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Amidst all the wailing over the Times' experiment in forcing people to pay subscriptions for Internet newspaper content, an important fact is being lost.
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.
Here is the situation:
Below is a typical Feedburner RSS ad, which appears in Newsreaders but not on Web pages. We'll discuss it after the flip:
UPDATE: After this was posted, Feedburner vice president-business development Rick Klau wrote the following. It is directly on point (as the lawyers say):
While I can only speak for FeedBurner, we only splice ads into feeds for publishers, on behalf of the publisher. We never splice ads in a feed that the publisher didn't ask for, make money from, or know about, ever. It's the same type of model as web advertising solutions that you use on your site, and you make most of the money.
FeedBurner is a publisher service. We only perform those services on a feed that a publisher wants us to perform, and that goes for everything, whether it's splicing ads, applying a stylesheet, or tracking statistics.
No blog site manager running our service can be unaware that their feeds have ads in them because it is impossible to get ads in your feed at FeedBurner without either directly contacting us or selecting the AdSense for Feeds program and providing us with all the details needed to splice in those ads.
Blogging let us all become commentators.
Now we can become true journalists.
Dialogue announced that it Mobile Applications Portal can now be used by news aggregators to take in any cellphone video you may want to offer, as an MMS message.
Yes, I can see the problem here as well. This is expensive stuff. It's being offered as a service to Big Media operators, who will then take stuff from ordinary Joes, probably free, and spin it.
But it is a step in the right direction.
George W. Bush's Bridge to the 19th Century has deposited us in 1881, in the era of the Spoils System.
The spoils system was instituted by Democratic President Andrew Jackson. "To the victor goes the spoils" meant that every government job belonged to the party in power. Postmasters, and port managers (big jobs in those days) were all political hacks.
The movement against the spoils system was led by a Republican named James A. Garfield. He was elected President in 1880 alongside a representative of that system, Chester Alan Arthur, former port commissioner for New York. He wasn't a perfect vessel for reform, but he moved in that direction.
The picture illustrates what happened next. Garfield was shot, killed, by Charles J. Guiteau, a "frustrated office seeker," in other words, a party hack who was upset that Garfield wanted to bring competence to government. (Guiteau, in fact had visions of becoming Ambassador to France.)
Specifically, I'm looking at the impact of Google Maps on our business, and how we practice journalism, as well as how we deliver it to readers. (Speaking of which, Google has satellite imagery of New Orleans taken at 10 AM on August 31 available here.)
Talk about shock and awe...)
There's a saying that bloggers are journalists who won't make a five-minute phone call, while journalists are bloggers who won't spend five minutes on Google.
Both views have something to them, although I'd say that Google keeps getting better, while the phone doesn't.
But there's a bigger secret neither side tells you.
We seldom leave our desks.
A Great City must be evacuated. Then it must be rebuilt.
After the people are gone -- all the people -- the logistics of what must happen in New Orleans next are daunting. We're talking about debriding America's gaping wound and rebuilding a kidney on a massive scale:
It's the biggest civil engineering job ever attempted.
NOTE: I have been, and will be, criticized for "politicizing" the naton's worst-ever natural disaster. But knowing how something happened, what made it worse, how it can be made better and how it might be prevented is the only way I know to make sense of things which are otherwise beyond comprehension. My prayers to all.
Everyone knows 9/11 was a turning point. (Picture from Tales from the Teapot.)
It changed attitudes irrevocably, in ways we're still trying to deal with four years on.
Hurricane Katrina is another turning point, a different turning point, and a much, much bigger event.
The terrorists destroyed two buildings, and the center of a city. Katrina destroyed multiple cities -- Slidell, Gulfport, Biloxi, New Orleans.
We knew after 9/11 it could happen again. Know this after Katrina. It WILL happen again, and again, and again.
The civilizing process of the 20th century, with its oil-driven economy, is now driving the global environment off a cliff. Most of the world knew this before Katrina. Now even Mississippi knows this.
And this will change us.
One of the most maddening aspects of the Katrina coverage, for me, has been MSNBC's continued emphasis on the Casinos as the engines of the Gulf Coast economy. We drive through that area every vacation, and I have taken to calling Mississippi "Pottersville," the town Bedford Falls became in the nighbmare sequence of "It's a Wonderful Life." And Louisiana has made itself into West Pottersville.
I'm not talking about sin here. I'm talking about depending on something that's artificial, fake, phony, as the basis of an economy. Pretending that you'll get rich off others' sin, that the residue won't touch you, and you can then say "screw you" to the needs of the poor, to education, to your fellow man, to the real world, that always fails in time.
It is time for an attitude adjustment.
There's a chain of bookstores in South Georgia that hold a secret.
I discovered it on the way back from a convention in Orlando one day, desperate for some present to give my book-loving wife.
Stacked floor-to-ceiling in these stores are "best-sellers," nearly every "big" title from a right-wing hack delivered over the last decade or more. There's Laura Bush's autobiography, alongside the Swift Boat attack on John Kerry and titles from the whole Fox News pantheon. There are right-wing preachers, firebreathers, and a ton of get-rich-quick books by folks who, if they really knew that much, would have gotten rich some other way.
Do you know anyone reading this dreck? You might not.
That's the day the new bankruptcy law kicks-in, and credit card banks get hit by a double-whammy of their own creation. (Illustration is from Howstuffworks.) Be careful of what you ask for, because you just might get it:
How can this be bad for banks, who after all pushed for the legislation?
Mark Glaser has an OJR piece up about Cook's Illustrated, which has drawn 80,000 paid subscribers.
Glaser credits "cross-promotion and deep research" with the site's financial success.
The truth is simpler, and comes in one word -- credibility. Glaser sums it up this way, "the Consumer Reports of food." (That's publisher Chistopher Kimball, from an appearance on CBS.)
It's an apt description. I pay for Consumer Reports online. I don't use it often, but when I face a big purchase, I get my money out. Because CR is absolutely, 100% credible. There are no ads. There are no conflicts of interest. Everything they do is about earning my trust -- mine, not any vendors -- and they succeed at that.
Cindy Sheehan has been able to demonstrate just how naked the Emperor is, and thus demonstrate the lie of Empire.
This is how Democrats felt forced to respond, because they'd been stuck into a political wilderness for a generation by Vietnam. They were afraid to equate Iraq with Vietnam, fearing that political wilderness, and its chains, which bound liberalism and the cause of human rights for a generation.
Well, Cindy Sheehan broke through that fear. She lost her son. It transformed her. (It didn't transform her husband , but everyone's journey is different.)
By putting that transformation in our face, and in the face of George W. Bush, Cindy Sheehan is also making a change in us. Damn the past, damn the present, our kids are dying. Scales fall from the eyes.
There is no way at this point for the Emperor to appear clothed again, and his supporters know it.
That's why they're acting as they are toward Sheehan. It's like the crowd in the story, at first. Of course the Emperor's New Clothes are beautiful. You're just a stupid little boy. You just can't see the big picture.
Stupid. Little. Boy.
Stupid Little Boy, says Cindy Sheehan? Look at him, look at the Little Boy. Look at Casey. You call him Stupid, you call me Stupid?
Maybe we were. We were stupid because we believed in you. And look at what it's gotten us. My son is dead! And this is no fairy tale.
People often ask me what's wrong with journalism.
The answer comes down to one word -- arrogance. Even junior members of the trade think they're in a profession, whose job it is to rule on what's true and what's not, all decisions final.
Take William Beutler of The National Journal, for instance. Beutler just got a pretty amazing gig. As editor of the Hotline Blogometer he spends the day scouring the political blogosphere and tallying up the points. (He is still listed as writing The Washington Canard, but he doesn't update it often anymore. The picture is from that Web site. Beutler's a shy fella.)
It's hard work, as some in Washington might say. And mistakes will happen. Journalists complain that bloggers won't spend 5 minutes on the phone to get something right. Well, journalists won't spend 20 seconds on Google to do the same thing. And Google's improving much faster than the phone.
Anyway, Beutler's August 15 missive began by referencing Cindy Sheehan as an "alleged" gold star mother. I went ballistic. Whatever you think of Sheehan's protest, no one can argue that she is, in fact, a Gold Star Mother (all caps), this being " an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of our country."
After considering my e-mail for some time, Beutler made a slight change. He didn't acknowledge the mistake. He just took the alleged out. And gold star is still lower case, still in quotation marks.
Now, before you click below, get out your hankies.
There's an interesting case study up right now about what blogging does to journalism.
In simple terms, it reduces the distance. You're no longer a star. They're no longer the audience.
The example today is that of MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann, who has been writing a blog (actually, a series of columns) for about a year now. When Peter Jennings died, Keith didn't think (like most careerists) "wow, now there's a job opening for me!" He was genuinely moved.
Then he looked for the hidden lesson -- smoking. Olbermann was once a smoker, and it gave him a tumor. Fortunately the tumor was benign. So he blogged about it. And given that the non-distancing becomes a habit to one who enters the blogosphere, he talked about it on his show as well.
SMS.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.)
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.
Om 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.
News that Armstrong Williams is making a comeback, that he is back on the air (that he hardly ever left), leaves a nagging question in my mind.
What do you got to do to get fired around here?
