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March 31, 2007

Blogosphere Kicks Off April Fools Early

The very best April Fools jokes have just enough truth in them for somebody to secretly want them to be true, and to be delivered in such a way that the person being pranked isn't 100 percent sure the joke's on them.

On the Web, Google has made this a black art of sorts, between their "launch" of Google Romance and Google Mars, interspersed with their very real launch of GMail in 2004 that had everybody confused as to whether anybody in their right mind would offer a full gigabyte of e-mail for free. We all know how that turned out. It was real. Those of us (including me) who were sure it was a prank were fooled.

This year, it looks like the blogosphere couldn't keep quiet long enough for the calendars to officially flip to April 1 in the United States. TechCrunch kicked off the festivities by "announcing" they had acquired Phil Kaplan's F***edCompany.com, effectively bringing their coverage of the startup space full circle - from their launch to their eventual death. Many people, including Dave Winer of Scripting.com, were fooled. This was no doubt due in part to ValleyWag's earlier coverage that the famed dotcom deadpool site was up for sale.

That one was good. Very good. Mathew Ingram thought so as well.

Now, Robert Scoble is back from his self-imposed blog exile, saying that Apple is set to release yet another i-Device, called iReader, in collaboration with Cingular, Amazon and Google. I guess if you make up a rumor, you might as well go whole-hog and drop a bunch of company names in there. I'm surprised Nintendo didn't make the cut. He went the tried and true Apple rumor route, citing an unnamed Apple executive dumb enough to use it in public. It might have been too soon for Robert to return to the blogosphere, but hopefully his scoop won't rank among the best by the conclusion of tomorrow.

Last year's April 1 pranks were pretty good. My favorites were Slashdot.org's changing their look and feel from industrial green to My Little Pony pink and China offering to buy Google. (See last year's summary here)

We look forward to more silliness in this most silly of holidays.

Is Technorati Going After Spam Blogs?

The issue of spam blogs, or "splogs" is a big one. As blog software becomes ever more easy to use, it's no surprise that robots and scripts have been built to make fake blogs, and are engineered to look very real, as the splogs usurp other's content and present it either as their own, or as a summary, so that they take traffic away from the original author. Google's Blogger platform was recently given a bunch of grief for being the biggest generator of fake blogs, called on the carpet by no less than Microsoft, who knows quite a bit when it comes to the world of spam.

But of late, some curious changes on the part of Technorati have me wondering if the blog-focused search engine is trying to cull spam blogs from its results database. While obsessing over one's Technorati ranking can become an art unto itself, I've actually seen the total number of blogs linking to louisgray.com decreasing over the last few weeks, which doesn't make sense. In the month of March, as we've seen record traffic and a good deal of popular posts around Google Reader, Digg and Apple TV, the number of blogs linking to louisgray.com has dropped, from 60 last week, down to 55 abruptly, and now today, to 53. Puzzling.

I can only speculate that Technorati is working to delete a massive number of blogs from its database. Those most likely for deletion would be those who don't offer original content. It is certainly a difficult task for Technorati, as some incredible resources, like TechMeme and Megite, offer no original content, but instead, organize links from other authors. How do you determine what is a collection of RSS feeds and links, or what is a real blog?

I hope they first get it right, and second, that everybody's Technorati score is accurate, mine included. The next step would be in my court: increase the blog's community and see if I can accurately, naturally, raise my ranking.

A's and Giants Fit to be Tied

After an extended weekend earlier this month to enjoy the A's at Spring Training, last night offered the first chance to see our team playing something resembling a real game, in the final exhibition warmup series, against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

Though my father-in-law laughed at me on my ride up to San Francisco, saying "I would freeze my butt off", we had come prepared, with A's jacket and cap, not just to show our colors, but to protect us from The City's elements. Not as bad as Candlestick Park, AT&T Park also presents the option to sit in cool temperatures for three or so hours with the occasional wind gust whipping through. It was clear that the food vendors weren't going to move many chocolate malts or ice cream sandwiches on the night, but they certainly tried.

The A's presented a solid lineup with Eric Chavez, Jason Kendall, Mark Ellis, Bobby Crosby, Mike Piazza, and Nick Swisher making the start, and Rich Harden throwing heat from the mound. Only injuries to Milton Bradley, Dan Johnson and others kept the team from looking fully intact. We were pleased to see A's newcomer Shannon Stewart, and hot rookie prospect Travis Buck (see ANtics below) also playing. The Giants countered with their veteran-filled lineup, including Barry Bonds, Omar Visquel, Ray Durham, Pedro Feliz, and Matt Cain pitching. The game promised to be a solid pitching matchup and didn't disappoint.

The Giants posted a quick run on the board in the first, as Harden gave up a leadoff triple to Dave Roberts, and a double to the next hitter, putting the Giants up 1-0. The A's fought back in the next inning, in their own "special" way, driving in a run with a double play. I told my seatmates next to me that was exactly what they had planned. It stayed 1-1 for 4 full innings, until the sixth, when both teams scored again, making it 2-2. But no team seemed to really have the edge, and offense was scarce. The A's only managed five hits on the night, and the Giants scattered nine. The night's cool temperatures denied any balls leaving the yard, though the Giants tried to win the game in the 9th, hitting three fly balls hard off Brad Halsey, who pitched the final three innings.

Tied in the 9th, the game went to an extra frame, where both teams didn't score, and it was called. A 2-2 tie. In baseball. Those fans, including us, who had stayed the more than three hours at AT&T Park to watch the game in its entirety, stood up and walked out without a loss and without a victory. Empty. But in Spring Training, these things are not unexpected. Both teams want to be in good shape before the season, and don't see the value of hitting each other for 17 full, like the A's did against the Dodgers last season.

Still, it was great to be back at a major league ballpark to see major league teams play. We're only a little over a week away from starting to use our A's season tickets, and I'm ready for the season to start. Now.

The Power to Set You Free (of Power Cords)

In February, I stated one of my biggest tech wishes is to find a wireless power solution for my laptop or other devices. While we've grown accustomed to wireless Internet in most major locations (home, work, airport, hotels, etc.), we're still required to lug around power supplies which present issues themselves, as cords fray and connectors get bent or misaligned.

I've suggested the first company to make wireless power simple and affordable will have a major hit on their hands. GeekWhat's Tony Chung agreed.

Now, it appears others are waking up to the potential for wireless power to become a reality. A company called Powercast has developed a way to power low-voltage devices wirelessly, and Philips will be bringing it to market, according to Mathew Ingram.. Chris Pirillo is similarly excited, saying "Finally, a piece of technology that nobody will be able to live without."

Powercast has a major write-up in the upcoming April issue of Business 2.0, which any good geek should be subscribed to, BTW. Business 2.0 says the technology isn't any more sophisticated than AM or FM radio, as it converts radio waves into DC electricity.

The biggest drawback I could find in this early access product? It only charges to distances of 3 feet, for now. So it won't power large devices, and it won't power them over the distance of a room or a house, so there's still a lot more work to do, but I really like the direction this is going. I can't wait to ditch the power cord.

March 29, 2007

Unlimited Is the New Black

Earlier this week, Yahoo! made headlines for eliminating any restrictions on its Yahoo! Mail users. (Coverage: GigaOM, Richard McManus, Jeremy Zadowny)

Previously capped at 1 gigabyte of storage apiece, trailing Google's GMail offering, which queued up 2.8 gigabytes of e-mail space, Yahoo! took the plunge by moving to an unlimited model, in a hope of capitalizing on its strong user base, and possibly to start getting attention away from Google, who has been the assumed technology leader since the company's debut.

The move away from limited to unlimited has been seen time and again in the technology space. After all, it wasn't all that long ago that AOL and other dial-up ISPs charged by the hour you were logged on.

When AOL did switch away from offering hundreds of hours a month on widely distributed CD-ROMs, and moved to unlimited, it was a major change. You may remember that AOL in the first days of the promotion went almost completely inaccessible as the most hard-core users would dial in and never hang up, or set up autoscripts that would artificially keep them logged in after periods of inactivity.

