Aug 27

Wikipedia Edits

Many news organisations are busy reporting on how various institutions are editing their own entties, or stuff to improve their standing in others. (here’s the latest from the BBC about the Australian Prime Minister’s office). But the Scottish Sun is hitting the local demographic and is reporting on how Local Firm fans, Celtic and Rangers, are busy defacing the other team’s entry.

Aug 27

Vint Cerf at the TV Festival

Vint Cerf: The Alternative McTaggert

Vint gave an alternative McTaggert speech this year. The official one was by Jeremy Paxman on Friday, discussing the future of TV and the trust situation it currently finds itself in. Vint gave a slight variation on the same speech I saw at Google earlier in the year, calling out the TV and IPTV issues. (that was not blogged, due to the change in Google rules about their tech series, but it was almost exactly the same talk)

One key trend was that consumers are more and more becoming producers which is challenging the asymmetry of the connection speeds where download is far greater then upload speeds for most consumer connections. The increase of video is huge, with Vint showing a graph of daily usage and YouTube traffic taking a major proportion as people watch more and more video. One question from the audience regarding the capacity of the web to continue to carry the increasing video traffic = he believes that there is no problem and there is plenty of spare capacity. The main issue is the last mile, as few companies are using fibre for that.

Vint touched on neutrality; his initial designs were neutral – the network does not care – it;s an end to end process, only the ends need to know what is on the net. The network needs to just pass the packets. The network is agnostic. this neutrality has been important in creating and encouraging innovation. There has never been need to ask permission. The impact of ISPs restricting the access can suffocate innovation.

He spoke for a while on digital distribution, and how streaming is not the only option. With increased storage and increased bandwidth, you can look at delivering faster than live or slower than live, moving it to storage and then watching at a time of choice. The web, with its ability to deliver packets of any kind, can be used to deliver a far richer experience, adding metadata, subtitles, advertising, interactive videos etc. Looking forward, we need to look at the treatment of IP. In an media where material is easy to copy and distribute, should we pay on copies? What are the alternatives?

The reception overall was good, a surprising addition to a TV Festival. Interestingly, at another session it was commented that people were surprised at some of the things that were mentioned.

Aug 25

Ian Clarke, Freenet, Revver and Thoof

Ian Clarke
Freenet and Revver

Founded Revver to help copyright holders get paid for their work. copyright cannot be controlled onthe web – the web is all about communication and Copyright is to prevent communications.

Revver gave an incentive to create and spread videos. Has raised 10m$ in A&B rounds of financing. Many people have or are using Revver. LG15 used it for about a year, Zefrank used. At some point another almost every well known videoblog has used it.

After I left Revver, I wanted to work on figuring out what people are interested in and then showing it to them. Not a new problem, one that anyone in the content business has to solve. Started to look at collaborative filters – eg Amazon, Netflix – based on friends recommendations and other things. One of the problems is they either work or they scale,, they typically don’t do both.

We built Daedulus to do the collaborative filter for Revver (also licenced to Reddit). When working on this, noticed that CFs have to get a lot of information before they start working well for you. So saw a gap in the market – the genesis of Thoof, which uses base info to make generalisations from the start to start with recommendations. mac vs PC, browser, geography. Also built so that you can change things on site, you can propose change that then gets voted on

New project is Thoof. Launched in June, growing 20%/week. Ideology is to let people find info about stuff they did not know they wanted as well as what they thing they want.

Freenet – is moving towards a dark network, so that you only connect to people who have freenet – friends. this can protect your usage in areas where there are problems about using such software or surfing anon.

Q: What do you say about the charge that Freenet can be abused?
A: Any tool can be abused. But the freedom of being able to communicate is more important than the potential of abuse – it’s democracy. In less democratic countries huge amounts of resources are spent on preventing communciations. We believe the benefits outweigh potential abuses.

Aug 25

ARGs and Meigeist

Licorice Film Hazel Grian and Jonathan Williams

About: started as a marketing tool. First key one recognised was The Beast, where cryptic messages led people to the web and a whole different story. Hazel cam it to from the POV of a film maker and story teller. Wanted to reach a larger audience. Wanted to tell an interactive story. Looking into it, discovered AUGs

Meigeist – the only one (as far as they know) that was publically funded. 6 months to prepare, 8 weeks to run.

Story – a scifi story set in as much reality as they could get in it was free for players, the funding was public funding. All characters had their own blog, there were videoblogs, posted things through mail, ebay auction, had live chats, set tasks. SMS messages etc.. the mission was to help the main characters through here problems. Key challenge was to keep up the interactivity in as many ways as possible. We were working full time on it, had experience with improv and all this. We did a live event in Bristol, with actors in role, getting far more involvement. There were about 10 websites, plenty of content

One of the most impressive area is the communities that get involved. About 50/50 male/female, age 14-45, pretty wide range of people. We had lots of different ways you could interact depend on how involved you wanted to be in the story. Had 30k IP addresses logged in the game; global demographic. Used UnForums a lot to follow conversation – they lurked. Had ~500 signups, got 50 or so people playing every day. The costs was 30000, for 10 months for 2 people full time. Main community place was through Unforum.

