I miss love

Yesterday, Dave Evans, at Online Dating Insider, mentioned that I used to work with eHarmony; and it made me realize how much I miss the online dating world (professionally speaking).  I also traded notes with Lou Casale over at eHarmony about their new ads (I’m not a big fan) which only reinforced that feeling.

Online dating was a terrifically fun space to be involved with; it demonstrates how well online and offline can be blended to make real differences in people’s lives.  Some companies do it better than others.  eHarmony, especially with eHarmony Marriage, is doing a great job of using technology to help people sustain strong relationships.  Engage.com is also interesting in their use of Web 2.0 technologies to attempt to create a community of people seeking and supporting one another in establishing serious relationships.

There are plenty of others though that are as dull as the day is long.
Oh well, until I find a company to work with in this space, I’ll have to be satisfied with being on the sidelines . . .

[tags]online dating, eHarmony, engage.com[/tags]

Welcome aboard the Faster Chip Treadmill

Performance squared – MacBook Pro is built on the revolutionary Intel Core 2 Duo — which packs the power of two processor cores (up to 2.33GHz) inside a single chip.

Apple – MacBook Pro

Ah yes, now that Apple has made the move to Intel, we can enjoy the constant sensation of kicking ourselves in the pants every few months. “Why didn’t I wait?,” I ask myself as I look at my puny Core Duo. Of course I didn’t wait because I wanted a new system.

Now we’ll all be facing processor envy as new, faster chips become available at breakneck speed. Until I find something that chokes my eight-month-old dinosaur I suppose I have no choice but to grin and bear it.

[tags]MacBook Pro, Intel, Core 2 Duo[/tags]

Blogged with Flock

Sticking with Flock

This week has seen the new version of IE7 come onto the scene, as well as Firefox 2.0. I’m not really interested in the new IE so I left that one alone but thought I’d check out Firefox. I installed RC 3 this morning and fooled around with it for a while but think that I’ll stick with Flock.

Because Flock is still the only browser that easily integrates the content that I most often use – words and images. I love the photo bar that can sit across your browser. I didn’t use it much at first, but over time I found myself growing to love it. Now it is always on so I can see when people post new images to Flickr. There are 15 o 16 people who’s stuff I like and having it as an essential element of my browser is nice.

The Web Snippets feature makes it easy to capture text or images from a Web site and incorporate them into other projects. For example, I just captured this text from a BBC article on Firefox 2:

Another change was a spell checker that keeps an eye on every bit of text typed in almost any Firefox browser box be it in a web-based e-mail program or an add-on that lets people post blog updates directly.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Firefox browser for web 2.0 age

It automatically formatted the text as a block quote and added a linked citation. I think that’s a pretty cool feature. And the same thing can be done with images:

Here I am writing this morning (the image is automatically linked to its source – in this case my Flickr account).

In the quote above from the BBC, it mentions an inline spell checker – a feature already available in Flock, as is the capability to simply highlight text, right click and select “blog now” to launch the integrated editor.
When I installed Flock in June or July, it was just to check it out. I already had Safari and Firefox and was using them happily. Over the course of a few weeks, I found that Flock had replaced Firefox as my second browser and very quickly it became the one I use every day. I’ll certainly give the new version of Firefox a shot but I don’t expect to be making a change any time soon.

[tags]Flock, Firefox 2.0, IE7[/tags]

Blogged with Flock

Happy Birthday iPod

Apple’s iPod celebrates its fifth birthday Monday, marking a milestone for the music player that not only reinvigorated the “other” computer maker but revolutionized the way people buy and listen to music.

Apple’s iPod, turning 5, has driven growth at the company – Oct. 20, 2006

My iPod, a second or third generation, died a couple of years ago (battery) and I haven’t bothered replacing it yet. It sits there in a box on the floor of my room with all sorts of other neglected electronics. It’s pretty rare that I find myself in a situation where I could listen to music but couldn’t just pull out my laptop. I guess in the car maybe?

