Saturday, March 05, 2005

"The Daily Feed" for March 5

this is an audio post - click to play

TODAY: It's my birthday! In celebration, today's "Feed" is a remote recording, from the trendy NoMI bar in Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Completely off-topic, full of swear words, and including a detailed description of what my friend Kate and I are currently drinking as the recording is being made. Hope you enjoy.

"The Daily Feed" is an NPR-style audio monologue, two to five minutes in length, that I record each day from my cellphone. Simply click on the above link to download the MP3 file to your computer.

(Or, users of podcast software can use the new direct subscription just for "The Daily Feed," [], including the "enclosure" tags that allow such automated services as iPodder to work.)

Some blogrolling advice (and a little advice from me, too)

From the blog of Jennifer Rice, a marketing consultant: Some basic advice on maintaining one's blogroll. For those who don't know, a "blogroll" is that list you often see running down the side of someone's site, simply showing the sites of which that blog author is a fan. Ms. Rice makes a good point, which is that a large blogroll produces increasingly diminishing returns; linking to three sites, for example, almost guarantees that your visitors will visit all three, while linking to 60 almost guarantees that they'll visit none of them. She encourages bloggers (and especially business-oriented ones, whose blogrolls double as professional networking opportunities) to develop a personal "policy" for their blogrolls - in other words, to determine specific criteria by which they will include a site on their link list, and to examine each link on that list for these criteria. Of course, you can also run your blogroll as a separate document, and especially when your RSS reader automatically generates a public list of such links for you (here's mine, for example, courtesy of; that kind of defeats the purpose of promoting sites of which you're a particular fan, though, in that hardly anyone will click over to another site just to check out links you recommend. (That's not my aim with my particular blogroll, which is why I don't care if it's an external document.)

I thought, by the way, that this blog entry was originally going to be advice on how to properly link to cited content, that a blogger might be highlighting in any given entry...which, by the way, is another particularly important thing for all bloggers to contemplate. Let's just start with the fact that you should always cite all relevant sources for an item whenever you blog about it, and especially other blogs that may have tipped you off to a news item to begin with; legally-speaking the issue is murky, but socially-speaking (especially in the case of social-networking activities like blogging), you're producing a lot of bad karma in your life by linking to a news article, but not acknowledging the person who originally pointed it out to you. (For example, I have Wayne Hurlbert to thank for pointing out Ms. Rice's post that I've now blogged about myself. Thanks, Wayne!)

Once you've adopted this policy, the question then becomes one concerning the proper way to formally link to such "referrer" posts. When it comes to this subject, there is no "right" way to speak of, and no official organization (like the Chicago Style Manual, for example) off which to base one's actions. You saw how I did it above, with a parenthesed little break in the actual entry. Or, sometimes I enfold it right into the entry itself, ala:

As reported by Wayne Hurlbert, marketing consultant Jennifer Rice...

The sites under the Gawker Media umbrella, on the other hand, generally leave the referring link out of their comments altogether, and instead run it as a self-explaining stand-alone link after the completed entry:

Link: Wayne Hurlbert's original post

I've even seen links more formal than this, which I admit adds what I consider a bit of formal journalistic elegance to a post:

Original link | Blog Business World | March 3, 2005 : 10:42 PM

Whatever method you in particular choose, it's important to be doing such linking with each new entry. And it'll certainly make your readers happier if you pick one or two of these types of methods and then consistently stick with them - consistency breeds loyalty, after all. Anyway, just some things for all bloggers to be thinking about these days.

Truck drivin' podcast!

As recently spotted at, a great little site which lets podcasters load 30-second "commercials" for their shows, for other podcasters to run during their own shows: Tom's Trucker Travels & Audio Podcast, an Audioblogger-powered podcast from full-time truck driver Thomas Wiles, filing remote posts from all over these great US's of A. (He has a photo site as well, for those who want the entire multimedia experience.) "We gonna have a podcast, we gonna do it right..." Or, er, I mean, "We've got a lot of stuff to pod, and no time to pod it, we're gonna do what they say can't be done..."

"The Daily Feed" for March 4

this is an audio post - click to play

TODAY: An interesting think piece recently at BusinessWeek begs an intriguing question: Just what exactly is Google's business plan? Some recent rumors, and some titillating guesses, in today's "Feed."

CLICKABLE LINKS to sites mentioned in today's "Feed:" BusinessWeek's article on Google; Google Options; Google Labs; Google Sets; Dave Winer's news about Mark Lucovsky, and CNET's eventual article about it.

"The Daily Feed" is an NPR-style audio monologue, two to five minutes in length, that I record each day from my cellphone. Simply click on the above link to download the MP3 file to your computer.

(Or, users of podcast software can use the new direct subscription just for "The Daily Feed," [], including the "enclosure" tags that allow such automated services as iPodder to work.)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Scoble on viral marketing

Microsoft employee Robert Scobleweighs in on viral marketing campaigns today, and offers eight pieces of advice for companies thinking of doing one. The most important, I think is this - that they're called 'viral' in the first place for a good reason. The whole idea behind viral campaigns is that the company builds something so incredibly cool, customers can't help but to share it with their friends, talk about it at their blogs, and help promote your company without you having to spend an extra cent of money. Just because you call a marketing campaign a 'viral' one doesn't mean that it's going to become one, if the campaign in question is lame, uninteresting or otherwise uninspiring to those consumers who come across it. This, claims Scoble, is why Burger King's Subservient Chicken campaign last year was so successful, while Microsoft's new MSN Found campaign fell flat on its face; because MSN's campaign sucked, to put not too fine a point on it, and didn't inspire nearly the kinds of "you absolutely must check this out" emails that some freak in a dirty chicken suit apparently did. Scoble rightly points out that this is why viral marketing was invented in the first place - because consumers, especially young, hip ones, are growing increasingly tired of advertisers telling them, "Okay, here's what we think will sell hamburgers to all you unthinking cattle out there in Consumer Land." Designing viral campaigns with the same mindset, he opines, completely defeats the point of doing a viral campaign in the first place.

I've done a past podcast, by the way, on this issue; you can check it out here if you want. (Thanks to "Media Guerrilla" for pointing out Scoble's entry.)

