Recently in Internet Category

July 19, 2008

The long fat tail of global uselessness


Attaining relevance takes great effort, but blogging is seldom regarded as hard work. Hence the washout.

I recently realized—while writing an article for a magazine—that Kit·blog during its almost 6 years of existence was relevant in only a couple of instances.

Two times

June 2006: calling designers against the "design law"

June 2006—the post A communist design law in the making calls designers to stand up and fight against SDPR's "design law". The post triggers a massive chain reaction both local and international. Milton Glaser sends in his message agains bureaucracy. Stefan Sagmeister and James Victore (both contacted by Ovidiu Hrin) rally with the protest, the signatures on the petition tops the 1,000 mark and Metropolis Magazine publishes David Womack’s article against SDPR’s initiative for regularization of design practice: Design and the State. The barrage of disapproval makes the subject sensitive.

January 2008: the story on Woody Allen's use of Windsor

January 2008—the post on Woody Allen's titles gets linked or syndicated long and wide, from Boing Boing to Waxy and Metafilter. From John Gruber's Daring Fireball to Kottke. Design Observer of course, SpeakUp's Quipsologies to Khoi Vihn's Subtraction and John Nack on Adobe. Also some press, like The Morning News, La Repubblica and LeMonde's Design et Typo. Some days register well over 10k uniques.

Tired of blogging

That's two rights in six years of wrongs. Far from brilliant, but—as probably most blogs won't achieve even that—not catastrophic either. Thing is, I'm losing interest.

What's left is typical blogging: personal entertainment turning into public noise, like a hillbilly's whistling in the street or that meaningless conversation you're confined into listening on a flight. Countless doors opening to nothingness.

There are millions of blogs murmuring out there and along with them I keep doing it, too—but I start wondering—why?

January 23, 2008



The first received e-mail stored in my trusty (yet exceptionally ugly) Eudora archives dates back to 27 February 1997. That was (almost) 11 years ago.

My previous e-mails—from 1995 to 1997—are lost. Don't worry, I had 11 years to get over it. Anyway; people, names, dates—having a BIG searchable archive proves to be very useful sometimes.

Internet. Just to put things in perspective: in 1997 Yahoo was still nursing its post-IPO hangover. Google was not incorporated yet. Hell, the internet domain was still free! Yeah, I know.

Questions: How old is the oldest e-mail message stored on your computer? Will you keep the mails you've got today until—say—2019, 11 years from now?

January 22, 2007


Catalin asks a bunch of bloggers, myself included, three questions: which was the biggest story of the Romanian Internet in 2006; what will be 2007 known as — if 2006 was the year of the blog; and what personal plans or projects I have related to Internet.

Because I am certainly not an Internet industry insider — nor an acknowledged outsider — I don’t think I can give a competent answer. However, I'll tackle the first question from a subjective angle that may be of interest.


For me, 2007 was the year the first entrepreneur envisioned and developed an Internet product not as a web site/Internet service, but as a brand. I am talking about Metropotam1, an innovative city-guide weblog about Bucharest, whose identity and tone of voice were specifically designed for a certain audience.

Common knowledge says that Internet is an elusive beast whose quirky nature makes communities hard to build in any other way but from a grassroots level, with spectacularly limited control over the process, relying only on the code, the looks and a couple of coarse-grained marketing tools.

Metropotam employed some pretty sophisticated tools (brand rhetoric and an avatar, to mention a couple) to achieve differentiation and emotional bond.

And it worked. Meeting one of Metropotam’s founders at a cup of tea a couple of days ago I was happy to hear that the stats are good and climbing.

1 Full disclosure: Metropotam — the brand — was developed by Brandient.

December 21, 2006

Digital proletarianism

Time Magazine's Person of the Year: You

Congratulations to us all

Time Magazine Cover - The Person of the Year: You

Time Magazine nominated The Person of the Year: You. The cover story, under the sub-headline "In 2006, the World Wide Web became a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter"1 begins like this:

The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

We're doing great

We're writing the history now, guys. You. Me. The next guy. Let's start petting each other's back now: we finally pulled this off — killing excellence and replacing it with mediocrity — we’re doing great.

We're writing blogs by the million, which hardly rise above the level of newspaper personals in terms of editorial quality. We're the masters of one-proposition analysis and the copy-paste content creation.

We're writing the history now, guys. You. Me. The next guy.

We've made YouTube great. When in doubt look at the list of most viewed videos of all time: it's nothing but a garish pile of cheap entertainment. Trash. After we're done with our world changing the Academy Awards night will look just like that unworthy YouTube page.

Then we've made Flickr a "tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter." Most popular tags? "Party" and "wedding."

We're building MySpace together, probably the ugliest "metropolis" on the face of the web, a cacophonous "ad-infested chaos"2 that cultivates commodified, mass friendship.

We're demolishing language by eliminating grammar in our Yahoo! Messenger chat sessions while we grow utterly incapable to express feelings in writing without using emoticons.

We're actively undermining knowledge creation and talent by giving a voice to the ill-intended dilettantes: I see designers with embarrassingly weak portfolios criticizing work signed by the grand masters, morons ranking art movies they cannot possibly grasp, reputable leaders being subject to losers' public ridicule and barbarians vandalizing Wikipedia3.

We're pushing things off-balance in the knowledge climate just as we did in the physical one.

Confusing the value created by the entrepreneurs, the corporations and the extraordinary individuals who build the Web with the ordinary user is just like confusing the director, the screenwriter and the leading actors with the swarms of popcorn-munching moviegoers. Let us not delude ourselves: the elites are producing far more value than the average Joe — the Internet is great because of them.

