September 2007

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2007.

Fee speech

From the AT&T Legal Policy:

  AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes (a) violates the Acceptable Use Policy; (b) constitutes a violation of any law, regulation or tariff (including, without limitation, copyright and intellectual property laws) or a violation of these TOS, or any applicable policies or guidelines, or (c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries. Termination or suspension by AT&T of Service also constitutes termination or suspension (as applicable) of your license to use any Software. AT&T may also terminate or suspend your Service if you provide false or inaccurate information that is required for the provision of Service or is necessary to allow AT&T to bill you for Service.

  [The boldface is mine. -- DS]

Verizon doesn’t even require cause:

  Without prejudice to any other rights that Verizon may have, Verizon reserves the right and sole discretion to change, limit, terminate, modify at any time, temporarily or permanently cease to provide the Service or any part thereof to any user or group of users, without prior notice and for any reason or no reason. In the event you or Verizon terminate this Agreement, you must immediately stop using the Service.

Word count: AT&T, 10,890 ; Verizon 10,147.

Should we have an openness index?

That’s the question over at Linux Journal.

Is journalism personal?

My favorite recent Edhat is Gate B, posted August 31st. It begins,

  Those of you who are planning to attend Oprah’s Obama Bash might have heard that there won’t be valet parking in front of Oprah’s vacation home in Montecito. Instead, you will need to go eight miles away to Gate B of the Earl Warren Showgrounds and catch a shuttle bus to the big event. One might conclude from it’s second letter status that Gate B — like Plan B — is some sort of secret side entrance to The Showgrounds. But that simply is not true. Gate B is actually the main entrance. You get to it from Calle Real, the frontage road for THE 101 freeway.

  Note: Here in Santa Barbara as in the rest of Southern California, we refer to freeways with the definite participle “the” – it’s how we talk and if you are visiting our community for the first time and want to fit in, you should try it too.

Today’s is good too, though I can’t find the link to it. Here’s an excerpt:

  If you have a question about Santa Barbara, the person to ask is Brown Squared. On Wednesday he was the only Edhat subscriber who knew that the WWII picture was taken at the west end of the East Beach parking lot near the intersection of Cabrillo and Milpas. And, not only did he know where it was, he also knew what it was. Furthermore, when we asked him for more information — stuff he didn’t know about it or wasn’t 100% sure of — he found out and emailed us the answers faster than a Chocolate Lab eats cheese.

  He was certainly a lot more useful than the Gas Company. The same people who, one day long ago, put us on hold and left us there to die, were unable to tell us anything – even after 3 hours and 3 phone calls. Why you ask, should the Gas Company have been able to help? Well, after all it is their phallic-symbol shaped air vent that’s shown in the picture. And yes, for those of you who are paying attention, this is the second time in three weeks that the WWII was a phallic symbol. Maybe Ed has some issues.

  But, as we said, we don’t need no stinking gas company to give us the scoop. We have Brown Squared. Yesterday he told the dedicated staff of edhat.com that the vent is a breather for the utility “vault” underneath the sidewalk there. Apparently there is a very large gas pipe hiding underground, underneath the palm trees, along the waterfront.

So I had coffee on Thursday with Peter Sklar, the chief hat-wearer of Edhat. We talked about what news is, and about whether what we still call newspaper journalism should be strictly built around our old notions of news as “content” that gets authored by authorities and distributed by media. Peter’s an authority on a lot of stuff (he’s a technologist with an advanced math degree, for example); but that’s not what makes Edhat work. It’s something much more personal and engaging than that. There is nothing else quite like Edhat. It is not the product of pro formalities. It’s a labor of love to some degree, but the love flows back in asymmetrical abundance. And that’s the important part.

I was at a cocktail party last night, at the opening of the Santa Barbara Book & Author Festival, talking with Peter and his wife, when mayor Marty Blum came up and joined the conversation. It was clear she loves Edhat, as do many other people in town, most of whom don’t know who Peter is because he’s a shy guy and prefers to let the invisible Ed take the lead. I thought to myself, Why does Marty love Edhat? Is that just because the News-Press pounds Marty like tough meat every chance they get? Is it because Edhat provides a reliably positive (as well as delightfully ironic) source of interesting items about Santa Barbara? Both those might be true, but there’s a special relationship there, and not just for Marty.

The word “loyalty” doesn’t cover what goes on between readers and Edhat. It’s something more. I’d say the same goes for columnists with the Independent, the Daily Sound and various blogs, including (perhaps especially) Craig Smith’s. In a way this is no different than what Herb Caen had going at the San Francisco Chronicle for a thousand years, and that Barney Brantingham had for forty-six years at the News-Press and now enjoys at the Independent. (As does Starshine Roshell and other relocated members of the News-Press diaspora.) These are not just columnists, but writers who depend utterly on their readers.

So, one more question for Peter, the other panelists, and readers at the panel: Is this kind of highly personal engagement with readers the foundation we need for the future of newspapers (or whatever succeeds them)? To unpack that a bit, columnists have always been an essential but secondary ingredient in the newspaper recipe. Is it possible that they are now the primary ingredient?

Back in the 1960s, Tom Wolfe coined the term “New Journalism”, and applied it to engaged writers like himself, who waded deeply into a subject and in some cases became primary figures in the stories they wrote about. (The most extreme example was Hunter S. Thompson, who branded his new form gonzo.)

Could it be that New Journalism is finally arriving?

Answers

[I just posted an answer to questions raised by Al and Max in the comment thread under the Go from hell post. But when I hit "submit", nothing happened. When I went back and hit "submit" again, WordPress told me I'd posted the comment already. I tried another browser. Still not there. So I copied it, expanded it, and posted it below.]

Al said,

  Also thinking about VRM as coming from the reciprocal of CRM, maybe thats the wrong approach. Maybe we should be looking for the reciprocal of advertising ? i.e. something more aggressive and direct in the same way that advertising rudely interrupts our attention, maybe we can rudely interrupt the producers attention.

That’s appealing at an emotional level, but I don’t think VRM can work if it’s a reciprocal either of advertising or of CRM as we know it today. But at least with CRM we have something that respects the ideal of relationships.We need to be able to relate to vendors. Being rude or aggressive isn’t a good place to start.

Max said,

  I agree with your spirit, but I’m struggling with the notion of “creating the tools to serve me versus them and on my terms.” I think I would like some of those tools! But I wonder if there’s a paradox. When those tools are created, and then achieve success with real scale and impact, don’t they assume high propensity to become what you’re arguing against in the first place — big companies trying to serve many, with a desire to grow bigger? Every big, evil company started as an ambition, an idea, then became a small business, then a mid-size business, then a big business. Regarding tools, what about the all-important individualist tool of voting with your wallet, or voting with your attention? Is there not an ongoing erosion of the monopolies that big companies once had on information, essentially empowering individuals to vote with their wallets and attention more effectively — at least for the subset of society which chooses to?

The tools I’m talking about here are not ones big companies can control. I’m talking about tools like the open source suite that started with Linux and Apache and now includes several hundred thousand hunks of code that approach (even if they do not technically achieve) the NEA ideal: Nobody owns it, Everybody can use it, Anybody can improve it.

There is no giant Apache company. Nor even a giant Linux company. There are large companies that take advantage of both Linux and Apache, however. IBM, Google and Amazon, for example. But they do not control those code bases.

Also, I am not arguing against “big companies trying to serve many, with a desire to grow bigger”. If they do that by serving customers respectfully and well, I don’t care. Instead I’m arguing against companies of any size continuing to relate to customers as “consumers” that can be herded into CRM-maintained silos like cattle, or assaulted with endless “messages” the vast majority of which are irrelevant, no matter how well “targeted” they are.

And yes, we do vote with our wallets, but we need to give companies more than a wallet to relate to. And we can’t depend just on sellers to give us that “more”. That’s what we have with loyalty programs, for example. They provide fancy and sometimes fun ways of relating to them (and to each other) inside their silos. Airlines are good at the former, and Amazon and Facebook are good at the latter. But we’re still just talking about silos here. The data we accumulate in those silos is too often theirs, not ours. My Netflix movie reviews cannot be shared with Yahoo’s. My shopping choices, presumably recorded by the grocery store in some database somewhere, are theirs, not mine. And, in the absence of a true relationship, the data we provide too often gets used in ways that are annoying for everybody. Loyalty cards, for example, inconvenience the buyers (one more card to carry in the wallet, one more fob for the keychain), slow down the check-out line, force the seller to provide dual pricing for countless SKUs — and then give the buyer a receipt with a discount on the back for stuff the buyer just bought.

