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Spring links

crocusesCrocuses are showing up next to sidewalks in New York, so it must be Spring, which seems like a good time to finish a pile of links I started compiling in December and forgot about. Here goes…








Link pile-up


Freedom vs. Surveillance



Other business

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

HuffPo popover

Daily Outline







Daily Outline




Privacy vs. Surveillance

Terms and Conditions

The world


2013_06_24 Link Pile

How to value personal data, by Ctrl-Shift

World Economic Forum Sharing Economy Position Paper, at Collaborative Consumption

Attention Economy vs. Intention Economy, a diagram by Robert Bashor. Also part of The system dynamics of an intention economy.

How does GHCQ’s Internet surveillance work? by Ewen MacAskill, Julian Borger, Nick Hopkins, Nick Davies and James Ball in The Guardian.

2013_06_20 link pile

The Deteriorata, which parodies The Desiderata, much as The Gluetrain Manifesto parodied The Cluetrain Manifesto. My fave line from another parody, perhaps by the same guy, of the “Markets are conversations” line: “Markets are money.”

QR codes aren’t dead yet. By yours truly in Harvard Business Review.

I’ll also be keynoting an upcoming iAB thing, on 15 July in New York.

Enjoying listening to 2MCR here in North Sydney.

Web’s Reach Binds N.S.A. and Silicon Valley Leaders, by James Risen and Nick Wingfield in The New York Times.

Most online users don’t care about privacy – Aussies even more so, by Graeme Phillipson in ITWire.

Amdocs Survey: Consumers Will Share Personal Data… at a Price. Source: Amdocs press release.

It’s over: All private data is public: Enough about the NSA — any hacker worthy of the name can snatch your ‘private’ data. Either stop entrusting it to anyone or chill out. By Roger A. Grimes in InfoWorld.

Associated Press: Sources Won’t Talk Anymore. By DSWright in Firedog Lake.

Now anyone can buy the NSA’s database tech. By Derek Harris in Gigaom. Stars Sqrrl.

Wireless Internet 101 Fact Sheet. By Lisa Gonzalez of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Quote of the Day: There is no way to build a mirror world without a network of decentralized cooperating agents. – Phil Windley

My keynote talk at KuppingerCole‘s EIC conference in May. (Registration required.)

American Customer Satisfaction Index

Google’s Loon Project Puts Balloon Technology in Spotlight: Future stratospheric systems could change how the world goes online, by Brian Handwerk in National Geographic.

Gartner trends for 2013. Lots of VRooMy and Personal Cloud related stuff in there.

Why the FISA Court Is Not What It Used To Be, by Nina Totenberg on NPR.

Bank robbery suspect wants NSA phone records for his defense, by Paula McMahon in the Sun Sentinel

The influence of spies has become too much. It’s time politicians said no, by John le Carré in The Guardian

I fear the chilling effect of NSA surveillance on the open internet, by Jeff Jarvis in The Guardian

Why The Tech Industry Should Be Furious About NSA’s Over Surveillance, in TechDirt. Also Rep. Grayson: Let Me Tell The NSA: There Is No Threat To Our Nation When I Call My Mother and Former NSA Whistleblower Bill Binney: The NSA Is Making Itself Dysfunctional With Too Much Data.

Biden in 2006 schools Obama in 2013 over NSA spying program, by the EFF.

President Obama orders government spectrum to be opened for wireless broadband, by Carl Franzen in The Verge

The Internet’s Fractured Foundations, by Martin Geddes.

The NSA Versus the Global Internet: How Online Surveillance Could Impact Internet Governance, by Allan Friedman of Brookings

2013_06_14 link pile

Where TIME Lost the Plot on Snowden and Spying

Guardian pieces

There’s more than one tech, by Dave Winer

… and now I’m off to .nz & .au, where it’s already tomorrow.

2013_06_13 link pile

Apple beefs up privacy protections in iOS 7. Here’s one reason: iOS 7 users aren’t just consumers; they are customers — of Apple. And, with its finger on the pulse of the market, Apple knows that customers don’t like being tracked like animals. (Note: I’m no fan of silos, and Apple has one here. But still, this move by Apple is worth noting because it’s in alignment with the human beings using their products, and not with the marketing world. You can’t abuse customers the way you can abuse mere consumers.)

The Trajectory of Television—starting with a big history of the small screen: From surrogate storyteller to high-def streaming infotainment, TV has come a long way, by Lee Hutchison in Ars Technica

How accurate are fitness monitors? by Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times. …the lesson at the moment for anyone who owns an accelerometer is that the device’s measurements are likely to be imperfect.

Sweden’s data protection Authority bans Google cloud services over privacy concerns, by Simon Davies in The Privacy Surgeon

Court finds NSA surveillance unconstitutional. Administration’s response: keep the ruling secret and carry on, in 57un, an Anonymous site.

Merkley waves Verizon phone, demands NSA chief share grounds for seizing data, by Justin Sink in The Hill.

Not Just the NSA: Politicians Are Data Mining the American Electorate, by John Nicholsin The Nation

TV B-Gone

Top secret clearance holders so numerous they include ‘packers/craters’, by Max Fisher in the Washington Post.

Did Obama just destroy the U.S. Internet industry? by David Kirkpatrick in Techonomy. In a word, no. In two words, it’s complicated. For example, the Patriot Act salted the common ground between the U.S. and the rest of the world, starting a decade ago.

SCOTUS plays Solomon on gene patents, by John Wilbanks.

The five stages of living in a national surveillance state, by Tom Tomorrow

Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA) Panel on the FCC Incentive Auction Proceeding at T-Mobile NYC on June 5 2013. Via the ISOC-NY list, which says, This was a highly informative event on the Government’s scheme to transfer spectrum from television to wireless communication networks. The panel included, as well as reps from those industries,  a consumer advocate and a financial analyst.

This abuse of the Patriot Act must end: President Obama falsely claims Congress authorised all NSA surveillance. In fact, our law was designed to protect liberties, by Jim Sensenbrenner in The Guardian. Sensenbrenner is a Republican congressman and former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and says in this piece, The administration claims authority to sift through details of our private lives because the Patriot Act says that it can. I disagree. I authored the Patriot Act, and this is an abuse of that law.

2013_06_11 link pile

To the internet giants, you’re not a customer. You’re just another user. — Yahoo, Microsoft, Google et al don’t really offer ‘free’ email and it’s naive to expect any form of customer service from them, by John Naughton in The Guardian

Monster gas cloud could unveil Milky Way’s black-hole hub, in Physics World.

Exclusive Testimony on Unlocking: Beware Cellphone Companies’ ‘Red Herring’ by Derek Khanna in Wired.

Don’t treat consumers like criminals, by Ajit V. Pai in the New York Times.

Using metadata to find Paul Revere, by Kieran Healy

I favor the Pats bringing in Tim Tebow, at the WBZ poll.

Asked @AppleSupport about why its reservation system for stores seemed not to be working. Needed to make an appointment for a crashy laptop. (Finally got through.) Meanwhile, interesting that both @AppleSupport and @TheAppleInc seem to be kinda thin on Twitter.

Senators: NSA Phone Sweeping has been going on since 2007, by Alexander Bolton in The Hill

Why PRISM kills the cloud, by Jonny Evans in Computerworld.

Setting the record straight, by Ron Bell, General Counsel, Yahoo!

Analyzing Yahoo’s PRISM non-denial, by Chris Saghoian.

Majority Views NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-terror Tactic: Public Says Investigate Terrorism, Even If It Intrudes on Privacy, in Pew Research Center for People and the Press. Yes, but the majority doesn’t publish or dissent.

Spy agencies have turned our digital lives inside out. We need to watch them, by Ronald Deibert in The Globe and Mail.

Where in the world is Edward Snowden?, by Connor Simpson in Atlantic Wire.

Lee Clow on advertising then and now, by Rupal Parekh in AdAge. (Lee was a legend at Chiat|Day, back in the decade. One of the heroes of the business.

FLAC Gets First Update in 6 Years, in Slashdot.

Another Government Data Broker Inquiry Is Underway: Study Comes Amid Escalating Data Collection Scandal, by Kate Kaye in AdAge

Beware trading privacy for convenience, by Ray Wang in HBR

Price-gouging cable companies are our latter-day robber barons: Monopolistic cable providers make internet access an unaffordable luxury for tens of millions of Americans, by Heidi Moore in The Guardian.

A cool conference I’d like to attend, but probably won’t.

How to destroy the future: From the Cuban missile crisis to a fossil fuels frenzy, the US is intent on winning the race to disaster, by Noam Chomsky in The Guardian.

How Patent Trolls Are Undermining The Economy, by Andrea Peterson

Local Laundromat Employs Social Media Coordinator, in The Onion

Datapalooza Report on Data Economics and a Call for Reciprocity, by Adrian Gropper.

CMOs: Build Digital Relationships or Die, by James L. McQuivey in HBR.

Motomic stuff. Thinking of discovery via QR codes and squaretags here.

Privacy Self-Management and the Consent Dilemma, by Daniel Solove in SSRN

Half an Earth sandwich. Euan Semple had the other half, in Singapore.

Blogginess, by Tim Bray

Study shows how easy it is to determine someone’s identity with cell phone data, by Lisa Zyga in Phys.org

New ‘Sun-skirting’ comet could provide dazzling display in 2013, by Nancy Atkinson Phys.org

NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others, by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill in The Guardian

Wanna get depressed about writing, and much more? Try this: Are coders worth it? In today’s world, web developers have it all: money, perks, freedom, respect. But is there value in what we do?, by James Somers in Aeon.

Personal cloud innovation happens at the edges, by Jeff Kramer

Gartner Says the Personal Cloud Will Replace the Personal Computer as the Center of Users’ Digital Lives by 2014. A bit aggressive. From March 2012.

Photos of Florence, shot from about 25,000 feet up, en route from Newark to Rome via Munich

Innovations in Digital and Mobile Marketing, in HBR. I’m writing a piece for this collection.

Mary Meeker’s State of the Internet: Good, Bad or Somewhere In-Between? by Marisa Wong

The geography of tweets. More along those lines from Mashable.

#sotn (State of the Net) tweets

Anonymous crowd-funds a news site

Why Big Data Is Not Truth, by Quintin Hardy in the New York Times.

Disruptions: The Echo Chamber of Silicon Valley, by Nick Bilton in the New York Times.

McKinsey: The $33 Trillion Technology Payoff, by Steve Lohr in the New York Times.

3rd International Summit on the Future of Health Privacy: The Value of Health Data vs. Privacy — How can the Conflict Be Resolved? I’ll be on a panel moderated by Natasha Singer of the New York Times. Bonus linkage: The Health Care Blog, and Adrian Gropper.

2013_06_01 link pile

Sell your data to save the economy and your future, by Jaron Lanier, for the BBC

Heights of Fancy, by Thomas Leslie, an op-ed in the New York Times. Leslie, “a professor of architecture at Iowa State University, is the author of Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934,” says the new spire on One World Trade Center in New York is “intentionally function-free,” because “it does not include any broadcast or cellular equipment — only lighting.” This is not the case. The new spire will host lots of broadcast antennas. This is not a big deal, just something about which I know a few things.

Naveen on Personal API

Big Data and the hospitality, travel and tourism industry, by Nick Vivion. Note the responses in the comments by John Pope and others. VRM gets a lot of mention.

2013_05_27 link pile

The Future Of Technology Isn’t Mobile, It’s Contextual, by Pete Mortensen in Co.Design

The State of Wi-Fi, by Ubiquiti. Lots of stats.

Disruptions: At Odds Over Privacy Challenges of Wearable Computing, by Nick Bilton, in his Bits blog at the New York Times

McKinsey Global Institute: Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy May 2013, byJames Manyika, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Richard Dobbs, Peter Bisson, and Alex Marrs. Here’s the report from a year ago.

These 31 charts will destroy your faith in humanity, by Brad Plumer in the Washington Post

NAFTA on Steroids: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would grant enormous new powers to corporations, is a massive assault on democracy, by Lori Wallach in The Nation.

A Futurist Looks at the Future of Marketing, by Dana Rousmaniere in HBR Blogs

Bookmark: Small Data, Open Data (in Italian)

Making sense of the Internet of Things, by Matt Turck in Techcrunch. Interesting visual. Story is missing the fully personal view. See Drummond Reed’s Internet of Things, meet the Internet of People.




Personal Clouds & VRM


I’ll be participating in a run of good and fun events over the next few weeks, taking me to at least five cities in five countries. Here they are:

There is also a trip Down Under planned. But no events there. At least not yet. :-)

CISPA roundup

EFFLast week, while most of us were busy watching the Boston Marathon bombing events unfold, an icky bill called CISPA, or HR264was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, with enormous lobbying help from IBM and other industrial giants. There are lots of angles on why CISPA is a Bad Thing (see the link pile below for a small sample); but I like the way Joe Andrieu puts it best. He says CISPA “explicitly allows companies to ignore their privacy agreements in the name of cybersecurity,” adding,

This is Regulatory capture of the worst kind. Please get the word out. Fight this thing.

If we can’t even depend on the blatantly one-sided Terms of Service and Privacy Policies of our service providers, entire fields of solutions evaporate.  Efforts to improve, fix, clarify, negotiate or automate the privacy and service agreements will be essentially worthless if Congress is willing to give corporations a free pass.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a self-protected entity may, for cybersecurity purposes … share such cyber threat information with any other entity, including the Federal Government.”

Enshrining corporate protections like this in law isn’t just a privacy problem. It undermines the very notion of contract as a mechanism for constructing agreements in a free society. This is unaccepatble.

Fight CISPA. Call your senator. Call the white house. Blog it. Tweet it. Repost this. Tell everyone. 

The EFF is on the case. To take their lead, start here.

Bonus link pile:

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All these living things have been declared dead…

… and then some. Look up any subject with “is dead” as its direct object and there’s a good chance somebody will have said exactly that. It’s one of the most overworked clichés in all of journalism (if that’s still alive enough to use as a label). Let’s move on.

Last weekend the cover essay in the Review section of The Wall Street Journal was The Customer as a God, by yours truly. Now that a few days have gone by, and I’ve done lots of responding in the comments below that piece and elsewhere, I can start looking at some of the responses that have appeared on the Web. Aside from a zillion tweets (mostly approving, and now all scrolling to oblivion — save, maybe, for Topsy — having completed their brief dances across the Short Attention Span Theater stage), I find there were (to me) surprisingly few responses in blogs.

