Shifting Winds

Down in the valley, valley so low
Hang your head over, hear the wind blow
Hear the wind blow, dear, hear the wind blow
Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.

Author unknown



I’ve been a good gurrrl and working hard on a project for a client…deadline crazy. But, it’s stuff I love – writing methodology protocols for CTOs when making software and hardware evaluations, hiring outside consultancies and other cool stuff. My Jolt connection tore up the paperwork with its distributor and I’ve been buying from a place that only has it in the plastic bottles instead of the cans…it sucks! So last night I got to let off some steam and got a bit crazy. Last night's wild mountain party was truly a testimonial to community. Many tribes gathered at Gregory MacNicol’s birthday party located in the hills of Santa Cruz. Pat and I got there about 8PM, we had started out at about 4PM, but with many stops to pull together the needed acqutrmants for the party, we ended up missing the group shot taken at 7. Oh well….

I imagine there were about 800 give or take a few hundred people, the sky was lit up with lasers, multimedia (thank you Allan Lundell http//www.pleasureisland.com ) and musicians and dancers filled the stage – not to mention the fire dancers whipping their fire balls around. It was a great night. And Bruce Damer and Galen Brandt were there and we had a great time standing in back of them in the bathroom line – not to mention standing in line with brilliant physicist Charles Ostman www.nanosig.org/charles1.html …as bathroom lines go (and especially since this one was about 45 minutes long) it was a best case scenario. Bruce’s www.digitalspace.com/ org is having an event July 16, but you have to contact him to be part of it – as always it will be a partially virtual experience. Lots of folks there that I don’t see at other Valley tribal events because they are the Santa Cruz tribe. But we truly had an excellent time, lots of boys and being boy crazy, well…it was the best place to be ];->

Speaking of which, we had a great DuraLiNi (the events that combine WiWoWo (Wild Women of Wonder) and LiLoTe (Life, Love, Technology) where Neil Koenig and Peter Day came down again from London to cover a few events and wrap up their series on Silicon Valley. They are always a kick! And I just heard from Neil – “We’re opening up the show with you and Jamis www.BucksWoodside.com,” and that was kind of scary. Because Jamis and I get way too silly and I can only imagine what we could have possibly said…I think it must have been when we were talking about the “call girls” in San Francisco offered to senior engineering teams at two dot-coms during the heyday (I wrote about it in Dot-Com Success as a quality of life benefit). The show on the BBC is part of two years worth of research Neil and Peter did in the Valley…. The last time they were here they also covered a WiWoWo www.fortune.com/indexw.jhtml?channel=artcol.jhtml&doc_id=206092 breakfast, and men at the table always brings out our “other side.” Usually we don’t even talk about men at the table (surely there are better things to talk about when sharing a meal!), but we always end up back on the subject of sex whenever men pull up a chair (which is rare because we only lift that rule when there is either Jamis or a press pass involved).

Anyway, it’s always fun having our favorite guys from the BBC here; I told them to defect to America, but we don’t even have a radio network that comes close to being as objective as the BBC, so it’s in our (as in collective) best interest that they stay there. But, what was really a kick was that we did a drive by of Larry Ellison’s tea shack…and who the fuck spends a billion bucks on a house, anyway? So, they asked me to comment on the old man’s property and all of the hustle and bustle that was going on in back of the guard shack (as in, the goings-ons you can see behind the fence)…. I think I said something like Larry was the devil…I guess we’ll find out when the show airs. During the dot-com boom, I found that investors were overstepping their boundaries by telling their portfolio companies to buy Oracle databases because it was a known product, but what they didn’t realize was the lifecycle costs and the licensing issues every time a company had to make changes, and startups make a lot of fucking changes…. Anyhow, it was ridiculous and every time I heard it I wanted to scream. I’m just glad that IBM has those billboards up around the Oracle compound on the 101…DB2 kicks ass. And can anyone name the CEO of IBM? Takes you a minute anyhow, it’s not like the product is emotionally connected to the CEO as with Oracle. I wonder if we did a test of how many women CTOs made an Oracle purchase over IBM (or other products) what we’d find? Anyhow, of course, this is my own opinion, not those of the world at large (but, I’m working on it). And it’s funny, because when it comes to technology I’m pretty brand agnostic — if it’s a good product, hey – it’s a good product, right? Well, because of an incident that occurred at Oracle during a Forum for Women Entrepreneurs event and a Larry appearance things completely changed for me. But, that my dears, is more than a sidebar. Perhaps I wrote about it in an earlier column, I’ll have to go back and check…. At any rate I’ve been getting pretty heavy hits from Oracle and HP lately…probably their legal departments building up cases….

