhotoBlog"

July 27, 2004

Bloggers Flunk Convention TestEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The political parties have launched a noble experiment, letting friendly bloggers into their conventions.

So far, however, the bloggers are flunking the journalism test.

It's not that they're biased. They're just not coming up with anything new. (That's one of them, Markos Zuniga, from his site.)

Here's why.

Continue reading "Bloggers Flunk Convention Test"

The New (Improved) TechnoratiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Technorati , which ranks blog sites, has gone through a major overhaul.

While the Indians who run Blogstreet admitted to me they're on to other things, David Sifry & Co. have been very busy indeed.

They have changed the ranking system, as I noted earlier, counting links and the number of sites linked from separately. They have also done a complete spidering of the blog world, with some interesting results.

Continue reading "The New (Improved) Technorati"

July 22, 2004

By Jove, I think He's Got ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

To my surprise and delight Andy Oram was gracious in responding to yesterday's item. A less-gracious correspondent might think I implied criticism or that I was belittling his effort.


As I understand it, you're saying "Why invest a huge amount in some copper/fiber combo when we might get something 10 times faster in a few years?" That's a legitimate argument, but it's the same choice people have to make yearly when they buy a new computer.

The key word in the section above is computer. And by Jove, I think he's got it!

Continue reading "By Jove, I think He's Got It"

July 21, 2004

Oram's RazorEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Andy Oram has a long story at O'Reilly today detailing the problems with universal service and public policy.

It's a great historical overview.

But it's missing one key ingredient. And it's a surprising ingredient for Andy to miss.

That ingredient is Moore's Law.

Continue reading "Oram's Razor"

July 20, 2004

Rule, BrittaniaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There is a lot of news today and much of it illustrates the growing disparity between how the U.S. deals with the challenge of broadband technology and how the U.K. deals with it. (The British flag is from CityFreight.org, which is dealing seriously with European truck congestion.)


  • BT has turned on Cleanfeed, a censorware project aimed at "child porn." The company, which has 2 million ISP customers, said it blocked 230,000 attempts to access sites on the list in three weeks. The list was compiled by the Internet Watch Foundation, and while BT says it would like all ISPs to filter on it, that's not mandatory.
  • Wanadoo, an ISP owned by France Telecom that actually has more UK customers than BT, signed deals to launch a video-on-demand service next year. Viewers could buy sport events individually rather than having to subscribe to them. This is called innovation.
  • Wanadoo is also launching a home gateway project, selling a "home hub" and offering to provide voice and networking, not just data, for a single monthly fee.

Meanwhile, what's happening in the U.S.?

Continue reading "Rule, Brittania"

July 19, 2004

Search Engine Ad Supply And DemandEmail This EntryPrint This Article


Bob Tedeschi has never been a company manager.

If he had he would know better than to wring his hand over news that the supply of search engine ads, like Google AdWords (left), is falling behind demand.

In Tedeschi's defense he was just repeating the idiocy of Kenneth Cassar, a Nielsen//NetRatings analyst who needs a cold bath in market reality himself.

Continue reading "Search Engine Ad Supply And Demand"

July 14, 2004

IP Or Circuit Voice?Email This EntryPrint This Article

The debate over Voice Over IP is intensifying.

The debate currently involves two questions. If we lose circuit switched voice in favor of IP voice, what about the taxes circuits were paying? And which sounds better?

These are the wrong questions, says Brad Templeton. (That's Brad, to the left, from his home page.)

On this I agree with him 100%, and his words bear repeating.

Continue reading "IP Or Circuit Voice?"

Sitefinder: Don't Do THAT AgainEmail This EntryPrint This Article

ICANN has finished its technical review of Verisign's controversial SiteFinder service. (ICANN logo from InetConcepts.)

Bottom line: Big Mistake.

SiteFinder was designed to take misspelled domain requests to a Verisign page, backed by advertising, where users would be given choices for where the might want to go. As The Register properly headlined it, "All Your Web Typos Belong To Us."

What could be wrong with that, given that Verisign is registrar for the .com and .net domains in question? Plenty, the ICANN Committee found:

Continue reading "Sitefinder: Don't Do THAT Again"

July 13, 2004

Your Move, YahooEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Google has quickly countered Yahoo's purchase of Oddpost by snapping up Picasa, which specializes in digital photo management. (The image is from Picasa's site.)

While the Yahoo-Oddpost deal looks straightforward, the Google-Picasa deal has several levels.


  • Picasa was already helping Google manage images on its Blogger service.
  • Picasa can assist Google in managing images worldwide through its Google Images service.
  • Picasa could also help Google get into picture-hosting, a business now dominated by photo processors but which could absorb tons of storage, which Google has in abundance.

Your move, Yahoo, but I'd say it's advantage, Google.

July 12, 2004

Digital Monopoly Creation Act (DMCA)Email This EntryPrint This Article

It was designed as the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, but while Congress debates making the law more draconian against innovation, the fact is that judges are systematically destroying the competitive American economy under the DMCA's current provisions.

How else do you explain this -- a legal decision forbidding third-party service on disk drives based on the DMCA?

Continue reading "Digital Monopoly Creation Act (DMCA)"

The Big Change In BloggingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The biggest change in blogging is going unremarked so I'm remarking. (You can buy this balloon, or one of your own devising, at advertisingballoons.com.)

Group blogs are replacing individual efforts.

Top blogs whose authors want to remain relevant or active when they go on vacation get "guest bloggers" for while they're out. In some cases, as at This Modern World, these "guests" (read Bob Harris) leave, then return permanently. The blog changes, from Tom Tomorrow's musings to celebrations on the concepts of Tom Tomorrow, by Bob Harris -- and others?

That's the next step, isn't it.

Continue reading "The Big Change In Blogging"

Regulating VOIP IS Regulating The InternetEmail This EntryPrint This Article


Time for truth.

No matter how, or why, you propose to regulate Voice Over IP services, you're regulating the Internet. (Image from Lawguru.com.)

And, as we've seen in previous attempts to do this, you are bound to have only limited success.

Consider the record. Porn, gambling, piracy, spam, hacking -- have any of them been stopped? No, they have grown as authorities worldwide have tried to "crack down" on these activities.

There has been an important exception, of course.

Continue reading "Regulating VOIP IS Regulating The Internet"

July 09, 2004

UK Going Left On BroadbandEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The U.S. is gutting the 1996 Telecommunications Act, aiming to re-establish the Bell and cable co-monopoly and control broadband access.

Meanwhile the UK is breaking up the same monopoly. UK regulator Ofcom said "the key to the next stage will be the opening up of BT's network to other operators."

They're right. And they'd be right here too. If you care about America's future place in the broadband world, this should concern you.

July 07, 2004

BlacklistsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One of the big implications of the Internet has always been the promise of worldwide governance.

It's something that has been accelerated by the so-called "War on Terror." The enemy here isn't a nation-state, or a collection of nation-states. The enemy lies in non-state actors, criminal gangs, Bond Villians. Thanks in part to the Internet, small conspiracies and causes have the power to do enormous damage. Causes that could once be called regional, or ignored altogether, can now bite hard at the center of civilization itself, threatening its very existance.

Nowhere is this more true than on the Internet itself. If you're in the U.S., or Japan, or even France, you may be wondering what I'm talking about. But if you're in Macedonia, or in dozens of other two-letter domains with weak Internet governance, you know exactly what I'm talking about. (That's the Macedonian flag, at left, from the WorldAtlas.)

Blacklists.

