Monday, December 11, 2006

LINKS:New York Times Surrenders To Social News


New York Times Surrenders To Social News: "

newyorktimes210.jpgThe New York Times has decided to let users post stories directly from their site to Digg, Facebook, and Newsvine. As of Monday, the paper will embed links to all three sites to most of their online stories.

The new link will not be embedded into stories used on the paper’s premium content site, TimesSelect, staff blogs or wire stories.

nyt275p.jpgThis seems like a begrudging move for The Times, a paper with an elitist reputation and a crossword puzzle that you need a PhD to solve. A social networking site like Facebook doesn’t seem the type of company that The Times would consort with but getting into social news sharing is just good business these days.

Christine Topalian, manager of strategic planning and business development at, told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the paper had been ‘looking for ways to tap a tech-savvy audience that is accustomed to commenting on and sharing news stories.’ Apparently, they started by contacting Digg and Newsvine directly, while Facebook was included because they had contacted The Times earlier this year with a news-feed service pitch.

Although you could always manually add The Times stories to news sharing sites such as Digg and Newsvine before, the capability to do it directly from the story means that The Times is paying attention to where its stories are shared, who reads them, and, more importantly, what they are saying about them. Currently, The Times offers limited ability to comment on its stories. The world of readers’ comments can be brutal (believe me, I know this first hand), and by dealing directly with the sites that facilitate this, The Times exposes itself to far more reader interaction than they have ever had before.

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

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(Via TechCrunch.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

LINKS:Uh Oh, Gmail Just Got Perfect

Comments: So true.

Uh Oh, Gmail Just Got Perfect: "

Google quietly added a small feature to Gmail this week called Mail Fetcher. When that feature launched, Gmail became perfect.

Mail Fetcher allows users to access non-Gmail email accounts from within the Gmail interface. If you have a Yahoo email account, and a work email account, etc., you can simply access that email from within Gmail, using POP settings. Gmail will now work in a very similar way as Outlook does on the PC desktop.

This is something I have criticized Gmail for in the past. I went on and on about this issue here when discussing the new Mac web mail product. It was the one feature that Gmail lacked that, in my opinion, kept it from being the perfect webmail application.

Every other webmail service is now inferior to Gmail. Gmail offers more storage than any other free service. They offer free POP access to Gmail from other email applications like Outlook (Yahoo and Microsoft charge for that). They offer access to other email accounts within Gmail (only Yahoo offers that). Gmail’s mobile client is killer (although not yet available for most phones). And only Gmail allows tagging of emails for categorization under multiple topics (I just wish it was a quicker feature).

I am seriously considering switching from using my desktop email client to Gmail. Since I work from multiple computers, using web mail eliminates the syncing problem. If Google implements an offline version of Gmail, in a similar way as Scrybe or via Adobe’s Apollo platform, it will become even more compelling.

Kudos to Google for finally implementing this. It’s just awesome.

Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.

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(Via TechCrunch.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Spacious 1 BR, Close to Stanford and downtown Palo Alto! (palo alto) $775 1bd

Spacious 1 BR, Close to Stanford and downtown Palo Alto! (palo alto) $775 1bd: "Hello,

I'm advertising a single, 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment that's right off of Alma St., a mile and a half from both the Stanford Campus and downtown Palo Alto. It's a perfect location for student/commuters (only a few blocks away from the California St. Cal Train Station). It's a cottage style, single-story apartment, with covered parking, kitchen and laundry facilities on site. Shoot me an e-mail if you're interested so that we can arrange a time for you to see the place.

You can move in as early as December 20th, 2006. Thanks!


(Via craigslist s.f. bayarea | apts/housing for rent search for "palo alto".)

Studio in Palo Alto (palo alto) $895

Studio in Palo Alto (palo alto) $895: "



. Palo Alto, CA 94036.........


(Via craigslist s.f. bayarea | apts/housing for rent search for "palo alto".)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

LINKS: UK Term Extension -- latest

UK Term Extension -- latest: "

The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property will be released today. I’ll post when it is up.

