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Preview: Berlind's Media Transparency Channel

Berlind's Media Transparency Channel

If you're looking for my podcasts, please read What to do if you're looking for my series of podcasts on IT Matters. Otherwise, read on.This blog is now a part of my experiment in media transparency. The premise is that if the media can broadcast polish

Last Build Date: Sat, 02 Apr 2005 03:29:28 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2005 David Berlind

Lack of transparency discredits security research

Sat, 02 Apr 2005 03:24:11 GMT

It appears as though Microsoft and research outfit Security Innovations are learning the hard way how lack of research transparency can damage the credibility of a research project as well as those involved. The study in question, performed by Security Innovations, concluded that Microsoft Windows Server 2003 has Fewer Security Flaws than Multiple Configurations of a Comparable Linux Server." Controversy erupted over the report when it was discovered last week, well after the report's results were orginally unveiled at February's RSA Security Conference, that the research was commissioned by Microsoft. That important detail was not disclosed when the results were originally reported to conference attendees, leading Counterpane Internet Security founder Bruce Schneier to tell the Seattle Post-Intelligencer "It was evidence that Microsoft was doing better, and now the evidence is tainted....The results might be accurate, but now nobody's going to care, because all they'll see is a bias that was undisclosed." Though the disclosure is made in the report, Security Innovation's summary page that describes the research still makes no mention of who funded it (by the time you read this, that may have changed). It should because there are plenty of IT buyers who pay no attention to research that's commissioned by vendors and they have a right to know, without having to dig into the report, whether or not the report was funded by a vendor or not. According to the Post-Intelligencer's report, the researchers behind the effort claimed full transparency saying "Our own requirement for the methodology was that it had to be very open and transparent. We wanted to give people the recipe so they could go out and recalculate the numbers for themselves." The researchers also maintained that Microsoft was not allowed any editorial control over their methodology. Unfortunately, that sort of transparency, sans the information regarding who funded it, doesn't paint the complete picture of commissioned research and here's why: What happens in the case of commissioned research that doesn't find in favor of the vendor that sponsored it? In my 15 years of journalism, I can't recall one time where I saw a commissioned study that concluded in favor of the sponsor's competition. Can you? (please write to me about it or comment below if you can). I've seen commissioned studies where the competition wins on a few points, but never overall. While I can't say definitively that such a study has never been made publicly available, I've heard plenty of stories about how such studies do exist. But, since a vendor is paying for the research in the first place, it has every right to take the study home and stick it in a file cabinet where it will never see the light of day. Or, the studies are used to help vendors figure out what they need to do to beat competitors (and are sometimes be cited in vendor presentations as a way making some forthcoming product upgrade sound credible and market leading to the press). Also, I have another nit about methodology transparency. Disclosing the methodology in such a way that allows others to reproduce the results is definitely better than not disclosing the methodology at all. But that misses the larger goal of transparency. Transparency is also about change and improvement. Had Security Innovations announced that it was performing the research study on behalf of Microsoft, published the proposed methodology, and invited other security experts to make suggested changes, and then taken incorporated those changes into the methodology (or explained why it didn't), then that would have made the final results much more defensible (and trust me, if word got out that a research outfit was seeking feedback on a methodology for a Microsoft-funded comparison of Windows and Linux security, the researchers' suggestion box would have been overflowing with "help"). So, just making the methodology transparent as Security Innovations did isn't transparent enough, if you ask me. Not only does real transpar[...]

Internet ranks 2nd-to-last as trustworthy source among 18-34 set

Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:34:38 GMT

Dan Gillmor picked up on an important report for the Carnegie Foundation. Entitled "Abandoning the News." For any mainstream media (MSM) outlet that's doing some soul searching (which they should be doing) and that's looking for some survey data on the perception of their medium (newspaper, TV) versus the Internet, this report is backed by a revealing PowerPoint presentation that gets into the heads of 18 to 34 year-olds (obviously, a very important group). 

Why the established media should care: In no small way, it articulates the the challenges that the MSM will face as a result of democratized news provision.

Relevance to transparency: First and most important, trustworthiness is listed as one of the top three criteria in selecting information sources (it appears at the top of the list but it's not clear whether list order is an indicator of importance). Timeliness is listed second. While the Internet gets high marks for timeliness, it's perceived to be the second worst in terms of trustworthiness. So, given that transparency is about credibility and trustworthiness... well, now you understand the relevance.

David: It's been a while since your last transparency post. What's up?

