The Pushbutton Web

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In a high-level tech-philosophic fashion, the ever-thoughtful Anil Dash writes about The Pushbutton Web, and the technology pieces, approaches and standards that must fit into place for “real time” to become actually “real time.”

Quote from Anil:

“Pushbutton is a name for what I believe will be an upgrade for the web, where any site or application can deliver realtime messages to a web-scale audience, using free and open technologies at low cost and without relying on any single company like Twitter or Facebook. The pieces of this platform have just come together to enable a whole set of new features and applications that would have been nearly impossible for an average web developer to build in the past.

I love Anil’s use of the word “pushbutton” as a metaphor for what is taking place. For me, it works so much better than “realtime” or, please no, Web 3.0. It not only implies speed, it also implies “ease” — the speed and ease we are moving towards whereby anyone can express themselves in any number of ways — and in a fashion that flows throughout the web, but within a context of community, conversation and collaboration.

The first time I ever heard the word “pushbutton” used in a way that relates to the web was when the web service Blogger.com (before Google bought it) used the word in describing their service as “pushbutton publishing.”

On June 11, 2003, I wrote this (#5) the following in a post called “reflections on blogging”:

“‘Push-button publishing’ is a great phrase from Jason Shellen of Blogger to describe the technical phenomenon that enables bloggin. I used to call the smallbusiness.com platform a content management system for user-generated content. I later marveled at the simplicity of weblog platforms like Manila. I am convinced (philosophically, not as an investor, however) that the marriage of simple push-button publishing tools and incredible search technology will be as significant as anything we’ve seen so far in the Internet. I think the marriage of those two streams of development will bring into reality what we were trying to do at smallbusiness.com.

I understand now why it is important that not just one company should control anything as vital as “the pushbutton web” — but I think I started on a journey of comprehending what exactly that means many years ago.

How to blog

Dave Winer and Danny Sullivan have, in the past 24 hours, both written very personal blog posts about their reactions to the Henry Louis Gates arrest controversy. Both posts are personal and provocative, and both remind me how much I enjoy reading blog posts written by people who started blogging before there were “how-to” books about how-to blog. Dave and Danny move with ease between highly-technical topics and highly-personal points-of-view with ease, fluidity and passion.*

Their divergent reactions to the arrest — both from their white male perspectives — underscore a personal belief of mine: that events like the Gates arrest serve as Rorschach tests to which we each see the same thing, but respond in very personal ways. Conversations, debates and discussions following these events are good things — what Dave and Danny have done. However, a lot of what I’ve seen in the past few days has been bad: efforts to politicize, generalize and sling insults related to the controversy.

I highly recommend reading Danny’s post, “When I was Handcuffed, It wasn’t a racial thing, it was a police thing” and Dave’s post, in which he explains why, “I don’t view the Gates matter through a racial lens, I view it through a Harvard lens.”

They are differing points of view, but both are examples of great blogging — no matter what your opinion about the Gates arrest might be.

(Personally, I tend to be more like what Dave explains — a “yes-sir” compliant type when encountering people with badges.)

*Danny has both a personal blog, Daggle.com and is editor-in-chief (and creator) of SearchEngineLand.com, where he uses a blog platform to practice professional journalism and commentary. Dave blogs at Scripting.com, or, I should say, Scripting.com is Dave Winer’s platform from which he communicates with various audiences in many different ways — but, like me, almost everything he writes is both personal and professional.

It’s official: The AP is absolutely nuts

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I’ve tried to avoid speaking out regarding reports about the Associated Press’ plans for the future. I’ve done so because AP executives and board members have a habit of saying lots of things that are later “corrected” after they stick their fingers in the air and discover the wind is blowing another direction. So I assume everything I hear that’s attributed to “someone at AP” is merely a trial balloon.

However, the article in the New York Times today about AP (or, if you prefer, “the” AP) “cracking down on unpaid use of articles on the web,” attributes the insanity it reports to the CEO of the AP — by name. As he was going on record with the New York Times, I have to assume that he means what he’s saying.

In other words, I feel fairly confident now that it’s okay for me to start calling a nut a nut.

Here’s a quote from the NYTimes.com story:

“Tom Curley, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it. In an interview, he specifically cited references that include a headline and a link to an article, a standard practice of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, news aggregators and blogs.”