Continue reading "Blacklists"

The Councilman DecisionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I deliberately waited before writing about the atrocious, god-awful "Councilman" decision, in which a U.S. Appeals Court panel ruled, 2-1, that your e-mail isn't private when it's in transit, on someone else's server.

To arrive at this decision, executive director Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center wrote, the court basically had to twist the 1986 Wiretap Act into a pretzel. It's one more example of how important judges are in the American judicial system. (That's Rotenberg, left, as he appeared on the PBS NewsHour in 2000.)

Continue reading "The Councilman Decision"

July 06, 2004

Drop Explorer?Email This EntryPrint This Article

There is a growing movement out there asking people to drop Internet Explorer as their browser.

The latest salvo came, ironically, in Microsoft-owned Slate. Paul Boutin suggests today that you download, and switch to, Mozilla's Firefox, which is nearing final release.

So I tried it.

Continue reading "Drop Explorer?"

Tim O'Reilly's ClueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Tim O'Reilly's Clue"

July 05, 2004

You Stand Where You SitEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The biggest scandal on Wall Street may be under-reporting the slow death of C|Net and its News.Com.

A brief content analysis, on any average news day, will reveal the truth. News.Com does very few news stories, and outside Declan McCullagh almost no enterprise reporting. Instead there's a lot of filler -- "analysis" that editors can dash-off in a half-hour, "commentary" that's thinly-disguised PR. Even "white papers," which are wholly corporate shillery, are headlined on the main page.

Compare this to the front page of The Register, which is filled with news stories -- some snarky, some serious. But all new.

Why is this?

Continue reading "You Stand Where You Sit"

How Far Will BBC.Co.UK Retreat?Email This EntryPrint This Article

The BBC runs the most important news site on the Internet, bar none.

The site is both deep and reputable. In a journalism world filled with self-promotion and ideological agendas the BBC stands, almost alone, above it. (The picture, by the way, is of Richard Baker introducing the first BBC TV news report, 50 years ago today. Decades from now BBC News Online will be equally celebrated.)

Of course, the lords of the British press have a different opinion. They want it shut down. It competes with their voices, and their ideologies. It shows them up.

The decision (PDF warning), part of a review of the BBC's Royal Charter, seems to be no. But there will be changes.

Continue reading "How Far Will BBC.Co.UK Retreat?"

June 23, 2004

Semi-Serious On Spam, PhishingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Big consumer ISPs are talking up a campaign against spam, and financial intermediaries are talking up a campaign against phishing.

But Internet activists fear both campaigns are just bringing up the drawbridges on resources.

First, the spam fight. (The image here is also the solution to your e-mail problems, Whitehat Interactive.)

Continue reading "Semi-Serious On Spam, Phishing"

June 20, 2004

Luddite LawsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Ludd lives! (Image from Mindfully.Org.)

You remember Ned Ludd? He was a weaver, whose job function was mechanized, so he led a movement in 19th century England to destroy the looms. And so his name went down in history for all idiots who try to ban technology.

Ludd's busy.

Continue reading "Luddite Laws"

First, ThanksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The response to my recent request for blogrolls has been gratifying. (I'm left-handed, and so is the merchandise here.)

But it brings me back to a subject near to my heart, namely, the lack of good measuring sticks for blog importance.

Much as I like being blogrolled, a permanent link is not a valid measure. People just don't clean up their blogrolls obsessively. Calpundit Kevin Drum moved to the Washington Monthly months ago and is still on the permanent rolls of hundreds of other blogs, at his old URL. The last entry for the Iraqi blog Where is Raed is dated April 10, but some 583 blogs still list him on their rolls.

Continue reading "First, Thanks"

June 18, 2004

Hate vs. CensorshipEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The OECD, which represents 55 countries (Europe and friends), has launched a campaign to ban "hate speech" from the Internet. (OECD flag from Dr. Adam Carr of Australia.)

The sponsors admit the U.S. First Amendment is in the way. Most hate sites aimed at Europe have long been hosted on U.S. servers.

Continue reading "Hate vs. Censorship"

June 17, 2004

No One Knows AnythingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Actress Kim Cattrell was remarking recently on how her career as a "sex kitten" began at age 40, and all her tries at stardom before "Sex and the City" failed. It's true what they say, she noted, that no one knows anything.

No one seems to know anything in the Internet Content space either. That is, no one has really figured out how to make money at it. (This great illustration comes from a Canadian literacy group that does great work.)

Continue reading "No One Knows Anything"

June 16, 2004

Winer's World CollapsesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Weblogs.Com is gone. The blogging world is grieving. And there are lots of stages in the process. Anger happens to be one of them.

It's easy to see why. When you are getting something for nothing, and come to depend upon it, it's hard to to see it taken away with no notice. (Image from C|Net.)

But, as Dave Winer says, "I'm just a person."

That's the problem. You shouldn't be giving away something for nothing, for years, without getting some infrastructure behind you, and making sure that infrastructure is sound. Apparently, Userland's wasn't. Its people failed. Their offer was trumped, the software was trumped, the people and company lost the plot, then they bailed and Dave's health got bad so he pulled the plug.

He figures, end of story.

Continue reading "Winer's World Collapses"

June 15, 2004

More Stupid Patent TricksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A British outfit which exists only for the purpose of litigating patents claims to own the idea of downloading software updates and virus fixes.

Continue reading "More Stupid Patent Tricks"

June 14, 2004

Porn And SearchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

For days now I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with that story about porn being more popular than search.

I finally got it.

Continue reading "Porn And Search"

Secret Of E-Mail Marketing RevealedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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.

Continue reading "Secret Of E-Mail Marketing Revealed"

Fallows Gets It WrongEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This headline should go up next to "man outruns horse."

That's because James Fallows is a truly fine journalist. He screws up about as often as David Beckham misses a penalty kick (or Moises Alou loses a foul to a fan).

If I were looking for someone to head a strong magazine staff, I'd call Fallows first. The same if I were looking for someone to interview a world leader, or write about a foreign culture. (The picture of Fallows is from the University of Puget Sound, which made him its commencement speaker in 2002.)

But I can still do what I do better than James Fallows does what I do. You want someone on Internet Commerce? I'm your man, not him.

Continue reading "Fallows Gets It Wrong"

June 09, 2004

TiVO's ChoiceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The choice facing those in the media technology business has long been a tricky one.

Do you serve the interests of the media companies, or do you give consumers the best technology?

TiVO (the logo is from their home page) has tried to straddle that fence for a long time, and in the last year it has fallen off, as cable operators (and now DirecTv) have moved toward putting in their own DVRs (Digital Video Recorders -- that's a generic term for what TiVO is). The operators' DVRs will be under their control, and won't let consumers do anything the operators, or the copyright police they work for, don't allow.

Having been kicked off the fence (and maybe kicked to the curb) TiVO has finally made its choice on the side of technology.

Continue reading "TiVO's Choice"

Google U-Turn?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Google, like Microsoft a generation ago, prides itself on hiring smart people.

One of the surest signs of genius, in my book, is knowing that you don't know that much, knowing that you're wrong, and changing your mind is not a sign of weakness.

It's possible we're in the midst of just that kind of insight.

Continue reading "Google U-Turn?"

June 08, 2004

SqueezeboxEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Sometimes a news story is not what it seems. You may have to look at who's involved, then paint by numbers, to get the rest of the story.

Take this one . BT wants to make filtering-out of "child porn" sites a standard part of its feed. The Register's headline: BT's modest plan to clean up the Net.

But is that really what's going on? Or are we trying to protect people from themselves? Famous people. After all, if a crazy law can entrap famous people, then Who's Next?

