Ziff Davis – Bankrupt

At the moment, I can’t think of one business sector in America that’s doing well or has a promising future. I’m sure I’ve oversimplified and one of you will point that out in a comment. But, by and large, business sucks.

I just read that Ziff Davis, the big tech publisher, has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They publish eWeek and PC Magazine, two big tech publications, plus a slew of others. They were the owners of TechTV, before selling out to Vulcan, which sold it to Comcast, which promptly folded it.

Somehow, ZD has a quarter billion dollars of debt. It always boggles my mind to find how deep in hock companies can get. Aren’t the lenders doing research?

Maybe I don’t want that answer.

When this is over, the company will have ‘only’ fifty some odd million dollars in debt… but those who owned 100% of Ziff Davis will then own 12%. Ouch.

At the moment, I can’t think of one business sector in America that’s doing well or has a promising future. I’m sure I’ve oversimplified and one of you will point that out in a comment. But, by and large, business sucks.

Among those doing the worst are print publications, which is where Ziff Davis comes in. The print business model seems very last century – though so do plenty of others.

Computer Shopper used to be a favorite magazine of mine. It was hundreds and hundreds of ad laden pages. Now, Kate Moss thin, I am dropping it.

In fact, I have allowed a few of my tech magazine subscriptions to expire rececntly. By the time the magazine gets to me, I already know what’s in it! The Internet has trumped pulp.

There’s some good news in all this. Business tends to be cyclical. Once the weakest players in an individual sector fold, or are absorbed, the remaining companies should thrive again.

That’s little solace to those cast aside in business closings and downsizings.

ZD won’t be the last bankruptcy we’ll be hearing about this year. It’s still sobering to hear an 80 year old business can get that deeply in trouble while staying pretty true to their historical core model.

Too Much Democracy

I read a lot of tech news online. It’s pretty tough to find a technical subject I don’t want to delve into.

Finding these articles can be tough, so like many people I harness the power of the Internet by going to ‘aggregator’ sites. These sites don’t usually produce content on their own. Instead, they link to other sites where the articles are kept.

Originally, my favorite was Slashdot. There were times I’d go there a half dozen or more times a day.

The way Slashdot works is, people suggest stories, editors check them out, they get posted. When first discovered, I liked Slashdot a lot.

Over time it got too slow for me. I’m not talking about how long it took for a page to load. It wasn’t pushing enough links my way.

Next came Digg, a San Francisco start-up headed by Kevin Rose, formerly of TechTV. This site also takes suggestions from readers. Instead of having editors pass judgement, Digg encourages their readers to digg a story (or not). Get a lot of digs and your story hits the front page and gets read by lots of people.

The more I liked Digg, the less time I spent on Slashdot.

Then came Reddit. Like Digg, this site’s content is juried by its readers. What I liked was, more stories made the front page and the lineup was volatile from hour-to-hour. There was lots for me to read.

The more I liked Reddit, the less time I spent on Digg. Even worse (for them), Slashdot was falling off my radar.

Now there’s a problem. A small community, like Digg or Reddit, can easily be overrun by single issue zealots. For Reddit especially, that means supporters of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich.

Stop – I’m not criticizing either of these candidates. What I’m concerned about is how their supporters have hijacked these sites to get their points across. I want to read tech, not hear about who feels short changed and why.

Having no editor should lead to a democratically juried site. Instead, it’s leading to anarchy.

At the moment, I still read all three. Their order of importance in my life is currently Digg, Reddit, Slashdot… but Reddit is getting very close to dropping to number three.

Digg – Move Over Slashdot

For years, I’ve been a huge Slashdot fan. Slashdot is techie news in a modified blog form.

Slashdot’s slogan says it all: “News for Nerds. Stuff that matters.”

Why Nerds is spelled with a capital “N” is beyond me. We’ll let it pass.

Over the past few months, my allegiance has shifted. Now my favorite techie site is Digg.

As far as I can see, Digg is sloganless.

Slashdot solicits stories from readers (basically references to things published elsewhere), which are perused by editors. So, what is posted is what strikes the editors as interesting.

Digg works differently. Readers still submit stories, but on Digg they’re juried by other readers. Are they good enough? Have they been “dugg?” If a story is approved by enough readers, it is promoted to the home page.

Digg is the product of Kevin Rose, who I remember from The Screen Savers on TechTV. Someone I know, who tried to solicit business from Kevin, described him as a genius. I have no doubt.

Someone must be making a fortune, because this site costs relatively little to mount and the Google ads displayed&#185 can be lucrative (I made $3.22 Sunday!).

I find Digg has more stories than Slashdot, and since every story submitted (good or bad) is available, I can always kill time looking at what others have found interesting. Slashdot only lets me see the editor’s choices.

I have become an online news junkie. I can’t get enough. It is an addiction. Digg does a better job feeding this addiction – it’s that simple.

Actually, my addiction goes beyond tech news. I have become a sponge for what’s going on whether it be politics, business, technology. I don’t care. I like a good story. I like to read.

Often, I am upset or disappointed that more isn’t going on… or that websites whose content I enjoy aren’t updated often enough (especially true on weekends).

I don’t know how many more Internet new junkies there are? I can’t be alone.

&#185 – In order to check out Google’s ads, I had to turn off Adblock, an amazing extension for my Firefox browser. I see hardly any ads on this PC and never see pop-ups or pop-unders. Never.

Without The Web

I came home from work last night, turned on the computer, got my mail then went to change. By the time I returned to the PC, the Internet had disappeared. On the cable modem, bot the PC and power lights were on – the cable light was not.

It was nearly 1:00 AM, so I decided not to call Comcast. Who would have been around at that time to fix it? Surely it would be working by morning.

When Helaine got up, no Internet!

As it turns out, sometime around 10:00 AM service returned. But that’s not the point. Without the Internet, I was lost.

I wanted to blog. There was a weather display program I had discovered that I wanted to test on my Linux machine. I wanted to trade emails and read about the World Series of Poker on Usenet. I wanted to play poker.

There is a backup. I’m not even sure if it’s currently connected, but my router has the facility to connect to an external modem I have and (shudder) dial-in for my connection. I have become so spoiled that I put that option off.

I went downstairs and watched two episode of “The Screen Savers” I had recorded from G4TechTV. It’s only during the past week that TechTV shows have been available on my cable system. The shows were enjoyable, though a bit under produced and choppy. Some of the anchors were less than comfortable on-the-air.

Most of all, I missed Leo Laporte. When I had last seen this program, he had been hosting. He is, by far, the best tech host on television – a total natural.

It’s funny how much my late night enjoyment depends on having the Internet. It is a weakness. It is not necessarily wrong.