Corante

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"I can’t think of anything that demonstrates the sovereign nature of the self better than a blog.” - Doc Searls
About the Author
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Stowe Boyd is a well-known media subversive, and an internationally recognized authority on real-time, collaborative and social technologies. His new blog is Message.

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November 30, 2004

CNN: 'Blog' is top word of the year

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

As CNN reports, 'blog' has been named the top word of the year by Merriam-Webster.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Media

Move Over Wikipedia, Here Comes WikiNews

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Posted by Gregory Narain

Seems the folks over at WikiMedia are getting more and more clever as time goes on. First there was Wikipedia, now there's WikiNews.

WiredNews
[from Wired.com, "Wikipedia Creators Move Into News"]

Unlike Wikipedia, Wikinews will present original material rather than just compiling and summarizing information found elsewhere, according to the news site's organizers. For future submissions, organizers also want to set up a system for accrediting Wikinews reporters who have actively participated in the project.

[...]

"The incentive for behavior in a wiki is to write in such a way that your writing can survive," he said. "The only way it can survive is if your writing is acceptable to an extremely wide audience."

I'm troubled by WikiNews on two levels. First and foremost, there's an outright competition, if you will, between WikiNews and the Blogosphere at large. The notion of WikiNews, as mentioned, is to provide original material as opposed to compiling "news". Clearly, there are two Blog Entry Archetypes implicated here, the Opinion/Commentary Entry and the Thought Leadership Entry.

Already, there are millions of bloggers generating this form of original material and they are tied into an active community and distribution network. Naturally, the proverbial power law still prevents many of those voices from being heard. The implication here is that WikiNews becomes a clearinghouse for original material, the CNN of Bloggers. The primary question is at what cost it comes. See the next point.

The second issue is the community filtering of this material. I'm firmly convinced that Blogging took off as as a social phenomenon because it provided the masses with an outlet for expressing their thoughts and emotions without a filter. Fundamentally, I agree with the spirit of Wiki as it provides a unified community for reaching collective decisions. Of course, the interpretation of the events from around us is not one of the arenas that seem to benefit greatly from filtering - think Big Media. Surely many will contest that the community will act in the best interest of information; however, the community is no greater than its inherent biases.

After all, some might argue that Big Media also presents information "in such a way that your writing can survive".

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

The Art of Alpha Female Blogging

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A wonderful piece of musery by Halley Suitt, disguised as a ChangeThis Manifesto: The Art of Alpha Female Blogging.

sexgoddess400x64.jpg

A marvelous blendo compedium of shrewd insights and arguments for exploiting our most basic drivers and curiousities (like sex... in fact lots of sex: I can't get the image of a sexy blonde surburban mom, namely Halley, having it doggy style in a cheesy bed&breakfast) in the service of what is in the final analysis a very high-minded quest:

Halley Suitt
Weblogs are personal, they have voice, they are inclusive of many types of writing, they are artful, political, innovative, interactive, introspective, inexpensive, influential, and more than anything, irreverent. They are here to stay, but not going to stay as they are now — they are changeable, malleable, transformative. They are changing and they are changing us — how we communicate, how we think, how we care about one another and how we join together to change the world.
Read it. Enjoy it. Take notes.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Media

Blinks: Brief Links

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The preceding entry is an example of a new concept that Hylton and I came up with: Blinks. These are one-liner blog entries, calling out something of interest that we think Get Real readers might be interested in, but not necessarily requiring paragraphs of context or analysis.

Enjoy them. Send pointers that you think would be suitable as Get Real blinks.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Skype/Kazaa Partnership: The Devil's Bargain?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

In a move reminiscent of the deal that VHS backers made with the pornography industry to destablize the Mexican standoff with Betamax, Skype has made a deal with bad-boy peer-to-peer file sharing phenom Kazaa:

[from RED HERRING | Bride of Kazaa]

Skype, which is headquartered in Luxembourg, currently claims 30 million downloads, with 900,000 more downloads per week. Kazaa boasts 300 million users. Bob Hafner, an analyst with Gartner, says Skype gains more than numbers. The typical Kazaa user is precisely the customer Skype is looking for - early adopters looking for low-cost services. Since Skype's basic services are free, the company will depend on additional services to grab revenue. Skype recently introduced its SkypeOut prepay service, which for 2 cents a minute allows users to call traditional landline and cell phones. Though SkypeOut has just begun to win over users, Skype will continue to provide potential revenue-builders like a voicemail service and a SkypeIn telephone number to receive incoming calls.

Still, Skype may pay a price for its new customer base, as Kazaa's legal past could bring trouble for the VoIP firm. Sowmyanarayan Sampath, a consultant with management and strategy firm Adventis, compares bundling Kazaa with Skype to giving away candy in cigarette packages. "Inserting a product with no legal issues into a product of legal issues will give you problems," he says.

Hmmm. 300 million users later, the problems may seem relatively small.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Telecommunications

Shelley Powers and the Marqui Effect

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

There has been a flurry of commentary and controversy surrounding yesterday's post (Blog Shills) over what Shelley Powers is calling the Marqui Effect. I haven't had time to assimilate the comments and postings from Marc, Robin, Mitch, and Alan, but I will collate their observations later on. In the meanwhile, Shelley makes sense and displays a number of cool photos from the quiz games of the 1950s (hawking Geritol and perhaps the game rigging scandals of the time?) as a visual metaphor for what we may be getting into with Pay-For-Mention:

Shelley Powers
[from Burningbird » Weblogging is for Winners]

Sponsorship isn't the Titanic event of weblogging; our "purity" is not compromised because some people are selling some space and words in their weblogs. Still, those webloggers who protest that being sponsored in this way will have no effect on them whatsoever are being idealistic and even a little naive.

Becoming sponsored does impact on you. You will be made aware of it each week as you write your little thank-you note to Marqui. You will see it every time you access your site and the first thing you see is the largish "Sponsored by Marqui" graphic. Your readers will be aware of it, and it will, even subtly, alter their perceptions of you and your writing. This may not be bad -- in fact, you may get increased respect for swinging such a good deal. But your relationship with your readers will be different.

Eventually, the Marqui Effect could impact how you perceive your own space. Being hired to write an article for O'Reilly or weblog posts at a Marqui weblog, still leaves you your space to do whatever you want in it: to write obscene material, and be hateful all you want; or write your most intimate thoughts, which could eventually be equated one in the same. You may find yourself hesitating, even a moment, before you put down those words.

Its that moment of hesitation, that pause, that is the nuance I was alluding to yesterday.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Marketing

November 29, 2004

Robin Good, Marc Canter, and Marqui: Blog Shills

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

As one of the several individuals who were engaged in a public shouting match about the impropriety of setting up bloggers as shills for products, I read with some amusement Robin Good's recent piece on the Marqui deal, which Marc Canter set up to do just that.

Robin Good
[from Paid Assignment Is Here: Marqui Ignites "Bloggers Paid To Blog" Initiative ]

The opportunity to verify whether me, Marc Canter and those few others are really out of our minds is becoming areality.

[...]

The idea of paying bloggers is a controversial one, as it challenges some of the sacred cows of the journalistic publishing business.
[...]

I am personally enthusiastic about this now official announcement and while I don't know if I will be selected as a possible contributor to this I felt compelled to republish here the key parts of this historical opportunity.

