Joho the BlogOctober 2006 - Page 3 of 9 - Joho the Blog

October 23, 2006

Open Source gift on the way

Firefox 2.0 is going to be available soon and I feel like a gift is in the mail. I get to anticipate it and then unwrap it to see what goodies are inside, thanks to the thousands of contributors. And its extensibility means that the gifts just keep on coming.

Thanks, y’all! [Tags: a href=”http://www.technorati.com/tags/berkman” rel=”tag”>]

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Portal Easter egg

Given my difficulties with space, Portal (from Valve) sounds like exactly the sort of game that will leave me like a hound trying to untangle his leash. But, the web site vaguely associated with it is hilarious.

It’s like an Easter egg, but not hidden inside the application (which means it’s mainly not like an Easter egg). PCGamer ran instructions for entering it:

Go to www.aperturescience.com. Type “login” at the prompt. Enter any user name. Type “portal” as the password.
Type “dir” to get a listing. Type “Apply”

I actually chuckled out loud at some of it… [Tags: ]

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October 22, 2006

New business for the new marketing

Joe Jaffe has announced he’s forming a company to try to do the new marketing right. It’s called Crayon, and the announcement will be in Second Life.

Good luck to Crayon. I hope it can keep in mind the fundamental fact of marketing: We don’t like being marketed to, whether in commercials, billboards, or conversation. [Tags: ]

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A Rubik’s Cube solution that for me needs a solution

I am so poorly oriented in space that I cannot make a checkers move without first physically moving the piece. I can stand on a marked street corner with a map and a compass and still go wrong 50% of the time. When I take a shirt out of a drawer, I can’t predict which half will be on my left, although I do pride myself on rarely going wrong about which will be the outside.

So, this “procedure” for solving a Rubik’s Cube is to me indistinguishable from gibberish, even though I’m certain that it’s right. [Tags: ]

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October 21, 2006

PR’s steps and missteps into the Webby world

I haven’t blogged anything about the recent discovery that “Wal-Marting across America,” a blog recounting the travels of a couple from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart, was in fact funded by Wal-Mart through Edelman PR. In its wake (1 2), Edelman disclosed that Working Families for Wal-Mart and its subsidiary site, Paid Critics, are also Edelman sites. It seems to me unambiguously wrong for Edelman to fund sites for clients without making that clear on the sites themselves. I haven’t blogged that (until now) in part because it’s so obvious and in part because, as a consultant to Edelman, I’m in a conflict.

By contract and body language, Edelman has not attempted to control or influence what I blog. Never. There are, however, three important inhibiting factors. First, no matter how genuine and warm the relationship, taking money from an organization taints what one thinks about that organization; that’s why I have repeatedly disclosed my relationship. Second, as a consultant, I’ve been in a position to observe how the company interacts, what sorts of ideas it contemplates and rejects, and what it embraces enthusiastically or reluctantly. It would betray their trust — and get me fired as a consultant, and keep other companies from hiring me — if I were to blab about that stuff. But that makes it hard for me to write about an affair such as the Wal-Mart one, even though I didn’t know about it beforehand. Third, As a result of consulting to the company for the past year and a half or so, I’ve developed personal relationships with people there, including with Richard Edelman, whom I’m proud to count as a friend. I’m not objective.

So, with that in mind:

Edelman’s non-transparency about its Wal-Mart programs erode the trust that makes the Blogosphere valuable. It also forces the question of whether professional PR has any place in the Blogosphere.

I think it does, but it’s not going to be an easy transition. Full transparency is the minimum requirement. But, that’s not enough. Being transparent about funding blogs is hardly what it means to do enlightened PR on the Web.

I personally think there are two fundamental roles for PR in the new world: Transparent advocacy and facilitating open, genuine engagement among customers and companies. Transparent advocacy means that the agency argues for its client, providing useful information to people who want to receive it. Genuine engagement means the agency helps its client participate in the Web conversation honestly and frankly, whether that’s through employee blogging, customer forums, or ways yet to be invented. Just as the agency can be a transparent advocate for the client on the Web, it should be an advocate for Web values to the client, counseling the client to be frank, honest, and open to criticism. (An agency may also create publicity stunts, but there’s nothing particularly webby about that.)

I also want to add — keeping in mind the three factors that mitigate against my credibility on this topic — that I believe that Edelman PR overall is genuinely committed to behaving well on the Web. That it has gone so wrong in the Wal-Mart instances is an indication of just how different the Web is, and how difficult it is for an agency that has bet its future on getting the Web right to break free of its long-learned instincts. PR has a long road ahead of it.

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Greeting card taxonomy

Rebecca Bollwitt writes entertainingly about the sub-slicing of greeting card categories. Here’s a place where the complexity of the taxonomy has direct and positive economic benefits, i.e., if you create a “Loss of Cat” category (one of Hallmarks’), you’ll sell cards to friends of people who have lost cats. [Tags: ]

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October 20, 2006

Ed Felton on Net neutrality

Ed Felten has a paper (pdf) on the Nuts and Bolts of Network Neutrality (revised in July ’06) that is a highly readable explanation of the technical issues. It is not foaming-at-the-mouth partisan. [Tags: ]


Larry Lessig’s excellent op-ed in The Financial Times has stirred up some discussion on his site, here, here and here.