Buyer-side tools would be independent of sellers, and would provide sellers with better clues for serving buyers than would ever come from any locked-down CRM system.

Book it

The Santa Barbara Book & Author Festival started last night with an award presentation to local author T. Coraghessan Boyle, and continues tomorrow with, among other things, a panel titled What’s Next for Newspapers. On the panel will be: Jeramy Gordon, editor and publisher of of the Santa Barbara Daily Sound; Matt Kettman, senior editor of The Independent; Jerry Roberts, author of Never Let Them See You Cry and former managing and executive editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Santa Barbara News Press, respectively; Peter Sklar, publisher of Edhat; and Craig Smith, columnist, law professor and author of Craig Smith’s Blog. I’m the moderator.

A few questions running through my mind…

  Will all newspapers eventually be free?

  How can papers, which have a daily or weekly heartbeat, keep up with the hummingbird-heart pulse rate of Web-based journalism?

  Do you see the newspaper becoming Web publications with print versions, or (as they mostly are now) vice versa?

  Is there enough advertising for all of you?

  Will advertising survive as a business model? What will be the mix of advertising and other sources of revenue?

  How do you see the emerging ecosystem that includes bloggers and expert locals who are in good positions to participate in the larger journalistic process?

  What will be the complementary or competitive roles of radio and TV stations in the future local journalistic ecosystem? Bear in mind that analog TV will be a dead chicken in early 2009.

  Is it possible, really, to replace a once-great institution such as the News-Press?

  How do you see each of your roles playing out in the event of an emergency such as an earthquake, a wildfire, a tsunami?

  What do you see as Santa Barbara’s role in the journalistic world? Are we leaders? Followers? Both? Neither?

Be interesting to see how it goes. Hope to see some of ya’ll there.

Learning to drive

Somehow I made the Go from hell post below disappear tonight. Just got it back. My bad. Apologies.

Just discovered I made a whole ‘nuther post disappear, though. Completely. Damn.

Stamp acting

A friend of mine in Santa Barbara is looking for somebody to evaluate the worth of a stamp collection. Not my field, but I promised to blog the request. If you know somebody, contact me here.

Vote, um, often

This is amazing.

Go from hell

Why do we continue, in 2007, to believe that markets are all about What Big Companies Do? Worse, why do we continue to take advertising for granted as the primary source of the the Bux DeLuxe required to fund technical, social and personal progress?

For example, take this BusinessWeek story, which begins,

  Imagine your cellphone as a mini marketing machine. As you head into your car after dinner, a text alert pops onto the screen of your handset announcing the 9 p.m. lineup at a nearby cineplex. You choose the Jodi Foster flick The Brave One and a promo video for the next Warner Bros. (TWX ) release, a George Clooney movie, starts running. Afterward, more text appears, prompting you to launch the phone’s Web browser so that you can click through to buy the movie’s ringtones and wallpaper.

  That kind of 24/7 advertising engagement–on a phone, no less–may sound like a nightmare. But what if you could determine the kinds of products you get pitched? Or, when your flight gets canceled in a faraway airport, text messages pop up for the best hotel deals in town? No random insurance ads or airline deals for trips to places you never visit. Best of all: Watch or read the custom ads, and your phone minutes are free.

It’s about a potential Google phone. Google isn’t talking, but others are. Later in the story we read,

  …once you combine Google’s financial heft with its ultra-sophisticated ability to target ads to specific customers. “The day is coming when wireless users will experience nirvana scenarios–mobile ads tied to your individual behavior, what you are doing, and where you are,” says Linda Barrabee, wireless analyst at researcher Yankee Group.

Here’s my nirvana scenario, Linda:

 
  1. No damn advertising at all. I don’t care how warm and fuzzy Google is, I don’t want to be tracked like an animal and “targeted” with anything, least of all guesswork about what I want, no matter how educated that guesswork is.
  2. Tools on my phone that let me tell sellers what I want, and on my terms – and not just on theirs. Whether that’s a latte two exits up the highway, next restaurant that serves seared ahi, or where I can buy an original metal slinky.
  3. I want to be able to notify the market of my shopping or buying intentions without revealing who I am, unless it’s on mutually agreed-upon terms.

Quick: Who wants their cell phone to be a “mini marketing machine”? And why would a BusinessWeek reporter even begin to think anybody would want that?

One huge reason we get these endless rah-rah stories framed by Advertising Goodness is that advertising pays the salaries of the writers. There is no “Chinese wall” between advertising and editorial. It may seem like there is, but there isn’t. Follow the money. (I know this is a controversial thing to say, but bear with me.)

Stories about money fighting money are also much more interesting than stories about ordinary programmers building whole new worlds for little or no money at all — so the rest of us (including the programmers) can all make more money in that world. Without the free tools and building materials provided by those programmers, we would have no Google, no Facebook, no Amazon, no eBay. Because there would be no Apache, no RSS, no memecached, no Lucene. No Internet.

It’s unfair to pick on journalists, because we’re all in the same boat. More to the point, we’re all in the same Matrix. All of us live a business world framed by the controlling ambitions of companies, rather than by the actual wants and needs of customers. Even when we study customer wants and needs, our perspective is anchored on the sell side. We ask “Which company (or product, or service) will serve them best?”, rather than “How can we as customers best express our wants and needs so that any seller can fill them?” The ironic distance between these two perspectives is deep and immense.

Alvin Toffler explored this irony in The Third Wave, published in 1980, where he said:

  (The Industrial Age) violently split apart two aspects of our lives that had always been one… production and consumption… In so doing, it drove a giant invisible wedge into our economy, our psyches … it ripped apart the underlying unity of society, creating a way of life filled with economic tension.

I wrote about that split, that tension, in Listen up, back in 1998 — eighteen years after The Third Wave and nine years before now.

David Weinberger and I also wrote about it a year later, in this chapter of Cluetrain. We called it “The Axe in Our Heads”:

  Ironically, many of us spend our days wielding axes ourselves. In our private lives we defend ourselves from the marketing messages out to get us, our defenses made stronger for having spent the day at work trying to drive axes into our customers’ heads. We do both because the axe is already there, the metaphorical embodiment of that wedge Toffler wrote about — the one that divides our jobs from our lives. On the supply side is the producer; on the demand side is the consumer. In the caste system of industry, it is bad form for the two to exchange more than pleasantries.

  Thus the system is quietly maintained, and our silence goes unnoticed beneath the noise of marketing-as-usual. No exchange between seller and buyer, no banter, no conversation. And hold the handshakes.

  When you have the combined weight of two hundred years of history and a trillion-dollar tide of marketing pressing down on the axe in your head, you can bet it’s wedged in there pretty good. What’s remarkable is that now there’s a force potent enough to actually start loosening it.

  Here’s the voice of a spokesperson from the world of TV itself, Howard Beale, the anchorman in Paddy Chayefsky’s Network who announced that he would commit suicide because “I just ran out of bullshit.” Of course, he had to go insane before he could at last utter this truth and pull the axe from his own head.

We’re all still Howard Beales today. We haven’t run out of bullshit, and there’s no less cause for anger than there was when Network, The Third Wave and Cluetrain each came out. The Information Age is here, but its future is not just (as William Gibson put it) unevenly distributed. Large parts of it aren’t here at all. The largest of those is actual empowerment of customers — in ways that are native to customers, rather than privileges granted by vendors. The difference is huge.

That’s why yelling doesn’t work. What we need instead is to make tools that work for us, and not just for them. We need to invent tools that give each of us independence from vendor control, and better ways of telling vendors what we want, when we want it, and how we want to relate — on our terms and not just on theirs. As Neo said to the Architect, “The problem is choice”. That problem will be with us as long as that axe is in our heads.

The axe is marketing. Marketing is what The Matrix does.

As a verb market is not merely about selling. It is about convincing. Its ideal is control. This may not be what enlightened marketers want the verb to mean, but marketing comes from the sell side, not the buy side. Thus in practice has become a tool of control by the industrial machine. Yes, some good people in marketing actually do talk to customers, actually do advocate them. But this is still the exception, not the rule. Marketing still comes from the side of the axe that’s buried in all of our heads — no less deeply than the electric spikes on which the heads of the human batteries that power The Matrix are impaled.

