NBA video mashup site falls short

From Om Malik’s TV hub NewTeeVee comes word of a smart move by the National Basketball Association: the NBA has reportedly done a deal with online video-editing service Eyespot (to be announced Tuesday) that will let viewers and Web surfers remix game clips into their own videos and post them. Other registered users can then rate the videos with a star system, and see the top-rated clips with a click.

nba remix.jpgWhile this is a great idea, however — and is likely to get some good takeup from rabid NBA fans and would-be highlight reel makers — like Paul Kapustka of NewTeeVee I think it falls short in one major way: namely, the videos that are created cannot be easily shared, making the site a bit of a walled garden. I think that is a pretty serious failing for a site that presumably wants to create viral-type interest. How far would YouTube have gotten if it tried to keep all the video on its own site? Not very far, I would argue.

Paul, who got a preview of the site from, says that the company will have other similar deals to announce soon, and is also apparently involved with Sony in some way in a music video capacity (although Sony is also working with Brightcove). I would expect to see plenty more sites engage in the same kind of user-generated remixing that the NBA has — but hopefully more of them will widgetize their content rather than trying to keep it hostage.


Katie Fehrenbacher at NewTeeVee says that the National Hockey League, which did a deal with YouTube last year to put hundreds of hours worth of old game videos up on the site, has started disabling embedding of its videos — trying to force people to watch them at YouTube. Hey NHL: Three minutes for being stupid.

Update 2:

A spokesman for the NHL told Steve Rubel that the league is still committed to letting people share videos, and that the NHL is looking into why some people were told otherwise. I take back that penalty 🙂

Norwegian paper disrupts itself

The International Herald-Tribune — a paper that could probably use some disrupting of its own, from what I’ve heard — has a piece about a Norwegian newspaper that seems to have succeeded in carving out a business online. According to the story, Schibsted is an Oslo-based newspaper publisher that saw its earnings climb by almost 30 per cent in the fourth quarter, thanks largely to its online operations, which one analyst says could account for about 60 per cent of the company’s earnings next year.

Bharat Anand, a professor at Harvard Business School who is writing a case study on the company, says that:

“There’s clearly something quite special here… There’s no question they managed this transition earlier than a lot of newspaper companies, and they’re in a better position as a result.”

disruption.pngAccording to the story (which Stowe Boyd has also mentioned in a recent post), Schibsted started investing in new media way back in 1995, and continued to do so even during the dot-com bust. It is now the biggest Internet media player in Norway and in Sweden, has expanded into new markets like France and Spain by starting free newspapers (under the name 20 Minutes) and launching high profit-margin classified-ad businesses like

The newspaper company, which publishes the tabloid paper Verdens Gang and the higher-brow newspaper Aftenposten, also started launching online sites even though they threatened to cannibalize their existing assets. Schibsted’s CEO says that the company “changed from a defensive stance at the beginning of the Internet age to a very offensive one.” Some analysts have said that the publisher was able to shift gears so quickly in part because several senior managers did not come from a newspaper background.


Lucas Grindley notes that the 20-per-cent of revenue figure in the IHT article conflicts with the data on the Schibsted site, where it says online accounts for 20 per cent of profits — which is somewhat less impressive, but still noteworthy.

MyBlogLog goes after spammers

MyBlogLog co-founder Eric Marcoullier has a long post here, in which he describes how the service discovered the “co-author” spam — and how it took a little longer because of the three-day weekend in the U.S., and one MBL staffer being away at a wedding (ah, the joys of working with a small team). But he says it is fixed, and lists the changes that the service has made to prevent similar kinds of spam. Nice job from Eric and the team, and a classy response.

Original post:

There seem to be mixed feelings about MyBlogLog, the social networking service that Yahoo bought in January, and the one whose widget you can see in my sidebar, as well as the sidebars on lots of other blogs (it’s the one with a row of pictures of different readers who have visited my blog recently). Some people think it’s a waste of time and have gotten rid of it, but I think it’s actually quite useful — I can see with a glance who has been reading, and I often check out their blogs or their MyBlogLog community as a result.

mybloglog.JPGLike so many other social networking services, however, there is a growing problem with people trying to “game” the system to achieve a variety of spammy ends. As John Chow and search guru Danny Sullivan have reported, they have been approached to become “co-authors” of other sites — and in some cases were actually made co-authors without agreeing to become so. Robyn Tippins of SleepyBlogger says her husband, a pastor, was added as the co-author of a porn site, which was probably somewhat awkward.