The question is serious. Unless we have a way of getting rid of those who violate some ethical standard, why should anyone believe any of us? Why have any standards if we can't get rid of violators?
For those who don't know, Williams got caught in January taking bribes from the Bush Administration for touting its education policies. Yet the next month, WWRL in New York put him back on the air, in afternoon drive. Now he's got a book coming out, one which calls liberals like myself racists.
If being a racist means hating crooks who happen to be black, I'm a racist. (It doesn't mean that, so Armstrong, take your black skin outta my face.) Armstrong Williams is a crook, corrupt. He should be on an unemployment line alongside Jayson Blair and hundreds of others -- of every color -- who can't be trusted. Yet he's heard loud and clear while honest men (and women) aren't. Including honest black, male conservatives, many with great speaking voices and stories to tell. Just look around the blogosphere for five minutes if you don't believe me.
Williams tells The Hill that he's "changed," that he doesn't harrangue Democrats anymore.
But that wasn't the point of the scandal. It's like a bank robber telling me he doesn't beat his wife anymore. It's irrelevant.
Armstrong Williams put himself out as a journalist, as an independent voice, when in fact he was in the pay of the government. That was the scandal. That remains a scandal.
But there is no way to fire people who violate even such basic ethical precepts anymore. If nothing else, he could go out and blog -- make big bucks like Andrew Sullivan. Who'd know? Who'd care?
But the bottom line is simpler. Our identification system is broken.
It's no longer a question of this system or some other system. There is no system.
What that means, in real terms, if your own identity hangs by a thread, a very thin thread that can break anywhere, and leave you an un-person.
Rebecca 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.
That headline could have been written about me. (But let's see if I can't make it up to you right now.)
It's the oldest dodge in the blogging world. You call another reporter lazy in order to cover up the fact you haven't looked at a story.
Just how lazy is that? Click below and find out.
Adam Penenberg channels
IDC IDG head Pat Kenealy (left, by Jay Sandred) on another of those occasional "you're going to have to pay for Web content someday" pieces we see every so often.
Well, he's right. But he's also wrong.
He's right because there's already some Web content people do pay for. Dow Jones loses reach and influence, but does make money selling online subscriptions. Lexis-Nexis and Dialog haven't gone free with the dawn of the Web. Last time I checked iTunes was selling songs online, at a profit.
He's wrong because he insists that "micro-payment technology" will stimulate the growth of pay-for-play content. We've been hearing that one for 10 years now, and it's as wrong now as it was in 1995.
There's already a micro-payment program in place. A very successful one.
Conservatives have long complained the press is biased against them. Lately liberals have taken up the same cry.
Now technologists have the right to call out the media as well. When an organization that claims to be totally dedicated to the search for objective truth, like the Associated Press, starts slipping bias into its tech coverage, watch out.
I first saw the story, and headline, in the Rocky Mountain News. Opera has placed BitTorrent support directly into its browser, hoping that will help it pick up market share against Firefox and Explorer.
But the headline? Piracy tool turns legit. And the text was no better. " The Opera Web browser will soon support a file-transfer tool commonly associated with online movie piracy."
Excuse me, AP, but bull-cookies. BitTorrent is not Kazaa. It's a technology. There's no business there. Blaming BitTorrent for piracy is like blaming FTP or SMTP or even HTTP for piracy, because you can move copyrighted files. You can move copyrighted content across all Internet protocols. They are value-neutral. And the head of Opera even told you why he did this -- because it enabled the rapid distribution of Opera itself and Opera wanted such a capability widely-available.
Techdirt went ape-biscuits over this, as they should have, but never considered why the AP acted as it did.
That'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.
CBS has decided to do a Web log.
It sounds stupid, but isnt 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.
The papers are full today with stories about "citizen journalists." (That's Will Ferrell as Anchorman Ron Burgundy to the left.)
All these stories convey a common misconception. They assume this is a trend, and they assume that mainstream media will be able to dominate this new field.
Both assumptions are wrong.
In many ways this is a fad. It's a fad because, as camera phones proliferate, the volume of such pictures available is just going to become overwhelming. Making sense of what's out there, and getting rights to the good stuff, are going to be keys to success.
Also there is nothing really new here. Cable shows have been taking calls from individuals at news sites for decades. Talk radio is all about the callers. What's new here are the means the the medium, not the phenomenon.
But there's a more important point being missed in all the self-congratulation:
The search for online business models is a continuing fascination of mine at A-Clue.Com.
You may have great merchandise, you may have great service, you may have a nifty shopping cart. But if you can't bring the values of your shop floor to your Web site, you won't succeed online. Over time you may not succeed offline either.
An editorial mission replicates the value of your store online. What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? For Amazon it's a database, a huge variety of merchandise. Works for Amazon, works for Wal-Mart, but it won't work for you.
In fact, Wal-Mart's failures online can be attributed to this editorial mission failure. They were unable to replicate the values of a real Wal-Mart in their online efforts. While the store looks a jumble, regular shoppers know you can actually get what you want there fairly quickly. What they should have enabled was a form of "shopping lists" that people could print-and-use at home, adapting to their own needs, then input regularly on the site, along with a delivery service.
The difference between editorial values and commercial values is that the one defines what you are, and the other puts your name in mind. If branding is to be worthwhile you must deliver the values the brand promises. That is exactly how editors think, too. What you call your reputation they call credibility.
I believe there is a truth in any situation, which can be found through investigation.
This should not be controversial. But Ive learned that it is.
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.)
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.
The 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.
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?
Don't like fiction? I understand.
But you still need your summer reading. The season is upon us.
So might I offer you the latest from my new friend J.D. Lasica, Darknet
I've been covering the Copyright Wars for nearly a decade, and wish I had looked up from the day-to-day to try something like this book. Its subtitle is Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation, and it covers a ton of ground.
If you're not familiar with the digital underground, or what digital editing is capable of, then Lasica's book will be a revelation to you. Even for old hands like me it's good sometimes to get it all down so you can ponder it as a whole.
For the last few months Ive been trying to help the Media Bloggers Association, mainly via e-mail.
Ive been appointed to three committees, none of which Ive been much use to. I started in publicity, moved over to membership, and Im now on ethics.
Publicity they had in hand. Membership passed over a list of prospective members, but I had no basis on which to judge them so I just approved the list. This got me interested in ethics.
The topic this week might be called the new media's old media problem, with a proposal for solving it. (I have no idea whether the book here is good or not. If someone can send me a link to sales, we'll see.)
In software terms blogging and commerce are incompatible. They're two trains running on different tracks.
Bloggers aren't really thinking of making money. They may put up begging bowls, and they make take BlogAds, or put in Google AdSense, but their Achilles Heel is that, when they think of money at all, it's in Old Media terms.
Let's sell ads.
Community Networking Systems like Scoop, Slash and Drupal also share this problem. They have an advantage over blogging systems in that they can scale. They can take a lot of traffic, and a lot of users. Those users are empowered to create their own diaries, or polls, or multi-threaded comments. But again commerce is secondary, in this case even tertiary. The most successful "commercial" community sites are those, like DailyKos and Slashdot, that direct people off-site to give money or time to important causes. There is no built-in business model.
For 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.
It 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.
John F. McMullen today posted, to Dave Farber's list, what he says is a transcript of the commencement address Steve Jobs (a college dropout) gave at Stanford yesterday. (The picture is from Stanford.)
What they fail, utterly, to do is really give you a flavor for the wisdom Jobs imparted, so I have taken the liberty, starting below, of posting the entire transcript, as offered by McMullen.
Sit back and enjoy. Assuming again that the transcript is accurate, this may be the best commencement speech ever.
Thank you. I'm honored to be with you today for your commencement
from one of the finest universities in the world. Truth be told, I
never graduated from college and this is the closest I've ever gotten
to a college graduation.
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No
big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the
Writing about Microsoft earlier today got me thinking more deeply about the company. (The image is from the Pioneer Theater Co., at the University of Utah.)
A decade ago Microsoft reached a tipping point. Maybe this came with its release of Windows 95. It was obvious in its obsession over destroying Netscape.
Before 1995 Microsoft was about creating capabilities for others. Since then its mission has been embracing and extending, bringing the great ideas of others into its own operating system, destroying rather than creating niches.
It all sounds like a Jon Stewart set-up. "Aw, Bill, it used to be about the world domination." But in truth, at some point, people do come to dominate their worlds.
And then it all starts to go wrong.
Due to low salaries and high turnover, journalism continues to face the problem of reporters seeing failed trends repeated, not spotting them, and repeating the same failed cliches of earlier years, mainly due to orgnaizational inertia.
First, from the Financial Times, a piece on Internet sites being bought by media companies, "falling prey" to them being the operative cliche. On the whole these are market losers cashing out. The buyers aren't getting much, and the story doesn't examine the track records of the sellers. There's a story here, but not the one written.
Second, we have the BBC with the idea that consumer demands drive tech developments. If the iPod were possible 20 years ago does anyone deny we would buy it?
This is a note to the nice people at the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Some of your money has gone astray. Specifically, it has gone to George Washington University for something called the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, formerly the Democracy Online Project.
