Rusting “Tesla towers” found in Russia?

From the blog Dark Roasted Blend comes word of a bizarre, high-voltage electrical installation in Russia, which were apparently discovered by a Russian photographer who goes by the name Master, and happened to be wandering around in the bush about 50 kilometres from Moscow when he saw a series of gigantic, rusting towers with strange circular structures on top.

According to the site, they appear to be related to a little-known Russian high-voltage power research facility, and could have something to do with experiments that genius Nikola Tesla — the inventor of alternating current power — conducted on the idea of broadcasting “wireless power.” Click on the picture for more, or click here (thanks Steve).



Does Craigslist care about Kijiji? Unlikely

Online auction behemoth eBay has decided to bring the fight over online classifieds to Craigslist’s backyard — even though it owns a 25-per-cent stake in the San Francisco-based site — by launching its Kijiji service in over 200 U.S. cities. Kijiji, which is just as hard to read as it is to say (it supposedly means “village” in Swahili, so maybe eBay can buy Jason Calacanis’s search engine and have a matching set of incomprehensible Web 2.0 names), has until now been focused on overseas and non-U.S. markets.

snipshot_e4q48uh7xc8.jpgAccording to eBay, in fact, it is the leading online classified service in Canada, having overtaken last fall in number of visitors (with about 1.5 million unique visitors a month as of November) and the Canadian version of the site — which is split into local sub-sites, much as Craigslist is — now has about 500,000 listings. has built itself up in part by buying other online classified services with equally weird names (including Gumtree, LoQuo, Intoko and Marktplaats) and is now in 300 cities around the world.

So is Craigslist quaking in its boots at the thought of competition from eBay — a giant Web player and part-owner of Er, no. According to CNet, CEO Jim Buckmaster says he isn’t too troubled about Kijiji or about eBay owning part of a company it is now competing with:

Buckmaster said in an e-mail… that because of Craigslist’s public service mission and disinterest in things like “market share and revenue maximization,” the company doesn’t really care who hops into the classified business.

“I’m not a legal expert,” Buckmaster wrote, “but I think it’s safe to assume (eBay) will continue to conduct themselves appropriately with respect to their responsibilities to Craigslist.”

I distinctly recall Jim Buckmaster responding to a question about competitors during his keynote at mesh (video of which can be found at by saying that Craigslist doesn’t really pay much attention to competitors, and that if someone else came along who could serve users better, Jim would feel it was his duty to encourage them to use the other service. How do you say “best of luck” in Swahili?


Tony Hung at Deep Jive Interests says he hopes Kijiji succeeds, if only so that someone can challenge Craig and Jim on what he calls “their hippie ethos.”

Can you “crowdsource” a record album?

(cross-posted from my Globe and Mail blog)

The answer to that question appears to be “yes,” although there are a number of other questions raised in the process. A site called, which has been up and running for almost a year, has now helped seven musicians raise enough money to make a professional-quality CD, by giving them the tools to set up a site where fans can donate money to the cause. It works like this: An artist uploads music to the site, and fans — known as “believers” — can effectively buy shares in the future CD for $10 each.

When the artist raises $50,000 (U.S.), Sellaband helps them find a producer, studio time and the other things they need to make a CD — and everyone who donated gets a free copy, as well as a share in the revenue from downloads of the music, and from sales of the CD. The site, which is based in Holland, was created by Johan Vosmeijer (a former Sony BMG executive), Pim Betist and Dagmar Heijmans.

After just six months, the site had more than 2,700 bands and musicians signed up, according to a post at TechCrunch, and now has about 4,000. The latest artist to hit the $50,000 mark is Australian singer Mandyleigh Storm (yes, she says that’s her real name), whose Sellaband page is here.

Jeff Howe, who wrote a piece for Wired magazine about the phenomenon of “crowdsourcing” (and is now working on a book about the same topic) wrote about Sellaband after they launched, and wondered whether the deal made sense for artists, since it appeared that the site owned the artist’s works and had control over who produced the album as well — but an update on his blog with comments from one of the Sellaband founders makes it clear that this is not the case. The money is held in escrow (although Sellaband earns interest on it), and the artist gets to choose who the producer is, and retains the performance and distribution rights. Sellaband takes 40 per cent of the publishing rights.

Eamonn Forde, writing for The Guardian’s music blog, says that he doesn’t see much merit in the Sellaband model, in part because the site is helping artists make CDs, and the industry is moving away from CDs to downloads — and even a $50,000 investment isn’t enough to get traction for a new CD without the backing of a major label. In a comment on his post, one of Sellaband’s founders disagrees, saying: “Once believers and artists have raised their budget, both parties are happy [even] with the worst-case scenario. Believers get their CD for 5 pounds and artists get to record it with professionals. On top of this both parties might be able to make some money.”

This Bloomberg story has some more details about Sellaband and its model and so does this story from The Guardian. A digital media site called Master New Media also has a good overview.

Will Google index your voicemails?

snipshot_e4137ubjgjwt.jpgAs pretty well everyone probably knows by now, Google has in fact acquired GrandCentral, the mobile-telephony startup, for a rumoured $50-million. Most observers seem to see Google integrating the “one number” approach taken by GrandCentral — which Canadians and other non-Americans can’t make use of, unfortunately — with GMail and GTalk, and possibly with the entire Google Office suite. But others have darker visions: Venture capitalist Josh Kopelman says he is concerned about Google indexing your voice. Some (including those commenting on his post) see Josh’s criticisms as sour grapes from someone who has invested in competitor 1-800-Free411. Maybe Google should buy this thing as well.

Playing Whack-A-Mole with Allofmp3

snipshot_e4kepbash8n.jpgSo the World Trade Organization seems to have finally convinced the Russian government to take action on one of its favourite bugaboos: the existence of “pirate” music site, which has been happily charging people pennies to download millions of mp3 files from popular artists from around the world for several years now. According to the Times Online, the site was quietly closed — about six months after Visa and MasterCard cut off service to the site — but as the same story points out, another site called popped up the same day, offering virtually the exact same service, and apparently run by the same outfit (the company says that it abides by Russian copyright law, which allows companies to collect royalties on behalf of copyright owners, without the copyright owners’ permission). As TorrentFreak suggests, downloading of digital music has effectively become a hydra. And apparently I’m not the only one that is fond of the Whack-A-Mole metaphor.

Now that’s religious devotion — or something

snipshot_e45rdgkd7m5.jpgI just love Metafilter — I’m always coming across something I have never heard of before, which is one of my favourite things to do, and there are always lots of links to find out more about whatever it is. This time it was Sokushinbutsu, the mummified monks of Japan. Apparently hundreds of years ago, Buddhist monks would occasionally try to mummify themselves while they were still alive, by eating a special diet for several years and then drinking a special herbal tea that effectively embalmed them. Near the end, according to this article, the monk would be buried alive in a stone tomb with an air tube and a small bell, and when the bell stopped ringing they would be exhumed and then reburied for another few years before being put on display. Fascinating. More details here.