Insignia Sport, My Best Podcast Player So Far

My Creative Zen V Plus has been getting flakier and flakier lately, requiring hard resets and just acting funky. Under the best circumstances it never has been a perfect device for podcast listening – acceptable at best. When my boss told me that he got an Insignia Sport 4Gb player from Best Buy for $60 on clearance, I looked at the specs and reviews online and basically jumped up and drove to Best Buy to buy one for myself. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and can say that it is the best portable MP3 player for listening to mostly or exclusively for podcasts that I have ever owned.

Running down the list I have owned in order: an original 512 Gb iPod Shuffle; a 512 Gb mobiBLU cube; a 4 Gb Creative Zen V Plus; and now the 4 Gb Insignia Sport. I’ve also had the Zune but I’m not counting it in this list partly because it is big and in a different niche than all these, but also because their attempts to add value to podcasts actually make it unusable for the task. All the rest of these were about the same price, in the high $90s at the time of purchase.

Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of each device as I found the experience of trying to use them as dedicated podcast playing devices.

Original Gumstick 512 Mb iPod Shuffle

Pros: Easy to use; small and light; very easy syncing with iTunes combined with smart playlists made for the best file handling I’ve seen; remembered the spot in long MP3s without bookmarking

Cons: No display made it impossible to identify timestamps of shows for later quoting on EGC; both the original and replacement went DOA after 9 months

512 MB mobiBLU Cube

Pros: Tiny device; mounted as an external device for use with Macs; remembered the spot in long MP3s without bookmarking

Cons: Playlist feature too cumbersome to use so I always listened in alphabetical order; weird nonstandard USB connector that went in through the headphone jack; built in headphones in the lanyard broke early on

4 GB Creative Zen V Plus

Pros: Large storage space for an inexpensive player; attractive display; theoretically plays video

Cons: Is MTP so it requires Windows to sync the device; forgets the position in file when it powers down so you have to remember to bookmark; playlist function is really cumbersome; the only format of video it plays is ridiculous and converting to it is a pain

4 GB Insignia Sport

Pros: Large storage space; cheapest of the lot at $60 on clearance; contains a microSD slot; theoretically plays video; mounts as standard external drive so usable with OS X; imports M3U files for playlists; remembers position in long files without bookmarking; has Bluetooth audio out; plays OGG files!!

Cons: Bluetooth is only for audio, you can’t move files with it; Weird conversion required to play video and it frequently fails; when twirling the wheel to change volume it is possible to be recognized as a “Next file” click; when going from file to file with different bitrates it freaks out until you stop and restart playing


Overall, I’m quite happy with the Insignia Sport. This is provisional as I’ve only had a few weeks of burn in time and the really annoying issues tend to show up after months or when your annoyance level rises to a boil for some functionality that isn’t quite right. I didn’t list it as a pro, but I like how the LED around the wheel on the Insignia Sport looks a lot like the fusion reactor in Iron Man’s chest. I wrote simple scripts to handle the moving of files from my podcatcher directory to the device and then write an M3U file to create a playlist of oldest to newest file. Since there are a couple of shows I always bump to the top of the list, I fudge the dates to make them earlier before I do the whole procedure. Just in not having to futz with the playlist like I did with the Creative Zen, thats a huge win. Over time, I really grew to hate that process. Now, I plug up the Insignia, call my sync script and a few minutes later it is done with no further intervention on my part. I dig it.

If you can find one of these on clearance, I say it’s an automatic buy. At the original price of $139 or so, it’s a marginal call. When an MP3 player gets down in the mid 2 figures some magic happens and you can take risks knowing that if the device sucks or you drop it in a lake you won’t be heartbroken. I’m glad I took the risk with this one.

Piggly Wiggly, Home of Free but Not Open WiFi

I’m sitting in the Piggly Wiggly at Carolina Forest. Part of the reason I ate lunch over this way is that I had a few things to do on my own stuff over lunch, and I prefer not to do those from the company network, even though I’m at lunch and theoretically on my own time. Piggly Wiggly has free internet via wifi in their cafe, and I have used it before. So, I had lunch at the Grand China Buffet and stopped in here. First thing that was different, I was met with a login page. I had to register for an account, which I think is new. It was free and relatively quick, but not something I had seen before.

It went downhill from there. I logged in and could load web pages, but nothing else. I can’t get my email via SMTP, I can’t connect to my home server or my hosted web server via SSH, I can’t connect to my IM services. So Piggly Wiggly has free internet service, if you define that as access to the Web and not one other kind of service.

