Friday, September 12, 2003

My new AOL Superbuddy, Cool Girl 

I have a new AOL Super Buddy on my AOL 9.0 AIM screen, who looks like the cartoon version of this.

'Cool Girl' is one of about 50 choices of animated personas, or expressions. She responds to words and phrases I type, just like my own little pet rock, oops, I meant avatar. Phew, LOL, kisses, ovy vay, stinky, and wow all elict distinctive facial expressions, sounds, and personas.
She is fun! Wish my blog had one like her.
Or one like Britney--if I had a Britney bot on my site, that would be a scream--for at least 5 minutes, till I got tired of the moaning noises of teen aged boys.


Too busy to blog today: Here's Why 

Three things going on:
A) Working on notes and plans for the Technology discussion for BloggerCon. Kevin Marks, Roland Tanglao, Amy Wohl, and hopefully a growing list of others, possibly including Frank Paynter and Craig Newmark, who would add wonderful depth, are starting to contribute ideas and pointers around questions such as:
How should blogging tools evolve to better serve the users?
What kinds of business and revenue models can support development? Is this the end of free? How can developers and users both get value (ie money and useful services)
What would a Blogger's Bill of Rights look like?
As video and audio and mobblogging become more prevalent, what kinds of just in time editing tools need to be created?
And--are blogging tools services, products, or features? Obviously, they can be all of the above, but right now we have these compartmentalized slices of wikis, blogs, RSS newsreaders, collaborative filters and recommenders, audio, video, photos, FOAF...Are there ways we'd like them to fit together more gracefully, and what does that mean anyway?
And so on--more discussion participants needed and welcomed, including vendors and folks with a vested interest in a product.
Roland has more thoughts here.

2) Article on online paid political advertising and on editorial coverage of the recall and the elections on newspaper web sites.
In the thick of doing interviews and finding the topic of online paid political advertising so interesting I hope to write more about this. Will publish a link to these stories on the blog when they're published, if my editor says its okay (I know he will),

3) Dealing with high school problems with my son
One of the reasons we moved back to San Jose was so my son could return to the high school where he spent his freshman and sophomore years, and take classes there. We started exploring how to do this last Spring, and the powers that be said it didn't seem necessary to move back to the exact neighborhood for him to return as a senior. Well, we're in a different neighborhood, and the school won't admit him. We've gone two levels up in the appeal, and now I am about to talk to the Superintendent and School board members, as well as explore how being turned down will make him feel (as in super-depressed?) Being in this school is so important to my son--academically, emotionally, artistically--and yet its 3 weeks into the school year and he is not there. And he's a senior. And he went there for 2 years before. And we raised money for them and...

Work continues on all three fronts. Taking a break with the dog.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

First person survivor: Michael Wilson's account of 9/11 

Michael Wilson publishes his story of surviving the fall of the towers. (Via Halley's Comment).
First person accounts have a great value to me; this one is almost as powerful as Jeff Jarvis's.
(Warning: I have mentioned Jeff twice today, have to watch out or I might turn into a young Curmudgeon and reference him constantly.)

Marc North: My favorite blogger 

It figures that my favorite blog has few words. Almost every day, I am blown away by Marc North's pictures.

The best way to go bankrupt: Have children, get a job 

"Having a child is now the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse,." writes Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor and bankruptcy expert who's just published?The Two-Income Tax: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke." Since 1996, the number of women filing for bankruptcy has increased 662%.
Writes Warren, "Even as millions of mothers marched into the workforce, savings declined, and not, as we will show, because families were frittering away their paychecks on toys for themselves or their children. Instead, families were swept up in a bidding war, competing furiously with one another for their most important possession: a house in a decent school district..
"The average two-income family earns far more today than did the single-breadwinner family of a generation ago. And yet, once they have paid the mortgage, the car payments, the taxes, the health insurance, and the day-care bills, today's dual-income families have less discretionary income, and less money to put away for a rainy day than the single-income family of a generation ago."


