Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Just installed Google Web Accelerator

I just downloaded/installed Google WebAccelerator, which is available for Windows systems running IE 5.5+ and/or Firefox 1.0+ - installing the utility actually implements in both browsers, if resident on a PC. It appears to have addressed an earlier concern. To my surprise it's a browsing optimizer for broadband connections. As for how it works, there's a brief description upon installation (full profile here):
I'm browsing now during my ISP's peak time, and visiting some fairly HTML and image-intensive sites, and it seems to handle images a bit better. Once cached, pages load at lightspeed. I still find Opera to be faster for raw pages right out of the gate, but this is nice.

Economies of scale let me enjoy new media more

An epiphany hit me just now, making me aware of why I enjoy new media apps so much more than traditional media. With blogs, podcasts, e-books, webcasts and whatnot most of the content is accessible anywhere and free, so skipping/skimming through content is no big thing. If something doesn't reach out and grab me, I pass it by and I feel no regret.

With paid magazine subscriptions, going out to the movies, rentals, etc. I feel guilted into consuming each bit of information all the way through - editor's notes, each column, watching the entire flick, to justify me investment to myself.

And the volume of new media I can consume in less time than traditional media means I get more out of it. Is it any wonder it's been ages since I've been to the newsstand?

28 Days Later: Sony knew of DRM rootkit snafu

I'm going to stop kissing Sony's ass for a minute and link to a BoingBoing post citing that Sony knew about the DRM rootkit problem nearly a month before it got out. Ouch.

FCC expected to OK a la carte pricing for TV channels

It's funny how cyclical life and business can get. CNN Money reports the FCC is expected to approve a la carte pricing for individual channels, instead of the bundled packages. This is making its way around the blogosphere will varied reactions...but I recall a time when this used to be the norm.

My mom took my sister and I in the early 80's to the cable company to sign up for The Disney Channel. Then in my teens, I got my dad HBO for Christmas. And Cinemax, Showtime and the like followed. These days you can get a ton of stuff on multiple derived tiers, like HBO, HBO2, HBO Family for a premium price. I've got all three and I never watch the latter two.

I'm in favor of the FCC's decision as it'll make enjoying exactly what I want and save me some money. But it's interesting how the more we apparently innovate, we revert to older processes.

Gale Sayers, Jim Brown, Barry Sanders...Dave Chappelle???

One of the beautifully tragic things of Dave Chappelle not returning for what would have been his third season of "Chappelle's Show" on Comedy Central was that he'll be forever immortialized for what he did without ever having gone downhill. The goofy kid from D.C. who I first saw in Mel Brooks' "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" created what was the funniest show on cable since "In Living Color".

Sure, we'll always wonder how much better his show could have become, but he never had a bad show or had to deal with ratings displaying diminishing returns over the years as the show spiraled downwards towards unprofitability. He went out - albeit unceremoniously - on his own terms.

And in so doing he shares a trait with some of the greatest pro sports running backs ever to grace the gridiron. Men like Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders - those who transcended the game and left at the height of their careers. We all wonder what could have been but smile at what was. It's not like music, where tragedy, disease, substance or unspeakable jealousy took from the world gifted artists, whose presence was beloved but absence in death made their talent legendary. People like John Lennon, Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. Dave's still around (sort of).

If he ever comes back in the near future, he'll be huge - a landmark media moment.

Mulling over a tag cloud app for KUAM.COM

I'm impressed with NewsCloud, the tag cloud mashup from Post Remix, a gallery of cool application hacks using The Washington Post's data. I'm thinking of doing something similar in ASP.NET 1.x - extracting keywords in my archives outside of a banned list (i.e., "the", "I", "is"), displaying them either graphically via GDI+ or warping their font size appearance with some clever array programming and HTML/CSS, displaying them in a Repeater or DataList.

It really would have no reliable purpose, other than to entertain people with random stories, or find stories they might not otherwise have gotten to be some kind of association. On second thought, this could be cool...

Could mobile Web browsers unseat IE's dominance?

Richard MacManus speculates on recent developments in the mobile browsing as possibly usurping Microsoft's leading position in the web browser space with IE. I had actually thought MS was doing alright with Pocket IE, which is a tremendous browser that does translation of desktop web content on microdevices really well. Palm's Blazer is also rock solid for accessing the web on a Treo, and Opera's got an app that enabled AJAX on wireless devices.

"Big Red One" blew me away

I rented Activision's "Call of Duty 2 - Big Red One" from Blockbuster over the weekend and was totally amazed. I saw the TV ad and thought the scenes used with either (1) mock-ups for TV that looked better than they actual render on the console, (2) an Xbox prototype, or (3) a cutaway from the cinematic vignettes. Not at all. The game's as good as advertised.

The game's action from the get-go in the first level, and I had to pause after twenty minutes to wipe the sweat from my brow out of fear the sniper position I'd taken with my squad would be found out.

This game is totally fun and stress-inducing. It's a must-get.

Legal issues aside, Irvin on tight ballot for Hall

Looking past the recent arrest of former Dallas Cowboys legend Michael Irvin's got a tough road ahead of him into Canton. Just the semifinalists are an all-time team. The list of 25 modern-day candidates for the HOF includes:
Art Modell (who once said the NFL has no place in Baltimore) is also on the list, but I doubt he'll make it...tension from old school Colts fans lingers.

As for Irvin's qualifications, he spent all eleven years of his career with the Lone Star on his helmet. He's got three world championships, was a perrenial Pro Bowl starter and all-pro, was money in the playoffs, and for a span of about five or six years was the second- or third-best receiver in the NFL, after Jerry Rice and Cris Carter and possibly before Reed. His trifecta of rings alone puts him ahead of the cadre - Thurman Thomas, Reed, The Snake, Dent, Monk (who along with Al Toon has been screwed for years) and Moon (a legend in his own right).

So who gets in? I say Aikman's guaranteed. Reverend Reggie only won a single Super Bowl, but his Defensive MVP trophies in '87, '91, and '95 give him the nod. Moon's title legacy is more CFL than NFL, but he did put up monumental numbers in Houston. If I had to choose between giving my vote to Thurman Thomas or Reed, TT would get the nod for his 1991 league MVP. And Monk, who won a pair of titles but outside of D.C. never gets the respect he deserves, is sorely due to don the gold jacket. So there's five, not counting Irvin.

So consider one seat still open for debate and toss it up between Reed, Monk and Irvin. Michael's got the championships going for him, but time spent waiting favors Monk. Reed won more consistently. I'm drawing blanks, but I'd say Irvin wins out. Slightly.

Again, I'm not sure on how his arrest will impact sportswriter voting, but the rings count, plus the sympathetic vote for going in with Aikman. And say what you want about Irvin's broadcasting savvy, but that he's on people's boob tubes every week is also a minute advantage. This'll be an interesting balloting year.

And talk about being screwed...where the heck is Randall Cunningham in all this?

PSP firmware upgrade enables podcast support


I so have to get me a PSP this Christmas. The new v.2.6 firmware upgrade for Sony's PlayStation Portable includes RSS and WMA support, making it more and more of a Web 2.0 appliance (minus the embedded Flash and AJAX support in the web browser, that is). So let's see...now you can watch UMDs, enjoy copied DVR programming through TiVoToGo, watch local TV anywhere with LocationFree, copy media files, view PSP content on a TV...and oh yeah, play games, too.

Check out this link for sample data and info about RSS Channel.

Just now starting to get noticed

Since altering my blogging responsibilities almost three months ago, halting publication on my .TEXT blog and setting up my own domain with Blogger, I not surprisingly noticed that interactivity waned heavily. I was part of the .NET blogging community, so the large population of people actively using that site saw my stuff. When I went out on my own, I knew there would be a period of dormancy while the Web's WAIS services indexed my stuff and people updated their links for my URL and RSS feed.

I'm starting to get more rapid comments and e-mail from people now doing Technorati watchlists, Google searches, Memeorandum finds and permalinks to whom I've connected. I think I'm starting to get back up to speed of being recognized. Cool.

Injuries may force Dat Nguyen into retirement

I'd hate to see Dat Nguyen hang up his cleats. His bone-jarring hits and infectious enthusiasm have earned him the respect from fans nationwide. But the 30-year-old Nguyen, now in his seventh season out of Texas A&M, never a Pro Bowler but always a fan favorite and a Dallas defensive captain, may be forced to retire because of neck injuries from a stinger he suffered, plus nagging knee problems.

Unavailable on Monday, Dallas head coach Bill Parcells told the media Nguyen was considering retirement because he wouldn't be able to play up to his standards. Imagine that - in this day and age of contract holdouts, mind-blowing endorsement deals, shady agentry and inflated egos, the linebacker, the NFL's first player of Vietnamese descent, would rather quit playing the game and leave as a Cowboy than be traded, remain and underperform or ride the pine.

In the testosterone-laden NFL, Dat's shown the character of true man. He's effectively demonstrated his responsibility to his team and retained his pride.

Should he retire, he'll be missed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sports Illustrated drops the ball with lackluster RSS feeds

I mentioned previously how I prefer to read an entire article in Google Reader or LiteFeeds, my two primary RSS aggregator applications. Whether I'm at my desktop, on the move or on my phone, I don't want to be traversing the Web to read the content I so desperately seek. I just subscribed to Sports Illustrated's RSS feed and was really disappointed at the contents of each item description: "Read full story for latest details". Columnist contributions have a brief abstract, but news items implement the default message.

ESPN's feeds are a bit better, using a single sentence to describe the contained content. But it's still not enough. I need an snapshot or teaser, not a subtitle. SI's world-reknown for its stellar writing...the least they could do it give me a snippet or truncated portion of the piece.

Look, I realize that most enterprise-level, corporate publishing concerns are still of the Web 1.0 mentality that driving users to their public WWW property is the main concern, to retain ad exposures.
Many have only adopted RSS in the last few months, so I'll give them a pass. But this is ridiculous. That's fine and a in all likelihood I'll do that anyway if the article's intriguing. IF. But don't force me to do so just to determine such attractiveness. Doing so largely defeats the purpose of having a syndicated feed in the first place.

SI, an institution I've respected for decades as a young writer and now as a professional journalist, totally let me down this time.

Calculating the ROI for getting an MBA

Business 2.0 put together this neato list of costs involved with obtaining an MBA from some of the nation's more prestigious business schools. Gauge for yourself if taking about two years out of your life and dropping around $80,000 is worth it.

I see my alma mater isn't listed on the list.

LocationFree is now on my wish list

On my station's CBS channel tonight that network ran a really good tech news package about changes in television - notably watching TV over cell phones and via Sony's LocationFree, which I loved this morning. Guam's bandwidth still blows goats at the moment, so I doubt the latter would be a worthwhile investment, leading to throttling and compromised quality.

I'm sure the requisite pipe demands needed to run one of these $1,499 LF-X11 babies for decent viewing quality is realistically at least 3.5 Mbps. And that's dedicated bandwidth, doing nothing else, at non-peaktime. I've currently got 3.2 Mbps that scales back at night.

I'd get a LocationFree for my home viewing, and a SlingBox to keep tabs on my local news while traveling. Right tool for the right job, ya know?

Being a Sony product, it also works with the PSP (versions 2.50 or later). That kicks ass. Just one more reason I've got to get a PSP over a video iPod. Chalk this up on my list of gadgetry I'd have to get when I move to the mainland. Shoot, at least this stuff would work out here.

$100 MIT laptops will run Redhat / LeapFrog rule

I've been hearing a lot about the $100 laptops proposed by MIT, to be distributed to all children, but only decided to peruse the links now. The PCs are going to run Redhat's implementation of Linux, in keeping with the open source theme of the project. Apple had piched free copies of OS X, but it was turned down.

On that note, LeapFrog is da bomb. Several of my co-workers, in their late-20's and early-30's buy their kids these things, especially around this time. Their "toys" (I can't even bring myself to call them that, they're so useful) are really engineered well, and really do the trick of teaching kids. Were I a parent, I'd own stock and be a frequent customer. Must be how my parents felt about me getting a Nintendo.

Google wants to talk to me about improving video experience

I was really stoked to get an e-mail today from a Google engineer working on Google Video, thanking me for my input and wanting to setup time with me to discuss how I think the service should be extended. I've blogged obsessively about how much I like the service and shared my thoughts on improving the experience of watching user-submitted clips streamed online, so it's nice to get this type of reciprocity.

I'm very grateful for the opportunity and I'm revving with ideas to throw at them.

How to put Google Video clips on Blogger blog

Here's a great post about incorporating clips from Google Video clips on Blogger-based blogs:
  1. Copy the URL of the video page you want to link to.
  2. Save one of the screenshots from the video page.
  3. Create a post in Blogger and use the image tool to upload the screenshot you saved in the previous step.
  4. Edit the html of the image link in the post. Select the destination of the image link and paste in the Google video page URL as a replacement.

Photos of new TiVo data services


ZatsNotFunny's got some great screenshots (actually, digital shots of a TV screen) of the forthcoming applications from Yahoo!, Live365 and podcasting. These beta shots are really drool-inducing stuff.

Reading RSS in .NET DataSet not as easy you might think

I ran into a problem today when trying to use the .NET DataSet.ReadXml(string pathToXML) method to read-in the contents of an RSS feed. The relational nature of the DataTable objects within DataSets doesn't digest the replicated tags within RSS. This results in the offensive "The same table (xxxx) cannot be the child table in two nested relations" error being thrown.

I found a workaround that uses XSLT to get the data in an appropriate structure.

NBC mulling legal action against TiVoToGo

I find NBC's beef against TiVo for letting people transfer digitally-recorded programming to the PSP and iPod comical. There's a healthy dose of DRM to prevent file-sharing, which should be the main issue, not the copying of content. And when programs are copied into portable devices, the ads within remain intact, barring the user forwarding past them, What does NBC look to gain - a gag order preventing DVR capturing of its content?

Methinks the network doth complain too much. This is likely more a concern over rendering NBC's future plans in the VOD space obsolete than a genuine concern for intellectual property.

Firefox 1.5 launching with marketing blitz

Here's a novel concept: launch a web browser with a major mass media campaign. Firefox is gearing up to do just that, with v.1.5 eminent this week. Might this signal a shift in open source embracing mainstream media?

Sony LocationFree gives you local TV anywhere

I caught off Robin Good's blog that Sony LocationFree's going head-to-head with the SlingBox, in wirelessly streaming local TV programming to anywhere you have a broadband Internet connection. This is a market I've felt is going to be huge, once WiMax gets a little solid footing nationally so we won't have to worry about range issues for hotspots, and in convergence with other platforms like PC-based DVR-style recording.

Imagine that...you'll be able to bring your laptop to a buddy's house who doesn't have cable and watch the game. If you run the inputs into a projection device, you've got yourself a little makeshift theater.

Keep an eye on this...it's going to be big.

Memeorandum needs to follow sports blogs, too

I really enjoy Memeorandum, that's no secret (some even prefer it over getting RSS feeds through aggregators). But the one deficiency I find in it at the moment is the fact that it only tracks the politics and technology beats. I use Blogniscient to keep tabs on sports blogging activity, which is almost as health in terms of that corner of the blogosphere's size and frequency of posting.

Blogniscient even tracks the entertainment and business circuits. If Mighty Mem did the same, this would be sweet.

Forging partnerships with hardware vendors

One of the things we're going to be doing a lot more proactively in 2006 (and relying on other companies doing anyway) are promotions with established distributors across industry who can give away digital devices. KUAM is in the content generation/distribution business, so we don't largely get into buying 2,500 iPods to be given away. Certain local companies out there have and are doing this, so it helps increase accessibility to our multiplatform stuff.

We largely don't get into this business, but it's necessary. We need to rely on companies either giving away and/or bundling devices like the PSP, iPod, HDTV, broadband Internet access and more, empowering our audience by putting the devices in their hands and homes. It's the same dichotomy that the other side enjoys - if people are aware that they can download, store and playback our newscasts and specials on their portable MP3 players, they'll flock to an insurance company, supermarket or gas station who gives them away. It's a very healthy symbiosis.

Earlier this year I hard numerous stories about how one of our competitors was very enthusiastically giving away iPod Shuffles as part of a promotion. People told the representatives they were really happy to get the gadgets...so they could get our content. This drove them nuts.

Why do PDA phones have such sucky ringtones?

I used to host a weekly TV segment on technology, which is making a triumphant return this coming spring (please try and contain your enthusiasm). I've been given a ton of gadgets and gizmos to play with, evnluate and objectively review. One conclusion I've made after years of such testing is that for some inexplicable reason, all PDA phones have really lousy ringtones.

Go ahead and check yourself - Audiovox's Thera, some of the newer product lines running Windows Mobile 2003, even the almightly Treo's available ringtones just don't do it. Most use the obligatory cultural themes (samba, rhumba, polka), the expected classical pieces (Canon in D, Ode To Joy), and then various sound effects (old style phone ringing, a manufacturer's unique theme).

Go by your local mall sometime. There's always at least ten goofballs in the food court who irritatingly decides to listen to all of his ringtones sequentially, disrupting your meal.

I've come to the conclusion that the reason for the ringer impotence is a combination of unattractive tones themselves, packaged as outdated MIDIs, coupled with the fact that most PDA phones don't project their audio that loudly. So not only are the tones themselves unappealing, you largely have a hard time hearing them.

I'm not saying you have to ship units with AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" (currently my ringtone on my Motorola V710), just something more appealing. I guess this is what gives the booming ringtone market its traction. If anyone out there knows of any PDA phones with decent tones, drop me a line.

It's about time we had some.

Monday, November 28, 2005

LG and Microsoft Launch Stand-Alone DVR

Look out, TiVo - Microsoft and LG hooked to develop the 160GB LRM-590 Digital Media Recorder that can burn recorded programming to DVDs, and can playback audio and display images. The article didn;t say anything about the ability to copy content onto PSPs or iPods, so I'm wary at this point. And with the underlying OS being Microsoft Windows, I'm skeptical.

Will drug arrest cost Irvin a place in Canton?

I was shocked to learn of the arrest of Michael Irvin for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia (keep in mind the charges are not for usage, and Irvin claims the device, now identified as a crack pipe, wasn't his). This was supposed to be The Playmaker's year.

The bittersweet result of the former Cowboys wideout not making it into the NFL Hall of Fame last year on the first ballot with former nemesis quarterback Steve Young was that he could then be inducted this year alongside HIS quarterback, Troy Aikman. Both are currently semifinalists in a very competitive group.

My problem with the fallout that's going to ensue is that many of the sportswriters who comprise the Hall's selection committee are going to cop a moral elitist attitude and unfairly base Irvin's consideration solely on this recent arrest, compounded by bringing his forgettable drug past back from the dead. Induction to the Hall, at least for players, is supposed to be based upon performance on the field, not off it. Irvin deserves to wear the gold jacket, no doubt. Put it into perspective: O.J. Simpson's place in Canton after being brought up on charges of killing his wife was questioned, but not revoked. And that was for murder.

Now, you can argue a decent case that all indicted into the NFL Hall of Fame should not only be the most outstanding players, owners and officials, but also be men of high moral values, law-abiding, God-fearing citizens. Good point, but I'd unjustifiably guess most people that are already in haven't exactly been angelic in their behavior.

While I don't condone drug involvement of any kind, I would hope Irvin still receives his due enshrinement to the Hall. Whatever happens, the accomplishment's going to be tarnished by his legal troubles so that's a cross he'll always have to bear. If he fails to get in by unsympathetic journalists, it'll be his downfall. If he does get the nod, it'll be forever suspect. He's shamed either way, although Irvin did perform his normal pre-game analyst duties on the Monday Night Countdown leading up to the Steelers/Colts matchup.

My prayers go out to the man and his family. Details are sketchy and the charge is minor, but I hope he gets it straightened out nonetheless. And I hope sportswriters consider how the case plays out before passing judgment on him.

Note: I realize many will not agree with me...I defend my reasoning with the same passion that I truly believe validates Pete Rose's overdue induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Charlie Hustle should never be allowed to manage again, but he's carved out a spot for himself in Cooperstown. But that's another conversation entirely.

Audit a Harvard class via podcast

This is unbelievably cool. Harvard University is making a computer science class, "Understanding Computers and the Internet" accessible to anyone via a feed you can plug into a podcatcher client (althought it's iTunes friendly). The content's mixed, including MP4s, MP3s and QuickTime movies.

Wow...I'm "enrolled" in the Ivy League. Mom's gonna be so proud.

Freeware puts text RSS feeds on iPods


FINALLY. It took someone long enough to figure out that maybe all the oodles of space on all brands of iPod could be used for something other than music, contacts and Doom. I was stoked to learn that iFeedPod transfers subscribed feeds onto Apple's iPod, storing them in Notes. Unfortunately, it's only for Mac OS 10.3.9 or later, but it's still a cool way to get more out of your iPod.

Full-text feeds for all?

Scoble notes the eternal argument over syndicated online publishing: releasing an article's full-text or just an abstract in an RSS feed? Microsoft's chief blogger indicated he's cleaning out his subscription list, getting rid of feeds that don't use full-text, preferring to read entire articles. I agree...I'll stay within a single service and confine myself to working within my aggregator if I can help it and not be jumping all over the Web. But not everyone feels this way, following the thoughts of John Roberts.

(I'd fully recommend Safari's built-in RSS reader to that crowd. Although it's only for the Mac at the moment and forces you to read content on a site-by-site basis, if people want more granular control over the length of a feed's description, you can do this.)

Implementing an article's content verbatim was something I adopted early on when releasing Guam's first RSS feed (our news stories) in August 2004. I had been noticing the the truncated content thing didn't really work. I realize that displaying an article in its entirety sacrifices the chance that a user might click on a link, visit your site and be exposed to an ad, but for me, it's a worthwhile risk. We have other means of generating online revenue, so the subsidy is justified.

This liberal attitude might have something to do with the fact that my site's RSS traffic now exceeds its web traffic, but that's OK with me. People are still getting my content at the end of the day.

