Tech Policy is the new Economic Policy.

So, has anyone else been watching Wall Street do the 2000 style dot-com dance while the TechCrunch-watching, TechMeme-obsessed crowd throws parties like it’s 1999? I feel for the guys at Lehman and AIG, some of them my age, now out on the street. In fact, I feel even more sorry for them than I did for the guys caught in the dot-com bust.

Those guys in 2000 had skills but no one to pay them. These guys in 2008 have no skill except moving non-existent money around. Now don’t get me wrong. I feel awful watching people clear out their offices. I’ve had to do it when I’ve been laid off. It’s no fun. You pack up the place where you spend a third of your life (8 hours a day, right?) into boxes. You turn in keys. Sometimes a guard has to walk you out. Company policy, you know.

Lehmen’s situation is so bad they’re not even doing that, they’re too busy trying to cash in their scrip at the company cafeteria to get a few meals before the food runs out. And it’s horrifying because some of these people have spent their careers at places like Lehman and Merrill Lynch, moving up through the ranks by selling and being able to sell more and more, faster and faster. They worked long, long hours. But they got huge bonuses. They got rich. I’m not so concerned about the ones who got the massive bonuses (unless they blew it all on cars and stereo gear), but I am worried about the guy at Lehman’s London office who signed a lease and now has no job. That could be me.

And that was many of the people I know in the tech industry, who are warily watching a new host of companies get huge and valuable. Google is always the example, with their buses and meals. Facebook is another one. Even smaller companies like Twitter and Qik are getting new digs and cash infusions. And the fear among many is that we’re in another dot-com bubble.

We’re not, but we could be if we’re not smart. Manufacturing jobs are disappearing overseas while the financial sector…just disappears. But Silicon Valley is doing O.K. for now.

For now. There are some monumentally stupid things that need to happen if we want to keep the tech sector, which has become our economic lifeboat, floating:

  1. The 111th Congress must pass an Immigration bill that has fewer H1-B visas. That’s right. Fewer temporary visas for high-tech workers. Strike that provision. Replace it with a fast-track process to give those workers green cards, and fast-track them to citizenship.
  2. You’ve heard this before, but our immigration policies around universities are insane and must stop. When I was an undergraduate, I was on the rowing team at the University of Wisconsin (this year’s national champions, fyi). I had a teammate who was a Chinese national. He had gone to high school in the U.S. and came to Wisconsin for college. Each year, we went to Texas for a winter training trip during our (long) winter break. Before that, people generally went home for Christmas, and went back home for another week and a half after the trip. But this kid had to stay in Wisconsin. Because if he left, it would take months to get permission to get back in. Unconscionable. My teammate couldn’t go home for 9 months. It’s harder to get a student visa than ever, when we should have more of them. Harvard and Yale and Caltech and Stanford and Wisconsin and Michigan are competing with the Indian Institutes of Technology, Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne and like 50 universities in China that are churning out engineers and coders and inventors and entrepreneurs like mad. Want to come to the U.S. and study something cool? Great! Got a degree? Stay for another! Got that one? Here’s a green card! Get a job! Start a company!
  3. Google and Microsoft and H-P and the entire U.S. tech sector needs to give up their dirty little secret — their Chinese and Indian R&D labs. Bring some of those people back here. I know how much money you spend on lobbying, and it’s not enough when it comes to immigration. Throw your weight around and get it done. It’s OK to have people overseas, but you should keep your base here. Keep the mindshare here.
  4. The U.S. must have more broadband access nationwide, both fiber and wireless. Sorry Comcast, but caps won’t cut it. You need to do more. And the Government? We need a true National Broadband Strategy. Whether financed by private capital or not. The railroads powered the boom of the 1800s, the Interstate made the 20th century’s success possible. And I’m sorry to bring back this metaphor, but Broadband is the Information Super Highway. And we need it to get built, NOW. We need it built with the enthusiasm of the transcontinental railroad, the transatlantic telegraph cables, and the Interstate Highway System. Eisenhower got the idea from Hitler’s autobahns, but who has been watching Korea’s broadband network? Japan’s bullet trains? Our infrastructure must be reinvigorated with technology, like broadband, and real transit. Let people and information get around. Fast. We need more speed.

