May 31

Loren Feldman

loren Feldman, originally uploaded by RachelC.

Loren pulling a serious face at dinner last night. The photo where he was smiling was just a little too manic!

May 31

Mesh and Craigslist

Building a Web Business

Mark Evans talks to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster.

Q: How do you guys operate?

A: we have been in the same place for 7 years, we have 24 employees, 2/3 tech, rest customer service. we don;t try and give any message, the site is all about the users and it is about us getting out of the way as much as possible

Q: any advice to companies looking to establish a brand, when marketing is not a strategic

A: don’t market if you don’t have to. but lots of people do, use a lot of resources on this, WOM is powerful for us, we focus on getting the service right.

Q: Criagslist has maintained it’s status as the online listing service; how does it stay at the top of the pack

A: 100s of companies do online classified. not sure why we are at the top, part of it is that the only thing we work on is things that users are asking for. we try and model site ways the users are trying yo use it. sites driven by revenue and profits do things to maximise this, we focus on what users want.

Q: a few years ago, I interviewed Jim as part of my reporter job. And now I’m embarrassed about it…my piece was about the lack of making money. and now I apologise. But why does it not charge for more of it’s services.

A: we’ve had the luxury of having a healthy and profitable business since 1999. we figure we are making enough money for our needs, we did not want to move away form running the site for our users. It;s more fun doing it our way than worrying about making more and more money. when having outside investors or publicly traded you have less choice in the matter.

Q: there’s a lot of pain in newspaper industry and people point fingers at all sorts of things. Craigslist is been pointed at as well

A: we do get asked that question a lot. Overall, newspaper business overall is still 2x as profitable as the average US company. It’s easy to point fingers when you are doing layoffs, motivated by trying to raise profits to please wall st, they are done to maximise financial performance.

Audience Q&A

A: are you looking at expanding into buying/selling, providing paypal like services etc?

Q: in contrast to ebay, where a lot of transaction take place at a distance. on craigslist, many transactions are local where people meet up. there are no plans to add a payment mechanism as it does not need it.

Q: revenue model and future?

A: we charge for jobs in 7 cities and NYC brokers. 3-5 years, a lot if incremental things, more cities, categories, multi-language support pretty soon; improved search.

Q: we’ve talked a lot about community and trust; what do you think about the future of identity and trust online?

A: trust online – craigslist is a lot about meeting in person; the vast majority of people are well intentioned but some are not. Technologists get to play a role in isolating these less well intentioned people.

Q: how do your serve 90m pages per month

A: underlying is LAMP (where P is for Perl). 3 tier architecture as traditional. we compress pages 10-1 as they are being downloaded, most browsers can uncompress on the fly. we keep trying to maximise our page views per kWh, for green, costs and sanity sake. we keep outgrowing our colo centres. we have 175k page views per kWH, on 200 servers.

Q: what is your take on web2.0 design work.

A: users can be as creative with own pages as they like. we look for page performance, accessibility and usability. as far as web2.0 techs, we stay away from the leading edge, when you add the new stuff you can exclude users, we try and make the site usable for all, old software, text only browser etc.

Q: what is the long term strategy? what functions are users looking for now?

A: we only have one strategy, do what users want. we don;t really hold meetings to discuss strat…we don;t hold meetings! we have not lost a tech person in 12 years. we don;t have business people which could help! and that we are in San Fran. we have absolute flexibility in hours;

Q: what factors influences you to charge?

A: we charged for jobs in 1998 in sanFran, from necessity as costs rose; Craig went to users to ask how to raise money – charge business. In 2003 or so, the job boards were getting out of hand in LA and NY, so we got requests to bring fee to these cities to improve quality. We opened up a discussion board for over a year to discuss what we should do. In the other 4 cities it has been a similar discussion in process. Again in NYC for broker listings, that one category in that one city was 30% of listings, so the fee was to control; our fee of last resort and a lazy mans tool. We can spend a lot of hours technically stopping them flood the list, but the fee stops the substandard listings.

Q: as you grow, will your employees scale at same rate?

A: staffing needs is driven from growth in existing cities rather than new. New are slow to grow unless adjacent to areas where CL well known.

Q: What values drive CL?

A: Craig is a long time tech person, most of us from tech background. money os not that big a concern for us, we have enough to do what we need. most business have pushes in that direction, we are a private company, never needed outside investment money, we do not feel the decisions that we have made are radically different from others would make in the same position

Q: is there a better metric than money

A: the emails I get, explaining how people build there whole life from CL.

