July 2008

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I’ll be at Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas in September. Gotta say that I wouldn’t be going if it didn’t coincide with another obligation in town. But since I’ll be there, I’m interested in seeing if a sharper distinction can be made between blogging and flogging. You can see the split by looking Blogworld’s own promotional jive. On the one hand there’s this…

  …if you want to influence decision makers, sell a product or service, if you want to promote yourself as an industry expert, or build your brand using new media…

And on the other hand there’s the Citizen Journalism Workshop, with a program developed by David Perlmutter, Ph.D. In addition to being the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at Kansas University’s School of Journalism with a distinguished adacemic pedigree — and a blogger — David is busy doing research on a grant from Knight Foundation to “study the relationship between reading blogs and newspapers”.

Generally speaking, I’ll be a lot more interested in the latter than the former.

Looking forward to seeing some of ya’ll there.

[Later...] I just learned that I might be on a panel. You can guess what I’ll be saying. Though I’ll be listening too.

A knol, Knol says, is a “unit of knowledge”. I don’t think so. But I do think Knol is already becoming a den of spam.

My cursory research, at that link, suggests that the answer is yes. “Anemia“? No results. “Hair“? 12, including several (supposedly) by the top guy at the Beauty Network. “Cancer“? 38, so far, inncluding three in the first page of results for the biggest spam giveaway, Mesothelioma. Search for anything. Watch the results.

If this is about a fight with Wikipedia, I’d say it’s no contest. But it’s not. It’s about the corrupting influence of pure scammy ambition. Even if Google doesn’t have that, it plays host to plenty. And Knol (born on 23 July) was barely out of the womb before it got infected with it.

The only antidote, perhaps, is more knols like Bernie DeKoven‘s one on Pointless Games. That’s how I found Knol, by the way. News of its birth had escpaped me.

Bonus link.

Dan Gillmor:

  Newspapers have at least two more huge opportunities.

  First is to open the archives, with permalinks on every story in the database. Newspapers hold more of their communities’ histories and all other media put together, yet they hoard it behind a paywall that produces pathetic revenues and keeps people in the communities from using it — as they would all the time — as part of their current lives. The revenues would go up with targeted search and keyword-specific ads on those pages, I’m absolutely convinced. But an equally important result would be to strengthen local ties.

  Second, expand the conversation with the community in the one place where it’s already taking place: the editorial pages. Invert them. Make the printed pages the best-of and guide to a conversation the community can and should be having with itself. The paper can’t set the agenda, at least not by itself (nor should it), but it can highlight what people care about and help the community have a conversation that is civil and useful.

Those aren’t just opportunities. They’re advantages that papers still have. Even if they’re not using them.

Do any of ya’ll have an HD radio? If so, whaddaya think?

If not, what are the chances you’ll ever get one?

Bonus link.

I woke up with the song “Sixteen Candles” running through my mind. I didn’t get the dyslexic pun until I realized that I turn sixty-one today. Technically, I’ve got several more hours at sixty, since I’m writing this at 6:22, and I was born at about 11am (at Christ Hospital in Jersey City).

In an unrelated matter, last night I attended an Obama gathering in Boston that was enjoyable except to the degree that three followers of Lyndon LaRouche kept bending conversation sideways toward their own ideological vectors.

When the evening was ending, I stood outside talking with one of the three (who had been told to leave by one of the meeting’s organizers). At first I thought we could have a conversation, but it wasn’t possible. The guy was not only convinced absolutely of his own (and presumably LaRouche’s) rightness, but resolutely paranoid. (Later he gave me a small pile of LaRouche literature. Not surprisingly, it was thick with paranoia.)

Aside from the nature of his opinions, I found it sad that a mind so young was so completely closed.

I remember realizing, at about age sixteen or younger, that I would never know everything, and that I should always stay curious about the world and open to facts that challenge my opinions. One might think that this would get harder as one gets older, but it doesn’t. It gets easier.

We need our opinions, our certitudes, our belief systems. Can’t get along without them. But even belief systems need new information. Being right is overrated. Being open is essential if we wish to grow as human beings. At any age.

What Google Does (and needs to keep doing).

It’s about domain name registration, and how Google does that right — or closer to right than anything else I’ve found. An excerpt:

  Did I use Google just because it’s a “trusted brand”? No. In fact, there are no “brands” that I trust. Sorry, marketers, “branding” is a term borrowed from the cattle industry, and I’m done being impressed that way. (And trust me, it’s a taint that the trade isn’t going to shake.)

  I used Google because I trust them not to treat me like cattle — or worse, as a potential sucker.

  This is not to say that Google’s domain registration process is perfect, or that Google is being not-evil or anything fancy like that. My point is that Google offers a straightforward and uncomplicated service in the midst of a business that has needed one for the duration.

Just some credit where due.

This shot here (and above) has found a home here as well.

Opening the Cellwaves.

I like the hotel we’re staying in. The wi-fi signal is strong, fast and free. The bed is firm and the sheets are fine cotton, topped by a soft comforter. The AC works well and isn’t too noisy. I have no complaints except for the lack of a good desk and chair for working on my laptop.

This is standard. Very few hotels have desks with surfaces low enough to allow comfortable work. And few have chairs that aren’t uncomfortable for sitting at a laptop for more than half an hour or so.

My point: I would gladly pay more to stay in a hotel with a good desk and office chair. In fact I think an office-standard desk & chair should be listed among amenities at hotel sites and in services such as Orbitz and Travelocity.

Of course, no industry changes overnight. But it’s never too late to start. Meanwhile, consider this a primitive Personal RFP.

A few dozen million years ago, in the Eocene — not far back, as geology goes — a large lake covered much of what’s now western Colorado and eastern Utah. A lot of organic muck fell to the bottom, and now that muck is oil. Problem is, it’s locked in shale, and extracting it is no bargain… yet.

If and when it ever gets to be a bargain, look to see some of The West’s prettiest landscape ripped up.

Edge-on, the old lake bed presents itself as the Book Cliffs*, which overlook I-70 for a hundred miles. I took some shots of the region when we drove past them last year. And one of those shots now illustrates this post by Brandon Keim in his Wired blog.

[* My geography and my geology were corrected below in the comments by Ron Schott, a genuine geologist. Brandon Keim wrote about oil shales using my photo. There are oil shales, but not in these Book Cliffs deposits, which are older. The oil shales are in strata above the ones exposed here. Apologies for the errors.]

What we’re presented with here is a set of costs that can only be rationalized in terms that regard the extraction of all the world’s oil as an economic necessity — and nothing else.

I hear arguments for mining oil from places like this and a few memorable lines from the Doors’ “When the music’s over” come to mind:

What have they done to the Earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her.
Stuck her with knives in the
Side of the dawn and
Tied her with fences and
Dragged her down.

Great song, by the way. Also the one that foreshadowed the demise of Tony Soprano on the penultimate episode of Tony’s show.

Is there foreshadowing here too?

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