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Permanent link to archive for Saturday, June 17, 2000. Saturday, June 17, 2000

Athletes have more fun 

Reuters: 100,000 Condoms for Olympic Athletes. "They would come in a range of colors, including gold, silver and bronze."

Love, Rundgren 

I've been recommending the Courtney Love speech to everyone I talk to. It's the anthem of the Internet, as far as I'm concerned. She may not understand the ones and zeroes but she understands the routing-around concept. Distribution is cheap now. Key point. Can she deal with piracy? The music companies are pirates, she says.

On reflection, it's the same story that Todd Rundgren tells, as often is the case Todd got there first. A couple of years ago he was telling anyone who would listen that he was leaving his record company, going straight to his fans through the Web. He was going to ask for the fans' support. What wasn't clear to me at the time was how little of the fan's money finds its way to the artists. I thought, probably as many did, that Todd's popularity was waning, and that his music wasn't profitable. I didn't consider the possibility that there was more to the story, I must remember to probe deeper in the future, and challenge my own assumptions.

Rundgren has always been on the leading edge. I remember reading a story about him in the early 80s talking about combining music and video, and thinking what a weird idea. Then a few years later a boom, music videos, MTV. (Adam Curry has an EditThisPage.Com site, I keep wondering what role that site is going to play in all this.)

Alex Cohen 

I sent a pointer to the Love speech to Alex Cohen, a name you'll probably hear quite a bit here, in the future. Alex is working with Hollywood bigshots, Geffen, Spielberg, Katzenberg and Paul Allen. Alex's passion, he calls it Fanco, is what Love and Rundgren are talking about, from the flipside. Organize a Web service for artists (of all disciplines) and the fans. Let them run the Web. If they want to include stock quotes, that's fine, or if they want to share pictures and MP3 clips of the artists, that fine too. We'll provide the server space and the content management software. An integrated commerce back-end, so if you want to pay, that's really easy. Alex ran the servers at Netscape, and before that at Magellan, but he's also a movie professor at UC-Berkeley. A brilliant guy, he's made a few bucks, but he's doing his own art, and it's remarkably close to and compatible with mine.

I don't know if the Hollywood money icons are more visionary or creative than the ones in Silicon Valley. I know that Alex is. We've become friends, and I trust him. I want the same thing the musicians do. I want it simple. A connection to fans, a way to share what I create, and have it turn into a channel for their creativity, and I want to see it and hear it. I'm not impressed so far with the money people, they don't seem to have the same objectives.

Karlin Lillington 

I spent four hours yesterday talking with Karlin Lillington, who among her many credits is a reporter for the Irish Times. We talked all about the Courtney Love speech, even though she hadn't read it yet. We agreed about the American journalists and the softball questions they ask of the technology industry.

Karlin doesn't pull any punches, this is the way all journalists should work, imho. No easy questions. But in the US, you don't get very far in high tech journalism if you don't play the game. There are a few exceptions. Once in a while you get a burst of creativity, often followed by retribution.

Irish Times: Loss-making Amazon turns to bullying.

How the system works 

A reporter attends the press conference of a high tech industry luminary. The luminary lies. The reporter stands up and asks "Isn't that a lie?" The luminary denies it.

The reporter isn't invited to the next press conference, his or her calls aren't returned.

Moral of the story, to be competitive, to get the sound-bites, carry the party-line, without comment and no tough questions.

It's different in Europe, I hear. That's why the future of the Web may be in Europe and not in the US. I want the Web to cover stories from all angles, not just the company party-line. Lately this idea has been attracting a fair number of journalists. Is there something in the air? I don't know, I hope so.

Like Rundgren and Love, I have to create my own medium around these principles. I don't get invited to many press conferences. I self-censor sometimes, saving the insights for my written work and leaving others to ask the tough questions at the press conference (which never happens). In the US there's little or no support among the working press for controversy, which leads to the three-story phenomenon, Apple is dead, Microsoft is evil and Java is the future, leaving all interesting questions unasked.

The Web, I hope, is about breaking all those rules, in all arts and professions, including money. Let's learn to respect, even seek out, the tough questions. It will make us smarter, and that's a good thing, imho.

