October 2013

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I orient by landmarks. When I was growing up in New Jersey, the skyline of New York raked the eastern sky. To the west were the Watchung “Mountains“: hills roughly half the height of Manhattan’s ranking skyscrapers. But they gave me practice for my favorite indulgence here in Los Angeles: multi-angulating my ass in respect to seriously huge mountains.

What stands out about these things aren’t just their elevations…

  1. San Gorgonio, 11,503′*
  2. San Jacinto, 10,834
  3. San Antonio (Old Baldy), 10,068*

It’s their relief. These mothers are almost two miles high: alps above low plains and hills that slope under city and suburbs to the sea. One day when I went skiing at Mt. Baldy (same mountain as I shot above, on approach to LAX), I met guys who had gone surfing that very morning, not far away.

That’s right: skiing. In Los Angeles County.

All these mountains are crumples along a seam in the earth called the San Andreas Fault. The 40-quadrillion-ton Pacific Plate is crunching up against the also-huge North American plate at a high rate of geologic speed and force. The core rock inside these mountains is about 1.7 billion years of age, but the mountains themselves are, geologically speaking, as new and temporary as waves of surf. Note the catch basins at the base of San Antonio Canyon in the shot above. Their purpose is to catch rocks rolling off the slopes, as well as rain-saturated “debris flows”: Southern California’s version  of lava.

Speaking of which, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of John McPhee’s The Control of Nature (here’s an LA Times review), which features a long chapter titled “Los Angeles versus the San Gabriel Mountains.” That anybody would build a damn thing on or below the slopes of these virtual volcanoes speaks volumes about humanity’s capacity for denial.

Well, I was gonna drive up to the top of Mt. Wilson this morning to catch the sunrise over the layer of marine fog just over my head here in Pasadena, but I’ve got too much work to do. So I’ll just enjoy orienting toward it as I drive to Peet’s for coffee, and let ya’ll derive whatever vicarious pleasures might follow along. Cheers.

[Later...] Beautiful clouds atop the mountains all day today, with showers scattered here and there, and even a bit of snow. Tonight the snow level will be about 5000 feet, I heard. Should be pretty in the morning. Alas, I’ll be arriving at Newark then.


* The photos in Wikipedia for both are ones I shot from airplanes. They are among more than 400 now in Wikimedia Commons. I love feeding shots into the public domain, to find helpful uses such as these.

Today is VRM and Personal Cloud Day at the Computer History Museum. Register at that first link. Or just show up. It’s free. (Registering gives us a better idea of head count.)

It’s the time and place to brainstorm about both topics, plus what we’ll be discussing and moving forward the following three days at IIW, also at the CHM.

More details here.

It’s all about leverage on the future. So be there.

Here is what Chris Locke wrote about panopticons in Chapter One of The Cluetrain Manifesto. Read closely:

The New Marketplace: Word Gets Around

In the late eighteenth century, the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham imagined a little nightmare he called a “panopticon” — a prison in which the inmates could be seen at all times, but couldn’t see their jailers. A few hundred years later, mass media inverted this scenario. The imprisoning TV eye now sees nothing, yet we all watch it for clues to our cultural identity. But what would happen if each of these isolated prison cells were somehow wired to all the rest so the inmates could observe their overseers? Not only see them, but also speculate about their motives, and compare notes on their behavior and intentions? It’s already happened. That’s what the Internet does. Suddenly the overseer is like an insect mounted on a pin for all to view.

While corporations are still only marginally aware of what’s being said about them online, all but the totally out-of-it are uncomfortably aware these conversations are taking place, and that the control they had in the days of broadcast has evaporated. We’re not just watching the ads these days, we’re publicly deconstructing them. In this context, intranets look like salvation to many companies, their protective firewalls a form of corporate encryption designed to insulate against a scary new kind of market: unpredictable, unmanageable, unwilling to be manipulated.

At one point the Cluetrain Manifesto says: “Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you.”

That was in 1999. Back then corporations were indeed clueless. Not any more. Now most of the big ones (hell, maybe all of them) want to run their own panopticons, with us as the insects, skewered on a pin in the middle. This is now the mission of marketing and advertising in its most psychotic forms. I mean psychotic literally. Surveillance-based marketing and advertising are so disconnected from reality that they don’t even know how awful they look, running their panopticons.

