Monday, October 30, 2006

Blogging About Blogging LXXXIV

We don't do link exchanges, but when we learned that QuickMuse liked us, we had to give a hells yeah.

Turns out, we liked it before.

We knew it was a good idea.

Pay attention!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Twitter? I Hardly Know...

Earlier this week, Chris Brogan let me know about Twitter, a new SMS-driven service brought to you by the people who made Odeo and Blogger.

I learned about the service following a management buyout of Odeo's assets by Blogger cofounder Evan Williams and Biz Stone, which feels kind of odd. Web 1.0 meets Web 2.0 and then some!

And as a half-assed member of Dodgeball, I'm torn.

Twitter does a lot of what Dodgeball does, so I'm feeling some reluctant feature replication angst. But so far I've wanted to use Twitter in ways I don't use Dodgeball.

I use Dodgeball to tell people where I am, hoping that they'll join me -- and only when third, fourth, and fifth wheels aren't unwelcome. I use Yelp, which isn't SMS'd based -- yet; come on people! -- to let people know where I've been and where they should go.

How do I use Twitter? True to their mission, accidentally and incidentally enough, to let people know what I'm doing. Right now.

If you check out my Twitter history, such as it is, you'll see that it's all here I am, what I'm doing, what I'm thinking kind of stuff.

True, I could easily use Dodgeball, which already has a baked-in friends list (for me, at least). I have very few friends in Twitter so far, and half of them (one of two) are skeptical of the service's need -- to send such shout outs.

Dens does this all the time, and to good effect. But I'm not sure I want such updates on my phone, persistently... and constantly.

So far, I like Twitter's on-page accumulation, even though I'm starting to feel some need for phone alerts (which I just signed up for) -- and to wonder why there's no contextual advertising on the Twitter pages. (Turns out there is; it's just very subtle. Give me a sidebar online, and you'll be in the clear, Ev!)

Will I eventually abandon Twitter for Dodgeball in terms of mental updates -- vs. physical updates? -- perhaps, but probably not. Do I wish there were a way to unify all of these things? Hells yeah.

Google should buy Odeo and Twitter, merge the latter's IM and other functionality with Dodgeball, augment Google video by way of YouTube with Google Audio vis a vis podcasts, and rock the casbah.

Until then, you should send the following message to shortcode 40404 -- the best shortcode ever:

follow h3athrow

Seriously. I want more Twitter friends. And I need to find a way to pull my Twitter updates into Media Diet. Then you could know where I am, where I've been, what I'm thinking about, etc. -- all in one place.

Products I Love XX

I got my Sony Reader in the mail while I was at the Forrester Consumer Forum in Chicago. I ordered it at the end of September, was distressed by the back order, and was thrilled to get it so soon -- I expected it next month.

It's been a long time since I've felt the technolust I experienced upon learning about this ebook. (I was a little late to Scott's mention.)

What do I like? The form factor, primarily. The Reader is about the size of a half-standard Moleskine notebook and might weigh just slightly more. I also love E Ink's display technology. It's readable by ambient light, not backlit, which is much more human and natural. And I like the idea of being able to carry hundreds of books in my day bag -- rather than the two or three I usually tote around.

What do I dislike? Not being able to highlight text and annotate, which I do actively in "real" books. I also dislike the bookmark procedure. As far as I know, there's no way to delete bookmarks on the Reader itself, just in the PC-only (Were I not using a Thinkpad for work, I'd not have bought this.) desktop or laptop software. So I see myself accumulating more bookmarks than I need on the Reader as I read; I'm not sure if new bookmarks should replace old bookmarks in the same text, but there you go.

The Reader comes preloaded with some full texts -- 1984, for one! -- and a whole bunch of excerpts to tempt you to load up in Sony's online ebook store. So far, I've spent most of my new-purchase $50 allowance -- Freakonomics and The World Is Flat, which I've restrained from buying (This is the perfect way to read these books, I think.); Digital Hustlers, a history of Silicon Alley; and East Coast Rising, a manga about an underwater New York. Based on my read so far of the latter, I'm not convinced the Reader is good for high-resolution artwork -- some lines get dropped or distorted -- but it's good enough to read, if not to repurpose.

