Saturday, December 22, 2007

Book or magazine?

Fray Busted Demo, originally uploaded by fraying.

I'm not sure printed publications are going to be so easy to classify as either book or magazine in the future. Derek's Fray is an example.

This demo was produced on an HP Indigo 5000 commercial digital press:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Finding Everywhere

Finding Everywhere, originally uploaded by Telstar Logistics.

The cold reality of the newsstand. I bet there will always be newsstands, but as mags become more niche, there is obviously a challenge with the format. There isn't enough physical space to represent even a small fraction of the marketplace of magazines. We need some newsstand innovation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Putting the touchy-feely into Web 2.0

A few quotes I like from Christina Wodtke today:

"In other words, Web 2.0 is made of people."

" begin to see how social networks can be as effective in solving retrieval problems as data networks (i.e. taxonomies, controlled vocabularies, etc.)"

"I notice how terrified we in the technology business are of the human aspects of our work. This theme will come up later, as we look at the question "does technology matter to virtual community building", but for now let's note it's hard to use "peace" and "love" these days without irony and a certain amount of distancing. Are we so scared of aspirational emotions? If we are going to talk about social systems, we are going to have to face the fact that terms like Love and Caring and Friendship are probably going to come up, so stop giggling."

Put these together over at: "What is Community Anyway?" from IA? EH.

Monday, December 17, 2007

HP Labs as "hit factory"?

HP Labs has been working its way through a fairly major reorganization the past few months, and the PR machinery is using that to raise some visibility in the press. This Fortune article has a nice quote that sums up my feelings pretty well:
"Along the way, there are many things that could go wrong. Chuck Geschke, who left Xerox PARC with his friend John Warnock and 25 years ago co-founded Adobe Systems, notes that no one has yet cracked the unique code for making advanced research consistently pay off. “There must be something special, because not everyone’s able to do it as well as they anticipate,” Geschke says. And perhaps there is no perfect formula at all. “You have to accept the fact that if you’re really pushing the envelope, some of what you do won’t work out.”"
FORTUNE: Big Tech Turning an idea farm into a hit factory

I think Geschke pulled his punches and really should have said "because nobody ever does it as well as they hope to." But his skepticism, like mine, is clear.

Any very large company like HP has evolved countless systems to protect against risk, and there are countless employees who carry out that mission. HP is now a $100B company, and if you divvy that up that means there are theoretically >1000 (!) $100M businesses in themselves, each of which will try to defend itself from any perceived threats. If a disruptive incubation cannot steer clear of all of these, in addition to the corporate-wide functions (legal, finance, etc) that represent them all, that project is doomed. Thus the odds of success for incubations in a BigCo would appear to be tiny. In my mind this is the biggest difference between a BigCo incubation vs. a small independent startup. The BigCo may think it gives autonomy to the incubation, but in practice it never does.

I've been involved with several incubations in my years at HP, most of them in HP Labs, and the main impediment to success has always been other parts of HP, not external competitors. Unless a makeover like this includes a dramatic revamp of how the disruptive activities interface with those countless existing functions inside the BigCo, you will likely end up with the same end result: a lot of frustration all around.

Call me skeptical, but I've always wanted to make this work inside HP, and intend to keep trying :-).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Wagazi � Google is heading into the business of magazines

Jonas at Wagazi comments on the Google patent application that has been making the rounds this past week:
While it seems a bit unclear what exactly Google is aiming at with this patent I’m interested in whether or not they will present a software that will make it easier and cheaper for independent magazine publishers to reach out to a bigger audience. Like Blogger or Wordpress did for bloggers. I’m not sure whether this will work with ordinary print magazines but more likely it could be a hit within digital magazines.
Wagazi � Google is heading into the business of magazines

It's not clear what "this" is that you are not sure will work with ordinary print magazines, but rest assured that something like "this" will. The world of digital commercial printing is just starting to take off, and the printed magazine world is in for a rebirth.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


So I'm just 14 hours into this day and my work email has received 93 messages already. It is not even spam, as much as I would like to call some of it that.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Publisher Gets Web Readers to Fill the Pages of Its Magazines - New York Times

So who is naive enough to eat this, hook, line and sinker? "Oh sure, we would have no problem getting as many ads as Vogue, we just don't want to take them.

