Sunday, April 24, 2005

Annals in Collaboration: The Celebrity Group Blog

We could have predicted this one. Just the first of many celebrity collectives:

Arianna Huffington, the columnist and onetime candidate for governor of California, is about to move blogging from the realm of the anonymous individual to the realm of the celebrity collective.

She has lined up more than 250 of what she calls "the most creative minds" in the country to write a group blog that will range over topics from politics and entertainment to sports and religion. It is essentially a nonstop virtual talk show that will be part of a Web site that will also serve up breaking news around the clock. It is to be introduced May 9.

POSTSCRIPT: See the Doc Searls critique of this article. Accuses the author of subtly -- or unsubtly -- reinforcing the journalist/blogger caste system.

Jay Rosen on the "Newsroom"

Jay Rosen steps up his coverage on newsroom exiles, here and here.

Does TV Make You Smarter?

Great article in The New York Times Magazine, by Steven Johnson, the author of "Mind Wide Open." The gist:

... another kind of televised intelligence is on the rise. Think of the cognitive benefits conventionally ascribed to reading: attention, patience, retention, the parsing of narrative threads. Over the last half-century, programming on TV has increased the demands it places on precisely these mental faculties. This growing complexity involves three primary elements: multiple threading, flashing arrows and social networks.

Johnson makes a persuasive case that TV shows today are vastly more sophisticated than those of yesteryear. But his case ends there; he offers no argument that our exposure to, say, "The Sopranos" or "The West Wing" is actually making us any smarter. Still, I expect that watching these shows will be less of a guilty pleasure.

Anonymous Letter Scandal

See Dan Gillmor's post today on a scandal involving a Bay Area letter writer. He quotes an article in the Contra Costa Times (registration required):

Under dozens of pseudonyms, Kyle Vallone has orchestrated the publication of scores of letters to the Times, San Francisco Chronicle and the Tri-Valley Herald during the last decade. A Times investigation found that the San Ramon man submitted more than 100 letters under fictitious identities to the three newspapers. Vallone estimated that he has had a hand in 200 bogus letters published in Northern California newspapers.

Vallone said the idea occurred to him while he was working on a Republican campaign in 1994. He and other workers would write letters on behalf of a candidate and send them to a "tree" of supporters who would sign their names and send them to newspapers. It occurred to him that he could skip a step, make up fictitious identities and send the letters via e-mail. He used free e-mail accounts and various voice-mail systems, his cell phone and home phone numbers to pull off his hoax.

Kurt Opsahl and Internet Speech

The EFF lawyer -- and co-author of the recent EFF article on anonymous blogging -- is featured in a Q&A today in the San Jose Mercury News. Good perspective on the EFF's aims on a number of issues.

As I have said, there are legal and social remedies for dealing with the issue of anonymity on the Internet (which is just one of Opsahl's interests). I am increasingly in favor of an approach that enables us to move on both fronts, in parallel: defending First Amendment protections -- as the EFF is doing -- while educating people on the most effective ways to use the Internet for communication.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

More on Delio

You can read about it here. We'll be posting a longer piece on the general topic of fact checking in the next few weeks.

Steve Rubel

He got the biggest photo by far (a full page at the top of the article) in the Business Week cover story on corporate blogging. Quite amazing. When was the last time any PR guy got that kind of star treatment? Move over Howard Rubenstein, Edward Bernays, and Ivy Lee (not to mention Lizzie).

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Naked Web

A few weeks ago, we sang the praises of a new webzine called Gelf. We liked them so much we decided to join them. We'll be writing an occasional column called The Naked Web, which will focus on the media, PR and transparency. First installment posted today -- on the subject of anonymous blogging.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

BusinessWeek on Blogging

Blogging is the cover story in the upcoming issue, and the magazine has done a really smart job, mimicking the style of a blog. Proud to say that Eastwick gets a nod in one of several online companion pieces, on the subject of tips for corporate bloggers.

Great that a publication with this kind of clout in the biz community would commit to a cover on this subject. It's perhaps a sign that new media is finally crossing the chasm.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Litblog Buzz

From the Village Voice.... The blogosphere opens up for literary work and play. Not to mention marketing. The litblog world is fast becoming a case study in "word-of-mouth buzz."

