In Boston Today

In Boston today for meetings. We’ll be in the Charlestown area this afternoon if anyone wants to get together for a bit before heading to Logan for a evening flight.

Blogosphere Crucifies Target Stores Just A Little Too Quickly

Ok, so the picture does look, shall we say, a little incongruous:

(and yes, in addition to marijuana, Target is apparently selling crack as well.)

A number of blogs have called this out (one two three four five… ) as a PR crisis in the making for Tarzhay.

Is it the work of hackers? Was it done by a disgruntled employee? Or were these items the Mountain-Dew-and-pizza-addled cries for help of programmers being worked to within a hairsbreadth of their physical and emotional limits?


Despite the initial appearance of a customer and PR nightmare, Target really is selling these items. They’re…the titles of, respectively, a book and a DVD .

UPDATE: Target no longer finds this as funny as we do. (via BoingBoing)

Online Content and Real

Jeff Jarvis is not shy in sharing his thoughts on Real and the issues he ran into in using RealPlayer to access online news content from ABC News.

I had to walk through glass to watch two minutes [of video using Real]. And then when I tried
to cancel it all, I had to stay on hold on not one but two calls to
Real for 40 friggin’ minutes. Real sucks. Real Audio sucks. Real Video

So Jeff…get off the fence.  How do you really feel about it?

In a related post, he does pose some very sage suggestions on how broadcast news can better manage their content and give viewers what they want, where and when they want it.

Social Networking Spam. Or Not. Sort of.

Just tripped across an interesting column about social networking spam or, perhaps more accurately, how one can use social networking systems more effectively without spamming everyone whose email address has ever crossed your transom. The salient bit:

The first thing you have to do is get the right frame of mind about why you’re using technology to help you manage your relationships. It is not so you can pretend to a larger number of people that you care about them when you really don’t. It’s so you can treat more people who you really do care about as you would like to treat them, if only your brain were capable.

ObReferences to Dunbar’s Number, etc.


So, the whole “bloggers vs. journalists” debate was getting a little tired from my point of view, and I just figured out why. It was getting tired because that debate doesn’t matter. It is trivial in comparison to a more fundamental change that is taking place.

  • The cost of publishing has effectively dropped to zero for any individual.
  • The cost of aggregating information that has been published by others has effectively dropped to zero for any individual.
  • For any information topic of interest, there are people who are passionate about it, who will share their passion and knowledge for free.

Now put those three things together and make a picture. Stand back and look at it. The picture I see is the following: if you are in any role where the only thing you provide is information that is available from publicly available sources, your industry is about to experience a tectonic shift. The only reason this came out first in journalism is because journalists have the barrels of ink.

This “knowledgeswarming” has been taking place for years in areas where there are a large number of individuals who are passionate about a topic. Usenet and other online forums are great examples of this. The twin problems, however, were the barriers to both publishing and accessing the information in these areas, since some level of technical acumen and knowledge of technical arcana were required to participate. No longer. Now, anyone can publish anything with two clicks, and anyone can aggregate information on their myYahoo page.

An industry that is about to be swept up in this maelstrom is the “analyst” community on both on the finanical/Wall Street side of things, as well as the high-tech industry analysts. In both cases, the attack will come from the low-end, a la Christensen, and the entrenched players will be left wondering “what happened?” if they don’t get out in front.

Historically, the Wall Street analysts have had priviliged information given to them by their clients. This made the analysts a valuable asset to their customers, since the analysts possessed information not available to the average investor. This is no longer the case since Regulation FD went into effect. Now, anything that is “material” needs to be disclosed publicly, without any preferential treatment given to analysts, insiders, or anyone else. In other words, the analysts are now getting their information from company press releases. Just like you and me.

