Deaf dumb and blind boys

Listening to Sam Whitmore's experimental Closet Deadhead 'cast, my mind drifted (who knew) past the many squalls and storms rending the Net in recent times. Squalls like AutoLink, the Apple court "decision", the resurfacing of Mark Lucovsky, Jonathan Schwartz' attack on Web Services soup.
Written by Steve Gillmor, Contributor
Listening to Sam Whitmore's experimental Closet Deadhead 'cast, my mind drifted (who knew) past the many squalls and storms rending the Net in recent times. Squalls like AutoLink, the Apple court "decision", the resurfacing of Mark Lucovsky, Jonathan Schwartz' attack on Web Services soup. All part of the Perfect Storm, the reboot of the media, communications, and technology.
Roll away the dew, Jerry sings--or is it Bob Weir? Sam tells me it's called Franklin's Tower, recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour in 1980. I'm not a closet deadhead, or even an outed one. I've always liked them, sort of. They fell in a pocket after Butterfield, before Woodstock, contiguous with the Airplane, Country Joe, somehow close to but not on the same level as Jimi, Janis, or the Stones. But they intersected with the Acid Tests, Kesey's Bus, Monterey, Altamont--and set off on the long strange trip that became the political wing of the Sixties Party.
I'm sure I've already offended many of you. It's a very personal map we apply to the moments of our lives. No wonder the record companies think they have us by the balls. It's the same way with all these dinosaurs--the radio guys, the publishers, the blogosphere. People like to form groups, belong, lock the door to the next guy. You can tell the force of the AutoLink shift by the determination not to let go of the guiding principle. Can we remember all the way back to '95 or '97 when Windows seemed so invulnerable?
I can. I remember I thought people were nuts to want to break up such a perfect machine. I loved the market standards that Visual Basic formed. I saw Lotus resist the switch from DOS to Windows and thought, "OK, see ya." I'll confess that even though I loved the Netscape browser, I was still happier when IE took over. No messy incompatibilities--a strong silent hand on the tiller. Of course it didn't hurt that the Netscape boys and girls were arrogant as hell.
Luckily, great chunks of the Sixties were captured on tape. The record companies are the Boomers' WayBack Machine. Actually, it's the record owners. Not just the official releases but the unofficial ones, the cut-outs, the outtakes, the remixes, the mono mix of Sgt. Pepper (reprise). The Dead's thicket of tapers clustered around the soundboard. The WiFi junkies clustered around the power strips at the back of ETech two years ago. J.D. Lasica standing like a traffic cop with a radar gun at BloggerCon III.
I'm with Michael Jackson, who was quoted coming out of Martin Bashir's testimony when asked how he was feeling: "Great," and then turning around again, "Angry." Not about AutoLink but about the transparent arrogance of Marissa Mayer in this Washington Post interview. The whole world is watching, guys. Or as Eminem so delicately puts it: If I had one wish, I would ask for a big enough ass for the whole world to kiss.

Remember the new Bob Dylan? Some thought it was John Prine, or Loudon Wainright, or Steve Forbert, or whatever. Eventually the record companies gave up and realized that Bob Dylan was the new Bob Dylan. So just when everybody thinks there is no new Bob Dylan, Eminem comes along. My wife has been out of town for a few weeks, and my 11 year old has been playing Eminem loud in my car on the way to school because, as she puts it, I let her do it. Meet the new boss, etc.
So just when everybody thinks there is no new Borg, along comes Larry, Moe, and Sergey to take over the show. The thing that's making me angry is not that history is repeating itself, but that stupidity is repeating itself. How hard is it to realize that delivering a service that makes users feel powerless is not a good thing. Particularly users with loaded weapons called blogs and 'casts. Who cares if you can do it because. Forget the stuff about do no evil. Do no stupid.
Over and over incumbents are walking up to the light at the end of the tunnel and saying, "Looks like a train." If Google leverages its scale to create new inventory around links, the net effect will be to incent competitors to route around it. Just as Google destabilized Office by creating the world's fastest (and free) spell checker, reference tool, and pizza delivery service, so too will a craigslistian series of competitors destabilize Google if they are stupid enough to persist in refusing a conversation with the very beta-testers who are their partners.
How do they cross the chasm Microsoft seems congenitally unable to ford? By cooperating on a standard link arbitration that lets users choose which variant or composite of the service they want. Join in a public-facing dialogue to establish an API for addressing link rendering, so that Google's AutoLink can be chosen or spliced as a service with other offerings. Invite Microsoft to join in, given their SmartTag prior art. Then invite MyYahoo, who may be hard pressed to join in given their Roach Motel leanings around attention metadata. In ten minutes, your messaging goes from hailstorm to brainstorm.
Now for the media, a little tough love. You can't have skin in this game unless you cop to your own complicity. This reboot is as much about your standards and practices as the guys you "cover." If this is a story about vendors, then you're one of them. You (we) need to figure out how to move from our comfortable roles as gatekeepers to some sort of aggregated filter of a bubble-up meritocracy. Is the judge in the Apple case right? No. Do we know how to fix this yet? No again.
But here it is the 21st Century, and the Dead keep on truckin'. We will survive, they teach us. One more story: I'm on a conference call on my cell phone, driving my daughter to school. She's switched to the new iPod her grandfather bought her, but the Etymotic earphones are cranked up so loud I'm muting the phone so that the folks from content industry X don't hear Eminem blasting holes in my 11-year old's psyche. So it goes like this:

Eminem under For all the cough that I've smoked - yo this blunt's for you

Industry X Leader: It's not clear that this new media is going to be a significant...
Eminem: To all the people I've offended - yeah mute you too!
X: factor in the near future...
Eminem: To all the friends I used to have - yo I miss my past
X: We're not really focusing on the micro-audiences of these amateur...
Eminem: But the rest of you bloggers can KISS MY CAST

Sergey, can you hear me?

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