Friday, March 17, 2006

The End of Media Barons

Finally going through a few of those tabs that have been open forever and came across this very important piece in the MediaGaurdian talking about Rubert Murdochs speech to a 612 year old newspaper association earlier this week. While there are many quotes of note which really means you need to go read the piece, the most striking thing to me was this Murdoch quote:
    "Great journalism will always attract readers. The words, pictures and graphics that are the stuff of journalism have to be brilliantly packaged; they must feed the mind and move the heart"
To his credit, he seemingly understands that this is the great power of blogs and user generated content. That the medium alone is just the medium - the real power comes from people touching and influencing other people. The packaging can be flashy and upscale, or as simple as the Denver Tech Meetup. As the 'stuff of [citizen] journalism' resonates with people by feeding their mind and their heart, it changes everything.

Long live the Web.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Time to Raise the Decorum Levels

Rober Scoble jumped into the latest dustup between Dave Winer and Roger Cadenhead that has the blogospehere abuzz. I posted some of the below post as a comment to his piece entitled "The new A list" but wanted to repost it here since it is so important to me.

What can we do about trying to keep people focused on discussing the issues rather than letting the conversation deteriorate into a childish name calling battle? We can lead by example. To a lesser degree, this issue came up with Tara's response to a post in which she was referenced by another blogger with derogatory remarks. I almost hate linking to it, but the issue of rising above the name calling and moving to respect and dialogue is coming out a lot lately.

We need to set examples for how to deal with this so that the community standards shift from that of name calling and demeaning each other back to reasonable discourse focused on the issues (when they are important at least). I don't know if it will ever happen fully, because, as I have said before, "there are always going to be assholes out there somewhere shitting on other people - online and off". It is really unfortunate that this is the way some people get their feelings of self importance - by putting other people down instead of lifting them up. it is that never ending cycle of abuse that was the key driver in many individual's socialization while growing up in 'broken' households. The good news, is that people can rise above that - they just need a little help in finding their way sometimes.

As Scoble and Mike Arrington said, I don't know about the facts of the matter here, but this is exactly the sort of issue which is a perfect case study on decorum in the blogosphere and the nature of public disputes. Because the blog/comment system enables it so easily, we are able to see the long tail of low value commentary much more easily - I dont necessarily think this is an attack mob, though I could see how it would FEEL like one. I just think that all the people who have felt wronged by Dave in some way are expressing their emotions and frustrations thinking this is the opportunity they have been waiting for. Cadenhead even admits to being an ardent supporter of Dave previously, most likely behaving in a similar manner on Dave's behalf instead of against him, but I don't know those facts - just pointing out the possibility that this is subjective and shifting.

Of course, that just muddies the waters of the point I am trying to convey.

The bottom line is that people like Scoble and Arrington have the power to influence a lot of others to refocus the dialogue on the issues rather than resort to name calling. But its hard, so most people will take the easy way out. Instead of laying out an argument as to why somebody said or did something they believe to be wrong, or behaved in a way that is pereceived to be inappropriate, they just call the other party names which is really just like putting some Crisco on that slippery slope...

I have been trying to make this point for the last several years, but am often dismissed by those who believe in the free form chaos of the Web - by those who say "F___ off - its our Web and we will say what we want". By the people who think it is ok to call Bullshit, or call someone an asshole rather than laying out why they think differently than them. It is a tough but delicate line to manage here, because to a degree they are right - free speech means people can and should be able to say what they want - but when the speech is of a derogatory nature that it prevents the dialogue from moving forward and puts everyone 2 steps back, I think there are reasons for some of us to step into the ad-hoc mediator role and refocus those around us away from the name calling and back to the truth telling.

We should all learn to be more respectful of each other and to focus our energy on tearing down ideas we believe are incorrect, not tearing down the people who believe differently then we do. Robert, I hope you are able to move this idea forward better than I have been able to...

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What I Want from Amazon's S3 Grid Storage

So I read many of the posts on this after I saw Mike Arrington's take over on Tech Crunch and at first I could not really figure out what to make of it, but now I know. Putting aside the business model of monetizing their internal expertise of creating highly reliable server ecosystems, I now see the real practicality of being able to have a trusted, reliable server backend to hold all my Web services data - particularly given the long tail of single developer web services that may never make much of themselves, but I digress.

My first thought was this could be a great backup system for my files. I already have 2 mostly dead backup hard drive I need to recover data from, so we need to do something about this fast. But as I went through my daily ritual of browsing and filing away a few of my email newsletters for future search capabilities, I saw exactly what I need from S3.

Someone should create a Web service that accepts an email from a list or digest and archives it within S3 for future searching. I know this is a lot like Usenet, but perhaps it is UseNet 18.0? The storage and bandwidth would need to be paid for somehow, and I have some ideas on this if anyone is interesting in pursuing it. Or perhaps someone can use the API's from the Internet Archive to host such content databases there instead. Regardless, this is something I would really like to see happen soon so I can unsubscribe from all these email newsletters I am personally archiving in Entourage and know I can still get access to the collective wisdom they contain at some later point in time.

Of course this also implies that we need an improved search interface to go with it - but that is what Insytes is for...

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

We Need An Army of Digitial Anthropologists

So odd that I am sitting here in the Apple store, surrounded by all this technology, in what is turning out to be a great public knowledge event with Sara Beckman from UCB's Haas Business School. She focuses on design and innovation management which is a very interesting topic for me. UsingBlue Ocean Strategy as a reference as well as some research from NPD, there is a somewhat obvious correlation between the level of innovation and the spending on design. But that discounts the primary driving cause of the problem in favor of supporting a preferential argument - what is really at the core of that issue is an avoidance of risk and a desire for security. In essence, the belief of key leaders that the market is contracting rather than expanding and/or that the market is generally mature rather than young. ie, that there will never be another Mulit-Billion Dollar software company again...

While the content is sharp and mostly insightful, I am most transfixed with the idea of this overflow crowd (I am sitting against the wall with about 20 other people) and the fact that this sort of amazing opportunity is happening over and over again and not being captured, even though we have the technology available to us. What is missing is an organizational structure of freelance resources - or perhaps as I reference them more often, an army of digital anthropoligists. I was joking with Eddie the other day that we should launch a sister 'station' to GETV and call it Geek Education TV - but perhaps that is something we should really do instead of joke about. All the creatives out there could band together to make a true freelance network of vloggers/podcasters who go out into the world to record and produce content that can then be stored, shared, tagged and made more easily discoverable.

I suppose this is what Current TV was trying to do but really has failed miserably at. That is simply because they cared more about the 'system' they were creating than the people creating value within it - in short, they see the evolution of the Web and media, but they just don't 'get it'.

Regardless, maybe BrainJams could partner with Creative Commons and OurMedia to establish a co-operative of content contributors. It certainly is directly needed by the unconference community, and seemingly by the world in general. Dan Farber was reporting on this earlier today from Esther's Conference in regards to the long way search has to go - recruiting, motivating, supporting and organizing an army of digital anthropologists would go a long way to solving the problem they speak of...
    PC Forum: Searching the dark matter and users by ZDNet's Dan Farber -- Esther started off the PC Forum panel with search stars, by saying the search is getting boring and has peaked to get some reaction. They all properly disagreed and the discussion focused on the amount of information that isn't indexed or searchable. Rich Barton, CEO of Zillow (the hot real estate search service) and former CEO of [...]

Dan reported that Jeff Weiner from Yahoo estimated that .0058 percent of world's knowledge is actually indexed. This is exactly what I have been talking about for the last 4+ years with regards to The Noble Pursuit, that we can and we should take steps to start collecting and collectively cataloging what they reference as "the dark matter" that is not digitally and publicly accessible to search. But rather than seeing it as a technology problem vis-a-vis 'Search', I see it as a human matter. It was very good to see that most of the panelists were looking in the same direction. Of course, Yahoo! is really the leader in this regards now with their acquisition of delicious.

This idea is different from the Bayosphere and NowPublic though, but really does leverage Terry Heaton's ideas about Video Journalists. They are seeking reporters to cover 'news' - we are talking about bringing together A/V Creatives who want to capture long format open knowledge exchanges such as the ones we do with BrainJams and the one I just participated in at the Apple Store and simply upload a digital video/audio file to the Archive for everyone to remix - and of course for them to remix/produce themselves.

