Saturday, January 28, 2006

I can do this...

I've become much better over the years at time management and personal organization, but I can still draw energy from my collegiate slacker mentality. Say what you want about procrastination, but sometimes it lends to creative genius. I'm furiously banging out a PowerPoint presentation for a conference I'll be speaking at this afternoon, having put off on actual preparation until this morning.

I'm supposed to be speaking to science and mathematics teachers about blogging & podcasting, but despite the rigidity of the agenda, I've had a change of heart and I'm going to expand the topic range, spending my hour talking about new media applications in general (blogs, podcasts, wikis, RSS, SMS, P2P, IM, VOD, etc.). Assuming I get done in time, I'll put up downloadable slides and MP3 audio of my speech.

So what am I doing talking to you?

**UPDATE**

NBC's 'iTunes' in-show graphics really smart

Sadly, I don't watch much primetime television these days. I get off work too late to really keep up with anything before 10pm, so my viewing is generally late night SportsCenter and Comedy Central until I doze off. But the other night while at an off-site strategy meeting at a steakhouse with colleagues I did notice "Law & Order" featuring a popup graphic touting "Buy this show on iTunes for $1.99". Damn, that's smart. I mean, that's REALLY smart.

The one thing that's puzzled me about the emegence of VOD and integrated TV over the last five months or so has been the TV industry's reluctance to do proper cross-promotion. This is assumedly out of fear that too much liberal endorsement of online content will cannibalize that being shown on-air. But hats off to NBC...you got a leg up on everyone else for this one.

'Drawn Together' available in iTunes before it airs

Here's a pretty daring & bold move by Comedy Central: making episodes of the hilarious "Drawn Together" available for purchase in the iTunes Music Store three days before it airs. This is really, really smart, in my opinion. The show is such a hit that people will still watch the broadcast even after have made a VODpurchase.

Ths strategy is part of the network's plans to launch shows in iTunes, also including South Park.

'X-Men Legends II' is the ultimate multi-platform game

I served as guest emcee for a fundraiser 5K run last weekend (I didn't run myself, for fear of turning the event into an "Is there a doctor in the house?" type of scenario), and while the participants were off traversing the course, I sat back at the start/finish line. To pass the time, I downloaded the mobile version of "X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse" on my Motorola V710. I was amazed.

I've previously blogged about how much I enjoy the PS2 version of the Activision title, and I've read very favorable reviews about the seamless port to the PSP.

The translation to mobile phones was impressive. Sure, the game didn't have the full spectrum of features available for console systems and lacked the vocal track and cinematic segues of the larger game, but the theme was consistent with the other platforms. This I liked.

The storyline mirrored that of the other platforms, as did the music, the combat system was hack-and-slash with basic fighting combos and character-specific special powers, and the bosses were actually difficult to fight. I just dispatched Abyss at the end of Level 1 when the first of the runners crossed, checking their time against their personal best.

Nice job on this one.

Enhanced podcasts never really took off

A usability tenet we constantly have to refer back to when developing media strategies is that PEOPLE ARE LAZY. This is true for the content creator side, as well as for those who would consume media products. It just dawned on me today that from my vantage point that while the number of people developing audio and video content continues to grow impressively, there's been little, if any, movement in the space of developing enhanced podcasts.

There are a couple of little utilities available to enjoy podcasts with extended features like chapterizing, embedded images and hyperlinking. Most of these features only work in iTunes, which may explain the stagnation. Also, there's a command-line utility produced by Apple and new XML tagset you'll need to be familiar with if you want to get your content right. And the output product is an M4A or M4B file, which I'm not sure has the universal appeal of MP4s, able to be copied onto various media devices for playback.

But more importantly, I think, is the fact that the development model isn't at all seamless. It's damn hard work to meticulously synchronize spoken content with imagery. I know a few podcasters who have dressed up their shows with such accoutrements, but they're the vast minority.

Perhaps the advent of the video podcast killed off this idea. Why embed simple images when you can get full-on video? It's much easier to produce and more universally appealing.

Atomic web development

One thing that I have come to appreciate about ASP.NET is the flexibility of the platform. You not only can crate monolithic applications all using n-tier architecture with centralized configuration data and properly nested custom types and

But at its core, ASP.NET will work as long as IIS and the .NET Framework are setup. You can then just write a simple/complex single-page script and it'll work. I like having the option to do large scalable apps as well as being able to work at the micro level. Neat little utilities often don't require me to plug in to a larger infrastructure of an existing application. This is the one thing I don't quite enjoy with open source web frameworks.

I like the rapid development model and the fact that most of the plumbing is laid out for you, but I can't exactly write little autonomous services without setting up an entire app space dependent on some larger sort of MVC architecture.

Being able to develop things atomically is important, too...let's try and remember that.

Hypertext over hygiene

Guam tragically isn't one of those places that's got blanket coverage for broadband Internet access, even in our most densely populated areas...yet. So when looking for a new pad, the first question I always bounce off the landlord is whether highspeed online accessibility is available in the area. It's just dawned on me that I inquire about such infrastructure before asking whether water service is included in the monthly cost.

Evidently, I'd rather surf than shower.

Friday, January 27, 2006

CMT rocks!

I'm not one of those people who naively rip on country music just because it's the popular thing to do from a mainstream point of view, but admittedly I've never watched Country Music Television before in my life. Until last night.

While mindlessly channel surfing while paging through some technical articles, I passed by CMT, which showed an episode of "Cross Roads", joining Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers. I was hooked. I'm a sucker for live music, and this concert ruled.

The singer/songwriters covered each other's tunes and did all their greatest hits. A haunting duet of "Still" gave me major goosebumps.

One feed, two services

I did something clever last night on my site...I emulated Feedburner, specifically with their use of a friendly UI to list items in an RSS feed. I took my existing hybrid news podcast RSS feed (audio and video clips) and programmed a little around it so it could be databound to a .NET DataList and filtered, and developed a nice list of all available video clips, to promote our VOD services. I basically set up a web-based interface for manual downloaders and people who haven't gotten with the podcast bug yet.

The key element is that I market the podcast and manual download page as separate services, so people not in the know aren't aware they're hitting the same feed-based data. I then did a news story on it to get it lots of good marketing momentum. It's been very favorable for us so far, generating lots of traffic and downloads.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I'm prepping for my next tech talk

If you're on Guam and have nothing to do this Saturday, try and stop by the MASCOT Conference at the University of Guam Field House. It's a forum organized by my high school volleyball coach that deals with creative uses of technology as a means ofenriching math and science classrooms.

I'll be speaking about blogging, podcasting, wikis, RSS, mash-ups/remixing, and other Web 2.0 topics relative to education. You can download a video of my coach's appearance on one of my company's newscasts describing the conference from my VOD page.

I always enjoy doing niche-oriented talks like this...it keeps me on point. Because of the need to tailor the material to one type of audience, it lets me concentrate on the idiosyncracies of that group and not try and appeal to the masses. It doesn't exactly make for seamless reusability, but it's still fun.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Will you sign my iPod?"

Something really neat happened the other day while I was strolling around the mall. A university student who recognized me from TV accosted me, not at all bashfully proclaming, "I subscribe to your video podcast!" She quickly produced a video iPod from her purse and played a clip of a story I reported for work, along with other videos available from my station's VODcast. I was totally flattered, but none more so than when she whipped out a Sharpie and asked me to autograph her portable media player.

I did so without hesistation, sheepishly signing the back of her iPod. That's the first time I've autographed a digital device, so this was a hoot. The pleasure was truly all mine.

