February 28, 2006
You're not really a blogger if ...
What is it about blogging that causes so many of the people who do it to believe they've been anointed to an online College of Cardinals, with their own personal stone tablet engraved with The 10 - or possibly 20 - Commandments of Blogging?
Break one of these rules, by thought, word or deed, and you'll be excommunicated and/or boiled in oil by some self-appointed Torquemada.
It must be a lot of fun being one of these Princes of the Blogging Church, because you get to change or re-interpret the rules at will, and terrorise the heretics.
Having been admonished and stripped of our membership in the Official Mother Church of Blogging for a variety of transgressions, we thought we should try to compile a list of Venial Sins, Cardinal Sins, Sins Material and Formal, Sins of Omission and Commission, to help you preserve your immortal blogging soul.
Some of the real baddies that can get you listed officially as a lapsed blogger are: Being a journalist. Journalists, according to the Office of the Promulgation of the Faith, are by definition, not bloggers.
Knowing how to spell.
Being paid to blog. Bloggers take a vow of poverty and chastity. A devout practitioner of the faith cannot demand or accept payment by subscription or invoice. Donations may be OK. Or maybe not. Depending.
There are also a series of technical fouls that can result in an official demand for the return of your rosary beads and catechism. Our most recent order of excommunication was dispensed by Paul Montgomery - possibly miffed by the fact that we accidentally omitted him from our A+ list (since corrected) - who ruled that we were "not inherently blog-like", due to a lack of hyperlinks, aggravated by the fact that even such hyperlinks as there are on these pages have "been added post-facto to a print-centric article". Furthermore, "quotes from external sources are handled in-paragraph in quote marks, not encapsulated in blockquote tags".
The list is necessarily brief, due to the fact that we're required to self-flagellate for two hours a day as an act of penance. But we'll get back to the topic. We'd appreciate it if you could send us your own list of sins, so that we can commit them too. Purely for research purposes.
February 27, 2006
The A+ list of Aussie bloggers
We the journalists blogging at the KickStart IT media conference - well, basically, Mark Jones from the AFR, Phil Sim and yours truly - have formed an A+ list of Australian bloggers, as a spontaneous response to Frank Arrigo's call for a meeting of A list Australian bloggers - who can't, according to Frank, be journalists who blog.
The fact that Frank - a nice enough chap - is "an Aussie Microsoft blogger" no doubt gives him sufficient stature to make these judgments. We suggest, however, that he's contaminated by being on the Microsoft payroll, and if any category should be excluded from an alphabetically ordered list of bloggers, it's vendor bloggers.
Aside from [naturally], the above three blogs, our A+ list (soon to be extended) currently includes:
Cameron Reilly, alas, doesn't get the joke. And he's turned a joke by Phil about spamming tech.meme into a fantastic conspiracy theory against... who else? ... journalists who blog.
A man. A plan. A profit.
Can we really take Sol Trujillo seriously when he says - addressing meetings of Liberal and National Party Members of Parliament - that “We will continue to manage Telstra in a way that best secures our common long-term objective of providing exciting new services for consumers, and producing long-term economic benefits for the nation.”
Surely Mr Trujillo's first priority is to manage Telstra in a way that produces profits for its shareholders. And everything Mr Trujillo has done - as opposed to everything he says - has been aimed at maximising Telstra's profit, leaving the excitement of consumers and the long-term economic benefits of the nation up to someone - anyone - else. Unfortunately the Government isn't interested in the long-term economic benefits for the nation either, because its attention is focused on selling Telstra and maintaining the support of rural voters, who think that their personal interests are all that matters.
And when Sol declares that Telstra is "the only communications provider committed to providing all Australians with access to national high-speed wireless networks", he's talking about that part of the nation that can produce a profit for Telstra - the 98 per cent of the population who inhabit roughly 25 per cent of the land mass. Outside those areas, there's bo no high-speed wireless network.
Posted by cw at 05:39 PM
The perils and opportunities of podcasting
Just sat in on a session in which Cameron Reilly, Alex Zaharov-Reutt and Anthony Caruana tried to convince half a room full of PR people that they should be paying more attention to podcasting. The fact that they first had to explain to most of them what podcasting is, indicates the dimensions of their task.
What occurred to Bleeding Edge, as Cameron in particular outlined his theory that broadcasting represents nothing more than a momentary blip in mankind's instinctive need to grab a cow horn and have a conversation with anyone willing to listen, and that podcasts will provide us all with a conversational cow horn - sorry, we added that bit about the cow horn - is that some people might be barking up the wrong tree.
According to Cameron, a podcast on llama breeding could well capture an international audience of llama-breeding enthusiasts, which made us wonder whether the boy's mind has been damaged by too much of G'day World. We may be misquoting him [and if so his "Cameron Reilly" search daemon will seek us out and correct us - but it seemed to us that he was suggesting that podcasting must succeed because it strips away the barriers to entry that have previously frustrated those who would like to have a conversation with the world, if only they had either a radio licence, or a bigger cow horn.
As we attempted to explain to Cameron, there is far more effective barrier to entry, and it's neither financial nor technological. The real barrier to entry is that the human mind is a gatekeeper, and it tends to block out those things which it does not find either informative or entertaining. Including podcasts on l'ama breeding.
On the other hand, we're sure that companies which display the same vision as BMW did in paying great directors to produce a series of short movies on their cars, and distribute them on the Internet, could do themselves, and the podcasting audience, a great favour, by paying people to produce short, but imaginative podcasts.
There are, and will continue to be, some great amateur podcasts, but we're sure that their audience is being decimated by public radio podcasts. We love podcasts - although we still can't hack G'Day World - but we wonder if its destiny might ultimately prove to be little more than an asynchronous channel for broadcast radio. Especially if, like Cameron, they insist on inserting commercials. We anticipate Cameron's response will arrive within minutes.
The same old "new" media order
Our subscription to Crikey continues to bring us delight. Their lead item this morning, for instance, reminds us of the tremendous success of the previous Minister for Enriching Kerry and Rupert, Richard Alston, in totally preventing media diversity, while claiming the exact opposite.
What was that Alston said?
You’ve got the ABC. You’ve got Pay TV. You’ve got extensive rollouts of SBS. You’ve got Internet websites galore. So there’s a plethora of new information sources out there. We ought to recognise that these sorts of changes and permutations are going to occur in the marketplace, try and facilitate them with an eye to the public interest.Well, Crikey just quoted ACNielsen's numbers on the share of Internet news and advertising as at June 2005. Fairfax has 33.3 per cent, News has 23.9, PBL has 12.9. Crikey has, let's see, .8 per cent.
- Sunday, 21 April 2002
Crikey's conclusion on the importance of the figures? "[They reveal] how "old media" totally dominates "new media" when it comes to audiences for news and information. It reveals that the existing media players have grabbed nearly all the eyeballs on the internet – the new 'democratic medium' which is routinely used as the justification for abolishing Australia's cross-media regulations. It reveals that there's actually greater concentration of ownership in the new media than in the old. And it reveals that despite the low barriers to entry, 'new players' (like Crikey) have had a minuscule impact on media diversity in Australia, especially in news and commentary, the sections that wield the most power and influence."
