I've reached a point, or perhaps the point has reached me, when I cannot stomach any more political news. I think that's because Trump's speeches the other day at the National Prayer Breakfast, and later to his Republican colleagues at the White House, made clear to me that he was not only a terrible and dangerous prick of a person, but a true leader. I loathe his style and much else about him; but he truly leads his party and close to half of the country. Meanwhile the Democrats have no leader. They don't even share a purpose other than getting rid of Trump. They don't stand for any one thing other than governing well, while most of the country doesn't believe any collection of politicians can do that... least of all the circular firing squad all the wannabe leaders now comprise. The last shooter standing will be a dead pol walking by the time she or he faces Trump alone.
Bloomberg is the exception. He is the anti-Trump, and at this point the only candidate who, IMHO, can beat Trump.
His job is to convince more than half the electorate, most importantly in the swing states, that he'll manage the country as well as he did his company and his city, and maybe that'll be enough. And maybe, if it starts looking like he (or any Dem) stands a chance, I'll pay attention again. Meanwhile I'll stand by what I wrote in the last post and sit out the news coverage as much as I can. And then lament the consequences for at least the next four years as well.
Listening to SCAN on the radio this last week, especially on the AM band—and then watching and listening to much of the Impeachment trial on TV and radio—it became clear to me that the Republican and Democratic parties are like divorced parents fighting over children who are also taking sides. Typically of people who don't get along, they make broad and demeaning assumptions about each other, full of characterization and dismissiveness. Whether they are right or wrong about each other are beside this simple point: they are locked in a conflict that will only be resolved, unhappily, when one or the other wins.
The Republicans will win this round. I think they'll win in November as well, with Trump crowing all the way about putting down "the coup." But they'll lose in the longer run, because the demographics and the economy won't keep working for them, and Trump's celebrity will wear out. Some Democrat will be elected president in 2024, with a tide of other Democrats winning both houses of Congress. But it won't be pretty in the meantime. Trump will pack the Supreme Court while remaining a dishonest egomaniac whose corrupt history will catch up with him one way or another—while the Democratic party will split between young and old, socialist and traditionalist. Its center will not hold.
The center in the country as a whole is already gone, lost in the divorce. (I did a TEDx talk about that center, here.) I suspect the new center in Democratic politics will be a socialist one, because the giant problems—global warming, pandemics, economic disasters, rotten infrastructure—will be ones government will seem to be in the best position to solve.
I'm not saying any of what I just said is true, by the way. It's just what I'm thinking on a Saturday evening in February 2020.
Onion online advertising timeline. As tragically funny as every other Onion piece.
The Correspondent: The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising. I started writing about this in 2008, in a blog post titled Why online advertising sucks, and is a bubble. It was first on a list that is now 128 posts, articles, podcasts and essays long. (And it's far from complete.) If anyone wants to help me make that into a book, let me know. it should be.
About personal scale. Spread that word.
Sogeti: Utopia for Executives. An excellent report, and not just because it sources me. Here's how the Table of contents (as best I can copy/paste it),
https://www.apple.com/privacy/ keeps changing. Not saying that's in a bad way. Or a good one. Just observing.
The Customer: Data Transparency and Ethical Data Harvesting aren’t just Buzzwords: CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) is a comprehensive legislative package that many experts are saying will become standard baseline rules for consumer data practices here in the U.S. – soon. Very soon.
Ray Dalio: The World Has Gone Mad and the System is Broken.
From The New York Times' 13 November Sunday Times magazine:
The Times on the next day (14 Nov): Cities Worldwide Are Reimagining Their Relationship With Cars
Three Reason essays. (If you're going to read Right, Reason is the best. As you see here, they agree that climate change is real.)
Facial recognition surveillance is biased, invasive, and it violates my basic rights. I urge you to pass legislation that bans the government from using this dangerous technology to spy on the American public. Thank you.
Nice and simple. Also incomplete, because it leaves the private sector at liberty to do all the facial recognition it wants.
If you're going to ban facial recognition, why not ban it completely?
Simply put, because it won't work, at least not across the board. Facial recognition will still be developed and used by countless companies in many countries, some of which see it as a huge advantage.
Even if the UN bans facial recognition, countries such as China (which loves it) are still going to do it, and encourage its private sector to do the same. Both those sectors are massive.
So this isn't a situation where the cat is out of the bag, but where there are countless cats, all are robots, all of them can know faces, and some can carry guns while obeying orders from whomever or whatever controls them.
For more on that scenario, see the IEEE's Slaughterbots* debate:
It should help to remember the first rule of technology: What can be done will be done—until people realize what shouldn't be done. Example one: nuclear power.
With some technologies it's hard to imagine all the things that can, can't, should, and shouldn't be done. This one's easy.
So, since slaughterbots go in the lower left box, what can be done to prevent them now? Is it a petition such as this one? Something else? What?
Bonus link: About face.
One of the also-ran browser makers (not on the list to the right here) sent me a survey explaining how they are "introducing new paid subscriptions and would love to know what kind of protection" I would value. It has three plans, at $0, $5 and $14 per month, to "suit your privacy needs." Below that is a grid of ten kinds or levels of protection, each unexplained. Typically, they are called "Basic," "Plus" and "Premium." They also gave me a place to expand on the choice it wasn't clear that I made. Here's what I wrote, with some personal stuff subtracted:
Too complicated. Also too typical. Let me explain.
First, I'm fairly technical and a very involved in all this stuff*, and I'm not sure exactly what "Browser Protection" or "Priority Support" (among other listed things) are, and doubt that I (or anybody other than lawyers) will read the details if the description (which should be linked to under the headings in the left column) is longer than a simple paragraph.
