April 2008

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Papers are endangered. But I’m not sure the same is true about the collection, editing and printing of news. Or of journalism at its best (as well as its worst, which will always abound).

Marc (Andreessen, not Canter — from down here it’s so easy to confuse these tall guys) has started a serial posting on the subject of newspapers. It led me to revisit my advice for newspapers, which I first offered in ten-point form a little over a year ago.

It’s gratifying to see many papers following advice in numbers 1 through 6…

 
  1. Stop giving away the news and charging for the olds.
  2. Start featuring archived stuff on the paper’s website.
  3. Link outside the paper.
  4. Start following, and linking to, local bloggers and even competing papers (such as the local arts weeklies)
  5. Start looking toward the best of those bloggers as potential stringers
  6. Start looking to citizen journalists (CJs) for coverage of hot breaking local news topics

But still coming up short on the last three:

 
  1. Stop calling everything “content”.
  2. Uncomplicate your webistes, and get rid of those lame registration systems
  3. Get hip to the Live Web
  4. Publish Rivers of News for readers who read on mobile devices

So I just went to the other Marc’s site, and whoa! Dig the title of his latest post: How to build the mesh – #4: the Live Web. Way(s) to go!

Here’s where I wrote about The Live Web in 2005. Marc does a nice job of bringing the whole thing up to date. In that piece I give credit to my son Allen for coming up with the term in the first place, back in 2003 as I recall.

Hope it finally catches on.

And a hat tip to Chip Hoagland for getting me started on this.

Editor & Publisher: The San Jose Mercury News, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Cincinnati Enquirer all reported nice increases in daily circulation.

However…

Rush Limbaugh drives me nuts, because he’s sometimes at least a little bit right about some things. Of course he’s a shameless partisan hack — yet with just enough humor and warmth that you can’t help but stay tuned.

Anyway, here’s a transcript of Rush’s show yesterday. It’s one in which he’s feeding on Rev. Wright’s exposed flesh, no less than — as Dave correctly points out here — the rest of Washington’s shark tank. Stories like this (with character and struggle out the wazoo) are too juicy to ignore.

Of course Rush’s teeth are all over Obama as well. Though mostly he’s working to submerge and drown the best of Obama under the worst of Wright.

Andrew Sullivan finds some stuff to agree with, in the midst of Rush’s several-hour chew-fest on Obama. But Andrew also points back toward the high road that Barack needs to find again, if the candidate doesn’t want to hand the game over to Hillary, for her to hand over to John McCain (which is the way to bet now in any case, if you’re just following the odds). Sez Andrew:

  Obama is a mixture in this, as in so many things, a complicated mixture. My view is it is that very mixture, that very embodiment of American complexity that makes Obama such a next-generation candidate.

  It is no wonder the some of the old guard have mixed feelings about his ascendancy; or that Wright, at this point, might feel jealousy and the erosion of his worldview. And that’s why Obama needs to spell out again his own vision of a post-racial America that is not a non-racial America. Instead of seeking to play out the clock, he needs to seize the narrative again, before it irreparably seizes him.

Good luck with that. He’ll need a lot of it.

Here’s the link, and here’s the text:

Additionally, we have awarded two special prizes for the initiatives we considered groundbreaking. The VRM project lead by Doc Searls is from our point of view a very innovative approach to bring the concept of user-centric identity to customer management. During the VRM Unconference 2008 this topic has been intensively discussed for the first time in Europe. The second special prize goes to open source projects Higgins and Bandit, which we consider the most important open source initiatives in the field of Identity Management.

And here’s Bart Stevens’ blog post with photographic proof as well.

Big thanks to Joerg, Martin and all the folks at Kuppinger Cole for hosting and for welcoming all the participants from the VRM crew to EIC2008.

We have many more events coming up. In addition to regularly (and irregularly) scheduled ones in the U.K and elsewhere in Europe (need to get everything on the wiki), we have the VRM sessions at the next IIW, plus the first VRMW (VRM Workshop, unless we come up with a better name for it) at Harvard on 9-10 July. Mark your calendars.

Reliving virtual Munich

I missed Munich last week, at least physically. But I did get there virtually. There’s a video here of the keynote I gave (complete with slides — nice editing job there by Mike Deehan of the , who also stayed up all night with me as we got this done in the wee hours of East Coast Time). Most of that was not shown at the conference, due to technical glitches. But at least it got captured at the source end.

Here is a nice report by Phil Whitehouse on VRM2008 and the relbutton idea (first vetted publicly at Media Re:public earlier this month), in addition to his own talk there, together with Paul Downey, whose sketchnotes are here.

Two posts

In Linux Journal, Is government open source code we can patch? And in the ProjectVRM blog, VRM is user-driven.

Phil Hughes on Bob Frankson, applied in Estelí, Nicaragua:

  In social-political terms, it means looking for a local solution and then growing that solution to connect to other resources. It seems like something that could be done, would be good for Nicaragua/Nicaraguan communities and would even appeal to some organizations looking to make grants. Much like the grants for the sewer and water projects in Estelí, this is infrastructure. Up-front costs are much larger than operating costs so it doesn’t build that dependency cycle.

  Am I crazy?

Nope.

Phil is in a great position to build infrastructure from the edge in. Also to see The Problem of centralization for the purpose only of creating artificial scarcities and charging for them. If we’re going to start working around connectivity compromised by value-subtracting business models, towns like Phil’s are good places to start. (Also to start leading incumbent carriers toward a future where they are part of a new ecosystem that’s much larger than the one they’ll need to quit trying to control.)

By the way, Phil is the friend who started (and for most of its history published) and hired me on there in the late ’90s. It was Phil who showed me (without meaning to, which might be the best way) that the software industry was slowly but surely turning in to the construction industry.

And that’s exacty the model we need to follow as we buid this thing back out, from the edge in.

Jump! tonight

After brunch at yesterday, we caught the — a rope jumping team of high schoolers from Torrington, CT — putting on an amazing demonstration of skill and enthusiasm, outside the Davis stop on the Red Line in Somerville. Turned out they were there to help promote , a movie showing that afternoon, and this evening, right next door at the Somerville Theater, as part of Boston’s .

I’m trying to put up one of the short videos I shot with my little Canon still camera, and it hasn’t appeared yet. Check here to see it it’s showed up. Meanwhile, here are a couple of Forbes Flyers’ own from their collection on YouTube.

So, after going to a museum at MIT for about an hour or so, we returned and caught the movie, and with it an enthusiasm both for the sport and the Xtremely Fine Job that Helen Wood Scheer, Scott B. Morgan and crew did putting the movie together. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, on any subject.

It’s showing again tonight at 7:30, and next in San Francisco (Wednesday), Santa Cruz and Charleston. Check this page for details. Also the Jump! movie blog.

So I decided to cave in and say yes to patients waiting in the accumulating pile of friend requests at my Facebook account. Haven’t been to Facebook in awhile, so I was also curious to see if “friending” has improved since the last time I slogged my way through the process.

First, l lost count of how many seconds passed during login. As usual, I clicked “remember me”, but I have no faith that it will next time. It never has before.

Second, I now have 190 friend requests. I know a few dozen of these folks. I would like to say yes to them as a group. While this would be handy and useful, and must be something that users have wanted for a long time, it’s still not there — though it’s nice to see that the silly intermediate checkbox thing (about how you know this person) is gone. Still, it takes another 10 18 25 seconds or so between clicking “confirm” and actual confirmation. With nothing happening in the browser’s status bar. So you have no idea if clicking even worked.

Makes me wonder if there is a cure for silos that isn’t yet another silo.

There has to be. Eventually. Somehow.

[Later...] I just “friended” a few people. They took, 30, 15, 8, 14, 33, 5, 34, 15, 5 and 5 seconds. I won’t bother to average those, because they don’t include the last two I tried. Both took more than a minute before I gave up because nothing happened. Awful.

When a blog comment to an ancient post comes into moderation and it has no relevance to that post, and the English is awful, I’m figuring it’s a splog (spam blog) comment. So I kill it.

The latest one killed went, question: How many guys ( MARRIED) feel that all they do is for not? eg… work around the house/ work for a living eg… bring home the bacon. / try to do all they can with their kids and then some. If you feel the same way i do tell my wife. That’s in response to this post from last September.

What would have happened if I had approved it? Well, in the past at least one of them turned my server into a spam slave. Or something. I just remember that the server was compromised and unscrewing it took a lot of work. The compromise came in through an old WordPress install that hadn’t been updated. One blog was killed outright and another still isn’t back.

More about the risks here. Sad that the Web has turned into a city where everybody has to bolt their doors, but … it is.

At , this time for more than a few minutes. Observations…

I can’t post a question using the question tool.

I’m at a panel on fame, and I don’t know any of the panelists. (They are, in fact, moot of 4chan, Randall Munroe, and Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics. They are arranged according to size: moot, Randall, Ryan.)

I am >2x the age of 90% of the people here. I may be 2x the age of ANY of the people here. (Not true, but it seems that way.) Worse, I’m dressed to “go out” to some place nice later, so it’s like I’m in costume.

A sport here: being first finding the too-few power outlets. (That’s the headline reference, btw. Figger it out.)

Neo-Cantabrigian observation: MIT does wi-fi right, while Harvard does power outlets right. At MIT, it’s a snap to get out on the Net through the wi-fi cloud, but there are too few power outlets, and some of them have no power. At Harvard, there are power outlets for everybody in all the classrooms (at least at the Law School, to which most of my experience is so far confined), and getting out on the Net requires a blood sample. From your computer.)

Great question from the floor… “At what time have you been most afraid of what you’ve created?” Answer: “Right now.” At which point Anonymous Thinker — a guy dressed in a suit and a fedora with a black stocking pulled over his head — just made a bunch of noise from the back of the room. Near as I can tell. I’m in the mid-front, and can’t turn my head that far. Still, funny.

Best question on the Question Tool: “SUDO MAKE NEW QUESTION.” Top vote-getter: “What is your zombie defence plan?”

Unrelated but depressing: The lobby for US-style copyrights in Canada has gone into overdrive, recruiting a powerful Member of Parliament and turning public forums on copyright into one-sided love-fests for restrictive copyright regimes that criminalize everyday Canadians.

I don’t have the whole fotoset up yet, but it’ll be here.

Randall just called blogs a “four letter word”. Blogs are very outre here.

Shots from the I Can Haz Case Study? session at ROFLCON. The show continues today. I’ll be there.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to ROFL, check out (some of) the many videos linked to by Ethan Zuckerman here.

My fave, not mentioned. Runner up, mentioned.

Seventeen-year-old Brandon Rosario has successfully auditioned for a job as the new Howard Stern. Opposing him, naturally, is his school’s administration. Yule Heibel has the rest.

Bonus link.

To get (and stay) in shape, I’ve been spending more time off-grid. Less blogging and twittering, more time communing with nature. Some of that time I’m not indulging my curiousities. Or at least I’m resisting them. No electronics, for example. It was on one of those walks that I became curious about the story of infrastructure, past and present. What were these metal plates doing in the ground? Why were they there? Why were there so many of them? What were their different purposes? Which ones were remnants of services or companies no longer in existence? Which ones had found new uses? Why do so many carry the signatures of companies and utilities long dead?

