Posts from November 2002

Surely tomorrow’s most blogged story

Surely tomorrow’s most blogged story on Blogdex
: Hot laptop burns scientist’s penis

: Update: I was wrong. It’s No. 2.

He reads so you don’t

He reads so you don’t have to
: Matt Welch suffers through a bunch of ponderous journalism books (yes, it’s redundant) to defend the craft against its many defenders in Reason.

Profits are robust, even during an advertising recession. Legal protections remain the strongest in the world, even during a time of war. Technology has removed most barriers to entry, ushering in literally hundreds of thousands of new publications, some of which are altering the very way we produce and consume the news. A day

Hoax or real?: It’s a

Hoax or real?
: It’s a test. [via Buzz]

The law: I’m off to

The law
: I’m off to the much-anticipated Revenge of the Blog conference at Yale Friday.

I spent the day with lawyers today (personal business). And at the risk of insulting tomorrow’s audience, I came away glad that I never did do what I planned to do with my life: I was going to be a lawyer. I respect the intellectual rigor of it. But sitting in the waiting room, I felt as if I were in a sad oncologist’s office: nobody was there because they wanted to be there. And after spending hours with the attorneys getting good and necessary advice, I came to see that lawyers spend their lives trying — often futilely — to protect us from man’s bad behavior.

I’m going to spend much of my time tomorrow giving my populist rant (as in, that’s why I love blogs so much: they give the audience, the people, a voice). And so I wonder whether it’s easy to be an ardent populist when you spend your days watching out for the worst in your fellow man.

I’m sure some Yale student far smarter than me will give me an answer.

Tablets: I’m watching Bill Gates’

Tablets
: I’m watching Bill Gates’ keynote at Comdex right now and I’m impressed with the idea of the portable, wireless computer monitor — the SmartDisplay in Microsoftese; the Airpanel is what Viewsonic calls this new product, set to come out in January. So rather than having to invest in a whole tablet PC, I can just invest in a wireless monitor. Inside the home, it makes sense.

: I also can’t wait for Microsoft’s OneNote program (I’m so eager, I signed up for the beta). I need a means to take notes without having to create new files and store them in folders and worry about all that hoo-ha. OneNote lets you take notes and file them away within the application, as if it were a plain old notebook but one with endless pages.

: Steven Johnson, too, hungers for OneNote.

A friendly virus: I’m honored

A friendly virus
: I’m honored to have received Nick Denton’s Plaxo contact update, which means I’m on his list (see his writeup here). This is how it works: He installs a light program that sends a notification to all his contacts with his latest contact info; we are then supposed to reply with our latest contact info; that updates his Outlook automatically; and, if Plaxo is lucky, we will all install the program and do likewise and so will all our contacts. It’s the Breck shampoo model: She tells a friend, she tells a friend, she tells a friend.

This comes from the people who brought us Napster and it is a brilliant application of the network nation: The more people who use the function, the more valuable the function becomes.

But I have some fears about it, for there are also dark alleys in this network nation where evil creeps lurk. It is easy to imagine someone creating a virus that looks just like Plaxo: It infects your machine and sends out an apparently innocent email to all your contacts getting them to hand over all their contact information and, if the evildoer is lucky, they all install the little program and it keeps spreading.

I happen to know that Nick’s email is legit because he wrote about it on his weblog. But what about the next one I receive; how do I know I should trust it?

: I also received a Plaxo update from someone else recently whom I don’t want to be able to reach me. I can see lots of little etiquette issues here: How do I not keep in touch with those with whom I don’t want contact?

: And, of course, spammers will stoop low in their moral dance of limbo. They filed a Freedom of Information request with the University of West Virginia for students’ email addresses and the university stupidly complied and now all the students are getting spam, thanks to their school.

: Even the President spams.

: At the suggestion of a very helpful reader who left a comment recommending it, I have been using Mailwasher, which lets me not only clean spam before it gets to my inbox but also bounces back to all the spammers telling them my mailbox doesn’t exist; it’s the email equivalent of playing dead; the idea is to make them stop bothering sending me email. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked; I’m getting as much spam as ever.

There needs to be a new generation of email. Just as Usenet was replaced by forums and web pages, email needs to be replaced by trustmail.

: Anil recommends Cloudmark in the comments.

: And my company is implementing an anti-spam service, Postini; all who have used it thus far love it.

: And I forget to link to the Slate article arguing that spam will kill email and that we will be left in a closed system where we get email only from people on our individual “white lists.” Let’s hope note.

Filthy lucre: The publisher of

Filthy lucre
: The publisher of the McClatchy newspapers, James McClatchy, argues that you shouldn’t call newspapers “products” or “properties.”

This thought, that a newspaper is a “product” which exists to serve corporate strategic goals, has been expressed more and more commonly in recent years. These comments would be unremarkable coming from the CEO of Procter & Gamble, but not from a publisher, employee, owner or anybody connected to a newspaper.

Newspapers have dramatically different qualities than almost any other commercial enterprise. A newspaper has a personality that can change from time to time; it has policies relating to elections, wars and taxes; it has responsibilities to the community of which it is a part. It has opinions and can communicate with humans, and participate in debates and discussions about almost anything. In all this, of course, it can make mistakes.

A newspaper can have dignity, and be entertaining, and be a responsible part of the best system of government mankind has ever seen. Or it can be trashy or careless, ignore social, political and economic problems, or be a lackey to special interests, helping to erode the foundation of our democracy. So please, don’t call a newspaper a “product.”

Neither are newspapers “properties,” such as a slaughterhouse, a car wash, a golf course or an office building. Newspapers are liked or disliked, and perform in many ways like people. Great numbers of readers consider their hometown newspapers to have a significant role in their lives, to be a personal friend, or a personal enemy, a regular and important visitor.

The commercial terms “properties” or “products” dehumanize newspapers, making them impersonal businesses without souls. The Sacramento Bee is not a property or product. It is an institution -an exceedingly fine one; a proud newspaper with a heart.

That’s all very noble and I don’t disagree with anything he says about the goals and attributes of papers (and tv shows and magazines and web sites and books and all media properties that find their value with their audiences in their credibility and craft).

Still, media properties are products that are answerable to their customers and their owners and those who forget that inevitably lose touch with their audiences, their audiences’ needs, and their real mission. A newspaper or any other media property does have to make money. It does that by serving the needs of the audience and staying in touch with those needs. Filthy commerce is actually an efficient way of making that happen: If people stop buying your paper or magazine or watching your TV show then you have to learn, eventually, that you are not serving their needs.

When I hear journalists act as if they operate outside of capitalism, I worry for them. This is a business. It is a noble business — just like, say, medicine and pharmaceuticals and for that matter farming — but it is a business nonetheless and there’s nothing wrong with that.

A gadget too far: A

A gadget too far
: A pretty damned funny case study in gizmo addiction gone too far from Nick Denton. Time for an intervention.