I'm proud to have made someone's day; but on more of a macro level, I'm proud to have introduced the platform to the local community. From a marketing perspective I'm glad to have succeeded in the branding and public awareness of our "On-Air. Online. On Demand." campaign. That people are recognizing there are other, more convinient, more portable, and cost-free ways to access our stuff without synchronizing themselves to our programming and making data mobile is really an achievement.

I've said for years that the social engineering in getting people to use new media is always more difficult than the technical engineering behind it. The system works - but more importantly, people get it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

New KUAM commercial - "On Air. Online. On Demand."

We produced an awesome new spot that's running on our TV channels that profiles all the different ways you can access KUAM News - On-Air. Online. On-Demand. (You'll recall me coming up with this in a dream a few weeks back.)

Download our new spot:
Enjoy...better yet, check out our multimedia/multiplatform/multidevice services on all our platforms and get the news!

Friday, January 20, 2006

My new RSS feed (my news reporting)

I left work late tonight after hacking out a series of dynamically-generated RSS feeds for me and my fellow reporters. I added the little orange icons to our "Contact" page so that anyone publishing content through our CMS simultaneously and automatically publishes a feed. Here's the URL containing the most recent stories I've reported for KUAM:
I'll have a story on this for Monday's newscast (which of course, will wind up in my feed). Subscribe and enjoy!

The RSS 2.0 feed expectedly works perfectly when plugged into the Start.com portal and other web-based aggregators like Google Reader and Litefeeds, as well as in desktop aggregators like Opera's built-in reader and RSSBandit...but curiously isn't validating in Google's personalized homepage.

Drat.

The missing downloads from my GMA Web 2.0 talk

Some tech guru I turned out to be. I had posted an update with slides and MP3 downloads from last week's talk I gave to the Guam Marketing Association on "Hyperdistribution", my company's digital & interactive media management philosophy...or so I thought. Apparently, my post never saved, and I didn't realize it until today when Jonah pointed out the missing materials after waiting patiently all this time. How embarrasing.

At any rate, here at long last are the downloads:
Also, my next talk is going to be on new media applications for use in educational markets, at the MASCOT conference (download video about my speech) Saturday the 28th at the University of Guam Field House. Try and make it out...I PROMISE to make downloads available soon after.

Thanks Jonah...and enjoy everyone!

I was SO not blogging this week

...I always wanted to use that phrase in context. Seems to be really popular these days.

This past week marked the first real break I've taken from full-time blogging in two years. I just wasn't visited by the Muse too much, and didn't make my normal oddball observations. I did stumble across a big story, which not surprisingly, given the nature of the subject matter has evidently has become the talk of the town lately. So while I didn't do any blogosphere activity, which is mostly reactions to goings-on in the tech sector, I did have a few assignments to journalistically hump on. A nice change, albeit brief.

Around the holidays I had e-mailed Richard MacManus about being considered to become part of the Web 2.0 Workgroup, and after a brief review period I was passed up. I wasn't phased, but it did take the wind out of my sails creatively for a few days. I've also been wrapping my brain heavily around Ruby on Rails and Django.

I'm back in the saddle now.

Resume tape, my ass...subscribe to my RSS feed

One of the most expensive things we in the TV news industry have to deal with (outside of agents) is maintaining a portfolio of our best work - anchoring, reporting, interviewing, field work - in the event of needing to document our work to get a better and/or more lucrative gig. Typically this means archiving a library of VHS tapes and printed scripts typically involving generation loss due to copying from digital to analog formats.

I've been maintaining a hybrid RSS feed (MP3s, MP4s, blog posts, URLs to stories I've covered, etc.) that profiles the moments as a broadcaster of which I'm most proud, using it as a low-cost alternative to the traditional resume tape/printed work library. I've no longer got to schlep around tons of materials that are prohibitively expensive to reproduce, without a guarantee I'll even land the prospective job. And inherently digital, the quality of the data isn't subjected to degradation from mass (re)copying.

I've used this a few times already and it blew the interested employers away. They thought it was really neat that I just sent them a URL and that they could download, share and comment on my stuff. Granted, I probably screwed myself out of more jobs from technical Luddites in HR not knowing how to subscribe to a syndicated feed and disregarding me as non-conformist.

But maybe that's better - I wouldn't want to work at a company that isn't down with RSS, anyway.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My first lead news story

It's kinda hard to believe that after being at KUAM for six years and having reported thousands of stories, one of my creations has never led the news. That's no longer the case. I had my first lead story of my career tonight (download video as an WMV or an MP4) - place at the table, baby!

I'm not an everyday reporter, having worked mainly on editorials, sportswriting and covering the technology sector. But I've spent the duration of my time at Camp Happy filling in when colleagues can't go, reporting various beats. That's how it went down this morning.

The funny thing is that I was covering the event for a completely different matter entirely. I picked up on a line duting the opening remarks of a luncheon that the local hotel and restaurant association wanted to, in essence, establish a red light district for Guam, so I whisked the speaker aside and interviewed him on it, giving the a venue to expand upon his concept. Our news director liked the presentation so much we led our newscast tonight with it. First time for me!

That's why I love journalism - never the same thing twice.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I'll be presenting Web 2.0 ideas today

I'll be giving a presentation to the Guam Marketing Association on "Hyperdistribution", KUAM's digital and interactive media content management philosophy (synopsis), as well as some of the interactives we're rolling out this year. Try and swing by - 11:30am today at the Prego Restaurant in the Westin in Tumon.

Hope to see you there!

Downloads from the presentation:
In case you're wondering, the "people at PDN" I often refer to in the talk are friends who were in attendance from Guam's leading newspaper.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

If it bleeds, it leads (online). And you made it that way.

So often we in the business of producing what we feel is good television news are criticized by learned pundits and ignoramuses alike of liberally practicing the "if it bleeds, it leads" concept. This implies that we deliberately prepare programming in ways that sensationalize otherwise trivial issues; unfairly glorifying acts of violence, moral depravity or debauchery; or managing the order of the stories within newscasts so as to promote stronger content as a means of securing ratings and profits.

While I generally take offense to such an accusation lobbed at my newsroom, likening our efforts to a tabloid operation, I won't argue that this happens...in some capacity.

Certainly competition drives organizations to display the day's top stories in a fashion more visually-engaging and emotionally hard-hitting than their rivals. But for any news agency to bury a headline or depreciate the value of a story to elevate a lesser item merely because of the involvement of an extreme act isn't responsible journalism. Just reporting the news isn't the only thing we're paid to do - we have an inherent obligation to determine the greatest relative cultural significance of each event and present them in a way that (hopefully) sustains captive viewing.

Here's where I as an industry guy step in and defend mainstream media. I'm herein appending a corollary to the "Bleeding Equals Leading" equation for news in the Web Age: an issue's hierarchical position online - on a news site, in an e-mail newsletter, or in an RSS feed - ultimately doesn't matter. People are always going to be drawn to and will continually click on saucy headlines.

Consider some hard data to reinforce the concept. Usage patterns derived from my station's site's traffic statistics indicate that the news articles generating the greatest number of clickthroughs are those with titles containing the words "rape", "kill", "dead", "crash", "fatal", "corruption", "indictment" and "sex". And many weren't the featured cover story on our homepage. What's more, the keywords registering the highest recurrence in our internal search tool include "infidelity", "trial", "prison" and "murder". So stronger material is being pulled, even after running its course as a readily available link. And on the Web, of course, there isn't a static arrangement of stories as would be the case in a traditional broadcast - you click and choose which items to read and disregard those you find uninteresting.