I started on the Minuteman Bikeway, which passes close to our home not far from Harvard, where I’m headquartered these days. With a minimal slope, it’s perfect for active but low-stress strolling or biking. And it connects a lot of interesting historic sites. At one end is the Alewife “T” stop on the Red Line subway. At the other is something in Belmont I haven’t reached yet, because I usually go only as far as Lexington. Most of the stretch runs through Arlington, which combines the former villages of West Cambridge and Menotony. This is roughly the path along which the British soldiers retreated from Lexington on April 19, 1775, losing men (mostly boys, actually) and killing colonials of many ages. Thus started the Revolutionary War.

The Middlesex Central Railroad was born in 1846 and died in 1982. Part of it was better known as the Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad. It began as a vein of commerce, carrying goods from mills and ponds along its path. The Earth was colder in the early days of the railroad, and the winters were longer. Ice cut from Spy Pond was shipped all over the world from docks in Boston. This past winter the pond was thick enough to support skating for about three days.

But I’ve become more interested in the infrastructure story. So, over the last couple weeks, as Spring breaks out along the trail, I’ve been shooting pictures, mostly of stuff on the ground, before it gets haired over with vegetation, in faith that patterns will start making sense to me. I’ve also shot a lot around Cambridge, Boston and other places, but haven’t put those up yet. Right now I’m adding descriptions to the photos in this set here.

This is part of a long-term project, methinks. We’ll see how it goes. If you’re interested in following the same threads, tell me in the comments below.

Small Pieces Loosely Joined, David Weinberger‘s book from several years back, makes its point in the now-famous Ray Ozzie memo explaining Microsoft’s sex change (from a software to a Web company).

The Oil Bubble

On the one hand, high oil prices are the result of commodity markets at work. More demand and less supply means higher prices.

Meanwhile, prices are still out of whack with actual supply, both on and in the ground. Methinks therefore we are in a bubble of some kind. A couple days ago the Wall Street Journal said the same thing. (But I can’t find the piece online, hence no link.)

What will happen when it pops?

Every story tells a picture

The Clinton-Obama Pennsylvania Decision Tree, by Amanda Cox, in The New York Times. Hat tip to Nathan Yao of Flowing Data, who explains, We see an entire story between Obama and Clinton – positions taken, counties won, and counties lost. Go ahead and take a look. Words bad. Picture good. Ooga. Booga. Via Andrew Sullivan.

Danke!

Some news from München. Here’s a page with some context. No coverage yet that I can find, but I’m busy prepping a talk I’ll give at the same event — — tomorrow morning at 0830 local time there, and 0230 here. Hope my batteries hold up. I’ve had about 6 hours of sleep since I got up Sunday morning, and 0230 is just a few more hours away.

My so-called Live

Among the many memes I’ve failed to launch, among the most worthy is the World Live Web. The term isn’t mine. I got it from Allen in 2003 or so, and totally saw the sense in it. So, for much of the last three years I’ve suggested that the split that really matters is not the generational one between Web 1.x and Web 2.x, but the functional one between the static and the live. But I was starting to loop on the topic, so I pretty much dropped it. (Well, not completely. Just mostly.)

Now, however, comes Seana Mulcahy, who writes, Searls posted some compelling info over three years ago now. Typically in our business I think three years ago is beyond old news. However, this has a shelf life and applies to folks just starting to question it and explore it.

And here’s Denise Shiffman, who writes,

  By 2006 The New York Times had already used Web 3.0 to refer to the Web that offers meaning – where the sum of knowledge and behavior can be accessed (of course this is of primary importance to performance marketers). But the one I like best is used by industry pundit Doc Searls: Live Web, which is meant as an all encompassing term to refer to 2.0, 3.0 and everything in between.

  Marketing 2.0 is defined by the open, collaborative, social, virtual, user-generated, mobile environment of the Live Web.

Well, actually that’s not what I meant, but … whatever. (See Denise’s comment below.)

Hey, who knows? Maybe there’s Live in it yet.

Noticing deaths

I’ve meant to write about Bill Buckley and Hal Riney, both of whom I held in fond regard. Now I just learned about Darian O’Toole, who was a standout disk jockey in San Francisco and elsewhere. Bill and Hal had full and long lives. Darian didn’t. Sad news.

Here’s her now-ghostly blog, last updated two years ago. Here’s Big Rick on the subject. Been too long since I’ve visited Rick’s blog, or Brad Kava‘s. Reading around Brad’s blog I also learned that Sean Costello, a fine young blues talent, died in an Atlanta hotel room.

Holy shit, I wandered around the Radio-Info message board for San Francisco, where there is this notice about another death: Jack Armstrong, late of KFRC. A detail… Extremely saddening news… I hoped I never had to write… Our extremely amazing Dad and your friend Jack Armstrong aka John C. Larsh passed away yesterday March 22, 2008 at his home in North Carolina.

John Larsh? Could this be the same John Larsh I knew back at Guilford College? Sure enough: Larsh used to work at 1320 WCOG radio here in Greensboro and his dad was a professor at the Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. John Larsh briefly attended Guilford College.

Jeez. He was a kid, a couple years older than me, who still hung out at Guilford even though he wasn’t going there any more at the time.

