Social Media/Software Links for Today

NYTimes: Brave New World of Digital Intimacy: About social networks and software and how we are using them to connect with one another.

Mind Hacks: The distant sound of well-armed sociologists – Reflections on the above mentioned NYTimes story. – generates graphical ‘word clouds’ from the text provided.

Reflections of a Newsosaur: Newspaper sales fall record $3B in 6 mos. An Uneasy America: ‘Why We Hate Us’:

The Reality Club: A coversation On “Is Google Making Us Stoopid”.

J-School:’s Convention Coverage and the Ethic of the Link

J-School: The Future of Journalism

Annenberg’s is doing a great job fact checking our candidates. Anyone listening? The Political Brain – Brain-imaging study shows political predilections are a product of unconscious confirmation bias. How we see reality is biased towards our own currently held beliefs.

It’s important to speak out Seeing The Web’s Racist Underbelly Is Saddening and Shocking

Why does everything suck?: Does Anonymity Lead To Social Anarchy?

Sexism Runs Rampant on Reddit (and maybe the rest of the social web)

Wha, that last link threw you a bit? Why is that? Is it that we are more comfortable confronting racism then sexism? And has the Presidential campaign reflected that? Why?

How we go about fighting racism and sexism, while protecting free speech is confusing territory.

I figure the best way is by speaking out loudly, and clearly.

PS – Make a donation to the Thomas Jefferson Center for free speech in George Carlin’s name.

Community/Social Media/Social Software Must Reads This Week

fortuitous: Matthew Haughey: Some Community Tips for 2007 – Seven tips on how to run a successful community

Dare Obasanjo: “Social” is More Important Than “Software” in Social Software

InformationWeek: Cory Doctorow: How To Keep Hostile Jerks From Taking Over Your Online Community

Derek Powazek: The Real Story of JPG Magazine (Metafilter thread)

Mathew Ingram: Community is the hard part

Jeff Jarvis: Smartest media quote of the year

NYTimes: Clive Thompson: Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog

Blog Law: 12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs to Know

If you believe in The Long Tail, then stop saying the web is “flat” okay?

There are those that want to believe that in life, skill and good works are all it should take. That if you are the most kick ass guitarist in the world, that playing in your bedroom should be enough to alert the world to your talent.

Well we know the world doesn’t work that way. We wish it weren’t so, but it’s just the way it is. But that doesn’t stop some from perpetuating a belief that the web is different. That the web is “flat”. That every link is worth the same as the next. You get a taste of this whenever someone says that good content alone is the way to web super-stardom. If you are a great writer, and know your subject matter, that’s all that counts, they say.

A basic understanding Google’s PageRank algorithm lays this fallacy bare: “Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”. All links are not equal according to Google.

Worst, and kinda ironic, you hear these sets of belief by some who profess to believe in the the mathematics of The Long Tail of the web. That really makes me do a double take, because a key tenet of it is that those in “head” have more attention giving influence then those in the “tail”. That attention flows in certain directions that can be be observed as behaving along a power law.

Clay Shirky nailed this a long time ago in a piece that was once oft quoted, yet you never see his essay mentioned by these folks since.. well it hurts. If you believe that the web changes human nature for the better in any shape fashion or form, Shirky’s piece can shake you a bit. Hugh MacLeod summarized it as Shirky’s Law: Equality. Fairness. Opportunity. Pick Two”.

That’s the web. That’s everyday human existence for that matter. It’s always a struggle amongst the three.

But do not despair – the Long Tail suggests power laws, on the web, are actually okay and present opportunities. The web, instead of representing one channel of attention, is a mass of niches. That there is no A-List, but multiple A-Lists. That’s something Jeff Jarvis is fond of saying. Working a niche begins to make sense since attention – the real currency of the web – has zero shelving space needs and services exist which make it easy for those seeking out their passions and concerns, no matter how out of the *current* mainstream. Chris Anderson, author of “The Long Tail” put it like this: “The Long Tail is a powerlaw that isn’t cruelly cut off by bottlenecks in distribution such as limited shelf space and available channels.”.

