Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Facebook and the Advertising Bubble

By John Ballard

Calf-cow_fb[1]Doc Searls is to the Internet what Paul McCartney or Paul Simon are to pop music. Because he's not one of those people always tooting their own horns, readers who don't know who he is, especially younger ones, can be forgiven. But make no mistake about it, when Doc Searls speaks many of the right people listen.

I first became aware of him some time ago and have been content to let him do his thing while I do mine. His "thing" if a lot more significant than mine, of course. I only rub shoulders with movers and shakers in my dreams. Here are a couple of early Doc Searls links by way of introduction. After this, you're on your own. And if you don't already know about cluetrain, you really do have a lot of reading ahead of you. (Think Buckminster Fuller -- you don't need to memorize all of Synergetics, but you risk revealing industrial size ignorance if you don't know the reference.)

Anyhow, this morning's commentary by Doc Searls looking at Facebook is a really good read. His observations of advertising in general and Facebook in particular are not only lucid (even obvious) but the wierd part is that so many otherwise smart people don't see them already. Here are a couple of snips to whet the appetite. He opens with a reference to an essay now making the rounds then quotes himself. 

One might think all this personalized advertising must be pretty good, or it wouldn�t be such a hot new business category. But that�s only if one ignores the bubbly nature of the craze, or the negative demand on the receiving end for most of advertising�s goods. In fact, the results of personalized advertising, so far, have been lousy for actual persons�

Tracking and �personalizing��the current frontier of online advertising�probe the limits of tolerance. While harvesting mountains of data about individuals and signaling nothing obvious about their methods, tracking and personalizing together ditch one of the few noble virtues to which advertising at its best aspires: respect for the prospect�s privacy and integrity, which has long included a default assumption of anonymity.

Ask any celebrity about the price of fame and they�ll tell you: it�s anonymity. This wouldn�t be a Faustian bargain (or a bargain at all) if anonymity did not have real worth. Tracking, filtering and personalizing advertising all compromise our anonymity, even if no PII (Personally Identifiable Information) is collected. Even if these systems don�t know us by name, their hands are still in our pants�

The distance between what tracking does and what users want, expect and intend is so extreme that backlash is inevitable. The only question is how much it will damage a business that is vulnerable in the first place.

With the patience of Job he lays out some of the realities of advertising in the same way that climate change people keep pointing to another elephant or naked emperor in the room, concluding with these two wonderful paragraphs.

Here�s the thing, and why now is the time to point this out: most of those developers have a hell of a time getting laid by VCs, which on the whole have their heads stuck in the calf-cow model of the Web, and can�t imagine a way to improve the marketplace that does not require breeding yet another cow, or creating yet another ranch for dependent customers. Maybe now that the bloom is off Facebook�s rose, and the Filter Bubble is ready to burst, they can start looking at possibilities over here on the demand side.

So this post is an appeal to investors. Start thinking outside the cow, and outside the ranch. If you truly believe in free markets, then start believing in free customers, and in the development projects that make them not only free, but able to drive sales and form relationships that are worthy of the word.

A word of advice: don't scan Doc Searls carelessly. His writing style is very relaxed and it's easy to imagine his conversational tone means he's not saying much of importance. Nothing could be further from the facts. If he goes to the trouble to put up a blogpost you can be certain that what's in there is worth reading. 


  1. Well, I think the connection between advertisers tracking Facebook users and famous people craving anonymity is entirely spurious. There is a vast gulf between having advertisements filtered and having a screaming mob of people camped on your doorstep, for God's sake. As soon as someone makes a bogus comparison like that I'm pretty much going to discount anything he has to say.

  2. The real problem is that advertising is (like torture) unethical and it is no good trying to skirt round that proposition by asking whether or not it is (unlike torture) effective.
    Doc Searls understands that advertising is a deadly attack upon the human spirit, but he dares not quite say so. I am not sure whether he grasps that that is its only purpose: it is not done to sell products, it is (like torture) done to subvert individual autonomy. Its motivation is purely sadistic and it would only be tolerated by a society with a "depraved indifference" (in the legal term of art) to the well-being of its citizens.

  3. Doc Searls is all about the power of lots of people who refuse to be jerked around.
    When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn't have such a tight rein on "your people" maybe they'd be among the people we'd turn to.
    When we're not busy being your "target market," many of us are your people. We'd rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing's job.
    We'd like it if you got what's going on here. That'd be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we're holding our breath.
    We have better things to do than worry about whether you'll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?

    That's from Cluetrain Manifesto. Check it out. I think you'll like it.