What am I saying? Lehman and Bear Stearns collapsed because there was nothing underneath. There was no product. Just empty credit and “irrational exuberance.”

Despite our fears, our Web 2.0 economy is producing something. The struggle to “monetize” will fade as platforms allow products to be built. Products. Look at the iTunes App Store. Those products are selling. How many are American-coded? Stop thinking about monetizing and advertising and start thinking about creating something of value and selling it.

The factories need workers, and the products need a way to get to the customers.

No more hollow shells. No more Webvans. No more Lehmans. They were selling each other air.

To survive, we need to attack the information age like the industrial age. 2008 is 1958 is 1888. The opportunity for innovation can keep our economy going if we develop products.

I know some will say that I’m insane, the paradigms have shifted, and we can’t exist in a vacuum. The world is flat, blah blah. If indeed the world (and the country) is flat, that flat ground is perfect for digging foundations and building new factories for new products in a new economy.

Stop hating on Comcast. Really.

I’ll admit it. I’ve been guilty of being mean to the cable company. Which is surprising since I’ve spent most of my life around Cable, as the son of two former FCC attorneys and one who spent a good part of his career representing cable before the FCC. Bite the hand that feeds me? Nah.

I spent most of my afternoon at a “blogger summit” hosted by NCTA CEO Kyle McSlarrow, where a bunch of us (including Dave Zatz, Art Brodsky from Free Press, and Josh Wein from my former employer Communications Daily) went over a plethora of issues ranging from liability for internet content, to the digital switch, to, yes, network management.

I’ll have more of a roundup and pictures on my own blog within a few days, but the overall impression? Cable does care. In dealing with VoIP companies, telephone companies, DBS providers, etc, Cable has an industry has made the greatest strides towards not being hated, towards better customer service.

The harsh reality is that they are limited by tons of regulations that I can’t go into detail about because I’d go insane. But Cable itself is one big pipe. Your internet is a small chunk (which they are trying to make bigger), and sadly, the vast majority of space goes to analog TV.

Some say that the solition is “a la carte” pricing, ie buy the channels you want. I’ll leave it to the guys at Cable Tech Talk to explain why that’s just a bad idea. Sadly our FCC Chairman has made it somewhat of a crusade, and perhaps what was a noble goal (some form of net neutrality, but probably not what the die-hards want) will probably be thrown out because Chairman Martin, in his zeal to “get” Comcast and the other cable companies he probably overstepped his bounds. As much as I believe there needs to be some kind of neutrality framework, probably as loose as possible, the FCC simply doesn’t have the authority to do it without Congressional approval. I don’t like it, but that’s how the process works.

(this is a well known fact in the industry that Martin dislikes Cable because they refuse to offer a la carte, which would allow families to banish MTV. Martin wants to run for office in North Carolina after his term expires, it is rumoured, and this would be his legacy).

I’m not happy about the rumoured caps, but after today, I do get the impression that Cable does want to offer you more cool stuff to buy, and more bandwidth. The only problem is giving them the freedom to.

More later.

Issues don't go away when Congress goes home…

…is something a certain site editor said to me as I complained about lack of substantiative things to write about.

This complaining also took place during a break in one of my classes on property. Today we’re talking about the right to exclude someone from using your property, which in some cases is absolute, and some cases not (I guess I should remember this for the exam).

Anyway, one of the cases that we’re looking at today is Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp (458 U.S. 419). It has to do with a cable company maintaining cables on a reluctant landlord’s property for the use of a tenant.

Which brings me to something I’ve been thinking about recently, having talked about it on a few of Leslie Poston‘s Topics On Fire podcasts, specifically regarding the Digital Divide. Did you know, for instance, that public housing residents cannot get subsidized cable modem service, because broadband is considered “entertainment?”

I bet you didn’t.

Is broadband really “entertainment” these days? I know I certainly was entertained by watching two of my college rowing teammates win Olympic Bronze medals in the Mens’ Eight last weekend, but working from home using that same broadband pipe is far less entertaining.

And even less entertaining is having to apply for unemployment benefits. If you’ve been in that situation, some states require (or suggest, very strongly) that you do it online. But what if you can’t get online?

Shireen Mitchell (aka DigitalSista) has made this a major issue, and something that I’ve tried to investigate, with little success, because of the patchwork of state and federal regulations governing access to government services. There are acts requring the use of more online resources and less paper, but those people still have a right to the services. Sometimes, Mitchell says, this means an office functionary downloading and printing a paper form.

