We’ve been busy at CRO lately, putting out a lot of good holiday tips on everything from Black Friday to the perfect potato latke (don’t ask). But the post that’s gotten the most attention recently is our tip on the perils of turkey fryers, which found its way to Slashfood, Consumerist and Lifehacker, among others (OK, I did a little shameless self-promotion to help it on its way). My absolute fave pickup on this post, however, came from this dude, who took our safety advice and bought an electric fryer. Yeah, he didn’t even bother to link to us, but I’m willing to overlook that. After all, how many people are willing to take the time to document every step of their turkey frying experience—and do it with such sartorial splendor, too? Next time, though, don’t forget that link—or at least save me a drumstick!
Archive for November, 2006
Chris Bowers at MyDD has a good post up about Thanksgiving, and the fact that its decline as a commercialized holiday actually makes it a more meaningful event:
I, for one, welcome and cherish Thanksgiving while it lasts. Thanksgiving is a holiday that has, for nearly two decades, been all but abandoned as a commercial enterprise. ... In short, our consumer culture has waged a successful and thoroughgoing war on Thanksgiving. At this point, Thanksgiving is all but dead as an element in consumer culture. Despite it’s consumer death, Thanksgiving is still celebrated around the country. In fact, nationwide, it may have more participants than any other holiday. People gather, spend time with their families and loved ones, and give thanks. It is tasteful, meaningful, private, and yet nearly universal. If only more of our holidays could be like this, I would be pretty happy. Even if I don’t eat turkey anymore, this is truly one of my favorite holidays, since we don’t have to be big consumers to spend time with one another.
Right on, Chris. Thanksgiving is a real holiday, unsullied by the greeting card industry, retailers and Hollywood (with the notable exception of the Macy’s parade, of course). Those institutions might see it as nothing more than an annoying prelude to Black Friday, but for the rest of us, it’s a chance to reconnect with our families on our own terms—not on those set by our consumer culture.
I rarely have a week where someone doesn’t directly or indirectly claim that I, or one of the publications I write for, or everyone who does what I do is dishonest, corrupt, on the take, or pushing a covert agenda. It’s annoying, but I’ve gotten used to it. It’s part of being successful at what you do.
Right on, Paul. When I was at Engadget, barely a day went by when I didn’t get at least a dozen comments from people accusing me of being on the take, being stupid or worse. And now that I’m at Consumer Reports, it hasn’t stopped. They’re not attacking me personally (CR doesn’t have bylines), but they attack our methodology, qualifications and more. Of course, after doing this for 70+ years, we’ve developed a very thick skin when it comes to criticism. Hopefully, it won’t take Arrington that long to follow Paul’s advice and do the same.
Back at the dawn of time, NCSA Mosaic allowed you to annotate web sites that you visited. The annotations weren’t actually stored on the sites, of course, but were (if I remember correctly) saved locally on your hard drive. I really liked the feature and was disappointed that it didn’t make the transition to Netscape. Several years later, however, a couple of startups, most notably Third Voice, launched collaborative annotation services, in which anyone could annotate sites and have their comments stored on a server. Third Voice was instantly hit with threats of lawsuits by companies that believed its service would “deface” their sites, and the company completely changed its business model and then vanished in the bubble 1.0 collapse. Fortunately, Web 2.0 means everything old is new again, and there are now a handful of new “social” (collaborative is so Web 1.0) bookmarking services that are far more robust and user friendly than Third Voice ever was. The latest on the scene is Fleck, which Download Squad wrote up yesterday. It’s a slick little app, and I plan on using it regularly. Let’s just hope that the anti-annotation forces have gotten some 2.0 religion and will leave the sector alone this time around.
A few months ago, at around the time he left Microsoft, Robert Scoble bemoaned the fact that most bloggers, even those that consider blogging a form of journalism, “rarely call before writing.” He added, “It’s something I hope we can change. Call before running the story. It’s what great journalists do.” At the time, I commented that a willingness to pick up the phone isn’t just something that great journalists do—it’s a baseline requirement for any kind of journalist. Alas, it looks like Scoble has changed his mind. In a recent entry, he commented that one should never “expect bloggers to do fact checking or original reporting. Even me.” Sorry, Scoble. You were right the first time. Bloggers who take their work seriously do plenty of original reporting. Om Malik, Rafat Ali, Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan are among the A-list bloggers who publish original work on a daily basis. And while it’s true that all cut their teeth in the MSM world, that needn’t be a prerequisite for doing your own reporting. The fact is, if bloggers want to be taken seriously, they need to take themselves seriously first. And that means disproving the myth that all bloggers are pajama-clad slackers with their fingers perpetually hovering over Ctrl-C—not giving in to it.
