Monthly Archives: August 2005

Tragedy

This video shows the damage Hurricane Katrina brought to the coast – it obliterated entire towns. So many lives lost. They keep repeating on the news they can’t worry about counting the dead, with so many who still need rescuing.

Tragedies like this bring out the best and worst in all of us. Looking at Craigslist in New Orleans or at those in my home town that are offering to help is heartening. Donating to to Red Cross is probably the easiest, and probably best way to help for now.

As for the worst, there is some news of looting, but that news is being presented in a racially biased way. As Atrios suggests it is “about number 589 on the list of things which matter right now.”. Lives have been lost. Survivors need to be rescued and others need food, water, shelter, and protection.

The rumblings of failures in our infrastructure and system are scary. Bush was – where else – vacationing – see here and here. And there is news that the levees had funding slashed by his administration. In addition, disturbingly, there seems to have been a failed effort to reinforce those levees in the break between the hurricane and when they broke. But as this NYTimes article says:

…this seems like the wrong moment to dwell on fault-finding, or even to point out that it took what may become the worst natural disaster in American history to pry President Bush out of his vacation. All the focus now must be on rescuing the survivors. Beyond that lies a long and painful recovery, which must begin with a national vow to help all the storm victims and to save and repair New Orleans.

People who think of that graceful city and the rest of the Mississippi Delta as tourist destinations must have been reminded, watching the rescue operations, that the real residents of this area are in the main poor and black. The only resources most of them will have to fall back on will need to come from the federal government.

Those of us in New York watch the dire pictures from Louisiana with keen memories of the time after Sept. 11, when the rest of the nation made it clear that our city was their city, and that everyone was part of the battle to restore it. New Orleans, too, is one of the places that belongs to every American’s heart – even for people who have never been there.

Right now it looks as if rescuing New Orleans will be a task much more daunting than any city has faced since the San Francisco fire of 1906. It must be a mission for all of us.

It seems Nola’s blog is the best place to go for news direct from New Orleans.

“Do You MySpace?”

Note that the story here isn’t about MySpace. It’s about how a something moves from the underground to the mainstream – without mass media’s help. It’s a great example of the “Tipping Point” in action.

New York Times: Do You MySpace?:

…Created in the fall of 2003 as a looser, music-driven version of www.friendster.com, MySpace quickly caught on with millions of teenagers and young adults as a place to maintain their home pages, which they often decorate with garish artwork, intimate snapshots and blogs filled with frank and often ribald commentary on their lives, all linked to the home pages of friends.

Even with many users in their 20′s MySpace has the personality of an online version of a teenager’s bedroom, a place where the walls are papered with posters and photographs, the music is loud, and grownups are an alien species.

Although many people over 30 have never heard of MySpace, it has about 27 million members, a nearly 400 percent growth since the start of the year. It passed Google in April in hits (emphasis mine – Karl), the number of pages viewed monthly, according to comScore MediaMetrix, a company that tracks Web traffic. (MySpace members often cycle through dozens of pages each time they log on, checking up on friends’ pages.) According to Nielsen/NetRatings, users spend an average of an hour and 43 minutes on the site each month, compared with 34 minutes for facebook.com and 25 minutes for Friendster.

“They’ve just come out of nowhere, and they’re huge,” David Card, a senior analyst with Jupiter Research, said of MySpace. “They’ve done a number of things that were really smart. One was blogging. People have been doing personal home pages for as long as the Internet’s been around, but they were one of the first social networks to jump on that. They’ve also jumped on music, and there’s a lot of traffic surrounding that.”

“And,” he added with delicacy, “I think a lot of their traffic comes from the pictures. I don’t think there’s anything X-rated, but there are lots of pictures of college students in various states of undress.”

Even the founders seem taken aback. “I don’t want to say it’s overwhelming,” said Tom Anderson, 29, who created MySpace with Chris DeWolfe, 39, “but I see these numbers coming out, I keep thinking, it must be a mistake. How can we pass Google? I mean, my mom knows Google, but she doesn’t know MySpace.”

…Mr. Anderson’s idea was to expand the social-networking model into a one-stop Web spot, incorporating elements from other sites popular with the young: the instant-message capabilities of American Online, the classifieds of Craigslist.com, the invitation service of Evite.com and the come-hither dating profiles of match.com. The founders spread the word about MySpace through friends and anyone they happened to meet in Los Angeles at bars, nightclubs or rock shows.

“Since we’re telling people in clubs – models – suddenly everyone on MySpace looks really pretty,” recalled Mr. Anderson, who with his trucker hat and sideburns looks as if he could be gigging in a club himself later on. “That wasn’t really the plan. It just kind of happened.”

The soft-spoken Mr. DeWolfe, wearing a custard-yellow embroidered shirt and jeans, added, “It’s sort of synonymous to how you start a bar.” He has a master’s degree in business from the University of Southern California and oversees the money side of MySpace.

From the beginning, independent filmmakers, actors, aspiring comedians and, particularly, unsigned rock bands have used the site to promote themselves – so many that MySpace became known, not quite accurately, as a music site (an impression reinforced now that acts like Weezer, Billy Corgan and Nine Inch Nails introduce albums there).