Q: video?

A: it’s something we would treat like any other feature – if users ask for it, we will look at it, not too much call for it.

Q: what is the freakiest thing you’ve seen listed.

A: the group looking to form a new bible study; a girl, missed connection ad, to a gentleman..I spilled my grandmother on you! another one was aa lost and found for a carton of live crickets.

Q: does CL fear anyone/thing?

A: as an org, it is a silver lining on focusing on users, not other companies, we don’t to worry about them. Net Neutrality is worrying.

Q: what are your growth drivers?

A: a small number of one off events have driven certain sites…katrina for NO, 9/11 for NYC, it is a site that is useful for basic human needs and when that happens a site can increase

Q: CL is a huge business there any idea about using the asset to raise money for philanthropic causes?

A: we get that question time to time. if our users ask for it, we would look at it. businesses and people have that money and they can send to the charity, we have no special expertise in collecting and sending on to charity.

May 30

Mesh and The Future of Entertainment

The Future of Entertainment – “The People Formerly Known as the Audience”

Jian Ghomeshi talks with McLean Mashingaidze-Greaves, Amber MacArthur and Ethan Kaplan.

This primarliy focused on music..and DRM

Jian: what is the biggest change in the last 12 months?

Ethan: record sales are down, did not recover after holidays this time; there has been a new focus on its not going to go back to when the streets were paved with gold and cocaine. there is an effort not to to fix it but look forward to a new direction the technology is there to create a direct relationship for the fan. its; not rocket science, its not expensive, we have to create different value propositions.

Amber: there is credibility in NewMedia, look how I’ve changed. it;s changed so much as the people have so much more power; people believe the web is here to stay; people are jumping ship, they are internet hippies, people going own way.

McLean: lots of quiet changes; cell phone video conferences, Nitro 32MB bandwidth, WiMax, portable internet. we’ll see the impact in the next 2 years.

Jian: I want to stick with Sam the record man – the music store to go to in Toronto and it is now gone. the audience is no longer passive, they want what they want, they get it. I want to test that theory. When I wanted to buy my favourite INXS record (as a kid) I had to get up, dress, get on the subway, go to the Sam the record man, buy the whole album, go back home and then play it. It seemed to me that I was really invested in the record. that feels like a non-passive experience. are people investing more now or less?

McLean: I think they are investing more, they can consumer more content in the past. ipod can carry thousands of tracks, they can listen to a lot more; burn DVDs, swap harddrives. it gets easier to share more. We will suffer from continuos partial attention.

Amber: CPA – we consume more but less of each. do we get loyal;ty, people jump ship, will they leave facebook? you need a long term strategy to get people hooked on it as the next big thing is round the corner, I wonder about long term, there’s not a long lifespan. I’m not sure. I feel they are getting more content but spending less time with it.

Ethan: the illusion of passive consumption was maintained by the companies, to maintain the exclusivity but dies a few years ago. The major companies are starting to change; the active movement was always there, ie punk. all the modalities have broken down and crumbled, the content from the performer. there’s a refocusing t the centre instead of the endgame. music is just binary data through a pipe..the same as the rest of the stuff. It’s more about the hole package.

Jian: is there something intrinsic in making things harder to get. does the ease of getting things devalue it?

Amber: it;s a global audience, get it out to as many people and then figure out how to make money. That could be the new model.

McLean – with rapspace, the investment with the audience is a lot different to the past. there are different ways to build loyalty, connecting with people who hope the new people succeed.

Jian: how do you (Ethan) get people attached to new stuff,

Ehtan: the notion of creating an attachment is where it comes fun. we have to embrace the notion that readily available content has crated a situation where we don;t have to strive for the original but treat it as a sandbox, but take the loyalty to the brand and the sea of content and create the attachment. A record label is not completely evil; we have to think creatively how we deal with it. Michael Buble – you have to treat him as a personality, not the record as a product. Buble had a core audience but we had to extend it; like no flash websites, change it to be blog friendly, do all other stuff. we had to do a bunch of video stuff. There was a set process to create a record, Now, it is a more collaborative process, make it an event when a record release is just part of it. look at engaging the fans in the way they want to be engaged, use the medium in the way ot can be, not just how you want to be it.