Second, there are already too many variables for most people within and between all their browser choices. That's both within and between those browsers and their many possible add-ons and other connections (such as to VPNs and password managers). What's needed is a simple and global approach to privacy that comes *before* the browser, in some kind of master control the user operates for herself. See https://blogs.harvard.edu/vrm/2015/02/15/a-master-app-to-give-customers-scale/ , http://customercommons.org/2016/03/15/customers-need-scale-of-their-own/ , https://medium.com/@dsearls/customertech-will-turn-the-online-marketplace-into-a-marvel-like-universe-in-which-all-of-us-are-ea6adcfc94f1 and other pieces. You could rocket ahead of all your competitors if you start there rather than inside the highly competitive and mature browser field, where you're is a distant ... what, fifth? sixth? Instead, be the *first* in a category that gives users leverage they should have had in 1995. It's open territory.
*Look me up: https://www.google.com/search?q=doc+searls . Also http://searls.com. And if you want to talk, write me at doc at searls dot com. Glad to help.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Meanwhile, here's what the headline means.
Hydrogen, helium and other light elements formed with the Big Bang, but the heavy elements were cooked up at various times in an 8 billion year span before our solar system was formed, and some, perhaps, are still cooking.
Earth's own time as a life-supporting planet is maybe 3 billion years. Nobody really knows how long, but scientists do know that in a billion years or less the Sun will be too large and hot to allow the persistence of photosynthesis, and that eventually the Sun will morph into a red giant and cook Earth in the process.
Some additional perspective: the primary rock formation on which most of Manhattan's ranking skyscrapers repose—Manhattan Schist—is itself about a half billion years old. In The Bronx there are rocks 1.5 billion years old.
In another 4.5 billion years (long before the Sun exhausts all of its fuel), our galaxy, the Milky Way, will merge with Andromeda, which is currently 2.5 million light years distant but headed our way on a collision course. The two will begin merging (not colliding, because nearly all stars are too far apart for that) around 4 billion years from now, and will complete into a combined galaxy about 7 billion years from now. Both galaxies have been around for most of the Universe's history.
Here's a simulation of that future. Bear in mind when watching it that it covers the next 8 billion years.
I'm sharing all this less in support of a theory than in support of a perspective: that the Universe is still getting started, and that maybe... just maybe... the forms of life we know on Earth are just early prototypes of what's to come in the fullness of time, space and evolving existence.
In response to posted news (shared on Facebook's I Love AM Radio group) that KIDD-AM 630 and KNRY-AM, both in Monterey, CA, were donated by radio legend Saul Levine to a religious broadcasting group, I said,
When AM radio finally dies (not a knock: all things do), its last living cells will be religious broadcasters (also not a knock: just an observation).
To which another person there replied,
Doc, there will be more than just religious broadcasters. Here in SoCal there's Spanish (a lot), Chinese (on a 77kw Mexican signal), Sports (3 from L.A., 1 in San Diego now), a couple of music stations (one is playing "Adult Hits" out of Texas on a 50k signal) - There's Middle Eastern radio, and more. The trouble here is in the numbers. Can you imagine how it would be if there were 10+ stations playing the same music? That's kinda like how it is here. What we used to call "broadcasting" on AM is turning into "narrowcasting" - driving more and more people away. There are at least 15 ethnic stations, 2 News-Talkers and one all news station covering more than 15 million people. Not a knock either. It's reality..a sad reality!
And to that I replied,
Here in Santa Barbara, with a salt water path bringing coastal AMs (all the way to Rosarita, NL) in like locals (and tropo doing the same for FMs much of the time), it's clear that both bands, in different ways, are turning into narrowcasts: religion, ethnic groups, sports, partisan political talk. The list goes on. The one conditional exception is public radio, which tries hard to hold a political center it can't have because, except for the local stuff, it's based in Washington, where policy, governance and academic specialties are the lenses through which everything in the world appears.
I think the reason SiriusXM succeeds is that it offers a much wider range of channels programming on its "dial" than anything anywhere in terrestrial radio. It also has the good fortune to have stayed alive and thriving in an economy that is moving economically from a free basis to a subscription one.
What SiriusXM can't (or doesn't) offer yet is what will keep terrestrial radio alive: exactly what you're talking about—ethnic,sports and other forms of narrowcasting.
The big challenge for all of it will be getting future devices to hunt from one "band" to another: over-the-air, satellite and streaming over the Internet. This is do-able, but in the long run only if the whole combined system is digital.
This is why I have some hope for full-digital AM radio. The open question is whether the gear-makers (especially for cars) will be willing to do the work. I suspect they won't, especially if the transmission and reception ends require costly proprietary encoding and decoding, and just one source of parts. This, more than anything else, is what's killing HD Radio. (Forget the actual engineering details. What matters is that HD Radio is a market captive to Ibiquity. Unless I have that wrong. And tell me if I do.)
Just thought I'd share that. If the thread grows, I'll add to it here.
Back in the '00s, I said blogging was "like sending email that's 'cc:world'." That was kind of the way my old blog (1999-2007) worked. The subject was the headline and each post was as short or long as I liked—as an email also might be. And, like an email, it was personal. I was speaking for myself.
These days I write on four blogs: my personal one, ProjectVRM, Customer Commons, and here. Of those four, only this one is fully* personal, and only this one runs on a writing platform like my old blog had. (No surprise there, because both platforms were creations of our blogfather, Dave Winer.) Sometimes I also cross-post to Medium, which is now less leveraged than it used to be. (I can explain later, but it's beside the point of this post.) And I tweet.
*A bit of explanation: my personal blog is a Harvard one, and so is ProjectVRM's. Customer Commons' is also not mine. And I'm mindful of those institutions when I write there. Here the institution is me.
Bigger than all four of those blogs is Linux Journal, where I wrote a great deal, including what amounted to blog posts on its website, for 25 years. That ended when Linux Journal ceased business in August. Also, as of today the entire site, with all its archives, is offline, erasing a third to a half of what I've written online so far.
While I'm hoping that the owner will bring the site back up again (they did promise to keep it up), the prospect of losing the whole thing has shaken my belief that the Web itself will ever be a true place for archiving anything. Instead it's a whiteboard.† And writing on a whiteboard is not a prospect that energizes me. Quite the opposite, in fact. Especially when so much of my online work is gone. (Again, at least for now.)