When I searched for “The Customer as a God” on Google (which is almost link-proof, since the URL is mostly cruft about the browser and stuff), most of the top results were mentions in faked-up news sites that scrape stories from the mainstream press. (Victory for SEO at all costs there.) Bing at least has a copy-able search URL, which is here, but the results are just as crappy. (And the results were little different in either engine when I searched in private or “incognito” mode.) So here were the few I found, all but one buried below the first page of results, plus others sent to me by readers…

  • In The Customer as God, Nic Brisbourne of The Equity Kicker and the investment firm DFJ Esprit says he’s ready to help the cause: “I’m writing about this now because I just read an interview with Doc Searls about his new book, The Intention Economy. The interview is a good reminder of the problems with the existing advertising system and how things will look different in the future. As I say, I still believe in the vision of VRM, but equally the path that gets us there still isn’t clear. I think developments in smartphones and intelligent agents are bringing us closer to the point when that clarity will arrive though, and I’d be happy to hear from any startups working in this area.” (The interview of which he writes is the WSJ essay.)
  • In Personal Power and Vendor Relationship Marketing, Susan Lindsay of Brick Meets Click writes, ‘Consumer technology use has shifted the balance of power from retailers to shoppers,’ we say these days, but has the industry fully grasped how far the pendulum could swing?  ’No!’ says Doc Searls in a provocative WSJ column. He describes a future in which shoppers define and drive what could be called the ‘C2B’ economy via ‘intentioncasts.’ They broadcast their need to vendors who meet their terms and conditions, collect offers from them, and then make a selection. He calls it VRM (for Vendor Relationship Marketing), and it completely reverses the direction in which CRM flows.”
  • Consumers to Battle the Healthcare Gods, by Caroline Poppler, M.D., M.P.H., in Popper and Co. “The ‘inflection point’ of medicine—where portable devices, low-cost genetic screening, and a wealth of accurate online health information all merge to allow a consumer to call the shots—isn’t here yet, but it’s close.”
  • In What Peter Drucker Would Be Readingthe Drucker Institute blog begins, “1. The Customer as a God: Some of us find the power of large companies to be frightening, with too much of our personal data falling into the hands of strangers. For now, writes Doc Searls in The Wall Street Journal, many businesses view the free market as “one in which customers get to choose their captors. Choosing among AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon for your new smartphone is like choosing where you’d like to live under house arrest.” But in a few decades, the power balance will shift more decisively to the consumer: “Progress in empowering customers won’t be smooth or even, but it will happen.” Drucker is one of my heroes, so that one is hugely gratifying.
  • In Doc Searls: WSJ Centerfold, David Weinberger (my colleague, pal and fellow Cluetrain author) kindly writes, “It’s a testament to Doc and also a hopeful sign of the times that the WSJ today features on its weekend cover a story by Doc about the theme of his new book, The Intention Economy. The title of the piece is “The Customer as a God,” a headline Doc didn’t write and isn’t entirely comfortable with. But the piece is strong. And getting it on the cover of WSJ is like getting a story about VRM on the cover of CRM Magazine. Which Doc also did.”
  • In The (Smart) Customer as a God, Bruce Kasanof begins, “Our friend Doc Searls carried the flag this weekend in a major piece he wrote for the WSJ.. The flag is Smart Customers Stupid Companies, the name of both the blog and the book by Bruce and his co-author, Michael Hinshaw.
  • In Doc Searls on the market of one, Espen Anderson of Applied Abstractions writes, “customer power is increasingly on the rise – though it has come much longer in the USA than it has in Europe, no matter how much legislation EU has as opposed to the USA. The wonders of competition and falling transaction costs…
  • In Is your business ready to pick-up intentcast from Customers? Sivaraman Swaminathan of Customer World writes in agreement with the essay, adding a number of additional points. The first: “Businesses are increasingly finding a large majority of their customers really don’t want them to be reached out to. The digital mediums of mobile, web make this “shut-out” very easy. I have heard customers say that You Tube Ads are annoying – be it the banners or the ads before the videos. They just are blind spots. The best customers don’t want to be bugged with messages and worst customers  businesses don’t care any way!  They need to find a new model to appeal to both.”
  • The Customer as a God: Is This a Revolution in Business? in LinkedIn Today. A series of short tweet-like posts.
  • Vendor Relationship Management, in The Customer Institute, the blog of William H. Beuel, Professor of Decision Sciences, Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University. “The implications of this idea will all to ultimately have a profound effect on what we currently mean by customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. No longer will companies be the dominant force in the company customer relationship. The customer will become the dominant force and will make decisions based on a greater set of data but also instantly available data.”
  • In The Customer as a God, Tribal Warrior on The Island of the Misfit Hams says nothing but embeds the video of my talk titled User-driven Democracy at the Personal Democracy Forum last year.
  • In Doc Searls in the WSJ: The Customer as a GodDrummond Reed on the Connect.me blog calls my case “a compelling argument for customer empowerment, one of the core beliefs of Connect.Me, where we have always felt that the empowered customer and control of their personal data is a major benefit for both companies and customers.”
  • In Treat Your Clients Like Gods… Or Don’t (The Ideal State of Client0Advisro Relationships)DJ writes this in the blueleaf blog: “The optimal state of affairs for customer/vendor, client/advisor relationships is no different from any other relationship: they ought be healthy, balanced, open, and above all be characterized by mutual respect.” Most of the rest of his post was disapproving, based mainly on the title of the essay, which (as David W points out above) was not mine. I address the misunderstanding in a comment under his post.
  • In To Bee or Not To Beebigbear posts The relationship with “customers” and says “I don’t believe in objectifying people as ‘customers’, because  I don’t want to fall into that mind trap of thinking of people as walking bundles of money.”

I’m sure there are more, and I’ll look for those tomorrow, which is now today, I just noticed. Midnight just went by.

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Aurora time!

The storm is hitting right now:

Remember that auroras can be a thousand miles high. So even if they’re over Canada, they can still be visible in the upper part of the lower U.S. 48. Or even sometimes south of there.

And maybe that’s a better place to be, since it stays light up there overnight this time of year. Not so down here.

I’m going to go out and  check now. Here in Boston the light pollution is so strong it’ll be hard to spot. The moon won’t help either. Still, worth a try. Those in upper Midwest, prairie and mountain states… doesn’t look here like there’s much cloud cover. So looking might work well for you. Worth a try.

sendWith The Story of Send, Google follows a single email as it travels through wires, under streets, through an ISP’s high-rise, in and out of Google’s various gear, including one of its vast data centers, and finally up a tower and out via a telco’s data system into a smartphone. What happens in the data center is explained in a video that lasts more than seven minutes, with a sped-up voice-over like you hear in disclaimers at the ends of ads for car dealers and pharmaceuticals. There are lots of other promotional side-trips like that one, along the way.

What it doesn’t tell is the real story of email as we use it today. That story starts with RFC 821, by Jon Postel, posted in August 1982. It begins,

The objective of Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is to transfer mail reliably and efficiently.
SMTP is independent of the particular transmission subsystem and requires only a reliable ordered data stream channel.

What makes SMTP so useful and universal today is that it intentionally transcends any intermediator’s silo or walled garden. It simply assumes a connection. So do the POP (RFC918 and IMAP (RFC1064) protocols (used at the receiving end), for which the relevant RFCs were issued in 1984 and 1988.

Those protocols ended up winning — for all of us — after it became clear that their simplicity, and their oblivity to the parochial interests of network owners and operators, were what we really needed. That was in 1995. In the meantime, a pile of proprietary and corporate email systems competed in a losing battle with each other. Compuserve, Prodigy, MCI Mail, AppleLink, and a host of others were all obsoleted by the obvious advantage of having nobody own the means by which we simply send electronic mail to each other.

The main intended message of The Story of Send is a green one: Google saves energy. A secondary message is that Google is a big nice company that treats your mail well and has good security practices. But the main unintended message — or at least the one that comes across — is that email is a big complicated business, and you need big complicated companies to do it right. It also ignores the real story, which is about a handful of simple protocol.

Two voices in the wilderness of corporate rah-rah that ought to be heard on this are Phil Windley and Bob Frankston.

Phil has a terrific blog post called Ways, not Places, in which he makes a good straightforward case for understanding the Internet in term of ways (protocols) rather than places (e.g. domains, with locations, addresses, and the rest). Because it’s the ways that make everything else possible.

In his essay on Ambient Connectivity, Bob says, “The nuanced definition of Ambient Connectivity is that we can view connectivity as infrastructure but we need to take responsibility if we find ourselves disconnected. This is in contrast with today’s telecom industry in which we’ve shifted responsibility to providers and can only assume connectivity where a third party has subscribed to a service and there is an unbroken chain of providers all the way to your destination.” The latter is the case that Google makes. Its also the case argued by every bill we get from our phone and cable companies.

But we need to keep hearing the all-but-silent argument for the Net and its protocols. Because without those we wouldn’t have the rest.




One nice thing about blogging is that you get to correct what you write.

Tonight I put up a long post that I had second, third, fourth and fifth and additional thoughts about, and finally decided to kill.

I do that a lot, actually. Just not usually with stuff I’ve already put up. But I did it this time.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have another go at the same subject. Meanwhile I’ll grab some much-needed sleep.

The Intention Economy came out on Tuesday, and coverage has been spreading. Meanwhile, while I’ve been busy at IIW, where VRM mojo has been major. Notes from the many VRM sessions at #IIW14 will appear on this page soon. Meanwhile here are some excerpts pieces that ran this week.

From Selling You: Not Just on Facebook, by Haydn Shaughnessy in Forbes —

The reality is we need a different way of thinking about data, and in an age marked by innovation we shouldn’t find a reframe too difficult. We shouldn’t but we do. Generations of marketers have been brought up on an adversarial view of the customer, the target, the win…

In all the discussions we’ve had here in Forbes about social business we have yet to stray into the use and purpose of social data, as if we too largely accept that the adversarial view is the only one.

A couple of days back I tried to reflect an alternative view in for, example, how we might use LinkedIn data – it’s not only my view of course and I don’t want to claim any originality in it. For five years or more, maybe as far back as The ClueTrain Manifesto, people like Doc Searls have been arguing that the web makes a better commerce engine if we recognize all the power symmetries it brings. And there is an increasing number of projects that are taking up that logic.

CRM type data is old school – Tesco in the UK had signed up more than 15 million people to its ClubCard by 2009, that is over a third of the adult population of the country. It’s what companies did before the web. But it seems to be continuing even now that we have new possibilities.

There is no need to collect inference data on people and their possible choices. There is no adversary called customer. We have scaled up human interaction online where we can get closer to asking people, suggesting to them, and interacting with them.

So the future actually belongs to companies that take a symmetrical view of power…

From Another Bubble; Not Housing, by Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode Blog in Business Insider:

Guys, we ARE in a bubble. I don’t care what you say. As an outsider, I can see it…

Like Facebook, Pinterest and Instgram have valuations that are guesses about the future of advertising.Will they be the next great places to advertise as we shift to mobile?

Pinterest may be worth more “nothing” than Instgram, however, because as Scoble pointed out, women have buying power, which is why brands cozy up to mommy bloggers. But they haven’t bought BlogHer, the platform on which those women express opinions, have they? Lisa, Jory and Elisa were pioneers in bringing women’s voices to the marketplace, and no one has offered them a billion. That’s because BlogHer is not a tool. But it should expose also the fact that simply being favored by women doesn’t confer $7b in value on a company.

More worrisome is the supposition that these apps will someday be good carriers of mobile advertising, even though as yet the advertising industry hasn’t solved the online ad effectiveness problem and even Facebook reported diminished revenues this quarter.

The advertising industry is in upheaval, over the value of online advertising per se, before it even tackles mobile. Publishers are going under right and left because customers don’t want to see ads online, and truly hate them on mobile . Here, especially, the user will control the conversation.

So the valuations of Pinterest and Instgram/FB are merely expensive guesses about the future of advertising, about whether the ad tech industry will figure out mobile in a non-invasive way. Yes, the open graph will be part of it, and the advertising will be targeted. But I am guessing that Doc Searls will be quoted here gain and again: markets are conversations, and customers will control them.

In Doc Searls Wants You to Join Him in The Intention Economy, Scott Merrill writes in Techcrunch,

The book is easy to read, written in Searls’ first-person voice. He explains in the opening that he’s used to writing online and furnishing lots of links. While he can’t directly link from the content of the book, each chapter contains numerous footnotes with additional information and URLs to further reading. Searls uses plenty of personal anecdotes and examples, and quotes an astonishing number of conversations he’s had with people through the years.

I’m not an economist, so I was marginally worried that the book would be heavy on economic theory. There is some, as well as historical analysis of the evolution of markets and their effects, but all of this is done in a very accessible way. Searls does a great job presenting complex (and often crushingly boring) economic theory in ways that make sense to casual readers.

I purposefully read the book slowly, to allow the concepts to penetrate my thoughts. It didn’t take long for me to start looking much more critically at all the business transactions in which I participate every day and wonder how VRM and the intention economy might change them.

The Intention Economy represents the fruition of several years of lively discussion on this subject. The book is far from definitive, though: the groundwork for the intention economy is only just now being laid, and it’ll be a long time before it becomes an everyday reality.

He also says this about my response (in an email interview) to a question about “…bad actors (on either side of a transaction), and about the likelihood of malicious fourth parties: someone sneakily providing some kind of personal data store only to misuse the data collected”:

On the whole, I’m actually very excited about the possibilities implied by the intention economy, but this reply really worries me. Yes, we didn’t worry about spam or malware when the core Internet protocols were forming. But we’ve learned an awful lot since then, and it seems to me a glaring omission that reasonable safeguards not be considered at the beginnings of any new Internet construction project.

I should have put that question to the fourth party developers on the ProjectVRM list. In fact I’m sure safeguards are being considered, and it was an error on my part not to make at least that much clear.

Fast Company ran two pieces: one from the book, and one about the book. Give Up The Gimmicks: How Groupons And Coupons Can Damage Your Brand is an excerpt from Chapter 25 of the book, titled  ”The Dance”. One pull-quote:

An old saying goes, “Cocaine makes you feel like a man. Problem is, the man wants more cocaine.” Coupons are cocaine for business.

To get off the discounting drug, it helps to know that businesses can survive–and thrive–without Groupons, or coupons, or any gimmick at all.

Doc Searls On Becoming Part Of The Intention Economy is an interview by Drake Baer. An excerpt:

…we need to start loving through the marketplace. Start loving where your customers are autonomous, sovereign, individual free agents who bring far more to you than money and loyalty. They have signals, they have intelligence, they have all kinds of things they can bring that you’re ignoring right now because you’re running closed systems in which you know almost nothing about them.

In the long run, individual autonomy is going to be a persistent state, and getting along with customers and being true cooperators with customers is going to be what helps retail, aviation, you name it, to adapt fully to what the Internet has been implying from the beginning.

In Will Facebook Drive the New Intention Economy? Ryan MacRay Jones of m-cause writes,

Doc Searls, in his excellent new book The Intention Economy, discusses how shoppers online will eventually move beyond action buttons (e.g. “Like”) and exercise their consumer power by broadcasting their intent via a sort of online RFP (Request for Proposal).  In the Intention Economy, the buyer will notify the market of his/her intent to buy and then sellers will compete for the buyer’s purchase.

While RFPs are not yet happening within Facebook, the giant social network is making a move to learn more about our intent as shoppers online.

Part of Doc Searls vision of the intention economy involves “fourth parties” that protect a consumer/shopper and act on his/her behalf within the intention economy.  Personal.com is an early form of this type of company.   Fourth parties collect our intent, but instead of broadcasting it broadly and selling it to advertisers, they look out for the consumer and their interests on the web.  If, as Mark Zuckerberg states in his SEC filing letter, Facebook is trying to be a force for good and social change, won’t they be looking to help consumers transparently understand how and when their data is being used to drive ad sales?  Could Facebook actually pivot and evolve into a real trusted 4th party over time?

Quick answer: Not unless their consumers become customers.

In What if We Tossed Out the Advertising Model, Rawn Shah of Forbes writes,

There are number of secondary effects of this model as well: it shifts the business of customer data collection and business analytics in a different direction; it elevates the level of security of information; it creates new feature needs in online retailing and commerce systems; and if Doc is right, it may even transform the banking industry by creating a whole new business opportunity line for them.

This approach creates the multi-way dialogue with customers, their networks, and people of like interest that we need to see happen in the world of marketing, transforming the model towards greater efficiency. In doing so, IT directly becomes a stronger part of the business function of marketing, as well as impacting how we manage inventory and distribute goods and services. It contributes to the integrated, cross-functional future as we move away from the Value chain model of the enterprise, and into a social business world.

