Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

Quote to remember

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There shouldn’t be writers and fans. We’re all writers on such platforms and should be all equal. The moment there are writers and ‘names,’ it’s a failure of the system.
- Ashok Banker on why he stopped using social media.

Note: The writer-fan distinction should not collapse into some false and, god forbid, forced equalisation. It should collapse into us being fans as well as having fans. That is the strength of the network.

My del.icio.us in Wordle

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Couldn’t get it any bigger, so if interested, click on the graphic.

And here is the Mine! paper in Wordle.

Quote to remember

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Becoming a blog-friendly company by chattering on blogs is like becoming a cat person by clawing your own couch and crapping in a litter box. You have to give the bloggers something to chat about.
Don Marti in comment on Today’s re-reading assignment

via Doc

Sales happen

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Another variation on markets are conversations (and relationships).

The most effective marketing use of blogs seems to be when the advertiser/marketer uses the blog as an opportunity not to sell a product, but to attract people who are in the right mindset.

Attract people in trouble–>Help solve their problems–>Build your reputation–>Sales happen.

It is about the mindset. It is also about understanding that you can make money because of something, not with it.

This is what you get when your new business isn’t just about inventing and controlling technologies and standards, but about taking advantage of the new opportunities opened up by fresh new technologies and standards. For example, making money because of blogging, or RSS, or desktop Linux, or whatever — rather than just with those things.

Blogging is a symptom

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Hugh is taking the heat off his posting Why We’re all Blogging Less?:

Blogging isn’t dead. Far from it. It’s just a subset of something much larger and more important.

Indeed. So 2004 and we are still repeating it. :)

Bubble, bubble, bubble

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This is another example of off-line type of thinking.

The reality is though that outside of our little insular world of blogs
and co-presence what we do has no importance. To your average neighbor
Justin is just some weird guy walking around with a camera attached to
his body, blogs are just another confusing computer term and the
cluetrain might just as well be the mid-afternoon commuter train in any
major metropolitan city.

The impact of the blogosphere and other online -spheres begins with the people who create them. The internet has changed the way those people can do things. Some have tapped right into it, some are yet to do so and some may never care. It is not about creating big organisations and processes to change the existing order. The internet is about ‘ends’ i.e. the users, distributed networks and distributed sovereignty.

The truth of the matter is that for the person worrying about making
next month’s rent or being able to pay their child’s doctor bill
without bankrupting themselves none of this has or ever will matter. If
anything the poli-sphere for all it’s partisanship and bloodied
knuckles is far more relevant to our daily lives than any post of
thoughtful consideration from the tech-sphere.

People have always worried about the mundane stuff and always will. But once their ability to take control over more of those activities increases, you won’t be able to put the genie back in the bottle. Innovation is real, change happens and individuals involved in it have nothing to lose by pushing at the boundaries.

It just seems to take bloody ages.

What’s in a mob?

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Scoble’s reaction to Tim O’Reilly’s response to the code of conduct:

It, even, looked a lot like a mob because the feedback was so consistently anti the proposal. Anyway, I was just reading my feeds and saw that Tim O’Reilly responded with a lengthy post.That’s how to respond to a mob. Take on their concerns head on and remain calm.

Does a consistent anti-proposal feedback make a mob? Well, there I am anti uniform code of conducts, so is Johnnie and Euan and Hugh and Damien and Jackie and many others that I rate. Does it mean we are a mob or even a part of a mob? Just wondering because that would, in the words of Scoble, make me feel uneasy.

Code of conduct strikes again

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Tim O’Reilly comes out with a draft of blogger’s code of conduct, named Civility Enforced. I am with Scoble on this one.

So, for now, I guess I’d have to wear the “anything goes” badge.

I do find disquieting the social pressure to get on board with this
program. Tim O’Reilly is a guy who really can affect one’s career
online (and off, too). I do have to admit that I feel some pressure
just to get on board here and that makes me feel very uneasy.

Although I don’t think it is a choice between Anything Goes and Civility Enforced. Why should I put either on my blog? My readers know me and those who don’t can find out about me quickly.

Telling people how to handle blog communications is one thing, asking them sign up to a set of rules e.g. a code of conduct is another. I am happy to see the former but will resist the latter. Apart from the obvious objection that a code of conduct, even one called Civility Enforced, will not make people civil, there is another case against it. Variety is the primordial soup of innovation – instead of a uniform code of conduct it would make sense to encourage a variety of different ways of dealing with blog trolls, false accusations, misunderstandings, even threats and libel. (Although for the last two transgressions we have laws already.) We have been ‘managing’ Samizdata.net comments section for some time and with reasonable success.

An interesting little give-away is the explanation of why the text of the code wasn’t put in a wiki.

(While wikis are great for developing the code, we don’t want it to be a moving target once people have signed up for it.)

My question is, well, why not make it a moving target? I do understand the logic behind it – consistency and clarity of what people subscribe to. But is locking something into a static format the best way? How about making it a transparently evolving thing? Perhaps this is the crux of the problem, central and imposed rules don’t work well on the internet. In order to make them stick at all, one has to resort to locking things in.

