The Zip – Episode 35
It’s spring. Almost summer, really. Let’s say you’re in the mood for camping. But you need a new tent. So you go to your local camping supply store and browse through the tent aisle. Maybe you have a conversation with the salesperson, and he, let’s say it’s a he, he shows you your tent options. Tents for one, tents for two – green tents, blue tents, tents with multiple rooms. But a tent’s a big purchase – maybe you’re not ready to commit right now. You’ve got an idea of price ranges, and now you want to sit on this info for a bit. Maybe you’ll come back in a couple weeks after looking at your budget, and thinking out your tent options on your own.
All good. Goodbye mr salesman. You leave the store and get in your car, and holy EVERYTHING mr salesman is sitting in your passenger seat. “Are you sure you don’t want the green two-room tent? It’s on SALE.”
You kick him out. Obviously. Creepo. This guy must really need his commission.
You go grab some lunch at a local cafe. But WHO’S STANDING BEHIND THE COUNTER in a red-striped apron? IT’S THAT FREAKING TENT SALESGUY.
“Maybe you’d like the extra waterproof tent!” he says. “It comes with 39 storage pockets!”
No! NO! I want my lunch!
But wait, there’s more.
That night – during movie theater previews, mr sales guy pops up. He’s on the sidewalk with a sign during your morning commute. He’s hiding under your desk at work?
Yeah, it’s pretty weird to have a sales guy stalker.
But when it’s online, we’re used to it. There are companies who make profits by following us around the Internet, tracking our patterns and habits, who never asked permission. Who go where we go, hoping for that commission.
And that’s what today’s conversation is about. Well, that and college radio stations and the birth of advertising and the walls social media creates around the Internet.
Because today, we’re talking with Doc Searls, co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto, Silicon Valley marketer, technology commentator, and speaker. And I’ll just warn you up front – this conversation is long. But, to me, it was too interesting to edit.
Doc is a hardcore anti-adtechm advocate, so most of our conversation centers around the virtual version of that crazy tent sales guy. But that conversation isn’t limited to browser cookies and terms of agreement. It also touches on Amazon’s sales strategy and why Europeans care more about privacy than Americans. Doc Searls is a full picture thinker, and I didn’t want to edit out the full picture. Hopefully, you’ll walk away from the conversation like I did – with your mind a little blown, but with new ideas on how the Internet could be different.
The ideas we’re discussing here, on ad tech, the affect local in numerous ways as well, particularly local advertising, an area where many companies haven’t learned to scale WITHOUT using customer data.
So let’s get started.
Welcome to The Zip.
Megan Hannay: Usually, I just start by saying, Doc, thank you so much for being on the Zip today. I really appreciate your time, and I’m excited to talk to you and pick your brain a bit.
Doc Searls: Same here. Love being here.
Megan Hannay: Awesome.
Doc Searls: Wherever here is.
Megan Hannay: In the virtual here. First off, I found out recently that you actually got your start in this part of the country where I’m a local, Durham, North Carolina. Can you a bit about your background and how you went from a Duke University radio DJ to a renowned thinker in the marketing and tech world?
Doc Searls: It was not a direct connection. I always loved radio. I always wanted to be in radio. I grew up in New Jersey just outside New York, and I wanted to get rid of my New York accent. I grew up with a New York accent like that. I moved to North Carolina and I can still imitate North Carolina accents of various kinds, but when I hear myself now, I sound like South Jersey. I sound more like Philadelphia for some reason. Anyway, I wanted to be in radio. I started working at a radio station in New Jersey. When I moved back to North Carolina, because I went to Guilford College in Greensboro and then came back a few years later after I graduated, and started actually at another station in Durham, WDNC, which is now an AM sports station. I ran their transmitter on weekends, because I was a techie. Then, I got a gig with WDBS. DBS was actually a commercial station owned by Duke.
Megan Hannay: I didn’t know colleges did that.
Doc Searls: They did. Believe it or now, Harvard and Cornell and Yale and many other universities had commercial stations. They’re stations on the commercial part of the dial, which is above 92 on the FM dial. A lot of them have been sold or licensed away. Yale got rid of theirs. Harvard still has theirs. Duke actually bought this station because a student talked him into it, incredibly. A student, a guy named Bob Chapman, one of my heroes, talked him into it. Got it for $50,000 and sold it for many times that a decade and a half later. It was one of the early progressive rock stations. This was in the early to mid-70s. We were really small. I don’t know if you noticed, but the bigger FM stations in North Carolina, you can get them all the way to the Outer Banks. You can get them all the way to the mountains.
This station, which is now Foxy 107 and has a bigger transmitter on 107.1, was just really small. We barely got into Chapel Hill and hardly to Raleigh at all. We had to make up ads for things that didn’t exist, and that’s what I did.
Megan Hannay: Wait, wait. For things that didn’t exist? To pretend to you had advertisers?
Doc Searls: Right, exactly.
Megan Hannay: That’s very funny.
Doc Searls: One before my time was called Wellington Raffleators, and never explained what that was. I had a bunch of characters that would come by. Some of it was just all sports features. I had coach Bill Mulchfield of the Fort Pine Flat Running Dogs and just crazy stuff. I’m trying to think of one of them. Yeah, Mumbling Pines Apartment Village.
Megan Hannay: Was this because you guys were new and you didn’t have advertisers but you wanted to look cool?
Doc Searls: It was entirely because we had no advertising.
Megan Hannay: Yeah. I’ve thought about that, because I’m doing this as part of a business, so I don’t really need advertisers, but at the same time, I’ve thought how interesting it would be if I just—I don’t know, made up. That’s such a funny way to do it.
Doc Searls: Yeah. Every so often, I’d just come on and improvise. I was never a disc jockey on that station. I was on the prior station. I was on the two prior stations, actually. I also did news. At DBS, it was all this character called Dr. Dave, and I didn’t name it. Another guy named Bob Conroy gave me that name. My real name is David. Then, two of my listeners, or two of the station listeners, when they read my writing, because we also had a forerunner of the independent local weekly there. It was a monthly called The Guide. I wrote in that, too, and they realized that I could write. These two guys who I didn’t meet, I only knew one of them. I knew his work. He was a great artist named Ray Simonyi, a great cartoonist, too. He called me up and said, hey, let’s get together for lunch, and we started an ad agency out of that.
