I hate social networking

I hate social networking. I despise it. All of it.

For me it’s a tool (like me, some would say).

“But, Aaron. You have 1500 friends on Facebook and nearly 10,000 on Twitter. You’re lying.”

Oh but I’m not. I used to love social networking. I used to travel to conferences where other social media people were just to, in hindsight, make myself look more like a stud. That’s why there are so many.

I’ve dated or slept with social media women just for access.

I’ve been that guy at SXSW that, as a former Austinite, I now mock. That one cutting to the front of the blocks-long line to a hot party just to utter those predictable, and douchey words, “Do you know who I am?”

I have the cred I so craved. Even years after I stopped the social whoredom. I get added to Social Media lists on Twitter every day? Why? Because someone thinks if you have 10k followers, you must be important, and therefore, you must be “social media”.

I am important. But not in that way. I am important to my 9 year old son who I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like. I’m important to my company because I can take their WordPress life farther than they dreamed.

I’m important to my friends… My real friends. The ones who drink beer with me or wish they were drinking beer with me like they used to.

I’m not important because I have friends or followers. And the quality of my life is not contingent on my social presence. I could give a shit less.

When you introduce me as technosailor, instead of Aaron, you do a disservice to me and you. You are the one caught up in the social insanity. Go drink a beer or watch Breaking Bad or, for god’s sake, go fuck your wife.

Come with me for a minute as I revisit a moment of my life.

It was 1998 and I was in my religious mode. I realize that most readers aren’t aware of this past and really prefer if I don’t get preachy. So I won’t.

But what was said from a pulpit 15 years ago lives on in me, as a life principle.

In the Old Testament book of Joshua, the story is told of the Children of Israel, after a generation of wandering in the Sinai desert after escaping Egyptian captivity, finally had the opportunity to cross the Jordan River into their promised land.

Joshua, their leader, was instructed to construct a monument in the middle of the river where they crossed on dry land. The monument was to be made of 12 stones (representing Abraham’s twelve sons an the tribes of Israel) and it was to be a celebration of gaining the Promised Land.

It would be really easy, after 40 years and finally attaining your goal, to stay there and live life there. Live in that glorious history and moment.

Except they had a job to do and a land to conquer. They couldn’t stay in that moment. They had to move on. That moment was glorious but they couldn’t stay. They had to do work.

And so we come back to social networking. I’ve been on Twitter since early 2007. I’ve been on Facebook since late 2006.

I could live in the glory of the Internet and social networking but I’ve got a life to live.

Some of you are still mindlessly operating with the idea you can make a living doing social media on the Internet. When you simply can’t. Only very few people can do it well.

As the Jordan River became a part of Israel’s every day life, social networking is a part of mine. I use it. I live it. I meet people there. It is not my life. And if its yours, you really need to re-examine your priorities.

Make the Web, Cloud Do Your Work So You Don’t Have To

Photo by Balleyne

While perusing around the web yesterday (after sifting through my email post-vacation), I came across this Ars Technica article discussing the new Firefox upgrade timeline. It actually follows a similar upgrade timeline that WordPress adopted after WordPress 2.0 was released.

The new policy outlines a 3-4 month window for new major releases with limited security updates for releases outside of the current stable release.

The Ars article goes on to describe the angst that has come out of the corporate community as they have been lulled into a process of having to test new releases of software to ensure compatibility with their internal firewall’d webapps that have, in no small part, been created for a specific browser – usually Internet Explorer 6 or 7.

Browser Stagnation Caused IT Stagnation

A few years ago, the stagnation of browser support was broken as Firefox and Opera started a race to implement CSS3 features that were not necessarily status quo, as a result of Internet Explorer, and were not even blessed as part of an official spec. The browser makers just started doing it.

Notably, some of these browser-specific “add-ons” to CSS dealt with things that had been desired but only usable with browser hacks: rounded corners, opacity, etc.

Apple came on the scene, particularly with iOS (then iPhone OS), and put a tremendous amount of development efforts into WebKit. WebKit is a browser framework like Gecko, the framework that Firefox and the old Netscape are built on was. Apple’s take on WebKit was Safari. Google followed suit with Chrome awhile later, also built on WebKit.

What we end up with is a browser war with higher stakes than the famed Internet Explorer-Netscape war of the 1990s. We also see a lot more innovation and one-upmanship… something that can only be good for consumers.

The Ars article describes a tenuous balance for enterprise customers. That balance is the need to support internal firewalled applications while giving users access to the public web. The money quote from the article sums up the balance nicely:

The Web is a shared medium. It’s used for both private and public sites, and the ability to access these sites is dependent on Web browsers understanding a common set of protocols and file formats (many corporate intranet sites may not in fact be accessible from the Internet itself, but the browsers used to access these sites generally have to live in both worlds).


If developers could be sure that only Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 5, and Chrome 13 were in use on the Internet, they would be able to make substantial savings in development and testing, and would have a wealth of additional features available to use.

But they can’t assume that, and so they have to avoid desirable features or waste time working around their absence. And a major reason—not the only reason, but a substantial one—is corporate users. Corporate users who can’t update their browsers because of some persnickety internal application they have to use, but who then go and use that same browser on the public Internet. By unleashing these obsolete browsers on the world at large, these corporate users make the Web worse for everyone. Web developers have to target the lowest common denominator, and the corporations are making that lowest common denominator that much lower.

As someone who has worked on the web for more than 10 years and who has also worked in Enterprise, I agree.

I remember when I worked for the Navy and the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) was in deployment. It was a massive headache for everyone involved because the assumption with that contract was that systems could uniformly be tied together and standardized. By my understanding, they finally achieved that last year, but not until after being years late and hundreds of millions over budget.

I don’t know the final deployment as my contract with the Navy ended back in 2004. I know that proprietary systems were in place that were designed to a function and not to a standard.  When standards were introduced as necessary requisites for any system in that eco-system, the implications were huge.

This is the world we live in today where, as the Ars article points out, browsers that must live in a world of compatibility and still access the public web drag the rest of us down.

Outsource Your Shit and Focus on Your Core Business

But Ars already makes that point. I’m not making it again except to highlight the validity of their thoughts. My point is more intrinsic to startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs and I make it delicately as it has, in some ways, countered some of my thoughts in the past.

Why should you worry about building applications to a function when you can build them to a standard? Or better yet, why should you build from the ground up to a function when you can use external, cloud-based services built to a standard.

Take Microsoft’s just-announced Microsoft Office 365. Now, I don’t know anything about this product so don’t take my commentary as an endorsement in any way. We use Google Apps at WP Engine (another good example of exactly what I’m saying here).

In Office 365, you have a common piece of line-of-business software (Microsoft Office) available for a subscription and hosted in the cloud. This eliminates IT Administrators requirement for testing on the internal network. It’s on the web! Everyone has the web! And it doesn’t need (and in fact, cannot work) with non-standard browsers. And you don’t even need Microsoft’s browser to use it.

Suddenly, IT Administrators along with Microsoft have saved the Enterprise tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in man-hours testing and re-resting for OS compatibility. And suddenly, IT Administrators along with Microsoft have taken the chains off users to have freedom of choice in their browsers (which, by the way, is more than a pie in the sky idealistic thing… it’s also a cost-saving efficiency thing). And also suddenly, Microsoft has released the web to be able to thrive and not be retarded by corporate requirements.

This kind of thing makes perfect sense. Why re-invent the wheel? Why put resources into something you don’t have to? Why not let a third party, like Microsoft or Google, worry about the compatibility issues in line-of-business software.

After all, your company isn’t in the core business of building these applications. You are in the line of business of doing something else… building a product, a social network, a mobile app, a hosting company, etc. Your software should not define the cost of doing business. Your people and your product should.

UK Plans to Keep Kids Safe on the Web, Ignores History

2008 is drawing to a close, a new U.S. Presidential Administration is on the threshold of taking power and the UK is seriously looking to the largest age restriction initiative ever undertaken in the history of the internet.

In the UK, there is a such thing as a Culture Secretary who is responsible for the entertainment of British subjects. I kid you not. This is a Cabinet-level position in charge of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. According to the official website, Culture is responsible to “improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, to support the pursuit of excellence and to champion the tourism, creative and leisure industries”.

That’s right. Culture has their hand in your family trip to the amusement park, the art museum or a trip to the ballpark.

According to a Daily Telegraph story, they also plan to have their hand in your web-surfing as well. The idea is that Internet Service Providers servicing the UK would be required to provide child-safe surfing opportunities. The trickle down would be that website owners and developers would have to adhere to a “ratings” system, similar to what is in place for motion pictures and video games.

They plan to work closely with the Obama administration to ensure that the standards established are not simply UK-centric, but also US-centric. In essence, the governments are attempting to ramrod a standard down the throats of the western world.

