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May 31, 2007

A Silicon Valley Adventure: Trip to TiVo

I love living and working in the Silicon Valley. Though at times the hours and intensity can be challenging, I do enjoy being around aggressive people with innovative goals, and seeing the sources of development face to face. Today, I got to "look behind the curtain" at one of these companies - TiVo.

Yesterday evening, our TiVo remote stopped working. We've had it for four years, so that was no major surprise. It wasn't the end of the world, but it was certainly annoying, as we had no access to saved programs, and had to manually change the channel by going to the cable box.

This morning, I went to Fry's Electronics to get a replacement remote. No deal. They only wanted to give me one if I bought a new unit (for up to $800).

So at lunch, a colleague and I went to Best Buy. Same issue. They offered that I could possibly use a universal remote, but the universal remotes don't have a TiVo button, and it's questionable if they would work.

I looked online, and while I could get a remote cheap, I wouldn't get it right away unless I paid upward of $35 to ship a $10-$20 product via next day UPS.

I pass the TiVo's corporate headquarters every morning on my way to work, so I had other ideas. I went to the TiVo Web site, called their main number, and hit zero to talk with the operator. I told her of my plight, and after checking with her colleague, she asked me to drive over by 5 p.m., and I could have one of her three they had for customer demonstrations.

I hopped in the car, and less than ten minutes later, I was at TiVo's worldwide headquarters, surrounded by TiVo images, from the clocks to the floormats, to a six-foot TiVo mascot plush toy. I was also in possession of a brand new TiVo remote for free, thanks to the receptionist's generosity. I offered to pay, but she declined. After all, that wasn't the point. It was outstanding customer service, something she knew she could do given our offices were only a few blocks apart.

I was already a TiVo fan for life, but this service went above and beyond, delivering a story only possible here in the Silicon Valley.

SF Chronicle Editor: Newspaper Business Model "Broken"

One day after Neil Henry lit up the mediasphere with his stark comments on the world of journalism in a brave new world of instant, independent media, more bombshells continue to drop at the San Francisco Chronicle, as the beleaguered paper saw its managing editor quit yesterday, despite not having a new job. In his leaving, he said the business model in the newspaper business "is clearly broken."

Not too long ago, San Francisco was a two-paper town, with the Chronicle and Examiner publishing every day. The Examiner functioned as an afternoon paper, including the closing day's stock prices, and the Chronicle was the paper of record. In a series of missteps, the Examiner cut back the number of editions, went to tabloid format, and all but disappeared. The Chronicle, the seeming victor in the race, has seen its own struggles, and is circling the drain in an extremely wired, connected landscape that is turning elsewhere for its media intake.

I was once a newspaper addict. I read the paper daily from the age of 12, scoured for newspaper headlines and editorials all over the nation when the Internet evolved, and seriously considered journalism as a profession, becoming a charter subscriber to the defunct Brill's Content, and making myself a student of the craft. But the landscape changed under my feet, and I was lucky enough to make the jump to a more forward-looking, aggressive environment. If others in the newspaper business don't make similar moves, many will find themselves starting their careers over, voluntarily or not.

Google Gears Another Utility That Won't Work With Safari

Ratcheting up the company's applications battle with Microsoft today, Google debuted a new platform called Google Gears, a new developer API that lets Web developers also develop for offline use. Some are calling the introduction a game changer, and the service's cross-functionality on multiple platforms is lauded. But in what's too familiar a story, if you're a Mac user like me who prefers Safari as your Web browser, you're locked out.

The Google Gears page says in its system requirements it supports both Firefox 1.5+ and Internet Explorer 6.0+ browsers, with no mention of Safari. This despite recent close interaction with Google and Apple to deliver YouTube for the AppleTV, Google Maps for the iPhone, etc.

For some reason, being one of those on Safari today is akin to being a Mac user in the 1990s. Developers are coding for the major browsers, and we're lucky to be thrown a bone. Below are a few more bigtime apps that refuse to work under Safari:

1. The Alexa Toolbar

Alexa always, always dramatically undercounts Macs because Mac users site visits aren't counted. Despite years of knowing this was an issue, Alexa has made no move to offer anything but a toolbar for Windows users with Internet Explorer.

2. StumbleUpon

Although StumbleUpon has achieved success, recently making news for being purchased by eBay, the service is mostly mystery to me. The StumbleUpon toolbar is available only for Internet Explorer and Firefox. Safari users are not invited.

3. Google Pack

The Google Pack is available only for Windows users, period. Forget about any Mac version.

4. Google Toolbar

Making Safari 0 for 3 in the toolbar battle, Google Toolbar is only available on Firefox for the Mac or Internet Explorer. Safari users need not apply.

5. Yahoo! Toolbar

Aha! 0 for 4. The Yahoo! Toolbar is only available for Windows Internet Explorer or Firefox. Got Safari? Got no toolbar.

So whose fault is it here? Is it Apple's fault for creating a Web browser that wasn't extendible or developer friendly? Is it instead that the developers are ignoring the Mac OS X Safari market? Or further, are Web standards not being followed? I'd assume Google has the manpower to provide Mac OS X Safari capable Web applications, but they are putting resources somewhere else. For me, Safari is the very best browser. That these popular sites and programs are unavailable is extremely frustrating.

For $33.75, I Could Ditch DRM from 130 iTunes Songs

Apple's iTunes Plus project launched today, giving me the option to strip digital rights management (DRM) from a select subset of my musical library for 30 cents per affected song. As the promotion only covers a fraction of the total available iTunes Store, I was curious to see how many I would be offered, and at the end of the first day for this promotion, I could upgrade 130 songs for $33.75, Apple says.

What would I get?

With iTunes Plus, I would remove the iTunes and iPod-only barrier from these songs, letting me pass songs to friends, copy to multiple computers, or in theory, play on other, inferior music devices. Additionally, the songs would be offered in higher quality bit rates.

On the first day of announcement, bands in my purchase history that are available include Coldplay, Beastie Boys, Royksopp, The Chemical Brothers, M83, Fatboy Slim and Cosmic Gate.

While others are excited about the move and hate all things DRM-related, I haven't seen Apple's limitations as much of a hindrance to the way I enjoy music. The iTunes and iPod combination work for me, and I won't be paying a premium to convert my library to iTunes Plus any time soon, whether it was $3.75, $33.75 or $337.50.

Google Reader Team Adds Trends to Main Page!

It's the little things. A little over two months after I put together ten suggestions to help Google Reader improve, we're starting to see some of the proposals implemented. Very quietly, I noticed this evening that Google Reader has added the trends button to the main column, meaning I can keep tabs on my statistics without having to go to my bookmarks to retrieve the data.

Being a stats guy, I always appreciate any way that helps me get to and make sense of the numbers quickly and easily. While some are making more noise around Google Reader's other announcement - that you can now read feeds offline, this little trends logo is much more important for me. After all, I have no intentions of being offline if I can help it.

