Saturday, May 05, 2007

A verbose age?

Twitter, Blogs, SMS/Text, IM, people glued to their cell phones – are these signs of a verbose age?

Are we more talkative than ever before?
Talk in these times comes in many flavors and is not limited to spoken words.

There is something poetic about bloggers discussing the merits of the 140 characters limit by the uber/tool of the moment Twitter.

In his ‘lovenote’#2 (Nick Carr’s term) for Twitter, J. Governor he takes on my deliberate rant against Twitter, where he says, with some merit, I should add, that it is indeed possible to say all that you want in 140 characters, adding that there are far too many words in circulation.

For your consideration, here is a Hemingway short story in less than 10 words:
"For sale. Baby shoes, Never worn".

If you are sure that you can beat Hemingway in 140 characters, you are indeed entitled to complain about the excess words to the Oxford dictionary people.

However, Nick Carr has taken up issue, saying that rather than signaling a society that goes for brevity, Twitter is actually a signal that people are more verbose than ever before.

And I often wonder how people argue on micro-publishing tools like Twitter. It would require more than half a dozen messages to get one point across.

P.S. This is a faster age too- I read a BBC story yesterday about people in cities talking faster than ever before.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Social Networks: For the community, by the community, of the community

That is the important message members of Digg have sent, setting forth a template of an action plan for all those who think they are running a social network site/business.

They are not running anything. The community is running itself.

The community wants to be heard. That is the main idea of communities everywhere. We are making too much of sharing. No one in the village shares except news about the latest weather.

The Digg revolt has a serious (& timely) lesson for all those who run social networks: be fair. Be transparent.

As this article points out, if Digg administrators had shared the information (cease and desist letter, in this case) and the dilemma, and discussed what step to take next, the madness of the crowd would not have taken place.

Discussing things. Bringing issues out in the open.
It is how popular leaders in successful democracies and organizations do things.

We must keep in mind that new-fangled nations like that of Digg have no boundaries or Visa requirements.
Paraphrasing Doc Holliday,“your hypocrisy only takes you so far.”

It is ironical that despite all that talk of two-way conversations, the bosses at Digg forgot to use the tools they keep championing all the time.

All it would have taken was a single story submission by Kevin Rose, with the headline:
“Digg users, we have a problem.”

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Why I do not like Twitter

Let me clarify first: I don't like like Twitter and it has nothing to do with the software, which I think is good.
I just don't like the hype and all that pseudo-eventory.

I look at this hype about Twitter in select media outlets, group of so-called experts and opinion shapers and it seems like a Seinfeld episode – take a teaspoonful of nothing and talk about it.

Only difference: Seinfeld was entertaining.
On the other hand, these twitter love songs are big put-offs.

Some say people are taking up Twitter because they are jaded by blogging.
If by blogging you mean throwing your diary out in the open, you might be right there.

Makes sense talking about yourself all the time, huh? I haven't made a single cent out of blogging.
When I don't like it, I might stop blogging but I won't twitter.

Other point out Twitter is a great tool for small teams and groups to be in touch at all times.
There is some merit there, but look at the bright side: You are not making enough sales breakthroughs today and your boss keeps pinging.

Some say the 140 characters per posting makes people post throughout the day – hopefully, all that twitter makes sense.

You can indeed make sense in 140 characters, provided you are Hemingway, on a commando operation, cheating in exams and …Besides, when you post nonsense throughout the day, you are putting more starin on a free service.

Another pro-Twitter argument goes like this – it helps you in touch with your close friends, so that you are up to date about the latest development.

Sounds too ‘Teeny’.
After a while, people need some space and I guess we have evolved up to appoint when too much familiarity does not breed contempt.

Finally, the ultimate pro-Twitter argument: If you do not get Twitter, you must be tool old.

I am a 30-year-old guy, and I do not use Twitter.
Actually, I do not text either. I do not care what you are doing unless I happen to be your boss and I suspect you waste a lot your work time on Digg, Orkut and of course, twittering with other people.

Therefore, I have had enough of twittering; let us get back to work now.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

The future of print news media, according to Mr. Magazine

Samir Husni is a leading magazine industry consultant and teaches journalism at the University of Mississippi. Recently, he sat down with Mediashift’s Mark Glaser and talked in depth about the future for print newspapers and magazines vis-à-vis the online threat.

Mr. Magazine’s most important advice:
More analysis, less of stale data.

Mr. Husni (from hereforth as Mr. Magazine ) says that 'the immediacy of news delivery can no longer be done in a newspaper... You cannot compete with the web or mobile devices for immediacy'.