It's official: my RSS traffic now exceeds my web traffic

I've been noting the emergence of my company's RSS feeds (articles, podcasts, VODcasts, photostreams, police blotter, etc.), particularly the growth factor and the rate of increase. It's quite impressive, and today the number of requests for XML-based information exceeds that which is accessed by more traditional browsing means.

This is of particular importance to us here at KUAM, seeing as how all of our news articles can be accessed and virally circulated in multi-platform fashion (web, mobile, printable, e-mail), so each article should be, in theory, exponentially more popular than a feed. But the sheer number of aggregator applications banging on my XML feeds day in and day out apparently is starting to outweigh this. I'm projecting that my RSS traffic will begin to carry my site as the dominant mechanism in another six months maybe. Wow - that's fast.

I've been thinking of monetization strategies and ad insertion tecniques that won't be too intrusive, as ad hoc research indicates that one of the reasons people who access my stuff enjoy our RSS data is because of the lack of formal UI.

My concerns with Michael Vick

On my sportstalk show this week one of the topics I debated with Brant was what's missing from Michael Vick's game to get him to win a Super Bowl. Simple: a receiver.

Atlanta's got a great defense, a solid running game, impressive special teams play and a beast in Alge Crumpler. The absent yang to Vick's yin is a first-rate wideout. And not just a guy with soft hands who runs like the wind and can leap DBs in a single bound - a top-notch wideout, an upper echelon guy, a first class player to compliment (and to some degree refine) #7's huge talent.

This goes beyond just a Pro Bowler - an all-pro. Think T.O. Think Randy Moss. Think Chad Johnson.

The Falcons' current receiving corps is decent, but won't get it done. Brian Finneran is good, so is Dez White. Michael Jenkins is coming along. But none of them have what it takes to lead Atlanta to its first NFL championship. Look at Peerless Price. He was outstanding as second-fiddle to Eric Moulds in his years in Buffalo, and went down south to be the next great set of hands for the NFL's Most Electrifying Player. Didn't pan out.

So while the main issue seems to be personnel-rooted, my larger interest with Michael Vick the player at this point is more mental than mechanical. The concern I've got for Vick now in his fifth season is the same I had for Kobe Bryant in his second: both live for the big, dramatic, seemingly athletically impossible feat. They revel in the chance to make the highlight and leave jaws on the floor, and usually don't fail to impress. But when it comes down to the routine, bread and butter play, they overexert themselves and often are counterproductive and difficult to play with. While he's got more running scores than most tailbacks, he's never thrown for more than a pair of touchdowns in the same game his entire pro career.

This erratic combination of has negatively impacted Vick's quarterback rating (a metric I don't give much credence to anyway). Such measurements of effectiveness are fleeting, and when the Falcons were winning earlier this season and were 5-2 and Vick's rating was among the league cellar dwellars the media was all over him. And since his passing game picked up the press backed off, but the Falcons have gone 2-2. Forget such scrutinization - this isn't the consistency I'd like to see. I'd hate to see Vick likened to Dan Marino, Ty Cobb, Charles Barkley or Patrick Ewing - suffering from the gross irony of being one of his sport's greatest competitors who never won it all.

Kobe learned and got better and became a champion. I think Vick, who I had winning the Heisman Trophy in 1999, will do the same. But he won't do it easily without a quality receiver.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Better online publishing with RSS

Matt McAlister has some good ideas on using the evolving ideas for the future of RSS publishing. Of interest is the fact that matt's ideas stem more in editorial process control over more aggresive publishing, involving social media and inviting mashups from your data.

Good work, Matt. You've earned yourself one new subscriber.

King Kong vs. Godzilla now showing @ NetFlix

Wow. This takes me back - NetFlix's New Releases RSS feed let me know that "King Kong vs. Godzilla", the original Japanese Freddy vs. Jason super matchup, is now available for rent on DVD. I may have to give it a spin after all. This 1963 classic is a epic monster movie pitting dinosaur against giant ape.

IIRC, Godzilla got his ass whipped, but came away victorious at the end. It was basically a big tie. This used to show one per year when I was a kid on KTLA, the Los Angeles affiliate we got syndicated out here (on July 4, I think).

Writely stopped supporting Safari?


I was bummed to use Safari on a Mac OS X machine and launch Writely, which I've used in combination a bunch of times, only to learn that the web-based word processor apparently stopped supporting Safari. Now that I think about it, I do recall a couple of occasions where I ran into issues with text formatting, modifications not being saved and/or persisted across sessions, or the web service totally locking up on me. Maybe this was it.

To its credit, you can append a query string value to force the issue, so maybe there's hope.

Volleyball players have the best porno names

As a volleyball player I've always taken guilty pleasure in laughing at how much like the porn stars we're not supposed to talk about the names of the players grew up I idolizing are. The sport just oozes sexuality, being cross-gender and displaying generous amounts of flesh in all its forms - indoor, beach and grass. The participants in either form are visually spectacular; any man that doesn't think Liane Sato, Lori Endicott or Liz Masakayan aren't among the most beautiful women alive is a damn fool.

I mean, consider some of the great real names of the world's best competitors: Bryan Ivie? Steve Timmons? Doug Partie? Scott Fortune? Come on now - that's the stuff straight out of a San Fernando Valley script (with apologies to Jeff Nygaard, Tom Sorenson, the gone too soon Uvaldo Acosta and the great players to come out of Hawaii, most volleyball players hail from SoCal anyway, another coincidence with their blue counterparts).

How about capitalizing on the popular trend of exploting a name's alliterative qualities, that which brought fame and fortune to Jenna Jameson, Silvia Saint and Briana Banks? We've got Pat Powers, Troy Tanner, Sinjin Smith, Allen Allen, Steve Salmons, Dusty Dvorak, Misty May and Karch Kiraly.

How about the tendency for x-rated actors to take a stage persona that's actually got a first name for a last name, a la Ron Jeremy or Tera Patrick? Again we've got The A Bomb. Hell, the same can be said for racing's Danica Patrick. And what of those whose names are so derivative they'd just have to be made up? Tera Heart and Erik Everhard, meet '88 Olympian Jon Root.

There are also names that are obliquely androgynous, like former Stanford star and current national team member Logan Tom (a sexpot in her own right). And the Brazilian and Chinese national teams, who go by their last names only, make use of a time-tested gimmick formerly exhibited by performers like Serenity, Dasha, Felicity and the late Savannah.

Shoot, if the console game "Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball" can fully take advantage of the titillation factor that's an important part of my beloved sport, I'd say an analysis is warranted. And in either profession, when one's knees, back and arm start to give out, it might be a wise career change to leverage the weight a name carries in another industry.

Disagreeing with my colleagues

I respect Robert Scoble and Jeff Jarvis a lot. They're both brilliant, entertaining guys, who's blogs I read consistently. But on this day, I'll respectfully disagree with assertions both have made about the web subculture. Both being cool cats, I don't think they'd mind me playing the role of contrarian a little.

Scoble says companies without RSS feeds should fire their webmasters, because it limits the visibility such concerns will have. True. In a utopian world every data source would have a feed to which we could subscribe for future aggregation/notification/access, but not everyone needs one at the moment. Startups have to prove their well enough grounded in their core competency before they tell the world how great they are. I'd rather force people to visit my site repeatedly for awhile while I legitimized my service, than have them subscribe to a feed that rarely gets updated.

Jeff's beef is with online aggregator services like My Yahoo! and Google Reader, who he says are holding his RSS statistics hostage by failing to report subscriber numbers for cached feeds. His argument has not surprisingly drawn a growing list of supporters, and I'm largely with him, except on one point: the business end. Hey, I'm concerned about the viewership and size of audience for my blogs and podcasts, too, but I won't start biting the hand that feeds me and talk smack about free services. If you want hard numbers, get ready to put up cash to get them.

Just my $0.02.

Return of "Digital Pontification" podcast coming soon...

For those of you who subscribed to my audio podcast (now that we've go to discren between audio and video) "Jason Salas' Digital Pontification", you'll be happy to know that I've got a show planned for this week. After a two-month hiatus, I'll be making my temporary triumphant return to the mic to lay down some quality time-shifted digital audio content for your downloading amusement.

In my UpdateCast I'll be talking about what I've been up to since hanging up the Plantronics headset mic - technology, Web 2.0, VOD, DVRs, sports, music, remembering the 80's and the general state of the world through my eyes. Plus, you get to help me test out something I'm excited about - I add a new dimension of interactivity to the show by unveiling collaborative show notes!

Keep your bandwidth primed and stay subscribed to my blog's Atom feed or Google Reader subscription...I'll be talking at you soon!

Who gets the other two Heisman nominations?

Everyone in America seems to agree that the strongest three candidates for this year's Heisman Trophy are USC's Reggie Bush, Texas' Vince Young and USC's Matt Leinart (in that order). What they've neglected to recall is that there have to be five finalists to sit and wait. And this year's givens are so strong that the other two nominees are perfunctory at best. But the nod does a lot for a school, and it's always an honor.

I say give the other free trips to NYC to Notre Dame's Brady Quinn and Washington State's Jerome Harrison. Quinn has reset all sorts of QB records in storied South Bend and Harrison leads the nation in rushing with 301 yards/game for the 4-7 Cougars. Neither will win, but they've both had outstanding years and have earned a place in the balloting race.

I've still got Bush winning it all, as he's proven to be a standout among standouts.

Remember, the general public gets a vote for the Heisman, so cast yours now!

Breaking down Mobile ESPN

CNN Money's got a good analysis of the impacts of Mobile ESPN, and what it means for the future of broadcasting sports. Good read.

Quoted from source:

"If history is any guide, there seems to be an insatiable appetite for sports content in an immediate format," said Neal Pilson, a sports broadcasting consultant. "While people may not watch an entire event, people will know they can catch the end of the game just after 11 o'clock, or the start on Monday Night Football on their way home from work."

In fact, one of the things ESPN sewed up when it won the rights to broadcast Monday Night Football starting next season was the wireless rights to the Monday night games.

It walked away from showing National Hockey League games on television this year, but it won the wireless rights there as well. And it's won the rights to Major League Baseball highlights and is reportedly in negotiations with the National Basketball Association.

But it doesn't have all the mobile rights it would like. It lacks Super Bowl wireless rights, for example, even though this year's game will be broadcast on sister company ABC, which like ESPN is owned by Walt Disney Co.

Going forward with Google Video

I really love Google Video. While the Web has improved my literacy, it's also nice to sit back and enjoy a nice short-attention span show or captively take notes during a formal presentation. I check it out multiple times per day with almost religious devotion, and think it's got great potential. Here are some suggestions for improvement, now that the library of clips has built a bit:

Guys who should make the Pro Bowl (but probably won't)

In all sports there's always a big to-do about who doesn't make an all-star team. It's the ultimate sin as far as snubs go. Fans hate it because they know it's political, coaches despise it because a player who really put in the effort and had a breakout year gets passed over, and players hate it because it gives them one more thing to do before really enjoying the off-season.

I dislike the notion of letting fans vote-in the players they'd most like to see, because rarely does that mean they're the players most deserving of the all-star nod. Take Penny Hardaway several years ago. He played only a handful of games in the season's first-half due to injury, but started the All-Star Game because of fan support and Internet voting. Michael Vick's candidate for this already, even though his performance will likely get him in. Then there's Nomar Garciaparra, who's tally got sky high because of some kid's devout online support (I think more than 30,000 votes, a small percentage of which MLB let count).

On that note, here are five players on the offensive side of the ball whose on-field brilliance should nab them a free trip to Honolulu come February, but might sadly miss the cut:

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The honeymoon's over for podcasting

I used to be hardcore into podcasting, but I've since fallen from grace. I was at one point listening, downloading, producing and uploading MP3s like a man possessed. Because for several months, I was. My OPML file for subscribed podcasts, which at one point supported more than 60 shows, has been whittled down to only about 15 that I deem really, really, really good. Label me fairweather, but I've come back down to earth a bit and refined my enthusiasm for what's valuable and what can be commodified.

For me, the honeymoon is over: I'm less blown away and not so easily impressed, and I'm starting to get real about podcasting. Let's get to work and analyze the given pros and cons that continue to drive the platform.

PROS
CONS
I guess it's a fair trade. There aren't exorbitant cost inputs going in to making a show so the ROI is minimal, so the platform is superior to the alternative - satellite radio - in terms of cost. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a huge advocate of podcasting. Like most platforms and media, it's an arrow I've now got tucked in my quill, to be employed properly and tastefully.

The edited "My Humps" isn't even worth it

I'm going to be self-deprecating for a moment and rip on my own company. Our FM station's format is Top 40, the safe bet for ratings and revenue. Yet as a listener, I loathe censorship to no end. I realize you can't put most four-letter words on the air, and for good reason - to be socially responsible. But don't do it to the extent of ruining someone's art.

The music service from whom we get our national music edits certain suspect tracks, and sometimes they go too far. But no other song have they liberally modified as much as Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps". It's so bad you can't even make out half the song. The editing irritatingly mutes suggestive lyrics while the supporting music plays underneath, rather than making a radio-friendly version, like Snoop Doggy Dogg did circa 1993 with "What's My Name?".

Other local stations play the song, careful to not broadcast words like "ass", "breast", or Will.I.Am's rap in the song's bridge. Heck, I heard a syndicated broadcast of "American Top 40" that allowed it the song nearly untouched. I finally figured out what the lyrics were when catching the video on VH1. "Geez," I said, "That's it? That's nothing!" Weird. So why are we so hypercautious???

Censors are odd birds like that...they'd take out the word "ass" even if used in the context of describing a donkey in the biblical sense, but they'd totally allow the implied message of "Afternoon Delight" or numerous instances of double-entendre.

Marching towards 200 blog posts in a month

I'm trying to see if I'll be able to post about 33 blog entries in the next few days to bring the number of posts for November to an even 200. This post is #167, shattering my previous record of 101 in August on my .TEXT blog on weblogs.asp.net.

Certainly empty and useless posts like this will help get me closer to the goal. :-)

Congratulations, you won a World Series! Seeya!

I feel bad for Aaron Rowand. He helped win the Windy City's first World Series in 88 years, playing solid centerfield, and got traded. And this wasn't like some Carlos Beltran I-showed-my-ass-in-the-2004-NLCS-and-now-I'm-gonna-get-my-maximum-dollars deal...he got swapped (along with two minor leaguers) for the aging, oft-injured Jim Thome and $22,000,000.

I understand that pro sports is a business, but this sucks. This is what I really hate about baseball: the lemmings-like conformity to parity that everyone seems to be into. Rowand was part of something special and was a fan favorite for his balls-out effort. Getting his ring next season is going to hurt in bittersweet fashion, I'm sure.

The deal was more of a fire sale for Philly than a security blanket for Chi-Town, although the White Sox will need to stockpile slugging power should Paul Konerko not come back. In my opinion, the Phillies got the better end of this deal.

So much for planning for the future and building a dynasty.

Outside of March, Big Ten/ACC Challenge is top draw

Starting next week and second to the NCAA tourney, my favorite college basketball event tips off. Yes, even more so than the NCAA March Madness national championship race and ahead of the Maui Invitational or any of the NITs (in that order) is the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Now in its seventh year, this is going to be the best yet, with seven of the competitors in last year's Top 25.

But for some potential matchups, national ranking notwithstanding, this is epic: Georgia tech/Michigan State, Minnesota/Maryland, Wisconsin/Wake Forest. And now with ACC additions Miami (who plays Michigan in Ann Arbor) and Virginia Tech (who travels to Ohio State), this deepens an already stacked tourney.

Tuesday gets things started with #14 Illinois (ESPN/USA Today Poll) seeking a little revenge against North Carolina. Unfortunately the Tarheels, decimated by four players jumping to the NBA, aren't even ranked. But that's why you've gotta love college sports - the coaches are like gods, upsets can happen at any time, and despite the closed defensive fallacies the NBA has done without, it's good play.

RSS aficionados visiting 3x more news sites than manual surfers

A recent Nielsen/NetRatings report cites RSS users as visiting nearly 3x more news sites than those who manually browse to sites - hence the "aggregation" benefit. There's also the implication that such users visit said sites more often per day.

"RSS users are significantly more engaged in online news than non-users, visiting an average of 10.6 news sites compared with 3.4 news sites for non-users...Not only do RSS users visit more news Web sites than non-users, they also visit those sites more frequently. RSS users visited the top 20 news Web sites nearly three times as often as non-users and all other news Web sites four times as often. This means that sites outside of the top 20 properties may be among the greatest beneficiaries of RSS. "

Bill Walton has given my MUTE button purpose in life

I have the utmost respect in the world for my colleagues in the broadcasting business, especially at the network level. I'm not a hater, so normally I wouldn't use blogspace to rip on someone. But with Bill Walton, I have to draw the line.

The Web is ripe people who want to anonymously talk smack about those in the TV biz, hiding behind non-descript e-mail pseudonyms, forum monikers and chatroom handles. Not me - this is me as me, humbly offering constructive criticism to a fellow communicator, perhaps inciting retort and debatably at the risk of future opportunity with my own career in sports journalism.

I honestly at this point don't care...I have to get this off my chest.

First let me say that I respect and admire Big Red. The man is one of the all-time greats of the college game, has a good chunk of history to take with him as a pro, and is a fine writer. He's one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players. He's probably forgotten more hardwood knowledge than I'll ever know. He's also a devoted family man, firm in his beliefs, shows respect for his elders, honors his alma mater and chooses to remain associated with the game that made him famous the world over. But certain aspects about Bill's broadcasting acumen just irritate me.

Whenever a Left Coast game is being televised on ESPN or ABC, I mute it (God, even in closed captioning he's annoying), residually forcing me to miss out on the excellent play-by-play work of Mike Breen, who I like. I don't think he's a bad person, it's just certain aspects of his style of presenting a game that were mildly irritating when he started out with NBC that I quickly dismissed as baby steps towards eventual improvement have in reverse fashion blossomed into mind-numbing running gags.

Hey, the largest world in the room is the room for improvement, right? Here's a rundown of the more offensive Waltonisms:
No matter how you slice it, Bill Walton has become institutionalized in pro hoops today. His body of work as a communicator on air and online is impressive. And for better or worse, his ad-libbed phrases (i.e., "Throw it down, big man..throw it down!") have become part of the NBA experience. So while listening to a broadcast still makes me grimace from time to time, in the grand scheme of things - Bill's the man.

Oh yeah... and somebody bring back Peter Vecsey. He ruled.

The best part of televised college football

Being a sportswriter, I've got to love ALL sports...even the ones I wouldn't normally give the time of day to. So I'm supposed to be objective in endorsing my faves. But I'm unabashed in telling people that the college football season is my favorite time of year. And the best thing about watching college games? The previewy informercials on the home school during halftime on broadcasts.

That's my favorite part of any televised NCAA game. They tell the story in sixty seconds of the best things about an institution of higher learning, reminding us all that in "college football" the former is more important than the latter. It sends chills down my spine thinking of those great clips of colleges, the same way I reminisce about the Dolly Madison spots that ran only during Peanuts holiday specials on CBS.

"Yes, the future belongs to the University of Florida"..."The University of Hawaii - a learning experience unlike anything else on earth"..."UNLV - reshaping tomorrow."

Classic.

All about RSS: how KUAM.com uses online syndication

Here's a quick snapshop of how I'm separating my station's textual and multimedia content through various distribution mechanisms:
I intentionally separated the content in Wachowskian fashion - a user who consumes all forms of media gets the total picture and the full KUAM experience, but those who don't still get it, albeit minus slight details. While all platforms are mirrored and synch online with what we're doing on the air, we don't replicate all the content in more than a single medium. This encourages people to check us out in as many forms as possible. And it's worked.

We get a ton of hits on all of our RSS feeds and on our streaming media. Our web site traffic did teeter off slightly, but not significantly. While this happened, my database is responding to more queries than ever, implying a shift towards multimedia and time-shifted content.

Hehe, hehe...Comedy Central's cool...hehe, hehe

I've been getting home a tad earlier from work this week and caught that Comedy Central is now running "Beavis and Butt-Head" before their primetime lineup starts. They seemed to have edited out some of the music videos (they only appear at the end) and apparently are only showing episodes from the later seasons. The first couple of years were really funny and had videos we actualy knew.

Man, this takes me back.

Google's stance on porn

I was messing around with the GoogleVideoUploader utility required to submit clips to Google Video and part of being able to do so is to comply with a rule that you're knowingly not submitting pornography. I found this interesting, seeing as how Google Search and eventually Google Image Search have long been a repository for people to find links to adult material. Google Base did have a lot of mature classifieds posted initially, but has taken steps to scale back, if not rid, the service of such stuff following complaints.

Seeing as how running a search service on the Web would inevitably run into such controversy, it's interesting to note the quality control measures put into place for each platform. A mature content filter can be toggled to block out offensive information and images. The video service at the moment won't tolerate it at all. It's a necessary evil.

To either completely ignore or freely allow blue content would be suicide from a usability standpoint, with special interest groups on one end of the spectrum getting angered at the (in)ability to (not) access content.

But at the moment, I'm impressed with their efforts to control what people access.

Holiday decisions: PSP or video iPod?

I've got an iRiver 799 and an iPod-Mini (the green one). But I've been thinking about getting a device to support the growing demand for video. And since my station's gotten huge into the podcasting and VOD markets, it'll help my cause to spread the word about time-shifted media consumption if I carry around some shows and clips to demo in public.

So the question becomes - what should I ask Santa for this Christmas? Sony's PlayStation Portable or Apple's video-enabled iPod? For my money, I'm going with the PSP because it can do more, so there's greater utility. They're both about the same price, teetering at around $250 (give or take $20). Locally, PSPs are more accessible, being sold at most places that carry video games, and many video stores. And with the mad-dash to get the Xbox 360, there's more of a guarantee that I can nab one if I want. iPods are harder to come by, and once word gets out, it's a customer battle that would rival the mid-80's Cabbage Patch Kids melees to get one.

