links for 2007-03-29

In Soviet Russia, Blogs Censor You

In ancient times, you burned books and killed scholars to control information. In modern times you rewrote books and banished scholars and opinion leaders or sentenced them to death for political crimes or trumped up charges. Censorship has existed in one form or another. If it’s not a dictatorial regime, it’s the herd mentality dictating what’s right or wrong. In this day and age, you set bloggers on each other. What could be more effective for censorship? You kill two birds with one stone by watching two bloggers fight it out to their bitter end.

My sympathies go out to Kathy Sierra for all the recent fear from death threats. The thought of being the target of character assasination is a scary one indeed. There’s an element of creepiness to seeing semi-anonymous attacks made with violent words and grotesque photoshops that can’t be expressed in words. It proves that even as people grow up with the net, sometimes our online personas are left in a Michael Jackson-esque state of embalmed childhood where we fail to make good judgements.

Flame wars are the typical fodder of blog discussions. Much like shock TV, the artists of provocation rise to deliver controversial feuds against other bloggers. Others weigh in and the debate goes on until everyone has their say. It can get vicious but it gets disturbing when it crosses an invisible line (one that any prominent blogger will rarely cross).

What was disturbing about the Kathy Sierra saga was that many prominent bloggers were implicated in the attacks. This in itself is disgusting (if it indeed was true) but that is also an essential question. Where is the proof? The attacks are certainly real and as they say, there’s no smoke where there’s no fire but what happened to the concept of innocent until proven guilty? Obviously, blogs can’t wait for that verdict.

Another bizarre twist in this saga is that one of Kathy Sirra’s alleged attackers got his online accounts compromised. Cathy Siepp, a blogger/writer who recently succumbed to cancer, had her account compromised hours before death by an enemy who made a final vile post in her name. That’s the thing about the internet. You can be anonymous or not but nobody really knows who you exactly are. All you have is your reputation when your identity gets hacked.

I think Michelle Malkin has a valid point that some people (like her) have suffered more vicious attacks. The A-list tech blogging circle is usually a safer place than the typical mix of gossip or political blogs.

The internet can be a vicious place to live in that’s for sure and being a woman can expose you to all kinds of sexist trash from anonymous geeks. Being part of any minority probably sucks for that matter unless that minority happens to be ex-gang member and super cracker.

Creating Passionate Users: Death threats against bloggers are NOT “protected speech” (why I cancelled my ETech presentations)

The Doc Searls Weblog : Tuesday, March 27, 2007

FOXNews.com – As Cathy Seipp Lay Dying, Her Nemesis Took His Parting Shot on the Web – Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

Michelle Malkin: A message to the techblogging elite

links for 2007-03-28

Speed Stumbling

StumbleUpon is turning out to be a really great source of traffic for this blog. In fact I get over 1200 referrals from StumbleUpon per month and I imagine it will grow. The wonderful thing about StumbleUpon is that they don’t discourage you from submitting your own site or promoting friends. Their algorithm is tailored to the individual so moderate self-promotion is not an issue.

Like all such services, you always want to submit something you like as quality. Some guidelines I adhere to when stumbling are:

  • Don’t submit news topics
  • Down vote really old sites that aren’t being renewed (some people are importing bookmarks into their stumbles)
  • Be selective of blogs

The StumbleUpon toolbar for Firefox has a really nice messaging system built into it that allows you to send your friends links as potential stumbles. If you have a message you see the red count and the next stumble you press will go to the recommended URL and be accompanied by a message.

su_messaging.png

This is a great tool for promotion. Now, one of the things I like to do is after voting is to add a couple more stumbles of my own.

If you’ve been following the advice out there you know that the best way to extend your influence is:

  1. Stumble lots: the most influential people have a long history of participation and a crazy number of Stumbles. Much like del.icio.us.
  2. Make friends: there’s a 200 maximum so be selective. It’s better to have influential friends but more importantly mutual friends.
  3. Join groups: You want to join as many groups/communities as your interests allow. This not only broadens the pool of stumbles available to but it also gives you an avenue to send your stumbles if the subject matter matches.

Now stumbling is really easy and only takes a couple clicks but what I like to do is configure it for even more speed. This allows me to do more stumbles in less time. All these preferences are available via the toolbar under Tools > Toolbar options.

The first setting is to set “stumble after rating”. This way, when you vote on a site you’ll automatically stumble to the next one.

speed_stumble_rating.png

The next is to set keyboard shortcuts for your stumbles.

speed_stumble_shortcut.png

This way I’ll just cmd + an arrow key and I’ll stumble my way through the web. Happy stumbling!