Rawn will run his interview with me in a future post.

Two other audio interviews are also up. HBR’s Winning in the Intention Economy (note: HBR is the book‘s publisher) and Big Data: How Personal Clouds and ‘VRM’ will revolutionise Customer Relationships, from Telco 2.0 Research.

1920x1080While everybody else is stuck in 1080p — aka “full HD” — Apple is thinking and developing on a bigger canvas than that — starting with the new iPad‘s 2048 x 1536 screen. They are always looking to move standard usage forward by large steps (where they change the whole market and win big in the process), and you can bet they’re doing that again with display. The iPad display won’t be the last Apple one to break out of the 1080p mold.

For a snapshot of where we are now, go shop for a computer monitor . Most of what you’ll find is 1920 x 1080: the dimensions of HDTV, and the continued embodiment of ATSC standards for TV that were adopted in the early 1990s in anticipation of the fully digital age. That age is now here, and in the process TV is getting slowly absorbed into the Internet. So, at this point in history, your computer monitor can be your TV, and vice versa. Digital movie production is also now standardized on 1080p24 (24 frames per second) standard. So it looks like everything is settled, right? Well, I am sure Steve Jobs and friends looked at that situation several years ago and saw “stuck” instead of “settled.” The new iPad is the first clear clue that this was the case.

In the long roster of display resolutions, the iPad’s dimensions are QXGA, which is among the breed of 3×4 resolutions. 1080p is 16×9. What matters here, however, isn’t the standard being used, or the dimensions, but breaking out of a currently defaulted (or stuck) mode.

The main question for me is whether or not Apple will succeed in building a walled garden for everything new that breaks out of the old 1080p mold. I doubt they’ll succeed, but I’ll bet they’ll try.

(Oh, and in case you doubt my prophetic powers regarding Apple, check out what I wrote to Dave Winer in 1997.)

Some clothing we need. That’s the kind that keeps us warm, or shielded from sunlight, or from getting our feet burned or cut up. Some clothing we wear because we like the way it makes us look, or how it gives us a way to conform with social conventions, or to flaut the same.

But basically, clothing keeps us covered up. It hides what we call our “privates.” Also our love handles, pot bellies, surgery scars, cellulite, man-boobs, and tattoos we’d rather not show. Clothing can also enlarge or showcase our best features, or make our less-than-best look better.

In all cases other than the naked one, clothing gives us a means for doing what techies call selective disclosure — while just as selectively keeping some things undisclosed. Or, therefore, private.

What I’m saying here is that maybe, as we debate what privacy is, what it means, and how to deal with it through technology, business and policy, that the things that can teach us the most about privacy are the ones in our closets and drawers.

For fun, dig the best ad for clothing, ever: Barney’s Men of Destiny.

Bonus link.

According to this…

… the Aurora is on.

The Kp Index has hit 5, and a geomagnetic storm is on.

Here’s today’s SpaceWeather on the matter. Follow the links there.

Bear in mind that the aurora are curtains of light up to a thousand miles high. So if the auroral oval is pushed down over southern Canada (which these storms tend to do), it should still be visible far south across the United States. Current links:

I was near the end of my career as a PR guy when I wrote the essay below for the January 1992 issue of Upside. Since then Upside has been erased. Some bits of it still persist on the Internet Archive, but nothing before 1996. But I did save my own draft of the piece, and put it up here, back in the mid-90s, where it has remained all but invisible. So I thought it would be fun to surface it now on the blog, on the 20th anniversary of its original publication. Here goes:


Toward a world beyond press releases and bogus news

By Doc Searls

There is no Pulitzer Prize for public relations. No Peabody. No Heismann. No Oscar, Emmy or Eddy. Not even a Most Valuable Flacker award. Sure, like many misunderstood professions, public relations has its official bodies, and even its degrees, awards and titles. Do you know what they are? Neither do most people who practice the profession.

The call of the flack is not a grateful one. Almost all casual references to public relations are negative. Between the last sentence and this one, I sought to confirm this by looking through a Time magazine. It took me about seven seconds to find an example: a Lance Morrow essay in which he says Serbia has “the biggest public relations problem since Pol Pot went into politics.” Since genocide is the problem in question, the public relations solution can only range from lying to cosmetics. Morrow’s remark suggests this is the full range of PR’s work. Few, I suspect, would disagree.

So PR has the biggest PR problem of all: people use it as a synonym for BS. It seems only fair to defend the profession, but there is no point to it. Common usage is impossible to correct. And frankly, there is a much smaller market for telling the truth than for shading it.

For proof, check your trash for a computer industry press release. Chances are you will read an “announcement” that was not made, for a product that was not available, with quotes by people who did not speak them, for distribution to a list of reporters who considered it junk mail. The dishonesty here is a matter of form more than content. Every press release is crafted as a news story, complete with headline, dateline, quotes and so forth. The idea is to make the story easy for editors to “insert” with little or no modification.

Yet most editors would rather insert a spider in their nose than a press release in their publication. First, no self-respecting editor would let anybody else — least of all a biased source — write a story. Second, press releases are not conceived as stories, but rather as “messages.”

It is amazing how much time, energy and money companies spend to come up with “the right message.” At this moment, thousands of staffers, consultants and agency people sit in meetings or bend over keyboards, straining to come up with perfect messages for their products and companies. All are oblivious to a fact that would be plain if they paid more attention to their market than their product.

There is no demand for messages.

There is, however, a demand for facts. To editors, messages are just clothing and make-up for emperors that are best seen naked. Editors like their subjects naked because facts are raw material for stories. Which brings up another clue that public relations tends to ignore.

Stories are about conflict.

What makes a story hot is the friction in its core. When that friction ceases, the story ends. Take the story of Apple vs. IBM. As enemies, they made great copy. As collaborators, they are boring as dirt.

The whole notion of “positive” stories is oxymoronic. Stories never begin with “happily ever after.” Happy endings may resolve problems, but they only work at the end, not the beginning. Good PR recognizes that problems are the hearts of stories, and takes advantage of that fact.

Unfortunately, bad PR not only ignores the properties of stories, but imagines that “positive” stories can be “created” by staging press conferences and other “announcement events” that are just as bogus as press releases — and just as hated by their audiences.

Columnist John Dvorak, a kind of fool killer to the PR profession, says, “So why would you want to sit in a large room full of reporters and publicly ask a question that can then be quoted by every guy in the place? It’s not the kind of material a columnist wants — something everybody is reporting. I’m always amazed when PR types are disappointed when I tell them I won’t be attending a press conference.”

So why does PR persist in practices its consumers hold in contempt?

Because PR’s consumers are not its customers. PR’s customers are companies who want to look good, and pay PR for the equivalent of clothing and cosmetics. If PR’s consumers — the press — were also its customers, you can bet the PR business would serve a much different purpose: to reveal rather than conceal, clarify rather than mystify, inform rather than mislead.

But it won’t happen. Even if PR were perfectly useful to the press, there is still the matter of “positioning” — one of PR’s favorite words. I have read just about every definition of this word since Trout & Ries coined it in 1969, and I am convinced that a “position” is nothing other than an identity. It is who you are, where you come from, and what you do for a living. Not a message about your ambitions.

That means PR does not have a very good position. It’s identity is a euphemism, or at least sounds like one. While it may “come from” good intentions, what it does for a living is not a noble thing. Just ask its consumers.

Maybe it is time to do with PR what we do with technology: make something new — something that works as an agent for understanding rather than illusion. Something that satisfies both the emperors and their subjects. God knows we’ve got the material. Our most important facts don’t need packaging, embellishment or artificial elevation. They only need to be made plain. This may not win prizes, but it will win respect.

Are we in that “world beyond” yet? If so, how far?

At the time I wrote that essay, my company was morphing from a PR agency to a marketing consultancy, mostly because I had become tired of being hired to do BS, even if the stated ambitions were more high-minded than that. Then, as the Nineties unfurled, I became tired of doing the BS that was expected of  marketing as well, especially since the Net and the Web had come along and changed the communications environment for nearly everything and everybody.

Yet both PR and marketing continued to be funded by corporate demand for better BS — even when BS could be exposed and disproven far more easily and by many more people. Persistent oblivity to the obvious was one big reason why Chris Locke, David Weinberger, Rick Levine and I co-wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto, and why much of the essay above was leveraged in the Markets are Conversations chapter of the book.

Now another decade has passed, and questions still stand. For example, Is PR still a synonym for BS? And, if not, how?

On the definition (or re-definition) front, the PRSA has floated three new definitions for PR, with the hashtag #PRDefined:

Definition No. 1:

Public relations is the management function of researching, engaging, communicating, and collaborating with stakeholders in an ethical manner to build mutually beneficial relationships and achieve results.

(Read the annotated version here.)

Definition No. 2:

Public relations is a strategic communication process that develops and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their key publics.

(Read the annotated version here.)

Definition No. 3:

Public relations is the engagement between organizations and individuals to achieve mutual understanding and realize strategic goals.

(Read the annotated version here.)

This is a serious effort, with much involvement by Phillip Sheldrake, whom I respect very much.

The main challenge, both for PR and for companies in general, is that individuals — both within companies and out in the marketplace — are going to be taking more and more of the lead in relations with the market’s supply side. Reduction in demand for BS by company brass will help that progress happen. But engagement will be the main thing. That’s why I vote for Definition No. 3, without the “realize strategic goals” clause (which is straight out of BuzzPhraser).

PR for most of its history has been less about relations with publics (a term only PR folk use, far as I know) than about relations between companies and mediators: the press, TV, radio and (more recently) “influencers” on the Web. The best people in PR and marketing have for decades been trying to move business relations in the personal direction. That is, toward the public itself, directly.

But will PR will still be PR when that happens? In other words, if somebody’s job is to help companies relate personally to customers, and to welcome customer input and leadership, what should we call that somebody’s job?

Bonus links:

Long Valley from Mammoth

For the last three days I’ve been skiing at Mammoth Mountain, an 11,059-foot volcano built to its current shape between 110,000 and 57,000 years ago. It is still active. The mountain’s last eruption of rock and lava was about 1200 years ago, essentially in the geologic present. Lethal gasses burp out of fissures, and hot springs push steam through snow. Up to 150 tons of carbon dioxide seep out of the mountain — enough to produce a necklace of “tree kills” around its base. In 2006, three members of the Mammoth Mountain ski patrol were killed by gasses from a volcanic vent.

Mammoth overlooks the Long Valley Caldera on the east side, which is where most of the ski runs are. That’s it in the photo above, which I shot yesterday from the summit. About 760,000 years ago, a short tick before the geologic present, a supervolcano stood where Long Valley is now.Long Valley Caldera It was obliterated in one of the largest explosions in the known history of the Earth. Over 150 cubic miles of material were blown out, so violently and completely that what remained was a wide deep crater. Lava flows spread for dozens of miles, while ash and debris spread from the Pacific to Kansas. The image on the right (via Wikipedia and courtesy of Roy A. Bailey, USGS Volcanologist with the USGS in Menlo Park) is a cross section of the view above.

To put this in perspective, Krakatoa blew 5 cubic miles into the sky. Mount St. Helens blew out less than one cubic mile. Long Valley was a VEI7 event. Only VEI8 events are bigger. Perhaps the biggest risk of a similar event is the Yellowstone caldera, which sits over a hot spot that has already produced four cataclysms exceeding the Long Valley one. Only two other events have been larger than any of those, and the largest was in Colorado. All were VEI8 events. Here’s a list of those, from Wikipedia, in decreasing order of material displaced:

  1. La Garita CalderaColorado, United States—Source of the enormous eruption of the Fish Canyon Tuff ~27.8 million years ago (~5,000 km³) This was in
  2. Lake TobaSumatraIndonesia—~74,000 years ago (~2,800 km³). The Lake Toba eruption plunged the Earth into a volcanic winter, eradicating an estimated 60%[11][12][13][14] of the human population (although humans managed to survive even in the vicinity of the volcano[15]).
  3. Island Park CalderaHuckleberry Ridge TuffIdaho/Wyoming, United States, Yellowstone hotspot—2.1 million years ago (2,500 km³)[8]
  4. Atana Ignimbrite, Pacana Caldera, northern Chile—4 million years ago (2,500 km³)[9]
  5. Whakamaru, Taupo Volcanic Zone, North Island, New Zealand—Whakamaru Ignimbrite/Mount Curl Tephra ~254,000 years ago (1,200–2,000 km³)[7]
  6. Heise volcanic field, Kilgore Tuff, Idaho, United States, Yellowstone hotspot—4.5 million years ago (1,800 km³).[10]
  7. Heise volcanic field, Blacktail Tuff, Idaho, United States, Yellowstone hotspot—6.6 million years ago (1,500 km³).[10]
  8. Lake Taupo, Taupo Volcanic ZoneNorth IslandNew ZealandOruanui eruption ~26,500 years ago (~1,170 km³)
  9. Cerro GalanCatamarca ProvinceArgentina—2.5 million years ago (1,050 km³)
  10. Yellowstone CalderaLava Creek TuffWyomingUnited StatesYellowstone hotspot—640,000 years ago (1,000 km³)[8]

Following that is a list of  VEI7 events, including Long Valley:

Over the last 3/4 million years, the Long Valley Caldera has been decorated by many smaller volcanic eruptions and formations (including Mammoth), as well as by glacial advances and retreats and gradual erosion. The result looks as innocent as any other valley filled with cones and old tuff — though less innocent than Yellowstone, whose charms are mostly those of hot water.

Still, knowing the provenance of Long Valley and Mammoth gives the observer reason to pause and wonder — not only at the hugeness of Earth’s formative events, but of our species’ oblivity to them.

Bonus links:

At the bottom of How Luther went viral: Five centuries before Facebook and the Arab spring, social media helped bring about the Reformation, an excellent essay in the latest Economist, I found this…

… and decided to leave the first comment. You can read it here.

In terms of sales, Android is tops in smarphones. According to this ComScore press release, Google had a 46.3% market share of U.S. smartphone platform sales (with Android) in October, up 4.4% from July. At 28.1%, Apple’s iOS share was up 1%. Apple’s share of total subscribers was 10.8%, up 1% from July.

Yet when you take a look at this graphic from Flickr

… usage seems to be another matter.

Far as I know, there is nothing about Flickr that discriminates against non-iOS smartphones. But that graphic squares with something I’ve heard from develpers: that the same apps on Android and iOS tend to get used more on iOS.

I don’t say that to advocate Apple. In fact, I’d much rather advocate Android — or any open platform. Just saying it’s interesting.

From Zemanta, here’s a list of related articles:

Fall for trees

Harvard Yard thinks it’s October. The Red, Sugar and Norway maples, the Scarlet and Pin oaks, the dogwoods and hawthorns, have all been at peak Fall color around Boston the last few days. The weather has been glorious too, hovering around 70° in the afternoons. Lots of people walking around in shorts, the sidewalk cafés packed with customers eating sandwiches and drinking coffee. If it weren’t for the freak snowstorm and a mild frost a couple weeks back, the predominant foliage might still be green. It’s been a warm Fall.

After attending a great talk by John Wilbanks at lunch yesterday (and my latest $25 ticket for going several minutes over the 2 hour limit on my parking meter), I moved the car, poured another $2 into another meter, and walked around Cambridge, just enjoying the warmth and the scenery. I took a bunch of pictures with my phone as well, which joined this batch here, which includes shots taken with a real camera, plus some with a scanner.

