Over the past year, we have done a lot of behind the scenes consulting to large and small enterprises, non-profits, and media companies with regard to the application of social media (particularly blogs) to their business activities. We have a large and growing list of advisors that are involved in various projects, some confidential and some fairly public.
Stephen Baker broke the story of Corante's involvement in the new launch of BusinessWeek's blogs, and said
Stowe worked with us here over the last month helping us set up this blog, and taught us much of what we know about blogging.
We've worked with a number of other major media companies trying to make sense of blogging: some that have a personal relationship with us, others that discover that we are #22 on the Technorati top 100 and want us to tell them how to do it.
Starting this week, I am going to profile various members of the Social Media Advisory Service, which we have nicknamed SMAShmouth. The first interview will be with one of the most recent to join: Jory Des Jardins. In upcoming weeks I will be interviewing folks who have a long standing relationship with SMAShmouth -- like Suw Charman, and Greg Narain -- as well as pulling in others whose relationship with Corante may not be as well known, like Halley Suitt, Jeremy Wright, Paolo Valdemarin, Zephyr Teachout, and Andy Lark.
If you'd like to find out more about SMAShmouth, and how we might be able to assist you in your social media activities, please contact me: stowe -at- corante.com.
I have been struggling with a high quality problem recently, namely the growth of Corante: the steady growth in the size of the community of readers that our blogs are connecting with, the increase in advertising and other sponsorships, and the expansion of our consulting services. At the same time, we have been working on a variety of new ideas for things that Corante could be doing, and struggling with ways to get the word out about what we are up to.
I had a brief moment of clarity last week, after a series of discussions with Hylton Jolliffe (my partner, and founder of Corante), when I suggested that we should just drop the more traditional alternatives that we had been struggling with, and simply surrender to the void. "Let's just blog it," is more or less what I suggested. I'm sure that approach would be obvious to others, but perhaps because we were so close to the issue it seemed more oblique. Nonetheless, here we are. Therefore, this is the first in an ongoing series of posts about Corante: our business, our aspirations, and our plans. An open business plan, of sorts.
Obviously, I can't disclose things that are confidential, or that would disadvantage us, but otherwise, it is out plan to lay out what's happening at Corante in as open a fashion as possible, and to gather the widest range of input, feedback, guidance, and support as possible.
I guess I am not surprised to read that Fast Company is up for sale. I don't know the particulars of the company's finances, or of the parent company that is also trying to dump Inc., but being the edgiest of mainstream media's business pubs is kind of like being the world's shortest giant, nowadays.[tags: Fast Company]
I had the chance to speak with James Surowiecki last week, who will be one of several keynote speakers for the CTC 2005 conference. James is a writer at the New Yorker, but perhaps best known for his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, that explores the ways in which groups can -- at times -- be smarter than the individuals that make them up.
We spoke about the ways that collaborative technologies can help -- and possibly hinder -- intelligent decision making within groups, especially organizations like the modern enterprise. James started the conversation by expressing his optimism about the upside potential for collaborative technologies, which are "immense, in the sense that we can learn from each other, and pass critical information to each other." At the same time, there is a downside: "the more we interact, the more we will be influenced by each other, and therefore, the independence of thought that we know is critical to good collective decision-making can begin to fade away. So, finding a balance between the two is important, especially when you consider technologies like the Internet."
Click here to read the rest of the piece at the CTC 2005 blog.
I had a brief but compelling chat with Eugene Kim a couple of days back. Eugene is cofounder of Blue Oxen Associates, a think tank that works on improving collaboration. He personally works a good deal on open source and interoperability and has cocreated PurpleWiki, an open source collaborative tool. Eugene will be speaking at the upcoming Collaborative Technologies Conference on 'How to Collaborate Without Really Trying' and will be moderating two other very interesting panels. His speech will definitely bring to light the problems that often come with complex and expensive collaboration tools. He'll be going over some lightweight and open source tools that can offer simple ways to streamline collaboration efforts.
From my conversation with him, I can tell that Eugene is a huge proponent of simplicity. If you only need a piece of paper, then just go ahead and use that piece of paper rather than buying a complex and cumbersome tool. In fact, when I asked Eugene what his favourite collaborative tool was, he unhesitatingly said "a piece of paper." It really can be that simple. Sketch, jot down, pass around. Easy.
I like how Larry defined the issue in his last post on CTC: "Collaboration is how we work together. Collaborative technologies present opportunities to work together more effectively." Though the opportunity may be present to optimize workflow, at the same time it can also hinder it. Sometimes, as Eugene noted, a piece of paper can still be a powerful collaborative tool.
Aside from paper, Eugene strongly believes in the power of wikis. They are a very simple tool to use, manage and learn. I think online collaboration, personally, is more powerful for one simple reason: links. Files and ideas can be linked together in ways that you cannot always do otherwise. I was surprised to hear that Eugene thinks that we could actually be seeing some good lightweight tools from Microsoft. I've had some bad Microsoft collaboration experiences just due to the amount of work it took to manage. So, we'll have to see. Other cool tools: TWiki, del.icio.us, Jotspot, Socialtext, and RSS feeds. For those of you wondering, we did have our conversation via Skype - how's that for collaboration.
So, if there are easy tools out there, how does collaboration go so wrong so often? Well, you've got pressure from IT and finance, constrained thinking office-wide about what constitutes a collaborative/social tool, and then you have the whole stigma around collaborative technologies that are actually inexpensive: people just don't take them seriously simple because they are affordable. Go figure.
Basecamp has become the certerpiece of Corante project management (yes, I know it all seems so wonderfully extemporaneous, but we do try to keep tabs on our projects), but I can't seem to convince the nice folks who built it that there are things that need to be added. One of the problems of success is that you start to believe you are smart rather than lucky. Note that as the survivor of a brain aneurysm, all such illusions have been dashed for me.
I have been hoping that I could find a small web-based tool that would allow me to define arbitrary lists of data, so I could create more that the messages, to-dos, and milestones provided by Basecamp.
Somehow, today, I stumbled upon Sproutliner, which seems to fit the bill.
But the use of these RSS producing social tools starts me to thinking about integration. Sure I can post a link to a Sproutliner list in a Basecamp project, but what I want, and expect to see, frankly, is a mechanism to connect RSS feeds. For example, to be able to create a subscription to a Sproutliner RSS feed (coming in Pro!) in a Basecamp project, and have that framed into the project overview in some controllable way.
This is just a specialized case of reblogging, but the solutions that require some server side scripting are annoying. These tool makers should be developing the gasketry to allow us to tickertoy more complex solutions out of simpler components, using RSS as the glue.
I came across an interesting article on News.com today titled "Blogs: The next big thing for advertisers?". The article deals with the ways that blogs are being monetized, assuming that the technique is to mimic the broadcasting model:
Any group of bloggers can set up a network, as a group of liberal bloggers have done. Altogether, the Liberal Blog Advertising Network can provide an advertiser with a million or so page views a week in one fell swoop. The ads will appear on all the blogs maintained by members of the network, so they become a form of broadcasting, or blogcasting. Blog readership is demonstrably growing, and pretty soon such networks will be able to compete at least with cable television for ability to reach viewers.
I think that this is an obvious answer to a difficult question. It leaves me still wondering, however, if the barrier to bigger and better blogging business models is really the distribution. Unfortunately, the fearful part is that they don't control the message, the presentation and most problematic, the creator. The operative word here being control.
Ross Mayfield recently did a length analysis of the role of fear in corporate blogging (and social software). If you've not seen it, I'd recommend reading "Fear, Greed and Social Software". It's been shown time and time again that the people trying to co-opt the medium usually don't get it. Isn't it ironic that we're more surprised that someone "gets it" than anything else?
But the worst part of getting the "big media" buy in, seems to be the disconnect in terms of what they are buying in to. I came across a great piece on The Long Tail Blog, "The dangers of 'Headism'", that hits on many of the issues with trying to force this square peg through the round hole. Though you should read the entire post, the section on Incentives is extremely relevant:
Likewise, the incentives for the producers and creators of these products change as you go from hits to niches; Madonna may be in it mostly for the money, but I sure wasn't when I slapped a bass badly in my misspent twenties. Most authors, meanwhile, write books to find readers, not riches (although those readers can lead to lucrative consulting fees, speeches or tenure; books are powerful marketing vehicles for personal brands). And plenty of up-and-coming independent filmmakers would be only to happy to have their movies freely spread far and wide on bittorrent to build their reputation.
Suw skewers David Greenberg, who draws the wrong conclusions from a stint as guest blogger for Dan Drezner: "No, no, no. No gimmicks. No leitmotifs. No shtick. Any running jokes that emerge in a blog, any themes, have to emerge naturally. What are the words we are continually associating with blogs? Honesty. Authenticity. Transparency."
[Update: Niall Kennedy commented that I had left the necessary 'rel="tag"' filed out of some of the tags that I was creating, so at least some of what has been going here is operator error, I guess. I will be more diligent about that, going forward. He also notes that an XHTML check of this blog comes up with a slew of errors, which could be driving spidering sites like Technorati crazy. Hmmmm. That will have to wait for a template facelift -- which will be coming over the next month or so.]
So, despite all the emails and comments from Technorati over the past weeks about how they have plugged the strange gaps in updating and so on, I am still getting wierd results. For example, if you go to Technorati, and search on the keywords "continuous partial attention" (just like that, in quotes), a number of recent posts here at Get Real and elsewhere show up (see Technorati: Search for "continuous partial attention"). Note that this means that Technorati is indexing these posts. However, a search for the tag of the same name -- which I have used in several of those posts that show up by keyword searching -- pops up the strange message "No Posts Yet!" But this is the same 'not updating the tage results pages' bug I discovered a few weeks ago, isn't it? And some of these posts are three or four days old, not something posted an hour ago. Oh, well.
I was following the thread of various folks' responses to a recent piece on Continuous Partial Attention (see here), and came across this piece, which suggests that various institutions -- in this case the Wall Street Journal's D3 conference organizers, including tech pundit Walter Mossberg -- are declaring war on CPA. Apparently, Jason Pontin (Technology Review's editor in chief) was asked to stop blogging by a staffer, although it turns out later that wasn't the real issue. The conference organizers sought to shield the conference from wireless so that attendees would not blog, email, IM, or backchannel -- wanting to keep everyone's attention completely in the forechannel, completely focussed on the presentations, etc. Mossberg's response:
It is untrue that Kara and I banned live blogging at D3, from the ballroom or anywhere else. We merely declined to provide wi-fi, to avoid the common phenomenon that has ruined too many tech conferences -- near universal checking of email and surfing of the web during the program. The policy wasn't aimed at blogging, and any staffer who said that was just plain wrong. We are fine with blogging. We deliberately invited bloggers. And we provided a bank of PCs right outside the conference room hard-wired to the net.
Yikes. Another culture war, where the institution -- here the WSJ -- deems some new style of communication and social interaction the ruination of the prior Golden Age. But this is just another attack on continuous partial attention, which is, at its core, an allegiance to broadcast, mediated, unsocialized communications. In this case, the WSJ -- although you can replace it with any institution, such as a corporation laying down rules for behavior in meetings, for example -- wants full attention on the official speakers, and no side channel discussions. But in a many-to-many world, where individuals want to participate in unmediated discussions, and who believe that their social connectedness is more important and strategic than the task at hand, as a general rule, The WSJ's iron-fisted approach to stamping out back channel IMing will anger the most connected and ruin the conference for us.
Personally, I suggest a boycott of stupid, singlethread, chowderhead conferences that prohibit wireless on this basis. I am all for asking people to turn off cell phones -- the ringing and talking is annoying. But demanding that we fold our hands and pay full attention to the talking heads on the podium is nonsense.
You want to hold our attention? Get better speakers! Throw out the panel sessions and the powerpoints! Use video, and music! Practice what you are going to say, instead of hemming and hawing up there! Speak more quickly, say less and make it worth more!
From this perspective, preventing Wi-Fi connectivity at a conference means depriving attendees, at least for a few hours, of their situational awareness and their connections to their productive groups. This may be justifiable, especially if audiences go into an event knowing that they'll have to disconnect. But the benefits to the speakers and organizers should be weighed against the fact that audiences will be less productive and will be cut off from the intelligence of their groups (which may even include fellow audience members, in the case of an IRC backchannel, for example).
I'm not going to argue that we deserve to drag our electronic umbilical cords everywhere. Concert halls should probably be off-limits. (And perhaps bedrooms: A startling number of people admit that if their cell phone rings during sex, they answer it.) But I believe that those who want to reach large audiences--whether at a conference or through a broadcast or a publication--will eventually have to recognize that the audience's partial attention is the best they can hope for, and the most they have a right to ask for.
More than ever, we are connected beings. Now we have to figure out, as a society, when it's proper to ask someone to disconnect--and in effect, to cut off a part of themselves.
I got the pointer to Wade here, Crumb Trail, who adds a misleading analogy between CPA and multithreaded programming of computers:
Throughput on compute intensive tasks is degraded and total throughput is degraded except in cases where there were many wait states. Time slicing and task switching allows that otherwise idle time to be used. Not all of it can be used since it takes time to switch tasks, but when the length of the wait state exceeds twice the task switch time there is an increase in throughput.
When such machines were configured wrong they ended up spending too much time in task switching - they thrashed, squandering their power on the overhead costs of task management and getting little real work done. This is more than just wasteful since it has ripple effects. It wastes the time of everyone who depends on the computer, like sitting and waiting for a web page to be served by a thrashing server or flooded network.
This is the real cost of CPA. Not only is the thrashing individual's performance lowered, so is that of everyone who engages with them. Charm school classes and time management seminars will teach methods to avoid CPA and increase fun and profit.
The problem here is -- again -- measuring the efficiency of the individual "machine", ahem, individual, as opposed to the network of connected machines as a whole. If all the nodes in a network ignore interrupts from others until they reach a wait state, individual productivity of the node may go up, breifly. That is until the node requests information from another, and is blocked: the other node is not at a wait state, and won't respond. As a result, the productitivity of the network decreases. And, on the social level -- leaving mechanistic productivity concerns aside -- opportunities to touch base, exchange social context, or build trust and obligation -- these are all lost when we put task work deadlines ahead of social purpose. If we are going to have charm schools helping people out in this regard, let's not have them forcefeed Taylorist dogma while calling it time management.
