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."
"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:
And here is the default head tripping among many #customertech developers:
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 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."
"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.
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.
Yesterday at Harvard I live-tweeted 20 Questions on Shock Events with Heather Cox Richardson using Dave's new Electric Pork tool. It was great to be able to write numbered tweets and to discover in the process how to make them coherent, I still miss live blogging, though. Among other advantages, I can go back and correct errors.
While it's cool that tweets can be followed up on, with corrections, (as Heather did for one of my errors here), and to convey thanks (as she did here), and that Twitter does provide a place where some interesting volleys can take place, it's still one company's silo, and a very limited and limiting say to communicate and to spread the word (whatever the word may be).
But hey, we're still getting this Internet thing off to a start. We can, and will, do better.
Today's blizzard in New York turned out to be four inches of slush. No surprise. It's almost always like that here. A big tease ("A foot to twenty inches of snow!"), then a big disappointment.
It'll be great for skiing in New England and Upstate. Meanwhile, it sucks for sledding, just like it always does.
Bonus link: You Can't Sled on Slush.
Jeff Bezos wants to deliver shit to the moon. Elon Musk wants his rocket to at least visit Mars. NASA has long been planning to "expand humanity's presence in the Solar System," starting with Mars.
Love the ambition. As an old science fiction freak, I salute all of them. I am convinced that the highest ambition of of our species should be to take our place in the League of Aliens. For that, these are good moves in the right direction.
But I don't think we're qualified. Not yet.
Let's look again at Blogging 1.x, which Dave (dad of 1999.io, which I'm using here) led, starting in the last millennium. I was one of Dave's earliest users, blogging at doc.weblogs.com, which is still up, thanks to Dave's durable code and the hosting largesse of Jake Savin (@jsavin).
Here is one day in the life of my blog back then, chosen at near-random: September 18, 2001. In it, as you see, I used the blog as a way to share thoughts and work on many subjects, as an accessory to my other work as a journalist.
All of us bloggers were in the midst of processing 9/11 at that time. That event happened only a week earlier and cast a prevailing angst over everything, kind of like the Trump Phenomenon does today. The whole period makes for some very interesting reading, and I encourage readers to click on various dates around then on the blog's calendar. Even though many links are rotted away, it's a good window into a time, and into the dawn of blogging's golden age, which seems to have come and gone: not away, but... somewhere. Not sure yet.
Some provisional thoughts, off the top of my head:
1) Blogging was originally something individuals did for themselves and their readers. While most of us used platforms, those were not "social," or located inside giant silos. Even after Blogger (one of those platforms) was eaten by Google, most of the blogs there (at blogspot.com) were personal. Still are. Wordpress blogs are also still kinda the same way, but Wordpress' design encourages essays rather than shorter posts such as I had at weblogs.com. Since '07 I've been blogging mostly at doc.searls.com and projectvrm.org, both at Harvard, which uses Wordpress.
Medium, which Dave calls the Web's Central Park (a good analogy) is a publishing more than a blogging platform. It has a nice UI, outstanding import capabilities, and is remarkably simple and easy to edit, and yields attractive results. But it's also a silo and still a startup, with the risks that accompany both.
Twitter was called "micro-blogging" in the early days (see here), but then "tweeting" took over as the prevailing vernacular, and the Venn overlap with blogging was reduced to linking and little more. (Example: tweeting links to blog posts.) I tweet mostly via @dsearls, and mostly to share links or spread news of some kind. Fo example, last night I tweeted a link to a photo gallery of the doomed bust of Francesco Franceschi, the namesake of a steep 18-acre Santa Barbara hillside park. Francesco's bust, carved into the crest of a sandstone boulder a century ago, is imperiled by recent rain storms and dramatic erosion in many places, including the slope right under his rocky nose. The tweet alerted three local news outlets. One of them, @Edhat, picked it up. This drove about a hundred readers to my Flickr site, for what that's worth. Far as I know, it hasn't saved Francesco.
2) We lost something big when Twitter and Facebook replaced blogging for many bloggers. The biggest loss was readership. My original blog had between 5000 and 20000 visitors per day, most of which arrived via their RSS readers. I had a very strong sense of connection with those readers, and that's gone now. My two main current blogs get reads in the dozens to hundreds per day. But then, I don't blog daily any more, because Wordpress doesn't make that easy, and I'm too busy with other stuff.
When I do post on my Wordpress blogs, I often run the same posts on Medium, where they typically get a few hundred views. Some go over a thousand, with actual reading running about half that. On Twitter I have 23,700 followers, a handful of which see any of my tweets, given the firehose-y nature of Twitter and tweeting. I can count clicks on shortlinks I've created using Bit.ly, and those run in the handful range, per tweet. Posts at https://www.facebook.com/docsearls also tend get at most a handful of likes or comments (and often none at all), even though I have more than a thousand friends there.
I posted many times per day on my old blog because it was easy and I could feel the readers there. I want to do that again here, but don't yet sense the readership or the interactivity. This is my fault, because I haven't gotten into the groove yet. Instead my groove right now is writing a book.
It's also just harder to blog when there is very little sense of connection anywhere outside of tweets and retweets, which all have the permanence of snow falling on water.