8020 tries to make the magazine more readable by limiting advertising. Web ads are subtle — no pop-ups. The dozen or so advertisers in the print issues are limited to the first few pages, the back, and sponsorships of special sections. Adobe Systems, Sony, Epson, Audi and Virgin America have bought ads. 8020 can afford to limit advertising because, Mr. Minor said, it does not need it to make a profit from them. It says it makes money on each subscription and newsstand sale — the opposite of the traditional magazine business.

Publisher Gets Web Readers to Fill the Pages of Its Magazines - New York Times

8020 has a good idea, but it could be a lot better.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Launching a Magazine the Un-Dumb Way"

Derek has inspired me to crawl out of my coding dungeon for a moment or two with this:
The magazine business was built on gatekeepers. To get a magazine into a store requires working with a chain of middlemen, each adding to the final cost. The math just didn’t work unless you have huge numbers. So to get them, you dumb down the content and pray for ads. In the end, the magazine becomes more about securing eyeballs for advertisers than serving the community that inspired it in the first place.

The internet allows consumers and creators to connect directly. So for the first time, it’s possible to skip those middlemen. Putting ink to papers is always going to be more costly than putting pixels to screen, but now that a group of talented people can collaborate, create, and sell directly to consumers, it’s actually possible to jump the middlemen - a community can support its own content creation. (This is a lesson the record labels, TV execs, and WGA members are in the process of learning right now.)

Derek Powazek – Launching a Magazine the Un-Dumb Way

I love this. And we can say similar things about many businesses, not just the magazine business (though how the mag biz has avoided the crushing inevitability of Web-enabled opportunity thus far escapes me).

We should remember, though, that gatekeepers and middlemen don't appear out of mere greed, but also need. Where there are barriers in place, entrepreneurs (aka, middlemen-wannabes) surface to overcome them. In today's Web world it may be hard to imagine that some of the old-business gatekeepers actually added value, but they did make things possible that weren't before.

We just happen to live in the time of the emergence of the Web. The Web makes it easy to overcome certain kinds of technical challenges (access to markets, services, distribution), and make certain classes of middlemen obsolete. However when certain hurdles are overcome, we know we will inevitably come upon more. The new gatekeepers may be young but they are gatekeepers nonetheless, and in time their previously empowering value will be seen as a limiting form of control. Google? eBay? Amazon? Gatekeepers.

Entrepreneurial opportunities are safe for a while, I think :-).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dilbert violates the community

So in what contemporary Web world does a blogger get away with removing user generated content so he can publish it for his own economic gain? I love Scott Adams, but I cannot *believe* he is getting a free pass on this! I guess anyone whose comment was included in the book is a big enough Dilbert fan that its inclusion is sufficient payment. It probably would be for me.
Did you notice that the The Dilbert Blog archive suspiciously disappeared last spring? A big publisher agreed with your frequent suggestions that I should turn the funnier posts into a book. So I did, and as part of that deal removed the book content from the Internet.
The Dilbert Blog: IT'S A BOOK!!! IT'S A CONTEST!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

You know you've been coding too much lately when...

...this brilliant comic for SQL geeks cracks you up. (Scarily, it also reminds me of something my team needs to do soon!). If this is all gibberish to you, congratulations, you still have a life :-).

xkcd - A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language - By Randall Munroe

Friday, October 05, 2007

Is The Net Good For Writers? - 10 Zen Monkeys

There are many gems in this Q&A with 10 writers by RU Sirius. If you want to figure out the future of print, this is a great place to get some insight into the challenges and opportunities created for print, by the Web. I'll leave you to read the whole thing on your own, but here's a particular quote I could not resist, from Mark Dery:

Is The Net Good For Writers? - 10 Zen Monkeys
Shrewdly, magazines like The New Yorker understand that print fetishists want their print printy — McLuhan would have said Gutenbergian — so they're erring on the side of length, and Dave Eggers and the Cabinet people are emphasizing what print does best: exquisite paper stocks, images so luxuriously reproduced you could lower yourself into them, like a hot bath.
I've been working for a couple of years now on a system to dramatically change print production. The trite way I describe it is "to marry commercial digital print and Web 2.0,", and most people draw a predictable conclusion from that. "Oh, you are going to print blogs!" The emergence of the Web, and digital commercial presses, has created huge opportunities to revolutionize print publishing, and let me be the first to shout, "IT'S NOT ABOUT PRINTING BLOGS." Please, people, don't diminish the value of our trees by shoveling our blogs onto paper. Though we will learn that lesson soon enough -- like after printing one blog :-).

