NSFW: 404 Alcohol Not Found (Or, Social Media is Overrated, but it’s Helped me Stay Sober) Earlier today, my friend Oli emailed me to say he’d noticed that one of my sites was showing a 404 message.
Specifically, he was emailing to congratulate me. According to the site in question - ispauldrinkingagain.com – it has been 404 days since I last drank alcohol. And, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, I owe a large amount of credit for that to the power of social media. Making that admission is slightly awkward, given that on Tuesday you’ll be able to watch me take part in a CNNMoney / Webbies debate with Gary Vaynerchuk where I argue in favour of the motion that “social media is overrated”.
And yet my reason for supporting the motion is simple: despite how much I owe it, social media is overrated. It’s overrated when it comes to politics: the fanciful claim that it can win elections (any more than can offering immobile voters a ride to a polling station or any other kind of grass-roots initiative) is completely unproven. NSFW: TechCrunch Disrupt: The Drinking Game. In a little over 24 hours, the sun will rise on the second TechCrunch Disrupt conference, brilliantly titled “TechCrunch Disrupt: San Francisco“.
(Rejected titles include “TechCrunch Disrupt 2: Money Never Sleeps”, “TechCrunch Disrupt 2: For a Few Dollars More”, and “TechCrunch Disrupt 2: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer”.) For those of you who missed the inaugural Disrupt, held in New York back in May, the event is a mash-up of two formats: a start-up competition where 24 as-yet-unlaunched businesses compete for $50,000 and an old bowling trophy The TechCrunch Disrupt Cup – plus a star-studded conference where the likes of Eric Schmidt and Barry Diller take to the stage to inspire entrepreneurs and attempt to out-swear Carol Bartz. It’s a ridiculously impressive line-up, with a ratio of three Chabillionaires to every Chamillionaire. But what for the paupers amongst you, who simply can’t scrape together the measly three grand required for a ticket? See you all on Monday! NSFW: Sorry Deathhackers; Life Is Short, And So It Should Be.
You know what’s getting old?
The debate about ageing. In today’s Observer, molecular biologist Aubrey de Grey is interviewed about how he sees no reason why a human being alive today might not live to 1000. If the prediction sounds familiar it’s because de Grey – this time described as a gerontologist – was subject to a similar profile in Friday’s New York Times, thanks to his being a key subject of Jonathan Weiner’s book Long For This World: The Strange Science of Immortality. Right here on TechCrunch, Halcyon Molecular’s William Andregg spoke to Cyan Banister about the need for humans to conquer death to allow us the time to reach the stars. And of course, Ray Kurzweil has been at this stuff for years: according to a 2005 Wired profile “Kurzweil ingests 250 supplements, eight to 10 glasses of alkaline water and 10 cups of green tea. Christ. For a start, gerontology is a science. Here’s why not. But at least they’ll have more time to enjoy life, right?
NSFW: Sorry AirBnB Hipsters, I’ll Take Health and Safety Over the Cult of Disruption. Get out of the way, old man!
You’re being Disrupted! Screw you, newspapers: blogs are stealing your readers and Craigslist is pillaging your revenue! Take that publishers: Andrew Wiley doesn’t need you and your stupid dead trees! And as for you, hotels – ha! Hotels! But of course the old men are fighting back – dusting down their old service uniforms and oiling their muskets and surrounding themselves with legislative sandbags to prolong their pathetic existence for another few months. As TechDirt’s Mike Masnick puts it, “the internet has made it so that people can be more efficient in things like transportation or short-term housing, and the old guard doesn’t like it one bit, so they come up with regulations like these to outlaw it.”
Yeah! Except, no. Disclosure: I like hotels a lot – and I’ve spent much of my life in them. In the past thirty years I’ve stayed in hundreds – thousands? Call me old-fashioned. And says Joe Gebbia, president of AirBnB.com… Yeah, Joe. NSFW: Never Mind The Bollocks – Why Carol Bartz Can’t Say What Y. It’s Sunday afternoon in San Francisco, and while my American friends are out in the sun, celebrating some holiday or other – is this one Memorial Day or Labor Day or Arbor Day?
