SugarSync: Anyone want an invite?

I’ve been taking part in the beta trial of SugarSync, the content-synchronization service that allows you to synch photos, documents and other content across multiple PCs, mobile devices etc. (the service was formerly known as Sharpcast, and only syncrhonized photos). I’ve got a limited number of beta invites available — if anyone wants one, post a comment with an active email address and I’ll shoot you the link.

Imeem: MP3tunes, you’re on your own

I’m glad Mark Hopkins from Mashable wrote this post about Imeem — which just bought Anywhere.FM, a startup from YCombinator — and MP3tunes, the online music-sharing service from serial entrepreneur Michael Robertson (founder of Linspire and the original I’ve been watching the back-and-forth between Michael and Imeem CEO marketing VP Matt Graves on the Pho list with interest, since MP3tunes is being sued by EMI and Anywhere.FM does something very similar.

As Mark explains in his post, Michael asked the Imeem VP for his views on the legality of what Anywhere.FM does, and Graves said that he didn’t want to talk about the terms of the Anywhere.FM deal “now or ever, on the list or privately,” although he said he was sorry Michael was being sued. Robertson then responded that he just wanted the Imeem exec’s thoughts on whether the service was legal, and if so why — and was obviously interested in finding an ally in his lawsuit with EMI.

Graves shut this line of inquiry down as well, which I must admit I find odd. There’s no question that in the past Michael — rightly or wrongly — has been a lightning rod for lawsuits related to his various online services, but how does it help to avoid the issue? If Anywhere.FM and MP3tunes are similar services, and one is being sued by a record label, doesn’t it stand to reason that the other might as well? Perhaps Graves thinks he can avoid such an outcome so long as he doesn’t talk about it.

I wrote about the EMI lawsuit in this post, and linked to Michael’s overview of what the lawsuit is about, which is well worth a read. In a nutshell, EMI claims that an MP3tunes feature called Sideload is illegal, and so are the online music “lockers” that the company provides, where users can store songs — including songs that they have purchased through Amazon or other online services, which can be transfered directly into the locker. Sideload is much like Seeqpod (which is also being sued) or Songza.

Mike Arrington, Fox Business host?

I watched this clip of Mike Arrington on the Fox Business show Happy Hour, with Cody Willard and Rebecca Gomez, and the one thing that struck me was how smart and reasonable Mike seemed compared with the frenetic — almost manic — Willard and his sidekick.


More to the point, I think Mike’s long-range outlook on Yahoo is correct: the company has to figure out how to grow its online-advertising business, or surrender it to someone who can.

Why did we pick the name Yahoo again?

As expected by just about everyone, Yahoo released fairly lacklustre numbers late Tuesday — and also used a word that you should try never to use in an earnings outlook: “headwinds.” As Rob Hof notes at BusinessWeek, this is code for “results are going to suck until further notice.” The stock was off about 10 per cent in after-hours trading, and that took it down near $20, or 40 per cent lower than it was three months ago.

Henry “I used to be a famous Wall Street analyst” Blodget has a pretty good rundown of the numbers at Silicon Alley Insider (although I must admit that every time he does that kind of thing I wonder whether he isn’t getting a little close to the line, given his settlement with the SEC). The fact is that Yahoo is cutting 1,000 people — as was widely rumoured last week — and its future guidance was so-so at best.

Share of the search market flat or falling, profit margins lower, new deals with cable companies bringing in lower revenue — not a pretty picture. but Yahoo still has high hopes, according to Sue Decker. Unfortunately, Yahoo shareholders have had some pretty high hopes as well, and about all they have to show for them so far is a share price that has been sliding down the slippery slope for the past year.

Barcodes: Really clever or really dumb?

“It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”
David St. Hubbins, This is Spinal Tap

Google is apparently experimenting with tiny barcodes that will sit next to newspaper advertisements and be scannable by mobile phone, so that you can “read” the code and be whisked to some website where you can get an interactive coupon, a special deal on Star Wars memorabilia, etc. Apparently I’m not the only one who immediately had visions of the CueCat, an ungainly handheld scanner gizmo that some ridiculous company tried to foist on newspaper readers back in the first bubble.

In the comments on a Silicon Alley Insider post about the Google experiment, Henry Blodget says that CueCat was the single worst idea he ever heard during Bubble 1.0 — and that’s saying a lot. I would have to agree (Allen Stern of Centernetworks, however, says that he thought it was a pretty good idea, and still has one in his closet). If you want some technical information, there’s some at the Google FAQ.

I know that there are a lot of people who are going to point out that they use barcodes like this all the time to buy things in Japan, but I would like to point out that not everything that is popular in Japan is good, and in support of that I would offer this and most of these.

Digg: portable data is good, so is OpenID

Adam Ostrow has the news that Digg has joined the Data Portability group — the same one that Facebook and Google joined not that long ago — and will also adopt OpenID. Steve Williams at Digg has more on the news, saying the site wants to help users do whatever they want with their data, and is always looking for ways to help Digg interact with other sites better:

Want to sync your Digg friends network with another service? We want to help you do that. Want to use your Digg activity to get recommendations from another web site? We’re working on that, too.

This may not be a huge development, but it’s nice to see some of the big social networks lining up behind both of these initiatives. And Digg is definitely one of the big boys now — according to John Graham-Cumming, who apparently did some sleuthing, the social network is closing in on 3 million registered users.