Anyhow, I’m meandering now….had a good time with Dave Winer www.userland.com when the BBC was in town, we went up to tape part of the show and learn about Dave’s killer apps, mostly about his weblog products – he had a weblog topic that touched off a from me, that I am now including…. If you get a chance, do sign up for Dave’s weblog, it’s filled with cool info that makes you think. And although you may not agree with his opinions, it is filled with provocative viewpoints that should be considered.

If you’re wondering what the hell my rant about Google and Scientology has to do with anything, you can go to zdnet.com.com/2100-1105-866058.html

Here’s Dave’s weblog and my response:

> DaveNet essay, "My Long Bet with the NY Times", released on 3/25/2002; 9:21:36 AM Pacific.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> ***Good morning
>
> Late last year, Paul Boutin [1], who was then at Wired Magazine, contacted me to see if I would be interested in participating in a project they were doing with The Long Now Foundation, started by Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelley among others.
>
> Of course I said yes, and we started to frame a question that would be settled five years from now. The question: which will be more authoritative in 2007, weblogs or the New York Times? Perhaps surprisingly, Martin Nisenholtz, the CEO of New York Times Digital, went for it, and today the bet is public.
>
>
***How it works
>
> In 2007 we will ask an objective third party to tell us what were the top five stories of the year, each reduced to a single word or phrase. Then we will look up the phrases in Google. (Assuming Google is still here five years from now, and still high integrity.) If three or more of the top links point to the NY Times, Martin wins. If three or more point to weblogs, I win.
>
> For example, in 2001, there's no doubt the top story would be September 11. In 2002, we'd be searching for Enron, the Olympics, and maybe Scientology.
>
>
***My argument
>
> They asked us to write an essay explaining our position. My essay follows. You can read Martin's on the Long Bets website [2]. They will open a discussion group there in May so if you want to participate, you can.
>
> "As with personal computing, the early days of Web publishing belonged to the hobbyists, reveling that it worked at all. But the Web is maturing, the tools are getting easy, as the understanding of the technology has become widespread. Serious professional journalists use the new tools, moonlighting, publishing the news they don't or can't sell to the big publications who employ them.
>
> "At the same time, we're returning to what I call amateur journalism, people writing for the public for the love of writing, without any expectation of financial compensation. This process is fed by the changing economics of the publishing industry which is employing fewer reporters, editors and writers. But the Web has taught us to expect more information, not less, and that's the sea-change that the NY Times and other big publications face -- how to remain relevant in the face of a population that can do for themselves what the BigPubs won't.
>
> "The pervasive big publishing philosophy of Dumb It Down, forces all stories through too narrow a channel to model the diverse and complex world we live in. When the Times covers my industry it seems they only know three stories -- Microsoft is evil, Java is the future (or open source or whatever the topic du jour is) and Apple is dead. All other stories are cast into one of those three. They're boring the readers into looking for alternatives, and because they are limited in the number of writers they employ, they can't branch out to cover other angles.
>
> "There's another fatal flaw in the bigpub approach to journalism, that the reporter doesn't really need to know anything about the topic he or she is covering. If the reader doesn't know the technical details, the writer doesn't need to know either. But when I see the Times cover areas I am expert in, and miss the point completely, I wonder how well they're informing me in areas where I am a neophyte. I'm not from Missouri, I'm from Queens, but I still need to be shown that they are doing their jobs responsibly. I'm not impressed, so I look elsewhere for real news, and soon most other people with minds will too.
>
> "My bet with Martin Nisenholtz at the Times says that the tide has turned, and in five years, the publishing world will have changed so thoroughly that informed people will look to amateurs they trust for the information they want."
>
> Dave Winer
>
> [1] paulboutin.weblogger.com/
> [2] www.longbets.org/bet/2
>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> (c) Copyright 1994-2002, Dave Winer. davenet.userland.com/.
> "There's no time like now."
>

Great bunches of writing you've been doing lately - I guess hot topics (and seeing all of the lame things going on around us) give way to prolific inspiration!

BTW, you really turned my head to weblogs, and I'm not the only one. I was sitting at a dinner with Jeff Ubois' dinner group, and the four people closest to me had their own weblogs! As soon as I get this last project wrapped up, I'll also be up and running with a weblog soon -- until then, you can still find my ramblings under the Sally Report on my site.

Sally's (very long) Rant of the Day....

