Results tagged “press”

Why you can't trust tech press to teach you about the tech industry

April 30, 2012

If there were one lesson I'd want to impress upon people who are interested in succeeding in the technology industry, it would be, as I've said before, know your shit. Know the discipline you're in, know the history of those who've done your kind of work before, understand the lessons of their efforts, and in general look beyond the things that are making noise right now in order to understand bigger patterns of how technology works, both literally and socially.

This is a difficult challenge, because today's media about the technology industry will not teach entrepreneurs and creators what they need to know about the history of the technology industry.

I don't just mean this in the obvious way — nobody thinks you can earn a PhD in computer science by reading a tech blog. But I mean the broader landscape of sites that attract attention from technology developers and startup aficionados are woefully myopic in their understanding and perspective of the disciplines they cover. [Disclaimer: This post mentions lots of sites that write about tech; I write for Wired (ostensibly a competitor) and advise Vox Media (parent of The Verge, mentioned below), as explained on my about page.]

Open For Comment

Let's take one example from a month ago. A blogger named Saud Alhawawi reported (judging by Google's translation) that Google is going to introduce a blog commenting system powered by their Google+ platform. If you work at a company which makes tools for feedback on sites, or if you care about the quality of comments on the web, this would be important news, so it's a great thing that it got picked up by WebProNews and TheNextWeb.

Given that Google generally refuses to comment on such pronouncements, and therefore would be unlikely to confirm or deny Alhawawi's blog post, the burden is thus on the rest of the tech blogosphere to explain to their readers the implications and importance that such a product would have, if Google were to launch it.

Fortunately, we have a very good record of how the major tech blogs covered this story, if they did. Techmeme has admirably preserved links to the many pieces written a month ago about this story. As you might expect, most were regurgitating the original stories, with a few mentioning Alhawawi's source post. These reposts showed up all over the place: 9to5 Google, BetaBeat, Business Insider, CNET (which oddly credits ReadWriteWeb but links to TNW), DailyTech, MarketingLand, Marketing Pilgrim, MarketingVox, MemeBurn, SlashGear, The Verge and VentureBeat.

Lots of linking with just the barest amount of original reporting, which is actually a fairly efficient way of getting a story out. But while I admire many of the smart people who work at a lot of these outlets, apparently no one who was linking to this story has more than the slightest bit of knowledge about the discipline they were covering.

What's Missing?

As you might expect, nearly every story mentioned that Facebook has a commenting widget similar to what Google is presumably creating. Google and Facebook are competitors, so that's a wise inclusion. Most also mentioned DIsqus, and sure, that's relevant since they're a big independent player. I don't expect that these stories would be comprehensive overviews of the commenting space, so it's fine that other minor players might get overlooked.

What is ridiculous, and absurd, is that not a single one of these outlets mentioned that Google itself had provided this exact type of commenting functionality and then shut it down. Google provided this service for years. And that last Google commenting service, called Friend Connect, was shut down just three weeks prior to this news about a new commenting service being launched.

That's insane. Whether you're a user trying to understand if it's worth trusting a commenting service, a developer judging whether to build on its API, an entrepreneur deciding if you should incorporate the service or worry about competing with it, or an investor who wanted to evaluate Google's seriousness about the space, the single most salient fact about Google's attempt to create this new product was omitted from every single story that covered it.

Worse, the sites themselves suffered for this omission — when everyone is covering the exact same story, if one site had gone with a headline that said "Google's New Commenting Service: The Secret History of How They've Failed Before!" they could have actually gotten more page views and distinguished themselves from the endless TheNextWeb regurgitation.

This isn't a case where a few lesser outlets omitted a minor point about a headline. It's a case where a story that was interesting enough to earn a full Techmeme pile-on was lacking in coverage that would be necessary for understanding the story at even the most superficial level. As you might expect, a few of the larger outlets have big enough audiences that their commenter communities were able to add the missing salient facts to the story, but on both The Verge and Business Insider, the comments which mentioned Friend Connect were buried in their respective threads and, as of a month later, not highlighted in the original posts.