Repartee with friends and relatives is what Facebook seems best for But it doesn't go where I used to blog.
Many of the bloggers who were active in the old days are still active, but on Facebook. I also know some group conversations about Subjects That Matter happen on Facebook and Linkedin, but going to either feels to me like going to a loud hall in an old building with no food and bad art on the walls, where groups of people gather, mostly to yell toward each other over the din.
3) I think Marshall McLuhan has a lot to say about all this. His Laws of Media, for example, form a Tetrad (foursome) of Media Effects, posed as four questions:
a) What does the medium enhance?
b) What does the medium make obsolete?
c) What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
d) What does the medium reverse or "flip into" when pushed to extremes?
Here's a stab at what blogging did, back in the decade:
a) It enhanced journalism.
b) It made obsolete emailing of some kinds. I used to call blogging "email that's 'cc:world'".
c) It retrieved diaries.
d) It reversed or flipped back to vanity publishing.
IMHO. Just saying.
Here's my whack at "social media," notably Facebook and Twitter:
a) They enhance social connections (reconnecting people to friends and relatives, and generating much more social interaction.
b) They obsolete blogging, and possibly journalism (or at least journalism as we knew it) as well. (I think Trump knows this instinctively, and uses social media to re-characterize mainstream journalism as the “enemy” of the very social network that put him in office, and is increasingly becoming a tribe. See d below.)
c) They retrieve gossip, functioning as a worldwide backyard fence.
d) They reverse or flip us back into tribes and tribalism, isolating conversation inside echo chambers and making us blame other groups. The Wall Street Journal's Blue Feed/Red Feed shows clearly how isolated and opposed those tribes are becoming.
Since the tetrad are posed as questions, there can be many answers. I'm still a visitor to the McLuhan oeuvre, even though I've been reading a lot in it. So please don't take my answers as anything more than a way I've followed toward understanding just a bit of What's Going On. Love to hear what others think.
Meanwhile I'll try to blog more here.
Bonus fact: my body of photographic work on Flickr, in excess of 65,000 shots, gets 4,000-10,000 visits per day, and is past two million visits since I started it in 2005. My Medium post titled Dear Adobe, Please Buy Flickr is by far at the top of my readership list, with 12,800 views, 9,100 reads, a 71% read ratio and 409 recommends. Neither Adobe nor Flickr responded, so that worked out.
The best marathon reading of anything, ever, was Tolstoy's War and Peace, on WBAI in New York, in 1971. The Pacifica Radio archive describes it this way:
On December 6, 1970, more than 170 people from all walks of life came together to read from one of the great novels of all time, over the airwaves of Pacifica station WBAI 99.5 FM. Nearly five days later, the legendary actor Morris Carnovsky read the famous last words to Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, ending what was at the time the longest continuous broadcast in radio history. One of the more ambitious radio broadcasts ever undertaken, with one of the largest casts, listeners struggled to stay awake so as not to miss a single sentence, and emptied New York bookstore shelves in pursuit of a companion novel for this historic reading.
The cast of readers included Dustin Hoffman, Ann Bancroft, Mel Brooks, Julius Lester, Abbie Hoffman, William F. Buckley, Buck Henry, and dozens of others.
It changed my life. I read and re-read War and Peace many times after that (though not in recent decades).
I bring it up because I think there is no way, short of literature or poetry, that any of us can get our heads fully around the massively strange, attention-sucking, opinion-inducing all-tantrum Trump presidency.
Those inclined to wonder if Trump is actually leading us somewhere would do well to take in Tolstoy's argument in War and Peace against the Great Man Theory: one I am sure Donald Trump subscribes to. It is thanks to Tolstoy that I see Trump winning the White House as today's equivalent of Napoleon winning the Battle of Borodino, and his troops occupying Moscow as winter sets in.
Washington is Trump's Moscow. He won't "drain the swamp" from Washington any more than Napoleon drained winter from Russia. But big things are indeed afoot. There is a revolution going on, and it's a digital one. During the election, Trump took great advantage of digital technology, especially social media. Better to think of Trump, however, as a phenomenon that would never have been possible in the pre-digital world. In that sense he is less a product of himself than of his time and place: one that is very new to all of us, and we're only beginning to understand.
From David Foster Wallace's This is Water: "There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, 'Morning, boys, how's the water?' And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, 'What the hell is water?'" The water in which we now swim (right here, right now) is digital. It's not spoken word, or written by hand, or printed, or broadcast. It's something else. Trump was lucky to be lifted by its tide.
But that doesn't mean he knows what he's doing with it. In fact, it's pretty clear that he hardly has a clue about how the office he occupies actually works, or what it was designed for.
So I don't think he'll be able to enjoy the same success in the White House as he enjoyed getting there. Because the digital world is one in which all of us can participate, and all of us have agency. That alone may prove to be more than any leader can handle, especially one with Trump's flaws.
So we'll see how it goes. If the Internet is the world's largest clue exchange (and it is, among a zillion other things, most TBD), maybe something like democracy will come out the other side. Or maybe some kind of massive self-mutating crazyocracy where everything will be way more fubar than it already is. Time and space will tell.
