The Dickensian 2008: A Look Back

This year might be the strangest year ever. It roared in with news of Robert Scoble having his Facebook account suspended for utilizing scripts to sync data between Plaxo and Facebook in violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service. Of course, the year ends with Facebook opening up fbConnect in a way to share that same data with anyone who so chose.

We started 2008 with CNETs Caroline McCarthy reporting that MySpace voters preferred Barack Obama on the left and Ron Paul on the right. As we know now at the end of 2008, there was one group of netroots voters that managed to be successfully heard and we now have a new President-elect. On the other side, the GOP demonstrated their complete ineptitude tapping into the grassroots by marginalizing the candidate that would have fired up their internet base. At least at the end of 2008, there are some pockets of common sense on the right, but those pockets will likely not be heard or heeded.

In the first half of 2008, ridiculous acquisitions, funding rounds and business plays flourished. An example was when job search site, Monster.com acquired San Francisco-based Affinity Labs for $61M. On contrast, companies receiving funding or valuations at the end of 2008, are doing so on devalued terms while other companies are laying off workers and cutting back contract costs in an effort to extend their runways as far as they can into the second half of 2009 or beyond.

In every way, 2008 ends in a Dickensian way, highlighting two sides of a very different coin and leaving investors and entrepreneurs with a scared and tentative look in their eyes.

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We made our annual predictions early in the year, and wanted to review those predictions for those keeping track at home.

Macworld/Apple

We said: Since Macworld is right around the corner I don’t think we will see any real new products but rather a grow what they have to meet their projections. This means upgraded iPod Touches, iPhone 2.0, iPhone SDK, upgraded Apple TV, patches to Leopard, improved Cinema Displays and upgraded Macs/Macbooks. The only thing I could see would be integration of their multi-touch technology on laptops (like the rumored sub-notebook).

What actually happened: Apple announced Time Capsule, an iPhone SDK for developing Apps for the iPhone (now available through the iTunes App Store for the iPod Touch and the iPhone 3G), iTunes movie rentals, Apple TV 2, and the now famous Macbook Air.

Accuracy: We accurately projected the iPhone SDK, Upgraded Apple TV, and the Macbook Air with multi-touch. Later in the year, we would see the iPhone 3G, improved cinema displays and the release of the new Macbook/Macbook Pro lines. We consider 100% accuracy here in 2008 with a 50% accuracy for Macworld 2008.

Microsoft

We Said: Let’s face it, Vista blows. It’s slow, doesn’t have any real innovation under the hood and takes more horsepower to run. I predict they will continue forcing it down people’s throats and in revolt people will continue to order machines with XP. On the other side of the coin, the Xbox is rocking and I predict they will announce an integrated Windows Media Center/IPTV version with HD-DVD to compete with the Playstation 3. They have a real opportunity to own the living room since Apple TV has flopped.

What actually happened: Some manufacturers, including Dell, decided that based on actual customer demand and trends (wiping pre-loaded Vista systems and installing Windows XP), computers could be shipped with XP instead. In addition, the Xbox did receive a much-needed face lift (called Xbox Experience) that we talked about here, though it did not go as far as we expected. We did not predict the emergence of Apple TV/Xbox Experience/TiVo challenger Vudu at the beginning of the year.

Accuracy: We consider our predictions to be mostly inline with actual results, but we missed or misjudged several things along the way. We claim a 60% accuracy rating here.

Web 2.0

We Said: Ok, hype over. Game over. Most “Web 2.0″ companies will go into the dust bin of history because their marketing strategy or ideas just didn’t pan out. Also, as more companies adopt these technologies into their “œEnterprise 2.0″³ strategy there will be less of a rush to create another social network or AJAX-ified web site unless it has real value. Side note – kill the term Enterprise 2.0. The enterprise hasn’t changed, the apps have just gotten easier to develop.

What actually happened: We feel that this was an overly-generalized prediction. It could have been more specifically Enterprise 2.0, as opposed to Web 2.0. That said, there was an actual push and adoption into the Enterprise space. Most notable of all Enterprise 2.0 companies was Yammer which is build as a standalone Twitter for Enterprise. Yammer won the top award at Techcrunch50.

Accuracy: Though there certainly has been more focus in recent months on utility over “bling” (Ajaxified sites, as we put it), we don’t necessarily believe that corporate Web 2.0 has advanced far beyond “Corporate blogging”, but with Yammer like companies popping up, we’ll claim a 40% accuracy rating.

