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March 2007

Top Diggers not digging Digg any longer?

Author:

Check out Greg Hartnett’s post (A great blog btw) citing anecdotal evidence that top Digg users aren’t submitting stories at their normal pace.

the number of stories submitted by my “friends” typically hovered between the 400-500 mark. Which meant that the 170 people I had befriended had submitted approximately 500 stories or so over the last 48 hours. Now these are top Diggers we’re talking about here – people I chose as friends based solely upon their high user ranking.

Fast forward to this morning, and my account shows a total of 156 stories submitted by these same users. For the mathematically challenged amongst you, that represents a decline of almost 70%. 70 freaking percent! That’s not a minor decline – I’d even go so far as to call it a landslide. These top users have abandoned their accounts, and are now probably wasting their time online with some other web 2.0 time-suck.

Greg admits this is far from Scientific. It could be his Digg buds are just slacking or maybe they really are bailing on Digg and headed to some other social networking site.

In Defense of the Blog

Author:

From the some people get it and some people don’t file. Mark Glaser gets it and does yeoman’s service defending the journalistic value of blogs:

What might save newspapers (from themselves and old thinking) is to get out of the doomsday mentality and actually look around at the ways that serious journalism, even investigative journalism, are happening online, and consider how they can make that work in their newsroom.

and points out that Peter Fimrite of the San Fransisco Chronicle doesn’t…get…it evidenced by this throw away line included Fimrite’s story filed yesterday.

With classified advertising usurped by the Internet, newspapers across the country are facing mounting losses and, in many cases, cuts in staff and resources.

First Amendment scholars fear that investigative journalism may die as newsprint fades away.

I would love to talk with these unnamed “First Amendment scholars” who according to Fimrite believe that the medium that has allowed tens of millions (now 100 million according to some web 2.0 scholars) to investigate, report and speak freely to hundreds of millions of readers will doom the practice of investigative journalism.

I won’t list any of the thousands of examples of citizen journalists doing just that.  Glaser already has. Please read his post.

The Birth of the Blog

Author:

CNet has a great story today on the 10th anniversary of blogging:

Someone, somewhere created the very first Web log. It’s just not quite clear who.

It may not be one of the Internet’s grandest accomplishments, but with the number of active bloggers hovering somewhere around 100 million, according to one estimate, there are some serious bragging rights to be claimed by the first person who provably laid fingers to keyboard in the traditional bloggy way.

Was the first blogger the irascible Dave Winer? The iconoclastic Jorn Barger? Or was the first blogger really Justin Hall, a Web diarist and online gaming expert whom The New York Times Magazine once called the “founding father of personal blogging”?

Read the whole thing.

This reminds me of similar discussions / arguments in the snowboard and wakeboard industries. Which I bet most industries end up having at one time or another.

To me questions/ arguments about who created the first blog is a sure sign that blogging and new media is emerging from the early adopter phase to entering the mainstream.

More at Bloggers Blog:

There were also a lot of lesser known people keeping web journals and online diaries back in the mid 90s before anyone called it a blogging.

Hip Mojo has a great timeline.

Sometime in 1971
Stanford’s Les Earnest creates the “finger” protocol.

December 1977
The finger protocol becomes an official standard.

January 1994
Swarthmore student Justin Hall begins compiling lists of links at his site, links.net, and continues adding to the site for 11 years.

Why we use VOIP

Author:

Yesterday Daniel Berninger of GigaOM posted a great piece on Vonage. In it he explains why they are not going away just yet despite the best efforts and wishes of land line and cell giants like Verizon.

Anyway, the loss of this patent case is not as desperate a situation as most think. In the most recent quarter, Vonage used only $28 million of its $500 million cash reserve; so paying Verizon $58 million (if the companies don’t settle for less) does not threaten bankruptcy.

Secondly, Vonage gets $16 per month of incremental margin from each subscriber addition, so an injunction requiring payment of 5% or $1 per month per line does not destroy the prospects for profitability.

If you ever use a telephone you should read the whole thing.

After I read it, I thought it might be interesting to explain why we use a VOIP system at BlogWorld. We use a company called Packet8.

First of all my office / house is about 70 miles from Los Angeles, Everyone else in the company lives in San Diego in different locations and they all work from home as well. We need to communicate regularly several times a day. Our system allows me to dial any of their extensions and they pick up like they were in the office next door. We can conference each other or customers in no problem. If we are on the road as we often are attending / working other shows and events it forwards our calls to our cell phones.

All for a fraction of what a traditional phone company would charge us. Oh and our local phone companies never called us back when we tried to find out of they could do the same thing at a competitive price. Our VOIP company has been very responsive in helping us add new features when necessary.

