March 2006

I follow former local blogger Justin Watt’s Justinsomnia daily, if for no other reason than to meditate over his California dreamin’ pictures.

About 3 weeks ago Justin hit a small speed bump in the blogverse when his parody of a Exodus International billboard generated his first cease-and-desist demand.

You see, Exodus is dedicated to “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.”

Today, the ACLU responded to Exodus’ complaint.

Seems that it’s still OK to make fun of ignorance and bigotry.


One of my all time favorite online diarist is ae of arsepoetica. She’s elevated sharpened commentary on Herr Dim Son to a high art.

Now, after a bit of the SxSW ‘blogger koolaid db has entered the fray.

Welcome db.

Here’s some of the other local folk well worth reading (far from exhaustive, presented in no particular order):

arse poetica Eclectic commentary on the world and national politics. Our local progressive political salon.

SqueeeeeezeThePulp Our other local political hotspot.

GreeneSpace Erudite and dense intellectual observations on new urbanism, history, Virginia Woolf and the occassional local political fracas. Each post an education

Is That Legal? Eric’s the man! Legal and historical perspectives on current affronts to our civil liberties plus dead-on commentary of the local scene.

Audio Activism BrianR’s meme – podcasting is a means for social justice.

mistersugar Anton is our local communications dynamo – Blogtogether organizer, teacher, storyteller.

dent Our invaluable IndyWeek’s scurrilous political pamphleteering.

Blogads Henry’s business model keeps many ‘blogs alive.

The Real Paul Jones Paul’s been networked from day one. Must read for keeping up on local and international trends in tech, civil liberties, poetry and local events.

Science And Politics Bora is a Red-State Serbian Jewish atheist liberal PhD student with Thesis-writing block and severe blogorrhea trying to understand US politics by making strange connections between science, religion, brain, language and sex.

Local Ecology Policy wonk Teri’s perspective on local government, cats and ecology.

roy: danger smells like clean socks Roy’s created a community infrastructure, Tabulas, that gives voice to many (an unsung hero).

Dave Johnson’s Blogging Roller Dave’s like Roy with corporate support. Mr. Roller’s software provides the plumbing for both Sun’s and IBM’s blogging communities (scary!). Java, OSS and all-things blogging.

Rantingprofs In case you didn’t read your daily NY Times. Commentary from a “different” perspective ;-)!

Josh Staiger Personal and professional observations from a local IBMr 😉

Mente Videbor David’s diary of his local run for office.

FORTH GO Xan mixes reviews of local arts with forays into statistics, Java and Hegelian heuristics.

Local folk Chatham County Line killed at the Continental Cafe YepRoc showcase. Great energy, perfect sound and a bustling set of new and old material.

Advice to Rockstar Journalist wannabees:

  • Net-wise, we’re living in a Web 2.0 self-serve world. Better learn online email, blogging and pod/video-casting.
  • Don’t whine when the new kids beat you to the story!
  • Who cares about print bylines anymore? Develop your personal brand online: ‘blog every chance you get.
  • Either work for folk without paywalls, change those folks minds or end-run your paymasters by “broadcasting” your personal content elsewhere (see: developing your own brand).
  • Repurpose, refresh and extend your personal content – it’s the long tail of your brand.
  • Don’t blame tech support for your lack of initiative Mr. Wannabee Rockstar Journalist – it’s a new media world, time to embrace the change and ride the wave.

Don’t want to change? Great! I understand they always need folks to write the obits.

A little objective advice based on observations of a slew of media-critters at both SxSWi and SxSW proper.

Barry Jacobs doesn’t get it.

Barry Jacobs, chairman of the Orange County commissioners and a committee member, said he is not as concerned about UNC-CH leaders wielding undue influence.

“I don’t see what there is to conspire about behind closed doors because I don’t have to agree to anything, and I don’t have to be railroaded into anything,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think Broun “has any bad intentions.”

Jacobs, responding in today’s (soon to be paywalled) N&O article on allowing private consultations between Broun and UNC administrators, is off by 180 degrees.

This isn’t about railroading, this is about adhering to a commitment to have a free and transparent flow of information between partners. Previous conversations on Carolina North have deadlocked in misunderstandings because of the “surprise” introduction of principles/designs/desires late in the process.

This new effort – as well-advertised by Broun and Moeser – was to be different. Transparency was supposed to “grease the wheels”. Openess was part-n-parcel of a new style of collaboration.