Continue reading "Squeezebox"

June 07, 2004

The Item Below Describes A ScamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Thanks go to a reader named Mike for revealing that the link noted below is a scam.

Mike even sent a link describing this Word of Mouth scam in detail.

The item describes an outfit calling itself "Word of Mouth" but adds this about the site that found me:

Continue reading "The Item Below Describes A Scam"

War For The ScreenEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There has always been a great divide on the Internet between two types of marketing, permission marketing and interruption marketing. (The picture is an illustration of the latter, which you can learn all about here.)

Permission marketing holds that customers be treated with respect, that their attention be paid for, and that their value be based on their level of interest in a proposition.

Interruption marketing holds that customers be forced to see your ad, and that successful messages must push themselves into the consciousness to take effect.

On the Internet permission marketers use databases to build lists, and seek to target their messages to the best possible prospects. Interruption marketers think cost per thousand, and emphasize the content (both technical and creative) of the ads themselves.

The problem, in the end, is there's a contradiction between these two forms of advertising. One treats the client with respect, the other doesn't.

And the latter view continues to dominate.

Continue reading "War For The Screen"

They'll Print AnythingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Porn is still the most popular use of the Internet.

How do we know this? Because a press release from Hitwise of Australia says so.

The story may be true, but nearly every major media outlet ran with the leering, jeering tone of the release, apparently without demanding substantiation or breakdown.

The porn is just one giant red-light district, hahaha! (The picture is from a collection of Thai student news photos.)

The headline, that porn sites drew 18% of all "Web visits" during a recent week, could easily have been misleading. Does it mean that one in five of us spend all our time on porn sites, or that those who do like porn sites just go to a lot of 'em? Unknown. Does it mean one-fifth of the Internet's traffic is to porn sites, or just that such addresses get hit a lot? Again, unknown. What exactly does it mean? Unknown.

Continue reading "They'll Print Anything"

June 04, 2004

Every Site Ought To Be A BlogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Every site ought to be a blog. (This illustration came from a blog.)

A blog defines a template with dynamic content in the center and static content along the sides.

Most blogs are built on a database metaphor, to make searching for items easy. Why couldn't those be product searches?

The best blog packages are also scalable. They enable community as a basic function.

So why do we still see so many static home pages?

Continue reading "Every Site Ought To Be A Blog"

June 01, 2004

Bad Blogging EconomicsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Do you know the difference between income and earnings?

If you do, then you know more than Business Week columnist Kathleen Pender, whose column this week is headlined "Bloggers find ways to profit." (The illustration, by the way, comes from Blogbus.com.)

What she has are details on how Blogads, Amazon and Google AdSense are putting a few shekels in our pockets. Here's what she says:

Some top bloggers who carry advertising say they make hundreds or, in a few cases, thousands of dollars a month. The typical take is more like $20 to $50 a month, which covers the cost of running a typical Web site.

Does that spell "profit?" No, Ms. Kathleen, it does not. Profit represents income over expenses. There are expenses in running even a Blog, and there are expenses in running any business. (This doesn't include opportunity costs, the money you might expect to earn if you were doing something else besides, say, this.) If a Blog doesn't meet these expenses it's still being done at a loss.

Continue reading "Bad Blogging Economics"

May 25, 2004

Microsoft's Identity ChallengeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There has been very little public comment about Microsoft's deal with Comcast. (This is not because I said everything there is to say about it.)

But there have been two follow-on stories that help explain it. (The image of the Comcast logo is from CNN.)

Continue reading "Microsoft's Identity Challenge"

May 20, 2004

Gigabyte, SchmigabyteEmail This EntryPrint This Article


Google and Lycos are arguing over Gigabytes. Google wants to give you one for your e-mail. Lycos wants to rent it to you.

To which I respond, big deal. (The image is from here.)

Continue reading "Gigabyte, Schmigabyte"

Fighting for RedefinitionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Google is trying to reclaim the high ground in add-in software through redefinition.

It's doing this in a good cause, namely its own. It wants to keep enhancing its Google Toolbar. It wants to add new features that use cookies and caching and your web logs to personalize what the Internet does for you.

But whatever its own motives, others are using the same concept in far more sinister ways. They push pop-up ads that block others' sites. They steal data on your Internet usage and sell it. Or they hide what malware inside their packages.

All this infects the credibility of every software vendor, including Google.

But can Google really turn things around?

Continue reading "Fighting for Redefinition"

May 19, 2004

No Money HereEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Nick Denton ran a game on freelance writer Greg Lindsay recently, resulting in a big Business 2.0 story that made him out to be clever, when he was just trying to be honest. (Denton image from Microcontent News.)

Honestly, no one has really figured out how to profit from blogging. Not Nick Denton. Not his so-called arch-rival, Jason Calacanis. Certainly not Corante's Hylton Joliffe. Oh, and by the way certainly, certainly not yours truly.

So let me repeat the key Clue one more time, because it's at the heart of the preconceptions Lindsay brought to his story.

Continue reading "No Money Here"

May 18, 2004

Don't Beg. Build.Email This EntryPrint This Article

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.

Continue reading "Don't Beg. Build."

MailbombingsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Service here may be sporadic for a time.

Some spammer is mailbombing me. (The image is from the University of Alaska, thankfully from an April Fool's column in the student newspaper. This note, unfortunately, is no joke.)

It began a few days ago, hundreds of identical spams, some loan scam. Then yesterday came literally thousands more, from a "Theodore Jensen," the same scam. And today, along with the Jensens came thousands more, with a "from" address of "home rate," at fastemailer.com.

Worse, my daughter is being bombed as well. It's a different "from" address, and a different "offer" (insurance this time). But it's a mailbombing, no doubt. Hundreds and hundreds of identical e-mails, and calls from my Web host to increase my storage (for more money), which they bail on when I tell them why my box is so full.

One more thing. You may be unable to respond to these posts for a time. Someone else is "comment spamming," going deep into the stack of posts, leaving "attaboy" comments with long strings of X-rated links. The way Movable Type works these are hard to get rid of. There are solutions about, however, and I hope Corante avails itself of them soon.

Peace.

May 17, 2004

Stunt DoublesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A quick glance toward the comments at the right will show you a disturbing trend.

Increasing numbers of you are going anonymous, creating "stunt double" identities you hide behind.

I can understand the reasoning. I'm being mailbombed right now by a spammer who obviously found my e-mail address in some public place. And it's not just spam and e-mail. Credit card outfits are now offering "stunt double" numbers, which you use once then throw away, to limit identity theft. (This is actress Nicki Aycox' stunt double, from Creature-Corners.)

Continue reading "Stunt Doubles"

May 12, 2004

Canter's Unexpected SupportEmail This EntryPrint This Article

My "campaign" (actually a cry in the dark) to get Ev Williams a golden Google parachute caught the attention of Marc Canter, whose note on the subject lent me unexpected support. (Marc photo courtesy of the great Fred Davis.)

First let's be clear. Marc opposes my idea. "Give It Time" is his headline.

But a few paragraphs below that, he offers what I think is ample evidence that EvHead's (that's his nickname, EvHead) time should be up:

Continue reading "Canter's Unexpected Support"

May 10, 2004

Fire Ev WilliamsEmail This EntryPrint This Article


Google released its new version of Blogger this weekend. (Illustration from Danhon.com.)

Its aim is to keep blogging simple. You can blog via e-mail. There are new templates and profile pages.

But if you have blogged before, as I have, you will still find that other tools are still much better. Movable Type is better. Radio is better. Scoop is much, much better.

And that's why I say that Blogger founder, and now Google officer, Ev Williams must go.

