Singing the Bite Me Song

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August 30, 2004

Leadership on Terror = Reading My Pet Goat for SEVEN MINUTES

The Republican National Convention is starting up with scads of GOP homages to 9/11, as if the president's leadership in that terrible tragedy was anything to write home about.

Here's a bit of what Rudy Guiliane is going to say tonight: (source: NYTimes)

"Winston Churchill saw the dangers of Hitler when his opponents and much of the press characterized him as a warmongering gadfly," Mr. Giuliani plans to say, according to excerpts from his speech released last night. "George W. Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is, and he will remain consistent to the purpose of defeating it while working to make us ever safer at home."

Indeed, the Sept. 11 invocations began even before the convention opened, leaving little doubt of the prominent role the attack on New York will play at the first Republican convention ever held in this city. At a rally yesterday afternoon on Ellis Island, Vice President Dick Cheney recalled the president's visit to ground zero three days after the attack.

"They saw a man calm in crisis, comfortable with responsibility and determined to do everything to protect our people," he said.



And they are actually BRAGGING ON this abysmal performance as an example of outstanding leadership?

Sorry, but any president I vote for would put the needs of a nation under attack BEFORE the needs of a group of elementary kids learning to read about goats.


August 30, 2004 at 03:20 PM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 19, 2004

When Blobjects Rule the Earth: It's a dessert topping AND a floor wax!

OK, so this is a REALLY cool speech. Thanks to BoingBoing.

BoingBoing: Bruce Sterling SIGGRAPH 2004 speech "When Blobjects Rule the Earth"

Some wonderful pull quotes that need to be bopped up to the top too.

A Gizmo Society of End Users is always pressed up hard against the limits of the usable. That's why rendering time always takes almost too long, no matter how much RAM or ROM you've got.

Or to begin closer to the beginning:

Listen to this: ProE, FormZ, Catia, Rhino, Solidworks. Wifi, bluetooth, WiMax. Radio frequency ID chips. Global and local positioning systems. Digital inventory systems. Cradle-to-cradle production methods. Design for disassembly. Social software, customer relations management. Open source manufacturing.

These jigsaw pieces are snapping together. They create a picture, the picture of a new and different kind of physicality. It's a new relationship between humans and objects.


So what's a Blobject? And why might they rule the Earth?

Since I write about design quite a lot, sometimes people think I made up that word, "blobject". If you Google it, my name pops right up, but I didn't coin the term. A famous industrial designer named Karim Rashid made it up, and he wrote about it in a book aptly called "I Want to Change the World." A good book, very educational, you should buy it and read it. I did. Karim's not kidding.

A Blobject is commonly defined as "an object with a curvilinear, flowing design, such as the Apple iMac computer and the Volkswagen Beetle." But computers and cars are just end products, they're not the process. The truth about a blobject is that is a physical object that has suffered a remake through computer graphics. It was designed on a screen with a graphics program. A blobject is what a standard 20th century industrial product, a consumer item, looks like after your crowd has beaten it into shape with a mouse.


But they haven't started ruling the Earth yet. Because they're still too primitive. They're not sustainable, so they're merely optimizing the previous system. They are a varnish on barbarism.

So now you know what a blobject is, if you didn't already. Now I'm going to lean way back at the podium, and really wave my big visionary futurist hands here, and invoke the full grandeur of my vision: Blobjects, Ruling the Earth. Not just littering it: ruling it. This is an imperial paradigm, a grandiose myth, a historical thesis, a weltanschauung and a grand schemata.


A Gizmo, unlike a Machine or a Product, is not efficient. A Gizmo has bizarre, baroque, and even crazy amounts of functionality. This Treo that I'm carrying here, this is a classic Gizmo: It's a cellphone, a web browser, an SMS platform, an MMS platform, a really bad camera, and an abysmal typewriter, plus a notepad, a sketchpad, a calendar, a diary, a clock, a music player, and an education system with its own onboard tutorial that nobody ever reads. Plus I can plug extra, even more complicated stuff into it, if I take a notion. It's not a Machine or a Product, because it's not a stand-alone device. It is a platform, a playground for other developers. It's a dessert topping, and it's a floor wax.