Look up advertising panopticon on Google in a virgin browser (one not guessing at you based on Google’s or Bing’s panoptical surveillance systems), and here are your top results, straight out of the zeitgeist:

Search Results

  1. The Google Panopticon Is Set to Become Even More Omniscient
    www.motherjones.com/kevin…/google-panopticon-advertising-cookies
    6 days ago – Instead of using tiny trackers that dozens of companies attach to websites to monitor people’s browsing, Google is considering a switch to a 
  2. Joel Bakan: The Panopticon | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters
    www.adbusters.org › MagazineThe Big Ideas of 2012‎Jan 4, 2012 – Audio version read by George Atherton – Right-click to download. The Panopticon (which means all-seeing) is a model prison devised by 
  3. Which Gawker Advertisers Are “Sensitive” About the NSA’s Panopticon
    gawker.com/which-gawker-advertisers-are-sensitive-about-the-nsa-5119…‎Jun 7, 2013 – The PRISM revelations continue to reverberate throughout the online world, reaching down into the bowels of Gawker Media’s ad-slingers.
  4. Panopticism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticism‎Jeremy Bentham proposed the panopticon as a circular building with an observation tower …. In one of the “Eyes of New York” ads introduced by MTA, close up 
  5. GOOGLE’S PANOPTICON – University of Maine
    www.umaine.edu/honors/files/2009/06/gammon1.pdf
    by A Gammon – ‎Related articlesexpression of the Panopticon in history. Panopticon and with nobler intentions: that can reveal her browsing history, advertisements she clicked on, items 
  6. Lyon: From Big Brother to Electronic Panopticon
    home.fnal.gov/~annis/digirati/otherVoices/Lyon.html‎ Ironically the Panopticon, now the main alternative to Big Brother, started life as …. Those targeted for direct mail and other forms of personalized advertising are 
  7. Kids’ apps collect data, expand the Panopticon – People’s Campaign
    www.constitutioncampaign.org/blog/?p=13955‎Jul 6, 2013 – Crucial to Foucault’s interpretation was the idea that the Panopticon in of these apps, the likely use of the collected date is “just advertising.”.
  8. American panopticon – countryside – homesteading – self-reliance
    www.countrysidemag.com/96-6/american_panopticon/‎An advertising company called Red Pepper has developed a panopticon technology called Facedeals. Consumers who sign up for the program upload their 
  9. Panopticon | Commonweal Magazine
    https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/panopticon‎Aug 28, 2013 – I almost put down The Panopticon by the Scottish writer Jenni Fagan. The language was rife with Scottish dialect slang, and the more familiar 
  10. Internet Surveillance: A virtual panopticon? – Richard Joyce
    learn.bowdoin.edu/courses/…/internet-surveillance-a-virtual-panopticon/‎Apr 19, 2010 – This is a panopticon: a prison design conceived by Thomas Bentham. As for the more commercial advertisements, I guess I’d like to think that 
  11. Ad related to advertising panopticon Try Google Advertising
    1 (855) 424 2163 www.google.com
    Bring new visitors to your website. We’ll help you get started – free.‎

That’s on Google itself. Try it on DuckDuckGo (an “anonymous browser”) and you’ll get these as well:

  1. behavioural advertising | Panopticon Blog
  2. Foucault and social media: life in a virtual panopticon …
  3. Media, Control, and the Panopticon « Media Studies: Ideas
  4. The Panopticon

Chapter 3 of The Intention Economy is titled “Your Choice of Captor.” The opening quote is Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. The source is Frederick Douglass. He was talking about slavery. I’ll compress the chapter to its framing one-liners: The World Wide Web has become a World Wide Ranch, where we serve as calves to Web sites’ cows, which feed us milk and cookies… For free markets to mean more than “your choice of captor,” we need new systems that operate on the principle that free customers are more valuable—to both sellers and themselves—than captive ones. Improving slavery does not make people free. We need full emancipation. That’s the only way we’ll get free markets worthy of the name.

What we have today online (and to a large degree offline as well) is not a free market. We have captive ones Bruce Schneier calls feudal:

Some of us have pledged our allegiance to Google: We have Gmail accounts, we use Google Calendar and Google Docs, and we have Android phones. Others have pledged allegiance to Apple: We have Macintosh laptops, iPhones, and iPads; and we let iCloud automatically synchronize and back up everything. Still others of us let Microsoft do it all. Or we buy our music and e-books from Amazon, which keeps records of what we own and allows downloading to a Kindle, computer, or phone. Some of us have pretty much abandoned e-mail altogether … for Facebook.

These vendors are becoming our feudal lords, and we are becoming their vassals. We might refuse to pledge allegiance to all of them — or to a particular one we don’t like. Or we can spread our allegiance around. But either way, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to not pledge allegiance to at least one of them.

These feudal systems are centralized. And they are not limited to the economic sphere.A generation ago the great teacher John Taylor Gatto identified compulsory education as panoptical system for surveillance of children. “Experts in education have never been right,” he said. “Their ‘solutions’ are expensive, self-serving, and always involve further centralization.” Likewise in our feudal “solutions” in technology.

The Internet we wrote about in Cluetrain was a decentralized one. In the bedrock beneath the castles of Facebook, Google and Twitter, it still is. We are that bedrock, and we need to give the market an earthquake — not to bring the castles down, but to make them respectful of our humanity and our power to bring far more to the marketplace than our eyeballs wallets and status as captive vassals.

