Scripting News for 4/19/2007

Podcast Hotel 

I described the idea of a podcast hotel in a Trade Secrets podcast with Adam Curry in 2004 or early 2005. The idea was pretty simple. Rent a cheap hotel in the middle of nowhere. I was thinking St Augustine Beach, FL. A few meeting rooms, a decent-sized ballroom with lots of tables and chairs, we truck in food, high-caffeine soft drinks, and a bunch of connectivity and wifi. Spend $100K and everyone rents their own room. Double-up if the price is prohibitive. Car pool. Swim in the ocean. Walk on the beach.

Spend a week there, writing code, blog stuff, doing podcasts around the clock. This was in the early days when you could fit all the podcasters in a dinky beach hotel. Then, basically — you’d get infinite connectivity if you stayed long enough. Everyone would get to know each other, and there would be a dozen podcasts that were great, tons of great ideas, and out of that would come a roadmap for all of us. And a great memory of when we worked together, to help launch an industry, a new human activity.

Unfortunately it never happened, for a lot of good reasons, mostly that it’s hard to get people to work together.

Now in San Francisco, tomorrow and Saturday, there will be a conference at the Swedish American meeting hall on Market St, that is called Podcast Hotel, but it’s a pretty ordinary conference, not even an unconference, and nothing like the podcast hotel we envisioned.

I may stop in tomorrow or Saturday to schmooze a bit, shake hands, listen to a bit of stage-talk, and wonder What If.

Today’s links 

Joe Conason: Gonzales’ resignation is not enough.

Mark Glaser asks, on his PBS blog, whether NBC should have released the Cho videos.

Jeff Jarvis: Losing control of media.

1/3/05: “The professional journalist is totally part of the story he or she is writing. That they believe otherwise is the major bug in their process.” Dell brings back XP on home systems.

Scoble argues for full-text feeds.

Joe Trippi, Dean campaign manager in 2004, joins the Edwards campaign.

Internet Identity Workshop, May 14-16, Mountain View.

Jackie Danicki signs up with Ing Direct based entirely on reviews here. I hope she’ll write up her experience as she becomes more familiar with it. One of the problems with all the online banking systems is that you can’t see the software before you sign up for an account.

Cho-TV, day 2 

When it came out yesterday that Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, had sent 23 QuickTime videos to NBC in NY, that changed forever how I thought about blogging, video, podcasting, etc. When I first put up the post, Steve Garfield sent an email saying he didn’t think it was vlogging, but I’m not so sure. Whatever it is, there’s an amateur using the new tools, not for good, but horribly, for bad.

Some people say that if NBC were to release the videos, completely and exactly as Cho produced them, this would spawn copycats. That’s a valid opinion of course, but I don’t see why. We don’t know what’s on the videos. And do you think anyone who wanted to see them hasn’t seen enough to get the basic idea? Maybe the copycat will strike because Cho’s video didn’t get broad distribution, and they have an easy shot at outdoing him. I don’t know how the mind of a mass killer works, if anyone does.

I said we hadn’t forseen this use of the technology because, as utopians, we tend to look for the good stuff. I liked to think I had a balanced view, and could see where bloggers weren’t doing good, but I hadn’t seriously considered our tools used to further such a bad cause.

What’s next? Isn’t it obvious — the latest and greatest stuff, Ustream, Twitter and mass murder. When you see a suicide bomber with a camera strapped to his or her head, you’ll know that the bad has caught up with the good.

Reuters looks at questions raised for newsrooms about social media and events like the Virginia Tech killings.

Reuters asks if they should accept amateur video, when doing so might encourage others to take risks they otherwise wouldn’t. I think that’s an easy call. They should accept video from anyone who’s credible. They should stop seeing themselves as parental to amateur reporters. They also say no amateur ever dies covering a story. They can’t have it both ways. They accept video from professional reporters who take risks, so they should treat amateurs equally.

Rob Sama: “At this point given that NBC has done a partial release, they should just finish the job and go with WinerÕs suggestion. But NBC’s attempt to split the difference between the two opposing schools of thought, both of which make valid points IMO, wound up embracing the worst aspects of both. As it now stands Cho has his stardom and the public doesn’t have enough information to figure it all out.”

Frank Shaw says if he had received the videos, he would have turned them over to the police without airing them. What would you do if you had to make the call?

I’ve heard it said we’re exploiting other people’s pain. I suppose almost any event could be spun that way. For example, when the President says we should wait six months before judging his troop surge, a lot of people are going to die because of that, and anyone who is critical of his plan might be seen as exploiting their pain. It’s in times of crisis like this that we learn the most about our values and how they compare to others. A lot of learning happens. There are always people calling foul, so be it. (People used to say who was I to write about tech, then they said I shouldn’t write about politics. I said don’t read it if you don’t like it.)