Mother Jones used to have a great slogan: “You trust your mother, but you cut the cards.”
One mother I trust is Cory Doctorow, who posted The White House closed its public comment lines, so activists launched a tool to call Trump properties instead yesterday in BoingBoing. Pull quote: "The White House closed its public comments line has been closed for four days now; Trump says that people who want to leave a comment for the President can write a Facebook message instead.”
Nowhere in the comments is there any disagreement with that. But I cut the cards anyway, and called the White House at 202-456-1111. Then I recorded what the greeting there said. Here are the opening lines
"Thank you for calling the White House comment line. The comment line is currently closed, but your comment is important to the President, and we urge you to send us a comment online at www.whitehouse.gov/contact, or send us a message through Facebook Messenger. For government information by topic…”
The full URL is this: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact. There is a form to fill out there, and a place to enter one’s comment. The same page can also be reached by going to https://www.whitehouse.gov/ and clicking on the “Participate” heading, which brings down a menu with “Contact the White House” on it, which goes to the page above.
I'm guessing that Facebook Messenger yesterday (when the BoingBoing piece went up) was the only way one could send a comment to the White House then. And it could be that President Trump told people to use Facebook Messenger. (I looked and can’t find evidence of that, but maybe he did.)
My point with this: in Our Time of Constant Outrage, we need to check all the facts we can, which change over time. In other words, cut the cards.
I also think we need to budget our outrage and be as strategic as possible in dealing with the real damage Trump's wrecking crew is doing, on a pretty much constant basis. Especially since, as Glenn Reynolds says here, he's playing us. (The word for how is gaslighting. Another word: trolling.)
Cory's piece shares one tactic: "Revolution Messaging's White House Inc is a tool that connects your phone to the main switchboard of a random Trump property somewhere in the world, because 'Until Trump steps away from his businesses for real, their property is no different from the Oval Office.'" The BBC relays the same advice.
Yet I sense that doing the usual lefty things will mostly play into Trump’s short-fingered hands. We need to budget our outrage and come at the problems he causes from angles that enlarge our constituency. Meaning we need people who voted for Trump to fight him too. They have plenty of reason already.
So, toward that goal, here’s one possibility, which I offer without comment:
"We are returning to an edge-intelligence distributed computing model that's absolutely thematic with the trends in computing moving from centralized out to distributed."
“We are absolutely going to return to a peer-to-peer computing model where the edge devices connect together creating a network of end point devices not unlike what we sort of saw in the original distributed computing model.”
Good stuff. I'd add that we also need maximized individual agency at those distributed "end points," which should really be "start points."
[A newer version of this post is in Medium at http://bit.ly/trvtsg.]
In The New York Times' In New Jersey, Only a Few Media Watchdogs Are Left, David Chen writes, "The Star-Ledger, which almost halved its newsroom eight years ago, has mutated into a digital media company requiring most reporters to reach an ever-increasing quota of page views as part of their compensation."
That quota is to attract adtech placements.
Adtech is called advertising and looks like advertising, but it's a different breed. That breed is direct marketing, a cousin of spam descended from what we still call junk mail.
Like junk mail, adtech is driven by data, intrusively personal, looking for success in tiny-percentage responses, and oblivious to massive negative externalities, such as wanton and unwelcome surveillance and filling the world with crap.
Here's one way to tell the difference between real advertising and adtech:
Here's another difference:
Journalism is also limited to some degree by its ethics and the cost of producing ethical products.
Content generation has no ethics, and the cost of producing it is very low. Without the ethical limits of journalism, content production is free to create any kind of content that attracts eyeballs and clicks. Hence fake news.
Standing up a fake news site is dead simple, as The New York Times just reported. So is making money at it, as Buzzfeed reported, days before last year's Presidential election day in the U.S., in How Teens In The Balkans Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News.
Simply put, fake news has a business model, and that model is adtech.
In the old advertising-supported publishing world, journalism was what mattered most. In the new adtech-supported publishing world, content is what matters most.
The Faustian bargain ad-supported journals made was in trading journalism for content production, and trading read advertising for adtech.
As I wrote in Separating Advertising's Wheat and Chaff, what happened in the process of that bargain was that "Madison Avenue fell asleep, direct response marketing ate its brain, and it woke up as an alien replica of itself."
It is to satisfy that alien replica that the Star Ledger now wants an "ever-increasing quota of page views" more than the journalism that was once its stock in trade. And why the paper is now itself something of an alien replica.
That alien replica also doesn't care that it is driving people into mutually hostile echo chambers, as The Wall Street Journal's Blue Feed / Red Feed demonstrates.
Want to save journalism and the democracies that depend on it? Re-brain Madison Avenue and the CMOs that are still drunk on digital. Bring back real advertising.
To help with that, go back and read Don Marti's Targeting failure: legit sites lose, intermediaries win.
Yesterday, while I was hanging out in line with a friend and other freezing passengers about to board a Megabus from New York to Boston, people passed the time sharing stories of many intercity bus transport failures. Examples:
— Tires blown. One bus kept going until passengers in mutiny got the driver to stop.
