by Dana Blankenhorn
  Volume VIII, No. XLIX

This Week's Clue: Getting Over It

Home | Dana's Bio | Clued-In Archive | Newsletter '04 Archive | | Subscribe!
This Week's Clue: End Of The Road?
SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)
Two Niches: An ECommerce Christmas Story
Home LAN Market Retains Potential
Seinfeld Copyright Blues
Clued-in, Clueless

Dana Recommends The Blankenhorn Effect offers a powerful, positive message for our time. Once you understand how Moore's Law impacts every part of your life, how powerful it is, and how irresistible a force it truly is, you will have the power to predict the future and know how to change it. Buy it today, and make 2004 a better year for yourself, your business, and your family.


For the Week of December 6, 2004

A month before the Accelerating Change conference last month I sent the organizers an e-mail saying I couldn't make it.

They sent me a half-dozen e-mails with details about my talk, the room, and the other speakers.

None of those e-mails made it to their destinations. They were embarrassed enough about it to offer me a free trip west. I was embarrassed enough about it to take it.

This is no longer unusual. I'm up to 500 spams per day. When I came back from two days at that conference I mentioned it took me a half-hour to clear my spam - Mailwasher was choking on it.

Speaking of Mailwasher. The new version defaults to "don't take it." A lot of what I get comes up "not to me," which means it's coming to me as part of a list. The default is "don't take it." My own newsletter comes with this designation, so I have to "whitelist" it manually every week. Shared lists are getting multiple bounces from me, because when someone new responds they're blacklisted.

This is not news to any of you. We all suffer from spam headaches. And as a result there are fewer of you than ever before - under 1,200 at last count.

I have problems with the format of this newsletter, too. When I blog I can be right on top of the news. But it takes time to code-and-load a newsletter. I have a deadline I want to beat. What you read here is often written 10 days before it goes out. It's getting stale.

One trick I use to keep things rolling is to actually write just one item. If you don't see my regular blog, Mooreslore , then you don't know that I'm often cutting-and-pasting "Takes on the News" directly from the blog, sometimes with a few additions, deletions, or combinations. The fact is that my blogs today represent my newsgathering time, and while I sometimes gain new insights from working my stuff in here, that happens less-and-less.

Then there's my fiction work. It's time-consuming. I really think The Chinese Century is, if nothing else, at least original. The use of real people, in real time, telling a fictional story that relates to real situations - it's a tightrope I know no sane (or accomplished) writer would dare walk. It's more than a challenge, however. It's a pleasure. Situations and scenes come out quickly and easily, but again, it takes time.

When I launched in 1997 this was the state of the art. I used this letter to attract paying editors to me, and it worked for a time.

But it doesn't work anymore, for them or for me. The blogs do a much better job for me, from a business standpoint. And my business has changed. I'm as known as I'm ever going to be, and there really aren't any computer press editors I either want to or can impress at this point.

Is this good-bye then? I'm beginning to think it is. I certainly need a change of format. Maybe just produce this essay and leave it at that. Maybe I should just send a newsletter when I want to, rather than on a schedule. I've got other projects - both free and profitable - that demand my time. Despite a complete lack of income I'm falling behind.

Next week I'll review 2004, and the week after that we'll look at what 2005 may offer. And after that? After that we'll see.


Shameless Self-Promotion

In partnership with ZDNet, I'm now helping to produce a special blog on Open Source . Watch for it.

I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for EgoScout , a new kind of marketplace for cellular data services.

My last book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards . Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking." And on my Mooreslore blog I've begun a new novel, "The Chinese Century." Let me know what you think of it.

You have my permission to forward this newsletter widely. And if you have trouble subscribing let me know. Remember: it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...


Takes on the News

Two Niches: An ECommerce Christmas Story

I don't know how it is where you live, but I've been struck lately by the growing number of independent coffee shops and DVD houses in my neighborhood.

Maybe Starbuck's (the coffee giant) and Blockbuster (the video rental giant) are just off their game in this part of Atlanta. Both have outlets here, but perhaps there are also lessons to be found about technology, about how it's changing, and about what consumers want from it.

Let's start at the coffee shop.

Starbuck's is a big public company, which is all about making money. Selling coffee makes money. Having people sit around and nurse coffee does not make money. Thus it seemed logical that, when Wi-Fi came along Starbuck's would find a solid vendor and sign a businesslike deal. T-Mobile takes care of all the infrastructure, and all Starbuck's needs do is cash checks.

Independent houses, on the other hand, don't have that corporate overhead. The owners just want to run a nice, neighborhood joint where even alcoholics will feel welcome. So it meant nothing for them, when they brought in broadband to run their own systems, to also put in a $100 access point and let the customers share.

