Saturday, September 29

Help pay for a political TV ad? I can do that

Now this is the kind of political ad I'm happy to see more of on TV - the kind that takes the piss out of our Federal Government's use of television ads for shameless propaganda dressed up as public service announcement.

It also comes to the same conclusion I have: I'll vote for a party that's serious about climate change.

You can do too, and make sure thousands more Australians see the ad. Here's a page hosted by where you can make a secure donation to buy more airtime for the TVC.

Monday, September 24

Radiohead: not OK, Computer

Lord only knows, pretension is hardly a new attitude in the music industry, but when I read that Radiohead were not selling their latest album on iTunes Store, I had to chuckle at the assbackwardness of it all.

If I were their record label, I'd be down on my knees begging them to recant. If I were Apple's iTunes A&R, I'd be wondering if it was something I'd said to piss them off.

After all, I assume Radiohead will be OK with radio stations not playing the entire album in one go, and I assume they haven't produced a music video for MTV encompassing all the tracks on the album. Yet somehow, the only medium in which the album must be consumed in its entirety is the one where there's any significant revenue to be earned.

Millions of potential buyers will instead lift a copy of the album from a friend's CD or from a free file sharing network.

Will the next Radiohead album come with a waiver that must be OK'd stating that the purchaser agrees that 'Radiohead is bigger than Jesus" before downloading?
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Radiohead ditches iTunes to keep album complete
Here's an interesting twist on the iTunes vs. record companies situation. Radiohead (disclaimer: I'm a Radiohead fan) is choosing not to sell their latest album on iTunes not because their record company is pressuring them out of the deal-- their record company is EMI, and they're more than willing to sell the record DRM free-- but because iTunes is forcing them to break up their album into songs that can be sold separately.
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Saturday, September 22

Apple's iPhoto still can't print photobooks in Australia

Apple's iPhoto *still* can't print photobooks in Australia
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

Apple launched iPhoto 1.0 in 2002 and today I installed iLife '08, which includes iPhoto Version 7.0.1.

Since version 1.0, Apple has offered the ability to print photo books from iPhoto, and by all accounts, it has amongst the best photo book quality in the market.

Now it offers book printing in the US, Japan and much of the larger European nations, but no book printing in Australia. Come on, Apple Australia, you've had more than enough time to build an installed base of iPhoto users here, and to negotiate backend printing relationships. It's well past time you launched iPhoto book printing for Australian iLife customers.

I know there are other third-party solutions I could use, but I'm not interested: I'm an Apple Fan Boy and proud of it, and I want the one-click seamless experience from button-on-iPhoto-toolbar, to dotmac login and shopping cart, to nicely packaged photo book in the mail.


Friday, September 21

Offset your illegal downloads with Content Credits

This mock poll on is a classic, especially the idea of buying "Movie Production Credits" to offset illegal downloads.
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How would you best rationalize like a pirate?
Downloading movies is green.
Stealing and looting is just recycling other people's stuff.
Movie studios are too rich anyway.
Pirating software and movies distributes them to more people, which will bring in more money in the long run.
Every movie I download illegally, I offset with Movie Production Credits.
I'd never pay to see most of the stuff I steal anyway.
The Joy of Tech comic
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Wednesday, September 12

There's a wombat awaiting moderation: what do you do?

Flickr Photo: Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, discuss pulling out of a wombat.

Thinking and talking a lot about social networks in my day job at the moment, particularly the old chestnut: "how do you balance risk against viralocity?" In other words, how do you ensure you don't kill the growth of your nascent social network by over-regulating what gets published? Will moderating content too much kill the pavlovian reward of "post-reply-reply-to-reply-repeat" that makes a social network sticky and compelling?

Why does that matter? Because woven tight into the good stuff, growing like weeds, you'll always find weird stuff also growing on your social networks, no matter what original purpose it has. Show me a user-generated content database, I'll show you some weird shit in there, every time.

Further, the line between "weird" and "bad" is wiggly, broad and fuzzy, with transparency set at >10% and sporting extra-aliased edges. Further, "bad" comes in a wide variety of flavours, including "bad for business", "bad for conservative families" and "bad for the legal budget line".

"Probably won't happen" is not an answer lead counsel is ever happy with, but most of us live our entire lives sheltering under it. As in, "I could be killed by a block of frozen pee falling from an airliner passing overhead, but... it probably won't happen".

To wit: vombatus ursinus.

A great example of bizarrely funny social action on Flickr: the "Better with a wombat" photo pool, where a small group of people with too much Photoshop-foo come together to insert wombats into photos. This classic example from Mike Monteiro has all the hallmarks of a great master: the wombat image has been inserted in front of the two men, above the documents on the table and behind the microphone, and the shadows cast on the papers and the shared perspective of the wombat and the media event photos combine to make it look like... well... a wombat at the Whitehouse.