Jayson Blair: Birds of a Feather, Publish Together 

Just moments, okay perhaps days, after Michael Viner announce his publishing company would publish a tell-all by the "very honest" Blair, the very honest Viner has filed for bankruptcy on the heels of a court decision. According to the Times, New Millennium, Viner's company, packaged a short story anthology in a misleading way, without the permission of the editor and a best-selling author, who retaliated by suing him. He's lost, and now folks are wondering what will happen to that $500,000 advance Blair was supposed to receive.

My turn to quote Jeff Jarvis: 9/11 Memorial in NY 

Jarvis: "I'm standing on the street crying as I have not been able to in two years. I'm not alone.
The street is crowded with people who have come to mourn and pay their tributes. They're crying, too.
It's the children, their loss, their pain, their strength. It's the children who make me cry.

:Don't let anyone tell you that we're back to normal or anywhere near it. "


Washington Post: DC blogger debate business blogs 

For the record, this story is here.

Reverse Cowgirl quits blogging 

Reverse Cowgirl, the most popular Salon blogger, has packed it in. Blank directory where words used to be.
What does it all mean?
Let's see what insights the pundits unleash about the future of blogging as encapsulated in this news.
(Translation: Don't think it means anything, cept she got tired of the work involved, or is busy turning it all into a lucrative new tell-all, reality TV show, or breakfast cereal.)

MediaLife: Interview with David Pecker, CEO of American Media
Ever since I worked at Parade, and Walter Anderson used to talk about the swash-buckling and agressive David Pecker, who went off from Hachette to run the tabloid empire American Media and has really grown the business.
I've always admired Pecker for going downmarket and making it work. This interview, by Jeff Bercovici, is worthwhile reading if you're curious about the man who's the American King of the Tabloids.

Pecker words of wisdom: "'I always want to be in the right markets and I always have to be No. 1. Being in the industry for 25 years, I've learned that when you?re the No. 3 or No. 4 book in the field, anytime there?s any kind of budget cuts, you are always eliminated."

"When I look at the celebrity journalism market, I think the mass market is covered pretty aggressively. What I think is open is the upper end of the market, which I think Gala and OK! America are going to enter.
As for the mass market, I don?t really see another launch. A mass market launch really has to be at the front end of the supermarket. Right now the three major magazines, People, Star and the National Enquirer, are really the only three magazines in the United States that have 100 percent distribution, which is 275,000 pockets throughout the United States.
That blankets the whole of North America. To replicate something like that is an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars."

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

From Broadband Reports 46.7 million can't be wrong... 

"According to the latest numbers, global DSL subscriptions jumped by 5.2 million in the second quarter of this year, resulting in 46.7 million DSL users worldwide. The latest numbers from Point Topic indicate that seven countries account for 75% of that total. Japan added 2.6 million, China came in second with 1.8 million lines added, while the U.S. came in third, adding 1,125,000 DSL subs. Four European countries tacked on an additional 500K DSL subscribers each. "


Gawker Talker; Jarvis Stalker 

Elizabeth Spiers moves over from Gawker to NY Mag now that Mark Malkin goes to US Weekly.
Seems like Jeff Jarvis is being spritually stalked by one Eric Deamer, whose blog is called The Young Curmudgeon, which really means "I quote everything my hero Jeff Jarvis said..."
Jeff Jarvis spills the true scoop on Spiers, who is being replaced--maybe supplantedois a better word - by Choire Sicha, the new Horacio Silva
Is yoiur head spinning yet? If the answer is no, you're either a hard core digerati or a NY media type.

The best comment comes from Jason Calcanis, Mr. Voice of Experience, who posted a comment on Spiers' personal site:
ES, My advice: stay at Gawker and ask for 33% ownership in the brand. Gawker will be sold to CondeNast/Primedia/Jann/whoever for $10m in five years.
Going to an established media company would be a waste for someone with your talent. Stick with Nick and get a huge chunk of equity.
Be the brand.
best Jason

Hey, have fun, kids!