The war on Continuous Partial Attention is on: they will maintain that it is good for us, we need to be less distracted, more focused, more productive, and ultimately, happier. But those who have shifted to a social work ethic resist. Our time is truly not our own, and in a good way. We are supported by a network of partners who will pause, give advice, offer suggestions, and then return to work. Who will take a productivity hit so that we can make headway. And who fully expect us to give back, the same way.
We know the benefits of participating in a backchannel IRC during a conference panel session with various marketing weenies one-upping each other at our expense, or of replying to an IM from a client during a meeting so that hours can be saved on a critical project turnaround. And, yes, we know that old school types -- bred in the days when people worked on a single task at a time, on a single project at a time, and were responsible only for moving stuff from their inbox to their outbox (and I don't mean email) -- they are going to have a difficult time moving to a time-shifted world. But it's here, and the rest of us are living in it.
[Note: I find it strange that both Crumb Trail and Wade quote my earlier piece on CPA, but don't link to the piece. Odd.]
It turns out, as Rob Hof points out, that BusinessWeek's first podcast does support both manual and RSS style downloading of the audio. It's just that they didn't make that obvious at first here on the podcast webpage, although they have updated that. The RSS feed for BW's podcasts is here.
So it really is podcasting, not some pale imitation, as I suggested here. I look forward to hearing BW's future podcasts on my iPod.
Thank you for alerting us to this problem. Our ranking data updates every night but has not been updating over the past few weeks. I tracked down the problem, fixed it, and updated all rankings.
Get Real currently has a Technorati blog rank of 3,351.
Technorati currently identifies Get Real's last update as 3 hours ago, which is consistent with your current posts.
Looks like it is updating very frequently, now: I checked a few minutes ago, and Get Real was ranked at 3,349. I wrote earlier this year that Technorati rank should be constantly going up and down, based on link counts changing all over.
I hope the Technorati apparatus keeps on working: I have come to depend on it, and I really want immediate updates of tags and Cosmos information. they have become a mainstay of how I wander around the blogosphere.
Just an update on the lagtime of Technorati updates: its been 7 days since the last update of Get Real's ranking (3,259) although Technorati shows an additional 108 links from 42 sources in the past 7 days. Even the Cosmos is lagging: "last updated 8 hours ago." I love Technorati, but I really need it to be instantaneous.
My ongoing struggle against "continuous partial attention"
Linda Stone, formerly of Apple and Microsoft, has coined the term "continuous partial attention" to describe life in the era of e-mail, instant messaging, cellphones, and other distractions. This curious feature of modern life poses a problem for a someone like me. Every productive thing that I do requires ALL my attention.
I cannot put it any better than Donald Knuth, who writes on his website, "Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration. "
Knuth also provides the following quote from Umberto Eco: "I don't even have an e-mail address. I have reached an age where my main purpose is not to receive messages."
In a recent review of one of my novels, I was described as "Umberto Eco without the charm" and so it should be pretty clear in what direction I am going.
The purpose of this web page is to help me focus all of my attention on productive activity. Three strategies are used:
Persons who wish to interfere with my concentration are politely requested
not to do so, and warned that I don't answer e-mail.
Persons who wish to ask me questions are encouraged to look for the
answers here on this page.
Persons wishing to make business proposals are aimed in the direction of my agents.
What with all of these different strategies, this web page admittedly gets somewhat long and wordy. Lest its key message get lost in the verbiage,
I will put it here succinctly:
All of my time and attention are spoken for--several times over. Please do not ask for them.
Some years ago, I wrote a document that tried to explain why I am not very diligent about answering my mail, and why I only accept speaking engagements on rare and special occasions. The document is entitled Why I am a bad correspondent and you are welcome to read it.
More recently I found an article in the Atlantic Monthly by
Jonathan Rauch that describes my personality with uncanny accuracy. It explains why, whenever I find myself in a room full of people, or discover a lot of e-mail from strangers in my inbox, my first thought is: "where did all these people come from and how do I make them go away?" This---i.e. the discovery that I am a classic introvert---does not render "Bad Correspondent" invalid, but it does fill out the picture a little. In particular, extroverts ought to read this article!
The bottom line is as follows: I simply cannot respond to all incoming stimuli unless I retire from writing novels. And I don't wish to retire at this time.
Please don't, Neal. But I disagree with Knuth's characterization, however catchy. Many extroverts stay close to the bottom of things, not just skimming along superficially on the top. And I also don't believe that CPA is only for extroverts, although its strongest motivation is for social connectedness. However, the truly incorrigible introverted will always think of CPA as a vampire sucking blood.
A new AOL survey proves that we are co-dependent with email:
Signs that we're hooked on e-mail:
We wake up and check it. Forty one percent check e-mail first thing in the morning, 18% check it right after dinner, 14% say they check e-mail right when they get home from work, and 14% do so right before they go to bed.
We can't make it through the night. Forty percent of e-mail users have checked their e-mail in the middle of the night.
We can't live without it! More than one in four (26%) say they haven't gone more than two to three days without checking their e-mail.
We have multiple accounts. Most e-mail users have two or three e-mail accounts (56%). The average user has 2.8 accounts.
We check it anytime, anywhere. E-mail users have checked their e-mail in a variety of locations, including:
In bed in their pajamas (23%)
In class (12%)
In a business meeting (8%)
At a Wi-Fi hotspot, like Starbuck's or McDonald's (6%)
At the beach or pool (6%)
In the bathroom (4%)
While driving (4%)
In church (1%)
Yeah, but you mke it sound like a bad thing.
As usual, the natural, knee-jerk reaction to continuous partial attention is that it is nutso, addictive, bad for your health. Ok -- I agree that emailing while driving, at least if you are the driver, is a bad thing. But not the implicit "this is stupid" reaction.
I am not a great fan of email -- it is bad at what we want most to do: stay close to those we are close to -- and it is really great at spam, and anything that smells like spam, like a company President's monthly pronouncements to the troops. But I am a fan of people remaining in close contact with partners in work and in life, and if people are channeling that social interaction through email instead of media better suited for it (like instant messaging, and blogs) so be it. better to have emailed and connected, than never to have connected at all.
I spent some time talking to Wes Kussmaul, CEO of The Village Group, about intellectual property and identity management. It's an area of business that is becoming increasingly important, and thus there is a lot of talk as to how best to secure and monitor access to collaboration systems.
We talked around a really interesting dilemma when it comes to securing intellectual property. How do you decide who is allowed inside the clubhouse? You not only have to decide which friends you're going to trust, but also which of their friends are allowed to tag along. Not easy, is it? When your clubhouse is your "circle of trust," it's more serious than just letting friends in. You have more at stake.
So, the key to controlling the flow of information (intellectual property) and to managing who gets access to what is enrollment. Your screening process must be controlled. You wouldn't give the keys to your office to just anyone, and the same goes with whom you choose to hire and to work with. These days, you don't just have employees. You have suppliers, contractors, advisors and more. Each of these people you work with need to be screened in the same way you do your employees. You don't want to invite your competitor into your clubhouse by mistake. Remember that not everyone who says they are "Fred from banking" will be telling the truth. You need to know, with some certainty, if Fred is being honest.
Wes points to three key ways to design an enrollment process that will reliably help me establish Fred's identity. The first two, auditing the enrollment systems of everyone in the circle of trust, and second channel verification (such as a phone call), are basic barriers from low-level threats. The third, however, poses much more potential - with much more debate. Universal ID.
Universal ID is a system that would establish Fred's ID, no matter where he was in the world. One such example of this is a PKI - Public Key Infrastructure. With the PKI, you can be assured that Fred is who he says he is. And, when it comes to managing intellectual property, you can see who has control over information. Whatever Fred had control of will be watermarked with a digital time/date-stamped signature. So, unless you have an enrollment issue of hiring people who are seriously out to steal your information, you can be reasonable assured that the PKI can manage the flow of information and restrict its access within your bounded space.
[Update 5/27/05: Rob Hof set me straight, and BusinessWeek updated the directions regarding their podcasting. You can download, both manually and via RSS: they just didn't make it clear on the page with the podcast.]
First of all, there is no RSS feed for the "podcast" so there is no obvious way (short of hijacking the audio stream) to actually get the audio onto your MP3 player. Doesn't that mean, by definition that it is not a podcast? I guess they think that any streaming audio on a website is a podcast?
Second, shouldn't there be a thunderclap when Ira Sager asked Steve about podcasting being coopted by big media or corporations? I mean, it's BusinessWeek (a brand of McGraw-Hill) trying to break into podcasting here, after all, not two guys in a garage arguing about open source, their wives, or the NBA playoffs. They are a media giant. They are talking about themselves in the third person.
[full disclosure: I did a bunch of consulting for BusinessWeek last month, helping them in a crashproject to (re)launch their blogs on a new technology platform. I even demoed my podcasting setup there a few weeks ago -- what I have used to podcast the True Voice shows -- but they decided to use Infoble's technology (who don't even position their solution as podcasting at their website), rather than typical podcasting stuff.]
More blog bashing from mainstream media's Eugene Robinson: "And even if the so-called mainstream media turn out to be dinosaurs, fated to suffocate in the oxygen-poor, fact-free Internet blogosphere, at least we'd go down swinging." Oh, geez. That's us: a bunch of bottom-feeders, splashing around in the algal bloom. Please just go down without the invective.
I was out in California on the 12th, getting briefed by the Yahoo Messenger folks about the newest release of their instant messaging suite. I was there with Ross Mayfield, Chris Pirillo, and others, but while Ross and Arieanna have already posted about the release, I was waiting for some screenshots and/or my new Mac. Yes, the new version of Yahoo Messenger does not work on Mac yet, so I asked for screenshots (and meanwhile I have ordered a new iBook with 80G so I can install Virtual PC, if only to fiddle with Windows software).
As I sketched in a recent post (Nerdvana: A Better Tool For Communication (I Can Dream, Can't I?)), I would really like a rich client on my desktop that put the buddy list firmly at the center of the universe, and all other stuff -- email, blog posts, to-dos, appointments, geographical location, whatever -- hanging off the buddy list as a collection of attributes. Because people and social relatedness is the center of the universe, not documents, calendars, email, etc.
Well, Yahoo has come mighty close in this release. Leaving aside the big push into VoIP that Arieanna and others have zoomed in on, this is the real advance in this release.
Note the 'contact card' in the screenshow above, where various elements of Jessica's digital relationship to me are displayed. We see various icons, representing ways I can contact her. But better, much better, we see the music she is playing, and new profile info and blog entry.
I want to dissolve the compartmentalizing of the world that having seven different clients forced on me. I use Mail as email client, which does not naturally aggregate around identity -- although I can define 'smart folders' for those that I frequently interact with. I use Sage, embedded in Firefox, to track RSS feeds from the 150 or so blogs I keep tabs on. I use iChat for AIM, Jabber, and iChat IM, Skype for Skypers, and Fire to IM with Yahoo and MSN users. I use iCal to manage calendar, and Basecamp to manage projects.
Yahoo at least are entering the suburbs of Nerdvana, where I can envision a single, unifying metaphor -- the buddy list -- pulling together the loose threads of my desktop into a well-woven fabric. Now all I have to do is wait for a Mac version (grrrr), and a solution to the lack of interoperability between the various networks. Yahoo does seem to be moving toward an open architecture, that would allow others to create tabs in the Yahoo Messenger client, integrating with other tools and solutions. For example, a connector to pull entries from a calendar program, so the appointments I have with Jessica would show up in the contact card. Perhaps this would be a sneaky, back door way for some third party to create a Trillian-like multi-head connection into Yahoo's architecture?
[PS I am thinking about writing a letter to Bush, suggesting that he tackle IM interoperability to counter the negative ratings he is getting on Iraq, Social Security, and the economy. Everyone but Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL is in favor of it, and, really --- no kidding -- it is clearly in the public interest.]
[Update 5/25/2005: Several readers asked the context for this post, which is cross-posted from the CTC2005 conference blog, where I am serving as a member of the advisory board.]
My friend, Doc Searls, one of the visionaries behind the Cluetrain Manifesto, and an all around great mind, is fond of pointing out how important metaphors are. How we frame a discussion, or structure our terminology about something, can have much more profound impacts than we might at first imagine. For example, he recently argued (at the Les Blogs conference in Paris), that the First Amendment guarantees for freedom of the press might not be protected for bloggers, unless the bloggers wisely start to describe what they are up to as "journalism." If we call ourselves something other than "journalists," he points out, the Federal government may try to abridge our freedom of speech, since only the press is protected from government contols.
A similar although not so politically charged battle of words is going on in the world of collaborative and social technologies. And, like Doc's advice regarding freedom of the press, the choice of words involves high stakes, since behind the words there are the various constituencies using them, with potentially divergent agendas.
I hope that the danger inherent in metaphors doesn't blow up in this discipline, like we saw in the ill-fated knowledge management experiment, where the industrial and financial concept of managing and controlling assets led to a wholesale dehumanizing of knowledge and disastrous results in hundreds of knowledge strip-mining projects.
On one hand, it may seem obvious and sensible that we are talking about people collaborating: sharing information, coordinating activities, and posting messages. Working toward shared goals, in project teams, trying to get things done. All very straight forward, and, perhaps not so obviously, very corporate, very industrial.
Superficially, there is nothing wrong with a focus on collaborative technology. But I believe that this perspective, this metaphor, is flawed. It stresses the wrong side of the coin.
The collaborative technology metaphor highlights the machinery, the technology platform that underlies people collaborating, and underemphasizes what people are doing: socializing. And I don't mean socializing, like gossiping, per se. But I do mean the creation, care, and feeding of social ties, the use of trust and reputation, and the application of digital identity.
