I am doing some beta testing on the new Typepad Blogging tools. (Maybe they heard that if it ain't broke you send for Earl)
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So for the interim anyway, you can find my stuff here
Just sat through an excellent presentation by John Wroclawski of MIT looking at some of the high level thinking about negotiating the future of the net with the people who are participating while trying to retain its ability to adapt and change in the face of powerful vested interests.
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As a research issue it is fascinating, as a real-world problem it is even more important. I'll get a copy of the PPT and post more later.
Good conference with some fine people, some reviews to come when I get a mo
A couple of years ago I saw a chart that showed the demand for revenue from 3G systems rising steadily over the next five years as the networks were rolled out and put into operation. What it also showed was the cost of a voice call on a 3G network falling steeply, and the expected revenue from voice forming an ever smaller component of the revenue total over the same period.
The clear implication was that data and other services would have to be found to make up the difference. It pretty soon became obvious that the demand for those data services and the price we are prepared to pay for them are both pretty small. Now the other shoe drops.
The first 3G sales experiences - from "3"
After all the hype around 3G and "3" and all the services that will be available at high speed over the network - what is the main selling point for a new "3" mobile phone?
Unbelievably it is the price of the voice traffic!
Just a few weeks after "3" launched their mobile phones to the public, the first indications of what the consumers first buying experience are have been collected and analysed by Strand Consult. We have visited a number of "3" outlets - both some of their own and some independent retailers. Everywhere the sales pitch from the salespersons has been the same almost word for word: "3" offers the lowest price on voice minutes.
The three main factors with this strategy that could be unfortunate are the following:
"3" are not focusing on the mobile services that should be generating 20 - 40% of 3G revenues
"3" are buying customers by offering the lowest minute prices in the UK
The two above factors can influence the customers perception of "3" - to the effect that "3" is just a new discount brand - rather than the first 3G mobile operator in Europe.
Even worse for the business, they are conditioning the market as a whole to see the low cost of calls as the primary, perhaps the only justification for 3G as a technology. Not a good sign.
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Shirky is one of the more subtle and thoughtful people publishing anywhere, and especially with his thinking about the application of IT to things in the world. His latest musing on the new US FCC ruling on media ownership is worth the read, and tells us a great deal more about the reality that the Internet is NOT a media environment.
Weblogs are the freest media the world has ever known. Within the universe of Internet users, the costs of setting up a weblog are minor, and perhaps more importantly, require no financial investment, only time, thus greatly weakening the "freedom of the press for those who can afford one" effect. Furthermore, there is no Weblog Central -- you do not need to incorporate your weblog, you do not need to register your weblog, you do not need to clear your posts with anyone. Weblogs are the best attempt we've seen to date of making freedom of speech and freedom of the press the same freedom, in Mike Godwin's famous phrase.
And in this free, decentralized, diverse, and popular medium we find astonishing inequality, inequality so extreme it makes the distribution of television ratings look positively egalitarian. In fact, a review of any of the weblog tracking initiatives such as Technorati or the Blogging ecosystem project shows thousand-fold imbalances between the most popular and average Weblogs. These inequalities often fall into what's known as a power law distribution, a curve where a tiny number of sites account for a majority of the in-bound links, while the vast majority of sites have a very small number of such links. (Although the correlation with links and traffic is not perfect, it is a strong proxy for audience size.)
The reasons for this are complex (I addressed some of them in Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality), but from the point of view of analyzing the FCC ruling, the lesson of weblog popularity is clear: inequality can arise in systems where users are free to make choices among a large set of options, even in the absence of central control or manipulation. Inequality is not a priori evidence of manipulation, in other words; it can also be a side effect of large systems governed by popular choice.
The telling paragraph however, is this one.The third coherent position is advocacy of diverse and free media, which requires abandonment of equality as a goal. For this camp, the removal of regulation is desirable in and of itself, whatever the outcome. Given the evidence that diverse and free systems migrate to unequal distributions, the fact of inequality is a necessarily acceptable outcome to this group. However, in truly diverse systems, with millions of choices rather than hundreds, the imbalance between popular and average media outlets is tempered by the imbalance between the most popular outlets and the size of the system as a whole. As popular as Glenn Reynolds may be, InstaPundit is no Gunsmoke; no one weblog is going to reach 45% of the audience. In large diverse systems, freedom increases the inequality between outlets, but the overall size and growth weakens the effects of concentration.