Twitter

We Said: Twitter will get bought – it is a cool tool but not a lot money to made behind it. It needs to be part of a bigger whole. They also need better infrastructure because they crash whenever there is a big tech conference. CES will be a big test for them.

What actually happened: Twitter did not get bought, and in fact, took a third round of funding. It may have been their failures of June/July that prevented an acquisition, and there certainly were rumors of a Facebook acquisition of Twitter recently. The company seems to have turned a corner on reliability, and have a business model in mind, even if it hasn’t been outlined. In addition, Twitter development continues to proceed with a release of an all new Twitter API in 2009.

Accuracy: 0% – hands down, we were wrong. The company continues to confound even the experts.

Pownce

We said: Pownce will die – Twitter won this battle. Game over.

What actually happened: Pownce died.

Accuracy: 100%. ‘Nuff said.

Digg

We said: Digg will get bought – After rumors of a sale for the last 18 months, they finally get bought by a media behemoth. Sale price? $300 million.

What actually happened: While Digg did not actually get bought, they are bleeding money as reported by TechCrunch this weekend. According to the TechCrunch, the Microsoft search deal which was supposed to bring in over $100M over three years is clearly not doing that at all.

Accuracy: We want to take some credit for seeing the dark side of Digg, but clearly cannot based on our actual predictions. 0%.

Yahoo

We Said: Yahoo will continue to struggle and have massive layoffs – Yahoo didn’t change much with their executive restructuring and they have really sucked at integrating their products. They are going to get hit with lower stock prices and will have to cut the fat out.

What actually happened: What didn’t happen, might be the more accurate question. We had the Microsoft-Yahoo deal that was on, then off, then on, then off. The forced resignation, by all accounts, of CEO Jerry Yang, the hostile board takeover (“hostile” in the loose sense, not the SEC sense) by Carl Icahn, and the devaluation of Yahoo stock to approximately half of what it opened the year.

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As for the predicted Yahoo layoffs… Well, it’s such a bloodbath that sites like this exist to track the chaos.

Accuracy: Can we score a 110%?

HD-DVD vs Bluray

We said: HD-DVD and BluRay will not have a winner, still – This year is just going to continue the fight with hybrid drives getting cheaper so by 2009 the choice will be irrelevant.

What actually happened: Bluray won.

Accuracy: 0%

Google and Wall Street

We Said: Google’s honeymoon with Wall Street will end – With the acquisition of DoubleClick there is more of a chance for Google to fail. Along with it trying to change to many sectors, Healthcare and Energy to name a few, it will need to shore up its core competencies before people start to trash it and the stock will be worth half what it is today.

What actually happened: Everyones honeymoon with Wall Street ended with the collapse of the economy. Google has lost over 60% of it’s value, falling from a Jan 2 open of $685/share to the current trading number of $298/share.

Accuracy: We will claim 75% accuracy on this. We can’t claim 100% because the reason for the value loss is not similar. It’s just the nature of the market at this time.

Facebook

We Said: They are a necessary evil right now and their beacon debacle will need to be fixed in order for them to go IPO. They will be the new IPO darling as analysts are ready to trash Google.

What actually happened: Facebook did not IPO in 2008, though they had a significant investment from Microsoft at a highly questionable valuation of $15B. Experts like Kara Swisher don’t expect an IPO until 2010. I might add that with the economy the way it is, pre-collapse predictions of 2010 might still be ambitious. I personally doubt Facebook will ever IPO.

Accuracy: 0%

Bringing 2008 In for a Landing

It’s always tricky to really predict a year in advance. With the economy and turbulence in the various sectors and markets, 2009 will be highly tricky to predict. Predict we will do, early in the new year, though so stick around.

The Invisible Twitter Expert

An interesting controversy on Twitter today. Matt Bacak (Anyone ever hear of him? ““ Exactly) self released a press release calling himself, The Powerful Promoter. “œFirst Facebook, now Twitter. The Powerful Promoter, Matt Bacak, has taken himself to the top of the social media networks yet again, this time beating out 99.9% of the fastest growing site’s members”.

As you would expect, the Twitterverse has not been kind. Scott Baird, describes the reaction in his blog, Matt’s press release states “œAnyone can call their promotional abilities “˜powerful’ but I actually prove that mine are,”. “œThe problem is that this type of ego really contradicts the the overall social media mentality which is basically “œIt’s not about you, it’s about the overall community”.