As far as I can tell from the comments on blogs such as WebMetricsGuru and John Chow, the co-author additions were made by Bradford Knowlton of SEO Adwords — who says in his comment and on his blog that he did it to point out the loopholes in MyBlogLog. In a comment over at Darren Rowse’s Problogger, Eric Marcoullier of MyBlogLog says that the service is working on closing the loophole.

I haven’t become co-author of any site I don’t know about (although I should check to make sure, I suppose), but I have experienced another MyBlogLog “feature” in the past — which Solo SEO wrote about awhile back — which is people setting up accounts and uploading photos of themselves that are simply logos for their company or website, since they appear in the strip of headshots and are thus free advertising. Unfortunately, the more popular a site or service like MyBlogLog becomes, the more attractive it becomes as a target for spammers.

Lonelygirl15, the sequel — or one of them

In the relatively short life of YouTube and the rise of “user-generated content,” the story of Lonelygirl15 has already become a legend. An innocent girl named Bree uploads videos from her room, drops some hints about her weird parents and her boyfriend, and becomes a bonafide sensation, with millions of people watching her videos. Then the story breaks that she is an actress in her 20s, and the whole thing was dreamed up by some independent filmmakers (which is still an interesting story).

It’s not quite in the same category, but Virginia Heffernan — who writes the Screens blog for the New York Times and was one of the first to jump on the Lonelygirl15 bandwagon (just shortly before yours truly) — has turned up another YouTube sensation/mystery, one that goes by the name YsabellaBrave, or maybe MaryAnne. An attractive blonde with Raphaelite curls, large eyes and a strong singing voice, she has about 16,000 subscribers to her channel on YouTube, and is #34 on the “most subscribed list” of all time at YouTube. She sings classics such as The Band’s Weight, As Time Goes By and Swingin’ on a Star.


Ms. Heffernan points to a post on the blog of crime writer Steve Huff, in which he does some digging into the background of the singer, who claims to have little or no training. He turns up a video clip of a brunette Ysabella — calling herself MaryAnne — trying out for a job as the host of a horror movie TV show, and also produces blog entries in which she describes herself as a devout Christian, and mentions that she is an actress.

But just when we are ready to dismiss MaryAnne as a fake, Huff gets a comment from the singer herself, then exchanges emails — and becomes convinced that she is genuine. Ms. Heffernan isn’t quite so convinced, but she has yet to respond to a comment from MaryAnne on her Screens blog, in which the YouTube video star says

“Remember when reporting, even scandalous reporting, was built on fact and only rarely seasoned with hearsay? If you want to know about me, I’m here. You have my email.

Please don’t let an article consist of verbal allusions or 3rd party quotes about a woman; that’s just a flush away from ‘Call MaryAnne for a good time’.”

Whatever the truth might be, it isn’t nearly as crucial to the picture as Lonelygirl15’s real story was, since part of the reason people got interested was that Bree seemed to be under lock and key to some extent, and possibly in danger. MaryAnne is just a singer — and a pretty darn good one too. Who cares what her real name is, or whether she’s a horror movie fan, or a devout Christian, or both? Lots of artists change their names, and we rarely find out their real life story until after they’re dead.

Will lightning strike in the IdeaStorm?

I think it’s great that Dell has come out with IdeaStorm, a suggestion site inspired by Digg (and that inspiration is explicily admitted on the site, unlike Yahoo’s recently launched suggestion sites, which caused such a ruckus because they were supposedly a “ripoff” of Digg). And like Rob Hyndman, I think the name is great too. What better way to show your community of users that you’re listening to them than to encourage them to submit ideas and vote on them?

dellideastorm.jpgThere’s no question that Dell has come a long way since the early days of the Dell blog, when Jeff Jarvis ripped them a new one (mostly for not mentioning him and all the blog coverage he got after having a bad experience with Dell support). They responded to that openly and honestly on the Dell blog, and they followed it up with lots of posts about what they were doing to fix various user problems such as faulty batteries, etc. And best of all, they admitted that they still had lots of learning to do.

The big question now, of course, is: How much of this community input will Dell actually put into practice? In other words, the walk must eventually be walked, rather than just having the talk be talked. The top user suggestion as of this writing is the “No Extra Software Option” — in other words, the option to buy a Dell with no extra software. It had about 2.000 votes on Saturday afternoon. Will Dell listen? No doubt the company has agreements with software companies to include their products for a fee. Will it be willing to give that up because the community wants it to?

