"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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March 31, 2005

First Marqui, Now Wordpress: Spam Or Just Malfeasance?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Monetizing the implicit social capital that high Google rank represents seems to be a constant theme in the blogosophere these days. Yesterday, I participated in a debate (via Flashmeeting) moderated by Alex Williams, and involving Marc Canter, Jason Calcanis, Stephen J. King (CEO of Marqui) and me: the topic was Marqui's controversial marketing program to pay bloggers to blog about Marqui and its products.

Jason and I have stated endlessly that this is an immoral and ultimately ineffective way to market. The bloggers involved are strip mining their credibility for the sake of near term cash. Marqui may have gained some press from this, but it is a flash-in-the-pan, a one time finesse: now that its been done, no one else will get all the publicity that Marqui has from this campaign, and even Marquis will find that the program -- if extended into the long term -- simply won't work.

Mark and Stephen argue that they were completely open and transparent: bloggers clearly state they are being paid, and since transparency is a key element of trust, surely bloggers in the program will retain their credibility. Marc in particular makes the point that the Internet is open to all, the blogosphere is not ruled by us, or anyone. He and Marqui are free to create whatever sorts of marketing approaches they want to.

I agree that transparency is a key element in trust: but it is not sufficent alone. And it is this very transparency that seems to create the ambiguity about Marquiism. If the bloggers were taking the payola and not disclosing it, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But the liar who tells you that he is a liar is not trustworthy. So I don't buy that argument.

I also disagree with Marc about the freedoms afforded us in the Blogosphere. It is a shared space, a commons. Just because we share the common doesn't mean you can overgraze it with a too-large herd of sheep. We must agree on some conventions of conduct, otherwise no one will be able to trust anyone. And this model of advertsing subverts the trust network that underlies the blogosphere; ultimately, it will fail.

Marc has made the case that its a social experiment, and it seems to have worked relative to Marqui's goals: to make a big splash for small money. But the experiment has not been conducted scientifically, and no one has extrapolated the curve. What if some group of bloggers gained so many sponsors through Marqui-like programs that all of their blog entries were bought and paid for? How long would they have readers? How many links would they generate? How quickly would their social capital zero out? It's just another form of social spam, where the bloggers are polluting the ongoing conversation, and making it less valuable.

Added to this ongoing debate (we have been arguing since November) is the new, shiny Wordpress affair, where it has come to light that that blogging technology company has allowed a third party to leverage Wordpress' high Google rank to game the search results:
[from Search Engine Spam]

The Problem. Wordpress is a very popular open-source blogging software package, with a great official website maintained by Matt Mullenweg, its founding developer. I discovered last week that since early February, he's been quietly hosting at least 120,000 168,000 articles on their website. These articles are designed specifically to game the Google Adwords program, written by a third-party about high-cost advertising keywords like asbestos, mesothelioma, insurance, debt consolidation, diabetes, and mortgages. (Update: Google is actively removing every article from their results, but here's a saved copy of the first page of results. You can still view about 25,000 results on Yahoo. Or try this search tool, which searches multiple Google datacenters.)

Why Wordpress? The Wordpress homepage has a very high Google Pagerank of 8/10, largely because every Wordpress-powered blog links to the Wordpress homepage by default. The high pagerank affects their ranking in Google search results, making context-sensitive Google ads very profitable. This, in turn, makes Wordpress very attractive to advertisers.

I stumbled on this issue from a support topic, which was immediately closed without response by an unknown moderator. (After I pointed it out, Matt reopened the thread to add a final comment.)

So, last week, I instant-messaged Matt to ask him some of these questions. He was very helpful, giving me the full story.

The articles are given to him by Hot Nacho, a startup that pays freelance writers to generate 300-800 word articles about specific topics. All advertising revenues go directly to Hot Nacho, and he's paid a flat fee for hosting the articles and ad banners.

Matt said he was skeptical at first, but the money is helping to cover his costs and hire their first employee. "The /articles thing isn't something I want to do long term," he said, "but if it can help bootstrap something nice for the community, I'm willing to let it run for a little while."

He added that if the user community didn't like it, he'd end the program. "Everything we do is user driven. If it turns a lot of people off I definitely don't want it. At the same time, if you think people don't care it provides some flexibility in setting up the foundation."

Questions. This poses some interesting questions. First, do organizers of open-source projects need to disclose how they're making money off the project? Matt isn't disclosing anything about this activity to the community. I don't think anyone would be upset about Matt trying to support Wordpress with outside sources of revenue, but as an open-source project, they should be held to a higher level of transparency. Without the users and developers all working for free, it wouldn't exist.

Second, is it ethical for open-source projects to make money gaming search engines? Unlike a blog about asbestos news, the Wordpress website has nothing to do with asbestos. It capitalizes off the goodwill of the Wordpress community, which links to the Wordpress website because they support the project -- not because they support search engine spam. But as long as there was transparency about their plans, I think this is less of an issue.

This superficially seems a question of transparency, but its not. The Wordpress guys were co-conspirators in a blatant attempt to subvert Google search (using "cloaking" of embedded, hidden links) as a means to underwrite their noble open source project. But of course they would never have disclosed this, since it is explicitly against Google policies, and is obviously immoral, as well. Saying that they needed the money to continue their project is weak. Everyone needs money, but most people don't steal it, although a lot of crooks justify their crimes that way.

So here we have the Wordpress company trying to exploit their social ranking in the blogosphere for cash, and in the end, harming themselves, their users, and all of us, too.

[Update: Kottke chimes in.

Jonas Luster also has something to say about Wordpress.]

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Marketing

March 30, 2005

First, We Kill All The Lawyers

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

David Hornik riffs on a recent email "alert" from the Howard Rice law firm:

[from VentureBlog: Lawyers Take Hold Of Blogging]

After more than our share of public blood lettings in the blogsphere as a result of employee bloggers running afoul of their corporate parents, it is not surprising that companies are starting to issue blogging guidelines. The issue is a real one but until recently it was a small and isolated problem. But if ever there was an indication of the increasing prevalence of corporate blogging, it can be found in the email alert I just received from the Howard Rice law firm. The email alert was entitled "Corporate Blogging: Seize the Opportunity, but Control the Risks" and it laid out both the legal risks raised by corporate bloggers and some "practical guidance" for dealing with those risks. In fact, when I spoke with the Howard Rice lawyers who issued the alert, they said that they were rapidly developing an "expertise" in the law surrounding blogging and would be issuing additional blogging alerts in the future.

Blogging is indeed mainstream when legal practices emerge around it -- which is not to say that the advice Howard Rice gives isn't well taken. As a former lawyer, I couldn't help but spend a bunch of time thinking about the legal implications of blogging on my professional life before we started VentureBlog. As a result, I ended up drafting one of the first blog Terms of Service out there (who knows, maybe it was the first -- I couldn't manage to find anyone else's to plagiarize [sic] at the time I was drafting VentureBlog's). More importantly, we also spent a chunk of time talking with the whole August Capital partnership about blogging and how it might implicate the partnership either directly or indirectly. While we obviously concluded that the benefits of blogging greatly outweighed the risks, it was extremely helpful to go into it with eyes wide open and clearly set expectations within my "company."

While David comes down on the side of the angels -- deciding that the benefits of blogging outweight the risks -- much of the meat of Rice's alert is chilling, simply because it will lean many to decide the opposite. Consider some of the points:

[from Corporate Blogging: Seize the Opportunity, but Control the Risks]
  • Defamation and Privacy Torts. Companies may be held liable if their employees post content to the corporate blog that defames or invades the privacy of third parties.
  • Intellectual Property Infringement. Posts that include a third party’s intellectual property, such as copyrighted material or trademarks, may expose the company to liability for infringement.
  • Trade Libel. False or misleading statements made on a corporate blog about the goods or services of a competitor that cause or are likely to cause the competitor harm may be grounds for a trade libel action.
  • Trade Secrets. Inadvertent disclosure of company trade secrets on a company blog can destroy the “secret” status of such information, rendering it ineligible for trade secret protection, and disclosure of a third party’s trade secrets could expose the company to liability for trade secret misappropriation.
  • Securities Fraud. Material misstatements made on a company blog could expose a publicly traded company to liability for securities fraud under Rule 10b-5.
  • Gun-Jumping. While a company is in registration, statements made on a company blog “hyping” the company could be deemed a prohibited offer of the company’s securities, in violation of federal securities laws.
  • Selective Disclosure. Disclosure of material nonpublic information on a publicly traded company’s blog could be deemed a prohibited selective disclosure under federal securities laws.
  • Forward-Looking Statements. Failure to include appropriate cautionary language accompanying a forward-looking statement on a reporting company’s blog could cause the statement to fall outside the statutory safe harbor for such statements.
  • Employment Issues. Companies that terminate employees for posting inappropriate content to corporate blogs may be sued for wrongful termination, with plaintiffs claiming that the employer authorized the posting is discriminating against them for exercising their right to organize, or is violating their free speech rights. (Similar issues arise when an employee is terminated based on the content of the employee’s personal blog, or the content of instant messages or email sent by the employee.)
  • User Privacy. Companies that collect personal information from individuals who visit or post comments to the blog may be required to comply with state, federal and foreign privacy regulations.
  • Discovery. Companies can be sanctioned in the course of discovery for failure to produce archived blog content.
My bet is that risk averse companies would scan the list, and pretty quickly come up with a corporate blogging policy: no one can do it, except a single sanctioned blog, managed by the marcom department, and wehre every posting is carefully vetted by the corporate counsel prior to publishing. This is also known as corporate eyewash, but it is certainly not blogging.

Its important to look at the list and to realize that 90% of the points made are not in any way unique to blogging. You could replace 'blog' with 'email', and you'll come to the conclusion that a business, particularly a public corporation, runs a long list of risks because of those pesky employees.

The scariest point on the list is 'employee issues' where -- if you read between the lines -- the best corporate policy is to require employees to not have personal blogs at all. Then no inappropriate content can be posted.

This is the dystopian world we seem to be headed toward. Now that blogs have been discovered by the corporate world, they will work steadily to stamp out individualism, and the subtle (and not-so-subtle) pressures to conform will increase. The trend is already clear. My recent informal poll shows that two thirds of respondents believe that it is impossible to retain a "private voice" at a personal blog if you are an employee.

But I maintain that we must reject this thinking, we must maintain the principle that individuals have a private life, and have a right to speak their minds in public, no matter how unpopular their views are to their bosses, their companies' customers, or the public at large.

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

March 29, 2005

True Voice: Peter Quintas and Peter Kaminski at the Innovation Summit

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

My most recent True Voice show is available at IT Conversations. I chatted with Peter Quintas, CTO of Silkroad technology, and Peter Kaminski, CTO and Founder of Socialtext at the Innovation Summit in Atlanta, held by the American Cancer Society: Non-Profits Blogging.

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

March 27, 2005

Unlinking from Social Networks: Part 8

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I tried to quit Ryze today, a service I haven't touched in months. Becuase I have recently dropped my 'stoweboyd @' email address, getting into little used accounts can be a pain. Its almost funny: Ryze publishes the following on its login page: "If you are having other problems, please drop a line to loginhelp @ thanks." And when I sent email to that email address, it bounced.

I managed to finally get all my email addresses redlined at LinkedIn, but it took a few days. At ZeroDegrees, it was more like four or five days to get my account cancelled, and they don't offer a redlining service (where you can opt out of getting new invitations to join).

I still have a few dozen to visit, like Orkut, Friendster, and I don't even know what else.