Sept 11: More interesting comments on Gothamist, who also ran the picture I put up, then deleted (I was feeling pretty mean, and I regretted in in the am.)


BloggerCon Day 2 Panel-- Technology: What do users want? 

What do users want from blogging tools and related services? How can technology help develop new capabilities (think audio blogging and photo blogs via cell phones) We're doing a session Sunday morning on Technology with a capital T that needs to be a conversation between everyone else and the technologists.
Help me plan this, let me know how you'd like to be involved, and what we should cover--and who are must-include participants.Dave's blurb on this is below--once I figure out how to post on the site, I'll see up some space we can work in.

When: October 5, 9AM
Where: Pound 200
Discussion leader: Susan Mernit
Who attends: Bloggers of all experience levels. Vendors and developers, but users drive the agenda, not techies.
Description: Most conferences about technology put the vendors on stage and the users in the audience. At BloggerCon, we're trying a new idea, get a group of informed, independent and neutral users together, and talk about where we want the industry to go. Out of work done before this session should come a set of issues that users want to see addressed. Things that vendors talk about but rarely deliver on. Performance, reliability, interop, no lock-in, no talking over users' heads or down to users about things they wouldn't understand. A basic statement of user's rights, that includes understanding how the software works, and what systems it works with (and not).


Dinner, once more 

Grilled tuna with spinach salad with tomatoes and sweet red onion
Curried yams with spinach
Dried mangoes and papaya

September 11th: Remembering 

I was on my way from the hotel to AOL when the second plane hit the towers. The cabbie's radio said that the Pentagon had been hit. I remember being happy my family was living in California, away from the turmoil, but I wondered what I would do if war broke out and I was 3,000 miles from them. I also remember wondering if there would be a missile strike against the East Coast.
I got to AOL HQ, went inside, and an announcement came over the loudspeakers that they were evacuating the campus. Instead of going back to the hotel, I called the newsroom and volunteered my services. For the next 2 days, I assisted the AOL newsies in building community message boards, managing meetings, and whatever was needed. The first day, after almost the entire campus had gone home and we were the only folks around,. Steve Case came into the news room and told us we were making a valuable contribution.
By 8 pm that night I was able to reach my family in New York and confirm they were okay, and talk to my family in California and tell them I was okay.
Later that week, AOL chartered two jets and flew all the West Coasters home. The planes were so full, they had to stop in Kansas to refuel, something the jets had never needed to do in my past trips.


Sara Glines: I survived Susan Mernit 

From Rob Runnett at Digital Edge, NAA: "MediaNews Group Inc. named Sara Glines vice president for interactive media for the company's East Coast operations. Glines, a member of the New Media Federation's Audience Development subcommittee, was director of online operations for Journal Register Co. in Trenton, N.J. Glines' digital-mediaexperience includes her editor-in-chief role at New Jersey Online and the managing director position at Hachette Filipacchi New Media. "

Sara is a terrific editor who keeps a big bowl of candy on her desk and is always working to find solutions to problems. Hope this is a great move for her.
MediaNews Group owns sets of regional newspapers across the country, including some pretty good ones in Massachusetts.


Ad Targeting and the 2004 Elections 

Seems to me that one of the ways online advertising is going to make $$ in the 2004 elections is through very precise ad targeting--to both psychographic and geogaphic audiences. The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, AOL and other big sites have been working hard on their ability to target in these ways, but how about the smaller sites? The little newspaper sites, the local newspaper chains, etc? What tools will they need to get their share of online paid political advertising?
I am working on a story on paid political advertising and the elections and find this topic really fascinating. We are definitely at a transition point. Dean & Co. have shown us that politicians can make money and sign up campaigners on the web, a huge quantum leap from 2002's focus on putting all the data online so consumers could read it and make considered decisions.
More on this later...piece due in 10 days.


