Jun 26

Save Net radio

Today, the US web lies quiet in a protest day to Save Net Radio

The future of Internet radio is in immediate danger. Royalty rates for webcasters have been drastically increased by a recent ruling and are due to go into effect on July 15 (retroactive to Jan 1, 2006!). To protest these rates and encourage the millions of net radio listeners to take action and contact their Congressional representatives, today is a national Day of Silence.

Many stations, who pay royalities and licensing under the previous rates, are being hit by this. If you’re American, think about contacting your representative; if you’re something else, remember the music industry is global and what’s to stop it happening there.
And it’s not just the small companies affected, even Yahoo, (and Yahoo Music) and MTV are joining in.

Myth: Yahoo! (and other big Webcasters) can “afford” these rates. Fact: LAUNCHcast loses money under these rates. Yahoo! has no appetite to run radio as a loss-leader.

Jun 26

iPhone Madness

Noel and co, as part of his Luck of Seven series, have filmed two Apple fans waiting outside the Apple store at 5th ave New York. They both have blogs. Greg, from Long Island, does not own a Mac nor an iPod, still want a phone and does not know if he can keep it. Dave is third in line and wants to buy two and sell one for charity. Who’s second in line then? Dave’s reasoning:

I just graduated from college, and have another week of vacation to burn before I enter the work world. I can’t think of a better way to learn about New York than hanging out with a wide cross-section of the New York population. Granted, the thought of waiting in line might not strike you as an ideal vacation, but in my travels I’ve found that the best memories come from unscripted interactions with locals.

So go meet them and ask them why..and find out who’s number 2 inline ;-)

Update: and here’s why Greg has no Apple products..he’s just a ‘professional’ liner-upper, who spends his life getting on the media. Dave sounds far more interesting (wonder if he’s told his parents yet?)

Jun 25

Facebook as the Hotel California

Jen’s pointed out that you can never, ever leave Facebook. You can only deactivate and suspend your account and if you ever want to go back then you just login again. Whilst deactivated, you still can get the emails.

I ‘deactivated’ my Facebook account. They do not offer a ‘delete account’ option. Click to enlarge the above picture to see what you’re faced with when trying to leave. If you haven’t already seen the video I linked to in the previous post, you should. I am not paranoid, but I am also not stupid*. There are very powerful people involved with Facebook. Something sinister is going on and I don’t like it. I linked to the video in my ‘Other’ reasons for leaving (deactivating) my account. I also requested that they delete my data from their database. I’m certain they won’t.

I read this and went to check what is on there – for me, not too much different than you could see on my other accounts and public places. You make your choice when it comes to the web, but once it is out there, assume it always is and can be grabbed and used by whomever.

Jun 25

Social Networks and Class

danah boyd has posted a thoughts-in-progress study on class divides in the US youth use of social networks, looking at the different behaviours and cultural expectations of users of Facebook and MySpace.

Over the last six months, I’ve noticed an increasing number of press articles about how high school teens are leaving MySpace for Facebook. That’s only partially true. There is indeed a change taking place, but it’s not a shift so much as a fragmentation. Until recently, American teenagers were flocking to MySpace. The picture is now being blurred. Some teens are flocking to MySpace. And some teens are flocking to Facebook. Who goes where gets kinda sticky… probably because it seems to primarily have to do with socio-economic class.

A fascinating read, especially as it tries to delve into US class paradigms, which apparently are not spoken of, as opposed to the UK where we can have a ‘healthy’ debate about it, especially in comedy shows.

The BBC has also picked up this story, although they are identifying it as a formal study:

A six-month research project has revealed a sharp division along class lines among the American teenagers flocking to the social network sites.

and seem to be treating what is observational essay as a formal academic study, despite danah claiming the opposite: “Hopefully, one day, I can get the words together to actually write an academic article about this topic, but I felt as though this is too important of an issue to sit on while I find the words. So I wrote it knowing that it would piss many off.’

Jun 25

Mermaid Parade



Mermaid Parade, originally uploaded by RachelC.