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You can see the backlash through Twittersearch. Bacak has been called the Biggest Douche in Social Media and 232 people have dugg the article with 69 comments at this time. Jamie Scheu described the situation well on his blog, Promote Your Way to Irrevocable Personal Humiliation.

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As humiliating as this situation may be, it points out the problem with our obsession with keeping score. Matt Bacak wrote a press release because he got a high Twittergrader score.

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How does a guy who follows just 32 people with 1500 updates and most importantly, no one knows, get such a high score? As you can see, Bacak is so memorable that real Top Twitterer, Aaron Brazell, calls him Joe. Maybe the wizards at Twittergrader need to go back to Hogwarts. How can you give a person that no one on Twitter knows a 99.9! Aside from the grade inflation or algorithm problems, I think what the Invisible Twitter Man points out is the problem with ego and score obsession in social media. Hopefully, we can get back to Scott Baird‘s point and let social media be about the overall community.

Social Media Quagmire

What happens when you build your business around a technology that disappears overnight? What happens when you build a client base, a pool of prospective clients or an otherwise niche demographic that is dependent on some other third party?

Many times it works out. Effective consultants have built their business on less than reliable third party access. However, there is an inherent risk that your way of life can change without any influence from you.

While Pownce has announced they are closing their doors (And we don’t really believe anyone outside of the Pownce four-some have built any kind of living around the microblogging service), I wonder what it would do to businesses built on the premise of Pownce availability?

The same goes for Twitter, where people have made an entire consultation around the use of Twitter. But what happens when Twitter goes away (and Twitter will go away at some point, undeniably without consultation with these consultants building their business on its existence)?

What happens when you as a consultant are hired to provide surefire, highly effective social media routines that will have a 95% possibility for 3-6 month positive effect on the growth and you recommend Twitter? And Twitter becomes 80% unreliable for an entire month, as it did in June and July?

What happens in a dying economy when companies want real returns and all you can give them is conversations with potential clients, and you have no solid way to convert those conversations into real customers?

Food for thought…

Indecency in Common Areas (or how Twitter advertising schemes will get you canned)

The National Mall in DC is a fantastic place for everyone. It is often bustling with tourists from around the United States and around the world. The draw of taxpayer-supported Smithsonian museums, wide open space for people to walk, or eat, or socialize and beautiful scenery of the center of American government keeps the area bustling all the time.

The National Mall, much like the Roman forum where people came to freely exchange ideas and thoughts without pretense, is a public space that is open to anyone doing just about anything. However, there are certain things that are certainly not welcome on the mall. Without a license, you’re generally not allowed to sell things. You’re not allowed to, without license, setup your own sound system and hold a concert of some sort. You’re not allowed to have sex, or perform other activity considered “indecent”.

Twitter is that forum, that National Mall. It is a beautiful thing that allows for the free exchange of ideas and views. People converse and challenge each other. They unite behind causes, events and people. It’s great. However, recently, several “indecent” examples have cropped up. Specifically, with monetization of Twitter. Monetization of Twitter, depending on how it’s done, is polluting the common area. It is an obscene money grab, and I’m tired of it.

For instance, there is Magpie that will automatically insert a tweet into your tweet stream every 5 messages. The only disclosure is a #magpie hashtag. Josh Catone calls it a “terrible idea” saying:

You could find yourself shilling for something you’d rather not be. Unlike Google AdSense or other forms of display advertising, tweets that go out to your followers coming with your name attached and your implicit endorsement.

Right, no.

Twittad is less intrusive, and has less potential of affecting the Twitter community. With this model, advertisers “buy the background” of a Twitter users page. The only time it is offensive is if I am visiting a Twitter page that has such an ad.

Chitika has jumped on board by extending their advertising options to Twitter as well. In an email sent out this morning to their publishers, the company suggests its publisher tweet their referral link and provides the copy to do so:

If you are on Twitter, you can easily tweet your Chitika referral link to earn some extra revenue. For any user who signs up via this link, we will pay you 10% of their total earnings for a full 15 months. (Don’t worry – this money doesn’t get taken out of their checks. We pay this as a bonus to you!)