It’s a waste of time to revolt against the marketing machine. The job at hand is to build the Real World again, from the humans out to the companies that serve them. Real markets — the noun, not the verb — are what we need to strike a Neo’s bargain with the machinery of marketing. Unless we build tools for ourselves, we’ll just be talking the talk.

By the way, when I want to talk to somebody about what a real market is, my first source is Stephen Lewis. Like me, he has in his life labored far too long in the mines of marketing. Unlike me, he has lived in, and studied deeply, real markets in the real world. We need more of that.

Tag: .

Eat at Joe’s

Joe Andrieu is on a roll. Or in a role. Four links before I hit the road:

  Leaving the Information Age

  Marc Andreessen hits three nails on the head (also talks about nails Marc misses)

  Change of ages

  Why Search Needs VRM

Consider those bonus links to lots of other stuff.

Wanted: netcos

Looking for the next Net business is my latest over in Linux Journal. I just wrote it, sitting here in a Salinas Starbucks, en route from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. I’ve got a cold and can’t see or think straight, but I want to get the idea out there, so there ya go.

Here’s an excerpt:

  With the rise in network-intensive gaming, of bittorrent traffic, of the need to share big files (e.g. photos and videos), heavy users of the Net will inevitably chafe loudly at legacy asymmetries in the Net subset provided by carriers, at least here in the U.S.

  So some of us … have been thinking about how we need to rejigger this thing somehow. Either we work with the carriers, or we work around them.

  I favor the latter, mostly because the flywheels in carrier methods and mentalities are too large and biassed to spin forever right where they are. They’ll move eventually; but it will take competition to do it… That’s what I’m suggesting here.

Bonus link.

Your soil may vary

David Brooks in the New York Times:

  Now it’s evident that if you want to understand the future of the Democratic Party you can learn almost nothing from the bloggers, billionaires and activists on the left who make up the “netroots.” You can learn most of what you need to know by paying attention to two different groups — high school educated women in the Midwest, and the old Clinton establishment in Washington…

  …the netroots are losing the policy battles. As Matt Bai’s reporting also suggests, the netroots have not been able to turn their passion and animus into a positive policy agenda. Democratic domestic policy is now being driven by old Clinton hands like Gene Sperling and Bruce Reed.

  …many Democratic politicians privately detest the netroots’ self-righteousness and bullying. They also know their party has a historic opportunity to pick up disaffected Republicans and moderates, so long as they don’t blow it by drifting into cuckoo land.

I was talking with a Republican friend a couple days ago. He thought Hillary was the next Kerry: a candidate of the party establishment — unbeatable in the primaries, and beatable in the general election. He thinks the most interesting candidate on the Democratic side (and one he would consider voting for) would be Obama. And that Obama might be the one Democrat who could beat the Republican candidtate. But the Clinton establishment won’t let that happen.

I agree.

Netroots are important and interesting, but so far they are patches of grass. Maybe parkland. But not whole prairies. Nothing wrong with that. Just nothing right enough to move the middle. Yet.

And, for what it’s worth, I don’t think the electorate wants nothing but Bushes and Clintons running the country from 1988 to 2012 or 2016.

If the Dems want to win, Obama is the candidate to do it. But he’ll be the veep candidate, and I’m betting Clinton/Obama will lose to Thompson/ or Romney/.

If the Republicans run Rudy/, the Democrat will win.

But I’m just one root, out here on the Net.

Where there’s smoke…

Just caught this post by Thomas Hawk about Yahoo’s reported decision to kill off a photo of a girl smoking, because the company has a policy about not showing those kinds of photos. Its a shot titled “Priscilla 1969″, by Joseph Szabo, and familiar from an old album cover that used it. Thomas is CEO of Zoomr, a Flickr competitor.

InyourFacebook

It’s really cool and all that all these people are my friends…

… and want to play and stuff.

But it’s too much. And it all happens in the Facebook clubhouse. I kinda like my social networks to happen in the wide open marketspaces.

No ‘fence.

Death from below

First assignment: John Perry Barlow’s Death From Above, written in March 1995.

Second assignment: Cory Doctorow’s Somebody Has To Die, posted three days ago.

JPB:

  Over the last 30 years, the American CEO Corps has included an astonishingly large percentage of men who piloted bombers during World War II. For some reason not so difficult to guess, dropping explosives on people from commanding heights served as a great place to develop a world view compatible with the management of a large post-war corporation.

  It was an experience particularly suited to the style of broadcast media. Aerial bombardment is clearly a one-to-many, half-duplex medium, offering the bomber a commanding position over his “market” and terrific economies of scale.

  Now, most of these jut-jawed former flyboys are out to pasture on various golf courses, but just as they left their legacy in the still thriving Cold War machinery of the National Security State, so their cultural perspective remains deeply, perhaps permanently, embedded in the corporate institutions they led for so long, whether in media or manufacturing. America remains a place where companies produce and consumers consume in an economic relationship which is still as asymmetrical as that of bomber to bombee.

  The lop-sided character of this world view has been much on my mind lately with regard to various corporate projects on what they are all too pleased to call the “Information Superhighway” (evoking as it does the familiar comforts of Big Construction by Big Government in cooperation with Big Business). The cable companies and Baby Bells have a model for developing the next phase of telecom infrastructure which, were it applied to the design of physical superhighways, would have us building them with about five thousand lanes in one direction and one lane in the other.

  The only more manipulative consumer architecture I’ve seen is the quarter mile of one way conveyor belt which sucks the unsuspecting off the Strip in Vegas and drops them into the digestive maze of Caesar’s Palace Casino without any return route at all.

CD:

  I don’t much care which one we kill off. A manufacturer who has so little respect for my business that he locks my handset gets no love from me — no more than would a restauranteur who bars the door until I agree to eat there for the next year. The record industry lost me about 20,000 lawsuits ago — they can go hang, as far as I’m concerned. And, of course, no human language contains the phrase “as lovable as a phone company,” and I’d dance on the grave of pretty much any major carrier.

Not sure biznicide is the only option here, but it’s important to note that it’s seriously under consideration.

I was looking for some quotage on advertising, and ran across this from 1999, (it says 1998, but that’s a typo) which lists ideas that would find a home in The Cluetrain Manifesto.

In it I said that advertising is unaccountable. That has changed. Google and others have made their form of adveriting highly accountable, and that has made all the difference.

But at some point we will look at the accounting. Hard. When we do, we will see two things: 1) it still involves enormous amounts of waste and guesswork; and 2) it’s still something that’s done exclusively on the sell side, in the absence of original, personal input from the buy side.

Then, eventually, we will build markets based on buyers’ intentions, and not just attempts by sellers to grab buyers’ attention. The latter won’t go away. But the former needs to be built.

Bonus link.

Mission: Denial

Tim Jarrett:

  In their haste to try to break Apple’s well-earned stronghold on the content download market, NBC is starting its own download service. Rather than charge for the downloads, the downloads will contain unskippable commercials, and according to the Times the downloads will “degrade after the seven-day period and be unwatchable.” Jeff Gaspin, president of NBC Universal Television Group, calls this “kind of like Mission Impossible.”

That, naturally, is a perfect set-up line, and Tim runs with it. All the way to this from Fake Steve Jobs:

  So, fair enough. Bring on the big media cluster fuck. Roll out all the different systems that don’t work together. Bring on all the different kinds of software, none of which will work as well as iTunes. Bring on a zillion different user interfaces, a zillion accounts you need to set up, a zillion new usernames and passwords and a list of which services can work on which devices in which format. Right. When you’re good and tired of that, we’ll be here waiting for you.

There’s certainly room for a download service to beat what Real Steve offers. Hell, we need one. Or many. But whatever succeeds won’t have a service model based on value subtraction.

As in Jesse Ventucky

Been hanging in the airport lounge here at Logan with Rich Hill, one of the bloggers behind The Piton. Reading, I just discoverd that Ventucky is Ventura.

We passed the moment of Equinox at 9:51am GMT today.

That was 17 minutes ago, as I write this.

Just a question

If New York City is the “center of advertising”, then what’s the center of advertising’s opposite?