Thu, 31 Mar 2005 14:58:16 GMT

Yes, it has been a while and apologies. Time is such a gating factor to running this channel. As you can see, I'm still doing some stuff behind the scenes. For example, I'm adjusting the design of the site and have some work to do there. I'm also prototyping a software connection between my e-mail system and this transparency channel to more efficiently move content into the channel (since so much of the relevant content comes to me via e-mail). This is taking longer than I had hoped. But once I'm done, I'm hoping the result will be like prying loose a cap off a fire hyrdrant. The flow should pick up significantly. On this vector, the important finding of my experiment is that it's not as easy to be a transparent journalist as you'd think. If you're on the hook to crank out content on a daily basis (as I am in the two blogs that I write for on ZDNet), there's not a lot of time left over to be transparent. This is particularly so when the heavy lifting to be transparent on a particular story is about 10x the work of the story itself.

All this said, I have some cool postings in the works that get to the heart of some really interesting blogging/journalism matters and also, I have several things cooking on the research transparency front. My musings about research transparency have apparently struck a nerve and my inbox is full of comments and thoughts that I must parse through.  Stay tuned.

MPEG nation aims to democratize TV and video distribution

Thu, 31 Mar 2005 13:39:32 GMT

From the below press release: "a one to sixty minute video uploaded to MPEG NATION, encoded into Microsoft(R) Window's Media(R) Format (150k, 300k & 700k), costs just $4.95 including unlimited streaming (viewing) bandwidth and storage for six months."

Long term, given the efficiency and convenience of time-shifted consumption of text, audio, and video (and a fourth medium like Flash that I call i-media... the "i" is for "interactive" and implies a form of audio or video that the end user can interact with), and the fact that portable hard drive space simply isn't an issue, I wonder whether streaming will finally give way to downloading for all but the most incredibly time sensitive news and information. About 99.99 perecent of the content we consume doesn't have to be consumed live or while connected to some network.

MPEG NATION Launches Powerful Broadband Streaming Video Service for the Masses Stream your video world-wide to millions of people for less than $1 per month!

CHICAGO, March 30 /PRNewswire/ -- MPEG NATION, a division of Digital Silo, Inc., a global provider of integrated content delivery and streaming media services, today announced a new, first ever, low-cost service to encode and stream consumer and commercial video content via its worldwide content delivery network, within minutes, via a simple upload. MPEG NATION enables individuals and companies to inexpensively begin streaming video across a high-performance, reliable content delivery network without having to spend hours encoding and transcoding formats, negotiating rates, or worrying about ongoing storage and bandwidth costs. MPEG NATION is the first-ever "one-price-fits-all solution" for placing video in blogs, auctions, personal and corporate websites. "We are working towards a world where television and video distribution are much more democratized and where a creative spark, a camera, and a computer are all it takes to put video content before the eyes of thousands of people. MPEG NATION is excited to announce the first affordable streaming video service for delivering streaming solutions to meet market demand for Microsoft(R) Windows Media(R), RealNetwork's RealPlayer and Apple's QuickTime video formats," said Scott Wolf, president and chief technology officer of Digital Silo's MPEG NATION division. (more)

Has this guy turned the internet into a global cable TV network?

Thu, 31 Mar 2005 13:00:10 GMT

This sounds to be true. But even if it isn't, it suggests that entrepreneurs are out there thinking about interesting ways to move broadcast media onto the internet. So, the theme is convergence and broadcast media execs (radio and TV) have to be thinking about what entrepreneurs like this mean to the their business. Whether this really does what it says it does doesn't matter. Sooner or later, someone will figure out how to do this and the international nature of the Internet could will affect the legal options that are available to broadcast media outlets.

From: Jonathan Rodriguez []
Sent: Friday, March 25, 2005 1:33 PM
To: David Berlind

I am the creator of WebBrowserTV and WebBrowserRADIO; two new, revolutionary, upcoming computer softwares. Basically, by inserting these CD-ROM softwares into a computer, any user can watch live worldwide television and/or radio, right from their computer. An Internet connection is used as the receiving via (no antennas and/or cable box needed).

Please take under consideration that most people are now, more than ever before, going online for everything. Television networks and radio stations are now realizing that the computer business is taking over the world, including their own industries (TV and radio industries). As a result of our constantly-changing competitive world, new technological products are always arising, re-shaping each of the industries they fall under. I feel that I may have a product line (these two products) with a great possibility of becoming a major deal in the market, especially if large chains (like Wal-Mart, Staples, Best Buy, Radio Shack, etc.) decide to add these products to their catalogs. That could mean a tremendous amount of long-term business. The other good thing about these products, in particular, is that they are both hybrids of very stable industries: The Internet, TV, and Radio... (more)

