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The first time I went to Twitter this morning, I got this:

Before that, the computer had been asleep all night.

I still haven’t tweeted anything this morning.

There must be some meaning behind the message, but the message itself says nothing useful.

When I’ve seen this before, I thought perhaps Twitter in my browser had been hitting the API too hard for updates or something. But I didn’t even have my browser open. Neither my computer nor I had been doing anything with Twitter — as far as I know.

This story says, “Twitter restricts the amount you can access the service to a set rate in an effort to prevent apps from mercilessly pinging Twitter every x number of seconds.” But what apps are pinging the server? How? What can a user do to get an app to back off — or even see which app needs to back off?

I have many dozens of apps on my phone. Could it be one of those? Since the computer was asleep and the phone was on I’d guess so, but I have no idea. When I look at the apps that might be open, in the “tray” (or whatever that is) at the bottom of my iPhone screen (which only appears if I double-click on the button), I see nothing obvioius that might hit Twitter. Clock? Calendar? Voice Memos? Foursquare? Of those I’d guess Foursquare, but I can’t find where in Foursquare I could control how it hits Twitter’s API, or have anything to do with Twitter. Its settings say nothing about Twitter.

Could it be the Twitter app? I just noticed that it was open too. I can’t think of any other culprit at this point.

This piece by Chat Catacchio points to Twitter’s Rate Limits FAQ. That in turn points to a Rate Limits page. That points to an About Rate Limits page. And that points to an API rate limiting page. Nothing helpful in any of them, that I can see.

Adds Chad, “Some API clients, including Twitter’s own products, have additional rate limit allowances.” What those ‘additional rate limit allowances’ are, only Twitter knows.”

Whatever the trouble is, Twitter doesn’t provide an easy way to shoot it.

Here’s the bigger problem: We have come to treat Twitter as infrastructure, and clearly it is not. It is a huge single point of failure, and it sorely needs to be substitutable.

By that I mean you can tweet on other sites, or on your own server, and have those tweets followed by anybody. It means your followers don’t need Twitter to follow you — they don’t need anybody other than you.

Can you do that with Status.Net? If so, somebody please tell me how. (This should be helpful.)

[Later...] I turned off the Twitter app on my iPhone, and haven’t run into the usage limit again yet. Coincidence?

If the Twitter app really is to blame, there needs to be a way it can warn the user that it’s hitting the API too often, and offer a way to reduce that form of background traffic.

[Later again...] Well, it’s now the 13th. I haven’t had the Twitter app open on the phone, I’ve turned off a number of other services on the Web that might be hitting the Twitter API on my behalf, and I hardly looked at Twitter at all today before making one tweet. And I got the “hourly usage limit” message again.

This is fucked up.

By the way, I would pay Twitter to avoid this hassle. I that the idea? If so, maybe it’s working. But it’s a shitty shakedown, if true.

 

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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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The comment thread in my last post was lengthened by Seth Finkelstein‘s characterization of me as “basically a PR person”. I didn’t like that, and a helpful back-and-forth between the two of us (and others) followed. In the midst of the exchange I said I would unpack some of my points in a fresh post rather than branch off in the comment thread. So here we are.

We tend to be defined by what we do. Or, in some cases, what we’ve done. Many of our surnames describe the work of an ancestor. Carpenter. Baker. Weaver. Tanner. Of my own surname, it says here,

In his book, Surnames of the United Kingdom, Harrison writes that the surname Searle, Searls, Searles, Serle, Serles, Serrell, or Serrill is of Teutonic origin signifying “Armour or Arms”. It is derived from the Old Teutonic Serlo, Sarla, Sarl, Sarilo, Serilo. Serli ” and the Old English “Searo”, it is the equivalent of the Old High German “Saro” which is the same as the old Norse ” Sorus” meaning Armor arms, skill or device.”

A soldier, I guess. My father, Allen H. Searls, was a soldier, both before and during WWII (he re-enlisted at age 36). But basically he was a carpenter: a builder. So was his father, George William Searls. Also George’s father, Allen Searls. Also Allen’s father, Samuell Searls. I’m not, but my daugther Colette married Todd Carpenter. So my grandson is a Carpenter too.

