Archives for 2007


Comcast: No iChat, No Choice

Since I rarely use Bittorrent and have experienced just a few issues with using Skype (and none with Vonage) services over my Comcast High Speed Internet connection, the confirmed accusations of Comcast’s packet shaping have been troubling but haven’t yet personally affected me and — like most of us with so-called “broadband” (which others outside the US laugh at in terms of speed) — we have no choice in high speed providers unless we want to go dog slow with some flavor of DSL or go back to using a modem.

In a bizarre twist, what has affected me is a quite useful product (iChat) and I’m growing madder by the day: Using Apple’s iChatAV in a session with video or screen sharing starts off just fine but within minutes deteriorates and becomes unusable (pixelated video, audio dropouts, slow response with screensharing).

iChatAV is incredibly useful since my 81 year old Dad, my sister and other family members have it and I can easily perform remote management of their machines through simple chat. It’s so laughingly easy that it has taken me minutes to teach someone how to use audio and video chat or to share my screen — or ask to share theirs so I can troubleshoot some difficulty they’re having — and thus I can sprinkle my knowledge around as needed and help my loved ones out (without getting in the car and driving over or flying).

I’m not the only one that is having this issue as evidenced by this Macintouch thread here (look at October 2007 comments on) as well as this long one in the iChat AV forum at Apple’s site. There are numerous fixes people have tried (throttling iChat’s bandwidth; rebooting the modem; opening a window and shouting) which sometimes works and mostly doesn’t.

After the jump, you’ll see the note I just wrote to Rick Germano, the SVP of Comcast Customer Service and a link to a page you can use to also send Mr. Germano a nice note…although he and his executive cronies at Comcast probably sit around at cocktail parties guffawing over people having issues with their service, “Oh yeah….so what are they gonna do….switch!?!” (Insert a bunch of lit-up guys howling with laughter here).

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Blog Posts: How many are too many?

Over 2007 I’ve noticed an interesting phenomena in the blogosphere: an increasing number of daily posts. Some people do “posts ‘o links” which are just a bunch of things they think are interesting and are non-posts as far as I’m concerned. Others do 3, 4 or 5 posts per day (e.g., Scoble, Chris Pirillo) and some do 10 or more per day (e.g., Treehugger, Mashable).

I read/skim them (and 157 other bloggers and 50 other feeds for roughly 1,500 articles per day) and have discovered I’m feeling increasingly fatigued by any of them individually. One or two meaningful posts are good….five or ten is overkill. Especially since most of the posts are metaphorically nice big hamburger buns but inside is a burger the size of a dime since they’re light on content (IMHO).

When does a blog move from a chronological series of event writings to a new magazine type of format? What is the optimal number of daily posts? Or is it quality vs. quantity? “Best of” or compilations of links are of little value to me or are the “feature of the day” sorts of posts. Let me know what you think…


Why we need a tech-savvy president

Whether or not you believe that there is an inexorable and exponential growth in business, communications, social, cultural and political processes being mapped to the Internet — and a simultaneous disruption along with innovation occurring worldwide — one thing is clear: we’re living in an unprecedented time of accelerating change and the global network called the internet is at the heart of it.

This accelerating change is why we must have someone in the oval office that has an intuitive understanding of how the internet is shifting much of what we do, exploding knowledge and providing the building blocks of innovation, bringing a level of transparency to governmental and corporate actions never before seen, while flattening the world faster than you can say “Thomas Friedman“.

John McCain seems to be rising in the polls for the GOP nomination and yet I’m troubled by several instances where he’s made it clear he’s a neo-Luddite or just plain clueless.  This Fortune archived article entitled, “How I Work” from March of 2006 is one of those:

“I read my e-mails, but I don’t write any. I’m a Neanderthal–I don’t even type. I do have rudimentary capabilities to call up some websites, like the New York Times online, that sort of stuff. No laptop. No PalmPilot. I prefer my schedule on notecards, which I keep in my jacket pocket. But my wife has enormous capability. Whenever I want something I ask her to do it. She’s just a wizard. She even does my boarding passes–people can do that now. When we go to the movies, she gets the tickets ahead of time. It’s incredible.”

Wow! You mean she can go to an airline web site, check in and print a boarding pass? Buy movie tickets online? I’ll bet she can even use that there Google thingy. Wizard indeed.

