Sunday, June 28, 2009

What's that line about to a hammer ev... (UPDATEDx2)

This is in response to Connie Schultz's article Tighter copyright law could save newspapers:
David Marburger is a First Amendment lawyer at Baker Hostetler who has represented newspapers, including The Plain Dealer, for nearly 30 years. Daniel is an economics professor at Arkansas State University.

A panel discussion about newspapers' future sparked David's idea on how to save them.

"I heard [Plain Dealer Editor] Susan Goldberg talking about how revenue from online advertising is pathetically low and newspapers can't recoup their investment. As soon as she said it, the wheels started turning. You have all these free riders like Daily Beast and Newser and local television stations aggregating your stories online while diverting readers and advertisers from your site. And they're doing it for a fraction of the cost of the newspapers that generated the original copy. "And it hit me: All those theories out there on how to prop up newspapers -- why isn't anyone saying this? Why aren't we talking about how this free-riding by aggregators affects the market rate for everyone?"
What's that line about to a hammer everything looks like a nail? If the solution to your business model is funding an army of lawyers than it's time to write a new business model. And the last person I would be asking business advice from would be an economist. Open any business section on the planet for my reason why.

This is the same tactic that the record industry tried with file sharing. It was also the tactic used by the old UNIX vendors against the modern open source Linux operating system. It turned their customers into their enemies. You can guess how well that's worked for them. Technology savvy bands such as Nine Inch Nails discovered that they could make more money by working within this new dynamic instead against it. Eventually record companies retooled their relationship with technology and learned how to profit off of it through commercial download sites such as iTunes and ring-tones.

It was easy for record company executives to blame technology as they funded an endless army of boy bands and Britney Spears clones. "Why oh why aren't people buying our records? It's those damned file sharers." The fault was not in their stars, but who ever figures that out?

The money in modern media is metadata. Google makes its millions by trying to find as much information as possible about the people viewing content so that they can create targeted marketing. One of the all time best sources for that information is newspaper portals. I would bet you a Graeter's sundae that if you talked to anyone in that industry and they would tell you that newspapers are barely scratching the surface of leveraging the amount of information that sails through their server logs every time someone clicks a link on their sites.

One of the things that I discovered back when I was blogging was that by pooling together logs from other allied sites we could find out geometrically greater information about who was visiting our collective sites. It was how we discovered who was anonymously posting threats on our sites during a certain Senate race that you might remember. Newspapers, thanks to their intense reader loyalty and their strong bonds to local communities, are one of the greatest metadata assets on the planet. If I was them I would be funding an effort to maximize leveraging those relationships instead of pursuing legal or political solutions.

Google and every other marketing entity is all about finding information about the people viewing their content. There is no better source for that metadata than the readers of newspapers.

In the future everyone is a parasitic aggregator. (Ideas are parasites. They feed off of the brains of the living.) A prime example of this is Facebook, where I found this article since Connie posted it there. With a click of a button I could share this article with all of my friends.

The thing is that the technology is already being developed to make aggregate portals obsolete. By the time you've figured out how to profit out of their exploitation of your work they will already have been replaced by the next version of new media; the circle of life, as they say.

Media is all about parasitic leaching, as you call it. For instance Sy Hersh leaching off of Woodward and Bernstein's hard work on Watergate. Ask any political blogger and if they're worth their salt they can tell you a story of how a newspaper "leached" their hard work without even giving them credit. I created my Ohio 2nd blog specifically to take advantage of that dynamic. Rather than complain about it I used it to my advantage. I wanted people to "leach" my ideas and thus cause the political landscape in Southern Ohio to actually consider progressive politics. It cracks me up when bloggers complain about it. It makes me sad when newspaper reporters do. I love newspapers too much and the fact that they don't get it really worries me.

The web is an aggregator. Google is. Linking is. Facebook is. It's all "parasitic".

Language is a virus. - William S Burroughs.