OK, it’s not exactly unusual for entrepreneurs to leave the companies they’ve sold, and my old boss Jason Calacanis certainly stayed at AOL longer than a lot of people expected him to. But his announcement this morning that he’s leaving is still something of a disappointment. After all, he came in really believing he was going to change AOL, and by all accounts, he was making some headway. Certainly his transformation of Netscape from a third-tier 1999-style portal to a cutting-edge social news site was nothing short of amazing. Not only is Netscape now a credible competitor to Digg, but it has a range of features that put it light years ahead of Digg—most notably the human “Navigators,” who do more than any algorithm ever could to keep the site fresh and largely free of the kind of gaming that has haunted Digg since its launch. Still, with the impending departure of Ted Leonsis and Jon Miller’s replacement by Randy Falco, Jason probably saw the writing on the wall. Miller and Leonsis embraced Jason’s brash, in-your-face style of doing business (which isn’t that different from Leonsis’ own style), and without them to back him up, he was on terra incognita. The real question now isn’t where Jason’s going—I have no doubt he’s already got a half-dozen business plans spinning in his head. The question is what will happen to Jason’s initiatives at AOL, especially Netscape, which continues to expand its operation and recently announced it was hiring an Editor in Chief. Netscape has the potential to become a glorious example of new new journalism—or an incredible mess dominated by ads, spam and porn. Jason was doing a great job of making sure it would become the former; time will tell if those efforts continue after his departure.
I haven’t seen “Borat” yet, but I’ve seen more than enough of Borat. That is, I’ve had my fill of Sacha Cohen appearing in full Borat drag on just about every television network, and in most other media outlets from magazines to the web (the guy even did a fashion spread for The New York Times Magazine). Joel “The Most Hated Man in America” Stein has a good article, in which he lambastes the media for playing along with Cohen’s game, by agreeing to interview him only in character:
They are … conducting interviews with Borat Sagdiyev, who is not a real person. Although I didn’t go to journalism school, I’m pretty sure that you’re supposed to stick to quotes from real people. Otherwise, the Bush administration could just direct all questions about Iraq to Jack Bauer.
While I get Stein’s point, I’m not that bothered by this aspect of Cohen’s publicity blitz. After all, there’s something of a winking acknowledgment that this is all an act, and it’s not like this is the first time a mockumentary star has pulled this schtick (anyone remember Spinal Tap?). What really bugs me, though, is the other thing the press has agreed to: they email Cohen questions in advance, which he answers in character. The result is that almost every Borat interview ends up sounding the same (if I hear about Kazak president Nazarbayev’s testes again, I’ll scream!). Sure, this may happen a lot in entertainment reporting, but it’s still lame. If Cohen is such a great comic talent, he should be ad-libbing these interviews. After all, it’s what he apparently did in his film. And it’s what Borat would have to do if he were real.
We’ve been busy at Consumer Reports. Our latest project: The Shopping Blog, which we’ve rolled out just in time for the holiday season. It’s being penned by Tod Marks, CR’s shopping expert, with help from our network of secret shoppers, our editors and, er, yours truly. We’ve also launched a campaign to educate the public about the evils of extended warranties. Check it out.
I have to admit to getting just a little depressed by this post about Lou Reed’s performance at the Web 2.0 conference. Since when did web execs become such stuffed shirts that they can’t stop talking biz for a few minutes to listen to a legend? Thank goodness Lou turned up the volume “so loud it … hurt.” And thank goodness for Web 2.0 organizer Tim O’Reilly, the first person to cut loose and start dancing around the room. Note to the rest of you: If you can’t lighten up a little, just take your paradigm shifts and next-generation business models and go back to your investment banks and dead-tree media companies. Please.