Post to Twitter: I’m earning good revenue from Chitika – you can check them out here: [link removed]

Very invasive. According to Chitika.com, the advertiser boasts 34,000 websites. If each one of those website owners tweeted their referral link, that is 34,000 tweets. By my best guess, that is an entire week of tweets that come across my tweetstream. Uh, no.

There is at least one other company that is getting ready to launch an advertising for Twitter option. In fairness to them, and because I don’t know what it’s going to look like yet, I won’t out them. However, I think it’s important to note that there will be more of these is Twitter users naively buy into the “easy money” routine. There is no such thing as easy money, and you will ruin your reputation if you engage in cheap money grabs on Twitter. I, for one, will immediately unfollow anyone engaging and I’m sure I will not be the only one.

Tread carefully.

Update: It’s been brought to my attention that the #magpie hashtag is no longer required, making it an even sleazier and subversive service.

EXCLUSIVE: Tropicana Covers Election Day Twittering

There are a couple of election related Twitter projects going on including Twitter Vote Report, which we covered the other day.

Not on our radar at the time, however, was an interesting project from Tropicana that will take the expected high velocity Twitter coverage of the election all day and present it in a unique way. The experiment seeks to monitor hot buzz word frequencies and graph them in relation to one of the candidates in a series of “half rings”. The rings grow as the phrases and words are used in association with one of the candidates.

tropicana-election-tweets-full-view

tropicana-election-tweets-graph-view1

The hot words being planned are fixed at the moment, but will be added to as hot topics emerge throughout the day. Current words on the radar are Iraq, terrorism, freedom, economy and poll.

Twitter is expecting a record setting volume for Election Day with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone sending out an email to users today stating:

We anticipate record-breaking activity on Twitter all day tomorrow. We’ll be staying late at work watching Current TV’s Twitter-powered election night programming.

The Tropicana technical project lead is New Media Strategies and while we do not have a URL for the project yet (we were only given screenshots), this post will be updated when that information becomes available.

You can, of course, follow me on Twitter during the election or any other time at @technosailor.

Update: The URL for the project is anorangeamerica.com.

For Your Election Night Fun

Election night is around the corner and with it comes all the fun. You can either watch the talking heads make early predictions (such as calling New York State within a minute after polls close) or you can head to the intarwebs for some fun. Unfortunately, we won’t have the Tim Russert whiteboard to keep us company this time around.

First you’ve got Twitter Vote Report which is seeking to pull together reactions from Twitter users. You can use the “hashtag” #votereport for tracking and project participation, or follow suggestions by the volunteers behind the project:

If you currently use Twitter, send a message after you vote that begins with #votereport (this is critically important for ensuring that your message gets to the right place.) Then write some or all of the following:

  • #[zip code] to indicate where you’re voting; ex., “#12345″
  • #machine for machine problems; ex., “#machine broken, using prov. ballot”
  • #reg for registration troubles; ex., “#reg I wasn’t on the rolls”
  • #wait:minutes for long lines; ex., “#wait:120 and I’m coming back later”
  • #good or #bad to give a quick sense of your overall experience
  • #EP+your state if you have a serious problem and need help from the Election Protection coalition; ex., #EPOH

You can also text messages to 66937 and begin your message with #votereport or use the TTY service by calling (567) 258-VOTE/8683. An iPhone app is supposedly coming as well.

And if you want to torture yourself, Katie Couric is hosting a webcast immediately after CBS broadcast coverage ends. You’ll be able to pull this up on CNet and CBSNews.com.

CNN, meanwhile, is pulling together all spectrums of the blogosphere at Washington DC café Tryst for live blogging and reactions. The two blogs mentioned by the New York Times are Huffington Post and Red State but undoubtedly, there will be a good representation by DC-area political bloggers producing content for their sites and CNN.com.

Election Map is using Google Maps to currently solicit predictions as to how the states will fall. Presumably, they will rollover to an election results map as well.

Of course, there will be the normal banter on Twitter and FriendFeed and you can probably find a “Results Party” in your city where local webheads will group together to watch the results come in.

My prediction? It will be over by 10pm and Obama will take 42 states.

DC Needs a Fred. Any Takers?

FredWilson cropped.pngProfiled in Sunday’s New York Times, Union Square Ventures‘ Fred Wilson is a legend of contemporary venture capital — a title previously reserved for West Coast luminaries like Moritz and Doerr, and maybe a couple others. At Web 2.0 Expo in New York last week, Wilson was greeted with cheers usually reserved for celebrities. . . or rock musicians.