Rick Bruner & More on Blogger/Google 

Rick Bruner at Marketing Wonk seems to have reached similar conclusions to mine about the discontinuance of BloggerPro and what is suggests about Google's ambitions. Rick quotes Jason Shellen, who said, "We've always wanted to give away Blogger Pro features to all users," and "Currently, all the users of Blogspot [Blogger's free blog hosting service] have Google AdSense ads on them. That's about as much we would want to say [on the revenue question] as a private company. ...A comparison could be made to Google itself. Google offers great free web search. We're offering, hopefully long-term, a great free web publishing tool. If anything, it's a step to make Blogger more prominent."

Someone one sent me an email today suggesting that this was a Microsoft-like tactic to despoil those trying to build a market for paid blogging tools and services, but I think it really underscores just how Lucrative targeted, paid text ads are for Google--it's the highest margin way for them to make great customer acquisition costs, no marketing dollars, no churn issues--what a great business.

AOL: End of year layoffs are coming 

Studies report that the end of the year is a prime time for layoffs at large companies and AOL is no exception. Folks in Dulles, NY and the Bay area are quaking as October approaches, convinced the axes will fall once more. (My husband's comment: "You mean there are people left?")
New York buzz: Interactive marketing is hanging on because of paid search; the whole team is at risk.
California buzz: The big boss is coming out on a plane to talk to the troops; we fear they'll be layoffs right before he arrives.
Dulles buzz: You know, the Time Inc people are talking over everything now.

Let those snippets give special relevance to the speech given by AOL IM Honcho Lisa Brown at the IAB forum this week:
"We created our own issues at AOL, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. In many ways, we were on the road to perdition with agencies and advertisers. Now we're on the road to redemption," said Brown, an old buddy of Jon Miller from US Interactive.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Department of Inexplicable Obsessions: My Portable housing Mania 

Yurts and prefab container houses: for some time, I have been obsessed with both of them. It all started when I spent a weekend with my friend Deanna in Comptche and found myself wanting to build a platform and put up the same kind of heavy green platform tent we used to stay in at summer camp. Fantasies of the tent migrated into fantasies of a yurt. Then, those dreams morphed into the idea that we should buy a few acres of our own out in the woods, perhaps in Yolo County, and put up a cabin or something so we could go there on weekends.
Then that turned into a treasured fantasy--why not build a really cool house out of alternative materials? Like old shipping containers, as Jennifer Seigel seems to do so elegantly.

Yurts, on the other hand, are not particularly elegant, but they are very cool. Traditional portable houses in places such as Mongolia and Kazakhstan yurts are round structures build out of poles and covered in a thick felt covering. You can buy a kit and build a nice-sized yurt that you can live in year round for $10-15,000.

Log cabins and platform tents are less exotic and more practical; since this is all totally a fantasy, I can think about all four of these choices and--do nothing. but continue to day dream.

Translation from the Googlese: Deconstructinng the Blogger Pro announcement  

This just in, via my email: A note from Ev saying Blogger Pro will become free, and will be folded into Blogger as one product. Some questions for the group:
1) Is this the rich company Microsoft-like tactic of offering a free product that will undercut people trying to charge?
2) Is this an expression of the belief, "We're no longer in the product development business, the real money is in selling ads on this thing--and everywhere else in the universe for that matter?"
3) Or is it a corporate branding issue--ie, Google does not charge for premium services. It makes its money from search results and paid search and ad word placements. Therefore a product offered by Google should fit into those models.
4) Or it it they're so loaded they don't give a %$%K ? ( I don't believe that one.)

Ev says: "Google has lots of computers and bandwidth. And Google believes blogs are important and good for the web."
My guess is that the translations from the Googlese is--#2.


What I made for dinner tonight 

No one home but me. Time to cook what I like:
Sauteed mushroons with nutmeg and onion, tossed with romano cheese and oerchiette pasta.
Peace and quiet.

