Scripting News for 6/13/2007

I don’t believe in the death penalty… for people 

But I do believe in the death penalty for corporations.

Sometimes they do something so heinous, so unacceptable, that the only just punishment is oblivion.

An example: We should have put Exxon to death after their tanker wrecked the ecosystem of a pristine bay in Alaska.

And today, If there were a death penalty for corporations, AT&T may have just earned it.

Imagine, they have designs of selling access to movies and stuff over the Internet, so they decide to join with the MPAA and the RIAA to spy on and prosecute their customers.

What a lack of awareness of their relationship with customers. They should do things to reward customers for being smart enough to have chosen AT&T as their Internet service provider. Instead, they would make their customers the stupidest people on the planet, choosing the only ISP that will send you to jail to create a new business model for them. Instead of competing to provide great service at the lowest possible price, they want to drive their customers to financial ruin, for having made the mistake of choosing AT&T.

AT&T — a company that doesn’t deserve to live.

Papa Doc: “Kinda gives ya the warm scuzzies, huh?”

Sopranos finale screen shot 

Apple & developers 

Daring Fireball: “Perhaps it’s playing well in the mainstream press, but here at WWDC, Apple’s ‘you can write great apps for the iPhone: they’re called web sites’ — message went over like a lead balloon.”

Read the whole piece about how developers are reacting to Apple’s news at WWDC this week, and consider another theory to explain what’s going on.

Apple makes a lot of software that developers used to make. Over time they’ll make more. And while that’s going on they’re becoming more of a consumer products company and less of a computer company. How does that translate for developers? The platform is less important and the package is more important. What the consumer gets out of the box matters. The ability to make a phone call, or listen to music or get directions to a restaurant. But run some random app that someone other than Apple made? There’s not much demand for that with users.

How do I know? I’ve been there. When Apple made very little of the software people used, I still had a hard time explaining to people I met on airplanes or ski lifts, generally well educated people who used computers, that I didn’t work for Apple, that I was an “independent developer.” What’s that.

Apple doesn’t open up the iPhone because they don’t have to and they don’t want to. The security argument is bogus. Skype runs only on computers that are wide open. The phone is just one app, as it is just one app on the iPhone. And Apple has some special understanding of security? Well, that was disproven quickly after Safari shipped for Windows, holes were discovered within hours of its release. No it’s not security, it’s a shift in positioning. Apple didn’t come prepared this year for WWDC because it’s not a computer company, and they don’t need a developer community.

Which of course is a total shame and utter waste because they have one of the best, if not the best, developer communities in existence. Surely something could be done with all that motivated talent that effectively works for free for Apple?

Mahalo has a community program 

Jason Calacanis announced earlier today that Mahalo now has a way for people who aren’t on their payroll to create and maintain pages on their human-powered search engine. Each author and page has to be approved by one of his staffers. Authors get between $10 and $15 per page. Not sure what tools they have, or what protocols they support (that’s what interests me most right now).

But $15 seems like not very much money. Do a little math to see how many pages you have to write to make a living. Suppose an employee costs $100K per year after benefits, that means they must do 6666 pages per year. If a book has 300 pages, then a Mahalo staffer would have to write 22 books a year to earn a fairly modest salary. All this is assuming that there is no disparity, that internal authors are paid the same as external ones.

I don’t see why people should line up to do this work? I mean, I understand why Jason wants them to do it (he puts ads on the pages). But what value do they provide to authors? I suppose at some point there is flow, but you’re not allowed to spam them, so it’s just a good feeling that you’re helping people? But isn’t Jason going to get a personal jet if this thing is successful? Seems like a bit of a plantation to me.

Yes, he’s flowing some of the money to Wikipedia, but isn’t it obvious that he’s wanting to displace Wikipedia’s position in Google. Search for almost anything on Google and you’ll find the Wikipedia page either at the top or very near the top. Today Mahalo is nowhere, but Jason, the kickass promoter that he is, plans to change that! 🙂

So, I don’t understand the business of Mahalo, although at a technology level though, I do, and have some ideas. Basically everything we’ve done with the OPML Editor applies. I’m going to ask Jason for some money to develop the editor (it’s an open source project after all, and he’s got lots of VC money) so we can put together a great editorial toolkit for Mahalo authors both internal and external, and leave it to him and others to figure out the economics.