Paul Andrews: “Cho undoubtedly did not want NBC to censor the materials. But he apparently, naively or stupidly, sent only one copy out. So NBC owns the rights, unfortunately.”

Time: “How much Cho to show?”

Online banking, day 2 

Great response to yesterday’s request for experiences with online banking services.

Sounds like Ing Direct gets the highest marks from its users. Based on what I read, I almost set up a new account yesterday. Read what Clay Johnson says about them. It’s pretty rare that a product gets that kind of review from a customer.

18 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by YS on April 19, 2007 at 8:43 am


    Keep in mind that while their online banking may be good, there are banks who have better rates on their savings accounts like HSBC and Emigrant Direct.


  2. * The videos were Quicktimes.
    Nearly ALL video that’s distributed in any fashion is Quicktime. It’s almost like saying, “The videos were videos.” Just because the video is in a digital format does not make it vlogging.

    * The videos were confessional, first-person style.
    In a way it’s flattering to conflate the confessional video style with videoblogging. But consider this: We don’t refer to his text manifesto as “blogging.” There were no blogs involved with the package of stuff Cho sent to NBC.

    Still, your larger point stands: This technology can be used for good or evil.


  3. I’m a blogger, a vlogger, a podcaster, web app developer and general all-round content creator. And it’s BECAUSE I’m all these things that I could see something like this happening from a mile away. Not to be disrespectful, Dave, but the fact that you didn’t see the eventuality of this speaks more to the personal utopian tendency you mentioned, rather than to the medium.

    A medium is just that. It’s inherently amoral, carrying along whatever someone gets in their head to use it for. I bet at this moment there are at least five big-screen thrillers in production, all with a social tech slant. It’s the age-old question once again- art, life, and mimicry.

    Personally, I think Cho made some video, and obviously intended to have it viewed by the public. He didn’t use a blog and an RSS feed to accomplish it, but I guess he just as well could have. If anything, his decision to use the mass media as his distribution vehicle at least distances him from the amazing vlogging community I have embraced as my own (WE wouldn’t be caught distributing OUR video in such a way! Although it strikes me as I write this that, had Cho used the distribution tools that vloggers use, there wouldn’t be this question of whether or not NBC should show the videos to the world; the world would already be seeing ALL of it in the vast, uncontrolled media playground of the web.) But just because he went to the trouble doesn’t make me any more desirous of seeing any of it.

    Ultimately, I think it is very appropriate for you and others to be wrestling with these questions. While this tragedy has nothing to do with you directly, this is, in a very real sense, a technologically-equipped world largely of your making. (Mine, too.)

    Carter Harkins


  4. I think Cho is playing everybody.


  5. Maybe you missed out on Mobile phone cameras being used for ‘Happy Slapping’ – which isn’t ‘Happy’ at all.

    There are so many things now being touted as to blame for Cho’s actions. An ‘Asian film’ – much like Taxi Driver is one.

    Ever heard the lyrics to ‘Jeremy’ by Pearl Jam? “Jeremy spoke in class today..”

    Influences are everywhere. Information is everywhere.

    Either we’ll all end up worldly wise and learn to take the rough and painful with the smooth and cosy…

    .. or we’re all fucked.


  6. Posted by TF on April 19, 2007 at 9:59 am

    lemon, only if you let him.

    I would argue some are playing themselves by debating whether or not this is blogging or if the blogging community could do or predict such a thing in the context of such an event.


  7. re: Online banking

    I use Citibank for both my personal and business accounts, it is over-the-top easy to use, and gets improvements every few months. In my opinion they really “get” online banking. I use INGdirect as well, but I find its payment services extremely weak, I only use it to manage my short-term savings. If Citi had a comparable rate, i’d drop ING in a heartbeat. I’ve used e*trade too, it’s also very good. Wamu is terrible from the friends I know who use it.


  8. It’s easier as the non-recipient of the materials to say “post ’em all!” than if you’d received them and want to do the responsible thing. I tend to agree with Dave, but not having actually received the materials and not knowing what is in them, I think “immediately” may be too quick a call.

    Eventually, yes. And sooner rather than later. But saying they should go right up onto the Web may oversimplify the decision.

    Another issue here is ownership. Cho undoubtedly did not want NBC to censor the materials. But he apparently, naively or stupidly, sent only one copy out. So NBC owns the rights, unfortunately. Should NBC be allowed to make big bucks out of this? Putting Dave’s cynical (but usually spot on) hat on, I’m wondering if NBC’s concern here is more over how to maximize profitability than protect the public.