We need business to value free customers more than captive ones. When that happens, the panopticons will be obsolete.

car radio

Radio’s 1.x era is coming to an end. Signs and portents abound. The rise and decline of AM radio just ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, hometown paper for KDKA, the granddaddy of AM radio in the U.S. In AM/FM Radio Is Already Over, And No One Will Miss ItAdam Singer writes,

Radio advertisements are an awful, intrusive experience and universally despised

Most passionate music fans have held disdain for radio since the advent of portable music. It’s not just a dated medium, it tries to prop up a legacy generation “winner take all” of the most banal / manufactured “hits” as opposed to the meatier middle and tail of music where the quality content is (and where artists take chances and push the envelope creatively).

AM / FM radio djs and personalities are really the only thing left, and they should abandon radio now because they would benefit greatly by setting up shop online. Whether their own blog / podcast, app, or even experimenting with video (which is still a chance to be a pioneer). Even if they aren’t totally ready to abandon it yet, they should start to funnel their audiences to a digital community of some sort where they can grow over time in a platform agnostic way. This way they’re prepared for a digital future.

The notion of terrestrial analog content via AM/FM is quaint in a digital society and has reached an inevitable end. The technology itself is done. The good news is the personalities and content can not just survive, but thrive in a much higher quality environment. Further, digital provides a better experience for  audiences and sheds legacy baggage / a model that pushes aside quality and creativity for profit. Advertisers and technology providers will benefit here too: the modern device landscape provides a much better experience from a measurement, content serving, customization, and brand perspective (and so much more).

No doubt in our lifetime AM/FM will completely go away, perhaps only existing as emergency frequency. But everyone: consumers, advertisers, artists and personalities win by embracing digital. You’re fighting the future to ignore this and that’s never a way to succeed.

Yet people still listen to streams of audio, which is all radio ever was. Most of that audio is now digital, and comes to us over the Internet, even if some of it also still streams out over analog airwaves. Naturally, it’s all merging together, with predictable combinations of hand-wringing and huzzahs.

In How Tesla Changes Radio, B. Eric Rhoads reports on both:

Most in our industry are responding like any industry that’s challenged: defending the status quo and finding all the reasons consumers won’t change. And it might even be true, in radio’s case. But how likely is that? The questions all radio broadcasters need to be asking themselves now is how they can develop listener loyalty and cement their brands so deeply that listeners will seek out their favorite stations even when they have a choice of 75,000 stations from all around the world. Though you’ll still be available on the local AM FM dial, you need to assume people embracing online radio may only seek out stations in an online environment.

And, speaking of the status quo, dig “Fixing” AM Radio Broadcasting, Parts I, II and III, by Old Curmudgeon of LBA Group. There you will find perhaps the only useful way to bring a 1920′s-vintage transmission system into the next millennium. And it may well work, even though the result will still suffer from a bug what was once a feature. I explain what I mean by that in a comment under Part III:

Last year, after failing to find a useful radio at Radio Shack, my teenage son asked me a question that spoke straight to the obsolescence of radio as we know it: “What is the point of ‘range’?” In other words, why is losing a signal while driving away from town a feature and not a bug? When I explained some of the legacy technical and regulatory issues behind ‘range’, he asked, “What will it take to save radio?”

I like your answers.

In this series you frame the problems well and pose a good solution that I think will work by providing a technical and regulatory bridge from analog to digital and from 1925 to 2015. I hope regulators and broadcasters both take your proposals seriously.

Meanwhile, both the radio industry and the FCC are in denial of what’s actually happening with the “millenial” generation to which my son belongs. These people are Net-based. They assume connectivity, and zero functional distance between themselves and everyone and everything else in the networked world. They are also remarkably unconcerned with threats to the Net and therefore that model, from phone and cable companies, and captive regulators.

Hollywood in particular has known since 1995 that all of broadcasting and content distribution is being absorbed by the Net. With phone and cable companies — with which Hollywood is increasingly integrated vertically — they are desperate to find ways to continue controlling that distribution — preferably on models just as old as AM radio. Billing especially is a key issue. Phone and cable companies are billing systems as well as communications ones. Terrestrial TV and radio are not, which is one reason they care little about saving them.

So, to me at least, the parallel challenge to saving AM (and FM) radio, is keeping incumbent giants and their captive regulators from from stuffing the Internet’s genie back in the bottles of Business as Usual.”

In You Must Be HD to Compete in the Dash, RadioINK interviews Bob Struble (@rjstruble), CEO of iBiquity, the company behind HD Radio, which I love because it cleans beat-up FM and AM signals, more than for its other virtues. An excerpt:

…take my new Sequoia as an example. It has one screen layout that is the same for all audio services — Sirius, Pandora, iHeart, iPod, and analog or digital AM/FM. The screen has all my presets, from any source, on one side, and the content screen on the other side. Like all the digital services, HD Radio technology allows a station to fill that screen. There is an album cover or station logo in the middle of the screen, there are indicators that there is an HD2, HD3, or HD4 station available, there is song and artist info, there is an iTunes Tagging button to store song info for later purchase. Overall, it looks and feels like an audio service should in the digital age.

