by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume X, No. XXIII

This Week's Clue: Open Source vs. Proprietary Credibility

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This Week's Clue: Open Source vs. Proprietary Credibility
SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)
Best of the Week
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in, Clueless

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For the Week of June 5, 2006

One key point to understand in evaluating the business implications of open source is the idea of credibility.

In the proprietary world this is a commodity. It is something you can buy, almost independent of your actions. Spend enough money on lobbyists and advertising, pretty soon Verizon and AT&T are beloved members of the household. What, that used to be SBC Arena? Never.

This spills into the world of politics. A candidate is not considered "credible" unless they do well in the "money primary," unless they have enough money to run a "schedule" of "30-second spots." Then the spots are parsed based, not on reality, but on marketing metrics, as though the candidate were a candy bar.

But candidates, and companies, are not candy bars. In reality we are already moving toward a concept I call "open source credibility."

That is, your real performance, and your reaction to bad news, both count, just as in journalism. If you lie to your audience, and try to cover up the lie with spin, you lose, and it doesn't matter how much money you have.

The Internet forces the truth to leak out.

The first example of this in action was the famed Johnson & Johnson "Tylenol" scare. Business historians spin this as a victory for PR, but in fact it was a win for effective action.

The PR people were able to convince J&J managers to do the right thing.

As the paper noted above says, "Johnson & Johnson's top management put customer safety first, before they worried about their profit and other financial concerns."

In other words they took care of their credibility, knowing that was the underpinning of everything else.

When you have real credibility you have a pearl beyond price. Bloggers who live in the open source world understand this. We apologize for mistakes immediately, we launch into dialogue immediately, we post corrections within the original stories.

Some think that conservative bloggers don't care about credibility, and I used to be of that opinion. But I gradually have come to understand that credibility counts most with your audience, with your marketplace. Credibility in this case involves matching your performance to expectations.

Folks will forgive Drudge his lies in the service of the Bush cause. They won't forgive David Brock . He lost all credibility with his audience and became a liberal - it was the only way he could stay in the political game. (This was also the lesson of the Dixie Chicks. They lost credibility with their original audience and have had to find a new one.)

The same is true in the business world. It doesn't matter what Toyota owners think of Chevy, only what Chevy owners think of Chevy. If you can maintain credibility with "your" audience, you can survive.

Credibility, in the open source world, is not a commodity. That's what I mean when I write, "We're all journalists now." I was taught this truth at a very young age, and have tried to hew to it. I live and work with as much transparency as I can.

Gradually, as the open source world which is the Internet filters into the totality of our lives, around the world, this idea of credibility as being something more than a commodity is beginning to take hold.

Those stuck on the other side, with their huge ad budgets and PR staffs, even those with police power behind them, have an increasingly difficult time. They may say that "the Internet makes people cynical," but it really makes most of us skeptical.

On the Internet, you learn pretty quickly about someone's credibility. The first time you lose faith you may get a slight shock, or a life-changing one, but you do learn. And so you become suspicious, of everyone, of everything, of what's behind the curtain.

This is not a bad thing. It is part of our transformation from groups of "consumers," who can be sliced-and-diced into market segments and fed whatever the focus groups say works, into individuals, into markets of one, for whom credibility is real, and all-important.

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.


Shameless Self-Promotion

I have made a big decision. I have moved my main blog, formerly called Mooreslore, to under the name Dana Blankenhorn. (Hey, that's MY name.) The blog is written in Typepad and is also available at

I'm continuing to produce a special blog on Open Sourcefor ZDNet. I am pleased to say it has grown into a real money-maker. I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for Voic.Us, which aims to become a political "super-site" and offer mobile marketing services. Please visit that blog as well.

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


Best of the Week

The Good News About Energy

Here is a real inconvenient truth. High energy prices are a good thing.

The Next Network Neutrality Battle

Is the battle won? No. Why? One word. Peering.

The Speed of Political Change

The speed of political change is generational.But how long is that?

The Ev and Jerry Show

Today's Democratic leaders have spent their entire careers leaning into the wind.

Google News Tries to Make Sense

Google News has a new "owner" within the company who wants Google News to offer, well, news, while moving opinion to either the main site (where it often bounces to the top) or to Google's Blogsearch service.

An Obelisk Painted to Look Like a Rocket

That's what Doc Searls calls M2Z, a proposed "third way" broadband network put together by some Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

How Open Source Changes the (Political) Rules

By the standards of open source, Berman is to the right of the KKK.

The 1966 Game: Who's McCarthy Now?

Meet Tom Tancredo.

Why Net Neutrality Will Win

Everyone who has tried to take "their" piece of the Internet and control access to it has lost, big-time.

The Long View: What Has To Be

Once you understand a Thesis, and the rationale which created it, the fears and desires, you can see what must happen before it unravels.



Cox Threat on Left Grows

Perdue's Political Play of the Week

Georgia's Most Technically-Adept Political Movement

Parties Grow from the Bottom-Up

One Word to Decide SoS Race

Missed Opportunities In Unforced Issues

Towery Proposition Tested

The Issue Being Ignored

Mr. Kingston's Wild Ride

More Gay Marriage Blowback

Ehrhart's New Trip

Jail Bar at the Color Line

ZDNet Open Source

Software Patents are Dead

The Open Source Licensing Continuum

Serious Scaling for Open Source Databases

Open Source Gleaners Hit Telephony

Are Open Source and Copyright Issues Connected?

Jitterbit Goes Open Source


Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Dennis Hastert. Too bad the Clue came too late.

Clueless is Jeff Goldberg along with every other political analyst who looks at a steady state universe in a period of political excess.

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