Here's another good quote:

The next stage is an object that does not exist yet. It needs a noun, so that we can think about it. We can call it a "Spime," which is a neologism for an imaginary object that is still speculative. A Spime also has a kind of person who makes it and uses it, and that kind of person is somebody called a "Wrangler." At the moment, you are end-using Gizmos. My thesis here, my prophesy to you, is that, pretty soon, you will be wrangling Spimes.

The most important thing to know about Spimes is that they are precisely located in space and time. They have histories. They are recorded, tracked, inventoried, and always associated with a story.

Spimes have identities, they are protagonists of a documented process.

They are searchable, like Google. You can think of Spimes as being auto-Googling objects.

And this:

When you shop for Amazon, you're already adding value to everything you look at on an Amazon screen. You don't get paid for it, but your shopping is unpaid work for them. Imagine this blown to huge proportions and attached to all your physical possessions. Whenever you use a spime, you're rubbing up against everybody else who has that same kind of spime. A spime is a users group first, and a physical object second.


The upshot is that the object's nature has become transparent. It is an opened object.

In a world with this kind of object, you care little about the object per se; that physical object is just a material billboard for tomorrow's vast, digital, interactive, postindustrial support system. This is where people like you, your evolved successors, rule the earth. This is a world where the Web has ceased to be a varnish on barbarism, and where the world is now varnish all the way down.

By making the whole business transparent, a host of social ills and dazzling possibilities are exposed to the public gaze. Everyone who owns a spime becomes, not a mute purchaser, but a stakeholder. And the closer you get to it, the more attention it sucks from you. You don't just use it, any more than I can pick up this Treo and just make a simple phone call. This device wants to haul me into the operating system; I'm supposed to tell all my friends about it. We're all supposed to become its darlings and its cultists, we're all supposed to help out. Sometimes we do that willingly, sometimes we just fight for breath. We're not customers. We're not consumers. And with spimes, we're not even end-users. We spend our time wrangling with the real problems and opportunities of material culture. We're wranglers.


Are there dark sides to this vision? Oh yes indeed. Genuine menaces. You can see them right now in a website like, a site I recommend highly. Spiming is an ideal technology for concentration camps, authoritarian regimes, and prisons.


Spimes will change everything, because everything needs to change. Things need to change quickly and radically, because the industrial system we have today cannot persist. It cannot find enough energy and raw materials. Instead of moving forward, our civilization is surrounding the oil wells with fixed bayonets and settling into a smog-shrouded Dark Age.

The shape of things today is condemning our world to steadily increasing poverty, degradation, and turmoil. Four planets couldn't supply the material and energy to let the world live the so-called advanced world lives now.

We're pretty advanced, but we're nowhere near advanced enough.

This may sound a bit alarmist and theoretical, so let me phrase it to you in a way that holds your own feet to the fire. Steve Jobs is a pioneer of personal computing and the head of Pixar. Apple is the biggest vendor here. It's hard to get any more SIGGRAPH than Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs has neuroendocrinal pancreatic cancer. That's because, like everybody else in the world, like you and like me, Steve Jobs is carrying a load of carcinogens in his flesh. Silicon Valley, as an industrial clean-up site, is rather well known for its mutagens.

The disturbing substances that are in the body of this captain of your industry, they should not be in there. They are wasted resources, they are systemic inefficiencies, they are externalities. We need ways to keep these substances organized and contained, and, eventually, designed out of the production system entirely. Steve is sick for physical reasons, for metabolic reasons. We may not know the exact chains of cause and effect, but there is one; he's not sick because some dark angel blew on his dice wrong. He has effluent, byproducts of industry, inside his body.


It's possible to live in a cleaner way. We live in debris and detritus because of our ignorance. That ignorance is no longer technically necessary. Those who know, know. Instead, our problem is becoming obscurantism, which is a deliberate hiding of the facts by vested interests who know they are injuring us. Such acts of evil must be combated. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

August 19, 2004 at 11:49 AM in Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 09, 2004

Still on that Fark/Ads theme...

Clay Shirky has a great entry on the whole business on Many to Many today, and I just wanted to quote some pithy bits from it, including a just precious reply on the issue (could you imagine the New York Times, or even Salon issuing such a statement?!).


Many-to-Many: Ads and social media

Ads and social media

Jason Calacanis discovers that Fark has been selling story placement on their front page and calls them on it, getting a priceless quote from Fark management in the process:

I don’t think that either Drew or I are willing to engage in a discussion regarding the business ethics of our decision.

