210px-Jail_Bars_Icon.svgIn one corner sit me, Don Marti, Phil Windley, Dave Winer, Eben Moglen, John Perry Barlow, Cory DoctorowAral Balkan, Adriana Lukas, Keith Hopper, Walt Whitman, William Ernest Henley, the Indie Web people, the VRM development community, authors of the Declaration of Independence, and the freedom-loving world in general. We hold as self-evident that personal agency and independence matter utterly, that free customers are more valuable than captive ones, that personal data belongs more to persons themselves than to those gathering it, that conscious signaling of intent by individuals is more valuable than the inferential kind that can only be guessed at, that spying on people when they don’t know about it or like it is wrong, and so on.

In the other corner sits the rest of the world, or what seems like it. Contented with captivity.

The last two posts here — Because Freedom Matters and On taking personalized ads personally — are part of the dialog that mostly flows under this post of mine on Facebook. They advocate freedom and argue against captivity and the surveillance state that comprises most of commercial life online.

Two sobering comments in the thread argue against all that — one by Frank Paynter and one by Karel Baloun. Frank writes,

I just don’t feel the need to see ads on Facebook. I have no personal or professional interest, and AdBlock/AdBlock+ has filtered out most for me. Oddly, since commenting on your post, I have seen 3 ads in the side bar. One was for “a small orange” and scored a direct hit! I recently read something by Chris Kovacs (Stavros the Wonder Chicken) praising the small orange hosting service so I was primed. Now, with this targeted ad coinciding with some expirations at BlueHost, GoDaddy and Dreamhost, I’m taking the plunge and consolidating accounts. Score one for Facebook targeted ads! The ads for a CreativeLive “Commercial Beauty Retouching” class and for Gartner Tableau didn’t cut it for me today, but — eh? who knows? On any given Thursday I might click through. But I really need to clean up that sidebar again. Three ads is too many.

In response to Don’s Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful, Karel writes,

I don’t understand views like the one in this semi-endorsed article. Targeted advertising is aiming at the commercial fulfillment of “intention”. These are the agents that will understand what people want.

I do understand the walled garden problem, and the monopoly risk of only one company having all of this intent information. Yet, they are required to protect privacy, and all their credibility rests on that trust.

And that’s not all.

Earlier today I heard back from an old friend who wanted me to comment on his company’s approach to programmatic marketing. I invited Don in to help, and we produced a long and thoughtful set of replies to my friend’s questions (or assumptions) about programmatic (as it’s called, the adjective serving as a noun). I’ll compress and paraphrase my friend’s reply:

  • Automated matching is here to stay. We need to work with it rather than against it.

  • Facebook cares about privacy. Mark Zuckerberg even mentioned privacy in his keynote at the F8 Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.

  • Facebook has always been cautious about intrusive advertising.

  • While many don’t like surveillance and personal targeting, most programmatic marketing is in fact non-personal — it doesn’t use without personally identifiable information (PII). This is actually good for privacy.

  • In Europe, at least, there are laws regarding personally identifiable information and all the ways it cannot be used.

So maybe we freedom-lovers have to take their points. At least for now.

The flywheels of programmatic are huge. While survey after survey says most people have some discomfort with it, those people aren’t leaving Facebook in droves. On the contrary, they continue to flock there, regardless of Facebook’s threat (or promise) to absorb more of everybody’s life online.

In Fast Company, Mark Wilson (@ctrlzee) unpacks Facebook’s 10-Year Plan to Become The Matrix. (His tweeted pointer says “Facebook’s 10-year plan to trap you in The Matrix.”) I think he’s right. After reading that, and doing his usual deep and future-oriented thinking, Dave recorded this 12-minute podcast on empathy, because we’re all going to need it. And yet I am sure Dave’s ‘cast, my posts, and others like it, will leave most people, especially those in the online advertising business, unpersuaded. Life is too cushy on the inside. Never mind that privacy is absent there.

“If the golden rule applied to online advertising, none of it would be based on surveillance,” somebody said. But the ad biz obeys the gelden rule, not the golden one. They believe robotic agents can “understand what people want” better than people can communicate it themselves. And they’re making great money at it. Hey, can’t argue with excess.

And hell, when even Frank Paynter (one of us freedom-loving types) kinda digs Facebook scoring an advertising bulls-eye on his ass, maybe the uncanny valley is just uncanny, period. Which is what Facebook wants. More surveillance, more shots, more scores. Rock on.

So let’s face it: captivity rules — until we can prove that freedom beats it.

If you want to work toward freedom, IIW is a good place to start (or, for veterans, to keep it up). Week after next. See you there.

If not, join the crowd.

[Later…] Frank has a helpful comment below, and Karel has responded with this long piece, which I’ll read ASAP after I get off the road, probably tomorrow (Monday) night, though it might be later.

Meanwhile, thanks to both guys, and to everybody on the Facebook thread, for weighing in and taking this thing deeper. Much appreciated.

Inpersonalization the pile of comments under the post on Facebook I wrote about here yesterday, Christopher Brock writes a long and thoughtful response that pretty much represents the thinking of the adtech business today. Since it’s hard to respond point-by-point in Facebook’s commenting UI, I’ll do it here:

It is not really fair to say Facebook identifies you as x,y and z.

Yes it is, because Facebook is in the business of delivering personalized ads. True, they also deliver non-personalized ads (ones targeted, say, to a demographic). But since there is no flag on an ad that says it’s one or the other, and because Facebook can get more personal, with more people, than any other advertising platform in the world, it is legit to at least suspect that their ad-placing machine thinks you are x, y or z.

What the ads reflect are the audience demographics approved by businesses willing to purchase impressions against a profile to which you fit in hopes of turning a ROI.

Or because you’re being targeted personally. For example…

Retargeting ads are based on your browsing habits, which can be telling of your historical intent based searches.

