mesh: meetup and meshU student tix

One quick reminder and one update on meshU:

The quick reminder is that we’re having a mesh meetup at the Irish Embassy tonight (April 21) starting at about 7:30, so swing on by if you’re in town and get some pre-mesh socializing in — the snacks are on us.

The update about meshU is that we’re releasing a batch of 25 discount-priced ($30) student tickets for the day-long workshop event (more info at the meshU site), so if you’re studying Web design or development or programming or anything along those lines — or know someone who is — be sure to book a ticket soon, because they will probably go quickly.

To be honest, offering student tickets was something we meant to do from the beginning, but it kind of slipped through the cracks during all the planning of mesh and meshU — thanks to a number of our friends and fans for calling us on it. We think it’s a great way of giving back to the community, and helping the young Web developers and designers of tomorrow. mesh on!

Twitter failure: Call the irony squad

Update 2:

Via a Twitter post from Engtech (which I found on FriendFeed), I came across a suggestion from this guy about how to re-enable your Twitter cache. I tried it and it seems to have worked. And now — finally — there is a Twitter blog post about the difficulties (hat tip to Frederic from The Last Podcast).


There’s a yellow box at the top of the home page for Twitter users that says:

“Due to some cache changes we made Friday, you may not be seeing all updates in your timeline (don’t worry, they’re still there!). Thank you for your patience while we fix this issue.”

As Nav notes, this is the equivalent of flowers after a fight. I think we could use a bit more than that.

Original post:

MG Siegler of ParisLemon and VentureBeat (and my rival for number nine slot on the Techmeme 100) is keeping the pressure on Twitter about the system’s recent problems — intermittent dropping of people’s messages, etc. — and so he should. For a service that is supposed to be all about real-time communication, the Twitter gang have been doing very little of that about their own issues. People continue to complain on the Twitter customer-response forum, and have gotten little response.

Continue reading “Twitter failure: Call the irony squad”

Trolling for links: The top tech bloggers

As we all know, the number one rule of the blogosphere is that you must write about the blogosphere (it’s like the opposite of the Fight Club), and in the absence of a “bitchmeme” for this weekend — although Twitter’s intermittent issues come close — we have some link-trolling extraordinaire from Henry over at Techcrunch, who has parsed Techmeme’s links for the past four months or so and come up with a list of the top tech bloggers (according to Techmeme, that is).

I was pretty chuffed to find my name in the number 9 slot, up there in the top 10 with stalwarts such as Larry Dignan, and of course Mike Arrington and Erick Schonfeld from TechCrunch. Although it seems that my place at number 8 could be in jeopardy — that relentless new guy, ParisLemon (aka MG Siegler), is apparently going to get moved into my position once Henry combines MG’s posts at ParisLemon with his posts at VentureBeat. (Update: Henry says he’s not combining multiple authors, so I am safe in the top 10 apparently). As they say at the Oscars, it’s an honour just to be nominated along with such talented, etc.

One of the amazing things about this list (apart from my presence on it, of course) is the size of the disparity between Mike Arrington and the rest of the list. In less than four months, he has written 207 Techmeme-headline blog posts (that presumably doesn’t count his posts over at Crunchnotes). That’s an average of almost two posts every single day. I’ve averaged a measly one post every two days — and if I could have cranked out one more I would have beaten that bugger Thomas Ricker at Engadget. Is that why I’m writing this? Of course not. Just saying 🙂

Ze Frank project: Young me, now me

Ze Frank, the creator of the legendary Web-video feature known simply as “the show,” has a new project I just found out about called “Young Me, Now Me” — the idea being that you take a photo of yourself in the same pose as a picture of yourself from when you were young, and submit it to Ze. Some of the shots are pretty funny. As with many of Ze’s projects, including the recent Twitter “color wars,” there’s no obvious goal for the contest, which ends today. Will people get to vote on the best? It’s not clear. That’s half of the fun of Ze’s ideas — the fact that there’s no obvious purpose other than to do something interesting. The photos remind me of this video by Vimeo founder and former CEO Jakob Lodwick.