— A bus with a blown tire that still had enough other tires to finish carrying it the last mile to its destination, but instead had to sit while a car with a mechanic dispatched from headquarters came out, an hour later, to inspect the bus and say it was okay to proceed.
— A bus that jammed under a railroad trestle while the driver was lecturing a trainee on best practices. (One of my stories.)
— A bus that caught fire.
— A bus driver who had no navigation instrument to help when a traffic jam forced the bus onto surface streets, so a passenger with a phone and a map app (my wife in this case) stepped up to co-pilot the bus, getting cheers from the rest of the passengers when the bus finally arrived.
Now our son is in a failed bus from Ohio to New York, waiting for a replacement to arrive at a rest stop.
In Pew's Americans Name the 10 Most Significant Historic Events of Their Lifetimes, my generation unsurprisingly puts the Vietnam War at #1.
So I thought I'd list the ten most consequential events in my lifetime, at least according to me. YMMV. Here goes:
1. Climate change. Nothing out-matters it, for every species and the planet itself. That the topic hardly matters to the species contributing more than any other to climate change does not suggest good outcomes, unless you're rooting for an end to everyone and everything. (Which, in the long run, is a winning bet.)
3. The Vietnam War. Ended the U.S.'s role as a postwar peacemaker and nation re-builder. Started the U.S. on the path of interventionism from which it has too rarely veered since then. Also caused the Sixties, the Generation Gap, Nixon 2.0 and other distractions.
3. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations. Set civil rights back perhaps a century or more. We're still suffering from it. I cannot convey how dispiriting the loss of those leaders was for anybody who worked to escape the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow in the U.S. Both assassinations also took nonviolence off the table as both a virtue and a strategy. No person or movement of much consequence has picked it up since. And hey, maybe Robinson Jeffers was right in The Bloody Sire: stark violence is still sire to all the world's values. (Interesting data.)
4. The 9/11 attacks. A sucker-punch against the U.S. that worked exactly as its masterminds intended, provoking the U.S. into one war after anotehr. I can't begin to describe all the awful ways this has worked out so far.
5. The personal computer. The first proof that a technology formerly plied only by large organizations in central ways would prove far more useful and beneficial for all when distributed out into the hands of individuals.
6. The Internet. Reduced to zero the functional distance between everybody and everything connected through it, and at costs that round to zero as well. If personal computing was the first shoe to drop, this was the second, because it also proved that a technology once belonging only to central powers was far more useful and beneficial in the hands of everyone.
7. Rock and Roll. A bastard child of rhythm & blues and country & western, it remains the classical music of our time, to be played for centuries hence.
8. Personal data. Of full value only when today's broken B2B market for personal data is replaced by a C2B one, run by customers for their own benefit first and for the benefit of business second. When that happens, the Attention Economy will collapse and The Intention Economy will emerge.
9. 11/9: The Trump election of 2016. Not the man but why. In War and Peace, Tolstly said that history caused Napoleon, rather than vice versa. So perhaps history called forth Trump. As with Napoleon, the consequences will be large and enduring.
10. Watergate. It changed politics and journalism, to name just two institutions, for decades to come, if not forever.
Bummed to hear that Jim Lowe died. Still, he had a good long life.
Jim was one of the greatest disc jockeys of all time. Nobody knew more about the American Songbook, or did a better interview with the greats.
He was also a good performer. His song "Green Door" was a Number One hit, back in the Fifties.
I just got an email from Demand Progress that begins this way:
Friend, It’s unbelievable.
Journalists reached out to nine major tech companies asking if they would help the Trump administration build a national Muslim registry, and only Twitter said no!
Text in a box with a Sign This Petition button says, "UNBELIEVABLE: 8 out of 9 tech companies won’t rule out helping Trump build a national Muslim registry."
The footnote at the end of the passage leads to Of Nine Tech Companies, Only Twitter Says It Would Refuse to Help Build Muslim Registry for Trump, by Sam Biddle, in The Intercept.
In the body of that piece it says seven of the other eight companies either "declined to comment" or had "no answer." Not that they "refused" to do anything. The eighth, Microsoft, said “We’re not going to talk about hypotheticals at this point,” and pointed to company PR boilerplate. That's also not quite "refusing."
So let's be clear. Not answering one journal's question is not the same as "won't rule out helping Trump..."
While it's good for Demand Progress (and the rest of us) to demand that other companies match Twitter's position, it's not good to twist a story like this one into saying what it doesn't. Especially at a time when journalism itself is becoming more and more lost and discredited.
All the well-voted answers are good ones.
I’ll just add a bit more for the purpose of clarity and perspective.
Health care in the U.S. is an insurance business. That means it is mostly B2B (business to business), not B2C (business to consumer). As individuals and families, we may tend on the whole to pay a portion of our largest medical expenses (doctors, hospitals, clinics, drugs), but most health care costs are paid by employers. And they are paid to insurance companies. While we should be stakeholders in this discussion, we are not.
There are only two paths around the current system, neither of which the U.S. has been willing to take.
One starts with the assumption that health care is a right and not a privilege, and to have the government manage the whole thing, to control costs, harmonize technologies and maximize accountability to the individuals who receive care. This includes “single payer,” and is what most developed countries do.