The move from metered to unlimited is also taking hold in traditionally penny-tight industries like cellular phone service. While most plans offer several hundred minutes a month, others, including MetroPCS, are moving to basic monthly fees, regardless of usage. The business model there assumes that most won't exceed a certain threshold, effectively overpaying for the minutes they actually used, while the busiest of users won't bankrupt their provider.

On the Web, unlimited makes sense. Web hosting providers typically limit their customers to a standard amount of capacity space, and megabytes of data transmitted per month. But on the most popular of days, sites may be brought down because they had unforeseen traffic. That's like punishing your most successful customers. (See: Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher)

I expect that the Web providers who will win will offer unlimited accesses and capacity, and those offering limits will only be limiting their own potential growth. That Yahoo! saw this trend, and wanted to be part of it, is smart. It doesn't mean I'll ditch my .Mac e-mail address for Yahoo! Mail any more than I did for GMail, but some might.

March 26, 2007

My First Weekend With Apple TV

On Friday, the Apple TV showed up, much to my delight. By Friday night, we had the box up and running, and by Saturday morning, more than 30 gigabytes of video and audio had been synchronized from my PowerBook to the Apple TV device. Now, I can watch TV shows and listen to my music through the TV set that were previously "trapped" in my computer or iPod.

To see pictures of the setup, take a look at the post I made to The Apple Blog this morning, covering my first 48 hours with Apple TV. (See: Life With Apple TV: The First 48 Hours) In addition, the ease of use of the Apple TV really got me thinking about where else Apple could go to take the technology. With a little tweaking, and a much bigger hard drive, Apple could be a serious player for home network storage. (See: Will Apple Ship Wireless Network Storage?)

Per agreement with The Apple Blog, I will not be cross-posting the piece, but instead, have provided links. Enjoy.

March 25, 2007

ANtics Episode 3.07: Buck Mania!

Cross-posted to Athletics Nation...

Forget about the 5th starter battle. The most drama around this year's Spring Training has been the emergence of Travis Buck. With his wild Swisher-esque hair and a Wade Boggs/Tony Gwynn-like .366 average, while leading the team with 6 doubles, Buck is taking Phoenix Municipal by storm. Hold on tight, and get ready for Buck Mania!


Click to See Larger Comic


All Comics

The Trouble With RSS: I'm Not Involved

Don't get me wrong, RSS is a fantastic way for me to keep tabs on all the news and all the blogs rapidly, in one place. But the technology is in itself passive, and I keep finding myself missing out on the full picture, as the RSS reader (Google Reader in my case) scrapes the feed, but doesn't give me some very important elements to the blogosphere, including context, community, comments, and presentation. In effect, I am losing my participatory role in the blogosphere, making it less of a conversation, and instead, much more passive.

As I push through the 500 or so articles a day, if I stay in the RSS reader mode, I don't get an indication as to who is commenting on what articles, from any of my 100 or so feeds I follow. Even those feeds that list the total raw number of comments don't speak to who is commenting and the tone of the discussion, and there is no way to see without visiting the site directly.

Instead of adding to the conversation myself, I'm hitting "Add to Shared Items" for my link blog and moving on, not commenting and not alerting site owners and content generators that I'd been by. To those site owners who generate the RSS feeds themselves, I'm a mere number in their Feedburner statistics. I don't show up in their page views, my name doesn't show up in the comments, and I may as well be invisible. And as Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's "Naked Conversations" and other new media books will tell you, often, the comments are more interesting than the original post itself. Blogs are for community, not for a pulpit.

Given I don't have the time to control-click each of the URLs to see them in their own right, to see if the comments and those commenting will encourage my being involved in the conversation, how do I break through the RSS barrier? I don't see that the RSS standard is going to be enhanced such that comments are optionally displayed for each feed, so I should be much more diligent to selectively pursue conversations with top bloggers and top conversations. Otherwise, I've cut myself off from the blogosphere.

March 24, 2007

Taxes Completed Online, As Always

Intuit's TurboTax is a life saver. Every year around this time, and often earlier, my wife and I take all the last year's financial papers, sort them and then push them through the TurboTax program online, counting income statements and then (crossing our fingers), hoping we have enough deductions so that the government finds itself needing to send us a quick check and thank us for our efforts.

Every year, it seems to get just a bit easier. TurboTax stores our prior year's data, and imports it so I don't have to go through the mundane tasks of telling it where I live, where I work, what my name is, etc. It assumes nothing has changed from the previous year, and gives me the option to update. Additionally, the ability to import my brokerage account data from eTrade is dramatically easier than saving the data into Excel or Quicken or some other tool, then going one by one to add my gains and subtract my losses. (Funny how all year I root for gains, and come tax time, I root for losses...)

This year's efforts took the better part of the afternoon. I had two piles - the "To Do" and the "Done" piles, and I methodically moved from one to the next, with the A's spring training game playing on the radio in the background. By mid-afternoon, we were all done for yet another year, and can store away our papers until the IRS comes calling later to see if we got it all right. But that hasn't happened yet, and we've relied solely on the Web version of TurboTax for more than 5 years. I can't imagine going any other way.

Now, in the next few weeks, I expect an e-mail to confirm everything went through, and a quick bump in the bank as the refund goes through via direct deposit. It just works!

Beyond Syncing: My Data Is Flowing Everywhere

It seems we have moved beyond the point of having all data in one master location, but data is being prioritized such that some pieces are backed up in 3 to 4 places simultaneously, while other data is not backed up at all.

Last night this became especially apparent with our setup of the brand-new Apple TV. At initial setup, the Apple TV synchronizes with a selected iTunes library, and effectively backs up the entire song and TV show collection to its 40 Gigabyte hard drive, assuming it fits. Over my 802.11g network (my PowerBook is not yet n-enabled), this can clearly take a considerable amount of time. In fact, while thousands of songs and my TV shows have been synched so far, my iTunes progress bar tells me we have a few thousand more to go before the first full synch is complete. Additionally, if the Apple TV is seen as "busy", showing media, the synchronization stops. This means to offer the ideal setup for syncing, I should keep the laptop open and not use the Apple TV for a bit.


The Apple TV synchronization, in progress


Meanwhile, as this has been going on, Apple's Backup service (from .Mac) asked me this morning if I wanted to complete my daily backup of personal files and data, consisting of Safari bookmarks, e-mail, documents in my Documents folder and more. As I approved that backup, I also noticed that at the same time, my iSync icon in the menu bar began to rotate, indicating that my Address Book, iCal appointments and Safari bookmarks were being synchronized, so I would have the same data with me at the office.

This got me thinking - are we so far beyond the point of having all my data in one insecure location that I need so many pieces of it backed up every which way? My iTunes media is now on the home laptop, the AppleTV hard drive and my iPod, while my address book and iCal data is on my home laptop, work desktop and via the Web, as well as on the iPod. Clearly, over time I've prioritized some data over other data, backing up some pieces 3-4 times, and others not at all. Apple's recent bias, given the company's focus over the last few years, is to save my purchased music and video, even if my professional life didn't depend on it. But to see my data flowing three ways, to iSync, to .Mac Backup and to the AppleTV, all at once, was an eye opener.

March 23, 2007

Welcome MacSurfer, MyAppleMenu Readers

Today is the day the Apple TV gets here. I look forward to synchronizing my geekery with my TV set even further than I have to date with the TiVo. Last night's post on how critics of the Apple TV have gotten the debate upside down has gotten legs, being added to Mac community sites MyAppleMenu and MacSurfer.

As can be expected, many are abuzz around the new Apple TV, not the least of whom is Robert Scoble of PodTech. Scoble writes simply, "Apple TV Rocks". iLounge also offers up 10 geeky details around the new device.

It's too bad MacSurfer and MyAppleMenu aren't Technorati enabled. That would help my score get out of the double digits.

LinkedIn Adds "Profile PDF Export", New Service Enhancements

I've been fairly vocal on LinkedIn's opportunity to expand its services, having first written about how LinkedIn can be made "even better", and second, writing a 10-point list that specifically outlined service enhancements to expand their user experience. As most great Web-focused companies do, they are listening.

