Posts from March 3, 2004

Gadget wars!

Gadget wars!
: Actually, that’s a sensationalistic and false headline, but I enjoyed it.

You’ve probably noticed some musical chairs (or perhaps, relevant to the topic, I should say MP3 chairs) in the gadget blog world (can we get more inside baseball than this?).

Pete Rojas, late of Gizmodo, has left to create Engadget in the weblog empirette of Jason Calacanis. Rumor has it there were promises of equity and Amazonian maids.

Meanwhile, Gizmodo creator Nick Denton returns from a sun-baked holiday in Brazil (hobnobbing with Bjork — no joke — and probably a few Amazonians as well) and replaces Rojas with game guru Joel Johnson and guest bloggers of note, starting with Brendan Koerner (an unhappy looking chap… but then, Pete’s no Jim Carey himself), a contributing editor to Wired and columnist for the Village Voice and Slate (which is Nick’s way of saying, I’ll see your bet and raise you).

Calacanis is tripping over himself to say that this wasn’t about his erstwhile feud/pissing match with Denton and I think that’s true. If Jason just wanted to start a gadget blog, he could have gone and found a dozen candidates to do it (it’s not as hard as, say, finding just the right voice for a Gawker); I think this was a melding of mutual interests.

In the meantime, Nick is finding and grooming talent and they will sometimes move on; that’s what happens in the editorial world. But he created the format of Gizmodo so it can continue easily; it’s a brand.

And many flowers bloom.

: UPDATE: Sippey says what he’d do if he ran Gizmodo — focusing more on the gadget user than the gadget (or as I’d put it: on the lifestyle). A fascinating discussion ensues, bringing in Denton.

Generation C

Generation C
: The very good Trendwatching newsletter (which keeps getting caught in my spam filter like a dolphin in the tuna net) continues the cultural meme of the culture creating its own content. The other day, I talked about consumers not just consuming anymore. Yesterday, Pew said that 44 percent of online users create content. Now Trendwatching gives it a name:

The GENERATION C phenomenon captures the tsunami of consumer generated ‘content’ that is building on the Web, adding tera-peta bytes of new text, images, audio and video on an ongoing basis.

The two main drivers fuelling this trend? (1) The creative urges each consumer undeniably possesses. We’re all artists, but until now we neither had the guts nor the means to go all out. (2) The manufacturers of content-creating tools, who relentlessly push us to unleash that creativity, using — of course — their ever cheaper, ever more powerful gadgets and gizmos. Instead of asking consumers to watch, to listen, to play, to passively consume, the race is on to get them to create, to produce, and to participate.

Examples: Not just weblogs but also phone-camera users napping up a storm; Canon selling professional-quality equipment to nonpros; HP et al selling the wonders of digital photography; make-your own music tools (they don’t even mention Garageband).

So maybe instead of consumers, we’re all creators. We create content. We create capital. We create demand.

Fact-checking their ass

Fact-checking their ass
: Tim Blair puts a notch in his mouse. He has successfully fact-checked the Chicago Tribune, discovering a reporter made up a name and now the paper admits it. Blair’s suspicions here. The ‘bune’s response to Blair here. The ‘bune’s correction here.

The war bloc

The war bloc

: Glenn Reynolds frets that Bush has a problem with his “war bloc.”

Glenn marks the shift of a supporter such as Andrew Sullivan to the capture of Saddam Hussein.

I’ll ascribe it to other causes. Call them fears.

First, there was the fear of Howard Dean. He was George Bush’s greatest ally. When Dean was the front-runner — hell, the shoe-in — it frightened a lot of us, particularly those of us who believe that the war on terrorism is job 1, those of us in the “war bloc.” When deciding on Dean v. Bush, many of us found ourselves considering surprising options (i.e., voting for Bush). But once Dean started fading, the Bush’s magnetic field faded fast.

Second, there was fear of the religious right. The real Bush is Ashcroftian and though those impulses were tamped down as Bush set about fighting a few wars and doing his job, as the election came nearer, they are re-emerging. Odd that he should feel the need to lean right again since he doesn’t have to fight for the nomination — and now that he has a real liberal running against him — he could have staked the center; but that’s not the real him. So we have the marriage amendment. We are reminded of the stem-cell policy. We see his bioethics panel noodling. We see his FCC threatening to clamp down on content. We see the NRA play Congress like a marionette show. Now when it came time to step into the voting booth, all those fears might well have scared the “war bloc” left about Bush more than about Howard Dean. But with Dean gone, those fears of the religious right rise again like a sauerkraut belch.

Third, his own supporters are frightened by his spending and big-government ways. They won’t drop him, but their grousing doesn’t help is karma.

Yes, I supported Bush on the war(s). I was in that “war bloc.” But most of these fears do haunt me about him. And with Kerry instead of Dean, we do at least have the chance of a more credible wartime leader. Emphasis on “chance.” Kerry still has not learned the electoral lesson of the defeat of Dean — that people do care about this war — and stepped forward to show he can lead the troops and protect the people.

Andrew Sullivan says it well:

He looks like a potential president. But it was deeply worrying in one respect. The war on terror was barely mentioned. This on a day of appalling carnage in Iraq. I fear this man simply doesn’t get it. No one should support him for the highest office in the land until he proves he understands our enemy; and demonstrates that he will get up every day in the Oval Office to see how he can take the fight to the Islamists. I don’t see that fire right now.

Now it’s time for Kerry to see that Bush is his opponent and to prove that he can be a better wartime president than Bush has been.

Sullivan also sums up the state of the race: “So far, with Kerry’s limitations and Bush’s pandering to the far right, it’s neck and neck.”

Stern

Stern
: Howard Stern said this morning that he is “a dead man walking” and that he will end up being pulled off the air.

Many readers here have made amply clear that they don’t like Stern. That’s fine: your choice. But that’s also irrelevant.

The issue isn’t Stern. The issue is government interference in, regulation of, and chill upon free speech.

There is no question that Stern is off Clear Channel and may be pulled off their air because of government pressure. Stern changed nothing. The government put pressure on.

That should scare every one of you.

And, no, I won’t shut up about this. It’s frightening. It’s important. It’s dangerous.

Previous posts here, here, here, here, here.

: UPDATE: I keep getting asked about Savage and Dr. Laura and so here’s what I just said in the comments:

The difference in the cases from the past is government pressure. Public pressure got rid of Savage and Dr. Laura; companies chose to drop them for business reasons.

Clear Channel admitted that Stern is doing NOTHING differently; instead, they dropped him a day before the head of the company was called to the woodshed in Washington and he offered up Stern as a peace offering to keep from being fined and regulated.

That move came from government pressure and it’s government pressure I abhor and fear.

I do believe in free speech and hate boycotts and think that if people actually want to listen to Savage and even Dr. Laura (she is obnoxious and offensive in the extreme) then that’s fine by me; I’ll change the channel. I don’t think people should try to STOP people from listening to what they want to hear; that is what free speech is all about, in the end. I’ve argued in years past against such tactics as advertiser pressure to stifle speech.

But I fear government pressure much more. That is dangerous — for who in government is to say what is and what is not acceptable and what recourse do the stifled have (if they so much as fine Stern, he’ll be knocked off without appeal)? That is unconstitutional.

So whether you like Stern or not — and clearly, many don’t and many do — you should pay careful heed to what the government is doing right now. It is chilling free speech. And that is always dangerous, whether it happens in Iran or in America.