Thursday, June 29, 2006

Man, these kids today

I've been mentoring our summer interns for the past few weeks, and recently I've given them some fun projects to work on relative to modern-day web development. Basically, I'm giving students that signed up to learn how a real-world news operation works the chance to do some UI development for our site, to be integrated with data from our CMS and published as publicly-accessible exhibits. Since most are web savvy, they're loving the "work".

BUT - I'm floored that not a one knows how to do basic HTML and CSS work manually. In this day and age of MySpace, Xanga, WordPress, Blogger and everyone-and-their-dog's-got-a-personal-page-with-some-platform, the core skill of being able to compose hypermedia by hand is evidently a lost art. Not that this is ruining our productivity...my crew is pulling up URLs I didn't even know existed to test, copy, sample and code designs way faster than I ever could. I've even added a bookmark or two to my own list when they're not looking. I chalk it up as an acceptable sacrifice of progress.

I remember when I got into the game in 1994, we didn't have HTML authoring tools or IDEs. Then along came an entire generation of FrontPage freaks and Dreamweaver dorks, completely ignorant about the innerworkings of a web document without those respective software products. But apps did get done faster, strictly conforming to emerging web standards and arguably better looking. I'm an old skool purist, so I expect people to be familiar with, if not fluent in, core technologies.

I guess in retrospect I shouldn't be too surprised. I've seen virtuoso guitarists that can play brilliantly but aren't able to read a single note of printed music.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The KUAM.com press tour begins

I've had to function as my own best public relations engine lately, promoting the fact that we won a National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best News Web (Small Markets). You may have heard me mention this once or twice. It's still a total thrill to have been able to bring this type of hardware home to the islands and show people we're doing cool work out here, too.

I just got off the set from an appearance as a guest on my station's TV talkshow, "KUAM News Extra" with my good friend Sonya Artero. God, it felt weird being the interviewee for once and not the interviewer. Check it out below and realize why I prefer being the dude asking the questions.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Good God, I'm a geek

As part of the harrowing experience that's been losing my primary development workstation at the office due to a failed hard drive, I've had to come up with solutions - REAL FAST - to make sure we stay on top of the demands of the online news biz. As such, my hard drive failure took away PhotoShop, which I don't have a hard copy of anymore.

To get around the various macros and automated processes that I used, I hacked together a programmatic image editor that emulated the PhotoShop actions I'd previously built. This isn't the first time I've done this. I just now realized that my gut instict in lieu of a formal application was to homegrow a utility on my own. I didn't even think to use a web-based imaging service or something like Picasa.

Geez, I'm hardcore

Requiem for a hard drive

A quote that I remember since reading it for the first time was "Sometimes, God humbles." Chris Webber uttered this gem to a reporter after the first-team All American's Michigan Wolverines lost due to his errant timeout in the 1991 NCAA title game. It reminds me to not get too big-headed amidst accomplishments and to stay grateful.

I don't think I was too arrogant in announcing that we won. But you never know...maybe there is something to this karma thing. Stray humble, stay hungry.

But wouldn't you know it...after the euphoria of winning Guam's first-ever national broadcasting award, I was struck silent today as my main development workstation at the office totally died. The hard drive just totally failed...but my trust IT engineer got it working just long enough for me to backup my critical project files. Thank goodness I'm rockin' a new laptop to use.

So I tip a 40 and say RIP to my long lost drive. We had some good times and made some magic together. I'll miss ya.

Top 'o the world, ma...

I'm completely stoked to report that my site, KUAM.com, has won this year's National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best News Web Site (Small Market). This is a major achievement for a station like ours, in a market that Nielsen doesn't even look at. To have gotten the nod from industry people who look for the little things is a massive honor for us, and puts us light years ahead of the competition. Here's the full list of winners.