It's still not enough, of course. The Packers and Murdochs etc. always want more. Which is why the current Minister for Enriching James and Rupert etc wants to guarantee media diversity again. By reducing it.
Convergence: a zero sum game
One of the great things about having one's notes stored in a database, rather than a collection of tattered spiral-bound notebooks is that (a) you can actually read your notes and (b) if you're attending an IT event, it's easy to check what the industry is telling you this year, against what they were telling you last year. [We're amazed that up here at the KickStart IT media conference, although around a dozen journos are taking their notes on laptops, none of them seems to be using Info Select for turning those notes into a searchable database. Don't they know it's an indispensable tool for anyone involved in the so-called knowledge business?]
Our superior record-keeping meant that we were able to establish that the enthusiasm voiced by the speakers at this year's session on digital home entertainment was pretty much unchanged from that of last year, despite the fact that precisely nothing had happened in the intervening period, to justify it.
Our friend and colleague Graeme Philipson (today's his birthday, which makes the black eye he picked up by falling over last night even more tragic) proved why he didn't survive as a Gartner analyst, with another completely honest and accurate summation of the situation: "Convergence is still a long way away," he reported, largely because the industries involved were still operating in a complete vaccuum, and were trying to send each other broke while at the same time avoiding accomplishing the same fate for themselves.
In the meantime, of 1000 Australian households surveyed last year on the issue of this home convergence, only 10 per cent could nominate a home automation supplier, and 80 per cent of them nominated B & D Roller Door.
What fascinates us, whenever the industry starts talking about the joys of television time-shifting etc., is that here in Australia the commercial televison networks are engaged in an entirely different form of time-shifting - a sadistic form of programming which so often guarantees that when you replay that show that you absolutely didn't want to miss, at the precise point when the mystery is about to be solved, or the hero and the heroine are about to realise their love for each other etc, a little message pops up informing you that playback has stopped. This is not what we call convergence.
And unfortunately, while the competitors are playing this zero sum game, consumers who choose the wrong technology from the bewildering range of competitors - has anyone noticed that those Microsoft Windows Media Centre devices don't seem to be all that widely available these days? - are probably going to be considerably out of pocket.
Dull little commercials
If you find the latest Apple ad, with its smug reference to "dull little boxes dutifully performing dull little tasks", you might like to have a look at this. And [ever so gently] snicker.
February 26, 2006
Bleeding Edge market research
Anyone had a call from someone saying they're conducting some market research on Bleeding Edge? The Bleeding Edge spouse took a call this morning from somebody who claimed to be doing just that. We're not sure if he was referring to this Bleeding Edge, unfortunately, because the BE spouse does not have those journalistic instincts which make sure one obtains as much information as possible from those potentially revealing calls, before disclosing any potentially discouraging details. It does seem quite a coincidence.
In the event that you take such a call, we'd love to know what questions you've been asked, and who was asking them. We're not doing any market research. And it does seem discourteous that someone should be doing any on us, without telling us what's going on.
On the job at KickStart
Early this morning, when intelligent people were still in bed, or perhaps enjoying breakfast, Bleeding Edge was on duty, dear reader, flying north to Maroochydore for a three-day IT conference called KickStart. We love these events, not just because you get to hear a lot of vendors delivering their messages in bulk, with the opportunity to home in on what you might be interested in, but also because when IT journos get together, they spend hours whining about their technology. You can learn a lot about what doesn't work over a beer or two.
Alex Zaharov-Reutt for instance, has been having so many problems that for a change we felt positively blessed by our technology. The front bezel on his new Nokia N70 phone on the 3 Network spontaneously peeled off. Every few weeks he has to completely reset his Wi-Fi router and laptops etc. to make it all work, and even after a ROM update, his O2 Atom is " still useless". We should all have an Alex in our life.
Posted by cw at 06:50 PM
February 25, 2006
Let us advise you on bungling your security
We suspect Ernst & Young will have to dedicate some of the billable hours it usually devotes to advising its corporate clients on data security to umm, advising itself on data security. The company plonked some of its clients' personal data on to a laptop, unencrypted of course, which one of its employees left in "a locked car". Not surprisingly, someone unlocked the car - not that difficult to do - and pinched the laptop. The company reports that the laptop was password protected (that ought to hold up a competent thief for possibly 15 minutes). The firm was forced to inform its clients - including Sun CEO Scott McNealy - that their personal IDs had been compromised.
Maybe there's an incompetence virus going around big accounting firms, because a Deloitte & Touche auditor left a CD - unencrypted of course - containing the names, social security numbers and stock holdings of 9000 McAfee's employees in an airline seat pocket. Never mind, says the company. It's probably been tossed into a garbage bin. So , you know, why bother with all this encryption stuff?
This brings the number of personal IDs compromised by corporate stuff-ups to a mere 53.3 million, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
When things break
Yesterday was not a particularly good day in the Bleeding Edge cave. Matty, a senior mechanic from the garage that's been looking after our 14-year-old Mazda MX6 4WS sports coupe for several years, rang to inform us that the steering rack had failed. It wasn't the first time it had failed. Just two years ago, we'd forked out something like $1900 to have it replaced. The mechanic explained that the parts supplier guaranteed them for only 12 months, and we'd have to buy another one. They would throw in the labour.
We pointed out that we had no intention of buying a steering rack every two years, and that perhaps he needed to negotiate a little more forcefully with the supplier of this very expensive, but apparently ephemeral product. If he couldn't do that, we told him, we'd be quite happy to ring and put our case.
This was a situation that wouldn't have arisen had we dealt with a Mazda dealer. They have a whole of life warranty. They also have an extremely inflated view of the value of their services, and we long ago decided that someone on a journalist's income couldn't afford them.
Even at our more-reasonably-priced, efficient, and customer-friendly garage, the Mazda has proved to be a constant financial drain. We've spent thousands of dollars replacing pretty well every major component and, had we the money to buy a new car (we don't have the money to buy a new bicycle), we'd almost certainly be better off doing so.
We take the view that if the garage wants us to continue paying them to maintain our current vehicle, rather than have us buy a new one - which will cost them future income - they need to (a) source reliable parts and (b) be willing to negotiate with their suppliers somewhat more forcefully, so that their customers don't get nasty surprises, such as having to buy a new steering rack every two years. That's our position with any business which we pay to provide us with goods and/or services. We regard any resort to arguments that their suppliers are being unreasonable as an attempt to off-load their problems onto their customers. We don't give a fig about arbitrary limits on warranties. They're the last refuge of scoundrels. In these circumstances, we never react well.
We've since had a conversation with Sam, the owner of the garage, and it looks like he's going to fix the problem. Sam's conversations can, at times, be difficult to interpret. When we asked him if Matty had told him what he'd conveyed to us, he replied: "There's only one boss here. You can pick up the car on Tuesday, and bring your boxing gloves." We'll let you know if we've misunderstood his intentions, but we're pretty confident that Sam will be explaining the facts of life to his supplier, which is one of the reasons we keep going back to Sam, rather than hauling him off to consumer affairs tribunals.