The downside would ebe that I wouldn't be able to play ABC TV programming from the iTunes Music Store, and seeing as how we don't have TiVo, Comcast or DirecTV out here, I can';t check out any other network programming. So I'm relegated to transferring RSS-based vodcasts and buying UMDs if I want movies and TV. I'm OK with that, seeing as how I can still play music, do gaming and a couple more things.

So while it would be nice to have both, Sony gets my money this holiday.

Mobile ESPN kicks ass

I just finished checking out the announcement of Mobile ESPN, and it totally rules. For people thar are hardcore into sports, this is a Godsend. As a technologist it may surprise you to know that I'm impressed with the fact that the service uses a dedicated phone rather than developing an application that tries to work across vendor handset platforms. We should all learn something from this.

Of course, the service won't work out here in TechnicalNeverNeverland and the phone itself and calling plans certainly don't come cheap, but it is a nice thing to put on my "must buy" list whenever I move to the States, right after TiVo but before the TomTom car GPS unit. ESPN apparently will be using the distribution of shorter clips as the first step towards mobile broadcasting, like with its plans to stream entire Major League Baseball games.

I've also noticed that recently ESPN 3G TV just got added to the BREW-based MobiTV service that lets you watch live streaming TV on your phone (previously only FoxSports was available as a channel). I caught a stream of "Jim Rome is Burning" yesterday while waiting in line. Awesome.

Google Video needs "Blog This" link

I like the AJAX-style "send" feature in Google Video that lets you e-mail URLs to stored clips while you're watching them (I've done this several hundred times myself), but the one thing I'd like to see added is a "Blog This" option like Google Reader has, that lets you post to a major blogging platform (or at least Blogger, which Google owns), without leaving the core program.

That would be sweet.

Some dude shreds to Canon in D

Here's a total kick-ass clip off of Google Video of a Japanese guy totally rocking out to Canon in D on an electric guitar. He incorporates a lot of rock-style elements into his take (tapping, sweep arpeggios, power chords, pinch harmonics, compound bends), but doesn't overdue any of them. He's a very talented player, and he put a new spin on a musical standard.

For those of you too young to appreciate classical music, Canon in D is a common ringtone on many Motorola phones. :-(

Rock on, dude!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Xbox 360's problems are latest in long line of Microsoft disappointments

I'll sidestep the normal criticism about the already well chronicled Microsoft's security holes for its OS and IIS product lines. But let's get one thing straight: Windows 98 was a crappy OS, performance-wise. It crashed non-stop and had major problems (and I won't mention the Blue Screen snafu during the public demo), forcing routine re-installations, which is ludicrous. The pre-Windows CE mobile OS locked up on me the first time I set it up on my first-generation iPAQ. And now news about the Xbox 360 crashing and overheating.

I don't like ripping on Microsoft, and being an MS developer it pains me to do so, but this is getting ridiculous. Granted, they've got the largest marketing push across industries, so what might be a normal amount of product defects for any other company are maginified exponentially for MS (case in point: Sony's PSP firmware concern several weeks back). But that it's products continue to so dramatically disappoint so early on has gotten old fast.

Google's also getting more and more suspect with their services being underperforming or inaccessible completely.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Nikhil Kothari demos Virtual Places

I guess you can't call it a "mashup" if you actually work at Microsoft. My main man Nikhil Kothari, the author of one of my favorite books on ASP.NET 1.x development, has built a really kick-ass Virtual Places demo with MSN Virtual Earth with some integrated data for locales (books, bloggers, Flickr photostreams, etc.). The site doesn't work at all in Firefox (at least not for my install), but it's really slick.

Nice work!

AOL to offer web video distribution

It seems the more mainstream WWW crowd into Google Video may soon have competition, as AOL has joined startup Brightcove to offer video over the Web. But it's not solely a massive repository of digitized video hooked up to a search service - it's a pretty intriguiing business plan. The hitch is to allow any producer the ability to distribute their wares on other sites, while taking part of an ad cut.

I'm interested in seeing how this turns out.

TV companies fuming over TiVoToGo

From a technological standpoint, the two most disappointing storylines of this year are the print industry's reluctance to let Google digitize the world's publications, and now word of possible legal action against TiVo for the plans its got to let people download shows and movies to the PSP and iPod. While network executives are fuming over the loss of ad revenue, and intellectual property buffs scoff at the potential DRM violations, industry pundits also note that this proves consumers want services of this nature.

A few media industry e-mail newsletters I have also predict this move negates the VOD plans by networks, which I doubt. TiVo's applicability to the Luddite crowd due to its ease of use certainly makes it more appealing than the iTunes Music Store to a neophyte 'Netizen, but I don't think it will replace it completely. I like the PSP over the iPod because functionally it does more for me...but that doesn't mean I won't have and use both.

I'm hoping the TiVoToGo service includes some sort of conversion to mini format, meaning that video files will also be downsized to meet the specs of smaller screens, after being digitally recorded off a DVR. I'm sure it's not just a simple file transfer feature.

Monday, November 21, 2005

TiVo to support file transfer to iPod, PSP

This is huge news: TiVo will soon support copying of data onto iPods and PSPs. Think about what this going to mean for content portability and getting neophyte audiences to to the complex action of file transfer onto removable media and leverage portable playback through TiVo's intuitive UI.

With DRM being such a big issue right now (being in the news media, I've got no such concerns), this is going to be really significant as we go foward. Great, unavoidable move.

80% of CNN ad revenue from integrated media

Here's a great read about 80% of CNN's profits coming from integrated TV/web buys, up 20% two years ago. Chrysler inked a massive online promotional deal, buying into ad packages over wireless, podcasting, VOD, streaming and interactive TV.

Nike rules college sports

I don't care what people say about Matt Leinart's meteoric popularity in Hollywood. I similarly dismiss notions of Roy Williams being larger than life in Chapel Hill, negate Jim Boeheim's deity status in upstate New York, or Vince Young's celeb stature in the Lone Star State. Phil Knight is the Big Man on Campus.

Not since Magic Johnson intentionally covered the Reebok logo in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona to honor his association to Converse has professional endorsement by a shoe manufacturer been so significant. The convoluted world of pro sports naturally promotes sponsorship at the individual level, which screws up unified representation.

Of the first 15 of the AP's Top 25 NCAA Division I football schools, 11 use Nike apparel, and only UCLA and Notre Dame (who's never subscribed to conventional rules anyway) use alternative products, siding with rival Adidas. In basketball, all teams to make this past season's Final Four - North Carolina, Illinois, and Michigan State and Louisville - rocked the Swoosh, and most teams in the AP Top 25 have Nike gear prominently.

Nike's blanket coverage of the college sports world is phenomenal. There simply are no more major collegiate sports programs and/or conferences that are nationally competitive consistently enough for other brands to sponsor.

The early mid-1990's days of collegiate sponsorship saw Deion Sanders led the teased FSU "Free Shoe U" Seminoles. Even the historic dominance of their in-state rivals, the Mighty Miami Hurricanes, weren't too powerful to be wooed this year into being one of four select schools to wear new "revolution" unies with a colored left sleeve (featured left). Even this 1996 article cites the logevity of the economic benefits of being recognized by the world's premiere athletic brand.

This serves as a testament to the superiority of big-budget marketing. When you think about it, the quality or attractiveness of the products themselves become incidental. The price of NIke gear is marginally more expensive than the competition, but it doesn't matter. There's a sexiness behind having the Swoosh, knowing what it represents. The push behind them can elevate your status to the next level.

To be fair, several athletes at the professional level, unmarred by rich alumni, political favoratism or heavy endowment that plagues college sorts today, have either left Nike for more affordable brands. Chris Webber reneged on his contract in favor of Converse because the latter would be more accessible to inner city youth, and Hakeem Olajuwon partnered with Spaulding to take the "high quality without high price" angle. Others just sought sponorship with other brands - Allen Iverson is the face of Reebok, Stephon Marbury in similar fashion represents And1. But the undeniable creator of image has been Nike, from Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods to LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. And they look damn good doing it, too.

Nike is the sports apparel industry's Microsoft. Ubiquitous in reach, intimidating when contested, impressive in approach, undeniable in impact. They're the stuff. And as far as college sports go - Nike rules.

Regular season college football awards

With most of the college football world windind down after this weekend for fall exams and preparation for Bowl Week, I'm passing out some awards for the performances thus far in the regular season.

Best Regular Season Game:
Ohio State vs. Texas - good as advertised, this was down to the wire, only the second game of the season. The last 4 minutes of USC/Notre Dame was an unforgettable nailbiter, but the Buckeyes and Longhorns put on a classic show all game long.

Most Disappointing Game:
Florida State vs. Miami - what's becoming the modern-day equivalent of an early season bowl game wound up being a battle of inferiority. And, surprise, surprise, it ended in a field goal going wide.

Biggest Single-Game Disappointment:
Miami vs. Virginia Tech - the 'Canes defensive brilliance was outweighed by the Hokies' general collapse. This should have been a Game of the Year candidate, but it was over by the start of the 2nd quarter.

Most Disappointing Team:
Purdue - in terms of strength of opponents for 2005, the Boilermakers had it made in the Big Ten. Missing from their schedule this season were Michigan and Ohio State, but six straight losses (five conference games) set them way out of contention.

Most Promising Team for 2006:
Florida - the Gators won't play for an SEC championship, but should still get the nod in a decent bowl, but once Chris Leak gets a solid front four to support the Urban Meyer offense he's starting to master, the Swamp looks to be rockin'.

New NFL stat - "MLB equivalent"?

One of my favorite broadcasters, Chris Marlowe, often described fellow USA Volleyball team captain Karch Kiraly's spikes as "130 MPH heater comin' at ya!" I had always assumed the metric to be universal - sports apparently now has its own system of weights and measurements, unique across platforms.

While watching ESPN's telecast of the Chiefs/Texans game, I noticed a new stat apparently being tracked when showing the "Pass Tracker" replay for a Trent Green TD pass to Eddie Kennison. The graphic indicated the ball speed/velocity of Green's hurl as "91 MPH (MLB Equivalent)". Exactly what does this mean? Trent can chuck the pigskin pretty hard, but the pass didn't seem to be THAT fast.

Does such connote Peter Parker's "proportionate strength of a spider"? Or are we scaling our measurements of athletic feats Micro Machines style?

Know of Google before you decide to rip on them

One thing that always trips me out as a technologist/journalist is when people start to rip on things without really understanding them. Take Google. Some people are very vocal in their criticism of the company's plans for nationwide WiFi, mapping, book distribution, classifieds, handling payment transactions, etc. without really knowing what's behind it.

Kevin Maney's got a good discussion on the subject for the ill-informed haters.

Rock out to GTA on PSP

I'm thinking more and more about getting a PlayStation Portable, especially after hearing that Grand Theft Auto will be released for the PSP. DRM's starting to shape up more and more so I'm being selecting about exactly which media device I'll be carrying around, but the PSP looks promising.

I wonder if the Hot Coffee mod minigame will be included in the PSP port...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

No doubt: Longhorns, Trojans smelling roses

Whatta Saturday (Sunday out here in the Pacific). I'm really looking forward to the release of the polls Monday (Tuesday) to see who's ranked third through seventh in the nation in college football. Barring some monumental collapse in the Big XII Championship, it's a foregone conclusion now that Texas and USC will hookup in Pasadena on January 4. Here's some thoughts about Rivalry Week:
...and looking ahead to next week's catch-up matchups:

Post-OSU loss fallout

The pain continues after Michigan dropped a must-win game at home 25-21 against Ohio State. This game had huge implications: maize and blue vs. scarlet and silver, winged hats vs. helmet stickers that look curiously like pot leafs, private university vs. state school, etc.

Last year - forever to be remembered as Braylon Edwards's Biletnikoff-winning year leading to his coronation as the greatest receiver ever to don the coveted #1 jersey - was technically the best season since the co-national championship campaign of 1997, in which Charles Woodson won the Heisman and the Wolverines went 12-0, including a Rose Bowl win over Washington State. Yet it remains bittersweet, seeing as how the only three games UM lost were to (1) Notre Dame, (2) Ohio State, and (3) Texas in the Rose Bowl. If there are any games you should win (forget the Little Brown Jug), it's those ones.

So let's recap what's transpired in the last twelve months: Michigan has lost games in successive seasons to both ND and OSU (both in Ann Arbor in 2005). Lloyd carr has suffered his first lost to the Buckeyes in the Big House. What wasn't at stake for Michigan was a major bowl, and Ohio State got a share of the Big Ten title (Penn State won the split, so they get the BCS bowl bid). UM will still suit up on New Year's Day, barely being bowl eligible, but likely play in an insignificant bowl sponsored by some chicken distributorship or insurance company. I'd like to see them get one of the major Sunshine State squads - Florida, Florida State or Miami.

OSU comparably may get Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, which is going to be a hell of a game.

But bottom line and long story short: OSU won. Again. It's going to be another long twelve months.

Flash is your friend in Web 2.0? Really?

I just caught an interesting presentation by Macromedia's Kevin Lynch in which he debuted alphas for Macromedia's Flex 2.0 and Flash 8.5. Kevin touches nicely on the evolution of machine-to-human interaction of data Web 2.0 delivers, building upon the machine-to-machine benefits web services have promoted. He also reinforces the fact that HTML is still heavily used and is a big part of Flash 8 presentations, and stresses the code-generation capabilities of the IDE. In all, it's very impressive.

But the major theme of the talk was the maturity of Flash as app suite, wrapped up in the "Flash Is Your Friend in Web 2.0" mantra. Will Flash become a dominant tool to building dynamic web applications with rich-client UIs? I don't think so.

The main thing working against Flash is that it became relegated to be a tool strictly used for building fancy UIs, but I've not seen a lot of examples of Flash-based forms being used to process data. Too many times I've seen developers break out Flash for a tiny banner ad or header with long-form animation, just for the sake of having a fancy graphic with optimized loading. It's been dramatically underutilized, I think on that we can all agree.

It's also the victim of its own innovation. There are so many cool things you can do with Flash that are Photoshop-esque that programming purists don't give it the time of day. Integrating Flash with other server-side platforms historically hasn't really taken off, either. Dreamweaver bombed as an ASP.NET IDE, and sparse ASP.NET examples popped up, hackily combining Flash MX ActionScript with remoting for dynamic data presentation, and that's about it. It certainly wasn't easy to do, and so it never became widely-used practice.

Flash became (which Kevin admits in the talk) more of a tool for creative, non-programming folk to develop animations, not interactive, functional applications. Thus many web properties outside of big-budget movie sites heavily using Flash were style without substance. Macromedia bought ColdFusion to try to ally this, but it couldn't keep up with developments in the enterprise space - ASP.NET and JavaServer Pages/servlets - and was too top-heavy amidst the emergence of PHP.

But once again, Google's come to the rescue. Google Video is chock full of AJAX, DHTML and presents stored clips as streaming Flash video. I'm interested in Flash 8+ for the video capabilities it has and I'm checking it out more as a means of writing dynamic applications components, even as I implement more and more Web 2.0 concepts into my site. If the ability to generate, output and transform XHTML is possible, I'm there. Likewise for the ability to build and process native HTML forms. If there's also a better ability for me to seamlessly incorporate - not replace - a non-Macromedia server platform, that'll be sweet and I might consider making it my defaultauthoring tool.

But I'm staying with .NET/J2EE for my main server-side development.

Paint.NET is awesome Photoshop alternative

A sweet freeware app for image editing/manipulation is Paint.NET. It's got a ton of features, most of which the web-connected community will appreciate. It reportedly runs more efficiently than Photoshop, which I like, and is great to apply professional grade work to simple projects, without all the Adobe overhead.

The features of v.2.5 RC2 are really nice.

I gotta have more cowbell

Subscribers of my podcast will recall the fun I had with Saturday Night Live's now-classic "cowbell" skit. There's a great stream of the skit on Google Video that's bookmarkworthy and always good for chuckles. If not for Cameron Diaz's "Jingleheimer Junction" skit and notwithstanding Eddie Murphy's best work, Christopher Walken's got the funniest skit of all time.

I'm not feeling the NBA's vodcast

I must admit disappointment when adding the RSS feed for the NBA's vodcast into iTunes 6. I see a ton downloadable clips available (most of which outdated pre-season previews), but all being MP3 audio - no video. Most were 50-second or less featuring audio tracks that obviously reference video highlights, which is a major letdown and implies laziness on the NBA's part. It's an easier translation just to take video and put it up verbatim.

On the upside, the succinct length of the clips make them very small, and so the service is relevant to dial-up consumers, kind of like the apparent design of Paris Hilton's podcast. And to the NBA's credit, there is a lot of stuff available for my hoops fix. Steve says he's been able to get video, but that the formatting might be off.

I'm not going to pass final judgement...I'll give it a few days. But one does expect to see video clips when subscribing to a podcast.

TourneyLogic releases v.2.0 beta

The lads over at TourneyLogic have wrapped production on v.2.0 of their tournament bracket manager control for Microsoft .NET 2.0 (try it out here). This saved my hide last year during my station's online coverage of the NCAA March Madness tournament, and the new version is easier to use, more automated. I tried in vain for months to write something similar, but nada. I finally gave in and don't regret doing so.

I gave co-founder Joel some feedback on the early versions, mainly suggestions/requests for incorpotating web service calls and AJAX data population, which as I understand it are in the plans for v.3.0. I might use this for a local spelling bee, seeing as how the format is similar.

Good work, boys!

HowStuffWorks.com tutorials on Google Video

A site that I've enjoyed since the early days (circa 1996) is HowStuffWorks.com. I caught on the Google Video Blog that the site has a series of video clips stored about various things from lava lamps to news vans. HowStuffWorks.com is just one of several partners contributing video on a regular basis (I'll be doing so soon for local news & entertainment bits my company produces).

They're very well produced and entertaining. Check 'em out!

It's that time of year again

Keeping with an annual tradition I've got to commemorate the beginning of each college basketball season, I'm re-reading what I hold as one of the best-written sports books of all time, "Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, The American Dream". In an age when all the world's information is web-based and wireless and geared for short-attention span audiences, I free up a couple days in my schedule to go cover-to-cover on this one. It's really entertaining work.

You can feel the pre-game enthusiasm as Muhammad Ali, our country's greatest champion, shows up in the Michigan locker room to give a surprise and terse pep talk to the Wolverines' stellar group of freshman starters, softly speaking three key words: "Shock the world". Wow.

It always takes me back to watching The Fab Five in 1992/1993, and noting the evolution of the game from five phenoms - the smack talking, the black socks with black shoes, the Nike sponsorship, the baggy pants, the optimism, the bravado. In a way, that the Fab Five never won a national championship makes them that more heroic, a la Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma team with Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon.

Mitch Albom's more known for his bestselling work with "Five People You Meet in Heaven" and "Tuesdays With Morrie", but this is my favorite. Really gets you into the spirit of the college game and profiles the Greatest College Recruiting Class of All Time. Albom also pragmatically demystifies some of the hype about Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, noting their flaws and shortcomings - arrogance, naivete, fear - while noting their very well-documented success and unique kinship as college freshmen.

Albom's telling of the press conference prior to the '92 national championship against Duke is timeless, when noting the team's unplanned but unified response to the question What were you doing at this time last year?

Webber: "Sittin' at home, rootin' for UNLV"
Howard: "Sittin' at home, rootin' for UNLV"
King: "Sittin' at home, rootin' for UNLV"
Jackson: "Sittin' at home, rootin' for UNLV"
Rose: "Sittin' at home, rootin' for UNLV"

For me, only after putting this back on my bookshelf has the college hoops season started.

(Buy this book from Amazon)

Google Book Search works for me

While browsing around last night for information on Alex Haley's "The Autobiogaphy of Malcolm X", which I've been trying to get a copy of since catching Spike Lee's "X" for the first time in about a decade last week on TV, I was pointed to Google Book Search. The collection at the moment is impressive, and I can still rely on Wikipedia spoilers for longer stories I'd rather not sit and page through.

The system works.

I'd like to see a pure driving sim video game

As I've gotten older, I've noticed my gaming preferences have changed. I come from the old school of Atari 2600, 16-bit Nintendo and the original GameBoy, so I'm easy to please. I'm amazed at the graphics, sound, atmospherics, speed and AI baked into today's video games. That having been said, I largely play sports games and racers these days. I was really into I don't have time for RPGs anymore, although I did devote a certain percentage of my free time to Final Fantasy X a couple of years ago.

And with no hope for SimCity or Roller Coaster Tycoon anytime soon for the PS2 (my console), I'm likely not getting expanding my pallette. I've mentioned previously my longing for an indoor voleyball title just concentrating on playing the game. No Dead or Alive-derived mini-games or titillation, just high-action vball.

Although I can't remember the title, there was a simple driving - not racing mind you, but driving - game on the Apple IIe circa 1986 that had you trek cross-country. You literally had to sit there and let the car drive for hours, routinely stopping for gas, not crashing, navigating turns, manipulating only a handful of controls (acceleration and braking) and occasionally playing a "night mode" which was in the dark and featured the car's primitive headlights. I'd like to see another game based on that concept, but with today's technology.

After having played the various versions of Gran Turismo, I'd like to see a game with detailed rendering and pinpoint attention to detail in a scenario where you're not racing against a 90-second clock to pass checkpoints, but merely driving through major U.S. cities. The concept could be making deliveries, taking the kids on vacation, or something to that effect (pick your scenario, or maybe make this the levels..."Play in a number of challenging roles, each with its own obstacles."). Just have the objective be getting to some point in some amount of time. The conflict would be that a driver would be forced to deal with stop signs, stoplights, gridlock, the rising cost of fuel, and such. So there's the resource management challenge in the vein of WarCraft.