And now we are testing that proposition in the Blogosphere, and it appears to be true. With trivial barriers to entry and the enablement of massive diversity, although massive inequality occurs, the distribution of the remaining "audience" among all the remaining channels guarantees that massive dominance in the sphere becomes all but impossible. The cynic in me says that there is exactly the reason that the big media people don't want a bar of it; that would ensure that there was no scarcity to parcel out and profit from and we haven't yet learned the economics of abundance.
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There's a great discussion going on at "Information Society: Voices from the South" firstname.lastname@example.org, covering education, access and application of Internet tools in developing communities. One of the questions that most interests me is the one about how much the local language and the place matters.
If we consider the net as a communication tool and accept that the vast majority of our communication is both in our local language and within a fairly small geographical horizon within which our most important social, economic and political activity occurs.
The technology is able to facilitate, accelerate and archive that communication for many purposes, most of them benign. But it will only do that effectively if it is available to people when and where they need it (walking 5KM to a telecentre is not the answer), through an interface that they can use (if it doesn't support non-literate users it will fail), in a language that makes sense to them (must be local).
While it is a great thing that we can also use it to communicate with like minded, and alternatively minded people all round the world, and there are significant benefits in that, its greatest value, and sternest test comes in figuring out how to be relevant and worthwhile in our daily lives.
This applies both in poor and rich communities and there is increasing evidence, and discussion around the ways that Internet tools and services are being used to enrich and empower local, real-world communities.
I have some material that deals with these issues here
This story on the BBC shows that the localisation process is a growing factor in internet use among those with good access. Perhaps we could shortcut the process for poor countries by not forcing them to follow the same, frequently dead-ended road that the rich ones have been down.Online communities get real
Weblogs, e-mail and instant messaging are enabling people to maintain relationships and pass information in unexpected ways, say researchers.
A study of online communities by UK think-tank The Work Foundation has found that the web is much more localised, more honest and less chaotic than original predictions thought.
So-called social software - e-mail, messaging systems, weblogs and shared online diaries - is allowing people to make the net work for them and bring the virtual world home.
New phenomena such as weblogs have allowed people to share their interest and passions with a wider audience but often provide a quite mundane and honest view of life.
"Increasingly technologies allow people to find out about others in the real world and keep in touch with their day-to- day lives," said the report's author Will Davies.
The longer we do this, the more I suspect we will discover that this technology will expand our horizons, of course, but also intensify our local communities and their interactions.
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This piece by John Naughton in the Guardian has some interesting and cogent points about the way the Internet works and why Big media still doesn't seem to get it and, like Big Music and Big Movies and Big Software, can only seem to whine and moan when it doesn't work the way they want it to. Samples
Assiduous students of the print media will have noticed its practitioners becoming increasingly exercised about 'Blogging' - the practice of publishing
On 18 May, for example, one Geoffrey Nunberg fulminated in the New York Times about the fact that whenever one does a Google search on any topical issue, the top page rankings often go to Blogs rather than established media sources (such as the New York Times ).
This was, according to Nunberg, A Bad Thing. After all, most Bloggers are not professional journalists, but rank amateurs! He was not the first hack to articulate this whinge. In fact, he seems to have picked up the idea from an earlier piece in the Register, an online publication. But the mindset he represents is widespread in Big Media, so it is worth devoting a few moments to unpacking the prejudices behind it.
Because I care about the Guardian getting their traffic, check it yourself, but there are a couple of other paras I want to put up front.
I would sooner pay attention to particular Blogs than to anything published in Big Media - including the venerable New York Times. This is not necessarily because journalists are idiots; it's just that serious subjects are complicated and hacks have neither the training nor the time to reach a sophisticated understanding of them - which is why much journalistic coverage is inevitably superficial and often misleading, and why so many Blogs are thoughtful and accurate by comparison.
there is the problem - not often touched upon in the New York Times, by the way - that many controversial public issues are ignored by Big Media for the simple reason that the ideological and commercial interests of their proprietors preclude it.