May 30, 2007

Berkeley's Neil Henry Takes On New Journalism Reality

Though only a near-decade removed from my time of studying for a Mass Communications major at UC Berkeley from 1995-99, there are precious few professors who I can recall having made significant impact. In the mass communications department, a pair I distinctly remember was the dynamic duo of Neil Henry and Thomas Leonard, who teamed up to teach a number of the core classes to the major, and helped shed light both on how today's media has been shaped through history, and where they expect it to go.

Today, Henry's name gained significantly more recognition around the Web, as he penned a editorial for the San Francisco Chronicle focused on what he termed "The decline of news", set in motion by a massive reduction in advertising spending with newspapers, which in turn eliminates funding for reporters and investigative media. Instead, money has moved online, to sites powered by robots, he says, and that this move, amid reduced professionals in the newsroom, in favor of amateurs, will be significantly damaging, resulting in "a world where the craft of reporting the news fairly and independently is very much endangered; and with it a society increasingly fractured, less informed by fact..."

Old media is in a state of crisis today. Readers are leaving in droves. Newspapers and magazines are folding. The money isn't there, and media is not always financially rewarded for a job well done. Henry raises the alarm bell that with fewer trained journalists, or "trained watchdogs", as he puts it, those creating scandal could get away with it. While he admits that the millions of blogs online offer a new source of news, he doesn't believe the quality to be on par with those who have studied the craft and gone through journalism school.

Most controversially, Henry says that companies like Google, who have risen the top as new media leaders, should accept responsibility for media's future, and they should support journalism schools, even as their algorithms serve to replace more traditional methods of collecting the news. But here, while I respect Henry a great deal, and enjoyed his classes, I have to disagree. Google as a business has no new edict to save an industry under assault. The industry itself as a whole needs to change to survive.

It is worth noting that Henry took a very old world approach to his perceived crisis. He wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper, albeit one with a strong technology foundation. Yet, even though he went the old world route, I found it not through a printed copy of the Chronicle, but through new media - the blogosphere. While bloggers do read the online version of the Chronicle, it is the new media which is spreading his message.

Other bloggers who are quite one sided in their own views of the argument, like Mathew Ingram, Scott Karp and John Battelle, champion continued evolution in media, as I do.

Some of my biggest frustrations with the Mass Communications course content at UC Berkeley was the slowness to pick up on the Web's sure impact on media. Though it was in a class taught by Henry and Leonard where I first learned about The Drudge Report and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the attention to the Web was little and far between. When in another course, the professor's idea of a new media lecture was to show a video on the founding of Yahoo!, after I had offered to help prepare a more in-depth presentation, I simply stopped attending her lectures for the remainder of the semester out of pure frustration.

A decade ago, the onus for change in journalism was there, and those calling for adaptation by the new leaders to help out those left behind simply missed it right before their eyes. It is not Google's obligation to bail out the Chronicle or to train the journalism students at UC Berkeley. It is Google's obligation to make money for its shareholders, and continue to improve its products, period. They are not a charity organization. If a generation of journalists finds the road ahead hard, then personal decisions will have to be made, and companies will have to make adjustments. That's business.

New TAB Post: Apple iTunes vs. Comcast On Demand

This weekend we had a chance to utilize Comcast's On Demand service, renting one movie and watching some previously aired episodes. In all, it was a good experience, bringing my entertainment immediately, without waiting for time to download, or taking up hard disk space. Also, the cost for a relatively new movie was only $3.99, contrasted with the $9.99 to $12.99 I could expect to pay for a movie from iTunes. I continue to feel that iTunes is a much better option for music than it is for video, to date.

That's the background behind my most recent contribution to The Apple Blog, titled How Will Apple Compete With “On Demand”?. Per agreement with them, I will not be cross-posting the piece, but instead, have provided a link. Enjoy.

May 29, 2007

Blogosphere On Holiday Drops RSS Feeds by 40%

On Saturday, I speculated that U.S. Web traffic was down significantly for the Memorial Day weekend, as I had seen a spike in the percentage of international visits to the blog. But the drop-off wasn't nearly as stark as the reduction in total posts received by my tracked RSS feeds in Google Reader for a typical Monday. On the whole, total postings were down on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with Monday's holiday being down more than 40% off average.


I typically read about 500 RSS items per weekday, and half that number on Saturday and Sunday, according to my Google Reader trends.


My Google Reader stats, by day, with Mondays marked.

  • On May 28th, Memorial Day, I read exactly 300 items.
  • On May 21st, I read 509 items.
  • On May 14th, I read 553 items.
  • On May 7th, I read 530 items.
  • On April 30th, I read 515 items.

Assuming the total number of RSS feeds I read remained constant, the usual 526.75 average I could expect for a Monday had been whittled down by 44%.

Sunday and Saturday were also down, but to a lower degree. On May 27th, I read 259 items, whereas my typical Sunday list tops 280. The decline was only about 10%. On May 26th, I read 248 items, whereas a typical Saturday list is about 260. Saturdays are almost always the lightest days of the week, and the drop-off was miniscule.

Causes for the decline are numerous, of course. With most U.S. offices close, you would see a drop of work-related news, technology events to cover, and press releases to hit the wires. Some took the holiday away from the computer altogether. Others considered Monday a blog holiday as well. But rather than just have a gut feeling that traffic was down overall, Google Reader's stats give us a statistical benchmark.

Minor Stat: My Car Reaches 125,000 Miles

On March 29, 2004, my 1998 Mercury Tracer passed the 100,000 mile mark. 1,157 days later, while driving home from tonight's 5-3 Oakland A's victory over the Texas Rangers, the odometer rolled to 125,000 exactly, where it remains, parked outside our condo.

The milestone itself isn't all that significant, but it's a good marker to see how much I'm driving. 25,000 miles over 1,157 days shows an average of only 21.6 miles per day over the last 3-plus years, which tells me that aside from commuting to and from the office five days a week, I really don't get out much.

The commute to work is 7.5 miles, according to Google Maps, so the act of simply going to and from the office covers 75 of the 151.2 miles driven on average per week over the last four years, assuming I go to the office five days a week, every week. That's about half of all my driving, even with 40 or so A's games and Cal Bears games in the East Bay per year, and the occasional visit to see the family in Palo Alto, Sacramento, Paradise or Chico.

So, either I could argue I have no life, or that I live in an area nearby all I need, from groceries to entertainment. I could also say I'm trying to conserve the environment, or that my wife and I take her car often enough that I'm not racking up the miles like I once did. Regardless, for having 125,000 miles behind it, the car is in remarkable shape. I haven't had to get it serviced for a really long time, aside from the occasional oil change. As much as I may dream of a better, fancier car, or look envious at hybrids to do what's right, we're in a pretty good spot with our 10-year-old clunker.

May 27, 2007

ANtics Episode 3.14: Conspiracy on the DL

Cross-posted to Athletics Nation...

One by one, the A's marquee players have joined the growing ranks of the disabled list. First, it was Mark Kotsay, followed closely behind by Esteban Loaiza and Bobby Kielty. Then, more joined in. Bradley. Street. Piazza. Duchscherer. After some behind the scenes investigation, the ANtics uncovered a scandal so dark it will rattle the very foundation of baseball. The players just wanted a vacation. Given the A's usual June surge, why waste their time hustling the first two months? More of this breaking story below...