I've also returned to Project Gutenberg, which I think will be a mainstay. I've grabbed a 1920s history of the United States, Thoreau's Walden, and the King James Bible.

The Reader feels brilliant. And it's a good step forward for ebooks. We'll see if it catches on.

Cautionary tale: This afternoon, I went for a walk to see C., whom I haven't seen for several days. When we hugged, it got dislodged from under my arm, and fell to the sidewalk. The Reader didn't break. It got dinged, yes. On Day One of owning my new Reader, I scratched the matte-black surface in several places. But it didn't break, I lost no data, and I have anecdotal data that if dropped from waist height, the Reader will be OK. That's good engineering. (I still don't recommend it.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

From the In Box: Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

In response to this post:

Thanks for the B roll! November 22 (the day before Thanks.g). Channel 7 News in Boston. -- Dennis Crowley

Thanks, Dens. Hey, Media Dieticians, look for me! (And Dennis; it's his TV party.)

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

I've only worked here about six weeks, and the neighborhood's starting to feel like home.

This noon, J. and I ducked out for lunch, and just downstairs, we ran into Dennis Crowley of Dodgeball. Apparently, they were shooting a segment for Channel 7 in Boston, and if you watch the news tonight -- or sometime soon -- you might very well catch me in the B roll.

Then, on the way to lunch -- we walked around a little to find just the right spot -- we bumped into J., a woman I used to work with at Fast Company. She recommended a couple of places we might want to check out for our midday meal.

After eating, then, we ran into E., another woman I used to work with -- and who now designs for a relatively new travel magazine.

What are the odds -- that I would run into so many people I know within such a short amount of time? Felt nice, it did. Nice.

Cost Cutting by Call Cutting

Are you spending too much on your cell phone bill? No need, says Nokia. Nokia's new Cost Control program lets you limit the length of your yap sessions.

When you make a call, set the desired length of the call. When the limit is reached, you'll automatically hang up. Cost cut!

Seems interruptive and irritating to me. At least on the receiving end. Does the service give you the opportunity to limit the length of incoming calls?

Mixed Busy Signals

A couple of related news items today raise some interesting questions about the future of the home phone. I misplaced my cell phone for more than 24 hours last weekend, and it catalyzed some interesting experiences and feelings. I'll most likely write about that at greater length in the future.

One thing that I can say with some certainty right now is that getting my phone back would've been easier had I had a landline at home. I do not. All I have is my cell phone. And it turns out that I'm not alone.

According to recent research from Telephia, more and more households are abandoning their landlines. It's not critical mass yet -- the largest wireless substitution rate is only 19% in Detroit, but the signs are there.

Meanwhile Boost Mobile plans to launch a new service called Text to Landline. For your normal SMS price -- 10 cents a message -- you can send a short text message to someone's home phone. It'll be translated from text to voice, and you'll be informed whether the message reached a person -- or an answering machine.

While the service is positioned as a way for people who prefer to SMS to be able to communicate with people who don't -- or don't have a cell phone -- it stinks of communication avoidance to me. Shades of voice SMS, by which you can send a voice message to someone's in box, I'm not sure Text to Landline will further or foster human interaction all that much.

What think you?

Subscription Prescription V

Mitchell's Home Delivery Services, which has been trafficking in door-to-door delivery of newspapers, beverages, and other items since 1946, recently introduced a new service: Universal News on Demand.

Offering more than 6,000 magazines, the service allows you to order periodicals for delivery to your home or office. You can place one-off orders, or place monthly reservations for the magazines that matter. And as soon as Universal News -- the largest independent retailer in New York -- receives the copies, they'll be on their way... within two hours.

I am in lust. The media geek in me is pretty giddy right now.

Update: If you want your magazines delivered within two hours, there are ZIP code restrictions and a $25 fee. If you want your magazines delivered the next morning, there's a $15 fee. Orders of more than $100 bring increased delivery fees.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Movie Makeover?

I also watched the Sci-Fi Channel original movie Haunted Prison.

