Green Comes to Technosailor.com

Next week is a very special week here at technosailor.com. We are going to have a very heavy emphasis on “green” technology and all the major verticals will be contributing in one way or another.

Energy costs are sky high, Bush is badgering Congress to lift the ban on off-shore drilling, and computer manufacturers are bandying around trying to create the most energy efficient server – something I’m very interested in discussing with manufacturers, I might add.

There are plenty of energy alternatives to be had, from solar to nuclear to conventional oil, should the supply permit it. Our cars can be used less by telecommuting. We can all be smarter about the way we live our lives.

Our focus is, obviously, slanted toward technology and so we want to try to find the best ways to use the technology available to save the resources we have, keep costs down and maybe, increase the quality of life for all of us.

Next week, I’ll be making a brief trip to Dearborn, MI to visit Ford and see their next line new technologies for the new line of cars. I’ll be paying close attention to the technologies surrounding Hybrid vehicles, etc. Look for reports here.

What does a Grocery Store scanner have to do with a PC?

I have a good amount of respect for Jeremiah Owyang. He’s an analyst at Forrester who has done some good work on social media.

On the other hand, why he isn’t well-informed enough to avoid asking really, really stupid questions makes me question whether I should take him seriously as an authority on technology, or at least makes me think he should avoid politics. He asks:

  • Is knowing how to use a computer and use the internet a job requirement?
  • Does it impact a leaders ability to manage the country and impact the world?
  • Does it influence your vote, if so, why?
  • What do you expect from your leaders? CEO? President?
  • Can we please stop asking these overused, over-parsed TV talking head questions that avoid the real issue?

    The question should be about whether or not a leader is familiar with how ordinary Americans live. This means more than being able to send an email. It means being able to drive, understand traffic, and fill a gas tank. It’s going shopping for groceries and seeing the prices on the scanner. Remember George H.W. Bush in 1992, when he was so amazed at the barcode reader? That cost him points.

    Both candidates for President are U.S. Senators with highly competent staffs that handle many daily activities that ordinary Americans have to do themselves, simply because of the demands of the job. They don’t have time to do many of the things that we do. Senators are highly micromanaged. Their days are scheduled and organized by campaign staff and office staff. As I have written before, elected officials have two jobs: The job they have, and keeping the job they have (or running for higher office).

    I’m tired of hearing about who is more “authentic.” I want to know what they know about how things happen. You know what would be a great campaign stunt for either Senator? Give your Assistant, Chief of Staff, Legislative Director, etc a few days off. Come in early, get a copy of your schedule, find out what you have to do, and do it. No handlers. The only people who are allowed to work in the office for that week are the ones who you do not receive briefings, assistance or advice from directly.

    How well could you keep up on the issues? What tools would you use? Would you become a wizard with your Outlook calendar? How would you research an issue? How would you get around?

    In other words, how would you live if you were us?

    You cannot solve the problem unless you know and understand the problem.

    (here’s an example of doing this well: Michael Bloomberg takes the subway to work. the man is worth billions, and he’s a straphanger. you think the subway gets the attention it needs? I bet it does.)

    Informalities Can Kill Your Job Search

    The economy is way down and the pain is not only being felt at the pump. It’s being felt in the job market. Unemployment hit an all time high last quarter as more and as more and more people hit the streets looking for meaningful employment, bad habits are accompanying them.

    Sarah Needleman of the Wall Street Journal wrote a story today about the informality used in social media, text messaging and other “typical” lines of communication. Often times, the informalities deep six candidates.

    I’ll admit that I am guilty of being informal in job searches. Needleman indicates that the most egregious mistakes come from entry level candidates just out of school, indicating a generational (and of course, maturity) issue.

    I also tend to use emoticons mostly in IM. This has gotten me in trouble in the past where the text I’ve written in emails was misunderstood because of a lack of a :-) or ;-) to indicate humor. Text as a medium sucks, and that is why ultimate care must be taken in how text is formulated.