Grace Piper and I, along with 1000′s of others, attended the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island on Saturday. A gorgeous day, not too hot conditions were pretty perfect for settling in and watching and contemplating whether body makeup provides enough protection from the sun for the nipples on display. There were a large number of kids in the parade, some enjoying themselves and others obviously wondering what the hell their parents were doing ;-)

Many of the groups had taken the proposed closure of the amusements as their themes and protest was rife. A common comment in the crowd was that this was the last parade, although the official website states that they will be back.

Jun 20

Veoh TV

Last week I got a sneak preview of Veoh’s new service, veoh.tv, but got asked not to blog about it. The news has now broken and there’s a few detailed write ups around. Erick Schonfeld has a great overview,

VeohTV is an application that you download to your PC. It lets you watch any video, not just on Veoh, but anywhere on the Web—whether it’s on NBC.com, CNN.com, YouTube, or AskANinja.com (but not Joost, which does not show videos on its Website). It turns the hodgepodge of video on the Web into something that looks remarkably like TV by gathering all of it into a remote-controllable experience you can watch from ten feet away

Phil Butler looks at the features and contemplates the revenue drivers

Joost content is obviously excellent and the quality of broadcasts there is very stable, which illuminates one of VeohTV’s only real weaknesses – the system is dependent on the quality of sometimes less than excellent online video. This is not problematic with content from NBC or other major networks, but the user’s “hands on” filtering will determine a quality library. The ads were a major concern of mine and I found Joost to be an early leader in upscale and unobtrusive advertising. Dmitry reflected a rather perfect logic in response to this concern, in that VeohTV will be able to target ads that will be relevant to individual users and therefore inherently less obtrusive.

and Mike Arrington has a business round up.

Will it work? It certainly might. I’ll have to wait and try out the software first. But the vision is solid. This avoids the time and cost of doing licensing deals with content owners. Like Real’s new player that allows users to basically bookmark and locally store video, it assumes that video will continue to be widely distributed across the Internet. Whoever creates the best interface for the content will win users, and liquidity events.

What did I like about it?

  • The interface was intuitive, smooth to use and very close to the Tivo model. I liked it better than the Joost model.
  • Loved the way you can pull everything together into your own channels
  • From an advertisers perspective, the channels and what you can do around them offer some great opportunities, better targetting and , hopefully, a way of advertising that is not too intrusive but could be useful.
  • The search function. Cool. Very, very cool. Pulls stuff from all over and let’s you line it all up to watch.

Look out for a lot more online buzz around this once the beta starts rolling out.

Jun 19

Accents

Looking at the UK home page for YouTube I see this video has been featured..a run through of a few of the regional accents from the UK. My home accent is close but not quite to the Brummie one, being from west of the city in the Black Country.

This guy’s pretty good at doing generalised version and throws in some jokes along the way. Just for those non-UK friends who’ve heard me talk about accents and words.

Jun 19

Localisation

On June 12, Flickr introduced localisation – that is local language and country versions – of their site in 7 different flavours. These were French, Germany, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese. In what appears to be a consequence to this extension, they also ran up against local laws (or interpretation of laws) that meant users in Germany, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore were restricted to safe search only, resulting in a storm of comment (most vocally from Germany) accusing Flickr of censorship.

And now YouTube have announced their localisation, with an extension into 9 more domains. As more than half their users are outside the US, it’s probably about time.

Today at a Google press event in Paris, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen are announcing the launch of nine new domains in Brazil, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Ireland, and the UK.

All of the language has been translated (and the UK/IE versions are different to the US – they’ve corrected the spelling!) and all are on new URLs. They have not touched the countries/languages that have given so much trouble for Flickr and have some interesting gaps. There also seems to be less advertising (currently) on the local sites; however, local content distribution deals have been done in these markets to add to the ‘professional’ content on the site which will be a revenue stream and I’m sure advertising will catch up.