By the time I knew him, my father was an insurance agent. But he saw himself more as an builder of useful stuff. Thus our basement was a workshop. Pop’s brother-in-law, Archie Apgar, was a banker by day and a builder the rest of the time. In the summer of 1949, the two of them together built our summer house in the woods of South Jersey. (In a paradise of pine, oak and blueberries, now home to a shopping center.) My father was also a longshoreman, a cable-rigger on the George Washington Bridge, and a builder of railroad trestles. He did that in Alaska, where he met my mother, a social worker who had grown up in North Dakota. They married after the War and moved to New Jersey, where Mom worked for many years as a teacher. Her maiden name was Oman, borrowed by a grandfather from a fellow Swede on the boat over from Malmö (or maybe it was Göteburg… someplace with an umlaut).

Mom was a good writer, and in that respect I took more after her than Pop. I started writing in high school, covered sports for my college paper, and the wrote for a variety of newspapers and  magazines across the many years since.

But I’ve done lots of other stuff too. I was a moving man. I drove an ice cream truck. I worked in frozen produce wholesaling (which consisted of moving skids of goods with forklifts and carrying clipboards in and out of freezing warehouses, railroad cars and tractor trailers). I worked in the fronts and the backs of restaurant kitchens, and waiting tables. I flipped burgers and worked counters in fast food joints. I worked in the kitchen at a hospital, and delivering food to patients. I worked in retail, both in sales and management. I worked as a community organizer in a social welfare project (a job that later gave me respect for Barack Obama’s work at the same job, especially since he was good at it and I was not). I worked in radio, doing everything from selling ads to spinning records to engineering, including maintaining transmitters and tower-climbing to change bulbs. I did site studies for FM stations, and made new facility applications to the FCC. I worked in academic parapsychology, helping with research and editing publications. I worked in a landlord’s sawmill when I couldn’t make the rent. And I worked in advertising and PR. Next to writing, that’s the job I held longest.

In 1978 I co-founded Hodskins Simone & Searls, an advertising agency in Durham, North Carolina. By 1980 we came to specialize in what as then called “high tech”. We did well and opened a second office in Palo Alto, moving there completely in 1986. A couple years later we created a division called The Searls Group, which specialized in PR, and eventually spun off on its own as a marketing consultancy. Our clients included Farallon, Symantec, The Burton Group, pieces of Apple and Motorola, Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Semiconductor, Zenith Data Systems and many more.

I had mixed feelings about doing PR, because I was still a journalist at heart, even though I was only freelancing at it during that time. And, while being a journalist made me a better flack, it didn’t make me less of one. I also found that PR folk had little leverage on corporate strategy. Their function was output, not input. So, after awhile, I moved The Searls Group’s work up the client stack, to the point where we did consulting at the CXO level, helping clients understand and engage their markets, rather than in helping them craft and send messages to those markets. You might say our job was delivering (often unwelcome) clues to the places where those clues were needed most. This shift started in the early ’90s and was done by the time Chirs Locke, Rick Levine, David Weinberger and I wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto, in 1999.

Not long after Cluetrain came out as a book in early 2000, Jakob Nielsen noted the use of the first person plural voice in the original Manifesto. When we talked about “we”, as with this here…

not

… we were not speaking as marketers. We were speaking as human beings, out in the marketplace. What happened, Jakob said, was that “You guys defected from marketing, and sided with markets against marketing.”

He was right.

The great irony that followed was that Cluetrain was generally classified as a marketing book, and its closest followers have been in marketing as well. Many marketers have been inspired by Cluetrain to improve marketing, including the practices of advertising and PR. Along those same lines, Cluetrain has also been credited with foreseeing the “social” movement in computing and communications, and with inspiring and guiding that movement as well. Look up Cluetrain+social on Google and see what comes up. (Here’s a Twitter search for the same.)

I’m not proud, or even happy, with either of those developments. Not long ago I even suggested that “social media” is a crock. My point was not to denigrate people doing good work in the social media space, but rather to point out that our collective vision of this space was wrongly limited to what could be done on Facebook, Twitter and other commercial “platforms”. Ignored was the freedom and independence granted by the Net’s own open and essentially ownerless platforms and protocols — and the need to equip individuals with their own instruments of independence and engagement: work that’s still mostly not done.

That’s why I welcomed the opportunity to add fresh chapters to Cluetrain for its 10th anniversary edition. For the last few years I’ve been working on Cluetrain’s unfinished (or unstarted) business, through ProjectVRM, at Harvard’s Berkman Center, and through its collection of allied efforts and volunteers, both around the Center and around the world. Thus my own chapter of the latest Cluetrain is titled Markets Are Relationships, and unpacks the ambitions behind VRM (which stands for Vendor Relationship Management):

  1. Provide tools for individuals to manage relationships with organizations. These tools are personal. That is, they belong to the individual, in the sense that they are under the individual’s control. They can also be social, in the sense that they can connect with others and support group formation and action. But they need to be personal first.
  2. Make individuals the collection centers for their own data, so that transaction histories, health records, membership details, service contracts, and other forms of personal data aren’t scattered throughout a forest of silos.
  3. Give individuals the ability to share data selectively, without disclosing more personal information than the individual allows.
  4. Give individuals the ability to control how their data is used by organizations, and for how long, including agreements requiring organizations to delete the individual’s data when the relationship ends.
  5. Give individuals the ability to assert their own “terms of service,” obviating the need for organization-written terms of service that nobody reads and everybody has to “accept” anyway.
  6. Give individuals means for expressing demand in the open market, outside any organizational silo, without disclosing any unnecessary personal information.
  7. Make individuals platforms for business, by opening the market to many kinds of third party services that serve buyers as well as sellers.
  8. Base relationship-managing tools on open standards, open APIs (application program interfaces) and open code. This will support a rising tide of activity that will lift an infinite variety of business boats, plus other social goods.

We don’t have those tools yet. When we do, they will change the way customers relate to companies, and therefore change the reverse as well. That will change the job of marketing, sales, and pretty much everything else a company does — so long as it responds to customers who are far better equipped to express demand, and otherwise relate, than they are today.

So, to sum up, there is a place where I stand in respect to all the above. That place is alongside customers, in the marketplace. Not alongside sellers, even when I’m consulting those sellers. My consulting hat is not a PR or a marketing one. It’s a customer hat. A user hat. (And, to the extent that I’m hired to help make sense of free and open source development, a geek hat.)

This is why I took offense to being labeled a “PR person.” I have no problem with good PR people. In fact I try to help them out, along with everybody else who’s interested in my input. But what makes me valuable, I believe, is where I stand in respect to customers. I’m on their side. I’m trying to help them out, and markets along with them. Maybe I’ll succeed, and maybe not. But I do believe that, in the long run, we will have VRM tools, and that these tools will make life better for everybody in the marketplace, including vendors.

Meanwhile, there is a temptation not only to confuse the past with the , but the present with the future. We tend to assume that, as John Updike once said (at a time when copiers, answer machines and faxes seemed miraculous), “we live in the age of full convenience”. We don’t. The present is just a draft for the future. Our conveniences are just prototypes.

I’m glad Seth and others (Dave Rogers, where are you?) are out there, calling bullshit on techno-utopians like me. A lot of what Seth and others on that thread had to say was sobering stuff. The flywheels of Old Skool industrial practices, and thinking, have not gone away. They even spin inside “good” companies like Google.

Markets are different now that the Net runs beneath them. There are fewer secrets, and both good ideas and bad can spread with alarming speed. Lately the split between the static and the live web (which most of us call “real-time” and some of us saw coming half a decade and more ago) has become dramatic and confusing. So has the split between fixed and mobile computing and communications. One can get lost through enthusiasm, despair, or both. Hey, the iPhone is a wonderful thing, but — what next? And why? And how?

Markets are no better than we make them. I’m not sure what one should call a person who works on tools to make markets better. But hey, that’s my job.

Guess I’m a builder after all.

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stpaul_paternoster
So I’ve been out and about London the 2-3 days. Had a great time. Beautiful city in Christmas season, even (or perhaps especially) in the rain. Not much connectivity, or time to connect, actually. The above is one of the few pix I took, before breakfast with JP Rangaswami this (or yesterday, depending) morning. Shot it with a little pocket camera. Not bad, considering. Moon over a spire of St. Paul’s Cathedral from Paternoster Square, one of my haunts there. I leave in a few hours for DC, then Boston. See ya’ll stateside.

I was gonna tweet this, but Twitter’s down again. #LeWeb, I guess.

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If Twitter does everything Dave says they should do, they’d make a helpful move toward bingo on Joe Andrieu’s checklist of user-driven services. Here’s the list:

  1. Impulse from the User
  2. Control
  3. Transparency
  4. Data Portability
  5. Service Endpoint Portability
  6. Self Hosting
  7. User Generativity
  8. Improvability
  9. Self-managed Identity
  10. Duty of Care

See how you’d score ‘em.

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This twitter post, from @KNX1070 four minutes ago, says Michael Jackson is dead. Google News‘ latest, from Fox, says he’s being rushed to the hospital. Here’s the latest Google search, as of 3:42pm Pacific:

michaeljackson_search1

A snapshot in time, already changed. (FWIW, the KNX item came up the first time I searched, but not this time. The System That Isn’t, isn’t perfect.) The Twitter results up top are courtesy of a Greasemonkey script.

It is here that we see manifest the split between the Live Web and the Static Web.

I’ve been writing and talking about this split since my son Allen first mentioned the term in 2003.* He saw the World Live Web then as an absence, as unstarted business. Google searched the Static Web of sites and domains that were architected, designed and built like real estate projects. The Live Web would be more alive and human. In it machines wouldn’t answer your questions now. People would.

Now the Live Web is here, big-time. Or, as current parlance would have it, real-time.

I still prefer “live”. Can you imagine if NBC had called its top weekend show “Saturday Night Real-Time”? Or if they announced, “Real time, from New York..”?

Live is better.

If Michael Jackson were still with us, I’m sure he’d agree.

* Here’s the same link: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q… . I’m not sure why, but WordPress isn’t letting me get that link in there. I post the html, find no links in the results, and then when editing find the linked term flanked by partial the letter “a” in angle brackets, sans the slash that closes a link. Not sure what’s up with that. Maybe my tortuously broken connection. Anyway, I have more to add, but won’t bother. Plenty of other reading on the Web anyway. Rock on.

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TwitSeeker lets you search for a subject on Twitter, find who tweets on that subject, and then selectively or gang-follow everybody you find. Look at the stats — especially the search tem collection at the bottom. Or search for a subject to see what comes up. What you’ll see is a picture that equally interesting to both the curious and the promotional. So, you might say, it can be used for good or evil.

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It’s good that Twitter is learning a lot from its experience in the last day. It’s not good that tweeting, which most of us treat as something inherently public and non-proprietary, such as blogging and emailing, seems to be privately controlled, with one company in the sole responsible position. Sez Biz at that last link,

The problem with the setting was that it didn’t scale and even if we rebuilt it, the feature was blunt. It was confusing and caused a sense of inconsistency. We felt we could do much better.

So here’s what we’re planning to do. First, we’re making a change such that any updates beginning with @username (that are not explicitly created by clicking on the reply icon) will be seen by everyone following that account. This will bring back some serendipity and discovery and we can do this very soon.

Second, we’ve started designing a new feature which will give folks far more control over what they see from the accounts they follow. This will be a per-user setting and it will take a bit longer to put together but not too long and we’re already working on it. Thanks for all the great feedback and thanks for helping us discover what’s important!

Here’s what’s important: tweeting needs to a standard convention that’s NEA: Nobody owns it, Everybody can use it, and Anybody can improve it. Like blogging, texting and emailing.

Maybe it’s already there — meaning that implemented Web, Net and Phone standards, plus the API, take care of business. Maybe Twitter’s mashability with other services is “open enough.” Maybe the fact that I can use gwibber or Thwirl to access multiple microblogging services covers enough bases.

