Weinberger’s third order of information

From ALA TechSource, an online resource for librarians, comes a great review of David Weinberger’s book Everything is Miscellaneous.

“This book is dangerous. Everything is Miscellaneous takes all the precious ideas we are taught as librarians and throws them out the window. Structure, order, precise metadata, bibliographic control: gone, gone, gone, gone.

Even, for you edgier types, ye who tell of your Semantic Web and your RDF triples: old-school, good-bye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

In what Weinberger describes as the “third order” of information, knowledge is no longer bound by either-or decisions, and “can be in many places at once; knowledge does not fit into finite boxes or even have a shape; and — most disturbingly, though in Weinberger’s hands, also most entertainingly — messiness is a virtue.”

Weinberger “explains this point repeatedly but no better than in a section discussing Flickr, where automated and human-supplied metadata create “a mess than gets richer in potential and more useful every day. … Third-order messes reverse entropy, becoming more meaningful as they become messier, with more relationships built in.”

As the ALA TechSource blog notes:

“The third order is most definitely not about attempting to perfect second-order rules and weld them to a third-order universe; it is not about predictive information; it is not about the primacy of accuracy over volume. The third order, in other words, is the opposite of how we do things in LibraryLand.”

In summary, says writer Karen Schneider: “This is, I repeat, a dangerous book. Ban it, burn it, or take it to heart. The most dangerous part of this book is not that Weinberger says these things, and so much more: the danger comes if we don’t listen.” Cory Doctorow has a review of the book at BoingBoing, and Cory is also the first in a series of interviews that Weinberger has done to go along with the book which are being made available as podcasts — and will include interviews with Arianna Huffington, Craig Newmark and others.

Never pick a fight with someone…

The AACS — the group of companies behind the encryption standard used in HD-DVD discs, whose encryption key was posted to Digg by about 10,000 people in the course of a day last week, which I wrote about here — just doesn’t seem to know when to quit. Despite the fact that its attempt to get BoingBoing and Google and Digg to remove the key string blew up in its face, the AACS now says it will continue its near-sighted campaign.

snipshot_e4qun407gkf.jpgThe lesson the AACS seems unwilling to learn is sometimes referred to as the Streisand Effect, in reference to the aging chanteuse who didn’t want photos of her home published, and only encouraged even more people to publish them. Is what happened with Digg petty? Perhaps. A lame attempt at civil disobedience? Maybe. An example of mob rule? Quite likely. But the AACS is still going to gain exactly nothing by trying to pursue its absurd strategy.

As someone once said (no one is quite sure who, but probably Mark Twain): “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” At the time it was said, it could only have referred to picking a fight with a newspaper publisher or journalist, since they were the only ones with the ability to publish whatever they wanted. Now anyone with a grudge, or an ax to grind, or a hobbyhorse to ride can be a publisher.

On a related note, Jason Calacanis talked to Digg CEO Jay Adelson and the EFF’s Fred von Lohmann on his podcast the other day, and it made for some interesting listening. Among other things, Jay said that at the peak of the submission frenzy, Digg was getting two submissions of the key every second, which meant that Digg was “essentially rendered inoperative.” The discussion over what to do about it, he said, “was an all-day thing.”

Adelson also said that Digg “is a living and breathing, user-controlled environment,” and that he “couldn’t hire enough people to moderate digg, it just wouldn’t be possible.” Digg tried to remove all the submissions — including some that posted the binary version, and some that posted links to a YouTube video in which someone sang a song containing the key.

But the bottom line for the AACS, as Fred von Lohmann said, is that “if they wanted to keep the key secret they did precisely the wrong thing.” And seem determined to continue doing it.

