Tag Archives: apple

Where are the Editors?

Fellow blogger John Allsopp (dog or higher) writes about the future of blog reading, and how we’ll go from reading blogs to reading single posts.

In my personal experience, that’s exactly how it goes. Although I subscribe to several blogs, I find myself not checking them very often, instead relying on Google, Digg or Del.icio.us to point me in the right direction. Of course there are still some industry blogs I check on a daily basis (GigaOM, TechCrunch, Mashable), but the rest of my reading (such as Allsopp’s article) is simply per-post.

Bloggers have many and varied interests and more than likely, not all of their posts will be of interest to me. Though you may read my blog because you’re interested in Digital Media strategies, that is no guarantee that you share my interest in Privacy, Security and Usability.

Which brings us to a new problem (or more accurately, a new version of an old problem): in a world of endless content, how do we quickly find the good bits?

Finding Content

While television has had programming experts choosing what and when to show (in addition to hundreds of specialty channels with even more specialized programmers) and newspapers have editors, in the online world we’ve had to rely on automatic digital aggregators (usually based on tags or keywords) or other users (most of whom we know nothing about) to choose the most relevant content.

Other services, such as Findory, look at your reading patterns in order to show you relevant information (as long as you read it through their interface). And though I’ve used Findory before, I haven’t yet been able to integrate it into my daily workflow (and I always get the feeling I’m missing out on some relevant item – I’m not quite sure why that is).

The problem with digital aggregators is that not everyone tags their content, there’s no tagging standard, and not all tagged content is good or even relevant. I’ve subscribed to Google Alerts and Technorati tags, but must compromise between general tags -and lots of false positives or irrelevant content- or very specific search terms -and thus missing out on some possibly relevant articles. 

On services like Digg it’s very easy for a group of users to control the system and get their content on the front page. Get a bunch of your friends to digg each other’s articles and you’ve instantly got a leg up on everyone else.

And though I mostly use Del.icio.us to search for my own bookmarked information, I’ve noticed its search results are usually quite relevant. I believe this has to do with users tagging content for their own future use -as opposed to tagging for the community- and do a better job with it.

Choosing Content

What we need is the online equivalent of editors. A trusted and accountable system to separate the good from the ugly. But, do we want them? Have we moved away from traditional media (from newspapers towards blogs) only to come back to a traditional model? Or is this a new, evolved model, where power remains in the reader’s hands?

The answer probably lies in a mixed system, borrowing the best of both worlds, much like TiVo has done. TiVos (or Digital Video Recorders) allow you to record your favorite shows and watch them at a later time. You’re no longer tied to a particular station’s offerings or timeslots. In a sense, you’re a programmer: you decide what is on and at what time. But, and this is important, you only get to choose from a pre-established pool of content. Yes, it may be great to watch Lost, Heroes and 24 back to back, even though they may be on competing timeslots or different days on broadcast TV, but you’re still picking your shows from what the network programmers think are the best of the best.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Apple‘s iTV comes out, or when Google finally decides to offer a Universal Video Recorder and you can choose your content from broadcast (chosen by programmers) and the Internet (chosen by you or some search / tagging / voting / aggregator service).

What do you think? Will we be letting editors choose our content? Or will we keep searching on our own for the best content? Where’s the middle ground? Leave a comment and let the world know what you think.

Hacking at Apple Stores

Data security is one of my favorite subjects… and I’m always amazed at how careless some people (and major corporations) are with their digital identities.

I recently did a simple, non-scientific study at the local Apple Store. No elite hacking skills are needed (that’s L337 for you H4X0R5). Walk to any computer and pretend to be familiarizing yourself with the user interface. Load the Safari browser and check the History menu. You’ll immediately find a list of recently accessed websites. Usually this list is full of webmail visits: every computer at an Apple Store is internet enabled and people love to take advantage of Apple’s friendly, air-conditioned stores to check their email, blogs, bank accounts and even iWeb profiles.

Most of them forget to logout or clear the browser’s cache. Simply select any address from the history list and Safari will take you there. Most of the times you’ll still have access to a user’s account. On my last visit to the Apple Store I was able to access a webmail account on one iMac, a Hotmail account on another and a complete iWeb profile on a third one (this one even included an easy to click desktop icon to access the user’s account).