Literati are increasingly turning to the blogs for discussion, gossip, analysis, and a sense of community. Inevitably, publishers have noticed the power of these informal networks to generate word-of-mouth buzz—the holy grail of marketing—and are looking for ways to harness it. In turn, many bloggerati are on the verge of becoming that contradiction in terms, the professional enthusiast. So what happens now, when these amateurs are faced with the chance to wield influence and become insiders?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam

And we watched it today on streaming media.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

First Amendment Media Blitz

The right to free speech is getting lots of ink these days as two interesting new books make the rounds. Check out Anthony Lewis's review of "Inside the Pentagon Papers" in the April 7 issue of The New York Review of Books, and Jeffrey Rosen's look at Floyd Abrams' "Speaking Freely" in today's issue of the New York Times Book Review. Rosen, who also contributed the cover story in today's issue of the New York Times Magazine (on the conservative/libertarian movement known as "the Constitution in Exile"), finds the focus on free speech to be timely:

Abrams is surely correct that, as a constitutional matter, the law is almost always too crude and ineffective an instrument to provide a remedy for the genuine harms that speech can cause. (As a technological matter, in the age of the Internet, the harms are real and may continue to grow.) Today, the principled defenders of free speech are a small but hardy bipartisan coalition of civil libertarian liberals and libertarian conservatives, while its antagonists include mainstream liberal and conservative politicians who forget their former scruples as soon as they win power. (Abrams is especially scathing about former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's crusade against the Brooklyn Museum.) Happily, liberal and conservative judges today are increasingly libertarian in First Amendment cases. For this improbable and surprisingly recent consensus, Floyd Abrams deserves his share of the credit.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Google Video Hosting

Sounds like a terrific free service. Says Google:

Whether you produce hundreds of titles a year or just a few, you can give your videos the recognition and visibility they deserve by promoting them on Google - for free. Signing up for the Google Video Upload Program will connect your work with users who are most likely to want to view them.

***

We're accepting digital video files of any length and size. Simply sign up for an account and upload your videos using our Video Uploader (please be sure you own the rights to the works you upload), and, pending our approval process and the launch of this new service, we'll include your video in Google Video, where users will be able to search, preview, purchase and play it.

Investors Business Daily: Corporate Blogging

IBD: "a growing number of businesses are using the blog format to promote products, interact with customers and shareholders, conduct market research and distribute company announcements."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Toxic Blogs

ComputerWeekly: malicious code corrupts blog sites.

Websense, a provider of employee internet management solutions, said it has discovered hundreds of instances of blogs involved in the storage and delivery of harmful code.

The company said cyber-criminals are now taking advantage of blog sites that allow users to easily publish their own web pages at no cost. Blogs can be attractive vehicles for hackers for several reasons, it said.

For instance, blogs offer large amounts of free storage and do not require any identity authentication to post information. In addition, most blog hosting sites do not provide anti-virus protection for posted files.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Phishing and Bogus Blogs

From ZDNet:

Malicious virus writers are attempting to lure people to malicious blogs using enticing e-mails and instant messages, according to a new report from Websense. Once a person arrives at the blog, which can be posted on a legitimate host site, the victim's computer becomes infected with software designed to steal sensitive information, such as passwords and bank account information.

"These aren't the kind of blog Web sites that someone would stumble upon and infect their machine accidentally," Dan Hubbard, Websense senior director of security and technology research, said in a statement. "The success of these attacks relies upon a certain level of social engineering to persuade the individual to click on the link."

Monday, April 11, 2005

Creative Commons Inspires U.K. Group

From today's edition of the Guardian -- an experiment in the U.K. based on the Creative Commons copyright scheme.

The BBC, Channel 4, the British Film Institute (BFI) and the Open University have joined together to create the creative archive licence, which launches later this week. The new licence grew out of the BBC's online archive project, first announced by the corporation's former director general Greg Dyke in 2003 as a visionary plan to make thousands of hours of BBC content available to the UK public on the internet for non-commercial use.

The new initiative is meant to create a legitimate way for people to get free access to the archive material of the BBC as well as material from Channel 4, the BFI and the Open University but within certain prescriptions. "This isn't just the BBC looking to do something for us but actually a framework for many organisations in the UK," says Ashley Highfield, the BBC's director of new media and technology. "We have started with a group that has a clear interest in this, but this does not preclude others from coming on board."

The Annotated New York Times

Fascinating experiment in wikis and citizen journalism (sort of).

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Unbranding the Word "Brand"

See William Safire's mini-history of one of the most trusted yet overused words in marketing. He concludes:

In a world where the words new and fresh are relentlessly repeated on every product label, the name of the sales technique is getting old and stale. Where is the ad-Übermensch, the creative Ogilvy, who will put forward a new moniker for the name of the atmospheric marketing game? The time has come, as John Kerry puts it, to unbrand the word brand.

