February 28, 2007

Dear Tivo, Please Track and Report My Data

I am a sucker for statistics, and I am a sucker for TiVo. While the DVR company has gone to great lengths to assure customers that none of their individual viewing habits will be distributed, TiVo often aggregates larger pools of data and reports on the results - letting us know which actors and actresses are proving most popular, which shows are best seen live, and which are more frequently seen when time-shifted. But I am sure they have the ability to show me my own TV viewing habits, and I beg them to open the vault - to let me know, my statistics.

I want to be able to know:

* Over the last 30 days or 1 year, how many shows did I record and later watch?
* How many of those shows were dramas? How many were sitcoms? How many were live events?
* How many hours have I spent watching Law & Order in the last year?
* How many hours did I watch A's baseball?

I want to know:

* How many total hours did I watch TV?
* Do I watch more TV on the weekends or weekdays? Which days?
* What were my top ten shows viewed by number of minutes or episodes?

If TiVo can track total viewer data, and I know that it can give me suggestions based on other shows I watch, record and offer "Thumbs Up" or "Thumbs Down", then I know that TiVo can enhance its service by showing me my own viewer statistics.

I've moved way beyond the issue of privacy. Google tracks every search I make in my search history. Google tracks how many RSS feeds I read per day, on which day, at which time, and from which sources. Last.FM tracks how often and when I listen to a particular song out of iTunes, and which artists are my favorite. If the data is there to be tracked, then I want it tracked.

I want to know if I kept the percentage of "Reality Shows" or "Soap Operas" below 1/2 of one percent all year long. I want to know what percentage shows I see within one day, three days or five days of their being recorded. I want the data.

TiVo, I know you are storing the information. Please open up the vault and let us have a peek inside.

Lifetime Subscription Holder Louis Gray

Update: A must-have for the "My TiVo Statistics" would be the option to mark viewing as being tracked or not tracked, much like Apple has "Private Browsing" for Safari, or Google search tracking can be Paused. If I don't want the wife to know I'm watching South Park, and she wants to hide her watching The View, that works.

My Dog Ate The Blogosphere

Traveling can be hard - not so much in the changing of hotels, and driving or flying from one city to another, but for me, one of the biggest issues can be "Internet Separation Anxiety". Yes, I made that up. By being away from the laptop, I am missing out on everything going on - news alerts, updated blogs, sports scores and stocks, for example. This last week, it didn't help when our 17-year-old beagle put her foot down and made the situation even worse.

Upon arriving home late Friday night, and still being on East Coast time, I didn't want to do anything but sleep, so I put off my usual daily RSS feed reading in Google Reader to Saturday morning.

Saturday morning, I jumped into Google Reader and started going through the more than 500 items that had accumulated, one by one. Just as I had started, I got up to answer the phone, leaving the laptop on the floor, screen open. When I returned, I saw the dog literally walking on my keyboard, trying to use the laptop as leverage to jump on our bed. As I shooed her away, I saw she had somehow clicked the "Mark All Items As Read" link in Google Reader, instantly evaporating all the feeds, and Google couldn't get them back.

The Paw Stomp is where the dog made her dent in my RSS reading...

Instantly, a day and a half of the world's news and blogs were gone. Conversations and debates were held and I couldn't hear them. Product announcements and bugs went by without my knowing. And my dog didn't care. So, that old adage about the dog eating your homework? Maybe it does happen? I sure can tell you that the weekend didn't get off to a very strong start after seeing Molly (the dog) using her hind legs to point and click my news away. It's even more remarkable when you consider some dogs will actually get the newspaper for you...

Missing in Action? No, All Over the Map

I believe we just set a new record for inactivity on the blog, one I hope will last for a long time, and I have to apologize for that. As promised last week, we were traveling, first to the East Coast, and later through Houston and Austin in Texas, where we saw a range of temperatures from 15 degrees (with 30 mile an hour winds) in Boston to 70s and 80s in Texas. All told, I took five flights on three airlines, stayed in three hotels from two chains and ate way too much food, as is the custom.

Compounding issues, I somehow came down with a bug that had me wiped out on the weekend, with my own temperature spiking above 100 and making my voice sound raspy, like a 60-plus lifetime smoker. I don't often get colds, but it's the second time in as many years that this has happened following a westward cross-country flight. We are back to normal now, and will be posting on a semi-regular schedule going forward.

February 19, 2007

Full Travel Schedule This Week

It doesn't seem all that long ago that I was in New York for a week, participating in a trade show. Yet, after a few weeks back on the West Coast, we are hours away from heading to the land of ice and snow, taking on both Boston and New York before heading to the Lone Star State by the end of this week. I've never been to Texas, so that should be interesting, even though I'm just there for a day.

Maybe I'll bring a camera. In the meantime, I'm definitely bringing the laptop, so we will try to keep up.

February 18, 2007

ANtics Episode 3.03: Pitchers and Catchers Report

This week, there was a sense of change in the air. Almost-real baseball was coming, as A's pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona to begin preparations for the 2007 season. But after another off-season of change, questions persist. The ANtics looks in for answers...

Click to See Larger Comic

Also: Take the Poll: What's the Biggest Question Around 2007?

All Comics | Poll

How to Make LinkedIn Even Better

LinkedIn is the best tool I've seen for professional networking - offering a way to present one's work history and expertise, as well as find contacts at other companies through people you know. As one's connections grow, your network similarly grows, exponentially. While it's already the best, I believe there are some new features LinkedIn could introduce to further their lead.

Of late, the site has expanded, adding tools for importing contacts from desktop mail applications and Webmail accounts, expanded into new arenas, including services, and started a forum for questions and answers, with the assumption being a contact's response within your network will have more validity than a stranger.

I believe LinkedIn could get even better through adopting features common with social networking sites, such as knowing:

1. How many times your personal profile has been visited
2. Who has recently visited your personal profile
3. Who has similar profiles to yours
4. Who has similar profiles to your connections
(i.e. "More Like This")

In addition these elements, I believe LinkedIn could extend its "Answers" service into something more along the lines of an RFP submission engine. Within your profile, you could suggest your business type, your availability for inquiries for goods or services, and buyers could directly connect with sellers. LinkedIn could add a new tab to their site, labeled "MarketPlace", which is buyer-driven, instead of seller dominated. Unlike consumer-focused auction sites like eBay or shopping engine databases like Shopzilla, LinkedIn would connect a business service with an individual profile, who presumably could be seen as being so many steps away from you "In Your Network".

As LinkedIn grows in scope, and becomes the default professional-oriented resume/contact information database, the opportunities could be seemingly limitless. With a little tweaking, one could set up dating services based on job occupation and geography. For instance, were I looking, maybe I would want to date a prospect in the field of Marketing or Human Resources in the Technology Field who had more than 10 recommendations from peers. Could happen, although I'd make the "Marketplace" a higher priority...

Do you use LinkedIn? How else could the service improve?
Also, feel free to "Get Connected" or view my profile.

Is Timing an Important Element for Blog Posts?

This week, an interesting thread emerged when a stats-crunching 15-year-old in India analyzed well known Microsoft blogger Raymond Chen's posts, finding an astounding 77% of his posts came in the 7 a.m. hour, which led to his joking, "Is Raymond a bot?" But is Raymond on to something, that the 7 a.m. hour is the most appropriate time to be posting for optimal readership?

Thought Clusters' Krishna Kumar similarly wonders: "The 7 am intrigues me. Is that the best time for making a blog post visible? I do my posting during the weekends and nights - which is not exactly a good time for US-based audience."

As I see it, there are two ways of approaching this. One is how your own reading patterns flow, and one being the time you have available.

For me, the vast majority of blogging takes place between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays, after getting home from the office, with about two posts a day thrown in on the weekends. By moving from RapidWeaver to Blogger this month, I have more flexibility to post from the office, but through the first few weeks, I haven't been doing that at all - likely the result of work tasks and my own sense of guilt getting in the way.

However, as Google Reader tracks what time I read feeds from other blogs, a pattern does emerge. The 7 a.m. hour is when I do the most reading. It's right after I wake up each morning. You can see in the chart below, covering the last 30 days of activity, that the number of feeds read between 1 and 5 a.m. is almost negligible, which accounts both for my requiring sleep, unlike a bot, and the fact that most bloggers aren't posting at this time, giving me less to read. By reading feeds at 6 and 7 a.m. before I get ready for the day, I'm set with the day's news. You can even see dips throughout the day, one at 8 a.m. when I'm either driving to work or just getting in, and a second, at 5 p.m., when I'm sitting in traffic on the way home.

30-day Summary of Feeds Read, by Hour

This tells me that 7 a.m. is a great time to read feeds, or if you post at 7, I'll read it almost immediately. If, like me, you choose to post in the late evenings, you're probably not getting the most traffic available. Many people do the majority of their Web surfing at the office, not at home, so my practice of being quiet during the workday is contrary to what visitors are looking for.

The real question is, can I act on this knowledge? Krishna suggests writing posts at other times of day and posting at 7 a.m., just like reporters write, and their stories emerge with the morning's paper. That could be one option, albeit one that conflicts with the immediacy, real-time feel of the blogosphere.

February 17, 2007

Tidbits from the Link Blog: February 17, 2007

With one fell swoop, Google made a ton of bloggers feel a lot better about themselves, as overnight, their site subscribers increased anywhere from 20 to 50 percent, as the search engine began reporting on RSS feed readers, via Google Reader and their personalized home pages. And for some reason, my overall count didn't budge. I'll live. But it got a lot of people talking about statistics, from Don Dodge to Mashable and a host of folks on TechMeme.


Don Dodge: Blog Metrics: Subscribers, Readers, Page Views...
Mashable: Alexa’s Inaccurate Traffic Stats Become More Detailed
Mini-Microsoft: Stop Him Before He Speaks Again!


Robert Scoble: What You Won’t See about Iraq on American TV
Americablog: USNews: Bush could sink the GOP in 2008
MyDD: Does This Mean Gore Is Definitely Out?

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

Google Reader Ready to Leave Google Labs

Google, well known for leading the charge in Web-based technology innovation, has been lauded for making early version projects available to the masses through its self-proclaimed "technology playground", Google Labs, at labs.google.com. With the idea being that some of their favorite ideas "aren't quite ready for prime time", giving you the chance to "play with prototypes", these Lab projects incubate, sometimes for years, before being released on a wider scale.

I believe that in time Google Reader has been cooking, it has reached the point where it should leave the labs altogether. To not release Google Reader from the labs would only demonstrate to me and other users that Google doesn't take this product as seriously as other applications, and that they are less willing to support it and fix bugs rapidly - which would be assumed once the product went "Live".

Google Reader is, by unofficial statistics, among the fastest growing RSS feed readers out there, and is much beloved by some of the blogosphere's most vocal technology pundits, including Robert Scoble of PodTech. I made the switch from NewsGator's NetNewsWire to Google Reader late last year and haven't turned back, making Google Reader a must visit throughout the day, every day, as it dutifully collects all the latest posts and articles from my feed subscriptions, while dramatically reducing my need to visit Web sites directly.

In most companies, for a product to leave beta status and go to general availability (GA), it should have gone through significant quality assurance (QA) testing, and displayed consistent reliability and uptime without show-stopper bugs. Over the last four-plus months since its unveiling, Google Reader has been stable, and added new features on a regular basis, from sharing links via a customized links blog, to displaying individual trends on reading and sharing RSS feeds, all while keeping a simple GMail-like interface that Google has kept as a standard for its Web-based applications.

It is my expectation that Web-based applications, like search engines, and all Web pages, will retain the ability to be updated rapidly over time. Releasing Google Reader out of the Labs, while continuing to add features and fix any bugs that arise, makes sense. In its short time in the Labs, Google Reader has evolved to a must-use application, one I likely use more than the Google search engine itself. And that's saying something.

Google Reader: Official Blog
RSS a Demanding Mistress
RSS Eliminates Need for Frequently Repeated Searches

February 16, 2007

It's Time to Make Power Wireless and Battery-Free

When Steve Jobs passed an Internet-connected iBook through a Hula Hoop during MacWorld just under a decade ago, it whisked in the era of wireless Web for most of mortal consumers. Today, WiFi is both accepted and expected nearly everywhere, at home, at work, and in some larger cities, outside. But in order to truly cut the cord, we need to find a solution that doesn't require being tapped into an electrical cord, hanging as a leash (or ball and chain) to the nearest socket.

Today, a rumor surfaced that Apple was pursuing a patent that would pass both data and power without physical contact. For those of us tired of lugging around laptop power cables, or stowing a spare battery, any type of positive change can only come too soon. While processor power and network speeds have continually increased over the last few decades, the typical battery life for a laptop hasn't budged much. A few years back, in 1999, Apple advertised watching a single DVD more than once (though they were shown to be wrong), but now, I'd be surprised if I could finish a good two to three hour film, especially if I were running any other applications.

When I posed the topic of "wireless power" to a colleague a few years back, he practically scoffed at me, saying that wireless power had been invented, in the form of microwaves, and that we would all be nuked ourselves if we demanded the power be transmitted wirelessly through the air, in the same fashion as 802.11 wireless Internet.

Maybe so. But it seems only logical to me that the first company to debut a simple solution for wireless power adapters for a mass audience is set to make significant money. I can't wait to detach myself and cut the cord when that time comes.

Tidbits from the Link Blog: February 16, 2007

Today's theme? Being incredibly busy and trying balance work life with the home life. Jeremy Zadowny touches on a great aspect of that - in a world dominated by instant information and real-time communication, how do you determine what to ignore and not respond to? This is especially the case when one receives hundreds of e-mail items a day (or hundreds of RSS feeds... we're averaging about 500). That leads directly to Ars Technica's note on those who use Blackberrys for remote e-mail seem always attached to the office. I guess that explains why I was watching the blinking green light go red around midnight last night in anticipation...

In other notes, if Apple really does offer a subnotebook, after years of rumors, maybe I really want one. We'll see...

AppleInsider: Apple to Re-Enter the Sub-Notebook Market
Ars Technica: Survey: Blackberry Owners Chained to Work
Engadget: Cisco Delays Apple iPhone Lawsuit, Again
Jeremy Zadowny: The Hardest Thing I Have to Do Every Day
MicroPersuasion: Majority of Americans Feel Bloggers Play a Valuable Role
MSFTextrememakeover: I'll Gladly Pay You Tuesday for A Hamburger Today
TechCrunch: Microsoft Hires Michael Gartenberg as New Evangelist

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

February 15, 2007

Suits Me Just Fine

It's been a full year since I bought my last suit - and that suit, while it still fits fine, has seen its fair share of church services, business meetings, weddings and funerals. It's still great, and looks good, but even my wife is tired of it. Even more concerning, on the eve of another business trip to the East Coast, I would run the risk of seeing the same people I saw last year wearing the same outfit. So, this evening, we fixed that situation in a big way.

After leaving the office and ensuring our 17-year-old beagle was fed, I made a beeline for the nearby Men's Wearhouse, with the intent of getting one or two new suits - depending on cost and quality.

For me, clothes shopping tends to be pretty easy - pick the size and style, make sure the price and brand aren't bad, and go. Today, we had some good news. Measurements showed I was the same as last year - somewhat of a surprise given my current all-time high peak weight. But that made the decision process that much more simple. Though I had intended to only get a potential pair of suits, I ended up leaving the store with three suits, two new pairs of shoes and three belts. There was a little sticker shock at the end, but we should be set for the year, and as always, the Men's Wearhouse service was exemplary.

Now, we just have to hope all is ready by the time the plane leaves Monday.

February 14, 2007

4 Days of Spring Training: Just a Month Away

It's never really too early in the year to start fantasizing about A's baseball. After our first full year as A's season ticket holders in 2006, Kristine and I are set to become two-time Spring Training attendees next month, as we plan to travel down to Phoenix and Papago Park to see the A's casually take on four teams in four days.

We first partook of the Spring Training experience last year, inconviently arriving in Arizona the same week as rain hit the area for the first time in months. In fact, the much-anticipated Giants/A's matchup was rained out. But we still had fun, catching a pair of games, and relaxing.

We recorded the experience on the blog here and on AN:

Athletics Nation: Gave Away All the ANtics to the A's Players

Though it's still February, we can't wait to take a few days off and welcome the Spring in the right way - with baseball. We will be arriving in Phoenix to see games from March 16th through March 19th, and hopefully will find time to bump into our friends from Athletics Nation.

February 12, 2007

Tidbits from the Link Blog: February 12, 2007

On Saturday, I noted IDG's successful transition from offline revenue to online revenue in The Big Debate: Online vs. Offline, and Web Influence. Today, both Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine and Steve Rubel of MicroPersuasion chime in with their own takes on how the world of media is changing in light of increasing competition from the Internet.

In addition to those comments, you see that Apple continues to make waves in music and movies. What else is new?

AmericaBlog: FBI laptops with highly sensitive data missing
ApplePeels: Steve Jobs Embraces What is "Best" for Consumers
AppleRecon: Apple, Inc - Record Label?
BuzzMachine: The Light at the End of the Press
Jason Calicanis: Game Over for PayPal?
MicroPersuasion: As Traditional Media Erodes, Magazines Thrive

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

100 More iTunes Trance Songs for Less than $20

Last year I stumbled upon two 50-song albums from iTunes for only $9.99 each. While iTunes typically sells tracks at $.99 apiece, these 100 trance songs could be grabbed for about 20% of that cost, even though the quality of the new music was very good. I didn't waste any time posting the news to this blog, and e-mailing the links out to friends.

It turns out that promotion must have been a success, as iTunes has added two more trance albums with 50 songs apiece for the low, low price of $9.99 each. You had better believe I already clicked the "Buy Now" button on both.

To set yourself up with 200 Trance Songs in four easy clicks, try those links below:

1. 50 Trance Tunes, Vol. 1
2. 50 Trance Tunes, Vol. 2
3. 50 Trance Tunes, Vol. 3
4. 50 Trance Tunes, Vol.4

If you're just now building out the trance section of your iTunes library, or are looking to complete it, all four are must haves. Good music and plenty of it for a good price.

February 11, 2007

ANtics Episode 3.02: Hair-Raising Adventures

After a dark winter, the A's players took the field a few weeks ago, not to play a game, but to meet the fans in the annual FanFest. Most notable about the day? Their hair. Let's admit it. They all had a lot more hair. The ANtics did some research and found out why some of our guys had chosen to keep their heads warmer this off-season...

Click to See Larger Comic

Also: Take the Poll: Which A's Player Has the Best Mop?

All Comics | Poll

The Kings Have Won 5 Straight. So What?

Cross-posted at Sactown Royalty...

Below is a graph showing the Kings' progress against the .500 mark so far this season. It's been quite the ride. Even with the recent spark, we're back where we were at game #32, on January 9th. For the record, that's a month of hoops, running in place.

Are the Kings a good team because they've won five games in a row? No. Are they a better team than the one that lost seven in a row not too long ago, or the one that lost three straight before this current streak? Probably not.

While it's fun to see the Kings finally put a string of W's together, it's not as if the Kings have finally found their true identity. They've been an inconsistent team all year long, beating on the bad teams, losing to the bad teams, eking out wins against average teams and getting blown out by the best.

After this recent mini-streak, the Kings are still 16 full games back in the Pacific Division, in last place, behind the other-worldly Phoenix Suns, and they are two games back of the LA Clippers for the 8th spot in the Western Conference standings, with Minnesota, New Orleans and Golden State needing to be leapfrogged.

Believe it or not, this team is neither good nor bad. After 192 full quarters and four overtimes (all losses), the Kings have scored exactly TWO points fewer than their opponents, with the current tally being "Them: 4,810 and Us: 4,808". Sounds pretty even to me.

For all the latest stats, Download the Database (Updated on 2/10/07).

February 10, 2007

The Big Debate: Online vs. Offline, and Web Influence

In 1998-1999, when I worked for Internet Valley, a small Silicon Valley startup focused on Web search engine optimization, Web influence and technology trends, we believed that you had to "Get Web or Get Out", meaning that the traditional big companies who had dominated the offline world would need to adapt to the Web or risk being left behind altogether. In the year or so I was at the company, we developed new benchmarks to track a Web site's influence, and even tried our hand at predicting the market capitalization of Web companies looking to go public.

Nearly a decade later, it is clear that the Web and the world of e-commerce have had a dramatic effect on the competitive technology and media landscape. It's no mystery that all companies, big and small, have a Web strategy. Some are executing well, while others are seeing their business models completely eroded by faster, nimbler, newer challengers.

Foremost on the road to extinction, barring revolution, are off-line media companies, from newspaper giants like the New York Times to print magazines - especially in the technology field. While technology publications used to number in the hundreds of pages per issue, even the leaders are seeing editions with only a few dozen pages, and maybe a dozen ad pages, including house ads promoting upcoming issues or conferences. Smart advertisers are learning that the best way to accurately track their ad spend and subsequent return on investment is through Web advertising, either through keyword sponsorships, ad banners, or customized landing pages and dedicated sites.

Additionally, the lead that traditional media once had in disseminating the news is long gone. Rather than wait for the New York Times morning edition or the 11 o'clock nightly news to get the day's information, 99% of news can be found from one's favorite news portal online, RSS feeds, or local sites. We stopped getting the San Francisco Chronicle in 1997, and despite my role in our company's media coverage and tracking, I'm slowly letting my free print subscriptions expire at all the tech magazines that have filled my work mailbox for years.

Newspaper circulations are down around the country. Reporters are losing their jobs. But some companies are making change and seeing real results.

As Colin Crawford of IDG writes:

"The brutal reality that we’re facing today is the costly process of dismantling and replacing legacy operations and cultures and business models with ones with new and yet to be fully proven business models. However, we face greater risks if we don’t transform our organization and take some chances."

At IDG, Crawford says that total increase in ad spend online is finally exceeding the decline in the print advertising for the IDG family, meaning the total revenue decline has ceased, that online advertising is carrying a higher burden for sales, and that the success of print is becoming less critical. Meanwhile, the New York Times has seen profit decline each of the last four years, and the near-eventuality is that the Old Gray Lady where "All the News is Fit to Print" may not be in print at all for much longer. The paper's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, now says he doesn't care whether the Times will be in print in five years or not.

We aren't ignoring what's happening. We understand that the newspaper is not the focal point of city life as it was 10 years ago. "Once upon a time, people had to read the paper to find out what was going on in theater. Today there are hundreds of forums and sites with that information," he says. "But the paper can integrate material from bloggers and external writers. We need to be part of that community and to have dialogue with the online world."

I've written here before about how the advent of the Web significantly impacted my career path, away from being a reporter, and more toward the world of technology and the Internet. I still work with reporters and media every day, but in a new way, in a new medium. To have expected to stay the course, to hope that things would never change, would have been foolish.

Blogs and RSS feeds and instant access to news are changing the way we take in journalism, to the point that even the 24-hour news networks seem like dinosaurs in a fast-moving world, only becoming important in times of crisis or national elections. To stay on top of the news and to maintain true Web influence doesn't take the brand name of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal as it once did. Instead, consumers and news junkies are turning to their peers, through peer media, to get the scoop quick. For the Times and IDG and others to survive, hard decisions are going to need to be made. Luckily, some are doing just that.

February 09, 2007

First Impression: "Friendly Neighborhood Geek"

The headline looks somewhat foreboding - something you'd hear townspeople say after that quiet guy who never said anything finally snapped. "You know, on first impression, he was a friendly neighborhood geek. We had no idea he was building an atomic destablizer in his basement..."

Yet today I learned that the new "Entrepreneurial City" blog characterized us as just this, potentially a "friendly neighborhood geek" with generous punctuation. In the site's analysis of top Silicon Valley blogs, a cursory glance at the louisgray.com fare called it "a classic blog that’s not trying to be anything else".

Somehow, I think that's a compliment. Rather than pretending I'm breaking news on the blog or releasing new software code every few minutes, our blog aims to bring to light those things I find interesting, with the occasional mix of satire, sarcasm and off-beat observations. If I can keep myself entertained in the process, that's a bonus.

So, Enterpreneurial City, thanks for the note. We hope not to let you down.

February 07, 2007

Tidbits from the Link Blog: February 7, 2007

If Steve Jobs were to create a blog, how popular do you think it would be? Yesterday, Jobs posted a note on Apple's Hot News section of the company Web site, saying that Digital Rights Management (DRM) was the product of a few large music labels, and that Apple would be happy to not use DRM if allowed. This ran contrary to most thinking, which believes that Apple embraces DRM, in order to tie the iTunes Music Store to the iPod. His comments set the blogosphere ablaze.

Some of the highlights:

Don Dodge: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs agree - DRM is broken
PaidContent: This Just In: Steve Jobs To Music DRM: Drop Dead
Blog Maverick: What should the music biz do next?
Robert Scoble: Steve Jobs: world’s best linkbaiter
TechCrunch: Apple Openly Supports Death of DRM

Yet, there was more going on besides a bunch of chatter about iTunes. This morning, I was surprised to learn that Sacramento Kings player Ron Artest had recently had his Great Dane taken away from him by the local ASPCA, as the animal was malnourished. Artest, a millionaire ballplayer with a spotty track record, says it's not his fault, but that his bulldog ate the Great Dane's food. Even so... that's no excuse, and I said so this morning on Sactown Royalty.

Sactown Royalty: "The Man" Says Artest Doesn't Feed "The Dog"

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

Note to Self: Don't Tick off Apple, iTunes Community

One of the goals I have in writing for The Apple Blog is to put out ideas that may not be in the mainstream for Mac users. I hope I can introduce new software products that many aren't familiar with, or to comment on trends, like seeing Apple go to a nearly all-white lineup, or suggest that some products aren't growing as well as others, as I did with questioning iWork's success.

Today, I said that I feel Apple should make a change with iTunes (see: Apple Should Drop Notion of “Purchased Music”), in that they shouldn't highlight songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store as "Purchased". The inference I gain from iTunes' designation is that everything not purchased from iTunes would be not "Purchased", i.e. "Stolen". The best example of this would be a dual-CD set I just bought in New York. While I paid $18.99 for it, iTunes doesn't mark it as "Purchased", but just sifts the items in my library, as if they were downloaded for free (i.e. illegal) or ripped from a friend's copy.

So far, despite the article's stirring up conversation, many of the comments are quite negative. It seems everybody thought my suggestion fairly daft. One says, "Please take off your Che Guevara t-shirt and put down your anti-drm protest sign long enough to pay attention." Another says, "I think you are a way overly sensitive on this one." Then they pile on. One says, "Make peace with your iTunes and you will find peace in yourself," while one adds, "No ones saying you stole anything…martyr-complex much?" and another... "You’re corporate paranoia has gone just a tad into the red zone."

Typos aside, everybody thinks I'm reading too much into it, that Apple is not saying I stole the other 2,000+ tracks from iTunes, only that they weren't purchased from the iTunes Music Store. And of course, they're probably right. I was instead suggesting that the wording could be changed.

February 05, 2007

Soft-Core Porn, Sex Themes Power Google Video

It's largely believed that Google Video will censor pornography or adult material from being uploaded to the company's video service. While in large part that may be true, that you can't find hot, steamy triple-X action on the site in the standard results, a quick stop over to the "Top 100" popular videos shows that Google Video users are just as interested in seeing a little skin as anything else.

Among tonight's "Top 10" films, you can see the titles hint and titillate users with names such as "Hot Girls", "Lesbos", "Sex Without Condoms", a video titled "First allowed Porn? XXX?" and "Barbie Girl". Beyond the Top 10, the themes are much the same... "Naked Kristina", "Spice Girls - Naked", "Giving Birth" and "Hot Sexy Webcam Girl". (See the screenshot from tonight here)

Hardly the PG and PG-13 landscape I might have naively expected.

Just this week, the hubbub over copyright issues surrounding Viacom's takedown notice to YouTube (a Google property) brought to light the issue of automatic filtering. Mark Cuban, the Broadcast.com-made billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner, said that the search engine was likely using filters to block out racy images, with the help of some manual labor.

He writes...

"Is there anyone out there who really believes that the Google and Youtube "communities" scans all 60k daily uploads to protect those that might be offended by a nipple flash or two?"

While there is a separate, hidden channel, for more adult themes, Google Video and YouTube largely promote themselves as family-friendly sites, but it's clear to me, at least, that on the Web, porn is still king. Porn sites helped push the Web forward in its infancy, toward e-commerce, and pop-up windows, and significant innovation.

While those really, truly, looking for hard-core porn could find it elsewhere, Google Video now looks like it has a place as a soft-core alternative.

Three People I Admire Who I'd Like to Meet

While in Chico this last weekend, my friends and I somehow stumbled into one of those mundane rounds of "Truth or Dare", which ends up being 100% truths, since nobody will accept a dare. Most of these end up being hour-long confessionals of past trysts and unlikely conquests, but one question was asked that stuck with me.

If I could meet any three people in the world who I admire, who would they be?

While I could try to put myself on a lofty, intellectual pedestal, and mention religious leaders, that's not where my mind led. Instead, I came up with three solid names: Stephen King, Steve Jobs and Bill Clinton. Each of these three has defined a legacy, and carved out a place for themselves in history. Each of them, I admire, and for vastly different reasons. Each of them probably has amazing stories to tell, ones I would love to listen to.

Stephen King

I often say that Stephen King is like a modern-day Picasso, but for novels. He has absolutely no peers when it comes to the frequency of books he publishes, their quality, and success. He has redefined the horror genre, to be sure, and while some find his books dark or chilling, he is a fantastic writer who loves his craft. His book "On Writing", which taught the process of novel creation, should be a must-read for any aspiring writer. And those of us who have littered our bookshelves with his stories, from Carrie and Christine to It, The Dark Half, The Stand, Insomnia, and countless others, know that he has a tremendous sense of humor. He is very funny, and has a dry, cutting wit. That he is now on the downside of his career, and that we as a people nearly lost him when he was struck by a car a few years ago, is in itself a horror. I wish we could see him continue to churn out new novels year after year after year. When he finally puts away his pen, I'll truly be at a loss.

Steve Jobs

I actually have met Steve Jobs, if only for a brief moment, in a Palo Alto Apple Store. I've even paid good money to see him speak at MacWorld San Francisco. But with that said, I still find him incredibly intriguing. Though he's not the engineer behind the code that makes the Mac or the iPod unique, he puts his own personal touch on everything Apple. He redefines real marketing, and gives a clinic on how to deliver successful presentations. I literally watch the way he uses slides and keeps an audience's attention to learn tips during my own time in public speaking. Steve Jobs, despite having the spotlight on him for the better part of two decades, somehow manages to not just move technology forward one evolution at a time, but he tries to change the world. He comes across not just as an aggressive, rich, business man, but one who wants to accomplish something notable, and help us do the same.

Bill Clinton

This one might be a tad more controversial, but as time goes by, and we see the stark contrast between his presidency and that following it, what he was able to both accomplish and prevent is remarkable. Bill Clinton, like Steve Jobs, knows how to command attention from an audience, and has the highest level of speaking skills. When he speaks on an issue, he knows it inside and out, and would debate it with a fierce passion. While his personal foibles have been well-documented, much of that comes from a burning intensity to be liked and to be friendly with others. I am sure that if I were to meet Bill Clinton, that he would be able to convince me just why I needed to support one cause over another, on just why his plan for an issue is the best one available, and he could give me example after example on why the other side was wrong and mis-informed. Clinton looks like a guy who would be happy talking shop, playing Hearts, or throwing a Frisbee. He looks a lot like a regular guy who just happened to be ambitious enough to be president. Now, his wife just may have that chance to make history as well. Watching him stay to the side of the spotlight will be very interesting.

I'm sure if I wrote this up in a few weeks' time, other names would rise to the top. Conan O'Brien would be fun to meet. Billy Beane, I've met, but briefly. Bill Gates (out of curiousity). If you had to pick three people, who would they be, and why?

February 03, 2007

Tidbits from the Link Blog: February 3, 2007

Are the Apple vs. Microsoft wars in full swing now, again? Has Vista's introduction given Microsoft the momentum back, when Apple's Leopard hasn't shown up yet? Does it really even matter? If you read the conversations of the last few days on the blogosphere, you'd find that for many, choosing one brand over the other in an unholy deathmatch is a choice of finality.

On with the links...

VentureFiles: Is the “Cult of Apple” really a cult?
Mark Cuban/Blog Maverick: The FanBoy Culture
Applepeels: Another perspective on Apple as a cult
Daring Fireball: Lies, Damned Lies, and Bill Gates

And in other news, a year away from votes that count, Hillary and McCain look like the early front-runners for the 2008 ballot. Yet, there's a lot more time, and not every candidate (Gore?) is in the race.

MyDD: ARG Polls New Hampshire

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

In Chico for Friends' 30th Birthday Bash

It's hard to believe I'm rapidly approaching the age of 30. It wasn't that long ago that being 30 represented the onset of being a mature adult leaning more toward middle age than being a kid. Now that we're only two months away, the date being April 8th to be precise, from changing my first digit from a 2 to a 3, we're changing our tune. 30 isn't that old. While turning 30 may be too old to start off a career in major league baseball, and while I won't set any records for young entrepreneurialship, there's plenty more to do, and I think we've done alright so far.

That said, I get to see my two best friends from high school reach 30 tomorrow, in what will be a dry run for me. My friends, who I've been close to for half our lives, since bonding together in 9th grade geekiness, are twins who are just 7 minutes apart. They turned 1 together, 10 together, 20 together, and now, 30. Today, my wife and I drove up 200+ miles or so through Northern California, to Chico, where we had gone to high school, and where their family and many friends still live. While the three of us have gone on to our own jobs and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles area, some feel much more comfortable in the smaller, slower, Chico - and could be here forever.

Living in fast-paced Silicon Valley might make me look down on the small town routine, but in an odd twist, the hotel we're staying at actually has free highest-speed wireless access (a must for me), meaning I have better Web speeds here, for free, than I did for $14.95 a night in New York last week. Odd how that is. We'll take it and won't complain. In minutes, though, we'll shut the lid on the laptop and join the real world, one of hugs and handshakes and hellos, with pizza and diet Coke galore. That'll be worth today's drive, as you can't replace a lifetime friendship with anonymous hits on a blog.

February 02, 2007

Digg Running Circles Around Slashdot for Tech News

Slashdot used to be the ultimate site for all news geek-related. If you got your news article or blog post on the front page of Slashdot, it was hallowed ground, promising tremendous traffic. One of the Internet's new media pioneers, the site relies on users to submit articles, and for these articles to be selected by one of a handful of editors for addition to Slashdot's front page. Yet, for the latest tech news, Digg not only has a wider range of articles, but front-page news hits that community much more quickly. By the time the news hits Slashdot, it's almost guaranteed I've already read it.

Today, it was announced that Viacom asked YouTube to remove more than 100,000 videos, ostensibly for copyright infringement. By early morning, Digg user "tommytrc" posted a Reuters story announcing the demand.

Less than an hour after his submission, the story had received enough Diggs to be considered popular, making the front page. As of 9:30 pacific time, it had received 897 diggs, and 134 comments.

Yet, it wasn't until 7:30 p.m. pacific time that it reached the front page of Slashdot, more than 10 hours later.

The second most recent important story on Slashdot at the same time, covers a growing lawsuit against Nvidia by Vista users who feel misled by the graphics card manufacturer. It reached the site shortly after 5 p.m. Pacific tonight.

Yet, on Digg, the same frustrations toward Nvidia had erupted nearly two days ago, in a piece submitted by "sadonomic" called "Nvidia - Peeing on the Vista Community?", which garnered 570 diggs, and more than 200 comments.

If Slashdot is to regain its lead in tech news against newcomers like Digg, which rely more on community participation and voting than editor moderation, it will have to make massive changes. Unlike traditional journalism, Slashdot's editors don't author original stories, or add much of an editorial bias, so their role as gatekeepers is highly limited. If the site's editors aren't there to add value, but instead, just to add time, users, like me, are going to move to Digg and leave Slashdot behind.

Playing the Super Bowl Like a Betting Fool

It's often said that watching the Big Game is much better if you have a few bucks on the line. Putting money down on the Super Bowl is big business, not just in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, but across the country, as many people make side bets at work or with friends, whether it be simple wagers over who will win the game, or on specific statistics.

For the last three years, my father-in-law and I have had a friendly tradition to bet one against another on a series of more than 100 questions, alternating picks. While in theory, the loser could be out more than $500, the law of averages tends to bring the final total to the mean, making the eventual margin of victory or loss in the much more manageable range of $5 to $50. As I always tend to come close to winning, but never do, the first question he always tends to ask me, before we get started, is "When can I expect the check?" Today, we laughingly decided I can pay him in monthly installments, with a low-low interest rate of about 17%, if I can't come up with the needed cash.

It's a fun tradition, so long as I don't get too wrapped up in who wins the game's opening coin toss, who makes the first first down, whether there will be an onside kick, or if the winning team's kicker will score more than 9 1/2 points. But it definitely puts some new wrinkles in the game. If I go over my answers, I think I should be rooting for Chicago more than Indianapolis, but it's fairly convoluted. Nobody's getting rich off this.

I mentioned our Super Bowl tradition a year ago, last February 4th, in "Miss a Week, Miss a Lot". Regardless of what the final outcome is, we're looking forward to the game.

Google Apparently Isn't Perfect, Sees Downtime

At times, with the level of reverence doted on Apple and Google, we can forget that behind these tremendous brands, we have real people and technology that, at times, can fail. Maybe Google and Apple fail less often than others, but when they do, it makes news. Today, multiple reports cited Google Analytics, a free Web site traffic tracking service, had stopped tabulating data, while the company's Google Finance sites also were down.

Last fall, I had installed Google Analytics code on the Web site at work, as well as for my blog. Sure enough, our Google Analytics accounts had stalled, showing no visits. Google didn't come forward right away to confront the outage, and in the blogosphere, the company's delayed response was deafening.

Eventually, Google came forward and cited "system maintenance." Really? Maintenance? In the middle of the business day? I doubt it. Something must have gone down.

GigaOM and TechCrunch have more on the outages.

February 01, 2007

WTF? Technorati Unveils Heat Index

On the Web, there are three types of downtime - one being that you are overloaded with traffic and can't respond to requests, the second being for scheduled maintenance, and the third, when new products are being introduced. If The Apple Store is down, herds of Macophiles jump into a tissy, and last night, Technorati followed YouTube's footsteps by taking the entire site down to launch the anticipated WTF feature, standing for "Where's The Fire"?

Though the site's frequent instability still causes me concern, the WTF feature shows Technorati is trying to capitalize on the details they have on the blogosphere's tendencies to link and talk about specific topics in near real-time. Just as Google Reader announced Trends, based on the data they had on its customers, Technorati is similarly expanding their feature set, due to their database's detail.

The company's CEO, David Sifry, explains the introduction, saying, "WTF is a big experiment; we're entrusting the most valuable real estate to you - our community - and we think it's going to be a powerful way to make Technorati more useful to you."

This explanation further pushes the blog search site into the user-generated content realm that is so hot in the social networking space these days. I guess one of the first things that will debut in WTF is WTF itself.

Good luck, Technorati. We'll be watching to see if WTF stands for "What Technical Foundation?" or "Wow, They Fixed it!"