However, if you look at any news source, they are influenced by PR agencies, wine & dine’s and similar events. Take a look at the Graydon Carter as example #1. I challenge you to find a pure editorial voice in news today.

I assume what the Fark rep means is “Everyone who takes money to publish sells their independence”, itself an arguable assertion, but even if that were true, you’d think anyone publishing on the Web would have noticed the arrival of, oh, 4 or 5 million non-commercial sites in the last few years, no?

Worse, they talk a good game about the inevitability of money-for-links, but they sure never bothered to let their readers in on it.

On a related note (cluelessness among people trying to manipulate social media being our grand theme here), I got mail from someone asking if I would be interested in talking to company X, who makes a revolutionary firewall and dessert topping? Normally I delete stupid PR mail like that the minute I see it, but I’d gotten mail from this source a couple of times recently, so I hit reply to ask to be taken off his list, and his email address was

I really couldn’t believe it — here was a PR person writing to ask me to do a story on his company (which I have never done in ten years of writing about the net), and his email address announced that his compensation was directly tied to the number of clips he could get run on behalf of his client. The unstable stance of asking a favor while broadcasting contempt left me a little disoriented.


August 9, 2004 at 04:03 PM in Media & Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 08, 2004

Fark Sells Out. France Surrenders

Wired News: Fark Sells Out. France Surrenders, one of the most popular blogs on the Net, has been accused of selling out -- joining a growing list of new-media outfits willing to bend old-media rules.

According to a veteran new-media publisher, Fark has been selling preferential placement of story links without informing its readers.

Jason Calacanis, publisher of several rival Weblogs Inc. blogs, claims Fark offered him highly placed links to his sites in return for several hundred dollars.

"I was shocked because I had come to trust the brand, and the person behind it," Calacanis said. "Anything that is an advertisement should be labeled as an advertisement. This is not rocket science."

Calacanis said he didn't know how many links on Fark are paid for, or how long Fark has been selling them. But he said a Fark salesman told him the site does it "all the time."

"We don't hold ourselves to the same standards as (The New York Times), and I would urge you not to either," the salesman, Gogi Gupta, wrote in an e-mail to Calacanis.

But Fark's publisher, Drew Curtis, told Wired News that Calacanis' experience was an isolated incident and that Gupta had been fired.

"One of our external sales reps was a little overenthusiastic, as salespeople sometimes (are)," Curtis said. "He is no longer representing us."

Fark publishes a daily list of links to a wide variety of stories across the Net, attracting a huge audience of loyal readers. It is one of the most popular and influential blogs on the Net.

And while the site runs conventional banner ads, many readers assume that Curtis, or his editors, choose story links based on merit, not payment.


While Curtis downplays the significance of Calacanis' accusation, there is a growing trend in publishing, online and off, in which the walls between advertising and editorial are breaking down.

Last year, Ford paid British novelist Carole Matthews to feature the Ford Fiesta prominently in her next two novels. And recently began including paid-for keyword links in news and feature stories.

Forbes uses the IntelliTxt service from San Francisco-based Vibrant Media, which pops up advertising when readers roll the mouse cursor over paid-for keywords. is the most prominent of dozens of sites that use IntelliTxt. But while IntelliTxt is gaining customers, its method of combining ads directly with editorial content is seen by some as contravening the long-held belief that ads and editorial should be separated.

Forbes denies the system is unethical.

"We're experimenting with this concept to gain more knowledge as to what works and what doesn't work on the Web," said Jim Spanfeller,'s president and CEO. "We don't think this does mix advertising with editorial, and our theory is our readers won't think that way, either. However, we will walk away from this if feedback indicates that we're wrong."

"What Forbes is doing is tacky," said Nick Denton, the publisher of Gawker Media. "It's surprising to me, because there seems to be plenty of advertising revenue to go around at the moment."


Technology pundit Clay Shirky said it is unrealistic to imagine an Internet with "no payola."

"As the search engines demonstrated a few years back, a site that has earned the trust of its users but falls into the hands of a shortsighted CEO will always be willing to sell that trust like a resource, without telling the users," Shirky said.

Shirky said sites like Fark, which have a large community element, have to be extra careful when it comes to protecting their reputations. By selling paid links, sites risk squandering their members' trust.

August 8, 2004 at 07:13 PM in Media & Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack