Pluck: Another one bites the dust

Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web tells us that Pluck, one of the many feed readers out there, has decided to shut down due to what appears to be a lack of interest — not just on the part of users, but on the part of the company’s founders as well. Although the release on the website doesn’t say that was having trouble attracting customers, it’s fair to say that the RSS feed-reading sector is pretty crowded, with Bloglines and Newsgator and half a dozen others.

Now there’s Internet Explorer 7 too, with RSS reading built right in. And there’s Google’s Reader, which I must say I have become a pretty big fan of over the last couple of months, ever since the revised version came out. I was a dedicated user of Netvibes before that, and I still like the way that Netvibes can be configured to let you see as many as 20 RSS feeds all at once — see which ones have been read, see the headlines and decide which one to read, and so on.


Google Reader is more of a “river of news” approach, but I still like the way it flows and I like how easy it is to share items, which I use as a way of bookmarking them in case I want to blog about them later. I tried Pluck awhile back, just like I’ve tried pretty much every news reader that comes along in case it has any features I like, but it didn’t stick with me.

It’s obvious that the company behind Pluck has decided there is better business to be had elsewhere on the Web. Pluck also runs BlogBurst, which is a blog syndication company that offers blog posts to newspapers (full disclosure: I have a relationship with BlogBurst). Pluck also has a business called the SiteLife Social Media Suite, which sets up and manages online communities for companies, and it sells its RSS reader technology to others for use as a kind of white-label solution.

As I’ve argued before, RSS isn’t so much a technology as it is a feature — one that is best incorporated into something else, such as a portal or browser. Pluck’s departure from the business makes that all the more obvious.

Cha-ching — another takedown notice

Well, the hits are coming thick and fast at YouTube — or GooTube, or whatever we’re calling it now. According to one report, YouTube has responded to another takedown notice, this time from Comedy Central, and has removed all the South Park, Colbert Report and Daily Show video clips (other than ones of a few minutes or less, which presumably might fall under fair use provisions of copyright law — Mark Kuznicki has more on that here).

I guess it’s a good thing I already watched that hilarious South Park episode where Cartman and the gang start playing World of Warcraft only to repeatedly die at the hands of an uber-player. Of course, if I hadn’t seen it already, I could always go and watch the whole thing at DailyMotion — which is hosting this version that’s on the gaming blog Kotaku, or I could watch it at


Interestingly enough, there are no South Park episodes at Google Video either. In the past, YouTube has removed video clips due to takedown notices but the same clips have lived on at Google Video. I guess that won’t be happening any more, now that they are part of the same entity. For those keeping score at home, this is the third mass takedown YouTube has done — the others being the 30,000 or so Japanese videos it removed about a week ago, and a bunch of sports clips.

And no, just for the record, this still doesn’t make Mark Cuban right.


As this Washington Post story points out, and blogger Howard Owens also describes, it seems that there are still plenty of Comedy Central videos available on YouTube, although many of the show-length ones are gone. Did Newscloud overplay the email it got from YouTube, or are the content owners drawing a distinction between short clips and full shows? I hope it’s the latter, as this post from Jeff Jarvis indicates.

Maclean’s goes trolling for controversy

I’ve been talking with friends about Steve Maich’s recent cover piece in Maclean’s — entitled “The Internet Sucks” — but haven’t posted anything about it because I wanted to wait until I could actually read the article (I sure wasn’t going to go out and actually buy a copy of the magazine). It went up online recently and I read the whole thing, and also read the back-and-forth between Mark Evans and Steve — a former colleague of Mark’s at the National Post — on Mark’s blog, and it got me seeing red all over again.

Now Mike Masnick at Techdirt has weighed in on the topic, having been alerted to the Maclean’s article by a critic who shall remain nameless. My favourite part of Mike’s response is the Henry Ford analogy — Henry said cars would change the world for the better, but now we have pollution and traffic jams, therefore cars suck. As Mike put it, “a bunch of smoke and mirrors.”

I took my own crack at answering Steve in the comments section of Mark’s blog. Here’s the text of what I posted there:

Nice try, Steve — but it’s a bit of a cop-out to say that it isn’t your job to be “balanced,” and that you argued a single side of the case solely because you wanted to stimulate discussion. That’s an easy way of trying to avoid virtually any criticism of your faulty logic and/or assertions. In fact, it’s the type of thing that blogging “trolls” do, such as your friend Andrew Keen, or Nick “The Prophet of Doom” Carr.