In other words, what I just did — quote the New York Times and point to the article — would be considered a copyright violation by AP if the point was to an AP story. To quote and link to that story would require me to have a licensing agreement with AP. That policy, of course, is nuts.

And I’m not even saying it’s nuts from a legal “fair use” standpoint or nuts because AP reporters quote and link to bloggers all day everyday. And I won’t even explain why it’s nuts because of the traffic-driving dynamics and economics of advertising revenue that results when I point to an AP story on, say, my hometown newspaper’s website.

I’m just saying “it’s nuts.” And it’s nuts that Tom Curley doesn’t understand why it is nuts.

Here’s an example — a personal one — of why it is nuts:

Because my company, Hammock Inc, publishes a magazine and various online content that are read by hundreds-of-thousands of small business owners, I am a voracious scanner of news that might be of interest to that audience. A few times each day, I spend about five minutes scanning a hundred or so small business related headlines that are collected by Google Reader. My first review will be about six a.m. and my last will be about ten p.m. In other words, I’m typically on top of what people are writing about the topic of small business. (One of the reasons I don’t blog about that topic is that I am writing or talking about it so much elsewhere.)

Several years ago, I decided to use the service Delicious.com to bookmark and share with anyone interested the links to the best articles I ran across each day. Simply clicking and sharing links — or, “curating news” as the cool kids now call it — is something I’ve rarely blogged about here, but those 5,000 bookmarks I’ve added to Delicious.com/smallbusiness over the years are an incredible service I’ve provided by doing little more than 4-5 clicks per day. Frankly, I have absolutely no idea if anyone other than me ever looks at the actual page, Delicious.com/smallbusiness.

However, I do know this: Delicious.com/smallbusiness generates an RSS feed that hundreds of people subscribe to. And over the years, I’ve pointed that RSS feed in several directions (and I’ve granted a Creative Commons license for anyone else to use it, as well). For example, I’ve pointed that feed so those links can be used by 4,000+ people who follow a Twitter account I maintain at Twitter.com/smallbusiness or @smallbusiness to Twitter users.

That RSS feed also powers the SmallBusiness.com NewsWire page on SmallBusiness.com, where, on the front page, the RSS feed powers the recent headlines feature. There’s even a daily email of the headlines that people can get free, again powered by the RSS feed from that Delicious account. In other words, my simple act of adding to a Delicious account 4-5 bookmarks a day — articles I selected from hundreds of headlines I scan each day — is viewed by thousands of people, who in turn, forward or “re-tweet” links to, potentially, hundreds of others.

So here I am, by merely bookmarking links 4-5 times a day, generating hundreds of page views on news websites.

I used to point to Yahoo! AP stories on Yahoo!. Yahoo licenses AP content, so I figured that would be okay. However, when AP started talking about their in-the-works policy, I started moving away from linking to the AP version of news stories. Let me say: It’s easy to do. Rarely is there not another version of the kind of headline story I point to.

So, if AP wants to criminalize me for choosing to generate hundreds of page views for them each day, that’s fine. I’ll officially stop pointing any link in their direction.

But they’re nuts.

More: Jeff Jarvis says the Associated Press is becoming the “enemy of the internet” because the link is the basis of the internet.

Remembering Uncle Walter

unspecifiedI’m sure that people under a certain age aren’t understanding why those of us over that same certain age are making such a big deal over the death of Walter Cronkite.

Here’s one way to think of it: Imagine if the only way you could get real-time news was on a radio (but not NPR) or three TV stations that aired national news for 30 minutes a day. And let’s say one of those TV stations had a dominant market-share, so about half the country watched it. And let’s say that on that dominant TV network, there was only one “anchor man” — an anchor man who more-or-less developed the style we now think of as being an “anchor man.” And let’s say that all through the 60s and 70s, this man anchored the news every night about when your family was sitting down to supper (and imagine your whole family sitting down to supper at the same time). And let’s say no one turned off the TV during supper while this man was anchoring the news in the background. So, this guy, Walter Cronkite, was the person from whom you first heard the following news: the deaths of John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and John Lennon. Every major event in the Civil Rights movement. The entire war in Viet Nam, Kent State and Woodstock. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cold War. The 1968 Chicago Democratic Party Convention. Watergate. The Bicentennial (he loved those tall ships). The Iranian Hostage Crisis. And a journey to the moon that, for me, corresponded roughly from the time I was in the second grade until the summer before I went into the tenth grade.

