Archive for the ‘2.D’oh! Round-Ups’ category

Web 2.D’oh! Roundup: Wikipedia Abuse, Washington Fashion, More

19, September, 2008

Why Wikipedia Must Be Stopped, Cont’d

From The Times of London:

The Wikipedia entry for Sarah Palin was overhauled substantially for the better in the 24 hours before the surprise announcement of her selection as Republican vice-presidential nominee.

A mystery Wikipedia user — under the name Young Trigg — put in about 30 edits to the biographical article on the website…..

Since the announcement the Sarah Palin page has been edited many hundreds of times more and Wikipedia has now put in place a partial block so that only established editors can change the entry. Some of Young Trigg’s entries have been amended or toned down.

The blood-n-guts back story from WikiNews. The whole hideous editing trail. Wikidashboard’s view of who’s been up to what with the Palin entry.

Death by Manolo

The Washington Post has launched FW, a fashion magazine that appears to be modeled on the NYC fashion trade rag W. [FW stands for “Fashion Washington.”]

It’s easy, and maybe necessary, to ventilate one’s populist outrage by ridiculing a publication that says it will cover such topics as “hot-yet-approachable high-end styles,” “an ambassador known for dressing well,” and “a sizzling line of cufflinks just in from Japan.”

Who knows? This could help the paper snag some of the high-gloss ads that its Sunday magazine cannot. There are now several competing Palm Beach-y publications in the Washington area that do the usual party-pictures, pretty profiles and runway shots designed to appeal to high-end jewelers and clothiers that don’t usually fool with newsprint. They’re fat with ads so glossy they could generate solar energy. I guess the Post wants its share. Fine.

I just find it astonishing that a company like the Post–which is working furiously [in both senses] to create content and business models that will let it remain a source of vital, independent news reporting on public affairs in the digital world– would spend a single erg of energy creating a new print publication.

In economics there is something known as opportunity costs–the price, essentially, of the road not taken. Among the costs of Plan A one must include the costs of not doing Plan B.

In the case of the Post, the cost of launching FW includes the cost of not devoting those same resources to building products and business in the digital environment. Every worker-hour, every meeting, every salescall, every senior executive chin-pull, every synapse fired spent in service of making FW a success is not spent on the only task that matters.

Let’s say FW ekes out a modest profit at low costs. [On a per-rich-person’s-head basis, which is how FW’s being sold, the price is similar to that charged for ads in the newspaper’s Sunday magazine, though costs of FW will likely be a fraction. Good business plan.]

But the cost is that same group of people at The Post not developing skills, content, contacts and brainspan that will power the company into the almost purely digital news landscape that likely looms ahead.

I don’t care whether it’s footwear or football, diamonds or diatribes. Any investment in ink-on-paper products–even marginally profitable ones–by a company that has to remake itself in a digital world is a wasteful diversion.

It’s opportunity wasted.

Interest revealed: I am a former employee of The Washington Post newsroom.

And finally, our latest sighting of the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse ™

Grade your Twitter feed

Oh, wait, there goes the Horseman Again ™!

Social Networking Surpasses Porn as Leading Use of Internet


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The Web 2.D’0h! Roundup

5, September, 2008

Another look at the menace, mediocrity and occasional magnificence around the world of social media.

Architects of the Doomed User Experience

Navigation Arts–a Washington, D.C.-area design firm best known for its work for defense contractors, trade associations and government agencies–has helped relaunch the Charlotte Observer’s website. A leader in usability and enterprise websites, Navigations Arts has produced. . .

. . .a site nearly indistinguishable from its peers that have stuck stubbornly with the newspaper-with-multimedia-and-nervously-managed-user-interaction model that has proven so incapable of producing sufficient revenues for newspaper publishers across the country.

To paraphrase the sounds of the season: Is this the change we need?

  • For community features the Observer it has deployed Pluck, the popular off-the-shelf 2.0-in-a-box application suite.
  • It uses the two-layer drop-down navigation you can find on any custom WordPress template worth $75.
  • It makes the misstep of labeling video as video [“hey, lookit, Marge, they got movin’ pictures on this website!] instead of according to the underlying content.

Worst of all, the site also ubiquitously highlights the sad, sweet, desperate “subscribe and get miles” link that demonstrates a profound, perhaps fatal misunderstanding of how news companies need to operate in a digital world.