Jian: avril lavean, 3million ring tones in Japan, plenty of changes. mcLean said that was fine for an established artist like avril; so for a smaller group how do you build it.

McLean: you can build a brand on the web, you take the tools that are out there, out your image and stuff where it can be. YOu have to have traditional distribution at some point but web stuff can build a lot.

Jian: of they are up against millions of other artists where they weren’t before?

McLean: certain artists just create a buzz straight away.

Jian: has the responsibilities of artists changed in becoming more accessible

Amber: yes, transparency is important, engage your audience and know what they want. you have to be active and involved and you see people doing it know. Look at Tome Green, on his site, live internet, he bypasses all the rest of the BS and take things into his own hands.

Q: people want to feel it is there music; DRM is a barrier.

Ethan: DRM is a very small piece of a very large problem, the removal of it will not ness increase or decrease the same. Now you have Digital rights metatdata, with your name and email address in the track. (itunes) It’s a quality issue, that problem is not going to be fixed or helped through DRM. it;s a value chain issue, you need to think about it abstractly instead of reactively, and that is where the DRM becomes a very small part.

Q: the world view of DRM comes from the content captors, that does not take into account the users. YOu see it from the corporate viewpoint, not from the people who make the culture together. Culture does belong to the people and not to the content capturers.

Ethan: I knew I was going to get owned..I was expecting Cory! As a Warner Br employee, I say that the problem is complex, that there is more than one pov. DRM is a reactionary measure against a larger view of consumer behaviour, is it the right one? maybe not? do i think DRM is the future? I don;t know. the issue is a lot more complex. than that. As a music lover, I know what I want. I control consumer facing websites and technologies; i consult on distribution but it is not something that I can directly effect. [Ethan being very diplomatic about what he thinks personally and what he can say as a WB employee!]

Q: if 80% of ad revenue went to web and only 20% to TV, would there be a DRM issue?

Ethan: how would you see the ad revenue meshing with performance rights etc? Would music be a loss leader? how do you get money to the artist? I’m working with drupal to build a platform, so we can take ownership of the whole brand, of all the aspects; we need to create a brand around the whole artist and control that. The grateful dead relaunched this morning using drupal;’ we are trying to be smart and not do something good, not be reactionary. do some planning.

mcLean – we are building to monetise the artist without just selling mp3s and music. companies have to work out how to use the emerging platforms and not just sell a piece of plastic that was overpriced in the first place.

May 30

Mesh and Pros vs Amateurs

Pros vs. Amateurs – the War for Attention
Jon Dube talks with Paul Sullivan, Steve Herrmann and Tony Hung.

Jon: so one of the issues is control and who controls the content. with the BBC, the BBC have the final say, with Paul, there are a series of editors, with Tony, anything goes.

Paul: we do not make distinction btw pro and amateur, if you have a story you are more than welcome. Power was important in journalism, but it concentrated in traditional media, often for a lot of good reasons. But people felt and still feel alienated. they believe they have something to say, that they have stories to tell. and rather than pound on the door of teh newspapers, so i decided to give them that opportunity. People are respectful of the site and they play the game civilly. we have filters, filter out a vast role call of words. People are so used to other people having authority, when we give them the responsibility, they get kind of nervous. We’ve turned it on its tail – the editors work for the corresponders and not the other way round.

Jon: so what is missing in the way the BBC does stuff

Paul: the BBC have the final authority over my story; with the best intentions. When I hired a couple of sex workers to cover a trial, I got 100’s of calls telling me why it would not work…but it did. Street authenticity is missing;

Tony: if editorial control, or lack thereof, is important, why don;t they start their own blogs.

Paul: we provide a presentation platform, we provide and audience and we are a community and that is important for a lot of people

Steve: i come at it the other way round. The BBC news brand, if we are speaking the language of news, if we tell people that this is the news, we need ot be sure that this is right. I would never relinquish that responsibility. Other areas, message board, music reviews, etc people can get on and tell their stories. but if there are mainstream news, etc, you have to get it right. The other difference is around show case and presentation. etc…For Mogadishu, we found a person to tell their story but there English was very poor, , but we subbed the story down, turned it into readable and sharable English.

Paul: but how did you know that was right? As a journalist, I came across 1000’s of stories where the facts were wrong. An editorial overview does not always get it right.

