"I can’t think of anything that demonstrates the sovereign nature of the self better than a blog.” - Doc Searls
About the Author
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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February 28, 2005

Unlinking from Social Networks: Part 2

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

My project to unlink myself from the dozens or more social networking apps I have registered with is gaining momentum, and a lot of heat. The back channel -- where dozens of people have emailed me asking me what the hell I'm up to -- has been four or five times as active as the public interchange here at Get Real and over at Operating Manual for Social Tools (a project now closing down).

Questions range from "why are you dropping out of social networks in general and LinkedIn in specific" to statements of support and agreement with my general comments. Here, in a nutshell, are my motivations:

  • I have participated in the various public social networks only passively -- responding to others requests to connect, and occasionally passing along a request to connect to some contact.
  • Because of the investments I have made in existing modes of networking -- particularly social media based networks -- I have not spent any significant time trying to exploit the SNAs.
  • I have had a couple of disquieting interactions with those trying to aggressively promote themselves, their products or services through SNAs, as recounted here and here. I don't really want to be prey to that sort of predator.
  • I have wound up getting dozens of requests each month in the various networks by people more than two degrees away trying to reach people more than two degrees away, where I have little social capital involved, and I uniformally have been turning down those requests. In essence, these are a form of spam, although one that is allowed by the 'rules of engagement' surrounding the SNAs.
  • I am annoyed that the SNAs don't provide opt out at every juncture: please don't involve me in requests like this, please don't allow this person to contact me. please don't contact me ever. The services vary widely in this regard. I was able to drop out of LinkedIn within a 24 hour period, although it does require sending a message to customer support.
  • And I have an abiding interest in the creation of an interoperable basis for social networks. My experience in the instant messagingworld -- where we have several large public networks that do not interact easily -- demonstrates the problems inherent in pushing ahead with a fragmented model, where several large players will grow without any obvious incentives for interoperability, although it may well be in the public interest. (See the recent story about, as an alternative.)

I set up a poll at that has just about a 100 respondents. Although my poll is flawed (for example, the first two questions are really the same, stated slightly differently), I am still interested in the results.



  • Of the respondents (which are primarily my contacts at LinkedIn), roughly one third are passive users, not initiating activities but just responding to requests from others.
  • One third have considered dropping out, because of lack of acitivity or too many requests.
  • 75%+ of respondents believe they have been socially spammed ("someone trying to use the SNA in a way that does not line up with my goals or profile").
  • Roughly one third state that SNAs "are lacking critical features" -- a lot of missing features -- that would make them usable.

There is a sizable group, perhaps even more than half who find SNAs beneficial.
The remainder have serious issues and questions. My read is that these technologies are immature, have a long way to go, and probably have not assumed the form that will in the long run be the 'killer app' for SNAs.

My bet is that a deep integration of an open platform for social networking that easily integrates with social media is the best bet for future success. I would appreciate any other pointers to SNA research or development in this area: that's where I think the missing critical features lie.

I plan to rework the poll, and press on with my retreat from SNAs. Next are ZeroDegrees, Spoke, Orkut, Friendster,, and so on. More to follow.

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February 25, 2005

Odeo: Ev's New Gig

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Ev Williams, one of the founders of Pyra Labs (Blogger), is spinning up another run at fame and fortune with Odeo, as reportedThe New York Times this morning: and its a podcasting startup. The article's author does a good job of asking the key question: is there gold in them thar hills?

John Markoff
The primarily amateur Internet audio medium known as podcasting will take a small, hopeful step on Friday toward becoming the commercial Web's next big thing.

That step is planned by Odeo, a five-person start-up that is based in a walk-up apartment in this city's Mission District and was co-founded by a Google alumnus. The company plans to introduce a Web-based system that is aimed at making a business of podcasting - the process of creating, finding, organizing and listening to digital audio files that range from living-room ramblings to BBC newscasts.

Audio files on the Internet are nothing new, of course. But the recent proliferation of portable iPods and other devices for storing and playing files in the MP3 audio format has created a mobile audience in this country - more than 11 million and growing - on whom podcasters are counting to listen to much more than downloaded songs and the occasional audio book.

The question for Odeo, and for the many other entrepreneurial efforts almost certain to come, is whether there is any money to be made from podcasting."

The assumption in in the podosphere (I have the domain, by the way, if anyone wants to buy it) is that podcasting will be much like radio -- advertising will be an easy sell.

As other aspects of podcasting come on line -- like easy downloading to mp3 devices, and streaming via internet and sattelite radio becomes easier, then we will likely see the disruption in radio land that blogging is already accomplishing in print media.

Odeo and other startups in this space will certainly hasten the mass market adoption of podcasting, which is today a tinkerer's joy but a challenge for anyone else.

Jeff Jarvis hails Odeo as a sign of what is to come in podcasting, and was wise to all this going on in secret: "I'm also glad they're thinking advertising support from the start. And the possibilities are endless (think vlogs). Ev hitched up with Noah Glass, who started Audioblogger, an idea whose time has now come. Here is Ev's post on how it happened. Here is Odeo."

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Kris Krug's Poll on Flikr Buyout Rumors

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Kris Krug hosts an interesting Flickr Acquisition Poll. Even if the Flikr acquisition is merely a rumor, the ideas swirling are at the least funny:

Who do you think will end up buying Flickr?
How much do you think it will go for?
When do you think it will happen?

