failure of open systems

False Steve Jobs Heart Attack Report on CNN’s iReport Is a Failure of Open Systems

as a proponent of open systems, i felt it was only fair to post this opposing view

washpost’s political browser

The Publishing 2.0 blog caught on to the new Political Browser from the Washington Post. As the commenters on the blog point out, this is very much in line with what Scott Karp has long been calling for: a news filter to challenge Drudge (Karp is big on linking as an added value). The WashPost model is interesting but in my view it doesn’t move far enough toward audience participation.

When I queried Karp on that point, he replied: “Each of the sections of Political Browser have comments. And there is a section for “Reader Picks,” and a way for readers to suggest links.”

We’ll have to see whether that’s enough to maintain interest.

a few items this week

I was traveling on business this past week and need to figure out how to easily post when I am mostly using mobile devices. Meanwhile, here’s a catch-up on some interesting items related to my main topic here:

Click: What Millions of People do Online and Why it Matters by Bill Tancer – saw some press mentions of this new book by the chief researcher at Hitwise and picked it up for airport/plane/hotel reading. It has lots if interesting stories about how our real, trackable behavior (anonymized of course) reveals what really preoccupies Americans – and how marketers can leverage that info. The much-touted chapter on “Searches for Prom Dresses spike in January” was fun, but I think there was a flaw in it. After months of research, Tancer finally meets face-to-face with an editor who solves the mystery by telling him that teen magazines start featuring prom dress fashions around New Year’s. The retailers Tancer called by phone in the first instance should have told him that. 

Get Off the Internet, and Chew Some Gum – this article in the NYT was about a new campaign for Dentyne gum aimed at the Facebook generation. The campaign, called Make Face Time, features print ads with big photos showing intimate moments of “connection”: a couple hugs (friend request accepted); canoodles (the original voicemail); kisses (the original instant message). NYT caption says “The campaign is trying to question whether new technologies are bringing people closer together.” 


A related Web site,, was unveiled on Monday. It opens with a warning announcing that it will shut down after three minutes. “When people are surfing the Web, they’re missing the best part of life — being together,” it reads.

The site includes a Face Time Finder, powered by Google Maps, to locate places to meet offline. The Smiley Chamber of Doom takes aim at the “annoying” emoticons that people use to express humor or sadness in e-mail or instant messages, showing them being killed by fires and sumo wrestlers. An essay contest asks users to write about how social networking has led them to be “disconnected to the people that matter most.”

Quoted in the article,  Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who studies the way young people use technology to socialize, points out that this is a “false dichotomy.”

 People use online tools as a way to be more social, she said, updating their acquaintances on what they are doing and making plans to meet in person. Her research has shown that people who use these tools have just as many offline friends and spend just as much time with them as people who do not socialize online.

But I think it does point up the need to deepen the interaction online, which is one of my  main themes.



TimesPeople – This past week, I noticed for the first time a little horizontal bar across the top of the New York Times site. It appears to be a social networking “layer”

The “What’s This? says:

Join the network of Times readers!

Follow friends, co-workers, journalists and other Times readers. Discover and share articles, blog posts, multimedia and reader comments. Read the TimesPeople FAQ to learn more. 

Already a member of TimesPeople? Log in now. Not yet a member? Register now.

Second Life 2.0

Many of the early posts on this blog chronicle my exploration of Second Life, the 3D virtual world that was started a little over 5 years ago. QU Prof. Alex Halavais introduced his students to it so that we could hold a class meeting there when he was in Australia attending a conference. There were about half a million registered users at that time; they stopped counting after 10 million. Now they say that over a million have logged in in the past 60 days, and about 50,000 are usually “online now.”

Second Life was hyped as the future of the Web – and I happily promoted that hype. It grew out of control and a backlash – along with infrastructure issues – has pushed it off the front pages (literally).

I still evangelize SL and I still believe it is where the Web is headed in the mid term. I’ll write more about it soon.

how many web services can one person use?

This was a posting on the NYT Bits Blog that caught my attention; a report from the Web 2.0 Expo (which I wanted to attend but couldn’t)

How many more new social networking or micro-blogging or video-sharing site can one person use? Most of us don’t have time to respond to voice mail and e-mail every day, let alone check our Twitter updates and Facebook accounts and Flickr friends. And even if we have the time, do we need another site that helps us share and connect and network?

