How To Measure Success?

The Highs and the Lows of Rankings on Amazon

It may seem obsessive, but every day — sometimes hourly — Aaron Shepard checks the sales rankings for his 12 self-published books. He even created a Web site,, that lets authors check their Amazon rankings instantly.

“People want to know where their book stands, just for the thrill of that score,” says Mr. Shepard, whose top seller, “The Business of Writing for Children,” clocked in at 1,834th during one random check last week, and at 2,070th during another one. He says it sells 250 to 450 copies a month.

Mr. Shepard is not alone. Forget writer’s block — many authors put their manuscripts aside because they cannot stop checking their rankings.

“There really should be a 12-step program,” said Harry Kirchner, a senior national accounts manager with Ingram Publisher Services, a book distributor that counts Amazon as a customer.

[…] When Amazon created the system 10 years ago, it could hardly have known how greatly its list would change the dynamics of the publishing business (much the way the company itself did) or how hard writers and industry executives would work to game the system. Today the Amazon rankings list — and, to a lesser extent, a similar list on the Barnes & Noble Web site — is the subject of great microanalysis and some mystery.

THE NYTimes Editorial Page on the Upcoming FCC Wireless Auction

A Half-Win for Cellphone Users

The Federal Communications Commission opened the door to much needed competition in cellphone services last week when it set the rules for an auction of public airwaves early next year. It did a disservice to consumers by not requiring the winners to resell capacity to other carriers on a wholesale basis. This decision is likely to slow the arrival of new competitors and technologies. It could also delay creation of a higher-speed cellular pipe to the Internet to compete with D.S.L. and cable.

In setting the rules for the sale of the last slice of beachfront property available in the radio spectrum, the F.C.C. went a little ways toward a free wireless market. […]

[…] The closed nature of America’s wireless networks is the main reason that its cellphone technology is so primitive compared with Europe’s and Japan’s. The F.C.C.’s new rules go part of the way to solve this, but unfortunately, American consumers have once again been denied a truly open and competitive cellular market.

Gaming The Network for “Truth”

Athletes link to their own ‘Truth’ on the Internetpdf

As the MySpace generation reaches professional sports, many athletes are maintaining website profiles and blogs. Along with providing a direct link to fans, these personalized Internet entries serve as an excuse to limit interviews with mainstream media while also offering the ability to deliver unfiltered messages.

[…] “They come off good if the athletes know what they are doing,” said Will Leitch, editor of, a website that often links to players’ websites. “The mistake is when you see people that still have their college MySpace profile up and all of a sudden they are in the NFL or MLB.”

Indeed, while posting messages is often intended to clear controversy, it occasionally causes it.

Vigilantes? Or Something Else?

This op-ed asks some important questions, but it’s not at all clear that the problem he cites is what is really at issue here. After all, anonymity is attractive, but does the argument that “everyone loses it sometime” mean that communities shouldn’t use whatever tools are available to manage problems. And I’m not sure Prof Solove would concur with the application of his work to support this writer’s position: YouTube vigilantespdf

When we talk of privacy in the Internet age, we mostly speak of financial information and the mounds of data that search engines keep on our e-behavior. But more and more, digital media and the relative anonymity of the Web enable netizens to expose, call out and shame others in cyberspace.

Once upon a time, we thought that the Internet would usher in a new era of free human expression, interconnectedness and understanding. But increasingly we’re finding that it actually nurtures our baser instincts and enables social behaviors that date back to when we lived in caves. Snitching, for example.

Sure, there are benefits. Cellphone calls have helped state troopers catch drunk drivers. Video postings have featured politicians saying stupid things, which I figure is a public service. Last month, a Washington liquor store owner helped police catch an armed robber after he posted surveillance video on YouTube. Earlier this year, a YouTube video of high school students firing weapons and igniting explosives helped police in Connecticut foil an alleged bomb plot.

But for the most part, “gotcha” moments on the Web have less to do with real crime and punishment than they do with old-fashioned public shaming. Who needs a scarlet letter when I can embarrass you digitally on the Internet?

Some Traditional Battlegrounds Get New Players

Antitrust now a battleground for Google and foespdf

Opponents see one last chance to cut Google Inc. off at the pass before the Internet giant attains total dominance — by staging an old-fashioned regulatory ambush.

The behind-the-scenes battle over federal approval of Google’s proposed $3.1-billion acquisition of DoubleClick Inc. could shape the Internet’s future. At stake: control of the growing online advertising market, estimated at $21.7 billion this year.

“Google dominates half the online ad market. It wants the other half,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, which has joined other public-interest groups in asking the Federal Trade Commission to block the deal unless privacy safeguards are put in place. “Once it does that, it is unstoppable.”

Blair Levin, an analyst at brokerage Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., said competitors such as Microsoft Corp. are trying to take advantage of the edge they have over Google in the nation’s capital. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is a relative newcomer to Washington.

[…] “Given the robust competition in the online advertising space — which we see fresh evidence of nearly every week — we are confident that the FTC will ultimately conclude that this acquisition poses no risk to competition and should be approved,” said Google’s policy counsel, Pablo Chavez.

Google has expanded its Washington presence and now has five senior lobbyists on staff. To help make its case with regulators, Google also hired the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, lobbying records show. Among its lobbyists is Makan Delrahim, who was deputy assistant attorney general in the antitrust division of the Justice Department from 2003 to 2005.

But Google’s opponents are working hard against the deal.

Related: It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World

Remind Me Again Why We Need A Democratic Majority?

What exactly did we gain from putting them in office? Bush Signs Law to Widen Legal Reach for Wiretapping

President Bush signed into law on Sunday legislation that broadly expanded the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants.

Congressional aides and others familiar with the details of the law said that its impact went far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists. They said seemingly subtle changes in legislative language would sharply alter the legal limits on the government’s ability to monitor millions of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the United States.

We really *have* lost our way.

See also Warrantless Surrenderpdf; also Slate’s Wiretap at Will: Congressional Democrats redefine spinelessness with the new FISA law; see also Dahlia Lithwick’s In Gonzo We Trust