(The other popular form of search behavior is traditionally people-specific hard news searches involving/implicating government leaders or well-known crime victims, or the more amusing vanity searches in which subjects do lookups on themselves for the giddy effect one has when appearing on a widely-distributed medium.)

So regardless of the order, link depth or even immediacy of access to a story, you're demanding the bleeding-edge stuff and pushing it to the top of the heap, in terms of what's most read. The natural attraction to extreme stories is human nature - I cited people's undeniable interest with odd or extreme news events across media platforms, touching on how viewers/listeners/readers/users gravitate towards the more racy storylines, even if just intrigued by a terse title.

There's your new truth: notwithstanding implications about an organization's production tactics on-air, users will still drive headlines dealing with stronger material atop the list of those stories most popular online.

So as a media consumer, feel free to scrutinize your local (and network) media outlets. Openly question their motives and political alliances, demand precision quality control measures, expect fair and objective storytelling, and hold those tasked to let you know what happened in the world today to extremely high standards. We can take it. And we rely on it to let us know how to best satisfy your insatiable appetite for information, to keep our egos in check, and to continue to get better at our beloved craft. Across diverse platforms and with multiple formats, be a whistleblower - keep a keen eye out for the "if it bleeds, it leads" theory in action, and call out organizations that you feel practice it.

Just realize that at the end of the day, at least for online content, you're doing the same thing.

Cross-discipline blog development

My pal Steve Smith a few years ago used a neat approach for managing dynamic layout on client sites publishing to his ASPAlliance site. He'd have registered authors call a .NET web service that returned HTML markup constituting the layout for his site. If he ever needed to change the UI, it was retrofitted across client pages. It's a smart way to emulate user controls for remote clients. Even though Steve's work involved strictly .NET clients, I always kept this standards-based approach in mind as a clever implementation of a way to use remote data sources in pages.

I'm using this mentality to manage a new series of blogs I'm going to have to build. A manager's meeting the other day proposed a new series of blog-based products we'll be debuting this year, which would normally be major development time. Since I've got a custom blog application written in ASP.NET 1.x already in and in production, I'm avoiding rebuilding most of the initial infrastructure. So I'm looking past most of the tough, repetitive structural programming and getting with the UI and administrative elements. I don't mind doing presentation stuff in ASP.NET, but doing admin pages and maintenance tools gets tiring.

The finished blog will be published on IIS, but I'm rolling an internal publishing tool using open source web frameworks. A couple of admin interfaces are based on Ruby on Rails scaffolding and some other internal UI/URL management stuff with Django.

The kicker is mapping the in-place database schema for the tables controlling data in the existing blog app. The Django and RoR pages contain client- and server-side code calling .NET-driven AJAX functions and web services to executable processes and data streams, respectively. I can use the rapid development and auto code generation features of the open source frameworks with the .NET back-end stuff I'm used to building pretty quickly in C#. And the end result are .ASPX pages displaying blog posts, comments and generating RSS feeds.

So ultimately, the blog is based on a ASP.NET front-end and .NET mid-tier logic, powered by open source utilities for all the publishing. Clear as mud?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

iTunes to e-tail SNL skits

I'm stoked over the projections that Apple will be selling Saturday Night Live skits in the iTunes Music Store (direct iTunes link). There are a handful of some of the more memorable SNL moments already listed in Google Video for free, foremost among them Will Ferrell's unforgettable "I gotta have more cowbell" skit.

So I'll save $1.99 for lesser-quality versions, but definitely sign me up for Will's other genius moments, Cameron Diaz's "Jingleheimer Junction" (hilarious), some Farley-&-Sandler classics, Robert Smigel's cartoonery, and anything Eddie Murphy ever did.

Google Video Store launches a tad late, but still solid



At last, it's up: the Google Video Store's been implemented with its features after some criticism about the late release following the CES announcement. I like it...especially the 360 movies that are available for purchase. I'm thinking of getting a 102-minute Deep Purple concert and a Hall & Oates acoustic set. Not bad for less than $15 each.

Writer's blog: 'Grey's Anatomy' creators collaborate on show notes

Even though Jeff Jarvis doesn't think too highly of "Grey's Anatomy", I'm sold on the show. And I've subscribed to the feed the collective blog that the show's writers put together. And so does Steve Rubel. I still laugh when I realize that Katherine Heigl, who plays Dr. Izzie Stevens, was Steven Seagal's niece in "Under Siege 2".

ABC's approach to blogging in this fashion is something my station's going to be doing this coming election season - featuring multiple bloggers publishing to the same individual blog site. I'm going to setup a publishing framework, and then have several selected people submit to it. None individually would generate the expected volume to warrant sustained subscribership on their own, but together will generate a pretty decent blog.

As an aside, it still boggles my mind why ABC's not releasing Grey's Anatomy in the iTunes Music Store. This drives me nuts.

ESPN ombudsman has a great RSS feed

I've been reading ESPN ombudsman George Solomon's contributions on the network's decision making and programming through his feed a lot recently, which are very, very good. It's an honest, often painful look at the very difficult world of international sports broadcasting and the personalities within them. One thing I'm often asked as a professional broadcaster, since I do news and sports, is which is more difficult. I always say sports.

More people are more intimately familiar with the subject matter, and are thus more passionate about it. So they catch more of your mistakes and get more riled up over them. That's not typically the case with hard news during live shows.

I go through a lot of what Solomon (on-air snafus, quality control issues, viewer relations). While I retain a handful of concerns about ESPN, I'm less critical than most about their format because I go through the same thing. I watch their casts and appreciate a clever transition between one highlight and another, a well-asked question during an interview, or a slick stand-up live in the field. It's support for my colleagues.

Good show, George.

Americans watching 4.5+ hours of TV per night

A Nielsen Media Research report indicates that during the past fall Americans watch over 4.5 hours of television every night. Perhaps a sign that the diversification of news programming, the blitz of reality shows and shorter programs is working.
What’'s incredible is that fact that TV viewing is still increasing at a time when there are so many new distractions like video games, DVDs, the Internet, etc.
What's most interesting, finds the New York Times, is that older demographics are showing the most activity, motivated by news coverage:
Paul Donato, the chief research officer for Nielsen, noted that TV watching was flat for younger people, but up for those 35 and older. "News is driving viewership," he said.
Now what I'd like to see are the number of shows watched in an average session. Are people forever channel surfing, or have the networks finally figured out the elusive goal of how to keep audiences to stay put?

Howard Stern makes Sirius debut, sans profanity

The genius of Howard Stern can't be overstated.

Although I didn't personally hear Howard's debut on Sirius (not avalable in Guam...dammit), CNET reports that he didn't leverage the unregulated, uncensored nature of his new satellite radio program and launch a barrage of s- and f-bombs upon the network's more than 3 million subscribers. In fact, evidently Stern himself didn't curse even once, but he did scold and question the motives of those that did. He even went so far as to make a solemn promise that he wouldn't do so. That's damn smart.
"I have a personal rule that I'm not going to curse," Stern said, despite uttering a handful of words that would no doubt have brought government fines on his former medium of broadcast radio and using a term normally not heard outside of a men's locker room to describe Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexis.

The few times an off-color word did leave Stern's mouth, he was quick to say that he was trying not to curse liberally and scolded others for turning to profanity for profanity's sake.
First of all, we'll always be waiting with bated breath for the day he actually slips up or drops a litle profanity just to get the point across. What a momentous occasion that'll be. But the larger value is in that he won't be vulgar just to be vulgar. That his show will probably have liberal uses of strong language just because it can, as is one of the hallmarks of Adam Curry's "Daily Source Code" podcast, makes him an even better broadcaster for holding back. It's already become a running gag that Howard, the king of the shock jocks, won't dive into the profanity pool. His cast and other who interact with him may, but he'll ironically refrain. That's incredibly strategic.