Those in the business have started acknowledging this publicly. A student journalist recently said this, as reported in Romenesko:

The paper news should provide long-form, in-depth coverage, while the Internet should be interactive, immediate, provide an open dialog with the audience and throw in all those nifty doo-dads and videos people love to play with."
I have summarized Mr. Magazine’s advice from the interview, adding some related data wherever I could.

- Change the name of a newspaper to daily paper.

- Go beyond the 5 W’s and H [who, when, what, where, why and how] and start talking about ‘what’s in it for me?’ and leave the 5 W’s and H to electronic delivery.

- Provide more in-depth analysis on a few topics.

- Deepen the story. More narrative and more pictures.

- Do not be afraid of full-page stories.

Print has competition from the web in another place: Recent research shows people like to read long, single page articles online.

I think it was Jeff Jarvis who said that newspapers are becoming more like newsweeklies in terms of coverage depth; newsweeklies like Fortnightlies, fortnightlies like Monthlies; monthlies like quarterlies.
The battle for extended coverage is on.

On newsweeklies and magazines
Mr. Magazine says they were wrong in putting their content online.

1. At no website do they ever say, ‘By the way, you need to go back to the paper to read page 20 where we have this article that you’ll only find on page 20 today.’ There is no two-way street, we have created a one-way street and people get lost in the jungle [online].

2. The day I cancelled my subscription to Newsweek was when I saw in print a snippet of an interview, and below that it said, ‘For the whole interview go to’ I am paying money and you are offering me less in print than what I can get for free on the web.

Bringing in more service aspects to the business model
The new publisher is a marketer.

Print is the cornerstone to take more readers online.

You pick up National Geographic or Conde Nast Traveler magazine and read a marvelous 20-page article about Italy with gorgeous photography. At the end of the article, you [could] say, ‘Interested in going to Italy? Check our website and see all the hotels and museums.’ All the service aspects. Of if, you go to the website you see all these services, and then it says, ‘Interested in going to Italy? Pick up the magazine for this article.’
Changes in journalism education
Teaching people what works in each media, how one media complements other is very important.

What online newspapers and magazines lack
They lack complementary media. What works in print does not necessarily work online and vice versa.

The ‘Teens don’t read anymore’ myth
Mr. Magazine says teens have rarely been big readers of newspapers and magazines. However, they will read all information relevant to them.

He asks, “Why do kids read 700 pages Harry Potter book?”.
True. Many adults have bought Harry Potter books never to pick them up and read. Too thick, they say.

On online-only magazines (Salon, Slate)

One can go online without a print magazine. Salon and Slate took huge amounts of money to be where they are.

It depends on your business model: costs, revenue.

Costs are very important to manage to survive in the long run.
True. Building media brands requires time and money.

Using Citizen Journalism
He cites the example of JPG magazine, a hybrid of Digg-like submission & voting and regular publishing.

A journalist can be a blogger. But a blogger is not a journalist.

- The blog is like a virtual barbershop.

Print publishers’ wrong publishing model
Catering to advertisers instead of readers.

Publishing magazines to win awards, or to fight against other magazines.

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The Non-profit way, anyone?

Earlier, I wrote about why Google should buy NYT. Now I hope someone buys the ‘paper of record’ turning into a non-profit.

Who better than big-spender, ‘do no evil’ Google?

About the rumors of Google wanting to buy Dow Jones, John Battelle suggests that Google should buy Dow Jones and convert it into a non-profit.

Media brands cruising along the non-profit route include heavy hitters such as BBC, Guardian, Christian Science Monitor, PBS, NPR.

As for India, I wish the government really got out of way of Prasar Bharati, making it fully autonomous like BBC, putting a regulator like Ofcom in place.

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The Web 2.0 Map

Randall Munroe of has drawn this map representing social networks, blogs and assorted online communities as Kingdoms; in what is still the early Middle Ages period (dark ages, for cynics) of the age of the Web.

In a world dominated by the spam-producing nation of Myspace, Yahoo and Microsoft are relegated to the ‘frozen North’. Although Yahoo owns many ‘popular’ places of pilgrimages such as Del.icio,us and Flickr.

Surprisingly, the youthful, over-eager crusaders of Digg are not shown. Maybe, they live in underground dwellings twenty thousand leagues beneath the sea.

Trolls occupy the area beyond the blogipelogo.

The Mediavidea raft (quite raggedy and badly leaking, I confess)is floating somewhere in the area between the blogilelogo and Sea of memes. It has never ventured into the choppy seas of culture and sub-cultures.

