Which is better for the economy—

1) For every company to control its relationships with all its customers in its own way? or

2) For every customer to control her relationships with all her companies in her own way?

What we get with the first is what @JohnBattelle complains about in Why the F*ck Can't We Fix "CRM"? 

What we get with the second is VRM: Vendor Relationship Management.

What CRM gives the economy is a zillion different companies trying to manage relationships with customers in a zillion different ways, even if they all use one company's (e.g. Salesforce's or Oracle's) software or cloud services. 

That's the first reason why CRM can't fix itself. Not matter how much better CRM makes "the customer journey" or "the customer experience," it's just one comppany's way.

The second reason is that CRM doesn't relate. You need two for that, and it can't happen if every company wants its customers to talk only in that company's own way.

The third reason is that CRM, in practice, is premised on the belief that a captive customer is worth more than a free one. 

VRM is premised on the belief that a free customer is worth more than a captive one: to herself, to the companies she deals with and to the whole economy.

Rather than opposing CRM, however, VRM is meant to engage CRM. To give every CRM system a hand to shake. To give the company a better company experience of customers.

VRM does this by giving customers superpowers, turning the marketplace into a Marvel-like universe in which all of us are enhanced. Read how at that either of those links.

One reason I use shortlinks is to see how many clicks something gets. 

http://bit.ly/chlngrt, a shortlink for Accidental Lessons: Reflections on the Challenger Tragedy, has had nine clicks in the 47 minutes that have passed since I posted it, and then tweeted pointage to it.

I'm posting this here only to mark something in time. Not because I'm drawing conclusions from it.

Perspective: yesterday my Flickr site got more than 8500 visits.

Bummed  to hear Don Williams has died. He was one of the truly great country music composers and performers. One of Don's songs, Amanda (written by Waylon Jennings), was a big hit for the country radio station I worked at in the early 70s. There's a female backup vocal on it, gently rising two octaves or more above Don's baritone, sung only during the word "Amanda," that still haunts me. Listen to it at the link above. Doesn't get more country than that, and I mean that in every good way.

He was 78 and had a good long life, at least for a smoker. (See the image at the first link.) Now 70 and still young, I can't help noticing that most of the people my age that I once knew and are now dead were smokers, and the ones still with us either quit long ago or never took it up. In fact I know nobody my age, or even within ten years of it, who still smokes.

When I was driving up to watch the eclipse, I naturally (for me) took an interest in what was happening on radio along the way. I have way too much to report on that (and I probably never will report most of it), but I'll unpack one small discovery for the few (or none) of you who might be interested. It's from notes I took en route but didn't post because there was no connection.

Among the stations we heard heading through northeast Utah and southwest Wyoming was a collection of ten huge signals, all Class C (the biggest allowed, with 100,000 watts at 2000 feet above average terrain), most radiating on channels called Class A (107.1, 102.3, 103.1... ) which are normally reserved for local signals (max of 6000 watts at 300 feet), though the rules got more lax about that in recent years.

The site they transmit from, I discovered, is Humpy Peak in the Uintah mountains (far east of Salt Lake). They share a Shively 6016 panel antenna stacked 20 high (good sale for Shively), to maximize gain toward the horizon. All the stations put out 89,000 watts at 2,123 feet, which is equivalent to 100,000 at 2,000 feet, and they do it with transmitters that are just 7,900 watts eacj. While that's a good way to save watts, it's highly unusual. Almost... insincere. 

What are they really up to with this? I wondered. Is it just so all these signals can reach Evanston, Wyoming, population 12,000, 43 miles away and the only population center to which these giant signals have a clear shot? (FM stations want to be high up because FM is mostly a line-of-sight band.)

Here's the reason, and I'd love to know who thought it up.

See, while the signals of all these stations are terrain-shadowed in the Salt Lake market by the Wasatch Mountains, the site is close enough to put the predicted signals' primary service area over the Salt Lake metro, but far enough from Farnsworth Peak (home of all the big Salt Lake FMs) to allow Class C signals to drop in on second-adjacent channels, which are mostly those Class A's. That way all the Humpy Peak FMs can put up boosters, some with powers up to 20,000 watts, at elevated locations on the east side of Salt Lake, Provo and Ogden, to fill in that shadowed terrain, which is full of people and business.

I just read that one of those stations was just sold for $1.1 million. What the new owner got was those boosters. Not the giant place-holder signal serving mountain goats in the wilderness.

What I like about Medium:

  1. The WYSIWYG UI, and how easy it is to write there and to update what I write.
  2. That it has no ads and no tracking. I cannot praise this highly enough.
  3. That @Ev is principled about #2, and staying the course, even though he gets lots of shit about it. Hats off.
  4. That it pays writers.

What I dislike about Medium:

  1. The clapping thing. I hate ratings and heart-clicks already, but this is even worse. But that's me. Your sentiments may vary.
  2. That every comment is also a standalone post in which, like it or not, the first line is the headline, whether or not the writer troubles to make it one. (Meaning what you see is not what you get, at least in this one case.) Also that comments are not threaded in some obvious way (unless I'm missing it).

Obviously, the former outweighs the latter or I wouldn't keep writing there.

@Ev, if you're reading this, love to talk. Been too long.

Latest postings:

All in a big rush to get stuff done before flying to the UK tomorrow. After that, Santa Barbara, NYC and points unknown.

I just discovered that 120 East 122nd Street in Harlem is still there.  It was the home of my great-great grandfather, Thomas Trainor, who came over from Ireland at 15 in 1820, had a carriage business at 200 West Broadway in Greenwich Village, and is buried with the wife he outlived and perhaps seven other family members, including two kids he outlived as well, in just two graves in one plot in Calvary Cemetery, the country's largest. (It's that giant field of headstones you pass through where the Long Island Expressway crosses the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.)