Stern rules.

Monday, January 09, 2006

How will local TV stations monetize Google Video?

Corey Bergman started a discussion about something I've been long interested in as a guy in charge of interactive media development at a local TV affiliate. He projects local stations really going hardcore in making content available through Google Video, subsequently selling such material in the Google Video Store. I agree.

I knew Google Video was going to be big for major content producers the first time I used it; but the service couldn't survive on "Canon in D by Jerry C." forever - it had to have commercial appeal to be legitimate. So therein lies an interesting problem: should we be selling newscasts...and would people buy them?

Corey's post has generated some awesome feedback, the overwhelming majority of which opposes the notion that local stations might sell their programming in the GVS. Most comments appear to be from viewers who want to enjoy a new way to access news, sans cost; there are also a couple of industry guys cheering on the GVS model, obviously seeing the opportunity to make a buck. (I actually play both parts simultaneously, being both devoted consumer and content creator.)

So what exactly can we sell? Special produtions, like holiday extravaganzas? Possibly. Sports shows? Certainly. How about telethons, musical performances, cooking shows, comedy skits? Whatever the market will bear. But local newscasts? Some will try and may be able to get away with it, but I don't see this taking off. I don't see affiliates becoming hugely successful selling nightly casts, and I don't plan to do so with mine.

As the current model for the GVS implies that videos can be purchased on a per-clip basis, bulk purchases - a concept I've long favored for e-tailing VOD - wouldn't be possible. Also, the clips would have to be uploaded, tagged, approved and published at breakneck speeds to have any relevance (the review process as it is by Google is typically at least a couple of days), and then removed for just as quickly due to datedness. Also, the volume of clips is most stations deal with will be pretty sizable...I would think the effort of putting tons of clips online would outweigh the actual profits generated.

I jumped on the Google Video bandwagon early, publishing several longform clips that appear in my station's webcast archive to Google Video (here's a sports editorial I did). It's certainly broadened our reach to a larger market, and hey...it's Google's bandwidth and storage, so watch all you want. It's a great service.

If viewers really want footage or a story, they'll record via VCR and/or DVR; or because most stations are small, they'll catch an near-infinitesimal number of rebroadcasts. Or get it from their competitors. And it's a foregone conclusion that most TV stations producing news online have at least streaming video of their casts available, and possibly video podcasts.

Some stations favor the Google Video model for selling newscasts because it lets them reap monetary rewards for giving people video, empowering a news producer with on-demand asynchronicity, always a problem for any broadcast organization. This solves the concern many face in dealing with viewers who can't download permanent copies of read-only streaming media, or the give-it-all-away problems of a vidcast. My station does both. While we're considering selling special productions or compilations through Google Video, we're avoiding the newscast route for now. It just doesn't make sense at this point.

(See more of my thoughts and projections on how TV stations are going to adopt Google Video.)

The (lost) art of intrapreneurship

Venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki (who's got a great blog), discusses the importance of intrapraneurship for a company. When I was getting my MBA this was a huge concept. Sadly, most of the small companies I know have their meager staff wearing too many hats to do this, and many large companies frown on the practice of internal business planning by team members because radical ideas so often don't fit the company's mold...so they're developed and grown, at least in part, on the company's time and then made into companies when the employees depart.

I encourage such a practice, which usually results in positive environments. If a staffer knows management is behind her ideas and the process of developing them, she'll get into the mindset of working for the company.
Intrapreneurs don’t have it better—at best, they simply have it different. Indeed, they probably have it worse because they are fighting against ingrained, inbred, and inept management. There are lots of guys/gals inside established companies who are as innovative and revolutionary as their bootstrapping, soy-sauce-and-rice-subsisting counterparts.

RIP, MSM

Jeff Jarvis doesn't like the term "mainstream media", as it inherently denounces blogging, podcasting, and the like. It might label them as an attempt to illegitimize the efforts of those who use them. I tend to think the opposite: when referring to "new media" I think it dates and objectifies the traditional types in print, radio and TV.
Long ago, I tried to argue that we shouldn’t call big media “mainstream media” because that would be conceding that blogs aren’t mainstream. I got nowhere...it’s time to proudly take our place in the mainstream. But to do that, we first need to stop implying that we’re not with that stupid “MSM” monicker.
I agree with Ieff...I say with new forms of communications everyone involved is part of the media. So let's classify those involved with either/both in terms of their platform, not catty labeling that dates or implies a certain level of quality associated with them.

Don't hate on us online MBAs

Krysten Crawford from Business 2.0 helps justify my existence in her entertaining piece about the value that online MBAs can still be to a company. Being one myself (University of Phoenix, Class of 2001), I get criticism from time to time about the fact that while still an accredited graduate degree, lacks the Ivy so many expect.

Good work, Krysten!

How big of a download is an NBA game?

Despite blogging, speculating, pimping and otherwise incessantly promoting in all forms of media humanly possible the conceptual merits of the iTunes Music Store, I've never once bought anything from it or downloaded a video clip. And I probably won't until "Grey's Anatomy" makes it's long overdue debut as a paid download.

At any rate, a 22-minute video isn't exactly a small download, so a fast Internet connection to a capable ISP is assumed. So this leads me to wonder now with the Google Video Store on the very short horizon how big the average NBA game is going to be. Even with non-overtime games that last the normative four quarters and eliminating timeouts, commercials and TV breaks, that's still at least 90 minutes of video. That's a mammoth download, I would assume, regardless of format.

Anyone got any projections on the average filesize of an NBA game?

I'm not with the "don't use HTML tables for layout" camp

One thing I've never been either totally in favor of or completely against is the staunch opposition to use DIVs over HTML tables for layout on web pages. The HTML 4.01 Specification suggests:
Tables should not be used purely as a means to layout document content as this may present problems when rendering to non-visual media. Additionally, when used with graphics, these tables may force users to scroll horizontally to view a table designed on a system with a larger display. To minimize these problems, authors should use style sheets to control layout rather than tables.
Non-visual media? I'd venture to say that 98% of us in the biz don't design/develop for anything but visual media, even for those of us doing multiplatform work (web, wireless/PDA, etc.). I don't use CSS for printed works.

As far as the elongated page real estate that results due a table's fixed position within a web document, I'd rather someone scroll a vertical page due to cell constraints rather than risk having sloppy overlaps due to DIVs bleeding into one another due to careless CSS, lack of browser support, or DHTML gimmickry gone awry. I see this all the time with sites primarily for for IE and then getting wrecked in Firefox. The least common denominator supported by any modern browser is HTML tables over.

But I'm not endorsing tables for anything and everything. DIVs do work nicely in several situations, and work really well in others (like assigning values from AJAX calls).

My point is that mature development requires knowing the recommended development strategies, but implementing them in ways that best impact your projects. Consider best practices, but ultimately do whatever works best for your gig.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Google PR: give away everything, say nothing

I'm amazed at Google's sustained improvement with product marketing. Most revoutionary, I find, is the way they aprpoach PR and work with the media. Which is to say, not much. Their engineering philosophy in regards to distributed computing is progressive in its simplicity, their "perpetual beta" release of products via the Web is changing the way people create software.