The big kahuna at ‘COG then was John Coffman, or “Johnny C”. On Saturday nights, all the local teenagers went cruising up and down Walker and West Market Streets, threading through the parking lot of the Boar and Castle, a legendary run-down car hop place with a famous sauce. Johnny and WCOG played from every radio in every car. I can still hear “A Lovers Concerto” by the Toys and “One Two Three” by Len Barry over the low thrum of “glass pack” mufflers on souped up cars creeping along at two miles an hour. I knew Johnny too, though not from radio. Johnny had a side business selling cookware, and for awhile I made a bit of money working for him. John died of cancer not too many years after that.

But my reeling mind is still flashed back to 1965, when Johnny wasn’t budging from his night slot at ‘COG, and John Larsh was a way-better jock than Johnny anyway. So John headed off to Cleveland, where he worked for what was then WKYC/1100, one of the original (literal) clear channel stations. It boomed into Greensboro every night. I remember how John stirred up some controversy by saying that the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” wasn’t music. Guess he changed that tune, because here’s this story, at that same link, about how John, now Jack Armstrong, prevented 35,000 Beatles fans from rushing the stage in Cleveland when the Fab Four played there. John/Jack went on to work everywhere, it seems. Funny, I always wondered what happened to him. Now I know.

John was 62. Now, as then, two years older than me.

At the end of every show back then, John used to say “Remember, when you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot, hang on and swing”.

Still swinging, John.

Better Understanding

I just made a few changes to Understanding Infrastructure, which I trust will improve it. See what you think.

Clicking on the picture above will take you on a slideshow tour of the Grand Canyon, shot from the right side of an LAX-bound 757 that departed from Boston. I have no idea what movie was showing at the time; though I do know I refused, as I usually do, to close my windowshade to reduce ambient light on the ancient crappy ceiling-mounted TV screens. The scene outside upstaged the movie in any case, as it has been doing for the last several million years, as the Kaibab Plateau has pushed its dome upward and the Colorado has stayed roughly where it had been since the many millions of years before that, when it wandered lazily across a flat plain.

As ranking canyons go, the Grand Canyon is almost too grand. It’s freaking huge. From the air I find it far more dramatic to peer down into its narrower regions, such as the one above, which is early in the Colorado’s course through the canyon. The series follows the canyon from east to west, from not far below Glen Canyon dam and the Vermillion Cliffs area to Vulcan’s Throne and Lava Falls, where relatively recent flows have slopped their blackness down across the canyon’s iconic layer-cake strata.

What is most amazing to me about this corner of The West is that it was obviously placid through so many time stretches across the last almost two billion years. The West is painted with the colors of long periods of relative quiet, as sands and silts and gravel and cobbles were deposited by braided rivers and transgressing seas.

All of the Grand Canyon’s strata were laid down before the age of dinosaurs. Younger layers such as those comprising the Vermillion Cliffs to the East, the Grand Staircase upstream in the Glenn Canyon area, in Canyonlands, Arches, and most of Utah’s most colorful layer-cake displays — Bryce, Zion, Capitol Reef, Cedar Breaks, San Rafael Reef and Swell — are comprised of younger rock eroded off the top of the Kaibab Plateau.

Some of the shots were taken with my Canon 30d, and others with my tiny PowerShot 850. which does a better job of shooting straight down through the window. Its smaller lens distorts less through the plane’s multiple layers of bad glass and plastic windows. And the display on the back lets me shoot without looking through an eyepiece. It’s not perfect, but not bad, either.

I still miss my Nikon Coolpix 5700, which took lots of great pictures out plane windows, and was frankly much better at that job than the Canon, mostly because the Coolpix’ objective lens was smaller (again, better for looking at angles through the terrible optics of plane windows), and partly because the camera’s flip-out viewer allowed me to hold the camera to the window at angles I could not put my face, but where I could still see and frame the view.

While I haven’t been blogging much in the last few weeks, and I haven’t also been in the hospital or otherwise slowed down, I’ve been writing for Linux Journal and the Berkman Center. Some of the Linux Journal stuff is what I write every month for issues that appear three months in the future. For example, yesterday I finished being late for the July issue deadline. Some of what I write is for LJ goes straight to the website, which has been improving steadily lately (quite aside from my own contributions). The latest of those is called Understanding Infrastructure. It’s close to four thousand words, and has been in the works for about a month now.

Infrastructure has been an interest of mine for some time. I think it’s one of the world’s most overused yet least understood concepts. And I have an immodest fantasy about correcting that.

Not alone, though. A bunch of other people I hang and talk with have similar ideas. This latest piece is grist for our collective mill. Maybe yours too.

It’s not perfect. In the words of Mark Twain, if I’d had more time I could have made it much shorter. But I needed to get it out there, so there it is.

The Berkman Center pieces are also kinda big, and will show up between now and Berkman@10.

Used to be I could tell splog bait on sight. Of the thirteen blog comments in moderation a few minutes ago, ten were comments from splog sites specializing in sex, poker or some lawsuit-intensive disease.

Usually they say something like “nice post”, which works for anywhere. Sometimes they say “facebook is the best”, the source presumably being some Facebook-based scam — or so I’m guessing, because I don’t bother to check. Here’s one from somebody’s whose first name is “Join” that says “I love this. Thanks to sharing”. It’s from this site. It looks real enough, but again, I don’t have time to check. Short posts like this usually come from sploggers, so I either kill them as spam or “defer until later”, after which I kill them anyway. It seems cruel, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Now here’s one from somebody named Martin with an aol.com address. He says “Hello Doc! When we take it to the broader sense, it says obviously right. Though too small, but comprehensive and nice post.” That’s in response to this post here. It’s almost sensible, but … not quite right. The commenter gives this site as its URL. It looks like another digg-like thing. But when I look it up on Google, it doesn’t have much of a profile. When I see how many other pages link to it, only one result comes up. But is it a splog, or a brand new site that just doesn’t have much participation yet? This post suggests the latter. But does that mean it’s still not a scam?