On the rare occasions where someone hasn't accepted the reasonableness of our position, we've found it's better to have the matter arbitrated by an impartial referee at say, VCAT. We make it a practice to be extremely well-prepared for these encounters. Our most recent appearance there involved a firm of architects which made the mistake of regarding us as a captive source of unreasonable income. Their case survived for less than five minutes, when they revealed a letter which indicated they had been deliberately concealing the real cost of their work from us.
But in the case of that steering rack, had we meekly accepted the senior mechanic's verdict, we'd have been forking out a substantial sum of money to support the supplier of poor-quality merchandise. How do you deal with companies which try to play pass-the-parcel? Do you pay up, or fight back? Or perhaps you think we're being unreasonable?
February 24, 2006
RIAA sets the bullies on allofmp3.com
You may recall that way back in May 2004, Bleeding Edge started an international run on the Russian-based cheap music store allofmp3.com which brought the entire site down for several days, with one of our stories which pointed out that it represented an apparently legal version of Heaven for the music lover.
"Over the past few weeks," we wrote, "purely as a research project of course, we have downloaded from the internet 4.74 GB of MP3 music, which amounts to 968 tracks or 56 albums - from a collection of artists that ranges from Norah Jones through the Beatles, Janis Ian, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell to Miles Davis and Charles Mingus.
"Had we been able to use the iTunes Music Store - still not available in Australia - those downloads would have cost us US99 cents apiece, which works out to $US958, or about $A1300 in real money. On the Telstra music store, we would have been up for $1442, provided we were BigPond customers. Since we're not, our credit card would have had a $1829.52 work-out. "
Now that we do have a local iTMS, we know they would have cost even more.
But, as we wrote back then, "We weren't about to spend anything like that, but we also weren't prepared to do anything conspicuously illegal. We bought all those songs for $US48.65, or $66 in local currency, which works out, according to our arithmetic, to 6.8 cents a track.
"That's the apparently insane price proposition that a Russian site called allofmp3.com offers its customers. You buy your music by the megabyte, at the rate of 500 MB for $US5 and you dial in the sort of encoding you want: MP3, MPEG4-AAC, OGG, MPC, WMA etc at various bit rates using different encoders _ say the LAME alt-presets. If we were prepared to pay more for the bandwidth, we could elect to have the music encoded with lossless algorithms, giving us the same quality as the original CD.
We also reported on an unsuccesful bid by the recording industry to close allofmp3 down.
True to its usual tactics, the Rapacious Industry Association of America now seems to have arranged for the US Government to do its dirty work for it. What's interesting is that we haven't been able to access the RIAA site since the news broke. We wonder if there's been a hacker backlash?
Bleeding Edge column mail-out
We've just sent out the second column to subscribers. If you haven't got it (or you didn't get the first), please let us know by email to email@example.com. There's a couple of payments that I haven't been able to identify. Thanks to all of you, and apologies for any teething problems. And to Raoul, who's entered the realms of Super Patron, we're overwhelmed.
February 23, 2006
Marc Ecko on delusional fantasies
It's pretty clear that in banning a work that took seven years to create, on the grounds that it might encourage people to paint graffiti, when they totally ignore the so-called glorification of anti-social behaviour in films, novels, and for that matter other computer games, the board has demonstrated that if anyone is likely to suffer from delusional fantasies, it's them.
Stuff-up or subterfuge?
This just in from a Melbourne barrister who's a long-term reader of Bleeding Edge in The Age, who continued to read it while he was overseas, and has recently returned home:
"I read the top article appearing under your byline in the electronic
Age this morning and thought that it was definitely not up to the
usual standard. A rather tedious piece about government IT
recruitment policy. I then looked at the top of the article and
realised it had been written by Stan Beer, as had another purported
Bleeding Edge article.
"A closer examination of the site revealed the absence of the BE Blog
and that your byline header had been 'un-highlighted' by comparison
with Macman etc. Something was obviously amiss - accordingly I went
to your blog to discover that your relationship with Fairfax is
apparently severed. What has happened?"
You all know what happened to Razor and the online version of Bleeding Edge (we should repeat, it's still appearing in the Green Guide, which has always been its primary home). But Fairfax visitors who click on the icon with CW's photo, and suddenly find themselves reading ... how did he put it? ... "a rather tedious piece about government IT recruitment policy", may not know what's happened. They may not realise that they're reading someone else's copy, and might even think that Bleeding Edge is no longer worth reading. That might damage the value of our by-line.
We could regard this as a tricky subterfuge, but it's more likely to be a stuff-up. So we've asked them to correct it. And we've asked again for the link under the column in the Green Guide to be changed, because Razor isn't operating any more.
And our barrister correspondent had something else to ask: "I would like to continue to follow your articles and to subscribe to any service that you set up. How do I go about doing it?" We've sent him the details of the Bleeding Edge bank account. Would you like us to send it to you, too?
The zombies are marching
Looks like today's theme is ... PANIC! No, sorry, we're over-reacting. Just thought you should know that in addition to those heightened phishing activities, the number of NEW zombie PCs being introduced to the Internet is 250,000 a day.
British security firm Ciphertrust has been counting the new appearances and says that the people running these zombies in vast "botnets" have started to specialise. While some create the networks, others hire them out, or write the spam or phishing e-mails that spouts from them, or administer the networks.
Maybe long jail terms will deter these people, but what with so many of them being run in Eastern Europe, most are highly unlikely to be identified. Our future security [SIGH!] will depend on constant vigilance.
Posted by cw at 10:53 AM
Phishing on the increase
Phishing Web sites spiralled in December, along with the number of URLS infected with code to steal passwords, according to the latest report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group, although their crimeware map of the most current phishing attacks shows Australia wasn't so badly affected.
You might be interested in their white paper on countering identity theft.
And Jeremy Wagstaff - who like us is constantly amazed at the indifference domain administrators display to these serious financial scams [would a class action suit get their interest?] - has discovered a new phishing strategy that uses font trickery to take the customers of financial institutions to bogus online sites.
Posted by cw at 09:41 AM
February 22, 2006
Currently Bleeding Edge is reading information architect Peter Morville's absorbing book, Ambient Findability. It's a fascinating exploration of why we look for things and fail to find them, and the manner in which the act of searching actually changes us.
There's something pathetic, isn't there, about the way the human animal, having lost much of its innate sense of direction in the natural environment [you call this evolution?], possibly because Melways is cheaper and more accurate, continues to be engaged in a restless endeavour to find his way in the world of facts and information.
Personally, we're convinced that this is because facts don't want to be found, and have enlisted the unconscious support of people who design Web sites and write information manuals to make it difficult to sniff them out.
It's time somebody exposed this.
Posted by cw at 05:44 PM
Blogs and business models
Over at Pro Blogger, Bleeding Edge's efforts to come up with a business model have inspired Darren Rowse - one of the genuine experts in earning money from blogs - to consider some of the ways we might make a buck from blogging.
You'll find it particularly interesting if you're a blogger, or even if you're a dedicated reader who'd like to help your favourite blogs survive.