At a time when the U.S. is (or at least seems to be) growing more polarized than at any time since the Civil War approached, and when the two poles need more than ever to understand each other, and to respect what the other pole knows best (and not just what the other pole believes—a subtle and important distinction), maybe the dumbest thing the left pole can do is start taking down, defacing and (o shit, there it is: hanging) statues. 

Andrew Young explains why

I'll add this: statues are symbols imbued with all kinds of deep and unspoken emotions: good, bad, too mixed to separate—and all to various degree historically inaccurate, regardless of what political point one views them from. They are also distractions away from the real work that needs to be done, starting with listening and caring. All you can do with them, at least politically, is attack or defend them. There are better things to do.

(The dumbest things the right pole did were to elect Trump and keep supporting him after it became vividly clear that he's a monomaniacal narcissist—in other words, everything Judith Donath, David Roth and Matt Taibbi say about him.)

Instead of taking down statues, the left needs to stand for what it knows best, which is good (not just bigger) government, caring about people, and civic life as a whole. None of this is well expressed on the left (least of all by the Democratic party), which would rather fight Trump and his most awful supporters: a sucker's game that Trump is much better at than they are. (He's one big attention sink, for everybody.)

What the left needs most to do begins with understanding what the right forgot when it repurposed itself (with talk radio and Fox News) around throwing shit at the left. Specifically, understanding business—especially the small kind.

Depending on where you draw the line, small business is between 97% and 99% of all business in the U.S. and at the high end of that range in the rest of the world. From Small is the New Big:

Nearly all of what happens in business is too small and ordinary for Wall Street to care much about. Same goes for investors, business reporters and politicians. Even economists don’t pay much attention. What they see are the waves and weather on the surface of the world’s economic ocean, when what matters most is the mass of water below... None of them want to grow their businesses any larger than they need to be. None thought about an exit when they started up. None call themselves “entrepreneurs,” or go to expensive conferences. Instead they socialize at bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants, churches, city parks, beaches, ball games and on the street. They tend to have roles rather than jobs. When you need one, you look for a mechanic, a painter, a lawyer or a driver. All of them also help each other out, side by side, face to face, in the physical world.

Of course this is an opportunity for both the left and the right. But the right abandoned small business when it moved its center of economic interest from Main Street to Wall Street, and decided that all business needed was "draining the swamp" and cutting taxes, especially for rich people.

What makes this an opportunity for the left is that it's a new place it can care about people. And the opportunity is there at all levels of government, from local on up.

I don't know if that's possible, since I've always been amazed (as a political independent who has leaned left since fighting for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the '60s) at how little the left understands business, or outright dislikes it.

But I'm telling ya, the opportunity is there. Stop using "capitalism" as an epithet and start looking at ordinary people's business opportunities, as well as their problems. Look for paths to small business success. Create openings for both ordinary and exceptional business ambitions. And yes, put cutting taxes and government red tape on the table. Republicans are right about those, even though they care far less about those things than about getting funded by the Koch Brothers.

And please drop the statue thing, at least for now. It's bad strategy.

Bonus link from @GeorgeLakoff.

The problem is Isaiah Thomas' hip.

If Isaiah(+Jae)-for-Kyrie deal falls through it will be an NBA-record clusterfuck. Isaiah and Jae don’t want to come back to the Celtics, and we know Kyrie still wants out of Cleveland. My guess is that the Celtics will throw in another draft pick just to get the deal all the way done.

BTW, Isaiah’s bad hip is just the first shoe to fall. (And with it that he’ll never be full strength again. Hope that's not true, but I think it is. I know hips.) The other shoe is that LeBron hasn’t been full strength since before the playoffs. An 80% LeBron is still super, but from what I saw late in the season something isn’t quite right with that guy and it hasn’t come out yet. But it’ll still help an 80% LeBron a lot to have even a 70% Isaiah on the floor. He may not move as well as he used to, but he still has infinite heart, and shoots the hell out of the ball.

The Cavs, btw, are still very scary. Their whole team, bench included, is pretty deep with name-brand talent. And betcha they’ll sign Dwayne Wade soon too.

Meanwhile, Boston, who are most of these guys?

In the last few days I've driven in California, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Utah, New York, New Jersey and New York, in that order. In that sampling, which totaled about 1800 miles, the clichés obtained. From what I saw, eastern urban driving is on the whole aggressive, though not always competitive. Drivers just want to make the light, merge, cut the other driver off, and honk. Western driving can get competitive, meaning there seem to be a lot of drivers who want to win, which they do by getting ahead of other cars and trucks. Speeding is even more standard than elsewhere, perhaps because posted speed limits are 70 and 75. There is also much less honking.

California drivers are, in my ample experience outside this trip, relatively polite, meaning they're more willing to let somebody cut in, or to wave somebody through an intersection. I think that's because 4-way stops are standard throughout California (far more than anywhere else I've been), and the protocols are well understood. Californians also understand that the official protocol for merging traffic is to alternate. This was not understood very well during our time in Wyoming, but all my evidence gathering was in the worst traffic jam in the state's history, when visitors in the dozens of thousands who came to see the eclipse departed en masse from their temporary stations from Lander east past Riverton and Shoshone. It took us six hours to creep west through those three towns, a distance of about 40 miles. License plates on the cars, trucks, campers and RVs we saw were from all over the West (with a few from the east, including our van, registered to Virginia but rented out of Santa Barbara). And it seemed like nobody other than folks with Wyoming plates were willing to let merging traffic in.

