Author: Steve Gillmor

Gillmor Gang: Who’s on first

On this edition of the Gillmor Gang, Brent Leary shows off his new wireless adaptor for his livestreaming studio. The result is a captivating view of his console as he switches between closeups and incoming feed from the rest of the Gang, all captured in a widescreen cinematic view. The underlying message is that live, real-time video production has become accessible to virtually anyone as streaming becomes ubiquitous at the so-called citizen level.

Trailblazers like Brent and his CRMPlayaz partner in crime Paul Greenberg have been way out on the bleeding edge of this stuff; now we’re seeing something similar to what’s going on in the creator boom. Newsletters are becoming a baked-in feature of the major social platforms, as is live audio streaming à la Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces. This week, Salesforce announced its Salesforce+ streaming network, and celebrated its completion of the Slack acquisition with several new enterprise spins on live audio (Huddles) and cross-company collaboration via Slack Connect.

Roll this up with the first wave of work from anywhere efforts to get back to school and the office, streaming as a service may be a key feature of the ongoing hybrid approach to fighting off the pandemic. The political struggle with vaccinations and masking seems destined for the long haul. How the tech community responds should be a more hopeful sign of progress. At the professional level, Disney and Scarlett Johansson are trading lawsuit threats as month-old contracts are ripped up. Newsletter deals are chasing a dwindling (Read more...)

Gillmor Gang: Social climbing

Fear is back with the deadly combination of pandemic politics and a vicious variant. The good news is that if enough people took the shots we could cut the damage to something manageable. The other good news is progress on the twin issues of Trump and social media. In both cases some semblance of balanced rationality is seeping in to the public discourse.

First is the former president, who has already done about as much damage as he can. Joe Biden is doing a good job of wrestling Congress into some degree of productivity. As the Gang talks about this and the next episode, it appears increasingly likely there will be a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Republicans and particularly Mitch McConnell can still shut the whole thing down, but Democrats hold the budget reconciliation process as a hole card to prompt a semi-partisan bill across the two parties. The Biden strategy is to not only force the right to accommodate some center victory but forestall a significant cave by the centrist Democrat Joe Manchin on the filibuster. This may have some value if Congress puts its foot down on voting rights or the effort to destroy them.

Something similar may be playing out on the social side. Facebook and Twitter seem to be circling each other as Congress forces some antitrust positioning. With the courts giving Facebook a little running room on the operational description of what a monopoly is, Twitter reported strong numbers that beat the Street and make Jack (Read more...)

Gillmor Gang: Déjà Vu

The Gang, or a subset, did a Clubhouse, longer than a regular show by a good third. The audio-only structure lacked the visual cues that distinguish between irony and bad manners, but otherwise it felt familiar if not comfortable. I can’t remember what we talked about, only that I seemed a little more emphatic about my opinions than usual. We recorded the meeting, which is close to what it was. Not really a show, more a rally of a political platform with no policies. A few friends joined in, several listeners drifted in and out. All in all, about what I expected.

The following day, I called around to get others’ reactions. Also about what I expected. That evening, someone hosted a Twitter Spaces event that apparently peaked at 22,000 listeners. The subject matter was crypto. I remember walking around below the stage at Woodstock early on the first afternoon of the festival. The fences were down; the concert was declared free, and the crowds began to build. The sense of something big filled the air, but I was more concerned with the foreboding storm clouds gathering at the top of the hill. At some point as the thunder began to roll in, I left and headed back to the safety of the town of Woodstock 40 miles away.

I grew up part time in Woodstock, the other part in the city at my father’s apartment in Greenwich Village. From as early as I remember, the conversation around the coffee (Read more...)

