Speaking to the Social Media Club France

social media club,france,le web

I spoke via Skype with Fabrice Epelboin (ReadWriteWeb France), Lucie Morillon (Reporters Without Borders) and a gentleman whose name I did not catch, on the state of online censorship and tyranny over the previous year. It was hosted by Social Media Club and done in conjunction with Le Web. It was a great set-up, with live sessions broadcast via Ustream over the day.

Unfortunately, I could hear hardly a word via my craptastic Skype connection. I am normally prone to more volubility.

I’m the New Sheriff of Petaluma!

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been offered, and have accepted, a position with ReadWriteWeb as Evening News Writer, or “Noctambulant Robot Intelligence Monarch” as Richard insists on calling it.

ReadWriteWeb is a top-ten blog and a well-respected source for both breaking tech news and for analysis of how new technologies influences real life. I joined in part because it was one of the painfully small number of tech sites I subscribe to that I actually click through to.

I’m very happy to enter the Thunderdome.

Websites I Have Known

Click the link above to view a presentation of six websites that I have worked on, or managed, and which I have materially improved. These include Ask.com, Committee to Protect Bloggers, InstantAction and more. Speaker’s notes are below.

Ask (InterActive)

Mostly I led the creation of natural-language, question-answering databases for corporate clients such as Compaq and Oxygen Media. But I also wrote the first ever corporate about copy and the marketing book for Series B funding visits.


Social Media for Realtors

A house

I finished a consulting gig for a real estate company in Oregon. They wanted their search engine results, which are dismal, to improve and wanted to encourage more traffic to their main website. I helped them gain control over their blog, learn how to use search feeds, photo sharing and bookmarking to research, communicate, write, publish and promote their competence and specialty knowledge about housing and relocation. I was able to herd them from agitated to excited and they were very happy with the results. With a baseline taken, they can measure tangible changes toward their goals.

Social media, she is sexy lady.

Bartleby the Social Media Scrivener

Helping a friend brainstorm entry of her marketing and design firm into social media consultancy without coming off all claim-jumpy or bloody-turnip-squeezy. It goes without saying that I have no idea what I’m talking about. But this is a blog and I am me, so talk I shall, har-char-aiee.


My Meta-Appeal for Work

Having a background in literature, it is my pleasure to go all meta on your asses, by quoting a post extensively featuring a quotation by BL Ochman on her blog of my email.

You Need to Hire Curt Hopkins or Help Him Get a Job

People! This is inexcusable! Curt Hopkins, experienced communications professional and journalist, needs a job. And you need to hire him or help him get one! Get busy.

This post is inspired by an email I got from him today, and L Eiseley’s allegory, “The Star Thrower“. Read them both and then contact Curt with work.


Another Book About Me

ingot,metal,federated socket metal
Update: Just discovered that yet another book will feature my exploits / shenanigans. Can’t talk about it yet, but it sounds interesting.


Although I can’t sell a book to save my life, it looks like I can get in them easily enough.

First, I was quoted in Naked Conversations, then an abortive idea for an open-source Israel-Palestine peace proposal was included in Wikinomics and now Abby Schonenboom, a professor at the City University of New York, has discussed, and included a screenshot of, my post, “Statistics on Fired Bloggers” in Hiding Out: Creative Resistance Among Anonymous Workbloggers, an upcoming book based on her doctoral thesis.


Game Space

You don’t get all poety without an almost sexual affection for proportion, inflection and interrelationship. So when I was producing video podcasts at a game company where I worked, I remember this discussion I had with their head of game development. I didn’t leave that place with a lot of new information – the currency, aside from currency, that I value the most. But this discussion gave me something very new, a new way of regarding the world, or of apprehending information anyway.


No Embargoes

My point of view on embargoes is actually a stereoscope of two points.

First, I’ve done quite a bit of journalism, having written for Newsweek, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, CNET, Oregon Business and others. I have also worked as a corporate communications professional for Ask.com, Autoweb, Elance, Visa, PBwiki and more. Triangulating on embargoes from both these positions I have, I think, a very clear and distinct perspective. This perspective also happens to harmonizes very well with my gut feeling. Namely, embargoes suck. They’re bad for journalism, they’re bad for business, and they’re bad for the people that both disciplines ostensibly serve.

Here are the reasons why I believe we should dispense with them.

1. No decent journalist should have any trouble producing well-written, well-researched and complete initial news coverage (as opposed to analysis or enterprise work) on a deadline. Any journalist who needs days to write up initial coverage of say, a purchase or a new tech feature, is not going to do it right if they are given a month. Good coverage depends on experienced, hard-working, smart journalists and honest, convincing and passionate business people.

2. Embargoes discourage the cultivation of sources by journalists and of relationships with journalists by companies. Or, if relationships are created, they are of the logrolling variety, and of no use to readers and customers. Honest relationships between journalists and business people, providing again, that neither is in the other’s pocket, are the best way to create good public dialogue about a company. I don’t want to read a journalist who doesn’t know how to find and secure a source, while remaining independent of it. I’m probably only marginally interested in a company, however “important” they might be, who won’t deign to talk to a human being or two, or will only do so if that person agrees to cave in exchange for access. If they do not care enough about their products and the people who buy them to talk to journalists, you can rest assured they’re not going to care about someone as insignificant as you, the customer.

3. Embargoes indicate a company is trying to control not just its information, but how its information is received and reported upon and, therefor, how its customers and possible customers act. What’s wrong with this? It has nothing to do with business, with product, with service. It has everything to do with the belief that the goal of business is not to sell things to people, but to trick them into parting with their money. If that is what a business believes, fine. But as their customers and possible customers, we should vote with our wallets, and we should do so early and often. It is especially contemptible when the company is trying to capitalize on social media trends, even moreso if that company is itself part of that sphere of communications and information companies. Gaming social media for your company sends out a clear message of contempt for your customers. An embargo is a monument to that contempt.

To put it rather more colorfully, I’ll quote from a note I sent to Allen Stern in response to his post on the subject, occasioned in part by asking him how he felt about it. Although I enjoy Allen’s writing and respect the passion he brings to his work, I just didn’t agree with him on this.

Embargoes discourage competition among journalists and transparency among companies. Publications should take the time – and this includes blogs – to build relationships and build chops. The only “first” should be when you do it better than the other publication or writer. Companies should not take it for granted that they can punk every writer that comes along and continue to control the “message” while spinning the “We’re engaged in ‘conversations’ with our ‘community'” dreidel. And writers should not tie their blouse around their breastseses and turn their prison dungarees into hot-pants and get along to go along. That said, anyone who breaks an embargo without finding the capers necessary to say you won’t honor them beforehand, deserves a pingpong paddle across the yapper.

Embargoes are, in other words, trickery. And trickery is necessary only for those companies whose products cannot compete in the market. But it’s a habit, a bad habit, one many businesses, and many business journalists, have found hard to break.