Marqui, with the help of Marc Canter has published both an exhaustive and fascinating FAQ as well as the Terms of Contract for this revolutionary involvement of bloggers in the creation of new conversations around products and services.

Bloggers are not paid by Marqui to write good things about their products, but simply to write and report freely about their own views on them.

I think that if you read closely the following excerpts from Marqui's blogosphere initiative official FAQ and to the key parts I have extracted from the official contractual terms you can better appreciate the unique ethical spirit of this effort and why some of us think this is really going to rock.

There is something interesting in here, but it is interesting in the same way product placements in TV or movies are: when Matt Damon is swilling down a Hieneken, you always wonder if it is being paid for, or is it just random.

Now, when you are reading some shill blogger of the future, will you have to read the dozens of potentially complex and conflicting provisos and disclosures in order to determine whether the blogger is saying something for cash or not?

This treads on the other side of a line that I think shouldn't be crossed, and I think that readers will stay away in droves.

Note that we are experimenting with some novel sponsorship relationships at Corante, such as the Zero Degrees sponsored Operating Manual for Social Tools project. We thought that the relationship between the contributors there and Zero Degrees had to be carefully explained in a disclosure, so we created one. But in that case we are not being paid to mention Zero Degrees, and we have no incentives based on click throughs or sales.

That aspect of the Marqui deal is what unnerves me about it. A blogger (notwithstanding the disclosure of the relationship) writes a sentence about Marqui, or other subsidized products, right in the flow of his/her opining about technology, or communication, or whatever, and gets compensated for each click that leads to a sale. This is basically turning blogs into nothing more than those aggregated websites slapped together by affiliate marketing folks. No offense; they may serve a purpose, and people may find them useful to search for various products, but they are not serving the same purpose as blogs. And candidly I believe that they are less worthy of attention.

So, in the final analysis, the Marqui experiment is not necessarily evil, and I don't think it threatens to revolutionize social media. Its just another proof that companies are willing to pay for clicks or eyeballs, and if some group of people decide to use their blogs as affiliate marketing websites, then we will all have to learn how to differentiate those from other, unaffiliated blogs.

Note: I am not a purist who turns away from ads. On the contrary. But I think there needs to be a clear separation from content and commerce. I don't say good things about Silkroad just because they are sponsoring my blog and the True Voice seminar series. Their ad occupies the upper right rectangle on the blog, and by all means, click through sometime and see what they have to offer. And if they don't get enough traffic, I am sure that they will put their ad dollars elsewhere. But I am not being paid to write about Silkblogs once per week. And that distinction, although nuanced, is important.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

Orkut Social Media Experiments

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

It seems that Google is experimenting with the fusion of social media (blogs, specifically) within the Orkut social networking service in an attempt to get people to come back and stay longer.

Verne Kopytoff
[from Google's Orkut puzzles experts / Internet watchers ponder reason for social network site]

The debut of several columnists on Google's social networking Web site, Orkut, has some in the Internet industry scratching their heads.

Is the popular search engine's first foray into generating content simply an anomaly or a sign of bigger things to come?

Focusing on everything from sex to politics to singer Jessica Simpson, the columns, which appeared in mid-November, mark a big departure for Google.

Until now, the Mountain View company has resolutely opposed creating content, as some rival portals do, in favor of simply connecting users to information from other Web sites.

Analysts said Google's baby step into the media business could dead end with the Orkut columns. Or the company could follow the footsteps of Yahoo and America Online, which offer online concerts and interviews with musicians, among other things.

Nate Elliott, an analyst for JupiterResearch, a technology research firm, said Google is too unpredictable for him to know.

Personally, I think that all of the social networking solutions are inadequate for my own purposes. The notion of adding blogs is not that farfetched, but I think it is backwards. What is needed is stronger social underpinnings for existing blogs.

Here, at Corante, we are interested in pursuing that line of development, and would like to see exactly the opposite of what is going on in the proprietary social networking solutions: the proliferation of dozens of non-interoperable networks that do not articulate with existing social tools, like blogs, instant messaging, or the like.

Meanwhile, "solutions" like Orkut are experiencing a wave of ennui, as initial early adopters just decide not to come back. Or at least those that the services seem to want are. This parallels the situation with Friendster that I wrote about here.

As the piece points out,

Orkut's traffic falls below the threshold of 136,000 unique monthly U.S. visitors for Nielsen/NetRatings to measure.

A recent search showed that there were slightly more than 2.88 million member profiles on Orkut, with 62.7 percent of them listing Brazil as country of residence.

Of course, its possible that Google wants 60+% of its users to be Brazilian, but I doubt it.

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November 25, 2004

NY Times VideoConf Goof?

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Posted by Marc Eisenstadt

Hey... it's Thanksgiving! But not here in the UK, where Marc E is checking out what the New York Times has to say in a couple of articles entitled "Waving Hello, From a Distance" and a companion shopping list entitled "Videoconferencing Enters the Home and Saves People the Drive" (free subscription required to read these, at least if you get there quickly enough).

The first article describes how videoconferencing, for keeping in touch with family and friends, has really come of age with increasing broadband deployment, new codecs such as H.264, and robust services from the high-end to the low-end, from the likes of PolyCom, Packet8, and PalTalk. The second article delves into some more product descriptions, covering some technical details and pricing plans relevant to the same three: PolyCom, Packet8, and PalTalk. Plus there's a cameo mention of the very-high-end CallerVision.

Just for kicks, I thought I'd better re-visit PalTalk, which I hadn't checked out for a long time. That's when my day started turning sour...

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

November 22, 2004

Get Real Stickers

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I ordered a bunch of stickers -- I am planning to use them instead of business cards.

getrealsticker.jpg I will send out a sticker to the first 100 people who send me a self-addressed stamped envelope asking for one. I have on on the back of my brand new iBook G4 (see image).

Get Real Sticker Offer
c/o Stowe Boyd
11195 Longwood Grove Dr
Reston VA 20194
USA

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It's The Little Things: Reverting to Mac

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have been very spotty in my blogging the past four or five days. I am in the middle of a very liberating but extremely annoying situation.

A week or so ago, I finally realized that I had had it with Windows, and decided to revert to Mac after a five year hiatus. I have ordered a Mac laptop, and it should be arriving today. I only switched to Windows in 98, because I had to review so much PC software and I wasn't willing to have two machines. Now, I intend to have a lab PC, and use that just for testing purposes. The Mac will be where I live, work, write, and create. And connect my iPod.

As if sensing my lack of love, my Fujitsu Lifebook -- a machine that I actually like, for a number of design reasons -- has decided to reward my ambivalence with a series of minor problems: all Windows related. Most recently, the machine has started to crash whenever I connect my iPod. Simple solution: don't. Then the CD-ROM/DVD stopped working: some kind of registry corruption.

I am planning to move eveything off the PC over the next four or five days, and then have the tech folks at Fujitsu wipe the machine.

Wish me luck!

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November 20, 2004

Jon Schull "Visualizing Webs of BlogThreads" (June 2002!)

