Some new ways to look at infrastructure

Nothing challenges our understanding of infrastructure better than a crisis, and we have a big one now in Houston. We do with every giant storm, of course. New York is still recovering from Sandy and New Orleans from Katrina. Reforms and adaptations always follow, as civilization learns from experience.

Look at aviation, for example. Houston is the 4th largest city in the U.S. and George Bush International Airport (aka IAH) is a major hub for United Airlines. For the last few days traffic there has been sphinctered down to emergency flights alone. You can see how this looks on FlightAware’s Miserymap:

Go there and click on the blue play button to see how flight cancellations have played over time, and how the flood in Houston has affected Dallas as well. Click on the airport’s donut to see what routes are most affected. Frequent fliers like myself rely on tools like this

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How the personal data extraction industry ends

Who Owns the Internet? — What Big Tech’s Monopoly Powers Mean for our Culture is Elizabeth Kolbert‘s review in The New Yorker of several books, one of which I’ve read: Jonathan Taplin’s Move Fast and Break Things—How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.

The main takeaway for me, to both Elizabeth’s piece and Jon’s book, is making clear that Google and Facebook are at the heart of today’s personal data extraction industry, and that this industry defines (as well as supports) much of our lives online.

Our data, and data about us, is the crude that Facebook and Google extract, refine and sell to advertisers. This by itself would not be a Bad Thing if it were done with our clearly expressed (rather than implied and checked off) permission, and if we had our own valves to control personal data flows with scale across all the companies we deal Continue reading "How the personal data extraction industry ends"

Google enters its chrysalis

In The Adpocalypse: What it Means, the great Vlogbrother Hank Green issues a humorous lament on the impending demise of online advertising. So invest the next 3:54 of your life in watching that video, so you catch all his points and I don’t need to repeat them here.

Got them? Good.

Every one of Hank’s points are well-argued and make complete sense. They are also valid mostly inside the bowels of the Google beast where his video work has thrived for the duration, as well as inside the broadcast model that Google sort-of emulates. (That’s the one where “content creators” and “brands” live in some kind of partly-real and partly-imagined symbiosis.)

While I like and respect what the brothers are trying to do commercially inside the belly of the Google Beast; but I also expect them, and countless other “content creators” to get expelled after Google finishes digesting that market, and Continue reading "Google enters its chrysalis"

The Daily Tab for 2017_06_06

toomuchinformation I’ve decided I need to keep a public list on stuff that interests me, and to do it in a way that’s good to read now and easy to find later. The headline above is my first whack at a title. Required viewing::: A Good American. It’s a documentary on Bill Binney and the NSA by @FriedrichMoser. IMHO, this is the real Snowden movie. And I say that with full respect for Snowden. Please watch it. (Disclosure: I have spent quality time with both Bill and Fritz, and believe them both.) Bonus dude: @KirkWiebe, also ex-NSA and a colleague of Bill’s. (In case you think this is all lefty propaganda, read Kirk’s tweets.) Ice agents are out of control. And they are only getting worse (@TrevorTimm in The Guardian) WillRobotsTakeMyJob is brilliant. Check out its suggested jobs for titles it has no stats for. Yo to WaPo and the Continue reading "The Daily Tab for 2017_06_06"

Loose Links

Jamie Bartlett in The GuardianForget far-right populism – crypto-anarchists are the new masters. Well, yes, no and maybe. Hard to tell. At least it’s a good look around many curves. Says here Robert E. Lee was a bad guy. Specifically, a white supremacist and slave abuser. You’re hundreds (or thousands) of miles but only one click away from The Wall Drug Store. Bonus link. Both courtesy of Country Living, which is new to me. As a magazine, that is. Everybody, it seems, (or, well, 93% of them) likes the new Wonder Woman movie. Not Jill Lepore. South China Morning PostThe rise of the QR code and how it has forever changed China’s social habits. The subhead explains,
“It’s being used to encourage tipping at restaurants, receive cash gifts at weddings…even beggars are using it to collect handouts. The little barcode is driving China’s rapid Continue reading "Loose Links"

Brands need to fire adtech

Two days ago, the New York Times said the U.S. that AT&T and Johnson & Johnson are pulling their ads from YouTube. They’re concerned that “Google is not doing enough to prevent brands from appearing next to offensive material, like hate speech.” Yesterday, Business Insider said “more than 250” advertisers were bailing as well. These came after one Guardian report said Audi, HSBC, Lloyds, McDonald’s, L’Oréal, Sainsbury’s, Argos, the BBC and Sky were doing the same in the U.K., and another Guardian report said O2, Royal Mail and Vodaphone were also joining the boycott.

Agencies placing those ads on YouTube are shocked, shocked! that ads for these fine brands are showing up next to “extremist material,” and therefore sponsoring it. They blame Google, and so does most of the coverage as well.

Here’s what almost nobody reporting on this debacle is saying: Brands think they’re placing ads in Continue reading "Brands need to fire adtech"

Saving High Mountain

  highmountainI’ve long thought that the most consequential thing I’ve ever done was write a newspaper editorial that helped stop development atop the highest wooded hilltop overlooking the New York metro. The hill is called High Mountain, and it is now home to the High Mountain Park Preserve in Wayne, New Jersey. That’s it above, highlighted by a rectangle on a shot I took from a passenger plane on approach to LaGuardia in 2008. The year was 1970, and I was a 23-year-old reporter for a suburban daily called Wayne Today (which may still exist). One day, while at the police station picking up copies of the previous day’s reports, I found a detailed plan to develop the top of High Mountain, and decided to pay the place a visit. So I took a fun hike through thick woods and a din of screaming cicadas (Brood X,
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Exploring the business behind digital media’s invisibility cloaks

  amsterdam-streetImagine you’re on a busy city street where everybody who disagrees with you disappears. We have that city now. It’s called media—especially the social kind. You can see how this works on Wall Street Journal‘s Blue Feed, Red Feed page. Here’s a screen shot of the feed for “Hillary Clinton” (one among eight polarized topics): blue-red-wsj Both invisible to the other. We didn’t have that in the old print and broadcast worlds, and still don’t, where they persist. (For example, on news stands, or when you hit SCAN on a car radio.) But we have it in digital media. Here’s another difference: a lot of the stuff that gets shared is outright fake. There’s a lot of concern about that right now: fakenews Why? Well, there’s a business in it. More eyeballs, more advertising, more money, for more eyeballs for more advertising. And so on. Those ads are aimed
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Nobody else owns our experiences

shackles Who Owns the Mobile Experience? is a report by Unlockd on mobile advertising in the U.K. To clarify the way toward an answer, the report adds, “mobile operators or advertisers?” The correct answer is neither. Nobody’s experience is “owned” by another party. True, another party may cause a person’s experience to happen. But that doesn’t mean that party owns that personal experience. We own our selves. That includes our experiences. This is an essential distinction. For lack of it, both mobile operators and advertisers are delusional about their customers and consumers. (That’s an other important distinction. Operators have customers. Advertisers have consumers. Customers pay, consumers may or may not. That the former also qualifies as the latter does not mean the distinction should not be made. Sellers are far more accountable to customers than advertisers are to consumers.) It’s interesting that Unlockd’s survey shows almost identically high Continue reading "Nobody else owns our experiences"

Old wise in news bottles

That headline just came to me and I don’t want to lose it. So I’ll post it now and fill in the large blank below later.

Talking customer power and VRM

I’ll be on a webinar this morning talking with folks about The Intention Economy and the Rise in Customer Power. That link goes to my recent post about it on the blog of Modria, the VRM company hosting the event. It’s at 9:30am Pacific time. Read more about it and register to attend here. There it also says “As a bonus, all registered attendees will receive a free copy of Doc’s latest book, The Intention Economy: How Customers Are Taking Charge in either printed or Kindle format.” See/hear you there/then.    

