doc036dLike the universe, the Internet is one thing. It is a World of Ends, comprised of everything it connects.

By nature it is as neutral as gravity. It favors nothing and is not partial to anything. Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, in the way Net access is provisioned, for example; but the basic nature of the Net — as a free, open and neutral shared space — is by now obvious to pretty much everybody who doesn’t have an interest in making it less.

Internet.org calls itself “a Facebook-led initiative bringing together technology leaders, non-profits and local communities to connect the two thirds of the world that doesn’t have Internet access.” But what it offers is not the Internet, but a sphinctered fraction of it: Facebook plus a few chosen others.

This is pure misdirection: a private fraction masked as a public whole. And it’s not fooling anybody. Especially India. See here, here, here, here, here, here — and every other place you’ll find piles of stories about it. (Start with the Critique section of the Wikipedia article on Internet.org, and a search for India+Facebook+Internet.org.)

India is rejecting Internet.org for one simple reason: They know sphincternet ≠ Internet, and that the sphinctered Net is not Neutral, meaning not the real thing.

Naturally, Mark Zuckerberg disagrees, and explains how in this post on the matter, which went up yesterday, and I’ll respond to, piece by piece:

Over the past week in India, there has been a lot written about Internet.org and net neutrality. I’d like to share my position on these topics here for everyone to see.

First, I’ll share a quick story. Last year I visited Chandauli, a small village in northern India that had just been connected to the internet.

In a classroom in the village, I had the chance to talk to a group of students who were learning to use the internet. It was an incredible experience to think that right there in that room might be a student with a big idea that could change the world — and now they could actually make that happen through the internet.

Those students should know the whole Net. Not just a subset of it.

The internet is one of the most powerful tools for economic and social progress. It gives people access to jobs, knowledge and opportunities. It gives voice to the voiceless in our society, and it connects people with vital resources for health and education.

I believe everyone in the world deserves access to these opportunities.

Fine. Then either give them the whole thing, or call what you give them something else that’s clearly less: Facebook+, perhaps.

In many countries, however, there are big social and economic obstacles to connectivity. The internet isn’t affordable to everyone, and in many places awareness of its value remains low. Women and the poor are most likely to be excluded and further disempowered by lack of connectivity.

The Internet itself has no cost: on purpose. At its base is a protocol that nobody owns, everybody can use, and anybody can improve. (Not that anybody has yet — or ever will.) That’s one of the features of its inherent neutrality.

Yes, there are first-time and maintenance costs for the wires and waves that carry its bits. But, as Steve Kamman explains, “Bandwidth is dirt cheap. And bog-standard… This isn’t like electricity. There’s no power plant on the other end burning fuel to deliver those bits. Bits are nearly weightless and cost accordingly.”

Steve’s case is for where the Net ends up, everywhere: the effect implicit in its cause. Think about how to make that happen. Trust me: it’ll be good for Facebook too.

This is why we created Internet.org, our effort to connect the whole world. By partnering with mobile operators and governments in different countries, Internet.org offers free access in local languages to basic internet services in areas like jobs, health, education and messaging. Internet.org lowers the cost of accessing the internet and raises the awareness of the internet’s value. It helps include everyone in the world’s opportunities.

But it’s not the whole Internet. It’s what you and your partners, in an exclusive and non-neutral way, have decided to provide.

We’ve made some great progress, and already more than 800 million people in 9 countries can now access free basic services through Internet.org. In India, we’ve already rolled out free basic services on the Reliance network to millions of people in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala and Telangana. And we just launched in Indonesia on the Indosat network today.

We’re proud of this progress. But some people have criticized the concept of zero-rating that allows Internet.org to deliver free basic internet services, saying that offering some services for free goes against the spirit of net neutrality. I strongly disagree with this.

Zero-rating, or “toll-free data,” means not charging for some stuff on the Net, while charging the same fees for the rest. Simply put, it’s a form of price discrimination. Here’s what Wikipedia says about its reception and impact :

Zero-rating certain services, fast lanes and sponsored data clearly have their benefits for users of the subsidized services, but have also been criticised as anti-competitive and limiting open markets.[4] As many new internet and content services are launched targeting primarily mobile usage, and further adoption of internet connectivity globally (including broadband in rural areas of developed countries) relies heavily on mobile, zero-rating has also been regarded as a threat to the open internet, which is typically available via fixed line networks with unlimited usage tariffs or flat rates.[9] The Wikimedia Foundation and Facebook have been specifically criticized for their zero-rating programs, to further strengthen incumbent mobile network operators and limit consumer rights to an open internet.[10] (That’s as of today.)

Whatever else it is, it’s not neutral.

We fully support net neutrality. We want to keep the internet open. Net neutrality ensures network operators don’t discriminate by limiting access to services you want to use. It’s an essential part of the open internet, and we are fully committed to it.

But net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles — universal connectivity and net neutrality — can and must coexist.

To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some service for free. If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all.

Useful, yes. Neutral, no.

Non-neutrality is like Potter Stewart’s definition of porn: “I know it when I see it.” Which India does.

Internet.org doesn’t block or throttle any other services or create fast lanes — and it never will.

It just doesn’t carry them. It says “My way or no highway.”

We’re open for all mobile operators and we’re not stopping anyone from joining.

The Internet is not what just mobile operators carry.

We want as many internet providers to join so as many people as possible can be connected.

That’s fine. But what they provide won’t be the Internet if they don’t carry the whole thing. It will be a sampler box of rocks rather than all of geology.

Arguments about net neutrality shouldn’t be used to prevent the most disadvantaged people in society from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity. Eliminating programs that bring more people online won’t increase social inclusion or close the digital divide. It will only deprive all of us of the ideas and contributions of the two thirds of the world who are not connected.

There wouldn’t be an argument if you didn’t call this thing “Internet.org,” and if you didn’t represent a few Internet services as the whole thing. But you do, and that’s why you’re having trouble.

Every person in the world deserves access to the opportunities the internet provides. And we can all benefit from the perspectives, creativity and talent of the people not yet connected.

We have a historic opportunity to connect billions of more people worldwide for the first time. We should work together to make that happen now.

Fine. But make clear that what you’re offering isn’t the Internet, but a bunch of free services also found on the real thing.

Below that post are a zillion comments, some of which Mark answers. Here is the first Q&A:

Ritesh Pandya: We really appreciate your initiative on making the internet accessible to most remote part of the world, but the only question is why access only to selective websites and not all on internet.org??

Mark Zuckerberg: It’s too expensive to make the whole internet free. Mobile operators spend tens of billions of dollars to support all of internet traffic. If it was all free they’d go out of business. But by offering some basic services, it’s still affordable for them and it’s valuable and free for everyone to use.

But it’s not the Net. It’s just a set of services that also happen to be on the Net.

The Internet is free. That’s its nature. So stop confusing access with the Net itself, and a few services with the whole thing. Nobody’s buying it.

Bonus links: New Clues, SaveTheInternt.in.

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I’ve seen auroras on red-eyes between the U.S. and Europe before. This one over Lake Superior, for example, on a July night in 2007. And this one over Greenland in September 2012. But both of those were fairly dim. Sunday night’s red-eye was different. This one was a real show. And I almost missed it.

First, my window seat had no window. It was 33A on a United 777: an exit row, with lots of legroom, but a wall where other seats have a window. But I got a corner of the window behind me if I leaned back. The girl sitting there shut the window to block out the sun earlier in the flight, but now it was dark, so I opened the window and saw this: a green curtain of light over the wing. So I got my camera, and wedged it into the narrow space at the top right corner of the window, where I could get a clean shot. And then I shot away.

All the times on the shots are Pacific US time, but the local time here — looking north across Hudson Bay, from northern Quebec — were Eastern, or flanking midnight.

None of the shots in the set have been processed in any way. Later, when I have time, I’ll add a few more, and edit them to bring out what the naked eye saw: the best reason to have a window seat on the polar side of a red-eye flight.

 

 

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I travel a lot, and buy newspapers wherever I happen to be. That would be true online as well, if I could do it. But I can’t, because that’s not an option.

For example, my butt is in California right now, but my nose is in Boston, where I’m reading the Globe. I don’t want a subscription to the Globe, but I would like to pay for today’s paper, or for at least the right to read a few stories from it.

Not easy. Or even possible, after the first one or two. Because, soon enough this paywall thingie comes up:

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It’ a subscription come-on, modeled after the one the New York Times has been using for years, and I wrote about back in 2012, here. (The switch after the above bait: “$.99*… *That’s less than $1 for 4 full weeks! Then pay the regular low rate of $3.99 per week.”)

I had some advice for the Times at that last link, and I’ve got some for all papers today: create an à la carte option. I know there are lots of reasons not to, all of which arise from system-based considerations on the sell side of the relationship with newspaper buyers.

What I’m saying is that the newsstand option has worked fine for more than a century in the physical world, and should be an option in the networked one as well.

At least think about it. Constructively, as in Let’s see… how can we do that? Not “It’s too hard.” Or “People only want free stuff.” Those are all echoes inside the old box. I want us to think and work outside of that box.

