A (so far) suckless printer at a good price

s0845100_sc7 In my last post I said all printers suck — at least in my experience. YMMV, as they say. The most recent suckage at our place was produced by a Brother laser printer and an Epson ink-jet that co-died while I was elsewhere (coincidentally dealing with an Epson printer that refused to print anything from my wife’s laptop, which is the same model as mine, running the same OS, with the same printer drivers). So I bought the Samsung M2830DW Xpress Monochrome Laser Printer on the Staples website. The price is currently $59.99, which could hardly be better, since Consumer Reports top-rates it over Canons, Brothers and HPs, and gives surveyed prices from $129 to $179 (both, oddly, at Walmart). It works well. I gave it five stars on the Staples and Consumer Reports sites. However… In case you buy this thing, I also want to share the caveats Continue reading "A (so far) suckless printer at a good price"

Speeding on the Subway

subway-speedtest At the uptown end of the 59th Street/Columbus Circle subway platform there hangs from the ceiling a box with three disks on fat stalks, connected by thick black cables that run to something unseen in the downtown direction. Knowing a few things about radio and how it works, I saw that and thought, Hmm… That has to be a cell. I wonder whose? So I looked at my phone and saw my T-Mobile connection had five dots (that’s iPhone for bars), and said LTE as well. So I ran @Ookla‘s Speedtest app and got the results above. Pretty good, no? Sure, you’re not going to binge-watch anything there, or upload piles of pictures to some cloud, but you can at least pick up some email, look some stuff up on the Web, or otherwise tug on your e-tether to everywhere for a few minutes. Nice to have. So I’m Continue reading "Speeding on the Subway"

Forever nine

This is for Christopher Baker. Chris was nine years old when a friend shot him through the head by mistake, using a gun the friend’s father kept for protection. Chris was a great kid: fun-loving, kind and athletic. In the open casket at his funeral, he wore a baseball cap that covered the fatal wound. The hole in his parents hearts would never be filled. Chris was their only child, and they never had another. If Chris had lived, he would have been forty-two years old now. Instead, for those who remember him, he’ll always be nine. If you think I’m about to go into an argument for gun control, be disappointed, because I don’t have one. Like millions of others who know innocent victims of gunfire, I feel grief and despair. Unlike many or most of them, I have no answer. As Gideon Litchfield writes in Quartz, There Continue reading "Forever nine"

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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A fine suburban #sunrise and a vexing #CS6 issue

Sacramento SunriseMade a dawn run to the nearby Peets for some dry cappuccinos, and was bathed in glow on my return by one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. It was post-peak when I got back (to the place where I’m staying in Gold River, California), but with some underexposure and white balance tweaking, I was able to get the shots in this set here. Alas, the shot above is not in that set. It’s a screen shot I took of an adjusted raw file that Adobe Photoshop CS6 simply refused to save. “The file could not be created,” it said. No explanation. I checked permissions. No problem there. It just refused. I just checke, and the same thing happens with all files from all directories on all drives. Photoshop is suddenly useless to for editing RAW files. Any suggestions?

The Adblock War Series

no-ads-trackingHere is a list of pieces I’ve written in the last two months on what has come to be known as the “adblock wars”:
  1. Separating advertising’s wheat and chaff (12 August 2015)
  2. Apple’s content blocking is chemo for the cancer of adtech (26 August 2015)
  3. Will content blocking push Apple into advertising’s wheat business? (29 August 2015)
  4. If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them (8 September 2015)
  5. Debugging adtext assumptions (18 September 2015)
  6. How adtech, not ad blocking, breaks the social contract (23 September 2015)
  7. A way to peace in the adblock war (21 September 2015, on the ProjectVRM blog)
And here are some posts from the past that dealt with the same issue, way before its time.
  1. The Data Bubble (31 July 2010)
  2. After the advertising bubble bursts (23 March 2009)
  3. What could/should advertising look like in 2020, and what do we Continue reading "The Adblock War Series"

How old aren’t you?

Bing’s image search now has a #HowOldRobot that appears when you mouse over an image in the results. Click on it, and you get an age. Here’s one of Catherine Deneuve: Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 1.11.15 PM Interesting that most of the guesses for her are on the low side. (One, for Catherine as a mature adult, guesses she’s 14.) Here’s one for Michelle, and one for Carl. (Chose those because they didn’t tend to bring up lots of shots of just one celeb.) Ones for me tend to guess high. Sucks, but what the hell. If you don’t mind being judged by a machine that’s wrong most of the time, and your image is splattered around online, give it a whack. And see if you don’t like Bing’s image search better than Google’s. The big advantage for me is that clicked images open in another tab automatically. But there’s stuff I Continue reading "How old aren’t you?"

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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What’s the best way customer love can help a brand?

In “Cool Influencers With Big Followings Get Picky About Their Endorsements,” Sydney Ember of the NY Times writes,
The more brands that use influencers for marketing campaigns on social platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, the less impact each influencer has. At the same time, many influencers, who once jumped at the opportunity to endorse brands, are being much more selective for fear of appearing to sell out.
In How the gig economy has turned bad analysts into vendor advocates, Horses for Sources writes,
The technology and services industry today is awash with individuals whose only professional activity is flitting from vendor conference to vendor conference, with the sole purpose of writing completely non-objective puff pieces praising their vendor hosts in exchange for money (or in the hope said vendors will pony up some dough in gratitude).
And in MediaPost‘s Influencers: When Are they a
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Blogging all over the place

People are asking me why I blog so little these days. Fact is, I blog as much as ever. Just not all here. For example, there’s Linux Journal. My latest there is Privacy is Personal. A good one, I think. Then there’s the ProjectVRM blog. The best recent post there is If your voice comes from a company, you don’t have one. But my latest there is an outline composed and published in my Liveblog. I take notes and write what I call “tweetlines” there. These show up as tweets and expand when you click on their links into outlines you can expand or collapse. The one for yesterday is here. Absent the expand/collapse feature, it’s also here…

Dear Magazines: please quit screwing loyal subscribers

When my main credit card got yanked for some kind of fraud activity earlier this month (as it seems all of them do, sooner or later) I had the unpleasant task of going back over my bills to see what companies I’d need to give a new credit card number. Among those many (Amazon, Apple, PayPal, Dish Network, EasyPass…) were a bunch of magazines that get renewed annually. These include:
  • The New Yorker
  • Vanity Fair
  • Wired
  • New York
  • Consumer Reports
At my wife’s urging (for she is more mindful of money and scams than I am), I compared the last automatic renewal fee to the current best subscription rates offered to new subscribers by the magazines directly, or through intermediaries such as Amazon. All but Consumer Reports offered lower prices to new subscribers. Take The New Yorker for example. Here’s my last automatic payment, from July of last year: Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 6.06.55 PM And
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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"

Captivity rules

210px-Jail_Bars_Icon.svgIn one corner sit me, Don Marti, Phil Windley, Dave Winer, Eben Moglen, John Perry Barlow, Cory DoctorowAral Balkan, Adriana Lukas, Keith Hopper, Walt Whitman, William Ernest Henley, the Indie Web people, the VRM development community, authors of the Declaration of Independence, and the freedom-loving world in general. We hold as self-evident that personal agency and independence matter utterly, that free customers are more valuable than captive ones, that personal data belongs more to persons themselves than to those gathering it, that conscious signaling of intent by individuals is more valuable than the inferential kind that can only be guessed at, that spying on people when they don’t know about it or like it is wrong, and so on. In the other corner sits the rest of the world, or what seems like it. Contented with captivity. The last two posts here — Because Freedom Matters and On taking personalized ads personally — are part of the dialog that mostly flows under this post of mine on Facebook. They advocate freedom and argue against captivity and the surveillance state that comprises most of commercial life online. Two sobering comments in the thread argue against all that — one by Frank Paynter and one by Karel Baloun. Frank writes,
I just don’t feel the need to see ads on Facebook. I have no personal or professional interest, and AdBlock/AdBlock+ has filtered out most for me. Oddly, since commenting on your post, I have seen 3 ads in the side bar. One was for “a small orange” and scored a direct hit! I recently read something by Chris Kovacs (Stavros the Wonder Chicken) praising the small orange hosting service so I was primed. Now, with this targeted ad coinciding with some expirations at BlueHost, GoDaddy and Dreamhost, I’m taking the plunge and consolidating accounts. Score one for Facebook targeted ads! The ads for a CreativeLive “Commercial Beauty Retouching” class and for Gartner Tableau didn’t cut it for me today, but — eh? who knows? On any given Thursday I might click through. But I really need to clean up that sidebar again. Three ads is too many.
In response to Don’s Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful, Karel writes,
I don’t understand views like the one in this semi-endorsed article. Targeted advertising is aiming at the commercial fulfillment of “intention”. These are the agents that will understand what people want. I do understand the walled garden problem, and the monopoly risk of only one company having all of this intent information. Yet, they are required to protect privacy, and all their credibility rests on that trust.
And that’s not all. Earlier today I heard back from an old friend who wanted me to comment on his company’s approach to programmatic marketing. I invited Don in to help, and we produced a long and thoughtful set of replies to my friend’s questions (or assumptions) about programmatic (as it’s called, the adjective serving as Continue reading "Captivity rules"

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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Finally, maybe, getting a podcast rolling

Hi, Liveblog fans. This post continues (or plays jazz with) this liveblog post, following my podcast learnings, live. As an old radio guy and an inveterate talker, I think I should be good at podcasting. Or at least that it’s worth trying. Which I have, many times. The results, so far, appear at here, at podcasts.searls.com, a WordPress site I set up for the purpose. My first podcast is there. It’s one I did with Britt Blaser, more than two years ago. My second through Nth are sitting in a folder called “podcasts,” on my hard drive. Today, with help from my son Jeffrey, who is smarter than me about many things, we put together a short second podcast. It combines two tries at podcasting that he and I did in June and July of 2005, when he was nine years old. We also recorded ourselves listening to those, putting them end-to-end using Audacity, and adding the intro and outro music, and other stuff. The last steps were: 1) heating up podcast blog page, 2) updating WordPress and Akismet (to kill the 3,000 spam comments there), and 3) adding the .mp3 file of the podcast itself. Continue reading "Finally, maybe, getting a podcast rolling"

Blogging the #BlizzardOf2015 in #NYC that wasn’t

The blizzard hit coastal New England, not New York City. In fact, it’s still hitting. Wish I was there, because I love snow. Here in New York City we got pffft: about eight inches in Central Park: an average winter snowstorm. No big deal. I was set up with my GoPro to time-lapse accumulations on the balcony outside our front window. I had two other cameras ready to go, and multiple devices tuned in to streams of news stories, tweets and posts. Instead the story I got was an old and familiar one of misplaced sensationalism. Nothing happening, non-stop. At least here. The real news was happening in Boston, Providence, Worcester, Montauk, Scituate, the Cape and Islands. But I didn’t have anything useful to add to what thousands of others were showing, posting, tweeting and blogging. Back during Sandy, I had a lot to blog because important stuff wasn’t being said on media major and minor. For example I predicted, correctly, that many radio and TV stations would be knocked off the air by flooding. I also thought, correctly, that New York was under-prepared for the storm.
Not so this time, for any of the places the storm has hit. With the snow still falling over New England…
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Let’s bring the cortado / piccolo to America

There are ideal ratios of coffee and milk, if you don’t want the flavor of either to fully prevail. To me the closest to the ideal ratio is what Italians call a cortado and Australians call a piccolo (short for piccolo latte). The latter looks like this: piccolo To me this is roughly what a cappuccino should look like in a clear glass. But what we usually get in the U.S. (especially from Starbucks) is ten ounces of milk and one ounce of espresso in a twelve-ounce cup. Or maybe two ounces of espresso. Peets cappuccinos, when done right (which is about half the time, in the small size), get the ratio about the same (~1:1 coffee and steamed milk, and poured so the two mix into a creamy combination). Anyway, most coffee shops in the U.S. (and the U.K., which I also visit often) don’t know from a cortado or a piccolo. So I say let’s educate them. Here’s a goal: by the end of 2015, most coffee shops in the U.S. will know what you mean when you order either one. Continue reading "Let’s bring the cortado / piccolo to America"

We’re all going to need clothes

door knocker, beacon hillIn the physical world we know what privacy is and how it works. We know because we have worked out privacy technologies and norms over thousands of years. Without them we wouldn’t have civilization. Doors and windows are privacy technologies. So are clothes. So are manners respecting the intentions behind our own and others’ use of those things. Those manners are personal, and social. They are how we clothe, shelter and conduct ourselves in the world, and how we expect others to do the same. The Internet is a new virtual world we also inhabit. It was born in 1995 with the first graphical browsers, ISPs, email and websites. It arrived in our midst as a paradise. But, as with Eden, we walked into it naked — and we still are, except for the homes and clothing we get from companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. They clothe us in uniforms, one for every login/password combination. Who we are and what we can do is limited by what they alone provide us. Yes, it’s civilized: like the middle ages. We toil and prosper inside the walls of their castles, and on their company lands. In many ways the system isn’t bad. Continue reading "We’re all going to need clothes"