Like a bunch of other bloggers, I’ve been trying out a blog network and recommendation engine called TheGoodBlogs, whose widget you can see in the right sidebar of this blog. It’s a great tool that gives you headlines from posts at various blogs and allows you to find new blogs about topics you’re interested in. TheGoodBlogs just went public with its beta, and I highly recommend it — I’ve gotten some new readers from it, and I’ve also found some new blogs worth reading and linking to. My Name is Kate has a great overview here, and the service has also gotten good reviews from other bloggers.
According to rumours that are making the rounds of the gadget-blogosphere, Microsoft is planning to add a social-commerce aspect to its new Zune player. In addition to being able to share songs with other Zune users wirelessly, owners could be compensated with points if another user eventually buys one of the songs that was shared. Those points could then be redeemed for products, services, etc. It’s an interesting idea, if true (this research paper suggests that it is).
For me, one of the biggest missed opportunities with the iPod is this kind of sharing and community aspect. When mp3 players first appeared on the scene, sharing music wirelessly was one of the things I hoped they would eventually be able to do, and I remember early rumours that the iPod would allow that. For whatever reason, it has never come to be.
And maybe Microsoft’s Zune will suck, and the sharing will be clunky and stupid and it will also suck. But I think it’s worth trying, and it kind of bugs me that Steve Jobs has spent a lot of time dumping on the idea just because Microsoft is doing it instead of Apple. Take the Newsweek interview in which he said (the tone of derision is implied):
By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of headphone cable.
Well, that’s great Steve. But is Apple going to pay me for every time I stick my headphone in someone’s ear? They’d have to pay me more just to compensate for the whole ear-wax-sharing thing, but that’s a separate issue. In any case, I hope Microsoft does do this, because I think it could turn out to be something interesting — even if it doesn’t come from Apple.
Google has launched its personalized search tool (but it’s not called Google Co-op as Mike Arrington says at TechCrunch, it’s just one of the things that falls under the Google Co-op banner). The tool allows anyone to build a CSE or customized search engine and then not only share it — and make money from Google AdSense on the search pages — but allows them to continually update it by using a toolbar bookmarklet called the Marker.
According to a report in the Financial Times, Google will be launching a customized search tool on Tuesday, one that can be embedded in a webpage and will search inside websites you specify. Not only that, but you can apparently add new sites to your custom search index as you surf, by tagging pages with a keyword. This is something that Google sleuth Garrett Rogers hinted at not long ago, after poking around in Google’s code.
When I read the headline of the FT story, the first thing I thought of was Rollyo.com, and the second thing I thought of was Swicki.com. Both are services that allow you to produce — or “roll your own” — customized search engine. I have tried and like both tools, which have some differences (Swicki lets you create a tag cloud of search terms and Rollyo has a built-in site search) but I removed them both for a variety of reasons. Are their days numbered now that Google has appeared on the scene?
Some might recall that this discussion has occurred before, with a Web-based calendar called Kiko. When Google Calendar appeared, Kiko quickly decided it wasn’t worth going up against a $130-billion behemoth — a decision Paul Graham said was the right one and David at 37signals implied was the wrong one — and sold itself on eBay (and was eventually bought by Toronto’s own Tucows). Will Rollyo or Swicki be making the same decision?
I don’t want to make a habit of siding with Nick “The Prophet of Doom” Carr when it comes to all things Web 2.0, but I have to agree with him that Lawrence Lessig’s swipe at YouTube for not enabling “true” sharing does seem a little over the top. I know what Larry is up to — trying to point out why allowing people to download and make use of content is better — but I still think YouTube kind of sharing is a whole lot better than not sharing at all.
Call what YouTube does “Sharing 1.0” if you want. That doesn’t make it wrong, and “true sharing” right — and Larry probably wouldn’t put it in those terms. But there is definitely a moralistic tone to what he has written, especially since he explicitly says he’s talking about the “ethics of Web 2.0,” and I think that’s unfortunate. YouTube got to be so popular in part because it made it so easy to share video clips, by allowing anyone to embed a video in a web page or blog. To me, that is sharing. It may not be all that it could be, but it’s a big leap forward nevertheless.