Hmm: “audio service.” I think that’s Radio 2.0, which here I call the “holy grail.”

All this will be front & center at the Dash Conference next week in Detroit. I’ll be there in spirit while my butt is at IIW in Silicon Valley (which I co-organize). This means I’ll be watching Twitter and blogs for reports on progress. In other words, I’ll stay tuned.

Your late-model car knows a lot more than its dashboard tells you. It knows how fast you’ve been going on every trip, your fuel mileage, your tire pressures and much more. It even knows what your engine light really means — before it comes on. In fact your car has hundreds of sensors with interesting stuff to tell you, if you only had a way to listen.

Soon you can, with Fuse, a kool new Kickstarter project.

Your Fuse is three things in one:

  • A sensor gizmo that plugs into your car’s diagnostics outlet
  • A smartphone app that gives you a second dashboard
  • A personal cloud to connect your car with the rest of your life

Fuse’s gizmo routes all your car’s data from a plug under your dashboard to your smartphone app, and adds GPS data as well, so you can see exactly where your car has been — and combine that information with anything else it would be good to know.

For example, Fuse can learn your driving patterns and automatically classify repeat trips, such as a carpool. It can associate your contacts with a carpool pickup, and automatically shoot over a message as you leave home and again as you approach the stop. You can even share your location with your pickup, so they can see where you are on their own map.

Fuse can associate trips with business, charity or other tax-deductible purposes.

Fuse can keep track of what your car is doing when it’s on the road without you — for example when your teenager is behind the wheel. You can learn more about your driving habits and those of others, and score them for safety, smart fuel use and other measures.

Fuse connects to other apps, for example ones that tell you gas station locations and prices. By watching that data and your own fuel levels, Fuse can tell you when and where you’ll get the most for your money by filling up.

Fuse keeps a log of your car expenses, and can share those with your financial apps. It can also work with your calendar app to schedule oil changes, tire rotations, registrations, and inspections.

Fuse also solves clues behind your dashboard’s engine light, so you know more about what’s going on, and you can share the same information with your car’s mechanic.

Best of all, Fuse is all-yours. Its data lives in your own cloud, not in some centralized service. In that cloud are all the connections between your car and any variety of apps and databases on your computer and smartphone.

I could go on, but I’m busy and would rather just urge you to go lay a few bucks on the Kickstarter to help make it happen.

It’s from Kynetx, a leading VRM developer. (Also one of the many I consult.) Read more about it at Phil Windley’s blog.

 

silosThe Forrest of Silos problem I describe in the last post is exactly what Josh Marshall of TPM is dealing with when he says (correctly) ”there’s no single digital news publishing model” — and what Dave Winer also correctly talks about here.)

Every publisher requiring a login/password, or using ‘social logins’ such as those provided by Facebook and Twitter, is living in an administrative hell that burns no less because it’s normative in the extreme. That every pub has its own login/pw, subscription system and/or social login is a perfect example of centralized systems failing to solve the problems of centralization.

We need decentralized solutions: ones that work first at the personal level and after that at the social and organizational ones. Only by starting with the individual will we get:

  • One standard way that any one of us can subscribe, and manage subscriptions, for any number of publications, using tools and services that any variety of providers can offer, but any one of us can leave for other tools and providers.
  • One standard way that we can change our address, phone number, email, last name or other personal data, for every publication we deal with, at once. We can do that, for example,  in our own personal cloud — a standards-based one that’s ours alone, using open code at the base level. (A bonus link about that.)
  • One standard way we can advertise our own wants, needs and other intentions to the marketplace, securely, with minimized fear of surveillance or other offenses to our privacy.

None of that can be done with yet another centralized private service such as we get today from Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve believed since long before I co-wrote Cluetrain that distributed and decentralized personal tools were the only way to solve the problems of centralization and create countless new opportunities for personal, social and economic growth in the world. It’s why I started ProjectVRM, and why we have a growing list of developers working to liberate individuals and prove that free customers are worth more than captive ones.

I believed in this work because we already see it proven in the world by personal computers, the Internet and its liberating standards and protocols. Those are decentralized too. All I’m talking about here is standing new solutions on top of those old shoulders.

This is not to knock anything social, by the way. Of course we are social beings. But we are also, as individuals, decentralized, except to ourselves. That’s what I (and others, such as Devon Loffreto) mean when we talk about (for example) sovereign identity.

None of us will solve the Forest of Silos problem by creating bigger and better silos, or by making them ore “centric” toward individuals.

Hart Island

As Halloween approaches (and death itself, for all of us, eventually), I find myself thinking, Do zombies always have to be bad? And, What if zombies were good? And, Hey, maybe good zombies are what we call ‘angels’.