My interests in Science as a kid were organized as a series of obsessions. Their order went something like this:

  1. Trees
  2. Oceans and sea life
  3. Weather
  4. Astronomy
  5. Paleontology
  6. Radio

The first four were primarily informed by Golden Guide books my parents bought for my sister and me. The titles were Trees, Fishes, Weather and Stars. Amazingly, I still have Trees, “@1956, 1952, by Western Publishing Company, Inc.” (That last link goes to the current version, on Amazon.) I turned nine years old in the Summer of 1956. I remember being so obsessed with trees that I would spend hours at the end of our street, identifying the sycamores, elms, beeches, hickories, oaks and maples of Borg’s Woods, then still decades away from becoming Hackensack‘s pride of a nature preserve. Thanks to fellow obsessives and the Web, anyone in the world can see those trees too.

My old Trees book was helpful in identifying some of the leaves in those shots I’ve taken the last few days. So has Ryan Lynch’s Crimson Canopy, with it’s excellent Harvard Yard Trees. I only discovered the site late yesterday after I got home. If I had the time, I’d walk around again with the iPad and Ryan’s maps to check again on which trees were which.

Perhaps readers inclinded to horticulture, plant taxonomy and dendrology can help puzzle out and correct identification of leaves such as this one here, which on Map 6 of Crimson Canopy is identified as a Red maple, but looks to me more like a Silver maple. (There’s a lot of variation among the Reds, though, I’ve noticed.) I should point out that it’s a big leaf.

So today it’s supposed to rain, and I’m busy, so that’ll be it for this year’s walks among Fall colors. Tomorrow starts several weeks of travel.

Bonus links:

Back to Blogging

Today is the first day in months when my first question wasn’t, “What can I do to finish (or improve) the book today?” That’s because I turned in the (hopefully) final draft yesterday morning.

Details: The book is The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge and the publisher is Harvard Business Review Press. You can pre-order it on Amazon.

There are still hurdles to cross (copy editing, a few quote approvals), but all balls are in courts other than mine at the moment. So I can get back to all the stuff I’ve neglected in the meantime, including this: blogging.

I think it was twelve years ago today that I put up the first post on this blog. Here it is. Funny, it mentions that this new Cluetrain book is going to come out, and is available for pre-order on Amazon. I didn’t remember that until just now.

Note that the image of me in the title bar at the top of this page is taken from the photo in that first post. The other three guys still look like they did back then, but I’ve moved on. Meanwhile that old picture has become my “brand” now, I guess. Kind of like Colonel Sanders, Uncle Ben, Betty Crocker and Aunt Jemimah. With the goatee I’ve grown since then, it’s now Colonel Sanders I most resemble. Except I’m still alive and stopped wearing glasses full-time not long after that shot was taken. (Nothing medical was involved. I just quit wearing them and my eyes got better.)

From 1999 until I found Tweeting easier, I generally posted several times a day, almost every day. Posting was easier on that old platform: Dave Winer‘s Manila. And I mostly wrote in one of Dave’s outliners — or sometimes in HTML with a simple text editor. Writing in WordPress is more complicated, but my favorite blogging tool is still OPML.

Once tweeting came along, a lot of the stuff I once blogged about I began tweeting about instead. I still tweet, but blogging is more substantive, and the results are more like real publishing and less like snow on pavement. (I was going to say “snow on the water,” but that’s what radio is.) For example, you can still find everything I’ve ever blogged. Can’t say the same about everything I’ve ever tweeted. At least not easily. (If there is an easy way to search back through your own tweets, even to ones you wrote several years ago, let me know.)

After I started bearing down on the book, in the Summer of last year, I found that blogging no longer worked as a steam valve on the side of whatever else I was doing. At least not in respect to the book. Writing a book, at least for me, required a level of focus and concentration I had never put into anything, ever. Self-discipline has never been my strong suit, and still isn’t; but I had to become much more self-disciplined to write this thing. Alas, one diversion that became essential to deny was blogging. Even though I could blurt out a blog post in a few minutes, returning to the Task At Hand wasn’t easy.

It was also hard to write what I knew wouldn’t appear in print for many months. Blogging was live and engaging. Writing a book required being engaged with The Work Itself, which was new to me. It wasn’t until the book started to look and feel like a book — and not a series of long blog posts — that I could get down and groove with it. Once that started to happen, early this year, the book became something I enjoyed doing and got energy from as I did it. By the end of the project I found myself wanting to go straight on to the next book. Turns out I liked running marathons and not just sprinting. As a writer, that is.

But I also became much more of a desk potato than I already was. Not good.

So now here I am, ready both to sprint again in print and to go back outside, ride a bike, play basketball, take walks… anything to get my butt back into something close to “shape.” Got a ways to go with that.

Anyway, bear with me as I work my way back into my old grooves, and try to find a balance between all the too many things I’ve always done, to which I’ve now added book writing. Gonna be an interesting challenge.

Ten years later

I’ve been listening to the repeat broadcast of the Howard Stern Show, recorded live in New York as the 9/11 events unfolded. It’s been a transporting experience. The anger, bewilderment, confusion and fear are all there.

I was at our house in Montecito, California when it happened. My sister Jan called right after the first tower was hit, and we watched the rest on TV. Then I switched to the radio and blogged a number of posts through the day. Here they are (in reverse chronological order):

Stars. Just stars. 

Walking back from a meeting at school this evening, the kid and I looked up at the sky, as always. But it was … different. What was that behind the high branches of an Oak tree? A star or an — no, it couldn’t be an airplane. There were no airplanes in the sky tonight. Only stars: a condition we haven’t seen in nearly a century.
“Why aren’t the planes flying, Papa?” he asked. I explained. He asked again. I explained again. I stopped the questioning when the count got to four.
But it won’t stop.

What’s down? 

I get a steady flow of email, up to hundreds per day. But after 5:13 tonight, nothing. Is it just that everybody’s watching CNN now? No idea. Seems creepy.

More perspective 

Here’s Morgan Stanley, which had 3500 people working in the World Trade Center:
Because of the enormous emotional and physical toll that these events have taken and will take among many of our employees and their families…

Close to home 

We just lost power for a few minutes. No idea why.

One answer 

Here’s Eric S. Raymond on our “First Lessons” about terrorism.


Dean points out that today the United Nations opens in New York on the International Day of Peace.


Here are Blogger sites mentioning “World Trade” or “terrorist.”


BBC says the pilots would surely have been killed first, since they would never follow orders to fly into a building. I notice that all four planes involved were 757s and 767s, which have roughly identical cockpits.
Odd how we mull details like these to get a small grip on an immense tragedy. Right now I don’t even want food. Just details.

Now it gets personal 

Our West Coast family members check in fine. One is in Ohio, and will probably drive home to L.A. So far we’re lucky. East Coast, not so sure. I have a cousin who works in the Pentagon. My sister is a retired Navy officer, recently moved from Arlington to North Carolina. “I lost friends today,” she tells me. But who? So far we also don’t know very much about who lived, who died, who’s lost, trapped or worse.
Dave points to a press release reporting the death of Danny Lewin. He was on the American flight from New York to Los Angeles that crashed into the World Trade Center. I didn’t know Danny, but I’ve met him. He was a good guy. According to his bio, he was also a member of the Israeli Defense Forces. I imagine he would have done his best, as a passenger, to stop this thing.
And there were so many others lost today. So many families waiting, right now, for loved ones to call, to show up at the door.

The deepest human substance 

Now is the time to give blood, not take it. Wherever you are, please give some. For New York, call 1 800 933-blood or visit http://nybloodcenter.org/.

Declaration of Peace 

One of the surprising things to me about blogging is how much I don’t say. I tend to be a very disclosing guy, but if anything I tend to disclose less personal stuff than I ever thought I would have when I started this thing in 1999.
But today I’ll tell you where I come from on the matter of war.
I am a pacifist. I applied for contientious objector status during the Vietnam War, and I would have served in that capacity if I hadn’t received a medical deferment.
I went to a Quaker college, and have always felt most at home, philosophically and morally, with the Society of Friends. Although I currently attend a Catholic Church, my beliefs are the same.
What happened today brings out the pacifist in me, and the linguist as well. Just about everything we believe, and say, is framed up by conceptual metaphors. In the words of George Lakoff, written at the height of the Gulf War, metaphors can kill.
We have a choice about the ones we use. For the sake of those still with us, and the souls of those we’ve lost, choose your conceptual frameworks carefully.


We hear that 50,000 people worked in the World Trade Center alone. Consider these numbers:
  • 4,435 U.S. soldiers died in the Revolutionary War, and another 2,260 in the War of 1812.
  • Including civilians, 373,458 died in the Civil War.
  • 53,513 combat deaths in World War I, plus 63,195 “other.”
  • 292,131 combat deaths in Word War II, plus 115,185 “other.”
  • 33,651 combat deaths in the Korean War (no “other” listed)
  • 47,369 combat deaths in the Vietnam War, and 10,799 “other.”
  • And for the Gulf war, the respective numbers were 148 and 145.
Here’s another summary.


ZeldmanDeanAdamDaveCamEricAkamaiRichardBrentSusan. Grant.East/WestUltrasparky. QuesoKottkeMegMetafilterEvGlennScoble.
I need to pick up the kid from school soon. This morning he wanted to know why his parents were crying. We couldn’t begin to explain.

Open choices 

What happened today may have been an act of war, but it was also an act of insanity.
Many people we know are dead. Many more are dying. This is a time to open our hearts, our homes, our wallets and our minds.
There is only one sane choice open to us all: What can we do to help?
If there is anything you think I can do, let me know. I just added AIM instant messaging to my suite of contacts. My handle, no longer a joke, is “Celeprosy.”

A time for love and mourning 

Pray, find your loved ones. Give help.
And God help us all.

Maybe because I have it 

Wanted to test out the latest AOL Instant Messenger today, so I downloaded it. But first I had to come up with a name. Searls, Dsearls, Dsearls1 and Zdilmidgi were all taken, by me, in the past. But AOL wouldn’t make them available to me because they had to clear it with the now-dead email address I used when I registered those identities. So I gave up on those and tried all kinds of names, finally going with “Celeprosy.” It took. Haven’t installed it yet, though.

What’s the commercial model for your toilet? Your light socket? Your floors? 

I was asked today what the ‘commercial model’ was for a blog hosted on a home computer. It amazes me that the Net is still being asked to justify itself commercially.
But as long as it is, we need Larry Lessig to rant about it. (Thanks to Tom for that link.)
And while we’re on the blog subject, check out the Lockergnome interview with Evan Williams. I ran into Chris Pirillo at TechTV when I was up there recently. Great guy. And he really does look like that Lockergnome dude in the illo.

Well, obviously 

Says here I’m infatuated with Google search results. Actually, amazed is a bit more like it.
Curious: what real competition does Google have these days? Looking here, it’s as if nobody has even bothered reviewing the matter in almost a year. At this point Google rivals the browser itself as a Web interface. It’s a portal that doesn’t act the part.
Is it making money yet? I have no idea.

Because smart people don’t always do that 

Eric Raymond: How to ask questions the smart way.

Blogging was young then. There was no Twitter, no Facebook. Yet blogging felt, and was, far more social — at least for me — than anything else we’ve seen since.

Some thoughts, ten years later:

  • Yes, everything changed that day.
  • We did go to war, as I expected we would, given the president we had and the mood of the country after being attacked. But the war, billed as one against “terrorism,” has been one of “regime change” in two countries. Since then other regimes have changed that needed changing, without our intervention, and at approximately zero $ cost to the U.S.
  • The cost of going to war has been many $trillions, and has nearly (or perhaps actually) bankrupted the country. There was a rope-a-dope strategy behind the attack, and we took the bait.
  • The U.S. hasn’t been attacked in the same way again, and for that I am grateful.
  • The results of the War on Terrorism are debatable, although they are not much debated.
  • The motivations for the attacks on the U.S., besides “they hate us and our way of life” and similar staples of talk radio, have not been visited at much depth, at least by sources the American people pay much attention to. That anybody might have a legitimate gripe against the U.S. is a question no politician wants to ask. And not many ordinary citizens, either.
  • Many young men and women in my extended family have served in these wars. I am proud of them. I also wish they hadn’t needed to go.
  • The peace movement, in which I played a small part during the Vietnam War, is now dormant. Almost nobody questions the need for war now.
  • The hate we felt for Al Qaeda, the self-appointed enemy that attacked on 9/11, has since shifted to each other. I’ve been alive for a long time, and I can’t remember any period, including the Vietnam War, when it has been harder for political opponents to listen to each other, much less understand what the other is saying. Ad hominem arguments rule.
  • One reason for our uncompromising political posturing and rhetoric is the loss of the moderate center that was held in place by the mainstream media, and especially by the evening network news. Even as late as 2001, we turned en mass to network TV and newspapers for reporting and analysis that at least tried to be unbiased, accountable and responsible to the whole country and not just to partisan factions. Now even CNN looks like an informercial to me.

I can’t shake the feeling that, in ways we don’t want to admit, the terrorists have won something. 9/11 gave us fear, and the will to attack. It changed our hearts and minds.

When I look back on human history, starting with our diaspora out of Africa only a few dozen millennia ago, I see persisting through it all a will to kill and dominate that is hardly diminished by civilization. We have hated and killed The Other for the duration. For all its many virtues, our species remains a violent and homicidal one. We’ve killed others who looked or spoke differently than we do. We’ve killed for land and religion and resources, which included each other, whom we often kidnapped and made into slaves. Even in our own country we killed each other by the dozens of thousands, over differing notions of freedom. (The Civil War is only two generations back on my father’s side. One great aunt, whom I remember well, was twelve years old when Lincoln was shot, and told stories about it. She was born when slavery was still more than legal in the U.S.)

How many people have died because of 9/11, since that day? Have their deaths been worthwhile? Have they bought peace, really? Will anything, ever? I have my doubts, and those started ten years ago today.

[Later...] Deaths in the War on Terror, according to Wikipedia, as of today:

  • Iraq: 62,570 to 1,124,000
  • Afghanistan: between 10,960 and 49,600
  • Pakistan: between 1467 and 2334
  • Somalia: 7,000+

And then,

Total American casualties from the War on Terror
(this includes fighting throughout the world):

US Military killed 5,921[109]
US Military wounded 42,673[109]
US Civilians killed (includes 9/11 and after) 3,000 +
US Civilians wounded/injured 6,000 +
Total Americans killed (military and civilian) 8,800 +
Total Americans wounded/injured 46,000 +
Total American casualties 54,800 +

Draw, or re-draw, your own conclusions. I still don’t have any. Or many. The older I get, the less certain I am of my own opinions, especially about War, the reasoning methods for which which seem to be hard-coded into human nature. In my heart I’m still a pacifist, but in my mind I’m not so sure.

Here’s what I wrote in Deliberate Explosive Devices last year:

I think there lurks in human nature a death wish — for others, even more than for ourselves. We rationalize nothing better, or with more effect, than killing each other. Especially the other. Fill in the blank. The other tribe, the other country, the other culture, the other religion, whatever.  “I’ve seen the future,”Leonard Cohen sings. “It is murder.” (You can read the lyrics here, but I like thevideo version.)

Yet we also don’t. The answer to Matt’s question — How did we keep from blowing ourselves up for all those years? —is lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov, and others like him, unnamed. Petrov had the brains and the balls to say “No” to doing the crazy thing that only looked sane because a big institution was doing it.

We’re still crazy. You and I may not be, but we are.