New Citizen Journalism Project

Thanks to Dan Gillmor for posting about this. Rocky Mountain News describes the project:

YourHub is exactly that: Yours!

It's a Web site built by the people in metro Denver with help from the Rocky Mountain News. This May, people throughout metro Denver will be able to access their own community's YourHUB.com Web site, featuring stories, photos and events posted by others in their community -- that means you!

Each site will also include easy connections to local resources and updated daily events, creating a lively information hub that's focused where you live.

Come back to this Web site in May to get connected with your community Hub.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

RSS Advertising

Gotta watch this one. Will this evolve into a fine form of permission-based marketing ... or spam?

The Media Versus Apple

Tom Foremski: numerous news orgs have filed an amicus brief in the Apple blog case. The lower court's decision, on appeal, held that Apple could force three blogging sites to reveal their sources because bloggers do not enjoy the protections afforded to journalists.

The old bloggers vs journalists debate was turned on its head yesterday when major media corporations and publishers' associations filed an amicus brief [PDF] with the Court of Appeals in the Apple v Does case. In their filing, the media companies consistently refer to the websites as "journalists," drawing no distinction between traditonal media and online reporters.

***

Signing on to the brief were the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times Communications, San Jose Mercury News, Hearst Corp., (publishers of the San Francisco Chronicle), Copley Press (publishers of the San Diego Union-Tribune), McClatchy Co. (publishers of the Sacramento Bee), and Freedom Communications (publishers of the Orange County Register).

Hack/Flaks -- Chapter III

Another columnist gets fired for not disclosing he represents a government body.

Friday, April 08, 2005

"Someone is Selling Google Ads for Your PR Blog"

Fascinating post by Constantin Basturea. A new (potential) evil is exposed....

POSTSCRIPT, 4/9:

Good, evil, or just business? An interesting debate has ensued on Constantin's site. Not everyone is bothered by this practice. There may be a larger issue at play here: who has the right to sell ads for your copy in a no-copyright world. Will more bloggers adopt the Creative Commons "some rights reserved" protection? Seems like the right move -- most bloggers will not mind that their content is getting additional distribution. But when that content makes money for others, you can be sure many will object.

POST-POSTSCRIPT, 4/10:
B.L. Ochman called up the offending blogger, Don Crowther, and concludes that he made "an honest, if clueless mistake."

What Crowther did wrong:

- didn’t ask our permission. While he could have made it seem like a privilege to be included, he ended up looking like a thief
- he didn’t include the name of the blog or the blogger as all newsreaders do
- he didn’t respond quickly enough when the conversation began.

What’s he’s done since:

- asked permission and given an opt-out option to bloggers who don’t want to be included
- said he’ll get the blog names in the headlines
- posted a response on each of the blogs discussing him

***

All of this makes me wonder how we prolific bloggers really can cover our backs and our butts. I had a guy sell stuff that I give away free. And when I told him to take it down he told me to have my lawyer call his lawyer. That was pre-blogging. Now I’d publicly whip his sorry ass.

The other question it raises is how to apologize for a mistake made in full view of the world. The answer, in my opinion, is full disclosure, quickly and politely. Crowther didn't respond immediately, but he responded. He made changes. You have to give him credit for that.

POST-POST-POST-SCRIPT, 4/11: B.L. Ochman has changed her mind again. It's time we call her. Stay tuned.

Journalists Who Blog

A great list, here.

On Anonymity

A post on the Electronic Frontier Foundation site advises folks on how to blog anonymously. Bad idea -- not only does this violate the code of transparency that regulates behavior on the Web, but it also discourages people from using more effective channels for voicing their grievances.

POSTSCRIPT:
The EFF post discusses both anonymous and private blogging. We have no problem with the latter.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Blog Consolidation

Tom Foremski notes that although the number of blogs keeps growing, only a few wield influence, making it easier for people to influence the "conversation." We respectfully disagree. Yes, there is and has been blog consolidation -- and it's a trend that we've been trying to encourage -- but for most new-media participants the opportunity to influence exists not on the uber-blogs but in the smaller spheres of specific influence created by the long tail of content on the Internet.

