Archive for the 'society' Category

Net neutrality and a hint of outrage

December 10, 2007

In response to the article on “Net Neutrality” posted on Wired’s website:
In Test, Canadian ISP Splices itself into Google homepage

For those Rogers Internet Customers that happen to read this which are “Ok” with being notified that your ISP will be charging you more because you have reached your download cap, two things:

1.) God bless me if I ever have to keep track of the amount of content that is downloaded. I am cool with ‘minutes’ on my cell phone and tracking my energy consumption at home. I am sure that the day will come (read ‘Being Digital‘) when I am charged for the amount of Internet – I hope it is not in the near future, and I hope that I am really rich when it happens because I use the Internet a lot.

2.) The issue at hand here is not that the ISP is trying to contact you, it is the mechanism in which they are doing it. If we allow information from websites to be modified (for any reason) we will enter what many deem to be a slippery slope. Where does it end?

If you are all OK, with Rogers modifying the content from a web page, then you will more than likely be OK if Rogers created a nice little desktop application that you could install. The application could sit in your systray and notify you when you are getting close to your cap. Presumably this application could be built into a Toolbar option (for the more sophisticated users) similar to the new toolbars present in the Flock Web browser.

This approach achieves the same goal but in a less intrusive way.

Leaving the HTML alone is something that should be regulated and there should be stiff penalties against modifying original sources.

What about Syndication?
Now, with that said – the sticky side to Net neutrality. What about RSS and other languages used to syndicate content. What to do with these.

My view – the published web page retrieved from the registered URL should remain untouched. That is, if Google publishes content at http://www.google.com that content should be deemed “untouchable”. It, like other publicly available sources, remains part of the Google domain of ownership much like say a book.

Syndicated content should fall under this same ruling. Where it gets difficult is when you talk about aggregations. I believe users should be able to slice up content as they see fit (i.e. if a feed has 10 links I should be able to show only 5 of these, as long as I do not modify the individual content – link, title, date, description). If I want to reorder these or combine them with other links I should be able to do so.

I think complexities like this will prevent a binding Net neutrality law but we should set social guidelines and live by them even if there is no legislation.

Blogged with Flock

Will “the writer’s” strike kill network television

November 26, 2007

Sometimes innovation is introduced by accident. On other occasions innovation has been purchased. We sometimes see innovative ideas spread through grass roots efforts and on some occasions, we see innovation because of unique opportunistic changes.

Take this writers strike. Many of us are still baffled by the fact that all three major networks and all 1 billion (seems like it anyways) other networks are so radically affected by one group of people. I know that this strike represents the power of unions (the AFLCIO is one of our customers so I know all about unions) and I am all about unions. However, I am not so sure that a strike by this powerful union and the early demise of the 2007 prime time television season is such a good idea.

One of the items that the writers guild is complaining about is that they do not receive fair compensation from the sale of DVD’s and the revenue sharing for shows that are aired over the Internet.

I have spent some quality time with Joost recently (4 days off with friends and family that you have not seen in a while – a long with some late night quality time with friends) and I have to say that I am impressed.  The idea is not all that innovative except that the content is offered exclusively over the Internet.  Essentially, they have “channels” where you can find different content.  They have content ranges from comedy to sports and almost everything else in between.  I am not sure exactly how many channels by they claim to have over 15,000 episodes.  Now granted some of these “episodes” are one minute long and it can be difficult to find quality episodes that last more than 10 minutes but here are a few things me and my family enjoyed over the weekend:

  • 3 full length Snowboard movies
  • several 20 minute extreme sports shows from “MuchMusic” – a content provider for mainstream television
  • Season one episodes of the original Transformers (Mikull – you have to see it)
  • Videos of all the latest songs from MTV and other stations
  • David Letterman’s top 10 lists (great for last call)

If you want to watch last weeks Patriots game or the MLS championship you may not be in luck but the model represents an interesting shift in entertainment.  Much like YouTube but only better quality.  My Joost watching was done on a 27 inch Westinghouse HD LCD TV and at full screen it had no problems.  The shows are “interrupted” with a very small advertisement (about 1/64th of the screen) in the bottom hand corner of the screen.  And since the user can be targeted (hello targeted ads again) the advertisements can be sold for more, they can be more relevant (no more feminine product ads during my viewing time).
Remember when you were a kid (if you grew up in the 70’s and 80’s) and all you had was 4 channels?  You still watched it. I think that this new medium (the Internet – he he) is really in it’s infantile stages. There are new “tools” popping up every day.  I just looked at the new product from Adobe called the Adobe Media Player.  Although the name and interface are lame and the content is lammer, it did have streaming HD and it was very quick – not so good at full screen but pretty good.