The Zeus of this world, Google is sitting over at Mount Googleplex, not shown in the map.

Link to bigger pic here
[Thanks to Valleywag for the info.]


Using your personal brand to make money online

This graphical representation illustrates how bloggers are making online. Raj Dash who drew this diagram goes on to writes about the importance of personal branding online.

You can use this useful diagram to learn more about the potential to increase your indirect earnings from your blog. Try not to depend solely on ads to make money money from your blogs.

Print this out and paste it somewhere near where you work.

Which reminds me: I have yet to make a dollar from blogging or use it to further my career.

Suggestions will be much appreciated.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A day on the Planet of Digg: Living and dying by UGC

This is a landmark day for social media – when it ran away from the school to experience the real world. This was the day when the prodigal son got face to face with the grizzly in the forest.

For the past 24 hours or so, popular social news site Digg has oscillated from the stupid to wise.

First, an excited digg user posts a story containing the HD DVD encryption code. A slew of related stories follow, with one story getting the most digs ever, 16000 thumbs up in 20 hours. Then the administrators start removing stories and most appallingly, removing stories that criticize their actions. The administrators also ban many users.

By the way, you can use the 32 digit hexadecimal code to make copies of HD DVD movies by using software such as BackupHDDVD.

The result: mayhem
A headline on Digg cries out, “The day Digg died”.
Another one shouts, “The Biggest online revolt”.

After the Digg revolt, Wikipedia locked the HD DVD page for editing, to prevent the information from being mangle by an over-enthusiastic crowd.

When the revolt broke out, at one time, all of the front-page stories were about the HD DVD code, with headlines brazenly displaying the code.

Example of another indignant headline:

"Digg deleted my hard drive for posting the HD-DVD KEY! Now my hard drive refuses to write in binary. I get Error Code: 09-F9-11-02-9D-74-E3-5B-D8-41-56-C5-63-56-88-C0 . Oh noz."
The halo of ‘wow’ is gone

When Digg initially brought down the stories, people cried ‘foul!’

Some wrote about the hypocrisy of Web 2.0 startups, championing users’ voice on one hand, while moderating submitted data to suit advertisers’ needs ( HD DVD is a sponsor of Diggnation, run by Digg founder Kevin Rose).

However, Kevin Rose seems to have pulled in things.

Kevin Rose says on the Digg blog,
You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.
That is brave. Google-like brave (vis a vis the Viacom lawsuit)

What would do Digg users do next?
Will Digg users leave the site?

The Digg community is a thin-skinned but loyal group. Most of top digg users who threatened to leave didn’t leave when Digg changed the ranking algorithms.

I am waiting to see Digg users move to Reddit or start their own Digg. I guess they would miss the everyday familiar nicknames.

Chances of this happening:10%

Legal issues
The Digg case might as well be the bellwether case for new media, when UGC is all the rage.

Traditional, hugely leveraged news organizations employ armies of lawyers to deal with all sorts of emergencies.

Recently, the Business2 magazine lost all its data for the upcoming issue in a huge system crash. Fortunately, they were able to retrieve the text part as they had sent the whole text for the upcoming issue to their lawyers for scrutiny and approval!

Can you copyright a number?
While some might say that the HD DVD code is a number, nothing creative about it, so there is any chance of the code being protected under existing copyright law or the DMCA.

However, DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) says it is illegal to crack encryptions.

Section 1201(a) (2) of the Copyright Act has an Anti-trafficking provision, which prohibits distribution of encrypted cracks.

The MPAA lawyers will cite the famous DeCSS case (Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes) where the court said, “"It is analogous to the publication of a bank vault combination in a national newspaper.”

The lawyers might also contend that the HD DVD code is a private industry secret and so the freedom of speech argument does not apply.

What will suing Digg achieve?
In one word, nothing.

Paraphrasing the popular slogan, people are living and dying by UGC.

Already, the HD DVD code can be accessed on Slashdot, Youtube, blogs, forums, wikis, results via Google image search, twitter, Myspace messages and many other places. Do a search for the said code on Google and you will see what I mean.

Once the data is out, it stays out.

There was a reason why no one could ban people from what they wanted to say. When you couldn’t publish something, send it through the telephone, cellphone, word of mouth.

There are just too many outlets for expression for all the lawyers in the world to sue.

Is there anywhere on the web with truly uncensored speech?

Some have long called for anonymous forums where one can posts anything freely – without being moderated, banned, tracked.

