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Saturday, September 27, 2003

The web changes campaign 2004--and the reporters who follow it 

From Editor and Publisher:
"The Internet's grip on the presidential race, as well as many state campaigns, comes at a time when newspapers are dealing with other factors that have caused them to approach the 2004 campaign differently. With less money to spend, more competition from cable news outlets, and a wider Democratic field of candidates for president (now 10) than usual, editors contend the next six to 12 months will require a changing game plan. "We're not going to do every swing with every candidate, we're mixing it up more," says Maralee Schwartz, national political editor for The Washington Post, adding that budget cutbacks are curtailing some travel plans for reporters. "We are doing more voter pieces and larger enterprise pieces."

So as Internet presence and web community become integral parts of political campaigns, will dollars for Web advertising follow?
As voters move to the web for information and involvement, will media dollars follow?
At the present time, less than 5% of all ad money for political campaigns goes online, and the lion's share goes to television.
Will 2004 be the year that campaign ad dollars move as well?

Your thoughts welcome--

Rosh Hashona: The New Year 

Kol Emet, Palo Alto, then a drive through the Cupertino park lands and lunch at a restaurant in Cupertino Village: onion pancake, cucumbers with chili sauce, cold wheat gluten and black mushrooms, fried scallion dumplings, Chinese ginger candies for dessert.
This is the first year we didn't do a big family and friends dinner for the holiday.
It was a nice change...made me think more about the meaning of the holiday.

Last year at this time, we were in New Jersey. We'd moved back there perhaps a month before, in August, and we'd had to renovate and do significant work on the new house. I was commuting to Dulles 3X a week, staying over 1-2 nights. No one in the family was happy to be back in New York after California, although I was very psyched about the projects I was doing for AOL.
We had no idea at that point that we'd be back in California less than a year later.

When they write me in the book of life for this past year, it should say " She handled change well."

BloggerCon: Oct 4-5 Conference aka lovefest/groupgrope/HS reunion 

Hey, it's almost BloggerCon!
A week from now I will be hosting a dinner at a fun ethnic restaurant somewhere in Cambridge, hopefully dining with lots of interesting people,
In some ways, bringing together so many passionate people for a weekend feels like high school, as in, what if they all go hang out with someone cooler than me ('cause there always is someone cooler than me, I'm on the low-key side of coolness, more hipster chic, I'd say.)
The list of people coming to the event is here;I started to list folks I was excited about seeing/meeting, but deleted it because the list was too long and, hey, sounded like HS.

So, here's the deal: this event is going to be a lovefest/group grope/HS reunion, all of the above. If you are anywhere near Boston and you like blogging--come on in, it will be fun. Here's where to sign up for day 2.


Friday, September 26, 2003

George W Bush: Mugging the truth 

Reading a piece in The Nation online about George Bush's propensity for what author David Corn calls Bush's "migging the truth... to advance his agenda."
Some excerpts:
The Tax Cut Whopper: "One of Bush's biggest tax-cut whoppers came when he stated, during the presidential campaign, "The vast majority of my [proposed] tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum." That estimate was wildly at odds with analyses of where the money would really go. A report by Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal outfit that specializes in distribution analysis, figured that 42.6 percent of Bush's $1.6 trillion tax package would end up in the pockets of the top 1 percent of earners. The lowest 60 percent would net 12.6 percent. The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, ABC News and NBC News all reported that Bush's package produced the results CTJ calculated."

The Sept 11 Whopper "As many Americans and others yearned to make sense of the evil attacks of September 11, Bush elected to share with the public a deceptively simplistic explanation of this catastrophe. Repeatedly, he said that the United States had been struck because of its love of freedom. "America was targeted for attack," he maintained, "because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world." This was shallow analysis, a comic-book interpretation of the event that covered up complexities and denied Americans information crucial for developing a full understanding of the attacks. In the view Bush furnished, Osama bin Laden was a would-be conqueror of the world, a man motivated solely by irrational evil, who killed for the purpose of destroying freedom.