We previously won our second straight regional Murrow this past April, and we join some pretty exclusive company. to be listed alongside such names as CourtTV.com, WashingtonPost.com, and ESPN is a huge honor. As chief architect for our online developmental and marketing efforts, I'm incredibly humbled by this. But hey - I won a free trip to New York City for the awards banquet in October, so to the victor go the spoils!

Congrats to all this year's winners.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Musburger back behind the desk

A positive residual effect from this year's World Cup is seeing sports broadcaster laureate Brent Musburger behind the desk, anchoring ABC/ESPN's coverage. That's a true professional doing his craft. People will remember him for his play-by-play skills behind the mic, but he's equally effective transitioning between segments and interacting with analysts.

We in the sports broadcasting biz appreciate those that set the pace, so this is a real treat for me.

Give me Brent and Keith Jackson doing a PAC-10 or SEC college football game - or any pigskin for that matter - and that's a Saturday well spent.

Now I like eating and all, but...

I regrettably had to turn down participating in a celebrity hot dog eating contest put on by the company that manages the local 76/Circle K stations. Evidently, they're donating $50 for each wiener devoured someone whom the community would easily recognize. It sounds fun, but my producers would blow a major gasket if they knew I, or any of my on-air cohorts, engaged in a "sport" in which mass amounts of anything were consumed in a small amount of time. Such is the fate of having gainful employment in a visual medium.

Kobayashi I'm certainly not, but I try not to piss off those that pay my salary. Ironically, I just had a pair of footlongs over the weekend.

New KUAM Alerts service coming soon

I'm putting the finishing touches (in other words, frantically debugging) a new service that will allow users to track the progress of this year's Micronesian Games from Saipan, CNMI. It's a free, opt-in service from KUAM.com that sends alerts to e-mail addresses and/or mobile phones. You can also track the medal count of all the teams participating in this year's Games.

It's going to be a great way to stay on top of the competition, so check out our sports page and signup...later today! (Applicable to all e-mail addresses, but only for GTA, IT&E, HafaTel and Guamcell mobile phones only.)

*UPDATE*
Here's the story!

Monday, June 19, 2006

ArmchairGM: like a sportsbar without the smoke

I came across ArmchairGM this evening, and fell in love with it. That'It's a really good idea to let people post topical sports articles in wiki-like fashion. I'm going to start putting a couple of my sportswriting on there and see how it goes. Seriously - this is like every sportsbar I've been to without the incessant drunks, the annoying smoke, and tag-alongs who keep asking "are we gonna go yet?".

Digging Google Reader in personalized homepage

Having been away from the blogosphere for ahwile, I missed that Google Reader can now be imported into the personalized Google portal page. This is really slick. I still maintain that Digg Spy is the coolest web UI ever built, but this is a pretty close second.

Not my finest half-hour of live television...

I learned quickly that the real magic of doing TV isn't how well you present, it's how effectively you're able to hide your mistakes. Man, my lack of sleep must've caught up with me, because I totally butchered some names in tonight's newscast (including that of one of my co-workers who filed our lead story).

Anchoring live isn't as laborious as people think, but by the same token it is really mentally-draining work- you've constantly got to think 10 seconds into the future and really have to pay attention, so being lethargic usually exposes grammatical and/or delivery snafus.

The fun part was that I got to interview my aunt tonight. We really try hard to avoid the nepotism label, but I covered for another colleague tonight and wound up interviewing my dad's sister. Pretty enjoyable.

Hopefully some shut-eye will get me back on track.

Kicked in the butt by my own RSS feed

I've gotten several e-mails in the past couple of weeks from web-savvy users who subscribe to my site's main RSS feed for news. Since launching the redesigned version of KUAM.com, Version 4, on May 1, most people consuming our stories and articles in aggregators logically never saw the new UI and layout stuff we did. A handful of people browsed to the site recently and just now realized we did a revamp.

Funny.