Continue reading "Fire Ev Williams"

The Binary WebEmail This EntryPrint This Article


There has always been a basic incompatibility between democracy and computing. (The illustration of our basic thesis is from OpenP2P.Com.)

It's that computing is a binary system. It's on-or-off. When you get enough light bulbs you can model anything. You can make it appear that you've got a fully analog system. But it's still binary.

The binary choice in Internet governance is between anarchy and absolutism.

Here's anarchy. A new set of file-trading protocols are coming out that further frustrate the RIAA through the use of encryption, anonymity, and the use of multiple IP addresses to further mask identity.

Here's absolutism. It's about a plan by big business and big government to "lock down" the Net, eliminating anonymity and giving the copyright industries absolute control over everything that is produced, seen, and passed along a digital pathway.

Personally, I'm in neither camp. I doubt many people really are in either camp. The so-called absolutists say they just want to enable the enforcement of existing laws. The so-called anarchists say they want to enable the enforcement of existing rights. See, both sides are, at heart, quite reasonable.

Continue reading "The Binary Web"

May 05, 2004

Microsoft's Spam Legalization PlanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Microsoft will try to legalize spam-that-is-not-spam through an agreement with IronPort to support its marketer shake-down technology. (The picture comes from Noticiasdot, a nifty Spanish-language computing publication, and proof that spam, not love, is the universal language.)

The result? Microsoft will let spam-that-is-not-spam (marketing messages from marketers who claim they honor opt-outs and have real stuff to sell) through its filters, into the inboxes of MSN and Hotmail users. The spammers will pay a bond and sign a contract, and Microsoft will collect the bond if they fail.

But what are the marketers really buying?

Continue reading "Microsoft's Spam Legalization Plan"

May 03, 2004

Speaking Of CowsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Attrition.Org shows how to deal with pushy lawyers, in this case those from Chick-fil-A, the excellent chicken sandwich restaurant whose ad campaign features cows urging you to "eat mor chickn."

April 30, 2004

Steve Stroh On The Price Of WindowsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

After my recent note on malware, our own Steve Stroh felt induced to respond.

Malware can only thrive in a "hospitable" environment - Windows and its twin demons Outlook and Internet Explorer.

While I haven't been able to divorce myself from Windows, I have successfully migrated off Outlook and IE and now I'm far less worried about my mail client happily downloading and automatically executing dangerous code without bothering to inform me, nor the browser being a steaming pile of vulnerability heaped upon vulnerability if I happen to be maliciously redirected to an web page with malicious code.

Continue reading "Steve Stroh On The Price Of Windows"

Broadband Goes To WashingtonEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Broadband issues are suddenly all over Washington. (The picture is courtesy the BBC.)

The issue is front-and-center because two big industries are in a push-and-tug over absolute power.

The two industries are the phone carriers, representing DSL technology, and the cable companies, representing cable modems.

They are tugging at each other because they have both won the right to stop wholesaling their capacity to competitive ISPs, so they figure they now have something to fight over. Not something to invest in, mind you, something to fight over.

Continue reading "Broadband Goes To Washington"

New HowieEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A decade ago I was witness to the first harmonic convergence between computing and entertainment.

It was a CD-ROM company called 7th Level. The outfit was founded by music and entertainment industry veterans, with a mission to bringing their production values to the new medium.

At their press conference I rubbed elbows with such people as Quincy Jones, Linda Ronstadt and Charles Fleischer (the voice of Roger Rabbit). Howie Mandel, however, was the star of the day, because he would voice the company's first product, "Tuneland." (The illustration comes from a review of the program by Harry Chow.)

It was a CD for kids, which used cartoon sprites to teach basic computing skills. It was very cool, cool enough so that, after getting my copy, I spent $2,500 on a new PC so my daughter could use it.

Continue reading "New Howie"

April 29, 2004

The Old SwitcherooEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've looked over coverage of President Bush's broadband plans, and they're "the old switcheroo." (Image from TechCentralStation.)

That is, they sound good on a superficial level, but a look at the fine print shows a different picture.

The headlines are grabbers. There's the goal of universal access, and a call against taxes. Both sound great.

The problem is how we get there. The Bush plan is simply not market-oriented.

Continue reading "The Old Switcheroo"

April 26, 2004

WebMDEmail This EntryPrint This Article

When Martin Wygod (pictured from when he was named to the Del Mar racetrack board), the dark lord of medical computing, took control of WebMD back in 2001, I cheered.

Wygod has been handling medical claims for ages.

I first ran into him when he sold his Medco Containment (a drug sales firm) to Merck, long before the Web was spun. WebMD had been an airy-fairy Web boom dream company, based in my own hometown of Atlanta, and had spent years drawing admiring glances from the media without doing anything more but put up a bunch of me-too Web pages. Founder Jeff Arnold built himself a big house with the proceeds, but nothing much else happened.

Marty will straighten their hash, I figured.

Continue reading "WebMD"

April 23, 2004

Great Man TheoryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One way New York reporters aggravate me is their insistance on using a "Great Man" theory to describe business.

Personalizing corporate struggles makes them more coherent as stories. But if real historians learned anything in the 20th century is that this misses the point.

Yet papers like The New York Times (from which this illustration was taken) continue to do it, as do magazines like Forbes and TV channels like CNBC. It's all about the egos at the top. Customers and operations have nothing to do with it. We're all pawns on their chessboard.

Here's an example. The frontier of internet commerce is reduced to the machinations of two men, Barry Diller and Henry Silverman.

Trouble is, this is not really an Internet commerce story. It's about referrals, a business Silverman was once badly burned by, and how Diller is trying to use them to extract commissions from real estate agents.

Continue reading "Great Man Theory"

April 22, 2004

Malware WarsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The collapse of online ethics is destroying the Internet as we knew it.

Spam gets most of the publicity. But the malware problem is getting just as bad. (Buy the book you see here.)

Spyware programs are one form of malware. Viruses are also a subset of malware. Generally anything that comes into your computer unbidden and with its own agenda is malware.

A lot of the malware you see today got its start on porn sites. (Yes, another innovation from that technologically on-top-of-it industry.) But it has spread, far and wide.

Continue reading "Malware Wars"

April 21, 2004

Telephony As An Enterprise SpaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Those of us who have covered computing a long time know there is an "enterprise space," by which we mean the computer networks run by big companies, and a "telecom space," by which we mean what the phone companies use to give us our dial tone. (The illustration of IP telephony, using a gateway, is from Belarus.)

As Moore's Law has marched forward, it was inevitable that the two would merge. If telephone companies are just ISPs, then as enterprise software gets better it should, in time, be good enough to handle the demands of the phone company.

These trends meet at the residential gateway.

Continue reading "Telephony As An Enterprise Space"

Beyond DeanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

At the height of the Howard Dean bubble, an obscure blogger named Markos Zuniga, who calls his blog Daily Kos, took the next step in the evolution of computers and politics.

He switched to Scoop.

Dean's campaign was using Movable Type, the same program used here. It's a nice blogging program, with many community features.

But it can't scale the intimacy like Scoop can. And this, as I've said, is where Dean failed. When millions of people "ran to the rail" and sought the same intimate experience with the Dean campaign as those who'd trickled in the year before had gotten, Movable Type could not deliver.

Continue reading "Beyond Dean"

Is The Internet Vulnerable?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Big headlines yesterday proclaimed that the Internet is vulnerable to attack by hackers.

The original flaw in IP, found by Paul Watson of Milwaukee, involves shutting down a machine remotely by calling it by IP number. It was once thought that the number would be nearly impossible to guess. Watson found a way to get it, reliably, in four tries. (The image is from TV New Zealand.)