But as the State Department's own terrorism experts--as well as nongovernment experts--noted, bin Laden was motivated by a specific geostrategic and theological aim: to chase the United States out of the Middle East in order to ease the way for a fundamentalist takeover of the region. Peter Bergen, a former CNN producer and the first journalist to arrange a television interview with bin Laden, observes in his book Holy War, Inc., "What [bin Laden] condemns the United States for is simple: its policies in the Middle East." Rather than acknowledge the realities of bin Laden's war on America, Bush attempted to create and perpetuate a war-on-freedom myth. "

And so on...bitter, and slanted, and...hey, all true!


Thursday, September 25, 2003

BloggerCon Technology Discussion update 

I had trouble figuring out and then finding the story I posted on BloggerCon yesterday about the latest on the Technology discussion, so I am going to repeat the info in this email as a means to make sure people see it.
The Tech discussion is on for Sunday, and we have a number of people who will be taking part and leading parts of the discussion. We are also looking for more people to let us know they are planning to come, so we can include their ideas/thoughts/links in pre-discussion and take away materials.

Please email me if you're interested in adding your voice to this conversation.
People involved (no particular order here)
Frank Paynter
Kevin Marks
Amy Wohl
Dan Bricklin
Roland Tanglao
Greg Allen
Dan Mitchell
Susan Mernit

Deejee from BloggerJack, Scott Brodeur from Mass Live, and Heath Row have also said they may swing has Steve Yost, who developed the amazingly useful QuickTopic discussion system.

Some of the questions we are considering:
1) What is a blogger's bill of rights? (Roland)
2) What are the gaps between how a techie sees a product and a user? How do you make blog tools more marketable? (Amy)
3) What are the things about blogging tools that really piss you off? Your wish list? (everyone)
4) How does the technology shape the dialogue? What are the constraints? Opportunities?
5) Audio and mob blogging--and the semantic web--how to think about new forms (Kevin)
6) Business models and revenue and what users want--emerging business models and ways to make money--can it be done? (Susan)

We want this to be an interesting discussion and provocative session--what else should we be talking about that you'd like to bring up pre conference?

See you in Boston!


The Virtual Visit: Memories of a 1995 cyber-launch 

Trying out a new search engine called Fazzle, I came across this CJR story by NY Post beat reporter Laura Italiano, who used to work for me at New Jersey Online about our online coverage of the Pope's visit to New York/New Jersey in 1995.
I started at NJO in June 1995, and we officially launched the full site in January 1996, but when the Pope made his first visit in many years to New Jersey, we decided to cover it online--and cover it like we'd cover a Rolling Stones tour--replete with sound clips, download a blessing, and live action shots of His Holiness.
VZiews of the old 1995 pages live on in the Wayback Archive--here and here.

Rafat Ali:"Traditional news outlets don't know how to credit me" 

Paid Content editor & writer (and chief cook and bottle washer) Rafat Ali published a story on the relaunch of the RedHerring web site, only to see it picked up--without attribution--by
Rafat says: "It is amazing how major, respectable media sites don't know how to credit stories, especially stories done by small media/trade sites. the red herring resurrection story was done by me on Sep 9, after a long, hard investigation. and they pick up the story, have no attributions, and never mentioned that i reported on it first. (Online News post)


Jeanne Sessums: So what do you do? 

From allied "But how I make my living now is not that simple. Because, if you've been following along with the home game, you know I got laidoff--or should I say I declined their offer to stay--by the Passion and Precision in Communication folks in April.

So, today I do everything.

Whatever interests me and pays, I do it.

And that isn't what most people do.

You're agency or you're corporate.

You're a PR person or you're a writer.

Always sides. Always dividing lines. Always a way to separate voice from itself."

Jeanne's post goes on to talk about how blogging and other communications tools are changing the concept of a persona and a corporate voice into something more personal. My suspicion is that this question is livelier and more relevant for those of us working outside the corporate structure in their own businesses, freelancing, etc.--When I was fulltime at a large company, I thought about how best to work with my new boss, the third in nine months, and how to fit my aspirations into their structure.
Now, out on my own, I feel the corporate layers peeling away, leaving me...Not exposed, but somehow more whole, which is part of what I feel Jeanne is touching on.