Note to the Observer’s Dept. of Clue Procurement: It’s not about selling newspapers any more.

Imagine Henry Ford selling the Model T with an ad that says, “Buy the car and we’ll give you discount on a horse too!”

A Look Behind the Curtain of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is supposedly all about “transparency,” allowing users to see who’s been authoring and reauthoring Wikipedia pages. In practice, exploring this information is like reading source code for a mortgage disclosure document.

The Palo Alto Research Center has debuted WikiDashboard, the beta version of a tool designed to help you visualize who’s been up to what on the back end of those Wikipedia entries. It’s the newest of several tools that take up this task.

Here’s an image identifying the most prolific authors of the Wikipedia entry of John McCain.

Click on their names and see what they contributed to the entry, how much they contributed and what they’ve added to other content around Pediaville.

n.b.: Would all Wikipediasts stop using that term “disambiguation”? It’s a smug, exclusive word that says to the world: We’re wonky digitalinfogeeks. Join our club or stay the hell out. Makes you wonder just how committed the architects of this project are to creating an encyclopedia “by and for” the people.

And finally, Our Regular Sighting of the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse ™:

www.buyyourfriendadrink.com

Have you spotted other middling, memorable or malignant examples of social media webbery? Please share the wealth and leave links in the comment section below.


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The 2.D’oh! Roundup: Crowdsourcing images, 2.0 Names

15, August, 2008

The Print ‘n’ Read ™ Feature

I try regularly to point out stories that are so worthwhile that they may actually be worth printing out and reading on paper. This week’s nominee: Cheap Photo Sites Pit Pros Vs. Amateurs, which appeared in Business Week. [A shout-out to Wired Crowdsourcing blogger Jeff Howe for the pointer to the article.]

It’s another story in which longtime-fat-and-happy creative professionals whine about losing business to amateurs. My message to those dislocated by new social and digital technologies: If your work doesn’t have more value than the work of amateurs, why on earth should someone pay premium rates for it? Quit yer belly-achin’ and find ways to create value in the new economy.

For extended responses to this question, print out the article’s comments too.

Too Cute.0

Jim Bacon sent along this link to a Big Media Man animation that has some sport with the juvenile, too-cute-by-.5 names of web 2.0 companies.

For another take on this unfortunate phenomenon, see the seminal written-for-print article on the topic [“How do you tell a web name from a typo?”] by Paul Farhi [interest revealed: Farhi’s a former colleague at The Washington Post].

I previously wrote a post about the wiggy Dot-o-mater, a site that saves you the trouble and automatically generates foolish 2.0 names.

And finally, our regular spotting of The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse ™

Salon Blogger “Tipping” System”

N.B.: This entry was posted via Verizon Mobile Broadband service while riding on the Ohio Turnpike. Other than the 56k-baud-era download speeds, it’s working great. Don’t worry: I’m not driving.

Web 2.D’0h! Roundup: Message Boards, Razume & Drew Carey, cont’d

8, August, 2008

The latest sweepings from the factory floor of Web 2.0. . .

The Roamin’ Forum

Not long ago I wrote about Twing, a search engine that plumbs message boards for what’s known as “deep content”–the stuff Brother Google and his ilk often miss or dismiss. Twing is a great way to find content you won’t find elsewhere. Some is valuable, some. . .not so much.

Which brings me to an excellent item this week on the Mashable blog, which surveys a group of message boards 2.0. My favorite of the bunch: Lefora, a hosted plug-and-play forum you can attach to just about any site to which you’d like to add talk-among-yourselves functionality. [I’ve kicked the tires on this one on behalf a client, but haven’t implemented it anywhere yet.]

There’s a simplicity to Lefora that I like. Many of the 2.0 message boards tack on features designed to make the board the center of a social community–live chat, blogs, etc. I’m skeptical that’s possible or wise. Still, most of the newcomers are a major upgrade in usability compared to the old-school forums we all knew in our callow youth.

Crowdsource Your Resume?

Speaking of callow youth, a D.C.-based incubator/very-early-stage funder of promising startups called Lauchbox Digital recently previewed an upcoming demo of nine companies in its portfolio. Of the bunch, my favorite is Razume, a service that essentially lets you use the wisdom-of-the-crowds to burnish your resume.

Here’s a snap of my comment on one of the resumes posted on the beta site:

Sure, I’m being tough on the kid, but I’m just trying to help. . . Speaking of professional, though, the site is a model of excellent usability. Should all startups come out of the gate so easy-on-the-brain and friction-free.

