What Is Net Neutrality? – The Fundamentals

This week is Net Neutrality week on the SuperNova ConversationHub.  What is "Net Neutrality?"  Here are a few resources and links that can provide the basics.

A Definition of Network Neutrality

"Network neutrality is the principle that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet. The Internet has operated according to this neutrality principle since its earliest days. Indeed, it is this neutrality that has allowed many companies, including Google, to launch, grow, and innovate. Fundamentally, net neutrality is about equal access to the Internet. In our view, the broadband carriers should not be permitted to use their market power to discriminate against competing applications or content. Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online. Today, the neutrality of the Internet is at stake as the broadband carriers want Congress’s permission to determine what content gets to you first and fastest. Put simply, this would fundamentally alter the openness of the Internet.”

Source: Students for Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality – An Overview Video from Public Knowledge

(Permanent link to the Publc Knowledge Net Neutrality video)

Now, that said, there are cogent counter-arguments as well, mostly from a "let's keep the government out of as many things as possible" view.  One point of view, from Will Richmond in the comments here.  Richmond:

"I'd remind everyone of three critical things.

First, there is no substantive evidence of broadband ISP bias today, so while it's tempting to reach for net neutrality as a preventive medicine, suspicion of nefarious intentions is not a sufficient basis for government intervention. Start down this preemptive road and you’re quickly on the slippery slope of unchecked government intrusion into our daily lives.

Second, for those who don't think it's appropriate to give big broadband ISPs the benefit of the doubt, let's not forget that they privately financed the multi-billion dollar investments required to bring broadband Internet access to virtually all American homes. There’s been no government funding of this massive infrastructure build-out. It’s all a result of the free market system at work. And the record speaks for itself, there’s no evidence that ISPs have bias against anyone to improve their economic return.

Third, let’s not lose sight of the fact that multi-billion dollar content and technology companies are behind this net neutrality push. How ironic is it that this community of ardent free marketers should now be looking to the government to preemptively impose regulation? Would they want to be pre-judged as bad actors, requiring preemptive government intervention in their industries? No chance. They want the government as far away from their operations as possible.

I’m far from an apologist for big cable operators and telcos. I know their warts as well as anyone. And I’m not against regulation when it’s appropriate. But I am opposed to it when there’s no evidence to warrant it. Such is the current situation with net neutrality."

(N.B. And, for a more humorous view, here's an Ask A Ninja video on Net Neutrality.  And, for the record, I too would like some backup singers.)

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Reflecting On Marketing With Social Media


  Capitol Reflection 2 
  Originally uploaded by David A G Wilson.

I’m heading to DC for the Wednesday meeting of the Certification Network Group, where our customer Brian Finnegan from SAE / PAMA will be talking about the work that we’ve done together over the last year.  In particular, Brian will be sharing his real-world experiences of using a combination of blogs, social networking and traditional marketing techniques in getting the word out about his organization’s certification for aviation maintenance professionals.  (Back story here.)

See you there!

Bonus linkWould you like to play a game?

We Watch The Watchmen

Just finished reading a thought-provoking piece by Anders Albrechtslund entitled Online Social Networking as Participatory Surveillance.

The abstract, by Albrechtslund:

"In this article, I argue that online social networking is anchored in surveillance practices.  This gives us an opportunity to challenge conventional understandings of surveillance that often focus on control and disempowerment.  In the context of online social networking, surveillance is something potentially empowering, subjectivity building and even playful — what I call participatory surveillance."

This is a powerful piece, and worth a read.

Historically, I think many of us think of "surveillance" as something that is done by a more powerful authority to an individual who is comparatively less powerful.  One of the classic examples of this is the concept of the Panopticon, a prison where a single watcher could observe the actions and activities of a great number of individuals.

Presidiomodelo2

However, Albrechtslund argues that (perhaps not unlike a subjugated group taking back derogatory words) online social networking has the possibility to enable a new type of peer-to-peer "surveillance" that is actually empowering to individuals.  He writes:

"As mentioned earlier, a hierarchical conception of surveillance represents a power relation which is in favor of the person doing the surveillance.  The person under surveillance is reduced to a powerless, passive subject under the control of the "gaze."

[Koskela] introduces the concept of ‘empowering exhibitionism’ to describe the practice of revealing your (very) personal life.  By exhibiting their lives, people claim ‘copyright’ to their own lives, as they engage in the self-construction of identity.  This reverts the vertical power relation, as visibility becomes a tool of power that can be used to rebel against the shame associated with not being private about certain things.  Thus, exhibitionism is liberating, because it represents a refusal to be humble.

Online social networking can also be empowering for the user, as the monitoring and registration facilitates new ways of constructing identity, meeting friends and colleagues as well as socializing with strangers.  This changes the role of the user from passive to active, since surveillance in this context offers opportunities to take action, seek information and communicate."

So what does this mean?  This means that, as our offline and online lives become increasingly intertwined and networked, the more open we are, the more individual power we have.

What I’m now wrestling with is how this plays at the place where organizations, employees, and customers meet.

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Remember, in a networked world, we all play different roles at different times — employee, customer, company representative, parent, friend, person.  And everyone with whom we interact does the same thing.   We are all creators, and all watchers.  Perhaps the more we create, and the more we connect, the more say we have in our own futures.

Related: ArtTartare

photos: 3blindmice and wikipedia

cross-posted to the conversation hub.

Lead Into Gold

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Etsy, the online site for cool handmade stuff, has just brought back a service called Alchemy that touches on at least a few of the resonant points for VRM.  What is Alchemy?  Etsy says:

"In an historical sense, Alchemy is the pursuit of transforming common metals into valuable gold. In an Etsy sense, Alchemy is the pursuit of transforming your creative ideas and designs into tangible items.