The other starts with the assumption that health care is not a right, and to make the system, as far as possible, into a B2C one, in which everybody is on their own and insurance is available to individuals in large risk pools of their own making, rather than being tied to employers. This is more consistent with the direction the world is going, with more people both independent and self-employed.
The elephant in both rooms is risk calculations based on big data about every individual. When risk data (including DNA) about individuals can be fully (or sufficiently) known by insurance companies and health care providers, it will be possible for both to guess rather well what the forward costs of care for those individuals will be. There are no easy answers to what comes next, who should be responsible for what, or what the institutional frameworks should be. The one clear thing is that none of the existing or current imagined systems can fully deal with it. And that all political positions, especially those sustained by habit, loyalty and emotion, will mislead discussions.
After an excellent Thanksgiving with the family in Morgan Hill, CA, we began today's long wacky trip.
Started at 3:15am, when we picked up The Kid at an in-law's house in Morgan Hill, then drove up to SFO. There we dropped him off for his flights to Denver and Columbus, turned around and headed down 101, vectored for Pasadena.
That's where we are now, 400 miles later. Soon we'll catch a ride to LAX, where we'll catch a plane for London.
Which we should get to in time for some meetings tomorrow.
Then we're booked solid on business for a week there.
Then back to New York.
I need a nap.
[Later, at LAX...] The flight is delayed more than an hour. Missing first officer (no kidding). The pilot is a friend, and is concerned because the officer can't be found. A sub is coming in off the bench.
[Eventually, in Southampton, UK...] We were on the road and in the air for close to 24 hours, 19:43 of which was "moving time," according to my GPS.
Searls is the one surname in my family tree to have been passed down only by males. Here are the others I know: Oman (or Ohman), Sponberg, Reed, Butler, Johnson, Adams, Trainor (Thréinfhir), Hockey, McLaughlin, Rung and Allen. There are dozens, hundreds, thousands and perhaps millions more, all gone and forgotten by nearly as many, also gone.
Yet I am no less any of them than I am a Searls.
My second cousin Martin and I share great-grandparents, and many scans of many photos, including hand-written or typed notes (mostly by Martin's late Mom, Catherine (née Dwyer) Burns. These I publish in a slow-mo informal effort to gradually preserve a few tattered braids of mostly lost history: of persons, occasions and stories, all of which ought to have some value, even though (or perhaps because) none of the departed were especially notable. The one small exception is our great-grandfather, Henry Roman Englert, there on the right with the dapper coat and waxed mustache. Henry headed the Steel and Copper Plate Engravers Union in New York. A little more about him here.
One interesting coincidence, at least to our family, is that Martin's birthday, November 14, is the same as my grandmother (his great aunt), Ethel F. (née Englert) Searls, sister to Martin's grandma, Florence (née Englert) Dwyer. Our grandmas were 2 of 5 daughters of Henry and Kitty (née Trainor), who died at age 39. After that, the Englert girls' Aunt Margaret ("Mag") took over, at least for awhile.
So here is my latest, which includes some names on the unmarked graves we found at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx.
I've been young a long time, and I have no more intention to retire than did Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both within a year of my age.
I haven't done a survey, but it seems like most friends and relatives my age are either retired or dead. This doesn't bother me, though I am conscious of it. But I am also conscious of the refrain in Mike Cross's classic song, "Uncle Josh":
Livin' / at its longest / is just a short trip to the grave / So you might as well go ahead and enjoy what you can along the way / 'Cuz if the doctor said you were going to die / wouldn't you do what you please? / Listen here brother, life's just another / terminal disease.
It pleases me to do what I've always been doing, and I plan to keep doing it until life gets me. (According to this, odds are I'll make it to 92.)
But I also want to lighten the load I carry. That includes all the accumulated clutter in my life. In one of the interviews I point to in Loving Leonard, he speaks of the great satisfaction he finds, as his life's end approaches, of tying up loose ends, finishing what he can and leaving the unfinished in a shape that minimizes burdens on survivors.
So I've taken up two new disciplines. One is losing weight. I've done that before the Atkins way, by avoiding carbs, and I'm doing it again. (So far, five pounds in three weeks.) The other is by getting rid of shit. Every day, something goes. It's kind of like dieting. Makes me feel lighter.
I saw this coming. Trump ran the table through the GOP primaries, and he would do it again through the general election. And so he did. And his coat-tails are long. We'll have a Trump presidency and a Republican Congress.
I'm not sure it's going to go in the ways we losers expect: that The Worst is going to happen. But I am sure that the country is terribly divided, and that the big problems are none that either candidate talked much about.
It might help to read Scott Adams again. He's gloating, but he won too, in his own way. He's certainly right that Trump is a Great Persuader and that facts never mattered much, either to him or to his voters. Slogans did. Dreams and fears did. And he spoke to both.
I'm getting ready to give a keynote at #Brandweek2016 Istanbul. My new talk, as of this morning, is about how a brand and a slogan just won the U.S. presidency. And what that might mean. Even though I don't know. None of us do, yet.
