Archives for September 2006


Great idea? First check the collective…

Sigmund Freud

Had yet another experience today where someone else — several steps ahead of me — fleshed out a concept I’d fully intended to accelerate my energy and effort toward. While I’m absolutely delighted that the concept might become a reality (and will undoubtedly participate), it has also made me, again, stop and think about performing even MORE due diligence on my ideas and checking the collective unconscious (and consciousness!) more closely before moving forward.

Sigmund Freud postulated a collective unconscious. In the Wikipedia article referenced above, “The collective unconscious refers to that part of a person’s unconscious which is common to all human beings. It contains archetypes, which are forms or symbols that are manifested by all people in all cultures. They are said to exist prior to experience, and are in this sense instinctual.” So you can be assured that there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of others that see the same things you see. The acceleration and exponential increase in ideas proliferating is staggering as more and more of us connect via the internet.

The internet, in my view, is most importantly enabling a collective consciousness. Over-n-over again I’m finding like minded individuals that are seeing the same things I’m seeing or sensing changes and shifts in economics, spirituality, and raised levels of consciousness. I gravitate to these people and somehow we’ve been finding one another. What I’m most interested in is finding ways to collectively harness and focus our respective energy, achieve and accomplish much, while each of us continues to do what we need to in order to economically survive and thrive.

What’s most interesting (from a 40,000 foot perspective)…

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On the brink of a lighting revolution

Now that global warming and the simultaneous spike in the cost of gasoline have finally slapped people in the face and gotten their attention, there seems to be a sudden interest in any-and-all methods to significantly reduce both carbon emissions and energy use.

This is a good thing but most don’t realize yet that there isn’t a magic bullet and we need to attack global warming and energy consumption on several fronts: a little hybrid engine and ethanol use here; a smidgen of wind power generation there; incandescent lightbulb replacement up front and pretty soon we’ve made a big dent in both consumption and emissions.

I’ve been watching one area pretty closely: LED and other lighting technology. Quite some time ago my bride and I changed all of the incandescent bulbs in our house with compact fluorescents which — while still a disposable issue since they contain trace amounts of mercury — only use about 25% of the energy it takes to power that 139 year old invention of Thomas Edison: the incandescent light bulb.

LED’s have come a long way and are found in flashlights, as automotive and signage illumination, and soon residential lighting. Worldwide about 20% of energy consumption is for lighting and LED’s could cut that in half. “We’re on the brink of a new lighting revolution,” says Jerry Simmons, head of the solid-state lighting programme at America’s Sandia National Laboratory, quoted in this article (in fact one of the best I’ve read yet) in The Economist.

How’s THIS for a comparison?:

LEDs have become popular because they have numerous advantages over conventional light bulbs. For one thing, they last much longer: they can endure up to a decade of non-stop use compared with a few months or less for incandescent bulbs. They also take up much less space (a typical LED is about the size of the rubber on the end of a pencil), are shock resistant and, perhaps most important of all, are extremely energy-efficient.

An incandescent bulb, made of a wire filament encased in glass, emits only 5% of the energy it consumes as light; the rest is wasted as heat. Fluorescent lights, which consist of tubes filled with mercury vapour, are roughly four times more efficient. LEDs, however, contain no mercury and already rival fluorescents in efficiency. Upfront costs make them too expensive for most general lighting applications, but experts expect that to change over the next five years as prices come down and efficiencies go up.

I’ve been on the hunt for some time for LED’s that output the same relative lumens (a measurement of light output) of an incandescent lightbulb (a typical 60 watt bulb outputs 800 lumens). I’ve seen many clusters-of-LED’s bulbs that put out more than that, but they’re in spot bulbs that point a narrow beam of light. The ambient lighting output of a typical incandescent or compact flourescent bulb isn’t available for sale…yet…but I’m keeping an eye peeled!

I should note that my other eye is scanning for someone in government — or interested in governing and being elected to office — to take a leadership energy and have a national energy policy that clearly articulates specific actions each of us can take to reduce our energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Dr. Simmons had this to say about incandescent bulbs — which are, in actuality, vacuum tubes like those in the first computers and televisions — at the end of the article, “Ultimately, incandescent light bulbs will end up in a museum, just like vacuum tubes did for electronics.”


