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Archive for the month “June, 2012”

The first social network DOES bear some negative similarities to modern social networks

Shawn Rossi shared a Lifehacker post from Alan Henry with an interesting premise:

Before you joined your first “social network,” you were already using a tried-and-true social network that all your friends had joined, that never tweaked your privacy settings without asking, and that worked incredibly well. It was called email.

The post then goes on to describe how an email client (Gmail is assumed, but many of the tips will work with Microsoft or other mail systems) can be reconfigured to be more social.

But before he provides these tips, Henry lists five reasons why an email client is a better social app than Facebook. I’m fine with his first, second, and fourth reasons, but I have problems with his third and fifth reasons. Yes, Facebook does the things that Henry describes – but so does email.

Reason number three:

[Facebook is] full of apps designed to invade your timeline and trick you into sharing things.

Yes, Facebook has such apps – but you can easily find them in email. How many of our email inboxes have been, in Henry’s words, “invaded” with all sorts of messages with titles such as “Look at this funny picture”? If you’ve had an email account for several years and have used it for a lot of correspondence, you probably get a lot of these messages. Now I’ll grant that such emails can be filtered, but you still have to deal with them – invading junk is in email just as it is in Facebook.

The more serious issue, however, are those Facebook apps and email messages that “trick you into sharing things.” My favorite example is the virus warning that effectively acts as a virus itself. Not that it literally is a virus, but when an URGENT email message WARNS you to TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS about a SERIOUS THREAT to your computer/your country/whatever, it’s just like a virus. More insidiously, there are the messages that are purportedly from your bank that tell you that you have to go to a website and enter your personally identifying information or else your account will be closed.

So regardless of your platform – Facebook, email, CB radio – there are nasty things out there that can invade your stream and trick you into doing bad things.

Let’s move on to Henry’s reason number five:

We all do stupid things on Facebook.

This is in reference to the college students who post drunken pictures on Facebook, or the new hires who say how stupid their bosses are.

Yes, you can do these stupid things on Facebook – and we’ve been doing these stupid things on email for decades.

All email clients have a “Send” button. It just takes one click to send an email message. And if it’s a “Reply All” email message, that email can go to dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of people.

Several years ago, when I still worked for Motorola, someone accidentally sent an email message to thousands of people. This resulted in a complaint from one of the recipients – but the recipient hit “Reply All,” so the complaint also went to thousands of people. This resulted in a “Don’t hit Reply All you stupid jerk” message which – have you guessed already? – went to thousands of people.

After an hour of two of this, our local Motorola office temporarily removed itself from the email network until the brouhaha died down.

So while email does offer some “social” advantages over Facebook – and I strongly encourage you to read Henry’s tips – please remember that email has its own issues – issues that we’ve known about for decades.

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This year’s version of the death of cable is kind of like the previous versions

I have been writing about the cable/satellite industry for several years now. This 2010 post in my Empoprise-BI business blog links to some of my earlier posts on the subject. The basic issue is that you have content providers (such as Comcast/NBC) and cable/satellite providers (such as Comcast), and the two factions are constantly at war with each other.

Those who believe that content is king have been saying to themselves, “What if we could eliminate the middleman and get the content directly?” Well, in some cases you’ve been able to do this for several years now. Back in 2010, I quoted from a Mike Johns comment on a Michael Hanscom post:

The coolest part of the Roku is what it means for the future of TV. I have already dropped my cable and pretty much watch all of my shows on Netflix. The other channels on the Roku, even the premium channels, make it worth the money. I spend 9 bucks for netflix, and 6 bucks on the kung-fu, cowoby classics and drive in movies – and that has replaced my $75 cable bill.

Since Mike Johns wrote that comment, Roku and others have provided complete direct access to content, and the cable and satellite providers have all shriveled away.

What? They’re still around? Whoops.

Obviously, cable and satellite providers aren’t going to just wither away when their lifelines are threatened. They need to maximize their profits for their shareholders, and they’ll do anything in their power to ensure that their business model remains viable. Earlier in this post, I alluded to the fact that Comcast, a cable provider, has purchased NBC, a content provider. It’s kinda like when tobacco companies buy food companies (remember RJR Nabisco?) – a company will do whatever it wants to continue to survive.

