November 2007

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2007.


For those attempting to reach me at my email address, that server is getting replaced and should be up later today, along with the rest of

[Later...] Stuff is up, but still being sorted out. Please hold until the next agent becomes available.

The Whittier Daily News says the La Mirada planning commission has recommended approval of KFI’s request to rebuild the station’s tower, which was knocked down by a small airplane in 2004. For old radio freaks like me, this is interesting. KFI’s signal is as big as they get in the U.S. Like lots of other big AM stations, KFI is 50,ooo watts. Unlike most big stations, it sits on a relatively “clear” channel (one where there aren’t others sharing the channel), has a low dial position, a non-directional signal, and radiates from a single tower just under half a wavelength high (175.4 degrees; half is 180 degrees). Thanks to all those advantages, KFI’s daytime signal reached from Mexico to Fresno and Las Vegas, while standing like a skyscraper on the dial in Los Angeles, its home city. At night KFI reached across the whole U.S., thanks to the reflective qualities of the ionosphere.

The approved replacement tower would be shorter: 648 feet. I see in the KFI’s construction permit that the tower will be sectionalized (divided into more than one radiating section) and “top loaded”, giving it the electrical equivalent of a half-wavelength tower. Technically, it would be 181.4 degrees. The old one was 175.7. The predicted signal would be “RMS Theoretical: 374.98 mV/meter (per kW) or 2651.51 mV/meter at 50 k”, which is identical to the old tower.
The nearby Fullerton Airport wants KFI to build the tower at 500 feet or less. From the story:

“It’s not a matter of if another aircraft will run into the antenna, it is only a matter of when another aircraft will run into it,” said Rod Probst, airport manager.

But Commissioner David De Boer said two accidents isn’t that bad.

“You can only imagine the air traffic,” De Boer said. “When you’ve only had two collisions that’s pretty good odds.”

Probst contends the tower shouldn’t be higher than 500 feet, but KFI officials say that won’t give them the power they need.

Greg Ashlock, acting general manager of KFI, said a 684-foot-tall antenna is needed to allow it to increase its signal and meet its responsibility to provide emergency information.

Without the tower, KFI’s signal – now using a 204-foot-tall auxiliary tower on the same property – only goes out to 11.2 million people, Ashlock said. With it, it would go out to 16.2 million people.

“We’re one of a handful of stations designated as civil defense stations,” he said.

Back during the height of the Cold War, in the 50s and early 60s, all radios were marked with a two little triangles in circles, at 640 and 1240 on the dial, indicating that these were the dial postitions to which citizens must tune in the event of a dire emergency, such as a nuclear attack. This was the CONELRAD system. With CONELRAD, all stations in the country would suddenly switch their transmitters to 640 or 1240 and broadcast the same emergency information — or no audio — at low power, confusing any incoming missles that might be listening to one big AM station, such as KFI.

I gather KFI is still grandfathered as a big daddy civil defense station. Makes sense, because it’s the biggest signal around.

As for the danger posed by a full-size tower, KFI’s  had been standing there for 57 years before a plane hit it. I think it might even predate the Fullerton airport.

As for the actual effect of the tower loss on KFI’s signal, the station’s ratings numbers have been unaffected, as I recall, even though it’s broadcasting from a much shorter tower in the same location. It’s still a big signal.

As a kid I used to listen to KFI at night in New Jersey. That’s how clear channels worked in those days. They really were clear. I could turn my transistor radio so it would null out a competing signal from Cuba, and there KFI would be… weak, but quite audible. That’s no longer possible. The FCC has gradually allowed more and more signals on all the old clear channels, and the AM radio dial at night is a mess.

Now with the Internet, radio happens through podcasts, cell phones, laptops and other devices., making traditional radio more and more antique. This is especially so with AM (or MW elsewhere) — a band that has been all but abandoned in some other parts of the world.

But for old farts like me, it’s a sentimental thing. Also, cars still come with AM receivers, and that’s still where all the ball games are. So I’m guessing AM will still outlive me.

Twitter is paying my rent, Marshall Kirkpatrick says. Specifically,

I don’t mean they’ve hired me as a consultant, though I would love that, I mean Twitter is great for news discovery. Read on for my thoughts on how you can use Twitter more effectively, but keep in mind that communication has its own inherent value – I swear that’s what I like best about Twitter!

How is it paying my rent though? Earlier this week I was remarking (on Twitter) about how many of my recent story leads came from Twitter. I counted and at that time 5 of my last 11 stories were based on news I learned first from my friends on Twitter. It was amazing.

This is a perfect example of a because effect, which is what happens when you make more money because of something than with something. We first talked about this back at Bloggercon 3. Some retrospective on that here and here.

But gradually it’s going to dawn on people that not everything needs a “business model”. And that far more money is made because of the Net, blogging, Linux, IM, and even businesses such as cellular telephony, than is made with any of those things.

So I was flying from Boston to Atlanta by way of Chicago, heading south across Illinois roughly on a vector that took me along Interstate 57. I had enjoyed getting looks at varioius intersections and landmarks (Chicagoland Speedway, Argonne National Laboratory) west of Chicago, the Canal Corridor (with the Illinois and Michigan Canal) and the Illinois River on either side of Joliet, the Kankakee River, and then the countryside along the way to Champaign-Urbana, when I spotted a fire on the main street of a town along the way.

I had meant to do the detective work of figuring out which town it was, and to get some photos to the local paper, but got caught up in work.

Then this morning I decided I needed to nail this one down, and sure enough, the town was Paxton, and the fire was in its historic Magestic Theater. Here’s the story from the News-Gazette. Here’s the “before” picture of Downtown Paxton, from Wikipedia. I believe the Magestic Theater is there on the left. Not sure, though.

Grate minds scourge alike

Uncov reminds me of @man.

@man in 1990-something…

Guess what? We already have all the things we want. As soon as we’re ready for something new, we get it — for free. Why? Because the traditional consumer/producer relationship doesn’t exist on the Internet. Don’t you think that if we really wanted the things you think we want, we would have already developed them some time in the past 20 years for free? Free! Free! It’s so much fun to be able to use that word you hate. Take your margins with you and stick to trying to shove ads onto PBS and NPR.

You almost certainly think of the Internet as an audience of some type–perhaps somewhat captive. If you actually had even the faintest glimmering of what reality on the net is like, you’d realize that the real unit of currency isn’t dollars, data, or digicash. It’s reputation and respect. Think about how that impacts your corporate strategy. Think about how you’d feel if a guy sat down at your lunch table one afternoon when you were interviewing an applicant for a vice-president’s position and tried to sell the two of you a car, and wouldn’t go away. Believe it or not, what you want to do with the Internet is very similar. Just as you have a reasonable expectation of privacy and respect when you’re at a table for two in a public place, so too do the users of the Internet have a reasonable expectation of privacy and respect. When you think of the Internet, don’t think of Mack trucks full of widgets destined for distributorships, whizzing by countless billboards. Think of a table for two.

If you don’t understand right now, don’t worry. You’ll learn it the hard way. We’ll be there to help you learn, you filthy corporate guttersnipes.


Is It Legal?

Who gives a shit? I don’t see no po-lice around. Free beatz, dude!

There is a little bit of ass-hattery going on behind the scenes, though. The site was started by a guy who is only noteworthy by virtue of being the son of Jef Raskin, the human-computer interaction guy who started the Macintosh project at Apple.

Now, the authors of Songza are the type of people who beat off furiously to user interfaces. UI is cute and all, but if the product doesn’t deliver, then what you’ve got left is Web 2.0. I’ll admit it, when it comes to user interface, any attempt I make will be at least a magnitude 6.2 fail. I couldn’t give less of a shit about Songza’s UI, but it plays music for free. For this, I declare win.

Also had to wince at —

…If you are a PPP blogger, the only people who take offense to what you do are sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco, sipping a latte, typing on their MacBook that’s covered in stickers that boast the name of indie rock bands; stickers that said hipster probably bought in a hipster starter kit of some sort, having never actually seen any of the bands in question.

Wonder what @man’s doing now…

Very interesting demo of how Facebook Beacon works. Never mind (or go ahead, mind) that it’s at

Note at that second link how Facebook addresses advertisers and not users, in the second person voice. Enable your customers to share the actions they take on your website with their Facebook friends.