Now I can’t say for sure that I will be using Joost every day but I can say that at a time when there will be sparse new content on the old school media (good bye TV) I can say that I will be looking elsewhere for my entertainment.  The Writer’s Guild better be sure that I don’t find something very interesting or they may have walked themselves right of a job.

Using new media to drive decisions for old media

November 20, 2007

I was in Portland last week talking with a few people who really understand this video:

I saw this video about 6 months ago (maybe longer since I never really know what day it is) but I haven’t seen it in a long time. Since I returned from Portland I have seen the advertisement 4 times (and I have watched a total of 3 hours of television).

Two things I know:

1.) Advertisements often repeat many times in a single segment – Ok cool.

2.) The old media has not caught up with new media this fast – i.e. – The television shows that I watched since I returned are not “aware” that “I” actually watched this video. In fact that would be even more phenomenal since I watched the video in Portland on Thursday and returned to Massachusetts on Saturday. (Somday – but not today)

However, this brings up a good point. What if FedEx was smart. What if FedEx had created a program that could scour social media sites – YouTube, Break.com, VodPod etc… to find all media posted about FedEx. Certainly, they would have to manually massage the list but when they were finished they would have a perfect dataset on how many times their commercials were watched.

Then with this data, they could determine which of their expensive (and probably not so expensive) commercials were most successful. Then if they saw a sudden spike in the number of times a particular ad was played in the new medium, then they could return that ad into the rotation in the old medium.

Or, maybe (the more likely story – unfortunately) the writer’s strike is forcing everyone – including commercial makers – to go back to the content that made them successful in the past.

We need to increase the rate at which we consume information

October 23, 2007

I am not talking about Matrix style information consumption (although that would be cool) but one of the biggest problems with the overload of information that we are in the midst of is that we are governed by old information presentation models.

Sentences, paragraphs, headings etc… have been the common tools we use to present information. Take a blog post for example. Very straight forward (I am shacked by the common layout formats myself). In most cases we present information on the Internet much the same way we would present it in a book.

We need to rethink this. Some will argue that we don’t present content in the same way that we do in books. They might say, “…but, Ron, we use flash and video and other techniques to get our points across”. They would be correct. Good content is delivered over the Internet using rich media, which is cool for those talented designers that can move in and out of Photoshop and Flash, the same way I do with a web browser.

But what about the rest of us. Those that can’t whip up nice graphics and movies whenever we want. How can we present information in a better way?

Robert Scoble thinks:

We have too much great content.

And Steve Rubel thinks that we are headed for an:

Attention Crash.

I think Steve and Robert are both correct. But what I think we need is a new way to communicate ideas. Not with text and lengthy paragraphs or run on sentences, but with something else.

I believe that we were headed here anyways. We add thousands of books a year (good books) yet on WordPress alone there were:

1,682,684 blogs with 15,713 new posts today.

We don’t need a fancy publisher to put content out there.  We simply write.  We are not reaching the amount of people that the Times Best Seller writers reach, but if you look at the world of content it is growing at an alarming rate.  The result of this is that eventually all of this “good” content will eventually go to waste.  Hopefully not.

If we don’t produce a way to “rip” through our “good” content in a faster way, we will miss the opportunity to truly capitalize on this great medium.

Commentary: 110% is not a bad thing

October 9, 2007

I want to comment on a post I read today, by what I would consider to be an expert in the field of Ajax and Web Development in general. I ran across this post today while I was searching for some help on a Spry problem that I was having and it was completely ironic.