I am keeping involved in, Flickr, and Plazes. And I will continue to investigate new sites, like Yahoo 360, as they come online: but in the future, I will opt out of them immediately, as part of my testing of their capabilities. It's like writing a good partnership agreement: be sure to structure any exit from the partnership up front, so no one is confused later on, if and when a breakup takes place.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

March 26, 2005

Grafedia - Offline linking

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Rachel Metz of Wired News tips us to the future of the internet - Grafedia.

grafedia: words written anywhere, then linked to images, video or sound files online.

Grafedia extends and connects the web to the offline world. How does it work? Simply post a keyword, written in blue and underlined, anywhere offline. Anyone can then access the online media through their phones by typing And there you have it. Links in an offline context.

I think it's an amazing idea and could be great in many applications. It's an instant way to interact with an image. No need to remember where you saw it, what it was, etc. Its applications could be for advertisements, public art, or just a means for social interaction - linking people, technology, and places. Its a way to subvert the usual interactive media in public places - i.e. expensive billboards. Grafedia is as simple as graffiti. Yet, it can be anything from chalk to tattoos to posters - it need not be vandalism.

Grafedia was created by John Geraci.

Geraci wants grafedia to make people think about the idea that the boundaries of the web are totally arbitrary. If you can put links in different places, he said, you're essentially extending the internet.

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

March 25, 2005

Joi Ito on "What Would Gandhi Do?": The Conformist Pressure of the Internet

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Joi Ito outs himself in a soul-searching piece on his seeming willigness to turn up or down his radicalism on various topics because his words (on in this case, video) might show up on the Internet:

[from What would Gandhi do?]

I felt a sudden pain. I realized that I was compromising and in fact evening softening my words assuming that the video of my presentation might end up on the Internet and that I would have to defend any hardline positions I took. I remember watching the movie about Gandhi (Irony alert. It was a Hollywood movie.) and thinking about the power of sticking to your principles and how this purity can move nations without violence or compromise and questioning myself and my methods.

I have always viewed my role as a sort of ambassador or bridge between groups to help provide a dialog. In talks to telephone operators or other somewhat old-school companies, I talk about their "challenges". To left-wing artists, I talk about the tyranny of the monopolies. The irony is that the recent trend of people posting audio or video files of my speeches online has made it difficult for me to maintain this split-personality / facade. I think it's a good thing that these things go online, but it reminds me a bit of politicians being criticized for what they have said at parties or "among friends"... or the Enron telephone calls. I have always encouraged this and poked fun myself. Being on the receiving end of this chilling effect is interesting. The core message I deliver doesn't change but delivery is slightly dampened.

I haven't been "outed" yet and I'm sure most people would understand what I was saying in the context in which my talks are delivered, but I sometimes say things that I'm sure I would say differently on my blog. In my mind, this is translated to words the audience understands in their frameworks in order to be constructive, but in a sense I'm being a bit dishonest. I also pull back on the "radical" throttle when I think it is going to offend my audience so much they will reject everything I say. Having said that, I've had a number of people get really upset. One publisher in Finland called my presentation about Creative Commons "disgusting".

My blog is probably the most "balanced" version of my position so just imagine that I'm slight more radical when I'm talking to the radicals and slightly more "soft" when I'm talking to conservatives. But my question is, am I compromising by adapting my words for the audience and where is the line beyond which I am not adapting words, but changing my position? What would Gandhi do? I suppose everyone does this to a certain extent but I was suddenly conscious of this gap last night.

Joi is taking an inward view here: what should he personally do about his softening or hardening his take on issues. But I think about it at the social level: the Internet -- like all media -- has a powerful normative pressure. The recent discussion re: Niall Kennedy and Technorati (see here) is just another flare-up. Employers putting pressure on employees to not draw unwanted sorts of attention because of their esoteric or unsavory outside interests is only one form of this not so subtle pressure can take.

In a global village, everyone knows your kinks, knows what you said at a public function last night, and what contrarian or unpopular beliefs you hold. And there is a natural human tendency to get in line. The nail that sticks up will be beaten down.

Last year at Supernova, I was condemned as a kook on the conference blog, because I led a panel session on the future of email and stated that 'email blows': making the case that its not very good for what we most want it to do -- communicating with people we know already -- but really good for the thing we most hate about email, namely people we don't know communicating with us, which is spam. When I suggested that the future of email was less email and more social tools, like blogs and instant messaging, I was almost tarred and feathered. One guy was actually yelling at me to get off the podium, and so angry that the spit was flying from his mouth. It was almost a riot.

Had I the sensitivity of Joi instead of the hide of a rhino I would have toned down my radicalism on this issue, held a more moderate tone, and perhaps have persuaded a few middle-of-the-roaders that these neato social tools might be worth testing out. But I believe that Gandhi was right: "You have to be the change you want in the world."

Joi's self-doubt is well-founded. In a village, if you say one thing today and the opposite tomorrow, everyone will know.

A central issue in having a true voice -- authenticity and authority -- is to draw lines, and to howl when they are crossed. That Supernova audience, of 40 and 50 year olds, who believe that email is the killer app just were unwilling to envision a world (ten years from now) when the teenagers of today are in the workdforce and today's twenty-somethings are in key executive posts, and email will seem as antique as telegrams, fax, and landline phones.

Leaving the specifics of that event behind, or the specifics of Joi's presentation on copyright, it is essential that we take principled stands on the issues of the day, whether or not they are popular. The tyranny of the majority is just as bad as any other monopoly. Just because a lot of people believe something doesn't make it true. At one time the majority of people believed in the divine right of kings, slavery, and human sacrifice to propitiate the gods.

[Pointer from Greg Yardley, who maintains that "The conversation of all with all has a moderating effect that dampens extremism in all forms, as individuals are forced to constantly monitor how their behavior will look to others - including individuals they haven’t even met yet." Although he thinks that this is a good thing, which I do not.]

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

March 24, 2005

Phishers abusing IM vulnerabilities

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Should it surprise us that the IM waters are getting clouded by phishers? [a phisher is someone who sends out a legitimate-looking message that tries to trick people to go to a spam site, or, worse, to give away their financial information or to download viruses or worms.]

John Dickinson of Messaging Pipeline points to the increased trends of phising on IM’s. He argues that IM’s are vulnerable to phishing not because of security issues, but to the “vulnerability and naivet of users.” Why is this? Many users accept messages from strangers – after all, many IM’s used as a way to meet new people to begin with. So, if a user accepts the message, there is a greater likelihood that the link will be clicked – leading the user to spam and phishing sites. At least with email there are junk filters to stop you from being exposed to the message – this is not so in this scenario.

So, why would anyone click on the link anyway? Well, people do. According to a recent study, as many as 10% of people buy spam products, and over 30% of people click on spam and phisher links. Although these stats were for email, you can imagine it being the same, if not higher, for IM. I would perhaps think that IM’s have that “trust” environment going for them, making users more likely to accept links and click on them.

So, when will spim-blocking get serious for IM’s?

As far as I can tell from talking to vendors like FaceTime, Akonix, and IMLogic, not enough of you have taken advantage of those systems, and your employees remain vulnerable to all sorts of IM security breaches.

There are usually options within IM’s to increase privacy – not accepting messages from people you don’t know, being asked when added to contact lists, etc. I have noticed in MSN, I cannot receive links from people unless another non-link message is sent first. Don’t know if this is a spim block, but it is effective. Overall, it would seem IM’s are vulnerable to spim because people let their guard down in the IM environment. Spim-block software will need to be build around the realization that people may want to receive unsolicited messages – just not necessarily spim.

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

Blogads Survey

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Blogads' annual survey is available here. Fascinating. Obviously early days for podcasting, where 97% have never listened to one.

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

Anil Dash on The Blog Cycle

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Anil has crafted a nuanced piece, The Blog Cycle, that attempts to puncture various myths and memes in the world of blogging. But I'm not so sure...

[from The Blog Cycle]

  1. "First, it's important to note that there is no "blogosphere". There are hundreds of blogospheres. Each sub-community of weblogs has its own social norms, its own traditions and its own thought leaders. And as each community has formed and evolved, you can see it go through a few common steps as it evolves as a medium."

Hmmm. True to an extent; however, since all of these subcultures are being shaped by the same social tools -- blogs -- which are increasingly converging toward a standard suite of features, there are core set of blogosphere norms that have emerged. Think of trackbacks, blogrolls, and so on. More importantly, even though the differences between the various blog subcultures may seem obvious and relevant to insiders, to outsiders they all blur to insignificance. And there is a lot more of the outsiders than the insiders. And they are going to become more and more alike, I believe.

Where are the women/minorities? We've been going through this one again lately in the tech blogging realm, and to a lesser degree I've seen it flare up with political blogs. Interestingly, it's mostly a problem in technology and political blogs, though the most popular members of those communities are loathe to admit it. Other huge and growing communities, like knitters, food bloggers, baby bloggers, and corporate/PR bloggers don't seem to have nearly as much of a problem being blind to identity when linking to or quoting from others.

This is really a discussion about power, not diversity, per se. As bloggers become to become mainstream and not just fringe lunatics muttering in tiny cabals, power will concentrate according to network power laws. Anil is famous for demonstrating the power in his blog's reach by getting a gazillion folks to link to a post of his, and winning a context as a result.

So Halley's recent call to action about new voices (which may be one of the influences for Anil's posting) is about intentionally inviting women and minorities into the emerging spheres of power in the blogosphere. Knitting and babies have traditionally been the province of women, and blogs about traditionally female subjects can be viewed as ghettoes in the blogosphere, no matter how fullfilling they may be for the individuals there.

[By the way, I think I have three of my ten new voices... need to scare up seven more, and at least four of those need to be non-American, to meet the letter of Halley's challenge. Pointers?]

You'll get fired! If you read my site, you probably already know my feelings on the subject, but suffice to say each new community has its own backlash on this, especially as people try to find scaremongering ideas to use as the hook for press coverage.

This is a topic where I really disagree with Anil. There is a growing tide of social conformism that is stifling individual free speech (see the pieces on Niall Kennedy, here), as well as ample evidence that dozens of folks have been sacked for blogging (or through actions manifested on blogs), like Morpheme Tales (Curt Hopkins) roster of fired bloggers.

So, to recap my disagreements: People are being fired because of blogging, there is an inherent power structure built into the nature of scale free networks (like the blogosphere) so that power concentrates, and because the various separate blogospheres that Anil alludes to actually do all exist on one Internet, not as private worlds, there is really just one blogosphere. In the end, I believe that Anil is trying to play down any controversy around blogs, so that prospective users will not be alarmed or concerned, and so they can therefore more quickly gain the benefits that blogs offer. That is all well and good, but we shouldn't suppress the debate around these issues, or dismiss their root causes as simply not existing, just to make blogs less controversial and threatening.

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

Social TV: Everybody Wants It

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Everybody is talking about social TV (so I created a new category for it). Olga Kharif posted on research going on at PARC, which will incorporate Tivo and instant messaging elements:

Indeed, in many ways, Social TV will be similar to the Instant Messenger you already use on your computer. Only it will be more dynamic: Social TV software, located on a device like TiVo or even your TV set, might notice that your and your buddy's yacking has gone well past the commercial break. The software would conclude that you are no longer watching the show and, perhaps, pause the program until you are ready to resume, says Nic Ducheneaut, member of PARC research staff.

And, today at Many2Many, Kevin Marks pointed to this:

Tom Coates
[from Social Software for Set-Top boxes...]

A buddy-list for television:
Imagine a buddy-list on your television that you could bring onto your screen with the merest tap of a 'friends' key on your remote control. The buddy list would be the first stage of an interface that would let you add and remove friends, and see what your friends are watching in real-time - whether they be watching live television or something stored on their PVRs. Adding friends would be simple - you could enter letters on screen using your remote, or browse your existing friends' contact lists.