Should it be there? That's a much easier question to answer than "Now it's there, should we remove it?" For every hour you waste anticipating the day you get asked the former, you'll waste 100 hours answering the latter again and again. There are few defamation case law precedents covering wombat insertion, fewer still case studies of conservative advocacy groups pressuring advertisers to pull media from sites featuring wombat-related satire. And none at all to suggest that this sort of wombat photo file sharing encourages bestiality or other illegal activity. Meanwhile, what do you do? The clock is ticking, the needle on the viralocity guage on your social network platform's dashboard interface is falling fast... what do you do?

Anytime someone tells you that your social network can and should be planned and closely moderated, remember this photo and the community that created it. Then ask yourself:

  1. Do you really want to employ moderation staff to consider whether this stuff should be encouraged/discouraged/removed?
  2. Ready to author and maintain terms of use agreements that anticipate this kind of random act? Up for authoring and maintaining the moderation guidelines your moderation team will need to refer to before acting on this image?
  3. Think you can anticipate the spectrum of human weirdness your network might reveal and have all this in place, ready to strike it down before someone gets offended?

I don't. Instead, I say: let Petraeus and Crocker mount legal action first, which... probably won't happen. "Probably won't happen" is not an answer lead counsel is ever happy with, but most of us live our entire lives sheltering under it. As in, "I could be killed by a block of frozen pee falling from an airliner passing overhead, but... it probably won't happen".

Meanwhile, you have ample time to come up with a team process for rapid deletion and retraction. Few legal threats proceed once the content has been removed and a public retraction and apology issued. Fewer still result in signiciant material damages. Which you can fund from the savings you'll have made on legal and moderation services.

Meanwhile, wombats can roam free, doing what wombats do best: driving repeat visits, new content, new referrals, improving search relevance, increasing advertising impressions, and, of course, digging the largest burrows you are ever likely to see.

Ringles don't make me tingle

ARIA's latest figures show a 47% decline in CD single sales year-on-year.

The only really shocking thing: that so many Australian consumers are still paying through the nose for the physical music product when the identical track is available online for about a third of the price.

Anyway, there's nothing to wring your hands about (unless you own a CD pressing business) because sales of online digital single tracks increased by 64% in the same period, and at $8.38m in sales revenue is a little more than twice the value of physical single sales. Plenty healthy. Factor in the higher margins at almost every step in online versus physical production, distribution and delivery, and it's a healthy business to be in, as long as you're big enough to have a roster of successful artists and at the same time small enough to be able to keep up with the pace and true direction of change.

By "true direction" I mean where the industry is actually going, versus where some believe it can be steered. The former is entirely in the hands of the consumer, influenced by the content offerings available to them, how that content is priced and to what device it is delivered. The latter almost entirely the exclusive domain of large music labels and the industry bodies that serve them.

Evidence of a failure to keep up with the true direction of change: talk of prolonging the life of CD singles by including "ringles" - ringtone versions of the single - on the CD, along with software that will make it "easy" to transfer the ringtone version of the track to a mobile phone.


Please, don't let's pretend for a moment that this might have the slightest chance of widespread consumer adoption! Consider the "Sony rootkit" fiascos, and what might need to be installed on the consumer's PC in order to deliver a ringle from CD drive to handset. Better find a way to provide technical support for Windows '98, 2000, XP, Vista, OS X and Linux installation issues for product that retails for $5. Don't even start about what tiny percentage of mobile consumers ever successfully connect their handset to their PC, or want to do so for any reason.

Is it even possible to deliver a software application within the constraints of CD single data storage limits that might have a chance of being compatible with the diverse community of mobile handset operating systems, ringtone file types and carrier locks out there in the marketplace? I don't like the word "impossible" - it always seems to get me in trouble - but let's just say I'd be flabbergasted.

The only sensible way to deliver ringtones to mobile handsets is online, and for the majority of mobile consumers, the carrier - not the label, not the handset manufacturer - owns that pipe. No CD single "ringle" is going to influence that in the slightest. Labels: work with the carriers... or maybe acquire them. Carriers are to the future of music what radio broadcasters have been in the past, plus the entire retail supply chain. Getting out of that headlock they have on you is going to take more than a "ringle" or two.

Sunday, September 9

ZDNet tries harvesting an audience from Facebook

Facebook audience harvesting for publications
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

The Facebook platform is an extraordinary venue for reaching out to a large online audience and encouraging them to try your own web application. As you'd expect, I've been observing the evolution of Facebook closely, not only as a chance to poke my friends, but to observe a rapid and significant evolution in the way we attract and retain an audience.

In the first wave of Facebook platform apps, solo developers built little fun apps primarily to show off their own coding skills, without much thought given to driving app use or polishing the many bugs. Soon, there were a hundred ways to do more than poke a friend, or rate someone as hot or not.