And let’s imagine that everyone (except Archie Bunker) trusted and respected Walter Cronkite so much, he got the nickname Uncle Walter.

Imagine Walter Cronkite being your real-time Internet.

Then, you’ll get some idea of what Walter Cronkite was to people over a certain age.

A Sidenote: The amazingly prolific New York Times reporter Brian Stelter was born four years after Walter Cronkite retired as anchor of the CBS Evening News (at the mandatory age of 65). Yet last night on Twitter and on the NYTimes.com Media Coder Blog, Brian provided a remarkable demonstration of how a new media journalist works. Not only was he working his remarkable network of sources, he was also using Twitter to review and help improve his posts — something being called “crowd-sourcing” by those who feel the need to label such things. In the midst of his writing and reporting, he was also curating the news — including pointing to non-New York Times coverage and resources. I’m not sure how many people appreciate what all Brian was doing or how extensively he was tapping into the experience and network he’s gained since he started to blog about the TV industry as a freshman in college. But I have no doubt that if Walter Cronkite was 24 years old today, he’d be working hard to master the tools and approach Brian has.

Tennessee media apparently don’t believe Steve Jobs’ liver transplant is a story, much less a local story


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About 11 p.m., Friday, WSJ.com broke a story about
Steve Jobs having a liver transplant in Tennessee.
12 hours later, no Tennessee media outlet has
picked up the story or has sought to answer the obvious questions:

Where (what hospital)? and Why in Tennessee?

[Please note: I have updated this item with a follow-up post 24-hours later.]

I’m not in the “all old media is dead” camp, but I’ve been known to rant about the demise of daily newspapers.

Back in the day when I cared, I would read and watch and follow local news sources because they were the ears to the ground of what was happening in my city and region and neighborhood. “Local” was their franchise. And when I say “local,” I mean, even when the story was clearly a national story, there was always a race by hometown reporters to find “the local angle” on national and international news — so that we could relate to it better; more personally.

About 12 hours ago, the Wall Street Journal broke a major story that obviously has a local angle for my hometown or state. I assumed that by now, I would be seeing some local media coverage of the story. But I was wrong.

The story was that Apple CEO Steve Jobs underwent a liver transplant in Tennessee two months ago. I was first alerted of the news via Twitter by Worth Baker – @worthbak, a young Nashville friend of mine (since he was born) who is now a student at Middlebury.

The WSJ news item included the report that the transplant took place in Tennessee, but did not identify the specific town or hospital. I recalled that a Mac-o-sphere rumor had swirled around a few months ago about Jobs purchasing a house in Memphis, so I googled a few relevant links on that topic and posted them to Twitter. I also noted that only two hospitals in the state do adult liver transplates, Vanderbilt in Nashville and Methodist-University in Memphis. (And me being me — and it was rather late, I re-tweeted a typical Nashville vs. Memphis dis-joke my friend Worth had zinged. [Roughly: Which is worse, having a liver transplant or having to spend time in Memphis? — if you live somewhere and have a “rival” town, you get the cliché. In reality, Nashville and Memphis get along fine.])

Last night, the Twitter chatter exploded about the operation with, frankly, nothing new coming out, so I didn’t check back online about the story until this morning — thinking by now that at least there would be reports. As of 11 a.m., there was no local coverage (and just one of the websites linked to the wire headline) of the story in any of the following: Memphis Business Journal, Memphis Commerical Appeal, Nashville Tennessean, Nashville City Paper, Nashville City Post or Venturenashville. (If necessary, I’ll post the screengrabs I made at 11 a.m.).

Granted, the Tennessee location of the transplant its not a major part of the story in a macro sense. But to me it is.

If Jobs had the liver transplant operation in Nashville, it would have taken place within a few blocks of my office — I would think it’s local. If he had it in Memphis, the swirling questions of “why in Memphis?” and “why in Tennessee” would (and are) a local question.

The original Wall Street Journal piece included speculation that Tennessee has fewer transplant candidates on a waiting list. Is that true? If so, why?

This is a local story that someone needs to find and tell.

Isn’t that what newspapers and other local media used to do?

If not, why do they whine all the time about not getting paid?