Saturday, May 27, 2006

En Wrong

I know most of you are rejoicing in the conviction of the Enron Boyz last week. I know, I know, in a great victory for the judicial system, the prosecutors nailed the elusive top bananas and restored our faith in the judicial system to regulate the greedy dark side of capitalism.

Well, sorry. I can't join your celebration. This conviction was, frankly, bull crap. Why?

Ask Lou Abousaid.

Lou is a friend from Tampa. He ran an after hours club in downtown for years... After hours club in the "open real late, no alcohol, sell expensive water, plenty of day glo" sort of way. Catering to the rave crowd.

Now like many small, lame cities that want to be big, lame cities, Tampa is desperately afraid of its youth culture and does everything possible to criminalize it. That's why there is a law against dancing in after hours clubs. Let me say it again, THERE IS A LAW AGAINST DANCING IN AFTER HOURS CLUBS. And it's enforced. That means a lot of police attention - including raids.

After a few years of extra special police attention, Lou started feeling a little harassed. Cops would park in the lot across the street from his club and put on their brights for hours at a time, ticket all the cars on the block while ticketing no other cars in the vicinity, etc. etc.

Lou decided to fight back by filing a few lawsuits against the City and the County. He filed them pro se (no lawyer), researching the cases on his own at the public law library.

Judges HATE pro se defendants. It insults their sense of professional elitism. (I know, I've been one and I produce a podcast for a guy who used to be a Federal pro se law clerk).

What they hate even more is when you do it right. Lou did. And he started winning. A case here, a case there, all of a sudden he was taking money right out of the police e coffers.

So they decided to fight back, by running a big ole' fat DEA sting operation in his club.

They got an informant into place, tending bar in the club. The informant started selling pills. He sold a hundred pills over the course of a year. When Lou found out about it, he fired the guy. When he found someone in his club with pills, he had them destroy the drugs in front of him, then kicked them out.

After their year long operation, the Feds arrested and tried Lou under a crackhouse statute - in the same federal courtroom where he had successfully sued the cops.

In the course of the trial, the prosecutors presented no evidence that Lou had bought drugs. No evidence that he had sold drugs. No evidence that he permitted the sale of drugs, no evidence that he knew about the sale of drugs.

They didn't have to. The law they used to prosecute him only requires that they show "deliberate indifference" to the drugs being sold in the club.

Lou represented himself at trial (a terrible idea - which would you be more likely to believe: "Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, this man is innocent!" or "Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I'm innocent, trust me!" - if you're ever on trial in criminal court, get a lawyer.)

He lost. He went to federal prison... for never selling anything, never letting anyone sell anything... just for not doing enough to stop it. (He was probably too busy making sure no one was dancing). He got 8 years.

"Deliberate indifference" is the same crime Lay and Skilling were convicted of (the principal crime, anyway). This is bogus law enforcement. If you can't prove that someone did anything, you shouldn't be able to send them to jail.

Andy fastow is the one who actually DID commit the crimes that brought Enron into bankruptcy. He is a liar and a criminal. He cut a deal so the prosecution could nab Lay and Skilling.

The truth is that Lay is an idiot (like his President) and Skilling is an arrogant asshole. That doesn't make convicting people of non-crimes OK.

Just ask Lou Abousaid.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


It's official, the first true broadband network has been launched.

It's not Brightcove. It's not iTunes. It's not Google Video or MTV or YouTube.

It's Adsense.

That's right. The most successful monetization vehicle in the history of the internet is now a video network.

The ads will be click to play, essentially imbedded google video players served up contextually, behaviorally, etc, just like other google ads.

Now don't get me wrong - I'm not excited about video ads, I'm excited about video content distribution. I see adsense as the ideal form of "along the way" distribution, where you leverage web traffic centers to place your content strategically in places where the target audience is likely to see it and enjoy it.

