Saturday, June 14, 2003
Howard's blog is both looking mahvelous with a new template, and, per usual, full of great information. This post on a special issue of Indian Country Today, all about "American Indian nations and American law," will be of particular interest to anyone doing work in that area. (Why "American Indian," not "Native American?" Here's an oft-cited answer, and an interview with Russell Means.)
Friday, June 13, 2003
The best of the Viagra gum story headlines: "Wrigley To Double Pleasure With Viagra-Like Gum." And here's one to file under Tragically Missed Opportunities that the big news outlets seem to have overlooked: until quite recently, Pfizer (yes, that Pfizer) owned the rights to that old mandibular favorite, Freshen-Up.
Boing Boing has this fascinating discussion on the legal ramifications of using an iPod or other hard drive player as a vehicle for DJs to distribute their music (originating from a story in the Philadelphia City Paper, "In iPod He Trusts;" love all the follow ups about the bloodlessness of absentee DJing). Sellers and purchasers of hard drive-based stereo components with pre-loaded music collections (scroll down a bit) must face similar concerns, although presumably these things couldn't be marketed without some form of front end licensing. More interesting reading: "Music Licensing Paying The Piper;" "Guide to Licensing Your Mix CD."
Thursday, June 12, 2003
More than one speaker at the Weblog Business Strategies Conference remarked on the practice and significance of not linking as a flag to readers that the item in question might not be worth their time. It reminded me that Kevin Marks suggested a more direct approach, and his suggestions tend to be intriguing ones.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders "Why would anyone want a prairie dog at home?" Darn fine question. (I mean, the flea spray costs alone...) He also expands the inquiry into other exotic pets:
As for snakes: to me, a snake isn't a pet, it's a creature you wrap around your neck while complaining that your parole officer is a real pain.
Gotta go, there's the Baby crying.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Through what wound up being a happy travel mishap on my part (airlines are so picky about timeliness these days!), Doc and I scooted back to California together, along the way mapping most of the WiFi hotspots between Cambridge and Logan, most of the AC outlets at Logan, and most of the notable features geographic and geologic between Provincetown and the San Gabriels. The oooohnly way to fly! Here's Doc's summing-up of the conference, and I couldn't agree more:
It wasn't a Big Time conference, but it was a culture-changer. Blog is Rock, in many ways. And the show had a lot of Rock & Roll to it. It was also very well done for the first of its kind.
It brought a lot of terrific people together, which is a huge plus. It ran well, without many hitches. And they provided free wi-fi Net access (and kept it going), which is much appreciated. So: kudos to the Jupiter folks for pulling it off.
Welcome the Blawg Ring's 200th member, KC Lawyer!
Don't think that means there are only 200 blawgers; my guess is it's at least double that. I'm so glad JCA set up the Blawg Ring; it was a small step that provides a big service and has a broad impact. For my part, I'm looking forward to getting around to a sizeable blawgroll update this weekend.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
A Suit-able P.S. (LazyBlawg)
Social software. Social software. Incredibly powerful collaborative project management software. Social software. Groove me baby. Incredibly powerful collaborative project management, project management, chaotic collaborative project management. Thoughts about Blogging in companies. Blogging Guidelines. Blogging as collaborative project management. Ubiquitous computing, Networking, Web and RAD technologies. COM and C++, .NET and Scripting. Social software, yeah man. Force chaos into the system. Groove on. Collaborative Project Management. Lotus. Far out. Eastern Psychobabble Mysticisms. Ubiquitous computing. My thoughts on remaking the whole internet in my image. Thoughts about Blogging in companies. Blogging Guidelines. Grooooovvvvve. Repeat 100x.
Also, I just sent this email to my co-panelists:
It was a pleasure meeting you and paneling with you today. Phil Wolff in the audience had some good questions for us that only got asked on his blog.
I have some thoughts on these points and assume you do too. If you'd care to chime in, I'd be pleased to post a panel P.S.
[Update] For that matter, it occurs to me from time to time a lawyer happens on this this blawg. Please feel free to comment on Phil's questions here or by email, and I'll include you (or just your insights, if you'd prefer) in the follow up as a Virtual Panelist.
Hey, looks like Donna's in the house.
Weblog Busines Strategies Conference, Day 2
Here are some links pertinent to our discussion coming up this morning on the Law Of The Blogs panel:
Don't forget dinner tonight in Cambridge if you're here or hereabouts.
Monday, June 09, 2003
Doc: What I want to know most from these gentlemen are where their tools are going.
Jason Shellen: a little bit of what Blogger is doing is playing catchup. We had a very small team for a number of years. We felt we were building a tool for Web designers in '99, now we're up to 1.5 million registered users, and oddly enough they're not all Web designers. Our users are more akin to Geocities users. We've been undergoing a code revision which we kind of see as a platform for the future. That's all very boring. What is excited is when we see new ways to tie in with the community, and build it in a week. Now we're at Google, and can bounce ideas off really interesting folks who may be working on something very different. Blogger I would venture to say used to be the core for finding new blogs. Suffice it to say, that didn't scale well. We can Google-Scale (my IP lawyer would be very upset with me for that). I think it's dead on not that the tools will fade into the background, but that the blogging specific function will.
Bob Frankston: talks about using various tools, writing his own tools. The advantage of using Blogger is the built in features, the community, the RSS feed. We need to encourage both trends but be aware of the conflicts. Recognize that we're at the very early phases. Need to have users, but also encourage developers.
Dan Bricklin: With our tools (Trellix), that's the schtick, you've got to integrate the look and the functionality. The important thing about the new stuff being written is the automation of the tedius housekeeping, just what Bob said. Analogy to using Basic, then using VisiCalc. This is what the tools do, automate the tedius tasks, enable ease of publishing. Better automation=better output, stronger stuff. The guys at Lotus didn't imagine what Excel would be. One important thing is media forms. I'm really into pictures, history too. The multimedia aspects in many ways are important. Not everyone can write well, not everyone can take photographs well.
Anil Dash: with SixApart, we make Movable Type. Our immediate future will include a design for basic users to start and create weblogs. We think the anatomy, the pieces, have been decided. None of our tools have kept up with managing blogs the way they are. The goal is working backward from what people are doing to making that easy.
Michael Gartenberg: it's interesting that no one has mentioned the changing nature of the devices we work with. We're dealing now with a divergence of devices. One of the things we talk about a lot at Jupiter is digital ubiquity. A handful of people here are blogging on something other than a PC. What we're going to be looking for are ways to not just access but create that content on multiple devices. Need to be able to do it "without being the kind of person who installs an operating system as a form of social entertainment."
John Robb: we're about to come out with Frontier 9.1. Will include mail-to-weblog, will accomplish many other things more smoothly. With Radio, we're looking to add two-way synchronization, added a backup feature recently. We recently worked with a company on a very slick Windows interface, working on a Mac equivalent. Gives you the smooth operation you'd get in a slicker desktop app. Also looking at a P2P system for Radio blogs that would augment your ability to publish large files. Mentions Glenn Fleishmann, put up a PDF of his book, wound up holding an appeal on his blog to get people to help pay for the cost of the download demand. There wouldn't be any copyright infringement involved in the P2P system we have in mind, but helps not break the back of individuals or individual servers. I'd like to have a blog in one location that I can send out to multiple locations.
Jason Shellen: jumps in to say that the concept of blogging being embedded in different things doesn't mean your blog lives different places.
Anil Dash: talks about integrating all the aspects of your life that touch technology. We can broaden out the methods of publishing. The control part then becomes determining who can read what that you've published.
Jason Shellen: points out an audience member doing Q-Logger, says check it out, very interesting personal information manager.
Bob Frankston: discusses the move from diaries to controlled publishing. What I expect is people are becoming good at creating synthetic personalities. Political questions, how do you read information?
Doc: but if you actually want to use a persona in the real world, that's a problem. Brings up digital identity. Discussion tries to distinguish between the blog as a tool for publishing various ways, and the blog as a tool for connecting personally, exposing yourself to the world. Controlling access is involved, also depends on what you have to say.