Today, I received a comment from Steve Ganz, head Web developer at LinkedIn, who said some of the features I requested were available, and others were Imminent.

He commented, "These are all great ideas. Thanks so much for the great feedback, Louis! Stay tuned."

The first addition?

5. Allow Me to Export my LinkedIn Profile as PDF or Word

He writes:

Check! You will now find a link to download your LinkedIn Profile as a PDF right above your name on the profile page.

And it works too! You can download my LinkedIn profile here, complete with resume and recommendations, as I had outlined. My standard profile is here.

Also coming soon, an official LinkedIn blog. Looking forward to it.

March 22, 2007

The Apple TV Debate Is Upside Down

The early reports on the Apple TV, from Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal, David Pogue of the New York Times, and Engadget are all saying the device is simple, has a great GUI, and accomplishes the user's needs to sync their computer's media with their television set. But there's an underlying note in many of the pieces, saying that Apple has charged too much for a box that does too little. (For example: Gizmodo: Apple TV: Worth It?)

If this line sounds familiar, it's because the exact same grumblings were lodged against the iPod when it first debuted, and all those naysayers have been proven wrong. They will be again.

Engadget sums this up in an otherwise great-looking photo gallery by saying:

"For someone with a lot of cash invested in a collection of iTunes media, the Apple TV seems a solid -- if pricey -- buy, but for most people with more diverse media collections and saner pocketbooks, this is a hard one to recommend."

Certainly an easy summary, but still wrong.

When the iPod was first announced five years ago, it looked like an overpriced MP3 player. It didn't show photos. It didn't show movies. It was monochrome. It didn't even work on Windows computers. But what it did do was set the stage for what was to come, and redefined the entire conversation about how you interface with your music. What made the device ultimately win was iTunes. The iPod's marriage to iTunes helped Apple sell music to iPod users and sell iPods to iTunes users. Later, the iPod was made available for Windows, added color, added photo support, added video support, and then went through a myriad of form factors, from the postage-stamp like iPod Shuffle you see today to the more brick-like first-generation iPod Photo, and the soon to arrive iPhone.

Check out this quote from CNET in October of 2001:

The iPod has "good features, but this is a pretty competitive category," (Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD Intelect) said. "The question is whether people want that robust of a feature set with that high of a price."

Tens of millions of devices later, I think it's safe to say people warmed up to the iPod.

I believe Apple TV will see the same growth and has acted as a beachhead for Apple in the living room. And while Engadget says it doesn't matter much to people who may not have all their media on iTunes, it will absolutely change buying behavior - and will catapult the amount of TV shows and films purchased from the iTunes Store to date. There is no question. While today, we have been limited in our purchasing of TV episodes and movies from iTunes because of portability, picture quality, and viewability (on a laptop vs. the TV set), it all changes with Apple TV.

With the Apple TV connected to my flat-screen television, I will definitely go out of my way to find and procure content from the iTunes Store for anytime viewing. As Apple builds out the store's offerings, it will be offering one of the first, and most viable, Video on Demand (VOD) solutions on the market, one that may not have all the whiz-bang features (like DVR capability) just yet, but one that will grow to do all these things.

Those that doubt the Apple TV today, and mock its price or inferred limitations don't see the full picture. Like with the iPod, Apple is establishing the de facto standard in this market, and will further tie in iTunes as the go-to media store for near-instant gratification.

As for my own Apple TV? It's already in San Jose, according to FedEx, and I should have it tomorrow.

March 21, 2007

Expanding the Conversation, One Link at a Time

After about 14 months of consistent writing on this blog, with more than 700 posts on a variety of topics, often with a heavy technology slant, but plenty of sports, music, and media thrown in, we're only now getting some strong conversation here and through the blogosphere, as others are finding the content as a discussion starter.

Just today, I was pleased to see Bruce Stewart of the O'Reilly Network dive further into my comments around "The Neglected" iTunes playlist (mentioned below). The O'Reilly name carries significant tech gravitas for us geeks, and it was fun to be seen as a source that gave him ideas on how he could best address his own iTunes issues.

He wrote, "I’m going to go create a playlist of my own neglected tunes, which sounds like a much more effective way of getting to listen to all of the music I add to iTunes than my previous method."

Meanwhile, the recent hubbub over Twitter and its usefulness, or lack thereof, has driven some to my comments in January saying I'd sworn off Instant Messaging (IM) for good, and that Twitter only made the whole situation worse.

Eric Schwarz of SchwarzTech, in a piece called "The Uselessness of IM?" said my move ran contrary to his seeing that many corporations have adopted chat protocols for communication, but agreed that the whole medium could be a tad informal. Meanwhile, a "Lo-Fi Librarian" from the UK noted the post, counting me as one of the many who see Twitter as a huge time waster.

Given the entire discussion this week about whether us rank and file bloggers can break into the world of "The A-List" or not, it's good to see some traction. Blogging isn't about developing a pedestal for shouting or ego boasting, but instead for enabling transparency, communication and voice. If you're entertained or learn something in the meantime, that doesn't hurt.

Apple TV On Its Way

I asked my fellow Macoholics today, "Is it overly obsessive to be refreshing my FedEx tracking every 30 minutes? Every 5?"

So far, the resounding answer is no. One quickly responded, "Nope. Mine's in (Alaska)." As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, mine is as well. The Apple Store reports I should expect my newest gadget to arrive no later than Friday at the office, so we just might be visiting the FedEx tracking page a few times between now and then.

As I had mentioned on The Apple Blog Monday, I am continually running into new ways to use the Apple TV, once it shows up. Additionally, friends and colleagues are springing out of the woodwork to let me know they plan to buy one, and this goes for Mac users and PC zealots alike. Apple has a hit on its hands, one that may soon be thought of in the same breath as the iPhone and the iPod.

It's like Christmas in March. I can't wait to unwrap my new present.

New TAB Post: How Smart Are Your Playlists?

It's no secret I am a hardcore iTunes user. MusicMobs reports I've listened to nearly 30,000 tracks in the last three or so years, while Last.fm similarly reports more than 15,000 listens since early 2005. Doing the quick math, and knowing both services likely undercount, and don't include listens from the iPod or on other machines, we're looking at 20 to 30 songs a day, every day.

Meanwhile, we've amassed 4,000 tracks in iTunes, meaning the management of those tracks and my time to listen to them is fairly tricky. That's why I've turned to Apple's Smart Playlists feature in iTunes to help me rediscover tunes I've not heard in a while, or to remind me when I've not listened to one frequently enough.

That's the idea behind my most recent contribution to The Apple Blog, titled How Smart Are Your Playlists?. Per agreement with them, I will not be cross-posting the piece, but instead, have provided a link. Enjoy.

March 19, 2007

Hotel and Airport Internet Access a Must

I've ranted and raved here before on the number of times I've checked into a supposedly swank hotel, only to find the hoops I need to jump through in order to get a quality Internet experience can negatively impact the whole trip. For some reason, it seems that the more I pay per night in a hotel, the more I end up paying per day, and the less I pay per day for the hotel stay, the more likely it is that my access will be both fast and free. Being budget minded doesn't mean I have to give up something I believe to be a requirement.

In this weekend's trip to Phoenix, we stayed at the Doubletree Guest Suites, and had great wireless Internet access. I could turn on the laptop and get high speed Internet anywhere in our suite. But it wasn't perfect. Not only did I have to pay $9.99 a day for the privilege, but I had to call the front desk every day to turn on my access, as the password changed every day at noon. This made us have a daily ritual where I called the front desk around 12:02 p.m. to get the new day's codes, only to call back 24 hours later. Even the front desk said they were annoyed by the policy, but there was nothing they could do.

It could have been worse, for sure. In the last few years I've gone to hotels that didn't feature any kind of Internet in their rooms, but only in the lobby, I've gone to hotels that promised high speed wireless, but I could only get a fraction of the signal if I placed the desk chair and laptop in the closet or huddled next to the door, and I've found others that required me to run Microsoft Windows. I've paid anywhere from $4.95 a day to $19.95 a night, regardless of how much activity I had online.