GWU put a woman named Carol Darr (right, from the Center for National Policy) in charge of this group, and she has proven to be, well, not to put too fine a point on it, an idiot. Clueless, in the parlance of this blog. To be blunt about it, she is using money given for promoting democracy on the Internet in order to destroy it.
One 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.
The folks at CNN fell for the hype from a project called RepRap, a rapid prototyper from the University of Bath in England. (The picture is from the CNN story and shows a robot built with RepRap.)
The machine that can copy anything was their breathless headline.
Well, yes. And no.
The folks at RepRap would like you to think they've got something truly revolutionary. But they don't. The technology has been around for some time. You need to input a lot of files to make anything, so there's a lot of intellectual capital involved.
And here's the kicker.
This week I returned to the topic.
The reason why publishers have no editorial budgets with the move to the Web is simple. (Image from Websitecenter.)
None engage in Deep Commerce. Instead, they still just sell ads.
We 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.
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?
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?
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:
When 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.
Now that Woodward and Bernstein have confirmed Mark Felt was their source Deep Throat...
Here's something you probably already knew.
Actually I added the word "national" to the sentence above. The New York Times failed to. Because local business newspapers are doing just fine thank you very much. The Times, as usual, has about half the story.
National magazines are out of favor because (ironically) they never created a real business proposition for the advertiser. Look at the ads. They're all corporate self-congratulation. Where's the business in that? It doesn't exist.
Beyond that Forbes, Fortune and Business Week mainly existed to tout stocks and stock touters. The collapse of the dot-bomb meant bad news for both, and in fact the Dow Jones has yet to match its pre-bust high. (The NASDAQ remains at about 40% of that high.) Fast Company, Red Herring and their ilk had an even weaker business case -- they pre-touted what vulture capitalists pushed.
But like I said, this is just half the story.
As the graph shows, the phenomenon is familiar to anyone who blogs, and the challenge is to find a way to profit from it.
Stuff on the left side of the curve has business models. Stuff in the middle is struggling for a business model. Stuff on the right has no business model.
As you can see by looking at the endorsements on the left side of Anderson's blog, the Digirati are reacting like Anderson just discovered fire. And the Long Tail is no less obvious.
What's non-trivial is finding a way to profit from these atomized markets.
Google does it. TiVo does it (sometimes). But must those who profit from the "market of one" all be scaled? What about the creators? And what are the consequences of that?
What we've seen in the market, since the rise of the Internet, is an increasingly-shorter tail. Middle market books don't sell. Independent movies are having more trouble getting produced, not less. Musicians who used to live decent lives on record company contracts find today they can't get a sniff.
I've been a professional writer for over 25 years now. And what is most striking about the last few years, besides the rise of open source and blogging, is the rise of forced amateurism.
I've written about this before regarding Fuat Kircaali. He has built a fortune on the backs of unpaid labor. (No, that's not Fuat to the right, it's St. Martin and the Beggar, by El Greco, from iBiblio.com.)
He's not alone. Far from it, in fact. Three years into a supposed tech recovery and most of the offers I'm getting, still, are for "exposure" or "contacts," not dollars. Even those publishers who do profess to pay something, such as Newsfactor, in fact pay very little. Professional tech journalism, the field I've been part of for 20 years, is circling the drain.
The same is increasingly true of professional software development. The rise of open source disguises a disquieting fact. Many programmers today can't get work, and salaries are down. Most commentary is to the effect that programmers should "get over it." No wonder fewer want to be in the profession. I notice that CEO and sales pay rates in that industry aren't falling.
The fact is that trends designed to liberate this business, so far, are succeeding only in impoverishing the people in it. I've said this before, but the problem here is one of business models.
Often 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.
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.
You may remember him. Long-haired weirdo. Crazy hair. Counter-cultural kind of guy.
Some 30 years ago he and another friend named Steve hung around with the losers at something called the Homebrew Computer Club.
They had this neat idea for a new kind of box, using a TV, tape recorder, and typewriter as interfaces for a self-contained computer. One of them (I think it was the other Steve) shopped the idea to Hewlett-Packard.
Which rejected it. Turned them down flat. Questioned whether it had "serious thought behind it."
Well, you do have to listen to your elders, after all. I'm sure that discouraged Steve. Probably discouraged everyone else around him. Their thing never saw the light of day, as I recall.
Whatever happened to that kid, anyway?
And why should these people listen? They have what they consider success. I'm a "low traffic blog." If I'm so clever I should be doing it, not talking about it, right? (Right.)
But the plain fact is, most of today's top blogs are using the wrong business model.
Their model is a media model. I tell you, you listen, and maybe I advertise to you on the side. This is what newspapers do, what magazines do, what radio does, what TV does.
But is the Internet a newspaper? Is it radio or a magazine or TV? No, it is not. The IN in the word Internet is short for Intimate. So why then should a business model imported from one of these other industries be appropriate? Only because, like TV entrepreneurs in the late 1940s, you can't think of a more appropriate one. You don't have the right vocabulary. You weren't born to this medium.
What would work better?
The community business model would work better. This is driven, not so much by what bloggers want to say as what their readers want to say. There are many high-traffic sites now using the community model -- Slashdot, Plastic, Groklaw, DailyKos. What they have in common is true community software -- Scoop, Slash, even Drupal.
The problem (and this is the nut of the issue) is that most of these community sites have deliberately shied away from having a business model. The only site I mentioned above that has a true business model is Slashdot, and Slashdot is so unusual people with an editorial background can't get their arms around what that business model is.
This week I continued the discussion, asking why so many responded to that piece denying they had any such thing as A Clue, let alone A-Clue.Com.
There was an interesting reaction to my piece last week, denial.
Many of the leaders in the blogging business read it, and all of them denied its inherent truth, namely that they had A Clue.
I'm not a business, insisted Jason Calacanis. Never mind that he has 65 blogs, a uniform look-and-feel, that his writers don't even get their pictures on their blogs and, when they leave, they leave with nothing. No, it's all about passion, he insists. We do this for love, he says. Business? We're not building one of those.
So it went.
I'm not a success, insisted Rafat Ali of Paidcontent. I'm not powerful, insisted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. I'm a dilletante, said Glenn Reynolds. I'm only here for the beer, said Dave Winer. I'm no one at all, said Pamela Jones of Groklaw.
Newsweek didn't kill anyone. Anyone who claims different is selling something.
Newsweek reported old news. The reporter, Michael Isikoff, had good sources in the Administration. He did all the right things. He had what he considered to be a reliable source. It was even buried deep in the back of the magazine.
The fact that people rioted, and people died, after the story came out is not the fault of Newsweek. It's the fault of whoever stuffed a Quran down the toilet. It's the fault of those who committed torture in our name, those who turned a blind eye to it, and ultimately those at the top. In the end I'm guessing that for every potential life saved by anything given under torture, at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, wherever, we created 100 terrorists, maybe more.
So let's get the story straight.
My saintly wife will tell you how I do sometimes rant-and-rail, about this-or-that, how I promise to pull up stakes and move to, say, South Africa. But I never do. Because at the end of the day, I believe, we'll muddle through. Americans have seen worse and gotten by, I tell myself. The system is resilient. This too shall pass.
Not necessarily. I have spent the last few weeks reading Salman Rushdie's most recent masterwork, The Ground Beneath Her Feet. The Earth is constantly shaking, people are always dying, nothing is permanent in this book. Everything and everyone around the narrator is subject to sudden disaster and destruction. The survivor's job is to witness, then tell the tale.
In many ways 9-11 was a visit from Rushdie World. Rushdie himself had moved to New York by then, trading in his beloved Tottenham Hotspur for a New York Yankee cap. And the tragedy is a sub-text to the book. It can happen here. It does. It will. Think of it as evolution in action. Too many people are just no darned good. Their greed, their causes, their passions make them all like nitroglycerin. And the Earth itself is no better.
Yet Rushdie is still here. And I'm still here. And you're still here. For how long we can't know. And we all seem fairly prosperous. Those with talent, and those who are willing to change themselves, may witness more, may survive longer, and may (like Rushdie) leave a mark.
There's a reason why journalists should be paid, one that people like Fuad Kircaali ignore at their peril.
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?
You 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.
By 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.
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. OGara, 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.
B.L. Ochman (the picture is from her Whatsnextblog) has already broken this, but this week's a-clue.com newsletter features a piece on blogging business models, written following the Blognashville conference.
I spent the weekend at Blognashville, a gab-and-egofest for about 100 (mostly male, mostly middle-aged) bloggers at Belmont University in Nashville (a pricey pimple on the bottom of Vanderbilt) to fuss over Glenn Reynolds (much nicer in person than online) and to search for meaning.
The big question: how will we make money off this?
People are investing a ton of time and effort in blogging. Volunteers get burned out if they can't find money. All institutions are built on money. At Nashville we all felt we were in the gold fields and no one seemed to have made a strike.
There's a Clue there. Nearly all those 49'ers (and Alaska 98'ers) who went in with pick and shovel failed. It was those who went in with a business model, professional mining companies or merchants such as Levi Strauss, who succeeded.
Some 99% of blogs (including mine) go about the publishing question backwards. That is, we look at the process from the writer's point of view, not the reader's. This is forgivable in that bloggers are writers, but this is one of the key differences between writers and publishers. Publishers create for the market.