Yes, that and a lot of other data, some gleaned by surveillance, some bought from Acxiom and other brokers, all crunched in a thing that IBM calls The Big Datastillery. Here’s the graphic:

Datastillery_1500x3002bSee those beakers at the bottom? (Click on the graphic to see it in detail.) That’s you and me.

How is it possible for a company as smart as IBM to insult human beings so obviously? The short and simple answer is, because consumers aren’t human. The term “consumer” presumes that’s all we do: consume. (Jerry Michalski calls consumers “gullets with wallets and eyeballs.”) In the same way that “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” “when all you have is plumbing, every consumer looks like a beaker.”

As for all the plumbing above the beakers, does anybody outside the adtech world know the difference between programmatic (including direct and forwards), predictive, real time bidding (RTB), AB and MV testing, supply side platforms, demand side platforms, marketing and interaction optimization, and all the other valves in the piping that blurps placements of ads through Facebook, other commercial websites and mobile apps? I suppose from the plumbing side it doesn’t matter. But it does to the humans being treated like empty vessels on a conveyor belt. We don’t know what the hell is going on, but we do know that it’s big, creepy and trying to be personal in a robotic way.

By contrast, the provenance of ads in the old advertising world was obvious to everybody. (And if they needed reminding, they got it with Mad Men.) Every ad you read in a newspaper or magazine, heard on the radio, saw on TV or a billboard was placed there either directly by the advertiser or through an agency. And here the key thing: it was never personal. It was aimed at a population. Everybody knew that.

Direct marketing, better known as junk mail, was a very different animal. It was addressed to you personally, and wanted a direct response. Adtech is what we got after direct marketing body-snatched advertising. An ad you see on Facebook might be addressed to populations the old fashioned way, or it might be personal. You can’t tell the difference — unless an ad is obviously personal, in which case it risks falling into the uncanny valley where might creeped out. (Or not.) At the extreme, perfectly personalized advertising (based on knowing everything about you) is perfectly creepy.

Eith a new market we are served non-relevant ad content, however over time more businesses will move to paid digital ad marketing and the ads we see will become more contextually and intentionally relevant.

And creepy.

I know the best adtech people go out of their way to avoid the uncanny valley. There are also special cases, which also happen to be the two biggest: Facebook and Google.

Facebook is in a position to know people to a high degree of detail. The company is careful not to show that fact (and fall into the uncanny valley), but knowing how personal Facebook can get does make a difference. That’s why I said “If I were actually the person Facebook advertised to…”

Google is less privileged in that respect, but the nature of the help it provides (in search results, in guessing at locations we search for in Maps, and so on) makes their search results and ad placements less of a valley when they get uncanny.

But in general the body-snatched nature of digital advertising leaves us in the dark, nearly all the time, about what’s personal and what’s not.

There is a lot of profit potential for marketers who can accurately design marketing funnels for products/services based on demographic profiling and intentional modeling using a demand side platform like Facebook.

Is that what it is? Man, that is so damn confusing to us beakers. I was in the advertising business (the old Mad Men kind) one way or another, for much of my adult life, and for me — as well as for the rest of the world — the demand side of the marketplace is the whole human population. The supply side is the one selling goods and services to that population.

A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon with an RTB company talking about all this stuff, and my spinal cord kinked as my brain spun around, trying to grok how demand in that business is on the side that produces the ads, rather than the side that consumes them. (Which we mostly don’t, by the way. We ignore 99.x% of them. But we’re still consumers to the ad producers.) As Wikipedia currently puts it,

A demand-side platform (DSP) is a system that allows buyers of digital advertising inventory to manage multiple ad exchange and data exchange accounts through one interface. Real-time bidding for displaying online ads takes place within the ad exchanges, and by utilizing a DSP, marketers can manage their bids for the banners and the pricing for the data that they are layering on to target their audiences. Much like Paid Search, using DSPs allows users to optimize based on set Key Performance Indicators such as effective Cost per Click (eCPC), and effective Cost per Action (eCPA).

Whatever. (And saying that I speak for all people not laboring in the adtech bubble.)

Since marketing data science is relatively new as is social, local and mobile tech, not all businesses buy digital ads.

True. In fact the Internet we know today is only about 20 years old. It showed up when commercial activity could operate there (technically, when NSFnet shut down), in 1995. The cookie was invented around that time as well. (But not for tracking. It was meant originally just to help websites recall and assist prior visitors.)

The Net we made then, and still have, is Eden. We arrived naked there, and we still are. The adtech business loves that, but the rest of us don’t. That’s why privacy is a huge issue online (sources: TRUSTe, Pew, Customer Commons) and a non-issue offline.

In the physical world we’ve had clothing, shelter and other privacy technologies for many thousands of years — and manners for how we treat each others’ private spaces. In the online world, rudeness rules. A merchant who would be appalled at the thought of placing a tracking beacon on a visiting customer, just so that customer can later be “delivered” a better “advertising experience,” doesn’t think twice about doing the same online.

This will change. It’s already happening through regulation, and through ad and tracking blocking rates that steadily increase. But those are stone tools. Eventually we’ll get real clothing and shelter. When that happens, the adtech business will be in trouble, unless it changes, which I’m sure it will.

@docsearle maybe you should be a web marketer

No thanks.

you obviously have identified an area of opportunity.

The area I’ve identified is the one where customers will signal their intentions far better than any marketer can guess at the same.

If you want more and better thinking about all this, I highly recommend what Don Marti has been writing. He, Bob Hoffman and I are voices in the wilderness today. But that will change. The wilderness is already burning.

Image from Personalizing with Purpose, by Paul Dunay in imedia connection.

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After one of myaxiom reluctant visits to Facebook yesterday, I posted this there:

If I were actually the person Facebook advertised to, I would be an impotent, elderly, diabetic, hairy (or hairless) philandering cancer patient, heart attack risk, snoring victim, wannabe business person, gambling and cruise boat addict, and possible IBM Cloud customer in need of business and credit cards I already have.