An interesting recursive circularity there: Facebook’s users are its customers’ customers.

Via Jonathan Trenn, via Chris Abraham.


Microsith. Gluetrain. Titanic Deck Chair Rearrangement Corporation.

Live lunch

I’m at the weekly luncheon series at Berkman, which will be webcast live. Today’s speaker is Michael Anti (Zhao Jing), a Nieman Fellow here at Harvard, and a journalism researcher with the New York Times’ Beijing bureau. More here. An excerpt:

Michael will address the question: what is the result when decentralized and democratized Internet meets the central and undemocratic government with almost free and huge market?

The Chinese blogosphere in the web 2.0 wave has different stories to tell. Internet has given Chinese people more freedom and chances, however, it has also given the ruling party more confidence to avoid the democracy. Michael will explain what the motives of blogging are in China in this context.

I’m the one in the tie-died shirt to Michael’s left. See you (or see us) here.

[Later...] David Weinberger took great notes. Ethan Zuckerman too.

Live from a later meeting… Ethan just said Michael’s talk was “the best thing that happened in this room in the last six months”. I agree. What Michael said was a real why-opener. In a number of ways. What he said about blogging alone was strong shit.

So many comments, so little time. I have to run to a bus in the rain shortly. So I’ll respond to just one: Don Dodge’s.

Yes, it’s true that “consumers sometimes forget the bargain they made in exchange for the free services”.

But it’s also true that almost nobody reads Facebook’s “Terms of Service“, much less anybody else’s. Not long ago I posted about the terms for Verizon and AT&T services. Each was over 10,000 words long and boiled down to “We can cut you off at any time for any reason we like and you have no recourse.”

All these ToSes are asymmetrical to a degree that verges on slavery. What’s the point of even looking at them? If we want the services, we do the deal. If the service is free, all the better. That these bargains are faustain has been known for the duration.

Do we have to continue to make them? The answer is yes, as long as we deal with the devil from a position of near-absolute weakness.

That weakness was more than learned — it was institutionalized — in the Industrial Age. That was a long period of business history during which we came to think that markets are all about What Big Companies Do, and that a “free” market is “Your choice of walled garden”. I wrote about this in Go from Hell, back in September. Here’s the section that pertains most to the Facebook Matter at hand:

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.

Thank Facebook for starting to pull that axe out. As Dan Blank shows, and Jason Calacanis says,

All of this comes up because Facebook has done three things that are at once extremely innovative, extremely rude, extremely helpful, and extremely disconcerting:

1. They are collecting and republishing user data on a level not before seen by users.

2. They are allowing advertisers to use this data to reach these users.

3. They are not giving this information–information that has put their value at $15 billion–back to their users.

Depending on who you are, or what your goals are at a particular time, you might find extreme pleasure or discomfort in each of these.

What matters is the first point. (Forgive me, but the others are red herrings, even if you’re an entrepreneur hoping to make money on the advertising gravy train.) Facebook crossed a line here. They lured us into a vast stockyard, and then began to monetize us in ways that violated our quaint notion that we are not in fact cattle.

Treating users of free services like cattle is as old as TV, radio and billboards. It may be as old as people painting in caves with charcoal and spit. The difference now isn’t in Facebook’s manners, which are no different than those of NBC or the New York Times. The difference isn’t even that this time it’s personal. That’s been a holy grail for advertising since the beginning as well. Facebook is reaching for a golden ring here, and I’m inclined to forgive them for doing that.

The main difference is that we’re not powerless any more. That was the core message of this line from Cluetrain:

If we want our reach to truly exceed Facebook’s grasp, we can’t just tell Facebook to stop grasping. We have do deals on our terms and not just theirs. We have to have real relationships and not just systems on the sell side built only to “manage” us, mostly by minimizing human contact.

Perhaps most of all, we need to come up with systems that help demand find supply, rather than just ones that help supply find (or “create”) demand. That means we need alternatives to the outmoded and inefficient system of guesswork we call advertising.

That doesn’t mean we make advertising go away. But it does mean that we find new paths between demand and supply. and it does mean that find ways to get unwanted advertising out of our face.

[Later...] Alan Patrick sees a tipping point.

So I’ve been reading Dave Winer, Ethan Zuckerman, Jeff Jarvis, David Wienberger and Wendy Seltzer, all of whom have problems with what Facebook is doing with its members’ data.

Dave in particular is looking for action:

There are thorny issues here, but we want these companies to give up control of our information, and we don’t want them to be overly scared of public opinion as they do it.

And this is hardly the most important giving up of control. Most important, I want them to give me control of my data.

 created a petition for us to sign. It reads, “Facebook must respect my privacy. They should not tell my friends what I buy on other sites–or let companies use my name to endorse their products–without my explicit permission.”

At this point the voice of Jim Morrison rises from my subconscious, announcing the opening stanza from Soft Parade in the homiletic voice of a preacher from a pulpit:

When I was back there in seminary school
There was a person there
Who put forth the proposition
That you can petition the Lord with prayer
Petition the lord with prayer
Petition the lord with prayer
You cannot petition the lord with prayer!

Morrison screams that last line, in manner later perfected by the also-late Sam Kinison. My own version: Stop petitioning Facebook and Google to solve our problems for us. They’re not creating those problems alone. We’re been allowing them to create those problems in the first place, and we’ve been doing that for too long. Time to come up with some new rules of engagement — ones that work for us as well as them.

Dave, Scott Rafer and others rightly call on to get back to its original mission and stay out of tech territory. But MoveOn has something right in its last four words: without my explicit permission. Question: How do we exercise that permission? By what protocols? What tools? What policies? What agreements?

Dave provides the answer:

So before we overly politicize the leading edge of technology, let’s get together on what actually does and doesn’t serve the user’s interest.

I want Netflix and Yahoo to give me an XML version of my movie ratings, for me to decide what to do with. I’ve been asking for this for a couple of years, I still don’t have it. This is information I created. I want to keep a copy. I want to make sure that Netflix knows about all my Yahoo ratings and vice versa. I’d like to give a copy to Facebook (assuming they agree to not disclose it) and maybe to Amazon, so they can recommend products I might want to purchase (again keeping it to themselves). I want to begin a negotiation with various vendors, where I give them something of value, and they give me back something of value. Permalink to this paragraph

The leaders of Silicon Valley begrudgingly gave up their view of us as couch potatoes, now they think of us as generators of content they can put ads on (and pay us nothing). We still need to work on that respect thing.

The boldface in the first paragraph is mine. Because that’s what we need to do. It’s not enough to petition the likes of Facebook to give us our data. We need to create the rules by which our data can be used. When we sign on as “members” of some company’s “social network”, they need to sign our terms as well. From the start.

For too long we’ve lived with “relationship management” that’s asymmetrical and one-way. Creating the grounds for symmetrical relationships cannot be the job of Facebook, Google, Microsoft or any big company. They can’t do it, and they won’t. We can’t petition those lords with prayer, blogs, or anything else. (Well, we can, but it won’t be enough.)

We need to create our own new rules — ones that protect our privacy while making us better members of the social and business systems we create together. I say “better” because that’s what we’re bound to be when we cease being eyeballs and start acting like whole human beings.

This very topic, by the way, is at the heart of VRM.

By the way, a great place to start doing the work Dave calls for here is the Internet Identity Workshop in Mountain View, the week after next. These workshops are among the most constructive (un)conferences I’ve ever been to, and I’m not just saying that because I’m one of the organizers. Good work always happens there, in three days of serious barn-raising.

Look forward to seeing some of ya’ll there.

In response to my piece in Linux Journal yesterday, Antonio Rodriguez, proprietor of Tabblo, has come up with an excellent workaround for photographers dealing with the asymmetry of today’s Net and the problem of uploading over and over again to multiple photo sites:

I’d like to see a white-label services that could be wrapped by webapp builders for core pieces of functionality. To continue the upload example: why doesn’t Amazon, or some enterprising entrepreneur looking to build on the cloud computing infrastructure at Amazon, build out a full suite of well-supported file uploaders, along with an associated S3-backed storage infrastructure for everything from photos to videos. By focusing on just the upload experience, this effort could just nail it for all the rest of us— building plug-ins for our favorite apps, clients for our favorite platforms, and even specialized hardware for events and community activities. In Doc’s VRM world, such a company might even be able to charge the enduser a nominal fee for pipe and storage, so long as its service integrated easily with enough of the interesting webapps.