But how big a threat is this? Cisco jumped on it immediately, and government facilities were protected before the story made it into print.

Continue reading "Is The Internet Vulnerable?"

Lessons From Spiegel's FallEmail This EntryPrint This Article

If any company would have been a natural to make it through to Internet commerce, it would have been Spiegel. The company has a huge catalog, back-office systems for transacting and shipping in volumes, and a brand name to get above the noise. (This image, the cover of the 1956 Spiegel catalog, is from Costumes.org.)

Yet the company has failed. It is in Chapter 11, it's laying people off, and it's looking for a buyer to stave off the final end.

There are lessons there.

Continue reading "Lessons From Spiegel's Fall"

April 19, 2004

Ninjas, Vigilantes, Or...Email This EntryPrint This Article

The BBC has a report out on how "Net Ninjas" at the University of Toronto are helping to fight Internet censorship.

Good on 'em. Right on. We need heroes. Etc. etc.

But forget about why they are doing what they are doing. Concentrate instead on exactly what they are doing.

As the BBC notes, "The Citizen Lab employs all manner of hardware, software and code-writing skills to essentially tap into computer networks around the world, and expose their inner workings."

Wait, there's more.

Continue reading "Ninjas, Vigilantes, Or..."

Broadband Is The New Dial-UpEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The problem is, however, that there's broadband and then there's broadband.

Phone companies have been catching up with cable lately by dialing-down their speed (crippling it, actually) and luring people into $30/month plans. Compare that to $20-25/month dial-up and it's a deal.

The problem is it's not really braodband. It claims it's broadband, and it's done using the same ADSL technology, but it's deliberately crippled, slowed-down.

Continue reading "Broadband Is The New Dial-Up"

April 17, 2004

The Search WarsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One of the most foolish things that happened in the 1990s was that the search engine industry lost the plot and became the "portal" business.

This happened for one reason. The market got lazy. The profits from traffic -- any traffic -- were so high that companies like Yahoo, Excite, and Lycos decided to try and become like America Online rather than keep going what they were doing.

The portal wars weren't a demand from Internet consumers. They were a demand from Internet capitalists. The dot-bust, from that perspective, was a very good thing indeed.

But now, thanks to Google, it's game-on again. Amazon has launched a new search engine, Yahoo Search is brand-new, Microsoft is still planning a big announcement, and the rest of the industry is consolidating faster than Jell-O in a freezer.

Goodie.

April 14, 2004

Why The DSL Price Hikes?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Today's mystery. Why are the phone carriers suddenly forcing price hikes on DSL service, hikes they don't even admit to? (The image of a cracked Liberty Bell is from Germany.)

Earthlink pushed one on me a few months ago, a hike of nearly 10% for "sales taxes." The latest phone company ploy is to charge "regulatory fees," another way to blame the government.

But make no mistake. These are price hikes. Government didn't suddenly start raising its charges. The carriers have chosen to start recouping them.

And is that all? No.

Continue reading "Why The DSL Price Hikes?"

April 13, 2004

Criminal AutomationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

We're seeing more and more cases where thieves don't have to come near you to make you a victim.

Here are two from our Crimestopper's Notebook. (The logo is from Arkansas.)

We first take you to Australia, where Peter McCrindle is still trying to get $10,000 stolen from him by a computer virus.

Here's how the thief did it. They first sent out spam, spoofing a real bank's return e-mail address, with a (then) false claim of a loss in the account. Clicking on the link in the spam sent the victim to a spoof site, which inserted the virus. The virus was a keylogger that allowed its author to tap into whatever the victim was typing, such as the password on their Internet banking account. The rest was fairly easy.

Continue reading "Criminal Automation"

April 06, 2004

Trust The Phone Company!Email This EntryPrint This Article

The following item contradicts the one below it. The placement is deliberate.

If you run a home network, especially a wireless network, you may find the best deal for managing it comes from your phone company. (The picture is of a wired Netopia ADSL gateway on sale at PC Mall.)

As I have studied residential gateways, I have been surprised to learn that the ones you can get direct from your phone company are, in fact, much better values than anything you can get off-the-shelf.

There are two reasons for this:

  • The best gateways, like one I'm testing from Netopia, are mainly going to be available only through the phone company channel; and
  • The software behind the gateway, controlled by the phone company, actually provides the most value.

    Continue reading "Trust The Phone Company!"

  • Trust The Phone Company?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Have you looked at your phone bill lately?

    If it's like mine it has more junk fees than an airline ticket. A few years ago I was paying $60/month for two lines. Now I'm paying $110/month for one. Junk fees, so-called taxes and non-taxes that are called taxes by the phone company, have doubled my regular per-line charge, and then I have to pay $50/month for DSL service. (The picture came from Germany.)

    The Bells blame "regulators" and "taxes" for all this, but MSNBC reports that in the case of coming DSL surcharges you should not take that at face value. Motley Fool makes the same charge, regarding your regular phone bill.

    Continue reading "Trust The Phone Company?"

    Fat DoctorEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Multichannel News bills itself as an honest information service to the cable industry.

    Bunk. (The picture is of a great stand-up comic named Fat Doctor.)

    Instead, they take the industry's prejudices and reflect them onto the news. It's like Fox calling itself "Fair and Balanced" -- the lie is outrageous but the target audience shares the bias so they buy the lie, and thus call real journalism biased. It's a fun-house mirror, one that makes real journalists want to see inside the head of the carnival's owner.

    (And before I go any further let me note for the record that most trade publications are the same way. You disagree with your audience's assumptions at your peril, journalistic integrity be damned.)

    Here's a great example. It's a story about a federal court decision to require cable outfits to keep wholesaling their data capacity.

    That's how I look at it, anyway. But it's not how the industry looks at it, thus not how Ted Hearn looks at it:

    Continue reading "Fat Doctor"

    April 05, 2004

    Killing The BlogosphereEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Remember a few months ago when it was thought the liberal blogosphere would propel Howard Dean into the White House? (The picture of Glenn Reynolds, alias Instapundit, is from Harvard.)

    It turned out to be amazingly easy to kill.

    First, John Kerry's campaign went under the bloggers to win Iowa, and the nomination. We've covered that before.

    Now the conservative blogosphere has apparently finished the job.

    Continue reading "Killing The Blogosphere"

    The Real SplitEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    In his Toronto Star column this week lawyer Michael Geist reveals a real split of opinion on Internet governance issues.

    Asians and Europeans aren't worried and figure they'll be even happier next year. North Americans are very worried, and feel things are going to get worse.

    It's logical. The ITU-UN group that is seeking to assert control over Internet issues is based in Geneva, and has heavy representation from outside North America. ICANN may be a bunch of S.O.B.s, but North American executives figure at least they're ours.

    Continue reading "The Real Split"

    April 03, 2004

    Thanks, DocEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    I mentioned recently that Rajesh Jain's Blogstreet was thinking of dropping "blogrolls" as a measure of blog popularity because folks don't update them.

    Well, Technorati has switched. Now they're counting links and sources. You'll notice this blog has 90 links from 80 sources.

    One, however, is a biggie, a blogroll from ol' Doc Searls, which according to the same list has 2,367 links.

    Continue reading "Thanks, Doc"

    April 02, 2004

    Blogs Moving On UpEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Blogging is self-publishing.

    But publishing is more than just blogging. It's also marketing and promoting. It's a business. (Like TV, from which this picture emerged. You can buy it there, too (hint, hint).)

    Most bloggers, like myself, aren't doing this as a business. We're doing this because we care, because we have a crying need to be heard, and no one is paying us to do what we most want to do.

