The Blogosphere For Sale

June 30, 2006

A new service called PayPerPost.com matches bloggers with companies who will pay them to blog about a product:

Murphy, who founded a Tampa-based interactive ad agency called MindComet, also runs a side business that pays bloggers to write nice things about corporate sponsors — without unduly worrying about whether or not bloggers disclose these arrangements to readers. (A scan of relevant blog searches strongly suggests that, often, they don’t.) (BusinessWeek)

I agree with Pete Cashmore’s take on this “service”:

PayPerPost is a great new way to lose your credibility as a blogger – the service will pay you to write reviews of new products and services. Advertisers post “opportunities” on the site – they can specify whether the post should have pictures, and even request a positive review. That last part really crosses the line, and it’s sure to destroy any credibility you have as a writer. … PayPerPost is a terrible, terrible idea and totally unethical. (Mashable)

Even TechCrunch is weighing in with an opinion with a post titled, ‘PayPerPost.com offers to sell your soul‘:

Is this a bad joke designed to torpedo the blogosphere’s credibility in general? It doesn’t appear to be. If we’re all trying to negotiate a space between Hollywood and mainstream journalism, this is taking things way too far towards the most insipid parts of Hollywood.

Clearly comfortable with the “all press is good press” paradigm, Murphy is emailing bloggers with a link to scathing coverage at Business Week (”Polluting the Blogosphere“) and even includes the words “As seen in Business Week” in the company logo. (TechCrunch)

I think that many of us would agree that the people who take money from companies to say nice things about a product without disclosing the relationship are those at the bottom of the blogosphere barrel (where all the yucky stuff accumulates). Like many other bloggers, I take it seriously. I spend time researching and thinking about what I write, and I would never write something I did not believe or otherwise allow someone else to dictate what I can or cannot say (paid or otherwise). Needless to say, not everyone has these standards, and like any other medium, the reader has to keep the source in mind. I will pay much more attention to something that I read in TechCrunch over something on some random person’s blog the same way that I would be more likely to believe something in the Wall Street Journal over something that I saw in a banner ad on the web. The difficulty with this situation is that the banner ad can be made to look like the Wall Street Journal with paid content bloggers masquerading as respectable sources of information.


Is It too Late for Sun?

June 27, 2006

Sun says that an open source Java will be released within “months”:

A Sun Microsystems Inc. executive said Tuesday said the company is “months” away from releasing its trademark Java programming language under an open-source license.

Simon Phipps, chief open-source officer for Sun, said the company is ruminating over two major issues: how to keep Java compatible and ensure no particular company uses market forces as muscle for its own implementation, a move that would threaten Java’s “write once, run anywhere” mantra. …

Sun announced in May it would release an open-source version of Java, about one month after Jonathan Schwartz replaced Scott McNealy as chief executive officer. The leadership change pushed the issue of whether to open source Java to how to make the transition, Phipps said. (InfoWorld)

People have been calling for Sun to open source Java for quite some time with Peter Yared, ActiveGrid CEO, being one of the most vocal. Customers, partners, and community members have been dragging Sun kicking and screaming to the open source Java party, but for the most part Sun is just late to the game:

Many observers say Sun’s moves are late, as Microsoft Corp. has gained ground with its own .NET and C# programming languages.

Brian Behlendorf, co-founder of the Apache Web Server Project, said Sun and Java would have benefited earlier from distributed debugging and innovation plus a better reputation for reliability, especially on the server side.

“I think had they done it, they would have established Java further as the language of choice by so many more people,” Behlendorf said.

One area that will need to change is the Java Community Process (JCP), whereby Java standards are set, a prominent free software developer said.

The JCP is too secretive and restrictive, said Dalibor Topic, who leads the Kaffe project, which has been working for years on an open-source version of Java.

“I do not value spending my time wrestling with Sun’s legal department to find out if I can talk about something with my peers,” he wrote in an e-mail, soon after Sun announced plans to open source Java.

Sun’s talk of delivering an open-source version of Java ignores that fact that open-source Java runtimes and compatibility test suites already exist, he said.

“Basically, we’ve already come 90 percent of the way towards having several full, compatible, free software Java 1.5 implementations, without Sun’s support,” Topic said. “I don’t think that Sun would like to promote the message that open source Java has, for the most part, already been done, without them contributing.” (InfoWorld)

Danese Cooper suggests keeping an eye on Harmony, which the Linux distributors can ship pre-installed, while Sun’s JRE is relegated to a less accessible “non-free” directory.