I’m a generous guy, but I’m also busy. I don’t have time to waste trying to figure this crap out.

But I guess that’s the idea, huh?

Matt Flynn: …a quote that I heard attributed to Doc Searls – “email is how old people communicate”.

Did I say that? I feel like Yogi Berra here.

Too true

Stuff white people like.

In The connection between PR spam, global warming and magazines, Chris Anderson of Wired addresses something which, as both a magazine writer and reader, I truly hate:

  …I must concede that this problem of negative externalities is one that my own industry overlooks, too. Take those “blow-in” subscription cards that we put in our magazines. Our circulation department wants to put in as many as possible, because five cards have a slightly higher chance of one being sent back than four, and six is slightly higher yet. As long as those cards earn more in subscriptions than the cost of paper and print, they’re consider a good thing from the circulation department perspective.

  Yet as we editors who talk to readers and get their email know, people HATE those cards. They fall out of magazines when you pick them up, forcing you to bend over to retrieve them and find a trash can in which to throw them away. This is a real negative cost that hurts our relationship with our readers, but because we can’t measure it directly, it’s an externality and thus mispriced at zero in the economics of the magazine industry.

  Likewise for every marketing email that we send (even through they’re opt-in) that isn’t relevant to the recipients. And every misleading direct mail offer, or renewal request nine months before your subscription really expires.

  I bring these all up because we at Wired recognize that there are real costs to this sort of thing, even if we can’t directly measure them, and we’re trying to minimize these practices. It will take a while, since traditions don’t give way easily, but if we can tax carbon and slow global warming, surely we can reduce the number of blow-in cards in America’s magazines.

Bravo.

See this. Then this.

I’m not sure what the second one is. Did “admin” rip off Simon Collister’s original post by posting it again? Was it for commercial reasons? Does it violate Simon’s Creative Commons 2.5 license?

The site of the reposting, Lalalia, is a “Virtual City”, described as An open system project, based on volunteers, to build a “virtual real democracy” based on the permanent votes of the “Lalaians” (the citizens of the virtual city Lalaia).

Is Simon part of that? If so, I guess it’s cool, being cross-posted. if not…

I don’t know. Can’t tell. Doesn’t smell right to me. But then, my nose is old and my blogging teeth are long.

Whatever. Seems strange to me. Is it?

A ways back, on one of Steve Gillmor’s podcasts, I said that the Democratic nomination was Obama’s unless he “stepped in it” before the convention.

“Gotcha” politics being what it is, Obama’s recent remarks — a few dumb words among amongst zillions of smart and/or safe utterances he’s made in the course of a campaign — qualify.

Naturally, they’re being spun (in some ways correctly) as “damaging”. But there is a difference between real damage (of the kind that would reveal that Obama — or anyone — is too flawed in a critical way to trust as president), and the kind of superficial embarrasment that gets buzzed far out of proportion to its actual importance. Andrew Sullivan, a conservative who favors Obama for reasons I find heartening, sees the difference, and puts it this way:

  Is this election about how to salvage the least worst option in the Iraq disaster? Is it about restoring some kind of fiscal sanity? Is it about doing all we can to unite Americans in a war against Islamic terrorism? Is it about restoring America’s compliance with the Geneva Conventions? Or is it again about red-blue culture wars? We know what the professional political class is comfortable with. We know what Rove and Bush and Penn and Clinton believe. What we will find out soon is if Americans want more of the same. It’s a free country – and people can vote. Goodbye to all that? Or hello again – for yet another cycle?

Later he adds,

  Americans have had the presidency they deserved these past four years; the war they voted to continue; the debt they voted to increase; the incompetence they decided to reward. They also get to pick who comes next. If they want more of the same, they know who to vote for.

Here’s how The Onion put it. And they’re right.

Rolling on

Sitting is hard for me. First, there’s the fear that I’m colonizing clots in my legs. That fear should recede when I know my IHR (a clotting measure) is between 2 and 3. Last tested it was 1, which is normal. Not good enough. Second, my chest still hurts, along with my lower back (which is an unrelated pre-existing issue, and still annoying). Standing up works. So do walking and bike riding.

Exercise is kind of orthoganal to blogging, but so what. Moving around keeps me alive, which is a prerequisite for everything else. So I’m following an active course for now, interrupted by brief visits to the laptop. Most of those are devoted to Real Work rather than to blogging. Needless to say (though I’ll say it anyway) I’m backlogged on a lot of work.

In the next few days I’ll have a stand-up desk, along with a much more body-friendly chair than I’m using now. Meanwhile, I’m jiggering the above and other lifestyle changes. Many good new practices and attitudes have been recommended by friends and readers, and believe me, I’m following more than a few of them.

Hope I won’t get too boring as I report on those rather than the usual here.

A quick plug for the talk to be given today at noon by Lawrence Lessig at UCSB, as part of the 2008 CITS Distinguished Lecture Series.

Larry packed the house in the huge Ames Courtroom at Harvard a week ago today (photos here). He gave his customary outstanding performance, and I expect him to do the same today. His title is “Changing Congress: Lessons Learned by a Copyright Activist”.

So, a shout-out to my fellow Santa Barbarians from your ex-pat Lessig Advance Team: skip lunch and go to the Multicultural Center Theater for one of the best free events you can attend this year. Here’s a map of the campus. More details (inlcuding the RSVP) at this Facebook page.

When I couldn’t sleep last night, I uploaded another pile of pix shot out the window during a flight last month from Boston to Los Angeles. This segment runs from the Mineral Hill Mine in Arizona to Slide Peak in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

The picture above is of the the mine at , Arizona. Once home to a settlement of 700 people, it’s now a ghost town.

What intrigued me, even from 30 miles away, was the “happy face” look of the mine, produced by the small ponds in the mine’s depths.

A few hours ago, as I was getting ready to get the kid to bed, the pain in my chest returned. Concerned that another blood clot might be involved, I imposed on Nicco to give me another ride over to the hospital, where at length a fresh CAT scan showed the same clot in the same place. Nothing new.

Still, they told me I did the Right Thing. Guess so.

Left me even more wasted though. As Nicco put it in the car on the way back, I’m probably not as “good” as I feel. (Which is okay, aside from the chest pains.)

Anyway, now it’s 3am and maybe I can finally (well, for tonight anyway… that adverb creeps me) get some sleep.

I’m getting so many calls that I’ve started hitting “ignore” half the time, which makes me feel like a freaking call center. I can’t take your call right now, I’m inaudibly saying. But your call is important to me. So please listen closely to the following options, because my menu has changed.

That menu in my own life now includes walking as well as working, talking and eating, which used to fight over the top rungs on my priority ladder. Well, other exercise should be up there too, and it will be. But walking comes first.

They didn’t find a source of blood clots in my legs, but when one ends up in your lungs, a leg is where one usually begins. You get them there by sitting. Being a passenger in a commercial airplane is often blamed, and I’m certainly guilty of being plenty of that. But I’ve sat longer in stretches at my desk than I’ve sat on transcontinental airplane flights. The line “I’m a desk potato” is one of the first my wife heard me speak. And it’s no less true now than it was way back then.

So, post-clot, I’ve developed an aversion to sitting, if not an outright fear. And my natural hyperactivity urges me toward the road and the path rather than the office and the desk. That way lies survival. But not much work. Because to go walking is to snowplow already overdue work off into the future.

So I do the one to have a future, and the other in the future the first helps make possible. At sixty with a clot in one’s lung that still hurts, these are the kinds of thoughts the mind mulls.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ll return to the old normal. Instead I need to make a new one that keeps me alive longer, and still allows me to do just as much work, only better.

I’ll be thinking about how on the walk I’m about to take.

I’m back home now. I feel fine, except for the fact that I’m quite the bleeder. Just before I was discharged, a nurse removed a … whatever they call it… one of those things they keep in a vein, so they can swap bottles of fluids that drip into you. And put a cushion of absorbent material over the wound, held down with a tight bandage. As I was wrapping up the power cord for my laptop, I noticed that blood was dripping on the floor. It was mine, coming from the puncture on the back of my hand. We stopped it with fresh dressing, but it was interesting to watch spilled blood that dried faster than it clotted. That was wierd.

Anyway, other than that, I’m cool. Or so I’m telling myself, anyway. Very eager to press on with work.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get some good rest tonight, take it easy for the next few days, and count my blessings. That the clot went to my lungs rather than my heart or my head means I won at a kind of scary roulette.

Thanks to everybody who has written, called, texted and posted their best wishes. All of it helped, tremendously.

The short of it is that I’m in a hospital with a blood clot in my right lung.

The long of it is that I don’t have other blood clots, that I’m on blood thinners for awhile, and I’ll be fine. I might make it out by this afternoon, and I’ll even be able to get back to work by tomorrow and make VRM2008 and EIC2008 in Munich two weeks from now.

Meanwhile I’m having an educational tour of the health care system at Harvard and Cambridge. Very impressive, and reassuring.

This thing started with pain under my left shoulder blade on Saturday night that I assumed was a stretched muscle or something skeleto-muscular. It was uncomfortable but not debilitating. The next couple of days it spread to various places around my chest, so that breathing became a bit difficult at times, just because it was painful. Still, I felt otherwise okay. I didn’t suspect heart problems because just a few months ago I had a bunch of heart tests and came off looking quite good.

Then yesterday I had trouble finding a comfortable sitting position, because the pain, especially at the bottom back left of my rib cage, became too intense every time I breathed in.

So I called the health care center at Harvard Law School. The folks there were concerned just because “You’re sixty and have chest pains. That’s warning enough. Can you get in here, or should we send an ambulance?” I got in there, accompanied by the good Dr. Weinberger. The doctor there listened to my lungs, said things weren’t quite right — one of my lungs wasn’t moving air as well as the other — and ordered an ambulance.

Long story short, a CAT scan showed a “mid-size” blood clot in my right lung, plus the other stuff I said in the first two paragraphs. The only remaining mystery is the source of the blood clot, which additional tests they hope will eventually show. (Though they might not find out. If it came from a leg, there’s no remaining sign of one there now. Meanwhile, they need to eliminate other possibilities, including cancer somewhere, though they say the chance of that is low.)

Anyway, the warning sign I should have observed was the presence of chest pain that was clearly not the result of minor injury (such as stretching). When I pressed on pain locations, nothing happened, yet breathing normally was painful at those locations. Shoulda been a give-away that it was deeper than muscle or skeleton, meaning lungs.

Interesting discovery: pain from blood clots in lungs does not necessarily occur at the location of the clot. It can show up anywhere around the chest. That’s why it hurts in the lower left back side of my ribcage even thought he clot is in the upper part of my right lung.

I feel good enough to work here, though it’s not easy with tubes hooked up to one or both of my arms, at different times. So far this post has been interrupted more times than I can count, mostly with tests and other visits from medical folk. (Since this is a teaching hospital, I am a subject of sustained curiosity.) That’s why, even though I started writing this post around 6:30am, it’s now 9:43.