At 9:05 PM, Kitten said...

Why does everything successful online be part of Google, Yahoo or MSN? I just hope they break that rule and stand on their own..

Anyways to answer your question, I would assume Google would buy it (to me they are the good guys), though they are always the inventors of good things & always seem to be creating new things rather than innovating them..

Yahoo try too hard, yet they always seem to be beaten up by others really quickly.

MSN.. oh Msn is just a world of their own.. I really hope they don't buy Flickr & MSN it with their MSNish 'theme'.. =/ *gulp*

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February 24, 2005

Social Physics and

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Following a pointer from Clay, I discovered the initiative at the Berkman Center:

Boston, 2005. American Revolution 2

Today we are not full citizens of the Web. We have no effective voice in how our digital selves are captured, stored, represented, bought and sold. In short we have no voice in how that most precious and precarious aspects of ourselves, - our multiple digital identities - are governed.

To secure the protections of the state and the benefits of commerce, we are asked to relinquish our individual sovereignty to “higher” authorities – commercial and governmental. The presumptive fear is that there can be no social order without a central authority, a master server to monitor, protect, control and enforce.

Yet precisely the opposite is what is needed. Effective control, efficient control, adaptive control can not be exercised top down short of a “lock down” that stifles freedom of action, production and expression.

Control is not about removing risk from an organization through preordained action, but a matter of incorporating and distributing risk and the ability to creatively respond to it at those points where change is implemented and consequences experienced. At the Edge. Not at the Center. Not at the peak of the pyramid. But among the many peers that self-organize to make networks work.

Towards Edge Organization

By moving decision rights to the edge, the individual can have both responsibility and control over their digital identities. By creating infrastructures that ensures requisite transparency, fairness and accountability, the power of peer governance enables Libertarian Freedoms while simultaneously ensuring Communitarian Values.

In short, digital technologies afford a new form of scaleable peer governance whereby transparency, fairness, reputation, and accountability can achieve new levels of trusted exchange, and economic diversity and efficiency not imaginable in organizations with fixed hierarchical decision structures.

These new edge organizational forms leverage human beings innate propensities to trust and their innate competences to detect deception.

Why A Social Physics?

We believe that there is growing evidence from a variety of disciplines, neuro-science, evolutionary psychology, comparative anthropology, neuro-economics, and evolutionary biology that many human social behaviors are very similar to other social species—even those to whom we are not genetically linked. How is it that very similar cooperative strategies and social behaviors emerge in genetically distinct species? The answer is intriguing because it argues that under certain environmental conditions, there are Evolutionarily Stable Strategies (ESSs) that are independently discovered by different species and embedded in their respective genomes through the trial and error of thousands of generations of evolutionary testing. What this means is that for certain forms of cooperative behavior there are ESSs which naturally appear as the best solutions and that these are governed by innate social protocols and emotions. These emotions and social protocols exist in a variety of genetically distinct species: harvester ants, ravens, wolves, elephants, whales, booboos, chimpanzees, and human beings. Therefore, we argue that there are certain underlying laws—a kind of social physics—that can be abstracted for complex forms of collective behavior and cooperation, independent of the kind of species involved.

The goal of the SocialPhysics project is to create real world online environments – edge organizations - for a variety of human endeavors - where diverse forms of trusted exchange can be tested, scaled, validated and rejected to discover robust forms of social, cultural and economic exchange. In short, create the social technologies of civil societies.

Please join us.

— John Clippinger and the SocialPhysics Team

I'm in. Where do I sign?

Clay seems a bit skittish about "identity management" -- "I’m generally skeptical of identity management — it has the same hollow ring as knowledge management — but since the focus here is on trust building, rather than simple transactions that treat trust as a binary condition or simple threshold, this will be worth watching."

I am interested in the efforts toward an open source platform:

Develop a reusable, open source software framework based on the Eclipse Rich Client Platform that provides core services including: identity management, social network data models, authentication management, encryption, and privacy controls. On top of this framework we are also developing a demo app that provides identity management and social networking functions, tools to create peer-to-peer identity sharing and facilities to support communities of interest around emerging topics.
This is perhaps the only way (short of ceding monopoly to Microsoft or Google) to get around the interoperability logjam currently in place in the social tools world: nearly nothing interoperates!

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It had to happen...

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I was testing AP's new RSS feeds, and bumped into this fascinating convergence of onling gaming and ecommerce:

Peter Svensson
[from News from The Associated Press]

Demonstrating a deep understanding of what its computer-gaming audience, Sony has built the ability to order pizza into its latest online multiplayer game.

Type the command "/pizza" while playing Everquest II, a fantasy game with 330,000 active players, and get the Pizza Hut Web site, where you can place orders for delivery.

Just another kiosk in the ether.

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Opting Out of Social Networks

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Over at Operating Manual for Social Tools, I report on my project to disconnect myself from various social networking applications where I don't feel lilke I am getting value from my involvement. I have created a poll to measure other users' ambivalence: here's the results so far.


Looks like a sizeable number of people are sharing my ambivalence. Almost half have considered dropping out, since nothing much seems to be going on, 75% have been "socially spammed," and only 14% believe that the current features are adequate. More to follow!

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February 23, 2005

February 22, 2005

February 19, 2005

Northern Voice 2005 - Vancouver, British Columbia 017

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Northern Voice 2005 - Vancouver, British Columbia 017

Originally uploaded by kk+.

Greg and I are madly blogging in the audience at .

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Claiming My Feed

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

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Another Way To Get Fired For Blogging

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Scoble is howling at about a new way to get fired for blogging (badly): "You should be fired if you do a marketing site without an RSS feed. Saying that RSS is only for geeks today is like saying in 1998 that the Web was only for geeks."

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Tim Bray at NorthernVoice

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A question from the floor at in Vancouver, when Tim Bray is discussing "don't blog on command" as one of his postulates for blogging: meaning that management shouldn't command that people blog. A voice from the audience: "does that mean that people will get fired for not blogging?" to which Robert Scoble replies, "That's coming." In the spirit of "getting Dooced" I offer the term "getting Aced" for this future trend.

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February 17, 2005

Centrality Launches

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am happy to announce my involvement in a new online journal, Centrality, where I am serving as editor, along with contributors Antony Bryden, Stan Wasserman, and Suw Charman. The journal is focused on the value, science, and application of relationship capital in business. There is an ongoing interview series involving notables like Esther Dyson, Ray Lane, and Sam Reese, as well as a variety of pieces on relationship capital, social networking, and related topics.

Here's an excerpt from piece I posted there recently:

[from Everthing is Different]

In Albert-László Barabási’s Linked, the author explains that the origin of the “six degrees of separation” notion that underlies all social networking theory was the brain child of a Hungarian writer, Frigyes Karinthy. In 1929, Karinthy published his forty-sixth book, a collection of short stories entitled “Everything Is Different” (Minden masképpen van), which is now out of print and apparently lost to us.

Albert-László Barabási
[from Linked]

The short story collection was a critical failure and soon sank into obscurity. It has been out of print ever since. […] But there is one story, entitled “Lánceszemek,” or “Chains,” that deserves our attention.

“To demonstrate that people on Earth today are much closer than ever, a member of the group suggested a test. He offered a bet that we could name any person among earth’s one and a half billion inhabitants and through at most five acquaintances, one of which he knew personally, he could link to the chosen one," writes Karinthy in “Lánceszemek." And indeed, Karinthy's fictionaly character immediately links a Nobel prizewinner to himself, noting that the Nobelist must know King Gustav, the Swedish monarch who hands out the Nobel prize, who is in turn a consummate tennis player and plays occasionally with a tennis champion who happens to be a good friend of Karinthy's character. [...]

The "six degrees" meme was rediscovered decades later by Stanley Milgram, who engendered an entire branch of science through his groundbreaking investigations into social networking. His initial foray into the field nearly confirmed Karinthy's magic number five. Milgram's research was astonishingly similar to Karinthy's Ford example -- getting random people in various Midwestern cities to pass along a letter through their personal contacts, heading toward one of two Massachusetts residents. And after all was said and done, the average number of hand-offs in the successful cases turned out to be 5.5; rounded up, this is the core for the "six degrees of separation" concept.

Another few generations have passed since Milgram's 1967 experiment, and the principles of social networks have entered the popular mindset. We think of the world as a much smaller place than those that came before us. We are living in McLuhan's global village, where one person's actions can lead to a cascade of effects across the Globe: not through some disembodied "invisible hand," but by the interaction of people who are known to each other. Our ability to influence those that we know means that what we do can propagate through the social matrix that shapes our world, and can open doors, shift political debate, or quell a rumor.

And because we know that this is how the world wags -- that even the least networked of us is connected to everyone if he is connected to at least one other person -- now, everything is different. So, we have lifted the title of Karinthy's forgotten book to serve as the initial piece for this journal, dedicated to social networking in business, because now everything is different.

The world of business -- where "networking" has been a gerund for decades -- is rediscovering the latent power of social networks. Personal and business relationships are being reappraised in light of social networking technology and techniques, in ways that were too costly or simply impossible prior to the twenty-first century.

I hope you bookmark Centrality, and send me your thoughts on its direction.

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February 15, 2005


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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Imeem's social media technology is based on the IM paradigm: a buddy list. Their most interesting feature, perhaps, is the ability to traipse around the network of buddies, looking at their blog postings, buddies of buddies, and so on. Imeem's blogs can be managed within the Imeem network, or can also be made accessible to the wide world.

Whether closed communities like Imeem will take off remains to be seen, but the notion that the instant messaging buddy list is the center of the universe is a solid architectural principle that will become ubiquitous.

[full disclosure: Imeem is a client.]

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More on the Flu Vaccine Mess: What We Know Now

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A few months ago, I wrote a piece called "Ethics of the Flu Vaccine Shortage: What Would Network Science Do?" where I conjectured that the distribution of flu vaccine was hosed, not just because of scarcity, but because we were doling it out to those at high risk as opposed to those most likely to distribute the disease: the supernodes. Shortly thereafter, I wrote "More on Flu Vaccination: Kids are the Supernodes" a few days later, where some evidence emerged in Japan that suggested that the supernodes in flu epidemics are not barristas, doctors, nurses, or bus drivers, but grade school children.