    Other things that can kill a candidacy with a company are:

    1. Not understanding the company culture
    2. Eagerness to proactively answer unasked and unrelated questions in an interview
    3. Blanket resumé distribution
    4. Inappropriate attire for an interview (Understand the culture of the company as in point #1, especially in the web space)
    5. Buzzword Bingo on resumés or in interviews
    6. Inability to discern exactly what an interviewer is looking for despite the questions asked
    7. Inappropriate behavior, photos, language as demonstrated in social networks, blogs, etc

    Obviously, not all of these things apply in every situation. Astute candidates get ahead of the curve and understand before sending “Send” what exactly is being communicated.

    As a bonus, my friend, Jen Nedeau, is quoted in the article as well. She demonstrates an appropriate use of these technologies.

    “I definitely text my managers if I am running late,” says Jennifer Nedeau, 23, a project manager at New Media Strategies Inc., a marketing firm in Arlington, Va. “I know I’m not bothering them with a phone call, but they’re still getting the message.”

    I’d add that text messaging a manager comes after you’ve got a good relationship with the manager or if he/she explicitly gives permission. Otherwise, you’re asking to be on a list. ;-)

    Walled Gardens and Business Models in the 21st Century

    Walled Gardens. Defined as media properties utilizing privileged access to provide information services or content to a user. The classic example of a walled garden was AOL, before they opened up most of their services. Users paid $23.95 or whatever the access rate was and got access to the “AOL Network.”

    Then there was Facebook, the walled garden social network that restricted access to college and high school students, and businesses who had a Facebook presence. In all these cases, the confirming matter was a legitimate email address issued by the legitimate university, high school or business.

    Web 2.0 drastically changed the way we do “internet”. No longer do people expect to pay for these services, they simply don’t. AOL recognized this fact a few years ago when then CEO Jonathan Miller suggested to the board that AOL should drop its subscription model and open up. AOL decentralized and became an open platform, including their very popular AIM service. AIM, a formerly closed protocol, now is run via Open AIM, a service which has allowed the interoperability between Google Talk, Jabber, and .Me, to name a few.

    Facebook opened up big time. They decided to let the world see what was behind the curtain and were wildly successful. Though Facebook is still a walled garden in some respect to data, the walls keep falling with Facebook apps and Facebook Connect, announced last week.

    As a final example of a traditionally closed walled garden throwing all caution to the wind and embracing the open internet environment, I give you the New York Times. NYT excessively applies metadata to all of its content, opening up the door for others such as Blogrunner, a Techmeme competitor which is actually owned by NYT. More notably to the traditional media norm, the registration requirement (which is almost always free at online newspapers) to view articles was removed giving full access to NYT content.

    No registration. No hoops. Profit.

    The challenge, as Seth Godin is probably about to find out, is when a business model is built around paid access (or even free but registration required). I’ve toyed with the idea of premium content for RSS subscribers only here. Though I won’t promise not to try it again, I can say it did not work. There was no increase in subscribers. There was even better content and resources, yes. But it does not work.

    That said… one of the things that the open content movement seems to be bringing to light is single sign in. Facebook Connect, for instance, allows users to gain access to dedicated non-Facebook resources, free of charge and without forcing yet another account.

    This doesn’t solve business model. I think the Pay per Play model is flawed inherently and though some people are successfully making money on older models, I don’t think the honeymoon can last.

    That’s just me, though. Curious to hear what you think the best method of monetizing premium content is.

    Memo to Bloggers: Not Everything is Free.

    Just a small, possibly controversial, thought on Redlasso shutting their doors for bloggers to use their content.

    NBC and Fox filed copyright infringement actions against Redlasso for allowing users search, clip, and post excerpts from copyrighted video content on their blogs. Redkasso (rightly) closed up their free service, but continues to supply to (paying) business customers.

    There were some puzzled, angry bloggers out there wondering why they would keep their system up for the bigwigs, but close off access to the free “beta” service. Press releases crowing about Fair Use and whatnot.

    Just because it’s a clip and you’re commenting on it does not make it fair use. Why?

    Blame Google.

    If you have AdSense ads, or any ads whatsoever on your blog, it’s not fair use. You’re making money. With someone else’s content.

    Some people have a problem with that, other’s don’t. My flickr photos are Creative Commons licensed. I still have the Copyright, but I can decide how to license my content. Maybe one day I will decide that I want to charge for using them. But not yet.