Then I find myself wondering where one would recruit armies of zombie angels (let’s call them “zangels”), besides your basic headstone-studded cemeteries. Then it comes to me: Hart Island, New York’s potters field, and home to a million or more of New York’s unclaimed dead, off the coast of The Bronx. What a great name and place for a movie starring zombie angels!

I see it opening on the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty, with that familiar passage from Emma Lazarus‘ sonnet The New Collosus:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The camera sweeps upward, past Liberty’s lifted lamp, to the lifting lid of a plain wooden coffin, topmost of a stack among many in a trench on Hart Island, where the City accumulates boxed bodies by the dozen before a bulldozer, operated by inmates from the Department of Corrections, mass-buries them.

Correction is the theme. The zangels, wretched refuse all, teeming on a shore forgotten by all but the forsaken living, stir awake on a holy mission: to warn the living that the gap between rich and poor is stretching to a breaking point more dangerous than any terrorist plot.*

The zangels aren’t decayed, but appear in their living form, absent the infirmities and temporal concerns that put them in the ground. And they have a plan.

First they confront the very inmates whose work on the island is burial. These they recruit to spread the word. But they do this selectively, starting with just one or two of the inmates, met by one or two of the zangels. The inmates, convinced (after first disbelieving, of course — gotta have that stage), plot next steps with the zangels, who then swim over to City Island, steal some fresh clothes off some clotheslines and head for meetings with a few of the zangels’ surviving friends, co-workers and loved ones. These too are shocked and disbelieving at first, but become disciples of the zangels, who are expert at disappearing and reappearing when necessary.

A code line — “Take liberty to Hart” — is used by the secretive but growing cohort of zangel disciples to organize meetings and start spreading the word.

Not sure what the big conflict with bad guys should be. Gotta have that too. Maybe the bad guys are Gordon Gecko types living in penthouses, working in high-floor offices, making money with work that creates wealth only for themselves. That’s a bit too Hollywood and pat, but I’m just thinking out loud right now, and need to get back to Real Work. But there are plenty of movie-making folk among readers here. I’m hoping those folks pick this up and run with it. I think it’s a hell of a good idea (puns intended).

Meanwhile, here’s a key resource that’s also the main cause:  The Hart Island Project, which seeks to de-shroud Hart Island, bring full respect to those buried there, open access to the public, and unearth and organize good records for those buried there. The project’s founder, Melinda Hunt (@hartisland), owns HartIsland.com as well as HartIsland.net and HartIsland.org. I’m sure she’d let the movie (provided it’s a good one) use HartIsland.com. (She also has a documentary on the island you can sample and buy here.)

Anyway, with Halloween front and center at the moment, I can’t think of a better way to organize and bring attention to a good cause by focusing on a Real Issue.

* Three good sources on this: Chris Hedges, writing about societal collapse and the seductions of warJoseph Stiglitz, whose latest book is The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future; and Stephen Lewis, a New York native and an authority on many relevant topics, blogging at Bubkes.com.

Who are you?

What are you?

If the answers come from you, they speak of your sovereign identity: that which is yours and you control.

If the answers come from your employer, your doctor, the Department of Motor Vehicles, Apple, Facebook, Google or Twitter, they speak of your administrative identity: that which is theirs and they control.

For as long as we’ve had identifiers in computer and network system namespaces, we have been talking about administrative identities, not sovereign ones.

All administrative identities are silo’d: isolated inside systems and their namespaces. The Internet, which cyber-utopians (me included) cheer for its decentralized peer-to-peer and end-to-end architectural graces, has become a vast forest of centralized systems, each a silo. This Great Silo Forest is a hall of administrative mirrors. Your reflection in each is not you, but an administrative version of you.

Want a sense of how bad this is? Go into your browser prefs and hunt down the place where your logins and passwords are kept. Every one of those login/password combinations is for a different you, that each different system knows separately, owns separately and controls separately.

Multiple silos can “federate” identifiers for their convenience, and sometimes that’s cool. But the problem that falls on you — coping with countless different administrative silos — is not relieved by administrative federation, because it’s an administrative solution for an administrative problem. Not a solution for you.

See, the main problem with administrative identity is centralization. And every centralized approach to the problem of centralization causes more centralization and worsens the problem.

Even “user-centric” identity (with its “identity providers” and “relying parties”) are framed in administrative terms. They do not start with the sovereign individual, and are  not driven by that individual.

Even the term “user” implies something less than sovereign control.

What we need ares personal systems for managing our sovereign identities, and for doing our own federation to the administrative systems of the world.

Devon Loffreto has done the most thinking-out-loud about this issue. A compendium of posts:

All this is right up the alleys of IIW — the Internet Identity Workshop, which is coming up next week. And this is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts that will provoke conversation and forward movement at IIW.

 

So some day they don’t have to

tacmaCustomer Commons‘ invites you to a screening of Terms and Conditions May Apply, @CullenHoback‘s  award-winning documentary on the state of personal privacy online.