Marketers increasingly using MRIs to measure audience brainwaves

As reported by Utne magazine, a growing amount of marketing agencies are now using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), a type of technological peek at how the brain works, to measure the ways consumers are reacting to commercials, television shows and Hollywood movies. Formally limited to legitimate medical use, including plotting neurological disease, the process is increasingly being used in an attempt to map a "desire button" in the human brain, that commercial clients can hopefully tap into by doing specific things in future advertising campaigns (that's the hope, anyway). Utne brings up an extremely good question, though: Do we really want companies to have the ability to own a neurological map to our "must buy this right this second" desires? As long as we're having all these preemptory ethics discussions about cloning and stem cells these days anyway, maybe we should add this subject to the list as well.

Lazare: "Chicago doesn't deserve 'Time Out'"

For those who don't know, a Chicago edition of the venerable hipster guide Time Out just launched this week. Chicago Sun-Times media columnist Lewis Lazare puts his usual 'I wish I lived in New York' spin on it, claiming that Chicago simply doesn't have enough hipsters to support a publication like Time Out: "For better or worse, Chicago is not New York or London, two worldly cities with much in common. Much as some might want to think otherwise, Chicago is -- and always will be -- middle America."

Long-time citizens, of course, will remember Lazare's previous job as culture critic for the Chicago Reader, and how for years there he had a similar habit - of putting down the Chicago arts as often as he could get away with, and constantly comparing the city unfavorably to such places as New York and Los Angeles. This was pretty ridiculous when he was at the Reader, considering that he was the top arts critic for the largest arts publication in the city; his tone has settled somewhat with his current business column for the Sun-Times, now that he can simply focus most of his articles on New York-based projects in the first place. This recent article, however, proves all over again just how Chicago-bashing he can still be. (Thanks to actual cool hipster guide for pointing this out.)

Rutan: "Space hotels in 25 years"

As reported by CNET News, Burt Rutan (designer of the recent citizen-spaceship "SpaceShipOne"), speaking at the Intel Developer Forum, predicts that in ten years a private ticket to space will be down to the same price as a new car, and that 25 years from now we will absolutely see resorts in space for which these vacationers can stay at during their trip. Now all we have to do is find a way to overcome those maddening Vernicious Knids.

IHT now available in Moscow

In a weird bit of self-reference, the International Herald-Tribune reports this week that a new paper version of their publication will soon be available for purchase in Moscow. For Americans who don't know, the IHT can be a real godsend for those on international vacations - basically the global version of the The New York Times, owned and edited by the same company, it is in many cases the only English-language newspaper you will find in some foreign cities, and a desperately-needed connection to what's going on in the world (as well as a simple chance to read the comics and do the crossword).

It's weird that Moscow happens to be the newest city on the IHT distribution list, because I happen to have been thinking about the city recently myself; a recent search at the amazingly cool reveals dozens of young, good-looking, artistic Russians, happy to host fellow backpackers who are looking to travel there (mostly in Moscow and Saint Petersburg), to the point that I've actually begun contemplating making Moscow my 2006 destination for the series of travel books I self-publish. The news that the IHT will be available as well just sweetens the deal. Hmm, hmm, hmm.

UK: "Okay, BBC, you can stay in business"

As reported in the International Herald-Tribune, the British government finally approved this week a new ten-year subsidy for the British Broadcasting Corporation, a strange hybrid of public and private media company in the UK. Unlike previous grants, however, the government this time specifically called for a radical overhaul of the BBC's top management, as a condition of receiving the money, and have urged the BBC to basically stop acting like the tabloids against whom they're competing, and be the government-sponsored class act they should be. Amen, sister - now will someone please mention this to the Fox network here in America?

Grateful Dead bootlegs go digital

The times they are a-changin': As reported by CNET, the Grateful Dead are now offering MP3 versions of their infamous bootlegs, both at their site and through Apple's iTunes. Keep on Poddin'!

Great - another thousand Friendster invitations I can expect

CNET News reports today that, the super-annoying social-networking website, is now beta-testing a new blogging feature, letting members record their thoughts in a way that intricately links them to their lists of social peers. The whole thing's being run by Six Apart, the people behind the popular MovableType website-update software ('s main competitors). Great - yet another excuse for a thousand people to send me invitations to join Friendster.

Good news for underground filmmakers

As reported by the Associated Press, the Tribeca Film Festival has recently announced a new contest for unknown short-film directors, co-sponsored by Amazon. In a twist on how such open-entry contests are run at places like American Zoetrope and Project Greenlight (where entrants must judge three other entries before being allowed to submit their own, with consistently highest-scoring entries coming to the attention of the sponsors), the entries to the Tribeca Short Film Festival will be judged online by random Amazon visitors, with the top vote-getters receiving $50,000 worth of credit from American Express. Entries can last no longer than seven minutes, so that they can be easily digitized and delivered online to random judges; Amazon visitors are then assigned a random entry to watch and judge each time they visit, so that filmmakers cannot orchestrate a rigged jury, like what happens sometimes on shows like American Idol. What a great opportunity for underground filmmakers! I encourage all of you to check it out.

Virtual memorial services

Macintosh pioneer Jef Raskin passed away recently, for those who didn't know. Rich Ord has an interesting article at Web Pro News about it, and about the myriad of tech bloggers who wrote their own memorials for Mr. Raskin at their own pages. In effect, he argues, it creates a form of decentralized, virtual memorial service, with people around the world logging in their own two cents about Mr. Raskin's importance to computing, and a place like Google able to aggregate them all for anyone interested in a complex picture of the man. Mr. Ord links to a huge sampling of them in his article, and runs various quotes from them illustrating his point.

The latest on Google, from around the web

There's been all kinds of interesting little articles around the web in the last couple of days, all dealing in one way or another with Google. A sampling:

Threadwatch reports that yet more Autolinks are in the works for the Google Toolbar, as well as pointing out an article at BusinessWeek questioning Google's business model.

Lee Odden reports on an article at CNET detailing the way Google actually handles the hardware and software that allows their website to operate (and it's fascinating, unsurprisingly).

And in an unusual twist, CNET reports on a blogger, Dave Winer, who has recently broken the fact that Google has hired Microsoft's Mark Lucovsky, one of the lead operating-system gurus of that former company. CNET implies that the only reason Google would do such a thing is that they're secretly working on their own operating system, one that will eventually compete directly with Windows and MacOS. Hmm...