That ended up becoming very successful in North Carolina and then one of our clients there said, you know, boys, there’s more action on one street in Sunnyvale than in all of North Carolina. We opened in office in Silicon Valley and closed North Carolina and became very successful in Silicon Valley. That’s how I got to be the tech guru in a way, because I never stopped being a journalist and I never stopped writing. I wrote things for one publication or another. Actually, I kept writing for one in North Carolina. It’s not worth mentioning, because I think it’s long gone. What happened was, after the Internet came along in a serious way in the mid-90s, I started writing about that because I knew it was coming long before it was there and knew it was going to change everything and wanted to be totally in front of that. Then, got together with three other guys who felt the same way and were writing the same kind of thing. Chris Locke, David Weinberger, and Rick Levine. We wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto in 1999. That started as a website that was just a rant and then that was a big success and it became a book. We wrote that in the summer of 1999. It came out in early 2000, just in time, some people said, to cause the crash. That made the guru-ness for all of this, the success of that book.
Megan Hannay: Yeah. That’s so interesting. Yeah, I have a few questions about Cluetrain, but you said that you knew the Internet was coming. Is that because you were in the tech world and also in academic circles? How did you know it was coming?
Doc Searls: I was not in academic circles at that time. It’s funny. I was always very much a good learner, but I was never a good student. Today, I have affiliations with three universities that never would have let me in.
Megan Hannay: It’s funny how that happens.
Doc Searls: Yeah, and hats off to Guilford College. They let me in. Even then, I hung out at Duke and Carolina. That’s where I did my studying. I think it was because I was a radio guy and because I was a journalist. I knew once the Internet happened that it would put the whole world on a digital footing, that once the Internet eliminated distance between everything, like us right now. It was half a joke at the beginning to say, where are we? We’re here.
My wife Joyce puts it as, we have no gravity. It’s like we’re all floating out here, and there’s no distance between us. In several pieces I’ve written, I call it the giant zero because we’re all zero distance apart. At cost, it also rounds to zero. I suppose there’s some minor cost in using Skype, but we can ignore it. There’s a cost in having connectivity, but we can ignore that. The Internet has the effect of reducing to zero the distance between everybody, and I felt that would completely undermine and subsume all other media, but not instantly. It’s done it gradually, and it’s done it a lot more slowly than I expected and with much more uneven effects than I expected.
When we wrote Cluetrain, I expected it and I think all four of us did, to change everything at once or pretty close. That just hasn’t been the case, but as I said in the next book I wrote called The Intention Economy, there’s something called Amara’s Law, which says we overestimate in the short-term and underestimate in the long. I think that’s the case here. I think we’ve totally underestimated what the Internet was going to do and overestimated what it was going to do in the short-term.
Megan Hannay: That’s really insightful, and I like what Joyce said. I feel like that’s almost a poetic way of thinking about the Internet. I don’t normally think about it poetically, but it has a romantic, almost, sound to it.
Yeah, I’d like to ask about Cluetrain, specifically about the piece you wrote with David Weinberger, Markets are Conversations. For any listeners who haven’t read it, which I think they should because it’s brilliant and it’s honestly a pretty quick read, you and David talk about our society’s transition from the very, very old-fashioned marketplace where shoppers went from booth to booth having conversations with every shopkeeper, up through the industrial revolution, and the early Internet days when the term “market” became a verb, not so much a noun anymore, and when sellers focused more on the generic message meant for the masses about their products, as opposed to those one-on-one conversations.
There are a couple parts of this I’d like to unpack. First of all, you wrote the piece in 1999, before the rise of social media. I feel like there’s a lot in the essay on how the Internet enables people to talk to other people about products with or without brands being present. The essay encourages, you and David encourage the need to jump into this conversation for brands. I think now, almost every brand I feel like they would be like, yeah, we talk to our customers all the time on the Internet. We respond to their Facebook comments. We do support via Twitter. Would you say social media has changed the way brands engage in conversations with customers?
Doc Searls: There’s a lot there. Let me rewind back to what we were trying to say and where we’ve gone since then, in a very general sense, all of us. What we meant at the time, in the late ‘90s when we wrote that was, we wanted to reset what we saw markets as, rather than as a bunch of categories where brands would target things called consumers with messages, that they would see everybody as being present in the same place, which is the Internet that we saw resembling an old-fashioned souk or a bazaar. There was a contemporaneous book written by Eric Raymond who almost single-handedly made the world talk about open source, also written in that same time frame, called The Cathedral and the Bazaar.
He was talking about open source software, and how that was essentially bazaar style. It was not cathedral style. I think most brands thought they were operating in cathedrals, I would think as more of a feudal system back in mass marketing days. Now, to be fair here, with old media, with broadcast, with print, with billboards, it was very much one way, very much top-down. It was very easy for large companies, especially, to get mass effects, to do a mass manufacture for mass consumers and mass markets. The term consumer really only came into common use in the 1930s. It’s no coincidence that Consumer Reports showed up in the middle of that time and was originally about consumers’ union. It was a union of consumers united against brands. The term branding was creating by Proctor & Gamble in the early ‘30s.
Megan Hannay: Really?
Doc Searls: Yeah, and the term was borrowed from the cattle industry. The whole idea was you would burn the name of your company into the hide of your listeners’ back then brains. There were slogans in the advertising business at the time such as, you would get maximum shelf space by putting, and I quote something that’s almost verbatim here, one kind of soap in eight different boxes and singing about the difference. Or, if you’ve got nothing to say, sing it.
I still remember at least two companies’ different beer jingles from the 1950s and ‘60s because I listened to a lot of baseball games. Schafer Beer and Rheingold Beer sang their jingles all through every one of those damn games. They were almost the sole sponsors of those games. That was branding of the old-fashioned sort. You burned your name into the brains of people. We thought when the Internet came along that this would naturally change and that we had an opportunity for the customers to take the lead in whatever dances they might have with the companies of the world.
We use “markets are conversations” in two different ways there. One was, it was the first of 95 theses for the website that was The Cluetrain Manifesto, the first version of it. That was just one website, and if you go to Cluetrain.com, you’ll see it there. The first of the 95 theses is, markets are conversations, a term that I’d actually been using since the 1980s, but it was the first time it actually took off, and it made sense. But there were 95 more, and there were others like David Weinberger’s Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchy, which I think is probably the second most quoted piece from there. By the way, we called it a manifesto because that worked for Marx, and we had 95 theses because that worked for Luther. It was that flippant, quite frankly—we did not mean it as a terribly serious thing, but it was viral in a very serious way. It was a viral thing. Then, when we had to unpack that into a book, David and I worked on that one chapter called Markets are Conversations, which you were sourcing earlier.