NOTE: The venue is now at Stanford University, in conjunction with the United Nations Association Film Festival, and will be followed by a panel discussion on the “Future of Online Privacy.” Cullen will be there as well.

Here is the UNAFF page on the screening.

Details:

  • DATE: Monday, Oct 21
  • LOCATION: Room 101, Ceras BuildingStanford University School of Education, 485 Lasuen Mall
  • TIME: 6:00 PM Reception with the filmmakers; 7:00 PM TERMS AND CONDITIONS MAY APPLY (USA, 79 min); and 8:20 PM Panel “Future of Online Privacy”
  • PRICE: Single tickets $10 cash only at the venue. First come, first serve. You can also buy advance tickets here. (Additional costs may apply.)
  • PARKING: Parking Structure 6 (beneath Wilbur Field) is closest. It’s free after 4pm in the lots and at the meters along the campus streets More info on visitor parking at Stanford http://transportation.stanford.edu/parking_info/VisitorParking.shtml.

COME EARLY. Since we are combining two showings into one, it’s possible this will sell out, and space is limited.

— when I see this kind of stuff pop over what I came to read:

HuffPo popover

It’s interesting to see where photos end up (or start out, or re-start out) when one puts them in position to be used and re-used with minimized friction. The one above, of a coal-fired power plant in Utah that supplies electricity to Los Angeles, and which I shot from a flight overhead in January 2009, appears in at least these three places, so far:

At this point 391 photos of mine have found their way into Wikimedia Commons. I put none of them there. I just post them in Flickr and license them permissively.

I just noticed that mining and power generation figure prominently in that collection. Maybe that’s because I like to shoot pictures of infrastructure, geology and both at once. Or maybe it’s because the subject is interesting enough for Wikimedians to put the shots in there. Dunno.

Oddly, I don’t see the Utah power plant shot in the midst, but maybe I missed it. More likely people using the shots have done a search-by-license on Flickr, such as this one for coal.

Almost Daily Outline

Journalism

The rise of the reader: journalism in the age of the open web is a long and excellent lecture by , deputy editor of the Guardian and editor-in-chief of Guardian Australia. Sample:

So being open has many advantages for journalists. But to do it, you need to be part of the web’s ecosystem, not just plonked on top of it; to submit to the web’s architecture, psychology, mores, rather than imposing a newspapers’s structure over it.

When you put the reader at the heart of what you’re doing, then you learn from them how the web works at that moment. In this transitional era we’re all creating this new ecosystem together – and the users are often one step ahead of us, working it out as they go along.

Possibly related: Why tablet magazines are a failure, by @JonLund in Gigaom. I subscribe to Wired, The New Yorker, Time, Fast Company, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist, Vanity Fair and Linux Journal on my iPad. They are mostly backups to print editions, which are much easier to read in their native form. Mostly I read them on the pad in the subway.

Business

Challenge: get the Abandoned Cart Emails paper from Marketo or The Economics of Online Advertising from Comscore without becoming a qualified lead — because both require you to fill out a form to get the paper.  Answer: generate a one-time email using Privowny or Mask Me. Makes it easy to see if they start spamming you, or selling or giving away your email address — and to kill that address if you like.

Behind the Best Innovations: Obvious, Annoying Problems, in The Wall Street Journal. Instead of pain points, Nest and others deal with annoyance points.

In What the ad biz needs is writers, Michael Wolff bemoans the absence of good writers in advertising:

…even creatives want to avoid writing — because they can’t…

While technological disruption is most often blamed for the existential predicament of the media business, the more precise problem is that advertising doesn’t work as well as it used to work. This presents a crisis not only for newspapers, magazines and television — but also, according to the stock market, for Facebook. We just don’t look at advertising, respond to it, or believe it, as much as we once did, wherever it appears.

Maybe this is the reason: There are no writers in advertising anymore. Johnny who can’t write has gone into advertising.

In fact, “copywriter” is a job that now hardly exists. The historical partnership between graphic designer and copywriter has, more and more, become a partnership between project manager and programmer, or videographer and editor, or media buyer and researcher.

If you are the person who actually has to write an ad — rather than conceptualize, or produce, or program, or pitch, or research — your career in advertising is not going very well.

He is right. That he’s one of the best writers in journalism adds weight to his judgement. So does this, which closes his piece:

My suggestion to USA TODAY editors was to let the opportunity of the page encourage an agency and client to brilliantly use it. A contest — always beloved in the ad business — was suddenly born.

USA TODAY is offering a million dollars in free advertising pages if you can fill them smartly — with cleverness, wit, style, economy of words. Again, free. Now, that will make your client happy.

Just spell out your big idea and tell your arresting story.

It may be that all we have to do to reinvent traditional media, save Facebook, even make digital media a decent business, as well as move more merchandise, is bring back the copywriter.

I’m for that — and I’m eager to see how the ad business responds to the contest.

But I also think the problem is bigger than writing itself, or technological disruption.

