Inside Howard Owen’s walled mind

Howard Owens, in his usual absurb rationalizations, suggests that Craigslist is a “walled garden”.

He says that those who contribute should be “afforded the opportunity to benefit from wider distribution of their content”.

Heck, how much wider “distribution” can you get from the most popular classifieds website on the Internet?

If Craigslist is a walled garden, then it is a terribly porous one.

How could it be possible, for instance, to have a mash-up like HousingMaps if Craigslist’s walls were so high?

To liken Craigslist to the proprietary-laden AOL, and Craig Newmark to profiteer Bill Gates, is to suggest an ignorance so deep that enlightenment can only be reached via the Chikyu.


The Great Red Firewall

[AFP via The Star]

A letter posted on the Internet by 400 parents of children working as slaves in brickyards was the trigger for the national press to finally report on the scandal.

The parents’ Internet posting was part of a growing phenomenon for marginalised people in China who cannot otherwise have their complaints addressed by the traditional, government-controlled press.

“The phenomenon of ‘citizen journalism’ suddenly arrived several years ago,” said Beijing-based dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was one of the student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.

“Since the appearance of blogs in particular, every blog is a new platform for the spread of information.”

He cited the example of a couple in Chongqing who became known as the “Stubborn Nails” in April because they refused to leave their home until they received adequate compensation from the property developer who wanted them out.

They quickly became household names in China – mainly thanks to Internet postings.

Recognising the threat of China’s growing online community, Chinese President Hu Jintao called in January for the Internet to be “purified,” and the government has since launched a number of online crackdowns.



The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Culture and Information will discuss measures to control blogs since many problems associated with blogs have been reported, said an official of the Justice Ministry.

Relevant agencies have received many complaints related to blogs, for example sex blogs, unhealthy information. Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Culture and Information Vu Xuan Thanh also affirmed that there would be a joint-ministry circular issued on the control of blogs.

Currently, all blogs are free in terms of contents, except for some rules set by administrators of blog services and virtual social networks.

The administrator of Star Blog service, which hosts more than 24,000 bloggers and around 63,000 articles, asks its members to follow some rules, for example not use pornographic photos or images and not post reactionary or obscene articles, otherwise the accounts are locked immediately.

“We read all articles posted on blogs to control the contents,” said Cao Manh Tuan, managing director of Star Blog.

At, a social network that is running on a trial basis and has around 67,000 members and 150-200 new members each day, administrators also set some rules, such as immediately deleting articles that are not suitable to Vietnamese customs and violate laws of Vietnam. This network has members and tools to control the contents of articles posted on the website.

From Reporters Without Borders in a 2007 report:

China unquestionably continues to be the world’s most advanced country in Internet filtering. The authorities carefully monitor technological progress to ensure that no new window of free expression opens up, After initially targeting websites and chat forums, they nowadays concentrate on blogs and video exchange sites. China now has nearly 17 million bloggers. This is an enormous number, but very few of them dare to tackle sensitive issues, still less criticise government policy. Firstly, because China’s blog tools include filters that block “subversive” word strings. Secondly, because the companies operating these services, both Chinese and foreign, are pressured by the authorities to control content. They employ armies of moderators to clean up the content produced by the bloggers. Finally, in a country in which 52 people are currently in prison for expressing themselves too freely online, self-censorship is obviously in full force. Just five years ago, many people thought Chinese society and politics would be revolutionised by the Internet, a supposedly uncontrollable medium. Now, with China enjoying increasing geopolitical influence, people are wondering the opposite, whether perhaps China’s Internet model, based on censorship and surveillance, may one day be imposed on the rest of the world.


Damage Control: Is junior covering your crisis?

Eric Dezenhall and John Weber in Damage Control: Why Everything You Know About Crisis Management Is Wrong have an interesting take on crisis management.

They suggest that every crisis is unique (ho-hum) and sometimes being honest and upfront about what they describe as a “marketplace assault” may not be the right tact to rescue your reputation.

Unfortunately they offer few concrete answers, only hinting at the tactics they employed – some obviously too unscrupulous to document – to save their “fictitious” clients.

One para at the end chapter on future crisis management trends, however, caught my attention:

“Is Junior covering your crisis?