They give away mostly everything for free, and are the darlings of the entire blogosphere, talking about them constantly (case in point: me and this post). But the tightlipped, say-nothing tactic has allowed them to make dramatic introductions of their new stuff. Even pundit speculation can't accurately predict what Sergey and Larry are going to debut at a conference, like last fall's Web 2.0 Conference or the current Consumer Electronics Show. Other large companies for years have suffered from leaks from both overzealous press and internal resources. Many have even planted a few such landmines themselves in the hopes of jump-starting interest.

When compared with traditionalist public relations strategy, Google's very unorthodox standoffishness might have resulted in a nightmare situation: negative consumer perception, media criticism, or even worse, apathy from both/either. But Google's not the average company.

It's allowed them to drop some major bombs, like yesterday's announement of Google Pack and Google Video Store at CES. Even the company's extremely limited number of most trusted press sources, who are afforded only the most miniscule amounts of information about a new product launch, honor their info embargoes.

Maybe it's because there realistically aren't that many people working there (about 3,000, but even that's an undivulged quantity). Proportionately, overseeing fewer people means more control and fewer leaks. And they're devoted to keeping the flow of info quiet. And it's working for them.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

'Motherload' not carrying the load?

PaidContent.org reports that despite great diversification in the video clips offered, Comedy Central's "Motherload" broadband streaming service only got a meager number of visitors on its busiest week (granted that was during the holiday rush). I've been impressed with the advertising integration the network's done with the service, being one of the few to actually dare to drive traffic to an online service on TV.

I'll admit that I don't much pay attention to the stand-up bits and the "web-only" clips don't make my playlist - I typically save "Reno 911", "Chapelle's Show" and "Crank Yankers" clips.
The numbers are still small. During its best week, in early December, MotherLoad attracted 109,000 viewers.

The new aesthetics of your site's URLs

A fashionista I'm certainly not, but it's probably a testament to how much of a geek I truly am that I would attach an aesthetic value to a URL. And apparently, I'm not alone.

Web development frameworks like Django and Ruby on Rails, motivated by the community recent head-over-heels love affair with the almighty permalink, heavily promote the use of elegant URLs. And enterprise-level platforms like Microsoft's ASP.NET and JavaServerPages also provide URL munging capabilities to morph a site's page addressing scheme to something more pleasing to the eye. And of course, there's the ultimate sin: including DLLs in your URLs.

It's now seen as passe to include file extensions in your URLs, thus making it immediately visible what platform underlies your application. (I'm sure the vendors are loving that.) Likewise, it's a development faux pas to use query string-resident values. Liberal uses of HTTP POST with sparing uses of GET where applicable is the preferred trend. My most popular blog post to date was on in which I proclaimed the arrival of the new in-thing for web development: killing the query string.

But there's still something to be said about proper directory structure within a web application, lending to the psychological impact a URL has on those users who bother to even notice them (assumedly, the vast minority). I applaud the efforts of Microsoft in years past and Google today to structure their sites with logical URLs (e.g., microsoft.com/word, mail.google.com). When laying out any site, this is a chief concern for me, and I did this with KUAM.COM (e.g., kuam.com/rss, kuam.com/decision2004, kuam.com/search, kuam.com/mobile). Still, when applying .NET path rewriting, I changed the structure of my news stories from http://www.kuam.com/news/story.asp?id=13090 to http://www.kuam.com/news/13090.aspx.

MSNBC.com hides the fact that it's running ASP.NET from it's revamped site, of which a new page addressing strategy was put into place. The URLs are all numerically-based, and don't display .ASPX, .ASHX or other file extensions that would give anything away. It's low-level security, at best. Still, I don't hold MSNBC.com as a premiere example of how to properly manage URLs because the format is completely uniform across it's numerous content areas. Looking at a random URL I just copied - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032076/ - even people that know the site really well one can't immediately discern whether the destination is a major area, an individual story, or an affiliate homepage (it's the site's Health subsection).

So let's bridge the two schools of thought and really capitalize on this trend with proper implementation, in the hopes of enjoying the best of both worlds. Let's leverage the programmatic abilities of major frameworks to create nice-looking URLs, but also create folder hierarchies that make sense.

Imagine that - an entertaining technical presentation

"At Lawrence.com, our mission was that 'We Build Cool Shit.'" - Adrian Holovaty

A theory I've evangelized for years is that more often than not, tech company execs usually make lousy presenters. In stark contrast to the dry, methodical, nervous, Oh-God-I'd-better-do-good-because-Bill-Gates-is-watching-my-every-move-off-stage persona of most presenters, Adrian Holovaty, a pioneer in my line of work (news industry web development) discusses his Django web development framework. And he does so in a rare fashion that anyone can enjoy because it's entertaining. It's not a multimillion-dollar production with lights, huge displays and celebrity cameos - he uses humor, self-deprecating examples and pragmatic examples of his talents at work to get his points across. And he also talks in a language that commonfolk will get, programmer or not.

Great show, kid.

(Download a Quicktime version of Adrian's presentation - 146MB)

Just completed "The Search"

I'm just wrapping up reading the epilogue of John Battelle's excellent "The Search - How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture", which I bought with an Amazon gift certificate from a friend for Christmas. It's a great book with amazing, captivating storytelling. I've only read one other industry book that I tell people is a must-have if you're in the IT business or into the web lifestyle, Stephen Segaller's "Nerds 2.01 - A Brief History of the Internet".

Battelle's fine work is right up there with it. This is going on the hallowed section of my home library of maybe five titles I re-read once a year just to get perspective.

The book's main focus is primarily Google, but there's also a healthy dose of the other major players in the search game, like Amazon's A9, AltaVista, AllTheWeb, Yahoo and Microsoft.

The book does, in my opinion, lack a bit of the technical explanation behind Google's processes (to each his own, most people would get turned off by this as it'd be way over the head of the average reader). I would have liked to see more drilled down into the company's data center and distributed computing philosophies and the company's adoption of open source software (there are a couple of paragraphs dedicated towards detailing the former). They rolled their own Linux implementation, which wasn't mentioned, and have pretty much put Python on the map as a programming, which also didn't make the final cut.

This is what drew me to "The Google Legacy" by Stephen E. Arnold. And Larry Page's and Sergey Brin's original concept of PageRank.

But not taking anything away from Battelle's work - he does a fantastic job early on of breaking down web-wide search and the components involved. The book is still spot-on in terms of the strategy, financial profile, legal issues, unique corporate culture, human resources practices, adventures with venture investors, stock performance, insider interviews , horror stories, brutal truths and a historical look at the company. The final chapter, "Perfect Search" also talks about what's on the horizon for search, maintaining the belief that in all, web search is only 5% completed.

Mostly everyone interested with Google's read this already, so I'm glad to have joined the group. It's a fine investment and fine writing. Pick this one up. Kudos, John - well done.

Should Google buy Monster?

CNN Money speculates that Google may be adding Monster to its list of M&As. Even though John Battelle isn't fully behind it, it's not a bad idea, I think. There is a bit of grey area covered by what Google currently does in the job listings space, but I previously blogged that I think they should either compete with their own technology or get it outright.

And again, like with the Opera buyout rumors, first from Google and then from Microsoft, this might be just to keep Yahoo and/or Microsoft at bay.

Think of the integration possibilities with search - reading with Google Print, mapping with Google Local meshing with Google Base. There's a lot that could be done by plugging Google's indexing into the already mammoth listing of resumes and job posts.

John writes:
Would Google want to get into this business so directly? Well, perhaps it would want to mimic Yahoo, which bought HotJobs, but really, honestly, this feels totally out of character.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Sorry so silent

Yes, I'm still here. Thanks to the many of you who've e-mailed and asked why I'm not blogging as prolifically as normal. I'm just starting to get over a dreadful winter cold. One of those 48-hour jobs that knock you on your ass. And I was. It sure made covering the Rose Bowl an unpleasent experience (oddly, I was also sick with a fever as I covered Super Bowl XXXIX...what's up with that?).

