Submitted by acohill on Tue, 12/23/2008 - 16:11
A new report says that mobile phones are playing a bigger role in Web use, especially with social networking sites. Users are updating their social network information directly from their cellphones, adding commentary, pictures, and video with their phones. The iPhone and other iPhone competitors have much improved Web browsers, allowing fast and easy access to social networking Web sites, and the integrated cameras make it easy to upload multimedia content.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 12/18/2008 - 16:22
Here is a first person account from someone who just canceled their cable TV service (but kept the Internet connection). They have what is becoming the same old story, "Who needs it?" Almost any show you want to watch can be watched via a broadband Internet connection, so you can save yourself forty or fifty dollars a month by just skipping TV altogether.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 12/15/2008 - 18:13
This article discusses falling ad revenue for social networking sites. That probably explains why the ads on FaceBook seem sleazier lately. About every other time I log in, I get pummeled with an ad to meet "sexy singles in Blacksburg," along with what is supposed to be an example of a "sexy single" in a bikini. Bottom fishing ads like this one may be helping to pay the bills on these sites, but as the sleaze factor goes up, more parents are going to start declaring the sites off-limits to their kids.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 12/15/2008 - 18:09
WalMart is the latest company to build a special iPhone-compatible interface to its Web site. As the iPhone becomes more popular, more Web sites (news sites, particularly) are adding content designed to work well with the iPhone Web browser.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 12/09/2008 - 10:05
The New York Times is taking a mortgage on its office building in Manhattan because it can't pay its bills. The LA Times has filed for bankruptcy. Many local papers are quietly going out of business. The newspaper is a venerable icon, but smearing ink on dead trees is, well, dead. Newspapers have failed utterly to adapt to the Internet, largely because they have been unable to distinguish between their core competency and their historical distribution medium. Newspapers have stubbornly clung to the notion that it is their job to throw wads of paper in driveways every morning. They have continued to do that long after there have been better and different ways to distribute the news (e.g. the Internet). Tweaking the font size of headlines, adding color pictures, and reposting news articles to the Web for a day or two before making them disappear are strategies that have only slightly delayed the inevitable.
The core competency of newspapers has always been to filter the news for readers; printing that news on dead trees has simply been the expedient way to distribute their work efforts for the past couple of hundred years. But we still need editors and reporters--in fact, we need them now more than ever--we have more news, from more sources.
The blogosphere has risen to the challenge while the old guard of reporters and editors have simply turned up their noses and pounded their chests about how they are "professionals" and bloggers are just sitting around in their pajamas. To coin a phrase: "Whatever...."
We still need news organizations, and there is plenty of ad money sloshing around online, but the newspaper business has just refused to adapt. It will be interesting to see how the void is filled.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 12/09/2008 - 09:53
2008 may be the year that TV died. Lately, I have begun meeting and hearing about people that have simply disconnected their cable TV service. They can get whatever shows they want to watch off the Internet, fee or free, with less effort and with more convenience. If you are willing to pay a buck or two, you can watch a one hour TV show in forty minutes because the commercials have been removed--is twenty minutes of your time worth $2? Or put another way, if your cable TV bill is $60 per month, you can download and watch 30 hours of TV--without any commercials--for the same amount of money. If you don't mind the commercials, you can download and watch as many hours as you like for the cost of your Internet connection.
TV is dead. Cable TV is dead. Satellite TV is almost dead (satellite will hang a bit longer because in rural areas Internet access is still awful, so many rural residents can't switch to downloading TV shows). NBC has announced big cutbacks in staff and is likely to cut back programming hours as well--because fewer and fewer people have any reason to watch network TV.
The complete transition will likely take another ten years, but at the end of it, TV as we know it will have gone the way of the music store.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 12/05/2008 - 10:46
With the downturn in the economy, we are likely to see many more weak social networking business ventures fail. It Died is likely to do very well for the next year or so as it documents flops like People Connection, Flip.com, and Pownce. It's like the remake of an old horror movie--The Return of the Dot.Com Swamp Thing.
As I have said many times before, the fact that you can mash up Twitter, file sharing, and instant messaging (the Pownce strategy) does not mean you should, or that there will be a market for it. Social networking tools and sites have a place in the digital world, but there are so many that we can make use of at any given time. For the time being, FaceBook and MySpace have probably won.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 12/01/2008 - 09:13
Michael Smerconish, a newspaper columnist, writes today about the Martin Eisenstadt hoax. Eisenstadt was the source of the rumor that Sarah Palin had mis-identified Africa as a "country," not a continent. The problem was that Eisenstadt was an entirely fictitious person, or as Smerconish puts it, the "Borat" of the news business. Both Eisenstadt and the Africa quote were entirely made up.