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An investment lesson: 10 shares of Apple = $8,000

Apple Stock Certificate for 10 Shares

Rooting around in our safety deposit box recently, I came upon this Apple stock certificate from 1988. Even then I was an Apple fanboy and my wife went out and bought me 10 shares of Apple for roughly $440 and my infant daughter (now 19 years old and working at a local Apple store) gave it to me for father’s day.

With splits this has become 40 shares and, as of this writing, Apple’s stock price is hovering around $201 per share making this certificate worth just over $8,000. With it’s value I didn’t want it just lying around so I scanned it at 1200ppi (so I could more-or-less keep it) and deposited it at Schwab.

Before doing so I stopped at my daughter’s Apple store and showed it to her and said “thanks”. She laughed as she accepted my thank you since she was a month old and it was really Mom that gave it. Still, it was a nice opportunity to demonstrate to her the power of investing — especially when you have a lot of time on your side like she does now — and since we’d had a conversation two days earlier about her consideration over whether or not she should leap into the Apple employee stock purchase program or not.

She’s a college student and every nickel counts so her reluctance is understandable. Waving goodbye to any money is tough (even when stock is discounted like ESPP programs do) since investing is something “out there in the future” for most younger people.

I hold many shares of Apple and have enjoyed its runup but a P/E of over 51 makes me really, really nervous. That said, Apple hasn’t even scratched the surface of increased Mac market share, new iPhones, rumored tablets (which I’m 98% convinced are coming) and what I’ll bet is a completely revamped AppleTV that facilitates video downloading and viewing on an HDTV. Lots of growth left and, barring any hiccup like Steve Jobs getting hit by a bus, there’s a lot of life left in the stock.

UPDATE on August 14, 2013: in intraday trading today Apple is at nearly $500/share. At that $500 mark those 40 shares would equal $10,000.


Apple + Presence and Location Awareness

What if you could take your mobile phone near a retail outlet and it would tell you the specials? Have your favorite cup of coffee waiting for you to pick it up? Personalize their offerings so that only the things you might like to buy would be presented to you? Allow the retailer to automatically know who the good and loyal customers are so you could be catered to?

Those are just some of the positives of Apple’s recent patent application discussed in this Forbes article.

The downsides? Too early to tell, but having an iPhone stolen would be one though there will undoubtedly be security implementations to avoid that problem. How about ordering something automatically — a cup of coffee or example — when today you had a hankering for tea?

My bigger concern is the perfect storm around presence and location awareness. Presence is when systems know where you are and that you’re online and/or your device(s) are capable of communicating with you (which is one reason why the Blackberry has done so well since YOU don’t have to check for email…it TELLS you when there’s a message). Location awareness is like the photo above when machines are aware of where you are geographically.

Both of these are huge for Google since every touch point where any of us could possibly receive and act on an ad is key to their strategy. Imagine you search for, say, an HDTV and the ads delivered to your phone or browser are specific to your location? Or what if you’re sitting in a Starbucks and corporate sends out a promotion while you’re physically there — and they know by your purchase history and interactions with them via your iPhone that you’re open to what’s in the promotion — and your phone vibrates with an SMS delivering the promo?

Slowly but surely we’re handing over more and more of ourselves and our privacy in exchange for what? I’ve handed over a lot and done so willingly (Gmail, Google Analytics, et al) but there is much I haven’t used (Picasa or YouTube with their complete ability to reuse your pics and video).

Lastly, I have to admit being sort of amused by Apple delivering this functionality since they’re the LEAST personalized and targeted company of their size on the planet. EVERYTHING that I receive from Apple is completely generic though they have my purchase history, machines and applications registered, and my credit history since I have an account at iTunes. Still puzzles me that they don’t bother to use any of that meaningfully.


Merry Christmas


Skype Interview Recording How-To Video

If there are interviews you want to do and record them as podcasts — or use high quality audio for any purpose when interviewees or conference callers are in multiple geographical locations — it’s been challenging to do over phone lines or any other means…until Skype arrived.

For years I’ve followed everything Doug Kaye delivers since he’s a long-time radio guy who “gets” podcasting and user generated content. He created IT Conversations which allowed me to access and listen to thought leaders in information technologies which first got me hooked on following him. He’s done much more and you can read about (and listen to an interview with him) here.

But Kaye has always danced around his Gold stamp of approval for Skype interview recording…until now as you’ll see and hear when you watch the video below.