Science-fiction geeks of the world, unite

All kinds of interesting news recently at, a British science-fiction zine: New photos from Disney's production of the Chronicles of Narnia; a new book of stories from the author of Logan's Run; a new electronic anthology that's available for download; and confirmation that a new Star Trek movie is being planned, among other fascinating tidbits. A little off-subject, I know, but they just had so many good updates in a row that I couldn't help but mention them.

Who knew? Porn legend living quiet life in Lincoln Square

As reported by, another new postmodern porn documentary is out, this one an attempt to track down legendary '70s Swedish porn actress Seka. Turns out that she's living a nice, quiet life right here in Chicago, where she happily agreed to sit down and talk candidly about her former life in the adult-entertainment industry. Here's the movie's official website, including a downloadable trailer for those who are interested; and here's a review of the movie, from Box Office Prophets.

(Okay, so the review doesn't say specifically that Seka is living in Lincoln Square. I'm just tickled to death by the idea, though.)


deadsunflower, originally uploaded by jasonpettus.

For the little goth inside all of us: dead sunflower recently spotted in the middle of the Chicago winter, near Buena and Clarendon.

Shameless self-promotion, part 298

Scott Esposito of the literary blog "Conversational Reading" recently ran part 2 of his interview with me. Part 1 mostly concerned my particular career, my experiences with traveling writing, the poetry slam and the like; part 2 is mostly about blogging, my history with technology and what I see is the future of electronic text. It should be of more interest to you fellow bloggers and other electronic writers.

"The Daily Feed" for March 3

this is an audio post - click to play

TODAY: The problem - increasingly political blogs, that are having increasing power over elections. Congress' solution - treat bloggers as campaign contributors, not journalists, and quantify how much revenue their blog is generating for a party or candidate, punishing them if they go over established caps. Today, a few thoughts on what an incredibly messy proposition this actually is.

CLICKABLE LINKS to sites mentioned in today's "Feed:" CNET article on the Federal Election Commission; Threadwatch's and Mike Bawden's original links to the subject, and Bawden's own thoughts; FEC homepage; Google News' current track on the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

"The Daily Feed" is an NPR-style audio monologue, two to five minutes in length, that I record each day from my cellphone. Simply click on the above link to download the MP3 file to your computer.

(Or, users of podcast software can use the new direct subscription just for "The Daily Feed," [], including the "enclosure" tags that allow such automated services as iPodder to work.)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Yet another article about the power of donated content

Fresh off a previous entry I put up yesterday on the subject, industry eZine Blog Business World has another argument for why blog authors should be generating at least a minimum amount of original creative content at their blog each day, and not simply linking to other content all the time, and especially why they should occasionally donate such content to other websites. Just more smart thoughts concerning a subject I recently wrote about myself.

Student: "See, my teacher really is a nightmare"

According to industry blog, based on a report from the Ashbury Park Press: High-school student uses cellphone camera to catch his teacher "screaming at his students to show respect for the national anthem - and then pulling the chair from underneath one student who refused to stand." Those who use their jobs as an excuse to belittle others, take note: things like this will be done just more and more and more in the future. (Thanks to Steve Rubel for originally pointing this out.)

Poetry slammers: The new Trekkies

Greg Gillam of the literary website has an interesting blog entry today: Why poetry slams are becoming more and more like science-fiction conventions. Give 'em hell, Greg! Oh, and don't bitch when you get slammed by 10,000 pissed-off poetry slammers. Believe me, I know.

Small-biz startup blogs: Surprisingly entertaining

Jeff Cornwall, a professor in Nashville, TN, runs an entertaining business blog that I read every day. His most recent post was about business plans recently being due for his students, and how a growing number of them are now simultanously maintaining blogs about the actual start-up process. Here's one, for example, from Jason Duncan, one of his students, who plans on moving back to Montana after graduation and opening a new coffeehouse called Cafe Evoke.

Regular readers know I'm starting up a new small business here in Chicago this year myself (slowly, ever so slowly), so am naturally reading a lot more business-oriented literature as a result. Mr. Cornwall's entry reminded me that I've been reading an increasing amount of these "first-person business" blogs as well, and that they can often be as entertaining and fascinating as any by creative writers or other artists. I encourage all my artistic readers to perhaps expand their expectations a bit of what they think a blog can be, and to occasionally take on the odd off-subject blog into their news reader. The results can be surprisingly satisfying sometimes.

Chicago police "beat" meetings

A recent fax taped to the front door of Dollop Coffeehouse here in Chicago reminded me of something cool about this city: the Chicago police actually assign small teams to work "beats" (four-block areas of the city on a daily basis, so that locals can get to know them as individuals), and that this beat number is actually published for the public (mine is 2322, for example), so that they can follow along on the internet and at local meetings about the latest. The city actually provides a nice page of online community resources available for residents, including a list of senior centers, payment centers, food banks, and meeting times for the Mayors Bureau, a special wing of city representatives that just go out to local neighborhoods and listen to what locals have to bitch about. (Be forewarned, you have to register with the site for free in order to access them.) Yet another great thing about this city where I live.

Creating "subject matter experts" at your company

From Anecdote, an Australian consultancy for "company knowledge:" How to harness the inherent knowledge of your internal staff through blogs and wikis. Their solution is simple and ingenious - just as a project like Wikipedia does, you create a central database for your company, and let random employees add to it wherever they happen to be accidental experts of that particular subject matter. This can then make a company so much more efficient in so many more ways, they argue - less money spent on external experts, less time spent on help lines, less effort spent doing formal research that's doubling what someone in-house already knows.

Conversations like this always remind me of the Christian Science Monitor, a newspaper here in America that's deceptively balanced and intellectual, despite its name. At their website they encourage in-house staff members to not only run their own blogs based on the subject matter of which of that person is an expert, but to also share the blog with the public, and indeed to tout it as an exclusive feature of the web version of their publication. Here's the one by Ruth Walker, for example, head copy editor of the newspaper, which unsurprisingly is a highly entertaining look at the intricacies of language and grammar. My point is that an in-house blog by staff experts doesn't necessarily have to be for in-house use only, and doesn't necessarily have to be about traditional business issues either - bookstores can set up blogs for their staff, and turn them each into one-person review factories, or retail clothing stores can set up blogs for their salespeople, and turn each of them into one-person fashion mavens.