The message isn’t medium

Okay, so Bob sold out. But he sold out for me. All is forgiven.Sheila Lennon

OneWebDay

David Isenberg observes that OneWebDay and Yom Kippur coincide this year, making OWD “the second oldest Important World-Wide Observation”. David Weinberger urges us to “go celebrate the Web while we still have one that’s distinguishable from cable TV”. I wrote my celebration here, where I explain (among probably too many other things) where my nickname came from. (Yes, I’m a David too. Coincidence?)

Bubble 2.0

In 1999, “portals” were all the rage and advertising was going to pay for everything. In 2007, “social networks” are all the rage and advertising is paying for everything. Almost.

Thought: We have the same problem with Facebook today that we’ve had with broadcast media for the duration: their customers are their advertisers, not their users; and in fact they sell the latter to the former.

Questions: Where is the financial leverage in your social network? How does it work?

Questions: What is your relationship with your social network provider? How does that work?

R.G. Ratcliffe in the Houston Chronicle: Suit against blogger tests limits of speech, privacy; Such lawsuits on the rise as blogs proliferate.

It begins,

  Friday, September 21, 2007

  Paris, Texas, population 26,490, may be an unlikely Internet frontier. But a defamation lawsuit filed by the local hospital against an anonymous blogger is testing the bounds of Internet privacy, First Amendment freedom of speech and whistle-blower rights.

  A state district judge has told lawyers for the hospital and the blogger that he plans to order a Dallas Internet service provider to release the blogger’s name. The blogger’s lawyer, James Rodgers of Paris, said he will appeal to preserve the man’s anonymity.

  Rodgers said the core question in the legal battle is whether a plaintiff in a lawsuit can strip a blogger of anonymity merely by filing suit. Without some higher standard to prove a lawsuit has merit, he said, defamation lawsuits could have a chilling effect on Internet free speech.

  “Anybody could file a lawsuit and say, ‘I feel like I’ve been defamed. Give me the name,’ ” Rodgers said.

Here’s the blogger. The ISP (actually, hosting service) is Blogspot. In other words, Google.

It’s complicated, and there are lots of threads to follow. Be more than interesting to see how and where this goes.

Y not

From Kaliya:

 

  I am working on a great new event this fall. It is for women who work in technology called She’s Geeky. It is October 22-23 in Mountain View CA.

  I would encourage you all to let women you know in tech know about the event.

Great cheap-outs

The best table radio I’ve heard in years is the Cambridge Soundworks 705. It’s solid and friendly-looking, with an old-fashioned round dial and a nice soft feel to the reduction gears inside its knob. (All three of its knobs feel good, actually.) Sound on AM as well as FM is outstanding, especially considering its small size. It’s mono, but only through its excellent speaker. It’s stereo though the headphone jack, so you can hook up to external stereo speakers if you like. The internal antenna works well, and it has a jack for an external one if you want to inprove reception. I think it’s a bargain at $99.99 from HiFi.com (Cambridge SoundWorks’ website); but they have it for $20 less at the company’s warehouse store in Needham. Comes in three colors: black, white and gray. I like the white.

Also from Cambridge SoundWorks, the PCWorks speaker system has been selling for years at $39.95 or something. Right now it lists for $10 more than that. The warehouse in Needham has it for $36-something. I’ve bought maybe five of these over the years, usually for service as laptop sound systems. People are always astonished at how good they sound, especially for the money. There’s a shoebox-sized bass unit, tiny (2.5″ square) right and left speakers, and a volume control in the cord that runs from your source (typically a portable MP3 player or a laptop, but anything with a headphone jack). The speakers cables and audio source cable are all long, which makes it easy to spread the speakers far apart or to hide most of the gear somewhere. Comes in white and black.

Want cheap HDTV? Combine that PCWorks speaker system with a low-cost LCD monitor like one of these from Costco, which start at $199. Plug the two into your HDTV set-top box and you’ve got an HDTV for less than $250. That’s kinda what I did yesterday when I needed to test our new Verizon FiOS (fiber optic) installation. We don’t have a TV of any kind here, but we have a PCWorks speaker system and a ViewSonic 22″ 1680 x 1050 display that cost in the low $200s from Costco. It was a jury-rigged setup, but something of a revelation: together they look and sound fabulous.

Last but far from least, the You-Do-It Electronics Center. If you’re a hardware geek who’s lucky enough to live near Boston, this place is Shangri-La. They don’t have everything, but it sure seems that way. (Look Honey, they sell capacitors!) Last night I grazed there for half an hour (way too short a time) picked up a cheap Y connector (RCA male to 1/8″ female) and a nice Uniden cordless phone with a headset jack. Works very nicely too. You can’t miss the neon signage peering over the northbound entrance ramp to 495 I-95/128 (see comments for the correction) at the Needham interchange. Finding the store is a lot harder. Clue: take the street next to the Hess station, and just look around the industrial district behind there.

Advice du jour

Keep America Strong. Ask A Young Person To Become A Ham.Susan Crawford

Digging the Nokia N800

So Dave is getting a Nokia N800. That totally rocks. Can’t wait to see what he does with it.

To help get him (or anybody) started, check out the review Jim Thompson and I wrote for Linux Journal.

It’s not as slick as an iPhone, but it’s open and ready to do, well, pretty much anything.

Where vs. Why

In Why Facebook went west, Scott Kirsner suggests that Facebook‘s decision to relocate to Silicon Valley “either highlights Boston’s deficiencies as a greenhouse for a new generation of Web start-ups, or illustrates the incredible magnetism of Silicon Valley – or a bit of both.”

Short answer: It’s the magnetism of Silicon Valley, period.

True, if Battery Ventures or some other Boston-area VC had become the primary investor in Facebook, perhaps Facebook would have stayed. But good VCs everywhere pass up good opportunities every day. To ascribe those decisions to regional “deficiencies” is a stretch that verges on a smear.

What if Battery had invested in Facebook and the company had moved anyway? Would this say anything bad about Boston? No. It would confirm what’s good about Silicon Valley. If you’re a fast-growing tech company looking for the maximum quantity of high-quality local talent, there isn’t much choice. Silicon Valley is the place.

Back in 1984 I was a principal in a high-tech advertising agency in Raleigh, North Carolina. We had what was clearly the top high-tech agency in the state at that time. But one client said “Y’know boys, there’s more action on one street in Sunnyvale than there is in all of North Carolina”. We went and looked. He was right. We opened an office in Palo Alto, did very well there and within a year closed the North Carolina office.

That decision had nothing to do with the obvious advantages of our North Carolina location. But the business advantages to the Silicon Valley move were beyond clear. I suspect they were for Facebook too.

And that’s not to say Boston doesn’t have advantages of its own. Or else I wouldn’t have just moved here from California.

One Life Day

I got a jump on OneWebDay with an autobiographical post at Linux Journal. In the spirit of (in this case, unintentionally) disclosive autobiography, I posted it yesterday in the mistaken belief that yesterday was actually OneWebDay, and not just the day on which the Berkman Center devoted its customary Luncheon to OneWebDay. So, rather than yank the piece and park it until Saturday, I left it there with an asterisk and a footnote explaining what I just explained here.

I just got this email from The New York Times:

Dear TimesSelect Subscriber,

We are ending TimesSelect, effective today.

The Times’s Op-Ed and news columns are now available to everyone free of charge, along with Times File and News Tracker. In addition, The New York Times online Archive is now free back to 1987 for all of our readers.

Why the change?

Since we launched TimesSelect, the Web has evolved into an increasingly open environment. Readers find more news in a greater number of places and interact with it in more meaningful ways. This decision enhances the free flow of New York Times reporting and analysis around the world. It will enable everyone, everywhere to read our news and opinion – as well as to share it, link to it and comment on it.

We thank you for your support of TimesSelect, and hope you continue to enjoy The New York Times in all its electronic and print forms.

The spin here is that times have changed while The Times has not. This is worse than misleading. It’s delusional. Yes, “the Web has evolved”. But it had already evolved to a state where charging for archival editorial was a bad idea, long before Times Select was created. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bloggers and smart publishing professionals had the clues, and kindly passed them along to the Times, which chose instead to remain insular and clueless.

Is it still? Follow the money. The “evolution” that matters here is the rise in the advertising money river, which now flows away from traditional media and into the Google Sea. As that river rises past flood stage, newspapers stand in its midst, guarding their precious “content” within dungeons behind paywalls, peering down from the parapets as the flood fills the moats and washes the foundations away.

For insight into the mentality behind paywall maintenance, read this, from David Weinberger’s Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchy chapter in The Cluetrain Manifesto (written more than eight years ago):

Inside Fort Business

Somewhere along the line, we confused going to work with building a fort.

