Flamewars in the Blogosphere

I don’t want to be the guy that shines a spotlight on the many varied and obscene warts that exist in the blogosphere. Far be it from me to hold myself up as an example of exemplary behavior. However, there is a disturbing trend in the world of blogs these days and it really needs to stop.

godwinslaw.pngFlamewars are nothing new on the internet. They date back to the early usenet days, where some smart dude figured out a key scientific law known as Godwin’s Law. Godwin’s Law states, in essence, that as a discussion online is prolonged over time, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler increases.

Eventually, usenet gave way to forums and forums gave way to blogs and blogs gave way to social networks.

The scientific law seems to have been preserved as a core guiding principle of internet interaction. Unlike the super smart Jason Calacanis, I don’t believe it’s all that healthy for the blogoshpere.

Well, it might be. It all depends on how the disagreements are aired. Healthy dialogue out of a mutual respect combined with lethal verbal barbs are fine, and in many cases serve to make the world a better place. However, going personal – in life, in politics, on the web – is almost always uncalled for.

Take for instance the recent hidden “cold war” between two influential technology bloggers, both supposedly friends. One does small business with a competitor and now they don’t talk to each other. Apparently. Silly pettiness.

What about the mommy blogger kerfuffle where one supposedly A-list blogger got petty with a longtail blogger over who did what when and where and why? Something to the effect of, “I did this first and you’re a lying thieving bitch”. Mmmmmm…. Female cat fights. Can I get mud with that?

Public relations and bloggers is another catch topic we like to talk about, and have. Bloggers want to own the medium and force PR to cooperate. PR wants to use longevity as a bludgeon tool to get bloggers to fit their paradigm. Stupidity.

And don’t even get me started on politics. Left vs. Right. McCain vs. Obama. He said this, no I didn’t. It all boils down to frivolity.

When is it all going to end? When are we going to realize that people are people and every person should command the respect of others, regardless of sides, positioning or dialogues.

This is a commentary piece for The District of Corruption show to be aired live on July 1, 2008 at 4pm EDT. The archive can be heard here.

Lessons from Wall*E

Normally, I would not do movie reviews on this site. I would generally use aaronbrazell.com which is much more of a personal site than this. However, there are quite a lot of lessons and hidden agenda items (good and bad) in Wall*E that I think are applicable.

If you’re afraid of spoilers, you might not want to read further, however I will do my best not to offer spoilers, per se and instead talk about the principles behind the messages because that is where I feel the importance is.

From the get go, it was apparent to me that Wall*E was an environmentally oriented flick. We’re introduced to a desolate earth that struck me as very much similar to the one we saw in I am Legend. Bonus points to the astute viewers that catch the I am Legend hat tip in the movie.

To me, it was apparent that the desolation of earth was a result of human irresponsibility and that Al Gore probably was lurking somewhere ready to hand out carbon credits. While that message certainly existed, it was the message of personal responsibility that struck me much more direct between the eyeballs.

In the movie, we get the sense that a pseudo-governmental organization has morphed humanity into a dependent culture that is given everything. It is pampered, fed, smothered and by and large turned into a welfare culture where the human race has lost the ability to care for itself or even see any problem with their state. They have been turned into automatons, beholden to the whims of the BnL Corporation.

The heroics of the movie revolve around, among other things, the ability of the human race to take responsibilities for their own actions and rise above the societal norms inbred into them, challenging the status quo and ultimately their race.

Without getting too political, the metaphor I saw was comparative, in many ways, to current western culture that is increasingly liberalized, and increasingly fed the doctrine of government dependence. Rely on government-subsidized social security. We need to pass a law that does blah. The Constitution is a living document requiring federal judges to tell us what it means for us today. Get my riff?

Another strong metaphor I saw, is applicable for those of us in social media – and really any kind of new media, whether it’s politics, science or sports. Those that follow the dotted lines are doomed to exist in a narrow and unproductive world that never changes!