But it's just about driving, and obeying the law. Penalties would be applied for speeding, running red lights, failing to signal properly, tailgating, etc. The AI would be really cool...Grand Theft Auto-style switchable radio programming, perhaps the console making live Internet calls to obtain near-realtime traffic data, to accurately display construction and accidents, forcing the driver to map out alternate routes, a la Microsoft MapPoint.

And with the business making it harder for smaller publishers to be relevant, I'm quite sure this is an undertaking that many big-name developers wouldn't put atop their demand list. This is largely niche market, and for the majority of gamers these days, probably boring. but hell - it worked for Flight Simulator, didn't it?

Xbox 360 looks REALLY good

I'm not much of a modern-day gamer these days, but I did take a spin through the local GameStop store yesterday at the mall and caught the demo of the Xbox 360. I was really impressed, just with graphics, sound and the aesthetics of the unit itself. Wired likes the fact that it's HD-friendly, and this was evident in the in-store display. News.com seems to be a bit more standoffish.

I was blown away. Check out the E3 2005 video introduction to the console's hardware capabilities, featuring J. Allard, Microsoft's Xbox guru, who also did a little something in Redmond a few years back known as TCP/IP.

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Dammit. Because the local ABC affiliate is showing the Ohio State/Michigan game satellite delayed, I had to learn of the Buckeyes' 21-21 victory over my Wolverines via Mike Tirico on ESPN's broadcast of the Penn State/Michigan State game. Whatta way to get up on a Sunday morning. This is Lloyd Carr's first loss to OSU in the Big House. Crap.

I can't wait to see how Flickr nation, particularly Buckeye Fan, lean into us for this one. Ouch.

CBS has the best music in sports

Without a doubt, CBS has the best music in sports. So good, in fact, that it's used during telecasts of college and pro football games, and March Madness. You know the one.

I first became aware of this emotion-inspiring opus in Super Bowl XXI, when the Giants beat the Broncos. It was played throughout the game, as the network went to commercial break, during the end of game highlights, and other poignant moments. When I hear that familiar theme at the beginning or end of a game, it still sends shivers up my spine.

Good stuff.

You can't help but love JoePa

Every NCAA Division I coach is going to have their detractors. Most people display a passionate polarity about Bobby Bowden, either praising the man as if he were a Greek god or enviously condeming him for his success with Florida State. The numbers of those wishing to see Steve Spurrier go down in flames each Saturday are legion. USC's Pete Carroll, by virtue of having won the last two national championships, surely has his haters. Even Charlie Weis, the darling of national sportswriters for restoring South Bend as the Mecca of college football, has his naysayers.

But if you're a real college football fan - a true consumer of the game with an appreciation for history and tradition - you'll stand and cheer for Penn State this year, specifically for head coach Joe Paterno. It's one of the best stories this year in sports, how a guy 79 years old who most had written off two years ago and were pleading for his retirement is now on the fringe of a Big Ten title and trip to a BCS bowl game.

The man has conducted himself with class, can still recruit the country's top talent and continues to impart his value system on Nittany Lions throughout the nation. But his defining characteristic - his resolve - was evident as he didn't give up on improving the quality of life for young men when it would have been either fashionable or convenient to do so. Even diehards of other Big Ten conference foes have to tip their cap to JoePa. For those of us who haven't been alive long enough to see Bear Bryant patrol the sideline, The Legend is living history.

If I might paraphrase the school's motto - "Coach Paterno is Penn State". Happy Valley, indeed.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ohio State/Michigan 2005 press kit

Man, I love Rivalry Week in college football. Classic conference matchups have surfaced over the years making for great early season pigskin like Texas/Oklahoma, Miami/Florida State and Florida/Tennessee, but you've gotta love the time-honored gridiron battles: Army/Navy, Cal/Stanford, Alabama/Auburn, Harvard/Yale, USC/UCLA.

I served as Master of Ceremonies for a benefit concert last night and asked the audience during intermission what rivalry they thought was the best. Michigan/Ohio State was the overwhelming favorite. I won't disagree. I've been following UM since I was 5, and I'm wearing a Charles Woodson #2 throwback jersey on my sportstalk show on Monday. Screw objectivity - this is about pride. OSU is ranked higher, but the game's in Ann Arbor, and you can bet more than 111,000 will be rockin'. And while Lloyd Carr and Jim Tressel will be masterminding a timeless chess match, the spirits of Bo and Woody will be present. This is where it's at.

MGoBlue.com's got a great 36-page outstanding look at the big game in the Big House pitting the Buckeyes against the Wolverines. Essential pre-game reading for any fan of either program.

GO BLUE!

I'm a believer in The Madden Curse

What was once chalked up as comical conincidence is now the thing of unfortunate myth: The Madden Curse. Believe it, baby, because it's for real. Every player who has appeared on EA Sports' franchise pro football video game title has lackluster results the following season:
And now, Philly's Donovan McNabb joins a notorious roster of players who either face disappointing seasons (Lewis), playoff catastrophe (George, whom Lewis stripped the ball off of in the AFC Divisional Playoffs), or near-season ending injury (Vick). McNabb probably won't - and in the mind of many an Eagle fan, shouldn't- come back this season after a litany of injuries.

One wonders why Tom Brady, who's now won all three Super Bowls he's appeared in and has a 9-0 playoff record, was never tapped to be the next cover boy. Maybe he's a believer.

Perhaps Joey Harrington (previously the face for NCAA Football 2003 and currently starting in my fantasy league) will grace the cover of Madden '07. Maybe the curse could have reverse effects on underperformers?

Evanescence music with Final Fantasy video

OK, this music video I caught off Google Video this morning is one you have to check out. Someone was very clever in setting up scenes from Final Fantasy VII (I think) set against Evanescence's canonical hit "Bring Me To Life" . There's also a Final Fantasy X clip for Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know".

Really creative, nice editing and very entertaining!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Porn-busting filter blurs out mature images

While the decline of western civilization continues to promote the normalization of porn in society, in most professional industries it's still typically not advisable to view smut while at work. To aide managers police rogue staffers who gots to have at their porn, PixAlert has developed a scheme for quickly analyzing images and blurring out ones it deems offensive.

This stimulates my software development acumen more than my libido. I'd like a peek at the programming algorithm(s) they used to do this. More importantly, I'd be interested in the statistics on both its accuracy and tfalse positives returned - instances where an image is erroneously interpreted to be porn-related, and improperly blurred out.

How exactly are embedded images without ALT HTML attributes or metadata classified?

Desperately seeking "print this" links in blogs

It just dawned on me that most of the major blogging platforms - Blogger, MetaWeblog, MovableType - don't feature the expected "Print this Article" links so ubiquitous to major publishing sites. This makes - GASP! - printing interesting gems to a tangible medium rather difficult with the surrounding page layout UI elements (columns, ads, headers, footers, etc.).

The forthcoming MSIE 7 is supposed to feature auto-wrapping that will format a page's contents on the fly suitable for printing. This is nice, but most apps should include this already.

Flash or AJAX?

Jonathan Boutelle dissects a growing debate within the programming community about which presentation technology to use - AJAX or Flash. He cites a recent project he did and then comments on the pros and cons of each in certain situations. Michael Mahemoff's podcast still has one of the best discussions of this critical decision, also contrasting AJAX to Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, Java, SOAP, JSON, and other emerging platforms.

My personal take on the AJAX vs. Flash argument is now that Google's figured out how to implement AJAX-style functionality in mobile environments, AJAX has a slight leg up. However, the new Yahoo Maps beta exhibits an "either/or" implementation, letting the user choose a display format, and providing the distant-end developer with a choice of APIs.

I've been meaning to start messing with Flash 8 for the video translation capabilities, a la Google Video.

Celebs using new media services

I've come across a few celebrities using free community web services - why not? Of course these are suspect, as they may or may not be the real deal. It's nice to think so though.
Anyone caught any more?

TVTad syndicates shows via RSS & BitTorrent

A few days ago I caught Steve Rubel's post on TVTad, a .NET desktop utility that uses BitTorrent to serve digitized TV programs, which can then be plugged into RSS feeds for syndicated distirbution.

I thought it was a very intriguing concept, but not being able to find much else on it I figured it might be another groupie post, but it seems like it's starting to gain more momentum.

David Berlind's got good perspective on what this means for the future of broadcasting - notably the fact that this sort of turns a compatible PC into a TiVo unit, and gives a viewer the ability to skip through commercials.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Returning XmlDocument vs. XmlHttpRequest objects in Ajax

I found these helpful little gems from "Ajax in Action" (read my review), demonstrating how to either return a XmlDocument or XmlHttpRequest object, testing not for the calling client browser version, but for the existence of certain browser objects. These constructs gives the routines more shelf life, not having to update it down the road as new versions are released.

First, here's how to return an XmlDocument object, suitable for most recent Safari and Mozilla browsers:

function getXmlDocument() {
var xDoc = null;

if(document.implementation && document.implementation.createDocument) {
xDoc = document.implement.createDocument("","",null); // MOZILLA/SAFARI
} else if(typeof ActiveXObject != "undefined") {
var msXmlAx == null;

try {
msXmlAx = new ActiveXObject("MsXml2.DOMDocument"); // NEWER INTERNET EXPLORER
} catch(e) {
msXmlAx = new ActiveXObject("MsXml.DOMDocument"); // OLDER INTERNET EXPLORER
}

xDoc = msXmlAx;
}

if(xDoc == null || typeof xDoc.load == "undefined") {
xDoc = null;
}

return xDoc;
}


Now, here's how to return an instance of XmlHttpRequest, for browsers that support ActiveX:

function getXMLHttpRequest() {
var xRequest = null;

if(window.XMLHttpRequest) {
xRequest = new XMLHttpRequest(); // MOZILLA/SAFARI
} else if(typeof ActiveXObject != "undefined") {
xRequest = new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP"); // INTERNET EXPLORER
}

return xRequest;
}

Engadget podcasts VOD market developments

If you've been following the evolution of VOD services from TV networks lately, you'll want to check out Engadget's November 15 podcast (download the MP3). The first 15 minutes breaks down the major moves from Nickelodeon/Cartoon Network, CBS, and NBC Universal .

It's a great discussion...check it out!

KUAM.com toolbar for IE 5+

This is a screengrab of my PC with the KUAM.com Toolbar for MSIE 5+ loaded, a freeware plugin that Geoff Appleby and I worked on. We started building it about a year ago in Visual Basic .NET but then deprecated the development effort to VB6 so as not to force everyone wanting it to have to download the .NET Runtime.

It's a slick little utility that includes the following:
This is one of a million concepts I came up with to give our site relevancy to people not on our site at that moment. Much to my chagrin, I realize that people aren't always online, and even when they are they're not necessarily on my site. So, we infiltrate other electronic means (mobile devices/PDAs, desktop, e-mail inboxes) to give them convenient, constant connectivity. If someone is on a competitor's site but sees a headline in the Toolbar, click a link and jump to my site.

We're doing more work of this nature in the Win32 space (sorry, Macheads). for desktop tools to access local news, so stay tuned!

Litefeeds supports Gmail RSS feeds


It's admittedly been awhile since I've used Litefeeds since Google Reader came on the scene. But I just noticed today while doing some maintenance to transfer some RSS feeds onto my mobile that you can add the RSS feed generated by your Gmail account.

This is fantastic! Kudos to John Goodall and crew for adding this in!

Book review: "Ajax in Action"

Let me first preface this review by saying this is the first technical book that I've read cover to cover TWICE prior to posting a review. I had to make sure the stuff stuck, because the material covered in Manning's very excellent "Ajax in Action" is really deep. But bringing the next evolution of user experience, giving your web applications a rich client feel, isn't completely easy. This won't scare you away from using Ajax in your existing applications, but make you aware of exactly what to expect.

The book first starts out by presenting a healthy discussion of the key components of remote scripting - CSS, the DOM, JavaScript's XmlHttpRequest object and client callbacks - and how they interact within the scope of your project. Before diving into full-on Ajax development, authors Dave Crane and Eric Pascarello discuss the need for object-oriented JavaScript programing, which will be foreign and awkward to most developers, even those coming from procedural backgrounds like Java and C++. The authors familiarize you with the various ways of composing the unconventional constructs available (JSON-RPC, prototypes) for optimizing remote scripting.

Best practices are encouraged throughout the chapters and enforced in all code snippets. The use of patterns like Observer, Command and MVC and refactoring and module-based programming (mainly .NET assemblies and Java servlets) permeate the entire work. The actual meat of the book doesn't get started until Chapter 9, which the authors clearly state, dealing with the aforementioned discussion of raw JavaScript programming that'll be completely new to most people. But for those not wanting to engage in the massive task of writing syntax by hand, the major libraries available are thankfully referenced.

The book also isn't a "copyist's" title, one that can provide working code right out of the gate. Also, the audience for this work should be fairly sopisticated and experienced with modern-day web programming, as the book assumes a certain level of competency and doesn't waste time with rudimentary concepts or examples. Crane and Pascarello take a platform-agnostic look at incorporating Ajax-style programming into web applications, citing examples in PHP, Java and .NET, and accordingly the examples are all partial and abstracted, to be implemented in whatever platform the developer/reader is familiar with.

This is also one of the few books that I've ever recommended people read the appendices in addition to the chapters. Most titles have supplementary info that doesn't match the flow of the chapters, or exclusionary stuff you can skip, but this book is really a tome of good reading. Appendix B is an outstanding discussion on JavaScript OOP, providing an introduction to and examples in JSON.

Ajax programming is a lot more complex than it lets on, but not as daunting as you might think. This book is critical in your understanding of how to make the next big thing in web development to work for you. A must-have.

Google dabbles with book rental concept

Let the record show that I'd be willing to avail of Google's idea to rent books online for 10% of their retail cost. I'm one of those people who don't re-read titles after I'm done. The only works on my shelf that ever get used after I'm done reading them now are my software development tomes (which I'd buy anyway) and Mitch Albom's "Fab Five" (which I traditionally read annually to get ready for the college basketball season).

The idea that movies downloaded through TiVo in cooperation with NetFlix has all but dried up after fear a lack of interest by the movie industry. Let's hope the literary community doesn't piss on Google's parade for this notion.

"The Internet...I finished it."

Remember that cute commercial last year (for an ISP?) in which a wife asked her bewildered husband what was wrong, to which he replied he apparently surfed the entire World Wide Web? I had a similar euphoria this morning, after spending some quality time in Google Reader...and finishing my entire collection of RSS feeds, including posts as old as a week.

It felt eerily empty to arrive at the bottom of a page of aggregated blog posts, photostreams, updates and other syndicated data...with nothing left.

Don't hate on In2TV - just don't watch

I've very quickly become irked with people ripping on AOL and WB for developing the re-syndicated In2TV and discrediting the service even before it's launched. In2TV will allow people to access streamed "classic" programming from the 70's, 80's, and 90's. The service is ad-supported, so it's at no additional cost to the consumer (I highly doubt the service would survive through paid membership). Check it out when you want, as much as you want.

There's always going to be a market for retro pop culture. VH1's "I Love the 80's" (based on a format originally developed by the BBC) spawned four sequel series. The same concept worked for TV Land; while that network isn't ever going to have the most favorable Nielsen numbers, it does have its loyal following. Consider the selectivity of the service's name: it's for people who are really into television. Sure, it features content that predates reality TV, is largely tame on sexual overtones, vulgarity, violence, and with the exception of "All in the Family" - if that's even part of the offering - is devoid of bigotry that so permeates network TV these days. It's niche, even if it's not your niche. (On a personal note, I hope "Land of the Lost" is scheduled to run.)

So if you don't approve, just don't watch.

Suggestion for caching servers supporting multimedia broadband channels

Guam's bandwidth SUCKS at night. I'm messing around with my Motherload playlist (see what clips I've got stored) at home just before 8am on Wednesday on my 3.3 Mbps cable modem connection. Comedy Central's broadband channel works perfectly, and I've got no long buffering episodes, playback slowdown reminiscent of Street Fighter 2, or any waiting at all. I'm jumping from clip to clip and getting real-time results. This is in stark contrast to nighttime browsing, when I've got to fight for every bit.

I know from my days in the local ISP game that Guam's notoriously limited bandwidth can't support the growing number of users interacting with pipe-intensive applications during peak hours, generally weeknights from 7-11pm. (It's the same problem AOL used to have, circa1995.)

I don't have a ton of experience working on caching servers, only having messed with Squid and Akamai, but I'd like to make a suggestion for those involved with their development, especially for those supporting multimedia for broadband services. There should be a way to cache at least the first half of a clip, such that a user can start watching the first 2:30 of a 5-minute presentation from a server cache, while the remaining unloaded bits are streamed to the client app.

Microsoft's vernacular is getting annoying

One thing that's surprised me is the growing number of terms that Microsoft has tried to politically morph into something more Redmond-centric. While I first thought such practice was comical, this is becoming more and more irritating for me as the list grows. It's forcing people to become bilingual for computer science discussions.

In each of the following the first term is that which the rest of the world uses, followed by its Redmond moniker.
Expand upon this list by commenting as you see fit...

At what cost privacy?

Despite my general disdain about Microsoft's "Live" software initiative, I don't think the notion of ad-supported desktop apps is all that bad, if the stuff's free. I'm not crazy about it being test-marketed through Microsoft Works (which I haven't used in years), but I'd happily run an OS that featured ads if doing so meant a reduction in cost to me.

I'm totaly in favor of using a nationwide Google WiFi network, even if doing so means I'll have to login through a proprietary PPTP connection and therefore be tracked, being streamed ads localized to my general geographic position. It's free, right?

I think people read a little too much into how intrusive this could be, and wind up being their own worst enemy. After expressing similar hesitations about getting a Gmail account, I've found the ads that display inline within e-mail messages aren't at all intrusive, and quite frankly, often help. If they're relevant to a conversation, they're more valuable.

Perhaps I'm a bit more accomodating of this type of commercialism because one of the many hats I wear professionally is Marketer. I appreciate the mechanism, if not fully buying into the message. So I say to people wanting privacy and hating ads: pay full price for the service. It'll make the game that much better for all of us if you continue to demand a paid version. We'll have choice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The aristocracy of data

If content is king and presentation can be considered queen, I would say that delivery mechanism would have to be princely in the aristocracy of data delivery in the Web 2.0-influenced Age of Constant Connectivity. I'm thinking less and less these days about making our data available exclusively over the WWW and really expanding outward to be relevant as many platforms as we can.

I read recently that few realize that the Internet is the first medium that's inherently on-demand, and I agree. I'm re-evaluating my grand content delivery strategy and honing the mechanisms by which we offer data to users in both push and pull models, and really enforcing the benefits of asynchronous delivery (time-shifted, scheduled, on-demand) models in addition to our real-life scheduled programming. My vision is to empower anyone who wants our data to be able to get our stuff anytime, anwhere and on any device.

Were it not for my interest in Ajax and the fattening of web clients to the point of reaching their desktop counterparts, I'd probably not even be working on the Web anymore. Our online content is synchronized with our on-air products - optimized for the operating environment, but indistinguishable across each platform, so that no one service lags in being up-to-date.

KUAM's multimedia, multiplatform, multidevice approach to delivering news, entertainment and information to people has put us so far ahead of the competition, we've been known affectionatelty as "the little affiliate station in a zero market that operates like a multinational network". I take that as a compliment.

Google Local for mobile won't run on my Motorola V710

What a bummer - I can't yet get the Google Local for mobile beta, which I think is so cool, on my Motorola V710. I tried a few of the other Motorola models, some other phone brands, and even the generic MIDlets, but no dice. I had a similar problem trying to get LiteFeeds to load on the same handset.

Verizon apparently uses a closed BREW network that won't support OTA provisioning. This is going to suck for a local wireless provider who launched a big marketing campaign to finance a sizable investment in BREW. Basically, if a Java-enabled phone tries to download a required MIDlet and displays a page of HTTP headers, you're screwed.

Like me.

Domain registration staffers are the nicest people

I re-registered my user's group's domain, GuamASP.net, this morning over the phone through Register.com. Several weeks ago I setup JasonSalas.com for the first time, using GoDaddy, also over POTS. The one thing that I noticed is that the people there are really nice. I didn't get the "this call may be recorded for quality control purposes..." message, but they were still very receptive.

They were really patient and accomodating. That's something largely missing in this day and age of short-attention spans and e-everything.

Nielsen ratings to include DVR viewership

One of the first things I thought about when noting the race towards VOD distribution models by TV networks was how Nielsen ratings might inevitably be affected. Media Post is now reporting two new categories to track a television show's total viewership, allowing metrics analysts to distinguish between true programmming viewed over cable and satellite networks and those downloaded and viewed later - for as long as a week.

The new classifications are "live plus same day DVR viewing" and "live plus seven days of DVR viewing."

The big thing that's going to make this hard to truly gauge would be repeated playbacks of digitized content after it's been downloded, and in lieu of formal DRM considerations, transferring to other media. I guess the same can be said for people taping and replaying shows via a VCR, but this is a whole new ballgame.

Watch me debate sports with an Olympic champion

It's not everyday you get to interview a true champion, much less have a friendly argument with one. I mentioned at the tail end of last week how I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing on our live newscast the last American man to win gold in the marathon Frank Shorter.

Frank, who is also a lawyer and has previously chaired anti-doping efforts, was nice enough to come back on the sportstalk TV show I co-host with Brant McCreadie, and take part in "5-in-5", our debate of national sports topics. Brant mediated a lively discussion between Frank (left) and I (right) over the following issues:
Download our debate (18.7 MB). Enjoy!

Suggestion for Writely: let me store my local time zone

I really love Writely, and it's easily my favorite Web 2.0 app. It's ease-of-use, ability to export to Word, capability to let me upload documents either from my desktop or via e-mail, and the fact that it's a full-fledged web-based word processor is one of the reasons I loathe Microsoft's faux "Live" strategy. However, I've found one shortcoming with my beloved online service.

