Being mean

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I read Nick Carr’s Rough Type on a more or less regular basis. I don’t always agree with him, but I like the fact that he takes the time to write longer, more in-depth postings. He’s also one of the few, it seems, who can be critical of Web 2.0 stuff, but still remain somewhat of an insider. I study how he manages this; somewhat like the anthropologist studying the aboriginal customs of stretching ear lobes and jumping off towers with really bad bungee cords.

I’ve found he can write with an edge at times, but I’ve never seen him be overly personal in his writings. Perhaps the postings where he is, fell on my ‘not reading Web 2.0 weblogs’ days.

I was surprised, then, of what he wrote of an altercation that happened on the Gillmore Gang podcast. It seems that regular member Mike Arrington resigned from the show, unexpectedly and on the air, because Steve Gillmore invited Nick Carr to appear. Of this, Arrington writes:

Nick’s been on two shows now. The first one I quickly dropped off, the second one, yesterday, I stayed until the end. I have a problem with Nick. I think he’s smart but he’s often overly cruel to people in his posts, people who sometimes aren’t in a position to defend themselves. I get the sense that he enjoys pulling people down, gets happiness out of it. He shows all the classic signs of a bully – he talks big on his blog but on the phone he’s a meek, submissive guy. He can’t stand up to people who stand up to him unless he’s hiding behind his blog. Guys like Nick are a dime a dozen on the Internet and until now I just basically ignored him. But I won’t be on a weekly podcast with the guy. If Nick is on the show, I’m not on it.

Long ago I made the choice not to associate with people who are mean to others. They can attack me all they want (Jason Calacanis does, and he’s on the show, and I have no problem with that). But when you are mean to other people it just makes my blood boil. It probably comes from watching too many kids get picked on in junior high.

Nick Carr mean. I went searching on these words, “Nick Carr mean” and found several older controversies, and a newer writing over at Paul Kedrosky’s. In that post, Kedrosky wrote:

I’m hesitant to write this, because like paying attention to a child who stomps his feet or holds his breath, it just encourages him, but I’ll do it anyway: While I generally like Nick Carr — he’s a graceful and thoughtful writer — he has become tiresome and reflexively contrarian.

He did it recently with a sensationalized piece on the death of Wikipedia, and he did it again with a silly hatchet job on Steve Rubel, and he’s doing it again today with a studiedly awry piece on l’affaire O’Reilly.

I actually rather liked what Carr wrote about what Rubel wrote. The question is: was it mean?

I can agree with Kedrosky in that Carr can be confrontational and controversial and probably likes the attention he gets with either, but the same can be said, most likely, of Kedrosky. It can most definitely be said of Mike Arrington, and that’s where this returns.

If you took the time to listen or watch the video that Kevin Marks posted on Mike Arrington’s “core values” session, and if you know me, it’s not hard to understand why I find Arrington, and people like Arrington, to be disturbing. In the video he talks of core values and being nice to each other, as he cut off Liz Henry when she was trying to make a counter-point. When Elisa Camahort tried to defend Henry’s right to speak, she, in turn, was shut down by Dave Winer. Ostensibly, the reason Winer gave later is that discussions leads were supposed to keep people from meandering on, but I watched as they let Chris Pirrilo chatter away for the longest time–and I like Chris, and I liked what he had to say, but it was very obvious that the discussion was poorly managed, with weight given to the ‘knowns’ versus the unknowns. More importantly, weight was given to those who said what Arrington wanted to hear.

This makes me unhappy. This isn’t about being mean or nice. This is about control. This is about shutting down independent voices, and doing so under the guise of Shiny, Happy People. This is terribly wrong; made more so by the fact that it’s so easily bought into.

When I didn’t weblog, I watched as people were shut down because they would question, they would be critical, because many times their views were contrary to the ‘speak as one voice’ crowd. I watched people respond to such criticism in a personal way; against Seth Finkelstein and Dave Rogers, most recently. Why? Because Finkelstein and Rogers are critical. More than that, sometimes they’re critical of the opinions of really nice people. It puzzles me, because I would think that the really nice people would welcome the criticism–after all, it does show interest in what you’re writing.

Being personal in response is a superior treatment, though, to the worst you can do to the person, which is shut them down. Agree as a group not to give notice, not to respond, not to acknowledge; resign when they’re invited to a podcast; ignore what they say in a discussion. God, somebody please tell me, in simple terms, how shutting people down is nice? Was there a global meeting held where the definition of ‘nice’ was extended to include the practice of exclusion? Did everyone suddenly become Amish or Scientologists? I await enlightenment on this one, because I don’t understand it.

