We Own the Internet!

December 21, 2010

…but only by one vote, and only for now.

Today, the FCC passed new net neutrality rules by a 3-2 vote. In one of the bigger judgments that no one will ever know about, the people that use the internet just won ownership of it rather than the companies that allow us to access it.

If it had gone the other way, it would have generated an uproar, and we all would have heard about it. Why? What are the rules that were passed?

Well, at the most basic level, Comcast and other large internet service providers want control over the internet so that they can restrict user’s access to certain sites, and charge more for “preferred” internet users who want the fastest possible connection.  While defenders of net neutrality, Google standing at the forefront, demand that no one have control over the internet.  Users should be free to see it all, without jumping through hoops, or paying more than anyone else.

In my opinion, net neutrality is a no brainer.  The fact that the vote was 3-2 surprises me.  The fact that the 2 no votes were Republicans does not surprise me.  Calling the new rules “unnecessary regulation” is one of the more ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.  I wonder if either of them has ties to Big Internet.  I wonder if there are any registered republicans who use the internet out there who would not be happy if all of the sudden they could not use the internet at peak hours unless they paid more for it.

But none of that matters now, because the rules passed, and no one will ever hear about this one way or the other.

Either way, we the people won the day.  Congrats to us!


France Hates Innovation

January 8, 2010

This piece from Wired.com is yet another describing the futile attempts by people who are uneasy about the changes brought about by digital content.

In this latest one, it appears that the French Government has decided that it might be a good idea to tax successful online companies in order to help unsuccessful companies.  They think that taxing a company like Google, who has figured out what people want to do, and need to do online, is the way to help other companies who have failed to see the wave of the future and continue to lose money because of free content.

Let’s face it people, there will always be some who do not like change.  But this is the way the world is moving.  I have written about it on this blog.  Many others have written about it on their blogs.

If a company exists that used to make money because they produced highly sought content, and is now losing money because of competition, why does the government or anybody else have any right to just give them money.  Either figure out how to compete in this new market, or fail.  Those are your options.

Besides the fact that what the French government is trying to do might be illegal, its just plain stupid.  Competition moves us forward.  Free content is working.  Don’t punish the people that have seen the future and moved us there for the sake of saving the near-sighted companies that thought the world would never change.

NY Times Allows Adam Raff to take out Personal Vendetta against Google

December 28, 2009

Here is an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times about “Search Neutrality“.

Before I respond, its only fair to say that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and so Adam Raff is not wrong for writing this piece.  A lot of his points, upon further investigation, are wrong.

It does not take long, only a couple of paragraphs, to discover that Adam Raff is not in favor of Google for a reason.  He blames the failure of his company, Foundem, on Google’s “decision” not to rank them near the top of search results for product comparison.  More likely, the website was not favored by people on the web, or was not refined to show up for relevant searches.  I doubt very much that Google took the time to single them out and destroy their chance at success.  But that is not for me to say.

Here are a couple of other issues I have with Adam’s rant:

1. Google only controls so much of the search market because their service is better.  People have a choice when it comes to searching the internet, and we choose Google because we like their results more than others.  Why mandate changes to those results when they are the reason people choose them over competitors?

2. Youtube is the most popular video sharing site.  Why shouldn’t that show up over other videos?  Google was smart enough to buy them.

3. Google being innovative has really nothing to do with the companies they have purchased.  They just have better business sense, and the ability to foresee how we will use the internet, than other companies.  Their ability to incorporate all of these services in their core business, and make it both free and easy to use, is what makes them far more innovative than Mr. Raff gives them credit for.

4. Google Maps is better than MapQuest.  If it wasn’t, Google would not be able to use it the way they do.  The same is true for almost all Google services when compared to the competitors that they successfully “took down”.

Don’t penalize Google for being the best.  And definitely don’t force your opinions on us just because you blame Google for your failure.

Post Apparently Puts the “NO” in Innovation

September 17, 2009

Post is not a company that you would expect to innovate much.  Their variety of cereals are very standard and they make a nice profit putting out the same products that they have put out for years.  They recently played on that by releasing this commercial, exclaiming that “We put the NO in innovation”.

I would argue that Post has probably made some big changes over the years in terms of production and distribution, perhaps even in corporate structure and ethical standards.  I don’t know if any of these can be called real innovative moves, but change is necessary to keep up with the times.  I get the whole “we don’t change our products because they are already what consumers want” message, but let’s not call an end to progress and innovation altogether.

All in all however, it’s a pretty decent commercial.

Job Search Needs an Upgrade

August 4, 2009

jobsearchUnemployment is still on the rise in this country and there are certainly an endless list of reasons for that.  As someone who has recently joined that group of people, I feel the need to comment on one major problem that I have been dealing with.

Job searching is stuck in the past and needs a major upgrade.

I have grown up on the internet, and continue to experiment with new technologies every chance I get.  New services and applications are developed everyday.  But for some reason, searching for a job online is still a pain in the ass.