People create content with the medium in mind. Content written for print does not generally translate seamlessly to the Web, and certainly content written for the Web does not translate seamlessly to print. When print publishing is revolutionized, which I hope is soon, those who succeed first will recognize, like Mark Dery above, what is significant about the print medium, and use it to its strengths.

For instance, I predict the re-emergence of a form of print publishing that was popular more than a hundred years ago, and which can become popular again: the serialized book. This dawned on me in 2003 when I subscribed to the re-issue of Dickens' Great Expectations, by the Discovering Dickens project at Stanford University. Print publishing evolved over time to make that form of publishing impractical for various reasons. The emergence of the Web and commercial digital printing has rewritten the rules again, only the current publishing industry is not in a position to act upon these changes. I think the next installment of Great Disruptions is going to be written over the next few years.

update: Slashdotted

Snapshot-less photography

Snapshot-less photography:
The simple question I asked Phil was “what does Digital Photography mean to you now?” Phil’s answer was that the explosive growth and future of photography is in the combination of personal, community, and professional content that is professionally fulfilled. For Phil, the photography part of “digital photography” is where change is happening now. It’s a new creative medium, not just a way to capture a snapshot. I can see that.
Photography is not about stacks of 4x6's, I wholeheartedly agree. Photos for most people are simply artifacts from our life experience, and we use them, along with other information artifacts (from friends, references, commercial sources) to construct the stories of our lives. It is in these life stories where personal value lies, and photography products should be looking to help enrich those stories. One specific example: GPS sensors should be embedded in all cameras so we can add a location to each photo that is taken.

Why GPS, and not some other feature? One would be misguided to answer that with, "So I can plot my photos on Google Maps." GPS is the most important feature because location does more to support storytelling than any other feature you can add to a camera. True to its box-maker heritage, HP traditionally focuses on technical features like red-eye removal or image sharpening -- features which only improve the quality of the individual artifact-- while investing almost nothing in where the greater value of the photo lies: in the story behind it. Location, on the other hand, is a link. It provides context that leads to more information than the camera could ever record, and ultimately to richer stories.

I could continue on this subject for a looong time. My friends and colleagues will attest to that! I gave this talk many times inside HP while trying to move our digital photography businesses from the old mind set of "print 4x6 photos" to one that is more informed by why people take photographs. I gave it repeatedly at O'Reilly's first Where 2.0 conference at the Where Fair. And I finally gave up on this work two years ago, after pursuing it with no upper management support for five years. Yahoo! and Flickr are now the standard bearers for this kind of work, HP has no place in it -- pun intended :-).

The irony, of course, is that my work was all done under the org chart of the one who now says, "I can see that." My last two years have been devoted to incubating something much bigger, a digital publishing project, which has a similar lack of upper management support. I hope for our customers' sake that we can break through the typical HP barriers to bring this to you now (before Christmas!), and not 3-4 years from now when our execs finally understand what we are doing.

Designing Magazines | Blog Archive | The Children’s Crusade

Hear, hear! What a fabulous post by Jandos over on Designing Magazines.

Designing Magazines | Blog Archive | The Children’s Crusade
Would an Editor at RealTime want a reader trained to read on the children’s version? Does the spoon-feeding of demitasse portions of content and brain-dead imagery send the message that magazines provide value?—that would seem a question of more than passing interest to the folks at Time, Inc., why else would they put this out?

To paraphrase fearless leader, “Is we teaching our children to read a magazine?”
First of all, don't mis-paraphrase our fearless leader! It's "Is we teaching our childrens to read a magazine?" And the sad thing is, we must level the same criticism at magazines for the older set. Even a mag like Sunset with good content still manages to screw up with crappy design and poor execution of advertising.

