Joho the Blog » 2008 » March

March 31, 2008

No more straight talk from McCain?

subject line from email

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March 30, 2008

Apture multimedia link widget

At the Berkman – Annenberg Re:Public Media conference at USC, I ran into Tristan Harris who was at the event to drum up interest in Apture. Apture lets a site owner easily insert links to multimedia content. This post is full of them. It is extremely slick as an editing tool: Drag select any text and it pops up a window with lots of different things to link to, including Wikipedia and any YouTubes it’s found. It’s in private beta right now.

Seems appealing so far, but I’m just getting started with it…

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March 29, 2008

Paul Gillin’s marketing book up in draft

Paul Gillin has posted draft chapters of his new book, Secrets of Social Marketing, for our enjoyment and, more important, our commentary. I haven’t taken a look at them yet, but I like to see people practicing what they preach, and Paul’s The New Influencers was good.

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Third motherboard, same crashes

For those who are keeping track (= me), the new new motherboard on my MacBook has not prevented the same old problems from recurring. I still am getting random app crashes, most well-behaved by an occasional crash to blue. (Actually, only Keynote crashes to blue.)

I’m feeling pretty certain that we’ve eliminated the mobo as the source of the problem. Since these same problems have occurred in two separate operating systems, including through a clean install of the second one, I don’t think it’s an OS thing. Since they’ve persisted through the creation of a clean user account, I don’t think it’s a software thing. Because the RAM has passed repeated testing by me and by the service professionals, I don’t think it’s a RAM problem.

I am therefore taking it personally.

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Least neutral Net ever.

I was pretty excited about finding myself on a “BetaBlue” JetBlue plane because they touted it as providing free inflight email and more.

It turns out that above 10,000 feet you can indeed do email and more, so long as your email is a Yahoo email account and the more is Yahoo instant messaging. No browsing, no one else’s email or IM.

I really don’t understand JetBlue’s thinking on this. They’re likely to annoy more passengers than they please, some of whom will be petty enough to write snarky blog posts. without even mentioning that they’re posting their snarkiness via the excellent free wifi JetBlue provides at its Long Beach gates.

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March 28, 2008

[mediarepublic] Viable models

Lisa Williams, who was great in the previous session on the world of media in 103 (which I didn’t blog because I’m so damn tired) is moderating a panel on “viable models.” [I'm live blogging, missing stuff, getting it wrong. I'm posting this before I've proofread it because I have to get to the next session. Reader beware.]

Mark Ranalli from Helium gives a quick talk about Helium, a site where people compete to create the highest-rated content on a topic. They share the money they make with the writers. Only peers can evaluate. They do head to head evaluations of two articles and use that to rank what may be dozens of articles on a topic. Helium also flogs its content to publishers in their “freelance marketplace.” And it integrates content into mainstream media. E.g., Boston Now invites readers to write articles and sends them to Helium. A PBS show uses Helium to run a weekly essay contest. [Ah PBS and its essay contests!]

John Sawyer from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting reports from tough areas. They create content and place it all over, from MSM to YouTube. All the reporters blog.

Doc Searls is talking about “a new business model for free media” (= VRM). Marketers have a split in their heads, he says, that allows them to talk about “targeting” consumers even though they themselves are members of markets too. We no longer have to be put into silos, as if we were owned by businesses. We need Vendor Relationship Management. “With VRM I can inquite and relate to markets on the fly.” Express global preferences without having to give all the same info. He’s willing to pay money to reach a human in under 60 seconds. We should be able to manage our own health care data.VRM’s first use case is paying for public media. VRM is introducing the “relbutton” which you can put anywhere you want; press it and you can remember the site and relate to the site in the way you want. It has four visible states: Intention to relate, an existing relationship, an existing relationship, or an intention to sell.

