Archive for July, 2008
By Ginger Ludwig
Twitter.com has once again raised the bar for news reporting, as breaking news is delivered with unsurpassed speed and efficiency. The most recent example was a quick one-word update from Twitter member Caroline (Vixy), who wrote “earthquake” to notify the Twitter community and local followers of the recent earthquake in Los Angeles.
Will Twitter become the next-generation emergency reporting system? Or, as purported by Chris O’Brian, will it be the best newsroom tool of the future?
Do you trust and respond to breaking news on micro-blogging platforms as you would traditional media outlets?
July 31st, 2008
By Ben Haber
It was reported a while ago that China was going to allow uncensored internet during the Olympics in Beijing next month. Well, apparently that’s not quite true anymore.
The New York Times reports that “since the Olympic Village press center opened on Friday, reporters have been unable to access scores of Web pages — among them those that discuss Tibetan issues, Taiwanese independence, the violent crackdown on the protests in Tiananmen Square and the Web sites of Amnesty International, the BBC’s Chinese-language news, Radio Free Asia and several Hong Kong newspapers known for their freewheeling political discourse.”
For reporters covering the games, it is important that they have access to the internet to research, communicate, and file their stories. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had negotiated with China to provide unregulated internet access, but China’s concern for their national security, particularly relating to Tibet, has trumped their one-time promise that there would be an open access for all.
In a world where some people are connected to the internet 24/7 via their cell phones or other devices, China’s decision to block certain sites and information from thousands of foreign reporters and their own citizens seems like quite a bold move.
What’s your take? Should countries have the right block certain sites that they believe are dangerous for their national security?
The Associated Press is reporting that some sites have been unblocked at the main press center & media venues on Friday, after the IOC met with some Chinese officials.
July 31st, 2008
By Kyle Austin
(Courtesy of the New York Times)
By Kyle Austin
I had made it back to Boston on Saturday, after my trip out to Fortune Brainstorm: TECH, and was enjoying my iced-coffee (America runs on Dunkins’) with the New York Times when I had one of those near death choking experiences. It happened when I flipped to page two and was enjoying Joe Nocera’s Talking Business column on “Apple’s Culture of Secrecy.” It was an interesting read already (Nocera kicked it off with Job’s famous quote from the Stanford commencement a few years back ”No one wants to die and yet death is a destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.” – talk about getting sucked in) and then I got to the actual phone call as noted by Nocera, in the final two paragraphs (Talk about burying a lead):
On Thursday afternoon, several hours after I’d gotten my final “Steve’s health is a private matter” — and much to my amazement — Mr. Jobs called me. “This is Steve Jobs,” he began. “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.”
One of those moments where liquid somehow makes it back through your nose (apologize for the visual). I did manage to resuscitate myself.
You see, I’ve been having a back and forth email exchange with Joe for a couple weeks on random topics: His Loeb Award Win, AMD & Intel and doing a Q&A with me for our blog (which he agreed to do) – so I owed him a few questions. Of course I didn’t realize he was going to publish a column on Saturday that would kick-off a week-long buzz while he escaped for vacation until August 4th.
Now I have a million questions to ask him and he’s probably in the Berkshires.
There has been tons of commentary in the blogs on this already. The Real Dan Lyons (who never came up with a Fake Steve Jobs’ line as good as this actual Steve Jobs’ line) gave his in-depth analysis. Claiming that Nocera got played by Jobs and his PR team by taking an “ambush call” and allowing Mr. Jobs to talk off-the-record. You see, after Jobs re-introduced himself to Nocera, as only he could, he went on to agree to talk to Nocera about his health – as long as it was off-the-record. Here is how Nocera’s article concluded after Jobs’ opening line:
“After that rather arresting opening, he went on to say that he would give me some details about his recent health problems, but only if I would agree to keep them off the record. I tried to argue him out of it, but he said he wouldn’t talk if I insisted on an on-the-record conversation. So I agreed.
Because the conversation was off the record, I cannot disclose what Mr. Jobs told me. After he hung up the phone, it occurred to me that I had just been handed, by Mr. Jobs himself, the very information he was refusing to share with the shareholders who have entrusted him with their money.You would think he’d want them to know before me. But apparently not.”
Since the June Worldwide Developers Conference where Jobs appeared to be gaunt (pictured above), people have been buzzing about his health. Last Wednesday John Markoff reported in the New York Times that Jobs had surgery this year to address a problem that was contributing to his weight loss. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier last week that “fund managers have talked of asking doctors to closely analyze pictures of Mr. Jobs to monitor changes in his physical appearance, and have been talking about once again hiring investigators to find out Mr. Jobs’ prognosis.”