I’m not trying to grouse about getting something for free that isn’t what I expected, but pointing out that this is a bait and switch. I came here specifically to do some internet work. I bought a coffee from the Starbucks stand I wouldn’t have gone out of my way for. Now that I’m here, I can’t do the work I want to do because I don’t have access to any of the services I need. Presumably the free wifi is offered to attract people in to buy groceries and Starbucks drinks. This was the last time I fall for this. I’m pissed off enough about the half-assed offering that I would have been less bothered by the wifi being down than being crippled. If you are going to have open internet connectivity, open it up please. Otherwise you bring me in for a promise you aren’t willing to fulfill. Web access is great, but it is a portion of the internet not the totality of it.

Update: To add insult to injury, posting this failed the first time. Apparently this login has a 5 minute timeout or something like that. In the time it took to compose this entry, my login was invalid and I had to reauthenticate to make it go. This truly bites.

Twitter Zeitgeist

My Twitter fast continues. I’ve looked at it for less than 15 minutes each for the last two days. As I tweeted yesterday:

I thought that I would miss Twitter like an addict craving a fix. Instead it felt more like having a hypnotist cure a nervous tic overnight.

Garrick van Buren forwarded me a link to this guy’s Twitter skepticism. What’s interesting that his issues and mine seem to be equal and opposite. He thinks people use @replies when they should use more direct messages. I prefer to have everything public unless there is a compelling reason to take it private. He doesn’t like the abandonment of the “What are you doing” conceit, and I think that is the most boring frigging thing ever. If he got his way, I’d abandon Twitter in a heartbeat. The service he describes holds even less value than Twitter currently holds for me.

I’ve grown weary of the way Twitter leaves a kind of jangly feeling, like having three cups of coffee too many. There is always something coming in and more behind that. I see lots of people saying things like “I’m turning off Twitter for a while, I need to get things done.” Twitter is cute but it’s hard to get things done and pay attention to it. If you don’t pay attention to it constantly, you lose a lot of the power of it. It’s a conundrum and one I am having a hard time finding a reasonable balance with.

And just because I don’t feel like writing a full post to encapsulate this link, I will admit that my Twitter contrarianism could be just as misguided as this Robin Hobb rant about blogging, in which she does her level best to sound like Harlan Ellison on the subject. I’m a little chagrined how much her piece has in common with mine, in that she thinks blogging kills writing and (at least for me) twittering seems to kill my blogging. The only part that resonates with me is the idea that one activity can subtract the urgency and energy to do the other. I’ve decided that I like the value blogging creates for me, which is different than the value of twittering. Each to his or her own.

Google Reader Exploit

I’m listening to Steve Gillmor’s News Gang from March 13th and a large part of what they are talking about is one of Steve’s recent hot button issues. He calls it the “Google Reader Shared Items exploit”. Basically, when you use Google Reader and you share items, they can be seen by your “friends” in a list of “your friends shared items.” Steve has a problem with the very loose methodology Google uses to determine who is a friend, which is inferred algorithmically and not anything you can do explicitly. He and Mary Hodder seem to be worked up about it and Chris Saad doesn’t think it is a big deal. I’m with you, Chris Saad. I sure don’t understand the problem when you take an item from your feed and mark it “Shared” that it gets shared with arbitrary people. It seem reasonable to me that doing so shares to a group that might be up to as big as the internet. I mean, I have the dang widget sitting in my sidebar. For those people who have an issue with it, what I wonder is who they think they are sharing with and what they thought would happen when they hit that check box?

This does not mean that I endorse Google data policies broadly. They kind of scare the hell out of me. I spent years of not logging in to Google for any reason because I was worried they would track my searches. Once I started using Reader and staying logged in all day I bought a few shares of stock. My rationale was that if I can’t tame the tiger, maybe I can at least ride it a little.

Update: I’m pretty sure now that Steve Gillmor is wrong about how friends are inferred. I have heard him say that it comes from emailing people but I pulled up the Settings -> Friends page and set it beside my list of GTalk friends and every single person on my Reader friends list was a GTalk buddy. In other words, I think you have to take the explicit action of making them an IM buddy before you see their shared items. That doesn’t change my initial post, in that sharing is sharing and if you don’t want to broadcast your interest in a topic you probably ought not to be sharing it.

More Twitter Skepticism

I’m following the lead of Garrick van Buren and making today a non-Twitter day. Instead I will go back to the mode I used to be in where I made a mix of long blog posts and some short ones. Twitter has definitely eaten the short posts out of my blogging queue.

I forgot to mention it yesterday but another big factor in my turning from Twitter has been this “Color War” nonsense. When I first heard about it, I asked on Twitter “Is this yet another Ze Frank exercise in antagonistic pointlessness for the bored?” and it turns out it is. Apparently it has its origins in some summer camp thing I’ve never heard of. All I know is that getting swatches of the Twittersphere to band into arbitrary groups and start opposing each other has less than zero interest to me.