That is, publishers define the readers they want, the content those readers need, and the advertisers they will hit-up to pay the bills. They then order the production of the product, and keep an eye out to make sure it meets the readers' requirements.
In other words, the difference between blogging and journalism lies entirely on the business side of the shop. Publishers are just as likely to pay for lies as bloggers are to make stuff up. The difference is the publishers create lies that appeal to their audiences, while bloggers write lies that appeal to themselves.
This is easy to understand when you look at the professional blogs that are run by publishers - Weblogsinc, Gawker Media, and Paid Content. Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton and Rafat Ali defined the readers they wanted, created a business model, then hired writers to fulfill the mission.
In contrast I found, at blognashville, that even the most-popular bloggers are mere dilletantes. This is a term Glenn Reynolds applied to himself. Dave Winer, with whom I spent pleasant hours, is also doing his blog on-the-side - his business is RSS. I was surprised to find myself the most knowledgeable businessperson in the room, and I'm a complete failure.
When you're led by amateurs you can't expect professional standards to be upheld. Yet, on the editorial side, blogs often do just that. It's on the business side where they all fall down.
Still, I saw several potential business models at the conference:
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?
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.
The feud between Maureen O'Gara of Linux Business Week (left) and Pamela Jones of Groklaw has ended with O'Gara's professional destruction.
Days after SCO CEO Darl McBride claimed "Jones is not who she claims she is," O'Gara weighed in with a long, highly-researched piece filled with intimate personal details of Jones' life. It did not, however, substantiate McBride's charge. Pamela Jones is precisely who she claims to be, a paralegal turned journalist, a meticulous researcher, and an ethical human being. (No link to the story -- the reason will soon become clear.)
Jones responded with a Groklaw post accusing O'Gara of stalking her and trying to intimidate her into silence. Jones' supporters in the open source community responded to that with a letter-writing campaign and, one editor claimed, a denial-of-service attack against the company that posted O'Gara's work, Sys-Con Media.
First off, you all should know that the entire Sys-Con set of sites has been under multiple Denial of Service Attacks since the beginning of the week, basically making the place unusuable. So if the editorial staff (and especially Sys-Con management) seems a little distracted, there's a good reason.
There's been a bit more clarification on exactly what the future will look like here. From this day forward, there will be no more new material published by Maureen O'Gara. All links from the LinuxWorld site to Maureen O'Gara's work have been eliminated. All of Maureen's SCO coverage has been removed (in fact, except to the degree that we as the editorial staff choose to cover it, all SCO coverage period has been removed.)
So you'll continue to see the MoG byline showing up, especially on Linux Business Week, for a while. It will slowly dillute out as no new material is added, until it disappears entirely. This should make those of you who objected to her deletion en masse happy.
As far as apologies go, there's only so much that can be done from this end. The editorial staff of the magazine is certainly sorry that it happened, but we're not sorry for any action on our part. Other parties (most notably Ms O'Gara, who has a lot of 'splaining to do) must search their own souls and make their own decisions in this matter. I would say this though: actions speak louder than words.
Not only did they sever ties with O'Gara, they tried to erase all her stories. (That doesn't work kids. Take my word for it.)
Many think the secret of Fox' dominance of news is political. A generation brought up on the myth that an objective press is biased to the left, then given a right-wing Pravda, sees the latter as "fair and balanced."
That's a small part of the story. Identifying a niche and serving it is as old as the magazine business. Older. It's as old as Poor Richard's Almanack.
The real secret is much simpler. The "network" is actually a studio. Few bureaus, no big investigation team, no bench, little support. Who needs writers when most hosts can wing it. It's talking heads. It's radio economics.
No, it's blog economics, or Blogonomics.
With 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.
As of 9 AM Eastern on May 11, most of the U.S. media seemed to be ignoring a very important medical story from the Netherlands.
Only UPI, according to Google News, had written it up.
The story is that some very common drugs have been implicated in sudden death from heart attack. The study was done at the Erasmus Medical College and published in Europe's leading journal on cardiology. A press release on behalf of the journal was released in Washington.
The drugs examined were:
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.
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:
There is click fraud, and the higher the value attached to a click the more likely it is. There are both human and automated click fraud programs out there.
But the sky is not falling. Click fraud is not destroying Internet advertising. In fact, business is booming. CP/M (as in cost-per-thousand) programs are making a comeback. Sponsorships are on the rise.
Besides, Eroshenko's hands aren't clean. He writes as an executive with ClickLab, a company in the business of solutions for click fraud. In other words, he's selling something.
This sort of thing happens all the time. The mobile phone virus scare is driven, in part, by people who want to sell you mobile phone anti-virus software.
What has changed?
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.
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:
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.
Market research companies specialize in the third kind of lie, namely statistics. While these companies were originally created to help clients deal coherently with the market, that's no longer the sole source of income.
The process of market research has been corrupted by paid research done on behalf of:
Yes, the categories do overlap. More, and what to do about all this, after the break.
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.
And that is not all, oh no, that is not all...
Personally I dont think this is necessarily the case. Newspaper companies will be able to use computers and on-demand pagination to mass produce paper products that are relevant to future audiences. Just as radio and TV only forced the industry to change, not disappear, so it will be in this case.
But lets assume Murdoch is right. How can incumbent newspaper companies achieve anything on the new medium? His speech read like someone anxious to learn. I'll take him at his word.
Following are some ideas.
There 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.
What brought these thoughts to a head?
China puts more people to death each year than any country in the world. (Yes, even more than Texas.) China is a brutal dictatorship that oppresses its people as no other country, the most Totalitarian regime on Earth. My mentioning this may get Corante blocked to all of China, by the state's firewall system, the most extensive Internet censorship regime on the planet.
By contrast, Emperor Hirohito and the brutal system he led are dead. Japan acknowledged its sins in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco and has since been a functioning democracy where politicians must accomodate the views of voters. Japan's Constitution forbids it to make war on its neighbors. Japan contributes more to good causes than any other national governnment.
This is power politics. China is pushing Japan out of the world power picture, letting Taiwan know that resistance is futile, and successfully challenging America's status as a Great Power. Just 12 years ago we were The Hyperpower. Now we're becoming second rate, losing our status to tyrants.
The reaction in the U.S. to all this has been silence. Deafening silence.
Few U.S. outlets have covered the story. The right-wing Cybercast "News" Service actually offered a balanced perspective. The New York Times offers only a fearful editorial on possible Chinese revaluation of the Yuan -- at another time this would be called appeasement.
The reason for this silence is not subject to dispute.
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.
I'm going to divide this into lessons to bloggers (including myself) and lessons applicable to site managers or editors. And there's a special section at the end just for you.
Let the scourging begin!
The lessons for editors are especially important, because it's a new job. Editing is what turns blogs into journalism, and a lot can be done after the fact.
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...
The following will seem to contradict the item below it.
The secret to success in every field is found in the skills of the journalist.
Whatever you wish to be -- a scientist, an artist, an entrepreneur, a preacher, an economist, a politician -- you will go further if you have a journalist's basic tool set.
Research thoroughly. Ask good questions. Listen carefully. Write clearly. Explain simply.
These are the skills of journalism. You can pick them up in a few college courses. Some are even taught in journalism schools. Most are learned in the School of Hard Knocks.
The rest of what passes for journalism education is bunk. So learn rhetoric, learn public speaking, learn writing, read as widely as you can. That's what newspapers and TV stations are looking for. They know they can teach the rest of the skill set on-the-fly. Most journalists never went to j-school.
How do I know this is true?
Want a career in the exciting, fast-paced world of 21st century journalism?
Don't go to journalism school. You can learn to write anywhere. The way to write better is to practice. If you love writing you can pick up the rest on-the-fly.
Instead, go to business school. Why? Because the only way you're going to have a good career in this business is to have the skills of a publisher. And those are the skills taught in business school.
In my first lecture at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, in 1977, we were told firmly that if you wanted to make a good living there was a fine businesss school on campus, the Kellogg School, and we should go there. So I've got their logo at the top of this item. I should have taken the advice.
More on why you should go to business school to learn journalism after the break.
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.
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.
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.
One problem journalists have with blogging is it does away with gatekeepers.
Printers are gatekeepers. They cost money and make you think before you publish.
Editors are gatekeepers. That's their job. They assign stories and edit them carefully so you don't mispel words.
Publishers are also gatekeepers. Traditionally their role has been to shield the poor, innocent journalist from the nasty world of business.
Mark Glaser of OJR examined this today without reaching any conclusions (as good journalists are taught to do). (The recent picture of Nick Denton is from the OJR story.)
Glaser interviewed three people whose blogging companies seem to be bringing in bucks -- Denton (of Gawker, Wonkette, etc.), Jason Calacanis (of Weblogsinc) , and Rafat Ali (of Paid Content) -- about how they pay people who work for them.
By the month, said Calacanis. By the story, said Ali. By the reader, said Denton.
Shock! Shock and dismay, responded the folks at Slate and Salon, representing the traditional industry.
To which I respond, huh?
I'm a big James Surowiecki fan. (Not a Truly Handsome Man yet, like I am, but don't you think his barber is starting to get creative?)
When I got into journalism, nearly three decades ago, I harbored a secret dream of writing for The New Yorker. I never got a sniff. But I harbor no grudges because Surowiecki did. And he's run with it.