This is why the US mainstream media has wound up misleading its audience about Iraq and the 'war' on terrorism.
Then there is economics. One reason Blogs show up so prominently in Google searches is because Weblogs are available on the web while Big Media sources increasingly are not. Instead they are locked behind pay-for firewalls. (As with Nunberg's little rant, which I have just tried to re-read - and been invited to pay $2.95 for the privilege.)
Since the whole point of the web is full and comprehensive linking, and Google ranks pages by the numbers of other pages that link to them, it is hardly surprising that Blogs are winning over established media. Nobody in his right mind would link to a mere abstract.
The last of these is the most important. The structure of the Internet is an information economy, links are the currency and knowledge is the capital and Google is the Standard and Poors, rating the participants by the Internet criteria.
Because Blogs are, almost by definition, intimately and fiercely linked both to each other and to their sources, they will attract and capture the attention. It will of course, lead to pressure on Google to exclude Blogs and that would be fatal because Blogs represent the next phase of what the net is going to do. Watch this space.
BTW, Naughton has published a book called A Brief History of the Future: the origins of the Internet
and demonstrates his grasp of it by linking to all the reviews of the book he can find, and commenting on the reviews in the process. Yes, this is what it is about.
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Remember in the heady days of the Dotcom bubble when "new media" and "old media" were supposed to converge, creating and explosion of, well something, mostly profits?
Seems like the biggest attempt to converge the two is not working out anywhere near what was planned, or at least expected. AOL Spinoff May Be Back on Table
"There is still a wait-and-see attitude about the merger paying off the way it was supposed to do," UBS Warburg analyst Christopher Dixon told the E-Commerce Times. "They've done more in terms of cross-platform work lately, but the question is still out there, and it's a matter of time before AOL has to show progress or admit it might need to rethink where it's headed."
I still say that the main reason for this failure is that AOL is not at all a content business. because it attempts to be not only the source of connectivity, but also to keep its users on its own networks (many AOL users have never used the Internet, only AOL services and content) it has had to develop those services and that content itself or through commercial partnerships. It flies in the face of what the Internet actually is, a vast source of information, content, services, all built on its End to End structure.
Unfortunately AOL, and many others, thinks that End to End means that they have to own the process "from one end to the other". They couldn't have been more wrong. Merging AOL and TW made about as much sense a merging a trucking firm and a cake shop because the cake shop does deliveries.
The media business model is this "I sell my audience's wallets to my advertising customers", the ISP business is "I sell ends of connectivity". The first sucks up human resources like crazy, the second is rapidly becoming a commodity business. There is no point of connection.
In Australia, Telstra is moving out of the content business because its expensive and doesn't attract enough new customers looking for "high quality content" on their network. Big surprise. Education is occurring.
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This story in the Guardian looks at the process, and the ethics, of the British (and other European) allocation of 3G licenses. 3G fiasco - only the porn barons win
How are the mighty fallen. MMO2's announcement of the second biggest loss in British corporate history brings back some memories.
Of the early months of 2000, in fact, when an astonished British public was treated to the spectacle of highly paid (and hitherto apparently rational) telecom executives going bonkers. The occasion was the auction of licences to operate 3G cellular telephone networks in the UK.
The auction opened on 6 March and closed on 27 April. [...] The unfortunate 'winners' were TIW, Vodafone, BT3G (which later became MMO2), OnetoOne (later T-Mobile) and Orange.
In a further certifiable decision all five opted to pay for their licences up front, and by September 2000 all had a licence to lose money in their hot little corporate hands.
MMO2 paid about £4 billion for its licence (together with a further £5bn for licences in Germany). In total, the auction raised about £23bn for the Treasury.
It also added greatly to the nation's entertainment, for it was clear even to the meanest intelligence that the sums paid for these tickets to corporate oblivion were manifestly absurd.
There was something deeply comic about seeing the private sector - which in the shape of buffoons such as CBI chairmen regularly lectures the public sector about the need for efficiency, cost control and fiscal prudence - squandering shareholders' money on such a staggering scale.