Do Your Homework

Fortunately, whether or not Google makes a commenting widget isn't that big a deal on its own. Maybe they will or maybe they won't, and maybe it'll fail again or maybe it won't. But the key lesson to take away here is that we know a few things are wrong with the trade press in the technology world:

  • In tech financial coverage, there is a focus on valuation, deals and funding instead of markets, costs, profits, losses, revenues and sustainability.
  • In tech executive coverage, there is a focus on personalities and drama instead of capabilities and execution.
  • In tech product coverage, there is a focus on features and announcements instead of evaluating whether a product is meaningful and worthwhile.
  • Technology trade press doesn't treat our industry as a business, so much as a "scene"; If our industry had magazines, we'd have a lot of People but no Variety, a Rolling Stone, but no Billboard.

There are many more examples of the flaws, but these are obvious ones. What we may not know, though is that there's another flaw:
* For all but the biggest tech stories, any individual article likely lacks enough information to make a decision about the topic of that article.

Imagine if Apple launched a new version of the iPad and a story did not mention that any prior versions of the iPad existed. This is the level of analysis we frequently get from second-tier tech stories in our industry. And that's true despite the fact that technology trade press is actually getting better.

We need a tech industry that values history, perspective, and a long-term view. Today, we don't have that. But I'm optimistic, because I see that people who do value those things have a decided advantage over the course of their careers. One place to start is by filling in the blanks on the stories we read ourselves, perhaps by making use of a comment form?

Responses and Replies

January 9, 2012

A few nice conversations around the web, either in response to or inspired by what I've been talking about here:

  • My favorite TechCrunch post in a long time is Jon Evans' Scheming Intentions, which outlines a simple way that native mobile apps could take a tentative step towards re-integrating with the web.
  • Shapeways, the delightful 3D printing-on-demand service wrote a deep and thoughtful response to my ideas about where 3D printing is headed. BoingBoing had a quick take on the post, too, and I found the comments entertaining.
  • I liked Michael Newman's recap of his favorites from 2011, especially his ruminations on animated .gifs.
  • I had a blast talking to Leo Laporte and Tom Merritt on the Triangulation show — I know spending the better part of an hour listening to me ramble is a lot, but I'm very proud of the conversation about blogging in the first half, and hope that justifies enduring this for some folks:

Watch Fixing Government: Anil Dash on a social media revolution for Congress on PBS. See more from Need to Know.

Getting Activated

February 25, 2010

Even more fun news! Today, I'm thrilled to announce the other big project I've been working on: Activate. It's a new consultancy, founded by Michael Wolf (you know him not just as one of the most established names in tech/media consulting, but also as former President of MTV), where I'll be joining as partner.

The compelling thing to me is that we'll be advising firms at the intersection of technology, media and entertainment. You don't have to have been reading this blog very long to know that's an area which is near and dear to my heart, and getting to work with the folks who are merging those disciplines at the highest levels of business and culture is pretty exciting. It took me the better part of a decade to figure out that I'm obsessed with how culture is made, but once I had that realization, it very quickly became clear that those of us in the technology world were the ones driving the transformation of these businesses.

But right now, most of the companies that do this kind of consulting for big media or entertainment firms operate from what I'd consider a fear-based standpoint: Oh no! Technology is happening! It's going to be scary and destroy you! The old-school consultants are good at slashing costs (and jobs), but I think it's a lot more interesting to figure out where new growth and opportunities are going to come from.

Which is important, because some of what we think of as traditional media or entertainment companies will figure out how to take their past strengths and turn them into huge new businesses that work in the modern world, and that respect the way people use technology today. Those businesses are the ones we're working with at Activate.

