July 28, 2005

‘Let’s forget about citizen journalism’

Neil McIntosh, an editor at the UK’s Guardian, writes: Let’s forget about citizen journalism.

McIntosh cites approvingly this comment on another blog: “Weblogs and flickr can complement traditional journalism, but they can’t supplant it.”

Well, that’s absolutely true. And it’s what Dan Gillmor and other proponents of the idea have been saying for years and years. Which doesn’t in the least undercut the argument that citizens have begun picking up today’s gadgets to serve as eyewitnesses to the news and thus to perform real journalism.

Let’s not set up a straw man — citizen journalists overthrowing the professionals — only to knock him down, although I must admit that the fretting of the old guard about the emerging new order is entertaining to watch.

After tossing darts at Ohmynews and making the mistake of calling the emerging wave of personal publishing “me media” (it’s about we, not me), McIntosh starts making sense. He talks about citizen storytelling as a valuable communication form, one that all of us can participate in.

Thanks. Agreed. But we’ll dabble in journalism, too, if you don’t mind.

July 24, 2005

An instant Akimbo fan


You may have heard of Akimbo by now. The San Mateo, Calif., startup has been quietly making programming alliances over the past year and fine-tuning its Internet television service.

I hadn’t planned on getting an Akimbo box to add to my TiVo and DVD recorder setup, chiefly because I didn’t want to have to call the Comcast service guy out here to bring my high-speed Internet connection to the family room.

What I didn’t realize is that Akimbo also supports high-speed wireless connections. Yesterday I took out the Akimbo unit, installed the drivers onto my PC, installed the settings onto the Linksys wireless adapter, logged on to my.akimbo.com to set up my service, and programmed the unit.

The entire process took about 45 minutes, which surprised and impressed me. (The TiVo setup sometimes takes a couple of hours. The Roku music player, another nice piece of tech/consumer electronics elegance, took me an hour to assemble.) The speed of the downloads via my Apple Extreme wifi setup was also impressive.

I was also unaware that Akimbo has six videobloggers in its lineup: Steve Garfield, Clint Sharp and several others, in addition to Cartoon Network, other big media programs, and its real strength: niche video from hundreds of video creators. A lot of the sweet, simple UI tricks reminiscent of the TiVo are here as well.

After two days of watching, I’m already a big Akimbo fan. (Disclosure: we’re discussing an Ourmedia channel with Akimbo.) I’ve already subscribed to new videos published by Steve and Clint, and I’ve downloaded tutorials on public speaking (no snide comments) and a look at the 10 most popular dog breeds in Australia (we hope to get a puppy next month).

Looking forward to seeing where Akimbo helps steer the Internet television revolution.

July 22, 2005

GoingOn and Innovation Summit wrapup


Just uploaded to Ourmedia this video of the smart, amazing, terrifically talented Valerie Cunningham talking yesterday about the announcement of the coming launch of the new social networking site GoingOn.

Following are my notes from yesterday’s AlwaysOn Innovation Summit at Stanford University.

Tony Perkins and Marc Canter announced what I believe is a major step forward for social networking: the GoingOn Network. Click the video above for a fuller explanation.

Said Perkins: "We think what makes great communities is content."

Yes, Tony, yes!

More Tony Perkins: "The world is breaking into millions of little media brands. A couple of years ago there was a fear that all roads lead to Rupert Murdoch. … Individuals now have to think of themselves as media brands, because IBM is not to going to promise to employ you for the rest of your life. … The media world is where the music world was six years ago. … The customer always gets what he wants. … I believe the media world will ultimately succumb to open media and allow for more participation."

Venture capitalists tend to see spaces like social networks as a horse race with a maximum of three winners in the end, Perkins said. The GoingOn gang offers a different vision: The most effective social groups will have no more than 100 to 200 people. So GoingOn will be a network of networks. Added Perkins: "It’s not about closed silos. If you want to have it reflect our lives, you need thousands or millions of these things with 200 members each."

Tony’s got the religion. Seriously.

Marc Canter explains a bit of what GoingOn is about here. And he finished up his talk with this simple retort to a questioner: "Dude, I’m deep into this shit."

Matt Marshall of the San Jose Merc today had this:  GoingOn aims to be social `network of networks.’ "Perkins and Canter said they want the company to be a “network of networks” — a platform open for integration with other social networking players, such as Tribe or Friendster, and other large media companies, such as Yahoo, and even other corporate sites. All these players could create their own networks on GoingOn."

Later: Marc has some not-so-gentle corrections to Matt’s article.

Panelists’ musings

David Sifry, CEO of Technorati: "The blogosphere has been doubling in size every five months for the past 30 months." Tuesday, I thought Dave said the blogosphere had grown to 12 million blogs. Tonight, he cited the latest stats: Technorati is tracking 13.6 blogs. Eleven posts go up every second every minute of the day. Blogs are taking off in various languages around the wsorld: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French, Portuguese.

Dan Gillmor: "Blogs are a proxy for something bigger. Increasingly things that are not text are very interesting. People won’t have time to go through 10,000 photos from London or 500 comments on a Slashdot thread," so we need to find better mechanisms to save time.

Dan also made the (correct) observation that journalism does not belong to a professional caste of players. Instead, what’s important is what you write and how you report the news, not who you’re reporting it for. "Every one of you in this room can commit an act of journalism."

Sounds to me like random acts of journalism.