We don’t need a celebrity here in DC. But it would be great to have a venture capitalist with a fraction of Wilson’s passion, commitment, and drive. It’s not so much that he’s an investing legend. . . what’s amazing is his sheer devotion to his companies, his followers, and everything Web 2.0.

By his own admission, Wilson’s had his share of bad calls. But most of that goes back to The Bubble, when he was at Flatiron Partners. I was at a startup (liveprint.com) pitching Flatiron in 1998. I met Wilson briefly back then, as well as the firm’s the most vocal partner, Jerry Colonna; the partner who ended up leading our investment was Bob Greene.

Flatiron’s highest-profile investment was probably deliver-to-your-door service Kozmo.com. I remember getting a Kozmo.com hat. Kozmo raised $100M, before its legendary implosion. I left liveprint.com after the first Flatiron (~$3M) round, before an additional ~$40M bought all those Aeron chairs, and the chairs were acquired (along with the rest of the company) by Kinko’s in a transaction so complicated that no one knew what they had until a check arrived in the mail.

According the NYT profile, Flatiron wrote off a third of its investments.

But Wilson returned, humbler and smarter. To me, he’s the quintessential early-stage VC. Why? Because he’s so focused on his space, and passionate about his companies. True, he’s been accused of shilling for them . . . but from an entrepreneur’s standpoint, the benefits of having such a high-leverage, high-profile investor on your team is literally worth millions (not to mention what you’ll save on not needing a PR firm.)

Just watch Wilson work. He uses nearly every one of his portfolio company’s products — twitter (6,571 follow him @fredwilson), disqus, tumblr. Add these to his blog (A VC), and he’s one of the most prolific posters on the planet.

DC needs a Fred.

Or maybe a Josh. Josh Kopelman, though less vocal than Wilson, has put his money where his mouth is, on behalf of the venture fund he founded just outside Philadelphia, First Round Capital. In fact, First Round has made no fewer than 57 early-stage investments, nearly triple USV’s portfolio.

Or maybe a Bijan. Or a Brad.

And this isn’t just about attitude. There are clear metrics here. Several mid-Atlantic firms talk about their ‘seed’ programs. But the litmus test is: name the ones routinely doing investments in the $250k – $1M range. For most firms, the funds are just too large for the math to work — invest a $250M fund $500k at a time, and you end up with 500 startups in your portfolio. That’s a helluva lot of board meetings.

Which is why First Round usually doesn’t take a board seat. (Most VC firms have a six-seats-per partner limit.) This is about volume (or more accurately, statistics). Quicken the cycle of investment, trim the due diligence, invest more with the gut . . . and let the odds work in your favor over a larger statistical sample. Though time will tell, based on initial exits, it seems these guys are doing pretty well.

So while it’s good to see them on the East Coast (Silicon Valley has sufficient players that none is noteworthy) — and Baltimore, DC, and Northern Virginia are certainly within their flying radius — it’s just not the same as having our own local VC hero. I mean, how sad is it that a local meetup was organized for DC Fans of Fred? (Full disclosure: I was there, and met some great, like-minded entrepreneurs.)

And perhaps more than anything else, these guys get Web 2.0. Unlike most VC firms, USV is not only not afraid to invest in pre-revenue companies, they will invest before a revenue model is even figured out (twitter, tumblr, disqus). So who out there will claim this mantle? Anyone? Anyone?

99.96% Uptime is Bogus Marketing

Reliability Update

Twitter has been making great progress in terms of uptime and
reliability. Fail Whale sightings are far less frequent these
days thanks to our efforts but we still have a long journey
ahead. Last month we saw 99.88% uptime and so far this month we
are at 99.96%. Our engineering and operations teams have been
taking a very methodical approach to improving Twitter. We’re
using the word “craftsmanship” to characterize our work here at
the office. Reliability and dependability continue to be top on
or list of key goals.

The above passage is from an email from Biz Stone at Twitter today. After a horrid June, things could only go up at Twitter HQ. Fortunately, it looked like they got serious about the uptime issues they had their and things have been better.

In the meantime, they purchased the super reliable and speedy Summize and branded it with Twitter branding at search.twitter.com.

This could only be a good thing, right?