Unfortunately, it appears Moeser’s folk have fallen back on old habits. I hope this is just a bump in the road – not a sign of a long trail of obfuscatory difficulties.

Barry, I expect better from a long-elected guy. Please don’t forget that closed doors are an anathema to open governance.

Will Bruce Sterling be able to harness the waste heat generated by all of SxSWi’s “monetizing our customers” discussions and drive the conference to a successful conclusion?

5 minutes from now I should begin to know.

[UPDATE: Podcast of Sterling’s speech.]

Web 2.0, the most important Internet innovation since the browser.

Welcome to the Web 2.0 bubble…

[SxSWi] a celebration of commons-based web production…

Web sites that throw open APIs and become platforms – how do you explain that?

Why do towns have to deploy wifi? It’s a sign of Federal incompetence!

My shoes are in Slovavakia but I live out of my laptop, an increasing number of us do…

Nobody notices I’ve left Austin? I see America as %94 of the rest of the world does…

America appears like the last reels of Gone with the Wind…

Americans even look different now – I see them in Europe now – it’s like they’ve been poisoned – they’re swollen – they look like they’re going to pop…

I now understand our conflict – it isn’t a war – there’s no ranks – it’s the “Disorder” – there’s no pride in serving in war against “Disorder” because the war on disorder is a war on pride…

Gibson said “the Street finds its own uses for things – uses the manufacturers never imagined.” but we’re in a day when we need to understand how “the Street” uses things, what uses they’ve imagined.

The unthinkable and unimaginable don’t mean the end. If you put Mao in today’s China [he’d] find it unthinkable – how did it get this way?

Spime – a word I created a couple years ago, but now I realize it’s not a word, it’s a tag…

Spime – an object that has a chip that describes itself, a gps that locates it precisely, a search engine,parts that can be deconstructed – its bits tagged, reusable, reconstructable. It’s 3d modelled before it’s built – it’s initial reality is virtual reality. Spimes begin and end as data.

Why spimes? Because spimes makeup an Internet of Things. Why spimes? Because I no longer have to inventory my objects – if I need to find my shoes in the morning I just google them….

The Semantic Web is turning into a syntactic wetlands…words are turned into memes [via collaborative tags]

The cure for terror stampede today is a historic perspective…

[WillR – With passion and trembling voice, Sterling speaks: ]

Historical perspective from 1937 – carl sandburg – “the people yes, the people will live, the learning and blundering people…will live on…they will be tricked… you can’t laugh off their capacity to take it….”

The people yes
The people will live on.
The learning and blundering people will live on.
They will be tricked and sold and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,
The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
You can't laugh off their capacity to take it.
The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas.

The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,
is a vast huddle with many units saying:
"I earn my living.
I make enough to get by
and it takes all my time.
If I had more time
I could do more for myself
and maybe for others.
I could read and study
and talk things over
and find out about things.
It takes time.
I wish I had the time."

The people is a tragic and comic two-face: hero and hoodlum:
phantom and gorilla twisting to moan with a gargoyle mouth:
"They buy me and sell's a game...sometime I'll
break loose..."

..... Man is a long time coming.
Man will yet win.
Brother may yet line up with brother:

This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.
There are men who can't be bought.
The fireborn are at home in fire.
The stars make no noise,
You can't hinder the wind from blowing.
Time is a great teacher.
Who can live without hope?

In the darkness with a great bundle of grief
the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people

“Where to? what next?”

More of the Sandburg excerpt.

Hey, where’s Dave?

[UPDATE: It appears virtual Dave has died. ]

RSS: Not Just for Blogs Anymore. Really?

The folks from Feedburner, Bloglines and other RSS consumer/producers weigh in.
Chris Frye – Feedburner

  • “our service should be invisible”
  • oriented towards publishers
  • “consumption has gotten very interesting”
  • Creation->Deconstruction->Consumption
  • Consumption – newsgator, yahoo, technorati, google,
  • Deconstruction – news filters, spliced feeds, personal aggregators, blogs of remixed feeds (spamblogs)
  • Considerations: attribution, ownership, usage tracking

Scott Johnson – Feedstar founder

  • RSS history – “I’m not going there, I’m not talking about it”
  • one of the most brilliant aspects of RSS is that it’s extensible
  • might be the first XML that will “matter to mom”
  • trivial to create, tougher to consume
  • Apple specific extensions: USE THEM
  • PODCASTERS – “have an RSS feed of everything you’ve ever done”
  • Structred blogging – Marc Canter – micro-content architecture – parseable content
  • Problems with RSS – “tracking is hard”, no JavaScript

Robin DeuPree – Bloglines

  • crawls 2M feeds – 4 to 5M articles per day
  • “value in finding out what the buzz is for today”

Levin – moderator – What happens with MS RSS strategy? Frye – increase RSS usage – huge uptake when iTunes came on…

Johnson – on OPML, “not too interesting”

Deupree – ” the common comment on bloglines is that it’s klunky but also that it’s functional”

MY THEME – Where’s the company’s interest in ethical treatment of their customers?