This is obviously not entertaining for anyone involved.

Meanwhile, one of the major problems facing this Congress is what to do with the massive Universal Service  Fund (USF), which was originally meant to keep the copper phone network working in rural areas. Those areas are pretty well served now. But there is still lots of cash flowing into USF. You pay for it on your mobile phone bill. On your landline bill. On your VOIP bill. Look. It’s there.

Some of that goes to schools and libraries, allowing them to get subsidized broadband service under a program called E-Rate.

Should that extend to public housing?

Some Members of Congress simply want to gut the fund. Is that a good idea?

Ultimately, this will be a question between Congress and the FCC. But here’s another problem. The FCC needs 3 votes to get anything done. as soon as the Senate adjourns, one Commissioner (Deborah Tate) will no longer be a Commissioner, becuase her term will have expired. That means we’ll have a 2-2 FCC. Gridlock.

Congress wants to get done by mid September so they can campaign. Will they get something done? Or will there be gridlock?

Where should that money go? Is broadband service “entertainment,” or your cable as important as your phone now?

Witnesses, Gatekeepers and History

In an issue Washington Internet Daily last month there is (as one co-worker put it) “double-barreled” coverage of the Senate and House Judiciary hearings on the Google-Yahoo partnership (aka GooHoo, a term I will no longer be using).

I covered the Senate hearing in the morning, coincidentally ending across the table from Kara Swisher, which was pleasantly surprising as you rarely see Valley writers out in DC. There are enough accounts of the hearing out there that I won’t re-hash it, but this morning a coworker sent me a link to a story by a longtime political and technology journalist, who I have deep respect but don’t see very often. I noted that I hadn’t seen him there, and was told he had watched the hearing by webcast.

Whoa. That wasn’t in the story.

Does it matter?

Media serve as gatekeepers to history for many reasons, most of all access. I can go places that the average person cannot, and get into rooms or talk to people by virtue of my status as “journalist.” On the other hand, because this hearing was webcast, a talented writer was able to pick up on the same issues and notice the same things that I did, without leaving his desk.

Why aren’t more people doing this? For all the griping about access to politicians and the exclusion of “citizen journalists” and bloggers from the Capitol press corps, many of the newsworthy events around here are routinely broadcast on the Internet for anyone to watch. For free. Easily.

It’s also easy to keep a record of “what happened.” Recently I was challenged on something that I wrote, and was able to go back to the digital recording I made of the event and confirm that what I wrote was accurate. But anyone who went there had the same capability that I did. Telling me that “I would not have…” means that you don’t know, you don’t have a record.

You’re watched by cameras everywhere you go. If you’re a public figure or politician, there is always a microphone nearby. Webcasting means people the world over can witness events that previously would have been limited to a select few who could get into the room, either by arriving early (or paying a line-stander, something I’ll write about another day) or having the right credential.

In other words, everyday people can bear witness to events, record them for accuracy and document them. Not all of it may rise to the level of what professionals do. But it’s out there.

The little things and the questions may be hard to ask, but the big picture can be painted by anyone now, and that means the truth will always be there. It’s not “social” media, it’s not even “the first draft of history.” If it happened, and you recorded it, it’s the truth.

When is a Vote not a Vote?

I love campaign season. I especially love campaign commercials that talk about voting records, and outrage generated over votes that wouldn’t change the outcome of a bill, amendment, motion, or resolution (all different kinds of votes).

Why do I mean?

Some bodies are simple. The FCC has five members. One member has a tremendous amount of power if the positions of the other members are known. The Supreme Court, although not a political or regulatory body, is the same way, sort of.

Now, let’s look at our two houses of Congress. The House of Representatives, has 435 members. The Senate? 100. They regularly vote on stuff. Like I said before, some votes matter, others don’t. Some of the most important votes are made in Committees, where bills are often moved by voice vote with no record taken.

What you see on C-SPAN might be a vote to pass a bill, or an amendment to a bill, or something entirely different.

So, am I going anywhere with this?

FISA. Lots of people opposed it, but voted for it anyway in the Senate. You might call it a flip-flop, but if you step back a bit you realize that when you get to the floor and see the vote totals, you can either a) cast a protest vote that won’t change the outcome or b) not open a line of attack for the other party against you.