I’ve been writing for years about how the term objectivity should be retired, as has Dan, who said Thursday: "I’ve been liking the term objectivity less and less.  Thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and transparency — if we have all of those, I don’t care if you call it objective or not."

Venture capitalist Allen Morgan worried that bloggers will be penalized in a generation or two for what they wrote on their blogs when they were in high school. I agree with Dan’s response: "We’re gonna learn to cut each other some slack. If we don’t, then we’re screwed."

Ned Desmond of Time Inc.: "Editors love the tryrannical control over they have on what goes on the cover, the headlines, the placement of stories." My hat’s off to Ned. Not many editorial execs who’ll cop to tyranny.

Jaron Lanier, who coined the term "virtual reality": "Within this world of the Silicon Valley and Banagalore elite, we’re scaring the rest of the world. It’s helping drive an anti-science, anti-technology fear. I’m scared of of society losing faith in science and technology."

Paul Safffo asked the 400 people how many of us were optimistic about the future of technology. All but about eight people voted yea.

Bill Joy pointed out that the earth hasn’t seen a global pandemic since 1918. "A biological pandemic would be far worse than a single act of nuclear terrorism." It’s unique to this century that a single individual, a rogue actor, could unleash forces that could kill millions of people."

Pitch Awards

One of the best parts of Always On has traditionally been the  CEO Pitch Awards: This year’s top winner? Peerflix, a site under everyone’s  radar. In a one-minute pitch at the end of the conference, CEO Bill McNair described Peerflix as "a p2p training platform that lets peole trade DVDs with one another. Four billion DVDs are collecting dust on your shelves." With Peerflix, you create lists of DVDs you have and DVDs you want, and they do the rest. "Every household in America is our distribution network."

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July 21, 2005

Highlights from the Innovation Summit

I’m here on Day 3 of the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit at Stanford. Like last year, I’m concentrating on photos (see below and later above), and adding some video (on Ourmedia in a week or two) as well.

Some nice coverage at TechCrunch. Much more at Technorati and at Feedster.

Here are some of the best quotes and factoids I’ve plucked out from the past three days:

David Sifry of Technorati: There were 3 million blogs a year ago, 12 million today. On Technorati, there were zero social media tags in January and 20 million today. (We’ll post a one-minute video about this on Ourmedia soon.)

Pioneer venture capitalist Bill Draper to the innovators in the crowd creating new companies, products and services: “You’re the heroes.”

Author George Gilder: “Wifi and Wimax are desperate attempts by the old guard” — Intel, etc. — to prevent the takeover by people who just want to use their cellphones.

More Gilder: “Nanotech is really the extension of Moore’s Law, that things will get better as they grow smaller, as we move into the pit of

More Gilder: “The real author of Moore’s Law and Kurzweil’sl Law of Accelerating Returns is Henry Adams.”

More Gilder: “Television is dying fast and it’ll be followed by Hollywood. These industries fed on scarcity because there were only a few channels available. TV could dominate. TV was the technology of tyrants. It’s living on and emitting fumes in our living rooms. The 30-second ad spot is gonna die. This AlwaysOn represents the triumph of the user as the user becomes a producer.”

More Gilder: “The Long Tail is the fulfillment of life after television. Amazon gets 60% of its revenue from below the top 100,000 best sellers.”

Final Gilder: Television is a medium based on the lowest common deniminator. “The culture of television kills itself by stultifying its viewers.
Blog culture is part of book culture and can redeem the civilization.”

Mark Cuban had the best line of the conference. He said of telling young people not to pirate music or movies: “It’s like trying to tell a 12 year old boy that he’s going to go blind.”

Kim Polese: “We’re not going back to the old way, to silos, to lock-in.
IT is now in the driver’s seat.”

Marlen Mickos: Very few people buy a car with the hood sealed shut. At the same time, few people open up the hood to look at the engine. Yet they like the idea that they, or their friends, can peek under the hood when they want to.

Doc Searls: Microsoft’s “Passport was a bad idea that didn’t work.”

More Doc: “Flickr is a walled garden. It’s a beautiful walled garden, but it’s still a walled garden.”

More Doc: “Hollywood is trying to close the Web down. … The assumption is the Net is open and free, but we’re essentially at war with Hollywood, which wants to close it down.”

Toni Schneider, VP of the Yahoo Developer Network: Flickr is closed in that it’s not open to anyone to post photos on his own server and join the Flickr community. But if they opened it up to everyone, the model would likely break.

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July 20, 2005

Sandy Berger, Jerry Brown open AO Innovation Summit

Here are a handful of photos I took tonight at the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit at Stanford University. First, former national security advisory Sandy Berger:


Next, Oakland Mayor, former governor and candidate for California attorney general Jerry Brown:


I spoke with Brown at the reception afterward and reminded him of the previous time we’d met nearly 17 years ago — one of the most solemn and memorable days of my life, at the funeral of Chuck Linderman (a friend of mine, a former campaign aide to Brown) on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif. He recalled the day, and we chatted briefly about blogging and his campaign for attorney general, but what he was mostly interested in was finding out more information about Skype, given the number of conference calls his campaign aides engage in. I jotted the Skype url on the back of my Ourmedia business card and gave it to him.

I’ve always admired Brown’s independent, no-nonsense style, and I’m still proud that my first-ever vote in a presidential primary was for Gov. Moonbeam. Read the essay, and Jerry Brown’s comment near the end:

“When you’re in the moment, that’s what life is all about. Chuck lived in the moment.”

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