Audience: the IRC channel was a great hub for the community, with lots of collaboration. This was a great way for the PMs to get feedback, for a performer.

Now looking at Geocashing etc. Hazel is working on a story with Bebo called Kate Modern. Has a lot of sponsorship and all of the brands need to be placed on the system. This is the English spin-off from LonelyGirl15

Aug 25

Open Rights Group Pres

ORG talk
Some notes from the ORG presentation:

Too many things are not caught til too late – far easier to tackle things earlier.
ORG formed to tackle things earlier, to campaign on digital issues. Based on EFF.
Formed when Suw Charman said she would like to organise something in the UK, but only if 1000 people said they would contribute 5GBP. She got her 1000 from pledge bank..and the organisation was formed. the focus was to catch the issues, to have an overview for new issues, to act as a safety net and first point of call, supporting the single issue groups.

Some issues include :

e-voting, observed the recent elections. One issue is where polling papers were being scanned electronically. One manual recount found that there were 55% more papers than the machines had found. The overall result in Scotland was nearly tipped to Labour instead of SNP because of Excel and screen resolution on a laptop. The last areas (from the islands) were typed into spreadsheet, but the SNP did not win – because there was a hidden column hidden on the spreadsheet and 2 winners had not been counted. In England, one Labour Candidate wanted to vote first online, Looking at the form, the Conservative candidate had the Labour logo and was listed as the Conservation candidate; on submitting the site crashed; ringing the 24 hour support line he found out there was no one there. As observers, they could not actually prove that they were correct, they had no audit trail. The recommendation is that the government should not continue doing these trials without more work.

DRM: eg the Sony Rootkit, Getting consultations on DRM. For DRM consultations earlier, they took 3 music groups and 3 non music groups, asked them to give short presentations about DRM. ORG grouped together time and gave full presentation about DRM. Asked them to treat the issue as a consumer rights issue, get it labelled. Sony was the first counter-presentation was basically ‘please don’t hurt us we won’t do it again’. Next up – DRM stops piracy. Last up, the indi record label says out customers don’t like DRM, we like to please our customers, please ban DRM. As a result, the All Party Internet group recommended labelling, then went to the Treasury review. This may become reality in a few years,.

How to support: Give them money. Join Tech mailing list. Help improve briefing documents. Add thoughts to consultation responses. Write to your MP – this is the most important and most effective method!!!

Aug 23

Vegan Meals

Last night I had dinner with a few people at Red Bamboo, a vegan restaurant. This place seems to make it’s name from the fake food it provides – soy protein shaped and flavoured to pretend to be meat. We had ‘Chicken’ wings, ‘prawns’, just ‘meat’ in general.

Fake Prawns at Red Bamboo

There you see fake prawns, shaped and painted to look just like the real things. If that was not surreal enough, it got even weirder as the talk turned to Star Trek (it was a table full geeks) as one of the party discussed an out standing question he had about Wesley Crusher at the end of his tenure on the show (names and actual question hidden to protect them). Luckily, another guy had Wil Wheaton on IM and proceeded to ask the question. So our pondering friend finally got the answer to something that had bugged him for years.


Aug 19

You are never too old

Through a serendipitous meeting yesterday, doing some work on another conference, I got invited to a BBQ in Queens yesterday (my first visit to the Borough). Whilst there, I had a good chat with the main host, a 70+ year old gentleman who talked about his media habits and how so many companies just did not get it these days. The sort of things he does:

  • ripping all his CDs to the hard-drive, to run through his planned house-wide network
  • buys much of his new music digitally
  • ad avoids on the web using ad blockers
  • watches all TV programmes online, from DVDs or via DVR. Only watches the news, sports and Lost live. He only watches Lost as his wife insists on watching it live and not the next day
  • listens to new radio, such as Live365; he finds it brings him all sorts of goodies, such as jazz from the 20’s or 30’s. He pays a subscription to be ad free.

He loves how the web can bring him the long tail of music (he has a music degree), how technology lets him avoid intrusive ads and choose services which are subscription based or low ad level. He watches TV and entertainment when and how he wants. So it’s not just the teens the advertisers have to worry about changing behaviour, it’s all ages.

Aug 18

Gnomedex Review

I’ve finally got round to posting this. I had to decamp to a coffee shop to focus on actually getting some writing done as lazing around at home was just not cutting it.

My 2007 Gnomedex experience is now over. I’ve had 2 days of conference, a further day of unconference and networking, a bit (just a little) of sightseeing. A lot of meeting and greeting with old and new friends.

I chose to come to Gnomedex after following it last year via chatroom and blog posts, the excitement of the attendees bleeding through, the difference of the conference being clear – far more in the Reboot mode than an IAB conference, a place to learn and network. A little part of me is disappointed, this year’s event did not seem to fly like last years, the follow up commentary seems more on the negative site, there was no standout flash of inspiration from the speakers. The speakers themselves were a very mixed bag, some very practised and energised, others new and fumbling. There was controversy, boredom and negativity, excitement and challenge.

However, looking back over the last few days, I’m pretty satisfied. There was something to be learnt in all the presentations, things to think about. Many of the presentations looked at what could be done thought technology, not just the technology itself. They challenged you to look outside your comfortable world, as Ethan commented.

One of the best things about the time here are the people I met. Ben, Kosso and I spent a bit of time together – friends from London who no longer meet in London. It was good to catch up. I spent time with the b5Media crew; Jeremy and Aaron I’d met before, Darcie, Chad, Steve, Mark and Tris were all new meetings face to face. Meeting up with Britt again was great, there’s been a lot of changes in her life since the first time we met. New people I had good conversations with included Tom from HP gave a fascinating insight into working in PR in a company that is trying to change how it interacts with customers; Brady, who bought along the fun Ignite sessions to the conferences; also good to chart with Sean

I sat just along from Jason at the conference, someone from Chris’s chatroom. He was kind enough (or was that foolish?) to offer me a lift back from the UnGnome day which led to a van full of people being dropped off a various places around town, a little above and beyond I thought given the time restraints some passengers were under (a hint – if you need to get somewhere at a certain time, don’t rely on the kindness of strangers – organise something!).

I didn’t liveblog this conference, which is unusual, but there were few talks that were strictly documentable. They were far more discussion and story based, which does not make it easy to transcribe. My favourites were Guy Kawasaki, Darren Barefoot and Ronni Bennett. You can find the presentations to some of the talks over at Chris’s blog.

Would I go next year? Yes, the chance to meet and connect with so many in an atmosphere that encourages this is great. The price is not too bad, the conference is well run and if I don’t like a speaker I can alsways find something to do until the next one 😉

Aug 18

Mahalo for my sister

Mahalo is brilliant, or so says my sister. That’s what she thought when she took a look at it after looking at Twitters about it. When I asked why she thought that, here’s what she said.

Wow – now I do not have to spend hours searching for things on the Web – I can just ask MAHALO – one human powered search engine that will find the best pages for you. This is a genius concept that will move Web research in to a new dimension. Interesting to see that “I am not a plastic bag” is in the top 20 searches for today – What are you then?
I wonder…….If I ask them to research an assignment heading – do you think they would write it for me? NO, I thought not.

Unlike the majority of people at Gnomedex, she’s not a heavy user of the web. She reads my blog, uses Twitter occasionally after reading my writings about it. She, and the rest of the family, use the net for email, as a tool to find and buy things, not as an essential part of their social network or as a creative source. As far as I know, none of them are on any SN site. There’s not necessarily the same web savviness and understanding of the crap that is out there as there is with someone who works in the space or uses it extensively. So having a search engine that provides good stuff helps in finding things.

Jayne was prompted to take a look at the service after I twittered about Air Hawaii saying the word Mahalo after every announcement and Aaron commenting back that this was airport spam, instead of the conference spam that Jason Calacanis had been accused of at Gnomedex a few days earlier.

There’s a whole lot been said about Jason’s talk at the conference and how it too much like a sales push. Although I’m surprised that anyone thought that the company would not be mentioned there were side bets in the chat about how far into the talk he would mention the company. Anyone who reads the blog or has seem him speak would expect that – it’s what he does to push whatever he is working on at the time. In the talk, a problem was presented, Jason’s version of a solution was suggested and then it was opened up for questions. How was that different to the talk about JibJab or JustinTV which were all about the product? I think in this case it was all about the expectation and the presentation. It was expected that he would sell, so when he did, that got a reaction. I’ve seen far worse promotional talks from sponsors and speakers that did nothing but lecture; at least this one opened up the discussion. So read all about it, watch the video and make up your own mind.

Aug 08

Clipmarks and Forbes

Do I believe what it says in the blogs? This time I hope so – Venture Beat is reporting that Clipmarks is being bought by Forbes.

The New York-based startup lets you select text, photos or videos on web pages, then use Clipmark’s bookmarking feature to save the URL and your selected information to your Clipmarks folder. From there, you can share your “clips” with friends and colleagues and even search to find the most popular clips on the Clipmarks site.

As Forbes people have popped up in the comments to the article stating that it is essentially true but premature, with the deal not yet closed. Roger MacNamee says:

First, the story is premature, but only by a little. Second, Forbes is committed to transforming business journalism so that our audience gets more insight about business and investing in a lot less time. We think Clipmarks will play a really key role in this.

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the deal to go through and for Eric Skiff, a good friend who works with the site, as a Community Evangelist. Eric was one of the few people I knew when I moved to New York last year, having met him randomly at parties at SXSW – we kept bumping into each other at the same places. He went out of his way to welcome me and introduce me to more great people in the city, so I’m hoping all goes well for him and the rest of the company.

Aug 02

Mahalo and Local Focus

I’ve said before, I like Mahalo, and Jason Calacanis’ latest push is for is How To pages, such as the How to Fly With Kids that he posted about today. But I have one thing to add:

Please remember that the English-speaking world is bigger than the USA, that flying takes place outside of USA as well and that the web reaches far outside the USA. So, when writing an article, however good it is (and this one is pretty good) that removing obvious local-only references and making an attempt to think globally will benefit all. There is more to flight guidelines than the TSA and diaper is a funny old word used first in Shakespeare but now only used in the US and Canada for nappy.