Strangest and most dangerous were the drivers eager to pass slower traffic that was already going the 70mph speed limit westbound on 2-lane Wyoming highway 28. We couldn't count how many cars passed on blind hills in oblivity to the possibility of oncoming cars they might hit head on. As my son said, they seemed to be motivated more by anger than impatience. After sitting for hours in stopped traffic, they were damned if they would let any opportunity to get ahead go by.

After so long on the road in that van, it was good to get back into our nice little new '05 Subaru in New York. It amazed me by starting right up and running perfectly. The only bummer was two months of sparrow guano and rotted juniper berries on the hood and the windshield. Next trip: New England next week.

"Great history (and history of linklove) from @DaveWiner on how blogging worked at its best and needs to work again, for so many more of us, if we are to break free, as a free and independent people, from the personal data ranches we call social media.

I like "personal data ranches" better than "silos" or "walled gardens", because it's more metaphorically accurate. Bonus link. Another.

BTW, my original blog was (and still is) http://doc.weblogs.com.  Here's my first actual blog post, in November 1999. The first post on that blog, two days earlier, was by Dave, instructing me on how to blog. His rules still apply.

Added the author and underwater archaeologist and Daniel Lenihan to the list of notable alumni of Guilford College. It is wrong in the extreme that Dan was not only missing there, but remains missing in Wikipedia as well, with a single small exception where he gets mentioned with a dead-end link. I also want to add Stephen Lewis, a two-Fulbright scholar, authority on many subjects and one of the smartest (and funniest) people I have ever known. Dan, Steve and I were all in Guilford's Class of 1969. We also grew up only a few miles apart.

"Digital Disruption" is a hot topic at @OnPointRadio. So let's talk about that for a post or few. 

The problem with "disruption" is that it suggests impact from one direction, and calls to mind Newton's laws of motion when we look for effects. Those tend to be two-dimensional: balls dispersed on a pool table when struck by a cue ball, a ship exploding toward the sky on the horizon when hit by a torpedo. The effects of new technologies are more complicated and subtle than that.

Lauding disruption as a virtue (which Silicon Valley has been doing for decades) also tends to excuse collateral effects, including destructive ones. It tends to ignore collateral opportunities as well.

What Marshall and Eric McLuhan do with their Laws of Media is provide a way of discovering effects of disruption (caused by a new medium or technology) refracted in four different directions, each best visited as questions for which many answers are possible: What does a new medium (or technology) 1) enhance, 2) retrieve, 3) obsolesce and 4) reverse into once it fully succeeds? (These are formally called the Tetrad of media effects.)

I suggest a few answers in those four directions in Have We Passed Peak Phone? and The Actually Distributed Web, but will give it a longer and more thought-out treatment in the book I'm writing.


Two videos I need to watch when my eyes are ready:

Since there seems to be a run on eclipse glasses, here's helpful hint: head to the hardware store and get welders goggles with a rating of 14 or higher. They'll do the same thing, and many are still out there, mostly because they're not yet called "eclipse glasses." 

Look also for "brazing" and "safety." More here from Mr. Eclipse.

After paying for her meal and getting up to leave, the patron says to the restaurant's proprietor, "I'm so glad you operate a Christian restaurant!"

The proprietor replies, "Thank you, but we welcome guests from all faiths, or none at all."


"But I'm curious. What makes you say we're a Christian restaurant?"

"The check said, "Thank you Jesus."

"Ah. Your server is named Jesus."


Fantastic thread on the best Top 40 stations of all time, at Radio Ink.

Interesting that Top 40 was less mainstream than one might think in those late great heydays (or decades) of the format, in the 50s and 60s.

Most of the stations listed there were small, and some were even tiny. The early Top 40 "giants" were lesser signals on AM dials. The big signals were mostly devoted to "middle of the road" or "MOR" programming: chatty talk, pop standards, news and farm reports. ABC broke ranks when it went top 40 with its giants in New York and Chicago: WABC and WLS. WMCA in New York, WPGC and WEAM in DC, KQV in Pittsburgh, WIL in St. Louis, KHJ, KRLA and KFWB in Los Angeles... these were all secondary signals in those towns. In smaller cities like Roanoke, Syracuse, Santa Barbara and Winston-Salem, the top stations were as small as they get. WROV, WOLF, KIST and WAIR, respectively in those cities, were all on "graveyard" channels (1230, 1240, 1340, 1400 and 1450), all limited to a max of 1000 watts by day and 250 watts by night. And, since those channels were the most populated, "skywave" interference from the rest of the stations on those channels shrank coverage even more.

FM changed everything, of course. And now both satellite radio (SiriusXM) and Internet streaming are to music radio like vultures to carrion.

I’m trying the Beaker browser now. Sez the site, "Beaker is a peer-to-peer browser with tools to create and host websites. Don't just browse the Web, build it."

Interesting sign of our times: it’s ready on Linux and Mac, and “coming soon” to Windows.

The video on the Beaker index page (above) is a good intro, and then leads to Jeremy Ruston’s video of TiddlyWiki+Beaker.

(I haven’t seen Jeremy in years, but we got a lot of hang time when we were both working for JP Rangaswami at BT.

Key to Beaker is dat.

More in Github about dat-http. Specifics:

An HTTP transport/storage provider for Dat, allowing replication of Dats over normal HTTP connections from flat files on the server. Currently only supports read operations, write operations coming in the future (open an issue if you need this).

