A blast from the independent past

I just ran across a post (below) on my old blog from Tuesday, July 12, 2005: a few months less than ten years ago. It was at the tail end of what Tantek Çelik calls the Independent Web. He gives the time frame for that as roughly 2001-2005, peaking in 2003 or so. “We took it as an assumption that if you were creating, you were putting yourself on the Web, on your own site… We all assumed that it was sort of our inevitable destiny that the Web was open, the Net was open, everyone had their own identity — to the point where everyone knew each other not by our names but by our URLs, our domain names, because everyone owned their domain and had control over it.”

What happened, he adds, was silos. Twitter popularized simplicity. Then Facebook built a big new ecosystem “that has nothing to do with the open Web.” They also made lots of stuff, such as identity, highly convenient. Log in anywhere with Facebook Connect (and don’t look at what’s happening behind the curtain).

And now most of our experiences on the Web are inside and between giant silos that add up to a system Bruce Schneier calls feudal. It’s got some nice stuff in it, but it’s not ours. It’s theirs.

So, while we wait for emancipation, it’s interesting to look back on what life was like on the Web when it was still ours.

Note that what I wrote on the old blog was outlines. Every new post was a top level item, and subordinate ones came under it. Today Dave Winer gives us a similar tool with Liveblog.

Anyway, here ya go:::


I’ve always wanted MORE back. This looks really promising.


I’m at this meeting, through Phil Windley‘s laptop’s audio.

Anals of Customer Service, Part 235, 673,458,31 

John Paczkowski: The Cluetrain don’t stop in Round Rock no more. It starts with this fine fodder:

Begin by turning off all the LEDs on your keyboard. 

My keyboard doesn’t have any LEDs.

You must turn off the LEDs on your keyboard.

My keyboard doesn’t have any LEDs.

I can’t help you if you don’t turn off the LEDs.

— Excerpt from a Dell customer service call


Mitch responds to the “connections” item below with,

I’m a little surprised that Doc’s take on the information is that people have “jumped to conclusions based on what one guy said,” since that is the very essence of blogging: A single correspondent reported something that would have otherwise been ignored. A lot of people are very interested in how Technorati might make money and, more to the point, help them make money.

It’s one thing to point to something one person said, and another to jump to conclusions based on it. To me the latter is not “the essence of blogging.” In fact, it’s what too many big-J journalists do, and what too many of those journalists also accuse bloggers of doing.

I like Mitch’s other points about Technorati’s business model(s). I think when this is over we’ll see a lot more transparency from everybody whose business lives in the blogosphere.

Jeremy Wright busts Technorati for its performance:

Technorati¹s index is slow. If it¹s taking Technorati 5-20 hours to bring a post in (if it does at all), that is 4-19 hours slower than Bloglines. It¹s inaccurate. It¹s lucky if it shows 10% of the results that PubSub, Bloglines and Blogpulse show. It¹s also a SLOW site. Response times of 1 minute aren¹t uncommon, and even then results sometimes simply aren¹t shown.

I stuck up for Technorati for quite a while (and they¹re featured prominently in the book, which I now regretŠ hopefully I won¹t by the time the book comes out). But, Technorati has had 2 years to fix it¹s problems. Doc wants us to cut them some more slack, but I¹ve just about run out of slack. There are other services that are faster, more detailed, more comprehensive and actually listen to bloggers¹ concerns instead of making excuses.

Andy Lark adds,

Good on Jeremy. Frankly, Technorati is a joke in terms of indexing speed and accuracy. I can tag posts and not see them, well, ever. The fact you get listed at all is a miracle. He is right. As a user, they have let the blogosphere down. Doc Searls has a longer post on this. Doc, it’s great you are all chums but for us mere minions it just ain’t working and what doesn’t work, doesn’t get used. Simple as that.

For what it’s worth, I have a pile of Technorati and PubSub subscriptions. And for a long time, PubSub kicked ass. (And I often let Technorati’s techies know about it.) Lately Technorati seems to be doing better. But hey, your mileage may vary. For what it’s worth, I found both Jeremy’s and Andy’s posts in a Technorati search.

That said, Technorati’s failings have done a lot to cost some users faith in the service. There are still outages and breakdowns. There are on any service that’s scaling at the same rate. How often have you seen Flickr down for a “massage”?