Anil Dash: in attempting to sell to businesses, access control is a big deal. What is a permalink? A permalink is a promise.
Michael Gartenberg: emphasizes continually updated content.
Doc: Let me bring this down to a very mundane level, and very specifically problems that I have with some of your tools. Doc and Dave Winer may be the only two people in the room who use the Manila outliner. Doc wants a keyboard command to insert a link. Dave promises to do it for him. Going to Blogger for a sec, I've helped start several. Permalinks never work out of the box. Jason Shellen: It's a feature! Because most first blogs aren't necessarily very good. Kidding aside, in our new version that should be fixed. Soon.
Anil Dash: Typepad will be out this summer...
Audience question to the developers about access. Robb: with UserLand, everything but the kernel is public. Dash: Movable Type is non-redistributable open source, in the sense of editable code, anybody can make any modifications they want for their implementation. We're also facilitating ways for people to exchange these customizations. Shellen: for Blogger, what's driving innovation most is our own use. If it's broken or not working well, we use it every day and we know what critically needs fixing. Dash: The future direction for all of these tools hopefully will be a migration to Web services that plug in at a programmatic API level.
Doc: I have an ideal. Would love to serve pictures from my home machine. The cable guys and others have made the assumption there's an asymmetrical Web, if you want to serve something up go find a co-lo somewhere, which is what I'm doing now. Frankston: the companies will have no choice once more people start to use the Web symmetrically. Talks about a Web publishing app he wrote for personal use. Bricklin: I just don't think blogging is going to drive it, I think digital cameras, etc. will drive it first. There are P2P type apps like what John's talking about that will do this, the images are served out of your house. Gartenberg: You're talking about an infrastructure that is hugely aligned against this from an intellectual property standpoint. Audience member: you're missing though that the Web is paid for by people who buy uplink bandwidth. Frankston disagrees. Doc: do blogs have the power to alter this intransigence that Michael mentions? Dash: yes for text, no for rich media. If it's an image, cloud storage makes perfect sense, I'm mostly taking pictures away from home anyway. Shellen: we're making sweeping assumptions about broadband use too. Most people still are on dial-up. Audience-member: my ideal tool is something like Dreamweaver Light for bloggers. WYSIWYG features in Dreamweaver are unparalleled, ability to undo. It's a much more powerful tool for creating the code. Dash: two part answer. All of us support the same APIs for publishing. I can't imagine someone's not doing this. Robb: we are, we already integrate with Dreamweaver. Frankston: an important point here is the immaturity of the "it just works" side. Dash: fifteen months ago, with Ev's help I did a Blogger API Word template. All is totally possible, just hasn't been packaged yet.
Audience member asks about extended find and replace for archives, alert for dead links. Dash: we have find and replace. There are dead links plug-ins available.
Audience member asks about having to use myriad tools, the need to tweak the stylesheet, etc. People's eyes glaze over. Dash: the tools don't work the way that blogs are used right now. Re coding, I'm lousy at it and I hate it. The tool we're trying to build will address what you're saying. They have to, or they won't get the audience that weblogs deserve.
Audience member comments about using blogging to fight political battles, the need to show up. Doc: markets tend to work both ways. These people mother the inventions that obviate the policy questions. Bricklin: The power of TiVo being dubbed "God's Machine." 802.11 is finally at that point I believe. Frankston: Yahoo is rolling out a lot of broadband capacity. The number of bits to share movies, other rich media, is overwhelming. Companies eventually will find that defending dead bits is not in their business interest. There will be a lot of these skirmishing. As surprising as it is, Verizon is emerging as the good guy. The promise of asymmetricity. Doc: recalls being the only person in the audience at a Hollywood conference last year who was there with a laptop, and the only one who didn't have a TiVo.
Tim Appnel: has been an IT consultant for 12 years. Has done a lot of advising on content management. Can attest to some of the ways a corporate weblog can fail that have been talked about today.
Bill French: a self-described conference pot-stirrer. I have a degree in marketing, also involved in technology. We try to look at the information space in a little different light, and chip away at the knowledge management problem using XML standards. Put together a set of Web services and help people understand how information could be put together in a loosely coupled manner. People wanted to use this to blog with.
John Robb: CEO of UserLand. Got into this because I appreciated the potential of blogging as a knowledge management tool. We have about 2,500 organizations using our tools. Dupont, others. Lots of small businesses and onprofits. Government organizations, Los Alamos. I have a pretty good perspective of what has and has not been successful. With bigger organizations today, most people are using Web based solutions. Saves you money, and you have a complete system that can serve a relatively large sized organization.
Bill Stow: blogging is the foundation for new kinds of communication channels within large organizations. In order to do that, we'll see blogging transform itself into multiple forms. The importance of blogging is to provide voice to an organization. Large systems like content management tend to repress voice. People need to be able to offer their competency to the rest of the organization.
Adam Weinroth: Put together Easyournal out of my apartment, now playing catchup to figure out the business andits strategy. Got into blogging when travelling in Europe. Nothing suited his needs as far as communicating with friends and family back home. Put together an extremely rudimentary content management system, discovered people who knew about it liked it and wanted it for their own use.
Matthew Berk, moderator: what exactly is content management?
John Robb: weblog software takes advantage of the functionality provided by a content management system. "Web publishing for the rest of us." Weblogging is pretty well-defined in its feature set. Difficult when a couple of developers try to put something together on the fly, without really understanding all the features involved. Weblogs are a truly horizontal application. In education, student sites, team sites. In corporations, annotating, archiving for a single point of reference for a team. If someone builds something modeled on Word, for example, there's not a straight one-to-one correlation to the actual product.
Bill French: we were trying to help workers make better decisions at a higher capacity. Attempting to create the capacity to act. In thinking about the big picture, we tend to focus on what the real requirements are. We also understood there was this third element: the ability to derive an insight. Re CMS, there's the capture aspect, there's the publishing aspect. Blogs bring the ability to get an increased awareness. When I think of CMS, or the term blog, I get particularly aggravated when people try to pigeonhole this stuff. Puts a straightjacket on your thinking, takes your brain and puts it in a vice. Most of the blogging tools on the market today have the capacity for re-use. At the end of the day, it's information, and what we really should be thinking about are better ways to abstract the information.
Bill Stow: I agree about abstracting the notion of a blog. We started our product as one that was easy to use and non-intrusive. But the fact is many large organizations require and want control and process from the software they're purchasing. If we were to take the current beauty of blogging, put it in front of people, and at the same time turn it into what content management is today, we'd be turning them into something we might not like. A middle ground is possible, but it means you have to see this new thing in many different forms. Mail systems don't provide the persistence you need to capture all this internal knowledge present in large organizations. Not every boss wants to see free-flowing information across the organization, either.
Mike Amundson: the blog conversations now are like what we've seen before—what was this thing called SMTP, HTML? What we're going to see now is the same kind of behavior that surrounded the introduction of HTML, but this time about content markup. We've now got people annotating by category, subject, author. Aggregators, newsreaders short-circuit talking to browsers. Panic around employees generating content, what are we going to do? It may be about content capture: use, re-use, repackaging, searching, sorting, selecting, customizing. Nobody talks about content management for email, and I think that's the way it will go with blogs. Instead of empowering users with HTML, we're empowering authors with XML and RSS.
Adam Weinroth, about users: I've seen a lot of praise for Easyjournal really focusing on the content rather than the display layer. Others would like more of an ability to design a professional looking site. Comes down to a matter of preference.
Matthew Berk: sees a shift away from the obsession with layout and markup. Weinroth says users are interested in little bells and whistles, like a funny cursor or effect. Some of that drive to have things just so gets channelled there.
