Monthly Archives: August 2004

Ethics of the Link Conversation Continues

It has been rewarding to see my original post Linking to Articles That Toot Your Own Horn spark such an interesting conversation among various bloggers who have taken my quick observation to a level that I could not. First, Doc Searls posts a lengthy and thought provoking comment on my blog which I re-posted here, excerpt:

Much of what we’re doing here amounts to teamwork. It’s not formal, or even conscious in many cases, but it does involve lots of “yes, and…” posting. Sometimes praise is involved. More often it isn’t. What matters is that we’re not doing it alone. And that we’re only beginning to understand what that’s about.

Then, Mary Hodder adds solid thoughts of her own, including:

So I would say it’s right to point, for referrals and attribution, and lineage of thought, for community building and transparency. I’d rather know that Doc and Jeff refer to each other explicitly, than have it all happen behind the scenes, as if we all develop every idea in a vacuum, the way old style journalism appears to develop their stories. The people formerly known as the audience still maintain some of the training from big media, where we were led to believe this was true and real. It is not.

Then Jeff Jarvis responds and comments on the ensuing conversation here, including (good summary):

Doc said things that were too nice about me and I chose to ignore that because it would have seemed like tooting my own horn by pointing to it: My linkie Oscar moment (Doc likes me, he really likes me). But then Ben turned around and said that he thought it odd that I was pointing to Doc’s post without acknowledging what seemed to Ben like some psychological conflict of interest (was I linking to get you to see the nice words? … but then, if I really wanted you to see them, I would have mentioned them, no?).

Now, Adam Penenberg, of Shattered Glass fame, comments to Mary Hodder in her follow up post:

I caught your post on digital ethics (Aug. 26) and it brought to mind the old Spy Mag spoof “logrolling in our times,” when the editors would print a complimentary blurb on the back of one author’s book next to that of a book written by the blurber–and you guessed it, he got a nice blurb from the guy he had just blurbed… quid pro quo, I guess.

In the case of Jeff Jarvis and Doc Searles, I think a disclaimer before the link would have been in order — as in, i’m quoted in this piece but I like it a lot, too. In the interest of transparency, a reporter must divulge conflicts of interest, and being quoted in a story that you are pointing to, in my opinion, counts as a conflict of interest. Shouldn’t bloggers subscribe to the same standard??

She then adds insightful comments of her own, including:

This is one of the reasons why digital ethics means author ethics are so important. We want to see where people link, what the relationships are between them, and make our own decisions as readers and conversants about what those author relationships mean, as we take in the work. It’s the author who matters, and the author who must decide how and what to show about their own biases and relationships. Because otherwise the online communities will decide for that author. It’s so much cleaner if authors and creators give it to us up front. Readers like it and we need it to evaluate trust because authors have become uncommodified.

And if you’re really interested, check out the comments and trackbacks on all of these posts.

Duplicative PR That Makes Reader Irritated, Buzz Management

Paul Kedrosky posts about two similar articles landing in the WSJ and NYTimes yesterday, clearly the result of an “over-eager PR person.” A good post on “buzz management” and an “over-engineered media splash”.

Death of the Casual Look

Lloyd Lemons posts on the "Death of the Casual Look" in business. What people wear is a first impression and a lasting impression usually for me. I usually can remember when people wore something out of the ordinary – everyone else in suits and he in a collared shirt. Or everyone dressed quite casually and she in a suit. Some people profess to always wear a suit and I largely like to err on the side of being overly dressed than underdressed. In the early goings it was especially important for me to wear a suit all the time so I looked older in sales pitches. Now, that is less of an issue and in fact in casual business meetings or meals I like to go very casual to be most comfortable. The only pet peeve I have when it comes to business attire is when someone is clearly uncomfortable with their starched shirt, tie squeezing their neck, and suit making them sweat. This is where it hinders your ability to work.

When I first met VC Brad Feld I think he wore jeans and a t-shirt while everyone else in the meeting wore a button down dress shirt or suit (in my case). Out of the hundreds of meetings I’ve been in over the past few years this is the one and only meeting when what someone wore clearly sticks in my mind for speculation. Jeans and a t-shirt are just more comfortable, of course, but I have always wondered if there was more to it. Trying to play up a techie side? To reinforce a laid back nature? To show an independent streak? Of course, he promptly turned both the first two issues on their back by showing wide latitude in the types of business issues discussed and the intense (though friendly) conversation. In Brad’s case, I think his choice of dress worked, but I’ve also experienced people when it doesn’t. I don’t like to read into things too much, but I often link what people wear to what kind of image they are putting on display. This is especially prevalent in my high school where you have the punks (chains and piercings), the jocks (jerseys), and the nerds (glasses and out-of-control hair).