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Posted by Marc Eisenstadt

Got a trackback ping (to the Technorati vote links / duelling blogs item I posted earlier) from Olivier Travers, in an old-but-currently-updated entry of his called Visualizing Webs of BlogThreads. Many thanks, Olivier... there are some very important pointers here, so I'm quoting your short entry verbatim so others can track these historical links, beginning with Jon Schull's posting of June 2002:

Visualizing Webs of BlogThreads

[06/30/02:] Jon Schull attempts to map a conversation thread spread among several blogs.

03/17/03 update: Towards structured blogging.

05/21/03 update: Dynamics of a Blogosphere Story.

04/16/04 update: Sharpreader - Threaded RSS.

11/20/04 update: Technorati vote links... an idea.

The ideas of Schull, and indeed those of others who commented on his post, show how the graphical linking themes popularised in Kartoo, Tinderbox, and Storyspace did indeed capture the imagination of many. Visualising discussion spaces has moved a long way since those days, as highlighted in the work of my colleague Simon Buckingham Shum (+ colleagues) and their work on Compendium, ScholOnto, Visualizing Argumentation, and related projects.

But visualizing is in many ways less crucial to me in the short run than automatically aggregating the relevant threads (which in turn might well seed the beginnings of a visualization if I so chose) -- and therefore I'm delighted that Olivier included a link to an article about SharpReader, which does exactly that!

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

November 17, 2004

English-to-12-Year-Old-AOLer Translator

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

aoler.jpgThis is cute. It reminds me a Conrad, my 13-Year-Old: The AOLer Translator

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

CIO.com on Real-Time and USA Today on The Gamer Generation

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Janice Brand, editor of CIO.com, pinged me and suggested I might be able to comment on and extend the real-time collaboration elements of a recently posted piece there. This is quite apropos of material I have been fuddling with all week, getting ready for the Corante Real-Time Collaboration Workshop at INBOX. In particular, I have become acutely aware that I have moved away from the conventional IT perspective of some hypothetical spectrum of collaboration options going from aynchrononous to synchronous, and instead have shifted to the perspective that slow-time is just a degenerate and inadequate approximation of real-time.

[from A Travel Guide To Collaboration]

Real-time technologies, such as Web conferencing and instant messaging, require collaborators to log on at the same time to, say, conduct an online meeting to review design specs or to resolve an issue by chatting through IM. Asynchronous tools, such as online collaborative workspaces and e-mail, allow collaborators to contribute on their own schedule, a particularly useful feature for managing projects that span time zones. Workspaces such as Microsoft's SharePoint, IBM/Lotus's Workplace and several industry-specific tools (including PTC's Windchill ProjectLink for the manufacturing industry, Agile for the high-tech industry and Freeboarder for the apparel industry) provide an electronic medium for collaborating, offering capabilities such as messaging, calendaring, document management and workflow automation. Users can see what their colleagues are doing, and everyone with appropriate access credentials can view—and add comments to—the latest version of a document.

Asynchronous tools also serve as a persistent, always accessible archive for discussions and document versions, keeping track of who decided what and when. This can be especially valuable for supporting sophisticated, long-term collaborations and for building trust. "In many ways, it creates trust if during any development process, you know that all information will be saved as a conversation," says Johnson. "Everyone will know how the product developed, how it changed. There's not a feeling that maybe someone did something or changed something and you didn't know."

The line between real-time and asynchronous tools is beginning to blur, however, as some collaboration tools are starting to offer both real-time and asynchronous/persistent functionality. Archiving is now possible with some IM products, for example, and Groove Networks supports real-time communications within its asynchronous, peer-to-peer workspace. IBM has added real-time functionality to its Workplace products. The presence awareness feature of IM (which indicates whether users are currently online) is also finding its way into some collaborative workspaces and meeting technologies. Convoq ASAP, for instance, initiates online meetings as soon as all are present.

I just don't agree with the mindset here, or the distinctions: its easy (first of all) to imagine that a real-time solution can provide a persistent log of all that has happened historically (like my Gush IM logs, or the really interesting Activity Manager technology from IBM (I will be posting about that tomorrow)). But more important, the idea that there is some high-order benefit in being able to collaborate asynchronously. Its always a crude approximation of real-time interaction, because the players are unavailable.

Say you and I are both working, online, at 2:09pm ET on 17 Nov 2004. I happen to be modifying some shared content we are both interested in (some project information or a file, whatever). You noticed through some extended notion of presence that I am editing some shared project content, which leads you to recall an idea you had, and you immediately IM me. We chat, and I modify what I was going to do to the content, in real-time. This is not in some way more complicated -- assuming the infrastructure exists -- on the contrary, the slow-time equivalent is infinitely more complex: when viewed from the social level. In the slow-time version, I make whatever modifications I had in mind; others read them, leading to whatever results and cascading actions. You get around to sharing your ideas with me later, but now for the ideas to bve realized we have to rewind the shared thread, herd the cats back together, revise the content, again, and so on.

From an IT viewpoint, this is easy, because it relies on a small set of primitive features: content editing, and asynch messaging (email). But from a social viewpoint, because people are not allowed to treat time as a shared space, they are divided from each other and forced to fumble through asynch interactions.

I reject the veiwpoint, and suggest that real-time should be the primary basis of every sort of human collaboration, and that slow-time introduces (in general) unnecessary complexities. Sure, there still will be the scnario when you want to leav a voice mail for someon, and not speak with them directly, because you are time constrained, or its a simple coordinative message ("yes, I am good for the call at 4pm"). But aside from these oddball cases, in general it is better to adopt the social viewpoint and drop the information technology mindset.

This reminds me a lot of an article today in USA Today regarding the fundamental differences between Boomers and "Gamers" -- those younger generations that have grown up with videogames as a core part of their world:

Kevin Maney
[...] on a deeper level, video games changed the way the Gamer Generation views life and work. "We thought we'd get back a few interesting correlations" between games and attitudinal shifts, Wade says. "But we got, like, 50 powerful patterns." [Mitchell Wade is co-author with John Beck of Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever]

The surprise: "I was stunned we didn't see a lot of negative effects," Wade says. "I thought they'd be bad team players and reckless."

Instead, the authors found traits that could be good or bad — depending on how you view them. Of course, there are variations among 90 million people, but the authors draw some general conclusions.

For instance, in video games, you're always the star. Once in the workforce, Beck and Wade found, gamers want a chance to be a star. Boomers might take that badly, thinking they have a bunch of prima donnas in the office. But gamers don't want to just do their jobs — they want to lead and stand out. And that can be a good thing.

In games, there's always a solution — you just have to find it. So gamers, as a generation, are more willing to try anything and pound on a problem, believing there is some way to solve it.

In games, failure is part of success. Anybody who tries a new game fails multiple times before getting it right, and that has made the Gamer Generation more willing to take risks.

Contrary to typical boomer parental beliefs, video games don't necessarily rot kids' brains. Games might actually be making the next generation smarter.

"Kids today don't play sandlot ball the way we did or run through the woods," Wade says. "Everything they do is structured. This is a replacement for that unstructured time, and it's a lot more intellectually stimulating."

In business, boomers who don't understand games or gamers could have a rough time as the Gamer Generation floods workplaces. If boomers see gamer traits as negative, the generations will clash — or at least boomers will miss a chance to manage, work with or compete effectively against gamers.

So Wade, 44, is a bit missionary about trying to save his generation from some sour fate, like forced early retirement.