Categories: web

links for 2007-03-26

Was Big Media Just Preying on YouTube to Hold Them Ransom?

The recent lawsuit against YouTube is only one story in a saga of traditional media’s hate for internet distribution of their materials. Ever since the emergence of Napster, traditional media has used its legal and financial might to dissuade consumers from taking digital distribution into their own hands. Of course, I’ll grant that digital bootlegging is a headache like no other because you have something on an unprecedented scale and more anonymous than it ever was.

Some critics of traditional media claim it’s a victimless crime while others call on traditional media to come up with a better business model to make the best of the situation. However, I have yet to find a critic that presented a convincing and viable alternative to suing to dissuade would be offenders. Of course, iTunes shows a compelling alternative to traditional distribution that benefits both the consumer (cheaper prices) and traditional media (less overhead). However, iTunes is a single portal on a single platform.

That’s not to say that I love traditional media. The fact is there is way too much content compared to what any single human being can consume in their lifetime as it is. The quality of media is also lower than it ever was. I think it’s an inevitable product of enhanced tools that allow mass production of “professional” content like never before. With music it’s a given that record companies fleece the few artists that have succeeded in order to finance their gamble of signing other unproven artists in the hope of making more money. Hollywood needs to make more money to crank out movies that substitute substance with big budgets that still remain a financial gamble.

I believe we are at a crossroads before distribution almost goes completely digital while traditional forms of distribution take a lesser role (though will never completely vanish because people want to own copies of media that really matters). We live in an age of disposable media.

Still, you can only do so much by going after students, grandmothers, and the disabled. Big media needs bigger targets it seems. The recent $1 billion lawsuit against YouTube seems like a typical power play move from big media.

I don’t think it was strategy but it would be a masterful one if it indeed was. Was Mark Cuban right? Despite the growth of YouTube’s popularity, it was a cash-strapped startup eating bandwidth and venture capital money for breakfast. It was only a matter of time before they folded under their own weight or got diluted with so much capital that the founders would be better off finding a real job. Still, YouTube had something no other had: popularity as the number one destination for video (despite the 5 minute limit, trashy quality, and a tiny screen).

Big media wouldn’t get much from suing YouTube the startup because they’d only accumulate legal fees they have no way of recouping. Once YouTube gets acquired by a rich company they can sue daddy big bucks and launch a competitive service that has their blessing. It might not eliminate YouTube but it will surely stall innovation and expansion. Not to mention, make Google think twice about their approach to control video content.

Of course, this being the internet, people wouldn’t look twice at competition unless it offered better content, bigger screen sizes, less restrictions, more bandwidth, and higher encoding quality. If you think big media will do that think again.

At the end of the day the best this lawsuit will do is open up the way for competition that will surely try to upstage YouTube. If I was big media I’d flood YouTube with low-quality samples that are just enticing enough while keeping them in check with legal hounds so they don’t get any ideas of putting more muscle in the video encoding. Then I’d sue whatever video startup offers the best quality videos with smoothest playback that infringes on copyright in any small way.

Viacom Drops a $1 Billion Nuke on Google

NewTeeVee » Viacom Sues YouTube for $1B

Big Internet Companies (Except Google) Brought Into Line – Thoughts on News Corp/NBC Online Video Deal

Categories: web

Did ShoeMoney Really Land a $2500 Review?

Now, I’m not calling anyone a liar or making value judgments but something’s not right here. We all know that ReviewMe caps reviews at $750 or so I thought. It seems that they make some exceptions (see screenshot). Or do they?

shoemoney_2500.png

Now to be fair, the review is not what you expect for $2500 but everything’s game as long as the parties agree and it really doesn’t matter what a casual reader thinks. There’s some controversy in the comments but in it you find the advertiser speaking out:

I’m not trying to force anyone to read my blog and I value everyones opinion.. the only reason I spent a few hundred bucks for a few ReviewMe reviews (no where near $2500 – I’m not crazy) was to get the ball rolling. I could’ve used free techniques to promote my blog but I just wanted some initial momentum.

ReviewMe: HarpzOn.com – ShoeMoney™

Now, somebody made a mistake here. Either the advertiser miscounted the zeros or there’s a system glitch. After all, until recently, ReviewMe let you claim famous blogs you didn’t even own.

Now, who’s going to pay for this?

How to make $2500 from a blog post