Sixty-eight likes and dozens of comments followed. Most were from people I know, most of whom were well-known bloggers a decade ago, when blogging was still hot shit. Some were funny (“You’re not?”). Some offered advice (“You should like more interesting stuff”). Some explained how to get along with it (“I’ve always figured the purpose of Internet ads was to remind me what I just bought from Amazon”). One stung: “So much for The Intention Economy.”

So I replied with this:

Great to see ya’ll here. Glad you took the bait. Now for something less fun.

I was told last week by an advertising dude about a company that has increased its revenues by 49% using surveillance-based personalized advertising.The ratio of respondents was 1 in a 1000. The number of times that 1 was exposed to the same personalized ad before clicking on it was 70.

He had read, appreciated and agreed with The Intention Economy, and he told me I would hate to hear that advertising success story. He was correct. I did.

I also hate that nearly all the readers all of us ever had on our own blogs are now here. Howdy.

Relatively speaking, writing on my own blog, which averages zero comments from dozens of readers (there used to be many thousands), seems a waste. Wanna write short? Do it in Facebook or Twitter. Wanna write long? Do it in Medium. Wanna write on your own DIY publication? Knock yourself out.

And, because the bloggers among us have already done that, we’re here.

So let’s face it: the leverage of DIY is going down. Want readers, listeners or viewers? Hey, it’s a free market. Choose your captor.

I’ve been working all my adult life toward making people independent, and proving that personal independence is good for business as well as for hacking and other sources of pleasure and productivity. But I wonder whether or not most people, including all of us here, would rather operate in captivity. Hey, it’s where everybody else is. Why not?

Here’s why. It’s the good ship Axiom: http://pixar.wikia.com/Axiom . Think about it.

Earth is the Net. It’s still ours: http://cluetrain.com/newclues. See you back home.

That’s where we are now.

 

 

IIW XX, IIW_XX_logothe 20th Internet Identity Workshop, comes at a critical inflection point in the history of VRM: Vendor Relationship Management, the only business movement working toward giving you both

  1. independence from the silos and walled gardens of the world; and
  2. better means for engaging with every business in the world — your way, rather than theirs.

If you’re looking for a point of leverage on the future of customer liberation, independence and empowerment, IIW is it.

Wall Street-sized companies around the world are beginning to grok what Main Street ones have always known: customers aren’t just “targets” to be “acquired,” “managed,” “controlled” and “locked in.” In other words, Cluetrain was right when it said this, in 1999:

if you only have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get…

Now it is finally becoming clear that free customers are more valuable than captive ones: to themselves, to the companies they deal with, and to the marketplace.

But how, exactly? That’s what we’ll be working on at IIW, which runs from April 7 to 9 at the Computer History Museum, in the heart of Silicon Valley: the best venue ever created for a get-stuff-done unconference.

Focusing our work is a VRM maturity framework that gives every company, analyst and journalist a list of VRM competencies, and every VRM developer a context in which to show which of those competencies they provide, and how far along they are along the maturity path. This will start paving the paths along which individuals, tool and service providers and corporate systems (e.g. CRM) can finally begin to fit their pieces together. It will also help legitimize VRM as a category. If you have a VRM or related company, now is the time to jump in and participate in the conversation. Literally. Here are some of the VRM topics and technology categories that we’ll be talking about, and placing in context in the VRM maturity framework:

Note: Another version of this post appeared first on the ProjectVRM blog. I’m doing a rare cross-posting here because it that important.

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I just ran across a post (below) on my old blog from Tuesday, July 12, 2005: a few months less than ten years ago. It was at the tail end of what Tantek Çelik calls the Independent Web. He gives the time frame for that as roughly 2001-2005, peaking in 2003 or so. “We took it as an assumption that if you were creating, you were putting yourself on the Web, on your own site… We all assumed that it was sort of our inevitable destiny that the Web was open, the Net was open, everyone had their own identity — to the point where everyone knew each other not by our names but by our URLs, our domain names, because everyone owned their domain and had control over it.”

What happened, he adds, was silos. Twitter popularized simplicity. Then Facebook built a big new ecosystem “that has nothing to do with the open Web.” They also made lots of stuff, such as identity, highly convenient. Log in anywhere with Facebook Connect (and don’t look at what’s happening behind the curtain).

And now most of our experiences on the Web are inside and between giant silos that add up to a system Bruce Schneier calls feudal. It’s got some nice stuff in it, but it’s not ours. It’s theirs.

So, while we wait for emancipation, it’s interesting to look back on what life was like on the Web when it was still ours.

Note that what I wrote on the old blog was outlines. Every new post was a top level item, and subordinate ones came under it. Today Dave Winer gives us a similar tool with Liveblog.

Anyway, here ya go:::

+

I’ve always wanted MORE back. This looks really promising.

Virtualities

I’m at this meeting, through Phil Windley‘s laptop’s audio.

Anals of Customer Service, Part 235, 673,458,31 

John Paczkowski: The Cluetrain don’t stop in Round Rock no more. It starts with this fine fodder:

Begin by turning off all the LEDs on your keyboard. 

My keyboard doesn’t have any LEDs.

You must turn off the LEDs on your keyboard.

My keyboard doesn’t have any LEDs.

I can’t help you if you don’t turn off the LEDs.

– Excerpt from a Dell customer service call

Essentials

Mitch responds to the “connections” item below with,

I’m a little surprised that Doc’s take on the information is that people have “jumped to conclusions based on what one guy said,” since that is the very essence of blogging: A single correspondent reported something that would have otherwise been ignored. A lot of people are very interested in how Technorati might make money and, more to the point, help them make money.

