CISPA Roundup

Heads up everyone: the government is at it again. Remember SOPA and PIPA? Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) has proposed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (CISPA) and if it, coupled with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’s SECURE IT Act, pass a vote later this month, there will be “almost no restrictions on what information can be spied upon and how it can be used”, according to the EFF. That link will take you to a succinct description of exactly what the problem is with CISPA. Techdirt has a more expanded explanation, and includes this awesome nugget:

…in an attempt to address some of the key concerns, the bill’s authors, representatives Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, hosted a conference call specifically geared at digital reporters. The invitation was for “Cyber Media and Cyber Bloggers” (seriously) and took place at 7am Silicon Valley time—thus demonstrating that they are totally in touch with the tech community.

There is also coverage at boingboing and TNW, which includes probably the most important observation of this bill and those that came before it:

Much like SOPA, it’s not the things that are spelled out directly in the act that scare people, it’s the doors that something like this could open, taking advantage of the broadness of the proposal.

Through a comment from Michael Vagnetti on the TNW article, I found popvox, a tool constituents to learn about and weigh in on bills on the floor of Congress, and to learn how their representatives view the bills. You can also check the bill out on OpenCongress, which is a project of the Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation (one of my favorite organizations).

This is a law our government is interested in passing that will dramatically, and negatively, affect our daily lives and the way we conduct business over the internet. This isn’t even about privacy, really; it’s about making sure your Constitutional rights are protected even online. Tell your Representatives (and Senators) what you think.


The Heart of Online Innovation

Anyone who follows my Twitter feed knows how much of a The Next Web (TNW) junkie I am. It’s absolutely my favorite place for online industry news for many reasons, not the least of which is it’s coverage of international and political online industry news as well. I am a political news junkie too, you see, which is why I follow a few pet news stories, like how the Chinese government is negotiating the fine line between economy-stimulating online innovation and communist top-down control. One of my pet new storylines is the explosion of online innovation in Africa. The the middle class is growing rapidly and that is creating a huge new population of consumers that love their mobile phones.

So clearly, this story from TNW this morning about the launch of Kenya’s first mobile apps development lab caught me eye. The new m-lab is designed as the next level for web innovators who incubated their ideas at Nairobi’s iHub.

It’s incredible how developing nations can skip the steps that today’s developed world took to reach its current level of economic development and the way populations of those developing nations grapple with the implications of such leap-frogging, and navigate uncharted territory, is fascinating. But aside from being and interesting news item, this is crucial information for every smart online professional.

There are still huge opportunities online for anyone in the US alone, in addition to developed Europe and Asia. There was a hullabaloo in early June about the Pew Internet and American Life Project report that said 13% of Americans use Twitter, up from 8% one year previously.  That’s a fantastic increase, but folks—that’s still a tiny number of Americans. So when I tell you that smart online professionals are thinking about how to take advantage of opportunities in Nairobi, don’t think I don’t realize just how much untapped potential exists closer to home.

But the fact remains: the long-term future of the internet and web-based business lies in tapping the growth of developing nations like Kenya. Smart online professionals are thinking about that, and that’s why you’re here.

You Will Compute on a Tablet

My husband doesn’t understand tablets. “They’re inbetween a phone and a computer. I have both of those things. Why do I need something in the middle?”

To be honest, I’ve largely agreed wtih him. Until this week, when I found myself wishing I can a tablet to read articles on while curled up in bed or on the couch. A laptop was too bulky and my Blackberry was too small; the browser’s zoom feature too cumbersome. And I really wish I had a tablet to use in the kitchen instead of cookbooks and running between my computer in the dining room and the stove when trying a new recipe. Sometimes modern life is such a bizarre blend of cutting-edge and ass-backwards.

I haven’t told him that, since there are a lot of other things we need to spend $500 on before a tablet. But I’m confident that, eventually, everyone will have a tablet in their house. It will replace most of their paper books (I’m especially excited about them replacing cookbooks! think of the beautiful images!). It will replace all their paper magazine subscriptions. It will probably replace their remote for the TV and become a remote for their living room music player.

Eventually, you’re all going to own a table and you’re going to enjoy it and find it useful. And the web will ad just accordingly. What works today will be tweaked (or scrapped) for what works on a tablet. The Gawker family of sites made the switch a few months ago. Many lamented the new design. I happened to like it, and think that is more like what websites will become.

Here’s my reasoning: Playboy did it. And as goes the porn industry, so goes the rest of the economy. Playboy’s adaptation brilliantly gets around Apple’s ban on pornographic apps, for which I applaud them. I don’t like corporations passing judgement on the content that I can and cannot view. This article emphasizes Playboy’s new site has more to do with overcoming the “inherent challenge of publishing adult content” than it does challenging the existing model of app store gatekeepers. But I posit that no, this goes a long way toward challenging that model. If all the web sites and services you want access to have exceptionally mobile friendly websites, why do they need to develop native apps for specific devices? And why should you bother browsing an app store when a quick Google search gets you what you’re looking for?