The larger point made by Smerconish is that the pranksters behind the hoax got away with it in part because downsized news organization no longer have the staff to check this kind of stuff. In the "old days," newspapers particularly had a fact checking staff that made sure that what reporters put in their articles was actually true.
The problem has been around since the beginning of the Internet and the iconic cartoon caption "On the Internet, no one knows you are a dog." The Internet is an information-rich environment, and a lot of news may or may not be factually correct. The mainstream media still tries to diminish blogs as "amateur" and "unprofessional," but errors in reporting can come from the "traditional" news organizations just as easily--and have, with the Eisenstadt incident as one example.
Submitted by acohill on Sun, 11/30/2008 - 12:55
Enough poorly thought out and/or underfunded online services are dying that someone has started a death watch blog. This is a market where too many startups thought they were going to capture 10% of the market and make gazillions with their wizzy Web 2.0 service (file storage, online collaboration, etc.).
Many of these services are just quietly turning off the servers with little or no notification of their customers. So buyer beware if you are storing all your company documents or family baby pictures on one of these sites--your backups may just disappear one day.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 11/12/2008 - 14:37
It may be benign and even mildly useful, but SEEMS creepy. Google has announced it now tracking the flu by using searches for keywords like "flu," "fever," "thermometer," and so on. It uses information gleaned from your browser and computer (IP address, MAC address, service provider) to identify an approximate location. The data will then be passed on to the Center for Disease Control. A test last year was apparently good enough that they are doing it again this year.
Google swears the data is anonymized, but don't be surprised to see ads for pharmacies and Theraflu (TM) pop up as you search the Web for a flu remedy. Google and the CDC both announced, "...this is just the beginning." What's next? Google dispatches an order of chicken soup to your house? The Feds send you a quarantine order telling you to stay home for three days? Your data is sent to the TSA (Transportation Safety Agency) which then meets you at the airport and forbids you to fly because you might give others on the plane the flu?
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 10/30/2008 - 10:34
It is a bit difficult to take any article seriously that claims in the title that "this technology will change your life." But Twitter, a strange cross between blogging and text messaging, may "a href="http://www.macworld.com/article/136443/2008/10/twitter.html">finally be growing up. Twitter may actually have some real value with respect to public safety, because you can have lots of people subscribed to a Twitter feed that can then quickly send a message to a lot of cellphones all at once. Twitter may also have some uses as an internal messaging systems for businesses and organizations, both for some kinds of routine messages ("the staff meeting starts in 5 minutes") and non-routine messages ("fire in the supply room, evacuate immediately).
Long term, it is hard to guess just how many different communications channels we A) want, and B) can manage. Most of us already suffer from email fatigue. It has taken nearly one hundred years for the automobile to evolve into the trouble-free, powerful transportation systems we take for granted today, and they are still changing and improving. We are barely out of the Model T era of computer and communications technology.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 10/14/2008 - 08:26
YouTube has inked deals to start offering full length TV shows. The Google-backed company intends to go head to head with Hulu, which has several deals with networks to carry TV shows.
These kinds of alternatives are quickly making it quaint to sit down in front of the TV at a certain time on a certain day to watch a particular show. I'm a fan of the Sarah Connor Chronicles, but I could not tell you what network it is on, what day new shows air, or what time it plays. I simply go to the iTunes Store when I have a little extra time, pay $2, and watch the show at my convenience. For that $2, I enjoy it without commercial interruption.
Cable and satellite TV are rapidly becoming anachronisms.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 10/10/2008 - 07:53
Google now has its own satellite, or at least exclusive access to one. The firm made a deal with the U.S. government to help finance a new image mapping satellite in return for exclusive commercial rights to the images. It was probably cheaper than paying for images from other commercial and government satellites.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 08:34
Verizon and AT&T deserve congratulations for endorsing an opt-in approach to tracking online behavior. This means they won't try to build dossiers of where you go online unless they get your permission. The online dossier information can be valuable, as data can be mined and sold to advertisers.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 09/24/2008 - 08:36
Back in 1995, I foolishly proposed a project for the Blacksburg Electronic Village that would have us partner with the local public radio station to begin broadcasting over the new Internet thingy that was just beginning to take off. It was very modest, and involved streaming audio news reports over the Internet--5 to 10 minutes of mostly local news a day, but in four languages, because of the large international population in Blacksburg.
