Thursday, April 30, 2009

Recent Reads

A few fun recent reads, as April draws to a close.

Clay Shirky takes it to some idiots who should know better. This is my favorite kind of piece. I only hope I will never be on the receiving end of one...

TimeWarner may spin off AOL, finally. A strong starting point to the article, by Tim Arango, "an untangling of what many consider one of the worst mergers in American corporate history." Ha! Synergy, take that. I read Nina Munk's Fools Rush In, which was a blast and so, so sad. (Aside, there are actually a lot of books with that title, which explains why all/most of them have subtitles.)

Also, two amusing post by Tycho over at Penny Arcade (post one and post two), bemoaning online discourse, although to use the word is to sully it. (Oh now look I'm writing like Tycho.)

Wait wait, what in the world is that? As I edit this post, there is a tab up above, "Monetize". Posting, Settings, Layout, Monetize. What does Google think this is, 1999?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Academic Reviews

I am reviewing a piece for NMS. The last time I submitted to NMS they got back to me in six months with no comments and it was a complete waste of time, I swore I would never submit to them again. Now they say they have a three week turn around on reviews. Ha.

But, I was about to Google for papers similar to the one I am reviewing, to see if this subject has been covered recently in the same way (no, I do not know every academic paper out there, no one does), or if there is a paper that the author should cite but didn't, and realized I might encounter the paper as a conference presentation, and that would be bad because reviews should be blind.

So, I stopped there, since it really seemed like an untenable situation.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

To Save a TV Show, Don't Watch TV

I like this article over at Slate, Want To Save Your Favorite TV Show? Stop watching it on television, by Chadwick Matlin. Discusses how, unless you are a Nielsen household, no one has any idea that you are watching a TV show on TV... Unless you are watching a TV show online. Hulu? iTunes? They know. Suddenly your viewing preferences count. I am sure there is some decent discussion of samples and sampling in the survey out there somewhere. (It is a very technical issue, I've seen a Forrester senior analyst misinterpret the representativeness of a sample. Tisk.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bentham on Rights

Bentham - yes, that Jeremy Bentham, him of Wired fame for his Panopticon idea - did indeed, I have just learned, have other ideas. Other, amazing, ideas. Thanks, Nick Kristof!

One of the few exceptions was Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher who 200 years ago also advocated for women’s rights, gay rights and prison reform. He responded to Kant’s lack of interest in animals by saying: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”
Clearly, that is great.

A.P. Still in 1999

So, the A.P. has a YouTube channel with its content, but apparently some people at the A.P. don't understand what YouTube is. If this were 1999, it would be funny.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Old Media + New Tech = Disruption!

Newspapers are all after Google for including snippets of their news, or something. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The Author's Guild is all over Amazon for text-to-speech in the Kindle

Reminds me of, well, everything. The radio powers (initially AM) suppressing FM technology (which was better) so as to protect their AM investments. The TV establishment fighting cable TV and the VCR until they could profit from them (I cannot resist the "Boston Strangler!" comment, who can, it is perfect). Newspapers hating the internet. Oh wait that's where we still are!

Established powers like the status quo, it's what sustains them, even if they draw on a formerly disruptive technology. They always seek to stop challenges in any way possible, and when consumers make it very clear they would use something new, the established powers seek to destroy it, often legally. Eventually if they can they co-opt the new technology, but that doesn't always happen. 

Challenge is opportunity. Embrace it (but not like an anaconda would).

Economists Rejoice!

Apple's iTunes Music Store now has different prices for different songs. Someone please do a paper. Do lower prices increase purchasing and still raise revenues (where is the optimal price?), and do higher prices on new songs not reduce purchases too much while still increasing revenues? That's the bet. Let's see what happens.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Recent Work

I've been doing a bit of work for Tiplet. The Mac is so easy, it's somewhat difficult to come up with user tips. Antivirus? Nope, don't need it. Registry corruption? Nope. Everything is pretty straightforward, actually. And it's Unix. Ease of use with industrial strength. Nice.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Quote of the Day

“We don’t do advertising at all. We don’t believe in advertising,” says Raju Vegesna, a Zoho marketing executive.

(From Small Company Offers Web-Based Competition for Microsoft Word, By Randall Stross.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Digital Disruption

Two articles in the NYT this morning, both of which are completely aggravating.