New evidence has emerged to support this theory in a report being published in today's American Journal of Epidemiology:

[from USA Today]

"By vaccinating at least of 70% of the schoolchildren, you can pretty much reduce transmission to the whole community," says Ira Longini, a biostatistics professor at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.

So, next year, when the stupidity starts up again, remember that we really need to apply network science to the flu vaccine problem, not a bunch of outmoded ethics. We shouldn't willy-nilly vaccinate the elderly, but only the highest risk cases. While it turns out that we need to vacinate the kids, we aren't motivated by "women and children" stupidity. We need to vaccinate them because that's the only way to end the epidemic spreading. Stop the madness!

And of course, this is a story buried on page 8D of the Life section, lost in the television listings, not above the crease on page one where it could potentially make a difference.

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February 14, 2005

DEMO@15: Scottsdale

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have arrived at the DEMO conference here in Scottsdale, and have already seen a bunch of interesting folks: Pito Salas (CEO of BlogBridge, whose technology I have been fiddlng with recently -- more to follow on that), Robert Scoble (the guy is stalking me, I swear), Renee Blodgett (who is here with four or five clients), Ted Malone (of Imeem -- whose technology is being demoed tomorrow), Walter Mossberg, Amy Wohl, Ben and Mena Trott, and many others.

I missed the morning sessions, sat in on a session this afternoon that was all manner of security products (yawn), but the session I am most interested in is tomorrow morning, where there are a number of gender bending products fusing blogs, instant messaging, peer-to-peer, collaboration and coordination.

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February 11, 2005

Eight years of email stats, pass 1

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Posted by Marc Eisenstadt

What's the reality behind the 'email overload' talk? Let's look at some numbers... personal numbers.

To kick things off, I've got a huge email archive. I started emailing in the early ArpaNet days, around 1972, and haven't stopped since. My archive has been extremely thorough for at least the past 12 years (and, in case you think I'm nuts for keeping all of these, my actual regret from a scientific/archive perspective is that I don't have the earlier ones too!). Why? Let's just say that one day I planned to do an analysis of it all... types of mails, social networks, the whole works. But things got a little out of hand.... (anyone lookin' for some data, give me a shout... but first read on)...

Most of this 'storage mania' was triggered by a casual comment in around 1992 or 1993 by Ron Baecker, of the University of Toronto, a longtime research colleague and acquaintance and someone whose work I have long admired and respected. Ron asked me, "given ultra-cheap storage and ultra-fast search, both clearly on their way, why would you ever need either to delete or indeed to accurately file/categorize your emails?"

OK, so as a little personal experiment, I decided to keep 'em, and to see what happened. The quick story is that migrating across machines, operating systems, and preferred email clients, plus being a bit cavalier about the whole thing, has meant that although all the emails are 'there' in various archive files, it takes a little work to get 'em all back in a harmonious form, that is with all headers intact and no duplicates (the main formats are Vax mails, Unix mails, Mac Eudora, PC Eudora, Outlook Express, and Outlook).

The longer story, with some data and preliminary analysis, begins like this:

...continue reading.

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Steve Rubel on Media Players as RSS Aggregators

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Steve Rubel heralds the future where All News Sites Will Become Aggregators: "The RSS revolution will force online news sites to evolve into aggregators to retain their eyeball base. We're already seeing this with sites like But the big guys have a chance here to get into the RSS game. The moves that CNET, the LA Times, the Guardian and the others that follow will have profound impact on PR. It will raise how clients perceive news placements on blogs because they will be on an equal playing field in the aggregator. We will look back on this week as a watershed moment for RSS." I completely agree. I also believe that this is the future battlefield between traditional journalism and social media companies, like Corante. More to follow.

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February 10, 2005

First Look: Ubergroups

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I was turned onto Ubergroups yesterday (having completley missed other commentary on the product).

In a nutshell, it is a social tools space for team-based project work, supporting real-time (IM, Chat, file transfer) and slow-time (blogs, file repository, Chat history, etc) communication and coordination.

The underlying instant messaging protocol is Jabber, and I was able to communicate with a partner through their java-based client, as well as Gush. It looks like any Jabber compliant IM client will work.

However, despite the company's positioning as an IM product first, and social media solution, second, I think their emphasis is wrong.

This is a direct competitor to products like Basecamp and Groove, which are intended (through completely different architectures) to support team-based project collaboration. As I said today in a phone conversation with James Payne of Rhombus, they should pay me a royalty on the product since it lines up so well with the wishlist of features I suggested to Jason Fried, one of the architects of Basecamp.

Web-based Collaboration with IM Client

The basic schema is based on a list of groups. Within each group there are users, blogs, persistent chatrooms, and (James suggests) in the future other elements for coordination, like calendars, to dos, etc. They support RSS feeds from each group, although they are encrypted and require login, and not many RSS readers support that (though apparently Gush does).


Each team (strangely enough, they are not called groups) opens with a 'home' dashboard view that includes a "team narrative" -- which is the concatenation of the blog entries from all the groups blogs.

This is an interesting model. Within a group you can have single author blogs, or blogs that all can contribute to. The entries can be commented on, but I have found no notion of trackback in today's implementation, nor permalinks (at least that I found in my first look).

A team space also can have any number of persistent chat rooms (which are not integrated into the team narrative, strangely).