Our attention isn’t an inexhaustible resource. We have only so much to give. So we naturally seek filters for it since so much in our world demands to have it. One of those ways is by trusting the word of mouth of friends, family, co-workers, and those we perceive as experts.

Dave Rogers ran some searches and shed some light on Seth Finkelstein, and his chosen niche subject, censorship, of which he is an expert in research, and how much influence he’s been assigned by Doc Searls. If you are a follower of Doc Searls, you would know little of Seth Finkelstein’s knowledge and work in researching censorship.

I would like to see a search on the word “censorship” and an account of how many times Seth and Doc get inbound links for it. And by whom. Because if the community that concerns itself with censorship, links to Seth as an expert on the subject more often then Doc, the Long Tail theory, that power laws are okay on the web – is true. That Seth is the A-Lister in *that* community. I believe this to be the case, but am too lazy to do the work. Anyone up for the challenge? Update: See further down this post for more.

In either case, I really wish folks that sling the bullshit that the web is “flat” would stop. Especially by those that trumpet The Long Tail theory. Sure no one is stopping anyone from writing anything. That’s not the point. The point is that it’s a fallacy to believe that being an expert in your space and writing good content *alone* is enough to be seen or heard on the web.

Following are some opinions from fellow realists:

Seth Finkelstein: Bogospheric Calvinism, or Unread != Unworthy:

Frankly, I don’t know how to reform society, even the bogosphere, to make it more egalitarian. And my own activism efforts have ended pretty badly overall for me. But (not singling out any individual person here, but making a general statement) the standard A-list reactions of denying the mathematics and attacking the critics, are not a solution.

Dave Rogers: What Can’t Be Fixed:

The point is, some amount of the attention and trust resources of the blogosphere at large are distributed arbitrarily or randomly, whimsically even, through the reading and linking habits of high attention-earning bloggers.

It’s not equal, it’s not flat, and it’s not fair. In other words, it’s just like the world at large, and technology does not change that. Whether I like it or not, my product consumption habits support companies that perhaps don’t treat their employees the way we believe they ought to be treated. Short of taking a vow of asceticism, or investing significant amounts of time in investigating the origins of all the competing products I might have use for, I can’t change that.

Whether Doc likes it or not, his reading and linking habits help to distribute the attention and trust resources of the blogosphere at large in an unequal and unfair way, and short of investing significant amounts of time into finding, reading and evaluating somehow, the relative merits of unknown bloggers, he can’t change that.

Doesn’t make either of us bad persons, just people existing in an imperfect and unfair world.

Shelley Powers: Eat the Red Couch:

I could respond in depth, like I�ve responded elsewhere this week, hopefully with something learned sounding and impressive but then I thought: why waste my time? Why not just have some fun, and say whatever the hell I want and we�ll all have a giggle, which is probably a lot better use of our time anyway.

And finally, last word to Kent Newsome, who kicked off this latest discussion about the A-List: Of Shel and Chip and Seth and Nick:

I’m not so much interested in having the blogosphere operate differently as I am in calling bullshit when people try to say it operates differently than it actually does.

What gets my dander up is when someone like Mike (and Shel for that matter) who got to the top of the hill, in part, due to relationships with the Scobles and Winers of the world, tries to say the blogosphere is an equal opportunity place.

It ain’t. Life ain’t either. It’s OK that they ain’t, as long as you don’t try to pretend they are.

Update: Seth replies in my comments (paraphrasing, read the whole thing):



The logical fallacy runs like this:

Hype: The web is flat.

Refute: No, the web is exponentially distributed in terms of attention.