Tim Appnel: there's a bit of overlap. I use a blogging tool as a low cost content management system. Comes down to what your requirements are. It's like talking about a handsaw versus a jigsaw versus a chainsaw. Biggest difference now is blogging tools tend to be Web native. CMS systems tend to be geared toward enterprise systems, legacy systems no one wants to touch anymore. ... I actually think blogging tools are going to fade into the background, Web services will get pulled into everything. (Later, clarifying.) What this means is you're not going to know where the blogging tool ends and something else begins. Geocities didn't work because it lacked structure and infrastructure. Didn't account for the need to repurpose, move things around. Weblog tools have nailed this.
John Robb: disagrees, due to unique feature sets, communitites. This is an application with staying power. It's hard to develop an application accepted both by the reader and publisher. What I deal with every day are the hazards of continual growth of the feature set. The deep layer features are there if you need them. Standards and integration enable speed and ease of implementation, point and click administration. Extensibility: what you can do is add customizations within the weblog functionality, side by side.
Adam Weinroth: also doesn't see blogs fading into the background, rather they're filling in a glaring gap at the end of the content management spectrum. Blogging is an amazing answer for nonprofits and other small businesses. Blogs by nature are very grass roots oriented, a natural fit for nonprofits, and small and local businesses. Other page building systems are, by comparison, "lame." Design versus publishing tension.
Bill French: group blogs will be important, but the platforms have to support. What's over the hill is a federationi of services, not an application. The federation will be built on XML standards, agility. What you want is something so agile it looks like a chameleon in a bowl of skittles (line possibly swiped from Dennis Miller).
John Robb: it's the interface.
Bill Stow: blogging really raises the awareness of the available information, then you want to be able to reuse it in many different ways.
Adam Weinroth: re the interface, it is huge. The ease of use is incredible. Consider what it takes to train staff on something like Vignette or Interwoven. Now think about using Blogger. Huge reduction in business switching costs. If you're on something that's completely Web based, with all these open based services running on it, the switching costs go down. Matthew Berk mentions Blog Litmus report. There are organizations who will see and adopt a lower end alternative, but that still leaves the fate of the big boys hanging.
Matthew Berk: Fascinating dichotomy here—content is everything, and the interface is everything.
Doc mentions he just hates the word content, gets applause. Information still sounds like something you can ship. It's something you load into a channel to deliver to an end-user...maybe call it stuff. What people do when they blog is not produce content. That's not what we live for. To be con-tent', is a different thing.
John Lawlor: about 23% of the people I talk to these days actually know what a blog is. I look at blogging as an opportunity, an intersection between a technological development and an amazing consumer acceptance of online communications. The expectation of what the Internet can do is coming in line with what we need it to do, it's very much a part of our days. Most organizations still don't know what a blog is, and more importantly, don't care. They care what it might be able to do for them. Blogging=Opportunity. Answering certain questions will give a busineess interested in this a strategy. Who should blog? Who is the target reader? What are you blogging about? What are the benefits we expect? What is important to my business? What needs to be restricted? Where will the blog appear? (Internal or external; makes a good personal filing cabinet, need not be public.) When are you going to have the time? It is a commitment. When will you see results? Why are we doing this, why do we need it?
Major Chris Chambers: discusses the America's Army site, a gaming blog done by the Army. (I missed most of this, sounds fascinating.)
Greg Lloyd: A weblog can be a conversation with a particular group, or with one individual and the rest of the world. The audience can be internal, or there are conversations with a company that are explicitly public. A weblog could be the shared space for everyone in public support, and individual customers can view that unified set. Middle ground is a company blogging about developmental projects.
Halley Suitt: blames David Weinberger for starting her down this path. David told her she had to stop emailing him her stuff, it was good so she had to put it on a blog. Someone here described her blog as sexy and spicy, which is ironic given at the time she started she was dealing with deep, heavy dark issues about her Dad's illness and death. I wrote a piece about that. Other things started to play out in my blog. The Alpha Male series. I also started working at Harvard Business School publishing, had a working life different from what was going on on my weblog. For work, I was asked to write a fictional piece that will come out in September about an employee-blogger who may have disclosed too much information. Four experts commented on the range of appropriate responses to the scenario (firing to promotion). Now with Yaga.com, working on electronic content management strategies.
Don White: Independent marketing consultant. Talks about brand managers, how they think. Fixed price better than low price, tend to look at risk from this point of view. One thing we're doingn is attempting to answer the needs of a real estate brokerage business with a blog tool. They needed to stand out in a business and a region with tons of competition in their area. Blogging tools enabled them to create a useful real estate site. The small real estate firm became The firm with expertise in fourteen different communities, and it was all done for less money than most people would have spent for one Web site. And, it can be operated by one to two people.
John Lawlor brings up the balance between the minimal management and control necessary for effective blogging, and the need to have certain information not go out into the public. Major Chambers: one way to manage the content is to make sure your bloggers are trusted agents (in our case, of the military), and let them self-edit. The army is a pretty risk-averse organization. The general principle is that if an agent has bought into the principles of an organization, it probably will be ok. We went in with a strategy that this was another tool for communication with our players. I was cognizant of this strategy and kept it in mind.
Halley: jumps in that the America's Army blog, against all odds, does just what a weblog should do in the way of voice. It was really interesting to see that given the constraints.
John Lawlor: the Afghanistan blog had a natural end, why didn't you blog the next war? Chambers: we wanted to continue it but had some problems. In an early stage operation, everyone is pretty busy. We couldn't really find someone with the time. In Afghanistan, we came in a little later, there was infrastructure in place. What we have done is continue on the developer side of our game product (kids love to talk to developers).
Greg Lloyd: the primary thing you're relying on is the integrity and trust of the people you've hired. Set guidelines, and give people more than one place to express themselves. Engineers might be more candid and forthright talking to other engineers than a wider audience, for example. People can know and recognize that comments posted to different spaces have different connotations. You can make people more comfortable, as well as avoid mishaps.
John Lawlor: one of the reasons business is interested in this is that blogs do well in search engines. Mentions the dispelled rumor that Google might remove blogs. There is room, I'm sure, for undermining the system. Panel?
Halley: I don't have favorites anymore, I simply use Google to find things. The search engines are used in a different way now. Of bloggers, search results and the other Halley: "He's not blogging enough" Audience comment: anywhere from 75-85% of search engine results come from Google, and weblogs have a significant impact on those results.
Audience question: do purist bloggers have an issue linking to a commercial blog? Jeff Jarvis: you heard it earlier, it depends on what you have to say. John Lawlor: if it has a human slant, that's all that's needed to interest people with a similar slant. Another question, referencing Major Chambers, about security. John Lawlor mentions that new tools or tool improvements are coming online to better address these concerns. ... "Anyone who's in marketing who's in this room is five years ahead of their colleagues. ... The people in this room are so far ahead regarding where this is going, it's phenomenal." (I'm sitting next to my firm's head of Web marketing, she gets a big pat on the back.) Question about the effectiveness of shipping the game related to the America's Army blog. Major Chambers: since this was a PR initiative, we saw qualitative indicators that it was being received positively in our forums and elsewhere. We saw we were resonating with our target audience: tends to be young males who like military things and guns. Our download peaks mostly were related to new realeases of the game. We did notice increases in referrals from our site to the Go Army recruiting site. The site had this scratch, unprofessional feel, mainly because it was me doing it over there, it had that kind of personal touch. Sort of by design, sort of because that's all I could do with the digital camera, etc. I had. ... Greg Lloyd: gives an example of blogs being used by law enforcement as a 24-hour operations log, and to keep people informed.
Don White, on where blogging will be in a few years' time: technologies usually first are used by the technologies, then the information professionals (lawyers, librarians, journalists). It's starting in the broader business community but there aren't many examples right now. Until we can address the risk aversion of those brand managers, we're going to have a tough road. We're a long way from having most businesses endorse a truly personal voice: "The manufacturers of Cheerios have no interest in having someone on the production line blogging the quality of oats coming in."