To be fair, there is justification in wanting to see a child-safe portion of the web. We all want what is best for kids, but the truth is that parenting starts at home and does not involve a village. What I would prefer to see is a recommended set of standards that would assist parents in screening and moderating the internet activity of their child.

Also to be fair, history tells us that simply declaring standards for the web does not ensure that such standards are adhered to. A full eight years later, the best commonplace standard for web markup (XHTML 1.0 Transitional if you must know) has yet to be fully adopted. U.S. Government websites are required to be Section 508 Compliant (which is a set of standards to assist in accessibility, particularly for those who are blind or colorblind). Many government sites still do not meet this standard.

Even outside the web, the DTV transition fast approaches, yet it fast approaches again and it is doubtful if it will actually arrive in February as is currently projected. That is because the new standard has not been quickly adopted and the government is forced to extend their deadline.

In the best of scenarios, the web industry self-polices as it always has. In the best situation, we come together and innovated around a widely accepted and understood standard. In the best scenario, the government utilizes the standards and innovations that the web industry itself has created to solve the very real problem of creating a child-safe internet.

But at the end of the day, the Village cannot solve this problem. We can only bring ideas and tools to the table. Nothing we, or the government, do will protect children. Parents have that responsibility and should exercise their roles, instead of passing the buck to someone else.

Blueprint for Change: Technology

If I have not made it clear enough so far, this is why I have voted for Barack Obama. The internet industry is certainly affected by the economy, but it is one of the last sectors that still shows signs of growth and stability. During a down economy, it is important to capitalize in the sectors that have the ability to drive the rest of the economy out of the recession.

If America recommits itself to science and innovation, then we can lead the world to a new future of productivity and prosperity… it’s about constantly raising the bar so that we are more competitive.

Though individual writers of this site may have their own political views, it is the position of this publication to join the rest of the tech sector in recognizing that Obama has the stronger leadership in this area and will serve the most good for the industry. Technosailor.com has already endorsed Mr. Obama and re-emphasizes that endorsement today. Go vote tomorrow for the better option for this industry.

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.

La Batalla es Digital

Parte 1 del desarrollo de los puntos del artículo “5 Cambios que Todo Ejecutivo de Medios Debe Hacer

1. La Batalla es Digital

La diferencia más importante entre la distribución tradicional de contenido (televisión, radio, cable, cine, impresos) y la distribución digital es que ya no vendemos contenido, ahora vendemos una experiencia.

Y no me refiero a que seamos expertos en la producción o venta de contenido, me refiero a la experiencia del espectador al interactuar con nuestro contenido. “Espectador” (o televidente, radioescucha o cualquier otro de esos terminos pasivos que estamos acostumbrados a darle a nuestra audiencia) ya no es un término adecuado.

El espectador es ahora un participante activo dentro de esa experiencia que queremos ofrecerle. Su función ya no es simplemente sentarse a ver televisión… ahora tiene poder de decisión (cuándo, cómo y dónde disfrutar nuestro contenido), distribución y promoción (a quién le recomienda o no nuestro contenido y con quiénes lo comparte) y hasta de producción (qué contenido adicional genera a partir de nuestro producto). Llamémosle, a falta de otro término, usuario.

Cualquier intento de controlar el contenido en dentrimento de la experiencia del usuario fracasará. No se trata de regalar el contenido o de confiar ciegamente en el uso que el usuario le dará, pero la mejor publicidad es un usuario contento, que se siente dueño de una parte de nuestro producto y lo hace suyo. Si nuestro producto es dificil de disfrutar entonces nadie lo tomará en cuenta (o lo buscarán por otras vias más convenientes que en nada benefician al productor original).

Tenemos que planificar de manera tal que todo nuestro contenido esté preparado para sobrevivir en el mundo digital:

  • Prepara todo tu contenido en formato digital:

    Planifica para tener una copia digital de alta resolución que te sirva de archivo y fuente para los demás formatos. También prepara una copia en formato Flash Video. Estos te permitirán distribuir tu video online y cuando sea necesario preparar formatos para podcasting, vodcasting y celular.

  • Convierte tus tarifas de publicidad a formato digital:

    La idea aquí es que cada televidente que migre a tu contenido online te genere al menos las mismas ganancias que si te hubiera visto por tu canal tradicional. Convierte tu tarifa tradicional a una cifra equivalente al costo de 15 segundos de publicidad por cada mil personas y usa esto como punto de partida para tu publicidad online. Recuerda que online no puedes presentar el mismo número de anunciantes por hora de programación, pero sí tienes más oportunidades de desplegar publicidad alrededor de tu contenido.