Fallacious Rebuttal: That exponential distribution of attention is a first approximation of overall attention. But even though the first approximation refutes the first evangelism sales-pitch, I’m going to try to pretend that the first approximation shouldn’t be taken to be meaningful because of the very fact that it is a first approximation, and the full structure is more complicated. By saying attention is finely divided, I’m going to imply to you that the exponential distribution law of attention is inapplicable, because that may be able to delude you into believing you can get some attention when the fact is the exact same law of exponential distribution applies. I’ll repeat endlessly that there’s niches, and hope you won’t notice that I’m implying those niches are *flat*, which is the same sales-pitch which worked on you before.

So, to apply this to myself, I *KNOW* I’m in a niche. I’ve never had realistic ambitions for more. But it’s the same issue *within* that niche. My problem is specially the gatekeepers within that niche, and for reasons well-explored elsewhere, quite a few of them are very clear I’m disfavored to pass through the gates (Slashdot being the more infamous example of this, as well as, later, Berkman). And blogging doesn’t help, arguably it hurts in several ways (depressing, wastes time and energy, makes more detractors than supporters, etc).

You don’t need to do any experiment. IT’S BEEN DONE! 🙁

Paraphrasing my reply:

Yeah, I wouldn’t buy that any one particular niche is “flat” either. That would be more bullshit.

What a terrific post Seth. It justifies Dave Rogers when he talks about human nature and technology.

When you get into a niche, into a real conversation/argument, it gets down to personalities and relationships – who is willing to reciprocate, listen, and give credit to whom.

…So, here goes a net-centric argument. The “web routes around damage argument”. I don’t believe the web does on its own. It requires humans to make it so. The web is made of people as I am fond of saying.

Slashdot was one route to do this back in 2003. Today there is Digg, Newsvine,, Yahoo MyWeb, and other services where your work could have been shared – right past the gatekeepers of your niche’s community.

I think tools like these are at their best when used to spread word of items the mainstream – and the gatekeepers of the smallest niche are what I would call the ‘mainstream’ in this case – misses – or actively wants to suppress.

Then there are other blogs of course.

I don’t have time to spread word of Philly Future, and know jack shit about marketing. Our service suffers because of it. I know – I KNOW – that we will be overtaken by a competitor, if I don’t find a way to make up for the lack of effort on these counts. Not only that, but our story will be forgotten.

You never hear about Philly Future and ‘hyperlocal’ blogging do you? Yet I started the site back in December 1999!

I partially blame myself, as I know you do on this score. What it comes down to this requiring a precious resource and skill that few have.

Time and marketing.

Time to interact with your niche’s community. Be present. Be visible. Be vocal. I know you’re already doing this. But you don’t usually write content not only to satisfy needs, but become a linkable resources (lists, howtos, etc). Even if you recognize most of these pieces are trash, worthless the moment it is posted, they encourage discussion and linkage. Wasn’t it your guest poster’s Google list that got all that attention a few months back?

And marketing, because, on the web, the most successful, are marketers or those with marketing resources. On the web there is a whole lot of noise. You need some skill here, to be heard over the din, in even the smallest niche. Hence the demand for SEO expertise.

I need to follow my own advice. But I need time, knowledge, and resources.

Just checked: Seth is a top five search result in Google for “censorware”. But that is a sub-niche of censorship. Doubtful many use that search term. Where does he land for “censorship”?

Some tech/media/online community/citizen journalism bits

Google blog search launches in beta! More at Om Malik’s and at Paid Content. I have no opinion yet. Got to do some digging.

The Columbia Journalism Review was with the Times Picayune in New Orleans as it produced its powerful and amazing coverage during the course Katrina and the devestation wrought afterwards. Read their report. More at Metafilter.

Congrats to Jeff Jarvis, who will be starting a a new job heading the City University of New York’s new media program.

Roland Tanglao has a recipie to build your own Memeorandum: Drupal + Aggregator2 + Algorithms = Memeorandum.

