Monthly Archives: March 2006

Full feeds versus partial feeds

Lots of folks out there take a hard line when it comes to publishing either full feeds (the entire contents of each post being published in RSS/Atom) or partial feeds.

Scoble, for example, is famous for declaring he won’t subscribe to anyone’s partial feed.

Shelley and Rafe have posted thoughtful takes on this, from either side of the fence.

My take? Well I publish a full feed. But for the longest time I didn’t. It hasn’t made a difference as far as my readership is concerned one way, or another, because this is such a personal space for me.

‘There is more than one way to do it’ should not only be the motto of Perl, but the motto of the web. There is room for both approaches – and many more. We’ve mostly gotten each other speaking the same language (hey I know that’s arguable), but to argue that there is only ‘one true way’ to publish the sentences misses the beauty of the web.

“Nobody is going to read me just for the very occasional update”

Well I don’t know about that Seth. I follow you for your occasional updates because you speak about things I find interesting and are a unique voice. You have knowledge, experience, and a point of view to share.

According to Bloglines you have 208 subscribers. That’s a large community if you ask me. But it’s all a matter of perspective. paradox1x has just 28. But I’m okay with that. It’s an honor that even a few find me interesting enough to do so in this crazy world. And sometimes we even talk :)

Aftermath:

This case was my last big “open” civil-liberties task. I too often think I’m going to get my big break, and be vaulted to netgeek rockstardom (or at least some level above street performer). But that’s a delusion. It won’t happen unless either I strike it rich (so I can buy the necessary attention), or get a prestigious policy position (so the institution directs attention to me) – both of which, contrary to some myth, are relatively difficult and improbable. Otherwise, I’m going to be slogging in obscurity forever.

Now that this case is over, I think yet another reason for me to keep a blog is gone. I thought there might be something to “citizen journalism” coverage. But again, I think any objective assessment of the results would have to be negative. Nobody is going to read me just for the very occasional update. And as I keep asking, what’s so great about being an unpaid freelancer?

What will be the future of newspapers and local journalism?

I’ve helped organize a discussion and unconconference having to do with the future of local journalism since the economics that supported it for the past 100 years have been blown apart in the wake of the web and the empowerment it gives consumers to not just consume – but create (blogs/myspace/citizen journalism/craigslist/livejournal/mp3s/you tube) , syndicate (rss/bloglines/my yahoo/podcasting) and aggregate (tagging/vertical search/social bookmarking).

These same economics are pressuring a diverse array of media industries – music, TV, movies, and others – any industry where distribution/delivery/bundling are main means of revenue to cover costs of creation.

Nick Carr summarizes the quandary well:

Traditional newspapers sold bundles of content. Subscribers paid to get the bundle, and advertisers paid to have their ads in the bundle, where those readers would see them. In effect, investigative and other hard journalism was subsidized by the softer stuff – but you couldn’t really see the subsidization, so in a way it didn’t really exist. And, besides, the hard stuff contributed to the value of the overall bundle. That whole model has been slowly unraveling for some time, but the web tears it into tiny little pieces. Literally. The web unbundles the bundle – each story becomes a separate entity that lives or dies, economically, on its own. It’s naked in the marketplace, its commercial existence meticulously measured, click by click. Advertisers, for their part, pay not to be seen by a big group of readers, but to have their ads clicked on by individual readers. They’ll go where the clickthroughs are. Clickthroughs themselves are priced individually, depending on the content they’re associated with. As for readers, they’re not exactly trained or motivated to pay to read anything online. The economic incentives created by the web model are very different from those of the old print model – and it’s economic incentives that ultimately determine business decisions.

Sure, this is how markets should work, but let’s not kid ourselves: the precise nature of the correlation between efficient markets and good journalism remains to be seen, and so far the indicators are less than encouraging. The result may leave a lot of people disappointed – or out of work.

These new realities are driving what the Project for Excellence in Journalism, in it’s annual report on the state of the news media, calls “the paradox of journalism”:

The new paradox of journalism is more outlets covering fewer stories. As the number of places delivering news proliferates, the audience for each tends to shrink and the number of journalists in each organization is reduced. At the national level, those organizations still have to cover the big events. Thus we tend to see more accounts of the same handful of stories each day. And when big stories break, they are often covered in a similar fashion by general-assignment reporters working with a limited list of sources and a tight time-frame. Such concentration of personnel around a few stories, in turn, has aided the efforts of newsmakers to control what the public knows. One of the first things to happen is that the authorities quickly corral the growing throng of correspondents, crews and paparazzi into press areas away from the news.

The effects on journalism as a practice have been especially severe these past few weeks.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News are up for sale. There are some writing off the Daily News as a goner.

This maybe a stretch – but I think not – these papers are as much a glue to Philadelphia as our sports teams.

I think this is especially the case with the Daily News and its focus on our home town. I’m not sure of any big city paper that has such an intimate relationship with its subject matter. One so willing to speak truth to local power, and truth of our local experience.

Yes, as Dan Gillmor has said, no industry should have a right to exist, and I submit that in order to save the Daily News, might mean losing the paper itself. However, the folks at the Daily News, believe it or not, are well aware of this. Read Will Bunch. It was his powerful, forward thinking request for conversation that got this discussion rolling. He’s proof in black, white and pixels that they are more than willing to face the future if given the opportunity.

Having been blessed with not only experimenting with my own efforts (Philly Future), but also with working in the online/social media industry since 1999, I’ve had contact with many terrific online publishing and journalism leaders. I figured the one way I could help is to bring as many of them together as possible to build bridges, share perspectives, and discuss the future. The ongoing conversation includes folks like Scott Rosenberg (Salon), Ed Cone, Lex Alexander, Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, Dan Gillmor, David Weinberger, Scott Karp, Dave Winer, along with members of our local press, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, Calkins Media, and the Philadelphia Weekly, along with some of the brightest stars in our local blogosphere. As the conversation goes on, it has expanded far beyond my small email list, indeed, we now have 50 people (and climbing) involved. The talk has sometimes been heated, sometimes been difficult, and lately has took an urgent tone considering the dire straights PNI is in. I’m a firm believer the discussion is worth having. Email me at kmartino at pobox dot com if you want to take part.

I am doing this as a “hobby” – outside the context of my work – as concerned citizen/technologist/resident of Philadelphia interested in the future. For our communities – for our democracy – I believe it is a question that effects our health, safety and function. But for folks at PNI and at other threatened organizations across the country, it is a question of survival.

Numerous members from the discussion will be at a related unconference being held March 25th at Annenberg in Philadelphia. If you would like to attend please let me know. It would be terrific to have you there.

More at Attytood, and Blinq.

Might as well call it ‘WhiteAngloSaxonProtestantAmericaBlog’

Please. Please stop. Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America. You are partisan… what do you call it…hacks.

The link is to the Washington Post’s new blog – ment to speak to just one segment of America’s population – its largest – in the WaPo’s quest to connect with the part of the nation it seeks the most sales, subscriptions, and click thrus from.

If the Washington Post ment to reach out to an underserved audience maybe it should have launched a blog with a focus on ‘BlackAmerica’ or ‘HispanicAmerica’, ‘JewishAmerica’, ‘MuslimAmerica’, ‘WomenAmerica’, ‘GayAmerica’ or ‘CatholicAmerica’?

‘CatholicAmerica’? Underserved? Gettoutta here you sneer. Hey – I’m Catholic. I feel underserved. I’m sure Steven Colbert would agree with me. It’s all about how I feel dammit.

Really though…. why not go for broke and focus on ‘WorkingClassAmerica’ or ‘WorkingRealJobsSoYouDontHaveToAmerica’? No one seems to give a shit about that demographic, Heaven’s sake.

What? Not enough hits you say? They’re too busy working to click and comment? Yeah. Fuck that. Better to serve up division – far better “heat” that way ya know – and will keep folks from thinking too deeply.

So we get something that might as well be named the ‘WhiteAngloSaxonProtestantAmericaBlog’. I don’t know. Maybe ‘OurAmericaRocksYoursDontBlog’, ‘WereTheMajorityGetUsedToItBlog’ or ‘WeRunTheCountrySoShutTheFuckUpYouTraitorsBlog’ fits better don’tchya think?

Good job on broadening the discourse WaPo. Good job.

See Jon Stewart let them have it on Crossfire for the reference.

Note: this post is obviously satirical in nature. But my disappointment is real.

Update: David Brock writes a letter to the Washington Post asking if there are plans to give a liberal blogger equal exposure. It’s a good letter that I agree with. Domenech isn’t simply a journalist ya know. But let’s not stop there. I want Libertarians, Independents, and the Green Party to have *their* operatives at WaPo.com too. Hey – on the web – there is no such thing as space. So much division to exploit – so little time.

Going to be a busy and important week

These past few weeks have been some of the most intense I can recall. This week will be especially huge.

1. I’ve been helping migrate two web sites of a local non-profit’s to a new host. Down the road I will be assisting them to learn how to use the web effectively and building an online community around the good work they do.

2. I was backed into a wall with Dreamhost and had to migrate four personal sites and Philly Future to a new host.

3. This week will culminate in two huge events: the first an unconference this Saturday to bring together a group of thinkers, movers and shakers in online publishing and in local newspapers, to discuss the future of local journalism, in the wake of what’s happening to the newspaper industry. It’s been months in the making. Will Bunch, of the Philadelphia Daily News, has got the goods. I’ll have more to add later. The second, this Sunday, family will be coming to our place for Emma’s Baptism.

4. Speaking of Emma, I’ve gone back to work, and handling the division of responsibility between Richelle and me has left me feeling spent and guilty. It sucks leaving Emma everyday, and it bothers me the huge load Richelle has taken on. We went from a 50/50 split to something more like 85/15. I have no idea how single parents do it. No idea at all.

Emma has not only effected how and what I prioritize in my life, but has helped me to see what’s really important. She’s helped me find my Zen.

An email I was happy to send….

Hello,
Due to down time that my users were subjected to – by a decision one of your staffers made in shutting down access to our database – I have migrated the sites and domains I maintain that were hosted and managed at New Dream Network and Dreamhost to a more robust and secure solution.

Previously, when your staffers worked with me to diagnose and solve a high CPU situation, they showed patience and willingness to find a solution to pass on your other customers. Dreamhost impressed me then. I was very much ready to sing its praises.

That patience and customer care was entirely missing in this episode.

Without warning there was the decision your staffer made to shut us down. He sent an email to me upon doing so. And then for the next 24 hours there was no reply to any emails I sent to you for details.

Adding serious insult to injury was the removal of all access to my database, not permitting me to diagnose the problem, or migrate to a new host with up to-date data. One of your staffers told me it was my responsibility to have a back up. Well duh.

I had come to expect better from Dreamhost.

I hope you can rectify the problems you are experiencing with your customer care. I hear more and more from others similarly dissatisfied.

Please cancel my account immediately.

- Karl