It’s one thing to point to something one person said, and another to jump to conclusions based on it. To me the latter is not “the essence of blogging.” In fact, it’s what too many big-J journalists do, and what too many of those journalists also accuse bloggers of doing.

I like Mitch’s other points about Technorati’s business model(s). I think when this is over we’ll see a lot more transparency from everybody whose business lives in the blogosphere.

Jeremy Wright busts Technorati for its performance:

Technorati¹s index is slow. If it¹s taking Technorati 5-20 hours to bring a post in (if it does at all), that is 4-19 hours slower than Bloglines. It¹s inaccurate. It¹s lucky if it shows 10% of the results that PubSub, Bloglines and Blogpulse show. It¹s also a SLOW site. Response times of 1 minute aren¹t uncommon, and even then results sometimes simply aren¹t shown.

I stuck up for Technorati for quite a while (and they¹re featured prominently in the book, which I now regretŠ hopefully I won¹t by the time the book comes out). But, Technorati has had 2 years to fix it¹s problems. Doc wants us to cut them some more slack, but I¹ve just about run out of slack. There are other services that are faster, more detailed, more comprehensive and actually listen to bloggers¹ concerns instead of making excuses.

Andy Lark adds,

Good on Jeremy. Frankly, Technorati is a joke in terms of indexing speed and accuracy. I can tag posts and not see them, well, ever. The fact you get listed at all is a miracle. He is right. As a user, they have let the blogosphere down. Doc Searls has a longer post on this. Doc, it’s great you are all chums but for us mere minions it just ain’t working and what doesn’t work, doesn’t get used. Simple as that.

For what it’s worth, I have a pile of Technorati and PubSub subscriptions. And for a long time, PubSub kicked ass. (And I often let Technorati’s techies know about it.) Lately Technorati seems to be doing better. But hey, your mileage may vary. For what it’s worth, I found both Jeremy’s and Andy’s posts in a Technorati search.

That said, Technorati’s failings have done a lot to cost some users faith in the service. There are still outages and breakdowns. There are on any service that’s scaling at the same rate. How often have you seen Flickr down for a “massage”?

What matters is that they keep working on it and improving it. Looks to me like they’re doing that.

Okay, more stuff…

Stowe Boyd weighs in:

I suspect that one of the issues here is the lack of cluefulness of Technorati, however, who have seemed to surprise everyone with their intention to make money — and lots of it — from its activities and services. Here’ is a great opportunity for Dave Sifry and company to leverage what they know about blog dynamics to head off a potential big stink. Remember the “Founding Fathers” flap from the Always On/Technorati Open Media 100 announcement?…

Technorati will inevitably — to the degree that it is successful — influence the behavior of those who would like to benefit from the power thet comes from a high Technorati ranking, just like the lengths that people will go to in order to get a high Google ranking. As a result, Technorati will need to have very scrupulous business practices in its dealings with those to whom it sells its services.

This is likely to flare up into a big imbloglio, with many perspectives swirling around, and a lot of hand waving and finger pointing. But I think it is a tempest in a teapot. The implicit social connections that blog linking imply are public: they are there for anyone to see, and the individuals involved actively create those links with that in mind. This is not some sort of surreptitious surveillance, like video cameras on street lights, or someone tapping our phone calls. And more importantly, as Doc suggests, the world is a better place if big corporations begin to take advantage of this information to figure out what people think is important, whose thoughts and observations matter, and how to better understand what is going on in the world. What is the alternative? We — the Blogosphere — are going to a lot of trouble to read and link to one others’ writing out here; do we want the rest of the world to ignore it? We are trying hard to make sense of the world; it’s stupid to think we would be better off if the world doesn’t pay attention, and adapt to the feedback system we have become. The value of that feedback is enormous, and people should be free to make money from turning it into bite-sized chunks for companies that want to do better: build better products, provide better service, and innovate more quickly.

The Blogosphere is not some private club for those most actively engaged it in: its a global asset, a new means of understanding the world, and perhaps the best hope we have for making a better world.

Rex Hammock has a brief post.

Jason Dowdell writes,

I personally know Tom Foremski and would not have based my piece on his story if I didn’t know him as an actual journalist. Tom would not put up data if it weren’t true, no matter how exciting it might be. Regardless, Technorati has issues it needs to deal with or it’s going to face continued scrutiny on it’s performance issues and lack of completeness. David Sifry and team have made a ton of progress in recent months regarding the user interface and features and have squashed a ton of bugs on the way… but if the performance doesn’t get fixed then it’s going to be a major issue.

He says a lot more. Worth reading.

Steve Gillmor goes up a level:

Certainly the tone has shifted in the blogosphere. Finding and maintaining friendships will be sorely tested in the coming weeks and months. Great care must be taken to avoid misunderstandings, and sometimes, understanding all too well. It’s a time for leadership, not brinkmanship.

It’s always nice when we can fly under the radar, avoidng the messy details of who gets the money and how. I’ve been doing this with attention, building coalitions, evangelizing the obvious, wheeling and dealing. Recently I’ve stopped all that, partly because others have picked up the banner and mostly because I’m sick and tired of it. I’ve tried to explain why I’m no evangelist, only to come off sounding like I’m evangelizing the idea.

And Alan8373 says Conversation are Markets.

Eye on the ‘sphere

National Journal has launched Blogometer, “a daily report from The Hotline taking the temperature of the political blogosphere.”

The war on war

Britt Blaser…we Americans admire the terrorism problem too much as mass entertainment…

A small part of a big piece. Read the whole thing.

Department of Connections

It’s interesting to see the ripple effect of The selling of the Blogosphere—Technorati’s big push into monetizing its treasure trove of data collected about millions of blogs, by Tom Foremski at SiliconValleyWatcher. The item is still the top story on his site. There it’s titled “The Selling of the Blogosphere.” The subtext:

How Technorati hopes to market its treasure trove of data it collects on millions of blogs to corporations, exposing the relaxed intimacy of online conversations. It’s all part of a growing ecosystem of companies hoping to profit handsomely from the work of bloggers [Read].