I discovered recently when composing/storing a blog post in Writely and then using the "blog" feature to post to JasonSalas.com through my Blogger account that I have no direct control over the localization of my time zone. So because of the time difference between Writely's server time and me in Guam (I'm 17 hours ahead of EST), I can't modify Writely's timestamping, which forced my post's chronological ordering to be listed as if I had posted it 17 hours earlier in my rundown. Which got it out of whack.

Several web services I've used, including .TEXT and Blogger blogs, let me set my own local time zone like I would when setting up an OS on a new PC, so that posts accurately reflect when I posted them. And since Writely is an ASP.NET application, this is certainly doable. That's about the only criticism I have.

Mapping mashups: StadiumFind.com, Seattle road construction

I found a couple of cool mapping mashups today:

So THAT's why Blogger doesn't have site stats

My copy of Google Reader's been bombarded with blog posts and commentary on Google Analytics (the formerUrchin prior to acquisition by Google), the new site stats service from Mountain View's most globally-recognized resident. So I'm going to give in a try it.

I had always wondered, after switching my blogging space over from .TEXT to Blogger (also bought by Google), why there aren't any facilities in the blogging app for site stats. I think I get it now - all part of the plan.

Wal-Mart considering kiosks to burn movies to DVD

Wal-Mart is apparently in talkes with Hollywood studios to allow customers to be able to burn movies onto portable discs within the store via kiosks. This is a cool concept, brought forth by the diminishing returns in DVD sales, stocking costs, and returned merchandise.

Nickelodeon, Catoon Network latest VOD combatants

Seeing as how I've been blogging about the developments in the network TV VOD space, I was thrilled to learn that Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network are selling digitized versions of some of their most popular shows. I was impressed with the fact that several top shows are being offered.

Unfortunately, I find the major flaw of this offering to be that the videos will reportedly only work on Hasbro's VuGo media player. The rate for this latest pay-per-view model is also $2.99 per episode, which is a little high-end for most kids. It's not anything a kid who's parents have TiVo or other PVR/DVR couldn't do anyway, but it's not topping my list of best-conceived business plans. So while I'm not in favor of using such a model, seeing the limited device support and elevated pricing as inferior to the de facto "standard" put forth by ABC, CBS and NBC, at least the two networks stay true to the VOD concept.

As corollaries to this rant, I also read-up on HBO On Demand this morning and wasn't pleased with their implementation. I'm additionally wondering if AOL's-WB's new In2TV service will pressure Nick At Nite /TVLand to offer older episodes for download, just to stay relevant.

Monday, November 14, 2005

NFL faux pas: highstepping & looking at yourself in the Jumbotron

One thing I've noticed more and more these days in pro football is players looking at themselves in the Jumbotron when streaking towards the end zone with defenders in the dust. Isaac Bruce did it in ther Super Bowl, perhaps only incidentally. The Vikings' Mewelde Moore did it for an extended period of time today as he scampered past the Giants.

I enjoy a good end zone celebration - once a player actually gets there. I've never been a fan of Deion Sander-ish highstepping en route to the Promised Land, but in today's world, dominated by the perpetually recycled SportsCenter highlight and various flavors of Internet syndication, it's more about "look what I did!" and less about helping your team win.

Roger Craig never did this. He high-stepped, but not in a showboating way...he did it to avoid would-be tacklers. Even if the great former 49ers running back had DBs beat by 40 yards, he'd be sprinting like they were right on his tail. That professionalism helped him earn three Super Bowl rings.

In defense of today's players, highsteppers and screenlookers only started with PrimeTime's arrival and the implementation of wide display technology, respectively. And maybe there is an advantage: Bruce in the aforementioned play looked like he may have been using the Georgia Dome's huge screen almost as a de facto rear-view mirror, checking the position and distance of defenders relative to himself.

When I played in middle school I ran like hell as a receiver, and only because I was scared to death of pummeled if I ever got caught.

My point is that we've all got our own motivations. While it's unconscionable that Paul Tagliabue will be able to control to octal behavior of players while on the field of battle, let's hope that players keep their priorities less on their own achievements and more on the good of the team.

VOD market could generate $5 billion

The excellent Radio & Television Business Report speculated that the emerging VOD market for distributing TV programming could be worth $5 billion. Billion. Damn. Now that's truly pay-per-view.

Quoted from the November 11 RBR e-mail newsletter:

It pretty much happened all at once - - VOD content deals everywhere and more mainstream media channels going online. AOL.com will feature CBSnews.com content and video on its home page (see related story). Microsoft's MSN and the Associated Press announced a partnership to develop an online video network that will stream video news feeds to sites that subscribe to AP's wire service.

Comcast announced it will sell hit shows from CBS such as "Survivor" and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" for as little as 99 cents an episode, with commercials. DirecTV announced a similar deal with NBC Universal to sell commercial-free episodes of its hit shows. Apple unveiled an iPod capable of playing videos, which will now be sold alongside songs on Apple's iTunes Music Store - - including ABC-TV and Disney Channel shows. The booming VOD market could be worth 5 billion a year to broadcast TV networks, says David Poltrack, CBS EVP/Research and Planning, based on an estimate of 50 million homes with VOD access and an average household paying 100 bucks a year to watch network programming off schedule.
Ad Age quoted him saying this at the EPM Entertainment Marketing Conference 11/9. VOD's success will ride on marketing the networks' most successful shows. "The clear news from the last few weeks is that people are beginning to believe in the potential for video-on-demand," AdAge reported him saying at the conference. "The marketplace will change dramatically in the era of digital TV, but it will look more familiar than the pundits say...Some people see this as the beginning of the end for broadcast networks. I'd argue that's myopic. The system will not only survive, it will thrive."

Anonymous personalization hack in ASP.NET 2.0

One thing that I've been racking my brain around for more than a year is how to create/enforce anonymous personalization in ASP.NET 2.0, such that web parts and the portal framework can be used within a site without mandating membership on people. In my experience, this turns people off more than on.

Daron Yondem may have found the solution, by using a server-side cookie set via ASP.NET Forms Authentication and hidden from view. It's a pretty neat implementation.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I'll see your Ted Ginn, Jr. and raise you Steve Breaston

I'm borrowing a now-famous line from ESPN's Neil Everett to hype up a key component in next week's Ohio State/Michigan classic. And it's not A.J. Hawk against Chad Henne, nor is it Mike Hart against the Buckeye's D-line...it's not even really a "matchup" per se. It's two flankers/kick returners who could very well mean the difference in the ballgame.

UM's Steve Breaston, a senior, was hampered by injuries last year after two moderately successful years, largely in the shadow of all-time great Braylon Edwards. He's really become a reliable asset since midseason, is aware of the tradition of great Wolverine receivers, and is leading by example by making the big plays in the clutch.

Most sportswriters, myself included, had OSU's Ted Ginn, Jr. down as a preseason Heisman finalist. He became Priority 1 on more scouting reports than any other sophomore I've seen in a long time. This kid has gamebreaking play written all over him.

Both can flat-out fly. Ginn's father coached him in high school in Cleveland, while Stevie B. was a quarterback in Pennsylvania. Each commands so much attention when lining up at the line of scrimmage that they make their teammates open. OSU's Santonio Holmes and Michigan's Mario Mattingham and Jason Avant all have benefitted from the respect DBs pay to #7 and #15, respectively.

I think the key is in readiness. Breaston's turned up his game of late, making big catches and finally turning into a consistent threat for kickoffs and punts. Ginn is so dangerous in theory after tearing up the Big Ten last year, he's having a hard time putting serious stats together because people key on him and won't kick anywhere near him. He displayed the afterburners in Minneapolis last week, but he's found the end zone only twice more this season.

So while it won't be a direct meeting between the two a la Charles Woodson/David Boston in '97...they'll undoubtedly impact the game's outcome. May the best man win.

Ohio State fan rips Big Blue on Flickr

As a lifelong Wolverines fan who bleeds maize & blue, there are few occasions outside of the annual UM/OSU slugfest when I'll give props to, much less acknowledge, Buckeye Nation. This is one of them.

I've found quite entertaining, although annoying as sin, Buckeye Fan's Flickr photostream. It's got some creative Photoshop jobs, as well as some realistically painful screengrabs from last year's decimation of UM in Columbus. It ain't gonna happen this year, so enjoy it while it lasts, Buster. Get ready to hear "Hail to the Victors" all afternoon.

In preparation for the big game at the Big House next week, Michigan dispatched Indiana and Ohio State absolutely annihilated Northwestern. Ahem.

Go Blue!

Numbers down for mainstream media usage

TheLongTail.com has some pretty harrowing stats on the decline of mainstream media. Of particular interest to me is the performance of broadcast platforms, namely TV and radio. That television viewership continues to rise despite individual shows suffering is a testament to the short-attention span altruism of today's programming. I would have liked to see a similar comparative list of the new media apps and platforms, but this is quite informative as it is.

Quoted from the source:

Down:

Mixed:

Up:


Java MIDlet runs Google Local maps on mobile devices


Bravo, Google. Jim Liddle reports that the company's successfully incorporated Ajax-style functionality in mobile environments, through a Java MIDlet (as if there's any other kind) that renders Google Local maps on microbrowsers. I've blogged my concerns for using Ajax programming in mobile apps, and how features delivered by remote scripting might be lost in translation when ported over to wireless devices. The amazing thing is that the MIDlet apparently is only 38k.

Good to know someone's been able to pull it off.

Top 10 hacks for Technorati

I'll admit that I haven't to date used either Technorati or del.icio.us. With the exception of a few Flickr photostream RSS feeds I'm rather green when it comes to tagging. A blog post everyone's linked to by Steve Rubel citing the best ways to make Technorati work for you finally got me over the hump.

Timeline of significant events for integrated TV & new media

I'm listing some of the major concepts in play and significant events to have taken place in the last several weeks relative to what's becoming a very active market: integrated television in the Digital Age. This is basically a reference list for those of us really into this stuff. I expect this to be a document that'll undergo several updates in the future, so bookmark this URL.

The future of TV is dictated by several emerging technologies and technological concepts:
  • The Internet is more powerful than any satellite or cable provider
  • Multimedia has better convergence potential for those companies already involved in it than plaintext (TV networks/affiliates stand more to gain than newspapers and magazines)
  • Platforms that are changing TV: DVRs/PVRs, video-enabled mobile phones/PDAs, mobile media devices
  • Consumption of mainstream media is in major decline
Timeline of major events from the past few of weeks in the integrated TV biz:
...meanwhile, the death knell continues to sound for the doomed world of print media:

Microsoft's PR week: dissecting Web 2.0 instead of celebrating .NET 2.0

Talk about pissing on one's parade. Earlier this week I caught the rather unceremonious release of the latest versions of Microsoft's .NET Framework, Visual Studio, BizTalk Server and SQL Server, and only now did I make an effort to check them out. Some rollout - most of the connected world (i.e., mainstream media, the blogosphere) was busy dissecting what's been seen as a very suspect reaction to the "sea change" brought about by open source technologies and Google after Dave Winer posted internal MS memos from Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie on the topic. This totally negated the mammoth public relations momentum our Redmond friends normally build up prior to release.

I guess in retrospect, Microsoft got eactly what they wanted: media notoriety. They wanted to flex their muscle with .NET 2.0, but got hammered about its lack of focus for Web 2.0. Everyone's talking about them...just not for the reasons they had planned.

Oh well, no such thing as bad press.

IBM develops staff podcasting manifesto

Steve Rubel's doing a lot lately to promote more corporate blogging, and the outward recognition of such effort by the rest of the world. It's interesting to see that IBM has posted a list of guidelines for its staffers getting into podcasting. Steve reports these include:

* Do not podcast IBM Confidential material.
* Be mindful not only of what you say, but how you say it.
* Protect your privacy and the privacy of others.
* Set the bar as high as you can for audio production and content quality.
* There may be some invitations to participate in non-IBM podcasts that warrant IBM Communications' involvement.    
* Identify your podcast as the voice of an individual or small group within the company, not the 'official' voice of the company.
* Before creating a podcast, listen to some.

I'm just glad IBM took this road. Geez, with e-mail etiquette, blogging practices, podcasting behavior, IM usage and others, corporate handbooks must be the size of the Bible these days.

if(typeof(media) != MP3) then media != podcasting

I find today's thoughts by Dave Winer, who helped co-found the podcasting model, interesting. He argues that if an organization/individual is distributing media in a format other than MP3, it's not podcasting.

Dave's post seems to passionately argue that podcasting should remain a non-commercial platform, as such would encourage and allow DIY'ers to enter the game, with an equal chance at success as a Fortune 50 getting involved. The fact that MP3 as a format is portable and freely available to create content, and accessible by anyone with a computer built in the last 8 years , and naturally makes it hard to do auto ad insertions (services like Fruitcast are trying to angle in here), promotes the community aspect of it. It's a scheme inherently including the little weekend hobbyist having his own ad hoc talk show out of his basement on a zero-budget, as well as the corporation wil millions to spend on equipment, facilities and talent.

But to me that's besides the point.

I respectfully disagree with my colleague because it's a necessity to defend abstraction within a platform. Podcasting is a means of distributing media over the Internet by way of referencing multimedia within an RSS feed. That's the commendable part and that's where it should end. I've received other formats in podcast aggregators of other audio/video formats (Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI, various MPEG flavors), and while the lack of uniform distribution method does admittedly make it frustrating at times, that's also the beauty of it. We can do these kinds of things with the freedom to change it up and use new presentation fomats within the same delivery mechanism. But productions not explicitly conforming to using MP3s shouldn't be alienated from the podcast community.

I look a little deeper than what file format a show's in to determine if it's a podcast. How abojt the MP3 productions that don't use RSS feeds, and just put them up on blogs? I'd say this was bad (or at least incomplete) podcasting practice, but podcasting nonetheless.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

TV programing price war: $0.99 vs. $1.99

I've been thinking a lot about pricing since reading about the digital distribution/monetization models currently in play for today's televised network programming. As a product developer, the last thing I think about is pricing. In my experience, it tends to add confusion to the mix. It's good to have goals, but constantly having a profit objective looming over you in the creative stages of idea conception is counterproductive.

Build a quality product or construct a solid service and figure out the baseline cost to sell it to cover your costs. Then add markup baed on various cost inputs, consider the competitive climate, ponder what the market will bear, and plan a little for future shifts and generally you'll arrive at a dollar figure.

This stream of consciousness therefore leads me to ask why CBS/Comcast & NBC/DirecTV made their programming so much cheaper than the ABC/iTunes deal? A buck is significant when scaled up in TV audience numbers and doing CPM analysis and quasi-statistical stuff like that. The major advantage the ABC offering has is portability and device support from a growing number of vendors, but it's still video limited to a 320-x-240 display. In contrast (pun intended), the PVR-based nature of the CBS and NBC schemes are of much better quality, suitable for formal display. In my mind as a consumer, I would think this would be worth more. I'm more likely to watch a 44-minute digitized version of "60 minutes" on a full-sized TV screen than off of a 2.5" iPod.

But, if the CBS and NBC shows were likewise priced at just under $2, I wouldn't complain. I still think that's a fair rate for a broadcast-quality network show, sans commercials. ABC makes twice as much money off of me, which will assumedly finance future innovation and marketing gimmickry.

Perhaps the other guys wanted to undercut ABC's first-to-market advantage. Maybe ABC's affiliate costs are really that much more exorbitant than the others. Perchance ratings for "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" really are kicking the crap out of everyone else. Possibly the price was set high as to imply a huge benefit for the consumer when it gets dropped due to compeition, or providing for extra bundling, like additional bonus clips. Not being privy to such data, I can't opine on the subject.

The pricing model is probably, in no small part, due to the fact that the avail of CBS's and/or NBC's programing, you need to simultaneously subscribe to a third-party service - Comcast and/or DirecTV, respectively. That probably balances out the long-run costs.

I guess I'll have to muster a guess that the quality of the content - in theory - outweighs the benefits of the platform through which it arrives at the viewer.

CBS to podcast college sports via iTunes

Just when I was going to blog about the lack of sports video podcasts in the iTunes Music Store...

CBS' $325 million acqusition of CSTV is a major step for the network, as it announced plans to distribute several college sports programs via iTMS podcasts. The shows are commercial-free and niche in scope. "One show, "Hurricane Hotline," includes segments with Miami football head coach Larry Coker. Another, "On the Sidelines with Mike Leach," features the Texas Tech football coach sounding-off."

Good start.

Third-party products products work better than Apple's...there's a big surprise

Please note the sarcasm with which I write, because I'm implying it heavily. I got word that iSquint, a freeware video conversion tool by Tyler Loch for Mac OS'es that ports larger clips suitable for the video-enabled iPod, executes better than Apple's native tools. No kidding.

This is one bummer I've had about Apple software for a long time. I've had similar trouble with QuickTime Pro 7. I tried several times to convert short clips to MP4, but QT7 takes several hours, and of course, can't import Windows Media formats (WMV, WMA). In comparison, ImTOO MPEG Encoder preps and exports the same file - as a WMV, MOV, AVI or other file format in minutes.

And don't get me started on running iTunes on a Windows PC. The wait and lag alone makes me want to think differently.

CBS hooks up with AOL, MSN develops AP affiliate player

The network frenzy for content distribution continues. CBS Digital Media reportedly is working with portal AOL to deliver video and text through AOL News, which already carries ABC and CNN material. This all comes right on the heels of MSN announcing an integrated distribution deal with The Associated Press to provide video news content to 3,500 AP affiliates.

PVRs, iTunes, custom players, web services...where is Fox in all this madness?

PSP users in UK can download TV programs a day before they air

In stark contrast to the rapidly-evolving U.S. model of offering TV programming via PVRs, iTunes ,or other means, a service in the UK gives PSP users the ability to download episodes of shows 24 hours before they air on TV. While I've yet to hear of such catching on across the pond, this is a revolutionary format that I think is really going to catch on.

Imagine getting a pre-game show or a Barbara Walters-caliber exclusive interview with a celeb before it makes the air. Apply the right DRM provisions, and this could really make for a great integrated product.

I'm also developing a new TV series to be either distributed exclusively for mobile media devices, or released before it airs on mainstream cable, or including clues and tidbits that will only really make sense if you download the mobile video and then watch the TV show. The latter is a rather Matrix-esque take on the whole "you've got to consume the full range of media to really get the story" concept. You won't be totally outcast for not getting the portable media, but the show will be that much more valuable with it.

NBA starting broadband service

While listening to Joel's excellent RossCode Weekly podcast that the NBA is prepping for the release of "NBA TV Broadband", an ad-supported video on-demand service featuring highlights from each game (first half clips are played during halftime, the entire game's highlights are played after it ends).

I personally don't mind sitting through ads on streaming VOD channels. Sure, I can't skip past them like in so many PVRs, but it's free. I'm really starting to wonder how major sports networks like ESPN and FoxSports are going to implement the streaming vs. vidcast debate.

Not liking what I'm hearing about Live Office

Let's face it: the news that the next version of a Microsoft operating system and productivity suite wouldn't be a web version of Windows and Office, respectively, was really disappointing. At least it was for me. Further, new developments pointing to collaboration with existing desktop products over translation is even more depressing. "Needing to re-think Microsoft Office functionality" implies spending hours upon hours trying desperately to think of creative, innovative ways to avoid an inevitable point - making key MS software available

I've previously stated that I'd be happy to have to buy the desktop version of Office and have some ActiveX control scan my drive for DLLs or a Registry entry proving the paid, licensed existence of the programs; I'd likewise not have any qualms about paying for online access/storage of Office apps. Heck, I'd sooner use a Mac or Linux box as my home PC than start using another word processor. My commitment is that deep...but my faith is being tested.

Should the new products be helpful, I'll gladly eat crow and say I was wrong, so time will tell, plans will change, and I'll wait patiently. But this isn't the Microsoft I remember growing up.

And I'm not liking what I'm hearing so far.

"Transparent screens" photostream makes great screen saver

The big to-do earlier this year was in images being circulated around the 'Net for "transparent screens...yeah, yeah, I was duped by it, too...and it's back and better than ever.

Flickr's photostream on the topic has some really creative work (pictured here is a shot by Paul Robinson), the slideshow of which makes for a great screen saver. (So do the "Seattle" and "Oahu" galleries, which is what I use when I'm away or watching TV.)

Play "Risk" on Google map

Now this is a clever idea: let people play the classic boardgame "Risk" on Google Local. There apparently was a misconstrued factoid about the free Google API license key, but it works.

Maybe we'll soon also be able to rock out to an online version of the timeless "Payday" via some Web 2.0-style calendaring app.

Speicher on TV's transfomation: "Resist the urge to be lemmings"

I really enjoy Stephen Speicher's "The Clicker" column on Engadget, and this week's discussion of the monetizing of network TV programming, shaped in an open letter to NBC, CBS (and assumedly Fox) execs, is one of his best.

Podcast Factory is all-in-one kit for DIY radio

I was really happy to see the release of M-Audio's Podcast Factory, a one-stop shopping kit for people looking to get into audio podcasting. Included are a durable mic, preamp, and software for either a PC or a Mac. Exporting to MP3 and creation of RSS is automated through the softare, apparently, taking all the complexities out of producing a good show.

This lets you concentrate on expressing yourself, rather than having to play sound engineer and producer. Really good kit. This and a good book on podcasting are enough to get you started.

Google Local adds restaurant details

Google Local added fairly detailed restaurant data for Google Local, the former formerly Google Maps. It's not overloaded with extraneous stuff, just enough to get you jazzed to go out and eat.

(Here's a sample of places to eat in Cambridge, MA)

Frappr: Google map of you & your friends

Here's an interesting mashup: Frappr. It lets you create a Google Local map and place pictures of people you know throughout. This is a cool add-on to the MySpace/Friendster/Xanga social networking revolution that's so popular with the kids these days.

I was doing a Google Earth flyover map for my friends and I that are spread throughout the U.S. mainland, but this is sweet, too. And a helluva lot easier.

