Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Linkorama for 15.07.08 - extended reading special

1. If you haven't already discovered hipster paradise This Recording, well, you should. It takes a wee while to get used to the self-involved and discursive style, as befits cool dudes in Brooklyn, but it's well worth sticking round for. As an example, this post about marriage vows which segues into a rumination about Mad Men. It shouldn't work, but it does. Oh, there are plenty of MP3s up there too.

2. Reading Jonathan Zittrain's The Future of the Internet in preparation for the upcoming Innovation Reading Circle, and the section on Wikipedia threw up these gems:

a) Wikipedia Barnstars - aren't they sweet? Has anyone out there got one yet?

b) 'laws of the internet' - as in Godwin's, Nielsen's, Moore's etc. A new one to me was Postel's ('Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.'). There's a whole host of laws, internet and otherwise, named after their 'framers', here and here.

3. Jason Calacanis, a prominent internet entrepreneur and blogger, announced last week that he would no longer be blogging, but instead sending an email round robin. TechCrunch doubted how likely it would be that his musings would remain solely within his email list. But his analysis of why it's time for him to stop blogging is acute, as it summarises some of the problems with the channel:

From: “Jason Calacanis”
> Date: July 13, 2008 11:16:15 AM PDT
> To:
> Subject: [Jason] The fallout (from the load out)
> Brentwood, California
> Sunday, July 12th 11:10AM PST.
> Word Count: 1,588
> Jason’s List Subscriber Count: 1,095
> List:
> Team Jason,
> Wow, it’s been an amazing 24 hours since I officially announced my
> retirement from blogging ( ). As
> you’ve probably seen there has been some of coverage of my retirement,
> most of it wondering if I’m joking or not (links at the bottom). To
> those who know me better than a couple of Valleywag headlines, am I
> ever not joking??!? I mean, Clark Kent asked a question in the faux
> Q&A session, I posted a photo of Michael Jordan’s retirement, and I
> spoke about spending more time with my family (as in my wife and two
> bulldogs).
> Clearly I was joking in the post, but I’m dead serious about the
> retirement from blogging.