And yep, I'm still totally committed to my work as director of Expert Labs as well. (As I write this, I'm in Washington, D.C. trying to refine our next project.) I was very fortunate that the Expert Labs project was set up from day one to give me the flexibility to put my skills to use in all of the areas that I find interesting. More importantly, I'm learning in general how to help huge institutions evolve. Whether it's media companies, government agencies, or entertainment businesses, I am truly optimistic that many can transform themselves for the technology world that we live in. In fact, I think those are the only ones that will survive.

Honestly, I feel like the community of innovators and tech minds that I've been part of has earned the right to help determine the future of everything from governance to culture. We've made tools and platforms that have made some fundamentally new things possible. So I'm gonna do everything I can to help make sure our community has a voice at the highest level of the institutions that shape our lives. And Activate is an exciting new part of that work.

For more details:

All Over The Web

January 20, 2010

Just a quick roundup of some recent conversations I've been having around the web:

fast-company-anildash-rect.jpg

  • Fast Company interviewed me about applying the lessons of Web 2.0 to government. I'm always happy when I can mention my love of New York City and pop music while also talking about the importance of using the web for civic purposes. They also published this Rennio Maifredi photo of me, which my Twitter friends agree is very creepy.
  • Reddit did an "Ask Me Anything" thread where people could ask me whatever they want. I answered a bunch of the questions in text, and a video of me answering the most popular ones will be up shortly.

Hopefully you're not all too sick of me after that; I'll try to share some of the recent presentations I've made at events I've been speaking at recently as well — I'm very excited about a lot of the conversations I've gotten to participate in lately.

I Am Telling You This

September 29, 2008

As always, I am trying to be everywhere at once. Here's where I've succeeded:

  • Dan Costa at PC Magazine offers a look at the rise of micro social networks. I get a nod there, but it's more satisfying to see the idea itself take off. That's an idea that Chris and I revisited at the BlogWorld conference last week, along with a discussion of blogging becoming an industry.
  • There's a pleasantly inexplicable passing mention of me in reference to the Web 2.0 Expo here in New York. In case it's not been clear in the past, I am delighted that the tech industry in NYC is closely linked to other industries like media and finance. It gives us a useful perspective and makes tech companies in NYC wiser and less prone to falling into the echo chamber that frustrates me about a lot of Silicon Valley companies. And I never liked the name "Silicon Alley" anyway.
  • The South Asian Journalists Association invited me to participate in the first of two conversations about the South Asian blogging community. I thought a lot of the points raised were pretty interesteing, and am a big fan of the SAJA blog, so this was a lot of fun.
  • The less said about this, the better. I'm looking at you, Andy.

Ubiquity

September 15, 2008

Right now I am here, but soon I may be somewhere near you! Let's see where I've been lately, and where I'm going to be:

Across the internets, Choire asked a ridiculous question of mine to Wendy and Lisa when he interviewed them for the LA Times. Michaelangelo picked this up on Idolator, and I think my work is done here.

Absurdly, an offhand comment about Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City who likes to mock people for being "too cosmopolitan", got quoted on the Playboy blog. Did you know Playboy has a blog?

And my presentation from the Mediabistro Circus back in May is now available on video, confirming once again that it's incredibly painful to watch oneself on video.

I'm also looking forward to a bunch of upcoming events.

  • I'm proud to have helped out a little bit with Web 2.0 Expo New York. Frankly, we have an amazing tech scene here in NYC (Six Apart is hiring!) and we haven't done enough to get recognition for it from the tech world at large. That's why I'm quoted on the Expo site saying, "Well, it's about time." Heh.
  • Next weekend in Las Vegas, I'll be joining Chris Alden, our CEO at Six Apart, in a keynote presentation at Blog World Expo. If you'll be there Saturday morning, come see us, or find me at the event before or after.
  • Finally, next month, I'll be in Greensboro, North Carolina for ConvergeSouth. I am sure there will be many interesting things to do and see there, but my first priority is to get some barbeque. I'm sure y'all understand.

What was that about lists?

July 23, 2008

I forgot to mention one point when I was blathering about lists earlier this week: The easiest way to get on them is by asserting, truthfully or not, that you don't want to be on them.