If you can't get Gary Busey, hire Jake Busey.

Somehow, the resemblance seemed more important before I knew they were related.

Flip his hair around some, and there you go!

Magazine Markup Language

Tonight I spent several hours reading -- and marking up -- the current issue of Fast Company. It's a magazine I worked for for eight years -- I was hire No. 17, I helped launch the Web site, and I helped launch the blog -- and it's a magazine I love dearly. Dearly!

It was, I think, an interesting exercise worth encouraging. I plan to send my markup -- a Sharpie'd copy of the issue and two construction paper pages with notes -- to the current editor in chief.

And I think it's an experience other Media Dieticians should pursue. Take your favorite mag -- or a magazine you want to encourage -- and read it. Take notes on the pages of the magazine as you read. What works? What doesn't? Think in terms of design, source selection, and story selection. Look for consistencies and inconsistencies. Lend praise -- and criticism.

At the same time, write the editor a letter. Keep it to two pages, max. And keep you major ideas to three to five primary points.

Then mail it, unedited and uncopied, to the lead editor of the title. Be sure to say how long you've read the book, whether you subscribe, and who you are in relation to the magazine.

They may not respond to you, but my guess is that no one else will do that this month, and that they'll pay attention to it -- and discuss it with other editors, writers, and team members.

If you really love the magazine, do it again.

I know I will.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Plug and Play Hudson River Weekend

This past weekend, C. and I headed up to the upper Hudson River valley for a fall foliage weekend away. We had a wonderful time, and I offer this shake-and-bake itinerary as a tool Media Dieticians can use to organize their own two-day trip.

Day One: Saturday

Day Two: Sunday

You can see the Yelp reviews for the whole itinerary. You can also see photos from the weekend.

And you can do it yourself! Let me know what kind of weekend you plan!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Head Set-iquette

The U.S. has always been lacking in cell phone etiquette. While Scandinavian cell phone makers and service providers took a stab at educating people about the social ins and outs of the new form of communication, nobody bothers to do that state side. So we're left with a world of people holding private conversations in public -- and the streets as a stage for verbal performance.

A new study released by Samsung indicates that cell phone etiquette is better on the West Coast than it is on the East. Just a bit, but better.

In the UK, this kind of etiquette might be acted out as peer pressure. It seems as though people seen talking on their cell phones while driving are being targeted by other motorists who disapprove of the practice.

Fifty-eight percent of motorists admitted they felt intimidated by other motorists if they used their mobile phone while driving.

Better hang up than get banged up!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Instant Massage

Cue David Brent!

While you can now contact me via all of the IM forms listed in the left-hand sidebar, I have got to recommend a Web-based solution that combines the best of all of them -- and allows you to communicate with everyone anywhere regardless of the app... while on the Web.

Meebo allows you to access all of your IM accounts -- AIM, Yahoo, GTalk, MSN, ICQ, etc. -- on the Web in one window.

It's pretty keen.

Most of my contacts are in AIM, but we'll see if this works in my favor!

Comic Index: Archie #569

November 2006
$2.25, Archie Comics

Cover: (Stan Goldberg and Bob Smith) Distracted by a teeing-off Veronica, a love-struck Archie almost runs down Mr. Lodge with a golf cart.

How to Survive High School! (Script: Angelo Decesare, Pencils: Stan Goldberg, Inking: Bob Smith, Editor: Victor Gorelick) Two minutes late to school, Archie jumps through a window, narrowly avoiding the principal. He sneaks into his first class, where everyone is asleep, and proceeds to offer his advice. Act sick. Lose your homework. Create distractions. Act like you're from another solar system. In the end, it doesn't quite work. (Six pages.)

Come Blow Your Horn (Script: Craig Boldman Pencils: Stan Goldberg, Inks: Bob Smith) Because the band the Archies don't get written up in "The Music Rag," Archie, Jughead, and Veronica try to come up with a new sound. Their solution: Mr. Lodge's alphorn. Hilarity -- and an international incident -- ensues. (Five pages.)

Clean up Your Act! (Script: Mike Pellowski, Pencils: Stan Goldberg, Inks: Bob Smith) While working at a grocery store, Archie often has to clean up. At home, Archie... often has to clean up. (Five pages.)

Feeling Fuelish (Script: George Gladir, Pencils: Stan Goldberg, Inks: Bob Smith) Ripped from the headlines of today, Archie and Jughead comment on the high price of gasoline. After envisioning several possible futures, Archie offers to walk to the grocery store, which is only a few blocks away. (Six pages.)

Comments: There are another two and a half pages of ads for Avatar, as well as a page of fan art. Fan art contributors include Felicia Probert, Phillip McDonald, and Samantha Zuckerman.

Comic Index: The Amazing Spider-Man #535

November 2006
$2.99, Marvel Comics

Cover: (By Ron Garney) An iron-clad Spider-Man and Iron Man get up in each others's grills.

Civil War
Part Four of Six: The War at Home

(Writer: J. Michael Straczynski, Penciler: Ron Garney, Inker: Bill Reinhold, Editor: Axel Alonso)

Mary Jane wakes early in the early morning to find an uneasy Peter Parker watching the TV news about an uptick in defense-related stocks. Uncomfortable about possible monetary gain by Stark Enterprises, he confronts Tony Stark, who takes him to Fantastic Four Inc. to show him the new holding facilities. Reed Richards indicates that the rest of the team has abandoned him before letting Peter and Tony enter the Negative Zone, where the facilities are located. They see several cells before Peter confronts Tony again, and they argue, discussing the value of the law and loyalty. On the way out, Peter talks to Reed, who recounts a story about his uncle Ted, who was involved in the Un-American Activities Committee hearings during the McCarthy era -- and who was blacklisted because of his stance. Peter decides he wants out -- only to find himself in battle with Iron Man... as Spider-Man. (21 pages, continued)

Advertising: There are several ads -- two and a half pages -- for the Nickelodeon anime Avatar: Secret of the Fire Nation, which aired Sept. 15 -- way before I received my subscription copy.

Warning: Pogs are back. And this time they're made by Funrise.

Comic Index: Looney Tunes #142

November 2006
$2.25, DC Comics

Cover: (By Scott) A witch, vampire, mad scientist, and "fuzzball" drool over the silhouette of Bugs Bunny in a crystal ball. Witch: "Guess who's coming to dinner?"

Soccer Blocker (Writer: Sam Agro, Penciller: David Alvarez, Inker: Mike DeCarlo, Editor: Joan Hilty) Lured by a fake Giant International Soccer Festival held at Castle Bloodcount in Transylvania, Bugs encounters the fearsome four. In the end, they get theirs. Running gag: "Gooooaaaaal!" (Eight pages.)

Sea Schtick (Writer: Sholly Fisch, Penciller: Leo Batic, Inker: Horacio Ottolini, Editor: Joan Hilty) Bugs and Daffy, on their way to Death Valley, take (or don't take) the proverbial "left turn at Albuquerque" and end up in Atlantis. They meet King Neptune, stave off a pesky oceanographer, and end with a good callback pun. Best line: "I've traveled with you before." Caution: Lame sitcom-like end panel. (Eight pages.)

My Own Worst Enemy (Writer: Frank Strom, Penciller: Walter Carzon, Inker: Ruben Torreiro, Editor: Joan Hilty) Foghorn Leghorn meets his old imaginary friend, who proceeds to make him get egg on his face. (Six pages.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Soft Cell

Not long ago, I forgot how -- perhaps inserted in my New York Times -- I obtained a couple of cell phone recycling envelopes from the Motorola Race to Recycle project.

Basically, the idea is this: In a Netflix- or Snapfish-like self-mailer, postage paid, you can send in your unused cell phone to be recycled and reused. You should take out your SIM card, and you can include your battery if you'd like -- but if you send in a phone, you'll help raise money for K-12 education programs.

I'll send in my old cell phone tomorrow. It's been sitting on my kitchen counter for a year now, unused, and this was a good excuse to transfer all the old numbers to my new phone, which I hadn't done yet. Also, it's hella better than throwing the phone away.

Recycle your old phones! Kudos, Motorola.