"Lowest common denominator wins out"

This digital freedom may nurture value creation, but it can also cultivate decadence. Says Andy Rutledge in his post Anti-Social Media on Design View:

"Excellence is not the sum of opinions. Excellence is not born of consensus. Excellence is by its very nature something far outside the average." Andy Rutledge

The wisdom of crowds and the related ideals cited above are largely about championing and cultivating two things: mediocrity and decadence. Don’t believe me? Well, perhaps you’re too distracted with the intended result of the social media movement; so many of us are. We should be paying more attention to the inevitable results of the specific actions and mechanisms employed. Intent is a worthless fantasy. Let’s concentrate on facts and results.

Mediocrity is the only possible result of a wide sampling of opinion or input. The only idea that can survive such a mechanism is one consistent with the lowest common denominator. The mob works to ensure that all other results are weeded out. Now, we might think that it is the highest common denominator that is promoted in this environment, but it’s just not so. The “highest” anything is largely held by the masses as being discriminatory and elitist. So only the lowest common denominator wins out. The point is that in this sort of environment excellence does not survive.

A sad victory

I am the Person of the Year, but this renders me rather miserable because I won by cheating: as a content creator on this blog I won by being compared to those who create nothing, not to the legitimate benchmark, to "the great men"4. What a sad victory it is.

The West has no clue what happens when history ceases to be "the biography of great men" and turns into the biography of average proletarian. Here, in the post-communist Eastern Europe, we do.

1 The explanation for this is horrible: "If you choose an individual, you have to justify how that person affected millions of people," said Richard Stengel, who took over as Time's managing editor earlier this year. "But if you choose millions of people, you don't have to justify it to anyone."

2 "MySpace: A Place for Dolts", Kuro5hin

3 See "Brandient on Wikipedia" on my old blog.

4 For the sake of the argument let's compare blogosphere content quality to The Economist, Financial Times, The National Geographic, The New Yorker, BBC and the likes and see wether we like the outcome.

September 30, 2006


Bloggers, one at a time

Antonio started it (he claims he got tagged with it by God, actually), I got it from Eduard and I'll pass it over to Dragos.

The list looks like this:

01. Antonio Eram
02. Ciprian Stavar
03. Radu Ionescu
04. Cristi Manafu
05. Andressa
06. Catalin Tenita
07. Ionut Buzoianu
08. Eduard Koller [previous]
09. Cristian “Kit” Paul [current]
10. Dragos Novac [next]

Rules: when tagged, post at least the list tail (if not all the list) comprising the number & name of the blogger that tagged you, your number & name and the number & name of the blogger you're tagging.

Let's see how this goes — during our life span.

August 21, 2006

On-line stores

Off-line reputation

Have I told you?—I am a huge fan of the Romanian rock band Timpuri Noi. I’ve bought all their CDs back when they were released, but during various office and home address changes they somehow vanished. All of them. A couple of nights ago I was watching the band in a live transmission from Stufstock rock festival when I decided that life without their music is inconceivable and I have to buy as many of their albums as I can find available on-line, on the spot.

On-line, yes, but where? Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.

Radu Ionescu, I remembered, had a post about a Romanian on-line music store, it was a bitter post nevertheless but—hey!—I won’t find these guys on Amazon so I have to start from somewhere. So I paid a visit to only to recapitulate Radu’s dissapoinment: no trace of what I was looking for.

After zigzaging the net for a while, I arrived at and—look at that!—they have three albums. All good except that I never, not ever heard of this store. Is it legit? Is it a fraud? I did a whois query on the domain name, I googled (yeah, the verb) the company that hold the domain—it looks legit. But I cannot easily find any opinions about the store from people who actually bought something from them. It remains one way to find out—there are not even 20 bucks for the three albums, so why not? I’ll use a card linked to a monitored account that I can keep a close eye on in case things go berserk.

Finally, I placed the order and paid (after the net provider’s link died on me right in the middle of the transaction and only got up again an hour later or so).

I'll keep you posted about the outcome, but that's not the main point here. The point is: why on earth don’t I trust Romanian e-stores the way I trust most of the foreign ones? Is it only me or do most people feel suspicious of them? I frequently buy products and services on-line from abroad, but I never needed to buy anything from a Romanian store. I do now. So then again, why the prejudice?

Because their reputation. Or complete lack of it, that is.

Virtual stores need at least as much reputation—if not more—than brick-and-mortar ones because you have to trust them with your credit card and the goods you're blindly buying. And that's pretty hard when you never heard of them and information about their services is difficult to find, sparse or downright unavailable. People fear the unknown when taking out their wallets. Not having an 'About Us' (or similar) menu item in a visible place is a nicer way to tell customers "get the hell out of here".

Let's say they don't have advertising budgets for making themselves known, they didn't hear about PR and they never issue press releases because they don't have anything to say. But why don't they simply use design? When unknown, design is relatively inexpensive (compare it with media costs) yet one of the most efficient reputation builders. A good corporate identity and a clean page layout can speak up for them.

It's hard to trust them because they're oblivious to their own reputation.

1st update:

It's September 8, a week passed—no word from the store yet. But they didn't take the money, either. Current order status: Pending.

2nd update:

After eleven days I received an e-mail stating that the requested albums are not manufactured anymore and thus not available. I was offered the option to cancel my order, which I did. End of story. Still, I wonder why albums unavailable for years are offered to be purchased.