I see the hotel Internet access issue as being graded:

A: Free high-speed wireless access in hotel rooms and the lobby
B: High-speed wireless access in hotel rooms and the lobby for a fee
C: High-speed access in hotel rooms via in-room Internet cable
D: High-speed access in the lobby or business center
F: Anything less than high-speed access

This issue is even worse when it comes to airports. For some reason, the Silicon Valley's major airport hubs, in San Jose and San Francisco, demand you pay ten bucks or so through T-Mobile for the privilege of synching up before the flight, whether you are just catching up on e-mail before boarding, or find yourself stranded for a day changing from airline to airline. Oddly enough, other airports, in Las Vegas and Phoenix (where I am now) don't ask for diddly squat - only that you agree not to do anything nefarious on their network. Given their courtesy, I promise to be good at least for an hour or so.

To ensure highest productivity, I need to have immediate access to Internet on all my travels. Those vendors which solve the access issue will get my business. Those that don't will find themselves passed by as the more technology-oriented of travelers choose alternatives.

ANtics Episode 3.06: A Rite of Passage

Cross-posted to Athletics Nation...

Depending on the stage of a player's career, Spring Training can be present wildly different goals, from hoping to reach the big leagues, to getting in shape, learning a new club or even trying to make a comeback with your old team. From the record-breaking heat of Phoenix, some of the A's are profiled for their own objectives.


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All Comics

New TAB Post: I Want My Apple TV

I ordered my Apple TV on January 9th, hours after Steve Jobs said it would be available on the Apple Store. Everything pointed to a February ship date and early March arrival, but delays hit, which have been well documented. Now, MacRumors is claiming Apple TV will ship on Tuesday, March 20th, but it's still a "Rumor" and not "News".

If that Rumor moves into the News category, that's great, because we're still waiting a few months in, and keep running into times I'd love to have an Apple TV handy, to watch my shows and films on the big screen instead of my laptop's little one.

That's the idea behind my most recent contribution to The Apple Blog, titled I Want My Apple TV. Per agreement with them, I will not be cross-posting the piece, but instead, have provided a link. Enjoy.

Enjoying Time In Arizona

To read the headlines, you would think Phoenix had erupted in a big ball of flame and the residents had been scorched to their deaths. In a double-decker front page masthead, The Drudge Report railed: "WINTER RECORD SMASHED: 99 DEGREES IN PHOENIX..." as for the fifth consecutive day, the city broke heat records, topping 94 Sunday, after peaking at 99 both Friday and Saturday. But we're loving it. The balmy heat, even at midnight, where it's 75 degrees en route to a likely low of 65 or so, reminds us of the two trips we've taken to Hawaii, first for our honeymoon, and in an second trip the following year. And to make things better, today the A's finally won a game with us in attendance.

Both Friday and Saturday saw the A's make us roll our eyes with their incompetence. The team's starting pitchers, Joe Blanton and Joe Kennedy, gave up 4 and 5 runs respectively in the first inning, before retiring a batter. The A's of course went on to lose both contests, by scores of 8-5 Friday night and, even worse, 11-4 Saturday, when the team never even had a chance. So on Sunday, with Dan Haren taking the mound, we were more hopeful for a better outcome, but strongly considered delaying our showing up to the ballpark until the 2nd inning, as maybe we were the cause. But Haren avoided our curse, shutting down the LA Angels of Anaheim for four innings, and seeing the A's to an early 2-0 lead.

Yet the Angels came back and took the lead, holding a 5-3 margin going into the final frame. It looked like the A's were going to go 0-3 for us, but it was not meant to be. The A's came back to within 5-4, with two runners on and one out in the ninth. As we crossed our fingers, and hoped against disaster, Richie Robnett smacked a 2-run single allowing the tying and winning runs to cross the plate as fans cheered, players jumped up and down in the heat, and we headed home happy. Now, with a 1-2 record under our belt, we will see the A's for a fourth and final time tomorrow at 1:05 before heading home.

Even with the four games, we've done more than see just baseball in our stay in Phoenix. On Saturday, we carried off an unlikely pairing as my wife and I first had dinner at Hooters and then drove to the Mesa LDS temple to see the sights (arguably at both locations). The Mesa temple grounds were well cared for and the temple was beautifully lit. Tonight, we headed back to Tempe near the Arizona State campus and filled up at PF Changs and Coldstone Creamery. Unlike Saturday, which featured St. Patrick's Day revelers drowning in green beer, with some handcuffed by local police, the Sunday scene was much more serene.

It's a quick mini-vacation, but much anticipated. It will be tough to get back to the grind on Tuesday.

March 17, 2007

Weekend of Spring Training

I had hinted at it a few times earlier, but Kristine and I took Friday and Monday off from work for a mini-vacation, giving us four full days in the Arizona sunshine to see the Oakland A's take on four different teams in four days at home. Despite yesterday's airport issues, we made it in with plenty of time to catch yesterday's game. While the weather was outstanding, in the 80s throughout, the A's play left much to be desired, as they fell behind 4-0 in the first inning to the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks, and never recovered, eventually going down by an 8-5 margin.

Today, we'll see them try to even up their record with us in attendance as they take on the Milwaukee Brewers at 1:00 p.m. The temperature is already in the high 80s, going to the mid to high 90s, so we'll try not to get too baked.

Switching gears... in an interesting mini-case study of how blogs can achieve direct access to corporations, where e-mail and telephone calls have traditionally failed, check out the comment left on my US Airways post from yesterday. One man associated with the airline pulled overtime to explain why he thought our flight was delayed, and why he thinks I was premature in criticizing the airline. (Read his Comment) Of course, that doesn't take into account the issues we had on Christmas Eve, where a lot of my frustrations originated.

Hopefully our return trip will be easier... but until then, we intend to have fun, cheer on the green and gold on this very green holiday!

March 16, 2007

Tidbits from the Link Blog: March 16, 2007

The line between bloggers and journalists is blurring. While a blog's goals can be wide-reaching, from personal updates to breaking news, offering opinions, or collecting interesting items, former Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry is moving to strengthen bloggers' ability to get the information to make news, by further expanding the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Yet, it looks like some haven't graduated to the understanding of blogs' pervasiveness, even as the practice reaches a decade old. Steve Rubel of MicroPersuasion notes one particularly glaring example...

MicroPersuasion: Fired Without Cause for Blogging
MyDD: Kerry Sponsors Senate Bill Giving Bloggers FOIA Powers
Robert Scoble: Microsoft Tells MVPs “we’re in it to win” — Really?

We're so far enjoying our time in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a mere 98 degrees when we landed, and we saw the A's lose their ballgame 8-5. We'll be back at it again tomorrow, hoping the outcome changes.

To see what I'm finding interesting, bookmark or subscribe to my link blog.

Cisco Acquires WebEx, as Big Company Gets Bigger

From 1999 to early 2001, I got my feet wet working as the Web Marketing Manager at 3Cube, a Silicon Valley startup looking to enhance Internet Communications through Web-based faxing, conference calls, and Web meetings. While we toiled away trying to take on new customers one at a time, WebEx had raised tens of millions, asking RuPaul to tell the world in a best-forgotten Super Bowl ad that "We'd Better Start Meeting Like This". Needless to say, they won, and we lost, even if I still believe we had the lead in technology. Something about brand awareness and sheer execution really does work after all.

Yesterday, Cisco shook up the tech industry by announcing a $3.2 billion acquisition of WebEx, seeing the traditional switch and routing company further diversify its business model. Cisco and others lauded the deal as an SMB (Small and Medium Business) play, as Cisco is trying to become more consumer friendly, with a goal of being less associated with corporate datacenters than in years past. The company even swapped out its well-known logo for a rounder, more Web 2.0 look and feel.

But beyond the surface announcements, for many of us who make a living in the Silicon Valley, this type of corporate consolidation raises some concerning questions. When the Big company (Cisco) buys a Smaller company (WebEx), will they continue to innovate, and will we ever see the business again?