Isn’t this eerily recursive?

An amazing amount of buzz on TechMeme about their own foray into blog-centric advertising.

While I also agree that Gabe’s approach is a great way to do it (having the latest-n-greatest post from the sponsor’s own blog appear in a ad-box on their site), seeing all the conversations tracked about TechMeme on TechMeme is…

…eerily recursive.


Your Business Model is in my Cross Hairs

Inefficiency is being eliminated because of the Web and since we’re all increasingly connected by the internet. As the Web accelerates in capability and with new applications, more intermediaries seem to be popping up to make life easier for all of us and, at the same time, is adjusting or killing many current business models.

Nobody can offer everything to everybody and *especially* since we’re seeing the whole Web 2.0 application direction offer up narrowly focused, thin slices of application functionality that meet needs in new ways. As a consequence, mashups of these applications are proliferating and sites that see ways to expose and slice-n-dice data in new ways are growing.

What I think is most intriguing, however, is the onrush of disintermediation sites that are simply looking at problems and needs from fresh perspectives and delivering useful Web applications. Here are three examples:

  • Flyspy: Written up in today’s Minneapolis Startribune (on the front page, no less) is this alpha-stage company that is swinging some of the algorithmic power — currently held by the airlines and used for “yield management” — and placing it in the hands of consumers.
  • GetHuman: A database of ways to get right past the always frustrating voicemail hell and cut-to-the-chase and get to the department or area you need now. Many companies manage costs by routing calls to where you’re either performing your own self-service or talk to a call screener; defray costs by upselling/crosselling you while on the phone (some even sell advertising while you’re on hold)
  • Bugmenot: A fun site of “generic” usernames and passwords to get, for example, past the walled gardens of major newspapers and other places where free registration is required.

I could go on and on…but you get the idea. In the examples above these are good things for consumers. In the example of, for instance, Wikipedia as a disintermediator and disruptor of the encyclopedia space, this is a very bad thing for Encyclopedia Brittanica and others. put power into the hands of consumers by delivering high quality, accurate information on rebates, financing and more so buyers would be empowered before facing auto sellers.

It’s inevitable that inefficiencies will continue to be made efficient as the Web and applications accelerate. All of the apps mentioned in this post are either disrupting, destroying or dramatically modifying current business models. What are you seeing that is not obvious to most of us?


“Podcast” is ours. A bonehead move by Apple?

Lots of buzz (started by this Wired blog post) about Apple sending a cease-n-desist letter to Podcast Ready since they’re allegedly infringing upon the iPod trademark.

Here’s why that’s a bonehead move by Apple…

Everything “pod” or “podder” or “podcast” does one thing: it screams Apple and their device. It does not, in my view, dilute the trademark in the same way that people using the term “Kleenex” did (which had arguably become such common vernacular for facial tissue, though a trademarked brand, that it caused a trademark protection scramble for Kimberly Clark so they didn’t “lose” the brand).

I submit that all of this “pod” momentum is an unbelievably good thing for Apple and it’s a bad move to stomp it down. It keeps competition at bay since anyone else positioning their product to tap into this momentum screams “me too” and causes customers to want “the real thing.”

As a podcaster, I’ve been aware that — for the last two versions of iTunes — Apple has made it increasingly challenging for users to browse for podcasts. If you know the title or keyword you can search on it or you can click “browse” and attempt to scroll down to podcasts until the word “podcast” appears to then see the directory. I know where my own podcast is and it’s quite hard for ME to find it!  The kicker is that free podcast content accelerates sales of iPod’s since it makes the device just that much more useful. Apple doesn’t make money off of podcasts via the iTunes Store but they could be more of a catalyst to continue to drive momentum with podcasting and continue to focus energy and momentum on the iPod and iTunes. Apple instead is making it more difficult and has somewhat deflated the enthusiasm in the podcast community.