All of this leads me to wonder whether Sun is just too late to the party. There will certainly be much rejoicing among the open source and Java communities when Java is finally released into open source, but at the end of the day how much will really change as a result of it?

read more | digg story


Are Podcasts an Efficient Use of Time?

June 26, 2006

I admit to being a podcast addict, but many people are still trying to figure out when or if they should even be listening to podcasts. Peter Davis is questioning whether or not listening to podcasts is an efficient use of his time when he can get information more quickly by reading it. I tend to agree with Scoble; you can get the information more quickly by reading it, but podcasts are great for when reading is impractical.

I have managed to incorporate podcasting into a variety of strange places in my daily routine. I start the day by downloading podcasts from my computer while I make my morning pot of green tea. I listen to the morning news podcasts while I get ready for work (usually the NPR 7am News Summary, the NYT Front Page, and the WSJ AM Tech News Update). On my 10 minute drive to work and while getting my computer booted, I can usually listen to at least part of another podcast (this morning I caught a few minutes of the latest TWIT). Before I leave work in the evening, I download another batch for the evening.

I listen to podcasts while I cook dinner, wash dishes, empty the dishwasher, fold laundry, do yard work (way too rarely), grocery shop, work out, and anything else that involves more than a few minutes of time away from the computer.

Unlike the radio or TV, I have more control over what I download and when I listed to it. Podcasts have not replaced my reading of blogs, but they have replaced quite a bit of the time that I used to spend reading the news. Podcasts have made me significantly more productive because I can now get my news at times that would have otherwise been wasted time.

A few of my other podcast favorites:


Open Source Gets Boring

June 23, 2006

As open source gets more mainstream and more popular, whether your software is open source becomes less of an issue and more of a so what. In the early 1990s, if you told someone that you were going to run your business on open source software, they would have laughed you out of the room … assuming that they even knew what open source software was. Linux was a “toy” operating system and open source software was something for universities and crazy people. Those of us who were sys admins / network admins at the time would have quietly chuckled knowing that the company’s infrastructure was already running on open source software (BIND, etc.), but management did not need to know that little tidbit of information.

Fast forward a few years into the future around the time of the dot-com era when the early adopter companies began taking open source seriously and using open source software in increasingly important areas of their businesses. At this point, if you told someone that you were going to run your business on open source software, they would have mostly questions. Are you sure that is a good idea? Is it stable? Does it work? How hard was it to train people to use the software? Where do you get support, and is the support any good?

Today most companies are comfortable using open source software, especially in the lower software layers in the stack (application development / deployment, middleware, databases, etc.) Companies are picking solutions that meets their needs using combinations of proprietary and open source software. Occasionally people may still question a decision to run open source software in a particularly mission critical environment despite the fact that big sites like Amazon.com and Travelocity use Linux, MySQL, and other open source software to run the most critical parts of their businesses.

I read an interesting article today that got me started thinking about this topic. Executives from SpikeSource, JBoss, Sun, and EnterpriseDB debated on a variety of topics at The Open Source Effect event. Andy Astor, CEO of EnterpriseDB said that “open source will become part of the fabric of IT deployments the way client-server is now, Astor said. ‘Open source is going to be a big yawn in five years,’ he said.” (InfoWorld). This is what will eventually move open source into the “so what” camp. By “so what”, I do not mean that no one will care about open source software. I do think that choosing open source software will cease to become an issue. The decision to move to open source software will be based on the requirements and the business need unencumbered by current or past misconceptions about open source.


Digg, an Open Community Success Story

June 23, 2006

With the launch of Digg 3.0 only a few days away, Digg has been generating a ton of news. I started using Digg back in November and have found it to be a great way to get the very latest tech news. Even before stories hit the home page, I find myself scouring the Digg for Stories Cloud View for recently submitted stories that are moving up the queue toward the front page.

The stats are amazing. According to TechCrunch:

“Digg is looking more and more like the newspaper of the web, and is challenging even the New York Times on page views (Digg surpassed rival Slashdot long ago).