Strip away the financial jibber-jabber and the management corpo-speak, and here’s our fundamental image of business:

  • It’s in an imposing office building that towers over the landscape.
  • Inside is everything we need.
  • And that’s good because the outside is dangerous. We are under siege by our competitors, and even by our partners and customers. Thank God for the thick, high walls!
  • The king rules. If we have a wise king, we prosper.
  • The king has a court. The dukes, viscounts, and other subluminaries each receive their authority from the king. (The king even countenances an official fool. Within limits.)
  • We each have our role, our place. If we each do the job assigned to us by the king’s minions, our fort will beat all those other stinking forts.
  • And then we will have succeeded — or, thinking it’s the same thing, we will say we have “won.” We get to dance a stupid jig while chanting “Number one! Number one!”

This fort is, at its heart, a place apart. We report there every morning and spend the next eight, ten, or twelve hours inaccessible to the “real” world. The portcullis drops not only to keep out our enemies, but to separate us from distractions such as our families. As the drawbridge goes up behind us, we become businesspeople, different enough from our normal selves that when we first bring our children to the office, they’ve been known to hide under our desk, crying.

Within this world, the Web looks like a medium that exists to allow Fort Business to publish online marketing materials and make credit card sales easier than ever. Officially, this point of view is known as “denial.”

The Web isn’t primarily a medium for information, marketing, or sales. It’s a world in which people meet, talk, build, fight, love, and play. In fact, the Web world is bigger than the business world and is swallowing the business world whole. The vague rumblings you’re hearing are the sounds of digestion.

The change is so profound that it’s not merely a negation of the current situation. You can’t just put a big “not” in front of Fort Business and say, “Ah, the walls are coming down.” No, the true opposite of a fort isn’t an unwalled city.

It’s a conversation.

As anybody who has ever tried to get a letter to the editor of the Times can tell you, the paper is not conversational. And hell, maybe it shouldn’t be. But that doesn’t mean it can’t, or shouldn’t, at least listen.

It’s time for the Times (and other papers) to put their ears, rather than just their walls, to the ground.

[Later...] Rob Paterson nails it on the subject of both relationships and what’s really scarce. Good stuff.

Not long after came out, Jakob Nielsen floored me by pointing out something that should have been obvious but proved easy to miss: that the authors “defected” from marketing and took sides with markets against it. When we wrote we are not seat s or eyeballs or end users or consumers, and our reach exceeds your grasp. deal with it … the first person we was individuals seeking to escape marketing’s grasp. The second person we were addressing was marketing itself. I think this is a very big reason why Cluetrain still resonates today. Marketing is hardly any less graspy and barely more conversational, except in a few places. Such as, presumably, the Conversational Marketing Summit.

In the weeks leading up to the Summit my friend Peter Hirshberg urged me to provide helpful input for a white paper he was writing with others, including Steve Hayden of Ogilvy, a legendary copywriter (Apple’s “1984″, among countless others). The white paper was to frame its thinking around Cluetrain, eight years after marketing began not to get its points.

Here’s what I sent him, which now runs at the front of the White Paper (warning: it’s a .pdf)…

The framing for conversational marketing should be conversation, not marketing. Think about what you want in a conversation, and let that lead your marketing.

  • The purpose of conversation is to create and improve understanding, not for one party to “deliver messages” to the other. That would be rude.
  • There is no “audience” in a conversation. If we must label others in conversation, let’s call them partners.
  • People in productive conversation don’t repeat what they’re saying over and over. They learn from each other and move topics forward.
  • Conversations are about talking, not announcing. They’re about listening, not surveying. They’re about paying attention, not getting attention. They’re about talking, not announcing.
  • “Driving” is for cars and cattle, not conversation.
  • Conversation is live. Its constantly moving and changing, flowing where the interests and ideas of the participants take it. Even when conversations take the form of email, what makes them live is current interest on both sides.

What this means for conversational marketing is that brands must be living things too. Not just emblems. Those that succeed will be as liveas open to the flow and diversion of ideasas the market conversations they participate in.

Live brands participate in market conversations in a manner that is:

  • Real. Conversational marketing is carried out by human beings, writing and speaking in their own voices, for themselvesnot just for their employers.
  • Constant. Conversational marketings heartbeat is the human one, not some media schedule. Brands need to work incessantly to be understood within the context of the market conversation and to earn and keep the respect of their conversational partners.
  • Genuinely interested. Intellectual engagement cant be fakedat least for long. Current interest is what keeps conversations going, and its the key to sustained brand presence.
  • Intent on learning. Every participant who stays with the conversation learns. Humans are distinguished by their unlimited capacity to learn. This should be no less true of brands than it is of individuals.
  • Humble. The term “branding” was born in the cattle industry and borrowed by advertising and mass media at the height of the Industrial Age. In those days the power to inform was concentrated in the hands of a few giant companies. Now it’s in everybody’s hands.
  • Attentive. In the old days, brands wanted everybody else to pay attention to them. Now brands need to pay attention to everybody else.
  • Personal. No individual outsources their conversation or their education. This is no less true of brands than of people. Because brands today are people. Smart brands reward individual employees for engaging in market converstions.

Can marketing be all those things? I have my doubts. So does this blog (not sure who the writer is), which offers a paragraph that makes me wince:

‘There is no audience in a conversation.’ I agree with this, however there is an audience for a blog. Labeling people in a conversation a ‘partner’ suggests equality. But as this applies to marketing it is the wrong suggestion. A partner doesn’t try to get you to buy stuff you don’t need/want. The implication that the blogosphere is a conversation; that we are all partners; therefore people marketing to us in this ‘conversation’ are our partners is creepy. Another point to note is that there is a backchannel in the blogosphere. Many of us get emails requesting this that or the other get some exposure. Conversations are transparent to all participants.

I remember struggling with a term that wasn’t “audience” and was truly conversational. “Partner” was the best I could come up with at the time. What else do you call someone you’re in conversation with? Maybe one of you can come up with a better answer. In any case, point taken. In fact, it’s a point I’d make as well. The jury is out on whether marketing can be truly conversational. Peter and Steve believe it can. I’d like to help them try, which is what I’m doing here. If anybody can do it, they’re the ones. But the jury is still out. That’s the rest of us.

In the phone business they call it a “minutes mentality”. For the newspaper business Jeff Jarvis cals it a “circulation mentality”. But the sad fact is that it’s a margin mentality that says you should charge for everything that’s chargable.

Years ago Craig Burton told me the smartest thing you can do in business is know what money to leave on the table. Don’t charge for everything. Know how to get your leverage by giving the right stuff away. Make money because of that stuff, rather than with it.

The New York Times is learning. Slowly. The hard way.

Sadly, they knew better. In Sprint of 2005, Jeff Jarvis and I stood with the Times’ Martin Niesenholtz at the back of the room at the first Syndicate conference in New York, while Martin was getting ready to give his keynote. He told us he had some news: that the Times was going to start charging $49.95 for access to all its archives, its columnists and other exclusive subscriber-only “content”. In other words, it was going to put up a paywall.

I said “Oh no!” and did my best to inveigh against it. He told us it was a firm decision. He also said it was driven by Circulation, not Editorial. Clearly his heart wasn’t in it. That conversation was confidential at the time, but now that Times Select is dead, I don’t think I’m betraying anything by talking about it. And it’s important for the Times, and other newspapers, to learn something here.

Martin talked about the decision in his keynote. So did I, the next day, in my own keynote to the same audience. You can go through the slides here. Or skip directly to what I said at the time about the Times.

In my How to Save Newspapers post this past March, my first (of ten) recommendations was this:

  1) Stop giving away the news and charging for the olds. Okay, give away the news, if you have to, on your website. There’s advertising money there. But please, open up the archives. Stop putting tomorrow’s fishwrap behind paywalls. (Dean Landsman was the first to call this a “fishwrap fee”.) Writers hate it. Readers hate it. Worst of all, Google and Yahoo and Technorati and Icerocket and all your other search engines ignore it. Today we see the networked world through search engines. Hiding your archives behind a paywall makes your part of the world completely invisilble. If you open the archives, and make them crawlable by search engine spiders, your authority in your commmunity will increase immeasurably. (This point is proven by Santa Barbara vs. Fort Myers, both with papers called News-Press, one with contents behind a paywall and the other wide open.) Plus, you’ll open all that inventory to advertising possibilities. And I’ll betcha you’ll make more money with advertising than you ever made selling stale editorial to readers who hate paying for it. (And please, let’s not talk about Times Select. Your paper’s not the NY Times, and the jury is waaay out on that thing.)

