Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011

October 5th, 2011 No comments

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

I have mixed feelings about even trying to write something today. Andy Ihnatko did it far better than I will. Ted Landau did it far better than I will. John Siracusa did it far better than I will.

I’m going to try anyway.

I cried today. I’m crying now. I’m crying over the death of a ‘celebrity’ I’ve never met. I’ve only done that once before when John Lennon died. I’ll do it, I think, only once more when Harlan Ellison passes which, I hope it won’t be for a long, long time.

I’m crying because somebody who mattered is gone. Somebody whose work has profoundly changed my life is gone. Somebody whose values helped shape my own is gone. I’m crying because the world is a lesser place without him.

I had at least two opportunities to meet Steve Jobs and to the visible relief of my friends at Apple who offered to introduce me, I declined both times. My joking retort “I think that would be career limiting for me.”

In truth, it’d probably have gone fine. I’d have just said “Thank you” or some such and it would have been over in a blink. My point in declining wasn’t fear of meeting a celebrity. I’ve met lots. My point in declining wasn’t a real fear it could damage my business relationship with Apple. I’ve had amazing good luck on that front. My point in declining was not to abuse the largesse of my friends making the offer. *They* had more important things to ask of Steve than taking a moment to help them play ‘good host’ for me.

I’m not crying right now out of some childish hero worship. I’m crying because the world, my friends at Apple, and I  have lost a man who made a difference because of his talent, dedication and courage. I’m crying because there are too few like him.

He enabled, he set an example, he demanded, occasionally with well documented combativeness and he mattered. For all this, I admire and will miss him.

Too few people care. We’re all flawed. Be strong. Keep your passion and don’t let people ‘nice’ you to death. Be courageous. Do what you know is right and remember small things matter.

(A note about the graphic. It’s stolen from Apple’s home page. Nothing I could have done would be as elegant and, if they object to my use of it, it’s gone in a heartbeat and with no complaint from me.)

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TV Dinner

February 11th, 2011 No comments

As broadcast TV continues it’s slow death, and really, it’s basically over, content creators have allowed and even propped up more intermediaries. Intermediaries that mean consumers will pay for more and more services to get access to ‘big budget media’.

The content producers are allowing themselves to get squeezed into a constrained income by their intermediaries and consumers are allowing themselves to be roped into spending money for things they have already paid for once. (Paid for with spectrum allocation, advertising views or, in the case of public television, tax money and donations and corporate underwriting [it’s called underwriting not advertising].).

The changes in the media economy have hurt content producers and consumers and propped up cable companies and ‘internet cable companies’ like Apple iTunes and Netflix (and Hulu <smirk>).

The ‘video rental store model’ and, perhaps sooner than we’d like the physical media model (DVD/BluRay) are eaten by Netflix too.  For now, Netflix is a benefit to consumer cost, convenience and variety but as Netflix gets more control, that will change unless the Cable Companies fight back more effectively.

What’s ironic and interesting is that now, many people would actually be better off with no cable and with Netflix andrabbit ear antenna for ‘loca’l tv.  For now, bundling  internet access with cable services props up the cable companies. Cable company efforts to undermine net neutrality are their cowardice about the ‘the new world order’ threatening their business model. They’ll use a stick (traffic shaping) rather than risk inventing a carrot (viable alternatives to Netflix/TiVo etc).

The take-away, to me, continues to be:

– Content creators need to work hard to disintermediate the Cable Co.’s, Netflix and Apple or they’re doomed, especially independent content creators.

– Consumers need to be vigilant about how much they pay for services that take away their control (DRM, availability windows, bad law, (ACTA) etc.) in exchange for convenience. Consumer’s risks will include an ever-shrinking variety of editorial voices and an ever-growing portion of their disposable income spent on media as intermediaries take control. Control that is propped up by law and inertia.

Fear on the part of big media has allowed intermediaries to make things ‘safe’ for them in the short term and fatal in the long term for most (not all). Netflix and Apple brilliantly allowed content creators to think they were preserving old business models and surviving in the ‘new world order’. In fact, what was happening was intermediaries were taking new control over producers’ fate and access to their audiences.

What producers who actually care about quality (to the extent they still do) should be doing is resisting the obvious ‘business think’. Old busines-think has producers ‘adapting’ to the new realities in MBA-safe ways instead of radically mutating in anticipation of the new environment.

Sports and news are two spaces where the power balance is, to a point, still weighted toward the content owners. The news business is under obvious threat from the audience’s inability to know journalism from propaganda, commentary, guesswork or gossip or what was fashionably once gathered under the moniker ‘citizen journalism’. The sports business is trickier. I can’t really comment intelligently on how that’s shaking out because I’m not a consumer or even interested observer of sports content beyond Formula 1 racing. (And even that interest is waning as the sport is diluted by rule changes.)

Food for thought: “Is the current broadcast tv busines-model such that it will become necessary for broadcast tv to come down *against* network neutrality in order to survive since they’d get no traction legislatively imposing ‘must carry’ on Apple and Netflix?”

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Privacy, not yours, other people’s….

January 30th, 2011 No comments
Screenshot of Facebook's Friend Finder Feature

Sure, give Facebook your email password, good plan!

This call to action periodically appears on Facebook as an inducement to provide them information to help you locate people you know on Facebook. It’s wrong, deeply wrong in so many ways. You don’t even need to factor Facebook’s already very checkered history with security and privacy. You don’t even need to decide for yourself to be more cautious than you are. All you need do is take a moment to consider that others might be offended, or worse, by your actions.

Don’t do it. Ever.

It’s wrong because it encourages you to decide on behalf of others what their level of privacy concern should be and to compromise their privacy without their consent.

Think about what you risk doing to others by using this feature:

  • If you use your employer’s email you have almost certainly violated their internet usage policy by granting a third party access to your account. Unless you own the company yourself, your work email account doesn’t belong to you. Your work contacts list doesn’t belong to you. Unless you’re the I.T. top dog, you’re not allowed to decide who can access password protected company resources. If you do what Facebook suggests you do with your employer’s email account without explicit permission, you should be fired. Period.
  • If you use your own email address, you have decided that you are both qualified to decide and entrusted by everyone on your contact list to share their personal information with Facebook. Believe it or not, lots of people want nothing to do with Facebook. Now they’re part of Facebook’s data pool. If you upload their contact info, Facebook has that but they also now know those email addresses are connected to you and, to a degree, to each other. Connected to you and whatever you felt like sharing with your Facebook community. Perhaps your friends aren’t too keen on being associated in a database with somebody who’s into knitting? Perhaps they’d prefer to keep their membership in the Free Masons on the down-low?

Sure, this is an extreme case. The hubris on Facebook’s part in actually asking you for log-in credentials for an account is unusual and, I hope, obviously excessive. The problem is, many sites ask you to compromise others under the pretext of doing you, or them, a service. Decide only for yourself who to trust.

Unless you’ve established a prior agreement with your friends that it’s OK….

  • Don’t use ‘send to a friend’ buttons on a web site. Copy the URL and write an email. Let them decide for themselves.
  • Don’t use evites or other  similar services to plan events by giving the service the email addresses of your friends.
  • Don’t send them ‘gifts’, real or virtual, by giving a web site their email address.

If you can’t refrain from doing these things, don’t be surprised to discover who ‘un-friends you’.

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