I stopped on the street yesterday to talk with a couple of neighbors. The question of whether they should use Facebook came up. They read the NY Times and hear how bad FB is, they don't want to use it. They say the same phrases the NYT uses. Educated thoughtful people, want to do what's right, but they're getting their truth from a conflicted organization, imho. I thought about it, and here's a follow-up email I wrote.
Nice to meet you X, and see you Y! ;-)
I thought some more about Facebook, of course it's a choice whether to use it or not, and they are the worst most greedy people in the world, they took from the web and refuse to give back, and there's very little nice I can say about the company.
But I think the news pubs are doing a disservice by trashing FB so thoroughly without offering an alternative that works the way it should. What they really want is the rest of us to be quiet and listen to them. That is not going to happen because what goes on on the net is too valuable and people won't give it up.
I would love to see a world where we could use these great tools without giving up anything. We knew how to make that and it existed before FB, but they made it easier and figured out how to give it away free, and people didn't care to know about the cost...
Anyway -- I've decided this isn't my battle. I'm going to get the benefit, and not worry about the cost. Nothing I can do about it anyway. ;-)
PS: I should probably make this a blog post.
Ignore the Constitution?
Corrupt attorney general
I've been slowly rebuilding my home entertainment system, in a bootstrapping kind of way. My old system was built around a huge Denon receiver I bought in 2007, two Polk Audio towers (also 2007), and a 45 or 55 inch Sony Bravia screen bought in 2010 when I moved to NYC.
A lot has changed in all those years, and I wanted to get caught up. First, I bought a 65-inch 4K TCL Roku screen and a cheap Onkyo receiver. I wanted immediately to get 2019-level equipment. Still using the Polk Audio towers. The picture quality was an amazing improvement over what I had before. Like many others, the picture was weird until I made the motion smoothing change.
Yesterday I got a cheap Polk audio subwoofer. I never thought about how it would connect to the receiver. Then I assumed there would be speaker wire ports on both ends and I would hook it up as I did with the towers, using banana plugs. I was surprised to learn how subwoofers connect to receivers these days. Using some very legacy tech, totally non-digital -- simple old RCA plugs. I went on to Amazon hoping to find some, then I realized of course they would be easy to find. An entire new market has developed here. Super long mono RCA jacks, with gold plating. As someone who studies standards evolution in tech, this is both odd and gratifying. The old way just worked and no one screwed with it. Bing.
I also was pleased to learn about ARC, a protocol that allows sound to flow back out over an HDMI wire. It means you only need one HDMI cable to hook up a receiver to a screen. It allows the receiver to play audio that's coming in through the TV. I was getting ready to set up an optical connection, as I did in the old setup. It's not needed any longer. I love factoring. Some good standards work. Met the customer need (I had actually thought of this while I was hooking up the TV and the receiver).
Another great connection is now you can access the user interface of the receiver on the TV. It's weird to use their remote on a screen I usually use via the Roku remote, but it works. Onkyo's UI was understandable, but there are some very simple best practice type changes they should make. And it's hard to find out how to get the configuration screen back. I think part of the reason the sub-woofer doesn't work yet is that when I configured it initially, I told it I didn't have a sub-woofer. I think it was a mistake of them to ask, and a mistake of me to tell the truth.
Ultimately I'd like to be able to control the receiver through the Roku settings hierarchy. I imagine there either is a way for a receiver to do this, or they're working on it. It's too obvious a direction to head in.
BTW, I assume Apple has tried to buy Roku. They have an incredibly valuable asset, the desktop of the digital entertainment world. It could be a franchise like Windows.
I'm learning a lot about a tech in an area I have loved since I was a kid. Pretty cool.
Don't read this if you don't want an incredibly brief summary of last night's episode of Game of Thrones.
This idea came up in Austin and was well-received. When journalism discovers a tech issue that appears to be a scandal, I proposed there should be a quickly convened flash conference, hosted by a university journalism department in conjunction with its computer science department. A two-evening bootcamp for journalists in New York, where the tech behind the scandal is examined dispassionately and objectively, by computer scientists who speak the language of journalism. A "poets" course. It is possible to understand the basics of an email server, for example, in a couple of hours, even if you only have a user's understanding of email technology. In the second evening, a smaller group convenes with journalists and techies, to write a concise backgrounder on the tech, and it is published, quickly.
The organization that does this would be something like Politifact, but rather than fact-checking a story, it's providing the necessary background for all reporters working on a controversy, so the delay in getting seriously factual reports on the problem is minimized. It would also likely quickly evolve, and set a baseline for the kind of information every news org should publish along with a story about tech malfeasance.
The reason this is needed is that our political system has (imho) overreacted to sensational stories, such as Hillary's emails, or misunderstood the extent of Facebook's API. And also completely missed looming crises, failing to catch them in time for them to be prevented. It seems journalism should aspire to do this as well.
A podcast is a series of digital media files made available over the open web through an RSS feed with enclosures. Podcasts usually are audio, but you can distribute any media object this way. I've used podcast feeds to distribute videos, even code.
If an audio file is not available over the web, or is behind a paywall, or is otherwise exclusive it may be a very fine worthwhile thing, but it is not a podcast. Being accessible openly in a standardized format, RSS, is essential to something being a podcast.
It's kind of amazing that until 2019 this hasn't been an issue. Everything that claimed to be a podcast actually was a podcast, meeting all these conditions. But now podcasting is being siloized by companies trying to dominate. It's understandable and predictable. But let's not dilute the qualities that make podcasting so useful.
Just set up a new receiver. They keep changing these things. Once I had the speakers hooked up, I turned it on and it says INITIAL SETUP ON TV. I had no idea what it meant. So I sat down and thought. Hmm. Try hooking up an HDMI cable to the receiver's HDMI-out connection and into one of the HDMI ports on the TV. Reboot the receiver. Voila. There's a cheesy setup screen. I go through the first few pages, give it access to the net (probably a bad idea, even though I told it not to send data about me back to Japan). Then we got to ARC. I have no idea what this is. It said Your TV does not support ARC. I couldn't believe it because I have a new 4K highly recommended TV. Looked at their docs, which are better than the receiver's. I learn ARC lets HDMI flow sound back, out of the TV into the receiver. Ahhh. No need for the optical cable I bought (glad, because it was hard to get it working with the TV). Once I told the TV I didn't have a subwoofer, the sound became incredible, I guess because it started sending the low notes to the big speakers I have. I will of course eventually get a subwoofer and rear speakers. But right now I'm glad I figured out what a receiver is in 2019. Very different from the receivers of my youth.
Impeachment is political, it's not about violating statutes, that's what the DoJ is for. Impeachment is when the country can't tolerate what the president is doing, and no remedy other than removal can protect the country. POTUS using Nazi genocide language qualifies.
Impeachment is an act of the people, as the founders saw it. It's our representatives in Congress, specifically the House, who make the call, but they should only do it when the people demand it of them. Right now that demand is not there. Can't blame the Democrats for that. It's our job to make our will clear to our reps. We have not done that, yet.
First, do not get a financial advisor. You need to get a feel for driving your own money. That imho is the most important thing. You can do it. If you hire someone to take care of your money, you'll have even less of a feel for it than you do now (assuming you're keeping your money in a checking or savings account). And you'll grow to resent the manager the way you resented adults when you were a kid. Money has all that stuff tied up in it, sense of self worth, powerlessness, being an impostor. Money is a symbol for every personal issue. Okay good for you -- you now you have some money, don't rush to give up your power. Embrace it.
A note, they ask too many questions when you open an account at these services. They insist you answer questions you have no way to answer. Why not have a fast path to signing up. A button that says Hey I'm a Newbie Here and I don't want to answer any questions. I just want to put a little money in an index fund to see how this works.
A week from this coming Saturday I'll give a keynote talk at the ISOJ conference in Austin. The way it works is I talk for 20 minutes or so, then I answer questions from the host, Rebecca MacKinnon and from the audience. Here's my current thoughts on how to approach it.
I'll start by showing the cartoon done by a Pulitzer-prize winning editorial cartoonist about the bloggers who were invited to the DNC in Boston in 2004. I was one of them. The cartoon betrays a point of view. His was that bloggers only had a PC, where reporters covering the DNC had a wealth of experience. It's a bold, condescending, arrogant statement and it's nonsense. I was 49 years old that year. My credentials at the time were as impressive as his. I had a good education from a good school. At the time I was a research fellow at Harvard. I had spent decades proving myself in my field and had risen to the top. I had invented a bunch of technology that were in very wide use, and would form the foundation for all computer networking to come. I had been writing my blog for nine years at that point, and if I do say so myself, was a good writer. We were in the process of starting podcasting at the time. And I was just one of the DNC bloggers. The others were just as accomplished. You had to be someone special to be at the DNC in 2004. If he had bothered to find out who he was dissing, if he had any humility at all, he would have been embarrassed to be so wrong. Yet this is so much of what bloggers heard from professional news people. I don't mention this because my feelings were hurt, rather because it's a blind spot that has kept journalism from rising to the opportunity that is the two-way web. It's why Facebook is growing like a weed, and journalism is crumbling.
So dear ISOJ people. I come to you from tech. I have tried to work with journalism, many times. I've even succeeded a few times, in spectacular ways. Most of the time, I'm brushed aside as irrelevant, even when I'm an expert in the fields I am offering insight into. Areas that are all of a sudden very important to journalists. And I have some of the answers they seek. But they can't hear me, because they don't understand what I am. What am I? To you, I am a source.
Back in the 80s when I was rising through the ranks of the software industry, one of the basic skills of being a tech CEO was to get journalists to write about you often and favorably. This, along with thoughtful product designs, were my big strengths. I wasn't a great manager, or money-raiser. But I could get good coverage, and my products were interesting, and one of them was a hit. (I didn't make Craig Newmark level money, but I did well.)
In the 80s journalists were an important part of our distribution system, as was advertising, which was 1/4 of our budget, along with product development, support, sales, cost of goods, administration. If we stopped getting coverage and stopped advertising our sales would also stop.
We didn't have the web in the 80s, so talking on the phone with journalists was the way we traded information with others in the industry. I was a frequent source for the columns, Spencer F Katt, the Talking Moose et al and when new products came out from the big vendors, I was a reliable quote. When my copy of PC Week or MacWEEK came in, I closed the door and read the whole issue cover to cover. It was our pulse. We put news and gossip in and got the same out.
How different that is from the way news works today, and at the same time how similar!
How did this transition happen? I actually know, because in 1994 the journalism system I described above had collapsed, as had the software distribution system. I was a Mac developer, but the consensus among journalists was that the Mac is dead, there is no new software for the Mac, and no reason to create more, because it's dead. Dead. Basically when reporters wrote about the Mac they just said it's dead and Windows is booming. Which was weird because they all used Macs. And there was new software, esp for the web. In fact the web was happening on the Mac. But the reporters were stuck in their groove about Windows' dominance the same way they are stuck on Facebook today.
So while I had an excellent product, there was no way to get it past this barrier in the minds of the press. When Apple came out with a product that was positioned against ours, but really wasn't competitive, that was the end of public comment about us. And of course the company never recovered. So I was lucky, in a way, in 1994 when the web started taking off, I had the free time to see it, study it, and launch new ideas into it.
By following a formula for product development I've used my whole career, I tried an idea out to see if it worked, if it did, I'd build on it, see if that worked, etc. If you're chasing something good, it'll just keep building, each step will give you ideas of where to go next. I had a glimmer of an idea that using the Internet, I could do for myself what journalism had been doing for me. I had a good rolodex, in it were the email addresses of all the people I hoped to communicate with using the journalists as I did in the 80s. Instead of going through the middleman, the journalists (they thought I was dead) I went direct. And boy did it work. Right from the start it was a phenomenon. So I fed the flames with more ideas and a little dirt too. I did projects with the local Bay Area news orgs. I wrote about how I thought IBM and Apple should get together. And that PDAs were going to be tethered to desktops. And then I wrote a letter about Bill Gates and how the Internet spelled doom for his plans of world domination. And then I got an email response from Gates, and I ran it. And in just a couple of months, I had created, out of nothing, a news channel of my own. I was a source, going direct, without a middleman. I called it DaveNet, it was me, just me, as a net. No organization. I was free to say what I wanted to say. I wasn't covering for anyone. It was one of the most incredible periods of my life.
This process, sources going direct, has been going on ever since. At one point I radically proclaimed that every member of Congress would be a source that goes direct. Turns out I wasn't radical enough. Today the president of the United States got there because he went around journalism and talked directly to his constituents.
This form of communication, sources going direct, is with us for good. It's the reason Facebook makes billions and journalism is collapsing. Had journalism, instead of fighting the sources, or ignoring them, and created systems to organize them, how much better everything would be. This is what we're waiting for, imho, for journalism to realize that the architecture of news has changed, and that they should embrace the change instead of fighting it, and find their new role in this new world.