He's concerned about the possibility that in withdrawing from newspapers, we'll lose the public attention that's built our audience over the years. We're still writing the Bleeding Edge column in the Green Guide, however, and that's always been the major source of our readership, and our radio listener base. We never managed to get more than about 4 per cent of our readership from Razor, which amazed us, because it was pretty popular. Perhaps the link from there to Bleeding Edge wasn't all that prominent.
The other thing is that we've continued to average more than $150 a day from the blog since we started the subscriptions, and the percentage of $50 contributions has actually increased. The number of $15 contributions is now only about 10 per cent. That's remarkable, and while it would be unrealistic to think that we could continue to earn that much on a daily basis, we're pretty sure there is room for growth, if we can come up with other premium content.
In other ways, we've been thinking along the same lines as Darren. E-books are definitely on the cards, and in fact we've been trying for months now to inspire Terry Lane to get one out on using digital cameras. He's a genuine expert on the topic, and an inspired photographer, and we'd LOVE to read his book. And, of course, sell it. So stay tuned.
The paid-for podcast
The hilarious Ricky Gervais Show has been one of our favourite podcasts ... while The Guardian has been paying for it. Now that Audible is going to start charging for it [free preview here ], we're going to have to do some fundamental arithmetic: exactly how much enjoyment do we get out of the scenario where Karl Pilkington demonstrates that yes, it is possible for someone to survive without a brain, and Ricky and Steve show that even the purest forms of logic, ridicule and obscene language cannot penetrate a vacuum. Do we like it to the extent of, say, $US1.95 apiece?
CNet presents it as a timely exploration of podcast economics, and how the desires of a Web community to continue to enjoy everything for free, are inconveniently at odds with the equal and opposite desire of creative people to be paid for their work. Hey, we've been tussling with that one ourselves!
So the Mac is invulnerable? Try this.
It looks like the blind fanaticism that hordes of Mac users display whenever someone - us for instance - dares to suggest that anything to do with Apple could possibly be less than perfect, might be starting to backfire on them. The other night in Germany for instance, Michael Lehn, a PhD student at the Department of Numerical Analysis at the University of Ulm got tired of Mac zealots calling in to an Internet television discussion on two new pieces of malware which target the Mac. Predictably, they were declaring that it simply wasn't possible to infect an OS X system, simply by clicking on a link or visiting a doctored Web page.
Not so, thought Lehn. He started exploring, and in 15 minutes discovered a
critical extremely critical security flaw (harmless demo over here) that could be used to infiltrate OS X systems through Safari, the operating system's default Web browser. Indeed, says the German technology publisher, Heise Online, users of other Mac browsers could have the scripts downloaded and execute them by foolishly double-clicking on them. Safari merely saves them the effort, by executing them automatically. [Nice work, Apple!]
It's a useful read, because it tells Mac users what to do to safeguard against the exploit ... deactivate the option "Open 'safe' files after downloading" in the "General" section of Safari's preferences. And if you want to be really safe, you could move the Terminal application from /Applications/Utilities into a different folder. [But then you'd have to move it back to the original location before doing any updates]. Oh, and users shouldn't use their administrator accounts. [Does this sound just a bit tedious?]
Michael Lehn is wisely assuring the Mac community's lunatic fringe that he's an enthusiastic Mac user himself. And we're going to do the same, because we don't [sigh] want to have yet another barrage of the usual zealotry. We're merely suggesting that all this recent publicity about malware that targets the Mac could well make 2006 the year of the Mac exploit. So take care. As Heise Online concludes, "At this point, no web pages are known to misuse this vulnerability. However, this could change quickly."
February 21, 2006
Building Bleeding Edge
We pause for a word from our sponsor. Last week we came up with an offering that allows our readers to contribute to the future of this site and the forum for a very small cost, and to get something in return - an email copy of the Bleeding Edge columns which will no longer be appearing in the online editions of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.
You might not have thought about the potential value. It will provide you with a searchable database to back up the print version - which is still by far, the preferred delivery method, even for us. Somehow the column looks better with the heading and the illustration. But keeping each week's clipping isn't a practical archiving method. We constantly receive requests from readers who've thrown out the Green Guide, but want to find out what we recommended months earlier. Now you can have it on your hard disk, constantly updated.
We've made the price for that service very cheap, and we've been gratified to discover that by far the majority of subscribers have voluntarily paid us more than we asked - anything from $20 to $52. We're looking at other ways of adding value, possibly with a subscriber-only section of the blog, which we'll probably call The Bloodbank. It will have a lot more information than we run on the public part of the blog, and it will be cheaper for subscribers to access.
We're asking you to think about what Bleeding Edge represents to you, and to think very seriously about contributing to its survival. This is no ordinary blog. It's not just someone putting a personal spin on other people's stories. Most of our stuff is independently researched and written. It's a local, community-based resource that not only entertains and informs you, but also helps you save money and avoid problems. How often has something you read in the column, on the blog or in the forum been of real value to you? Why not put something back that will help us deliver even more value in the future.
Brush off that CV - they're hiring
Got some Internet experience? It might be time to brush up your CV and look for an employer who's going to appreciate your knowledge, talent, dedication and super personality. (Hmm. Maybe there's money to be made writing job applications?).
According to the Financial Review [PAY WALL], the fact that companies like Yahoo!7, Google, ninemsn, Fairfax and News Ltd are actually making money out their online activities - despite a hopefully temporary hiatus in local online ad revenue in January - means they've embarked on a frenzy of hiring. Even Amazon.com is active in the local market, joining other companies looking for people who have real experience in online management, sales and production.
According to Rhys Hughes, national sales director at Xpand IT, MBA-quality professionals are entering a field that once attracted "teenagers in jeans and T-shirts". Amazon's looking for someone to head its Australian operation.
Amazon's hunt for an executive to run an Australian operation [Hmmnn. The local book industry is going to love that!] is top of the list for would-be Internet suits, ahead of the post of CEO for the new Yahoo!7 joint venture, (which must be making life interesting for Cliff Rosenberg, head of Yahoo!'s local operation), then there's a CIO for ninemsn, a replacement for Fairfax Digital COO Nick Leeder, who these days is a Murdoch man. And Fairfax Digital is also recruiting, for a business development manager and content manager, among other things. Hmmn. Content manager. Maybe we should apply. We could learn to wear a suit.
February 20, 2006
Telstra re-locates the language
Telstra has embarked on a project to remove 5000 public telephones including a "secret strategy to defuse the political fall-out .. by marking the phones with stickers claiming they're being relocated - when in fact they're being made redundant. - Page one story in today's Financial Review.
Telstra has embarked on a nationwide program to tackle the growing problem of revenue-negative community concern. The scheme involves a scaling down and re-purposing of words that have been ear-marked by the carrier as not suitable for profit generation.
Telstra's CEO, Mr Sol Trujillo, has ordered the importation of a squadron of crack lexicologists for the project, and they will be distributed around the country. A troop of assault-trained linguists will be deployed in media outlets, and the office of Senator Barnaby Joyce, who yesterday described the cut in the number of pay phones in rural areas as "an attack on the most vulnerable in the community".
