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Permanent link to archive for Tuesday, July 11, 2000. Tuesday, July 11, 2000


DaveNet: Shaking out content.

News.Com: Another patent mess.

No patents in this USA Today piece on Phone.Com. Patents are at the core of the supposed industry developing around web-cellphone hybrids.

Russ Lipton is getting serious with Frontier.

Frontier: How to Log to a Text File in Common Log format.

Red Herring: VCs are still funding B2C.

Next year's fodder for this site?

For 3 points, what is this a picture of? (Answer.)

Salon's deals 

Forbes: Salon May Need Buyer.

Press release: Ask Jeeves and Salon in Partnership. "We are thrilled to extend awareness of the Ask Jeeves service to millions of new users through"

ON24 has an interesting audio report on Salon.

Musicians Against Piracy 

News.Com: Musicians launch anti-Napster campaign.

To the musicians, assuming the organization has some independence (RIAA is one of the sponsors), I am a fan and I want the convenience of music over the Internet. I've paid a lot of money for music, I don't mind paying, but I do mind if you call me a pirate.

The industry has made the whole issue about Napster, and reduced that down to piracy, completely ignoring fans who pay for music. There would be no Napster if your industry had found a way to give the fans what they want.

Let the discussion begin there.

PS: According to Lawrence Lee's research, the RIAA organized a soundbyte campaign in the legal battle, which they lost, over the RIO MP3 player. They depend on the stupidity of their customers, and the support of the media, who not surprisingly, carries the piracy angle, and never covers the paying customers' point of view.

PPS: Tom Matrullo: "Mozart once heard a piece of music so piercingly beautiful that he was moved to write it down from memory after hearing it performed in a church. He had no choice. The church believed it 'owned' the music, and forbade anyone to copy it. So, Mozart pulled a Napster. The piece has been in the public domain ever since, for all to enjoy."

Microsoft announcements 

News.Com: Microsoft dumps Java. "The company today confirmed that Visual Studio.Net will not include Visual J++, the company's Java-based tool."

News.Com: "Microsoft said it has published the specifications for two XML-based technologies to its Web site for review. The technologies, called SOAP Contract Language and SOAP Discovery, are intended to let programmers more easily find and link to Web-based services."

Microsoft: Discovery of Web Services.

The spec was too hard to find. The home page of the PDC site should be a weblog. Today it seems we have so far to go.

Ken's mom 

Ken Dow, the editor of Manila-Newbies, and a nice guy to hang out with, lost a friend to a brain tumor, and over the weekend his mother died.

My heart goes out to Ken, death seems to be in the air these days; maybe it always is, and we don't tune into it.

Another thought, something I've experienced, death creates space, life is so strong, it's not long before there's more than there was before.

To Ken and everyone else, there's no time like now, you can't take it with you, it's not like you get out of this alive, it's later than you think, give someone a hug today, namaste y'all and..

Let's Have Fun!

The best journalism money can buy 

Dan Gillmor points to two recent Scripting News articles, with a comment. "The traditional media should pay attention to this kind of thinking. They won't."

He's probably right, but in the long term it won't matter. Dan is the original "you get what you pay for" guy, and to me it's major progress that he's open to reconsidering that premise.

Frankel's claim is troubling for another reason. It's really close to another (sarcastic) slogan, "The best journalism money can buy." He made money the issue, so this calls into question the role that money plays in editorial coverage. Now, I won't claim that the Times sells editorial, but I've seen it come pretty close. Let me tell you a story.

In March 1999, I was surprised to be invited to an Apple press conference. I asked the PR flack if they knew what they were doing. I went to the press conference, of course. I was put in the second row, the same row as John Markoff of the Times. John looked at me, I saw a puzzled face, and perhaps some anticipation that there would be fireworks. He was not disappointed, I'm sure.

I asked Jobs the questions everyone else in the audience should have asked. They were promoting Apache to the hilt. They offered flawed statistics, comparing the performance of Mac OS X to Windows NT using Apache as the benchmark. Of course Apache for Windows sucks. Really hard. So the benchmark was totally bogus. I asked Jobs if the benchmarks were bogus. I also asked "What about your users?" all of whom use different Web server software that's not even slightly compatible with Apache. There was no transition plan offered, no message to developers and users. So you had to conclude they were either blowing off the users and developers, or the Apache announcement was total smoke. There can't be any middle ground. Either it was real or not. (I suspect it was not real, it was just opportunistic headline-grabbing, the installed base is too important to ignore.)

