Thursday, November 17, 2005

Technical Crappery and The Gnomes of OSM

Characters from South Park, where they have downloadable images from every episode. However, from legendary 217, there's not one with these guys. Sorry. I scored this on the street.

After last night's late night carousing with the online types, I had some personal malfunctions which interfered with me until the day was half done. When I was ready and rarin' to blog, link death was my fate. UPDATE: I was happy to see that Kristen of Beauty Addict and Never teh Bride actually liked my liveblog reportage of their panel. Some others were more negative, and I wasn't trying to smooch heiny. I just have a different aesthetic perspective from the more purely policy wonks.

1) My Cable Service Blows Donkeys
I held and held on the phone with the cable company who always, mostly politely, implies that it's your stuff not their stuff. Of course, I live in a giant apartment building, and people are constantly moving in and out. This means that various service providers are tromping through the spaghetti in the basement all the time doing new hookups and workarounds. This has caused cable disconnections before and killed our phone service once, too.

The cable in our apartment is actually a tapped line from the apartment below, so when they make any changes to their service, we get disruption. Our cable signal started stinking a couple weeks ago, and I didn't have an extra day to devote to the four hour waiting vigil for which I'll be charged if not present, though there's no fiscal penalty to them for blowing off the appointment. I've called several times each year we've lived here, and the service isn't cheap enough to be so temperamental. We have NEVER paid for a service call, because I sit my wide bottom here until someone comes, and the issue has NEVER been our stuff or any part of the service we control. Both our cable TV and our internet are sporadically hiccuping and dropping out. Sounds like another problem with the cable signal to me.

So today, I'm going through the usual phone rigamarole, and the guy on the phone springs a new one on me: he asks what brand wireless router I'm using so he can give me their toll-free number. See, now they're going to help me waste my time on things that aren't the problem because it's inconceivable that the Cadillac service package we pay for could have any problem on their end. Really. I'm currently back to functioning-sort of- but I'm connected by a cable umbilicus directly to the cable modem after the phone call. While the signal lasts because I'm getting a fair share of the party line, which I believe is the real issue, I thought I'd better hash through my e-mail and post quick.

2) We're working on Step 2, alright?
The OSM party was great. I met so many bright and funny and interesting people. I also collected scads of new blogs to check out across a wide variety of topics and approaches. I'm going to post about them as I explore rather than just plink out an undifferentated list. The roomful of guests held many people who've scrummed through hard-won successes in other fields, but last night was about optimism not jaundice, and I don't mind an occasional pep rally. For me, memories of those bonfires help warm the long, dark slogs of work and self-doubt that inevitably follow.

I was surprised to read a certain amount of bad pub blowback from some notables. People have a right to like or dislike, and I agree that certain things are loose which will have to get tight. But the tone of final judgment was unexpected.

I'm glad, and it wasn't completely explained until on the web site today, that they're emphasizing the name OSM, not branding it as Open Source Media with capital letters. They explain the three-word phrase is rather a description that applies to a large number of entities not just those on the OSM site. So we'll see how the branding plays.

The name could've been worse. I don't love it or the Lucent-reminiscent logo, but after misspending many youthful hours picking band names instead of practicing or writing songs, I know it isn't the letterhead choice which makes or breaks you. If you can get exposure, you have a chance to earn something beyond a first impression. Online, that process is ongoing. People hate blogs they used to love because of perceptions in quality droop or scope change. Blogs that used to be so-so suddenly take off and find broad readership. In an active market, and the online world is a swarming electron cloud, names are constantly redefined by the reality of their namesakes.

So, OSM's an incipient enterprise. Yes, the business model has to be fledged. Yes, things will get refined, filled out, revised, and scrapped. But unlike other kinds of more static organizations and products, it can adapt fluidly as it goes. Someone didn't like the writing on the first story. It can get better as it needs to please its audience, or people will let OSM know it's good enough by reading. I gandered the HuffPo when it first launched, and found it poorly done. I still don't like its layout or much of its content because of style as often as position, but isn't Arianna Huffington leveraging it as a success? Isn't she being lathered for reinventing herself as the doyenne of her online screedsalon? She hung in there and her audience found her. What could OSM become with a larger variety of voices and themes that openly interconnect, even if they don't agree?

I believe if OSM is responsive and nimble, experimenting with new ways of packaging online content and carefully analyzing the reponses, they can find a model and become a regular, esteemed destination for curious surfers, offering great, fresh content and new forums to readers. This is the first, critical task from which all else flows. But if and when that happens, it'll also have great value to advertisers or syndicators. Just give it a minute, willya?

We're still in the Underpants Stage.

Step 1) Collect Underpants
Step 2) ????
Step 3) Profit

Today, I'm proud to be OSM's undies.

No comments: