Monday, May 30

A meme of one - communication through tagsonomy

Link: del.icio.us/tag/communicator-for-hire

"Howdy, I'm mike, I'm tagging myself as an experiment based on a conversation I had with Raymond of dltq. The question is, is this evil tag spam, or is it genius, let me know by tagging me as such."

This may get me flamed, ignored, boycotted or by slimmest of chances possibly even accolades, but it is a question that needed to be asked, and a risk that dared be taken.

It was inspired by a statement made from Raymond of dltq.com. To paraphrase, "in the future people we communicate through tags, we will put out the "for-hire" sign through tags..."

Raymond has already responded with a most interesting perspective, "pretentious".
del.icio.us

I think we're off to a good start. :)

Now, here's why I think this may work without being evil.

a) Most importantly of all, it may work because it IS a conversation. You can call me pretentious, you can say it's stupid, you can say it's a good idea. I've taken a leap of faith here in letting you tag me, encouraging it even... If email spammers did this I dare say there would be no more spam. This is to say, if I or anyone crosses the line in this open system, this tagsonomy, I'm sure you will let me/us know.

b) I'm not forcing myself upon you. This is not an email in your inbox. My delicious tags can be unsubscribed, ignored, blacklisted, or likewise subscribed to.

c) I'm still working on a C

What this little experiment is in it's own little way is a question about the future of advertising and comercial messages in the public forum.

There's a strong backlash against commercial messages in the blogosphere, and rightly so, for they dominate traditional media and clog communications such as email. They interject static and are often unsustainable as a means of communication.

However, in this world we are building, a system built on trusted sources, you trust me to post good stuff on my blog, if you didn't you wouldn't be reading this. People who trust me blogroll me or reblog me. People who don't care what I have to say will ignore me.

All we need do if that trust is broken is unsubscribe in this medium. My theory is that unwanted messages cannot clog this line of communication because it's a system of trust, any violation of that trust will result in unsubscribing, ignoring or even active backlash and boycott.

My second more unique theory is that this doesn't mean the end of commercial messages... I propose the radical idea that the inverse will be true... There will be a whole new ecosystem whereby commercial messages will be woven into the fabric of the conversation in a much more relevant and meaningful way. Perhaps commercial messages will even have a larger roll in society, possibly even a healthier roll. Our culture and our whole free market system will change together. This proliferation of commercial messages won't mean more of us are listening to Britney Spears. Instead it will mean more commerce will be happening aroung the Eels and bloggers and fellow citizens will be more valuable an asset then ever to brands like Vans.

Money may by some influence in this new word of mouth industry, but if your message just plain sucks or is off-topic you're wasting your money and your time.

Contagious media or viral media is the most prominent example of this. Why do we propagate some commercials through the blogosphere while ignoring others? It's a matter of relevance. Advertising doesn't suck when it's relevant or dare I say even fun. (Relevance which comes in many, many odd forms, btw.)

This new economic demand puts a whole new value on advertising and on the advertising industry. It's no longer good enough to pump out the corporate drivel as usual. Corporations MUST participate in the conversation, they must compete through relevance, they must compete with single individuals even, they must find and know their market on a very granular level, and they must communicate more creatively than ever. Advertising is not about bandwagons any more. It's about people. In the blogosphere there is no room for spam advertising and what goes for blogging goes for open tagsonomies in similarly open systems that utilize a trusted source architecture. At least in theory.

Welcome to the new economy of information, the new information ecosystem. Money isn't everything. Credibility is everything. The question is, do I have it or am I full of B.S. and the answer to that question is in you the reader.

-Mike

Sunday, May 29

Mobuzz TV - a cool new vlog

Some people, have expressed an odd sentiment about the new Australian video blog, MobuzzTV. They say "it's just a rip-off of Rocketboom", or "it's not as good as Rocketboom", or "it's not really a vlog".

Mularcy! I say. I f'n love it!

And I won't stop loving every new video blog until there are 50,000 "rocketboom knockoff's". Saying our Australian friends Mobuzz are a knock-off of Rocketboom is like saying that every blog is a knock-off of Boing Boing!

That one song, by that one guy, Dave Mathews of someone like that comes to mind... "It's all been done..."

But it hasn't all been done now has it? In fact, nothing has been done yet? NOTHING!

So Mobuzz what if Mobuzz is not the most orginal original programing since that great talking horse show in the 50's, the wonderful Mr. Ed. So what! If I see another "reality TV" show about some spoiled slutty millionaire heiress I'm going to puke. Mobuzz is a gosh damn breath of fresh air!

That said, there's plenty of new room for innovation.

Where's the Daily Kos of video blogging. Where's the Slashdot. Where's the 50 million other formats and genres. Where's my "lifestyle vlogs", my sports vlogs, my industry vlogs, my political satire vlogs, my comedy vlogs. The possibilities for format and content changes are as endless as the days are long.

Go make some crazy vlogs if you don't like Mobuzz. Make a "not Rocketboom", make an anime blog, make an animation Vlog. Make vlogs about monkeys, make vlogs on insectology, and interplanetary time travel via volkswagen beatles, and sci-fi-o-matic vlogs, and sitcom-ology vlogs, and vlogs about the little fluffy clouds in the sky. Oh, and more vlogs about the monkeys. I love those damn monkeys.

Heh, are you still with me? Get you're own bad ideas, these are mine! Stop stealing my ideas! You thought thieves! (Where'd I put my aluminum foil cap Microsoft gave me?)

This sanctimonious rant was inspired by archival.tv. Thank you for your fresh perspective. For not judging, for not being jaded, and for recognizing that there is something completely knew and wonderful happening here.

"MobuzzTV is another new production company cum broadcast network using the Internet to route around established channels of program distribution. Video programming isn?t only moving from RF to IP, but also from IP to RF. As with Rocketboom, the Mobuzz is doing a short (3 minute) daily show.

It?s interesting to see people wrestle with the implications of video for the tiny screen of mobile devices on phones and gaming devices (Mobuzz is also targeting the Sony PSP). In the future, there will be lots of full screen headshots.

Mobuzz and other companies like it need mechanisms for importing or referencing content from other sites; it?s no accident that neither Google nor Amazon produce their own content?"

iPodderX 3.0 Review

iPodderX 3.0 Review

The reviews of iPodderX 3.0 are rolling in. This one looks to be worth the read.

I've loved you blogger.com, why have you abandoned me?

Perhaps this is overly dramatic, perhaps I'm blind to some critical blogger strategy, but blogger.com seems to have stagnated and is possibly even hemorrhaging. I sent the following post to blogger.com support just minutes ago. If you're reading this in a feed reader it's been truncated, please come read it on my blog.

--- to whom it may concern at blogger.com ------------------
I just noticed that blogger has been truncating my feed.

http://mmeiser.com/blog/atom.xml

I just noticed this today, but I have no idea how long this has been going on. Perhaps a week, maybe more. I haven't changed my feed settings in blogger in forever. Perhaps over a year, so you can imagine my alarm. I double check them summarization is off, my full feed should be posting.

This is especially a problem since I'm a video blogger and you've essentially castrated all my video posts which are not getting picked up in aggregators, because they're not in my feed because of this. I'm sort of peeved but trying not to get to mad. I'm trying to remember what blogger meant to me when I started blogging. There use to be love there for this service. I don't know any more though.

Please, Please, fix this problem right away.

On a side note, an IMPORTANT side note, blogger was / is a great service, but since it got bought out by google it has more than completely stagnated. I cannot even think of ONE new feature added since Google acquired blogger.

The Atom feed technology blogger uses is completely antiquated. Luckily others such as feedburner have picked up on this. They've built an industry on this in fact thanks largely to you. Meanwhile the profile page, once the life blood of the blogger social network has been broken for over a year. Latest posts have not updated and word count has stopped.