Windows Media ecosystem spreads its wings

Fri, 01 Apr 2005 00:46:34 GMT

I received the following email on March 30, 2005. I'm not sure how many people realize how vast the Windows Media empire is. In the traditional ecosystem sense, where more developers begets more content and more content begets more users and more users attracts more developers (all to the benefit of the underlying platform), is there any digital media ecosystem (the choices are quicktime, real and flash) that matches the depth and breadth of the Windows Media ecoystem? The e-mail does a great job of describing the reach of the Windows Media empire. Don't forget that media platform pervasiveness begets digital rights management platform pervasiveness. (ps: I normally don't publish emails without the permission of the sender but this e-mail is obviously a boilerplate with nothing specific to me or other recipients. I redacted the sender's contact information) ==Email Begins Here=Microsoft Corp. today will announce the launch of MSN Video Downloads, which provides daily television programming, including content from, Food Network, FOX Sports and IFILM Corp, for download to Windows Mobile(tm)-based devices, such as Portable Media Centers and select Smartphones and Pocket PCs.Since launching the Windows Mobile-based Portable Media Center last fall, more than 20 new partners, including CinemaNow Inc.,,, MTV Networks Music, Napster Inc., SnapStream Media Inc and TiVo Inc., have agreed to make video available online specifically formatted for Windows Mobile-based multimedia devices.In addition to MSN Video Downloads announced today, there are a number of ways to obtain legal content that can be transferred to Windows Mobile-based devices: * People can transfer recorded television to Windows Mobile devices from any Windows XP-based PC, either with Media Center Edition PCs or PCs with built-in TV-tuner cards from companies such as ATI and NVIDIA and third-party PVR software such as SnapStream Beyond TV 3. Soon, via the TiVoToGo service, people can take their TiVo Series 2 content from the PC and transfer it to a Portable Media Center.* The recently launched Napster-to-Go service allows people with a monthly subscription to have unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of songs that can be transferred to Windows Mobile devices. In addition, online movie provider CinemaNow will have hundreds of movie titles formatted specifically for viewing on Portable Media Centers.* On March 16, CinemaNow and MediaPass announced it will make music videos available specifically for Windows Mobile devices.Following is a summary of today's announcement. The full press release is below.* The MSN Video Downloads service is one of the first online video download services dedicated to portable entertainment and is designed to keep people better entertained and informed, wherever and whenever they want. MSN Video Downloads debuted in a preview of the service at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2005.* New in the launch of the service is the ability to select the specific content downloaded to the subscriber's Windows XP-based PC each day. Also people will be able to activate a new "automatic deleting feature," which specifies how long video from the MSN Video Downloads directory remain on the PC, avoiding a large backlog of clips. * Along with our CinemaNow and MediaPass partnerships announced last week, content from MSN Video Downloads is for use with PlaysForSure compliant devices that play video, enabling people to download to their Windows(r) XP-based PC and transfer to any Windows Mobile-based Portable Media Center, or Smartphones and Pocket PCs equipped with Windows Media(r) Player 10 Mobile.The Following Companies Have Announced Support for Windows Mobile-based Devices : (more...)[...]

Hollywood looking for copy and copyright protection

Thu, 31 Mar 2005 12:25:23 GMT

Hollywood seeks iTunes for film. Sony Pictures, other media giants mull "anti-Napster" for movies and the future of advertising at Digital Hollywood conference.   This is a story about digital rights management and sooner or later, Hollywood will be forced to talk to Microsoft since it's media client is the most pervasive (not just in computers).

PR Week covers this transparency channel

Tue, 15 Mar 2005 01:28:28 GMT

PR Week interviewed me a few weeks ago.  An edited-to-fit-in-print version of the interview can be found in PR Week's print edition or you can go to the full version on-line.

Lark is singing, but it isn't praises for tech research

Tue, 08 Mar 2005 05:26:19 GMT

Andy Lark calls tech research  A House Of Cards.  In his post, he says:

I don't know of any industry other than tech in which such "corrupting" business practices exist....What isn't OK is the business practice of pay-for-play masquerading as independent consultancy. The only equity in it is that this model punishes big and small alike. The big have to keep fueling the beast and where they don't they suddenly see their rankings plummet and adverse commentary. The small can't afford to really play at all.

He doesn't stop there. Next, he proposes a Research Transparency Portal and suggests that to get the research outfits to go along with the idea, vendors should put away their checkbooks and organize a boycott until the researchers capitulate.   Go Andy. Go.  You have my support.

Email from Elizabeth Albrycht regarding research transparency

Mon, 07 Mar 2005 16:10:26 GMT

I think we have to distinguish here too between the analyst him/herself and the organization they work for.  I can't tell you how many times I have been on the phone with analyst/executive and the analyst rather sheepishly says - "Oh, I really need to give you the sales pitch now." Or something along those lines, intimating they are forced to it by "management."