Well, you’d think. Except the purchase of the super speedy and efficient Summize has only driven the tool into the pond. To be fair, it’s not horrible, but it suffers from the same weaknesses that Twitter does.

That is, it can’t keep up.

As an example, I’ve been following #dnc08 and #rnc08 searches on Summize to watch what people are saying about the political conventions. During the high traffic tweet windows during the evenings of the conventions, Twitter is reliable. That is, they are reliably late. Usually 1-2 hours behind the actual tweet stream.

This is completely unacceptable, and it is complete spin, I guess in the spirit of the conventions, for Biz to tout 99.96% uptime.

Let me be clear, when things are slow and not performing up to standard, you cannot claim 99.96% uptime. Technically you can. Uptime is technically defined by if the web server serves a 404 Page not Found (or Twitter Fail Whale in their case) or a 200 Page found status code.

But from a common sense user experience, this is not uptime. And to claim so is disingenuous.

I appreciate the efforts Twitter has put into improving, but why are we fighting the ability to use the tools during high-demand times. In essence, that makes the tools completely useless.

I look forward to better results, but my skepticism remains in place about Twitter. They do not have the staying power to make it.

I have been on a 3 month hiatus on Twitter blogging. I have refused to blog about it, but there’s another post that has been in the back of my mind for some time. What happens when companies and businesses trying to use Twitter as a marketing and communications tool cannot. What happens when your brand relies on the communication lines and those communications lines dying?

Another day, another post. For today, the spin needs to be exposed.

C-SPAN Providing Social Media Hub for Conventions

cspan.pngPolitical junkies are in the prime of their year right now. Tomorrow in Denver, the Democratic National Convention begins with the GOP convention slated to start the week after.

C-SPAN is offering a social media hub for both conventions with featured tools being video giant YouTube, which will be present at the Big Tent in Denver (see Google) as well as in St. Paul the week later. Also a featured partner is Qik, the live streaming video social service. Twitter is aggregating #DNC08 and #RNC08 tagged streams direct to the website as well.

C-SPAN is not affiliated with either party and the effort is to provide a grass-roots level into the conversation surrounding the conventions from interested parties in person (on site) and remote. I was asked to participate in video and twitter coverage, and I may, but it is not my niche. You’ll more likely see any real coverage over at my personal blog.

A personal shout out to my friend Leslie Bradshaw (and an amazing Latin linguist, I’ve discovered this week) for working with C-SPAN in this effort.

As a disclaimer, I am a non-partisan Barack Obama supporter so, while I’m most interested in the Denver coverage, I’ll be watching the St. Paul coverage as well.

Congress Moves to Close Member Access to Social Media

This post is receiving regular updates. Events are logged chronologically with newer information, comments from those involved including Rep. John Culberson below. I have been getting access to internal documents, letters and memos being sent around Capitol Hill. As I get these, I will sanitize and update accordingly. Sources will not be disclosed without their knowledge and approval.

The creeping lunacy in Washington continues. My favorite Congressmen, John Culberson (R-TX) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), are under fire for the use of social media tools such as Twitter and Qik. They are not specifically named in this document, but it is widely understood that these two congressmen, one a Democrat and one a Republican, are actively circumventing traditional bureaucratic communication lines and talking directly to the American people.

In some cases, these guys are talking to their own constituency, and other times they are talking to people like me who are not in their districts. Between live streaming video and Twitter, these guys “get” that the government is by the people and for the people.

Here is the letter sent to the Democratic House majority leadership to silence this nonsense.

Read this document on Scribd: Capuano letter

Ridiculous.

Rep. Culberson is indicating, via Twitter, that disclaimers have to be attached to tweets and that, without a doubt, those disclaimers WILL be greater than 140 characters. Lunacy.

Added: I usually turn trackbacks off but I’m going to turn them on for this post.

Added 2: Techdirt makes a good point. The wording of the letter does seem to indicate that Rep. Capuano is actually trying to get the existing House rules loosened to allow for this activity.

Added 3: The GOP Response to the above letter.

Read this document on Scribd: Ehler McCarthy Price

We’ll keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Added 4 (Wed July 9, 12:17pm): Erin, in comments, suggests everyone is going a little nuts and that there isn’t real journalism happening here. Here’s a few pieces from those in the political space that were written this morning.