Need to Convince a Blog Skeptic

“Convince me. I have read a few blogs and found them more of the same: to my eyes, the web is already far too full of people with opinions, some of them good, some not, and links to other people with other opinions. So I am agnostic at present about the potential of blogs–are they leading to anything deeper than an extension of our opinion-first, evidence-later culture? Can you suggest some worthwhile blogs that will show me the potential you see in them?”

I have some ideas, but if you know of a winning article that convinced you or pushed you over the hump when it comes to blogging, please leave a comment. Otherwise, I’ll let you know what I come up with. Give me a couple weeks and I bet I turn this skeptic into an intrigued fan.

The Social Enterprise and Charity with "Style"

I’ve been doing some exploring on the Omidyar Network. It’s quite an interesting place with a whole host of discussion forums and workspaces. What intrigues me about this is its emphasis on network-centric advocacy and philanthropy. This fires me up just like the Skoll Foundation’s emphasis on systemic change is so much more exciting than soup kitchens or any other charity project that doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

A few days ago I printed out the 25 page thread on social enterprises. The first poster says:

There’s really two generations (so far) of social enterprise. The first generation generally looks for profits, and redirects those profits towards social good. Think of Target, gives 5% of profit to local charities, etc. Great stuff, but somewhat limited in the impact that you can have this way. The second generation, he explained, was where the very act of making a profit creates social good. (I think the economics term is that the business has “positive externalities”.) Think about alternative energy producers, or organic food producers.

Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, responds:

I would state it even more strongly: the second generation is characterized by very tight interdependence between profit and social good. When you can’t make a profit without having a positive social impact, you know you’re talking about this second generation.

On another note, the NYTimes Magazine had an article on Yellow Fever – everyone I know is wearing the Live Strong bracelets from Lance Armstrong/Nike. It’s a quick article on how this bracelet has turned a charitable endeavor into a cool style. And they’ve been darned successful.

Brain Waves blog

I came across this blog called Brain Waves. If you don’t know about it already, I recommend adding it to your list. I’m interested in all things related to neurology – not the science of it, but how it affects everyday life. To wit:
Neurocompetition
Neuroculture
Neuroeconomics
Neuroelectronics
Neuroesthetics
Neuroethics
Neurofinance
Neuromarketing
Neuropolicy
Neurosociety

are all covered in this blog. Zack covers a wide range of topics with solid writing and lots of embedded links. It’s one of those blogs where even reading through the last 20 posts creates 20 new windows as you click all the different links to find out more. Interesting stuff. Following this field at a practical level is essential to better understanding how our brains make us do what we do and think what we think.

A new life begins for the next nine months

That was quick. Summer is over, as of today. I started junior year this morning and it felt weird to be back. Nothing has really changed – I love high school for the same reasons, and I hate it for the same reasons. I love it because I surrounded by really smart kids who are super funny. And those things (smarts and humor) are very very high on my evaluation of somebody. I hate it because there’s something woefully wrong with how this country approaches education and, as David Brooks puts it, lives in the future tense.

I will be busy these next nine months (see what I’m studying)…even busier come the winter during basketball season. But I’m not going to wear this on my sleeve. I know being busy is hip and I don’t want to be hip in this way. How will these next nine, long months affect my blogging? I don’t know. I will probably post a little less frequently – say, a few times a week instead of every day or every other day. Fact remains, my business and activities at school come first. What I am not going to do is give up on this blog. No no, the more time I spend in this space the more I’m learning. And learning is good. So you can be assured that this blog will stay active and I will continue to try to engage you.

After all, I try not to let school get in the way of my education. (Mark Twain)

Doc Searls Comment on My Post Yesterday

My post yesterday “Linking to Articles That Toot Your Own Horn” referenced Jeff Jarvis and Doc Searls by name. I don’t know either them and just started reading their blogs. I was surprised, then, when within a couple hours both had written in to me commenting on my post. Doc’s comment is excellent and contains some terrific links which I recommend checking out. Thanks, Doc, for such a thoughtful response. It’s below in its entirety.