Right now, according to Technorati, the item has been blogged about sixteen times. The top response (in reverse chronological order, from the search), posted twenty minutes ago by DeepLinking, says,

I gotta know how much Technorati is charging for the blog-clipping service SiliconValleyWatcher is talking about [via Jason Calacanis]. However, SVW’s shocked tone about the whole thing is silly and naive. If you’re not aware that the corporate world is freaked out about blogs and very much interested in understanding their impact, you need to hang out in the corporate world a little more.

Jason Calcanis is concerned about “repurposed content,” then adds,

I highly doubt that this service — if it even exists — would repurpose blog content. Technorati has been very good about taking only a snip of people¹s content. I don¹t see Dave taking liberties with people¹s content… Dave’s a good man.

A number of bloggers, including Mike SandersDave WinerJeremy Zawodnyand Disruptive Media Technologies, quoted this line from Tom Foremski’s piece:

What surprised me was how aggressively Mr Hirshberg was pitching Technorati’s expensive blog tracking services to this audience of agency and corporate communications professionals. Mr Whitmore barely mentioned his company, and I didn’t pitch anything, maybe I should have :-)

Of those four, only Mike had something positive to say:

Of course legally and ethically there is nothing wrong with a company using public information to make millions. And I am pretty sure that Technorati advisors and Cluetrain authors Doc Searls and David Weinberger have thought about how this benefits the little guy, furthers the emergence of voice, and is additional proof that markets are conversations.

Jeremy Wright quoted the same section, and more, adding,

Not only is Technorati lagging behind in blog tracking, which is sad enough, but they¹re trying to sell their blog tracking services to corporations!

According to SiliconValley Watcher, they even made arses of themselves at a recent panel by “pitching” during the panel (a huge no-no)

Technorati tells me Jeremy posted that item 9 hours ago. Let’s see, it’s 10:45pm Pacific Time. Jeremy’s blog says he posted it at 4:45pm. Not sure what time zone he’s in. Still, I gotta say, what lag?

This piece was kinda snarky too.

Going down through the list here…

Naill Kennedy (who works for Technorati) was next.

Then comes Geek News Central, wondering out loud about how the service works.

Marc Canter writes,

$$$$$$Billions and billions$$$$$$ of dollars are spent every year on bullshit. On pure crap that is shoveled down our throats, trying to make us believe what they want us to buy.

But what happens when one, two, five ad agencies figure out how to REALLY track what people are thinking about?

What happens when some brand finds a way to put a warm and fuzzy spot in our hearts? Almost as if my magic.

All this is happening because someone named Peter Hirshberg decided to move back to SF. Peter is one of those Silicon Valley guys who’s watched our industry become one of the leading industry’s throughout the world today. All culture, commerce and emotions lead through our industry.

What is known as entertainment, marketing, influence and psychology is driven by technology today. Everything that we know – is ‘swatched’ in the veneer of technology. We wouldn’t be sitting here today, reading this post – if it wasn’t for technology. Almost nothing ‘happens’ without technology. That’s how big we are.

And at the forefront of technology is blogging and social software.

It’s about us, people, and once we get our hands on the wheel of our own destiny – look out world!

Our own realization of what our own power is – is what it’s all about.

Mitch Ratcliffe says,

Along with MarcDave and others, I’m increasingly confused by the messages coming out of Technorati. They are grasping in so many directions — as a consumer service and species of publisher with Technorati.com, as an enabling technology provider with tags and attention.xml, as a business intelligence service. Dave Sifry is a great entrepreneur, but it is impossible to do everything well.

He adds,

The concern raised by SiliconValleyWatcher, that Technorati is monetizing bloggers’ creativity without sharing the wealth is misplaced, I think. Technorati has avoided pirating bloggers’ work by making it important to clickthrough to read full postings. It makes it easier to find the source data of the conversation. Were it to start taking full feeds of data and republishing them for corporate customers, it would be violating the rights of authors who have non-commercial share-and-share-alike Creative Commons licenses, but the folks at Technorati are too smart to make that mistake.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to realize that the “algorithms” of participation and influence — the market metrics for the conversational market — can’t be delivered by an enabler of the conversation that simultaneously shapes the conversation with a proprietary tagging scheme.

Mitch, whose company is Persuadio, goes on,

Persuadio analysis consistently finds that Technorati tags are changing the flow of data, meaning that any attempt to measure Technorati’s influence has to be conducted by a third party in order to be fair and unbiased.

Technorati, at least according to my old friend Peter Hirshberg’s comments, is talking like it is building Persuadio’s services, but they are not.

The list goes on.

Okay, a few questions.

First, How many witnesses reported on what Peter said on that panel? Answer: One. Another panelist, by the way. How many bloggers jumped to conclusions based on what one guy said?

Next: Are marketers clueless or cluefull about blogging?

If the answer is “clueless,” then don’t we want them to get the clues? Especially if all the raw data is nothing more than what’s been published on the free and open Web, and what’s sold is data about data rather than “repurposed content”?

Next: Do we think they can get all the clues they need from search engines and feeds of blogs and searches about blogs and other stuff that’s already out there?

If the answer is no, then what is wrong with selling those clues to people willing to pay for them?

Some perspective.

Technorati was born as a cool hack David Sifry came up with while he and I were writing this piece for Linux Journal. Later, after Dave made Technorati a company, I became a member of its advisory board.

David and I are friends. Peter is a friend too. I’m one of the advisors who urged David to hire Peter, who’s a brilliant and funny guy.

I’ve watched David and his crew work 24/7/365 scaling a search service that finds everything on the live and syndicated Web — that’s hugely complementary to the engines that search the static Web. They’ve rebuilt their infrastructure more times than I can remember. The whole thing has creaked and fallen a number of times, and kept going, kept improving.