There are all kinds of opportunities out there for turning your staff into a potent new source of valuable content, and thus encouraging more customers, crossing all kinds of boundaries regarding industry, company size and office environment. And such a thing certainly helps the worker in question defeat the slow, soul-crushing agony most office and retail jobs usually are during most hours of the day, by giving them something actually creative and fun to do on company time. Come on, you know your workers are all on the internet anyway, when you're not looking. Why not give them something to do that your company can benefit from while they're at it?

(Look at all the people I have to thank! Fredrik Wacka for bringing Anecdote to my attention; "Column Two" for bringing it to his attention; and Web Pro News for bringing Wacka's blog to my attention in the first place. Whew!)

Esposito on Lovecraft

Scott Esposito of the literary blog "Conversational Reading" has an excellent essay today regarding the various ways the literary community has reacted this week to the fact that the Library of America's newest volume is of the surrealist horror writer HP Lovecraft. Mr. Esposito makes an excellent point in his essay, which is that Lovecraft's works deserve to be taken seriously, merely for the fact that they've lasted this long and are still so well-loved, facts that automatically make the text worth looking at. Another excellent essay by someone I consider an excellent essayist.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

"The Daily Feed" for March 2

this is an audio post - click to play

TODAY: Geocities versus Blogger! Microsoft versus the rest of the world! Odeo founder Evan Williams' newest blog entry brings up yet again the age-old question of greed versus innovation, as it comes to web developers. Today, a few thoughts of my own concerning the subject.

CLICKABLE LINKS to sites mentioned in today's "Feed:" Geocities; Blogger; iPodder; Odeo; NYT article on Odeo; Evan Williams' post; well-written history of punk's DIY (do-it-yourself) movement.

"The Daily Feed" is an NPR-style audio monologue, two to five minutes in length, that I record each day from my cellphone. Simply click on the above link to download the MP3 file to your computer.

(Or, users of podcast software can beta-test the new direct subscription to "The Daily Feed," [], including the tags that allow such services as iPodder to work.)

"Come visit my site!" No, no, no, says blogging expert

Marketing blogger Wayne Hurlbert has some basic advice today on how amateur bloggers can increase traffic to their site. Unsurprisingly, his tips are almost an exact match to advice underground zinesters have been giving other underground zinesters for decades now - basically, that you can't beat the act of contributing original content to other publishers, but that this content absolutely must be something readers would actually want to read. Back when bloggers were doing their updates in crudely-xeroxed paper form, this usually meant contributing a guest essay or review for the next issue of someone else's zine; in our electronic age, of course, this primarily means contributing comments to other websites' blog entries, or writing a blog entry at your own site that you then trackback to the original post.

Mr. Hurlbert emphasizes something that I wish more bloggers would take the time to understand; that simply posting a "Come check out my site!" comment at other people's blogs rarely leads to people actually checking out your site. For comments and trackbacks to truly generate new audience members, the author of these comments needs to write something that actually gets that original audience's attention - something especially smart, something especially witty, anything that makes that audience member say to themselves, "Hmm, that was an interesting comment - I wonder what else this person has to say?" And don't forget, you also have to do this without pissing off the author of the original entry, or without it looking too nakedly like a desperate ploy to get new readers for your own blog.

That said, what Mr. Hurlbert recommends is exactly true - commenting regularly at other people's blogs, and trackbacking your own entries, is the number-one free way an underground writer can generate more audience members for their own blog, just like penning guest essays for other zines used to be the number-one way for them to do it back in the dark ages (i.e. the 1980s). Learn it, love it, use it. And make sure to check out my site while you're at it!

But you gotta have something to actually link to, right?

Okay, it all started with a recent blog post by a new company called, a consultancy specifically for companies wishing to start blogs and wikis as ways of promoting the company itself. That post goes out of its way to emphasize that it's no longer original content that matters when it comes to building an audience on the web, but merely how good you are at building a network of communication with your site - quality posts to other people's interesting original content, in other words, with a proactive policy towards trackbacks, commenting and RSS feeds.

This in turn inspired a post by marketing expert Joel Cere (Ed: misspelled on purpose, because I can't find the foreign-language keystrokes at this damn internet cafe), in which he brings up an interesting question: What if all writers on the internet take this attitude, and eventually stop producing any original content for people to link to in the first place? The opinions about blogs that Blogging Planet advocate, he offers, may have their place, but ultimately a business must produce a certain amount of original content themselves, if they are to have any chance at building a passionate online audience.

This then inspired yet another post, this time by one of Blogging Planet's founders, Neville Hobson, writing at his blog "NevOn" (but found by me through its reprint at the eZine Web Pro News). Mr. Hobson doesn't deny the practicality of what Mr. Cere says, but does reiterate Blogging Planet's original opinion - that it is the way you present other people's original content, and the way that you build an interactive audience at your own blog, that is much more important to a business blog's success than creating original content yourself.

So what does all of this have to do with underground artists? Simple - just as there are some business people who are better at writing original articles, and some who are better at finding these articles and pointing them out to others, so too are there amateurs, underground artists, and others throughout society that fall into one of these two camps as well. I don't think there's anything inherently better or worse about one of these types of bloggers over the other (indeed, I've made an argument at my main journal before about how important such "editorial bloggers" are for the arts), but a blogger owes it to herself to determine which kind she is. There are too many people floating around out there, I think, who bill themselves to their online audience as "creative writers," when in fact they're contributing almost no original creative content to the world at all, only whatever creativity is inherent in their entries pointing people to other sites. Like I said, I see nothing wrong (and a lot of benefits) to such "professional bloggers," "editorial bloggers," or whatever term you want to use; bloggers themselves, though, would do a lot of good in their lives by determining what kind of blogger they are, and to focus on this idea each time they write yet another entry for their site.

CNET: "Apple, please buy TiVo"

An interesting editorial at CNET News today: Why Apple Computers should buy TiVo. It makes a lot of sense, to tell you the truth.

