Wanted -- No, Needed: Digital Philosophers

On a fall day in 2010, a young man walked into the library at MIT. He had a lithe build, a shock of black hair, thick eyebrows, and a superbly mischievous air about him. Once in the library, as is common, he connected to the JSTOR archive of scholarly journals. As is uncommon, he proceeded to unleash a bot he had written, which over the next several months downloaded 4.8 million articles maintained by JSTOR.
That young man, of course, was Aaron Swartz: Internet pioneer, co-founder of Reddit, key contributor to the development of Creative Commons, co-creator of the W3C standard. He had every right to be at MIT. The articles were freely available through the library system. Yet the activity that was legal at a micro scale became illegal at a macro scale. Swartz was persecuted by the FBI for two years on charges of hacking. On Jan. 11, 2013, facing a penalty of up to 50 years in prison, the 26-year-old Swartz killed himself.

To Stop The Ad-Blockers, Forget About The Ads



So we have established that the ad-blocking thing is a bit of a crisis. And we’ve looked at the measures the IAB is taking to make advertising more awesome for people -- too little, too late. What, then, might the solution be?
Call me a hopeless optimist, but I suspect the solution is not the one advocated by my MediaPost colleague Sean Hargrave, who earlier this week said that ad-blockers are the “digital equivalent of shoplifters” and called U.K. publication City AM “pioneering” for fighting back, only showing blurry text to anyone using an ad blocker.

Ad-Blocking Horse Leaves; IAB Closes Barn Door

Have you heard? Online ads are annoying. People are installing ad-blockers at an epidemic rate. It’s a crisis, not only for advertisers but also for the entire economic ecosystem underpinning the Internet. We are semi-unintentionally undermining the entire foundation of the Web world.
But of course you know this already. Everyone has heard this. Except, apparently, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which has only just been brought up to speed -- and let me tell you, its principals are stunned.

Organizational Enlightenment Risks Throwing Management Baby Out With Bathwater

There is a temptation among progressive, pro-social entrepreneurs — people like Tony Hsieh of Zappos or Ben Kaufman, (formerly) of Quirky —  driven, I believe, by a desire to to do things in a more awesome way. I suspect that most who succumb to this temptation are acting out of goodwill and benevolence of purpose.
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Ad Blocking Is Destroying The Internet -- And That Might Be Just What It Needs

  • Published in Online Spin, September 25, 2015.

  • Psst. Over here. Yes, you. I have a secret. Promise you won’t tell? OK, here goes:
  • You know how you can get all this amazing free stuff on the Internet? You can read anything you want, learn anything you want, watch anything you want? Well, that’s the secret: It isn’t actually free.

  • It’s been said that if you’re not the customer, you’re the product -- and this is exactly what’s happening online. The free content is used to lure in the bait (that’s you, the reader), and the bait is used to catch the big fish (that’s the advertisers).

Sorry, Morgan Brown: Growth IS Marketing, Just Not The Way You Think

He wrote it back in June of 2014, but it only hit my newsfeed last week: a piece by GrowthHackers.com co-founder Morgan Brown, attractively (as you’d expect) titled ”Ten Things I Learned Researching Ten of the World’s Fastest Growing Startups.”
It’s a good piece, and GrowthHackers is a good site, explicitly rejecting spam and other shady tactics. Lessons One and Two contain such worthwhile advice as, “Growth is nothing without the product” and “Growth is never ‘done.’”
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Haptic Impact Device Takes Virtual Reality One Step Closer To Disrupting Reality

“Does virtual reality disrupt reality?” That’s the question Singularity University’s David Roberts posed on a sunny spring day in Mountain View.
Roberts had just finished walking us through the story of disruption via the evolution of the spice trade. Spices, he said, were originally traded in order to cover the smell and taste of rotting meat, at a time when we didn’t have other methods of preserving it. But in 1806, when Frederic Tudor figured out how to ship frozen lake ice from New England down to the Caribbean, the spice trade was destroyed.
Not a single company from the spice industry made it into the lake ice industry.

Maybe Uber Won't Lead The Autonomous Car Revolution After All

  • Published in Online Spin, September 4, 2015.

  • Um, so, remember how last week I was saying that Uber would be the main force driving (haha) the transition to autonomous vehicles?
  • I may have been wrong.
  • Not about Uber’s motivation to get autonomous vehicles on the road, though. Uber is, first and foremost, a technology company: its magic is in the app and the algorithm. The drivers are kind of incidental, and if they can be eliminated, it would allow Uber to deploy its technology even more efficiently and even more profitably.

Because Of Uber, Self-Driving Cars Will Be Everywhere -- And Soon

Regular readers of my column will be aware that I’ve become a little obsessed with exponentially accelerating technology of late.
I blame Singularity University -- “SU,” to the converted -- where I spent a week in March becoming fully indoctrinated into the cult of inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. There I heard that Intel’s Gordon Moore was more correct than even he realized when he came up with his now-famous law about the performance pace of computing doubling every 18 months. Moore’s Law doesn’t just apply to computers. It applies to any information-enabled technology, like robotics, nanotech, artificial intelligence, and more -- all moving inexorably along an exponentially accelerating curve.
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The Two Biggest Reasons Your Content Marketing Is Failing

  • Published in Online Spin, August 20, 2015.

  • “Write a blog,” they tell you. “Create interesting content people want to read. Don’t use it to sell. Provide value first, that you may be rewarded.”
  • “It’s the wave of the future,” they go on to say. “It’s Web 2.0.”
  • And so you write a blog. Once a week, you dutifully report on some aspect of your business, or your industry, or the world. You get it: It’s not about pushing product; it’s about building relationships.
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