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Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.

Rebooting the News #8 Permanent link to this item in the archive.

This week's podcast with Jay Rosen is up.

Topics: Jay opted out of Twitter's Suggested Users List, he explains why and we discuss. His choice for Inspiration of the Week is Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo.

As always, you can subscribe in your podcatcher or iTunes.

Conflicts of interest in tech Permanent link to this item in the archive.

It's Jay's week for the source of inspiration, so I'm bringing a different topic to our weekly potluck of speculation about Rebooting The News.

Obviously we're going to talk about Twitter's suggested users list.

Last week: 1. Jay was put on the list, 2. Got the surge in new followers, then 3. Asked to be taken off, and 4. Was taken off.

You can see the effect on his follower count in this graph. I took a screen shot because it will scroll off over time. It's stunning. Very clearly, being on the SUL has a dramatic effect on your count.

A picture named santa.gifWe've talked about conflicts of interest among journalists, but haven't talked about the same thing for tech people. Mike Arrington tried to ignite a scandal around me over something that happened at UserLand in 2002, when I was on the vendor side (and a blogger, which is part of what blogging was and is about). I responded, not with a blanket dismissal such as "Vendors don't have conflicts of interest" -- because I believe they do. They can get themselves out of conflict by divesting and/or disclosing. I guess most people felt that what I did wasn't so bad, because the hatefest never came about, and Mike looked bad, as if he was trying to deflect attention away from an article I had written the day before, about the conflicts that arise from accepting a large gift from a vendor you cover, without disclosing it when you write about them.

Today we'll find out, from Jay, what it means for a professor of journalism, and for an ordinary human being to receive such a gift.

In the course of the public discussion last week, I said that if I were put on the Suggested Users List, I would ask to be removed, and if the request wasn't honored, I would delete the account. I don't want the distortion it causes. I don't see Twitter as an advertising medium, I am not a journalist and could ethically receive a gift from a vendor, even so I would refuse it. I don't believe that Twitter should be getting in the middle of the relationship between users of its service. That's sacred territory. This is a matter of net neutrality. Could someone like Mike, who writes passionately about net neutrality in his TechCrunch column, possibly not see this?

Anyway, all this is a preamble for where I want to take this, because while these ethical issues are central to the trust between writers and readers, the economics of the web are goverened by another conflict, one that is very rarely talked about. I'd like to get it out there.

Here's the story...

1. Google makes a lot of money from advertising.

2. If one were to define advertising, it seems to me you'd have to include the idea of intrusion. An ad intrudes on your experience, it's a sidebar, it's something you wouldn't think of on your own. If you're already humming my jingle, I don't have to pay someone to play it for you. Or so it seems.

3. As search gets better, it will obviate the need for intrusion. A perfectly targeted ad at some point stops being intrusive and starts becoming information. If you get me the commercial fact that I need at precisely the moment I need it, you don't have to impose on me, I will welcome that.

4. Google is in the business of getting you the exact fact or link that you're looking for as quickly as possible.

5. Its advertisers pay money to get you their link before you find one in the search results.

6. But if they're the same link, maybe the advertiser will stop paying? Or if the customer believes that a better link is in the first search results rather than on page 5 or not there at all? The customer, perfectly happy, never has a reason to go where the ads direct them.

Now, I know that there are other forms of advertising, ones that program you to think a certain way, but you don't see those kinds of ads on Google. Maybe they'll have to change, because as the search engine gets better and better, which it should (right?) the ads will play less of a role.

We know that companies don't always play fair.

There was the case of GM sabotaging the public transit system in Los Angeles.

A lot of companies profited from the war in Iraq. If you don't believe they helped get that war going, I have a nice bridge to sell you. Special price. Just for you. ;->

Closer to home, the recent price drop in laptops, the netbooks, show that there was some kind of price fixing going on before that, a collusion between the vendors to keep prices high. So we know that the tech industry is capable of the same dirty economics as other industries.

When Google has to cut its own revenue stream by enhancing search, will they do it? So far the competition has made this easy for them, but just this week Wolfram Research has been wooing the analysts with their new way to do search. Maybe this isn't the challenger that will push Google to seriously upgrade search, if not, surely at some point it will happen.

I don't know how you feel, but it seems to me that search has been pretty constant for the last few years. It's been a long time since the quantum improvement that Google offered over Infoseek, Alta Vista, et al.

New iPhone Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named iphone.gifIt was raining on Friday, and I went for a long walk up and down the hills, very vigorous -- but I got soaked and so did my iPhone. After taking its last picture and uploading it to Flickr, it died. It wouldn't respond to attempts to revive it, so I took it down to the AT&T Store in downtown Berkeley and bought a replacement for $199.

My old iPhone truly was old, this bright shiny new one is so much nicer -- and faster. And the restore process worked flawlessly. Everything from the old phone was backed up on my Mac, and when I inserted the new one it asked if I wanted to restore it from the old image. I said yes. It took a long time, but I lost nothing, except passwords, which is the right way for it to work.

So now I have a new iPhone and where almost everything was broken on the old one, nothing is broken on this one. So the iPod functions work, and it can play videos -- the old one couldn't do eitehr of these things. All my headphones work with the new one, the old one had a non-standard jack for headphones (yes, I know I could get an adapter, but I can't manage to keep track of things like that, it was pointless).

But I still want to bring a music/video player with me because the iPhone, apparently -- can't multitask! If I'm watching a movie and it's going through a boring spell, or I just want to listen to the dialog, why can't I check my email or Twitter -- or look something up on Google? When I use my laptop I can do all these things and watch a movie.

And I'm reminded how shitty the keyboard is on the iPhone, and think it's a paradox that Apple's COO says netbooks have "cramped" keyboards. The iPod has the worst keyboard. Even if I type something correctly, there's a pretty good chance it'll change it to something ridiculous. When the Newton first came out people used to laugh at how it would mess things up. The iPod really isn't much better, but people stopped laughing. I wonder why? Cook is wrong -- my Eee PC has an infintely better keyboard than the iPhone, and you know something -- it costs less than an iPhone too.

Anyway -- net-net -- it's a nice new toy to have. In a way I'm glad the old one broke. ;->


Last update: Sunday, May 03, 2009 at 9:03 PM Pacific.

A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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