Are you sure there are no dumb questions?

I always get a kick out of seeing what keyword searches lead people to this blog. A recent one was “what dorm did drew carey live in at kent sState?”

Alas, the blog entry Brother Google sent the searcher to–the preposterously popular “Al Gore vs. Drew Carey: Another Nail-Biter”–doesn’t answer that question. The entry compares Al Gore’s Current TV left-leaning web video operation to comedian Drew Carey’s libertarian-cranky ReasonTV. [Gore wins by a nose.] Along the way, I confess to having been Drew Carey’s dormmate at Kent State.

But I try to answer all questions on this blog. So, for posterity: Leebrick Hall, 3rd floor.

And finally, our regular sighting of the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse ™:

BigThink, a site that presents brand-name thumbsuckers responding in four-minute videos to the kind of Big Questions that briefly entertain college freshman [at least on the 3rd floor of Leebrick Hall]. What is your personal philosophy? Is the American justice system fair?

Is there a more vivid illustration of medium-message mismatch anywhere online? Pull an all-nighter with a six-pack of Pabst and discuss.

The 2.D’oh! Roundup

20, July, 2008

A survey of recent insights, insults and intransigence from the world of social media:

Coolest tool of the week

Put your URL into Wordle, choose a few options, and create a wordcloud of your site. Here’s mine: [please click here if the image below doesn’t display.]

A wordcloud, I should point out, is very different from a tag cloud. This tool just picks up words within a site’s text and visualizes the frequency of their use. Tag clouds [see mine in column at right] show how often you write on certain topics.

From this wordcloud I learn that I yammer frequently about the “news” and use “occasionally” a lot, that I’m “pleased” more than I thought, and that I refer to “bad” “lie[s]” pretty often.

It also exposes some of my annoying tics: the rarely used [by others] “electroland,” “wayleft” to describe people far on the progressive side of things politically, the shamefully retro-poseur “jones” and my tendency to refer to people as “folks.”

You can change all sorts of settings, including the number of words [200, above] and typeface [“sexsmith,” just. . .because.]

Rock star blog comments

This week I celebrate a milestone in my blogging history. No, not my blog’s birthday again. This week I got my first rock star comment on my blog.

By this I do not mean some bigshot in the world of 2.0 like Mark Zuckerberg, or some brilliant loudmouth like Mark Cuban, or a sage web vet like Guy Kawasaki.

I refer to a rock star without quotation marks. As in a famous rock musician.

I refer specifically to this comment on my About page by Paul Westerberg, front man of the post-punk indie band The Replacements and now a solo musician in Minneapolis. And, apparently, a reader of blogs. Including this one. Go figure.

In his comment, he catches a typo.

And invites me to download 49 new minutes of music for a mere 49 cents.

Here I return the favor by sharing the URL, which pending cooperation of the tech gods should be working by Monday.

Let’s all show Paul some support with .49 donations as a way to thank him for participating in the blogosphere with a proofreadr’s eye!

[Not] Alltop News

Every trend contains the seeds of its own countertrend.

And so I call your attention to Alltop, a site consisting of newslinks not upchucked by some algorithm, but [it is said] via user-assisted hand-picking based at least significantly on the founders’ tastes.

The founders [one of whom is the legendary Internet “rock star” Guy Kawasaki] refer to the site as a “digital magazine rack” of the Internet and “aggregation without aggravation.” Say they in a FAQ:

Q. How do you decide which sites and blogs are in a topic?

A. We use a patent-pending, semantic computational algorithm derived from the post-doctoral work of Guy at Stanford. Just kidding. We rely on several sources: results of Google searches, review of the sites’ and blogs’ content, researchers, and our “gut” plus the recommendations of the Twitter community, owners of the sites and blogs, and people who care enough to write to us. Let us declare something: The Twitter community has been the single biggest factor in the quality of Alltop. Without this group of mavens and connectors, Alltop would not be what it is today.

Well, great idea, except that the product is pretty spotty. I found the links maddeningly redundant, often second-rate and a bit.  . .aggravating.

Arbitrarily picking an utterly non-tech topic, I checked out the golf page and found at least half a dozen links each to overexposed kid golfer Michelle Wei’s recent tournament disqualification, and at least as many for overexposed superannuated Australian Greg Norman’s improbable lead going into the final round of the British Open.