It exists, and its influence matters

In response to Om Malik’s post on the dark side of tagging, Shelley Powers writes a powerful piece on technology and human behavior arguing that no matter how our tools may change – its our practices that matter – take note of who is getting linked to over the BlogHer conference and why:

…If women are not as visible in weblogging (or technology or politics and so on) because of some
escoteric to do with technology, then our problems could be easily solved. I would personally devote my life to finding the Woman Algorithm — the algorithm to give equality to women. But, as we’ve seen with the recent linking to BlogHer reports, the issue isn’t that simple. Even considering the fact that BlogHer was about women in
weblogging, the single most linked individual post on the conference,was Jay Rosen’s–one of the few men to attend the conference.

Why was Jay’s the most linked? Well, some of it was because he provided a viewpoint that led to debate. He used a ‘confrontational’ term that was guaranteed to trigger furious discussion. I linked to him for that specific reason, as did other people. However, Halley Suitt also wrote a post that generated much debate, and though it was also well linked, not as much as Jay’s. Does this, then, mean that Jay’s was a better post? No,not necessarily.

If you look at those who linked to Jay, you’ll see two patterns: people who linked to Jay because of what he said, and others who linked to Jay because of who he is. What is the common characteristic of those who linked to Jay without specifically referencing the ongoing discussion? They were all men. Is this relevant? Well, considering the purpose behind Blogher, I would say the results aren’t irrelevant.

In a related post, Seth Finkelstein notes that that BlogHer “backlash” is self-proving A-list’ery:

…There were a few hundred people who attended the BlogHer conference. Which leads to a few hundred direct opinions from attendees about how it went. Add indirect opinions from interested readers too. Now, of this melange of viewpoints and conversations, which ones were amplified overall and then retailed to thousands of people not involved. Simple:


So, if you believe all that matters is socializing, you can dismiss everything else, since it doesn’t affect whatever socializing happened. If you believe being heard and having an influence matters, well, that fact that a handful of rich/connected ranty A-listers (some who weren’t even there) are basically defining the issues to everyone else, should be a sterling disproof of meritocracy.

Of course, that also implies this post doesn’t matter, but it has an individual purpose in noting I’d been quoted :-).

In a related thought, it has finally occured to me why Dave Rogers and Shelley Powers have had issues with Technorati claming its lists measure the “authority” of certain blogs – because they can’t. It’s a misuse of the word. These lists measure influence. Attention-influence. An important distinction that gets lost in these discussions. In his latest post on all this Dave notes:

For my criticism to have some effect, I would have to be perceived as at least authoritative as Technorati. I would have to be near their rank in the hierarchy (not explicitly the Top 100). So the critical or negative nature of my attention-directing is largely discounted, and the effect is really just to call more attention to Technorati, which it desires and which I think is undesirable.

I would say he would need to as influential as Technorati. Lots of folks and institutions are influential who aren’t “authorities”. But the gist I agree with – those with high page ranks/quality inbound links have more influence over the direction conversations take then almost anyone wants to admit.

“heard by whom Karl?”

Yesterday Jeff wrote a piece claming that: There is no A list. There is only your list.”. It was a thought provoking piece that I had to respond to. You just can’t deny its existance really. It’s there. A group of blogs who have considerably more influence then the rest of us. Given that influence by inbound links. And using that influence to spread what it feels is attention worthy. In my response I made clear I don’t think of this as some kind of clique or club like other bloggers do – just an expression of human nature taking form. It’s a natural occurance. Not a problem that needs to be solved. But something to deal with – even route around – if you need attention for something – feel that it is worthy – and the current group of attention influencers doesn’t care for it or see it yet.

In responding to me saying that: “Some would argue that the A-list, even if it exists, doesn’t matter. That thousands of D-list links can exceed the value in attention-driving a single A-list link can deliver. Indeed, I think this is true. However, the time it takes to be heard among so many can take much, much longer then what one related A-list link can do in a few hours. The difference can be astronomical and can’t be underestimated.”

