Posts from June 29, 2005

Catching up

Catching up

: The web has always been about sharing and creation. It has always been the medium of the people, with big companies horning in. Now a bunch of big companies — with John Markoff reporting — are just catching up to this notion and they think it’s new. No, only their realization is new.

Indeed, the abundance of user-generated content – which includes online games, desktop video and citizen journalism sites – is reshaping the debate over file sharing. Many Internet industry executives think it poses a new kind of threat to Hollywood, the recording industry and other purveyors of proprietary content: not piracy of their work, but a compelling alternative.

The new services offer a bottom-up creative process that is shifting the flow of information away from a one-way broadcast or publishing model, giving rise to a wave of new business ventures and touching off a scramble by media and technology companies to respond.

“Sharing will be everywhere,” said Jeff Weiner, a Yahoo senior vice president in charge of the company’s search services. “It’s the next chapter of the World Wide Web.”

With all due respect, Jeff, that’s a load of Yahooie. Maybe that’s the next chapter for Yahoo but the internet from its very first day about about sharing links and content and conversation and ideas and about connecting people so they can share all that. Wake up and smell the web, man.

Hell, even AOL knew this. Three years ago, at Foursquare, I asked Jonathan Miller how much time his users spent on user-created content and he said 60-70 percent of the time. I use that slide in my blog-boy speech (available for hire -advt.) to say that the people value the content the people create. Only now are media learning to value it. Witness this very story.

Markoff goes on:

Many Internet developers think that the Internet’s new phase will shift power away from old-line media and software companies while rapidly bringing about an age of computerized “augmentation” by blending the skills of tens of thousands of individuals.

But what do you think Google is? It is the collected wisdom of millions of individuals. What do you think blogs are? Yup, the aggregated wisdom of millions more. Flickr, Technorati,, and other functional innovations are merely ways to further explore and enable that potential.

I’m glad the true essence of the internet is getting recognized. And at least it’s ahead of Marshall column, below.

Look beyond the headlines, continued

Look beyond the headlines, continued

: In today’s Times, John Burns and Edward Wong write a piece reported by Iraqi reporters under the headline Some Iraqis Optimistic About Sovereignty. I think I’m seeing a trend here, following Jennifer Eccleston’s story on CNN last night finding the progress that is occurring in Iraq. But just as in that story, they could not report good news as balance to all the bad — or as an attempt to find the clearer picture of what is happening — without throwing in more bad.

Here is Burns’ lead:

When Shaker Assal was approached in his butcher’s shop on Tuesday and asked what he thought about life in Iraq a year after it resumed formal sovereignty, he responded with a blast of invective as heated as the sunbaked sidewalks in his Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliya.

But read down six paragraphs and you’ll find this:

But in an informal survey of opinions across Baghdad conducted on Tuesday by Iraqi reporters on the staff of The New York Times, the butcher’s outburst was a relatively rare case of untempered hostility for the Americans and the Iraqi governments they have worked with in the past year….

And read down two graphs more:

But perhaps more striking, considering the huge gap between the hopes stirred when American troops captured Baghdad in April 2003 and the grim realities now, were the number of Iraqis who expressed a more patient view. Among those people, the disappointments and privations have been offset by an appreciation of both the progress toward supplanting the dictatorship of Mr. Hussein with a nascent democratic system and the need for American troops to remain here in sufficient numbers to allow the system to mature.

And if that was the essence of the story, why wasn’t it the lead?

Take these two episodes together with Bush’s speech last night (which I didn’t get to watch live thanks to a business call; I read it in the paper this morning) and we continue to see that the war at home is a war of PR. Now I know that many couldn’t stand when I cast the Bush execution of his policy and the Downing Street Memo in the light of PR. Fine. But the impression of the war in Iraq — the bad news and good news, the perception of progress or lack of progress, the enmity or optimism of the Iraqis themselves — obviously has a very direct impact on the support for the war here, witness the polls, and thus the execution of it in Iraq. What we see in these two stories is an inability to report progress — which itself is a form of balance to all the car-bombing stories — without balancing the balancing with more dark clouds. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Living in the past

Living in the past

: Marshall Loeb just wrote a blog-belittling column at Marketwatch. I have some personal history on this with Marshall, who’s a very nice guy, and so let me start there. We worked together years ago at Time Inc.

Didn’t hear from Marshall for years upon years. But a few weeks ago, he found himself on a panel about blogging at some press association or another and so he called me to find out what this blogging this is all about. He said he didn’t know a thing. I filled him in as best I could in 20 minutes as I dashed from meeting to meeting in New York. Apparently, I was bad salesman now Marsh delivers his blog broadside, a bit late to the party:

Blogging can be both a cost-effective and time-efficient way of connecting with people, providing many benefits that can enrich your life.

Some of the benefits are:

* Creating a family network of blogs to keep yourselves updated on the goings-on of your far-away relatives.

* Turning blogs into scrapbooks where you can upload and post digital photos. This saves you the cost of getting film processed, and sharing your blog with others is free.

* Encouraging your young children to create a blog that keeps track of their daily activities and chores. Also, your new college-bound kids can keep blogs so that you won’t feel like they’re so far away.

So those are the benefits of blogs: quaint personal, family gimmicks. But dangers lurk there.

But not everything is perfect, and here are some warnings about blogs:

* Don’t trust everything you read in blogs. While more and more news organizations and companies are creating blogs of their own, many blogs are filled with false information.

* Never keep a blog in which you trash the company you work for or your boss. Also, never put your company’s sensitive or inside information in your blog. There have already been cases in which people have been fired for blogging about their employers. It might be tempting to use a blog to vent your work-related frustrations, but it could come back to haunt you.

* Don’t give out too much personal information in your blog. Even using your real name, rather than a pseudonym, puts you at risk. We live in an age of identity theft and you don’t want to unwittingly give thieves a road map to your personal records or financial information.

Well, thanks. Next, can you tell us how to get rid of that dangnabbed flashing 12 on our VCRs?

Marshall was, by the way, the executive at Time Inc. who first rejected my proposal for Entertainment Weekly — six years before it ended up launching. As the head of magazine development, he parrotted the words of Henry Grunwald, then editor-in-chief of Time Inc., saying that such a magazine about the full range of entertainment could not possibly succeed because people who watch TV do not read. Ahem.