The entire .dat folder must be available on the server for this to work. Point this at the root url where the .dat folder is and you can use this to do replication.

This is implemented as a storage provider, conforming to the https://www.npmjs.com/package/abstract-random-accessAPI. That may seem counterintuitive, as this provides a networkworking transport but implements a storage provider API. However, in Dat you can wrap a storage provider in a Hyperdrive instance to turn it into a network transport.

I’ve added the Beaker browser to the “privacy protection” section of the VRM developments roster.

This whole thing needs a big re-arrange. If you want to help, talk to me. Thanks.

Yo @MacSales, et. al... I'm looking for a pre-current vintage MacBook Pro with a Retina screen, maximum solid state memory (1-4TB), an SD card reader and MagSafe power connector. Leads welcome. Thanks.

Great photo feature on the very late WFBR/1300, once a landmark radio station in Baltimore. I hope the owners of the space (it's upstairs over an old theater) preserve at least the control room, which appears to be museum-worthy.

The signal, by the way, is still at 1300am, radiating from a new transmitter as WJZ, a sports station.  The call letters were salvaged in 2004 by an unrelated station in the Baltimore area.

I made a funny and completely innocent comment (like a host on a talk radio show might make) under a post at RadioInk, and it didn't appear.

My experience with the agent was fine. She did a good job. 

My advice to your customer service system, completely aside from my last exchange with it, is to publish, both on the Web and on the myDish app, a list of channels outside of any bundle, so customers can put together a channel line-up that is as close to à la carte as possible. That way customers can base their plans on what they actually want, rather than on the bundles you offer.

Also, please don't prompt a customer to pay when the customer already has autopay, and your system knows it. Prompting for payment by default is rude, looks greedy and clueless, and only gets in the way of whatever the customer is looking for. 


My street is in one in the north end of Manhattan's grid, flanked by high-rises, each a henge of air conditioners protruding from windows. The hood is residential, a mix of Orthodox Jewish, Dominican and other religions and ethnicities, some apparent but most not. Collars are a mix of blue and white. No rich people, or at least not so one can tell. All the retail action faces the street and absent of brand names the world knows. There are no corporate headquarters and no buildings with doormen. Our street is a block away from the main retail action, meaning most of the traffic is pedestrian: people walking their kids or their dogs, hurrying to or from one of the subway portals, or walking slowly toward or back from one of the parks that have benches. 

The larger apartment buildings here have supers: guys who live on the ground floor, know everybody, and keep things fixed. The super next door is serious and friendly, smokes constantly and rarely smiles. He's called Smiley. His brother-in-law is the super of another building on the street. That guy is relentlessly cheerful and has a nickname I forget, though he greets me by name. The two of them have been on their jobs for seventeen and thirty-five years.

Our building is too small to have a super, so that's kind of my job, meaning I'm the one who calls the landlady, or that she calls if she's wondering how to replace a broken washer or air conditioner for the lowest possible cost, knowing I'll take care of that.

All this is preamble to a story typical of living here, featuring a one-liner uttered by Smiley.

When the first heat wave came a couple weeks ago, one of our window air conditioners crapped out, and I replaced it. Being busy with other stuff, I left the dead AC on our small balcony, waiting for me to deal with New York's very specific requirements for disposing of deceased appliances containing chlorofluorocarbons. I wanted to make sure I did this the Right Way, so I asked Smiley about it one morning when we ran into each other on the sidewalk.

"Don't call the city," Smiley said. "Call Ted."

"Who's Ted?"

"You've seen him around here. Greek guy."

What I love about that exchange is that I actually knew who Smiley was talking about while having never spoken to the guy, and having had no clue that the guy was Greek.

"You mean the guy with the huge key ring on his belt who has all that stuff roped to a van?" I said.

"Yeah. Hold on."

Smiley took out his phone and called Ted. Later Ted retrieved the dead air conditioner.

This is one of the many informal ways cities work, and I love it.

If you want to know more about those informalities and their importance to all of civilization, I have four recommendations.

First, see Abacus, a perfect documentary about a bank in Chinatown that was all but crucified by the government for the sins of giant banks that mostly went unpunished (while some were quite rewarded) after the mortgage crisis of 2008. It's the true story not only of the bank's (literal) trials, but of the neighborhood it serves, and how the very human vernacular of business is so much more essential within the weave of civilization than anything corporate giants or governments do, though they get almost all the attention. (I also visited this fact in Small is the New Big.)

Second, see Citizen Jane, the Battle for the City, a documentary about fights between Jane Jacobs, the best friend cities ever had, and Robert Moses, the massively influential planner and builder of roads, bridges and parks, who completely re-shaped New York (mostly for the worse) while modeling for the country trashing of public transportation and handing over transport responsibilities to cars and trucks.

Third, read The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, by Robert Caro. It is huge, deep and thoroughly readable; yet it still cannot convey—because nothing can—the full scope of Moses' influence on all the world's cities, even today.

Fourth, follow Bubkes, the blog of Stephen Lewis, who studies, photographs and writes about cities and their people with a depth of understanding and care that has few equals. You will never encounter a better docent in your browser.

A thousand years ago, Dave Winer said market share is a head trip

I like head trip. It means "the state of being zoned out" or "an act performed primarily for self-gratification." It's pure vernacular from another time, but what the hell.