Here are some more links on the story:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

OpenLink Virtuoso Windows Notes

I'm keeping notes on playing with OpenLink Virtuoso 5.0.7 on Vista.

The Web's Bridegroom Cometh

I'm convinced that the marriage of web content with semantic web meta-data is the future of the Internet. (This isn't a big leap and lord knows I'm late in saying this.) The main reason why people like me are so late to jumping on board this slow moving freight train is that while the theory is all there, and is very solid, the tools just haven't been coming. There's little obvious incentives for the groups that are the builders of the web to make their products semantic web friendly, and even when they do their only interested in doing so to lock you into their product. Linking things together, even though it is the entire purpose of the semantic web, is like pulling teeth. The reason for this is simple: there is an almost complete disconnect between traditional databases, which are the life blood of the web, XML, and semantic databases. The engines are different. Their query languages are different, and their interfaces are completely different. While there has been a lot of effort to create a bridge between relational databases and XML, there has been little to add a bridge connecting it to RDF semantic data.

Most of the initiatives have are hard time at acceptance because they make the same mistake that most failed projects make: they completely reinvent things instead of trying to seamlessly integrate with what already is. Very few people are going to abandon their desktop for a "semantic" desktop. They've invested too much intellectual and emotional capitol in their existing interfaces. Forcing them to abandon everything that is in addition to learning a whole new way of envisioning data and its relationships is completely unrealistic.

Semantic Web data is designed to make it easier for machines to process what's on the web. It is a construct that needs to be relegated primarily to the machines in order to be effective. When the users don't even think about it because they are so lost in the ideas, THAT'S when it can be considered successful. (This is true of all of what I call the invisible arts: typography, movie soundtracks, etc)

There are two products that I know of that have successfully bridged this gap: Fedora-Commons and OpenLink Virtuoso. Each has their strength and their weaknesses.

I'll provide a comparison between them soon.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Getting Credit from Old Media

This blog, sparked by Jill Miller Zimon, fascinates me since it's totally contrary to my philosophy as a political blogger. You see, from the start my main goal was propaganda. I was a one man left win pinko version of Fox News pouring liberal poison into the ears of the media elite.

My theory was that most regular reporters were too jaded/overworked/lazy to actually write good content, so that merely by reporting on stories that didn't get any coverage you could completely shape how the media covered them. The same way that old media acts as a catalyst/shaper of how the blogosphere reacts to mainstream stories, a blog that targets stories that don't get the coverage could have the same effect on them. It's human nature. The first person to comment on anything shapes how the collective reacts to it. As I like to say, the first person to ride into dodge is always the sheriff.

Bottom line, I wanted them to copy me, and I didn't want any credit, because if they did it would lessen the power of the story. Blogger sitting in his basement who doesn't even live in the district reports... has a lot less power than the venerable Cincinnati Enquirer, why we are venerable is beyond us since we've been endorsing candidates such as Jean Schmidt that have been sucking the lifeblood out of this great nation for decades, reports... I know that it worked because reporters have told me that I had an influence.

This is why I refused interviews where I would be on camera. The story was never about me. It was about my agenda. In the case of the special it was the Democratic Party's assault on the heart in the Republican base. I've embraced the medium and was playing the game as the landscape dictated. The fact that others took credit for my work even though they only showed up at the last minute was the price of a job well done.

In the end the only credit that really meant anything to me came from insiders within the Schmidt camp.

Here's an example. I'm on a mailing list where somebody was complaining about how some of his pro Obama content was being copied, and that people weren't taking it down fast enough after they complained. I asked him if he thought that the people writing slanderous emails about Obama were complaining that they were being forwarded? He should be happy that he's being "ripped" off, because that means that it is viral and thus having impact upon people. In politics, as in everything, the profit comes from selling the sausage, not from making it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Jill Resigns

Jill Miller Zimon resigned today from working for the Plain Dealer on the Wide Open site. I can't even imagine how difficult it was for her. This was her vision.
Jean and several other people at the PD and in the blogosphere know that for almost two solid years, I’ve asked and written about and pushed issues related to integrating traditional journalism, new media, bloggers and citizen journalism - all in the name of providing better and more content for readers who consult more and different types of sources for reading news and information. Someone confirmed to me this afternoon, when I said to him, “I know there must be some folks saying, about how my efforts to integrate these groups were in vain, ‘I told her so,’” that, yes, some people are saying, “I told her so.”
She's right to see this as the future, and shouldn't let the bad planning and implementation of others dissuade her. It was a gutsy move. Unfortunately it all ended just when I thought it was really hitting its stride.

The post I had been working on concerning Wide Open was called Harmonic Convergence. You can see how we disseminate information is becoming more plastic and less bound by any single media. Print media has the most to lose from all this... thus their klutzy overreactions. Unfortunately, they have yet to realize that they also have to most to gain.

This all makes me sad. It was nice seeing people trying new ways to rise above the static.

The old rules are dead. At this point it's all about the old referees fighting to keep their jobs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Obfuscated Dealer

For over a month now I've been wrestling with a post about the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Wide Open blog initiative, an experiment in hiring four partisan bloggers to create an online political dialog. Today's events made things moot when they fired the Ohio political blogger that I have more respect for than any other, Jeff Coryell, aka Yellow Dog Sammy. Their reason was simple: Congressman Steven LaTourette complained about Jeff because he'd been critical of LaTourette's campaign in the past.

I was curious to see how the paper would deal with the double edged nature of hiring two bloggers which have been lauded in right wing circles for leading the charge in trying to paint our current Governor as a champion of NAMBLA. Personally, I found it to be the most disgusting smear campaign I had ever seen. To turn a difficult non vote of conscience by a trained professional and try to twist it using the basest, most pretzel-like forms of twisted faux-logic was the kind of intellectual dishonesty reserved for the archest of partisan hacks. Back when I myself was a "partisan blogger" their actions in the matter caused me to pull links to their sites; an action that pained me given how BizzyBlog had stood up for me in the past. I must confess that it did give me a certain amount of ironic joy in knowing that their actions actually helped elect Governor Strickland and Senator Brown by promoting a Republican strategic campaign completely devoid of substance or integrity.

I was wondering how the PD would deal with things when their dark craft resurfaced the next time the GOP decided to anoint an obviously empty suit. Well... today's story has instead shifted things in an entirely unexpected direction.

The right thing to do for Jeff's fellow Wide Open bloggers is to resign. The actions by the Plain Dealer have proven the exercise to be a farce. Before last years Governor's race I had a lot of respect for NixGuy and BizzyBlog, and as I like to say, it's never to late to do the right thing.

You can read more about the situation at Buckeye State Blog as well as Jeff's post here.
Here's Jeff's release on the subject:

30 October 2007

My name is Jeff Coryell, although I have also written on political blogs under the pseudonym Yellow Dog Sammy.

Today I was terminated from my engagement as a freelance blogger at the blog "Wide Open" as a direct result of intervention of Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Bainbridge Township) of the 14th Ohio Congressional District, in retaliation for my previous blogging about his re-election campaign and my financial support for two of his election opponents.

In August, the Cleveland Plain Dealer hired four Ohio political bloggers to contribute to a daily political group blog called "Wide Open," located at . In order to assure balance, two bloggers with liberal leanings were chosen, and two with conservative leanings. The other participants are Jill Miller Zimon of Writes Like She Talks (, Tom Blumer of BizzyBlog (, and Dave of Nixguy (

My participation in the project soon came to the attention of Rep. LaTourette. I had written extensively about LaTourette's 2006 re-election contest and I explicitly supported his challenger, law professor Lew Katz (D-Pepper Pike). I also wrote about what I regard as the suspicious connection between large amounts of campaign cash LaTourette received from the Ratner family of Cleveland, of the Forest City real estate empire, and their receiving an enormous contract to develop 44 acres of the Southeast Federal Center in Washington DC. LaTourette was a member of the powerful Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, which oversees the agency that awarded the contract (the General Services Administration). That writing is at , and was picked up at My wife and I also contributed a modest amount to Katz campaign.