"The first thing for boomers is to acknowledge there is a generation gap," he says. Then boomers can alter their strategies. Like, give gamers a chance to be a hero as motivation. Give gamers a problem and let them whack at it.

A few years ago, Bankers Trust trained its aspiring young currency traders the boomer way — in classrooms. But the Gamer Generation recruits hated it. Then the bank hired a firm to turn its training material into video games, and it turned the program around.

Does the new gap exist just because of video games? I mean, our generation gap wasn't due to any one thing that boomers shared and the previous generation didn't. It wasn't just rock music or television or highly sugared breakfast cereals or growing up in financial security. It was the mix of all of that.

"Games are only one part of the digital experience that changes the way (the next generation) learns, plays, interacts, spends their time and probably even thinks," says Don Tapscott, author of an earlier book, Growing Up Digital. Computers, the Internet and cell phones are all part of the new generation's powerful mix. "Rather than a generation gap, we have a generation lap — where kids are lapping their parents," Tapscott says.

Just like IM, videogames frame a new sensibility about our self-image and how we make sense of the world. "We make our tools, and they shape us." And when you "get real" you are changed, and not by the speed up of events, but more profoundly in what you think is important, the manner in which you interact with others, and how to respond to events in the world.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Art & Entertainment | Technology

Technorati vote links... an idea

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Posted by Marc Eisenstadt

[UPDATE: image below is clickable, with rollovers that display a small amount of relevant content, exported by Compendium]

There's been some interesting discussion back and forth about a recent proposal in the Technorati Developer Wiki to have 'vote links'. The basic idea, as stated on the site itself (linked in the diagram below) is as follows:

I propose that we add a set of three new values for the rel attribute of the link tag in HTML. The new values are "vote-for" "vote-abstain" or "vote-against", which are mutually exclusive, and represent agreement, abstention or indifference, and disagreement respectively. A link without an explicit vote 'rel' value is deemed to have value "vote-for" or "vote-abstain", depending on the application. Additional human-readable commentary can be added using the existing 'title' attribute, which most browsers show as a rollover.

It's an interesting idea, but I think the cut-and-thrust of the debate around it (highlighted in the diagram in fact) really rests on the fact that links (today) have zero semantics associated with them, and in the long run this is going to be problematic. While it's true that users don't want to go through the 'pain barrier' associated with annotating links, wouldn't it be nice if a crawler could deliver them to us automatically, and then provide some lightweight annotation that we could annotate 'to taste'... in fact the diagram below does exactly this, and at the same time shows you the original proposal and a few 'pro' and 'con' arguments in a manner that I believe is much more evocative than any 'inline text with links' I might have provided here.


I propose that we add a set of three new values for the rel attribute of the <a> (link) tag in HTML. The new values are "vote-for" "vote-abstain" or "vote-against", which are mutually exclusive, and represent agreement, abstention or indifference, and disagreement respectively. A link without an explicit vote 'rel' value is deemed to have value "vote-for" or "vote-abstain", depending on the application. Additional human-readable commentary can be added using the existing 'title' attribute, which most browsers show as a rollover.
Thanks to some initiative and hard work from Kevin Marks, we've put up a page that tracks Vote Links. Vote Links allow you to add some more information to a link when you make it - it allows you to ?vote-for? ?vote-abstain? or ?vote-against? the hyperlink. These votes are mutually exclusive and represent agreement, abstention (or indifference), and disagreement with the contents of the link.
I agreed that Google?s approach to PageRank?in which all links are created equal, regardless of context or intent?was flawed. But I argued then, and still feel now, that using the terminology of ?voting? was equally flawed. I?m deeply uncomfortable with reducing everything to a binary vote, and with tinging every link with an explicit or implicit stance.
.... Technorati (or someone else) could collaboratively filter these "vote links" for individual bloggers in the same way that Yahoo's Launch.com filters votes for music to group together users with similar tastes and introduce users to new music that they are likely to enjoy. ... if we get enough people making "vote links" and someone collaboratively filters them, we can all have our own personalized, collaboratively-filtered, constantly-evolving RSS feed. Social networks would emerge around issues/themes in the same way that users clump together around musical genres.
Here's my vote, for John Kerry.
Links are associations, both for users and search engines in the Google era.  Some associations are desireable, some are not, some need to be qualified and some imply guilt.  Coates' idea,  "using an .htacess file or something similar to serve up a page which declares that you refuse to be associated with the views of the person whose site you've just left," is what you could call an Anti-link. An Anti-link provides a functional link between two pages, but votes or stands against the content of the other page.


How on earth did I get such a diagram? Well, following the 'duelling blogs' discussion that Stowe and I started a few months ago, I did some experiments reported here, and what you see is a first-pass entirely manual variant (manually dragging and dropping pages into Compendium that is, which then exports a slicker/Javascripted variant of the above diagram!), just to put up as a little thought-experiment and discussion point!

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

November 12, 2004

Fear and Loathing in the Blogosphere

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I guess it was inevitable that the same sort of fear-based marketing would reach blogland that has been the norm in the past years for instant messaging:

[via press release]

Research and Markets: Companies Need to Raise Employee Awareness Regarding Blogging and Associated Threats

Blogging is rapidly emerging as a threat to Internet users. A blog (short for weblog) is a personal journal that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. [Well, that seems pretty much a scary threat.] Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or reflect the purpose of the Web site that hosts the blog. While blogs have a legitimate use, online journals pose serious threats to enterprise confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Blogs are potentially contributory to regulatory non-compliance in that blogs may not be documented communications and may also violate privacy considerations.
(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20040820/RESEARCH)

This presentation is designed for distribution to employees to raise their awareness of the importance of using extreme caution if and when it becomes necessary to visit blogs as part of the employee's job performance. [not just caution, but extreme caution, mind you.]

This presentation provides specific information about how employees can reduce the risks associated with blogging and also at the end of the presentation there are three versions of a web log or blog policy.

I just hate baseless fear-based marketing like this. Why do analysts always blame the new media as they emerge with being insecure, prone to security leaks, and filled with risks. This is lunacy. Who are these Research and Markets people?

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November 10, 2004

Gen Y and the Coming Communications Revolution

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am scrambling to put my thoughts (and slides) together for the Corante Real-Time Collaboration Workshop that is next Friday at the INBOX conference (see this on that), and I stumbled across a few recent posts by Dina Mehta and Richard McManus that underscore one of the themes I will be exploring: The Coming Communications Revolution.

Dina reports on a recent article, examining the youth of India, and what's boiling in that pot:

Dina Mehta
[from Youth in Urban India - Businessworld Cover Story]
"IM is a kind of metaphor for the mindset of the new millennium youth. It fulfils a deep-seated need for constant stimulation. And keeps pace with their shorter attention spans. So short for some that buddies with slow typing speeds are huge turn-offs!"

"Corporate India at large seems ambivalent or unconvinced about the technology. As a Citigroup employee, when questioned on his office policy on IM, commented, only half in jest: "This may be an indication of the generation gap between me (or my company) and the 14-24-year-olds, but what does IM stand for?"

[...]