The result: Starbuck's is getting hammered. There's a good Starbuck's just a mile from here, on the Decatur Courthouse, but the crowds are down the block, scarfing up Atlanta Freenet WiFi at the Atlanta Bread Co. or Java Monkey.

Given a choice between paying for technology and getting it free, most people prefer to take free.

Now, why am I seeing so many new video stores in my neighborhood?

Back in the tape era the mom-and-pops' advantage over Blockbuster was, in a word, porn. The little guys had it, Blockbuster forbade it as a matter of corporate policy. But everything's gotten scrambled in the move to DVD. Blockbuster faded, then came back, helped by a new pricing scheme meant to compete with NetFlix.

Yet the independent video rental houses are booming. Back in the 1990s a government fund tried to launch a video rental place near me, and it failed. A real estate agent came in, then they left, replaced by another video rental place. Which succeeded.

Why? Size matters. The independents are small stores, which can fit in places Blockbuster won't touch. But I also think there's something here about CRM.

Both Blockbuster and the independents put customers into a database. You need to present a credit card and license to make your first rental, then you have an account. But the Blockbuster process is clunky. They demand a lot of information on a paper form. And you're left with the uncomfortable feeling that they're going to use it against you, or let the government use it against you.

The local types your name, address and phone number into their computer, then greets you by name when you walk in. Maybe he would give your records over if the federales came in but you figure that first the federales would have to figure out where you're renting from. And I, for one, prefer the intimacy of the local, despite their smaller selection.

We don't mind Little Brother.


Home LAN Market Retains Potential

A new survey from the UK shows the home LAN market retains high potential, even if you're still doing the same old things.

The MORI survey showed 90% of home PC owners were getting into arguments over who would use the PC, and when. The kids nearly all say they're doing homework (90% of them), but 43% of users admit they're playing games. (Hey, games can be educational.)

The survey struck me because, at the Blankenhorn house, everyone has their own PC and the TV spent much of Thanksgiving turned off.

We all have our own obsessions. I write, my wife works, my daughter reads and my son plays historical games. It's a far more productive use of our down-time than would be any shared experience before the "boob tube."

With mid-range PCs now selling at under 500 pounds, plus VAT (that's about $1,000 US), and with Wi-Fi access points now coming in at 60 pounds (plus another 30 for the adapter on the client side) we're starting to talk about real affordability. Hey, if Dad or Mom will just get their own laptop (here's a little number for 562 pounds, all-in, and you don't have to pay it off until August) you can work quietly in the bedroom or kitchen and leave the main PC for...homework. (Yeah, that's right, homework.)

Merry Christmas, every one.

Seinfeld Copyright Blues

While at the Mall recently, waiting for our movie to start, we saw a ton of displays and ads for the hottest DVD out there this Christmas -- the TV series Seinfeld.

Could there be any better proof that copyright absolutism is counter-productive? (Not that's there's anything wrong with that.)

This show ran on free TV for 9 years. Some 22 episodes were produced each season. Most of the time it was on, it was a re-run. Since then it's been in heavy rotation in syndication. It is "stripped" in the parlance of the trade -- it's on every day. Often twice a day. My son (a true master of his domain, he says) has memorized lines from Seinfeld the way my generation did Monty Python sketches.

This is not a scarce gem. (It's no marble rye from Lourdes' Bakery.) In terms of its audience, there should be some shrinkage, some significant shrinkage. If you wanted to keep it, you could have taped it. You still can. (You got a problem with that?)

So why is it a best-seller?

It's a best-seller precisely because it's familiar, because it's memorized, because we've seen it, and seen it, and seen it.

John Cleese observed this 30 years ago. He was doing a Python sketch, live, with co-star Michael Palin, and Palin cracked him up so bad he forgot his line. He said, "line," and hundreds of voices, from the audience, gave it to him. "Why are you paying to listen to it?" he wondered.

Why indeed? We buy media products because we like them. We buy the CD because we've heard the singles, and heard them, and heard them.

But those who hold copyright, and police copyright, assume the opposite is the case. They want to be paid for things before we know we like them, when we just think we might like them, maybe before we've evern heard or seen them. Anything else, they say, is theft.

Sometimes I think the whole idea behind the copyright industry's arguments are to convince us 2+2=5. Because if they can convince you of that, then anyone can convince you of anything.


Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is TeleCIS, , which is working on a chip that will combine support for Wi-Fi and Wi-Max.

Clueless is Ron Artest , and any other athlete, or owner, who thinks the market owes them a living.


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