Behold, my incredible mancrushworthiness, from an entire list of the mancrush-worthy. Or something.

It's nice to be called nice, but it's even better that people wrongly believe that I am nice. Thanks, Eliot!

Lists and Being On Them

July 21, 2008

Hey, NowPublic made a list of the 50 most influential web people in New York, and I'm on it at number six. So, thanks to the folks who made the list, and I appreciate the recognition.

NowPublic However, every time a similar list comes out, I have a number of responses that immediately come to mind, and most of my friends who have to suffer through my ranting reply with some variation of "You're just complaining because you're not on the list!"

But this time, I am on the list. Which means it's a chance to talk about the reasons, good and bad, why these sorts of lists exist, and what purpose they can serve.

Update: Apparently, I'm on the TechCult Top 100 Web Celebrities list, too. Which appears to be even more blatantly link-baiting, though again, the company I'm keeping there is nice.

  • First and foremost, organizations (whether they're websites, media organizations, publishers, individuals, institutions, whatever) create these lists to solidify their power and influence, and to promote their own authority. This generally works, with the most exceptional examples like Time's Person of the Year actually acting to amplify the publication's own profile. With that kind of success, it's easy to understand how Time decided to also create a Time 100 list as well.
  • For less-known organizations, like NowPublic, having a list like this acts as a phenomenal engine of promotion. People who have a high profile are generally well-known, at least in part, because they put an effort into being well-known. Therefore, putting their name on a list is an extremely effective way to get their attention. On the web, we call this link-baiting, but offline, it's simply called flattery.
  • These types of lists can be useful. One of the earliest and most fundamental milestones in the formation of a community is the desire for certain members to recognize those that (appear to) exemplify the values that the community aspires to, or would like to be identified by. Similarly, promoting unsung or less-known members of a community can be a useful method of indicating a desire for a community's values to evolve.
  • Lists are different from awards. Everybody on them is a winner, of sorts, so there's very little sense of bitterness between people on the list. Similarly, having a large number of people be recognized increases the aspirational value for those who aren't on the list -- it's easy to pick someone on a lengthy list who seems undeserving.
  • Creating this kind of content is perfect for the lazy days of summer. Fondly referred to in the publishing industry as "listicles", assembling faux-scientific methods of cataloging potential list members is a perfect task for interns. Here in New York, all of our local media editors traipse off to the Hamptons to sit out the sweltering days of July or August, and by amazing coincidence, much of local media publishes their "Best Of" articles around the same time. It's a credit to NowPublic that they've decided, interestingly, to publish the methodology for calculating influence.
  • Pointing out these structural circumstances which occasion the creation of such lists doesn't mean that they're not still flattering and appreciated. It's nice to see your name on something. One of NowPublic's stated criteria for evaluation is accessibility, and as someone who's had his mobile phone number sitting on the side of his website for years, I am happy to see that's a factor in evaluating influence.
  • There are, of course, some lists which are really important. Such as the Top 10 Boy Bloggers We'd Let Rub Our Touchpads. Congratulations to Nick Denton and Jason Kottke for being the only guys who are on both the NowPublic list and on this more esteemed accounting.

Thanks again to NowPublic for the recognition, and congratulations to the many friends and acquaintances of mine on the list. With only one exception, it's fantastic company to be part of and I can't wait to see who they pick in other cities and in New York next year.

I'm on the Internet!