War is a force that gives us meaningChris Hedges says. You can read his book by that title, (required reading from a highly decorated and deeply insightful former war correspondent). You can also watch the lecture he gave on the topic at UCSB in 2004. The mystery will be diminished by his answer, but not solved.

Still, every dose of sanity helps.

Still true.

Bonus link from Euan Semple.

The best Romans we ever knew were former ex-pats there: Charles and Doris Muscatine. We didn’t know them well, having met only once, for dinner in the early ’90s, at their son Jeff’s house in the Bay Area. But it turned out we were going to be in Rome at the same time, not long after that dinner, so we arranged to hook up there for lunch. We felt like we were imposing a bit, but hey: both were authorities on Rome, and Doris was the author of A Cook’s tour of Rome, among many other books on food and cooking.

They told us to meet them in a small alley-sized street next to an obscure church in a part of town that was all cobblestone and stucco over brick that went back to the days of empire, if not earlier. There we would find a restaurant with no sign, they said: just a curtain for a door. It was, literally, a hole-in-the-wall. It was also their favorite. Just about the only patrons then were locals, and the food consisted of Roman staples, perfectly prepared. It was wonderful.

But Chuck and Doris are now both gone; and, when we arrived in Rome a few days ago, we had  no memory of the restaurant’s name, much less its location, since Rome has no shortage of old narrow streets and obscure churches. Instead the first place we aimed for was one we read about in an airline magazine.

To our astonishment, it was the same place. The curtain was replaced by red ropes (see above), but otherwise it was unimproved. Margherita herself is now too old to cook there, we learned, but it’s the same home cooking as ever. The fried artichokes (“carciofi alla giudìa”), which have leaves as delicate as potato chips but infinitely more character, are a must if you’re ever in town.

The name is Sora Margherita and the church next door is Santa Maria del Pianto. It’s located in the Jewish ghetto district. Highly recommended.

Al Jazeera story

Cable companies: Add Al Jazeera English *now* Jeff Jarvis commands, correctly, on his blog — and also in , under the headine . For me now was a few minutes ago, when I read both items on the family iPad, which has been our main news portal since the quit coming and I suspended my efforts to reach them by Web or phone. (The Globe also wants a bunch of ID crap when I go there on the iPad, so they’re silent that way too.) So I went to the App store, looked up , saw something called Al Jazeera English Live was available for free, got it, and began watching live protest coverage from Cairo.

We don’t have cable here. We dumped it after network news turned to shit, and we found it was easier to watch movies on Netflix. We still like to watch sports, but cable for sports alone is too expensive, because it’s always bundled with junk we don’t want and not available à la carte. (You know, like stuff is on the Web.) When we want TV news, we go online or get local TV through an gizmo plugged into an old Mac laptop. Works well, but it’s still TV.

And so is Al Jazeera on an iPad/iPhone, Samsung Wave or a Nokia phone. (See http://english.aljazeera.net/mobile/for details. No Android or Blackberry yet, appaerently.) The difference is that real news s happening in Egypt, and if you want live news coverage in video form, Al Jazeera is your best choice. As Jeff puts it, “Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one — not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media — can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can.”

And it’s very good. , “If you’re watching Al Jazeera, you’re seeing uninterrupted live video of the demonstrations, along with reporting from people actually on the scene, and not “analysis” from people in a studio. The cops were threatening to knock down the door of one of its reporters minutes ago. Fox has moved on to anchor babies. CNN reports that the ruling party building is on fire, but Al Jazeera is showing the fire live.”

In fact six Al Jazeera journalists are now being detained (I just learned). That kind of thing happens when your news organization is actually involved in a mess like this. CNN used to be that kind of organization, but has been in decline for years, along with other U.S. network news organizations. As Jeff says, “What the Gulf War was to CNN, the people’s revolutions of the Middle East are to Al Jazeera English. But in the U.S., in a sad vestige of the era of Freedom Fries, hardly anyone can watch the channel on cable TV.”

And that’s a Good Thing, because cable is a mostly shit in a pipe, sphinctered through a “set top box” that’s actually a computer crippled in ways that maximize control by the cable company and minimize choice for the user. Fifteen years ago, the promise of TV was “five hundred channels”. We have that now, but we also have billions of sources — not just “channels” — over the Net. Cream rises to the top, and right now that cream is Al Jazeera and the top is a hand-held device.

The message cable should be getting is not just “carry Al Jazeera,” but “normalize to the Internet.” Open the pipes. Give us à la carte choices. Let us get and pay for what we want, not just what gets force-fed in bundles. Let your market — your viewers — decide what’s worth watching, and how they want to watch it. And quit calling Internet video “over the top”. The Internet is the new bottom, and old-fashioned channel-based TV is a limping legacy.

A few days ago, President Obama spoke about the country’s “Sputnik moment”. Well, that’s what Al Jazeera in Egypt is for cable TV. It’s a wake-up call from the future. In that future we’ll realize that TV is nothing more than a glowing rectangle with a boat-anchor business model. Time to cut that anchor and move on.

Here’s another message from the future, from one former cable TV viewer: I’d gladly pay for Al Jazeera. Even when I can also get it for free. All we need is the mechanism, and I’m glad to help with that.

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I have to say what nearly fifty thousand Twitter followers already know: nobody does a better job of following and writing about what’s going on in journalism than . The dude just nails it, over and over and over again.

His latest, From Judith Miller to Julian Assange: Our press somehow got itself on the wrong side of secrecy after September 11th, puts the whole Wikileaks matter in the the closest thing we have to an objective view. That is, anchored here: outside the mainstream media. In this Vimeo, he says The watchdog press has died. We have this instead.

It’s true. We now have the Watchdog Web.* It’s not well-behaved, but it has good reason to snarl and shit in the house. Howard Stern nailed it earlier this week when he weighed in on the side of : we have too much secrecy, not enough transparency, and too many collateral effects of secrecy that cause more harm than good — and the mainstream press has abandoned its post. (And before some of you dismiss the source, be careful not to confuse Howard’s X-rated humor with his serious commentary. As long-time listeners know, he’s one helluva sharp observer of politics and much more. And it rocks that his show was just renewed on SiriusXM for another five years. By the way, in announcing his return, Howard said he’d take ‘ recommendations seriously. Jeff is a frequent guest on the show.)

Here are Jay’s latest tweets, all more than worth reading (amazed here that I can copy and paste this in WordPress, but with a little HTML hacking, it sort of works):

Jay Rosen

jayrosen_nyu Jay Rosen
CNN: keeping us safe http://jr.ly/6cdt
Jay Rosen
jayrosen_nyu Jay Rosen
Important. Law professor and ex-Bush Justice Department official Jack Goldsmith: Thoughts on Wikileaks. http://jr.ly/6cdf via @ggreenwald
Jay Rosen
jayrosen_nyu Jay Rosen
5. Everything a journalist learns that he cannot tell the public alienates him from that public. Wikileaks tries to minimize this.#pdfleaks
Jay Rosen
jayrosen_nyu Jay Rosen
4. The state has a monopoly on the legal use of force. But it can have no monopoly on the legitimate use of digital “force.” #pdfleaks
Jay Rosen
jayrosen_nyu Jay Rosen
3. The watchdog press died. More viable today is a distributed “eye on power” that includes the old press as one component part.#pdfleaks
Jay Rosen
jayrosen_nyu Jay Rosen
2. The sources are voting with their leaks. That they go to Wikileaks rather than the newspapers says something about the papers.#pdfleaks
Jay Rosen
jayrosen_nyu Jay Rosen
1. It takes “the world’s first stateless news organization”http://jr.ly/5jnk to show our news organizations how statist they are#pdfleaks
Jay Rosen
jayrosen_nyu Jay Rosen
I’m going to post to Twitter the five major points I made in my presentation to the #pdfleaks symposium in New York today. Here they are…

Here’s the highest respect I can give to Jay’s authority on this stuff: he’s changed my mind. Many times. The first for sure was when he took one line of mine, from this blog post back in 2003 — “Blogging is about making and changing minds” — and ran with it, as did his readers. Which he’s been doing ever since, better and better, with every post, every tweet, every Rebooting the News (with Dave Winer, another veteran at changing my mind).

As Scoop Nisker so perfectly puts it, “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”

*By the way, wasn’t taken when I checked, so I just bought it. If you want it, Jay, it’s yours. If you don’t, I’ll give it to whoever you think can do the most with it.

For whatever reasons, network neutrality has become more of a political football than a technical principle. Lately, however, its advocates have come up with some original new approaches that may de-politicize the matter to some degree, and cause progress (or at least conversation) to occur.

One is John Palfrey’s Citizen’s Choice Framework for Net Neutrality. The key paragraphs:

In this memo, I propose that the FCC should pursue a compromise solution on Net Neutrality that both preserves the open Internet and permits opportunity for reasonable product differentiation and network management on IP networks.

The central tenet of this plan would be to locate the choice to differentiate services with the consumer, not with the Internet Service Provider. The overriding policy goal is to create incentives for increasing bandwidth infrastructure rather than monetizing or encouraging scarcity. And the plan should prioritize Managed Services that support national purposes as set forth in the National Broadband Plan.

Another is On Advancing the Open Internet by Distinguishing it from Specialized Services. Telephony and television are two of those specialized services. Distinguishing those from the open Internet, where (as Barbara van Schewick talked about yesterday) most of the innovation takes place, is critical. Especially since the open Internet today arrives at most of our doors as a secondary or tertiary service in the “triple play” offerings of telephone and television companies.

I think most of us in the U.S. have never experienced truly neutral Internet service from a phone or cable company, and that’s been one of the problems from the start. But we have experienced openness, and even the least technical among us know the difference between what we can do on the Net and what we can do with a phone (even “smart” ones — all of which are still crippled to some degree by phone companies) or a TV set top box. That’s why net neutrality still resonates as a label with users. They want it, even if they can’t define it, and even if no law is passed protecting it. The “it” is openness and support for anything that wants to use the Net. Not bias of the Net’s physical and logical infrastructure for specialized purposes.

The biggest of these will be television, most of which has already moved off the air and the rest of which will eventually move off of cable as well. TV is the elephant about to be digested in the Internet’s snake of time. We want the snake to survive the meal, not to become the meal. To prevent the latter from happening, we need new ideas, new proposals, new businesses, new understandings and undertakings by entities both public and private. These two proposals are both good efforts of that kind.

Hanging here with Dave, getting outlining going again here. This is our second test post.

This is an update.

A picture named espresso.jpgIt’s nice to know Doc’s inner-four-year-old is alive and well.

Please don’t worry his site wasn’t hacked. This is just a test.

Your friends,

Dave and Doc

So here I am on a street in Saverne, France, getting on the Net over a rare open wi-fi hot spot. I was going to tweet something about it, but Twitter is down. So here we are.

There’s one Net, one Web and one Twitter. Many paths through the formers and but one through the latter. Note the preposition. I said through. Twitter’s API allows much, but you still have to go through one company’s proprietary system. Not so with the Net, the Web — or blogging. As with the Net and the Web, blogging is NEA. Nobody owns it, Everybody can use (or do) it, and Anybody can improve it.

Somebody owns Twitter, and only they can improve it.

Twitter is a brilliant creation that has done much to expand uses of the Net, the Web, SMS and other good stuff. But we need what it does to be Net-native and it ain’t yet.

Okay, now I’ll go back off-grid to explore France. Au revoir … from my phone to your whatever.

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When news came on April 21 that ‘s drilling rig had exploded — killing eleven, sinking the rig, and leaving an open oil well gushing a mile down on the ocean floor — my first thought was, What if they can’t plug that thing? I’m still wondering. So far we’ve seen no evidence that they can. One can still hope, but hey: it’s been more than a month. Maybe plugging this thing is kinda like plugging a volcano.

My next thought was, Can the companies involved survive? The environmental impact would surely exceed that of any filed statement’s scenarios. Shoreline habitats, food sources, ways of life and indusrtries that depend on clean gulf coasts and waters would be damaged or destroyed for unknown lengths of time, and across a wide area. All the states adjoining the Gulf of Mexico, including those of Mexico itself, might be affected. So might islands and coasts elsewhere. (Follow the oil’s spread here.) The liabilities here can easily exceed the worth of the liable companies, or their abilities to pay.

Much blaming is going on, of course. Yesterday I heard Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana come down on both BP and the federal government. Those parties have also heaped blame on others. None of it helps. Could be nothing will help, until the well gets plugged, or upward pressure from the oil reservoir drops far enough to make containment possible. [Later... perhaps with the help of a relief well.]

How big is the reservoir here? We knew how much oil the Exxon Valdez carried. In this case, however, I haven’t heard an answer. Maybe one of the rest of ya’ll can find those figures, if they’re available. I’m guessing, from the pressure involved, that it’s large enough to FUBAR the whole Gulf, and then some, for years.

It might help to think of fossil fuel extraction as grave robbing, because that’s what it is. Most of the energy that lights our homes and keeps our computers humming comes directly from dead plants and animals. These are in great supply. In fact, they are more than sufficient to keep us civilized, if your time horizon is human rather than geological. Most humans don’t care about futures beyond those of their grandchildren. Geology, however, is much more patient. You need geology to make oil and coal. And for that geology takes millions of years.

This means, of course, that we will run out of the stuff if we keep extracting and burning it at current rates. But “we” is the wrong pronoun here. The right one is “they.” Because we’ll be dead by then, and so will our grandchildren. It’s an open question whether “they” will be equal to the problems we’ve caused for them.

No species lasts forever. All do what they’re best at, naturally. It’s hard to deny that what we’re best at are at least these three things:

  1. Increasing our numbers
  2. Spreading all over the place
  3. Using up resources — especially those that take millions of years to make and burn up in  an instant.

This last weekend the Wall Street Journal ran Humans: Why They Triumphed, by Matt Ridley. Its closing paragraphs:

There’s a cheery modern lesson in this theory about ancient events. Given that progress is inexorable, cumulative and collective if human beings exchange and specialize, then globalization and the Internet are bound to ensure furious economic progress in the coming century—despite the usual setbacks from recessions, wars, spendthrift governments and natural disasters.

The process of cumulative innovation that has doubled life span, cut child mortality by three-quarters and multiplied per capita income ninefold—world-wide—in little more than a century is driven by ideas having sex. And things like the search engine, the mobile phone and container shipping just made ideas a whole lot more promiscuous still.

Why “triumphed?” Who lost? And what is this dominion of ours, over which we now rule? At what costs, perhaps fatal, do we maintain it?

Etched on the front of the Engineering building at the University of Wyoming, is a large inscription that reads, STRIVE ON — THE CONTROL OF NATVRE IS WON NOT GIVEN. This contributed the title to John McPhee’s The Control of Nature, which, among other things, described exactly what would happen to New Orleans should a levee break, long before the resulting flood actually happened.

I suppose all species are arrogant winners. Ours, however, is uniquely equipped to overcome that natural insanity. Whether we will or not, however, is an open question. My bet, not that I shall ever collect on it, is that we are even more Ozymandian than Shelley imagined — whether the well gets capped or not.

Bonus blog.

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Please get rid of the @#$%^& region coding.

See, our family meant to bring along some movies when we came to Switzerland for our holiday vacation. Forgetting them was my fault. But not being able to watch other movies, that we would be glad to pay for, on our laptop, is not our fault. It’s Hollywood’s.

Thanks to the insanity of region coding, we can’t (or won’t) watch on our laptops because we’d have to buy or rent a DVD for Region 2, while our laptops are Region 1. There are workarounds, but we don’t feel like screwing with those.

