Wednesday, November 29. 2006
Things are getting interesting in the Xmas runup....
Google paid $1.65bn for YouTube, but a report today in Forbes says that a new challenger to YouTube is already growing up in Paris. Called DailyMotion, it is apparently the new location du jour for all the stuff you can no longer get on YouTube.
Even more interesting is one of the links to Daily Episodesthat aggregates all the plethora of little outfits that specialise in collating and collecting various TV shows online.
Net net...content is Hydra-esque, cut down one head and it reappears in 2 more.
On another track, BT is apparently going to launch BTVision next week, but it seems to be a fairly soft launch and will only really get into gear next year.
This is risky...the space is moving so fast now, we have already hypothesized on this blog that laptop based TV services will move very fast to fill the IPTV gap, and as the BBC reporter Jane Wakefield notes this week in the BBC's series on Future TV, quoting Dr David Price of Envisional:
The pirating of popular TV shows is a growing problem for the TV industry as viewers increasingly demand their own viewing timetables.
Gosh....shock horror - and no one ever thought that Napster + Video Bandwidth = Peer to Peer Video? In fact the big change is that Napster never had advertising to support it, whereas this is the case today - thus potentially collapsing the revenue base of the TV companies the content is being taken from.
I was however a bit disappointed that the BBC article on Future TV technology made no reference to either the use of laptops as set top boxes, nor of using other lower cost devices such as gaming machines, especially since the BBC R&D guys are up on this arena.
Kudos though for the interview of the Smosh Brothers who are a favourite of my kids on our MyPCTV setup. I had blogged on these guys earlier in the year, in essence a camcorder and relevant content beats the best (Ad filled) TV as far as mine offspring are concerned.
ITV are you listening, this is important!
(By the way, I wonder how ITV's decision to hire a senior - and very expensive - Broadcast TV person to save them will pan out, as I believe the answer to their woes does not lie in the conventional TV direction...should be an interesting saga over the next few months.)
Nic Brisbourne has also blogged on the internet's revolutionary impact on TV and has an interesting* diagram on it's evolution here and pointed to an interesting report from Bear Sterns on the emergence of the market.
* interesting to us because in May, a very worthy TV Industry magazine refused to take a not dissimilar article they had actually commissioned from us that dealt with the structure of the emerging IP based "broadcast" TV industry (as opposed to IPTV) - we were apparently totally misguided in our views - how times change
Nic and I have chatted on our joint view that "channels" will unbundle into many hundreds (nay, thousands) of separate niche TV streams, and that Aggregators and WebTV EPG's will be far more "Search and Discover" in nature going forward. However, the filtering will be critical, I personally do not believe social networks can do all the heavy lifting so databases like Pandora's will be required.
And key to all this will be the Metadata. The clips in YouTube would be much less valuable without the tags, ratings et al.
Postcript - found this really great article by Andrew Chen on BitTorrent market dynamics.
In my mis-spent youth I studied some Game Theory and System Dynamics, with which I have had an unhealthy fascination ever since. A number of recent bloggings have made me think increasingly about the Game Theory and System Dynamics of Social Media.
In no particular order, these are:
- The incredible claims now being made for what Social Media can achieve, chiefly by people that I believe are less and less familiar with what it is or does.
- Some very interesting discussions about the behaviours of Companies and Brands in a Social Media, for example here and not forgetting on Second Life here
- Jackie Danicki's brave decision to post a photo and story on her blog of a person who assaulted her on a Tube in London, and the resulting gerfuffle - see here
Taking Jackie's action first (disclosure - I met Jackie a few weeks ago at a Social Media event) - in essence this is the Social Media as a Village - In Villages, as opposed to Cities, everyone is known and trusted (or more accurately are known quantities). If something like this happens in a small community, everyone pretty much knows who it is and often the perpetrator is "sorted out" by the villagers.