Meanwhile, you can read two reports the Review commissioned. One is a fantastic report about the economics of term extension. You can download it here.

The second is a report about Orphan Works (I’ve not read this yet). You can get it here.

My piece in the Financial Times today about the report is here. The punch line:

There are some who believe that copyright terms should be perpetual. Britain did the world a great service when it resolved that debate almost 300 years ago, by establishing one of the earliest copyright regimes to limit copyright to a fixed term. It could now teach the world a second important lesson: any gift of term extension should only go to those who ask.


(Via Lessig Blog.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

LINKS:Ancient Greeks Even Smarter Than Previously Thought

Ancient Greeks Even Smarter Than Previously Thought: "

John Noble Wilford writes in the N.Y. Times about a strange contraption found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece. It was discovered 100 years ago, and was known as ‘the world’s first computer,’ but recent high-tech analyses have shown that the contraption was even more sophisticated than researchers first realized. The instrument, with gears and dials made of bronze, was apparently designed to calculate and plot out astronomical information, ‘particularly phases of the Moon and planetary motions.’ It is thought to have been designed by the Greek astronomer Hipparchos. ‘Technology historians,’ Wilford writes, ‘say the instrument is technically more complex than any known for at least a millennium afterward.’

Which leads to an obvious question: so why didn’t the technology move forward for an entire millennium? (If anyone out there has a good answer, please let us know.)

I found myself thinking a very similar question the other day, when I was in Chicago and visited the Field Museum. I went for the King Tut exhibit, which was okay, but found myself more interested in the exhibit on Gregor Mendel. You remember Mendel, from biology class—the friar/scientist whose study of pea plants in the 1850’s helped bring about our modern understanding of genetics.

Here’s what surprised me the most. In a timeline chronicling the human understanding of genetics, the first note was about the Greek philosopher Hippocrates, who proposed ‘that tiny particles from every part of the body of each parent became blended, producing an individual with the characteristics of both.’ That sounds pretty modern, doesn’t it? But then, the timeline noted, ‘Aristotle dismisses Hippocrates’ theory, noting that children do not always resemble parents, and that people who have lost limbs through accidents produce ‘whole’ children.’

As with Hipparchos’s ancient ‘computer,’ Hippocrates’s genetic theory was apparently just too far ahead of its time. Even by the time Mendel got to work on his peas, the world wasn’t quite ready. His research sat dormant for years, and wasn’t embraced until well after his death.


(Via Freakonomics Blog.)

LINKS: JotSpot Case Casts Doubt on Future of Web Office Startups

JotSpot Case Casts Doubt on Future of Web Office Startups: "

Recent Google acquisition JotSpot found itself the
subject of unwanted attention this week, when an early customer complained of being shut
out when the Google acquisition happened. href="">A blog
post by someone named Kevin (no last name supplied) had all the gory details, but
Kevin then subsequently deleted it (note: I'd already read it before it disappeared).
Techcrunch then href="">
posted the cached text of the post. My concern when I first read it wasn't so much
for the damage to JotSpot's reputation (which the company is more than capable of
defending), but the implication that hosted applications in general carry more risk
than people normally assume
. Here's the key extract from Kevin's post:

'Pick your hosted application service provider well. Relying on web hosted application
services is much more dangerous than I ever would have assumed. This is especially true
for those services that are ‘closed source’ like those of JotSpot.'

What's more, href="">
in the Techcrunch comments another person who claims to have been a JotSpot customer
has his/her say:

'I can’t reveal much about my experience with Jotspot either, but our company
has been heavily screwed because of the merger.

After the merger, Jotspot went on some kind of blackout as far as communications, and
a portal we developed on jotspot’s servers is half-assedly done, but the developer
can’t do anymore work because Jotspot has been quiet on whether they will pay him
or whether google will. Unfortunately, we already have 50 customers (NOT USERS,
CUSTOMERS) not understanding why basic functionality is not fully developed.

We’re probably going to dish out tons of cash to redevelop the portal on another
engine entirely.

Thanks, Jotspot. Thanks a ton.'