We now learn (from an interesting Radio Four programme by Simon Singh) that the 3G auction was designed by a game theorist named Ken Binmore from University College, London. If so, Professor Binmore is a genius.
In fact, some of his mathematical colleagues were astonished by the bidding strategies adopted by the mobile networks during the auction, and have written several learned papers trying to infer what the companies thought they were doing.
This is no doubt a fruitful subject for academic research, but it raises in my mind a different question - namely whether maximising the Government's 'take' from the auction was actually in the public interest.
You'll have to check the porn reference yourself, but as a rundown of the insanity of the IT revolution, the piece sums it all pretty well. As the various flavours of WiFi continue to proliferate in the wireless space, as we all come to realise that while most of us require only voice communications while on the move and that ubiquitous hotspots will suffice for our "momentary at rest" times when we have time to open the laptop or fire up the PDA, being vastly cheaper (try free, like a footpath) and much faster and MUCH easier to deploy.
There is a loong way to go in putting to bed the excesses of the dotcom boom and the Telcos really haven't started to pay the price yet. The question is not so much how they will survive as businesses, but whether their industry will survive at all. The days of excessive charges for doled-out bandwidth are coming to an end and anyone who doubts that is welcome to invest in these failing models.
meanwhile BT and others are selling home hotspots that encourage you to share your bandwidth with the neighbours, pretty soon domestic WiFi Mesh networks will be sprouting up all over and David reed's idea that each new user will add more bandwidth than they consume will make a total mockery of those who want to squeeze it out like toothpaste, while his work on the failed hypothesis of "interference" will mean that WiFi spectrum will be all we need, and much more, to meet all our communication requirements.
Life is only just starting to get interesting.
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This snippet from Forrester is interesting.
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No-Frills Broadband Beats Full-Service Offer At BT
BT's access-only BT Broadband product is trailing behind goals, but it's beating sales of the full-service option by more than two to one. Expect even the most committed ISP/portals like Terra to scale back their content activities in the next 18 months.
This looks to me like some realisations in BT that the net is not a media business, broadband, as well as dialup, is a communications commodity business. When will companies finally accept the reality that the net is an End to End process, its what happens at the ends that matters and in ways that undermine business models based on "owning" an "audience" or "controlling" the connection, we, the users, really don't care who or how we are connected, what matters is who we can reach and how we can interact with them.
I've been saying it for 5 years and I haven't been wrong yet, "content" is expensive, ephemeral and a mugs game, the connection is not between people and information, it is between people and people and information is the currency between them. And that model will win in the end.
So we buy enough speed to enable our transactions at the lowest possible price. We grudgingly accept the net as a toll road, but we'd really rather have it as a footpath, included in our property taxes.
Have lit up the eyes of those who think they "get" the Internet, but there have been a lot of close calls too. The email campaign that shut down the UN mail servers when East Timor exploded into violence was an early sign of a global smart mob getting up a head of steam. With access to America's mainstream media becoming increasingly difficult for Liberal candidates, maybe the net is the charm THIS time. Check this.
When it comes to the Internet, no detail is too small for [Joe] Trippi. Some campaign managers devote their energies to working the elite press or courting union leaders or wooing donors. But Trippi seems to spend an inordinate amount of his time checking Meetup numbers, posting to liberal Blogs, sending text messages to supporters who have signed up for the Dean wireless network, and otherwise devising ways to use the Internet to build what Trippi envisions as "the largest grassroots organization in the history of this party." And his efforts might actually be paying off: While many predicted that Dean would fade away once the war was no longer a salient issue, there is little evidence that the former Vermont governor's supporters—originally drawn to Dean when he was forcefully speaking out against war in Iraq—are deserting him. In fact, the Internet might account for Dean's staying power.
