Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

Decadent musings

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I Woke up in NYC 5.30 this morning, which is an hour that I am normally awake only if I haven’t gone to bed yet. I went for a run in Central Park, through an empty and foggy city. On the way back the fog lifted, streets were buzzing and I was reminded why I love New York. It is striking – the towering buildings with hi-tech displays and shops (grotty and smart) at the ground level. It is not a modern city in the sleekest sense but a smelly, grubby and packed conurbation.

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I love the design and architecture of New York – it reveals a powerful aspect of the country. The city was built in an era where the artistic mingles with the industrial, where mass produced has a hand-crafted look. It is also solid and proud. What it is not though is quirky and accidental that one often sees in Europe.

I imagine there was a similar tension between the Greeks and Romans in architecture, literature, plays, music. The Romans imitated the subjugated Greeks. And the Greeks were clinging to the last vestiges of their dominance, which was confined to culture. The only way to left to Greeks to humiliate the Romans was to critique their art and culture. This, I might add, did not stop the Roman culture coming whilst taking bits of Greek culture, evolving their own. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

I would take the parallel further. Greeks were considered ‘sophisticated’ and decadent. Not wishing to be left behind, the Roman decadence reached its own peak but in its brutality it could be called merely aspirational compared to the Greek debauchery. In its purest sense decadence is constraining. I do think decadence is mostly negative, although the other side of the coin of waste, chaos and lack of purpose, is redundancy, freedom and creative playfulness. But often, decadence is accompanied by irreverence. And there is a kind of effortless superiority that comes from mastering rules, principles and conventions and then disregarding them. So it is not decadence that that helps to give rise to the odd, playful and revolutionary but irreverence. Decadence often means disregard of purpose and seriousness, overridden by social pathologies such as hypocrisy, while irreverence has the potential to break the rules when they ought to be broken.

All this is a very long-winded way of nailing down the differences that I observe in different cultures across the Atlantic. What I do requires focus on long-term purpose, taking some things seriously enough to want to change and adjust, to make mental and other leaps. Decadence makes it hard to aspire, motivate and go boldly forward. Irreverence makes it is easier to break down the systems that are in the way of progress. So can we please have some irreverence, easy on the decadence…

Of course, this is just non-sense spouting from a jetlagged mind in an exhausted body. It’ll teach me to blog before I have had my morning coffee, or as I am in New York, my morning smoothie.

Comcast awakens… after YouTube video

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CNETnews.com reports:

Two weeks ago, a Comcast repairman in Washington fell asleep in a customer’s home. The customer, Brian Finkelstein, a student at Georgetown Law School, took the incident to the Internet. He shot a video of the repairman sacked out in his couch and posted it on his blog, Snakes on a Blog. The video, which he also posted on YouTube, is one of several recent examples of angered customers taping their interactions with customer service, then putting the experience online.

I love it. These days customers can communicate direct their encounters with companies in multi-media formats and distribute them across the most connected network. Here is where just an ‘online diary’ meets the ‘empowered consumer’. This particular ‘experience sharing’ is Comcast losing sleep over this as the video has been seen by 200,000 people so far. After the video was posted, the blogger got a call from a regional vice president at Comcast and, a day later, "a team of Comcast guys" worked for five hours to fix his Internet connection. Hm, five hours?! So good news for those with cameras, camcorders and a blog, bad news for the rest of the world. Well, not quite as this is a positive development.

The final twist is just as revealing as the video although not surprising:

While that might seem a humble and humane response from a cable company, in fairness, it is worth noting that the former repairman, who is not identified by name in the video, fell asleep as he tried to get through to the cable company’s repair office on the telephone.

Indeed or as Snakes on the blog puts it:

At one point Comcast sent a technician to replace my cable modem/wireless router. This should have taken five minutes. Instead, when he called Comcast to activate my new modem, he was placed on hold for nearly 90 minutes. When I asked him why he was on hold for so long, he told me that phone reps were busy filling out customer service surveys. Then he fell asleep on my couch. I could have made a few suggestions for their survey.

Online communities are socialist anarchists says head of WPP UK

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This article in the FT took my breath away. Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, has warned media owners must find ways to attract and retain talent and create stand-alone digital divisions in order to compete in the era of internet blogs, open access and online communities. So far so good. He believes that the shortage in human capital would be one of the main challenges facing companies in the future, and successful companies were those that could "find, retain, and incentivise good people". This is because "young people, accustomed to quick response on the internet, were shunning hierarchical organisations where decision-making took a long time."

You saw this in the first web boom and you’re seeing it now… There are significant changes in the attitudes of young people. They would rather work in smaller, less bureaucratic companies.