May 19, 2008

Because my name and my big ole' head are sitting on top of this page, it's probably not making the self-indulgence any worse to collect a few links to some recent places I've popped up online:

  • Gawker recommended my Twitter account as one to follow after Krucoff posted a list to Young Manhattanite based on Rex's suggestions. The strange thing to me is that Gawker is (still!) such a presence in media circles in NYC that 6,000 people would actually read such a thing. Of course, they're all just wannabees -- real Gawker credit comes from having been at the launch party five years ago. I'm just sayin'. (For more, similarly inane insights, add me on Twitter!)
  • I helped Charlene Li (a.k.a. The Best Tech Industry Analyst) save $8.33 by offering up my testimonial about the Clear card. That's enough to pay for a subscription to dashes.com for more than a year!
  • Mat Honan wrote a piece in Wired about The Big Word Project, the scam website where people pay for words. My site shows up because it's the link for the word "purple", even though I didn't do it myself. I blame Mike.
  • CRN has a (really very good) look at what the technology industry wants from the Presidential candidates, with responses from the likes of Bill Gates and Paul Otellini. Inexplicably, I'm in there, too: "The No. 1 thing we want to see is elected officials use social networking tools online as a tool for governance and for leadership when in office, just as they do to get elected." Basically, I am tired of politicians treating web communities as an ATM for their campaigns, instead of seeing the web as an opportunity for fixing government.
  • And last but certainly not least, "So What Do You Do, Anil Dash". It's a really long interview with me by the folks at Mediabistro, in advance of my presentation at the Mediabistro Circus event on Tuesday. If you know me, there's probably few surprises, but I was happy to get the chance to articulate a lot of points that I otherwise don't usually talk about explicitly. Most of all, I am really glad to help emphasize how vibrant the technology scene is here in New York City; My biggest goal in participating in these sorts of conferences here in New York is to show people that there's a lot more going on with tech here than people might realize if they're myopically focused on just Silicon Valley.

Then You Evolve

March 4, 2008

I'd forgotten to mention it yesterday, but as a number of people have asked, I had a nice little quote in the New York Times yesterday, talking about Wal-Mart (and large companies in general) embracing blogging.

Though it unfortunately is pretty accurate in quoting the clipped, self-interrupting way that I actually speak, I think the point still comes across:

Anil Dash, a blogger at Six Apart, which makes blogging software, said the evolution in Wal-Mart's thinking about blogs was typical. "You start with this total lockdown, suits read everything, one post a month model," he said. "Then you evolve. A year later, you get one that is more open. A year after that, they start to do something that is far more authentic."

Mr. Dash said Wal-Mart's decision to let buyers do the blogging reflected a growing recognition that "trying to control who can speak and what they can say does not work."

I've been obsessing lately over what it takes to make change happen, in both culture an technology. And the answer to me seems to increasingly be the embrace of iteration. I never imagined that I'd spend five straight years of my life advocating blogs, long after the novelty factor had worn off, but that's where I'm at now. And It's been enough time to see, for example, Wal-Mart start with a site that used Movable Type, but was barely a blog in any other sense, and then iterate their way into a site so human that it can easily have an individual post taken out of context by the New York Times.

There's a little quiet victory for myself in the story, too. When Michael Barbaro asked me how I'd like to be credited for the story, I just said I was happy being described as a blogger.

All Over The Place

October 17, 2007

I've been doing a good bit of speaking lately, and have some more coming up, so let me share it with you if you're interested.

  • I was flattered to have my post about Gawker quoted in passing by Jim Romenesko while talking about Vanessa Grigoriadis. However, I was mortified at the context -- Page Six of the NY Post had published a thinly-veiled threat of sexual violence against Ms. Grigoriadis. Let's repeat: The traditional, mainstream, dead-tree media institution published a threat of sexual violence on newsprint. And those who objected? The folks typing away in Movable Type at Radar Online and Media Bistro. This is why we need blogs to help fix traditional media.
  • I got to spend an hour talking to John C. Havens over at Blog Talk Radio which was ostensibly about transparency, but ended up getting into a good bit of blog history and some more philosophical parts of blogging. That was a lot of fun, and I was glad to get to do it.
  • On Friday, I'll be speaking at the Online News Association Conference in Toronto. I'll only be in town for a few hours, unfortunately, even though I love Toronto, but the discussion about Journalism Next is right up my alley. And I'm especially looking forward to getting to meet the other folks on the panel.
  • And then on Saturday, I'll be at ConvergeSouth 2007 in Greensboro, North Carolina. It looks to be an absolutely amazing event, and I'll be joining in at 10am on Saturday for my panel. I'll also be hosting a dinner at 6:30 on Saturday, you can sign up on the wiki to join the table.

