Blogging done right

Like millions of Americans, I followed the presidential elections in my favorite blogs, but one source deserves special recognition.
Nate Silver’s published a running summary and projection of the myriad of national and state polls that was astonishing for its breadth and depth, but his projections based on the polls and their trends turned out to be uncannily correct.
Silver first emerged when he called both the direction and degree of the Indiana and North Carolina Democratic primaries — a narrow win for Clinton in Indiana and a whupping in North Carolina.
When everyone else, including the mainstream media, were touting the latest numbers from whoever in whatever state, Nate Silver’s site was one of the few places you could get a clear, concise consensus forecast that didn’t vary wildly from one day to the next.
Silver’s not exactly an amateur. He’s a professional baseball forecaster. But he delivered intelligent and prescient forecasts of surpassing quality for free on his blog.
Now that’s mainstream media we can believe in, my friends.
You betcha.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

I'm not a PC…

…nor am I a Mac.
Microsoft’s new “I’m a PC” ads are very postmodern, as they deal with the subtext of Apple’s advertising (PC users are nerds*) but not the explicit message (Macs are easier to use, Macs are easier to set up, Macs are easier to interface, Macs are less likely to get a virus, Macs come with a lot of great software that you know you want, Macs are less likely to need a reboot, it’s easier to move your stuff to a Mac than to a new PC, Vista is making life difficult for millions of Windows customers…).
The audience seems to be wavering PC users with self-esteem issues**. But why isn’t Microsoft pitching the benefits of Vista vs. Mac?
I keep wondering if the real audience for these ads isn’t internal.
* This is demonstrably false. The real nerds are all using Macs and Linux.
** Guys like Milhouse Van Houten, who said, “I’m not a nerd. Nerds are smart.”
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

No comment? No problem.

I love Matt Haughey’s thoughtful post on the differences between comments on blogs in 2008 and those back in the day (five years ago).

But I think the root of the problem (described in various media outlets over the past year or so) of snarky, or mean-spirited, or generally unhelpful comments becoming the norm has to do with the distance weíve achieved from those original link-and-essay heavy blogs.

Ironically, the comment thread on this post is an outstanding discussion of the issues involved.
There is no one answer to handling comments on the Web. I run a perfectly respectable site in my community that is full of thoughtful and informative posts by real people using their real names. My competitor down the road operates his community section more like an ongoing, anonymous brawl with interesting conversations going on in the corners. I think it works for him and his posters.
I never had a problem with Jupiter’s no-comments policy, even though I love getting comments and mixing it up with my readers. I think it’s a reasonable choice for the way the company does business. Some of my favorite bloggers don’t take comments and it has never bothered me.
The real challenge is finding a voice for your blog and your community and coming up with a style, focus, posting policy, comment policy, and moderation style that suits you. Then choosing a design that reflects your voice.
Some folks have expressed regret that blogging has become more professional and less personal. That depends on where you look.
We’re still living in an age of innovation for social media. Experimentation shouldn’t be encouraged. It should be required.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Google Chrome: Paging Dr. McLuhan

It wasn’t the feature set of Google’s Chrome browser that got me excited, nor was it opening yet another strategic front in Google’s cold war with Microsoft. Nor was it the comic book by Scott McCloud, although that’s really cool. Lately, my mind has been on Javascript.
For most of my career as a creator and critic of media sites, I’ve been disdainful of javascript, a language that was born in the Age of Hype and which it seemed to me did more than any innovation (save Flash) to muck up otherwise perfectly respectable websites.
But things have changed. At first, it was the increasing processing speed of our computers, combined with the excitement of Google Maps, that turned a lot of heads. But now, Mozilla, Apple, and now Google are hard at work improving Javascript’s performance by layering improved execution on top of all that processing power.
Meanwhile, Chrome’s use of a separate process for each page and windows designed to contain Web applications turn windows into something more like applications.
“Browser windows” are becoming applications and “pages” are becoming transactions. This puts even more pressure on us to transcend the page as the metaphor for interacting with the Web and challenges us to rethink the nature of networked media. The developers of Web applications already get this, but media and marketing producers have not even begun to grapple with this shift.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

I'm ready to own a top-level domain

Way back in 2002, I blogged “Let a thousand top-level domains bloom“. How about a million? A billion?
ICANN wants to allow anyone with the gumption and the tech chops to own their own top-level domain.
When we end the artificial scarcity of domain names, we’ll end the artificially high prices for “dot-com” domains. The idea of anything dot com will be as quaint as the 4:30 autogyro to the Prussian consulate in Siam.
Sure, it will create some problems with fraud and trademarks. But we have these already and restricting TLD’s is not the solution. I’m done with the current terrible system that gives registrars first grab at expiring domains so they can “auction” them off to the only interested bidder. And I can’t wait until I no longer see the term “domainer” on the net.
But mainly I can’t wait until I can auction off the rights to microsoft.parr and google.parr.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

