|This Week's Clue: The Big Rip, Below The Line
|SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)
|SP (Shameless Promotion)
|Then There Were Three
|Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie (Oy, Oy, Oy)
|Pied Piper Of Prosperity Plays Again
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For the Week of March 31, 2003
If you've been following the science pages you may have heard about "The Big Rip."
It's a new theory concerning the end of the universe, based on data showing that the universe continues expanding at an accelerating rate, and that "phantom energy" could, in the end, rip even atoms apart. The universe, according to this theory, is just one huge explosion that keeps going and growing, faster and faster until everything is torn apart and it just dissipates. (At which point, I suppose, a voice booms out "Let there be light" and it starts over.)
The start of the Iraq war seemed to start another Big Rip in the fabric of our space-time. War opponents branded the U.S President a war criminal, and some Americans compared him to the man he was deposing, Saddam Hussein. On the other side, the Dixie Chicks found themselves the first big stars to be blacklisted (they're a classic "soft target") and Justice Antonin Scalia speculated that, in war, your Constitutional rights are a luxury we can do without.
The 1991 Gulf War was said to be the first war fought on TV. This is the first war fought online, at least in the West. Kevin Sites ( ) of CNN was the pre-war "Scud Stud," with his blog from Kurdistan climbing the charts faster than a Toby Keith song in a Marine barracks. But CNN killed the Sites blog when the shooting started, leaving the BBC "War Diary" as the leader in that department.
By "embedding" reporters in with troops, the U.S. and Britain effectively held those networks hostage -- the cheerleading was no longer forced when their own folks were on the team. This was not as effective as it appeared. Anti-war Americans went to overseas Web sites and the Muslim world made al-Jezeera the new CNN.
Still, a line had been drawn. Above the line were the politicians, the "mainstream" American media, and a hyperactive sense of patriotism. In the world of warblogging the U.S. flag became a weapon, a substitute for the cross and anyone not seen waving it avidly became suspect.
But another America was being born below the line. This other America got its news from the BBC, or The Guardian. It quietly bemoaned the loss of rights on discussion lists, and considered the war a tragic mistake. When someone in this world compared Bush to Hitler, millions of eyes (if not heads) nodded quietly in agreement.
This second world lives online, just as the warbloggers live online, but thanks to embedding this second world lives in media exile. It uses the Web, it blogs, it e-mails. This second world didn't exist in the last Gulf War, and its "ratings" (as they say in the media biz) don't appear on Arbitron. Most Web sites don't receive even 100,000 visitors in a week, which would translate to a TV rating of .1 (assuming they all tuned in at once). This newsletter has an audience of perhaps 3,000, and I doubt whether my Mooreslore blog gets even that much. But multiply that, not by 1,000 readers but by 1,000 writers, or 10,000 writers, on news groups, in shared e-mail digests, or in the 100,000 blogs Blogstreet measures and you get some sense of this underground world's dimension.
I've written for months that my problem with the Iraq War isn't the war, but the occupation. That's another line. You've got nominal control, above the line, but you've also got millions of people with guns, waiting in ambush to settle scores with one another, who project all their anger on the occupier, below the line. Decisions are made and no matter what their substance someone gets mad. The uniform becomes an easy target. You either pull back into the barracks (in which case you're not really occupying the territory), or you go out in force (in which case your control is sporadic) or you go out on patrol (in which case you can be picked off). In a war for hearts and minds, bullets speak as loudly as bombs.
But in a war for hearts and minds words also speak, not just through the speaker but through the listener. When you read and believe these words, when you learn and change your mind, that counts in this war.
And that part of the war will go on, despite Antonin Scalia, below the line. That's because patriots struck at British troops from ambush because they believed in an idea. The Declaration's self-evident truths inspired the world below the line, even in France, whose navy made Yorktown possible. And in less than a decade, the virus of American ideals had infected France in turn, destroying the monarchy, unleashing the revolution.
America's record above the line, as an occupying force, isn't very good. The Indian genocide, the Reconstruction of the South (which the North finally abandoned to Jim Crow), the American-Filipino War and Vietnamization all speak to this fact.
It is only when the world below the line was engaged that America has changed anything. With the promise of withdrawal from Germany, Japan, and even Alabama, in exchange for some minimal, decent change fulfilled, minds and hearts were moved.
What would Joi Ito's great-grandfather think of Joi's adventures in the Blogosphere? Speaking from the relative comfort of, say, 1938, I daresay he would call it treason. But his mind was forced-closed by the system he lived under, while Joi's mind is wide-open.
That's what this medium does. It opens any mind that is open to it. You can trudge along well-trod paths if you like, or you can find your own way. And no one can force you back. Even the Gulag Archipelago didn't destroy Russians' dreams of liberty. The 1814 version of British "Shock and Awe" didn't kill America, for at the end of the bombardment "our flag was still there." And nothing, absolutely nothing, that Antonin Scalia or anyone else tries against this medium will completely succeed either.
This war will be won, or it will be lost, below the line, in hearts and minds, not just in America but around the world, and especially in the Arab world. It will be won or lost on this medium. The Big Rip won't be on CNN. The revolution will not be televised.
You don't have to close your eyes
You don't have to turn away
You can't expect to take the right road every morning
When you start to feel the words get in the way
Listen to your heart
And what it has to say
SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)
The reviews (well, some of them) are in. "Dana, it is GOOD," raves Pete duPont, lawyer, futurist and once a candidate for President. "This is some really powerful 'stuff.' I think you've got a winner," says Drew Kaplan of DAK Catalog fame.
