The Pros and Cons of "Going Dark"

When I tell people that I am actually an introvert, it usually surprises people. As someone who is in the public eye, and maintains some kind of brand that is recognizable, most people see me as an outgoing guy who is always trying to be a part of the latest social scene and while that is true, it’s important to note that it is only a portion of who I really am.

This goes for anyone on the internet. With the social web, it is easy for people to feel like they actually know us. They see us as marketers, branders, celebrities. They see us as subject matter experts and they want our time. Clearly, this was on display at SXSW this past weekend where a simple jaunt to lunch that normally take about 5 mins, would take 20-30 mins because of casual conversation assaults in the hallways.

3367053664_4b1c0da51dPHoto by: Jim Storer

Is this a problem? Directly, no. We go to these events to meet people and people are our lifeblood. Without people, we are no one and we have no credibility. Our credibility is wrapped up in our communities, readers, viewers, listeners and those who are influenced by our work. However, the cult of personality as a whole, is a larger problem.

When Mike Arrington was in Europe earlier this year, someone who felt like they knew him (in a negative way) assaulted him with spit to the face. When Kathy Sierra had vicious threats directed at her, she disappeared out of the public eye for some time. Jeremiah Owyang also recently disappeared for different reasons.

We are not wired to be the center of attention. In some sick and twisted way, we love every second of it. Our egos are stroked when adoring fans adore, but we are doused with harsh reality when that attention turns a different direction.

In the past few days, I’ve given a lot of thought to “going dark” – that is, disappearing from public view for a period of time. I still may do that, simply because, my own “celebrity” is beginning to hinder me. As those of us who enjoy immense attention grow into those roles, inevitably we begin to resent it. We hate it. We want to be “normal” whatever “normal” means. We want our lives back.

But at what cost?

In some ways, going dark can be therapeutic. It allows us time to re-examine our priorities, understand our motives and, in general, do soul searching. If done right, we come out the other side with a fresh perspective on life and our livelihoods.

In a negative sense, going dark can have tremendous effect on our social equity. In a “what have you done for me lately” industry, disappearing for some time can completely remove a person and their ability to influence. In some cases, our businesses and careers depend on our presence in the social space.

I don’t have the answers, as I have not “gone dark” at any point. If I do, I’m sure I’ll find my experience will teach me something about the process. It strikes me that a successful sabbatical requires some kind of balance so as not to lose social equity, yet still take enough time to recharge and re-energize.

Web 2.0 Representation in the Obama Administration

We are not 4 full days into the Obama transition period and already three web executives have made theoir way into the mix in some kind of advisory role. Yesterday, we covered the naming of Julius Genachowski of Launchbox Digital and Sonal Shah of Google.org to the transition team. Today, the New York Times points out that Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been named to his economic advisory board.

This got me thinking about what a Web 2.0 Administration would look like. In considering roles within the new administration, I’m suggesting possibilities based on their personal reputation within the web space with a favoring for people that own or run their own companies.

Chris Brogan is the ultimate diplomat and community guy, so he should be considered for Secretary of State. Louis Gray is my candidate for Ambassador to the United Nations. Oh and Tom from MySpace needs to be an Ambassador or something because he’s everyones friend.

Jason Calacanis is a master businessman, having been the CEO or an executive in companies such as Weblogs Inc., AOL and now Mahalo. As such, I am naming him as Secretary of Commerce.

Mike Arrington is not a practicing attorney, but it is his background. He is a no-bullshit kind of guy not hesitating to name companies to the dead pool if he thinks they have no chance and propping up companies who he believes does have a chance. Because of the nature of the FBI, and the Department of Justice, Mike seems like a good fit as the Attorney General.

Gary Vaynerchuk, as the ultimate communicator, is qualified and should be President Obama’s Press Secretary.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs seems to be the only CEO of a publicly traded company (AAPL) who seems to be doing okay in the economic downturn. Sure, he might want to redistribute iPods, and ensure the Star Spangled Banner is the top pick in the iTunes Music Store for 4 years, but he should be the Secretary of the Treasury.

Lightning rod video and puppet blogger, Loren Feldman, has no issue going after “enemies of America” (or anyone else) and as such, he gets my designation for Secretary of Defense.

Knowledge blogger, Dave Taylor, has built up a wealth of intelligence regarding a variety of topics. I nominate him as the Director of Central Intelligence.

Graham Hill of Treehugger is the notable nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk as Administrator of NASA.

Julia Allison should definitely be a White House intern.

What do you think? Who else should be in the cabinet?

Added: Melanie Notkin has been nominated, and I concur, in comments below as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Her site is using Web 2.0 to enlighten and inform aunts, families and the general population.