Phew! Can't wait to meet a bunch of new folks, and if you want to get in touch and will be at either event, my mobile number and email address are both right here on my blog.

The LOL Street Journal

August 27, 2007

What makes lolcats appealing is that it's simultaneously obscure and accessible. It's an inside joke told in an online lingua franca, but with a bit of effort anyone can become an insider.

"An in-joke used to be constrained by geography and who you knew socially," says Anil Dash, occasional lolcat critic and vice president of Six Apart, which creates several popular blog-software programs. "This is a very large in-joke" that blurs the old distinction "between Net geeks and the normals," he says.

I've seen some bloggers put up media quotes on their sites as examples of their credibility and expertise. I've already got the ridiculous photo of myself at the microphone up there, but thanks to my most recent appearance in the Wall Street Journal, I am sorely tempted to put "occasional lolcat critic" on my sidebar. Whatcha think?

Pidginholed

July 13, 2007

I’ve been holding off on updates about lolcats and related memes for a while because it’s easy to get burned out and probably as boring for you as it is for me. But there are still some interesting parts to it. As I alluded to in Inadvertent Lazymeme Clearinghouse Lamentations, once you’re known for something like writing a post about lolcats and grammar, you become the central place for both people looking for information about such things, as well as the go-to place for people to pitch their new ideas about the topic, whether they’re exciting or not.

As is usually the case, most people who are just trying to fill in the blanks with a lolwhatever site are not only unfunny, but tedious. I have what’s called a “Hippo Problem”, based on the problem of someone offhandedly mentions a fondness for hippos once, and is plagued the rest of their days with hippo-emblazoned kitsch for the rest of their days.

My hippos are captioned cats.

It’s a thankless burden — imagine if you were an expert on “I Kiss You!”, or the go-to guy for All Your Base. I’m just glad I didn’t write anything about that goddamn dancing baby.

Houston Chronicle story on lolcats The truth, of course, is that it’s not so bad, and I try to remember that there’s inevitably somebody out there who feels like they really understand this topic. They’re sitting in a cafe somewhere with a laptop, resentful and bitter that a hack like me got associated with lolcats in the first place. I’m sure the I Can Has Cheezeburger folks get hate mail from people who said they started a lolrus site exactly four days earlier and have thus been completely ripped off.

For every angry would-be lolcat expert, though, there are some perks to this kind of thing. “Cats Can Has Grammar” is (I think, I’m lousy at tracking stats) my most popular post in the nearly 8 years that I’ve been blogging, with something like half a million people having read it since it went up. I’ve gotten mentioned or quoted in stories all over the place, from the Chicago Tribune to a TV station in North Carolina to an Associated Press story that ran all over the place. I even talked to the Wall Street Journal, though I’m hoping some editor spiked the piece that was being researched, in a fit of good taste. Somewhere, Mahir’s talent agent is shaking his head sadly. “Enjoy it while it lasts, kid.”

The picture above shows that the Houston Chronicle actually ran a cover story about the lolcat phenomenon that referred to me as a “legendary blogger”. Look, mom, I still don’t have a college degree, but now I’m a lolcat legend!

And the final lesson is that we all create our own misery. If I complain that this one lighthearted and offhand piece gets more attention than all the writing I’ve carefully crafted over the years, then it’s of course only fair that I get my comeuppance. My favorite newsweekly, Time, published their own lolcats story today, and I was kind of disappointed to see that I’m not mentioned anywhere in it. Be careful what you ask for…

Talkin' Bout Business Blogging

April 4, 2007

A couple of months ago, I got to talk to Lynne about business blogging for Fast Company's podcasts series. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, though the lasting lesson you might take away from the conversation is that I talk really fast. There's a downloadable MP3 of the conversation as well.