Well, the jury’s in now.

The big upside is that this raises the chances that other papers will stop copying the Times’ bad decisions with Times Select, and go ahead and open their own archives as well.

Maybe, if they’re lucky, they’ll listen to more of what the rest of us have been telling them all along.

Rex Hammock: I am sending out a request to Doc Searls to blog on this topic. And I wish he’d gloat and say, “Why didn’t you people listen to me three years ago?” But, then, Doc is not one to gloat. He’s right.

I’d rather be constructive. So here’s my big idea for the Times: Hire Dave Winer to come in and take the paper to the next level. Dave had Martin’s ear, and those of some other folks at the Times, way more than three years ago. And to some degree they listened. The Times did some good stuff with Dave’s advice (such as taking the lead with RSS). But the Times has otherwise ignored outstanding ideas such as the ones Dave demonstrates with nytimesriver, an application I often use on my cell phone. Nothing to lose, Times. Lots to gain. Trust me.

By the way, I just wrote this with an outliner Dave just helped me get rolling again. It’s great to be back riding in that saddle.

By grace of Starbucks

I’m back home in the U.S., getting online in the wee hours over a wi-fi access point that’s my wife’s laptop, which is on the Net at the moment using a Verizon EvDO card. The connection is highly asymmetrical (fast-enough downsteam, slow-as-dialup upstream), but it’s serving as our home connction until Verizon FiOS (fiber optic) cabling and service arrives on Thursday. Then we’ll have 20Mb downstream and 5Mb upstream.

Anyway, I spent my week in London at the Thistle Kensington Park, which lists high-speed Internet access among its amenities. It either failed completely or was slow beyond measure. I spent hours on the phone with tech support at the company that provides the service, and ended up refusing to pay the charges that the hotel manager insisted were not his to take off the bill. I’ve never had a heated argument with a hotel manager before, so this was a milestone experience for me. It was also the latest lesson in a series that keeps me coming back to Starbucks, where the Internet access experience is as predictable (and expensive) as its coffee. I hate to say its worth it to me to pay the monthly T-Mobile fee, but it is. Getting a fast-enough and reliable Net connection at pretty much any Starbucks one encounters is a mark of civilization, at least to me. (Though I do await the time when we look back on wi-fi access charges as a breed of extortion akin to that of the pay toilet. Meanwhile I do understand the economics involved.)

I’d give kudos to T-Mobile as well, but they charge 18¢/minute “roaming” fee for using their network at Starbucks in the U.K.  But I am grateful that Starbucks goes to the trouble of making sure that customers get Net access, somehow. And that the access is reliable.

My experience in hotels is highly varied. The worst by far was the Thistle Kensington Park, but I can’t say what the best is. Nothing stands out for me. Anybody know if there’s a Starbucks equivalent among hotels? After this past week of zero Net access from the Thistle, I’m ready to limit my patronage to hotels that have known reliable Net access for guests.

Rainbow sky

On the trip over here to London last Sunday evening, I shot a set of 24 photos over about a minute and a half while our United 777 ascended through a layer of cirrus clouds at around 25,000 feet, give or take. The sunlight passing through the clouds, which at this altitude were comprised of ice crystals, produced a form of rainbow called a “sundog“. These can also be seen from the ground, but obviously the better angle is on the level at the clouds’ own altitude, with the rising or setting sun at a low angle. Normally I toss most of the shots I take, but in this series every one was a keeper.

With apologies to those whose juice (or whatever) may be reduced by it, I’ve deep-sixed the blogroll. As a move this was long overdue. The ‘roll on my old blog had grown longer than Dumbledore’s beard, and was just as antique. When I moved the blog over here I carried along mixed feelings about having a blogroll at all, and then went through lots of uncomfortable questions about whose blogs go on it, in which order, and so on.

I don’t have time to explain much more at the moment, so here are the reasons I just gave in an email to a reader who asked me about it (while also providing some very good advice):

Fact is, it’s outlived its usefulness. I hardly use it. Others pay more attention to it than I do, and too often for selfish and/or trivial reasons. Maintaining it takes effort far out of proportion to its value. Blogrolling itself looks like advertising, gatekeeping, or both. Feh. Worst of all, it’s not live. It’s a stale relic of blogging’s origins in the Static Web era. Time to move on.

For what little it’s worth, I’ve sometimes been credited with coining the term “blogrolling”. But that was 10,000 blog years ago, before we had RSS and Live Web search engines that index everything posted within seconds, plus countless other ways to assist and participate in the public polylog.

I’m open to suggestions for what other things I might put in my sidebars. Guidance: I’d like it to be live, or at least current, engaged in Conversations, and (perhaps even) fun.

Fear the baby

This is the funniest ad I’ve seen in awhile. Sent by my new grandson’s dad.

Bloggership

CollegeScholarship.org is offering $10,000 for student blogging, and up to $5,000 in other categories, some of them involving blogging as well.

Declaration of Independents

Bill of Necessities is my latest at the ProjectVRM blog. It’s about A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web, of which I approve.

Ignore the dust

Just updated my Technorati Profile. (That’s one way to do it, by including a link like that.) Been doing some other housekeeping around here too. Not that you have to notice.

Starbucks work hack

HogBlog‘s Starbuckian Handbook (“A field guide to your local virtual office”) is a fun post (“Avoid the palate-numbing effects of daily lunch from the bakery racks. Even Starbuckians cannot live by bread alone.”) that might prove handy, should you develop a de facto business relationship with your local coffee shop.

I managed to irk pretty much everybody with my post Citizen journal breaks a heroic story. Shelley Powers and David Kearns both took issue with the “citizen journalism” concept. Shelley said it doesn’t work, and David pleaded “for the demise of that horrible ‘citizen journalist’ meme”. Liz Straus, who pointed me to the story in the first place, said “Aw Doc, why the focus on citizen journalism and not the focus — as David point’s out — on the oral history that’s been happening since time began?” More than one comment gave David Armano a hard time for apparently preferring to report via Twitter and blog, rather than through mainstream news media. David himself weighed in with good answers to his critics, and added, “This isn’t real journalism and I don’t think anyone would claim it to be (I wouldn’t). It just demonstrates that the average person can tell a story from there perspective. I was there, I saw what I saw and told that story. That’s all.”

But is it?

“Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”, Linus’s Law says. But we have to do better than just de-bugging posts like David Armano’s and mine. The mainstream media never had enough eyeballs, or time, to do a job that was even close to ideal. And now, as advertising money and eyeballs both flood over the banks of mainstream media and out through the surrounding jungle of blogs, twitters, cell calls, text messages and countless other outlets for information, we clearly need to think afresh about re-institutionalizing the means by which we get trustworthy news to each other, and how we then debug and interpret it along the way.

We’ve not only hardly started to build the new (or renewed) institutions we require; we barely have a common understanding for what we’re doing in the meantime. “Citizen journalism” sounds right to some, “horrible” to others. Blogs are journals in the literal sense, but few carry the same breed of responsibility long ferried by major newspapers and magazines. (Although fate may put bloggers in that position from time to time.) While we debate whether or not new media authors practice “real journalism”, the need to report What’s Going On not only persists, but has more means than ever.

This is why I’ve lamented the dying not only of local newspapers, but of full-service local radio in most smaller U.S. cities, and the failure thus far of everybody (bloggers, public radio, you name it) to fill the void. Old acts are failing and new acts are not fully together.

Earlier this year Dan Gillmor and JD Lasica put together five basic Principles of Citizen Journalism (accuracy, thoroughness, transparency, fairness, independence) that should refresh veteran journalists while educating rookie ones. We also need new institutions where these kinds of principles can be practiced. And new practices where these principles can be institutionalized.

If you’re looking for a good cross-section of possibilities here, check out JLab and the Knight-Batten awards, which are given to worthy efforts in constructive journalistic directions.

While all these are good, the larger trend to watch over time is the inevitable decline in advertising support for journalistic work, and the growing need to find means for replacing that funding — or to face the fact that journalism will become largely an amateur calling, and to make the most of it.