For the Dean campaign, it all started with the Meetup phenomenon. Back in January, the campaign stumbled upon the Meetup website and noticed that 432 people were signed up for a Howard Dean Meetup group. "We didn't really know what it was," says Trippi. He watched from afar as Dean's Meetup numbers grew to more than 2,600 in February. In March, Dean showed up at a Meetup event in New York City. It was so crowded that hundreds of young supporters were pouring out onto the sidewalk waiting to get in. Soon the campaign began receiving mysterious donations with an extra cent added. They learned that the Meetup community intended to raise $1 million for Dean, and the extra cent was being used to identify the donations. It became known as the Meetup Million Dollar Challenge and has raised at least $300,000 for Dean so far (close to 10 percent of what Dean had raised overall, as of April). Almost overnight, Meetup had become the Dean campaign's most important organizing tool.
Other innovations—wireless communications, HowardDean.tv (a website that runs streaming video of Dean speeches and events), a network of rapid- response Bloggers—have followed, and Trippi is now doing more with the Internet than any other presidential campaign. Aides to some of the other 2004 Democratic candidates regard Trippi, who was born in Silicon Valley and has spent the last few years working for high-tech companies, as a bit of an eccentric who wastes precious campaign time e-mailing obscure Bloggers and hanging out with political oddballs at the monthly Dean Meetups. "Some of these Meetup events look like the bar scene from Star Wars," says an adviser to one Dean rival.
But Trippi believes others will one day understand the brilliance of his plan. Consider the Meetups: Once a month, thousands of self-organized Dean supporters across the country get together at coffee shops and bars to discuss their candidate and ways they can help his campaign. This ability to get people to meetings, Trippi says, bodes well for Dean in the Iowa caucuses. "What do you do in a caucus?" he asks. "You go to a meeting." And Trippi has plans beyond the caucuses and primaries. He speaks of using Meetup and other Web tools to build a million-person-strong network of small donors who could raise the cash needed to take on President Bush. "There's only one way you could ever get to a million people in this country," he says before pausing dramatically. "That's the Internet."
Maybe it is.
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From the NY Times
Phone Companies See Their Future in Flat-Rate Plans
Fifteen years ago, Arthur C. Clarke in the science-fiction novel "2061: Odyssey Three" predicted a future as follows: "With the historic abolition of long-distance charges on 31 December 2000, every telephone call became a local one, and the human race greeted the new millennium by transforming itself into one huge, gossiping family."
That future may be at hand, only a few years behind schedule, as a result of the telephone industry's declining economic fortunes, increasing competition and recent technological advances. Starting with MCI, which introduced its Neighborhood plan in April 2002, most leading phone companies — AT&T, BellSouth, Qwest Communications, SBC Communications and Verizon — have rolled out programs that allow customers in some states to make unlimited local and national calls for one flat monthly price.
These unlimited-use plans offer callers the advantage of predictability and less time spent checking monthly bills. They commonly cost $50 to $60 a month with services like voice mail and caller ID bundled in, making the price only slightly higher than the $48 that American households typically spend on local and long-distance calling, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
The introduction of the flat-rate plan at MCI, formerly WorldCom, a company currently going through bankruptcy proceedings, is "exceeding expectations," according to a spokeswoman, Claire Hassett.
A spokesman for Verizon, Jim Smith, calls his company's program a "ripping success."
Why would this be a surprise? Our expectation is that the technology should enable this, we are not stupid, we know what the installed capacity is, and how many billions were spent installing it, and how little of it is actually used. They can either give it to us at the market price now, or wait till they go broke, someone buys it for 10c on the $ and does it later.
Now, we'll know they are really waking up when we get universal logins. That's when I get on a plane and fly to Sweden, login to the phone sytem there and anyopne calling me gets to me where I am, cell or wireline, and my voicemail automatically redirects.
Say "Telco = Commodity Business"
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I'm in the midst of reading Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal which is, in itself an interesting book and raises the valid questions about how different we are from other animals on the planet, and where those differences might be taking us.
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The latest research on the genetic differences goes even further, suggesting that chimps and people should be classified as homo, the same genus, indistinguishable on 99.4% of the DNA that matters and 98.4, even in other areas of the genome.
What interests me even more than that is this: if so little difference can make such an enormous difference once the process is fully expressed, why on earth do we assume that the significant differences that we are making to the ecosystem should not be important? The question is not how much we can do without "harming" the system and rather how little we might need to do to change it irrevocably, and to our detriment.