They haven’t always followed my advice (not by a long shot), but they’ve always listened to what bloggers are saying.

Such as now, when I’m on the phone with David and Peter, going over each of these posts, seeing what can be learned from the company’s first experience talking about one of the ways it hopes to serve customers and make their business work for everybody.

Will they make mistakes? Sure. Who won’t?

And really: Was a mistake even made here? How can we be sure?

Will they learn from the public conversation that their own service is exposing to them? From what I’m hearing (and saying) on the phone, I’d say the answer is yes.

Hey, we’re all in new territory here. The big challenge isn’t to bust each other for mistakes. Or to play the Gotcha Game, which is one of the oldest and shittiest traditions in mass market journalism. It’s to help.

From the beginning, that’s what Technorati has been trying to do.

Right now, the helping is going back the other way. Which is a good thing.

[A few minutes later…] I just checked, and this post is already showing up in a Technorati search for “Peter Hirshberg”.

Blog(himand)her

Chris Nolan on Blogher (the not-really all-woman blogging conference):

This gives me a wonderful chance to state the obvious about this conference: IT IS NOT FOR WOMEN ONLY. Not only are men welcome — a statement that it seems absurd to have to make – but some are planning to attend.

She adds,

This gives me the chance to make another observation: If you are a man who like code and software and things that plug in, and is perhaps having trouble finding a girl who likes Java (and knows it’s not just a coffee) and undersands your inner Geek, this might be the PERFECT place for you to spend a summer afternoon.

The ratio at most tech conferences is hugely biased toward men. That will assuredly not be the case here.

The bull’s eye of her entreaties is Kevin Drum (read Chris’s links for the whole story); but all men (and women) are invited.

Blogher is Saturday, July 30, in Santa Clara, CA: the heart of Silicon Valley. Follow that last link for more info and to register.

I’d love to be there, but I have other commitments. Still, I recommend it highly.

Back to the present.

Nice to see that many of the people I volleyed with there are still around. And that some things persist. (For example, Blogher.) But it’s also sad to see how much is gone. Especially Technorati, which drew a huge amount of discussion then. It still exists as a company, but it ain’t what it was. But it’s good that it mattered.

TBasketballhe other day a friend shared this quote from Michael Choukas‘ Propaganda Comes of Age (Public Affairs Press, 1965):

This is not the propagandist’s aim. For him the validity of an image must be measured not by the degree of its fidelity, but by the response it may evoke. If it will induce the action he wishes, its fidelity is high; if not, low. … The standard that he uses in choosing the images to be disseminated — his “truths” — would be a scale based on the range of possible human responses to an image. His criterion thus is established on the basis of overt action.

At first this made me think about journalism, and how it might fit Choukas’ definition of propaganda. Then it made me think about how we might confine the study of propaganda to a harmless subset of human story-telling. That’s when sports jumped to mind.

Sports are almost entirely narrative. They also have, as social phenomena go, less importance outside themselves than such highly fraught concerns as politics, religion and business. To the cynic, sports are Kurt Vonnegut‘s foma: “harmless untruths, intended to comfort simple souls…Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”

Yes, sports are more than that, but my soul at its simplest is a fan of the Mets. (And, less simply, a fan of the Red Sox.) Likewise, some of my least productive time is spent listening to sports talk radio — unless I count as valuable the communing of my simplest self with the souls of others who share the same mostly-harmless affections. (Hi, @MichaelSHolley.)

But how much more productive is the time I spend listening to NPR, or reading The New York Times? Some, I would say. So, I am sure, would sports fans who favor getting their news from Fox and The Wall Street Journal.

To see where I’m going here, lets unpack “harmless untruths” into a 2×2:

harmless-untruth2x2

Foma are in the lower right corner. Whether the subject is sports or something else, that seems like a good corner in which to study propaganda.

Sports journalism, like all breeds of the discipline, escapes the foma classification by being about Truth, or at least about facts. But that’s beside my point, which is that interests, talk and reporting about sports all moves toward effects, which happen to be harmless but interesting.

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people,” Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have said. But great minds discuss all three. So, even though events and people are the main subjects of sports (and of most) stories, many great sports journalists also traffic in ideas. Jim MurrayRoger Angell and Frank Deford some first to mind; but so do Howard Cosell and Heywood Hale Broun, whose personalities (or wordrobes, in Broun’s case) often upstaged the events and people they covered. Then I think about David Foster Wallace, Bill LittlefieldJohn McPhee, Andrea Kremer, Keith OlbermannMichael Lewis, Howard BryantTony Kornheiser, Charlie Pierce, John Updike, Norman MailerGeorge Plimpton, Gay Talese, David Halberstam and other greats who work at deeper levels than the the usual bait for eyeballs and clicks.

So, speaking of bait, consider the three words uttered constantly by assignment editors everywhere: What’s the story? 

Stories, I was taught, are the main format of human interest; and all of them have just three elements:

  1. A protagonist, or character. This might be a person, a team, a cause or some other entity the reader, listener or viewer cares about. This character need only be interesting. Likability is a secondary matter. (Example: I hate Christian Laettner, an ESPN film.)
  2. A problem or challenge, This needs to be a situation that keeps the reader interested: tuned in or turning pages. (Classic edtorial instruction: “No story starts with ‘happily ever after.'”) In fact, it helps if the situation gets worse, so long as we have…
  3. Movement toward a resolution. If the war is over, or the home team is up or down by forty points with three minutes left, the challenge vanishes. If you’re at the game, your problem is beating traffic out of the parking lot.

If you’re missing one of those elements, you don’t have a story.

Case in point: Cambodia’s killing fields. The first I heard about them was in a story read by Hughes Rudd on a CBS newscast in the mid-1970s. He said that perhaps half a million people were already dead. On hearing this, I was appalled, because it came, in an “Oh by the way” manner, after stories about the Super Bowl and Patty Hearst (whose developing story sucked huge amounts of oxygen out of nearly every newsroom at the time).