The headline his editors give the piece is "In Yuan We Trust." His point is that our debts to Japan and China are so massive neither can afford to end their support for us. Thus the air will go out of our financial balloon slowly. We won't know the dollar's a peso until it's reached par. He concludes, "So be afraid. Just dont be very afraid."
That's the part I take issue with.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
Here's an interesting juxtaposition of headlines. (The lovely idiot is from UC Berkeley.)
Hitachi Eyes 1 Terabyte Drives, writes MacWorld, noting new technology the Japanese company says lets it put 4.5 Gigabytes of data on a single centimeter of hard drive.
I'm like, don't the first people read the second paper?
Moore's Law of Storage is rocketing along right now even faster than Moore's other "laws" (as described in The Blankenhorn Effect). Magnetic storage is eliminating the cost of physically maintaining content, any content, with profound implications for everyone.
Eric Rice (left), responding to Dana's Law of Content, asked a real good question yesterday:
And who will be the ultimate judge of what is and is not good and compelling?
The short answer is you would. Not you, Eric. You. The person reading this. And you. And you.
The biggest problem blogging faces right now is it's hard to find the good stuff. Oh, much of the good stuff does get found. And, of course, what constitutes good stuff is all in the eye of the beholder.
What do we do about this?
When 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?
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.
It's one of the great laws of politics. As soon as people decide you have power, and you can be moved, everyone and his auntie is going to try and move you.
I hinted that something might be happening more than a month ago, but it was probably the controversy over Google News that tipped it over.
With Google News, from the very beginning, Google did something it claimed it wasnt doing. That is, it exercised editorial judgement. As SearchEngine Journal noted, While an algorithm based on publishing popularity chooses which articles are found under which keyword phrases, the news-authority sources themselves are supposed to be pre-screened by a human. And some immediately started writing programs to see what those humans might be doing.
But just as I was objecting, wanting to get in, others were objecting wanting to stay out. Agence France-Presse has won an agreement from Google that News wont even spider stories sent to its affiliates, while Jeff Jarvis is crowing that Google News no longer spiders hate sites.
And now the atmosphere of controversy has spilled into the main site. French law demands that ads for competitors not be placed against trademarks. Google complies, on its French site, but continues to employ them on its U.S. site, where the standard is different. So the French sue.
At the heart of the First Amendment is the idea that you don't need a license to do journalism. (Take a close look at the Wikipedia picture -- there will be a test later.)
Now, in the name of fighting competition from a new technology, some journalists are calling for just such a license.
The bleating is seen best in today's column by David Shaw of the LA Times. Shaw feels that privileges his industry worked hard to create will be threatened if bloggers can avail themselves of the same protections.
I hope I'm getting the best of his argument in the following quote:
This weekend Slate offers a feature of Philip Anschutz, a conservative businessman (and big soccer fan) who has launched printed papers under the name the Examiner in Washington and San Francisco.
Jack Shafer syggests Anschutz needs to invest more in editorial and consider the Web in order to be taken seriously.
Correct and double correct.
I wrote about this several weeks ago, and what follows is that original copy. You can get it free
I have a love-hate relationship with newspapers. (This newsboy is advertising news of the Titanic's sinking.)
The business has been at the heart of my "profession" for a century. The whole idea of a journalist as a professional is also a product of this business. I took my graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism. Joseph Medill was the old reprobate who built the Chicago Tribune empire.
But as I've said many times here this whole idea of a "journalism profession" is a fraud. Professionals can make it on their own. Journalists can't. If you don't have a job you are not part of the fraternity. Even if you build a journalism company based on your vision of what the profession should be, you are always nothing more than a businessman.
The New York Times recently quoted a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."
Here in one sentence we have the utter cluelessness of the industry. Here is an opportunity waiting for someone to exploit it.
Companies large and small are hiring bloggers, full or part time, are launching their own staff-written blogs, or are seeking to have bloggers publish on company-owned sites.
The weapons they wield are money (I'm up for that), the machinery of publicity, and credibility.
Much of that credibility, however, is being defined by search engines, especially Google, which refuses to spider blog entries on equal terms with media-fed blogs.
If you want to find this entry, for instance, you must look in the main search engine. Specialized blog search engines get a fraction of a regular search engine's traffic, and are based on RSS, meaning they're self-organized rather than spidered.
The result is that the independent blogger today has the same problems finding an audience as an independent Web site would have had in, say, 1998.
In calling bloggers "the new Stasi," Tina Brown painted with a broad brush.
But there are Stasi attitudes, in America and elsewhere. (The picture, by the way, is the logo of the real Stasi, the East German secret police who recruited neighbor to terrorize neighbor for 40 years, until the fall of the Berlin Wall. From EyeSpyMag.)
The problem with the world doesn't lie just in its tyrants. It lies in those with a tyrannical attitude. It lies in intolerance, which is the right of every man and woman, but which is antithetical to any notion of real democracy.
I received a full dose of this attitude today.
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.
While AFP stories are not directly linked to Google News as of March 21, affiliates' publishing of those stories are.
As 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.
Agence 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:
Who is to blame for the vapid nonsense of celebrity journalism?
To some extent, you are.
Partly as a result our most popular blogs are the cattiest, the most like the worst of the Main Stream Media attitude I criticized.
Is this an attack on Jeff Jarvis? (That's him on CNN.) No, it's not. He's responding to the market, to the audience, to you.
I have some pretty harsh words for the Main Stream Media (MSM) below.
There is a solution for this malaise, and it's ironic that a national audience caught it first on a comedy show.
The solution is "boots on the ground," as Tom Fenton (right) told The Daily Show's Jon Stewart this week.
Bloggers provide that. Not all blogs do. Saying "blogs" or "bloggers" as though they were a unitary whole is as misleading as saying "Internets" or "Web sites."
But we've seen bloggers capture many stories, and even beats, by doing reporting that the MSM wasn't willing or able to do. I'm thinking here of Raed in Iraq and, more recently, Riverbend. (She is now much better than he is, by the way.) I'm thinking of Boingboing and Juan Cole and 100 others, people who've broken stories, created new niches, and done real journalism.
There are many, many bad blogs. There are many popular blogs that are very bad. I'm not saying the one should replace the other.
What we need are business models that will enable willing journalists (like myself) to make decent livings (not great, decent) doing what we love to do -- reporting, writing, editing, researching, listening, being careful.
MSM journalism no longer provides that. With the help of people like Hylton Joliffe, maybe blogging will, in time. I'm proud to be part of the effort.
Want some more ranting? You'll have to click for it.
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.
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.
The USC Online Journalism Review is too filled with major media types to be truly clued-in about the blogosphere. Although they try. And to the major media they really seem to "get it."
Instead, Glaser cries censorship, acts like there's nothing to be done, and downplays the very-active role other Indian bloggers are taking in publicizing what has happened and working around the problem.
Look, there he is on the cover of People. ROKR-Roker, get it? Since much of Roker the host has in fact disappeared recently, thanks to surgery that made his stomach the size of a chicken egg, the irony is even richer. There are laughs a-plenty. Tears are literally rolling down some journalists' faces. (Not.)
Anyway, the real story here is much more important and much, much nastier.
There is a move afoot among the world's mobile (or cellular) carriers to keep absolute control over all the money to be made with cellular (or mobile) broadband. It's not just the users they seek to control, and not just the phones.
If you download a bit, even megabits, the mobile (cellular) carriers figure they should look at what you're accessing, decide whether you should get it at all, and take a cut of the revenue as well. (A pre-operation Roker-sized cut.)
This is not Internet service they're offering. These are private networks.
Folks who should know better, like Steve Gilliard, are gleefully piling on a story from New York about an IBM executive who was fired because his Reserve commitment rendered him worthless to the company after September 11.
The story, by columnis Denis Hamill (left) is a righteous bust. IBM is going to lose the suit. IBM deserves to lose the suit. And the only reason I get to write about this at all is because IBM is a tech company.
But the issue goes deeper than any one employer.
Reporting on the judge's decision in the Apple lawsuit against three Web sites has been about as bad as it gets. (Celebrate the stupidity with this lovely vase of a wormy apple, from the Seekers Glass Gallery.)
Let me tackle, as an example, the outlet with the best reputation, the BBC. Apple makes blogs reveal sources is the headline.
While the company won the initial court ruling, the fight is far from won. And the decision wasn't germane to bloggers, as the actual story made clear. "Judge Kleinberg said the question of whether the bloggers were journalists or not did not apply because laws governing the right to keep trade secrets confidential covered journalists, too."
Trade secrecy, in other words, gets more protection than national security.
More after the break.
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:
The folks at ZDNet (of all places) are starting to hear mutterings against the concept of corporate personhood.
Companies are individuals under U.S. law. But they can't be killed or jailed as real people can. Their interests are immortal. (The illustration is from a group trying to change this.)
Corporations were made persons by the footnotes to an obscure 19th century Supreme Court decision involving the Southern Pacific Railroad. All those involved are long since dead but the railroal company's interests survive as part of the Union Pacific Corp.
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:
Bloggers not protected by Constitution, says Apple. That's the headline in EarthTimes over a story stating a judge ordered several online sites to hand over the names of their anonymous sources.