So however good and sensible Tim O’Reilly’s proposed code of conduct might be, I don’t want to see it ‘crowd out’ other approaches. So recommendations yes, signing-up no. Social pressure can on occasion be as harmful as those who deserve to be condemned by it.

Update: Many comments ‘raging’ across the blogosphere, Jeff Jarvis’s post No twinkie badges here addresses most issues in detail and links to other bloggers with things to say.

Code of conduct is for bullies

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…to help them, not to stop them. Bullies like to control other people’s behaviour and compulsory codes are a great tool. If people are causing harm to others, there are laws to stop them. Compulsory rules, codes of conduct don’t make people civil or polite, they remove yet another layer of freedom from our lives and relationships. 

Doc Searls talks not only about markets being conversations but about markets being relationships. There needs to be something to relate to and the freedom to do so in order to create and sustain relationships. Autonomy is to human behaviour what freedom is to morality. Both are indispensable. It also means that in order to see genuine kindness, generosity and openness, there has to be a possibility of harshness, meanness and narrow-mindedness. Freedom to make choices for the good gives us hope that others might do the same.

There seem to be two approaches to the codes of conduct online. The authoritarian hard-liners who want to ban anonymous posts or comments.

We need to make anonymous posts illegal. Let’s devise software that
forces everyone to reveal their true identity before posting anything
on the Internet.

This is stupid and evil (I secretly hope that the author of the article was just winding his readers up). Anonymity is important and often the only way some voices can be heard. Yes, let’s devise software that will help totalitarian regimes continue suppress dissent! Surely not a price worth paying to satisfy some people’s sensitivities.

Then there is Tim O’Reilly’s call for a code of conduct, which is a set of recommendations about how to not offend others and how to communicate your tolerance to lack of civility, bad manners and more on your blog. You can take them or leave them. If someone decides to impose those on me, just stand back and watch. Most of those recommendations have already been applied by those who have a vibrant and vociferous community around their blogs. (I love the word ‘vibrant community’ especially as used by estate agents).

Samizdata.net has had very clear guidelines that are ruthlessly imposed. As editors, we make it clear who’s the boss and what we won’t tolerate. This is what it says in our comments section:

You are a guest on private property and we reserve the right to delete
anything we want to. Have fun but please be civil and succinct. Blogroaches will be persecuted, not to mention IP banned. Be polite or prepare to be deleted.


Long third party quotes or articles will also be deleted… so just
link to articles you think are germane to your comment, do not quote
the whole bloody thing.


And finally, please do not post using different names to agree with yourself, it will only get your comments deleted and banned.

Which is not exactly foolproof but we are a mere in-your-face, controversial anti-political blog… :)

I am with Euan and Johnnie on the need for codes of conduct and borrow the words from  Damien.

Follow netiquette, follow good manners, be civil, or don’t. I really
hope that something like this doesn’t spawn some elitist bully-boy
standards or code body that does nothing more than charge an admin fee
and bully people into signing up. That’s what unions are for. Freedom
of speech should not be cut back on because of a few assholes. Why on
earth do we need to impose guidelines on ourselves online when we don’t
need to offline?

Blogs threat to business? Only in consultancy land…

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Apparently, YouTube and blogs threaten retail:

…Deloitte cited online commerce, greater
transparency in product information, and the PR ramifications of sites
like YouTube as among the leading threats to traditional retail.
"In some ways," the report states, "consumers have reached a level of
information parity with retailers," making comparison shopping and
product quality research easier.

To put this in the same convoluted speak, the "information asymmetry gamble" with your customers is no
longer possible. Great news!

This, in turn, will further reduce
"the value of, and need for retail workers who actually try to sell the
consumer something."

Would these retail workers be marketers? If so, I have been saying this for years! But would anyone listen…?! [mutters animatedly whilst typing the rest of the post].

And that is far from all that should keep retailers awake at night:

The Internet presents a third threat by allowing consumers and
activists to rapidly disseminate damaging information or opinions about
companies, including retailers–a capacity amply demonstrated in
2005-2006. Angry consumers can use blogs and sites like YouTube as
platforms for their frustrations.

But wait, not all is lost!

However, the outlook
isn’t all gloomy, according to the same analysis. Returning to YouTube,
the authors noted that "at any one time, three to five of the top 100
most frequently watched videos will be ads." Indeed, "Some of the more
effective advertisements on YouTube are both entertaining and so subtle
that it’s hard to even tell if they were meant to be advertisements."

So don’t worry about retail workers, just produce more funny and subtle ads – that’ll be the first from advertising industry – and Bob’s your uncle.

The report has a rather strange way with words – retail workers (you can tell I am taken by the phrase), angry consumers disseminate damaging information (you’d think they are some propaganda-mongers), and the use of child labor, environmentally unfriendly suppliers or other
questionable activity can and will be unearthed by business-hostile
NGOs to discredit your brand
. How dare they!