Jeff posted this reply:

…heard by whom, Karl? If you want to be heard by an audience the size of TV Guide, then we’re all Z list. But then, TV Guide isn’t A list itself anymore either, is it? That’s the way the world is going: The mass is dead! Long live the niches!

We need to stop thinking in the old terms of mass market, big circulation, big ratings, blockbusters. That world is dying. We need to stop thinking that when we are in a niche, we’re in something lesser. No, it means we’re in a community. We’re in a good conversation, not a loud crowd.

I used to write for an alleged audience of 25 million at TV Guide and People. Now I write for an audience of a few thousand. Call that whatever damned list you like. I like it much better.

In his comments I replied:

…I’d answer – to be heard by folks who don’t already hear you – who you want or need to hear you.

We are definitely Z-list (all of us) in comparison to the TV-Guide’s audience. Good point. We are definitely in a niche. In many niches actually. You can sub categorize me till the cows come home (whenever that is) – but it makes no difference – there is still – for folks seeking and needing attention to for what they are doing – a struggle. And there is a way to judge ‘attention influence’? – even in this small niche we all work within here on the web. The most influential have been tagged with the term ‘A-list’?. Maybe it’s a derogatory term. I have no idea. I think term sucks. Makes it sound like a clique when I think it really isn’t. Not actively at least. DailyKos and Powerline are NOT part of the same club. They don’t chat everyday. But the existence of their influence – or yours – can’t be doubted. It can be measured. Itts there. Denying it doesntt make it go away. I’m not saying this is a problem – but a reality to deal with.

And yeah no matter what list or category you wish to put me in – I’m happy to be here right along with ya. The web is participatory – the major differentiator from what’s come before. It’s read *and* write. It’s two way. That makes all the difference.

Speaking of his comments, we’re having a great discussion there I think.

“There is no A list. There is only your list.” – “It’s not about lists. It’s about links.”

In what seems to be a regular occurrence among A-listers now, Jeff Jarvis, A-list member, in response to a Blogebrity post that questions sucking up to it attempts to deny it exists. Ya know – trying and deny its existence is like trying to deny mathematical reality and human nature.

First, lets get clear on the definition of the blog “A-list” – it is merely a way to label the current batch of most linked bloggers and a way of recognizing their influence – that’s all.

Jeff was almost right when he said: “It’s not about lists. It’s about links.” – but the links are votes that can be culled into a list – or lists. Technorati maintains what is probably the most popular implementation of this list at their site. Another popular implementation of this list can be found at Blogebrity – which has gone so far to divide the list up into an A-list, B-list, and C-list. It may have been done in jest at Blogebrity – but it pretty much exposes bare among the millions of blogs out there who have the most influence – the most meme producing potential – out here.

These lists only matter to those attempting to draw attention (which equates to linkage) to their works/writing/projects. If you aren’t trying to draw attention to in one shape or form – you’re a personal blogger who writes about his or her family for example – or your an artist who could give a fuck what others think – then this list matters little to you and talk of it probably bugs you.

But if you *are* attempting to draw support and attention – this list becomes very important.

Shoot, I once asked for Jeff for a link, but quickly withdrew the request – because – well… I felt wrong asking for a link.

Silly me – I know. But that was a while ago. Recently I asked directly to be included in the Blogebrity list. Yep. I have lost shame. I recognize the value in it. Not to be famous – but to drive attention to work I consider important. Work that requires attention to get momentum.

A-listers typically consider it bad form to directly ask for a link, but Nick and I have had a few great conversations via IM, whether I get a link or not, I still appreciate the communication.

The A-list isn’t an organized group. It isn’t a cabal that conspires in the middle of the night to draw linkage. To think so is pretty ridiculous considering in many cases this list is composed of sites that represent opposite extremes.

It is just a natural occurrence. Human nature. In this case users vote with their links – links they may have (probably have) been found from an influential (heavily linked to blogger) in the first place.