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Blogging: A Distruptive technology & a way to cut out the middleman 

Doc Searls and Steve Outing are all over the implications of the SacBee requiring Daniel Weintraub's blog to be edited--ie, vetted--by an editor before posting live on the site. Mark Glaser offers a piece on implications for the newsroom.
As someone who worked for big media for 10+ years, and who continues to write about big media, let me remind the bloggers that there is absolutely nothing new about writers and editors believing in the value of a professional filter, which is what an editor is.
This is a philosophy thing, a taste thing, like preferring your steak well-done as opposed to rare, and not actually about control.
But...Having said that, here's the thing--hey folks, lack of editors is one of the reasons blogging is a disruptive technology!
It's not just a cheap publishing platform for Andrew Sullivan wanna-bes, it's a way for anybody who wants to to cut out the editorial middleman. And babe, when it comes to media, that is disruptive.
So, blogging for some folks is just the latest flavor of the month and they don't see why any media with their name on it shouldn't have an editor, as their products always have had--
And then for others it is the next best thing to being a member of the Grateful Dead, running around Burning Man and never getting a sunburn, and cashing out of the stock market before the crash--it is a disruptive technology.
(Read my lips...That sentence is the sound of Susan's inner child gleefully stomping around...)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Liz Spiers and the Gothamist Flame Wars: Whip it, whip it good  

Take a look at the amazingly silly and swarmy sand-kicking going on in the Gothamist comments section. Some guys who might sometimes know better got into a virtual shoving match set off by their excitement over Elizabeth Speirs going off to NY Mag.
On the other hand, this kind of loudness is also one of the things I miss about New York--there are lots of chipheads out here in software land who are just as uptight and doctrinaire as the NY crowd-- --but they save their venom for interanet email wars at work, depriving the rest of us of the chance to feel self-righteous at their expense (thanks, guys)


I joined the gym at the Y this weekend and went and worked out today, first time since I moved back to California.
45 minutes flew by, to my delight.
Later this week, I meet the trainer and get some help with the machines.
Personal goal: Work out 3-5 times a week, an hour per session.
How am I going to do that? Go early in the morning, which will be late by NY standards.

One odd thing today: I picked up a Glamour magazine to read on the treadmill. Never read Glamor.
This one was from 2001, and it was edited by Bonnie Fuller (who since went on to edit first US Weekly, and now, The Star/American Media. It struck me that a) this was a summer 2001 issue, pre 9/11 Twin Towers, and no magazine would be the same as this for a while, and b) it was very much like US Weekly and a lot more fun than I remember Glamor magazine being.

Oh, those crazy kids--BenLo, Cameron, Britney, Demi drive mag sales to new highs 

If we hadn't invented celebrities, would God have had to do it?
Or, to put it another way, is anyone in the country not secretly--or not so secretly--following the ups and downs of Ben Lo, Cameron & Justin, that pop tart Britney, her big sister Madonna and that cradle-snatched Demi with her hunka hunka Ashton?

Admit it is so, bro--or find me another reason why US Magazine hit newsstand sales highs of 800,000 copies this week, The Star sold 1.1 MM, People Mag (supposedly) did about 800,000 and InTouch, the Globe and the Enquirer did who knows what...

Celebrities, gotta love'em, after all something's gotta fill the void when you're too old to play with Barbies...

Monday, September 22, 2003

Jarvis on SacBee editing their bloggers 

Jarvis is typically brilliant on the recent news from the SacBee ombudsman that the web staff did a bad thing posting a press release to the web site as a news story (gasp, shock, shades of NY Times scandals).
Jarvis says:

"... just for a moment, we should drop the term "news" with all its heavy baggage and instead look on our job in terms of imparting information....When you do that, when you see yourself as a leader in the information business, then minders and copy editors become just a little less important. The value of information to the audience becomes more important.
A press release is information. No, a reporter should never put a byline atop a press release. But that doesn't mean the Bee's online service shouldn't have run the release (without expending the effort and expense of rewriting it when they can't afford to). It's information.
A weblog is information. Maybe a typo -- or even an opinion -- will sneak through but if we're clear with the audience about the immediacy of weblogs, if we correct mistakes when they're brought to our attention -- even by the audience -- then they will understand what kind of information it is.
...: So here's my real point in all of this:
I fear that sometimes we lose sight of the fact that even more than being in the news business, we are in the information business.