This hasn’t stopped people from trying to liberate content from the evil cable/satellite providers and allow it to run free. Jesse Stay has shared a Chris Brogan share of this story:

Newly launched website TakeMyMoneyHBO.com wants to send HBO a clear message: We love your shows. We’re willing to pay to watch them upon release. Now please, for the love of Winterfell, give us a way to do that — without forcing a cable subscription down our throats.

The expectation is that HBO will see this website and observe all the tweets – with hashtags! – and will suddenly and immediately tell the cable and satellite companies, “Thanks for all you’ve done for us for the past half century, but based on these powerful hashtags we’re going to go it alone.”

For some reason, I suspect that TakeMyMoneyHBO’s strategy will not be entirely successful. Wendy Cockcroft has noted that HBO benefits from the current system.

When the interviewer presses [HBO’s Eric Kessler] again about a stand-alone option, here’s what he has to say:

“We benefit from the existing ecosystem… from bundled cable TV packages… it’s important to keep that transactional machinery going. It’s about economics.”

Kessler says here that he’s doing better from an economical point of view in the current HBO strategy than he would if he opened up the content safe and let some goodies out into the cloud.

Some people think that piracy will drive content companies to create a new model that reduces piracy, but if content companies are making enough money under the old model, why change?

Now I still believe that it’s entirely possible that the middleman may be eliminated, but rather than cutting the middleman out entirely, perhaps the middlemen may continue to buy content providers just like Comcast did.

However, presently the old model is still very much alive, which means that if I want to see or hear a sporting event, more often than not I have to turn on a TV or a radio. With some rare exceptions, I can’t watch or listen to a sporting event over the Internet. We of the Internet just don’t pay enough money to get the rights.

History isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

David Starr shared a cracked.com article entitled 6 Ridiculous Lies You Believe About the Founding of America. For example, one of the “lies” regarded the way in which the Europeans defeated the Native Americans. It wasn’t just our guns, or even primarily our guns:

There’s a pretty important detail our movies and textbooks left out of the handoff from Native Americans to white European settlers: It begins in the immediate aftermath of a full-blown apocalypse. In the decades between Columbus’ discovery of America and the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock, the most devastating plague in human history raced up the East Coast of America. Just two years before the pilgrims started the tape recorder on New England’s written history, the plague wiped out about 96 percent of the Indians in Massachusetts.

Cracked.com links to a page on pbs.com.

Within just a few generations, the continents of the Americas were virtually emptied of their native inhabitants – some academics estimate that approximately 20 million people may have died in the years following the European invasion – up to 95% of the population of the Americas.

No medieval force, no matter how bloodthirsty, could have achieved such enormous levels of genocide. Instead, Europeans were aided by a deadly secret weapon they weren’t even aware they were carrying: Smallpox.

The whole story shows how massive changes can occur in the space of one or a few generations.

And no, I’m not talking about how the Native Americans were wiped out by smallpox.

I’m talking about how Cracked magazine became a reputable reference source.

I remember Cracked from my youth. Back then, it was a poor man’s MAD Magazine. (I was unaware at the time that MAD Magazine itself had undergone massive changes in its first few years.) Cracked had its own version of an Alfred E. Neuman-like character, and it printed the same types of TV show parodies and the like.

By 2005, the magazine had switched to a bi-monthly schedule, but in that year it was acquired by a group that decided to change its editorial focus. By 2007, the printed magazine was dead – but the website lives on, producing articles that I never would had seen in my childhood magazine.

But some things never change. Cracked is still perceived as low rent:

The Internet can be a cruel mistress.

Demand Media Inc. found that out the hard way. A year ago the Web company, awash in traffic, was the darling of Wall Street, valued at $1 billion in a Jan. 26 initial public offering.

Three months later,Google Inc., which had sent millions of visitors a day to Demand’s websites, modified its search results to de-emphasize destinations deemed to have lower-quality content. The change throttled the Santa Monica company’s traffic nearly 25% between January and July. Wall Street turned against the company, driving its stock from a lofty $24.57 in March to $5.62 by October.

Kinda like a 21st century version of smallpox – almost. However, if cracked.com becomes reduced to a single Facebook page, perhaps the analogy will work.

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