Here's another depressing thing: Google and Bing searches are now biased for traffic rather than links. I know this for two reasons. One is that I planted keyword easter eggs in some old and well-linked-to blog posts, which both search engines used to find; and now they bring up goose eggs: nada. (I'd tell you the keyword, but that would blow the test.) The other is that links to this blog don't cause it to show up in search engines, but visits to this blog do cause it to show up—at least for me—presumably because Google and Bing watched one person come here, and customized the search result just for that person (moi).
Or so it seems. I really don't know.
Are there studies on any of this... about how the Web is a whiteboard, or how search engines are becoming biassed for observed visits rather than for inbound links?
I suppose studies like that would be hard or impossible, given the operational opacity of search engines, their tendency to change constantly, and the ways they are rigged to personalize results.
So I'm in something of a liminal state right now, wondering where to invest my ceaseless writing energies. At the moment the Web is looking less appealing than ever. My mind might change, especially if we succeed in getting Linux Journal back up. But that's where I am right now.
†I first wrote about this in Linux Journal back in 2003, noting a split between the "static" Web that was like a library (with its "locations," "sites," and "domains" you could "visit" and "browse"), and the "live" web of blogs and posts. I also wrote about it at greater length in 2005, when we had the first hints toward what became social media. Here's a link to it I just found on Google. It currently goes nowhere. And, if the Linux Journal site doesn't come back up, Google's search engine will forget it, and the live Web's whiteboard will be wiped clean.
So I'm up early in Santa Barbara, where I'm alone for the week. Usually my bladder wakes me up around 4am. After doing my business in near-dark (so bright light won't start my day), I go back to bed. Half the time I fall back to sleep.
This time was different, because a sound in the house woke me up. I doubted it was human, or even animal. Most likely mechanical. But... what?
So I sat still for 20 minutes, listening through the nothing of house sounds... a ticking clock on the kitchen counter... the hot water recirculating pump in the basement... relying on hearing that is not what it used to be but also not what it will be when I finally need hearing aids. (I've been tested: I don't yet.) And I heard: nothing. So I went back to bed, where the loudest sound was my heart. And didn't sleep.
Then came the sound of a weight shifting somewhere. Something slid, maybe, and a floorboard creaked. So I walked around, hearing nothing new, and finally stood still in the kitchen for a minute or two. And there it was again. The follicles in my scalp tried to stand their lost or doomed hairs on end, and my body froze in place
I listened for another few minutes, stone still, hyper-alert. Nothing.
Then I said fuck it to the whole worry, turned the lights on, started the espresso machine (which makes heating noises), and went up to my office, yawning my way into the day.
Postscript: this happened two days in a row, and on the second I heard news that there had been small earthquakes in Ventura. When I checked the timing, sure enough, three of the earthquakes matched exactly when I heard the noises. Mystery solved? I dunno. Maybe.
The Conversation: Inequality in DNA.
This is going on right now at Berkman Klein Center + Harvard Law School, and I'm bummed to be missing it.
Charlie Warzel in the NYTimes: Pierre Delecto, QAnon and the Paradox of Anonymity—In 2019, it’s somehow both easier and harder than ever to be anonymous.
Chris Faraone in Boston Magazine: No News is Bad News.
The world isn't going to hell yet, but a recession is coming for sure.
Looking for help solving a mystery among TV sound connections here.
Our Samsung TV gets video and sound from two sources—a Spectrum cable box and an Apple TV box. It then sends audio to a stereo amplifier and its speakers through an optical cable that goes from the TV into the Spectrum box, then out through a right and left audio cable (with RCA plugs) into the Aux input on the amp.
This worked fine for a few weeks, and then sound stopped working for the Apple TV. A long session with Apple on the phone, with lots of changed settings, made no difference. So did switching HDMI inputs, and completely replacing both HDMI cables. Samsung also had no idea when I talked to them on the phone.
The optical connection on the TV is the only way sound gets out to other devices. The AppleTV's only audio-out is through the HDMI connection to the TV.
The Spectrum cable sound works fine. So we know the optical sound from the TV back to the cable box is fine. As is the connection from the cable box to the amp. The whole problem is between the Apple TV box and the Samsung TV.
Any ideas, Lazyweb?
Personal data is any information that relates to an identified or identifiable living individual. Different pieces of information, which collected together can lead to the identification of a particular person, also constitute personal data.
This is the definition behind the commission's General Data Protection Regulation, better known as the GDPR.
The problem here isn't one with the definition itself, but with the absence of distinction between data a person has or holds (such as what's in our hard drives and not out on the Internet, and could with minimal ambiguity be called "personal data") and data about a person.
Since data about data is generally called "metadata," I suggest that data about a person be called metapersonal data.
As of today, here's what Google says about that: "No results found for +metapersonal data."
Maybe that'll prove useful. Or maybe not. Either way, you heard it here first.
That whole crazy populist right wing thing? Blame TV. Seriously.
Althea.net is an approach to Internet service that's an internet itself, sort of. Naturally, blockchain is involved.
When I was a kid, every house had an outside TV antenna that looked like this.
No surprise that trust is going to hell. (Sez Pew, via NiemanLab.)
Help the feds (heaven) help us all with AI.
If the porn sites don't respect your privacy, who will? (A deep and useful academic read.)
Says here the tracking cookie is dead and contextual advertising (an old thing) is the new real thing. Note: if the tracking cookie was really dead, most of those cookie notices you see would say "Our cookies are for our site's use only." They don't, they're not dead and killing them is still a worthy cause.
Says France's CNIL, "On the one hand, simply continuing to browse a site can no longer be viewed as a valid expression of consent to the deposit of cookies . On the other hand, operators who operate tracers must be able to prove that they have obtained the consent." The one hand is good. The other hand is same-old, and continues to suck. So does sites needing to provide users with "a device for withdrawing consent that is easy to access and use." Users should have their own damn device: one that can work the same standard way across all the sites on the Web.
Umair Haque says agency "makes us suppose that one day, with enough “agency”, we can be omnipotent super-beings. The real question is: where does agency, which is to say power, come from?" I say it comes from tech that made to make us exactly that. Encouraging that has been my work, pretty much ever since Cluetrain. Also, Ray Dalio explains why I'm optimistic about that work.