If anyone else out there is interested in this, please let me know as I have many deeper thoughts and strategies for how this can be accomplsihed. It would be a great use of our time to get this going.

APPROX 12 Hours Later: Just as I went to make final edits to this post, I see this post from SiliconBeat that Podtech raised $5.5 Million to "become the NPR of podcasting". Wonder how much this fits in with my idea of an army of digital anthropologists discussed above? You can read the official PodTech Press Release and decide for yourself. To me it seems that this is a network media play pure and simple just as with PodShow and Odeo, but perhaps more focused on Technology. We will have to wait and see what real "Blue Ocean Strategy" and innovations are really happening here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Peer to Peer Teaching in the Commons

One of the many things that came from the UCB BrainJams event was this great idea for setting up a P2P knowledge sharing event within a networking space. We are actually going to do this within the context of the next BrainJams event in New Orleans on Thursday May 4 as well. When combined with an initial session of one-one-one speed networking like we did @ SRI in December, I think this is the powerful one-two punch that will help define what BrainJams are and why they are different from traditional conferences. The other important, unpublished, but thoroughly discussed thought I will write about later, is focused on group to group collaboration (G2G). I continue to try to figure out how to maximize the impact of G2G, though efforts to foster it are proceeding at a snail's pace.

Fortunately I think we are going to be doing another variation on this idea with One Web Day in the guide of what is currently just called "Web Teach-In". I realize others have done this before (like Socrates perhaps?) but it really is an incredible way for us all to reconnect with each other as fellow humans and work together towards bettering our society.

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I would like to extend the "show, do, teach" model through BrainJams. I really envision an event session where someone could show another person how to do something, that person could then do it themselves and then that person would teach someone else and this could go around and around like the one on one networking at previous BrainJams. Sort of a "Show and Teach Jam" where peer to peer learning is the key connector between people. This can be done in long format sessions with groups of people (ie, an internal team learning to use Drupal or Movable Type) or as 'break through' sessions that are focused on a given tool or type of tool.

What we will look at below can be done in an hour format with a variety of people, though the full 'hand off' between teacher and learner is not completed. Instead, an individual would be in charge of a station with a focused goal and have 3-4 minutes to show how to do something (like setup a Blogger account) and the learners have a few minutes more to do it themselves. Stations can be set up around the space with the Peer Leaders bringing their own laptops from which to demonstrate and teach.

Peer Leaders are requested to sign up to lead a lesson a specific set of topics for each event. We can choose to focus on a certain type of tool or we can cover multiple tools or we can even lead it up to the Peer Leaders to choose for themselves. For the first one, I recommend taking an introductory approach with the end goal being that those who don't know much about how to work with the new technologies can leave feeling they know what to do.

The format will allow for four 10 minute sessions across an hour, with 5 minutes in between to move on to the next session, or ask important follow-up questions. These will be held in small groups of 1-5 people around a laptop screen (sitting on a podium, bar top, bar table or pedestal). Five people is really the maximum, 2-3 would be ideal. The Peer Leader will speak to the same topic for each of the four sessions so that participants can move around the room to the one's that are most interesting. Sign up sheets will be placed at each station at the beginning of the event so participants can sign up for the sessions they want.

Each session will focus on a demonstration of how to accomplish a particular task and should include one of the Peer Learners actually doing what the Peer Leader is demonstrating. For instance, if the Peer Leader is showing how to set up a blog on LiveJournal or Blogger, one of the Peer Learners should then set up a blog for themselves.

Possible topical lessons could include:

- How to set up your blog
- How to include tags in your blog
- Social Bookmarking in Action
- Tags as conversation
- Blogrolls / OPML
- Online Calendars
- Using a Feed Reader for RSS
- Other suggestions from potential Peer Leaders

In short, these sessions will be designed to teach participants enough of how to do something to get them past initial fears or trepidations so that they can get out and really try to do it on their own. The end goal is that the Peer Learners will eventually become Peer Leaders who go off and teach other people how to do the things that they learned. Other formats can be modified from these principles to achieve deeper learning, but the core idea is to make it personal, one to one or one to few really makes this work. It may take a little longer, but the human connection makes it invaluable and in the end is exactly what the web is all about - people helping people.