The seminal piece on this behavior remains Clay Shirky’s “Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality“. It’s a must read. It’s funny when A-listers deny the A-list – they don’t link to – or mention – this piece.

Some would argue that the A-list, even if it exists, doesn’t matter. That thousands of D-list links can exceed the value in attention-driving a single A-list link can deliver. Indeed, I think this is true. However, the time it takes to be heard among so many can take much, much longer then what one related A-list link can do in a few hours. The difference can be astronomical and can’t be underestimated.

Some would say that bloggers who need traffic should look elsewhere for attention – their local newspapers for example. I agree 100%. Bloggers seeking attention from bloggers can be fruitless – a good habit of those in the A-list is to use primary sources – mainstream media — even as they deride it. Look at how often Jeff Jarvis is on the TV. If he thought it had no value — he wouldn’t be there.

Some would argue that if something is worthy of attention, well then the A-list will link to it in the first place. I don’t think those who have this influence necessarily have magical powers to discern that.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it – does it make a sound? If a post is blogged and no one links to it – does it get read?

Some would argue that the existence of the A-list is a ‘problem’ to be solved. I don’t think so. That’s like trying to solve human nature. There will always be those in any sphere more influential then others.

Some say they need their feet held to the fire – that A-listers have some kind of responsibility to the rest of the web. That they should attempt to give voice to those that may not have one.

That’s a big question. I think the answer is we ALL have responsibility – but damned if I expect others to do what I won’t. I will vote with my links.

No – the A-list isn’t a “problem” to be solved. It’s something that if stands in the way of getting a message out – needs to be routed around.

Links that can be given can be taken away (very rare – but still doable). Links that can be given can be given to others. The A-list is changeable, and has changed over time. Take a look at this funny parody of the A-list posted a while back. Today that list would be different. Not by much. But still different. Shoot, we could nuke our blogrolls.

There’s a larger web outside of blogs. And there are webs of blogs (MySpace, LiveJournal, Xanga) that are not engaged (take a look at Sifri’s latest “State of the Blogosphere” report). Simply making direct contact with the mainstream media can make a huge difference. Tools like and Digg, and sites like Philly Future are emerging all the time to give avenues of expression for folks to share what *they* feel is important to a wide audience. Regardless of what the influencers may say. When these tools get bogged down in false hierarchies – new tools will come along to subvert them as well. It is the way of things.

It’s just technology enabling new expressions of human nature. Not changing it.

And so is engaging, complaining, arguing, conversing, working with, and yes – fighting – those who have influence. Nick wonders what it means to play the A-list game – well there ya go. This is it. And ya know what – those things I’m never going to stop.

Neither should you. No matter what the influencers might say.

It goes both ways

Dave Winer: Scripting News: 7/10/2005

Now when they fuck us, we have a way of giving them a black mark. A little more metadata, and it’ll start showing up on their bottom line.

I guess you can tell what I think from the title of my post.

When everyone has a blog – only the most linked to – the most popular will have this effect.

Just observe the left and right political blog ecospheres, both are at war – using links – and the reality Google presents is the battleground and prize.

Clay Shirky’s “Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality” is a must read. Folks seem to want to put it out of their minds and deny it exists I think.

via allied: quotes of the day

Wikis and Community

Shelley Powers started a Wiki last year that I thought had a terrific concept behind it. The effort never really took off and it has been beset by spamers and vandals. She shares some thoughts:

Lesson Two learned: One backup is not enough.

Lesson One learned: wikis updated by the general public only work if there’s enough people interested in helping to maintain it to offset the spammers, trolls, and script kiddies. In other words, the only viable public wiki is Wikipedia.

And from her comments:

True a wiki can work if you have a strongly engaged community willing to maintain it. But I think you have to start with the community and then add the wiki.

Read more in “Scorching in the IT Kitchen”

I’m feel terrible I never got around to contributing. Has it been a year already?