Deupree – Couple minute overview of Redstone’s acquisition and the potential for abuse. Says Bloglines privacy policy needs to be clarified/cleaned up.

Johnson – “to make my tinfoil hat observation: if people know what you read, they know a lot about you”

Craigslist’s Craig Newmark’s conversation with Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales is highly informative, entertaining, insightful (Newspapers are community services, for instance).

[UPDATE: Newmark’s remarks.]

Ruby S. had an opportunity to ask Newmark about a comment from today’s NPR discussion of the Knight/Ridder-McClatchey media merger. A guest claimed Newmark’s Craig’s List was responsible. Newmark laughed and said it had more to do with the Penny Trader and than his service. He continued speaking about the decline of traditional journalism in big media – and the rise of citizen journalists in the blogoverse. Ruby pointed out that local UNC journalism Prof. Phil Meyer thought blogs reach was restricted to the national level instead of understanding that local reporting is enhanced by local blogs.

Funny comment considering how Ruby’s local ‘blog OrangePolitics frequently “reports” stories not covered by our local news, fills in the gaps in stories, corrects factual errors in stories and even occassionally scoops the local press.

I’m upgrading my SxSWi Day 1.1.1 to Day 1.2 because of dog lover Newmark’s wit and verve.

Starting the day with former Chapel Hillian Doc Searls and an exegesis of the seven year-old Cluetrain Manifesto 95 theses – good enough for Martin Luther.

Why cluetrain? A friend told him about a Valley company where “The cluetrain stopped there for 4 years but they never took a delivery.”

Theses 90 – Henry Copeland of BlogAds is pulling in Heather Armstrong – Henry “you’re getting more hits than you’re old company” Heather – “yeah – it’s [the software outfit] a real trainwreck” – Henry can’t tease the Los Angeles software company’s name out of Heather…

Searls, et. al. – 7 years ago realized Internet forces implied a switch in power from supplier to consumers.

“It was all about capturing eye-balls” … “Hey, wait a minute! The people out there had as much power as the [marketeers]”

Doc’s marketting friends kidded about his defection from marketting to the markets.

Clark – “I sent Cluetrain Manifesto to marketting company’s as a litmus test” – “that was in the days when integrated marketting meant you hired the same actors for both the television commercial and print ad.”

Clark to Searls – “you understand the net empowers people”…you feel the passion beneath the words

Heather as a empowered consumer – stumbled on Nikon – husband used the power of the net to research good customers – thousands of emails from readers had bought Nikons because she mentionned “this picture produced by Nikon D70” – she generated hundreds of thousands $$$ for Nikon but hasn’t heard a peep from Nikon…now she’s having problems with Nikon and is thinking of moving to Canon – wonders if she should be speaking about this on her blog – Searls “yes, you have to” – Henry – “you must”

Clark – “Isn’t the net writing the product manual already?” “These companys still don’t recognize the power of R&D on the net” – chaining the intelligence of the user community to improve your product – Searls mentions some coffee machine company that let their user community improve their product – they trust their customers.
Searls – “Very few CIO’s blog” – Edellman good – mentions debate between Jarvis and Edellmann debate last night “but that was on televison, so I don’t believe it”.

Heather – “Cluetrain will be realized when Bestbuy goes out of business” – “I love – it’s like watching reality television”.

Henry – “My favorite company is threadless – they let their users design their products”

Searls – “OSS is the demand side providing for itself”

Clark – “Give the community something to do together” – “find ways for people to feel part of the solution.”

Searls – some history – Barlow’s Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace precedes Cluetrain by 3 years – what influence on Cluetrain (death from above recc. by Searls 1995) – asymetrical service in folks homes – future cluetrain manifesto – “saving the net”

Clark – 7 years out – “integrated media centers @ home” “gaming – basic human trait that goes with conversation” “play now is allowing people to do things that sociologist say you can’t do – like having 5,000 to 10,000 people working together collaboratively” [without centralized management] “using peer to peer processes” to maintain their efforts “tap the spirit of play”.