The post is called ‘Don’t Give 110%…‘ and it goes into saying:

I would rather have a steady concerted effort than a stressed out push full of mistakes. I want someone on my team who can give me 100% of their effort on a consistant basis rather than someone who gives 80-90% (or less), consistantly, then tries to push the last little bit with a “110%” effort.

Definitely some some sound advice from someone who I am sure “consistently” 😉 gives 100% all of the time. When I first started reading the post I was a bit taken a back. Who in their right mind would ever ask for someone not to give them %110. I was about to comment on his blog how that was a rather strange post for someone who is considered a “leader” in the field (at least within the Spry Framework field) when I remembered why I was there.

I found myself at this spot because I was having difficulty with a particular bit of Ajax code I was working on for our new demo site set to release with our product. It worked fine in Firefox but not in IE and so when I searched for help I “stumbled upon” his blog post and was intrigued.

As the day wore on (and I eventually found my problem) I realized that at one angle he has a point. But I think that it needs to be clarified at least.

What I define as 100% and what someone else might define as 100% are totally different things. When I do something I like to do it right. I pay attention to detail. I enjoy the finer parts of complete analysis and thorough execution. However, when you are a perfectionist, something is never really “done”. So how does one define 100% on a solution to a problem or execution of a project that could always be a little bit better.

What is 100% in todays hyper sensitive, uber-attention filled days. Is it participating in a project without any distractions from outside noise? Is it focusing constantly on the problem until you solve it (assuming there is a solution). Don’t know.

I can tell you this: What I was having a problem with (which consumed nearly 45 minutes of my day – and distracted one other individual for more than 10 of those) was a stupid error caused by what I can only imagine could be defined as “fatigue”.

So is my “giving 110%” causing my performance to go down? I am taking on too many projects with little time to complete them to 100% – maybe.

Or, am I a looking at executing my tasks at 110% of my capabilities all the time, whether I spend 1 minute or5 hours. Giving 110% is not only subjective it is relative.

We are not in Kansas anymore

October 4, 2007

Do a search on “iphone bricking” on any major search engine or blog index site and you will see interesting results. I found these results:

Technorati: “117 blog posts”
Sphere: “27 blog posts”
Digg: “3 pages of articles” – (they don’t seem to show numbered results )
Techmeme: Ranges of articles from September 27, 28, 29 including a headline article posted on September 29, 2007 entitled “IPhone Re-Reviewed (Verdict: Don’t Buy)” which has received thousands of Diggs by readers.

There is even a Wikipedia page called “IBrick” which speaks to this “phenomenon”. And although the article remains un-“wickified” it tells a story of todays technologies penetration on society.

I will be honest, while I may have made conclusions (and I am not one of the over 1 million IPhone owner’s) about what a “bricked” IPhone might look or act like, I was not sure what it meant until I began to read more. And as I look back on this particular decision by Apple to prevent 3rd Party applications on their IPhone, I can’t help but be amazed at how fast new terms and ideas are circulated amongst society.

Years ago (not so many) only a select few people knew what HTML was. Today the word (or acronym as it may be seen) is pretty well known in society. We even use it in our product’ marketing messages to “non-technical” people. And while most people will admit that they can not write HTML, most will tell you they understand what it is.

I am certainly not saying that all 1 million IPhone users understood that on September 27, 2007 when they turned their IPhone on that it may be “bricked”. However there were certainly people aware that there was something wrong when they woke up that morning. More than likely, the IPhone users who did have problems (not sure how many) began looking on the Internet to determine the cause. And more than likely they read a few of the blog posts that surfaced that morning which began to coin the phrase “IPhone Bricking”

And so as stories of the IPhone Bricking incident surface and take hold, I find it fascinating how a group of individuals connected through technology can spread an idea or thought in a common fashion. Like the old game telephone, only faster.

IM vs. E-mail

September 26, 2007

I really do hate IM. Not because I use it for more than 80% of the time, but because it is so annoying. Wait a minute, did I say “IM”? I meant E-mail. Sorry for the confusion. I love IM. Way better than E-mail (at least for most things). Don’t get me wrong, if I received as many IM’s in a day as e-mail’s I would really never get anything done.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the new communication world. I use Twitter (sort of) and I have an active Facebook account, I love LinkedIn and more than 75% of my IM list are either people that I work with directly or users of our software CommonSpot. And you know what, I really don’t mind.