The important thing about that was actually a clue that came ahead of all 95, and it was one that isn’t often quoted because it was actually a graphic. It was words, but it was a graphic, and it was one that Chris Locke, one of the other writers and the one in whose voice really all of Cluetrain was uttered, because Chris is like that. Chris is a really brilliant writer, and he had a really big attitude. That attitude, I think, is part of Cluetrain’s success. We all adopted his angle on this thing. I once joked about Chris that he never crossed a bridge he didn’t burn. In many ways, that’s kind of where we coming from with Cluetrain, that attitude. Chris sent around this little graphic to the other three of us and it galvanized us, and it’s in The Cluetrain Manifesto. It says,
“If there’s only one clue to get this year, 1999, this is it. We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it.”
I think one of the reasons that Cluetrain succeeded as both a website and a book — and I don’t think we realized it at the time was really, we were speaking in the first-person voice of ordinary people rather than as marketers, and three of us had marketing jobs at the time, by the way. We made our money in the marketing world. The fourth of us, Rick Levine, who is by far the most sane of the three of us, by the way, and grounded, he was a techie and a pure business guy. He still is. He has a socks business, making socks with his brother. Fashion socks. And a great guy. — I think we were coming from the right place there, and from a place that I think said what was true.
We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers, and we are human beings, and our reach did exceed their grasp, but not enough. That last line of Chris’s, “deal with it,” well they did and they invented social media and used it to herd us all into a bunch of feudal castles where we think the Internet is Twitter and Facebook. That is just a horrible perversion of what we were trying to talk about. A lot of people give us credit for, oh, my gosh. You guys kind of forecast social media. It’s a sad fact that Cluetrain would not have been the success that it was and still is—it’s sourced many times a day on Twitter, I think, had it not been for marketers adopting it.
I think a lot of marketers think, yeah, we’re doing the right thing because we’re Tweeting back at people who are complaining on Twitter and we’re answering service calls and stuff like that. That’s a lousy system, quite frankly. Having to rely on social media to connect with a company, we could do so much better than that, and we haven’t started. We’ve barely started.
That’s why in 2006, when the Berkman Center at Harvard which already had David Weinberger as a fellow, invited me to be a fellow as well and I had a chance to start a project, and I started Project VRM, where VRM stands for vendor relationship management, which is the customer side counterpart of customer relationship management, which is what gives you call centers and junk mail plus other more healthy things, I suppose.
What I wanted to do there, because I had done this already with Linux Journal and with helping establish open source as a meme and Cluetrain as a meme, as it were. I thought, I want to evangelize the development of tools that really will make good on Chris’s original one clue you should get this year, which is that our reach would exceed their grasp and they would deal with it in ways that would work for both sides. There are probably about 200 companies now, mostly small, all startups, that are working on this kind of thing. They do not cohere to a whole yet.
Megan Hannay: Can you name a few?
Doc Searls: Sure. Actually, better yet would be to go to ProjectVRM.org. That’s just like it sounds. ProjectVRM.org. Click on Wiki, click on Wiki again because it will take you to an intermediary page, because I haven’t fixed it. Then, you’ll get to the actual page of the Wiki, and click on developers there, and there’s a very long list.
I don’t want to favor any one of them because it’s not fair to all of them, but there are probably 20-some that do intent casting. Intent casting is where you let the market know what you’re looking for. An example I give in the book is, I need a stroller for twins in Central Park in the next two hours. Who’s coming through? Without revealing anything more about myself than I need to. In other words, advertising that goes the other way, where we’re in control of being qualified leads, but we do it in such a way that we are anonymous until we need to be known to the other party. Then, we control the use of our data once the deal starts.
I can talk about one of the things we’re doing to make sure that control happens, and that’s with terms. We’re working on this, I don’t know when your podcast is going to run, but next week starting Monday, at what’s called VRM day at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. Then, the three following days at the Internet Identity workshop. That’s at IIWorkshop.org. It’s an unconference in Silicon Valley where we work on anything and everything. There are no panels. There are no keynotes. It’s just all people getting stuff done, and Project VRM came out of that. There’s just a lot going on, but the main thing is these things’ terms. I’m trying to think of a shortcut to get to those right now.
Actually, if you just go to my Twitter handle, @DSearls, you’ll see lots of recent Tweets that I’ve made that point to this.
Megan Hannay: We’re at the right moment to talk about it, I guess, if it’s happening next week.
Doc Searls: Yeah. I think this is when it happens. I think is the most important work that I’ve ever done, that the project has ever done, and may actually achieve what we wanted to do with Cluetrain, and what I wanted to have happen with Project VRM, which is that we as individuals actually get agency in the original sense of the word, which is the power to act with full effect in the world. To give a little more context to that, every time you click accept to some company’s terms, you’re what’s called the second party.
Megan Hannay: Right, which is every day or every other day. It happens all the time.
Megan Hannay: It’s too much to scale.
Doc Searls: We can now. We can because we have the Internet. The Internet allows this. All we have to do is write the freaking terms. Well, one of them, I think, is really timely, which gets us into publishing and journalism and another one of your topics here, which is the no stalking term. No stalking says, just show me ads not based on tracking me. By the way, this is what you get when you see a billboard. That’s what you get in the newspaper. That’s what you get when you listen to the radio in your car. It’s what you mostly used to get, anyway, on TV. What you still get if you’re watching over the air or plain old cable TV, if you don’t have your Visio or Samsung spying on you then selling your data to somebody. I think both those companies have stopped doing that because of embarrassment, and also because it’s going to be illegal in May of next year in Europe in a big way. That’s a significant thing.
There’s a law coming along in the E.U. It’s already there, but it’s going to be enforced in May of next year called The Generate Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. This has European compliance officers shaking in their boots right now, because it says you can’t collect data on anybody without their express permission. Companies have been doing that for a long time because they can.
Megan Hannay: Couldn’t they just hide their permission in that terms of agreement document that I never really read?
Doc Searls: No, they can’t, and we’re going to make damn sure that they can’t. The law is pretty clear on it which is, it’s got to be really expressed. The GDPR did not contemplate us being first parties, but we’re coming along and saying, guess what? We’re going to be the first parties now, and we’re going to come up with terms that are good for you, Mr. Businessman and Ms. Businessperson. We’re going to come up with terms that say, for example, just show me ads not based on tracking me. That, by the way, allows you to sell more expensive ads that sponsor your actual publication or your broadcast and allow you to do real branding of the old-fashioned kind because that’s worthwhile and you don’t have to worry about your ads running on skeevy sites, because the ad tech machinery has tracked the eyeballs there. You don’t have to run clickbait ads. You don’t have to be at the far end of fake news troughs because it’s cheaper to buy eyeballs in those places than on The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg or USA Today.