Gillmor Gang: Fractured fairy tales

1971 is the name of the year and an Apple TV+ documentary series billed as The Year That Music Changed Everything. It’s also the number of hours the former president kept up his blog “From the Desk Of.” No, that’s not true. But it is satisfactual. The thesis of the movie 1971 is that music suddenly came into its own a year and a half past the Beatles’ sell date. In fact, the filmmakers make a very good case for this, with lots of studio footage of Elton John, Isaac Hayes, Andy Warhol and the Loud family, and the Osmond Family. I know this sounds like I’m being sarcastic. I would have been more onboard if there had been a little less of Keith Richards zombied out in the south of France and a tad more of the incredible Tapestry sessions that made the earth move under our feet and the sky come tumbling down, but by the end of the year the music apparently survived, I bought the bit.

2021 could use a little of this treatment. On “Gray’s Anatomy,” which has been time delayed eight or so months back to the height of the pandemic, the season finale sped up the clock to sync up mostly with the present. “This Is Us” started in the present, then flashed forward four years to a point midway between now and a previous flash forward so far in the future that apparently household appliances and haircut styles seemed to have stalled (Read more...)

Gillmor Gang: Nothing was delivered

Somehow it’s Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday this week. Some of you may not think that’s a big deal, but I do. The fact of his talent pretty much drowns out most other ideas of what to write about, but here’s to the birthday boy. Keep up the good work.

Back then, we wondered why Dylan kept changing, refusing to be pinned down, going electric, photographed at the Wailing Wall, you name it. We sure were hungry for direction, it seemed. Growing up in the Sixties, everything was possible. After Trump, we’re rethinking that. Crypto is a grift, better than gold, down 50%, up a third. If I wanted to throw money away, just stand on the corner and hand out NFTs.

As much as this stuff makes my head hurt, it does make it easier to second guess the Discovery/WarnerMedia and Amazon MGM deals. In a nutshell, streaming has shaken the media world into a massive upheaval. The linear TV big three — NBC, CBS and ABC — have lost control of our TV sets. Netflix has replaced the idea of advertising-supported product (Gray’s Anatomy, This Is Us) with binge drop shows about chess. No advertising, a monthly subscription fee and oh, by the way, free shipping. That last one is Amazon Prime, which throws in a version of Netflix with everything we get delivered during the pandemic, which is everything. When we get to the vaccinated New Normal, it will still mean everything.

Many acronyms later, the cable networks (Read more...)

Gillmor Gang: Party Line

In the early days of social media, all things seemed possible. Twitter was this weird reboot of blogs, with a social layer atop an RSS feed that gave authority to last in/first out musings by providing data not just about read or unread but shared by who. You could take that authority data and rank posts by who shared them and who followed those people and what they in turn recommended. Although this was mostly ignored at the time by vendors and writers looking for a viral eyeball payoff, for those looking to support new talent there was something more valuable than reach.

Something like that could happen with Clubhouse and newsletters. On this week’s edition of the Gillmor Gang, recorded just over a week ago, we talk about Clubhouse, the Facebook advisory board and its siderstep of the Trump deplatforming, and early stuff I can never quite remember because the show always takes a bit too long to fully get up to speed. I’d apologize for this, but the apology would take too long to reach sincerity sufficient to not make things worse. This by the way is why newsletters exist — to save time scouring the web and cable news for a sufficient return on investment, as in “well there’s another [duration] I’ll never get back.”

Temporal time displacement suffered a serious blow at the hands of HBO Max and its strategy of releasing theater-less blockbusters on the streaming network in 2021 but only intermittently moving forward. As (Read more...)

Gillmor Gang: ZoomHouse

I use Feedly to work my way through each day’s stream of politics, tech and media stories. Today, I am greeted with a picture of something called Feedly Cloud and the following message:

Scheduled Maintenance Feedly will be back in less than 30 minutes.

Sixty minutes later, it still says that. Feedly is built on RSS aggregation of my favorite news sources, things like The New York Times, Washington Post, TechCrunch, Protocol, Deadline and Techmeme, and writers like Om Malik and Benedict Evans. Notice that very few newsletter authors make this list, mostly because they push via email. I wonder if that is because vendors like Substack and Revue want to promote their subscription model, but if so that is shortsighted. It’s not about the subscription, it’s about the relationship.

