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.)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Links: A Random Walk

A Random Walk: "I just re-read A Random Walk Down Wallstreet and it was time well spent.

If you can't stand the idea of reading 400 pages on investing, the big message is buy index funds over individual securities. Of course there's plenty more in there that will justify that claim, but its a good starting point.

Highly recommended."

(Via Technical Revenue.)

Link: A Random Walk

A Random Walk: "I just re-read A Random Walk Down Wallstreet and it was time well spent.

If you can't stand the idea of reading 400 pages on investing, the big message is buy index funds over individual securities. Of course there's plenty more in there that will justify that claim, but its a good starting point.

Highly recommended."

(Via Technical Revenue.)