The Markoff piece that appeared in the Times the next day quoted the bogus statistics, per Jobs's statement, with no mention of backward compatibility for Mac developers and users. Now why didn't that appear in his story? He was there. He heard the exchange. He should have asked the questions himself, if he really knows his stuff. (If not, why not?)

I never got an answer to these questions when I raised them in a DaveNet piece in March 1999. So I have to guess. I want to be very clear, this is a theory. Jobs has a rule. If you write editorial he doesn't like, you lose access. It doesn't matter if you write for the Times or Fortune or Scripting News. Call him on his bullshit, and no more interviews or photo ops.

Jobs gets away with it because his face sells magazines, as does Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, etc. I'd have more readers if I had exclusive Steve Jobs quotes here. (There's the money.)

But I don't want his bullshit. I'm only interested in what he really thinks, not in what he wants *me* to think.

Of course if all the pubs had integrity and courage, they'd call the bullshit artists on their bullshit, and if they wanted coverage, they'd have to answer the questions, and we'd have fewer vaccuous blustery irrelevant announcements.

Can you imagine this headline in the Times: "More Apple Bluster, So Boring". It'll never happen. It's a parachute-less plane jump for the old media, and that's what they don't want to do.


I know Markoff for a long time, back when he was a reporter at Infoworld, and then at Byte, where his office was across the hall from my company's office (on Ellwell Court in Palo Alto), on to the SF Examiner, and then the Times.

He wrote a piece about LBBS for Infoworld in 1982, and I made a beginner's mistake, I asked him to hold the article until the software shipped. I got a speech about integrity. Every time I see Markoff I think of it. He was right. I tell my story, then he tells his. There's a necessary disconnect. I get it, totally.

Sucking up 

Today, the disconnect between the industry and the press is an illusion. As I write this, Markoff, Steven Levy of Newsweek and Scott Rosenberg of Salon are at a conference in SF explaining to PR people how to get the coverage they want.

The title of the panel: "How to Suck Up to the Media."

Something is seriously wrong here. A scandal, in the open, so bizarre, so brazen.

I was invited to attend, but I find the idea repulsive. I wouldn't be able to attend without saying this. They should be writing stories, digging deeply into the lies that the industry they cover is built on, and exposing them. They should be taking a computer science class to learn how software works.

Teaching PR people how to work with them is the height of corruption. We've lost our way, we need a fresh start.

Scott Rosenberg responds 

"I think the panel title was meant as a joke. It certainly doesn't represent what we talked about.

"PR is a fact of life. Do good journalists try to cut through its hype and get to the real story? Of course. But our lot in life is to be assailed by PR people constantly. And there is such a thing as a sensible way to do PR (use email, don't send attachments, be sure you're sending the info to the right person, etc). That's pretty much what we talked about this morning. Nothing sinister there.

"People like Markoff and Levy and even me must swim through a vast sea of PR. Taking a moment out every now and then to talk about the rules of the road on a mundane level isn't some kind of awful collusion; it's just a way to make life work a little better. What's wrong with explaining to publicists, 'Don't waste your time leaving us voice-mail messages we don't have time to listen to -- use e-mail instead'?"

1 in 3 

Before signing off, a comment.

Lots of email today saying right on, lots of Steve Jobs stories out there, it's not hidden, it's very easy to expose.

Everyone knows that this kind of collusion exists in the high tech press.

Anyone who has had dealings with Steve Jobs knows that his support is conditional on him getting what he wants.

But you never see it reported.

And it's not just with Jobs, it's rampant all over the industry; and it's supported, perhaps begrudgingly, by the press. The older you are the less you notice it, perhaps.

Further, after giving it a few hours thought, I think Rosenberg proves my point. Money does buy the attention of the top journalists. If the PR people are such a nuisance, why does he put up with it? It should be easy to get rid of them. And what's behind all those distracting phone calls? Money. Often that's all that's behind it.

In the last few years the practice of throwing money at PR to support stories with no substance went to the most ridiculous extremes. At a panel discussion for Australian CEOs put on by the Davos people, I asked a VC how many of the deals his companies announced had any substance at all.

He said "1 in 3." Do the math. That means 2 out of the 3 calls Rosenberg gets have no substance, on average, assuming the VC wasn't exaggerating. So is Rosenberg really doing his job if he takes any of the calls or gives them any weight in deciding what to write about? That's not for me to decide, however it is for me to ask the question.

Thanks for listening.

PS: There are some things you don't joke about. One of them is integrity. Imagine if your doctor was on a panel with a similar title. How would you feel about that?


Last update: Tuesday, July 11, 2000 at 10:39 PM Eastern.

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