On top of that, everybody can trust the ads that they see because they’re not based on tracking. It’s much better than ad blocking. Ad blocks just blocks everything. Ad Block Plus has this thing called acceptable ads, but that’s just about behavior. We really need to stop the tracking. The tracking is what’s rude. The tracking is what carries the malware. The tracking is what carries the fraud. The tracking is something we would never, ever, ever allow in the physical world, and we’re doing it online because we can get away with it.
Megan Hannay: I think people have gotten used to it in a way.
Doc Searls: People got used to smoking everywhere, too, and they got rid of it. People got used to drunk driving and got rid of it. We can get rid of this, too. We need a change of norms, and we’ve had a norm that’s really only been around since ’07 or maybe a little bit earlier. That’s when do not track came along. The first time I heard about do not track was when Chris Segoyan, who was another one of the fellows at the Berkman Center said, you know, we have this do not call list with phones. Why not have a do not track list for online?
What happened in 2012 and 2013 was that the Interactive Advertising Bureau, better known as the IAB, which is the trade organization of the online advertising business and a lot of publishers said to Mozilla Firefox and to the people at Apple and Google that had Safari and Chrome, basically they gave them the middle finger saying, don’t you dare show us do not track. We want to track you. What happened then was, ad blocking took off. If you look at the rate at which ad blocking increased, it totally follows the publishing and interactive, as they call it, advertising business, the tracking based advertising business saying, screw you to people and tracking them more than ever and adding more and more ways to track people. And making excuses for that.
Calling it as Google does, “interest based advertising.” It’s not just Google. It’s the whole thing. It’s not interest based. It’s spying based, and that’s just a cover. I should pause here to say that search advertising is not the same. Search advertising, you have clear intent. If I’m searching for fly fishing or if I’m searching for a stroller for twins, or if I’m searching for somebody to install a flat screen here in Santa Barbara, which I did a few weeks ago successfully and I see an ad for that, that’s fine. That’s not ad tech. They may call that ad tech, but that’s search advertising. It’s different.
Ad tech is where they’re spying on you. Some people in the ad tech business say, it’s not just that. You know what? I’m going to draw a hard line there. We need a name for that. You guys in ad tech said, it’s okay if we spy on you. I’m going to say, it’s okay to call all spying ad tech and make that rounding error, because I think it’s worth doing.
Megan Hannay: For search, that’s an interesting distinction. I would say Google, I feel like they are doing both. Obviously, if I’m searching for a local restaurant or something, then I might get some ads that are based on that search, but if I’m searching under my account connected to my Gmail, I feel like there’s a lot of personalization in there that circles back around. As a Gmail user, as someone who uses a pretty amazing email service, but I know it’s free, I’m kind of like, yeah, there’s a good chance that they’re monitoring my GChats. I feel like as a consumer, I just don’t know. There’s this question mark like, I don’t even know what kind of data I’m actually putting out there.
Doc Searls: Well, you’re telling them everything. I have friends that work and colleagues that work with both Google and Facebook, and I have to say in their defense and for the sake of as much clarification as I can muster that they are trying really hard to do the right thing. They really are. They do have privacy controls. They do try to minimize it. Google especially do try to minimize personal exposure. You have much more explicitly that you ever do when you, say, visit a random publisher and get served up some—
Megan Hannay: Any old ad.
Doc Searls: You search for fly fishing, and then the next 10 sites you go to, you see fly fishing again. You don’t even know who’s doing that. It might be Google. It might be somebody else. Google at least, you have given them permission. You have consciously chosen—
Megan Hannay: By doing the search.
Doc Searls: It’s not by doing the search. By using Gmail, for example. You have assented to that. Now, within Gmail and in Google, you can go into their privacy controls and say, I don’t want interspace advertising. You can say that. You can go in there, look for it. I don’t want that. I’ve tried turning it on and off, and can’t tell the difference, frankly. The main thing that’s useful, and I think sometimes this is a little bit overused, but it’s okay is, is this autocomplete stuff, where you searched for—I’m looking out here in my yard. Okay, a lawnmower. Then, you go to look at Google Maps and you search for something and lawnmower comes up. Or you search for something online and then it autocompletes the same thing when you’re looking in Maps or you’re looking in Images or some other thing. I think that’s completely innocent. I think it’s permission based. I think it’s actually kind of a red herring in respect to the reforms that we really need.
I think it is part of the surveillance economy. One of my colleagues, Shoshana Zuboff, is writing a book that I think is called The Big Other. She’s at ShoshanaZuboff.com, I think. She’s a retired Harvard Business School professor. Really brilliant. Wrote In the Age of the Smart Machines back in the 1980s, and has forecast an awful lot of what has come to pass. She comes down very, very hard on Google, and I think that in some ways, they deserve it.
I would rather come down on Amazon right now, frankly, for one thing. It’s a perfect example of way that we don’t need to be followed by them. God knows how much I spend on Amazon every year. I don’t belong to Prime, by the way, because as my wife puts it, it’s cocaine. I probably spend thousands a year on Amazon, on all kinds of stuff that’s easy to shop for there. Last summer, I think it was, I had a little portable speaker. It was made by JBL that I use when I travel, which is a lot. It was my speaker for my phone and my iPad and the shitty speakers on my laptop. And it died. It died during the NBA finals, the last game of the NBA finals—
Megan Hannay: That’s just bad timing.
Doc Searls: Yeah, it was bad timing, but we could still hear it over the speakers. I went on Amazon and looked for the same speaker, but also looked at the ratings, looked at Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports said, get the Bose. There’s a Bose thing called the Bose Sound Link Color. I looked at that and I thought, it costs a little more, but I’ll get that. I got that. On the browser I was using to do that, I had all of my ad blocking and tracking protection turned off. The next 10 or 15 sites I went to, commercial sites, advertised both of things at me. The thing I looked at and the thing that I bought. It was Amazon advertising. That is a big value subtract for Amazon. They don’t need to do it at all.
Megan Hannay: They’re losing money. I get the same thing.
Doc Searls: It didn’t flatter them at all. They’re supposed to be so smart about what I want. By the way, I should add, they’re always telling me people who bought a book that I’m looking at also bought these other books and they recommend I buy books that I’ve already written. They’re not as intelligent as you think they are. Warnings about the robot apocalypse are really way overstated. We’re not even close. I was talking to somebody in the ad tech business. They said, oh no. You’ve got to understand what they’re doing that. I said, why are they doing that? Well, it’s to get money from JBL and Bose. They can tell JBL and Bose that they put that ad in front of some people. They paid for impressions.
Megan Hannay: They know that you made a purchase.