A primer on news web site development for affiliate TV stations

Lost Remote references a WSJ article that highlights how local TV stations are struggling trying to keep up with establishing a presence and monetizing the Web. Having done such work for the past seven years at a fairly high level with a market that traditionally doesn't exactly embrace any new product off the bat, I've learned a thing or two about making integrated TV work.

It's critical to remember that the greatest single point of failure for any broadcast operation is the need for synchronicity. Once you sign off, either at the end of a newscast or for the night, you've effectively severed your connection with your audience. You have to have a 24/7 presence - if not on the air, then through the 'Net. Delivering constant accessibility is key in today's competitive marketplace.

So in developing an affiliate TV station's site, put emphasis on the following:

Textual versions of news stories - once you establish your presence as a readable, printable, Google-indexable medium, you put a major dent in the armor of the print industry by going head-to-head with newspapers and print media. But for most small affiliates this is a big challenge: rewriting stories into print-friendly grammar from the bastardized language that is TVspeak is a major obstacle for many small stations. We put a lot of time into the conversion of content for the Web; so much so that we've started writing TV stories as print articles to save time.

Search - ask any experienced software developer and they'll tell you that among the most difficult applications to build and maintain the right way is an effective search tool (see my earlier comments on how Google's made us all look bad). Have a strong full-text index of ALL your archives stories, for the benefit of your users. If you only provide the facilities to see today's headlines and a few days back, you're making the medium useless.

Multimedia - in no other industry is the need for cross-platform access to your stuff so contingent on your success. And that's the thing that will separate the infantile players from the serious competitors, being a favorite service of users (who wants to read when a story can be watched?) and of advertisers. At KUAM we do podcasting, streaming audio/video (live and archived), VOD, graphics, and a lot more much to our success. It's actually less of a stretch for us because we produce all the video anyway...we just convert it to an appropriate format and put it up.

RSS everything that can be - the main benefit of being online as a TV station isn't the complementary value of augmenting your on-air stuff...it's being archived for all time on the Web so that people can find your content 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years from now. And syndication is an evolution of this major driving force. And don't skimp on the RSS-ability of your content...really go all out with data, as long as it makes subscribing to a feed worth it.

Empower users with wireless access - not just for TV operations, but in the same vein create a presence for the mobile market. People flip for simple services like text-based programming schedules, weather/traffic reports and localized sports scores, via their phone; cool tools like alerts for breaking news and daily headlines via SMS text messaging; and more advanced services like streaming video clips or live TV.

Have a very charismatic sales effort - the one thing that's haunted people trying to capitalize on this whole Web thing is how to generate high, sustainable revenue. It takes some patience and a lot of creativity, but you can introduce new, integrated ways to bring money into the operation, and pass new value onto the client.

Embrace/leverage new media - the stations that truly set themselves apart not only from their direct contemporaries but the industry in general are the ones on the cutting edge. Doing things like podcasting, RSS, public APIs, encouraging mashups, on demand video, wikis, blogs, encouraging citizen journalism really establishes critical credibility with the Web community...which is you're prime audience in the first place.

Don't be afraid to break news online before on-air - lastly, so much of the difficulties stations experience are more due to social engineering than in technical engineering, and behaviorally adopting a new mentality for web publishing is a perfect candidates for such a sea change. Contrary to some industry opinion, it's not sacrilege to report news via Internet media prior to formally announcing it over traditional broadcast channels. Online media is more flexible in its natural asynchronicity, but for the most part TV is more preferred. So reporting news on a web site before a newscast isn't performing an act of cannibalism - its proper integration.

And finally, to borrow from the popular Microsoft rallying cry: GO BIG OR GO HOME. Even though technically KUAM is a news operation, I always tell people we're in show biz. By the nature of the businesses they're associated with, people naturally expect more from TV station sites in terms of flashy presentation, dynamic content and blow-me-away aesthetics, so there's a big responsibility in not only doing a site, but doing it right. That's not to say everyone's got to build an MSNBC.com, but there is a stigma involved with being on TV.