About 800,000 unique visitors come to Digg every day, generating 9 million plus page views. The site is doubling in traffic every two months. And the amazing thing is that Digg does all of this with just 15 employees.” (TechCrunch)

The reason that they can do this with only 15 employees is because they effectively utilize an active and open user community. There are no editors on Digg. Users submit the stories and the community selects which stories are promoted to the front page by digging interesting stories (essentially voting on them). Users can also comment on the stories and rate the comments of others thus providing an active commentary and additional opinions on any story. The community is also self-policing to some degree. Any story can be flagged by a user as inaccurate or as spam, and there are additional people and algorithms at work on the back end at Digg to identify anyone using false account or bots to artificially promote a story to the home page.

The above stats are particularly amazing when you consider that Digg only covers technology news. This brings us to the news of the Digg 3.0 launch. Digg will be redesigned, and in addition to technology, they will add categories for entertainment, gaming, science, world & business, and online video. Some people are skeptical about whether or not Digg will be successful in other categories:

“Digg users will still be sitting in comfy chairs while other people put on body armor to report from war zones. Digg (and every news filter for that matter) is a leech on every news gatherer, from blogger journalists to institutional journalists.” (Publishing 2.0)

This misses the point. First, Digg is a global community where people living in “war zones” can participate. Second, Digg is not a leech on news gatherers; Digg helps provide visibility for stories that might not get noticed otherwise. Over the past year, a number of stories have gained momentum on Digg before they hit the traditional press.

Digg is not without faults. Sometimes the sensationalist and the bizarre are promoted to the front page over stories that seem more newsworthy (in my humble opinion), and the comments can get pretty nasty at times (this has improved tremendously now that we can vote on user comments!) Despite the flaws, I am looking forward to the Digg 3.0 launch.


Responsibility for Online Dangers

June 20, 2006

In our litigious society here in the United States, it was bound to happen sooner or later. MySpace is being sued because it failed to protect a minor from a sexual predator:

“A 14-year-old Travis County girl who said she was sexually assaulted by a Buda man she met on MySpace.com sued the popular social networking site Monday for $30 million, claiming that it fails to protect minors from adult sexual predators.

The lawsuit claims that the Web site does not require users to verify their age and calls the security measures aimed at preventing strangers from contacting users younger than 16 ‘utterly ineffective.’

Solis contacted the girl through her MySpace Web site in April, telling her that he was a high school senior who played on the football team, according to the lawsuit.

In May, after a series of e-mails and phone calls, he picked her up at school, took her out to eat and to a movie, then drove her to an apartment complex parking lot in South Austin, where he sexually assaulted her, police said. He was arrested May 19.” (The Statesman)

Let me see if I understand this. A fourteen year-old girl meets someone she does not know online, goes on a date with him, something terrible happens, and somehow this is MySpace’s fault? Interesting logic.

This is the same logic that led to the McDonald’s suit when a woman burned herself by spilling hot coffee in her lap. I agree with Mike at TechDirt:

“Clearly, the 19-year-old was at fault here — and has been arrested for his actions. To then go on and sue MySpace is ridiculous. Do people sue the phone company for facilitating sexual assault when it happens over the phone? Or the ISP when it happens over email? This is just a blatant attempt to cash in on an unfortunate situation.” (TechDirt)

At fourteen, I would never have been allowed to get into a car with some guy. I know that parents cannot keep a 24×7 watch on their kids; however, parents do need to take responsibility for educating their children about the dangers in this world (both offline and online dangers) allowing their children to make smart choices. It is terrible that something like this happened to such a young girl; however, the responsibility for ensuring safety does not lie with MySpace. If this incident happened at a mall or a school, like many of them do, the mall or school should not accused of “failing to protect minors from sexual predators” and should not be held responsible for the actions of other people.


Get a Clue or Become Extinct

June 18, 2006

The world is changing (or has changed) in a way that can no longer be ignored. For those of us working in the technology industry, it is easy to get swept into the web 2.0 world to the point where the changes seem so obvious. Communities, open source software, user contribution, participation, blogging, podcasting … are part of the way business works in today’s environment. Traditional (non-technology) companies are starting to figure this out, and are dipping their toes into the water.

  • Big media companies (The New York Times and the BBC) are blogging and podcasting.
  • Large software companies (IBM) are embracing open source software.
  • Old school manufacturing companies (GM) are opening up to community participation.

The gapingvoid had a post yesterday describing how Microsoft’s loss of Scoble and Gates spells the end of Microsoft taking the road toward extinction. I am not sure about the downfall of Microsoft; however, all companies (not just technology companies) need to understand the new business dynamics often lumped together under the web 2.0 meme. Those that get a clue will continue to operate in this new environment, and those dinosaurs who do not get it will slowly become extinct.