But the most shocking was the one that prompted this article in the first place: a security company’s confidential PDF document. Right there on the Mac’s desktop, below the hard drive icon, stood a lonely Adobe PDF file. Out of curiosity I clicked on it and found a one-page document addressed to a high-level executive at a very high profile international security firm from a market leading auditing firm. I’d hate to have this firm in charge of my personal security.

It’s been said that the definition of privacy is a situation in which we’re able to spy on our peers but refrain from doing so. I agree, but I certainly don’t live my life as if that Utopian statement is true. It’s most certainly a great starting point to begin discussing privacy issues and policy, but don’t go around believing it’s the way the world works.

Unfortunately, common sense is not at all common. If you feel the need to check your webmail, work mail, bank account or whatever on a public computer (which I highly discourage), at least make sure you logout, clear the browser’s history cache and delete any temporary files after you’re done. It’s really the least you can do.

What do you think? Have any careless-user stories to share? Leave a comment, let me know.

5 Reasons I Hate iTunes

Just bought an 80GB Video iPod! Awesome gadget and a nice way to get into the whole podcast/vidcast mindset. Unfortunately, I have to deal with Apple’s iTunes software to manage it.

I’m currently on an IBM T42p laptop (waiting for Apple to wake up and upgrade the MacBook Pros to Core 2 Duo), so this applies to the Windows version of iTunes.

1. Photos? What Photos?

I downloaded iTunes (yes, it’s not included in the package), installed it and plugged in my new iPod. iTunes began looking for media on my computer and converting it to Apple’s format. A dialog box appeared telling me iTunes was “optimizing my photos,” whatever that means. Meanwhile, iTunes becomes unusable, locked by the weird dialog. And to make matters worse, although iTunes tells me it transferred a couple thousand photos to my iPod, I can’t see them or find them anywhere.

UPDATE: I went to the local Apple Store and requested help with this at the Genius Bar. Though very polite, the dudes at the Genius Bar were unable to solve my problem, claiming to be unfamiliar with the Windows version of iTunes and having never heard of a similar problem. They suggested I call Apple Support. I decided to reinstall iTunes from scratch, but the problem was still there. The Apple Support website shows no mention of this particular problem, even though a simple Google search shows this has been around since at least February of 2006, if not earlier. Further troubleshooting with my system yielded the following answer:

There was apparently a photo file that was giving iTunes/iPod trouble, so I looked at how many photos were transferring to the iPod and manually selected folders until the total shown was higher than the number of photos on the iPod. I then deselected that last folder (which turned out to be my Picasa Exported Pictures folder) and the problem went away. I’ll eventually look through that folder to see which picture in particular was causing the error, but for the time being I’m fine.

2. Movies? What Movies?

I downloaded some video podcasts from Revision3 which turned out to be in a format too large for the iPod too handle. iTunes shows the movies in the Movie section but fails to inform you that they will not play on the iPod. You can take a guess and right-click on a movie and select “Convert Selection for iPod” if you want (the option will show for both iPod compatible and non-compatible videos). While you’re converting a video (takes ages), you can’t click on another video and add it to the conversion queue.

UPDATE: Even some video podcasts downloaded directly from iTunes appear to be incompatible with my iPod.

3. Artwork? What Artwork?

iTunes is supposedly capable of downloading album covers to display while a song is playing. Good Luck. iTunes was unable to find any artwork for most of my records, even though they are available in the iTunes store. Microsoft’s Windows Media Player lets you select the album you’re looking for and also let’s you cut-and-paste artwork.

UPDATE: I found a hack for this: Go to Amazon.com, search for your album, right-click and copy the album artwork image, go back to iTunes, select all the album files, right-click and Get Info, click on the Artwork box and paste the image.

4. Library? What Library?

iTunes will not monitor a folder for newly added files. Instead, they must be added manually via Add Folder or Import. iTunes also can’t tell when it has already added a song, resulting in multiple copies of each file. Attempting to ctrl-click these files to select and delete them caused iTunes to become unresponsive around the third ctrl-click.

5. Speed? What Speed?

iTunes feels mostly sluggish (so does Windows Media Player) and everything takes a few more milliseconds that it should. It just feels like it’s on slow motion.

So, what do you think? Does iTunes run better on a Mac? Do you have any suggestions? Let me know via the comments.

Why Google Should Buy YouTube

Google and  YouTube LogosThere’s been a lot of speculation lately about a possible Google buyout of Internet video website YouTube for US$1.6B. A lot has been said about the potential value (or lack thereof) of YouTube and its future success (or demise).