Searls – media revolution – HD quality cameras/televisions that will force the pipes to expand to shuttle info about “we’re completing the age of independence that was interrupted by the industrial revolution”

Armstrong – lot’s of lonely women – ‘blogs saved her during her 1st year of motherhood – blogs of fellow mothers direct her purchasing decisions – cribs, etc.

Clark answering on “reputation economy” – wikipedia starting the idea – the internet didn’t create crazy people – “it just makes it easier to search and aggregate them” – we’ll be measured by how we deal with difficult people.

Searls – “I don’t subscribe to blogs, I subscribe to subjects.”

Henry is practicing a little bit of product placement – the whole forum his laptop lid has been positioned in such a way WXYC was prominently displayed…

After reflecting on my experiences of the last couple days, Ruby Sinreich’s (local pol blog OrangePolitics) solid showing against the big boys, a fun time at Henry’s BlogAds party, I was all prepared to perform a major upgrade to my SxSWi calendar – to move to either Day 1.2 or even Day 2.0 (yes, I was that ebuillient).

But then I found the Austin Convention Center doesn’t have drinking water fountains – at least there’s none within a 200yd. radius of room 17AB.

Plenty of vending machines, no water!

Raleigh, how about creating a competitive advantage against centers like Austin’s and put hundreds of drinking fountains in for the $215+ million you’re dropping on the new convention center?

In honor of the Austin CC’s greedy behavior – today is Day 1.1.1 of SxSWi.

How to Make the Most of Maps.

From the first minute of this map-tech smorgasborg, I could tell this was going to be a rewarding (in a karmic sense) session.

OK/Cancel’s Kevin Cheng ([UPDATE: SxSWi 1.2 late] who, beside being a cool web-comic dude is a YahooMaps guy for Yahoo), moderating, starts with a set of filtering questions:

– “Have you used an online map?” Most of the room.
– “How many people use Mapquest? Yahoo? A9? Microsloth? Google?” Google %99 percent. Two for Mapquest, no one for Micro$loth.
– “How many have used map-mashups?” – About 50 folks.
– “How many have made map-mashups?” – Maybe 20 folks.

CommunityWalk’s Jared Upton-Cosulich – folks use their site “for weddings, bar crawls to the Pakistan earthquake.” He demos a new interface that integrates the “real-world” via Quicktime panoramic movies and GoogleMap points. He clicks to the Austin Convention centers entrance and the Web-application pops up the QTVR movie that shows the street outside from that viewpoint.

PJ Hyett – WayFaring – shows their most popular WayFaring tracking mash-up, the JackTracker which tracks TV show 24’s fictional Jack Bauer’s movements.

Recent (the day of the forum, to be exact) graduate Glenn Murphy demoed MeHere, a web-application for tracking people in realtime. Glenn opened with “Yes, kind of creepy”, a sentiment I share. He started with PlaceOpedia – map mashup between Wikipedia and your location as reported by MeHere.

Cool tech, troubling implications. He anticipates the day of highly mobile computers reporting your location in realtime and integrating your GPS position dynamically with other folks map-mashup applications is commonplace.

Murphy is using GreaseMonkey extensively to modify Yelp:Map-tastic to provide a “center-me” functionality using MeHere. Asks how many folk use GreaseMonkey – “I know at least one, the author is in the audience”. It’s Aaron Boodman is sitting 3 feet in front of me.

UK geo-tagger Daniel Catt – works for Flickr now helping them with their mapping strategy. Just hired by Google, he’s integrated his garnix app with GoogleEarth to track you in realtime (via an attached GPS device). Like MeHere, he’s sharing information via GeoRSS on his position.

In England, unlike the US, governmentally created mapping information is quite expensive. He shows us OpenStreetMap, a volunteer web-based effort that uses individual’s captured location information to create open-source maps, including England.

Best advice: “A map is not a good interface for adding information.”

Cheng to Catt – How do you go about choosing a map API to work with?

Catt: If you have a large team, MSN Virtual Earth is great – it lets you get down to the bones of the system – it’ll get you all the way. Google is easy to get started with – ease of use – geo-cachers like because of quickstart. Yahoo is moderate choice – neat that you can assign Flash SWF files to map points. Neat effect: “we add smoke to a point”. Very cool interactivity

Hyett – likes Google because can he can re-engineer the JavaScript – doesn’t like Yahoo API because of lack of transparency

Cheng to Hyett – How did you go about redesigning CommunityWalk?