What matters is that they keep working on it and improving it. Looks to me like they’re doing that.

Okay, more stuff…

Stowe Boyd weighs in:

I suspect that one of the issues here is the lack of cluefulness of Technorati, however, who have seemed to surprise everyone with their intention to make money — and lots of it — from its activities and services. Here’ is a great opportunity for Dave Sifry and company to leverage what they know about blog dynamics to head off a potential big stink. Remember the “Founding Fathers” flap from the Always On/Technorati Open Media 100 announcement?…

Technorati will inevitably — to the degree that it is successful — influence the behavior of those who would like to benefit from the power thet comes from a high Technorati ranking, just like the lengths that people will go to in order to get a high Google ranking. As a result, Technorati will need to have very scrupulous business practices in its dealings with those to whom it sells its services.

This is likely to flare up into a big imbloglio, with many perspectives swirling around, and a lot of hand waving and finger pointing. But I think it is a tempest in a teapot. The implicit social connections that blog linking imply are public: they are there for anyone to see, and the individuals involved actively create those links with that in mind. This is not some sort of surreptitious surveillance, like video cameras on street lights, or someone tapping our phone calls. And more importantly, as Doc suggests, the world is a better place if big corporations begin to take advantage of this information to figure out what people think is important, whose thoughts and observations matter, and how to better understand what is going on in the world. What is the alternative? We — the Blogosphere — are going to a lot of trouble to read and link to one others’ writing out here; do we want the rest of the world to ignore it? We are trying hard to make sense of the world; it’s stupid to think we would be better off if the world doesn’t pay attention, and adapt to the feedback system we have become. The value of that feedback is enormous, and people should be free to make money from turning it into bite-sized chunks for companies that want to do better: build better products, provide better service, and innovate more quickly.

The Blogosphere is not some private club for those most actively engaged it in: its a global asset, a new means of understanding the world, and perhaps the best hope we have for making a better world.

Rex Hammock has a brief post.

Jason Dowdell writes,

I personally know Tom Foremski and would not have based my piece on his story if I didn’t know him as an actual journalist. Tom would not put up data if it weren’t true, no matter how exciting it might be. Regardless, Technorati has issues it needs to deal with or it’s going to face continued scrutiny on it’s performance issues and lack of completeness. David Sifry and team have made a ton of progress in recent months regarding the user interface and features and have squashed a ton of bugs on the way… but if the performance doesn’t get fixed then it’s going to be a major issue.

He says a lot more. Worth reading.

Steve Gillmor goes up a level:

Certainly the tone has shifted in the blogosphere. Finding and maintaining friendships will be sorely tested in the coming weeks and months. Great care must be taken to avoid misunderstandings, and sometimes, understanding all too well. It’s a time for leadership, not brinkmanship.

It’s always nice when we can fly under the radar, avoidng the messy details of who gets the money and how. I’ve been doing this with attention, building coalitions, evangelizing the obvious, wheeling and dealing. Recently I’ve stopped all that, partly because others have picked up the banner and mostly because I’m sick and tired of it. I’ve tried to explain why I’m no evangelist, only to come off sounding like I’m evangelizing the idea.

And Alan8373 says Conversation are Markets.

Eye on the ‘sphere

National Journal has launched Blogometer, “a daily report from The Hotline taking the temperature of the political blogosphere.”

The war on war

Britt Blaser…we Americans admire the terrorism problem too much as mass entertainment…

A small part of a big piece. Read the whole thing.

Department of Connections

It’s interesting to see the ripple effect of The selling of the Blogosphere—Technorati’s big push into monetizing its treasure trove of data collected about millions of blogs, by Tom Foremski at SiliconValleyWatcher. The item is still the top story on his site. There it’s titled “The Selling of the Blogosphere.” The subtext:

How Technorati hopes to market its treasure trove of data it collects on millions of blogs to corporations, exposing the relaxed intimacy of online conversations. It’s all part of a growing ecosystem of companies hoping to profit handsomely from the work of bloggers [Read].

Right now, according to Technorati, the item has been blogged about sixteen times. The top response (in reverse chronological order, from the search), posted twenty minutes ago by DeepLinking, says,

I gotta know how much Technorati is charging for the blog-clipping service SiliconValleyWatcher is talking about [via Jason Calacanis]. However, SVW’s shocked tone about the whole thing is silly and naive. If you’re not aware that the corporate world is freaked out about blogs and very much interested in understanding their impact, you need to hang out in the corporate world a little more.