But why, exactly, would Google drop one-and-a-half billion dollars on YouTube? After all, Google already operates a similar service, Google Video, complete with money-making functions such as advertising and pay-per-view/download.

What value can YouTube bring to Google?

The first obvious answer is market share. According to some estimates, YouTube serves up 60% of the online video market… more than 100 million videos per day. But you’d think with $1.6B Google can boost their own market share (estimated at 10%).

Content would be the other possible answer, but I don’t think YouTube’s collection of user generated content is worth that much, even if you manage to place advertising on them.

Some people have gone as far as suggesting Google simply needs to invest some of their war chest money and somehow came upon YouTube as an acquisition target. If that’s the case, then let me suggest Google should buy lottery tickets instead.

The rest of the theories revolve around Google buying a YouTube to eliminate competition. While a valid point, Google hasn’t normally resorted to gobbling up competitors, usually preferring to buy companies offering services that complement rather than compete with Google.

So, what does Google see in YouTube?

I like to think Google is a smart company with big plans, so I analyze them with this in mind. Think Big. Think Smart.

Google wants to dominate online video distribution and with it, online video ratings. Without ratings you can’t really sell highly-profitable advertising. And without a majority of distribution market share, you can’t really accurately measure ratings.

Google is allegedly interested in competing with Nielsen in the ratings market and in collaborating with Apple on their upcoming iTV product. I’ve written previously about Google’s potential as a Universal Personal Video Recorder (Tivo on steroids). And just recently Google held a think tank with the top US media executives (YouTube was also present). Something’s definitely cooking.

YouTube offers a quick ticket to this online media distribution empire, because YouTube has the market share but, more importantly, the data.

YouTube has over a year of extensive viewership data, detailing how / where / when and what people like to watch. Make no mistake, this is VERY valuable data. In a country with an estimated 110 million television households, YouTube’s 100 million videos served daily provide a treasure trove of data, ready to be mined, analyzed and monetized.

Buying YouTube would give Google a majority share of the Internet video market, along with the important rating’s data to monetize these videos via Google Ads.

More importantly, owning a majority share of the video market would allow Google to collect and commercialize CREDIBLE ratings data, which it could then share with the major networks and content owners, distribute their videos online, and get a cut of the ad revenue.

The Copyright Issue

A favorite argument of late is that as soon as a big player buys YouTube, said player would be sued into oblivion by copyright holders. While that may hold a grain of truth, YouTube has actively policed the website for copyright violators when alerted by the rightful copyright owner. YouTube has also signed agreements with major players, such as the one recently signed by my good friend Alex Zubillaga of Warner Music, for content distribution and revenue sharing via YouTube.

I believe Google has even better relations with these major players and with credible and comprehensive ratings data to share could easily sign distribution and revenue sharing agreements with them.

The Big Picture

All of this won’t certainly come together over night. Too many loose ends need to be tied, agreements need to be made and signed, and technology needs to be put in place. But I can certainly see a road map outlining the steps ahead for Google.

1. The first stage involves the acquisition of YouTube and its integration into Google Video. Agreements with the major networks and content producers will allow the distribution of videos via Google. Most of these players already distribute their videos online for free, so a bigger potential audience combined with ratings data would certainly be appetizing.

2. Stage two would involve integration with services such as Apple’s iTV, allowing viewers to play downloaded content (along with ads) on their televisions. Google could combine viewing history with search history to further finetune the ads displayed.

3. Stage three would allow viewers to record programs on Google’s servers and watch them at a later time. Additionally Google would have the capacity to allow revenue sharing agreements with local network affiliates, according to the viewer’s geographical location.

Of course all this depends on whether Google is indeed interested in taking a shortcut by buying YouTube. And if YouTube is not yet aware of these ramifications, if I were them, I’d certainly start raising the price.

Comments are always welcome. I’d love to discuss these ideas.

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this article, Google did indeed proceed with the purchase of YouTube for US$1.65 Billion in stock… which I actually think is a bargain. Stay tuned for a post-buyout article.