I was too easy on the AP

The Associated Press’s “Don’t quote us” policy is worse than I feared.
Not only are they employing DMCA takedown notices against clear cases of Fair Use and requiring payments for quoting as few as five words — their proposed licensing agreement has an anti-disparagement clause:

You shall not use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to the author, the publication from which the Content came, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or depicted in the Content. You agree not to use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to or damaging to the reputation of Publisher, its licensors, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or referenced in the Content [Ö]
Publisher reserves the right to terminate this Agreement at any time if Publisher or its agents finds Your use of the licensed Content to be offensive and/or damaging to Publisherís reputation.

Of course, this is exactly one kind case that Fair Use is intended to protect — criticism of poor reporting.
What’s interesting, and unknown right now, is the degree to which this policy was vetted by the AP’s board, which is made up of newspaper owners. There is no doubt that this policy is bad for AP’s owners, who depend on links (and the quotes that go with them) for a big chunk of their direct traffic, as well as their Google juice.
Personally, I’m observing this policy by posting some AP content to my (other) blog.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

The AP's customers deserve better

I was surprised to find myself mildly sympathetic to the AP’s desire to keep bloggers from quoting from its stories. After all, unlike just about every other media organization on the planet, the AP doesn’t have a web business to promote. The distribution of AP stories to its clients is its core business and one that could be arguably threatened by unfair reuse. I’m also struggling to remain objective, because regularly I quote my local papers at length all the time in my own local blog — with their encouragement — but always urging my readers to read the whole story at the source.
But, ultimately, I don’t see how the AP can be right about this, and I suspect they’ll come to their senses.
The AP’s clients benefit from the traffic generated by these blog links. We’ve been encouraging them to seek out local bloggers to quote and link to their stories. This is going to complicate the outreach efforts of AP’s customers.
But the real reason is more simple, which can be seen in these 101 words I’m quoting from the New York Times story linked above:

“The principal question is whether the excerpt is a substitute for the story, or some established adaptation of the story,” said Timothy Wu, a professor at the Columbia Law School. Mr. Wu said that the case is not clear-cut, but he believes that The A.P. is likely to lose a court case to assert a claim on that issue.
“Itís hard to see how the Drudge Retort ëfirst few linesí is a substitute for the story,” Mr. Wu said.
Mr. Kennedy argued, however, that The Associated Press believes that in some cases, the essence of an article can be encapsulated in very few words.

If the essence of the article can be encapsulated a very few words, I’d argue that it wasn’t much of a story in the first place. Just as, I assure you, I didn’t capture the essence of the Times’ story above. It’s a much better piece of work than that. I urge you to read it at the source.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

What CBS and CNET really need

CBS and CNET may be the worst possible partners for each other.
Back in the late nineties, I worked at CNET. It was a pretty heady moment. The company seemed to be setting new standards and best practices every day. But now, CNET doesn’t seem interested in setting the pace any longer. It couldn’t even get out of its own way long enough to come up with a widget strategy that is early or novel, and has opted out of leading a technology ad network. CNET still has a great content product, excellent editorial and infrastructure staff, and deep experience in premium online advertising. CNET needs ownership that is going to push it to become a stonger content and advertising network, rather than becoming some corporation’s Internet trophy bride. CBS has saved CNET from getting the tough love it needs.
Meanwhile, CBS needs more distribution and network power and fewer content businesses. We’re moving into a world where (at least in the near term) there will be greater separation between the distribution and creation of content. Media companies must get out in front of that trend. This is particularly true of CBS, whose broadcast network is increasingly threatened by cable and the Internet. They need to remember that they’re in the network business. And they’re only in show biz because they own a powerful distribution network. It’s easy to forget that they got where they are by laying coax, setting up microwave towers, and fighting for affiliates in scruffy little towns.
In this world, Cox’s acquisition of Adify looks a lot smarter, giving them more network and infrastructure expertise and a business that is poised to grow. It’s not as glamorous, but it should be a solid and important business as the network economics of media become more clear.
The good news for both partners is that CNET still has tremendous potential. But CBS is going to have to learn how turn it into the kind of content and advertising network it should have already become by now.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

I love Google's new primary reporting tool

Google’s new primary tracking map is amazing. The level of data-intensity is amazing and I love the sparkline-inspired charts for each county. This is a wonderful example of how to illustrate a massive amount of information in a a simple way.
It’s churlish to want more, but what I really want is something that allows me to analyze the results, and not simply to report them. But I guess that’s why I’m doing this job.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.