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Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Medicine Show Carney Act Plays On

How people with no other marketable skills made money before the Internet

Jen here. Over the past 48 hours or so, I received the following three emails in my InBox, and many others like them, which I thoughtfully shared with Gilly.

First I got this:

Tue. Feb. 28th:
Tue. Feb. 28, 7:30-10:00 am
Marriott Marquis, Wilder Room, 46th B'way
Wayne Reuvers, CEO, LiveTechnology
Michael Elling, Principal, Information Velocity Partners
Michael Christian Shimbo,CEO, Concert
Shen Tong, CEO, VFinity

IP TV is a broad term for the next wave of TV Internet convergence. What does it mean if TV has the same interactivity as the Internet or that it uses the same pipes? The answer is a lot more than entertainment or interactive TV. It is a whole new way of doing business for everything from Advertising - think of AdSense for all mediums but with streamed and visual ads - to music and business tracking of TV assets and appearances. And more..... As IP TV ripples through the business world, it has the power to transform it in surprising ways. Advertising, communications, management, medicine, small business and end users will all experience a shift in their landscape. This event opens up a new world of possiblities for the next Internet Revolution.
Networking Breakfast 7:30-8:30am Presentations: 8:30-10:00am

Networking Breakfast 7:30-8:30am
Presentations: 8:30-10:00am

REGISTER: no link for you!
$50 members - $60 non-members in advance
Individual $155 (6 Free Credits) Corporate $350 (12 FREE assignable credits)

Special Offer to Attend Collaborative Communications Summit
CCS 2006 Mon-Tue. Feb. 27-28
SAVE $100: SPECIAL OFFER FOR IBREAKFAST $349 You can't afford to miss this event if your company is involved in Visual Communications, Web Conferencing, VOIP, Instant Messaging, Real Time Presence-aware Collaboration Tools and Services, Knowledge Management Team Collaboration Tools, and Mobile Collaboration Tools. Network with decision makers and leaders in the industry. We will feature many social gatherings during the show where you can build revenue and customers, develop leads, and meet potential strategic partners.
February 27-28, 2006 Marriot Marquis Times Square

That very same day, I got this:

Dear Friends of Location One:

the talk scheduled for tonight, Wednesday February 22nd at 7pm
has been P O S T P O N E D to

Wednesday MARCH 22nd at 7pm

Please mark your calendars

** Folksonomies and the Mental Habits of Classification **

Clay Shirky writes about Economics & Culture, Media & Community, Open Source
and teaches at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program.
Join his mailing list at (link deleted)

26 Greene Street
New York NY 10013

******************** L O C A T I O N O N E is a not-for-profit organization devoted to convergence between visual, performing and digital arts in a time of rapidly changing technology. We invite artists from different disciplines and from different countries to work in our studios. We ask them to experiment with the new technologies of artistic creation, interaction and delivery. We urge them to collaborate in creating new works and give them virtual Internet spaces and physical gallery space to exhibit the results. Our goals are to foster the creation of new work, new forms of expression, and new capabilities in artists, and to advance new awareness in all those we reach.

Now, I really have nothing against Clay. Gilly has more to say on that particular subject, so I'll let him chop in his comments when he gets a chance. However, suffice it to say that I don't have a particularly high opinion of ITP or similar programs. Their mantra really does seem to be "you too can get a programmer's salary and throw around bullshit technical terms without ever having to learn any of that icky programming math or other scary things." I'll say more on that later. In the interim, let me share one other email that I got:

PC Forum 2006
March 12 to 14
La Costa Resort and Spa
Carlsbad, CA

Dear Jen:

If you still want to meet the executives, technologists and venture capitalists that are changing the way our lives are lived and our businesses are managed - register today for PC Forum 2006, March 12 to 14

They're your peers - the thinkers and doers - and they're packing their bags for the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California. In this inspirational setting, they'll be exploring this year's conference theme,

Erosion of Power: Users in Charge.

Industry thought leader Esther Dyson moderates all the sessions, guiding a headline cast of speakers. With unrivaled breadth and depth, the discussions will focus on topics such as search and online marketing, today's security threats and the user's role in ensuring security online and offline, the role of IT and of employers in bringing informed consumer choice to health care, and the business models of a variety of start-ups that hope to empower users. Our high-level audience will be asking questions all along: Will individuals rise to the opportunities and take the control offered them? Do users really want choice, or just good advice? Can "spyware" (or behavioral targeting if you prefer) help in this regard?

So, join the conversation, meet the players and add your voice to this year's PC Forum (it's our 29th!) by registering today. We hope to see you in a few short weeks for the industry's most provocative and useful conference.

Daphne Kis
Executive Producer

Leaders from companies large and small will be in attendance; among them are:

Accel Partners
Ask Jeeves
America Online
Benchmark Capital
BBN Technologies
Cisco Systems
US Dept of Homeland Security
Healthline Network
Kalinda Software
Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers
LG Electronics
Oak Technology Partners
Pando Networks
Primavera Systems
Real Networks
Ricoh Innovations
Scripps Network
Visual Information Technologies
Vulcan Capital
WPP Group

(I dropped this note to Gilly along with this email) FWIW: La Costa Spa is one of THE MOST EXPENSIVE SPAS ON EARTH. Literally Rock Star stuff. You would literally start having to look at stuff in private resorts in Thailand or Hawaii to get pricier. ... . I priced out a week there, and BEFORE services, it would run about 3K for the MINIMUM setup. Without treatments. Just a nice room and food.