"That's one word for sure that will have to go," Mr Trujillo declared on the official Telstra "We Have Excuses For Everything" blog yesterday, while announcing the corporation's $3 million buy-out of the Macquarie Dictionary company. "We'll be relocating that word right away," he revealed. "It's an unnecessarily aggressive word, 'attack', which isn't really appropriate in these days of enterprise-friendly languaging. I'm not in the business of speculating on the details, but it's fair to say that I'd favour a more profit-friendly phrase like "necessary adjustment".
It's believed the company has already relocated the word's "monopoly" - "We think the term 'competition" is far more robust," according to Mr Trujillo - and "broadband", and the phrase "slow as a wet week" has been upgraded to "blinding fast".
The Telstra CEO also unveiled a new complaint-handling procedure that he claimed would result in an immediate improvement in the company's public image. " As you can see from the relocation notices we've been applying to payphones marked for relocation, we're inviting comments from the public on proposed relocation, undertaking that any comments will be taken into account before finalising a decision," he said.
"These comments are to be directed to the Telstra Payphone Siting Manager, Locked Bag 6658, Sydney, NSW, 2001. The idea is that we're going to have similar systems in place in all areas of our operations, aimed at addressing complaints by our users. The genius of this strategy is that we've totally relocated the keys to these locked bags."
February 19, 2006
Yabbering versus journalism
The New York Times looks at the steady blurring of the boundaries between online mass media sites, and news-related blogs, noting [who can blame them] that the mass media sites attract far bigger [and faster growing] audiences, probably because most people prefer journalism to "armchair yammering", both of which, it acknowledges, appear in mainstream media too. [How else, let's face it, would you describe Andrew Bolt's predictably biased ranting? It's certainly NOT journalism. In fact we doubt Bolt is capable of fair-minded presentation of facts.]
There's a bonus in the story. There's a link to the first free download of a book by a major publisher, supported by advertising. "HarperCollins is selling the book, Go It Alone! The Secret to Building a Successful Business on Your Own by Bruce Judson, through Mr. Judson's site, brucejudson.com. An alert poster at MetaFilter.com noted that the publisher's page for the book did not mention the free version. Despite the cheesy title, Mr. Judson, a fellow at the Yale School of Management, won accolades from Library Journal and others for his book."
Oh, and there's news that Sony BMG is recruiting interns to plug its artists in online communities.
On comments and comment spam
Both Stephen and Anandasim, and who knows how many others have been somewhat frustrated recently by Movable Type's irritating habit, when you've posted a comment, or failed to post a comment, of forcing you to wait before you can have another go.
I sympathasise, but I'm not sure how to overcome it. Until I got Matthew to introduce a plug-in (which forces commenters to duplicate a number code, and which I assume might be responsible for this behaviour), I was at my wit's end with thousands of automaticaly generated comment spams. It was taking me half an hour every time I logged on to get rid of the stuff, and I probably lost genuine comments while I was pruning the garbage.
I'd love to be able to find a way around it, and if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.
I'm running TypeKey authentication, which allows trusted commenters to post without being moderated, and done whatever else I can to encourage comments. I'm now re-trialling trackbacks, to see if the new system can defeat trackback spam, which was another source of grief for me, but I just can't cope with the open slather approach. Without these safeguards, the amount of time I'd have available to post stuff would be seriously diminished.
Please, don't take it personally.
February 18, 2006
Ban games. Burn books.
The banning by the Federal Government's Classification Review Board of the graffiti game Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure on the grounds that it might incite people to whip out spray cans and cover the entire country in graffiti isn't just silly, it's inconsistent.
Far from using the decision of a body head edby a journalist from the Sydney Daily Telegraph, for God's sake - can there be a better reason for disbanding it immediately? - as a precedent for banning other games, someone needs to point out that right now, out there in the nation's bookshops, they're selling a book called Stencil Graffiti Capital - Melbourne, which arguably does much more to glorify the work of graffiti artists/vandals, depending on your point of view.
Unless the government sends out a squad to burn the book, it should rescind this absurd decision.
If anything, people who buy the game are almost certainly less likely to practise drawing real graffiti than the average citizen - largely because, as anyone who's ever played a computer game will attest, they tend to take up all one's available time. And the players probably couldn't draw a straight line or cut a stencil to save themselves. That's why they bought the game. To pretend.
Telegraph journalists may think that anyone who shoots down mutants or Panzer brigades on the screen is busting to get his hands on an Uzi or a Kalashnikov to enjoy the real thing, but no-one capable of genuine thought, surely does.
Posted by cw at 05:22 PM
Recording industry tries a back-flip
The RIAA (Rapacious Industry Association of America ... sorry, the Record Industry Association of America) has done a monstrous flip on the legality of ripping CDs. Having acknowledged in the US Supreme Court that making a personal copy of your CD, for a back-up, or the iPod, is legal, it's now trying to argue that, sorry, no, it isn't, and that it can change its mind and withdraw fair use rights as it chooses.
That's the meaning of the following statement: made by RIAA to proceedings over the DMCA: "Nor does the fact that permission to make a copy in particular circumstances is often or even routinely granted, necessarily establish that the copying is a fair use when the copyright owner withholds that authorization. In this regard, the statement attributed to counsel for copyright owners in the MGM v. Grokster case is simply a statement about authorization, not about fair use."
Just as our tardy government seems finally prepared to legislate for the freedom to copy we're all taking for granted.
Worms discover Apple
It's by no means a serious threat, and you'd have to be a complete dill to go along with it, but the Leap-A worm, which tries to spread via Apple's iChat might just be an indication that virus writers are thinking about targetting Macs, which until now have been all but totally free of the plague.
It might serve as a timely reminder that no matter what platform you're using, it's a good idea to observe reasonable precautions. Such as, for instance, not accepting gratuitous file transfers.
"The Leap-A worm isn't in itself a significant threat, but it should act as a helpful reminder that malware can be written for any computer," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for anti-virus firm Sophos.
"Mac users cannot keep thinking that they are invulnerable to these threats."
Blogs vs The Press: Who do you believe?
The Financial Times' Trevor Butterworth is clearly not impressed: "The historical lesson here is one of cyclical rebellion at the US media for being staid, dull and closed off to change. Indeed, the underground press of the 1960s was described in almost identical terms as blogging is today. 'The loudest voice heard in America these days,' said the radical journalist Andrew Kopkind in 1967, 'is the sound of insurgents chiselling away at establishments.'”
"The present round of chiselling may feel excitingand radically new - but blogging in the US is not reflective of the kind of deep social and political change that lay behind the alternative press in the 1960s. Instead, its dependency on old media for its material brings to mind Swift’s fleas sucking upon other fleas “ad infinitum”: somewhere there has to be a host for feeding to begin. That blogs will one day rule the media world is a triumph of optimism over parasitism." And according to Butterworth, the advertisers are sticking with mainstream media, and nobody is getting rich from blogging.
Those are more assertions than facts, it seems to us, that are challenged by the heading on the New York Magazine story: "Blogs to Riches:The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom."