I question whether  research associates are the best people to give sales pitches.  Those two skills don't always go together!

Many times, for clients, our meetings with analysts are two-fold.  To get on their radar screen, and to evaluate whether we want to pay them for future engagements.  The sales discussion has always been some part of the negotiation.  But, over the past years, the balance of power has shifted to the sales side.  

I agree that analysts should not be seen as objective or independent, when you have to pay to play.

Aside:  I work with Gene Signorini of Yankee Group, and now Nick McQuire, through the Mobile Enterprise Alliance and I have been impressed by both of their smarts.  This has been mainly true over time of Yankee analysts as a whole.  My original rant referenced above comes from Oct. 2003.  Maybe their scheduling system has changed since then; I haven't used it in awhile.  Gene and Nick are members of the MEA's advisory board and I don't need to go though the scheduling system to talk to them.

Research outfits outted?

Mon, 07 Mar 2005 13:10:06 GMT

If you've been following this transparency channel, then you may have seen how I just took the IT research community task over its lack of transparency. For obvious reasons, I wrote this from a reporter's perspective. I just got done reading Elizabeth Albrycht's perspective from the public relations side of the equation and all I can say is "Someone get me the Pepto please." Give it a read and you'll see why it just makes you ill. The most disturbing quote from her posting -- one that may corroborate the tainted process that I read about in the InternetAcceleration newsletter -- talks about how analyst briefing requests are held hostage for a ransom of a sales pitch. Albrycht has no qualms about identifying who engages in what practices: Then there is Yankee. You now have to talk to a sales person before you are allowed to request a briefing. You have to listen to their pitch before you get to climb Olympus and talk to the ever-quoted Zeus. The implication from Albyrcht's account is that if you're a vendor that's not a customer of a research company, then to get on an analyst's radar (an analyst that the rest of the world trusts to have objectively surveyed the entire landscape by the way) requires a sales pitch first. Imagine if this was standard practice in the press too? Holy cow! Media company's would be making money hand over fist. Thankfully, it's not. At least not where I've worked. All vendors have an equal shot at me. I'm not saying that I'll write about every one, or even take every briefing that's tossed my way. That's physically impossible. But if my sole purpose of being was to offer exhaustive research on some vertical category in order to empower buyers to make informed decisions, then I'd want to hear from every single player in that category on a regular basis and I woudn't want my sales department standing in the way of those briefings. But instead, we have eyewitness accounts from outfits like the InternetAcceration newsletter that are disturbing at best when it comes to the implications to a research reports objectivity and thoroughness: We asked a few of the vendors listed in the [Magic Quadrant] how much effort Gartner put into its evaluation (did Gartner contact them, interview reference accounts, talk to investors, business partners, review "bake off" findings...) and we were basically told that, from these vendors' perspective, Gartner had done very little. Here's a shocking example of what one vendor told us: - "we spent about a half hour with ... [Gartner Research Vice President Name Deleted] ...of Gartner almost exactly one year ago. We gave him a brief overview of our company and exchanged pleasantries. As I recall the subject of a 'paid relationship with Gartner' was raised more than once." Now, before we go casting the whole lot as a bunch of crooks on the take, I'd like to point out a few things. First, research companies, like all other companies, can't exist without revenues. And given that their research is useful to the buyers of IT as well as the vendors who are featured in it (eg: for competitive analysis), it makes perfect sense for research outfits to pitch both communities on research provision. But, like the press, the #1 asset that a research outfit has is it's credibility. If it loses that, it loses everything. So, in the name of credibilty, great care must be taken not to poison the well. As a researcher, I'd want to spend a few hours per quarter (or more) with each of the companies in my beat and, in the name of revenue, I think it would even be fair to let them know that my research results are available to all parties on the same terms and who the contacts are if they're interested. But I would also engage in complete disclosure.[...]

Is it time for IT researchers to start practicing full transparency?