You listening lazy web?

Better yet, are you listening, carriers?

All the last-mile companies — Comcast, Cox, AT&T, RCN, Time-Warner, Verizon and the rest — are continuing to make all their money on “triple play” and other monopoly rents. They can do better than that. The Net may be a World of Ends in an ideal sense, but in reality there are physical-world issues that put proximal services at a real advantage. Same goes for proximal real estate.

The carriers have already let Akamai school them once. I suppose you could throw in Amazon’s Web Services (notably EC2 and S3, which provide big back-end compute and storage, cheap) as well. Companies such as Digisense leverage Amazon’s S3 back end to provide workarounds of carrier last-mile slow-upstream asymmetries. (Disclosure: I’ve consulted Digisense.) Rather than being a problem to be worked around, the carriers could become the solution. Or at least support solutions provided by more agile companies that could serve as partners or customers.

There are enormous benefits to carrier incumbency that go beyond extending decades-old cable TV and century-old telephone company business models. There are countless potential service businesses that can be either created or supported by the carriers, and their suppliers as well. (That’s you, Cisco.) Antonio just described one of them.

Here at my apartment near Boston I’m lucky to have a choice of three different carriers: Comcast, RCN and Verizon. I use Verizon because it provides 20Mb downstream and 5Mb upstream — much higher speeds, especially on upstream, than either of its rivals — and comes pretty damn close to delivering exactly that:

The HDTV we get is also pretty good, though the user interface and choice of set-top boxes fall far short of what we’ve experienced for years in Santa Barbara with Dish Network. (Still, they’re new at this. I’m willing to cut them some slack.)

Anyway, we pay a little over $100/month for TV, phone and Net as a “triple play”. Of that, the Net is about half the total. But what if we want more, such as an IP address or two, so se can set up our own Web servers? Well, we need to get Verizon FiOS for business for that. There the lowest price is about $100, for a two-year commitment for “Up to 15 Mbps/2 Mbps”. That’s twice the cost for much lower speeds, both ways, than I get now. The closest business offer to what I have now is “Up to 30 Mbps/5 Mbps”, and that’s $389.99/month for one year and $404.99/month for two years.

This kind of pricing prevents far more business than it supports. It’s the old telco mentality at work: the one that says, “Businesses can afford to pay more, so we’ll charge more”.

Verizon and its competitors need to start seeing their primary advantages in three places: 1) existing customer relationships; 2) proximity to customers of buildable and rentable service-platform real estate; and 3) providing the connectivity that allows business to grow around #1 and #2.

So consider this a friendly and construcive shout-out to CZ and others at Verizon, from the other side of the carrier/customer fence. You guys are making some good moves, technically. Now let’s see you make a few that support the Web’s and the Net’s business and social ecosystems, and not just those of Hollywood and Ma Bell’s ghost.

Alex Iskold headlines,, and begins,

When Google and others ganged up on Facebook a few weeks ago, to many of us, Open Social looked like a marketing move. The news came suspiciously close to Facebook’s ad platform announcement and after a close look, the API looked very raw. Most participants just announced their support without having any concrete implementation.

Yet, Open Social is not a fluke and neither it is an accident. It is an important step in the evolution of social and open web, a step that we have seen taken before in other circumstances. It is called commoditization. By creating an exchange of gadgets and social information Google and Co. declared that the era of social silos is over. In this post we look at the details of the open social API, discuss its adoption and look into the future of the social web.

He goes on to give details.

I still think Open Social is also a marketing move. The timing alone was too propitious for it not to be. But still, even if Google is zigging to Facebook’s zag, it’s potentially a good zig, if Alex is right.

[Later...] Dave says it’s not true.

Another angle on service

Over in Linux Journal: Let’s keep photography and mapping mashable. A sample:

Now, in an ideal world — that is, one where the Net is truly symmetrical, peer-to-peer and end-to-end — I would rather do the federating myself, from my own photo archive, with my own APIs. That way I could federate selected photos to Flickr, Tabblo, Panoramio and whomever else I please. In fact, that would probably make things easier for everybody. But that’s a VRM (vendor relationship management) grace we don’t enjoy yet. In the absence of that, we need more open APIs between services such as these, so customers’ photos can be shared at the vendor-to-vendor level.

To get the context, ya need to read the whole thing. But you get the idea.

Gillmor ganging

It’s the Gillmor Group now, but the gang is the same.

In no particular order…

Not quite an error.

The pitch is dead.

Jumping on the three-wheeled bandwagon.

“That Company” for how long?

On negative capability.

If you wouldn’t buy your product/service, there’s really no point trying to get others to do so”.

Just one spammer

That’s all it took. I approved one spammer I didn’t know was a spammer and now I’ve got to flag as spam a growing pile of comments to this blog. I just killed three a few minutes ago. There will be a dozen before the day is out. I’m sure the number will continue to grow

The same thing happened with the VRM mail list. There are so many bogus requests to post to that list that I can’t keep up with them. I suppose there is some irony in that.

Spam killed my old podcast blog. Never did much podcasting anyway. Spam also paralyzed IT Garage. I haven’t posted there since July.

My mail is buried in spam too, but I hope to fix that soon, along with other problems at Meanwhile, I’ll give thanks for that which isn’t spam in the world. The percentage seems to be decreasing.

The shot above, of Kettle Point on Lake Huron, is one of many in a series taken in a line running from Pinery Provincial Park in Ontario, across Michigan looking north toward Saginaw (and its Bay), Grand Rapids, various towns on the Grand River, and then the shore of Lake Michigan, all while flying from Boston to Chicago on the way to Atlanta last week.

The woods near Kettle Point, and up the coast into Pinery Park, comprise the largest oak savanna in North America, left unspoiled because the sandy land beneath was bad for farming. The lines running through them are the remains of old shorlines. I won’t say “ancient”, because they aren’t. They’re markers of the rising land and shrinking size of the lake, which is actually a puddle left by the melting glacier that comprised an ice cap that recently came south as far as Long Island and Cape Cod, which were both built along its southern boundary of dirt and rock the glacier had carried there. In fact all the Great Lakes, and nearly every Lake in Canada, is but a dozen thousand years old, at its most elderly edge (this one here).

Kinda puts global warming in perspective. You could stand at any one of those lines at any time in the past 12,000 years, and speak of global warming as a progressive fact.

By the way, fall colors stand out in many of these pictures, if you look closely for them.

The piece is titled,

by Roland Thompson, stationed in Iraq

And it begins,

In my midst are soldiers who have been shot, blown up, burned, and rehabilitated. Whether they chose to return to Iraq or not, I don’t know. In any case they’re here at Camp Anaconda, and unless I see them in the shower I can’t tell them apart from the nonwounded. Likewise, it’s not until I walk a mile with a guy named Eric that I notice the merry-go-round action of his hip.

Eric and I enter the dining tent together. Traffic is one-way through the crowded tent, where food is arranged buffet-style. Our mainline choices are horse cock or triangle fish. Side dish options include raw onion, mayonnaise, grits, and fresh cantaloupe.

I get my cantaloupe and sit next to Eric, such that our arms touch from shoulder to elbow. Eric’s arm feels shrunken and insular. Later Eric tells me that his arm was shot off and reattached, but for the time being we don’t talk. We just eat, wounded or not, like everybody else.

Several paragraphs later, it says,

To read the rest of this piece, please purchase this issue
of the Believer online or at your local bookseller.


Anyway, I found the Believer though this post by JP, who says,

You see, I’m with Doc. I believe in VRM. I believe that in the 21st century, product-driven advertising is fundamentally flawed. Personal recommendations, whether direct or via collaborative filtering, count for a lot more. Recommendations from people I know and trust, recommendations that scale now that I have the tools and the technology to discover the recommendations and act on them.

