Doc Weinberger part III: blogs and the Dean campaign

“So full disclosure: I was the Internet advisor for the Dean campaign, which means nothing. He lost, after all. He was a little governor with fringe views from Vermont. So why was he the front runner for months with the message, You have the power to take your country back?

“Normally politics works like marketing. Broadcast messages to the footsoldiers who will take it to the masses. Not much like democracy, is it? And you can’t turn it on its head—680,000 people can’t send messages directly to Dean. Intimacy doesn’t scale.

“So let’s give up some element of control. Put Dean in the center. Let users talk to each other, end node to end node, just like the Internet. We’ll set up an infrastructure and culture that encourages that and see what happens. And instead of a press person, let’s put a weblog in the middle of the campaign. And it effectively became the center of the campaign. The webloggers were able to speak like human beings. Not on message—Microsoft has 655 blogs and counting, and they’re not on message, but they’re being human faces. But better. Instead of marketing, you get loyalty. And engagement. Every campaign conversation contained the pros AND CONS of Dean’s candidacy. It was exciting, we felt that we were reclaiming democracy. Not from Republicans, but from marketers! Instead of being in messages, we were in conversations.

“So let’s talk about blogs. There was a reason the Dean campaign used them. They’re fundamentally about voice. Home pages were a place; blogs are a self. To do this, you have to write badly. If you’re not comfortable publishing rough drafts, you can’t be a blogger. You have to be subjective.”

Doc Weinberger Part II: So what do we do?

“So what is the opposite of marketing? Voice. This is about who we are in public; a new second place that we are rushing to, trying to figure out how to live in. —That’s what publishing means: making public, in both senses of the phrase. And with the Internet, we are all doing it, and we are doing it with the sound of our voice. Our voice in this public place is who we are, and we can do things in this space that we can’t in other places. We can be ourselves. That gets right to the heart of being human.

“Look at memos vs. email. Memos are formal, reviewed, voiceless, narrowcast. Email is a voicier medium. (By the way, the Internet is not a medium. It’s a place I enter into, not just something I send bits through. If you don’t get that, you miss what is drawing people in.) Email: really different. Hugely informal, not reviewed, individual, cc: everyone. (Or brief, funny, hastily written, ill conceived, thoughtless, and regrettable.)

“Look at mission statements. Many, including Dell’s, say nothing. But some, e.g. Ben and Jerry’s, say something. In fact, B&J’s has a flavor graveyard on their site. Why is this interesting? Because human fallibility is interesting, but businesses rarely make mistakes. But Ben and Jerry’s lets that humanity through, and it endears us to them.

“Let’s pick on someone. Kenmore. Their site is full of marketing crap. And it has useful information, but it’s buried eight clicks deep. If I want useful information, I go to everybody’s home page, and I find myself here, in this discussion. Why do I trust the information more in these than on the web site? Because it’s badly written (therefore human), positive AND negative, and followed by discussion so I can fact check. It’s human and deals much better with the deep ambiguities of the world than marketing. Look at this thread: there’s a physicist of lint here talking about dryers! Conversations like this on the web are smarter than any company can be.”

David Weinberger at Microsoft: professionals and amateurs

David Weinberger spoke at a symposium on web publishing here at Microsoft today. He argued that while professionalism is great, we need to be aware of and respectful of the amateur voice on the web as well. He says it’s not really “community” in the sense of people who care more about each other than they really have to, but it is at least about groups. These are going to be impressionistic notes…

“Professionalism: let’s search for clip art on the key word professional in Outlook, shall we? Scary.

“Management and the Web: the Web violates a long standing rule of human efforts that the larger the effort, the larger the degree of control required. This is true for dams, but not for the Web. The control function was taken out in order for it to scale. And it has. But in the back of our mind we know that we are in a permission free zone. Which is part of the joy of the web.

“Then we go to our jobs, which are like forts. We selectively release information to our customers, which is called marketing; to our employees (visualized as Oompa Loompas), which is called managing; and to our partners. But the walls are full of holes, and the company is now one of the worst sources of information about its own products.

“How did we get here? Markets used to be about conversations; now marketing is a verb and it’s done to people. We release as little information as we can to control our customers. It goes back to the industrial revolution. Interchangeable goods, interchangeable workers, interchangeable customers. You know, before the 1920s, consumption was a disease. It meant you were coughing up blood. Now it’s not even an insult any more. We can look at these interchangeable consumers as a way to drive down the cost of advertising. Reduce them to the lowest common denominator, cram the messages down their throats, and sell more stuff!

But as Doc Searls says, there’s no market for messages. We all run from them, Tivo past them. And marketers respond by making marketing even more ubiquitous. So marketing becomes like war; marketing campaigns, saturation marketing, targeted marketing, etc.”