Not down with iPod earphones

I muts be the only guy in the iPod-having world that doesn't use earphones. Don't get me wrong, I'm way into my playlists at work, in the car and at home; but I tend to use my PC's speakers, my Belkin TuneCast FM transmitter, and my iHome to broadcast my stuff, respectively. I also tend not to do the walkabout thing in public with my iPod...I tried it but constantly pausing a song and un-tethering myself from my device is too cumbersome everytime I run into someone I know.

Label my paranoid (it won't be the first time), but I value my hearing, and the constant "direct-in" feed is something I can do without.

Truly smart clients

I've been adding a lot of multi-platform support into most of the apps/controls I've been hacking out these days. It's largely out of necessity - most of the projects's my team's undertaking require a presence on the public Web, on WAP-capable devices, in SMS, on the desktop, and a couple other proprietary formats - each of which has its own idiosyncratic rendering concerns. As an example, we're using the same base control to serve content for our web site, our mobile channel, our text-messaging network, and our Chyron system for dynamic TV graphics.

I've been relying on the adaptive rendering model I exhibited in a previous tutorial (which basically uses XSLT templates to conditionally output content in formats defined in a C# enumeration) that I started building ASP.NET v.1.x custom server controls based on this.

I'll put this up for download once I get the final control wrapped nicely...some last-minute feature set additions that keep popping up (like auto-generated RSS feeds, user-defined tagging and notification services) are still crawling around.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

(Re)Building a better mousetrap

I get approached by fellow entrepreneurs, fellow developers and fellow big thinkers A LOT to work on sideline projects of all types. I mean, the Gordon Gekko-esque "I see a hundred deals a day...I choose one" cliche isn't that far off base. It's nice that I've reached a point in my career that people can rely on me to get work done effectively, that it happens often enough to make it worth my while, and that I'm able to choose which project(s) to take on. Hell, I spent my formative years taking anything and everything under the sun to build such a rep in the first place.

Anyhoo, one such inquiry presented itself the other day in the form of a request to build a localized version of Craig's List. Not a bad idea. I've been asked in the past to architect a Guam-centric Amazon, eBay, Google, and other such globally-dominant products. No kidding.

But the main problem I have with doing copycat services/apps/businesses is that they could be really great when they exist in their own little operating space...but what happens when/if the main platforms they started out in tribute to in the first place take an interest in our little market here and - GASP! - actually extend their reach to us? It's not such a stretch. Take Google Earth's recent addition of Guam and our neighboring islands in the Western Pacific - if someone out here has built anything even remotely like a mapping app, it's surely gotten buried.

Should Craig's List decide to shine its holy light on residents out here, it would easily and immediately render anything trying to copy it obsolete. So money derived from the development of said service notwithstanding, I ask: what's the point?

Certainly imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And I've developed many an original idea by outright emulating someone else's work and then letting project/scope creep take over and morph the product into something completely original unto itself. But that having been said, I'm more of the mind of coming up with a really big, completely unique idea or killer solution. If I wanted to build a better eBay, I would have done it by now...if not for profit, for fun, or for anyone else, then at least to improve my own experience. Part of what leads me to turn away gigs is their survivability (or lack thereof). If a project is doomed to be run aground by a more formidable opponent, I tend not to get involved.

Adrian created ChicagoCrime.org, which blew everyone away, and was something really new. That's what I normally go after.

Getting the word out about Google Earth

After about 900 e-mails (literally) to all my web-savvy friends singing the praises of the re-worked Google Earth with satellite imagery of Guam, I've started hitting the masses. Astute local netizens like Josie and Joel already know what's up.

I produced a story for the news tonight letting people know what's up. I'm also letting people create their own fly-over animations that we'll feature on our newscasts of their best tours of Guam, like what we do now with Familiar Faces. You can check out KUAM Video Player on my station's site for the next 96 hours or so to see streaming video of the report.