I find this upsetting and completely out of character with google, what's more your competitor Yahoo has been buying up services also. Services like Flickr which has seen an acceleration in developments if anything since yahoo bought them out. Doubling capacity on pro accounts, halving what was an incredible introductory price. Improving usability, functionality and accessibility. Meanwhile you've SAT ON a potential golden jewel for google. If search is your life blood, then blogger is your heart.

You haven't rolled out any new premium services. You haven't gotten categories or tags! What about trackbacks? You haven't improved any search mechanism. You haven't even acknowledged podcasters or video bloggers. Wouldn't it be SWEET to add field that managed podcasts or videos and generated the proper RSS code, the proper embed code, perhaps an optional pop out window?

You haven't updated ping tools for new dozens of new tracker services. You haven't created any API's for extending blogger, and finally you've barely expended the resources to keep blogger going. Just what have you been up to!? I repeat... ***crown jewel potential, squandered***.

It's alarming. So alarming I'm probably going to move to Wordpress or moveable type. What gives!? Please do tell!?

May I point out that web-services have a HUGE advantage over open source MT and Wordpress packages. You're centralized nature gives you the ability to respond to new technologies and standards, to drive innovation, to help propagate open standards, and push these fluidly into the hands of bloggers where they can light a bonfire of activity and passion for your brand. Yes, lovemarks, brand love, whatever you want to call it. YOU, blogger once were one of these brands, and could very well be again if only you'd extend a hand!

This ability to drive and adopted new standards, innovations and technologies makes you highly attractive, or would if you were alive, but you don't seem to be. Is there anyone in there? Gmail is doing this, this is certainly why people f'n love flickr. People also f'n love google maps. Sorry for the French, but "f'n love" is exactly the emphasis called for!

MediaRSS, podcasting, videoblogging, geotagging!, XFN, AJAX and the list goes on and on and on. You're market is EXPLODING! Where are you!?

My grandmother moves faster and she's been dead for 20 years! I've loved you blogger, why have you abandoned me?

-Mike of http://mmeiser.com/blog
An ungrateful blogger.

Friday, May 27

iPodderX 3.0 to support video feeds

I assume everyone's already seen this who cares, but Mac Merc previewed and reviewed iPodderX 3.0. It looks like FireANT might have a little competition soon.

The review: MacMerc.com: Review >> iPodderX 3.0

ipxvlog

Is This The Way To Amarillo?

peterkayAfter seeing the hillarious parody this morning on Rocketboom by Staff Sgt Roger Parr and the Royal Dragoon Guards tank regiment in Iraq OF British comedian Peter Kay's "Is this the way to Amarillo?" music video done for British Comic Relief in March I couldn't get this song out of my head and so resolved to track down the original video. Well I found it, and I hope you like it. :)

Just so you know the song was written by Neil Sedaka. This version was recorded in 1971 by Tony Christie and is currently number one in the UK.

Watch it: PeterKayAmarillo.wmv

On a side note I also happened to find this nice little version that sounds like it's done by a marching band. It seemed so appropriate I could not, not post it. Enjoy: Amarillo.mp3 (2.8mb/3min)

And BTW, Happy Memorial Day weekend.

Via Wizbang

Wednesday, May 25

To-Done, 'life hacking', and blogs that save you the time to read them

I've been having multiple conversations lately about blogs that save you the time to read them.

I think in some ways this is do to the hubbub around Make Magazine, and the increased talk of 'life hacking'. What I'm beginning to notice though is it's not just productivity applications. Many times it can be experiences that can whisk us away to unique and beautiful places.

You might consider these alternative time savers to be mini-vacations for the mind, and boingboing.net is one of them. When you're crunching some code, or writing, or researching or even keeping up on the news these blogs can be very important to keeping sharp and alert. Often times when we're really straining or brain on a problem of a certain sort it can actually be very helpful to back up a step and forget about it for a bit. Blogs seem to fit this roll infinitely better than traditional media.

Think of it as a jumping-jack, a coffee break. MUCH better than a cigarette break, but for the mind, these sites get the endorphins flowing and the brain thinking. They surprise the brain with pleasant impulses it's may well be deprived of. They stimulate creative thinking, they create connections that get the synapses firing. My friend Devon would call it neurolinguistic programing. Others simply self-diagnosis.

For some this might be a blog on obscure fun news bits like boingboing.net, for some it might be juicy mac tidbits like Think Secrete, for others it might a gadget blog like Engadget, or a design blog like MocoLoco.

These seemingly anti-productivity blogs are actually very productive. They differ greatly from the blogs we read for news or information to the degree that they allow us to escape a troubling stimuli and problems and stimulate unconventional thinking.

But today, the thing I found refreshingly stimulating was a blog that open my eyes to the surpassingly fun world of personal productivity, To-Done.com. I hope you like it.

The long tail of software. Millions of Markets of Dozens.

Joe Kraus of bnoopy blog, formerly employed by Excite and now of JotSpot.com writes an interesting article outlining the future of software in the long tail.

Bnoopy: The long tail of software. Millions of Markets of Dozens.

Basically what it comes down to is the next major generation of software will be wikiesque collaborative software. Social Software. That's what Jotspot is working on, and while I'm not necessarily in agreement with their execution, I wholly agree with them on this point.

I've been telling people for a while now that in the future the wiki will be seen as the MS Word of this decade, but it's more than that. Basically nearly everything we work on in individual user desktop apps is cramping our collaborative nature. The emailing and tracking of versions of documents is a huge problem to productivity, and I haven't seen Microsoft nor anyone doing anything about it yet. It seems pretty obvious that we need more collaborative "living documents" and also pretty obnoxious to say the majority of businesses are wholly blind to this fact, but sadly it's true.

Web based collaborative apps that multiple people can edit nearly simultaneously are the future replacements of Excel, MS Word, and hundreds of desktop based single user applications. We don't need Power Point presentations we can email around. We need power point projects that can live online. We don't need Excel docs we can share, we need Excel docs we can collaborate on, that can draw on live data and numbers, perhaps from other projects that others are working on. This is the new legacy of software applications. Living documents, live documents, living projects, social software, collaborative software.

On a side note, I would argue that Open Source Software is uniquely suited to this cause do to its adaptability and flexibility. Also, that we're beginning to see some of these tools. One such is 37 Signals new Backpackit, which is a collaborative to do list and basic scheduler. In some respects so is Flickr though both these are a long, long way from collaborative project makers with gant charts, collaborative accounting applications.

Now that web browsers are slowly standardizing and front end development is getting much more fluid, a la' AJAX, we should soon be picking up pace toward a more social, more collaborative generation of applications. Applications that are the realization of the "thin client" that those such as the head of Oracle dreamed of yesteryear.

The applications they dreamed of and talked about then were little more than network running ports of Excel running of a mainframe server. They thought the cost of putting the technology at the edges of the network would cause networks to re-centralize. Wow, they couldn't have been more wrong. And yet, little did they realize the coming reality of their visions would not only be nothing like that which they dreamed, but also SO MUCH MORE. Collaboration is driving not the centralization of networks, but the centralization of data and the connectivity of decentralized applications. Even the Outlook Exchange Server architecture is being decentralize in the Chandler Project, though I guess this is hardly a trend.

In fact though I have no doubt how big this next generation of social applications will be, we have just scratched the surface and in fact it may be premature to speculate just how big or just what will be the driving force. I suspect it'll be collaboration that drives it, a social revolution in applications, but in fact if I've learned anything from the past it's that direction has a way of being changed by as-yet-unseen forces and driven in ways which we cannot foresee. Though we cannot see the future only very rarely does it not surpass our expectations. Guessing the future is most thrilling because of the delightful way it proves us wrong. In other words...

The future will be nothing you think it will be, and yet SO MUCH MORE.

Via evhead: The long tail of software. Millions of Markets of Dozens.

Oh, all this and what does it have to do with the long tail? I guess you might say that these collaborative applications will be hand tailored for the unique use by small groups, as Joe Kraus points out, "market's of a dozen". These will be your HR team, your marketing team, your accounting team.

