Friday, October 28, 2005

Forbes' blogger-bashing cover story is a model of hypocrisy

Forbes cover story for its Nov. 14 issue is entitled Attack of the Blogs!. I'm having a hard time coming up with the best way to describe the piece without falling into the same trap that swallowed the article's writer, Daniel Lyons -- namely, that of hypocrisy. So I'm going to try my best to focus my criticism not on my former employer (as tempting as it is) but on Lyons' article.

The summary deck describes blogs thusly:

"Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective."

I can't imagine how Lyons managed to lift the amazingly broad brush he needed to paint this picture of the entire blogosphere, which reportedly includes tens of millions of blogs.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, here are a few excerpt from the article (with interspersed commentary):

"Blogs started a few years ago as a simple way for people to keep online diaries. Suddenly they are the ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns. It's not easy to fight back: Often a bashing victim can't even figure out who his attacker is."

Excuse me, Mr. Lyons, but could you tell us what percentage of the tens of millions of bloggers concentrate their efforts on such despicable content? And how does that number compare to journalists in the mainstream media? I'm just curious.

"Google and other services operate with government-sanctioned impunity, protected from any liability for anything posted on the blogs they host. Thus they serve up vitriolic "content" without bearing any legal responsibility for ensuring it is fair or accurate; at times they even sell ads alongside the diatribes."

Oh so the solution is prior restraint. I know -- let's also set up a system for licensing publishers before they are allowed to publish. That sounds like a capital 21st century idea.

"Dry treatises on patent law and trade policy don't drive traffic (or ad sales) for bloggers and hosts; blood sport does."

Exactly why doesn't this apply as much if not more to the mainstream media?

"Bloggers linked to one another's sites and posted on Brill's blog and elsewhere, creating an echo chamber in which, through repetition, the scandal began to seem genuine."

Because this never happens in the mainstream media....

"Microsoft's p.r. people have added blog-monitoring to their list of duties. The company also fields its own blog posse. Some 2,000 Microsofties publish individual blogs, adding a Microsoft voice to the town square."

Combatting speech with more speech... I think I've heard someone suggest this before...

"But if blogging is journalism, then some of its practitioners seem to have learned the trade from Jayson Blair."

Wait -- who did he work for again?

"Once blogger attacks begin, victims can resort to libel and defamation lawsuits, but "filing a libel lawsuit, the way you would against a newspaper, is like using 18th-century battlefield tactics to counter guerrilla warfare," says David Potts, a Toronto lawyer who is writing a book on cyberlibel. "You'll accomplish nothing and just get more ridicule." He tells clients to find a third party to bash the bloggers.

What? The law is lagging behind technological development? You want large corporations who are the target of many of the blog attacks you cite to use the legal system to fight back? How ridiculous!

"Halpern has had less luck getting anyone in Congress to listen to his (sic) plaint. He says that may change if a few politicians get a taste of what he has gone through. "Wait until the next election rolls around and these bloggers start smearing people who are up for reelection,"Halpern says. "Maybe then things will start to happen."

Of course... Because bloggers never attack politicians.

Interesting idea: Using the AOL-Weblogs Inc. deal to determine blogs' monetary value

I can't vouch for the methodology, but blogger Tristan Louis has developed a process for determining the value of a blog based on the amount paid by AOL for Weblogs Inc.

"In acquiring Weblogs Inc., AOL has now provided us with some numbers traditional media are willing to pay for a blog. Looking at the numbers above, one can try to guess at the value of a link from an external site. a single link on the weblogsinc network represents 0.002258559942180087 percent of the overall network.

Based on Louis' research, blogger Dane Carlson has developed a tool to help bloggers determine how much their blogs are worth.

According to their methodology, Insert Tech Here is worth $1,693.62 as of today. For comparison, the least valuable blog AOL acquired in the deal, Blogging E3, is worth $564.64, while the most valuable, Engadget, is worth $7.5 million.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ad exec tells publishers to maintain editorial quality

It's a sad day in journalism when an advertising executive has to scold newspaper publishers for letting editorial quality slip.

From E&P:

Bottom-line oriented publishers who chop away at their paper's news content are undermining their business, an executive with the big media planning firm Newspaper Services of America told the Inland Press Association at its annual meeting Monday.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

This is beyond insane: A patent on serving cereal


In October 2004, enterpreneur Rocco Monteleone started a cereal bar called Bowls in Gainesville, Florida. Located in a college town with no other cereal bars, Bowls appeared likely to be a successful venture.

However, recently cereal bar chain Cereality (which has no locations in Florida) threatened Bowls with lawsuits should Bowls tread on Cereality's turf. Cereality has patents pending to give them an exclusive right to six business methods, including "displaying and mixing competitively branded food products" and adding "a third portion of liquid." If these patents are approved by the U.S. Patent Office, Cereality would have a complete monopoly on cereal bar business--just for being the first to put together the legalese necessary to describe mixing breakfast cereal.

If you don't understand why this is awful, unacceptable, and completely insane, feel free to contact me and I'll explain.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

BBC news director admits MSM doesn't own the news

At the We Media conference, BBC news director Richard Sambrook acknowledged that the mainstream media don't own the news. Just more evidence that BBC gets it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Blog + Book = Blook

According to the BBC, Cory Doctorow has created the Blooker Prize, an annual award that will reward "the best writers of literary works that started life as online journals."

Doctorow has already pulled together a list of more than 100 potential candidates for the award.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Esquire experiment proves Wikipedia works

Esquire writer A.J. Jacobs only had to write a first draft for his latest article -- the rest of the work was done by volunteers.

The article is about Wikipedia. Jacobs posted a first draft with deliberate errors on the site, and the results show how effective Wikipedia can be. Wikipedia' volunteer editors corrected the factual errors and even clarified and punched up the writing.

A CNet article about the experiment reported Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales' view of the experiment:

To Wales, the experiment was a good example of how a magazine might be able to use its readers to make for more complete journalism.

I'd settle for more accurate journalism, myself.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Not even a slap on the wrist for disseminating propaganda

From the New York Times (registration required, use BugMeNot):

Federal auditors said on Friday that the Bush administration violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party.

In a blistering report, the investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the administration had disseminated "covert propaganda" in the United States, in violation of a statutory ban.

Well Hallelujah! A win for the Fourth Estate! If only the law they broke had any provision for penalties. Sigh.