Being able to see what your friends were watching on television would remind you of programmes that you also wanted to see, it would help you spot programmes that your social circle thought were interesting and it could start to give you a shared social context for conversations about the media that you and your friends had both enjoyed.

You can tell these people are not playing massively parallel online games, because if they were they could reduce the discussion to a single phrase: Xfire for TV. Xfire (which I reviewed over a year ago, here), provides augmented presence information about your online gaming pals. It shows not only that they are online or not, but also what game they are playing. Xfire provides the ability to join others in those games by just clicking on that presence indicator.

So, social TV -- with what ever bells and whistles involving web cams, microphones, etc -- is simply going to be the fusion of that Xfire notion of context ual presence (what show I am watching) and the online gamer experience of a shared space with integrated chat. The shared space in this case maybe the John Stewart show instead of World of Warcraft, but the basic are all there, and millions of people are already doing it everyday.

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

March 22, 2005

icq 5 reviewed

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

After talking yesterday about the ICQ release, I decided to play around with it a bit. It's not actually a "new" release as of yesterday, but it is still rather new (about a month out).

At first impression, I was rather annoyed by the startup. Like most IMs, the "standard" start is the "Welcome" Window. Although nicely designed, it's not something I like. Besides, as I soon found out, all those resources can be found in the Xtras tab. I thought the feature set was quite impressive - the multi-chat, bulk sending, Google search, AIM integration, and greeting card features were personally inviting. The customization area was accessible - granted, the "ease" of changing the features is a trade off with the time it takes to load the feature window.

So, what does the new icq have?

- Enhanced Xtras features - slider panel
- Custom status manager
- Voice Chat (VoIP)
- Games
- Push to Talk (Instant communication walkie-talkie style)
- highlight to search via Google
- SMS Follow Me Xtra (IM forwarding)
- Buzz It! Xtra - Send a message to multiple recipients

This ICQ has been downloaded 78,265,454 times in a little over a month. Pretty impressive guide to the active user base.

Being unfamiliar with ICQ Xtras myself, I read the review on CNET. It is a "personalized greeting cards, apply custom icons to your buddies, play online games, and customize your shortcuts panel for one-click access to all your favorite features." It is also the way that new ICQ features can be delivered without having to upgrade the entire ICQ client. I think this could be a great feature - seamless integreation would allow us to enhance our communication without hassle.

My overall impression - very good IM - the focus seems to be enhancing the social networking available through icq with more ways to communicate - from standard IM to voice options to SMS. There are even more options to talk one-to-many or many-to-many, creating more of that "community" feel that really appeals to me.

I would argue that the advertisements are a large downside to the client. Additionally, some missing features include group voice chat or encrypted chat. Although I don't intend to switch to icq (I still feel ike an outsider to the target market due to some of the features and the icon design), I think it is a very clean and intuitive system.

Just like everyone else out there, I am still waiting for the IM that will offer great feature sets like these and seamlessly integrate with all major IMs (icq, MSN, Yahoo). But that's another post.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (16) | Category: Technology

March 21, 2005

ICQ 5 IM Released

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

AOL today released version five of the ICQ IM. The new ICQ release features Walkie-Talkie service, Voice Chat using VoIP, and video messaging.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (27) | Category: Technology

How to build a meeting scheduler

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Posted by Marc Eisenstadt

OK, I admit it: I'm fiercely proud of Meet-O-Matic (, the no-brainer (and, alas, no-features therefore, no 'fancy frills') meeting scheduler that my colleague Stuart Watt and I designed, and which now seems to have climbed consistently into the top two or three search results for the pair of words meeting scheduler on both Google and MSN.


By "no-features no fancy frills" I mean that Stuart and I have resisted all suggestions by well-meaning users to add things such as PDA synchronization, hourly-scheduling, etc., which many of the power tools already do nicely, but which don't fit the target we were aiming at. Moreover, our own experience with the power tools suggests that they are extremely frustrating and difficult for the average user. Our target was those possibly-rare but mission-critical events involving large teams when all you care about is the date (or maybe AM/PM), and simply being able to see at a glance who can make it when.

And of course we wanted it to be a 'go-to-the-damn-site-and-use-it-NOW' type of thing, with no registration, no fees, no nothin'. So that's what we did.

The design process, which is what I want to write about here, led us through a series of false starts and fancy features that we eventually abandoned, slowly uncovering what seemed to us to be six useful principles underlying the creation of good diary/meeting management software. These may seem ridiculously obvious, but judging from the large number of software tools that do not follow these principles, I suppose that they are not obvious at all! The description of these principles appears elsewhere, but as it's our own wording I think it's appropriate to describe it verbatim in the six bullet points below.

Meeting scheduler design principles:

  • Autonomy: People often prefer to 'do their own thing' (e.g. arrange circumstances to attend or avoid a specific meeting), rather than delegating responsibility to another person or a software tool.

  • Different tools: You cannot count on everyone you intend to invite to a meeting to use the same single diary/meeting software, or even software that 'interoperates' (communicates seamlessly) with your own.

  • Least common denominator: You can, however, safely assume that the overwhelming majority of people you want to invite probably have access to Internet email and a web browser.

  • Familiarity: People like to work with software tools they already know.

  • Speed: People will often pick up the phone or send a conventional email rather than wait for a new software tool to help them, even if that tool looks innovative and promising. Reason? The old tried-and-tested methods feel faster!

  • Granularity: For meetings that involve many possible dates or many people, the real problem is homing in on dates or AM/PM slots at a coarse-grained level in order to obtain a first-pass solution, rather than fussing about the precise time. In fact, a first-pass solution to a very complex scheduling problem provides such a large immediate payoff that it guarantees reuse of meeting scheduler software, even if only a few times per year. It also encourages a simple and speedy user interaction.

Fine-grained scheduling is of couse an important niche, and there are a vast number of excellent tools that deal with this -- it's just not the niche that we found personally challenging, hence the development of Meetomatic.

Since writing those six principles, observation of users makes me appreciate that 'delegation' is in fact a very tricky issue. I recall that when I wrote that analysis of "Eight years of email stats" here a few weeks ago, some users wrote in saying, "Dude, get a secretary!". Anecdotally, we know that a lot of secretaries spend a lot of time chasing diary entries for the purpose of arranging meetings or events, and in fact it is precisely among secretaries that we've had the most enthusiastic response. So I suppose that even without the 'autonomy' issue (which was really meant to criticize 'intelligent agent' solutions that people may not trust with their diary arrangements), the other five points still stand for the large category of meetings and events that motivated us in the first place. I'd be interested to hear what readers think about this.

[Footnote: Is this posting itself an 'ad' for Meetomatic? I don't know. In one sense it must be, but I figure that since Meetomatic always was and always will be free, and even though there are now a few Google adsense ads on the site to help defer the cost of the hosting service, and since I'm genuinely interested in the design issues, and my role in Meetomatic is pretty self-evident right from the opening sentence, that it's OK! I hate these meta-discussions anyway, but thought I ought to raise it.]

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March 20, 2005

Yahoo acquires Flickr

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

It’s official. Flickr has been bought by Yahoo. This comes straight from the FlickrBlog. Word is that Flickr will stay on the same track, with some additions such as Yahoo ID login; Yahoo Photos will also be “Flickrized.” From the official release: “We'll be working with a bunch of people that Totally Get Flickr and want to preserve the community and the flavor of what is here.” Let’s hope so. Thanks to Kris Krig for the tip.

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A9 OpenSearch gives us content license info

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

A9 OpenSearch releases SyndicationRight – the new way to find persmissions for RSS based content. SyndicationRight is the new descriptor that lets us know if our search results can be distributed. Licenses include open, limited, private, closed, or optional.

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Nooked RSS Survey

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Nooked is conducting a survey on The rate of adoption of RSS in the PR and marketing world. Participants will receive the results.

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March 18, 2005 kicks off with Iraq debate

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Posted by Marc Eisenstadt

Stowe and I have had some back-and-forth brainstorms about 'duelling blogs' (see also here), and now some of the hottest people in the 'visualizing argumentation' arena have come along and set up a worthy activity to frame and manage argumentation-and-debate -- deploying some of the latest tools, with as the launchpad. Here's a pointer from today's KMi Planet News.

An exciting new experiment in computer-supported argumentation launched today as the website was published, and the controversial Iraq Debate begins to be mapped. Conceived by KMi's [Knowledge Media Institute's] Simon Buckingham Shum, and co-led with former Australian Cabinet Minister Peter Baldwin, operates around the concept of Argumentation Experiments, in which 'Players' focus on a topic for debate, working from a set of source documents, and to a schedule for modelling, publishing and analysing the outputs.

Experiment 1 kicks off today, and players will be working on the controversial Iraq Debate to the end of May 2005. KMi visiting PhD student Ale Okada will be working with Simon to model the structure of this debate using Compendium, and possibly other tools.

This is a nice thing to see happening. As an example of why this is important, consider the following comment from Doug Engelbart (inventor of the mouse and many other interactive/groupware concepts) in the afterword to the book Visualizing Argumentation:

For five decades I have been driven by an intuitive certainty that computer supported argumentation could increase humankind's collective problem-solving capabilities to a degree that was (is) greatly unappreciated, and that its explicit pursuit should become one of society’s high-priority "grand challenges".

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March 17, 2005

Portal sites - Yahoo! 360 and Skydasher

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Tris Hussey of Larix Consulting wrote a little piece yesterday about Yahoo! 360 (which I also spoke on yesterday) and Skydasher, the new “ OEM/private label hosted start page service” released from Tucows. He did a great job connecting the dots towards the trends of portal sites that connect people with blogs in new ways.

These two announcements mean two things to me. First, the "portal" isn't dead, it has just morphed into something that is far less corporate and more personal and more high tech too--listening to podcasts from within cool is that! Second, I think we are beginning the move into the Blogosphere 2.0 (1.5?).

The blogosphere has been around for a long time, just under the radar of most folks. Now, it's on everybody's mind (and eyeballs). But the paradigm of blogs is moving, shifting, into more of a way to receive dynamic, expert commentary on the topics you're interested in. It started with myYahoo allowing RSS feeds to be added to your page. Now with Skydasher and Yahoo 360 both having RSS feeds as integral parts of the information flow, not just an also ran, blogs are moving into this new realm. Blogosphere 2.0. We're moving towards not only blogs being mainstream, but blogs being just another kind of website. Who cares if it's published with Frontpage (yuck!), through a web-based interface, or Qumana :-)'s published. Publishing. Publishing is what the Blogosphere 2.0 is all about. [Tris Hussey]

I definitely agree with Tris here – the blogosphere is evolving quickly into a stage where we can focus on the content and not the tools. As the tools become more seamless, more attractive, and easier to use – we will forget about the tools and find new ways to advance the community aspect of blogging in general.

About Skydasher – Skydasher looks to me like a great new portal entry as well – even though it is still in early beta. Tris has started to play with the program by creating myQumana. I really think it has the potential to be a great hub platform – one that is perhaps easier to set up and maintain that other such programs. In this way, you can share not just your blog with others, but offer feeds off your favourite blogroll links, local weather and much more. I particularly like the media centre portion that does a good job archiving specific content to one easy area.

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Technorati Tides

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have been spending a bit more time than usual fiddling around at Technorati, recently, and I noticed that there is a tidal movement of Get Real's Technorati rank. While the recent trend has been upward (higher ranking = smaller number), at various times of the day the number swings downward (lower ranking = higher number).