People are willing to pay value for value if it’s easy. So let’s make it easy. The ideas I vetted three years ago are still good, but don’t cover the à la carte option. Let’s just focus on that one, and consider what’s possible.

 

I remember the first time I saw Dwight Durante shoot. It was in the old Guilford College gym. Catawba College was the visiting team. Guilford in those days was a small college basketball powerhouse, ranked among the top NAIA schools. Our coach was future hall-of-famer Jerry Steele. We had three players who would be drafted by the pros (Ed Fellers, Pat Moriarty and Bob Kauffman, who went on to become an NBA all-star, coach and general manager). Catawba was good but not quite great, and sure to lose.

Not far past the half court line on Catawba’s first possession, Dwight Durante fired up what would have been a desperation shot for an ordinary player. But for Durante it was like a layup. Swish. The whole crowd’s jaw dropped.For the rest of the game, Durante perforated the Guilford defense with artful moves, but kept blowing everybody’s mind with these extremely long shots. I forget the final score, but I remember that Guilford lost.

All those long shots were worth just two points each. Two more decades would pass before the 3-point shot arrived. From a 2007 story by Mike London in the Salisbury (NC) post:

Eighty amateur basketball stars gathered in New Mexico in the spring of 1968 for the Olympic Trials.  Only 12 would be chosen for the USA team that would compete for a gold medal in Mexico City.  Pete Maravich, Charlie Scott, Rick Mount and JoJo White were there.  So was the nation’s most famous little man, 5-foot-9 All-American Calvin Murphy, who could dunk two balls at a time.  But the sensation of those trials was a 5-8 junior from Catawba who scored 44 points, tied Murphy in knots and led the NAIA all-stars to three straight victories.

His name was Dwight Durante, and while the selection committee wasn’t going to put a 5-8 NAIA kid on the team, Durante proved he could play with the best.  “I had a great tournament,” Durante said at Catawba’s basketball reunion.  “I almost made it.”

Durante’s name is still whispered on the Catawba campus four decades after his heyday.  He was a lefty scoring machine with lightning in his legs.  He shot often, connected often.

The Catawba record book remains his personal property: most career points (2,913), most points in a game (58), highest scoring average for a season (32.1).  He averaged 29.4 points per game for his career.  He scored 777 more points than Bill Bailey, Catawba’s No. 2 all-time scorer.

Durante did what he did despite an unfortunate suspension that cost him nearly half his sophomore year and an injury that hobbled him for a month his senior year.  And he did it without benefit of the 3-point shot.

“I figure 60 percent of his field goals would have been 3-pointers,” said Sam Moir,  Durante’s coach at Catawba.  “His teammates have told me, ‘No, Coach, it would have to be 70 percent.’  Dwight had great legs — he wore ankle braces in practice — and he could elevate and shoot accurately from 25, 26 feet.”

…”He was Allen Iverson, but he was Iverson with range,” said James Brown, a Catawba Hall of Famer who used to sneak into gyms as a youngster to watch Durante’s magic act.  “If Dwight was coming out of college now, he’d get a multi-million dollar contract.”

Yes, he was that good — and decades ahead of his time. Catawba has more famous alumni, but none better at any sport than Dwight Durante. That’s why I just added him to the Catawba’s notable alumni list in Wikipedia, with three citations (you’re welcome). One of those, a list of all Globetrotters players, has Dwight listed at 5’6″. I think that’s closer to correct, but I dunno.

Other small-college players I was lucky to see back then: Gene Littles of High Point College, Henry Logan of Western Carolina University, and Earl Monroe and William English of Winston Salem State University. All were great. (Earl was my fave, and the finest ball-handler of the day.) But none could shoot like Dwight Durante. I’m not sure anybody ever will.

[Later…] I just found this 1996 item in the Sports Illustrated vault:

Dwight Durante, a 5-foot-8 freshman guard at Catawba College, Salisbury, N.C., tallied 58 points against Western Carolina to set a new single-game scoring record in the Carolinas Conference. Durante is the league’s leading scorer with a 30.1 average.

I remember that little piece because of what Jerry Steele said after Carl Sheer, Guilford’s play-by-play announcer, brought it up after a victory over Catawba. “Well,” said Jerry, in his slow Carolina drawl, “Dwight Durante might have his picture in Sports Illustrated. But I’ve got Bob Kauffman’s picture in my bedroom.”

(BTW, I would love to put a picture of Dwight, from back in the decade, at the top of this post. If anybody has one to point out or send along, please do.)