For example, my office for the other show I work on is in Los Angeles. We were able to add a separate phone line with a (323) extension with a separate voice mail. If you call me in LA it rings me here. If someone in LA wants to transfer you to me no problem.

Finally we are a new media company producing a new media conference, tradeshow and media event. We felt it was important to walk the walk.

It’s not all wine and roses. We do have call quality problems from time to time but I would say no more than a normal cell phone and certainly much better than cell phones were in the early days.

As Berninger’s piece points out the big bells still maintain monopolies on our local calling. VOIP offers the hope of competition to consumers. As new media has shown competition is a very good thing for consumers.

Online vs. print news advertising

Author:

Online is still a long way behind print but as the Recovering Journalist points out they continue on a collision course:

The latest numbers from the Newspaper Association of America show print newspaper advertising revenue continuing to drop: down 1.7 percent in 2006 to $46.6 billion. No news there–the usual doom and gloom.

But there’s another interesting number in the NAA report: Advertising revenue for online newspaper sites jumped 31.5 percent in 2006, to $2.7 billion.

He also makes another important point:

The decline in print advertising is beginning to be made up by the increase in online revenue. Print advertising fell roughly $800 million in 2006; online advertising grew roughly $650 million. That’s still a $150 million gap, which isn’t chickenfeed—but it’s not hard to imagine that gap closing in 2007.

Are all of those dollars that used to be spent on print advertising eventually going to move over to online advertising?

I don’t know but as the US, EU, Chinese and world economies grow it just makes sense to predict that despite the losses print has suffered over the last several years, advertising revenues as a whole including print are going to increase over time.

The Media Age states:

Newspapers must better engage local online readers to maximize ad targeting potential The value of the local advertising market is huge. Google wants a piece of the pie. Newspapers must embrace web technologies and maximize the value of local advertising online by creating community features around their valuable geographic segment.

and then asks the multi-billion dollar questions:

Will newspapers realize this? What technology partnerships will make this possible?

The answer to question number one is of course they will. They may or may not be owned by the same people who own them today, or new newspapers who are integrated with online revenue models may come up and replace them but it will happen one way or the other.

Anyone who knows the answer to the second question stands to make a whole lot of money.

Are New Media Ethics different from Old Media Ethics?

Author:

Should a different set of rules apply to blogs than say your local newspaper or favorite magazine?

How about a trade magazine?

Josh Friedman has the latest article discussing the ethics of bloggers being paid by advertisers to post about their products in today’s Los Angeles Times. Here is the subhead from the article:

Payments by advertisers to bloggers for writing about their goods, critics say, blur the line between opinion and product placement.

Before I go on let me say getting paid to promote a product or service and not disclosing it is unethical no matter what medium you happen to be in, but is what some blogs are doing any different than the local newspaper?

I would say in most cases yes there is a difference but many times it is not a very big one. No credible newspaper would print something shilling a product without disclosing it. However they do run ads, and some ads are definitely made to look like editorial copy. They are called Advertorials. The newspaper didn’t create it or print it but they certainly know they are deceptive when they run them.

Same certainly goes for TV. Ever watched an infomercial? How about a paid program on your local radio station? Sure they have a weak disclaimer toward the end of the ad, or if it’s one of those hour long deals they will run the disclaimer a couple of times but we all know what they are trying to do. How about those paid spots that your favorite DJ or radio hosts reads for advertisers?

Do they disclose they are reading a paid advertisement? I listen to talk radio all day and I am telling you not a lot. Sure they sound like ads but not all the time. Sometimes they get pretty damn close to just sounding like your favorite talk show host just loves ACME company’s new widget.
As for trade magazines I know for a fact that product reviews in some if not many trade magazines are written by advertisers.

All of these traditional media tactics have one thing in common, they are created with the intent to mislead the reader,viewer,listener. That doesn’t make it right, I am just pointing out that traditional media has its scallywags as well.

There is another important distinction between these deceptive new media tactics and bloggers failing to disclose paid advertorials. Most bloggers condemn these tactics. Advertorials, Infomercials, and Paid Programming are accepted traditional media practices.
Everyone knows Jason Calacanis has a serious problem with PayPerPost and I am sure he has said this a hundred times but today he hits the nail on the proverbial head with this sentence:

I would have no problem with PayPerPost if they forced their bloggers to disclose that their posts were paid IN THE FIRST SENTENCE OF THE POST.

If you want to get paid to post things about products I say fine, just disclose it and you are just as credible as the morning drive DJ. Don’t disclose and you are as credible as that guy that sits on all the late night infomercials pretending to be a journalist, doctor, lawyer, etc, etc.