Some students at Babson are starting to swarm around this idea, and are proposing an “open source” model for financial research. They feel that motivated individuals, working in concert, can provide the same (or better) research than the sell-side analysts. They are talking a lot about “mosaic theory,” and the belief that it is possible to take non-material information from a variety of sources and create meaningful observations out of it. The larger the number of contributors, the clearer the mosaic is going to be.

This model is starting to creep into the industry analyst community as well. Why pay $25K a year for Gartner, when Techdirt is blogging on the same events, and giving analysis in real time? Now take that model, and expand it out to a collaborative blog/wiki model, where users, developers, and customers are sharing information about the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding the vendors they are working with.

Oh yeah, Encyclopedia Britannica is dead, too. They just haven’t fallen down yet. The Wikipedians swarmed, and a 250 year-old company is effectively rendered obsolete.

At most, a very few hands will be required as guides. Each of these communities will require some way to ensure reputation and quality. In some cases, it makes sense to have an editorial voice ensuring that the results being generated by innumerable participants are valid. In other cases, emergent reputation management systems (think eBay) will provide the signposts.

So. Open source software has already gone this way. Journalism is trending this way (actually here’s a great example). Financial and industry analysis seem to be headed for the offramp. What other industries are next?

Six Degrees of Cooperation has a well-balanced article on enterprise social networking.  First page is chock full of a little too much vendor rah-rah, but pp. 2-3 have some good details, esp. around some of the organizational challenges.

A couple of good quotes:

"[Enterprise social networking systems] make the most sense in industries in which deals are big and
relationships are a key differentiator. Companies that are spread out
geographically with a large number of contacts are especially good

"There are trickier considerations, though. Privacy is the biggest.
People don’t want Big Brother reading their E-mails, handing out
ex-girlfriends’ phone numbers, or revealing confidential client
information…[one firm] worries about a revolt if it mines company address books, but has heard few complaints about E-mail scanning."

(Hat tip:  Scott Allen)

Tearing Down The Walls In Spokane

(via Ed Cone, Dave Winer)

Kudos to the Spokane Spokesman-Review for grabbing the clue by the horns and adding "citizen-journalists" to their team to fill in and add depth to their news coverage.  These bloggers are covering nearly two dozen different beats that the Spokesman-Review would certainly not have the time or budget to cover themselves.

That’s awesome, and a great way for the S-R to put a toe in the water.  Now for the really cool stuff.

What’s not been pointed out anywhere else is that the editorial board of the S-R has set up a blog to interact directly with readers and defend a number of their editorial decisions.  How’s that for "transparency?"  Just one example…good stuff here:

Why do the editors present their endorsement for elections and candidates? I would expect the SR to have some obligation to remain silent and/or neutral and give the news, not influence the voters. I
would assume their picks would be to further SR’s climb up the economic ladder. I know we all vote for the candidates and issues that personally affect us and our family, but the paper has a obligation to
the public, even if it is privately owned. Their endorsements, I hope, is to benefit the City of Spokane and the surrounding areas.

Answer: Daily newspapers traditionally offer election endorsements on their editorial pages. Those pages are built around the presentation of opinion. Editorial endorsements are not connected to news coverage in any way. Reporters and editors responsible for covering the news are not involved in endorsement decisions and don’t even know which candidates will be endorsed until they read the editorials in the paper. Endorsement decisions take into account candidate stands on issues on which the board has previously taken positions, take into account how cadidates match up against our published editorial values and, significantly, take into account the candidate’s ability to address the needs to
citizens in communities we serve.

In the just-completed election, we endorsed 15 Republicans and 12 Democrats, indicating our
party allegiance may be somewhat less predictable than some would

Lexmark Printer Bonus: Alleged Spyware

Engadget is noting that Lexmark may be installing spyware along with their printers.  ZDNet UK is reporting

The program sends the information, which includes print and scanning data, to the URL According to the Internet Whois database, this domain name belongs to Lexmark International in Kentucky.

Let’s see how Lexmark deals with this.  With they repond transparently, or will they pull a Kryptonite?