Remembering Big Davy

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Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
— Mahatma Gandhi

I’m not sure if Gandhi actually said that. Somebody did. My best human chance of finding who said it — or at least of gaining a learned enlargement on the lesson — would have been David Sallis. “Big Davy” didn’t know everything, but he came closer than anybody else I know, and he was a living exemplar of Gandhi’s advice. Davy’s answer would have been knowing, clever and enlarged by a joke, a wild story or both. Alas, I can’t ask him, because he died last Friday of a stroke he suffered a few days earlier. He was just 56, and is survived by his wife Margaret and daughter Rosie — mararet-and-rosie — both of whom he adored absolutely — and by countless friends and colleagues who remain shocked and saddened by
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How adtech, not ad blocking, breaks the social contract

Let’s reset our thinking to what a user’s expectations are, when operating a browser and interacting with pages and sites. In my browser, when I visit a page, I am requesting that page. I am not requesting stuff other than that page itself. This was, and remains, what the hypertext protocol (http) provides. (Protocols are ritualized manners, like handshakes, bows and smiles. They also scaffold the social contract.) Likewise, when I visit a site (same thing, but with purposes inclusive of publishing a document), I am not requesting stuff other than what that site presents to me. So, for example, when I go to blogname.example.com, I expect the browser to display that page and its links, and nothing more. And when I go to seller.com, I expect the browser to display the index page of the site — and, if I have some kind Continue reading "How adtech, not ad blocking, breaks the social contract"

Valley Fire losses

Here is the current perimeter of the Valley Fire, according to the USGS’ GEOMAC viewer: ValleyFire 2015-09-13 at 3.10.24 PM_a As you see, no places are identified there. One in particular, however, is of extremely special interest to me: Harbin Hot Springs. It is where I met my wife and more friends than I can count. It is also one of the most lovely places on Earth, inhabited and lovingly maintained by wonderful people. I just matched up a section of the map above with Google Maps’ Earth view, and see that Harbin and its neighborhood are in the perimeter: Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 3.12.19 PM Still we’re talking about a perimeter here. Not everything within one burns. Harbin is mostly in a valley. Could be the fire jumped from ridge to ridge and missed it. But I suspect that instead we are looking at very sad news here, especially after seeing this picture here, which looks northwest
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An old lesson in how to automate journalism with war and sports metaphors

What I’ve always loved most about the Web† is how it allows each of us to publish on our own, as individuals, for the whole world. I started doing that as soon as I could get a dial-up account with a nearby ISP (the late Batnet of Palo Alto). Here is one of my first pieces, which I published in December 1995 at my self-hosted publication, Reality 2.0. I’m running it here because it does a good job of explaining how easy it is to automate journalism by framing a story in terms of war or sports. (It also tees up my next post.) So here ya go, copied from HTML 1 and morphed on pasting by WordPress into HTML 4:

MICROSOFT + NETSCAPE
WHY THE PRESS NEEDS TO SNAP OUT OF ITS WAR-COVERAGE TRANCE

By Doc Searls
December 11, 1995

Outline

Web Wars?
What are
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We can all make TV. Now what?

meerkatLook where Meerkat andperiscopeapp Periscope point. I mean, historically. They vector toward a future where anybody anywhere can send live video out to the glowing rectangles of the world. If you’ve looked at the output of either, several things become clear about their inevitable evolutionary path:
  1. Mobile phone/data systems will get their gears stripped, in both directions. And it will get worse before it gets better.
  2. Stereo sound recording is coming. Binaural recording too. Next…
  3. 3D. Mobile devices in a generation or two will include two microphones and two cameras pointed toward the subject being broadcast. Next…
  4. VR, or virtual reality.
Since walking around like a dork holding a mobile in front of you shouldn’t be the only way to produce these videos, glasses like these are inevitable:

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(That’s a placeholder design in the public domain, so it has no IP drag, other than whatever submarine patents already exist, and I am Continue reading "We can all make TV. Now what?"

Mercy for the bereaved

I didn’t know Dave Goldberg, but I can’t count all the friends and relatives who were close to him. By all their accounts, he was a brilliant and wonderful guy, much loved and respected by everybody who knew and worked with him. Along with the rest of the world, I await word on what happened. So far that word hasn’t come. But it hasn’t stopped speculation. For example, this post by Penelope Trunk, which imagines a worst-possible scenario — or a set of them — on the basis of no evidence other than knowing nothing. And why do we know nothing? Put yourself in Dave’s wife’s shoes for a minute. You’re a woman on vacation with your husband, to a place where nobody knows you. Then your husband, healthy and just 47 years old, dies suddenly for no apparent reason. What do you do, besides freak out? First you deal with the local authorities, which is rarely Continue reading "Mercy for the bereaved"

Sports as a propaganda laboratory

TBasketballhe other day a friend shared this quote from Michael Choukas‘ Propaganda Comes of Age (Public Affairs Press, 1965):
This is not the propagandist’s aim. For him the validity of an image must be measured not by the degree of its fidelity, but by the response it may evoke. If it will induce the action he wishes, its fidelity is high; if not, low. … The standard that he uses in choosing the images to be disseminated — his “truths” — would be a scale based on the range of possible human responses to an image. His criterion thus is established on the basis of overt action.
At first this made me think about journalism, and how it might fit Choukas’ definition of propaganda. Then it made me think about how we might confine the study of propaganda to a harmless subset of human story-telling. That’s when sports jumped to mind. Sports are almost entirely narrative. They also have, as social phenomena go, less importance outside themselves than such highly fraught concerns as politics, religion and business. To the cynic, sports are Kurt Vonnegut‘s foma: “harmless untruths, intended to comfort simple souls…Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.” Yes, sports are more than that, but my soul at its simplest is a fan of the Mets. (And, less simply, a fan of the Red Sox.) Likewise, among my least productive time is spent listening to sports talk radio — unless I count as valuable the communing of my simplest self with the souls of others who share the same mostly-harmless affections. But how much more productive is the time I spend listening to NPR, or reading The New York Times?
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Blogging #BlizzardOf2015 in #NYC 02

11:31pm — Nobody is saying it, but so far the #BlizzardOf2015 in #NYC is a dud. I mean, yeah there’s snow. But it’s not a real blizzard yet. At least not here, and not in Boston, where it’s supposed to be far worse. “A little bit more than a dusting” says the CNN reporter on the street in Boston, sweeping a thin layer of snow off some pavement. The anchor on the street in New York stands in front of a bare wet sidewalks while the street behind is covered with a couple inches of slush. Apparently the only vehicle on the streets is CNN’s Blizzardmobile: Blizzardmobile WNYC‘s listeners are weighing in with snow totals that look a lot deeper… Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.42.16 PM…than what I’m seeing out my window: Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.49.00 PM But the wind is getting stronger now. Maybe this thing will be as big as they’ve been predicting. But I’m not seeing it yet. And I do want to see it, because I love snow. A sampling:

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7:56pm — Since I’m a #weather and #journalism freak hunkered down in #NYC, I’m digging the opportunity to blog the juncture of all three #s as the #BlizzardOf2015 bears down on the Northeast Coast. So here’s the first interesting thing. While the coverage is all breathless with portent… cnn on the storm weather channel on the storm… the generally reliable Intellicast app tells me this: intellicast1907 In other words, 1) No snow now, where I am in Manhattan (under the green dot); 2) Less than half an inch more by 12:30am tomorrow; and 3) One to three inches after that. This is on top of a whopping 1 inch or so already there. But then there is this: In other words, kinda like CNN and Weather.com are saying. So: we’ll see. I’ll get back after we watch a movie.