Forget the ads, content producers need to start distributing via adsense. The cost of distribution is simply the cost of advertising on adsense. You build it into the cost of production, and pass it along to those that advertise in your content. Eventually, if your content is valuable enough, the monetization could be reversed, with websites paying to have your content placed on their site.

No one's going to click on a 30 second video ad that tells them to buy a Honda. But they will click on video that adds value to their viewing experience - a music video that drives customers to iTunes, a 3 minute home design reality show sponsored by, or (to use the example that Google cites in the press release):
Now, an owner of a small bed & breakfast in Lake Tahoe can put a video tour of his beautiful chalet right next to an article that talks about skiing the epic slopes of Squaw Valley.

As a brand or media property owner, you have an opportunity to get your brand in front of a targeted audience on a site that THEY choose to go to. Why would you waste that opportunity on blatant and embarrassing pleas for them to buy your crap?

Instead, use your opportunity to give them something - entertainment, information, etc. Advertising dies.

That's what happens when the most powerful ad server on the net becomes a content server.

The Land of Plenty

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A terrific post from Fred at AVC a few days ago.

I'm catching up from a week out of bounds, and this really caught my eye:

There is no such thing as scarcity in digital goods. They can be replicated instantly and as many times as you want without losing quality.

This has led many who grew up in the world where scarcity was the measure of value to conclude that digitatization equals value deflation.

But I believe the exact opposite happens. You must embrace what digital offers. The ability to rapidly replicate is the way to create value in the digital world.

As is often repeated by Jeff, my business partner, "quantity has a quality all it's own."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 (video/quicktime Object)

This is pretty amazing - these guys have managed to stablize the Zapruder film, showing the Kennedy Assasination like I've never seen it before.

It seems to be legit... so what do you think? Is he shot in the chest before the head? Does that shot in the head propel him forward or backward?

Oswald was behind him. I know some people are using this to support the assertion that Oswald was the only shooter... I don't know...

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Chris Fabricant Show

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Starting this week, Jeff and I are soft launching The Chris Fabricant Show - a weekly podcast featuring Chris Fabricant, criminal defense attorney and author of Busted: the Drug War Survival Guide.

The show is "an hour of sanity in the sea of disinformation about the criminal justice system." What initially attracted us to Chris's work is that he breaks down legal issues in a way that's entertaining and accessable to ordinary people. The law has a HUGE impact on our everyday lives, but we leave it to lawyers to understand the legal system - depriving ourselves of the power that comes with knowledge.

We're hoping that the commonsense approach Chris used in his book translates to the podcast format.

We're producing the show through BrightRED, and are beginning to ask people for their feedback as we develop the show.

While we're still in alpha, you can subscribe through this xml file:

If you listen to podcasts on iTunes, select "advanced" from the top menu, and choos "subscribe to podcast", then paste the xml file printed above into the box.

To learn more about Chris and his fantastic book, go here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Quorum Sensing

I attended a lecture last night on Biomimicry - studying and emulating natural systems to find sustainable solutions to design problems. In one of her examples, she talked about how bacteria commune with each other.

The phenomenon is called "quorum sensing". A few bacteria will land on a surface and immediately begin emitting a chemical that attracts other bacteria. If no others join them, they'll move on.

I was already thinking about mySpace, having just read this interesting Chartreuse post on the subject, but the obvious connection between the way a bacterial colony grows and the way a social networking site gets hot made me realize something:

The users that flock to mySpace and before that to Friendster may be fickle, but that doesn't mean that their behavior isn't predictable.
Our communities mimic natural systems that biologists have been studying for generations.

It also made me realize that being new isn't the only way to attract some bacteria to a networking site. As long as you can figure out the right core users to keep happy, they'll go right on emitting their chemicals.

By the way, if my brain wasn't so shamefully ensconced in this stuff, I probably would have written about the natural ventilation systems they're building based on termite mounds or the glueless tape they're developing from the technology on salamanders' feet. Pretty cool...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

MTV and CSPAN showing their age

I'm interested in what Warner Brothers is doing with Bit Torrent because it's obvious and everyone should be doing it.