    As with everything, blogging works on the 90-10 rule. The best are far better than the rest. And they get 90% of the attention, 90% of the opportunities...no make that 99%. As that TV show song theme said, "They're moving on up..."

    For more on the evolution of blogging (ripped from today's headlines) click now.

    Continue reading "Blogs Moving On Up"

    Let Moore Have The Digital DivideEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    The Digital Divide has reared its ugly head again. (Illustration from Knowledgecontent.org.)

    Much of the talk at this week's UN Conference on Internet Governance involved governments from the developing world looking for hand-outs to bridge this Digital Divide.

    At the same time, the disputes over regulating Voice Over IP mainly involved payments to the Universal Service Fund, designed to bridge the American Digital Divide.

    Most people think I'm a liberal, so let me say something that may shock those people. Both these claims are bogus.

    Moore's Law can handle the Digital Divide. In fact, it's doing a very good job of it. We don't need no big guvmint, as the right might say. We don't need it on a national level, nor an international level. Not for this problem, anyway.

    What we need is for government to get out of the way, truly out of the way.

    Continue reading "Let Moore Have The Digital Divide"

    April 01, 2004

    More Stupid Patent TricksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    This started with a third-party e-mail. Someone was being hassled over a patent on affiliate marketing from an outfit called BTG.

    The story was legit, although I thought the patent claims overly broad. Along the way I found that Amazon also claimed a patent on affiliate marketing. (That's the original Zippo Lighter patent to the right.)

    And with that the flood began.

    Continue reading "More Stupid Patent Tricks"

    After This Message, Another NotchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Emeril Lagasse is one of the world's most natural showmen. (The picture is from a Duke University satire, called Malignant Humor.)

    He has a love of people that's genuine, and a love of language that's infectious. He comes up with buzzphrases the way I come up with blog items.

    And one of his favorites, which he often uses before commercial breaks, has become, "after these messages, another notch." (It means he'll "kick up the flavor" (or action, or fun) again after this commercial break. For a Portuguese-Canadian from Fall River, Mass., he's got some cockney in him.)

    It's a tune we're all singing as the spam flood grows and grows. My inbox now gets almost 30 spams per hour -- my e-mail address has been around since 1998, and it's published everywhere I write. Maybe you think I deserve it.

    I don't. No one does.

    Continue reading "After This Message, Another Notch"

    What's Urdu for "Great Googly Moogly?"Email This EntryPrint This Article

    News of Google's new email service, Gmail, was less than 24 hours old when my old friend Tee Emm e-mailed me excitedly from Pakistan.

    "Free email from google. 1 Gig of storage for every damn mortal. To be financed by Google Adwords triggered by the contents of the email."

    Or as they might say here in America, Great Googly-moogly!

    So what's the deal?

    Continue reading "What's Urdu for "Great Googly Moogly?""

    March 29, 2004

    Changes At GoogleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    When change comes to Google, people notice. And they blog about it.

    The latest iteration of my favorite search engine looks a lot more like the new Yahoo than Google may have intended.

    But the real news is currently pointed out by a tiny red "new" sticker. It's that Froogle, the company's catalog search site, is now out of beta (although the site's home page still identifies it as such). The "hidden" news is that Google News, which is probably far more popular, still isn't .

    Continue reading "Changes At Google"

    March 28, 2004

    Justice On The WebEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    The New York Times today features another one of those tut-tutting articles about Web vigilantism they do so well. (The illustration accompanies the article.

    I'm being facetious. Because in all their questions about the Internet and justice, the key question is never asked. Define justice.

    Consider the case of spam. All users know what spam is. But when the U.S. government tackled the question, they wound up making "spam that is not spam" quite legal. If you're a legitimate company (like Hormel), and your e-mails have a valid return address, then if you respond to opt-outs you're golden. Spam all you want. As I've noted before, that's a loophole you can drive the destruction of e-mail through.

    It may have gone through a fair, supposedly impartial process, but the result isn't justice.

    So what is justice, in the Internet sense?

    Continue reading "Justice On The Web"

    March 27, 2004

    True Cost of America's IsolationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    However you feel about the incumbent President there is no denying that America is more alone in the world today than it was, say, four years ago.

    And as that world grows smaller, the price for isolation grows higher. We pay for it, here, on this medium. (UN flag from the UN site.)

    Example One is a possible UN takeover of the Net's infrastructure. I won't argue about whether they're on freedom's side, or whether they're more interested in using the Internet to extract tribute from rich countries on behalf of poor nations' bureaucrats. I will simply point out, here, that if America weren't so diplomatically isolated this would be a fly swat, not a potential hammer blow.

    Continue reading "True Cost of America's Isolation"

    March 19, 2004

    The Collapse of AnarchismEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Many people note that the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s was the End of Communism. That is, Communism was tried, it failed, we need to move on. (The picture, of five Chicago Anarchists associated with the Haymarket Riots, is from the Chicago Public Library.)

    I agree. Communism fails to adapt. Unless everyone has the right to change, and unless there's a mean through which change at the bottom can be reflected in changes at the top, then your society will fail. Democracy is far more adaptable, capitalism is far more adaptable, and thus in an era of increasingly-rapid change they triumphed.

    But the Web has collapsed another, even older, value system, and that hasn't been remarked upon.

    The Web has collapsed Anarchism.

    Continue reading "The Collapse of Anarchism"

    Open Tools Work Both WaysEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    The image in the item below actually comes from a directory that was left open by the publisher. I sort of hope it disappears soon. (I didn't link to the directory in the item, just to the home page. Thank me later, VNU.)

    But it does bring up an important point, namely that any tool in an open directory is apt to be used by anyone.

    In the U.S., the Bush campaign got a taste of this recently, when a "make your own poster tool" (the idea was borrowed from a similar tool on the Dean site) was used to make a flock of anti-Bush posters. The tool was taken down. (I wonder if they know that their "contact the media" tool can also be used by Democrats?)

    The "be careful out there" reference below, in other words, applies to servers as well as browsers.

    Another Argment for MailwasherEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    The launch of a new family of Internet Explorer viruses named Bagle, exploiting Explorer's Object Data Remote Execution (it causes attachments to automatically open) reminds me again of how important a program Mailwasher has become. (Image from VNUNet.)

    However, it's not foolproof. I often see a spam or two that gets to my Outlook Express box in the seconds between my use of Mailwasher and my clicking the "send and receive" option in e-mail.

    In the short run the best thing to do is increase your security settings on the browser so you will always be prompted before any program -- even an authenticated program -- starts to run.

    Also, make sure you have a firewall.

    Be careful out there.

    A Huge Web OpportunityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    It's funny. Just when I thought I was well shut of my old beat, Internet marketing, I get not one, but two great stories on it to bring you.

    The launch of Google's Local Service provides great opportunity for anyone who wants to do Web advertising, Web sites, or Web commerce.

    The service isn't complete because Google only looks at key words. Thus its identification of shops isn't always accurate. It's also incomplete because of churn - shops close all the time and they don't tell Google about it.

    But the capabilities of the service, as it expands, look very interesting.

    Continue reading "A Huge Web Opportunity"

    March 18, 2004

    The End of Web Real EstateEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    These days, when I visit the beat of Internet Advertising, I feel like an engineering graduate at a college reunion. I feel a little stupid, like the world has passed me by.

    One of the most important concepts of Internet advertising in the 1990s was the idea of “real estate.” Where was the ad? How much space did it occupy? The idea comes from publishing where every page has a specific size. It’s also applicable to broadcasting, where you have a certain “inventory” of time to sell.