History is littered with companies being swallowed up by monoliths like Cisco, Sun, Microsoft and Oracle, never to be seen again. Founders and key employees leave, and companies lose momentum. The number of companies from whom you can get a solution is limited, and hitting closer to home, there are fewer companies where you can get a job. In almost every corporate merger and acquisition, you see overlap and eventual layoffs.

Shortly after I left 3Cube in a layoff that took out Marketing, Sales and Business Development at the beginning of 2001, the company and its assets were purchased by Oracle, who had big hopes of adding desktop sharing and conference calling to its iMeeting product. Apparently they did, but you wouldn't know it.

I don't know of anybody who turns to Oracle for remote meetings and collaboration. Everybody uses WebEx. Now that Cisco has WebEx under its corporate umbrella, will they operate it as a separate service, with the brand name staying intact, or will it turn into the Cisco Meeting Service, powered by WebEx, and see a complete stalling in feature innovation? I have no idea. I don't think anybody has the answers.

Stuck At the Airport Again, Thanks to US Airways

You know, I think I'd learn from the Christmas Eve "experience" that the merger of US Airways and America West has created the world's most inefficient airline. Yet, when Expedia suggested we take the airline to Phoenix for Spring Training, we didn't balk. Now, we're again stuck at the San Jose Airport for another ridiculous delay, and are again questioning our sanity when it comes to this ridiculous airline.

A mid-day flight in perfect weather conditions isn't exactly the prime target for something to go awry. My wife and I breezed through security, and were all set for an alleged 12:25 flight from San Jose to Phoenix. Yet, minutes away from the time we would anticipate boarding, all the numbers came off the board, and the flight's new departure time is 1:20. Guess why?

Allegedly, workers fueling the plane in Phoenix had opted to "take a break" during its fueling, and overdid it. Now, the plane, in transit to San Jose, will have to dump the excess fuel between here and there, making us wait. Now, if the workers wanted to go smoke away from the fuel, I totally get that, as a late plane is better than a charred jet carcass, but it doesn't exactly fill me with comfort as to the airline's professionalism and safety.

I don't think we will have to "call ahead" to the A's and ask them to delay tonight's game, planned for 7 p.m. in Phoenix, so we can be there at the start, but we're still annoyed. I've had it with this ridiculous excuse for an airline.

March 14, 2007

Tidbits from the Link Blog: March 14, 2007

We're only two days away from a four-day mini-vacation to see the A's do battle in the Cactus League for Spring Training, but until then, we are certainly chained to the desk. That leaves opportunity to highlight the day's prominent stories.

It's no surprise that yet another company is out to get the iPod and steal some of Apple's thunder, and even less of a surprise that Blackberrys can cause accidents just as mobile phones do, or that big companies are moving to advertise on the Web. Given that all those aren't the biggest of surprises, it's a real surprise there's some strong writing on those topics today.

Don Dodge: Why Search Engines Rank Blogs Higher than Web Sites
Internet Outsider: Advertisers Fleeing TV, Radio for Internet, etc.
Slashdot: Legislators Ponder BlackBerry Pileups
TechCrunch: Reckoning Day For Venture Capitalists?
VentureBeat: Slacker, the Real iPod Killer?

To see what I'm finding interesting, bookmark or subscribe to my link blog.

New TAB Post: Apple Adds “My Alerts” to iTunes Store

It's not intentional, but of late, my posts on The Apple Blog are increasingly iTunes-centric. I swear I use Mac all day long, but iTunes is where I see the action happening. Yesterday, I perhaps belatedly noticed that Apple had added "My Alerts" to the iTunes Store, making it that much easier to purchase songs from artists I like without waiting for a dedicated e-mail.

I believe that with time, Apple will increase their offerings in this space, much as TiVo has with its WishList. Some day, I'll be tracking actors and film-makers much as I do bands today.

That's the idea behind my most recent contribution to The Apple Blog, titled Apple Adds “My Alerts” to iTunes Store. Per agreement with them, I will not be cross-posting the piece, but instead, have provided a link. Enjoy.

March 13, 2007

Ten Geeky Technologies Not Coming to Our House

We may revel in our geekdom, but we have limits. Some of the more popular technology gadgets or software that don't have any place in our home, for various reasons, are below. After all, it's one thing to be nuts about technology, quite another to just be nuts. Here, we draw the line.

1. Skype or VoIP
2. Twitter
3. Linux
4. Plaxo
5. MySpace, BeBo, Piczo and the rest
6. Xbox, PS3 or Wii
7. AIM, ICQ, Jabber, Yahoo! IM or GTalk
8. Del.icio.us
9. Flickr
10. EV-DO

Viacom Goes After $1 Billion of Google's Cash

It has a nice "Dr. Evil" ring to it. Viacom is suing Google for $1 billion dollars, saying the company, through its acquired YouTube video sharing property had used its programming online without authorization. The suit is more than just saber-rattling and content takedown requests, but poses a very serious threat to the future of YouTube.

Viacom famously demanded that YouTube remove all of its copyrighted content from its servers, more than 100,000 clips, and give up the names of those who had posted the files, ranging from Comedy Central "fake news" to MTV videos. Meanwhile, Mark Cuban and others railed on Google and YouTube's seeming inability to filter uploads to prevent the posting of copyrighted material. But Google, as many ISPs have when their users go astray, said the onus was on the individual.

Viacom, I believe accurately, says that "YouTube's strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site." After all, Google and YouTube before it, are in the business of selling ads, and whatever drives traffic to the ads is money in the bank. After spending $1.65 billion to acquire YouTube, Google has a very big potential headache on its hands now, as one of the biggest media giants on Earth isn't messing around.

March 12, 2007

10 More Suggestions for LinkedIn

The business contacts and networking site LinkedIn is becoming ever more integrated with the way we share information and conduct business. Earlier, I wrote that LinkedIn was leaving a lot of opportunities open without cashing in, by limiting the company's scope.

Maybe some of the reasons LinkedIn hasn't yet expanded its offerings is that they may be changing the way the site fundamentally works. If they are, then there's no better time than the present to propose further updates for the site.

1. Categories for Connections

Today, when I accept a connection with somebody, they are simply filed away in my ever-lengthening connections list. Yet, I can't designate whether this person is a colleague, a business partner, a customer, or even the competition. LinkedIn doesn't offer the designation, assuming all connections are equal. I know that LinkedIn has the capability to categorize, as when recommending a person, you can say you are a "Colleague", "Service Provider" or "Business Partner". Why not allow me to categorize my own connections in the same way, along with "Family", "Friends", "Competition" or the many other different types of relationships we have in this world? Even the most simple contact programs, like Apple's Address Book, have this option.

This distinction will become more important later in the list.

2. Selectively Allow Contacts to be Visible

Today I have only two options when it comes to sharing my list of connections with all other connections: either "On" or "Off". Either everybody sees every one of my connections, or nobody sees any of them. That clearly makes no sense. If I'm linked in to my boss, I don't necessarily want him to know I'm also linked in to a recruiter, for instance, so I may opt to "hide" a specific connection from viewing.

3. Selectively Block Contacts from Viewing Your Connections

On the flip side, there are occasions where I may not want a specific connection to view my entire list. You know that old adage about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? I may Link In to an employee of the competition, to monitor their job progression or see their activity, but I certainly don't want them looking at my connections list, finding partners, colleagues, and customers to steal away. I should be able to mark an individual connection as not having visibility into my list.

4. Assuming Categories, Allow Hidden Groups and Hiding From Groups

If LinkedIn were to offer connection categories, I should be able to have the option of hiding all "Friends" from "Colleagues" or "Prospects" and "Partners" from "Competitors", for example. Rather than going one by one, as you could in the two proposals above, I could uniformly hide groups from other groups with a single checkbox.