Wired weighs in on wikis

The new issue of Wired has the best examination I've seen yet of the controversial wiki process, in this case as it specifically pertains to the experimental online publication I've written about the subject myself, at my main journal, mostly because I've been thinking of contributing a document to the similar online experiment The Wired article, in fact, addresses several of the issues about wikis that I bring up in my own article, including the danger of spammers and revisionists simply outlasting regular wiki contributors, when it comes to changing the content at certain posts. (The article cites this interesting statistic from the administrators of Wikipedia - that whenever a major act of vandalism is committed, such as deleting an entire entry, it's usually overrided by a Wikipedia regular an average of 2.8 minutes later, which drops to 1.7 minutes when the deletion is replaced with a scatological term.)

The article also profiles a random high-level user of Wikipedia, showing why the things that have kept him from the traditional academic world are the very same things that make him a perfect regular contributor to something like an open-source project. (I've talked about this at my main journal before as well - how the majority of my regular readers tend to be highly intelligent and with a creative flair, even as they choose not to formally pursue a creative career like writing themselves. Such amateur experts are the gold standard for high-end Wikipedia contributors; it gives these people a chance to share their knowledge in a creative way, without it overwhelming the schedule the rest of their life demands of them, such as time set aside for a job or to spend with family.) The article also does a nice job at pointing out the similarities between something like a traditional encyclopedia and the early business models of the Industrial Age - i.e., a very smart and experienced person at the top, deciding policy and correcting the mistakes of a group of slightly less intelligent, slightly less experienced people below them. Now that this model is getting rapidly turned on its head in the traditional business world, this article implies, maybe it's time that re-examine how it applies to the academic world as well.

Ultimately the article confirms the main point of my own column on the subject - that something like a Wiki, no matter what its subject, lives and dies directly based on the number of its serious, informed, sincere contributors. Why something like Wikipedia has been able to combat vandalism so effectively so far is because of the number of sincere members who are trawling the site each day, specifically looking for acts of vandalism. The less of these people you have, the harder it is for such an overwhelming site to have anything even approaching a self-policing policy. For now, I think it's best to look at such publications as Wikipedia the same way this Wired article does - as a glorified experiment, and a chance to put some fairly abstract political theories into actual concrete use, more than something that can be directly compared to a document like the Encyclopedia Brittanica. It's certainly a much more fun way to get your point across than simply writing a manifesto, that's for sure.

Get Smart: Free credit reports now available for general public

As reported by local metafeed site, Congress' Fair and Accurate Transaction Act of 2003 went into effect yesterday, giving all American citizens the right to request a free report once a year from the country's three major credit agencies. Think of it like you do your annual HIV test: it's not exactly the news you're thrilled about discovering, but incredibly important to a person's well-being nonetheless. Go to to get started.

Creating an "office" where none actually exist

In the International Herald-Tribune, an interesting article featuring one of a growing number of new small businesses, who instead of having a traditional office simply have all their employees work from home. This is part of the structure I want to create for my own small business I'm trying to open here in Chicago right now (although a little less extreme - my full-timers will be required to be in-office a total of ten hours a week), so I'm always interested in articles that examine the structure and how well it's working or failing in the real world.

Website owner sued for being lazy

Well, okay, it's not quite as alarmist as that. But as reported by USA Today, the owner of a restaurant in New Zealand has recently gotten into legal trouble for the online specials at his website not reflecting the actual specials being featured at the restaurant itself. He was found guilty, and ordered to pay a fine equivalent to $3,000 US dollars.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"The Daily Feed" for March 1

this is an audio post - click to play

TODAY: Before & After, a new graphic-design magazine, offers a new cutting-edge electronic version, combining the best qualities of stand-alone publications with all the interactive power of the internet. My review in today's monologue. (In a nutshell - cool. Very cool.)

CLICKABLE LINKS to sites mentioned in today's "Feed:" Seth Godin's original post; Before & After; Adobe Acrobat.

"The Daily Feed" is an NPR-style audio monologue, two to five minutes in length, that I record each day from my cellphone. Simply click on the above link to download the MP3 file to your computer, then to your favorite listening device.

(Already a user of podcasting software, such as the popular Use this special link [] to beta-test a new subscription just of "The Daily Feed," for automatic download as defined by your podcasting software. If it works, drop me a line at ilikejason at hotmail dot com, along with info on the platform and software you use.)

Advice for web-browsing in a Palm

John Winstanley, a contributor to the Palm-enthusiast blog "My Palm Life," has some beginning advice today for people new to the beautifully psychosis-inducing habit of browsing the web through Palms. He points out various tricks Palm owners can use to help this process - stuff that old hands already know but that newbies probably don't, like seeking mobile-friendly versions of large websites, and configuring your mobile browser to automatically shrink images. Includes several links to software Palm owners might find handy.

All kinds of coolness at Flickr that you never knew about

One of the cool things about XML-based photo-sharing site is that an automatic RSS feed is generated for each person's account, letting you easily subscribe to a photographer you like and get their latest submissions automatically delivered to your favorite news reader. Another really cool thing is that their system is open-source, allowing for passionate users to invent some incredibly impressive things; a recent entry at the founders' blog, for example, highlights "Flickr Mosaic," which will automatically create those detailed "patchwork" photos that have become increasingly popular over the years. (See the entry for more.) And the final cool thing, of course, is that the founders run a blog in the first place, simply highlighting something else interesting at that they've stumbled across themselves that day. For those who don't already have as a daily part of one's life, I encourage you to check it out and browse through all the sincerely mind-blowing things they have to offer.

Digital newspaper experiment aims to offer the best of both worlds

From USA Today: An article about a new online experiment from the University of Missouri-Columbia, my old alma mater (and home of one of the best-regarded journalism schools in the world). Their student newspaper (the official one, The Missourian, that is, not the student-run one, The Maneater) is attempting to build a brand-new type of electronic newspaper - one with the colors, formatting, and easy navigability of a paper version, but with all the clickable power of an online version. The ten-week experiment starts March 6th, and you can sign up for free at their website if you wish to try it yourself. From how they describe it, I think it's going to basically be an Acrobat document with several of the high-end options utilized; I'll report on this subject again next week, when I've actually gotten to try the first edition. (Thanks to MediaBistro for pointing this out.)