Company to company each one will have their own workflow. They won't be running Word, or Excel or whatever they run now, they'll be running highly customized collaborative workflow applications that have been set up specifically for their needs. I'm betting even if they come from proprietary software companies like Microsoft they will have to be increasingly flexible. Moreover though I'm guessing open source will fuel this area with corporate developers installing and customizing solutions. Applications like Excell and Power Point and Word will become merely readers for published materials, allowing for the viewing of standardized export formats, much like Adobe Acrobat Reader. You might even say this is the real future of the paperless office that never materialized. Though it is likely somehow we'll still manage to use even more paper.

Innovation will bubble up through these infinite solutions to inform development on the core technology. This is pretty much how open source works now anyway.

Monday, May 23

Mr. Baron and Ms. Congdon of Rocket Boom Dot Com in New York Times

This isn't new but I'm just catching up with the reading. Congrats to the Rocketboom crew for their NY Times write up. Getting your first dedicated article (even if only a short local flavor piece) in the NY Times is muy ++++ good. Plus it was short, a great read, and their was no ill concieved back-slapping or misdirected hype. A little slice of life. A behind the scenes look.

Enjoy: Weatherperson Wanted. Bring Own Map. And Jokes. - New York Times

Oh, there's more. Much more interesting than the article Doc Searl's post puts it all into perspective.

The Doc Searls Weblog : Saturday, May 21, 2005

I like the way Doc thinks and what he has to say. It's much more interesting and valuable than all the misrepresentation or lack of info in the mainstream press. Thanks Doc.

Update: Not to be out done on the future of telivision meme Conan O'brien has this awesome piece from Newsweek which has no redeeming values or valueable information except that it's hillarious and on topic. A true must read. ;)
The Future of Television - Next Frontiers - MSNBC.com

22weat1_span

Fingerprint scanners coming to Illinois library - neo-anti-luddism

Newsflash, idiots in Naperville (suburb to Chicago) throw technological solution at little problem and make much bigger one.

Library officials in a Chicago suburb plan to scan and record visitor fingerprints, purportedly to prevent unauthorized persons from using library computers. Way to make libraries a more happyfun haven of knowledge, guys!

The scanners _ to be installed on 130 library computers this summer _ will verify the identity of computer users. Library officials said they wanted to tighten computer access because many people borrow library cards and pass codes from friends or family to log on. The technology also will help the library implement a new policy that allows parents to put filters on their children's' accounts, officials said.

But privacy advocates have criticized the plan, which would make Naperville only the second library system in the nation to use fingerprint-scanning technology, according to the American Library Association. "We take people's fingerprints because we think they might be guilty of something, not because they want to use the library," said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union in Illinois.

What will save us from our technology? More technology? Just because we can, should we? Do we really want nor need a perfect technological sytems of law? Here's a wild idea, perhaps law only works because it can be broken, because it is messy, because civil disobediance can happen, because law is never perfect, because we are imperfect makers of law. Perhaps our very humanity lies somewhere in the imperfection? When the folks in Naperville get their perfect little utopia where laws are perfect and they can keep "unauthorized visitors from using their computers" will it really be a perfect society, or will it more resemble hell?

We're such a technologically bent society right now we sometimes can't see our hand in front of our face.

I just wanted to say this because I always like to say it. The revolution is not technological, it's socialogical. The technology is merely the catalyst for what's to come. These nice fools in Naperville I love them with their technology is the answer approach to everything. They're ++++!

Link: Ill. Library Getting Fingerprint Scanners

Via: Boing Boing: Fingerprint scanners coming to Illinois library

On Flickr and Ajax and accessibility and busting a cap in black box businesses

Woohoo! Flickr has de-Flashed their primary photo pages.

Flickr is constantly working to improve their usability. All it takes is a quick look at their development log and flickr blog to see they're extremely focused on usability. EXTREMELY. Most recently they've "de-Flashed" their primary photo page making it INFINITELY more ACCESSIBLE while keeping the usability fun and effective.

With all this hype about Ajax I think that developers and business managers are finally starting to get the accessibility and useability issue. Yes, our wee little industry of "web designers" is finally starting to grow up. I'm so happy we're making great strides beyond the "garage web design" days of yore.

Certainly I love that any designer can start out of a garage, but I'm talking about good old appreciation for web designers. I'm talking about not having to start every interview and meeting with justifying my rates against someone working out of a garage. (No bitterness hear ;)

Why? Because people on the whole are starting to get the ROI of good useability and accessibility. It's not just AJAX technologies either, it's also RSS, trackbacks, permalinks and the fact that open source, yes OPEN SOURCE and open standards have allowed the the conversation to evolve and become more sophisticated on the value of our accessibility and the mechanisms, standards and technologies that make this possible. I'm thinking of creating a "stars of accessibility and useability" contest and inviting all the good designers to promote the technologies and standards that have not only made our jobs easier to do, but made the climate may favorable for what we do. I'm sure programmers will share in this love.

  1. CSS - nobody and nothin' has done more
  2. RSS - for teaching that portable data rules!
  3. XML
  4. the permalink - for teaching that accessibility RULES, if I can't bookmark it I can't share it!
  5. Javascript - I love you, no I hate you, no I love you, so much
  6. Mozilla/Firefox for helping bust the standards hump
  7. the W3C - for standardizing and modularizing the metaverse
  8. comments - for teaching the infinite benefits of a two way conversation to everyone
  9. the blog in general - it has given us so much
  10. open source which made code accessible to the masses
  11. wiki's the MS Word of the next 50 years for potentials yet unrealized
  12. metadata - I bask in glowing concept of you
  13. WYSIWYG - still working on it after all these years?
  14. Flash - for getting the fudge out of the way and letting the content LIVE!
  15. mp3 - for teaching the SHEER POWER of standards to create an industry
  16. mpeg - for doing the same in video
  17. Quicktime - for getting everyone's act in line (accept win media and Real)
  18. for the death of DRM - because it needs to die and is NOBODIES friend


Oh, I could go on and ON, and ON, but 17 stream of conscious it's is quite enough.

The point is we're de-black boxing design!

Yes, let me say it again, though many many designers of old resisted and have even fought against letting their craft out of the bag, even guarding and maintaining the built mystique we are successfully breaking down the barriers, barriers built out of protectionism and fear that in fact HURT our profession. Our customers are now more educated, they have a higher understanding and therefore a higher DEMAND for quality design. This is serving everyone better. EVERYONE... the end customer.. the programers we work with... the clients... and yes even ourselves because we're allowed to be the design geeks we've always wanted to be. We're allowed to wax poetic about standards and accessibility and usability (and blather endlessly on our blogs) and not only do our clients know what we're talking about, but they're right there with us, partners in the creation of their own projects. Partners in creating BETTER products, more accessible products, more usable products, better experiences, and more humane interfaces. All the things I love. It makes my heart weep tears of joy.

So, when i see a development and company blog like this one from Flickr, you can bet your arsenal it makes me a happy camper... as a designer, as a end client, as blogger I can love web services again. Heh! I can even love Yahoo again! This focus on good design kicks butt. Come to think of it why is Yahoo continuing to rock with Flickr when Google has ground new features and developments on blogger to a halt. What gives Google?

LINK: Flickr: News: "DEV CHANGE LOG

12th May, 2005
We'll we've gone and done it. In answer to countless requests, photo pages no longer use a Macromedia Flash wrapper to display photos; instead we are using an old technology called 'DHTML.'

In addition, the 'Send to Group,' 'Add to Set,' and 'Blog This' buttons above photos now allow you to perform relevant actions right there on the page!

And also, links now work in notes! (And we'll soon be adding some more cool auto-linking features when the links point to Flickr pages.)

Also rolled into this release are a whole lot of little tweaks and fixes that should make your photo page viewing more enjoyable all around.

11th May, 2005
IPTC support (finally)! Friends, today there's another good thing in Flickrland, and that's support for IPTC data embedded into your photos. Keywords become tags! Captions become descriptions! Marvel as one framework's terminology is swapped for another! Smile as the location fields in IPTC become Flickr tags! Discuss.