Someone asked me the other day, "who are the top bloggers," and I of course had to answer, "depends on who you are trying to influence." It's like cable television -- there's stuff for many different audiences, on many different channels.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Yahoo! 360 -- More Social than Bloggy

Full disclosure: we represent a company that partners with all the major search vendors, but we will provide a fair and honest appraisal of our brief experience with Yahoo! 360.

A mini review: we think it's an interesting development in the search giant's quest to develop a comprehensive set of tools for connecting people with content. As the most content-rich of the major search providers, Yahoo! is smart to move in this direction. The question is, will 360 pull in enough traffic to make this social software/blogging experiment work? Our brief experience with 360 tells us that Yahoo! may succeed by providing value on the left side of the parenthesis: "social software." The right side, "blogging," does not need another tool, and 360! adds little functionality to become a standout (as many blogger reviewers have noted). But 360 may thrive where social software pure plays have not, by offering participants -- ta dah -- more content to share, discuss, debate. From a broader perspective, Yahoo! 360 may be an early example of convergence in new media, as the recent Gilbane report on new media predicted. Next steps? Yahoo! might add more functionality to the social side and integrate more content into the collaborative mix.

But Will We Wear Them on Our Wrists?

David Pogue writes about cell phones replacing wrist watches. For many years, we've all had the option of trashing our watches in favor of cell phones, which can all tell time. But the recent threat may stem from the fact that cell phones today are almost always on and within reach.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

How the Read the News

See John Gartner's article in Wired News on the virtues of RSS.

Negative on Podcasting

How to Podcast

From O'Reilly....

Depending on whether you already have one of those cheap microphones that the OEM dealers bundle with PCs, you can record a podcast without spending a dime. If you don't have a bundled microphone, the third-party equivalent costs between $8 and $15 at various electronics retailers.

Hotel Vitale

I'm sitting in the lobby of the brand-new Hotel Vitale in San Francisco, where Fujitsu, one of our Eastwick clients, has just unveiled a new product for the datacenter. This is Vitale's first press conference, but we predict there will be many. It's an extremely elegant-yet-understated boutique right on the Embarcadero at Mission. As one of my colleagues observed, it's like a W, but with earthtones. And in place of the techno beat that seems to follow W guests into every nook and cranny, at Vitale you are followed by the thump, thump, thump of the World beat. And true to form for this "post-hip boutique hotel," each floor has its own free Wi-fi access point. Makes it easy to blog whatever, whenever....

Are Bloggers Journalists?

An interesting follow-up to our weekend post about regulating blogs.

San Francisco will tomorrow become the first jurisdiction in the country to declare that bloggers should be treated no differently than traditional media. That's what the San Francisco City Attorney will state at a meeting of the city's Board of Supervisors. The Board is considering an amendment to the city ordinance that would require full disclosure of who is paying for political messages.

The proposed language exempts "news stories, commentaries or editorials distributed through any newspaper, radio station, television station or other recognized news medium" unless the medium is "owned or controlled" by a candidate, political party or committee.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Radio on Phones

More food for thought for the imaginative device manufacturer ... story on CNET.

San Francisco to Regulate Blogging?

Update: 10:15pm

Interesting debate at Slashdot about a proposed electioneering communication ordinance at the S.F. Board of Supervisors. Is there a precedent for this? Can an ordinance like this be enforced? Expect a showdown when the vote comes up on Tuesday.

In the meantime, check out the conversation at Slashdot. Many argue that the ordinance is a harmless attempt to keep electioneering comms clean and transparent. Others are furious. Still others, like thegoodseed, are cautiously pessimistic.

POSTSCRIPT: To be fair to the faction at Slashdot that feels this is much ado about nothing, the proposed legislation would only affect political bloggers who spend at least $1,000/year in communications (whether print, broadcast, or online -- the ordinance does not mention blogs specifically). But the first ammendment concerns expressed on Slashdot are legitimate, as is the argument that regulation of this sort may put us on a slippery slope. Stay tuned.

Wonkette Skewers Fleischer

Ana Marie Cox, alias Wonkette, gives a big thumbs down to a memoir by the former White House secretary whose briefings, she says, were "masterpieces of spin."

The World is Flat

...says Thomas Friedman, in a New York Times Magazine article on globalization. Friedman examines how various forces have created a "platform for collaboration" that is helping to make the world a level playing field.