There is a famous piece of Game Theory called the Prisoners Dilemma, in essence where 2 people can either defect (cheat) or collaborate in a transaction. If one person cheats that person gains a major benefit, Collaboration gains both a smaller benefit, but both people cheating gains no benefit. In a one-off transaction, or a series of these where they are undiscovered, cheating can gain major paybacks.
However, if you cheat over multiple transactions, and it is visible so everyone knows you cheat, you will lose as everyone is then on their guard - no easy wins - and eventually no one will deal with you. Thus, people in small Villages take care of their reputations, and in virtual worlds things like eBay's star rating put some social controls on cheats.
In Cities, however, people are anonymous, many more transactions are invisible one-offs with strangers, and people are thus able to get away with "cheat" behaviour which would get them tarred and feathered or worse in a smaller community. I heard Richard Dawkins (he of the Selfish Gene and Memetics fame) hypothesizing that the antisocial behaviours we increasingly see in cities are just efficient adaptations to the new social environments. Game theory would suggest he is right.
But Social Media changes this system dynamic....it makes previously hidden behaviour open.
By blogging, Jackie has alerted her social network - her "virtual village" - and there is a much more likely chance that this person can be identified and brought to book.
As an aside, this has raised some fascinating questions about "trial by blog", risks of false accusations on blogsites, and apparently the libel laws are a minefield here as well - see here.
Whatever the legalities however, from a Game Theory perspective Social Media has shifted the environment back towards a Village, where "cheat" transactions are more transparent and more people (and not just those who control the CCTV Big Brothers) will know what you are doing.
(Question - if a Tree falls on CCTV and no one sees it, has it fallen at all?)
And the genie is out the bottle, as evinced in this site that names and shames paedophiles who go AWOL.
I think this whole area is about to get very interesting......
On to Pillage - some marketeers are trying to sell Web 2.0 and Social Media as a traditional hard sell opportunity to flog goods to the punters, and many Companies / Brands are piling into the New Social Media to better get their message across...and in many cases are putting foot squarely in mouth before falling over. I think this comes back to Game Theory again - Social Media is (i) based on many transactions and (ii) is visible - I can see what X does to Y.
This means that a Brand or Company is now acting in a world where its interactions are made visible by the social medium, with two key results:
- firstly, any transaction that is a "cheat" of any sort will be picked up very fast and transmitted - in the Old Days it was by word of mouth, now its by click of mouse so is far faster and reaches far more people. And recall that in the Old Days a poor message has c 7x the traction of a good one, that must be higher in a social medium.
- secondly, interactions are increasingly likely to be ongoing, so eventually any "disguised cheat" behaviour will be surfaced (this is what happened to Wal Mart's attempt to use "bloggers" who were actually PR guys.
The Second Life experience is interesting in that it has mainly been about "First Life" companies using 2nd Life to get a buzz in the real world, so that the impact of upsetting all the inhabitants of Second Life was not apparent at first, although it eventually surfaced (a PR person told me last night that many people are re-thinking appearing in Second Life now).
I think this has bigger ramifications than a few apoplectic avatars though...try to be "Green" in Europe but put up smoke belching factories in the developing world, and that disparity in message will be picked up far more quickly now.
In short, the Game has moved hugely from single, private to continuous, visible transactions.
What this means is that Brands and Companies wanting to use Social Media to get their message across will have to be far more genuine, and spoofing it via smart PR and Ads is less likely to work. Now, given that a Limited Company is apparently legally obligated to be Psychotic, this promises to be an interesting journey for many a corporate hack facing the social media hackers.
Truly, the Medium is now the message to a far greater extent.
Lastly, the exaggerated claims about what Social Media will do.
Clearly it is powerful, as its explosive growth and the applications emerging above show – and it has not even started to penetrate the Government arena – services, policy, scrutiny are all going to be impacted (is this the Fifth Estate?)
However, it is not a Panacea for all – it has its limits. When all is said and done, it is the same old Human Social Dynamic on a new medium, with all its warts. The “Wisdom of Crowds” is counterpointed by the “Mob Rule”, the Will of the Masses is often hijacked by the Agendas of the Activists, and Cheats will still attempt to prosper.