Anyhow, I am going to dust the old boy off this weekend and do something special. Maybe a hat or a new belt would be good.
[tags]Apple, iPod, anniversary[/tags]

Blogged with Flock

Google, YouTube and Fair Use

There sure is a lot of the talk about video sharing and copyright infringement lately. Since Google laid down the green, rights holders are sleeping with visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads. Here’s a little something from Steve Bryant’s Google Watch blog on eWeek:

According to the Wall Street Journal, lawyers from several media companies, including News Corp., NBC Universal and Viacom, say that YouTube could be liable up to $150,000 per unauthorized video. Executives hope the possibility of legal action could prompt YouTube to improve terms it offers the media companies.

Google Watch : Media Titans: YouTube Liable up to $150,000 per Video

He goes on, citing Fred Von Lohman of the EFF, to suggest that YouTube us covered by the safe harbor protections of the DMCA, which, according to Bryant, says “that companies that responsibly remove infringing content and do not induce users to upload that content are not liable.”

That’s good news for Google, but what protection is there for the growing number of people who are using commercial content or characters to create new media? Back in May, before the big money was part of the equation, engadget ran a good column on YouTube and the fair use of copyrighted materials:

It’s this compliance with the spirit of copyright law that would make YouTube an awfully tough opponent should content owners ever try to challenge YouTube’s right to post content. Will big media content owners cross the line with their removal requests? Will YouTube be forced to take a stand? Will they be the advocates of Fair Use that we hope they will be when the content isn’t as cut and dry as “Lazy Sunday?” It’s unclear. What is clear is that YouTube might just have the ability to wrestle back some of the content-rights users have been slowly losing. Let’s hope they exercise it when the time comes.

The Clicker: YouTube and fair use, a match made in heaven – Engadget

So what does fair use exactly cover? I thought it might be helpful to go to the source and get the details from the U.S. Copyright Office. Here is their information on fair use:

One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the Copyright Act (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” Although fair use was not mentioned in the previous copyright law, the doctrine has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The distinction between “fair use” and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

U.S. Copyright Office – Fair Use

U.S. Copyright law is incredibly complicated but fair use leaves room for people to use copyrighted materials. The fact of the mater is that most people who are posting videos containing, or based upon, copyrighted materials are: not doing so for commercial purposes, they are not typically using the entire (or even a substantial portion of) the copyrighted work and they are not having an impact on the market value of the copyrighted materials.

Most of the seem to be used for criticism, news or parody – all of which have been recognized in the past as examples of fair use. Will a 42 second clip of Dennie Green’s post game press conference decrease my likelihood to watch ESPN in the future? Probably not. Would I have seen that clip had it not been on YouTube? Again, probably not. There is value in allowing people to share their ideas and feelings and interpretations – even when copyrighted materials form the foundation of that expression. Clearly, if someone is obviously infringing, their content should be removed – but it sounds like YouTube has been doing that already.

Some companies seem to understand that YouTube and similar services now and in the future represent an opportunity. The “Director Videos” are a good example. If a copyright owner sees that their media is being shared frequently, they ought to post the clip themselves and become a part of the community rather than an advisory.

[tags] Google, fair use, youtube, copyright, Steve Bryant, eWeek, engadget, ESPN [/tags]

Blogged with Flock

WiFi in Boston

Mayor Thomas M. Menino turned on wireless hot spots that will give Internet access to anyone with a computer or other WiFi-enabled device in City Hall Plaza , Quincy Market , and the North End’s Columbus Park . Menino aims to provide similar service to a square-mile network in Roxbury’s Grove Hall and Dudley Square by mid-2007 . That project will serve as a model for the rest of Menino’s planned citywide WiFi network. Roxbury was chosen because one goal is to close the “digital divide” between rich and poor in a city where many students don’t have Internet access at home, Menino said. Access will initially be free. Among those donating service, equipment, and labor to downtown hot spots are Galaxy Internet Services , SkyPilot , and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers .

Boston adds areas where wireless Internet available – The Boston Globe

This is great news. A few months ago I was complaining that there weren’t enough hotspots here in Boston and bit-by-bit, that problem is being solved.