The problem is that direct marketing has body-snatched advertising.

In the old days direct marketing was distinct from adverting. In even older days, direct marketing was called direct mail. Or, in the vernacular of its recipients, junk mail. Some key differences, from back in the pre-snatched era of advertising’s history:

  • While advertising was impersonal, direct marketing was personal. It called you by name. Or wanted to.
  • While advertising was about raising general awareness of a company, product or service, direct marketing was about selling you stuff. Hence the term direct response, which is what most of direct marketing on the Net is looking for today.
  • While advertising was creative-driven, direct marketing was data-driven.
  • While advertising favored qualitative results, direct marketing favored quantitative results.
  • While advertising respected personal privacy by default (it didn’t get personal), direct marketing never cared much about it — despite assurances to the contrary.

In the old analog world, advertising and direct marketing remained blessedly separate. No first-rank copywriter, art director or creative director wanted to tar his or her hands (or resumé) with direct marketing work. In fact, most of that work didn’t happen on Madison Avenue at all, but in specialty shops somewhere out in Florida or Indiana.

But once the analog and the digital world merged, direct marketing’s obsession with data gathering and analysis had nearly infinite room to grow. Like cancer, or worse.

It seemed innocent enough when it was just text ads off to the side of Google search results, or on the margins of blogs and other Web pubs. That stuff was called advertising because, well, it was. And that’s when the body-snatch began. Because that stuff was called advertising, so was everything that followed when direct marketing imperatives and methods moved to the fore.

In the online world, advertising messages are not much about increasing brand awareness, or other old-fashioned advertising purposes. (Though today’s ad folk love to throw the word “brand” around.) Instead the main purpose is getting direct responses: clicks and sales, aimed by personal data, gathered and analyzed every possible way. The idea is to  make the advertising as personal as possible, as far as possible, regardless of how creepy it gets. It’s all fully rationalized. (Hey, you can opt out if you don’t like it.)

In the analog world of old-fashioned Madison Avenue advertising, there were physical limits to saturation. Not so online. Today advertising comprises 99.x% of all email traffic. (Most of it is spam, but it’s hard to tell the difference.) It has also turned ad-supported Web pages into syringes for injecting countless unseen files into users’ browsers. Those files then follow users everywhere to collect data for the new ad industry’s analytic mills, so the body-snatched business can then deliver “a better advertising experience,” as if anybody actually wants it.

And now the snatched ad business want to dominate our mobile lives as well. For a taste of how this looks on the ad-mill side, check out MediaPost‘s MobileMarketing Daily. Lots of rah-rah for what most phone users can only dread. Examples:

They do, however, report on some push-back:

Yet there is one thing both traditional advertising folk and direct marketers have in common, and that’s blinders toward reality.  Terry Heaton puts it well:

Operating within the soul of every marketer is the ridiculous assumption that people want or need to be bombarded by advertising, and that any invasion of their time or experience to “pass along” an attempt to influence is justified. If this were true, there would be no looming fight over DVRs, which allow viewers to skip ads. You have no inherent right to my eyeballs, and it is precisely this axiom that makes today’s instruments and gadgets so powerfully disruptive to the culture.

How so? We’re weary of running a relentless gauntlet of jumping, screaming, frantic warnings, hands grabbing, voices shouting, noise-making, disjointed movements, and the almost demonic reaching for our wallets coming from advertising. This is Madison Avenue’s idea of perfection, and the only way you can get there is to completely ignore the effect of advertising on the very people you’re trying to influence. The Web is, at core, a pull mechanism, not one that pushes. It’s why all those big projections of advertising “potential” have turned into a commodified “pennies for dollars” reality.

In reality, advertising has become ineffective because it is no longer advertising, at least in the digital world. It is direct marketing, calling itself advertising.

To live again as a stand-alone discipline, advertising needs to exorcize the devil that direct marketing has made of advertising online. Simple as that.

For more on how real advertising actually works better than the direct marketing kind, read Don Marti‘s Targeted Marketing Considered Harmful. Then move on to the rest of Don’s growing medicine cabinet of direct marketing disinfectant for adverting.

Bonus link.

 

 

Today’s outline

The Net

Markets vs. Marketing

Surveillance

  • The Privacy Generation. By Joshua J. Dyck and Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz in The Pacific Standard. Pull-quote: For the generation that developed their political identities in the wake of 9/11 it appears that their political attitudes have been shaped more by the privacy they were asked to give up after the attacks than by the attacks themselves. Thirty-year-old Edward Snowden is not an outlier; he’s just a public member of his generation.

[4:45pm EDST  2 October 2013 — Late breaking news: RadioINK reports that Darryl Parks' blog post — the first item below — has been pulled off the 700wlw site. — Doc]

In A SERIOUS Message To The Broadcast Industry About Revitalizing AM Radio, Darryl Parks of 700WLW made waves (e.g. here, here, here) by correctly dismissing six FCC ideas intended to make life easier for owners of AM radio stations. Those ideas are detailed at that last link (by David Oxenford of the excellent Broadcast Law Blog).