I look at the people that I IM for work as “my” community. Those individuals that don’t have to wait for e-mail. If I am there, and I am not busy then let’s go for it. Get it out of the way. The great thing about it is, the people that I IM know when to IM and when to E-mail. And it is not like it is some written rule like we agreed: “Subjects that begin with A and B are E-mail material while, X through Z are IM … got it?”. It is understood.

E-mail me with the details of the proposal that you need or the contact information for that person that you need me to talk to. IM me when I haven’t done it in 4 days. Or when you have a quick question and just need to know if there is an answer out there. IM me when you are interested in how I am doing or what I have been up to (although I am relying on Twitter to handle the day to days from now on). Don’t send me lengthy IM’s and don’t send me short E-mails.

One might think that with “clients” online at all time (10 or so are on right now) that I spend most of my time IM’ing. In fact, I don’t. However, there are a few things about IM that make the interruptions “bearable”.

1.) I don’t have to answer… more often than not, a failed IM is _not_ followed up by an email. Either they found what they were looking for, or after some thought realized that it was not important (Note: I don’t miss a _lot_ of IM messages =)

2.) I can talk to more than one person at a time… It is not uncommon to have 3 or 4 conversations going at time. Although I prefer one open channel at once, my brain can handle many topics at a time. (Gets tricky when you accidentally post to your wife that you think the proposal looks good and you hope they like the numbers)

3.) Makes reading e-mail a bit easier… if you have a question that requires a 2 second response, don’t take up space in my inbox (I only get 500MB which is very difficult to maintain these days – even with auto archive set to ‘on’)

4.) I feel more in touch with people – but not too in touch… when the tables are turned and I need something or I want to say thanks, it is a less intrusive way to say so. Don’t stop what you are doing, but let me tell you something…

5.) People feel more in touch with me – but not too in touch… when the see me on line and the want to just say hi, it is better than e-mail. I have had 2 hour conversations over IM (while watching TV or doing other work).

I am not saying that IM is the answer to this communication problem we have these days. However, I am saying, that it has a place. It fits right in between E-mail and the Phone. In some respects it is even better than the phone. Try having 4 phone conversations at the same time. Can’t happen.

The E-mail Post

September 7, 2007

I have been thinking about this a lot and I am sure that I am not going to get this out in one post.  I am however officially fed up with E-mail.  I am so fed up that I am no longer going to refer to it in its supposedly grammatically correct form “E-mail” or “E-Mail” instead it will be called “The ill communicator”(email) for short.  It doesn’t really even deserve a hyphen.

I have been using a couple of other communication devices heavily over the past 6 months to a year:

IM – for both work and pleasure (but actually mostly work)
Text Messaging – mostly with my wife (who actually is quite fond of text messaging now)
Twitter – Ok don’t ask.  If you don’t know … I can’t help
Facebook – this is more of a time sync for me than any of the above
Blog – goodness it’s been a long time since I have been here

I have used Facebook and Twitter to get some feed back on E-mail.  Using the “Questions” application in Facebook I asked the following question:

“What is an appropriate length for an email?”

While I did not get an optimal response (only 2 people answered it) they echoed some of the sentiments that I have.

Too much text in an email equals 2 things:

1.) Delayed Response – if I have to sit and think for more than 20 seconds when I am reading your email then I am probably not going to respond quickly.
2.) No Response – it is quite possible that I may never respond to emails that are more than 2 paragraphs.

One of my friends sent me this link which I thought was interesting:

Rising Email Immunity Leads to Conflict in Email Etiquette

It was actually one of the most poignant Blog posts that I have read in a while.  It talks about the changes that are going on in the world around communication.  How we are soo connected.   I know people that sit on top of their Inbox and “wait” for emails to come in.  They feel like they have completed tasks because they responded to their email.

I spent 45 minutes at 9:45 tonight going through my emails for the day.  It is like extra work, on top of my regular job. When I read that blog post it was like right on.  Many times I think that when I respond to someone’s 4 paragraph email with a sentence that I am being rude.  In my mind there are better devices to have a “conversation” with.  Email should be used for quick things like “Did you get that email I sent” and “Are you going to reply to my email”.