The intersection of Web Standards and Library Science

University of Maryland professor (and Hooblogger) Matthew Kirschenbaum points to Acid-Free Bits, a guideline for ensuring the preservation of digital-only works of literature. The document is fascinating and ties together neatly some threads of investigation around web standards (don’t code with proprietary extensions, separate content from presentation using XML, validate code), programming best practices (consolidate code, supply comments, document early and often, prefer community-directed systems), copyright concerns (allow and encourage duplication and republication), and library science (maintain metadata and bibliographic information). Cool stuff.

Bill Clinton and America

Interesting watching Bill Clinton on 60 Minutes tonight. I’m sure that in other parts the usual machinery is gearing up to throw things at the ex-President for his disingenuousness, even his daring to speak in public at all now.

My perspective at this point is: love him or hate him, I think the contrast between him and our current President, and even John Kerry, could not be greater. Clinton is probably the closest thing the American presidency has produced since Lincoln to a tragic Shakespearian figure. (FDR, in his secret wheelchair, might come close.) But Clinton’s ambition, his deep desire to change the world, and his Falstaffian appetites add up to the real deal: a passionate, accomplished, and deeply flawed American who by all rights should be remembered for having accomplished great things, but will instead be remembered with a cigar in his hand.

But with all that, he is still the most approachable of all Presidents, a man who is not afraid to talk about his upbringing, to hang out with grade-school buddies in a diner (and look like many a middle-aged Southern man while doing it). A man who says he and his wife went through a year of a day a week in therapy, apart and together, and says it on TV, who looks the nation in the eye and can say, “I recommend that if you invest a bunch of years in a marriage that you try counseling before you give it all up.”

In contrast, our current president’s troglodytic failure in more than thirty seconds in a press conference to identify one thing he’d done wrong, in a presidency that has consisted of 266 days of vacation, 30 of those prior to the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil, followed by an invasion of Afghanistan (justified but unfinished and understaffed) and an invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, and who continues to insist that there was a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda despite all the facts, stands as evidence that he’s not worthy to wipe Bill’s wingtips.

I don’t know if we’ve seen enough of John Kerry to know where he falls on that spectrum. He certainly doesn’t have the easy affability of Clinton, but clearly he doesn’t have the duplicitous ideological idiocy of George W. and his retinue. But I think that the fact that Clinton could score the top three spots on Blogdex (two on the book, one about a BBC interview gone astray) when he isn’t even campaigning, during an election year, means that Kerry needs to step up his charm offensive if he is to come out from the ex-President’s shadow.

Weblog outage restored

It’s been a weird day, what with a group cookout at work and a little heatstroke and another hostage getting killed, and all. I’ve felt a bit sick at heart for most of the week. So I was kind of pleased to see that the infamous blog hosting brouhaha came to a happy ending.

For the record, the first home for this blog was on another free Manila server at UserLand (and in fact is still there). I didn’t really thank Dave before for his generosity in letting me bootstrap myself into Google. This is, after all, a man who wrote a custom script to mirror my site to a faster server in real time when I blogged the MacWorld keynote in 2002. Thanks, Dave, and hope things get better from here.

Printing problems with XP2 SP2

Craig posts about his trouble getting network printing to work with the RC2 preview release for Windows XP SP2. His scenario appears to be the following:

  1. Machine #1 (Craig’s) with XP SP2 RC2 installed, with printer connected and shared
  2. Machine #1 firewall: Enabled, File and Printer Sharing checked
  3. Machine #2 (Kelly’s laptop) with XP installed (is this also RC2?)
  4. Machine #2 firewall: ???

In the above scenario, Kelly can’t print to the shared printer. If Craig disables Machine #1’s firewall, she is able to print. Is that the correct scenario, Craig?

Based on what I’ve found, one suggestion that might help with the problem is to look at UPnP. The SP2 Release notes: Networking and Communications notes that the Firewall blocks ports 1900 and 2869, which are needed for the XP implementation of UPnP. This doesn’t affect hardware that is connected to the host computer but may interfere with the ability of networked machines to find UPnP resources. The note gives instructions for opening the ports.

Since I really don’t know what I’m talking about here, I’ll throw up the standard disclaimer: This posting is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights. But feel free to ping me for additional suggestions, Craig.

QTN™: Hahn Special Vintage 2000

Tonight’s beer, because it arrived on my doorstep, is an Australian bottle-conditioned ale, the Hahn Special Vintage 2000. A bottle-aged amber, the four-year-old beer pours dark-red to brown with a small, light weight head. Nose is malty and yeasty; initial taste is slightly sour, almost in a Rodenbach kind of way, but the subsequent taste is almost dusty. It’s drinkable, but I don’t think the vintage is aging particularly well. Kind of sad, for Australia’s first corked beer, but tasty nonetheless.