We also thought, Hey, we’re Netflix customers. Maybe we could watch live online. The wi-fi connection at the hotel here is surprisingly good (considering that we’re way back up in the Alps). Alas, when we go to Netflix, it says,

  Watching Instantly is Not Available Outside the US

  Our systems indicate that the computer you are using is not located within the 50 United States or District of Columbia. Due to studio licensing reasons, movies are available to watch instantly only on computers in those locations.

So, studios, why screw your own customers? You have a direct relationship with me. I’m one of your customers. I pay to watch your movies.

There has to be a better way than this.

If you can’t figure it out for yourselves, how about working with customers to figure out something that involves point-to-point, customer-seller relationships that enable business, rather than prevent it?

Vroom with a view


I’m not there, in that shot above. That was in Denver, en route from Santa Barbara to Boston last Monday. Now I’m at a different airport — O’Hare in Chicago — en route from Boston to Las Vegas.

Still, I thought it as a nice shot in a pretty set. So there ya go.

I fly United Airlines with a frequency sufficient to earn me 1K status. That stands for more than 100,000 miles per year. I’ve had that status for at least the last three years, and was an Premier Exeutive (next status down) for years before that. United belongs to the Star Alliance, which includes a bunch of other airlines, including Swiss, the airline I am flying today.

So here’s what skeeves me. I can’t pick a seat on Swiss, no matter how far ahead of the flight I book. It’s just not available to non-Swiss flyers. As a non-Swiss flyer (as I understand it, and by now I have spoken to half a dozen or more people), I have to get whatever seat I can at the gate.

Now, I realize that sitting in a chair at 35000 feet and zooming through the sky is a recent and still rare privilege, so maybe I shouldn’t complain. But what’s the point of having flying privileges, and an “alliance,” if there are no privileges for “partner” airlines other than supplying them bodies to fill the seats?

One plus: they have a nice lounge here at Heathrow. See ya in Zurich. Then Boston.

But where?

@Jesusitafire, of the Los Padres National Forest, is tweeting. So far following ø, followed by 12. Hey, it’s a start.

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Twitter says “Something is technically wrong”. The hotel wi-fi is up and down. Mostly down. My Sprint data card gets squat from this hotel. AT&T is borderline useless at #sxsw, probably because 90% of the attendees have iPhones.

My wife is headed off to Europe in the morning, and I’m trying to get her going with a Skype account for her laptop because we failed to unlock the Nokia phone that used to run on AT&T but hasn’t been used in a bit — and because Skype would be good to have in any case. But Skype just gives her a spinning wheel for long periods before saying “Unable to connect to Skype P2P network”, which is apparently a known problem. A post there says to go to http://heartbeat.skype.com/ … but that page doesn’t load.


Now it loads and says everything is fine. It ain’t. So we’re giving up.

Naturally good

Had a great breakfast with Rex at the Bouldin Creek Coffee House and Café in Austin this morning. It’s about 1.5 miles from downtown on South 1st. Found it on Yelp.

Great little place. I had two vegetarian egg variant tacos. One was a veggie chorizo thing (I forget the details), and it was outstanding. The cappuccino was good too. Service and atmosphere are both friendly and comfortable. Highly recommended.

We withdrew from TV this morning. I called Verizon and cancelled our FiOS TV service. Kept the Internet, of course: $64.99 for 20Mb symmetrical service. No complaints there. But what I want from Verizon is á la carte — or something close — and they don’t offer that. If it’s HD you want, it’s kind of all-or-nothing.

The interesting thing: after escalating the call to a higher-level customer service person, Verizon offered to drop the rental fee for the DVR/set top box, and to drop the price of Extreme HD (“more than 100 HD channels”) to $47.99. That’s a good deal, actually, if you watch a lot of TV. The problem is, we don’t. And we need to save money. So: off it went.

If my plane beats the snow out of Logan in 40 minutes, I’ll be speaking and hanging out at Ecomm for the next couple of days. When I get back I might rig up something to get OTA (over the air) TV stations on an old laptop. Not sure, though. I kind of like the idea of moving on completely, to see how that feels.

After that I called Dish Network and cranked service at our West Coast place down to the minimum required to keep the account active. After we get out there in April, we’ll see how we feel about killing the old tube there too. The situation there is a bit different because we’ve invested in a nice big Sony flat screen, and we often have guests over.

By the way, credit where due to Verizon. The quality of the video is better than you’re going to get either from cable or satellite, simply because the data rates through fiber are so much higher. If you’re into TV, and it’s available, go for it. In fact, if you’re into Internet, that service can’t be beat either. Unless you live in France of something.

Meanwhile, I can think of a lot better uses for that bandwidth, especially in the long run.

I just put up Get ready for “fourth party” services, over at Linux Journal. It comes from thinking about new kinds of businesses that serve users, or customers, first.

Traditionally, “third party” companies are accessories to sellers. So I’m thinking we should call accessories to buyers “fourth party” companies.

See what you think.

blogs exist because they fill a void, blogs that refuse to do so become void. Tony Pierce.

Just asking

Has President Obama made a single appointment that says “change”?

Here’s his latest.

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Reading David Armano from Marcus Brown.

Wicked, but funny.

Wish I could embed videos here, but I haven’t mastered that yet.

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Investigating the Financial Crisis and My Passion for Borsalino Hats is an outstanding post by Stephen Lewis — one that characteristically combines several things I didn’t know, starting with a helpful suggestion for incoming administration: a sweeping inquest into the twin housing and stock market crashes to create both the intellectual context and the political constituency for change.

Those words, and the original suggestion (which Steve endorses) are Ron Chernow’s, offered in Where is Our Ferdinand Pecora?, in the New York Times. Turns out Pecora was the former New York proscecutor brought in as chief counsel for the Senate Banking and Currency Committee, which investigated the financial meltdown that ushered in the Great Depression.

I won’t give away the rest of Steve’s story. I’ll just say that anybody who grew up around New York in the mid-to-late 20th Century should be familiar with the setting, if not the characters: Barney’s, the men’s clothing store at the corner of 7th Avenue and 17th Street — a location I recall from having it drilled into my head by decades of radio advertising.

Go read the post. And my “lid” is off to Steve for writing it. Great story.

I may be wrong, but I’ll betting that Esther Dyson is already the most frequent flyer on Earth.

Now she’s looking to fly at higher altitudes.

Here’s the latest on her Edventure site:

UPDATE: I’m currently living in Star City outside Moscow, training to be a cosmonaut as backup to Charles Simonyi. His flight launches March 25. For details of my EDventures, see the LINKS for Hpost and FS blog. (I’m cross-posting.)

And here is her latest at the Flight School blog. Plus an earlier post about committed to blogging as well. Among other things. Read around. Many links to follow.

Hat tip to Chris Locke.

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Let it Snow

We were flying along in the bus when wham: it started snowing. Heavily. Now we’re creeping along through Westchester, and the road is clearly getting a little dangerous. There’s an inch or so on the ground now, and it’ll probably get a lot deeper before it starts raining later and turns it and turns it all into slush. Or “wintry mix,” as they now call it.

Love the weather map above, though. Looks like a flag.

Arg. I’ve got the picture, but WordPress won’t let me put it in this post. Dunno why.

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Tweet on

I’m at the WBUR open house “tweetup”, where I just learned about Tweetworks from Mike Langford. Thus the lego-like greater Twitter add-on zone grows.

Grinding at the hub

We left SFO at 11am yesterday, and got into BOS at 3am. The delay in the middle was at ORD: O’Hare. We arrived at 6pm to find that our 7pm flight had been delayed to 9:10. After going to dinner at the Macaroni Grill (chosen after tweeting a request that was answered nicely by Todd Storch), we parked our butts at the gate, where the departure time kept moving back until it was nearly 11pm. For a long time there was no gate agent at all. But the board behind the counter kept rolling the departure time outward. I finally became one of those travellers who stretches out and sleeps with head on knapsack.

The plane for our flight never arrived, so United put us on another one with fewer rows, which made for even more fun. I felt sorry for whoever didn’t get to Chicago on the plane we couldn’t take.

I did sleep for the whole flight to Logan, then got to bed at 4, and up at 6. Now I’m back in the saddle, at my desk in our apartment.

The biggest relief here is Internet speed. On the road everything seemed slow. The hotel in Morgan Hill, CA barely cleared dial-up speed. The house where we hung out was okay (about 500k up and down), but seemed to take forever to bring anything up. My Sprint data card outperformed every wi-fi connection I encountered.

Here at the apartment we have 20Mb symmetrical service from Verizon FiOS. The hub-router thing craps out a lot, but otherwise it’s rock-solid and makes Net access into a relatively wide smooth highway. The only better connectivity I’ve experienced is at universities.

Anyway, good to be back. Now off to work.

Back in September or so I blogged in favor of the $700 billion stimulus package. In those days, now so long ago, I thought, against my otherwise better judgement, that we needed to do something.

Now I don’t.

Now I think we need to let the train wreck finish happening before we “stimulate” anything. If we even bother at all.

I say that for two reasons.

First is that nobody knows wtf to do, really. If we do anything.

Second is that “doing something” is overrated. For that insight I thank this excellent piece in the Washington Post, by Shankar Vedantam. And to Russ Nelson for pointing to it.

The gist:

  The action bias, or the desire to do something rather than nothing when you have just been through a terrible experience, plays a powerful role in our lives. It influences individuals and companies, investors and leaders. You can see the action bias on display in current thinking on the housing and economic crises, in the bitter debates over the war in Iraq — even in discussions about how to fix a football team that’s a perennial loser.

  When people suffer losses and confront the possibility of even greater reverses — it doesn’t matter if you are talking about a terrorist attack or a meltdown in retirement savings — it is psychologically difficult to do nothing, to hold course. This is true even when the action you contemplate produces an outcome that leaves you demonstrably worse than you were in the first place...

  When things are going well, there is a tendency to stagnate, rather than innovate and make things even better. When things are going poorly, on the other hand, our bias is to flail.

We’re flailing, and we’re doing it with trillions of non-existent dollars. Spending them risks making them even more worthless than they already are.


EOLcat is a palindrome.

0400GMT, 4am London time, seconds after the polls close on the West Coast and Hawaii (and not a vote yet reported from any of those reliably blue states) CNN calls Barack Obama the winner. On the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the NAACP, four months past the 232nd birthday of a country whose first fifteen presidents could have owned slaves, forty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, an African American is being elected President of the United States.

George Will, conservative columnist and historian from Chicago, just quoted King (I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land…) in a warm and humble voice.

His quote is from King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech. It’s about history:

I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” — I would take my mental flight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.

But I wouldn’t stop there. I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and esthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even go by the way that the man for whom I’m named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church in Wittenberg.

But I wouldn’t stop there. I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating president by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

But I wouldn’t stop there. Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.” Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a away that men, in some strange way, are responding — something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same — “We want to be free.”

And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we’re going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demand didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence.

That is where we are today. And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I’m just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period, to see what is unfolding. And I’m happy that He’s allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember, I can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph has said, so often, scratching where they didn’t itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.

And that’s all this whole thing is about. We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying that we are God’s children. And that we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the salves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.

After silencing the boos, John McCain gives a concesson speech for the ages. In the end McCain — a man who has given more for his country than any presidential candidate in history — expresses the kind of grace that is the true source of honor: kindness, generosity, modesty, self-sacrifice. Country First, indeed.

He talks about promise. About how Americans never quit. He places a bookend to the history that has passed since King’s speech, given in Memphis the day before being shot dead there. King’s last paragraph begins,

… I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land.

And here we are.

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Quote du jour

“…the Because Effect feeds on openness. And it’s more than an API.” — Dave Wallace

David Sedaris on undecided voters:

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”
To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

Hat tip to Rob Paterson.

Watching the “debate” between McCain and Obama. Hard not to. After eight years of a truly bad presidency, it matters more than usual who our next prez will be. But these guys aren’t saying much.

Worse, I don’t believe either of them are going to do what they say they’re going to do.

Anyway, I’m shunt-blogging the debate mostly on Twitter.

Bonus link.


Who else reads your e-mail? is an op-ed by my colleague Harry Lewis, in the Christain Science Monitor. At its core is a loophole that’s sort of a peephole:

  The Fourth Amendment states:

  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, ….”

  You might think that means the government can’t clandestinely search your e-mail, but it doesn’t.

  Suppose you use Gmail or Yahoo! mail. If the government wants to see your e-mail, it can have the warrant served on that company. Of course, the service provider has to respond to the warrant, just as you would if the feds came to your house. The difference is that the company decides whether to resist the court order, not you.

By coincidence today is also the release date for Blown to Bits, Harry’s new book, co-authored with Hal Abelson and Ken Ledeen.

Bonus tune.

If just some of this is true, it’s bad news for McCain.


It’s been suggested that Sarah Palin hasn’t had much media training. On the contrary, she had plenty enough as a sports reporter. Check this out:

In that video, from her days reporting for an Anchorage TV station, she’s clearly not Major Market. But you can see how her persona today is a combination of aw-shucks-doggone-it hockey mom, smart political operator and TV personality. And the latter cannot be discounted.

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Here’s a Web Pro News interview of yours truly by Abby Johnson at Blogworld in Las Vegas a couple weeks back. I think I said “um” about a hundred times. Gotta work on that.

Quote du jour

Shel Israel: I think that www.whitehouse.gov should just show the Fail Whale from now through the next inauguration.

Just arrived at LAX, taking a few minutes before flying off to LAV (to which I would like to append oratory) to post a couple of pointers to what I read and heard on the plane.

First is A Conservative for Obama, by Wick Allison, who actually gave the maximum sum to McCain earlier this year, “…when there was still hope he might come to his senses”. A few grafs:

  Liberalism always seemed to me to be a system of “oughts.” We ought to do this or that because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of whether it works or not. It is a doctrine based on intentions, not results, on feeling good rather than doing good.

  But today it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts — a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war — led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.

  Today it is conservatives, not liberals, who talk with alarming bellicosity about making the world “safe for democracy.” It is John McCain who says America’s job is to “defeat evil,” a theological expansion of the nation’s mission that would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth.

  This kind of conservatism, which is not conservative at all, has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse.

  …I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

  Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.

The other is this interview with Tom Friedman on Fresh Air. I’m not sure he’ll succeed at making green “the new red, white & blue”, but if you don’t have enough reasons to vote against McCain already, he’ll load you up with a few more good ones.

Bonus link.

Putting the buyer in charge

The Buyer’s Envelope, Please is a post over at the VRM blog in which I do some thinking out loud about a topic I’m still learning about.


I’m currently #2 on this list, behind Clay Shirky. (In spite of what may be the worst picture ever taken of me.) Context from Dan Thornton.

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Happy Birthday, Pop

Today is the 100th birthday of my father, Allen H. Searls. He only lived about 71 of those years, but they were all good ones, and I miss him still.

I’m writing this from Portland, Maine, on our way up to his sister Grace’s place near Booth Bay, where the family will gather to reminisce and otherwise enjoy the world we all occupy for too short a time.

Here is a photo gallery of shots from Pop’s life, including some amazing ones from his job working as a cable rigger on the George Washington Bridge — a structure that went up, almost literally, in his front yard. (A few decades later, when the lower deck of the bridge went in, the house he grew up in was demolished to make room for more roadwork.)

I’ll be adding more to this collection over the next few days as we scan and upload more shots from this collection and Grace’s as well.

Here’s my report (with links to as much as I could gather in a short time) on the VRM Workshop, over at the ProjectVRM blog.

It was an outstanding event. Lots of projects and subjects were not only vetted with the whole group, but moved forward very effectively. Thanks to everybody who came, or participated over the Web.