Jason Calcanis is concerned about “repurposed content,” then adds,

I highly doubt that this service — if it even exists — would repurpose blog content. Technorati has been very good about taking only a snip of people¹s content. I don¹t see Dave taking liberties with people¹s content… Dave’s a good man.

A number of bloggers, including Mike SandersDave WinerJeremy Zawodnyand Disruptive Media Technologies, quoted this line from Tom Foremski’s piece:

What surprised me was how aggressively Mr Hirshberg was pitching Technorati’s expensive blog tracking services to this audience of agency and corporate communications professionals. Mr Whitmore barely mentioned his company, and I didn’t pitch anything, maybe I should have 🙂

Of those four, only Mike had something positive to say:

Of course legally and ethically there is nothing wrong with a company using public information to make millions. And I am pretty sure that Technorati advisors and Cluetrain authors Doc Searls and David Weinberger have thought about how this benefits the little guy, furthers the emergence of voice, and is additional proof that markets are conversations.

Jeremy Wright quoted the same section, and more, adding,

Not only is Technorati lagging behind in blog tracking, which is sad enough, but they¹re trying to sell their blog tracking services to corporations!

According to SiliconValley Watcher, they even made arses of themselves at a recent panel by “pitching” during the panel (a huge no-no)

Technorati tells me Jeremy posted that item 9 hours ago. Let’s see, it’s 10:45pm Pacific Time. Jeremy’s blog says he posted it at 4:45pm. Not sure what time zone he’s in. Still, I gotta say, what lag?

This piece was kinda snarky too.

Going down through the list here…

Naill Kennedy (who works for Technorati) was next.

Then comes Geek News Central, wondering out loud about how the service works.

Marc Canter writes,

$$$$$$Billions and billions$$$$$$ of dollars are spent every year on bullshit. On pure crap that is shoveled down our throats, trying to make us believe what they want us to buy.

But what happens when one, two, five ad agencies figure out how to REALLY track what people are thinking about?

What happens when some brand finds a way to put a warm and fuzzy spot in our hearts? Almost as if my magic.

All this is happening because someone named Peter Hirshberg decided to move back to SF. Peter is one of those Silicon Valley guys who’s watched our industry become one of the leading industry’s throughout the world today. All culture, commerce and emotions lead through our industry.

What is known as entertainment, marketing, influence and psychology is driven by technology today. Everything that we know – is ‘swatched’ in the veneer of technology. We wouldn’t be sitting here today, reading this post – if it wasn’t for technology. Almost nothing ‘happens’ without technology. That’s how big we are.

And at the forefront of technology is blogging and social software.

It’s about us, people, and once we get our hands on the wheel of our own destiny – look out world!

Our own realization of what our own power is – is what it’s all about.

Mitch Ratcliffe says,

Along with MarcDave and others, I’m increasingly confused by the messages coming out of Technorati. They are grasping in so many directions — as a consumer service and species of publisher with Technorati.com, as an enabling technology provider with tags and attention.xml, as a business intelligence service. Dave Sifry is a great entrepreneur, but it is impossible to do everything well.

He adds,

The concern raised by SiliconValleyWatcher, that Technorati is monetizing bloggers’ creativity without sharing the wealth is misplaced, I think. Technorati has avoided pirating bloggers’ work by making it important to clickthrough to read full postings. It makes it easier to find the source data of the conversation. Were it to start taking full feeds of data and republishing them for corporate customers, it would be violating the rights of authors who have non-commercial share-and-share-alike Creative Commons licenses, but the folks at Technorati are too smart to make that mistake.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to realize that the “algorithms” of participation and influence — the market metrics for the conversational market — can’t be delivered by an enabler of the conversation that simultaneously shapes the conversation with a proprietary tagging scheme.

Mitch, whose company is Persuadio, goes on,

Persuadio analysis consistently finds that Technorati tags are changing the flow of data, meaning that any attempt to measure Technorati’s influence has to be conducted by a third party in order to be fair and unbiased.

Technorati, at least according to my old friend Peter Hirshberg’s comments, is talking like it is building Persuadio’s services, but they are not.

The list goes on.

Okay, a few questions.