Q: Why isn’t this the same as a PayPal button?
Doc: Because that’s take it or leave it.
Q: Sites have lots of ways of interacting with viewers. What’s different here?
Doc: There’s no one way to interact with them. And they’re not under you’re control. Public radio’s tip system takes too long to pay.
Q: This is not a micropayment system…
Joe Andrieu: It’s an invitation to relate in any number of ways. It’s a generalized approach.
Q: is this supposed to replace the pledge system?
Doc: It’s not intended to replace them. But 90% don’t pledge, and everyone hates the pledge drives.
Q: So how does the RelButton generate money?
Doc: It’s uniform and efficient.

Q: Can you give an example of something that’s approached solving a problem in this way? Letting people take control of a transaction?
Doc: For transactions, no. It’s like an old-fashioned marketplace.
Joe: An example are the old proprietary email systems.

Q: Could you explain how Helium makes money?
A: 1. We have about 700,000 articles, attracting 3M visitors/month. Ad revenue, which we share with the writers. 2. We take part of the fees publishers pay our writers. And, no, we’re not profitable yet but we hope to be soon.

Why do people write for you?
Mark: Individuals building a portfolio. Non-profits have been sending people to us. I’ve stopped trying to guess why people write.

Lisa: You’ve all presented transactional models. That’s where many people are going, but they require huge volumes to work. How do you get to the volume you need?
Mark: Advertisers and publishers.
Doc: We’re not burdened by a business model…
Lisa: You still have to get users…
Doc: You make it available. A Firefox download, etc.
Q: Any partners integrating the button yet?
Doc: It’s a barn raising. A few dozen are highly active on a list. [Tags: ]

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[mediarepublic] Manuel Castells

I’m at the Berkman-Annenberg Media Re:Public conference. Manuel Castells (AKA The Manual Castells) leads off. [Note: Live blogging. In fact, I'm doing this while on stage as one of the presenters who follows Manuel. Reader beware. I get lots of things wrong.]


He wants to connect communication, democracy, power, and social change. Whoever prevails in the field of power relationships defines what that society is. “There’s never absolute power,” he says. “That’s how democracy comes about.”

If the construction of meaning is a key source of power (and it is, he says), meaning is constructed through a process of communication … communication between our neural networks and the external communication networks. A growing stream of research in neuroscience (e.g., DiMasio) shows the role of emotion/feelings in the construction of meaning and cognition. Political scientists are now developing studies that show how important feelings are in the realm of politics, through the construction of meaning. E.g., people reject info that doesn’t fit into their basic feelings. Such info has 4x chance of being rejected. The theory of affective intelligence (cf. “The Affect Effect”) says politics is substantially rooted in feelings that trigger emotions that lead to cognition. This has extraordinary consequences for democracy.

George Lakoff has shown how the metaphor of the war on terror has dominated American politics through linking to powerful images in our brain, appealing to the deepest emotion in human experience: fear of death. This helps explain why so many Americans still believe that there was a connection between 9/11 and Hussein.

This goes further than politics. Social movements act on the mind more than politics, he says. E.g., Environmental has transformed societies by activating mechanisms that led us to think we have a relationship with the planet that cannot be reduced simple to mining it for materials. The movement is scientific but also media-focused. Same thing with the women’s movement, the most important movement in [I missed the range] of history. This has been a revolution in the miond of women. Men try to accept but fundamentally we have not changed. What’s changed is how women think about themselves and their place in the world. It’s become normal. That is a cultural revolution. That goes through communication which comes through the process of activiating images and feelings in the brain.

That’s why media are fundamental, critical. They are the connection between our environment and our brains. That fact is widely recognized now. Media are the field of power, where power relationships get constructed, even though the media themselves don’t have the power. Politics are not determined by the media, but without the media politics doesn’t reach the society and have an effect.

Media politics in the past twenty years has led to the politics of scandals. Everywhere except in Scandinavia, major political changes are now always linked to some form of scandal. That’s become the fundamental weapon for political change.

If media are the political field, then politics and democracy depend on the power battles in the communications field at large. Therefore the transformation of communication and the media system is a fundamental component of the transformation of politics and democracy. There’s a fundamental transformation underway. Already 50% of the planet is connected to wireless communications. The wall that was stopping the rise of the Net in developing countries is beginning to crack. (There is of course still a digital divide, he notes.)