David Weinberger: Why Weblogs Matter
Blames Doc Searls for his always being referred to as "Doctor" David Weinberger. Why blogging matters? It really, really does matter. You can see it in the excitement level. Causes excitement at a level not seen since the beginning of the Internet. I'm not sure exactly why it's really important, but that's not going to stop me from talking about it.
The Bubble was never what the Internet was about. The Web is not primarily a commercial space, not even primarily an information space. The interest is not there because 800 million people woke up and suddenly decided they wanted to be research librarians. The bubble went away, but the Web absolutely didn't. The Web remains interesting and important. Nobody would have said a few years ago we'd have 20 billion pages on the Web. It's not just markets that are conversations, it's businesses themselves.
I am going to address the question, what is a weblog. They tend to be daily, tend to be a few paragraphs, often (almost always) reverse chronological, almost always very linked. Message is I want you to go away. Here's something I'm interested in, go take a look. These little acts of selflessness are what make many weblogs very interesting. They also have a voice. The paradigmatic blogs are full of voice. If it turned out that Dave and Doc hand coded their pages and uploaded them with FTP, they'd still be blogs. The technology enables the other stuff. The technical stuff does not help explain why blogs are interesting. If it's not the technology, what is it? Partially rhetoric, and as rhetoric it's important that it be written—badly. The reader knows then this is closer to the writer's actual self. Weblog readers also tend to be forgiving and helpful for this reason: prone to forgive bad spelling and gramar, write in about broken links or inaccuracies. Beyond rhetoric, their social. I hate this conversation: it's just like Usenet, only a little different. It's not like Usenet. It's a permanent, persistent place where indirectly and inadvertently, you are creating a proxy of yourself.
Are bloggers authentic? The normal view of self is an m-&-m view: an outer shell and an inner, private self. This doesn't work very well on the Web, because all you have on the Web is this persistent place in which you talk. There is non inner self, so what does this mean about authenticity. It's written, we're writing ourselves into existence on the Web, and with that comes all the virtues and flaws that go along with being an author. What does this mean? It favors good writers. It seems to push for self-exposure (mentions his nephew's blog). The recession also was timed perfectly for weblogging, because it favors the unemployed.
So, I want to talk about journalism in terms of this. Or really, blogging and truth, which is underneath the journalism question. Objectivity and subjectivity. Journalism strives for objectivity, and this has some strengths: multiple stories, expert sifting, providing a community baseline. The problem with this is journalism can't be fully objective. Objectivity admits of degrees, can be more or less. Same goes for subjectivity, and it's claim to be able to show us our world as it really is. The strengths are it acknowledges the observer and the situation, and captures more of the experience. On the other hand, it tends to be more scattershot, raw and individualistic. So why bore you with this? Blogs allow multi-subjectivity. What Dave said this morning. He wants multiple perspectives, likes reading the different reports. We have this now. For the first time, there aren't just little subjective islands scattered around. Now we can read myriad perspectives, from myriad locations, cultures, disciplines. Tis is part of why so many of us are so thrilled about weblogs. It's amazing that we can do this, we've never been able to do it before. So, what's not to like about this>
This is actually quite upsetting to many people. "This is an assault on knowledge, young man and young woman!" Particuarly true of businesses that mistake themselves as forts. They see knowledge as a weapon. Weblogs, as we heard in two panels today, are a way of providing insight, punching holes in the wall, letting in light. You can allow it to happen, but even if you don't, it's going to happen anyway. Another group of people not thrilled about this assault on knowledge are those traditionally who have been the gatekeepers of knowledge. There are notable exceptions: Dan Gillmor, there is not a person who more deeply understands, and is
synthetic sympathetic! (sorry! the man himself pointed out this rather funny miscue) to what has happened. Over the course of thousands of years, the quest to discover what was worth listening to turned into a quest for certainty, and maybe I'm gerneralizing just a little bit, but we wound up with Descartes. Knowledge became so anorexic as to be uninteresting. Knowledge grew out of the body, and turned into an anorexic, purely rational thing that has no connection with the human body any more.
So let's talk about what constitutes knowledge on the Web. Time to market: increase the unit, then double it. Brings up Sears Web site. By the way, throw out the Cluetrain thesis about advertising not working. It's very effective for tricking people. We still know who the Shell Answerman is. Back to Sears. Nothing here tells you immediately whether the washing machine you want to buy will fit into the hole you just cut in your counter. If you search Google for Kenmore+Maytag+Discussion (or sub in Complaint for the last), you get a discussion forum that tells you exactly what you need, and more. "Jim," whether or not he works for Kenmore, is believable (and if he is a plant, he won't be able to hide it, will be found out in a matter of days). The Sears store or the Kenmore site will not tell you if there are issues with the annoying buzzer. They're trying to pitch and sell you. But Jim will, and a whole conversation thread may emerge from how best to deal with the buzzer issues. And someone named Rinso—a physicist of lint!—has even more to add. Another example: over the weekend, my blog went down, and then TiVo broke. (Audience groans). I know, you don't want to be next to me on an airplane right now. This was a really bad weekend. The Movable Type community (and any other weblog community) is amazingly supportive and solved the blog problem. Could the information have been wrong? Sure. In this case, the forum happened to be moderated by God (as Anil pointed out), but I didn't know that. This is what knowledge looks like on the Web.
So, why is the world turning upside down for this? Why are people so dedicated and excited. It makes sense in the context of a deeply alienated world. The Matrix, the AI Singularity: the fact we can even believe in this for an instant shows we live in an insane, alienated world. It's an insane, alienated reality to think we can go into work each day and talk like someone other than ourselves. Brings up AKMA's blogthread on forgiveness. You could maybe at this point read more about forgiveness by reading that thread than you could from any "objective" source. Weblogs exist in a new place, the Web. They allow us to have persistence in this space. With WiFi, the correspondence between this personal and public space will be mindblowing. (With that, someone IMs David's computer with a "Hi Dave!" Classic.) Any other questions?? We've never had anything like this before. And now we do.
Questions ("Or do you want to just take IMs?"): audience member asks about the fortress and knocking holes in the wall. How do you actually do it? David: Every time you link to someone you knock a hole in the wall. "Sticky eyeballs" concept, the most degrading possible way to think about a customer. Every time you put in a link, "you are Stickin' it To The Man." Question about Usenet, there's a computer group that has been runing for years on Usenet. It constitutes a kind of community blog among folks with a high level of knowledge about computers. You look at blogs, and you could go nuts trying to filter the computer information. Why are blogs an improvement on the Usenet group? David: they're not. Groups, mailing lists are really, really valuable. It's not a question of who's better. Weblogs are different. Question about another cultural phenomenon that has taken off—Yeah, American Idol, I know where you're going—no really, reality TV. Voyeurism, are blogs also connected to that. Not unlike watching someone suffer through a reality TV program. Phil Windley says his is like that, it's a lie. Dave Winer says this is ridiculous, blogs are not like that. It's like a telephone, the conversation is whatever you want it to be. If you want a blog like American Idol, you can write one that way. One can have a view of the world of blogs that substantiates either view. Brings up example of the Trent Lott story. The blogging world is so big, that Dave Winer, an "expert" on the blog world, didn't hear about Trent Lott on a blog, but on TV. Depends what's on your radar. Halley chimes in that sometimes what's for breakfast conveys a sense of the person: Doc, blogging about watching the stars with his son. The important part of most blogs is you get a sense of the person, that's what keeps people coming back.
Jimmy Guterman: mentions the personal connection you feel with someone when you follow their blog, but may not have seen them for awhile or perhaps even met them. ... (later) "Before I go on, I just got an IM that said, 'Introduce yourself, Moron.'" And he does.
Jason Butler: BostonWorks is the jobs classified section of the Boston Globe. They're running a collaborative HR blog with three people, finding information useful to their clients.
Adina Levin: differences between blogs and wikis. Wikis are a bit more conducive to communicating a group consensus. We don't see them in conflict.