RSS feeds on your television

Also featured in Make magazine's blog today: an overview of NewsGator's new service, allowing those who use WindowsXP Media Center Edition 2004 to have their NewsGator feeds directly sent to their television. And even cooler, if the feed contains an attached audio or video file, as in the case with podcast or videocast feeds, the app will download the files to your television and let you view/hear them directly from it. Incredibly cool-looking, and may be just the delivery ticket for those underground artists who have been wanting to try an amateur videocast, but couldn't figure out a way to actually deliver it to people. Here's NewsGator's entry page for the service, for those who would like to try it themselves.

Determining meatspace on the information superhighway

Dreadful similes aside, Make magazine's blog points out a really cool website today:, a site which will generate a specific longitude/latitude point for a location (like your business, or your apartment if you do a personal blog), then let you run this data at your site as a meta tag, so that their website can read it and plot you on a worldwide map. The entry at "Make" details how to do this for your own site, including active links to each step; once you've finished registering, like I recently did with this site, you can then see on one page all the other people/companies/blogs in your neighborhood who have also registered. Pretty cool little feature, I have to admit, and all for free.

Should "management" be a licensed profession?

Business blog "Slacker Manager," which all small-business owners must add to their RSS readers right this second, wrangles today with the issue of whether the field of management should be turned into a licensed profession. The advantage: it would force the profession to have a standardized ethics code, that managers would have to abide by in order to retain their license, much like lawyers and doctors do right now. The problem - what exactly a "manager" is will have to be defined much more rigidly for such a system to work. He eventually has a recommendation that makes a lot of sense - to maybe actually try this when it comes only to the top tier of corporate management, like Presidents and CEOs, in an attempt to restore consumer confidence in these positions after the unending number of public scandals in the last several years. It's a thought worthy of serious consideration, I think.

Monday, February 28, 2005

"The Daily Feed" for February 28

this is an audio post - click to play

TODAY: Oh Lord, and I thought I was an RSS junkie before - the Associated Press just started generating feeds this week too. Why this is both good and bad news for all you newsfeed junkies as well.

CLICKABLE LINKS to sites mentioned in today's "Feed:" The Associated Press - main website, page of RSS feeds, official history.

"The Daily Feed" is an NPR-style audio monologue, two to five minutes in length, that I record each day from my cellphone. Simply click on the above link to download the MP3 file to your computer, then to your favorite listening device.

New 'speculative videogame' begins online

From c|net News: an article on a new 'speculative videogame' that recently began. c|net calls it "alternative-reality gaming" but it basically boils down to the same thing - it's a type of game where part of playing comes from online clues (like fake websites, designed to look like real ones), and part from physical clues in the real world (like classified ads in USA Today, special phone numbers one can call, etc). Longtime readers will remember me getting a little obsessed over the first such speculative game to make it big, Microsoft's "Who Killed Evan Chan," designed as a highly experimental marketing campaign for the Steven Spielberg movie A.I.; ever since then, I've always had an interest in following new games that are modeled on a similar approach.

The pedway you never knew about

And speaking of weird cool things in downtown Chicago of which no one seems to have knowledge: Other local metafeed website has a notice about a recent article in the Chicago Tribune about our Loop's often-forgotten pedway system, including a downloadable map. The Chicago pedway is one of those weird projects in this city, that various administrations have been working on and adding to over the last half-century, without anyone in the government really publicizing the project or even letting the general public know about it. It's quite amazing, though - it links over 25 buildings in the downtown grid of skyscrapers commonly known as the "Loop," allowing a person to get from one side of the grid to the other without ever having to go outside and face the winter weather. Back in the '90s I used to work for an ad agency whose offices opened at the extreme northeast edge of the pedway, which is how I first learned about the system myself.

Drake Hotel to finish overhaul

From local metafeed website News on the Drake Hotel's second phase of renovation. For those who don't know, the Drake is one of the last of the old independent "grand hotels" that used to dot the neighborhoods of Chicago (including a bunch that used to be in my neighborhood of Uptown, all of which have closed over the last half-century). The Drake is a wonderful place for local slackers to go when they want to have a 'mini-vacation' but can't afford to get out of town; one nice suit, an extra thirty bucks, and a couple of hours to hang out at the Drake's bar is all you need to feel like you've suddenly entered another world. I highly recommend everyone trying it at least once.

The only Oscar news you will hear at this website today

According to several newspapers who all reported the same account: After getting asked if her new Oscar would change her attitude, Cate Blanchett apparently laughed and joked back, "Not at all, you asshole." Oh, Cate, I love you so much!

See - not all libraries are xenophobic

From the San Jose Mercury News: Library patrons able to check out eBooks and MP3 files. Customers can have the files directly downloaded to their computer, PDA, or MP3 player; libraries get away with not getting sued by making the files good for three weeks only. This certainly seems to me to be a better response to electronic text than the American Library Association's president-elect Michael Gorman (whose response I featured here in a past entry), which is to basically pretend that no one's actually reading text on computer screens, and certainly not to encourage people to do more of such a thing.

Like it or not, Mr. Gorman, the future of information really is going to be something that apparently gives you the heebie-jeebies for some unexplained reason. The ALA would be better off emulating the lead the Palo Alto public library system is setting these days. Of course, that is the library system for Silicon Valley, so should we really expect anything different of them? (Thanks to Scott Esposito at Conversational Reading for the heads-up.)

Those keywords are there for a reason, you know

Marketing guru Seth Godin uses screenshots to illustrate a really simple point: A lot of companies are using keyword advertising at Google stupidly. He points out something all companies should keep in mind, and especially small artistic ones, where budget is a constant concern, which is that setting up on the web is not like opening a retail store, where you stock one big room and hope that customers show up and dig through it all. On the web you're in fact building a tiny little store for each and every thing you sell, and should be able to anticipate your customer wanting that one item before they have to go search for it themselves. This is the entire point of keyword advertising at Google, he rightly argues, not to simply sponsor a bunch of general words that all take you to the same general site.