My guess is that part of this cease-n-desist crackdown is intended to ensure that the lion’s share of the focus on “anything pod” stays with Apple. My post yesterday about rich internet applications may be a strategic consideration for Apple since knocking off iTunes probably won’t be all that difficult. Maybe this is all about heading this possibility off and ensuring that the killer process (iTunes-to-desktop-to-MusicStore-to-device which is what I term “Apple’s magic sauce”) isn’t all that defensible unless Apple has a process-patent pending on it. If that’s the case (and I suspect it is) then carefully and strategically making moves like this make some sense.

Still, any moves made to make anything “pod” more generic (and top podcaster Leo Laporte has suggested “netcast” for podcasts and Robert Scoble has done the same but suggested different names) will open up the market for competitive approaches and devices. This begs the question: Where are your statements or guidelines directing the ecosystem on what to do and what not to do? I predict they’ll never come since doing so would signal the marketplace on where the entry points are and it’s better corporate and market defense to leave it uncertain.

Unfortunately Mr. Jobs, these moves are signaling the marketplace. You’re telling the iPod ecosystem and marketplace to make audio, video and other media generic instead of iPod-centric. THAT is the essence of why this is a bonehead move. Without a doubt Microsoft, Creative, WalMart and others would like to say an enthusiastic and resounding, “Thank you!” for accelerating it.


Get Ready. RIA’s are coming…

Talk to any application developer focusing on “keystrokes” (i.e., the coding of application functionality) — whether they’re a desktop, enterprise or Web app creator — and they’ll go on-n-on about the limitations of the Web browser as an interface and that they have to shoehorn stuff into this now primary front-end to internet-centric application functionality.

Next chat with any creative agency or firm that is focused on “brushstrokes” charged with the responsibility of design and delivery of Web-based user interfaces. You’ll hear their tales of woe about browser and platform incompatibilities, color and gamma differences and that synchronizing their graphical brushstroke creations with the back-end keystroke functionality is an ongoing and enormous challenge.

Enter Rich Internet Applications (RIA’s).

I’m a strong believer that the next generation of applications will be built — and are already being built — upon the platform known as the internet (i.e., that whole Web 2.0 meme). RIA’s will absolutely, positively accelerate and take internet application functionality far beyond today’s relatively simple DHTML/AJAX Web application approach.

One great example of an RIA (though arguably isn’t being positioned as such nor were any of the current RIA-type tools used to create it) is Apple’s iTunes and is useful to look at since it approximates what’s coming with RIA’s. It’s useful as a desktop app for organizing media, but is really useful when connected to the ‘net (downloading album art; buying music, TV and movies; subscribing and downloading podcasts, etc.).

One of my daily reads, Read/Write Web by Richard MacManus, has a short and sweet introduction post about RIA’s that’s worth reading and then go peek at some examples: here, here and here. For me, I’m personally pumped to deliver ebooks that act like self-updating publications (e.g., every time they’re launched they could go look for updated content over the ‘net) and ones that have self-contained media and application functionality (like dynamic slide shows, etc.) within them that could also be self-updating. Transaction functionality within it will be icing-on-the-cake.

Control and flexibility is strongly desired by both the keystrokers and the brushstrokers. Providing tools that synchronize, orchestrate and coordinate efforts is not a trivial challenge, but the payoff is so huge that the giants are chasing it.

AJAX apps (like Gmail) are a simple and limited development paradigm but is one that people are using right now since it’s a quick way to build desktop-like feel into a Web app. All the strategic level technical people I know have informed me that AJAX, while cool, isn’t a scalable, extensible or enabling methodology (and many have said, “AJAX is dead!”).

RIA’s are coming…and fast. Adobe bought Macromedia for a host of strategic reasons (e.g., Flash; richer PDF’s; web conferencing; platform for RIA’s) and Microsoft’s Design Tools division (disclaimer: it’s headed by a guy I’ve known for 20 years and whom I’d crawl through broken glass for, Doug Olson) are both driving toward the goal of delivering the enabling tools to empower creatives and developers so the next generation of RIA’s can be delivered.