"The marketing fallout of the IM phenomenon? You can't bullshit this generation. Says ex-IMRB research consultant Dina Mehta: "They are savvy consumers who sift through an offer and reject it if there's nothing in it for them." If a product or experience does not live up to its hype, you can be sure that news will promptly be IMed to every Tom, Dick and Hari in due course. This, of course, happened in the past too but today, the speed at which such information is disseminated is simply light years ahead"

I wish she had taken the implications of this into an "always on" world which is facilitated by technology like IM, VOIP, forums, blogs and online journals (have you ever left a comment at a youth journal or blog - either at a specific post or on their guestboards, and noticed how very promptly you will get a response to your comment - not just from the author but from a whole host of readers ?), simple SMS to enhanced functions offered by new generation mobile phones. How this is impacting and changing the way youth thinks, communicates, and takes decisions. And the implications this might have for the future as they enter the workplace, bringing in their new "culture-of-use", and for marketers seeking to address this segment.

Dina, like the Businessworld author, does not go far enough: she asks the question, but does not answer it. The coming revolution will overthrow conventions of communication, and will involve the adoption of the real-time ethos and esthetic across the board.

Continuous Partial Attention is not a disorder (as I recently explained), it is a viable adaptation, a winning communications strategy, based on a communitarian sense of time economics.

As Richard McManus recently wrote,

Richard McManus
[from Knowledge Management for Generation Y]

In my travels today I came across some articles about how Generation Y (people born in 1980's or 1990's) use Information Technology. I'm a Generation X'er myself, so Generation Y has always been something of a curiosity to me - as other generations always are, no matter which part of the timeline you come from. The first article that caught my eye was from an Australian IT magazine and it was about how Generation Y are much more prone to forming communities than previous generations.

Here's an excerpt:

"Social researcher Hugh Mackay said yesterday that younger generations were herding together like never before, using new technologies such as SMS and email chatrooms to foster tight social bonds.

Having grown up knowing only "instability, uncertainty and unpredictability", Generation Y had instinctively drawn together to cope, Mr Mackay said. [...] "They are the most intensely tribal, herd-based generation of young Australians I've ever known."

The words "tribal" and "herd-based" are words you wouldn't normally use to describe a Generation X'er. We're mostly characterized as individualistic or selfish, lazy, and cynical towards society. In some respects those attitudes were a backlash against the flower-power idealism of the baby boomers, although I'm one of those who thinks environment - or context - has a lot to do with the values and attitudes that a person or group of people has. So Generation Y are both a product of the computerized environment of the 1990's onward and are also rebelling against the "bite me" attitude of Gen X by adopting a, well, a "hug me" attitude I suppose.

The aussie social researcher quoted above goes on to say:

"I'm not predicting a revolution but I think it's the early sign of a genuine culture shift away from individualism to a more communitarian kind of culture."
The communitarianism of Gen Y manifests itself in many ways, but one is that quick response mentality that Dina alludes to. It fosters close social ties to remain in contact with and responsive to your social net. And, it turns out to enable a communitarian productivity increase, although not a personal one. So what may be veiwed as laziness from traditional, boomer eyes, may in fact be the outcome of social bonding. Like the European explorers of yesteryear judging tribal people the world over as inferior and lazy, the declining boomers might be spending the next twenty years whining about this lazy, shiftless, and tribal group, who will be motivated by an as-yet-uncaptured communitarian manifesto, living and working on a real-time beat.

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ComScore Study on Blogging: Big News?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Jeff Jarvis was at Ad:Tech (I should have been there instead of Bloggercon, I guess) and reports on a new study about blogging:

Jeff Jarvis
[from BuzzMachine]

: Rick Bruner, now of DoubleClick, honchoed a study of blog audience sponsored by Gawker Media and SixApart and done by ComScore. He presented the first preliminary results for the first time today. This really was an outcome of Bloggercon II. Some big news here.
ComScore looked at 15,000 blogs and their audiences.

35 million Americans, more than 20 percent of U.S. Intrernet users, read from 250 blog domains (that is, some large domains such as blogger.com and large individual sites; that mix does skew things a bit among big and small blogs; the numbers will be massaged, Rick said). That's up 10 perecent over the proir [sic] quarter.

Blog readers are more likely to be broadband users (index of 113 vs total population), college educated (index 114), higher income (index 116 at 100k household income), Asian (index 136... go figger).

Odd that they left out the age and geographical demographics.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the fully massaged numbers, but I don't expect any real surprises in those dimensions. I am interested in other factors. Does blog participation have a real impact on life? Does it change the way you make sense of the world? Or even -- at a more mundane level -- the way you approach buying goods and services, picking a restaurant, or selecting music or movies?

I anticipate a continuing shift away from the influence of broadcast media toward social media, and I hope that studies like this can be structured to see how fast the change is coming, and where.

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November 09, 2004

Dave Winer on Bloggercon and The "Making Money" Session

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Dave Winer obliquely responds to the "What's Wrong with Bloggercon" post, I think. Since he doesn't name me or link to the post, I am making a presumption, although as he points out there is an email thread going about this, and I have been in communcation with him about this, so that makes it seem likely.

Dave Winer
[from Scripting News: 11/9/2004]

There's an email thread going on about the Making Money session. This was the second episode, in the first, Jeff Jarvis did an excellent job of leading a chorus of nickel-and-dimers. In other words, how can we turn blogs into mini-magazines, generating enough revenue to make us feel good about what we're doing. (My paraphrase, of course.) This is a hot topic. It was also at hot topic at this Con, but I played a little trick by choosing a DL who I knew would argue with this idea, a person who has written a book on it, a popular one, so there would be some disagreement in the room. When I walked in, mid-session, I could see my little plan hadn't worked, Doc was in front of the room fielding comments from people who really really want to think small. So I asked for a mike, and I argued with two or three people (who seemed to enjoy it). Anyway, now there's some irritation because it seemed we were trying to force our way of thinking on the people. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, we, Doc and I, were disagreeing with them, and that's what makes a conference interesting. And unusual. Usally there's a sameness to discourse at conferences that makes you fall asleep. So even if I agreed that putting Google ads on your blog was the best you could do, I would have looked for a way to incite some disagreement. Now if you think this is wrong, BloggerCon is not the place for you, and probably blogging is not a good thing for you either. You're going to get disagreed with, sometimes even when you're right. And that's a good thing. If you're always surrounded by people who agree with you, you never get a chance to change someone's mind, never get a chance to learn something new, to have your mind changed.

Hmmm. The Venus Flytrap approach, eh? A session called Making Money with a "little trick" built-in, intended to trip up those of us who "really want to think small" which I guess means those who want to make money by blogging.

At any rate: I did enjoy the discourse, just as I am enjoying this interchange, and I thought the divergence of opinion at the session was illuminating. I just suggest that the debate should be elevated at a structural level, namely, structure the sessions as debates when there are obvious divisions in opinion.

Again: I am happy to see disagreement surfaced, and controversy openly addressed. Bloggercon may not be, in fact, for all people. I believe that those who want to talk about making money by blogging, as opposed to the philosophical and moral issues surrounding that, will have to go elsewhere. Fine.