10th May, 2005
Remember the 5MB limit per photo for your uploads? That was the olden days! Now pro account users can upload photos of up to 10MB each (while, perhaps, cursing their ISP for the slow upload connection - in this age of the two web, why the asynchronousness, o ISPs?)"

19 May '05, 2.49pm EDT
In our continuing quest to make photo pages more better, we've made it so that when adding/removing a photo to a set/group via the menus, the relevant 'context widget' appears/disappears appropriately. ('Context widgets' are those listings of the groups/sets the photo belongs to that appear in the right column.)
::

17 May '05, 4.30pm EDT
We've made it easier to remove photos from sets on photo pages! Just like the 'send to group' menu, the 'add to set' menu now sports a little [X] that appears after the set name, which'll remove the photo form the set.
::

17 May '05, 1.14pm EDT
We've made it easier to remove photos from group pools, with a little [X] that appears after the group name in the 'send to group' menu on photo pages. And we fixed a bug that kept that and other menus from working properly for groups and sets with a ' in their name. Still to come: removing a photo from a set in the same manner, and more!
::

27 Apr '05, 8.56pm EDT
The ability to change the view on the page that shows photos from your contacts is back! And much, much faster!
::

22 Apr '05, 8.01pm EDT
Group pool pages have been seriously optimized. Even the biggies load in under a second! Have a look at the Flickr Central pool (one of the biggest). Now you don't have to wait forever to see new photos in the pool, or who's posted the most additions, or what the top five tags are. Phew!
::

[...]

12 Apr '05, 2.21pm EDT
In our neverending quest for performance optimization, we've made a little tweak to the page that shows photos from your contacts. There was a switch on that page that allowed you to change between seeing one photo or all photos from each of your contacts. This switch has been temporarily set to one photo per contact, while we do some tightening up of the database performance. (By the way, if you are subscribing to RSS feeds of this information, your feed will just contain one photo per person too.)

It will be back, in one form or another.
::

25 Feb '05, 2.52pm EDT
There's lots of great information in the public forums on Flickr, and until now it's been a little hard to find.

So, we've improved the way forum searches work to help you zero in on what you're looking for. Now, the more words you add to the search field, the narrower the search. Also, we've made the search results sortable, so you can do things like see results by most recent reply, or the most replies.
::

11 Feb '05, 7.50pm EDT
We've added pagination to group topics. If there are more than 100 replies, there will be more than one page.

In the list of current topics (e.g. FlickrCentral) you can see a new link in the Latest Post column. This link shows up if there is more than one page, and takes you to the last page, where you are able to reply if you're a member.
::

7 Feb '05, 8.25pm EDT
As requested, we've added some more options to the timeline selector on the Recent Changes in groups you're a member of.
::

Did someone say "better, faster, easier, newer"? What ever happened to stonger anyway?

Tuesday, May 17

FireANT for Windows is out in beta!

fireant_sync_300Great news this morning, FireANT for Windows is out in beta!

Get it here! FireANT | Not TV

Download it for Mac or Windows today and experience the true joys of videoblogging! Be sure to blog about it and let everyone know what you think! Make sure you send the developers thanks and report any bugs if you find them. It is only beta after all. :)

Congratulations to Erik, Josh, Jay, and Daniel and the entire FireANT team from myself and on behalf of video blogging enthusiasts everywhere.

Videoblogging can now commence going nuclear!

Well, we can dream can't we?

FireANT is going to need a bigger button.


That's better.

ant-benefit-statement

BTW, on a related note it looks like a very similar application just came out this morning also.

MediaTuner.com - Rich Media RSS Aggregator/Player (via)

I know nothing about it nor who's behind it yet, but talk about weird timing.

The worst halftime show ever, or simply the best?

Though I don't usually post or have any interest in purely derogatory and sensless humor I had a friend send me this video with no information and challenge me to find out the story behind it.

Watch it: worst.asf (video/x-ms-asf Object)

It appealed to my sense of daring. Daring to succeed means daring to fail. As such I applaud and am even inspired by, yes, INSPIRED, by the daring of these individuals.

Therefore without so much as a wink, I will accept this challenge. Not for any prospect of other reward but purely because I have a personal need to know the story of these courageous individuals.

Within a few minutes i was able to discover the following possible source.

GorillaMask.net: Worst halftime show ever.

Also, I have learned that this was at one point posted on iFilm's "viral videos" page. True to form iFilm had NO information about this video. iFilm being not any better than GorillaMask.net. Furthermore though Gorilla Mask has choosen to post the video without it's history (as has iFilm) at least they have not vainly attempted to monopolize it's popularity and viral nature by attempting to lock it to their servers and trying to ensure noone can download it or put a direct link to it like iFilm has done. Bravo GorillaMask. Shame on you iFilm.

Back on point. This much is obvious from my first viewing, it seems to be in an older Microsoft ASF format. If it were newer it would be a WMV file. It's probably a college or even high-school level halftime show. The kids are young. Somewhere beween 17 and 24... my best guess after one viewing. Though it appears to be English and possibly even from somewhere in the US there seem to be British and possibly even German accents. Hence it could be somewhere in Europe.

Upon second viewing... it's on a soccer field, definitely NOT U.S. football... and I see soccer scarves and Volkswagen ads... there are rotating ads! I don't recognize any companies besides Volkswagen and I can't make out there full names. However, this is no highshool or even college event. It's got to be a European soccer match. The stadium is to big, the advertising is to well organized, and other context suggests Europe. The proper english and mixed European accents taken into account I'm guessing it's from somewhere in the UK circa 1997 to 2002.

That said, now the real work begins. Tracking down the back story. I welcome anyone reading to try their luck. Someone might even recognize some contextual clue I might have mised. Let the race begin. I wish luck to you please wish me luck in return. I may well need it.

Be sure to check back later for the results. I will post a notation here as well as in a new post so the answer to this riddle is not missed.

Saturday, May 14

Feedburner gets mediaRSS support and Rick Klau moves from Socialtext over to Feedburner

Feedburner's been all over my radar today.

First, I noticed they were going to start supporting Google Adsense ads in RSS. I mentioned it in my previous post along with a bunch of related advertising issues.

Second, there's the big news that Feedburner is now supporting the new MediaRSS spec from Yahoo. ...which I helped to contribute to if only in a very, very minor way. (What can I say, it didn't need much of my help with all the great contributors.)

Feedburner's support of MediaRSS will help EVERYONE out... from content producers to Yahoo to consumers looking for videos. What it means is blogged videos will be piped directly, if not indirectly crawled by the yahoo search engine with all their metadata intact. Better metadata means better searching, better finding, and more exposure for video bloggers and podcasters everywhere. Let's not forget podcasters here. Expect for all the major search engines to pick up on it including Altavista and Google as well as some of the great blog specific search engines like Blogsnow, Feedster and Technoratti. MediaRSS is going to bring a wealth of new information about video and audio based content into the search engines. With it 2005 may well be the year the web got media rich!

Finally, a friend pointed out to me that one of the Socialtext crew, Rick Klau, has moved over to Feedburner.

In conclusion, since pretty much the beginning of the year when there were only a couple hundred feeds Feedburner has taken a narrow sliver of a market, one that didn't even exist a year ago and used it to drive the success of podcasting and video blogging. It's safe to say with over 50,000 feeds created just since the beginning of the year that these guys have invented an industry around RSS and metadata where none had previously existed. It blows my sox off. It's quite possible that the world of podcasting and video blogging as we know it would not have come into existence without them. At the very least, we'd not be anywhere near where we are now.

Feedburner has made audio and video syndication understandable by the average human and in doing so have helped democratize media. That 50,000 feeds mark represents just about every major podcast and vlog I know and of course they've branched out into all sorts of photo and regular blog feeds just because they do what they do so well that their benefits have spilled over into already established markets. They're truly the unsung hero's of the new media revolution.