Kids magazines certainly weren’t always as bleak as the current versions. The magazines I remember loving in my childhood—Ranger Rick, Dynamite—a pop culture journal from Scholastic with a snarky (by 5th grade standards) sense of humor, and Mad all featured stories that sustained for pages, a comparatively challenging vocabulary and more sophisticated (and toned-down) color pallets and typography.
I believe there is plenty of creative talent out there to produce this generation's Ranger Rick and Dynamite, and even better. The first step is to do an end around the current magazine production process, and empower those people to do it. If the Web is good for anything, it is in making it easy to create alternatives to archaic processes and relationships.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Date Of Apple Backlash Set For March 21, 2008 | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Date Of Apple Backlash Set For March 21, 2008 | The Onion - America's Finest News Source:
'At the current rate, we believe that at this time a sea change will occur in which people will look down at their glossy white or black devices and feel a sense of embarrassment and gullibility,' Goldman Sachs analyst Steven Shore said. 'They will realize that, despite all the sleek design, they got caught up in a wave of hype that made them shell out additional hundreds of dollars for options and features they didn't need. Until then, I would like to point out that my iPhone is awesome.'

I've always found Apple interesting as the place where fashion meets geek. I don't understand why someone would pay so much for clothes, and I don't understand why someone would pay so much for computer stuff.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Official Google Reader Blog: Breaking up isn't hard to do

They say here that Google Reader has moved on from Google Labs, which I guess means it is no longer Beta:

Official Google Reader Blog: Breaking up isn't hard to do

I'm a bit befuddled by the fact that GMail is still Beta. Talk about perpetual Beta, GMail is the poster child for that. Google needs to step up and take full responsiblity for GMail as a non-Beta app and quit the hedging already. C'mon, even *flickr* is out of Beta for Pete's sake!

Canopus 3

Canopus 3, originally uploaded by Pierre J..

I spent about six weeks, spread across two different trips, in the Tahitian islands back in the early 90s. I was both happy and sad to have been one of the very last backpackers who was able to camp directly on the lagoon on Bora Bora for $9/night (Chez Pauline; while I was there the first 3 huts went up as they began replacing the campground with those awful boxes, and the campground moved across the road). To keep some connection to the islands, I've long subscribed to a feed of Polynesia photos on flickr.

I remember hiking around to see old WWII cannons, but at the time it was hard to connect those islands with the savage war. This shot provides a nice contrast to the usual blue lagoon vistas. Chilling.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

7 reasons I switched back to PHP after 2 years on Rails - O'Reilly Ruby

7 reasons I switched back to PHP after 2 years on Rails - O'Reilly Ruby:

That is how Derek Silvers concluded his article over on O'Reilly about a bad experience trying to rewrite his existing PHP site in Rails. How true!

Another key message from Derek's column, though he doesn't say it directly: there can be tremendous value in refactoring, and refactoring does not require porting or changing platforms. All modern languages and platforms are capable of supporting large scale high quality systems. Sure, there are differences, and pros and cons, to each for various applications. But those differences are in the noise compared to the differences in capabilities of architects and developers themselves.

The lesson to me is: if you have a day to spend to make things better, do you invest it in learning a new language or platform, or in improving your own skills? I invest that time in myself. Advantages from switching platform or language can be had, but those wins are usually longer term, and can be undermined by abandoning some of your previously built skills and fluency.

Saturday, September 22, 2007 - The Economics of Content - Magazines Online: A Brief Essay - The Economics of Content - Magazines Online: A Brief Essay:
At the end of the day, magazines are about communities of interest, whether professional or lifestyle driven. If magazines keep that driving mantra in mind, and use the Web for all its is worth, things could begin to look brighter and bigger on the monetary side soon.

I love the sentiment, and I like the enthusiasm to the reader comments to that article. Nice counterpoint to the print is dead crowd. Interestingly, I don't hear these folks saying that online will increase the value of their print mag! I think many in traditional print have been a bit whiplashed by the Web, and think that the play for print mags is to garner additional revenue from online. Look at JPG Magazine for the countering precedent: the magazine and online community can become one. The print version is where the revenue is, but it is the web based community that creates that value.

