Want a Joost invite? Post a comment

I know people have emailed me over the last little while — ever since I wrote about Joost — to ask me if I had any invitations to the beta, but I can’t remember who it was. I didn’t have any invites at the time I got those emails, but I do now. So I’m going to give them to the first couple of people who add their comments to this post (and leave their real email, obviously), and then when I get some more invites I will do this all over again.



Well, that didn’t take long — nine comments in under an hour. As agreed, the first few commenters have been invited to Joost. Enjoy. When I get some more invitations I’ll do another post.

Social networking attracts the Big Iron boys

I suppose it was inevitable that the whole “social networking” phenomenon — which until now has been pretty much a grassroots effort, aside from Google’s purchase of YouTube and News Corp. buying MySpace — would eventually attract the attention of the Big Iron boys. And by that I mean companies like Cisco, the networking-equipment maker that is reportedly going to buy social network Tribe.net next week sometime.

mainframe.jpg I must admit that I share Pete Cashmore’s “WTF” response to this news. Maybe someone at Cisco overheard people talking about Facebook or MySpace and using the term “social networking,” and all they heard was the “networking” part. “Hey, we do all kinds of networking — Ethernet, PBX, optical, you name it,” the Cisco type might have thought. “How hard could social networking be?” Buy a provider like Tribe.net (which probably cost as much as the Cisco branch office in Mobile, Alabama spends on paper clips every year), and away you go. Drop in on Really Big Corp. Ltd., sell them some switches and throw in some of that social-type networking too.

Coming so soon after the announcement of IBM’s big Lotus Connections rollout, in which the giant computer services company mashed up its own del.icio.us-type tool, a blog tool and some other social networking apps, it seems fairly obvious that the Big Iron boys would like be the ones helping companies get on board the social networking train. But is that really the best way to go? I’m pretty sure that it isn’t.

Paying Cisco millions of dollars to put together your wired or wireless network makes sense. They control the hardware, they know the protocols and technology standards, and they know that security is important for a corporate network. But social networks and social networking tools aren’t exactly rocket surgery, if you know what I mean — there aren’t really any complicated tools or standards (other than ethical standards).

What makes a social network function isn’t so much the tools as it is the attitude. You gotta have the “want to.” And that isn’t something you can get out of a box.

Further reading:

Om Malik is similarly skeptical of Cisco’s newfound interest in social networking, and compares the combination to the marriage of Angelie Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton. And Joe Duck makes a similar point to mine: social networking isn’t about technology, it’s about people. My friend Mark Evans is also skeptical of Cisco’s move.

A quick mesh 2007 note

Just as we did last year for the first mesh Web conference in Toronto, we’re offering a limited number of student tickets for the ultra-low price of $25 (plus GST), thanks to the help of our sponsors. And this is a quick note to say that they are going fast. If you’re interested, better head over to the mesh site and register now. Regular-price tickets are actually going pretty quickly too, incidentally. But there are still some left 🙂

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

N.B. Just one more quick mesh-related note, now that I think of it. We’ve gotten some feedback about our choice of keynotes — specifically the maleness thereof — and if you’re interested there’s a post up about it (on behalf of the organizing group) at the mesh blog.

Viacom goes one way, BBC the other

So Viacom is apparently bragging about how traffic to its properties, including Comedy Central, has climbed by as much as 90 per cent since it told YouTube to take down 100,000 or so of its video clips. And much of that traffic boost is people coming to watch videos, the company says.

GoogleTV2.jpgTo me, this sounds like some premature back-patting by whichever senior executive at the media conglomerate decided to get all medieval on YouTube for hosting things like clips of Jon Stewart, or South Park’s brilliant World of Warcraft parody episode. It will be interesting to see whether those traffic increases stick or not. And it’s also interesting to see that the venerable BBC — an “old” media giant that has been teaching much younger media outlets a thing or two about new media for some time now — has taken a different tack when it comes to YouTube.

The Beeb has signed a deal to host several channels at YouTube, with short clips that the broadcaster says it hopes will drive traffic back to the BBC hubs. Since the Beeb is financed by a TV licensing fee (which it polices using high-tech “TV detection vans”), there will be IP blocks for anyone located in Britain — although not for the BBC Worldwide channel, as PaidContent notes.

This seems like a much smarter strategy to me than just pulling hundreds of thousands of clips (in fact, the BBC has said that it doesn’t plan to crack down on the clips that are already out there). The broadcaster presumably gets some juice from the clips, it gets some ad revenue as well, and then drives some traffic back to the full video content at its own site. Win-win, theoretically — although Ben Metcalfe seems to disagree with me.

Of course, there’s always Mark Cuban’s approach as well. And while we’re on the subject of back-patting, YouTube doesn’t seem to have suffered all that much as a result of the Viacom clips disappearing, and is busy signing deals with smaller content owners, including the NBA. See Mark Cuban’s comment below.


Seamus McCauley has some thoughts (somewhat conspiratorial) about why the BBC might have wanted to do a deal with YouTube. Could it be all about the licensing fee?