To his credit, JotSpot CEO Joe Kraus then href="">
leaps into the comments to defend his company. He says that Google has a policy of
'not announcing anything about future product direction' and so 'our ability to give any
sense of timeline and capability is extraordinarily limited'. Joe promises they're not
going to abandon their partners and customers. Now, I have a lot of admiration for Joe
Kraus and I think he's one of the smartest people in the valley. Nevertheless, the sense
here is that JotSpot's customers have indeed lost out in this deal - and there's not a
whole lot JotSpot can do about it because of Google's restrictive policies. So where does
that leave the customers?

Peoples faith in web hosted applications has been shaken by this - and in particular
in the Web Office realm, where hosted applications have a lot of business value invested
in them by their customers. How can customers guarantee that a Web Office company
acquisition (or worse, a bubble burst) won't negatively impact their own business?

This problem isn't new - back in the dot com days these types of hosted providers were
known as ASPs (Application Service Providers). But ASPs very rarely replaced entire
office suites (in particular Microsoft Office). In the case of Web Office, over the past
year or so some of us have been talking up the potential of a whole business being run on
a hosted platform - which is of course a threat to Microsoft Office. However the risk
increases the smaller the hosted provider is. Just as Amazon has a decided advantage
providing hosted infrastructure (S3 etc), the likes of Microsoft and Google (with their
own apps) have a big advantage over the smaller Web Office providers.

This has to be a concern going forward for Web Office startups. How on earth can they
convince customers that they're as rock solid a (business) investment as purchasing a
license for Microsoft Office, or downloading OpenOffice? Will they need to open source
their technology, as Kevin's post alludes to? Or will it just require tightening up the
service level agreements for customers?

And from the Web Office startup's point of view, how difficult does this make it for
them to compete with Microsoft or Sun Microsystems? Imagine a Microsoft ad campaign that
has as its main message: 'why take the risk of running your business on a small startup's
servers?' It's not that far fetched an idea for an ad campaign.

I'm interested in your thoughts, because obviously I think Web Office startups have a
lot to offer in terms of innovation and Web native functionality. But the business risks
are something they need to overcome, to gain the trust ant uptake of customers.


(Via Read/WriteWeb.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

LINKS: BitTorent Raises $25 million, Bram Cohen is History

BitTorent Raises $25 million, Bram Cohen is History: "

Om Malik posted a rumor today regarding a new BitTorent financing and possible ouster of CEO Bram Cohen. We did some independent digging and have come up with what I believe is accurate based on multiple sources and a leaked document: BitTorent has raised a $25 million Series B round of financing from Accel Partners and previous investor Doll Capital Management, bringing the total capital raised to just under $34 million.

And CEO Bram Cohen, who created the BitTorrent protocol, is definitely on his way out. The company has retained the well known headhunting firm Heidrick & Struggles to find a replacement as soon as possible. No word on what, if any, role Cohen will have going forward.

More Upcoming BitTorent News:

The company is yet to launch a new service to sell licensed video content on its own retail site, and has signed licensing agreements with, among others, Warner Bros. and Paramount to sell movies and TV shows at prices starting at $1 each. The company will also announce deals to put the BitTorrent software on DVRs, cable boxes, and wireless routers, enabling BitTorrent users to download legal movies or TV shows to PCs and TVs.

BitTorrent is making a real effort to stay legitimate and in favor with the RIAA and MPAA, which of course doesn’t sit well with the majority of the world’s 70 million BitTorrent users. Napster failed miserably when they tried to work with the RIAA. We’ll see how well BitTorrent does this time.

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

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(Via TechCrunch.)

LINKS:Adieu to Google Answers

Adieu to Google Answers: "

Google is a company fueled by innovation, which to us means trying lots of new things all the time -- and sometimes it means reconsidering our goals for a product. Later this week, we will stop accepting new questions in Google Answers, the very first project we worked on here. The project started with a rough idea from Larry Page, and a small 4-person team turned it into reality in less than 4 months. For two new grads, it was a crash course in building a scalable product, responding to customer requests, and discovering what questions are on people's minds.