What I made for dinner last night 

My son Zack works out almost daily with Mark, his girlfriend's father, who is an amazing weighlifter and gym rat. My thank you is to make him the great home-cooked dinners he never has at home. L

ast night, we had Mark, Mark's dad Mickey, who's famed as a driller and has put piling down across the western half of the country, his girlfriend Megan, and the three of us at the table for the thank-you feast.

The vittles--drumroll, please (this demonstrates my ability to cook for specific audiences):
Home-made foccacia bread, dough from Trader Joe's
Roasted chicken
Diced red potatoes with red pepper, onion, garlic and rosemary
Baby yams in orange-apricot sauce
Green salad with tomato
Soy Dream ice cream dessert
Chocolate chip and wild raspberry with cinnamon cookies, also courtsey of Trader Joe's

This was a dinner for manly men, I'd made a ton of food, and the guys packed it in. Then we walked the dog for a bit.


This just in-- Dean Campaign comes to BloggerCon 

Dave's just announced that Dean's chief blogger, Matt Gross, is going to be at BloggerCon.

BloggerCon session changes: Technology Panel Moves 

Well, I just got off the phone with Dave Winer, and he's decided to move the BloggerCon Technology panel to Day 2. He's asked me to chair it and to help pull it further together, which I will will gladly do. Kind of disappointed it's moving, but saw it was incomplete on Day 1, and think we can create a great panel--and program--for Day 2.

If you look at the potential of the Technology panel as a "What do users want and how do we get it?" discussion, the opportunity to get techologists and users of the technology into a room can become pretty interesting. It also becomes a question of who is the market? with the market as a moving target of users with varying needs, skill sets, and expectations.

Perhaps the primary blog users today are fairly technical men, with somewhat advanced programming skills and great interest in politics (joke), and teens writing live online journals for their friends, having gotten tired of having to squeeze all that drama into their IM directory profiles. The emerging audiences--already well entrenched, to be honest--seem to be women (this is an unclassifiable group, because their interests are so close to the men's, the genders just differ), academics, enterprise and the workplace, families, and emerging communities of interest (how to address and build a good platform for group bloggers who aren't business people is an interesting question, one that the political folks may be helping to develop right now). The artists and creative people who will use these tools to create and disseminate art are also important, and they often get left out by engineering-oriented thinkers(who are also creative types).

So a panel on what technology is--and isn't--is going to be shaped by who wants to use the technology, and for what--getting the right people to represent the right constituencies is the trick here--and there isn't even a list of registered participants available to look at--yet.

Message in a bottle: If you are going to bloggercon and read this and have thoughts to share, get in touch! smernit at


AOL TW's Chairman and CEO Anne Moore on media on the web 

From Fortune, snagged by Rafat Ali: "The consolidation of the media is not as big a concern to me as the proliferation of unchecked media on places like the web. And that scares me more than anything."

Jim Daly to edit Red Herring--again 

According to Paid Content, French company called Dasar is attempting to relaunch Red Herring. They have recruited Jim Daly, the former editor of Business 2.0, as the top guy. Rafat Ali suggests the new site may look like The money guy--Alex Serge Vieux--is apparently based in Mountain View.


Monday, September 08, 2003

Rick Bragg to pen Jessica Lynch book 

Rick Bragg's found a lucrative way to kiss off the NYTimes after they raked him over the coals for datelining a story from a location only visited by an assistant--he's going to write Private Jessica Lynch's $1MM plus biography.
Accoring to Publisher's Weekly, Bragg will receive half of the $1MM advance as his writer for hire fee. Knopf is planning to release the book in Veteran's Day, and will produce a one-hour prime time TV special planned to coincide with the book's publication date, involving interviews not only with Lynch, but with her parents, brother, sister, fiancÚ and Bragg as well.