So while I wasn't too keen on thinking and typing, I saved for energy for broadcasting and didn't miss any of my TV anchoring duties. So I was wiping/blowing my nose in between on-camera appearances. Classic.

Gimme another Nyquil-induced sleep for the night and I'll be back to normal. Thanks for your concern. :-)

Stern's Sirius impact on bandwidth

I'm willing to bet a nice BBQ lunch (sorry, vegans) that Howard Stern's debut on Sirius Satellite Radio on the 9th is going to drive the number of signups for free 3-day web tryouts through the roof. This is pretty much the only option for people in places not in the satellite's range like me.

Ah, the bandwidth we'll be using...

Amazon's user participation, sans incentive

The thing I've always found so impressive about Amazon, and now sites like Digg, is the tremendouns amount of user participation they get for their site, without compensatory incentives. For instance, I've written as fairly large amount of tech book reviews, which I've posted to Amazon, but I've never gotten anything monetary or a discount which I can apply to purchases at the site in return.

Such would be nice, but it won't stope me from posting. Because I just enjoy the process. I'm sure people have brought up more than once a volume-based rewards system for reviewers or those who assemble recommendation lists. I guess the economic reality is that until the day traffic starts to taper off for whatever reason (superior competitor, lack of interest, pricing, etc.) such won't be put into play. It's a new take on "whatever the market will bear" - if we've got this phenomenal feedback engine going full-steam already, why pay? To have a trump card tucked away to sweeten the deal later, if necessary, is strategic.

This is a huge shift in the retailer-consumer relationship. It's like a focus group without the honorarium - that's the kind of thing marketers die for.

Disney takes a shot back at NBC in iTunes

I was stoked to see on SportsCenter that ESPN is offering a (free?) 15-minute download highlight package from the Rose Bowl in the iTunes Music Store. Disney's gotten some flack over the past week since NBC more liberally promotes/integrates its digital show offerings with TV. And to me, this is key.

It's not so much that ESPN's doing multiplatform tech...it's that they're integrating it. When I applied with them last April, this was my big push into what I could contribute to the company and what, if I had my druthers, I'd want to see more of as a developer.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Guam moves towards local number portability

I reported on my site about a local telecomm that was privatized in 2005 implementing local number portability by way of an upgrade for their wireless system. It's been a pain switching carriers for years, but this is going to help mightily.

RSS means syndication, not publishing

I just responded to an e-mail from a blog reader who was checking out the code for an ASP.NET 1.x server control I did that acts as an RSS reader. He asked something that several people have done in recent months - he wanted to know how to publish data to an RSS feed manually. I explained that due to the volume of information available through my company's RSS feed and synchronization concerns across platforms (changes made to data need to be mirrored in our desktop, web and mobile formats), I was reading it from a central source.

But amidst my typing I realized a growing problem: that some people are naively seeing RSS as the primary way to add content online.

It's critical to realize that RSS is a syndication technology, not one meant for publishing. More users still access the public World Wide Web than through aggregators (even though sites like mine get more RSS traffic than WWW requests). I realize there may be content producers out there who get away with RSS-as-publication-mechanism, and I don't doubt that some forward-thinkers may be developing creative solutions based on exclusive distribution through RSS/Atom.

But much in the way we've got to continue to develop WAP content even as mobile browsers get better, we need to publish formal web content and not neglect the core avenue of data distribution.

Branded iPods I'd like to see

As a marketer, I've always thought Apple's branded U2 iPod was a tremendous idea. Imagine having all-access to your favorite band's musical library - all high-quality, all legit. The iPod and the iTunes Music Store, helped by proper (yet infuriating) DRM implementations, really did much for the "atomic economics" of enjoying music, allowing us to concentrate on our favorite individual tracks instead of albums we'd rather avoid.

But I still think it would be cool to have a band's entire discography available and preloaded and ready for playback. While legal issues probably prevent ordering such lists, it would be cool if we could someday request branded iPods, or have bands more liberally agree to release their entire works digitally.

Here's my wish list:
What's yours?

Test your Web 2.0 savvy

Gauge your Web 2.0 savvy with this neat little quiz. I think I'm gonna build something like this soon in ASP.NET or Ruby. Alex got 8/10, which is what I did.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I can never be a venture capitalist? Damn.

One thing I've wanted to become at some point in the twlight of my career is a venture capitalist. It's not so much about the money as it is helping aspiring young businesspeople to realize their goals of growing their ideas and create something special. Screw it...who am I kidding? It's all about the money!

Seriously, this is something I'd like to do someday after decades of gaining experience and expertise. In a greedy world, is there anything more noble than wanting to altruistically help people accomplish their dreams?

The problem? I've no idea where to start. I got some harrowing realism on the subject after a quick search including this and this. They both imply I haven't got the chops to make it in the VC world. Now at the risk of crossing over between confidence and arrogance...

I've got an MBA, but tragically not from Harvard or Stanford. Not even a school ending in "rd". I've been fortunate to have prospered during the good times and weathered several storms. I've got a helluva lot of experience in media, Internet technology and entrepreneurship, but not at the Fortune 500 level. I like to think I have a pulse for trends in several disparate industries. I know what it takes to win because I've been there before.

I make organizational decisions after drawing upon my life experience as an athlete, musician, computer scientist and businessman. So I'm kinda diversified. But I'm nowhere near being rich. And I'm proud of my upbringing and background, but I don't exactly come from a hometown known for being the epicenter of anything or producing people that contribute concepts to the world with global impact.

Maybe it'll happen. I could do it - eventually - with some elbow grease and patience. I've spent my entire life proving naysayers wrong, just to see the pissed off look on their faces when it did come to pass. Huh - "spite as career motivator".

How's that for a first venture plan?

The need to build WAP sites vs. better mobile browsers

I was inspired/relieved by Scoble's calling out of sites that don't have a mobile presence. Great idea, and I hope his crusade gets companies to get with it. Probably won't though, if user demands, competitive pressure and revenue potentials haven't forced them to move to portable media already. (I'm glad I won't be on his list. We do WAP, PDA, SMS and MMS access for our news, and are rolling out streaming mobile video, so I think I'm safe.)

Scoble warns:

I’m going to call these sites out with increasing frequency in 2006. If your site makes you scroll for 20 minutes just to see your content, it sucks. It’ll get called out. If your site squeezes a column so that it’s only one word wide, it sucks. It’ll get called out.

Steve Rubel also projects mobile web access being even bigger than it was last year:
In 2006 the mobile Web is going to be far more mainstream than it was last year, especially as EVDO (definition) access prices come down. I recently decided to retire my bulky Treo 650 in favor of a wafer thin Motorola RAZR V3C phone from Verizon that is enabled with VCAST for high-speed access.
But I'm thinking that with advancements in mobile development, should we developers and designers worry about drilling down into WAP, CHTML and other wireless platforms and formats, or concentrate on helping vendors create more powerful web browsing software? Can we rely on phones with better microbrowsers having increased capabilities, growing device support for Java MIDlets, efficient handling of multimedia, and even proper ports of AJAX functionality?

Should we leave our desktop sites as-is, but giving pages an option to do alternative rendering if the requesting device is a portable? Is this feasible knowing the Treo's Blazer, Windows Mobile 5.0's IE Mobile and Opera Mini will display content just fine on devices with reduced bandwidth and limited screen size?