This problem is just under the surface at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York this week. Just a few years ago, it was easy for start-ups that provide Web services to attract early adopters — the tech geeks who are the first to use new technologies. The challenge was attracting mainstream users. But now, even the early adopters are stretched thin.

“The biggest chasm is no longer between early adopters and mainstream users. It is about finding and retaining the early adopters to begin with,” said Fraser Kelton, director of business development at AdaptiveBlue, who talked about the problem at a conference presentation called “The Real, Long-lasting (and Negative) Impact of Web 2.0 on Technology Adoption.”

The comments are well worth reading, and the question about retaining the early adopters is right on.

sociopolitical networking

In the search for what’s next in Web communication I certainly could not overlook the incredible online environment created by the Obama campaign. Building on what the Dean gang had done, the Obama site (I believe one of the founders of Facebook helped build it) is truly immersive. You go from watching an embedded YouTube video to being asked to contribute to the campaign to being thanked for your contribution and recruited as a volunteer. The social networking is compelling too: you can find other supporters in your area, local groups, and events. The whole experience is very empowering, and I suspect the John McCain site is replicating as much as it can.

PRINT Magazine ran this insightful appreciation of the Obama site. And in an earlier QU paper I wrote in 2006 (I just love the way grad students can cite their own stuff!), I described however ineptly a site that might bring people together around popular consensus:

Online collaborative sites that endeavor to harness the collective intelligence of users constitute an emerging form of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). They join earlier generations of newsgroups, bulletin boards, and other vehicles for sharing, collecting, and organizing information among large and disparate groups on the Web.

At the same time, increasing customization and personalization of online information is beginning to deliver on the promise of an experience unique to each user. The many “My” services now available unquestionably make it easy to shop and access news of interest. But as Cass Sunstein warned in “Democracy and Filtering,” this process poses risks of polarization and cyberbalkanization.

Having millions of citizens self-absorbed in “The Daily Me” may be better for democracy than a hierarchical public sphere dominated by the mass media (Benkler; Platon and Deuze). But what happens to MyYahoo! expectations in the political realm, where rather than a multitude of choices at the shallow end of the Long Tail, we face a two-party system that gains power precisely by “the tyranny of the lowest-common-denominator” (Anderson)?

Fortunately, even Sunstein acknowledges that “emerging technologies, including the Internet, are hardly an enemy here. They hold out at least as much promise as risk.” If CMC enables MySpace, perhaps it can also aid in the creation of OurSpace-a virtual arena in which highly niched audiences can come together and build consensus toward concerted action.

publishing 2.0

People who know me know I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a decade or more, having come out of two decades of print publishing. As I troll (and I don’t mean I’m a troll) the Net for relevant discussions, I keep coming back to Scott Karp’s Publishing 2.0.

The current discussion about Drudge vs. NY Times particularly resonated with me as I had a similar passage in my paper for this summer’s course in mobile tech:

When I first used the BlackBerry browser to Go To, it prompted me to try the mobile edition. Eventually, I figured out how to add the “T” shortcut to my BlackBerry home page, so I begin my daily browsing by clicking on that. I read the top stories but often find they are several hours old. I have often read them the night before and there is very little new / news here.

WaPo also offers a Blackberry shortcut. I click that, then usually skip directly to the political news and read one or two stories.

I soon give up searching the traditional media and head straight for The Drudge Report, which is updated throughout the day. Interestingly, I was never much of a fan of this site in my pre-BlackBerry days. But I now understand the importance of having all those links in close proximity. When you are essentially “using your thumb” to consume information, the less scrolling and typing the better. Also, because it is text-based with only a couple of images, Drudge loads FAST. Using Drudge as my base, I quickly jump to my other main sources of information.

I will also scan The Huffington Post on occasion. As with Drudge, this was never a site I visited much via computer, but I see now that its bite-sized posts are easy to digest and scroll through quickly. In other words, Drudge and HuffPo appear optimized for consumption on mobile device, which may explain why they are popular with the BlackBerry business class.