I'm interested in what Fox is doing with iTunes, because it shows that interest in that market is growing, not fading.

I'm much more intrigued with what MTV is doing with their "Overdrive" online property - launching a web simulcast of their popular shows, focusing on what's going on backstage:

So while Michelle Rodriguez, an actress from the CBS hit show "Lost," was being interviewed on the "T.R.L." set by one MTV host, Jamie Foxx, having finished his onstage appearance, was being followed backstage by the Overdrive cameras. Walking through the corridors and into the green room along with Mr. Foxx was an MTV V.J., Vanessa Minnillo, who introduced viewers to members of Mr. Foxx's entourage and took Mr. Foxx through the metal detectors that screen everyone on their way onto the "T.R.L." set.

(For the record, Mr. Foxx set off the alarm, which required Ms. Minnillo to give him a thorough full-body frisk for weapons. Though he had none, he did not appear to mind the procedure.)

Their approach plays to the fact that most young people watch tv with their computer in front of them. MTV takes into consideration that user experience is different for online viewing than for television viewing, and they're creating original content that takes into consideration their audience's behavior.

The only way that original content online is going to find a commercial audience is if producers adapt the conventions of their work to the new medium. MTV is doing that, Lost is doing that, and I'm sure others will follow.

What CSPAN is doing, however, is TOTALLY STUPID. No imagination, no comprehension of how web distribution models differ from television. Just lame.

It is important for online video providers to understand that C-SPAN-produced programming is protected by copyright in the same way that the video of any other news network is protected. Our goal in enforcing our copyright has been and continues to be to ensure that C-SPAN’s reputation for unbiased coverage of the political process is maintained.

It is more important for CSPAN to understand that no one is going to watch an hour and a half video on google so they can see a funny clip of Steven Colbert. And nobody is going to stop posting funny clips of Stephen Colbert. So just brand it, let it go where people will see it, and get over it. It was lame when it was Saturday Night Live, but CSPAN? Give me a break.

Monday, May 08, 2006

He's Back...

I've noticed that Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, HdNet and frequent blogger has been silent on the blogosphere since the playoffs began.

I must admit, I've been pretty disappointed. A frequent critic of the officiating in the NBA and thorn in the side of the league, I definitely expected some raving from the BlogMaverick.

Well I guess he was ignoring his blog because the Mavericks have been playing so well, and not as a new diplomatic strategy. Because after they choked in the last couple minutes and blew a chance to steal game 1 in San Antonio this afternoon, he came out in full attack mode:

But the NBA has a huge problem. It doesnt view the playoffs as a place where the very best of the best of officials go to work. It views the playoffs as part of a reward system for officials. YOu get promoted to the playoffs. Its not unusual to see an official work a single playoff game in the first round . In fact, if the info i have is correct, there are officials who havent even been promoted to full time crew cheif who get playoff assignments. How crazy is that ?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Just Syndicate, OK?

In my last post, I talked about one potential evolution of syndication, today I want to talk about another.

Here's a comment I got a few days ago from Gregor Clark:

I'm definitely intrigued by this idea of syndicated content's relationship to new advertising models, but still - someone still has to *subscribe* to an RSS feed, right? You still have to advertise your content, to some extent. Am I missing something?

Thanks, Gregor, for pointing out what I think it an important distinction. In the post he was responding to, I was talking about syndication not as a direct interface with an end user, the way we normally think of rss, but as a means of distributing your content across the web - placing your content pipeline in places on the web where your audience already spends a lot of time.

Where is this technology already available, easy and free???... YOU TUBE of course.

You Tube allows anyone to create an imbeddable player that will play a set of videos in the order you determine, updated as you add new content. They call the feature "playlist" and it's revolutionary.

It means that anyone with valuable content can have an instant network that can be syndicated by pasting a couple of lines of code.