Now, I’m not endorsing any candidate, and my political views are not relevant to anything written here. But I do want to address something that was thrown at me during a podcast a few days ago, that a certain Presidential Candidate voted “Present” 100 times during his multi-year tenure in the Illinois State Senate. Obviously, this means the man is indecisive, right?

No, it means that someone thinks you’re stupid.

Members can vote present if they don’t feel they know enough to make an informed vote, or if they have a personal interest in the outcome, or if they simply do not feel their constituents have a dog in the fight. IF the vote isn’t close, why does it matter?

Note to bloggers, armchair pundits, and netroots: not all votes are created equal.

People love little mini-statistics they can latch onto as truths, when to really understand what happens requires a deeper understanding of the process.

Media love giving people the mini-statistics. They’re easy. They sound good. It’s much more simple than explaining what exactly is going on and where it fits in the “big picture.” People don’t instinctively want to know every little detail.

But every little detail can be distorted to form a “fact.” Did that candidate vote to raise taxes 1,000 times? No. Did he vote on amendments or procedural votes having to do with the bill? Maybe. How many of those votes were in Committee, and how many were actual votes on “final passage?” Is it possible to vote for something before you vote against it? Absolutely.

You won’t see that in the news, or in an ad. You need to go search for that, and dig through sometimes hard to find records.

If it sounds too simple, it probably is. Go look it up if it matters to you.

The nice thing is, you can see the records, and check for yourself.

The Hidden Human Cost of Government Going Green

In the necessary push toward a greener nation, we are leaving some of our most valuable citizens behind. While I am all for “œgoing green” and the overall “œgreen technology” movement, I can’t help but notice that the way the government has chosen to go about doing it is disenfranchising huge segments of the population.

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with a number of people about the issue of the poverty gap and how it relates to technology, and the internet. Noticeably, the topic of green technology kept popping up in the discussion. Specifically, how the drive for forced compliance with new green tech standards like a paperless government is leaving our nation’s poor in the dust.

The problem arises when lack of knowledge and inability to access (or afford) the necessary technology now required to obtain benefits or jobs comes in contact with the immovable wall of government mandates. As our government makes its move to a paperless model it has begun requiring those applying for benefits, jobs, job training and other government services to apply via the web.

In many cases there is immediately an issue ““ either the applicant does not have access to a computer or the Internet or, if the government office provides access, there is a knowledge gap. The applicant often has no idea how to use the technology presented to them. According to people like Shireen Mitchell of Women Wired In this has been an ongoing issue reaching as far back as the misguided introduction of the ATM-style benefits cards several years ago.

When the three main technology issues facing the nation’s poor – lack of access to technology, inability to afford technology, and a lack of knowledge of how to use technology – meet the push by the government to go green and the enforced paperless standards, people are inevitably being left behind. On the surface it seems like an unsolvable problem, but I don’t think it has to be.

Granted, if we wait for the glacial process of government to a) realize there is a problem and b) do something about it, it may never get solved. We will continue to lag behind other nations in broadband access and slowly see our standing in the science and technology fields drop ever lower and less and less of our citizens find themselves able to compete in the global market, much less their local one.

To that end, I don’t believe that lobbying your representatives will do much in the short term. I think we should be lobbying for both equipment and access, but I don’t believe we should put all of our eggs in one basket. This is a problem that needs a proactive solution.

That being the case what can the technology community do to address the issue?

The answer lies in using the tools we few are so privileged to have to leverage our influence. Because we are influential. People do hear us outside of our bubble. Some of us are heard more than others, but everyone has a voice and, more importantly, a network.

We need to leverage that on and off line network, our social media contacts, our groups, web sites, and communities at the national and local level to exert pressure to fix this problem. Who do we exert pressure on? To a certain extent the government. To a greater extent the companies that control the access to the necessary equipment and pipelines that will get people online.

Now more than ever technology has become a basic human need. In order to compete locally and globally, people need access to a computer and to broadband Internet or they will be left behind, causing us to be left behind as a nation as well. We are the biggest users of this technology. If we organize, and speak with both our wallets and our voices, we will be heard.