Mark Evans has more on Dell and IdeaStorm here and Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web has a post about that and Dell’s other Web 2.0-style innovation, which is a user-generated video site called StudioDell. And Richard points out that more companies should be trying to listen to their customers the way that Dell is. What does it cost? Barely anything. But the payoff — even just in goodwill — is enormous.

Google heard Aaron — so now what?

Aaron Stanton had a plan. A crazy plan, some might say, but still a plan: In a nutshell, he wanted to pitch a business idea to the folks at Google — the world’s largest search engine, a $130-billion colossus with 10,000 employees, etc., etc. — so he decided to get on a plane, fly from his home in Indiana to the massive, sprawling “Googleplex” in Mountain View, California and sit in the lobby of the Google headquarters until someone agreed to listen to his pitch.

As part of his plan, he created a website called Can Google Hear Me, where he has posted regular updates on his progress, including video clips — one of which involves reading some of the thousands of encouraging emails he has received (he even creates a stack of programming manuals about six inches thick to give an idea of how many messages he has gotten in just an eight-hour period).

His plan went into action on February 11th, and on February 14th — after getting kicked out of the building — he got an email at 1:30 in the morning from a Google address saying: “We can hear you  :-)”. That day, he had a meeting with a Google employee named David — a meeting Aaron says was rushed, but otherwise went well. He says David was interested, and didn’t dismiss his idea, but we don’t get a lot of information other than that. Obviously, we’re supposed to stay tuned to

Is this the next Red Paper Clip? This commenter at Digg thinks he knows what Aaron’s idea might be, and that it might have something to do with a previous business venture involving something called “the Novel project.” And this may be Aaron’s blog — where he talks about his divorce, and his pending bankruptcy. He also apparently writes about games for and

(Note: If you’ve never heard of the Red Paper Clip story, it involved Kyle MacDonald of Montreal trading a single red paper clip for a variety of bizarre and humorous objects and services, including a motorized snowglobe featuring the rock band KISS, and eventually concluding with him receiving a house for a year in the small Saskatchewan town of Kipling).


Scoble says he’s taking his 13-year-old son to the Apple store to meet Aaron.

Update 2:

10 Zen Monkeys has an update to the Aaron Stanton story. He’s returned to Boise and hired a programmer and says he may — or may not — return to Mountain View to work with Google in some way. Very mysterious. He’s also collecting all the emails he received (more than 2,000) into a book.

Senator Ted wants to block the tubes

Senator Ted Stevens has already achieved a certain kind of blogosphere and Internet infamy for his comments about teh Internets being “a series of tubes” (click the image for a dance remix of his address to the Senate). Now, he seems to want to compound that infamy by passing legislation that would block most social networking sites — including not just MySpace, but virtually any site that allows user contributions, including Wikipedia — from any school that receives federal education funding.

tubes.jpg Some are calling this proposed Bill 49 DOPA Jr., since it is very much like the Deleting Against Online Predators Act, which was proposed last year by Republican Mike Fitzpatrick. Wikipedia has an overview of the issue here. The bill would have made it an offence for schools to provide access to sites that offered chat forums, user accounts, public profiles, and other social networking tools. The FCC would have had to determine which sites were offensive and which were not. The new bill proposed by Sen. Stevens — which he first proposed last month and is called The Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act— would be even broader than DOPA.

Now the Senator has company: Matt Murphy wants to ban social networking sites from schools and libraries in Illinois. As Marianne Richmond notes at BlogHer, this would prevent people in Senator — and presidental candidate — Barack Obama’s home state from going to his new social networking site. As James Robertson so eloquently puts it, it’s the blind leading the stupid. More discussion over at Slashdot.

Yahoo team is teh l33t haxx0rs

Boy, that team over at Yahoo is something, aren’t they? Everyone keeps saying how Yahoo is falling behind Google, and they just don’t have the mojo any more, and how their peanut butter is spread too thin or whatever (don’t ask), but someone over there must have been burning the midnight programming oil, because somehow they managed to sneak into Digg’s secret compound and steal the code for their voting system.

grab_suggestions1.gifAs described over on Yahoo’s “Yodel Anecdotal” blog (come on — could any organization whose blog has a dumb name like that really be evil?), the company has added Digg-style voting for what amount to online suggestion boxes on many of their sites, including their auto hub, real estate hub, etc. They’ve even enabled it for the new Yahoo Pipes, so I can head over there and suggest that they change the name to Yahoo Tubes, in honour of Senator Whatshisname and his metaphor for the Internet.

As Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal and Frantic Industries and L.M. Orchard at DecafBad point out, the frenzy of Yahoo-bashing that this caused over at Digg is ridiculous — while at the same time not totally surprising, given the nature of the site and the mob mentality it often produces. Digg no more invented the idea of voting things up or down than I invented faster-than-light travel (oops, that was supposed to be a secret too). The inimitable Jason Calacanis has more on that here.

I’m with Mike Arrington: Digg fans need to chillax. (screenshot comes from Cory at Lost Remote).


Frantic Industries notes that Microsoft seems to be getting into this game too, but so far only on foreign MSN sites. It doesn’t look much like Digg, either, so maybe the fan boys will leave it alone.

Are Canadians copyright pirates?

There have been a number of stories recently in which Canada is accused of being a haven for copyright pirates, a scofflaw, a den of iniquity, etc. etc. — including the most recent story out of Washington, which describes how the International Intellectual Property Alliance wants the U.S. government to add Canada to a list of intellectual property villains.

Pirate.jpgA previous story talked about how movie studios are thinking about delaying the release of movies in Canada because of all the rampant “camcordering” or illicit copying of movies in theatres, with Canada described as the source of “nearly 50 per cent” of the world’s camcorded movies. Sounds pretty bad, right? But as copyright expert and University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist described on his blog recently, there are some holes in that portrayal. One of the first is the 50 per cent number. Not only is there no way of verifying that figure, but the International Intellectual Property Alliance says Canada is only responsible for about 23 per cent of camcorder copies. That still sounds like a lot, right? Except that only about 179 out of the 1,400 movies released in 2006 was camcorded, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

One of the most recent studies of movie piracy, Dr. Geist notes, found that the vast majority of illegally copied movies — more than 75 per cent — come from review copies or early releases that are sent to movie industry insiders. And an analysis of the way that movie copying tends to work shows that illegal camcorder copies have an extremely short shelf life, and are only popular until the DVD version of a movie is released (which is happening more and more quickly after the theatrical release), at which point pirates copy those instead. No one seems to be saying that Canada is a haven for that, although obviously we have our own share of illegal DVD sellers.

So the bottom line is that Canada appears to be one of the sources for a form of movie piracy that accounts for a relatively small proportion of the overall problem in the industry. But the stories all say that Canada doesn’t even care about that, don’t they? Industry sources say that our copyright laws aren’t strong enough and so criminals see our country as the perfect place to engage in that business. But as the Justice Minister and others have pointed out, copying movies is already a crime in Canada, under existing copyright legislation. It’s true that in order to make such a case stick, the authorities have to prove that it was copied for illegal distribution, but that seems like a reasonable requirement, and such cases are prosecuted frequently.

So what Canada is accused of doing, essentially, is not passing specific laws that the U.S. motion picture industry wants it to, to make any form of copying illegal and easier to prosecute. They’d probably like it if we didn’t have friends over to watch our DVDs too, but luckily that is still legal.

Belgium and Google — stupid, stupid, stupid

I confess that I still don’t get the whole Belgium vs. Google thing. I keep reading about it and reading about it, and thinking about it — hoping that I have somehow missed a crucial point or argument in the newspapers’ position that makes this whole thing sensible in any way. But by now I am totally convinced: It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It is just dumb, with a capital D.

morans.jpgAs Danny Sullivan notes in his overview of the case, this complaint from the Belgian group known as Copiepresse dates back almost a year. After the first complaint — as is customary in these types of cases, when sites don’t want to be included in Google’s index — the search engine advised the agency (as Google notes here) to use the well-known “robots.txt” file to exclude parts of its websites from Google’s spider-bots. Copiepress apparently said that this process, which takes about 10 minutes, was unacceptable.

So after a year of legal wrangling, and millions of dollars in legal costs, the Belgian group has “won” and has forced Google to remove its newspaper content. In other words, it has prevented the world’s largest and most respected search engine from showing links to that content to people who want that content — and doing so for free. And the claim that Google makes money from this content, which others have argued in the past, is just as stupid, since Google News doesn’t carry advertisements on its content pages.

Carlo at Techdirt shares my feelings on this matter, and I know many other journalists who do as well. Some companies would kill for the kind of profile and access that being linked in Google News provides to potential readers. Someone at Copiepresse clearly sees this as some kind of noble battle against a U.S. tech giant, but all they are really doing is harming themselves. Oh yes, and looking stupid. Did I mention that part?