All six, Darryl says, would increase interference. Instead, he suggests, “The answer is not MORE interference. The answer is LESS interference. And you do that by turning off non-viable stations. And before station owners start crying poverty, many of these non-viable AM stations have one thing that is worth a ton of money. The land their towers sit on.”

Well, not all stations own the land their towers sit on. KCBS/740 leases their land from a farmer up in the North Bay. Other stations’ towers, such nearly all of those serving New York, sit in tidal swampland or on  islands that would revert to nature if the towers came down. (For example, WMCA and WNYC, which share the towers next to the New Jersey Turnpike, shown here. Likewise KGOKNBR and WBZ.)

But Daryyl’s right: there are too many stations, and too much interference — not only between them, but also from electronic thingies that didn’t exist when AM’s base technology and regulatory system were framed out in the 1920s.  Computers, mobile phones and energy-saving light bulbs all play havoc with AM reception.

I see three other solutions, only one of which is likely to happen.

The first is better AM receivers. The old tube and transistor types were much better, on the whole, than the newer chip-based ones. But even the chip-based receivers were better in the early days than they are now. The faults are not just in the electronics, but in the methods used for gathering signals. In cars, for example, the fashion in recent years has been to shorten antennas or to embed them in windows, mixed in with defrosting wires. Radios in cars I drove in the 1960s and 1970s would get New York’s biggest AM signals (on 660, 770 and 880) past Richmond, Virginia, in the middle of the day. The radios were not only better, but served by whip antennas on their fenders. Even portable radios were better. When I was a kid riding in the back seat of our new Chevy, on a family trip in the summer of 1963, I listened to WNAX in Yankton, South Dakota, from the Black Hills to Minneapolis, again in the daytime (when AM signals don’t bounce off the sky, as they do at night — on a Zenith Royal 400 seven-transistor radio. Alas, modern receivers and antennas are studies in cheap-out-y-ness, and don’t do the same job. In the absence of regulatory or market urgings, the chance of improvement here is zero.

The second is moving to an all-digital AM band. In this Broadcast Law Blog post David Oxenford says all-digtial “has shown promise for an interference-free operation in recent tests,” but “would require that there be a digital transition for AM radio just as there was to digital TV. That might be problematic, as it would require new AM receivers for almost everyone (except for those few people who already have Ibiquity IBOC receivers which should work in an all-digital environment).” I have one of those receivers in my kitchen. (That’s a shot of its display, there on the left.) HD on AM sounds like FM. Combine that with better receivers and antennas, and it’s a double-win. Here there is a small amount of regulatory urging, but try to find find a portable HD radio at Amazon or Radio Shack. Not happening.

The third is to develop better ways of getting radio streams on mobile devices. I have a mess of apps for getting radio streams on my iPhone and iPad, and none of them provide the simplicity of radio’s original dial & buttons system. If one app provided that simplicity, radio would move smoothly to mobile along with every other medium already re-locating there. Stations would continue to operate on the AM and FM bands until doing so no longer made technical or economic sense. But the path would be clear.

The one company that might have made this easy is Apple; but Apple has never been interested in improving radio as we know it. For years it buried radio station streams in an iTunes directory most people didn’t know was there — and then created a Pandora competitor with iTunes Radio. Like Pandora, Apple calls its streams “stations,” which also fuzzes things. The old stream directory still exists, for what it’s worth, under “Music.”

So it’s up to app developers. TuneIn, WunderRadio and Stitcher are currently the big three (at least on my devices), but all of them bury local radio deep in directories that are annoying to navigate and often incomplete. For example, let’s say I want to navigate the “dial” for Boston while I’m here in New York. On TuneIn, I hit “Browse,” then “Local Radio,” then find myself in New York. Not Boston. Then I hit “By Location.” That gives me a map I can pinch toward a red pin on Boston, where I find a virtual dial in the form of a list. That’s less work than it used to be, back when TuneIn wanted me to drill down through a directory that started (as I recall) with “Continent.” But it’s also missing all the great discoveries I used to make in local radio elsewhere in the world, such as the UK. (There are red pins only for major cities there.) Over on Stitcher one hits “Live Radio,” then “Massachusetts,” then “Boston” to do the same kind of thing, but the directory is has just three minor AM stations, then a bunch of FMs, but not WEEI/93.7, my favorite sports talker there. Between WBOS/92.9 and WTKK/96.9 there is nothing. All three do offer search, but that’s not easy to do when you’re driving or walking. (Nor is any of the above.)

All of them also assume, correctly (as do Apple, Pandora, Spotify, LastFM and many others), that individuals would rather put together their own “stations” in the form of music types, program collections, or whatever.

Individuals doing what they want is both the threat and the promise of radio online. Bring back dial-like simplicity, marry it to “roll your own,” and you’ll have the holy grail of radio.