Christian Burns has a theory about the economics.

Brian Benz: “Anyone who has written a technical book with a traditional print media publisher will recognize these numbers.”

Video recording is a felony? 

Patriot-News: “Brian D. Kelly didn’t think he was doing anything illegal when he used his videocamera to record a Carlisle police officer during a traffic stop. Making movies is one of his hobbies, he said, and the stop was just another interesting event to film. Now he’s worried about going to prison or being burdened with a criminal record.”

18 responses to this post.

  1. I think that it is a Maholo Greenhouse chance for people to prove their abilities and make a few bucks while showing they have the talent to actually work for Maholo as full time employees. Once a person shows they can work on their own initiative, I am sure Maholo will be looking to aquire the talent and pay them something closer to what they deserve.


  2. As an avid enthusiast, addict, and freak of many many noteworthy topics, like digital hardcore, mobile local search, InterPlaNet, and micro content marketing, I could drum up probably 10 pages of 10 result items per page, thus 100 SERP items per day, easily.

    subdivisions of topics that interest me, like API usability testing, could keep the topic streams flowing perpetually.

    Thus, I stand to make $100 per day, just having fun searching for good content pages on the web. Perhaps, as I gained skill in google hacks and time efficiency, I could make much more than that.

    College students, stay at home moms, etc. stand to benefit. No sales. No filth. No burgers to flip. No tables to “wait” on. No dangerous drugs to take or sell.

    Finally, I can stop eating out of dumpsters!


  3. …but I thought the Calacanis deal was $0 to $15 per Result, not per SERP.


  4. > I am sure Maholo will be looking to aquire the talent and pay them something closer to
    > what they deserve.

    Spin …Spin .. Isn’t that a big assumption.

    Anyone have any idea what a Mahalo full time employee makes these days? Can anyone live on what they are payings? Wouldn’t you want to know these simple things before you started spending time building pages for them in their silo to maybe land a job?

    For a project that is being built on user generated content in the open you have to wonder why no one is asking these questions?


  5. Harold — you just asked the questions. 🙂

    I think people have been reluctant to talk about Mahalo because of a basic confusion.

    I haven’t asked because I was on the road when the initial announcement came . And I wanted to give Jason a chance to communicate before I asked challenging questions. Now that he’s announced the community program it’s time to ask the rest of the questions.


  6. i wanna get paid everytime my page is referenced. like a royalty.


  7. RE: video recording…it’s just going to get weirder and weirder, Dave. The law is way behind technology, and technology has no plans to slow down and let law and legislators (typically not technophiles) catch up. After reading the first article I saw about that arrest the night before last, I poked around and found some info on recording audio and video in various states:

    Note: that page is a good starting point, but I think in at least a couple of places it’s already out of date. And the variation! What he’s in trouble for (the audio recordings) would actually be ok here in Georgia (only one party has to consent), but the VIDEO in Georgia requires all parties consent. It is pretty hard to wrap your head around how many laws are being “broken” by various media sharing sites if anyone bothered to start looking into it and charging people…


  8. Posted by tghfbt on June 13, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Well Apple as Next before already found that you can’t count on third party products and developer community. You have to do all by yourself.
    Which products which I use on OS X doesn’t come from Apple?
    MS Office, Quick Silver, Adium. Can I remove them without problem? Sure, any time.
    If Apple manages to ship all major apps on Computer why does it needs developers on Phone?
    Dave, in the couple next week, you can make scripting news iPhone friendly. You have all tools.


  9. I wonder if Apple’s got a Google-Gears or similar story? Fireball’s being a bit disingenuous, undoubtedly a lot of apps. *are* moving to the browser … the ease of getting users to try and install this kind of software makes it natural. Especially on a handheld …


  10. Anyone who has written a technical book with a traditional print media publisher will recognize these numbers……For example, a non-fiction writer who authors books that sell in the 10000 to 25000 copy range would indeed need to write about 22 books to make a decent living, at standard publisher pay rates. The publisher, on the other hand, profits to the tune of 50000-100000 dollars per book, depending on how they control costs….Take this model, subtract printing costs, add advertising revenue, and you have Mahalo.