There are no hard and fast rules about how and when companies need to disclose information about the health of their chief executives. But it seems that the vaunted Apple PR machine has let this get completly out of control. If Mr. Jobs did in-fact call Nocera with his PR team on the line (as folks such as Lyons believe) in a last ditch effort to spin the story in a positive direction - it certainly backfired. Yes, he (or they) somehow got Nocera to state the following, based on and off-the-record conversation:
Suffice it to say that I didn’t hear anything that contradicted the reporting that John Markoff and I did this week. While his health problems amounted to a good deal more than “a common bug,” they weren’t life-threatening and he doesn’t have a recurrence of cancer.
This asserted (like Markoff’s piece did as well) that Jobs has been sick but not that sick (and doesn’t have recurring cancer).
However, they also gave him the ammunition to illustrate Jobs and his organization as the arrogant folks who think they are above the law (as Jobs duly noted himself), while also allowing him to portray that they gave him the very information that they have been unwilling to give investors.
Yes, Nocera, Jobs and Apple have a history. During Nocera’s run as an Editor at Fortune they crossed paths several times (not always friendly). Nocera has also published stories on Apple’s backdating scandal and problems with the iPhone over the last year in the Times. But why push him even further in his potential negative view of the company? Why cross-off another reporter that you could work with, when there aren’t that many left out there? For an organization that has one of the best marketing forces I’ve ever seen the secretive nature of their PR practice is completely baffling.
In addition, either come clean in an on-the-record-conversation or stick with what you’ve been saying all along by going with the it’s a “private matter.” Don’t flip-flop half way and if you’re going to, certainly don’t start the conversation with something that you know is going to make you look foolish in print. If you think he’s going to get the facts wrong then why contact him in the first place?
As Lyons sums up best about the situation on his blog:
“The unfortunate thing about this arrogance is that no matter how hot a company may be, eventually every company stumbles. Someday Apple will need friends among the hackery. I’m not sure it will have any.”
Hopefully I can add more of Joe’s thoughts on the situation when he’s back next week. Would love to hear what questions you’d like me to ask him.
July 29th, 2008
By Ben Haber
Well, they’re trying to. Anna Patterson and Tom Costello have launched a new search engine, Cuil (pronounced: cool), which they say searches more sites then any other search engine and knows how to analyze and sort its pages to get the most relevant results.
The problem is that people don’t just use Google for search. It’s used for Gmail, iGoogle, Google maps, Google images, Google news, Google blogs, Google shopping, Google video – should I continue? Google is not successful just because it’s a search engine – it’s successful because of every other feature it brings to the user.
Getting back to the first point, Cuil claims that they’re superior to Google because they can search three times as many pages and produce more relevant results. My question is how we can know these extra pages are relevant and not spam sites? When I’ve searched Google, I’ve always had a lot of success, and almost always found what I’m looking for in the first couple results, or somewhere on the first page.
Also, Cuil organizes their pages in a much different format then Google, which may take a lot of getting used to for some. Instead of creating a list, it has a paragraph on each site scattered around the page.
Tom Costello told The New York Times, “I think it will be better, but there is no question that the public has to decide.”
Let the debate begin.
July 28th, 2008
By Ginger Ludwig
Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are plagued by users abusing the fact that all someone needs to sign up is a valid email address.
In the most recent incident, reported last night by MSNBC, Matthew Firsht from the U.K. won nearly $44,000 in a lawsuit against a former friend that created a libelous profile in Matthew’s name. Because apparently, when some “adults” join a social network originally used by only college and high school students, they feel compelled to behave like 14 year olds.
The former friend / culprit / juvenile delinquent, Grant Raphael, added intentionally incorrect information about Matthew in regards to his sexuality, political views and finances. When Grant claimed that someone else must have created the page on his computer when his party was crashed last year, the judge called the statement “far-fetched” and awarded Matthew nearly $30,000 for libel, $4,000 for breach of privacy and $10,000 for libel against his company.
The silver lining of this story is that Facebook did an excellent job managing the problem, promptly removing the phony profile and cooperating with the proceedings which helped Matthew win his case. This however, is clearly not the first fake account to be created and surely will not be the last.
Do you think Facebook and other social networks will begin requiring more verification when people create profiles? How can we protect our identities and prevent this from happening in the future?