But the clear inference to be drawn from Dave's commentary is that those "small minded" people who disagree with his pedagological tactics should stay away. Dave definitely wants to tell us what is good for us, which in small doses is ok. But the frisson between Dave's control of the conference discourse and the desires of the attendees to talk about what is of interest to them came close to boiling over several times. And as Dave pointedly told one attendee, who stated that he would like to loosen certain restrictions that Dave has made on free and open discourse (specifically having to do with the non-commercialism of the event leading to a gag order on nearly anyone employed by a "vendor"): "it isn't your conference." By extension, it isn't our conference either. It is the conference, I guess, for some set of naive users who Dave would like to paternalistically sheild from dangerous ideas of pernicious vendors, like PubSub and Technorati, representatives of which were singled out and censured for trying to state their personal or corporate views on various issues. I hazard that in the future, representatives of media companies (like Corante) will likely find their way into the ranks of the gagged, as well.

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Blogging Policy: Charlene Li

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Charlene Li of Forrester Research has been scribbling a great deal about blogging ethics, and how an explicit policy can engender trust:

Charlene Li
[from Charlene Li's Blog: Blogging policy examples]

Sample Blogger Code of Ethics

  1. I will tell the truth.
  2. I will write deliberately and with accuracy.
  3. I will acknowledge and correct mistakes promptly.
  4. I will preserve the original post, using notations to show where I have made changes so as to maintain the integrity of my publishing.
  5. I will never delete a post.
  6. I will not delete comments unless they are spam or off-topic.
  7. I will reply to emails and comments when appropriate, and do so promptly.
  8. I will strive for high quality with every post – including basic spellchecking.
  9. I will stay on topic.
  10. I will disagree with other opinions respectfully.
  11. I will link to online references and original source materials directly.
  12. I will disclose conflicts of interest.
  13. I will keep private issues and topics private, since discussing private issues would jeopardize my personal and work relationships.
[pointer from Media Guerrilla]

I intend to noodle over this template, as well as others (like David Weinberger's Joho Disclosure, and bbrown.info). I would like to collect other samples, if people could stream them in.

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November 08, 2004

What's Wrong With Bloggercon

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I had an enjoyable day at Bloggercon, held at the Stanford Law School Saturday last, despite the conference itself.

Dave Winer claims that the format of the conference is designed so that the good conversations are in the sessions and not in the hallways, but the best conversations for me were in the hallways and out on the lawn, as is generally the case at any conference.

The format is problematic in reality. A lone session moderator begins with a presentation of various ideas on the topic, and then a free-for-all ensues, where the 50 to 250 people in the group raise their hands, ask a question, elaborate on some issue, or whatever. Often, you might have to wait 10 minutes or more to actually get to speak on some topic now 10 minutes cold.

However, Winer and the other conference insiders reserve the right to break into the flow of the sessions, and so Scoble, Searls, Steve Gillmor, and the like seem often to be having their conversation in the session and not the halls, but not everybody else.

Personally, I am not opposed to the seemingly undemocratic nature of this outcome. I believe that the quality of the conversation between these A-Listers is actually more illuminating than the "gee whiz, I'm just glad to be here" statements coming from the newbies. My recommendation would be to, however, salt the mix with more powerful dissenters and structure the latent debates inherent in the sessions so that the various points of view can come to light, and just drop the pretense that all utterances are equally worthy.

For example, I love Doc Searls, but starting a session on "Making Money" at Bloggercon by questioning the validity of that intent is off message. As a result, the session about making mony turned out to be another philosophical discussion about the core values of the Internet, or stated more negatively, a session where the strong subliminal message was "Don't Make Money Blogging, Please."

This was best typified by a interchange between Dave Winer and Chris Nolan (Politics From Left To Right), a political blogger who simply wants to get to the point where she can live on her blogging. Winer's position was that this is basically wrong-headed; she should use the blogosphere to mix and mingle, and other opportunities to make money would appear. For example, she could get paid for writing elsewhere, presumably by more traditional media, or books. Nolan's response was she didn't want to write elsewhere, where she would have to deal with editorial supervision or controls. Then Winer spun into A-Lister fantasy land, arguing that the purpose of blogging is to have people come together and invent new businesses, not to get paid to blog; and that anything short of that grander purpose was somehow counter to the spirit of blogging, and perhaps both dangerous and immoral. Nolan pointed out that she hasn't landed a book deal, although she would like one, but independent of that she is still selling ads.

A great quip from Brendon Wilson (brendonwilson.com) underscored the elephant in the room: there is a world outside the blogospheric core of idealistic early adopters who cling to some sort of money-free purity, and that's where true economic value will be determined. Wilson pointed out that he is an author, and for each $35 sale of his book at Amazon, he receives like $1.50 in royalties. However, as an Amazon affiliate he receives $3.50 per sale coming through his website.

In a world where information is increasingly low cost, people's attention is increasingly valuable. If you can snare that attention -- because your blog is high quality, and through the inexorable powerlaws it grows more and more eyeballs -- the extra-blogosphere economy will value you and your blog highly. But the value has to be extracted by something, and if you don't charge people to read it, you have to charge someone for eyeball capture.

Winer and Searls suggest that the way to capitalize on that value should not be direct, but indirect: start businesses (like Winer), get higher paying jobs (like Searls and Scoble), or become media personalities (like Curry). Nolan and others (like me) believe that it is fair game to simply convert relevance to a community of interest into cash flow. Here at Corante, we plan to invent some innovative ways of doing it, over and above renting rectangles to sponsors, but nonetheless we believe that is legitimate and doesn't break some Covenant of Bloggerdom.

Essentially, the conference founders are perfectly transparent and open about their perspectives, so I have only admiration for them in that regard. But I suggest that they consider a point/counterpoint approach where the dynamics would be more interesting. At a nuts-and-bolts level, the format doesn't work, despite all the self-congratulatory back patting at the end of the conference. In particular, Winer's insistence that this is a "user" conference where vendors really cannot speak -- he nearly ejected Bob Wyman of PubSub, who was in mid sentence about something I thought was fairly innocuous -- is an increasingly difficult stance to keep, especially when his goal is to foster collaboration between the participants to create new businesses and products.

So, from my perspective, Bloggercon is more of a fan conference, where the followers of the conference insiders -- great minds all, admittedly -- can come and bask in the philosophical musings of these titans. Its Dave and the Friends of Dave having a love-in. Its fun in a way, because the conversations at the party are high quality, but its not a conference about the business of blogging or even one about where it is all headed. Its really a chatauqua, a revival tent meeting, where the faithful can all sing together and encourage the uncertain. But its fun to listen, even if you don't agree with the message in the psalms, because they sing so well.

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November 07, 2004

Comfort Zones: More Road Warrior's 'Truth About Tablet PC'

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Posted by Marc Eisenstadt

Following my (i.e. Marc Eisenstadt's) largely favourable -- with a few surprise personal twists -- Truth About Tablet PC personal blog entry a few months back, I thought Get Real readers would be interested in hearing a more extensive on-the-road deployment story.

I recently had a 10-hour transatlantic flight, during which I needed to do some urgent work, finishing up a keynote talk, both slides and speech. Normally, I don't need to write the words in advance, because I've done these things plenty of times before, and the slides, graphics, movies and demos pretty much are the talk; but this time I was being offered the services of simultaneous translation, and the translators said although not required, they would really appreciate seeing the exact words beforehand. My kit consists of an HP TC1100 Tablet PC, and one extra battery. I had selected the TC1100 after a lot of research entirely because of its compact form-factor, and this is what really won the day on my flight.