Technologists -- and I am a recovering technologist, so I know -- focus on the tools, the plumbing, and information flow. Collaborative technologies are viewed as pipes that bits float through; people are sources and sinks for messages, or documents, or other artifacts through these pipes. A collaborative assemply line, where people are like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, struggling to keep up with the information flow.
I am all conferenced out. I left the Syndicate conference half way through the first day, after Doc Searls and I wrote a few posts (see here amd here) about the endless "monetizing eyeballs" comments, but the real cause of my distress is how bad conferences are in general, not Syndicate specifically. I went for a long ramble, clearing my head and smoking a cigar, and thought about conferences.
David Weinberger and I once used the Late Show format to good effect at a conference (KM Forum in Camden Maine), where guests had a few minutes to do their schtick, and then we grilled them on the couch, and opened questions to the audience. It was fun.
But why do conferences have to be so boring?
This piece caught my eye today (free day pass requires watching an ad; pointer courtesy of the folks at SpotMe) about Brendan Barns, who is trying to shake up the staid world of pricey business conferences:
Almost all such conferences conform to a tired formula in which there is no conferring. There are lots of PowerPoint presentations, chocolate biscuits and nodding heads, some in silent assent, some in sleep. Delegates turn up to these dreary affairs because they get out of the office for a while, and their employer pays. When asked what's the point, many mumble about "networking". They go home with a fistful of business cards which they delude themselves will open up countless new opportunities.
Barnes managed to get Tom Peters and Richard Scase to square off in a boxing ring for a debate, complete with boxing gear.
Corante is planning to push into events in a larger way over the next year. With our great contributors, and focus on some of the most important issues in high tech and science, we have a great foundation for important events. But we can't approach it using the old, tired formulas. No more blah blah blah panels sessions, please.
The emerging modern model for events is a strange stratigraphy: the old bedrock of 19th century professional conferences supporting a thin layer of the 21st century internet culture. The skeletal system of the conference is unchanged, with far too many sessions, with far too many speakers, with far too little unstructured meandering in the halls. The industrial ethic at work: must cram in the maximum dronage! And then, like a light frosting on a heavy cake, we have conference blogging and IRC back channels projected on the wall behind the speakers' heads. A handwave at interactivity and community in a format that is overwhelmingly broadcast-oriented.
Other models are used, often with good effect, breaking into smaller working groups where attendees become more involved, and less passive, for example.
But the basic problem is the panel session. Unless the session moderator is an expert interlocutor, lamentably rare, we have a rambling, uneven, and unsatisfying walk through "what's my metaphor?" or other even less edifying conference games.
I strongly favor one-on-one interviews, which is a format that has sadly fallen out of use. As just one recent example, Sam Whitmore did a masterful job at the recent BDI "Blogging Goes Mainstream" conference, interviewing Robert Scoble, and managing the task of keeping him on topic, adriotly, without seeming to be controlling, and at the same time allowing Robert to be Robert.
I also believe that sessions are way, way too long. Like today's mass food emporiums, we have sacrificed quality for quantity, as if they are interconvertible. Fifteen minutes of David Weinberger noodling about the emergent properties of Internet connectedness, Clay Shirky demystifing the tagosphere, or Evelyn Rodriguez reanimating our sense of wonder, is far, far better than 45 minutes of ax-grinding polemicists fighting for the microphone.
We have sacrificed too much for the sake of turning the conference experience into a product. At least the very best events should be orchestrated as artistic endeavors, a form of performance, a sublime experience where we are challenged, enlarged, and made wiser. Where the chance interactions with like-minded others are not stolen moments over poor coffee. Where attendees will look back on them as turning points in their thinking, their careers, their lives.
So, a short post about Brendan Barnes has turned into a manifesto of sorts, but, you can start to see the vision we are pursuing for Corante Events, as we move forward. More to follow.
In order for us to build communication devices that enable mobile communities, we need to start applying our knowledge of reputation systems, identity management, social networks, interface design, psychology and other fields, to our design of devices. The resulting products could support democratic politics, democratization of information, egalitarian societies, uncensored communication, collective action campaigns or nearly any other trait we can dream up. Technology greatly influences how people act -- simply by making it possible. We as the designers and researchers of these technologies hold the power (and the corresponding responsibility) to decide what people are able to do. It's time we started acting like a mobile design community and discussing what it is we're building.
I was catching up on various people's responses to Adam Cohen's polemic about blogger ethics. I read Jarvis, Ann Althouse, and James Wollcott. I had looked over the piece in the Sunday Times, but it was only this morning that I tried to follow the link, and mull his arguments online. But I encountered the Iron Curtain of the NYT's archives:
This is where business model truly evicerates the openness of a dialogue, and one that is important. The NYT's wants to make money on their "content" -- that's their perogative. But it makes it very difficult to have an Internet dialogue with Adam Cohen, for example. Maybe he doesn't care that we can't link to what he wrote, that our reader's can't click through and see his words.
But that matters to me.
The traditional media behemoths have gotten so big that they don't even perceive the disconnects that their business models can create in the discussion going on around the issues they are writing about. That's why they are failing in this new era.
I picked up a reference to a great idea by Stephen Downes over on Master New Media that I wanted to share. It's called mIDm
mIDm, pronounced "my dee me," is a little great idea to simplify online navigation and security - small idea, big results. It's the Mac factor - you make things more simple, and suddenly the results are huge. Simple is often more powerful.
mIDm is a self-identification network that supports single sign-on so that once you sign on, you never have to log in to other sites. Anywhere. And the key is that you sign on at your own website. It's kind of like the idea of asking your computer to remember your passwords or checking the "remember me" boxes on sign in sites - except, you retain control here. And there's no need to remember 20 different passwords, either.
You control your identity, your security, your privacy. It's not stored in some central database. You store it. You control your information - letting you change it whenever you please. And it's just as effective. You as still declaring that you are you and that your information is correct. And you can declare the level of security you use at the universal layer.
Billions of words have been written about user identity on the web. Numerous solutions have been proposed: to name a few, Passport, Liberty Alliance, LID, SxIP, PKI, CoSign and more...but no identity management solution has taken hold in any large measure on the World Wide Web...the vast majority of people, on the vast majority of websites, identity continues to be managed via a simple login with a username and a password...
What this does, in effect, is to establish a regime where a person's own declaration is the primary source of their identity, their own identity server; they do not need to depend on a proxy (such as a university registration, employment in a corporation, subscription to an internet service provider, or whatever)...
what mIDm is not is an authentication service. That is, websites have to take the user's word that they are who they say they are. But what it does do is to provide any user who wants it with a unique identity.
So, it's been flying around the web. Yahoo does VoIP.
From Advanced IP Pipeline I first caught the news that Yahoo was unveiling a beta IM that supports voice calling - VoIP. It also includes other features such as voicemail that are comparative to those at Skype. Yahoo Messenger 7.0 has replaced the wold walkie-talkie voice component with a more true VoIP component - where conversation is unrestricted and open.
The calling features of v. 7.0 includes free PC-to-PC and messenger-to-messenger (buddy-to-buddy), as well as free voicemail and call history. Although it was not apparent at first, they also do PC-to-PSTN calling - calls to any end phone. Many people missed this fact (read below) and so many people were bashing Yahoo for saying they did VoIP without adding in the PC-to-PSTN component - without it, the release would have been more like VoIM.
Yahoo has minimized this aspect of the service in their press release package. And even in their website content, actually, as Tom Keating found out. Perhaps because it is not proprietary, but rather made possible through a third party, Net2Phone. Even then, it would be good to know, don't you think? Perhaps a bit more newsworthy than Pc-to-PC calling in the first place.
Here is the title of the press release on Business Wire: "Yahoo! Messenger Announces Free, High-Quality Worldwide Calling" - and yes, they do. PC-to-PC. Nothing in the release about PC-to-PSTN. The only area of the Yahoo Messenger or Yahoo Messenger Beta sites that actually contain the nugget of info that is the true BIG NEWS - the help pages. Go figure. I think Yahoo won themselves an unexpected amount of bad press. But we'll see how they recover.
Although off topic, the new Messenger has upgraded features such as better photo sharing, integration with 360 and spim control.
Version 4.1.0Beta of BitTorrent now offers to simplify the publication of BitTorrents 'for the rest of us', claiming
Anyone with a website and an Internet connection can host a BitTorrent download!
While it is called trackerless, in practice it makes every client a lightweight tracker. A clever protocol, based on a Kademlia distributed hash table or "DHT", allows clients to efficiently store and retrieve contact information for peers in a torrent.
When generating a torrent, you can choose to utilize the trackerless system or a traditional dedicated tracker. A dedicated tracker allows you to collect statistics about downloads and gives you a measure of control over the reliability of downloads. The trackerless system makes no guarantees to reliability but requires no resources of the publisher.
Although in general I find Typepad easy to use -- my personal blog, A Working Model is hosted in Typepad: www.stoweboyd.com/awm -- I have one major pet peeve. The stupid window that pops up when you want to post an entry at a time other than "now" is completely annoying.
If all you want to do is backpost something a few minutes ago, or last Thursday, the interface works ok. But if you are doing what I was today -- moving a bunch of posts written in 2002 from a blog I am shutting down into AWM -- it just sucks. The only way to designate a month in the past is to click on the tiny, tiny carat to the left of the current month, and to get back to 2002 you have to click through every month in 2005, 2004, 2003, and so on. Even worse, because the two carats and the month are centered, and the lengths of the month's names vary, the stupid little carat doesn't even stay still. Completely horrible, especially since in MovableType you can simple edit the numeric fields in a second. Ugh.
Via Wired News, Will Wright, the mind behind The Sims, talks about his new "game" called Spore: "Can a computer game bring you to theological discussions, or philosophy, but at the same time remain eminently whimsical and playful and approachable? That's an interesting balance to strike. I like the idea of an extremely whimsical toy that has deep philosophical implications." Kind of like David Weinberger.
Oh boy, things are moving fast in VoIPland. At IGN.com, Craig Harris reports from E3 2005 "Earlier this week, we reported that Nintendo would be demonstrating something called DSpeak at its Electronic Entertainment Expo booth this week. After experiencing it hands-on, we can tell you what it is: Voice-over IP using the Nintendo DS' wireless and microphone capabilities." Just a concept demo, but this should create even more panic in the traditional phone companies. [pointer from Waxy.org]
As I reported 16 May, Technorati is hitting some complexity issues. Tag displays are not being updated immediately: especially in the North American morning, when most posts are created. But other, not so obvious things are being stalled. I mentioned in the May 16 piece that Get Real's Technorati rank had stalled for what seemed like weeks:
Even more interesting: Get Real has been rapidly rising in the Technorati rankings, growing from around 8000 around the turn of the year to a recent high of 4,017 or so. We had been stalled for weeks, which seemed odd. So I looked, and in just that morning, since I had reported the bug and received the message, Get real had climbed like 600 increments in Technorati ranking, up to 3,416!
I also noted this morning that we are stalled again: Get Real has not moved up (or down) from 3,416 since last Thursday. I am happy to see that Get Real is the 3,416th most linked to blog, but I wonder about the stall: shouldn't these rankings be constantly moving up or down, based on new links being created? So, the question is, is there something going on at Technorati, where they have to go over and kick a server? Are they so backlogged with queued analysis tasks that things artificially stall? Did they run an update on Get Real alone, or the entire blogosphere? What's the story?
So I have been going to Technorati every day since 16 May, and the number didn't budge, even though I have been seeing all sorts of new people linking to Get Real stories, getting new trackbacks, etc. This morning, 20 May, Get Real has edged up to 3,259, 157 steps on the Technorati ladder, all at once.
It looks like -- at least for Get Real -- we are only seeing updates of these pages once every three or four daysweek, maybe on Thursdays?
Virginia Postrel has a new column at Forbes -- Looking Forward -- where, at least in this issue, she is taking MSM blogbashers on: "Something about blogs makes a lot of respectable journalists hyperventilate." Go get'im!
I noted a small rebound in trackbacks (like Paul Chaney's) linking to the series of pieces I wrote last year about "What's Wrong With BloggerCon?" (see here, here, and here). Apparently, Dave "Poor Impulse Control" Winer spun out of control trying to control what was going on in what turned out to be the ironically named "A Respectful Disagreement" session. This all culminates with an interchange with Glenn Reynolds (see here, and here), who received the same sort of emails that Dave directed at me last year, following my posts about BloggerCon.
A person seeking another person's attention is normally able to quickly assess how interruptible the other person currently is. Such assessments allow behavior that we consider natural, socially appropriate, or simply polite. This is in sharp contrast to current computer and communication systems, which are largely unaware of the social situations surrounding their usage and the impact that their actions have on these situations. If systems could model human interruptibility, they could use this information to negotiate interruptions at appropriate times, thus improving human computer interaction. This article presents a series of studies that quantitatively demonstrate that simple sensors can support the construction of models that estimate human interruptibility as well as people do. These models can be constructed without using complex sensors, such as vision-based techniques, and therefore their use in everyday office environments is both practical and affordable. Although currently based on a demographically limited sample, our results indicate a substantial opportunity for future research to validate these results over larger groups of office workers. Our results also motivate the development of systems that use these models to negotiate interruptions at socially appropriate times.
I am convinced that a relatively simple mechanism, based on aggregating information from various devices -- computer and phone -- as well as 'listening in' on the PC's microphone (to detecting talking with others), could do a fairly good job of this.
Imagine I am off the phone, not talking to others, and have been browsing the web, but not writing anything much -- just mousing around. So a halo appears around my available presence indicator, denoting "super interruptible".
Stephen Baker at Blogspotting chatted with Mark Fletcher about Bloglines' grand designs on mediating your experience of the blogosphere:
The CEO of Bloglines (now a division of AskJeeves) says that his company will release a blog search engine this summer which will surpass the likes of Technorati, Feedster, and PubSub. "The challenge," he says, "is to create world-class blog search, which we don't think exists now."
Of course, lots of companies, big and small, are chasing that vision. Fletcher says that with improved search, Bloglines will lead users to the relevant blogs, and then help them organize all the feeds pouring onto their desktop. He sees the technology automatically grouping the feeds, or perhaps ranking them according to the user's interests (as documented by clicks).
