Posts from October 4, 2004

Looney Town!

Looney Town!

: San Francisco is nucking futs.

At various streetcorners, striking hotel workers are banging garbage cans and drums and running sirens and blowing whistles and causing a considerable nuisance. I arrive at the conference hotel. How long does that go on? I ask. Ten o’clock, they say, resigned. That’s nuts, I say. We wouldn’t stand for that in New York! I switch rooms four times until I finally find peace. I know they’re muttering “crazy New Yorker” at the desk and I don’t care.

Homeless are everywhere, as advertised. People walk three-legged dogs. Things are scruffy.

This is not the city I loved and lived in for many years, back when I was a columnist on the Examiner and the young man about town. This was the greatest city on earth.

Every time I came back to town back then and drove up 101, I eagerly anticipated taking that one last curve and having the vista of the city before me. It always made me smile.

This time, I take that curve and it looks like Sacramento: Just a bunch of nondescript boxes crowding around each other with the barest sign of the Transamerica meekly peeking out.

So far, so sad.

Podcasting and the future of everything

Podcasting and the future of everything

: Adam Curry and others have been doing great work pioneering Podcasting — creating content intended to be heard on our schedule and on the move, on our iPods or equivalents, distributed in some cases with the help of RSS (read: subscription radio).

But it was Doc Searls who really put his finger on the cosmic significance of this on his own podcast, an online radio show that Adam, in turn, quoted on his online radio show (that’s where I heard it, listening in my car, on my iPod).

Doc said that the transistor as an enabler and the transitor radio as a platform really created the medium of radio we know today. Similarly, he said, the iPod is the prototype for the next platform and the next medium.

Right. The iPod is just a prototype. It can be replaced, in time (not much of it), by spectrum: Rather than downloading a show while connected to hear while unconnected, we will always be connected and will get what we want when we want it. But it’s still the iPod that shows the potential and changes habits.

I once thought that audio and then video would be a next big things online after web content. [Minor irony: I'm writing this at the very same time that I'm listening to NPR's Next Big Thing show on my iPod.] But in the case of audio, it’s hard to listen to shows while sitting at one’s PC because it can be distracting.

But it’s an entirely different thing to download things to listen to while moving around.

The next big thing is audio you listen to offline. That’s what the iPod has enabled. Well, duh.

It also helps that radio sucks.

If Howard’s not on and if NPR has on some dorky sounds-of-the-spirits show, I want something else to listen to. Now I can get it thanks to my iPod.

At the same time, I’m too damned busy and thanks to my iPod, I now like filling the white space in life — running, driving, and otherwise commuting — with things I would not have time to read or things that I can’t fit into my schedule. So I listen to This American Life and Studio 360 (which my kids won’t let me hear even when I happen to be in the car when they’re on) and audio books from Audible (and a reader has suggested I should be listening to Bittorrents of Howard, though I’m a bit of a stick-in-the-mud about copyright, given my employment).

So right there, we have the start of a new medium: Content created to consume offline — whatever we want whenever and wherever we want it.

But it gets better. For now we add the magic of the link and the data links create. So now we can create a dynamic, personalized radio guide that helps us find the shows we’d like, thanks to recommendations from creators and listeners of other shows we like.

And it keeps getting better. For once we find shows we like, RSS lets us subscribe to them and have them home-delivered with muss, no bus.

But that’s not the best of it. The best of it is, of course, that anybody can now create content to add into this amazing metanetwork. And that has just begun.

As was the case with blogs, the first content is mostly technical. Curry’s own shows are a communion of geeks. Ditto Dave Winer. There’s a show about weblog news. And there are shows I’d never understand.

But that will expand quickly. I envision shows about as many interests as there are blogs — well, almost as many. I can imagine shows about politics, pets, relationships, history. I can imagine recycling university lectures and comedy club acts. I can imagine talk shows filled with podcasters podcasting.

I wouldn’t listen to those shows on my PC; too busy. But I will listen to them on my iPod; too bored. Doc’s right, of course: The iPod is the prototype for the platform for a new medium.

And that’s just audio. Will the same thing happen to video as we get portable players and phones that will play video anytime? Maybe. Not sure. Can’t watch it while driving. But the guy in the seat next to me just watched his own movie; I download flicks from Movielink for long rides all the time.

All of this follows one simple rule — my first law of media:

Give the people control of media, they will use it.

The most important invention in media is not, I’m fond of saying, the Gutenberg press, which created media for those who could afford to own one. The most important invention in media was the remote control, for it gave the people once known as consumers control over their media. Add the VCR. Add the cable box. Add the internet. Add the web. Add personal publishing tools. Add personal multimedia tools. Add RSS. Add the iPod portable platform. Add spectrum to give you anything anywhere, anytime. Add more and more of what we used to call content. Add interaction. Add data about that interaction: who likes what and what’s hot. Add new ways to make money, leading to new ways and means to create what we used to call content. Blur the lines between content and connectivity, between media and masses, between consumer and creator. Stir. Shake. Bake. And you have a new media world.

Give the people control of media, they will use it.

We don’t get no respect

We don’t get no respect

: On the way to the airport this morning (during a Stern commercial break) I heard a report on NPR saying that the Presidential campaigns have spent $300 million on TV advertising and $3 million on internet advertising.