Like most trolls, the whole thesis of your article is based on a straw man — the idea that the creators of the Internet said it would bring about some kind of enlightened utopia. John Perry Barlow and Wired magazine might have said that in the mid-1990s, but they said a lot of stupid things back then. And throwing the fibre-optic bubble in there is pure red herring-ism; that had nothing to do with the Internet, and everything to do with Wall Street and greed — also not invented by the Internet.

I could go through your article point by point, but let’s look at the main conclusions you stated here:

  • Crime is rampant: More rampant than society as a whole? Unlikely. You’re going to need a lot more evidence than some file-swapping and scary quotes about hackers and email scams. Yes, there is child porn — also not invented by the Internet.
  • Destruction of intellectual property rights is epidemic: What does epidemic mean? And what you call destruction, others (including many artists themselves, the actual creators of that content) see as an evolution, or at least a re-balancing of rights.
  • Elevation of political discourse isn’t happening: Why should the Internet be held to blame for something that isn’t happening in the rest of the “real” world either? There’s that straw man again. He sure comes in handy.
  • The economic model is largely unproven: I guess the “largely” part leaves out Google and its $145-billion market cap, does it? Because that pretty much makes up for all the value destroyed by Wall Street during the fibre-optic bubble. Not to mention Yahoo and eBay and Amazon, etc.
  • Happy trolling, Steve. You’d make a good blogger..


It’s worth checking out the Metafilter thread on the Maclean’s story too (warning: some graphic language), including a comment that made me laugh out loud: After someone says that the magazine achieved what it wanted to because people are talking about the article, GuyZero says “I notice roadkill too. I wouldn’t call getting run over by a truck a ‘gopher marketing strategy'”.

Rick at Valleywag gets off a good one too, with his post on Maclean’s. In the end, he says, the Internet is “a series of rubes.” And John Koetsier at SparkPlug9 has a good rebuttal of Steve’s piece here.

Why Mark Cuban is still wrong on YouTube

Mark, who wrote just days before the Google-YouTube deal that only a moron would buy YouTube (which I responded to here), just can’t seem to let go of his view that Google bought themselves a world of copyright pain when they did the $1.6-billion deal for the video-sharing site. But copyright experts disagree — in fact, they say, Google is in pretty good shape. But isn’t YouTube just like the video version of Napster, and bound to be crushed by lawsuits? Well, no.

At least, not according to Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University who specializes in copyright law. In a piece at Slate, he writes that YouTube

is in much better legal shape than anyone seems to want to accept. The site enjoys a strong legal “safe harbor,” a law largely respected by the television and film industries for the choices it gives them.


The ironic part, as the piece goes on to note, is that what protects YouTube and Google — a clause U.S. Copyright Code known as Section 512, also known as the “safe harbor” clause — was fought for and ultimately won by the big U.S. telecommunications companies. Yes, the same ones that are fighting Google over who should pay for all the video and other bandwidth-hogging content that is (allegedly) filling up their pipes.

All this clause requires YouTube to do is to take down videos when a copyright holder notifies them that their rights are being infringed on. And as Prof. Wu also points out, some content owners actually like the flexibility that 512 gives them — if they want a viral video to do some free marketing for them, they can leave it up. Once they are done with it, they can send YouTube a letter to take it down. The best of both worlds. And once again, I find that Mike Masnick of Techdirt and I are on the same wavelength.


My friend Rob Hyndman takes issue with some of Tim’s points in the comments section of this post, and also has a back-and-forth with Mike over at Techdirt in his comments section (Rob, you really need to get more sleep, buddy). His point is that YouTube has to be aware that there’s a ton of infringing content, and since it makes money from that content then it may be weakening or even removing its safe harbour protection. That seems to me to be something that will only be conclusively resolved if and when YouTube goes to court — and perhaps not even then.

Dell’s new marketing video — WTF?