For Business Class, any laptop will pretty much do the job. But for Economy Class, where I was stuck, four features of the TC1100 really stood out for me, and caused me to reflect upon the idea of a 'comfort zone' of very-close-up use:

...continue reading.

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November 06, 2004

Scoble's Overload: Bloggercon

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

10x10x400.jpg
Got a pointer from Scoble at the outset of the session on overload, a new service along the lines of the newsmap that I blogged a while back.

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The Podosphere is Heard From

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

podosphere.jpgListening to the furor arising from the podcasting freaks at Bloggercon, I wonder about the explosion in interest circumventing the radio networks. The entire principle of "True Voice" is perhaps carried out in a more direct way.

As the direct result of a few sentences from Steve Gillmor, I decided to register the domain name "www.podosphere.com."

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Making Money: Bloggercon

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Picture005.jpegDave Winer admits that he picked Doc Searls to head the session on "Making Money by Blogging" since he is one of the people that is least likely to think that you should.

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Bloggercon: Podcasting Wisecrack

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Adam Curry leading the discussion on Podcasting. Starts by pointing out that "Google still doesn't get it" when he types in "podcasting" on Google, returns 191K+ hits, but asks "do you mean Broadcasting?"

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November 05, 2004

Online Dating Insider

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

In a week of many, many announcements, here another one.

I am happy to welcome David Evans about as a Corante Contributor; Dave has agreed to become the editor of the Corante Online Dating Insider Dave is a well-known industry observer, and has been publishing Online Dating News since 2002, now merged with the Insdier.

I will be participating as a contributor to /dating, and working closely with Dave on several other projects. Dave and I will be launching a Corante Research service, supporting the players and technology suppliers for the online dating industry. Dave is also assuming the role of research director of the Online Dating and Discovery Advisory Service. We also are planning a symposium on the challenges confronting the industry, some time in the next few months. About these, more to follow.

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Operating Manual for Social Tools

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am happy to announce a new social media project that Corante is producing, called Operating Manual for Social Tools. Sponsored by ZeroDegrees, OMST is intended to explore issues surrounding the use and utility of social tools, such as social networking applications and other collaboration/communication/community tools that are increasingly social in nature.

Stowe Boyd
[from Operating Manual for Social Tools]

CvrBk-OperatingManualForSpaceshipEarth-Japanese3.jpgSometime in the late 1970s, I encountered R. Buckminster Fuller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and it left an indelible mark on me.

Fuller, a polymath who is best known for inventing the geodesic dome, in his later years adopted a global perspective regarding the challenges confronting humanity, and went on tour, speaking at colleges across the country, enjoying a brief McLuhanesque impact on our nascent ecological awareness.

His basic thesis was that the Earth is a very small place -- a spaceship -- that we share as we move through the cosmos.

R. Buckminster Fuller
Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it.
The rest of the book was an attempt to in fact lay out the groundwork for an operating manual for our spaceship: Earth. He attempted to derive an action plan from the mathematical and philosophical principles that he believed underlie our world and our interrelatedness.

In the explosion in social tools use, it has become clear that we are in an analogous situation. Hundreds, if not thousands of social tools are being developed, and millions of people are becoming involved in the processes that these social tools implement. Social networking applications, online communities, even instant messaging solutions are actively rewiring how we interact.

It's a small world, our spaceship earth, and in the roll-out of these technologies we are once again made aware how social networks link us together: for better or worse.

But there is no operating manual for social tools. That hasn't stopped the entrpreneurs and innovators that are rolling out services on every side. And it hasn't slowed the uptake of these tools by the early adoptors, who have streamed into the myriad offerings without a second look.

However, there ought to be an operating manual. Just a few examples of questions that the operating manual might answer:

  • What are the rights and responsibilities of the citizens and denizens of social space?
  • What should the privacy and security provisions for social tools be? How should they be verified, if at all, and by whom?
  • Who owns identity, and how is it verified?
  • Who owns the information that individuals might create or capture in these social tools? Or, stated from a different perspective, who has what rights with regard to the global social network that is being constructed inside of social tools?

So we are launching this project, to identify these and related questions, and to develop the operating manual that is so obviously needed. With the generous sponsorship of ZeroDegrees, Corante has created this blog as a forum, so that we can explore the issues and ultimately spell out some answers.

This project is the outgrowth of discussions that I had with Jas Dhillon, the CEO of ZeroDegrees, specifically arising from a piece I wrote earlier this year at Get Real, entitled "The Ten Commandments of Social Networking." In that piece, I only enumerated six commandments, and promised to fill out the list. But, rather than a short list of proscriptive demands, I now believe we need something more. Hence, this project.

I have asked David Weinberger and danah boyd to join me in this project, both Corante contributors to Many-to-Many and well-known writers on social tools and related topics.

There are potential conflicts latent in these questions. The interests of entrepreneurs may at times run counter to the needs of individuals, and vice versa. There are a wide variety of perspectives that can be taken: legal, economic, entrepreneurial, personal, and societal. We welcome the open exploration of these dynamics, and we invite your participation in the forum.

I and my colleagues do not know exactly where this is headed. We have no preplanned agenda, no collection of truisms in a desk drawer that we have been waiting to pull out. We are exploring our own thoughts and concerns, and we are hoping to share that experience. Our hope is that a few months down the road we will be converging on some answers, as well as finding a form for those answers to be captured in.

I am joined in the project by two well-known throught leaders, danah boyd and David Weinberger. I invite you to participate in the forum that we are hoping to develop.

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Won't You Be My Friendster?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Live track by the Skiffingtons: Won't You Be My Friendster? [thanks to Ted Rheingold for this, and, oh, that other thing.]

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November 03, 2004

SPIM lawsuits

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

AOL has started to go after spimmers: those trolls trying to hawk Vicodin in chat rooms:

[from America Online | Press Center]

America Online, Inc. today announced it was stepping up its fight against purveyors of unwanted, junk computer messages by filing two new lawsuits in Federal Court. The announcement was made in conjunction with AOL's anti-spam partners Microsoft, EarthLink and Yahoo! - who also announced they filed lawsuits against spammers in courts in Washington State, Georgia, and California.

AOL's lawsuits are noteworthy and unique in nature. The first AOL lawsuit, filed against twenty "John Does", is the Company's very first lawsuit that expressly targets "SPIM" - unwanted communications to online consumers via instant messaging tools or chat rooms.

The other lawsuit is the very first AOL legal action to target a spammer peddling controlled substances, including Vicodin and other pharmaceuticals, which are legally available only with a physician's prescription. This lawsuit, filed against ten "John Does", is also noteworthy because it is the first time AOL is filing a spam lawsuit based on a large number of complaints specifically determined to be from AOL Europe and AOL Canada members.

According to Todd Bishop, this is not the first such suit:
[from Microsoft's 'spim' suit]

[...] contrary to some reports, while it's AOL's first spim suit, it's actually not the first lawsuit in the industry to target the practice.

Microsoft filed a suit last year in King County Superior Court (download .pdf of complaint) against a Canadian man alleged to have sent spam over the MSN Messenger instant-messaging program, as well as MSN Hotmail. The case is still pending. The complaint also includes a screenshot showing what a spim looks like, in case you haven't had the pleasure.