Danny Weitzner and Cameron Kerry on Rulemaking and its Discontents, from Brookings.
The most powerful FM transmitter in Canada (CKOI's on 96.9 in Montréal) has finished moving from this thing on the top of the CNIL building downtown to this one on the top of Mount Royal. Formerly 307,000 watts, it's now 148,000 watts, but not shadowed to the north by Mount Royal itself. Mouse over that last link for details on that antenna, if you're one of the few people who care. All those links, btw, are informed by Fagstein.
On the Radio Lockdown Directive. My opinion on this is not yet sufficiently informed by facts that will include the ones here.
Went to the Redpath Museum a couple days ago. It is, indeed, "a museum that belongs in a museum." It also has no air conditioning and was so fucking hot that the third floor (the one with the mummy in that link) was closed.
I'm pretty sure everyone named Englert here is a relative. That link is to a cemetery in Utica, New York, where my great-grandparents, Christian and Jacobina (née Rung) Englert grew hops for the beer they made, and where both died, though they are buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx.
I need to get photos off an iPhone.
Used to be Photos (Apple's photo app) provided a choice to erase imported photos after they were imported. That appears to be gone, but may still be a choice somewhere or somewhow. Apple also has another app, Image Capture, that allows you to choose a destination folder for imported iPhone photos, and "delete after import." But that app never deletes photos, ever. Meanwhile I have accumulated thousands of photos on my iPhone that need to be erased. I'm hoping there is some easy way to do that. If anyone has clues, send them along. Thanks.
I finally called Applecare, and found this out: neither Photos nor Image Capture will delete photos after importing them from an iOS device if iCloud is turned on... somewhere in Settings that I can't find right now.
I wish I could crash RightsCon today. It's not too far (Tunisia) from where I am now (in Spain), and lots of friends and fellow activists are there. But I'm at work here, and that's good too. In the meantime, I've been wondering about what I might like to share with RightsCon from across the Mediterranean. Maybe this will help. It's from A Line in the Sand, in February's Linux Journal:
At a deeper level, what (some of us) have been trying to do all along is prove that free people are worth more than captive ones, both to themselves and to everyone and everything else. In terms of The Matrix, we want to make each of us a Neo.
Working to free people from The Matrix is hard, because it's not just about making the software and hardware we need. Relatively speaking, those are low-hanging fruit. So is getting publicity for it.
The hard thing is that the big money and demand for work is mostly in making The Matrix less bad.
And it's true: we do need people pushing the status quo in a helpful direction. We also need activists to reform all our standing institutions, from politics to health care to education to social media and its platforms. It's also good that these kinds of work tend to pay, through credentials, experience and money. And let's face the fact that it's easier to see what's wrong in the world as it is, and to fight for changing it, than it is to see first causes at a deeper level, and then work to change damn near everything above that level with a few good hacks.
But it can be done. We did with all the free and open-source protocols and code bases on which our networked world now utterly depends. We can do it again to make free individuals more valuable than captive ones.
And that's the line we need to draw here: one between what we want for people as independent agents of themselves and all the ways people can work to improve the status quo for both institutions and the people who depend on them.
We can sort this out with a two-part question:
Neither side is wrong. I want to make that clear. I also want to make clear that the deepest work we need to do—the truly radical and world-changing stuff—is on the first side. And that's the side that needs us the most.
Last April, in "How Wizards and Muggles Break Free from the Matrix", I put up a punch list of 13 different things already being done to help break everyone free of institutions that would rather hold them captive—and to build bases for far better institutions in the process.
At the time I wrote that, I assumed that the GDPR would clear paths for work already moving forward within all 13 items on that muggle-liberating punch list. Alas, the GDPR's single positive achievement so far has been shaking things up. The worst thing the GDPR has done is encourage surveillance capitalists to keep doing the same damn things, only now with the "consent" of "data subjects" clicking "agree" to misleading cookie notices everywhere.
But the work proceeds (and the list of places where it's proceeding is now up to 17 items), and all of it can use your help.
So please, let us know which side of the line you stand on and what you're ready to do about it (or, better yet, already doing). Thanks.
I just posted this comment under When It Comes To Attribution, It Feels Like TV Is Selling Last Year's Model by Joe Mandese @mp_joemandese
The problem with "attribution" is that it's a virtue of direct response marketing (best known offline as junk mail), not of advertising. Wanting "a better way to correlate media exposure with consumer actions like clicks, downloads, 'conversions,' purchases and repurchases" is a road to hell for broadcasters, and it gets steeper on the downhill side with every new data-rationalized pitch for broadcast advertising to get as accountable as possible at the personal level.
Broadcasting's greatest virtue as an advertising medium is its effects on populations, not on how it gets individuals to act.
Consider this: I don't own a Ford, but I know the company's trucks are Ford Tough. I don't have insurance with Geico, but I know fifteen minutes can save me fifteen percent on my car insurance if I choose Geico. I know those things because I watch and listen to a lot of sports, which are sponsored by Ford and Geico. That lots of people know the same thing is great for those brands. And broadcasting made it great.
Sponsorship is the great dividing line, and it's a huge advantage of brand-building media that have not yet bit the poison apple of wanting everything to be "attributable."
Broadcasters should know what publishers are only beginning to learn, probably too late to save their asses: that adtech—tracking based "behavioral" digital advertising to individuals (euphemized by its perpetrators as "relevant," "interest-based" and "interactive")—is about tracking eyeballs and advertising at them wherever they go, not about sponsoring a station, a network or a show. Adtech will mark eyeballs in one place, track them elsewhere, harvesting personal data along the way, and then pelt them with ads at another: ads aimed by spyping on those eyeballs.
Adtech is the very antithesis of sponsorship. it's also a big reason why ad blocking on the Internet, which may top two billion people by now, is the biggest boycott in world history.
Broadcasting has been blessedly safe from corruption by adtech. It should be working hard to stay that way.