July 25th, 2008
By Ginger Ludwig
Google not only lets you search for content, but now they will help you create and publish it (minor note: they will make money off your content). Yesterday, Google rolled out Knol – a site they’ve been testing for about seven months that allows “experts” to contribute articles under a Creative Commons license.
Although many are calling Knol the Wikipedia Killer, there are some fundamental differences between the sites. 1 – Wikipedia functions through “Wisdom of the Crowds” while Knol relies on one “expert” to write on a topic. 2 – Changes made to a Knol article must first be approved by the author, making the usability similar to About.com. 3 – Knol pages will make money through Google AdSense, a program Wikipedia does not use.
Controversy has quickly arisen around whether or not content on Knol will get pushed to the forefront to promote the interests of its parent company. For the time being, Wikipedia is still the leader in content, with over 2.5 million articles submitted to the English version alone – all of which typically appear in the top Web search results on Google – but it will remain to be seen if Knol will take the lead.
The New York Times spoke to a Google spokesperson and reports: “We will treat Knol pages as we treat other Web pages,” said Cedric Dupont, a Google product manager. “If there is a Knol that is the first place in search results, it deserves that place.”
Is Google gaining too much power, dipping its toes in both the content creation and delivery pools? Are they just upset Wikipedia didn’t buy into AdSense? If we all trust one “expert’s” article on Google, aren’t we closing ourselves off to the power of collective intelligence? Would love to hear your thoughts.
In the meantime, you can learn more about Knol here on Wikipedia.com. (Irony at it’s finest)
July 24th, 2008
By Kyle Austin
(DeWolfe Pictured Left)
By Kyle Austin
If you ever have the opportunity to meet Chris DeWolfe, Founder and CEO of MySpace, in person; it’s likely you’ll come away from the meeting with the word charisma on the tip of your tongue. Watching DeWolfe work the patio Tuesday night at Fortune Brainstorm: TECH’s private dinner overlooking the Pacific, you could easily mistake him with a rock star.
In fact, watching DeWolfe get flocked too; I couldn’t help but think about what polar opposites he and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, are.
DeWolfe continued his rock star ways on Wednesday at Brainstorm: TECH by announcing a new music service that will launch on MySpace in September. In an interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinksy, DeWolfe discussed the new service which will allow users to listen to free streaming music, purchase song downloads, ringtones and even concert tickets.
“MySpace will be the center of each artists’ universe,” noted DeWolfe.
DeWolfe was quick to discuss that music is already a huge part of the MySpace offering. He stated that 5 billion songs are being played every month and 65 percent of users have a music song or video embedded on their profiles.
When asked by audience members to discuss his thoughts on Facebook, DeWolfe used the further foray into music to describe the diferences between the two often-compared companies.
“Sure we have to look at all our competitors in the 25 countries that we are in. I think they are more of a uitility that makes it efficient to communicate back and forth. I think they’d agree with that assesment. We think we do the same thing but MySpace is more about self expression and letting the users create their own exeprience. This is why we are investing so heavily in music. Music and self expression are so intertwined.”
July 24th, 2008
By Kyle Austin
By Kyle Austin
John Huey, Editor-In-Chief of TIME Inc. just wrapped-up Fortune Brainstorm: TECH by chatting with Neil Young (yes that Neil Young). Here are some excerpts, from the first part of their chat on music quality:
John Huey: We have 25 minutes to vet this treasure trove, so we’ll try do our best. He just said to me before we came out here that you have to watch what you say because it will stick with you for 20 years. I often say that rust doesn’t sleep; which is the only way to edit and I think the two tie together nicely.
Neil hasn’t disappeared. He’s been around a lot lately with his movies and he also recently wrote a song with the subtle title “Let’s Impeach the President.” I ran across this anecdote about him that I thought you would find interesting.
I have a friend that works at West Point and each year they have a artist perform for the graduating cadets. They ask the performer if they would be wiling to wave their fee for the young men going into service for their country. The only person ever to wave his fee was Neil Young. Go figure a left wing, Canadian rock star was the only one to wave their fee. Neil was kind of embarrassed when I brought this up to him and said no one is supposed to know this.
OK, let’s talk about the industry that brought you here. In the area of music. No industry has been more disrupted by technology then music. You, unlike anyone else, have been working for 15 years on an alternative digital platform. You were upset with the quality of CD’s for sometime and your feeling is that it has gotten worse from there?