For the moment, and predictably for the near future, the answer is a strong "no". Innovation's not that fast and adoption won't be that quick. That kind of market penetration will undoubtedly be the case someday, but for the moment we still need to work in the WAP world and migrate our applications and data across disparate platforms for maximum exposure, accessibility and competitiveness.

One of the tenets of wireless development - and arguably of web design in general - is working towards the least common denominator. Most people with cell phones can finally do WAP, so that's the overwhelming majority of our target audience. With streaming media, we previously had to release multiple streams encoded at different bit rates to satisfy low- and high-speed Internet users. Now software can intelligently detect the client's rate of connection and serve the most appropriate stream. Possibly such auto-detection will be available down the road, but while the future's bright, we've got to deal with what's out there now.

And at the very least, to keep ol' Rob off your case.

How Flickr handles scalability issues

I just noticed for the first time the following message atop a Flickr page:
Is Flickr acting weird for you? That's because the servers are running HOT right now. ( Here's what to do )
Following the above link displays the following:

Unfortunately, this particular problem is compounded when people see that their comment hasn't come up, and try to post it again, and then again... so, if you see this sort of behavior happening, the best advice we can give is just to leave it for a while and then come back. There's no need to post things again - your data has made it through, even though it doesn't look that way.

I can only imagine how astronomical the load imposed by people uploading scores of extremely high quality images, but there's got to be more done towards making sure that levels don't rise near threshold and compromise service. As an example, when I formerly worked at an ISP, we had "The 88 Rule", which meant that when modem usage reached 88% sustained saturation (keep in mind this is pre-broadband access), we'd have a process where we'd upgrade our capacity and bring more modems online. We employed similar metrics for managing capacity for bandwidth, processing power, server memory and hosting space.

But Flickr's global scale and scope, monstrous userbase and the fact that they're dealing with multimedia content that's exponentially more bandwidth intensive than circa 1996 textual web browsing introduces new problems. I applaud the fact that Flickr actually provides such a facility that apparently loads such warning messages dynamically, and responsible users will do the right thing and back off until later to lessen the strain.

But the fact of the matter is that managing Web 2.0 scalability should be done proactively. This isn't a downtime thing...that's arguably inevitable. You've never heard of Google displaying a warning saying, "Sorry...we're computing too many queries now...service might be slow, please try again later."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Are you already Web 2.0-ready?

Many people I know with existing online properties are highly motivated to dramatically revamp their entire web presence - if not their entire company - based on the implied promises of the economic boom created by Web 2.0. This misguided enthusiasm typically leans more towards migrating platforms for the sake of conformity (i.e., programming in Python, using validatable XHTML, pumping up open source, touting AJAX savvy) or rewriting entire back-ends than changing a way of thinking.

To those people I say the following: stop. Consider how much of the technology you already may be using in your endeavors before taking a leap of faith towards what's promising, but not proven.

After spending a weekend some time ago thinking about Web 2.0 and how I could integrate it into my company's news broadcasting efforts, I realized that we'd had many of the technical platforms involved in productive use for years. And I wasn't lethargically retrofitting or forcing a square peg into a round hole...many of the services we wrote and continued to support had Web 2.0 written all over them. I blogged that maybe my company had been Web 2.0-ready all along, and our primary implementation challenge was more in fostering a frame of mind of creating a richer user experience, not a software development crusade. The systems were there all the time - I just wasn't behaving properly.

(Now I don't know about you, but I'll take throwing a PowerPoint slide deck together outlining our new distribution philosophy over rewriting our image processing back-end just to support folksonomy-style tagging any day.)

My point is that non-startups wanting to align themselves with Web 2.0 shouldn't buy into the hype of having to explicitly implement specific technologies in order to be down. Really take the time to learn and understand the concepts and make them work for you. Apply new processes where appropriate, but investigate whether more programming is necessary.

Here's a synopsis of my stream of consciousness in coming to Web 2.0 enlightenment: It's important to realize that practices many people hail today as "evolutionary/revolutionary" far predated the now-seminal writings of Jesse James Garrett and Tim O'Reilly. It's the opportunistic marketer-driven hype that's annoyed many a technology purist, fearing that the sudden interest in platforms and practices that have been around for some time will lead said tech into directions they don't need to be heading into, and possibly, by way of overuse and misapplication, tragically bring about their untimely demise.

Web 2.0's real key as a platform lies in its growth via a collective community interest. A fundamental concept of the Web 2.0 movement (a term I use loosely, seeing as how we haven't been able to agree on a single, unified definition) is the importance of network effects. That's true, but the term has a deeper meaning.

Web 2.0 is essentially a pooled group of advanced concepts centered around a very basic theme - delivering a better online experience. The related technologies have been stable and in fragmented use, but our shared interest has led to the development of patterns and best practice recommendations on a technical front, and evangelization and business plans from an entrepreneurial standpoint.

So before you take the big Web 2.0 plunge and start reorganization, reengineering and revamping your organization, some old school business process analysis is advisably in order to see if the technologies and methodologies implied in Web 2.0 are really mandatory. Tried and true solutions, cleverly applied, can result in great things.

Social engineering is always marginally more difficult than technical engineering, so figure out if the tools getting so much press these days are already around, and concentrate on changing your mindset before changing your codebase.

Bad, bad, bad web design

I used to think a certain news organization's homepage ran so incredibly slow (18 seconds to fully load on a T-1) because it had an incessant amount of client-side JavaScript running in the background; or an uncommonly large number of un-precached images; off-site images; an inferior, underperforming CMS; a lack of server memory; or a poorly-selected web server. It's actually a combination of those, but I think I've managed to find the main culprit.

I'm running an HTTP monitoring service on my Windows XP Pro box and watching the request/response traffic for an uncached, cookieless load of the site's main page. Turns out, when requesting the site's homepage, a browser does 10 different DNS queries. Good grief.

Not only does your machine have to map the IP address of the web server (which was for awhile Zeus, in and of itself a problem), but an internal ad server, servers for dynamic remote ads "inserted" on the homepage by way of loading an IFRAME, a stats server to, I assume, log traffic, and other administrative functions. Wow. That's totally inefficient.

Fragment caching and web services, baby - one request, one DNS hit...that's the way to go.

How to really hack Memeorandum: have friends

My God, the Boy Scouts were right all along: it does help to have friends and be a nice person.

I had an e-mail conversation with Gabe Rivera from Memeorandum and have found yet another way to enjoy his service. I'm really impressed with what he's doing with quality control. I initially asked him straight out about what's possibly his most-guarded secret: his algorithm for listing URLs for promotion on Mem's vaunted tech page, quite possibly the Web's most valuable piece of real estate at the moment. While I respected his wanting to keep the particularities out of public knowledge (including myself), he did send me a blog post he did describing the philosophy for listing URLs.

Gabe writes:

I want writers to be selected by their peers. That is, I want the writers in each topic area to select which of their peers show up on the site. Not deliberately, but implicitly, by whom they link to and in what context they link.

The source-picking algorithm is based on this philosophy and works roughly as follows: I feed it a number of sites representative of the topic area I want coverage. It then scans text and follows links to discover a much larger corps of writers within that area.

It's this general strategy that's been questioned by many a blogger in order to get primetime exposure for their web writing. A search on Memeorandum hacking techniques following Alex Barnett's screencast on the topic reveals mere quoting and back-linking might not be 100% effective. But it does help get you in the right direction.

Again, quoting Gabe:
If you're a publisher and want to be included, the best thing you can do is engage other writers in your topic area. Write things in response to what they write, or things that just interest them. And having done this, ask your peers for links. Provided you've written something of interest, there should be no dishonor in doing so!