More to come. And I'm sure small and independent magazine publishers will like what's coming.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Community Building isn’t about Features - Bokardo

Thank you, Josh Porter, for the concise summary of the Businessweek article "Ten Ways Flickr Builds Communities".

Community Building isn’t about Features - Bokardo

Happy unlaunch day at Like It Matters

I liked Brian Oberkirch's mini-rant yesterday, on "putting your head down and executing on ideas that delight the people your app is really made for," rather than cultivating flash and hype. But what topped off his entry for me was his update at the bottom:

Happy unlaunch day at Like It Matters:
[update: OMG, I almost forgot an important sidenote. Too much horserace guy attention at the wrong time may kill you. Witness the 2 year debacle that is Flock. Ill-timed hype & expectation building made their time to experiment disappear and probably killed a potentially very interesting project. Instead, be like Threadless. Do awesome things, and eventually, media will figure out that what you’re doing is cool. By then, you are far enough long that they are less likely to screw you up.]
When dealing with misguided marketing and PR folks, it is not enough to simply say you want to execute and avoid hype. You have to say *why*, and this is exactly why. Hype and attention are indications that expectations of your business have already been set. These expectations are close to impossible to undo. If you are not completely sure what your winning business or technology strategy is, you absolutely have to preserve your ability to change. Premature expectations will inhibit your ability to change and adapt.

Monday, September 17, 2007

8020 Publishing at TechCrunch 40

TechCrunch has an underwhelming mention of 8020 today, in a summary of a session at TechCrunch 40.

TechCrunch 40 Session 3: Community & Collaboration
8020 Publishing is a media company that publishes user generated magazines. They currently have two magazines JPG and the yet-to-launch Everywhere. Members of the 8020 community can contribute and critique the content in the magazines. However, 8020 Publishing still fills normal publishing roles like choosing themes, putting the magazines together and providing the final vote on all published content. The community also gives them a built-in subscription base not to mention loyal online communities.

8020 is aiming to “make magazines better.” JPG Magazine is used as an example.

Launching “Everywhere” Magazine, the “insiders experience”…travel magazine that is submitted by the community.

Then later, seems like hardly a peep about it relative to the other companies in this session, StoryBlender, Flock, TripIt, and MusicShake. All I can say is that there is room to be a lot more visionary about magazines.

Word of the day: hundredopoundoglossopaperotextaphobia

hundredopoundoglossopaperotextaphobia: from our HP Labs Indigo press operator/czar, referring to a syndrome I suffer from.

I may have complained about HP 100# Glossy Text paper once too often! As I tried to explain, "Look, even if you eat your favorite food every day you are going to get sick of it eventually!"

Friday, September 07, 2007

Paul Kedrosky: Apple: More Troubles Today

Paul Kedrosky: Apple: More Troubles Today:
As I said yesterday, in a perhaps perverse way the $100 Apple in-store credit troubles me more than the initial price cut. I could handle the latter -- Steve's playing for keeps, and he wants to make a statement in the cellphone market. He's prepared to compete on both price and features, which makes him a formidable competitor in that cut-throat business. Fair enough. But the credit's belated arrival suggested the iPhone price cut was ill-considered and somewhat rash, not part of the original plan.
I've been fascinated by the whole iPhone pricing phenomenon. Not just the recent price cut "fiasco", but the fact that Apple released it, and pumped it, at the initial price of $599. That's totally crazy. In fact, $399 is really too high for a phone, even a really cool one, to be mass market, which is what Apple wants.

Which leads us to the real reason for this "fiasco", and why I think my favorite financial geek, Paul K, is partly off. This price cut may have been ill conceived, but it wasn't rash. The only way Apple could pass off $399 to mass market consumers as an attractive price was to intro at $599, a totally outrageous price, then cut it by what appears to be a significant amount. "Hey, a phone for $200 off? That must be cheap!"

But I agree that this move was definitely ill conceived, Apple truly botched this one. Not only is $399 for a phone still way out of reach of mass market consumers, this self-inflicted PR shot to the foot will take a lot of work to undo. Jobs will always find a way to make his cult happy about getting screwed and ask for more, but he's got no such sway over the masses he hasn't won over yet -- and he just pushed them a bit farther out of reach.

