Monthly Archives: November 2008

How about some realistic expectations, more experimentation, and less punditry about punditry?

Fred Clark offers up his theory as to why things are as dire as they are for the newspaper industry – that the expectation for profit margins has been grown to something unrealistic these past twenty years: Why oh why can’t we have a better press corps?:

So why oh why don’t we have a better press corps?

Part of the answer to that question is that our newspapers are being asked to do something they were never designed to do and something they are fundamentally and structurally incapable of doing: they’re being asked to provide shareholders with double-digit and ever-increasing profit margins.

This is a ridiculous expectation. If you are an investor looking for a 15- or 20-percent return on your investment and you’ve purchased newspaper stock, then you’re a bad investor. You are, in fact, a stupid and a silly investor. You have invested in the wrong thing for the wrong reasons and you are expecting the wrong results. You are expecting impossible results.

Newspapers have a solid and reliable, but modest, business model. Owning a newspaper — even now, even with competition from cable news and the Internet, and even with Craigslist all but eliminating the classified ad market — is like owning a license to print money. But only a modest amount of money. Buying newspaper stock is thus much like investing in CDs. It’s safe, but humble.

Remember the Savings & Loan debacle of the 1980s? That’s what’s happening right now with newspapers.

Amy Webb is wondering why so many are arguing about arguments instead of focusing on what really counts (I am guilty as charged unfortunately) : Reshaping the Conversation:

Raise your hands: Who’s got an hour today to learn about the geospatial web? What about reality mining using cellular data? What about semantic tagging? 2d barcodes? Mobile frameworks using advanced SMS?

That’s what I thought.

Here’s the real problem facing our newsrooms. Most people are out there playing checkers while companies like Google and Adobe are playing chess. NOTHING WILL CHANGE in journalism unless the conversation is refocused on what matters most: How can the ever-hastening disruptive change be either met or overcome by adapting technology and creative business models?

Happy Thanksgiving

I have much to be thankful for. Great family, good friends, challenging work, passions and interests that keep me engaged with the world in all sorts of ways. I try to count my blessings everyday.

I know that at anytime, any of this can change, the cards we are dealt each day can turn in a moment from good to terrible, to horrific. I know amongst my greatest blessings (its hard to compete with Emma or Richelle) is the capability to decide how to face them.

Thank you.

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.

- Karl

Living in the public – not there yet

Jeff Jarvis: The perils of publicness:

There’s an old social norm at work here that is, I think, an extension of old media, which says: You put yourself out there, so you put yourself at risk for getting attacked. This implies it is almost your fault for getting attacked. This is a basis of the public-figure defense in libel, the presumed right to go after people in the public eye. Once you become public, you give up the cloak and protection of privacy.

But now we are all public. Does that norm still hold online, when 180 million people have started blogs and countless more put videos on YouTube and photos on Flickr? Are they all, should they all be targets for the snipers and snarkers? Well, they all could be. But what’s our attitude about that? Is there a new norm emerging?

Bruce Schneier: The Future of Ephemeral Conversation:

Until our CEOs blog, our Congressmen Twitter, and our world leaders send each other LOLcats – until we have a Presidential election where both candidates have a complete history on social networking sites from before they were teenagers- we aren’t fully an information age society.

When everyone leaves a public digital trail of their personal thoughts since birth, no one will think twice about it being there. Obama might be on the younger side of the generation gap, but the rules he’s operating under were written by the older side. It will take another generation before society’s tolerance for digital ephemera changes.

rc3.orgWhen everything is recorded:

What I wonder, though, is whether we’re going to see some kind of crest in terms of how harshly people are punished for their previous online behavior. When there are embarrassing photos of everyone online, then by definition their existence will no longer be sensational.

Yep. Me too. Reaching that crest will be painful, ugly, and people are going to be hurt. I still don’t know if we will go over that ledge however, to reach the other side that Jarvis says is already here or Schneier says is on the way someday.

The more things change….

Dave Rogers: Blind Faith:

As the stock market continues its free fall into the Clinton era, and the economic news grows worse and worse, we are cheered by the report of a study that indicates that “Teenagers’ Internet Socializing Not a Bad Thing.” Of course, irony being the fifth fundamental force of the universe, that little online headline was placed immediately across from this one: “Woman Who Posed as Boy Testifies in Case That Ended in Suicide of 13-Year-Old.”

John Scalzi: Technology Changes, People Not So Much:

Technology changes, social trends change, hairstyles change, but people – the actual human animals inside all that technology, sociology and tonsorial grooming — are the same as they have been for thousands of years. Grab a time machine, go back to ancient Egypt, and swap an infant there with an infant from today, and in twenty years you’ll likely find two people perfectly well integrated into their cultures because there is no difference in the human animal between now and then. Even within generations (which are an artificial construct in themselves, but never mind that now) there’s enough variation to drive you a little batty: The same generation that gave us the hippies went for Nixon in 1972, and that same generation gave us both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Go figure.

Jon Udell: Carl Hewitt on cloud computing, scalable semantics, and Wikipedia:

In one of the most striking moments in that talk, Carl says:

“What can I change? Just me. For anything else, I send a message, I say please, and I hope for the best.”

Then he laughs and adds:

“Does this sound like some circumstances you are familiar with?”

Having thought deeply, for 40 years, about the intersection of computation and human affairs, he has arrived at an elegant synthesis: The same organizational and communication patterns govern both realms.

Beyond Sad

NYTimes: Nebraska Revises Child Safe Haven Law:

The Legislature on Friday revised an unusual law permitting parents to hand children up to age 18 over to state custody without prosecution, instead limiting its reach to infants up to 30 days old.