Q: how was the legal issues of using the sex workers to cover a story and did you pay them.

Paul: we taught them about the legal implications, contempt of court, libel etc but we pushed that this was their story. (the Picton trial). we all have to live by the law and make accountable decisions. Everyone is just as capable of making the decisions.

Jon: Tony, do you have lawyers look over the stories? (BLog Herald)

Tony: we use our judgement; if you get it wrong people tell you. If you repeatedly get it wrong, then you other people take over the story

Steve: mainstream media is not immune to that kind of feedback, you need to become attuned to what is out there, about what people are saying about your writing.

Jon: can anyone turn themselves into their own personal brand? Can pros and ams work together

Steve: we have 2 areas to focus on. Transparency about what we do and why we do it, the editorial process, get it in the open, to maintain peoples trust in a world where it is possible to go elsewhere. Also media literacy, to explain what the process of reporting the news it, so people can buy into it or not buy into t. If you have a training model for journalists, turn it into a public-facing model, so all can benefit it. if you don’t run things, explain why,. Second thing, open the gates, bring in the sources, to help you tell the story when you need them. That is easier said than done, it is resource intensive, it is the only way to do it. you cannot pretend that you are the only ones, you have to ask others what they know and reflect back out to a wider audience. The transparency and incorporation of reader stories, there are simple logistical issues, how do we do this. eg emails with attachments, Until recently we had 10 people altogether that had to do it manually. now we are developing software to automate that, to chew up emails and turn them into somethings that can be easily uses and categorised.

Paul: Steve is talking about an important way for a trad company to open the gates and talk to people. Bu they need to understand that people want to go further. People have the means of production now and they will do it. So how do pros work with them.

Steve: so i think that there is room for all this stuff…and our responsibilities on our sites to reflect back this stuff. to recognise stuff that is interesting, that is pertinent to the story. SO how – do we handpick, take technorati feed etc. say to our audience, here’s our version and there are other versions as well, and point to it.

Jon: what about the future.

Tony: trusted brands will exist, and this will include current traditional brands, plus new stuff. As we open up tools to communicate, the signal to noise issue will get more challenging and the tools will also rise to the challenge. It will get louder and noisier, but people will be able to tell them apart.

Paul: i think that anyone can tell a story in the way they want. if you want to do a newspaper and people still buy it, then fine, do it. but how long will you have to continue to pay for the news? there are too many choices. I can get details on any story that I want. tehre are one or 2 trad venues that I may continue?

Jon: is society ready for unfiltered news?

Steve: it;s here already. the questions is what is going to stand out; where do people go to get news? One model that I’m interested in is journalists getting a personality. This is here – Arrington and others. I went to a presentation by someone who was a football writer; he was a local Norwich sports writer. He left the newspaper and set up own site and got traction and ads. How long before that breaks out even further. We have some ‘famous’ journalists’ and in theory, they could leave and set up own brand/sites etc.

Tony: Om Malik did that; the magazine he was with encourages people to set up own blogs inhouse and they are trying to share revenue from ads etc. Riases questions about popular rather than quality.

Steve: quality will out; if best quality is somewhere else, then people will go there.

Paul: a free market of stories.

Tony: it does not always have to be about people reporting on events, it could be people in the events

Steve: who else pays for correspondents in multiple places; there are bloggers in Iraq etc that are doing a good job and we use these. In otehr places, there are not the people and we need to cover it. You cannot assume that other people will send in journalists to places.

Oaul; you have to assume people will. We have bloggers in repressive regimes…the more sources you have the more diffciult it is to shut doen the story, you can;t out pressure on all of them. OIne of the things that is happening is freedom of information.

Jon: Final question – what keeps you up at night (10 words or less)

Tony: making sure there is the potential for anyone to say what they like
Paul: al quaeda behaeding videos
Steve: keep getting it right and being able to respond quickly when we are told it is wrong.

May 30

Mesh and Should Old Media Be Afraid of New Media?

Live Blogged Notes

Barbarians at the Gate – Should Old Media Be Afraid of New Media?

Mark Evans talks with Rachel Sklar, Cynthia Brumfield and Loren Feldman.

mark: things are changing; I used to be in newspapers, I still read them…papers are laying off people, they can’t get revenue from online.

Rachel: the laying off (SanFranChron) is part of a larger trend. the smart newspapers are seeing it as an opportunity, the ones that refuse to change will be wiped out, but there is incredible opps for business to grow in new direction, to discover new talent, for citizen journalism, I’m looking to see how the industry adapts to the change.