The mesh 2007 schedule is live

It’s still being tinkered with here and there, but the schedule for mesh 2007 is pretty well baked, so we’ve put it up on the mesh site for your perusal. In addition to Mike Arrington, Jim Buckmaster, Richard Edelman, Tom Williams and Austin Hill as keynotes (media, business, marketing and society), we have some amazing panelists lined up, including:

— Michael Sikorsky, CEO of Cambrian House
— Rachel Sklar of Huffington Post
— Leonard Brody of NowPublic.com
— Simon Pulsifer, the “king of Wikipedia”
— Cynthia Brumfield of IPDemocracy
— Loren Feldman of 1938media.com
— Jeff Howe of Crowdsourcing.com
— Jen Evans of Sequentia
— Paul Sullivan of Orato.com
— John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing
— Mary Hodder of Dabble.com
— Steve Hermann of the BBC
— Liberal MP Garth Turner
— Nancy Peterson of Homestars.ca
— writer and comedian Scott Feschuk
— podcaster Leesa Barnes
— political pundit Andrew Coyne
— Christine Herron of the Omidyar Network
— Nora Young of CBC’s Not the Opera
— Paul Kedrosky of Infectious Greed
— Amber MacArthur of CityNews
— Scott Brooks of ConceptShare
— Lionel Menchaca, chief Dell blogger
— blogger/marketer Kate Trgovac
— Ethan Kaplan of blackrimglasses.com
— Jian Ghomeshi of the CBC
— McLean Mashingaidze-Greaves of Rapspace.tv
— Mike Masnick of Techdirt
— Deborah Kaplan of Zerofootprint.com
— Mark Dowds of Indoor Playground
— Rick Segal of J.L. Albright
— Leila Boujnane of Idee Inc.
— Jordan Banks of eBay Canada
— David Jones of Fleishmann-Hillard
— Maggie Fox of Social Media group

I figured what the heck, might as well just put them all on here 🙂 As I said, there might be some tinkering with the list, but that’s what it looks like right now and we are all pretty excited about it. Not long now — get your tickets while you can.

MSFT and Yahoo: two icebergs, roped together


The latest version of the Wall Street Journal story at 4:19 on Friday afternoon says that the talks between Microsoft and Yahoo “are no longer active,” according to the paper’s sources — although “the two companies may still explore other ways of cooperating.”

Original post:

I wonder if Rupert Murdoch has any shares in Yahoo he’s trying to get rid of. Just kidding 🙂 But now would be a pretty good time to unload them. The New York Post ignited a firestorm of rumour this morning — and lit a fire under Yahoo’s share price too — with a story saying Microsoft is back in merger talks with the Internet portal. That pushed Yahoo’s moribund stock up by 17 per cent or so, adding about $6-billion to its market cap.

snipshot_e4j1ejppaan.jpgAs the Wall Street Journal points out in its story, the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo is not a new idea. The two companies were reportedly talking a year or so ago about a possible deal, and now those talks have apparently been revived. But does it make any sense? That depends on how you look at it. It makes sense when you consider that Microsoft’s search and related assets are running a distant — and I mean distant — third in the market. And Yahoo, for all of its faults, is a big property with a snappy new engine behind its search, which is (theoretically) supposed to close the gap with Google.

That’s the “glass is half full” argument. The half-empty argument is that both Microsoft and Yahoo are lumbering behemoths with hardly an agile bone left in their sclerotic bodies. Most of their problems stem from the fact that they have accumulated immense bureaucracies — a big part of the impetus for Yahoo exec Brad Garlinghouse’s infamous “peanut butter” manifesto — and a collection of legacy businesses that keep getting in the way.

They are like icebergs: not only is nine-tenths of them unseen, but they are slow-moving and difficult to steer. Impressive? Yes. Powerful? No doubt about it. But fast, or nimble or imaginative? No. Roping them together would do nothing but compound their problems.

Further reading:

Paul Kedrosky doesn’t think the merger would be a good thing, even though he has been speculating that Microsoft would probably take a run at Yahoo for some time now. Even Henry “I used to be a famous Wall Street analyst” Blodget doesn’t like the idea. And Charlene Li of Forrester Research takes a look at both sides of the argument here. Seamus McCauley puts it well in his blog post at Virtual Economics: Yahoo plus MSN does not equal Google.

