Blues for Mai Cramer


"Newspaper people, once celebrated as founts of ribald humor and uncouth fun, have of late lost all their gaiety, and small wonder. They have discovered that their prime duty is no longer to maintain the republic in well-informed condition -- or to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, as the old gospel has it -- but to serve the stock market with a good earnings report every three months or, in plainer English, to comfort the comfortable."
Russell Baker,
What Else Is News
The New York Review of Books
July 18, 2002

(from Dave Winer)





Detail - click for full photo
Dek-Blocks, the product of the best commercial website I've ever seen

Obscure bookmark
of the day

Photo: Adam Hart-Davis

Swedish Christmas Chemistry (?)

USS Saratoga Museum Foundation
(My brother's project)

My other sites
Subterranean Homepage News

Providence Newspaper Guild

Comments by
weblog commenting

The Reader
Vacation edition
July 3, 2002
Happy birthday to me
As a tot, I thought everybody was celebrating my birthday.(wav) I still do.(wav)

The title of this blog comes from the way I learned to view journalism 17 years ago as a baby newspaper editor: We work for the reader. Is it clear to the reader? Are we giving the reader everything he or she needs to understand this story? Does this page show it and tell it to the reader?

During this two-week vacation from my job as a news website producer, I am that reader. And here's what I see.

What's your name? Who's your daddy? Is he rich like me?
Newspapers like it that for every paper sold, studies show, there are actually several readers. The breakfast joint that leaves a few papers on the counter is "maximizing exposure." Advertisers pay big bucks for spots on the fringe of the news, and beam as wave after wave of coffee drinkers scan "their" pages for free. Subscriptions don't pay diddly, but they do provide audited numbers that advertisers can count on, and national advertisers only place ads if the numbers are in the hundreds of thousands. Promotions insure that they stay there.

But online, there's a rush to wall news sites off from all but registered users, diminishing the number of people who might casually glance through a site left open out there on the web. The reader has become a freeloader.

It's not as though readers are flocking to our hot news sites. At Editor & Publisher, Wayne Robins reports (Online News Consumption Is Flat) on a study released by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press in Washington, D.C.: "The center's biennial media survey showed that 25% of Americans go online for news at least three times a week. That's barely a blip more than the 23% who did so two years ago."

How'd we get from bragging about 2.6 readers per newspaper sale to newspaper websites that demand personal information about each reader to get beyond the headline, go 'way if you won't pony up?

Clueful commerce
Advertisers wondered why people didn't click on their billboards -- the ones that led only to larger billboards: No coupons, no weekly specials, no shopping carts. Why would anyone click?

I can't find a reference that says this outright, but I have been told that a Harvard Business School theory spawned a generation of marketers who assume people will behave online the way they want them to rather than the way you yourself behave. This seems to be an update of the Joe Six-Pack theory: The customer is stupider than you.

The best commercial website I have ever seen is Its product is Dek-Blocks, "cement overshoes" for a "floating deck system" that eliminates the need for costly foundations.

How big a deck do you want? Plug in your numbers and they'll generate a plan, a materials list, a cost estimate. There are step-by-step instructions, a forum where Deckman answers all comers, another where you can ask people who've built one for the real skinny. (Pick a name, no registration required.)

You want to put a hot tub on a little octagonal deck? There's a plan for that, and a tip: Just add one more block for support.

It took one awesome website and one knowledgeable employee to turn a mundane core business into a transient, churning, knowledge-sharing community. And it's a brilliant way to sell cement.

The magic's in the music
Tipping the balance on music-sharing is up to the musicians now, and here comes one: Janis Ian (Society's Child, Edge of Seventeen), another old lady, writes in favor of music file-sharing:

"As artists, we have the ear of the masses. We have the trust of the masses. By speaking out in our concerts and in the press, we can do a great deal to damp this hysteria, and put the blame for the sad state of our industry right back where it belongs - in the laps of record companies, radio programmers, and our own apparent inability to organize ourselves in order to better our own lives - and those of our fans. ...

"You can't hear new music on radio these days...

"One other major point: in the hysteria of the moment, everyone is forgetting the main way an artist becomes successful - exposure. Without exposure, no one comes to shows, no one buys CDs, no one enables you to earn a living doing what you love....Again, from personal experience: in 37 years as a recording artist, I've created 25+ albums for major labels, and I've never once received a royalty check (from a record company) that didn't show I owed them money...

"Or take author Mercedes Lackey, who occupies entire shelves in stores and libraries. 15 years ago she published a series of books with "Arrows" in the title; she's been getting royalties ever since. However, one royalty period after putting the first "Arrow" book on Eric Flint's "Baen Free Library" site, she received over triple the normal royalty.* In fact, payment on all her old titles increased, suddenly and significantly, with the only change being the availability of that one free book."

If they lock up the culture, we'll have to create a new one.

Link (from Cory Doctorow)

Bonus: Gnome Girl's Tech Links

Buddha laughs in our backyard iris patch

See it and say it

Poster on a dumpster in Amsterdam

DOGMA 2000
The point :-->
The manifesto :-->
The dogma :-->

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the rule is only in YOUR head
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In Jamaica

Beachfront bar at Foote Prints, Negril

Descendants: Casey & Dylan

Cool guy Joe & Casey at Foote Prints bar

Casey dancing in the street in Treasure Beach

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Photos by Sheila Lennon unless they're credited to someone else

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