Biz Stone, on developing a blog voice: starting out with one thing generally morphs into talking about whatever you're really interested in. Finding your voice is a little like jogging, something you do every day. Jimmy Guterman wonders if you have that same flexibility as a business. Adina Levin thinks perhaps yes; like diverging from a meeting agenda if that seems appropriate. We already have social constructs for this. If people are having conversations with co-workers or customers, it's bound to have business relevance.
Jason Butler has discovered an interesting side channel: some of their salespeople use stuff on the blog as an entree to go out and talk to the customers. Knowing the customers, they can point out items of interest.
Jeff Jarvis asks Jason Butler about the HR blog, raises fascinating management issues. How do you manage people who are paying you money? Jason: think about putting together a conference. You lay down ground rules about the speaker's role of providing information rather than shilling for a company or product. Follow up: do you have employees that spend too much time on the blog? Jason: "Only me."
Audience question about what happens to competition when you're linking, and/or seeing (through referrals) that your competitors are checking you out (perhaps on their intranet)? Adina Levin: good questions, haven't dealt with them as a problem yet, but sometimes on her personal site the referrers admittedly can make her nervous. Biz mentions referral blocking services. (Firewalls work too.) Audience member comments that it's valuable to know what your competition is thinking.
Biz Stone tells story about a co-worker where they started a blog "in her name." Not long before she was hooked and wanted to start posting herself. It's contagious. Adina Levin comments that peer pressure works well. And, identifying the projects and conversations that already exist and adding the blogging process.
About the tools, Jason Butler mentioned they went with BloggerPro because it was cheap, easy, and accomplished everything they needed. Adina Levin mentions that the personal blogger tools are really good if you only have a few people blogger. They (Socialtext) are trying to focus on serving the needs of teams, where there are concerns about administration and security. Biz Stone mentions that the information that some of the measurement tools provide (Technorati, etc.) is some of the coolest information involved in the process. Adina Levin: "Ev In A Box" is something that you probably never will see. The cumulative human intelligence is what's compelling.
This panel of fine folks is up. I'm a bit late to the party because coffee called. (My fingers are a bit tired, but since the whole room is blogging this, you should be ok!)
Beth Goza: "The only blogging strategy a marketing department should have is no blogging strategy." Absolutely blogging should be encouraged. Blogs are great at removing layers between the company and its customers. But people who work, for example, for Microsoft, are passionate about what they do, have positive things to say. If that's indirect marketing, that's great. ... Doesn't like the term guerrilla marketing, does like Gonzo Marketing. ... Mentions Microsoft VP Eric Rudder's blog as an example of transparency working on a corporate blog. Talks about bringing Gizmodo folks to Redmond. Interestingly, ZDNet wrote a really nasty article about them inappropriately trying to sway Palm users. Full disclosure is important.
Michael O'Connor Clarke: "If you don't have a personality, you don't, by definition, have a blog."
Jason Shellen (on the negative connotations of the term "pitch"): "I don't want someone to educate me, I want to learn." Jeff Jarvis: points out though that you want the same exposure, if you're Gizmodo, as those who traditionally have "pitched" big media to get it.
Rick Bruner: "There's just a need in a lot of organizations to more efficiently publish information."
Dave Winer: What Are Weblogs?
Remembering back to the start of the PC market, progression of adoption that eventually included business. While the Web was growing, this Weblog thing was happening slowly and quietly. Dave first started blogging in connection with a project he was working on at Wired called 24 Hours of Democracy. Wanted to show that the Web could be used for something very positive. Invited anyone who wanted to to write an article explaining why having the Web be an open, free, first amendment protected environment was a good thing. Put up a Web site for this, kind of internal but not password protected. Started linking to the new things that were coming online in reverse chronological order. "How many people are blogging this by the way?" 70% of the room. "Wow!"
Think of it this way: is there someone in your work group who is constantly sending around links and articles? That's your blogger. (Says hi to some of the many bloggers around the room. Hi Dave!) Talks about blogging versus journalism. Talks about posting your cheesecake recipe: it may reveal some truth about you that may wind up revolutionizing your life. If I were starting a business today, I would make it a weblog. This is why I wanted Doc and David to be bloggers when I read Cluetrain. The idea is to be yourself. Go ahead and put your cheesecake recipe out there, because your customers can see through your b.s. They want your real voice. Integrity: they want to know what your biases are up front, want to know where you're coming from. Comes back to Cluetrain again. Blogs are what a personal Web site is in 2003, will be even more sophisticated in 2007. Users are getting more sophisticated, while technologists are better learning how to make these things easy to use. I went from being a CEO to a university fellow because I felt that now we understand sort of how the software should work, have a backlog of features that haven't yet made it out to the users, and the question is how are they going to be used in various situations?
We had an experience at Harvard, I think it was in April this year. The RIAA had a new tactic of going after individual college students, five on five different campuses. Wrote to the Dean of Harvard College: do something about these downloads under the DMCA. Dean took some actions including denying the student Internet access, and we covered this on the Harvard weblog. Then, one of the fellows at Berkman, Wendy Seltzer, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times, but thought it probably wouldn't get published. Had a revelation: why not post this (very respectful) letter taking issue with the Dean's actions on a weblog? Dave found this very interesting: we have expertise on this, let's run the story. They ran it, and the Dean's office said absolutely nothing.
Question: how do the words blogger and journalist relate? Blogging isn't journalism, but it's not not journalism. Journalism=disclose your interests and never say something you know is not true. Can you do that on a blog? Yes. Follow-up: is editing a necessary quality of journalism? Dave doesn't think so. Sometimes, copyediting winds up breaking rule 2. You can end up saying things that aren't true with your name on it. Doc: editing is necessary, it's just a question of where you get it. Professionally I get it from an editor, on my blog I get it from my readers. Dave observes there always are parallels like this between the business and blogging worlds. Question about journalism always having to be the sophisticated big stuff? Dave says no, importance of triangulation, getting news on an event from many sources. Halley: comments about objectivity/subjectivity. Jeff Jarvis: only difference with bloggers is that they're commentators, often. Journalism is more about gathering facts, but bloggers can do this well too. Dave: what's going on over time is the costs of running a professional news organization are outstripping demand, so they're getting smaller. Let's say you're going to Chicago tomorrow. In 1991, you wouldn't have gotten real time information. Today, you'd expect to get real time information on anything, and the professional news organizations will be able to provide some but not all of it. Audience member comments about journalism/blogging convergence from BBC regarding peace demonstrated. Another audience member comments that on the ground reports from individuals can be more objective than a professional journalist's account. Dave: so many of the press reports about blogs cast it as us v. them, and by the end of the article conclude journalists won't be replaced by bloggers. But bloggers don't wake up in the morning wondering how they're going to replace a professional reporter. They wake up thinking they love this new medium. New York Times as cautionary tale: if Times had been blogging, Jayson Blair would not have been able to go as far as it did. Dave met with Martin Nisenholtz a week ago today, mentioned they need an internal blogging process. Another audience member cites the Blair incident as an example of a breakdown of the professional editing function. (Dave's playing referree with the audience, exchanges going back and forth: This is a Keynote, folks...) Dave: I've never read an article in the New York Times in an area where I have expertise where I felt like they had really gotten the story right. I love the New York Times, but sometimes they just can't have all the information.