On top of that, to begin a project called “Color War” just strikes me as distasteful, especially when we’re about to have our first black presidential nominee. There are really only two possibilities here. Either Ze was oblivous to the racial connotations of this name or he knew but didn’t care. Neither option is flattering. As it happens, I once met a man who was a complete cracker white supremacist. He was stockpiling guns in the wake of the Rodney King riots because he was convinced there would be a black uprising and when it happened he wanted to be prepared. I dare say if you’ve heard all this spoken to you in all sincerity by someone with a basement full of AK-47s who is gearing up to potentially kill people of color in large scale, for the rest of your life you will never find the term “Color War” to be that damn funny . To the extent this stupidness waxes on Twitter, my interest wanes.

Rethinking Twitter

I was a long time Twitter skeptic and late last fall I joined up and started using it. It seems like many people have such a conversion and then after they begin using the service they go from Saul of Blogging to the apostle Paul of Twitter immediately. My experience is unique in that while I did use it, I never really lost the skepticism. Now, four months on I feel less enamored of the service than I ever have.

I’ll be the first to admit that my blogging has suffered over the same time frame. Whether Twitter is the cause or just correlated I cannot say. It’s hard to discount the time it takes and the engagement and mental energy to keep up with the constant flow of tweets. I had been running in the mode where I’d get IM notification to my GTalk account. This meant a fairly steady stream of micro-interruption most times. If there were interesting points, I could respond almost instantly with my own pithy bit of 140 character wisdom.

Here’s an anology to think about. Is Twitter to blogging what the periodic cannon firings are to avalanches? By keeping me posting small thoughts all day long, I have less urgency to capture those thoughts in longer, more fleshed out blog posts. It eats away at my time, the continual partial attention it requires saps cycles from my brain’s CPU and in the end what do I have?

I’ve been blogging for five and a half years now, and podcasting for three and a half. Over that time period, I feel like I have written and recorded work of which I’m proud. This work is out there and it is mine and all of it is part of my “personal brand.” What I’m struggling with is the lasting value of the energy I’ve dumped into Twitter. Sure, some of my tweets were pretty funny and a few were profound. I couldn’t tell you which, or when or anything about them. As soon as they leave my keyboard they are gone. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just be making really short blog posts with the same thing in them.

I originally dissed the central Twitter conceit of continually answering the question “what are you doing?” That is such a generally boring question for me to be unworthy of actually bothering to reply. Now, however, I’m realizing that perhaps that was where the value always lay for me. Twitter matters to me when I can actually get things done with it, like making lunch plans or drumming up support for Create South. It does help keep me in touch with people, but so do many tools. It’s good for some things, so perhaps the problem is just in me trying to over-broaden it into something it shouldn’t be. Maybe it is of best value in quickly broadcasting ephemeral bits of data and then letting them effectively disappear back into the cyber-froth.

Meanwhile, I’m going to work on shifting my personal media equilibrium. I’ve spent too long gardening the ephemeral and harvesting nothing. I’m not dropping Twitter but I am putting it in a more appropriate place in my media toolkit. Your mileage may vary.

Light Blogging and Stuff

I wish I could claim that Twitter is eating my blogging energy but truth be told I haven’t even been twittering much this weekend. I believe I’m going through one of those periods of burnout with the process. I have so many irons in the fire that I’m beginning to thrash around. This is where I need to settle down, get a little zen and trust in GTD or a GTD-like process to guide me. Anything else and I’m doomed.

Over the last week I’ve been getting used to Mac OS X 10.4. I believe I’ve settled in to a good 2-4 year delay behind everyone else. I see people talking about buying iPhones or iPod Touches and then being disappointed that the price drops and/or new models coming out with much more capacity for the same price. I, on the other hand, have been getting devices and OS upgrades that are lagging so far behind other people that they just give them to me. On the one hand it makes me feel a little bit like a cheeser for begging other people’s refuse technology. On the other, I like getting work done with older technology and it feels green to me to extend the useful life of these items.

Somewhere in here I’ll find a new equilibrium for my blogging, tweeting and all the other stuff of my digital life. I try not to get freaked out when things change a little one way or the other. Nothing is permanent, all things are in flux.

Ed Cone on the Political Ground Game

My acquaintance Ed Cone has a great article on the convergence of politics and the internet. He articulates something I noticed but couldn’t put into words as well as he did. The Howard Dean campaign in 2004 and the Ron Paul campaign this time around had a lot of internet juice but neither seemed to translate into many votes. He lays out why he thinks that is and some suggestions for using the internet in a campaign.

A single one sentence observation carries much of the weight of wisdom: “The ground game matters.” I made some phone calls for John Edwards (not many, fewer than a dozen) but his online virtual phone bank tool made that easy. In 2002, I had to drive to a boiler room in Chamblee GA to make calls for Max Cleland and it really sucked. I agree with Ed that the strength of the internet lies in coordinating the rest of it. It is a means, but not an end. Of the people I know personally that were supporting Ron Paul and involved in the process, they did internet style things for him but I’m pretty sure that didn’t involve making phone calls or pounding on doors. The ground game matters.