Throughout the movie, robots followed the dictates of lines painted on the ground. They never left those lines because those lines provided guidance. Those lines provides meaning. Those lines provided safety.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have more rambos that challenged the status quo, said what they meant and meant what they said? They didn’t follow the dictates of Techmeme or those perceived as A-listers? I mentioned yesterday that confidence is a sexy attribute and stepping outside the lines demonstrates confidence that will take you somewhere.

As a sidenote, yet related issue, this mommy blogger needs to quit worrying about a so-called A-list blogger and be confident in herself. Those that are considered A-list, including myself, often are not (also including myself). No one can do your job better than you. Own it and forget about the rest.

I highly encourage people to see this movie. Besides the fact that Pixar always makes great movies, it’s a wonderful movie for kids and adults alike and if you go with an open mind, you’re going to be challenged.

The Apple Store: Where Intelligent People Go to Die

What is it about Apple that causes otherwise intelligent people to throw away all trace of common sense? We all know that Apple has done very well for itself, turning around from a mere 4% market share in its computer division in the 90s to having a very viable and sustainable (and diverse!) product line.

Steve Jobs is no dummy. Somehow he managed to break the digital music divide between consumers and the music industry with iPods and the iTunes Music Store. Then he came at us with OS X, the operating system that marked the departure of the Mac OS trying to emulate Windows to stay afloat and go back to its own philosophy about how an operating system should work. Then he gave us Intel-powered Macs which was a smart decision way too far past it’s time.

Now we have iPhones and video iPods and touch screen iPods and iWork ’08 and iLife ’08 and the list goes on. Apple is a smart company. But with any company that releases hardware and software, they are plagued by bugs, oversights and flaws that sneak into Revision A of the product. We all know not to buy revision A stuff. No one waited in line for Windows since the days of Windows 95. We know there are bugs. We wait. Smartly.

However, Apple products incite a certain stupidity in people that encourages them… no, forces them… no, not even that – compels them to go to the Apple Store and buy the newest product on the day of launch or soon thereafter.

Most recently, the Applegasm has surrounded the iPod Touch and the new video iPod Nano. Not long before that, insane lines across this great nation extended out from Apple and AT&T Wireless stores everywhere in anticipation of the iPhone.

Inevitably, the wait for OS X Leopard (the next-gen OS X operating system) will be notable when it is released sometime next year.

Smart people ask why. Intelligent people don’t ask, they just buy.

Apple makes good products, but they are not flawless and almost inevitably are worth the wait. For instance, folks who had an Applegasm over the iPhone for $500 or $600 can now get the same phone 3 months later for $300-$400. People who bought it at full price can get a $100 rebate.

Early adopters of the Airport Extreme router (of which I do own) claimed incompatibility with the Xbox 360 wireless adapter.

First generation Macbook Pro owners (of which, again, I am one) cannot enable their wireless adapter to be 802.11n compatible. Waiting for the second generation fixed this problem.

Early adopters of the iPod nano found that their screens were defective and cracked. I can testify to this as I personally owned a first generation Nano who had its screen crack.

Folks purchasing the brand new iPod Nano may be surprised to know that the old method of connecting Apple A/V cables to the device to gain “TV Out” access (watching video from the iPod on your television) no longer works and that a new component that is not yet available is needed to use this functionality. This has been confirmed by Apple tech support.

The bottom line is that Apple products, as with any computer company, need some time to settle and work flawlessly. Yet so many people ignore this when it comes to Apple. I’ve been frustrated in recent days by observing the reactions of some folks on Twitter and across the new media landscape as they throw away their common sense and exchange it for Apple lust. My frustration is increased knowing that many of these same folks do not need their brand new Apple device as only months earlier they had similar Applegasms over the iPhone, the 80GB video iPod, etc.

I personally know kids who would love to have a simple 2nd generation iPod Nano but live in a household that struggles to put food on the table. Is the insane gluttonous debauchery really needed? I’d encourage folks to give their used device to one of these kids if you insist on wasting money on the new Apple device that you really don’t need.

Finally, a sobering thought: For the $400 needed to buy a new iPhone, $100 (approx) it costs to have an AT&T plan to use it, you could feed 5 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a year (per UNICEF). Think about it.