Ev Williams: "Odeo like Blogger for podcasts"

Evan Williams, close to making his new podcasting service Odeo live and public, posted a lengthy entry at his personal blog recently, concerning how the idea for Odeo first came about, and what he hopes to do with it. As I guessed in an earlier entry on the subject, Mr. Williams' main goal with Odeo (which only exists on the web right now as a 'coming soon' page) is to combine the power and untold new projects of podcasting with the ease of posting and managing entries that Bloggers gives a person. It was directly inspired, in fact, by Blogger's longstanding feature Audioblogging (the same technology I'm using to do my own podcast), and how the current Blogger setup doesn't allow those posts to get sent directly to podcast software. From how it sounds, Odeo is going to provide not only new software to deliver such files to an MP3 player, but also server space for people to store audio feeds (ala Blogspot's relationship with Blogger), not to mention a stunningly large central searchable database of audio feeds, for others who are looking for interesting things (that is, once more and more people start using Odeo, which isn't an outrageous prediction to make). I'm excited!

BusinessWeek: "Mobile TV, bleh"

BusinessWeek Online breaks the worst-kept secret in the high-tech industry: the new mobile television programs Verizon is making right now kinda suck. When are these companies finally going to listen to me? You can't have the same people working overtime making the technology work also producing the creative content - it just never works. The first time a major company invents a protocol for mobile television that allows amateurs to start making content, and offering it for free at their own sites...that'll be the first time you finally see something like this take off.

Ex-pats use blogs to help not go crazy

From BusinessWeek Online: Ex-patriates turn to blogs to stave off loneliness, alienation. It seems that one of the benefits of writing an ex-pat blog is not only in telling the actual stories, but finding other ex-pats, sharing stories and the like. This has been a proven part of my own travel blog as well; that is, the more I talk about international travel there, the more I hear from fellow international travelers. This just makes sense, I suppose.

Nine new photos at my account

abandonedbanana, originally uploaded by jasonpettus.

I just posted nine new random shots from my cellphone camera of the city of Chicago, where I live. Includes this sad photographic proof of an abandoned banana near Irving Park Road and Sheridan. Why did your owner abandon you so suddenly, sad little banana? Click here for more.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

ASCAP licenses now available to podcasters

The podcasting blog Podcasting News is reporting that ASCAP is offering a new license for podcasters, "Non-Interactive 5.0," which for a price of $288 lets amateur podcasters broadcast commercial music just like a radio station would, nice and legal-like. A very intriguing development, I think. (Thanks to the Odeo blog for pointing this out.)

Denton to CheapTickets: "Screw You!"

From PSFK, an international trend-watching metafeed site: decides to pull their ads from, because apparently the writing style was a little too racy for them. Replied Nick Denton, owner of Gridskipper: "If an advertiser wants a safe environment, there are thousands of tired media outlets to choose from." In other words, the closest a business owner gets to flipping off a former advertiser. Good for you, Nick! I read Gridskipper every day, and would hate to see it lose its irreverent tone, or occasional links to risque sites, for the sake of an advertiser.

Esposito on the importance of literary style

Scott Esposito of the literary blog "Conversational Reading" has an interesting comparison between the personal style of an author and the formal style laid down in journalistic "style guides." It's a good look at how what might not be the most "proper" language can in fact make all the difference when it comes to creative writing.

Google responds to AutoLink controversy

Blogger Dan Gillmor recently had lunch with Marissa Mayer, Google's director of consumer web products, to discuss the company's controversial "Autolink" feature in its new desktop toolbar. (I've discussed the actual feature in a past entry, if you need the backstory.) Google's sticking with a consistent excuse for now, that it's all in the end designed for the user's benefit. Mr. Gillmor has some interesting thoughts in the entry as well, reflecting the "Starbucks Syndrome" I was discussing in my own post on the subject - or as he puts it, "...the tendency of users to accept the default - to eat what's on the plate someone puts in front of them..." It goes back to an old argument that's been around as long as Microsoft has - whether the default setting of a piece of software influences the general user more than the number of options a piece of software offers. It's still a question no one has definitively answered.

New Lessig essay, and it's as brilliant as always

Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig recently posted yet again a near-perfect new essay, this time comparing the differences between copyright and "moral rights," both from a legal perspective and from the aspect of artists' souls. Could this in fact be the smartest living person in America?

BBC a trendsetter for internal blogs

Sure, more papers than ever are hopping on the blog and RSS wagons. But what about the ways that the paper's internal staffs are speaking with each other? Fredrik Wacka, usually of his own site but this time contributing to WebProNews, reports on the internal experiments the BBC is trying, including over 100 daily blogs being updated just for internal use, like the latest on deadlines, group project-management pages, or simple pleas for specialized help that maybe a random far-flung employee will be able to answer. He also reports that BBC upper executives are increasingly using the Wiki process to draft corporate policies, in-house manuals and the like, which I find very interesting, considering that until now wikis have mostly been an underground endeavor, academic in nature.

Pitching bloggers: More difficult than it seems

Nick Wreden, a PR specialist and author of the blog "Fusion Brand," has a few thoughts at his site about how to pitch PR campaigns to bloggers. It's an interesting read, and I hope a growing amount of PR people will actually heed its lessons. For example: never title your email "Press Release;" read the author's blog first, to see if they even cover what you're promoting; never ever suggest, "I think your readers might be interested in this story;" and never forget that it's not just industry insiders who are becoming big stars on the web, but sometimes simple fans. (Thanks to Steve Rubel for pointing this out.)

Powell's interviews Malcolm Gladwell recently interviewed New Yorker columnist Malcolm Gladwell, also the author of such books as The Tipping Point and Blink. Being in the arts as I am, my peers and I often have discussions along the lines of, "Where have all our philosophers gone?" I often point to people like Mr. Gladwell, whose work often appears on the surface to be commercial and business-related, but are in fact deeply complex new theories about how humans and societies work. Anyone who's wondered what's happened to honest-to-God philosophers in our modern world would do good to check out this interview, and then some of his writing.

Powell's, for those who don't know, is already a legendary bookstore in the American Pacific Northwest; they're rapidly turning into a legendary website as well, though, in that they conduct extensive interviews with all authors who appear at the store, have these authors pen a guest essay of the day, have the staff pen a daily book review for the site, collect up various literary news items around the world, and even offer it all via RSS feeds. They should be in the news reader of anyone interested in lively discussions on the literary arts.

The Smart Car's coming! Yay! Oh, it's big? Boo!