Inbox Zero

Last night I achieved the mythical “Inbox Zero” for the first time in four months and only the second or third time ever. It required some ruthlessness for sure. One advantage is that as you dig older and older in the queue some of the things have taken care of themselves or become so old they are irrelevant and can just be deleted. If you sent me an email and were waiting on a response, you either have the response or something got lost in the intertubes.

I’ve got enough things shaking that I truly want to be productive and organized so I’m taking another crack at GTD. I’ve already refreshed my Hipster PDA, now the emails are handled. This weekend I’ll work on the physical inbox. I hope to come out next week without a lot of legacy baggage and ready to just crank on some stuff.

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In My Second Month on Twitter, I Reject Your Commandments

I resisted the Twitter fad for a very long time. My sense was that it was just another time waster, high signal to noise and full of generally irrelevant stuff. I signed up about six weeks ago and found that while all of the above was indeed true I enjoyed it anyway. I’ve been a fairly regular twitterer ever since.

Yesterday Steve Garfield tweeted this link about whether Twitter users are “twits” or “twerps”, complete with analysis of what makes one versus the other and some mild chiding at which way is the More Correct Way to Twitter. It also led me to this other page of Twitter Ten Commandments where the mild chiding is replaced by full on pompous posturing. I suspect the latter link is deliberately provocative as a link whoring mechanism and I have just fallen for it. So be it.

I flatly reject the notion that there is a right and a wrong way to use Twitter, and that you must conform to these weirdly narrow set of rules in order to use it correctly. “Thou shalt not tweet more than 20 times a day.” “Thou shalt not tweet more than 10 times in an hour.” Really? We are expected to keep a clock on ourselves now? Wow, that really adds a level of enjoyment to it. “Hey I have something to say, how many tweets do I have left in my quota? Darn, I have to wait 20 minutes before I can tweet again.” Give me a break.

Even if I haven’t been lost already, he would have lost me here:

6: Thou shalt not forget that the question being asked is “What are you doing?”.

Part of why I resisted joining up for so long is that I seldom do anything very interesting, and I didn’t see what value constantly answering that question could have. When I did join, the very first thing I did was abandon that framing premise as too boring to consider. Instead, for me it is more like “What are you thinking?” which has a much wider range of possibility. My favorite stint on Twitter so far was in the runup to the holidays when I was posting tiny musings on love and hate and affection, getting really interesting responses in return. If my favorite interaction would have been precluded by those commandments, not much chance of me buying in to them.

In the final analysis, not only are they silly and kind of dickish but ultimately they are completely irrelevant. It is a completely self-correcting system. If someone is following you via their cellphone and you get too prolific for them, they unfollow you. If you stop being interesting to someone, they unfollow you. We don’t need all these rules because the system takes care of itself. Maybe for your standard neurotic SNS type user whose main interaction with a system is to collect a headcount via “friends” or “followers” that is anathema to them. Unfollowing makes my count go down, woe is me! Personally, just as I don’t care how many listeners my podcast has, I don’t (or try not to) care how many followers I have. I firmly expect that they will come and go, that I’ll do things to piss some off or lose them, that I’ll pick up other ones. That’s just how the game plays out.

If I were required to follow Phil’s Ten Commandments, I’d just quit the service. If most people I follow did, they would become less interesting. We have a freeform platform for human interaction here. Presupposing exactly what interactions should flow through it and how is not necessary. It causes more harm by making people self-censor their potentially interesting thoughts and is just dumb. Break the commandments! Be Twitter heathens! Phil Casablanca will get pissed off and not follow any of us but we can live with that. It’s like the elephant tied up with a string – it’s not the string that keeps him from running off but his belief in the boundary. Ignoring the boundaries makes you more interesting to me so let it rip!

OpenID

Quite often I’ve seen blogs that for their commenting system they have OpenID as an option. I always skip that because I don’t have one. Well, actually I do. I did not realize this but anyone with a number of existing accounts have OpenID built in. Technorati is one of them, so I started using it as my login mechanism to a semi-secret beta (can’t be that secret, the founder Twitters about it). Just for fun, I think I’ll start using that for any blog comments that support it.

Gmail and “Privacy”

One thing I see people saying over and over that they feel it is a violation of their privacy to have contextually targeted ads in the sidebar when they are looking at their GMail web interface. Truly, I never understand that feeling. I understand feeling it is cheesy or overly crass but a privacy violation? Wouldn’t that require giving your information to some third party that you did not want it given to? They ain’t giving nothing to nothing. You must stay withing their silo as an advertiser. If they gave away who you were, they’d have no more exclusive relationship with you to sell to the advertisers.