Google labs: Search by Location 

The latest integrated Google tool is up--Search by Location. The FAQ explains this is a way to put a geographic parameter aka limit on a search. Apparently, it pulls all the mappable data from the search and builds maps on the fly using Mapquest.
Here are some sample searches I did:
Devachan Hair Salon (my NYC hairdresser)--
This isn't so great--The web site doesn't pop up and the map looks wierd.
But a search for Dim Sum, Mountain View gives promising results
A request for Kayaking and Chicago gave me this, though it could not parse state names (maybe it is mapped to large cities to start).
When I searched for hotel, romantic in New York, the results I got were completely different than when I had Google search the web via the home page

Jack Trout: How Microsoft Can Beat Google 

From an article by Frederick Markini, The Coming Search Engine War, Part 1 :
"Exactly how can Microsoft trump Google, which possesses dominant market share and the preeminent search brand? I asked Jack Trout, the advertising pioneer and president of Trout and Partners, to offer his thoughts. As you may know, Jack is an advertising legend, having authored the very first article on the concept of "positioning" back in 1969. His landmark book, co-authored with former cohort Al Ries, was called "Positioning, The Battle For Your Mind." It offered the radical theory that products are positioned not in a market, but in the minds of customers. He went on to author the classic "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing," and most recently, "Big Brands, Big Trouble."

Jack says Google is dangerously close to becoming the generic in the space. Should that happen, the company would be open to brand and product positioning attacks on multiple fronts.

"Microsoft has only one available strategy [to beat Google]: They need to position their new search service as the 'next generation,'" Trout told me. Microsoft, he explained, should not try to claim its new search engine is "better," because that won't win. "The only way you beat Google is by being 'what's next.' [Internet searchers] will switch to the 'next thing,' but Google already owns the current 'best' thing," said Trout. "The Google offering must be positioned into a corner by Microsoft, positioned as the old product. If anyone could pull off this strategy, it would be Microsoft."

In "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing," Trout defines "The Law of Leadership" being based on the premise that everyone remembers the first of something. The Wright brothers built the first airplane. Who built the second one? George Washington was the first president of the United States. Who was second?

OK, but here's the exception. If you cannot be first in the market, the third Immutable Law of Marketing, "The Law Of The Mind," modifies the Law Of Leadership: It is better to be first in the mind than to be first in the market. A series of first-to-market products no longer exist: the Hurley washing machine, the Du Mont television, the MITS Altair 8800 personal computer -- all were beaten by the second to market. First in the mind trumps first-to-market.

Google was hardly the first search engine, but due to its remarkable success and relevancy, it now is first in the mind. First in the mind doesn't require oodles of cash. For a time, Apple enjoyed a leadership position with seed money of $91,000 and a more interesting name. Google won it with a hyper-focus its core business: search. Others have since made gains in relevancy and some believe both Inktomi and FAST are on par. Still, Google is the perceived market leader, and "equal to," even "better," doesn't win against that positioning in the mind. That's a near impossible brand position to unseat... again, unless you're Microsoft.

Most of us remember that Netscape was the first browser and enjoyed the dominant position -- until Microsoft used the power of its operating system to take that market away. Based on my casual conversations with various Google folks, I get the sense that there is an organizational belief they can thwart Microsoft by simply focusing on the user experience. The lesson of Netscape should cause them to shudder and plan alternative defenses."

More here.


Sunday, September 21, 2003

PeopleAggregator: AOL Directory hits the web 

Marc Canter's got another interesting new toy, this one something he built with some folks. The People Aggregator is basically an outliner for relationships: who I am and how to reach me, who I know and who I would like to know. This kind of listings and directory engine is of high interest to many users--the amazing traffic and number of profiles created on the AOL and AIM People Directories is proof of that.
It is going to be so interesting to see who is able to do the integration of these apps--the person who pulls it off will have a HUGE market advantage (think back to Amazon being able to get customer service right in 1998, AND have some rudimentary collaborative filtering to start to recommend books with--pulling these tools into other tools for integration and ease of use will give some lucky who-ha a strong competitive edge.