Even well-meaning blogs like BoingBoing get it wrong. In Apple case, court says bloggers' sources not protected is their headline. (I think they're copying a San Jose Mercury-News headline here.)
The first headline is a lie and the second is misleading. (But the picture, from the University of Houston in Clear Lake, is really cool, don't you think?)
Fact is, no journalists have that protection. Didn't these people read the result of the Judith Miller case?
No journalist has the right to protect anonymous sources. But all journalists have a responsibility to protect them.
Those who protect such sources, who are willing to go to jail for them after they promise to protect sources, and who do in fact go to jail under court order, without revealing their sources...those people are journalists. The others are not.
And I don't care how much money you make, or what your so-called employer says you are. If you're not willing to go to jail to protect a promise you have made to a source, you're not a journalist.
I used to like Intel chairman Craig Barrett.
Now, as he prepares for his May exit from the job he's had for seven years, I love Craig Barrett. (Image from ComputerWorld's Heroes page.)
I wish I had been able to say this:
"I believe in the Hippocratic Oath for government: first do no harm. That means sorting out spectrum allocation, fostering R&D and creating an environment to let business function," he said.
"[WiMax] is the solution to the 'last mile' broadband issue. It will get us out of the half-assed broadband situation we're in today. 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps is not broadband; 50 Mbps is."
Tell it, brother Barrett. Amen. More on what this means after the jump.
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.
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.
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.
Back when e-commerce was new, some Girl Scout troops decided to get a jump on their neighbors by offering their wares online.
The national organization successfully snuffed out this form of e-commerce. Check out Google on any keyword relating to the cookies (which go on sale soon in your neighborhood and mine) and you won't find any outlets.
The Girl Scouts got away with this restraint of trade because, frankly, it wasn't fair for the non-savvy girls to see money flowing only to those whose parents knew the online ropes. Money raised from sales is shared, after all, between the national organization, the local troop, and its community organization.
What does this have to do with kidneys? Plenty.
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.
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:
In fact, it doesn't even effectively ask them.
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:
There's nothing journalists like better than a good old fashioned catfight. (The animated gif catfight is from Supah.Com. I guess you can send it to friends as a postcard.)
And in tech journalism today it doesn't get any better than Pamela Jones vs. Maureen O'Gara.
Jones edits Groklaw, the free community blog which has covered the open source revolution's legal defense so expertly. Her stuff is so good that SCO talked about putting together a rival site, called Prosco.Net, last year. (As of this writing that site is still empty.) Jones is so ethical she actually quit a really good job to stay on the beat, writing "money is nice, but integrity is everything." (I think I'm in love.)
O'Gara edits the $195/year LinuxGram newsletter. She writes fast, tight, "insider-type" stuff, with tabloid headlines like "Ray Noorda's Competence in Question." She learned her trade at CMP, and calls her company G2 Computer Intelligence.
Conflict was natural because of their differing styles. Jones is careful and shy to the point of near-invisibility. She writes like a lawyer. O'Gara is brassy and bold and uses the rest of the press as her PR machine. She writes like a journalist.
What got the feud rolling was a stunt O'Gara pulled before the court in the case of SCO vs. IBM. She filed her own motion to unseal the records, then did a story on her heroic act.
Newspaper companies do this all the time. They fight to unseal records of criminal trials or government decisions, writing a series of stories on the filings and the reaction. But Jones didn't like O'Gara's headline, nor the attitude in her story which was (to say the least) self-congratulatory.
No hostility there. Maybe a little around the edges, oozing out? Leapin' Lizards, Batman, the heroine action figure who apparently wishes to Take the Open Source Movement Down singlehandedly is none other than Maureen O'Gara, who is asking the Utah court to unseal all the sealed records:
For decades employed journalists have considered themselves a class apart. Charged by their employers with deciding what was relevant, they took fame and turned it to infamy, often violating confidences, and said they were just doing their jobs.
They ignored the concentration of power in their own business -- a journalist is someone who works for someone (who buys ink by the barrel, spectrum by the megahertz, bandwidth by the terabyte) -- and expected a legal shield to protect them and no one else.
Well, uh-uh. No more. And Thank God.
Perhaps the most vital asset to any technology company today is its reputation.
It's not money. It's not assets. It's certainly not patents.
It's what people think of you, your reputation.
Paul Robichaux recently wrote that he thinks Google is pulling a fast one, with a Toolbar feature called AutoLink that turns unlinked items on a page into linked ones, automatically.
When Microsoft tried extending its Smart Tags feature, which sounded awfully similar, into Internet Explorer, Robichaux wrote in Exchange Security, "the furor was incredible. Walt Mossberg, Dave Winer, Dan Gillmor, and a host of other influencers immediately started screaming that Microsoft was taking control over web content and generally acting like an 800-lb gorilla. The EFF even opined that the MS smart tag implementation might be illegal."
He's right. But does it matter?
Microsoft has used its power for a decade to extend its monopoly across desktop applications and into the Internet itself. As a result it has a very poor reputation.
Google, on the other hand, has offered optional services, in software, on top of its search service. It has a stellar reputation.
There is much commentary emerging from a court ruling stating that reporters (like the one at right) must testify to a grand jury or go to jail.
Editor & Publisher wants a federal shield law. I have been a journalist for 25 years, and had the kant of a "journalist's privilege" drilled into me from the start. A shield law would be a good thing, but only if it protected all reporters, not just those few with jobs at major corporations.
But do you know what the reporter's privilege really is?
You have the right to go to jail. You also have the right to be killed in the line of duty, as dozens were in Iraq, some by U.S. soldiers. You have the right to be tortured in many countries around the world, and to rot in jail hoping someone can get you out.
These are your rights. No, these are your responsibilities as a journalist. You have the right to fight for the right to do your job. This is why journalists, the ones willing to accept these rights and responsibilities, are among the most important people on Earth. We know why the caged bird sings, because often it's us.
So if I quote you anonymously, and I promise you anonymity in exchange for your statements, I will protect that. I will risk jail for you, I will risk torture for you, I will risk death for you. If I decide your statements are that vital, and your anonymity that valuable, that's what I will do for you as a journalist. That's my job.
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.
I've seen a lot of stories lately about people blogging themselves out of jobs.
It makes me laugh.
The digirati are in a fury today over claims by an outfit called i-mature which claims to have solved the problem of age verification with a $25 device that checks a finger's bone density to determine just how old you are.
The image, by the way, is from Vanderbilt University, which has no affiliation with either Corante, i-Mature, or this blog. It describes x-rays of a finger taken at different power settings. Go Commodores.
RSA announced "a joint research collaboration" with the company. But there is skepticism over exactly how precisely a bone scan can measure age, and the more people investigate, the more questions they raise.
Think of it as a LAN on a chip. Not just the network itself, but the computers on the network and, to some extent, the people behind the computers as well. (The illustration is from the first section of Blatchford's report.)
Software programs on the chip, called apulets, portion work out among the computing sections, then recompile the results, the way an editor does at a newspaper desk. (Only without the coffee and the yelling and the pressure or the beer after work for a job well done.)
The result is true multi-tasking. As good as some teenagers, who will listen to music, watch TV, and gab on the phone while allegedly doing their homework, and still get As. (You know who you are.)
The best thing, though, is that this thing scales. You have 8 cells on the chip now. You can have more.
I'm no electrical engineer. I just went to school with some fine ones and picked up some of the lingo by osmosis. But it does seem to me that the "dual core" ideas Intel has committed to are merely extended here, in a way very consistent with Moore's Law.
The key point Moore missed (because it wasn't relevant to the paper, hadn't been discovered, and don't you dare criticize Mr. Moore for this) is that the exponential improvements he saw in silicon fabrication apply elsewhere. As I've written many times here, they apply to fiber, they apply to storage, to optical storage, to radios.
And now, for the first time, they may apply to chip design.
A few more points:
Ever since the Web was spun I've been looking for a better way to track the news.
I have created some in my time. I launched the Interactive Age Daily for CMP. I created the A-Clue.Com weekly newsletter.I like to think this blog helps.
But the raw material I use has changed constantly. Maybe that's a good thing, because some of my value as a journalist lies in my ability to dig through this raw material and give you the good stuff.
Now that Star Trek is officially dead (no new shows or movies, even in production) the time has come for a new idea.
It's an anthology series, built around various scientific "principles" that define the Star Trek franchise.
Think of it as Science made into Drama.
Yes, it's an excuse to make science exciting. (Just think of the educational spin-offs we can produce!) And the production costs are low enough to put this on the SciFi channel (where Enterprise should have been all along). Or might I suggest a pitch to Discovery Networks, which has got proven talent in making science fun with shows like Mythbusters?
For host, might I recommend Stephen Hawking? Playing the role Alistair Cooke made famous, he opens each show by describing the science (and the Star Trek technology) on which the show will be based. (I might recommend getting several scientists for this role, perhaps one for each specialty. But Hawking is a name. He'll do great for starters.) Or, with confidence this show will last for decades, Lance Armstrong, who's already under contract to Discovery, who knows how to read a cue card, and who owes his life to science?
More after the break.
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.
I have written a bit on RSS here, often wrongly. (The illustration is from the blog of Andrew Grumet, who brings the complexity of video feeds to the process.)