There is something very pure (and raw) about weblogs, they're (usually) not sponsored by a conglomerate or company, and people (usually) aren't getting paid to write them. I feel that you find a more from-the-gut honesty in weblogs than you'd find at any number of major daily newspapers--writing that isn't approved by a publisher who is probably beholden to special interests. Honestly, the most emotional pieces you find these days are in the Letters to the Editor pages. If you ask just about any reporter (not in fear of losing their job) if they would have written some article in the past a different way than it was published if the only guidelines were honesty and being informative and entertaining -- they would probably say they would have written it very differently, or refused to write it at all because the story was lame (but it was assigned), or passed on it because they weren't an expert on the topic (and on top of that were given an unreasonable deadline and given no other resources but the phone and the Internet to complete it).

I was once the managing editor at a newspaper where I went head-to-head with the publisher who was in bed with the people having to do with my story (who would have been crushed by it). He said it wasn't going to run - I quit (somehow that was made easier by the fact they had burned me on a promised pay raise), but not before I reminded him about what being a publisher used to mean. I went to several other papers and they didn't want to touch the story either. I had all of the official paperwork to back up the story, but I was told that they didn't let freelancers cover *these types* of stories because of liability issues. I knew the truth; the guilty party was very networked into the community and the editors didn't want to fight for the story to get published.

Years before that I had written a piece for a weekly that got shot down because it involved a local politician (who was in bed with the publisher) going ballistic in an interview after I asked *the* magic question.... So, with the interview on tape and on a mission, I severed my relationship with the pub and I went on a TV show where I discussed the issue. For whatever reason, that person was not reelected. I believe in doing what's right as far as getting info out there and letting people decide for themselves what to do with it. If you work for a publisher, whether you are staff or freelance, it's very difficult to deliver that level of honesty. And in Silicon Valley, if you track a publisher -- choosing one at random -- and find out who his (I would say his/her, but rarely do you find women at publisher level here in the Valley, or anywhere for that matter) most controversial buddies are and if there have been any stories putting them under scrutiny...what do you think you'd find??? Surprise, surprise...in good times several local publishers (and broadcast corporations) were either investing in tech companies, had tech investment portfolios, or their publishers/chairmen were tied into deals. Were there any wrong-doings? Who knows? What do you think you'd find if you looked at the companies a particular network has chosen to bring down via its stories...do you think you'd find its parent company listed? Would they attack a book publisher or network show that is part of their own conglomerate? Would they attack their biggest advertiser (especially in these times)?? Their investors? We're all fooling ourselves if we think the media is objective. Even journalists have their biases. The good news? The Web is beautiful; it gives us the opportunity to look up many, many stories written by people of many different opinions from all over the world. The Internet also allows people to form their own ideas and put out their own weblogs; thus allowing their opinions to be heard and consumed.

LIABILITY...SLANDER...LIBEL...all those nice words people tend to use when getting ready to sue a publication. I started a magazine and I know how much errs and omissions insurance costs. Most of the people or companies you'd write compelling things about (and have anyone care about in the least) are high profile and rich. Do the editors of today's leaner pubs want to go to the publisher and also get approval from legal for these stories to run? There are many layers to go through these days. It's also much easier to choose your battles if you're the publisher. The one publication not hurting in all of this downturn (and the one with the largest distribution)? The National Enquirer. Why? Because long ago it decided to take on risks. Nearly two decades ago it took a beating from celebrities suing for libel and slander. Since that time it has the most fact checkers I've ever seen per story at any publication and its stories are often picked up by large mainstream papers and the broadcast news (and I do see stories about the Scientologists in there!). Ohhhhh how I would love to see a National Enquirer for the tech audience!

I know how these things go; most people who aren't in the publishing business are oblivious. The paper is delivered at the doorstep in the morning and they don't worry about the rest. On my website I can write whatever I want -- I have a right to do so. And I do. Although...after CNN interviewed me about the Dmitry Sklyrov case (where I spoke out loudly against the DMCA on CNN), I did take note afterward that government agencies can make it awfully uncomfortable when you know they're looking on.... But, I have yet to censor myself. I've also noticed that people with weblogs are less of a target than the Wall Street Journal for lawsuits. The Internet has also made it easy for attorneys to spend a few hours on the Web, track down stories about their clients and send out cease and desist orders. Many companies have stolen my content and placed it on their own sites, and they've received letters from my attorney. I've gotten bad reviews before -- not EVERYONE loves me -- so things get posted that I'm not fond of. But, I'm not going to call and threaten them with lawsuits, especially ones involving the DMCA. I received a terrible review from the LA Times last year, and if I could just make their search engine work I would even link to that (especially considering that the writer of the review had NOT read the book)...oh well. There's even software that tracks down logos on the Web (of which Disney and Paramount are very fond of). Regardless of how you view it, the Web enables everyone to be more informed about what information is out there, and then they can make their own decisions about what they're going to do with it. We all have to be looking at copyrights and control differently now because with such archives as Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive, www.archive.org/ (check out the wayback machine, it's very cool), our websites are being replicated, stored and accessed from other sites in the name of historical data, and without our permission. This opens up a whole plethora of legal issues, but it's a great idea--kind of like open source content--we'll just have to see what happens, and what Americans are willing to give up in the name of preservation and education.