Social apps and the attention factor

I was thinking about Twitter and the periodic outages of the past day or so, and came across MG Siegler’s post at ParisLemon (on FriendFeed, not Twitter) and started nodding my head as I was reading it. I couldn’t figure out yesterday whether Twitter was broken, or whether people were just not Twittering as much. I was at a baseball game at the Skydome in Toronto, so I wasn’t checking or posting a lot — and as MG notes, the weather was pretty nice in a lot of places (including Toronto) and it was a weekend, so I thought maybe other people had better things to do as well.

There’s nothing wrong with that, obviously. Getting away — or “off the grid,” as my hyper-connected friends like to say — is a good thing. And spending time outside with friends and family is also good. But I still felt a strange kind of disconnected feeling yesterday, when I checked Twitter and didn’t see anything but the occasional message. Where was everyone? What were they doing? I don’t want anyone to think I have a Twitter addiction — I was perfectly fine with it. But it still felt, well… weird.

I guess that’s the thing with social apps like Twitter. They connect you to a large group of people, and allow you to stay in touch with them in some minimal way (ironically, I had a long conversation with someone yesterday about the benefits of these kinds of “weak ties”). But when it isn’t working properly, you feel — out of touch. And in this case, it wasn’t by choice but a result of some external event. As ParisLemon notes, it was also hard to tell whether it was Twitter’s fault, because intermittent messages were coming through. Damn you, Twitter. More info here.

The Internet? What channel is that on?

It’s hard to imagine an example that sums up the conflicting ambitions and tensions within the TV business better than the latest announcement about Gossip Girl, the show that appears on the CW network (co-owned by CBS and Warner Brothers). The news from the network is that fans will no longer be able to watch episodes online, as they have been since it started airing last fall. Instead, CW would like viewers of the show — which is all about a girl and her blog, and was effectively created in part to piggyback on the online habits of its target audience — to watch it only on television.

That’s ironic enough, of course — a show that’s all about how young people are turning to the Web and social media, but you can’t watch it online. The reasoning behind the decision is even more illuminating, however: in effect, the network is saying that the show has become too popular with fans online, and they would like to shift some of those eyeballs to the tube instead. Why? Because that’s where the advertisers are. Advertising on TV still brings in far more revenue per viewer than online, and CW needs to build up the former at the expense of the latter.

In reality, of course, the network may end up irritating the core group of viewers — many of whom enjoy the freedom of watching a stream online whenever they want — and the show could go down the drain regardless.

Bitchmeme: Do blogs deserve ads?

Louis Gray — the social media blogger who seems to be everywhere lately — has gotten the weekend blogosphere “bitchmeme” started early, it seems, with his post on how the majority of bloggers “don’t deserve any ad revenue.” According to Louis, most bloggers simply echo the posts that appear on TechCrunch and Mashable and other top tech blogs, and therefore they aren’t really adding any value, and as a result they don’t really deserve to have any advertising. He also says:

“Urged on by the success of mega blog networks like TechCrunch and spurred forward by stories from ProBlogger, or corner cases like, Daily Kos and others, an inordinate amount of people are hoisting ads on their blogs… in the hope of turning their daily rantings into big dollars that could possibly change their life.”

It seems to me that Louis is saying several different things here. On the one hand, he is saying that most blogs don’t get enough traffic to justify any substantial amount of advertising, and therefore they are never going to get rich, or make enough money to “change their life.” That seems fairly obvious. And while it’s probably worthwhile to let people know that the “get rich by blogging!” pitch is false, most of the people who think that will soon be in Vegas or signed up for some multi-level marketing scheme anyway, so the problem is somewhat self-regulating.

Louis also seems to be saying that for a blogger who wants to make money, copying the same content that dozens of blogs have isn’t really adding much value, unless you have an incredibly devoted and unique following. This is also wise advice (although arguably also fairly obvious). But does it follow that most bloggers “don’t deserve any ad revenue?” I don’t think so. There are lots of bloggers out there with original voices, who appeal to specific markets, and I think they deserve all the ads they can get.

Why shouldn’t they be able to defray the costs of their hosting, or their bandwidth, or their computers? That’s what micro-publishing is for. Louis says that “some bloggers act as if it’s their God-given right to write, post a few ads and start raking in cash.” I haven’t come across any of those, but he is quite right that they are mistaken. I just don’t think they’re as common as he thinks they are. And if the others can make a few dollars and advertisers are willing, then who are we to say they shouldn’t?