Find Me Around the Web

March 26, 2007

I've found some interesting articles around the web recently that mention me or my blog, and while I don't try to be comprehensive in linking to everything that mentions my name, I thought these were compelling enough on their own to be worth reading.

  • Ross Mayfield's Twitter Tips the Tuna. I think the title is an unfortunately awkward parallel to "jumping the shark", but the title is the only part of the piece that's off -- the rest is really great. Ross has already done a few posts about Twitter's popularity and I'm glad to see someone who knows what he's talking about become the go-to guy for quotes on a new web technology. Ross' post references my own Consider Twitter.
  • Jason Calacanis, More proof that there is no A-list. Inexplicably, I'm on there mentioned as an A-list blogger. The whole "A-list" meme was tired back in 2000, but now it's kind of sweetly anachronistic to even talk about it. For what it's worth, my blog is far less popular than it was at its zenith of readership, and the blogosphere is far more crowded. So I don't know how useful I am as a data point, except to note that yes, I was "a low-level webmonkey at the Village Voice" before my current job, and that, yes the barriers to entry are lower than some people imagine them to be. Four years ago, when my blog was still relatively popular, I wrote Beyond Power Laws. The post reminds me that I used to be a snob about LiveJournal before I started using it and loving it, but it also featured some tips on how to make your blog popular:

* Consider having started your site in 1998 or 1999
* Know a whole lot of people and consider becoming real-life friends with people who have popular sites or are involved in the media
* Get on TV and in newspapers as frequently as possible to promote your site, because those really help drive traffic
* Make sure to insist that you are smart and attractive if you can't actually demonstrate those traits through your site

  • Jeremiah Owyang has a list of Asian technology speakers. It's an interesting effort, but I've seen people over the definition of "female" on lists of female technology speakers -- I don't envy the task of defining who belongs to the diaspora of the largest continent on Earth.
  • And saving the goofiest for last, Blog Spring in Wired: "Look! There’s Anil Dash of dashes.com". Here I am!

The Called Shot

March 13, 2007

I've been amused for weeks by 37signals marketing for their upcoming micro-CRM app Highrise because of the example contacts they've been using.

highrise-person.png

Every single screenshot has a list of contacts including the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, Apple's Steve Jobs, Amazon founder (and 37signals investor) Jeff Bezos, and Newsweek scribe Steven Levy. The big product shot is a full-screen profile of Walt Mossberg that has DHH reverently quoting Wired calling Walt a "kingmaker". I'm sure it's gonna be a good product, and I've always been alternately pleased and bemused by the swaggering chutzpah of the Chicago boy band. But the real lesson I'm reminded of here is that you can do a lot worse than name-dropping those whom you want to impress.

This could be considered tending to the blank slate of press coverage.

Did they actually say 'Love 2.0'?

February 27, 2007

I was very flattered last week that GeekSugar post an interview with me and my wife Alaina that they did a few weeks ago. It's strange enough to be asked to do interviews, and while we've both done a bit of public speaking and press, I don't think we've ever done anything like this together before. But we were asked to do it for Valentine's Day, so what the heck.

The funny thing was the interview's focus on gadgetry and geekiness led to some assumptions about how our household actually works. I'm pretty sure we've never had any debates about whether we want a particular gadget or not.

Geeksugar: Who makes the final decision when it comes to gadgets for the home?
Anil: Actually, we almost never even have discussions about this. We're fairly moderate in our gadget purchases, so we can each pretty much get whatever we want. It's always a nice surprise to come home and find that the other person has something shiny to show off.
Alaina: We’re pretty in sync when it comes to gadgets and our finances and trust each other to make these kinds of decisions. If it’s a big ticket item, like the flat panel tv we just bought, we’ll discuss it together first so there are no surprises when it comes time to balance the checkbook.