I presume this is in some way a global phenomenon: as different time zones come into peak blog reading and linking, different blogs get new votes. So while we are sleeping, Asian and then European and African bloggers are seeing their Technorati rankings advance, while those with primarily American communities fall back in the rankings. Of course, some folks may have a well balanced gloabl audience, but I bet in general there is pronounced language, national, and cultural clustering at work.

technoratiRank.jpgAt any rate, sometime in the middle of the night, Get Real progressed into the top 5,000 blogs tracked by Technorati. I noticed that we were ranked at 5,275ish a few days ago, so we must be attracting links at a pretty steep rate. I wish Technorati would provide some sort of historical plotting as part of its service.

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Results of the Niall Kennedy/Technorati Imbloglio Poll: It's A Conservative World

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The poll I set up recently as an outgrowth of the furor arising from the Niall Kennedy/Technorati flap has topped out with 30 responses (a limitation of the free service I was using, I guess). The question was this:

"Private v Corporate Voice

Can you have a private voice if you are viewed as a spokesperson for your company?"

And the results are shown here (note, some vagary in the software led to the answers not being displayed correctly in the results view, so I include the poll view, also, where they displayed fine):


So, if this were just a democratic test, we'd see that the great majority -- 67%! -- believe that anyone considered a corporate spokesperson (however defined) must check personal free expression in the off hours at the door. 13% believe in some middle ground, and only 20% stand on the side of the angels in this case: believing that there is always free expression available to individuals on their own time.

This brings to mind a recent survey I saw referenced in the Washington Post this week, where 51% (I believe) of High Schools students polled believed that journalists should clear stories with the government, and that journalists have too much freedom in what they write. Help me! I also read that as many as 25% of Americans believe that the Sun circles the Earth, and more than 50% of Americans are uncertain about the veracity of the Theory of Evolution.

Just because the majority believe something it doesn't mean it's right. At one time, a majority believed in slavery and the divine right of kings.

I interpret this to mean that people are already sensing that they have to keep their heads down, and their personal opinions quiet if they want to get along in an increasingly conservative and conformist climate -- I hesitate to call it a culture; that's too positive sounding. We are increasingly left without a personal life when our employers can implicitly or explicitly threaten us for expressing unpopular opinions. We are silenced before we even try to speak.

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Metaatem: Fun With Flickr

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The Mad Linker pointed out that Metaatem is up and running, and allows you to create graphics of words based on Flickr photos of letters. Looks like those Noir ransom notes with the letters cut from magazines.


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Tribe, PeopleWeb, open profiles

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Posted by Marc Eisenstadt

Following Stowe's posting about Mark Pincus's PeopleWeb posting, I got into a small dialog with Mark (by email, blog, blog-comment, trackback - aargh, still too fragmented to work this way, but that's another story, discussed in "One content -> 10 outlets"). Mark encouraged me to try out the new open profiles style of, which I duly did.

The screenshot below only shows the Yahoo-portal style of the configurable user interface, so please don't be misled; the real power of the peopleweb philosophy being trialled through the new user interface comes from the ability to export Tribe entries to an external blog; to import external feeds into Tribe; to have multiple IM identitities; to have FOAF personal descriptions maintained independently of Tribe, and a lot more.


Here are some notes I sent to the Tribe guys after playing with the new interface for a while, that I thought would be of interest to Get Real readers:

Overall, I think it's an excellent concept - 'roundtrip' blog linking (see item 1 below) and IM linking (see item 2) are very powerful... but here are some minor clarification suggestions.

1. 'Blog module' (import blog posts) and 'tribecast' (publish entries) need to be more obviously reciprocal in some way. They are beautifully complementary, but now they appear in very different (and different-looking) ways. "Blog module" is for importing external blog posts into Tribe, whereas "Tribecast" is for exporting Tribe items to an external blog. In my book, that's both powerful and reciprocal, but needs to be shown in a similar/complementary way... it's probably one of the many killer features that is going to be offering.

2. The link between the 'online' icon (which is shown in my profile) and the IM settings (only visible when I go to 'configure' my profile, and therefore too indirect) needs to be clearer. When I'm editing my profile and I see my own 'online' light on, I ought to have a standard 'edit/configure' button right nearby that light. In my profile I've set a "TribeChat handle" and added MSN and Jabber IDs (hooray - you've made Jabber a first class citizen!!), but I want to add more than 2 IM identities, which I currently cannot do. Finally, I don't understand the relationship between the 'online' light and my different IM IDs... does the light come on ONLY when I'm logged in to Will others see it light up when I'm on Jabber but NOT on Tribe (ths would be ideal, but it doesn't tell me that)... just a little 'info' icon or some more explanation would be great.

3. The rollover label 'configure this module' needs to make it clearer that you can also make basic editing changes (in addition to moving things around etc), e.g. wording such as 'edit/configure' would be sufficient, or words to that effect. In fact, the word 'edit' would be more valuable than the (redundant) phrase 'this module'.

OVERALL this is going in a very nice direction; IMHO it still suffers from being too much of 'portal' (EVEN THOUGH I CAN SEE TRIBE.NET IS BREAKING OUT OF THAT MOLD), but for some reason I'm not a 'portal' kind of guy - I used to be, but now if I want to (say) check out or contact Stowe Boyd or Marc Canter, just to pick two contacts at random, the only thing that matters realistically is whether they're on Yahoo/Jabber/MSN/AIM, or what they're saying on their blogs, which appear in my aggregator - I happen to use NewsGator because I can get that on my PDA too.

The good news is that I see from the open profiles trial that 'My feed' and My list are prominently featured on 'coming soon' features... so that's probably going to go a long way... the flip side of this is tribecast, i.e. "You can syndicate any module shown on your profile, and add it to your own blog or any other webpage that you publish or host", so this is going to be pretty cool; I'm not sure whether I want to publish that stuff on my blog or not... an extremely interesting tradeoff to consider, and one of the benefits of the peopleweb / open profiles mentality... probably if I were more of a Tribe-a-holic then that would be worthwhile, so I'll certainly stay tuned to these developments.

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March 16, 2005

Yahoo starts blogging

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Yahoo! has just entered the blogosphere with Yahoo! 360, a blogging tool combined with photo sharing and social networking. This follows suit of both MSN and Google adding blog services to their rosters. I think these easy platforms will invite a lot of people to enter into blogging who perhaps may not have before.

When I visit the Yahoo! 360 site, I am invited to be on the "waiting list" for the beta release - invitation only at this point. Not the warmest of invites, but it definitely will hype it up a bit. CNET reports Yahoo! 360 will open up on March 29.

Yahoo 360 combines a new blogging tool along with several longtime Yahoo products, including instant messaging, photo storage and sharing, and Internet radio. It also offers tools for sharing recommendations about places to eat, favorite movies, music and so on. [CNET]

As noted over at RSS News, Yahoo! 360 is a "mashup of Yahoo! Groups, Yahoo! Photos, My Yahoo! and Yahoo! Messenger" with blogging and moblogging components thrown in for good measure. It does seem a little overdone, but on the other sense the integration could prove really useful. From the info sheet provided on the new release, people will be able to define access controls, upload contacts from Yahoo messenger, yahoo address book, and even Microsoft Outlook - all with easy "point and click" designs. Yahoo even makes it easy to drag over content from reviews (yours or those in your network), discussion groups, or photo albums.

What makes this Yahoo! 360 release so powerful is that it can use all this integration to leverage its preexisting 165 million users and social groups into a sophisticated social network.

Yahoo also is making it easier for the service's users to connect with others who share common interests and friends — a practice known as social networking. Participants can choose to either open their blogs to the entire world or restrict access to people invited through e-mail.

"We heard from people that they have a strong desire to stay close to the people who are important to them, but at the same time they didn't want to feel like they were exposing themselves online," said Julie Herendeen, Yahoo's vice president of network products.

Since I am not on the invite list right now, I cannot tell you what part of the hype on this new release will live up to its potential. If you want a really good look into the features and their capabilities, take a look at this post by Marc Canter.

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Rabble Is Coming

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Arieanna posed the question When will mobile blogging catch up with blogging?, and mentions Rabble from Intercasting, which looks to be a fascinating mobblogging platform.

Full disclosure, though: I am doing a Rabble channel for the folks at Intercasting.


I posted a piece there -- not using a mobile device -- called "Social Media: It's Messy (and that's Good)." And I can't wait for the phone they are going to send, so I can add some mobile content. It's cool to be sharing the space with Peter Gabriel's Witness project, various rock magazines, and singer/songwriter Aslyns. I have 577 fans already!

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Shasta MacNasty on The Niall Kennedy Imbloglio: Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

shasta175.jpgI was trackbacked by a new voice (yes, she is going to be one of the Ten New Voices I pledged to find this week -- and she found me, which is cool), the self-styled Shasta MacNasty (in the "self-centered bitch rehab" tshirt in the picture), who weighs in on the implications of the Niall Kennedy Technorati imbloglio:

Shasta MacNasty
[from If You Don't Like It]

"The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer."

I have no idea if my employer has a blogging policy, and truth be told, I'm not going to ask. Why would I want to bring their attention to my little cyber abode? They get their nine plus hours of my attention when I'm in the office, no need for that to continue any moreso at the expense of my bandwidth. However the current buzz about people losing their jobs because of blogging, and the situation last week with Niall Kennedy and Technorati has got me a wee bit concerned. (Yeah, I'm about seven days late and a few bucks short on this topic. Let it go...)

The title of this post [bolded above] comes from the blogging policy of, which I think is pretty helpful, but still a little unclear in spots. A lot of the hub-bub with employers and employees blogging comes from employees who identify their employer and blog about details of the job. But what about those of us that don't blog about the details of our work...and don't name our employers? It's getting to the point where I'm afraid to even say, "I had a bad day at work" without fear of some kind of repurcussion. And I don't even mention my employers name on this blog. However I think there is a lot of confusion and fear floating around blogging, the employee's right to free speech and the employers right to keep certain aspects of their business private. However more often than not, it's usually the employer that encrouches on the employees personal life, and I find that more than a little irritating. However a good blogging policy, and Feedster's is a good start.

It's one thing when you have an employee saying, "Hi. I'm Joe Blow and I work for The Man, LLC Inc. & Company (A division of Big Azz Monopoly Corp.) and I just wanna say !@!@#% the The Man, MAN!" Ok. See. That's just a little strange. If you are going to purposefully align your name with your employer and blog about the business/industry your employer is in, then I believe it's best, for the both of you, to treat your blog as if it were a corporate blog. Sure you may include your personal thoughts, however where do you draw the line between the employers interests and your own?

There are several reasons why I don't mention my employer:

1. Privacy. I don't want everyone knowing where I work. Why? Well, it's really no ones business and it's just not safe. Like I need someone stalking me at work because they didn't like something I said. I could never understand why some people mention who they work for on their personal blogs, unless, of course, they are going after some kind of reputation/status/audience/credibility/whatever that mentioning the employer would get them. But doing so comes with a certain amount of responsibility. More importantly, saying where I work isn't NEARLY as sexy as if, oh, I could say I work for Microsoft, Google, or Oprah.

2. Control. You see this? :::dramatically waving my arm over my vast digital domain::: This is me. I run this. I pay the bills. I am the only one who decides what gets said here and what doesn't. It would seriously grate on me if I had to worry every five seconds about something I posted because my employer might not like it, or think I had explained a product incorrectly, or whatever. This is my personal life. As I mentioned above, my employer gets 105% from me every day (110% is just overkill) for 9.5 hours. That's enough. I sure don't want my employer to then control what I say, think, and do in my personal time. I'm fully aware of standard confidentiality that employers ask their employees to practice. I respect that and excecise it regularly such as not discussing deals with family/friends/in an elevator/or on my blog. Just don't care to. Again...this isn't really the place for that. Now Hello Kitty vibrators? NOW we're talking business.