Neil Young:It went downhill from there. I loved the CD when it came out. It was great for music to go to that little disk and it was very convenient. But that same convenience has been taken advantage of. Apple especially, has taken that convenience to an extreme and ignored quality. Quality is not there. I’m trying to figure out a way. Especially a play in the PC Market. I think PC makers can overlook the area of quality music on PC’s. PC hardware should include software to listen to higher resolution music. So we are not stuck with the Apple or MP3 standard. A model for a company that provides hi-res song listening is something that I am certainly pursuing.
The problem with all of this is there is no way to play back music at the resolution that it was created at. It will only play back in CD quality. This sounds a lot better then MP3 but it is not hi-res. That is not what we are capable of. It seems like the ability to listen to hi-res music is one of the missing elements in consumer technology. Any designer of PC’s that I can talk to, I will be pushing for that.
I record now in a way that can be bumped in an even higher-res. I always record at the highest-res of digital I can. We are getting better and better at recording but the quality is not there in playback.
JH: Do they believe the consumer can be lead there?
NY:I’ve never heard the quality of music mentioned. That is what made music so great. If you bought music that you could see, it would be like watching the lowest-res movie. Because you can’t view it, you can’t see that it’s lower then what it could be. The content is important but at the expense of quality; that is too big of a price to pay. Especially for me and my peers that try to create music that will last forever.
JH: Have you discussed with Apple and Steve Jobs?
NY: I’ve discussed this with Michael Dell who is checking with his folks to see what they can do.
What do you think? Do you want higer-res music that sounds live? As we’ve learned this week at Brainstorm: Tech the industry is certainly open to your ideas. Including Michael Dell.
July 23rd, 2008
By Ben Haber
The New York Times reports that the U.S. Postal Service is encouraging people and businesses to keep the environment in mind when mailing documents and packages. They’ve even trademarked the term environMAIList. How much is this green initiative just one last attempt to survive?
Twenty years ago almost everything came was delivered by a post office employee – from magazines, bills, letters, business documents, and of course, credit card advertisements. Today, it seems like we’re just stuck with the credit card advertisements.
Email and the internet have dramatically changed the way we receive mail and news. Newspapers are a whole other issue – but the amount of people having them delivered to their doorstop has completely changed as well. But what has happened over the past 20 years?
The days when you would send a friend a letter, postcard, or other kind of note to say hi are long gone. This week’s delay of correspondence has turned into email, IM, text messages, and social networks like Facebook. After all, why send a postcard in the mail when you can just post all of your vacation pictures on Facebook with captions underneath, and a nice message saying that you’re having a great time?
The content from magazines has all been put online, and bills/payments have all become automatic withdrawals or are done through online banking. Email has completely changed business as well, as anyone would be hard pressed to find someone who uses mail as a first, second, or even third option for business communication.
So how will this green effort help the U.S. Postal Service? Probably very little, if at all. The mail business isn’t falling behind because of the environment, but because technology, innovation, and the internet have dramatically changed the way we go about communicating.
July 23rd, 2008
By Kyle Austin
By Kyle Austin
Nicholas Negroponte took the stage with David Kirkpatrick at Fortune Brainstorm: TECH to address the crowd on where the One Laptop per Child project currently stands earlier this morning. Some excerpts below:
DK: Happy to have you on stage, along with your XO.
You have transformed a new way to get technology into the hands of kids across the world. However, you’ve often talked about goals that haven’t been achieved. How do you describe the state of OLPC?
NN: You need a certain amount of hype. Some of it was that. We had to change our targets as we began to see which countries really were going to put a full effort behind one laptop for every child in their country. Peru is going to do a million this year. If I was running a company that would be pretty good to go from $0-$200 million (if they were paying for each computer) in one market – in one year.
DK: Do you sometimes wish that you had made it a business and not a non-profit philanthropy effort?
NN:Never. What the non-profit does is create the mission for us. We don’t look at the developing world as a market, we look at it as a mission. When I go to each head of state they know that I am talking with them about a mission to transform education in their countries and not giving them a sales’ speech. It also allows us to attract the top talent that want to be part of a true mission, without even thinking about earning a salary.
DK: So the XO that you have with you does something different then the XO’s in the developing world right now?
NN:Yes, this is a dual-boot XO that runs both Windows and Linux (Negroponte boots in Windows for the crowd).
NN: We will kick-off a global “Give One, Get One” program within the next few months.
Disclosure: One Laptop per Child is a client of the Racepoint Group.
July 23rd, 2008