It points out, "Last fall, AOL bought Jason Calacanis’s company Weblogs, Inc., which includes Engadget, for $25 million." And while it acknowledges that few bloggers have enjoyed such riches, it suggests "the blogosphere is slowly developing solid business models". Doesn't it suggest that mainstream media might be somewhat prone to the subtleties of emphasis, particularly on a topic where they have considerable skin in the game?
Posted by cw at 08:51 AM
February 17, 2006
Your next Mac: Windows with a slick layer?
He's a curmudgeon - hey, we LIKE curmudgeons - who is at times uncommonly wise. And the TWiT podcast, to which he contributes desultorily, is great value. But, sorry John Dvorak, we think you might have allowed that psychology professor to addle your brains, with your support of his theory that Apple will drop the Mac operating system and switch to Windows.
Yakov Epstein, who teaches the head-shrinking arts at Rutgers University - and writes books on fertility [his mind certainly qualifies as fertile] - is clearly influential. He's got John opining that Apple could just apply "an executive software layer" over Windows to "preserve the Mac's slick cachet".
The Epstein-Dvorak theory is that "Apple has always said it was a hardware company, not a software company. Now with the cash cow iPod line, it can afford to drop expensive OS development and just make jazzy, high-margin Windows computers to finally get beyond that five-percent market share and compete directly with Dell, HP, and the stodgy Chinese makers." In your dreams, John. Or is he right, and it's us who should be getting more sleep?
The financial laws of blogging
It turns out, according to a fascinating article in New York magazine, that the same [inherently unfair] economic laws that mean the well-off tend to get weller-off, also apply to the world of blogging. There's a power law distribution at work here, folks, and people are getting rich through a tawdry form of link incest. [Robert Scoble links to Om Malik who links to Robert Scoble etc., etc., world without end, amen]. Next, we imagine, lots of articles on how to beat the system.
Meanwhile, here at Bleeding Edge, our bold new experiment in making wealth beyond our wildest dreams has kicked into gear. Yesterday we got more than a dozen takers for our subscription idea - a pathetically small sum brings you additional, valuable information - and there's more this morning. It's turning up some important new trends that we might turn into a feature article of our own. Although we specified a payment of $15 for a year's services - which has to be quite a bargain, when you consider that we have to pay the GST on that - more than half the new subscribers paid more than the $15. In some cases, substantially more: would you believe $50? Yes, that's right. They could have had the product for $15, but most chose to pay between $20 and $50. There's got to be an economics law that explains that, and just as soon as we find a name for it, we're going to turn it into an article.
Meanwhile, back in the world of freelance journalism that we inhabit, - on account of the fact that we are NOT being favoured with links from A list bloggers, and companies like IBM and Microsoft and Apple and pretty well everyone else for that matter would rather forego an expense account lunch than support us [could it be something we wrote?], we're busily pitching ideas to editors. Hysterically, we got a highly aerated e-mail from another freelancer who read that we'd ditched Razor on account of the fact that it didn't pay the $1 a word we could get from some magazines. He wanted us to tell him which magazines they were, so he could pitch to them too. Which would not, we're sure, endear us to the editors he pestered.
We haven't given up on the blog as yet, however, and as long as those subscriptions continue to trickle in, we can justify it. So sign up. Remember, it's only $15. Or $20. Or $50.
February 16, 2006
Support us, and get a nice reward
The beginnings of a business plan are beginning to emerge, here in the Bleeding Edge cave. We've decided that we're not going to get much in the way of income, unless we can offer services or information beyond all the free stuff. So we'll start with the digital copy of the Bleeding Edge columns. The columns will no longer appear on The Age and Sydney Morning Herald web sites. Instead, we'll offer an entire year of them - emailed directly to subscribers - for a $15 annual fee.
They'll include more information than appears in the print version, which is all too often cut for space reasons. And we'll round out the offering with additional bits and pieces that we come across after the columns are printed.
We think it's a great way of supporting Bleeding Edge, and getting something in return. You can either click on the PayPal link for patrons, or send us an email, and we'll send you bank account details.
What do you think?
Microsoft's baffling Office Live offering?
We suggest that there might have been a Freudian slip in Microsoft's PR department, when it prepared the announcement of the beta program for the Office Live offering.
The press release announces that services will range from free domain name, Web site and company e-mail accounts that are advertising-supported to "more comprehensible services available on a subscription-fee basis". Umm, we think the word they were looking for was "comprehensive". Although, who knows, maybe they're coming clean about the "Bullshit Baffles Brains" business model.
There are three levels, aimed at companies with 10 or fewer employees:
- Live Basics. A collection of free, advertising-supported services services that will provide "the core requirements for establishing an online identity", including a domain name with five e-mail accounts, each with 2 GB of storage; a Web site with 30 MB of file storage space; a drag-and-drop Web design tool; and the Microsoft Office Live Site Reports tool for monitoring and analysing Web site traffic.
- Live Collaboration provides "a rich, versatile set of Internet-based business management tools that are managed and maintained by Microsoft". They're password-protected online workspaces (intranets and extranets) based on SharePoint Services technology, which include shared internal collaborative sites, and customer management, project management, sales and marketing management, employee management, and company administration.
- Live Essentials offers a domain name with 50 e-mail accounts, a 50MB Web site, that Web design tool plus FrontPage, more advanced analytis, and "a rich set of Internet-based applications to help small-business owners streamline and automate daily business tasks, such as management of customers, projects and documents".
The release doesn't discuss what life might be like for companies that trust Microsoft to manage sensitive areas of their business. Possibly because they're all too comprehensible.
Would you put your business in the hands of the company that's brought us the blue screen of death, and done so much to undermine security? Or are we being cynical again?
February 15, 2006
Map your blog influence
According to co-founder, Jeffrey Veen, Measure Map "helps you understand what people do at your blog, and what influence you are having on the world".
Hello? Can you hear us? The iPod is great, and when you've got the earplugs in, you're in a world of your own. You need to remember though, that if you happen to be on the road, the world isn't entirely yours. There's buses. And trucks. And cars. And you could end up dead.
UPDATE: Pace some of the commenters: The story may be a beat-up. We're linking to it not because we believe iPods are dangerous - we drive with ours all the time, but via the FM transmitter, rather than earphones - but because, in our opinion, it could be a timely warning that you do need to be careful, when you're on the road, that the iPod isn't going to be a hazard.
Enter Windows Defender
The Windows anti-spyware beta has entered phase 2, with a new interface, and a new name ... you know, the one it bullied out of a young Australian developer, Adam Lyttle.
Microsoft says the enhancements include:
- Enhanced performance through a new scanning engine.
- Streamlined, simplified user interface and alerts.
- Improved control over programs on your computer using enhanced Software Explorer.
- Multiple language support with globalization and localisation features.
- Protection technologies for all users, whether or not they have administrator rights on the computer.
- Support for assistive technology for individuals who have physical or cognitive difficulties, impairments, and disabilities.
- Support for Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.
- Automatic cleaning according to your settings during regularly scheduled scans. You can download Windows Defender and try it for yourself.