Sat, 05 Mar 2005 03:55:27 GMT

So, I think we're in agreement that the media needs some transparency. And based on what I see being written elsewhere, some PR transparency appears to be on order as well. So, what about research? In our industry -- the tech industry -- if there's a part the business that desperately needs more transparency, it's the research part. I was reminded of this today when I was forwarded an e-mail newsletter known as the InternetAcceleration Newsletter from In the February 22, 2005 issue is a segment called There they go again. In saying "We think that the current quality of output in its Magic Quadrants are both potentially misleading to IT buyers and an abuse of its brand," the report has some harsh words for tech research outfit Gartner who owns the Magic Quandrant brand. In fact, so harsh is the newsletter in levying accusations of impropriety (could this end up being a transparency test), that I can't help but wonder how Gartner cannot react. If Gartner sues for libel, then we get to watch Gartner's image go on trial. If Gartner does nothing, what are we to think then? The report goes on to say: "Here's a shocking example of what one vendor told us: - "we spent about a half hour with ... [Gartner Research Vice President Name Deleted] ...of Gartner almost exactly one year ago. We gave him a brief overview of our company and exchanged pleasantries. As I recall the subject of a "paid relationship with Gartner" was raised more than once." That wasn't the only response like that. This situation turns out to be worse than we thought. It appears to us that not only is Gartner clearly doing insufficient research (hadn't even spoken to a vendor listed in the MQ for a year!), but that Gartner Vice Presidents are using vendor briefings as thinly disguised sales calls. It's pretty intimidating for a vendor to be asked to sign up for research services IN THE SAME discussion as they're providing input used in a MQ ranking and some may say unethical." Whether or not these stories about Gartner have any merit remains to be seen (or perhaps we'll never know). But there are many research outfits in the tech business and in my discussions with certain marcomm pros that I've know for years and trust, there is no question in my mind that these sorts of shennanigans are taking place behind the scenes. While I'm not going to call anybody out for a bar room brawl, the newsletter reminded me that research transparency is definitely a discussion that needs to be had. For example, when presenting scoreboard like research like Gartner's Magic Quandrants, shouldn't the charts say which of the companies listed in the chart are also Gartner clients? Or how about when the press gets pitched on "new, earthshattering" results as a proofpoint of some vendor's leadership? Case in point. Recently via e-mail, I received a copy of a press release from Check Point Software Technologies that says: Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP), the worldwide leader in securing the Internet, today announced that recent independent tests conducted by The Tolly Group confirm that Check Point provides the broadest breadth of coverage and the lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for today’s complex security vulnerabilities in comparison to Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Juniper Networks (NASDAQ: JNPR). First, if you're a public relations professional, please listen to what I'm about to say: I don't know about other journalists and I know you're just trying to be helpful, but when you pitch me on customer success stories and research-based proof-points, my spider senses start tingling. Call me fickle, but the last people I'm going to trust t[...]

The Media Guerilla's recurring nightmare

Thu, 17 Feb 2005 16:23:43 GMT

I've been at LinuxWorld this week hammering out podcasts one after another. By the time I'm done with the show, I think I will have published a total of ten podcasts. For transparency's sake, not ALL of them were done at the show. To get my coverage off to a headstart, three of them were pre-recorded. One of those pre-recorded interviews was with Emic Networks vice president of product management and marketing Donna Jeker. Although it doesn't happen often, this was the second time in a week where my interviewee didn't have the answers to some obvious questions. I don't want to turn this transparency channel into a bitching and moaning session about poorly executed PR. While this again is an example of how a the practice of media transparency can be embarrassing to interviewees, the companies they work for, and their public relations representatives, there's an upside. Transparency should make all three of those parties much better at what they do because they know that there's more on the line than just the story itself. And why shouldn't that be the case. Everytime a journalist writes a story, their ass is totally on the line. Why shouldn't the demand for that excellence be pervasive throughout the entire food chain of a story. If this was the case, then the final outcomes (the stories) would consistently be better throughout all of journalism. So, transparency raises the bar for everyone, as well it should which is why I think examples like this are worthy of discussion. Again, the purpose of this channel isn't Public Relations 101. But if this it what it takes to raise the bar and make journalism better, then, then it needs to be done. As I said in my tranparency notes on the first case, I believe the responsibility for such gaffs are shared by both the interviewee and his or her press relations counsel. But not equally. Unfortuantely, Ms. Jeker was not prepared for some of my technical questions nor did she have specific pricing information regarding the product her company was announcing (the reason Emic originally pitched me on the story, and I took the bait). I'm not even sure what to say about not having pricing information. That mistake speaks for itself. But regarding the technical question problem, I believe from my observations of PR people in action is that one of their jobs is to prepare the interview for the type of questions they're going to get from a journalist and figuring that out isn't hard to do. Except for brand new reporters just coming onto the scene, it's not all that difficult to research a journalist's body of work to get an idea (in the case of tech journalism) of how technical the questions might get. So, the following clips are from the raw unedited audio of the interview. It's perhaps another example of Mike Manuel's recurring nightmare (time codes indicated where exactly in the MP3 file you can listen to that part of the conversation. The announcement was about a product for people who run open source-based J2EE application servers. [8:10 Me] When you say restarted, do the transactions restart themselves, or does the user have to physically recognize that the transaction needs to be restarted an take action. [8:25 Answer] That may depend on the exact scenario and maybe for the purposes of this conversation those details might be too fine grained. Is that a fair answer? [9:33 Me] We're describing the type of failure that happens for example when you're on a Web site and you've started an ecommerce transaction. What about with J2ee -- what your announcing today -- with J2ee, a lot of the transactions and workflow take place behind the scenes. When there's a failure there. How does the system respond. How does it get back to the po[...]