The whole RIA paradigm is going to be a battle of the titans and will be interesting to see who wins the war for standards, protocols and approaches. Adobe/Macromedia has their rich history of design, desktop hegemony with enabling creative tools as well as the ubiquity of both PDF and Flash, while Microsoft has deeper technical acumen from desktop to server and will be much better at tools for the keystrokers. Either way it goes, we’ll all be better off with accelerating functionality delivered to our desktop, device or in-browser and the next leap forward will occur.

More information here:

  • Adobe information is here
  • Microsoft’s info is here
  • I also wouldn’t dismiss OpenLaszlo which is now a fully supported, open source RIA development environment part of the Eclipse Foundation.

If you do nothing else, just keep one eye peeled for this small RIA stream flowing. Know that it’s raining like hell up in the mountains and this little stream is guaranteed to become a wall of water rushing toward you within the next 12-18 months. You’ve still got time to figure out how you’ll play (if you’re a keystroker or brushstroker) or what your company could deliver if you’re a strategist.


My Studio, Your Studio

For those of us active in the Participation Culture, you’ve got to be as delighted as I am at how the barriers to authentic media and content production have fallen to ridiculously low levels. From my home studio, I can (and do) create print newsletters (full color print); interactive ebooks; video; audio (podcasts too) with interview recording over Skype; and so much more. With sites like YouTube, OurMedia, LibSyn and so many others, the barriers to produce and deliver rich media content are virtually non-existent.

Came across BlogTalkRadio today and it’s pretty cool. It’s an offering that allows you to deliver a “radio show” or “blogshow” streamed over the internet live…with people calling in via a variety of methods like Skype, landlines or mobile phones.  Your BlogShow lets you host your own talk show online. Receive live callers, interview guests, and broadcast to an unlimited number of listeners. All you need is any type of phone, an internet connection, and something to say. All your listeners need is streaming audio or any type of phone should they choose to call in.

I’ve listened to several shows and they’re just “OK” at this point. Clayton Christenson, the Harvard B School professor, writes that disruption goes through three phases: first it’s “crappy”, then it’s “less crappy”, then it’s “good enough”. When it hits the last phase is when the disruption occurs and the new method or technology accelerates and the old ways (and companies) perish.

In my view, BlogTalkRadio is “crappy” right now. Audio levels are too low, quality is undoubtedly 8khz (vs. Skype at 16khz or CD’s at 44.1khz) so it sounds weak, and the call-in quality hasn’t sounded good on any of the calls I’ve listened to from the archive. Based on what they’ve built thus far, quality is bound to get better and “broadcasters” more sophisticated (on one show I could hear the guys whispering and laughing just before the show started. Muting might’ve been good).

This form of live streaming will, in my opinion, become “good enough”, soon enough that it’ll continue the chipping away at the foundations of radio started by the podcasting phenomena.

Access to live streaming is going to get better as well. Yes streaming from a browser is usable or from special services (like VCast for mobile phones at Verizon), but radio-like use from any internet connected device would be great. When Wimax, city-wide wireless internet is more than just press releases and the devices that can use it proliferate, streaming audio will be huge.

Even Palm has delivered links in their Palm Mobile Portal ( though the “audio” category doesn’t show on a PC-based web browser) so that I can stream CNN, Live365 and other stations right through my Treo 700p. I’ve listened to streaming audio when out on a walk at night and several times when stuck waiting in some line or other downtime.

So our respective “studios” are continuing to take on more and more capability. Just stop and think what you can buy with a credit card: the means of production to create and deliver media and content unrivaled at any other time in history.


Google. The next Control Data?

Control Data 1604 (Serial #1) with supercomputer genius Seymour Cray at the controls (click for larger view)

Growing up in Minnesota, I couldn’t help but be fully aware of this emerging dominant player in the computer business: Control Data Corporation (CDC). Led by visionary CEO William Norris, it was arguably one of the first technology corporations to be socially conscious with an eye (and investment) toward empowerment and the curing of many social ills.