[tags]Boston, WiFi[/tags]

Blogged with Flock

MIT Communications Forum – Why Newspapers Matter – 10.5.06

This was the third and final installment of the series “Will Newspapers Survive?.” The panel featured Jerome Armstrong, founder of Netroots.com and a pioneer of political blogging; Pablo Boczkowski, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University; and Dante Chinni, a columnist for the Christian Science Monitor and a senior associate with the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The session started with comments by the Forum’s organizer and moderator, David Thorburn. He observed that the previous sessions had generally taken too Utopian a view of the possibilities being offered by new interactive technologies without due consideration of the distinctive role of the newspaper.

From an ideological perspective, some people get excited about new technologies and may fail to consider the challenges posed by participatory media and may likewise undervalue those media that are not interactive. As an example, he wondered if a play by Shakespeare was less valuable than a video game because it lacked the same level of apparent interactivity.

From a cultural perspective, he wondered whether enough thought or discussion had been given to the way a newspaper fits into society, for example, the way they organize the world in a way that is more complex than we might recognize.

Finally, there is a political factor to be considered. Newspapers are protected by the First Amendment in ways that it is unclear if other media are; and as such, they serve as valuable political observers – a role that has value. As the news moves from the print to the digital world, wondered Thorburn, would that political and moral independence be preserved?

When his comments we finished, Thorburn turned the stage over to the panelists.

Jerome Armstrong

Armstrong doesn’t spend much time watching TV news or reading newspapers anymore, he gets his news online and reads blogs for opinion. He saw a lack of a progressive voice in the mainstream media and believes that the rise of political blogs was in response to that fact.

There are now millions of people participating in political blogs – as writers or readers – on a monthly basis and these people also tend to be more politically active.

He recognized a symbiotic relationship between blogs and the mainstream media. While bloggers will often use the media as their source for news and issues to write and comment on, the mainstream media also turns to blogs for ideas or to test ideas and opinions.

Newspapers, he believes, will survive by aggregating content from blogs. He offered examples of newspapers already doing this as well as statistics on the amount of traffic newspaper blogs receive.

One of the strengths of blogs, in his opinion, is the sense of community they are able to create. He wondered if this sense of community was something newspapers provided in the past or if it is a new phenomenon.

Pablo Boczkowski

Boczkowski presented partial findings from a study he is working on entitled “When More Media Equals Less.” Basically, it boils down to this: the always-updated nature of news on the Web has had the unanticipated result of creating a consolidation of editorial thinking and story placement and as a result a homogenization of the news.

To illustrate his point, he showed the front pages of the top two Argentinian daily newspapers from the same day and pointed out the fact that both essentially ran the same stories on the same parts of the page. This is indicative of the increasing overlap of the news between outlets and across the media spectrum.

Why might newspapers matter less than before, he asked? Because the have turned the news into a commodity and as a result have decreased their ability to set the agenda and to contribute to a diverse public sphere.

In Argentina (where Boczkowski was born and where this research is focused) the print and online organs of the major outlets have separate operations. Nevertheless, the influence of online news on the newspapers can be clearly seen.

Boczkowski began his analysis in 1995, the year the major dailies began putting their content online. During the time between 1995 and when the Web sites began doing real-time updates (in the early 2000s), the front page overlap between the major dailies was held at a steady state. Once the frequency of the updates began to increase, the overlap between the front pages began to increase, leading to the homogeneity mentioned above.

It was very interesting information and if I am able to get additional details I will provide them (or a link to them) in the future.

He concluded his comments by suggesting that technological changes need to be better understood in order to accurately understand the media landscape. He pointed out that one cannot look at a single media type to see or appreciate this trend and went on to outline the unintended consequences of the constant publishing made possible by the Web:

increased ease of monitoring competitive media
reduced barriers to information acquisition
an intensification of the process of media imitation

All of this leading to the commoditization and homogenization of the news.

Dante Chinni

Chinni began his comments by picking up on the homogenization theme and point out that the homogeneity of local TV news here in the US is truly breathtaking.