Google Answers taught us exactly how many tyrannosaurs are in a gallon of gasoline, why flies survive a good microwaving, and why you really shouldn't drink water emitted by your air conditioner. Even closer to home, we learned one afternoon that our building might be on fire.

The people who participated in Google Answers -- more than 800 of them over the years -- are a passionate group committed to helping people find the information they need, and we applaud them for sharing their incredible knowledge with everyone who wrote in.

If you have a chance, we encourage you to browse through the questions posted over the last 4+ years. Although we won't be accepting any new questions, the existing Qs and As are available. We'll stop accepting new Answers to questions by the end of the year.

Google Answers was a great experiment which provided us with a lot of material for developing future products to serve our users. We'll continue to look for new ways to improve the search experience and to connect people to the information they want.


(Via Official Google Blog.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

LINKS:Cognitive Seduction and the "peekaboo" law

COMMENTS: Very interesting.

Cognitive Seduction and the "peekaboo" law: "


Brains are turned on by puzzles. Brains are turned on by figuring things out. Brains are turned on by even the smallest 'aha' moments. And despite what some of you (*cough* men *cough*) might believe, the brain is more turned on by seeing just the arms of a naked woman behind a shower curtain than it is by seeing all of her. So if you're trying to engage someone's brain, don't show everything. Let their brain connect the dots.

At least, that's what the neuroscientists say in the latest issue of Scientific American Mind. In their article The Neurology of Aesthetics, our favorite brain guy V.S. Ramachandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran describe a series of 'laws' of aesthetics (they put 'laws' in quotes) and how they're supported by what we know of the brain. My favorite--and one that we've been talking about (minus the festive name) for a long time here--is known as Peekaboo.

From the article:

'An unclothed person who has only arms or part of a shoulder jutting out from behind a shower curtain or who is behind a diaphanous veil is much more alluring than a completely uncovered nude. Just as the thinking parts of our brain enjoy intellectual problem solving, the visual system seems to enjoy discovering a hidden object.

Evolution has seen to it that the very act of searching for the hidden object is enjoyable, not just the final 'aha' of recognition--lest you give up the chase.

Otherwise, we would not pursue a potential prey or mate glimpsed partially behind bushes or dense fog.'

If something dangerous is hiding in the bushes, it's damn useful for the brain to reconstruct a complete tiger from just a few bits of orange and black peeking out between the leaves. Apparently it's all the little mini-aha moments that send messages to the brain that prompt still more searches and more mini-ahas until the final BIG aha where your brain nails it.

It goes on:

'The clever fashion designer or artists tries to evoke as many mini 'ahas,' ambiguities, peak shifts and pardoxes as possible in the image.'

We're always trying to leave something to the reader/learner/observer's imagination. Something for them to fill in. (This relates to our earlier space between the notes post).

In my workshops and talks, I show a series of photos where things are not fully resolved... a face hidden behind a hand, a (potentially naked) woman staring intently at an object you can't quite see, the lower half of a young man suspended in air next to a tree, where you can't see the ground OR anything above his waist (is he hanging from the tree? on a trampoline? in the midst of an alien abduction?) To the brain, these 'Hmmm... what's the story here?' images are virtually irresistible. The brain needs to figure it out, and enjoys the experience.

This applies to non-visual things as well, of course. In learning, the more you fill things in and hold the learner's hand, the less their brain will engage. If they don't need to fire a single neuron to walk through the tutorial, lesson, lecture, etc., they're getting a shallow, surface-level, non-memorable exposure of 'covered' material, but... what's the point? Obviously this doesn't mean you just never tell them anything period. This is about graduated hints, mental teasing, cognitive treasure hunts, sparking curiosity, etc. Things that engage the brain. (This is part of the brain-friendly strategy we use in our books.)

Whether you're trying to get someone's attention, keep their attention, motivate them to stick with something, or help them to learn more deeply and retain what they've learned, leave something for their brain to resolve. Do something to turn their brain on.

[Disclaimer: this does NOT apply to something like reference docs, where you don't want their brain to become engaged. With reference material, I want to get them in and out as quickly as possible--with the accurate info they need--and where retention and recall is not a goal.]