Main thing is, it applies to data. Here's how data works as a head trip for big companies. They actually think:

  1. Because data is valuable —
  2. More is better, so Big Data is more valuable than little data. Also a competitive advantage. A way to keep up with the BigCo Joneses.
  3. To obtain Big Data that's useful in the marketplace, companies need to hoover up personal data about, and from, every actual or potential customer they can, everywhere and every way they can.
  4. They should use this hoovered data to fill their data lakes and then refine data from those lakes to into marketing goop to throw at "the right person" in "the right place" at "the right time," aimed by #martech and #adtech machinery.
  5. Data refining should include ML (machine learning) and AI (artificial intelligence) because, well, they're what's cool right now.

And here is the default head tripping among many #customertech developers:

  1. All this hoovered personal data is rightfully ours alone. Taking it without our permission is a privacy violation.
  2. Europe agrees, and says so with the General Data Protection regulation (GDPR), which will start punishing companies for hoovering personal data without personal permission, starting in May 2018.
  3. In fact we can do more with our personal data than any company can, especially when all they're trying to do is sell us stuff and most of the time we aren't buying a damn thing.
  4. So we need ways to keep and control our personal data, and to use our own ML and AI when we do put it to use.
  5. Since companies have an appetite for personal data, and that data has value to them, we should get in on that market, somehow. Or create a new one that isn't dysfunctional.

All of which is fine, actually except for the near-exclusive focus on data.

What tripping on data misses is the need for agency, which is why I wrote Customertech Will Turn the Online Marketplace Into a Marvel-Like Universe in Which All of Us are Enhanced, after I wrote the lists above, which I didn't want to lose and have now posted here.

This is from two emails I sent yesterday. I'm not ready to post something complete about it yet, because my mind isn't made up. Still, worth sharing::::

I’ve recently become convinced that we — the world — made a huge mistake by starting with the Web as the first widespread application on the Internet. Specifically, we made a bad decision by basing the Web on client-server rather than peer-to-peer. Client-server is a mainframe legacy. It’s a slave-master arrangement.

Peer-to-peer is what the Net was designed to be, and still is, at the protocol level where it came into existence and still persists. We need to re-frame our thinking there, no matter what we build.


...take a look at Brad Burnham’s post on Union Square Ventures’ investment in Protocol Labs. Note that he's wanting to invest in protocols rather than platforms.

Also take a look at what I said in Giving silos their due, and to the comments as well, especially Michael Elling's. Phil Windley’s Decentralization is hard—maybe too hard is also a good response.

My point with the last two paragraphs is that my mind is not made up on whether or not a platform approach is a Good Thing, though I am beginning to think there are Better Things.

I am convinced, however, that we went way wrong with the Web as a platform by basing it from the start on client-server (aka calf-cow), which (to leverage McLuhan) retrieved the mainframe, which retrieved the monopoly, which retrieved the feudal system.

Hence the headline.

I welcome your thoughts.

[Later...] Best so far is from Dave, via this tweet back toward Fractional Horsepower HTTP Servers, posted twenty years ago. In a second tweet he adds, correctly, A kitchen is client server too, but we scaled them so bigcos don't own them all. It's more that we're lazy. We like TV. McDonald's.

I also just added an image, of silos.

On the second day of Woodstock, while the thunderstorms were rolling through, my pregnant then-wife and I (married way too young, still in college) had packed up our picnic by the Hudson in Palisades Interstate Park, and were driving north on the Parkway there, when we stopped to pick up two very wet young women who had their thumbs out under one of the overpasses. Turns out they were going to Woodstock. So we drove them there: a trip of about 90 miles.

As we approached, there was a traffic jam of cars leaving the scene, the drivers warning us that the festival was just a big bummer: shitty sound, no toilets, mud everywhere. But the girls were excited to be there, so we dropped them off and drove home to Hackensack (another 90 miles).

One thing I remember about the drive up was that the two girls were devoted followers of Murray Bookchin. Haven’t thought about him since, but for some reason I remember his name but not the girls’.

They did write us later to thank us, though, and say they had a great time. Wish we’d stayed too.

Day 2 of Conference on the Podcast at Columbia, which I've just shortlinked as http://bit.ly/podconf. I'm live tweeting it through Little Pork Chop and live blogging it here. 

I think, rather than report on what people are saying, I'll say what I'm thinking as a result of what people on stage are saying. So here goes.

I like that there are things being discovered with podcasting that can't be done with radio. Or haven't been done, anyway.

I like calling podcasting an art form, sort of. But not sure something so broad can be called that. There are lots of art forms within television, radio, print and the rest. Should be in podcasting too.

I agree that criticism does help form a canon, and that there are downsides to that as well. One is premature formalism. Podcasting doesn't need that yet. Too early, too small, too non-standard (and that's a good thing).

The topic is poetry. "Is it an efficacious form?" My own answer is yes. See http://searls.com/whitman.html.

The podcast playing is on GarageBand. The reason I haven't done more podcasting yet is that I haven't mastered either GarageBand or Audacity. Help welcome. Minimal results so far are at http://podcast.searls.com .

I have my doubts that podcasting and commercial sponsorship actually go together. I would rather give money to podcasters (as we do to Chris Lydon's Radio Open Source) than endure the personal hawking of products by podcasters, as I get (hate to say, but being frank here) from Mark Maron, Ben Walker and others.

Death is a topic now, via Rachel Zucker onstage. Too deep and close for me to liveblog about as an audience member, but admiring Rachel's raw courage talking about this.

"Then the election happened" has now been said, in various ways, a number of times at the conference. No denying how consequential that election was, and still is. Here are the Top 10 Most Consequential Events in my lifetime. 

Rachel: Is there something you can't write about? Something you can't say? After the election, answers changed. "How can I change the systems I am interested in changing?"