  • Outside the Beltway – James points out that Diane Feinstein is pushing a proposal in the Senate to make the Senate Rules Committee clamp down on similar activity on the Senate side.
  • In the Washington Internet Daily, an off-web mainstream press publication (WTF?!), Rep Capuano is quoted saying, “[The Republicans] would rather operate without rules and open the House to commercialism, [and his proposal] allows the American public to have full access to information from Members while ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not support commercial or political advertising on the web.”
  • Zen Pundit finally realizes what I’ve been arguing. This is not a partisan thing but “on the technological merits alone this may be the goddamn dumbest thing I’ve heard of regarding the internet coming out of Congress in a long, long, time.”
  • Erin, who commented above, basically points out at BlogHer, that Culberson is playing politics and has stirred everyone up using Twitter. While I agree that this is a political play, plain and simple, my coverage of this entire story is not about politics but about policy. If the existing rules are antiquated, as the second letter above notes and everyone seems to agree on that point, change the rules now. This is 2008 and it is completely unacceptable to stick with rules that limit the participation in social media by Congressmen and women. I accept the need to avoid the appearance of commercialism, thus the “House channel” on YouTube, but I cannot accept this limitation on our elected Representatives, should they choose to talk to their constituency this way.
  • CongressDaily reporter Andrew Noyes wrote, “A Brady spokesman said his boss has been ‘kept up to speed’ on both proposals and ‘is supportive of anything that can be done to clarify rules that provide more options for members.'” (subscription only)

Added 5 (July 9, 10:17pm)
Rep. Capuano sent this letter (unconfirmed). I need this on House letterhead, Source! which is now on his website. If this is legitimate, I’m happy to put this to bed. On the House side. But will continue to monitor how this issue is proceeding.

Read this document on Scribd: Capuano-statement

We are also trying to confirm Sen. Diane Feinstein’s alleged move to implement tighter controls in the Senate and will keep you updated.

Andrew Feinberg had a Qik (quick, get it?) interview with Rep. John Culberson who seems to have cooled down a little.

Washington Internet Daily who has some crazy copyright ideas that prevented us from releasing stories broke most of this news around 6pm yesterday.

Also, there is an experimental “Twitter petition” happening via letourcongresstweet.org. Participate!

Added 6 (Wed, July 9 11:55pm EDT):

An early copy of an article to be published in tomorrow’s Washington Internet Daily. Featuring me. And quotes from Culberson.

Read this document on Scribd: CulbersonWID2

Update 7 (Thu, July 10 6:11am): Waiting on a yet-to-be-confirmed 6am call from NPR.

Whenever a subject of a story replies in the comments on this blog or, say, FriendFeed, I try to update the post with the comment. Rep. Culberson responded in comments so I add those here. Note, that I will do the same thing for Rep. Capubano, or Sen. Feinstein.

Aaron

You have done a great job of presenting both sides of this debate and giving readers source documents. Let me add what I learned today on the House floor.

I spoke to Cong. Mike Capuano,Chairman of House Franking, who is a good person and a friend. He confirmed that my analysis of where this rule change is going is correct. Today they are focused on YouTube and video posts – Twitter and blogs and social media are next.

Under this new proposed rule (which he said is fluid) Congressmen could only post video that complied with House rules (subject to review and editing by House Franking Committee)on websites that complied with House rules if the video contained a disclaimer that it was an official communication from a federal official for official purposes. He said that YouTube has already agreed to prepare a “œsanitized” (my word) special website just for members of Congress to post videos. The special page can have no ads and no political content and must be reviewed and approved by the Franking Committee.

He confirmed that websites like yours, Aaron, are next.

Since I am typing this in my official capacity for official purposes on a non approved website I am already in violation of existing House rules which would require me to submite each word of this post to House Franking Committee for editing and approval.

When Chairman Capuano says the change they are proposing will make it easier for us to post – that is true – if we don’t mind having all our posts edited and approved by Franking Comm, and if we don’t mind being limited to posting only on preapproved websites and if we don’t mind the mile long federal disclaimer on every post.

If they adopt this rule, the only way I could ever post again on Technosailor is if I complied with their rule and edits and if YOU agreed not to comment ever again on politics or campaigns or make any recommendations of any kind on politics. Your website would have to be completely free of politics, elections and any commercial content or ads. Plus you would have to submit to regular reviews and edits by House Franking Committee or lose your preapproved status for Congressional posts.

Twitter and every other social media source would have to submit to the same requirements or they will be off limits to Members of Congress.