Doc Searls: Now, I would love somebody listening to this who works for Amazon to come out and say, no, no, no. Doc’s full of shit. It’s not really about that. There’s no defense for it. I’m sorry. Whether it’s what this person told me, which is, they are actually being paid by JBL and Bose for exposing me to ads for their branded products. Never mind that I already bought them. This is an example of how dysfunctional that system is. We can totally turn that around. The thing is, you can’t turn it around from the seller’s side. This is why markets need to be real conversations. Having an intermediary like Google or Facebook in the middle helps in a few isolated ways, like having the social answer to a tech support question. But the truth is, there are just much better ways to do this that we’ve barely invented yet and we’re not going to invent until we realize that the Internet made us all equals and was designed for that in the first place, and to give the customer leverage. Let’s give the customer leverage and work on solutions from that side. That’s what it’s about.
Megan Hannay: Yeah. So many interesting things. I feel like one of the hard parts with ad tech, I feel like for companies it’s scary because you touched on this a little bit, when you have mass markets, they feel like they have to scale. Everything has to scale. Is it possible that maybe what you were talking about with Amazon, that obviously either is something very nefarious or it’s a bug and it’s—not a bug, but it’s something in their product that needs to be fixed. Is it possible that the companies, that ad tech just might be in its early years and that eventually we’ll figure out a way to have personalization at scale without being followed around? Now, I feel like when everyone says they’re sharing my data, they’re like, don’t worry. We’re sharing anonymously. You’re just a number, that kind of a thing. Is it possible, I feel like a person defending ad tech would say to you, it’s only been a few years. Give us a break. Just give us 10 more years and everything will be so seamless, you won’t even notice or care because the Internet will be completely personalized to you.
Doc Searls: That’s ad tech’s wet dream. To me, that’s a little bit like somebody who’s been setting up camp inside your house without your permission saying, we’re just going to get a lot better at this because we’re going to know you so much better than we’ve ever known you before, and you’re actually going to invite us in, in the future. Screw you. No. No. Go away. Come back when you’ve listened to us for real instead of spying on us. I have no doubt whatsoever that there’s lots and lots of tech in the ad tech world, and I know people in that world who are doing great stuff.
I know one in particular who’s doing basically working on turning around the programmatic machinery so it’s working for you and me and not just for the seller. That’s one thing. Basically, helping with the intent casting that I was speaking about earlier. The same one is also working on—there’s another one I know, too, doing some very similar thing. Working on giving publishers much better control over the machinery of ad tech. Right now, if you have a publisher like say, I’ll take one that I don’t talk to yet, the L.A. Times, which by the way has 85 trackers the last I checked. Some of them keep loading over and over again.
Look for something for Chrome, I think it may be on Firefox now, called the Bay Cloud Bouncer. Run that thing and install that as an extension and go to the L.A. Times. It will not stop telling you how many trackers are coming in, because some of the trackers reload. I stopped it when it reached 350-something, because, oh, you didn’t follow that one. Follow this one. Follow this one. The editorial is utterly buried in here. If ever there was an example of a publication that has sold its soul, it’s the freaking L.A. Times. The L.A. Times could, with the ad tech company that will remain nameless right now because they’re working with another publication I won’t name. They’re working on helping the L.A. Times of the world get control of that complete morass right now and start unscrewing it so they know what’s running in there.
Right now, let’s say if you go to the L.A. Times and you see an ad—I’m here in Santa Barbara and let’s say I see an ad for a pizza place and I reload the page. I’m going to see an ad for something else. I don’t even have to reload the ad. I just scroll up and down and I may see something else. It’s going to be very unpredictable. They’ll have much better control over that. That’s one of the small ways that this thing is going to get unscrewed.
The big thing is really going to be the GDPR, because Europe is a mighty big market, and companies like a Bose or a JBL or a Honda or whoever that operate in a worldwide way are going to want to take the best practices that they’re working out where privacy is fully respected, which is Europe, and start applying them elsewhere in the world.
Megan Hannay: I hope so. Yeah, I hope so. I feel like you’re touching on journalism as another area that I feel is so entwined with ad tech in a bad way. I feel like ad tech came along and was long, don’t worry, newspapers, we can save you. We can help you make money online with this new Internet thing because no one’s buying subscriptions anymore. I feel like that, obviously, it’s not working for them.
In the blog post that actually inspired this conversation, you wrote that ad tech is magic in this literal sense because it’s about misdirection. You think you’re getting one thing and you’re actually getting another. Brands think they’re placing ads in media and they’re actually getting hired to chase eyeballs. That made me think so much, because you originally were talking about some of the very scandalous things where reputable brands are being putting on terrorist videos on YouTube or advertising links to them or whatever, which is a PR nightmare.
Doc Searls: And it should be. I was no surprise. It amazes me that they didn’t know that anyway.
Megan Hannay: I wonder if they knew it, but they were like, oh, maybe that just happens. Maybe it had to become a PR thing for people to actually, I don’t know, bring it up to them and it to become a crisis.
Doc Searls: Yeah. It’s important to understand that all big companies are many, many companies inside. HR doesn’t know what marketing is doing and even parts of marketing may not know what other parts of marketing are doing, or sales. Or what this company or that company that they’ve hired on to do this or that are doing. In the same way that the L.A. Times has maybe 85 different companies that are tracking their readers, a given company may have, I’m guessing, 85 different ad tech companies trying to push ads out at people. It all falls under this general heading of programmatic, which is really vague because what’s not programmatic? The brake system in my car is programmatic.
Megan Hannay: It’s one of the words that you’re like, it means everything so it kind of means nothing.
Doc Searls: Right. It’s like content. What the heck is content? Just to get back to the magic part of this, everything in ad tech pretty much is, if it’s not borrowed directly from it, it certainly replicates what we had with direct marketing, which before was called direct marketing euphemized as direct marketing was direct mail, which is a euphemism for junk mail. Which, by the way, keeps the world’s post offices in business. You take away junk mail, the post office goes out of business, if they’re making any money at all. Just look in your mail box. How much of that is junk mail? The post office is a partner in that. They deliver that stuff and they get paid for it.
Ad tech operates on a lot of the same assumptions, which is, they want to get personal. They count very tiny percentage responses as successes. They excuse massive negative externalities in the form of junk that goes into landfills or in our cases, goes into our eyeballs and wastes the cycles in our computers and clogs up the world’s data pipes. It’s identical in that respect. Where it’s different is that, in the junk mail business, you knew that was junk mail, but online, you don’t know if that ad for Honda is ad tech or an old-fashioned brand ad. You don’t know whether Honda bought that ad so they would be in the L.A. Times or they had some intermediary that you never heard of stick it in there because your attention got auctioned off by some real-time bidding company that found your eyeballs tracked to the L.A. Times and said, this might be a Honda buyer. Show them a Honda ad.