Bloomsday festschrift

Today is the 100th anniversary of the events in James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses. The novel, set on June 16, 1904, has been celebrated on that date since its 1922 publication with public readings and other celebrations.

Today’s celebrations, tinged though they are with the heavy handed legal threats of Joyce’s heirs toward “unauthorized public performances,” include an enormous volume of posts around the blogosphere and media. In no particular order:

  • New York Times editorial: Bloomsday, 1904. Tilting against those who would decry the book for being elitist: “there is really no less elitist novel in the English language. Its stuff is the common life of man, woman and child. You take what you can, loping over the smooth spots and pulling up short when you need to. Dedalus may indulge in Latinate fancy, and Joyce may revel in literary mimicry. But the real sound of this novel is the sound of the street a century ago: the noise of centuries of streets echoing over the stones.”
  • New York Times Book Review: Bloomsday, Bloody Bloomsday. John Banville spends a page online talking about his youthful efforts to get his hands on a copy of the book, and his consumption of critical response in lieu of the actual tome. Nice anecdote about the first Bloomsday, fifty years ago, which apparently ended after a scuffle between the organizer and a poet and devolved into inebriation.
  • Village Voice: Happy Bloomsday! The writer points out that there is more than a little of the pagan ritual in the observance of the day, complete with “deep feeling, props, costumes, and food.”
  • Bookslut points out that Slate’s weeklong Ulysses discussion has no Irish authors, and only one participating author so far.
  • Bookslut also points to the BBC’s Cliff Notes to the Cliff Notes to Ulysses, so you too can sound like you know what you’re talking about. Amusing with this article to read the Joyce-bashing in the comments thread. These are probably the same bunch of people who think opera is to be endured. Nice comeback by Stephen Fry, though.
  • BBC: Celebrations mark Joyce anniversary. Indicates that, contrary to earlier reports, there will be public readings on the streets of Dublin of the work.
  • Seattle Times: Bloomsday’s 100th celebrated in print and with a Seattle reading. The Seattle reading will be at UW, a little bit out of my way and a little out of the spirit of the celebrations.
  • My own Bloomsday participation, unless I can find an Eastside pub where there is a reading: an excerpt from the Wandering Rocks chapter.
  • Tom Harpel suggests that at least one other kindred spirit will be at our local Redmond Irish pub, the Celtic Bayou.
  • Ben Hammersley posts an excerpt of the conclusion of the novel, and points to a new page-a-day Ulysses RSS feed, courtesy Jason White. Holy copyright violations!

Which sets me to a goal for next year, as I fear it’s too late for this one; if I can get a few hundred people to post a page or two of the text to their blog, we could have a virtual Bloomsday reading. Any takers?

Cassini’s big adventure

cassini image of saturn

I have been meaning for a while to post about Cassini, the orbiter that is currently approaching Saturn orbit carrying one of the most sophisticated arrays of imaging equipment ever fielded. What finally prompted me was my finding the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) photo blog. All the photos taken by the orbiter are available here, grouped by mission, including amazing recent shots of Cassini’s Saturn approach and moon fly-bys.

(Yes, in case you hadn’t guessed: there is a part of me that will always be a NASA brat.)

The capital campaign is over. Long live the capital campaign

Washington Post: U-Va. Sets $3 Billion Campaign for Gifts. Having breathed a sigh of relief when the last capital campaign (which began right after I graduated) finished in 2001, it’s interesting to see the approach being taken on this one. The $3 billion goal looks to be aimed at finishing projects left unfunded by the last campaign, including the performing arts center, as well as starting new buildings, special institutes, hospital facilities, and raising professors’ salaries. A goal stated more quietly is reduced dependence on the state for funds; this is the state, after all, that tried to starve the University in the early 1990s.

While it’s good to see Casteen living up to his reputation as überfundraiser, one wonders about the effects of perpetual capital campaigns on the University’s alumni. Is severing the school’s connection to the state legislature worth the relationship risk? On second thought, maybe it is.

The Big Dig and property values

post-central artery pre-greenway boston north end

Boston Globe: Path to the Greenway: For property owners, parks mean profits. Unsurprisingly, the Boston real estate market is already pricing in the raise in property values that the creation of the Greenway along the former site of the elevated Central Artery will bring. The same rise can also be seen on the other side of the coast where listings show an increase in prices as well and according to the Northpoint Mortgage Company the rise is bound to raise in the next few years.

This doesn’t surprise me at all. When I was in grad school, we briefly flirted with the idea of buying property in the North End. A visit to a 900 square foot brick loft with a view of the Artery (now the Greenway), which was selling for $399,000, dissuaded us. Even then I think the market was pricing in the anticipated increased value of the land once the Artery came down.