A seemingly virtuous cycle, where the benevolent Bloglines manages your feeds, aggregates them, organizes them based on popularity (click counting), and helps you on your daily romp through the blogosphere. Hmmm.
Personally, I would rather rely on the opinions of specific individuals, who I know and trust, rather than disembodied popularity-based mouseclick algorithms. The Syndisphere, as Dan Gillmor styles it.
AskJeeves has started to destroy the soul of Bloglines.
Stephen asked if he should stress other angles in the story: yes, Stephen, think about the fact that people need to remain foremost in social media, not the machinery. If Bloglines wants to support a ranking of stuff I might like to read based on what my friends are reading, cool. But Big Media type aggregation of millions of whathsinames out there doesn't interest me at all.
Anne Galloway has a few choice words re: Mass Amateurization, and why Flickr and Dodgeball have been scooped up: They convinced us to play with their products and help build them. "Don't get me wrong. Generally I stand behind what some folks call 'mass amateurisation' - or more specifically I support challenges to traditional professional expertise. But when Microsoft or the BBC want me to "play" with their products it's different from when I play with my friends and peers. Not necessarily worse, and wonderful in all sorts of ways, but different nonetheless. Started as basically DIY efforts, Flickr has become Flickr/Yahoo and Dodgeball has become Dodgeball/Google. Blogging the latest conference I attended or building patio furniture from the latest issue of Ready-Made is different than squatter entrepreneurship. Assembled relations shift, will continue to shift, and that's never a neutral occurrence."
About.com will see CEO Peter Horan leave after a transition period, to be replaced by the New York Times's VP of strategic planning for its New England Media Group, Scott Meyer. Meyer, 35, previously worked on NYTimes.com, the flagship paper's online unit, until 2003. The New York Times bought About.com only a few months ago for $410 million, a price roughly 30 times its earnings.
Maybe I can get him involved at Corante. I like the multiple he got for About.com, that's for sure.
Based on the recent push I've made -- adding like 10 new wifi spots in the past few days, and inviting five or six Get Realiacs who wanted to help -- I have pushed ahead of Joi in the Plazes Top Ten Discoverers list.
But I bet he sneaks up on me during some worldwide trip. The guy's a traveling machine. I must remain vigilent...
As you'll see in days and weeks to come, I'll be one of many voices, including yours. I'm a host here, not The Editor. Communities have values; we'll have the kind that make this a place we want to share with visitors and each other. So while our postings and conversations will frequently be impassioned, they'll also be civil. Beyond that, we'll be adding tools that make it easy to join in and to do good work, often collaborating with others.
Let's build a space where people can find news and opinion they can trust, and information that helps us in our daily lives.
I heard Jon Udell at Syndicate yesterday, talking about unsubscribing from many feeds, and relying on the social network of those that were left to keep him up to date on what's really important out there. I am (no surprise) doing the same thing -- down to a few dozen critical feeds.
Steve Gillmor wrote about this, and coined the term Syndisphere to denote this principle:
This is the subscription economy we're talking about. Not the Blogosphere so much as the Syndisphere. In this ecosystem, the contract is based on continued attention, not captured attention. It leverages a form of broadcast couch potato dynamics, where inertia keeps you tuned from ER to Leno to Today. When CSI broke that cycle, it was a big deal. In the Syndisphere once you've signed on, it takes more effort than it's worth to sign off. Unsubscribing requires real motivation.
Jon's [Udell] choice is to withdraw the feed tube on a blogger-by-blogger basis. Bloglines and de.licio.us have helped cull the wheat from most chaff feeds, so Jon is willing to forego the main feed and wait the additional few minutes it takes for other filters to bubble up the occasional gem to the surface. But multiply this effect by thousands, as Bloglines reports indirectly via its public subscription data, and a power law begins to emerge. When thought leaders like Udell stop subscribing, thought readers follow suit.
Steve goes on, in a really chock-full-of-nuts piece, to suggest that
Feeds are the nose-under-the-tent of the attention model replacing the page view model: "adveritising will only work if it is perceived as information".
It's early days for capitalizing on the buyout fever that is developing in this space -- apropos of the comments I made earlier this week about Technorati being an obvious target for Google, Yahoo, etc.
On podcasting -- "I've been constrained by NDA and negotiations from discussing podcasting" -- hmm. Something's being cooked up, obviously. He goes on to say that the Syndisphere is the new mainstream media. Well, considering the smell of fear at Syndicate, we are definitely the boogeyman under the bed at the very least.
He ends with a question: "In the Syndisphere, is the link the fundamental coin of the realm. If not, what is?" The weighted link (the hyperlink plus the identity and reputation of its creator) is the measure of value in the blogosphere.
JD Lasica points out that newspapers are staying away from blogging, because they are afraid to lose control. The NYTimes won't let writers even have personal blogs. Tim Bray relates that the day Sun decided to start blogging, they had to throw the company's communication policy out the window (and create a new one, that covers the new world order) because the company needed to get out of the way and let individuals talk with the world outside.
But this conference is brimming with fear -- not these panelists, Udell, Lasica, and Bray -- but the folks off the stage. The mainstream media folks filling the hall are hoping to make the most superficial, most minimal changes possible -- add some RSS feeds, let a few writers blog -- but otherwise, business as usual.
But I don't buy it. Wholesale change is necessary. But only a small proportion of these companies are going to make those changes, and as a result we can anticipate a pileup coming in this industry.
At Syndicate, Jon Udell relates his "aha" moment about social media. He was working on a cover story, and wanted to locate various experts. Instead of telephoning around, he realized that the agenda for the story wasn't proprietary, so he posted it via a bunch of mail lists, and the experts showed up. His epiphany: the open research model changes the way that researchers/writers work at a profound level.
I am an avid user of Plazes, as any regular of Get real knows, since my geolocation is always showing up over there in the left margin, and occasionally I post the map of my recent travels, like this:
Right now, I have surpassed Joi Ito in the list of top discoverers, but only in the category of plazes discovered. I need to invite like 10 or so people to the service to really cut his throat. If there are any volunteers, please email me at stowe -AT- corante.com. Whatever you do, don't go and sign up first. I won't get any points for that. And don't tell Joi... I want to sneak up on him.
And yes, I walked from the Syndicate conference in Times Square to my hotel on 24th, stopping at like 7 Starbucks along the way, yesterday. It was a beautiful day, and I have been at one conference too many recently with "content providers" talking about "monetizing" their feeds by directing "eyeballs" to the right ads, and so on. I am getting cranky in my old age.
The inestimable Ernie Miller reports
on a recent survey re: First Amendment:
Only 14% of Americans - and 57% of Journalists - Can Name Freedom of the Press as a Right in the First Amendment
"Freedom of Speech" does much better. 66% of journalists and 58% of Americans can name it. The difference between "Freedom of the Press" and "Freedom of Speech" is not particularly suprising to me. Current legal doctrine is that there is no actual distinction between the two, so why would people think of them as different things? It is surprising to me, however, that only 66% of journalists can name "Freedom of Speech" as part of the First Amendment.
If they are so dumb as to not know what they have, when people come along and try to take it away, I guess we shouldn't be surprised when no one howls.
I am sitting in the belly of the beast, as Che Guevara once said. I am listening to a battery of mainstream media folks talking to themselves about the impacts of RSS on their world, at the IDG Syndicate conference in New York.
I wonder: will I hear something other than how to monetize RSS?
I am hearing (again) the blogosphere's impact on the mainstream. There is a desire, openly acknowledged, to embrace RSS and blogs as a way to "remain relevant" (Tim Ruder, VP Marketing, Washingtonpost Newsweek Interactive), ways to use this "new channel" to get people to look at specific places on news sites ( Richard Caccappolo, Senior Vice President, iVillage, who wins the award for the most uses of the term "monetize"), and an awareness that these new trends represent a move toward a conversation with the community (Peter Horan, CEO, About.com).
I think I am going to have to wait till my mind catches up with the rhetoric here, before I can assimilate what it means.
Am I hearing that the value chain has changed so dramatically -- in the shift to open media -- that much of the old mindset is not only broken but dangerous. I wonder if that will be outed, here.
This is a group that is set and determined to talk about content, who think in terms of page turns, click throughs, and leading the readers by the nose around pages to get to specific ads. Although they talk the talk about good writing (although they call it content), they are not talking about good reading. They are not primarily interested in the activities and goals of the active reader.
I admit it. I am starting the first panel in the first day already frustrated.
NewsGator is buying up Bradbury Software, reports Om Malik. This sparks some interest for NewsGator in making more headway in the RSS-related area of development. Bradbury is known for the FeedDemon, a news aggregator product. NewsGator will now offer all suite offerings: email, Web, Outlook, and desktop (via acquisition). NewsGator customers will soon receive FeedDemon features, while FeedDemon subscripers will get a 2-year NewsGator subscription. Way to go!
Today, AOL released a software developer kit (SDK) that will mean easy integration for game developers with the 46 million people in the AIM and ICQ networks. The SDK will enable access to the entire AOL network as well as access to such features as the AOL Buddy List. AIM features were recently added to the Matrix Online game, giving gamers the ability to see which of their friends were online and to chat real-time in the gaming environment.
There is a big controversy swirling around regarding the AlwaysOn/Technorati Open Media 100 program. The program got off to a bad start with the dubbing of what later became "Pioneers" as "Founding Fathers", arousing the justifiable ire of many. But over and above that initial toe stub, they is a growing controversy about the purpose or meaning of such a list. Is it inherently elitist? Are there inevitably too many old, fat, white guys involved? What purpose does such a list serve? Or, turned around, whose interests are served?
These questions are valid. My hunch is that the primary application of the list, after the fact, anyway, will be to provide contacts for those outside the blogosphere trying to make sense of it. That means large corporations, journalists, analysts, and others who would like to be able to contact knowledgeable and authoratative individuals in order to ask them questions.
Treating it as an award misses the utility of the whole thing -- if there is any utility, in fact.
One of the problems I have with the program is the partitioning into the various categories -- Founding Fa... oops, Pioneers, Visionaries, etc. I would be happier if these offering names up would do so providing their own rationales, and through their own tags. This is another case where the taxonomy provided by the organizations involved may constrain the discussion in odd ways. For example, I don't think that the VCs behind the rise of Open Media deserve as much room on the pantheon as technogical innovators, the premier writers, or visionaries. So I am morally opposed to being forced to nominate a certain number in each of the prescribed categories.
But I don't think the development of such a list is inherently evil, and I applaud the premise of getting the blogosphere involved in it, even if the organizers have perhaps created a too constrained model for gathering inputs.
I had a strange episode last week. I have been trying to use Technorati tags (you may have noticed them at the bottom of recent posts), but even though I was, in some cases, using tags that other bloggers had already created and posted with (such as Les Blogs and Dodgeball), my posts weren't showing up at Technorati -- often not for days.
Last week, I finally emailed the nice people at Technorati. I got the following message from Andy Adam (updated 1.30pm -- see comment) Hertz:
Thanks for reporting this. We had a glitch producing our tag page results. It's all fixed. We had the posts all along -- and as you can see now, you were the first!
By being first, he meant first user of the tag for Dodgeball.
So, apparently they had some sort of glitch where they weren't updating results of various database activities. I wondered what else might not be getting updated. While it's not scientific, I looked at recent references to Get Real after getting this email, and there seemed to be a long list of links that I hadn't noticed before -- and I look through that often, trying to find new voices that are building on themes we track at Get Real.
Even more interesting: Get Real has been rapidly rising in the Technorati rankings, growing from around 8000 around the turn of the year to a recent high of 4,017 or so. We had been stalled for weeks, which seemed odd. So I looked, and in just that morning, since I had reported the bug and received the message, Get real had climbed like 600 increments in Technorati ranking, up to 3,416!
I also noted this morning that we are stalled again: Get Real has not moved up (or down) from 3,416 since last Thursday. I am happy to see that Get Real is the 3,416th most linked to blog, but I wonder about the stall: shouldn't these rankings be constantly moving up or down, based on new links being created? So, the question is, is there something going on at Technorati, where they have to go over and kick a server? Are they so backlogged with queued analysis tasks that things artificially stall? Did they run an update on Get Real alone, or the entire blogosphere? What's the story?
I have had a number of knowledgeable folks suggest that Technorati is having trouble scaling with the explosive growth of the blogosphere. It's a shame if it's true, because they provide an invaluable service, and with the growth of tags edging out blog categorization as an taxonomic mechanism, it is in the public interest that Technorati work. We are all coming to depend on it as a means of making sense of the world. Clcik on the tags at the foot of this story: at this monet, 9am ET Monday 16 May, this piece is not showing up on the Technorati pages associated with those tags, alrthough I have test posted this three or four times, and manually pinged technorati, as well.
I hope that someone like Google or Yahoo scoops them up and ensures that these core infrastructure mechanisms work as needed for the blogosphere.
Apropos of the mainstream media becoming obsessed with the blogosphere, here a recent Daily Show (see here), where John Stewart and Co. skewer the idiotic phenomenon of news journalists reading blogs on television. [pointer from Dave Evans]
Phishing is more ubiquitous than ever, it would seem. I saw a report on Mobile Pipeline of yet another phishing variant - that of attacking wireless LAN users. It would seem that no vulnerability is left open to chance - nor, for that matter, any opportunity left untapped. This is a sophisticated model of phishing, and one that could easily catch many people, knowledgeable or not.
Basically, the new phishing model will start with a log-in page for a public WiFi network. What you'd expect at any hotspot, really. That is why this is so sneaky.
Without realizing it, the user will enter personal information to the logon page, whereupon the hacker will proceed to put 45 or so viruses onto the computer.
The attack is specifically targetted at business people - it will typically take place at a tradeshow, airport or conference.
What can you do? Use a firewall. Use only those websites that have SSL security (watch for the logo and click on it). Try to use a VPN (virtual private network). Don't stay connected to the wireless network if you don't need to be.
Makes me a little wary about taking my laptop to unknown destinations and playing with it over 'free' wireless networks. After all, I've only had it a couple of days now. Loving it. PowerBook G4. My first Mac. Great choice. I've been raving about it on my blog a ton. Sidetracked there. Point is: be careful.
The Gumball 3000 Rally for 2005 kicked off at 6PM in London today (bound for Monte Carlo on mostly legal roads at mostly illegal speeds) - what a sight! I was there in Trafalgar Square with a few thousand other random passers-by and car nuts: never have I seen such a pound-for-pound or minute-for-minute display of car-connoisseur-cars. Well over a hundred started... everything from a classic Pontiac GTO to numerous high-spec Hummers, Nobles, Aston-Martins, Bentleys, [yeah, yeah, plenty of Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis, you-name-its UPDATE: believe me, I'm not being dismissive of this latter group - some rarely-seen Ferrari F430, Enzo, etc graced the field... indeed I daresy every car out there was either jaw-droppingly (a) beautiful, (b) rare, (c) fast, (d) custom-modded, (e) hi-tech, (f) insane or (more typically) most of the above].
GetReal readers who are not car nuts may nevertheless be interested in the live location tracking: every car reports back to mission control in real time, and location is displayed on the web, courtesy CoPilot GPS/cell-phone/PDA navigation, with a customised real-time display for Gumball3000, for which I've included a reduced-size screen grab below. The race car and fleet-tracking industries have had this technology for a while, but what's new is that this variant is provided to each contestant in a mass-consumer-friendly version.
David Weinberger just reached an important milestone on the way to publishing his next book, entitled "Everything is Miscellaneous." Namely, he finished the book proposal. I for one can't wait. I devoured Small Pieces Loosely Joined (here's my review), and I am salivating for this one. Certainly our finest sensemaker of digital connectedness.
Dodgeball is built around an analysis of the needs of twentysomethings, crossed with an understanding of the power of technology. If you're involved in one of those "where did our readers go?" teams that so many newspapers are putting together these days, ask yourself: Is that how we're approaching the problem? In order to connect with Generation Y, local media need to do more than figure out how to push headlines and classified ads into cell phones.
Stowe Boyd said something classic today when asked if he wanted to take his goodies with him: Nah, I don't collect schwag anymore, unless it is something to eat.
Not strictly true. I do take stuff if it's really awesome, expensive, small, and lightweight.
Ross asks us to tell what is our best schwag. In my case, I got a 256K flash memory dongle that I use a lot. I also got a cool Nokia cell phone that Greg Narain managed to walk away with, the rat. And I just last week retired a really nice conference bag that has big pockets, but it wore out after like 10 years of use. It was from the 1996 Netscape Developers conference. An antique!
I stumbled across the personal website of Per Persson, a Nokia researcher who is one of the designers behind Nokia Sensor. He's worked on a number of interesting sounding projects involving proximity, mobility, and social interaction.
The original work on Sensor was called Digidress:
DigiDress was provided to Nokia employees for user trial. The software was made available and users with compatible phones were invited to download and try it out. The DigiDress prototype was equipped with a logging functionality that enabled us to collect very detailed information about what features were used and how much. During the study we collected 46 DigiDresses which were later subjected to analysis. We also interviewed 10 of the most active DigiDress users.
During the trial period (89 days) 618 users installed DigiDress on their phones. The average use span was 25 days. The identity expressions created were both serious and playful, revealing and non-revealing. Factors influencing the identity expression included strategies for personal impression management, privacy concerns, and social feedback. The application was used with both acquainted and unacquainted people, and viewing the identity expression of people nearby was one major motivation for continued use. Direct communication features such as Bluetooth messages were not commonly adopted. In several instances, DigiDress acted as a facilitator for 'real' social interaction between previously unacquainted users. Privacy concerns and their alleviations, as well as use barriers, were identified.
Weird. I would have thought bluetooth features would have been one of the primary factors for adoption, but mostly people seem to use it to get a better insight to others' 'identity'.
There's a long list of other interesting projects there. My favorite: Scent.
By comparing the phonebook data stored on users' mobile phones, Scent application enriched face-to-face encounters by discovering common acquaintancies, while still maintaining privacy. It also allowed users to create identity expressions and guestbooks. 539 users installed Scent and used it over period of 8 weeks.
Skype targets enterprise users with new partnership
Skypejust announced a partnership with Fiberlink, a company developing voice-data solutions for enterprise mobility. Without all the legwork, they've successfully managed to get a leg into selling to corporate clients. Way to go Skype. I personally think it's a great move. I use Skype for most of my business contacts, for both voice and chat components. It's ability for multi-user chat and voice conference, not to mention the low-cost voice mail option, make Skype a great business tool. And, yes, this is despite the valid points about Skype's ability to use your resources given by Marc. From Om Malik
As has been spreading around the news, Windows Mobile 5.0 has been released for both phones and PDAs. There is quite a lot of hype going about re: the release. Will have to wait a couple months to evaluate its application into new mobile technologies.
Some features you can expect from the new release: productivity enhancements, Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, persistent memory and USB 2.0 support. If you have the patience for it, you can also create advanced graphics and charts in both Excel and Word Mobile editions.
Windows Mobile 5.0, aka Magneto, comes with a whole gamut of features. Here's a breakdown of some of the new highlights:
- One-handed operation - soft-key, landscape, QWERTY. Stylus not required.
- Flexible platform for partner customizations - can plug in "push-to-talk" or video conferencing
- Network adaptability - from 3G to Wi-Fi to Bluetooth
- Media Player 10 Mobile - for music and tv content
- Microsoft Office integration - new Excel, Word and first PowerPoint release
- Security - encryption over VPN, Bluetooth authorization
- New APIs for developers
- Persistent memory storage - to keep information when the battery dies
- Storage - more support for hard drives and USBs
"The whole mobile space is incredibly hot," said Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, in a keynote speech announcing the new software at the company's annual mobile and embedded devices conference in Las Vegas. "We're moving well beyond just doing voice calls and SMS messages," he said.
Windows Mobile 2005 offers hardware makers more flexibility and mobile operators more ways to customize devices, allowing for a wider range of devices, according to Microsoft. For example, the operating system supports more buttons, landscape display and QWERTY keyboards that will let users control the device in one hand. [Link]
The new mobile OS is set to compete against platforms from Symbian, Palm and Blackberry. Microsoft Mobile products are now being made by 40 device-makers for 68 mobile operators around the world and there are greater than 18,000 Windows Mobile-based applications on the market today. Microsoft's Bill Gates is hoping the new OS will spur on hardware and service innovation to "revolutionize how customers use mobile devices... such as location-based services, 3-D gaming and video that bring to life compelling entertainment and productivity scenarios."
In case anyone was wondering whether Dodgeball really is a cool idea, they were acquired by Google, announced today:
Q: Why did dodgeball sell to Google?
A: As a two-person team, Alex and I have taken dodgeball about a far as we can alone. Since we finished grad school, we've been trying to figure out how to grow dodgeball and make it a better service along the way. We talked to a lot of different angel investors and venture capitalists, but no one really "got" what we were doing - that is until we met Google.
The people at Google think like us. They looked at us in a "You're two guys doing some pretty cool stuff, why not let us help you out and let's see what you can do with it" type of way. We liked that. Plus, Alex and I are both Google superfans and the people we've met so far are smart, cool and excited about what they're working on.
I will try to track down Dennis Crowley, who I met last year at Supernova, and see what this means for the next stage of Dodgeball. Or maybe Clay Shirky, who I think is one of their advisors.
[Update: 6:53pm ET - Clay has a post at M2M about the acquisition that includes one hundred "w00ts" as well as some insight into what's going on.]
David Weinberger mentioned the Bitty browser, so I thought I would fiddle with it. If you click on the following you will pop open a browser window that is populated by RSS from a Travel blog I set up.
Pretty nifty little widget. I am going to use it for my travel blog browser, which is going over in the left margin.
Gawker Media's blog format notwithstanding, Nick is basically in a traditional, Old Media, advertising-funded biz model. The last thing his business needs is clients discovering blogging for themselves, or believing they can spend less money on advertising.
I like both Nick and Gawker Media, so if they're making a profit, all power to them. That being said, I really don't see what the big deal about nanopublishing is. With the advent of blogs, it's simply too easy for a writer to create their own brand/body of work without a publisher, without the controlled and compromising input of a third party. This is true with both small and large publishers, online and off. So why the Big Media fascination with Gawker?
I suspect the real reason is that it allows them to write about the blogosphere without having to mention the real, and for them, painful and depressing story, as summed up so eloquently by Clay Shirky last year:
So forget about blogs and bloggers and blogging and focus on this -- the cost and difficulty of publishing absolutely anything, by anyone, into a global medium, just got a whole lot lower. And the effects of that increased pool of potential producers is going to be vast.
There's nothing wrong with Big Media per se, they just have the same problem as Madison Avenue. Their product is extremely expensive to make, and they have no earthly clue how to realistically make it cheaper. Long-term that situation is untenable.
Evelyn Rodiguez enlarges the discussion about bloggers as artists: "Your excuses have vanished: This is the age of ordinary art. This is the age of ordinary journalists."
This accords with the term I have been pushing around in my head -- artisan journalists -- to distinguish what we are up to from industrial journalism, but to avoid being grouped with the art establishment: they have worked too hard to distance art from everyday life for me to say "I am an artist, expressing myself in words." People would expect some canvas covered in incomprehensible characters, or some installation with teletypes clanking away like Shakespeare's monkeys, generating blank verse.
Artisans don't think about museums: they make stuff that fits the hand, sits on the table, fills your stomach, and enriches people's lives in practical ways.
Everyday, there are new front page stories about the impact blogging is having on business. This morning it was USA Today weighing on on executive bloggers on the front page of the Money section. No surprise that the ongoing characterization of blogs and bloggers is meant to discredit us and what we are up to: just like the computer companies of the early '80s characterized PC makers as hobbyists. Blogging is messy and dangerous: Steer clear!
Blogs, short for weblogs, are personal Web sites for posting thoughts, rants and opinions in chronological order. One written by a CEO would slice through traditional media gatekeepers and bring him or her unedited to the desktop of customers, employees, Wall Street analysts and competitors. A blog by a prominent CEO would attract instant traffic, could influence public opinion, perhaps steer legislation and maybe sell a few widgets.
But despite all of the power and sway that awaits an early adopter, it's going to take a brave CEO with thick skin to enter the blogosphere. The corporate sphere likes its skeletons packed away, or at least vetted through legal and public relations departments. Companies have been trained to be inoffensive.
The blogosphere, on the other hand, wars against harmony. Its mission is to air dirty laundry. There is even an undercurrent of radical bloggers who say all companies are evil and should be brought down.
The blogosphere does not war against harmony, and its mission is not to air dirty laundry, and, while there may be people in the blogosphere that say that all companies are evil and should be brought down, that is by no means a widely held view of the supermajority of bloggers.
How do these mainstream journalists get these ideas? Are they really that clueless? Do they ever research the blogosphere before launching into these pronouncements, or do they simply cage their invective from other news stories?
The blogosphere is no more unharmonious than the world in which we live. While bloggers are likely to get involved in pulling down the pants of bloated media figures -- like Dan Rather, for example -- we are moving into the gap left as traditional media have decided not to police themselves effectively, and have taken their eye off the ball in other ways, like the tarnishing of their much lauded journalistic ethics: most people just don't trust mainstream media like they used to.
The blogosphere is today's Wild West, where people post indelicate responses and react with incivility, known as "flaming." Blog readers can be counted on to hurl insults that insulated CEOs are not accustomed to hearing. Even more civilized blog readers are impatient with executives who are uninteresting or inauthentic.
Thank god someone is getting away from the kid gloves, softball pitching nonsense that so-called "objective" journalism has fallen into, which is increasingly a subliminal support for the status quo. That's why there are so many white males telling people what they should think on TV and in the major newspapers. And the reaction of traditional media to gonzo journalism is to reject the message because it doesn't fit into the now archiac canon of journalistic rules.
My metaphor is that traditional media try too hard to be polite because they think being invited back to the next dinner party is more important than calling someone a sexist after an insensitive joke.
My prediction is that dozens of CEOs will be blogging in the near future, but don't expect it to start with the buttoned-down types, first. Look to media executives, entertainment, sports, high tech, and serial entreprenuers who have moved across many industries. And the conservative bilge of the media establishment will not slow this a whit. The ones that are likely to launch CEO blogs have already shifted to reading blogs rather than, or in addition to, the tired, tired tabloids.
NYT: A long and admiring story about Nick Denton and the Gawker clan, just what people in the burbs need to know about on Sunday morning.
Like many, I think what Denton is doing rocks, but am amused imagining that the breathless awe of this piece may be a reflection of how sucky many find practicing main-stream journalism (as in, these folks make less, but they are having fun.)
After this weekend's Denton piece, I am convinced too many of the Times digital media writers are kids trying to compensate for taking such an uncool job--even tho it's at one of the best papers in the world.
Mark Cotton at marketwatch reports reports "The New York Times Company (NYT) said Monday it plans to introduce a redesigned Business Day section on Monday 16 May. It also plans to expand its coverage of new media and online web journals known as blogs as well as widen its coverage of consumer technology, the legal profession, Wall Street, venture capital and financial products."
Tom Zeller's most recent foray in to the blogosphere, A Blog Revolution? Get a Grip, graced the pages of the Sunday Times, yesterday. Nick Denton reprised the same sort of blog revolution antihype that Gabby Darbyshire (colleague of Denton) and Jason Calcanis (of Weblogsinc) provided us at Les Blog (see here and here).
At a time when media conferences like "Les Blogs" in Paris two weeks ago debate the potential of the form, and when BusinessWeek declares, as it did on its May 2 cover, that "Blogs Will Change Your Business," Mr. Denton is withering in his contempt. A blog, he says, is much better at tearing things down - people, careers, brands - than it is at building them up. As for the blog revolution, Mr. Denton put it this way: "Give me a break."
"The hype comes from unemployed or partially employed marketing professionals and people who never made it as journalists wanting to believe," he said. "They want to believe there's going to be this new revolution and their lives are going to be changed."