I started the Bb Gun primarily because I wanted a place where I could be comfortably critical without such strong identification with being critical. I am more than just a Web 2.0 critic. It’s a part of me, but I am more. This issue, though, it goes to the core of me, and thus I write about it here.

There’s another reason I write about this issue here. It would seem, now, with both Carr and Arrington saying they won’t appear on Steve Gillmore’s Gillmore Gang that there are openings in the podcast. I also noticed that there’s a strong similarity between those who do participate, and I thought this would be a devine time for Mr. Gillmore to add some diversity to his show.

Perhaps the Gillmore gang could consider those who might extend the profile of the show participants just a tad away from the strongly enthnocentric makeup of its current cast of regulars. The leaders of the discussions on audio casting, tagging, audience building, and so on at the Blogher conference would be ideal candidates.

Weblogging Writing

What is real journalism?

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I had to read Jay Rosen’s idea over a couple of times to try to understand what it is he’s proposing for New Assignment. If I read him correctly, what he’s proposing is that someone suggests a story, others in the ’smart mob’ then dig up additional information (”How”, we have to ask) and when things ‘gel’ whatever ‘gel’ is, then an editor somehow scrunches it up and moves it to the New Assignment front page. At that point, the ’smart mob’ is supposed to blow it up, make it big, gather money, something. The end result is that money is gathered, a journalist contracted, and a story is born.

What forms the basis of that story? The questions the smart mob asks. Who does the research for the story? The smart mob. In other words, the audience takes over the tasks of the professional journalist (who is, we presume, trained in both knowing what questions to ask and how to do the research necessary to find the answers), and the professional than provides the ‘polish’ to make it into a quality story. Keep the smart, lose the mob.

Rosen’s idea brings up all sorts of utopian sounding concepts, but rather than play to the strengths of the new information infrastructure, it plays to the weakness–the mob is encouraged to be a mob, but thankfully the end result is refined under the civilizing influence of an editor and other professionals.

Why, on earth, would we do such a thing? Because we can’t stop sacrificing on the altar of journalism worship.

Recently I was able to participate as part of a media tour of the Johnson Shut-Ins area, to see the cleanup efforts associated with the flooding that happened last year. I was the only ‘amateur’. It was a fascinating experience, because it showed me how different I was from a professional journalist. Since I was mainly interesting in recording my impressions of the state of the park, I could disregard the facts and figures the park personnel were providing the media members and wander around taking photos; knowing that this important information would be reported by others and would not be my responsibility. I had that luxury, and because I did, I was able to provide a look at the park—unrefined and unedited—that differed from what the professionals provided.

This is where I’ve always felt we not-journalists—we people who love to write, to publish our viewpoints and interests—fit into the whole reporting/information cycle. We provide our personal impressions of an event while the professionals report the ‘facts’. It is incredibly liberating.

Much has been uncovered about Ameren since the flooding incident–including the fact that an engineer warned the dam was at risk. Plus we’ve found out there are hundreds of dams endangering people in this state, many of them not monitored by the government like the Ameren dam was. This sounds, to me, like a good story for the New Assignment.

It’s also one that I know would never make it to the front page. Why? It’s a regional story. It doesn’t take place in Massachusetts, New York, California, or Washington. There’s no famous people involved. It has nothing to do against Bush. It has nothing to do for Bush. Jon Stewart’s not interested. Not enough people have died. Even a couple of little kids almost drowning wouldn’t be enough to push this to the front of the sheets.

Luckily, we have local journalists who didn’t have to wait for the smart mob in order to work this story. Also, luckily, neither did I.

How about another story. Recently Mike Golby wrote on an incident that happened in his country, South Africa. It would seem an insurance agent, a Neil Watson, started up a web site to ‘expose’ to the world, and more importantly, to those who would travel to the country, how crime ridden his country is. Watson’s focus seems to be how people should not visit South Africa. Why he did so, I don’t know. Embarrass the government. Perhaps out of nostalgia for the good old days when whites ruled, and blacks knew their place.

One of the country’s politicians said to Watson that if he hated the country so much, why doesn’t he leave? The politician even offered to buy him and his family a one-way ticket, to New York. Of this, Mike wrote:

‘…’If you were wondering who Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula was addressing when he told the whingers and whiners to get the hell out of South Africa as they don’t belong here, Neil Watson’s your man. While I know nothing of this obvious jerk, any salesman able to afford a Camps Bay lifestyle is not earning his money; he’s taking it from the overwhelming number of South Africans either unemployed or paid a sub-standard wage by fat cats who grind their employees into the dirt with their sense of self-importance, self-entitlement, and over-priced SUV.