This is a true broadband channel or network. It means you can take your content to your audience so they can find it along the way, as they explore the web.

It's taking your content to the mall and setting up a kiosk, rather than building a store on a dirt road and waiting for traffic to come to you.

This is a win win situation for content producers and web property owners. The producers put their content in front of the audience, which means any advertising model they employ will be more lucrative. The web property owners (who are in the business of creating traffic) benefit by providing valuable content for their users, which means more traffic that stays put longer.

Let's take an example - The Gaping Void. Hugh's "cartoons drawn on the backs of postcards" have made his blog a Techonorati Top 100 powerhouse.

Lately, he's been trying to put together a widget linked to his rss feed, so you can syndicate his postcards on your website. As soon as he puts together one that works on blogger, I'll put it up on my site. I think his cartoons are great, and I want to share them with my readers. Good for me - treating my readers right, good for him - more people see his cartoons.

That's why I've said that advertising for content is becoming obsolete. The whole idea behind advertising is to put up a virtual billboard in places where your audience is already going, so they know to visit your content. But when your content is as portable as an ad, why put up the billboard - just put your content there.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

NPR gets it

Pinhole Day #5
Originally uploaded by pinhole.

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Having been too busy to post the last few days, I have a bunch of stuff I want to get out.

So lets just start with an easy one.

NPR clearly gets it. They have been leading the charge in bringing podcasting to the masses (well, at least their seven percent of the masses) since the iTunes Music Store opened it's podcasting section. They have their own page on iTunes, a huge presence on the "front page" of the podcast section, and even on the main iTunes homepage. That presence comes, by the way, through decisions made by the mysterious iTunes editorial board.

More importantly, however, they have the one of most loyal subscriber bases in the podcasting community. I'm one of them - I listen to my podcasts more regularly than any other, more frequently even than the podcasts, of which I am a huge fan.

Why? Because I like the shows better - no, not really, I like the shows I listen to about as much as the other 20 or so podcasts I subscribe to. The answer is that they have embraced the rss technology and made it more than just a new way to subcribe to an email list.

Go to the npr iTunes page, and you'll find that you can't subscribe to the three hour show "All Things Considered". If you could, I probably would, and I would never listen to it. Instead, they offer me 47 different ways to make my own npr programming. I can subscribe to the "Unger Report" if I like Brian Unger's features, or "Sports with Frank DeFord" if I like his stuff. If I prefer that someone else aggregate for me, I can choose "Story of the Day" with is selected by the editorial board, or "Most E-mailed" if I want user agreggation. If I want the 5 minute news, I can select whatever hour I want the news downloaded to me, or I can choose an option that downloads hourly, so I can listen to up to the minute npr news on my computer or iPod.

I love that npr resists just slapping the same content you can get on the radio up online and calling it a podcast. What's novel, though, is that they're not creating new content, they're just bundling it in a way that takes into account how we will be consuming it. They're emphasising the longtail and allowing us to create our own npr programming by mixing and matching the feeds we subscribe to.

This is, of course, a great window into one of the directions that rss is going. Right now, most people are using their feeds to broadcast their own voice to a subscriber base, but this technology makes us all programmers. Soon you'll be subscribing to Chartreuse's feed, not just to read his blog, but because he's burning the hottest programming, and he'll bring you a sampling of what he likes.

I try to get my clients (and myself) to look at your feed as your whisper in the ear of your subscribers. You're saying something to your audience, and you have to think about what they'll be doing when they hear you. And you have to communicate in the active voice.

(To head off any confusion with this ear analogy, let me just say that I mean audio, video, images and text - not just audio... it's a metaphor, ok?).

I used Chartreuse as an example because he is accomplishing this with his blog feed. He talks to his subscribers. He builds his brand with a mix of his own content and other stuff he wants to share. His posts have entertainment energy, and he thinks about his titles, how much he will reveal in the feed, and what you'll have to visit the site to see. I'll point out more examples as rss moves this direction, but npr and Char are great examples.