I have been told by Cleveland Online Editor Jean DuBail that Rep. LaTourette complained about my involvement in "Wide Open" to Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Page Editor Brent Larkin. I was also informed that LaTourette brought up the matter of my participation during an interview with Cleveland Plain Dealer political reporter Sabrina Eaton, when she talked to LaTourette about the retirement of Rep. Dave Hobson (R-Springfield). LaTourette mentioned that I had contributed the sum of $100 to the campaign of LaTourette's current opponent, Bill O'Neill (D-South Russell). Eaton suggested that LaTourette raise his concerns with more senior people at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. However, as a result of that conversation, Eaton reported my contribution in her story about third quarter campaign fund-raising by various Ohio Congressional candidates.

Cleveland Plain Dealer Online Editor Jean DuBail raised the matter of LaTourette's displeasure with my participation in "Wide Open"in discussion with the four bloggers on at least two occasions. We discussed the possibility of my making a disclosure of my support for LaTourette's opponents whenever I wrote anything about LaTourette on "Wide Open."

Today Dubail called me and asked if I would agree to never write about LaTourette on "Wide Open," as a condition of my continued participation. He said that the arrangement was sought by Susan Goldberg, Editor of the Plain Dealer. When I declined to agree, after further consultation with Goldberg by DuBail, I was terminated by DuBail.

"As a political blogger, I am a partisan. My political orientation as a progressive Democrat is an integral part of what I do and is completely transparent to my readers. This is a crucial component of being a political blogger/activist, and sets us apart from journalists in the classic sense. It was understood among the four participants in "Wide Open" that we are political partisans and that we would engage in political debate from our respective political points of view."

"I am extremely disappointed that the Cleveland Plain Dealer bowed to pressure from an elected official, to the extent of attempting to limit what a freelance political blogger could write on a hosted group blog and of terminating the services of the blogger to please the offical. To me, this sad episode strikes a heavy blow at freedom of expression and the purported journalistic independence of a once proud newspaper."

My political blog is Ohio Daily Blog, at I previously blogged at Ohio2006 Blog, at . I began my began my professional life as a successful private and government attorney, and subsequently earned a Masters in Fine Art degree and pursued a second career as an artist ( and art teacher. I live in Cleveland Heights, Ohio with my wife and two golden retrievers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Beyond Corruption

Lawrence Lessig is one of my heros. I returned to computers after a ten year absence when I had finally figured out a good use for them: church hymns. I had taken on a job directing a small Lutheran church choir in Stockton, California. I was quickly frustrated trying to find easy music that we could sing that matched up with the weeks Bible readings. This would be a great job for a computer program I thought... a sort of database driven digital hymnal. I quickly got to work learning as much as I could about computer databases and the maddening world of copyright law. Time and time again Professor Lessig's name came up as the one positive counter to the forces trying to pervert copyright laws in favor of corporations over people.

I was thus with great interest that I read that he was switching his efforts from copyright reform to the greater issue of political corruption. One thing worries me though... he's arguing the negative.

To me it's not enough to just fight against "corruption." There are too many shades of gray in politics. It's my money... show me how it's spent. Today there is no easy way to do that. Everything is couched in the vaguest of terms and only then during the biannual feeding frenzy that is the election cycle.

I am a process man. It's not enough to just stick a label on your lapel and show how well you can recite your party's focus group tested talking points. Until it is easy for every American to hold their representatives accountable for the trust that we've given then, we can never really trust any of them. Anyone who's ever run a business knows that your employees will steal from you. If you don't monitor what they are doing with your money you are asking for them to steal from you.

It's not just about corruption... it's about accountability. If the bottom line you hold your employees to is that they aren't stealing from you you've got one fucked up company. Well my friends... welcome to the United States of America.