Me again: no form of writing has an economic model. To speak of any human capacity as something with an economic model is to reduce that capacity to something inhuman: a machine. This is a tendency relic of the machine age we still haven't left.

I am fasting today, and very hungry. Just saying.

Audience: we all need to be hearing each other and sharing each other. Also: we could use a Pulitzer for new media criticism.

Speaking of criticism, my thoughts about rating people. Rachel just noted it also yields gatekeeping.

One reason I don't publish poetry is that I don't welcome criticism. Not sure why. I have no problem with it toward my writing and photography.

Race has come up. It saddens me that race is such an huge and awful factor in human history and suffering. Human beings are all different from each other in countless ways. The countlessness of those ways is also what makes us human. Amidst that huge sum, race is so trivial. It's a human failing that we pull it out and make it such a giant thing. But.... there it is. And we have to deal with it.

Rachel: "I was some adjective I didn't know existed."

Lunchtime. Good side conversations. One is with Sovana Bailey McLain (@solartsnyc), whose podcast is also a radio show, State of the Arts. And she has a blog too. The station she's on is WBAI, which has gone through (says Wikipedia) turmoil and change for many decades. 

So I have an idea. It's one WBAI won't like, but it's a good one: Sell the broadcast license, keep everything else. WBAI's signal on 99.5fm is a commercial one, because it's on the commercial part of the FM band. This NY Times report says an equivalent station (WQXR when it was on 96.3fm) was worth $45 million, in 2009. I'm guessing that WBAI's licence would bring a bit less because the market isn't as strong. Simply put, radio listening is moving to new rectangles, and the competition is every other 'cast in the world. Even the "station" convention is antique. On the Net there are streams and files, stuff that's live and stuff that's not. From everywhere.

WBAI (or its parent, the Pacifica Foundation), should sell the license while the market is still there, and use the money to all kinds of next-generation radio, all kinds of new ways.  Keep calling it WBAI, but operate outside the constraints of limited signal range and FCC rules. There ya go.

Just tweeted these:

1/6 Lunch questions & observations

2/6 at The Unplugged Soul: A Conference on the #Podcast...

3/6 What are the best tools for #podcast production & consumption?

4/6 #Podcast production: Garageband? Audacity? Anything collaborative?

5/6 #Podcast consumption: iTunes, RadioPublic, Stitcher, Tunein. Which are best for controlling choices & listening offline?

6/6 Interesting how some podcasters onstage seem not to grok the need to hold the mic close, and not to pop every P.

Body language. Lots of people listening to a compelling podcast with a couple fingers over their mouths . What are they not saying?

What I just live tweeted: 

1/5 It is now clear to me how, compared to #podcasting, the conventions of radio in general, and public radio in particular, are limiting.

2/5 Radio production limits: the clock, segments, signposting. "The clock defines the work." —Jonathan Hirsch of ARRVLS.

3/5 "Need a nuanced, complex and more advanced view of what the public is (than we get from public radio)." News back, people front.

4/5 "We spend a lot of time advancing coverage, and not as much time advancing the people we cover." (Something like that.)

5/5 Ed McCabe: "I have no use for rules. They only rule out the possibility of brilliant exceptions."

I didn't connect The Kitchen Sisters to Lost & Found Sound: http://www.kitchensisters.org/stories/lost-found-sound  The obvious was not apparent to me. Great stuff.

I have dozens of reel to reel tapes, hundreds of cassette tapes, hundreds more micro cassettes, Sony MiniDiscs, videotapes in many formats, MP3s, .MOVs, Skype calls... My only request to my heirs is that they not throw any of it away, but give it to somebody who can respect and make sense of it. Much of it is far from junk.

Just posted these through pork.io on Twitter via @dsearls:

1/5 Kitchen Sisters: "The future of listening is looking." #podcasting

2/5 It took 200 hours for the Kitchen Sisters to mix War and Peace and Coffee. #podcasting

3/5 "Radio can be such a theatrical medium"—Kitchen Sisters #Podcasting

4/5 "We try to collaborate with as many people we can... Who glues your community together through food? —Kitchen Sisters

5/5 "You have to be daring, and get up close... You like your listeners close. Keep closeness in mind."—Kitchen Sisters #podcasting















Ben Walker thanks the public radio bosses for helping make podcasting by pushing out and ignoring podcasting. "There are no bad dumb radio bosses." 

@emilybell tweet: podcast genres : 1. Men going on about things. 2. Whispery crime 3.Millennials talking over each other 4. Should be 20 minutes shorter

Just posted these:

1/11 "Nothing lights a fire like a dream deferred." — Langston Hughes, sourced by the Kitchen Sisters at the Pod Conf.

2/11 Q: What will happen to #podcasting as an archival medium?

3/11 Interesting concept: popup archive. @prx is one example of a gatherer.

4/11 Nobody saying: When Earth gets blown up like Alderan, will any of the archives matter?

5/11 Big props going out to @Radiotopia.

6/11 "Its par to the journey to get a lot of "No"s. But you can #podcast for not a lot of money, and get an audience. Not true with #radio.

7/11 Thought: When they edit my life down to a one hour show—or one of any length—what will be left? And lost? Nearly all, either way.

8/11 Kitchen Sisters giving props to @RadioPublic, whose librarian curates for you.

9/11 Q about what technology might obsolesce podcasting. Good one. I don't know. Makes me want to source McLuhan & formal cause (look it up)

10/11 Kitchen Sisters: earbuds put you there. Presence is strong. (I think was the point.)

11/11 FWIW, I don't think the phone is a radio dial. None of the apps do it for me. Except maybe the @BBC iPlayer, just for the BBC.