So, there is that and the fact that and I cannot wait to try out the new media RSS. I'll be soliciting and shopping it around to podcasting and video blogging aggregation and application makers like FireANT, iPodder, iPodderX and more, because of course I can't begin to put together structured micro-programming until it's supported by the aggregators.

Micro-programing? MediaRSS ads multiple enclosure (attachment) support per blog post which will theoretically allow me to splice together multiple video sources into a post so they can be played back as a single cohesive piece... in short I can program miniature shows. Evil malicious grin. :)

Multi-enclosure support means I could open a post with a clip from one source on a server on the other side of the planet, do a video introduction of my own with a clip hosted on my server, and then show a third clip from yet another source. Not only can I string together these disparate video clips from different sources together in a cohesive show, but they don't even need to be in the same format or codec. One could be Win Media, one Quicktime and one Mpeg.

Multi-enclosure RSS is the epitome of "small pieces loosely joined". In this case though it's small pieces of video content loosely joined into a cohesive show.

Why's this better than the old RSS spec? Because the old enclosure spec did allowed for one enclosure per post at a time and the order and indeed the integrity of the pieces couldn't be verified.

Oh and btw, it appears both Socialtext and Feedburner both just completed rounds of VC funding, though I don't have the specifics. Sorry Ross I don't play games. I'm no fun that way, but I have noticed the internet media sector is really getting hot these days.

Friday, May 13

Lock-in vs. Love-in, reverse-engineering passion, and the new more subversive marketing

passionateDear passionate user blogger people,

I have no idea who you are, yet, I just now stumbled upon your blog, but I can see from the way you talk about things, such as "why we care", "creating meaning" and that you think passion can be reverse engineered (is that some sort of hax0r theory? or a branch of social engineering?) that we will be blogging friends for a long time to come.

Soo....

Have you ever thought about or written about lock-in as a tool for marketing. It's the antithesis of passion. It never ceases to amaze me that there are vast amounts of people who hate the corporations that they do business with but they continue to work with them because they have long term contracts (such as in service industries like cellular, cable, phone, ISP's) or inoperable products (i.e. Microsoft Office).

On the other hand I've been using a term that has more in common with the 60's and 70's than current business techniques. I call it "love-in". In it's noun form it's often confused with the late 60's protest (or other) but I like to use it in similar fashion to "lock-in" as in... What this product needs is less lock-in and more love-in. In it's verb form I think people tend to get it better. After all, every company and person really wants some of that "good love-in". Although I must admit the true meaning of it is often overlooked do to the over use of lovin' thus causing confusion with loving.

Love-in is a rare thing, but it does exist. People who wouldn't dare leave a brand or company's service because they love it to much. It can be seen with Apple, Volkswagen, Adidas. The guys over at Saatchi and Saatchi like to dole out "love-marks". I'm sure you've heard of lovemarks by now.

Love-in is not just loving or lovemarks though, we're talking about the
"loving lock-in". For example one might say "I just bought a new mac mini to go with my iPod, not because I had to to get the most out of my iPod, but because I love my iPod so much." Or inversely... "I just bought an iPod not because it's the only mp3 player to work with my Mac, but because I love my mac so much I figure I'd love the iPod too.

What love-in is about is the leveraging of of love of a product to sell other products.

Love-in is such a beautiful devil, because people by definition love this type of subversion. If you have the iPod, you have to get the iMac. If you have X-brand shirt, you have to get X-brand pants and X-brand accessories. If you have the Harley Davidson motorcycle you have to get the authentic accessories. Yeap, this is the way the beautifully subversive love-in works.

It is in this passion that my modern love-in theory starts to get blurred. Because they have Saturns thousands of people join together for a mass pilgrimage and vacation at Saturn Corp. Harley Davidson owners go to Harley Davidson rallies, and Star Trek fans get together at marvelous Star Trek conventions. It is at this point where corporate love-in starts sparking eery similarities to the love-in's of the 60's and 70's. Is there some parallel that can be drawn? Is there something bad here? Is this something good? Has free lovin' be subverted through capitalistic hegemony to corporate love-in?

I guess all this is to say I think you have the right focus. Focus on the passion, it's all about love-in not lock-in... but then reverse engineering... well we have a long road a head of us before we can all become "little happy pods". :)

Oh, And yes, Scoble did say blogging will make us richer and improve our sex life...

In response to: Creating Passionate Users: Reverse-engineering passion: part 1

passioncharacterstic

New advertising developments in podcasting and RSS - with cool Eels music video ;)

  • Feedster is offering an advertising solution for not only blogs but for in RSS and supposedly even in podcast advertising. Link

  • Feedburner is now prepared to support Google's Adsense for RSS in their newsfeed services. Link.

    As has now been widely reported, Google has launched a trial program enabling AdSense in RSS, and FeedBurner has implemented support for this capability. Google is currently testing this program with just a few publishers, but as the program becomes more widely available, and your Google AdSense id is approved for use with RSS ads, FeedBurner will take care of the rest as part of our suite of services. Google's AdSense implementation is based on editing your source feed template. FeedBurner makes it simple to implement the AdSense service if you can't or don't want to edit your source feed templates, or you just want additional flexibility in determining frequency of ads, ability to prevent ads on short posts and other ad control mechanisms for your feed.

    We will activate our Google AdSense service as the trial expands beyond the initial pilot group of publishers.

  • On a side note, I've noticed Engadet and a few others just started putting Google's Adsense ads in their news feeds within the last week or two. At this point I've found these ads non-distracting as they're simple text based ads at the end of the post. However, I expect advertisers boldness will grow but I'm not really worried about the potential for clutter because news feeds have several defining characteristics that put the people in control to give advertising in this medium balance.

  • First, news feeds are a traffic enabling tool for most players, to tax the lines of first contact could very well cause a downturn in traffic if it is not done discretely.

  • Secondly, RSS news feeds are a "trusted source / subscription based" mechanism. This is the inverse of email... instead of content creators pushing, the audience is pulling. At any point the audience members can simply unsubscribe. Therefore the tolerance for advertising is very finely balanced unlike email advertising, TV, or nearly ALL other mechanisms. Balance and trust are the key, unlike TV and traditional media where advertising is often "forced down the pipe" and viewers have little control but to mute, change the channel, or thank the gods they have a Tivo.

  • Finally, there's the issue of the sheer plenitude of services, the new information ecosystem is so abundant that there is no lock-in. Let's take gadgets for example. If Engadget offends me and looses my trust I have Gizmodo and about 40 other gadget blogs with which I can pick up the same information without missing a beat. In fact in my case I subscribe to them all already so it's merely a matter of dropping any offenders. Yes, btw, I do get duplicate posts, but this is actually a great thing... new media is a conversation, having several "friends" mention something serves as emphasis and offers perspectives. Redundancy also serves to ensure I don't miss anything. Still, it something few people understand. This redundancy couldn't possibly be a better thing, the same as reblogging. It's the interlinking and redundancy that makes blogging such a healthy medium.

  • What these three points add up to is that if RSS ads get to distracting I and many others will simple unsubscribe from the offending feeds which will cause a disproportionate downturn in their traffic for these players... or we will simply turn to ad blocker type plugins and mechanisms. Yes, consumers can now get as obnoxious as advertisers. Horaay! :)

  • Finally, the big news of the day: the Dawn and Drew Podcast is now advertising for Durex Condom new flavored condoms. They supposedly have already had a taste testing session... Dawn, Drew AND their dog, though I admittedly have not listened to the show. link

    Condom maker Durex bought ad space on the Dawn and Drew Show, a popular program with people who tune in to PodcastAlley.com, Ad Age reported: Podcasting gives Durex "a way to demonstrate the brand in a way that's very, very relevant," according to Liz Daney, senior vice president at Fitzgerald & Co., the unit of ad firm Omnicom that arranged the buy. "We could have the product actively being used. We're showing it exactly as we want to position the brand, as fun, as playful and sensual," she told Ad Age. The story goes on: "On the first podcast originally uploaded last month, Dawn and Drew and their dog, Hercules , put various samples from a Durex variety pack to the taste test. In a subsequent show, they tried a new line of tingling lubricants." Thrill-a-minute.

    the-eelsNow check out this sweet new music video by the Eels, my new favorite band of the moment. I can't get enough of it, been watching it all week. The lead singer for the Eels does this one in video blogger style, self-shot with camera in hand... one take and all. Complete with him nearly falling over a chair but I liked it. Is this an ad you might ask yourself? I wish I was getting paid, but I think I'm more than capable of being disjointed enough without outside economics. Besides I love it, don't you? Isn't that all that matters. Yee haa! :)

    Watch it: heyman.mov
    (26mb Quicktime Movie)
  • Saturday, May 7

    A ninja pays half my rent

    a ninja pays half my rentYes, there's just something so inspiring about ninjas, a quality that inspires the most inspired short films. Continuing on the Ninja theme from earlier this week, today I bring you "A Ninja Pays Half My Rent."