First, How many witnesses reported on what Peter said on that panel? Answer: One. Another panelist, by the way. How many bloggers jumped to conclusions based on what one guy said?

Next: Are marketers clueless or cluefull about blogging?

If the answer is “clueless,” then don’t we want them to get the clues? Especially if all the raw data is nothing more than what’s been published on the free and open Web, and what’s sold is data about data rather than “repurposed content”?

Next: Do we think they can get all the clues they need from search engines and feeds of blogs and searches about blogs and other stuff that’s already out there?

If the answer is no, then what is wrong with selling those clues to people willing to pay for them?

Some perspective.

Technorati was born as a cool hack David Sifry came up with while he and I were writing this piece for Linux Journal. Later, after Dave made Technorati a company, I became a member of its advisory board.

David and I are friends. Peter is a friend too. I’m one of the advisors who urged David to hire Peter, who’s a brilliant and funny guy.

I’ve watched David and his crew work 24/7/365 scaling a search service that finds everything on the live and syndicated Web — that’s hugely complementary to the engines that search the static Web. They’ve rebuilt their infrastructure more times than I can remember. The whole thing has creaked and fallen a number of times, and kept going, kept improving.

They haven’t always followed my advice (not by a long shot), but they’ve always listened to what bloggers are saying.

Such as now, when I’m on the phone with David and Peter, going over each of these posts, seeing what can be learned from the company’s first experience talking about one of the ways it hopes to serve customers and make their business work for everybody.

Will they make mistakes? Sure. Who won’t?

And really: Was a mistake even made here? How can we be sure?

Will they learn from the public conversation that their own service is exposing to them? From what I’m hearing (and saying) on the phone, I’d say the answer is yes.

Hey, we’re all in new territory here. The big challenge isn’t to bust each other for mistakes. Or to play the Gotcha Game, which is one of the oldest and shittiest traditions in mass market journalism. It’s to help.

From the beginning, that’s what Technorati has been trying to do.

Right now, the helping is going back the other way. Which is a good thing.

[A few minutes later…] I just checked, and this post is already showing up in a Technorati search for “Peter Hirshberg”.


Chris Nolan on Blogher (the not-really all-woman blogging conference):

This gives me a wonderful chance to state the obvious about this conference: IT IS NOT FOR WOMEN ONLY. Not only are men welcome — a statement that it seems absurd to have to make – but some are planning to attend.

She adds,

This gives me the chance to make another observation: If you are a man who like code and software and things that plug in, and is perhaps having trouble finding a girl who likes Java (and knows it’s not just a coffee) and undersands your inner Geek, this might be the PERFECT place for you to spend a summer afternoon.

The ratio at most tech conferences is hugely biased toward men. That will assuredly not be the case here.

The bull’s eye of her entreaties is Kevin Drum (read Chris’s links for the whole story); but all men (and women) are invited.

Blogher is Saturday, July 30, in Santa Clara, CA: the heart of Silicon Valley. Follow that last link for more info and to register.

I’d love to be there, but I have other commitments. Still, I recommend it highly.

Back to the present.

Nice to see that many of the people I volleyed with there are still around. And that some things persist. (For example, Blogher.) But it’s also sad to see how much is gone. Especially Technorati, which drew a huge amount of discussion then. It still exists as a company, but it ain’t what it was. But it’s good that it mattered.

1 comment

  1. Alan Ralph’s avatar

    As someone who recently took the momentous step of deleting their Facebook account, I’ve had the displeasure of seeing just how badly Facebook sucks as a repository for your words, photos, videos and other ephemera. The impetus for this was my sister, who got me onto Facebook back in 2007, leaving in late December last year, citing the fact that she no longer spoke much to her close friends, just followed their updates.

    When it came to reviewing my Facebook timeline for anything to keep for posterity, I was dismayed to see a lot of placeholder posts left behind by services such as Digg and StumbleUpon that I no longer use – evidently, when I abandoned those other accounts, their data was also scrubbed from my FB profile.

    Tumblr is a little bit better – it does support tagging, and you get a birds-eye view of all your posts in the Archive view – but I’ve seen first-hand what can happen when someone else’s Tumblr account gets hacked into and deleted.

    I’ve now set up a personal WordPress blog on my own web hosting space, and will use that as a primary repository for future writings, with cross-postings to other networks. Lesson learnt.

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