I have bemoaned the delivery of ads via RSS, both as content and within feeds, as "RSS spam."
My complaints were misdirected, as I learned. The problem was not in the feeds, but in the reader. After I patiently explained my problem to my newsreader maker, I was told "we'll work on it."
And what is my problem?
My problem is I want all the real news and commentary on the field I cover, and that's all I want. You don't get that with a simple keyword field.
As always in technology, problems are usually opportunities turned on their head. New start-ups are emerging that hope to use RSS as a true intelligence gathering service, instead of as a garbage in-garbage out collector.
What they say is what I've said, that separating wheat from chaff is very difficult. They are going about that in different ways. Rojo is doing it privately, just letting a few people in, while Bloglines is doing is publicly, creating a versoin of Google's PageRank algorithm.
Corante is interested in this as well.
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.
I agree with President Bush on something.
Lawyers represent a major threat to our economy.
But I'm not worried about defense lawyers, or plaintiff's lawyers. I'm worried about the newer scourge of so-called "intellectual property" lawyers.
You won't find the phrase "intellectual property" in the Constitution. (It's often credited mainly to James Madison, left.) There, patents and copyrights are covered by a subsection of Article I, Section 8, whcih gives to the Congress power "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."
For limited times. To promote progress.
Because economic power has shifted, in our time, from our hands to our heads, and because technology is now able to move the product of our minds around the world at the speed of thought, American lawyers have done just what their British counterparts did two centuries ago. They've tried to make our economic leadership permanent through the language of law.
It's not capitalism. Capitalism does not by itself guarantee competition. (Image from Clint Sprott at the University of Wisconsin. Go Badgers.)
That is does is the biggest lie told by political conservatives.
Capitalism, in fact, evolves toward monopoly, or to its cousins duopoly and oligopoly, just as ecosystems evolve toward a "climax" state that can only be re-set by catastrophe.
The only mechanism we have to protect competition against this natural tendency is government.
Only a government strong enough to stand up against the biggest enterprises can guarantee competition.
This is difficult to assure.
It's difficult to assure because money corrupts, and corporations -- not government -- are the source of money. It's your money, and unfortunately corporations are considered as people under U.S. law -- immortal people who can't be jailed.
Assuming SBC does swallow AT&T (no doubt for less than BellSouth was offering earlier) would provide important lessons. (The image is from FreeBSD developer Greg Lehey, and was originally produced in 2002.)
First and foremost, it would be the murder of a great company by the government. It was government that broke up AT&T in the 1980s, and it was government that made AT&T non-competitive in our time.
Second, of course, it means that business tributes to the U.S. government are even more important than previously imagined. If the government can murder the nation's largest company (albeit over time and in chunks) it means no company is safe from a rapacious government, regardless of party. (Is is coincidence that AT&T was forced to divest during the Reagan Administration, and killed under Bush II? Check the campaign contribution files for the answer to that one.)
But wait, there are more lessons.
The Elliott Wave people ask, "Is the Greater Fool Era Ending?"
Here is proof. Strategy Analytics has recently published another of those truly loony market studies, this one claiming that mobile phone operators will lose $12 billion from broadband wireless over the next several years.
It's nonsense because its premise is false, namely that those profits are out there to lose.
Yes, it's possible that if WiFi and WiMax didn't exist that all broadband revenues would go to cellular. It's also true that if freeways didn't exist all inter-city traffic would be by railroad. But that does not mean I impute a loss of billions to the railroads.
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.
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.
I wrote this for the GreaterDemocracyblog, but I'm also posting it here, because I can.
The software you have on your PC determines what you can do with it. The software a campaign or political movement uses reflects what it can do.
The biggest mistake Howard Dean made in his 2004 campaign wasnt his attacks on Gephardt, and it wasnt the scream. It was his softwares failure to scale the intimacy, to give the 1 millionth, or 10 millionth, campaign participant the same features, and the same sense of belonging, given the 10th and 100th.
Throughout the campaign, and even to this day, Dean and his Democracy for America have relied on Movable Type as their interface with supporters. MT is a good product, but its interactivity is limited. You enter an item on the blog, and comments flow from it in a straight line.
The 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.
I have been singing the good news about Moore's Law for many years now. It spurs productivity, it spreads knowledge, it increases the rate of change across the board, etc. etc.
But there is a dark side to all this that most who write on technology don't talk about. (The image is from Youngstown State University in Ohio.)
That's what I call Moore's Inverse Law of Labor.
Simply put, Moore's Law makes large productivity gains absolutely necessary. To compete in a Moore's Law world, you have to continually replace people with technology, and move folks' time into more productive tasks, or they fall behind.
This is true for individuals, for business, for government, for nations. It has very profound implications for all of us.
Let's think about some of them:
Does your cell phone help you pick up attractive women? (Or men?)
Well, it might if you subscribed to Dodgeball, a social service for mobiles whose founders, Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert, talked to our own Russell Shaw (right) recently.
The idea is that you and your friends subscribe to Dodgeball, then text your location to one another at night, so you can get together. (And if they have friends with them, and those friends are attractive, voila!)
Absolut Vodka sponsored a "nightlife channel" on the service last year, like a traditional media buy, so Dodgeball members could associate the brand as a "friend." (Beats having an AA sponsor, I guess.) Now they're looking to make more money from things like Premium SMS and applications.
Some journalists are bloggers, but not all bloggers are journalists.
A blogger is a journalist if they act like a journalist. When anyone researches a story and broadcasts the results on a blog they are a journalist.
When a blogger doesn't identify their role, you should treat them as a journalist until they indicate otherwise. Don't tell them something you don't expect to see published. Give them all the information you would any other journalist.
Journalism, in other words, is a process. It's not defined by a paycheck. It's defined by what you do. UPDATE: A new Gallup poll shows that only 5% rate journalists "very high" in honesty. Would bloggers do worse?
All this is prelude to reporting a contretemps Slate reported about The Wall Street Journal. Apparently when Dean campaign chairman Joe Trippi and aide Zephyr Teachout first approached bloggers MyDD and DailyKos in 2003 it "was explicitly to buy their airtime" in the words of Ms. Teachout (right and above, the one without the hat).
The bloggers weren't told this. Markos Moulitas (Kos) and Jerome Armstrong (MyDD) thought they were being treated as consultants, and consulted. Neither wrote anything on their blogs to disqualify the work as journalism.
Click below to see the rest of the story.
The Bee Watcher-Watcher watched the Bee Watcher.
He didnt 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 whos watching that bee.
Youre not a Hawtch-Watcher. Youre 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.
That's what I would do in his shoes.
If you haven't heard, Apple Computer Corp. gave DePlume's little site the best diploma a journalist could get the other day -- a lawsuit. Rival journalists put up a headline that Apple was "running out of patience with rumour mill web sites."
But if these are just rumors, if there is no truth to them, why the legal paper? Hmmmm? Who needs to file papers to squelch lies? (And we'll know the truth one way or another in a week or two anyway.)
So what's Apple up to? According to ThinkSecret:
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).
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.
Dave Farber's list has gotten a letter, through the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, from the science fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke, who assures everyone he is very much alive on Sri Lanka, which was hit very hard by the recent tsunami.
Clarke's note to Andrea Szalanski was in response to a private communication, but given its wide distribution, and the important information it has about how you can help in the wake of its tragedy, I'm re-printing it in its entirety:
A recent New York Times feature, re-printed at C|Net, creates a phony controversy over new e-commerce sites.
The idea is that some companies are using entertaining Web sites, at URLs not affiliated with their companies, to sell products with humor and games. The clear implication of the article is there is something misleading or nefarious about all this.
The article cites sites from Burger King, BestBuy, Alaska Air, and a joint Microsoft-Intel shop. Only the Alaska Air site is at all misleading -- everyone else has their sponsor posted clearly on the front page (although the BestBuy logo is small and inconspicuous). And the Alaska Air site follows up on a TV campaign, so even there we find no attempt to mislead.
So what's the problem?
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?
But let's be fair, and offer his entire post to Dave Farber, in full:
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.
The Digerati are about to undergo a serious news blackout.
Dave Farber (the picture is from Joi Ito's blog) will be putting up his Interesting People list for 10 days starting Friday as he travels to an undisclosed location with poor Internet access.
This is news because Farber's list has morphed, in the last few years, from a way for Farber to tell friends what he thinks into a real community, where talented people pass stories back-and-forth and comment on them.
It's truly remarkable because, in a technological sense, this should be obsolete, no news at all. Farber's is essentially a shared, moderated mailing list. When someone sends something interesting he forwards it along, and the digerati who are part of the list depend on his unerring sense of what's important (and what isn't) to keep the signal-noise ratio extremely high.
What happens when Farber goes dark isn't just that we lose a news source. We lose contact with all the other people on the list, because we don't have any other place in common.
So if this blog, or your other favorite news source, reads like it's one-eye blind next week you'll know why.
Glenn Fleishman drew a lot of admiring attention over the weekend for his experiment in frugality, trying to see just how little he could pay for the telecom service he needs. (The picture is the thumbnail from Glenn's blog.)
