I’ll be away this week, posting lightly and enjoying the sun…and I’m not saying where. Emails are unlikely to be read for the next 8 days.
I’ll be away this week, posting lightly and enjoying the sun…and I’m not saying where. Emails are unlikely to be read for the next 8 days.
The other day I posted a YouTube video of Kevin Rose demo’ing a very early version of Digg, and talked about the importance of capturing the early days of a startup on video. Scrybe is an unlaunced startup doing this now to market the company, but in the future if they are successful we’ll look back and be glad the video exists.
Robert Scoble is now creating high definition videos of many hot young startups for his new show ScobleShow. I just watched the 34 minute video for Bluedot – good stuff. They even announce a minor new product at the end.
I agree with Nick Carr’s assessment of Lessig’s YouTube slam: it smells bad. Lessig uses very poor examples to back up a claim that “ever other major Web 2.0 company does expressly enable true sharing.”. He leaves out the big winners, who mostly have walled gardens around user generated content. And Lessig clearly has an agenda to destroy property rights and rebuild them in his image. That agenda is fine, but his arguments are weak and frankly this was a big fat softball for an eager Nick Carr to hit out of the park. Tim O’Reilly has a well thought out and less personal response to Lessig as well, suggesting that we’re still evolving and that YouTube was a pretty good evolution from the old days.
The market is ultimately going to decide the winners here, not Lessig, Carr or O’Reilly. I’m sure YouTube will look quaint a few years from now, but they offered a compelling product at the right time.
Marshall wrote a post about MyBlogLog this evening over at TechCrunch. Many bloggers will find the service compelling because it shows you recent visitors to your blog, and if someone visits your blog a certain number of times (default is 10 times), they become “admirers,” which is sort of like being added as a friend in a social network. I spent quite a bit of time browsing through various blogs, seeing who was reading what.
They track users via a cookie and when you visit a blog that is in the mybloglog system, it notes it. That’s where my concern arises.
Lots of sites add cookies to visitors for one reason or another, and certainly lots of questionable things are done with the data collected. But far fewer sites that cookie me also get me to voluntarily give away personal information (and mybloglog requests a lot of information, although almost none of it is required for registration). And as far as I know, NONE of those sites publish data collected by the cookie to a publicly available web page along with my personal information.
But MyBlogLog does. And I’m not sure I like that.
I also emailed with Scott Rafer, one of the founders, this evening about this issue. He says “it appears less likely that we’ll ever actually get into the data sales business. There’s too many other opportunities that are less controversial. We’ll certainly never sell any personal data or individual clickstreams whatsoever.”
I’m glad to hear that, and I trust Scott to do the right thing. Still, I turned off the data collection and display feature for my account at MyBlogLog. I guess I haven’t gotten so used to the notion that all of our privacy is already dead that I am comfortable seeing my name and sites I’ve visited on a publicly available website.
So for now I am enjoying seeing what sites everyone else is visiting (and I love the fact that this person is a TechCrunch reader), but I’m not going to give away the sites that I visit just yet.
It’s sort of odd to read about a TechCrunch Network party that I didn’t actually attend, but in any event CrunchGear’s first mixer was a success, with about 100 people attending and three sponsors: SoonR, Blast Media and Marketing Begins At Home.
I’m frankly stunned at the early success of CrunchGear. With twenty-something thousand RSS subscribers it is already 1/5 the size of TechCrunch. Congrats to John Biggs and his team for all of the hard work. Nicely done.
I don’t deal well with physical mail. My entire system for organizing my life is set around my computer. And while I know all about electronic bills, I’ve never taken the time to set it up. So when a bill comes in the mail, I put it on a certain part of my desk and once a month or so I pay them online.
But lately things have been really busy and I set up a new system to cut down on bill paying time. Credit card bills get paid right away when they come in, but I let everything else wait and batch pay it every six weeks or so. That was a good system but it turns out that I hadn’t actually paid any bills since July and frankly hadn’t given it much thought. The stack of bills was there on my desk but I just didn’t see it.