Wired’s Digg slam is offside

The story in Wired magazine entitled “I bought votes on Digg” shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Not only has the service used by the author — an automated voting system called User/Submitter — been written about before, but anyone who has paid any attention over the past six months to a year knows that there are problems with the Digg model.

entrapment.jpgThe site has had issues with people “gaming” it pretty much since inception, and there has been a back-and-forth battle between Kevin Rose, Digg spammers and the top Digg submitters for some time now. Digg recently removed the top Diggers list in an attempt to cut down on the incentive for gaming, but as Scott Karp notes in a recent post at Publishing 2.0, there is still an incentive to vote up sites like the fake blog that Wired cooked up for its story, because doing so gets you reputation points if the link becomes popular and moves to the front page. Muhammad Saleem of The Mu Life has written about these issues many times.

So the Wired magazine piece isn’t exactly a surprise. That wouldn’t be noteworthy, except for the fact that — as Mike Arrington at TechCrunch reminds us — Wired magazine is part of a publishing company, CondeNast, that owns one of Digg’s main competitors: namely, Reddit. The story mentions the ownership issue parenthetically, but I still think it’s offside. Unlike Mike, I don’t think Digg should sue Wired, but I do think it looks bad for a magazine to cook up an event to make a company look bad, and then write about that event, when a sister company is a major competitor.

I would compare the story written by Annalee Newitz (a freelance writer who used to be a policy analyst with the Electronic Freedom Foundation, according to the bio on her blog) with the kind of “sting” that newspapers write when they sneak knives aboard a plane to show how lax security is. The only difference, of course, is that in most of those cases, the newspaper’s parent company doesn’t own a competing airline.

Wired’s piece for me crosses a line. If the story had been about some neutral third party that hired User/Submitter, then that would be one thing. But Wired effectively perpetrated the sting itself, and that smells bad to me.


Ms. Newitz’s story is a companion piece to this article entitled “Herding the Mob,” which is about reputation hacking on sites like Digg and eBay. There’s also a third piece about Digg by another author that is part of the same package, called “Hunting Down the Bury Brigade.”

Further reading:

Ed Felten of Freedom to Tinker has some worthwhile thoughts about manipulating reputation systems here, and Tony Hung of Deep Jive Interests — also a veteran Digg watcher — has a post here. Frantic Industries also thinks Wired is playing on the wrong side of the tracks with this one, and Robyn Tippins at Sleepyblogger takes a crack at it as well.

Jimmy Wales is wrong about Essjay


Jimmy Wales has posted a statement on his talk page at Wikipedia about the Essjay affair, and from the sounds of it he has changed his mind about what Ryan Jordan did — and has asked him to resign from his positions within the Wikipedia community. And I for one think he has done the right thing.

I understood this to be primarily the matter of a pseudonymous identity (something very mild and completely understandable given the personal dangers possible on the Internet) and not a matter of violation of people’s trust.

I want to make it perfectly clear that my past support of EssJay in this matter was fully based on a lack of knowledge about what has been going on.

There’s some more background and details in this New York Times story.

Original post:

Hardly a month goes by without some new dustup involving Wikipedia — either because someone edited their own entry, or because someone bitched about not being able to edit their own entry, or because someone paid someone else to edit an entry. The latest brouhaha concerns a New Yorker piece that quoted a senior Wikipedia administrator named Essjay, a person described as a tenured professor of religion at a private U.S. university.

wikipedia logo.jpgAs it turns out, Essjay is no such thing. His real name is Ryan Jordan, and he doesn’t have a degree in theology or canon law (as his Wikipedia profile claims), nor does he teach at any kind of educational institution. He is 24, and works for Wikia, the for-profit company started by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales. And what was the response to the New Yorker piece? Jimmy Wales told the New Yorker that he regards Essjay’s fake profile as “a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.” On his talk page at Wikipedia he says:

“EssJay has always been, and still is, a fantastic editor and trusted member of the community. He apologized to me and to the community for any harm caused.

Trolls are claiming that he “bragged” about it: this is bullshit. He has been thoughtful and contrite about the entire matter and I consider it settled.”

There is much discussion on the talk page about how Ryan Jordan maintained a fake profile under a pseudonym because he wanted to protect himself from “stalkers” such as Daniel Brandt, who runs a site called Wikipedia Watch that is critical of the open-source encyclopedia and regularly reveals the identities of Wikipedia editors. Others such as Chris Edwards point out, however, that Jordan was using his fake profile before Brandt started becoming a nuisance, not to mention the fact that fear of stalkers doesn’t explain why Jordan regularly cited his fake credentials.

Others at Wikipedia are arguing that Essjay was a valuable contributor to Wikipedia, that none of the editing he has done is being questioned (although perhaps it should be), and that a person’s actual biographical details should be irrelevant. Even Jimmy Wales seems to feel that Jordan’s misinformation was a harmless mistake, since he has appointed him to the arbitration committee.

I would argue that both Wales and Jordan’s supporters are wrong. Whether Essjay’s work at Wikipedia is above reproach isn’t the point. The point is that Wikipedia already has people questioning its credibility right and left, and the fact that a supposed expert — one who was put forward by Wikipedia itself as an authority on the project, not to mention a shining example of how it works — would effectively lie to the New Yorker is beyond the pale. If Wikipedia wants to have any claim to credibility at all, Essjay should be fired.


Essjay has made a statement on his talk page, and still maintains that he disguised his identity to protect himself from trolls and stalkers. Why he made up the credentials is not explained, although he says he was surprised that the New Yorker didn’t check those facts. He also says that it was his impression that it was “well known that I was not who I claimed to be.” Please see the comments below for further clarification.