So, employees with weblogs. (Great segue!) Dave says he has sort of a balls-out reputation on these things, but actually not. However, at UserLand everybody was required to have a weblog, it's a weblogs tools company. Philosophy was if you don't like them, don't work here. Not the most natural thing for programmers. One person kept posting things that were not, generously speaking, team-spirited. Weblogs are prosaic things. Don't think of weblogging as a calling. It's a utility, another way of communicating. But the same basic issues of trust apply, you have to be able to trust that a particular person is not going to disclose a company secret in public. Halley: getting at the big T Truth, how much truth does any business want to tell. Dave: I think you have to be really transparent, at least in certain areas. A company's PR function should have a weblog. I'd also like to see customers being able to tolerate the truth, i.e., I know things are screwed up at any company, at least this one's honest. Jeff Jarvis: companies need credibility, but we know their goal is to put their message out. It's understood. Question about whether UserLand worked out its rogue blogger issue. Yes, we came up with ground rules. If someone's aware of the rules, but not trying to work with you, what are you going to do? Have to fire them. It's not any different than what you might not want people to do with the photocopy machine. Audience comment: you're going to find the people who are team players more quickly, you're going to see their cheesecake recipe. Dave agrees. Back to the Natural Born Blogger (NBB, birth of an acronym?), this becomes even more powerful when you put it together with an aggregator. There's a communication revolution waiting. Sure there are risks (and that's also where the fun comes from). Audience member (Update: Ah, that's Beth Goza, I met her earlier) asks about working at a company (Microsoft) where employees constantly are asked to get a clue, then penalized for getting one. Her site is flashgoirl.blogspot.com, she was in the Register. Issue was she made no secret about working for Microsoft, talked about various Microsoft things (using the XBox, her Tablet). She admitted to cheating on the XBox, and got in trouble. Dave: I think people like you who don't make a secret of their corporate associations are to be applauded. (And she gets a round of applause.) But flames happen. Another question about pre-screening posts: do you think that works? No. If an employer is reviewing every blog post, you miss Michael's permission-no-forgiveness point. There's a humiliation factor, you're a professional. Absolutely though, an employer has the right to tell you a particular post is inappropriate and should be taken down. "I didn't like the way I was being edited, and I quit." Can they, will they, should they: all distinct questions. Audience member comments on ranges of behavior that become known or are made explicit within organizations. Dave: what I have been willing to tolerate has been a moving target over time. If you look at things from the 1996 perspective, the world has gone nuts, particularly in areas like copyright. Dave got reamed for posting a picture of Elian Gonzalez. It's illegal, but its happening a hundred thousand times a day. Things become more or less controversial over time. (Back to blogging:) Nobody's gone to jail yet over this stuff. Idealism: don't knock it if you haven't tried it.
Had to come all the way to Boston to meet Sam Whitmore, who sat next to me at D. The gang's all here, this should be good fun. Things are about to get going momentarily. I'll update this post for the intro from Kathleen Goodwin and Michael Gartenberg's opening session.
Kathleen Goodwin, Welcoming Remarks
We've brought together the best and brightest individuals in the world of weblogs, a watershed event. Businesses quickly discovered the transformational aspects of the 'Net. Business weblogs are in their early stages of greatness. Think back to early days of the Internet: many difficulties and concerns have been overcome. Today, where would we be without it? As a marketer, I can tell you it's the greatest tool I have for managing customer relationships. (Overview of conference topics.) (Kathleen asks for questions for final panel. If you email, I'll be pleased to ask.)
Michael Gartenberg, Jupiter Research Insight: Enterprise Weblogs—Blogging For Fun And Profit
I'm always hesitant to talk about firsts, especially in a roomful of live Internet connections. (Good laugh.) But to the best of my knowledge, Jupiter was the first to incorporate research and weblogs. The Internet and the Web don't get mentioned in Wired until issue 1.4. Home pages were about the sum total of the Web Wired was covering in the early '90's.
Talks about the debate when they first started blogging about research at Jupiter (some got it, some said, huh?). Getting about 4,000 hits a day on the various sites. Palpable results, clients have renewed on the basis of weblogs. Now, Alan Meckler has his own blog, and they've started the Microsoft Monitor, first time they've tied a specific service to a companion weblog.
There are some nasty perceptions about weblogs: Lack of ethos, little value, creates Web noise, ego driven publishing. The reality is they're actually firsthand expertise. The credibility associated with a blog is directly tied to the contributing individuals. And, traditional publishing is ego driven too, but good luck if you actually want to be heard. Odds are the New York Times is not going to publish your op-ed. Blogging also provides a unique opportunity for direct audience contact. Blogs also enable customer centric communication not available elsewhere, and are the ultimate no-spin zone.
If Michael were advising Dustin Hoffman today in The Graduate, he might say "Weblogs." But careful: you might get fired. Keys are to keep it modest at first. Go internal before you go external; sounds basic, but isn't, and it's important. Ask permission, not forgiveness. This applies if you're a a personal blogger too. A disclaimer saying, "My thoughts are not those of my employer," is not going to save your job. Use common sense.
So who should be blogging at your company? Easy: anyone who has got something to say. People in your company are undiscovered great writers analysts and thinkers. Use them. Also, blog early and blog often. Third, recognize the difference between business and personal blogs. If you're blogging in a business setting, in general keep the cheesecake recipes offline.
Suggested project timeline: beta internally, commit a core group of bloggers, get a week's worth of material ready to go, open up to internal review for some beta feedback, repeat all this three times, and you're good to go. Blogs are an extremely powerful form of communication, both internally and externally. If you're looking at this from an enterprise perspective, now is the time to seize control because if you don't, people internally will do it on an ad hoc basis. Better to be involved.
Introduces Dave Winer.
[Y]ou can also do this handy shortcut – put a bunch of related bookmarks into a folder, and place the folder in your toolbar. Make sure Tabbed Browsing is turned on in the Preferences. Then, hold down the command key, and click on the folder in the toolbar. Presto! Every bookmark inside the folder is loaded into its own tab. I use this shortcut for general news, Mac sites, and any web project I'm currently developing. You can obviously click a folder, open it, and select "Open in Tabs" from the bottom, but the command-click option is much faster.
Sunday, June 08, 2003
The following are my notes from the May, 28, 2003 interview with Ted Leonsis and Mark Cuban, conducted by Kara Swisher at D: All Things Digital. As with all my conference notes (wherever, whenever), please don't mistake these jottings for a verbatim transcript or a complete portrayal. They are necessarily paraphrased and incomplete, and the product of my highly selective and imperfect notice and attention.
Swisher: Digital issues and sports, where's it headed? The Sharks in San Jose just put WiFi in the stadium.
Leonsis: The great thing about sports is you get paid for your content, and games are a commercial to bring in more customers. Sports teams are really underleveraged assets, will be of quite high value in the broadband universe.
Cuban: My philosophy with the team's arena was technology is first. One of the things I learned is that we don't sell basketball, we sell sore throats—the chance to stand up and scream.
Leonsis: We're in the bricks and mortar business, we bring people in. It's about the whole experience. We get 8-12 million hours of our community's time every year. For the audience, going to these games, it's about their shared experience.
Swisher, to Leonsis: You gave the players laptops.
Leonsis: Oooh! (Audience laughs.) We're not doing this for the technology, we're doing it for the customer service. Email is normal now. It creates intimacy, and because there's this intimacy, even when the fans are mad at you the fans will say, "I love what you've done with the team. But..." The relationship somewhat inoculates you. (Missed bit here; he's talking about time shifting.) I wanted to catch the 11:00 p.m. SportsCenter about the Mavs game last night, and couldn't. But this morning on AOL for Broadband, I was able to do this on my own schedule.
Cuban: We've been doing that since 1999! (More laughs.)
Leonsis: We want to extend the time of the event to before and after the game, and bridge through the off season.
Cuban: One of the things we've learned is we compete not with other sports, but with other people. Technology enables us to pull people in, grab them by the throat, reinforce their passion for the sport, use up as much of their time as possible. (Talks about an important game that had a 6 p.m. start time. Cuban sent an email to employers asking permission for fans to leave early. Due to the timing they expected the lowest, but had the highest, attendance of the season.)
Leonsis: Sports is being priced out of the realm of the normal fan. One thing we'd like is to have flexible ticket pricing to fill seats, get a new generation in for games. Get the word out about reduced prices using our portals.
Cuban: (Talks about the fact he participates in his team's interactive online forums.)
Swisher: Probably a really intelligent discussion: "You suck!"
Cuban: I write under a pseudonym...No, I'm not going to tell you!
Swisher: What do other team owners think of using digital tools to enhance the sports experience?
Cuban: You have to be creative in this market. Many don't get it.
Leonsis: We're constantly looking at building asset value.