Click to See Larger Comic


All Comics

My Web Widgets: The Why and Where

I vacillate between wanting a spartan blog that loads quickly and looks sharp, and one that features all sorts of widgets that increase interactivity, community and information. A Web site owner can easily overdo the use of widgets, and relying on many third party sites for functionality can serve to slow the user experience, as browsers are forced to make calls and retrieve data from multiple points. But despite this, I've implemented a few widgets worth highlighting.

1. Recent Comments (from Storago)

Google's Blogger platform doesn't offer an easy way to highlight recent comments, so after searching the Web for options, I added a tool from Storago.com that highlights the five most recent comments on the right sidebar of the page. The widget says when the comment was made, by whom, and on which post. This way, if somebody finds a post from the archives worth commenting on, I don't miss their note, even if its off the front page.

While I don't get dozens of comments a day, I do get some regulars, including Tony Chung of Geekwhat, Gal Josefsberg from 60in3 and Erin Gurney of Ballhype. Others of note include Webomatica and Galeal Zino from NextBlitz.

2. Recent Shared Items from Google Reader

There are a lot of great bloggers out there, far too many for me to post about each day. I've subscribed to more than 100 RSS feeds, and read more than 500 items each weekday. Those which I find most interesting, I'll share via my link blog from Google Reader. Google has made it very easy to share this in Blogger, which you can see on the right sidebar.

Google Reader Trends says that in the last month, my most frequently shared bloggers were TechCrunch, Robert Scoble, Mashable!, Engadget and Read/WriteWeb - all outstanding blogs.

3. ZoomClouds

ZoomClouds takes tagging to a new level. Rather than asking me to proactively tag each of my posts with a specific topic or set of topics, ZoomClouds watches what I write about and reports the keywords, in descending order of use. The larger the font, the more frequently I blog on that topic.

It should be no surprise that my top 5 topics, according to Zoomclouds are: Apple, Google, Microsoft, TiVo and iTunes.

4. Technorati

Despite some criticism of the site's uptime, and continued competition with Google, Technorati is well integrated with the blogosphere, offering tools that summarize a site's Web influence, tagged as "Authority", with the option to read a blogger's profile, add to favorites, and search previous posts. Over the last few months, I've seen my blog's authority jump all the way from the mid-50s in late March to almost 100 today. While some of those counts may be spam blogs, I know Technorati is doing a great deal to avoid overcount.

Technorati tools: Blog Summary, My Profile and Blog Reactions

5. MyBlogLog

MyBlogLog, now a Yahoo! property, showcases icons that display recent visitors, and gives a better sense of a site's community. Even those of us without thousands of visitors a day can get an understanding of who visits the site, what other topics they like, and when signed in, let other bloggers know I've been visiting their site. Depending on site settings, MyBlogLog will add me to a community based on how many times I've visited their site. The service also tracks site visitor traffic and popular outgoing links, though I can honestly get that data in a multiple of other places...

MyBlogLog: Join the Community View the Community and View My Profile

Other widget-like details in the sidebar are gussied up links to LinkedIn for professional networking, and signups for my RSS Feed from Feedburner and blog by e-mail from Feedblitz.

While not fully comprehensive, there's a lot here. What other widgets do you use on your blog and think I should look into?

May 26, 2007

U.S. Web Traffic Down For Memorial Day?

This being a 3-day weekend and the traditional kick-off to summer vacation season, it looks like even the geeks have left the keyboards behind and headed for more enjoyable places - ostensibly without net access. Robert Scoble's on his way to South Lake Tahoe, and even TechMeme makes it look like it will be a slow weekend.

Of interest, I looked at my own traffic, and I see that nobody from within 1,000 miles has come to the blog in the last little while. Instead of the usual domestic traffic, with much of that from the Bay Area, I've been frequented by visitors from India, Egypt, Belgium, New South Wales, Poland, the UK and a flurry from Nova Scotia. I guess they didn't get the memo the rest of us are on holiday.



Also of interest, it looks like the Register.com laptop theft I mentioned yesterday is leaking to mainstream press. The Inquirer (UK) starts the coverage. Paul Ferguson notes the security breach as well.

Intellequity: A VC-like Concept to Tackle Higher Education Debt

With June right around the corner, college campuses around the country are seeing commencement exercises and graduation ceremonies filled with pomp and circumstance, as they hand thousands of students pieces of paper that exit most of them from the campus and into the world of earning a living. Some may already have started new jobs. Others may just be starting that search now. But for many, the years of schooling have already put them deep in the hole financially. While the mood on the day of graduation is a gleeful one, the issue of debt is very real, one that could be haunting some for a very long time.

Uber-blogger Chris Pirillo highlighted this issue in a two-parter today on Student Loan Solutions and Student Loan Debt, concluding that he doesn't know if student loans are "more of a hindrance than a help." The major issue, he writes, is that forward-looking young adults are expected to get an education, whether we can afford it or not, meaning some are weighed down "with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt before we’ve even had a chance to see whether or not our higher education was actually worth the price of admission."

While I was in college, I occupied an odd middle ground where my parents' collective income was too high to qualify me for financial aid, but their month to month struggles meant that the tuition checks going home weren't always covered on time. Some months, the way I'd find I was negligent was that my meal card for on-campus dining would simply stop working, sending me to nearby eateries in Berkeley, bleeding away my already low cash on hand. But the good news was that I managed to pull through, getting a degree in four years without establishing debt. Other friends of mine, also entering their early 30s, did qualify for financial aid, but also racked up debt, some into the six-figure range, and to date, haven't made much headway. In fact, one of my best friends, whom I've known for half my life, may have to file for personal bankruptcy just to clear the deck and start over.

In the heady dot-com mania of the late 1990s, when everybody had a business plan sure to make millions, I had come up with what I saw would be a sure solution - a program I had dubbed "Intellequity". The concept was that instead of basing loan agreements on current cash on hand or current income levels, I would set up a company that doled out loans to promising students or recent graduates. The better the prospects seemed for a student, the better the loan terms would be. Effectively, based on a detailed matrix of experience, grade point average, major, brand name of the attended school, and a small battery of aptitude tests, and interview, we would offer loans that would not come due until the applicant began their first salaried job.

The student would not incur a specific dollar value of debt at all. Instead, the way the "Intellequity" project would be funded was through asking for a small percentage of future income over a set period. For example, if $10,000 were the loan amount, and the candidate were to have established a 2% payback rate over an 8 year period, they would pay Intellequity 2 percent off the top for 8 years. Assuming the applicant made $500,000 in salary over the 8 year period, the pay back would be the same $10,000. But if they made more, the company would gain a profit. If they made less, it would be our loss. If the payback rate were higher, say at 3% or 4%, the return would be that much greater as well.

Those applicants who didn't see their career paths pan out they way they had planned would not be equally burdened as those who had skyrocketed, those who we had taken a chance on. The risk would have been transferred away from the student who started accruing interest right away, but instead, to those of us funding the individual. In effect, it would be acting like a VC firm, not for a business, but for an individual. Some investments, as with VCs, would be duds. Others could make millions. And Intellequity would become a partner with the student, finding them better paying jobs and opportunities, hoping to push the individual toward a route that would make them more money in the end.