(Via Robert's shared items in Google Reader.)

LINKS: Supreme Court Justices Discuss The Obvious Questions On Patent Obviousness

COMMENTS: This is a good step. I am excited to read their final opinion.

Supreme Court Justices Discuss The Obvious Questions On Patent Obviousness: "It's taken a while, but today was the day that the Supreme Court finally heard the KSR v. Teleflex case on patent obviousness that many have been hoping would reach the court for years. It's not always easy to tell how the justices really feel from what they say, but has a pretty good summary of some of the quotes from the justices that suggests at least a few of them realize what's at stake. Multiple justices seemed to indicate that the current situation takes common sense out of the equation -- and that's a real problem. Chief justice Roberts noted that with the current situation: 'It's worse than meaningless because it complicates the question rather than focusing on the statute.' Justice Scalia noted that the current 'test' is 'gobbledygook' and 'meaningless.' Justice Breyer noted that it's impossible to set a hard definition for obviousness, and that the current situation doesn't allow for the flexibility that's needed to determine obviousness. This is a key point. Supporters of the current system claim that since obviousness is impossible to determine exactly, that there's simply no way to test for it. That's both false and misleading -- since large parts of our legal system involve 'tests' that cannot be proven exactly.

The arguments against adjusting the standard for obviousness seemed to be focused on two things: that obviousness is impossible to determine in hindsight and what a huge mess would be caused if the standard were suddenly changed. The first one is certainly an issue, but, again it's something that more flexibility should make bearable. Someone looking to show obviousness would need to show not prior art, but enough evidence suggesting that others skilled in the field were moving towards the same thing prior to the invention at hand. As for the second point, it may very well cause a mess as it opens up new ways to challenge many patents granted over the last couple of decades. However, that's hardly a reason not to fix the rule. If those patents were granted incorrectly, as many appear to have been, then it only serves the original, Constitutional, purpose of the patent system to correct the error, no matter what mess it creates initially."

(Via Techdirt.)

LINKS:TiVo ads at the end of programs

EXTRA NOTE: This is the product TiVo wanted me to work on. In my dealings with the company I am unsure how successful both the product and the overall company will be. Maybe my case is unique but from what I could tell the company lacked organization and was basically attacking fires as they came up.

TiVo ads at the end of programs: "

Today TiVo announced 'Program Placement' or ads inserted at the end of a recorded program when you are deleting the program.

Overall, it sounds less annoying than other ideas floated about ad inserts, since it's in a little-used section of a single TiVo menu. I haven't seen it yet, but hopefully the ad instance doesn't interfere with the ability to delete a show, because if 'Show Me More Info About $Advertiser was the default highlighted option, I could see it being a big problem. If it's the bottom option to read more about something or just a banner graphic above the choices to delete, it'll probably be easy to ignore.

Anyone got any screenshots of this in action?


(Via PVRblog.)

Links:Bubble Burst 2.0

Bubble Burst 2.0: "

In the late 90s, the period of irrational exuberance, we knew the end would come, and we knew what the end would look like -- a stock market crash of the dotcom sector.

If Web 2.0 is a bubble, and if like all bubbles it bursts, how will we know when it happens?

I almost wrote a piece yesterday saying that since the Web 2.0 companies aren't going public, they're safe from busting in a visible, dramatic way. I almost said it will be hard to tell when the bust comes, it'll be softer and slower, you won't hear a crash or even a pop. But I was wrong, and today we got the first rumblings of the shock that will signal the end of the bubble.

Google stock will crash. That's how we'll know.

When I realized this, I should have known, because I've been saying for almost a year that Web 2.0 is nothing more than an aftermarket for Google. Startups slicing little bits of Google's P/E ratio, acting as sales reps for Google ads, and getting great multiples for the revenue they generate by fostering the creation of new UGC to place ads on. When Google crashes, that's the end of that, no more wave to ride, no more aftermarket, Bubble Burst 2.0.

All the talk that Web 2.0 is anything other than a way to ride on Google's market


(Via Robert's shared items in Google Reader.)