The answer is, we don't know, OUR answer is, "we'll risk it anyway"
Throughout the recent history of information technologies, the porn merchants have always been the first to "get" the idea. Video uptake and business development was largely driven by porn, the Internet proved another godsend as they adapted their models and adopted the technologies.
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Now, according to a CBS Marketwatch that hit my desktop this morning, they are cracking Peer to Peer as well.
PORN COMPANIES EMBRACE PEER-TO-PEER
LOS ANGELES (CBS.MW) -- Adult filmmakers are making love to online file sharing, not rejecting it, according to a published report. "The porn guys are smart; they've figured out how to use the technology," said Wayne Rosso, president of Grokster, a developer of software designed for use in file sharing.
Independent researchers estimate as much as 38 percent of online file sharing involves adult material. Producers freely make available small segments of programming, to promote visits to subscription sites. Porn producers have also married digital rights management technology with their programming to create pay-per-view downloads. The adult film industry is "leveraging the power of peer-to-peer," said Aram Sinnreich, an entertainment industry analyst in comments to the San Francisco Chronicle. There's a lesson in this for the recording industry, he said. Namely, "how do you use free to promote paid?"
Meanwhile the one business that seems to have understood the music game online is Apple. Although SFGate's Mark Morford has a valid point in Highway To $0.99 Hell
Apple's iTunes music store: A rockin' revolution, or same ol' corporate song and dance?
Once again the Australian Government, in league this time with a website filtering company, has revealed a lack of understanding about information and how it works.
This story appears in today's Sydney Morning Herald and dots all the i's and crosses all the t's
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Filter's prudish paranoia clogs research
By Mike Seccombe
May 22 2003
Pornography, drugs, gambling, racism, how to make bombs or conduct computer crime - it's all out there on the Internet, and 105 bureaucrats in Parliament House want to make sure they can get it whenever they need it.
They are the information and research staff of the Parliamentary Library and they are fuming at the prospect of having access to net nasties cut off by a new filtering system.
The filtering system, provided by the American company, Websense, covers more than four million restricted sites, and
for the staff of what is called "program one" of the library fighting the filter has become a campaign. For they are the ones under pressure to provide timely responses to their impatient political masters on all manner of subjects.
The Websense database, they found, blocked the site of an group funding vaccinations for children in India as "sex".
The Autism Behaviour Intervention Queensland site was blocked as "gambling".
A German site which examines historians who deny the Holocaust was blocked as "racism/hate".
They found data which showed filters designed to block pornography could also cut out 55 per
cent of references to condoms, 50 per cent of safe sex sites, 60 per cent of gay health sites and even 32 per cent of pregnancy sites.
How could they research sex slavery in Australia without access to ads for Asian sex workers? How could they research a harm-minimisation approach to drugs when the system reflected America's zero- tolerance approach?
Yesterday the man behind the introduction of the filter, library official John Templeton, said its application to the research staff was on hold.
John, its not just the research staff who need to know this stuff, its everyone. The so-called flattened structure of modern organisations means that everyone, at any time, can be called on to fund out something, for themselves, for their bosses, for a client. The net does that better, and faster, than any previous system. Filters, managed and controlled by people whose political, social and psychological agendas are not up for review, and who refuse to allow others to double check their work, are stupid, and dangerous.
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Microdocs has a summary of some research they have done on the way waves of attention flood through the Blogosphere, exchanging vital fluids with the mainstream media, bouncing off it, feeding back into it and often being put to bed at last within it.
It shows also that spontaneous emergences of ideas and memes are the rule and that Bloggers, even the A List, cannot use the tool to make things happen; interest, enthusiasm, attention, are generated by participating only. I like it, there is something new about the way we are negotiating our ideas about the world taking shape here.
Perhaps the last conclusions we came to in this study is that Blogs cannot be read in isolation from each other. Blog stories are understood and appreciated in aggregate and not in isolation. On the other hand, mainstream media stories tend to be read in isolation rather than read and compared.
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In total, Microdoc News believes Blogging to be a radically different world than that of mainstream media