I hate infomercials as much as the next guy and I love the promise that new media offers us. It gives a voice to all of us that we haven’t had for a very long time. At the same time I am a realist and I understand that while some will use this new power for good, others are going to use it for evil. Where mass eyeballs and ears go, so will the deceptive advertisers.

others blogging this story:

Social Media:

Draper couldn’t be more wrong. I agree with Doc Searls, Dan Gilmor, Jason Calacanis, Jeff Jarvis, David Weinberger and others who believe that pay-per-post efforts to commercialize the blogosphere, often by stealth, can only have a deleterious effect on the open conversational nature of blogging.

Tris Hussey:

I think there is a place for sponsored posts and a mechanism where companies can openly request reviews and bloggers be compensated for the time they put into those reviews.

Dan Gillmor:

This is not a close call. To take money for touting products in a blog and not disclose it — prominently, and in context — is not ethical. No amount of thumb-sucking justifications can change that.

Wikipedia Founder Has "No Problem" with Fraud

Author:

I first heard about this story this morning. /HT Infothought. The basics; A wikia employee (a for profit entity related to Wikipedia) who calls himself Essjay on Wikipedia and claims the following academic credentials “a tenured professor of religion at a private university” with “a Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law.” turns out to be 24 year old Ryan Jordan who now admits to having no advanced degrees and never having taught anywhere (has he even graduated anywhere) in his life.

Ok so the guy is a fraud and so every entry he has ever made at Wikipedia now needs to be questioned. Fine. Frauds come along and scam very smart people all the time. I questioned Wikipedia’s hiring practices in the comments section over at Infothought and Hacking Cough.

Do they do any kind of background checks on the employees? A cursory call of his references would have outed young Ryan.

Who is their CPA? A bookie who always dreamed of being an accountant?

Ok so they have some lax business practices so did Enron, and WorldCom and lots of other companies.

Here is the straw that broke this camels back. From the New Yorker article:

He was recently hired by Wikia—a for-profit company affiliated with Wikipedia—as a “community manager”; he continues to hold his Wikipedia positions. He did not answer a message we sent to him; Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikia and of Wikipedia, said of Essjay’s invented persona, “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.”

Excuse me? The guy is a fraud and you have no problem with it? He is your employee and you have no problem with it?

Ahhh that is exactly one of the things that is supposed to make new media different from old media. Self correction and all. Any new media CEO who goes around covering and making excuses for frauds is no better than Ken Lay.

Wikipedia is definitely a new media trail blazer, we would love to have them as part of our event but Jimmy Wales needs to rethink his position on this one pretty damn fast.

This small bit from Freakonomics:

This is hardly a felony, but it does make you wonder about what else happens at Wikipedia that Jimmy Wales doesn’t have a problem with.

I am no attorney (nor have I ever claimed to be one on TV or otherwise) so I have no idea if what Ryan Jordan did constitutes a felony or not, (any legal experts want to weigh in?) but in the world of journalism and media what he did is certainly one of the highest crimes imaginable. He claimed to be someone he was not, claimed to be an expert on subjects he is not, claimed credentials he does not have to give weight to his positions, numerous entries on Wikipedia and misrepresented himself as such to several people outside Wikipedia.

Game over, any legitimate local newspaper let alone encyclopedia would fire him immediately and begin researching everything he ever wrote for them.

/rant off.

More from the Freakonomics post:

For me, a more interesting question is the degree of Schiff’s error: should she, e.g., have insisted on some verification of Essjay’s credentials, or at least omitted his academic claims. This illustrates, if nothing else, how journalists get lied to, pretty regularly.

Also, FWIW, has anyone else noticed that Wikipedia entries often exhibit a rather serious interest in a subject’s religious background — particularly if the subject is Jewish? It turns out that Sergey Brin of Google has also noticed this. (I am about to get on a plane so I do not have time to look, but I am curious to know how Brin’s Wikipedia entry has changed since the article linked above was published.)

I don’t know anything about anti-Semitism or anything else at Wikipedia but that is exactly the danger of allowing a fraud to live among you, let alone protect him. Everything you say must now be questioned and taken with a very skeptical eye. Your integrity is ruined until you cut it out and come clean.

**update 2:02pm**

I jumped the gun a bit when reading Kelly’s comment. It looks like we agree completely on this one. here is an excerpt from kelly’s post at Nonbovine Ruminations:

Quite frankly, a man who would lie about his academic credentials, and then use those credentials to add undue weight to his own opinions in debate on Wikipedia, does not deserve to even be allowed to edit Wikipedia, let alone sit in judgment over those who do.