So I enjoy reading magazines that have no ads in them. Magazines printed on good paper, with loving care taken on format and layout. Magazines that cover a range of subjects, enticing me into finding out more about things I know little about. Magazines that have copyright-free content. Magazines like the Believer.

So the Believer may have copyright-free content (is there such a thing? I dunno…), but it’s still mostly locked behind a subscription wall.

Which is my excuse to say that I’d like to see VRM make it possible for the Believer to expose their content and get paid for it anyway, because it wants to be in relationship with its readers — one that involves readers paying for the goods as part of that relationship.

Because I also believe that writers (and publishers, broadcasters, and artists of every sort) who give their goods away yet need to be paid for their work, are more likely to be paid by those with whom they enjoy a degree of relationship.

In short, I believe that relationship pays — or can, once we put together the protocols, tools and other stuff to make it happen.

Greenland in bluelight

Put up a tabblo of Greenland in blue light at sunset. Another take on this series here.


Mike Arrington writes about Google’s new patent. Specifically,

  The solution, Google says, is to give users the ability to search and browse their own content, and receive an electronic or hard copy version of the final product. And that final product will include advertisements highly relevant to the user.

First, I think Google is just patenting everything that can possibly be done with advertising. They’re an advertising company, and a big one. Patenting everything is pro forma at your bigcos.

Second, magazines are ecosystems comprised of editorial, advertising, printing, distribution and readers. All are interrelated and have long-established expectations of each other. Big changes are happening there, but don’t expect to see any of those parties or their core practices going away soon. The challenge for all parties to the magazine process is to get more involved with readers and others in the ecosystem of each magazine’s core subject. In other words, to become Net-native.

Third, I don’t even know for sure what my own “content” is, much less why I want to make a hard copy of stuff I search for in it, unless it’s something so mundane as printing out something to read on the bus or the plane. In any case, seeing advertising in that, even if it’s “appropriate”, is something that would make me not want to print it out. Except maybe unless I got paid for it. There may be a pony in here somewhere, but it’s probably not being driven by an advertising model.

Art in the wild

So here’s the idea: a Net-native service that provides homes and offices with good art (choose your definition) that can be be replaced from time to time so it doesn’t get stale. The purpose is to promote good art and artists and find homes for the former, rather than just to make money servicing interior designers. Community might be involved. Other higher purposes as well.

In any case, a colleague here at the Berkman Center asked me a few minutes ago if anybody was doing anything like this, and I told her I’d blog the question. So here we are.

Building vs. Buzz

Dave on non-centralization:

  …But the blogs, who aren’t trying to climb the top 100 lists, are doing something else. We’re just trying to share information with each other so we can learn, so we can use stuff better, make better choices, improve the products, and eventually create new products. Permalink to this paragraph

  You can see this philosophy reflected in exciting new products from companies like Chumby and Bug Labs. Create open platforms with widely available development tools and let the blogs take over. Google came close with Android, and there’s still plenty of time, but they don’t really trust blogs at Google, like most big tech companies they trust other big companies first. Permalink to this paragraph

  That’s the revolution I’ve been writing about since I started blogging — when product designs come from the experience of the people, of bloggers. It’s already happened, it’s so recursive you may not see it. We designed blogging itself on the early blogs. And RSS? It was a product of blogging too. Every company that Fred Wilson touches is affected by blogging, every pub that Rex Hammock works on is. Every political candidate that benefits from the vetting of ideas in the blogosphere is touched by this power. It’s the old decentralization thing that the Internet does so well. The reason TechMeme is doomed to be part of MSM is that it goes the other way, it centralizes. It’s almost mathematics.

So do you go for buzz, or do you go for substance? Yes, you can go for both, but if your main purpose is popularity you sell out substance. That’s just how it goes. You may still traffic in substance, but it’s secondary. And if you go for substance you’ll sometimes get some buzz, but as a secondary effect.

The difference is a matter of vectors: where you’re coming from and where you’re going to. Also what you’re pushing and why.

Centralization can move stuff forward too, but not the way decentralization can.

We need both. But you can’t see the latter while covering the former. Not enough of it, anyway. That’s why the MSM misses so much. They want to cover companies, personalities. They’d rather cover sites than services, or protocols, or formats, or anything that no company in particular is working on. And they don’t know what to make of something new and world-chaning until it’s gotten all buzzy.

What make Bug Labs and Chumby interesting is less what those companies are doing than what others are doing with those companies’ products and services. Problem is, those ‘others’ are hard to follow. Not just because they’re small or unknown, but because they’re not a fixed substance. They’re growing and changing.

Out here in the wild we educate ourselves and each other while making stuff and helping others make stuff and thinking out loud about how it works and how it oughta work. It’s not R&D but R via D. Lots of great stuff gets made this way, but it doesn’t get covered much by the MSM because it’s not being done by big or hot companies and/or personalities.

But it may be what matters most, no matter how much buzz it gets.

How far we’ve crawled.

Two links. EveryOSsucks, by the DeadTrolls. And The World is a Better Place Now, by Antonio Rodriguez. No agreement, yet both are right.

I don’t know any other way to describe this. Wow.

How long before that shows up in a James Bond movie?

[Later...] That’s a they’re wearing.

Perhaps this is the next step.

Chumby love

Still don’t have a Chumby here, but Dave has one, which is seriously cool, because fun hacking is bound to happen on it. (As some has already.)

I covered the Chumby before it came out, here in the September Linux Journal. Now that I know it’s out in the world, I’ve invited LJ readers to jump in and have fun too. Dave says, It’s easily as innovative as the iPhone, but it isn’t getting as much attention. Take a look you won’t be disappointed.

I’m sure we won’t be.

The Economist asks, Will Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking sites transform advertising? Third paragraph in, there is this:

  Messrs Lazarsfeld and Katz, of course, assumed that most of these conversations and their implicit marketing messages would remain inaudible. That firms might be able to eavesdrop on this chatter first became conceivable in the 1990s, with the rise of the internet. Thus the main thesis of “The Cluetrain Manifesto”, written in 1999, was that “markets are conversations” which the web can make transparent.

That misses the original point. I get back to it in What could be better than advertising?, over in .


I was interviewed by Aaron Strout yesterday, about many things. The podcast is up.

Question du jour

Can VRM fix DRM? I’ve visited this before, in A Public Market for Public Music.

Gang up

The latest Gillmor Gang is up at Facebook. Not sure if I was in that one. Still, if you can get into the Faceo, it’s there.

Sailing the relation ship

Over in the ProjectVRM blog, CRM gets personal. Before reading The Ajatus Manifesto, and visiting the Ajatus project site (thanks to pointage by Zak Greant) I hadn’t thought that was possible, or even worth considering, because CRM seems to be such a corporate thing. But why should it be?

Bonus linkage: manifestos back manifestos.


Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything. The new theory reported today in New Scientist has been laid out in an online paper entitled “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything” by Lisi, who completed his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1999 at the University of California, San Diego.


I just uploaded some more shots from last week’s flight over Greenland, en route from London to Denver. The last series, of peaks drowning in ice, was shot with the sun below the horizon, behind clouds, or both. Couldn’t tell from my side of the plane. As we flew straight west, however, the sun began to come up again, just peeking over the horizon and illuminating the peaks of mountains above deep fjords bottomed by glaciers, all moving toward the Davis Strait on the west side of the island. The result highlighted the deep blue of dusk in the valleys.

Bullshit 2.0

I figured there had to be a “Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator”, and sure nuff, there is.

On the fourth click, this came up:

Thus an old cure becomes a new symptom.

Eastern Greenland blows my mind every time I fly over it. This last trip was no exception. Imagine Alps, Rockies, Himilayas, buried up to their nostrils in snow and ice across an expanse of Saharan dimensions, all of it moving, less an ice cap than a great spreading mound of blue and white, all of it heavy as magma, hard as stone, abrading away at the mountains, leaving horns and scarps protruding above the whiteness. At its edges icebergs calve off constantly and in great profusion, suggesting a bovine maternal quality to the great mound itself.

Anyway, it’s past the equinox and gaining on the winter solstice, so the sun was quite low when we flew over Greenland en route to Denver from London last week. Still, the subject was still there. Amazing sight.