This trend is hard to see. While rivers of advertising money flow away from old media and toward new ones, both the old and the new media crowds continue to assume that advertising money will flow forever. This is a mistake. Advertising remains an extremely inefficient and wasteful way for sellers to find buyers. I’m not saying advertising isn’t effective, by the way; just that massive inefficiency and waste have always been involved, and that this fact constitutes a problem we’ve long been waiting to solve, whether we know it or not.

Google has radically improved the advertising process, first by making advertising accountable (you pay only for click-throughs) and second by shifting advertising waste from ink and air time to pixels and server cycles. Yet even this success does not diminish the fact that advertising itself remains inefficient, wasteful and speculative. Even with advanced targeting and pay-per-click accountability, the ratio of “impressions” to click-throughs still runs at lottery-odds levels.

The holy grail for advertisers isn’t advertising at all, because it’s not about sellers hunting down buyers. In fact it’s the reverse: buyers hunting for sellers. It’s also for customers who remain customers because they enjoy meaningful and productive relationships with sellers — on customers’ terms and not just on vendors’ alone. This is VRM: Vendor Relationship Management. It not only relieves many sellers of the need to advertise — or to advertise heavily — but also allows CRM (Customer Relatinship Management) to actually relate, and not just to capture and control.

As VRM grows, advertising will shrink to the the perimeters defined by “no other way”. It’s hard to say how large those perimeters will be, or how much journalism will continue to thrive inside of them; but the sum will likely be less than advertising supports today.

The result will be a combination of two things: 1) a new business model for much of journalism; or 2) no business model at all, because much of it will be done gratis, as its creators look for because effects — building reputations and making money because of one’s work, rather than with one’s work. Some bloggers, for example, have already experienced this. Today I have fellowships at two major universities, plus consulting and speaking work, all of which I enjoy because of blogging. The money involved far exceeds what I might have made from advertising on my blogs. (For what it’s worth, I have never made a dime of advertising money by blogging, nor have I sought any.)

On the with effects side — money made with journalism, rather than because of it — perhaps the new institutions of journalism will become more accountable as journalism’s consumers pay its producers directly. I don’t know how we’ll get to that, but it will necessarily involve VRM, and I would love to help build it.

One sure thing: a primary building material for the future institutions of journalism will be the work of amateurs sort, the best of which will honor that adjective’s original meaning: one who loves a subject, but does not require payment for obsessing constructively about it. Again, the old system does not go away, but grows to include both the old and the new.

Just don’t expect advertising to fund the new institutions in the way it funded the old.

In his latest post, Stephen Lewis vists the subject of Labor Day by revisiting the work of Paul Lafargue:

The real enemy of all mankind, according to Lafargue, is its own senseless compulsion to produce, the self-destructive compulsion to work. Forget about fighting for the right to work, Lafargue argues, one should struggle for the right to be lazy! Marx’s famed Communist Manifesto begins with the warning that the specter of class-based violence is haunting Europe but the opening paragraph of Lafargue’s The Right to Be Lazy warns us against a more insidious danger from within, our own supposed industriousness…

He adds,

Lafargue is oddly prescient. He foresaw the near suicidal overwork that characterized sweatshops, Soviet idealization of “Stakhanovites” US misadventures in “scientific management,” and the expansion of the American workweek over the past few decades from a hard-won forty hour week back up to a nerve-fraying fifty to sixty hours or more. Lafargue also anticipated the waste and environmental damage of economies based on continuous expansion of production, the conflicts caused by continuous seeking out of new markets, and the torpor and perennial dissatisfaction occasioned by cajoling existing markets into ever-increasing consumption.

Much more there. Check it out.

Power to the person

David Weinberger is having second thoughts about agreeing with my first thoughts about Facebook’s recent decisions about minimally exposing member profiles to search engines (or whatever it is they’re doing). Specifically,

Having read and thought more, I find myself agreeing more with Gene and less with myself. I also like Larry Borsato’s post. I agree with Gene that FB has done a good job of walking users through the process, so I’m now in the “Get over it” phase of grieving over privacy.

I’d still rather that FB kept even my participation in FB private unless I say so, and the broadcasting of this info to search engines makes FB feel less like a private garden where I can hang out with my friends. But, I think I over-reacted.

Me too.

But rather than grieving over what BigCos do with our privacy, or getting straight exactly what Facebook is up to, I’d prefer to create tools that give us — each of us, natively — selective disclosure policies that we can pass along to the membership organizations of the world.

We’re so used to living in vendor habitats that we can barely imagine having real power and control in our relationships with them — for their good as well as our own. Selective disclosure has always been a basic tenet of VRM; but just to make sure it’s clear, I’ve added a sentence to that effect here in the about section of the ProjectVRM wiki.

On the way to the airport this morning, my wife and I were talking about one of the big easily-defaulted misunderstandings of the VRM concept: that power for people only comes in numbers, in aggregation. The problem is with the word “only”. Power needs to start with the individual. In a pure VRM context, it’s about my relationship with FaceBook, or Peets Coffee, or United Airlines, or the corner cleaners.

My wife made it clear in a conversation we had on the way to the airport this morning. That’s why I made what she said the headline for  this post.

A Chicago Tribune story begins, A car that got stuck on tracks in north suburban Glenview was hit by two Amtrak trains Saturday night, but no injuries were reported, authorities said. It ends, Glenview police were at the scene investigating, and details about the car and driver were not available, an officer said.

But there was an eyewitness: The blogger David Armano. He reports,

While riding my motorbike I pulled up to a red light adjacent to a train crossing minutes from my home in Glenview IL. Across the intersection I could make out a few teenagers running across the tracks. There was something on the tracks—it appeared to be a car, but I couldn’t be sure. The next thing I knew the train crossing lit up and the guards went down.

It all happened within seconds.

I saw 2 young men dash away from the car and literally dive into the weeds next to the tracks. They were holding something. SECONDS later—no more than 5 or so, TWO diesel trains ripped the car to shreds. It might have been a scene out of a movie. I pulled over my bike to where the teenagers were and two boys emerged from the weeds carrying an elderly woman. Turns out she mistakingly made a right turn on the tracks and ended up facing an ongoing train. Her car was stuck on the tracks and she was disoriented.

He adds,

I was there, and I captured what I saw with my own eyes via Twitter. There are some very special heroes out there that may be getting some attention from the press in the days to come. I went up to those young men and could only say this:

“You did something good here—you did the right thing”

He also provides the Twitter transcript where he reported it first.

Thanks for the pointage goes to Liz Strauss.

[Later...] I don’t know why, but WordPress doesn’t like something I’m doing with the last sentence above, or any sentence at the bottom of this post. So I’m not sure this one is going to make it, but anyway check out Jon Garfunkel’s comments, below. Shelley’s too.

Besides come cheap

Michael Robertson: 9 things the iPhone can’t do.

We’re expanding search so that people can see which of their friends are on Facebook more easily, Phillip Fung says on the company blog. He adds,

The public search listing contains less information than someone could find right after signing up anyway, so we’re not exposing any new information, and you have complete control over your public search listing.

In a few weeks, we will allow these Public Search listings (depending on users’ individual privacy settings) to be found by search engines like Google, MSN Live, Yahoo, etc. We think this will help more people connect and find value from Facebook without exposing any actual profile information or data.

Translation: If you’re a FaceBook member, your ass is now online.

Yes, you can opt out:

As always, if you do not want your public search listing to be visible to people searching from outside of Facebook, you can control that from the Search Privacy page. Please note that you will only appear in searches outside Facebook when your search settings are set to “Everyone”.

But this is a significant shift. The walled garden called Facebook is declaring itself a public space where suddenly all its members have name badges visible by default to the world.

Seems to me this is not what its members bargained for when they joined up. But I’m 60. The bargain at 18 or 35 might be very different.

Yet, I submit, the bargains we make with commercially-based social silos like FaceBook are by nature Faustian, whether or not it’s cool with us that FaceBook creates fresh exposures of our identity data to search engine users — including, of course, countless marketing data harvesters and spammers who will soon be sending us crap with subject lines containing bait from FaceBook profiles (even if they’re minimized).

Anonymity should be the default in the way we face the open world — the one where search engines crawl public sites and data. When we become members of organizations, we by default should assume that data about us will be made available on a selectively permitted basis arrived at by mutual discretion, between the member and the organization. That isn’t happening here. FaceBook is unilaterally deciding to expose its members to who-knows-what, in addition to friends looking for friends. Giving members opt-out is lame, retro and and a breach of faith.