Just for the record, I think it’s great when a company has some fun with things, shakes things up a bit, lets its hair down (fill in your favourite metaphor here). But at the same time, I think a company with some image problems — like say… oh, I don’t know, like Dell, for example — might want to make sure that if it spends a bunch of dough on an attempt to be funny, that it is a) actually funny and b) funny. The video clip that Michael Dell introduced at OracleWorld doesn’t qualify.

dell -- jibjab

In fact, as almost everyone who has seen it seems to agree, it is mind-numbingly bad. Not just un-funny, but cringe-inducingly un-funny — like say, your grandmother dressing like 50 Cent and trying to do a rap about adult diapers. What was Dell trying to do with this video? It isn’t aimed at consumers, because it’s all about proprietary standards. It’s clearly aimed at suppliers — specifically, aging suppliers with no sense of humour, or taste for that matter.

Not only is it un-funny in the worst way, it’s also about five times too long for a self-deprecating joke video (Nick Douglas will pay you if you sit through the whole thing). If the guys behind — whose style this imitates — were involved in this clip in any way, they should do themselves and everyone else a favour and go directly to Hell (Note: one of the founders responded in my comments to say they weren’t involved). And Larry Ellison should sue.


My friend Stuart said that howlingly lame videos like this are made all the time for supplier-type conferences, and that it wasn’t really designed for regular people to see — to which I replied that the lesson here is, in the age of YouTube, everything will eventually be seen, whether you want it to or not.

The solution is, well… Obvious

Evan Williams — founder of Blogger and of the podcasting startup formerly known as Odeo — took a lot of heat from certain sections of the blogosphere awhile back, after standing up at the Future of Web Apps conference in San Francisco and freely admitting that he had screwed up with Odeo in a whole bunch of different ways. Among them, he said, were “raising too much money too early,” “trying to do too much” and “not listening to my gut.”

In hindsight, that was kind of a red flag (or white flag, depending on your perspective) about Evan’s intentions toward Odeo. So it’s not that surprising to hear he and some other members of the team have bought out their venture backers and taken the company back in house, renaming it Obvious Corp. And while Evan has taken some flack for blowing it with Odeo and/or not knowing what he really wanted to do when he grew up, like Fred Wilson I think he should be congratulated.


From what details we can gather from Om and others, the VCs who backed the company have been “made whole” (to use the curiously Biblical term favoured by Wall Street types), and now Evan and his team can concentrate on doing more experimental things. Will any of them work out? Who knows. But they should be congratulated for knowing when to change the playbook.

Evan has some thoughts here, and one of his former investors has some thoughts here.

Getty needs to cannibalize itself

I was interested in the stuff that Robert Scoble and Thomas Hawk have posted about meeting with Getty Images, the giant stock photography company, but not necessarily because I’m all that interested in photography (although I am). The interesting thing for me is how Getty — like a lot of other companies in different industries — is trying to find a way of transitioning its business from one model to another, effectively cannibalizing itself before others can do it.

Scoble mentions how people such as Thomas (or whatever his real name is) and services such as Flickr and Zooomr are a threat to Getty, and they are — although not so immediate a threat that you can draw a direct line between the disappointing financial results the company reported and the rise of consumer photo-sharing sites. And Getty essentially tried to build a bridge between its old business and a new one by acquiring Calgary-based iStockphoto, one of the largest Web-based stock photo services out there (it recently added video as well).

getty images

Getty’s business, like that of competitor Corbis (owned by Bill Gates) consists mostly of high-quality, hard-to-come-by photos of celebrities and events, used in glossy, high-quality magazines, and for those the company gets paid anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on use., by contrast, sells photos for as little as $1. And it does big business with small and medium-sized publications, Web sites and so on, with photos for $10 or $50 or $100.

In effect, Getty is hoping that owning iStockphoto can expand its business rapidly enough that it can counterbalance the decline in those hundred or thousand-dollar photo jobs, and prevent the recent financial pressure from becoming a sustained downturn. Other companies will have to find ways of doing the same in their industries, as James Robertson points out.

Rocketboom vs. Ze — apples vs. oranges

Far be it from me to take issue with Robert Scoble, or for that matter Jeneane Sessum — who doesn’t suffer fools gladly — but until we can measure likeability or engagement then downloads will have to do. And it seems obvious that unless Andrew Baron of Rocketboom is a complete and utter liar when he talks about his statistics, Rocketboom is leagues ahead of Ze Frank. This all stems from the recent throwdown between Ze and the Rocket.