At first the news seemed exciting - Mercedes' Smart Car, an already cultishly popular vehicle in Europe, is coming to America. I saw Smart Cars all over the place during my past trips to Germany - in fact, my host in Munich owned one, and I got to ride all over that city in it. They are stylistically cute like a Volkswagen Beetle (new edition), get 60 miles per gallon, and are almost four feet shorter than even a Mini Cooper, perfect for those of us in large urban centers. Chicagoans, could you imagine hundreds of these cute, tiny little cars beeping around our streets? We've already got the public train system that increasingly looks more and more European, and the international culture of a European city; Smart Cars and Saturn stores are all that's left.

But alas, Mercedes isn't releasing that car here - they're only offering a new "Smart SUV" instead, bloated and almost the exact same size as a Honda CR-V. Boo! Your sales goal is only less than 1 percent of total American car sales - why not go with the more experimental one, that could be of great benefit to those in cities, as well as single commuters? Anyway, Fast Company has two business writers arguing the pros and cons, which is pretty interesting reading.

Yeah, ban outsourcing, that'll certainly solve things

From USAToday, yet more proof of just how many Americans simply don't get it: Colorado mulls decision to ban companies from outsourcing. It's difficult for Americans to approach an issue in anything other than a short-term view, which is a big reason (in my opinion, anyway) of why we're facing increasing trouble as the world's economy becomes more global in nature - other countries do a better job than us of seeing the long-term view, and realizing (thirty years ago, in some cases) how a bottom-up, systemic emphasis on their country's eductional system would lead to the exact situation we have today. Yes, definitely a big part of the problem is the wages in other countries against which we can't compete, but let's not forget that a growing amount of outsourced jobs are high-tech in nature, and require employees with a solid amount of higher education. We can no longer blame outsourcing simply on factory jobs, whose emphasis on the world's lowest minimum wages are the cause of them leaving.

CSMonitor: US draft becoming increasingly likely

The Christian Science Monitor voices the unspeakable: There's a growing likelihood of the US draft being reinstated, as the various wings of the military continue to fall short of their recruitment drives. (The army, for example, at their halfway point have only recruited 18 percent of the total soldiers needed to replace all those who died around the world last year.) No additional commentary needed from me, I think.

Transparency/Disclosure statement

Because there are a growing number of people visiting this site, and especially professionals in the media and advertising industries who may not already be familiar with who I am, I thought it important to post a "transparency/disclosure statement" - that is, a public declaration of how I make my money, the groups with whom I am affiliated, and any other information that may influence what I write about here and the way I write about it. This entry has been written so that I can include it as a permanent link at the top of my blog page, for readers who wish to read a full disclosure of my professional life as it relates to [metafeed]. I encourage all bloggers, in fact, to include such a statement at their page, to differentiate themselves from the growing amount of bloggers secretly accepting payment for their work.

Background. I am an underground, self-publishing author in Chicago, a former novelist and poetry-slam veteran who is currently mostly writing travel books, which I then sell to the public. For about ten years I was pursuing this writing as a full-time career; in late 2004, however, I decided to no longer do so, and to instead attempt to open and operate a commercial arts center. The decision naturally has drawn me more and more to the issues concerning small businesses, such as marketing, leadership, project-management and the like, and to start reading and analyzing a growing series of traditional business writers on a daily basis.

Aims of [metafeed]. My goal with this webpage is to present a series of links to content already found on the web, highlighting interesting information concerning the arts, technology, small-business issues (especially marketing, a favorite subject of mine), literature, language, travel, and other related subjects. In many cases, I then add my own comments concerning the linked information, and especially on how it relates to fellow underground artists and small-business owners. My hope is that people interested in such topics as business and marketing will find this site as informative as traditional business blogs, but with the added bonus of content most traditional business writers do not include, such as links to underground artists who are doing interesting things in the world of small-business, as well as the sometimes anarchic and illegal ways the artistic community is reacting to mainstream companies and marketing campaigns.

How I make my money. In that I am currently unemployed, I can definitively state that I am in no way, shape or form affiliated with any of the websites mentioned in [metafeed], nor do I accept any money or other inducements to talk about such websites. (I am, however, currently seeking employment, so please contact me at ilikejason [at] hotmail [dot] com if you're interested in hiring me for a legitimate, aboveground job.) Marketing agencies should be warned that if such an attempt to purchase my influence is made, not only will I absolutely reveal the attempt to the public, but most likely make fun of you for doing so. Occasionally I will highlight the personal websites of friends of mine; in such cases, though, I publicly acknowledge the relationship within the entry itself.

Regarding journalism. Visitors to this site should please be aware that I am in no way a journalist, as it is defined by the ethics code of that industry, nor do I claim to be. Content featured at [metafeed] is in no way at all confirmed by me as being true, and should be kept in mind when reading the information being linked to here.

Political affiliations. I am a political moderate, and obviously lean toward the liberal side when it comes to such issues as the arts, civil rights and gay rights. I am not, however, a registered member of any political party, nor do I donate money or receive money from any political organization. Although every attempt is made not to express my personal political opinions at [metafeed], occasionally such biases do naturally slip through; I apologize in advance for when it happens.

Identity. "Jason Pettus" is my actual legal name, and I would be happy to offer proof to media outlets who are interested in featuring me in their publication, if requested.

Regarding my other websites. Although [metafeed] is deliberately written so that it is "office-friendly" in terms of subject matter and language, the same is not guaranteed of my other websites. In particular, visitors should be aware that my other journal frequently discusses such subjects as drug use and unusual sexual situations (often in graphic or even pornographic detail), and that my electronic books occasionally contain images that are absolutely inappropriate in an office environment. Proper caution should always be taken if visiting my other sites, while in situations where viewing such work could get the visitor in trouble.

Reprint rights. All original content at this website is copyrighted 2005 by Jason Pettus, including my supplemental audio commentary, "The Daily Feed." All rights are reserved, including the right to demand removal of my work at your own website, and the right to pursue legal action if such demand is not met. That said, since the main goal of this website is to share information, and especially to get others to link to and quote this information, in general I encourage others to reprint this information in any way they deem fit, as long as proper acknowledgement is made. For anyone caught attempting to pass off my commentary as their own, my claim to ownership will be invoked, and I absolutely will pursue legal action, including filing a lawsuit.