I think it's reassuring that we answered our questions separately, but came up with pretty much the same answers. And it's telling that my answers are generally 10 times longer than Alaina's, just like in real life. As I tried to say in the interview, it's like being married to Michigan J. Frog.

Polishing the Diamonds Story

December 4, 2006

Another follow-up to blood diamonds: The New York Times offers Hollywood’s Multifaceted Cause du Jour, Marc Santora's look at Hollywood's engagement in the marketing or unmarketing of diamonds.

Diamonds are love. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Diamonds are forever.

Diamonds, obviously, are much more than that. They are big business. They are hardly rare. And they have been used to finance some of the most brutal warfare of the last two decades.

Worth revisiting is the BBC story outlining Al Qaeda's use of diamonds to help launder their funds, and Cory Doctorow's comment on my earlier post, outlining allegations against Warner Bros, the studio that produced the Blood Diamond film. I'd caution that the original gossip source of the most damning quote is unsourced.

News Flash: Spam Is Bad!

September 6, 2006

Okay, you probably don't need to be told that spam is bad. But you might find it interesting to learn about the economy that's sprung up around blog spam. Good thing, then, that Charles Mann wrote an extensive piece for Wired detailing this scary new world. I'm quoted pretty extensively in the story and, for a change, I'm not entirely unhappy with how it turned out.

The emails, Dash believes, exemplify the fundamental difficulty in fighting splogs and Web spam. With the rise of pay-per-click advertising, the big search engines have, in effect, created a kind of currency: ranking in search results. Put up the right Web site, with the right collection of links and keywords, and – ka-ching! This cash is available to anyone on earth who can manipulate search engines' site-ranking systems.

Little wonder that the entire world's supply of spammers is trying to seize the opportunity. They are combing through the Net so assiduously that they are attempting to capitalize on individual blog posts about products that won't even appear for months to come. No single company, Dash believes, can withstand that much collective rapacity. As a result, he says, "there's going to be a reckoning with the economy that's building up around search engine rankings, one way or another." Something fundamental will have to change, either in the search engine world or the blogosphere, because things can't continue the way they are now.

Ian Kallen has a smart look at the problem as well, informed by Technorati's unique perspective. "The blogosphere has thrived on openness and ease of entry but indeed, all complex ecosystems have parasites. So, while we're grateful to be in a successful ecosystem, we'd all agree that we have to be vigilant about keeping things tidy. The junk that the bad guys want to inject into the update stream has to be filtered out. I think the key to successful web indexing is to cast a wide net, keep tightly defined criteria for deciding what gets in and to use event driven qualification to match the criteria."

I think we have to bolster Ian's recommendations with a big push for accountability, as well, though that's a difficult thing to achieve with mere technology. It's especially challenging given the folks who are on the other side; I found John Jonas's blog an interesting read. Jonas is one of the sploggers interviewed for the article, and seems like, at least in his offline life, he's striving to be a moral and devout guy.

That leaves us with the problem of accountability: How do we make individuals feel personally repsonsible for the web, in the same way that we hope they're personally responsible for the their surroundings in their physical community? Mann asked Jonas' partner whether he thinks about the impact of their work on the web, and elicited the response, "I'm just making my living. I guess I don't think about that kind of thing very much."

Three years ago, Nick Denton made a prediction: "Google text ads will give blogs a business model; but they'll also warp the format." It appears he was right.

Geeking in Excel Again

August 28, 2006

It's an all-Office day today. The Globe and Mail embraces the bad pun with "Stressed? Busy? Excel-erate your life". Tralee Pearce amusingly asserts that "The must-have fall accessory is your desktop spreadsheet program":

This fall's coolest accessory is not a trophy handbag, a designer shoe or a pair of skinny jeans. It's a computer program sitting right there on your desktop.

Sure, you use your Microsoft Excel to track business expenses and create spreadsheets by day. But legions of Excel-literates are databasing their lives, charting their wardrobes, dinner-party menus and DVD collections by night.

My only lament is that there's no link to the canonical post about people geeking out in Excel.

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