Hyett (a big Ruby on Railsfan): Even though the first pass was raw “he always thought of CommunityWalk as something bigger”, “once you get something out there, it builds on itself”. Lucked out and got some “free” help to redesign simple front-end.

Cheng has developers of mashups stand up; asks designers to standup; he’s trying to organize a mashup of talent in realtime.

Hyett: Advice: keep it simple philosophy…we like one-click interface to adding location information…

Hyett and Couslich are having a bit of a fight to differentiate their apps – Wayfaring and CommunityWalk – each having quite a bit overlap.

Murphey to the panel: “There’s a lot of map mashup sites out there, they use a common API, do you find that the API [drives the look-n-feel] of these sites?”

Catt hints that Flickr/Yahoo will integrate political/governmental information into their mapping – precincts, census tracts, etc. This would be very handy for local activists.

Sink or Swim: The Five Most Important Startup Decisions

Subtitled: “Why I didn’t sell out to Google?”

One of the best descriptions of the elevator pitch I’ve ever heard – retitled “the MacWorld test”. If someone stops at your MacWorld booth and asks what your product does, and you fumble about for a few minutes trying describe all your applications disparate parts, it’s time to ditch the app. Of course, I devoted a chunk of my life to developing products that can’t be described easily…

Joel Spolsky, Fog Creek Software on bootstrapping a company – “never make a decision that risks the company” – “your first four or five hires have to be generalists”.

Evan Williams, Odeo (a neat company built around audio recording, via phone for instance and sharing. “Simplify your ideas” in the Web-world – constantly evaluate features on whether they contribute to the overall user experience. He started his first company at 21, realized after a year he’d started 31 projects – realized needed laser focus. Best advice: “start small, think big”.

Panic’s Cabel Sasser – “”never make software that you wouldn’t use” – “if you make something you’ll use, you’ll make it awesome”.

The first session, “What’s Hot in Web Applications” is turning out to be product demos for the large captive audience. On tap Meebo, Zimbra, AdaptivePath and YackPack.YackPack – BJ Fogg brings up his app on screen dominated by prominent ads for Monster/FlowersAcrossAmerica. Product placement on their demo – quite tacky to hit us with an ad within an ad. Screw them. If you want more info on their simple web-based voicemail app, Google it 😉

Meebo – Seth Sternberg introduces their web-based IM aggregator – “trust your users” is key to their strategy. They’ve moved support responsibilities to their user-base. Their users monitor forums – detect/report network issues. Advice: “leverage OSS community to increase innovation”

Zimbra – Scott Dietzen – AJAX-based calendaring/messaging/collaboration application. Best thing? “Preventing you from having to cut-n-paste email”. Zimlets allow end-users/developers to extend Zimbra’s capabilities.

The best comment came from Sternberg who said he did better in college when he “concentrated on learning – it was more fun”. Suggests entrepreneurs concentrate “on what causes pain and fix it” instead of worrying about cranking out the highest return you can from your customer.

BJ Fogg – YackPack – “If you concentrate on a pain point you’ll find a way to monetize it”.

Hey BJ, your bragging about your AARP deal is causing me pain. How do you plan to monetize that?

I’ve reached my “pain point” with what’s fallen (again) into product pimping – on to Sink or Swim: The Five Most Important Startup Decisions, which is at least honest in its business focus.

SxSW Interactive has been informative/interesting in an evolutionary way, not a revolutionary way (at least to-date).

Given that, day 2 is a minor upgrade to day 1 – welcome to SxSW Day 1.1.

I’ve been thinking about money all day. It started with Eric Rice’s breezy dismissal of my question on the ethics of product placement in videocast.

Sure, I expected some pimping of products, speakers, books – that’s the way of most conferences (but not all). I didn’t expect SxSW, with forums on social responsibility and the wisdom of crowds, to be so overwhelming pecuniary in intent.

SteveR pointed out that “everybody wants to make buck” but this emphasis on monetization of content is making me a bit ill.

So, to settle my stomach, and in honor of Eric, Chris Pirillo and the rest of the monetization gang, I’m suggesting we develop Tivo for the Web 2.0 generation.

The “Pirillo Pillow” will automatically smother product placement ads.

No ads, no ethical problems.

Maybe effective distribution of “the Pillow” will even reduce mammon worship next SxSW ;-)!

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