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[berkman] PLOS – Open Access science

Hemai Parthasarathy who’s the managing editor of PLoS Biology, is leading a discussion at the Berkman Center. She was an editor at Nature for five years. PLoS was started to put scientific papers into the public domain. It started with genomics three years ago. It’s a peer-reviewed open access journal. They hired editors from established journals.It wants to be “inclusive of top-tier papers”: Instead of trying to determing the top .001% of papers, it aims at publishing maybe the top 1%.

PLoS has an “intrinsic tension” she says because most of the people who started the journal don’t believe in elite publishing. “We think it’s wrong for tenure committees to pass the buck” to the editors of the top-tier journals. That’s why they’ve started PLoS One. It launches in November. “The idea is to take the editorializing out of the peer review process.” It asks whether a paper is sound enough to be published, but not how important the paper is. “Publish everything worth publishing” that’s submitted, and then put a layer of open peer review conversation about it. “When I was at Nature, I’d reject ten papers a week in neuroscience alone because they weren’t important enough.” Then the papers would be passed on to the next five journals, and you’d lose all the information generated in the reviewing of that paper. “It’s incredibly inefficient.” “Peer review is overwhelming scientists. Scientists are getting asked to review twenty papers a week.”

PLoS’ “impact factor” is high — the average number of times papers in that journal are cited. But the measure is flawed, Hemai says. E.g., reviews and notes don’t get counted as articles but do draw citations, so the citations / articles number goes up; that’s why more journals are running more reviews, etc.

PLoS, she says, is “the thinking man’s open access journal.” It takes about 1% because it wants to keep quality high. Also, it raises the impact factor which helps them recruit high quality papers.

PLoS will have some type of quantifiable ranking system based on the open peer review system. “We’ll also do some topdown filtering. Some editorial board members will pick some articles from PLoS One to write about in PLoS Biology.” They haven’t decided whether to allow pseudonyms. Hemai seems to favor requiring real names, but she says the other side is that a post doc may be relucant to criticize a Nobel Laureate.

PLoS One will have a giant editorial board. Currently they have 180+ editors. Editors’ will append their name to the articles they approve.

Charlie Nesson points out this is a fascinating example of Internet governnance. “How can we help?” he asks. Hemai responds: “Make some of the subscription pool available to open access publications. And top down say that if you publish your papers in a way that other people can access them, that will be rewarded.” MIT, she says, has been working with Science Commons to make a copyright agreement and negotiate with the journals to allow articles to be open access. E.g., Harvard could require its scientists to deposit their articles in an open acccess archive, and could negotiate with the non-open journals to permit that.

PLoS raises money through advertising and through publication charges. Generally it’s the funding agencies — research institutions, universities — who pay these charges for the scientists. At PNAS (a journal), they can charge thousands of dollars to publish a color diagram. She says that Elsevier’s distributor, Sell Press (Cell? sp?), charges $5,000 to authors to make their articles available for free. “If you sponsor research, you want to sponsor its dissemination as well.”

There’s discussion about what Harvard can do and how publishing in open access journals can be rewarded. I say that it comes down to generating a reputation system that becomes a reliable guide so that someone going up for tenure can say not only that she was published at PLoS but that it got a something score of whatever (or some other metric).

There’s discussion of what university libraries can do. E.g., they can negotiate copyright permissions so that professors don’t get prevented — as they are now — from using their own materials in a class.

PLoS One is thinking about allowing revisions of papers to be published afterwards and associated with it. “The least publishable unit has been getting smaller and smaller as time goes by.”

PLoS will be built on open source software. “Long term, anyone can start their own journal.” (And maybe someday the journals are assembled on demand based on metadata because…wait for it…everything is miscellaneous.) [Tags: ]

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What’s up with peace studies?

I’m thinking about writing about the current state of peace studies in universities, especially in the US. How have the current climate and events affected the curriculum? How about enrollments? (This is a backhanded way to approach the topic “What is peace today?” in a form that I’m hoping a magazine will find appealing.)

Do you have any leads or thoughts?

(FWIW, I used to teach a course called “Peace and Conflict,” back in the early ’80s. I tried to remove the usual coercive elements, including grading and the teacher-student barrier. Yes, I was that sort of teacher. In fact, I wrote a bad book in dialogue form about nuclear deterrence, called Nuclear Dialogues. The book was actually me working out my issues about the topic. How very fascinating.) [Tags: ]

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DOEP (Daily Open-Ended Puzzle) (intermittent): Partisan name-calling

The Republicans are in a concerted way calling Democrats “Defeatocrats.” Forget whether the content is true or not, and ignore how degrading to democracy name-calling is. “Defeatocrat” is just lame. Not only doesn’t it rhyme with “Democrat,” it doesn’t even scan.

Surely we can help the Republicans come up with a better insulting term for the Democrats! [Tags: ]

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