Ok, I get the stalking idea, especially if you are blogging about vibrators. But I beleive that the principle of not naming your employer to retain some level of anonymity shouldn't be necessary. Why can't we say I work for Bigazz Inc., and still say things that are unpopular? If you work for Wal-Mart, can't you blog about the need for unions in the workplace? That is a right specifically upheald by the courts, for example, but which is highly unpopular with Wal-Mart senior management. Or you might be an engineer for a large software company who blogs about the benefits of open source while corporate types want to stamp it out.

Do you have to conceal elements of your identity -- and ultimately your self and your life -- in order to blog on a personal level? Is "don't ask, don't tell" going to be recast in this setting? Don't ask what the corporate policy is, and don't tell where you work?

Shasta seems to suggest that we may need to do so for self-protection -- protection from the Man, and protection from angry trolls who want to strangle us for the dirty thoughts we have put in their heads.

But I feel that this is the tightening of the noose, the turning of the screw, the bottom stair on the gallows. This is the first step to total abandonment of personal freedom of speech, where an arbitrary, totalitarian corporate policy, like "no personal blogging allowed," will force people into anonymous blogging, if that, unless they stick to "safe" topics like what they ate last night, or which TV shows they watch.

If we adopt the camoflage that bloggers in Iran and other repressive regimes put on -- concealing their identities in order to protect themselves from persecution -- then we are taking a terrible step backwards into the darkness. And freedoms, once yeilded, are very, very hard to regain.

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March 15, 2005

When will mobile blogging catch up with blogging?

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Heiko Hebig does a nice little post about some of the things I have been noticing around the topic of mobile blogging, or moblogging. Telco after telco has been coming out with services to tap into what they see going on in the blogosphere (and perhaps with an aim to also push other services such as MMS). But the moblogging services from telcos lack the insight into blogging to actually make them useful tools.

Most mobile blogging tools on the market let you send images, videos, or text to a web location... and, that's it. This captures the whole "posting" thing, pretty much, but does little to reflect the conversations that characterize blogs. Fortunately, there are other companies that have stepped up to the plate. Take, for example, the release by Intercastingcorp of Rabble, a tool encompassing moblogging, social networking, and location-based services.

Create your channel and post location-based media - your favorite places, photos or an up-to-the-minute newsworthy event. It's like putting virtual sticky notes on the world around you. Then connect with your world. Tell Rabble where you are and it will show you who is around you and the media they have created.

Services such as Rabble and Flickr (which offers moblogging of photos with tags) lead the way in creating what Visser, on Smart Mobs, calls “flash communities” and come much closer to how blogs are vehicles for conversations - for interaction and social interaction.

The mobile phone is evolving into a media production and consumption device. Hardly a “phone” anymore, it is a Personal Media Device (PMD). In a few years there will be over a billion people walking around with the equivalent of a radio station, film studio and broadcast network in their pockets, and our definition of “media” is going to change dramatically.

What can we expect from moblogging? As phones evolve, even just slightly, we should see more services popping up that allow us not just to post to our blogs, but to edit posts, view and make comments, host your location to others, share posts with grouped communities, send out trackbacks, and much more.

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AOL Clarifies Privacy Policy

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

As the direct outgrowth of recent furor about AOL privacy policies, AOL has issued a clarification:

[from Terms of Service]

AIM Home > Terms of Service

To: AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) Users

From: America Online

Re: Rumors about Changes to the AIM Terms of Service and Your Privacy on AIM

A number of online media outlets and blogs have recently written about rumors that AOL has changed the AIM Terms of Service (TOS) to weaken the privacy of AIM users. We want to assure you that those rumors are totally false.

There was no recent change to the policy, and AOL does not read private user-to-user communication on the AIM network (which is fully explained in the AIM Privacy Policy).

As the policy says, "AOL does not read your private online communications when you use any of the communication tools offered as AIM Products."

Despite that statement, language in a different section of the AIM Terms of Service caused some confusion about the overall policy. The other section is called "Content You Post" and, as the name indicates, it applies to content a user might choose to post in a public area of the AIM service, such as a chat room or online message board. It does not apply to private user-to-user communications over AIM.

The "Content You Post" section explained that content posted in a public area of the AIM service also might be used by AOL for other purposes. One example of this is when AIM posts a photo submitted by a user for the "Rate-a-Buddy" feature so other AIM users can vote on it. Another might be taking an excerpt from a message board posting on a current news issue and highlighting it in news coverage of that issue.

A similar clause is a standard part of almost all user agreements for online publishers, including news outlets, portals, and blogging sites. The language simply lets the user know that content they post in a public area can be seen by other users and can be used by the owner of the site for other purposes.

Nonetheless, as some users were confused by the meaning of this section, we have clarified it by adding language that makes clear that it only refers to content posted in public areas of AIM and not to private user-to-user communication. This is not a change to the policy, but it hopefully helps make this section easier to understand.

Finally, we wanted to note that the AIM Terms of Service (TOS) were last updated in February 2004, and they have been in place for more than a year, so there was no recent change other than the language clarification discussed above.

We hope this addresses any rumors you may have heard and any questions or concerns you might have had. Thank you for your continued use and support of the AIM product and community.

Note that AOL is asserting that they have only modified the langue to clarify what was their intention all along, not to change the real meaning of the earlier wording. This is not what I thought I heard when I read this piece:

Declan McCullagh
[from AOL clarifies IM privacy guarantee]

America Online said late Monday that it plans to revise its user agreement in response to concerns that instant messages sent through the company's service could be monitored.

The new policy for AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, will stress that the company does not eavesdrop on customer's conversations except in unusual circumstances such as a court order, an AOL spokesman said.

And perhaps Ben Stanfield is a bit too triumphalist in his comments, suggesting that the terms were changed, while AOL's spin mongers are saying they only clarifed. However, I think in general he's right about the amplification of messages through the blogosphere and that AOL moved quickly to stem the rising tide of approbrium.

Thanks go to AOL on several fronts.

First of all, thank you for changing the questionable terms of service. It's honorable of you to acknowledge the concerns your customers have about privacy, and to seek to reassure us.

Second of all, thanks for doing the right thing and not monitoring user-to-user conversations, even when the terms of service seemed to allow that.

And finally, the biggest thank you of all goes to those around the web who helped to amplify a post I wrote here on a blog that got no more than 20 hits a day on a good day. Over the weekend, Typepad reports that over 50,000 of you visited, and that number just keeps growing.

Without the wonderful amplification effect that the Internet, and especially this new age of blogging, there's not much I could have done to get AOL to change the terms of service. Thank you to everyone who helped, and congratulations.

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Get Real Guides

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am planning to launch a companion blog to Get Real, one that will explore the same sorts of memes and themes we cover here -- social, collaborative, and real-time technologies and their impacts on business and society -- but with a different perspective.

I hope to get dozens (hundreds?) of detailed how-to guides written, that will provide step-by-step, in depth descriptions of the practical application of these technologies. For example, I intend to write "Instant Messaging Etiquette: A Get Real Guide" as one of the inaugural pieces. But I don't plan to write all of these pieces myself, or just with current Corante contributors. I invite Get Real readers to come up with proposals on guides they wish had existed before they figured out (painfully, and after a serious investment of time), such as these:

  • how to get the Fire instant messaging client to work with Ubergroups (sketched out here), or
  • how to connect your Mac via Bluetooth to the Cingular data network on the Sony Ericsson T637 phone (which I mentioned here, after I discovered that Apple, Cingular, and Sony Erricsson had no guidance to give on the subject), or
  • how to set up a corporate policy on outside blogging that balances corporate needs and personal freedoms (no one has written one of those that satisfies me, yet).

We are working on a shared compensation model, where we would pay a modest fee for each contribution, plus a share in any advertising/sponsorship revenue at the blog. It won't make you rich, but who knows?

Please email your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas to me, even if you yourself don't want to commit to writing a Guide yourself.

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March 14, 2005

Cameraphones as Social Software

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Howard Rheingold went into some really interesting commentary over on TheFeature about cameraphones as social software.

Rheingold hypothesizes that the cameraphone will come to exist as something completely different from both phone and camera, something more akin to visual storytelling. As with all photography, it is ultimately about point of view in snapping up what you see. With cameraphones, you are more likely to snap the unexpected moments and to have more freedom for use: for oneself, to share physically, or to send electronically. With the ability to snap and share, so to speak, we have a heightened "visual awareness" that accompanies our social relations.

And although these devices transmit images through the Internet, they are also turning out, rather unexpectedly, to be face-to-face media. It looks like this newly ubiquitous device could be more about flows of moments than stocks of images, more about sharing presence than transporting messages, and ultimately, more about personal narrative than factual communication.

Rheingold talks about cameraphones as the new way to establish social presence with those who may be geographically distant. I think this says a lot about the similarity between sending images (MMS) and sending text (SMS) - people tend to talk about how they use the technology as a supplementary way to keep in touch. I think the word "multisensory" is really key - sending images and sending text will never replace phone, or even email, but they add a new dimension to the way people connect through time and space.

Rheingold points to research done by Okabe showing that more people share cameraphone images than upload them to their computers. The images act as a part of the "shared awareness" both virtual and in person. Not only do people email their images, they also use them as illustrative tools in face-to-face meetings.

As Richard Smith points out, the ability to use your cameraphone as a "personal storytelling media" is really dependent on how good your phone is. If you can't store the pictures, are restricted by light conditions or poor resolution, you are less likely to be capable or inclined to use your phone to capture the frames of your everyday life.

Do you think you use your cameraphone differently than you do your camera?

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Ben Stanfield on AOL: No Privacy in AIM

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Ben Stanfield has peeked into the AOL AIM terms of use agreement, and has discovered that the so-called public IM network is owned by AOL, and maybe anything you say there is too, in AOL Eavesdrops, Grants Itself Permission To Steal Your AIM Conversations

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More Egosurfing

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I recently mentioned a presentation that Liz Lawley gave in Atlanta, where she made the case that the "Google Juice" that her blogging had generated has been especially helpful in her career. She demonstrated that juice by typing "Liz" into Google search, and in real time, demonstrated that she is the third result, trailing only Liz Claiborne and Liz Phair. I recently reported on the same exercise with "Stowe," where I turn out to be the number 1 human on the list.

I was interested to see that my friend and colleague danah boyd and I are among the top ten in the "Boyd" search at Google. danah was third the first time, but now (15 minutes later) comes up first at apohenia and fourth at! And I slink in as fifth at Get Real, following danah, Billy Boyd (the actor), Congressman Allen Boyd, and Stanford's Stephen Boyd.

I agree with Liz - in the blogosphere, Google Juice is about people 'voting' on your relevance to the issues you have decided to wrestle with, and represents the degree to which you'd be missed if you stopped blogging. As an end in itself, it is a 21st century parlor trick, but as an indicator of the karma that bloggers have built up, by crafting posts that make people think, link, and comment, Google Juice means something important.

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Unlinking from Social Networks, Part 7: No-Accounts

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Even though I recently and publically quit my account at LinkedIn, I continue to receive requests from well-meaning (I guess) people asking me to connect through the service. While I can decline each request, there is no way to universally block requests -- unless you create an account and turn off all requests! As a non-member, you have to resort to declining over and over again.

