Posts from July 5, 2005

Beware the blogs!

Now it’s the Washington Post’s turn to write a silly, paranoid, and ignorant story smashing blogs. Telling a story about someone who speculated on a blog that someone was running for a seat in Virginia politics — someone who said he tried to listen in on a conversation on a politician’s front yard — the Post moans:

“It’s creepy. That somebody would spread rumors on Jim Moran’s seat, that’s not all that surprising. The fact that somebody is keeping tabs on who we have over to dinner, that’s more problematic,” she said. “The whole thing about being anonymous is that there’s no accountability. They can literally post anything.”

Such is the new and emerging realm of Internet blogs. Since the 2005 Virginia election cycle kicked off, the number of blogs talking about Virginia politics has swelled to at least 20. Many are run anonymously, allowing people to express their views freely — and giving them an easy way to spread rumors and half-truths.

Oh, I’ll be there are a helluva lot more than 20 of them. Run for the hills!

Arabs attack Arabs… and it works

So now the insurgents terrorists of Iraq are going after Arab diplomats to get them to leave the country… and, sadly, it’s working.

Gunmen ambushed the top Bahraini and Pakistani diplomats in separate attacks as they drove through the capital today, spurring Pakistan to announce the withdrawal of its ambassador from Iraq.

The Bahraini diplomat, Hassan Malallah al-Ansari, was struck in the right arm by a bullet and taken to a hospital. The Pakistani ambassador, Muhammad Yunis Khan, escaped unharmed, though a car in his convoy was raked by bullets. The ambushes came three days after the top Egyptian diplomat here was kidnapped as he drove alone through western Baghdad. Insurgents appear to have begun an organized campaign to drive Muslim diplomats out of Iraq as the American and Iraqi governments are pressing Arab countries to send ambassadors here and upgrade their diplomatic ties.

You’d think, you’d hope that the proper response among Arab brethren would be to denouce the attacks with defiance and vow to stay. You’d think.

: Later: Says Captains Quarter:

The Arabic world has now gotten a taste of al-Qaeda diplomacy over the past week, as Iraq-AQ ringleader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has changed tactics. Instead of just blowing up Iraqis in an attempt to demoralize the populace — a strategy that clearly has backfired — he has now turned his guns and bombs on diplomats posted to Iraq from neighboring Middle East countries….

It’s difficult to devise a dumber strategy than this, and it reeks of desperation. Some of these countries have significant sympathy in their population for AQ’s goals in the region. However, these attacks not only risk alienating their less-lunatic enables in the Middle East, they threaten to turn Arabic governments from positions of benign neglect to active and deadly opposition to AQ and its supporters. No government will blithely allow its envoys to become targets for Islamists, no matter how sympathetic they might be.

Zarqawi must know this — he’s crazy, but so far we’ve seen no evidence that he’s stupid. To go out of his way to antagonize countries like Egypt and Bahrain, he must realize that all other options have run their course and have failed. He risks accomplishing what George Bush has tried for years: uniting Arabs in the Middle East to fight terrorism and to support democracy, specifically in Iraq.

We can only hope.

Filtered coffee

Chris Anderson has a nice riff on the role of the filter vs. the friend (that is, the middleman/editor vs. the recommender/neighbor) in the post-scarcity, mass-of-niches era of media and products.

In the existing Short Tail markets, where distribution is expensive and shelf space is at a premium, the supply side of the market has to be exceedingly discriminating in what it lets through. These producers, retailers and marketers have made a science of trying to guess what people will want, to improve their odds of picking winners. They don’t always guess right–there are surely as many things that deserved to make it market but were overlooked as there are things that made it to market and then flopped–but the survivors get a reputation for some sort of mystical insight into the consumer psyche.

But in Long Tail markets, where distribution is cheap and shelf space is plentiful, the safe bet is to assume that everything is eventually going to be available. The role of filter then shifts from gatekeeper to advisor. Rather than predicting taste, post-filters such as Google measure it. Rather than lumping consumer into pre-determined demographic and psychographic categories, post-filters such as Amazon’s custom recommendations treat them like individuals who reveal their likes and dislikes through their behavior. Rather than keeping things off the market, post-filters such as MP3 blogs create a markets for things that are already available by stimulating demand for them.

His chart:

It can also be expressed as first-person vs. third-person markets.

An industry, befuddled

This post on the Editors’ Weblog sums up the state of the collective vision and strategy in the worldwide newspaper business:

Who has the best business model? Associated New Media announced recently that it was to scale back its Evening Standard website because it was cannibalizing sales of its print edition. Today, the news is that Mirror Group Newspapers, parent company of the tabloid The Daily Mirror, plans on expanding its online ventures in order to increase online revenue and readers.

Really Simple Sales

The NY Times discovers advertisers discovering RSS. The is no doubt that RSS — whether people know what the initials mean or even know they’re using it — will become a major transport of content. But I’ve said before that it needs to deliver user stats via cookies before it really takes off (and before publishers will be willing to deliver full content and not just links on it).