Swisher: Do you see bypassing the networks?
Cuban: One of the reasons we created HDNet is to help create an entirely new viewing experience. Not doing network deals at some point is something you look at.
Leonsis: Just like the Internet, you need multiple revenue streams.
Cuban: (Talks about dilution of audience.) There's not enough bandwidth for all the networks in a high definition universe. Means there will be more value to each broadcast, and an increased value to sports. It changes the economics.
Swisher: What about just broadcasting over the Internet?
Cuban: A couple of years ago I would have said yes to that, but high definition is now too compelling. HDTVs cost sub-$1,000, and will make that broadcast method too attractive.
Leonsis: People are not just fans of the teams, but of the players.
Cuban: If I sold a Webcast of Dirk Nowitzki getting his hair cut, people would pay. It's a passion. What kind of hair gel does he use?, this is the kind of email I get. In sports, it's a different universe. They're talking about my hair yesterday on ESPN. What the hell is that? Shows you how crazy it is.
Leonsis: We essentially bought 4 blocks of downtown Washington, D.C., and two sports teams, for less than we paid for ICQ. These sports investments are one of the few recession-proof, stagnation-proof assets. People vote with their time, money and passion. I'm pleased with the investment I made. I just wish we could make a playoff series.
Swisher: Is there an ideal device for sports delivery?
Cuban: This may be self-interested, but high definition TV ubiquity.
Leonsis: Technology is getting fans and teams to be more connected and intimate. While it sounds trite, it goes a long way toward giving fans that personal touch. We get emails all the time, my son is going into brain surgery and has always wanted to meet Michael Jordan. That's a small gesture. There's something heroic and special about these players. It's our duty to bring these people closer together.
Audience Questions for Leonsis and Cuban
Audience member: What do you see ahead as far as 802.11g? 3D?
Cuban: We've got access points we've used and tested. The bigger issue is not detracting from the communal experience. No reward now for being the first in 3D, but we're looking at it.
Leonsis: The video game business is much bigger than the sports business. Sports teams are small businesses, but all the ancillary businesses are really big. Sometimes the teams should own the games, rather than licensing the rights out to others. The next generation of sports team ownership will be thinking along these lines.
Cuban: (Nods.) You can't be dependent on your league office to make the best deal.
Audience member: (Questioner says his company can deliver DVD quality video via broadband, but it involves a time shift.)
Cuban: It's got to be real-time. Once they can get the score on the Internet, that's it.
Leonsis: This is why TiVo isn't that big for sports.
Cuban: Look at what happened with NBC and the Olympics. (More.)
Audience member: (Asks about HDTV, other players.)
Cuban: Competition and growth in this field is great for everyone.
Leonsis: In sports, there's this unbelievable clarity about winning and losing, and the opportunity for redemption and renewal. Your fans, like great consumers, forgive you, let you come back next year and try again. There are great lessons in sports that you can apply to business.
Swisher: How do you look at the Internet right now?
Cuban: It's maturing, and that's great. I think I was Novell's third reseller back in '83. Used to be, the more you knew, the more you could identify what would be the next big thing. Now, you can't rely on that, you need to be looking around and paying attention.
Leonsis: I feel like a mayor of a city: you have to make sure the water is clear, the street is paved, the lights are working, there are no power outages. After you do all that very well, people will let you introduce them to the new theater, the new mall. (In response to the question about being 17 and starting over...) I'm right where I want to be, making products that tens of millions of customers enjoy every day, and owning a couple of sports teams.
The following are my notes from the May, 28, 2003 interviews with Terry Semel, conducted by Kara Swisher, and Sergey Brin and Larry Page, conducted by Walt Mossberg, at D: All Things Digital. As with all my conference notes (wherever, whenever), please don't mistake these jottings for a verbatim transcript or a complete portrayal. They are necessarily paraphrased and incomplete, and the product of my highly selective and imperfect notice and attention.
Swisher: There have been some remarkable changes at Yahoo since you came on board. (Mentions articles that initially expressed skepticism about Semel's suitability for the role.)
Semel: For me, it was time for a life change. I examined things, invested in some Internet related things. I wanted to be involved with a business that had great products. I was attracted to Yahoo because it was the best brand on the Internet, and it had a huge audience. There are now some 112 million active registered users.
Swisher: What is Yahoo now?
Semel: That's a very simplistic question. Not sure if there is an answer. Some people would refer to Yahoo as a portal, or a platform, or a network. Probably it's the most relevant place to come for anything you want. The premise is if services and products are great, you'll spend more and more time there. It's not just search, travel, sports, or finance, but getting more personalized, so you the user can design what you want when you want it.
Swisher: Is it a media company?
Semel: I'm surprised you'd use such a traditional word, but it fits if you like.
Swisher: (Asks about Yahoo's success in maintaining advertising revenue.)
Semel: Yahoo's advertising sales now exceed AOL's. Traditional advertising required a lot of handholding. You're starting to see more creative advertising, more use of rich media. Some similarities to TV advertising, but there will be great differences. Broadcast television remains the most effective way to reach the masses. The Internet is the second most effective. In the last year we've seen an enormous change of attitude on both sides. We have a much deeper list of clients starting to believe they're getting their money's worth. We have seen growth for five quarters in a row in our traditional advertising business.
Swisher: (Asks about sponsored search.)
Semel: Sponsored search is auction oriented, very effective for small and medium sized businesses. Works well for all three sides: the advertiser, Yahoo, and the user. Yahoo still is committed to pure search, but users find it a little more organized and relevant when they're getting a "recommendation." It's like the yellow pages. There's a stronger temptation to go to a company you've heard of with a big ad.
Swisher: Let's talk about premium services and extras. There's no proof people want to buy these things. What do you think?
Semel: Look at the track records in other fields, like cable television. People are accustomed to spending money for certain things. Conservatively, 50% of AOL users are regular Yahoo users. Yahoo is essentially "free" to them, so maybe they're willing to pay for certain basic extra services (extra email storage, centralized data access). Yahoo is co-branding with SBC to provide access and services. There's not a single doubt in my mind that people are getting accustomed to paying for certain specific services or products, while still getting certain quality services for free. If we continue to improve the quality of our free services, they will support the pay services, and vice versa. We thought it was important to offer access to listings for personals, jobs and real estate. We decided we needed to buy the jobs segment and personalize it. In the case of personals, we decided we can build it in house and do it really well, but I gave it an advertising budget of zero. The goal was to become #2 in that market with no advertising beyond our own network.
Swisher: What about entertainment? (Mentions AOL, People Magazine online.) As a content maker, what do you think of that happening? What about music?
Semel: 10-11 million people use Yahoo's Music Launch service. There have been 125 million music videos downloaded. Music can and will be successful in its own right. So many people use the 'Net to legally listen to the music they want. There are music clubs. These are perfect examples of the kind of extra services people will pay for.
Swisher: (Asks about whether the music industry will cooperate with online services to give users what they want.)
Semel: As former chairman of one of the five major labels, I see a shift in attitude. The tone used to be, "let's sue them." The industry has done a good job moving away from this. What Steve Jobs has accomplished in obtaining cross-licensing is great. As times change, repackaging and repricing make the most sense. [I missed a bit here...] They're going too slowly though. Now is the time to bring the Internet in, before it becomes too late. The industry should get involved sooner rather than later.
Audience Questions for Semel
Audience member: Jack Warner once cautioned the movie industry not to sell to TV. The result was to encourage innovation in the new medium. Will this happen on the Internet?
Semel: I'm a total believer in the changed medium. Things start out looking like what you're used to, you begin by slicing and dicing what's there. HBO started by broadcasting movies, then moved on to do its own series and other things. The Internet too will begin with slicing and dicing what we've seen before, but that won't be the big killer app. That's going to be original hits that take advantage of the unique aspects of the Internet, and they'll be very different from what we usually see. Music, games. Companies like Yahoo have enormous communities, posting and talking to each other all the time. There's no doubt the Internet will become a major vehicle for games, all over the world. If all you do is copy what came before, you're going to look like an old newspaper. These new ideas could come from Hollywood, but they're just as likely to come from users.