I interviewed Olympic champion Frank Shorter last night

I had the sincere pleasure of meeting and talking with runner Frank Shorter on my station's newscast last night. Frank won gold at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, took silver in Montreal in '76, and is the last American male to win gold in the marathon. Thankfully, we had a long segment prior to our live interview, so we chatted for a bit about athletics and his life experience. Really nice, well-spoken, funny guy.

A lawyer in his spare time, Frank's also done a lot of work with modern doping investigation and policy development surrounding steroids, testifying before Congress, so we talked about this (again, while off the air). By the time we went live to promote the race he's on island to celebrity host, we got all the really cool stuff out of the way.

He's also going to be on my sportstalk show for this coming Monday...make sure to check it out! (I'll post MP4 video for those of you not on Guam and unable to get our broadcast signal.)

Google-Analytics.com?

I noticed this morning while blogging that HTTP activity was going on between my copy of Firefox and Google-Analytics.com (I use the multi-tabbed interface, so I couldn't catch which of the 15 tabbed web pages was making the request). Wondering what this was and getting a 404 error when trying to browse to that URL, I - ahem - Googled it, finding this Search Engine Watch article. Interesting.

I still haven't figure out what it's for - my guess is something with Blogger, which I use and of course, which Google now owns.

Google's downside: setting the search bar too high

I've been weening a good buddy of mine over to the Web 2.0 world. He's a sysadmin who's more on the hardware side than software, and so hasn't been in-tune with the RSS revolution. I've demonstrated to him the benefits of time-shifted media, the beauty of blogs, how cool tagging is, astrounded him with Ajax examples, showed off various social networking apps, and the prolifration of public APIs. His only response was a jaw-dropped "Damn, the Web's a totally different place, huh"? Damn straight.

But one thing that I noticed amidst his amazement was disappointment in search capabilities for non-Google services. His tolerance for finding exactly what he wanted was much shorter - typically one screen refresh worth. He got frustrated when using different keywords and phrases when searching Flickr photostreams. Wikipedia, which comparably has a much better search facility than Flickr based on its volume, also didn't return Google-esque results. I'm so into this stuff I just didn't notice, but his feedback made me think.

Google's set the bar so high in terms of speed, scalability and relevance in the search world that it's started to impact other services on the Web. That "Google" is now a term used by the masses as a verb meaning "to search online" proves the legitimacy of its existence. As such, it's become the default - and in many cases, the only - search engine used by neophytes and fairweather 'Netizens. But in so doing, it's also created a baseline for quality most of us will nevr be able to touch. My site's search utility suffers the same fate , even though it's optimized as far as I can go with an indexed, full-text search in SQL Server.

Google's just so damn good at what it does that all of our stuff seems inferior. Because it is.

AOL publishes annual report on IM usage patterns

Here's interesting reading: AOL's third annual Instant Messenging Trend Survey. The report comments on the community's openness to IM TV, 33% of users IM from their mobile devices, 47% change their away messages at least once per day.

With the exception of a 90-day trial period in which I ran the mobile version of MSN Messenger while testing the XV6600, a couple integrated teleconns with Microsoft folks, and a 3-day flirtation with ICQ circa 1999, I've actually stayed out of the IM playroom. It's too intrusive, not enough people my age (key factor) do it locally, it hasn't rally matured locally as a business tool, and it exponentially introduces the same disadvantages to my social life and sanity as PIM apps; it takes more time to maintain them than to actually use them.

"...and the Emmy for Best Performance on the iPod goes to..."

Don't laugh at the title of this post - it's happening. The Academy is developing a new category for mobile video and it's only a matter of time before long-standing institutions start recognizing acts of thespianism and production quality from mobile media. My executive producer we tripping this year for some awards show giving out honors for "Best Streaming Performance", and "Best Mobile Production". Laura M. Holson of the New York Times talks about this evolution.

What I'd like to see is the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to a blogger. Wouldn't that be a kick in the teeth to old media diehards?

Damn, I wish TiVo worked out here

Undoubtedly impacted by the news of ABC aligning with DirecTV and CBS partnering with Comcast, TiVo is offering non-HD versions of its DVRs for $16.95, which apparently is a little more than the normal fee, but you get the set-top box for free. Geez, someone's got to figure out digital cable out here.

I would be on that thing day and night.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sling 101: an introduction to watching next-gen TV

DVRs don't work out here in TechnicalNeverNeverland, so this is going to be a dark Christmas. But a guy can dream, can't he?

If you've never heard of the SlingBox, Ross Rubin's got a great introduction to the device that will very well change the way you watch TV. Ross states tha the quality of IP-delivered television programming is good as advertised, and that for most setups it's easy to get up and running.

A good read...even for those of us who can't use it.

Memeorandum is everything newspapers can never be

I really get off on Memeorandum. And Blogniscient. And Digg (which is approaching Slashdot popularity and had its sift and rank processed dissected). The concept of blog tracking services is so revolutionary, yet so expected and logical. It's everything we could have asked for, but never would have been able to figure out.

Aggregation-based Web 2.0 apps of this type are everything a newspaper should, but can't, be - an amalgamated collection of articles of interest, continuously updated with great frequency. All feature segmented, categorial content, all based on what the community is talking about. Print and broadcast media will never be able to touch this immediacy or relevance.

The only thing missing from these services, in my opinion, is seamless translation to the mobile world. Let me take them with me on the road, and I'll never stop at a newsstand again.

Susan Mernit's got an interesting blog

I found Susan Mernit's Blog while paging through Memeorandum's tech news feed links today, and I like her writing. She talks about high-tech, digital media, and other stuff - that which I'm into and I blog about. Nice to find someone of like mind.

I liked her thoughts on the announcement that AP is teaming up with MSN to do a custom video player for its affiliates to use on their sites. This was something I foresaw happening sooner rather than later.

I'm liking LiveHTTPHeaders

I've used a couple of HTTP debugging tools in my day, primarily Microsoft-centric utilities like Fiddler or the SOAP Toolkit 3.0. I got wind of LiveHTTPHeaders while reading Manning's "Ajax in Action", and it's very nice. You can browse as you normally would in Mozilla browsers and get (screenshots) outputted request and response header messages in real-time. This is a heckuva lot more convinient than traditional means like having to watch processes or manually toggle port listeners.

Very nice!


Dave Winer posts Microsoft's "sea change" memos on Web 2.0

I first caught Dave Winer's blog post off Memeorandum in which he posted internal Microsoft correspondence from Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie last night, which didn't have any follow-ups. My goodness, how the blogosphere's reacted to it.

Everybody and their dog is weighing-in on this topic - offering opinions both practical and biased. While I reserve opinion on the matter, appreciating more the interest taken in the Web 2.0 model, it does make for interesting reading.

Om says "relax" on TV/DVR e-tailing model

Om Malik has a good pragmatic look at the TV distribution model through DVRs. This is a nice slap upside the head for myopic people in the biz like me that are going nuts over this new trend. I hadn't realized that you could still Tivo the stuff anyway (which makes sense, since DVRs don't apply out here in Guam).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Well, I'll be damned...

I never thought it was going to come to this, but then again I'm not surprised - networks doing their own thing. Damn exclusivity. The major TV networks have aligned with specific partners to cash-in on the emerging time-delayed VOD market, developing services that deliver broadcast quality programming to digital devices.
ABC's is arguably more portable, being suited for Apple's iPod, while similar services can involve the Sony PSP and other related gadgets. NBC and CBS are cornering the DVR market.

Fox? You still out there? We're waiting to hear from you...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

T.O. makes his move for Atlanta

My take on the Terrell Owens suspension is that it's strategic on his part, albeit very awkward. He's tired of Philly and wants to play with Michael Vick. T.O. owns a home in Georgia, he attended Falcons pre-season games, and he's hinted a bunch of times he'd like to run with the Magnificent #7. His complaining has been so focused and so extreme, the Eagles can't wait to get rid of him, practically dealing him to whoever, even if it means getting the short end of the deal. Which is just what he wants.

My crystal ball tells me that Drew Rosenhaus will broker a deal this spring to land T.O. in Atlanta. And it'll work out.

NBC/DirecTV to sell VOD for DVRs for $0.99

It's so on. I've been hearing through the grapevine about revolutionary plans by NBC Universal and DirecTV to sell the former's programming on-demand through the latter's network for $0.99 per show, to be downloaded onto a DVR. This would be a direct strike back at iTunes for selling ABC's and possibly CBS's programming in the iTunes Music Store. Shows you how much I know.

This latest VOD concept perfectly rivals the ABC/iTMS deal - no commercials, shows available hours after they air, really low price. The one glaring difference is the range of programming, covering NBC and its cable networks (Sci-Fi Channel, USA, Bravo). And this would mean programs formatted for full-size TVs, not miniature displays on portable media players.

It's just a matter of time before we start getting movies when they're available in the theater (we're already starting to get the trailers).

Monday, November 07, 2005

Google Video's "Must Stream TV"

Here's a really neat collection of taped interviews from the Academy of American Television featuring some of the pioneering heavyweights of the TV industry, and also celeb interviews. Man, I could stay on this all day.

Microsoft AntiSpyware now "Windows Defender"

I've been running the beta of the now former Microsoft AntiSpyware for a couple of months and it really does work well. It's efficient, and takes care of most major concerns. Like so many other Microsoft products, it's been renamed (this really irritates me) as Windows Defender. It'll be bundled with the forthcoming (and also renamed) Windows Vista OS.

Anybody up for an iTunes movie marathon?

I just had a quirky idea...an iTunes movie marathon. Get this: some movie studio allows time-sensitive release of its more well-known titles, inline with a central theme - say, four zombie movies from George Romero - for a night, all back-to-back. This would be cool because although all participants obviously wouldn't have the enjoyable advantage of community like we do in real-life movie marathons...but the knowledge that potentially hundreds of thousands of diehard moviebuffs would be watching on all sorts of devices, all over the world.

Being time-limited, people would have to tune in at certain times, which kinda ruins the ability to leverage time-shifting. And as far as I know, iTunes doesn't support BitTorrent, which kinda wrecks my concept. So I guess streaming would work better. Probably better, in fact, to preserve intellectual property concerns.

Now that I think about it, this novel concept of mine's probably better defined as the existing "exclusive webcast". At any rate, this would be cool.

Newspaper circulation falling (and won't get up)

Maybe we can save the rain forest after all. The Wall Street Journal reports that circulation numbers are decliningly throughout the nation. Gannett's down 2.5%, Knight Ridder fell 2.9% and Tribune Co., the publisher behind The Chicago Tribune and The L.A. Times cites a 4% decline. But thanks to online readership, WSJ is up a bit.

"The growing worry in the industry is the numbers reflect not just a slump, or a simple extension of a long-term decline in readers, but a more tectonic shift in habits. More Americans clearly are getting their news online."

RSS is the new HTML

Remember the days when, if you knew how to write bare-bones HTML, you were considered a tech guru (back when a web page's default appearance has Times New Roman 12-point text on a gray background)? You had the inside track to getting stuff on the Web, and were lauded for your technical acumen. Then services, utilities and entire applications became available to provide WYSIWYG automation to writing tedious formatting.

In similar fashion, I see RSS as the new HTML, at least for now. It's a "language" anyone can pickup but only a certain portion of people involved with the WWW seem to want to work with. It provides a gateway into the key commodity of a site - the content.

There are some very creative things going on in the syndication world. Ad servers exist that insert paid spots into an RSS feed, and lots of blog content creators are now including manually-inserted tagged messages at the end of each to promote a product, service, or URL. Bloggers are also generating HTML-formatted content in their RSS feeds, a la Flickr photostreams. Several podcasts I've been listening to have been enhancing their work with extended iTunes tags, or the Apple Podcast Chapter Tool.

I've also noted other people using RSS in unorthodox ways...outside the normal scope of content syndication. People are messing with security models to enforce authentication in an RSS feed.

Brave new world, baby.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I can't believe I'm doing this...

The cliche "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" sorta applies to a thought brewing in my head tonight at my home studios after reading a News.com piece on ABC's "Lost" web subculture: I'm thinking of developing the format for an online reality show. You may throw tomatoes...now.

Anyone and everyone who knows me can quickly tell you how much I loathe reality television. I think it's stupid. I appreciate talented people who've worked at their craft in all aspects of entertainment - writing, acting, producing, directing. But that's not to say that my entrepreneurial side doesn't acknowledge that tens of millions of people really get off on this stuff. And there's an almost guaranteed profitability I can latch onto.

My embryonic vision is totally abstract at the moment, delivering a show as a podcast-only production to minimize costs and help promote the RSS way of life for distributing TV programming. It'll be a vidcast - tragically not enhanced with iTunes features like chapterizing and embedding time-synched images and hyperlinks so as not to lean too much into Apple-centric technology. And the show will be interactive, letting the audience dictate the flow from episode to episode, in a style almost reminiscent of the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" style. So it'll be timely and topical, not pre-produced six months in advance. You control the action - a la "Survivor" or "Dream Job" - a key tenet of winning reality programming.

Each week people download a new episode at their time-shifted leisure and then have a certain period with which to make a decision. The show progresses in line with the weight of the audience's decisions (a cast member gets voted off, the plot advances/changes, drama builds, someone takes up a challenge, whatever). And there'll be an element forcing the viewer/downloader to rely on back catalog, like trivia dependent on previous episodes. I so doing, we re-syndicate syndicated content.

Mine is a view completely from 50,000 feet at the moment, and I've got the production capacity, the crew, the know-how and a big local audience base. So now all I need is a premise, plot and cast to fill in the holes. I enjoy working with new formats and giving people content in new and interesting ways, and letting them interact with us.

And who knows? I might actually like what we put out. Better to ride this wave while its got momentum then get swept out by it.

Salvation: syndicated and on-demand (aka, Where are all the religious vidcasts?)

OK. I think I've blogged about porn podcasting enough. Forgive me father, for I have thought.

In just a couple scant days, articles from the blogosphere and mainstream mass media alike abound - praising, criticizing, speculating and discussing the technological, commercial and moreal implications adult imagery and movies on the video-enabled iPod brings the connected world. But surprisingly absent from the new arena of video podcasting are religious shows; I can't seem to find equivalent video RSS feeds.

Chris McIntyre said in an interview with Podcast 411 that he knew the main categories audio content would fall into would be business, porn and religion when he developed podcast directory Podcast Alley. That's certainly true - Godcasting, the practice of recording sermons, bible studies and conversations of one's faith and re-distributing them via RSS feeds was hugely popular and served as the yang to smut's inevitable ying presence. But that same level of homegrown logistics hasn't yet appeared for vodcasting.

Maybe it's that distributing faith-based digital content isn't naturally commercially viable. But like blue content, religious material's demand is constant. And the followers of either are devout. One would think that the heavy rotation of televangelism available today would make for easy digital translation and syndication. And it's not like the world's major churches don't have the money to do so.

So what gives?

Happy Birthday, Web! (And thanks, Tim)

This month marks the 15th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee's (pictured, from Time Magazine) creation of the first web page at CERN, web server (httpd) and first web browser (WorldWideWeb). Here's a somewhat non-linear history of my experience with the Web.

I was one of the first people to access the Internet on Guam...connecting to the University of Hawaii's library server through a shell session on a 14.4 Kbps modem on a Power Macintosh. Whoopee to Joe Six-Pack, but a monumental moment for me.

I didn't get on the World Wide Web until a few months later when I interned at Sprint, beta testing the SprintNet online service and playing on AOL for days in Windows 3.11. Those damn 3.5" diskettes. The first online form I ever filled out was a poll begging my prediction of O.J. Simpson's murder trial.

I recall "the old days" when you could still print out a map - albeit several plotter-sized pages wide - of all the major hosts on the Internet. We tried to put up a public demo of online access during a trade show of AOL and got Playboy.com projected on a 15' screen. Real PR nightmare.

I remember vividly saying to myself, then a college senior and ever the aspiring marketer, "If someone can capitalize on the commercial implications of the Web, this is going to be huge."

Thanks, Tim. Great job and we're all in your debt for your vision, passion and genius.

Microchunking and RSS

Here's an excellent article from a VC on the very critical Web 2.0 concepts of RSS and microchunking. I've talked to some newspaper recently who told me behind closed doors they loathe RSS. Being raw data, it obviously robs their sites of the ad exposure they'd normally rely on. Sure, we have insertion techniques and standard footers plugging a site can be included, but in RSS items such elements are too repetitive to make any serious impact.

In my own implementation, using RSS for news, sports, police blotters, obituaries, Flickr-like photostreams and more, traffic to my public web site has dipped ever so slightly, but my database is working harder than ever serving up data requests. My site's RSS feeds mirror the web content sections they compliment, so there's never an out of synch concern.

The number of hits to my RSS files triple each month, and our overall traffic is higher than ever. It's worked out better in the aggregate.

Next season I'm getting ESPN GamePlan

Because us waaaaaaay out here in TechnicalNeverNeverLand can't get premium PPV cable packages like you priviliged folks in the U.S. mainland can, I'm subscribing to ESPN GamePlan for my PC next college football season.

Hopefully twelve months from now we'll have a solid subcription-based model for video in the iTunes Music Store from more TV networks, so the evolving archived on-demand programming model will pressure will drive the price down for paid streaming content.

I got Snow White this weekend

Gosh, it's been...what, two years since we dealt with the Snow White virus/worm, and I got an e-mail with it this weekend. Good grief.

No Ajax support in MSIE for Macs

I was using a OS X Mac this morning to dub some video, and had to get onto my GMail account. I'd used Ajax-enabled apps like Google Reader in Safari, but this was the first time I 'd tried MSIE 5 on a Mac. I've blogged a lot about Ajax, mainly about performance and security concerns. I've lightly speculated on compatability degradation with older browsers. GMail handles the lack of async client-side XMLHTTP calls pretty well, degrading gracefully:

Where have all the features gone?

If you sign in to Gmail using a browser that isn't fully supported, you'll automatically be directed to a basic HTML view of our service. To make sure that you can always access your mail, we've developed this basic HTML view that is compatible with almost any browser.

Since your browser isn't fully supported, you might notice that some of your favorite features aren't available in the current view, including the following:

If you're directed to the basic HTML view of Gmail, but would like to try using the standard Gmail view, visit: http://gmail.google.com/gmail?nocheckbrowser. Keep in mind that standard view may not work, even with this link, if your browser isn't supported.

For access to all of Gmail's features, sign in to your account from a fully supported browser, and make sure you have cookies and JavaScript enabled.

** UPDATE - just for honks & giggles I used the same Mac with MSIE to check out Google Local, which rendered and scaled back nicely; Google Reader never loaded.

Marketing might and the iPod: the emergence of video

You've got to scratch your head at the imperfect science that is marketing…or marvel at its genius. Either way, it's essentially mind control.

The one thing that gets me about the consumer tech society today is the way everybody's turned upside down for the video iPod in all phases - consumers, vendors, manufacturers. The blogosphere is ripe with posts preaching "Our software seamlessly converts video for the iPod", ".com exports iPod-compliant video", "Great for iPod video…". Have we stopped and realized what sheep we are, lest we be slaughtered by our own communal hype and platform promotion? Evidently not.

What about the Creative Zen Vision? The Archos GMini? High-end iRivers? Or more importantly…what about Sony's PlayStation portable? In terms of functionality the PSP is light years ahead of the iPod. The PSP not only stores and plays video but also plays UMDs; and is an Internet-aware device handling e-mail, web surfing and can subscribe to and read RSS feeds. Oh yeah, and you can play video games on it, too.

The PSP debuted on December 12, 2004 in Japan, but only after the iPod was rolled out only now everyone's realizing the benefits of video. The iPod's nearly single-handedly been the impetus for a new economic model of distributing TV programming. Marketing, man: size, money and power will enable you to have that kind of influence on people.

The truth is the video resolution for most of the aforementioned devices is generally 320-x-240, and about all support MPEG-formatted content (I'm not sure if the iRiver, which features an embedded version of Windows Media Player 10, can playback MP4s). The tying-in of iTunes and its encapsulated iTunes Music Store make it a more natural fit for the user ignorant in realizing it's just a container...files will still have to be copied onto another device anyway.

Further, I still haven't applied Apple's proprietary XML tagset to my RSS feeds, largely because I know once Microsoft gets its act together and comes roaring out with its own set for creating enhanced podcasts in Windows Media Player v.Next, it'll create a cross-platform war. I'd rather stay platform-generic even if it means being vanilla.

The bottom line is that as a content producer, I've bought in to the glitz and glamour too, because I know consumers will clamor to iPods. I need to ensure my stuff can work on othr devices, too. But I can't neglect the fact that there are other platforms out there, too that work just as well, if - dare I say - better. Without doubt Apple's is the strongest brand out there and riding the success of previous iPod lines, many a Christmas stocking is going to be weighed-down with Steve Jobs' precious 2.5" display, 16 million-color gem.

Lord knows I'll be asking Santa for one come December.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Google's stock approaching 400


At the market's close today, the share price for Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) closed at $390.43, up nearly four and a half bucks. We're logically maybe three days away from cracking the $400 mark. My goodness.

Contrast that against the $12.98 my World Wresting Entertainment stock is pulling in (I knew I should have cashed out when Stone Cold Steve Austin got hurt), and it makes you marvel not so much at what the company's doing and will do, but the market's reaction. Some project the stock going as high as $450.

To put it into perspective against its contemporaries:

Should Pandora be getting with video?

The digital music service Pandora was the best thing I've seen in a long time. I thought the genetic analogy of mapping a song's "DNA" and relating tracks based on shared characteristics was really clever, and on a technical front I appreciated the snazzy Flash UI up front and the relational database obviously behind the app. I'm hoping the service expands at some point to include video.

Pandora's most redeeming quality is the sales engine it includes - presenting a drop-down range of options, letting a user buy (1) the track as a single from Apple's iTunes Music Store, or (2) the entire CD the track belongs to off of Amazon. If we have this functionality for video with the rapidly expanding range of content being made available digitally - music videos, cartoons, newscasts, TV shows, sports events, movies, porn, soap operas - coupled with Pandora's intelligent recommendation engine, this will create a whole new way to consume and more importantly, buy, video.