*UPDATE*
Here's the video clip as it ran on the news. You can also get this from our KUAM Broadband VOD site and RSS feed

Zipping around the office

They say that variety is the spice of life. I considered this as I went whizzing by my boss's office on a razor that one of the KUAM Kids left lying around the station on Thursday. Most of us have grabbed it and tried it at some point during the week. It was pretty cool, and broke the monotony of hurriedly power walking through this place, taking routes that I've walked millions of times already. Thank goodness our corporate culture is such that someone using a toy as transportation is tolerated.

OK...it's not Sergey and Larry's policy to equip Googlers with Segways, but it's a nice change, gets me about a tad quicker, allowing me to be about 10% more productive, and is undeniably fun. Here's to hoping I don't go barrelling into one of our board members one of these days at 7 MPH.

If this holds up, I'm considering drafting a memo to connect our green room to the main studios by a Slip-N-Slide.

The new baby's in: my super-laptop

I'm no one's biological father, but I'm now parent to one bad boy. I finally got my 2GHz CPU/2GB RAM/big-ass display IBM R52 Thinkpad on Friday after what seemed like a lengthy wait and spent Saturday morning setting it up. It didn't take me as long to configure, what with Office 2003 already pre-installed (which would have taken 40 minutes), and the fact that I gave up using Visual Studio. Thanks to the fact that I backup my Firefox start pages in Writely, I copied my profile over to the new machine and just logged on to about 30 different Web 2.0 services one time. Here's a snapshot of how I spent my morning:
I've still got SQL Server 2000, PC Anywhere and our custom newsroom management app yet to install, but that'll be it. The end result is that because it's an OEM laptop, registration for Windows and Office is required...and the latter won't take over the Internet because Microsoft continues to see Guam as a non-U.S. territory, forcing me to have to call MS Australia to register. So I've got a decaying number of times I can use Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access (I waxed Outlook and Publisher as part of my paranoid cleaning described above). This should hold me for a few years. The last time I got a machine was in the Fall of 2002, so this little guy's gonna put in his work.

My eye's already on a Mac.

What I want for Father's Day

Even though I've yet to sire any offspring of my own, one thing I really want - even more than access to Sirius all the way out here on Guam - is Mobile ESPN. Damn...for me that would be the ultimate. I've messed with a litany of mobile phones, services and apps, but none would be more beneficial to me than getting sports feeds on my phone.

I'd sacrifice my Treo or my Motorola v710 with MobiTV for the el cheapo handset Mobile ESPN's touting. Seriously.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My, how far we've come...

So I'm watching BET last night, checking out the "In Living Color" in syndication, and by sheer dumb luck I happened to tune into the first episode of Season 3, when several new cast members were introduced, notably Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez and comedian Jamie Foxx. Man, what a launching pad that show was.

Jim Carrey's success is well documented, and mostly everyone now knows J-Lo did the ILC thing before making it really big, but it was funny to see their debut, both displaying goofy "Aw, shucks" grins when Keenan Ivory Wayans introduced them to the live studio audience. They each got the obligatory welcome round of applause...but if we only knew what was to come I'm sure the ovation would have been much louder.

Proof positive for you get-rich-quick schemers that cutting your teeth and paying your dues pays off in the end.

Google Earth now features Guam

YEAH! My chief engineer, who does backflips for Google Earth, pointed out that the program has now added satellite imagery for Guam and several other islands in the Marianas region (Rota, Saipan, etc.). Unfortunately there's cloud coverage over Harmon, so you can't see the KUAM Studios. Dang! (For future reference: if the sat images ever get updated again, plug in "600 Harmon Loop Road, Harmon, Guam" and check us out!)

This is really going to be great for others who've left the island and want to check up on how the place has changed over time.

It also doesn't look like Google Maps was duplicated in tandem, but I'm assuming that's in the works. But it's still cool...I can FINALLY start programming maps and interact with other people and show them how we live out here!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I couldn't help myself...

