Joho the Blog » 2004 » April

April 27, 2004

Jewgle, Part 3

Shel points out that now when you search for “jew,” Google at the top of the page points you to a quite reasonable explanation of why you’re getting anti-Semitic pages. This seems like to me like an excellent resolution.

Ironically, the first site on the list is no longer Jew Watch. It’s the entry “Jew” in the wikipedia, undoubtedly the result of the benevolent “google bombing” by concerned anti-anti-semites.

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Democratic Party party

Quite an action-packed day yesterday. I did two keynotes, at two separate events. After the second one, I went back to the first event, a gathering of about 125 people who run libraries and museums, because I’m trying to write some stuff about metadata and taxonomies. I learned, for example, that one well-known art museum has had to create over 300 new Dewey Decimal categories for illustrated manuscripts … and one for astrology.

Afterwards, I went to a cocktail party put on by the hosts of the second event. It was quite the power party. I got to chat for five minutes with Terry McAuliffe, the chair of the Democratic National Committee. I tried to say that the Net can be do things for campaigns other than raise money … for example, bring in a portion of the population that is feeling a tad alienated in part because of the relentless money ‘n’ marketing focus of the campaign. MacAuliffe agreed, and then went on to re-express my point in terms of using the Net to raise money. But, what the heck, it was 5 minutes at a cocktail party where everyone was elbowing for a chance to talk with The Chairman, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to make a ding if not a dent.

I then got to say about two sentences to Tom Daschle. after he spoke to the assembled group, thanking the people there who have done real work for the progressive movement. Sen. Daschle had just made a heartfelt thank-you statement, yet I found myself impressed that I was listening to a person who could express himself in untortured English. Yikes. FWIW, he seemed more sincere in person than on TV, but, then, if the reverse were true, you’d have some type of personality disorder, wouldn’t you? Look, I liked him in person, ok? That’s all I’m trying to say.

I spent a little more time (i.e., a minute or two) with Senator Patty Murray from Washington. We talked about the possibility of using the Internet for more than fund raising. It felt like an actual conversation. She put on no airs and seemed to lack the protective, hey-how-are-ya bubble that surround so many professional politicans.

And then I talked with Senator Stabenow from Michigan. Like Senator Murray, she seemed like an actual person, humbled by sitting in the Senate. I liked her a lot. A real lot. Because we had a little more time, I also urged her not to legislate the Internet without understanding what it is. No Senatorial preachiness to her at all. Just Net preachiness on my part. What an ass I am. But what a treat to get to talk with her.

Here’s the photographic evidence that I’m not a total liar, at least in this particular entry:

Tom Daschle and Patty Murray
Sens. Tom Daschle and Patty Murray

Patty Murray
Sen. Patty Murray

Debbie Stabenow
Sen. Debbie Stabenow

Tom Daschle
Me responding to one of Sen. Daschle’s
many sharp-edged japes

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April 26, 2004

Me on C-SPAN

Unbeknownst to me, my presentation at the TechnologyPolitics Summit was broadcast live on C-SPAN this afternoon. You can see it on the Web by going to C-SPAN and clicking on the link to the conference. I don’t know how long they’ll keep the link up, though. (I’m on after Tom Athans from Democracy Radio and Mark Walsh of Air America Radio, about a half hour 55 minutes in.)

I haven’t seen it. All I remember is yelling a lot. Ulp.

[In the comments, Greg has posted this direct link to the video: rtsp://video.c-span.org/project/c04/c04042604_tech.rm. Thanks, Greg.]

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April 25, 2004

Half an hour in front of DC politicians

It’s been a week of light blogging because of my 2-day trip to Portugal and then a set of, um, computing setbacks that involved technical support groups on several continents and the reinstalling of anti-virus software. Then, for the past couple of days, I’ve been working on two presentations I’m giving on Monday in DC. Both are new and both are important to me.

In the morning, I’m keynoting a conference of research librarians and am doing a mainly-new presentation about how we managed to “informationalize” the world so that it consists of thin gruel, and how it is (I hope) now being re-thickened and double-good ambiguated again.

While that presentation has new material and a ton of new slides (I tend to eschew text in favor of over-animated graphical slides), I’m more concerned about the lunchtime keynote I’m doing for the FieldWorks Technology Politics Summit. I have half an hour. Here’s an outline of what I think I’m going to say:

1. I want to address two questions in a roundabout way. A. Why is it that when Dean supporters met, we’d frequently talk about what we didn’t like about Dean, even while remaining fully licensed Deaniacs? B. WRT the Dean slogan, we have the power to take our country back from whom exactly? Why did that slogan work?

2. These questions are obscured by the rapid consolidation of inappropriate lessons we’ve taken from the Dean campaign, including that the Net is only good for raising money and all that social networking stuff was for naive girly-men.

3. So, let’s accept (for the nonce) the view that politics is naught but a specialized form of marketing in which the only successful market share is 50% + 1. So, what’s happening with marketing? Marketing is war waged against customers, but we’re in revolt. Marketers no longer have control over corporate information. Networked markets are smarter than the companies they’re talking about. [Yes, this is overtly Cluetrain-y.]

4. At the heart of the revolt is the human voice. We get to sound like ourselves in the new public world known as the Internet, rather than having to listen to the monotonous, inhuman, too-perfect voice of marketing.

5. Taking blogging as an example. It looks individualistic, but it’s really about conversation and links. To see how unusual it is, look at the Dean blog: We’ve never before had someone who speaks for the campaign but in his/her own voice. This isn’t good marketing. It’s anti-marketing: It succeeds insofar as it stays off message.