The slaughter happening in Cambodia mattered far more than either the Super Bowl or Patty Hearst; but it wasn’t a story, because it was missing all three of those elements. There was no protagonist, other than a population with a statistic. The problem, while immense, was not ours, and also not moving toward resolution. In fact years would pass before the killing stopped.

For us here in the U.S., the killing fields story didn’t get real until The New York Times ran “The Death and Life of Dith Pran,” by Sydney Shanberg, in the Sunday Magazine. That gave us a character, and made Cambodia’s plight real and compelling. (The story also grew, naturally, into a movie.)

Sports is always focused on those three elements. Is that because sports is always about propaganda? Or is it the case that all stories are, by their narrative nature, propaganda of a sort?

Stories are at least tendentious in the sense that the author needs a point of view — even if that point is what Jay Rosen calls the view from nowhere. (That’s pretty much where CBS stood when it first reported on Cambodia’s many dead.)

Look at the photos that accompany a sports story. If a team wins, the star player is shown making a great kick, throw, shot or whatever. Or maybe just smiling. If the same team loses, the picture shows the same player messing up or frowning. Never mind that the game was close, or that the photo is of one moment among zillions of others. The entire meaning of the photo is narrative. Its entire purpose is effect, which is both to serve and drive the interests of the reader, the viewer, the listener. What’s that say about journalism as a whole?

Has anybody studied sports or journalism as propaganda? At least one inquiring mind wants to know.

Bonus links:

 

 

 

 

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Hi, Liveblog fans. This post continues (or plays jazz with) this liveblog post, following my podcast learnings, live.

As an old radio guy and an inveterate talker, I think I should be good at podcasting. Or at least that it’s worth trying. Which I have, many times.

The results, so far, appear at here, at the WordPress-based podcasts.searls.com. My first and only podcast, so far, is there. It’s one I did with Britt Blaser, more than two years ago. My second through Nth are sitting in a folder called “podcasts,” on my hard drive.

Today, with help from my son Jeffrey, who is smarter than me about many things, we put together a short second podcast. It combines two tries at podcasting that he and I did in June and July of 2005, when he was nine years old. We also recorded ourselves listening to those, putting them end-to-end using Audacity, and adding the intro and outro music, and other stuff.

The last steps were: 1) heating up podcast blog page, 2) updating WordPress and adding Akismet (to kill the 3,000 spam comments there), and 3) adding the .mp3 file of the podcast itself. I did that by putting it in the same directory at Searls.com as the last podcast already sat.

But I can’t figure out how to point to that directory in the blog post, or to replicate the process by which I made the podcast file appear in the first post. If anyone wants to help with that, lemme know. Otherwise I’m stuck for now, or at least as long as it takes to do some errands.

To be clear, what I need help with right now (or when I get back from the errands) is making the podcast file appear as a link in the latest post at http://podcast.searls.com.

Next is figuring how to get Apple and other re-publishers to list the podcast, so people can subscribe there.

It won’t happen instantly, but it will happen.

Thanks!

 

So I wanted to give GIMP a try on my MacBook Air. I’ve used it on Linux boxen, but not in awhile. These days I edit my photos with Photoshop and Lightroom on the Mac because there are so many things only those tools do well. But I’m tired of being in silos.

Alas, when I did a (defaulted) Yahoo search on my Firefox browser, I made the dumb mistake of clicking on the top result, which was an ad (I think for gimp.us.com, but I’m not sure). I then clicked on the download link, unpacked the .dmg file, did the install — which failed — and have regretted it since. Nearly every link I click goes somewhere Netcraft’s toolbar add-on tells me has a huge risk, or gives me a “Phishing Site Blocked” message.

Down some link paths I get a Firefox cross-site script warning (or something like that — can’t find it now), or this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 9.40.29 PM

It also talks.

What to do? No idea. Suggestions welcome.

Here’s a hunk of what one set (aka Album) in my Flickr stream looks like:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 7.57.58 PM

And here are what my stats on Flickr looked like earlier today (or yesterday, since Flickr is on GMT and it’s tomorrow there):

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.02.09 PM

I ended up with 32,954 views, with no one of my 49,000+ photos getting more than 56 views. More than 95% of those views arrived via Flickr itself. The stats there are spread across 87 pages of results. Pages 1 to 63 go from 395 views (#1) down to 2. From page 64 to 87, all the results are for 1 view.

I just pulled the searches alone, and got this:

1

Searched for: bay area aerial

395

2

Searched for: doc searls

307

3

Searched for: los angeles aerial view

206

41

Searched for: sunrise

164

48

Searched for: aerial view of mountains

143

49

Searched for: aerial sand dune

139

51

Searched for: “toronto” “aerial”

138

56

Searched for: ewr

134

57

Searched for: aerial farmland

134

75

Searched for: wyoming coal

113

79

Searched for: nasa gov

108

87

A contact’s home page

100

88

Searched for: nuclear bomb

100

92

2013_12_30 Montserrat Mountain in Catalonia 

/photos/docsearls/sets/72157639251295255/w…

95

95

Searched for: diablo canyon nuclear

93

96

Searched for: aerial island

93

102

Searched for: arctic circle

90

107

Searched for: united airlines

86

110

Searched for: aerial view farmland

83

111

Searched for: aerial

82

130

Searched for: toronto aerial

70

131

Searched for: containers transport

69

139

Searched for: maple leaves

63

144

Searched for: airplane sunset

61

153

Searched for: aerial santa cruz

58

154

Searched for: aerial ocean

57

165

Searched for: road aerial desert

54

166

Searched for: fly

54

167

Searched for: magician

53

169

Searched for: chicago skyline

53

171

Searched for: airlines

51

173

Searched for: las vegas aerial

51

174

Searched for: “toronto” “aerial” “night”