I guess thousands of dedicated bloggers -- who are having a profound impact on society, business, and politics -- are really not a revolution, Nick. We're just something else recycled, right? And I guess we are working at tearing things down? I thought we were working to bring people together, but we might be challenging the mainstream media, just a leetle bit, and their step-children who are adopting the forms of blogging but nothing else.
It's like Doc Searls says: Metaphors are everything. If you look at the social media revolution (yes, it is a revolution, Nick) as just an extension of the "online media as content" metaphor, then it really looks that way. It's much more comfortable for the advertisers, who really, really want it to be true. It's simpler in the management of "editorial staff" who view themselves as employees toiling by the post, word, or hour. And it may even be simpler in the interaction with the wide, wide world, who are used to being treated as "consumers" and having little or no interaction with those in charge of "content".
If you want to view blogging as just another set of pipes pushing content to couch potatoes, then that's how it will look to you. However, if you approach it as a renaissance of inquiry and commentary, with citizen journalists engaging with others to expand the range and depth of discourse of the key issues of our times, well, then everything looks very, very different. Of course that perspective challenges the industrial media models, and poses an unsettling series of challenges for many. Advertisers, traditional media companies, mainstream journalists, and the average online denizen will be forced -- sooner or later -- to rethink and then rework their role in the information ecosystem. And that might be uncomfortable, hard, and even dangerous.
Zeller also quotes me in the piece, suggesting that the antihype is just that:
But others have begun to wonder if the brand itself [of Gawker Media and other neo-industrial media companies] is a form of compromise. Stowe Boyd, president of Corante, a daily online news digest on the technology sector, suggests that there may be something lost when networks like Gawker Media and Weblogs turn blogs into commodities, churned out for a fee, owned by an overlord and underwritten by advertisers.
"They're pursuing a very clear agenda and they've done very well with that," Mr. Boyd said of Gawker. "But they're just an old media company in new media clothes, and I still maintain that they are missing part of the point."
The point, Mr. Boyd said, is that blogging is unique because of its spontaneity and individualism, and that bloggers, like dancers and sculptors, are most interesting because they are "pursuing their muse."
The editors on Gawker are talented, entertaining and informative, Mr. Boyd said, but also indistinguishable from any freelance writer, with no ownership of what they produce. "These people are hirelings," he said. "What they are cranking out are the 700 words they signed on to produce."
The neo-industrial media types would have you believe that what is happening in the blogosphere is nothing new, just a lowered cost structure and a slightly loosened editorial policy. Bull. Blogging -- despite the fact that the Neos can take the technology platform of blogs and use it in that way -- can be, and is, in general, much more than that.
And, apropos of my recent rant about mainstream journalists seeking to take the discussion about blogging into their own hands (see Watching The Watchers), Zeller has a deft touch with the use of journalistic techniques to get a message across, without ever explicitly saying what he believes. He opens with Denton's positioning this all as a tempest in a teapot, just business as usual. Then I come is as the counterpoint, suggesting that there is something more to blogging than neo-industrial journalism: namely, art and activism. And then, he closes with Denton's (and perhaps his own) final message:
SO, onward goes the nonrevolution. "If you take the amount of attention that has been devoted in the last year to Web logs as a business and something that's going to change business and compare that with the real effect and the real money, it's totally disproportionate," Mr. Denton said, "in the same way all the coverage of the Internet in the late 90's was out of whack.
"There are too many people looking at blogs as being some magic bullet for every company's marketing problem, and they're not," he added. "It's Internet media. It's just the latest iteration of Internet media."
So, just in case you were wondering, the Antihype Wars have begun in earnest. And now, with august authorities like the New York Times weighing in (at least it seems so to me) on the side of the pooh-poohers, we have a third spectral presence hovering over the debate within the blogosphere between the neo-industrialists like Denton, Darbyshire, and Calcanis, on one hand, and the social media advocates, on the other.
The Times and other traditional, mainstream media outlets will argue that they are not taking sides: they are objective, and merely reporting what others say, as in this case, where Zeller never steps into the first person about his opinion. (In fact, he is only in the first person when relating the context for the interview with Denton.)
Still, my sense of the piece is that you are meant to be left with a message: blogging is a non-revolution, business as usual, hohum, yawn. In a hundred cocktail parties across America, I can imagine people discussing blogs, and repeating that message: "Its a non-revolution... After all, that's what I read in the Times!"
Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion tips us off to some of the new features of the AOL IM (AIM) beta. The new release has a built in RSS reader - not a very good one, but still pretty cool. The feature I'd love to see added to every browser - notification that a site has a feed. Some sites are deceptively non-blog looking, so this notification would be great here. But it would also add a level of simplification to the process since all you need to do is say "Yes, subscribe me" when notified. I sure hope it also recognizes those blogs you already subscribe to...
Intelliseek's BlogPulse tracks the buzz in the blogosphere, so I thought (apropos of the previous post sparked by danah's comments on MySpace's growing popularity) to track the relative buzz about the two services. Here it is, unequivocally showing that MySpace is getting 5 times the buzz as Friendster.
[Update: a few seconds after posting the screenshot, I noticed the copyright notice: Intelliseek does not allow publishing the images, although they are free for personal use. So instead, click here to see the comparison of the two services' buzz.]
danah ponders what it means to be a 'hotter' social networking service:
[from apophenia: "Move Over Friendster..."]
So, waking up to the Mercury News exclaiming Move over, Friendster. There's a hotter site on the Web made me ROFL. Hotter? To who? By what standard?
If you follow this space, you know that MySpace has had more traffic than Friendster for a long time. They have fewer accounts, more loyalty, more freedom and generally a much more youth-friendly culture. Their popularity is mostly amongst users who never got into the fad of Friendster: goth kids, indie rock kids and youth. In the last six months, most of the urban teens i talk to talk about MySpace. If you're in college, you're on Facebook but if you're in high school, you're probably on MySpace. The only reason to say "Move Over Friendster" is because Friendster never really recovered its hyped status in the States and while its popularity overseas continues to grow, the media here has declared it a fad.
Adults generally don't watch teens as an indicator of what will happen to the market or society as a whole, unless they are trained to do so. There is a self-centeredness in being older, somehow (said the 51 year-old, bald, fat, white guy).
Witness the ongoing debate about instant messaging -- which kids think of as a staple -- but which continues to be a generational split in the business setting. When I have presented the notion of a future decrease in email use, based on the preferences of young people, to older digerati -- like I did last year at Supernova -- you can be tarred and feathered.
Friendster explicitly wanted business professionals to use its service. Last year, it sent out a plea to lapsed users who met their profile to please, please come back. Meanwhile, MySpace quietly focussed on serving a community -- the indie music scene -- and accumulated along the way various demographics intensely interested in socializing around music. But self-identification based on music preference is not a fad: it is a constant.
The central tenet behind both authors is that social networking succeeds when it surrounds an object, such as a photo or URL, rather than when it is a tool specifically created for social networking - tools in the latter category tend to fail due to their lack of cohesion and therefore lack of networking.
These authors build on the definition of the social network as 'a map of the relationships between individuals.' Basically I'm defending an alternative approach to social networks here, which I call 'object centered sociality'
The term 'social networking' makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people. Think about the object as the reason why people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone.
The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They're not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object. That's why many sociologists... prefer to talk about 'socio-material networks', or just 'activities' or 'practices' (as I do) instead of social networks.
We can use the object-centered sociality theory to identify new objects that are potentially suitable for social networking services. Take the notion of place, for example. Annotating places is a new practice for which there is clearly a need, but for which there is no successful service at the moment because the technology for capturing one's location is not quite yet cheap enough, reliable enough, and easy enough to use.- Jyri Engestrom
I will leave the object-centered sociality idea for another post, but comment now simply on the idea of socio-material networks, which I think is a great way to recentre thought about what binds social networks together. I had never fully considered why I tended to use some "social network" tools more than others, for example using Flickr while I never quite got in to LinkedIn, but I fully realize now that it was because I was bound to others by a shared interest or object. Great realization, and great insight that can be used in the development of new tools.
To further the discussion, Noah notes how we tend to classify our personal social networks on some connection - how we know the person. However, when we take social networking online, we lose this vital piece of information and categorization. Social networking is, thus, about the "thing" that binds people together, and not the binding itself. It's the context that is important.
Social networking works best when it's not the primary objective of a website. In other words, sites like Flickr and blogs generally tend to be a more accurate picture of your social network than something like Friendster - Noah Brier
As Noah notes, most social networking sites will not work because they lack the context needed. Friendster is generic - it is a place to lodge all your friends, but is not necessarily an optimal way for you to interact since it lacks context. However, you can consider sites like College Club to succeed because they have that context of "school" that binds people together and makes their communication there meaningful (read contextualized).
I saw that Brian Chin of Buzzworthy is tracking the story about the recent HP study on Continuous Partial Attention I mentioned recently, and points out that the nice folks at HP have prepared a guide to help you a/ determine if you are an "info-maniac", and b/ if you are how to wean yourself off of it. Bah!
Over at R-win.com [weblog] drwxr--r--, Edwin bootlegged some recordings of the Les Blogs conference. Bad quality, but still might be interesting listening for those who couldn't make it. The text is Dutch, and I couldn't find a Dutch to English translator that led to comprehensible text [Update: Mark Wubben provides translation here]:
* Stowe Boyd, uitgever van Corante, bedruipt zijn bedrijf financieel niet door zo veel mogelijk weblogs uit te geven en op advertentieinkomsten te hopen. Boyd gebruikt zijn expertise om cursussen, advies en trainingen te geven aan bedrijven die weblogs willen beginnen (binnen of buiten de intranetmuren).
Audio downloads (MP3)
1) Keynote Joi Ito, algemeen over internet, weblogs, social software. (download MP3, 30:12 minuten)
2) BBC's Euan Semple vertelt hoe de Engelse publieke omroep weblogs, bulletin boards en wiki's gebruikt op het intranet en welke wensen hij heeft. (download MP3, 10:46 minuten)
3) Paneldiscussie 'Nanopublishing and vertical blogging'. Deelnemers: Gaby Darbyshire (Gawker Media), Jason Calacanis (Weblogsinc), Julio Alonso (Weblogs SL), Christophe Labedan (The Social Media Group), Ludovico Magnocavallo (Blogo.it) en Stowe Boyd (Corante). (download MP3, 1:08 uur)
4) Paneldiscussie 'Traditional media innovates and strikes back'. Deelnemers: Yann Chapellon (Le Monde), Neil McIntosh (The Guardian), Jochen Wegner (Focus Magazine), Pierre Bellanger (Skyrock/Skyblogs). (download MP3, 1:04 uur)
Paolo blogs about Gianluca Neri's discovery of the actual incidence of attack against coalition forces in Iraq:
The 'declassified' parts of the report (you can get the [sic] here, apparently the original document has been pulled from the Pentagon site) contain names of US and Italian personnel involved in the incident but also some interesting bits about the engagement rules and some stats. For example we learn that:
From 1 November 2004 to 12 March 2005 there were a total of 3306 attacks in the Baghdad area. Of these, 2400 were directed against Coalition Forces.
It means an average of 25 attacks per day, wasn't this information interesting for the public (especially the American one)?
Hmmm. Another blogger (this time an Italian one) breaks big news ahead of the traditional journalist.
Joi Ito thinks he's said something dumb but I don't: "No matter what time zone I flip to, I have things scattered throughout the day and night almost every single day. I just realized that I have jet lag even though I'm staying in one place." Traveling without moving.
Cory is in a triumphalist mood at Boing-Boing regarding the DC Circuit of the US Court of Appeals striking down the Broadacst Flag that the intrusive and Orwellian FCC wants real bad:
The next move here is that the studios will take this to Congress and try to get a law passed to make this happen. No chance. They got ZERO laws passed last year. This year the best they've been able to accomplish is making it slightly more illegal to videotape movies in the theatre.
The fact is, elected lawmakers are not suicidal enough to break their constituents' televisions. Watch and see: over the next year, we're all going to roast any lawmaker who so much as breathes the words "Broadcast Flag" in a favorable tone.
He's right, I hope. But who knows what odd coalition of broadcast industry and religious mind control types might cook up. We'd better keep our eyes on them.
When asked how they make recommendations, 80% of consumers say they make them in-person, followed by 68% who say they make them over the telephone. This phenomenon is even stronger among the Influentials(SM), (the one in ten Americans who tell the other nine how to vote, where to eat and what to buy, according to over 60 years of NOP World research) with 90% of this group making in-person recommendations and 79% making recommendations by phone. Surprisingly, the study found that less than 40% of consumers use e-mail to make recommendations to others, including via personal e-mail (37%), by e-mail forwarding (32%) or through mass e-mails (12%). While slightly higher percentages of Influentials use e-mail (personal e-mail 53%, e-mail forwarding 39% and mass e-mails 18%), face-to-face communication still far outweighs this medium.
I would be interested in the methodology of the study: did they simply ask people to relate what they had done in the previous year? It has been shown that such recollections are inaccurate.
Still, I am not surprised that most of our recommending goes on F2F, really. F2F is the most powerful social networking mode, after all, and even those of us who are intensely wired still interact with friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues on a F2F basis regularly. My bet is that there would be a larger proportion of digital recommendations with those who spend more time online, and of course, those that blog within a larger community of readers will have their recommendations heard by a larger group of people. Just looking at the proportions of recommendations made won't capture the number of people influenced. Its not just one-to-one communication, there's one-to-many, and many-to-many forms as well.
This notion of individual citizens keeping a technological eye on the people in charge is referred to as "sousveillance," a recent neologism meaning "watching from below" -- in comparison to "surveillance," meaning "watching from above." Proponents of the notion see it as an equalizer, making it possible for individual citizens to keep tabs on those in charge. For the sousveillance movement, if the question is "who watches the watchmen?"; the answer is "all of us."
I am going to have to rig up some technology to help me keep tabs on all the journalists opining on blogging, and I will refer to it henceforth as sousveillance.
[update: 12:59pm 7 May 2005: Jamais Cascio wrote to wise me up to the fact that Alex didn't write the piece referenced, he did.]