The image above is the familiar "ban" symbol, atop the Ad Choices logo, featured on ads that want to spy on people. AdChoices is as bullshit as an advertising conceit can get, and will do here as an image standing for spying-based adtech itself. For more on why adtech sucks, there's a lot to read here.
JOURNALISM IS AT RISK
Over the last 10 years, newspaper newsrooms have declined in size by 45%, and in 2019 so far, the media has shed more than 2,400 jobs.
BIG TECH IS TO BLAME
Google, Apple, and Facebook are using their tech muscles to monetize news for their own profit, but at the expense of journalists.
All due respect (and much is due), I don't agree.
First, journalists have been working for magazines, broadcasters, newsletters and themselves for dozens of years, or for centuries. So journalism isn't just about newspapers. Second, because so many journalists have long made livings in those other media, the loss of work is far larger than the 2,400 gone from newspapers. It's truly massive. I don't know any field where the loss of jobs is larger. Not taxi driving, not hospitality, not retail, not manufacturing... not anything I can think of. (Well, maybe nuns. I don't see many of those these days.)
And yet there is more journalism than ever: in blogs, social media, podcasting and other media. Most of it doesn't pay, but that doesn't disqualify it as journalism. Hell, I'm doing it here and this doesn't pay.
Second, Big Tech is more effect than cause. (I'll explain why shortly.) And it's way too easy to blame.
And hey, if you're blaming Big Things, why stop at those three tech companies? How about Amazon, which is in the middle of destroying and re-making all of retail and distribution? Or Netflix, which has turned all of television into one big streaming subscription business, much of it with no advertising (which once paid big news operations)? Or, within television, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, which have morphed into the trampoline-like walls of partisan echo chambers? They used to be where you went for news. Now they're mostly opinion, most of which is one-sided.
The cause for all of it is digital technology plus the Internet. Simple as that. And damned hard to understand, because we're pickled in it, and it's still just starting. Everything we're experiencing with digital technology on the Internet today is a radical hack on our minds and our lives.
Every new technology, McLuhan says (in The Medium is the Massage), "works us over completely." And no new medium, no new technologies, have ever worked us over more than digital tech.
A few months back I had a brief conversation about this with Joi Ito. I asked him how big he thought the digital transformation was. Bigger than broadcast? Print? Writing? Speech? Stone tools?
"No," he replied. "It's the biggest thing since oxygenation." In case you don't recall, that happened around 2 billion years ago.
Journalism is just one collateral casualty of digitalization. Also a beneficiary, methinks. But I don't yet know, and I won't ever know. Life is too short, and the change is too long.
But we do need to understand it as best we can in the meantime.
Here's one outfit working on that. I don't buy everything pitched at that link (at least partly because it's novel and not the easiest grok), but I think the work is important and it's a good start, which is why I weigh in on it.
I also don't expect journalists to take much interest in it, because digitalization (if that be the right word) isn't a story, which is journalism's stock in trade. I explain a bit about journalism's "story problem" in this TEDx talk.
Still, some journalists are on the case, including me. Love to have others join in.
The tide is turning against all of digital advertising, and not just adtech. This Wall Street Journal article suggests the same.
Later: what I reported in the last paragraph appears to have been an anomaly. Privacy Badger now reports 13 potential trackers at The Atlantic, including ib.adnxs.com, c.amazon-adsystem.com, as-sec.casalemedia.com, bidder.criteo.com, static.criteo.net, securepubads.g.doubleclick.net, www.google-analytics.com, adservice.google.com, www.googletagmanager.com, www.googletagservices.com, and fastlane.rubiconproject.com. I list those because I invited none of them into my browser, and in fact use Privacy Badger to block them.
By the way, that's much the same list I tweeted about, inviting the magazine to come this third rail: that they're just as guilty of spying on people as Google and Facebook, which they're glad to give shit for violating personal privacy. Naturally, the third rail remains un-grabbed.
New York Times videos on Russian Disinformation. Also, "Privacy Badger detected 19 potential trackers on this page." It finds two here on this blog: Facebook Connect and Google Analytics. I block cookies from both, because I don't want to be tracked. At Linux Journal we dropped Google Analytics because about 60% of our readers block tracking one way or another. And Google Analytics relies on tracking.
It was sad to see the utterly defeated look on the faces of the Warriors last night. Prediction: the Raptors will win on Monday, Canada will go nuts, and Kawhi will stay.
A tweet replying to @linuxjournal @make and @makerfaire: Sad indeed. Make and Makerfaire have long been models for me of how a specialty magazine and a specialty event ought to be done. The @hackaday piece does leave open a glimmer of hope that @dalepd can pull something together. Hey #makers, can you make #ReMake a project? This is now part of a thread.
Thanks to e-Patient Dave for pointage to the song Gimme My Damn Data. He writes, "Watch this three minute video, and wonder: why would three Deloitte consultants (plus two sons and a wife) record a music video about patient access to the medical record?" More e-Dave on the topic from way back.
My old password stopped working with @VanityFair's website. So I did the new password thing. In the email with the password resetting link, "the Vanity Fair editors" said "Clicking on this link will allow you to change your password to something you will remember." Which makes no sense, since I already have hundreds of login-password combinations, and the whole idea of passwords now is to make them as unguessable as possible. Meaning also not memorable to human beings.
After I used @Dashlane to generate a strong password (which I didn't see and only my Dashlane account remembers), Conde Nast told me on the website that my new password will work across all Conde Nast websites. But I see I'm still signed in to the @NewYorker.
All the big group owners are moving from over-the-air to OTT: over the top. In TV, that’s over the top of cable, which replaced over-the-air (OTA) for most people decades ago. In radio, it’s over the top of OTA, via streams and podcasts on the Net. In both cases, the final imagined product is subscription-only, with group owners competing in a silo-vs.-silo way. We see a drift in that direction with iHeart’s urging the listening world onto its app. and we see it more clearly in Entercom pulling its streams off the open Net (so they no longer appear, for example, on the TuneIn app, which prior to that move played all the streams in the world) and isolating them inside its own proprietary Radio.com app. In the course of that, Entercom is saying “IP addresses on the Net are not the new radio dial at all. In fact there is no radio dial in the digital world. There are only proprietary isolated systems competing against each other for subscribers.” The end state is one where “stations” exist as fossil remnants with call letters and slogans within closed and proprietary subscription systems providing a mix of streams and podcasts. Localization is part of that, but it’s still a freaking mess while the future arrives, unevenly.