That’s ad tech.
It is the same as direct marketing that way, but because it looks exactly like brand marketing in many cases, it’s possible for people on both the sending and the receiving end to say, well, it’s just plain old advertising, and it’s all called advertising. By calling it interactive, we’ve made it, oh, that’s even better than regular advertising. The most quoted line of mine was from last summer, from anything I’ve written in the last couple years, was in a piece called Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff. I think I requoted it in that piece that you mentioned called Brands Need to Fire Ad Tech. “Madison Avenue fell asleep. Direct response marketing ate its brain, and it woke up as an alien replica of itself.”
This has actually happened. If you’re an old-fashioned, plain old brand advertising on Madison Avenue, you are just so retro. It is taken now as a matter of faith that an ad isn’t worthwhile unless people have responded to it. This is completely false in respect to the original logic and the moral stance, frankly, that branding took back when Proctor & Gamble invented it in the ‘30s, which is described by E.N. Hollier, and I forget who the other person was in a really landmark piece, I think back in the ‘80s called The Waste in Advertising is the Part that Works. Which said, the whole idea with branding is to send an economic signal that we can afford to advertise. We’re Estee Lauder. We’re not Proctor & Gamble. We’re Estee Lauder. We’re going to buy an ad in Vogue. We’re going to buy an ad in Savvy magazine, and we’re going to buy it on the Oprah channel. Even if you never buy our stuff, you’re going to know that we’re substantial. You’re going to know that we matter. You’re going to know who Gucci is. You’re going to know who—I’m trying to think of something from Vogue, but I don’t read it.
Megan Hannay: Audi or something.
Doc Searls: I’m just thinking of something I do read. Nike or Adidas or whatever, that you have substance. Not only that, that you’re sponsoring this publication. You care about it. Those brands care about Vogue. They care about House & Garden. They care about National Geographic. They care about Linux Journal, which I write for, and they want to be in those publications because those publications match them. Those readers of those publications are the people—it’s not that they want them all to buy that thing. It’s that want them all to know about it.
I’m never going to buy Geico Insurance, but I know 15 minutes is going to save me 15% because I watch a lot of sports. Geico is all over sports. Progressive is all over sports. I can’t get away from them. By the way, Geico and Progressive are two of the very biggest advertisers on planet earth, and they are by far now, I think, also the biggest insurance companies. The branding thing actually works. There’s nothing that has stopped working about it. The thing that has slowed down is that there are many, many more places to advertise now and the old branding ones are shrinking. You’ll notice that ESPN just laid off 100 people a couple days ago. People are core cutting all over the place.
This is all stuff that we predicted with Cluetrain a long time ago, but it’s all fracturing up now. The end of the day question is whether any kind of advertising survives, and that’s one I asked out loud to some degree in The Intention Economy, which I wrote in 2012 and I think is still on the table as a question.
I think at some point, the cost of producing Vogue and National Geographic and a lot of other and even daily newspapers is going to become too high. The cost of operating a radio station is going to become too high. The cost of paying for the electricity for the transmitters—AM radio is pretty much going out of business right now because the land under the towers is worth more than the stations themselves. I Heart Radio, the biggest owner of radio stations issued a statement a couple days ago saying, we’re not sure we can pay our debts, and we may be out of business a year from now.
Megan Hannay: Wow. I didn’t know that.
Doc Searls: You hit scan in Durham, half the stations belong to I Heart Radio, I think, probably, and their competitors aren’t in much better shape. If you’re not running sports, you’re not making money on radio right now, and even with sports, that goes to podcasting. Podcasting right now, all the sports I listen to that’s not live—if I’m listening to a Duke game or a Carolina game, I’m going to listen to it live, but if I’m listening to Mike and Mike in the Morning or Kirk and Callahan in Boston, I’m listening to a podcast because I can skip over the ads. A third of all sports on radio is ads, and that’s intolerable on the listening side. When we fix that, we still have the thing that we fixed. I don’t know if we do. That’s another open question, but I think that we can invent something better, anyway. So, I’m not too worried about it.
Megan Hannay: Yeah. So many interesting ideas. One last question on just this whole ad tech part of conversation. One thing that’s interesting, when you earlier talking about VRM, the startups or websites that could pop up. I found one called LibreTaxi, which is like an Uber but they don’t track you or keep your information, and it’s cash only.
I think if some of these ideas come about, I feel like that would be a big thing, but at the same time, I wonder if we’re in a weird tragedy of the commons, where as long as there’s one player that’s willing to track people and willing to—it almost feels like because you can get more specific with tracking people, because you can make certain gains in the marketplace, as long as there’s one player that’s willing to do that, do you think that might always happen? And that’s why maybe you’re pushing for legislation, because that eliminates that ability of that player to do that, if that makes sense?
Doc Searls: Let me start from the end of that and work my way backwards on pushing for legislation. I’m in kind of an ironic position with that, because on the one hand, I am very, very grateful to the fact that Europe came up with the GDPR. That has created a lot of business. It has been a good thing, but the more important part of that is, there’s a sensibility in Europe around privacy that’s far more developed than in the U.S. The reason it’s developed and they will tell you this very quickly if you press them on it, is because they kept detailed records on people in living history and used it to kill them. They don’t want to do that again. If you’re in France and you’re a French citizen, the government does not keep records on your religion or your ethnicity. Now, maybe if Marie LePen is elected, they’ll want to do that, and that’s because they did it before and it has very terrible results. I don’t know if they did it in France, but certainly they did it in some countries, and it was used to kill people. It’s a serious thing with them.
We have a different set of issues here. Privacy is less developed as a concept, frankly, in the U.S. than it is in Europe, at least online. I think in our personal spaces, it’s just as developed. We all have doors and windows and we all wear clothes, and those are elementary privacy technologies that we still lack online. In many ways, all I’m trying to do with VRM is give us clothing and shelter.
We invented Eden with the Internet, and we’re still at the Adam and Eve stage. We’ve fallen. We have sinned, but we’re still naked.
Megan Hannay: That’s a great analogy. I get it.
Doc Searls: It is. We were just like that in nature. Even if you don’t buy the religious side of it, we did have to invent clothing and shelter a couple hundred thousand years ago, and that’s a pretty developed concept. We developed pretty clear and those subtle forms of respect for each other’s spaces in the physical world that have not yet been brought over to the online world. I think that the problem with legislation is that most new laws protect yesterday from last Thursday and last for another 100 years or more. That’s my concern with—I would much, much rather see technology take the lead and legislation follow than have legislation take the lead and policy follow.