So I think I’ll just read some of the stuff that Nicco brought over (along with much more…the man is an ace), and hope that all this testing & stuff gets done enough for me to get out of here soon.

Geoff Livingston writes,

  Shel Israel did more to create the social media marketing industry than any other person with the possible exception of Doc Searls.

Well, that certainly wasn’t my intention. Probably not Shel‘s, either.

Memphis meltdown

Comes a time in every NCAA final when a team melts down. It usually happens near the end, when the game is close, such as when Chris Webber of the Michigan Fab Five called a time out when there were none left, and Carolina went on to win the game. And to Duke when it went down to Kansas, and later to Louisville. I was there for the Kansas game, in Kansas City, as a Duke fan. The next year Duke was #1 again, and in the final four at the Kingdome in Seattle. Four of us drove seventeen straight hours from Palo Alto to see that game. Duke was up by a pile of points against Seton Hall when its ace rebounder, Robert Brickey, went down with an injury. After that Duke tanked and lost by 25 points of something. Michigan ended up winning it all that year.

This year it was Memphis that melted, and they did it at the foul line. Kansas was behind and fouled for possession, hoping that Memphis would miss. It was a good strategy. Kansas needed great play to do the job, but they also needed Memphis to melt. Which it did.

The Tuesday Morning quartercoaches are being highly critical of Memphis coach John Calipari for not getting his guys to foul Kansas players in the final seconds of the game — which would have left Kansas still behind by a point, even if they had hit both free throws — and for not calling a time out. Yet the players had earlier chances to win at the foul line, and choked. They melted, plain and simple.

A side issue. Because the game started after The Kid’s bedtime here on the East Coast, we got up early and watched it this morning on the DVR. But because the program was scheduled for 2 hours and 30 minutes, the DVR cut off right when Kansas’s last shot was in the air. I gotta say that totally sucks. We didn’t know if the shot went in, and saw none of the overtime. (Which may have been just as well, since The Kid’s bracket had Memphis winning it all. He was a partisan on this one.) Instead we went to ESPN and learned the ending from Mike & Mike.

Anyway, why isn’t there some kind of override in DVRs that comes into effect when sports are involved, and the end of the show isn’t known? Next time I’ll record the following show, just to be sure.

Meanwhile, arg.

Here’s a slide show compiled from shots from a left side window (6A) of a United 737 flying from Dulles to Logan. Featured are Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey’s refinery districts, New York and BostonProvidence. Even from half a dozen miles up and more than that away, you can see the bright lights of Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards, where the Yankees and Orioles were playing that evening. Also the Verazano-Narrows and George Washington bridges, along with many others draped across the black waters below.

Thinking it over, seems to me that blogging has for the most part become flogging, but that trying to rebadge the former as the latter is a job for Sysiphus (about whom Camus says some interesting stuff here).

A while back Dave Winer said he would quit blogging one of these days. At the time I thought that would be a bad idea, but lately I’ve come to sympathize with it, in part for the reason Seth Finkelstein gives here. Blogging today ain’t what it was when Dave started it, and when I followed in his footsteps. The kind of writing we both try to do — what I once called “making and changing minds” (including our own) — is an ever more narrowing slice of the whole, even if the amount of it is still going up.

So I want something new. Something for which the making of money is at most a secondary or lower priority. Not sure what that should be, but I am sure, if it ever happens, it won’t be called blogging.

In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop, headlines the New York Times. “They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop”, it begins. It’s about blogging for bucks. Marc Orchant and Russell Shaw, both of whom died recently, and Om Malik, who recently survived a heart attack, serve as instructive examples of “toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment”.

Mike Arrington “says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. ‘At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen…This is not sustainable’.”

The piece goes on:

One of the most competitive categories is blogs about technology developments and news. They are in a vicious 24-hour competition to break company news, reveal new products and expose corporate gaffes.

To the victor go the ego points, and, potentially, the advertising. Bloggers for such sites are often paid for each post, though some are paid based on how many people read their material. They build that audience through scoops or volume or both.

Since this system does not feature the ‘chinese wall’ between editorial and advertising that has long been a fixture of principled mainstream journalism — or rather because writing, publishing and advertising are much more intimately mashed up in this new system than it was in the old one — I suggest a distinction here: one between blogging and flogging.

I brought that up on The Gang on Friday and got as nowhere as I did when I put up the post at the last link. So far it has no comments at all.

Still, I think distinctions matter. There is a difference in kind between writing to produce understanding and writing to produce money, even when they overlap. There are matters of purpose to consider, and how one drives (or even corrupts) the other.

Two additional points.

One is about chilling out. Blogging doesn’t need to be a race. Really.

The other is about scoops. They’re overrated. Winning in too many cases is a badge of self-satisfaction one pins on oneself. I submit that’s true even if Memeorandum or Digg pins it on you first. In the larger scheme of things, even if the larger scheme is making money, it doesn’t matter as much as it might seem at the time.

What really matters is … Well, you decide.

Blog here says Skybus, which for awhile had $10 fares, has cratered.

Nice recipe

Ben Laurie points to stpeter’s invite to moosh together Jabber/XMPP, OpenID, Oauth and the Web. Sounds tasty to me.

The best conferences aren’t conferences at all. They’re workshops. Meaning, work gets done there. Things move forward. Barns get raised. Or razed to make way for better barns. And all those things are subjects chosen by the participants, which for conferences would be called “attendees” or “the audience”. At workshops, everybody contributes.

This is the basic format of the Bloggercons, of BarCamps, and of the IIWs: Internet Identity Workshops.