I learned in the last two days that two people I knew had died "unexpectedly"—or so said their obituaries.
Yesterday it was Sandy Ostby, a friend from my North Carolina days, pictured there on the right. Today it was Ron Schott (@rschott). Both died young: Sandy at 61 and Ron at 49. Both also died some time ago: Sandy in 2012 and Ron this past May. Their obituaries are at those links.
I met Sandy at a dance in 1983. She grabbed me out of a crowd and we just started swinging. I was a spaz and she was a pro, so she led and I followed. That was my first and last experience of feeling like a good dancer. We got to be friends, but fell out of touch after I moved to California in 1985. Yesterday I looked her up on a whim and found that obituary.
The cause of Sandy's death remains a mystery to me, though I'm glad to know one mystery in her life was solved. The last I talked to her (I'm guessing in 1985), she thought her brother Steve, then already long missing, was possibly dead. But Steve was one of those writing kind words on Sandy's obituary page. Another person there mentioned that she and Steve had recently reunited. So I'm glad that happened.
I learned about Ron just a few minutes ago. I had tipped my hat to Ron and other geologists in one of my tweets, and Andrew Alden (@aboutgeology) in a private reply gave me the news that Ron had passed. He also told me that, best he could recall, Ron had died of heart failure.
Ron was a leading field geologist specializing in the hard rocks of the American West. He was also a first-rate gigapan photographer. See here. And here. The last of those was taken just a month before he died. Next to John McPhee, I learned more about geology from Ron than from anyone else. He was a great correspondent by email and Twitter. Callan Bentley (@callanbentley) calls Ron—
a giant in geoscience outreach on the internet. He was an early adopter of just about every technology you can think of: Google Earth, GigaPan, Twitter, Google+, geological apps for augmented reality. He was always pushing to innovate for the public good with these technologies, making publically-accessible “Geology Office Hours” on Google hangouts and inventing new geo-ed hashtags like #weatheringWednesday and #btgt (“Been there; GigaPanned that”). He was the king of “Where on Google Earth?” so much so that the players of that game invented “the Schott Rule” in his honor. He was kind and inclusive, encouraging and thoughtful. His omnipresence on geology Twitter was pretty much unmatched. When I announced his death there last week, the outpouring of grief was unprecedented.
And now I'm grieving too.
So will the rest of ya'll please stay alive? Thanks.
And if you have any specifics you're willing to share about Sandy or Ron, write to me. I'm doc at searls dot com.
Three critical questions about self-sovereign identity - I need answers folks Self-sovereign identity: 3 key questions (link: https://www.csoonline.com/article/3366261/self-sovereign-identity-3-key-questions.html) csoonline.com/article/336626… via @csoonline #selfsoverignID #ssi #digitalidentity #identity @trbouma @ChristopherA @WomeninID @IdentityWoman @IBM @msiddev
I'd like to read the whole thing, but I'd need to register, and I have no faith that a site that wants to plant (@PrivacyBadger says) up to 26 trackers in my browser has any respect for my privacy, much less for my sovereignty. Fix the spy system and I'll read the rest. Thanks.
Since that was not helpful (no way CSO will cave to that demand), and I really would like to help out here (and, if you follow the thread, Susan does pull her two hidden questions out from behind the registration wall), here are some thoughts which, far as I know, nobody other than my wife (a trustee of the Sovrin Foundation) and I are thinking. I'm not saying these thoughts are right, or fully formed or informed. Just that we've been co-thinking about them out loud for the last couple of days. Here goes.
In the natural world, where we are embodied beings, we are by default anonymous when to go about the world outside the social circles where we are known by name. By anonymous I mean nameless. Literally. (That's what anonymous means. To be nameful is to be onymous.) This is a grace of civilization. We don't need to wear name badges when we walk on a city street. If we pay cash at the coffee shop, we don't need to identify ourselves by name, and if the barista needs to write our name on our cup, we can give them a pseudonym. Even if we pay with a credit card for something, the polite thing for the other person in the transaction to do is not look at the name on our credit card, because that would be kinda icky.
Why is that? Why is it weird when a waiter processing our credit card looks at it and thanks us by name? Or when anybody gets a bit too familiar with us. I've always wondered about that. What should we call the boundary we put around the public selves we present to others anonymously?
I got a good answer yesterday when I was walking to a medical appointment in far-uptown Manhattan. Along the way, none of the hundreds of people I passed knew, or wanted to know, my name. Nor did I want to know theirs. The same was true of every store I passed, before showing up at the doctor's office, where I was onymous for a good reason.
The answer came through my earphones, which were playing Christopher Lydon's latest Open Source Radio podcast, titled Andre Dubus III: How “The Fighter” Became The Writer. About eleven minutes into the podcast, Dubus speaks about "that membrane of inviolability that should be around every human being." Expanding on that, he adds, "You can't violate someone's sacred space without asking." Then, "but in a fight you have to violate it right away, and once you learn to do that, you can always do it."
Those two points—that we have a sacred space inside a membrane of inviolability, and that once we violate another's sacred space we can make a habit of it— lay out the challenge for self-sovereign identity in the digital world.
In the natural world, we presume that every human being maintains that membrane of inviolability, even as they become onymous with others who have reason to know their names (or whatever they choose to call themselves).
In the digital world we don't have that. We can't walk around there in an anonymous way (unless we are geeky enough to know tricks for doing that). Here in these early decades of digital life on Earth, we have at most the illusion of inviolability. We become disillusioned when we learn that the unseen headers in our browsers disclose virtual fingerprints of our hardware and —and that everywhere we go online, we carry cookies injected into our browsers by nearly every site we visit, so we can be identified, not only by those sites, but by countless third parties behind those sites, mostly for personalized advertising purposes, but also for God knows what else.