The news media of the future will be characterized by too few reporters with too little training chasing too many stories. And more and more businesses will be burned in the process. Why? Because money — not public service journalism — is king in newsrooms today. It started when big companies such as General Electric, Disney, and Time Warner bought NBC, ABC, and CNN, respectively, and turned up the pressure to transform news reporting into a profit-making enterprise. Once considered to be treasured (and pampered) jewels in the corporate portfolio, news executives were ordered to make a buck for the company like everyone else. Concurrently, massive changes in consumer lifestyles and technology via the Internet were swiftly reshaping how people got their news. As a result, network TV audiences, as well as daily newspaper readership, are shrinking rapidly. Fewer viewers and readers mean less advertising revenues. Less revenue means less money to pay experienced, generally older reporters adn to cover the costs of dispatching news crews. Fewer, younger, and less experienced reporters, and less money available to thoroughly research stories, will increasingly result in stories that are quickly and poorly reported and done primarily because they are cheap, easy to do, and visual. And this will create enormous opportunities for mischief, misrepresentation, and malfeasance because someone has the video and a story too expensive and too time-consuming to check out.”


The Dawn of Push Video?

MediaWeek has a story about, a video service that will send you the best videos available online:

Anyone who’s spent time watching lots of bad videos online in search of a few good ones knows Michael Caruso’s frustration.

Caruso, the former editor of Wenner Media’s Men’s Journal and of Condé Nast’s Details, has channeled that frustration into a new Web site he founded, The Daily Tube (, that promises to compile the best new videos across several subject areas: humor, celebrity, music, late-night category, political, sports and Web-based stars. The site will give visitors the option of signing up for a free, daily e-mail containing the best new videos, as determined by its editors.

“I thought, there’s got to be a better way of doing this,” he said. “Instead of wasting time watching a lot of bad videos, my service will find the best new videos and deliver them to your in-box.”

The hope is that the site, still in beta, will attract up to 100,000 subscribers to the free e-mail and eventually attract advertising. “There’s a lot of interest in Internet video,” he said. “We cover the best new Internet videos. So I think it’s got large potential…”


Photosynth: Collaborative albums on steroids

Could Microsoft actually come out with something more ground-breaking than, ehh, the animated paperclip?

Here’s Photosynth, a Live Labs’ idea that take the photosharing service Flickr into 3D format.

It answers the question: What is the use of all those digital photos on the net?

Apparently, with Photosynth you can re-construct a “scene”, then walk or fly through it to see photos from any angle, zooming in and out at will.

From a newsman’s viewpoint this would be intriguing. A 9/11-sized catastrophe constructed in near real-time from uploaded, crowd-sourced cameraphone photos would have some intriguing angles.

But what if we could take it to the next level in video format?

See video demos at LiveLabs site and TED, then try it.

Holovaty, EveryBlock and Knight News Challenge

Adrian Holovaty, alumni of is leaving the for start-up

Apparently he’s been given US$1.1m under the Knight News Challenge to see what he can come up with.

Available clues: “To create, test and release open-source software that links databases to allow citizens of a large city to learn (and act on) civic information about their neighborhood or block.” And on the site: “EveryBlock will be a hyperlocal Web site that aggregates an unprecedented depth and breadth of public records, mainstream news sources, photographs, blogs and user-contributed information.”

Based on his previous creations –, US Congress Votes Database, Face Of The Fallen, Post Remix – one trusts that something exciting this way comes. Go Adrian.


Clipbandits: The YouTube jam band

They never met before and only knew each other by their ‘handles’. Three musicians from afar join forces to jam together and the ClipBandits are formed. They then scout around for a drummer, and now have become a YouTube phenomenon.

Touting themselves as the “first Internet jam band”, although one doubts this to be true, ClipBandits video, “Internet Killed the Video Star” has been downloaded 1.46 million times.

They’ve since been featured on Good Morning America, ABC News, performed live for the first time on the Tyra Banks Show, and have been covered by TV news in Italy, Singapore, Russia, Venezuela, India, Canada and Brazil, as well as countless print and online articles around the world. Nokia-Brazil selected ClipBandits Channel as recommended content for wireless Internet devices.

ClipBandits’ follow-up video is entitled, “Higher”.

More: ClipBandits YouTube Channel, and website.

Media M & A Gone Wild, or the Great Merger of the Noughties

The tectonic plates of global media are moving, with an eruption almost every week.