It makes sense, in a curious sort of way, since without an account and an explicit agreement LinkedIn doesn't have anyway to police requests to me on my behalf.

I propose that all of these services should support "no-accounts" -- a means for people like me who a/ do not want to use the service to register as non-users, and b/ create a generic message to respond to requests like those I am getting from LinkedIn.

In my case, my no-account message would be something like "I have recently dropped out of sales- and jobs-oriented social networks like LinkedIn. If you want to network with me, send me an email at stowe.boyd -AT-, and let's see what makes sense."

Even if I found the services personally rewarding -- and I haven't -- I believe that the development of a partitioned world with dozens of private, non-interoperable networks is a big mistake. I welcome the vision of a 'peopleweb' as Mark Pincus styles it (see here), where individuals 'announce' through some as-yet-undefined social medium (perhaps extensions to the now-familiar blog metaphor?) what sorts of connections they are hoping to make in the world. And individuals could use as-yet-undefined search technologies to discover those with shared interests, goals, or complementary needs. But it would occur in a public space, like blogs are now, not in private spaces owned and operated by entrepreneurs hoping to charge $4.95/month for accounts or 10% commission on deals made.

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March 13, 2005

Arieanna Foley Joins Get Real Just In Time To Be One Of Ten New Voices

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am happy to report that Arienanna Foley has agreed to serve as a guest author at Get Real for the next month or so. Arieanna and I met in Vancouver recently at the Northern Voice conference, and I subsequently spent some time looking over her blogging at Blogaholics and Ipipi, and though she had the same sort of irrational passion for the stuff we obsess about here at Get Real.

And, no, this was not conjured as a response to Halley Suitt's newest crusade (as reported by Steven Levy in Newsweek, here, and in her Ten New Voices post) about redressing the imbalances in the the male and white dominated blogosphere, although it's true that Arieanna is a woman, as you can see, as well as being Canadian. I am going to put my blogroll back up (it just mislaid in our last facelift), and I will accept the Ten New Voices challenge with nine others this week.

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Unlinking from Social Networks, continued: Marc Pincus on the peopleweb

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I stumbled across this bit of philosophy at the Mark Pincus Blog, where the founder of suggests an inversion of the current closed networks, based on open profiles (a la

how will the peopleweb happen? along with my vision of the revolution of the ants, the big portals will all succumb to their audience's desire for openness and transportability of online identities. people will no longer choose to invest in a profile that is locked into msn or friendster (or tribe). just like email had to be free and compuserve lost out to aol, so too will profiles. we already have this with blogs. my company,, will soon be launching open profiles which will let people compbine elements of their blogs with social and community networks. this will occur with virtually every site, where users will decide who has access to what, whether it's by degrees of separation or group affiliation. this wont be decided by my company, friendster, linkedin, yahoo's new thing etc...

what will the peopleweb enable? well, imagine a future where the network acts as one database. you will tell the web that you are single and what your dating criteria is. your dating profile will only be shown to those people (so no more daily humiliation of your sisters and friends snickering that you describe yourself as a tall dark handsome romantic). kinda unhappy with your job. no problem. tell the network you're available for jobs paying over $150k, vp level, and maybe you want to limit to a few companies or block them. wanna organize a poltical revolution without leaving your home? just tell the network you are into 'emergent democracy' and 'legal revolution' (possibly through group tags) and you will automagically be connected with all the other archair revoultionaries.

So we will all becoming unlinked from today's style of networks, when we can instead inhabit our own nodes and become networked through tools that help us find other likeminded souls. But we wouldn't be forced to have ten thousand tinny fragments of our digital identity spread all over the Internet: music preferences here, sex preferences there, business bio yonder.

[pointer from Fred Wilson]

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March 11, 2005

American Business Media Dinner - NYC - Ben Silverman and Stowe Boyd

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have been asked to speak at a dinner for the PR Communications Committee of American Business management next Tuesday in New York City. Lloyd Trufleman of Trylon Communications will be acting as the host (Trylon is sponsoring the event), and Ben Silverman and I are the talking heads. The topic is "Blogs and the Impact on Media Companies."

Ben recently penned Can Blogs Impact Your Brand, and made some great points:

As anyone with a website knows, drawing traffic to a new property is a difficult proposition. This is why I've been surprised with the amount of readers I've been able to garner in a very short period of time (I launched the blog on Feb. 16). Most of these readers appear to be one-time visitors, but looking through my traffic logs, I've been able to figure out why they came to my blog. For the companies that I've written negatively about, this is not a good thing.

Take, for example, Anheuser-Busch. A short entry I wrote about the company's new beer, Bud Select, appears on page 3 of Google's search results for the term "Bud Select." Below is an excerpt of what I wrote about the beer. You tell me if you would want a prospective consumer reading this.

"Anheuser-Busch is marketing its new beer, Bud Select, as a new kind of beer, brewed for a crisp taste with no aftertaste. It's low carb and low in calories. It also sucks," I wrote. "Not only does Bud Select have no aftertaste, it has no taste. It's like drinking club soda that has been watered down and mixed with flat light beer. I drank one Bud Select and it was so bad that when I went to urinate afterwards, I apologized to the toilet."

Ouch. Thus far, over 200 people have come to my website via a search for Bud Select.

This is a fun guy to spend an evening with, I bet.

I couldn't find anything about the event at the ABM website, which has no blogs as far as I can tell.

Here's the invitation, which was emailed to me as an image, so I couldn't click on any other the things that look like links. I don't know if the ABM understands what's happening on the Internet.


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Greg Yardley on Internet 2.0: Self Censorship as Future Norm?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

In a thoughtful but deeply worrisome posting, Greg Yardley poses a scenario about the The conservative nature of Internet 2.0, in light of the Niall Kennedy affair:

Let’s take a look at the actions of both Niall and Dave Sifry. Once the controversy developed both behaved perfectly rationally, choosing the path of least resistance and greatest common sense. Sifry acted as he did out of concern for the company he’s painstakingly built; Kennedy acted as he did to preserve his reputation and good relationship with his employer. Since both chose the path of least resistance and greatest common sense, the outcome isn’t an abberation - this is a ‘dog bites man’ story, not the other way around. Yet the lessons Niall learned and eloquently communicated to all were undeniably conservative.

As the popularity of blogging, podcasting, video blogging, blog search, and so on grows, many more people will learn the same conservative lesson that Niall did. Some predictions for the future:

1) Blogging will provide an increasingly clear rewards for individual bloggers. Employers looking to hire will increasingly favor those with well-established blogs - all the better to learn about the proclivities and abilities of their candidates. Because of this, more and more people will publicly blog, using full names and accurate biographical information. Most individuals will happily surrender their privacy for a greater perceived benefit.

2) Since blogging will provide an increasingly clear benefit to the individual, the number of bloggers will mushroom. High school guidance counselors and college-based employment centers will begin giving blogging lessons. Career-minded young people will begin cultivating their blogs with the same diligence they currently give to the accumulation of community service and extracurricular activities.

3) Advice along the lines of Scoble’s will become commonplace. From USA Today to evening newscasts, individuals will be told about what is acceptable to blog and what is not acceptale to blog. The consequences of blogging inappropriately will become common wisdom.

4) Affairs like Niall’s or Mark Jen’s will become commonplace, and therefore boring. Because ‘proper blogging etiquette’ will have appeared from everywhere from USA Today to Oprah, the public’s sympathy will lie less and less with the individual blogger, who ‘should have known better.’

5) A new generation of individuals, starting with the high school students of today, will automatically associate successful employment with blogging, and successful blogging with considered self-censorship and image management. Outwardly professed values will become internalized. Truly controversial stances and opinions will be suppressed for fear of real or imagined economic consequences.

6) The tipping point will be reached when radical groups and individuals stop embracing the Internet as a venue for organizing and start shutting themselves off from it - either hiding in access-controlled enclaves or abandoning online life and technology altogether.

No doubt I’m exaggerating; perhaps I’m missing something fundamental. If Internet 2.0 turns out to be a conservative force, it won’t be because of the intentions of its creators. Yet who can fully predict the consequences of their actions and the uses of their creations? If I leaned left or libertarian, I’d be worried.

As a avowed leftist, however, I find this Orwellian future terrifying. Corporate messages controlling our internal self-image, making us into conformist robots spouting corporate bilge in place of personal convictions, and the apparent inevitablity of all this because of the rational self-interest involved -- it's a dystopian nightmare, not something to be accepted.

Greg is right about the people's tendency to cave when coerced. That is why we have laws to ensure various freedoms, so that those with less power (the employee) cannot be compelled to relinquish personal freedoms in order to work.

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Book Meme 123.5: No Time For Life

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Jennifer Rice inspired me to try the Book Meme 123.5 exercise: open a book to the 123rd page, find the fifth sentence, and post it. I grabbed The Support Economy by Zuboff and Maxmin, which yeilded this:

Economists from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, concluded that the average length of the workweek for many groups has changed little since the mid-1970s, but the distribution of work hours among groups has changed considerably

Basically, people are working longer hours, and most critically, women are working longer hours. Although the average worker is working slightly longer hours, much more people are in the workforce than before, with an especially large growth of women entering full-time employment. This has profound social impacts, leading to what the authors call "no time for life."

This is an indicator of the way that work is increasingly intruding into and stealing our private lives (which is another echo of the argument I was leveling in the Niall Kennedy brouhaha, here, here, and here, over the past few days).

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Poll on the Niall Kennedy Imbloglio

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I got around to reading some of the comments made at Dave Sifry's posting about the Niall Kennedy mess, and I had to disagree with most of the folks that were at least moderately positive about the apparently transparent and swift resolution to the issue. Here's my comment, which I posted there yesterday:

David -

I agree you have very quickly come to a new consensus with Niall, but I profoundly differ with the thinking that defines it.

Individuals must be permitted a private life outside of work, where what they say as private individuals is interpreted as exactly that. We, in the blogosphere, should collectively assert that truth over and over, and resist the blurring of the line between personal and corporate expression, or else, inexorably, corporations will determine what employees can say, either through direct coercion or more subtle forms of mind control.

The fact that Niall has come to believe that there is no such distinction possible in the modern world is a perspective that should be argued against whenever it crops up, even if he fervently believes it after this flap. He is wrong, and it is wrong if he gets kudos for his new understanding of the dissolution of the private self.

Just as important, employers should support individual free expression of their employees even if the sentiments being expressed are unfashionable or objectionable to others, so long as they are not illegal. And the observation has been made at various places in the blogosphere (like my blog, that the use of copyrighted icons is fair use for parody and satire under first ammendment protections, so there is little chance that Technorati would be harmed in that way, even if it had been posted ata Technorati blog, which it wasn't, anyway.

While this has not turned out to be another "doocing" (the firing of an employee for blogging) and you may never have even raised the issues of Niall losing his job over this, I think it sets a bad example. Even in the heart of the blogosphere, employers like Technorati are not standing by the principle of individual free expression and liberty.

I hope next time that some critic complains about objectional content on an employee's blog, you instead tell the critic to reread the first ammendment.

- Stowe

So here is a poll, trying to get at the tenor of the times around this issue. Is it possible to have a private voice if you are an employee of a company, who, like Niall, is veiwed as a spokesperson or public face for the company?