50

178

Searched for: desert aerial

50

179

Searched for: siltstone

50

184

Searched for: lax -sport -sports -lacrosse

49

189

Searched for: landslides

47

203

Searched for: lithium             

41

Searched for: internet connections

39

211

Searched for: bayonne

39

212

Searched for: diablo nuclear

39

216

Searched for: “salt lake city” aerial

38

220

Searched for: save the internet

37

221

Searched for: river delta aerial

37

225

Searched for: cargill

37

229

Searched for: wyoming coal mine

36

235

Searched for: army aviation desert

34

239

Searched for: mt. wilson

33

244

Searched for: sandcastle

32

249

Searched for: ice circle

31

251

Searched for: carole lombard

31

252

Searched for: atomic tests

31

262

Searched for: governor brown

29

264

Searched for: carpinteria sunset

29

265

Searched for: graveyard airlines

29

269

Searched for: sunset carpinteria

28

272

Searched for: /search/?tags=cambrian

28

273

Searched for: hassle

28

274

Searched for: city aerial view

28

275

Searched for: glover park

27

276

Searched for: diablo canyon nuclear plant

27

284

Searched for: nyc pulaski skyline

26

287

Searched for: network branches

26

300

Searched for: roads aerial desert

24

The numbers on the left are where they fall in the order of popularity. I think the last one means there were 24 searches for roads aerial desert, which was the #300 search.

When I go to the bottom of the pile where all are tied with just one view, I get this stuff:

Searched for: lunch in the city

1

Searched for: ice shore

1

Searched for: snake

1

Searched for: street, walk

1

Searched for: father and his two kids

1

Searched for: misty winter

1

Searched for: valley roads

1

Searched for: child large picture shy

1

Searched for: recycling symbol

1

Searched for: boston old subway

1

Searched for: coffee

1

Searched for: mountain road

1

Searched for: open road

1

Searched for: san mateo county infrastructure

1

Searched for: pointy rocks

1

Searched for: new york by night

1

Searched for: alcoa

1

Searched for: parliament canberra

1

Searched for: afternoon sky

1

Searched for: summer sun park

1

Searched for: france versailles night

1

Searched for: dog scratching

1

Searched for: cloud painting

1

Searched for: pregnant 1946

1

Searched for: big leaf maple

1

Searched for: grasp

1

Most of the results are not searches, but photos, or photos that are “with” another shot. For example: https://www.flickr.com/photos/docsearls/with/9382370440/. Somehow all those are “with” this shot: https://www.flickr.com/photos/docsearls/9382370440/.

I think that means somebody searches, finds a shot, and looks for other shots like it. Not sure, though.

What I am sure about is that my photos get more action than my writing. I never meant it that way, but there it is.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.07.22 PMYesterday  and I were guests on screen at a  session in Manchester, hosted by Julian Tait (@Julianlstar) and Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden). We talked for a long time about a lot of stuff (here’s a #cmngrnd search featuring some of it); but what seems to have struck the Chord of Controversy was something I blabbed: “Tracking-based advertising is creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out.” Martin Bryant (@MartinSFP) tweeted a video clip and a series of other tweets followed. Here’s a copy/paste, which loses a little between Twitter and WordPress):

  1.  and  favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in Feb 17 People dont realise how much worse our experiences with ads would be if they werent personalised
  2.  favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in

    Feb 17 I prefer personalised advertising, and working for a media startu, it’s better for us. But still, many find it creepy

  3.  Feb 17  targeted ads allow new players to enter the market. W/o it, it’s cost-prohibitive and incumbents can only play.
  4.  favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in

    Feb 17 People dont realise how much worse our experiences with ads would be if they werent personalised

  5.   Feb 17  People dont realise how much worse our experiences with ads would be if they werent personalised
  6.  retweeted some Tweets you were mentioned in

    Feb 17: Tracking-based advertising is “creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out,” says

  7.  retweeted a Tweet you were mentioned in

    Feb 17: Tracking-based advertising is “creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out,” says

  8.  Feb 17 Manchester, England  I prefer personalised advertising, and working for a media startu, it’s better for us. But still, many find it creepy
  9.  Feb 17  I’d like to debate on this topic. I’ll take the side of the advertiser.
  10.  and  favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in Feb 17: Tracking-based advertising is “creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out,” says   
  11.  and 5 others retweeted a photo you were tagged in

    Feb 17: Let’s talk the Cluetrain Manifesto… Here’s and .

     Feb 17Manchester, England Tracking-based advertising is “creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out,” says

    1.  favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in
      Feb 17 I’d like to debate on this topic. I’ll take the side of the advertiser.
    2.  favorited your Tweet
      22h Wow, that was quick. Thanks! Meanwhile, and will also help.
    3. ha, I’m happy to being proven wrong! That means I’ve learned something. Will follow up…

    4. will to learn about your perspective before we debate ;)

      Embedded image permalink
    5.  favorited your Tweet
      23h:   Read my book first and see if you still want to argue.

So, while Cyrus awaits his copy of the book, I thought I’d share a few links on the topic, before I hit the sack, jet-lagged, here in London.

First, a search for my name and advertising. Among those the one that might say the most (in the fewest words) is this post at Wharton’s Future of Advertising site.

Second, dig pretty much everything that Don Marti has been writing about business, starting with Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful. My case — the one people who like personalized advertising might want to argue with — is Don’s. He became my thought leader on the subject back when he was helping me with research for The Intention Economy, and he’s been adding value to his own insights steadily in the years since. (BTW, I’m not a stranger to the business, having been a founder and creative director for Hodskins Simone & Searls, one of Silicon Valley’s leading ad agencies back in the last millennium.)

When I get a chance I’ll write more on the topic, but for now I need some sleep.,

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