Mark: does the industry need to reload? get multi-taskers, new people before they can move forward? are they prepared or just scrambled.

Rachel: they are scrambling, a heedless rush to get new things without realising their institutional memory is still valuable, to build a story, to recognise trends etc. I don;t buy into the new vs old, there’s value in the people who have been there, done that, The smart publications will recognise these strengths

Mark: are broadcasters a little more likely to experiment? or are they scrambling?

Cynthia: the video situation is more complex; broadcasters do not depend on subscriptions but on advertising, so easier transition. the tradition networks are losing audience and are increasingly going for lowest common denominator and looking like dinosaurs. THe biggest impact on those that depend on physical distribution – newspapers, music industry – previously dependent on physical distribution. they have to protect it as that is the business model. they can’t easier jetison. it’s a little easier for broadcasters, physical stuff was less important.

Mark: Loren, are you the old media’s worst nightmare.

Loren: to a certain extent…when viacom pulled stuff from YT it did not dent the traffic. There’s room for all. I do 60-90 seconds, I’m not goign to replace CSI or the big shows. the web is not little TC, it;s completely different medium.

Mark: is Google destroying journalism? is the search/RSS etc doing this, compete against traditional

Rachel: it;s bout efficiency, it’s about having quick and dirty version. But I’m a traditionalist, I enjoy going to an actual site, or a magazine, to see an layout etc, YOu can;t take a computer to the beach to read your gossip! Tangible media will not go away as there is a tangible object there.

Mark: are traditional delivery systems irrelevant?

Cynthia: my parents gave up their paper subscriptions as they can get it online. He now looks at far more, 20 newspapers a day; the web has opened up the geographic reach of what you can read and experience. Google has opened up competition – there’s no longer one paper in town. Google has improved the efficiency,

Now we start Questions from audience?

Q: Where are we going with web entertainment?

Loren: ustream and event based programming will increase.
Cynthia: never cease to be amazed at what works. Look at Look at the cheese watching camera – watching the cheese age.
Rachel: the playing field is flat. you have 8yo making imac movies, the barriers to entry has collapsed and everyone is a potential artist. Some people may think that talent is no longer a requirement, but people watch all sorts. If not entertaining or good we will not pass it on. Evolution of dance was successful as no language barrier so sipped around the world.

Q: how will ownership of infrastructure influence the shape of media?

Loren: as long as my stuff gets out, I don;t care how, what or who.
Cynthia: the phone companies pushed for payment etc which led to net neutrality (???). It’s too late for carriers to pick what goes on the web. A rational response to to charge people more for the more they watch. I think this is OK (RC: Don;t agree the war is won – see espn/jason calacanis)
Rachel: google buying up dark fibre shows that they are a company that thinks ahead, that’s why they are doing so great.

Q: do you see your media being used differently by the younger generation?

Loren: we are in an attention economy, there are only so many hours in a day. I do 90 seconds, I think that wil reduce with a younger generation, you have to be good and short to get that attention.
Cynthia: my teenage daughter..they roam around the web in enclosed spaces. Zanga then MySpace and then Facebook. They are limited in what they do. they don’t use email, it;s all IM. With the opening up of Facebook platform, now they can stay there all they want. No need to travel around. There world has shrunk!
Loren: it’s AOL – they stay in community and don;t go outside it
Rachel: I’m a huge HP fan..and when you say make it short I think about when the new book comes out, may will stop and read the whole book. Quality still plays.
Loren: newspapers will be here in the future – people like touching a newspaper, I don;t have to power anything, I just pick it up and read. Lots of people do not have computers, In a diner I like reading a newspaper. They have to change there content; it’s not breaking news, it’s about depth. Analysis is their forte. Commentary and sports will carry on. They need to cut infrastructure, and change the content.

Q: What advice to old media on managing perception of authority?

Rachel: most important thing is to be right. I’d rather be right than first. I hold back on things I can;t confirm or stand behind.
Loren: I would tell the NYT not to worry about Digg or wikipedia. they are both a joke, Digg is a horror show, a bunch of morons piling on. Focus on the work, do quality stuff. When you worry about the competition you are dead, you need to focus on you and your work.
Cynthia: newspapers were blindsided as they did not think their could be competition.
Loren: Arrington is one guy, he does not have all the infrastructure, he can hussle and get the stories, the one hussler is a bigger threat than the other orgs. And Arrington no longer needs to hussle.