Video interlude: Tom Cruise parody

Just came across this, thanks to a Twitter post from Jason Calacanis: it’s a hilarious parody of the Tom Cruise video from a week or two ago, the one in which he was selling Scientology as the cure for all of mankind’s ills — the video that Scientology has been trying to get Gawker (among others) to remove, which I wrote about here. Actor Jerry O’Connell does a pretty good job of channeling Cruise, complete with slicked-back hair and a black turtleneck. The hand movements are right on, and the maniacal laughter is probably the best part. Be sure to check out the out-takes as well. parody video Tom Cruise WANTS you to see! on

Last time I checked, the video -had been viewed about 1.7 million times. Not bad, considering it’s only been up there for a week.

McGuinness: ISPs should fix my business

The chorus of voices clamoring for someone else to fix the music business continues to grow. The latest installment was a speech at the Midem music industry conference by U2’s longtime manager Paul McGuinness, in which he called on ISPs — and pretty much every major company in Silicon Valley, including Apple, Google and Facebook — to drop whatever they’re doing and come to the rescue of the recorded music business. As Mike Masnick notes over at Techdirt, his arguments are so wrong-headed that it’s difficult to know where to start in critiquing them.

Mike mentions the first thing that popped into my head when I read McGuinness’s speech: this is exactly the same argument that the newspaper industry has made on several occasions, about how Google and Yahoo and other companies are “stealing” their content or making money “off their backs,” or some such nonsense. The various newspaper industry groups haven’t mentioned ISPs specifically, but probably because they didn’t think of it. I’m sure they’re kicking themselves now.

By McGuinness’s logic (read the full text of his speech), ISPs should be blocking every pirated copy of a song — i.e., every one that doesn’t bear some kind of watermark (the U2 manager also happens to be an investor in a company that does just that). If you try to download or upload a pirated file three times, he says, your Internet account should be suspended. But why stop at music? I could see the movie business getting on board — not to mention every other content business.

And what about other types of illegal content, such as pornography or bomb-making materials, or even just a short story about someone who wants to kill the President? Maybe ISPs should block those as well, and cut off the Internet accounts of anyone who shares such material. Maybe we should extend it to any type of hate speech, including blog posts about Muslims, or Catholics, or women, or homosexuals. McGuinness would probably say that sounds like a great idea.

After all, who wants freedom of information or freedom of speech? That’s right — hippies. McGuinness drops the blame for virtually all of the music industry’s problems at the feet of the hippies who started this whole Internet thing in the first place. I’m sure as far as he’s concerned we’d all be a lot better off if it had never been invented. Then people could listen to the radio and buy overpriced CDs, the way that God intended.

Further reading:

— Farhad Manjoo at Salon.
Nate Anderson at Ars Technica.

WordPress pays homage to Twitter

A Twitter post (fittingly enough) caught my eye and sent me to a WordPress post in which newly-enriched founder Matt Mullenweg announced a Twitter-style group blog theme for WordPress called Prologue. Although I’m sure some will see this as Automattic going after Twitter, I see it more as a tribute to the power of the viral messaging app. In effect, the theme is an attempt to replicate the kind of group activity stream and messaging function that Twitter does so well in the form of a blog.

I could see this being hugely useful for a group working on a project, as Matt describes in his post, as a way of keeping track of what everyone is doing — complete with tags that users can follow and RSS feeds built in. It doesn’t benefit from the same kind of network effects as Twitter does, of course, because it’s restricted to a group of people who all use the same blog. But what if there was a way to tie those types of posts together with others from other Twitter-style blogs?

As Mark Hopkins notes in a post over at Mashable, this kind of thing is particularly interesting in light of what Dave Winer and some others have been saying about replicating Twitter in a more distributed fashion, to prevent the kind of outage it saw during Macworld. Now that I think about it, maybe Matt is thinking about going after Twitter 🙂

Influence isn’t all-or-nothing

There’s lots of commentary today about my friend Clive Thompson’s piece in Fast Company magazine on researcher Duncan Watts, who argues that much of author Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point just isn’t true — that is, the idea that there are “influencers” who can make products or services succeed or fail simply by adopting or recommending them. But I think that many of those who are writing about this are missing the point.

Guy Kawasaki, for example, says that Watts’ argument means the “A-list” is dead, and that companies don’t have to pitch certain bloggers or journalists or experts any more, or go to trade shows or whatever. But Watts isn’t saying that media — blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc. — don’t matter any more. He’s saying that there aren’t specific individuals who can recommend products and have a disproportionate impact on the prospective market. There’s a big difference.

It doesn’t mean that bloggers and media aren’t important. In fact, they might just be more important, because if Watts is right then companies have to get the word out about their products to as many people as possible, simply because there’s no way of telling who the person is that might become the accidental Patient Zero of a viral marketing bonanza. If you believe Gladwell, then you only have to target certain people in certain markets, but Watts is saying it could be anyone.

I actually don’t think there’s as much of a clash between what Gladwell is arguing and what Watts says is the case. Anyone might be able to play the role of an influencer if the market happens to be ready for whatever the product or service or new development is (which is the whole meaning of the term “tipping point”) but there are likely to be certain people who are more connected to those kinds of things than others, which increases the likelihood that they will be the ones to start the trend.