Corporations loom large, but corporations are being interpentrated by the horizontal communication the Net allows. You have to transform freedom into a commodity. [Not sure if he's recommending this.] That’s where the business is. The endless capacity of hackers to create more levels of communication means the corporate world has to try to incorporate this. Ultimately the corporate media have to rely on a new form of articulation.


The key is that this distributes power to the edges of the network. The consequences are powerful. New images. Public debates. And throughout history, they have watched us; now we watch them. The real citizen journalist is anyone with a cellphone who can upload into YouTube.

The media space is where political struggle is being contested because that’s where the struggle over meaning is waged. [Tags: ]

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March 27, 2008

[re:pub] Richard Sambrook

Richard Sambrook, Director of Global News at the BBC World Service and a great blogger, is giving the opening talk at a small conference hosted by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and the Berkman Center. The aim of the conference is to talk about how we can begin to assess how the media are changing and what’s going on with participatory journalism. One of the focuses will be on what research we need done (where “we” = our democracy) and how we can get it done. [I'm posting this without re-reading so I can go to the reception, frankly. As always, I'm typing quickly, not keeping up with Richard's fast pace, getting things wrong, misspelling, etc. etc. If that's not ok, then read no further. Also, when in doubt I'm reporting what Richard is saying, not inserting my own comments.]

This afternoon, a bunch of us sat in the Annenberg’s atrium, in front of four large panels showing mainstream news channels. We were just trying to do our email and talk with one another, but it was hard as CNN looped for 45 minutes about the discrimination against “short, obese” people and then for an hour about a murdered women. Wow. Great scene-setting for this conference. (Doc may also be blogging about the multi-screen atrium experience.)

Richard is giving the opening “provocation” (as John Palfrey puts it in introducing him). Richard points to Jay Rosen’s saying “Blogging vs. journalism is over” (showing the power of agood sound byte, Richard says) at a conference 3 yrs ago. Much has changed since then, says Richard. Consolidation has happened. Social networking has taken off. Video and conversation have become more dominant. There are still issues of trust and transparency. He mentions someone who said that journalists ought to answer questions and bloggers ought to ask questions, which he thinks is an interesting way of thinking about it. He points to how much blogging and podcasting the msm are doing. “But these aren’t really about participation,” he says, because there are very few links going out and very little interaction.

New research shows (he says) that news sites are now way-stations, not final destinations. He points to memeorandum, “and algorithm replacing a newsroom.” Google is the fourth most trusted news brand in the world, but doesn’t create any content.

The big payers talk about user generated content. It’s a marketing tool. “You have to be seen to be talking about citizen journalism.” But it’s narrowly defined. Four categories: 1. Eyewitness news. MSM have always done that. 2. Sharing of opinion. MSM have not done a good job taking this in. 3. Sharing of discovery. 4. Sharing of expertise (or networked journalism). This is the most valuable and richest example of what citizen journalism holds out, but is the most difficult to deliver. But it’s a minority of the audience that engages in this.

He gives an example. Last year, the BBC chartered a boat and took it up the Bangladesh River to chart the course of climate change. Flickr, Twitter, Google Maps. They had 50,000 followers on Flickr but only 26 on Twitter. Several million listened on shortwave radio.

It’s not about technology, Richard says. What’s the social purpose of social networking, he asks. Have we found one?

Corporate media still has a huge grip on the Internet, he says. The top 5% of sites reach a billion people. With that type of corporate grip on access, will anything change, he asks. Richard says big changes are indeed happening. In the recording industry, what used to be a simple process (get radio play, get on MTV, distribute the disk) has become complex. Same thing is happening to the newspaper industry.

He talks about The Guardian’s leap of faith, trying to become a digital platform. Meanwhile, the NY Times is saying that “Demand has never been greater…” He meant that there are 17M unique visitors to NYTimes.com, half from search and half direct. NYT.com makes money but not enough to fund the Times’ operations. Online advertising is slowing, especially on journalism sites, Richard says. The economic basis of journalism is in qusetion.