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March 10, 2005

My Mac Configuration

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The move back to Mac after 5 years in the wilderness has led to a lot of application testing. Someone recently asked me to write up what applications I have settled on after fiddling around on Mac OS X for a few months, so here it is:

  • Mac OS X utilities -- I really love Konfabulator and its blizzard of widgets that Liz Lawley turned me onto. Many integrate with iCal, iTunes, and iChat in very cool ways.
  • iCal events displays todays iCal appointments.
  • iChat Patroller provides a floating, semi transparent roster of my iChat contacts.
  • iChat Friend tells iChat contacts what music I am listening too.
  • mini What To Do? is a to do widget.
  • World Time is a widget for tracking time in three time zones.
  • Liz also turned me on to Quicksilver, but I am not actively using it.
  • Instant Messaging -- After trying a long, long list of apps (Tiger iChat beta, Gush, Proteus, Adium, atc.) I have settled on a combination of applications for instant messaging. I run iChat to talk to the AIM and .Mac worlds, partly because of the integration with iSight, but primarily because of number of cool Konfabulator plugins and addons.
  • I am also running Fire, a multiheaded client for OS X, which has a wide variety of critical features and flexible customization options. (For example, it supports Jabber SSL connection, which I needed for connecting to Ubergroups, recently). So if you IM me via MSN (, Jabber (, or Yahoo (stoweboyd), I will be responding in Fire.
  • RSS Reader -- I am bouncing around a lot re: RSS. I have a Bloglines account, and have been exploring some of the new features there, as well as trying out Josh Taylor's Chameleon service that builds on Bloglines. But I don't really like web-based browsing of RSS feeds. Same reason I am not using Firefox RSS implementation, although it is my browser of choice. I tried four or five RSS clients (NetNewsWire, and NewsFire, most notably) but I have more or less settled on Shrook. I like the features and ease of use.
  • Music -- iTunes, of course. Plus I have a bunch of integrated plugins and addons. I use iScrobbler to capture my play, which posts to This connection has dramatically changed my musical life (as I wrote about here). I also have installed Amua, a control for OS X, which runs in the menu bar, and allows me to play radio stations without 'going to' directly.
  • Blogging -- Mostly I just use the web interfaces for MT and Typepad, which are the two blog systems I use regularly, but I also have Ecto, which I principally use in airplanes or when I have no Internet access.
  • Docs -- I am using Microsoft Word, but am contemplating trying Apple Pages. My docs are fairly trivial, these days.
  • Number Crunching -- Excel.
  • Project Coordination -- I have explored Ubergroups recently (here), but have had a number of issues with encrypted RSS feeds and the lack of a single solution for chat and instant messaging. I love the concept of presence-based project coordination, but Rhombus has a way to go to iron out the kinks. So I am sticking with Basecamp (written up here). [added at 12:36pm]
  • Mail -- I tried Mail for a while, but have switched to Gmail because of its cool features. I haven't tried to use Mail as a simple offline editor of Gmail, but I plan to do so next time I travel. I will set it up so that I upload email from it, and perhaps download what's in my inbox prior to departing.

I love the Mac, and I have had only a few snags. I should have bought a bigger harddrive, but I have a beautiful little Lacie external drive that gives me an additional 40G, and I moved my iTunes music there -- like 20G now, and climbing! I did install Virtual PC, and it worked like a charm, but I ran out of harddrive, so I uninstalled it. Now that I have the Lacie, I think I will reinstall on the Lacie, so I can fiddle with Windows apps.

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Microsoft To Buy Groove

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

It comes as no surprise to see that Microsoft has announced its intention to acquire Groove. Around the time I wrote Groove v3.0: A Tool For Our Times, I came to understand that Groove was the perfect client to integrate with Sharepoint, and they had built very strong relationships into that part of Microsoft. At the same time, there has been a lot of political struggle in the various groups playing in collaboration land at Microsoft -- the Exchange folks, the Live Communications Server folks, teh Sharepoint team, and the Placeware people -- and bringing Ray Ozzie aboard as CTO will quickly lead to a clarification of who is the architect for Microsoft's direction in social and collaboration tools, and I guess everything else: it will be Ray.

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Article on Instant Messaging Viruses

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I was interviewed by Celeste Biever of NewScientist for a peice published today: Worms flood instant messaging networks. And of, course, I had to make a sex analogy:

More likely to protect IM is the fact that people tend to have far fewer contacts stored in their buddy lists than their email address books, says Boyd, because it is a more intimate form of communication. "It's the difference between shaking hands and having sex," he says.

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Jeremy Wright's List of Fortune 500s Blogging

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Jeremy Wright has compiled a list of those Fortune 500 companies blogging, here.

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Flash Turkey

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

challengePerception.jpgStumbled across this bizarre rant about Flash, FLASH IN THE CAN 2004, which includes this thought: "The only people that think the internet is real are bloggers."

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Scoble Learns The Wrong Lesson

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Scoble writes about the "lessons he's learned" from the Niall Kennedy "imbloglio" in this recent piece: The Red Couch: Dave Sifry and Niall Kennedy in lesson on corporate blogging.

But, as much as I like Robert, and generally agree with his theories about corporate blogging, as well as the specific comments he makes in this post ("don't blog angry", etc.), he is off target here.

Kennedy was blogging personally: it was not a corporate blog. Kennedy's convoluted, after-the-fact reasoning that, in essence, there is no such thing as a personal blog if you hold down a paying job anywhere is simply wrong-headed. It may be the case that Kennedy has come to believe that, but it is a perspective that we should work hard to undermine, whenever it appears. Individual liberties, such as freedom of speech, should not be abridged by corporate policies or the disapproval of bosses, no matter what the content or criticism.

As I pointed out yesterday, there are five states (including California, where Kennedy works for Technorati) that specifically protect employees from being fired for legal outside activities. Of course, there is no indication that Kennedy was threatened with termination, but the point is that such laws exists to ensure that workers can enjoy free expression outside of work without fear of retaliation. And there is still an "outside of work": just because you are working 9 to 5, or even 100 hours a week in a startup, you are still a private citizen, and your employer cannot tell you to shut up.

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Roster Of Fired Bloggers

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Morpheme Tales (Curt Hopkins) has a roster of fired bloggers [pointer from One Darn Thing After Another]

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Committee To Protect Bloggers

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Following various threads related to the Niall Kennedy mess, I discovered a Committee to Protect Bloggers has been formed, protesting the incarceration of various bloggers worldwide, but particularly in Iran.

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March 09, 2005

Joi Ito on International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Joi Ito points out that at the The International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security in Madrid the bloggers are getting free access but the press have only restricted access. Hmmm. Something wrong here somewhere? Or a strange kind of karma?

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Niall Kennedy and the Spectre of Being Dooced

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

An incestuous "imbloglio" as Niall Kennedy, an employee at Technorati decided to self-censor a post he made on his personal blog after the company received negative comments about it. He apparently came to the conclusion that in today's social media world, you can't be an employee and at the same time make personal statements that are likely to be confused as the corporate position. This is a perception that I believe is profoundly flawed.

I failed to comprehend the effects of my actions on Technorati. I have always operated under the assumption that until I reach executive status at any company I work for I remain an individual voice and do not represent the organization. Just as weblogs and corporate transparency changed the world we love to interact with daily, it has also changed the way we see corporations. We establish relationships with companies through their engaged employees for better or for worse. The voice and actions of individuals become associated with the companies and organizations of their employ.

The past day has been a huge wake-up call. I see now that the voice of a company is not limited to top level executives, vice-presidents, and public relations officers. It is a huge responsibility on the individual and a bit difficult to fully comprehend until you have seen the effects of an economy of conversations. I need to be more aware of my actions as they are perceived as the actions of Technorati.

My interpretation of Technorati's current blogging policy is an attempt to make sure employees are aware of the weight their words carry in this new medium and new industry. It is a really difficult thing to communicate and I am still not sure how to communicate this message effectively to new employees. I will give the issue of corporate blogging some more thought and post again soon with my experiences and observations. It is for this reason it is recommended that Technorati employees seek the opinion of a coworker if they are unsure of how a post might be interpreted by others, to lend a fresh pair of eyes and an experienced mind to your intended message. Technorati subscribes to the idea that markets are conversations. We are all about a direct line of communication to our users and I intend to help facilitate those important conversations.

His boss, Dave Sifry chimes in:

To address the censorship charge that was thrown about head-on: we do not censor people's blogs, and we take the censorship allegation extremely seriously. I actively encourage our employees to blog, and to express their opinions. However, many readers do not make as clear a distinction between personal and work lives as many experienced bloggers do, and will view a provocative image on a blog in the worst possible light, especially when presented by the company's Community Manager. Niall made the decision himself to post the things he posted, when he posted them. Other than the clear case of trademark violation (we asked him to remove the pictures that violated trademark, in order that we not be sued) his actions and postings have been completely his own, including his decision to take down his original post.

This is the confluence of a number of really bad trends:

  • The current pendulum swing towards suppression of any sort of strong language, intense imagery, or controversial juxtaposition of ideas which has bubbled out of the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" and the FCC crackdown on dirty words -- it's a sort of social McCarthyism, where the worst of our puritanical impulses are being given full sway, to the point that TV stations are afraid to air "Saving Private Ryan" because the FCC wouldn't say whether it is acceptable to do so or not. Who says that people can't express dangerous ideas, hold contrarian views, or raise unpopular issues? This is why we will see another swirling controversy around the Blown-Up Soccer Players commercial produced by the UN is going to lead to heads rolling and all sorts of handwringing.
  • There is a growing climate of corporate conformity, so if you hold a job you are expected -- no matter what Dave Sifry states -- to operate within the white lines that the company perceives to be painted on the roadway. Note that Sifry mentioned that "we [Technorati] asked him to remove the pictures that violated trademark, in order that we [Technorati] not be sued" -- he didn't say that Technorati had been sued, or that someone potentially suing Technorati for actions taken by a off-duty employee had any grounds to do so. He just asked Niall to remove the pictures to benefit Technorati. As was pointed out at SFist, "the use of corporate logos in the context is clearly an example of parody speech protected by the First Amendment," so if Technorati were sued there is a solid basis for the company to defend itself based on individual free speech protections. But, clearly, it's just easier to ask the employee to take down the pictures.
  • Whether or not Niall says so, he may have feared for his job if he were to attempt to face down the social pressures leading him to self-censor. California (where Technorati is based), New York, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota has laws that specifically protect employees from being fired for outside activities, according to a recent story in CNet. Of course, most people are blissfully unaware of these laws, and they do not specifically mention blogging. But the litany of people getting "dooced" -- fired for writing unacceptable or confidential material in their blogs -- is getting longer all the time.

What does it mean? Even inside-the-blogosphere companies like Technorati don't live in a vacuum: they are part of the real world, and they are subject to the same pressures that PBS, Boeing, and Delta Airlines are.

But we shouldn't accept the premises that Niall has aquiested to. Individuals are individuals: they are not cogs in a corporate machine. There is a thing called free expression, and a life outside of work. We should protect the freedom that allows us to state our personal views -- however unpopular -- and not fear for our job because our employer doesn't agree or is unwilling to stand up for that freedom.

[pointer from Ben Hammersley]

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SIRC Guide to Flirting

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The SIRC Guide to flirting is a wonderfully tongue in cheek but learned compendium of info about flirting:

... in some rather Puritanical cultures, such as Britain and North America, flirting has acquired a bad name. Some of us have become so worried about causing offence or sending the wrong signals that we are in danger of losing our natural talent for playful, harmless flirtation.

So, to save the human race from extinction, and preserve the foundations of civilisation, Martini commissioned Kate Fox at the Social Issues Research Centre to review and analyse all the scientific research material on interaction between the sexes, and produce a definitive guide to the art and etiquette of enjoyable flirting.

Psychologists and social scientists have spent many years studying every detail of social intercourse between men and women. Until now, their fascinating findings have been buried in obscure academic journals and heavy tomes full of jargon and footnotes. This Guide is the first to reveal this important information to a popular audience, providing expert advice on where to flirt, who to flirt with and how to do it.