One of Trump's slogans was "Drain the swamp." While I feel like one of the drained, there is a rising generation that wanted Bernie, not Hillary, and that isn't racist or sexist or interested in the continued U.S. military domination of the world. It is filled with immigrants, and welcoming of personal differences. It wants to deal with climate change and other issues that truly matter. Our hope is in them.
They aren't even close to the drain, and won't go down. Instead they'll take over. They'll have to.
One reason, I suppose, is that it's hard to go upscale if you're already down. (Examples: J.C. Penney went downscale and had a hard time moving up.) But another reason might be that the market for premium video is already saturated. Audio too.
The typical middle class American household, for example, is already viewing, reading and listening to many of the following subscription services:
And that's in addition to a plethora of print and online publications, including the ones that used to be free online but are now shaking you down for subscriptions, especially if you're using an ad blocker. (Hello Condé Nast, The Atlantic, et. al.)
And then there's noncommercial radio and TV, which have lived off voluntary subscriptions since forever.
When and how do we reach saturation? Are we there already?
And how do we get control over the subscriptions we have — and over variables such as terms, durations, charitable donations (to the noncommercial ones), contact info, etc.?
The answer: when we get our own dashboard for controlling all these things, on our own computers and mobile devices. This would be a VRM thing.
We'll also need our own way to account for usage, so we can make the fully informed choices about how we spend our money. Are Quicken or Quickbooks good enough for that? Short answer: no.
My own fantasy for accounting is a personal version of Xero, an almost addictively practical and revealing way for a small business to see and understand how the money side of its enterprise actually works.
For more about how this might go in the future, see What small businesses and their customers have in common. Meanwhile, let's make the most of the hashtag in the headline, which I just thought up.
I’m in Half Moon Bay, listening to KHMB, a noncommercial low power FM (LPFM) station here, on 100.9 fm. It’s playing oldies right now, interrupted by local public service announcements, some of which sound like ads, all apparently automated. It is licensed as KHMV-LP, but called “KHMB AM and FM” on the air. (I suppose their callsign is KHMV because KHMB was already taken by a station in Hamburg, Arkansas.) It’s also “AM and FM," since it also radiates on 1710am.
Many of the announcements only mention the AM signal, though they are simulcast, at least when I've been listening.
At first I thought the AM signal must be licensed as a TIS (Travelers Information Station). But, according to Wikipedia, "While 1710 kHz appears on many radios, it is unused even by TIS stations, exception being TIS (WQFG689) licensed with a waiver to the Hudson County, New Jersey. This is because aeronautical radio navigation may use 1708 kHz. It has also been a popular frequency with both Part 15 and North American MW pirate radio station operators especially in the Midwest and east coast of the United States."
What little I know of the rules suggest that KFMB is either a pirate or operating under Part 15 of the FCC rules, which say, "On the standard AM broadcast band, transmission power is limited by 100 milliwatts of DC input power to the final RF stage (with restrictions on size, height and type of antenna), or, alternatively, under 15.221, if the AM transmission originates on the campus of an educational institution, the transmission can theoretically be any power so long as it does not exceed the field strength limits stated in 15.209 at the perimeter of the campus..." In other words, too weak to get out of the yard.
The FM transmitter is at 37° 26' 49" N, 122° 25' 55" W, or somewhere on the south side of Wavecrest Road, off Highway 1, south of Half Moon Bay. I'm currently at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, about a mile away across a golf course, and the signal on 1710 is pretty strong. But the AM transmitter might not be in the same place as the FM, so I dunno.
KHMB does stream, through http://khmbradio.com/player.html (also a window on its website), though not, apparently, though a published IP address. So, even though it's listed on TuneIn, you can't get it there.
[Update on Sunday, October 30...]
On my way out of town yesterday, I took a quick side trip down Wavecrest road to see if I could see either the FM or the AM antennas for KFMB. I didn't see an FM one, but, since the FCC license says it's only 15.5 meters (~50 feet) above the ground, it would be easy to miss amidst all the trees and industrial stuff there. But I did see, though some trees, a wire of unknown length that ended in an insulator. That, I suspect, is the AM antenna. (Those are normally vertical towers or poles, but horizontal will do too.)
We got both signals well in our car, driving driving south on US1 (Cabrillo Highway) to a short distance past Pescadero Beach. The signal path to that point, especially south of Tunitas Creek, is mostly over ocean. AM waves are favored by high ground conductivity, and salt water is best of all.
Hard to tell, but I suspect KHMB's AM signal is stronger than most—or possibly all—TIS signals, which (says the link above) "are limited to a 10 watt transmitter output power, an antenna height no greater than 15 meters (49.2 feet), and a coverage radius of 3 km." Since Pescadero Beach is about 15 miles from Half Moon Bay, I'm guessing that the station is putting out at a lot more than 100mw. But I dunno.
[Later... in an email exchange, I found it operates under Part 15. So I'll take their word for it.]
Regardless of all that, give it a listen. It's great local radio.
Back in the early ‘90s, when I was making a good living as a marketing consultant, I asked my wife—a successful businesswoman and a retailing veteran—why it was that heads of corporate Sales & Marketing departments were always from Sales people and not from Marketing people. Her answer: “Simple: Sales is real. Marketing is bullshit.”