Would bringing a VC-like environment to the student loan process work for everybody? Of course not. But it sure would make things interesting, and it would eliminate the problem that some students find themselves in from the day they walk the stage and throw their mortarboards in the air - one of being alone and in debt from the very beginning.

May 25, 2007

Google User Experience Study Promises No Electrodes

They say that Google strives to "Do no evil", but as the company comes under increasing scrutiny for having a monopolist's share in the global search market, and others are growing more distrusting over the company's motives, in light of the Feedburner acquisition that expanded Google's ability to track user behavior, it's no surprise they have to remind people now and again they're not Big Brother.

Users of Google's Blogger service, the service powering this Web site, are invited to undergo a user experience study testing new features. Applicants may even get paid, upwards of $100, the company promises.

But clicking through to learn more about the opportunity led me to a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page detailing what would be expected. While it's no surprise that you could "try out a prototype" and give feedback, the third question could be seen as a surprise, reading: "Does it involve having electrodes attached to my body?"

The answer? "No. Sorry."

Apparently, not only does this question come up a lot, but applicants appear to have been disappointed by the lack of electrodes. An odd group, to be sure.

Also of interest, the FAQ dictates that you would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). While that's no surprise in the trade secret protecting Valley, for Google to expect bloggers who use their Blogger service to be the shy, quiet types is unlikely. It would be like telling a 15 year-old girl a juicy secret, sending her to a slumber party and expecting your confidence to be iron-clad. Not a safe bet, unless you were eavesdropping, and she were wired to electrodes...

Molly the Beagle Sticking Around, But Remains Dizzy

Our 17-plus year-old beagle didn't think it was time to check out after all. Though all the symptoms we saw yesterday left us concerned she had possibly suffered a debilitating, possibly terminal, stroke, seizure or cranial bleed, a visit to the vet determined she has an inner ear problem that, with medication, can be solved in a week or so.

Neurological tests showed that Molly has "Canine idiopathic vestibular disease", often known as "old dog vestibular disease", for obvious reasons, though she might get ticked if she found out you thought she was in her declining years. Our veterinarian kept Molly on site through the day, reporting she was "doing very well", was cooperative and quiet, arguably the best patient they had.

Quick Googling on Canine idiopathic vestibular disease turned up some promising data, which says we can expect improvement in 72 hours, and full normalcy within 7-14 days.

I picked Molly up around 5:30, paid the bill, in the $200+ range, and took her home in time for her to get dinner, and a new treat, Benadryl, which has already got her extremely relaxed, catching a nap on our loveseat, covered in an Oakland A's blanket. Kristine and I will also team up to administer ear medicine for the next two weeks to help nurse Molly back to health.

After yesterday's scare, we know this dog isn't going to be around forever, but she looks like she'll stick this out and wait until the next crisis.

Register.com Laptop Stolen, With My Credit Card Data

With all the stories in the news over the last few years of misplaced laptops and lost data tapes containing personal information, including financial details, such as credit card and social security numbers, it figures that is has now come time for me to finally be the victim. Register.com sent me an e-mail this evening saying that "while less than 2%" of the company's customers were believed to have their account and credit card data on a stolen laptop, that I was one of the lucky ones to be impacted.

As the company's customer service director writes, "you are receiving this letter because we believe that your customer data and credit card information was on this laptop."

Register.com, the domain name service by which I registered louisgray.com and host the site, says that the company has no evidence my data has been misused, that there is a low likelihood of my information being compromised, and that "appropriate third parties and law enforcement agencies have been notified." Yet, despite all of these things, the company still recommends I notify my credit card company, and enroll in an identity theft protection service from Equifax. Helpfully, Register.com is offering me the first 12 months free, though I have no doubts I'd be asked to pay up come a year from now.

Beyond the obvious annoyances this poses, the timing of the e-mail is extremely suspicious. The e-mail was sent after 4 p.m. on a Friday just before an extended holiday weekend. If there were ever a time to try and hide a major security incident from the press, now would be a great time to do so. And despite the potential for identity theft, mysterious charges and significant hassle, the company wraps up the e-mail by saying, "thank you for your continued business partnership with Register.com."

They can only hope so. We'll be watching this situation very closely. Have you ever been the target of identity theft or been alerted your data was at risk?

May 24, 2007

Our 17-Year-Old Beagle Is Slowing Down

My wife has had our beagle, Molly, in her life more than twice as long as she has had me, after picking up the then 5-year-old hound more than 12 years ago from the pound. Know that line about "love me, love my dog"? Well, it's true. That the dog and I hit it off right away and that Molly was sure about me, likely even before Kristine was, made our dating life and eventual proposal that much more likely to work out, and it did.

But in the five or so years I've known Molly, she's gone from a 12-year-old dog who chased me around the house to the point of her tongue hanging out, and sitting on her hind legs to beg for scraps from the table, to a much more docile hound who sleeps a likely 20 hours a day, is losing her eyesight and hearing, and needs to use a short set of stairs to climb to our bed. And you can forget about sitting on her hind legs or jumping for anything. Those times are long gone.

While much of her aging process, all the way into her 18th year, has been gradual, tonight I came home to see a remarkable change, one that could, sadly, be spelling out the beginning of the end. Something had happened to Molly that has impacted her equilibrium in a serious way, making her disoriented, and frankly, messy, as she can't make her way out to the balcony when necessary... Her eyes are repeatedly twitching, and her head and neck roll back and forth when she sits. Instead of walking straight, with her familiar limp, she meanders about and seems unable to get her bearing.

The good news is she doesn't look to be in pain in any way. Like any good scent-oriented beagle, she hasn't turned down food, though it took her a few tries to get through her dinner. She sniffed her way to a Milk bone dog biscuit I had held in front of her, but her approach was almost drunken in nature. She looks to my wife and me for attention and still wants to jump onto our couch and be next to us.

Since my wife and I were married, we have put some good money into this dog, to remove a toe one year that had become infected, to fix various moles and tumors, and to keep her in strong shape. Others are continually amazed at Molly's heartiness at 17, as it seems she is indestructible, but today, it looks like the wheels are getting wobbly and just might fall off. If they do, and when they do, it will be devastating, leaving our house just that much more empty. We know the end will some day come, but until today, we thought we had more time.


Other Molly-related posts:
Molly the Beagle Sleeping on The Job
Are the Beagle and the Roomba Conspiring?

May 23, 2007

Best New TV Show of 2007: The Riches

With just about every network television show hitting the season finale stretch and threatening to send us into a summer morass of reruns, rip-offs and reality shows, it's as good a time as any to recap what shows we thought were going to be good going into the year, and which ones pulled through, despite networks' unprecedented challenges against cable, the Web and the ever expanding world of media.

In the last TV season, my wife and I tried on a few new shows: "Andy Barker P.I.", "Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip", "Raines" and "The Riches". Of those four, Andy Barker died quickly, Studio 60 was put on hiatus, and I haven't heard much about Raines in a while. The only one left standing? FX's "The Riches", a show featuring the incomparable Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as a family of travelers who in some unlikely circumstances, take on the American Dream by usurping the lives of a rich couple in a glitzy neighborhood, complete with spacious home and high paying jobs.

While at times the show can border on the ludicrous, as it is just about impossible to believe the missing couple wouldn't have enough ties to the past or the present for people to know they were gone, it has become a must see for us every week. Like Fox's "War At Home" the year before it, "The Riches" has taken a permanent place in our TiVo's season pass, and has us looking forward to each week's adventures.

Each of the family's main five characters brings a unique cross of near-psychosis and cautious pessimism to an unfamiliar world, yet somehow tries to blend in. What we learn is that despite their oddities, their very neighbors end up looking just as crazy, if not more so. The family's story is further complicated due to some serious ill will from the home they left behind, which threatens to expose them and possibly bring their lives in grave danger. As "The Riches" try to fake their way through legal briefs and dental hygenics, battling problems with drugs and teenagers, we end up rooting for them to continue in the charade and avoid falling victim to vengeance.

While the networks can't seem to find out how to deliver new shows with substance, FX, buried on cable, has taken a chance with a risk and found gold. If you're not already watching, see if you can pick it up during what will certainly be a slow summer for television.

Google Could "Pull a Netscape" on Technorati

The hottest topic of discussion on the blogosphere today is Technorati's new revamp. The blog search engine pioneer is branching out and trying to capture what the company calls "the live Web", capturing video, photos, blogs and hot topics. And much as Google's recently announced Hot Trends feature highlights rising topics for discussion, Technorati has long tracked the "Top Tags" or "Top Searches" from their front page, and today's launch takes their story up a notch.

But amid all the positive press, from TechCrunch, Mashable, Robert Scoble and others, is a minority current saying that Technorati, in this age of Google, just might not be relevant any more. In his usual blunt fashion, Steve Rubel says simply, "Blog Search is Dead and Google Killed It".

There is no secret that Google is the search leader. Statistics on my personal blog and elsewhere show that Google and all its derivatives drive 85-90% of search traffic, dwarfing the also-rans, including Yahoo!, MSN, and the rest. Now, it could be argued that Google is to search what Microsoft was to the Operating System.

When Microsoft embedded Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system, it spelled the deathknell for Netscape Navigator. Customers felt the free browser that came standard was "good enough", and the act of downloading or paying for Netscape was too much to take on. Though Microsoft was charged with monopolist practices and nearly broken to pieces, they won and Netscape died.

There's a strong chance Google could be doing the same thing to Web upstarts by adding new search functionality. As Rubel writes, Google's integration of blog search negates the need for dedicated, vertical search like Technorati, IceRocket or Feedster. The Google Blog Search is "good enough" for 90% of the users, leaving only us technogeeks who demand the upper crust of technology innovation. And while Google is expected to "Do No Evil", their adding of free Web-based e-mail significantly challenged Yahoo! and others, their integrated RSS feed reader has removed the need for downloadable feed readers, and the company continues to expand.

Technorati could very much become the next Netscape, evaporated by a big monolith with an unparalleled brand and scads of cash in the bank. So while CEO Dave Sifry asks you to Come check out the refreshed www.technorati.com, it probably isn't going to have a radical change in the company's fortunes for the long term. I love Technorati's widgets. Every single blog post I have lets you see "blog reactions" in Technorati, and the Technorati Authority tag separates the leading blogs from the newbies and also-rans. But Google's blog search functionality is "Good Enough" for me in most cases, and will be for the majority of Web users. I can root for Technorati all day long, but the threat from Google to pound them the way Microsoft did Netscape is very real.

May 22, 2007

BitTorrent Bails Me Out on TiVo's Simpsons Miss

This evening, after work, I settled down in front of the TiVo, expecting to find last night's season finale of The Simpsons. Long anticipated, knowing the finale was to feature Keifer Sutherland and Mary Lynn Rajskub of "24" in a mashup of the two popular Fox shows, I was shocked to find The Simpsons nowhere on my TiVo listings at all.

Due to an unfortunate season pass error, a rerun of Gilmore Girls (not my idea, trust me) had overtaken Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa and Maggie's would-be dual offering. Lucky for me, the Internet was there to back me up. Though I typically steer clear of the peer to peer sharing networks, I believe that if every intent is made to obtain media through mainstream means, they do offer an acceptable alternative, especially for free media like broadcast television. (Side note: If The Simpsons were available on iTunes, I'd have gone there instead)

Sure enough, both episodes of The Simpsons from Sunday were available in crystal clear quality. Clocking in around 174 megabytes apiece , the two AVI files opened up in QuickTime, and delivered the amusement I was seeking. Despite the fact I watched both episodes on my 15-inch PowerBook instead of on the 42-inch plasma TV, the viewing experience was excellent. While The Simpsons can vary from week to week, both shows were very solid, including the excellent 24 mashup parody involving the "Counter Truancy Unit" or... CTU.


Click Either Image to Enlarge and View Higher Quality


As you can see in the inline snapshots, the quality of online video is nearing that of DVDs. Thanks to easy access and high speed broadband, the delay to download didn't make much of an impact. While I'd prefer to have gotten the shows off TiVo or iTunes, BitTorrent sure did come in handy.

May 21, 2007

Blonde Redhead: Mesmerizingly Intriguing

When it comes to music and other media, I typically try not to be suckered into falling for the latest promotions and commercials, or buying into the hot band. But tonight, after seeing Blonde Redhead perform their song "23" on the Late Night with Conan O'Brien show (a TiVo'd episode from Friday), I just had to check out the iTunes Music Store and pick it up.

As one reviewer on iTunes said, the lead singer, Kazu Mikano, offers up a soothingly indecipherable croon, a nice way of saying she sounds great, but I have no idea what is being sung. Yet, like Bjork, the pure tone and melody is entrancing.

I can't vouch for the rest of the album or the six others iTunes reports the band has delivered, but I expect "23" will be rotating on my playlist for weeks to come before fading down the inevitable road to obscurity.

Valleywag Thinks My Old Posts are Breaking News

Valleywag at first sounded like a great idea - a rumors site focused on the Silicon Valley, covering all things geek, mixed with a flair for gossip, sex and innuendo. What could be more fun?

But, to be honest, the site's daily postings are getting tired. Rather than posting one or two stories a day of really good, insightful stuff, backed by anonymous sources, inside scoops and top-notch writing, the site has gone flaccid. Valleywag now is posting items to the tune of six to eight posts a day, and with the added frequency comes a complete void of new information. Today, I was slightly amused to see they took a pair of stories I covered over the last year and blasted them to their front page as hot off the press scandal.

Exhibit 1

In August of 2006, I commented that Web 2.0 companies were "playing with error messages", covering a few choice errors from YouTube and MySpace who toyed with users during downtime:

Web 2.0 Companies Play With Error Messages

January 31 of 2007, I specifically called out Technorati for not scaling to beat Google, instead entertaining customers with fun graphical error messages.

Scoble's Right: Technorati Isn't Scaling to Beat Google

I also noted other Web 2.0 error messages on January 24 (Silly YouTube - Where's The Redundancy?) and on March 2, when LinkedIn pulled a similar stunt. (LinkedIn Provides Another Silly Web 2.0 "Error" Page)

Yet, today Valleywag pulls a banner story, trumpeting "Error messages", saying "Could we all make a resolution? When a site is down, as Technorati is right now, please cut the cute jokes." Wow - Technorati plays with error messages. Shocker.

Exhibit 2

On Saturday, I noted how Steve Jobs had endorsed Al Gore for president in a rare interview with Time Magazine, where he wasn't promoting Apple, but instead his good friend and board member. (Steve Jobs Nominates Al Gore for President)

But again, Valleywag follows along, saying "While Apple fanatics usually jump on every word out of Jobs' mouth, they appear content to keep this political endorsement as quiet as... well, as quiet as Al Gore kept the internal Apple options investigation..." 'We need somebody who knows how to build a ladder'

I'm not used to seeing a breaking news rumor site be so far behind my pedestrian notes. So, Valleywag, if you want to be a little faster on the draw, simply subscribe to my RSS feed or sign up via e-mail, so you can keep getting those scoops!

May 20, 2007

ANtics Episode 3.13: Yell It Out

Cross-posted to Athletics Nation...

Some days, with injuries preventing the A's from fielding a full roster, it doesn't seem clear what team will show up. The one that took 2 of 3 from the Yankees and swept a two game series against the Angels in April, or the one that struggled to score, losing 3 of 4 to the Royals just last week? Sometimes, the frustration just makes us fans want to yell!

With the A's chief fire breather, Milton Bradley, sidelined for far too long, the ANtics takes a leadership role in encouraging the team to shout to the rooftops!


Click to See Larger Comic


All Comics

Top 10 Favorite Current A's Players (May '07)

Cross-posted to Athletics Nation...

A player's popularity can rise and fall as quickly as his batting average or ERA. While as A's fans, we remain loyal to our team, our loyalty to individuals can sometimes be as fleeting as a single at-bat or one relief appearance. We've all seen Top Ten lists, and I thought it'd be a fun practice to post my top ten favorite current A's players (including position players and pitchers) as they stand right now.

Please do add on your list as well, and if this gains interest, we can do it with something resembling frequency. Please be as detailed with your descriptions as you like. You can vote players up or down based on long-term success or potential, how good they look in a uniform, or whatever you please. Nobody will be graded for right or wrong answers.

With any luck, we can be amused by changes over time or can get a collective view of AN's leanings...

And before anybody asks, yes, it is okay to include players on the DL or in the minors, if you must. But if they are traded, or waived, they cannot be listed. So please, no Todd Walker votes.

My Top 10 Favorite Current A's Players (May '07)

1. Jack Cust

Reasons: Seeming invincibility. The threat of a big home run or a walk in nearly every at bat. The story about rising from obscurity, yet the knowledge that AN knew about him "all along".

2. Travis Buck

Reasons: More extra base hits than singles. Excitement and hustle of a rookie, yet fits in extremely well with the rest of the A's squad. Looks "happy to be here". A feel good story after Spring Training success.

3. Nick Swisher

Reasons: Provides good power, plate discipline and plays well in the outfield and at 1st. A team leader despite young age, who always seems like he's having the time of his life. Gets along great with others like Bradley and Buck.

4. Milton Bradley

Reasons: Plays the game hard. Aside from Cust, Bradley is the guy I want at the plate with the game on the line. Puts fear into the hearts of the opposing pitcher and umpiring crew at the same time.

5. Dan Haren

Reasons: One of the world's best pitchers right now, period. Quietly goes about his game and somehow always keeps the opposition below 3 runs. Makes Billy Beane look like a genius for trading Mulder.

6. Eric Chavez

Reasons: Plays every single day at one of the most challenging positions on the field, and excels at it. Hits for power and functions as the team leader by example. Stayed in through 2006 despite injuries, at Beane's behest.

7. Joe Blanton

Reasons: One of the "true A's" character-wise, Blanton is a pitcher that can be counted on to go deep into a game every start, and keep his team in the game, with or without run support. Doesn't get excited when he does well or is in trouble, but remains steady.

8. Dan Johnson

Reasons: Figured out seeing one ball is better than two. After I was ready to run him out of the game last year, he is working the count, hitting for power, and causing trouble for opposing pitchers. Will probably move up if this continues.

9. Jay Marshall

Reasons: I dig the underhand style. Seeing him in Spring Training made him one to watch for me, and though his approach is unorthodox, it'll enable him to confuse batters just about every game.

10. Adam Melhuse

Reasons: Melhuse may be a surprise pick, but I can't help but root for the guy. Anytime Kendall comes up in late innings or with runners on, we're calling out for Melhuse. Seeing him at home games warming up a pitcher and quietly trotting back to the dugout is all too common. Melhuse is a guy I'm always pulling for, as a hard luck story.


So there you have it. Not always rational, but that's part of being a fan. My guess is you'll likely take issue with some of my suggestions, and have your own. Go to it, and give us what you've got.

May 19, 2007

Steve Jobs Nominates Al Gore for President

Tucked away in a strong Time story on Al Gore, on the inevitable call by many Democrats for the former vice president and disputed 2000 presidential election loser to throw his hat in the ring in 2008 is a rare quote by Steve Jobs, promoting his friend and board member as a candidate. As many Apple watchers know, to catch Steve Jobs in a quote outside of Macworld or a press release is a rare thing, but in this case, Steve makes his hopes fully known.

"We have dug ourselves into a 20-ft. hole, and we need somebody who knows how to build a ladder. Al's the guy," says Steve Jobs of Apple. "Like many others, I have tried my best to convince him. So far, no luck."

Gore, pictured in his messy office, featuring a Mac with not one, but three, Apple Cinema Displays, is now being seen as the ultimate Democratic candidate, with the grassroots appeal of Barack Obama and toughness of Hillary Clinton. But after the debacle of 2000, he keeps saying he's not interested, that he's had it with politics and the process. But with friends like Jobs and others sounding the siren song, it will be very interesting to see if he remains on the sidelines, especially if one of the front-runners falters, or if the race ends up too close to call.

May 16, 2007

I Missed the Apple Stock Buying Opp

There's one thing to be said about being in meetings all day - sometimes I can miss all the noise around an event until after the mess has been sorted out. Today, I missed all the drama around rumored Apple product delays until the hubbub was history. In case you were in meetings all day as I was, or live under a rock, but somehow maintain great Web access, the gist of the story was that a fake e-mail warning of delays to the iPhone and Leopard OS made its way around Apple internally, and was forwarded to tech news blog Engadget. The resulting story forced Apple stock to sharply dive, cutting away $4 billion in market value, only to see it eventually recover for the most part when the rumor was rescinded.

Had I not already sold all my Apple stock (prematurely) a few weeks ago, I might have seen the intraday dive down from $107 to $103. I might have gritted my teeth over a potential loss of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If I were paying attention and knew the rumors were false, maybe I would have even debated buying at the new "on sale" price. But neither of those things happened. It looke like it was truly much ado about nothing.

In the aftermath, we can be sure to see debate around what standard blogs should need in order to post rumors, and there will be investigations at Apple to see how their e-mail got compromised. There are already calls for an SEC inquiry and concerns over who could have benefited from the shenanigan. Even Valleywag, usually the villain in today's tech blogosphere, comes out looking like a rose in comparison to the normally excellent Engadget. They note, "Someone, who bought on the panic, made a serious profit on today's little blog embarrassment."

If only I had been the one to see through it.

Application Stability is as Important as OS Stability

Just last week, I set off a bit of a minor firestorm over at The Apple Blog by my complaining about having to restart my PowerBook after installing Apple software updates. But what's even worse than the occasional restart is the issue of locked up applications, which can dramatically impact productivity. With the expanded move toward Web-based applications, the opportunity to lose in-progress activity looms large.

It's common practice for any seasoned computer owner to frequently save work in progress, especially when working in Microsoft Office applications, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint (sorry, Microsoft, but it's true). Hitting save while penning long e-mails isn't a bad idea either, although most modern e-mail applications, including Microsoft Outlook, have an auto-save feature. It's as if as users, we anticipate the applications will be less stable than the operating system, and could go down at any time. It's not too infrequent for me to be in the middle of launching a new application only to see it hang, and require a force quit. It's not too uncommon for me to force PowerPoint or Word to quit and hope that the next time I open the application, that enough of my work has been automatically recovered.

But now, the Web poses a new problem, and last night, I got bitten by the issue in a big way. As Web 2.0 applications move toward the Web, for example, my moving to blogging within the Web browser instead of a desktop application, hitting the Save button isn't really an option. Hitting save won't capture the state of my blog post, but instead will drop an HTML file on my desktop. Last night, near 1 a.m., I saw the Sacramento Kings had released a list of seven candidates for their head coaching position. Keen to post that to Sactown Royalty, I had written up a detailed summary, including links to Wikipedia for all seven candidates, relevant background information and recent articles. During this process, I was writing in one browser window, and opening new window tabs to confirm correct URLs and find more data. Sure enough, as I got near completion, my hard drive started to whir, my cursor locked up and my Safari Web browser was completely useless. Waiting 10 minutes didn't bring it back to life either, as I was eventually pushed to force quit and lose everything. Instead of starting over from scratch, I closed up the laptop, and went to bed.

While it's true that Apple's operating system has excellent stability, and no longer locks up the machine when apps crash, as it did in the 1990s, part of an excellent user experience certainly is the applications themselves. A buggy application that can't be relied to stay open, and threatens to lose my data, dramatically impacts the total computing experience. As more applications move to the Web, Internet application vendors should put their best engineers on the case to ensure stability.

May 15, 2007

Sun vs. Microsoft, Round #293

The Sun vs. Microsoft wars in the 1990s were a delight to watch. While Scott McNealy has yielded his throne to the ponytailed uber-blogger Jonathan Schwartz, the company's distaste for all things Redmond has not changed much with time. As Microsoft sees its monopoly crumbling around it, due to poorly developed software, distaste for security and a poor user experience, it has taken to grandstanding and puffery against all things which threaten its Windows kingdom.

On Monday, a Fortune article revealed that Microsoft stated free software, including the popular Linux operating system, violates up to 235 of its patents, and it wants to get paid. In fact, Microsoft was to bold as to say the reason people are flocking to free software is due to the quality of the Microsoft software they allegedly copied. If successful, the free software would cease to be free, eliminating a very powerful differentiator from it and the software Borg.

The lines have been drawn, and once again, you see Microsoft on the site of litigation and sabre-rattling, and Sun on the other, arguing for openness and anything that doesn't smack of Windows. That's why Schwartz jumped in with a lengthy, intelligent post titled "Free Advice for the Litigious...", where he recounts how Sun adapted to a world of open source software when their Solaris operating system was under attack. Amusingly, Schwartz manages to teach Microsoft a lesson without mentioning the words "Microsoft" or "Windows" even once.

But he offers this warning: "You would be wise to listen to the customers you're threatening to sue - they can leave you, especially if you give them motivation. Remember, they wouldn't be motivated unless your products were somehow missing the mark."

Customers are always happy to pay for premium quality. Witness the iPod, the Nintendo Wii, LCD televisions and the like. If customers are trying to get around using Microsoft products, it's because they are unhappy with their quality and feel they aren't getting their money's worth. While it'd be foolhardy to claim Sun is without blemish, Schwartz is of course right. Microsoft can only lose by taking the free world to court.

May 14, 2007

New TAB Posts on iTunes Sports, Imagine Poker

It's been a little while since I posted updates here on my occasional contributions to The Apple Blog. While I haven't posted as much as I would like, in recent weeks, I wrote on my iPod's "Death and Rebirth", Apple's move to "Get the Lead Out", that WWDC attendees would receive the full Leopard Beta, and what turned out to be a quite controversial post on how I'd like to get updates from Apple without having to restart my computer. Responses there varied from saying I was completely nuts to compare planned restarts to unplanned crashes, and that I wasted more time writing about the issue than just dealing with it.

Today, I added two more posts overnight, including one covering iTunes offering some of the greatest major league baseball games for only $1.99 apiece, and a review of one of my favorite Mac games of late, Imagine Poker, which has helped me better understand the strategies behind Texas Hold 'Em without having to lose a ton of cash in Vegas.

That's the background behind my most recent contributions to The Apple Blog, titled iTunes Offers Front Row Ticket to Baseball’s Best Games and Game Time: Ante Up With Imagine Poker. Per agreement with them, I will not be cross-posting the piece, but instead, have provided links. Enjoy.

May 13, 2007

ANtics Episode 3.12: A Cust Above

Cross-posted to Athletics Nation...

I think I missed the chapter in Moneyball that said "Make sure everybody gets injured and you call up career minor leaguers". Maybe it died at the editor's table, or will be a new add to the second edition. Nevertheless, Billy Beane's roster creativity has paid dramatic dividends, sparking a previously moribund offense, now riding the coattails of one John Joseph Cust.

Sunday's drama? No surprise to those who attended the legendary Jack Cust Baseball Academy. I heard you have to hit home runs in 4 consecutive games just to graduate! But on to the ANtics!


Click to See Larger Comic


All Comics

What An Amazing Day to be An A's Fan!

Baseball's century-plus long history is littered with feel-good stories of individuals fighting from relative obscurity, and late-inning heroics. But even as many times as I have risen from my seat (at home or at the park) in sheer adulation over a 9th inning comeback and shocking victory, I'm never truly prepared to see it happen. Today, it happened twice, and the deal was sealed off the bat of a man who has gone from being buried in the minor leagues just a week ago to overnight sensation in Oakland.

After splitting Friday and Saturday's games against Cleveland (with us in attendance), the A's got off to a slow start in today's contest, falling behind to the tune of 7-4 midway through the game. A home run by Eric Chavez closed the gap to 7-5, with the ninth inning awaiting, with 24,000 in attendance at Oakland hoping they wouldn't be sent home on Mothers' Day with back to back losses.

With 2 outs in the 9th, Chavez battled his way through an at bat, eventually poking a single into right field. Following him, Milton Bradley strode to the plate, representing what could be the tying run. Improbably, Milton lashed out at a two-strike pitch, launching the ball into the right-field seats, much to the fans' delight. Bradley, after standing in awe of his monstrous blast, trotted home and tied the game up, 7-7.

But the A's were not done. Not by a long shot.

Following Bradley, Dan Johnson singled, as did Bobby Crosby, setting up runners on 1st and 2nd. Cleveland, seeing the writing on the wall, switched relief pitchers, hoping Fernando Cabrera could accomplish what Joe Borowksi had not - actually close out the inning. But it was not to be.

Where a single would have won the game for the A's, the one time San Diego Padre AAA farmhand Jack Cust stepped up and just blasted a 1-0 offering over the left field wall, cinching the victory and setting off absolute bedlam in Oakland. The home run was his 6th in only 26 at bats since joining the A's less than 10 days ago, following a raft of injuries that had decimated the team's roster.

As his teammates spilled out of the dugout to greet him in a wild celebration at home plate, Cust grinned and looked like a guy "just happy to be here." In his post-game interview on Fox Sports, he glanced shyly at the ground, seemingly in awe of what he had just accomplished.

The A's had rallied back for five runs in the bottom of the 9th after two were out, to take a near-certain 7-5 loss and turn it into a 10-7 victory for the ages, featuring a pair of dramatic home runs. What a day to be an A's fan, what a day to be a baseball fan, and just... what a day. Amazing.

(Recaps: Associated Press | Athletics Nation)

Fatigue: It's Worse Than I Thought

Yesterday morning's question as to whether leading bloggers were losing their gusto hit a mark, especially concerning blog pioneer and Naked Conversations author Robert Scoble, who responded by saying he felt he was being pulled in too many different directions. (See: Am I getting "blog fatigue?")

While Jason Calacanis and Bonnie Wren remained dormant, Scoble explained to his readers the many tasks which are pulling him away. There's no question he's busy, but some readers didn't get it - openly questioning how much work it really is to maintain one of the world's preeminent blogs.

One wrote: "I’m sorry Robert but I just don’t get it. Tired of what? Commenting on stuff? Transcribing an opinion from your brain to a digital screen? Is that really that hard? Maybe there’s some element to commentary blogging that I’m missing, but it’s not like you’re having to create new material every week." and another piled on, saying, "How do you get fatigued from writing 2-3 tiny 3 paragraph articles per day with absolutely no fact checking or editorial review what so ever?"

Ouch. And I thought it was a friendly audience.

But amid the din, it seems many others are similarly working on fumes. Paul from BizTips adds his thoughts in a post titled "Fatigue", saying, "I wouldn’t say I have quite the same challenges in the same proportions as Scoble does but I do know how he feels. The last few weeks and months have been a bit nutty." Meanwhile, Mac Beach, who authored an excellent comment on this site, adds his own thoughts, saying that toiling away without much reward is eventually going to grow tiresome for anyone - that we shouldn't expect to blog in our PJs and pull down six-figure incomes for that alone. (See: Silicon Valley Blog: Are Leading Bloggers Getting Blog Fatigue?)

As for me, I feel a bit guilty that I got Robert on the defensive. He posts more often than I do, on more things. He rarely misses days. He attends more networking parties. He reads more feeds than I do, yet my observation made him feel even that wasn't enough. We all get tired due to demands on our time, whether they be blog-related, work related, hobby related, family related, church... you name it. What we need to do is come to some level of acceptance with ourselves as to what it is we will produce and whether we are meeting expectations, regardless of what demands we get from others. That way, the fatigue will feel worth it, or be lessened.

May 12, 2007

Are Leading Bloggers Getting Blog Fatigue?

It's no secret that keeping a blog frequently updated and interesting is no easy task. For as many blogs are started each day, it's believed half as many are abandoned, according to Technorati. Of late, I've seen signs of fatigue from a number of high-profile bloggers who are taking blog vacations, begging for guest bloggers to take their normal place, or in some cases, the bloggers are choosing to keep us updated in other ways - preferring Twitter or other venues.

Three quick examples: Jason Calacanis, Robert Scoble and Bonnie Wren.

Jason first wrote earlier this week that he was to take a month off from blogging, and that he would provide updates on his Twitter page. A follow-on note said he was going to in fact take two full months off, to return in mid-July.

While not moving away from blogging altogether, Robert Scoble has seen recent signs of fatigue as well. When the blogosphere reacted in horror to death threats to Kathy Sierra in late March, Scoble shut his blog down for the better part of the week in solidarity. Since the hiatus, Scoble's gotten back to blogging, but made noise about how he thinks his time is better served linking to other good writers, more than himself. He says, "I’m really having a lot more fun reading other people’s blogs lately than writing my own."

While he may enjoy his own surfing of blogs and calling out favorites, that's not what made us read him in the first place - instead his own observations on the industry, specifically, Microsoft, were why he became a must read RSS feed and authority. His link blog is great, but if too much emphasis is put here, he'll be in the category of Matt Drudge, who relies on links to others instead of original reporting.

Outside of the tech sphere, it's also clear real life can also get in the way of great blogging. Bonnie Wren, a fantastic writer who loves her kids and her bulldog, similarly claimed fatigue by the end of April, saying "I’m having a hard time taking care of all my obligations lately and need to take a break for a bit."

In the meantime, Bonnie has posted old material to fill the dead air.

As more and more people start blogs, and set a pace, whether that be 3 posts a week, or 3 posts a day, we should be thinking about the endgame. There's no question that some day we'll be done. Blogs will change to something else. I don't think it's Twitter, but it's something. At some point, blogs will close down from their current format. People, even the geekiest of us, at times will have lives and will choose to live in the real world instead of the virtual world. But I find it especially interesting that those leading the curve on blogging are themselves finding trouble or frustration in keeping it going. I hope the fatigue doesn't gain further momentum.

May 10, 2007

Pictures from Colorado Trip

As mentioned earlier in the week, my wife Kristine and I took a rare three-day weekend to visit Denver, Colorado, where I lived from ages 6 to 8, and attended both 1st and 2nd grade. While there, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the home where I had lived in 1983-85, and return to my elementary school where I had gone to 1st grade, sometimes walking in the snow on my way. We also drove up to Boulder to see the University of Colorado campus and the surrounding area.

Below are some of the photos from the trip. They are presented in thumbnail images. Click any of the photos to enlarge to full size.


Colorado features some beautiful wildflowers.
Here are some from the Denver LDS temple.


Pictures of our humble Littleton home,
20 years after we had left it behind.


A couple pictures of me at the home and school,
just to prove I was actually there.


In Boulder, there was great scenery,
but it was chilly, hence the jacket.


I'm not a huge fan of photos and don't usually plaster them all over the blog, but I wanted to share what we had. Now, all I have to do is go back in my files and find pictures of when I was at the same home as a kid for a true before and after.