In wave two, when most obvious Facebook app categories were populated with a few competitors, the more ambitious developers began re-coding their apps to focus on acquisition and retention, to ensure they'd win and then retain number one position in their category. But they were still apps that, for the most part, existed only on Facebook. They didn't try to leverage the platform to build their own audience. And they weren't any more commercial than the typical widget; they certainly weren't selling ad space.

In wave three, other major web applications such as Flickr, Twitter and launched Facebook-specific apps tying their service to Facebook's user database, allowing consumers using both platforms to stay engaged with, say, Twitter, while Facebook was their front-most application. This was smart because the Facebook platform doesn't threaten the ownership of user data - if you unhook from Facebook later, you can take your users with you. There are more benefits than risks in building and deploying a Facebook version of your web app.

An online media business gets another UB, some more pageviews, some additional ad impressions. All from the most unlikely of sources... a Facebook app.

Here's a new wave that I've only just discovered: an online media business (in this case, building a Facebook app to try and gain some viral growth in their online audience by giving Facebook users something fun and engaging to try.

Initially, the Broadband Speed Challenge application does what many similar apps do - test your internet connection and give you a whizzo dashboard of animated dials to display just how fast your up- and downloads are.

This must have demanded some outside-the-square thinking at ZDnet - a media business used to writing up news and then selling ads on it - checking people's connection speed is not a core competency. But it's clever, it's useful, and it has relevancy, as you'll see in a minute.

BSC then goes further by allowing you to compare your net connection speed with your friends on Facebook, and invite your other Facebook friends to try the test for themselves. It's cool because it's something no other speed test application could do for you, since most speed test apps have a regular monthly audience of zip/zero/nada.

I was ever-so-slightly-stoked to learn that I had the fastest connection amongst the six friends who'd tried it so far. In yo face, suckas ;-)

i 8wn u suckas!

Then the app goes one smart step further and shows you some wifi/broadband feed headlines from ZDNet. Now, I haven't been a fan of ZDnet. I was a regular reader 3-4 years ago, but then I felt it headed downhill, and I haven't read it since. Until tonight, that is. I've learned the writing's improved, the research is better, the writers are more experienced, so I've resubscribed.

Would I change anything? Yes, I'd probably test the ubiquitous "invite all your friends to try this app" approach that most Facebook developers try. Yes, it's annoying, but it becomes less-so when every dang app you install tries it on. Note I said "test it", I didn't say "adopt it" - see how much it annoys your own subset of the Facebook audience first. I'd also test increasing the prominence of the ZDNet feeds, and see if that affected adoption, usage, or clickthrus to ZDnet.

In ye olde dayes, online social networks and web apps would shrivel and die without the help of online media businesses to build a brand and acquire an audience. Is this example a sign that maybe the relationship, in some cases, is being turned on its head?

An online media business gets another UB, some more pageviews, some additional ad impressions. All from the most unlikely of sources... a Facebook app. Well, I live and learn.

Tuesday, September 4

Great white blogger returns

Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

I may have neglected to mention that photos from the recent safari in Kenya are now up in my Flickr account. Check them out.

Monday, September 3

Online evangelism becoming a career

Update: Steve Rubel says a very similar thing here in AdAge.

Way back when This All Got Started, Guy Kawasaki was the only "tech evangelist" I knew of, and he was doing it for a hardware company. Then, it started to spread to internet companies. People like me who could talk a good game started spending part of our time as "consumer spokesperson" as well as our regular role, speaking at consumer expos (remember expos?), being interviewed by journalists and helping craft online marketing communications that were more than marketingspeak and jargon.

Now its Web 2.0, and evangelists and their relationships with customers and the industry are vital to a startup. Marketing Web 2.0 companies is mainly about direct relationships with the kinds of customers who will introduce their friends to your product or service. I'm thinking people like Luke Watson at Bluepulse, Tara Hunt in all her guises, and Mick Liubinskas at Tangler.

So I was delighted to see that IM startup Meebo is recruiting evangelists in such an explicit and planned way.

Meebo has an impressive product that illustrates an intuitive grasp of the new web and they have a buzzing community of users. So they can really benefit from having the right people evangelising to create more and deeper relationships with their customers.

It would be a great role; how I wish I were 25 again!
clipped from
Customer Engagement Superevangelist
How you’ll contribute:

*Be a passionate advocate and enthusiastic conduit between meebo and our members
*Talk, IM and email with members and help the meebo team improve our service
*Equip our members with the latest information about our service so that enthusiastic meebo fans can help spread meebo around the world

How you’ll be measured:

*Increase the excitement and involvement in being a meebo member
*Increase the number of times meebo’s blogged by others
*Drive widespread adoption of meebo badges and other blog bling
*Increase adoption of meebo among popular members of the leading social network sites
*Build ongoing dialogs with members, potential members and influencers through blogs, advisory panels, beta groups, forums, newsletters and the site
*Gather trend information, market and customer feedback and competitive information and feed it into meebo product and business development

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