They intend to create policy recommendations, tutorials, templates, and multimedia resources that can be used by higher level education institutions in adopting and using wikis and blogs by students and faculty. I think it's a great idea, especially since they are not tied to any one service.
It was really great to see that Drupal was on the list of ideas. All of their proposals and tutorials will be Creative Commons, so it could be the beginning of creating more cohesive communities at Universities by using blogs. I think it's great! I'm looking forward to see what elements will go forward and how it will be adopted.
I have already seen one class using blogs at Simon Fraser University, my alma mater. The class was in the Communications department, and the teacher, Richard Smith, used his blog not just to disseminate class information, but to go over the class material as it relates to current news and ideas.
The class also involved an assignment for students to create their own topic-specific blogs as a part of their semester project; each topic was related to social software in some way. For example, I followed one student blog on SMS.
Richard's blog also included his commentary on the posts of his students, which I found really interesting. Not only did this help the students reflect on what they've written, as you would perhaps get in the commentary on any assignment, but now other students can post their comments too and the whole class becomes aware of material outside their own isolated projects. Not to mention, people like me outside of the school who followed their material and sometimes referenced it in posts. The class was therefore far from isolated, and their assignments far from private.
This type of interaction with the learning material through weblogs is how I'd like to see part of the proposal aimed. I don't think the use of blogs is limited to classes in the field of communications, as we can clearly see by the myriad of blog niches we have now.
The ruling will likely impose the same regulations on VoIP that are currently imposed on regular phone services. However, the article hinted at a few other interesting things. If I am not mistaken, the regulation would not apply to all competitors in the marketplace, but specifically those from the telecommunications industry but not those in the cable industry.
I find it interesting that the argument was surrounding which player would be dominant in the VoIP market: cable services or telcos. The argument for regulation revolves around the definition of VoIP: is it a phone or Internet product? Those in favour of regulation want to ensure that the large telcos don't offer VoIP services below cost in order to attract attention - this is a cut, despite the fact that VoIP services are currently cutting their revenue through increased competition.
Although they hint at competition, there is no recognition of such services as Skype, one of the most widely recognized VoIP players in the market. It looks like Skype would also be unregulated in the new bill. I find it difficult to imagine myself going over to a telco for my VoIP services. Not out of loyalty to Skype, but simply because I don't use the telcos for anything at the moment. No landline or anything. So, low cost VoIP services bundled into other products would not attract me. With cable, perhaps, but I still don't think I'll be entertained to another product.
Part of my decision to stick with Skype is that I don't see any future product from either telco or cable provider to offer the same level of social connectivity. I use Skype everyday, and quite a lot during the day, but rarely for voice services. Although the option is great, as is the multi-person capability, I use it for my IM. Group chats, simple interface, easy to manage voice to chat switches. Just simple.
So, although the CRTC may be focusing on regulation as necessary to control the VoIP industry from the telco perspective, I would like to see the issue move from "how do we define VoIP" and "how do we control VoIP" to "How can we integrate VoIP with other useful products." Note how I said integrate. Not bundle. Bundles represent packages for discounts, not integrated services.
What we're talking about here is the eventual creation of a perfect digital record of your entire memory, at your fingertips and searchable, all emblazoned with the Google logo and, certainly, some pertinent and unobtrusive advertisement. Scary? Maybe a little.
It is also most likely developing a Google-branded version of Firefox -- the up-and-coming Web-browser. There is no dearth of well-supported evidence on the Web pointing to this fact. Having its own browser out there grants Google the opportunity to package all of its services in one tidy delivery channel. It also further encroaches upon Microsoft's territory.
Most significantly however, it will be the opening move on the chessboard of next-generation desktop computing. I believe Google is vying to dethrone Microsoft as the potentate of PC dominance by pulling the rug out from underneath its feet, by changing the very rules of the operating system game itself. Not unlike its e-mail and mapping software, which are entirely Web-based, Google will release an operating system that will be completely networked and centralized on its servers. You will literally no longer need any software running on your local computer (except the Google Web-browser of course, and a network connection). The computing experience will involve booting your computer, logging into the net, and having access to all your programs (and most of your data) which will reside happily in the ether -- all protected and secure, we will be assured, by the good god Google.
He also hypothesizes the acquisition of Skype or Teleo by Google, which is an advance that I favor, as an end user, personally. I have junked my Vonage contraption, and gone over wholeheartedly to Skype: I now have SkypeIn and SkypeOut capabilities, and use it many times everyday. Integration of Skype with other Google services -- like search, Gmail and so on -- would be a natural. Not to mention Google could then presence enable search results. Imagine you do a search on some topic "google skype rumors" and you find that Stowe Boyd has blogged about it. Then you see that Stowe is online (via Skype), and you opt to read the piece, and then IM Stowe via Skype for clarification on something he stated in the entry. He clarifies. You then could post the result of the IM as a comment in Stowe's blog, or email it to a friend via Gmail. Even more cool if you could post Skype voice-over-IP as comments or podcasts. Pretty compelling vision, and one that would make the apparent low rate of innovation around Blogger sensible, since they may be waiting for a large number of pieces to fall into place before doing anything radical.
Stephen Baker at Blogspotting responded to my comment yesterday that journalists blogging about blogging "something like lunatics running the asylum." His blog entry is short, primarily linking to the comment he made on Get Real, here.
Instinctively I understand your point that we newcomers should sit back, read, study, and learn the customs before plunging in. That's the way we're taught to deal with new cultures, whether it's the school board or the Yanamami.
But then I started thinking about it, and I began to see that the world you're describing is peopled by insiders--cognoscenti--surrounded by newcomers (ie. us). And from the sound of it, our role is to sit quietly for a few weeks (months?)like children at the dinner table.
Here's the funny part. It seems to me that what you're describing, in effect, is a blog establishment that must be heeded. OK, maybe these rules and customs have evolved within a community. But a very similar process has occurred throughout history within societies and even religions. With time, establishments rise up and dictate those norms, which eventually become encrusted in law and liturgy.
Now I'm a newcomer, but isn't the mainstream media's sense of establishment one of the things that most irks outsiders?
Actually, my intent was to suggest something else: that journalists and others who are approaching the blogosphere as a part of their now-expanding profession duties -- like PR and communications professionals, product marketers, and CXOs of large corporations -- should begin by listening to the dialogue that is going on in the corner of the blogosphere relevant to them and their business goals:
No, it's not so much an establishment, as a social context. It's not just the bloggers, it's the discussion that you need to get involved in between blggers and their communtiies. It's not that you need to sit at the table and be quiet for six months: by all means talk. But what many have done (and you are not) is just writing stuff at their blogs, and letting it fly. without becoming engaged in active communities.
I am not suggesting that journalists need to come and kiss the rings of bloggers; they need to get involved in what actual communities are talking about.
The broadcast model -- where the major pubs decide what's important, and so on -- is being replaced by participatory journalism. So smart journalists who are trying to report on it, will sensibly adopt more of the core principles of the blogosphere and not just the superficial elements -- like the bloggish time stamping that was used in the Businessweek front page piece recently.
The rationale for spending time reading before writing is just as much about learning what the involved readers of blogs care about as it is hearing what the bloggers are writing.
Never forget the readers. They contribute so much, and in this new journalism, they are contributors, just like the writers.
Stephen also let the cat out of the bag about my role and Corante's in the launch of the Blogspotting blog, that was timed to support the front page article on blogging in business. He is altogether too generous when he says "Full disclosure: Stowe worked with us here over the last month helping us set up this blog, and taught us much of what we know about blogging."
And, by they way, some of my best friends are lunatics.
The Founding Fathers Pioneers: industry luminaries who created the vision of open media and continue to shape it. [note: updated 8 May after AO/Technorati received and responded to well-deserved flack about the sexist, exclusionary FF term.]
The Tool Smiths: web service entrepreneurs and companies building the open media tools (blogs, social software, wikis, RSS, analytic tools, etc.).
The Trendsetters: the influencers driving and evangelizing the adoption and applications of Open Media.
The Practitioners: the top bloggers in politics, business, technology, and media.
The Enablers: the venture capitalists and investors backing the Open Media Revolution.
By all means, go to Dave's post, and make your thoughts known.
AIM users also can submit posts to their AOL Journals blogs through IM. When they are logged in to the screen name associated with a blog, they can send a message to AOL Journals in order to have it published, AOL officials said.
Ok. This led to me trying to fiddle around with the new service. First, you have to login using a screenname: I used my 'boydstowe' handle, created a blog -- took two seconds -- and was up and running. Then things starting being hard.
I upgraded to Mac OS X yesterday (a different story), and now Fire crashes whenever I start it. That is generally the IM client I use to connect to AIM as 'boydstowe'. I tried logging in at AOL Journals using my iChat identity 'email@example.com' but it wouldn't accept that handle. Ugh. Finally I logged in using their web client, and posted an entry that way:
Looks like the Journals are not presence enabled -- you can't see the online status of authors, etc. -- although every post has mood settings. There is a mechanism to be alerted when new entries are added to a Journal you are interested in: IM meets RSS.
The Journals don't seem to take advantage of IMers' habit of constantly updating their status with personal information about mood, location, activities and so on. What I would like is to simply blog every change in status at the AOL Journal. I doubt I would use it for anything else. And of course, I want it to play nice with iChat, which it doesn't. (See my journal here.)
Jim Spanfeller, president-CEO of Forbes.com, responding to an audience question about when Forbes.com will surpass the print edition in terms of revenue, said, "probably in about 18 to 20 months." Forbes.com is run as a separate company within Forbes Inc.
"I think blogs are an important environmental change on the Web, but I don't know if it will be as disruptive as some people think for publishers," Spanfeller said. Forbes.com is "trying to endear ourselves to the blogging community with the creation of a blog on blogs," he added.
Hmmm. Imitation is the sincest form of flattery, they say, but journalists writing blogs on blogging is something like letting the lunatics run the asylum. The recent Businessweek front page article on blogging was timed with the launch of the new Blogspotting blog, which definitely has a "reporting from the Blogosphere" tone to it, like this post about Bonita Stewart's incredibly smart comments on DaimlerChrysler's "read blogs first, then write blogs later" strategy, which Stephen Baker of Blogspotting calls "timid."
One of the problems that most traditional media companies make when they try to break into the Blogosphere is that they don't start by reading blogs. I hear it all the time from journalists -- even those blogging -- "I don't have time to read blogs," they say. So off they go, creating 'articles in blog's clothing' instead of engaging in a conversation with others. It's not timidity to start by listening, it's smart, and in a way, it's good manners.
This is similar to the reporters blogging about the blogosphere. There is something suspect about it, and even though I know and respect folks like Stephen Baker, I expect that a lot of nonsense will be written by this rapidly expanding group. It's like the bad advice that's constantly being compiled by instant messaging non-users -- "use IM for short bursty communications", "IM is not a replacement for face to face communications," etc. -- stuff that is just wrong, and would be laughed at by serious IM users.
I have decided that I need to start a Watching The Watchers thread, as an embedded project here at Get Real. I will aggregate the stuff being produced at traditional media outlets "blog blogs" and evaluate how much the writers do and don't get it. Once I figure out how best to do this, I will launch.
I really need to keep an eye on this, because there are still innocents out there who will believe whatever the mass market outlets push to them -- even though they ought to know better -- and who haven't yet figured out how to find us, the insiders, those in the Blogosphere who might do a better job of telling them what it's all about.
Adam Penenberg, who teaches journalism at New York University, asks some good questions: "Should we raze our curriculum to the ground and start over, perhaps, and look to the web for inspiration? Could it be beneficial to jettison "objectivity" and "balance" in favor of transparent bias, much like bloggers (and online columnists) do? Would it be wise to encourage our students to exchange fact-based narrative for edgy commentary and digital trash talk? And if we were to banish the inverted pyramid to the scrapheap of history, what could we replace it with?" He goes on to peter out with a middleground response, and like most journalists, characterizes the blog revolution as a moving away from 'objectivity' to 'subjectivity.' But is more than reporters going gonzo: it's the people becoming writers, instead of being couch potatoes; it's a social revolution, where people do more than read, or listen, or watch. We are all of us becoming artists, as McLuhan presaged: the revenge of the readers.
Nancy White riffs on charging for event audio and video streams, based on a post I made yesterday, heading to NYC. "I've been wondering when someone was going to start charging. And I'm wondering when high price-event organizers (this one seems reasonable at $125) are going to start balking at participants who blog or podcast out of their events. There is an interesting potential tension here." Hmmm. Since the Microsoft Briefing Center doesn't support wireless and no connectivity unless you're an employee, it won't happen at the venue we were in yesterday. I think any conference that tried to prohibit blogging would have a riot on their hands.
I am going to be posting the True Voice shows here, at Get Real, starting today. I felt sort of schitzophrenic posting about the topics here, but distributing elsewhere. And since I had received so little feedback about the shows, I believe that regular visitors to Get Real and Corante might not have been bumping into them.
This show is dedicated to the growing antihype arising about blogging. As I said in the introductory comments,
The axe I want to grind in this show is the rising antihype about blogging. Even though blogging was dubbed word of the year by American Heritage -- principally as an outgrowth of the high profile that bloggers got at the national republican and democratic conventions -- there's a rash of blog-bashing going on. I wrote about this last week, as a response to an antiblog article at Darwin, where, strangely enough, I used to write a monthly column on social tools, called Social Commentary. The article was entitled "Enough with Blogging Already," written by Graeme Thickins, someone I have never encountered before. In my conclusion, I noted:
"Graeme has run out all the classic parts of the Wet Blanket List: if this was important we'd be doing it already, there are better ways to do this, this is just the old stuff in new wrappings, the establishment (in this case, the old-line Communications folks) thinks this new stuff is dumb, etc. Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions points out that the emergence of any new paradigm -- one that invalidates a previous worldview -- will be subjected to these sorts of attacks, independent of the actual issues that differentiate the new from the old. And, of course, those that espouse the new paradigm will be personally discredit6ed and attacked by the establishment.