Just got into Chicago, and now I’m sitting in seat 4F, at the window, camera at my side, while the rest of the passengeriat boards the 737.

Beautiful view of Toronto, Hamilton, Southern Ontario, Lake Huron and Central Michigan after clearing the clouds in Central New York. Got some pix I’ll put up later.

Can’t get to my point, Have to turn this off. durn.

Okay, we’re en route to Atlanta, and permission has just been granted to use laptops and other “approved electronic devices”. These do not include “all electronic devices including two way radios using cellular wi-fi technology”. The technical among you will know that the last phrase was not written by a technical expert.

Anyway, my point, two paragraphs up, was that these prohibitions, while serious in one way, are silly in others. I’d bet that most of the open laptops on this plane have wi-fi on by default, putting out whatever little signal that involves. I have my wi-fi turned off, which spares the battery in any case.

More to my point about silliness, for the first time ever I was told by a flight attendant to turn off my camera, presumably because it is an “electronic device”. I can only assume, because I didn’t ask. Her pissy and reproachful tone made it clear that asking questions would not be helpful. So I complied. Meanwhile we crossed the north shore of Chicago, with brilliant fall colors and many scenes I would like to have shot, but alas. Not big as deals go, but still annoying. The risk to the aircraft caused by my shooting pictures out the window is exactly zero. The benefits to the airline exceed that, though perhaps not by much.

I’ll check when I get to the hotel, but I’ll bet that about half of the 17,000 or so pictures I’ve put up on Flickr were shot out of plane windows. (Later… 4303 are labeled “aerial”.) A lot are blah, but more than a few are pretty darn good. Including many shot on approach or take-off.

And now I’m in Atlanta, at Apachecon, working.

Looking back on tomorrow

Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, looks back from 2500. A sample:

  One outcome of this- — the greatest psychological survey in the whole of history- — was to demonstrate conclusively that the chief danger to civilization was not merely religious extremism but religions themselves. This was summed up in a famous saying: “All Religions were invented by the Devil to conceal God from Mankind.”

  Billions of words of pious garbage spoken by statesmen, clerics and politicians down the ages were either hypocritical nonsense or, if sincere, the babbling of lunatics. The new insights enabled by the Psi-probe helped humans finally recognize organized religions as the most malevolent mind virus that had ever infected human minds.

By the way, Sir Arthur turns 90 on 16 December.

A bloody blogger

Just paid one of my too-infrequent visits to Steve Urquhart’s blog, and found that the dude used to be a boxer. A sample:

  After the 3 rounds, the judges scored the fight 2-1 for Broadhead. One of the judges put me up for the night. He told me, “You know, I had one round for each of you, going into the third. And the third round was very close. But, in good conscience, I just couldn’t give the fight to someone covered with so much of his own blood.”

I dunno if that was before or after Steve became an attorney. I know it predated Steve’s current tour of duty in the Utah House of Representatives, and founding the excellent Politicopia.

From wurst to best

Last year the Boston Celtics were so bad they lost 18 games in a row at one point. Now they’re On a pace to go 82-0. Which they won’t (they’re still just 5-0), but it’s a fun fantasy.

What’s weird for me is that I grew up as a Knicks fan. The Knicks-Celtics rivalry was a hot one, especially since the Celtics were perrenial champions and the Knicks were a doormat. The Knicks’ golden age, from ’69-’74 coincided exactly with my return to New Jersey from North Carolina after college. When I split back south again, Willis Reed retired and the Knicks began to tank. Now I’ve arrived in Boston just in time for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to join the Celtics and launch a new era. No causality implied; just good timing.

Heard Malcolm Matson of Oplan speak the other day. While his whole speech was memorable, two one-liners were so memorable I didn’t even need to write them down. (Which I did anyway.) One was Dare to to the right thing first. The other was The customer owns the customer.

The latter comment called to mind a conversation I had a few months ago with a high-ranking executive at a large retail company that prides itself in caring about its customers. By my own estimation, this is a company with an enviable reputation for being both good at what they do and morally good (relatively speaking) as well. At one point he talked about “owning the customer”. I asked, “What’s a word for ‘owning’ a human being?” “Oh my God”, he replied. “It’s slavery!” Then he said he was amazed, in respect to wht had just become obvious, at how much people at his company talked about customers as if literal ownership were both desirable as well as a fact.

Such legacies die hard. And it’s the customers themselves who will have to kill this one.

Many flights aren’t in the air. They’re on the ground. Such as mine, UA7157 from IAD to BOS. It was supposed to depart at 2:35pm. It’s 4:30 now. The plane was delayed out of Philadelphia, and is on the ground now at IAD (Dulles, Washington DC). We’ll board shortly.

Meanwhile, I’m looking at flight trackers. can’t find the flight at all. Flightstats says it leaves at 4:09. So does FlightAware. Here’s an announcement…

Turns out 7157 has a new plane with 15 fewer seats….

It’s now 5:30. I’m still at IAD, only now on flight 822, which was due to leave at 5:15. I volunteered for it, and got a free round trip voucher for doing that. I still have a window seat, but in 12F on a 757, which has no window, but rather a large blank space from which the rushing sound of the plane’s ventillation system roars.

Anyway, we’re not going. Soon as I sat down in the plane, they announced that a bolt was loose in a wheel, and we would be delayed at least 45 minutes, or perhaps an hour.

The Verizon cell signal is too poor in here to do the fancy flashy stuff that most or all the flight tracking sites use, so fuggit. I’ll try to sleep.

[Later...] Got in at 7:10. The fix didn’t take that long, and I netted a free round trip for the trouble. Coulda been worse. Now to bed for real.

Conversations and conversions

In Post-Hiatus Notes: Kudos and Quixote, Markets and Soup-Kitchens, Hip-Hop and Zoot Suits, Podcasts and Dante, Stephen Lewis covers much ground, including rewarding conversations between us on the overlapping subjects of infrastructure and markets. Where I often traffic in supposition, Steve carries knowledge and experience — two assets of his on which I have come to rely, through a friendship that now stretches more than forty years. One sample of Steve’s substance:

  My part-time studies and work at the fringes of the field of Ottoman history has kept me close to the vision of markets as accretions of interactions, conversations, and trust. Over the course of more that a half millennium, the Ottomans evolved physical infrastructure and institutions that enabled commerce and information exchange as well as conquest. One facet of this infrastructure was the Imaret — the combined publicly-financed travelers’ lodge and soup kitchen — a veritable “internet” of which dotted the roadways of the Ottoman Empire from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Middle East and North Africa. Those interested in the subject should turn to a newly published volume edited by historians Nina Ergin, Christoph Neumann, and Amy Singer: Feeding People, Feeding Power; Imarets in the Ottoman Empire (Istanbul, 2007).

And, on occasion, I return the favor. Such as Steve relates here:

  Three to four years ago, I was vocally skeptical when Doc was amongst the first to enthuse about the Copernican revolution podcasting was about to create by liberating content from the limits of time and geography and by enabling listeners to choose and pull broadcasts rather than having them pushed at them. At the time, I saw podcasting as technology without worthy content. Events proved me totally wrong and I now live from podcasts. I reload my I-Pod daily, supplementing my usual mix of Bartok, Turkish and Armenian Oud virtuosi, Monk and Ellington, Aretha Franklin and the Rev. James Clevelandm and the like with the latest podcasts from the BBC’s Melvyn Bragg, PBS’s Bill Moyers, the New Yorker magazine, NPR’s Car Talk Plaza, and WNYC’s Sara Fishko, Leonard Lopate, Brian Lehrer, and John Schaeffer. A few days ago, I admitted to Doc that if there isn’t a special circle in the Inferno for those of us who doubted podcasting there should be. With magnanimity, Doc offered to release me from such a fate if I posted my confession on this site … thus this entry!

Okay, my plane is boarding…

Markets are relationships. Or should be.

Tara Hunt:

  Now, I know what you are thinking: “Customers in charge? What about ME? I’m trained to get the word out there! Haven’t you ever heard of branding?” Yep. I’ve heard of it and I also see it declining in relevance. Truly long lasting brands are those who build RELATIONSHIPS with their customers, who then go off and recommend them to others they have RELATIONSHIPS with. Those pop up ads? Billboards? Television commercials? They are just interrupting people, which ends up annoying them. Do you stay in a RELATIONSHIP with someone you are annoyed with? Nope.

