| At the Corner of Technology and Culture

The Pros and Cons of Viral

Marc Andreessen has a fascinating look at Facebook Platform. He looks, first, at the difference between applications and platforms, but then, at how the insanely viral quality of Facebook can create huge scalability problems for successful applications. (Think of the bad rap Twitter got when it looked as though they were having problems with this). His point is that successful apps in Facebook Platform are going to need either to be designed by big companies or have lots of VC behind them. (via Guardian Technology Blog).

In addition to the viral quality of Facebook, there’s the fact that it’s so stupidly easy to add these apps. It seems as though focusing on who really is an ‘active user’ and how you define that is going to be important in figuring out real audience and real value. If you define ‘active user’ as someone who has used an application in the last 30 days, well, so what, really?


Here’s one way to deal with info overload. The Guardian has a story about bloggers Fred Wilson and Jeff Nolan who declared email bankruptcy. They were so far behind on emails, they simply announced that they weren’t going to reply to any. “I am starting over,” said one.


Just participated in a panel on how the Web is changing the way we use media, and in particular, how social media is changing our relationship to media. Part of the MESH ’07 conference. Interesting co-panelists: Mark Federman, who I have interviewed before for my CBC column, and who brought a very refreshing McLuhanite perspective to the table, and Mark Schneider, veteran journalist who now works with Now Public, who made a great analogy off the top about how we’re engaged in a huge engineering project (ie the Internet) and we haven’t done an ‘environmental impact’ study, just by way of, not opposing it obviously, but stepping back and considering its effects.

Back Again

We finished making the pilots for a proposed new show for CBC Radio called Spark. I worked with the producers of And Sometimes Y, which was fabulous. They’re really smart, funny, creative people. It makes such a big difference to any type of creative process.

New Blog


I admit it may seem ridiculous that I’m starting a new blog, when I update poor crispermachine so infrequently, but I’ve set up this Vox blog to focus specifically on the link between new social media and MSM, with an eye to experimenting with new ways of doing journalism. Please come visit! Leave your thoughts!

The Power of Transparency

I’ve been meaning to post on this for a while now. In December, Chris Anderson, (editor in chief at WIRED magazine and author of The Long Tail, which I first mentioned here back in ’05) posted on what transparency in mass media might look like. One of the pithiest summaries of its application to the Web is

THEN: We control the site. Editors are gatekeepers.

NOW: We share control with readers. Editors catalyze and curate conversations that happen as much “out there” as on our own site.

Now, over at Collision Detection, Clive Thompson is throwing out a call to participate in an article he’s writing for WIRED. It’s about, and uses the form of, open, transparent journalism.

Add this to the forthcoming MIT/Wharton collaborative book, We Are Smarter Than Me
and you have, if not a movement, at least a very exciting set of experiments.


OK, I’d be the first to admit that the just-unveiled iPhone is pretty sexy; I was instantly struck by the smart phone technoporn of it all. Come on, though, the write-ups are a little over the top. what are they serving at MacWorld, Kool-Aid?

Interesting analysis of the business model from savvy Jack Schofield’s technology blog at The Guardian. It’s work reading the whole post, but the highlight when it comes to considering relationships between Apple and other service providers besides Cingular?

“In particular, some network providers aim to make money from selling high-priced music and movie downloads direct to their mobile phone users. It’s a safe bet that the iPhone (like the iPod) will be incompatible with those services, and iPhone users will get their content from Apple instead. (Update: the iPhone gets its music via a PC or Mac, not over the air.)

In other words, adopting the iPhone means a network is obliged to hand over to Apple some of its most profitable business opportunities. In doing that, it will also reinforce Apple’s monopoly of the copy-protected download market.”

Given how irritated many people are about Apple’s DRM with iPods, it will be interesting to see how this plays out….

Convergence Culture

Convergence Culture, by Henry Jenkins, is next on my list of books to read. According to his blog, it’s about the relationship between media convergence, participatory culture, and collective intelligence” (More below)

Now, I haven’t read the book yet, but it sounds intuitively intriguing. Still, just today, I was thinking that we are becoming a very skillful culture at relational thinking, and at creating the kinds of technologies and tools that foster links, relations and so on (whether those are links between people, things, or concepts). And yet it feels like an astonishingly unoriginal time. I don’t mean just at the pop culture level of rehashed fashion, and copycat television. I mean, when was the last time you read a book, say, that felt like an actual bracingly original thought? As much as I’m looking forward to reading Convergence Culture, for instance, and as smart as it sounds, it’s a book whose thesis is about a new way of conceiving of relationships between things. What I wonder is, in spite of the benefits of all these cool collective tools, whether we’re losing something important along the way.

OK, here’s (some of) the rest of Jenkins’ description:

“By convergence, I mean the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted. Convergence is a word that manages to describe technological, industrial, cultural, and social changes, depending on who’s speaking and what they think they are talking about. In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms. Right now, convergence culture is getting defined top-down by decisions being made in corporate boardrooms and bottom-up by decisions made in teenagers’ bedrooms. It is shaped by the desires of media conglomerates to expand their empires across multiple platforms and by the desires of consumers to have the media they want where they want it, when they want it, and in the format they want….”

fun fun fun

David Pogue’s blog pointed out this site
You use the pen by holding down your mouse button and making a curvy line from top left to bottom right. Then click the PLAY icon!

Cold War Fun!

Via boingboing, here’s an interesting bit of social and technological history. Animator Ward Jenkins’ blog has scans of a 1962 Fall Out Shelter handbook. Interesting how there was a whole industry built up around consumer apps of emergency tools. I guess they had to wait until the Y2K scare to sell them again….




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