Despite that suit, spim isn't a major problem on MSN Messenger, according to Aaron Kornblum, Microsoft's Internet safety enforcement attorney. As mentioned in our item about the suits this morning, that's in part because of a "reverse list" feature in MSN Messenger that lets people see when someone else puts them on a buddy list, and, if they want, lets them stop that person from sending them messages. That feature also extends to IM "presence," letting MSN Messenger users block another person from knowing whether or not they're online.

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The Neverending Story: Marc's Heresy V

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Jason Calcanis posted a piece yesterday which is the outgrowth of an ongoing, email back channel discussion arising from Mark Canter's Heresy (see Marc's Heresy, II, III, and IV). I hate to say it, but I almost agree with Jason:

Jason Calcanis
[from More on bloggers trying to justify selling out - The Jason Calacanis Weblog - calacanis.weblogsinc.com]

No one is saying running advertising makes you a whore. Boingboing added traditional advertising units that are clearly labeled. I think that is great and I’m psyched that the hard-working team over there is covering their costs and getting paid for putting together a very unique product.

What we’re saying is that if you mix advertising into your editorial, and have the writers getting paid to promote products, you are a whore.

There is a line, and we shouldn't cross it. "Whore" may be a bit strong, but I agree with Jason's perspective.

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Notes from "Instant Messaging and The Attention Economy": Time as a Shard Space

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I enjoyed putting together and doing the "Instant Messaging and the Attention Economy" presentation last week (see this summary of what I thought I was going to say before I actually sat down to do the preso). Here's a link to the recorded presentation.

I owe the "Attention Economy" concept to Herbert Simon, who wrote "What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention."

I have argued in other pieces that Continuous Partial Attention is not a disorder, but a meaningful strategy to deal with the world we are living in. But in working through my thoughts for the presentation, I had a small epiphany.

CPA looks inefficient when you view productivity at an individual level. I am working on project X, and you come along (via IM, let's say, although it doesn't really matter how) and ask me a question regarding your project Z. I have to pay the participation costs of switching context -- recalling what Z is all about, etc. -- and then after our conversation, I have to pay the additional costs associated with recalling where I was on project X. Its estimated that this timeslicing can lead to as much as a 40% decrease in personal producitivity.

However, when you view productivity at the network level, things are not so simple. If I had spurned your request for my help on project Z, that project may have stalled for hours or days, until I was finished with the task on Z. And if all my network of contacts all operate on the same "one thing at a time" model, a large number of projects might stall, waiting for participants to complete some task. As a result, the local optimization of my personal productivity can lead to a networkwide decrease in producitivity. Like an assembly line worker who focuses on making carburators, but could care less about the rate of overall automobile production.

When viewed from the network perspective, time is a shared space. For the benefit of the productivity of my buddies -- the first level of the network that radiates out from me into the larger world -- my time is truly not my own. I am linked to the world through collaborative relationships, where I am obliged to make time for others on a regular basis, even if in fact it negatively impacts my personal productivity. This is counterbalanced by the likelihood that in the future those interrupting me today will tolerate my interrupts.

So, continuous partial attention -- manifested by instant messaging my partners during meetings, for example -- is a different take on productivity, a different, and more socialized concept of networked productivity. From the older, linear viewpoint, someone who has shifted over to CPA will seem borderline ADD, but we're not. Its just a different strategy for allocating attention based on time as a shared space

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November 01, 2004

More on Flu Vaccination: Kids are the Supernodes

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I posted a plea for the application of network science to the distribution of flu vaccine, last week. Various Corante contributors pointed out some fallacies in my arguments, or at least the fact that my arguments are not well supported by network research to date.

both danah boyd and Clay Shirky pointed out via email that the studies I cited re: AIDS dispersal were much simpler to model because of the relative difficulty involved in spreading AIDS. The flu, on the other hand, is spread by very casual interaction -- breathing other person's exhalations, or using a cup touched by a flu sufferer -- so that the dispersal is much more general and open.

I concur, as far as the analysis goes. But I maintain that there is still a network gradient involved, and that people should be sorted out to those least likely to spread the disease -- older shut-ins, for example -- and those who are more likely to spread the bug.

Renee Hopkins Callahan came across an interesting support for this position:

[from NPR : Health Experts: Kids Should Get Flu Shots First]

Health Experts: Kids Should Get Flu Shots First

Morning Edition, November 1, 2004 · In a typical flu season, more than 40 percent of school-age kids get the flu. But health officials are trying to get the vaccine to Americans over age 50. New findings suggest children should be vaccinated first to reduce the spread of flu to older adults. Hear NPR's Richard Knox.

Turns out that kids get the flu at over 7 times the rate of adults, and then infect at risk adults. As Renee notes, "This test is based on a case in Japan where flu in older people almost disappeared after a period of years of vaccinating all school-age children, then returned after the vaccination program was discontinued."

So the emperical results suggest that vaccinating school age children may break the epidemic explosion, because schools turn out to be a hot zone for the disease, even though the children themselves are not at risk. So, when we are short of vaccine, we should target the kids to quell the epidemic. Of course, as is noted in the report, if you really are confronted with a pandemic, you should innoculate nearly everyone, but if you innoculate even 25% of the kids, you will see a drastic downturn in the overall infection in the population as a whole.

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True Voice: The Business of Blogging

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I'm happy to pull the wraps off Corante's upcoming True Voice: The Business of Blogging seminar series (see our press release for more details). True Voice is lined up for at least five cities already, starting with New York on 26 January 2005. Later on, we will be in San Francisco, Boston, London, and Los Angeles.

I will be working with Greg Narain and Suw Charman on the seminar content, and our friends at Business Development Institute have partnered with us on logisitics and sponsorship. We will have registration information up in the next week; email me (stowe AT corante.com) if you would like to be pinged. Also contact me if you would like to learn more about sponsorship opportunities.

I am also excited to announce that SilkRoad technology will be our premier sponsor, and we will be launching a True Voice blog later this month using SilkRoad blog technology. Stay tuned!

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James Enck on The Coming Convergence

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I stumbled across the EuroTelcoblog, courtesy of Hylton. The author is making the case for blogs as a better source of grounded insight than financial analysts, and suggests a coming convergence:

James Enck

[...] eventually, and probably sooner than later, someone is going to pull together all these diverse angles on telecom/internet/media/hardware/applications/chips, incorporate some hard financial and technical analysis, and build a cross-sector investment research platform incorporating realtime tools (I mean blogging, IM, video conferencing and collaboration) rather than .pdfs and spam.

There is a business model here, and whether it's the financial media who seize upon it (Reuters and Bloomberg have the infrastructure and a lot of data, but are trapped in a walled garden mentality and put their journalists in the same sector-coverage silos that the brokers do), or the brokers (I'm skeptical, because I think they tend to be dismissive of alternative points of view, risk-averse, organized in sector and region silos, and anyway are focused on trying to kill one another), or a newcomer (CNET or something that doesn't currently exist), I feel certain that it is going to happen.

Investment banks: you have competition, whether you know/believe it or not. It behaves differently from you, uses different tools, and takes no prisoners. More importantly, its mindshare is growing, and you ought to be scared. What happens when one day your client base wakes up and feels confident enough to say they don't want your research?

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