Consolidation in the Blogosphere – Part II

Yesterday, I posted a video that suggested that perhaps a little consolidation needs to happen in the blogosphere. I was not the first. At the time of that recording, it had slipped my mind that Mike Arrington predicted a roll-up of blogs back in March.

Regardless, the issue has sparked a very interesting discussion around the blogosphere. Duncan Riley took the first major step of actually putting out a call to action on the concept of an advertisement federation.

Steve Hodson complained that he was concerned about the users who read a blog for the blog and might not like editorial restraint that might come from a new “conglomerate”. He did a whole podcast around this. Thanks Steve!

From my perspective, there’s two parts to this equation. There’s a play for advertising dollars where a combined alliance of 5-8 blogs each doing 150k pageviews a month can command a far more significant direct sale interest than any one of those blogs alone.

The second part of that equation is in content, and more importantly, diversity of content. Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins seems to think there is no problem with bunches of bloggers talking about the same things all the time. I disagree, as I think most. But putting that aside, there will always be the echo chamber, regardless of alliances. It’s just that an alliance can present a distributed voice on a wide variety of topics making it more desirable for the combined audience of all member blogs put together as well as the advertisers.

End of the day, this concept still has miles to go before anything actually happens. But I’m happy with the direction of the conversation.

Here’s the second video.

The Internet is Not a Free Speech Zone

It would seem that people, by and large, think that the internet is a free speech zone. We have blogs, these are our personal spaces and we can do whatever the hell we want.

In case you missed the memo, this is not the case.

Sure, you might not go to jail (actually, this increasingly becomes possible) but as bad, if not worse, is the possibility of destroying relationships because of your actions on the internet.

It’s not a free speech zone.

A few days ago, Loic Lemeur, the founder of Seesmic and someone who I have yet to meet in person, put out a very impassioned video calling Kosso (who is my friend and the developer of Phreadz) to task for disseminating private conversation.

I find this video very honest and transparent. Loic apologizes for direct comments that may have been inappropriate. From Kosso’s standpoint, he explains in a very coherent way why the whole thing is very awkward:

Now, if you’ve made it this far and watched the videos, you can understand that the politics of the web is a very delicate thing. It’s easy for people to get twisted up, but there’s always two sides to every conversation.

A few months ago, Loren Feldman started a series of parody videos mocking Shel Israel’s videos at FastCompany.tv. Quite a number of people took offense to these videos and that particular conversation got downright nasty. What some people don’t understand is that the internet is not a free speech zone and, if Loren wanted to, he could destroy their lives, businesses, client relationships, etc.

Does that make Loren a bad guy? No, I hardly think so. I personally think that Loren is one of the nicest and most honest guys on the internet. But I know he could destroy me.

That in itself doesn’t keep me from stepping into that fray, but it’s a healthy respect valve.

So to everyone I have bitten harshly in this internet world, accept my apologies. There have been a lot of them, but to name a few: Tyme White, Mike Rundle, Kris Smith, John Havens, David Krug, Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington, Jason Calacanis and others.

Life’s too short.

Google Reader Stats Still Pretty Useless

Did you know this blog has only 7 subscribers? Me neither. In facts, I’m solidly in the 800 subscriber range according to all authoritative stats on such things. However, Google Reader is reporting 7 subscribers. Keep in mind that these are subscribers to a feed using Google Reader, so expect some skew. But a 793+ subscriber skew is beyond a skew and more in the neighborhood of Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky”.

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Oh wait, I have 55 subscribers to my Atom feed as well. Doesn’t really matter since all my feeds redirect to my FeedBurner feed anyway. How are these feeds different? Why doesn’t Google Reader respect 301 redirection which explicitly says “this feed no longer exists and is moved to this other location” (i.e. FeedBurner). Web browsers and in fact search engines including Google see this standard code and respect it. Google and the search engines purge all references to the old URL and index the new one. Browsers don’t cache 301’d pages. Yet Google Reader is handling all these feeds as different feeds. Why?

If you look at Mike Arrington and Robert Scoble’s posts where are they are fruitlessly frittering away at trying to track the nuances of these numbers, you’ll notice a couple more problems with this whole Google Reader subscriber number problem.

Everyone is having to tally up subscriptions. Why can’t it be boiled down by host names for a total. And even worse, Mashable does an uber-nice hatchet job on the stats pointing out that many of the top blogs are top blogs because they are default feeds in feed readers.

If Everyone is Doing it, Is it Really Cool Anymore?

If a tree falls on a mime in the middle of the woods and nobody hears the mime scream (mouth wide open with no audible sound), does anyone care? I speak of blogging about blogging and I speak to myself as well.

In my opinion, the market is way oversaturated when it comes to blogging news. There’s Blog Herald, and the Blogging Times and 901am. Not to mention The Blog Columnist. There’s writing good copy for blogs, making money from blogs, and more. I even write about making WordPress do crazy things. Continue reading