What we call “online social networks” mostly are not. They are private walled gardens that exist for reasons that are far more commercial than social. We need to remember that.

Running the numbers

At this point, this poor girl making a fool of herself on a Miss Teen USA broadcast has been viewed 13,135,234 times on YouTube. How many people saw the actual broadcast on TV? Anybody know?

In What journalists need to know about snowballs and fire, Kristine Lowe leverages what I wrote here to explain what journalists need to know about distributed conversations. And rolls with a great example:

In the framework of my blog it works like this: I write about a company like Mecom in Norway and another blogger adds a German or Polish perspective, another tips me off about a story I might find interesting in my comment field. Or I write about a law I find worrying, another blogger picks up on the thread and asks a hard question or two, a third does an interview to clarify the situation and adds some very valuable thoughts on what impact the law might have on regimes in Africa, and another cool person analyses the law in a comment (follow-up here).

And even this is really too narrow a description of distributed conversations, but here’s a good stab at deconstructing them. Besides, all of this comes on top of how my blog has the marvellous effect of attracting readers who are passionate about the issues I’m passionate about.

…this necessitates tracking conversations about the issues you write or care about, e.g. with Technorati, and ideally linking to them; how there’s lots of opportunities for MSM to engage more with their readers here, and how journalists as well, whether we approve of it or not, are trapped in those Catholic Churches

Thus the ball blazes on…

Got in yesterday (Sunday), around noon, a week exactly after leaving Santa Barbara.

The trip could hardly have been easier, considering. The weather was pretty much perfect, every day. The car, which turned past 120,000 miles in Arches National Park, ran smoothly and with no complaints. The dashboard says “EMISSIONS WORKSHOP”, with a little “check engine” light that means the same thing. It’s been that way for months, and was supposed to be fixed by the VW dealer before we left Santa Barbara, as part of its routine 120,000 mile workup ($639), but that didn’t happen. It also didn’t make any difference.

The apartment is the top two floors of a typical Boston-area house built in 1920, and lovingly maintained by a landlady who prepared it more than well. We bought a few items from the prior tennants (such as the desk on which I’m typing this now), and Halley also provided us with some very helpful provisions from her surplus collection of cookware and other household goods. But we’re still short of about 99% of the furniture we’ll need.

We oriented in the afternoon to the nearest Costco, Target, Peet’s and Trader Joe’s, which are our base-level desert island requirements. We visited Costco and Target late in the afternoon, and found both to be about 2x the size of any we’ve met in California. Those will help while we tool around from one garage sale to another today. Meanwhile we’re camping here on air mattresses.

It’ll be good to get Verizon’s FiOS fiber optic internet service, but it won’t get here until the 11th. Meanwhile we’re on with EvDO. (One of us uses the card, and turns the laptop into a wi-fi bridge for the other one — it’s a kluge, but it works okay.)

It’s fun to be in a house of the same vintage as the ones I remember from when I was a kid in New Jersey. First was my grandmother’s house on Hoyt Avenue in Fort Lee, a stone’s throw from the George Washington Bridge. My grandfather (born in 1863, during the Civil War) built that house around the turn of the last century. It was typically Victorian: tall (with two apartments — one each for the top two floors), long and narrow. It was high off the ground so there was room for a delivery truck to dump coal through a chute into a bin in the basement. This is the house where my parents were living when I was born in 1947, and I believe it was still heated with coal when we lived there. I can remember the coal pile, in any case. Grandma lived there until I was eight years old and I remember the place vividly.

Our next house was on Edel Avenue in Maywood, not far up Route 4 (“root faw”). That one was built in 1920 and a good bit smaller: 17×23, including the porch. It was heated by oil that produced steam for radiators in each room. In spite of its small size, it was better than three stories high, with a full basement and an attic. We lived there until I was six. I remember that house vividly as well, which is why our apartment reminds me of it. There’s the oil heat in the basement, the front porch with latticework underneath, the steep stairs to each floor, the little nook & cranny storage areas beneath the triangular spaces outside the attic and under the roof.

I’m writing this from the attic in our apartment; and though it’s a lot longer than the Edel Avenue house, it still has the same look & feel — even the same old-wood smell when you open the storage spaces. Funny to think that the old Edel Avenue house was only 28 years old when we moved there in 1948.

Our next house was on Woodland Avenue in Maywood, a few blocks form Edel. It was new in 1953, and almost identical to every other new house that went up on that block at the same time.

Two of those three houses of ours are now gone. The Ft. Lee house was cleared to make room for access roads to the lower deck of the George Washington Bridge, back in the mid-1960s. And the Woodland Avenue house was bulldozed several years ago so the new owners could put a new house there. I just learned from an old friend and former next door neighbor that all the big trees in our lot — a wild cherry, a locust and a maple, have all been taken down. We planted the maple and the locust. The Wild cherry was there when we moved in, and I used to climb the thing almost daily. My mother made jam from the berries, which were almost too tart to eat raw. I’m more bummed to learn about the trees than the house. Even though it hardly matters. (And who knows… maybe the house and the trees were all shot by now.)

Here in New England they’re more conscientious about saving the old stuff. Not that they succeed every time; but it’s nice to know it’s somewhere in the value system.

Tomorrow I start as a residential fellow (at least in the literal sense) at the Berkman Center. Can’t wait to take the bus there.

You may be getting invitations to join Quetchup that aren’t really coming from the friends who appear to be sending them. And that company may not be the only trust violator.

Just think of all the money I haven’t made.

Corporate logos are blemishes on cultural artifacts.Dave Rogers

Amen.

Fenway is still clean. Pretty sure about Yankee and Shea Stadiums. Where else? Just wondering.

Drove from Cleveland to Springfield today. Came out of the northeast corner of Ohio, crossed the short tab of Pennsylvania where Erie meets the lake, and turnpiked through upstate New York the long way before cresting the Berkshires and finding affordable lodging (after several tries along the way) a short drive shy of Boston, near Springfield, Mass.

I wasn’t on the Net this leg of the trip, but my main laptop was: on the lap of the kid in the back seat, who mostly searched for answers to questions about the Great Lakes, the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and lyrics for many other ballads (Battle of New Orleans, Sink the Bismark, John & Yoko…) while also searching for the same music on Jim Thompson‘s old 2nd-generation iPod, which was hooked up to a little Belkin FM transmitter, so the kid got to play disc (or file) jockey at the same time.

Some discoveries en route:

  • Verizon EvDO is pretty good through Ohio and upstate New York.
  • Verizon itself sucks in Kansas. It’s in “extended network”-ville there.
  • I’d gladly pay for soap to compensate hotels for providing non-abrasive toilet papers and facial tissues.
  • “Welcome” screens are always unwelcome. Especially when they intercept clicks for no reason other than to advertise the host.
  • Hotel variables that matter but never show up on website booking pages:
    • Room lights that are dark
    • Absent or concealed wall outlets. Worst are the ones hidden behind beds or cabinets
    • Bathroom fans that are loud as jet engines
    • Shower temperature controls that require a safecracker’s hands to operate
    • Air conditioners that blow directly on your bed
    • Color TVs with missing colors
    • “High-speed” internet that isn’t. (Just one hotel out of the six we’ve stayed in had adequate Internet service — including this one, where I’m on my own EvDO rather than the hotel’s wi-fi, which provides nearly zero signal into our room.)
    • Blocked outbound email
    • Desks so cluttered with crap (lamp, ice bucket, coffee maker and allied materials, ash tray, hotel guidebook…) that there’s no room for a laptop.
    • Noisy or absent refrigerators
    • Towels so stiff and rough you could sand wood with them
    • Sheets with a lower thread-count than canvas.
  • The country is huge.
  • No coffee shop chain (and, for that matter, almost no coffee shops, period) know how to make a proper cappuccino. Nearly all of them are too milky. Your best shot: “double short cappuccino, very dry.” If it’s not milky enough, add your own afterwards.
  • We’re growing a helluva lot of corn out there.
  • Upstate New York has a lot of pretty barns, half of which are falling down. It’s also a beautiful place.
  • Food is a lot cheaper in your flat states.
  • Stores called ADULT are as common as gas stations along some interstate.

That’s tonight’s brain dump.

Tomorrow morning we’ll be “home” one week to the day after leaving home on the other coast.