Q: how can you get the old guard to be less fearless of online?

Loren: tell them their family won;t eat anymore unless they learn it.
Cynthia: are their people on the journalism side looking askance at the web?
Loren: motivate them by giving them the freedom. I do everything for my content; there’s something liberating and freeing about this. about not getting approval. How can any writer not embrace this freedom.
Rachel: teach them how to check reach, ego is a motivator.

May 30

Mesh and Philanthropy

I’m here at the Mesh Conference, having flown up this morning. Travel meant I missed most of the conversation with Mike Arrington except for some of the Q&A. From some of the replies, I’m guessing many of the questions had been asked before; the biggest reaction was due to a question from a representative of PayPerPost, the organisation got some ribbing even as he answered the question.

Second session was on The Web and Philanthropy, with Rob Hyndman talking to charity 2.0 entrepreneurs Tom Williams and Austin Hill. Here are two people that made their money early and now want to give things back. I didn’t take too many notes, here’s a few points that caught my interest.

Austin: like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there is a broadband version. First is access, then safety and only once these base needs are met do we get communities, arts, media etc. The saying ‘be the world you want it to be’ is more true in social media than in many other parts of the web; we are giving people the tools to do that.

Tom: What is different now from the first wave of the web is that organisations look to inspire others, not wait for people to come to them. UGC does not work for a lot of the incumbents….but it does in the charitable section, that is what is should be about. But the establishment in this section is as entrenched and needs to let go as much as the rest of them. A blog that is talking about what is really happening in Dafur can get a bigger audience than Oxfam.

Austin: Social media can put the fun in functionality. Give them an experience so that their human agency os reciprocated in some way. For some, it is about writing, for others it is different – media increases,

Tom – we live in an ego-casting world. web3.0 needs to facilitate good conversation better. we need meaningful discussion, or it will just be little groups of interest that bubble up and disappear.

Now to check in at the hotel.

May 29

Dan Hon looking for work

Dan Hon, who I met at SXSW when he was talking on a panel about ARGs, is leaving Mind Candy, the company behind Perplex City. He’s been involved in building some of the more interesting online experiences that I’ve seen and is now looking for the next big thing. Anyone need somebody like that?

May 29

Brummie Girls

The most read BBC article at the moment is a piece entitled Brummie girls ‘not pretty enough’. Despite the local antipathy that I should be exhibiting to my Midlands’ neighbours (I’m a Black Country girl), I think it should really read ‘Brummie girls too intelligent to enter beauty contest’ 😉

May 29

Brain Hacking

Frisbee 26 May

After Frisbee on Saturday, it was back to Bre’s loft for barbeque, a pretty quiet affair with the holidays and people being away. Between burgers and beers, I did get to try out the Brain Machine, “It flashes LEDs into your eyes and beeps sounds into your ears to make your brain waves sync up into beta, alpha, theta, and delta brainwaves!”.

You come away from the experience feeling pretty relaxed, after staring at a kaleidoscope of shapes and colours for 14 minutes. Interestingly, everyone had seen different things and saw different predominate colours. Mine was yellow, others had pinks or reds or greens.

May 22

Resource hunt heating up

It looks like there is an hot market for digital advertising people; I’ve had 3 calls already this week for various roles, although none of them are much use to me as they don’t come with a visa. Anyone looking for media director, online account directors, worldwide directors of online strategy etc who can work in the US, let me know and I can point the cold callers to you next!

May 22

View from bar

View from bar, originally uploaded by RachelC.

Last night I went to 230 5th Avenue where they have a gorgeous rooftop bar with this view of the Empire State Building. In the open, comfy seats and you can get blankets if you are cold. The food and drinks were good, if rather expensive. However, the wait staff were not the best in the world, nowhere near competent. After initially being ignored, we ordered food and drinks and the drinks were not bought until the food was ready; we had to chase to get a refill (it’s a bar – sell that stuff) and on requesting the cheque, they ‘forgot’ to bring the itemised bill. We may have been unlucky with our staff – and it is a nice enough place to try again – but be aware.