There are many things you might not like about it, including feeling like a player handling your sensitive data is pimping you too hard and treating you like a sheep to be sheared, but privacy is not the technically correct complaint. I think it would actually be helpful to make the complaint match the reality on the ground if you want things to change. Me personally, when I realized how deeply Google has its hooks into me, I bought a few shares of their stock. If I can’t get the tiger off me, maybe I can ride it a little.

Web 2.0, Kool-Aid, Aspirations and Failures

I’ve had this post percolating in me for a while. I’m trying to distill down a zeitgeist I’m sniffing in the blogosphere. First, here’s some of my source material:

Steve Rubel is down on the Web 2.0 world in general

Andrew Baron enters his fourth year with Rocketboom

Justin Kownacki finds social media’s social structures rigid and frustrating

Podarama is looking for a reprieve from imminent doom.

Kevin Kelly points out that 90% being crap means 10% is wonderful

It has felt to me like these are threads in a consistent cloth, but I’m not sure if I can weave them together well. In my head it feels so easy, but writing it and articulating in words is hard.

Andrew Baron points to his particular keys of success with Rocketboom and he thinks one of the big contributors is abandoning the pursuit of a network.

We’ve seen alot of the popular content startups turn into networks of shows and I continue to be critical of them for operating like old record labels. There is a better way to grow a brand of content for the long term. I can’t believe how much money some of them have burnt through.

He doesn’t name names, but one assumes that Podtech and Podshow are amongst the networks he’s talking about. I don’t really know how the business prospects of Cam Reilly’s Podcast Network are faring but I still think it is weird that when I look at their site, the 3rd most prominent link is to a show that has never had an episode. Podshow’s web interface gets weirder and weirder to me. When I find new shows to add to AmigoFish and they are a Podshow property, I have to hunt all over the web page just to find the RSS link. I eventually unsubscribed from the Scoble Show when I got tired of seeing yet another demo of a product I didn’t care about. That was the only Podtech show I watched or listened to. I haven’t listened to any of the programs of the TWiT family in something like a year and a half. I hung with the Daily Giz Wiz longer than any, but eventually dropped that one too. I’m not even listening to the entire slate of IT Conversations shows anymore. I couldn’t take Tech Nation, a show I stopped listening to on the radio in 1998 because I got tired of it.

Just today, my brother IM’d me the link to Podarama’s plea for help. I initially thought I’d never heard of the site, but when I explored a little I found I had listened to a program on it – Zydeco Road. I listened to a few episodes and bailed. After living in Lafayette LA, this New York based zydeco show didn’t cut it when I can listen to Zydeco Est Pas Sale from KRVS anytime (and I even know those guys.) My brother pointed out that Podarama seems generally hapless and that even clicking on their store link takes you to a login page. That’s right, you can’t see what they have for sale unless you create an account. I’m not rooting for failure of this outfit, but it doesn’t seem like an operation overflowing with clue.

It seems to me the stampede to form networks was one of the very first impulses people had when the podcast era began. It perplexed me then and it continues to perplex me. The main thing I like about producing a podcast is that I don’t need a network. For 80 years, to get nationwide distribution you needed a network. When I produced Reality Break in the 90’s, we had it on NPR’s PRSS system for two years. Nowadays, you could get the same reach without the necessity of dealing with the bureaucracy. Having experienced that sort of fun, I never understood the urge people have to recreate these no longer necessary structures. To me, the lack of a network is the strength.

As a consumer of podcasts, I’ve never gotten anything out of a network. I don’t look at a show and say “Oh boy, that’s on Podshow/Podtech/TWiT/Podcast Network so it has to be good.” This is the way it works in the post-scarcity world. To return to my hobby horse and invoke Sturgeon’s Law, 90% of all new media is “crap.” I don’t believe in the objective good/bad or high quality/low quality I constantly hear bandied about. The only valuable metric is relevant to me or irrelevant. Really, what Sturgeon’s Law says is that 90% of the shows are not of interest to me. That works for independent individual’s shows, but also the output of networks. I have no brand affinity for any podcasting network. Why should I? 90% of their output is not interesting to me.

On the flip side of that, as Kevin Kelly points out in his rebuttal of new media’s favorite publicity whore Andrew Keen, 10% “good stuff” (ie, relevant to me) from a large number of participants means overall more good (relevant) stuff available. That has been my experience. Even as I have dropped the shows I referenced above, I continue to find more and my total number of subscriptions has creeped upwards steadily for the last three years. In the last few weeks, I have tried half a dozen new shows, dropping a few and keeping a few.