That 100-to-1 ratio makes no sense. It’s just bad business. And it shows that political marketers are criminally out-of-touch with their market.

: Here’s the Pew study:

In sum, while presidential campaigns have stepped up their online fund-raising, voter-profiling, and insider communicating this year, they have not ventured aggressively into online advertising. This is somewhat surprising because online ads can reach new, undecided, and wavering voters in the demographic and geographic niches where they are thought to reside. Online ads would seem to provide a missing link between the campaigns

Issues2004 Communications

Issues2004 Communications

: This might sound like a special-interest issue: Internet exec and blogger wants to hear the candidates encourage the development of technology and communications. But it’s more that, of course. Technology is a strategic issue that affects our economy, our jobs, our children’s education, our health, our foreign relations.

Communications creates opportunity.

My basic message is simple: Deregulate the hell out of techology and communication. Let them grow on their own.

Start with spectrum. I recently suggested, only half-jokingly, that we should buy the 11 percent of Americans who still have rabbit ears cable boxes so we can free up all that sprectrum to do great new things. David Isenberg made an impassioned plea at Susan Crawford’s Nethead-v-Bellhead conference for a kind of trickle-down-come-flood economics of technology deregulation: While FCCheads were nitpicking tortured details of tariffs to pay for universal service, David said that if they’d just tear the regulation away, there would be more bandwidth, more service, more of everything for everybody.

So shoot the FCC.

Doc had a great post lately (which I can’t find in his archives) arguing to get the FCC out of regulation of spectrum and speech. Amen.

If we did that, imagine what would grow. Look at the huge and now-lucrative industries that have sprung up around the internet and cellular and now wi-fi. The media industry will explode in great new ways — and don’t forget that media and entertainment are a top export for America. Education will improve with greater resources and connectivity. Even foreign relations will improve as citizens talk with citizens around the world; you want better understanding of the world, just hook us up (and forget that extra half-hour of Dan Rather, Andy Rooney).

Communications creates opportunity.

We need to make it a priority to connect everyone on high-speed. If we don’t, we will fall behind so many nations that are now ahead of us in connectivity. We’l fall behind in innovation next. And then in economics.

Rather than appointing more regulators over the internet, communications, and technology, I’d like to see a President appoint a Chief Deregulator, whose job it is to cut through the kudzu of regulation on behalf of these industries: expose the stupid rules, get rules killed, lobby for our future from within government rather than from without.

I leave it to far wiser and more experienced minds than mine — start with Isenberg … and all of you — to get down to specifics.

I cannot find an internet policy on either candidate’s site. It may be there, but it’s clearly a low priority.

Other Issues2004 posts here. Also see the list on the main page blogroll.

: Here’s Dan Gillmor’s good column on these and other technology issues.

Reversal of fortunes

Reversal of fortunes

: For the first time in weeks, I’m starting to wonder whether Kerry might actually pull it off.

I’m not undecided, I’m unhappy III

I’m not undecided, I’m unhappy III

: John Perry Barlow convinces himself to continue support John Kerry in spite of Kerry himself. He blogs on the plane back to the U.S. from Germany:

The idea that we might actually re-elect George Bush is unfathomable – indeed, inexcusable – to them. As one of them put it to me, “We can forgive you for electing him once. As we ought to know, any electorate can make a tragic mistake. But if you elect him twice, we will start fearing you Americans as much as we currently fear your government.” I suspect this is a sentiment one could encounter almost anywhere on God’s blue earth. If the election were global as, in fairness, it probably ought to be, it would be a pulverizing landslide.

Well, that’s offensive on a few levels — namely, suggesting that Bush is Hitler (is that officially a cliche by now?) and going the World Test one better to suggest that the world should elect our President. But keep moving on, folks:

I had a hard time explaining to the Germans why it’s starting to look like we might just re-elect Bush anyway. For one thing, they have not, after all, seen as much of John Kerry as we have.

And let’s face it, folks, John Kerry is really irritating.

There. I’ve said it. And, having broken the surface tension on that spleen blister, let me just get the rest of this off my chest once and for all….

Generally speaking, it would have been better for the future of the Republic if, upon eliminating Howard Dean, Kerry had been stashed in a location as undisclosed as the one where they usually keep Dick Cheney. Then he could have let Bush defeat himself through policies and actions that no sane electorate could have ratified.

But no. He insisted on campaigning, apparently under the misapprehension that to know him – or at least to know that virtual version of him his marketing wizards had wrapped around him – was to love him. This, unfortunately, has not been the general effect. Gradually, I have watched the steam go out of the Anybody-But-Bush crowd as we realized that anybody, in this instance, was the increasingly irksome John Kerry.

People who, several months ago, were ready to go door-to-door in Ohio in order to defeat Bush are unwilling to even campaign among their friends to elect John Kerry. And I have become, I must admit, one of these. Being an actual Kerry *supporter* just seems, well, un-cool.

Nonetheless, he does go on to convince himself to support Kerry. I’ll let you read the rest.

The right relationship to weblogs

The right relationship to weblogs

: Editors Weblog reports that NEWS, a new free tabloid from Handelsblatt in Frankfurt, is devoting a page a day to quoting weblogs on the news. This PDF includes blog quotes on one issue: Turkey in the EU.

This is exactly the relationship big media should have to blogs: Instead of blogging themselves, they should be quoting the people who now, at last, have access to printing presses of their own.