Media Files:

Living the Media Guerilla's Transparency Nightmare

Fri, 11 Feb 2005 02:55:10 GMT

In a previous entry, I point to Mike Manuel's Media Guerilla blog where he describes how transparent journalism can reveal some awkward moments. Although my example doesn't involve that moment that many journalists have experienced -- the one where they ask a question and the PR person pipes in like an attorney exclaiming "objection!" -- it involves an equaly awkward moment that gets caught on tape.  One  where the interviewees have no idea what the answer is an obvious question is. I mean, like REALLY obvious. Who's to blame for such an embarrassing moment? Of course, the interviewees should be well-versed in their subject matter before meeting with the press. But the PR folks are the safety net. Their job is to anticipate questions -- especially the obvious ones -- and make sure that their clients are good and ready before taking that interview. Understandably, you can't be prepared for every question. But let's say the client is an organization looking to get press and the main message is that the organization is focused on five critical issues. Shouldn't the client be prepared to discuss each of them in detail?

In this "case study" of how transparency can reveal some awkward moments, I'm meeting with Oracle's Tony DiCenzo and Sun's Peter ffoulkes to get introduced to the Enterprise Grid Alliance -- an organization that they were representing at a recent grid event in Boston. I didn't ask for this meeting. I was pitched on it and accepted, given that my primary beat is enterprise computing. During the meeting, which I recorded, ffoulkes and DiCenzo explained to me that the EGA is focused on five primary objectives and even has working groups assigned to each one. The five working groups (and initiatives) are even listed on the organization's Web site. As explained to me, they are:
  • Terminology (Reference Model)
  • Accounting
  • Grid Security
  • Component Provisioning
  • Data Provisioning
After being told of the objectives, one by one, I asked for an explanation of each. After all, if I'm going to explain what the EGA does to ZDNet's audience of enterprise technologists, they deserve to have each of its major initiatives explained. Only, there was one problem. When I asked what "data provisioning" was, neither interviewee had the answer. Neither did either of the two PR counselors who were accompanying them. For me, it was as strange moment. It seemed like an obvious question. Perhaps for them, it wasn't. I was told they'd get back to me. Unfortunately, given how frequently I write, I have to get the stories out while they're fresh in my mind. There's really no time to get back to me. And so, the story goes out with text like this:

Unfortunately, when it came time to discuss what data provisioning was, neither ffoulkes nor DiCenzo could answer.

Want to be a fly on the wall for the awkward moment? You can download the MP3.

Media Files:

Should coverage be held hostage in exchange for transparency?

Wed, 09 Feb 2005 13:34:24 GMT

In a recent e-mail discussion with Dan Bricklin regarding how the automatic publishing of e-mails from PR folks was making people nervous, and how, in the name of getting my job done, the need for ultimate transparency will have to be balanced against a source's right to privacy, Bricklin compared the situation to what happens when a video camera with a blinking red light is unexpectedly thrust into the face of a source. He makes a great point about offering veto power before publishing, but how that runs the risk of not getting the coverage altogether. Here's what he said:

From: Dan Bricklin
Sent: Friday, February 04, 2005 3:53 PM
To: David Berlind
Subject: Re: media transparency channel, further developed


Good stuff!

In video there is the red light when the camera is rolling which kind of reminds you. But, that sometimes makes people clam up, like when you hold a mike in their face. Perhaps the "asking after the fact" thing is better. Show them what you'll make available and give them veto, but if they do, then they veto the story and some parts are explicitly not vetoable (the stuff when the "red light is on"). Things in a public podcast, for example, are available for transparency and timecodes into it are always OK like links to a website (or screen captures of something that was on a website).

The email editing is tough because of the time, but providing it is making reporting consist of producing more material which is good for readers. As publishers need less to do (with distribution not needing all the printing and shipping logistics) there can be more expense on reporting. :)


Source comes up with own semantics for public bloggability of e-mail

Mon, 07 Feb 2005 22:37:48 GMT

Here is an interesting development in my e-mail. Apparently aware that anything sent to me via e-mail might be fair game for publication in my blog, a source who shall so far remain nameless sent me an e-mail with the following text at the bottom:

this email is: [ ] blogable [ x ] ask first [ ] private

How interesting is that? In terms of specs for JOTS, this clearly points to the need to establish some sort of preferences that can be applied to e-mails on both a global basis (for all e-mails from a source) and on a per-transmission basis (that overrides the global preference).