I'm not the kind of journanlist who would be considered a "headhunter"...deliberately looking for ripe bits of information to exploit. But I came across one such juicy tidbit today that was too good to pass up. I made sure to turn the entire thing into a praise piece for the good work being done by our First Family, and as the child of two educators, I naturally lean towards encouraging reading.

But the contextual absurdity of the whole thing was something I couldn't let by.

Monday, June 12, 2006

We all look so bad because Google is so good

One thing I passionately appreciate and painfully decry is how bad my web apps stack up to Google's (duh). Most visible in the arena of web-wide searches, I've noticed after analyzing the behavior of those who use my site's search tool (a full-text index-based searech utility I built) that the average user's mean level of comprehension in searching content gets progressively worse over time. I attribute this to the fact that Google's so damn good at what it does.

Google allows us to be lazy, and still works great.

Take for example spelling. Google's intelligent recommendation feature (i.e., "Did you mean...") helps out so many people to the point that users don't place as high an emphasis on accuracy when doing WAIS searches like they did a decade ago. I haven't emulated such functionality in my own utilities...which understandably makes them look inferior due to society's acceptance of Google as the gold standard.

Here's an excerpt from a support e-mail I exchanged with a user who complained that my site's search facilities weren't serving him well enough and needed help. I find it ridiculous that on today's Web I've still got to suggest the following courses of action:

What's comical is that after offering a collection of helpful hints to get better, quicker, less diluted search resultsets, I finally gave in and ended the e-mail with "And if that still doesn’t get you the results you’re after, try doing a KUAM.com-specific Google search, by visiting this URL and entering your search keyword: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Akuam.com".


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Built a blogging app this weekend

While I continue to wait for the arrival of my now-officially-tardy super-laptop, I've still got work to do. So I've spent the weekend in my office thumbing through a book I didn't even know I had, and hacking together a custom blogging framework for an upcoming promotion we're doing. The codebase was derivative of the original jasBlog .NET prototype I built a couple of years back, with several new accoutrements like mobile publishing.

Me not being a design guru, I think I've spent more time on CSS and layout and less time on database communications and web client stuff.

I've been able to get through what would normally would be a boring weekend with a little out of the norm food and listening to a non-stop 80's mix (which I still dig), and several podcasts. I'm thinking of re-signing up for the 3 free days on Sirius when the big push for our election coverage kicks in and I'll be working the Death March schedule.

Me not being the King of Design, I think I've spent the most time on CSS and web client formatting, and I whizzed through the database communication and tiered programmatic stuff.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gmail for my domain...nice

I juast got word today that my company's domain has been approved to beta test Gmail as a POP3 mail client front-end. Pretty nice...considering I signed up about three months ago. I also recently got the e-mail greenlight to use Google Analytics to track traffic on my blog, after a pretty lengthy waiting period, too. (I never wound up using it.)

Most of my co-workers in the newsroom use Gmail (me included) because it's so much more convinient and easy to use than the SmarterMail option we have for accessing our stuff via the Web. I used Outlook Web Access in grad school to get class notes via NNTP, which I dug. But nothing's come close to Gmail.

This should be nice.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Dammit.

Patience is something of which I've never had a massive reserve. Today I followed-up on a pending order with our computer dealer about two IBM workstations and as many laptops I'd procured a couple of weeks ago. I found out that all the units were in...except mine. Apparentrly, that I'd jacked my Thinkpad's RAM up to 2GB was unorthodox enough to have delayed the order's arrival by another 10 days.

I'll wait patiently...but I've got projects pending...and the desire to want to rock out with a fast machine. Ho hum.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Paul Stanley read my blog (in theory)!

Man, I'm glad Guam gets its TV programming in near real-time now...I can blog about stuff on the boob tube and interact with others without being a week behind like in years past.