For example, I have very mixed feelings about net neutrality, for example. On the one hand, I think the FCC did the right thing with the net neutrality rules that they had, but the problem with net neutrality from the start once it became an issue, once Tim Wu, who I like a great deal and wrote a great book about advertising that just came out a few months ago, great on the history of advertising especially. I recommend it. Tim Wu. What happened there is that—I kind of lost my train of thought.
Megan Hannay: Net neutrality.
Doc Searls: Yeah, net neutrality. There are a couple hummingbirds right outside my window that are busy doing things with each other. Really funny. I don’t if you heard this little chirpy sound in the background.
Megan Hannay: I didn’t, but that’s hilarious.
Doc Searls: Yeah. I’m an ADD case. That’s my version of squirrel. Anyway, net neutrality. The problem with net neutrality is that it’s a property of the Internet. You don’t legislate that. It’s like saying, we’re going to legislate gravity. We’re going to legislate the Kelvin temperature of the sun. It doesn’t make any sense. There’s a property of the Internet that is inherently neutral. The base protocol, and David Weinberger and I have wrote about this both in something called World Events in 2003. It’s at WorldofEnds.com, and later an addendum to Cluetrain called New Clues. Just go to Cluetrain.com and add on new clues, those two words to, and you’ll find it.
TCP/IP, the base protocol of the Internet, primarily the father of this is generally credited with that is Vince Surf, who runs evangelism for Google and who’s a good friend and who I love and respect a great deal. What it says is that any two end points on the net, you and me right now, that all of the networks between us and there may be many, no matter who owns them or anything about them, that a best effort will be made to get the data from one end point to the other, and an effort will be remade if there’s any failure. There may be a lot of packet drops between me and you right now, and we’ll never know about them. It works just fine, and it works because the Internet is neutral by design. It’s neutral.
What’s happened is, it’s turned into a policy argument. I think that’s a really unfortunate thing. That said, I think what the new chairman Pi is doing is completely wrong. I’ll get into politics here. The problem with Democrats is, they don’t understand business. The problem with Republicans is, they think the only business that matters is big business and they don’t understand policy. They want to get rid of government. It’s crazy what’s happened with politics. I don’t want to get too far into that. I’m amazed that how my friends on the left don’t understand business and my friends on the right don’t understand policy and even worse, think that the only business that matters is big business.
To go back farther, your basic question is, can’t tracking be perfected so that we’re going to rely on it anyway? I don’t think it can. I don’t think it can because it’s basically in the tradition of direct marketing based on guesswork, and it’s really bad guesswork. It has been bad all along. We’re not involved in it. As long as we’re passive about it, it’s not going to be much good. It’s going to be bad guesswork. Here’s what’s worse about it. We’re actually not shopping most of the time. This is one of the problems I have with, and I put this in the book as well.
Let’s say I want to know the height of Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina. This is an argument I wanted to settle. Which is higher, Mt. Mitchell or Mt. Pisgah? I go on Google, I look up those two, and I’m going to get ads for places to stay and hiking and all kinds of crap around those two places, rather than the one damn thing I’m looking for, which is the height of those two mountains. And that’s a bunch of guesswork about what I might want to be doing, that I might really want to travel there. No.
Megan Hannay: Or what possibly money related thing could you be doing in relations so they can sell ads to that entity.
Doc Searls: Right. Let me tell you what really matters for brands, quite honestly, is not selling us more stuff. It’s actually servicing what we have. I spent a bunch of time in the last two days trying to figure out whether the problem we have with our new flat screen in our house here in Santa Barbara is one of three companies. It’s either Cox Cable, which gives us Internet, or Dish TV, which gives us TV, or it’s Samsung, which has our new TV. Samsung blames Dish. Dish blames Samsung or Cox. The TV thinks that our Internet provider, which is Cox, is actually giving us TV. So, the guide it gives us is the one for Cox and not the one for Dish. Can’t work it out. There is in fact one VRM company I can mention, because they’re the only one I know of that does this. It’s called Get Human. GetHuman.com. I was just talking to those guys a couple days ago. They’re in Boston, and they have a concierge service that I can call on to go sort that out.
Megan Hannay: Nice. That’s awesome.
Doc Searls: Work for me. I’ll pay it. I’ll pay them to sort that.
Megan Hannay: Just figure out that problem. Yeah, that’s amazing.
Doc Searls: The thing is, I actually like our Samsung TV and I like the surround system I got with it, and I would like to have a better relationship with Samsung than the one they want to control, which is, I have to go to their website. I have to use all of their tools. I would rather have a portfolio of tools on my side that I can use to manage all the relationships with all the companies that I deal with. I do photography. I have two Canon cameras here. I have a bunch of Canon lenses. I would love to share with Canon every damn thing I do with those cameras. Everything. Nothing embarrassing about any of it. It’s all interesting stuff. I use them in many different conditions. I’d be glad to do that. I’d be glad to do that with Sonos. We have a really nice Sonos system here. I do it anyway with Apple every time I haul one of their damn machines in to have it fixed. To Apple’s credit with the Genius Bars at their stores, they do a really good job of iterating their products based on actual problems that customers have and giving them decent service.
The thing is, right now, every company wants to improve the customer experience but they’re all thinking about only selling. They’re not thinking about service. One of those VRM tools that we need on our side is basically the service system we have to manage everything that we deal with. Think of a toolbox, for example, that I have a toolbox in my garage. I can fix anything in this house with that toolbox. It doesn’t matter whether the screws or the nuts or anything I can hit with a socket wrench or a hammer is made my whatever company. I can use that toolbox with any of them. We need to be able to that with the makers of stuff in the world. Because every single company is thinking in pre-Internet terms, they think they need to do the mass marketing thing and have one way to control their relationships at scale with thousands or millions of people. When in fact having some simple tools on the customer side for managing all those different companies would be a much better way to deal. But we’re not even early on that one. We’re pre-early, but I’m convinced that that’s the way it’s going to be in the long run. I think there will be ways that I can say to Samsung, you know what? I’m willing to let you look at certain things about the way my TV and the sound system gets used. I’m glad to let you look at how I turn up the subwoofer or how I turn up the back speakers, but I don’t want you looking at the programs I’m watching.
Megan Hannay: So, selective, yeah.
Doc Searls: Yeah. I can be selective about that, or I have an intermediary that’s going to do that for me. Somebody like the Get Human guys that can say, okay, here’s the portfolio of things that I’m willing to reveal and I’m not willing to reveal. This is kind of analogous to the way cookies were meant in the first place. When Lou Montulli wrote the magic cookie for Netscape back in 1994, the whole point was to remember what’s called state.