Andres Barreto, the president and cofounder of OnSwipe, a purveyor of white label solutions for iPad publishers, disagrees. “The leading sources for content discovery are search and social, and they often fall in the ranges of 60%-80% of all traffic for most publishers. You loose that in a native app,” he explains.

You are going to check Facebook and Twitter and the next brilliant social media service and click links your friends post and go to websites on your tablet computer. You won’t click those links and be directed to the app store offered by your tablet’s provider.

Leading Locally

On Monday, Econsultancy released its latest UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report which surveyed more than 600 client-side digital marketers and agencies and found out lots of them are focusing, or planning to focus, on locally targeted paid search and mobile search for their marketing plans. The highlights are here, and you should read them. It doesn’t matter if you’re what kind of business you are or how national, or global, your reach is. Local marketing is going to be important to you.

There are some types of businesses who should take advantage of this technology as a matter of course: retailers, entertainment venues like restaurants or clubs, and real estate are some examples. But what about something like an investment firm?

Think this one out: someone is sitting in a restaurant talking and thinking about switching investment firms. She takes out her iPad while she waits for her food to come and searches for investment companies. The search engine already ranks her results based on her preferences, including her location, so when it delivers a list of firms, it also delivers a map of her city with the locations of offices that have paid to be highlighted. Maybe one of those locations is two blocks from where she’s sitting, and she realizes it would be on her way home from work every day. Now that firm has a huge advantage.

The internet has already pushed everything down to the local level, but that pressure is only going to increase. That pressure has already, and will continue, to also wreak havoc in an industry near and dear to my heart: news. Last week, Google launched News Near You, that ReadWriteWeb said could potentially wipe out the exploding hyperlocal news segment (think Patch from AOL). SearchEngineLand reported that Google wasn’t the first to break into this segment – and might not even have the best product (yet) – but I’m confident that the most widely used search engine will become one of the most widely used resources for local news in the near future.

And perhaps the most widely used resource by consumers looking for places to spend their money.

Social Searching

People, your customers, already go to Google first to learn more about you. Part of learning more about you will be learning what other people have to say about you, especially what people they know personally where that’s applicable. Google is helping them do that. Social media was already helping them do that, but Google is gathering all that information and displaying it on one page instantly, so people, your customers, are going to form a 5-second impression of you, and decide if they want to do business with you, based on what people are saying about you.

Scary? For some. But not for business that people are saying good things about. So how do you get to be one of those businesses?

You need to be using an effective, dynamic web marketing strategy. That means you’re giving them a forum to talk about your company and your products. You’re answering questions, addressing their complaints, thanking them for their business. But as you’re doing all of those wonderful things, you still can’t control the conversation anymore. People will say bad things about your company or your products if they want to. Sometimes they won’t have any good reason for it. Customers can have bad days and be upset about things that are outside your control.

But more often they have a good reason to complain. That’s why marketing is so hard. Marketers can push out any message you want, but if it’s not true, the Internet will find out. So while you’re creating a web marketing strategy, you need to be looking within. Are the things you’re doing – selling, servicing customers, producing products – making your customers happy every day?

Purging a Bookshelf

This is a painful thing to do for me for two reasons. The first is that I love the books I own, many of which I’ve owned for many years. I’ve pared down my book collection more than once in the last few years so the books remaining are in fact the cream of the crop.

The second reason this is a painful task for me is that having shelves stuffed with books makes me feel smart. I think that’s true for everyone – we’d rather welcome people into a home with shevles full of books that say “Look how well read I am. I bet you’ve never even heard of this book.” Or maybe that’s just bibliophiles like me. People who love film or music probably have the same urge to display their movies and vinyl.

But the fact is I live in a small apartment and don’t have a lot of space for books. So only the sweetest cream can remain. Besides, it’d be much more efficient and organized to store books (as many books as I wanted!) on an e-reader. Eventually, people will only own physical books that are one of two things: beautiful or exceptionally meaningful.

Those were my requirements as I sat down to purge my bookshelf yesterday afternoon.

Of course, this purge will go in phases to make it a little less painful. I designated one shelf as my move-it-or-lose it collection of books. If I don’t read all 14 books in the next 14 weeks, they will be donated. I got the idea from Unclutterer. Each week I will start a new book. If I can’t get through it in that week, it’s purged. If I continue to choose to do or read other things rather than read that book that week, it gets purged. I don’t necessarily have to finish the book (things happen and I get busy) but if I make a valiant effort and every intention to finish the book, it can stay in my collection.

I will report back and let you know how things are going. I have a feeling that forcing my self to re-read some of these books, that I’ve been keeping on my shelf to make myself feel smart, is going to dampen the pain of purging quickly.