– I’m confined to my hotel room, finishing the final edits of my book manuscript. Specifically I’m editing a chapter that begins with me being thrown out of a Starbucks in Chicago for swearing on my cellphone. It was a strange – not unhilarious – episode, and one that caused me to consider the contrasting American and British attitudes towards profanity… “The concept of ‘appropriateness’ is much more real to Americans than it is to Brits, despite us being the ones who are supposed to be stuffy and formal.
I’ve noticed it a lot with swearing: while Brits of both genders will be quite happy, among friends, to use the word ‘fuck’ – as a verb, a noun and adjective or an adverb – a surprising number of Americans blanche at the idea. So what should Yahoo’s one thing be? Not search, obviously. How about mobile? Chat? NSFW: Weezer, plane crashes and everything else that’s worrying. A little before 9pm on Wednesday night and I’m standing on the ‘VIP’ balcony of San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom, holding a can of something called ‘MySpace Buzz’ and waiting for Weezer to take to the stage.
It’s a weird scene, all told, and not just because I thought Weezer was dead. The bulk of the weirdness stems from the make-up of the crowd: a dozen feet below me in the main auditorium there are maybe a couple of thousand writhing teenagers – Weezer fans to a (wo)man, cheering and shouting and jumping and sweating and doing all the things I remember doing a little over a decade ago. These are the invited fans; those lucky enough to have been chosen to attend this ‘secret show’, organised by MySpace. You know, for kids. Every so often one of the stage lights picks out a tiny puff of smoke in the crowd. By contrast, there are no kids up on the VIP balcony. And Weezer, to their credit, agreed with my sarcasm. Worse still, we’re told that this is the future. Hmmmm. NSFW: After Fort Hood, another example of how ‘citizen journalis.
I’d probably feel slightly smug, if I didn’t feel so sick.
Je vois que je ne suis pas le seul à apprécier cet auteur :-) – PED
Smug that after two weeks of me suggesting that social media might not be an unequivocally Good Thing in terms of privacy and human decency, the news has delivered the perfect example to support my view.
Unfortunately it’s hard to feel smug – hard to feel anything but sadness and nausea – when thirteen innocent people are dead. I’m talking, of course, about Thursday’s Fort Hood shootings. Better informed and more sensitive commentators than I have written about the massacre itself and what it means for the US army, and in particular for the thousands of Muslim soldiers currently fighting – and dying – for this country. How do you even begin to process the idea of an American soldier shouting the takbir, before mowing down his comrades in arms? And yet, the first news and analysis out of the base didn’t come from the experts. Reports like (in no particular order)… [T]hey just brought a CART full of boxes w/transplant parts in them. NSFW: Give me ad-free conversations, or give me death (please RT. Yesterday I spent the day at TechCrunch’s ‘Real Time Crunch-up’.
This despite having no idea what a ‘Crunch-up’ actually is. The important thing is that Erick had asked me to help moderate his panel about marketing within ‘real-time streams’, which is a subject close to my heart. So close in fact, that had he asked me to help moderate a panel about child rape and it’s place in the public school system I couldn’t have been keener to weigh in. I’ll get back to my own contribution in a moment, but first, as a courtesy to my paymasters, I should probably relate a few of my ‘key learnings’ from the event. 1) There is such a thing as a ‘key learning’, a phrase which I heard at least three times during the day, and which I gather is what an ‘opinion’ becomes when spoken by an idiot.
Thanksgiving: a displaced Brit writes… When I first heard about this “Thanksgiving” thing, I thought it sounded like a great idea.
We Brits spend a ridiculous amount of time each day giving thanks to strangers – we say thanks to people who hold doors for us, thanks to people who stop their cars to let us cross the road, thanks to waitresses when they give us our bill; even thanks again when we hand over the money to pay. But apparently you Americans – innovative people that you are – had found a way to streamline the process.
Rather than waste hours each day expressing gratitude, you had decided to compress all of your thank-yous into one annual 24-hour-period of uninterrupted Thanks Giving. Get all that politeness out of the way in one go. An inspired solution, I thought, and one we should copy back home. But apparently I’d got the wrong end of the stick. In just under an hour, I’m heading out to my first ever Thanksgiving dinner; I gather there will be turkey involved, and sweet potatoes – whatever they might be.