As Scott Karp and Mike Arrington have both pointed out before me, the users of YouTube have pretty much voted with their mice, and they seem to think YouTube is doing something right. That’s good enough for me. Larry has since clarified what he was driving at here.
Ever since mesh ended back in May, we’ve had lots of people asking us — that is, Stuart and Rob and Mark and Mike — whether we’re going to do another one, and the answer is… hell, yes! In fact, we had such a great time at mesh that we’ve been wanting to do another one ever since we got finished cleaning up from the last one. Now we’ve got the venue and dates locked down, so we wanted to let everyone know that mesh 2007 is definitely a go.
We’re doing it at the MaRS Discovery District again, on University Ave near Queen’s Park, and the dates are Tuesday, May 30 and Wednesday, May 31 (we’ll let you know as soon as the ticket window is open so you can book your tickets). If you want to check out what some people had to say about the first one, there’s a roundup of links on the mesh blog.
We’re hoping to pull together just as fantastic a group of speakers for keynote conversations and panel discussions, as well as blogging, podcasting and other workshops, and we’ll also be having the same kind of social in the atrium and after-party bash that were so well received last time. And speaking of social events, we thought some of you might not be able to wait until next spring, so we decided to have a kind of Toronto Web 2.0 mesh meetup in November. Nothing too fancy — just a come-one and come-all invite to the Irish Embassy pub on November 15, sometime after 6 p.m. or so, for some drinks and great conversation.
Of course, mesh 2006 involved a whole lot of great conversation too, and if you either couldn’t make it to the conference or wanted to relive some of those keynotes, we’ve uploaded audio files of each of our main conversations:
- Venture capitalist Dr. Paul Kedrosky being interviewed by Mathew
- Public relations guru Steve Rubel from Edelman being interviewed by Stuart
- Former Business 2.0 writer Om Malik being interviewed by Mark
- Canadian law professor Dr. Michael Geist being interviewed by Rob and
- Online marketing phenom Tara Hunt doing a great interactive presentation.
We hope you enjoy listening to them as much as we enjoyed doing them. Feel free to share them with anyone who might be interested, provided you don’t charge anything for them, and and that you give credit to mesh. And get ready for some equally great keynotes and panels at mesh 2007!
The mesh organizers
In this era of YouTube and Revver and video “mashups,” it seems like remixing media is the order of the day, and now there are half a dozen online video-editing tools like Jumpcut, Eyespot, MotionBox and VideoEgg that allow users to upload and edit video quickly and easily. It would be easy to dismiss this kind of thing as a goofy fad that appeals only to teenagers and people with a webcam and too much time on their hands, but I think things like this appeal to a real human desire to create and share, and the Zimmer Twins is a perfect example.
I’d never heard of the Zimmer Twins until this afternoon, but I happened to be watching my eight-year-old daughter Zoe playing on the computer next to mine, and she was doing something on a website, and laughing away to herself. Then she said: “Dad, do you want to watch my movie?” So I went over to her PC and she was at the Zimmer Twins website, where you can mix and match short clips from the animated show on the Teletoon network — using a storyboard strip with drag and drop features — and write captions right into the panel.
I have to say I was blown away. In just a few minutes, Zoe had created her own little animated short, complete with soundtrack and storyline (and some spelling mistakes too, of course, altough I pretended not to notice those). Pretty amazing. The YouTube of the future had better watch out.
A word to the wise: If you are applying for a job in the investment-banking industry (or anywhere else for that matter), and you come up with the bright idea of putting together a kind of video introduction as part of your application, try not to make it a howlingly funny tribute to yourself, complete with pompous comments about leadership, clips of you bench-pressing 475 pounds (allegedly), ballroom dancing and smashing bricks with your hand.
If you ignore this advice, as Aleksey Vayner did, you will be begging for ridicule. And in a world that gave us the Star Wars Kid, the Tron guy, the Numa Numa dance and many other even more embarrassing moments, ridicule is more than happy to come your way with or without the begging. Then the New Yorker will pick it up and expand on it to an even greater extent, and eventually the New York Times will jump on the bandwagon, and you will be the laughing-stock of North America, if not the world.
Maybe investment banking isn’t ready for Aleksey, but there’s a spot for him somewhere on reality TV, I guarantee. Maybe a televised version of Dilbert’s Topper character?