Posted by cw at 12:29 PM
Our sad blog decision
This morning we've had to take a difficult decision. Most of you will be aware that for eight or nine months, we've been writing a blog called Razor, for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. Unfortunately, we've found it consuming an increasing amount of our time - three to four hours a day - in research and writing and managing comments.
We've worked out that we've been earning less than 30c a word, compared to the 60c per word average that most IT writers earn. Writing for magazines, we generally earn around $1 per word. We haven't seen much of that $1 per word stuff, however, because blogging leaves us with very little time to do freelance writing. The effects on the Bleeding Edge balance sheet have been pretty drastic.
What with the fact that we're contributing to the forthcoming nuptials of the beautiful Bleeding Edge daughter and her excellent intended, and ... you know ... we're committed to paying our bills, we've decided to pop Razor back into its sheath.
We've also been forced to withdraw the digital rights for the Bleeding Edge column from Fairfax. For the moment, they'll appear only on Bleeding Edge. We're hoping that this might increase the Bleeding Edge traffic and ad revenue. If not, we'll probably drop Bleeding Edge as well.
It's been an interesting experience, this blogging. Not what you'd call financially rewarding, but we've had a lot of fun with it, met some great people (online and in person), and learned a lot.
February 14, 2006
Jumping through hoops
Look. It's a scream. Really. Girl jumps through a basketball hoop. But. Bleeding Edge doesn't believe it's genuine. Is it?
February 13, 2006
Bill's taste for music
ONE of the many things Bleeding Edge loves about Bill Gates, aside from his restless drive to dominate world information processing, world banking, world communications, world music, world TV and telephony etc - we like to see a young man who wants to get ahead - is his singular inability to keep his mouth shut.
Bill cultivates diplomacy the way Eskimos cultivate pineapples. Put him in a room with a reporter from Fortune magazine, or Time, or the Wall Street Journal, and pretty soon he'll be exploring the outer limits of frankness, and the reporter will be furiously taking notes and ringing up the editor to hold page one, or change the cover.
That is why Bleeding Edge spends a lot of time poring over precisely what Bill has to say in these interviews. Obviously a lot of people, including some of Bill's competitors, haven't made the connections, but by putting the pieces together over the years, we've had a grandstand view of the entire Microsoft strategy and been able to get an early sniff of a whole string of Microsoft initiatives.
There was a slight blip there, for a while, after a team of Californian lawyers, acting for some unidentified software companies, nailed Bill to the wall with his own words, and those of other Microsoft executives, by pointing out various contradictions and apparent illegalities - you might call it the attack of the killer quotations - but the settlement turned out to be not too bad at all, and Bill has got back to his babbling ways.
We can't help but wonder, however, if the lawyers will be getting out their magnifying glasses again, after Bill's declaration that "the iPod isn't the final answer" to portable media players, and that Microsoft plans to release its own version.
In the past, Microsoft's strategy has been to allow various device manufacturers to create players that were compatible with the company's software, arguing that it offered consumers more options. Given that has left Apple - which has no such notions - with 70 per cent of the market, you can understand why Bill might be gnashing his teeth. But if he now starts competing with the likes of iRiver and Creative, isn't that likely to excite their lawyers?
February 10, 2006
Google's new desktop: just a little too convenient?
On the face of it, Google's new Desktop 3 beta looks promising: "The new version comes loaded with features that make finding and sharing information even easier and more fun than before."
But according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it's a potential nightmare.
While Google describes its Search Across Computers feature as "the means to access your data no matter where it resides ... [which] makes it seamless to search the content of your documents and web history from any of your computers", the EFF sees it like this:
"If a consumer chooses to use it, the new "Search Across Computers" feature will store copies of the user's Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and other text-based documents on Google's own servers, to enable searching from any one of the user's computers. EFF urges consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who've obtained a user's Google password."
Just this afternoon we were having a coffee with a government Chief Information Officer who took the view that Google promises to be the new Microsoft, in the sense that it's likely to generate just as many concerns - albeit different ones - as Seattle. That motto,
"Do no harm" "Don't be evil", is starting to look increasingly frayed.
February 09, 2006
Songbird, the much heralded open source iTunes killer, is out there. So out there, that the server has carked from the load. So you'll have to download it from alternatives on the temporary page, or here. There's an interview here. A Digg discussion here. And Atariboy likes it.
Have you tried it? What do you think?
Beautifully small solutions
We hope this isn’t going to put anyone out, but would it be too much trouble if those big IT companies stopped providing us with solutions? Just for, say, the next five years or so, could all those product managers and their engineers and programmers go away and mind their own business, and allow us to solve our problems by ourselves?
The reason we ask this is that we’re tired of what you might call big solutions. Left to our own devices, the average person chooses small solutions, rather than big ones. Solutions Inc., however, favours the larger variety, simply because they generate bigger profits. And big solutions, unfortunately – subject to the laws of unintended consequences – tend to magnify the size of any problems.
Take, for instance, the simple matter of communications and collaboration. When Solutions Inc. – and specifically Lotus – got their hands on that idea, it led to a whole new class of software called “Groupware”, led by a program called Lotus Notes.
Using software agents and self-replicating databases, it was supposed to “close the gap between the overwhelming volume of information and users’ ability to filter and manage it”.
What we eventually learned about groupware and collaborative software, after the expenditure of more than $US1 billion dollars, was that it led to a dramatic blow-out in IT budgets, for little increase in collaborative productivity. The only tool that did boost collaborative output, it emerged, was the one we’d all started out with at the beginning of the networked society: e-mail.
Now the inventor of Lotus Notes, Ray Ozzie, has moved to Microsoft, and Microsoft is flogging a service called Groove for these tasks. And Zimbra Collaboration Suite is taking a more open source approach.
Neither alternative appealed to a Melbourne software developer, Pete Yandell, when he was working as a volunteer with West Melbourne-based Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Asylum, trying to set up group emailing for 500 voluntary workers.
His first response was to give them some online discussion forums. The workers regarded them as something else they had to learn, and refused to use them. Even Yahoo! Groups, a couple of which Bleeding Edge uses, tend to be a problem to administer, and in many cases, people tend to lose both admin and account passwords.
We’ve been playing with it over the past few weeks, and we like it a lot. If you need to set up an ad hoc link with several people – a reading group, perhaps, or a club, a small business or work group – you could find it very handy.
In our view, it works because it uses the simple method of “type and send” that makes e-mail both popular and simple to use. People tend to shy away from anything that requires them to fill in forms, or learn a completely new interface.
Once you sign up for an account (free), you start a conversation simply by emailing one or more participants, and including firstname.lastname@example.org in the email. The software immediately sets up a Web page to record all the contributions, and allocates an e-mail address for the conversation.
To include someone new in the conversation just add their e-mail address in the To or Cc field when you reply to a conversation e-mail. They’ll receive an invitation from 9Cays. They can join the conversation by clicking on the URL of the Web conversation page. If they’re not interested, they can simply ignore the e-mail.
The participants can continue the conversation by e-mail, using the conversation address, or via the Web page, or by an RSS feed that they can pick up from the Web page.