Ironically, I finally see an Apple product I might buy! I think the new Nano might finally fit my late adopter tastes :-).

Open Letter to Derek Powazek - Bokardo

Derek Powazek seems to be getting a lot of love since leaving 8020, this time Josh Porter whips up the crowd:
Open Letter to Derek Powazek - Bokardo:
I’m writing to ask you if you would consider writing an update to your fantastic book Design for Community. Your book, as much as any other, helps to define what it means to create and curate community online. It’s a great book, but it’s a bit old and hard to find.
Gotta agree! Derek, you should start working on it in, ..., well, ..., how about getting around to it about 3 months from now?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Geotagging links photos to locales | Tech News on ZDNet

Geotagging links photos to locales | Tech News on ZDNet:
'Every photo was taken somewhere. That's almost always part of the story of the photo,' said Stewart Butterfield, general manager and co-founder of Flickr, which now houses 36 million geotagged photos--roughly 3 percent of its total archive.

I remember when Microsoft's WWMX had 10,000 geotagged photos and it was a big deal. 36 million is still a drop in the bucket of all online digital photos, but it is likely an enormous lead that Flickr now has over any other online photo site. This is one of those situations where more content makes their services more valuable, so new content tends to go to that service -- a positive feedback loop that sets up Flickr/Yahoo! to be the dominator in location related services for consumers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Word of the day: playatards

Courtesy of Valleywag: those people who venture out to Burning Man each year.

Black Rock CIty: Burning Man arson suspect caught - Valleywag

HP Invests $300 Million in Print 2.0 - PhotographyBLOG

HP Invests $300 Million in Print 2.0 - PhotographyBLOG: HP is spending $300 Million on a global marketing campaign to help promote the company’s Print 2.0 strategy.

Huh? When did marketing spend become an investment? Hey boss, call me confused. I'll give you more Print 2.o that you'll ever see from that marketing spend for 0.5% of that sum.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Web 2.0 way to find a community manager

Now this makes perfect sense.

SquidBlog >> Blog Archive >> A little bit Wonka

At Squidoo, when we decided it was time to bring on a Community Organizer, we did a reverse-Wonka. Over the past year and a half we’ve had the privilege of hearing from and watching a few hundred passionate lensmasters as they’ve used and evaluated and championed and criticized and grown and talked about our site. We’ve taken their comments to mind, and their support to heart.

So we didn’t have to look among unknown faces and unproven talent to find someone for the job. We had her right in front of us, in the SquidU forums, in our inboxes, on lenses, and on other sites around the web talking about Squidoo. Who better to hire than a lensmaster who has been on the site since beta, seen our ups and downs, and has never failed in her enthusiasm for trying new ideas, mentoring other lensmasters, pushing the platform just a little harder, and bringing new people in.

Makes me wonder, what if right when you launched your startup site, you let everyone know that you'd be using participation as a primary tool for recruiting future employees? Would that motivate more and better participation?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Japanese discus collecting cartoon character come to life

Can you tell the 2007 World Track & Field championships are being held in Japan? - Osaka 2007 - Latest Photos

Credit: Getty Images (via

This is a remote control discus shuttle, one of those surprising modernizations of what is a very simple, pure event. These are fun to watch doing their thing.

The Dilbert Blog: Invent This Product

Sigh, too bad I had to mothball Virgil due to lack of interest inside HP. Now even Scott Adams is asking for this!

The Dilbert Blog: Invent This Product:
Invent This Product I’d love to have a complete scrapbook of all my vacations, but it’s too much work. That’s why I need a service that would create the scrapbook automatically, online.

Here’s how it could work. First, my digital camera should have GPS so it always knows where I am. When I download my photos, a Google map would pop up, and the photos would go into storage according to the points on the map where the pictures were taken, ordered by date. The map forms the backdrop for organizing the scrapbook.