What is “the news”? Good question

There have been a number of threads floating around the blogosphere recently that have to do with traditional media vs. “new media,” and the differences between the two — something that this article in the New York Observer got me thinking about again. There was the TechCrunch post about ads in Twitter, which was somewhat lacking in facts; there was the idea that journalism online has become much more of a process or continuum rather than an end in itself; and then there was the whole concept of “if the news is that important, it will find me,” which I wrote about.

I wanted to try and pull a few of those together because, well… that’s how I roll. Plus, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a fair bit, and writing about it helps me think. So bear with me (or not). If you look at some of the comments on my post about the Twitter ads story, as well as on other posts about it, you can see people talking about how it “wasn’t a story,” and suggesting — as Nate Westheimer did — that traditional media, with editors and so on, would never run something like that. I’d like Nate to read the New York Observer piece and see if he still feels the same way.

Would a newspaper or TV station or magazine have run with a Twitter story like TechCrunch did? Maybe not. But the fact is that plenty of poorly-sourced or single-sourced or anonymous-sourced stories show up in newspapers all the time — and not just the Enquirer or People magazine, but in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. And it’s not only stories about nuclear weapons in Iraq either — it’s stories that are about celebrities, or wealthy Wall Street types, or politicians. Sometimes, a story is just too good to pass up, even if it’s shaky.

That’s why it’s actually a good thing that news is becoming more of a process (which it always has been). Instead of trying to pump rumours and innuendo into full-fledged stories that deserve a premier spot in the paper, journalists can toss things into the ether when they think there is more to a story, and then update the story as it develops, something Mike Arrington said at mesh 2007 that he sometimes does. This is frequently messy, which is why I like to adapt the old saying about “if you love the law or sausages, don’t watch either one being made” to apply to the media. It’s not pretty, but it is occasionally true.

And that brings me back to the idea of “news.” What do we mean when we use that word, or when we say something like “if the news is that important, it will find me?” Some people responded to my post on that concept by saying they weren’t confident that “real” news would find them, by which I think they meant news of the U.S. election, or war in Sudan. But that’s only one small part of the definition of “news” — something that every person is probably going to define differently, and may even define differently depending on what day it is.

Is the Web to blame for creating “news” out of nowhere, as the New York Observer article suggests? I don’t think so. Newspapers have been doing that for about a hundred years. The Web is probably accelerating and amplifying that phenomenon — but at the same time, a proliferation of sources is also helping to nip such stories in the bud a lot sooner.

Corporate vids: Chock full of fail?


According to Microsoft, the first video is an inside joke — poking fun at such cringe-worthy corporate videos. Suuuuuuure it is. Whatever makes you guys feel better. I suppose all of these incredible lame videos were in jokes too, right?

Original post:

The following video will likely make you cringe, even if you aren’t a Springsteen fan — and even if you aren’t a Windows fan (thanks to David Crow and MG Siegler for this one):


But is it as bad as the following one, or better? At least this guy can sing:


The Pirate Bay becomes Freedom Bay

It’s probably frowned on in certain quarters to support an outfit like The Pirate Bay, the law-flouting group of Swedish hackers that has become one of the world’s leading sources of links BitTorrent files. But I can’t help but admire their willingness to thumb their noses at the forces of authority — especially their latest move, which is to provide a kind of WordPress blog-hosting service for people who want to say whatever they wish, without fear of legal reprisals or takedown notices.

In addition to providing a Torrent tracker that links to terabytes worth of copyright-infringing material — something for which they are currently fighting a legal battle with the record industry and the movie industry — The Pirate Bay is now offering an image-hosting service with virtually no restrictions, the new blog-hosting service, and is also reportedly working on a video-hosting service as well, according to TorrentFreak. On top of that, Pirate Bay ringleader BrokeP is also working on a music-sharing service that will allow fans to compensate artists directly.

In other words, The Pirate Bay seems to be turning into a one-stop shopping centre for either piracy and lawlessness or freedom of speech and the distribution of content, depending on how you look at it. But I still wish that the pirates would go ahead and buy Sealand — I’d love to have some Pirate Bay currency or a Pirate Bay passport.