Thanks to Technorati, PubSub and referer logs, a certain amount of b’logrolling is inevitable.

For what it’s worth, I try to read and link to blogs that are outside the circle of usual suspects, and to point praise, when it’s deserved, in unexpected directions. But what should one do when wanting to point to a post that also toots a horn in your direction? In my case, I either ignore or acknowledge the praise, and post anyway.

But your post has me thinking… Is there some kind of disclaimer protocol required? What’s not “transparent” in an environment where everybody’s alreay equipped to fact-check everybody else?

The way I see it, blogging at its best involves building new understandings of vexing issues. People often team up around that kind of effort, something like farmers do when raising a barn. If one builder high-fives another builder when they frame a particularly well-crafted door or floor together, is that a bad thing?

Perhaps it is, from the perspective of traditional journalism. There it is customary to write with with a tone of finality, from an objective distance, and to regard all forms of enthusiasm with a degree of suspicion. That’s one ideal, in any case. It’s also one that doesn’t work in the parts of the blogosphere where participants are trying to be constructive and not just objective, where they are busy making and changing minds, and not just digging up facts and issuing opinions.

In that last link, I point to a post by Jay Rosen in which he took an idea I tossed out and built something interesting and substantial case around it — far better than I ever could have done on my own.

My point, which just came to me…

Much of what we’re doing here amounts to teamwork. It’s not formal, or even conscious in many cases, but it does involve lots of “yes, and…” posting. Sometimes praise is involved. More often it isn’t. What matters is that we’re not doing it alone. And that we’re only beginning to understand what that’s about.

So thanks for making us think. Much appreciated.

INdTV Web Site Launches – TV Network For Young People, By Young People

Al Gore and Joel Hyatt have teamed up to create INdTV, a television network geared at young people to contain programming on politics, current affairs, entertainment, media, and culture. When I first learned about the founding of this network – to be live sometime in 2005 – I was immediately intrigued. To have the opportunity to get into 20 million US homes by TV with a channel that would engage teenagers and/or the 25 year olds is exciting yet very challenging.

Since the founding team is operating in San Francisco, out of apartments and coffee shops at the moment, I contacted them to learn more about it, share ideas I had, and just generally get involved. I hooked up with Jamie Daves last week. Jamie has been involved in high-level politics for most of his 30-odd years and thinks like a savvy entrepreneur. There’s only a handful of people working for INdTV full time at the moment and Jamie is in charge of a lot of different aspects of the up-and-coming network.

Fundamentally, INdTV is still trying to figure everything out. Who is our audience? How do we reach them? How will we be different from MTV and CNN? How can we be edgy and rebel but also smart? And the one million dollar question: what types of shows/programming we will create? I didn’t realize how much on the ground floor things still were, which made my brainstorming session with Jamie all the more exciting. The point I tried to drive home with him was the challenge of the medium, TV. I don’t watch TV – at least I haven’t in several months – mostly because it isn’t “on demand” and the programming for the most part sucks. Thus, for INdTV to engage me (or a growing number of young people) they would have to have a formable web presence. Indeed, blogs seem to be part of the plan. (In fact, I strongly encouraged them to set up a blog right now, to document the work they do putting together a TV network. Not only would they be “walking the walk” but it’d engage a healthy audience before the network is even live.) My other main point to Jamie was the need for the network to be transparent. The last thing young people want is another “evil media” player run by old white guys smoking cigars.

So…check out their web site (which I provided feedback on but too late to get the stupid tattoo off the guy’s arm before they went live) and see if you’d like to become a Digital Correspondent, a full-time position which is bound to be quite interesting and fun.

Linking to Articles That Toot Your Own Horn

I’ve noticed something on the 20 odd blogs I read on a regular basis and it has to do with people enthusiastically linking to articles that toot the linker’s horn. In the entrepreneur blogs I read, people will routinely link to articles that will mention them in some way (I am guilty on one charge of this). In the VC blogs I read, they may cross-link to each other’s entries where they both say marvelous things about the other. And it culminated yesterday reading Jeff Jarvis’ blog in which he enthusiastically endorsed an article by Doc Searls. Having never seen Jeff so enthusiastic, I checked out the article. It was a great article, but it also calls Jeff Jarvis “perhaps the most important entertainment writer of our time.” Hmm. I’m not saying there’s something inherently wrong with this practice, I just want to point it out and put it on the radar screen…in the name of transparency.