This is really neat. Memeorandum's proven one of the key concepts of Web 2.0: network effects. It seems that in this day and age of auto-filtering, web-wide content searching, advanced syndication and permalinks to last a lifetime, some old fashioned hand-shaking, introducing yourself, sharing, and generally being a good online neighbor pays off.

script.aculo.us AJAX slide transitions in S5 web presentations

I've blogged before about how cool I think Eric Meyer's S5 is for web presentation, using XHTML and CSS. Presentacular takes it a step further, adding slick slide transitions, so much so it's exactly like PowerPoint.

Check out this sweet example.

The 10/20/30 PowerPoint rule

Guy Kawasaki proposes that VC pitch presentations shouldn't be more than 10 slides, lasting 20 minutes, with 30-point font. I'll append to this...tech presentations shouldn't be more than 30 slides, lasting more than an hour, with at least 5 live web demos and corresponding code snippets.

Marketing presentations are stereotypically use 50 slides more than necessary, take 90 minutes to weed through (accounting for all the unfunny jokes), and follow it up with 3 minutes of Q&A.

Heading back downstairs...to Windows

Check out Russell Beattie's hilarious analogy on his return to the Win32 world after hanging out in MacLand for awhile.

The dichotomy of one-stop blogging

I apologize in advance to those people who subscribe to my feed and wind up skipping 90% of what I write in the hopes of finding that one piece they'll appreciate on software development. Or marketing. Or sportswriting. Or Web 2.0. Or consumer technology. Or journalism. Or new media. Or human stupidity. Or anything of the 1,000 topics I'll rant and rail on if the muse is upon me.

I'm sorry, folks...I just can't bring myself to manage multiple blogs.

I channel all my cranial activity through this site, and as a result I appeal to a lot of different people, so my RSS feed's got a ton of subscribers. But oddly, my blog doesn't get a proportionate amount of comment activity because of my content's disambiguation (my new favorite word from Wikipedia). I'm the perpetual entertainer playing to packed arenas, with no one showing up at the after party.

Previously, I had a free .TEXT blog on the ASP.NET community server. The upside was that being part of a big rotational community of bloggers both within and outside of Mighty Mighty Microsoft you could write anything and get instantaneous exposure to tens of thousands of eyeballs. Even my lousiest posts got several hundreds of web reads. The downer was that if you wrote anything outside of the scope of programming, you'd typically get flamed. I'm talking about passionate ball-busting. It seems there's a concern by Ian Stallings over censorship of his ASP.NET blog, which reminds me why I left.

So rather than blog myopically I got my own domain and Blogger blogspace and started over from scratch. No audience, just me in a little unassuming corner of the Web and an inconspicuous final post at my former place of residence asking people to modify their aggregator subscriptions.

Part of why the Web's evolving is filtering of content, which for the moment, is usually done, if not through tagging, by base URL. So my multifaceted blogging about a range of topics isn't exactly helping this model. Blog tracking apps won't list me because they'd be labeled in accurate for displaying all my posts verbatim, most of which wouldn't conform to any one information genre. So if I'm losing out on expanding my readership, the rub is that I've got only myself to blame.

Blogger gives me the ability to create an infinite number of blogs per user account. I don't take that route - subdividing myself in such fashion over different URLs would drive me nuts. Besides, anyone that knows me knows how scatterbrained I am, so I just write to a single locale.

So you're stuck with me and my ramblings...just skip over what doesn't concern you.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

I'll be giving talks on Web 2.0 in mid-January

If you'll be on Guam in mid-January and want to learn about the next evolution/revolution of the Web, come check me out for a series of free talks I'll be giving on Web 2.0. I'm giving a speech before the Guam Marketing Association on "Hyperdistribution", the strategy I developed for my company for multiplatform data access, and I'm also putting together a talk for marketers, developers, designers, software architects, managers and entrepreneurs I'm titling "The Web Reborn".

I'll rundown the major points of the new philosophy behind next-gen software development, content production, data distribution and delivering rich online experiences. We'll discuss what concepts and technologies come into play with Web 2.0, the commercial implications created, competitive climates, what engineering challenges this presents, how it could all come crashing down, and examples of how others are forging forward with it.

I'll have dates and times available soon, but do make plans to try and swing by if you'd like to learn about this new paradigm and how your organization can adopt new online strategies.

Hope to see you there!

*UPDATE*
I just got word today that the GMA meeting I'll be speaking at is Friday, January 13 at the Prego Restaurant in the Westin Hotel. Tres chic!

Maroney's Baloney: Minnesota tailback's got nothing more to accomplish?

As a sportswriter, when covering the college beat I'm normally a little more tolerant of uttered nonsense by players, even by those who go to big schools known for academic rigidity. Kids today don't normally face interview crews week in and week out like the pros do, and as such haven't built up media savvy. Not everyone can be Santana Moss with his timeless, "Big-time players step up in big-time games." Classic.

So athletes can often get stagefright when confronted with their thoughts on something, and blurt out a completely ridiculous statement. Or they let just a little bit too much of their self-confidence leak out. Case in point: Minnesota tailback Laurence Maroney. He ended 2005 with what was possibly, even in a sporting year filled with T.O. and Drew Rosenhaus lighting up the Stupidity Scoreboard, the most awkward soundbyte of the year.

In a sideline interview with ESPN's Stacey Dales-Schumann following a 34-31 loss to Virginia in the Music City Bowl, in which the reporter/broadcaster asked the junior if he'd decided if he would declare his NFL eligibility, he didn't hesistate. He said he did, and that he was ready for the League. He'd had a fine career in Minneapolis, he continued, and didn't think he had anything left to accomplish with the Golden Gophers. Whoa, hoss.

He only rushed for 104 yards and no TDs in a valiant, but ultimately losing effort. And he wound up adding insult to injury, with his team already defeated and now apparently losing its backfield star.

Nothing left to achieve? I'll skip the part where I rant and rail about the importance of staying in school and getting an education and get right to the football. How about winning the national championship? Or the coveted Heisman? Or at least being first-team All-American (he was selected to the third-team this year)? How about winning the Doak Walker Award for being the nation's top running back? Or at least the Big Ten title? Or at least beating Wisconsin and Michigan consistently for the respective annual prizes - Paul Bunyan's Axe and the Little Brown Jug? Pull those off, and I'll have even more respect for you than I do now.

Don't get me wrong, I love Maroney's game. He should make a fine pro, almost Tiki Barber/Warrick Dunn-ish in his style, but with more meat on him. I don't predict him being a washout. He's going to make waves, turn heads and get noticed by those unlucky to have seen - awards and titles notwithstanding - a fine college career. He's got fame and fortune awaiting him, and he's a sure-fire first-round draft pick. And I can look past this little audible snafu, ignoring the fact that there are greater forms of recognition to be won in today's NCAA, and chalk it up to the innocence/ignorance of youth.

But maybe the failure to see the truth lies with me, and I'm the one who can't deal. Face it: Minnesota's not going to win a major bowl game anytime soon, and they pretty much have gone as far as they're going to go. The powerhouses in the Big Ten continue to be the Wolverines, Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, and the Nittany Lions have a solid group of underclassmen. So perhaps it's me that doesn't get it. That Maroney realizes this and seeks to maximize his current value shows pragmatic wisdom far exceeding my own. I'm a sports purist, so I'll admit my own idiocy in blindly hoping for the best and thinking everyone's got the same agenda and goals in life.

Maybe I'm just jealous that he's got the choice at all.

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