New site: 

New social network and blogging tools are like shoes--I'm always interested in the latest version, even if I have 5 previous that are amazingly similar.
The latest social network/online utility/ does everything but shine your shoes for you.
The product is, a just-launched online calendar that allows members to indicate affinity with geo-areas called metros, then see a cross-index of events to do that members have entered, and what events their friends or people they want to watch are interested in.
The new site is from LA programmer Andy Baio, also known as one of the fundraisers for the so-called Star Wars Kid.
It has tremendous promise.
(Via the always informed Marc Canter)

Sunday night dinner 

Home made guacamole with chips
Capellini pasta with fresh tomato and basil sauce and Asiago cheese**
Low fat ice cream sandwiches

The basil and tomato were from my landlady's garden, yeah, Mary.

Sunday in the Park with Spencer and Zack 

Spent the afternoon in SF and Golden Gate Park with the family today; we had lunch in the Inner Sunset at Curry and Naan and then went into the Park to see the new Conservatory of Flowers. The ggreenhouses look great from the outside, but the huge crowds meant the next tour was an hour away, so we prowled the grounds and then lounged outside.
Some moments:
--The blonde little boy, about 5, who took off all his clothes and did a little dance on the lawn. Was he a nudist? Naah, his mom was about to feed him a souvlaki for lunch and didn't want his nice little suit stained.
--The roller-blading, hockey-stick carrying, confident-looking dotcom type guy who zoomed up the path, stopped cold next to his kid, and proceeded to show his little 4 year old how to wield the hockey stick.
--A Japanese family of four happily munching continually on baggie after baggy of snacks.
--The three of us, who happily lay down in a patch of shade and listened to Seal play a free concert across the park.

Afterwards, a quick stop at Amoeba Records, then the drive south to San Jose.

More on BloggerCon Tech Panel, Day 2-- 

I am facilitating a discussion on Sunday Oct 5th at 11 am at BloggerCon in Boston on 'Technology: What Users Want."
If you were planning to come to BC, it would be great to have you be a part of this dialogue and attend this session. As you probably know, Day 2 is free.

More info on the BloggerCon Tech Discussion
Info on BloggerCon in general

Please let me know if you would be interested in attending this discussion and if you have ideas to share--smernit at will get to me.

Owning the Search customer:"All roads lead to Longhorn 

As many of us have been well aware for some time, Microsoft has been looking hard at the search business. This Reuters story discusses the likely integration of new Microsoft search products into the under-development new MSFT operating system, code-named Longhorn.

"Search results tailored to individual users based on a history of their interests and searches is one area that Microsoft is looking at," said Kirk Koenigsbauer, strategy manager at Microsoft's MSN Internet portal.


Another use for blogging: Resume Blog 

Here's a other way to make your availability for work show up high in your Google listings: the resume blog. Robert Walikis has put together a blog of his resume and published it on blogspot.
Phil Wolff found this--and he points to the source page from the Software Product Marketing Group. Apparently, the goal of the project is to offer an inexpensive and visible platform for resume postings to members--and it seems like an interesting experiment.

One one hand, I'm a bit troubled by the fact its a pretty static page; on the other hand, it is GREAT to see people and groups try out new applications for blogging platforms.

About, With and For Design conference: October 17th-18th 

Hugh Dubberly, my former Netscape colleague and brilliant thinker, is one of the speakers, along with Peter Merholz at the About, With, and For Design conference at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Hugh has had a design company in San Francisco for the past few years, and is a noted speaker and teacher--if you're in the Midwest, this is probably a great conference to check out.
(Via peterme)

Will $2MM plus coffee beans suport a browser business for Mozilla? 

Now that AOL--oops, I mean TWX--has given the Mozilla people $2MM to fund the Mozilla Foundation, offloading millions of dollars of staff, G&A, and insurances costs in the process, doesn't it make you feel good to know that you too can do your part to fund the Mozilla Foundation's efforts--all you have to do is buy a bag of coffee and RJ Tarpleys Coffee Company will share part of the money with the lizard people. Geeze, this is going to raise money about as quickly as Netscape managed to put out the 7.0 release!
Folks, if you really want to develop a browser alternatiive and have a viable business to support your foundation, you need to focus on making that happen. Otherwise, you're going to burn through the AOL money and be a hobby for lots of techies----maybe you are that, already.


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