Does that matter? Not to Jeneane and Robert and other Ze fans — of which I am one. We care that he is bizarre and funny and engaging. But I bet it matters to Ze. Like Rocketboom, I assume that Ze Frank is looking for revenue so that he can keep buying those expensive props (like the duck) and new paint for the wall he sits in front of. And when it comes to video, downloads and unique eyeballs are the currency that advertisers want to hear about. As Scott points out, old or new media, you have to have the stats.

ze frank

Once Ze and Rocketboom get more advertising, then (strangely enough) it will get easier to measure engagement — because then you can track who clicked for the $10-off coupon on Swiss Chalet or the discount pass to Six Flags or whatever the hell they decide to advertise. Scoble is on the right track when he talks about how a mention in USA Today gets more readers but a mention on Scoble gets more clicks.

If Ze wants to really thumb his nose at Rocketboom, all he has to do is find a way to turn those duckie-lovers into clickers. Maybe his duck-sponsorship program, which Google Checkout recently axed and then changed its mind on, will give him some new numbers for a future Rocketboom smackdown. In other video-blog related news, the guys at Ask A Ninja are looking for ad money based on a $50 CPM, which would mean $50,000 to $100,000 per show (assuming their stats are legit).

Edgeio — not an eBay killer after all

Although it kind of got lost in all the hoopla about Google launching a customized search tool, Edgeio got financed to the tune of $5-million on Tuesday, in a round led by Intel Capital. Edgeio is the Web 2.0 classified service that Mike Arrington of TechCrunch co-founded along with Keith Teare, and remains a shareholder and board member of, as he mentions here.

At the time Edgeio launched to much acclaim, it was thought by many — including yours truly that it could become a kind of eBay-killer or a successor to Craigslist, because it allowed any blogger or person with a webpage to place an ad on their page and have it appear in the Edgeio index. But there seems to have been an evolution of sorts in Edgeio’s business model, or maybe something closer to a 180-degree turn.


According to Pete Cashmore at Mashable, Edgeio is now integrating listings from eBay and Amazon, among other sites. In other words, rather than an eBay-killer, it has become an eBay partner. Pete says “this always seemed like a more solid business plan that aggregating blog entries, and perhaps the “listing” tag served more as a way to get bloggers talking than as a core strategy.”

Fair enough, but it still seems like a completely different approach to me. Maybe it makes more sense, maybe not. It looks like opening it up to all kinds of classified services has boosted the number of listings — to more than 100 million, according to the stats on the site, in over 14,000 cities and 140 countries — but possibly at the expense of utility. Searching for cars, for example, brings pages full of results from the same commercial auto dealer.

How exactly is that “listings from the edge?” Not what I would call hugely useful so far, and certainly not a Craigslist or eBay-killer. Venturebeat has more detail if you’re interested, and Fraser Kelton has some interesting thoughts in my comments section.

Coke finally grabs a clue

Coca-Cola, the giant sugar-water purveyor, has finally seen the light when it comes to the famous Diet Coke-and-Mentos video that became a viral hit on YouTube and Revver earlier this year. If you haven’t seen it, the video shows the Eeepybird team — two guys in white lab coats and goggles, who are really a professional juggler named Fritz Grobe and a lawyer named Stephen Voltz — conducting a sort of choreographed dance involving bottles of Diet Coke (some of them hanging from strings) and packages of Mentos mints, which together produce giant geysers of pop and create a kind of moving fountain.

The company that makes Mentos (a subsidiary of an Italian concern called Perfetti van Melle) quickly saw the benefit of this video, which they said was equivalent to about $10-million dollars worth of advertising, and arranged to have the Eepybird team create some other videos just for them. Coca-Cola, however, took the “Hey, quit fooling around with our product” tack, and said it had no intention of doing anything with the Eepybird guys, because — as Coke told the Wall Street Journal — that type of craziness “doesn’t fit with the Coke brand.”

Obviously, someone at Coke gave their head a shake and decided that getting millions of dollars in free advertising was probably a good thing (Gee — ya think?) and the company recently announced a new Poetry in Motion contest, as Kevin Nalty describes on his video blog here. Congratulations to Coke for finally grabbing a clue. Too bad it took so long.