The Paris Hilton School of Blogging

So there I was, wide awake in my bed, wondering if the Crestor was keeping me from catching some much needed Zzzzs, when I decided to scramble over to my HP Media Center PC and check what was new on Digg. Over on my number two display, a trusty old 17″ BenQ FP731, my RSS aggregator, KlipFolio, diligently scrolled the latest Digg news. One headline caught my eye:

“How Paris Hilton Can Help Your Web Development (seriously)”

I clicked and waited mere milliseconds for Digg to pop-up on my primary monitor, an awesome Gateway HD FPD2185W. I read the comments on Digg and quickly had Firefox whisking me away to chartreuse’s Beta blog. As the post came up, I decided a late-nite snack was necessary to accompany this mix of marketing savvy and Paris Hilton photos.

Three slices of buttered Holsum whole wheat, crisply toasted in my DeLonghi oven, and a glass of milk would suffice for tonight.

The article is brilliant and shows how Hilton has exploited the attention economy to advance her own career. According to chartreuse, Paris is the queen of links, gratuitously dropping brands, locations and names whenever possible.

Though she hired a publicist to get her on Page 6, she never really talked about herself. She talked about other people. She would mention the designers of her clothes, the club she was going to, who made the sweater for her dog, all without any guarantee of any return. She just threw out links.

It’s gotten to the point where people are using the tactic of rejecting Paris as a marketing tool.

What the article doesn’t go into is how to apply this to your blog (as originally promised in the misleading Digg title). I’m not sure that dropping names on your blog will guarantee you rich marketing campaigns, but everyone knows that cross-linking helps boost where you appear in Google search results. So the best way to do a Paris Hilton on your blog is probably to link to other blogs of interest to your readers or articles and hopefully get some links back in return.

If you pay attention to other bloggers (and your content/banter/mojo is smart), they’ll eventually pay attention to you. Smart comments on popular blogs will also boost your “attentioness” on the Internet. But as usual, the best way is to provide smart, useful content for your readers. Unless you’re Google or Digg or YouTube or Paris and are simply a platform for the sale and promotion of attention.

This article comes to you thanks to WordPress blogs, Dreamhost hosting (use promo code 29OFF for $29 off any hosting plan), the Microsoft Windows XP operating system (at least until I get an Apple MacBook Pro), Sysinternals utilities and the wonderfully elusive CreateShortcut util by Jeff Key.

Solving the MacBook’s lack of a Right-Click Button

When will Apple embrace the right-click button? Even though Apple’s operating system supports right-click, their laptops notoriously lack a right-click button.

I’m not a Mac developer (don’t even own a Mac yet) but I have an idea that could solve the problem:

The Mac’s Touchpad already detects a number of events like scrolling, two-finger scrolling, tap and double-tap. So theoreticaly one could hack the thouchpad’s software to detect taps on the right side of the touchpad as right-clicks… don’t you think?

Leave a comment if you know of any utilities that do this, or if Apple’s driver allows it already.

UPDATE: I went to the local Apple Store and opened the Touchpad preferences… These allow you (among other things) to tap on the touchpad to simulate a button click and also to place two fingers on the touchpad while clicking the button below the touchpad to simulate a right-click. Not quite what I asked for, but close enough.

Apple Stores should embrace XP

It’s a simple idea: every Apple Store should have one computer running Windows XP via Parallels Desktop software.

Why? I believe it would help convince wannabe-switchers to take that final step and purchase a Mac.

When the first MacIntels came out, I began seriously thinking about switching from my all XP set-up. Running the Vista Beta simply made the decision easier (it lasted only two weeks on my laptop before I happily went back to XP SP2).

I depend on XP for part of my work, since I do all my software development on Microsoft’s Visual programming languages. The rest of my work revolves around the internet and Web2.0, for which the MacIntels suit me just fine.

But try finding an Apple Store where you can try out Windows… I haven’t received so many funny looks since the day my sister dyed my hair orange while I slept out in the sun.

I eventually stumbled into Apple’s Lincoln Road store on Miami Beach, where XP was being installed on an iMac (via BootCamp). As weird as it may seem, it’s quite reassuring to see XP boot up on these alien machines.

But there’s still this sense of secrecy around XP in the Apple Stores… Parallels Desktop software was unavailable on the shelves (but they had copies out in the back, they said). The next week, they were on display only to misteriously disappear the next day.

Apple needs to understand that running XP can only boost sales of their computers. Ideally, they should have a computer running XP and several important applications that may or may not be available on the Mac platform.

Now I just need to wait for the Core 2 Duo laptops…

More on the web: see “On Getting Closer to a Mac Tipping Point” for additional views on the subject.