Will online distribution help poorly performing TV shows?

A good argument is raised in whether new, creative forms of digital distribution can help raise the ratings of underperforming TV programs. Wayne Friedman reports this probably won't be the case - a bad show is a bad show.

Being a crass marketer myself, I'm well aware of the power of implied numbers. There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. And in no other medium can figures be fudged like the Internet. Can downloads be used to improve a show's Nielsen ratings? This would mean a lot for market reach. Could networks factor such online distribution into total viewership of their programs? If so, a new world of demographic data becomes available based on a user's personal syndication frequency of playing back shows at their leisure.

The same can be said in a manner of speaking for accessing movies. Assembling a NetFlix wish list and then accessing on-demand motion pictures, downloaded directly onto a DVR is going to revolutionize logistical channels for the Silver Screen. And can the data from such be used to hype a studio's "box office" totals?

Such information to date has been collected as fodder for industry reports and whitepapers, and is largely academic in use. But I believe it will have a permanent place as a valued metric for the viewership of a show or flick.

CBS webcasts "Threshold", considers offering shows in iTunes

Exclusivity is a powerful weapon, but tends to more directly benefit the vendors involved while underserving the end consumer. I was stoked to learn that my dreams are coming true of a world where programming from all the major television networks is available from a centrailzed source is coming to pass. CBS is webcasting its show "Threshold" on its own web site, and is seriously considering retailing video podcast versions of "60 Minutes" and "Guiding Light" in Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Should this come to pass, this would mean iTMS would have programming from CBS and ABC, with assumedly Fox and NBC being pressured to jump on board, or doing so with a similar offering with Microsoft's forthcoming version of Windows Media Player (which itself upon release will expectedly be a tearing down of iTunes' stranglehold on the media e-tailing market). And will this mean similar stimulation for networks like VH1, MTV, TNT, AMC, ESPN, USA Network, etc.? UPN already made "Everybody Loves Chris" accessible via Google Video and The WB reacted by streaming "Supernatural".

ABC's offering is strategic. It's raking in a fortune with viewership and sponsorship alike for "Lost" and "Desparate Housewives", so anything it makes from download sales is gravy. It likewise can afford to offer poorly-rated shows because it's got nothing to lose. The mid-range, neither-breakout-hit-nor-cellar-dwellar shows like "Grey's Anatomy" (my personal favorite) can't be offered because they're too risky. So it's polarity that's driving the e-tailing model.

And will this mean a price war between rival networks? We can't assume a manadated universal rate for content...can we? "Lost" retails for $1.99 per episode, or a discounted bulk rate (30% off the cost of an entire season). Will the majors get into an undercutting battle, or develop clever bundled giveaways, like "Buy three episodes of 'My Name Is Earl' and get a bonus episode of 'Joey' for free"? Perhaps. It'll be all that more enjoyable for us because we'll have choice, and possibly, incentives.

"All of the major networks have been experimenting with so-called IPTV, leading many to believe they are exploring Internet bypass strategies, or at the very least are seeing the world of TV distribution as a multi-platform model - part broadcast, part cable, part satellite, and part Internet and other emerging digital video formats" - MediaPost.com

Since the release of iTunes 4.9 in late June, Steve Jobs has been sitting on a goldmine. It started with the release of podcast programming from the Disney family of networks (ABC, Disney, ESPN, et al.), and when video came around with iTunes 6.0, ABC was right at the forefront. Jobs' executive in-law affiliation with ABC through Disney by way of his chairmanship of both Pixar and Apple certainly had some weight in brokering the deal. It's good to be the king.

Ball's in Steve's court now - CBS is reportedly assessing the economic feasibility of being listed in iTunes - so let's hope this isn't a big exclusive thing. The more the merrier.

Microsoft announces new certs

Considering how critical I've been of the tragic death Microsoft's technical certification program suffered in the .NET world, I was pleased to read about new certs for SQL Server 2005, BizTalk Server 2006 and various credentials for .NET 2.0 development.

I'm still of the mind that the days of certification as job prerequisite are long gone, having been drowned out by everyone and their dog getting the ubiquitous MCSE, but it's nice to see an attempt to breathe life into what was once a very active part of the technical community.

Friday, November 04, 2005

CNet doesn't get time-shifting

I was mildly irked at a CNet blog post I caught this morning by Molly Wood in which she kinda ripped on the concept of NBC streaming its newscasts after they've aired. The hidden message is probably taking a potshot at a rival network, but let's consider the merits of her argument:

"NBC says it will start airing the NBC Nightly News online, free and in its entirety, after it's already been shown in all time zones across the country. So, you can get the news the bloggers covered days ago, hours after it's been on TV. Hey, but at least it's free! "

Before I proceeded to rant, I looked Molly up so I could know with whom I would disagree. Like me, she's a tech journalist and news anchor, so she's OK in my book. She's quite entertaining, a fine writer and her blog and The Buzz Report are great. Where I dispute her is in not seeing the true benefit of NBC's webcasting strategy on community.

Molly implies NBC's casts won't be worth as much after-the-fact since they'd from that point on be regurgitation of content that's already been aired. I concur with the latter, but um, rehashing is kinda the point.

NBC's prime benefit is in time-shifting content, empowering the user with asynchronous access through on-demand streaming. People can catch a cast later at their convinience and replay it as many times as they want to. Even though there are certainly hundreds of thousands of viewers (at least) that reinvent their schedules based around what time Nightly News with Brian Williams comes on the boob tube, most assuredly millions more wish they could get the news according to the mandates of their individual lifestyles. Now they can, to an extent.

Could NBC's offering be optimally valuable if it were to appear either before or simultaneously alongside its broadcasts? Won't happen - yet. Taking the "web first" strategy at the moment for TV networks would be suicidal from a profitability standpoint, cannibalizing TV viewership, which is the fate newspapers are suffering. And time zone differences make satisfying everyone in the U.S. with a synched or delayed multiplatform cast impossible.

So let's now consider the light shed upon the notion that NBC's streams will be less valuable because they consist of older material that's for days already been picked clean by the blogosphere. Without doubt, she's right. But like it or not, the "until you hear it from us, it's not news" factor remains the primary advantage mainstream media leverages against new media. Bloggers can yak about a news event all they want, but today's society only allows it to become "official" once hearing it from a trusted source - slanted though it might be.

And this has nothing to do with the fact that I work f0r an NBC affiliate - I'm extremely disappointed NBC hasn't yet adopted the broadband channel concept I'm so in love with these days. Still, I was pleased with the network's webcasting announcement and projected some of the benefits 'casting over the Web can deliver now and in the future.

So I respect Molly's opinion as a colleague, but strongly advise considering the bigger picture.

Does the future of podcasting belong to pro broadcasters?

An interesting argument is raised by Stephen Hill in which he projects professional broadcasters eventually dominating the podcasting medium, rubbing out the smaller, less experienced de facto time-shifted digital audio radio jocks. I'm afraid I agree.

"The pros can do it easier, faster, and generally better than all but the most organized and talented amateurs,"
argues Hill. "They have greater experience and resources when it comes to creating quality programming – particularly ongoing series. This accounts for the fact that professionally produced shows now account for over 90% of the iTunes top 100 podcast list, and the smutty charms of early podcast stars like Dawn and Drew are now off the list."

I'll admit that the DIY rawness of listening to average people from all over the world express their personalities and share their thoughts first attracted me to podcasting as a listener, but that eventually wore off. Production quality, a show's format, organization, preparation, segments, personality and other qualities are still appreciated. When a show inevitably gets dry, they know how to kick it back into gear without being too obvious about it. Such people are clever in their marketing of a show and in managing its evolution. And this is something that comes with experience over time, from people who know the ropes.

I'm not saying startup podcasts are any less entertaining or less passionate. Lord knows mine surely suffer from the yawn-o-meter, and I'm in the media biz. Mainstream stuffed shirts who deny podcasting as a legitimate form of communication are banking on people believing their crusade that all podcasts are the equivalent of bad college radio. Everyone in the podosphere is creative in their own way; but for any show I subscribe to I want a host who knows how to entertain, inform and educate me, keeping me captivated and making sure I stay subscribed.

And even though Adam Curry, ever the evangelist for the screw-the FCC-and-mainstream-radio movement, preaches the need to get involved with podcasting regardless of a content creator's amount of practical broadcast experience, his is one of the few shows I remain subscribed to...because he's a really good radio guy. He's got mic savvy - he knows what he's doing in front of and behind it.

But Hill also says he's not taking a massive leak on the collective parade of the amateur. He's in favor of professional-grade work by all producers. Me, too. Such aspirations will positively blur the lines between what's worth listening to and what's not based on production quality, and really progress the medium. Totally.

TV news in a postmodern world

Terry Heaton writes a fantastic piece on unbundling media and repurposing media packages by mainstream broadcasters, and how to make it work for you. Really thought-provoking stuff.

It must be a Friday...

Call it a typical KUAM end of the week. After a long night working on a breaking news item, Blogger acted funny all day, queueing posts I'd done but not actually publishing them (something about a "Java unknownHost"...looks like I'll have to re-read the chapter on exceptions). And while on the subject of books, I got a copy of "Ajax From Action" from Manning to read/review.

By mid-afternoon I'd contracted and promoted more tracks to add to my station's royalty-free Guam music feed, and I'd been volunteered to co-emcee an event for the Girl Scouts - a mock newscast introducing new cookie flavors early tomorrow morning with Sabrina. So much for that nightcap I had planned on...I'll be up familiarizing myself with a script of the morning's festivities .

Speaking of my co-anchor, she and I had a decent live Friday newscast, and now I'm sitting at my desk, encoding video for our streaming archive and VODcasts. And my LAN's connection to the 'Net is about 20% faster than it normally is.

That's a typical day at Camp Happy. At least the day's ending on a positive note.

On-demand in demand: Playboy, Penthouse looking into vidcasting

So much for the initial hesitation to publishing adult content on portable video devices by major producers. Playboy AND Penthouse are looking at making adult movies available for the video iPod. There's a good reason for this - instant brand recognition.

You know this is going to drive other companies into the foray out of necessity.

U of Alabama develops podcasting channel

Here's 2005's quote of the year: "Maybe mass media has become too massive".

That great one-liner was delivered by Timothy McDaniel, the director of podcasting at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. The school joins the league of colleges nationwide getting into podcasting - developing a RSS-based subscribable show - because the FCC won't let them have a traditional college radio station. The show reportedly features commentary on sports, campus life, local music.

Good on them. My alma mater's college radio station didn't even work outside the campus gates, which is pretty small anyway.

Better than 10% of browser market using Firefox

Firefox hit a new high, now owning better than a tenth of the coveted web browser market (14.1% in the US, says ZDNet UK). I've been using it for more than a year, and except for some MSIE-dependent capabilities with internal tools I've built at work, it's my browser of choice.

I've been using it almost exclusively for the multi-tab interface, into which I load multiple start pages.

The only knocks I've got on it that support for Flash and Quicktime stuff really slows the browser down, some DHTML support - still an IE vs. Netscape argument - doesn't come out quite right, and CSS can get a little iffy.

Other than that's it's the stuff.

Can't all us journalists just get along?

Poor, misguided me - I'm evidently somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to my profession. I'm realizing that I'm a rare breed, being a professional journalist who supports and advocates new platforms of communications.

I deal with traditional journalists who scoff at online publishing, participatory publishing and new media, not even giving it the time of day - mainly because web-savvy publishers have in a matter of months attained the audience, credibility/notoriety that some older reporters spent decades building up. And we've got online journalists, citizen reporters and proponents of social media who absolutely hate the mainstream press and don't buy into the implied bias, political siding, slanted views or corporate structure of distributing out information.

Face it: all of us love the craft of documenting human experience and sharing our thoughts. Why can't we meet some happy medium? I'm of the mind of using my mainstream distribution channel and ability to circulate to the masses, introducing new concepts and platforms. I embrace the future without neglecting or completely discorporating the foundations of existing media. Sure, I work in a small market (Guam) but I'm surprised not to find traditional communicators who are a bit more liberal in implementing new tactics to get their stuff out to the public.

"A huge productivity tool"...but not Office on the web

Talk about coming into work to bad news. I was really disappointed when learning, affirming my worst suspicions, that Office Live isn't a web-based version of Microsoft Office. To Microsoft's creadit, some slick Web 2.0 concepts are implemented, but it's still a major downer, based on some of the initial hype,

The marketingspeak pumps Office Live as being a set of productivity tools to really empower the smaller guy, which instantly bring to mind two words: Microsoft Works.

Thanks, but I'll pass.

Some dude creates an iPod VR

I've been reading the 'zine MAKE a lot more these days...I was never into the whole Popular Mechanics thing growing up, but MAKE's got some really neat and insightful blog posts. Phillip Torrone has a really clever post about an "iPod VR" he created to view video using some VR/LCD goggles.

I've not heard a great deal about a projection screen being retailed that oversizes the 2.5" display of the video-enabled iPod (like the kind available for GameBoy Advanced and PSPs), but this certainly would help.

Good work, Phillip!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Online news case study: breaking news over multiple platforms

A mantra I've always lived by is go big, or go home. Further, I've always held that if you're to do something, do it right. Don't half-ass a job - carpe diem, baby. If you'll permit me a bit of ego stroking, I'd like to use my own company as an example of how to do things the right way and all out when breaking news online.

I just finished doing multi-platform coverage of a local news event - during a newstalk TV program my station produces, a guest (a local senator) strongly implied he would be running for governor during the 2006 elections. This was huge. My news director and I scrambled and wrote a story on-the-fly and got it online. But it's not enough to just put up a story and call attention to it. Not for us anyway.

We published the story in the following formats:
We've dramatically increased our overall traffic by providing such facilities and investing in methods of diverse data distribution. A lot of people just can't be at a desktop computer, waiting to get the news pushed to them. We also bank on the near-instantaneous indexed of Google News, blog trackers and the general blogosphere picking up the story to give it community momentum.

Realistically there will probably only be a few hundred people who access the story across every available format, download every exhibit and check out each interactive. Once you've seen the story it doesn't make a lot of sense to read it repeatedly over multiple platforms and devices. But it's still nice to give the end user the option. Anything less is dreadfully inferior.

That's how we roll. We're KUAM - and we aim to please.

To stream or VOD - should that be the question?

As an afterthought I previously mentioned the growing tension in broadcast companies in pondering integration of Internet-based distribution technologies for multimedia content. I normally try and write in industry-agnostic fashion, but I'm going to be a homer on this one and talk about a growing concern for my broadcasting brethren.

I've pontificated on the Holy Trinity of winning Internet audio - broadcasting, streaming and podcasting - a theory whcih I'm now expanding. Sort of.

The sky's the limit for affiliates, networks and independent production houses wanting to release their wares via the 'Net. But many not as progressive in converting mass amounts of audio and/or video are confused about what distribution strategy they should pursue: developing a broadcast channel service (typically an array of customizable streaming video), or audio/video podcasting.

My station does both, which is a helluva lot of work but well worth it. Broadband channels like MTV Overdrive, ESPN Motion and Comedy Central's Motherload present tons of high-quality video clips and let users create their own customized playlists. But the practice is limited largely to desktop environments. Podcasts, based on the subscribe-notify-download model of RSS, deliver the portability so critical to modern-day communications, and being unregulated, are a wild as the producers want them to be.

Freeware abounds for consumers to take advantage of either platform. And with podcasting, device support is great, with lots of manufacturers putting out digital media players. But this costs the consumer, whereas broadband services are available immediately from a decent PC or workstation with a fast Internet connection. Also, notice the caliber of companies mentioned above doing broadband services - networks. Most affiliates don't have a large enough archive , deep enough library of digitized video or wide enough pipe to make it worthwhile to offer such a gallery. My company doesn't, but we do it anyway.

The costs for producing each vary. Podcasts, being DIY productions, can be really cheap to record and mix down. Most broadband channels I've seen are mammoth productions, using complex presentation like Flash video that can result in cross-platform (in)compatability concerns. But podcasts basically give away media, letting users download and save media onto their devices in pull fashion, which can mean fairly large costs for massive amounts of data transfer. Broadband channels, being based on streaming's push model, don't worry as much about hosting charges and retain their intellectual property concerns by not allowing people to have permanent copies of their stuff.

So the business model for streaming productions is therefore a little more established; ads can be inserted, rotated, changed and pushed onto the client with total managerial control preserved.

I hate to sound wishy-washy as I end this, but the best solution for your operation really is what suits you best. Consider what the market will tolerate, what production method fits best into your schedule, and what format people are demanding more.

Return of the King: LeBron starts Season 3

31 points. First 6 treys were money. 7-of-8 from the line. A pair of steals. Better than 33 minutes played. Not a bad way to start a junior campaign.

LeBron James put on a masterful performance, which, after two full seasons, still doesn't fail to leave my jaw on the floor. And it's not that he's above the rim, 540-turning, triple-pumping either...he's good for the NBA Video highlight reel, but he's so damn fundamentally sound. He's made watching pro hoops fun again.

And he's a pro in the truest sense of the word, displaying confidence without arrogance. His game isn't degraded by his elevated belief in himself. He's media savvy - friendly and accomodating in interviews and always crediting his teammates and coaches for his maturation. And when describing his role his constant is "to make my teammates better". It's the type of personality so lacking in athletics today.

That gets me thinking: has it been that long since we all caught those games on ESPN where "23", a man among boys, was destroying people at St. Vincent-St. Mary?

As I watched in eager anticipation of the Cavaliers' season debut at home against the Hornets (the latter listed as "NOK" which I'm assuming means New Orleans-Oklahoma City), I reflected on the day when King James laced 'em up for the first time as a pro in Arco against the Kings. His line - 25 points, 9 assists, 6 boards, 4 steals, 12-20 from the field - was impressive but didn't do justice to what he did for Cleveland, the League, or baskeball. He arrived.

My co-workers and I all watched, cheering, ooing and awwing and as if it were the damn Super Bowl. He put on a helluva show: taking guys off the dribble, passing, scoring, playing defense, leading. Health permitting, he'll get his first of what should be several MVPs this year. I see the Cavs making it to the second round of the playoffs, but not any farther.

And it'll be fun to watch.

My site's vidcast in iTunes


My station's new vidcasts are really taking off. We're using hybrid content within our RSS feed: a combination of long-form MP3 audio newscasts and shorter MP4 videos of special segments we've produced, which you can see above in iTunes. You can still get our entire nightly newscasts verbatim in our Webcast Archive.

There somewhat of a conundrum a-brewin' within the broadcasting industry about what road to take - broadband channel or VODcasting - but we're doing really well with our offering. I announced the rollout on my site and I'm also doing something on it tonight on TV.

I'm not using Apple's extended XML tagset for enhanced podcasts for iTunes (yet), so my feed will load, just minus album cover art, chapterizing, etc.

Mac users need not apply...literally

I was thinking about the inability of my OS X machine to play Comedy Central's new broadband channel, and remembers a report by News.com about how Apple enthusiasts often can't apply for work because the sites through which they try doesn't support Mac environments. Tom also noted his general disdain for Flash on the Web, and how it so often doesn't work on his beloved Mac (he also notes the local Citibank site rendering oddly in Firefox, something I replicated here on my WinXP Pro box).

The job incompatability thing bothers me. I'm wondering why job hunting sites would use so much presentation gimmickry like Flash? What happened to good 'ol HTML forms?

NFL wideouts using non-80's numbers

ESPN.com's Greg Garber write "Making A Number for Themselves", an outstanding piece on the growing trend of NFL wide receivers to buck the traditional convention to use jersey numbers 80-89, opting for 11-19. This is something I've been thinking about a long time. Such used to be a practice relegated exclusively to rookies trying to make a squad, seeing as how they weren't guaranteed a roster spot. Now it's an expression of individualism...in a conformist sort of way.

Chargers legend Lance Alworth and the Cowboys' Keyshawn Johnson were previously the rare exceptions to the rule, both using #19 before the AFL-NFL merger, and due to a lack of 80's numbers, respectively.

So what's next - QBs rocking Flutie-esque #22's (circa Boston College days)? Or pro placekickers using Sebastian Janikowski's FSU #38?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Office Live: don't toy with my emotions

Michael Gartenberg warns readers to not read too much into Microsoft's Windows Live/Office Live announcment, writing, "Let's...make one thing clear, these services aren't about replacing Windows or Office nor is this a retreat from the traditional Office applications. If you're looking to replace your Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook with this set of offerings, you're looking in the wrong place. Likewise, this is not about a retreat from Windows as the core environment for most folks...What this is about is a recognizing that there's an attempt by others to co-opt the traditional Microsoft space with new offerings."

I'm interpreting the announcement to mean that I'll be able to use native my Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access files in equivalent programs run over the Web by some massive AJAX operation, ActiveX control, Flash interface or applet-like feature; or a service like Writely that emulates the functionality of a word processor within a browser and can then export saved web pages as .DOCs. I'll be happy with either, and I don't plan on giving my desktop Office apps the axe. The VoIM features and gadgets are cool, too.

I'd gladly to either pay for such an online service (not buying/installing the desktop version) or using it only if I've got native Office apps running on my PC, validating my membership. A "web-based version of Office" has to be simple: let me work Office files in a browser.

That's it, and that's all it should be.

Very impressed with "Motherload"



I finally tried the debut of Comedy Central's new broadband channel, Motherload. I figued out how to get the full-blown Flash 8, drag-and-drop personalized production like MTV Overdrive or NFL Network. (I launched my station's new vidcasts yesterday, coinciding with our existing streaming services, so I'm in this mindset.) You can personalize the content by (re)assembling your own playlist. But browsing to the page for the first time in Firefox, I had to download some plugins to get it to load right.