He then asked for a show of hands regarding the types of media the audience has used over the past few days. Virtually everyone, it turned out, had read a paper, watched TV news, gone online for news and read a blog. His point was that our media consumption habits are very complicated and that this is a good time to be a news consumer. But that it is also a hard time to be a news consumer because you need to monitor and control your diet.

People, he believes, are going to continue to get news from multiple sources – blogs aren’t going to replace the news but they are making the overall news environment richer.

Top down isn’t going to go away though. In some sense, newspapers will survive – what they will look like, what they cover and how they will be supported though are all unknown at this point. Navigating this time of transition is a challenge. Major metropolitan areas are getting harder to cover because of sprawl – especially when you consider that the revenue is going down and staff is being reduced as a result. The best case scenario for the print papers is a 1% annual decline.

What about the Web?

More people see the stories that are being produced by the newspapers but the papers are missing out on the advertising and classified revenue. People are also reading online for free and so the papers are also missing out on the subscription revenue. According to Chinni, it is hard to see how online advertising will be able to pick up the slack to support the print

So what, asks, what if there were no more newspapers? This would be a problem.

First of all, newspapers have the most reporters on the street at the local and national level. Blogs can do a good job of covering big stories because they are able to respond to events being reported by the mainstream media. Becaue bloggers are generally unpaid and unaccredited they can’t have beat reporters with the time and access to sources to fish around for and break the news.

Second, the mainstream media tries to be objective. Bloggers, on the other hand, cover what they cover because they care about the issue, because they have a strong opinion on the topic or because they have an interest in the outcome. This is OK, as long as it is known up front but there is a place for objectivity.

Finally, because the news environment is so complicated, readers need a guide. That doesn’t mean that people need to accept the view of the world presented by their newspaper, but it helps to have a starting poing. Newspapers are able to provide a credible starting poing because one of their strengths is the collective knowledge of their reporters and editors.

Chinni encouraged the audience not to get caught up in the “paper” aspect of the newspaper – what is important is, be believes, is finding an economic model that will support the base of reporters, objectivity and collective knowledge that newspapers provide.

Following their remarks, the panelists were able to make comments based on one another’s remarks:

Boczkowski: the economic model is a big issue – the online media are doing well for entrepreneurial organizations but not from the perspective of a large news conglomerate.

Armstrong: the commodified nature of the news is why the progressive voice of the mainstream media has been lost; the issue of editorial authority aspect is interesting – there are peer authorities and social authorities and both have roles to play.

Now questions from the audience:

[Not all of the content of the Q&A is captured below]

Q – what about the online versions of print newspapers?

Chinni: that is the way things are going – newspapers are experimenting and trying to understand how best to operate online; he cited Times Select as an example of paid content and also the yet to be activated “My Times” service as a potential step toward customized content.

Armstrong: customization is important – one size fits all isn’t going to last

Boczkowski: in the transition from print to online – you can’t just mimic the content because of the times and places of news consumption – online news is most heavily consumed from 8-5, and people are also doing other things while they are reading – they want bite size news – but the newspapers want more content online – there isn’t the time to do this so they way of crafting a story changes, how the news is considered and produced and consumed is also changing.

Q – what is a newspaper?

Chinni – it is an organization full of people that put out news every day – we can’t get hung up on the ink and the paper.

Armstrong – Google News couldn’t exist w/o the mainstream media – Google is aggregating the news but they are not paying the new sources for it [his response is based on the questioner’s statement that uses Google News as her primary news source.]

Boczkowski – the newspaper also specializes in editorial judgment – in Google, there is no one looking at the news to decide what goes where, they use algorithms.

Q – what about revenue and the possibility making now public papers private again?

Boczkowski – a very complicated question – where papers are sheltered by private ownership they face less pressure. Here in the US, the short-term performance expectations are hurting the newspaper industry – they need to consider the role of the capital markets. Another factor to consider it that in the 60s, the traditional media owned a lot of the information – now, they no longer have the same degree of control of the information market.