Everything Scott goes on to ask for was under consideration to be included in Virgil, which I began working on about 7 years ago. The project has been inactive the last two years, I just had to give up due to lack of uptake by HP product divisions, and start working on The Next Big Thing. The good news is that Yahoo and Google are continuing to drive geotagging services and applications, and this vision is coming together gradually.

I think Yahoo! is outrunning everyone in this space, but I am growing impatient with their slooooow progress pulling it all together. But I empathize with their Big Company challenges, which I'm sure play a part in that. Here are a few Yahoo-ish places for the interested to begin:

The Flickr World Map Flickr's geo features kick ass.
Yahoo Trip Planner So much potential in this app, c'mon, work it Yahoo!
ZoneTag If you're a mobile user, you'll like this.
TagMaps Killer tech here, c'mon Yahoo, use it!
Dan Catt's Geobloggers site Stop teasing and tell us what you're doing.

For a dark horse in this space, head on over to Slovenia for a look at TripTracker.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Kitty said what?

New favorite trashy video around the house:

This is fantastic. Meow, meow, ...meow-meow!

End of the road?

End of the road, originally uploaded by aefitzhugh.

K2 Zed 4.0. I used up the rest of my REI rebate on my first new mountain bike in ~20 years. I haven't ridden my road bike since Mia was born one year ago, I may never return to the road now! Besides the lack of time that comes with a newborn, it seems some poor cycling soul is run down every week now in the Bay Area. I have enough fun things to do in life than to deal with that.

My previous mtb is the only one I've ever owned. As crappy as it was (a Performance store brand, feels like 40 pounds, even has a hole in one of the welds!), it went to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado with a former teammate in its younger days. Hard to believe how crappy it is compared to this one.

I've never even ridden with shocks or disk brakes before, I've been in a time warp!

Andy McKee - Official Website - Andy

Long vacations are nice. They allow you to lose touch with all your local news, and life slows down to a more natural and comfortable pace. But how often have you discovered, long after the fact, that some noteworthy person died while you were so disconnected, but you never heard about it? This has happened to me a couple of times. The notable person dies, there is a brief burst of news about it, but by the time you've returned it is all over. It can be 6 months, a year!, before you find out, and then when you do it is oddly stunning. How could that famous person who I am so familiar with have been gone all this time, and everybody knows, and I was completely unaware of it until now?

This happened to me recently when a long time, well known local newscaster died. We were on the east coast for 10 days, he died the day we left, and by the time we got back there was nary a sign he was gone. I only read an offhand reference to his passing two weeks after we returned, and wow, I was stunned.

This same thing happened to me with my guitar hero, Michael Hedges. I'd seen several of his shows, owned all his albums, etc. After I brought up Hedges in a dinner conversation one night, lacking the expected somber tones, my colleague asked, "You do know that Michael Hedges died in a car crash, don't you?" I was floored. How could such a notable passing occur without my hearing about it?

I remember all this after getting shunted to YouTube today by some random link, where I came across Andy McKee, the second coming of Michael Hedges. Hedges came before online video, and even sitting up close at a small show I could never quite make out just *how* he could sound like three guitarists playing at once. Andy McKee has a series of videos on YouTube that gets me that much closer. Apparently these videos have led to his discovery by the masses, no orchestrated marketing by record executives involved.

He says a bit about this on his website, Andy McKee - Official Website - Andy:
IC: Your videos really exploded in popularity late last year, and have now received millions upon millions of views! What kind of an impact did all the publicity have on your career?

McKee: It's been stunning to say the least. I had been teaching guitar for the last 10 years but recently stopped due to all of these gig opportunities. I was on the late night show Last Call with Carson Daly back in February. Someone there had seen the YouTube videos and emailed me. I recorded a tune for Josh Groban's next album in late April. He was really a nice guy - unreal voice. Apparently he saw my videos while on his tour bus in Arizona! I performed in England, Germany, and Austria a couple months ago, and will be in Portugal in June, Canada this summer, Japan in September. The impact has been huge on my life to say the least. CD sales are going strong as well as transcriptions. I'm really living my dream, making a decent living playing music! It's all I've wanted to do since the age of about 14.
Check out the videos! Start here:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Scott Adams on... web design?