  Believe me, this VRM stuff is not only good for customers, but it is good for YOU as well. It puts you firmly in the position of being exactly where you need to be (available) when the customer has money in hand, poised to purchase. It puts you in the role of helpful sidekick. It makes you indispensably useful.

Joe Andrieu:

  The opportunity, then, for service providers and software vendors is to provide tools for individuals to manage their Intention. Solve that while facilitating vendors’ goals-because many, but not all, Intention activities are directly monetizable in a transaction-and you have a service or product that can generate serious value for everyone involved.

  That’s the promise of .

Bonus gripe from Gordon Cook.

Flying wide

It’s 6:20 at Heathrow, from which I’ll soon depart. Got to spend much of the last two days in the company of Bob Frankston, whose understanding of the Net is challenging and far-reaching to say the least. His latest is Video Tipping Point Near? I think the answer is yes, simply because it will dawn on customers that subordinating the Internet to a zillion channels of live video — nearly all of which are not being watched at any given time — is both silly and wasteful. (Even if it wasn’t terribly mismanaged as well.) “Near” may be a few years long, but the dawn is coming.

Anyway, got a plane to catch. See ya stateside.

Chris Locke turns 60 on Monday, He asks that, in lieu of flowers, please send cash. Or Amazon gift certificates. Or just enjoy an original pre-framed (in black) Cluetrain Reunion Photo, featuring JP Rangaswami, Cluetrain’s 5th Beatle. As chance and obligation both had it, JP and I flew to Denver from the UK for Defrag, and are now back in England at yet another gathering. Also, JP will turn 50 or something on Monday as well. I don’t know how old Neil Young will be, but he’ll also be flipping a year that day, as will my daughter Colette. I don’t want to know how old she is now, and she probably doesn’t want to rest of us to know, either.

Anyway, that photo calls to mind a line from P.J. O’Rourke: If I give up drinking, smoking, and fatty foods, I can add ten years to my life. Trouble is, I’ll add it to the wrong end.

Happy Birthdays, everybody.


The OpenNet Initiative (ONI) is following the shutdown of Pakistan. Its understated summary: The overall openness of the Internet today remains in question.

Quotes du jour

just because ads are socially targeted, it doesn’t make me want more ads. Fred Stutzman. Also, Spamminess is the death of a network, socially targeted or no.

And Nick Carr:

  Yes, today is the first day of the rest of advertising’s life.

  I like the way that Zuckerberg considers “media” and “advertising” to be synonymous. It cuts through the bullshit. It simplifies. Get over your MSM hangups, granddads. Editorial is advertorial. The medium is the message from our sponsor.

  Marketing is conversational, says Zuckerberg, and advertising is social. There is no intimacy that is not a branding opportunity, no friendship that can’t be monetized, no kiss that doesn’t carry an exchange of value. The cluetrain has reached its last stop, its terminus, the end of the line. From the Facebook press release: “Facebook’s ad system serves Social Ads that combine social actions from your friends – such as a purchase of a product or review of a restaurant – with an advertiser’s message.” The social graph, it turns out, is a platform for social graft.

  The Fortune 500 is, natch, lining up…]

Paul Boutin:

  Your Facebook profile is your public persona: The music, books, TV shows, political candidates, and celebrities you love or hate. The site’s ad model is based on personal endorsements–cool stuff, important stuff, and things that make you look good when they show up in everyone else’s news feed. I’m sure there are people who’ll blog about their socks. But there aren’t 50 million of them, and they won’t keep their friends long.

  The secret of Google’s success? They let you market anything, no matter how uncool, to anyone who can figure out a PC. We can Google for anything and buy it without anyone knowing. Google for “dandruff,” “hemorrhoids,” or “erictile disfunction” [sic]. Boom, boom, and boom–$4 billion adds up fast. Do you think I’m going to let Facebook use me to hawk Preparation H to fellow writers? Not a chance.

Dave Winer:

  Advertising will get more and more targeted until it disappears, because perfectly targeted advertising is just information. And that’s good!

Ian Wilker

  my impression is that SocialAds makes a systemic feature out of the fake profile, which “fan-sumers” can friend and flack to their friends — clutter up their friends’ News Feed with info about a brand.

  Blech. The whole thing gives me a pretty visceral flashback to being AmWay’d by a guy I’d seen as a friend — soon as I realized he’d gotten back in touch with me not to catch up on old times but to attempt to siphon money out of me I very nearly slugged him.

Brian Oberkirch:

  Here we are now, monetize us…

  To recast it: conversations are markets.

Erick Shonfeld at TechCrunch says Facebook is getting into the advertising business in a big way, as he covers Mark Zuckerberg’s remarks during Facebook’s ‘social advertising’ shindig in New York. Specifically,

  Facebook is announcing three things: Social Ads (ads targeted based on member profile data and spread virally), Beacon (a way for Facebook members to declare themselves fans of a brand on other sites and send those endorsements to their feeds), and Insight (marketing data that goes deep into social demographics and pyschographics which Facebook will provide to advertisers in an aggregated, anonymous way). These three things together make up Facebook Ads. Here are the press releases for Facebook Ads, Project Beacon, and its launch partners.

Here’s a gist from MZ:

  2:48: “the next hundred years will be different for advertising, and it starts today. As marketers pushing our information out is no longer enough. We are announcing anew advertising system, not about broadcasting messages, about getting into the conversations between people. 3 pieces: build pages for advertisers, a new kind of ad system to spread the messages virally, and gain insights.”

  Advertisers can build their own Facebook pages and design them any way they like: “We have photos, videos, discussion boards, any Flash content you want to bring to your page, plus any application a third party developer has made.”

  2:46 PM: Messages spread virally. All you need to do is get your friends to engage with it and add it to their profiles. Gives example of how causes are spread across Facebook. Support Breast Cancer, more than 2 million members.

In Facebook Ads – do they have a cluetrain?, Alan Patrick responds,

  I think Mr Zuckerberg is being uncharacteristically humble as this is even more momentous – it marks the point at which Planet Advertising finally left Planet Earth. (At Ad:tech last month the plenary topic on Day Two was by Virgin’s new Space Tourism business – see here – I wondered about the connection between space and Ads at the time, but know we know!). Even the usually fairly rational Forrester Research has fallen hook, line and spaceship for this one.

That last link goes to MySpace and Facebook launch new Advertising products, why Hyper Targeting, Social Ads and rise of the “Fan-Sumer” matter to brands, by Jeremiah Owyang. Read his whole thing, his links, and then go back to Alan’s case, which he sums up this way:

  So there it is – because you are my friend on Facebook, I will continue to trust you when you flack something rather than when the brand flacks it themself. And at a higher performance rate and pricing than current to boot, according to….Facebook.

  Our Call – The Cluetrain has finally left the rails.

  Planet Advertising desperately wants to believe we will all trust all our “friends” who start spamming us with Ads, but they misunderstand the entire dynamic of trusted networks. We trust friends precisely because they don’t do this sort of thing. Once they start, we stop trusting them – its dynamic, not static – you have to keep on co-operating with me to keep my trust, its not a given.

  And, as anyone who is familiar with the game theory in behavioural economics will tell you, once we suspect we are being played for a sucker / taken advantage of, we will take revenge – even to our own detriment. The backlash on this, since it has been done so crassly, is going to push Planet Advertising back far further than it need be.

  (In fact, I rather think the original authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto saw this coming down the tracks, Doc Searls for example is leading the charge in VRM approaches that put the control of the user’s social assets back into the users’ hands)

Well, yes.

As I go back to the TechCrunch piece, however, and listen closely to Mark Zuckerberg, I think he’s getting a few more clues than Alan’s giving him credit for, even if he (MZ) doesn’t know it. I get that Facebook really wants to understand people, and relationships. That’s a plus. So is any plan that gives Google competition in a category it has defined and all but owned completely over the last few years. Facebook is in a transcendantly privileged position here.