There will also be challenges to overcome - Amazon is apparently full of puffs and rants by people who have never seen the book/product/whatever, on eBay people are scared to diss a lousy retailer because they get a black mark in return, and social news sites like Digg have been gamed ad nauseam buy a few good men with a large number of votes.
Nonetheless, I think with online Social Media, citizens globally have just been handed a new tool to promote freedom by bringing things more into the open rather than allowing them to slowly moulder under covers. Thus I suspect there will be quite strong pressure by various vested interests to remove it and return to making Silage to keep us in mushroom mode (mushrooms are kept in the dark and fed sh*t all day).
Monday, November 27. 2006
Sloped off to the Tate Modern this weekend for a special exhibition there - anyway, the queue was too long to get tickets (I am very impatient) so I just went round the Mod Art section, as I hadn't been for a few years anyway.
Modern art is fascinating, partly because it is so eclectic, and partly because (like new technology) it is continually throwing up new innovations and derivatives (most of which don’t work out, but it is all part of the creative process in my opinion).
There was one piece there that really amused me, a large rectangle of canvas painted plain grey, with the sort of exposition of what it all symbolised placed next to it that would make even a Soho PR blush – and another one in all black down the hall with a similar paean to its immortality. In fact, the puff text pieces are often more breathtaking than the pictures. Not a bit like all the Web 2.0 derivative companies striving to be different of course....
For some strange reason (must be that I have just finished reading Paul Graham's Hackers & Painters) I started to think of the relationship between "Web 2.0" and Mod Art.
Firstly, and in tongue in cheek mode, it struck me that Mod Art and Web 2.0 have some structural similarities:
(i) Given that it is extremely difficult to tell the gold from the cr*p in the early days, yet much money rides on being adjudged to be gold label, there is a huge amount of Hype. Modern art also (like New Tech) sometimes appears to take itself so seriously (in public anyway), which gives a certain amusement factor .
(ii) It is vitally important to distinguish the New Thing from all the old fogey stuff that has Gone Before. New Jargon is indispensable, better if one can have a New Movement , even better a New Manifesto - or a New Web
(iii) And of course, the New Stuff needs vigorous punting from its in-crowd ingénues (tame critics and analysts) and support from its Patrons (who are of course purely motivated by the beauty of the creations)
Secondly, and more seriously, the impact of Web 2.0 and Broadband on Modern Art
There was a fascinating little exhibition by the Guerilla Girls, who are female (mainly US) artists protesting about the extreme under-representation of women (and other non white male) artists in most art exhibitions / textbooks / galleries. Some of the their posters are very clever as well as making the point about White Guys cleaning up the Art market. In essence, they show (via sharp humour) that the Fine Art market is a closed shop, controlled by the interests of a cabal of arts promoters and arts patrons.
One piece really hits home, a set of 10 Commandments for Museums regarding Art market ethics (or not), you can see it way down the page here in the section called Guerilla Girls code of Ethics. Some Examples:
Rule III - Thou shalt not give more than 3 retrospectives to an artist whose Dealer is the Brother of the Head Curator
You get the picture anyway....... in essence the Mod Art market seems to be structured like the Music and Video industries (ie a lot of power in a small cabal of traditional Aggregators) but is clearly a bit behind the Music and Video market in term of being impacted by the 'Net, and thus has yet to feel the sort of impacts music and video have already.
If the lessons from these other media are transferable, there is probably a lot more talent out there than is sanctioned by the existing Aggregators, so the potential to unleash user generated content and dive into “Long Tail” rather than the “Hits” is probably huge.
Not only that, but I suspect that the market for good art is considerably greater if it is de-mystified (think of the explosion in wine drinking for example) and Web 2.0 based systems are great for that sort of thing.
Add broadband, high resolution screens, powerful computers, good printers etc - implies to me that art can be displayed online much better now than it could be even a few years ago.