5. Allow Me to Export my LinkedIn Profile as PDF or Word

Today, LinkedIn, in a clear attempt to promote traffic, and therefore sell more ads, offers you the option of "forwarding" your profile via e-mail, which alerts somebody to your online profile only. You also can print your profile, but there is no option to "Export" your profile to Microsoft Word or a PDF file. It should not be too difficult to export the profile to PDF, summarizing the profile, and adding recommendations at the end of the resume, following a page break. I could then take this PDF (powered by LinkedIn) and send it via e-mail as an attachment or post to a Web site or blog.

6. Enable Profile Hiding from Site Search

For me, the real benefits of LinkedIn come from face to face meetings, not from random people searching me out and hunting me down. The search function of LinkedIn doesn't add me any value that I can think of. Why not add the option to "hide" my details from the search engine?

7. Enable Permanent Connection Blocking By Individual or Company

You can invite somebody to be a connection up to 3 times, if I remember correctly. It's not that uncommon that I'll get random invitations from people who figured out my e-mail address, or say they took some class with me in college a decade ago, or even worse, an odd subset of LinkedIn participants who measure themselves by the total number of connections. I have no interest in tagging my name onto someone who claims 500+ contacts (the maximum displayed) or highlights the number of connections in their profile as something that differentiates them. Also, if I don't want to be connected to anybody from a Hotmail address, say... ever, I should be able to block that domain.

8. Enable Deleting of Proposed Recommendations, Not Just Rewrites

In September, an otherwise good friend of mine posted a fake recommendation for me. Maybe he was drunk, or just out of his head, but it was ridiculous, and won't ever see the light of day on my profile. Yet, while I declined it and asked for a rewrite, it is still in my "Inbox" as a received recommendation. My only two options? "Show on Profile Now" or "Show on Profile Later". There is no option to "Delete Forever", and their certainly should be.

9. Expand User Profiles With an "Assets" Tab

Beyond my flat resume, my profile on LinkedIn is fairly shallow. It offers me the option to have links to my blog, Web site or RSS feed, but for many of us, it'd be much more robust and demonstrative of my abilities to add PDF or Word documents of things I'd written. Given the rich media capabilities of the Web, why couldn't LinkedIn's "assets" section offer links to product demos or video clips? The flat resume doesn't resonate in a much more rich media world.

10. Start a Corporate Blog

Who is the voice for LinkedIn, and how are they interacting with the community, if at all? Searching Google for a "LinkedIn Blog" turns up some fan collections, but nothing from the allegedly hip, leading Web 2.0 site. In fact, LinkedIn goes out of its way to hide ways to hear from the company, as its "Company Info" is in the bottom right corner, showing only "About LinkedIn" and "LinkedIn for Groups". LinkedIn is a perfect company to have a corporate blog talking about what the company represents, and where it is going.

March 11, 2007

New TAB Post: iTunes Offers Up Massive Song Sets

Today my iTunes library reached the 4,000 song barrier, exactly. This was in no small part due to my discovery of 50-song trance albums Apple has posted to the online music store, for only $9.99 apiece. So far, I've found six, with two new ones being downloaded today, meaning I've got 300 great songs for less than $60 bucks. (See Previous: 100 More iTunes Trance Songs for Less than $20)

While these offer the best price/song ratio I've found on iTunes, there are plenty of other ways you can fill your iPod, including ways to download 400+ U2 tracks or 600+ Depeche Mode songs in one swoop. (See Previous: Apple Says: Download Every Depeche Mode Song Ever) I went out and found quite a few more.

That's the idea behind my most recent contribution to The Apple Blog, titled iTunes Offers Up Massive Song Sets. Per agreement with them, I will not be cross-posting the piece, but instead, have provided a link. Enjoy.

Tidbits from the Link Blog: March 11, 2007

I hadn't intended for today's collection of links to be all on Apple and Microsoft, yet that's what's happened. While some thought the OS wars were over in the 1990s (and Windows won), there is significant momentum at Apple's back, and it's getting people thinking of how the company can move further into the enterprise and leverage its success with iPod, iTunes and increased market share.

Meanwhile, Microsoft certainly isn't winning over fans with the continued mediocrity of its products. Six months after the debut of Zune, Engadget's Ryan Block says the device "still sucks", while Chris Pirillo says people are completely disillusioned with Vista. A friend I spoke with Friday says that if you launch Microsoft Visio twice in Vista, the system is a guaranteed hang. Wonderful. Can you feel the "Ow"?

Applepeels: Is the biggest challenge to Apple in the Enterprise still the IT Director?
Chris Pirillo: Windows Vista Help
Ryan Block: Zune at the 6 month mark — it still sucks
Wall Street Journal: Music's New Gatekeeper

To see what I'm finding interesting, bookmark or subscribe to my link blog.

ANtics Episode 3.05: Safety First

Cross-Posted on Athletics Nation...

The last two seasons have seen the A's suffer their unfair share of injuries, and 2007, regrettably, appears to be on the same track. As players go down and others are getting hit while at bat, some A's are taking a new approach to safety. The ANtics checks in.


Click to See Larger Comic


All Comics

March 08, 2007

Daylight Savings Shift to Strike Our TiVo?

When news of how Congress' plan to move up Daylight Savings Time would impact the IT community first came to light, I rolled my eyes. Apple issued an update to patch Mac OS X to deal with the change. Microsoft did the same. BlackBerry even issued a patch so my handheld would accurately display meeting times, and e-mail would show with the correct time stamp.

But I didn't anticipate what could be the biggest problem of them all. My TiVo. Today, TiVo helpfully sent an e-mail warning me that for three weeks, my TiVo will likely show the wrong time, and that manually recorded season passes will record the wrong shows for a while, unless I go in and make changes. This means that instead of recording ER every Thursday at 10, we might end up getting an episode of Scrubs instead. That'd be a calamity, of course. (More Details at TiVo.com)

Yet, TiVo doesn't seem all that concerned that there would be just as much drama away from the set as on the set. Couch potatoes everywhere apparently won't suffer too poorly. They promise that Season Pass programs and Wish Lists will continue without interruption, after all. But no patch is coming. We just have to wait this one out, and maybe by next year, they'll have something resembling a solution. Until then, we will be caressing our remotes, and patting our TiVo every morning in hopes they cooperate.

My Technorati Link Stats Make No Sense

Looking at one's Technorati ranking frequently is well-known symptom of "Egotistical Blogger Syndrome" or EBS, for short. Comics have been made about bloggers needing to get their Technorati ranking fix, and others, like Guy Kawasaki, have made very public campaigns about their quest to reach the top 100. But for me, a small speck in the blogosphere, I don't see that my numbers add up, as Technorati's database often loads slowly, loses items and simply doesn't project consistency.

For more than a year now, we've dabbled in this blog, and while it does cover technology news, sports buzz and the occasional political rant, it is by and large a personal blog. For much of the time, it's gone largely unnoticed. More recently, some of my observations around Google Reader, Digg and timing for blog posts have gotten a wider audience, sending more readers my way, more frequent comments, and, best of all, some external links. After the weekend's activity, which saw links from Steve Rubel and Robert Scoble, among others, today we landed on TechMeme again for our comments on Digg reaching 1 million users, and the well-respected Mathew Ingram noted the post on his blog and in a follow-up for WebProNews.

Yet, for some reason, as Technorati tries to tally the external links to my blog from others, the needle doesn't move. In fact, in some weird blip, many of the weekend's links were erased from my blog's summary page on the site over the last two days, and as more links came in today, both my ranking and the total number of external links stayed the same. So, if I were the obsessive type with EBS, and I were to value myself by my low-low Technorati ranking, I could potentially get annoyed.

Is it a database refresh issue, in that Technorati will update the ranking every 8 hours, or 24 hours? And if it were, at what time would that happen? And should I expect those external links that were there a few days ago to ever come back, or is that data lost? Is that why my ranking is staying static, even as more blogs point my way? I wonder if I will ever know.