  9. Paul, your last question is certain to be where the conversation focuses, in two or three days, assuming some other event doesn’t come along to distract the discussion. I’ve already heard that sentiment in the reports on CNN and Fox. That’s one of the reasons I think it’s inevitable they’re going to release all the videos. My counsel to them is the same as they would give a politician trying to manage a cover-up. Don’t let it trickle out slowly, that’s disaster. Get on top of it, and release it all, once and decisively. Take it off your plate.

    I think Frank Shaw had the other possible answer, that they should turn it all over to the police and not retain a copy. I think that’s also a viable approach, but it’s too late to take it.

    NBC did precisely the WORST thing they could do, for their own self-interest, imho.


  10. I’ll also join the growing chorus of those not wanting to have everything released immediately and completely, and its possible some of the networks are taking this advice.

    Another factor is that no one is sure if Cho had an accomplice filming the videos or taking pictures. Maybe the authorities don’t want to necessarily tip their hand.


  11. A few days ago, you said this:

    6. If you’re glued to your TV hanging on every word, when was the last time they said anything that even remotely qualified as news? (If you get bored, try playing a game, every time they say Virginia Tech, substitute Iraq.)

    My answer was, as I suspect was yours as well, many hours, pictures, and words ago. Coverage (from online sources, which was my access at the time) was little more than voyeurism in my opinion. Living near DC, the coverage seemed remarkably vicious in its use of opinions as news (yes, DC is a few hundred miles from the campus, but the area contains a substantial loyal population of VA alum and, well, football fans). The announcement that the young man was from our area only increased the frenzy – was the army of media filming townhouses, the high school, and neighbors news?

    So, enter the quicktime files – perhaps the equivalent of a video suicide note. Again I ask – is this news? Is it videoblogging? Is it entertainment? Or, is it a combination of any of these? To me, I don’t think it is news, but what I believe is “news” and what is shown on the news (or news sites) tends to be a remarkable difference these days. Do you believe the videos are news, and worthy to be shown on a news network/broadcast? Or should they simply be put in the public domain as vblogs?

    I don’t believing censoring or hiding the material is necessary. I believe people can make their own decisions if they want to watch it and will make their own future decisions of good or bad whether or not they see the footage. I believe it is sad that this young man suffering reached a point that his only release was to inflict suffering and misery on a community, nationwide, and worldwide level, and because of this I have no desire to see the footage that is likely to only spread this misery. But it is apparently what he wanted; should that be respected as well? Ugh…too many questions…

    (side note – that makes two young spree shooters from my hometown in less than one year…sounds like news to me…)


  12. I agree with Fertanish that “people can make their own decisions if they want to watch it and will make their own future decisions of good or bad whether or not they see the footage”

    the trouble is (and am positive this is happening on US news more than here in the UK) that it will get forced on you whether you like it or not. 24/7. For days.

    I have a problem with the images of Cho pointing guns, wielding a hammer and holding a knife to his throat at all hours of the day.

    We have something called ‘the watershed’ – 9PM – where certain things should not make it our TV screens where young children might see them.

    THAT picture of him pointing the two guns out (like Taxi Driver) will make it on to posters hung on bedroom walls by dysfunctional kids of the future. Sounds sick, but I think they will.

    “Are you looking at me?”

    “You looking at me? Well are you?”

    Yes. We all are. We didn’t have a choice.


  13. re: Online Banking

    I use Citibank for personal and business. Its very good.


  14. Posted by Matt on April 19, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Hey, here’s a controversial thought:

    Maybe the videos weren’t vlogging. Maybe they were citizen journalism.


  15. The problem with the Cho videos is that NBC released them, thereby fulfilling Cho’s demented plan. Once they saw that he mentioned the Columbine killers by name they had to know that, by releasing them, they could be contributing to the glorification of this sociopath (at least in the eyes of other sociopaths). Cho joins Harris and Klebold in the media pantheon of school assassins.

    Decency and better judgment apparently fail in the relentless chase after audience and revenue.


  16. “Joe Trippi, Dean campaign manager in 2004, joins the Edwards campaign.”

    Bob Edwards is running for office? Cool! And he can do his own voiceovers!


  17. “But saying they should go right up onto the Web may oversimplify the decision.”

    On the other hand, this may be the last time someone sends the source material to Old Media. Next time, they may well get a domain, and a web hosting plan — which can be done in minutes, after all — and post it themselves.

    (If you wanted the extra publicity kick, you would then send “samples” and links to Old Media outlets.)


  18. re: Cho

    you should all read this

    it’s time to get off the new/old media, vlog/journalism debate, and recognize the fact that there are human beings involved here, and it’s not just about the tech.


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