    Did you know that TV networks don’t always own their content? House, MD is broadcast on Fox but owned by NBC Universal. Even if Fox had no problem with RedLasso allowing House to be clipped, it’s not up to the broadcaster. It’s up to the content owner.

    RedLasso might even have permission to be distributing clips to paying subscribers. I know at least one other service that does something similar. But those subscribers can’t do just anything with the clips. Especially if money changes hands.

    I care about Fair Use. I’ve been involved in the issue since DeCSS hit the ‘net. Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt. Really. I do have a DeCSS T-Shirt.

    I also know that copyright is a serious thing. Producing content, whether written, video, or audio is hard. If you pay for it, you do have rights. Fair Use. First Sale. Stuff like that.

    Why are people so angry about losing something they didn’t have in the first place?

    WordPress Plugin: WP-Brightkite

    Some of you have noticed that I’ve been doing some experimentation in recent months with geolocation. Geolocation is a very powerful aspect of the next generation web. Particularly in the mobile space.

    Boulder, CO-based Brightkite stormed on the scene a few months back as a location based micro blogging network. Members could take photos from the cellphones, send short messages to be posted to the service, and follow their friends. Based on the concept of location, Brightkite users could “check in” to a location. I am currently checked in at “Woodlawn, Maryland”, a fairly generic location since I value my privacy in my home. However, people can check-in down to specific addresses, cafés, places of employment, etc.

    Though my fascination with Brightkite as a mobile microcontent network has faded, their is one aspect to it that I find extremely valuable in the absence of GPS on my Blackberry and the lack of ownership of an iPhone 3G. That is their KML file.

    I set about creating a plugin that would parse the KML file of the most recent Brightkite check in location. Thus, WP-Brightkite was born.

    Notably, for those folks interested in the geotagging content, the Brightkite plugin will parse latitude and longitude of the most recent checkin and geotag feeds using the ICBM RSS namespace. For a little extra bling, I’ve provided a template tag which drops a little Google Map next to the subject line of posts with geotagging (see this post, for instance).

    1. Upload the
      1
      wp-brightkite/

      directory to

      1
      /wp-content/plugins/
    2. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress
    3. Fill out Brightkite user data on your profile page. Note: Standard WP permissions apply.
    4. Use the
      1
       

      within your template to print a mini 10×10 map icon, clickable for Google Maps location.

    There’s quite a bit more I want to do with this, but since I’ve been using it here on Technosailor.com for a few months, I wanted to get it into the wild and fix any bugs (thus the beta tag) before exploring more functionality.

    Let me know what you think, and consider a donation.

    Update: Please log a ticket here if you are having difficulties. You must login with your WordPress Support Forums username and password (here) to get new ticket creation options. The comment system I have here does not seem to be sending people notices of followups on support requests.

    When logging a ticket, please tell me what version of PHP you are using and what version of WordPress you are using. Thanks.

    NBC, NFL Deal Puts Adobe One More Step Back

    Quietly, a sleeping giant has been evolving. That sleeping giant is Silverlight, a Microsoft rich media technology to rival Adobe’s Flash/Flex platform.

    On this date, July 28, there is a dearth of Silverlight content on the web. Almost all the major video sites use Flash players, with Hulu, an NBC property, being a probable exception. However, that is about to change.

    NBC Universal is a partner with Microsoft, and the two have collaborated to produce properties such as MSNBC among other joint ventures. In just a short week from now, the next generation of the Microsoft-NBC Universal partnership will unfold before an international audience. NBC’s coverage of the Olympics will be live streamed over the internet using Microsoft Silverlight technology.

    I’ve talked to people recently who have discussed the Silverlight platform in the context of competition with Adobe and the ubiquity of Flash. The consensus is that Flash will be here for awhile yet, but as more and more adoption of Silverlight occurs, the Flash footprint could wane significantly. Developers need reason to use a new technology and with the absence of such reason, the status quo will remain.

    That reason could very well be the widespread success, if it is a success, of the Olympic coverage on Olympics.com.

    But wait, there’s more.