And thanks to the Berkman Center for hosting the event, and to Harvard Law School for providing excellent facilities. Well done.

Here is a Fox News video* that tours the Gap Fire area from the air. It’s clearly submitted by an amateur using a helicopter, judging from the monolog, flavored with casual explitives. To those (like me) familiar with the landscape, the video does an excellent job of showing how “perimeter” is a mileading notion. The fire is in many places at once. Wish that Fox or the shooter gave us a time/date for the footage. (Maybe they do and I miss it.) Seems to be from yesterday morning.

A lot of commenters on Edhat take exception to Santa Barbara’s decision to go ahead with the city’s fireworks on the waterfront. I don’t. It looks right now like the fire’s moving away from the city, which means plenty of work for firefighters keeping the rest of us safe to enjoy the holiday. Huge kudos to them for some of the hardest and most dangerous work that humans can do.

* I lost the direct link. The link to the video was in a narrow banner atop this story on Fox News, which I found via an Edhat comment. The banner is gone, and I can’t find anything through searches on the Fox site. I can still see the video, which comes up in a separate window, but copying the URL doesn’t seem to work. The URL I see is not what copies. Instead it’s the story that no longer has the banner with the link in it. (I hate this too-clever video crap on sites like this. Not to mention the lame search as well.) If anybody else has luck, let us know in the comments below. It really is an interesting video.

Got my first “thin” meal with my second breakfast this morning. The first breakfast was the usual broth and tea. Then for lunch I had my first real meal: baked scrod, a salad with strawberries and dried cranberries with a few almond slices and a lowfat dressing. Chicken noodle soup with a few crackers. Generic stuff. But I loved eating it, while watching clips from The Last Waltz on the laptop.

It’s been about an hour since then, and everything feels fine. My bloodwork shows everything normalized. Blood pressure of 120/70, heart rate of 58, oxygen uptake of 98%: an athletic profile in the absence of any cause other than genetics. My liver and pancreatic chemicals all look fine. White cell count is high at 20, but coming down from wherever it was. No fever in days.

Gotta make room here for sick people. Figuring I’ll punch out in a couple hours. Can’t wait.

Yesterday on the drive from SFO to Palo Alto, I hit SCAN on the rental car radio. Aside from the sports shows and the still-awesome KPIG (with a little signal on 1510 out of Oakland… check it out), most of what I heard was partisanship at all costs.

Eventually you get slips like this one on Fox News, by the formerly substantive journalist Liz Trotta. What began as a slip of the tongue ended with a slip of the mind that is just freaking scary.

Sez Trotta,

I am so sorry about what happened yesterday and the lame attempt at humor. I fell all over myself, making it appear that I wished Barack Obama harm, or any other candidate, for that matter, and I sincerely regret it and apologize to anybody I have offended. It is a very colorful political season, and many of us are making mistakes and saying things we wish we had not said.

… but saying things which, at some level, we still mean. That level in this case is a warped and degraded form of conservatism, dressed as news and delivered as entertainment. Again, partisanship at all costs.

What Liz Trotta told her audience was to hate Obama as much as it hates Osama. And to trivalize the advice, all in one move. Were any unhinged future assassins watching? Let’s hope not.

While the kid had his violin lesson this evening at his school, I went out and shot hoops for as long as it took. Hits vs. Misses, all shots from beyond the foul line in any direction. When the kid came out, I was up 42 to 37. After we started playing HORSE, a couple of athletic young folks, a guy and his girlfriend, invited us to play a quick game to eleven, two on two. Make-it-take-it. The Kid made most of our points, but I hit the winning shot from out near top of the key. Swish. Nothing but net: 11-8.

Of course, the guy on the other team wanted his girlfriend to take most of their shots. He probably could have beaten us one-on-two. He was that good. But still, it felt satisfying. I think the last time I played an Actual Game was in the Ford Administration. Made me want to do more. Which is ludicrous, since I’m overweight, pushing 61, and gifted with the leaping ability of a culvert. Still, I played, made rebounds and put up shots that went in; and that alone felt good.

More Motown

It’s a warm breezy day in Cambridge, a perfect pre-summer day for the Motown Orgy that WHRB is holding right now. I caught it first this morning on my way back from dropping the kid off at school, and it’s been hard to tune away since. Great radio, even though it’s weird getting schooled by DJs a third my age about what I still regard as my music (along with that of a billion or so other people).

WHRB doesn’t have a huge signal on the air. But their stream sounds great (in 96kbps stereo), worldwide. That’s the high-bandwidth one. If you’re listening over the cell system or someting, use the low bandwidth one.

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.


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.

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.

Quote du jour

Cable is not a monopoly. You can choose from any cable company you want in America, just by moving your house. — Brad Templeton, at F2C

Taking notes on the Media Re:public gathering here in Los Angeles.

“Its not clear to me that one unit of increase in media equals one unit of increase in democracy” — Ernest Wilson, of the USC Annenberg School of Communications.

Arianna Huffington: “Bloggers suffer from compulsive disclosure disorder, and journalists suffer from attention deficit disorder.” (Damn, I’m both, though one is — mostly — under control.) Quoted by Richard Sambrook, currently on stage. Might have that a bit off. Also, “The DNA of big media is absolutely hard-wired to the one-to-many model.” He continuers, UGC is “way too narrowly defined”. And “this kind of participation is still a minority sport”. Great line: “The notion that you need a business model for accountability is an interesting one.”

“YouTube, I understand, is about to go live”. That’ll be fun.

“Personalization has overpromised and underdelivered for fifteen years. But I think it’s about to happen.” And “Web 3.0 … the data driven Web… is about to break hard upon us.”

“Reinvent a social purpose for media that resonates with the public”: A challenge to the room.

EthanZ to Richard: Do you believe citizens can shape the agenda? Rather than you guys choose first and (and then the audience reacts)? He advises “really sophisticated media monitoring”; but of the blogosphere, and not just other traditional media.

Susan Mernit on reconnecting media with social purpose… We only see two kinds of coverage: events that happen, and events that people make (e.g. civic leaders).

Much more (than what I’ve written here) from David Weinberger and Ethan Zuckerman.

Roberto Suro, USC Annenberg: We conflate journalism as a business enterprise with journalism as a social actor.

David Weinberger, speaking, being deep and funny as usual: We spend most of our time online trying to figure out what we came in to do… Every tag is a front page. Every tag is a bookshelf.

DW: In an age of abundance of good, the struggle is over metadata. And, I have trouble applying the ‘commodification’ term to everything here, because it suggests that all things have equal value. Or low value.

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Not just talk

Was just pointed to The Age of Conversation. Not sure I’m in it (don’t think I am, anyway). But hey, I’m glad to see others roll a snowball I helped start.

Next up: The Age of Relationship.

My main disappointment with living in Boston this winter is the crappy snow. I think we’ve had only one or two snows this winter that were not what they ephemistically call “wintry mix”: snow mixed with or changing to rain. This morning we had another nice little snow, about half an inch, that has since been washed out almost completely by rain. What started pretty turned into a completely yucky day.

Still, we had a great time. Guests came. We dyed eggs. Had a great dinner. And I cloned the old dying laptop onto a new one that so far seems to work fine.

The music that comes to mind is When the Music’s Over, by The Doors. These lines especially:

  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

(Warning: be careful what you click on.)

I suppose there are more charitable ways to view how human beings have gouged and stained the Earth. Charitable toward humans, anyway.

The older I get, the more I view the human contribution to geology — that is, toward the Earth itself — as catastrophic. That is, a moment of difference recorded in the fullness of time.

Most of your large geological features are catastrophic in nature. The Himilayas are mostly sea floor pushed northward by the prow of India, which broke away from Africa a few dozen million years ago, plowed across the ocean and smashed hard into the side of Asia — an event that’s still in progress. (The east coast of Madagascar and the Malabar coast of India are two straight lines that used to touch.) As John McPhee likes to remind us, all of geology can be encapsulated in a single fact: that the summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone

And no one fact about human habitation of the Earth sums our contribution more than amount of dead matter we have burned for energy — and will continue to burn until it’s gone. Never mind the elemental materials — the ores of copper, iron, uranium and other solids in the periodic table. Mining and burning of oil and coal will do. At best these materials — which took many millions of years to make, and which won’t be renewed for millions more, if ever — will be gone in a few hundred years, tops. Most of us don’t care because we won’t be here. And we care no more about our nameless descendents than we do about our nameless ancestors. We hardly care that burning fossil fuels is melting the ice caps and raising the seas. Humans on the whole don’t seem to be built for that form of contemplation. What we are built for is plunder. We do that out the wazoo, and we rationalize every bit of it, from burning rain forests to emptying mountains and prairies of coal.

After taking thousands of pictures out the windows of airplanes, it is clear to me that our species is pestilential, and that we’ll continue to exploit the Earth until it can stand no more, and collapse will follow. This event will also be recorded as a momentary discontinuity in the long saga of Earth’s history — one that went for billions of years without us around, and will surely continue for billions more, until the Sun burns out and the larger cycles continue spinning.

Of course, we can attempt to educate ourselves, and I salute the good folks who try. One is Patrick Gregston, who says here that we should watch this video here. Do that. It’s one among many wake-up calls we’ll all be getting in our short lifetimes.

Odds are, however, that most of us will keep hitting “snooze”.

Live and kicking

Nice to read by Phil Windley that Kathy Sierra is back in the game.

Buzz on buzz

Buzz Bruggeman, to Kevin O’Keefe:

  It’s very difficult for me to imagine today that a successful lawyer would not have an active blog. It’s sort of like imagining that they wouldn’t have business cards, or imagining that they wouldn’t have their number in a phone book — it’s a way to discover them, a way to understand a lot about them, a way to reach out to them. And [it] provides an easy way to comment on what they write, to make the conversation even richer. Blogs are a lot about conversations. If there’s no conversation, it’s difficult for a potential client to get their head around who you are, what you’re doing and how you think.

We should have known the gig was going to be up when Hillary’s handlers made “conversation” a buzztheme of her campaign early on. Wrote Todd Ziegler (at that last link),

  The tagline “Let the Conversation Begin” is plastered all over her site and she begins her annoucement video with this quote: “I’m not just starting a campaign, I’m beginning a conversation.”

Guess that’s over. The word “conversation” no longer appears on the Hillary campaign site.

Now (via Chip Hoagland) comes Frank Rich, giving Hill a huge thumbs-down in The New York Times. One sample:

  For a campaign that began with tightly monitored Web “chats” and then planted questions at its earlier town-hall meetings, a Bush-style pseudo-event like the Hallmark special is nothing new, of course. What’s remarkable is that instead of learning from these mistakes, Mrs. Clinton’s handlers keep doubling down.

  Less than two weeks ago she was airlifted into her own, less effective version of “Mission Accomplished.: Instead of declaring faux victory in Iraq, she starred in a made-for-television rally declaring faux victory in a Florida primary that was held in defiance of party rules, involved no campaigning and awarded no delegates. As Andrea Mitchell of NBC News said, it was “the Potemkin village of victory celebrations.”

  The Hallmark show, enacted on an anachronistic studio set that looked like a deliberate throwback to the good old days of 1992, was equally desperate. If the point was to generate donations or excitement, the effect was the reverse. A campaign operative, speaking on MSNBC, claimed that 250,000 viewers had seen an online incarnation of the event in addition to “who knows how many” Hallmark channel viewers. Who knows, indeed? What we do know is that by then the “Yes We Can: Obama video fronted by the hip-hop vocalist will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas had been averaging roughly a million YouTube views a day. (Cost to the Obama campaign: zero.)

  Two days after her town-hall extravaganza, Mrs. Clinton revealed the $5 million loan she had made to her own campaign to survive a month in which the Obama operation had raised $32 million to her $13.5 million. That poignant confession led to a spike in contributions that Mr. Obama also topped.

It gets worse. Concludes Rich,

  A race-tinged brawl at the convention, some nine weeks before Election Day, will not be a Hallmark moment. As Mr. Wilkins reiterated to me last week, it will be a flashback to the Democratic civil war of 1968, a suicide for the party no matter which victor ends up holding the rancid spoils.

Elsewhere in the Times, Stanley Fish writes about the Clinton-haters (and -hating), familiar to anybody who hits SCAN on an AM car radio. I’m not sure what it is that makes folks on the right loathe (rather than merely dislike) the Clintons, Hillary especially. And I hold nothing against her myself. But it’s … interesting … to watch Democrats slow-roast one of their own leaders. After all (or during all) Frank Rich isn’t flaming from the right. Rich is a leftie.

What surprises — and even saddens — me a bit is that Hillary has been so non-savvy about the Net. If this were 2000, or 2004, she’d have a good excuse. But it’s 2008. Obviously her campaign team doesn’t get it, while Obama’s does. How much difference would it have made if her team’s savviness were the equal of Obama’s? A lot, I think.

Conversation convocation

I’ll be at There’s a New Conversation, in New York, on the evening afternoon of Feb 13. Subtitled, Cluetrain Manifesto – 10 years later. Numbers aren’t really ages, of course. While Cluetrain hit the webwaves in early ’99 and the book was written that summer (to come out in January of ’00, just in time to cause the dot-com bubble crash… sorry), the conversations that eventuated in the Cluetrain instantia began in ’98, so I guess we’re cool dating the dawn from then. Via Ted Shelton and James McKee.

Now hear these

NewsGang Lives.

Tony wishes Moxie a Happy Birthday, recalling the July 12, 2002 party at which many L.A. bloggers, including yours truly, met. Here’s my own rundown on the event. Here are PatioPundit (Martin Devon)’s pix and commentary. Nice to see both his blog and his archives are still up. Perhaps not so nice to see he hasn’t posted since October. Nor has the party’s host, Brian Linse.

When I check the links, and names, from that party, it’s kinda sad to see some gone silent or gone altogether. Moxie and Tony are still going strong. So are Mickey Kaus, Matt Welch, Charles Johnson, Emmanuelle Richard, Bill Quick. But I’m not sure where Dawn Olsen went (that link now goes to a blog that I doubt is hers). Or Ann Salisbury. Warren Zevon, who was never a blogger but who attended the party while life was killing him, is dead.

Lot of offline talk lately about what’s happened to blogging. One friend sent an email I hope he puts up soon. Among other quotable lines is “most of the blogosphere has become a full-on commercial wankfest now”.

Not that it wasn’t then. But it was fun to hang out with a bunch of people, most of whose politics were vastly unlike my own — but whose writing was interesting and compelling and fresh and far more personal and open-ended than any op-ed page — and to believe we were beginning to make some kind of positive difference in the world. In retrospect, I don’t think any of us was making a dime on blogging at the time. For what that’s worth. If anything.

Bonus links… Competing Messages: Elections and Governance and Honesty. They both challenge. They both make you think. The Bill Hicks video on marketing in the latter is way too close to what too many of us — including yours truly in a former life — call home.

That was the sunrise on New Year’s Day here in Santa Barbara. Here’s the sunset from the same day:

Both were harbingers of sorts. As I write this we’re having the worst rain of the new year. Huge storm happening.

Y Hoosgot

A couple nights ago David Sifry floated an interesting idea past me: a LazyWeb facilitation service that would flow tweet or blog requests for answers through a bloglike site to which readers could subscribe. Something like that, anyway.

I liked it because it looked to me like a Live Web service with aspects as well. (For example, it empowers individuals to issue requests, independently of any supplier’s silo.)

Dave was looking for name ideas. One I came up with was “hoosgot” — as in “who’s got ___?” Coming up with names isn’t easy these days, with nearly every possible word combination scarfed up, either by legitimate sites or domain squatters. Anyway, Dave went with that one.