He talks about networked journalism. E.g., iPM from the BBC. Highly participatory and transparent. Newsnight on BBC invites people to come to the daily meeting about what stories to cover. He says CBS closed its own experiment on open journalism because “they said they couldn’t find a business model” for it. “As if you have to find a business model for accountability.”

He points to how much live video is now around, from seesmic to vpod.tv. “We need to take the cameras out of the backyard to where things are actually happening.” The video community can be very self-referential, he says. This is early stage of a powerful new technology, so it’s bound to be in a bit of a bubble, he says but he’d like to see us grasp the opportunity more fully. This is about the move from mass to community-based communication.

Technology is bringing in “the new creatives,” he says. Many are very good. Nextnewnetworks.com. TheNerve.tv. Vidshadow.com. The cost base is a quarter of commercial TV and if they can gather a community they can make a business out of it.

He shows a dummy [?] page from the BBC. “My Democracy Now: Create your own political dashboard.” Aggregate what you want. What’s happening in your area. Right now the plan is to only aggregate BBC content, but Richard says that that’s just a first step.

He talks about the shift to the importance of the DJ in music. “What’s the equivalent of that in the information ecology?” Last.fm news? News scrobbling? Personalization is about to work, at last. Tagging, Calais, Twine all add metadata. It’s all about to happen and will take us up to the next level.

He ends with questions, but I can’t keep up. Great talk.

Q: (Ethan Zuckerman) Almost all the examples you gave were of you inviting people into your universe. But often people didn’t show up. Are there ways citizen participation can shape what the story will be?
A: I agree. Inviting people to your party is a very old media attitude. We’re starting to shift. We’re now allowing people to embed our video on their site. We’re starting to understand that. And we do respond to how people define the news, etc. Most of the comments are people shouting. We’re happy to have them there, but they’re not defining the news agenda. We haven’t found the right way to enable that.
John Palfrey: Ethan, be a consultant. You have something in mind…
Ethan: Bloggers have become commentators and error-checkers. That’s not changing the agenda. The question is whether citizens can change what stories show up on the BBC site…
A: We try to do that. We use GlobalVoices. There are examples…

Q: (susan mernit) In hyperlocal journalism you see events that have happened or things that need to be changed. Traditionally, organizing and journalism are separate. BBC lowering the barrier to entry so that local people can reflect local issues?
A: We had ICAN [?], a site to provide people the tools to discover what’s going on and link them up with people with shared interests. Community issues. And we gave them the tools for civic engagement. It was reasonably successful for a while, but it wasn’t getting enough interest.

Q: What gets in the way?
A: The BBC has a huge audience and is growing. There are managerial problems nurturing deep innovation; generally it has to come in from the outside. It’s not that there’s huge resistance to it. We know we have to change. But pushing it through and getting it to work is a big and complicated project. [Tags: ]

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Dept. of unfortunate semantic blockages

On the flight to LA this morning, while I was standing in the attendant’s cranny, waiting for the bathroom to free up, I noticed a sign on a bit of the JetBlue plane that jutted in at about knee level. The sign said:

DO NOT SIT HERE
NO SENTARSE AQUI

But, the attendant had left a piece of paper there which accidentally obscured half the sign, so that it read:

SIT HERE
ARSE AQUI

(This would be funnier if I’d had a camera with me. Or maybe not.)

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March 26, 2008

No experience required

The Massachusetts Republican Party has posted a want ad on its Web site:

Have you ever thought of running for office? Do you have the passion and commitment to raise money, knock on doors and make thousands of phone calls?

Do you think you could do a better job than the Democrat [sic] incumbent?

We would love to meet with you to discuss your potential candidacy for public office.

617-523-5005
Candidates@MassGOP.com

Doesn’t this sound like the beginning of an Adam Sandler movie? [Tags: ]

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