I don't know who Graeme Thickins is, or what he does, but he is playing the role here of an advocate of the Media Counter-Reformation. I expect that those arguing against blogging will get increasingly strident as more businesses adopt blogging as a core element of their communications plans, and the old ways start to fall down. Jobs will be lost, careers ended, and money that historically flowed through old line PR, communications firms, and media companies will find new channels into other pockets."
At the Les Blogs conference in Paris, I decided to ask some of the other speakers about their thoughts on this subject, to see if they had started to encounter this rising tide of invective against blogs and their writers.
Joining in on this issue are Doc Searls, Lee Bryant, Darren Barefoot, and Paolo Valdemarin, all of whom were speakers with me at Les Blogs.
To hear the show, either click[here], or use the new Feedburner RSS feed below (automatically encapsulates audio files for use with podcasting applications, like iPodder). [update: having some trouble with Feedburner. Use http://www.corante.com/getreal/truevoice.xml with your podcasting app.]
True Voice is a production of Corante.
Our premier sponsor is Silkroad technology: Easy to use, robust and secure, Silkblogs is the choice of business bloggers.
Workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana, a British study shows.
The constant interruptions reduce productivity and leave people feeling tired and lethargic, according to a survey carried out by TNS Research and commissioned by Hewlett Packard.
Hmmm. This is another Taylorist argument against Continuous Partial Attention, which most think of as a disorder. However, CPA is a reasonable strategy for dealing with a sped-up world, but it requires shifting the measurement of productivity away from the individual -- like 'IQ' tests -- and looking at the productivity of connected groups. Time in today's world is yet another shared space: your time is truly not your own. We constantly monitor communications -- email, IMs, blogs -- to keep ourself situationally aware of what is going on around us.
The shift in focus is profound: you need to accept interrupts from others so that they can make progress on their activities, even though this decreases your personal productivity. But it increases the productivity of your contacts, and those dependent on their activities, and so on. It's a form of social altruism.
But the clowns with the stop watches want us to focus, focus, focus to the exclusion of these basic human motives. "Don't help your buddy with his stupid coding problem! Screw him! Get back to making widgets."
And I love the way they suggest that remaining socially connected is a drug that taps your intelligence. So those of us who advocate living connected lives are just a bunch of hippies, I guess. "Tune in, Turn on, Drop out" - Timothy Leary
On the Web, nothing ever dies, and no good dead goes unpunished. A case in point are the old Social Commentary pieces I wrote for Darwin for a few years a few years ago. Every once in a while I get pinged (in this case via PubSub) that someone has mined something worthwhile out of one of them. Today, I stumbled over a piece (see There is something about social software) by Jack Vinson that builds on this old thing:
It is the customizable flow of information that really highlights the fluid nature of social software and the fluid networks that underlie those interactions. Each person participates in many different networks, and they each have a different set of information flowing through their workspace. And people flow in and out of these networks as well.
I agree. We live in many circles, and that is one of the flaws of most social networking solutions, which flatten everying into one big telephone book. That's why I continuously argue for the buddy list metaphor. We partition the world into various groups, cliques, and worlds. People's relationships with us grow or decrease, friends become colleagues, and colleagues move out of town and out of touch. There is a natural ebb and flow, and most tools do a bad job of flexing with that.
I got a kick out of Jeremy Wright's fanciful roster of bloggers if the Blogosphere was a company, which puts me (me! of all people) as a Supreme Court Justice. But I like being on any list with Doc Searls.
Stuart Henshall does what Arieanna and I haven't had time to do: he and his son experimented with the AOL Triton beta. He was not impressed, and for big reasons, not just various UI tweaks they have made that fall short: "AOL is a big player. It just doesn't look like their team immersed themselves in the best "alternates" from a multiplicity of different suppliers. It seems too basic for me to suggest they do a SWOT analysis, I don't even really believe in them for the most part. The real problem here is vision."
Over at Strange Attractor, Suw recapitulates a fracas that transpired over the past few days with Dave Balter, the president of BzzAgent. I missed the whole thing because of an email server problem, but suffice it to say that Dave has apologized for calling Suw and Corante liars. I don't think the controversy about BzzAgent and it's social spam form of marketing is done, but perhaps this flap is dying down.
Mates aims to connect people based on location as well as other commonalities - think connecting your IM with location data. People in your class. Your building. Your conference. A way to say introduce people who have a common link, or to give you a little ping when an old friend is nearby.
The Relationship Engine attempts to automatically determine user locations at any given point in time based on combinations of user input and statistical analysis. The RE can be sent explicit location information from a GPS device, a positioning system such as ekahau, or as the result of user input (clicking a point on a visual map, for example).
The Relationship Engine maintains information on user attributes as received from the user and other information stores such as LDAP directories. The RE generates relationships when these attributes change, and notifies users of relationship additions, deletions, and modifications that may affect them via a message queueing system. The RE and RSN currently compute and support relationships of the following types: friend, friend of friend, interest, course, and physical location.
The RS Navigator is a visual software client for the Relationship Engine. It features a live, animated visualization of related users in nearby locations, a buddy list, a messaging subsystem, and an interface for supplying attribute information to the Relationship Engine. The RSN also features a "location wall", allowing users to broadcast and receive location-related information and events to nearby users.
The project is based on open infrastructure so other applications can benefit from the work. Can we expect this built into mainsteam IM applications, or other social networking products? I hope so. Soon? Not likely. However, I think the backbone poses some interesting queries. It's been a while since I've tried to generate any new friends based on search criteria in the IMs - this, however, has more practical applications (or so I think).
I would love to, for example, know the people at a conference I'm attending. Have the ability to live chat while I event blog. I would also be really interested to know when friends, family or colleagues are in my area so we can meet up for coffee. These types of lists would be great if they were autogenerated based on integration with my calendar.
On the train en route to NYC, for the Blogging Goes Mainstream conference, hosted by Business Development Institute, and a long list of great speakers. If you can't attend, I think PR Newswire is streaming the audio out for $125.
I plan to corner various people on the conformist pressures on bloggers, as the basis of an upcoming True Voice show. Apropos of the recent New York Times article by Tom Zeller (see here), this topic truly aggravates me. Individual free expression must continue, and the whole social media vanguard should continue to howl about it.
AOL is going to be remodeling AIM to include a new UI, as well as making underlying code changes. The new UI will be more fluent for all the ways that IM is used now: for video, audio, and wireless IMing. The beta version, Triton, is available for download. [Update: Triton beta is currently only for Windows XP.]
Instacoll, fully integrates with your Office tools and provides an easy and immediate approach to PowerPoint share presentations, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, without needing to leave those applications to launch a separate tool.
Conferral adds to the same approach the ability to send files of any size to connected participants as well as the opportunity to upload Presentations to be viewed on-demand by your invitees (anyone can login at his own time and watch the presentation online).[Robin Good]
I haven't reviewed either, but his look at both is comprehensive and the comparitive information is quite useful. I would be more tempted to use Conferral, since it does not require the second user to have any of the shared programs to collaborate; however, Instacoll does have a good price advantage and offers a free version for one-to-one collaboration.
Many situations come to mind where this could be useful. Particularly cases where you are sending back and forth via email edited files with trackbacks. Co-editing would remove all this hassle. Now, if only this were more seamlessly integrated into an IM...
Stowe and I were having a quick catchup chat a few weeks back... starting with a bit of impromptu IM, but then wanting to branch off into a voice or voice/video session, or simply agree to do one 'later' given that we both had other pending gigs.... so Stowe asked for my Skype ID, and I mentioned that I had removed it from my machine, which prompted me to think that I'd better explain why!
I had found my machine encumbered by an alarmingly large number of attempted simultaneous TCP connections (enough to crash my browser at one point, and generally to slow down my machine, even though an 'open port' is not in-and-of itself alarming: it depends what happens on that port!), but looking around the web I found very few details to help me. Most items that I found expressing some modest concerns about Skype 'bandwidth' or 'CPU' usage were erroneously directed at the voice codec ('can it cope?', 'how much bandwidth does it use') and the encryption ('how much horsepower does it need'?). Those are the wrong worries: Skype is generally an awesome performer on both fronts, requiring pretty modest resources by today's standards (5Kbps for voice traffic, for example!). It's your machine's role in the big-picture P2P communications flow that you need to be worried about: think of your machine as a key hub for the world's voice traffic and you'll see what I'm talking about -- now that's something of an over-statement, but is closer to what you need to concentrate on, rather than the CPU-demands of the voice codec and encryption algorithm for your own personal calls!
Skype is the darling of industry, geeks, academics, and consumers, (hey, I'm a huge fan myself, sometimes wearing each of those four hats -- the dang thing is one of the greatest creations since sliced bread). But I couldn't believe that anything that was killing my machine could be so universally loved. Had I missed something? Lo and behold, a little more digging around brought a few more things to my attention.
This report analyzes key Skype functions such as login, NAT and firewall traversal, call establishment, media transfer, codecs, and conferencing under three different network setups. Analysis is performed by careful study of Skype network traffic.
Like its file sharing predecessor KaZaa, Skype is an overlay peer-to-peer network. There are two types of nodes in this overlay network, ordinary hosts and super nodes (SN). An ordinary host is a Skype application that can be used to place voice calls and send text messages. A super node is an ordinary hosts end-point on the Skype network. Any node with a public IP address having sufficient CPU, memory, and network bandwidth is a candidate to become a super node. [emphasis mine]
"the Skype client running on your computer can and will relay calls between other network users without your knowledge. ... It makes sense that Skype would detect how much bandwidth you have... but... the algorithm that Skype uses to determine how much of this relaying it is allowed to engage in is proprietary, so we can't know for sure.
... The software has the capability of automatically updating and upgrading itself, allowing it to acquire new features at any timepotentially without the permission of the user. The software uses a secret protocol; all communications are encrypted. And Skype Technologies does its engineering in Tallinn, Estonia, has some business operations in London and registers its website in Amsterdam.
If I were going to write an information warfare thriller with a theme based on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this is certainly where I would start. "
c) In-depth discussion of the Baset and Shulzrinne technical article in these Slashdot threads, including comments such as this one:
Calls made using the system are directed through 'Supernodes', which can be ordinary PC's with Skype installed. Machines on fast and well connected Internet feeds like the $Network are likely to automatically become 'Supernodes' and forward a considerable amount of traffic. This allows Skype to route other peoples Voice over IP calls using your
machine and the university internet connection.
There's a lot of argument about how much of a resource hog Skype really is (and various commenters dispute Garfinkel's auto-update/bodysnatcher worry). I have in fact re-installed Skype on my machine recently in order to run some of my own empirical tests, and will report back with the results in due course. It certainly opens a lot of TCP ports, but that's not necessarily a bad thing depending on what exactly happens on those ports, as I mentioned above. Right now, I have yet to get a definitive result, but I'll keep poking around. Intuitively, I can assert (un-scientifically) that Skype is so much of a killer on my machine that even though I love it madly, I have to un-install disable it on occasion (after which my machine behaves wonderfully all over again). That's not good. I'll try to come back with a more scientific analysis in the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime would love to hear from others who have done the controlled experiments!
I have finally bounced back from the travel fatigue induced by 14 hours of transit on Tuesday, returning from Paris and the Les Blogs conference. After digging out, and some reflection, I now think I learned two important things there: one from Joi Ito and another from Doc Searls.
Joi's keynote -- which dealt principally with copyright and Creative Commons (see Darren's notes here) -- sparked an important insight for me, since he touched upon the status of bloggers as artists. In a panel session, later in the day, I had the rare opportunity of getting the last word on a panel with Jason Calcanis (of Weblogsinc), Gabby Darbyshire (of Gawker Media), Julio Alonso (Weblogs SL), Christophe Labédan (The Social Media Group), and Ludovico Magnocavallo (Blogo.it). I made a distinction between the business models of Gawker and Weblogsinc, on one side, and Corante, on the other. At Corante, we view bloggers as artists, like musicians, story tellers, actors, or sculptors: people pursuing an artistic agenda. Corante's role is similar to that of a record label, or an art magazine. We compile material, publish it, and work with the artists to help them make a living from their art -- if that's what they are seeking -- but at the least we help them to reach or create an audience. Of course, artists want to retain rights to their art, to the degree that it is possible, and we have structured our agreements with contributors to make that possible. On the other hand, Gawker and Weblogsinc view their contributors as staffers in a publishing business: working for a living by writing. What is produced is not art, but content: pieces produced for the various "titles" that the companies publish. And owned by the publishers.
Note that there is nothing wrong with what they are doing: I am not suggesting it's immoral or even dangerous. It's just radically different from the perspective we have at Corante, where we see our role as promoting the newly refound art of writing, or, more generally perhaps, the arts of inquiry and commentary. Our focus remains the worlds of high technology and science, and the ways that these impact business and society. But our charge is promoting the perspectives, thoughts, and observations of a diverse network of Corante contributors.
As a result, I made the comment on the panel session that Gawker and Weblogsinc share a great deal more in common with traditional, non-blog-based media companies than with Corante, despite our common emphasis on blogs as a publishing medium. And I maintained that we believe that it is possible for a non-traditional business model like Corante's to work: we don't necessarily have to become a traditional media firm as we grow in size and reach, and as they continue to dwindle.
The second insight was the outcome of Doc's arguments (slides here) about First Ammendment protections and the metaphor that we choose to couch our discussions about blogging in. Doc warns that we should adopt the term journalism for what we do, since the First Ammendment guarantees freedom of the press, while "distribution of content" may have no such protections.
As a result, I will henceforth state that what we are doing is journalism, and that Corante is a (non-traditional) publishing company. Our blogs are really journals, published in a real-time, internet basis: but journals, nonetheless. In this view, blogging has lowered the cost of entry to publishing, allowing small fry startups like Corante to compete effectively for share-of-mind in the post-everything world of today.
Calling what we are up to "journalism" does not mean we have to accept all the dictates of the increasingly archaic and irrelevant canon of old school journalism. We are a revolution in process, reordering the rules, throwing some out, and inventing others. Still, for now on, I'm with Doc: a neo-journalist.