I found the Java client straight forward to use, and the chat room experience just like you'd expect. The most recent activity in the chat rooms is accessible through the web interface, but you need to be running the Java client to enter the chat rooms: they haven't moved to a standard Jabber (XMPP) protocol for that, yet.

Bottom Line

With the exception of some minor annoyances (like not working under Firefox on Mac OS X, at the moment), Ubergroups is almost the answer to my prayers. I am working in dozens of projects with all sorts of different groups. I am constantly IMing, alerting group members of status updates, being pinged through RSS of new critical info, etc. -- just like you.

If coupled with Gush-style client -- both IM and RSS -- I can see Ubergroups being the killer app in this social media project space. I have written in the past about how I would like Gush to reorder their notion of IM roster and RSS feeds so that they are integrated around project groups, with both feeds and user presence collated into group tabs. For the moment, Hopefully Gush will be revamped to fill this missing piece of the puzzle, or some smart RSS reader company might implement all the client side niceties.

Now I just have to see how much of a pain it will be to transfer our existing projects from Basecamp over to Ubergroups.

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Blogging 2.0 Redux

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Yesterday's post -- Blogging 2.0 -- caught the eye of Jason Calcanis, who commented on my comparison of Always-On Network and Corante:

Jason Calcanis


Come on, beating Always on means nothing we both know that (sorry Tony). always on is one tiny niche B2B blog... it's not a network. :-)

Take a look at Corante vs. just two of the Gawker and blogs--it's not even close! These charts show just two of each networks blogs... I'm leaving out a dozens of other domains! I'd be surprised if Corante had 5-10% of the traffic WIN or Gawker have.

Technorati links are way overrated when determining the value of a business. Media business are--and have always been--driven first by traffic. Traffic=influence... not links.

All this mumbo-jumbo, Dave Sifry, new age, "links=a business" is just silly--for real. People are gaming Technorati all day long, and technorati ranking are more a function of how long you've been blogging then how popular you are.

Show me the traffic! :-)

Well, I agree and disagree. I buy that traffic is a good metric of the number of folks you are attracting today, but I also believe that links (a la PubSub and Technorati style rankings) represent an indication of merit -- a vote, if you will. And, search engines like Google also evaluate links in determining search order, not just traffic.

Also, Tony Perkins raises the question "what do the numbers from Alexa mean?":

Tony Perkins
Everyone who makes over 33% profit margins on their network selling to IBM, Sun, Accenture, Audi etc. raise their hands!

BTW, Our biggest month ever was January, up 100% for a year earlier, so I am not sure where those numbers are coming from.

Be sure to watch for our blogozine due March 1st - it is pretty kick-ass (and profitable).

Love to all my *friends* in the blogosphere.

Now, now, Tony. I think of you as a friend and colleague, no matter what Jason says.

We are actively searching for a media-savvy "executive producer" who can negotiate deals for us with the Suns, Audis, and Xeroxes of the world. (Please contact me if you are that person, by the way.)

This discussion comes at a great moment for me, since I am in the middle of working with Hylton (my partner at Corante) on a business plan -- which is why I had the graphic handy for Always-On. These guys are helping me with data and justification for Corante's growth projections!

Here's the graphic contrasting Corante and Weblogsinc, once again using an Alexa graph:


What this shows is Weblogsinc growing by about 2X over the period, and Corante growing 3X since October. We are speeding up, and given this rate we should catch up pretty quick -- even leaving aside the new wildly new cool things we are planning to launch in the next few months.

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Garret the Ferret: Brainwashing the Young About Copyright

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

JD Lasica pulls down the pants of a Business Software Alliance campaign using a comic book ferret, Garret, to instill all sorts of pernicious notions about copyright and "cybercrime". This is targeted at grade school kids, note.


David Weinberger's one liner is priceless: "JD Lasica pastes Garrett the Copyright Totalitarian Ferret Who The Kids Love right in his snot-filled little nose."

Sheila Lennon digs in on the side of the angels, too.

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February 09, 2005

Blogging 2.0

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Over at A VC is an interesting post about Blogging 2.0, which he asserts involves the blog networks of folks like Jason Calcanis and Nick Denton; once again, Corante (despite being 47 yesterday on the PubSub most linked to rankings) goes unmentioned.

Note this Alexa graph that compares the growth of Corante readership with Always On, another media concern that gets way more ink than us.


While they seem to have stabilized, we have grown readership 300% since October!

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Courtesy of I learned about Proxidating, a bluetooth proximity dating service for cellphones. But they don't support my Sony Ericsson phone!

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"Word of Mouth" Marketing Code of Ethics

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I received a press release today from Andy Sernovitz of the The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), who released a code of conduct.

[from the press release]

The WOMMA Code establishes guidelines and best practices so that honest marketers have a framework with which to plan and execute ethical word of mouth marketing campaigns.

At the heart of the Code is what WOMMA calls its Honesty ROI -- honest disclosure of Relationship, Opinion, and Identity. This demands that advocates (those who are spreading a marketer's message by "word of mouth") disclose their relationship with marketers in their conversations with other consumers; that they be allowed to form their own honest opinions and let those with whom they're communicating form their own opinions; and that everyone be transparent and reveal their identity to anyone with whom they're communicating.

