Election Twitter: Nice try, but…

People have been talking for some time now about things that Twitter could be doing to add value to the service (apart from just managing to keep the servers up for more than a day or two at a time, which they appear to have accomplished), including mini-hubs about topics that are of intense interest among the Twitterati. The newly-launched U.S. election site is just such a beast, and while it’s a nice effort, there is so much that Twitter could — and should — be doing with it that it’s almost more of an advertisement for what they aren’t doing than for what they are.

The page’s main feature is a scrolling view of Twitter posts that include the names of the candidates, updated more or less in real time. At first, it’s very cool — much like Digg Spy, which shows you things that are being dugg. But it eventually becomes almost hypnotic, to the point where you lose track of what the actual messages are saying. You can pause the scrolling by moving your mouse over the feed, which wasn’t clear until someone pointed it out (on Twitter, of course) and you can click one of the keywords at the top of the page to see a subset of messages with that word, and you can filter the messages by candidate. But that’s about it.

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Friday video fun: Triumph and David Blaine

Came across this while reading my NewTeeVee feed: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, whose reports on Late Night with Conan O’Brien are always hilarious (his past gems include skewering Star Wars fans waiting in line for the release of Attack of the Clones, and doing the same to a bunch of fans at Bon Jovi concert), showed up at the site of illusionist performer David Blaine’s latest publicity stunt. Triumph interviews a few scattered fans — a crowd that includes Liz Gannes, writer/editor at GigaOm’s NewTeeVee blog — and can barely keep himself from cracking up as Blaine takes a 15-minute coffee break in the middle of the stunt. Stay tuned right to the end for the Spiderman-style finish.

watch the video

Muxtape: Knifed in an alley by the RIAA

Justin Ouellette, a former staffer at Vimeo, had a real hit on his hands with Muxtape, until the record labels got wind of it and shut it down. Now, Ouellette is taking another stab at it with a service aimed at independent artists. There were plenty of people (yes, we’re looking at you, Valleywag) who scoffed at Ouellette’s attempt to create an interesting music-sharing app, saying he should have known that it would step on the toes of the music industry. But then, name a music service that is actually enjoyable to use and doesn’t handcuff its customers six ways from Sunday that hasn’t stepped on the toes of the record industry (other than iTunes).

Oullette has a long post at the Muxtape site about what happened to him as he tried to arrange licensing deals with the four major music labels. From the sounds of it, pounding nails into his eyeballs would have been a lot more fun — and probably would have accomplished as much. Discussions with the labels started out with “We are hours from shutting you down” and wound up getting hopelessly bogged down in demands. Then came the shocker: despite the fact that Muxtape was trying to play by the rules, the RIAA filed a complaint with Amazon over files that Muxtape hosted there on its S3 server system, and Amazon shut off the services access to the files.

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Video: A Rick Sanchez greatest hits mashup

Rick Sanchez is the CNN anchor who has been using Twitter, Facebook and other social media, particularly during the recent market meltdown. The comedy site 23/6 — a joint venture between Barry Diller’s IAC and The Huffington Post — has put together a hilarious mashup of some of Rick’s exclamations, including “my Twitterboard is about to explode!” (hat tip for the link goes to my friend Rachel Sklar)

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This is big: Judge orders new RIAA trial

In a decision that could have far-reaching implications for future lawsuits by the record industry involving peer-to-peer networks, the judge who was hearing the Jammie Thomas case has thrown out the decision in that case, effectively declaring a mistrial, saying he now believes he was wrong to have instructed the jury that simply “making available” copyrighted files was enough to find Thomas guilty of copyright infringement. In the original case, the judge said that it was not necessary to show that anyone had actually download the files, but he now believes that this was wrong, and that actual distribution must be shown, not just that the files were available:

The Court’s examination of the use of the term “distribution” in other provisions of the Copyright Act, as well as the evolution of liability for offers to sell in the analogous Patent Act, lead to the conclusion that the plain meaning of the term “distribution” does not including making available and, instead, requires actual dissemination.

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Suzanne Vega, mother of the mp3

As a huge fan of Suzanne Vega and her classic 1980’s song, Tom’s Diner, I was surprised to find out that there was a lot that I didn’t know about the song — like the fact that the inventor of the mp3 standard (Karl-Heinz Brandenberg) used the song to help tune the compression standard, and even invited Suzanne to Germany to the Fraunhofer Institute for a press conference about it, or that the diner in the song is the same one you see in the closing credits of Seinfeld and is actually called Tom’s Restaurant.