I am not saying that Twitter is the answer, I just think that we are all going to get to the point where email is just not sustainable.

This is illogical (Mr.) Spock

August 15, 2007

Spock LogoI recently had a discussion with a friend of mine about this web site called “Spock”. It is designed to provide easy searching for people. Essentially the site will query Facebook and LinkedIn and other Social Networking sites for information about a person. For instance, my page on Spock displays information from my LinkedIn site and some information from things that I have done (which they pass on to Google).

My main argument (originally) against the site this was not the information that it grabbed from my public facing profiles or information that i have written about, but rather the other tools provided by the site. If you look in the right column, you can do things like “Claim your profile”, “Upload a Picture” and “Add a Website” (among others).

This took me back to the old Yahoo days when you had to register your site for the search engine. Placing it in categories that you felt applied. Originally, you could plaster your site in many categories, eventually they only allowed you to post to a few categories at a time (catching on to the cross-posting for exposure). My feeling was that this site would not promote true organic growth. By adding to this site, the information was much like Facebook or MySpace in that “I” produced the content. Not very organic.

What would I wasn’t aware of was a little “trick” Spock played on unsuspecting Facebook people (found here):

These kids have a few things in common: They, along with 12,000 other people, recently downloaded a “Mad Libs”-like Facebook application and wrote stories about themselves and their friends, filling the blanks with scandalous terms.

But they didn’t realize the application was created by Spock, which debuted last week. And they were horrified to discover that Spock used the terms they supplied to build public profiles on them and other Facebook members. (After being contacted by Wired News, Spock erased the tags from many of these profiles, but some were still visible at press time.)

So when these people started filling out this application to be funny (and many high school kids did), the Spock website listed that information as “fact”. Very embarrassing! And not a great way to make a first impression.

I can now say that not only is this site not Organic, it is not professional. I do not see Spock catching on.

Let the “targeted advertisement” race begin

August 13, 2007

I have been anxiously awaiting this day. My Space has begun a “targeted ad” campaign which if successful, I think will revolutionize the advertising world. The benefits of targeted advertisements is simple:

Deliver more meaningful advertisements

It is a fact of life that quality content must either be paid for (Cable channels) or supplemented through advertisements (Network). We have been living with advertisements on television since it’s inception. Although TV/Cable content providers have become more intelligent about their ad placements (My wife does not understand half of the humor displayed in the advertisements during a Football game on Sunday), there was no real way to determine who was watching television.

Enter “Cookies” – no not your mom’s chocolate chip cookie. Imagine the Nielsen Ratings group – only in EVERY household. Essentially every visitor to a web site can be tracked. And with sites like Facebook and MySpace your content retrieval habits can also be tracked. Imagine watching television and getting an advertisement that said: “Goes great with the new pair of brown pants you just bought last week from the store”. Freaky yes, but I would rather have this ad then a bunch of ads completely unrelated to what I am looking for.

Targeted advertisements hold the key to increased click-through rates and even higher completion rates (someone actually purchases). I know this topic represents a mixed bag – but I think that this is the best thing to happen to the Internet. Among its benefits:

  • Potential for less advertisements – key concept here is that the websites sprinkle a ton of advertisements in hopes that one of them is clicked
  • Advertisements are more successful – no more campaigns with unknown return value
  • Freak the hell out of your Mom – ha- no seriously, though, remember the Minority Report? Imagine an ad directed towards your mom? I know mine would freak out. “How’d they know that I just remodeled my kitchen”?

There are certainly some challenges and I think that the general privacy community will certainly have problems with statements like this:

If someone’s been identified as someone who’s interested in fashion, we target ads to them that have nothing to do with fashion, and then ads that would direct them to say, the MySpace fashion channel.”

How do they determine someone is “interested in fashion”. Do they look at my MySpace messages? At my “Blog” posts? Surely someone will want a public deceleration of the data collection policies used to determine the targeted advertisements.

At any rate – we are on our way, so we shall see!