Examining the demise of CDC as a force in the computer industry seemed to point to one thing: Norris took his eye off the ball since it was looking everywhere but the business. The link to the Wikipedia article about Norris above says it best, “They (the Board who were pushing for Norris’ removal as CEO in the 1980’s) were particularly harsh in blaming his social programs for their problems, although any connection is difficult, if not impossible, to find.

That said, articles about him upon his death this past August focused on his accomplishments and atypical and material positive impact he made in the world (good biography here). However, I know dozens and dozens of people that had illustrious careers at CDC and talk about the lack of focus again-n-again as the key reason the company perished. Yes this is anecdotal (though I’ve heard too many stories to ignore), but for people that worked for CDC for many years this was key in their minds. CDC spawned numerous social programs, spun out many companies (including one I worked for, Authorware, which became part of Macromedia and now Adobe) and did much good. They could’ve done much more had CDC survived.

Is Google leadership taking their eye off the ball like CDC’s Bill Norris did?

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CTD for September 16, 2006

This week’s podcast discusses microjets while next to the Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, MN.

In December of 2004 I wrote a post entitled Get Ready for a Revolution in Air Travel. No one seemingly cared except those handful of folks that knew microjets were coming and that they held the promise of being disruptors of the airline industry.

A March 2006 article (PDF) in The New York Times provided the best overview I’ve seen yet:

Thousands of tiny passenger jets will soon begin flying, the Federal Aviation Administration said on Tuesday, which will open up travel opportunities at small airports, and perhaps eventually gum up the air traffic control system.

In its annual forecast, the F.A.A. projected sharply higher levels of flights because of a new class of small planes, called very light jets, or microjets, with only 6 to 8 seats. The planes can fly about two-thirds as fast as an airliner, and at higher altitudes, but land easily on short runways found at small airports that have no scheduled airline service.

It went on:

The F.A.A. expects about 100 or so of the jets to begin flying this year. Proponents of the microjets, which have a range of 1,000 miles or more, said they would spawn a new generation of air taxis and charters that would carry travelers to small airports, usually within 20 minutes of their homes or destinations, at coach fare prices.

“We’re on the cusp of a new business model,” Nan Shellabarger, director of the Office of Aviation Policy and Plans at the F.A.A., told several hundred aviation executives on Tuesday at the agency’s Annual Forecast Conference at the Washington Convention Center. The agency made the prediction after reviewing manufacturers’ orders for the microjets.

The revolution in air travel is at hand…

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A-List Bloggers get Free Tech Support

I’ve seen this before, but I’m growing keenly aware that A-List bloggers are putting out their seemingly confused musings about some issue (like Doc Searls here) and then get tons of smart people telling them how to perform some task.

Case in point: a guy at least 1,000 times more technical than I am — Dave Winer, the Godfather of RSS and other technical innovations — wonders out loud today about how another A-List blogger, Robert Scoble, will be able to come to his house and connect his Thinkpad to his Apple Airport Express.


Geez…even *I* have setup WPA encryption on an Apple Extreme with two Airport Expresses in order to wirelessly blanket my house with internet connection in a WDS fashion;  have six machines in my house connected (five Mac’s and one PC…the latter running WinXP and Ubuntu Linux) and all machines and operating systems are connected.

Was connecting all of these machines and OS’es trivial? Not really…but it’s not that tough especially for someone with the technical acumen that Winer seemingly possesses. That’s why most people just plug in their wireless router when they buy it and leave it wide open and unencrypted. Also, anyone that is 1,000 times more technical than I am oughta know better than to use WEP encryption that has been cracked.

Doc Searls’ issues with Verizon are equally as confusing. He’s wrestled with the same Treo and network provider (Verizon) that I’m using…with virtually no troubles (though I’m pissed at Verizon Wireless too as evidenced by some of my recent posts). I simply don’t understand how a guy that’s been in-the-game as long as he has wrestles with technology like his experiences with his Treo and Verizon.

Trust me. I’m a propellerhead but the propeller on my beanie is kinda small and has to spin really fast sometimes to keep up with technologies. Two guys whom I have admired for some time are showing tiny propeller guys like me a side of themselves that, quite frankly, give me some pause about their other musings.