    Well the Web doesn’t work that way. Pointroll has been proving this for a few years now. I first saw some of their stuff on Yahoo finance, little buttons that expanded when you rolled over them, covering larger pieces of content.

    Continue reading "The End of Web Real Estate"

    March 17, 2004

    Spam That Is Not SpamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Spam That Is Not Spam is protected under the so-called CAN-SPAM Act. (I couldn't resist the cartoon at left, nor Erynn LeRoy's eloquent anti-spam screed, which accompanied it.)

    Spam That Is Not Spam is spam sent by "legitimate" marketers. Their products are legal. They obey opt-out orders.

    But permission audits are not required. Neither is the discipline these same companies apply to postal mailings.

    Because direct mail costs about $1 per envelope, marketers routinely "age" these mailings. If they don't get an affirmative response (an order) after sending a set number of mailings to a prospect, they drop them. They may return later. Marketers are also very careful in buying lists of prospects, filtering lists to get just those people who might be interested in their offer, based on expensive research.

    None of this happens when the same companies do e-mail marketing.

    Continue reading "Spam That Is Not Spam"

    March 16, 2004

    A Big Win For NC StateEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    NC State is proclaiming a big victory and the NCAA tournament doesn't start until Thursday. (Celebrate by dropping a few shekels here.)

    This has nothing to do with basketball, however. (Awwwwww....)

    Instead, we're talking about the Internet Protocol. It's slow. It was designed decades ago. NC State researchers Dr. Injong Rhee, Dr. Khaled Harfoush, and grad student Lisong Xu (a real All-American team) used the binary search approach usually applied to databases in their replacement, allowing for rapid detection of maximum network capacity with minimal loss of information.

    Now before you get started on that business plan for Super-Kazaa, this is not something to be tried at home. It's really for things like the Energy Science Network (ESNet) and other super-fast collaborative nets.

    Continue reading "A Big Win For NC State"

    March 15, 2004

    Pop-Up Blocker BlockingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Here's a trend for you readers to investigate and comment on.

    Pop-up blocker blocking. (Yes, I know the illustration isn't exactly on point, but I found it on this government web page about food thermometers, labelled pop-up, and couldn't resist.)

    I first noticed this on the New York Times site. Pop-ups blocked by Google Toolbar's pop-up blocker persistently re-launch, so you get this crazy shadow of a pop-up, despite the block.

    I've also noticed that the same pop-up blocker sometimes sees whole windows as pop-ups and forbids them, and that many blog comment areas are perceived as pop-ups now -- they won't appear unless you un-block with the ctrl-key.

    Is this just a Google thing or are others having trouble?

    We report, you decide. Or deride, if you prefer.

    Above The Web, Below The WebEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    The collapse of Howard Dean is just one example of a phenomenon I'm calling "below the web." (The figure to the right is available for sale here.)

    Dean's strategy, his tactics, and his numbers were all well-publicized by his Web site. He really had no secrets. It was just left for someone -- turned out to be Kerry -- to craft a strategy that worked "Below The Web." In Kerry's case, it was the use of professionals at caucus sites, along with quiet, intimate gatherings in place of the large rallies Dean's "Above The Web" troops were enjoying.

    My point isn't political, however. This happens in business all the time.

    Recently I did a job for a client who was worried about a competitor. It turned out the specifics of the competitor's offer were not available online. By the time the offer was online, in fact, it was redundant, obsolete. Instead, the competitor was tieing up interested customers with Non-Disclosure Agreements, and only them showing them the real stuff, and the real deal.

    Continue reading "Above The Web, Below The Web"

    March 14, 2004

    Fall Of The BlogrollEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    My guest here last week, Rajesh Jain, may be best-known for his Blogstreet site. (The illustration is of a graphic blogroll request from Glimpse of a Grrl.)

    Never one to let an opportunity go by, I chided him on the fact that blogrolls are a poor way to measure blog popularity. When new blogs game the system (by trading rolls) and good bloggers refuse to, the results are skewed, I said.

    To my surprise, Rajesh agreed with me. But he added another important point. "Many people just don't keep up their blogrolls."

    Now, I just started keeping up with mine, after moving to Movable Type. One of the people I added was Rajesh. He's smart, he's cool, he knows his stuff, he's worth reading.

    But I'm an exception. Most people, as they become accustomed to creating blogs, slow their reading of others' blogs. They may continue reading 6-10 favorites, but most of the rest simply disappear from their radar screens.

    Continue reading "Fall Of The Blogroll"

    March 13, 2004

    Following The Chinese WayEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    The "War On Terrorism" requires that we distrust one another and absolutely trust the government. (The illustration, one of the most famous in the history of journalism, is from CNN.)

    This does not come naturally to Americans. But it comes come naturally to many Chinese. (Not all of them, obviously.)

    So Intel's tilting at Chinese windmills, in the form of a Chinese government demand that Chinese snoops be given a back-door into its 802.11 systems, isn't just one company standing in front of a Chinese tank.

    That's also an American tank they're standing in front of. My fear is they have no more hope of success than that Chinese man did, since "The War" trumps everything, and with absolute security comes absolutism. Better our'n than there'n, right?

    Am I being alarmist? No, I'm not. I don't know any other way to treat the latest FBI demand, that government be able to tap all broadband communications, and quickly.

    Anyone who knows anything about the Internet knows this is not as easy as it sounds. Bits are bits. You can't tell voice bits from text bits from graphic bits. And you can't easily tell if the bits have been scrambled, either.

    Continue reading "Following The Chinese Way"

    March 09, 2004

    Narantsetseg BaljinEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    We think of the Internet as being composed of routers, or Web pages, or services, or servers, or computers, maybe all of these technology artifacts.

    But it's not just that. The Internet is people. It's the people behind the screens. And it's the people dedicated to the resource. In some places, like the U.S. and Japan, these people are thick on the ground. Map them, and their homes, and you get a very dense weave indeed.

    Elsewhere, they shine very bright. In places like Mongolia, they are like stars. And their passing leaves a great void

    One such light went out today. You probably didn't know her. I didn't. But, reading the honors given her on the ANR-Talk mailing list, which Izumi Aizu helped me join, I can understand the mourning, and share in it.

    Narantsetseg Baljin ran InfoCon Ltd., an IT consulting practice in Mongolia. (You read that right, Mongolia.) Before that, she was marketing director for the country's first ISP, Datacom. In Atlanta or Tokyo, she would not be remarkable. In Mongolia, she was a legend.

    More than any of that, she was a bright and lively personality, as Izumi writes. "You are always dynamic, charming and thoughtful. You gave us a lot of courage, help and sense of humor." In her honor he offered, through Ofoto (registration required), a collection of photos he took in Vientian, Laos, early this month.

    Continue reading "Narantsetseg Baljin"

    March 08, 2004

    The Second Coming Of The Portal Boom?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    The "big excitement" over social networking sites is beginning to smell like the portal boom of the 1990s.

    And to think it all started with Kevin Bacon. The picture to the left was taken from a CNN story on the eponymous game, the idea being that everyone is within six links of the heavily-networked Hollywood actor. (Bacon himself once did an American Express ad on the theme.) (UPDATE: John A. Stoner points out that was a Visa Check commercial that Bacon did. As a prize you get to move one degree closer to him, and to me.)

    Social networking sites try to get everyone together to make friends or do business based on the concept of getting invited by someone you know, the idea being that you'll then invite your friends and participate, growing out your network until, like Bacon, you're connected to everyone.

