Rocketboom looking for another rocket

Courtesy of my close friend Dave Winer comes news that Amanda Congdon has left Rocketboom, the massively popular video blog/online TV show that she co-founded with Andrew Baron — who was on a very well-received panel about the future of broadcasting at our mesh conference in May.

According to the video clip she has posted at her site, she was effectively fired by Andrew, who owns 51 per cent of the company. I’ve got an email in to Andrew to try and find out what happened, but it would appear that Rocketboom has lost its rocket (or its boom). What that means for the future of the popular show — and for Amanda, who has gained a wide following in the blogosphere — remains to be seen.

Maybe Andrew might be interested in hiring our very own Web-tech video jockey, Amber MacArthur of G4TechTV’s Call For Help.

The blogosphere is not a thing

Kudos to my M-list buddy Kent Newsome for posting pretty much what I intended to write (if I had been around a computer at the time) after I read Stephen Baker’s recent piece at BusinessWeek’s Blogspotting. Baker’s post came in response to a comment by Steven Streight — aka Vaspers the Grate — on a previous Blogspotting post. In complaining about the number of blogs filled with drivel, Streight said that “as the blogosphere fills up with more and more worthless blogs, the overall quality and reliability of the blogosphere as a whole declines.”

In his post, Baker notes — correctly — that “the blogosphere by itself has no credibility. Individual bloggers build their own credibility.” The fact that there are thousands of inane, asinine, flaccid or insipid blogs out there doesn’t diminish the quality of those that are good. If anything, it enhances the good blogs by making them seem even more rare. And Kent makes the same point: “Saying that the blogosphere is losing credibility is like saying the spoken or written word is losing credibility. It’s not the medium that matters – it’s the person at the other end of it.”

For what it’s worth, Vaspers clarifies his argument here.

Nick Carr, Web 2.0’s grim reaper

It’s been awhile since we heard anything substantive from Nick Carr, the grim reaper of Web 2.0, the Doctor Doom of interactivity, the Keeper of Souls for anything related to Wikipedia, etc. But the launch of Netscape as an interactive news site similar to Digg seems to have gotten him fired up — albeit several weeks after the event itself.

Nick says that since Netscape served as midwife for the original Web, in what he calls “a lovely ironic twist,” the company may be “the undertaker at the burial of the Web 2.0 hype.” Mr. Carr seems to like declaring things to be dead, or at least on their deathbed, since he has done that at least a couple of times already with Wikipedia. His regular calls of doom remind me of Sir Lancelot in Monty Python and The Holy Grail, who was so eager to declare people dead so that he could ride off to avenge them.

Nick says that Netscape’s new format looks like “a junk drawer” because people have voted all kinds of oddball stories to the top, such as one about the discovery of Noah’s Ark. This is similar to the slagging of that takes place regularly, which involves picking some of the top stories in order to prove what morons most people are. Then he says that “normal people” (whoever they are) dislike the revamp, as proven by items such as this one.

None of that proves anything close to what Nick is arguing for, however, which is the death of interactivity in news media. All it shows is that some people react badly to change, and some wish to have others decide what’s important for them. On the former point, I would agree with Dare Obasanjo that Jason Calacanis probably handled the transition badly, and could have done a better job preparing people for the move.

A breath of fresh air from Nick Denton

Courtesy of Steve Rubel at Micropersuasion — who seems to catch things before just about anyone (including me) — I came across a piece in the New York Times about Nick Denton selling off some of his Gawker Media blogs and reassigning various bloggers from other properties. According to the story, he has put Sploid — a tabloid-style blog — on the block, along with Screenhead, which was devoted to online video and other new media, and has reassigned bloggers at Gawker itself as well as Wonkette and Gizmodo.

The always refreshingly — even brutally — honest Denton says that events such as’s wildly popular recent blog mixer make him nervous. “It made me want to move to Budapest, batten down the hatches and wait for the zombies to run out of food,” he told the Times. Nick has regularly made comments about how the blog explosion is overrated, and some of that is no doubt intended to keep as many competitors away from the field as possible (Jeff Jarvis says Nick practices “reverse hypology”). But he is also quite right that blog networks such as Gawker, just like regular media, have to be ruthlessly managed.

In many ways, Denton’s stable — much like Jason Calacanis’s very similar Weblogs Inc., now owned by AOL — are more like traditional magazines than they are like blogs. They have short items posted regularly, just like blogs, and they often have personality and a point of view just like blogs, but many of them don’t accept comments (Valleywag makes you apply to be a member who can comment) and don’t really have a sense of community about them.

I’m not saying any of that is bad — I’m just saying they are very much like magazines, and magazines need to be ruthlessly managed and pruned. And as Nick points out, online magazines are even more vulnerable than the print kind. “The barrier to entry in Internet media is low,” he said. “The barrier to success is high.” The Huffington Post’s Eat The Press site has more on the personnel changes at Gawker, including internal memos and a preview of a post from Nick, in which he says (among other things) “Better to sober up now, before the end of the party.”

Wise advice.

Scoble breaks the law in Second Life

It’s getting so the virtual world isn’t any fun any more. Isn’t the whole point of an imaginary universe that you can toy with the laws of nature, by doing things like flying? Apparently some laws aren’t meant to be broken, however — such as the law that says teenagers can’t play Second Life. Or at least not the adult version anyway. Former Microsoft PR blogger Robert Scoble seems to have run afoul (again) of the lawmakers in the virtual world of SL, by allowing his 12-year-old son to play the adult version of the game.

The Scobleizer says that he got his son to build some objects in Second Life while he was moderating a panel at the Gnomedex conference. Unfortunately for Scoble, a Linden Labs employee (Linden runs Second Life) was in the audience and put two and two together, then confronted Scoble junior (in the game) and after the panel spoke to Scoble as well. She said Scoble’s account would be banned, and that he was not entitled to a refund of the $100 worth of Second Life objects he had purchased, including a virtual Mac computer. The uber-blogger must have known it was coming, however, since he has been down this road before.

It’s obvious that Scoble has an issue with the age restrictions on Second Life. He has written before about how he thinks it should be up to the individual parent whether they let their child play the game, and where they let them go. From Second Life’s point of view, however, it is an invitation to a lawsuit, much like the $30-million one that MySpace is now fighting because a teen was molested by someone she allegedly met through the social network. I tend to agree with Scoble though, who said in one post: “This is a virtual world. Why do we need to live with first-world rules?” My M-lister pal Kent Newsome disagrees though.