When I asked her to explain that, she said this wasn’t marketing’s fault. The problem was the role marketing was forced to play. “See, sales touches the customer; but marketing can’t, because that’s sales’ job. So marketing has to be ‘strategic.’” She put air-quotes around “strategic.” She acknowledged that this was an over-simplification, and not fair to all the good people in marketing (such as myself) who really were trying to do right by customers. But her remark spoke to the need to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not, and to dig deeper into why the latter has become such an enormous part of the way we do business.
On a #cce16 panel going on right now, @sunderks just talked about how marketing can be disconnected from the rest of a business, and from its business model. Others on the panel (@shellkillebrew & @tomwillner) nodded. All three have also been trying to put #digital marketing into a human context, which is good, and important. But the disconnect persists, because marketing is structurally isolated from the market, which is customers. Let me explain.
While the old disconnect between marketing and sales is still there, the disconnect between marketing and market is barely bridged, at best, by digital, which has been a marketing obsession for the last decade. In fact, the disconnect may be worse than ever, thanks to marketing's obsession with harvesting and metabolizing personal data, and using it to target personal messages directly to individuals. These are the digital equivalent of junk mail. And, like junk mail, digital messages mostly miss the mark and clutter people's lives. Meanwhile, the direction of marketing remains one-way and one-to-many, no matter how personalized the messages to any individual might be.
To eliminate the disconnect between customers and companies (and de-bullshit marketing), customers need to be in charge of how they relate to companies in the digital world. They aren't yet. Not only do they still lack the tools required, but every company with a system for relating to customers does it differently, and inside its own silo.
Which means they need scale across those companies. They have that with everything they actually drive, including their cars, phones, computers and cash. They don't, however, within the relationship systems provided separately by all the companies they deal with.They are driven, rather than driving, within each of those relationships. It's even worse than that outside of relationships, where customers are constant targets of marketing messages, way too many of which are aimed by rude and unwelcome surveillance and nearly all of which miss the mark.
Here is an example of scale you don't have: changing your address or last name for every company you deal with, in one move, rather than going to a hundred websites and through as many web forms, like a bee going from flower to flower to flower. Or intentcasting a request for something you want, to a whole market, rather than separately to different companies. (Example: calling for a ride from any company, rather than only from Uber, Lyft or whomever, through each of their own separate apps.)
Personal scale is what bridges the disconnect between customers and marketing. Without it, the disconnect persists, marketers remain clueless, and bullshit thrives, no matter how much data marketing collects, not matter how digital they become, and how much AI they deploy. There is no substitute for genuine human contact, run by the humans we call customers.
Among the many conceits that maintain marketing's isolation from markets is the persistent assumption that CRM (customer relationship management) CX (customer experience), CE (customer engagement) and the "customer journey" (toward purchase) are all the responsibility of the company, rather than the customer.
The market is a dance floor, where many dances are possible. The problem, as Adele Menichella puts it (in The Intention Economy), "Companies need to dance with, not on, their customers." For all their good intentions, marketing can't help dancing on their customers, rather than with them, if customers can't take the lead.
Which they will, with VRM ways to engage companies' CRM, CE and CX systems.
GM and IBM do. So I wrote this in the comments under that link:
Earth to GM, IBM, and brands of all kinds: nobody buys a car for its marketing system. This article just talked me out of ever wanting to buy a new GM car.
Drivers want to drive. Not to be driven.
It doesn't matter how well Watson thinks it understands what a driver might want. If the system steers the coffee snob driver toward Starbucks instead of a better coffee shop that isn't paying for placement on the dashboard, that driver is going to to feel betrayed and hate the whole thing.
The other two comments, so far:
Can I get a discount for the non-ad version? and
Intrusive BS...! Ad Blocker's 1st app for me...!
It may help to remember that the term "branding" comes to us from the cattle industry.
Back in the last millennium, I was often mistaken for David Bunnell at conferences. To see why, check out the photo of David from his Macworld days this piece about him in Fast Company, and then look at the pic of me at the top of my old blog.
David died Sunday. No details, so far. His Wikipedia entry says nothing about it, and also has no exact birth date. Just the year: 1947. Same as me.
For all his great work as a publisher, and having lived a very public life for several decades atop the tech world, there was always something private and mysterious about David. For example, why he either erased or buried the digital version of Upside, after it went bankrupt and ceased publication in 2002. That bothered me, not just because I had written for the magazine, but because it was the best chronicler of the whole dot-com boom/bust era. And now that was all gone. Far as I know, David never gave a reason.
But he was a good guy, a good publisher, and a true pioneer. And he's already missed.
So here is a better idea. Zig while the others zag, by doing what no other B2B "social media" company is willing to do—yet—but will likely try after the advertising bubble finally pops.
Go B2C. Sell services direct.
Start with the high end. Make your best users into your first and best customers. The easiest way to start is by offering an ad-free Twitter experience. Lots of people will be willing to pay for that.
But the most leveraged way is by turning the best of Twitter's usage into an even more valuable version of what it already is: the @AP for everybody with real and worthwhile news (or plain old information) to share.