  • Amplia tu oferta de contenido:

    Mientras en los medios tradicionales sólo dispones de un tiempo finito de programación para presentar tu contenido, en el mundo online el tiempo y el espacio son ilimitados. Aprovecha esta oportunidad creando contenido alrededor de tu producto: entrevistas a los actores, detrás-de-las-cámaras, escenas borradas, versiones cortas o más largas, historias paralelas, biografías, conspiraciones, juegos, blogs – en fin, todo aquello que alimente el contenido principal y enriquezca la experiencia de los participantes.

¿Te interesa implementar estas estratégias en tu empresa? Envíame un mensaje a través del formulario de contacto (en mi página de RED66).

¿Tienes alguna duda o algo que agregar a la discusión? Usa los comentarios del blog para darnos tu opinión.

5 Cambios que Todo Ejecutivo de Medios Debe Hacer

La era digital llegó (hace ya bastante tiempo, por cierto) y ya es hora de que los ejecutivos de medios de comunicación y demás productores de contenido se despierten y entiendan bien el nuevo panorama, los nuevos mercados y sus implicaciones para su negocio.

Aquí les traigo cinco cambios que todo ejecutivo de medios debe hacer:

1. La Batalla es Digital

ANTES: Vendemos publicidad en pantalla y ofrecemos espacios en Internet como una bonificación.

AHORA: Vendemos publicidad en Internet y ofrecemos espacios en pantalla como una bonificación.

Un poco drástico, lo se, pero es necesario comenzar a pensar de este modo para entender el sinfín de oportunidades que nos brinda el mundo digital. La distribución de contenido digital será muy pronto tu fuente de ingresos principal.

Necesitas comenzar a pensar digitalmente:

  • Prepara todo tu contenido en formatos digitales, listo para distribuir vía descargas, podcasts, iTunes, streaming y celular.
  • Convierte tus tarifas de publicidad a formato digital y entrena a tu fuerza de ventas a entender este nuevo idioma: calcula el costo de un minuto de publicidad por cada mil televidentes y usa esto como punto de partida.
  • Piensa de una vez cómo vas a monetizar tus producciones online y planifica de una vez: pre-roll, mid-roll, banners, patrocinantes y suscripciones son todos modelos válidos.

2. El Compromiso es el Nuevo Rating

ANTES: Lo que importa es el tamaño de la audiencia.

AHORA: Lo que importa es el nivel de compromiso de la audience con nuestro contenido.

Estás acostumbrado a pensar en cuántos millones de personas ven tu programa. Necesitas comenzar a pensar de cuántas maneras intersecta tu contenido la vida de tus usuarios. Estudia el fenómeno de la serie Lost y fíjate cuántas comunidades online han surgido alrededor de este programa.

Deja que tu audiencia interactúe con tu contenido. Hazlo distribuible, compartible, de tal manera que puedas contabilizar cuánta gente vio tu contenido y su publicidad. Convierte tu producto en un marcador social. Haz:

  • que sea parte de la conversación,
  • que fomente la conversación, o
  • que sea un punto de reunión para conversar.

Si estás creando contenido para cine o televisión, piensa de una vez cómo crear contenido adicional para aprovecharlo online: historias paralelas, juegos, vida de los personajes, escenas detrás de las cámaras. Es limitado lo que puedes mostrar en una hora de televisión; aprovecha la Internet para darle profundidad a tus proyectos.

No tengas miedo de escuchar a tu audiencia, ni de hablarles.

3. Las Ganancias Vendrán de Otro Lado

ANTES: ¿Cómo vamos a obtener ganancias online?

AHORA: ¿Cómo vamos a obtener ganancias si no vamos online?

Por supuesto que necesitas ganacias. Ya bastante gente ha perdido la camisa online, como para seguir sus pasos tan de cerca. Necesitas ver el mundo digital como cualquier otra inversión de negocios, al igual que invertiste en Beta SP, High-Def, reportes de Nielsen y nuevos estudios: haz un plan de negocios, traza una estrategia, contrata un consultor, empieza poco a poco, piensa en grande… o no. Tu sabes hacerlo, usa tu experiencia. Pero recuerda, tu mercado actual se está encogiendo, ya es hora de buscar algo más.

4. Hay Mas de 24 Horas en un Día y Mas de Un Canal de Distribución

ANTES: Distribuimos contenido 24 horas al día a través de un canal.