Astonishingly, there is no mention about online flirting!

[pointer from Dave Evans at Online Dating Insider]

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Rafe Needleman on "The Future of Presence"

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Rafe Needleman breezes into a prosaic article on "The Future of Presence" that really doesn't even capture the present of presence:

... the concept of presence that's inherent to IM can also exist in other forms of communication. It isn't in too many places yet, but hopefully it soon will be.

Huh? While Needleman goes on to mention a few products (like Convoq ASAP, Microsoft Live Copmmunications Server, and SoloMio) he omits many of the coolest examples around:

  • Geolocation presence -- like the Dodgeball and Plazes solutions, which take different paths to allow users to let others know where they are on the planet, in the 'hood.
  • Project teams -- like Ubergroups, that allows team members to keep in touch with slow-time media (like blogs), as well as through real-time IM and chat: presence enabled.
  • Internet Telephony -- Skype is a great example of presence-based internet telephony.
  • Shared Documents -- tools like InstaColl (not reviewed here yet), Open Text's LiveLink Touchpoint and Microsoft OneNote, which provide a shared space for presence-enable collaboration within documents and/or document repositories.

This is no means an exhaustive list, but my point is this: this has been an area of explosive innovation in the past few years, and Rafe just leaves out too much great stuff. He doesn't even hint at the Microsoft Instambul client, announced at VON last week, which is a strong start for the full-on integration of presence into telephony:

[from the Microsoft press release]

As the preferred client for Microsoft Office Live Communications Server, "Istanbul" will enhance the business user experience by:

Enhancing presence and real-time collaboration. With "Istanbul," presence becomes richer as additional availability data, including out-of-office information, is included. In addition, users are able to control their communications based on their presence.

Improving usability. "Istanbul" will help business users take advantage of advanced communications capabilities more easily by consolidating applications into a single interface including instant messaging, conferencing and traditional telephony.

The future of presence is that it will become omnipresent, and there are dozens of applications and services that have taken giant steps to get us there.

[Pointer to Needleman's piece from Carl Tyler, who says "Sadly the author hasn't really done much research for their article The future of presence or interpreted it wrong."]

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March 08, 2005

Unlinking from Social Networks: Part 5

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

My neverending quest to unlink myself from the sterile and uncreative networks goes on.

Zero Degrees

After having to guess how to contact support (not only is there no obvious way to terminate an account, there is no obvious way to contact support), a very helpful support person said he would terminate it for me. But today, 20 hours later, it has not been terminated


I read that Friendster was experimenting with various new communication tools, like chat and blogs, so I decided to take a look before shutting down my account. The blogs are rebranded Typepad, and as far as I can tell, do not integrate with the social networking aspects of Friendster at all, nor do the chat features. For example, it would be sensible to have the typelist for people automatically be populated with your Friendster 'friends' -- but no.

Just providing blogs is not enough to make a difference -- they should have thought about the SNA aspects, otherwise why not just keep your existing blog, or use Typepad directly?

While fiddling around, I was trying to update my photo, and got into some endless loop: I uploaded a new picture, but it never would replace the old one. I kept getting an error when I tried to delete the old one. Aggravating.


However, Friendster is the first service so far to make it easy to quit. They provide a direct mechanism to do it: you go to account setting, and hit the cancel account button. They ask a few questions -- who wouldn't -- but then, bang, your account is gone.

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MeshForum Registration is Open

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Shannon Clark pinged me today about MeshForum, an event we are supporting as a media sponsor, scheduled for 1-4 May in Chicago:

MeshForum's mission is to bring together and connect networks - around the subject of networks. Our conferences will offer an interdisciplinary forum for the cross-fertilization of ideas, expertise, and experiences. On the web we are working on pulling together resources - lists of experts and researches, biobliographies, organizations working in and researching Networks, events and more. We are exploring other options to further foster and support research across boundries into Networks - these may include in the future a peer reviewed journal, invited guest bloggers, podcasts of MeshForum 2005, and other means to share and spread information.

The registration page is here.

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Doc Searls Suspecting Out Loud

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Doc Searls raises a chilling prospect: "Am I the first to suspect that, if bloggers are recognized as journalists, and therefore deserving of shield law protection, the end result will be the repeal of shield laws?"

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Stuart Henshall Launches Skype Journal

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Over at Unbound Spiral, Stuart Henshall announces the launch of Skype Journal, which will likely become the resource for Skype fanatics.

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A Working Model

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I let the domain lapse for A Working Model (the name of my former company) so my old email ( is dead, but the blog is still up, and recently I have been posting there about politics, music, and other stuff that doesn't fit at Get Real. Thanks to a number of readers who pointed out the broken link in my left margin bio, now fixed. Email me now via stowe.boyd - at -

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March 07, 2005

Unlinking from Social Networks: Part 4

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

In the spirit of the Kaminski Test, I have been burrowing into those social networking sites that seem to engender creativity. For example, I have spent a bunch of time over the last four or five days fooling with and AudioScrobbler. AudioScrobbler is a plugin that accesses and uploads what you are playing on iTunes, and is a social networking site that builds a neighborhood of those folks who have similar musical tastes, so you can socialize or simply discover more music.


If you visit my account you can now listen to a radio station based on my music preferences. You can also browse into my top albums, or walk around in my "neighborhood" -- the music preferences and listening habits of people with similar tastes to mine. Turns out my tastes are most similar to women in their early 20s!

I had an interesting exchange with a 16 year old from the UK, after I noticed his avatar was derived from the album cover for "Solid Air", a John Martyn album I have had since the mid 70s. He wondered that a 50+ year old would be listening to John Martyn, Massive Attack, and Thievery Corporation, instead of Mozart; he is now exploring some of the other recommendations I gave him. I have a similar influence on my 16 year old, Keenan.

I have discovered a batch of really great music through this neighborhood wandering: Lali Puna, Ms John Soda, Mogwai, and a compilation disc from Morr Music. So, even if you don't like what I am listening to, the system seems to do exactly what it is intended to do. I love it!

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True Voice T-Shirts

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am thinking about putting in an order for some t-shirts for the True Voice series. Black with white lettering. Here's two different fonts with the same message.

Scrawl Font

Drafthand Font

Please click on the poll to let me know which you like better. The t-shirts will be $17.50 plus shipping, if you are interested (email me if you want to buy one).

[tags: ]

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Get Real Show: Interview with James Payne, Rhombus

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

jamespayne.jpgI did a flashmeeting based interview with James Payne of Rhombus, earlier today, as another in the series of Get Real shows (click here to replay).

I recently reviewed Ubergroups, the Rhombus offering that James and I discussed (First Look: Ubergroups).

James shared some thoughts about the Ubergroups real time communication framework (instant messaging and persistant chat, with support for XMPP so you can use Jabber-ompliant clients), and disclosed that calendaring is the next big thing, perhaps in a Q2 release (and a tantalizing mention of wireless support).

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True Voice: Darren Barefoot and Jeremy Wright

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I am happy to announce that the first True Voice show being syndicated through ITConversations is available for download. I spoke with Darren Barefoot and Jeremy Wright at the recent NorthernVoice conference in Vancouver on the topic of The Profession of Blogging.

Darren Barefoot and Jeremy Wright

True Voice's premiere sponsor is

True Voice is also sponsored by

[tags: ]

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March 03, 2005

Unlinking from Social Networks: Part 3

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

peterk.jpgPeter Kaminski of Socialtext provided me some real leverage in my thinking about social networks. At the American Cancer Society Innovation Conference, he characterized social software as technology that allows people to create together.

That insight immediately helped me understand the distinction between the social networks I want to continue on with (Plazes, Flickr, NetFlix Friends, and many others) and the ones that I am planning to drop out of (LinkedIn, ZeroDegrees, Orkut, and a long, long list of others). I want to stay where I feel that I am creating something with others, and I will drop out when I don't.

The networking-oriented social networks really just seem like CRM solutions that have discovered social network theory: the network information associated with contacts is just another sort of data to be managed, like how many widgets they have bought this quarter, or telephone numbers. Don't get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with selling widgets, and I think that companies like VisiblePath are really onto something with private social networking solutions to help companies leverage their relationship captial. But on the other hand I don't see why I need to join so-called public networks to make it easier for others to pitch to or through me and my contacts.

So, from now on I can simply use "Kaminski's Test" to determine whether I should join some new SNA: if it seems like I can create something with others through the network, I'll join, otherwise, I'll pass.

Sort of reminds me of that quote of Groucho Marx: "I would never join a club that would have me as a member." Except in this case its "I would never join a club that exists only to have members."

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LinkedIn: Monetizing SNAs

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

LinkedIn -- like every entrant in the crowded social networking market -- is trying to monetize the hundreds of thousands of people who have registered to do... something. For some time, their angle has very obviously been the jobs market. And now, they are going to charge:

Paul Festa
[ from LinkedIn to introduce fees | CNET]

Social networking site LinkedIn will soon begin charging employers $95 per job listing, nudging social networking into the uncertain terrain of paid services.

Social networking has long been an Internet category in search of a revenue model. Sites such as Friendster that link people through personal profiles have hesitated to charge for admission lest they alienate the crowds that give the networks of linked acquaintances value.

But LinkedIn, a site geared to professionals that claims more than 2 million members, on Tuesday is expected to unveil its first paid product, the LinkedIn Jobs network, along with the LinkedIn JobsInsider browser add-on.

Socializing the job hunt experience is sensible, but I don't think that this is revolutionary. And of course, I am not looking for work, so that may explain why I got so little out of LinkedIn prior to my dropping that service last week.

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March 02, 2005

Ego Surfing with Liz Lawley

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Yesterday, at the American Cancer Society's Innovation Summit, Liz Lawley gave a great talk on blogging (it's amazing what you can do in 12, er, 17 minutes). She made the case that her professional career has been enormously benefited by blogging: it has personalized her to her students, it has opened her up to serendipitous interactions with other researchers, and it has led to a great deal of world-wide acclaim. As just one example, she used the ego surfing example of typing in "Liz" on Google: she is number 3, after Liz Claiborne and Liz Phair. Wow. That's brand recognition.

I was afraid to see, but I tried it today. I am number 7 on Google for "stowe" -- and none of the preceding hits are people (Stowe ski area, Stowe school, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, etc.). So I am the number 1 "Stowe" now! I even beat out actress Madeline Stowe (number 11), which was a big surprise.

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March 01, 2005

Fond/Fun Memories of 'Mac Father' Jef Raskin

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Posted by Marc Eisenstadt

Just over a year ago, in response to what I considered to be a rather stale piece on Jef Raskin, I wrote up some of my own memories. I was extremely saddened to learn of Jef's death over the weekend, so I thought it would be appropriate to re-print last year's notes, especially because I find the obituaries I've just read (e.g. this one at Wired), still seem to miss out on the fundamental pesky/jolly/fun/riotous nature of so many things that Jef did. My memories follow, taken verbatim from my earllier piece.

Jef was a very strong influence on me in my early research career: I had the good luck/fortune to live in his house in Solana beach, California, in the early 70's, while I was a graduate student at the University of California at San Diego. Jef's house was frequently vacant during that period because he was mostly up in the Bay area on sabbatical from his normal life as a Professor of Music (at least that's what I knew him as) at UCSD, checking things out and (like others of that era) being completely blown away by Alan Kay and Kay's Learning Research Group at Xerox PARC. Jef knew that these LRG ideas had to be brought to the masses, and he had some good ideas about how to achieve this.

...continue reading.

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