Archive for November, 2007

The Week is discovered by the NY Times

November 26th, 2007

Out of nowhere, we started receiving this marvelous magazine called the Week. My mom had gotten it for me, because you can send a free subscription to someone else when you renew your subscription. It has changed my life. What is so great about the Week? Here’s how the NYT describes it:

His magazine The Week riffs through all the content in the known universe and digests it into a form that can be disposed of in 20 minutes.

I have always envisioned the media sphere as a giant, multimedia dialogue. This dialogue is difficult to follow because it crosses from tv shows, magazine articles, newspaper editorials and Internet postings. The arguments only obliquely refer to the larger conversational context. And there is no centralized place to find out what was said previously or who will respond next.

Until now! The Week offers such a place. My brother said that he was glad that he received the week but that his verbal opponents were unaware of his source, so that he could pull out arguments from the Christian Science Monitor to Bill O’Reilly and appear to be amazingly media-aware.

But now that the paper of record has written about it, I guess the secret is officially out now. Don’t just subscribe to the Week: cancel all your other magazine subscriptions too! :)

3. et cetera

Youtube is down!

November 25th, 2007

I’ve gotten intermittent errors from google over the years, and that’s somewhat startling. But youtube is just plain unavailable right now. At this moment, most video boxes on my site are missing since they are provided by youtube. Here’s an image of the cryptic error (“Http/1.1 Service Unavailable”) that I see when I try to visit the site:

youtube error

1. technology

NY Times is selling our product, VGT

November 19th, 2007

Sunday’s Public Editor had a great column talking about what voters want in campaign coverage. A few choice quotes:

“The public wants to know more about candidates’ records, their backgrounds and where they stand on issues — and more about lesser-known candidates.”

and later:

“the fundamental point about the 2008 presidential election [is] the degree to which coverage has moved to the Internet, where many new organizations, especially The Times, are providing information of a breadth and depth that cannot be equaled in the printed newspaper.”

So how about it New York Times: want to expand your coverage of local races with the Voter Guide Toolkit?

1. technology ,

Should I become a Dodgers fan?

November 14th, 2007

Bloggers can do good

November 7th, 2007

Fred Wilson writes a terrific blog about his experience as a VC in NYC. Recently, he participated in a competition across the blogosphere to see who could raise the most money for teachers through and he won by raising $18,500 from 92 donors. Interestingly, he gave away the prize to one of the donors: a lunch with Jerry Yang. More remarkably, the winning donor choose to give away the prize by hosting an essay writing contest for Oakland public school students. It’s a great read, and a good example of bloggers flexing their online muscles to make change in the real world.

Read the full story here.

3. et cetera

Voter Guide Toolkit

November 6th, 2007

I’ve put together two short screencasts about a neat election resource that I help run called “Voter Guide Toolkit.” We’re recruiting a campaign leader, so I created two short screencasts to help inform the great applicants that we’ve received so far. I think they came out pretty well, so I thought that some of my readers would also be interested in how we plan to collect and present voting information to 10 million voters. You’ need to flash to view these files, and you’ll have to click twice to start the videos.

Presenting candidate information Collecting candidate information
front end back end
(length: 2 mins) (length: 4 mins)

1. technology, 2. politics , ,

Why facebook is killing “web 2.0″ apps

November 5th, 2007

NextBigThingFacebook and Open Social are currently the “next big thing.” In a way, they are taking over the mindshare previously occupied by the vaguely defined “web 2.0″ crowd. For example, Kleiner Perkins has publicly stated that it isn’t interested in web 2.0 companies. First, let me define those two concepts and then explain why web 2.0 companies have to quickly adapt or die.

Facebook – a site that allows you to create a personal profile and link to your friends. In addition, facebook now lets you decide what applications should be allowed to access that information. It also alerts you to changes in your friends profiles and to actions that they take in their applications. MySpace, LinkedIn and Ning are other prominent social networking sites.

Web 2.0 – sites that ask you to contribute in order to improve your own experience on the site or to improve the experience of everyone else. Technically, they often involve highly interactive features, like google maps. You can cruise for a list of literally hundreds of web 2.0 companies, including some of my favorites:feedburner (which powers the rss feed and email alerts here on, 37signals,, and

I think Facebook and other social networking sites can drive many web 2.0 applications out of business, because applications on facebook don’t require you to reenter your personal data. The smart web 2.0 businesses are realizing that they have to redeploy their applications to run on top of social networks. In this new position, though, most applications will be in subservient relationship to facebook, who retains the master relationship with each individual. But the competitive pressure is too great: why try to convince someone to reenter their personal data when facebook already knows it?

1. technology

Peanut gallery or agenda-setters?

November 5th, 2007 has been relaunched. Blogrunner shows the same stories that appear in the site, but it gives you convenient access to lists of the bloggers who are linking to the stories in the NY Times. In a real way, it is outsourced letters to the editor on steroids.

What blogrunner does is turn the blogosphere into a peanut gallery. You can cry foul that some point was missed in this or that story, cast aspersions, etc., but you don’t get to choose the topics of discussion. The New York Times reserves the right to be the agenda-setter.

In contrast, puts the bloggers themselves in charge of the agenda. Not only can bloggers comment on the days news, but memeorandum features topics based on activity in the blogosphere. Rather than an hidden committee of elite editors, bloggers collectively decide the agenda.