At the heart this effort seeks to prop up sneaky advocacy practices by companies like BzzMarket with a campaign based on transparency and honesty.

However, isn't it a bit unnatural, while you are hanging out at the watercooler discussing MP3 players, to have someone make a recommendation -- their "honest opinion" -- but then state that they are a paid advocate of iRiver or Apple? Full disclosure is not enough. "Honesty" of the advocate's opinion is not enough. The fabric of social intercourse is altered profoundly by individuals acting as hirelings for the companies whose products and services they tout. This is rise of social spam, where the natural pathways of discourse are going to be layered with commercial graffitti, and every utterance may be nuanced by corporate logos.

My sense is that this code of ethics becomes the whitewash for something that is nearly immoral. This is just like Marquiism, although instead of blogs the channel of discourse includes face to face interaction.

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February 08, 2005

The End of the Myth of Objectivity

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have been harping for the past few years about the disintegration of the "Myth of Objectivity" in journalism (here, and here, for example). Here's new support:

Chris Anderson
[from The end of objectivity]

The traditional premium on impartial journalism is a function of media scarcity: if you are the main or sole source of news you have an obligation to be balanced. That was certainly once true of America's newspapers, which in a big country are distributed by city, almost invariably in ones or twos. And the rest of American media took its journalistic-standards lead from newspapers.

But the UK is different in that it has long had a national newspaper market. Thus there was no news scarcity and newspapers differentiated themselves by taking sides.

Today in the US the newspaper is fading, as is its influence on American journalism: news and information is becoming a commodity. What will rise as a differentiating competitive advantage? I'd argue that it's not so much pure opinion and political partisanship (although that's been the case on radio) as it is sensibility and worldview.

Perhaps the best example of sensibility is The New Yorker, which has a distinctive voice and perspective that, one assumes, had its origins in the cultural life of the Upper East Side of Manhattan (disclosure: they're our corporate sibling at Conde Nast). You'd never confuse it with a newspaper--it assumes too much of the reader, both in intellegence and attention span, and appeals by making its audience feel like they've joined a somewhat exclusive club of smart, sophisticated people.

But sensibility doesn't have to be posh. Maxim and FHM have a sensibility (embrace your inner dog), as does MTV. Perhaps the best examples are blogs, which at their best have a distinctive and human voice, driven by the interests, values and sensibility of their author.

Worldview, on the other hand, tends to take the form of writing that does not so much seek to be balanced and comprehensive as it does to argue a case or give informed perspective and analysis, often reflecting a consistent philosophy (environmentalism, libertarianism, globalism, and plenty of positions that aren't "isms", too).

Examples include my alma mater The Economist (worldview: free markets), Fox News (American triumphalism), and my own Wired (change is good). What worldview shares with sensibility is that the writer's voice is louder than in traditional journalism, and his/her own observations and reactions are less suppressed.

I see both of these as part of the fall of "dispassionate media" and rise of what, by contrast, one might call "passionate media". I think passionate media is the only kind that will cut through the blur of commodification in the years to come. And I think that we, as readers (and writers!) can handle the lack of quasi-impartial hand-holding just fine.

Dan Gillmor calls all of this "the end of objectivity". I agree.

I agree that the rise of passionate media is meeting the needs of a society that has come to distrust hypothetical impartial journalism. We have come to distrust the myth of objectivity. We know -- scientifically -- that knowledge of the world relies on belief, and beliefs are grounded in emotions. This does not mean that any rant is true, but it does mean that true art requires belief.

The discussion of worldview above is a great way to address that idea. Any good, passionate writer (as opposed to cold fish journalists) will quickly establish their perspective on a topic, either implicitly or explicitly. If you are uncertain of where an author stands on a piece they have written (unless they are attempting to convey a sense of confusion or ambivalence) the author has failed to help the reader make sense of a difficult world. We can only know what we care about, and attempting to suppress our emotional connection with the world is both unhelpful and limiting.

But the myth was always that, a myth: there is no true objectivity. It was an editorial and political concept. But I am happy to cheer for the end of the myth, at any rate.

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Verizon Blocks EMail from Western Europe to Avoid Spam

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am a well-known hater of email (at least until I got Gmail), and not just because of spam. But I even more a hater of Verizon's customer support, becuase of their amazing cluelessness. In an astonishing move (as reported by Wired:

John Gardner
Verizon Communications customers expecting e-mail from across the pond may be in for a long wait. The internet service provider has been blocking e-mail originating from Great Britain and other parts of Europe for weeks, and customers are upset about having their communications disrupted without notice.


Verizon media relations manager Ells Edwards said he did not know when Verizon would discontinue its blocking of the European e-mail. "Normally these things abate in a matter of days," Edwards said.

Verizon has more than 3 million DSL customers, according to Edwards.

Edwards suggested that Verizon customers who are waiting for an e-mail response from Europe should use alternative forms of communication. "If it's really important you might want to make a phone call," he said.

3 million customers today, but not for long, I bet.

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February 07, 2005

Netflix "Friends" Service Growing at 15% per Day!

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Renee sent me a pointer yesterday to a piece that had some astonishing numbers regarding the gowth of NetFlix friends, that I wrote about recently (and yes, I did get invited to the service by a compassionate Get Realer).