May 21

Wifi fears

There’s a little bit of a kerfuffle in the UK at the moment over stories that wifi may be harmful to you; Panorama, usually a serious programme appears to be running a story about a study they did to asses radiation levels of wifi in schools. Some calmer voices are entering the story and stating a more factual set of numbers but the classic comeback has to come from Phillip on the ORG mailing list, who brings our attention to the electromagnetic waves that emits at 100,000 times the frequency of wifi and at typically 60-100x the energy usage of wifi. So when are we challenging the electric lightbulb?

May 19

A tiring week

I whole week without blogging – I guess the parental visit left me a little tired, although I was posting on Behind the Buzz (which has been updated to the latest B5Media template and not looking too bad at all).

Thursday afternoon, Robert Scoble invited people along to a small lunch at Katz’s deli; about 10 people turned up. One of them was Grace Piper, to whom I’d mentioned the event on Tuesday night at the Supernova pre-meet. Afterwards, I tagged along for a walk in the park and pastries at Cafe La Fortuna. Luckily I escaped before being stuck in traffic for the rest of the day ;-). Loren Feldman, of 1838Media and Podtech(or should I call him a star?) took a few video clips during the day. Paul Marino also came along, an expert in machinima. We’ve looked into using media like this at work, either sponsoring or creating. Still looking for the right opportunity and match.

On Tuesday I got talking to Sherry, a B2B PR expert. One of her clients makes body armour, which lead to a surreal conversation about which bloggers could be approached to try out the products and why tey should be offered it!

May 19

PSFK London Conference

Back in March, Piers organised a great one day conference, many of the sessions appear around here somewhere. In a couple of weeks time, the PSFK conference is set to repeat in London. Looking at the quality of people speaking, it’s well worth a trip. If I was around, I’d be looking forward to this lot the most:

  • Russel Davies, a marketingblogger I’ve been reading a while and would love the chance to meet.
  • Hugh Macleod. I’ve seen him talk a few times and he alays brings up something new.
  • Jeremy Ettinghausen, Penguin books. I’ve followed the blog they have and would love to hear if/how it changed them internally

The rest of the line up looks good, with some interesting agency representatives. Althugh clikcing through the links I always despair at advertising agency websites – I can never easily find out what they actually do, not link to the work as they are usually wrapped up in flash. I include my own agency site in this as well 🙁 Sometimes a simpler design with easy navigation is better.

May 13

Tourist Week

My parents have been here since Wednesday, so for the last few days I’ve been a bit busy doing tourist stuff. Here’s some of the stuff we got up to.

  • Empire State Building. Turned up early just as the clouds were clearing. We walked straight through, were warned of no visibility, but we could see far enough to have fun. The viewing platform was practically empty, so there was not problem in getting a view without getting in peoples way.
    north east to the met life
  • went on three tours with Gray Line, uptown, downtown and Night tour. Well worth the $44 we paid, gave a great overview of the city.
  • Visited Liberty and Ellis Islands. There was a 90 minute wait for the ferry by the time we got there around 11.30 on a Saturday, so early planning is a must. Furthermore, there were no tickets left for the museum at the Statue of Liberty – you really need to book these online 48hours in advance. No matter, the wonder round the two islands was fun.
  • Went to see Spamalot. Very, very funny. Lots of injokes and you rally do need to have seen Monty Python to get some of the references. One funny line was heard on the way out, where the couple behind us were suggesting that they ought to send the musical to England as the English would really like the humour 😉
  • A day in the park. Started off one the rowing boats, then a couple of glasses of champaign, a picnic, a snooze and a stroll. I had fun on the boats; I’ve spent a lot of time coxing racing boats and the lingo has stuck, so much so that I tended to give instructions without thinking but not everyone understands terms such as ‘hard on stroke side’. In order to not use the language I had to think instead of just reacting.

The end a a full few days, we’re all tired, but a great introduction to the city, allowing more focused touristing the next time!

May 09

Barcamp in Business Week

Good to see a piece in Business Week about the *camp movement but not surprised at Tara’s reaction. The article explains what happened at Web2Open:

“Chris Messina, 26, and two fellow Web2Open organizers stood on chairs in one of the Moscone Center’s alcoves, addressing a crowd of about 80. Speaking without microphones, they asked everyone to introduce themselves and offer three “tags,” or one-word descriptions, to give a sense of their topics of interest.”