    Enjoy: A Ninja Pays Half My Rent.wmv
    (29mb WMV)

    On armed forces recruiting practices this Cinco de Mayo

    I'm not often likely to get political on this blog often, but I'm posting this video about armed forces recruitment in response to Zadi's excellent post on Army recruiting on Cinco de Mayo. Let's examine what we know.

    1) It's no secrete that our armed forces are having trouble keeping up with recruitment.

    2) It's no secrete that the majority of our armed forces come from mid to lower income families.

    3) It's no secrete that our armed forces are disproportionately made up of minorities when compared with the makeup of the US population. (I have no exact facts at this time, please feel free to refute this or back it up with facts)

    4) It's no secrete that recruiters are very aggressive in their tactics.

    Now let's examine what's on the following video.

    Watch it: 17yroldstinger1.mov
    (5.7mb Quicktime)

    1) A 17 year old high school student, writing a story for his high school paper on recruitment is told by the recruiter to lie on his application about his age.

    2) The same recruiter recommends getting a fake high school diploma, even suggesting a fake high school name so as to be more discrete.

    3) Upon paying a couple hundred bucks to get the fake diploma the student is referred to a second recruiter who recommends a non-prescription cocktail of some "drug be gone" product (my term not theirs) after the 17 year old tells the recruiter he smokes pot.

    After you're finished watching that clip you might watch Zadi's clip of Army Recruiting at Cinco de Mayo which she put online yesterday.

    Now, I don't want to say to much, that's not why I do this. I do this to share and spread the clips and the footage, but I did want to say the following. I'll try to keep it short.

    While I'm appalled by the recruitment techniques of the 17 year old I'm mixed on Zadi's footage of recruiting at Cinco de Mayo. It's unnerving how deliberate and bold the Army's recruiting tactics are. They walk right in and start recruiting overtly in the middle of a minority holiday, blatantly turning the holiday, the good feelings, the insecurity and inexperience of the youths, and the patriotism of the event to their ends. Even the mass audience plays to their favor as peer pressure comes into play.

    Their sales tactics are honestly not much if any better than that of a used car salesman. They are preying on the insecurity of 18 year olds and certainly some that aren't quite 18 yet. Finally, the thing that most unnerves me is their overt targeting of minorities. I've seen these recruiting practices before at the Maxwell Street Market in Chicago, a largely hispanic weekly market, but it's not a holiday event. I've seen other local TV news coverage on these techniques of targeting minorities and those from lower income families in Michigan and yet I'm torn because aggressive recruiting is necessary. They must recruit. And while I've never seen such tactics in upper class neighborhoods I know sales people must go where the selling is best. It's counter intuitive for a sales person to deliberately seek harder markets, and yet this is the same excuse that was used to justify racial profiling. Is it just that they're so overt or is there something truly wrong with our armed forces recruiting practices?

    I encourage you to post your comments on Zadi's (or my) blog. And more importantly I encourage you to post these videos, or find other footage and post it to your own blog and frame your own conversations. I'm not interested in getting a half a dozen comments. I'm interested in starting a half dozen conversations.

    About this video clip: Most interestingly, the above posted news clip is courtesy of Michael Moore's website. Say what you will about the man, but he didn't make this clip, and he didn't recruit a 17 year old through malicious means. This clip is traveling all around the web this week and Michael Moore (or more likely one of his representatives) merely brought it to our attention by hosting it on his site.

    Inherent in that simple act of posting a video to a website or blog is the power of this new medium. Sure we can express our opinions, but even more importantly we can legally QUOTE rich media and we need to exercise our right to do so. By creating our own video and quoting others media we can recontextualize the debate, we can frame the debate, we can lift the debate off the airwaves where we are spectators and bring it onto the living web where we can be active participants.

    In this democratic media, we choose what to focus on, what is important, it's not just that we can share our opinions on it, but it's that we can set the agenda. We not only can talk about it, but we can share it and see it. And no matter what you think of Michael Moore's films it doesn't take a genius to see the power and the potential of this evolving democratic media may well very quickly surpass the undeniable influence of his films. Perhaps it already is. New media's power is as sure as you are reading these words and the only thing that will stop it is if you choose not to speak up, not to engage, not to start your own blog, post your own videos and share your valuable opinions and points of view.

    Perhaps Michael Moore should take respite from film for a bit and start a vlog? When you leave the theatre you leave it with only the memory of the event, but online information lives as a conversation, as a living memory. We can share it, see it, and discuss it. It's not history, abstraction or memory, it's a living medium.

    Thank you Zadi.

    Thursday, May 5

    Make a Bonfire of Your Reputations

    I don't know how I stumbled upon this quote, I think it was some article on Kuro5hin.org, but these words apparently appear on page 44 of the Cluetrain manifesto. They are words of inspiration for vloggers, podcasters and bloggers everywhere.

    When I was asked to make this address I wondered what I had to say to you boys who are graduating. And I think I have one thing to say. If you wish to be useful, never take a course that will silence you. Refuse to learn anything that implies collusion, whether it be a clerkship or a curacy, a legal fee or a post in a university. Retain the power of speech no matter what other power you may lose. If you can take this course, and in so far as you take it, you will bless this country. In so far as you depart from this course, you become dampers, mutes, and hooded executioners.

    As a practical matter, a mere failure to speak out upon occassions where no statement is asked or expect from you, and when the utterance of an uncalled for suspicion is odious, will often hold you to a concurrence in palpable iniquity. Try to raise a voice that will be heard from here to Albany and watch what comes forward to shut off the sound. It is not a German sergeant, nor a Russian officer of the precinct. It is a note from a friend of your father's, offering you a place at his office. This is your warning from the secret police. Why, if you any of young gentleman have a mind to make himself heard a mile off, you must make a bonfire of your reputations, and a close enemy of most men who would wish you well.

    I have seen ten years of young men who rush out into the world with their messages, and when they find how deaf the world is, they think they must save their strength and wait. They believe that after a while they will be able to get up on some little eminence from which they can make themselves heard. 'In a few years,' reasons one of them, 'I shall have gained a standing, and then I shall use my powers for good.' Next year comes and with it a strange discovery. The man has lost his horizon of thought, his ambition has evaporated; he has nothing to say. I give you this one rule of conduct. Do what you will, but speak out always. Be shunned, be hated, be ridiculed, be scared, be in doubt, but don't be gagged. The time of trial is always. Now is the appointed time.

    John J. Chapman
    Commencement Address to the Graduating Class of Hobart College, 1900


    From: Make a Bonfire of Your Reputations

    Chronic acronym usage among universities - NSCAD, RMIT and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design

    There's nothing worse than excessive use of acronyms and we're all guilty of it. Warning this is a rant. The following post is likely to get me equally flamed and applauded so I've added a happy "treat" at the end. Enjoy.