> Most folks have no tolerance for ambiguity, and when faced with it are
> extremely uncomfortable. This lack of comfort makes them think, and my
> goal with the blog was always to challenge people’s thinking–most of
> all my own. Confusion is attention of the best kind–I long to be
> confused. I’ve become addicted to playing poker because your
> constantly faced with confusion, and winning is trying to make sense
> out of nonsense.
> Is blogging dead?
> ————————-
> Yes, it is. Officially. :-)
> Actually, I’ve been thinking about this question and while blogging is
> clearly booming, there has been a deep qualitative change in the
> nature of the ’sphere. There are so many folks involved in blogging to
> today, and it’s moving at a much quicker pace thanks to “social
> accelerants” like TechMeme, digg, Friendfeed and Twitter. Folks are so
> desperate to be heard–and we all want to be heard that’s why we
> blog–that the effort put into being heard has eclipsed the actual
> hearing.
> Bloggers spend more time digging, tweeting, and SEOing their posts
> than they do on the posts themselves. In the early days of blogging
> Peter Rojas, who was my blog professor, told me what was required to
> win at blogging: “show up every day.” In 2003 and 2004 that was the
> case. Today? What’s required is a team of social marketers to get your
> message out there, and a second one to manage the fall-out from
> whatever you’ve said.
> Think: Nick Denton has reworked the bloggers pay at Gawker Media to
> reflect not the quality of the words but the number of page views
> those blog posts get. He doesn’t pay by word count, he pays by page
> views. He’s closed the loop between editorial and advertising, turning
> the Chinese wall into a block party. It’s the publishing promised land
> while simultaneously being the death of publishing. Gawker is growing
> page views while simultaneously destroying it’s brand equity. This
> will either result in an implosion, or the perfect id-driven magazine
> where our core desires are synchronized in relation to their
> marketability. It will be fun to watch, but I wouldn’t want to be one
> of those bloggers in the cage, running on the Denton’s wheel.
> Excelling in blogging today is about link-baiting, the act of writing
> something inflammatory in order to get a link. Many folks say I’m
> responsible for link-baiting–these people are absolute idiots. I’ve
> never tried to get any of these insecure, lonely freaks to link to
> something I’ve said. :-)
> Truth be told, I’ve always written the way I talk–honestly and
> without a filter. John Brockman explained to me at one time that some
> of the most interesting folks he’s met have, over time, become less
> vocal. He explained, that there was a inverse correlation between your
> success and your ability to tell the truth. When I met John I was
> nobody and I promised myself I would never, ever censor myself if I
> become successful. My friend, and one of the few folks I’d consider a
> mentor, Mark Cuban laid a path for me to follow in this regard. I wish
> I could say I’ve succeeded, the best I can say is I’ve tried.
> My good friend Xeni Jardin, who I had the pleasure of working/playing
> with for a couple of years in another life, faced massive assault from
> the audience she herself built at These folks were not
> attacking her because of what she did (she deleted some old posts for
> personal reasons), they were attacking her because they could. They
> were attacking her because open-media (i.e. blogging) has turned into
> an excuse for bad behavior. It’s outrageous to think that an audience
> would turn on the author they love and built up for years over
> something so trivial as deleting some posts.
> Then again, they booed Dylan when he went electric in Newport and all
> along his tour of Europe. They called him Judas, but he didn’t believe
> them. I hope Xeni doesn’t believe them–they’re liars.
> Why email?
> ——————–
> In a word, intimacy. This message will go from my inbox to your inbox,
> perhaps from my Blackberry to your iPhone. From my sleepy garden
> office in Brentwood to your laptop perched on a desk in some high-rise
> hotel in Shanghai or your crummy little studio on the LES. I’m
> stopping my day to write it, and you’ll stop your day to read
> it–perhaps. Maybe you’ll save this, or forward it to some friends
> with certain sections in bold. There is zero tolerance for waste in
> personal communication, so if you don’t find value in this email
> you’ll delete it and maybe remove yourself from the list. You would do
> the same if someone started boring you at a cocktail party, no? Find a
> graceful way to get the hell out of there, and in email it’s one
> click.
> This platform puts a level playing field between us that is so
> different than me posting to my blog which gets swept up in the Google
> and Yahoo machine, sending thousands of visitors who haven’t made the
> email commitment.
> Also, there is an immediacy to this. At any point you can hit the
> reply key (or forward) and send your thoughts directly to me at
> This is much different than you posting to my
> comments section and subjecting yourself to the trolls and haters who
> have taken up residency there.
> Why should we all build our homes and give residence to the trolls
> under them? Comments on blogs inevitably implode, and we all accept it
> under the belief that “open is better!” Open is not better. Running a
> blog is like letting a virtuoso play for 90 minutes are Carnegie Hall,
> and then seconds after their performance you run to the back Alley and
> grab the most inebriated homeless person drag them on stage and ask
> them what they think of the performance they overheard in the Alley.
> They then take a piss on the stage and say “F-you” to the people who
> just had a wonderful experience for 90 or 92 minutes. That’s openness
> for you… my how far we’ve come! We’ve put the wisdom of the deranged
> on the same level as the wisdom of the wise.
> You and I now have a direct relationship, and I’m cutting the mailing
> list off today so it stays at ~1,000 folks. I’ll add selectively to
> the list, but for now I’m more interested in a deep relationship with
> the few of you have chosen to make a commitment with me. Perhaps some
> of you will become deep, considered colleagues and friends–something
> that doesn’t happen for me in the blogosphere any more.
> Much of my inspiration for doing this comes from what I’ve seen with
> John Brockman’s email newsletter. When it enters my inbox I’m
> inspired and focused. I print it, and I don’t print anything. The
> people that surround him are epic, and that’s my inspiration–to be
> surrounded by exceptional people.
> The Feedback
> ———————-
> Ted Leonsis, another mentor to me over the years, thinks I’m pulling a
> Brett Favre. Perhaps. Background: Ted is responsible for Weblogs, Inc.
> being bought by AOL, and he spoke at the *first* event I ever did
> called “Meet the Alley” in 1997. The event took place at
> and the air conditioner broke. It was August, and it was 100 degrees.
> Ted went on and gave an amazing talk. When Ted spoke about content on
> the Internet back in 94-96 time frame I was 23 years old and I knew
> what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to be Ted. Weblogs, Inc.
> was version of his AOL Greenhouse, and Mahalo is a souped up version
> of AOL.
> Sarah Lacy says blogging is at a cross-roads and she gets where I’m
> coming from. I’ve known Sarah for a couple of years now, and she’s
> become a personality on the Web 2.0 circuit thanks to her book “Once
> You’re Lucky, Twice Your Good,” a book in which I get very few
> mentions (not that I’m counting them.. 384, really? :-). She too has
> felt the harsh mob mentality, also known as “the wisdom of the
> crowds.” For the record, crowds are really frackin’ stupid and to put
> your stock in crowds is about as bright as putting your faith in a
> dictator–they’ll love you for as long as they feel like it, then
> they’ll ripe you apart without mercy. Also, has anyone else noticed
> that women like Sarah and Xeni get treated 10x as harsh as men do in
> the blogosphere? Another reason to opt out.
> says: “It’s like he hit the nail on the head of
> everything that’s wrong with blogging today…at least for me.”
> A bunch of other folks have commented on the story, and you can see
> their reactions on TechMeme:
> Jim Kukal says it’s the death of the A-list:
> Scoble says it’s a farce:
> All the best,
> Jason
> ____________________________________________