All that and more is the subject of a blog post by the singer as part of an ongoing series on songwriting at the New York Times. Among other things, I also didn’t know that she had given her permission to the remix artists known as DNA, who came out with the mashup of a Soul II Soul beat and her vocals and had a top 10 hit with it, or that she put together an album of 11 remixed versions of the song herself. For all of that and more, told in inimitable Suzanne Vega fashion, read the whole blog post.

This could actually work: MySpace Music

I agreed to the same embargo that I assume everyone else did when it comes to information about MySpace Music, but since the news is already out there, I figure all bets are off now, and we’re free to post whatever we want about the venture launching tonight, or tomorrow morning, or whatever it is. I’ve seen all the same screenshots and read through all the same background material as TechCrunch and others have, and I have to say that it looks as though this might be one music venture backed by all the major record labels that… how shall I put this… doesn’t totally suck.

In fact, this launch would be worth it even if the only change was that music doesn’t auto-play when you load a MySpace page (the fact that most MySpace pages make my eyeballs bleed when I look at them is a different story). But that said, I think the way that this has been put together actually has a chance of succeeding, for a few reasons, including:

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Digg gets bags of cash, but for what?

So Digg has raised an additional $28.7-million from its various financial backers, according to a blog post by co-founder Jay Adelson, a press release from the company, and numerous reports from the blogosphere. That’s almost three times as much as Digg has raised so far, in two previous rounds of financing. Why so much? That’s not really clear. Jay says the company wants to focus on growing internationally — but is it really going to cost that much to translate Digg into Spanish or French or Kazakh or whatever? (Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch says that Digg wants to focus on growing internationally because its traffic in the U.S. is flattening out).

The other thing Kevin mentions, along with “new features,” is infrastructure. I have no doubt that Digg pushes a lot of bandwidth, and no doubt uses a few boatloads of server space as well — but almost $30-million? Does it cost that much just to develop some analytics for partners like the New York Times? Of course, Digg also says it’s going to hire another 75 people and move into a new office, which will definitely crank up the old “burn rate” a little bit, as Valleywag notes. Om says he has it on good authority that Kevin Rose pocketed some of that money by selling some shares, and I’d agree with Om that if he did then he should be congratulated for taking the opportunity to make that old BusinessWeek cover a little more true.

Things just got tough for Disqus

One of the announcements that came out of the TechStars event today was that Automattic, the parent company of WordPress, has acquired the hosted blog-comment service Intense Debate for an undisclosed amount. You can read WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg’s thoughts about it, as well as those of Automattic CEO Toni Schneider and Intense Debate co-founder Jon Fox, and you can also read some comments from Daniel Ha, the founder of Disqus, the hosted blog-comment service that is probably Intense Debate’s single biggest competitor in the comment-o-sphere.

In his blog post and in comments made to Mashable’s Adam Ostrow about the deal, Daniel is very diplomatic about the acquisition, saying it was a good move for Automattic and Intense Debate, and that “I think Disqus (and others in the space) will continue to work harder on offerings for users of WordPress and the many other platforms.” One of the main financial backers behind Disqus — Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures — took the same line in comments to me via Twitter. “Its great for the 3rd party comment system market,” he said. “It validates the category.”

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New York Times does blog syndication deals

As part of a relaunch of its technology news hub, the New York Times has announced syndication deals with several blogs, including VentureBeat, Read/Write Web and the GigaOm network. Deputy NYT tech editor Vindu Goel has a rundown on some of the changes at his blog, and Matt Marshall of VentureBeat has a post up about the news, as does my friend Om Malik (BeetTV has an interview with the Times’ deputy tech editor). Hansell says that the deals are part of a series of moves, including adding several new sections to the paper’s tech coverage, and two new reporters covering venture capital and business computing.

The syndication moves are an interesting approach for the Times to take, particularly since the website already effectively aggregates technology blog headlines through the Blogrunner widget in the centre of the page (the Times bought BlogRunner a couple of years ago, but only integrated it into the page earlier this year). The Washington Post has a similar syndication deal with TechCrunch, and GigaOm announced a similar deal yesterday that will see its content show up at CNNMoney and Fortune. Om Malik’s blog network also has a content syndication deal with BusinessWeek that it announced in July.

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