So, let's look at the Google issue (which very much ties into the weblog and freedom of speech issues).... First of all, let me put some links in here that the Scientologists WOULD NOT approve of:

wpxx02.toxi.uni-wuerzburg.de/~cowen/essays/irs.html
www.factnet.org/Scientology/dianetics_litigation.html
www.xenu.net/archive/CourtFiles/
www.b-org.demon.nl/scn/ex-members/pattinson/
www.primenet.com/~cultxpt/suits_v_cos.htm
www.microcontentnews.com/articles/googlechurch.htm
www.rickross.com/reference/Scien45.html

These are random websites that if and when the Scientologists do see this listing on Google, they may ask you to take down this post because you're also acting as a semi-search engine. Let's go with this and see what happens.

So what do I know about the Scientologists? I know a well-respected and accomplished science fiction writer who claims he was there when L. Ron Hubbard said to a small group of people during a science fiction conference that he was going to form a religion so he could live comfortably -- so what of it? This is true by the way, I do know such a person and that is what he claims. But, as a journalist, I'm choosing to protect my source.... Okay, so what else do I know? One year I was at Book Expo conference and I walked by the Dianetics booth (complete with a volcano!) where I was promptly accosted by their very aggressive good-looking salesmen (they also had big-breasted women in sci-fi outfits; this IS a religion many men could probably stomach). I told that story and they became so irate that they called over all of the others in the booth and they began to browbeat me. I didn't buy into it, told them to fuck off and walked away to sit on Fabio's lap (for a picture, of course) who was in a romance publisher's booth; a much more reasonable man than those I left behind skulking in their own lava. I find the "unplug" method to be the best when dealing with zealots of any kind. I've also read material that states that the Church of Scientology has gone after individual tax agents at the IRS through legal resources for denying them church tax status. Is it true? I only known what I've heard and read. Do I know if it's true? Not without a lot more research and confirmation. Besides, is there any way of ever knowing the complete truth? And they always have the opportunity to write their own responses on their own weblogs, right? The lesson here? Things get skewed. Believability, it's not what it used to be. That's why when people point out some health or welfare issue based on a study, the first question I ask is, "And who underwrote that study?" Many people don't feel worthy enough to probe, they'll just consume info at the rate you can pitch it to them and spew it back twice as fast. So now the question is -- even if I don't know it to be the truth, if it's on my mind should I just be able to throw it out there on a weblog? The answer is !!!Yes!!! -- that's what free speech is all about, right??? Discussion, disagreement, enlightenment. People comment on my stuff all the time -- and most of the time I learn something new with each email I receive. The problem is that we don't have enough enlightened humans open to the truth, perhaps our next killer app here in the Valley should be an enlightened human being (this is a quote from my friend Jerry Glenn, a United Nation’s futurist who is featured in FutureNet)?

Will Dave and Sally find themselves in hot water with the Scientologists if Dave chooses to post this? Well, we know they're watching Google, so chances are we're bound to hear something if you do post it. I can't believe they're trying to hang this on the DMCA (it doesn't make sense to me), those people are odder than I thought. Anyhow, a good link for more info on the subject is zdnet.com.com/2100-1105-866058.html I hope the EFF www.eff.org and the ACLU www.aclu.org decide to slam them back with a lawsuit that will set some precedents.

So, Dave...now you've found yourself in the position of being a publisher, knowing there are some lawsuit (un)happy orgs that leave you saying - "Hey, don't we have an amendment that protects us from this kind of thing?" This is what publishers all over America are going through right now. Most of the people I know listen to the BBC news because they feel that American newspapers, magazines and TV/cable/distribution/movie and radio companies are too muddied with special interests and too connected to each other to tell the real truth. And, Dave, I have to tell you - after being in this business nearly 20 years, I check to see who owns what before I send a pitch into an editor. I hate what my job as a journalist has turned into. I still love my job, but I look around and hear and see what people are saying when decisions to run stories, publish books and make movies are being made and I wonder where the hell all of this is going.

