Monday, August 28, 2006

'Please buy us, Google'

Has free-lance Google evangelist Battelle finally made his scam public?

In an Aug. 25 post, the man who plays every horse noted that Google has so much cash on hand - more than $10 billion - that it's now "subject to SEC regulations as a mutual fund."

Battelle's suggestion?

"Time to buy someone, Google..."

A commenter asks, "Is that a 'For Sale' sign I just saw pop up on this site?"

'Investor Optimisim Reaches Low for 2006'

That's the headline of this AP article.

Investor optimism hit a new low for the year during August, according to a survey of 802 investors by UBS and Gallup. Rising prices for energy and falling prices for real estate were two of investors' biggest concerns. As measured by the survey, investor optimism reached a height of 178 in January 2000, during the Internet bubble. The optimism index was 93 in January 2006 but dipped to 53 in August, a decline of 40 points.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

'There's simply not enough
failure out there right now'

On August 20, Battelle was wearing his "Web 2.0" huckster suit and encouraged new online companies to compete for the attentions of various VC vermin at the upcoming "Web 2.0" conference headed by (naturally) young Mr. Battelle.

Less than 12 hours later, he posts a thumbsucker about "Web 2.0" being threatened by too many new online companies surviving solely on VC money.

And today, Business 2.0 (the same Business 2.0 that employs John Battelle!) posts an article about advertising on weblogs - a "flourishing business" with "fat profits." Of course, Battelle is right in there, pimping his Federated Media weblog outfit while offering no evidence of either fat profits or flourishing businesses.

(There is no clearer sign of a bubble than "business" articles that fail to mention any numbers related to the businesses profiled. Have you ever read a business article about Ford or Toyota that didn't note the company's income, earnings, profit or loss? From reading this business story, all we know of Battelle's Folly is that he claims to take a 40% commission on ads brokered by Federated Media, that "about 75 sites" are in his stable, and that he compares his business model to that of a record company.)

So what's up? The stench from Battelle's blog tells me his business is a flop. Not even a year ago, he was writing Rah Rah Web 2.0 puff pieces about his New York Times-backed weblog-advertising company (in the New York Times, natch). Now he's setting up his suckers for the fall.

Battelle is so impossibly sleazy that it doesn't bother him at all to write a book-length love song to Google (an online-advertising company) which he sells to Google by the thousands while launching a competing online-advertising company.

Likewise, his "time for a shakedown" bubble acknowledgement is posted 12 hours after his latest Web. 2.0 hucksterism. Oh, and he gets a "fee" for whoring your VC-hungry startup. Shameless!

Monday, August 14, 2006

What happens in Vegas ...

Here's a funny situation:

A pal at a tech-trade magazine was scheduled to cover this conference called "Webmaster World Pub Con," but discovered that it overlaps his family's fall vacation by one day.

The pal (let's use the name "Pally") tried to get out of the assignment, but apparently could find no takers. No takers for Las Vegas at the most pleasant time of year?

Pally kindly offered it to me, as a free-lance gig. As I've probably mentioned before, this used to be my business. I've covered a lot of similar trade shows and conferences, even going back to the early 1980s. And since crawling out of my hole last year, this network of pals has handed me just enough of these free-lancer gigs to keep my head above water.

We worked out a dollar amount and a cap on expenses, because it's easy to blow a grand in Vegas these days without ever leaving your hotel room. I made my reservations and marked it in my calendar.

Imagine my surprise when I got an email this morning from another old Industry Standard fellow traveler. "You should come to this Web show in Vegas before Thanksgiving," it read in part. "Battelle's giving the keynote address. We can throw tomatoes at him!"

Battelle ... Vegas ... November ... free-lance ....

While these conference schedules and the industry news in general change so often that it's rarely worthwhile to research a trade show before it's about to happen, Webmaster World Pub Con is an exception.

Yes, there he is.

Austin, TX (PRWEB) August 2, 2006 -- WebmasterWorld's Search Engine & Internet Marketing Conference, PubCon, Las Vegas, November 14th to 17th, 2006, features a keynote speech by John Battelle, co-founding editor of Wired Magazine and Wired Ventures.

"I love the WebmasterWorld events, it's one conference where you can truly take the pulse of the online world from the folks in the trenches truly building out the future," said John Battelle.

How did I miss that?

No matter. It seems I'll be hobnobbing with the great Mr. Battelle (again) in the most vulgar of American cities. Fitting, that.

Will he recognize me? I doubt it, even if I looked exactly the same; underlings (er, editors) never really make an impression on the John Battelle types. Anyway, these last half-dozen years have been a bit rough. Beyond poverty and its all-too-visible effects, the years since 2001 have been those years we all dread - when the skin sags, the hairline rises, the hair itself grays, the waistline swells. The good thing is that I still look slightly better than the Bay Area's leading tech reporters.

Print journalism is a business for those with faces built for radio. And the Silicon Valley press corps is possibly the most physically unattractive collection of humans in the industrialized world.

In the boom days, however, we used to be almost dashing, compared to most print journalists. We had snazzy eyeglasses and Palm Pilots. Some of us even had wives or girlfriends, who would help dress us. Ah, the $40 San Francisco haircut ... we schlubs would walk out of the salon with an artfully constructed coif and hipster sideburns. I remember getting my hair "done" in this place near South Park (the San Francisco tech neighborhood, not the cartoon) and coming out to see people from Wired magazine sitting in the park, drinking lattes, with laptops that couldn't connect to anything because WiFi didn't yet exist.

Will I confront Battelle? Of course not. I'll just watch like Tom Wolfe's fly on the wall. When his house-of-cards business collapsed, he abandoned his co-workers and colleagues and blithely skipped away to find the "next big thing." He ran for the hills - literally.

But I do enjoy the idea that young Mr. Battelle might know I am watching and documenting his new sins. And that he has so very many enemies that a Web trade show with a thousand or so attendees is quite likely to include scores of his disgruntled former colleagues.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Silver Lining

So AOL gets caught releasing the search records of 658,000 people that can easily be reconciled with actual AOL subscribers.

In short, an online advertising company - what else is America Online today? - dumps all this personal information about its users.

So who does the New York Times go to for comment? Could it be a certain online-advertising shaman named ... John Battelle?

You know, that guy who started a company that's bankrolled by the ... New York Times?

John Battelle, the author of the 2005 book The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture,” said AOL'’s misstep, while unfortunate, could have a silver lining if people began to understand just what was at stake. In his book, he says search engines are mining the priceless "“database of intentions"” formed by the world’s search requests.

"It'’s only by these kinds of screw-ups and unintended behind-the-curtain views that we can push this dialogue along,"” Mr. Battelle said. "As unhappy as I am to see this data on people leaked, I'’m heartened that we will have this conversation as a culture, which is long overdue."”

The same young Mr. Battelle who saw such a silver lining to the craptacular collapse of a business that employed so many of his peers ("Maybe I'll go look for the next big thing") is now happy to see 20 million search queries go naked before the public.

So we can "push this dialogue along" only by exposing every typed thought of 62-year-old Georgia widow Thelma Arnold?

Ms. Arnold seems less impressed with this new dialogue. She is canceling her AOL account.

I would hope she is also investigating the "anonymizer" websites that hide the human from the awful machine Mr. Battelle spends his whole life promoting.