Here goes… NSFW: 1200 words absolutely, definitely not about Rupert Murdoch. One of the most tiresome group of people you encounter when you write a weekly column is the “suggesters”.
Throughout the week, my inbox receives a steady flow of emails; from friends, from colleagues, but mostly from total strangers – all containing useful links to stories they “assume I’ve seen”. And always with the same suggestion: “you should write about this in your column!”. Worse than the suggesters are the “trusters”. They’re even more irritating because of their belief that they wield some kind of editorial influence. “Trust you’ll be writing about this in your column this week. In truth, it rarely pays to indulge the recommenders or the trusters. The perfect example of this is Rupert Murdoch’s “threat” to remove News Corp content from Google, and his “negotiations” with Microsoft to make articles from The Wall Street Journal and the rest “only available on Bing”.
Will News Corp Remove Its Content From Google, And If So What Will It Mean For The World? …oh. Damn you’re good. NSFW: Cherchez la fame – or why the media’s obsession with Twitt. Time was, companies knew how to keep track of their important customers. First, they set up loyalty programs: computerised systems that tracked the monetary value of everyone who shopped in their stores or flew on their planes or ate at their restaurant. When a high spender made a booking, the company was alerted to their status and they were treated accordingly. Frequent fliers got upgrades and champagne, frequent diners got a visit from the chef at their table – that kind of thing. Anything to ensure that the money kept flowing.
And then there was the other way of measuring worth: celebrity. And for decades the system worked. Sure, the rest of us often found ourselves treated like crap but what were we going to do about it? Frankly, I had absolutely no problem with this system. So can imagine how horrified I was when I picked up a newspaper and realised that something was starting to go very wrong with the established order of things. So, @SouthwestAir, go fuck yourself. Yeah. No. NSFW: I Admit It, The iPad Is A Kindle Killer. I Just Wish It We. For one reason or another, I’ve spent the past few weeks down at the TechCrunch offices. As a result, it’s proved almost impossible to avoid iPad fanboy hysteria. Mike has already said that the device “beats even my most optimistic expectations”, Jason was one of the first in line at the San Francisco launch and even Sarah – who until now didn’t have an iPhone – has succumbed to its charms as a work/play device for long-haul travellers.
And then there’s me. I’m still not convinced. No. As I’m contractually obliged to never let you forget, I write the occasional book – and as such, I have a vested interest in the future of the medium, both in print and in digital form. It was a question, frankly, not worthy of an answer. “Just wait and see” said the fanboys, “wait till you get your hands on an iPad before you jump to judgment.” “Hmmm,” I said, “Ok…” Well I waited, and now I’ve spent long enough playing with an iPad to jump to judgment. And yet, and yet. NSFW: Facebook Breached My Privacy, And Other Things That Whiny, Starting this week, I’m implementing a rule for readers of this column. The fact is, I express some pretty controversial views here on TechCrunch.
Views on subjects like race and prostitution and terrorism and mental illness. Views that you – as a smart, educated TC reader – are perfectly able to process and discuss in a mature way, but views that could easily be misconstrued by the wider internet community, should they be reposted on other blogs, or quoted out of context. From this point forward, then, I’m banning you from reposting, quoting or even discussing my columns outside of TechCrunch.
It’s to protect my privacy more than anything else: I mean, sure, I’ve chosen to share those views online – in an inherently unsecure environment – but still I reserve the right to be shocked and outraged should they find their way from one semi-controllable online environment to another slightly less controllable one. This week everyone‘s talking about online privacy. Harder, but not impossible. NNSFW: A Column Written In Five Minutes About Stuff That Mattere. “Billy is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren’t necessarily fun. He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next.”- Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Slaughterhouse Five In Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s most famous book, Billy Pilgrim is a former soldier who finds himself lost in time: forced to live and relive the periods of his life in random order.
Today I know how Billy Pilgrim feels. Sure, for Pilgrim the trigger was the trauma of war, while for me it’s the lunacy of getting ready to launch TechCrunch TV in a few days (more on that soon), but apart from that we’re basically the same. Except that I’m not American. What I am though, is confused. Click. But the deja vu doesn’t stop there.
Click… Bebo has just been sold. Click… A new paywall technology is about to launch that might save the newspaper industry. So it goes. “AOL sign-up disks: can they give you cancer?” “Laptops!