"Spokesperson" is SOP for Microsoft's PR Counsel

Mon, 07 Feb 2005 22:00:18 GMT

In my experience, it has been standard operating procedure for any checked facts on stories regarding Microsoft to be anonymously attributed to "spokesperson" when the person fielding the inquiry works for one of Microsoft's public relations firms such as Waggener-Edstrom or Fleischman-Hillard.  When a Microsoft employee fields such an inquiry, the answer has always been attributable to that person.  As you can see in a recent blog entry of mine, such attribution is made.  I'm fairly certain this is a Microsoft imposed policy. 

This raises some issues for the JOTS specification.  There should be a way that such policies can be set as preferences in a way that automatically includes a short document like this as the part of a  full disclosure or transparency statement for any given story. 

Spec Entry: Public/Private toggle by category

Sat, 05 Feb 2005 03:36:28 GMT

Objective:  Provide a way to keep the raw materials going into an unpublished story from public viewing until after the story is published.

Abstract: As I said in my entry regarding the need for an RSS feed on a per editorial project basis, one reason RSS feeds would be great for media organizations is that they would allow editorial managers to track the projects that their editors and writers are working on. But, editorial organizations -- especially ones that do any investigative reporting -- probably don't want editorial projects-in-progress to be available for viewing by the public until after the story is published. After all, you don't want to show your hand to competing journalists and media organizations. So, on per category basis, you need a way to toggle the editorial project as public or private. This of course raises the issue of security which I'll try to address more in depth in another post. But, suffice to say that JOTS has to have the sort of security baked into it that gives an administrator control over users and what authority those users have. For example, who has the authority to switch an editorial project from private to public?

Spec Entry: Multiple RSS feeds for granular subscription

Sat, 05 Feb 2005 03:27:00 GMT

Objective: Break a transparency channel down into sub-channels and allow people who want access to the raw materials to subscribe to the complete channel, or individual editorial projects. Abstract:  This is a pretty straightfoward part of the spec and it's why the underlying infrastructure of a blogging system may be ideal to serve as a transparency channel's infrastructure. I've already broken this transparency channel down into multiple categories, many of which are focused on a single editorial project.   The idea is that if someone wants to narrow their view down to the raw materials for one particular project, the system should make it really easy to do this.  Most blog infrastructures such as the one I'm using to prototype this channel, will automatically generate RSS feeds for each category.  With categories, the RSS feeds and the Web site provide a plethora of entry points to those interested in the raw materials.  For media organizations, RSS feeds at the editorial project level would also provide editorial managers with a great way to keep track of the stories that their staffs are working on.

First email-to-editorial-to-email transparency test completed

Fri, 04 Feb 2005 23:33:44 GMT

As with my first test, I've completed another test where the editorial points to the raw material. In the first case, the editorial provided time codes that could be used to advance to certain quotes in an audio file. In this case, the raw material is an e-mail instead of an MP3 file and the editorial mentions that the full text of the e-mail is available here, in the transparency channel. In response to concerns from the PR community regarding the automatic publication of their e-mails into my transparency channel, I adjusted my methodology and checked with the source (Kelly Larabee of Skype) to make sure she was OK with it. You can see in the thread where I asked:

Would you mind, if for transparency's sake, I published this contents of this thread between you and me on my transparency channel?.....Your email address will be removed as will any phone numbers (including my conference line numbers).

and she responded:

That would be great, no problem at all ~

So, in summary, I felt pretty good about the way this worked out. By asking Larabee if she was OK with it and assuring her that her contact information would be redacted (a laborious task, by the way), her expectations were not only properly set, she was agreeable to the idea.

Designing a Journalist's Online Transparency System (JOTS)

Fri, 04 Feb 2005 02:11:48 GMT

In an attempt to evolve a system spec for designing a system that helps journalists maintain transparency without so much burden that it intereferes with their jobs, I'm starting the JOTS specification.  JOTS stands for Journalist's Online Transparency System and, based on my experiences in trying to manually build my own transparency channel, I will be proposing JOTS features whose main objective is to achieve maximum transparency with the least amount of effort.  I've established a separate category called JOTS Specification for those of you who just want to browse the various spec items, and offer ideas.