Will this create a major threat for the existing aggregators? For these Aggregators (the Critics and Collectors), the value of their advice – and the collections - depends hugely on who controls the definition of what is Great Art, and being able to ensure its relative scarcity. Where would we be if everyone went home and started slapping grey paint on big pieces of canvas, after all? Or even make your own Jackson Pollock (this is fun, give it a go)
But already though the Web world is starting to impinge. For example ArtFaceOff is a social media based approach that makes people compare 2 pieces of art that the artists upload.
While there are many artists online, what has not yet occurred (as far as I know) is the evolution of social media based approaches such as MySpace or Flickr dedicated to Art per se. Perhaps the online medium is suboptimal and thus seeing art in galleries will remain a necessity, but if it isn’t, things could get interesting here as it has with with music and video.
Coincidentally, today TechCrunch UK is featuring Artists Online on its Money Mondays session.
So, who will be the Guerilla Girls for Web 2.0 and punctiliously puncture pompous puff-pieces
Friday, November 24. 2006
Seems like its not just us at Broadstuff who wonder if its Google who is going to break the next major wave in Search...this note from Sarah Milstein, co-author and editor of Google: The Missing Manual, published on the O'Reilly Radar echoes a lot of what we have been saying about the future of Search.
I quote it here in full, its very interesting:
A couple of things I've noticed since writing/editing the second edition of the Google Missing Manual earlier this year. Nothing ground-breaking here; more that in aggregate, the observations may spark some interesting conversations.
Lots in here, most of it known and we have covered it before, but very succinct and its just interesting to hear a Googleluminary like Sarah think the unthinkable. Google is no longer really a SearchCo, its an AdCo. Question is, which comes first? If a better SearchCo comes along, do teh Ads migrate to it? If so, rapidly or slowly?
By the way......notice that little stinger about new Google services requiring an account - ie more data about you? Now that is the most interesting link in the whole post. The Metadata War is heating up..............
Update...very interesting little article from teh New York Times over here...to quote:
Even gathering the crumbs of business left behind by Google could generate a lofty market capitalization. Don Dodge, a Microsoft manager who works outside of the company’s search group, made this argument in a post on his personal blog last month: “Why 1% of Search Market Share Is Worth Over $1 Billion.” Mr. Dodge reasoned that 1 percent of the 7.3 billion searches performed in the United States in March, multiplied by 12 cents in advertising revenue per search, would yield annualized revenue of $105 million. Assuming a market cap that is 10 times revenue, his arithmetic leads to a billion-dollar company.
Not to mention who gets the Adwords.....
So, fired up the Blog-o-Matic to see what the latest buzz was.....Hah!
Nary a whimper. Whats going on....has the 'Net imploded, has the US exploded, is it San Andreas's fault?
No, its Thanksgiving and all the US netizens are gobbling their Turkeys
Its so quiet I'm going to have to start reading my blogspam!
Thursday, November 23. 2006
Everybody knows what Web 2.0 is all about, right?
Well, judging by some of the conversations I have had recently, I don't think so - I think a lot of people have picked up the first level fluff, maybe read Tim O'Reilly's Web 2.0 webpage, and got a few of the buzzwords generators fired up - thus contributing to the prevalent view that its all hype spewed by PR bots.
There is a lot of hype, sure - however, there is actually a whole lot of valid theory behind all this, the Webworld has changed in the last 2-3 years mainly because Big Bandwidth makes it a lot easier and cheaper to do "stuff", and lots of connected users make it economic to build services now that were just not feasible in Web 1.0.
So, for those who need to Do Something this Thanksgiving, or at least need an excuse to escape to Borders for a coffee and a read, here are 10 books I like because they are fairly easy to absorb, but give a good view of whats going on in the Webways:
1. User Generated Content - The Long Tail by Chris Anderson
This is a good roundup of the way ease of search allows one to find niche content, thus driving the trend toward user generated content. Much to disagree with, you will find yourself furiously annotating, but a good book for all that.