Alchemy is a space on Etsy where buyers can post requests for custom items. Sellers then bid on the opportunity to make the item and win the sale. It’s your opportunity to collaborate with a crafter or artisan to get exactly what you’re seeking. Buyers can even make private requests to a specific seller within a shop."

Very cool.  I’ve always felt that one of the fundamental tenets of the VRM movement is the enablement of a customer to define the terms of his or her interactions with vendors, and examples of these "reverse markets" where the customer calls the shots are certainly waypoints on the journey.

hat tips: alan patrick and fred wilson

Is Oracle “Web 2.0-Washing”?

For those who follow the enterprise software space, there is some news this week regarding Oracle’s latest release of their CRM product.  However, there are really two stories here:  what Oracle is doing with the CRM product, and how they are engaging with the market.

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Touted as being filled with "Web 2.0" goodness, the new release seems to allow consumption of a number of external services via RSS feeds, as well as allowing sales reps to customize their personal start pages within the app or include CRM gadgets in iGoogle or a presumably a Yahoo start page.

While an interesting technical step forward, the fundamental embrace of true, big-R customer Relationships is still missing.  The product, the presentation, the glossy online video demo — it’s not about the Customer — it’s all about how the two fictional sales reps are closing the next deal.  I was also quite amused that the crowning glory in the video — "closing
the deal" and the subsequent high-five — was only able to be accomplished by offering an increased
discount to the prospect.  Sales VPs everywhere cringe at the thought.

What disappointed in this first look at the Web 2.0-ified version of the software is it’s still about the bloody transaction. It’s not about the relationship.  What’s the difference, you ask?  Doc Searls lays out the story in this article from Linux Journal last year.  Doc:

"Transaction rules the Industrialized world. Here prices are set by
those who control the manufacturing, distribution and retail systems.
Customers do have an influence on prices, but only in the form of
aggregate demand. The rates at which they buy or don’t buy something
determines what price the ‘market’ will bear — in a system where ‘market’ means aggregated demand, manifested in prices paid and
quantities sold. Here the whole economic system is viewed mostly
through the prism of price, which is seen as the outcome of tug between
supply and demand.

Price still matters in the developing world, Sayo said, but
relationship matters more. It’s a higher context with a higher set of
values, many of which are trivialized or made invisible when viewed
through the prism of price. Relationship is not reducible to price,
even though it may influence price."

The presentation of this app is all about consumption.  It’s about consuming external services, and even the "social networking" features that are included are about consuming interpersonal capital — there’s not the concept of actually connecting a customer and a sales rep via social networking as far as I can tell (someone please correct me if this is not the case).  Instead, the social networking feature is yet another take on the "how can I exploit the social graph to wangle an introduction to a prospect?"  (Click the picture to see it expanded.)

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There’s a second story here that is of note.   In bringing this product to market, Oracle reached out to a number of bloggers (myself included) prior to the formal release date, in the same way that organizations typically pre-brief analysts and traditional journalists.  I would wager that this plan was a part of a strategy that was designed to "push the limits of communication mediums" and "leverage the blogosphere" in order to "gain visibility and control [the] message."  So, I give Oracle points for bringing another constituency to the table but, at the same time, am still not entirely sure if this is a step on a path of increasing openness and engagement, or was simply a new tactic added to the traditional "push"-oriented marketing arsenal.

Time will tell if this new release is "Web 2.0-washing," a la "greenwashing" where traditional companies try to spin something that they are doing as green or eco-friendly, or if Oracle starting to move on a path to greater clueship.  What do you think?

More coverage here:
Paul Greenberg: I Shall BE Re-leee-sed – as Has the Siebel CRM on Demand Release 15 Embargo
Denis Pombriant: Little Deuce Coupe
Erika Morphy: Oracle Ventures Into Web 2.0 Universe and CRM Bloggers are People Too
Phil Wainewright: Oracle Skins CRM with Social Networking
Chris Buchholz: Oracle Gets All 2.0 With Release15
Brent Leary: Blogger Relationship Management – Oracle Steps Up

Note: In this post, I’m not trying to take a shot from afar…I’d actually
prefer to ask these questions on Oracle exec Anthony Lye’s blog or the
blog of their PR contact Aaron Wessels, but 10 minutes of Technorati
searching and searching on the Oracle site itself turned up nothing of
the sort on either count.  So, although the message is buzzword-compliant, I’m still not 100% convinced that the embodiment is actually there.  I’ve an email into Aaron to see if I missed
blogs that they may be doing and will post an update here if I find
anything out.

Off Topic: Help Bring The Monkeys To San Jose!

This piece, Homouroboros, is one of the largest, most ambitious zoetropes ever
created, and public exhibition of the piece will establish a new level
of interactivity for public art.  This piece has a chance to live in an engaging public space in San Jose.  Learn more about the piece and how you can help here.

Having seen it firsthand in the desert last year, it is, hands down, one of the coolest things, ever.  During the day it appears like a series of frozen statues or, moving back a little further, a mushroom cloud.  However, at night, perfectly-timed strobe lights illuminate the sculpture as it turns, creating the illusion of the monkeys swinging from branch to branch and taking a sharp right turn on the Garden of Eden story.

Here’s a link to the piece in action on YouTube; the zoetropic effect kicks in at the 30 second mark.  Really, really brilliant engineering.

If you can help, please do so.

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A big shout out to Melissa Alexander at the Black Rock Arts Foundation and Exploratorium veteran who is making this happen through sheer force of will.