Google’s purchase of DoubleClick for US$3.1b on April 13th seems to have been the trigger for a number of seismic changes across the media landscape. Let’s summarise:

1. Yahoo acquires the rest of internet ad auction exchange Right Media US$680m.
2. WPP Group, which owns Grey Worldwide, JWT, Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam, buys 24/7 Real Media for US$649m.
3. Microsoft forks an hefty US$6b in cash for aQuantive, parent to digital agencies Avenue A, Razorfish, Atlas and DRIVEpm.

In January, Publicis Groupe purchased the online advertising company Digitas for US$1.3b.

Talk is ripe that ValueClick may be a target for the ensuing tsunami.

In media, Thomson Corp’s takeover of British media giant Reuters for 8.7b pounds, News Corp’s bid for Dow Jones, owner for Wall Street Journal, the recent sale of US media giant Tribune, owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, and APN News & Media’s spurning of O’Reilly’s US$2.3b bid, all suggest we are in
a Marketshare Power Grab mode that shows little sign of abating.

But what does this all mean to us minnows at the bottom rung of media production?

We turn to the Sage of the Zero-Zero Ages, the Oracle of the Odious Times – Mr Jones.

Me: So what happens now Mr Jones?

Mr Jones: You won’t have a cubicle to call home. When the dust settles and the Great Merger of the Noughties are done, you will be made redundant faster that you can say “outsourcing”.

Me: That sounds awfully pessimistic, Mr Jones. Surely, more mergers means more jobs for those us in the media industry?

Mr Jones: Not if your skillsets are still stuck in the 90s. This War Of the Greedy Giants will seem like a recurring dotcom nightmare. Time to start packing.

Me: Packing? But where do I go?

Mr Jones: A one-way ticket to Mumbai, my friend. The pay’s cheap – but the curries are good. Just don’t drink the water.

Me: What?! What the hell am I going to do in India?

Mr Jones: Pick up yoga and preach non-violence.

Me: Is there an alternative?

Mr Jones: Learn Mandarin, move to Shanghai and sell smelly tofu.

Me: Okay, I’m out of here.

Mr Jones: Wait. There is one more thing you can do!

Me: What’s that?

Mr Jones: Write the book. It will be a best-seller. It’s the ultimate old media revenge.

Paying the price

Vin Crosbie describes how the “unpackaging” of news online will further erode print subscriptions and revenues, despite attempts to charge for online content:

What’s radically changed during the past dozen years is the balance of the supply and demand equation. It’s shifted from scarcity to surplus for consumers… Today, that consumer has online access to every newspaper and news magazine in the world. This access means that getting a printed edition of his local daily is no longer as valuable to him as it had been. So, printed edition circulations decline. And it should be no mystery that the declines have accelerated into multiple percentages annually now that most American consumers have broadband (‘always on’) access…most newspaper publishers continue to operate oblivious to these changes, as if their product is still a scarce commodity and as valuable as it was a dozen or decades of years ago.

Currently, 35 of the 1,452 U.S. daily newspapers charge for access to either all or a portion of their online content. Only three of the 35 have more than 100,000 weekday circulation: The Wall Street Journal ( has 761,000 subscribers), The New York Times (TimesSelect has 713,000 subscribers, only one-third of whom pay) and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette…

No means of charging online for any slice or dice of the traditional printed newspaper content will work. The solution is to discern why the readership of printed editions has decline for more than 30 years and formulate what other type or package of content that will create demand from them online and in print. Because those declines have been occuring far longer than consumers have had online access, the cause must be reasons other than just the change in supply & demand equation that consumers’ online access caused.


Dyson on failure

Sir James Dyson tells Fast Company he failed 5,126 times before he finally got the bagless vacuum cleaner right.

Some choice quotes:

We’re taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that’s very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It’s exciting, actually…

It can take a very long time to develop interesting products and get them right. But our society has an instant- gratification thing. We admire instant brilliance, effortless brilliance. I think quite the reverse. You should admire the person who perseveres and slogs through and gets there in the end…

A lot of people give up when the world seems to be against them, but that’s the point when you should push a little harder. I use the analogy of running a race. It seems as though you can’t carry on, but if you just get through the pain barrier, you’ll see the end and be okay. Often, just around the corner is where the solution will happen…

I am quite exacting. I learned that from the Japanese company I did a licensing agreement with. They would make hundreds of changes to products after they launched them, often at enormous costs. I asked them, “Why do that?” They said, “Oh, we’re not worried if we don’t make money for ten years. We want to get a perfect product.” They have this wonderful expression, “You’ve got to suffer before you succeed.”


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