What I can’t seem to find out is whether uploading to one version makes your video available to the other versions. The home pages are localised as to content – they are the result of an editorial decision. The browsing and listing pages are also localised, there are different in different markets. Looking at the honour listings for some of the video it looks like the US version has been set to the global resource and then each market has it’s own honour listings. Which seems to mean that whilst I can tell how a video would be doing in somewhere like the UK, I can’t easily pull out the US figures. Does this mean all the video ranking sites are going to be changing their results over the next few weeks?

Jun 18

MySpace Support Time

After my little problem on MySpace a couple of weeks ago, I finally got back a response to the Report Abuse emails I get, a boiler plate response that tells me to block the offender. So why bother reporting in the first place? In contrast to this, take a look at the Flickr support process, which whilst not perfect still seems to get many of the issues sorted – eventually. However, that kind of response tends to get people expecting it every time. No response within 2 mins does not mean that you should report the problem again and again!

Jun 16

Beach House



Beach House, originally uploaded by RachelC.

As the office did well in the inter-office review last year, it got some corporate money to reward its employees. Instead of throwing a party, it hired a house in Westhampton Beach for the summer and we get to go for a few days. So this weekend is my away time; along with another 6 employees and friends. It’s a huge 3 story, 7 bedroom, 6 bathroom, house, with pool, tennis court and loads of room to play football (both kinds).
I’m mainly lazing around, sunbathing (and burning a little), chilling out with the rest of the guests, all of us making heavy use of the BBQ grill. It’s interesting as none of us here actually know each other out of work, so we all on reasonably good behaviour despite the odd bit of moving furniture and late nights. The only thing missing is a hot tub ;-)

Jun 13

Flickr and Censorship

Flickr have been having a rough ride lately when it comes to claims of censorship. From the introduction of filters to the banning from China and today additional filters in 4 countries based on local Terms of Service. As a product, I love Flickr, I’ve never had any issues with it. But the reality of working on an international product across multiple countries with differing local laws and social expectations seems to be hitting hard and not everythign has been handled well.

The Filters

Flickr used to have 2 options – your photos were open to everyone or they were not included in the search due to content or type of images. Filters were introduced in March in order to give people more control over what they see. This is based on a user self-assessing their photos as safe, moderate or restricted and also choosing their level of comfort in the types of images they see. When launched there was confusion about these 2 types of choices and there still is – people regularly pop up in the bug forum asking why images cannot be seen, not having got the message that filters are in place. There are also real bugs still in the system, with images appearing at the wrong time, such as when not logged in but being visible if logged in.

The filtering method has been seen as censorship by some, with passionate discussions taking place about what constitutes ‘safe’ and whose morals and perspectives set the baseline. Because what is normal and OK in one country may be extremely restricted in another. For me, I find it weird that some people find nudity in classic statues upsetting; the UK moved on from that phase after the Victorians ;-) But some do take this POV, which can lead to what is seen as misuse of the Report Abuse flag, either through their own lens of what is ‘proper’ or deliberately to create hassle.

The deletions and account statuses

There have been two high profile cases of images being filtered or removed. The first was of Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir. Her images were being sold against her copyright declaration, and the discussion that resulted on her Flickr pages was deleted. She received an apology, where Stewart Butterfield said:

The photo was deleted — again, mistakenly — because of the direction the comments had gone, which included posting the personal information of the infringing company’s owner and suggestions for how best to exact revenge. It is an emotional issue and most people were there to support Rebekka in a positive way, but some of the angry mob behavior crossed the line.

In Rebekkah’s case all was resolved and a wider discussion was held that helped modify some Flickr Policies. But then an over-enthusiastic application of policies happened again with Violet Blue whose whole account was switched to restricted by an admin before being reviewed and reverted back. (btw, if you are of a sensitive nature or at work, that link may trigger filters!) As Violet says:

This touches on a much larger issue that I think is the Achilles’ Heel of 2.0 (especially community and social networking) businesses. Trying to build a business about creating community while hoping to avoid making room for human nature. Sidestepping sexuality (Flickr), attempting to weed it out of community clusters (Tribe), or trying to pretend it doesn’t exist by blanket censorship (YouTube). Each of these responses punish users. And none of them work, and are a constant battle, and destroys relations between the businesses and the communities they’re attempting to serve (and make money off of). It also adds a lot of confusion to conversations about what businesses are legally liable for, what’s permissible and legal for individuals.