One more *little* story to conclude with. When I was 17 I got my first assignment; the assignment was to interview this guy who changed his name to 'Santa" and went around and did all of these promotional things; he was a deadringer for St. Nick. It was a slow week and they figured my assignment would be a nice warm-fuzzy they could throw into the holiday mix. Well, I went to interview "Santa," and it turned out that he thought we should go to a nice, dark bar for it (even though he had asked my age). So, I went, and being somewhat naive, I let him buy me some drinks and I ended up slapping Santa! So my story was very different from what my editor had sent me to write. I was a reader of Hunter Thompson and fancied myself a gonzo writer, so I wrote the truth in a loud way. I wrote about how Santa got me, a 17-year-old cub reporter, drunk and how the letch went on in great detail about how he wanted to get into my pants. (The holiday image of Santa has never been quite the same; understandably, I now prefer to celebrate Hanukah.) When my editor said, "You'll have to rewrite this - this is a family newspaper!" I was dumbfounded, I asked him if what happens in a family newspaper should reflect what's going on in the Real World? What about the fact that this "Santa," who wanted to get into my pants, was one in the same Santa who had kids everywhere idolizing him, a man being paid by sponsors to open stores.... The guy even told me he hated kids! His billowing beard was cigarette stain-white. He had booze on his breath before we even went to the bar. I guess my editor's approach was kind of like the Catholic church's tell-us-we-won't-tell policy that's catching up with them. It was a hard lesson to learn, but one that would plague me my entire career. I never did cash that check (I didn't feel like I earned it); once in a while I come across it. It reminds me...reminds me of how things are - how they've BEEN ever since I've been in the business. America is not everything the rest of the world cuts us out to be; we're so paranoid we censor ourselves. And just as the Scientologists have the right to conduct their business in the court of law (and we'll see what sticks to the wall after they’ve thrown it), writers have the right to use their freedom of speech clause.

So what happens in a world where you pick and choose your content based on your own happy world, and not really what's going on around you? You and I both know what happens. We become China. You close down cyber cafes so people can't reach the outside world. You make your own reality -- and when you're a major player in the media world, people buy into your reality. Then, pretty soon, when the next generation figures out what the hell has happened, they fight for the right to print the truth (BTW, if we don't deal with what's going on with the DMCA right NOW it'll take a generation to get those rights back -- and how do you explain to your kids that you're to blame because you let those rights slip away in the first place???).

I disagree with your futurist predictions on this one point -- it won't be a majority of amateur writers running web logs. It will be professional writers getting tired of being dictated to by the powers that be and deciding to do something about it.

Marty Nisenholtz will lose your Long Bet. Weblogs will win out in the end. Why? Because we want to hear the uncut truth. We long for those maverick publishers who will take a stand and not back down; they no longer live in corporate America's media ranks. They have weblogs. It reminds me of the show Dark Angel, where the Eyes Only character breaks into broadcasts with his gleanings of truth about the government via streaming video. Would Fox be so understanding if that broadcast interference happened to them? Probably not, and would it actually hurt people to hear how those guests are actually chosen for those day time talk 'n' rage TV shows? Anyhow, that's the future I see for America in the not so distant years. Until that time (if it does indeed come to pass), it's good to know you're out there fighting the good fight. Thanks for being part of the weblog movement -- you rock!

Cheers!
Sally

PS: I'll soon be posting my chapter on Teledildonics (on my site) that was cut from my FutureNet (Wiley) book up on my site. I was told that the publisher doesn't like stuff like *that* in their books. I tried to point out to my editor Jeanne that the book is about the past, present & FUTURE of the Internet.... Sex (porn) has always led technology (photos, VHS, distribution, pay-per-call, pay-per-view, etc.), the Internet is no different. Sex on the Internet is the FUTURE, or at least a big part of what people are willing to pay for. Can you honestly tell me that if Webvan had used live streaming images of gorgeous, naked blondes twisting their own nipples or screwing farm animals (Sex.com stats prove viewership of bestiality is recession-proof; it's true, but I am being facetious) while they took people's grocery orders that the company wouldn't still be around??? Personally, I think it would have caused many men to rethink the whole "I leave the grocery shopping up to my wife" approach; it wouldn't have been such a bad twist -- and such a win-win outcome for everyone. Perhaps Webvan just went for the wrong market. Anyhow, I'll send you the censored out-take of FutureNet in a plain brown wrapper.
];->

www.SallyRichards.com
Author of
FutureNet (Wiley, 2002)
Inside Business Incubators & Corporate Ventures (Wiley, 2001)
Dot-com Success! Surviving the Fallout & Consolidation (Sybex, 2001)
Sand Dreams & Silicon Orchards (Heritage, 2000)
Cofounder of Wild Women of Wonder
Founder of LiLoTe (LIfe, LOve, TEchnology)

"Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip."
- Robert J. Hastings, The Station