Q: How do you see podcasting changing broadcast radio? And vice versa.

Short answer: This American Life alone has been huge. The less formal presentation. Raising the quantity of music on NPR. Has the potential to "bust the clock." NPR said they thought listeners wanted short form. Turns out not to be the case.

The first podcast summit (at least as I see it) will happen today, when two fathers of podcasting at its most original and best—Dave Winer and Chris Lydon—will co-star in the opening conversation at Conference on the Podcast at Columbia. I'll be there too. Can't wait.

In Journalism and the Braintrust, Dave unpacks what makes Chris's Open Source podcast the best in the business. And believe me: it is. Nothing else comes close.

Other links: 

- conference blog

- Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything podcast. (He'll be talking at the conference too.)

- Podcatch.com, Dave's great way to listen to best-of podcasts as if they were radio. (At least as I see it.)

- Earliest Lydon podcasts, compiled by Dave.

It is essential to recall that Dave prototyped podcasting (which he also made possible through RSS 2.0, standardizing the way podcasts are syndicated) with Chris. The two worked together as a team when both were hanging at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center. I was a hanger-on for both, which probably also helped get me involved with the BKC in the years following.

BTW, I have a podcast too. It has to be the least frequent ever. I'll get it up and running when I figure out Audacity, or something that makes producing them easier. 

First in that queue will be a long-overdue interview with Stephen Lewis of Bubkes.org. I fucked up editing it not long after recording Steve on Skype in October 2013. I feel worse about that than anything else in my life, because I let an old friend down very hard by not finishing it. Somewhere I do have the original recordings, though. So perhaps all is not yet lost.

Some context setting here.

I'm in the front row at Data & Society (@datasociety)in New York, about to live blog Databite No. 96: Maurizio Ferraris and Martin Scherzinger on the topic Post-Truth and New Realities: Algorithms, Alternative Facts, and Digital Ethics

You can watch the whle thing here: https://twitter.com/datasociety/status/852249279196516352

Maurizio apparently doesn't tweet, but Martin does, at @ScherzingerM, and so does the moderator, Robyn Caplan @robyncaplan .

Maurizio is up first, talking deep and clever shit. Between his accent and not being able to see his slides through Martin and Robyn, it's going to be hard to keep up. But here goes...

I now have three new favorite fuzzwords: ironization, de-sublimation and de-objectivication. Somehow these lead to post-truism or Post-(s)tru(c)thrualism. then to (yes, he says this) bullshit.

On the slide now: Documentality. Object=recorded act. Inflation of documents. Used to be on paper, and now on zillions of mobile devices. 

Book: A crisis of Truth, by Richard Firth Green.

The Web is a gigantic construction of documents. It's primarily for recording, and not just a communication. Its primary action is to move to action, not to transmit.

The Web is real, not just virtual, and it's emerged, not construction.

The web is primarily mo... missed it. Mobilization, maybe.

Documediality + mediality instead of capitalism. Fact checking and reputation not part of the problem.

Documediality is still not aware of the power of the Web.

We need a practical reason for the Web.

Martin is up now. Says if you start typing "Are women," Google's autocomplete will finish with "evil." Just tried this, didn't work, but I'm bad at following commands. Or anything, which will be a problem here, because I thought, or hoped, that Martin would be less intellectual and clearer than Maurizio, but he's even more intellectual and speaks three times faster. Trying to keep up...

Something about a false dichotomy. Post-modernism, antonymic human knowledge... Michael Pence (though not the VP, but I'm not sure)... 

This is the most intellectual talk I've been to in years, and I go to a lot of intellectual talks. Working hard not to have my mental gears stripped. Failing badly.

"You demote the friction of document encounter, and elevate (something) to theory." Did I just hear "false conjuncture?"

I like "the status of irrefutable." Way too much of that, yo.

"Is (something) realia (re-alia) ...something post-truth fact?"

I want to play back this guy at 1/4 speed.

"A true fact but deeply problematic." 

"Viral formation that functions like cancer or cholera." Been writing about that myself here. More specifically, here. More recently here.

"Artifacts of false witness." Good one.

"These are indifferent to our ... " Something about social objects that behave like gravity." 

Note: we no longer have gravity on The Giant Zero. Thus spake my wife, who is smarter than me about this shit. And pretty much everything else. 

He asks a question about "socially constructed truth" that we have to deal with as if it is real.

Is there an emoji for truth? Just asking. 

"Is the real structure of society ... intentionalist?" (Did he say "intentionalist"? Hard to tell through his accent and my high-mileage ears.) "Society is not a place where people (something) each other. It's a place where people (something else) each other." I can't tell whether a word he uses is "poor" or "cruel," but it is probably neither.

"Because they decided to do this, they don't know what is happening." (He did say that. I think.)

"You can't say who invented traditional music. You can say the same for religion, politics." Yay! I understood that one!

I've lost weight, but my ass still hurts on this hard chair. That's just truth. Wanted to weigh in on that.

"So the question of financialization." Was there one?

"Grant writers are advancing the notion that this is about neurogenetic diseases... executed... Spotify is interested in beat induction technology... production this kind of platonic object... the question is how it gets financialized." Um...

"Google wants to keep culture free. But there is always a price to be paid... they are all parasites for monetization... ways in which subjectification... the old model of code... contort our bodies... some kind of panopticon ... we know we're being watched, but we behave as if we aren't."  

I'm not. I see mindfuck eyes everywhere.

The paradox for "us in the humanities" is that the Macedonian teenagers hacking the election with adtech is that they did if for money rather than politics. I think he said something like that. I know from elsewhere that it's true. Nothing post- about it.