6. To see the importance of comments (i.e., the blog wasn’t simply a new type of broadcasting), you have to understand the Net’s architecture. It is not a broadcast or publishing architecture. It’s end-to-end. It succeeded by removing the controlling center, and by keeping the center as empty as possible so that innovation would happpen at the edges. The Net is the opposite of marketing. It is profoundly democratic. And it explicitly provided the model for the Net portion of the Dean campaign. (Meanwhile, Washington and Hollywood seem hell-bent on destroying the Net by misunderstanding it.) [I'm sneaking in World of Ends stuff because there will be people in the room — including Tom Daschle — who I want to yell this at.]

7. No wonder we’re so eager to go wrong about the role of the Net in the Dean campaign. Campaigns are about top-down control of message. Kerry said ten words off mike and there was a firestorm. But blogs are always off mike. (We forgive ourselves preemptively.)

8. Back to the two questions. We talked about why we disliked Dean because it affirmed that this campaign wasn’t about top-down marketing. It was about us. We were encouraged to go off message — that is, to appropriate the message in our own way — because the campaign is about us, not only about Howard Dean. That is, we are taking the country back not just from the lobbyists, corporations and Republicans. We’re taking it back from the campaign marketers. We’re taking it back from our own alienation. And that’s a good thing.

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April 24, 2004

Too many files

Symantec Anti-Virus just scanned my computer and found over 700,000 files to look at. Woohoo! I have too many files!

I’m guessing not more than 30% of them are blog entries…

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April 23, 2004

Joogle, Part 2

Seth Finkelstein writes up his investigation of why a Google search on “jew” returns an anti-Semitic site in the #1 spot. He concludes: “Google ranks popularity, not authority. And popularity is a measure which is vulnerable to many games.”

An interesting finding: Seth reports that the offending site has been removed from the French and German versions of Google.

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I’m a Republican chairman!

Great news! Congressman Tom Reynolds of the National Republican Congressional Committee has personally invited me, via a tape recording played over the phone, to become an honorary chairman.

Of course I said yes, proudly and humbly…

More at Loose Democracy

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Portugal photos

I’ve posted about a dozen photos from Portugal

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Second day in Lisbon

[Posting a message written Wednesday evening]

Last night, my delightful hosts — a media/public relations company that yesterday changed its name from Bates to Red Cell, possibly because their new corporate ambition is to become the bad guys in a Tom Clancy novel — took to me out to a delicious dinner at Bica de Sabato (literally, “Bite the Shoe” — now there’s some marketing!), one-quarter owned by John Malkovitz; Catherine Deneuve was among the celebrities not in attendance that particular evening. It’s difficult to find Portuguese vegetarian food, but this place had goat cheese in filo dough and a vegetarian risotto. That and some excellent Portuguese wine, along with an animated, non-stop conversation about marketing and politics — hint: George Bush is not widely hailed here as the savior of the West — made for a lovely evening. A sincere thank you to the evil minions of Red Cell.

This morning, I gave my presentation to about fifty of Red Cell’s clients. This was their first “Cream Talk” (nata fala), supposedly presentations by fresh-thinking marketing folks; they chose me to inaugurate the series, undoubtedly due to a bad translation. I got to yell at the audience for 70 minutes about why most marketing sucks and why Internetworked markets are smarter than the companies they talk about. Plus I got to throw in the lessons business should draw from the Dean campaign. Lots of fun. And good, hard questions afterwards, beginning with: Will John Kerry defeat George Bush? (Maybe I should say seriously that the session seemed to go very well, and I admire Red Cell’s willingness to put before its customers views that don’t entirely coincide with its own.)

On the way out, I said to the helpful and gracious Christina that I usually manage to leave something behind. Five minutes later, I called her from the cab to let her know that I’d left my converter there. Sigh.

From the session, I went to Sintra, an ancient city in the hills that’s one vowel short of being Old Blue Eyes. It was raining healthily, which cut down on the view, but the little streets were still twisty and the palaces were still sumptuous. I ate too much lunch — quiche and a wheel of cheese that weighed as much as my foot, along with an I-got-what-I-paid-for house wine — and weaved from sight to sight.

We drove back along the surging ocean. It’s hard to imagine looking out at that expanse and deciding to sail over the horizon just to see what’s there. The Portuguese have not forgotten that that’s just what their forebears did.

I came back and went to the Old City, the Bairro Alto. (Yes, I thought I knew how to pronounce it also.) For 1.10 euros, I rode up the funicular, a varnished wood and brass carriage that ascends several blocks that make San Francisco look like a girly-man. The guide book describes the Old City as bohemian, but the part I saw sure was upscale. I found a cafe with soccer on the the TV and paper tablecloths on long, shared tables. After I reassured the waiter repeatedly that, no, insanely, I really didn’t want shrimp or pork in my omelette, I got a plate of fries and eggs and a cold beer.

I’m beat. But I’ve had a great two days. I fell immediately and easily into interesting conversations with just about everyone I met. The parts of the country I saw were beautiful and complex. As always for an American in Europe, the presence of the past is overwhelming.

I love travel. I love the differences.

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April 22, 2004

On my way back from Portugal

I am in the airport in Lisbon, on my way back to Boston via Newark. (Cannot find the apostrophe key on this Portuguese keyboard, hence the lack of contractions. Pray for no possessives.)

It was a rich couple of days here in Lisbon. I will post details when I am back. I am using a public access machine and cannot now post what I have written.

I have been unable to pick up email for 36 hours. The horror! When I checked yesterday morning, I had 970 messages. Ulp. (By the way, if you are spamming me, please stop. Thank you.)

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