We like the Web page interface. It’s very tidy, and it automatically truncates each email to remove duplicated text. It includes a list of all the participants and invitees, in the form of links.
If you attach a JPG image to an email, it will automatically appear on the Web page. That makes it an ideal photo blog.
It’s not the sort of place where you’d post confidential information, but the unique Web address makes it relatively secure, and the software has built in defences against spam.
It’s much more democratic than Yahoo! Groups, largely because there is no moderator. We’re in one particular journalism group where the moderator gags conversations that he feels might embarrass him. The debate would be a lot more fair and free on 9Cays.
There are probably other interesting uses for 9Cays. You could use it, for instance, as an archive of conversations you have with people you don’t particular trust. Let us know what you think of it, and how you use it. We think you’ll find it admirably concise.
Tiny URL: Regular readers of the column have probably noticed that a lot of the links we publish use a domain called tinyurl.com. It’s a free service that turns long URLs, or Web addresses, into very short ones. That can save a lot of space in a newspaper, but it can also prevent mis-typed characters. In the case of this newspaper, for instance, the character translation software routinely turnes underscore characters into hyphens. If you’d like to be the soul of brevity, you might try it out. All you have to do is insert the long URL, and copy and paste the tinier version. And TinyUrl sensibly includes a link to test the address.
February 06, 2006
Calling all Foneros
What we need around here, we've decided, is a FON network - a voluntary alliance of "Foneros" who download some software, position their Wi-Fi anennas near a windows to make their bandwidth available to other Foneros, and thus enjoy the benefits of a roaming Wi-Fi network. Skype and Google like the idea so much, they've contributed funding. The aim of the Spanish founders is to have a network of one million hotspots around the world in four years.
At the moment, the software seems to work only with Linksys routers (version WRT54G 4 and below, and WRT54GL/GS), and depending on your ISP, you might have trouble connecting.
Anyone tried it yet?
A Microsoft Super Bowl?
We're watching the Super Bowl. the Seattle Seahawks are looking good. Could this be one of the finest hours of Microsoft programming?
Hmmn. At 14-3, maybe there's a bug in the program.
February 04, 2006
An absence of images
AussieBoykie has identified a particularly grievous oversight here at Edge Enterprises. We didn't take any pictures of the historic first meeting of Bleeding Edge site admins last Thursday. Paul attempted to excuse us with the suggestion that none of us has a digital camera. Not true, unfortunately. We have a Canon 10D, with a completely empty 1GB card, and a fully-charged battery . We didn't take it with us, however. We didn't even take it to work with us that day, despite the fact that our highly talented handyman, Linton - he's a craftsman with a flair for design - was installing the new bench we've been waiting on for several weeks.
Even that doesn't excuse us. We did have the Treo 650 with us. We could have easily taken a picture, and popped it up on the site while we were still talking. It could be that the conversation was so wide-ranging, and we had so much to learn about each other that it simply didn't cross our mind.
Beat the DRMs. A better music store.
Interested in a better online music store? One that doesn't castrate downloads with DRM?
Keeping tabs on stuff
Here at the Bleeding Edge Centre for the Capture and Containment of Stuff, (BECCCS) we have been noticing of late a certain desperation abroad in the community over the mass break-out of information.
Having escaped from detention and evaded captivity, these umm, informations, are not serving the purposes for which they were intended: ie, informing people.
[We should establish, at this point, what “information” actually is, and as ever, we turn to the definition offered by Gregory Bateson in a book called Steps to an Ecology of Mind (recently re-released, with a new introduction. Bateson described information as “the difference that makes a difference”.
It clearly doesn’t make a difference if you’re unaware of its existence, or can’t put your hands on it when you need it.
And because increasing amounts of this particular variety of stuff is free-ranging on the Internet, it defies the capacity of the average human – unaided - to track it down.
Fortunately, there are some wonderful tools around these days, and we here at the BECCCS have been having a lot of fun with them.
One of the best is a “social bookmarking” site called del.icio.us, recently purchased by the search engine company, Yahoo. It adds a new and powerful dimension to the concept of the browser bookmark, turning it from a purely personal and local tool, via the power of the network, into a distributed cataloguing system. As individuals around the world bookmark articles they find on the Web and attach a classification, or “tag”. The del.icio.us software aggregates the results.
At Bleeding Edge, we use it in a couple of different ways. First, it’s a way of staying in touch with the things that other people find interesting, serving, if you like, as a fuzzy search engine. One of the first things we do when we boot up the computer every day, is head for the “popular” page, and browse through the offerings. While we’re at it, we’ll often check out the most popular tags on the right of that page. We rarely come away empty handed.
But that’s not its major purpose. Once you set up your own account, you can use it as your own bookmark storage. If you’re away from your own PC, all you have to do is log into your del.icio.us account, and they’re instantly available.
You start by registering, preferably with a login you’ll find it easy to remember. Once you’ve got your account, you can log in, and select how you’ll add bookmarks. You can select a button for your choice of browser, or if you’ve got Firefox, take advantage of an official extension at which tightly integrates del.icio.us into the browser. That’s the one we’ve chosen.
Once you’ve got that running, the next time you find something you want to bookmark and tag, you click on your button, and it will trigger a page with the URL and description already filled in, and some suggested tags.
The ability to search on any tag makes del.icio.us a powerful research tool. If, for instance, you’re interested in viral marketing, you could go here.
We did that exercise a week or so ago, and quickly came up with some interesting articles that we hadn’t found in a fast search of Google.
If you’re interested in digital images, you’ll find another Yahoo acquisition, Flickr, equally rewarding as a tool for searching for and labelling images.
You can upload and tag your own photos with a free, bandwidth-limited account, or a paid account. But perhaps Flickr’s most compelling features relate to its community. You can comment on other people’s images, and learn a lot from the comments of others. There’s an FAQ here.
In our opinion, searching for images at Flickr yields consistently better results than Google Image.
There’s some handy hints for Mac users too.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Yahoo buys another site that we’ve found useful for keeping up to date with news: digg.com
It rates stories on the votes of readers – a development which probably won’t be welcomed by editors, who are paid for their ability to pick what readers want.
Tools like these make a real difference.
February 02, 2006
Bleeding Edge at Banff
Paul, Stephen, gto_pontiac and I are right now nattering away in the Banff Cafe in Fitzroy St, St Kilda, discussing the Bleeding Edge forum. If you're in the area, drop in! It's amazing what [and where] you can blog with an iBurst card.
February 01, 2006
Oz storage company gets noticed
Wollongong-based online storage company OmniDrive has been getting some nice write-ups for its online storage offering. Founder Nik Cubrilovich is in the US trying to organise funding. Typically, the local VCs - f you can call anything that timid venture capitalists - have been less than keen.
The review points out OmniDrive's unique selling proposition: "Full read/write functionality on the file, in the [online] cloud. Open a file from your Omnidrive, edit it and write it back to Omnidrive without ever downloading a local copy. Once they release their API, I imagine many, many services will mash the Omnidrive storage service into their applications. It is just too compelling not to".
Anyone tried it out?