Will it effect real change if we push companies to start donating computers and Internet access to the nation’s most needy? I would hope so, especially if we all make the effort to create one voice for change. Programs like One Laptop Per Child are a start, but they are not enough. We need more.

In addition to pressuring the big telecommunications companies and equipment makers to acknowledge and assist those who need it most, we need to pressure ourselves. Doctors and lawyers do pro bono work all of the time in their communities, and we should be doing the same. Go to your local centers and volunteer to train people how to use the tools of technology.

If you can’t volunteer, help find people who can. Use your network to touch and help people who need you, whether it is a church outreach program, an urban high school or a government training office. The first thing you have to do is be proactive, and you don’t even have to get off your ass to do it.

You Don't have to be an Environmentalist to Have Green Habits

You don’t have to believe to be green

Here’s some interesting facts you won’t read in your local newspaper: the world has stopped warming. Data from all four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA’s GISS, UAH, RSS) released in February this year show that the world cooled between 0.65-0.75C in 2007.

The trend isn’t new. If we take the global average temperature from 2001, the trend is downwards. In the 1730’s, Europe underwent a period of rapid warming similar to the one recorded in the lead up to 2001. There is a lack of activity on the sun that some are suggesting could be the start of a Maunder Minimum.

Every time you hear people on television say that there are only a handful of manmade global climate change skeptics, you might be interested to note that the number in the United States alone includes 31,000 scientists – 9,000 with doctorate degrees in atmospheric science, climatology, Earth science, environment and other specialties. The list includes 9,021 Ph.D.s, 6,961 at the master’s level, 2,240 medical doctors and 12,850 carrying a bachelor of science or equivalent academic degree.

I could spend hours trying to convince many of you that the idea of man made global warming is flawed, and no matter what the facts, you will probably never change your mind. Believers in cults rarely do. But ultimately what you believe doesn’t matter, because you don’t have to believe to be green.

Oil

We’ve switched from leaded fuel to unleaded, and yet the pollution keeps on being pumped out. Whether air quality is related to global warming or not makes no difference as no one wants to breathe smog.

Then there’s a pure economic side. As gas has surged past $4 a gallon in the United States, the cost of filling a car has skyrocketed. Even if the price settles down in the short term, the price will only increase over the long term as global demand increases and global supply diminishes. The concept of peak oil is open to debate as to when we’ll run out, but we know oil is a finite resource.

We can make a difference now. Smaller cars, greener cars. Electric vehicles are readily available today, and some diesel vehicles coming out of Europe offer extraordinary milage. Smaller cars offer great savings as well, and do you really need an SUV to go to the local supermarket?

I drive a 2003 3 door Toyota Echo with a 4 cyclinder, 1.3 liter engine. I don’t know what the imperial conversion is, but it does 4.1lts/ 100 kms. [Editors Note: That would be a whopping 57 miles/gallon, but is also the manufacturer’s numbers.] I do so little driving now that I fill it up only once a month. When we purchased the car I was driving 200kms (about 130 miles) a day at a time where gas was half the price it is today, because even then we knew that we didn’t want to spend a growing chunk of our incomes on filling the car.

Reducing your gas consumption is both good for the environment and saves you money.

Plastic bags

Plastic is made from petroleum products, so in some ways this relates to the need to get off of oil. But from a green viewpoint there’s nothing hard about taking your own bags to the supermarket, and most places sell green friendly, reusable bags for a small cost. When we do get plastic bags, we keep them and reuse them later. One person doing so doesn’t make a huge difference, but imagine if we all did it.

Recycling

Recycling, depending on where you live can be a bit of a joke, and there were reports in Australia last year that recycled materials were being dumped because no one would take them. Even if that is true, that a portion of the materials you recycle are used is a start, and technology is increasingly delivering better ways of recycling just about anything you can think of. Chances are that next ream of paper you buy, or newspaper you read, will have at least part recycled paper. Recycling reduces pollution through reduced use of resources and by reducing the amount of rubbish dumped in landfills.

Water

Many experts now think that the wars of the future will be over water. We have lot of salt water, but fresh water is a scare resource, and much like oil will increase in price as demand outstrips supply. Here in Australia, water is THE number one environmental issue, and where I live currently you can’t water your lawn or even wash your car (you can wash your car at a car wash, but the car washes themselves have strict recycling and environmental restrictions).