For now, I am glad that both of these sites are up and running. I am pulling for memeorandum to have increasing power to set the agenda, but the NY Times arguably does the best job in politics and world affairs at the moment. In terms of technology though, memeorandum’s technmeme and other community sites like slashdot and digg do far better job than the NY Times.

So, I am glad that blogrunner is back up to empower the peanut gallery!

1. technology ,

The politics of parsing

November 5th, 2007

I found this short video interesting for two reasons: one, it is a good example of viral campaign ads and two, it expresses a concern that I have about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. But viral videos are primarily only sent and viewed by those who already are disposed to agree with the sentiment. So, will this genre promote what Cass Sunstein calls “cyber-cascades” and fragmentation? In terms of the substance, is this a fair critique or could you plausibly make this kind of video about any serious politician? Here’s the video for your enjoyment:

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For my dad

November 4th, 2007

He doesn’t understand why I write this blog. Although this won’t necessarily answer that question, I think he will enjoy this amazing sports video.

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Ode to facebook

November 4th, 2007

It’s not quite as good as the previous video on super poke, but I still found it amusing.

Via this post from a smart friend of mine who is worried that we are putting too much trust in facebook.

1. technology , ,

No one knows you’re a dog…

November 3rd, 2007

I guess it’s hard to have an original idea anymore! Here’s a cartoon from June 23, 2007 that is remarkably similar to the idea I posted about earlier this week (“Can you be fooled by a dog on facebook?“)


And more follow up. Here’s a story about a political blogger who posts under the pseudonym, Jon Swift, was banned from facebook and then reinstated after a firestorm among famous bloggers. I guess it possible to create a fake facebook account, but it takes an effort on par with leading a double life.

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The day the music died – oink (2004-2007)

November 2nd, 2007


Imagine a site where you could download any album, old, new and even pre-released!, for free and in just seconds. Until last week, an invitation-only site called Oink was such a site. Oink was shut down last week by police in both the UK and Amsterdam. What was oink? Was it doing anything wrong? What is the impact of it being shutdown?

What was oink? I think one of the best accounts of oink comes from rock star Trent Reznor and Saul Williams of Nine Inch Nails’ fame.

The most interesting part is this:

“I’ll admit I had an account there and frequented it quite often. At the end of the day, what made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world’s greatest record store. Pretty much anything you could ever imagine, it was there, and it was there in the format you wanted. If OiNK cost anything, I would certainly have paid, but there isn’t the equivalent of that in the retail space right now.” …

“People on those boards, they’re grateful for the person that uploaded it — they’re the hero. They’re not stealing it because they’re going to make money off of it; they’re stealing it because they love the band. I’m not saying that I think OiNK is morally correct, but I do know that it existed because it filled a void of what people want.”

Inside oink had the largest library of digital music ever assembled, and unlike napster, it was all neatly organized. If nothing else, it shows how truly limited itunes really is–and you can see why it is intentionally crippled. It also demonstrates how well digital distribution can work. The record labels are not only leeches, sucking money for nothing, they in fact make distribution *worse*. They want to limit our choices. They want it to be hard and expensive to find and download music.

Was oink wrong? Under the premise that two wrongs don’t make a right, what oink was doing is wrong too. The site operators offer two defenses: 1) we don’t host any illegal content and 2) other sites like google link to illegal content. #1 is irrelevant, and #2 isn’t good enough (two wrongs don’t make a right) and US courts have distinguished between technology who principle purpose is infringing versus those that can just potentially be used for infringing purposes.

As a policy perspective, I think the pendulum has swung way too far towards the music industry. As I wrote about in this past article about itunes pricing, the public benefit of loosing copying rights far outstrips the public costs in reduced incentives. This is an important point to consider before you brand the tens of millions of file sharers as violent criminals (e.g., pirates). I think we should create a law to make oink and other forms of online distribution legal!

What’s the impact of it being shutdown? I am not sure. The music empire is fighting back, and shutting down this kind of site seems like a practical approach. Oink is rumored to have only about 200,000 members (and there are perhaps another couple million people worldwide who wished that they could join) who really care about this site. Unlike napster, oink hasn’t caught the public’s imagination.
atlantisIn the final analysis, my guess is that oink will be like the lost city of Atlantis. Like Atlantis, Oink is rumored to have been a magical place. But if you didn’t get to see it yourself, it probably sounds like an impossible myth.

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Can you be fooled by a dog on facebook?

November 1st, 2007

This New Yorker cartoon sums up the legacy media’s (e.g., newspaper, tv, magazine, etc.) attack on the threat posed by the Internet:


In other words, the Internet lacks credibility. Does facebook suffer from the same line of criticism? On facebook, can anyone tell if you are a dog?

I would think so – it’s hard to create a fake identity on facebook! For the first time over the Internet, facebook provides meaningful identity warranting. Think about what it would take to create a good fake profile: you’d have to have pictures and know the other persons preferences quite well. And then you’d have to convince real people to ‘friend’ you, which is a hard task for a fake identity. (However, it might be possible to masquerade as someone else for a little while.)

But your virtual identity has an interesting feature: you have even more control over your self-presentation. I choose my profile picture and I have to agree to friend someone. I am not obligated to share any preferences that might undermine how I want to present myself. I can even use photoshop to enhance my image, or put my face in an outlandish jibjab starring you” video.

In the parlance of Walther and Parks, facebook is mediated communication with this special mix of “cues filtered in”, “cues filtered out” and “cues bent and twisted.” Perhaps most relevantly, for the first time, these cues are very real.

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