    Silicon Alley Insider reported yesterday that an announcement would be made announcing NBC live coverage of Sunday Night Football during the 2008 season over the web. That’s right. Streaming games, multiple camera angles, instant in-home replay, statistics and more.

    Which platform is poised to leverage this astonishing about-turn from NFL press mongers? You got it… Silverlight.

    Why would NBC invoke any other technology than Silverlight to render rich media content over the web when the technology is quite possibly powering Hulu-powered television and quite possibly about to be a rousing success at the Olympics.

    As a side note, the NFL about face on the use of the internet is interesting. Those who have read this site for a long time recall the video podcast that I did from Ravens training camp that was shut down. The video is in my archives if you want to go looking. It’s quite funny, actually.

    The NFL is calling this a one year experiment to determine the interest in viewers engaging and consuming their content in non-traditional ways. I look forward to the report that rubber stamps what we’ve known for quite some time: online video consumption, live and otherwise, is replacing televisions in homes across America.

    Update: as noted frequently in comments, Hulu is not powered by Silverlight but Flash.

    Update 2: So Silverlight was seen as a huge fail and NBC has gone with Flash for their SNF coverage.

    Inside the Beltway, Inside the SuitCase

    The “inside the beltway” world is often deemed to be a crazy echo-chamber of pundits and talking heads who just want attention or to be re-elected or to get more power, because of all the perks and luxuries and what-not. Oh, and the decisions are all made by lobbyists in back rooms and it’s all scotch and cigars and back-slapping. News flash: it’s not.

    I’m lucky enough to get paid to report news on technology and public policy. It’s pretty complex stuff. Making the decisions on what to support or oppose isn’t easy for the people I cover, either.

    The name of this section/column/blog space is SuitCase. It’s supposed to be a play on the word BasketCase. You know, people in DC wear suits…basket cases are crazy…basket case, suit case? ha. Ok, well you try and do better.

    Let me be the first to admit it: I’m a geek on many different levels. Start with technology, move on down to the laws that regulate technology, then the laws that aren’t meant to regulate the technology but end up regulating technology anyway. I watch C-SPAN and I read tech blogs. Sometimes at the same time.

    Next admission: I’m a bit of an insomniac. The two kind of go together. I can spend all night geeking out with a new VoIP system, then go into the work the next morning and pitch it, and I’m not even an IT guy. I just love this stuff. Do I need to do that interview with Qik? Nah. I could just bring out the voice recorder and have the quotes to verify before printing anyway. But I do, because I can, because I enjoy playing with new things that make my job easier.

    That’s what Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas., has been doing, at least by his own admission. His job is a bit harder than mine, though. I have to write news articles that meet my editors’ standards and satisfy the subscribers, who pay the publisher, who pays my salary. On the other hand, he has to cast votes to make laws that represent the interests of a big swath of Texas. So, you’d be pretty sure he’d want to know before he does something they don’t like, right? Or, at least show those people that it’s not easy. Right?

    Is anyone hearing me? These guys schedules are micro-managed, they spend 4 days a week in D.C. and go back to their districts for a few days, then get on a plane and return to DC. I guess the frequent flier miles are O.K. Oh, and exercise? They could be in a meeting or a hearing or reading a newspaper, and when a bell goes off, have 15 minutes to get to another building and push a button to vote. They might not know what they’re voting on, so they have to listen to someone else explain what’s going on and they’d better get it right, because the election is in a few months and they don’t want to dip below a 10% lead. Oh, yeah. Elections. They have to manage a campaign organization, too. Separate from their job. Two phones, two BlackBerries, two lives. Their second job is to keep their first job.

    So along come some new tools, Twitter and Qik. Suddenly, talking to those thousands of people got a bit easier, and they can talk back to you, too. Because that’s a problem. See, since 2001, when some jerk sent some Anthrax to a Senator in the mail, security procedures got put in place, so it takes a month for someone’s letter to reach them.

    Everyone wants their job to be easier, right?

    Now what if your company had its’ employee manual written in the 1800’s, with a revision every 30 years or so. You might have a problem with some of those tools, right? Would that make you a bit sore?

    I’m not going to rehash the details about the controversy surrounding Congress and social media. I’m also not going to tell you anything new, because that’s not what this is about.