So the real questions are: How long will the small business and home owners in the North End be able to afford the rise in property taxes that the increased valuations will bring? And by how much will property values ultimately rise? Any chance of netting back the full $14.6 billion cost of the Big Dig? Somehow I doubt it…

Harry Potter y tu mamá también … otra vez

Or, man am I cheesed I used the best title last time, when I first wrote about Alfonso Cuarón’s taking on the directorship of the new Harry Potter movie. Don’t let anyone tell you that …and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a kid’s film. It’s actually two films in one. One, despite everyone’s worst fears, is remarkably respectful of the book, in a way that the slavishly faithful first two films couldn’t be. One can’t respect a book when translating it into film if one doesn’t respect cinema at the same time. And the first two films, though page for page follow the first two books very closely, are so leaden-footed (and sore-ass-inducing) that they are a shambles as cinema.

The new film is actually cinema. Not only is it watchable, it’s suspenseful (I actually felt a chill down my spine when I watched Harry save himself at the end with his patronus), and in moments it approaches poetry. That’s largely due to the second film inside the first, which is an art-house hommage to the passage of time and the maturing of a lovely young girl.

Yep, HPATPOA is Hermione’s movie. Not only does it put her in her rightful place as an ass-kicking young witch who can confidently stand beside Harry and Ron; not only does it show, as Lisa said after the film, “who’s really in charge: the girl!” in the three’s friendship; it also shows her growing up. Without dwelling on it excessively, certainly without wrecking the main story, little details show her starting to deal with her feelings for her friends, especially Ron: grasping for Ron’s hand while watching Harry deal with Buckbeak, crying on his shoulder at Bucky’s apparent execution, taking in stride Sirius Black’s compliment that she is indeed the greatest witch of her age.

The few places that Cuarón lets his directorial hand show through underscore Hermione’s passage into adulthood. He indulges (thankfully for us) in some gorgeous visual poetry as the seasons change at the school and foregrounds the passing of time with the magnificent clock with the three-story pendulum and transparent face, through which Harry gazes wistfully as his friends have pivotal growing experiences without him (and don’t imagine that the trips to Hogsmeade are anything but pivotal growth experiences, even if they have little to do with the story and nothing to do with classrooms. Where else can the kids learn how to live on their own without the adults?).

Harry, of course, is already alone without adults, having lost his parents (which this movie dwells on far more than the first two), and time moves differently for him. Witness his lessons in invoking the patronus, in the middle of a giant orrery that maps the movement of the planets, or his glimpse of the wheeling galaxies as he learns he’s in (apparent) danger.

But back to Hermione. The brilliant bit that Cuarón teases out of J K Rowling’s book is that Hermione is the key to the story. As she fishes the time turner out of the front of her sweater (there’s that subtext again!), she literally takes time in her own hands in a profoundly creative act that puts time aside. It’s the only place where the momentum of the movie pauses for a bit, as key pieces of the action happen again. But it’s also a place where Cuarón can give Hermione and Harry some peaceful time alone together. And it feels ultimately like a sweet breath in the middle of the building tension.

Good on you, Hermione. I think the boys will have a lot of growing up to do to catch up with you.

My own Chris Rock cell phone moment

I just very nearly had my own Chris Rock cell phone moment. I was just about ready to post the letter below, with proper names, in despair of finding another way of contacting this man whose email address was getting confused with mine, when I received a letter that led me to be able to contact his management company. Turns out his email address was only one letter different than mine. Crisis averted, but I’m posting the letter anyway because it’s kind of funny.


I started getting mail intended for you at my private email address (which consists of the letters toj at this ISP (link deleted)) several weeks ago. I concluded at first that there had been an error and that someone had the wrong address for you in their address book.

As I continued to get more messages, however, I grew concerned. The occasional email was one thing, but in the last two days I have received, erroneously addressed to me, a thank you letter from someone who had dinner with you and your wife and a letter having to do with the upcoming production of the TV series [DELETED]

At first I assumed that you were just some random schmoe with the same initials as me. Now it seems you’re a schmoe with the same initials as me who works in the entertainment industry. This is, as they say, interesting. Not as interesting as having Chris Rock’s old cell phone number, but interesting nonetheless. I shudder to think of what might enter my mailbox accidentally if this confusion isn’t rectified. And I don’t really want to know.

At any rate: I have owned the email address in question for several years and would suggest that you contact your business associates and straighten them out regarding your correct address. Should you wish to contact me to discuss this matter privately, please use the email link in my profile.

Thanks for your time.


Tim Jarrett

But now I’m wondering: should I have milked it? Should I have emailed back all the people and asked for, say, Kevin Bacon’s cell phone number? Did I do the right thing? I guess we’ll never know.

Sigh. I used to think it was cool having a really short email address. Now I don’t know. Seems like there’s a lot of potential for confusion.