March 07, 2007

Digg Hits 1 Million Users - World Domination Next

There's rapid growth, and then there's exponential growth. If you're a growing Web-based business like Digg, where the massive number of users and page views can be monetized to accelerate revenue, the latter is clearly much more preferred, and today, Digg founder Kevin Rose was excited to announce the site had passed the 1 million user mark, in just over two years after the site's start. Crossing the milestone signals continued expansion for the site, which has eclipsed Slashdot in tech news relevance, if not yet in total users, and has become a go-to site to see the day's popular news and oddities.

While the achievement is fantastic, and as Rose mentioned, "a point I never dreamed of", Digg isn't the only Web 2.0 company to reach such an illustrious mark.

* StumbleUpon achieved 1 million users in July of 2006, four years after its inception, and, like Digg, enables users to submit stories and rate them. (Source: Mashable)

* Del.icio.us reported 1 million users in September 2006, just under three years since its start, and saw its growth accelerate following acquisition by Yahoo! earlier that year. In fact, at the time, reporters lauded the service for being much larger than Digg. (Source: TechCrunch)

* In January, Second Life said they were set to exceed 3 million users, and that 1 million of those accounts had logged in during the previous two months. (Source: Second Life Insider)

* LinkedIn says they have more than 9 million subscribers, with 1,070,300 or so being 3 degrees away or less in my network alone.

Meanwhile, Slashdot, the original Digg-like story submission engine, has well more than 1,000,000 users, even if they don't have all the buzz. I clocked in as user 104,197 some time back in 1999, though I haven't been all that active, constantly reading, occasionally submitting stories, but mostly just watching.

What does this mean? Simply that the Web has a lot of active users interested in sharing news and information, and that the most popular brands will quickly gather millions of users if they offer differentiated services. That Digg has gotten there as fast as it has is quite laudable, if not a surprise. Good luck on your race to 10 million, Digg.

A More Healthy Way to Stay Addicted?

An interesting New York Times article from this morning focuses on how soft drink leaders Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola are adapting their major diet soda brands to promote, of all things, health. Both companies have planned to adapt their flagship diet cola lines with a full set of vitamins, to break away from the "liquid candy" image, which many have used to link soda drinking to obesity.

The piece says specifically that Coca Cola will debut a brand extension called Diet Coke Plus, "which will contain niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium and zinc."

I made the switch from Pepsi Cola to Coke in my teens, and switched again from Coke to Diet Coke when in college. Now I probably down a six pack, conservatively, every single day. Unless the taste is completely indistinguishable from what I already drink, I don't have a huge incentive to switch again, and am quite dubious that the new Diet Coke Plus is going to strengthen my bones, fill me with physical energy and make me more attractive to the opposite sex. Instead, it's a lot like those old saturday morning commercials during cartoons where you would see Lucky Charms or Cookie Crisp, alongside toast, orange juice and a piece of fruit, saying it was "all part of a nutritious breakfast" and contained "9 vitamins and minerals", none of which broke the 20% RDA barrier.

What marketers sometimes fail to remember is that not all of their customers are stupid. We don't drink Diet Coke because it's healthy. We drink it because it has caffiene, tastes good, and stops from being thirsty. Maybe in that order. Sure, I can't even drink regular soda now without feelings of nausea, but I didn't switch to lose weight and reduce dental costs. And I won't switch to start looking like Popeye off a sprinkling of vitamins. Beyond this, brand extensions sometimes are not the answer. Read any book from Al Ries and Jack Trout, and they can teach you how to avoid the pitfalls of brand extensions. You simply can't take something unhealthy and relabel it as healthy. Nobody will believe you and it won't sell.

March 06, 2007

Maintaining Integrity of Web Archives Is Essential

On Monday, IDC announced an estimated 161 exabytes of digital information was created in 2006, by far a record. Expectations are that the data growth will continue, through a zettabyte, six times higher than last year's number, by the year 2010. Increasingly, the world's information is digital, and a great deal of it is online.

As more information related to news, commerce and personal histories goes online, it becomes increasingly essential to ensure the long-term integrity of that data, not just for today, but for future years, to accurately record a history of our time, and to complete the massive linkage needed for the Internet to act as a true conduit of a culture.

Even in the last decade or so, we can see how data has been presented for the short term, without much care as to future access. It's not uncommon to see links to news articles of months or years ago hit 404 messages, as sites change directory structures, or delete old data, in a wholly misguided effort to save space. In other cases, domain names go unrenewed, losing data, or hackers maliciously change, corrupt or delete sites, which cannot be recovered. Even some of the most popular sites, like Yahoo! News' carrying articles from the Associated Press, have a limited shelf life, as articles rise to prominence and fall away quickly, to be forgotten forever, as URLs expire.

I strongly believe that every webmaster, blogger, and news medium needs to pay as much attention to archival data as they do to present-day data and future plans. The very Web-like nature of the World Wide Web demands that one link lead to another and to another, with multiple hyperlinks reaching out like strands from the center of the Web to the edge, and each having a multiple, optional, paths from one location to another. If Webmasters and site owners opt to make wholesale changes to directory structures, domain names, or server names, it should be done in a way that does not impact historical data. External hyperlinks should remain unbroken. Search engine archives should return true data, and access to those archives should remain clear. This line of thought falls in line with the thinking of Web pioneer Dave Winer, author of Scripting.com.

If you run a wholly Web-based blog, make backups to your local computer or offline, to CDs, DVDs or even an iPod. I back up to my laptop, iPod, and using Apple's .Mac Backup service.

From 1996 to 1998, I worked for the student newspaper at UC Berkeley, and had set up a search engine to index all articles on the newspaper's online site for the previous 3 to 4 years. Later, due to a series of site overhauls, and the occasional webmaster error, all was lost. Now, the Daily Cal's Web site offers a search engine option for "Before 1999", and it returns nothing. The 200+ stories I wrote for the paper can only be found sporadically in Google's archives, or where they were reposted on other sites.

Others, like Robert Scoble, note their own history was erased, when blog hosts made widescale changes. That is something that should never happen if the Web is to continue forward for years to come.

Now, at the office, I find media coverage on our company I once linked to in 2001 or later is gone, due to media mergers and acquisitions, site changes, or other reasons. In other areas, early personal home pages I once wrote, both in college, and after, are only preserved in patchwork fashion on The Internet Archive, one gallant attempt at bridging the gap between publishers' holes and the true nature of the Web.

There are countless examples of one day's treasures becoming tomorrow's trash. But if the Web is ever to be considered a historical record, we must treat it as such. Backup the data - there's tons of storage space. Preserve URL structures. Preserve domain names, and constantly look both forward and backward, or that next 404 you find could be your own.

March 05, 2007

Artest's World: They're All Out to Get Me

Cross-Posted at Sactown Royalty...

Following on to today's news that Kings forward Ron Artest had been jailed on charges of domestic violence, just weeks after being fined for animal neglect...

Ever wonder just what is going on in the head of Ron-Ron? With today's news piling on to issues with coaches, teammates, opponents and man's best friend, we thought we'd give Artest the floor for a bit to tell his side of the story, satirically speaking...


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Take the Poll: Who Is the Real Artest?

March 04, 2007

Google Reader Suggestions Proving Popular

My notes yesterday on 10 ways Google Reader could be improved seem to have struck a nerve in the tech community. Offering what I believe to be simple updates to an already strong and very popular tool could turn the RSS reader program from arguably one of the best to the level of elite. The conversation on this topic, on what could have been a lazy Sunday in the blogosphere, elevated my Web traffic to above six times the daily average, and gained feedback from some of the most notable technology pundits out there, as well as some smaller folks with interesting insight. In fact, I was elated to see the post summarized in Portuguese - which hinted to me it'd crossed some sort of barrier.

Edelman's Steve Rubel, author of Micro Persuasion, led off the linking last night with a quick "Google, ya listening?".

The piece got more traction on Digg than any other post I'd offered, getting a dozen or so Diggs. Regardless of quality, it seems I can't clear a handful, given the site's lack of brand recognition, but this signaled more broad appeal.

The esoteric "Library Stuff" noted the piece, saying "I’m still in love with Google Reader." but adding I had "a few ideas."

Things reached a fever pitch when two of the tech heavies weighed in. TechMeme picked up the story late this evening, resulting in an onrush of traffic. Robert Scoble noted the piece in a summary on the potential overload of social media. He adds, "I should make a list too!" Let's hope he does.

Scoble's notes always lead to more conversations, as his book "Naked Conversations" suggested they would. The blog "Capture the Conversation" weighed in later, saying Google would "be the sickest RSS client", calling my notes "good and pretty comprehensive", adding his call for authenticated feed support and server side sessions. Too geeky for me. :-)

Additional comments can be seen on the original story, including better integration with Google News, unsubscribed feeds lying dormant, and password authentication.

It's been a fun day watching a conversation rather than a echo chamber. I can't wait to kick off the next one.

ANtics Episode 3.04: Growing Up Geren

Cross-posted at Athletics Nation...

Much of the early concerns around this year's A's have been injury-related, whether the focus is Rich Harden, Bobby Crosby, or now, Justin Duchscherer... but Bob Geren is getting his feet wet, learning the nuances of big league managing. The ANtics check in on some of factors in his thought process.


Click to See Larger Comic


All Comics

March 03, 2007

New TAB Post: Taking Mail’s Junk Filter for Granted

For the longest time, I couldn't figure out why my work e-mail got an unfair share of spam on nights and weekends. The amount of spam compared to real messages has always been high, but I had just figured it was because my colleagues, like me, chose to keep home and work separate, and I'd just noticed the disparity.

Yet, this week, I figured out another reason. While at the office, the Junk Mail feature in Apple's Mail program was automatically clearing out the spam, and I was taking it for granted, not giving it the credit it deserved. So, yesterday, I finally recognized all of its work behind the scenes.

That's the idea behind my most recent contribution to The Apple Blog, titled Taking Mail’s Junk Filter for Granted. Per agreement with them, I will not be cross-posting the piece, but instead, have provided a link. Enjoy.

10 Suggestions to Improve Google Reader

As an avid Google Reader subscriber and shared link blogger, there are a few ways I believe the fastest-growing RSS reader could improve, bettering the user experience and opening new opportunities for both Google and its users.

Keep in mind I have no insight as to Google Reader's plans, or if some of these options are in development or under consideration.

1. "More Like This" Suggestions

Offer a "More Like This" button, suggesting other similar feeds to those I've subscribed to. I may, for instance, be familiar with Matt Cutts' site, but not know about John Battelle. This could be engineered, as Amazon does, to say "Others who subscribed to Jeremy Zadowny also subscribed to Don Dodge or Robert Scoble."

2. Eliminate Duplicate Feed Items

The ability to determine if a story has already been read, and not display it. In fact, the biggest abuser of this for me is Google itself. If I sign up to receive an RSS feed of Google News Alerts on the topic, I'm alerted that the story has changed every hour, even if the only thing that has changed is that Google knows it is "8 hours ago" as opposed to "7 hours ago" and "6 hours ago". Today, this results in my seeing stories that match my keywords up to 25 times.

3. Add Negative Keywords

I'd like the ability to add "negative keywords" to feeds. It's been noted by some Steve Rubel subscribers that they don't want his daily links to hit RSS, and others have complained that Jason Calacanis talks too much about his "fatblogging" initiative, as opposed to his technology and business insight. If I subscribed to Steve Rubel, I could add "links for" as a negative keyword, and for Calacanis, "fatblogging", letting me get the RSS feeds I wanted and not those I didn't, without being forced to completely unsubscribe, which today is the only option.

This is likely more for the broad RSS community, but if anybody has the talent to innovate out, it's Google. I assume there are likely readers of my own blog who would prefer not to get sports updates or comments on politics as well, so filters would be a wildly utilized feature across the Web.

4. Share Items Without Subscriptions

Enable the ability to share RSS items without first requiring subscription to the feed. Often, I may run into an interesting story and want to share it, but not have it in my RSS subscription list. I should, for example, be able to add a story to my shared links blog from CNN or MSNBC without getting every story sent my way.

5. Aggregate Reader Statistics

Display of aggregate statistics from readers. What are the most frequently read blogs? What ones have the highest % read rate in specific categories? What are the most popularly shared stories that day? Scoble has mentioned that enabling a popularity index would threaten sites like Digg, if it gained mass appeal.

6. Addition of Search

Really, Google. If your job is to search and archive all the world's information, then how does temporarily displaying news items that go away permanently, without offering an ability to search them, fit into that mission? Today, Google Reader offers no way to search through unread items, requiring you to either view them chronologically, by category or by individual feed.

7. Create a Link Blogs Directory

Show a directory of shared Google reader Link Blogs, organized both alphabetically and ranked by popularity of readership.

8. Further Integrate "Trends"

Add "Trends" to the main bar, below "Home", "All Items", "Starred Items" and "Shared Items" for easy access. I've actually made a bookmark for my trends, which I check on occasion.

9. Expand Individual Feed Statistics

Add more statistics by feed. Google Reader trends show the most active sites over the previous 30 days, and also show those which haven't been updated recently, but I don't get an indication as to the timing frequency of each feed. What time do they update, or on which days? Are they publishing more frequently now than they were two weeks ago? A "Show feed trends" could dive down into the individual RSS feed's statistics.

10. Customization Everywhere

More interface options. Google may favor simplicity, but there's zero options to customize a shared link blog. For example, the "Powered by Google Reader" message takes up a third of the real estate. I also can't customize the look and feel of the Google Reader interface itself, to change colors or layout.

March 02, 2007

AP Self-Censors Against Paris Hilton for a Week

There's no question that Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan get way too much ink in comparison to their combined limited talents. Hardly a week goes by when they don't find themselves on the cover of the magazines at the supermarket checkout stand, or turn up with mugshots in the Smoking Gun. It turns out the Associated Press tried a move to ignore Hilton for an entire week, and see if the world would spin off its axis. Turns out we'll live, yet from a journalistic perspective, I think it's a big mistake and sets bad precedent.

As a student of journalism, I felt the editors of a newspaper, magazine or wire service had a duty to relay news to the public, without bias or an agenda. The opinion pages and columnists would do one thing, and the news writers would do another. The editorial board would not tell the reporters what was on or off limits, and wouldn't take self-imposed vacations for any amount of time.

The question of whether anything Hilton or the other girls do qualifies as "news" is a different issue, but in a piece that hit CNN, an AP editor wrote, "Editors just wanted to see what would happen if we didn't cover this media phenomenon, this creature of the Internet gossip age, for a full week. After that, we'd take it day by day. Would anyone care?", and I think the move was wrong. It's a slippery slope between making a rule that the AP would not cover Paris Hilton one week, and then deciding later they were tired of covering Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama the next.

While I laud the concept of ignoring Paris Hilton, and others like Engadget's Ryan Block do as well, I don't like the idea of the media deciding what news the public deserves to get. The New York Times famously covered "All the News Fit to Print", not "All the News We Decided to Cover" or "All the News Minus a Few Things". Additionally, in a world where topically-focused news magazines, shows and blogs are there to pick up the slack, it's not as if the AP's supposed boycott had any kind of impact. Journalistic integrity suffered without benefiting the public.

LinkedIn Provides Another Silly Web 2.0 "Error" Page

At the end of the workweek, I was planning a simple Address Book export to LinkedIn, to capture all the new contacts I acquired, but stumbled into a roadblock, as LinkedIn appears to have some planned downtime.

True to the site's Web 2.0 form, it provides a playful "We're Down!" message. This follows in line to the silliness provided by YouTube, Technorati, MySpace and others when they've suffered downtime.


The screen shot around 5:15 this afternoon...

I can only hope LinkedIn is in the process of introducing some of the new features I had proposed last month (See: How to Make LinkedIn Even Better). My site logs showed employees at LinkedIn read the story.

Previous stories on Web 2.0 Errors:

August 4, 2006: Web 2.0 Companies Play With Error Messages
January 24, 2007: Silly YouTube - Where's the Redundancy?
January 31, 2007: Scoble's Right: Technorati Isn't Scaling to Beat Google