Q&A time. 

I want to say "Can you repeat all that stuff  veeerrrryyy slllooowwwllllyyy?"

First question is about computer vs. mathmatic code. Deep somethingization of mathematical objects.... Huh?

Robyn translates to the panel: "How are we constructing truths?"

"Mathematics is technology." Something about competence without comprehension. I like that. Not sure why. Maybe because I almost understand it.

"Using symbols without a clear idea about how we're doing it."

"The realm of technology is much wider than we can imagine.... and this gives a good answer... Kant said in order to act we need a concept. Such as of a table when we look at one.

These guys come across to me like those musicians who understand and love atonal music, and can play it very very fast.

"What kind of social text is mathematics? What kind of object." Alex Galloway talks about a screen layer.

Something about a neutrality stance. "The screen layer is hierartized." (Did he say that? No idea.)

Something about "the way they cluster things." Asynchrony or hetero(something), numero(something), heteromophology... different sort from the (something) projected on the screen layer. Holy fuck. What?

"Modeling human perception... requires a different gaze into how the algorithms work." And something about being theory laden.

A good question from Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe about making all this shit simple. Please. (hell, if she doesn't get what they're saying, it can't be gotten. srsly.)

"There are different modes of selecting, heirarctizing..." Cathy ain't buying it. I don't know what's being sold.

Q: We can point to choices being made that have far-reaching effects. Another Q about capital biasing truth production, bolstered by an ad model that does construct an ecosystem where it is possible for these two sets of alternative realities to exist simultaneously. That was a good one.

A: Algorithms create regularities, but truth is not regular.

Something about the capitalism of a like in Facebook. Because the goal of a like is not money, but is to be recognized. Is that sane or insane, to be recognized? If you want to understand what is happening—this is important—(something I can't understand, but has something in it about surviving, I think).

Keep analytic layers provisionally apart before we bring them together. Keep financialization apart from the social layer and what's projected on the screen, and then how it functions as a mathematical object. The bias is transversal from something about "secrete" and "bias." I think. Sure I got some of that right and most of it wrong. But man, I'm trying. I do know it matters.

An aside: the sense I get from Data and Society is that women are in charge now. I mean, of everything. Hope so, anyway.

Q about severe limitations on people taking up code... creating classifications for algorithms. "Does that make sense?"


The way Cambridge Analytica combining the combination of (something about logic, deconstructing, the OCEAN method...) The difference with political profiling is that what you need to do is not buy what they want (as with normal commercial brain-hacking), but a politician. Can be 86% accurate.

Done. Clapping now. Happy hour.

I don't just like Google Maps on my phone. I depend on it, almost utterly, for all kinds of useful travel information: what combination of busses and subways to take, where the traffic is bad and how to route around it, where the good coffee shops are in the vicinity of some appointment I just arrived at a half hour early. The list goes on, and is infinitely long.

It's nice, I guess, that Google Maps is integrated with other stuff on other devices, sort of. But boy, the labor sometimes required to make things work together can start at annoying and end up at aversive, pretty darn fast.

Take for example a few minutes ago, when I looked at Google Maps in the Chrome browser on my laptop, to see about how far away my next appointment is from where I am now, in London.

First, after finding directions, Google Maps asked me if I wanted the directions I just found sent to my phone. I said yes. Then it told me I had to open the Google app on my phone and say yes to a prompt. So I opened my Google app (which I almost never use), rather than my Google Maps app (which would seem to make sense). After a long time passed (about a minute or so), the prompt came up. After I said yes to the prompt, it took me to the front page of the app, which looks like the Google News app, but isn't. The app then gave me three pieces of Trump clickbait and an ad that said "Get the AOL app."  Meanwhile the directions on the Google Map on my laptop disappeared. I find nothing in my Google Maps app, so I have to enter the destination over again there.

So I go to the calendar on my iPhone. While the address is there, I can't copy it. If clicking on it actually worked, I know Apple would open its own Maps app, which I wish were as good as Google Maps, but still sucks (after how many years?). So I have to memorize the address, enter it in Google Maps and take it from there. Which I just did.

None of this is terrible. In fact some of it is freaking miraculous. But it's still a pain in the ass, value-co-subtract for Google and Apple, and yet another lesson in why we need integration to happen at the individual level, outside of anybody's silo.

We drove up to Boston two days ago, but we're not driving back. We're riding on a bus. That's because our car, a 2000 VW Passat wagon, developed fatal transmission problems, and had to be put down.

For some perspective, consider this: All My Rides is a blog post I put up almost ten years ago, listing all seventeen cars I had owned or driven as if I owned them. (For example, cars owned by my parents or my wife.) That list stayed good until yesterday. The Passat was the 17th. But it's not the last, because we do need #18, soon.

I'll miss that car. It was comfortable, handled perfectly, and was remarkably noise- and trouble-free for many (but not all) years. It was also ideal for hauling stuff around: far more roomy than most modern SUVs, which sacrifice cargo space for muscular-looking bodywork (and poor visibility through pinched windows and around wide roof pillars).

What's next? I don't know. I'd like another wagon, and I don't want to spend a lot of money. The Passat was only 5 years old and cost just $5k when I bought it, and I'm looking to spend in the same range again.

On Craigslist in New York, there are lots of VW (mostly Passat) and Audi wagons in the $5k and under range, some with less than 100k miles. I'm also interested in the Scion Xb, a box on wheels that I've driven a few times and like a lot. Lots of those in the same price range. None as cushy as the two German makes, but still appealing. And far less trouble-prone and expensive to repair. Advice welcome.