A cohort of his, Paul Figgiani who runs Podcast Academy for Gigavox Media (Kaye’s firm) joins Kaye in this video and he’s an accomplished audio guy too. I also owe this guy. Why? Because when I was struggling with audio gear — and had bought and returned several devices — this guy took the time to record audio for me and emailed me (after I had sent him a note). This was WAY beyond the call of duty and thus have always had a soft spot for him and what he delivers and I’ll bet you’ll appreciate what he and Kaye have given.

Kaye and Figgiani just released a VERY well done “how-to” video on how to record Skype interviews in high quality. It moves along very fast so you’ll want to pause it as you try what they recommend. But for these two guys to place their blessings on Skype interview recording is huge.

I went through a lot of time and pain (and money) over many months in 2005 and 2006 to learn what they’ve synthesized and have delivered in this video. This is a wealth of knowledge packaged up for your use and is quite a gift. Thanks guys!




Think the Internet has progressed?

Tonight I spent some time roaming around inside the Internet Archive and came across the video below from a San Francisco public television show, The Computer Chronicles.

Here’s what it says at the Archive for this video, “It wasn’t quite the World Wide Web yet, but everybody started hearing about this thing called “the Internet” in 1993. It was being called the Information Superhighway then. This program looks at the earliest stages of the Internet including Aladdin Systems SITComm, a Macintosh communications program for Internet access, and the WELL (Whole Earth Lectronic Link), an early online community. Also featured is a visit to the former Bell Labs in New Jersey (now Bellcore) for demonstrations of internet based teleconferencing, video on demand, ISDN, and optical network technology; a preview of the World Wide Web as used at NASA; a visit to where it all began, ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency in Virgnia; and a look at the Internet Multicasting Service in Washington, the first Internet radio station. Guests include Brendan Kehoe, author of “Zen and the Art of the Internet”, Howard Rheingold, author of “The Virtual Community”, Dr. Robert Kahn, former found of ARPA, and Carl Malamud, author of “Exploring the Internet”. Originally broadcast in 1993.

Take a peek at this now 14 year old video and realize how far we’ve come…and where we’ll undoubtedly be 14 years from now as the rate of change accelerates.



So many podcasts…so little time

On a conference call yesterday with a client we were discussing the many forms of new media (e.g., blogging, podcasting, vlogging) they might use and I was asked point-blank, “So Steve, you had a nice podcast. If podcasting is so great, why did you stop?

I did the obligatory humma-humma dance and recovered by stating that it no longer met my communication goals. Totally true, but it made me step back and ponder a bit more deeply about why I stopped.

Part of the reason was lukewarm feedback. Though I had a few dozen hardcore fans (many of whom were vocal and emailed me often), my base of podcast listeners pales in comparison to my blog efforts and audience size. My monetary return on investment for blogging is huge (many clients come to me specifically due to my blog) compared to primarily personal satisfaction I felt with podcasting which was nice, but the few hour investment of time to perform, edit and deliver a podcast wasn’t worth the effort.

The other reason?

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2 Trillion SMS messages

Often many of us simply don’t pay attention to signs of growth or are unaware until some new development, meme or technology has hit critical mass and we then must pay attention to it.

We’ve all known for some time that mobile phones hit critical mass globally and that Millenials and GenX’ers are using text messaging as a primary means of communication. What you might not know is the volume of messages and Cellular News had this to say about a recent Gartner report:

As the popularity of SMSs continue to grow, Gartner forecasts 2.3 trillion messages will be sent across major markets worldwide in 2008, a 19.6 percent increase from the 2007 total of 1.9 trillion messages. Mobile messaging revenue across major markets will grow 15.7 percent in 2008 to $60.2 billion, up from $52 billion in 2007.

Asia/Pacific and Japan are the biggest consumers of mobile messaging. Gartner estimated that there were 1.5 trillion messages sent in 2007, and the number will grow to 1.7 trillion in 2008. Volumes of short messages and picture messages will increase, but growth rates are expected to slow in line with the saturation of mobile connections.

As I discussed in this post Mobile Global Grid: When the World is at Your Fingertips, mobile technologies — and especially smartphones — may already be the primary way many of us stay connected to others and is increasingly putting the world of knowledge at-our-fingertips. With messaging schemes growing quickly (e.g., Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku) and mobile providers ostensibly opening their networks (e.g., Verizon and AT&T) to other devices and potentially more unrestricted data use, a rich always-on, always-connected critical mass of people will be using much more than simple SMS and it behooves any of us in business to keep tabs on this growth.