Until today when a guy came by in an electric car and turned off my electricity.
Gabe Rivera noticed it since I was still sleeping and he made the decision to wake me up as it was “a situation you might want to deal with.”
I found the phone number for PG&E but the vonage line was out because it needs electricity. I have an SBC phone line that I use only for Gillmor Gang podcasts and tried that…only to find out that it had been turned off, too. That’s when Gabe found the electricity box and noticed the “off” switch. The PG&E guy had turned it to off and put a very flimsy lock on the switch. So flimsy that turning the switch to “on” simply broke the lock. Problem solved. Electricity back on.
I called PG&E. They went through this long description of how to get electricity turned back on which involved driving a check to a PG&E office, getting an order number, and calling PG&E back with the order number. If I did all that by 3 pm they’d send a guy out to turn the electricity back on.
Then I told the guy that we had just turned it back on ourselves, and that I sent $1,000 to PG&E via online banking (it turns out I owed them about $500). He said “oh, okay, well don’t worry about it then. It’s all fine as long as the money comes in.”
So bottom line, if you are an idiot like me and forget to pay your electricity bills and they turn it off, just turn it back on.
Based on the new Technorati rankings for non-U.S. blogs, TechCrunch France (launched in February 2006) is the third popular blog in France. See Steve Rubel’s post on this here. The Financial Times discusses this as well.
Congratulations to Ouriel Ohayon, who writes TechCrunch France (and contributes to TechCrunch.com). Great job, my friend.
I got a call today from Joe Vazquez CBS to see if I could do a short last minute segment for them on the Google-YouTube deal. I like being on TV because my parents still have no idea what it is I do for a living. But TV, they understand. So I accepted. Note the strategic product placement in the video.
And of course I chose YouTube to host the video.
CBS is fast becoming my favorite tv station. Sue Kwon also interviewed me in May for a segment on Web 2.0.
Also, thanks to Jack Uldrich at Motley Fool for the cool article about TechCrunch.
Another side cost of all this recent travel. I got back from my trip to an impossible email inbox. Deleted the whole thing. Months and months of emails. And I turned off instant messaging indefinitely. The signal/noise ratio on IM peaked and it is no longer a useful communication method for me.
I spent my weekend in Washington D.C. at the Online News Association Conference. Going was a pain – I had to fly my father in to watch my dog, and yet another weekend was spent away from home. But I wanted to go because the organizers said I’d be welcome, and that the people who attend (traditional journalists) really were trying to understand this whole blogging phenomenon.
So I went. And what a mistake it was. I thought this was going to be an attempt to bridge the gap between blogging and big media. All I saw was a fear and an unassailable resistance to change.
Frankly, I have no idea why I was invited. I suspect the organizers knew that there’d be fireworks (they asked me to speak my mind) and knew full well that I’d be the sacrificial lamb of the conference.
I was warmly received by the conference organizers on Friday evening, and went to bed after a long flight. I attended a few sessions on Saturday before I spoke. I tried to start a few conversations but I just don’t have that much in common with most of the people that attended, and they didn’t seem all that interested in the blogging world. So I made a few calls to follow up on leads, and generally killed time until 3 pm when my panel started.
I was hopeful that this would go well. On Friday morning TechCrunch broke the Google/You Tube story which was subsequently picked up by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, as well as others. Many bloggers were saying how great it was that a blog broke a story and that it was picked up by mainstream press. They were talking about us working together to create better journalism.
None of that happened.
This was not the time or place to be aggresively pro-blogger, anti-mainstream media. I think we become somewhat immune to verbal attacks as bloggers because everything we do is questioned in comments and in other blogs. I am routinely harangued by mainstream media as well, who neither understand blogging or care to. The most common attack is that bloggers are not and never will be objective in their writing for one reason or another. I assumed giving a little bit of criticism back would spark debate, not ostracism. But I found that mainstream media is not comfortable being questioned. I assume that’s because they’ve insulated themselves from feedback, and therefore haven’t grown a thick skin.