And yet, Steve Rubel finds the Web 2.0 world — with which the new mediasphere (blogs, podcasts, videoblogs) seems inextricably linked — to be in decline. To him, this feels just like it did in 1999 when VC money flowed into every stupid idea, money was wasted left and right and people were motivated by the idea of a fast track to a liquidity event that would make them rich. He liked things better in the trough between the high times because there was a focus on creating good sites of high value with less of an eye to a quick score. Still, a lot of the problems he points out are a function of the Silicon Valley mindset, where the corridor from San Francisco is dense with people high one each other’s tail pipe fumes.

I personally don’t care much about that world, which I’ve always found shallow and smug and self-satisfied. These are the type of people who refer to “fly-over country.” Whenever I hear that term, it makes me want to fly my fist into some Santa Clara hipster’s big fat mouth. I’m from fly-over country, and have spent my whole life there. It’s what most of us refer to as “America.” You know, that measly 260 million people who don’t live in San Francisco or LA or New York. That brings me to Justin Kownacki, who I know from watching his series Something to Be Desired. (I’m on Season 3, episode 11.) He points out that the gospel that Web 2.0 evangelists preach is that our present technologies and webscape permit creativity from everywhere. Their words do that, at least. With their actions they tend to cluster in Silicon Valley, logroll with their fairly insular set of cronies and generally assume that most of the value exists in each other. This led to phenomena such as Odeo being proclaimed the best podcasting site out there when their page was a big “Coming Soon” banner. It wasn’t the work, it was the pedigree that mattered to people.

As Justin points out:

Eric was musing about the seeming hypocrisy of every ‘must-attend’ social media event, in which people who aren’t making any money in the medium still feel obliged to fly to an event to be part of some fictitious scene. At one point, I mentioned that, since the web is built upon the democratized promise that physical location no longer matters, I shouldn’t feel hamstrung by living in Pittsburgh as opposed to NYC / LA / SF. However, it’s undeniable that “the action” still takes place in the major media centers — which, if that’s the case, essentially means that the liberating power of the web is a lie.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country is full of us people just trying to do their work, get things done. I watch or listen to shows produced out of Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Greenville SC, Minneapolis, Cleveland, North Dakota, Vancouver BC, etc. There are even *GASP* whole other non-USA countries from which good work is published. A very small minority of what I listen to originates from the trinity of NY/SF/LA. I recently spent a weekend in Greensboro NC with several hundred people who blog, podcast, videoblog, make independent films and generally let their creative flag fly. Almost all of those people drove there, ie were within a few hundred miles of the event or even lived in town. Just in the Piedmont southeastern US there were that many creators doing good work who were willing to come out. There must be at least ten times as many who didn’t come out to the event, probably more. Fly-over country is getting it done, and you sniffy hipsters discount it at your peril. Even more, As Justin points out, if the promise of Web 2.0 is real we can do our thing anywhere. If we have to be in SF to matter, then that promise is a fraud.

Despite the naysayers and the prospects of the new media networks, I have nothing but optimism for and love of our new media. Every day it matters more to me than the legacy media. No doubt the business side will shake out some of the networks, which will scare out some or all of the VC money from the field. I think that will be good for the long term prospects. I’ll go farther. I think the long-term prospects of players in the new mediasphere will be inversely correlated to how much VC money they take. Entirely bootstrapped, self-funded organizations will be healthier than those with external funding. The number of shows will continue to increase, which will also be to the good. Most of it will be irrelevant to any given person but any audience member can find plenty to enjoy and every publisher can find plenty of people to be their fans. These are not bugs, these are features. At the end of the day, all the business talk and power dynamics and A-listiness is meaningless. There is work to be done, and some of us will do work we are proud of. Some of us will find the work that enriches our lives. Everything else is the droning of pundits that find themselves on the short end of the attention stick. Welcome to the 90%, our former arbiters of taste. We’ve moved on without you.

Update: I forgot to mention ConvergeSouth! WTF? Edited that in.

Forgive Me Father, For I Have Twittered

OK, the deed is done. I am now on twitter as geniodiabolico . Follow me if you can stand the monotony, netizens!

Update: I’ve been using it for a few hours and first softened my position about its usefulness as a tool. Then, after trying to use it and realizing how big a pain in the ass it is to use, I’m kind of back where I started. If I can figure out a way to get something useful done with this, I’ll continue but I ain’t dumping copious time into it. That tail ain’t wagging this dog.

Fallout from Shiny Things and Further Thoughts

My post about seceding from Scoble’s blog and the quest for the shiny seems to have caught a lot of traction. It’s crazy, you can never predict when or to which post it will happen. However, writing about Scoble increases the odds because if he links back it’s automatic for the people, baby.