Certainly Twitter is carrying the tweeting world on its shoulders for two reasons: 1) they invented it; and 2) they have the best and most widely used tweeting service out there. And maybe Twitter isn’t running a walled garden, but just a service that makes it easy for tweeters to operate in a wide open tweeting environment.

But I’m not sure. If laconi.ca implements a cool new wide-open functionality in Identi.ca that’s good for everybody, in an NEA way, will Twitter adopt it? Maybe that’s the test.

(And has it already happened? I don’t know. If so, fill me in.)

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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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Hanging in The Cities on (what wants to be) a Spring Day (a little snow still on the ground), talking deep blogging trash with Sharon Franquemont and Mary Jo Kreitzer. They’re both new to the practice (which isn’t quite a discipline, at least in my case). So bear with me as I show off some stuff.

For example, I just looked up personal health records on Google. As it happens, I already had Greasemonkey and the twitter search script installed. Thanks to that neat little hack, a pile of Twitter search results from the live web appears at the top of a Google search. Here’s a screen shot:

Note that among the Twitter results is one from adriana872, who is none other than my good friend Adriana Lukas, who I see also has a tweet that says “targetted advertising is visual spam”. Which resonates with me totally, of course. She links to her own post on the subject, which sources this post by Brian Micklethwait.

Which is all cool and conversation-inducing as well as expertise-spreading and authority-building and stuff like that. (Remember I’m showing how to blog here. Bear with me.)

I’ll also tag the shit out of all the above. Not sure if the tags appear here (I blog in too many places and I forget), but they exist.

I also just tweeted this post, with a #blogging hashtag, and instantly, we get this:

The Live Web indeed.

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Changes at Whitehouse.gov are the top item on Techmeme.

My tweets watching The Event:

Say Amen.
search isn’t working too well at http://whitehouse.gov
This may be the greatest speech ever given about the United States.
“We are willing to extend a hand if you will unclench your fist.” What is this form of homiletics called? “This, then that…”
“the lines of tribe will soon dissolve…” whoa.
“We reject as false the distinction between our safety and our ideals.” Another great one-liner.
“the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.” Well put. Hope it’s even partly true.
Wow. Check out http://whitehouse.gov. Change has come. Here’s the blog: http://tinyurl.com/6tdmhy
World’s greatest orator flubs the oath. O well. It’s cool. Roberts didn’t look like a teleprompter, I guess.
My attorney, to my right, says “It’s the end of an error.”
We’ll all remember where we were for this. The place is Together.
Those people have faith. Which he called “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” In this case, next 8 years.
The view up the mall… Stunning.

Not sure if that beats blogging it, but it sure was easier.

And I’m still glowing, three hours later.

[Later...] Apparently I topped the retweet radar list for a moment there. And Twitter itself peaked without pique.

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Does fine wine have traffic?

Dave naming Jay Rosen Blogger of the Year made me think of wine. As I said in a comment to Dave’s post, Jay is a sommelier of fine links. Especially in his tweets. They are always interesting, always helpful at driving a Larger Understanding of What Journalism Is At Its Best, and What Journalism Is Becoming.

Jay is also a helluva fine blogger.

The best blogs — to me, at least — are ones that enlarge your understanding of the subjects they visit. They are less about attracting visitors as they are about attracting interest — in subjects, rather than in themselves. They have high substance/vanity ratios. While some may make money from advertising, that’s not what they’re about.

They also challenge conventional wisdom and popular beliefs, including their own. The second sentence of Jay’s latest post starts with, “But I’ve since realized…” To grow is to change. Who wants to be who they were ten years ago, much less say what they said back then?

Anyway, I gotta go off and run more errands. Just wanted to pause in the midst and say amen to a good choice.

Merry Linksmas, everybody.

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They oughta know

Fox News:

A recently released report by the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion contains a chapter entitled “Potential for Terrorist Use of Twitter,” which expresses concern over the increasing use of Twitter by political and religious groups, the AFP reported.

“Twitter has also become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, hacktivists and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences,” according to the report.

“Twitter is already used by some members to post and/or support extremist ideologies and perspectives,” the Army report said.

Here’s Fox’s Tweet feed.

Hat tip to Tom Watson.

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Twthbbbbt!

This…

… is getting tiresome.

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