If they really come up with absurd laws making social media site responsible for the content they host, net users will find the next Sealand, Freenet to host their data, away from the influence of any law.

HD DVD, DRM: both suck
Universal studios might have received good coverage via this Digg-revolt episode, but at best, HD DVD is an intermediate technology for data storage.

DRM is all form continues to suck.

Where is the justice in taking the money from the consumer and the dictating limits on how he can use the product?

As the Economist wrote a while back, why don’t the MPAA guys go after the pirates rather than shouting,
“who put the code out?”

Suggestions for Digg
Acknowledge that you are a ‘moderated’ news site- cabals, elites, instant story buries and all that stuff that the community routinely pushes under the carpet.

There are Digg users and there are Digg submitters. Acknowledge that the two are two different things.

Acknowledge that like in the physical world, there are problems with democracy in the online world.

Do away with the hypocrisy.

Blue-sky thoughts for social media startups
Web 2.0 social networks increasingly mirror our physical world – the hypocrisy, rule by few, the madness of crowds, etc

For people who want to run Digg-like sites, with 1 million members,
how do you moderate 10,000 stories effectively?

Plagiarismtoday has a useful analysis of DMCA rules vis-a-vis Social media sites, including valuable tips.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

How to use blogs for your business

A blog is an easy-to-update web site. A regularly updated blog helps you develop rich two-way dialogues with your stakeholders – customers, suppliers, retailers, investors, and other constituents.

Having a constantly updated blog reduces dependency on press releases – the company blog enables you to talk about new developments and then listen to people give inputs through comments or emails.

If yours is a one-person startup, get a free blog on, and many others and start a conversation about your company, what it does and so on.

If you have used an online email account at, or others and know how to use the basic formatting features in Microsoft Word, you will take up blogging without 30 minutes.

Many studies about usage of web 2.0 tools such as blogs in companies noticed that most companies do not trust their employees, fearing about the nature of information they might put online.

One solution is to find someone is the marketing department, who can actually write, trusting her/him to cover the latest developments in the company.

Common Topics for your company blog:

1. Information about new products and services
2. Changes/modifications to products & services, company policies, etc
3. Company events: the calendar of events, topics for events, etc
4. Looking for partners, suppliers, wholesalers, retailers
5. Run contests, polls, quizzes to generate user leads
6. Job postings: getting response in comments
7. Informing the public about emergencies: For example, the CEO can talk about the mess at the recent trade event.
8. Satisfaction surveys
9. Asking customers for suggestions about what to put upcoming products/services
10. Presenting the so-called human face to your company: writing about company outings, reaching key milestones (1000th customer), new hires, those who are leaving, etc

A constantly updated blog can bring more search traffic. You can route this traffic to your main site where you sell your wares.

Having a blog reduces your dependency on Public Relation agencies, dedicated webmaster, among other things. Once you start blogging, you go on to learn how to extract more value from your online presence. There is a wealth of information on blogging-related activities online.

Best practices for your company blog:
1. First and foremost, No fluff. Only data.
Be to the point. Write for your users not for yourself. The online user may be more informed and can get through your B.S. For your reader’s sake, do not bore them to close the browser window by using flowery language resembling a communiqué from the government press service.

2. Track usage of your blog by using freely available services such as, – tracking how many people accesses you site today, from which country, most popular pages, frequent refers, etc.

3. Easily accessible useful links: RSS feed for your blog, Detailed ‘About” category, E-mail ID, etc.

4. Learn from the best company blogs: Start with the official Google blog. Read it from start to end. Observe the wide breadth of Google-related topics it covers. Observe the simplicity and directness of presentation.


Bloggers as credentialed journalists

The debate over whether bloggers are journalists is not going to be silenced any time soon.

The blogosphere is maturing. However, personal publishing, the modern foundation for professional writers and reporters is never going to cease.

The quest for balanced, useful and informed opinion is successful when bloggers choose to be topical, objective and throw opinions after careful consideration.

I can cite examples of bloggers being taken seriously by the mainstream media and business in general:

1. Matthew Lee, the only blogger at the United Nations with media credentials. The New York Times writes that Mr. Lee is entitled to a free office space and has access to briefings and press conferences.

2. The New York Times writes that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party allowed bloggers into their 2004 conventions.

3. Gaming, software and gadget companies regularly send new products to prominent bloggers for review. Although, the sector is so informal that it makes me hard to judge whether a review is biased.

One thing that jars me is the absence of bloggers from press conferences and company analysts meets.