This has been building for a long time. Globalization 1.0 (1492 to 1800) shrank the world from a size large to a size medium, and the dynamic force in that era was countries globalizing for resources and imperial conquest. Globalization 2.0 (1800 to 2000) shrank the world from a size medium to a size small, and it was spearheaded by companies globalizing for markets and labor. Globalization 3.0 (which started around 2000) is shrinking the world from a size small to a size tiny and flattening the playing field at the same time. And while the dynamic force in Globalization 1.0 was countries globalizing and the dynamic force in Globalization 2.0 was companies globalizing, the dynamic force in Globalization 3.0 -- the thing that gives it its unique character -- is individuals and small groups globalizing. Individuals must, and can, now ask: where do I fit into the global competition and opportunities of the day, and how can I, on my own, collaborate with others globally? But Globalization 3.0 not only differs from the previous eras in how it is shrinking and flattening the world and in how it is empowering individuals. It is also different in that Globalization 1.0 and 2.0 were driven primarily by European and American companies and countries. But going forward, this will be less and less true. Globalization 3.0 is not only going to be driven more by individuals but also by a much more diverse -- non-Western, nonwhite -- group of individuals. In Globalization 3.0, you are going to see every color of the human rainbow take part.

Tagging, Search and the Wisdom of Crowds

Thanks to Steve Rubel for flagging. BusinessWeek has posted a great story on tagging, a technology that adds a "layer of social knowledge" to the world of search. The article provides a nice comparison of search and tagging, concluding that tagging may in fact add a much needed new dimension for organizing the ever-growing amount of content on the Web. The social dimension -- a big theme on this blog -- is becoming more and more relevant.

Search engines, for all their advances in recent years, have a glaring drawback: No matter how many pages they index or how quickly they bring back results, they can't put those results into context. They can find a specific word, but they can't figure out what the word means. An example: Look up the word "python" on Google, and the list of results throws together sites about the reptile, the programming language, even Monty Python. You have to sift through pages of irrevelant results to find what you want. To help avoid the confusion, Web sites often manually label their pages with category titles, a version of tags called metadata. But mass search engines, such as Google, don't use metadata because they can contain spam or misleading descriptions.

***

Tagging, however, lacks the algorithmic wizardry of search engines. But it lets people work together organically to create the context traditional search typically misses. Blogger Thomas Vander Wal coined the word "folksonomy," a combination of the words folk and taxonomy, to describe this joint work. It's like a grassroots Dewey Decimal Classification System for the Web. The essence: The combined work of people busily tagging content creates another way to make sense of the mountains of information online.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

"Document History" App -- IBM

For the serious collaborator, here's an interesting application, available at the IBM site: "a tool for visualizing dynamic, evolving documents and the interactions of multiple collaborating authors."

History Flow Visualization Application is a tool for visualizing dynamic, evolving documents and the interactions of multiple collaborating authors. The application includes online help, as well as a plug-in for retrieving the history of a given page from any MoinMoin "wiki." ("Wikis" are Web sites that are freely editable by anyone who visits them.)

For a screen shot, go to our sister site.

Word of Caution to Hopeful Pundits

Journalists have a love/hate relationship with "quote machines," as reported here (Romenesko commenting on an article in the American Journalism Review).

Reporters have favorite people they call repeatedly for informed and colorful commentary, "but once 'sources' are quoted often enough to become 'pundits,' journalists think of them as self-serving P.R. reps on the make," writes Mark Francis Cohen. Some news orgs have officially and unofficially blacklisted certain ubiquitous analysts. Cohen says mainstays of this likely-to-be-banned list include Larry Sabato, Norman Ornstein, Stephen Hess, Thomas Mann, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Stuart Rothenberg, and John Pike.

Self-Inflicted Blog Wound

Was Wordpress wrong to use content-spam to boost its search rankings? Should open-source projects be held to higher standards of transparency? Check out the debate here.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Fired Blogger Writes Blogging Policy

File this one in the "we found the perfect person for the job" file.

Google Gulp

April Fools. But will the folks at 7-Eleven laugh?

Google Doubles EMail Storage Size

This comes just a week after Yahoo! met Google's massive 1 gigabyte free storage allotment. Will Yahoo! go toe-to-toe? And what are we going to do with all that storage? A Yahoo! spokesperson told Michael Bazeley at Silicon Beat: "at a certain point beyond 1 gigabyte, it's just a number and becomes irrelevant to most free e-mail users. As an offline analogy: Going beyond a gigabyte for free is like adding a bucket of water into an ocean.''

A possible point of differentiation for either of the Internet giants: cool ways to use all that storage. Consider the buzz Apple has created around the Mac Mini and the iPod Shuffle -- what are these products for, and what will people actually do with them?