Our onymity in the digital world is conferred mostly by what digital identity geeks call identity providers. Others who need to know our provided identities are called relying parties. Every identity provider maintains an identifier for us in a namespace. We get a new one of these every time we create a login and a password. (According to my password manager, I now have 1208 login/password combinations.)
The idea behind self-sovereign identity, or SSI, is that each of us maintains our own portfolio of ways to present what are called verifiable credentials that are similar in ways to how we use the credentials we carry in our wallets to prove, for example, that we are licensed to drive, a member of a club, or old enough to be served alcohol. I'll let others fill in the blanks there, or correct what I just said. What matters about SSI is that it at least begins to equip us with something like the membrane of inviolability we enjoy in the natural world. And, if it becomes normative, SSI should equip us to create and respect the natural state of anonymity we should each enjoy in our sacred private spaces, even as we walk about the digital world in clearly human forms.
Dave has questions about Adweek: "If you go there with an ad blocker on you get this scolding. So if you turn the ad blocker off, you still can't read the article. This is supposed to make you do what? Subscribe? Not really, I wonder if they user-tested this."
I'm sure they tested it with their lawyers and their circulation people (if they have some of those). Certainly not with readers, who would surely have said the scolding is insulting and a turn-off.
If you're cool with ads but not tracking, the best choice is tracking protection. Here's a list of those.
Imagine if the only medical specialty was hematology, and that our biggest problem as human beings was being attacked constantly by fleas, mosquitos, ticks, vampires and other creatures that want our blood.
This is exactly where we are in respect to data. Yes, it's a big part of what we do online, just like blood is a big part of being a working animal; but we make a mistake when we assume that data is what being online is all about.
What we do online depends on data, but can't be reduced to it, any more than driving can be reduced to internal combustion or telling time can be reduced to the gears of a clock.
We care about data because we're being taken advantage of by things that suck. But we have to start thinking and working above that level.
That level we want is agency.
Just rediscovered this interview from (I gather) around 2013. It's part of the Riptide series: "An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, from 1980 to the present." As I recall, it was recorded in the Shorenstein Center at the Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The prime mover behind it is Martin Nisenholtz (@martinn123), who started work on the project as a fellow at Shorenstein.
The interview is a literal transcription of a pair of videos that are also at that first link. Reading the transcript and watching the videos is a stark reminder that I speak fairly well (having what they call an "announcer's voice"), but not in final draft. Or even close. This means that the video interviews themselves are far more watchable, and listenable, than the transcripts are readable.
But that's a quibble. Riptide is a great series, and I highly recommend digging into it.
*The subject of signatures came up the other day, and I thought about the best signature I had ever seen: one that was better—to me—than John Hancock's.
It was the signature of George F.R. Buletza, who was the principal of Maywood Junior High School, in Maywood, New Jersey, when I served time there (1959-1962). So I looked him up, doubting he would still be alive. That guess was correct; but he had a good run, passing at age 92 in 2009. Here's his obituary.
So far I can't find samples of his signature online, but I have found something else that's cool: he last (and long) lived in Charlotte, Michigan, county seat of Eaton County, both of which were pioneered by the Searls family in the early 1800s. See here and here. From the former: "The Searls brothers were experts with the broadaxe and hewed boards (leaving no score marks) for many houses."
I also remember Mr. Buletza as a good guy. Especially to one of his worst students: me. Among other good things, he blessed my parents' decision not to send me on to our town's public high school, but instead to pursue academic correction at a boarding school somewhere. Which they did.
If any of Mr. Buletza's relatives or friends are reading this, I send my warm regards to them, and my belated thanks to him. And also greetings to all classmates and fellow alumni of MJHS.
(The photo is of Eaton County Courthouse. My Junior High was (and still is) in Maywood Avenue School.)
"Life is a loaf," my friend Britt Blaser (@brittb) says. "Some loaves have a lot of slices. Some just a few. But every life is a loaf." He first told me that when we both had many fewer slices than we do now.
As a veteran wartime aviator, Britt has also come closer to having his loaf baked than I have. I mean, literally. As he tells it in Fire Flight at Katum, "Everything went pretty much according to plan until one day when the wing started burning off." Among his conclusions is this gem: "Five strong young sphincter muscles acting in unison on seat cushions CAN keep a C-130 in the air one minute longer than it has a right to fly."
Here's the thing about life's loaf slices: the more there are, the thinner they get. Every year seems a little bit shorter. Because for each of us, it is. That's why every retrospective on our current passing year seems a little less meaningful, a little more trivial, a little less adequate a way to tell of stuff that matters.
I no more wrote than read that book which is
The self I am, half-hidden as it is
From one and all who see within a kiss
The lounging formless blackness of an abyss.
How could I think the brief years were enough
To prove the reality of endless love?
Delmore's loaf was nineteen short of my own count so far. But he's saying stuff there that matters fully. Such as that years are brief and love is endless.
Here's another: At every moment we are all almost finished and barely started.
And there you have three reasons why robots will never replace us.
Not next year. Not ever.
It appears to be well researched , and I assume it's accurate. It's also a story, and stories have a format: character(s) + problem(s) + movement. If something important doesn't fit that format, it doesn't get reported. Or if it does, it's probably a "mego" (for My Eyes Glaze Over)*.
Facebook is the main character in this one. Says so right in the headline: "Here’s How Facebook’s Local News Algorithm Change Led To The Worst Riots Paris Has Seen In 50 Years."
I think the main problem here is much deeper than Facebook, but has no character, so it's a mego to write about. If anyone is interested in hearing more about that, let me know. Maybe we can make that a story after all.
Bonus link: The Story Isn't the Whole Story.
* Thank you, Bill Safire.
4) The word "cluetrain" is more or less constantly mentioned on Twitter: https://twitter.com/search?q=cluetrain
5) A search in Google books https://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&q=cluetrain brings up more than 13,000 results, almost nineteen years after the original was published.