There is no mention of the fact that ‘questionable activity’ unearthed is not the issue. It is no news that it’s merely a matter of time before companies won’t be able to hide behind PR and other ‘questionable’ communication skillz. The issue is  that if ‘business-hostile NGOs’ want to ‘discredit your brand’ unfairly, driven by their own not-so-transparent agenda, the same tools and environment enable companies to defend themselves directly and as effectively. And that is good news for everyone.

Why I like Flickr but not Yahoo!

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When I got an email from Flickr this morning telling me that by March 15th I will have to use Yahoo ID to login to my Flickr account, I wasn’t happy. But I thought, oh well, what can I do? My dislike of the whole notion and unease about switching to Yahoo was real but I felt irrational so I just left it at that. I didn’t want to think about the issues of.. will my Yahoo ID have the pro account, how is that going to transfer etc. I thought it was just the idea of switching usernames and accounts. This didn’t make sense as I do this all the time – the moment I see an interesting application I sign up, test and either migrate to it, file it or trash it.

What I didn’t realise until I saw the Wired Monkey Bites was that other old skool users aren’t happy either…

This isn’t the first time a company has tried to pass off an artificial
limitation as a “feature,” but it’s the first time Flickr has and it’s drawing fire
from users. I sympathize with those that say, “who cares, those limits
are plenty high enough,” but the change is still a bad move on Flickr’s
part.

Then I saw Ben Metcalfe’s Skype tagline – "Flickr just took the jam out of my donut", read his and Suw Charman’s posts on the topic and felt validated. I started to wonder what made me feel so negative about the announcement. After all, Flickr is owned by Yahoo, I used to have Yahoo mail account and two login systems don’t really make sense technically. So why on this occasion did I prefer to be ‘old skool’?!

Let’s have a look at the ‘rational’ reasons. To me, it’s not about the limits – I don’t expect to need more than 75 tags per photo or ever reach more than 3000 contacts (although you never know :) ). The fire Flickr is drawing from its users has to do with the nature of community. A lot has been written and powerpointed about the social and the communal on the internet, most of it missing the point. By a wide margin. Community is not a ‘collective’, it is a voluntary association of individuals drawn to something that motivates them to sustain the connection over time. It is a web of such connections between autonomous individuals who are happy to congregate because they feel understood, captivated and derive value from the association.

For me, autonomy is the operational term here… and Flickr made me feel deprived of it as I read that email. I liked being ‘old skool’, proud of the fact that I signed up before they become the poster child for Web 2.0 buy-out. But Flickr is just another company and owned by Yahoo!. Everybody knows that! I hear you say. Maybe, but the reason I liked Flickr was the feeling that despite Yahoo’s ownership, this was a place on which I had an impact, in my small way. I ‘owned’ a corner of it, with my pictures, my friends’ photostreams, comments and a world to explore if I wanted.

And then there is Yahoo! ID that sticks in my throat. My first web based email was Yahoo! Mail and I used it until Gmail came along. Then I checked it only occasionally until one day, I logged on to a completely empty inbox. All my mail was wiped clean! I am sure for good storage reasons but I felt a sense of loss as I had no idea this could happen. So I don’t trust Yahoo any more with any of my ‘content’. Would you? Suw sums up my attitude towards Yahoo just perfectly (and I like the idea of OpenID):

You know, I like Flickr. There are some astonishingly good people
working there. There are also some astonishingly good people working at
Yahoo, but yet I don’t like the Yahoo brand at all. It’s unpleasant. It
says ‘ignorant false-hearted redneck who always hangs on other people’s
coat-tails’ to me. They are a brand that started off ‘pretty cool’ in
the mid-90s, sank to ‘horrible’ in 2001 and have now rebounded to
‘icky’ (in no small part to some absolutely awful TV adverts), with a
hint of ‘cool’ because of the services they’ve bought.

As for two login systems, I understand for some technical reasons it may be more convenient for Yahoo/Flickr, but isn’t Web 2.0 also about making technology secondary to the needs of the individual and bending it to our twisted ways?

So as irrational as it may be, I am not happy about having to switch to Yahoo ID to use Flickr. Dave Winer reckons that Flickr people are smart and all this will come to pass. I really do hope so.

Tesco Checkout Girl Test (TCGT)

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Julian at Camera anguish confirms that blogging comes of age:

There is a golden thermometer that I and others use for technology
known generally as the Tesco Checkout Girl Test (TCGT). This is the
test of what happens when someone, with often limited ability, has to
use technology in order to carry out their job tasks, such as credit
card checkers, changing till rolls, rebooting an electric till etc. It
comes as a shock to me then to have been standing in a queue in my
local Tesco tonight and hear two checkout girls discussing the optimal
ways to ensure comment moderation in their blogs and discussing the
merits of Blogger versus MySpace, Facebook or TagWorld. In fact when it
came to my turn to be served I went and stood in another queue and left
them to it so I could listen some more.

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