I was stoked to read a comment on my reaction blog post to VH1's "Rock Honors", in which I gave my objective feelings about the production as a media guy. One of the guys that works on KISSOnline.com said he dug my work and referred me to his gallery of post-show exhibits.

Most thrilling was that he said that he forwarded my blog post on to the Starchild himself, Paul Stanely. Too cool.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Recapping 'Rock Honors'

Jessica really likes VH1, and I won't argue to the contrary. I whizzed through my post-newscast production work last night to rush home and catch the network's "Rock Honors", VH1's tribute to some heavy bands. I'm assuming that due to the complexity of the stages, pyro, rigging, amps and other idiosyncratic nuances of getting KISS, Judas Priest, Def Leppard and Queen to perform together that it was recorded over a several hours, if not days. The emphasis seemed to be on the performances, rather than having the honorees take the stage and say a few words, a la the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But I dug it nonetheless...even watching half of the rebroadcast immediately after the first airing ended. Here's a linear segment-by-segment recap of what I thought of the performances:

- Penn Gillette, who I prefer more for his early 90's voiceover work at Comedy Central, opens the show with a 10-second - literally - crescendo into Foo Fighters covering Queen's "Tie Your Mother Down".
- Dave, Taylor and the other two guys in FF rocked out.
- Queen takes the stage. Oh, baby. I got goose bumps as Brian May soloed through "The Show Must Go On", which to this day is chilling, given it was one of Freddie Mercury's last recordings. I never realized what a strong frontman Paul Rodgers was/is. They also got the crowd into "We Will Rock You" and - of course - the obligatory b-side "We Are the Champions". Anything less would have been sacrilege. Blasphemy. A schism. Totally.
- A video history of Judas Priest follows a commercial break, in which Halford & Company talk about their humble Birmingham beginnings and being the first Metal Gods.
- Godsmack kills during as Priest tribute, ripping through a medley featuring "Hellion/The Electric Eye" and "Hell Bent for Leather". Sully's low-end drawl was a surprising nice contrast to Rob's signature shrieks.
- Priest takes the stage and leaves nothing in their wake. "Breaking the Law" and "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" made for a predictable playlist (I was hoping for "Painkiller"), but they tore it up nonetheless.
- I wasn't expecting too much out of All-American Rejects covering Leppard, but they did a very decent job on "Photograph"...and that was it. Nice take.
- Joe, Phil, Vivian, Rick, and Rick launched into "Rock of Ages" to the crowd's pleasure. I was disappointed when their second aired performance was a "...here's a number of ouur new CD...", covering a T-Rex song. That marked the only time I switched channels, briefly popping in on ESPN.
- ...and the wait is over. At last - KISS. The star-laden crew of Rob Zombie, Gilby Clarke, Tommy Lee, Slash and Scott Ian (who was hella cool on bass...Gene Simmons' trademark axe, no less) ripped through the timeless "God of Thunder", joined by Ace Frehley. That's an iTunes-purchaseworthy track right there, boy.
- KISS themselves launched into a mammoth production, playing to my surprise, "Detroit Rock City" and, my favorite song, "Love Gun". I loves me some "Rock and Roll All Night, Party Every Day", but the change was nice. I'm still hopeful for an online cut of "God Gave Rock n Roll to You". Geez - after all these years, Paul Stanley is still the man.

The only thing I thought was stupid was the air guitar competition. As a shredder myself, I've always found the practice to be vaguely amusing, but overall, too masturbatory for my tastes. Hell, if you spend that much time trying to emulate axe-wielding gods, learn how to play guitar.

The interactive component was cool...with only 2 performances aired, with a third exclusively webcast on V-Spot, VH1's broadband channel. Really nice touch.

Overall, and speaking as a guy who's made a living out of creating great integreated TV/online programming, I give it a strong 'A'. Looking ahead to next year, I'm hoping for homage to be paid to Van Halen, Scorpions, Megadeth, and Black Sabbath. Good job, VH1!

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