    For some reason I dropped by NSCAD Univerisy today and was amazed to find that though they use the acronym NSCAD 11 times, including the page title! on their homepage they do not EVER spell out their full name. But it doesn't end there. There is narry a page on the site that mentions their full name! In fact I was not able to decipher the acronym fully until after digging around and reading their history page, which while it doesn't state it I was able to generally deduce that in all likelihood it stands for Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

    So bad is their use of the acronym that I suspect and indeed do hope that in making this blog post for the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design that perhaps, just maybe I might be able to surpass them in the search engines for "Nova Scotia College of Art and Design".

    Before you go calling me a moron and telling me that "everyone knows" I want to remind you that 99% of the people online and probably the most important visitors to this website no little to nothing about the university itself. The most important people are the ones who don't know. In fact the primary intended purpose of this website is marketing. The blatant out and out use of bad acronyms is an isolationary practice even if "everyone knows" who goes to this school, it a horrible practice in marketing materials. The name contains all the information that's relevant. It's a college, it's in Nova Scotia, it's for Art and Design. Why in god's name would you NOT use it? Perhaps they're now technically a university. Great! Call yourself the Nova Scotia University of Art and Design. But for god's sake no potential student is EVER going to type NSCAD into a search engine or, for that matter neither are any of your current members. The world is getting larger, more and more people from all over the world and all walks of life, countries and languages are bumping into one another. The internet allows like minded people from all over the world to seek out the rare individuals who are of like mind, so why in the hell are universities so determined to isolate themselves?

    I'm not sure if this is a trend, but this is not the first University that has grabbed my attention for excessive use of undefined acronyms. I've become a huge fan recently of Adrian Miles and his work over at RMIT, but I challenge you to go to their homepage and find out what RMIT stands for? I suspect since it's in Melbourne the M stands for Melbourne and IT is a typical acronym for Institute of Technology, but I have no idea what the R stands for and can't really be sure what any of it stands for. It's the same story as with NSCAD, the acronym RMIT is used 12 times in the homepage, including the title, but nowhere is it spelled out. I challenge you to dig around on this site and find me a page that spells out the acronym. Hopefully now that I've complained about it Adrian will make note of this embarrassment to the staff in charge of updating the website.

    One last point. Upon doing a google search for "nova scotia college of art and design" I find that they actually do appear number one on google.

    Google Search: nova scotia college of art and design

    What's up with that? Well not NSCAD's google rank. It would appear that they had previously had their full name as the title of their page, this means someone has very recently and deliberately changed their homepage to not read Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Expect their page rank to go down. Furthermore nowhere on their new homepage is nova scotia even mentioned and the words art and design are only mentioned once. Finally they have set large chunks of text including their navigation for no apparent reason (they are set in standard web fonts) as images... where in addition to being an accessibility issue this type is not able to be read by search engines.

    Now, Enjoy this sweet short 3d animation called "Delivery" by Till Nowak

    Watch it: delivery_small.mov
    (33.4mb Quicktime)

    Wednesday, May 4

    I love Backpack - On 37 Signals' new PIM, the ever evolving tech bloom, and the democratization and socialization of everything

    Wow, so I'm like trying out Backpackit.com and it frigin' rocks!

    Backpack is a complete original. Backpack is brilliantly original in fact! 37 Signals actually hit the nail on the head with Backpack's usability, accessibility and placement of the product! In short they met a need I never knew I had. That's impressive, it's also very pleasantly surprising. Pleasant surprises should be a marketing technique we all aspire to, it's so underestimated what with sex appeal and celebrity endorsements and all.

    Enough of the compliments though. There's so much hype out there already I could piss on your shoe and tell you it's raining, but what's the sense in that? Let's get to the criticism. (Evil grin. :)

    If Backpack has a flaw it is that it's not quite aimed at the same power user, techno elite demographic as Flickr and Del.icio.us. (Read "It's not quite aimed at me.") In other words it's not robust enough yet to make it indispensable to we the power user techno elite. Snobs that we are.

    Backpack needs slightly more robust features on both the free and pay services. It needs a more inviting yearly price break. It needs an ironclad guarantee that data will never be lost or service terminated. I'm not going to pay $10 or $20 dollars a month for anything unless I know my data is going to be around for a long, long time. I don't turn my day to day life management over to just anyone. We're not talking monthly commitments here, we're talking a long term commitment. This means the feature curve has to be a little more robust on the free services, and a little more long term on the full-service packages. How bout an introductory yearly offer? Flickr's down to $25 a year (a complete STEAL BTW) I would think Backpack could enter the mass market at a nice $35 or $45 a year as opposed to the $5 a month price plan.

    Calendaring? -- I like the fact that it integrates with Apple's iCal after all I'm one of those Apple freaks, but what about Outlook, Mozilla Calendar or other non-Apple, Microsoft platform software. Also, it doesn't seem to have an actual calendar, just alerts. While alerts are great for 99% of things, sometimes I MUST see how my day lays out.

    Visualization of time is a key component to personal information management. This may be Backpack's one weakness... My first impression is it may well require a calendar in order to take over my everyday task management. But, perhaps I will be wrong... only time will tell.

    RSS! -- I love the RSS feed on the Changes page, however their should be RSS on every page. Sometimes I just want changes for X page, X project or X to do list.

    Alarms! -- Backpacks's best feature is that it can send alerts to my cell phone. This is te' BOMB! I can't think of any place I'd rather receive alerts. Simple discrete, and I'll never miss them. On a side note, this must have required hella tech to integrate. Someday I'm going to have to look into it.

    Sharing! -- I'm not sure yet how I'm going to use sharing in the day to day, but damn, I'm sure within a week I'll have discovered 57 ways to use sharing. Collaboration is key. I think?

    WYSIWYG editing? -- Ouch. Backpack's baby flaw. There's some deficiency in WYSIWYG editing on Backpack. Precisely, I don't see any WYSIWYG editing at all. Backpack really needs to use WYSWYG editing. Really. They seem to use a very simplified wiki markup language and don't support HTML at all. :(

    Inviting! -- Yes it is! Backpack is very inviting. I was completely suckered in by the free services and the simplest signup process evar. Yes, evar! How could you not immediately fall in love with this app. I just want to hug it and squeeze it and call it George.

    Outliner? -- While simple task management is a great feature in Backpack what I'm really wanting and dying to see in the next generation is some hierarchy to my tasks. Sub-tasks if you will, but it's more than that. What Backpack needs is a full-on outliner. Once Backpack steps it up to this next level they'll be no stopping it. Let's not forget OPML export and even an OPML subscription mechanism. Does anyone have an OPML subscription tool? I'm thinking CVS OPML. :)

    Open source? -- Yes, I really am the devil, but, can I get this in open source? Friends will tell you I'm a freak about transparency but what if Backpack was offered as an installable source package. It doesn't need to be open source necessarily, but what about offering it up like Moveabletype's famous blog package. Imagine what developers might do with this package for $500 a license. Imagine the future of not only Backpack but also Basecamp, 37 Signals' full-on project management package. Imagine enterprise licensing. Imagine community projects sites. Imagine, NFP group-ware. Oooh, I salivate. Millions of dollars, and yet it doesn't undermine Backpack and Basecamp's general public user base (aka. market) either. Eat shit yahoo calendar!

    I wish i could install it on my server, integrate it with my blog, a wiki, who knows what else. That's all. Is that so evil?

    Will it hit it's market? -- I have no doubt it will have some success, but I'm not sure it will have quite the widespread, critical mass appeal of Flickr or even del.icio.us unless there's some radical new feature updates. I'm going to gamble on it though and say with such a GREAT start that the guys (and gals) at 37 Signals are brilliant enough to keep adding features like calendaring and outlining that will make this an indispensable and unique tool that will kick the snot out of any calendaring and task managing tools that Yahoo and other portals have. Note to 37 Signals' people: I offer you my services, even if you only want my maniacal ideas. (I'm your biggest fan. ;)

    And where's the coup d'etat? Where does Backpack go so right?

    The core to Backpack's uniqueness is it's designed to be a SOCIAL tool. That's right! Social is the word.