Flickr is not a closed group, it has to cope with multiple viewpoints – it’s trying hard and personally I think the filters are a great step, but errors are going to be made.

The Corporate Censorship

And now we move onto the bigger picture – actual censorship taking place due to country’s laws. First of all, Flickr was blocked by China
. There was and still is a large outcry in the forums, with people blaming Flickr on the one hand and on the other providing ways to work around the GFW so that people can still see images. All Flickr and Yahoo can do is try and find out why it is blocked and negotiate with the country.

Today, a new policy kicked into action:

If your Yahoo! ID is based in Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong or Korea you will only be able to view safe content based on your local Terms of Service so won’t be able to turn SafeSearch off.

By the timing of it, this appears to be related to the localisation of the service, as German, Chinese and Korean versions are all now available. Local versions mean you have to abide by local Terms of Service. From the German users in particular, there has been a large and volatile reaction, looking at the forum and images such as assbach’s. Unfortunately, the change co-incided with many of the community team travelling to promote their new localisation, to staff presence in the forum topics has been zero until very recently and there is still no formal response to what is happening, which just fuels the debate.

And as I get to the end of this, I find that Thomas Hawk, CEO of Zooomer, another photo service yet still a heavy Flickr user, has also done a summary of the situation and his feeling s about this. Thomas has been one of the more vocal critics of Flickr, but he does try and keep it more objective than some of the forum posters.

With all the changes recently and the general rise in the use of web based apps, Flickr have been gaining a lot more new users and will get more when Yahoo photos close. But the difficulties of scaling up, of adding filters, of localising, of coming into the corporate fold with a Yahoo login and the move to Yahoo wallet away from Paypal, all of these are slowly adding up to remove the feel good factor for many people who have been members for a longtime. Some of the special factors that made Flickr Flickr seem to be subsumed by the reality of running a real, global business and not a small friendly web2.0 website. I still love the service, but i think business reality is destroying a little gezellig corner of the web.

Jun 13

Mahalo now for you too

Jason Calacanis’ new search engine Mahalo expands today, with Mahalo Greenhouse. You can apply to be a ‘part-time guide’, submit search entries and get paid for doing so, $10-15 but only if you are a US citizen or permanent resident. I’m neither but still work and pay taxes in the US – so I think that needs changing. If you are from somewhere else, there’ll be a donation to Wikipedia, making this a good way of donating to that foundation.

i find this line “PTGs can’t write search results that already exist on Mahalo” interesting. You have to submit something new, which widens the topics covered, but at some point it will be a law of diminishing returns, surely?

They’re looking for experiences web curators; the application requests URLS and usernames for many of the community driven sites. Unless you’re already active on the web, you’re not getting in. It’s calling for altruistic people, those who want to help. And you’re unlikely to be be making a lot of money off this, but it could by you the odd beer.

As a service, I’m liking Mahalo, as a supplement and value add search engine. It sits between a more typical SE and Wikipedia in finding out useful information and giving an overview of the topic. It gives you a further source, a curated source that allows you to expand your research, as you should be doing anyway of you’re looking for things. A recommendation engine with a sense of humour ;-). Jason’s always trying to shake things up – I’m pretty sure he’ll never stop pushing wikipedia to accept advertising – and Mahalo could be a success in doing just that.

Jun 13

Blogher 07 and Scrapblog

Interested in going to Blogher07. Scrapblog have joined forces with the conference to offer an all-expenses paid trip to the conference for two. But only in North America – I wish these competitions for web based companies which are global in their vary nature would make these restrictions clear on the main page and not buried in terms and conditions.

Entry is simple – create a scrapblog, tag it and get people to visit it. This is a traffic and member generation strategy, as the more people you get to see your scrapblog, the more entries you get. Go ahead- what are you waiting for.