Audience member: Is there a role for Yahoo in convergence, everything coming into the home through one box?
Semel: Yes, it's important to deliver what you want, where and when you want it.
Audience member: Yahoo's cash position is huge. Are you thinking about media properties, your own programming? Semel: Yahoo has north of 2 billion cash right now. Three years out, broadband will be in 50% of households, and more and better content and programming will do well. We don't need a studio now, but we'll be involved in helping people who are doing things we feel are good for the Internet. HBO started out with 100% licensed content, now probably 50% of what they offer is original. And they're thriving.
David Kirkpatrick (from Fortune): Will traditional media throttle Internet content? (Referencing things like Diller's HSN.)
Semel: On the Internet, anyone with a good idea can do it tomorrow. Individuals can and do create stuff. It's much more open to the creation of thriving businesses. The Internet world offers another opportunity to reach masses. As a citizen I worry about countries where one person controls the whole thing. The Internet helps, generally speaking doesn't take positions on issues.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Mossberg: You've created great technology that works, but you're sort of the oddball in the search industry. Take sponsored search results. You don't do that.
Page: We've taken a hard line on that. Our search results are the best things we can produce. You can tell our advertising is advertising. It's even more evil when you can't tell if a result comes up because of paid inclusion.
Mossberg: I think this is one of the best things about Google. But from a business point of view, you're not a public company. Why would someone buy a Google ad?
Brin: It's important to us and the users that ads be identified as ads. We think it makes them more effective. (Gives example of purchasing a green laser pointer from one of Google's advertisers.) The ads themselves work well. They're a good revenue stream for Google and for the advertisers. In fact, the ads work so well they're being run on non-search properties, like the Knight Ridder sites. Instead of having a flashy banner you'll see a set of text links, related to the news story you're reading. It's not a perfect product; sometimes you have unfortunate subject-ad pairings—headline, "Boy drowns in washing machine," next to a washing machine ad.
Mossberg: How do you guys make any money?
Page: We license our search technology to other sites, and to the enterprise market. Advertising is a very large source of revenue as well.
Mossberg: What about the simplicity of the ads, why is that important?
Page: We felt like banner ads slowed down our sites and weren't relevant. The click-through rates on the search-relevant text ads are much higher.
Mossberg: There are companies that are pissed off at you guys because you've become the gateway to the Internet. There are people who think Google disadvantages them and their business.
Brin: We were sued in one case I think and I believe it was dismissed. People tend to get really upset when they used to have a big flow of traffic from Google, then they don't. There's another set of people who are getting that traffic. There's not a great deal of stability in our search results. A site might be down when we crawl it, for example. The more important issue is that we continue to develop our algorithms and have a rapid development cycle. People can't necessarily rely on search results remaining static.
Page: We've earned people's trust this way through the quality of the search.
Mossberg: Do you think your average users understand why some results are ranked higher than others?
Brin: The whole system is very complex. I couldn't tell you why in a given set of results one thing is higher than another. I would not recommend following those spams that promise to increase your search result standings.
Mossberg: Have you got this figured out for the next few years?
Page: There's a lot we can do. I still think using Google's terrible. There's still a huge number of things we can't answer. There's probably something out there that explains every complex query, and Google can't give you the exact right answer instantly.
Mossberg: (Asks about specialized searches and features, like Froogle.)
Brin: Most of the products we develop are suggestions by enthusiastic researchers. True of Google News, true of Froogle. We encourage this, and ultimately it's highly motivated people on our teams who conceive these things. You look at our track record on things we planned to launch that were successful, and the correlation is pretty weak.
Page: Innovation in general is like this. You try a lot of things, some of them work out really well.
Brin: We have a list of that we call the Top 100, research projects in development. It's really more like 200. Some people work on them whether we want them to or not. (Audience laughs.)
Mossberg: It sounds like summer camp.
Brin: People create much better things when they're inspired and feel they have ownership, it's what they want to do.
Mossberg: Let's talk about browsing. This doesn't just mean the Web, but the way you interact with the PC, search as more of a metaphor than it has been. Is the kind of thing you do at Google something that could unify all this?
Page: No, Google works best on a large universe of data. With smaller universes, something like the Apple Music Store, you may not even need search. It will be nice to have better search functionality for your own information, but software can provide other alternatives.
Mossberg: What about searching other documents: PDFs, images. AlltheWeb includes music and videos. Will there be a way to use Google to search things that are not on the public Web?
Brin: You can now throw away all your junk mail catalogs because you can search for and browse them on Google. Regarding music and video, there are legal issues, issues with the results really working, issues with player compatibility; generally, usability issues beyond search that make these problematic.
Page: We do have a fair amount of influence now. We try to consider what it means to make all this available.
Audience Questions for Brin and Page
Audience member: Do you help users with queries on things like health care issues to narrow down their results?
Brin: There are great sites about diabetes, and we don't have the ability to give you better information than they can. In the future, who knows?
Audience member: Why search? Why does it work? Page: It was obvious for us because we didn't really want to form a company. There were 10,000 searches a day at Stanford on Google, it was working and growing. We didn't fully understand what would happen, but had strong indications.
Audience member: Google vs. bookmarks. Why don't you let people put their bookmarks on your home page? You'd do serious damage to Yahoo and AOL.
Page: Would you like a job? (Good laugh from audience.)
Same audience member: As one of the two unemployed people here, yes! (More laughs)
Brin: This is the kind of thing people work on on the Top 100 list. It sounds like a good idea but would need to be tested.
Esther Dyson: Asks about Google's purchase of Pyra: what have you discovered, been surprised by, found out?
Brin: We've let those guys go at it, continue to develop their product. They have so many ideas on their own, and there's a whole industry of third party applications to tack onto Blogger. I'm just trying to make sure we don't add too much "value!" (Big laugh.)
Audience member: What are the implications of being able to find just about anything on Google?
Brin: Larry told me this some time ago: people's interests are, and have become, esoteric and diverse. The wealth of information has enabled people to specialize in much narrower interests. It makes it easier for someone to specialize in a localized sphere of knowledge.
Page: I've been waiting for them to start teaching searching, alongside spelling, in school.
I must remember to ask Jason Shellen if there's a way to tweak the Blogger time stamp feature for specific posts. I don't want to shift the whole blog to EDT just because I'm here for a few days. Speaking of Jason, I've been cracking up at his comments about answering lunch-line tech support questions for all the blogging Googlers. He promises more about their internal version of Blogger, Blogger in Google (B.I.G.), at this very conference.
Spotted in transit—
From Inc. Magazine:
"Blogging for Dollars:" "Blogs have long been popular with mopey teens looking to share their angst and political pundits eager for an online soapbox. But they are increasingly being put to commercial use by entrepreneurs."
"What's Next: Don't Get Brobecked:" "[D]o what you should have done all along—manage your lawyer the way you manage any supplier relationship, something few companies without in-house counsel ever do." And (imagine my delight at 30,000 feet) this, and more, from Rick Klau: "Many firms had their best year ever in 2001 or even 2002, despite the recession, but that is just because the legal business is slower to be affected by the economy. Even after client businesses sour, there is still plenty of legal work to be done cleaning up the mess. But eventually that work is finished and if the economy doesn't pick up, then the lawyers are in trouble."
Speaking of Rick, he was the first person to turn me on to Howard Dean last summer. Now Newsweek says of the candidate, "Dean's insurgency may falter, but he's already made history: the first Web-launched candidate to go mainstream in the era of BlackBerry and Bluetooth." ("Spinning a New Web.")
I didn't read the whole flight, spent most of it cleaning up D notes, actually. Will have Semel, Brin, Page, Leonsis and Cuban posted as soon as I rip through some room service.
Unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Denise M. Howell and included in the Bag and Baggage weblog and any related pages, including the weblog's archives, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.