Both sides 

Talking with Karlin, I told her that I had resolved a longstanding conflict. Am I a vendor or a journalist? This had been troubling me ever since I started writing publicly on a regular basis in 1994. I'd flip-flop. Some years I'd say I'm a journalist (esp when I was writing at Wired) and some years I'd disclaim it. Now I don't. I am a journalist. And I am a vendor. Now some, at the NY Times, for example, would say this is impossible, but not only is it possible, but it's the way of the future.

First, there's no prohibition in the US legal system on being both a vendor and a journalist. My free speech is no less protected than the speech of John Markoff or Steven Levy.

But what about integrity? I don't see the problem. I run my software business with integrity. I also write with integrity. I say what I think. I don't mind being wrong. And I listen to other people, and point to opposing viewpoints. I clearly disclose my interests. I don't sign non-disclosure agreements. What else do I have to do to establish my integrity? Imho, nothing.


I say the main takeaway of the Cluetrain is that you should speak honestly and directly, don't manipulate, and admit it when you make a mistake. Don't shrug it off, but also know it's not the end of the world. The luminaries act as if the day they admit a mistake they'll disappear. Trust me, it's not that way.

In a world operating under the principles of the Cluetrain, every CEO is also a journalist. How do I know this? Because in the world of the Cluetrain, everyone is a journalist.

In yesterday's piece, when I talked about new structures for enterprise, this is what I meant. The old walled-in-city approach to creativity is on its last legs, but the world of journalism hasn't caught up. That's probably why News.Com doesn't include UserLand in the list of companies that authored SOAP. They must be uncomfortable with us, because we cross a line, into their space, and we don't apologize for doing so.

BTW, if News.Com would care to respond to the question I asked, I wouldn't have to guess about their reasons.

Want a demo? 

Doc Searls responds, in web-time, to all this michegas.

No editors, no production people, no political correctness tests, no dumbing-down, just pure unadulterated Doc.

Are we ready for the Two Way Web?

Yesss, yes yes, we are!


I've been talking with my friends at WR Hambrecht about Salon.

A fascinating case study of an organization on the brink of the Web revolution, Act Two.

As an Internet stock, it's doing dismally. As a mantle for the next generation Web, it's nothing short of spectacular.

Why the disconnect? Because Salon has only embraced one half of the Web, the reading part.

To evolve, it must take the next step, and teach Web users who care, how to be high integrity journalists.

The space is wide open. UserLand and a handful of other companies, all very small, are camped in this space.

To grow to the next level, we must invite the journalists we admire to work with us on revolutionizing the news business, by embracing the rude cacaphony of the Web, and to patiently teach us how to be heard.

Size matters, inversely 

It's not the size of the companies that matters, it's the size of the idea. A change in thinking. There's no comfort in having a lot of employees. That usually takes your focus off the idea.

Offsites, bonding rituals and management politics, wasted time. What does that have to do with delivering on a focused vision?

All revolutions are sparked by companies that are so small that it's ridiculous to think of them as companies at all.

But the reporters of the One-Way-Web use company size as the filter. Why?

Will there be press conferences? 

When all this shakes out, will there be press conferences?

I think not.

There will be meetings for sure, and stages, no reason to get rid of those.

Speeches and demos are OK too.

But no softballs, please.

"I choose to not answer that question," will be an adequate response.

We'll bring the openness of the Internet into our F2F meetings.

And we won't leave our manners behind.


Developer.Com: The Myth of Open Source Security. "Everyone using Mailman, apparently, assumed that someone else had done the proper security auditing, when, in fact, no one had."

Reuters: Hard Drives With Nuclear Secrets Found. "We still have a long way to go to ensure that security is protected in our national labs."

AOL: Open IM Architecture Design. "Once protocols are published, they will be used by hackers and spammers as a roadmap to plan their attacks. We believe that it is critically important not to release such proposals until we are certain that the security precautions in them are sufficient to protect consumers."

Natural air conditioning 

I'm not exactly sure how it works, but in the Bay Area we have a wonderful thing called natural air conditioning. When it gets super-hot, as it did last week, that sets up a condition that attracts the fog, and the fog isn't just cool, it's cold! So this morning it's foggy and in the 50s. Welcome relief.

F'ing Brilliant 

Yes, it's true what they say about Scripting News. (Read the URL.) Since when do they let you register domains with the F word? Why didn't anyone tell me!


Last update: Monday, June 19, 2000 at 8:23 AM Eastern.

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