No one believed anyone would ever be interested in listening to audio over the Internet.
A few years later, streaming radio and podcasting took off in a big way. But streaming radio got knocked down almost immediately by huge increases in royalties that made it financially impossible for small start-up Internet radio stations to develop a market, and even for bigger operations, the cost of royalties was difficult.
A tentative agreement has been reached between the RIAA, which controls music royalty, and the radio industry. For Internet radio operations, they will pay 10.5% of annual revenue instead of a per song fee. This makes perfect sense, as it will allow small niche Internet radio operations grow without high royalty fees that are not linked to actual income. And musicians and songwriters will still get compensated in some indirect proportion to the number of people actually listening (radio stations with a large audience will have more revenue, and will so the royalty revenue will be higher).
This approach is identical to the revenue sharing models adopted by broadband projects like nDanville and The Wired Road. Revenue share models allow many new and innovative services to start up inexpensively because the fees to content owners or the network are paid in proportion to success.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 09/22/2008 - 07:28
FaceBook and MySpace have been interesting experiments in the social uses of the Internet. As the use of these social networking sites evolves, a better understanding of the effects of those uses also evolves. Not only are employers using the sites to evaluate potential employees, it turns out that a significant number of colleges are also using the sites to evaluate potential students. So if you have a child in high school who is beginning to apply for admission to college, it might be worth taking a few minutes to check their FaceBook and MySpace pages to see just what they have posted.
As the world becomes less and less private through the widespread use of online services and applications, privacy is going to become more and more valuable. The good news is that we still have some control--we can choose to be prudent about what we post about ourselves online, and we can be prudent about using "free" online services that give the service provider the right to use whatever we create, write, or email with those services.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 09/09/2008 - 08:40
The debate over the terms of Google End User License Agreements (EULAs) continues. Last week there was much discussion online about the EULA for Chrome, the new Google Web browser, which resulted in a change to the EULA that no longer gave Google the right to use anything you uploaded with the browser.
However, the broadly worded license terms still remain in other Google products, including Picasa (Google has the right to all your photos), Google Docs (Google has the right to use all your word processing and spreadsheet documents), and Blogger (Google can use all your blog posts).
I suspect that at the current time, Google is doing something relatively benign--using the license terms to build advertising dossiers about users of their services. But the license terms give Google very broad rights to their customer-created content.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/11/2008 - 08:15
NBC, which has exclusive rights to broadcast the 2008 Olympics in the United States, is apparently upset that people are simply not bothering to wait for prime time to watch NBC's repackaged broadcasts. Instead, viewers are simply going to the Internet and watching the Olympics on the Web sites of media outlets in other countries.
The Olympics is a long and complex series of events that has never fit neatly into a two hour evening broadcast, but in olden days (say four years ago), that was about all we had. The much wider availability of broadband connections and the widespread use of online video sites like YouTube provides people with alternatives to broadcast and cable TV. Right now, the video folks are watching is of generally low quality, but demand for HD online video is going to increase rapidly, and more and more people are going to want to watch live events in real time, not NBC time, and will want those broadcasts in HD format. And the current DSL and cable modem systems simply don't have the horsepower to deliver it.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/28/2008 - 08:27
The new search engine Cuil (pronounced 'cool') aims to take on Google, like a bunch of other search engines that have tried and failed to dislodge Google. But Cuil is designed and owned by a former Google staffer and her husband who just may pull it off if they have the financial staying power to slug it out over the next couple of years.
Cuil promises better search results by not just counting inbound links but by actually trying to parse whether or not the contents of a Web page are a good fit for the search terms. Cuil also promises a more usable format for results, which wouldn't take much, given that Google has not bothered to give itself a face-lift since the company started. Finally, the Cuil founders promise not to snoop around and store everyone's search results, a refreshing change from Google's policy of developing dossiers on everything you have ever searched for.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 07/23/2008 - 07:58
This analysis of the current state of Internet ads suggests that some of the big ad brokers on the Internet (e.g. Google, among others) may be near an inflection point with respect to ad demand. Lookery, a firm that sells ads on sites like FaceBook and MySpace, just lowered the cost of its ads by 40%, suggesting very soft demand. And Google's AdWord system, according to the article, seems to be propped up financially by Google's practice of setting very high minimum cost per click fees.
I have always maintained that Google is making a lot of money from businesses that are willing to pay modest amounts month after month for a few ads. When times are good, it does not look like a lot of money. But when the cost of other business necessities like fuel and shipping go up, unproductive ads producing few results may be the first to go.
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