6) A search in Google Scholar https://scholar.google.com/scholar?en&q=cluetrain brings up more than 4,000 results.
7) A dig through old emails just turned up the earliest evidence (at least to me) of Cluetrain's inception: a draft of a joint JOHO (David Weinberger's email list) and EGR (Chris Locke's list) posting, vetted for input by yours truly. This was when the three of us were first sharing the co-thinkings that became Cluetrain in early 1999. That email is dated 30 October 1998, meaning that more than two decades have passed since this thing started.
I've posted this, then set a headline and updated...
And now I'll set an image. Should be jelly beans.
Now I'll try to write a headline and post an image in the prior post.
Headline worked. It's Broken Dish.
Now the image: a broken dish with HBO as the shard.
That worked too. Nice.
Dish Network is in the midst of a dispute with HBO, so HBO and Cinemax are gone from the service. There is nothing about this on the index page of the website, nor have I received a single text or email on the matter.
So, when I went to the Dish website to start digging around, and found nothing, I hit the feedback tab, where it said this...
Some of our best ideas come from our customers - and we would like to hear yours. If you would like the ability for us to respond, please provide your email address.
If you have a question about your current DISH service, please contact us.
I wrote this in reply:
All I want to know is if there is hope for HBO and Cinemax returning. There should be information about that on the Website and in emailings and/or textings to subscribers. I have not received a single email on the matter, and there is nothing on the front page of the website. That's simply wrong. Thanks.
Our only choice for HBO now is to subscribe directly for $14.99/month.
Our only choice for old-fashioned TV is Dish. Two reasons.
One is that our set top box has to be in a cabinet, and for that we need an radio (RF) remote rather than an infrared (IR) one you point at the box. Our local cable provider, Cox, doesn't support that. I think DirectTV does now, but there's still the other reason..
Most of our TV watching isn't here at home in Santa Barbara. It's on the road over a laptop or the AppleTV in our New York apartment, using DishAnywhere, which is a server in our Dish box here. It works amazingly well.
Meanwhile, what we have is one more example of the bundled entertainment economy (cable/satellite) breaking into shards in the larger and increasingly fractured subscription economy.
The next question is When will we reach Peak Subscription?
As if life isn't hard enough for radio in an increasingly digital world, along comes GM, sort-of floating the prospect of tracking drivers and hitting them with personalized advertising, just like the digital kids do in the commercial online world. Or so suggests Why Did GM Track Radio Listening Habits of 90,000 Drivers? in RadioInk. It begins with this:
It’s all about the data. Last week at The Radio Show in Orlando, a lot of time was dedicated to data and what radio stations can do with it to generate more revenue. General Motors has gotten into the data collection business and the automotive giant is using radio as a way to collect it
GM conducted a three-month test using in-car Wi-Fi, tracking the habits of drivers. The goal was to explore whether there’s a relationship between what drivers listen to and what they buy. A GM spokesman also tells The Detroit Free Press that the data from this study could also help GM develop a better way to measure radio listenership, something advertisers would love to get their hands on, so they could target their ads.
My response in the comments below:
It's not "all about the data." It's about preserving the sweetly private experience radio has always given the drivers and passengers in cars. GM is nuts to sacrifice that for the unholy grail of "relevant" and "interest based" advertising aimed by spyware hidden in dashboards
The biggest advantage of radio advertising over the kind people hate on their computers and mobile devices is that radio's advertising is NOT personalized and NOT based on tracking people like marked animals. By not doing that, radio is perfect for making and sustaining brands.
Perhaps a $trillion or more has been spent so far on tracking-based advertising, and not one single brand known to the world has been made by it. That's because tracking-based advertising isn't really advertising. It's digital junk mail, operating on the same moral and economic model as spam.
Countless brands have been made by radio advertising. I may never get insurance from Geico, but I sure as hell know "fifteen minutes will save you fifteen percent" with them. I know Geico, Progressive and ZipRecruiter bring me the sports shows I like. I also can't help appreciating that brands are sponsors.
Tracking-based advertising isn't interested in sponsorship. Its interested in using whatever opportunity it can to get personal with consumers, wherever they happen to be. Most of the money spent also goes to intermediaries, not the station or program itself. That's another way brand advertising is more efficient.
Ad blocking took off in the digital world, becoming the biggest boycott in human history (1.7 billion worldwide at last count), exactly when the tracking-based advertising business (led by the IAB—the Interactive Advertising Bureau, its trade association) decided not just to ignore polite Do Not Track requests, but to mock and dismiss those requests with a smear campaign against its main advocate: Mozilla and its Firefox browser. (Details here.)
Please, radio: be proud of your advantages over pure digital advertising media: that you're perfect for brands, sponsorship, and listeners who appreciate what both make possible.
In this Radio Ink piece, a guy calls for completely lifting ownership limits for radio stations. Here's my comment under that:
I can already see a future Onion headline: "Sirius, Murdoch Buy the Rest of Radio."
Substitute other names if you like. Amazon, Apple and Google are all possibilities.
Even if that doesn't happen, the big clue to the future will be what's on dashboard infotainment system screens. Bear in mind that there's already more radio on phones than on any radio dial, and that most new cars come with a cell connection and a satellite antenna. The old whip antenna, which is still the best way to receive AM and FM signals, has been replaced by inferior substitutes embedded in windows. AM is already gone from electric cars such as the Tesla. In time, the land on which most AM transmitters sit will be worth more on the real estate market than their stations will be in the broadcast one—if that isn't the case already.
The real trend is from analog to digital. But don't think of Google and Amazon as models for the digital world. They're the trilobites of digital's Cambrian explosion. (See https://www.theonion.com/evolution-going-great-reports-trilobite-1819571228.) Bet instead on people. Those have already mounted the biggest boycott in human history—against the kind of spying-based advertising Google and Amazon specialize in.
Perhaps radio's last advantage in advertising is that it *doesn't* spy on people. Meaning radio may be the last medium where listeners still have privacy. More on all that here: http://j.mp/adbwars.