Interestingly enough, South Africa is actually on my top five list of countries I’d like to visit, primarily because of what Mike and another South African weblogger, Farrago, have written, and more importantly, shared in their pictures and stories. They’ve never hidden the problems facing South Africa, but they also write on the hopes, the lives of the average people, and show the exquisite beauty of the country.

As for safe places to live, I could suggest South Africa send Mr. Watson here, to East St. Louis. It might give him some perspective.

Mike wrote a follow-up post on Watson, and this one having to do with the local media.

The Independent story, under a headline showing the MSM to be more clueless than usual, carries today’s date. Megan Herselman was killed a month ago.


Do we have a crime problem in South Africa? Of course we do. Do we need bullshit like that published by The Independent, which reports her death as though it occurred on the weekend? No ways. Like a hole in the head, so to speak. Shoddy journalism does perhaps more damage than inept police work.


My advice to the editor of the Africa news desk? Fire your reporter, Basildon Peta.


As for the local media and their dim-witted readers, they’re milking Neil Watson’s little embarrassment for all it’s worth. One of his top stories? Non-whites Complain About Crime As Well. Glad to hear it Neil, you racist little shit. Black South Africans have always and will continue to bear the brunt of crime.

Are you surprised they respond like ‘us’? Christ. Enough. You make me puke.

Again, this would seem like a perfect story for the New Assignment. And just like the Ameren/Johnson Shut-Ins, it also would have no chance of making the front page.

The story isn’t in the United States or the UK. Not enough people have died, at once. It’s about continuing poverty and inequality, and lord knows, these are stories that don’t sell. There are no ‘web personalities’ involved. There are no ‘web personalities’ who even care.

The same people who would push the stories at New Assignment, are the same people who push the top stories the New York Times and the Washington Post; at the BBC and the Guardian; at and its cousin. Stories that allow people to have an opinion, to pick a side, to hold a placard, to experience the rush, and then go on to the next story. Hell, they’d probably be the ones promoting Watson–he sells better, you know.

Amanda left Rocketboom. Scoble left Microsoft. Some PR company files a libel suit against a weblogger. Someone is peeved at Dell. Some American politician said something stupid and scandalous. Some journalist wrote something about webloggers. You can repeat that last one a few times. Look at the front page at Memeorandum–there’s your smart mob. Here’s their story.

Now look at the photos of the South Africans Mike posted. Crap like that doesn’t sell newspapers, why would it be different because you shuffled the players about? Not enough bloody bodies. Not enough crying children. Not enough despair. The people Mike showed may be poor, but they had too much dignity, too much sense of humor, to make it past an editor. Besides, everyone knows the black people in Africa are poor. That’s no ’story’.

Luckily, there was Mike. There’s Adam Barnes. And now there’s me. And that’s the true power of all of this. Why the people–the ones who promote the new ‘citizen journalism’; who say they believe in all of this; who speak the ‘words’–continue to discount this, I don’t know.


The Barrel shooting report

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.


Blogspot, Typepad, and other hosted weblogs began to be blocked by various ISPs in India, all based on a directive from the Indian government. Luckily, it would seem that the wholesale blocking was a mistake, but until it was sorted out, Amit Agarwal provided a how-to-bypass the censors weblog post, with plenty of useful information.

(Wow. Useful writing related to technology appearing on This is a day to mark in your calendars.)


A collection was taken earlier this week among the A listers for links for Jason Calcanais. The man, desperate for attention and to avert AOL displeasure and thus avoid the the dreaded Death by Being Buried by AOL CDs, first tries to hire Unboomed Amanda with promises of stardom on AOL’s new Netscape portal.

(AOL!? That’s like being cast as Mary Ann in the remake of Gilligan’s Island.)


Rebuffed, he then tried to hire a dozen people whose only claim to fame is they spend hours a day just linking to other stories. When it was revealed that the ‘people’ he tried to hire were, in fact, monkeys typing randomly into a computer keyboard, Calcanais suffered a breakdown, and was last seen holed up in a hotel room, surrounded by plastic cutting sheers, muttering, “Earthlink. Earthlink. Earthlink.”

The illuminati knew that an intervention was necessary, and stepped up to provide such links: even arch nemises, Mike “core values” Arrington–after first informing AOL of Calcanais’ location, of course, because it was ‘the right thing to do.’