Scott Adams is a geek, so should we be surprised that he has taken to the Web better than any other cartoonist? I've long read his blog not only for its general hilarity, but also for the candid insights into a famous cartoonist's life. Recently he has been running the blog version of a reality show, where he mentors a wannabe cartoonist to make it big. This has been fascinating stuff and I liked today's more than ever.

The Dilbert Blog: Basic Instructions, Part 6:
There are only about a hundred jokes in the universe. All humorists recycle them with their own twists and characters. In this case, you’re seeing a variation of “advice that makes things worse.” Scott’s twist on it is great because doing a bad job calming a child is naturally worse than doing a bad job at most other things. His setup does half of the work. That’s how he can find four separate humor points on one setup.

I took that same excellent setup and put it in an office setting. By featuring Dilbert, there’s a lot I don’t have to explain to the reader. You already know Dilbert has no skill in dealing with people, much less children. And you know his impulse for honesty and quantifying things causes him trouble. I don’t need words to describe any of that.

Click to enlarge How_to_calm_child

Using familiar characters, in familiar situations, makes humor work more easily.
Wow, is that class A instruction or what? He whipped up an illustrative example on the spot to demonstrate the point, awesome. So I'm not a cartoonist, but I like his punchline, "familiar characters in familiar situations makes humor work more easily," because it applies to many other processes that have nothing to do with comic strips or humor. Think about this in the context of building a successful web site: once you've established a familiar context with your users, what advantages do you accrue?

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Huffington Post Allows Top Commenters To Become Bloggers - Publishing 2.0

In The Huffington Post Allows Top Commenters To Become Bloggers - Publishing 2.0, Scott Karp tells how The Huffington Post is now allowing top commenters to become featured bloggers. He then asks,
What do you think?
I think this may completely change the dynamics of commenting on the site as the reward for commenting has changed dramatically. Now that there is a specific, external reward, we should see new behaviors emerge as a result of seeking that reward.

The question is, will this improve the quality of the Huffington Post to readers? If comments become skewed somehow as a result of efforts to become featured, I don't think so. We can only wait to see what develops.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blurring of content/ads, and magazines/books

What does it say when the latest issues of fashion mags are over 70% ads, and hundreds of pages long? It tells me that ads are legitimate content that readers are willing to pay for. It also tells me that number of pages is not what distinguishes a magazine from a book. The author below even makes an offhand reference to these mags as "fashion books"!

Advertising Age - MediaWorks - It's Another Sweet September for Fashion Mags [Emphasis mine]:
The September Vogue shot up like the champion should, clocking 727 ad pages for a gain of more than 100 -- helped only a bit by this year's CondeNast-wide Fashion Rocks insert, which is 15% thicker than last year's. The number of ad pages ranges, depending on the title, from 75 to 100.

Not surprisingly, given the spending strength in the accessories category this past year, the other fashion books were fat as well. W, Vogue's sibling at CondeNast, racked up 477 ad pages, improving over last September by 85 pages. Elle, part of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., nabbed 398 ad pages for September, up 27 from last September, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. Time Inc.'s In Style matched Elle at 398, a gain of 33 pages. Harper's Bazaar from Hearst is running 360 ad pages in its September tome -- the largest issue the title's ever published -- for a gain of about 48 pages. And Glamour, though not as strict a fashion play as the others, has 285 ad pages in September, up 10.
These are numbers for fall issues that are not necessarily representative of the rest of the year. But one still might ask, is any editorial content required in these magazines? My instinct tells me that nobody would buy these mags if they were 100% ads, yet it is clear that 85% is ok. What is the curious power of 15% editorial content that turns a catalog one expects for free into a magazine that one would pay for?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Externalizing my blog presence

Not that anyone could tell from this blog, but I've been actively blogging for several years -- on my internal blog at work, sequestered behind a firewall, basically invisible to the real world. A disk crash on my internal server, and my ultimate inability to get MovableType back up and running, could be the final bit to push my blogging outside the firewall for good.

The one thing that kept me going behind the firewall was the relatively free reign I had to comment on company confidential subjects, often critically, without having to worry about ruffling feathers in public. I'm not sure that I'm committed to cease those kinds of posts, but I am committed to thinking them over more thoroughly now :-).