    If I can keep up, I’ll try and look at the news I reported and the people I reported on, and maybe with a fact or two, give you a window into why it’s not so simple, why left and right and right and wrong aren’t very obvious all the time. If I can do a really good job, maybe it will help you understand why technology policy is so hard to formulate, or why it’s so hard to get anything done in today’s environment.

    You won’t see many opinions, because by trade I’m a journalist. I’m objective, or at least I try as hard as I can. What I can do for you though, is give you the “history” and maybe show why the stuff that looks a little bit crazy out there, makes perfect sense here. Think of me as your translator.

    Welcome to Washington.

    Five Thoughts for New (and old) Bloggers

    I’ve spent a good portion of the weekend restructuring things around here at Technosailor. You can see that the site is much more organized around topics, as you can see from the new Masthead. Each of the verticals have been segregated into five separate blog-like entities.

    Desk of the Editor is all of my content. Entrepreneurship, branded Venture Files, will continue to contain Steve Fisher’s content, but will also have contributions from others as appropriate to the topic. Web Marketing is branded Wicked Marketing and is a vertical dedicated to usability and interface design as it pertains to corporate marketing. Tech Policy, a.k.a. SuitCase will officially launch tomorrow with Andrew Feinberg. Finally, Contenido Español is our long time Spanish only content stream edited by Carlos Granier-Phelps. It is being branded Sincronizar, or Synchronize in Spanish.

    The front page of the site will undergo some further enhancements that, hopefully, pulls together this content in a snapshot that works well for most readers. Honestly, the current layout which is only a few months old, is not working the way I had hoped. So you’ll continue to see changes over the next weeks.

    During the process of reorganizing things, I had to go back through all four years of my archives, a step that kicked me into a significant introspective mode. Where have I come from? Where am I going?

    Honestly, much of my content from early years is downright embarrassing. And really, it goes beyond the content. I’ve spent the weekend thinking about the mistakes I’ve made as a blogger and wondering what I would do differently if I could. Keep in mind that my goals for this site were always professional and that I foresaw a day when it would be my only job (I hope that day comes, still!).

    Here is my advice for bloggers who wish to do the same thing.

    Make Every Word Count

    It’s so easy to get into the mindset that no one is reading a blog and this is “my” space and “I’m gonna write what I want to write”. While there is truth in that, content is evergreen. By evergreen, I mean that it will be there for years to come unless you take the wrong, in my opinion, approach and delete archives that you don’t want anymore.

    Understand that people always grow and become more mature. You are no different as I am no different. In four years, if you go through the exercise I’ve gone through this weekend, you will look through different eyes than you did when you first wrote.

    On the other hand, people who really only want to blog for themselves can use these opportunities for their benefit. It really is interesting to see progression in your own development and feel good about it.

    My advice, though, is to make every word count. Even though you have unlimited space and there’s no such thing, to many people, as too many posts, I’d recommend the economy of words.

    This takes practice and discipline. Knowing what you want to say and saying it with just enough words to make your point without being so verbose that you might as well divide a post into multiple posts.

    Mark Evans used to tell me that if you can say it in 1000 words, you can say it in 500. If you can say it in 500 words, you can say it in 250.

    Your blog is valuable space. Make every word count for something.

    Attack Ideas, not People

    Another bit of low hanging fruit, when it comes to traffic, is attacking people. Everyone likes a good controversy. I’ve done the “Mike Arrington said…” or “Jason Calacanis said…” thing more times than I care. For awhile, I was highly ranked (#3) in Google for the search phrase, “How to be a whore” because I wrote this article about my friend Duncan Riley. Duncan and I have mended the bridge and are friends today, but that is not always the case.

    I’d recommend avoiding the attack paradigm altogether. It’s much more efficient, when building of a brand or property, to offer ideas. Offer solutions, offer ideas, innovate. Be a thinker and a leader. By attacking people, not only do you hurt the chances of working with them, but you garner a recommendation that will follow you for a long time.

    Plus, you end up singing from their songbook and not your own. Not beneficial if you desire thought leadership or to be considered a subject matter expert.

    Take Time Every Day to Soak In the News

    Ever had a day when you just react to something that is going on? I have. Too many times. I’ve discovered, however, that a 1am reading of Google Reader, while I’m relaxed (and because I’m an insomniac), is much more conducive to “catching up” than doing a break-neck scan at 9am before the day begins. Why? Because you’re relaxed and much less likely to act irrationally or reactionary. You’re not misreading content because you have work to get started on. You’re soaking in every word that another blogger is writing.

    Are you going to get breaking news that way? Probably not. But you have the benefit of multiple opinions from multiple sources during the course of the news day. On this site, we don’t break news anyway so I’m not looking for the benefit of breaking news. We do analysis and in the presence of the multiplicity of opinions, a story is vetted.

    Never Hide Your Archives

    As I went through my content this weekend, I came across a post where I was announcing my intention to do paid review posts. This idea smacks of PayPerPost and today I do not want to be affiliated with PPP.

    In a moment, I almost sent that post back to draft status and unpublished it but I didn’t. The reason I didn’t is because the entire nature of an archive, as embarassing as it is, is a story of your blogging life. Sure, I wish it wasn’t there but it is and there it will stay.

    Maybe one day I’ll go through some kind of exit where my content here is analyzed very closely. I fully anticipate posts like that and others like it will hurt me. Yet, I cannot hide my archives.

    Never Think More Highly of Yourself Than You Ought

    Today I can brag. Three years ago, not so much. :) I say that cautiously and some will think I’m contradicting myself. Today, I can brag but I have to do it in the humility of knowing that I have a very long way to go. This site is not the mega property I’d like it to be, but it is getting there. It does not have the highest subscription numbers, though all feeds combined are in the neighborhood of 2000 subscribers. It does not have the traffic I want, but it does have significant traffic.

    It’s okay to brag if you have something tangible to brag about. Three years ago, I bragged and had no substance to back my bragging up.

    Let me tell you a quick stoy about my friend Marshall Kirkpatrick who writes over at Read Write Web. Last November, while in Vegas at Blog World Expo, Marshall and I were at a party at the Wynn thrown by the fabulous Steph Agresta.

    As the guests cycled out, Marshall and I were talking outside and he, in his very laid back Oregonian way said, “From one asshole trying to figure things out to another, take this however you want. Maybe you should just not be so aggressively ‘out there'”.

    Initially, I was stunned but his comment has stuck with me to this day. Marshall and I were even laughing about it the other week.

    See, none of us have really figured this stuff out yet. Some of us brag more than we ought. Maybe I do. However, if you’ve got nothing to brag about then don’t. Plain and simple. No one will think any less of you for not bragging, and if you genuinely have something to brag about then you won’t need to because people will take notice.

    Five ideas I’ve picked up in my weekend of introspection. Feel free to add your own lessons in comments.

    Andrew Feinberg to Join Technosailor.com

    Many of you know of, or have met, Andrew Feinberg. Andrew is a journalist working on Capitol Hill. He was instrumental in coordinating visits to Washington, D.C. by Robert Scoble and provided a great deal of information to me on the story I covered surrounding Congressional use of social media.

    Andrew has proven himself a tremendous asset in bringing to light some of the issues facing the technology community from the government. He has a brilliant legal mind (though he is not yet a lawyer, but is in process) and access to many people in and around Congress.

    I asked Andrew to join the staff here at Technosailor.com to help provide some relevance around tech policy issues. Too often, things happen in Washington that directly affect us, and most of the time no one knows about it.

    Beginning Monday, we are launching SuitCase, a column where you can expect to see several weekly posts covering this very relevant topic. At Technosailor.com, we try to distill all the information surrounding technology and the internet and boil it down to daily application for our audience. You can access SuitCase column via the Tech Policy link in the masthead of the site.

    I hope you enjoy Andrew’s work. Andrew is an Assistant Editor at Warren Communications News, publishers of Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily.

    I’m excited about this addition that strengthens the property. If you are interested in writing at Technosailor.com, please shoot me an email at aaron@technosailor.com describing your niche. Though we are probably done expanding our verticals, we might have opportunities to supplement this or other verticals within the site.