The next IIW is on May 12-14 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. When you look down the list of organizations, technologies, standards and other entities represented at the IIW, you’ll see plenty that were either born or improved there.

Look up iiw at Flickr and you’ll get a visual sense of what goes on there.

More things are overlapping with digital identity all the time.

For example, data portability. For that the Data Sharing Summit is coming up. There’s a workshop on April 18-19, and the Summit itself on May 15 at the Computer History Museum. That’s the day after the IIW.

In addition to detailing both the IIW and the Data Sharing Summit, Kaliya Hamlin also notes Interop sessions at RSA next week. There’s also a dinner.

Since I still lack clones, I can’t make any of these, which is a huge bummer because IIW is in some ways my baby, and I’ve never missed any of its birthdays. Instead I’ll be at other things for which I have superceding obligations, including Berkman@10, VRM2008 and the European Identity Conference (aka eic2008). The latter two are both in Munich.

In any case, check them all out.

Listening to, and blogging, Lessig live from the Ames Courtroom here at Harvard, as part of the Berkman@10 celebration. Lessig was here at the founding. Some public notes from his talk…

There are two and a half doctors for every drug representative.

Story: He disqualified himself as a geek by asking a question about law at a geek conference.

Question: Is government just stupid?

The government often gets the easy cases wrong. Such as. There is a consensus among public policy makers that any copyright term change should be prospective only. But governments always extend terms. An easy case the gov gets wrong.

Nutrition… The sugar lobby urged the government to get the Food Nutrition Board to say no more than 25% of your caloric intake from sugar, while the WHO said 10%.

Global warming… There is a consensus that it’s real and we need to work on it. 1000 peer reviewed articles over a period of time. None disagreed. But junk science did, and the government, by doing as little as possible, got it wrong.

This leeds geeks to a position of hopelessness and disengagement. Most think government is a waste of time.

The problem is not stupidity. The system of influence by lobbyists and campaign fundraising that radically effects access, attention and understanding, weakening the government’s ability to get it right.

If money distorts, then pubic financing of elections would stop it. That’s one of Lessig’s theses. He also thinks the right should like public financing because it would result in smaller geovernment. Many on the right were against deregulating cablecos and telcos because deregulating them would remove them as sources of campaign financing.

So. Need a netroots campaign that is not DC centered. That’s why Creative Commons was born.

Change Congress wants a simple way for citizens to signal what they want.

Next is wikified tools for an army of collaborators to suss out who is for reform.

Fund reform after that. Take the problem you’re trying to solve, and make it manageable, digestable and segmentable.

These aren’t new ideas. Just a new opportunity.

Argument: Only if the outside makes a demand will the inside change.

Bribery in congress was not illegal until 1853.

Jefferson expected expected bribery to win.

The top 1% protect themselves from the bottom 99%.

“We do nothing as this happens.” This is exactly what Larry said to the geeks in his first Free Culture speech, by the way.

Criticism: people care more about substance rather than process.

Comparing the current problem to alcoholism. It’s the first problem. We can address no problems sensibly until we face this first problem. Until we change congress.

People tell them they’re happy about this project, but that he will fail.

Yet even certain failure teaches. It’s not excuse not to do something.

We, the most wealthy, secure and articulate people in this polity must be the first to work on this.

These corruptions are promulgated by the most privileged.

Now he’s asking us to “join me here.” The moment is straight out of Billy Graham. We should recall the success of the technique.

Introducing Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee…

  “You have witnessed an important moment in American History.”
  He was once the youngest congressman in America. “Sadly this is no longer true.”
  “We’ve got to change Congress.” Impressed that a man like Lessig would “risk his career and reputation to do the right thing.”
  Rep. Graham is for Senator Obama, by the way. No surprise there. A main point of Lessig’s is that Change is more than a slogan. It’s not an empty phrase or a campaign slogan.

Lessig again: Congresspeople spend hours a day telemarketing. Looking for money.

“Congresspeople have an extraordinary job… they get to do the right thing.” Geeks need to push them to do this.

“If it’s my movement it fails.”

It’s still early. No board. No structure yet.

Note to selves: a lot of what Larry wants here is what Britt Blaser and friends are working on.

By the way, Larry will be speaking a week from today, at noon, at UCSB’s Multicultural Center Theater, courtesy of the Center for Information Technology and Society (with which I am also affiliated) there. I can’t recommend it too highly. Larry’s talks are a great show, as well as a call to commitment that’s likely to be as strong and appealing as any you’ll experience in your life.

[Later...] Here’s a picture gallery from the talk.

My sister just heard Steven Colbert ask Jon Stewart if Bill and Hillary would catch the Cluetrain.

See-through Net Roots

The Glass Roots Revolution. A sample:

  Where it goes is the independent hacking together of everything: a convergence of cheap, mobile and hackable. Add to that the half-zillion open source code bases now populate the world of useful tools and building materials, and you have the ingredients — if not yet the recipe — for remaking infrastructure from the edges inward.

Net Neutrality? That horse left the barn, got on a boat and went to Europe long ago.DeWayne Hendricks, speaking at F2C

DeWayne is leaving the country. Going offshore. Because he’s giving up on geeks here in the U.S. We’re not fighting for the Net, he says. And we need to.

A link: ipsphere.org. Somebody on the show chat says it was…

  …created to describe services, it’s origins were that carriers were more interested in addressing what services are required than a more typical IETF approach of what capabilities do the protocols and equipment provide: one is more proscriptive and controlling. Do need QoS and security, and need to work with the industry on how to achieve while maintaining the Internet’s ubiquity. IPSphere Forum seems to be trying to establish itself as a profit and carrier-friendly version of the IETF, but without the basic protocol work.