2. Search - The Google Story by David Vise
Focuses on Google, but the sections on emerging search techniques are useful (being a geek I am fascinated by all the stuff around the Taxonomies, Algorithms and Metadata of advanced search, but most of these books are so dry they make accounting seem sexy.)
3. Social Network Technology - Linked, the New Science of Networks by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
- In my view the best book about how scale free and small world networks work, both for computers and human society. There are others, but this is my favourite.
4. Social Media - The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki
- Still the most comprehensive and easy to read book on how social networks operate in human society.
5. Open Source - Free Software for Dummies by Mary Leete
- This is not a tome on the Open Source movement, its a DiY manual - a great Starter Kit for all the stuff you Web Workers need to go Open Source at home. Once you've got Open Office, Mozilla and GIMP up on your Linux you will never look back, you are a Free Netizen and can walk tall. Why is it Great - because my 12 year old pretty much set up his computer (except for the Linux) with it, and gained the confidence to get a lot more Open Source stuff for himself.
6. Online Advertising & Marketing - Got Game by John C Beck and Mitchell Wade
- Ok, this isn't about online advertising per se, but it is about the emerging 16 - 34 year old generation who are the early adopters of much of these services and in my view understanding them is the key.
7. The Closed Loop Web 2.0 - Emergence by Steven Johnson
- a systemic view of what closed loop networks look like in various spheres, and damn thought provoking. There are longer books, this is a good pocket read.
8. The Digital Home Environment - Home Hacking Projects for Geeks by Eric Faulkner and Tony Northrup
- this isn't a sociological study or a futuregadgetology, its a Geeks Book of Things To Do - I put it in here because even if you have no intention of doing any stuff like this it gives you a view as to what is possible at hobbyist level right now, to set that imagination flowing. (Rationale - 10 years ago I thought Virtual Reality was cool, and the best book I found on it was a Garage VR cookbook on stuff to do at home - much more instructive than all the sociobabble books out at the time in my opinion)
9. The Mobile Web 2.0 - Mobile Web 2.0 by Ajit Jaokar and Tony Fish
- more of a "brain scrape to paper" of many of the current trends and thinking on Mobile Web than a structured book per se as the area is evolving so fast, but well worth the read nonetheless - not least because I wrote the section on Podcasting in the book and Tony is a friend plug plug
10. A Primer for Web 2.0 Startups - Hackers & Painters by Paul Graham
- This is a Sun Tzu rather than a Clausewitz for startups, its a more-subtle-than-it-first-seems book by a Renaissance Man who happens to know a lot about software, and (in the subtext) a lot about what it takes to build a good startup, which they did with ViaWeb. And he knows his Monet from his Manet.
All the Web 2.0 memes are in these books ( now how many people know that Memes were actually invented as a concept by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene ).
I haven't found a great book on the evolution of webservices per se, though I think Hackers and Painters does a good job, nor have I read a really good book on the evolution of mass media into an interactive world. Honourable mentions to Search, The Tipping Point, All Marketers are Liars, Six Degrees and Critical Mass....there are many other books I could put in but for various reasons didn't, usually because the one I have was the one I found most stimulating (and/or recent), and as we are all bloggers there seemed little point in putting blog books in.
Next week...10 books from Web 1.0 that have stood the test of time
Wednesday, November 22. 2006
Here's an interesting article from CNet - Why the Zune will help kill DRM
It seems that Zune doesn't interoperate with other MS DRM systems. It's amazing that MS can't even be compatible with itself when incompatibility is one of the consumers' genuine grips with DRM. I personally avoid "encumbered" media, because I want to play my media on a range of devices without too much hassle. My preferred choice for music, for example, is an old fashioned CD (which usually comes out of it's case once to get ripped and then goes back on the shelf!) There are some interesting attempts to make DRMed media portable (e.g. Coral and Marlin) but I think that the big vendors will scupper these initiatives. They can't help "embracing and extending" standards for their own competitive advantage and in the hope that they can become the de facto standard.
I think there are three big things to understand about DRM -
So, how will this all end? I think that consumers will resist DRM systems unless they are hassle-free, respect fair use and the content is priced to reflect the lower costs of online distribution. I don't think that the traditional content industries will hit any of those targets, but their are plenty of people waiting in the wings with new business models that don't reply on high cost "premium content". For example, advertising funding, low cost unprotected content, user generated and prosumer generated content.
Now this is interesting...Google apparently had to pull its 1 week old Click to Call service for a few hours as it was being abused for "prank" calls (I wonder if its the same people who try to flog me a new 'phone every night?).
Story on TechCrunch is here.
The service has apparently been reinstated now with more safeguards.
Now, what of all those eBay vendors that were supposed to revel in the Skype click to call?
Interesting though...in a free comms world, how do you prevent this...its like spam, as transaction costs drop to zero the temptation to voicespam is going to be very high. I have already seen stuff on Skype but very infrequent, but thats because you give your address out - if it is "out there" on a directory attached to your profile it will be quite a different thing.
Two very important points:
(i) There is clearly a "privacy limit" to what one can online....all business plans looking at Social Media comms need to look at the absuse issues more closely.
(ii) I think this shows yet again that privacy and security are not going to be OK, and its not the Netopia of happy, collaborative, collegiate experiences the early 'Netizens would like to see.
Monday, November 20. 2006
This post (and the previous post on Spam) has been on my mind after attending a bunch of Social Media events last week
I think many people (naively) believe that Social Media will lead to a democratic Netopia, and let their guard down when dealing with it. This is not the case.
Take for example the play described in PR Blogger here with YouTube - put media clip onto YouTube, create lots of false users, vote for clip, get it onto recommended list and wait for the explosion of interest.
And manipulation like this works...in essence a lot of people follow the lead of opinion formers rather than trust tastes of their own. Malcom Gladwell's Tipping Point is a testiment to this effect. The hot TLA these days is Social Media Optimisation, or SMO
The gaming of Digg (the top 100 Digg users, acting in Blocs, were responsible for over 55% of frontpage stories) has been well documented, and Google is so heavily gamed now that they have to change the search algorithms every few months to deal with it, and every time they do so hordes of small Mom n' Portal Enterprises drop off the pages and hit the wall, causing a Tsunami of protests.
Drew Benvie points to this FT article showing how brands can be ambushed via Blogs, so being passive is not an answer.
There is also a very thoughtful article by New Scientist's Matthew Sparkes here at The Mu Life, where he argues that a "tipping point" has been reached now (and also shows the pitfalls of being the Original Content Producer)
But if the Wisdom of Crowds is being gamed by the noisy minority (the "Chattering Classes"), what then.....does it all go "hit based" again, and we lose the democratic Long Tail benefits?. This was the basis of my question to AOL SM guru Meg Pickard at one of the events last week, and we sort of got to a view that there will be a long tail of niches, each with (in my view probably manipulatable) hits in it.
There is also an interesting piece in GigaOm about the Fat Belly. Essentially Robert Young argues that there is the Hit based Head and the Long Tail, but the sweet spot is the Fat Belly in between them. He dugg around in Digg and found, in the Tech section over a period that:
As expected, the distribution of the approximately 9,300 of the top stories this year charts into a power law curve. The Big Head, which I define as those articles with over 5,000 votes, accounted for a mere 32 articles. The Fat Belly (those with 1,000 to 4,999 votes) had nearly 4,000 articles. Lastly, the Long Tail (less than 1,000 votes) had the remaining 5,300 articles, predictably the largest number. (n.b. noticeable changes in the gradient along the curve served as the primary factor in my choosing the points of demarcation).
Now anyone familiar with retail Inventory Management will recognise this as the A, B and C class stock scenario, so does it show that Social Media is behaving more like a standard retail model than the Hit based models of most Media? (ie Art, Film, Music, Sport - I count popular Sports as a Media business these days - Blogs and Slebs.)
You could argue however that the Digg definitions for Hits are drawn too early, set it at 3,000 votes for example and see what happens - ie is the Fat Belly just the back end of the Hit Head?
I did a quick straw poll of Technorati blogs, and the Top 100 sites fall from 26,000 links (no 1), to c 6,000 (no 25), to c 4,500 (no 50), to 3,500 (no 75), to c 3,000 (no 100). At around Site No 7,500 there are about 800 links and around Site No 30,000 there are about 300 links. There are about 57 million blogs on Technorati in total, so clearly the tailoff starts quite early. But it is clear that a very nice business could be had from say 15 properties at say an average of 2,000 links each.
So, if the Fat Belly does exist, this has interesting implications for Social Media, as in essence if the real value is not in the Hit based medium, then it is less susceptible to PR based approaches and more so to good old Sound Operating Disciplines.
But whatever the outcome, where there is money at stake this will not be a democratic Netopia I am afraid. The 'Net is a scale free network that mirrors human communication, and in this respect it follows Ecclesiastes Law - there is nothing new under the sun (vanity, vanity......)
Let the Games begin.....
Postscript: This very interesting article by Niall Kennedy here has more on the way and the why the gaming of social media works.
There has been so much written recently (it seems) on the issues around Online Advertising, but it seems the great industry success story of 2006 is being overlooked - Autospam!
I first noticed this with a massive rise in trackback spam for this blog over the last 2-3 months, and started fishing around on the 'Net this weekend to see what is going on, found the very interesting website Spamhaus.
Trackback spam seems to be mainly about raising the profile of websites, usually using Botnets (networks of slaved computers sending spam) to generate false links. My trackbacks are mainly selling viagra, insurance and various other extensions to recreational procreation. No double glazing, change your Telco or new kitchen spam yet, that still come via the 'phone unfortunately.
Seems like there has been a c 50% increase in Spam over the last few months, 120% over the last year, much of the increase down to Russian Botnets. Increasingly spam is embedding pictures in the email, making it harder to catch with text based filters.
Much of the new spam is touting penny stocks, and this site shows how it works. The site also points to recent papers by Oxford & Purdue University researchers here and Dresden and Manneim researchers here. which show why it works. A large amount of spam plugging the stocks x a small % of suckers = lots of money in, pushes up stock, spamsters sell, punters hold the dud stock.
A bit like the media / investment bank game really, but that of course is Respectable. ( I see Mary Meeker and Frank Quatrone are nearly fully rehabilitated)
Now I've been mulling this over this weekend, and I still can't get it through my head how anyone bright enough to use a computer can fall for this stuff, but I guess that there truly is one born every minute. And given enough spam, you will find that one. Every minute.
The lesson for advertising is clear....stop thinking in traditional, high transaction cost terms. Think low production cost, low distribution costs, low takeup rate. The future is in classifieds. (OK, Google got there already but this shows that they are not making all the money and there are ways around them). The trick will be to make them voluntarily opt in, so they evade the Spamcatchers.
By the way, Spamhaus, a British charity, got taken to court in Illinois and was ordered - in Illinois - to pay $11.7m damages to a spammer who seems to have perjured himself completely - see this quote:
A lawsuit filed in an Illinois court by David Linhardt (aka e360 Insight LLC) against The Spamhaus Project Ltd., a British-based non-profit organization over which the Illinois court had no jurisdiction, went predictably to default judgement when Spamhaus did not accept U.S. jurisdiction.
And I thought the US patent system was in a bad way.......even Flickr patently doesn't hold a candle to this! This is positively Pythonesque, (as of course is spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam, luvverly spam)
What worries me is that the (usually well funded) Forces of Net Evil are continually being allowed to get away with antisocial media acts by the guardians of the law. This one beggars belief, but the attack on the freedoms of the 'Net is insidious, from draconian DRM to intrusive analytics.
Postscript...this meme is clearly in the ether, I saw this blog by Paul Kedrosky this afternoon.
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