So Tara is feeling rightly aggrieved (and see Chris’s response as well):

Seriously…months of hard work and being the ‘lead’ on the project, I get reduced to a chair perched by-stander? Luckily Chris has piped up on the subject before me, but wtf?! This ain’t the first time. And I’m not imagining things.

From what I saw, Tara did a remarkable job in organising and pushing this event and the many others she gets involved in; not getting the recognition for that role does not help her nor does it help the general attitude towards such events, whcih can be self perpetuating. I look at the London Geek Dinners – the ‘open’ ones which tended to be typically male dominated (or were, I’ve not attended any for a year) and the Girl Geek Dinners that had an entry criteria for men – you had to be invited by a woman. Given the number of women who go to the latter, self-declared geeks, it’s not a lack of numbers that skews the ration but the perception of the event. Articles like this do no help open up that perception, do not make the events inviting to women in general.

However, as an aside, the recent Podcamp NYC was the most diverse ‘tech’ event I’d ever attended; I wonder if because the media moves more towards art than pure tech.

May 09

Lunch with Hugh and Charles

A last minute phone call from Hugh on Monday led to us meeting up for a drink which segued into lunch on Monday. The original plan was to have a quick catch-up, but it turned out that Charles was the lunch date… so I ended up staying around for a good natter.

May 03

Watching the Daily Show recording

On Tuesday, I went along to a recording of The Daily Show, thanks to Sarah Forrester who arranged tickets for Ian and her’s trip over. The overall process is tiring but thankfully well organised. You can get the free tickets online.

First of all, you have to get there early. They advise you to get there between 3.30 and 4.30; we were there are 3.50 and only just made it, there were only about 20 people behind us who got in. Just because you have tickets does not guarantee you a spot. The you sit and wait. And wait. They did not start to move us until about 5,30, where we snaked round the corner to the next waiting spot. Then they give you the speech about what you can do and not do – cheer loudly, enjoy it, no cameras, no getting up, no eating or drinking. The next step is to invite you to use the bathroom, then it’s through the metal detector (where Sarah and I were both surprised to be asked ‘any guns, knives or pepper spray’? If we had, do you think we’d say yes?).

Once we got into the studio, we were lucky to be on the front row, a great view as long as the cameras were not directly in front of you. The warm up guy was Paul Mecurio, a really funny comic who got us all laughing whilst plugging his tour and taking the complete piss out of the audience. Once the show started it all went pretty smoothly; everything looked tightly scripted and there was only one small retake, whilst filming this clip. Toby Maguire was the guest – I’d hate to have his schedule at the moment, from what he said, he did not know which show he was on until he turned the corner to see Jon Stewart.

May 02

The cats are in on it

I can Has Cheezburger

I was going to write a post explaining the background to this, but Ethan has done a brilliant job doing just so and it’s pointless to repeat why this number has raised such passions.

For much of yesterday, almost the whole of the front page of Digg was related to the HD-DVD story, triggered by the numerous cease and desist notices. Digg appears to have calmed down now, no doubt helped by Kevin Rose’s acknowledgement of what his users were telling him, that bowing down to pressure about this issue would not be tolerated. On his last post, sitting at nearly 30k Diggs, he said the following:

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

Kevin Rose on Digg

The page is sort of back to normal, although the top 10 story listings this morning carry their own tale.

Digg top stories

Meanwhile, the number of posts and sites containing the number currently site at around 60k on Google (or 300k without dashes or quotes). The cat is so out of the bag. The AACS site explains that they withdrew a key for some devices, which I think is this one? However, the whole furore demonstrates the futility of relying on security where the lock and the key have to be in the same device. It will get cracked and it’s an arms race in which there are far more people on the cracking side. The music industry are already travelling this road, are the film industry going to end up in anywhere different?

A recent study by the BBC Trust into its intention to offer video on demand concluded that:

When it came to video content, the situation was far more complex. Although no specific question addressed it, the Trust came away with the impression that, while industry considered DRM a given, the vast majority of the public was opposed to it.

Don’t restrict where i can play my DVDs. Don’t force me to buy only one operating systems. Let me choose where and when I watch things that I have bought!

PS: I know sometimes reporters get things wrong, but this story on MSNBC (apparently from the FT) seems to be from a none-existent timezone.

On Thursday, Kevin Rose, Digg’s founder, reversed course and said the company would no longer delete articles featuring the encryption key, even though that might lead to the site being shut down by lawsuits.