I made a few main points when I spoke. I said that Digg was more interesting to me than the New York Times because the crowd determines what’s on the home page, not some editor I neither know nor necessarily trust.
I also made some points about journalism in general after a few defensive flurries were sent my way. First, that most mainstream media isn’t interesting to me because they report news so late. By the time something hits the New York Times, it’s usually at least a day old in the blogosphere. Second, I was discouraged by the fact that there is no discussion in mainstream media. Publications never cite their competition, and readers cannot say what they think (as they can with blog comments). And third, I encouraged journalists who were stuck in the big media machine, with their career going nowhere, to consider blogging as an alternative (I was also going to say that I was hiring, and for people to contact me, but I never was able to say that). I also called out the New York Times in particular – their recent launch of an offline new reader showed that they don’t get what consumers really want, I said. And I also said that many of the fluff pieces in the Times technology section must either be generated from back scratching, or lack of understanding of the product.
None of this went over well at all.
At one point I believe everyone in the room disagreed with me, even fellow panelists Jeff Jarvis and Mike Davidson. Fellow blogger Staci Kramer was also disagreeing strongly from the audience.
A person at the New York Times stood up and stated that their writers never engage in back scratching, and that they are above question when it comes to ethics. He asked me to back up my statements (I had mentioned puff pieces about inform.com and gather.com) with hard facts or apologize. A rousing ovation ensued. I said that I had no facts and apologized for offending him (implying that the other half of my statement must be true – that they were either back scratching or just didn’t bother really understanding the products).
More attacks – someone said that a panel of teenagers had earlier that day stated that they didn’t trust blogs. Staci Kramer from Paid Content played to the crowd, said I was wrong about journalists and that the New York Times links to her all the time. See Staci’s drive by hit job on me (after attending just part of the panel) here. Staci’s boss Rafat had an almost identical take on the ONA conference vibe as I did, when he attended last year. Observations of the same fear and “under siege” mentality. Not sure why his observations are valid, while my identical ones (sent via a frontal verbal attack, not a blog post) are not..
After it was over, one of the conference organizers thanked me for coming. Another ignored me even when I walked up to her, and wouldn’t make eye contact. I went out a side door and retired to my room.
Bottom line for me: I spent three days traveling to and attending this conference. I was not paid for my time, and I did not gain a single new reader. I did it because I was invited to attend. I went and said what I believed. Instead of sparking an intelligent debate I was roundly attacked. It’s the first time I addressed “real” journalists head on, and all I saw was fear, loathing and disdain.
I could have, and should have, sucked up to these people. Others at the conference were. They still command a lot of traffic and a link thrown our way is always helpful. But I didn’t do that. I never do that, and I’m told that its bad for my career. I made enemies this weekend. Most of those people will never look at TechCrunch without thinking about the things that I said, and judging me for those statements.
Will I do this again if invited? Yes. But I will make sure that I prepare my statements in light of the fact that mainstream media is not prepared to discuss their shortcomings. That’s the path that other new media representatives took at the conference, and is obviously the way to win the game. Tell them what they want to hear, even as they lie dying on the hospital bed.
Update: Upon reflection, I think that a lot of my tone at the conference was influenced by a conversation I had with an editor from the Chronicle at Om’s party last week. This guy wouldn’t leave me alone, and kept asking how much money we’re making at TechCrunch and how could I live with myself when we had such huge conflicts of interest. My reply, that we always disclose our conflicts and that big media has their own, but different, and undisclosed conflicts, got me nowhere (note this conversation at the ONA where these journalists actually debated whether or not it’s ok to sneak advertising links into editorial).
Great party last night at Pier 38 in San Francisco to celebrate Om Malik’s birthday and the renaming of OpenBC to Xing. I like the picture below of (left to right) Tony Conrad, Om Malik, me and Toni Schneider (taken by Thomas Hawk). Not sure what’s on Automattic CEO Toni Schneider’s mind (right) though…It kind of looks like he was photoshopped in to the picture, but I distinctly remember him being there