You go to Amazon, you go away, you come back, it remembers who you were. It remembers where you were. That’s remembering state. You can go a little bit past that to say, okay, we have a relationship here. Here’s some things we’re going to remember for you. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that, because it has a clear sense of who’s domain is what.
There are lines in the sand. There are walls and doors and windows and one-way mirrors we can look through. We need to start developing those, but they have to be standard parts. They can’t be different for every company or we’re going to be in the morass we are right now, where every new company we have a relationship with, we have another login and password to forget.
Megan Hannay: Yeah. That’s why I use LastPass.
Doc Searls: Yeah, exactly. I use Dashlane, which as good as it is in some ways, is its own pain in the ass. I’ve got to log into that all the time.
Megan Hannay: Exactly, and if they lose it or something—
Doc Searls: Yeah, and if I get hacked, the entire thing is there. If you told me in 1995 that we would still be using logins and passwords in 2017, I would be amazed. I would be appalled that we’ve made so little progress, that we don’t have better ways for people to control the relationships that they have. By the way, I think the two missing parts, and I wish I could say somebody’s coming up with these, but I can’t, are the simplest things in the world. They’re calendar and contacts. All the Dashlane stuff, all the Last Pass stuff, all the One Password stuff should really be part of your contact list. It should be part of your contact system. Apple sucks at it. Microsoft sucks at it. Google sucks at it. Yahoo sucked at it, and they’re trying to stay alive at this point. There’s no one good way to do that. Calendars, very similarly. The iCal standard is okay for what it does, but there really isn’t a good calendar out there. A lot of people use Google. It’s okay, but it’s not yours. Again, it’s a grace that they give you so they can spy on you, I guess. I don’t know. I would not want to depend on Google for that. I depend on Apple for it right now, and I’m not crazy about theirs, either. They actually, my wife works on this, but she has different color for everything we do. Here’s the color for the house. Here’s the color for her, for me, for her work, for my work, for family, and guess what? You’d think that the same color would be on the phone and the iPad. No. No, not at all. No, that would be too convenient. No, you have to spend half a day at the Genius Bar to work that one out. I’m not kidding. It took that long to figure it out. Another thing Apple does is that if you have more than one Apple ID, try getting rid of one of them or merging them. Can’t be done. Cannot be done. That’s wrong. It’s just wrong. It’s that way because we don’t control it. They do.
Megan Hannay: It’s a little too complex for its own good in some ways.
Doc Searls: It’s too old-school. That’s right out of 1965. It could not be more old-school.
Megan Hannay: Yeah. Wow. I feel like I’ve learned so much just in having this conversation. One last quick question. I like to ask all of my guests about the places that they’re local to. You’ve mentioned that you live in Santa Barbara, but I’ve also read that there are a few places that you call home, that you travel a lot. Can you tell me why you decided to be a local in Santa Barbara? If someone was—
Doc Searls: That’s easy, because my wife wanted to come here. My advice to all guys is, do what the woman says.
Megan Hannay: I like that advice.
Doc Searls: That’s sort of the easy part. Long story short, she’s from L.A. I’m basically from New York. I grew up in New Jersey, just across the river. When we met, I was working in the Bay Area and she came up and we had a nice house up there. She actually found it too cold, believe it or not. The Bay Area.
Megan Hannay: I believe it. It never gets hot there.
Doc Searls: And it’s slightly colder at night that it is in Southern California, but frankly, it gets cold down here at night, just not quite as much. Santa Barbara is just freaking paradise. It’s almost criminally nice at all times. We don’t even have—we’ve got a nice house here. We don’t have air conditioning. There’s no point.
Megan Hannay: Yeah. I don’t think you need it there.
Doc Searls: Kind of weird to be at the 34th parallel, which is the same as Charleston, South Carolina or Savannah, Georgia or Lisbon, Portugal or Rome and not need air conditioning.
Megan Hannay: Still, those are all very beautiful places. I feel like the 34th parallel is actually a really good parallel to be on.
Doc Searls: It’s a good parallel to be on, and I’m guessing where we are, but I think it is. Anyway, it’s beautiful. We live here, but when I got the fellowship, this is driving distance, frankly. It’s a really nice drive up 101 to the Bay Area, which we go to a lot. We’ll be there the day after tomorrow. We have a conference I mentioned earlier at the Computer History Museum. It pretty much runs all this next week. May 1st on, but from there, I’m going back to L.A. then to Munich. I’m speaking there and then I go back to San Francisco. I’m speaking there at the Martech conference. I’m coming in as the keynote scourge for ad tech, and martech, too. This is a big thing right now is, we’ll all admit that ad tech is bad. So, let’s make it all martech. It’s the same. In many ways, it’s the same crap. We’re still going to guess at people rather than what they really want. So, I’m going to give them a lecture on that. Then, back to L.A. and then back to New York. We actually have an apartment in New York, and I would say we spend probably a little bit more time there than we do in Santa Barbara, but this year, we’ll probably end up spending more time here. It kind of depends. New York is a much better place to jump off from to go to Europe. An awful lot of the VRM work that I do is in Europe. But then, some of it’s in Australia and New Zealand. So, we go there, too and that’s a little more convenient from the West Coast. Not that it’s convenient, really, but neither my wife nor I mind traveling. We in fact enjoy it a great deal. We’re veterans. I’ll put in a good word for United Airlines. We’re between us, almost 5 million miles on United and not one bad experience.
Megan Hannay: Never been kicked off a plane?
Doc Searls: Never been kicked off a plane. That to me is an interesting thing. They’re a great big average airline. I don’t want to give too much praise. It’s not easy to run a freaking airline.
Megan Hannay: I’m sure it’s not.
Doc Searls: When you consider what they do, which is pretty amazing, actually, I think progress is the process by which the miraculous becomes mundane, and we have that with air travel. I should add, by the way, that I’m still an ACC basketball fan. I follow Duke and Carolina really close. The family history is much more Wake Forrest, so I care a little bit about them. We have a lot of relatives that went to State and Virginia. There’s a lot of loyalty to that. We lived in Boston for seven years on and off. The same way we live in New York when I worked with the Berkman Center, which I still do in a remote way with Project VRM. We just get around. Very consistent with the net. We’re everywhere.
Megan Hannay: Well, Doc, thank you so much for being on the Zip today. I feel like I had a ton more questions and I feel like you had a ton to say. I feel like you have such insights into the way technology interacts with marketing, which is fascinating. Yeah, thank you very much.
Doc Searls: Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate it. This was fun.