    We've seen web based task managers and calendars before and many of those out there like that integrated into Yahoo's personal web mail are still more robust than Backpack. Sure Backpack is revolutionary in it's ease of use, and bravo for that, but usability is not a product, it makes a product better. As Dow would say, "We don't make the product we make it better." What really makes Backpack click is that it was designed from the bottom up to be a social tool, a tool for collaboration.

    Back in the day when Yahoo and all the portals were developing tools like Yahoo groups or integrated calendaring services to go with your personal web mail we'd not yet learned a thing about "social networking" and "social engineering". We were just making "tools" and stuff that worked. I guess we didn't know crap about usability or accessibility in those days either. We'd barely begun to understand how one person would use such tools let alone how many people would collaborate with them. There was only public and private. What years of revolutionary but ultimately self indulgent social networking tools like Friendster and Orkut (sorry guys, social networking is a means to an end, NOT a means unto itself) have taught us are that the future of building web based tools is NOT building Microsoft Word in a web interface, but in creating tools for ubiquitous social collaboration and communication.

    For years people like the CEO of Oracle and large venders including Microsoft had hazy dreams of "thin-client" applications these drove Java and Flash technologies on the web, but in the end they were wrong. Dead wrong. The value in such web based applications is in their ubiquity. There is no purpose in having a word processor online or for that matter a to do list... unless.... unless it can go anywhere and do anything and collaborate with anyone. That is to say, unless it can go social. Today's Microsoft Word is the wiki.

    What we've learned from all the social tools like blogs, wikis, and bulletin boards over the last few years has cleared the way for this whole new generation of web based software tools. Sure we've got these so called "Ajax" browser based interactivity frameworks that make internet based apps like Google Maps and Backpack so damn fun and easy to use... but... and I say this being an obsessive UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) freak.... the real revolution here is the social evolution.

    What makes these new web based services like Backpack, Flickr, Del.icio.us and such rock is that they're all informed by new ideas from the "social revolution" that has come about in the last couple of years on the internet. What's driving this new boom of web based application design and development is the democratization of all things... from media to product management, to encyclopedias, to personal information management and project management.

    What happens when all the world has access to a project manager? How about an enterprise development manager? The best encyclopedias? The coolest, latest greatest tools? What happens when "amateurs" have access? They fuck things up right? Wrong. I'll tell you what happens... they build even cooler shit for each other. (Damn, why does the world make me have to cuss so much.)

    Welcome to the latest tech bloom, the next evolution, Web 2.0.x. We're soon to see what happens when democratization goes beyond email and blogs and wiki's. We're soon to see what happens when democratization happens in the rest of the media, the really really rich debate. The one with people yammering and stuttering all across the planet in simultaneous mass amateurized debate. The hallmark of this next evolution will be democratized media and Web 2.x starts with audio and video. It's time to break mass communications out of the box and see what next happens when all the world has equal access to all the to the the great debate shaper...

    ...and stuff.

    Never forget the stuff. As a great man once said, to paraphrase, we do all that other stuff because we must, but this other stuff is WHY we do all that stuff. It really does make it all worth while. Don't you think?

    Zaphod Beeblebrox for president - a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy promo?

    voteb_iconIn what I can only assume is some weird sort of promotion for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. This excellent and hillarious "music video" has been propogating all over the internet under the title "Zaphod Beeblebrox for president!" I ponder what it all means, for I have not yet seen the movie, yet I enjoy it none the less.

    Would someone please explain it to me? Yes, even I almighty wise one sometimes come up on the clueless end of the train, for I could not find the source of this unspeakable promo. I suspect foul evil underhanded marketing is at work but I will find you oh demons of misinfo.

    Watch it: zaphod.mov
    (14.5mb Quicktime)

    Check out the lyrics.

    Zaphod Beeblebrox
    He's the guy you want to vote for
    When you get into that voting booth
    Put an 'X' next to his name

    ZaphodZaphod Beeblebrox for President
    Building bridges between the stars
    In no way is he stupid, oh no
    In no way is his brain impaired
    It's just not true
    He's smarter than you
    And he's better looking too

    Zaphod Beeblebrox
    Has the longest hair of any candidate
    And he's got the coolest shades
    And his teeth are white as snow

    So let's elect him President
    He'll build bridges between the stars
    Don't believe the rumors, oh no
    Don't believe those vicious lies
    They're just not true
    He's smarter than you
    And he's better looking too

    Listen I just want to say, uh, you know, whatever presidents say, you know, things like uh, in the name of the people, and uh, freedom and uh, I dont know, democracy, stuff like that, he he...woooo!

    Zaphod Beeblebrox for President
    Building bridges between the stars
    In no way is he stupid, no no
    In no way is his brain impaired
    It's just not true
    He's smarter than you
    And he's better looking too


    Transcript via: The 3 is Silent: Yes, I'm Alive

    Jeff Jarvis on citizen media

    I just stumbled across this presentation Jeff Jarvis apparently put together for the Radio Telivion News Director?s Association Convention in Vegas which wrapped up on April 26th. In it he talks about the expansion of citizen's media beyong simply text based blogs to video, aka. vlogging.

    Jeff Jarvis who has skyrocketed to fame and, well fame, on the shoulders of the blogging revolution (seen him on MSNBC lately?) has moved his citizen media movement into the video realm and he wants MSM (main stream media) to get the message. I urge you to watch his three minute vlog just for a sense of how easy it's become. Here are some outtakes to get the flavah:


    The citizen media movement now comes to broadcast. This will be big...blogs are...It's all about control. My first law of media, and life, is give people control and they will use it. The remote control, not the Guttenberg press, was the most important invention in the history of media for it lets viewers control their consumption of media. How much more powerful it is to create media...I would see this new medium as a way to build a new relationship, a conversation with the audience. [Emphasis mine, obviously.]

    Watch it: jarvisrtnda.wmv
    (11.1mb WMV)

    Via: Weblogg-ed

    Podcasting covered down under

    Some interesting coverage on the Today Show from April 28th in Australia with one of the people behind the The Podcast Network in Australia. I guess you'd call The Podcast Network the Weblogs, Inc. or Gawker Media of podcasting down under. It's certainly the largest podcasting network in Australia and perhaps in the world now. With lifestyle podcasts on tech, gadgets, tablet pc's, mobile devices, Microsoft development, business, Jazz, Rock, even the AFL and the NBA. It's quite a comprehensive offering.

    Mick Stanic of principius was on the Today program last thursday 'So?the interview on the Today Show went really well yesterday (even though I had to be up at 5.30am to get ready and the whole live TV thing is a bit daunting for the first 30 seconds or so) and everyones feedback has been really good. The unfortunate bit is that i didn?t get to cover all of the stats from the month of March i thought we would get to?over 30,000 unique listeners with around 60,000 shows downloaded from 122 countires?oh well?next time.'


    Video - TPN_TodayShow_20050428.wmv
    (13.8MB - WMV)

    Audio - tpn_tpnblog_todayshow_20050429.mp3
    (9.4MB - MP3)

    Via: Corporate Engagement: Podcasting covered on Australian TV

    Tuesday, May 3

    The Skype Payphone - lovin' the neo-retro-techno-gadgets

    skypePhil Torrone (whom if I'm not mistaken was previously at Engadget.com, now over at Orielly's Make Magazine) has posted a sweet video clip demonstrating a payphone he's converted into a working Skype phone. The true gadget geeks will love this. All I can say is, "I want one".

    Here's a quick video I shot late last night of the Skype payphone actually working. It rings and can be used as a Skype phone for any call, SkypeIn/SkypeOut and it's just really really cool to have a working VOIP Skype payphone in one's living room. Next up getting it to take quarters so you can make calls and using the keypad as username and password entry.

    Now if only he could make the handset wireless it would be practical too. :)

    Enjoy: skype.mov
    (8.2mb Quicktime video)

    More info: MAKE: Blog: Skype Payphone Video

    Via: blogsnow

    Also spotted at: Eric Rice :: Video: The Skype Payphone