There are plenty of things you can do to save water. Don’t plant a lawn, or if you have one add a soil wetting agent so the need for regular watering is reduced. Put a water saver into your shower that reduces the flow of water, or install a dual flush toilet (which are now compulsory in all new Australian homes). Not only is saving water good for the environment, it can be good for your back pocket as well.

Use public transport

Better than reducing the size of your car is giving up your car completely, or where possible. Mass transit systems worldwide are experiencing a boom in use as oil prices have gone up, but Governments will only invest more into these systems when even more people switch. If you’re commuting, can you drive to a local train station and catch a train? Is there a local bus, or tram you can use? Every car off the road cuts down on oil use and pollution, and helps deliver a better environment. It will also save you money.

* Photo credit: Richard Giles

Telecommuting, anyone?

April may be the cruelest month, but not for news in Washington.

That distinction is reserved for August. Congress recessed today (I’m writing this August 1) for a 5 week vacation. Bo-ring. No news, right?

Well, maybe. A group of 50 House Republicans took  the floor after the House recessed and continued debate. But it wasn’t real. No record. No video. Unless you were there (and I wasn’t, I was sitting at my desk) it might as well not have happened.

Capitol Geek Fact: the House and Senate cameras that bring you C-SPAN are the same ones that pipe through the entire Capitol complex. There is actually a whole TV network that shows almost every hearing room, too, but those don’t piped to the outside.

Why does that matter? The cameras are controlled by the leadership. Every year, C-SPAN asks if they can bring in their own cameras. And every year, C-SPAN is told no. That’s why you rarely see things like empty desks in the Senate, or the vastness of the House chamber when it’s nearly empty. And they are both generally empty.

They are watching the floor on TV, but they’re not there. They’re in their offices, or in hearings.
And when Congress isn’t in session, the cameras go off. Because there is nothing to see.

Except today, right? We probably won’t ever know what was said in that room, because there was no record. No stenographer. No recording devices or video cameras, either

Capitol Geek Fact #2: Congress recesses in August because of the oppressive humidity in Washington, DC.

Today it’s just a tradition, but an important one. August is the start of the campaign season, especially for House members. Remember, they have two jobs, and the second job is to keep the first job. So it’s not exactly a vacation.

But campaigns are different now. TV dominates. Districts are just too big. The House is capped at 435 members because otherwise, it would be incredibly large and continue to grow as the population grew. So instead we get reapportionment ever 10 years, after a Census (still done the old fashioned way, since the handheld computers the Census bureau wanted to use Failwhaled).

And there is still work to be done. Not just the “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” slogan (which could just as well be an ad for a discount dentist), but things like passing the major appropriations bills. They’re kind of a big deal. When you don’t have a budget, the government shuts down. Anyone remember that? It didn’t go over well with some people.

The House chamber has air conditioning now. It’s a fact. Members return home on the weekends regularly now. The recess is a tradition, but sometimes traditions become outmoded. Right now, the benefits are only apparent to DC residents who have less traffic to deal with and lobbyists who can take their vacations, too.

Some traditions matter. Some don’t. Would you take a month off if your project was 6 months behind schedule? And when people today are so connected to their work all the time, who would object to letting members vote remotely? The FCC has a process where members vote “on circulation.” They don’t have to meet, but their votes do happen. And things get done.

Maybe they’re onto something.

Why the "Techo Chamber"?

Q: How many candidates for political office do you see promising to “____________ to the Washington insiders and ___________”?

A: Lots. People like reformers. They make voters feel good. Things will be different. Etc.

Q: How many people complain about the same “talking heads” day after day, week after week, pontificating on the same shows, when we know their positions and who they’ve worked for and who they are biased for and against?

A: Lots. Do we turn them off? No.

Q: How is “New Media” any different than “Old Media?”

A: It’s NOT.

I just finished listening to one of the Internet/Phone/Chat call-in shows that I frequently enjoy. It’s always the same few guys, who I respect and have a bunch of interesting viewpoints on…stuff. They occasionally let people call in and join, but not really. The Chat Room is generally more active (and interesting) than the conversation on the call.

And in the most “meta” way possible, as it always does, the topic turned to the “tech blogosphere” echo chamber and the so-called “A-List” of writers and polemicists who write about start-ups, established companies that used to be start-ups, and…each other.