Interestingly, the Live Web was first named by my son Allen, whose company GlobeAlive worked to shorten the distance between questions and answers — as did Wondir, the next company Allen worked for.

This is different, but it moves toward a related ideal: getting answers (and things) from the lazyweb. It’ll be interesting to see how Hoosgot goes.

Here’s where Dave explains Hoosgot, and how he’d like feedback and suggestions.

In The RIAA is Right, Robert Scoble offers a tongue-in-cheek take on the RIAA’s insane idea that ripping one’s own CDs is illegal.* Among other things he says,

  5. This behavior will make sure people buy (or steal) music directly from bands. See how Radiohead did it. By doing that the price for music will go down thanks to fewer intermediaries. RIAA is just helping us get rid of them, which is good for everyone who loves music. See, they are on our side! I’m looking for a site that lets us do Vendor Relationship Management with bands. Doc Searls taught me about VRM. What is that? When we can get the company to do what WE want. Radiohead put the power of setting the price in OUR hands. Brilliant.

Robert is right about all but one thing. Because VRM is about independence as well as engagement, it can’t come from “a site”. Or from anybody other than ourselves. It’s something that lives on the buyer’s side, allowing him or her to relate independently with many suppliers, on terms that are mutually agreeable.

I unpack some of this in a comment under Robert’s post.

A few months ago I also proposed a VRM system that would extend the RadioHead model to any artist.

* According to this post, that’s not really what the RIAA is doing, but they’re “still kinda being jerks about it”.

My sister Jan put up a nice photo series of our Aunt Grace Apgar, flying with our cousin Mark Crissman. Grace is 95 and doesn’t look or act a day over… hell, pick a number. Make it a low one.

Her mom lived to 107, and Grace is in better shape at 95 than Grandma was at the same age.

Hoping here that some of those long-lasting genes got distributed in my old bones too.

Cool to see Dave is going to CES. This has become an annual pilgrimage for me — covering the event for . 2008 is no exception. I’ll be there for the whole thing. (Though I’ll skip the always crowded and equally pointless Bill Gates keynote.)

CES stands for Consumer Electronics Show, although it’s really about Producer Electronics. At some point the abundance of individual and small producers will outweigh the big name brand ones, and a flip will happen in the marketplace. I think that will come when the customers are no longer just consumers, but active participants in the market’s conversation about product development. There are already moves in that direction. Expect many more.

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

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

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

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

Building vs. Buzz

Dave on non-centralization:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question du jour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the early paragraphs are these:

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

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

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

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

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

Po concludes,

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

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

  But what if he makes the wrong conclusion?

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

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

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

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

True, and cool

Craig Smith: The road to the Academy Awards now goes through Santa Barbara.

Over at Linux Journal, I just posted Maybe UCANN school ICANN on whois. It begins,

  Raise your hand if you use whois every day. Even if your hand isn’t up, and you just regard whois as am essential sysadmin tool, this post is for you.

  Because if you’re interested in keeping whois working for the those it was made for in the first place, you need to visit the battlefield where whois’ future is being determined right now. That is, you must be Beowulf to the Grendel that is the Intellectual Property Community. Worse, you must confront him in the vast cave that is ICANN.

The subject is equally geeky, wonky and important. You might wanna check it out.

Lanna Action for Burma, a new Thai blog, is running a Panty Power Campaign against the government next door, in Burma. I’m not making this up. Here’s what it says:

SPDC is the State Police and Development Council, which rules Burma, brutally.

The pointer comes from a friend in Thailand who says this thing is serious — or about as serious as things like this can be. Except there is nothing else like this. But I’m not there and have no idea.

Meanwhile, Violet Cho of The Irrawaddy writes this in “Panties for Peace” Campaign Wins Wide Support:

The “Panties for Peace” campaign aimed at Burma’s military regime is gaining momentum, with the establishment of a committee to drum up support in Thailand.

The campaign began on October 16, with women throughout the world sending packages to Burmese embassies containing panties. Burma’s superstitious generals, particularly junta chief Than Shwe, believe that contact with any item of women’s wear deprives them of their power.

“Panties for Peace” campaigns have sprung up in Australia, Europe, Singapore—and now Thailand, where a Lanna Action for Burma committee has been formed in Chiang Mai to support the feminine protest.

Ying Tzarm, a co-founder of Lanna Action for Burma, told The Irrawaddy that the campaign was aimed at undermining the superstitious beliefs of the military regime.

Liz Hilton, a supporter of the Lanna Action for Burma and a member of the Empower foundation, said that by sending underwear to the men of Burma’s overseas embassies women would be delivering a strong message to the regime.

Beats going to war, seems to me.

Nice Vue

To Andria Krewson at Global Vue for the kudos. Good stuff there, btw. Also at Andria’s other blog.

Brother, here art thou

Every family has a black sheep. That’s what Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, said after discovering that Lynne Cheney revealed that Barack and Dick are 8th cousins.


Looking for my Leopard. Silly. But I laughed.

Quote du jour

Zoli: our online network should reflect our real-life one, instead of being an inflated collection of data record Amen.

Flying hEyer

As Rick Segal reports, I’ve taken a board seat with PlanetEye, a Toronto-based company in the travel space. (One which, as many of you know, I practically live in.) I’m equally excited and flattered to be there, and look forward to helping the PlanetEye bring the Intention Economy to an industry that desperately needs it. If you’re interested in PlanetEye’s beta, by the way, there’s more here.

Reading through the comments to Loose Linkage, where I pionted to Jalopnik’s What’s the oldest car you’ve ever owned, I got to wondering if I could remember every car I ever owned, and what happened to it. Here’s a try:

  1. 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. Black. 1200cc engine. Belonged to my parents. Rolled it during summer school after my freshman year in college. In fact, it rolled over three times before coming to rest right-side up. I remember trying to hold onto the bottom of the seat, watching the pavement come up to the window and disappear overhead, over and over again. I was fine, but the bug was totaled. Still, it brought $425 at auction from a guy who cut it in two and attached the front end of it to the back of another one. New it was $1250 or so.
  2. 1960 English Ford Consul. Black. Leaked oil from everywhere. Bought it for $400, sold it for almost nothing, which is what it was worth. The low point came when it croaked in Hickory, NC, where it limped after the alternator belt blew up on the Blue Ridge and where no replacement could be found, so we had to hitch back to Greensboro. In the rain. As I recall no belts could be found to fit around the alternator pulley, and for awhile we used some nylon hose tied into a loop.
  3. 1958 Mercedes 220S. Midnight blue. Bought it for $250, needed new upholstery, which I put in. Had a “hydrax” semi-automatic transmission. 4-on-the-column, no clutch. The couchlike seats reclined all the way, making the interior into a double bed. This made it a very romantic car. Alas, the transmission went bad, and I sold it for $75.
  4. 1963 Chevy Bel Air. 283 V8. Rochester carb. My parent’s old car, and the first new car they had ever bought. Drove it to 125,000 miles, when the transmission started to go. Sold it.
  5. 1966 Pugeot 404 wagon. Bought for $500. Had dents in all four doors, and lots of stupid “features” such as screw-on hubcaps and spark plugs hidden down inside the valve cover at the far ends of bakelite sleeves that would break. Got rid of it after driving it from New Jersey to North Carolina, in the middle of which a resonator can on the exhaust manifold blew off; and, in an unrelated matter, large hunks of the floor between the front seat and the pedals fell out, so I could see the pavement under my feet, hear the engine noise bypass the exhaust system, and breathe the exhaust, all at once — for another 400 miserable miles.
  6. 1966 Volvo 122S. Bought it from my parents, who bought it new in Belgium . Great car, very solid. Ran out of oil once, however, and damaged the engine. Sold it with 110K miles on it to a guy who replaced the engine.
  7. 1967 (?) Austin America. Belonged originally to my sister. Loaned from my father, who later sold it for almost nothing, which is what it was worth. An early front-wheel drive, it had lots of good ideas but terrible construction. I think Pop sold it for $10.
  8. 1971 (?) Datsun pickup. My father’s, actually. But I drove it for awhile. It had two sets of points in the distributor. Very confusing. Mastering those helped me later when I had a girlfriend with a Datsun 610 wagon.
  9. 1969 Chevy Biscayne. Snot green. Black vinyl seats. Looked like an unmarked cop car. Developed leaks in the roof. Turning on the heat would steam up the windows. Don’t remember how I got rid of it.
  10. 1978 Volkswagen Squareback. Bought it from a buddy for $200, sold it for $225. Something like that. My buddy and I fixed it more often than we would have, had not beers been involved in prior fixes. A few months after I sold it, cops showed up at my door to tell me I needed to get its corpse out of the woods, where somebody had set it on fire. Still had my plates on it. Fortunately, I had the paperwork for the sale. No idea what happened after that.
  11. 1969 Pontiac Catalina. “Big White.” Bought if from my uncle. The trunk would fill with water in the rain, making it useless for carrying stuff in there. Not sure what happened to that one, either.
  12. 1980 Chevy Citation. The famous “X car”, created to compete with Chrysler’s equally bad “K car”. It had front wheel drive, which was new in those days, and a roomy sloping hatchback. But it was crap and didn’t last long. Gave it up in a divorce, in trade for my ex’s old Pinto.
  13. 1974 Ford Pinto wagon. One of the worst cars ever made. This one had been in an accident at some point in the long prehistory before I came into possession of it, and the frame was bent, so it moved crabwise down the road. Every once in awhile it would start to veer wildly out of control, even on the straightaway. It did this once on the boulevard between Chapel Hill and Durham, hooking bumpers with another car, sending them both spinning. Fortunately, the Pinto’s bumper bent completely while the other hardly had a dent, which was both strange and amazing. The lady driving the other car wanted money anyway, and I paid. At some point the car just died, as best I recall.
  14. 1979 Honda Accord hatchback. Very nice, smooth-running car that went completely dead on a winding coastal road in the black of night, and then produced light in the form of a flame coming up from between my legs. I slowed to a stop as quickly as I could while feeling the shoulder of the road like I was reading braille through my right tires. When I fished a flashlight out of the glove box and got out of the car I found the car had come to rest exactly one foot from a parked car in front of it. A look under the dash revealed a hot lead (from the + side of the electric system) to Everything had been cut at some point in the past, spliced poorly and wrapped in gooey old black electric tape. As the splice came undone, electricity passed through an ever-narrower path until it turned into an incendiary thread, set fire to the tape and then fell apart. So it was easily fixed. But the car, in a very un-Honda-like way, was cursed with problems. I sold it to a young woman for whom it performed fine until the engine blew up. She contacted the mechanic who sold it to me in the first place, found that he had misrepresented the car (saying the engine was original, for example, when it wasn’t), and then sued me rather than him, because I had sold her the car. It was a small claims case in North Carolina. I was by then living in California. So I settled. By then, fortunately, I had bought my…
  15. 1985 Toyota Camry. Basic model with a stick. My first new car, and the first that had working air conditioning. Best car I ever had. Gave it to my daughter when I got the Subaru in the early 90s. I think it went way past 300,000 miles. It may still be working, somewhere in Santa Cruz, which is where she gave it away.
  16. 1986(?) Subaru 4Wd wagon. Tried to drive it into the ground but failed and gave it to a friend earlier this year. It’s still going.
  17. 2000 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Bought for $5k from a friend who was moving out of the country. Put another $3k into it, to bring it up to top shape. Wish it was a stick, but otherwise it’s a great little car. [Summer 2009 update: I have since put another $10k into it. I've never known a better-made yet more repair-intenstive car.]

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few, but that’s an outline for countless stories.

[Later...] Fun comments below. By far the most entertaining (or frightening, or both) pointage out goes to the Head Lemur’s list. Wow. Reminds me of Hot Rod Lincoln, one of the Great Gassed Insanity Songs. Those linked lyrics, by the way, are from the Commander Cody version. The Commander gives the definitive performance of the piece (I just went through the karaoke exercise supported by the audio at that last link, and The Kid said he was glad “nobody was here” to hear it), although full props go to George Wilson for writing (and living) the original.

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Yes, it was.

“I saw your dad playing basketball yesterday,” a girl in my kid’s school told him yesterday. “It was weird”, she said.

Learning to drive

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

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

Where there’s smoke…

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

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

That was 17 minutes ago, as I write this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We almost went to Cedar Breaks, but it was raining heavily up there — and all around that part of Utah — when we left Cedar City this morning. So we went up 15 to 50 and headed down to 70, where we took in the Castle Country, San Rafael Swell and San Rafael Reef before arriving at Moab in late afternoon, just in time to take in some nice (though very intermittent) lighting on the most amazing rock formations in the world.

Check here for pix. They’re uploading now on the dial-up speed wi-fi here at the hotel.

I’m hitting the sack, hoping to catch the solar eclipse at 4am or so.

Mashing is believing

Two casual photos I’ve taken of Baltimore have made their way into the Schmap guide for the city.

Quote du jour

JP Rangaswami: When you don’t focus on the user, the user gets shafted.

That’s when the antecedent of you is a developer or a company that needs, by mission, to focus on users.

Such may not be the case, however, for deep infrastructure developers. This is why with Linux, for example, we draw a sharp distinction between kernel space and user space.

What happens in user space depends on what happens in kernel space, but user space doesn’t run development in kernel space. More about that here and here.

Ray Ford has an excellent piece in the Independent on the .

The good news:

  With today’s morning fog — almost a misty drizzle — Paradise, Rosario Park and Camino Cielo residents can rest assured that the danger is over for them.

The bad news:

  By day’s end the fire had crossed almost the entire length of Buckhorn Road from Little Pine to Big Pine Mountain — more than a ten-mile section — causing the fire to expand dramatically into the Dick Smith Wilderness and, more ominously, towards Santa Barbara. What had been a relatively narrow fire confined to the deep interior of the backcountry now has more than twenty miles of uncontrolled fire line that now has multiple heads, with each posing its own threat.

  The Zaca Fire has not only moved into an entirely new phase, there is a potential for major fire growth, loss of huge chunks of habitat and a serious threat to the South Coast.

This map from the NewsPress shows the expanded fire perimeter. Not sure how it matches up with the Independent’s report. The official maps are at InciWeb, which is down as I write this.

It’s frustrating to follow this from the other side of the country. I’m listening right now to “The Baron” Ron Herron on AM 1290, the News-Press station. There’s a link to the stream on the NewsPress home page. Even live coverage is locked behind a subscriber paywall, however. And the station itself has no webpage, which is inexcusable for a news station.

KTMS is back to being “AM 990″. I guess they’re still also on 1490 and have decided not to sell off the 990 signal. But there’s nothing live on the site. No streams. Dennis Miller (yes, that one) is on right now. He’s actually a good morning man. You can subscribe to the show for $49.95/year. Podcasts are free, it appears. Dennis lives in Montecito, the thoroughly wooded town that comprises the East End of Santa Barbara.

Now The Barron is reading news from this morning’s paper. This has been the routine since AM 1290 went on the air a couple years ago. The news station itself has no apparent news staff. The station just ran CNN news, and is now running BBC World Service. Not exactly Local Stuff.

It’s going on a month since I wrote Lighting a fire for public radio in Santa Barbara. Nothing much has changed since then, other than the urgency.

I won’t be back in town until after the 15th. If we still have a house, and a town, it would be good to meet and talk about the possibilities. A number of people have written me with support for getting the ball rolling. If you want to add to that number, say so in the comments below, or send an email to (my first hame)@(my last name).com.