Yahoo gets smart, kills Yahoo Photos

snipshot_e4qmki7axqg.jpg According to Mike Arrington — who interrupted his dinner with Brad Garlinghouse of Yahoo and Flickr creator Stewart Butterfield to do a blog post about it — Yahoo is effectively closing the doors on its photo service and migrating everyone either to Flickr or to another online photo service of their choice (Photobucket, Webshots, Snapfish, etc.). USA Today had the story too. Although there are details to be worked out, such as whether Flickr users will get free unlimited hosting the way Yahoo Photos users did or be forced to pay and upgrade to Flickr Pro, I think this is a smart move. Running two photo services doesn’t make any sense.

Maybe someone is finally paying attention to that “peanut butter” memo from awhile back — written, coincidentally enough, by Brad Garlinghouse. Danny Sullivan isn’t so sure that it’s a smart move because he thinks Yahoo Photos users will be pissed. Incidentally, Yahoo Photos hosts over two *billion* photos. Yes, billion. And Mike says that Flickr is going to allow users to upload video soon as well as photos — that should make things interesting.

MySpace, YourSpace and Politics 2.0

(cross-posted from my Globe and Mail blog)

Politicians love to show how hip and “with it” they are, by using all those cool Interweb tools like MySpace and Facebook, uploading their videos to YouTube, and even inviting bloggers onto their campaign tours, as John Edwards did with uber-blogger Robert Scoble (although Edwards had a somewhat less pleasant experience involving two bloggers he hired to work for him, who got roasted by conservative Catholics for things they had written on their personal blogs).

snipshot_e4188ixfjpuf.jpgBut it seems that at least some of the cogs in the traditional political machine in both Canada and the U.S. didn’t get the memo about the new openness and being part of the “conversation.” The Ontario government has reportedly blocked Facebook from all of its employees, arguing that the social nature of the site isn’t appropriate for staff when they are at work — in the same way that employers used to remove Minesweeper from PCs because they thought people would spend all day playing it. Now lots of places block web-based email for the same reason, or “entertainment”-related websites.

Meanwhile, south of the border, the Barack Obama campaign is currently embroiled in a battle with a former Obama supporter over the presidential hopeful’s MySpace site. A 29-year-old paralegal named Joe Anthony set up the page in 2004 as a personal project, and managed to build it up to the point where the U.S. senator had over 160,000 MySpace “friends” — more than all of the other candidates combined.

According to Anthony’s version of events, the Obama campaign machine made it clear they wanted to start running the site, and although he tried to remain involved (and by his own admission asked about potential compensation for the unpaid work he had put into it) the site was eventually taken over by Obama and he was blocked from having access. He says:

“The campaign got involved in February and although at first it was very exciting, it quickly became clear that they just had no interest in me or my involvement. They only wanted to take control of the profile and get on with it… they quickly went from passive aggressive, to aggressive, and then eventually just rotten and dishonest.”

In addition to not making friends with Anthony due to their approach, Obama’s campaign also lost about 90 per cent of the “friends” they had built up on MySpace, dropping to about 12,000 from 160,000. And hundreds of commenters on Anthony’s blog — and their own blogs — said they had lost faith in the presidential candidate, or that they were convinced he was “all hype and no substance.” Not great marketing, needless to say.

There’s more on the story — including some response from the Obama campaign about why they did it — at TechPresident.com, where Micah Sifry was the first to get the full story. An Obama campaign worker has also posted a long discussion of the events on the candidate’s official website.

In an update on Wednesday, Anthony said that he had received a phone called from Barack Obama, and that

“I assured him that this is just a horrible thing that happened and obviously he wasn’t responsible and shouldn’t be held responsible. It’s his campaign that perhaps mismanaged this whole thing. He of course stands by his campaign, but again. . . much to be learned by all.”

In the end, he said, “It’s not right what they did to me and this profile, but it’s also wrong to let this change your views of Barack Obama as a candidate.” Problem solved? Perhaps. But Barack Obama likely won’t be the last candidate to get a rude awakening from social networks like MySpace and Facebook. They aren’t just platforms for marketing spin and electioneering — that whole “two-way conversation” thing is for real, and it can bite you in a tender place if you’re not careful.