Spec Entry: Using pre-established source preferences to automate raw material handling

Fri, 04 Feb 2005 02:07:01 GMT

Objective: Establish a database of sources and their transparency preferences as a pre-processor for raw materials coming from that source

Abstract: The system should include a database of contacts and a tickler that helps the journalist to understand whether or not a source has been notified of the journalist's transparency policy and how that source has responded. For example, the source may provide blanket approval to publish all notes or may say "Ask First." A more advanced feature could include a way to provide redactable text strings. For example, a boolean (true/false) field that goes with a source's e-mail address to that indicates whether the source is ok with having their e-mail address published or not. Let's say the answer is no. The "Redact Email Address" field would be set to true, and the next time I forward an e-mail into the system from that sender, the system automatically redacts all occurences of the e-mail address from the text (but still gives me the opportunity to review it).

Spec Entry: Transferring e-mail into JOTS

Fri, 04 Feb 2005 02:04:44 GMT

Objective: With e-mail being one of the ways a lot of raw data is captured, there needs to be a fast and easy way to move raw material from an e-mail inbox into JOTS (Journalist's Online Transparency Systems) without the journalist having to do too much to make sure the raw material gets handled properly.

Abstract: I've had to cut and paste e-mails in a way that formatting is very screwy and I have to and fix it.  Also, redacting senstivie data is cumbersome and could use automation.   When I receive an email, I should be able to forward it to a system and tag it with, at the very least, the sender's name and a title for the editorial project that the story is associated with.  The system should respond via e-mail with a URL for editing the entry which I can click on an review before publishing into the transparency channel.  The system could for example provide me with a way to look for specific text to redact and then do a search and replace on that that text (instead of me having to do it by hand)

Mixed reactions from the PR community on pure transparency

Thu, 03 Feb 2005 23:23:43 GMT

Now that I' ve published a few e-mail threads in the raw between me and various public relations officers for the companies I'm covering, some valuable feedback to the experiment is beginning to arrive that has me rethinking the idea of automatic transparency (in other words, for the sake of great transaprency, post threads now, ask questions later). In his blog, Andy Lark, who recently vacated his post as vice president of global communications and marketing for Sun Microsystems appears to approve of the idea and carries it forward as an example of the sort of transparency that public relations professionals should practice. Can you imagine the potential of that -- a transparency thread that connects the transparency of journalists to the transparency of the public relations community? But, in his Media Guerilla blog, Voce Communications' Mike Manuel has a slightly different take saying: But then it got me thinking, this practice (if it catches on) has some interesting implications for PR folk --- particularly the command and control types. Case in point, every PR practitioner I know of has (at one point or another) had to intercede on a line of questioning in an interview. Perhaps the journalist is looking for dirt or prying for information that shouldn't be shared or is just leading the interview down a weird path. How odd would it be to have that interruption recorded and then later distributed with the story? Can you say A W K W A R D? Manuel wasn't alone in expressing some reservations about the idea of full-blown transparency. Via e-mail, I was notified by one of my sources of how the grapevine within the hi-tech PR community was buzzing with rumors -- all true of course -- that I was publishing the full text of some my e-mail correspondences with public relations personnel, including their original pitch to me. For example, my exchanges with the folks at Good Technology and RIM for a blog entry I was writing and then my correspondences with representatives for VMWare and IBM regarding some potential coverage of those companies. An e-mail from that source (whose asked not to be identified) does a much better job than I can in describing the thoughts that might go through the minds of a PR professionals when dealing with journalists who are practicing automatic transparency. Of even more interest was the fact that the source subequently sent me a pitch regarding a controversial issue and when I said I did not agree, the source's first response was "Please tell me you're not going to publish this on that transparency channel thing." Many journalists might be reading this and saying screw the PR people. Everything they send you is on the record unless otherwise noted and is fair game. And, if you know me and my no holds barred style, you probably could see me doing just that (screwing the PR people). But brushing off the PR community in the name of transparency would not be a very strategic move for any journalist -- especially those who understand how the blogosphere is increasing the competition for eyeball-minutes (sort of like man-hours). Looking back over my career as a journalist, some of the work that I consider to be my best stuff could not have been accomplished without the assistance of my contacts in the public relations community. These contacts are often the decision makers who can make or break a journalist's access to key executives and interviewees. In a[...]

Raw Data: Copies of e-mails for RIM vs. Good blog entry

Tue, 25 Jan 2005 17:37:52 GMT

After noticing that my wireless Good G100 wasn't getting copies of my e-mail, I found out that Good's datacenter was down yesterday morning (Jan 24 2005). Good and RIM have done their fair share of trash talkin' each other in the past (most of it off the record). So, I thought I'd ping each of them for comment now that the lights went out at Good. I have two e-mail threads, one from Good's PR and the other from RIM's.  Here's the resulting blog entry.  As you can see, the comments that I received were 100 percent cut and paste.