Lance Knobel, former programme director for the World Economic Forum, and a blogger who covered the 2000 annual meeting, weighs in on the role of the weblog in the Eason Jordan affair. Lance has a very interesting perspective on the events of the last week.
Ruby and Brian gave me a bunch of presents as I was leaving Chapel Hill on Sunday. One of them was a rocking Buddha designed for dashboard mounting. Today I installed the Buddha and he kept me company while I was driving. Of course I immortalized him with a movie.
Four years ago today David Galbraith had a design for a neat user interface for The Semantic Web.
David, it's a much faster ramp-up than the blogosphere. In the first year, 1997, there were maybe four or five blogs.
The first Chapel Hill Blogger's Meetup is today, 6PM at Caffe Driade. Help bootstrap a vibrant blogging community and keep Anton company.
The Guardian joins the NY Times as a lynch mob of salivating morons. And they're old, stupid, and fighting the wrong battle, and as useful as Control Data, Sperry-Univac, DEC, or the Maytag repair man.
Scoble: "Don't forget the geeks!"
Today's a lite travel day, from Spartanburg to Atlanta, where I'll spend two nights.
Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Spartanburg are very different places. I had never spent time in either of the Carolinas, I still haven't spent very much time here. I also had never spent time at small-city newspapers, or gotten to know small-city bloggers, in any part of the world. These were all firsts.
Spartanburg is much smaller than either of the North Carolina cities, with a population of 40,000, in Spartanburg County, whose population is 253,000. The people are less literate, according to the newspaper only 12 percent of the people who read the paper have college degrees. South Carolina is commonly divided into three regions, the lowlands (Charleston), upstate, and the midlands. I was told the midlands are backward and dirt poor, like much of the rural south. Spartanburg is the city of the upstate region. The local paper, the Herald-Journal, is owned by The New York Times Company.
Yesterday I had a meeting with about a dozen editorial people at the Herald-Journal, to talk about blogging. I had prepared the howto about small-town newspapers in preparation for this meeting. The Greensboro experience kept coming up. It was good to be able to provide an example, just up the road, three hours north on Interstate 85.
Yesterday's meeting began with a joke about bloggers working in their pajamas. I've come to hate that joke, and to see it as a yet another way for professionals to push bloggers to the side, to a place they (theoretically) don't have to look at us. At the same time, we're their most interested readers, and we can help them build credibility, and all this came out at the meeting, and these are intelligent and thoughtful people, and once they realized that I am not a joke, and have self-respect, we got along very well.
In fact, they're going to start immediately with a first step toward blogging, by putting the Letters to the Editor on the Web in a format where readers can comment. This is one of the first things they did in Greensboro, and it's enormously popular there. It's a relatively easy first step for Spartanburg.
Of course we talked about all the other ways blogs can play a role in the editorial life of a small-city newspaper. Diane Norman, the paper's city editor (all reporters on the paper report to this her) has a daughter in the local high school, and is active in the school, as a parent. When she got a promotion, some of her parents thought that meant the school would get more favorable coverage in the paper. This turned out to be a perfect example of an issue that couldn't easily be handled in the paper, but could be handled in the editor's personal weblog. It was a chance for her to explain something that she's passionate about, her integrity, and by raising it as an issue, she can enhance her own credibility and the credibility of her paper.
By the end of the meeting I had a feeling that there's a logic to blogging and local news, more than including the work of the community in the output of the newspaper. Clearly the weblog allows the people of the news organization to be more specific, more personal, and still be under the masthead. News of a staff assistant moving on to a new job in a new state wouldn't belong in the paper, but it does belong on the weblogs. Newspapers are not only journalism, they are also organizations, and like all organizations, they have stories to tell, and where there are stories, blogs have a job.
A long time ago, in another lifetime, when I was a Mac software entrepreneur who had sold out, I was working in the company that had acquired ours to build a product line of Mac software tools, shipped in source code. I had approached developers of products that were past their prime, probably not selling much, if at all, and proposed we repackage the software as toolkits for programmers. I had put together a list, a graphics program, word processor, a small spreadsheet, a database, and had called each of the developers and set up meetings at MacWorld Expo, where I was joined by a corporate business development manager, who would negotiate the deals. His name wasn't really Horace, but let's call him that. The story isn't really about him, so his name doesn't matter.
After we sat down with the first developer, after chitchat, and some enthusiasm for the idea on both sides, I started explaining the terms of the deal. Horace interrupted and took over. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Technically, he was explaining the deal correctly, but you had to be very cynical to get how little he was actually offering. He was changing the terms so that the developer would stand very little chance of making any money at all. I was shocked.
Then, at the second meeting he started doing the same thing, but I interrupted and said "What Horace really means is..." and then explained how the deal was horrible for the developer, and of course he walked out, thinking our company was pretty slimy. On the way out, Horace was furious. I told him that I'd have to deal with the developers who eventually would find out there was no money for them, and I'd never get a second version of their software, and my reputation in the business would be trashed, all for what? So we could shave a few more points from a product line that hadn't even been built yet? How could that possibly work?
In the end, the product line never happened. It would have been a good complement for our language tools, might have generated some new products, would have been good for developers and good for the Mac, and would likely have enhanced our company's reputation and would have returned a 20 percent pretax profit, which is pretty respectable, imho. Didn't happen.
The moral of the story is this -- if you're sitting opposite a guy like Horace, and there's a guy like me sitting at the table, you should ask him what Horace really means. And if you don't think you're getting a straight story, get a lawyer, and trust his or her paranoia. There are business guys who think a good deal is one where they make all the money and you make none. These are the ones you want to avoid doing business with.
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