So Sir Martin’s solution is to acquire or create separate online operations or divisions to run alongside digital operations built on traditional media brands?! Not to break up and streamline the bloated overpaid bureacratic and hierarchical organisations but swallow up smaller companies that seem to have all the new ideas. What’s wrong with making order in your own house? For an industry that’s suppose to advise and sell businesses branding, positioning and ‘creativity’, this attitude is astonishingly benighted.

Sorrell, when addressing an audience of regional newspapers, talked about the "difficulty of competing against websites that destroyed business models". Note the general tems ‘business models’ as if online commerce has brought an end to all business models. The fact that it only brought the media business models to its knees is easily overlooked by media executives with a geocentric view of their own industry. Referring to Craiglist that has been threatening revenues at US city newspapers he asks:

How do you deal with socialistic anarchists?

And goes on to say:

The internet is the most socialistic force you’ve ever seen.

I could hardly believe my eyes, this is almost too good to be true. It makes my derisory comments about the media industry all the more credible if someone in this position is so ignorant about the nature of the internet and online interactions. The fact that the internet is the most open, accessible, free-flowing, innovative and social space known to man complety passed Sir Martin by. I wonder what definition of ’socialistic’ he has in mind… mine equals despotic, politicised, rigid, wastful and ultimately lethal. And we are not even describing the media industry! I am reminded of a joke back in the old socialist days: Do you know what would happen if they introduced socialism in the dessert? They’d have to import sand within three months. But I digress.

Sir Martin also shrewdly observed that "while his agencies and Google were co-existing, the search giant could make life difficult for the advertising industry." I believe the appropriate response is…er, no shit, Sherlock.

For a more ’serious’ point I have to borrow one of Hugh’s cartoons:

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Craigslist founder Craig Newmark tells CNET News.com’s Greg Sandoval he’s no "socialistic anarchist".

Quote to remember

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Even if we got conned downstream, many of us were attracted by adjectives like “green” and “organic”. Generation M will look for different kitemarks. Shareable. Copiable. Mashable. Note that they don’t look for Free as in Gratis. It has always been Free as In Freedom for them. While we mope around trying to look for just Playable. I look forward to seeing things marked SCM for Shareable Copiable Mashable. Or maybe the Creative Commons CC already does this…

- JP Rangaswami in Four Pillars: EAI and DRM continued

The Tao Of Programming

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In the east there is a shark which is larger than all other fish. It
changes into a bird whose wings are like clouds filling the sky. When
this bird moves across the land, it brings a message from Corporate
Headquarters. This message it drops into the midst of the programmers,
like a seagull making its mark upon the beach. Then the bird mounts on
the wind and, with the blue sky at its back, returns home.

The novice programmer stares in wonder at the bird, for he understands
it not. The average programmer dreads the coming of the bird, for he
fears its message. The master programmer continues to work at his
terminal, for he does not know that the bird has come and gone.

rendered by Alec Muffet in a comment on Jackie’s blog.

Techdirt Greenhouse

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Techdirt Greenhouse was the other reason I travelled to San Francisco last week, first one being vloggercon and the blip.tv panel on net neutrality. Thanks to Jackie, who sold me on the whole idea and arranged for me to attend, I got a taste of Silly Valley start-up, Web 2.0, VC vibe. I enjoyed the day, mainly because I met several interesting people, with whom I hope to stay in touch. And although I wouldn’t have travelled across the globe just for this, it was a day well spent. Here is a short video from the event, you can see Jackie and me staring immovably at the presenter.

Mike Masnick, CEO of Techdirt describes Techdirt Greenhouse as:

…an idea workshop rather than traditional product showcase. present short quick 5 minute presentation of an idea and then break up the audience to discuss different points of view and get them talking.

Jackie has taken many notes and found the time to blog them and her impressions. Worth a read if you want the full flavour of the discussions. For me the main benefit was several lightbulbs going off, noting small but significant points. I might blog them later, time permitting.

User-generated future

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AmazonBay by Sean Park is a short film about where technology and trends in financial markets get us in 2015. Fantastic. Literally.

Thanks to a brush with the financial services in my previous life, the film brought a rueful smile to my face. Especially the bit about assests and cashflows of government funding programmes being managed dynamically and in real time and with perfect liquidity and every financial instrument…

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Thanks to JP for the link.

Digital Diversity Conference

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The Developing Digital Diversity Conference is taking place on Thursday 20th July at the ICA in London. I will be on a panel talking about ’social web’ and how, if at all, many offline social issue might reflect in the online world.