That post has already gotten over 30 comments and trackbacks. I’m a little surprised that so few people call me an idiot. It seems like I really tapped into a nascent feeling that was waiting to be expressed by many people. My favorite negative comment is the guy who calls me too stupid to work Facebook and wonders how long until even this blog scares me. That takes a pretty strained mis-reading to get to that interpretation. I think it’s pretty clear that all I care about is not wasting my time in duplicate efforts, in following fads that ultimately will not pay back that investment.

People have asked if I am burned out on Web 2.0 in general, or merely SNS. It’s kind of the latter but trending towards the former. As the proprietor of a podcast directory, I’m very sensitive to this kind of issue. It’s not like such directories are not thick on the ground, so I knew from day one I’d have to do something different. I also tried to make it as easy as possible to get in (OPML import) and out (OMPL export) to minimize the duplicated efforts. If you have a subscription in a podcatcher that exports OPML (which is most of them) you can rate all those in AmigoFish very quickly. Two years ago I was worried about burnout and today it is worse.

I didn’t know about it at the time, but the same day as my original post, Jeremy Zawodny was also independently making a similar post. I think this has a lot to do with the traction. It wasn’t just me or Steve Rubel, it was a number of people in a perfect storm of getting sick of this all at the same time. The podcast I recorded Wednesday night discusses this issue some more as well. The more I think about this, the more I think my cry of frustration is a continuation of my recent thinking. The retirement thinking and money, sustainability of lifestyle and happiness, the living in a small town in South Carolina rather than Santa Clara and being happier because of it, it’s all of a piece. The idea is to achieve the maximal happiness with the minimal friction. I think I’m on pace for that.

In pretty much every way, I’m happier today than I have been in a long time. I like my job, I have as little money stress as I ever have, I love my house and neighborhood, I’m back in touch with old friends I haven’t talked to in 10 or 20 years. This is the good stuff of life, and makes me happy in a way that an increasing count of friends on a SNS cannot. I don’t want to be the cranky old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn, or like the people who talk about how iPods destroy this mythical (fictional) pasts where everyone talked to their neighbors all the time. I also don’t want to say no one finds use in Facebook. My wife has been on it for years as a teacher, and she likes it. However, I already have so much infrastructure in the form of this blog/podcast and all the various things I have already joined, I just don’t have the emptiness I need Facebook to fill. I not only don’t want to use it, I don’t really want to hear a lot about it. If that’s your focus and you are excited about it, talk away by all means. Do what you love. However, it might well mean I’m not listening. That’s just the way it works.

Why I Dropped Scoble and Seceded from the Hunt for Newer Shinier Things

I have met Robert Scoble and I like him. He’s a good guy, and somewhere I have a photo and video of him with an AmigoFish sticker on his tripod, so that right there puts him close to my heart. I’ve followed him on and off for years, and am currently subscribed to his Scobleizer blog. However, I’m dropping him. The thing that sent me over the edge was an inoccuous enough post but something that is emblematic of my problem not just with his blog but with the whole Silicon Valley mindset.

In it, he says that he gets too much email and that is ineffective for getting PR releases to him. He suggests that what you should do know is to leave him a message on his Facebook wall. Dear god and/or Bob. In the time I’ve followed Scoble, I must have seen something like this a dozen times from him. Don’t email, Twitter me. Don’t Twitter, Pwnce. Jaiku me. Leave a wall message, send an SMS, just call me, email me, don’t email me, don’t call me. Enough already. I’m not even trying to get in contact with him, and I find this constant migration from platform to platform to be a load of shit that just wearies me. I felt the same way when I dropped TechCrunch, well over a year ago. I got so tired of hearing about another slightly different way of doing what we were already doing and why that tiny difference was worth dropping everything and moving over.

I officially renounce the search for the newer and shinier.

Will this cost me cool points? Undoubtedly so, and I have few enough of those to spare. However, getting out of the ever escalating rat-race of keeping up with whatever the hot site/service/Web 2.0 gimcrack of the moment is carries a lot of benefit to me. It’s the opposite of an opportunity cost, it’s an opportunity profit – the gain I get from not spending all my time redoing my efforts in a new system. I suppose I could try to take whatever small notoriety I got from podcasting and then try to go get a following in Second Life, then try to get everyone to stampede over to my MySpace page, and then use it to suggest that everyone subscribe to my Twitter feed, then move to Pwnce because Twitter is too slow, then get those people to friend me on Facebook. Or, I could do none of that and instead do, oh, ANY FUCKING THING ELSE which would ultimately be more fun and less wasted busy work.