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This is another of the FreeIdeas I promised to write about back in December (which need to be tagged properly still)> Expect more to be coming over the next couple of weeks in light of nearing the end of a reflective cycle and being able to clearly see some cool solutions to many of the things I have been thinking about. I am really excited to have the chance to work this out with the One Web Day folks and look forward to doing some other similar events with other groups in the near future.

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DOJ 0.75 - Google 0.25

So it looks like the judge in the DOJ vs Google case is siding with the Bush Administration and against privacy. CNN has a nice writeup on what just went down and MSNBC has similar coverage. While Google is apparently claiming victory because they did not have to give up all of the information that the DOJ requested, this is definitely not the sort of precedent we would like to see established. When I worked at the US Mint, one of my favorite people there had a saying I find particularly appropriate here.

Once the camel's nose is in the tent... the camel is in the tent.

The specifics of the case are related to a request for data from Google to support the government's position in a case dealing with pornography and filtering software's ability to block it from children. They originally requested a month's worth of search data, but the ruling today seemingly limits the scope to a much smaller cross-section of random samples with no personally identifiable data. This ruling just sets the stage for making it easier for them to dig deeper next time.

Still, I am perhaps more worried about Google's fickleness than I am the DOJ's desire to get insights into searching behaviour as it relates to pornography. With their recent capitulation to the Chinese on censoring its search results so that it can cozy up to the powers that be, the grandstanding on this important privacy issue does not bring it back in the 'do no evil camp' they claim to host.

In fact, Danny Sullivan laid out a great piece yesterday entitled "25 Things I I Hate About Google". It was Google's acquisition of Writely that took Danny over the top prompting him to exclaim [give me a break from] "Google going in yet another direction when there is so much stuff they haven't finished, gotten right or need to fix." He is absolutely right - they have gotten that Monopoly power all hoarded up and are no longer acting like an organization that cares deeply about surprising and delighting its users as it did in the early days. I heard Cal speaking a few weeks back with some friends and he said that Flickr once had something like 40+ releases of the site code in one day - I wonder how many Gmail or Gtalk have gone through since launching and how often they have done so?

While I am very glad that Google has stepped up to fight the DOJ on this, and I believe that many of the executives managing the China deal also fought a hard lost losing battle against censorship, I have very mixed feelings on this issue. While the reality is that they used the system as best as they could in the DOJ case by investing in the legal battle and they would have been locked out of China had they not capitulated, there comes a time where the stand we make for what is right is more important than the principle of compromise. The hard part is deciding which issues are important enough to fight to the end for without compromising too much of your principles.

We dealt with this briefly on a less important issue at the One Web Day planning dinner last week in SF when discussing the Net Neutrality issue and the involvement of the Telecoms. My initial reaction was that the celebration of the Web Susan Crawford is organizing should not involve those like AT&T Charirman Ed Whitacre who are working to destroy the very thing we are celebrating by restricting access via tarriffs. That we should take a stand on this issue by not inviting them to the party. Susan however, was adamant that the tent is big enough for everyone - while I would like to agree and do so in principle, I do wonder if this might be a place where we can take a stand and get everyone else to take a stand too.

Bottom line - polite golf clap round of applause for Google taking the stand on this issue, but let's all hope they can apply the 'do no evil' policy more consistently in the future.


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Monday, March 13, 2006

Microsoft ReDesigns iPod Packaging

Just saw this link courtesy of Dave Taylor






Update. Turns out this video was actually developed by Microsoft. Guess it's funny because it is true! IpodObserver reports the details and links to the file on Google Video.

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Front Range BrainJam

Last THUR, Derek Scrugs and Dave Taylor held a Front Range BrainJam in Colorado. Looks like we missed this event, but I found a link from it in my web site referrer logs which I try to look through once per week at least to see who is linking to us or writing about what we are doing with BrainJams.

I never heard from the organizers, but really good to see these sorts of events continuing to take shape as camps, devhouses and jams continue to grow in spirit and in reach.

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