I pay a monthly fee to Feedly, and I get a piece of the Web I can call my own. If I see something I want to find later, I put it in the read later “folder.” If I think I might want to refer to it in the newsletter, I push it to a Feedly board that I can import into Revue along the right side of the screen. If I want to push a story live to the Telegram stream, I drop it on a board where a series of bots posts it to a chain of locations ending with the @gillmorgang Twitter identity. If I click the Feedly icon, it’s now less than 90 minutes ’til Feedly (Read more...)

Gillmor Gang: Off The Record

Of all the gin joints etc. etc. Clubhouse continues to confound those who don’t believe in the restorative powers of the Next Big Thing. It doesn’t make sense, they say, that an audio service based on live podcasts will change the course of human history. And they are right. Social computing is in the doghouse in the wake of January 6 and the former president. But the folks behind Clubhouse have gotten a few key things right.

The main thing is that in the beginning of the return to some rational possibility for the suppression of COVID, we’re opening our hearts to the hope we’ve abandoned for more than a year. Our children are crying at the prospects of returning to school, to the classroom, to the hallway rendezvous with friends, to the safety of the arc of life translating across generations and family stories. We’re tentatively daring to believe in things we took for granted even as we rebelled against them in our youthful exploration of the world we were on the cusp of creating.

Social was never about challenging the existing world, the stagnant media, the secret passageways to our own version of new history. It was about creating a storyline for our generation that we could invest in. And the fuel we sought was trust. If we work backwards from the current reigning media, it’s easy to see when trust was discounted. Some call this partisanship, but it’s deeper than that.

As we choose our guiding voices, (Read more...)

Gillmor Gang: Leave Quietly

It turns out the most important decision made was not the vote to choose (and remove) in the election but Twitter’s permanent banning of the former president from the social network. Suddenly the temperature cooled, the new administration engaged with the details of vaccine rollout, and the second impeachment trial ended with an expected outcome. Twitter’s move was bipartisan if the trial was not.

Twitter’s other big move was the acquisition of Revue, a Substack competitor we’re moving to in production of the Gillmor Gang newsletter. It features tools to drag and drop articles from Twitter, Feedly and other newsletters, but crucially the ability to reorganize these chunks as the writing develops. It’s my bet that the newsletter container will absorb blogs, podcasts and streaming into a reorganized media platform available to creators small and large.

This kind of organic process development meshes well with the newsletter model. It encourages more timely releases, and an editorial feel that prizes quality over quantity. As newsletters proliferate, an evaluation of time over volume becomes most significant. It’s less an eyeballs pattern than a prioritization of what is not chosen and then what is, consumed or annotated with social recommendations. As with the Gang’s Frank Radice Nuzzel newsletter, the focus becomes less flow and more authority or resonance.

Daily Commentary

I have made the decision to cover the media exclusively in “The Radice Files.” There are plenty of general news aggregators out there, and I for one, am just tired of those stories. (Read more...)

Gillmor Gang: In My Room

No sooner did we start developing a newsletter, the newsletter industry exploded. Twitter jumped in with a purchase of Revue, Facebook was rumored to be investigating the platform, and each new day brought further experiments. You could blame it on the post-Trump lifting of the fog of despair. The pandemic continued apace, with new variants spurring distribution of vaccines and a transparency in communications with the new president and his team.

After years of social mining of our behavior, interests and transactions, inference has been replaced by direct evidence. The politics of data pressure mandate that we expect free software bundled with increasingly powerful hardware. The core utility of a phone culture shifted as people kept to their homes and mostly used the televisions for entertainment and news, and the phones as notifications consumers. The desktop remained the creation engine for business documents, analytics and information triage.

One year after the pandemic took hold, the outlines of the recovery are becoming visible. Because so much of our transaction history is funneled through the phone, we have left less need or incentive for teasing out indirect data and making inferences on it. Netflix is a honeypot for direct recording of choices, tagged along each customer’s timeline with the minute-by-minute social characteristics of the groups they participate in.

The resulting data type is beyond the bifurcation of product in the Apple hardware sense and the user as product in the Google or Facebook sense, Netflix creates a kind of social signal out (Read more...)