The original law, enacted earlier this year, was intended to protect newborns from being abandoned or killed by panicked young mothers. But since Sept. 1, to the shock of officials and the public in Nebraska, 35 older children, many from 10 to 17 years in age, have been dropped off at hospitals. Most were left by desperate parents who said the children were uncontrollable and violent and needed more counseling or psychiatric services than they could find or pay for.

What is Cognitive Science?

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Cognitive Science:

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, embracing philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology. Its intellectual origins are in the mid-1950s when researchers in several fields began to develop theories of mind based on complex representations and computational procedures. Its organizational origins are in the mid-1970s when the Cognitive Science Society was formed and the journal Cognitive Science began. Since then, more than sixty universities in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia have established cognitive science programs, and many others have instituted courses in cognitive science.

You don’t need to knock a man down to argue his ideas

No one is above criticism, but the knock Jeff Jarvis took from Slate from Ron Rosenbaum missed the mark badly. It attempted to paint Jarvis as just another new media guru in pursuit of a buck it at the expense of others. Jarvis responded here. Many of Jeff Jarvis’s ideas are very much up for debate – I don’t think journalists are anywhere near as responsible over what’s happening as much as he does (shortsighted publishers, corporations, management, business and technology changes are *far* more to blame (read “The Innovator’s Dilema” – NOW)) and his tone can be brutal in the face of so much pain (so many jobs lost, so many families thrown into upheaval), but he’s willing to debate his ideas and seek out those of others. The author went personal and attempted to de-legitimize ongoing efforts that Jarvis has been leading that are important to journalism, like the recent conference on the future of news at CUNY or hosting so much relevant conversation on his blog. It’s a shame because argument is needed to address where we were, where we are going, what the consequences are. Blunt, honest talk. The Slate piece was a distraction from that.

Related:

Steve Outing: Do newspapers have 6 more months?

Nick Denton: A 2009 Internet Media Plan

Wired: Poll: Internet, Fox News Are Most Trusted News Sources

Silicon Alley Insider: Record Traffic Not Saving Financial News Sites

Metafilter: Can nonprofit news models save journalism?

norgs – the unconference

the norgs must read list

Jeff Jarvis: Saving Journalism (and killing the press)

And, because this vid is so fit for the Daily Show, I just have to share it (vegetarians – do NOT click this):

Evil and… advertising?

“Advertising is social psychology. To understand how advertising affects people, you have to understand why people follow the group and how the brain works.”Ad Savvy on Philip Zimbardo, whose talk at TED explains how ordinary people can become monsters.

TED: Philip Zimbardo: How ordinary people become monsters … or heroes

More on Bad Agile

Steve Yegge talks about Google’s development (circa 2006) process – a process that is focused on being agile – and riffs on just how bad “Bad Agile” can be: Good Agile, Bad Agile:

Bad Agile hurts teams in several ways.

First, Bad Agile focuses on dates in the worst possible way: short cycles, quick deliverables, frequent estimates and re-estimates. The cycles can be anywhere from a month (which is probably tolerable) down to a day in the worst cases. It’s a nicely idealistic view of the world.

In the real world, every single participant on a project is, as it turns out, a human being. We have up days and down days. Some days you have so much energy you feel you could code for 18 hours straight. Some days you have a ton of energy, but you just don’t feel like focusing on coding. Some days you’re just exhausted. Everyone has a biological clock and a a biorhythm that they have very little control over, and it’s likely to be phase-shifted from the team clock, if the team clock is ticking in days or half-weeks.

Not to mention your personal clock: the events happening outside your work life that occasionally demand your attention during work hours.

None of that matters in Bad Agile. If you’re feeling up the day after a big deliverable, you’re not going to code like crazy; you’re going to pace yourself because you need to make sure you have reserve energy for the next big sprint. This impedance mismatch drives great engineers to mediocrity.

There’s also your extracurricular clock: the set of things you want to accomplish in addition to your main project: often important cleanups or other things that will ultimately improve your whole team’s productivity. Bad Agile is exceptionally bad at handling this, and usually winds up reserving large blocks of time after big milestones for everyone to catch up on their side-project time, whether they’re feeling creative or not. Bad Agile folks keep their eye on the goal, which hurts innovation. Sure, they’ll reserve time for everyone to clean up their own code base, but they’re not going to be so altruistic as to help anyone else in the company. How can you, when you’re effectively operating in a permanent day-for-day slip?

Bad Agile seems for some reason to be embraced by early risers. I think there’s some mystical relationship between the personality traits of “wakes up before dawn”, “likes static typing but not type inference”, “is organized to the point of being anal”, “likes team meetings”, and “likes Bad Agile”. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I see it a lot.

Read the whole thing.

It’s been a little harder on Mommy and Daddy than her

The last two nights Emma has slept soundly in her new toddler bed. Emma had moved fast transitioning from a bassinet to a crib and from our room to her own nursery. We moved a bit slower in moving her to her own bed. It required us to trust ourselves (is the house as child safe as it can be?), and her (how she will handle waking up in the middle of the night with all that freedom?), in a poignant way.

The last few weeks her nursery has been transforming into her room. With a door she can open and close at will. A place she can have alone time when she wants (we are big advocates of un-structured play – we’re not so called propeller-parents – we shoot for some kind of balance). The neat thing about all this – now – more than ever – you can see her determination, curiosity, drive, joy, and sense of humor all self directed. When we’re playing, or when I’m showing her something new, or reading with her, watching her with her grandparents, Aunt Rose, Uncle Mike, or her Mommy, or just watching her do her own thing, I can think to myself, “wow – not only do I love her – I like her”. She’s clever. And her sense of humor just tickles you. It makes my heart feel good.