But the problem for Mark, for Jeremiah, and for all of us (including yours truly) is that we too easily default to framing our understanding of advertising in its own terms. We regard advertising as an independent variable: something ya gotta have. But in fact advertising is a dependent variable. The independent variable is the individual human being. As Chris Locke put it so perfectly nine years ago, we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. we are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. deal with it.

What we need is to equip demand with better ways of engaging supply. Not just better ways for supply to create and manipulate demand.

Seems to me Facebook is proposing the latter. But I also think they’re new and willing to experiment and work with the 50 million humans now gathered in their walled garden. Unlike traditional media, Facebook doesn’t seem to be looking at those people as the equivalent of cattle. This is good.

The next step is to move outside the advertising frame. In the long run there’s a lot more money to be made helping demand find supply than in just in helping supply find demand.

And I know who can help with that.

It’s happening again, only this time it’s my right eye that’s giving me blue flashes and vision filled with floaters. Very annoying.

Chaos theory: advertising cash will soon decrease, by Jeff Jarvis in the Guardian. I get quoted:

  Advertising is no one’s first choice as the basis of a relationship. For marketers, it’s expensive and inefficient. For customers, it’s invasive and annoying. And targeted advertising is only slightly more efficient and slightly less annoying. Clearly, the direct relationship between a customer and a company is preferable. But that direct connection cuts out the middlemen – that is the media.

  The Advertising Age media critic Bob Garfield dubs this the “chaos scenario”, arguing that total advertising spending – which long stayed stable and merely shifted among media – will now decrease. Blogger Doc Searls contends that on the internet, “supply and demand will find each other . . . Advertising will still be part of that picture, but it won’t fund the whole thing.” Beth Comstock, a digital exec at NBC Universal, complains that every business pitch she hears is ad-supported. “It’s just not going to be possible,” she said recently. “There are not going to be enough advertising dollars in the marketplace – no matter how clever we are, no matter what the format is.”

  There won’t be enough to support us in media in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed. And it’s hard to imagine what other business models will come along to fund us.

It’s hard, but necessary. And far from impossible.

I ran into Jeremie Miller yesterday in an elevator here at the hotel where is happening in Denver. I last spoke to Jeremie while working on a story/interview with him for Linux Journal. Atlas: Hoisting a New World of Search is now up, and things have been moving along on the Atlas project, now titled Search Wikia.

Jeremie is the father of Jabber and its protocol, XMPP. I see he’ll be among those talking this morning. He’s always sensible and provocative at the same time. Looking forward to what he says. As for where he wants to take search, here’s an excerpt from one of his blog posts that I used in the piece I wrote as well:

  Meaning, the process of converting Information into Knowledge. To give meaning to information, is to make it useful, to have context, to enable understanding, to empower. Information simply exists, a commodity, dimensionless. When information has meaning it can become knowledge, and that is perhaps the most important process humankind has ever practiced, to learn…

  The future of search is in open cooperation (and competition) based on a Meaning Economy—create meaning, exchange meaning, serve meaning.

  My vision begins with an open protocol, allowing independent networks of search functions (crawling, indexing, ranking, serving, etc.) to peer and interop. All relationships between these networks are always fully transparent and openly published. Networks exchange knowledge between them, each adding new meaning to the information, each of them responsible for the reputations of their participants and peers. This is the very foundation of a Meaning Economy.

By coincidence last night I had a chance to talk with JC Herz about a range of topics that broadly revolve around what I’m beginning think is The Same Thing, though I’m not sure what that Thing is yet. Meanwhile JC will be speaking here as well today, on Visualization of Social Intelligence. Visualization is not a strength of search as we’ve come to know it. (Though I’m glad Technorati has brought its results-over-time chart back. Here’s the one for defrag conference.) So I’m imagining possibilities here.

Yesterday afternoon’s rapid round of mini-keynotes, by Dick Hardt, Esther Dyson, myself and Ross Mayfield (in that order) brought suggestions afterwards that we had attempted to talk about the same basic thing, which was people. At lest we all seemed to be coming at tech from the people perspective. There was, however, no collusion at all. Just coincidence, or something like it. For in-depth reports on this and other Defrag Stuff, look here, here, and here.

The high point for me, by the way, came early with David Weinberger’s opening talk, about what’s implicit, rather than explicit. David’s an outstanding speaker, and this was the best of his best. Deep, moving and just amazing. The first remark from the audience was from a woman who said “I didn’t expect to cry at a tech conference keynote”.

David outlines his talk here, concluding,

  Defrag — our generational project, not just this conference — isn’t about reassembling pieces. It’s not about clarity and simplicity. It’s about how we are finding ways to let the world matter to us together. For that we need to enable, cherish, and protect the unspoken between us.

Is there a thread that connects between all that he and the rest of us said, and are saying, especialy about search? I think so.

Meanwhile, here’s JP on the a rare convergence.

How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse power of praise, a piece by Po Bronson in New York Magazine, makes a case that praising kids, especially smart ones, may be bad for them. Specifically, Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.

Among the early paragraphs are these:

  Since Thomas could walk, he has heard constantly that he’s smart. Not just from his parents but from any adult who has come in contact with this precocious child. When he applied to Anderson for kindergarten, his intelligence was statistically confirmed. The school is reserved for the top one percent of all applicants, and an IQ test is required. Thomas didn’t just score in the top one percent. He scored in the top one percent of the top one percent.

  But as Thomas has progressed through school, this self-awareness that he’s smart hasn’t always translated into fearless confidence when attacking his schoolwork. In fact, Thomas’s father noticed just the opposite. “Thomas didn’t want to try things he wouldn’t be successful at,” his father says. “Some things came very quickly to him, but when they didn’t, he gave up almost immediately, concluding, “I’m not good at this.” With no more than a glance, Thomas was dividing the world into two — things he was naturally good at and things he wasn’t.

The sad and bad thing about this article is that it fails to challenge two things that desperately need challenging. One is school as a system and the other is IQ tests. Bronson, like most of us, regards compulsory schooling and IQ tests as independent variables — and other factors, such as parental praise, as dependent ones. So it blames parents. Not the creepy caste system made explicit by the admission methods of Thomas’s school. Not puzzles we call tests that our school systems use to measure the essentially unmeasurable: namely, the worth of our children.

On the former I submit to the vast experience and wisdom of John Taylor Gatto, who succeeded excessively as a teacher precisely because he refused to carry out the system’s curriculum. By so doing he carried out what he said was a teacher’s first duty, which is not to pour curricula into the empty vessels (some larger, some smaller) that are then tested for leakage, but rather to “get out of the way everything that prevents a child’s genius from gathering itself”. Gatto succeeded as a teacher because he believed in his kids, as individuals, each unlike all others, each vastly able in his or her own way, each with incalculable value to contribute to the world, each challenged by the need to exceed the bounds of the bell curves the school was built to manage, no matter where those kids fell inside the bounds of those curves.

On the matter of IQ tests, there’s what I said yesterday, plus far more from Steven Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, written decades ago and no less valid today.

Po concludes,

  In a similar way, we put our children in high-pressure environments, seeking out the best schools we can find, then we use the constant praise to soften the intensity of those environments. We expect so much of them, but we hide our expectations behind constant glowing praise. The duplicity became glaring to me.

  Eventually, in my final stage of praise withdrawal, I realized that not telling my son he was smart meant I was leaving it up to him to make his own conclusion about his intelligence. Jumping in with praise is like jumping in too soon with the answer to a homework problem–it robs him of the chance to make the deduction himself.

  But what if he makes the wrong conclusion?

  Can I really leave this up to him, at his age?

My advice to Po, and to all parents, from the perspective of a veteran parent and kid whose own experience with school was instructively both very good and very bad, is this: Believe in their genius, and believe just as much in the immeasurability of that genius.

And remember that what you teach best is what they’ll learn because of you, yet on their own.

The best schools are the ones that are good for every kid. Not just for the ones with labels.

Here’s what I saw when I looked out my Denver hotel window this morning. That’s venus and the moon, in a conjunction, high in the eastern sky. If you live on the West Coast and it’s clear, you can see the same thing right now (5:20am), and into the morning light.

Same for folks in Hawaii and the Pacific.

The configuration will change by the time dawn reaches Australia and eastern Asia, but will still be impressive, methinks.