So much for the whole "power to the people" thing--like I would spend that kind of money to listen to John Perry Barlow (old hippie) [ED NOTE: not that I have anything agains old hippies but he doesn't know shit about real technology] bloviate anyway.


Gilly replied for me to post:

We get e-mail.

If you ever wondered why there is a digital divide, look no further.

You have an industry run by people with the common sense of .......small children trying to influence a business which has largely moved past them. In an era of consildation, these folks are still selling the same bullshit that they were 10 years ago. They claim to be trend makers, but come on, they are more isolated than ever.

Back then, people told me writers simply didn't matter. Well, blogs are the revenge of the writer. We dominate the online world because we can create interesting content without any roadblocks. People still can't figure out what's going on. We're moving so fast no one can figure out what will be next. Yet these people will take the money of the clueless and try to prove they're still hip.

After all that Gilly and I have seen in the past 15 years or so in the new media industry, we are both astonished that there are still people who can sell the idea that ideas alone will sell. I have met hundreds of people who got conned into leaving potentially lucrative degrees in real industries to go pursue expensive degrees in "user interface design" (without any art, psychology, or industrial design instruction), "community forecasting" (without any background again in psychology, statistics, or similar hard fields) or (perhaps most damaging of all) "business model prediction" (without any background in economics, statistics, or business management).

An acquaintance of mine had an arts background, and suddenly finding herself approaching middle age without a firm career, she enrolled in ITP. The result? Yes, she can bullshit her way into consulting gigs. I have chains of emails that she forwards to friends asking for tips on how to ace the interview on whatever gig she's up for next. At the end of the day though, she almost always gets cut eventually--because she ADAMANTLY refuses to look in the mirror, inhale, and say to herself: I am not a programmer. We have stopped talking over this in the past. She waves around some 18-month ITP certificate like it means something, when I know she she doesn't even have basic CSS or Java skills.

In the meantime, self-proclaimed "experts in online culture" keep acting like Pied Pipers and leading the desperate, the unqualified, and those grasping at straws down various primrose paths and get others to invest in the results of their ideas. In other words, they get one group of folks to build castles in the air, and con others to rent space in them.

Let me note that for almost 10 years I was an online project manager, and I watched the title and the industry slide downhill. I know enough about programming to know that I am not one. I have friends and exes who are in fact very high quality programmers; they get paid big bucks for cleaning up the mountains of bullshit left behind by folks who think are.

Let me also note that the hucksters are never around when the shit really hits the fan. I have helped run the WWWAC List for over ten years now, on and off. Over the years it has become a sort of group therapy/safehouse/advice column/emergency tech help desk for people building online content. You never see the Idea Peddlers on our board, because like faith healers on TV, they never have any real answers about things like what to do when your company folds without paying you, or what to do when you have a medical emergency and no health insurance because you got conned into an equity-only gig. The hucksters NEVER put forth plans for anything resembling a freelancers union, basic negotiating skills, or anything like that. And, as a result, they look down on any grassroots reality-based discussion group that does.

I remember the days when I got moronic business cards from people with titles like "Chief Marketing Mantis" and "Interactive Code Ninja." Our Medicine Show Preachers still can be seen sharing the travelling show bill with folks like this, while people like my friend who has run his own online design and identity branding company since 1985 (he did CD-ROMS back then) get looked down upon for not going public, operating past their expenses, or pretending to be rock stars.

Sorry, had to get that out.

Gilly, feel free to add what you want. Everyone else, comment away.

First, let me say up front, I have nothing but disdain for Clay Shirky and here's why. He was telling me how poor his Hunter College students were, and I told them many of them just chose to spend their money in different ways. And he sneered at me with a line like "I don't trust you". From that day on, I realized he was an asshole. And conescending as all hell. A pure bullshit artist.

He didn't know those people and they were my neighbors.

I consider ITP an embarassment to my alma mater, NYU. The school has excellent programs in journalism, graphic arts, math, even computer science. ITP is a horrid joke. It teaches buzzword bullshit.

My point about writers is this: back in the 90's, people thought it would be all about video. Well, with some exceptions like Crooks and Liars, it's not. It's a written medium and needs to be seen in those terms.

The problem with people like Dyson and Barlow is that they have no useful information on how the day to day internet works. They sell dreams and bullshit.

How do you think that they all missed blogging? Because they didn't see any potential in it.

These people say people power like the communists say people's republic. They're corporate hucksters and their goal is to make money for the people who pay them.

But the most important thing to understand is that the internet has passed them by. They're hunting for new ideas after pushing a sea of bad ones in the past. They are largely responsible for creating an image of dillitants and ass clowns.

Jen and I were discussing eBay today. Now, a lot of people rely on it, but I find it way too risky for most things. And this was one of the companies these people pushed while Google swam under the radar.

The fact is that most everything these people backed failed and failed badly. But people see what they want to and hear what they want to, even if it's bullshit.

posted by Jenonymous @ 3:51:00 PM

3:51:00 PM

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