The quality of the video itself is phenomenal, being 320-x-240 Windows Media clips (you can't resize them though) encoded at 780 Kbps. It's unbelievably clear with rich sound, and I didn't experience any "suffering through buffering". The streaming clips are split into short skits or previews, which I like. Chapelle's Show looked incredible, and that's saying a lot because I've seen the skits hundreds of times already and know them back-to-front. There are even a few web-exclusive clips.

The ability to search video was cool, using both a drop-down box and a full-text input box, so you can quickly navigate past all the cheese and head straight for the meat. I'd like to eventually see full-blown episodes in Apple's iTunes Music Store, too. The streams serve as a great teaser to coerce me to purchase the full-length, optimal quality product, akin to Pandora's method, which includes "buy this music" links for both individual tracks in ITMS and the entire CD from Amazon. Since Comedy Central has made name for itself in retailing DVDs - unlike VH1 - I would think this to be a very natural step.

But...too bad Mac people. After getting my ya-yas off of the content in MSIE 6+ and Firefox on my Windows XP Pro box, I tried to replicate the hilarity in Safari on my OS X machine, and got this: We're sorry, but MotherLoad will only play on PCs with Windows XP or 2000/SP4+. Click below to make sure you launch our standard media player for video (except Motherload exclusives).

At any rate, I'll be loading & laughing Motherload for the next few days. Good show, CC!

All hail Wikipedia

This truly is just Google's and Wikipedia's world, and we're all just squirrels. Both continue to innovate so much, so fast, it's tough to keep up.

Looking over Steve Rubel's revelation that Wikipedia's trafic exceeds that of NYTimes.com in 2005, it's noteworthy to cite what's become of a little web site featuring community-submitted encyclopedia articles. It's evolved into the ultimate source or the most up-to-date, unbiased, technically accurate informationm becoming a cross-cultural news source, script spoiler and Cliff Notes. The Wikimedia Foundation also includes other neato projects.

On piety, Star Wars and raising your children to be morally aware

Let me preface this rant by first saying that I have no children at the moment. I am a Christian, and as such subscribe to the beliefs of wanting to treat each human being as I'd want to be treated. I also realize that faith and rationality aren't necessarily to be used in the same sentence. In my experience, rarely the twain shall meet. Thus begins my criticism.

I came across a conversation a few months ago from someone who happened to also belong to a Christian sect, talking to one of my co-workers who'd seen the premiere of "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" when it first came out. She was inquiring as to the child-safe nature of the film, and how violent and sexually graphic the movie might be. If the picture displayed any trace instances of either, she'd consider completely forbiding her kids from going anywhere near the theater. Sound familiar?

She probed my colleague's assessment of the movie, asking specifically about any love scenes. He replied by saying the film would be, in his opinion, completely OK for today's kids. "There's swordplay, some fights, gunfire," he recapped, "and a quick beheading, but that's minor. That's about it." Her reply? "That's fine...but no sex, right? A fight is OK with me, but I won't let them watch a movie with people making flippy-flop."

This I have a problem with. Not necessarily religious zealots, not moral elitists - but people that let what they think is piety create a system of misaligned morals.

This being an application of a thing that really irks me, I joined the conversation by asking why her morally-rooted parenting practice restricted her offspring from receiving sensory input of the act of intimacy, yet permitted her kids witnessing an act of violence. I prodded, asking why she wouldn't allow her kids to see a love scene, because inline with one of the major tenets of her faith, they'll themselves someday engage in the act of bumping uglies. Man was not meant to be alone, you know, and as such it's assumed that they will someday themselves fall in love...and eventually have sex.

And futher building on this concept - and perhaps more disturbing - she was perfectly alright with letting her kids witness what essentially are fabricated acts of murder. Which obviously isn't a Christian thing to do.

Come on now - it's Star Wars. If any "sex" scenes do exist, they'll be relegated to being tame, brief makeouts or a scene depicting intimate love...not a full-on, 200 MPH, jackhammer porno. What did you expect? Briana Banks getting buck wild with Anakin Skywalker, saying, "Yeah, baby...gimme that lightsaber..."? Use some common sense.

More recently, the same co-worker went to review the movie version of "Serenity". I asked, with intent, how the show went. She replied by saying she thought it was OK for her kids, sans flippy-flop, and there was a little scene of zombies eating each other than she found funny. She'd take her kids. HUH?!?!?!? So lovemaking is again forbidden, but not so for necrocannibalism?

I find it interesting, and certainly not unique, how often this happens. People reject the face value of intimacy captured on film and grossly underestimate the impacts of violence.

But recalling a bigger predication of my faith, I fall back on Luke 6:37 ("judge not, lest ye be judged"). So who am I to say who's right?

ESPN.com's penile snafu

ESPN had to make haste in modifying the title of an online report about a change in South Carolina's QB (thanks Rock for the screengrab).

I've actually got ESPN's back on this one. Sure, this shouldn't have made the public Web, and say what you want about quality control in the media. But unless you've never worked under duress with a news deadline - especially at a TV company - these things happen. Sometimes it's so obvious you can't see it right in front of you. The imported national news headlines from MSNBC.com I've got running on my site had grammatical or syntactical every now and then.

I'll admit...as a site manager and news editor in the biz, I've made similar snafus myself. We previously have had headlines reading "Due to the threat of the typhoon, all PUBIC schools are closed", and "The man, after his scheduled execution, was hung."

At least it wasn't printed in a publication - unable to be changed in real-time, forcing the always embarrasing retraction. Just another reason newspapers are doomed.

You mean the PSP plays games, too?

Blogniscient's tech feed sent me Eric Bangeman's rundown of Sony's PSP Media Manager, which streamlines the copying of audio/video/x-media onto the PlayStation Portable. It automatically handles file conversion, provides a two-pane view of files on a PC and a PCP (like the iRiver Music Manager), facilitates the transfer of CDs onto a PSP, and - most importantly in my opinion - includes audio/video podcast support.

Not bad for $19.95, and coming straight from Sony, it optimizes PC-to-PSP transfers and has assumedly less incompatability issues with media formats.

What gizmos & gadgets would I buy with $10,000?

A previous blog post I did cited the reasons I've noted as a tech journalist over the years on why Guam is behind the mainland in technology. I get asked quite often what consumer technology products I'd most like to see out here. What would I buy if someone dropped $10,000 in my lap? Shoot, drop me off at BestBuy, slowly back away, and come back in 2 hours.

I'm really into information services, so this would constitute the majority of my spending. I like cutesy tech, but it doesn't do much for me. Like 9 out of 10 people, I messed with the Tamagotchi in the 90's, but it didn't get me anywhere. So here's what I'd shop for, in order of criticality:

Transfer Windows Media Center video to the iPod

Dave Zatz wrote a wonderful article on Engadget showing how to copy Windows MCE videos onto the new iPod (and assumedly, other devices). He writes, "Apple may have sold a million videos, but if you’re running Windows Media Center Edition you’re sitting on a gold mine of free content. The good news for MCE users? It’s ridiculously simple to move your content onto a video-capable iPod."

Dave cites a couple of programs that do the MPEG conversion, and notes some of the (in)compatabilities between the two. Good job!

There's never been a better time to be a web developer

The big residual effect I envision from Microsoft announcing that they're in full support of distributing software via the Web is that it creates phenomenal opportunities for web developers. For years, we've been seen as second-class citizens (taking a back seat to Win32/Java devs), confused with UI-savvy HTML designers, not legitimate software architects. Hey - we're programming, too!

The last few years have gotten better, with "web apps" being a term the mainstream masses are becoming more familiar with, and for the right reasons. But the Windows Live and decision to offer Office via the Web is awesome for people doing out type of work. The core computer science skills - OOP, proper organization, componentized architecture, use of patterns and modeling still apply, of course. But people are really going to jump on this web thing - great for us. Any intermediate-to-advanced ASP.NET dev should be able to reverse engineer Writely and see how they do things.

So it's time to gear up: Read up on the key Web 2.0 concepts. Learn C# or Java or Ruby on Rails or Python. Master data access. Get really good at Ajax. Learn how to incorporate RSS into your apps. Leverage the Long Tail. Publish public APIs via SOAP services.

Because the future belongs to us.

Microsoft breaks down "Live Software" strategy

Perhaps feeling the Web 2.0 pressure, to offer Windows over the Web and software as a service. They previously said they'd be doing Office via the Web, which is cool. This is the true advantage of Web 2.0-style apps like Writely and GMail. (You ever hear the myths about Flickr releasing new versions every 30 minutes?)

Of course, Microsoft being Microsoft they'd never lower themselves to using the existing "Web 2.0" moniker, so they've dubbed it "Live Software", collectively as Microsoft Live (think of the "RSS Feeds vs. Web Feeds" debacle). As a marketing guy, I question whether this will cause some confusion over the Xbox Live brand - or maybe help to integrate it.

This without doubt is going to do wonders for Microsoft's QA credibility, giving it the ability to just fix & update software and re-distribute without having to issue patches, LiveUpdate transactions, and massive press announcements. We'll all be none the wiser and have one less thing to worry about. I enjoy the benefits of Internet-hosted applications, and this certainly is the direction towards which software distribution is heading. But I don't think we should move exclusively over to browser-based apps yet. At least not for a couple of years.

Scoble even breaks down the implied deficiencies of MS moving to web-based software vs. open source models.

Photos from the rollout from michaelarrington's photostream.

Xbox can't read RSS feeds?

While doing some initial research to exactly what digital devices would be subscribing to my station's audio/video podcasts, I was pretty surprised to not be able to find anything on whether Microsoft's Xbox (360) can read RSS feeds. This leads me to believe it can't. Which is a major bummer.

Sure, we can synch content with iPods and iRivers, and we can even get on the Internet live and download content directly to the PlayStation Portable. But seeing as how the modern gaming system is more like the classical PC than the console system, complete with Internet capabilities, an inability to subscribe, be notified and read content from XML-based feeds really limits it.

I'm sure there's a decent reason why this won't work. Better still isI hope the alibi for when such support will be added.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Wikipedia traffic outshines NY Times

Possessions are fleeting, trends come and go, every dog has his day. Whatever. It's really clever to see that web traffic to Wikipedia is trumping that of the New York Times for this year. Impressive, seeing as how the site's main function is as an encyclopedia, which secondarily features random as well as relevant articles, time-sensitive to the issues of the day.



But further proving of the institutionalization of the Times (at least for the moment), which lest we forget was honored for outstanding online journalism:

From 1987's "Wall Street"
============

BUD
Mr. Mannheim, got a sure thing.
(whispering)
Anacott Steel.

MANNHEIM
(scoffs)
No such thing Bud - 'cept death and taxes. Not a good company anymore, no fundamentals. What's going on Bud? Do you know something?

(Bud uncomfortable, Lou reads it)
Remember there're no short cuts son, quick buck artists come and go with every bull market but the steady players make it through the bear markets.

(Bud anxious to go)
You're part of something here, Bud. The money you make for people creates science and research jobs. Don't sell that out.

BUD
You're right, Mr. Mannheim, but you gotta get to the big time first, then you can be a pillar and do good things.

MANNHEIM
Can't get a little bit pregnant, Bud.

Texting teens write better

I must be getting old. While I encourage people to use communication media, I've been critical that platforms like SMS, IMs, forums and chatrooms, with their shorthand conventions, would a hamper on a youth's ability to express themselves clearly, intelligently, and maturely. Cambridge University says otherwise.

I would think blogging would have helped more. Shows how much I know.

2005 worst year for newspapers since recession

A really interesting report from Goldman Sachs cites 2005 as the worst since the last ad recession for newspapers, with major forms of revenue declining and diminishing readership numbers - all due to preferences for online information. "[Technologist Rishad Tobaccowala] added that newspapers are in the worst situation of all news media for growth as 'the least visually engaging and least youth oriented' medium."

Ouch.

The future of TV: the Internet

Fresh off Memeorandum, I found some very interesting links about the changing landscape of television, impacted by the Internet.
Anyone that knows me or that reads my blog knows how I feel about the future of the print industry (and a report just came out citing 2005 being the worst year for newspapers). It'll be very interesting to see if in the next couple of years small affiliate TV stations, large networks and visual production houses initially ignore IPTV, HDTV, 'Net movies, time-shifted/place-shifted programming, the continuing devleopment of DVDs, convergence of the Internet with cable/satellite distribution and a general migration to fully digital production/distribution/access.

Will TV companies eventually realize this is the only way to stay alive, ultimately fumbling through integration the way many newspapers have?

Why is Guam so far behind in technology?

I was asked recently by a graduate class to explain why I thought Guam is so far behind the U.S. mainland in technology. I responded by saying that I'm pretty sure there isn't anything scientific documenting how far behind the mainland the island is, but we can be fairly confident about making certain assumptions.

In the round, Guam is actually pretty good at technology; and in some ways we're actually more progressive of some similar places in the Pacific region (even Hawaii). We have broadband Internet access, wireless communications, and modern IT systems.

The biggest hurdle is the cost imposed on the consumer due to the infrastructure to bring various facilities out here that exist in the States (i.e., digital TV, satellite radio, GPS navigation systems, really fast Internet access, home networking, e-commerce). Guam's lending institutions haven't traditionally supported the notion of electronic storefronts and as such won't grant the requisite merchant IDs for people to set them up. We also don't have an up-to-date curriculum at our university for current computer science skills, so people learn over a number of years on the job. Full-service web hosting also isn't present here, so you don't have the low-cost setup for people to run their own SOHO operations.

Most importantly, it's not so much the technical engineering that sets Guam back, but also the social engineering - people don't have a large knowledge base and not enough smart people that really are experts at their craft exist out here, so we either get awkwardly-implemented systems or nothing at all. Also, consumers generally don't know what they want, which makes it hard to address marketing needs.

Guam's local government, which should be leading the charge into the digital age, is also notoriously bad at implementing new technology, especially information technologies and those that involve the Internet.

But that being said, a lot of things that happen in the States, like web-based systems, can be replicated out here without too much difficulty. We've made great strides in improving the way people communicate and distribute information. So the realism is that Guam is never going to be the epicenter of anything, much less high technology. Those of us that have realized this and worked at it are the ones progressing us to the next level.

So in my opinion, it's best to realize what the island isn't and won't become, rather than try and turn it into the next Silicon Valley. Many people have naively tried - prima donnas who intern for a semester at Microsoft and fancy themselves the next Fortune 500 CEO or rich daddy's boys wanting to get into the IT business at 24. All have failed.

Confidence is a good thing, but pessimism and humility are understated virtues.

Podcast production etiquette, continued

I previously blogged about some pitfalls podcast producers in the news business may want to avoid. I'd also like to amend that manifesto with something that just now struck me, given the very large size of video podcast files. Since MP4s, Quicktime movies, M4Bs and other files can get fairly big (most of mine exceed 30 MB per clip), it also is wise sense to cut down on either severe additional charges or total stoppage of service in the limited amount of data transfer you get from your host if you keep only a few video clips active in your feed.

Think about it: if you have several casts archived, say 300 MB of video spread over a few files in a feed, you'll force your server to transfer at least this much data per user. So multiply this by a few hundred to a couple thousand subscribed users, and you could potentially be serving up several gigabytes of data every 24 hours. And depending on the popularity of your podcast and the number of subscribers you support, you'll have clients banging on your RSS file all day long anyway.

Most all modern podcatchers (iTunes 4.9+, iPodder, iPodderX, etc.) are smart enough to, by default, list all of the available tracks in an RSS feed, but only skim the first few to download to the client. This is a preference that has to be manually changed by the user, saving you and I from unnecessary bandwidth losses. This helps a lot on conserving precious data transfer space.

So reinforcing my previous suggestion to segment your served video over multiple tracks, I'd also advise to keep the video made available to a few per session.

Auto-streaming media files in RSS readers

One of the things I like about Google Reader is the fact that if an RSS feed includes an audio clip, it can be played from within the app, using a streamed approach. I think. I'm assuming the Quicktime (Flash?) plugin that's embedded within a page may also be able to also load and play MP4s for video podcasts.

I'm hoping MSIE 7 and other aggregation clients will continnue to support such functionality, especially for vidcasts. I'd like people who don't necessarily subscribe to our stuff to access content, too - whether or not they download an entire show or segment.

News podcast etiquette: less is more when encoding video clips

I live in Guam, which sports 5 ISPs, each with broadband Internet service of some sort (either DSL or cable modem). But being all the way out here in the Western Pacific, we don't avail of the fastest of online access. So one of the challenges I face is knowing how to get the most out of bandwidth for my primary audience that accesses my company's stuff, because there isn't a whole lot of it.

I'm right now in the process of encoding much of the video that's going to constitute my company's new news video podcasts (aka, vidcasts/vodcasts). For the first run, I'm extending my existing RSS feed by adding the MP4 elements to the existing audio items. And while I initially was encoding entire casts and specials verbatim (as long as 30 minutes a pop), this makes for huge files - to the tune of 109 MB per. Even for broadband users, this is a pain.

Although it's more work, I suggest encoding stories and segments as individual video files. It makes for more tolerable downloading for your users, giving them the chance to tell their podcatcher application to ignore certain things they'll only wind up deleting anyway. Newscasts are chock full of extraneous information (intros, outros, transitional shots), so get rid of the superfluous stuff to make the best user experience. You can still include client ads and promotional mentions.

One of the things we came to learn as a community when audio podcasting first came on the scene was how to optimize our MP3s to avoid costly data transfer problems with our hosts. But MP4s with video are significantly larger than audio, so we need to segment our offerings a bit more.

But keep in mind this is all dependent on the flow of your show. What works for an affiliate in a minor market may not work for one in a larger operating space, a network, or a DIY'er. This approach largely contrasts how we've been accustomed to producing streaming media. Companies like WorldNow empower news agencies to have users select a range of clips for ordered playback, which is great.

With video podcasting not being locked into the "on-demand, but still synchronized" nature of streaming, the consumer is boss. So let them rule.

iTunes Music Store: over 1M videos served

Apple's iTunes Music Store has eclipsed the million-videos-sold mark since v.6.0 debuted on October 12, offering video like ABC's "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives". I have to say, I was totally supportive of this platform, but this even surprised me. I didn't think the impact would be this positive this fast.

Apple's proud of the validity of legal video sales, but I'm more hopeful for promoting more TV programming.

Digital music is in the toilet...literally

Now I've truly seen it all. For only the low, lost cost of US$1,750 you can have the Apricot series toilet seat by Toto Japan includes a full-blast (pun intended) MP3 player and an SD card slot.

This just reinforces the concept of why guys should remember to put the seat up.

NBC News launching Nightly News webcast

I'm hearing through the grapevine that NBC.com's going to webcast Nightly News with Brian Williams shortly after it airs on network TV. This apparently will be the first major news service to stream its entire cast at no charge to viewers (I've been doing this for 6 years, but I'm a pittly little affiliate). But there's the point - moving towards integrated content.

What's going to be cool - once video search becomes standardized and programmatically accessible - is when major networks can let users do full-text searches within a media player, to include metadata of affiliates, and then call up video clips from their remote sites for playback within the current app. Think of it as SOAP services using searchable video. Google Video's part of the way there already.

Also, if Google's planned localized ad stream feature that's rumored for its nationwide WiFi access becomes a reality, it'll be interesting to see copycat services replicate such a feature, to the point of it being standardized in apps. I'm tired of being force-fed spots, banners and redirects that never impact me. Think about it: demographic-specific, localized ads.

Man, I love my work.

Anticipating Comedy Central's Motherload

Because the time difference between the mainland and Guam means it's November 1 here, I'll be waiting with baited breath to see Comedy Central's new broadband channel, Motherload. Man, I've loved their programming, all the way back to when the network was called Ha! (there's a trip down Amnesia Lane).

It'll be interesting to see their take on a broadband service, considering they go so Flash-heavy with all their games, exhibits, video and other multimedia on their site.

Break a leg, CC!

Is Notre Dame really that tough a place to be a student/athlete?

It's been almost a year since Notre Dame announced the firing of Ty Willingham as head football coach. Since then and in the months that followed, ultimately climaxing with the hiring of Charlie Weis from the Patriots, much was said about the ND student/athete, like "I can't imagine what those kids go through, with the phenomenally rigid academic expectations they have...". Whoa, hoss.

I question this theory, and it's one of the reasons I think ND and those who follow it get a little too full of themselves sometimes by buying into their own hype. Every school's got high expectations. Hey, one of my best friends is a Domer, graduating with a degree in civil engineering, so I know first-hand how tough it is. But let's not overdramatize a great program's outstanding academic and athletic programs and by way of riding the popular bandwagon make it out to be more than it actually is just to be popular.

I personally don't think ND is the toughest school at which to compete on the field and in the classroom, although boosters, alumni and the media might have you believe otherwise. Other debatably more prestigious universities don't opely promote their degree of difficulty of balancing a sports regimen with an academic schedule. Not Stanford. Not Duke. Not Vanderbilt. Not Northwestern. Not any of the service academies. And I won't even mention the Ivy League. (Although admittedly only Duke is in consistent contention for a national championship.)

Let's face it: it's incredibly tough to be accepted at South Bend no matter what, and even if you're a Fab 50 prep player your SAT scores still better be up there. Barron's would classify the level of difficulty of the ND selection process as "Most Competitive" - but the same can be said for Miami, Michigan and USC. So let's respect Notre Dame for the great things it does, the values it instills in those who are privy to attend, the societal contributions it makes, the opportunities it provides, and the high expectations it sets in turning out some of the country's top leaders.

Let's just not let sports blow it out of proportion, OK?

You don't love me, you just love my bloggy-style

I'm asked from time to time how I developed the voice I use when blogging. Specifically, people inquire about why I write in such polar fashion, either being totally in support of something/someone, or ripping them to shreds. I'm pretty schizophrenic in my media work - I leave my objectivity for my columns and editorials, I'm the friendly guy when anchoring TV, and I become more insightful and argumentative on the radio. But I call 'em like I see 'em in the blogosphere.

I'm polemical, not political. And if I'm not fluffing, I'm flaming. So the question isn't why I write the way I do or if/when I'll change my style - it's which side will you end up on?

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