I suspect the overlap to be not what most of us imagine as much of the ’social issues’ are often warped by top down hierarchical systems and processes. I’ll probably touch on the whole ‘democratisation’ issue of the internet and self-publishing as well as some emergent trends. Let’s see what comes out of the wash…

The medium is the message

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That’s what CNETnews calls vlogs when reporting about vloggercon that took place last weekend.

I like that.

A garden of the hundreds flowers

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Last night Jackie and I were invited to dinner by Shel Israel and his wife Paula, at their house in San Carlos. The sun came out just before our train journey (my San Francisco experience now includes a ride on Caltrain), which made for a pleasant evening. We spent the first half of it in the garden, which is Shel’s kingdom. There are many beautiful flowers, most of them blue/purple, which made for a colour rich surroundings. Also, the garden has many areas with seating and I can imagine too easily spending the summer there with a laptop.

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The dinner was fabulous – great people, delicous food and Napa Valley Chardonnay that flowed freely. For an account of the conversation check Jackie’s post… things were getting interesting. Fortunately Jeremiah Owyang provided our get-away transport.

Here is Jackie and me still intently listening to Brian Oberkirch and Alex Muse

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… before Brian’s true face appeared. It even made the pictures turn pink!

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… to be continued tonight at the SF blogger party at Hotel Utah.

  • Author: Adriana
  • Published: Jun 11th, 2006
  • Category: Events
  • Comments: 5

Net neutrality

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Just spoken at vloggercon on the net neutrality panel. It was organised and chaired by the guys from blip.tv - Charles Hope and Mike Hudack, who was recently on PBS NOW programme debating the issue. The panel discussion was heated at times and only reinforced my opinion that this is one of the most important issues affecting the future of the internet these days. The points below reflect my position:

  1. The telecoms and cablecos are heavily regulated and their cries for free market are false. The industry is already warped and the argument against net neutrality based on the desire to keep government out of ‘markets’ is misplaced.
  2. The distinction between consumer and user is gone. It is in fact the ‘content’ produced by many individual vloggers that put the social media cat among the old media pigeons. The media industry has smelled the wealth of content and feels the urge to control it.
  3. A network that is heavily regulated and not very innovative is being used as a model of control and regulation for a network that is amazingly open, innovative in a historically unprecedented manner. So the government is imposing regulation from a closed and cumbersome industry to an agile and dynamic space.
  4. Nothwithstanding all of the above, net neutrality legislation is not the answer – it is more like ‘casting out a devil with the devil’. There is no fundamental understanding of the internet as a space, marketplace, world or a frontier (for more on this see Doc Searls’ article on Saving the Net). The debate should not be about the internet as a sum of pipelines and wires and content and packets delivered across an infrastructure. It should be in terms of protecting the space in which the individual has been empowered and the emergent benefits of interactions among those individuals that are having an increasingly sociall impact.

There was more but this is what I can think of whilst sitting in the middle of vloggercon still in full flow.

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Update: In the heat of the moment, I forgot to mention my ’solution’ – deregulate telecoms and cablecos so we have something resembling a real competition at the pipelines and wires level. Then the pipeline takers will not have a case to control content and what goes through. Susan Crawford sums it up well:

Think of the pipes and wires that you use to go online as a sidewalk. The question is whether the sidewalk should get a cut of the value of the conversations that you have as you walk along. The traditional telephone model has been that the telephone company doesn’t get paid more if you have a particularly meaningful call — they’re just providing a neutral pipe.

I left my laptop in San Francisco

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Last month has been a conference marathon, which left me with no time to blog. The harmony of the spheres has been disturbed and sadly this state continues, as I am blogging on the way to Techdirt Greenhouse in Sunnyvale in California. This is the first time I am blogging from a car and it’s just glorious. The connection in the hotel in San Francisco did not agree with my computer and I could barely do my emails. I am with Hillary Johnson and Jackie Danicki, the beauty blog goddesses and given that Hillary is letting me use her computer to blog this, she is unlikely to descend from that pantheon.

The reason I am in San Francisco is to speak at Vloggercon 2006, which takes place this weekend. I will be on a panel organised by blip.tv who are one of the sponsors and organisers of the conference. It’ll be on the topic of net neutrality, something that keeps most vloggers awake at night. I arrived yesterday and already the area was buzzing with vloggers – walking down the street you could be sure that anyone with a large video camera was a vlogger. There was an event in Applestore, with talks from assorted bloggers and the vibe was already great. In one another corner there was a debate going one, spot the blog celebs.

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Next week I look forward to meeting Shel Israel again and those who will join us for the SF Blogger Dinner at Hotel Utah on Tuesday.

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