Jun 13

There’s no local

I was listening to local radio this morning. Local radio in this case being Leith FM and the lunchtime show provided by Ewan Spence. Through the power of the internet streaming the show and through the connections Ewan has around the world, he had listeners from San Francisco, New York, New Zealand and London. What do the ‘locals’ make of that, when requests for songs are global? ( I had my first radio request played. Woot!)

I’m also earwigging on the NMK forum, through Twitter and Jaiku and blog posts, finding enough content to have a pretty good idea of what is going on and the announcements that are made. For example, Jason Calacanis’s announcement of his ‘publically’ driven Mahalo Greenhouse came via Twitter and Suw Kevin. Not through any press release or traditional media method. (Corrected as I’m getting my Strange Attractors messed up. Not enough coffee when I was reading things)

Although one thing I remind people constantly is that the rise of a global connectivity is still only for the minority – a growing minority sure, but confirmed to people in certain countries of certain ages or inclination. Very few of the people I know ‘before web’ are connected in the same way; in fact very few of the people I’ve met where the meeting was not facilitated through the web, are connected in that way. So whilst a lot of us are all busy globalising the local, still remember the people who are local only.

Jun 11

MySpace Stalking

I had an interesting if slightly worrying experience last week with MySpace. A case of mistaken identity, I received 11 MySpace mails over 2 days from someone I had no recollection of ever meeting. Not of reporting him to the cops, which the first email accused me of doing. I got cajoled to phone him, threatened because I did not add him as a friend, questioned about who all my friends were, accused of being glam and then finally

woops: my bad thought u were another

For a moment, I did question how easily it would be to find me if someone wanted to. The abuse was reported – even if I was the person he thought I was, it was still abuse, but there has been no response, not even an automated one, from MySpace which does not fill me with confidence about their support service.

Jun 07

Future of Online Advertising

I’m going to be at Carson System’s Future of Online Advertising over the next 2 days so I was checking their website. Not sure whether they had a timed page or if someone made an error promoting to live, but they still had all the faux latin on the site. It’s better this morning though. There’s a number of speakers who are not ‘traditional’ in their use of online ads, so I think this may not be a more typical industry discussion but will look outside the lines.

FOOA

Jun 06

NY Tech Meetup

I went along to the NY Tech meetup last night and had a good time. Five short presentations from companies in the NY area, plus a couple of extras from James Hing of Hot or Not (who I also met with on Monday at an IAB event) and Dave Weinberger who gave a 10 minute version of his book. However, Dave and Sanford have done a great job of blogging the actual presenations, so I’ll just add my impressions.

  • Goloco. After the success of Zipcars, Robin moves into shared journeys. Join and you can find friends who are going to the same place as you. Lovely implementation, aimed at existing groups rather than random strangers who meet online.
  • ExpoTV. I’d never seen this before but superb extension of the review space into video. The revenue share for the reviewers, at $5/video is a good idea. They are realistic about advertisers getting into the mix and provide a way for it to be transparent.
  • LiveLOOK. You can share screens via a browser without any downloads, so it can be an alternative to stuff like webex without a download. A paid service, especially useful for service agents, although I was uncomfortable with an answer to a security question (what’s to stop you just putting numbers in until you find a live feed). There are free alternatives to this, ie MSM share desktop, that will be useful for c2c usage but there is an attraction for b2c or b2b.
  • Adaptive Blue. I loved this, taking metadata from pages and extending them via contextual menus in the bowser or direct via links. Installed!
  • Mogulus. This got the biggest reaction of the night, with a vary cool demo. The service allows you to run video and do lots of cool overlay stuff, live broadcast, plan programming etc. Another entry into the lifecast area, but more focused towards linear programming

The other 2 sessions were a last minute overview of Hot or Not and how James is putting the service onto Facebook and a run through the ideas behind Everything is Miscellaneous from David; it’s a pity I’d already bought the book and read it, as I did not have it with me to get it autographed. One last aside, I found it strange that there was a cheer raised when it was announced that 4 of the presenters were women – if you have to bring attention to it, you need to work on doing it differently.