Over the past few years, a number of people with included false claims on their resumes or CVs have lost academic leadership posts (for example, Eugene R. Kole, former President of Quincy University, who resigned when two of the degrees he listed in his biography were found to be fictitious). It is startling and telling that Essjay, after revealing similiar lies, is not only not censured, but in fact elevated to one of the highest positions of responsibility that Wikipedia has. Clearly Jimbo has decided to demonstrate just how much unlike academicia Wikipedia is.

NBR has several other posts in Wikipedia that can be found here, here, here, and here.

My original update below for all to see.

Continue Reading

Wikipedia Founder Has “No Problem” with Fraud

Author:

I first heard about this story this morning. /HT Infothought. The basics; A wikia employee (a for profit entity related to Wikipedia) who calls himself Essjay on Wikipedia and claims the following academic credentials “a tenured professor of religion at a private university” with “a Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law.” turns out to be 24 year old Ryan Jordan who now admits to having no advanced degrees and never having taught anywhere (has he even graduated anywhere) in his life.

Ok so the guy is a fraud and so every entry he has ever made at Wikipedia now needs to be questioned. Fine. Frauds come along and scam very smart people all the time. I questioned Wikipedia’s hiring practices in the comments section over at Infothought and Hacking Cough.

Do they do any kind of background checks on the employees? A cursory call of his references would have outed young Ryan.

Who is their CPA? A bookie who always dreamed of being an accountant?

Ok so they have some lax business practices so did Enron, and WorldCom and lots of other companies.

Here is the straw that broke this camels back. From the New Yorker article:

He was recently hired by Wikia—a for-profit company affiliated with Wikipedia—as a “community manager”; he continues to hold his Wikipedia positions. He did not answer a message we sent to him; Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikia and of Wikipedia, said of Essjay’s invented persona, “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.”

Excuse me? The guy is a fraud and you have no problem with it? He is your employee and you have no problem with it?

Ahhh that is exactly one of the things that is supposed to make new media different from old media. Self correction and all. Any new media CEO who goes around covering and making excuses for frauds is no better than Ken Lay.

Wikipedia is definitely a new media trail blazer, we would love to have them as part of our event but Jimmy Wales needs to rethink his position on this one pretty damn fast.

This small bit from Freakonomics:

This is hardly a felony, but it does make you wonder about what else happens at Wikipedia that Jimmy Wales doesn’t have a problem with.

I am no attorney (nor have I ever claimed to be one on TV or otherwise) so I have no idea if what Ryan Jordan did constitutes a felony or not, (any legal experts want to weigh in?) but in the world of journalism and media what he did is certainly one of the highest crimes imaginable. He claimed to be someone he was not, claimed to be an expert on subjects he is not, claimed credentials he does not have to give weight to his positions, numerous entries on Wikipedia and misrepresented himself as such to several people outside Wikipedia.

Game over, any legitimate local newspaper let alone encyclopedia would fire him immediately and begin researching everything he ever wrote for them.

/rant off.

More from the Freakonomics post:

For me, a more interesting question is the degree of Schiff’s error: should she, e.g., have insisted on some verification of Essjay’s credentials, or at least omitted his academic claims. This illustrates, if nothing else, how journalists get lied to, pretty regularly.

Also, FWIW, has anyone else noticed that Wikipedia entries often exhibit a rather serious interest in a subject’s religious background — particularly if the subject is Jewish? It turns out that Sergey Brin of Google has also noticed this. (I am about to get on a plane so I do not have time to look, but I am curious to know how Brin’s Wikipedia entry has changed since the article linked above was published.)

I don’t know anything about anti-Semitism or anything else at Wikipedia but that is exactly the danger of allowing a fraud to live among you, let alone protect him. Everything you say must now be questioned and taken with a very skeptical eye. Your integrity is ruined until you cut it out and come clean.

**update 2:02pm**

I jumped the gun a bit when reading Kelly’s comment. It looks like we agree completely on this one. here is an excerpt from kelly’s post at Nonbovine Ruminations:

Quite frankly, a man who would lie about his academic credentials, and then use those credentials to add undue weight to his own opinions in debate on Wikipedia, does not deserve to even be allowed to edit Wikipedia, let alone sit in judgment over those who do.

Over the past few years, a number of people with included false claims on their resumes or CVs have lost academic leadership posts (for example, Eugene R. Kole, former President of Quincy University, who resigned when two of the degrees he listed in his biography were found to be fictitious). It is startling and telling that Essjay, after revealing similiar lies, is not only not censured, but in fact elevated to one of the highest positions of responsibility that Wikipedia has. Clearly Jimbo has decided to demonstrate just how much unlike academicia Wikipedia is.

NBR has several other posts in Wikipedia that can be found here, here, here, and here.

My original update below for all to see.

Continue Reading

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