Reason: people fear that they cannot ‘control’ the information as far as bloggers are concerned.

Moreover, proper standards about disclosure is one of the things that the blogosphere has to see more of if the best bloggers among us are to get equal place along with fellow journalists in the eyes of general public and business.

It is one of the goals of bloggers who use blogs as springboard for their careers that one day they are able to rise above the din of all that self-important noise masquerading as ‘important’ opinion.

We will have to work hard for that to happen.


Calacanis’ next: Editor-moderated search?

Nick Douglas reports about the possibility that Jason Calacanis is getting into editor-moderated/powered search. According to floating rumors, Calacanis has put 20 people into the project, which is backed by investors.

Calacanis, coming from a journalistic background has long advocated human ‘power’ over automation.

When he was with AOL/Netscape, he converted into a Digg-like site moderated by subject guides, who are paid $1000 each.

Calacanis has long argued for a human face to Wikipedia, so that people know about the contributors, especially in case of articles about living persons, also calling for an ad-supported Wikipedia.

Early reports say that editors at new venture will filter and aggregate links for popular queries on search engines.


Monday, April 30, 2007

What if most of the top Digg users were all journalists?

The top stories on Digg on any given day are technology-related or about things that entertain the young, techie male type- funny, gaming, videos, with a bit of girls thrown in here and there for garnish.

Compare this to Reddit and you will find a similar layout and feel. However, you will also come across many stories from newspapers and serious magazines – from the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly and so on.

One reason for this may be that Reddit is owned people who own Wired too.

So, what would happen if most of the top Digg users were journalists?

The top stories would reflect some of the best writing stories on the net.

Of course, smart journalists know that only a select few read the serious o-ed pieces, thus including a judicious mix of sports, celebrity gossip, weird news, photos, and videos as well.

The new Digg front page may thus resemble a true global newspaper.

However, let us come back to reality. There is no way all this is going to happen. Kevin Rose and his team are mighty pleased with the community they got. Every successful social network is content within the parameters and comfort zone of their community.

I propose a band of enthusiastic journalists and build a better Digg – insightful stories, no hypocrisy of moderation, different system of rating and voting, focused sections, among other improvements.

P.S.: Incidentally, this is my 200th post on MediaVidea.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Chronicles of gaming: the party, the goat and the offal

Consider some scenes from a party:

Guests reaching inside a slaughtered goat’s still-warm carcass to eat offal from its stomach.

Guests competing to see who can eat the most of the goat’s intestines – from its stomach.
Guests throwing knives at targets.
Guests pulling live snakes from a pit with their bare hands.
Topless girls dipping grapes into guests’ mouths.

These are some of the highlights from a party organized by Sony on the occasion of the European release of ‘God of War 2’ for the Playstation 3 console. The game has a 18 certificate and some say it has one of the most visceral combat scenes ever.

Some bright, overpaid guy at Sony then decided to carry pictures from the party into the latest Playstation magazine.

That is all well and fine but how do you explain what people did in real life? I don’t play video games but looking at the photos, I might have believed myself that maybe this is how people who play violent video games act in real life.

Of course, that would have been over-simplification but then this how any normal observer might think.

As expected, the Sony orgy has attracted the justified fury of animal lovers and on the other hand it gives credence to critics of violent games.

The magazine article asks readers how far they would go to get hold of Sony’s next-generation console, the PlayStation 3. Thank God this is not what the publishers of Grand Theft Auto might have asked gamers.

I would like to think that Gaming has its virtues; helping people pass time, for one, but the Sony party gives a bad name to the gaming industry.

People might get the idea the industry caters to self-engrossed hedonists, spoilt-silly with too much money and time to spare.

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How Jimmy Wales intends to earn money from Wikipedia

His plan is simple: do all you can to put on the map.

Think of as the ad-supported, ad sharing version of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia’s decision in January to include the nofollow tag with all outbound links from Wikipedia was controversial, to say the least.

However, Techcrunch reports that the nofollow tag is not applied to inter-wiki links , including links to Wikia , which is Wikipedia’s for-profit offshoot. This 'linking hypocricy' ensures that all of Wikipedia's valuable link juice goes to no one but, giving boost to Wikia's search engine rankings.

In January, Techcrunch reported that’s traffic is on the up, producing 2.5 million page views per day.

Wikia launched OpenServing last December, which gives free web hosting to wiki developer who are free to put up their own ads – a wiiki version of

Wikia has launched 5‘open source’ magazines on travel, politics, gadgets and entertainment and gaming.

A Wikia search engine is also in the works.