Paul Demery
Although Netflix has long posted film reviews written by customers, in November it launched a social networking system, called "Friends," that organizes reviews and other personal information related to individual subscribers, allowing other subscribers to choose movie reviews and recommendations from people with common interests, he says.

15% growth a day

"The response has been extraordinary," Hastings says. "We started with a couple hundred Friends users, and it's been growing as much as 15% per day. As subscribers start using Friends and invite others into their personal network, including some who are already Friends members and some who aren't, more people are becoming Netflix subscribers."

I though socializing picking movies to watch was a great idea, but 15% growth per day?

We should anticipate that this news will get out (I have not seen much about it, really, but then I have been sick with the flu the past few days, and not reading much), and as I have consistently stated over and over again:all ecommerce of the near future will be socialized, simply because it enriches the experience of selection.

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February 04, 2005

February 03, 2005

Technology is Evil: Destroying Civic Mindedness

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A recent National Endowment for the Arts report blames new media technologies for the decline in interest in literature, and therefore for lessened involvement in civic activities, according to the Washington Post

The NEA, like many other observers of trends, blames technology. In 1990 consumers spent 6 percent of their leisure spending on audio, video, computers and software. Now, according to the report, those items account for 24 percent of recreational spending. Book-buying hasn't done that badly, standing at 5.7 percent in 1990 and 5.6 percent in 2002.


" 'Reading at Risk' merely documents and quantifies a huge cultural transformation that most Americans have already noted -- our society's massive shift toward electronic media for entertainment and information," said Dana Gioia, the poet who is NEA chairman, in the preface to the 60-page study.


Of the adults surveyed, 95.7 percent preferred watching television, 60 percent preferred attending a movie and 55 percent preferred lifting weights or doing other exercise to reading literature. Even 47 percent chose working in the garden.

The NEA report, which was released at the New York Public Library, laments that having fewer readers shrinks the pool of people who are activists in civic and cultural life. Adults who read literature also did volunteer and charity work, visited art museums and attended performing arts programs, as well as sports events.

I wonder what the results would be if you look at the people getting swept up in the blogosphere? I bet its counter to the trend, and that such people are as likely to volunteer, attend performing arts, and so on. I'm not sure about the sporting events though (wink).

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Social Circles

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

As much as I hate email (although less now that I am using Gmail), this application from social circles - marcos weskamp is pretty cool.

social circles.jpg


Social Circles intends to partially reveal the social networks that emerge in mailing lists. The idea was to visualize in near real-time the social hierarchies and the main subjects they address. When subscribing to a mailing you never know who the principals are, how many people are listening or what subjects they are talking about. It's like entering a meeting room with plenty of people in the darkness and then having to learn who is who by just listening to their voices.

Social Circles does not pretend to be a statistical application, but rather aims to raise the lights in that room just enough to let you enhance your perception of what's happening. At a glance it allows an easy way of grasping the whole situation by highlighting who is participating, who is "visually" central to that group, and displaying the topics everyone is talking about. How does the list structure itself? Is it moderated? Is it chaotic?

And if you click through a ways, you can find a way to build you own visualization of a social circle based on a mailing list you are involved in (although I didn't try it).

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Evelyn Rodriquez on the "Brand as Promise" v "Brand as Invitation" Debate

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Evelyn Rodriguez looks into the debate about brand = promise versus brand = invitation, based on various discussions from last week's New Communications Forum:

[from An Invitation to Purpose-Driven Marketing]

During the Branding and Blogging Panel, Stowe Boyd speaks up from the audience reiterating his stance, "A brand isn't a promise, it's an invitation."

The brand is a promise and the brand is an invitation debate rear its head again.

She goes on to explore the 'branding' in American religious circles today, pointing out that religious organizations and corporations are alike in their attempts to fill our need to belong to something, as a way to derive meaning from the world. She goes on:

Marketers and corporate communicators alike are inquiring into this 'belonging' need. Andy Lark's insightful keynote (in my opinion, it was hands down the best session in four days of business blog conferencing, BBS and NCF inclusive [I agree]; slides here) contemplates the disruptively massive changes in media and communications and asks us if something deeper is going on. "People are wanting to be part of a community, wanting to belong, wanting to join." In many ways. he says, Fast Company's founding premise was prescient, "We are declaring: 'I want to be part of something more meaningful.'" And there is a world of difference in communicating to an audience (transmit) and a community (engage and participate).
This is again the core of True Voice, a term I lifted from the Support Economy and the work of the social psycologist Englehart. The rise of social brands -- through social media -- is driven by our need to push aside the control of large, impersonal organizations, and participate in the essence of invitational brands: to define ourselves and find meaning through our involvement in the implicit communities of use surrounding products and services.

This is not just another way of looking at self-identification by class, or economic bracket, or being in the in crowd. It is a direct expression of an emergent, bottom-up exploration of our relationships to each other and our purpose in the world, where the goods and services we acquire and apply become a medium, in effect, where we interact with others.

Perhaps no better example of this invitational branding exists than the iPod, where we can not only share the superficial association of being cool, but the way that the product has grown to create a world of shared experience: I can share my playlists with my friends and the wide world, I can post the last song I played on my IM status, and, now, the new trend of spontaneous iPodjacking.