Basically he moved calls to his mobile phone and DSL line, using Vonage and SkypeOut. He also spent $3/month for a Cingular service called FastForward that moves all calls to his DSL when he hits the limits on his calling plan.
Glenn figures he's saving $130/month. (Your mileage may vary.) I wish I could do as well.
The two brief items below are examples of a new feature here at Corante, called Blink.
Blinks are quick hits, references to stories happening within our beats. Just a link, maybe a few words, based on something we found of interest but have yet to think about thoroughly.
I get no credit for any of this. Your encomiums should go to Hylton Jolliffe (right), our fearless leader, who has also been implementing other changes to make our blogs more "competitive" for reader interest (and advertiser dollars) as we go into 2005. It's true his forehead is too small and narrow for him to be a truly "handsome man" as I am, but we at Mooreslore are hopeful the course of time may change that.
I have been privileged to have written with Hylton for nearly two years now. He is honest, innovative, fair-minded, a good man in every way. I've chided him in the past that he should be rich as well.
Maybe (blink, blink) we can get to work on that now....
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:
We have covered the debates between "real" journalists (those with paychecks from big journalism companies) and bloggers (those without) to death.
Anyone who can write and can have an opinion can be published, can be read, can be heard. We get it.
But the advent of mass market camera phones means something else.
It means anyone can be a reporter, a "bird dog" out in the field, looking for news. (That's why I brought our Estonian friend back. Click below and we'll fire him together.)
Warren Buffett (left, from Slate) was probably the first big-time executive to really "get" blogging. That's really what his annual letter to shareholders is Read them in turn, going backward in time, and see if I'm right. It's a pre-blog blog.
Jonathan Schwartz, COO of Sun, understands this. His blog entries are longer than most, often being fairly-detailed position statements on Sun's view of issues, but his is a true blog, which aims to participate in and prod ongoing discussion.
No matter who wins the election tomorrow I know who has lost.
The media has lost.
And I know why.
One big argument against "community policing" was that cops would "go native," favoring the interests of the neighbors over those of the law, and the force.
It's also a big sign held up against journalists. No dancing with wolves.
Stewart's Clue, named after Daily Show host Jon Stewart, holds that you can get away with truth if you say you're just trying to be funny.
Most major media companies today are trying to incorporate blogging into what they do.
They are finding it exceedingly difficult.
That's because good blogging comes from passion. It's spontaneous. The best media efforts I've seen so far have lived in one of three categories:
John Naisbitt and a herd of library assistants basically looked at news stories from all over the world in order to divine underlying trends -- they extrapolated the recent past to describe the future.
He made a bundle.
The title of the piece is "Google With Judgement," a title suggested by McLean. What he does is monitor 7,000 political sources (probably everything with an RSS feed) in an attempt to catch trends before they start.
McLean is cagey on his specific methodology. He's trying to sell the process for big bucks to corporations that need to know what the market's thinking quickly enough to act on it. But it sounds like he's databased a bunch of feeds and learned to distill their meaning pretty accurately.
Don't believe surveys. Any surveys.
I'm talking about more than the Presidential Polls. I'm talking about any survey, public or private, no matter the subject, that claims statistical validity based on calling people on the telephone.
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.
I am coming to believe the American press is biased...toward stupidity. (Illustration by the marvelous Danny Filippone. Every doctor's office should have a poster of this one, don't you think?)
Here's a perfect example of bad reporting, a bylined report on a medical Web site about one-third of Americans having high blood pressure.
Read the story all the way through. Is there any definition of high blood pressure, or the correct way to measure it? No.
Fact is the American press has become so dumbed-down by low salaries and publishers' agendas that most paid reporters can't even read a press release, let alone ask a decent question based on one, or report accurately on what they read.
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:
I have been rather unkind to Robert Cringely over the years. It was nothing personal. I just had some disagreements.
The story is on the U.S. sentencing guidelines, and a study showing they wouldn't work which was performed, then buried in 1982. Had the results of this scientific study been accepted, rather than rejected for political reasons, he writes, hundreds of thousands of people might be out of prison, contributing to society, and crime might indeed be lower.
But read the piece yourself and make your own decision. As writing, I want to point to this snap ending:
The secret to turning a blog into a financial success lies in the word community.
Community is what lets a blog scale from one person spouting off into a true online service, with enough traffic to pay the bills with advertising.
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (left, from his site) revealed this today on his site, Daily Kos, but I am NOT making a political point here. The most successful conservative sites, from FreeRepublic to Lucianne.Com to Andrew Sullivan, all do the exact same things.
What do they do?
For all the hoo-ha over blogging it's important to put the "industry" into its proper perspective.
A recent item at Daily Kos, one of the more popular political Web sites, did this very neatly.
The purpose of the chart was to show Kos edging past a rival site, Instapundit. But for our purposes it's more illustrative to look at the left side of the scale, unique visitors per month.
This is just one way Big Media is facing down, co-opting, and moving to take over the new world of blogging.
The following entry was published today as part of my free weekly newsletter, a-clue.com.
I'm a journalist. I print facts. I try hard to be fair - not objective, fair. When someone is spouting nonsense, I say so. I try not to make it personal, and I try not to tell lies in the process. That's the way I was taught to do it.
That's not how journalists today are taught. Thus Ann Coulter, who writes nothing but personal attack and invective, is equated to Michael Moore, whose films, while polemical, do at least include real facts, Instead of arguing against the film's content, she calls Moore names, and somehow this is considered rational. It's like Monty Python's "Argument Clinic.".
Says the protagonist, "Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes."
To which the antagonist replies, "No it isn't."
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.)
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.
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?
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.)
The Times has an article on how pathetic Silicon Valley feels.
I can't decide which is more pathetic, the mood or the article. (The image, however, is from the Cullen sculpture garden at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts.)
First, the mood. It is like Houston was in 1984, although conditions are very different. In the oil bust, whole neighborhoods were abandoned, the keys just left in mailboxes. Anyone with a job was just waiting to lose it, and in any case their salary was falling behind their bills. Billboards that weren't empty were filled with ads for preachers. The filth, the fear, and the despair were palpable. Everyone I know who lived through that time, in that place, was scarred by it.
Silicon Valley isn't that bad. Traffic is lighter, and hangers-on have moved on.
But in some ways, the situation is much worse.
How did a comedian, Jon Stewart, suddenly become America's best journalist?
The biggest myth among journalists and politicians is that the media is powerful, that controlling the media is the key to power.
Berlusconi is Italy's prime minister. He is also its major media mogul. He controls nearly all Italy's TV, fires anchors who disagree with him, and denies the opposition access to the medium during election campaigns. Freedom House, a New-York based think-tank, has downgraded Italian media from "free" to "partly free", on a par with Turkey.
So guess what happened in Italy's latest elections?
Back when I was at CMP Media, in the mid-1990s, we had a corporate slogan. We were about "the builders, the sellers, and the users" of technology. (Illustration from Time Magazine.)
All CMP publications fit into one of those boxes. Computer Reseller News was for the sellers. EE Times was for the builders. Windows was for the users.
This caused a problem for those of us at Interactive Age, the new Internet book. We didn't fit neatly into any box. The ad sellers said we were a builder book, but personally I was writing for the users, and many of our stories were about the sellers.
Needless to say, the magazine was dead within months. We missed the whole Internet boom because the bosses couldn't figure out what box to put us in.
The TV financial news today is filled with ads for outfits that, to my way of thinking, should not be sucking financial oxygen.
There's MCI and Putnam Investments. There are Citigroup and Janus Funds. Tyco is still around (it's making money I hear). Even Enron has yet to be totally liquidated.
What happens when you or I commit a crime is we are tried and convicted. This is very hard to do when the crime is done with a pen, behind the corporate shield. The states' batting average is low. What usually happens, instead, is that the company pays a fine -- sometimes a massive fine -- but usually without admitting wrongdoing. The cover-up, in other words, winds up being sanctioned by the court.
Add to that the complete failure of corporate governance in catching these crooks before the vaults are looted, and you have what I call Dracula Inc., corporate immortality, and immortal immorality. (Somehow, Bela Lugosi will always be Dracula to me, and obviously, to the folks at Shillpages too.)
I think it's time to stick a stake through some corporate hearts.
LA Times editor John Carroll made a very important speech at the University of Oregon recently.
But since it fell against his industry's fear and the Administration's power, it made no sound.
Carroll spoke against the propaganda of Fox News and other lying liars, and for the tenets of journalism that now seem so quaint, the idea of balance, of giving both sides an equal say, and of looking for truth.
That journalism is obsolete, and Carroll mourned it.
But as I've said many times here, that journalism was short-lived. Men who saw it rise have lived to see if fall.
Many complaints have been issued over the Jack Kelley scandal at USA Today. (Image from Doingbiz.com.)
The complaint was that the scandal drew only a small portion of that which came over The New York Times when black reporter Jayson Blair was revealed to have made up sources. Blair is black, Kelley white.
That may be. But the fact is that the Times did finally dump editor Howell Raines, and added ombudsman (excuse me, public editor) Daniel Okrent to the masthead.
The fact is also that USA Today has gone much further. Not only did several top editors quit, but the new editor is Kenneth Paulsen, who formerly ran the First Amendment Center, a staunch defender of writers' rights and editors' responsibilities.