Craigslist, in my opinion, has the simplest listing of jobs there is.  They got it right, for the most part, by making it easy to search, sort and apply to all of their listing quickly.

Here is where the rest of the websites and services that I have tried go wrong.  They make you sign up on their website as a new member before applying.  Some make you fill out pages of information, create an online resume, write a traditional cover letter (that they expect you to use for every application).  And some make you pay for the right to apply to the jobs listed on their website.  Thanks for all the help!

The problem is that the job listings are spread across all of these various sites, HotJobs, Craigslist, LinkedIn, TheLadders, Monster, etc.  There is not one site that has all of them, which is primarily because the employers listing the jobs have a choice.  So if I am looking for a marketing position in New York City, to give me the best possible chance of finding the right jobs to apply to, I have to create 5 different accounts, create new versions of my resume, continue to change and update cover letters, store all the information somewhere so I know what I applied to and how to contact them.

Finally, another major issue with most sites is the ability to sort out the junk from the good positions.  With Craigslist, they need a way to filter out the internships from the full time search.  But you put up with it because they make everything else so easy.  However, the other major websites make sorting through their listings too complicated.  If I search for marketing, I should not be inundated with 100s of sales positions from the same company or recruiter.

What we need is a joint effort by every employer to get all listings up on Craigslist, or a new service that aggregates all the listings and makes applying as easy as clicking on the email address provided.  We have come to a time when this is possible, and necessary.  It’s time for the job search industry to catch up with the rest of the online world.

The Printed Blog is Done: Is Anyone Surprised?

July 8, 2009

paperblogThe Printed Blog, a company founded to take blogs, print them and deliver them in newspaper format, has shut down due to lack of capital.  This New York Times story explains that Joshua Karp, the company’s founder, simply could not raise enough capital to keep the business afloat.  The company only lasted a little over 6 months.

Here is a quote from Mr. Karp that gives you a notion of where his idea came from.

“I thought maybe this would translate into a new, venture-funded model for newspapers, but no one believes print news will survive. If I had a penny left, I would bet newspapers will survive in printed form.”

In my opinion, this is a very basic misunderstanding of why blogs are so popular, and why print media is dying.  This “printed blog” idea seems to assume that the content of blogs is better than the content of newspapers, and that the format of newspapers is better than the format of blogs.  When, in fact, I think we all know that it is exactly the opposite from that.

In most situations, the content of newspaper articles is better than the content of most blogs.  But it is the blog format that makes it so appealing.  It is immediate, breaking news and information that would take a whole day to be printed and distributed in newspaper form.

So Mr. Karp, it is not that we love blogs so much but wish they were printed and handed out the next day, its that we love getting our information quickly and easily on our computer or cell phone.  It surprises me that the basic principal of printing a blog post was ever approved and thought to be a good business venture.

If you are looking to save the printing industry, look elsewhere.  If you are looking to start a company that takes the current printing industry and moves it forward, I don’t think you are going to find the answers in “print” form.  We don’t have time to wait for printed material anymore.

If You Force Me to Change, I’ll Fight You

May 28, 2009

newspapersWe have seen it time and again in business and in society as a whole.  If you force someone to change their behavior for whatever reason, they will fight back.  They will resist what does not come naturally, and they will hate you for pushing this change on them.  Lots of them will simply look for a new alternative that will allow them to keep up the status quo.

Governments can force corporations to change
the way they act by enforcing new laws and taxes and business activities.  And those businesses that can afford to do so, will fight back.

Companies can force consumers to change by reinventing a product or service that we have come to know.  Many times customers will fight the change, because it is new, and look for any way to get the products that they are already used to.

Companies can force their competitors to change
by shifting the way their industry behaves or creating a new model for success.  And those business that find themselves behind struggle to turn things around.  They fight the innovators, claiming that they are cheating or that they’re wrong.  They fight with politicians to get some protection.  And they fight with their own customers to avoid losing them (see if that makes sense).

Enter the printing industry in all their luster.  Enter newspapers and magazines and major publishers.  Enter paid content providers.

We are in the midst of a content revolution.  Advertising markets are down everywhere you look.  Major media companies that have relied on newspaper and magazine circulation to thrive are losing money in a hurry.  People don’t want to pay for their information, and advertisers don’t want to pay not to be seen anymore.

Too many online content providers are succeeding in a free model system.  The issue is that the publications that have been around and successful for so long as pay services don’t know how to react.  So most of them fight the change.  They ask the government for help.  They ask consumers to make difficult choices.  And they spend all day firing back at those free content providers that have made it work.

Publishers are being forced to change, and because of that, they are fighting that change.  It’s time to rethink distribution, rethink salaried reporters, rethink free vs. paid models, and rethink consumer behavior.

I can get free information on technology and small businesses via TechCrunch, on business and investing via Bloomberg, on the law via Above the Law.  They have made free information work by making money on other ventures or in other ways.  They are valuable to me, more valuable to advertisers, and they are winning.

Change has come.

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