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November 28, 2007

Silicon Valley Media Notables Divide "Hot" from "Not"

This evening, I had the opportunity to attend a fun panel put on by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Silicon Valley at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, featuring some of the Valley's top reporters, from the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Forbes, CNBC, Kara Swisher of All Things Digital, and uber-blogger Robert Scoble. The panelists, all "Hot" in their own right, shared with the PR-heavy audience what they thought were the biggest hits of 2007, and what's next in the coming year.

Virtually all panelists said 2007 could be summarized through the success of a few companies: Apple, Google and Facebook, to name a few, the rise of the iPhone, user generated content, social networks, Twitter, and advertising-driven firms. But some said a tide was going to turn with the change in the calendar year, away from consumer-driven technology, and toward enterprise. Also, many expected a combination of bad news to hit the Valley and the economy at large - a market downturn, a recession, and bursting of what could be seen as the advertising bubble, with many companies riding the second wave to Web upstarts to disappear altogether.

Kara Swisher, author of AOL.com (a must read, featured in my bookshelf), was one of the stars of the evening, proving herself intelligent, quick, witty, sarcastic and perfectly willing to mock Second Life, Facebook widgets or the other panelists at any opportunity.

At the other end of the table was Robert Scoble, with Amazon Kindle alongside, playing the part of the only true digerati on the panel. His brazen openness and willingness to engage with his readers through his blog, through Twitter and Facebook, and request to be contacted by cell phone, was in stark contrast to others all too tired of PR pitches - most who said they preferred e-mail. He was one of the few to bring up private startup companies he likes, including Kyte.TV, and vehemently disagreed with CNBC's Jim Goldman on whether Microsoft was seeing a string of success with Vista, Zune and the XBox. And when he stated he read 800 RSS feeds a day, the response was one of shock from his fellow panelists, who jokingly compared him to the notoriously always-on Marissa Mayer of Google.

The far-ranging discussion chided the US government for being too focused on "the friggin' flag", as Swisher mentioned, instead of working to get the country in a leadership position on broadband and wireless, while nations like Vietnam, South Korea and Europe were able to get their act together. She postulated that had the development of the United States' interstate highways been managed in the same way, we'd be on cobblestones.

Other comments were that ad-driven media companies will see a spike in spending to the tune of $100 million around the 2008 presidential election, a one-time jump that will go away, painfully, in 2009, that Yahoo! better get off its kiester and figure out what it's going to do with all its users and products, and that Google just might continue disrupting every new market it enters, including wireless.

While I'd met some of the panelists and others in the room before, it was my first time meeting Scoble personally, but given our online discussions, talking with him had an immediate air of familiarity and friendship, one forged through shared experiences and points of view. (He was no idiot...)I'd be eager to sit in on more discussions like this, and to see if these notables were right with what they expect for 2008.

November 26, 2007

Google Set to Finally Launch Web-Based Backup

About 18 months after the first rumors of GDrive (code name: Platypus) debuted, the Wall Street Journal is now reporting that the company is setting up to offer customers the ability to store files on the Web from their computers and mobile devices, accessible via password, and can make them available for sharing, similar to Apple's iDisk, and a host of other services.

The addition of file vaulting makes a lot of sense for Google, who continues to expand its Office solution to compete with Microsoft's omnipresent suite. Given the amount of Web-created documents, photos and presentations to be created from Google's Office, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to see Google would be interested in giving their users a single common space to keep their files.

But it's not yet clear what the pricing model would be, or what, if anything, would set Google's services apart from other alternatives, aside from the Google name brand, and assumedly, integration with other Google services. The Journal admits as much, saying, "Google's market power and focus on providing easy-to-use services heighten its chances of having an impact."

While the details for the service are largely lacking now, this will certainly be an area to watch. The question is, with laptops being pervasive, location is becoming almost passé... so would online backup really have that much of an impact? I'm straining to see how I would use it. Despite years of being a .Mac subscriber, my iDisk is going unused, and if Google offered me a GDrive, it too might lie dormant.

(Additional commentary: PaidContent.org: Google’s Pie-In-The-Sky File Service To Launch)

Losing Kings Are Doing Just What I Would Expect

The Sacramento Kings are losers. Always have been. I grew up listening to them lose on the radio and watching them lose gloriously on the rare occasion they made national TV. For nearly a decade, the team would be lucky to win 35% of games. Forget about the playoffs. They had no chance. No good free agent wanted to be a King. No good player wanted to be traded to Sacramento. Their draft picks were horrible, and they finished just about last every year.

But then, for a brief blip in time, they were a good team, running and gunning, and challenging the league leaders, including Shaquille O'Neal's Lakers, and Karl Malone's Utah Jazz. Oh but for a moment. Now the team has crashed down to their historical sub-mediocrity. Yes, they're in last again. Yes, they've lost all their games on the road, again. Yes, we're still paying attention and trying to care. But for some odd reason, this return to normalcy brings comfort, like a beaten prizefighter coming back for more after he's lost his quickness. It's the pummeling that reminds us of who we are as Kings fans.

More of my pessimistic, yet nostalgic, comments can be found on Sactown Royalty:
Now This is the Team I Know

November 25, 2007

This "Hack" Has Two Meanings

In our tech-centered Web world, a hack is usually a bad thing - bringing up images of shadowed evil-doers aiming to break into computers or networks, looking to gain access to things not theirs, or instead, a hack is sometimes seen as a quick and dirty version or update to software - and not a good one at that. But in the world of media and reporting, a hack can instead mean "one who works hard at boring tasks" or "a mediocre and disdained writer" (Source: thefreedictionary.com).

My old editor in chief from days at the Daily Cal in Berkeley, Ryan Tate, has started up a new blog called "The Hack", self-described as "a journalist with delusions of computer science." While the blog's just getting off the ground, Ryan's already posted a few stories of note, including a get rich quick scheme building off my idea of converting .PST files to GMail-compatible mailboxes, a new killer feature for RSS feeds, and 7 suggestions to improve Google Docs.

While he and I overlapped terms at the Daily Cal, from 1996 to 1998, Ryan and I tag-teamed on some of the earliest editions of the newspaper's Web site, saw the paper and its reporters (including the two of us) repeatedly recognized in state-wide competitions, and occasionally clashed politically, as two aggressive, opinionated people working closely together will do. Now that time has healed those wounds, we're both vocally rooting each other on from the sidelines, and I hope this self-proclaimed "hack" keeps his blog on course.

Check it out at http://thehack.webmasher.com/.

Two New Apple Blog Posts Cover Software Apps

It's been too long since my last entries on The Apple Blog - about a month. Obviously, I've been using my Mac every single day, so there are plenty of things to write about. Today, two small items I use frequently were highlighted: iAlarm, a program that gets your Mac to act like an alarm clock, interacting with iTunes, and a desktop utility called EarthDesk, which makes your background look like a real-time satellite image of the Earth.

I recommend both for any Mac users who like good software.

You can see both posts on The Apple Blog at iAlarm Wakes Me Up to iTunes and The World Is Your ... Desktop. Enjoy.

November 24, 2007

Reality Check: When Good Cars Go Bad

Obviously, given last night's post, I've been giving some thought to upgrading my car. But as much as I dream, I'm honestly nowhere near making that kind of jump. Today, I belatedly took my car into the shop, and found it will cost more than $2,000 to get it back to speed, and while that astronomical number had me momentarily thinking it'd be best to drive it off the face of a cliff toward an unpopulated area, I recognized a "small" financial hit now will save me money in the long run.

As noted yesterday, the car was telling me to "Service Engine Soon", was reporting "Low Coolant" and the "Brake" light tended to be on longer than usual, even when the brake was released. Combined with the oil last being changed over 4,000 miles ago, it was time to take it in.

I started the expedition by putting water in the car, solving the immediate issue. Dropping the car off at Midas, they took a look and found:

1. The Service Engine Soon light was coming on due to a bad O2 sensor.
2. The Brake light was coming on as my front brake pads were extremely low.
3. The Low Coolant light was happening all too frequently as it turns out the radiator's cracked.

Add on an old belt here, a worn-out spark plug there, and pretty soon, you're talking about a pretty serious sum of money - just enough to basically make my eTrade investment unprofitable, once you take out the government's share of profits for taxes.

Given Midas takes Sundays off, I definitely won't be seeing my junky old dirty car until at least Monday night. Hopefully, although this is certainly inconvenient, and expensive, it'll be better to put $2k into this heap of metal and grease now than putting $20k, $30k or $40k into something right away. Nothing like a spur of the moment big decision to foul things up long term, after all.

But if this keeps happening... the only thing you'll be hearing about my 1998 Mercury Tracer will be in the past tense.

November 23, 2007

I Am Tired of Being Rational About Cars


Doesn't it say... Buy me?

Since 1999, I've had one boring, American-built, cheap, not impressive, dirty, car. As I've watched the miles pile up, to more than 130,000 at this point, the car's held up, for the most part, but in the go-go Silicon Valley, I'm simply not measuring up. It seems, incorrectly or not, that everybody else has a nice car. A BMW. A Lexus. A Porsche. Or they got kids and traded up to an SUV, often a massive bulk of a beast with all the bells and whistles, including satellite radio, GPS, in-seat DVD players... you name it.

Meanwhile, the only "upgrade" my car's had in the last 8 years was when I put in a 10-disc CD changer in the trunk no less than six months after I got it. Wheeee....

At this moment, my car's sitting parked on the street, in the gutter, appropriately. If I turned it on, two warning lights would display: "Service Engine Soon" and "Low Coolant". Service engine soon, huh? How soon? Two days? Two weeks? What happens if I don't?

On two separate occasions in the last few months, that light came on, only to go off again by the time I reached a service station, and they couldn't do anything. Flipping brilliant.

So, I've started to poke around the Web and look for cars I can't afford. I can rationalize ditching my 1998 Mercury Tracer. I can even think about making monthly payments for a car again, after years of not having to do so. I might even stomach a down payment, if I take money out of eTrade. But the sticker shock is a sight to behold. It's around $40k to get anything I really want, like an Audi A4 Convertible or a BMW 3-series. And yes, I know maybe I should get a Prius or a Hybrid Camry, but that sounds boring, and after a decade of boring, cheap, cars, I am ready to waste my money and have some fun, before that window closes.

So... I want a nice-looking car, with deep dark blue coloring. I want a car that has GPS navigation and Sirius/XM Radio pre-installed. I want a car that won't have the brake light on the first 10 minutes I drive it every morning like mine does now. I want a car that doesn't look like I am the hired help every time I visit Palo Alto, Woodside or Menlo Park. I want to have a car that's as good looking as my MacBook Pro or flat screen TV. A car that's more iPhone than rotary phone, one that's good enough I'll have to park two parking spaces away from anyone to worry about dings.

Think I should do it? Part of me wants to hit the buy button and damn the consequences.

eTrade's Losses Are Investors' Gain

The last time I mentioned eTrade's issues, I said I had bought in to the stock around $5.50, following a small recovery after bad news swirling around the company had decimated its market value. Not seeing the kind of continued growth I had expected right away, I sold my position a few days later around $5.65. I'd made a few hundred bucks, but nothing to write home about. But now I'm back in, and it's a different story - one that could be much more profitable.

After I sold on November 16th, eTrade stock resumed its collapse, falling below $4 a share - signaling to me the right opportunity to resume my eTrade gamble (Partly due to this article). So on Wednesday morning, I put a sizable chunk back into the stock, now at $3.89 a share. It looks like it may have been the right move, as while rumors of a potential merger with Schwab.com or TD Ameritrade have been swirling, the stock jumped about 25% today, ending at $5.33 a share, giving me a 37% gain in a two day period, and an "on paper" profit of more than $3,500 so far.

Why play eTrade? Because I believe they have the best brand among online brokerages, and that their customer base will be a valuable commodity, even if they are sold or merge with a competitor. It's also likely the eTrade name would be kept, if not too damaged. After all, who wants a new name like TDAmerE*Trade or SchwabTrade.com? An eTrade customer can only benefit from this.

As an investor, I believe my funds are safe, and that the value of the company is higher than it is today. I've made more than my fair share of bad stock trades in the past, whether from premature selling or simply bad buying, but I'll be watching this one close, hoping it turns out well.

(Also see: Silicon Alley Insider: E*Trade On The Blocks? Probably., BusinessWeek: E*Trade: The Merger Buzz Grows, or E-Trade Shares Spike on Takeover Talk)

Apple's One Day Sale Lacks Premium Product Discounts

As the company does every year, Apple is holding a one-day "Day after Thanksgiving" sale, encouraging buyers to get an early jump on the holiday rush. But while iMacs, MacBooks, and low-end iPods were on sale, at roughly 5-10% discounts, the company's most sought-after products, including the iPhone and iPod Touch, didn't get a single dollar's worth of reduction.

As many Mac-focused sites reported, including MacRumors and Chris Pirillo, you could save from $51 to $101 off the price of a new iMac, the same $51 to $101 off from MacBooks, and anywhere from $11 to $31 apiece on iPod Shuffles and the iPod Classic.


While Apple billed the sale as letting customers "save big on some of our best sellers", it seemed you're really only able to "save small" on some of their products. The company's front page also stated, "Save big on iPod, iPhone and Mac gifts," but instead of discount iPhones, you instead have the option to get price-reduced bluetooth headsets, or carrying sleeves. Not exactly the same thing.

If you were interested in getting a new iPod Touch, iPhone or MacBook Pro, there's no sale for you. So not even this Apple fanboy will be reaching for his credit card for this sale.

November 22, 2007

Blogosphere Vacation KOs RSS Feeds, Down 60%

I don't believe we've yet reached the stage where one family member will Twitter from one side of the table to "Pass the Gravy" and another will update their Facebook status to complain the turkey "is" a bit dry. In fact, when the real world takes a vacation, it appears the blogosphere does as well in a big way. Using my Google Reader stats as one non-scientific measure, the total number of new items in my RSS feeds dropped by more than 50 percent from a typical Thursday, and you could see total traffic beginning to trend downwards as early as Tuesday this week.


On a typical Thursday, I read about 700 new items from my RSS feeds. According to Google Reader, Thursday is my 2nd-most busy day, behind only Wednesday, in this metric. But today, with about an hour left in Thanksgiving, we haven't yet broken through the 300 barrier.

(Note the above graphic has highlighted Saturday and Sunday in light blue. Today is red.)

That's not to say nothing has happened today. Mashable reported on some of the year's failures, and Robert Cringely covered Apple's patent settlement with Burst, while others pontificated on a rumor that News Corp. might be looking to add LinkedIn to its stable, next to MySpace, in a two-pronged attack against Facebook.

I expect tomorrow to be light as well, as most people took a four-day weekend. While the stock markets will be open, real business won't kick back up until next Monday. Should make for a pretty slow weekend on the Web.

November 21, 2007

Ballhype Revamps Web Site Ahead of Turkey Day


Ballhype, the sports news, discussion and game picks Web site, one of my personal favorites, upgraded their look and feel late tonight, giving a fresh "2.0" like appearance to the site which continues to grow by leaps and bounds in terms of traffic, users and story submissions.

With the advent of the NBA season and college basketball on top of college football, the NFL, NHL and Major League Soccer, it's no wonder the activity at the site is at all time highs. And while a simple Web site upgrade isn't exactly breaking news, it signifies to me another stage in the community's growing up. We've been happy visitors and participants of Ballhype for about eight months now, and have had the good fortune of meeting the site's husband and wife co-founders, who have the enviable position of doing what they love and starting a business at the same time.

The new look draws the site in line with its sister entertainment-focused community, Showhype, which debuted just last month. The new, more professional, look highlights the concept of "Hyping Up" a story, and with stadium lights in the background, reminds us it's all about the games and the athletes.

Of course, that doesn't mean everyone's happy. One occasionally irascible user immediately pounced on the changes, complaining, "....I can't stand it. Maybe make it an option for people to use the old theme?" But as the saying goes, you can't please all of the people all of the time, and as a site grows, in order to gain new members, sometimes you have to leave the originals behind.

More detail around the relaunch can be seen on the official Ballhype blog.

Importing PST Files: GMail's Would Be Secret Weapon

If you listen the rumbles in Silicon Valley, you would think Google's office suite and Apple's Mac OS X operating system were taking over the world. But the further you get outside the Valley, and often within the Valley itself, you see that Microsoft Windows is still the dominant operating system, as are its application counterparts, Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office. If you're a real enterprise, it's basically assumed you're running Outlook.

But the biggest drag on using Outlook has got to be the stupid .PST files. With any kind of serious e-mail archiving, they top out at 2 Gigabytes apiece. Keep the same e-mail address for any kind of time, and you're left not only with multiple .PST files, each being 2 Gigs or so, but it's a new job just to keep track of what .PST files correspond with what amount of time.

Running desktop search software, like Google Desktop, helps to find the old e-mails, but often, clicking a link saying to "Reveal in Outlook" leads to a dead end. Sometimes the archives don't open well. Sometimes Outlook chooses to archive to your local desktop instead of to the network, and any kind of bug could leave you with huge gaps.

Meanwhile, with this playing out in companies everywhere, Google is offering about 5 gigabytes of storage space to consumers everywhere through GMail. Just this evening I was told I'm using "221 MB (4%) of your 5123 MB." For business customers, this number is upped to 25 gigabytes of storage. While that's fantastic for new businesses, anybody already using Outlook has to honor the old .PSTs if they want to get to old messages.

But what if you could import old PST files into GMail, honoring the folder hierarchies you had set up, and had the ability to search through all your e-mail, through all its history? While there's no doubt the import of a single 2 Gigabyte PST file would take a good amount of time, the end result - a single, searchable, Web-based e-mail archive for all your messages would be the holy grail. I believe that with all the issues surrounding Microsoft Outlook - including licensing, viruses, and... the PST files, the prospect of moving to GMail would be quite inviting. But until GMail can help migrate away from Microsoft altogether, real growth will be stunted.

Other comments: PST Files to Gmail, Anyone know of a PST to gmail or mbox converter?

November 20, 2007

Nintendo Wii + Web Surfing = Porn for the Whole Family?

The Nintendo Wii is quickly becoming a serious convergence machine - offering not only video game play, but also News and Weather updates, audience polling and an Internet channel. Much like WebTV had tried to do a decade ago, the Wii moves the Web from the little screen (your laptop) to the big screen (TV).

Now, one content stream doesn't just get accessed by multiple operating systems and multiple browsers, but the Web is now being accessed by a multitude of gadgets, from Blackberry handhelds, to iPhones, the iPod Touch, and the Wii, to name a few.

This evening, I spotted a Nintendo Wii checking in on the blog, and not exactly from a visitor looking for news on technology, sports, or even pictures of my beagle. Instead, the first Wii visit I've noticed was your typical lonely Web surfer looking for a late night porn fix, searching for "free girls on webcams without giving address". Interesting.

The Wii browser is an Opera derivative, version 9.30. And I have to assume there is a pretty good chance that whoever is looking for these Internet-living ladies with loose morals is doing so without their parents knowing. Time to turn on parental controls!

MusicMobs Disappears Into the Ether

Today, Om Malik reported the music tracking and playlist service, MusicMobs, had shut down, and the founder, deciding the best policy was to join the competition, rather than continue to do battle, has now become part of Last.FM. Now, the two services have become one, and in an instant, the dedicated artist, song, and genre pages I'd generated over the last few years were obliterated.

You can see some of my prior mentions of MusicMobs here, here and here.

Now, instead of a site full of charts, album covers and trends showing which artists and songs were the most popular, we've got a note saying the site's moved, and a single link to download my user playlist. Had that been the focus of why I used MusicMobs, that'd have been okay, but I would have preferred it if I could have been given the option to say... download my own generated pages as HTML and host them elsewhere. Maybe I could even utilize the software from MusicMobs or Last.fm and simply point them to the new page, continuing to synchronize my stats.

But it looks like it wasn't meant to be. For the want of a single developer, an entire site was lost. While I still like Last.fm, I hate seeing others I like just go away without warning. Word to the wise would be to go backup your user files at services not named Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! or Apple. On second thought, back those up too. You never know.

November 18, 2007

Faithless Bombs Video: Amazing Music, Piercing Message

One exposure to music from Faithless, led by lead singer Maxi Jazz, will make you sure you've never heard any sound quite like it. I first fell in awe of Faithless' unique vocals in the epic "Insomnia", and gained immeasurable respect for his work with the Iraq War-themed "Mass Destruction", released in 2004. But even that didn't prepare me for the raw message and real emotion shown in his video titled "Bombs" from his latest album, "To All New Arrivals", which hit the iTunes Music Store in early November. While the album hit stores about a year ago, starting in Europe, I only found it today, and ... Wow.

While I highly encourage you to purchase the album (and two accompanying videos) from iTunes, below is the "Bombs" video, courtesy of YouTube. It's very impressive to see an artist I really already like taking such a strong political stance, regardless the consequences.

Direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6Ps_MBXEdA



If you found this music strong or the message moving, pass it along. I'm dismayed it took me so long to find!

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth With Old Time Candy


Growing up, many a Saturday morning was spent walking to the neighborhood store with my younger brother with a little more than a few dollars in our pocket. As regular as Saturday morning cartoons, we were on our way to get our fair share of 1 cent PAL bubble gum, 5 cent Atomic Fireball cinnamon candy and 16-ounch Pepsi Cola (which I preferred to Coke back then).

For some reason, while most adults passed that particular stage in their lives, I never really have. I still have a sweet tooth, and it's uncommon to not have something around the house or at work to fill that craving. And recently, I happened upon a brilliant site that helps not only fill my need for sugar, but nostalgia too. OldTimeCandy.com has a diabetes-inducing array of candy available for individual sale or in bulk, and aids the cavity creation process by offering sets of candy from particular decades, from the 1950s through the 1980s. In many cases, you'll see names of candy you remember fondly, but haven't seen in stores for years.

It may still seem strange to buy food or candy from the Web, but there's really no other substitute for getting all these candies in one place, from the aforementioned Atomic fireballs to bubble gum cigarettes, Chuckles, Fizzies, Gobstoppers, Hot Tamales, Jujubes, Mamba, Mary Janes, Necco wafers, Pop Rocks, Razzles, Violet Gum, Wax lips and Zotz.

And that's just part of the list.

I bought the 80's mix a few months ago, and absolutely enjoyed it. The only debate was to what I would consume first and how quickly. Now, the 70's mix is set to arrive this week, and I'm seriously looking forward to it. Before you hit your holiday shopping, this just might be a great place to find stocking stuffers, or just to give you a follow-on to Halloween. But you really don't need a reason any more than I do. Enjoy yourself and try some Old Time Candy!

November 17, 2007

Are You An ACTIVE Hub?

With about 14 hours of airplane time over the last week, I had plenty of opportunity to catch up on books I've been neglecting. One of those I took in was Emanuel Rosen's "The Anatomy of Buzz", which aimed to capture the concept of word-of-mouth marketing, analyzing how some products take off (see: the iPhone and Nintendo Wii), while others stagnate despite tremendous advertising (see: Microsoft Vista).

One of the most important elements of getting a product launch or news popularized, according to Rosen, is to influence "hubs", defined as people who act as references to friends and others, and who, if influenced, can help to spread the word to many people, helping your cause.

Rosen defines these people with the acronym of being "ACTIVE", namely:

* Ahead in Adoption
* Connected
* Travelers
* Information-hungry
* Vocal
* Exposed to Media

This, to me, defines a great number in the tech blogosphere, who are obviously unafraid to share their opinions, reach many people, and suck down as much information as they can, whether from the mainstream media, or hundreds of RSS feeds from fellow bloggers. There's also no question these ACTIVE folks are connected to others and ahead in adoption. It's the tech bloggers who first adopt (and later dismiss) new Web 2.0 technologies, who are the first to download (and later uninstall) beta products, and they are all too eager to announce having gotten their hands on something new.

While this is true, The Anatomy of Buzz amazingly already seems seriously outdated since its writing in 2000. The book tries to talk about how the Internet impacts buzz by mentioning newsgroups, shared opinions sites like Epinions.com and comments on Amazon.com (including his book), but has zero discussion of those hubs that influence buying decisions now - blogs and social networks being the obvious omissions. It's also amusing to see the word Google is nowhere in the book. As a result, I found myself a little less than impressed with some portions of the book, which as a whole does a good job explaining how the Palm Pilot took off, how Nintendo drummed up excitement around the launch of Super Mario Brothers 3, and how Cold Mountain became a best-seller.

Part of being a blogger is knowing that by being ahead in adoption, information hungry and vocal, that through your connections, you can act as an ACTIVE hub. Though authored in 2000, Rosen describes this phenomenon in an offline way but rings true in today's even more fully connected world. If you don't mind the occasional rolling of the eyes over Web 1.0, it's definitely worth a reminder that it often doesn't matter just how many advertising dollars you throw at a product if the end users don't extend your message to their friends and others.

Scoble Violates Apple Fanboy Rule #1

Macs sometimes break.
Macs sometimes crash.
Mac applications sometimes don't work they way you think they should.

Apple doesn't always have the best strategy (in my opinion) for promoting its lesser-known features or less-adopted product lines.

They're not perfect.

  • I returned my new MacBook Pro less than two days after I got it for repairs. (1 | 2 | 3)
  • My last PowerBook had its keyboard repaired once and its logic board replaced once.
  • I bought 4 or 5 power adapters for my last PowerBook because they kept wearing down.
  • My wife's iBook was repaired at least twice for Logic Board issues.
Going back further in time, I once had a devil of a time upgrading from Mac OS 8.6 to Mac OS 9. Installing Mac OS X Public Beta was not without its issues. My first iPod's battery life didn't seem to last all that long. My iPod Photo occasionally craps out and seemingly is trying to die.

That's all true. But while someone with an agenda could say this is all great evidence that I should ditch the platform, or that Macs aren't as good as I say they are, it's rubbish.

In June, I wrote on The Apple Blog a note stating "Five Lesser-Known Tips on Being an Apple Fanboy". The first tip? "Never Admit Fault With Apple Around Non-Mac People".

The reason? People love to pile on and are looking for any excuse they can to show that their decision was right and yours was wrong.

With Apple's increasing market share, new converts to the platform, like Robert Scoble, are finding what we all know. Macs are great, but not perfect. And sometimes, they're not happy about it, and they're all too ready to call Apple out for issues they've found. Robert, in a missive posted today, says when Macs fail, that Mac users tend to blame themselves instead of the platform. (Dave Winer backs him up)

I don't agree. What I believe is that when Mac issues arise, their irregularity makes it more acceptable than the day to day challenges of Windows. Also, in most cases, I can figure out the issue myself, instead of being forced to live with it. For the above hardware issues, I obviously couldn't, and I made Apple fix their problems.

So while Robert likely believes he's helping Apple and their users to "expose" the problems he's had with his Mac, it doesn't do all that much. Instead, what it does is give potential switchers a good reason to not do so if they were on the verge of finally leaving Windows behind. I'm not saying be absolutely quiet about issues. I know I haven't. But recognize all the positive things that are gained from moving to the Mac platform and all the innovation coming from Apple, and imagine how dismal the computer industry would be without it. It's stark and cold.

Maybe Robert didn't get his Apple fanboy membership card yet, or maybe he didn't apply, but I do believe he's sending the wrong message. That Apple won't publicly respond to him doesn't help either, but they've yet to figure out a great relationship with the blogs. Maybe some day that will change.

November 15, 2007

Long Day Made Longer By Airline Snafu

When traveling to the East Coast, I don't often get the luxury of adjusting to the time zone differences. In most cases, I'm expected to start my day bright and early on Eastern Standard Time, and act like any other good local. Today kicked off at 5:30 a.m. Eastern, which my body still tells me is 2:30 a.m. Pacific. (You might have noticed my odd 3:10 a.m. timestamp on this morning's blog post)

After a full day, we headed to New York's Kennedy airport to fly to Boston, in what should have been a simple puddle jump. Originally targeting a "wheels up" time of 7:00, we first saw the flight delayed until 8:25 p.m., for arguable weather-related issues, and later, upon boarding, endured a delay on the tarmac of more than an hour, without updates from pilot or crew.

As the natives grew restless, and some threatened to leave the plane regardless of consequences if things didn't turn around in "the next five minutes", one of the flight attendants broke in to announce a further delay of 20-30 minutes, as our little flight had been pushed in a lengthy queue of planes set for international destinations. At number 45 on the list, we weren't going anywhere soon. This was met with further complaints. The lady next to me demanded to write a complaint to the airline about the "inexcusable farce", while others turned on their cell phones or Blackberries in protest, updating loved ones who were likely waiting at Logan airport, assuming normalcy.

Regardless, we eventually took off, arriving in Boston after 11:00 p.m. at night, when we should have gotten in a full three hours earlier. The flight in between? Not all that easy either, with moderate turbulence throughout, and a canceled cabin service, as we were all on lockdown, banned from leaving our seats or access the overhead bins. Super fun, let me tell you...

So now 18+ hours into the day, I've come home to a mountain of e-mail, more than 500 RSS items in Google Reader, and a world's worth of news to take in, ingest and review. Sure would have been nice to already be done with it all.

I Dig the Global Multi-Lingual Conversations

Thank goodness for Google Translator. The service over the years has gotten so good at automatically translating Web pages from one language to another that it long ago replaced Alta Vista's Babelfish for me, and has opened up the opportunity to see how others outside the United States are extending the conversations we've launched or participated in through blogs.

Of note, yesterday I caught a story in "Innovablog" discussing what they termed the "Myth of User Generated Content". In this detailed post, they touched on my analysis of Alexa traffic showing traditional media's losing out to new social media or blogs.

As they wrote: "En quelques graphs (de source Alexa), Louis Gray compare les audiences des sites sociaux les plus connus aux plus grands mass-media traditionnels."

Even the URL looks better in French.

Réflexion : le mythe du User Generated Content ?
http://innovablog.com/le-web/user-generated-content-mythe/

Other times, a simple recap of news we'd discussed makes it into blogs in non-English tongues, such as reaction to my Feedheads article last month:

Google News como aplicacion Facebook
http://www.error500.net/google-news-aplicacion-facebook

When they ask, "¿Qué podría aportar a Google News el ser social?" I have to say I was wondering the same thing. Right?

With Google's universality, when the company has hiccups, the reactions are felt just about everywhere. Back in June, when Google Reader stopped updating, the cries were in many different languages.

Google Reader zeigt keine neuen Feeds
http://www.whywerock.com/artikel/google-reader-zeigt-keine-neuen-feeds/

"Ok, scheinbar werden nach einer kurzen Downtime die neuen Feeds gequeuet und irgendwann im Laufe des Tages freigegeben. Weitere Infos in der Google Discussion Group und in diesem Blog."

"In Diesem Blog". That's me! Of course, given my four years of Spanish in high school, I think I figured out the headline of another one, which wrote simply: "Google reader con problemas".

http://www.maestrosdelweb.com/actualidad/google-reader-con-problemas/

"De acuerdo a reportes publicados en varios sitios web, el problema arrancó desde el día de ayer por la noche."

And another...

Google Reader im Leerlauf?
http://mitra.ch/?p=554

They add: "Spielt Google etwa gerade ein Update auf den Server? Hab grad entdeckt, dass ich tatsächlich nicht der einzige bin mit dem Problem."

Obviously.

I've said many times that blogging opens up conversations and new ways of communicating. Clearly, as you can see above, we are no longer limited by borders or even languages at this point. As technologies improve outside of the English-speaking world, the international blogging community is set to grow further and become a significant force. That I can use available tools to share ideas or react with my international peers is extremely exciting. Gehe hin und Blog!

November 14, 2007

Back on the Road (In the Air) Again

Not too long after getting back from the last trip (to Colorado), we're taking off again, this time straying further from home by heading out to the East Coast, taking in New York and Boston. Early prospects show the weather in New York to be mild, not cold, but showers are anticipated on Thursday, and we might see snow flurries in Boston on Friday.

Regardless of the weather, this will be yet another test for how quickly I can adjust to jet lag. As my typical tendency is to stay up way too late on the West Coast, padding three hours on the clock isn't going to do us any favors tonight, as I'll probably be staring at the ceiling or reading RSS feeds in Google Reader around 2 a.m., rather than getting some much-needed rest. All part of the travel experience, I guess.

Of note, we're flying Delta instead of United, my typical carrier. My prior experiences with Delta were pretty good (as noted here), so I'm optimistic, but we'll see.

Also of note, I literally put my money where my mouth is this morning. Before leaving the house, I put a significant chunk of cash into eTrade stock. While I wish I had done so below $4, which was the opportunity on Monday, I think this trade (not investment... trade...) will pay off well. We're averaged in around $5.50 a share.

November 13, 2007

Friendfeed Upgrades Enable Service to Mimic Digg

Slowly but surely, Friendfeed has been adding features which have made the service a more fully integrated and go-to destination for me multiple times throughout the day to share news and learn what others like me have found interesting, as I can see their Twitter, Digg, Flickr, and Google Reader shared items updates, all at once. Now, with the addition of comments, "Like" capabilities (the equivalent of "Digging") and the ability to share items directly through Friendfeed, the service has expanded to more than just a single repository for date from other services, instead being a platform for new content.

I first became interested in Friendfeed as the service could aggregate friends' Web activity in a single place. But in recent weeks, it's grown to be much more. In October, they added a function to say you like an item or get the feed by e-mail.

Today, Friendfeed introduced a "bookmarklet" that allows me to share Web pages on the service, independent of other Web sites, like Digg or StumbleUpon, directly to those friends who have opted to subscribe to my own feed.

Unlike Digg, Friendfeed isn't open to the unwashed masses, but instead, is open only through invites. Let me know if you want one.

If It's Not About Breaking News or Traffic...

In the world of tech blogging, it can be fairly easy to fall into the trap of being one of many reacting to the same story - whether it be analyzing Google's new mobile phone platform, the release of Microsoft's next generation Zune music player, or the latest updates on Facebook, MySpace and the social network of the month.

In the last six months or so, I felt I could offer the most value by generating new stories or insight that the vast majority of bloggers aren't discussing. I would much rather cover Ballhype, PhotoCrank, Wirenode, Spokeo and FriendFeed or discuss nuances of LinkedIn and Technorati than be the 100th person in line making comments on Google and Apple and Microsoft. I don't want to be the guy responding to TechCrunch or GigaOM or writing too many words that effectively should start out, "Robert Scoble said today..."

While I recognize that may not be the best way to get traffic, I want to add unique value, not acting as a repeater or echo chamber where others make a splash and I end up being part of the ripple effect.

I noted my stance this evening in response to Steven Hodson's comments on WinExtra where he complains the thousands of blogs he cover aren't breaking real news. It just could be he's looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. I'm not looking to break the news or follow someone who has. I want to experience technologies for myself and bring them to you if I think I've found something unique or if it will be something I use on a daily basis.

What I'm not in is a race to get a story first, to drive thousands of visitors my way, or to curry favor with the blogging elite. I'm here to have conversations with intelligent people who care about new applications, gadgets and Web sites. I gave up my run at journalism in college, and don't plan to go back.

The Run on eTrade Won't Have My Footsteps

Mob mentality, especially on the market, can be a dangerous thing. I've found that often, the best thing to do long term is to avoid the one-day panics as groups jump out of one stock or another, whether based on rumors, or even hard news. This week's activity in eTrade just may be exactly that, as I've seen the viability of my long-term broker put in question.

As speculation and analyst commentary stated, eTrade will likely be writing off massive loans that have gone unpaid, to the tune of multiple billions of dollars. Some have speculated the company could go bankrupt, or even be at risk of closure.

Obviously, given all my discretionary market funds are tied up in eTrade, and have been since the beginning of the decade, the thought has crossed my mind to transfer my cash out of eTrade, back into the bank, for later investment in another brokerage. Any of them. But even more than my thoughts of going with the crowd by giving into the panic, I've considered going against the grain by buying eTrade stock, which just might be oversold. Maybe I could even actually profit from the short-term timidity of others?

Regardless of that choice, which I haven't acted on, I'm not leaving eTrade. The brokerage has given strong service for a long time for me, and I have close to zero expectations that I'd find my funds were completely gone. That would be a scandal of epic proportions, one I don't see happening.

November 11, 2007

Take Your Blog or Web Site Mobile With Wirenode

One of the big drivers behind RSS syndication is the ability to publish once and distribute anywhere. A single posting to a blog is now not only posted on your main site, but through software RSS readers, e-mail applications, widgets and the like. Your content is also being taken beyond the Web browser and PCs to mobile phones, often with unpredictable results. One new startup, Wirenode, based in the Czech Republic, is looking to help you optimize your site for mobile access, so you can be sure it looks the way you would like.

I first met Tomas Zeman of Wirenode at the Plug and Play Expo in Sunnyvale in September, where he gave a demonstration of the company's product, and how you can easily create a mobile-optimized version of your site, confidently knowing it will display well on mobile phones, no matter the brand or carrier. Today, I got a follow up note from Tomas saying he had done me a favor and mobilized my blog, at http://louisgray.wirenode.mobi/.

(You can see a screen capture of what that mobilized site looks like on the right)

The promise of Wirenode is that publishers can take their presence beyond the browser, and modify the way mobile consumers access and view their content. Content owners can login to the site to modify the way it's displayed or make edits.

But, while Wirenode is working on optimizing your Web site for mobile access, mobile providers are optimizing their hand sets for what's seen as "the real Internet", Apple's iPhone included. Are people really going to go to my mobile Web site instead of louisgray.com on their handheld? I'm not sure. But we'll see where their technology is headed.

After all, how could you not root for a company whose "about us" page was written in ComicLife, and whose blog marvels at the wonders of the San Francisco Bay Area on a recent visit?

Want to get your blog or Web site optimized for mobile phones and get your own wirenode.mobi address? Start at www.wirenode.com.

November 10, 2007

At Cal Tonight, The Only "W" Stood for Wet

This evening presented the last home game for Cal football of the season, against one of our most hated conference rivals, USC. What should have been one of the most hotly-anticipated games of the season was instead a battle of two lower-ranked Top 25 teams who had better days behind them. Sprinkle in a few sprinkles, and some more... and then some more... and we ended up having a soaking wet evening that wrapped up with Cal doing what it seems to always do in these big games. Losing.

Around 3, my wife and I put on our Cal gear, grabbed our tickets and headed to the car to make our way to Berkeley. It was misty in Sunnyvale, but not sprinkling all that much. The further north we drove, up 880, the more it started to rain, never letting up. As we walked to the game, after grabbing BART at the Ashby Station, our umbrellas were out, and we were debating if we should have donned our ponchos right away.

Getting into the stadium, we saw more than 70,000 fans in all colors of poncho - from the Red and Gold USC fans, to the blue and other colors of Cal fans. I reached into my bag only to realize we had two ponchos, but one white (for my wife) and one orange - a shade too close to red for my own good in a quite hostile crowd. So for the full game, as I jumped up and down and yelled from my seat, the rain poured down, dripping from the bill of my cap. My shoes had turned dark with precipitation, and as I would slap my hands to my saturated jeans, the would spray with water. My Cal jacket, hanging damply at my sides, could be wrung out at the elbows and wrists, not exactly keeping me dry.

But the game went on.

Cal scored first, going up 7-0, before letting the Trojans tie the game up 7-all at the end of the first quarter. A few frustrating drives later, it was 14-10 USC at the half, as the rain continued to fall, and many fans considered whether they should trust their better judgment, giving into the elements and going home. Many did.

And the rains kept coming.

The second half started with USC getting the ball, and driving down the field, stopping short of a touchdown, but putting 3 more points on the board, taking a 17-10 lead. Cal struck back with a touchdown of their own, making it 17-all to end the 3rd quarter.

But we were already gone.

While I was willing to play the part of a human puddle, my clothes stuck to my body and the slight wind keeping me all too cool while cheering on the Bears, the elements proved to be too much for my wife. Her jacket, covered by a poncho, with a sweatshirt and blanket besides couldn't overcome Mother Nature's assault, and we had already made our way back down to the BART station to return home. After two full years of A's season tickets, and at four of Cal football games, we had finally found one that saw us leave well before the game's conclusion.

But the game went on.

As we drove down 880 South, we hit the dashboard, frustrated, as we listened to USC's march down the field to gain the lead 24-17. We gnashed our teeth as Cal looked to come back, only to throw another interception, effectively giving up the game. We rolled our eyes as time expired, and the Bears were handed their 4th loss in 5 games, sending the rest of the valiant fans who had stayed behind home with feelings of frustration and emptiness, as another Saturday came and went without the Bears fulfilling their potential.

For our family, we're now at a crossroads. The A's season long behind us, lingering only as memory, the Cal home schedule complete, we're done for the year, barring a special one-off to see the Kings in Sacramento, the Sharks in San Jose, or maybe another 49ers game. But for now, we're on hold. We can put our ballcaps away, dry our clothes, and hope 2008 brings better news. 2007 left us with the occasional sparks of excitement, but far too much loss and frustration.

The rain didn't help.

November 07, 2007

Sending Me Spam Makes Us Friends, Right?

I don't mind the occasional note from someone I don't know (or know well) asking me to be friends on Facebook, or to connect on LinkedIn. Over time, I've gotten used to people wanting to pad their network stats through finding my e-mail and expecting us to act as if we're the best of character references. After all, with the value of what a "friend" means online going down seemingly by the day, after a while we'll have to find a new name for the "real world" version, and I don't think "BFF" is going to be it.

But now, new social networking sites, or even warmed-over old ones, are starting to fill my e-mail with absolute junk, under the guise of "real world" friends reaching out and begging me to share our similarities - to compare books I like with their own preferences, exchange favorite movie listings, or see if we've traveled to the same countries. In fact, in some cases, these little features or would-be Facebook apps are sometimes masquerading as full networks on their own, when that guise is frivolous.

The first is Plaxo Pulse - who jumped on Google's Open Social bandwagon last week to gain membership in the "Everybody Except Facebook" club. Since the network's roll-out, I've gotten dozen of Plaxo Pulse invites that have me begging to hit "Return to Sender", if only e-mail worked that way. In my opinion, LinkedIn won the business networking challenge years ago, and Plaxo never got past its spammy beginnings, so we're not going to be making that move any time soon.

Now, even more mind-numbingly, I'm starting to get alerts from people joining Shelfari, hoping I can share book rating and reviews, or even join book clubs. News to all who sent me those invites today - no frickin' way. If I wanted to join a group of folks to review books, I'd already be doing it on Amazon.com. Even worse, it looks like the service isn't wired well enough to tell the difference between a small invite list and spamming the planet. As one person wrote me, when I declined his invitation to Shelfari, "This was really embarrassing. I accidentally sent this one to everyone in my address book!"

With so many social networks out there now, it's become a full-time job for some just to keep current, let alone adding more and more services as they debut. Hence the rise of services like FriendFeed and Spokeo. But each of these social networks are chasing a finite number of heavy Internet users, and there's no question you'll see invite fatigue and eventual saturation. Barring the impossible, I've made my preferred selections, and I'm done. So if you really want to be my friend, stop spamming me. If you want to compare books or movie preferences, pick up the telephone and call. My number's on the top right of the blog.

November 06, 2007

So... I Deleted Excel

Sometime in the last week, I removed Microsoft Excel from my computer. You might think I went on some weird, Mac OS X Leopard-inspired anti-Redmond bent, but that's not the case. I honestly have absolutely no idea how it happened, or when I did it, but one day it was there, and the next, it wasn't. And while it's certainly annoying, it's forced me to check out Apple's Numbers application, and while it's a "passing" spreadsheet app, it would certainly take some getting used to for any spreadsheet junkie, myself included.

I found out my Excel was missing after downloading an .xls Excel file, double-clicking and surprisingly finding it opening in Numbers. At first, I thought that Leopard had made Numbers the default application for .xls files, but then, when I clicked on the Excel icon in my dock, I got a transparent question mark over the icon, the universal symbol for "This application doesn't live here any more".

Oops.

Nowhere near my Microsoft Office CD, nor near an older laptop where I could copy over my Excel, I had to give Numbers a twirl. The first task? Taking that .xls document, making changes, and then saving it as a comma separated value file, or .csv. So, like any good Excel pro, I hit "Save As", and added .csv to the extension, but Numbers wanted no part of it. In fact, Apple wanted me to instead use the extension ".numbers", which makes absolutely no sense, even if I weren't raised in a DOS-like "8.3" world.



Instead, I had to go to File and choose "Export", and decide if I wanted a PDF, Excel document, or a CSV file. Not very intuitive. Later, when I went to sort the columns alphabetically by "First Name" and found myself looking for the "A-Z" option so common in Excel, instead, I found a "Sort & Filter" button which was okay enough, but didn't have a way to indicate it had a header row. Annoying.



The OpenOffice crowd has learned that the best way to have users learn their office applications quickly is to closely mimic the market leader. And while I'm not suggesting Apple copy Microsoft's every move, even a computer-savvy geek like me has so far been left wanting more from the company's would-be Excel replacement. Over the last week, my occasional interactions with Numbers have had me looking forward to getting Excel back. While if forced to live only with Numbers, I now know I could do it, I have yet to see the one killer feature from Numbers that would make me switch, and the little glitches now and again that run contrary to my expectations make me, for once, ready to crawl back and feast from the Redmond table.

We're Back Home In the Bay Area

Some quick notes after our week (plus one day) away:

* We DID have some impact from the earthquake, which was evident immediately. Some of our pictures and picture frames on bookshelves or stands had been knocked over. In one amusing example, one of my two fantasy football trophies looked like it had been flung three feet from the bookshelf. More likely, it fell and bounced, but still, pretty impressive. Also, one plaque on the wall is now at a 30 degree angle, when I swear it was straight before. Despite that fun, no damage, and nothing broken. I looked throughout the house.

* Although I had thought I adjusted well to the switch to Standard Time, I forgot all about it before going to bed last night. So when I thought I was going to get up early (at 6 a.m., according to the alarm clock), I was actually getting up at 5 a.m. No rest for the wicked, I guess.

* Our 18 year-old beagle, Molly, is home from my mother-in-laws, and doing fine. She seemed out of sorts last night, disoriented, and likely a bit miffed we abandoned her for longer than I can remember, as this trip exceeded even our honeymoon. Combined with the fact Molly goes to bed at 9 p.m. when at "Grandma's", and we had her up past 11, it's no surprise she seemed to be a bit in a fog. Don't worry though, by the time I served her breakfast kibble this morning, all was well.

* There's something to be said to coming home to a technology haven. We drove all over Denver and Aurora yesterday looking for WiFi, until we found it at an Aurora Barnes and Nobles, helped by my looking it up via my Blackberry on Google Apps. Now at home, we confirmed our WiFi works, the TiVo recorded all the shows we asked it too (including this year's Halloween Simpsons episode), and we're back in the swing of things. There's also the matter of our WiFi being faster than the hotel, although it was admittedly pretty good.

Now, I'l have to avoid the typical post-break doldrums and not feel like I need more time off right away.

November 04, 2007

Sunday Evening News and Notes (11/04/2007)

It's been a while since we had one of these, but in the spirit of Jason Calacanis, there's been a number of things over the last few days that have caught my eye, worth noting.

First of all, the very best ways to watch what I'm viewing and liking online are first, to subscribe to my shared Google Reader link blog, and second, to add me as a friend on Friendfeed.com (E-mail me if you still need an invite). Getting linked on Facebook or LinkedIn doesn't hurt either.

If you noticed the cries of horror throughout the blogosphere, the sounds were due to Feedburner and Google's Feedfetcher missing each other again. Across the board, total subscriber counts were halved. I personally saw my readership plummet from 156 to 83. But, I didn't panic, as I knew it was a simple glitch. (Comments: Zoli's Blog, ProBlogger, and Mashable)

Ever stop to think about what our tech world will look like five years from now? Chris Brogan did. Just looking backwards, Blackberry, iPod, iPhone, Firefox, GMail, Facebook... you name it... weren't even around in 2001. In 2011 or 2012, what will that list be looking back to 2007?

More on LinkedIn... they continue to innovate. Fresh off announcing they would be part of Google's OpenSocial, it looks like they are on the verge of announcing a new platform for developers. In fact, earlier this week, Spokeo picked up a new post in their RSS feed called "Announcing the LinkedIn Platform", which doesn't go anywhere. Chris Webb noticed as well and Twittered about it. Mark that as a wait and see...

On another note... my Being Mac. Being Mormon. It's Quite Similar. post was more popular than I had anticipated. My good friends at MacSurfer added it to their list of links last night, and that's sent consistent traffic my way for the past 24 hours, getting hundreds of visits. As mentioned before, however, those readers are simple drive bys and don't often comment. They didn't today either.

November 03, 2007

LinkedIn Adds Useless "News" Feature

It's one thing to add features that aid users, and quite another for companies to add features that don't add any value, and can be found just about everywhere else. That's why the latest addition to the LinkedIn start page is baffling.

Some time over the last weeks or so, LinkedIn determined that a great addition to the front page would be the integration of news feeds via Google News about my company. Yet for some reason, despite the fact I can get company news from a myriad of other sources: Yahoo! News, Google News, RSS feeds and focused media, LinkedIn has forgotten just why we use the site in the first place - for business networking, not for news collection...

LinkedIn is never going to be my start page when I open my browser, and that extremely valuable front page real estate is absolutely wasted with the addition of company news. (See the right graphic for a blurred version)

In the face of potential competition from Facebook, LinkedIn may be feeling the pressure to continue to innovate, but I think this is absolutely the wrong direction. Leave the news and sports feeds to the portal sites, and stick to what you do best.

If you've really got a ton of engineering time out there to be utilized, please start here:
February 2007: How to Make LinkedIn Even Better
March 2007: 10 More Suggestions for LinkedIn

UPDATE: It'd be hard to say LinkedIn doesn't listen. This morning, when I checked the site, the news feed was missing, and I haven't heard anybody say that it's still there on their site (and not just removed for me). I don't know if it's a permanent removal, temporary, or just shown to a percentage of visitors, but if it has been yanked, that's very impressive speed. I can confirm multiple visitors from LinkedIn's homebase have read my note.

Being Mac. Being Mormon. It's Quite Similar.

If you found me in a crowd, your tendency would be to guess that as a white male, I've never dealt with being in a position as a minority, and could construe that, having lived a full life as part of the majority, I've always had a voice and never seen bias due to who I was. Yet that's not true.

Both as a Mormon (common name for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and as a Mac user, I've always identified myself with a small minority of the population, a visible minority, commonly misunderstood, and all too often, dismissed or even despised.In both cases, the experience from one aids the other, as our community can both try to help others understand why we are the way we are, that we're not as "strange" as believed from the outside, and we're both aided by a vocal, evangelizing base.Below's one take on how my two "religions" match up, by no means complete:

TopicAppleLDS/Mormon
U.S. Marketshare:6.1% (IDC) 2-3% (Mormon.org/US Census)
Large Installed Base:22 million (est.)13 million members
Growing Membership37% growth y/yCited as 2nd-fastest growing religion in the U.S.
Worldwide Translation18 Mac OS X LanguagesChurch materials in 178 languages
Focus on ConversionGet A Mac Campaign50,000 active missionaries
Monotheistic CultureSteve JobsJesus Christ
Corporate FaceSteve JobsGordon B. Hinckley
Extended LeadershipBoard of DirectorsThe 12 Apostles
Retail LocationsMore than 200 Apple storesMore than 120 LDS temples
Annual Meetings2 (MWSF & WWDC)2 (Semi-Annual General Conference)
Second ComingSteve Jobs (1997)Jesus Christ (still waiting)
Some Think It's a CultWired: Cult of MacMormoncult.org
Vocal DetractorsMicrosoft, LinuxSouthern Baptists, Evangelicals, Fundamentalist Christians
Standard UniformBlack Turtleneck, Blue JeansWhite Shirt and Tie
The Color WhiteMac Books, iPods, etc.White Shirts, Temples, etc.
Music SourcesiTunesMormon Tabernacle Choir
Youthful ActorsJustin LongJon Heder
Presidential CandidatesSteve Jobs (unofficial)Mitt Romney (not church-endorsed)
Large Cash Reserves$15.4 billion$30+ billion (estimated)
Controversial HistoryThe Newton, Apple III, LicensingPolygamy, Priesthood, Martyrdom
Stance on CloningAgainstNo position on stem-cell research
Stance on TithingOne new OS X Release a Year ($129)Members pledge 10% of income
Ongoing RevelationNext Macworld!General Conference, Doctrine & Covenants
Common MisconceptionsNo Microsoft Office, Lacks Software, Not Good for BusinessPlural Marriage, Not Christian, Book of Mormon Used Instead of the Bible
Actual Reality15 Reasons You'll Love a MacThe Articles of Faith


Mac users are misunderstood. People assume what choosing Mac over Windows means for us as people, just as people even more often have a belief in their mind about what it means to be Mormon. I am just as passionate about being Mormon as I am about being Mac (although you don't hear it as often). And there are people out there who are extremely opposed to the church and my OS. I've accepted that. I've seen misinformation campaigns for both. I've had to take a deep breath and explain the truths of both, and I know it will always be this way. But I will always answer questions and try to help. That's part of being Mormon and it's part of being a Mac fan. Who knew they were so similar!

November 01, 2007

Today's Trip to the Denver Zoo (Flickr Album)



Today, Kristine and I took a few hours and enjoyed the Denver Zoo. I took photo after photo until my camera ran out of batteries. If you don't want the slideshow, or want to go directly to the Flickr album, click the below link:

http://flickr.com/photos/15652372@N00/sets/72157602832052108/

Highlights included the polar bears, arctic foxes, lions, hippos, wild bunny rabbits and much more. Enjoy!

State of the Blog: October 2007 Recap

October 2007 In Summary (Archive Page)

Total stories published to date: 1,040

Total stories published in October: 56
(About 1.8 per day, up from 1.4 in September)

Total stories with comments: 36
(64% of all stories, up from 18 and 44% in September)

Total comments on October posts: 85
(About 1.5 per post, 2.4 per commented post)

Technorati Authority Ranking: 101 (up 4)
Feedburner Peak in Month: 180 subscribers (up 56)
Feedblitz E-mail Subscribers: 14 subscribers (up 1)
MyBlogLog Members: 35 (up 4)

Monthly Traffic Rank in Last 12: 1st All-Time! (by a healthy margin)



Blog Value Estimator: $57,018.54

Top Five Most Visited October Stories (According to Summary)

1. Facebook Google Reader App Rebrands as Feedheads
2. Eight Reasons the Apple TV is Failing, and How It Can be Saved
3. Alexa Web Statistics Show Old Media Influence Nosedive
4. How to See an iPod Touch Your Web site
5. Google Reader Chokes On Scoble Shared Items

Others receiving votes: LDS Church Streaming Conference Live Via the Web, Our Intel Mac Is Back, Tech Blog Link Power: Spiky Visitors or Sticky Visitors? and In Absence of Google Innovation, A-List Ranks Feeds

Top Five Visited Archive Stories (According to Summary)

1. Soft-Core Porn, Sex Themes Power Google Video
2. Watch Every Episode of The Simpsons Online - Free
3. Geeking Out With a New MacBook Pro
4. Slingbox Going Corporate Before I Get One!
5. Color Customized iPhones Look Delicious

While the top two results here are steady month after month, I was pleased to see follow-on posts re: Google Video to slip away, and more people coming here to read about geeky technology, rather than use me as a conduit for their other habits.

October was a tremendous month for the blog, in terms of traffic and exposure. Highlights from Robert Scoble linking in, to MacSurfer, the occasional TechMeme and numerous bloggers adding my posts to their shared feeds have led to continued growth and consistent traffic. In October, we saw total visitors 22% higher than the previous record set in April, and a gaudy 77% higher than September's statistics, the previous #2 record holder. While I've said before that I don't have major goals for this blog, I definitely want to start each month with a goal of beating last month's activity. Now, the threshold has been dramatically raised.