In There Is No More Social Media — Just Advertising, Mike Proulx (@McProulx) begins,

CluetrainFifteen years ago, the provocative musings of Levine, Locke, Searls and Weinberger set the stage for a grand era of social media marketing with the publication of “The Cluetrain Manifesto” and their vigorous declaration of “the end of business as usual.”

For a while, it really felt like brands were beginning to embrace online communities as a way to directly connect with people as human beings. But over the years, that idealistic vision of genuine two-way exchange eroded. Brands got lazy by posting irrelevant content and social networks needed to make money.

Let’s call it what it is: Social media marketing is now advertising. It’s largely a media planning and buying exercise — emphasizing viewed impressions. Brands must pay if they really want their message to be seen. It’s the opposite of connecting or listening — it’s once again broadcasting.

Twitter’s Dick Costello recently said that ads will “make up about one in 20 tweets.” It’s also no secret that Facebook’s organic reach is on life support, at best. And when Snapchat launched Discover, it was quick to point out that “This is not social media.”

The idealistic end to business as usual, as “The Cluetrain Manifesto” envisioned, never happened. We didn’t reach the finish line. We didn’t even come close. After a promising start — a glimmer of hope — we’re back to business as usual. Sure, there have been powerful advances in ad tech. Media is more automated, targeted, instant, shareable and optimized than ever before. But is there anything really social about it? Not below its superficial layer.

First, a big thanks to Mike and @AdAge for such a gracious hat tip toward @Cluetrain. It’s amazing and gratifying to see the old meme still going strong, sixteen years after the original manifesto went up on the Web. (And it’s still there, pretty much unchanged — since 24 March 1999.) If it weren’t for marketing and advertising’s embrace of #Cluetrain, it might have been forgotten by now. So a hat tip to those disciplines as well.

An irony is that Cluetrain wasn’t meant for marketing or advertising. It was meant for everybody, including marketing, advertising and the rest of business. (That’s why @DWeinberger and I recently appended dillo3#NewClues to the original.) Another irony is that Cluetrain gets some degree of credit for helping social media come along. Even if that were true, it wasn’t what we intended. What we were looking for was more independence and agency on the personal side — and for business to adapt.

When that didn’t happen fast enough to satisfy me, I started ProjectVRM in 2006, to help the future along. We are now many people and many development projects strong. (VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management: the customer-side counterpart of Customer Relationship Management — a $20+ billion business on the sellers’ side.)

Business is starting to notice. To see how well, check out the @Capgemini videos I unpack here. Also see how some companies (e.g. @Mozilla) are hiring VRM folks to help customers and companies shake hands in more respectful and effective ways online.

Monday, at VRM Day (openings still available), Customer Commons (ProjectVRM’s nonprofit spinoff) will be vetting a VRM maturity framework that will help businesses and their advisors (e.g. @Gartner, @Forrester, @idc, @KuppingerCole and @Ctrl-Shift) tune in to the APIs (and other forms of signaling) of customers expressing their intentions through tools and services from VRM developers. (BTW, big thanks to KuppingerCole and Ctrl-Shift for their early and continuing support for VRM and allied work toward customer empowerment.)

The main purpose of VRM Day is prep toward discussions and coding that will follow over the next three days at the XXth Internet Identity Workshop, better known as IIW, organized by @Windley, @IdentityWoman and myself. IIW is an unconference: no panels, no keynotes, no show floor. It’s all breakouts, demos and productive conversation and hackery, with topics chosen by participants. There are tickets left for IIW too. Click here. Both VRM Day and IIW are at the amazing and wonderful Computer History Museum in downtown Silicon Valley.

Mike closes his piece by offering five smart things marketers can do to “make the most of this era of #NotReally social media marketing.” All good advice.

Here’s one more that leverages the competencies of agencies like Mike’s own (@HillHolliday): Double down on old-fashioned Madison Avenue-type brand advertising. It’s the kind of advertising that carries the strongest brand signal. It’s also the most creative, and the least corrupted by tracking and other jive that creeps people out. (That stuff doesn’t come from Madison Avenue, by the way. Its direct ancestor is direct marketing, better known as junk mail. I explain the difference here.) For more on why that’s good, dig what Don Marti has been saying.

(BTW & FWIW, I was also with an ad agency business, as a founder and partner in Hodskins Simone & Searls, which did kick-ass work from 1978 to 1998. More about that here.)

Bottom line: business as usual will end. Just not on any schedule.

 

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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.

Many points of view are expressed, but two sobering comments stand out for me: 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. [Still later…] I’ve read it, and it’s very helpful. I’ll respond at more length when I get enough time later this week.

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

*[Later again…] Read what Don Marti writes here in response to my opening paragraph above. Excellent, as usual.

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.

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