4. On Sunday, Alex Ross of The New Yorker was cited - again - as one of the world's best critics. Which he is.

Having been recommended to read his 2001 feature on Radiohead, which I did on the bus last night, I think I can confidently proclaim it as the second best piece about any pop music I've ever read anywhere. (The first, Danny Baker's live review of Michael Jackson in NME circa 1992, is frustrating absent online.)

Count the ways Ross' piece is wonderful:

* the reminder that 'rock stars' don't have to be inarticulate. Of Colin Greenwood he writes:

Lavishly well-read, he can talk at length about almost any topic under the sun—Belgian fashion; the stories of John Cheever; the effect of different types of charcoal on barbecued meat—but he gets embarrassed by his erudition and cuts himself off by saying, "I'm rambling." He is not above wearing a T-shirt that says "Life's a beach and then you shag." You might peg him as a cultish young neo-Marxist professor, or as the editor of a hip quarterly. But he is a rock star, with several Web pages devoted to him.

* that they are more than a band, and closer to a 'composer-manque':

The five together form a single mind, with its own habits and tics—the Radiohead Composer. This personality can be glimpsed in the daily bustle of the group, but you can never meet it face to face, because it lives in the music. A lot of what has been written about Radiohead—there are six books, hundreds of magazine articles, and millions of words on the Internet—circles around an absent center.

* the reminder that being creative is difficult:

Yorke is the essential spark of the Radiohead phenomenon. Like all greatly gifted people, he is not always easy to be around. When a stranger approaches him, wanting unscheduled attention, he can be unsettlingly mute. He is, by his own admission, temperamental and chronically dissatisfied. But his fault-finding circles back to the music, which is why the other band members go along with it. When he is happy, it feels like history in the making.

* and the reminder that, still, ultimately, rock and roll is a physical act:

When someone asked him if he had got a sense of the crowd at South Park—it may have been the largest public gathering in the thousand-year history of Oxford—he rubbed his eyes and smiled. " 'Fraid not," he replied. "I was too busy looking at Phil's calves. That's where the beats are."

Oh, just do yourself a favour and read it. It's an incredible piece of writing.



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