Mike Capuano is a decent guy, and we need to encourage him to do the right thing here with lots of positive reinforcement.

I recommended to him that he and the committee simply leave the internet and social media alone – that he might as well try to regulate the wind.

We are elected by because we have demonstrated good judgment and common sense in the eyes of our constituents. Why not trust us to use social media appropriately in our official capacity using federal computers Blackberries, Nokia 95 phones etc for official business, and if we stray and make campaign pitches or seek personal financial gain, nail us for violating the law.

But leave the www alone. Otherwise this Congress will be remembered (in part) for its futile effort to regulate the wind in much the same way the Viking King Canute is still remembered for thinking he was so powerful he could order the ocean tide to stop.

Thanks

Keep up the pressure

Sunlight is the best disinfectant and Congress needs a lot of it

John Culberson

The Shelbinator is the voice of a growing number of people who are seeing through what is becoming a charade noting that the rules already exist. Not that they are good rules but rules are made to obey. As a sidenote, the more I follow the story, the more I’m inclined to agree. The military, for instance, doesn’t get the benefit of choosing which parts of the Uniform Code of Military Justice it adheres to. Employees of companies don’t get the “benefit” of sexually harassing another employee, despite having free speech. My opinion is that the rule needs to be changed and that is the current focus of my fight and the one that, I believe, Rep. Culberson should be focusing on.

Congressman, instead of being a rebel or vigilante, I suggest you summon allies to fight the Rules, but live within them until such change is made. The only outcome I see from going outside the rules right now is your censuring.

Venture Beat completely fails to acknowledge this coverage here. Interesting, especially, because I’ve been prominently linked from all over, including Mashable whom Eric Eldon cited. Venture Beat also links to the Capuano letter on Scribd. Why not this post, where he would have had to have found it (Can’t believe he happened to be surfing Scribd and just came across it)?

Added 8 (7:39am) – NPR interview on BPP. Polished recording when it becomes avaialble. This was a quick grab. Listen now.

Added 9 (4:02pm) – This document was passed to me. Again, since it’s not on official House Letterhead, I cannot confirm the authenticity but it is in line with what I’ve been hearing.

Read this document on Scribd: Feinstein Statement

Added 10 (July 11 12:02a)
This will probably be my last update unless something new comes up. Thank you all for following this very important story. Thanks also to Andrew Feinberg from Washington Internet Daily. He does not get enough credit for being a solid reporter and he should. Through all of this, Andrew has been in touch with me and has provided quite a bit of backstory and information that he personally dug up himself. The unfortunate matter is, the publication he writes for is silly enough to call itself Washington Internet Daily and doesn’t bother to put together any kind of coherent web presence, thus missing the opportunities that I was afforded yesterday on NPR.

This, from tomorrows WID, shows that the Senate seems to be taking a much saner approach than the House is:

Some senators worry about outside sites using data mining technology to
track viewers of official videos hosted off the senate.gov domain, Gantman
said. The committee kept a ban on data-mining the official domain because
YouTube has agreed to not track or log such data, he explained. Unlike the
heated back-and-forth dominating the House debate, Feinstein and Bennett are
working toward what they expect to be a unanimous agreement
among committee members, Gantman said.

Eric Eldon, over at Venturebeat (who has since linked this coverage – thanks!) made a level headed assesment of this whole matter which, after running this story for three days now, I fully agree with:

I think Capuano just doesn’t understand all of this new stuff and it shows. I don’t think he’s trying to censor Twitter. He explicitly said he’s not aiming to do that, although his poorly-phrased letter could lead one to think that.

Basically, I think everyone wants the same thing and I’m afraid that Culberson, Capuano … are too partisan.

Interestingly, the mainstream media has jumped all over this after several days of grassroots effort. Of course, I was on NPR yesterday morning and Scott Stead, over at CNN grabbed this coverage from the CNN situation room with Wolf Blitzer today.

This will be the last update, barring something new. However, the angst over this has gone far enough and I’m choosing to believe that, no one is going to act irrationally surrounding these rules. At the end of the day, Republicans and Democrats alike want one thing – more power for themselves. A deal will be brokered one way or another and we’ll cover it when it happens, no matter which way the the hammer falls.

Remember. Last Friday we celebrated 232 years in this country. We’ve survived without our Congresspeople using YouTube and Twitter. We can survive a little longer.

Over and out.