Oh, and did I mention that some of these guys are the ones who are always talking about how “new media” (a term that I have zero clue how to define) will change “old media” and that everyone has a voice, it’s merit-based, etc, and so on and so forth?

Yeah. That’s why you have the same people on the show, with the same points of view, every single week, and you actually joke about it when you let someone else in to talk. You also have a very small audience. Compare to say, Aaron Brazell’s show which airs the night before (full disclosure: I have appeared on the show).

Aaron, who is not by trade a writer, pundit, polemicist, commentator or journalist, had a segment where anyone that wanted to could call in and talk. He called it “Somebody Had To Say It.”

There were far more guest listeners on Aaron’s show than the other show. I still like and respect the guys on the other show…but…

In the spirit of mangling the English language, I’m dubbing them, and the rest of the “A-List” who engage in the constant cycle of writing about each other and complaining about the missteps of others the “Techo Chamber,” the Silicon Valley counterpart to the “Beltway Echo Chamber.”

And in a wonderful twist of irony as someone who started out his media career, such as it is, writing on a website, I am going to offer the Techo Chamber a piece of advice as someone who operates in “old media” as well as “new media” (despite the fact that I firmly believe there is no distinction).

You want to have a Breaking Story? You want the exclusive? the scoop?

Read your email. I mean, really look and see what’s important. Scan the press releases. CALL THE PRESS CONTACT. Talk to the PR flack on the other end. They want to hear from you. Even if you don’t write something, or you’re going to write something negative, make sure to call them again. Follow up.

Of course, under what I like to call “Feinberg’s Law,” the longer a piece on, in, or about the Techo Chamber goes on, the probability of Michael Arrington being mentioned approaches, and will eventually reach 1.

(note: while this is similar to Godwin’s law, I am not comparing Michael Arrington to any subject of Godwin’s law, and if you link to this and write that I did, well, that’s libel, and if you have any ad revenue, I want it, because I have student loans. Am I clear?)

Anyway, back to Arrington. You know why he gets scoops? TechCrunch started by him hosting cookouts at his home. People started showing up, and showing him stuff. He started writing about them. More people started showing up, and some were repeat customers. Fast forward, and he’s “the man” at what he does, whether or not you call it news. He does get first crack at many things, because he has built relationships.

Another example of someone who has the right idea is Robert Scoble. I had the pleasure of working on a project with him earlier this year. You know how that started? Robert answered an email, and when I was in the Bay Area in February, we sat down and talked, and came up with a cool idea. You know what else? Robert actually gets in his car, goes places, and talks to people. Some would have a word for that. It’s…Journalism.

You know how we got him those interviews? Two ways: (1) Relationships that I have developed with people, or people who know people, and are willing to help with things and (2) Sheer persistence. Keep calling. Call every day. Find out who to call. Call them. Go to their office. Beat your head against the door until it falls down. I’m not kidding.

Where is all this leading? I don’t want to hear technology media people talk about each other and write about what each other is writing about, or why they are wrong, or this or that.

What do I want from you?

There is a picture of Adlai Stevenson showing a photographer the hole in his shoe that he wore down from campaigning. That’s what I want to see. You want to report news, work the shoe-leather. You want the scoop? Start digging.

Otherwise, you’re just part of the Techo Chamber and no more interesting than the CNN show you just turned off.

Do we really have to go through this again?

I was born in 1982. I remember my parents buying a VCR. That one broke, and we got another one.

It was a Betamax. Anyone remember those? Sony had this great format for Video Cassettes, but they only manufactured it themselves. Someone else had a larger, lower quality format, but they licensed it to anyone who wanted to build them.

Remember the VHS? Yeah.

Remember Betamax? FAIL.

Remember when IBM built their PC out of available parts, and Compaq copied it, and bought the same software from Microsoft?

Oh, yeah. That built an entire industry.

Remember when Apple kept closed and lost marketshare they haven’t gotten back? (I’m an Apple user, but still)

Remember AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe, Delphi? FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL.

Remember when Yahoo! and Microsoft! and MySpace used OpenID and OAuth, and everyone knew how to use it because they were open standards or commodity products?

Remember when Facebook kept their “connect” protocol proprietary?

I won’t say that one is better than the other…because I haven’t seen either product.

I just wonder if CEOs read history.