Speaking of our favorite Good Boy, Mike Arrington is throwing a party for 500 or so of his bestest friends (and other useful people), using a wiki to manage the sign up list.

This is an open party and at least the first 500 people to sign up on the wiki will be admitted. Identification will be checked and your name must be on the list.

A wiki to manage the sign up list.

A wiki.

Think about it.

But that’s not all…in an accidental emailing sent to Valleywag’s Nick rather than Techcrunch’s Nick, Arrington also talks about getting his staff to put Important People at the top of that ’silly list’. (Because the head of TECHCrunch can’t do it himself, we presume). Valleywag Nick, that reticent, noble, though charmingly naughty boy, published the email even though it hurt him to do so, thereby ensuring that no matter what, he’ll always be Mr. 501 to Arrington.

Earlier in the week, at a speech given by Tim Berners-Lee on the semantic web, lead algorithm wrangler at Google, Peter Norvig, debated the goodness of Tim B-Ls approach, especially when considering the ‘users’:

“What I get a lot is: ‘Why are you against the Semantic Web?’ I am not against the Semantic Web. But from Google’s point of view, there are a few things you need to overcome, incompetence being the first,” Norvig said. Norvig clarified that it was not Berners-Lee or his group that he was referring to as incompetent, but the general user.

Users are incompetent. Well, according to Techdirt, so are Google engineers.

Seriously, where would we be without the fine engineers like those at Google, making the world a better place for an incompetent thee and me? Probably sitting beside the Digg monkeys, hitting our logs with the shinbones of an antelope beating out words like vendorsphere.

(”Hey is that a series of short beats or one long *THUMP*? Damn! My bone just overheated!”)

Hey! Zune, Zune, Zune!

Yes, Microsoft is getting into the music business with a potential new iPod/iTunes killer coming out this fall. Two members of the team were so inspired that they each spontaneously created a weblog to talk about music and Independent Artists and community and creativity and other stuff.

In a tizzy of activity not seen since last week, insiders speculate widely on the new iBob, urh, iPod killer.

What we know is that it doesn’t utilize Microsoft’s other media management technology, PlayForSure, because it (PlayForSure) was created in a different division of the company (it being OK to ‘borrow’ heavily from rivals but not Joe down the hall); it has a logo that looks like a Jacob’s Ladder created by one of the Digg monkeys; Zune pronounced just right in Hebrew sounds like screwed (for sure); and the device will have Wifi and both it and the service focus on ‘community’ and ‘connectivity’.

According to Billboard:

Zune users will be able to view each other’s playlists, recommend music and sample tracks in what Stephenson describes as a multifaceted music discovery experience. This capability will extend to the Xbox 360 game console, PCs running Windows Media Center and mobile phones using the Windows Mobile operating system.

“The ability to connect the different devices is a key part of the strategy,” Stephenson says. “Whether it’s a portable media device, or a phone, or the Xbox or Media Center PC, the idea is you can access your entertainment from anywhere.”

I find this last bit reassuring, coming from a company known for its openness, its interest in protecting the confidentiality of its client’s data, and the security of its products.


Both Head Lemur and Charles at Disinfotainment have posted leaked photos of the new iPod killer from Microsoft.

Actually, I kinda like it.


One less than Scoble

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

According to data Randy Charles Morin collected from Dave Winer’s OPML, Dave has linked to my old Burningbird weblog only once less than he’s linked to Robert Scoble’s WordPress weblog.

Wow. I feel like I should do something…I don’t know…maybe lay a lily or a small stuffed animal at the base of my old weblog or something. Light a candle.

I know one thing for sure: this is a feat that will never be repeated.


Heat continues

The heat advisory has been extended to the weekend. By the middle of the week, the real temperature is supposed to approach 100 degrees. This, combined with the humidity, will probably result in heat indexes of 110.

You go outside only if you have to. Early morning, late at night, doesn’t matter. When the sun is up, it bakes. When it’s down, the heat radiates from the cement. I’ll wait until dark to make a quick trip to the store, and I have fans in all of the rooms upstairs to help circulate the effects of the air conditioning.

Luckily I’m so busy this week with editing, I would have to stay home anyway. I am beginning to feel the effects of cabin fever, though. A bit cranky, a bit antsy. However, when I start to feel too pissy and moany about it, I remember that I have air conditioning and how would like the alternative of not having a nice, cooled, modern day cave in which to hold out against the worst of the heat?

No, didn’t work. I still feel pissy and moany.