An interesting exercise: with the moon so close to Venus, you have a guidepost to finding Venus in braod daylight, just by looking for it to the north of the moon.

By the way, sorry the shot’s a bit smeared. It was a five-second hand-held exercize and the best I could do with no time to spare.

Jewgenics: Jewish intelligence, Jewish genes, and Jewish values is the latest by William Saletan in Slate. If you can, ignore the ethnic side of the story and concentrate on this excerpt: Entine laid out the data. The average IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is 107 to 115, well above the human average of 100.

Note the word “data”.

Saletan accepts it without question. So do most of us. Since the dawn of the Industrial Education Revolution, we have accepted the notion that our most distinctively human quality — our intelligence — is measurable on a single scale. We speak of a person’s IQ (“Intelligence Quotient”) as if it were a measure of a fixed quantity, like body fat or hemoglobin, that each of us posesses in differing amounts. Thus we assume that and IQ tests no less diagnostic than blood pressure guages or engine dipsticks.

Yet IQ tests are puzzle-solving exercizes that in fact say no more about you than whether or not you’re good at solving those puzzles. Every Soduku or crossword puzzle is an IQ test as well. We just don’t use them to tell schools, parents, children and entire races or ethnic groups what they’re worth.

And that’s what we do with IQ tests. We do it as institutions, and we do it as individuals.

If I tell you I have an IQ of 125, can you forget that number? Can it not color what you think of me for the duration?

In fact my known IQ scores have an eighty point range (none of which is 125, for the nothing that’s worth). One of the high scores placed me in the “fast” group in kindergarten, and one of the low ones scores placed me on the loser track to vocational-technical high school at the end of the ninth grade. From the first through the eigth grade my IQ scores declined steadily, along with my disinterest in school itself. If my mother hadn’t been a teacher in the same school system, and if my parents hadn’t believed in my innate worth as an intelligent kid, I would have been shunted down the system’s loser track.

Today I’m sure I’d do much worse on an IQ test than I would have done in my teens or twenties. Does that make me dumber? Fact is, I’m a helluva lot smarter, and far better informed, even if my memory isn’t nearly as good and I’ve been losing neurons steadily for decades.

“I was never measured, and never will be measured”, Whitman said. “I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass.”

The measure of us all is what cannot be measured. And with it the ability to prove all measures wrong. We need to remember that.

See ya at Defrag.

Shooting Fawkesworks in Battersea

Had a great time watching the fireworks show at Battersea Park last night. Guy Fawkes Day isn’t until Monday, but this was a perfect night for it: not cold, not rainy. Which is the most you should ask of London in November. I stood there in a long sleeve shirt, carrying two layers of unnecessary additional outwerwear over my arm along with the camera.

The shot above, and all the others showing the flamethrowing display (orange lines pointing upward from the bottom of the photo) were all made without me looking through the viewfinder. I held the camera over my head, and the crowd in front of me, pointed in the general direction of the fireworks.

The show was well-coordinated with music, and involved some of the most unusual and inventive pyrotechnics that I’ve yet seen: fireworks that flew in tight ringlets once they achieved altitude, others that produced trails that looked like waterfalls, draped across the sky… Very nice.

Went there with friends old and new, and enjoyed it tremendously. My one regret was missing the last tube out of Sloane Square. Finding an unoccupied taxi proved difficult for more than an hour, during which I failed to grok the “night bus” system as well. But I did find a taxi eventually, and chalked it up to another learning adventure in London.

Heading to the fireworks in Battersea Park. Might see some of ya’ll there.

Verity du jour

David Simon:

  They’ll make more money putting out a mediocre paper than they would putting out a better paper. They know this. It’s their equation. They’re quite content with mediocrity.

  And within that culture we have people that are saying, “oh no, we’re going to do more with less,” which is one of the great lies of the 21st century. What it means is we’re going to less with less. And that’s the nature of what journalism is becoming.

… or the nature of newspaper journalism, anyway.

Via Ed Cone, whom I have not seen in far too long.

Can somebody tell me where I can get a real cappuccino within walking distance of St. Paul’s in London? Or freaking anywhere besides Peets and Quebrada? Or what one might get, if lucky, by intercepting and patiently guiding the actions of a barista at the likes of Starbucks?

I mean… Jeez.

So i was just at the coffee counter at the office building where I’m working right now, where I asked for a “dry short double cappuccino”.

“Right. A cappuccino”, the barista said, and began to ring up the order. “One pound seventy five”.

“That’s for your shortest?”

“A cappuccino”.

“Can you make it dry?”


So he made it with skim milk. The result was yet another 12-ounce cup filled with a lot of milk topped by a tiny bit of foam and tanned by an ounce of espresso — roughly replicating every cappuccino I’ve had since I got here on Monday… from Starbucks, from Costa, from Paul… all too much milk and too little coffee.

So I tested my phone’s camera for the first time and produced the above.

Holy landings

Dean Peters of HealYourChurch Website has embarked on a blognotated (that’s annotated by blog) sojourn to Jordan. His trip is wiki’d, and will be YouTubed along the way as well. His interests are historical, architectural, cultural and culinary as well as churchy. Dean’s blog is a good one and I’m sure his trip will be well worth following.

Low number

Rob Beschizza in Wired: 10 Reasons To Hate Cellphone Carriers.

Bonus gripe.

Hate and gripes withstanding, maybe this will help. Can’t make things worse.

Could they make more money if their customers weren’t captive?

If so, give us some examples.

I was was trying to find an old Bill Gates quote when I ran across an early DaveNet titled Bill Gates vs The Internet. In it Dave wrote,

  The users outfoxed us again. It happens every fifteen years or so in this business, We lost our grounding, the users rebelled, and a new incarnation of the software business has been created.

  What is it? The Internet, of course. It’s a very magic thing whose potential has barely been explored. New stuff is happening almost on a daily basis. There’s a rebellious spirit to it...

  Now the tail is wagging the dog! The old software industry is struggling (even flailing) to not be random idiots. The next versions of Windows, Macintosh and OS/2 are all Internet clients, with the standards supported — Gopher, WAIS, FTP, Telnet, Mosaic, news groups, etc. It’s an incredible thing because none of the platform vendors had any say in the definition of these standards! It isn’t based on OpenDoc, OLE 2.0, Kaleida, Taligent, AppWare, or any of the various database standards that Philippe and Bill were arguing about a few years ago. Or even MAPI or VIM. Remember OCE? Do you remember how important those things seemed at the time?

He wrote that on October 18. 1994. This was before Netscape, before Amazon, before eBay and waaaay before Google.

Yesterday Dave wrote two equally precient and important posts: A bit about Open Social and Think about all the frees and opens and what they reveal. In the first he says,

  When Google makes their announcement on Thursday, the question they should be asked by everyone is — How much of my data are you letting me control today? That’s pretty much all that matters to anyone, imho.

And in the second he looks at all the “Open _____” and “Free _____” mantras, then adds,

  These aren’t good or bad, they just serve someone’s interest without thinking about the users’ interest (at best) or counter to the users’ interest (at worst).

  Which suggests maybe it’s time to get to the point.

  Free Users. :-)

Here’s my corollary to both: When we have free users, we won’t ask companies to “let me control” my data. Instead, we’ll ask “What data of mine will I let this or that company use.”

Think about what it means to be a “user”, and what a “user” is.

Because companies are users too.

The idea behind this challenge isn’t to put the shoe on the other foot, but to put proper shoes on both feet.

We need real relationships here. Not the kind where one party has the exclusive power to “let” the other party have rights, data or anything else. Not the kind where one party has to beg the other party for their freedom. Not the kind where “Customer Relationship Management” consists of “capturing”, “managing” and “owning” customers as if they were cattle.

We will never have truly free and open markets — ones with choices for customers among large suppliers that go beyond “Which rancher’s fenced land shall I graze in?” — until users on both the demand and the supply sides are truly free. And that will only happen when both sides have the tools to express their freedom and independence, when both can assert the terms by which they are willing to relate — for the good of themselvess and each other.

We have those tools on the sellers’ side. We lack them on the buyers’ side. Correcting that is what ProjectVRM is all about.

Bonus link from Britt Blaser, with a bonus quote: Where there’s folk, there’s fire.