Scripting News for 6/17/2008

New NewsJunk Junk 

There’s a certain symmetry to the headline of this piece. πŸ™‚

Anyway… We’re working on a bunch of stuff that’s almost ready to release. I’m taking notes here and testing stuff as I go. It won’t show up in the RSS feed until it’s done.

If you look in the right margin on you’ll see two sets of headlines from The first set are the 5 most recent stories. The second set is the top 5 stories. Both change without the home page being updated through the magic of JavaScript includes.

How to include these bits in your blog or website.

Do you want NewsJunk headlines to flow to you through email? We’re ready to go with a Google Groups interface, subscribe today!

That brings us to…

7 ways to follow NewsJunk.

Number 8 is coming sooooon. πŸ™‚

Remembering Tim Russert 

Tim Russert died on Friday. I never met the guy, but I sure was familiar with his work.

I thought he personified what was wrong with the political process, and I said so. It would be hypocritical now for me to say he was a great man, because I don’t think he was. Sometimes I felt the politician he was crossing was well-equipped to speak honestly for himself, and I wanted to hear what he or she had to say, and Russert interfered. It came up in his interview this spring with Ron Paul, who actually had some new ideas that I felt deserved airing, but he couldn’t get much of that past Russert, who applied his inside-the-Beltway logic. I noticed he was a lot harder on outsiders. And he was always easy when interviewing members of his profession, who he let speak without interruption, without interrogation. An odd exception, I thought — it would be nice if they took as much care with their own consistency as they do with the people they interview

Of course his death is a sad thing, for everyone. And I did enjoy Russert enough to listen every Sunday to Meet The Press. Through the magic of podcasting, I never had to miss one. And there’s a chance that this ultimate insider would have discovered the power of the rest of us, not only in the aggregate, but as individuals as well. I think they pay lip service to it, and keep it far away and abstract, content to live with their view of the world, as revolving around them, which of course in some ways, it does.

The most poignant eulogy for me came from Bob Schieffer, longtime host of Face the Nation (CBS), who was clear up front, Russert was a competitor, and both of them took the competition seriously. He said that he and Russert were also friends. This is what I want for us in the blogosphere and we don’t have it. Competition here is so cutthroat, so personal, that it’s impossible to have a relaxed conversation, to learn from people who compete. It would be nice if we could get to that place, if Schieffer wasn’t exaggerating for effect, marking the sadness that comes with anyone’s passing, even someone whose success you envy.

Update: Arianna apparently sees it the same way. πŸ™‚

AP pay-to-quote, day 2 

A commenter named Billenator says it’s all about money. It’s a good essay, and worth thinking about.

But what’s been missing in much of the discussion is an understanding that large entities like AP rarely are of one mind about anything. I first learned this in the 80s trying to make sense of Apple, a company that was, while Steve Jobs was gone, a land of many opinions and much second-guessing. Today’s Apple is still a complex animal, for sure, but it presents a simpler interface to the world.

Harvard is an interesting place, all great universities understand that every person has their own opinion, they celebrate that with something called academic freedom. Universities see diversity of opinion as part of their mission. At least good ones do.

AP is a large organization with many opinions, and they’re not like Apple nor are they like Harvard. How many people know that AP is a not-for-profit cooperative? Does that change your thinking?

And while it seems that lawyers are running this show, how much do you know about what actually happened here? Are you sure the blogger is telling the whole story? (I have no reason to believe he’s not, but bloggers are people too, and sometimes they have motives other than the obvious ones.)

I want to testify on behalf of the AP. I did a deal with them at the end of last year, a quiet one, that the tech community mostly ignored. We didn’t run press releases or go on a press tour. I did talk with a few analysts, there were a few articles, but none seemed to catch the trust in the community coming from the AP. It seems that the last 10 years have influenced AP, they are willing to take some risks with their content, but it seems many if not all bloggers are not quite as innovation-aware as they think they are — how many were willing to give any thought to the unique experiment the AP did with some of their most valuable content? If any were, they never made their presence known to me.

Neither Mike Arrington or Jeff Jarvis, two of the leaders of the AP rebellion, noticed the good work that AP was doing, but they were willing to shut down the relationship between the blogosphere and the AP, over what? All that had happened was a threatening letter was written. Arrington is a lawyer (disclaimer: at one point he was my lawyer) and he knows how insignificant such a letter is. He actually publishes the ones people send him on his site! All of a sudden the earth shakes because AP sent one to another blogger? Come on, the blogger dost protest too much, methinks. πŸ™‚

The point is — as a group — we haven’t grown up yet. We’re in the middle of a revolution, and we’ve attracted some of the energy we’re revolting against. Time to stop thinking about centralizing power and punishing those who don’t recognize it. That’s not going to work for AP anymore if it ever did, and it’s not going to work for BuzzMachine or TechCrunch either. I don’t respect your brands, I respect ideas and thought, innovation, generosity, even kindness.

AP is a large organization that serves many constituencies, and is dependent on them in ways very few people outside AP understand. I certainly don’t. But I do admire the courage of the people I’ve met there, for good reason. I’m willing to cut them a lot of slack, because whether you like it or not, the relationship between bloggers and the AP continues, and it’s nowhere as simple as you think it is.

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