First, Times Co. Said to Consider Closing Boston Globe.
The New York Times Company has threatened to close The Boston Globe unless labor unions agree to concessions like pay cuts and the cessation of pension contributions, according to a person briefed on the talks.
Seriously, "a person"? I thought the Times has a no-anonymous source rule.

Sounds like it's just posturing, but that they would make such a threat shows the lows to which the newspaper industry has sunk (if only they understood it's not about newspaper anymore, but news is still important).

The Times bought the Globe in 1993 for its color presses, and proceeded to make the Globe a lousy paper (imho) so it wouldn't compete with the Times. Well, that's my take on it anyway, I used to enjoy reading the Sunday Globe but in the last several years it has been terrible. There used to be a great Op/Ed section, but no more.

The Globe seemed to do a semi-decent job with, but, not perfect.

The second article, Google’s Plan for Out-of-Print Books Is Challenged, is far more annoying. 

Books that are out of print and will never be printed again and that are orphaned, are perhaps a problem. (This is also a problem in the software world.) Perhaps they are so bad they are unreadable, useless. But they are still part of the greater meta-library of ideas of humanity. Copyright still applies to them, but for some reason I never totally understand the rights holder is essentially unknown. If the author died.... Then what? Does the law give us guidance? If the publisher shut down... Then what? Seems weird. Typically authors maintain copyright over books. Finding heirs of the deceased can be tricky.

But Google is trying to put a bunch of these books online. Typical furor ensued. 

If Google doesn't do it, who will? That is my question. And complaining about high prices for database access, or, more accurately, prices that may become high, seems odd since librarians should be all up in arms about the ridiculous prices that they have to pay for journal articles (some are).

Addendum: I've said before that the NYT's best work is in their blogs, and this expansion of the Google and orphan works piece is no exception. Much better, more points of view, and many links. I find it somewhat amusing that the Harvard libraries director (private university) is against the agreement, while the Michigan library dean (public university) is for it. Most University of Michigan libraries are open to the public to some extent (except the law library always caused trouble in that department).

Friday, April 3, 2009

Blast From The Past: 1997, WebTV

12 years certainly does allow for some perspective, although people were insane in 1997 before the dot-con bubble burst (no "con" was not a typo). 

From Microsoft Took WebTV Risk, Despite Loss, by Steve Lohr, May 5, 1997.
WebTV's under-the-hood technology was probably the real lure for Microsoft, says Roger McNamee of Integral Capital Partners, an investment firm. Imagine the day when HDTV, he adds, becomes affordable and popular, with Microsoft charging the manufacturers a license fee of, say, $50 a set for the software that brings the Internet to those souped-up sets.
Well, HDTV is affordable and popular. Microsoft has the Xbox360... Sony's PS3, Apple's Mac TV approach, we have Boxee, Tivo, DVRs, even open source DVRs (Myth). I could go on about other parts of the ecosystem (like, Hulu). The internet is not currently the best delivery system for HDTV (digital cable, satellite, blu-ray...), even though I get both my internet and TV over the same cable.

I hate when analysts say dumb things.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fox Misses Opportunity With Wolverine Leak

Piracy Puts Film Online One Month Before Open from the NYT.

The short version is that the Fox lawyers are all freaking over the fact that they still can't control human behavior through technology (DRM, anyone?) and law (DMCA anyone?) because someone leaked a pre-final version of the movie Wolverine onto the internet.

So, their response is to freak out and worry that the "untold thousands of people" who watched it won't like it since it wasn't the final version. If someone is going to watch an unpolished version on a small screen, don't you think they will want to watch the real thing? (Unless it is really horrible, that is, but whose fault is that?)

This is a missed opportunity for Fox. (Idiots.)

Run an ad. Lawyers (white guys in suits) running around, throwing paper into the air, yelling in panicked tones, "It leaked! It leaked! The internet!" Then have a calm person with all of that in the background, face the camera (like Alec Baldwin in the Hulu ads), and say "Thousands of people wanted to see Wolverine so much, they grabbed an unfinished version from the internet. Unfinished! Missing special effects! Can you imagine what the final cut must be like?" (Or something like that, I don't usually write advertising.)