Micah Sifry at TechPresident.com has a great follow-up post in which he tries to get to the bottom of how much work Joe Anthony put into the Obama MySpace pages, and what that might be worth — and therefore whether Anthony was justified in asking for a little monetary consideration (reportedly $39,000).

Pandora puts Internet radio back in the box

It’s nice to think of the Internet as a place without borders — in other words, without all the walls and boundaries and checkpoints that we’re used to in the “real” world. Unfortunately, that’s just not the way it is, and the Pandora music-sharing site is only the latest example. The thing I find most surprising about Pandora isn’t that it is being forced to put its content in a box, it’s that the company has been able to remain unboxed for so long.

snipshot_e4vw9oglksv.jpgContent owners and rights-holders of all kinds use IP sniffing to block users from different countries (and of course countries like China use similar means to block foreign content that might unduly influence the local populace). As a Canadian, I’m well acquainted with this practice, since it is the same process that prevents me from watching episodes of Heroes on the NBC site if I forget to have my PVR record it, or blocks me from watching clips from Saturday Night Live and other shows. Why? Because Canadian broadcasters make their living by licensing those shows, and they don’t like to think about people watching them on the Interweb any old time they want.

As Tom Conrad of Pandora points out in the comments section of Mike Arrington’s post at TechCrunch, it’s not enough to do deals with groups like Canada’s SOCAN — which handles rights for composers and “publishers.” Sites that are considered to be Internet radio like Pandora have to sign deals with the record labels as well, and that is where the sticking point lies. As Mike Masnick notes at Techdirt, the record industry could teach advanced classes in how to shoot yourself in the foot.

And Mark is quite right that this isn’t the only fight that Pandora and Last.fm have on their plate: there’s also the ongoing battle over the new fees for streaming Internet radio, about which there is more info at the Broadcast Law blog (thanks to Lucas Gonze for the link). If you want to get involved somehow, check out the Save Internet Radio site.

Get your 15 minutes of fame at mesh

In case you haven’t been keeping track, it’s May already — and that can only mean one thing: the mesh conference is less than a month away. It’s on May 30th and 31st in Toronto at the MaRS Discovery District, and there’s more info at the mesh site about some of the amazing speakers and panelists we have coming, including Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, Jim Buckmaster of Craigslist, Tom Williams and Austin Hill, Christine Herron, Techdirt’s Mike Masnick, Rachel Sklar of Huffington Post — and the list goes on.

Tickets are going fast, but there are still a few left if you hurry 🙂

One thing we’re doing again this year is the “15 Minutes of Fame” segment on each of the two conference days, in which three deserving entrepreneurs and/or their startups get five minutes each (hence the 15 minutes) to talk to the attendees about their idea and why they are the best thing to happen to the Web since YouTube. Last year’s winners included the gang at TakingITGlobal, as well as AreYouFrank.com, Favorville.com and Pixpo. Stowe Boyd wrote about the 15 Minutes here, and Tara Hunt wrote about it here.

Same idea this year: head over to the sign-up form at the mesh site, and give us a pitch — in 250 words or less — about you and your company or idea, and tell us why we should give you five minutes in front of the mesh crowd to wow them with your brilliance. If you get selected, you get a free one-day pass to the conference as well as those five minutes of glory.

Prom Queen no wallflower

Michael Eisner’s Web production shows that the ex-Disney CEO is down with what the kids are into. Like, totally.
clipped from www.mediaweek.com
According to Vuguru, the Eisner-backed Web production firm that is churning out eighty 90-second episodes of Prom Queen in as many days, the short-form series is averaging roughly 200,000 views a day, and has accumulated more than 5.2 million views since its April 2 debut. While relevant benchmarks are hard to come buy in this uncharted space, the show’s daily audience is equivalent to a low-rated cable series
However, a number that is sure to be encouraging to Vuguru (and the producers of the movie Hairspray, a Prom Queen sponsor) is the 18,000-plus friends that Prom Queen has garnered. MySpace, one of several outlets where fans can stream the show, accounts for nearly 3.7 million of the views generated to date, making the site far and away the leading distributor (MySpace gets each episode 12 hours before other sites do
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