    Bacon's a good actor, but this concept has always smelled to me like smoked, salted pig belly. At minimum, we can say it's not to everyone's tastes.

    So why all the big money? Everyone wants to win the "personal networking space," just like everyone wanted to win the "portal" race "back in the day." I'm afraid the result will be the same here as it was then, a lot of hurt.

    There are all sorts of networking sites, and I belong to two -- Ryze and linkedin. I have spent no money with either site, and gotten no work as a result of my participation.

    That should tell you all you need to know. The play should be to wait and see if one of these things can make money, then buy it for a decent multiple. But that is not what is happening.

    Continue reading "The Second Coming Of The Portal Boom?"

    February 26, 2004

    Burning Down The HouseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    It snowed in Atlanta this morning. So it's a musical day.

    And I couldn't stop repeating this old Talking Heads classic upon learning about the Verisign suit against ICANN.

    Remember, ICANN is supposed to be on the verge of approving a Verisign-run Waiting List Service. The deal is supposed to be finalized next week in Rome.

    Sing along with me:

    Continue reading "Burning Down The House"

    February 24, 2004

    Great Googly-MooglyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    As you may know this page features Google's AdSense . It posts context-sensitive ads on Web pages, and pays you for them. A few weeks ago I got a check for over $57 (OK, $57.09) covering ads both here and on my newsletter, a-clue.com, over the last quarter.

    Continue reading "Great Googly-Moogly"

    February 23, 2004

    Year of Furl?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    If last year was the Year of Dean, is this to be the Year of Furl?

    Furl, for those who don't know it, is a tool created at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for saving whole Web pages. Instead of bookmarking pages, so you can go to them later, you save the whole page, and build a library of them.

    You sign-up, you get an e-mail in response, you respond to the e-mail, and then you get a browser button for your toolbar.

    There is no software to install.

    Continue reading "Year of Furl?"

    February 22, 2004

    Breakdown of the Social ContractEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    The Internet is not one thing, and it's not really a "network of networks." It's a social contract, among networks, where the promise is to pass data without asking questions.

    That contract is now breaking down.

    The failure of governments or Internet governance to find a solution to spam, or to even define spam properly (as mass e-mail I didn't ask for), is forcing ISPs to break the contract that has tied them together.

    Hilde Van Gool, who runs a newsletter called neTTies in Belgium (from which the image above was taken), noticed this and sent a note on it to Ken Rutkowski's "connected" list. "I have problems with some providers who think my html-mail is spam, and as such they refuse to transmit my mail to the people my mail was destinated for," Hilde writes.

    Continue reading "Breakdown of the Social Contract"

    February 19, 2004

    Yahoo vs. Google (and Microsoft Still To Come)Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Search has suddenly become fun again.

    That's because Yahoo has debuted a new version of its search engine, dumping Google from its site like J.Lo dumped Affleck.

    As a quick review, I searched for me on both the new Yahoo and Google.

    Continue reading "Yahoo vs. Google (and Microsoft Still To Come)"

    February 11, 2004

    Prove ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Despite its overwrought (even silly) use of sport analogies, today's News.Com story on baseball's online rights has a point to make.

    Baseball is trying to treat streaming media players, like Real and Microsoft, the way it treats the broadcast networks. Sports leagues have long pushed broadcasters into taking losses on those rights, figuring that they capture key demographics (men 18-34), which they can then push into watching other shows on the same networks.

    This is not the way the Internet works. The Internet is not publishing, and it's not broadcasting. The survivors in the Internet business have finally learned this, even those which, like Real, began life expecting it to recapitulate broadcast.

    If Major League Baseball is convinced it can make more from its Internet rights than the market is willing to pay, of course, it has a perfect right to go off on its own and try to prove its point...in the market. I should not that it did this once with broadcasting and wound up crawling back.

    Maybe this time it can do better. Personally I see no value in watching out-of-town baseball games on a small PC window. But, like I said, I could be wrong.

    So, Bud Selig, it's up to you. Think I'm wrong? Think you're right?

    Prove it.

    Dana Blankenhorn

    Author CreditEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    There is a "hot new" research outfit in England called Rethink Research. It's headed by Peter White, formerly of Comptuerwire, and Caroline Gabriel, formerly of VNU.

    They have been able to get their stuff into the right places, like The Register, and some of it is pretty good. One example, from the previous link, shows how the music industry is now in a no-win situation regarding file trading. It must either get the Supremes to overturn the old Betamax decision, which allowed videotaping even though it might be used to tape copyrighted shows, or go to Congress, which won't pass anything in an election year.

    The paper's not perfect. There are flaws in the reasoning. A lawyer could easily argue that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act overturns the Betamax decision. And the copyright industries have friends on both sides of the aisle -- there is no real cost to their going against consumers in that instance.

    These, however, are minor quibbles. The paper has a point of view (good) and argues it well (very good). It's worth the money they are charging for it.

    The problem here is credit, or the lack of it. Rethink has no author credits on its reports. It depends entirely on the brand to carry the day. It does this deliberately, to keep any writer from getting too much salary, and to keep successful ones from gaining the reputation needed to go out on their own.

    But they don't just shortchange the writers here. They shortchange the customers. I don't know whether this report was done by qualified experts of a bunch of Googling Monkeys in Bangladesh.

    More important, writers write -- not corporations. Any corporate product is, by its nature, homogenized. But if someone is putting their name on it, there is someone on the team fighting for a vision, for something unique and interesting.

    Without that oomph, research is worthless. If the tech economy grows, I hope new voices emerge in England. Human voices.

    Dana Blankenhorn

    February 06, 2004

    Wash Your MailEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    In these times of rampant e-mail spam, fraud and viruses, where every visit to your inbox is a trial, I am amazed at how many letters I get from real experts in the field who complain about deleting individual messages.

    Whether those messages are tagged with Spam Assassin or some other tool, they are still in your inbox, cluttering your hard drive. They should not be there, they should not be about. They should not be there when your Outlook is out.

    Spam Kicks It Up a NotchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    My spam flood has just doubled.

    Overnight.

    I had become accustomed to coming in each morning and seeing 100 spam messages, along with a few real notes. I had even become accustomed to seeing several of the spams being unknown to the blacklists, even though they were clearly spam.

    This morning I come in and find, not 100, but 230 spam messages, overnight.

    Some were copies of the Mydoom virus, and blacklists are very good at marking these as "possible virus."

    Many were also false bounces from various e-mail servers around the world, all of them certain I was sending "possibly dangerous content" to people I have never corresponded with.

    But, sadly, much of the new spam was just that, spam. The same-old same-old, with different "from" addresses.

    I have often called spam the cholesterol of the Internet, and it is. The reason spam hasn't caused a heart attack in the core is that its carrying capacity keeps jumping in a Moore's Law fashion.

    But now the rise in spam is exceeding the rise in capacity, perhaps for the first time.

    A heart attack is coming.

    Wash Your MailEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    In these times of rampant e-mail spam, fraud and viruses, where every visit to your inbox is a trial, I am amazed at how many letters I get from real experts in the field who complain about deleting individual messages.

    Whether those messages are tagged with Spam Assassin or some other tool, they are still in your inbox, cluttering your hard drive. They should not be there, they should not be about. They should not be there when your Outlook is out.

    That's why I always pre-wash my mail with Mailwasher. And the "pro," fully-licensed and supported version of the product, costs just $29.95! (Don't believe me? Try it for 30 days free.) So why are you letting that trash off your ISP's server? Dump it now, dump it all at once, dump it permanently.

    Oh, one more thing. This is not an advertisement. I get no money from Firetrust. I just want you to be careful out there.