People invite me to services all the time. They want to connect to me on LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook. I appreciate that anyone cares and I get a little warmth from the sentiment. I’m not joining anything that I’m not already a part of though. People ask me why I’m not on FaceBook since that’s the cool, hot thing. That’s precisely why I am not. I’m not interested in coolness or hotness. I am interested in friends, true friends that matter to me and that miss me when they don’t see me for a long time. I’m uninterested in virtual friends that are trying to out-compete everyone else by being the first person on the SNS du jour to have 1.7 kajillion connections. I’m uninterested in duplicating work from siloed system to siloed system, to joining any network that encourages many shallow links instead of a few deep ones. I joined LinkedIn years ago, and I’m thinking about getting out of it or possibly just rejecting any future requests out of hand. It’s a bunch of busy work that has never done one thing for me and I wish I had never started.

Basta. Life is short and true friends that will go to the mat for you are scarce. The energy spent in chasing some sort of glorious future from service to service is friction in my life, not any sort of addition. If I had that kind of time, I’d be at the beach more often and reading more books or cuddling up on the couch with my wife and my dog for more of my day. Sometimes these services really add to our lives and allow us to build communities that we can’t get in our every day corporal lives. Other times, like now, they are just more bullshit in a world overflowing with bullshit. I don’t need them, I don’t want them and the burden on anyone inviting me to any service is to prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that this will improve my life and make me happier. If you can’t do that, I’m out. I’ve had plenty of shiny for one lifetime, now I’m looking for the old and worn that will put a smile on my face.

Update: I forgot to cite this post from Steve Rubel on similar issues which helped drive my thinking. In comments, CJ says “I feel sorry for you man. Not wanting to join something great just because it’s new and popular. . . . is sad.” and questions why I want to avoid FaceBook precisely because it is new and hot. It’s because those correlate strongly with ephemeral. When it isn’t new and isn’t hot but still useful, that’s when you know it is going to last. I’m not making any more investments of my time in the SNS du jour and then seeing that one slowly get abandoned. Tribe.net, anyone?

More on Newspapers

Here are two more newspaper links. Ryan Sholin responds to that stupid article I blogged yesterday with his list of “10 obvious things about the future of newspapers.”

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, Avedon Carol points out that the New York Times is becoming a fanzine for the pundit class. I like her points about how the fanzine mentality is not in the quality of the writing (which is often quite good) but the insularity and sermon to the choir of a core group nature of it. As someone who has myself published a fanzine, I understood exactly where she was coming from.

These screeds like Neil Henry’s are just empty ventings to me. If you really want to impress us with how much better professional journalists are than bloggers, return to publishing impressive work. There are thousands of stories about the conduct of this war, about the current political situation and the present constitutional crisis waiting to be written, hovering about like slow pitch softballs. Pick one and hit it a mile, or shut your cake hole. The establishment media keeps telling us they are essential while the reportage gets increasingly inconsequential. If you are better, prove it. You’ve lost your free ticket and have to earn it back. Coffee is for closers.

Google and the Newspaper Business

Jay Rosen has an interesting post tearing apart this argument that “Google should pay reparations for destroying the newspaper business.” I enjoy reading this sort of stuff from Jay, especially when the source material is whining from the entitled elite about how the future isn’t respecting that entitlement. Not only are the details wrong, the arguments mostly with straw men that don’t exist in the real world but the entire underlying premise is profoundly wrong. Since when does any technology owe anything to those it supplants in whatever marketplace it may touch? Since they are responsible for the compact disk, ow much does Philips owe the makers of player piano rolls, cassettes, and vinyl LPs? That’s a notion that seems odd coming from a fairly well placed academic in the journalism world, being as it is so ignorant and bassackwards.

At Orycon last year I started doing some of my interviews guerilla style, until the con staff made me get a press pass. I understand generally why they did that but I didn’t particularly like it. Having to identify as press made me unhappy. Even when I do press-like things like conduct interviews for publication in my show, I don’t consider myself such. Like the old joke goes, I’d rather tell people I’m a piano player in a whorehouse so they don’t lose respect for me.

I vaguely follow via Doc Searls the weird stuff going down at the Santa Barbara newspaper. I saw at one point a reference to the fired editors and reporters suing to get their jobs back. That is an outlook I just cannot understand. I could understand trying to round up the out of work folks and organizing on the fly a hyper-local semi-pro Santa Barbara website and selling highly targeted ads to businesses sympathetic to the cause. That sort of activity is what I love, kind of like the podcasts from the locked out CBC disk jockeys a few years ago. Rather than railing at the technology and how it affects the classic model of journalism, take what you can from it and use it as a tool for your journalism. It makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is to sue to be allowed to return to an organization that fucked you over already in a declining industry that is hemorrhaging money and generally using their last gaps of air to rail at the upstarts instead of swimming for safety. That’s the kind of activity that not only guarantees an ironic future but helps bring it about. Nice work.

This has been a snarky rant from a basement blogger and thus has received the Neil Henry Seal of Disapproval. I wish there was a badge I could put in my sidebar for it. I’d wear that proudly. I love it when the pompous and clueless hate what I do because it increases the odds that I’m on the right track.