Q – I care a lot about the interface and the role of serendipity – in print I see and read more than I would online.

Chinni – a shared view of the news is critical; without it, democracy becomes much harder and we end up arguing about things that are should be recognized as facts. Today, even online, the presentation of the news is based on editorial judgment; but that goes away with customization.

Armstrong – working on politics you can already see this fragmentation of the news – blogs allow a more democratic version of the newspapers.

Boczkowski – today, 50-60% of the clicks on a news Web site are on the homepage. A site may have a hundred thousand pages but most people see only the one; this does not bode well for serendipity.

[tags] MIT, Newspapers, Boczkowski, Jerome Armstrong, Chinni, Thorburn[/tags]

MIT Emerging Technology Conference – AOL and the Future of Entertainment

Now where was I? Oh, yes, the MIT Emerging Technology Conference. My apologies for being so tardy in continuing to provide my updates on this but sometimes one thing just leads into another.After Bezos’ very interesting talk, it was time for Jonathan Miller, the head honcho at AOL to take the stage.

Let me say up front that I didn’t have super high expectations for this session. The topic of the future of the media and entertainment is very important and as a result it has recevied a lot of attention. That said, AOL is a giant media company and it was possible that some new ground would be covered. That didn’t happen.

Miller started by pointing out that consumers’ relationship with media and entertainment has changed. Check. Available media has exploded over the past 40 years. Check. The time available for consuming media has remained the same. Check again. So what can all of this mean?

Well, according to Miller, media habits are changing. The Internet is as important as TV and the time being spent on the Internet is at the expense of other media. But that’s not the whole story, no, not by a long shot. People are adopting other strategies to allow them to consume more media – multitasking is one example, time-shifting is another. What is allowing these new strategies to work? There are a handful of things:

  • Broadband – and not just the speed, the fact that it is always on is important, as is the fact that many people have had broadband for many years now and have incorporated it into their lives. Soon, “always on” will be joined by “always with you” as mobile broadband devices hit the market.
  • Search – Miller pegged email and IM as the first great uses of the Internet with search now joining their ranks. I don’t know. Search seems like it has been a pretty core Internet application for a very long time; but I suppose that it makes sense that AOL would claim that IM was one of the first big apps . . . What’s going to make search even more important though is the growth of video search, something that AOL is apparently involved with.
  • New digital distribution – once this was controlled and now it is nearly unlimited. This is creating a fundamental shift in the flow of content. This is especially important when coupled with the next enabling trend:
  • Low cost content development – it used to cost a ton to create rich media – it doesn’t any more – from silly home videos to Colbert green screens, consumer created content is cropping up everywhere

Check, check and more check . . . I don’t know, but I think I’ve heard something along these lines pretty much everywhere.

So what does this mean? Well according to Miller, here’s what’s up:

  • Fragmentation – all media is being fragmented – even online, the leading sites [based on page views] are seeing a decline in consumption. Hmmm, and that’s a surprise because?
  • Consumer control – consumers are active in each part of the content chain: creation, distribution, selection, etc. Content is becoming a catalyst for consumers
  • On demand – people expect it, content providers are offering it this will be the main way people consumer content in the future
  • Product driving adoption – old world $$$ was spent on marketing; today – give people an idea or some content and they will use it and distribute it themselves – if it is any good; this is what has driven the success of myspace, youtube, facebook, craiglist, etc.
  • Traditional media response – the old media isn’t sitting still, they claim to be making better product [questionable] – both in terms of content and the technology (HDTV), the Web is now being used as an adjunct to broadcast and they are seeking new sources of revenue

Regardless of all of this, Miller is convinced traditional media companies will continue to stick around for three reasons – the abilities to aggregate, monetize and consolidate. that the money in media and entertainment will still be concentrated in a limited number of hands. Scale still matters and it creates staying power. Their may be a fragmentation of consumption but there is also a consolidation of control.

Interesting prediction on the reasons that traditional media will remain in the driver’s seat, but aside from that, this was not an especially inspiring presentation.

technorati tags:, , , , ,

Blogged with Flock