Check my comments for one from Jay Maynard — also known as The Tron Guy.
The New York Times has a story that looks at something I’ve been bothered by ever since I started this blog a little over a year ago: the paradoxical fact that even as Web 2.0 and ubiquitous Internet access makes it easier for people and companies to be located just about anywhere on the planet, physical location seems to still be so important. In fact, one of my first posts on this blog was about all the bloggers I read who had just run into each other at one of Mike Arrington’s parties, or bumped into some legendary tech guru at the diner down the street, and so on.
As the Times describes, some of this is dictated by venture capitalists, who have what is informally called the “20-minute” rule — that is, startups they are involved in can’t be any further away than 20 minutes. Does that sound like a modern industry that has embraced the Internet? Hardly. And yet, there is an intangible benefit that arises from being able to meet with people in person, something that was reinforced for me at our mesh conference back in May. E-mailing with someone like Scott Karp or Paul Kedrosky is one thing, but meeting them changes things immensely.
Is that just human nature? Possibly. But there’s no question it has an effect, even on Web-based startups. StumbleUpon.com, which was based in Calgary, moved to Silicon Valley in part because they raised financing there. One of the co-founders told me in an interview that they were looking to move anyway, and that it wasn’t really a big deal to go to San Francisco or wherever, but it still sort of rankles that a Web-based company has to pick up and move somewhere just to get financing.
Does that make it harder for Canadian (or Australian, or Danish, or whatever) companies to get noticed? Undoubtedly. Although VC blogger Fred Wilson of Union Square takes issue with that assumption, Kent Newsome says proximity will always matter (Rex Hammock disagrees and so does Fred from We Break Stuff — who should know, since he moved from the Valley back to Portugal to start his company). Anne Zelenka has some thoughts about where we work versus where we are, and so does Down the Avenue. Don Dodge says Silicon Valley occurred because success attracts success.
Like several other bloggers, I got an email from Scrybe co-founder Shehryar Hydri pointing me to his company’s website, where there is a video demo of the Web 2.0 organizing tool, which is in beta. But I decided not to write about it, and I wanted to say why (obviously I know that I’m writing about it anyway, but bear with me).
Like many others, including Alec Saunders and Jason Clarke at Download Squad, I think Scrybe looks great — especially the online/offline synchronization, which could come in very handy. And the option to print things out on easily foldable cards is also kind of cool for a Web app.
At the same time though, I’m leery of giving too much attention to a startup that only has a video clip to go by. Without having laid hands on it myself and played around with it (Shehryar said beta accounts would be coming soon), it sounds a little hype-ish to be saying how great this new tool is. Could it be great? Sure. But I’d rather see it in person before I start salivating.
At the risk of overusing the “M” word (hint: it rhymes with “boron”), I feel compelled to take note of a recent column from Charles Cooper, who apparently is the executive editor of Cnet News. All I can say is that if he’s in charge of the Cnet News operation, then God help us all. Although he doesn’t mention Andrew Keen, Charles is definitely of the same mind as the “social critic” who believes Web 2.0 is ruining society as we know it (more about that here).
Mr. Cooper’s piece of “analysis” is entitled “Web 2.0 as a metaphor for ‘rip-off’,” which should give you a pretty good clue as to where he’s going. He refers to “the Web 2.0 assumption that it’s perfectly all right to profit from another company’s content without permission and without payment,” and says that it’s a good thing European courts (such as the one in Belgium that has blocked Google News) are standing up for the cause of truth and justice.
As Mike Masnick at Techdirt has pointed out, this is a load of bollocks. Cooper even trots out the old saw about how Napster and YouTube “flourished because of theft,” and how it’s just the same as walking into a store and walking out with an armload of books or CDs without paying. Memo to Charles: copyright infringement is not theft. Period. Look it up. The Supreme Court said so.
Cooper links to the U.S. Copyright Code, but obviously hasn’t thought about how it applies to Google News, or Google Print or any of the other things he lumps in with Napster. Fair use principles allow the use of snippets of text provided they are not for commercial use, and one consideration is how such use affects the market for the published work. So what if Google’s indexing actually makes a work more valuable, as appears to be the case? Does that still count as theft and immoral activity Charles?
What a maroon.