Start with a low $ amount per month or year, and offer some value-ads that I'm sure your new customers would be glad to request. You'll bring in lots of the free-range journalists who have been wandering in the desert ever since "social media" and clickbait-grade "content" (and the shitty surveillance-fed adtech that pays for it) laid waste both to blogging and respectable publishing.
I'd gladly pay that. Or more.
Dutch secret service wants to have all encryption keys
The boss of the Dutch secret service AIVD, Rob Bertholee, showed himself to be a fanatical opponent of every form of encrypted communication. He sees security to be a direct opposite of privacy. “You have to ask yourself how much your privacy is worth to you.” Although this line of thought could be expected from a man whose job is to get to know as much as possible about potential terrorists in The Netherlands, the absence of encryption does not make life safer. The fact that companies have to leave backdoors open, implies that evil-minded people might also be able to use these, which in turn could make society less secure rather than more.
On top of this pragmatic objection, which in its own right is already a valid reason to keep using encryption, there is also a more important ideological reason, which fits seamlessly with the principles of the Qiy Foundation. Privacy is not something you can give up to be a bit more secure. Privacy is a collective value you cannot weigh against security because it is an independent notion, which deserves protection. It protects other values and freedoms that are important for our entire society. In fact, as we wrote in the aftermath of the attacks in Brussels: even in tumultuous times, privacy and security go hand in hand and both are essential to retain trust in the digital world. In the Dutch State Budget for the upcoming year it says: “The AIVD (secret service) investigates organizations, people and other countries that form a potential danger to the Dutch democratic rule of law and other important interests of state.” Since one of the goals of the AIVD is to protect the democratic rule of law, advocating the abolishment of encryption, which protects certain individual rights, seems paradoxical.
Personal privacy in the online world should derive directly from the Castle Doctrine. Only you should have the keys to your home on the Net. And only you and those to whom you send messages over the Net have the right to see those messages. That has also been the purpose of the wax seal (such as the one above) on mailed envelopes, for hundreds of years. That encryption works better than a wax seal isn't what matters here. What matters is that we need our private spaces online as well as off, and also to make sure our private communications are indeed private.
Doors, locks, window shades, clothing, sealed envelopes and other forms of privacy protection in the offline world should serve as models for the online world as well.
If somebody has a link to the original Qiy piece, please send it along. If @qiytweet tweets it, I'll be sure to point to it as well.
[The following is a March 2005 blog post I'm re-running here, for reasons I'll get into after I post some other stuff that's in the works.]
A couple weeks ago I was hanging out with George Lakoff and friends while they waited for a late plane here in Santa Barbara, where George had given a speech the night before. One of those friends was not yet hip to blogs, so it became a fun conversational project to describe blogs metaphorically, especially since metaphors are George's forté, to say the least.
Once he understood that blogs were powerful tools for change, the friend began to run down a list of Big Challenges that I, as a well-known blogger, should tackle.
I'm sure this isn't exactly verbatim, but it's pretty close to the reply I gave:
Tell ya what. I'm fifty-seven years old, and I've been pushing large rocks for short distances up a lot of hills, for a long time. Now, with blogging, I get to roll snowballs down hills. Some don't go very far. But some get pretty big once they start rolling.
See, each snowball grows as others link to the original idea, and add their own thoughts and ideas. By the time the snowball gets big enough to have some impact, it really isn't my idea any more.
Anyway, at this point in my life I'd rather roll snowballs than push rocks.
That conversation came to mind as I re-read Steve Gillmor's RSS for food. This passage in particular:
I also operate on the assumption that if it's a good idea, the chances are also good that somebody else had it too. Case in point, the RSS/BitTorrent idea, which I "invented" back in December in my eWEEK column. In the blogosphere, it produced a dressing down from several techies who assumed I misunderstood how the technology worked ( "The point that Gillmor missesŠ" and "Gillmor's vision is upside downŠ") and a slashdotting of the syndicated Yahoo News version.
The net Blogging for Food result: I am permanently immortalized as an idiot on Google, received no page rank whuffie since the original post preceded the rollout of my eWEEK blog, and didn't even get the benefit of a Slashdot traffic spike on the originating eWEEK.com site. But thanks to Andrew Grumet, who actually picked up the idea and implemented it, and Dave Winer, who saw the familiar makings of a low barrier publishing framework for audio and video, and TiVo, who's fighting Rupert Murdoch's Direct TV and the DRM lobby by moving to Web content delivery, the RSS BitTorrent idea is still growing.
As Jay Rosen said when he snowballed a toss-off line of mine, Blogging is about making and changing minds.
Sure, weblogs are good for making statements, big and small. But they also force re-statement. Yes, they're opinion forming. But they are equally good at unforming opinion, breaking it down, stretching it out, re-building it around new stuff. Come to some conclusions? Put them in your weblog, man, but just remember: it doesn't want to conclude.
I think Big Challenges start with conclusion, with finished opinions. That's what makes them sysiphean. They are bodies at rest that are hard to put into motion, especially in an uphill direction.
But if you start with an idea, whether partly formed or whole, whether yours or somebody else's, and push it in the downhill direction that all blogging (thanks to links and RSS) essentially goes, it's bound to have some impact once it grows large enough. And as long as it keeps going.