In the future, all commerce, and all brands, will have to become totally socialized to be viable.

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John Winsor on Brand as Story

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The Mad Linker pointed me to a great pice by John Winsor, ostensibly about branding, but which is at its heart about True Voice: Beyond the Brand: Developing a Story

We are in the twilight of a society based on data. In the coming years, brands and companies will not thrive on the basis of their data, but on the strength and meaning of their stories, creating products and services that evoke emotion. Products will become less important than the stories they convey and the way those stories are interpreted. It is a return of the ancient form of narrative. Companies need to have stories to tell -- stories that inspire action. And companies must themselves embody those stories with congruency and authenticity.

When developing your story, there are some essential qualities your narrative must have:


The story must be in the context of the audience's experience. You want the audience to think about their own experiences and stories and be able to see themselves in the story.


Many messages are too complex. Focus on the power of simplicity.


A story has to be interesting enough for the audience to register it, remember it, and tell it again.


The best stories are true to the audience's experience. True stories evoke in an audience an attitude of "I get it."


A story must get across a strong message that inspires the audience to rethink something.


A story must connect the right audience with the inspiration you are trying to convey.


A great story violates the listener's expectations. There is a surprising gift.


A story must embody the inspiration in such a way that the audience will intuitively know what to do with it.


A story helps people to take the leap of faith necessary to take action.
These are all characteristics of great blog writing, leaving out only a few, like Authenticity, Authority, and my personal favorite: Drawing a Line.

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February 02, 2005

Glenn Reid's "Marc Canter is not paying me to blog this" Badge

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Glenn Reid, CEO of Five Across, has entered the Marquiism fray with a spoof badge: "Marc Canter is not paying me to blog this".

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Hugh on Blogging as Survival

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Hugh McLeod says "We have gone beyond the tipping point. We are not blogging because it's cool or hip. It's now mostly about survival. We have entered an age where anyone who wants to make a living above minimum wage will have to get used to the idea of building and owning their own "global microbrand". If you're not blogging already, I would start. Seriously."

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Has Flikr F***-ed Up?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Over at Infectious Greed, there is an analysis (and rebuttal) of the theory that Flickr F***-ed Up:

Paul Kedrosky

My working title was "Flickr F***-ed Up", and it was a tongue-in-cheek look at all the things that Flickr had "screwed up", at least according to conventional wisdom in VC and punditry circles:

1. It got attractive early buyout offers and didn't take them
2. It got term sheets offers from marquee VCs and didn't take them
3. It has a husband-and-wife founder team
4. It is run by technologists

Kedrosky goes on to suggest that Flikr has fucked-up (oh come on and say it) just enough to remain distinct and independent, and to rack up hundreds of thousands of users. Still an upside to Flikr, no matter what Om Malik has suggested.

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February 01, 2005

Marc Canter and Marqui's Corporate Blog: Talking About Talking

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The Marqui story -- "paying bloggers to blog about Marqui" -- keeps on keeping on. Marc Canter (maybe we should start spelling it "Marq"?) announces the launch of a Marqui corporate blog, but with a irritated tone:

[from Marc's Voice:]

This Marqui program has taught me - that even when you design something to perfectly leverage the blogosphere and push the envelope - even the simplest of notions can go mis-understaood.

In the case of this Marqui program - the company missed the notion that we were setting up a pipeline - explicitely for the purpose of getting compelling stories and usage sceanrios out into our bloggers blogs.

With a piepline established - not only the corporate message - but success stories and on-going updates could be fed to our paid bloggers - utilzing their intellect and feedback to spread the Marqui meme.

But instead the entire program - up until now - has been filled with "talking about talking" - internal retrospective kind of blabber - which is typcial blogosphere filler - but not what we were hoping for.

But you can't blame our bloggers. They haven't really had anything to write about. That pisses me off. I'm bummed that Marqui hasn't come through with more compelling stories for our bloggers to blog about.

Maybe this post will push them into finding those stories and feeding them to us. We've gotten some press from our program - but the idea was not to just get press - the idea is to close sales and recruit developers. That's when we know this program has been successful.

Yes, we have been caught up in "talking about talking", or, perhaps more aptly, arguing about commercial discourse in the Blogosphere. I maintain that accepting a fee specifically to mention a product or company is a form of spam -- not quite as odious as comment spam, but spam nonetheless. It breaks a implicit covenant between blogger and community, where the words written express the authentic interests of the blogger, not an exchange of blog entry real estate for fees.

Marq is pissed that Marqui hasn't pushed real meat out to the bloggers to blog about, so the bloggers are stuck blogging about the campaign and how those opposing the whole idea (like me) are just not hip to what's the coolest marketing model since pyramid selling.

Looks like Marq and I may be having this debate in public sometime in the next month. Alex Williams, Corante's Managing Director for Events told me that Marqui wants to sponsor such an event. An interesting moral dilemma: Corante will be getting paid by Marqui to promote a debate on the pros and cons of Marquiism. Is this one of those Jesuitical compromises, where we are putting the end before the means?

My view is that I don't see how in the long run this ad campaign will help Marqui: they will have to have a long, long tail to get away from the negative tang of all this rancorous contention about their marketing strategy. Let me know what you think, though. I would like to get a sense of people's polarization on this topic.

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