Find out what the excitement is about. Buy The Blankenhorn Effect at Amazon.Com , then go back and say nice things. You can use the ASIN number, 1553953673, and recommend it to readers of other, similar books. You can also save on shipping when you buy the book at Amazon, over the cost of buying it elsewhere.
If you can convince some more published reviewers to read The Blankenhorn Effect and recommend it to their readers, please send me a name and address. In exchange, you'll get the PDF version of my second book, The Blankenhorn Effect: Boom, Bust & Beyond. This is a collection of columns from a-clue.com, organized chronologically and by subject, with additional commentary from yours truly.
I have begun working full-time for MediaPost , but I have also written lately for BtoB Boardroom and Mobile Radio Technology . You can follow the continuing story of The Blankenhorn Effect on my "Moore's Lore" blog . I also contribute to NowEurope and GreaterDemocracy .
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Takes on the News
Then There Were Three
Back in the 1990s there were a host of magazines heralding the Internet lifestyle, or the glories of the New Economy. Now there are three -- Business 2.0, Wired, and Fast Company. The only reason they survive is their acquisition by Time Warner, Conde-Nast and Gruner & Jahr respectively.
But these publishers didn't buy the magazines to throw money away like dot-com zillionaires. They expect a profit, and the heart of a profit (for them) is a strategy.
Business 2.0 is furthest along that road. Editor Josh Quittner is building a management book that takes technology as a given. Articles may cover marketing, operations, or product development - the kinds of things ambitious middle managers obsess over. But built into each is the assumption of technology, of technology's power.
Wired , once a lifestyle book, is now a policy book. It aims at the powerful in business and politics, explaining the benefits (and risks) of all kinds of technology (not just Internet or computing). While its current issue looks backward to the magazine's founding, for instance, the cover package is on hydrogen power, its promise and problems.
Fast Company has the largest circulation, remains truest to its roots, yet it's probably the most threatened. This is because it lacks a strategy and a mission. It doesn't know what it's supposed to say, and it doesn't know who its reader is. A recent feature on Google was well researched but the author seemed amazed that Google remains more focused on results other than wealth. If he really knew the Valley - if he hadn't just parachuted-in during the boom years - he would know that Google is, in fact, a throwback. This is what H-P, Intel and Apple were about in their heyday. And this is where the Valley must go again if it's to remain relevant.
For all these books, these owners are their last stop, and their last chance. With prices for publishing assets as low as they are, and with more magazine inventory (like Hachette's titles) preparing to come onto the market, profits are now a necessity. Success will require knowing your reader, knowing your message, targeting the right advertisers, and executing the strategy with discipline.
Can any of these magazines succeed? I hope so. I could use some work.
Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie (Oy, Oy, Oy)
Australian Paul Twomey, a friend of former Clinton Administration figure Ira Magaziner, has been named ICANN's new President , promising a new "spirit of openness."
He has an enormous job ahead of him. ICANN is completely bound to registrars and national governments, completely divorced from democracy and Internet users. National governments are now imposing local laws on the global network, and trying to enforce their dictates outside their borders as well. While Australia was criticized in the 1990s for its attempt at developing an Internet censorship regime, it's the U.S. that is now the guiltiest party in this regard, and therefore it's important that the new head of ICANN is not an American.
Twomey's resume is that of a man comfortable in both big business and big government circles. His consultancy, Argo Pacific, conspicuously fails to name its clients but makes it clear they're very big indeed. He has worked closely with the Howard government in Australia, at one time heading its "National Office for the Information Economy."
What does this mean? It means don't listen to what he says. He will say what he thinks you want to hear. Watch what he does, and watch carefully who is pulling his strings.
Pied Piper Of Prosperity Plays Again
At the height of the boom I attended a Forrester Conference in New York City. There a dozen "top analysts" strutted and fretted across a stage, doing the Forrester walk and talking the Forrester talk, which was filled with grand predictions for the future, most of which had been visible a year earlier.
For what it's worth the Pied Piper himself, Forrester founder George Colony, is now doing the honors. His schtick is that we're all too pessimistic, that great things are about to happen, and that those with courage can be a part of it.
His big talk includes predictions like "the Web is dead," replaced by "Web Services" and such things as "Organic IT." Well he's both right and wrong. He's right to be optimistic, and right that technologies like XML and e-mail are supplanting the HTML Web in importance.
Phrases like "XInternet" and "Organic IT" on the other hand, are branding devices, not to be taken seriously. The Internet isn't going anywhere and it's too vast to be put back into its bottle. That means its base technologies are too entrenched to be displaced. But there is new stuff (especially database stuff), there are new networks, and (most important) there are new threats on the horizon.
The Internet's friends, the big businesses and governments who have gained the most from this medium, are trying to raise the drawbridge on these benefits, and distinguish liberty from license so finely as to destroy the former in the name of the latter.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself but that is a powerful enemy indeed. It is comforting to see George Colony out fighting it and pointing to brighter days ahead.
Clued-in is Cisco Systems buying Linksys for $500 million . While most people look at Cisco as a technology innovator, it is actually more of a technology aggregator and marketer. This buy will speed wireless broadband into homes, and it's another big endorsement for 802.11.
Clueless is Intel worrying about angering Microsoft, as Lindows head Michael Robertson charged . Microsoft is very dependent on Intel, but Intel is not dependent on Microsoft. (Whether Intel wants to go out of its way in supporting a program called "Lindows" is irrelevant to whether it supports Linux.)
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