Davd Bowie to launch new album with realtime streamed concert on net 

From Reuters, via Joe Kwak: David Bowie will attempt to make technological history on Monday with the launch of his new album by beaming his accompanying live performance into selected cinemas around the world.
The live set in London, will showcase tracks from his new album, entitled "Reality," and many cuts from his extensive back catalogue.
The 90-minute concert at the Riverside studios in Hammersmith will be beamed live by satellite to 22 cinemas in Europe, including five in the UK.


ABC Newslaunches live political show on the Web 

Big media is starting to see the opportunity for streaming live content outside of music and celebrities. This past week, ABC NBews launched a new political talk show called ABC News Live.
Accoridng to Reuters, "anchor Alina Cho currently gives news updates during the day and will take over one screen at 12:30 p.m. ET, during the peak viewing time for ABC's high-speed Internet service.

The show will run roughly 15-30 minutes and will feature interviews with political journalists in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, the network said.
"We're seeing the Internet play an increasingly prominent role in the campaign of every candidate," said Bernard Gershon, general manager of, part of the broadcasting arm of Walt Disney Co DIS.N ."

Burning question: Will there be paid political advertising as well?


Warren Zevon, RIP 

Singer/songwriter Warren Zevon died of lung cancer this past Sunday. RIP, Warren, many people enjoyed your music.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

In brief: Around the Blogosphere 

The Google Mirror Site: There's another Google in the world behind the mirror.
Craig's List: Craig Newmark started a blog.
Tom Coates' Weblogs and the amateurization of everything--good piece with excellent comments

Unplug Architecture 

Unplug Architecture:
William Blaze made this. Wow.
(Via Mediaburn)

MediaBurn: George Bush is the Gray Davis of the US 

How many of you are in the anyone but Bush in 2004 camp?

Denial of Service took this site down yesterday 

Apparently, Blogger and Blogspot experienced a hefty denial of service attack and that was why the site was down.

Electrolite on new group blogs 

Group blogs-where a specific set of bloggers all contribute-- intrigue me. Though I have not seen many that I think are great., especially over time, the concept seems so promising. The BoingBoing format--a loosely woven group of people with some clearly defined interests that inform their contributions to a blog with its own clearly defined focus, seems right on.
Electrolite references some newer ones: Political blogs Jusiper and Not Geniuses( I like Ezra Klein!), American Prospect's Tapped, and Corrente.
The blogs they mention don't thrill me for the most part, but I like Patrick and Theresa's thoughts about presentation of group web blogs. A snippet:
...The simplity of the weblog is one of its glories: short and medium-sized pieces of writing, every so often, with the most recent stuff on top. I'm unfond of "continued on page X" jumps in magazines, and I'm not wild about them in weblogs, either; kinesthetically, whether I'm at a desktop or a laptop computer, it's always easier to keep scrolling down than it is to reach for the pointing device and bring up a new page. ...When I'm running through my daily blog trawl, which consists of several dozen of the things, I find, increasingly, that sites that demand extra mousing-around tend to slip to last. Which means that if I'm interrupted by more pressing matters, they don't get read as regularly...

Eichler-world: Block party in the modern zone 

More than 36% of San Jose, California's , population is born outside the US, the 6th largest percentage of any US city(#1 is South Florida). This fact gives particular resonance to my impressions of the block party my husband's band played for last night in an neighborhood of San Jose filled with Eichler houses.
Here's the setting: a beautiful street filled with modern homes with flst roofs, atriums in the center, 200 neihgbors milling about chatting, tables of home made food---mango salsa and chips, risotto rice cakes, empanadas, Louisiana hot links, coleslaw, cookies, brownies, etc. A HUGE container of home-made Margaritas.
A 4-piece blues and R&B band, kicking out tunes. A couple of rented rides for the kids. Lots of good cheer and smilies.
But except for about 6 people, everyone out of the 200 seemed to be white--in a city known for its diverse populations. Surprising. But the only odd note in a very nice night (it's great to see dozens of people dancing to your husband's band, not wanting them to stop playing, digging every aspect of the music, and all outside in the cool air under the bright California stars.


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