AHORA: Distribuimos contenido ilimitado a través de canales ilimitados.

Olvídate del día de 24 horas. Ahora tienes acceso a audiencias ilimitadas dispuestas a ver cualquier tipo de programación a cualquier hora. Muchos incluso están dispuestos a consumir varios tipos de contenido a la vez. La grilla de programación es algo del pasado, pero todavía necesitas ofrecer contenido de calidad. Cuando siempre son las 5 en algún lugar del mundo, el significado de prime-time cambia.

5. Todo lo que Sabes Sobre tu Audience, Ya No Aplica

ANTES: Debemos adaptar nuestro contenido a nuestra audiencia.

AHORA: Podemos distribuir cualquier contenido a cualquier número de audiencias.

¿Quieres crear un canal de noticias? ¿Qué tal uno de deportes o de cocina? ¿Por qué no todos a la vez? Si tienes una televisora de contenido general, piensa en nichos. Si eres un productor de contenidos específicos, piensa en más nichos. Ya tienes la capacidad y el conocimiento para producir contenido de calidad… no tienes por qué limitarte a una sola audiencia. Experimenta con contenido nuevo, contenido viejo, nuevas versiones de contenido viejo, antiguas versiones de contenido nuevo… es la Internet, hay audiencia para todo.

¿Qué opinas?

(English Version of this post available at RED66:Digital Media Strategy)

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The Pervasive Web

A lot of people have begun speculating about Web 3.0. I don’t want to even go there. Some folks have been calling it the “semantic web” which refers to the more tightly integrated ability to find information in a manageable way. That’s probably not a great definition either. But what the heck, I don’t agree with it either.

The official next generation of the web is what I call the pervasive web. The pervasive web speaks to the redistribution of what we know as the internet – browsers and computers interacting with data and service and even people – into a truly “always available” experience. The concept behind pervasive web is that you the user can access your information wherever you might be and interact with the global community wherever you might be, in whatever method is available. You know – the right content, at the right time, in the right place on the right device.

The closest thing I see to pervasive web today is Twitter which has been my favorite thing to blog about recently. Through Twitter, you and I can interact with each other and our world while sitting in front of our computers or while walking the dog via our cell phones. This is pervasive web. This is pervasive conversation. Facebook comes in quickly behind this by allowing folks to message each other and update their status messages from wherever they are.

I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely frustrated by the limitation of most of the web to 17-30″ of screen space. At some point, the internet will emerge from the finite boundaries of screens and truly cross over into real life. That’s the pervasive web and that’s where we’re going.

Rick Segal, who in full disclosure is one of b5media’s VCs, wrote a post called “The Wheels of the Bus” the other day that caused me to think harder about this concept. He wrote:

Walk among the people; the real people. Watch, ask, listen, ask again, listen again. You can spot trends, solutions, validate ideas, etc, by taking the train and bus to work. For example: In the U.S., the Sunday paper has an insert section that contains a big pile of coupons and flyers from local grocery stores. Millions of households base the shopping plans around those flyers. Who has the hamburger on sale, etc. Nobody has successfully pulled off a comparison site that let’s you put in your shopping list and simply tells you, go here, take these coupons and save this much. Massive audience of rabid people who try to squeeze every penny out of the grocery budget. There are actually some good reasons why and I’ll cover this in another post but the larger point is that in talking to people, I know this is a big deal based on hundreds of hours of research on this one.

Rick is hitting on something thoughout his article and I highly recommend you read it. At the end of the day, listening to what people need in day to day life and delivering on it is the key to business success. I think it goes beyond business success. I think it taps into the future of the web. We’ve seen companies come along like Tripit which organizes travel itineraries and Slingbox which allows for cool interaction between your television and the internet (and for whom my friend Dave Zatz works for) figure out ways to meet peoples needs in real life. Lots of companies are cool ideas, but these guys are actually listening to what people want and figuring out how to deliver it.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who when you talk to them about the internet react with something about not wanting to sit in front of a computer after they are done with work. Hey, somebody help these people out!

Calling Maryland Area Internet Startups

If you represent or in some way are connected to internet startups in the Maryland or Washington, DC area, I’d very much like to talk to you. I’d love to hear what you are doing, get a demo if you are prepared to do so, and discover (and share) more of what is happening in this area. I’ve noticed in recent months that the area has quietly grown very active and I’m interested to find out more of what is happening out there.