    IMHO Jason is counting on the fact that most authors don’t write non-fiction books for the money, unless they’re really bad at math. In most cases they write to establish credibility in their marketplace and hopefully make money later some other way….Which happens far less than the authors would hope. That’s why most non-fiction writers never author more than one or two books, then get back to work to make some money….

    @ Christian, that would be great, but from a business point of view, why would Jason hire them full time when it’s much cheaper to just let them work for a pittance or replace them if they ask for more?


  11. any suggestion on how an AT&T dsl subscriber should change providers? Am I any better off with Comcast? What other options do I have for high speed? (SF Bay Area)


  12. Posted by tghfbt on June 13, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    I heard that Comcast restricted downloading content long before. And i’m not sure if verizon is any better. You best bet are anonymazers which encrypt trafic and hide your identity.


  13. Posted by Vlad on June 13, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    I’ll probably be the only one to make this comment, but it’s about time someone noticed the awesome jobs Progresso and Campbell’s are doing with the gumbo soups.

    They’re pretty much all great. And they even come in low sodium versions which taste great too. They are really hard to find though. It’s a shame. Is that the case around you too?


  14. Posted by Gary Secondino on June 14, 2007 at 3:10 am

    Reminder – Cingular and AT&T are one company, the new AT&T.

    Have you made the connection yet to the disingenuous Apple iPhone ads that promise the real internet when in fact you will be getting the AT&T version of the internet. I don’t care how coooool the iPhone is until I have open choice in service providers I will not purchase the iPhone.

    The Who – Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.


  15. Posted by Jake on June 14, 2007 at 4:48 am

    Are AT&T’s customers doing anything illegal? Are they criminals?

    Isn’t AT&T just setting up as Neighborhood Watch captain for the parts of the internet that they have visibility into? Helping out their neighbors Mr Movie Industry and Mrs Recording Industry from being robbed? Maybe they’ll help Mr MLB from being taken advantage of by Slingbox owners – maybe it’s not illegal, but Mr MLB claims to be wronged.

    Maybe you should ask them to help you out and monitor the internet for any illegal use of Scripting News content. Since they seem to be intent on helping out content owners, maybe they’ll help you as well.


  16. I wonder how long it takes current guides to assemble a page. In other words, how would $10-$15 shake out in terms of hourly rate. The reason is this: if I can get some insight into how much time goes into a page, I can better gauge its potential value to me as a time-saver – which is the real value prop of this venture. Does it take an hour? If so, am I better served by spending my own hour with Google et. al. or trusting that Mahalo already has all the relevant links I’d want. Just curious.


  17. No what the deal will be for the UK.

    But as said above, until I can get this ‘unlocked’ from a provider, you can fahgehdabahdit!!

    Dodgy dealers will no doubt hack and unlock them in no time at all.

    With all the hype around this (albiet very sexy looking gadget) so many people will want to poke holes in it.

    Forcing certain carriers is akin to buying a tv set which only lets you watch tv from a certain cable provider or only access to certain channels. Savvy consumers will NOT like that.

    Bad move.


  18. Posted by Paul on June 15, 2007 at 7:59 am

    ATT service is crap. I may want an iPhone someday if it proves itself. But I just called customer service, using my cell phone, to change my minute plan because I no longer need 3500+ minutes. They asked me for a password I never use for anything. So, I don’t have a clue what it is, because it’s changed for some reason. So they tell me I have to go find a store and do it there. How come they can’t figure out a way to help me on the phone, after all this is a phone company, and I have been their customer for over 10 years (through various changes…Pacbell, Cingular, and now ATT). But they can’t help me. What kind of BS is this. Maybe they just want my $200+ a month and don’t like the idea of me decreasing it. So then I tell them I would rather change carriers (over the phone) than take two hours out of my day to drive to a store, wait in line, and go through this again. So, from India apparently, they tell me “Thank you for your business and have a nice day.”

    Bye bye ATT. You don’t have 3G anyway.


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