Under “Twitterati,” presumably the cool Twitter feeds you ought to know about? Nearly 100 to choose from, many of them way-inside the world of Twits.

My assessment: Alltop is essentially a lot of people’s different RSS feeds pulled together in a tough-to-wade-through mess. Aggregation with aggravation.

Remind me: The value is. . .?

Web 2.D’oh! Roundup

16, June, 2008

The Weekly Print ‘n’ Read Feature

Last week I introduced a new feature, the Web 2.Oh. . .Really? Print ‘n’ Read (sm). Each week I highlight one piece of journalism so worthy of extended attention that it’s actually worth printing out and reading later on, away from the computer.

So fire up the ol’ inkjet and click “print” for Nicholas Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

This selection is either incredibly on-point or ironic, depending on the state of your particular neural network.

Carr’s story offers the rather obvious conclusions that: (1) adult brains can be remapped through repeated activity; and (2) this includes activities like the constant click-and-dive of typical web use. Ergo: Web use makes our brains more acclimated to skimming wide rather than reading deep.

But, as Carr points out, forever has it been thus. When Neitzsche shifted from writing longhand to writing with a typewriter, it changed the way he thought:

“You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler, Nietzsche’s prose “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.”

Which is to say, printing out and reading this article about the effect of web use on your brain may help preserve your current style of brainwork. My small contribution to the status quo.

n.b. Do not miss digital journalism bodhisattva Scott Karp’s response to Carr’s article. Karp’s determined, mapcap journey through the world of analog and digital journalism to track down the magazine, the article, the quote attributed to him, and the proper context for that quote is likely to remap your prefrontal cortex  all by itself. I’d tell you to print it out too, but I’m afraid your printer may pull a HAL.

Great Moments in Digital Journalism History, Cont’d

A blog entry last week in which I gave positive reviews to The Washington Times’ renovated website provoked a response from a reader whose confession may mark a key moment in newspaper history: A reader who canceled a subscription to the print edition because she thinks the website stinks.

I am not making this up. Witnesseth:

Karen LH Says:
9, June, 2008 at 9:38 pm

The Washington Times redesign is a disaster. We actually cancelled our subscription over it. . .

[A moment of silence, please, while we all ponder the baffling implications of this.]

Who says newspaper advertising is dead?

On Wednesday, CMS launched a national advertising campaign to promote its Hospital Compare Web site, which provides data on the quality of care in hospitals across the U.S., USA Today reports.–From California Healthline

And finally: A solution to social network overload

Know a candidate for this job? Growing company now hiring a Facebook Secretary

2.D’oh! Weekly Round-Up: Print ‘n’ Read!

7, June, 2008

Click to Print

A key moment in Web 2.0h. . .really? history: I’ve decided to include in my weekly round-ups one story worth actually printing out on paper to read.

Every once in a while, I find an in-depth article is too long and annoying to read on the screen. It may have more lasting value than even a del.icio.us bookmark allows. Occasionally–occasionally!–there’s a story worth going totally retro with. Hit print. Staple. Read in bed.

[I hereby promise to plant one tree each year to offset my increased forest-products footprint. ]

This week’s Print ‘n’ Read (sm) item:

A long-form interview with John Byrne, Business Week executive editor/BusinessWeek.com editor-in-chief. A former ink-in-the-arteries guy reborn in his 50s (!) as digital evangelist, he delivers haymakers to his web-averse colleagues and has very smart things to say about how journalism–even hard-core investigative work–can flourish in a digital world.

Favorite idea from the interview: Context, not content, is king.

The interview was conducted by Chris Roush for Talk Biz News. Print out the comments too–the BizWeek vs. Forbes flamewar is an idiot’s delight.

Crowdsourcing for Fun and Profit–But Mainly Fun

A new service called Name This invites companies to have random webbists suggest names for their business, product, idea, dog, etc.

A name-seeker pays $99 for 48 hours of worldwide cogitation. Winners gets $80, distributed among the top namer and “influencers” of the final selection. The remaining $19 goes to Kluster, the company behind Name This.

But Name This is only an adequate business name–clear but not much fun. It’s almost worth spending $99 to see if the system itself can beat its own name. MoniKernels? NameTag? Handler?

And Finally, Our Weekly Sighting of the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse ™

Disqus blog proposes an online Commenters’ Bill of Rights.