…”MySpace ruined my life.” “They’re doing pretty awesome actually,” Mr. Dickerson said. “I’d say, as far as a cultural phenomenon, MySpace is as important, if not more important, than MTV.”

Like MTV, it is starting to create stars that glow brightly within its own universe. The band Hollywood Undead, which did not exist three months ago, has achieved celebrity thanks to MySpace. “We were just a bunch of loser kids who sat around our friend’s house all day, and we started making music and recording it on computer,” one of its vocalists, Jeff Phillips, said.

About two months ago the group posted a page on MySpace decorated with pictures of all seven members disguised in hockey masks and other forms of concealment. They also included a few original songs, a fusion of heavy metal and hip-hop. “In a matter of weeks it got huge, and it kept on getting bigger and bigger,” said Mr. Phillips, whose left earlobe was splayed open enough to accommodate a hollow ring the size of a wedding band.

“It’s been maybe nine weeks, and we’ve had over a million plays. We have 60,000 people who listen to it every day. It’s crazy. If you look at our page, it’s like we’re a huge band that’s toured a hundred times.”

…”We get to keep doing what we’re doing, and have more money to do it,” Mr. Anderson said. “We’re not moving over there, they’re not coming over here. We just kind of go talk to them once a month and let them know what’s up.”

He said that as he meets with bands to sign up for the new label, he keeps hearing the same question: “How are you going to get me on MTV?”

“They don’t quite get it, and I’m only starting to get it myself,” Mr. Anderson said. “We’ve got our 26 million, with a lot more people logging in each day.”

He added, with a shrug, “It’s kind of like, who cares about MTV anymore?”

August Philly Bloggers Meetup was terrific

This month’s meetup was great. We had real turnout and I was a little awestruck at the chance to meet so many great folks I have known online.

The regional meetup has grown steadily and now I hope we’ve finally reached our tipping point – where folks will realize we’re not such a scary group and decide to take a chance and come on out to have a few chicken fingers (or wings) and a few beers. Get to know one another. Maybe even make a few friends.

Scott (our event czar) posted a list of bloggers who came on out. Mixed among them were a couple of folks who don’t blog and were just curious – and that was awesome. I hope they got a chance to get to know some of the community. Make sure to check out Scott’s list and find what everyone else had to say of the day.

Thank you everyone for coming out. Here’s to growing our community, connecting, and to new friendships.

Thank you Pat and Fred (oh and Ann – you do wonders for our country’s unity!)

I’ve been trying to tune this out, but can’t since the media isn’t going after this with appropriate gusto. I just have a few things to say to Pat and Fred…

Thank you Pat for making it so easy for me to continue to look like a hypocrite for being a Christian and an American. Thanks. Doesn’t matter if you apologized. Too late to take something like that back with a little “well…I’m sorry”.

Check out GlobalVoices for reactions across the world to your extremism.

And ya know you might have even broken a Federal law. But I doubt charges will be filed.

And Fred, yes you Fred Phelps, thanks for helping Pat in spreading extremism off shore. If you didn’t know my good readers, he’s gone off to Sweden to threaten their God-less king and damn them to an eternity in hell. No really. Click the link.

So we’re we’re making progress. Soon it will be 1589 and all will be well. Either that or we do what Errol Lewis in the New York Daily News suggests:

Robertson isn’t alone in steering political discourse toward violence. In 2003, conservative pundit Ann Coulter told The New York Observer that “my only regret with Timothy McVeigh [the terrorist who killed 168 people in Oklahoma City] is he did not go to The New York Times building.”

We need to reclaim American politics from these extremists, who think it’s okay to call for assassinations and the bombing of newspapers and government agencies. Responsible leaders of both parties must find their tongues and quit looking the other way as the Robertsons of the right wing spread their poison in the land.

Dan Gillmor has been calling conservative bloggers out to comment on this – but he’ll be disappointed. If they do, they will dismiss Robertson’s influence and status in America. They will say he is nothing but an old crock. Oh it looks like the Daily Show has already borne that out with TV’s unbiased punditry.

And speaking of Ann Coulter (this is the first time I’ve mentioned her on this blog – and I hope never to do again), did you know she actually suggested New Yorkers are cowards? I know many New Yorkers. They are the ONLY folks I know that compare to Philadelphians in terms of being tough.

The HuffingtonPost has put out a call for New Yorkers to share their 9/11 story here. The brave firemen, policemen, EMTs of New York have been slandered. More here and here.

She’s one of a growing chorus of opportunists that seek to divide the country for their own gain. She knows her fan base – Southerners – and plays to it very well. Check out the link and watch the video. A sad eye opener.

MySpace Lack of Design a Plus?

Great article by Paul Scrivens that shares, what I feel, is the secret to MySpace’s success:

MySpace
is a community site that allows you to setup a profile and blog and
connect with friends and strangers. It’s also a designer’s and lover of design’s worst nightmare because the UI of the site is atrocious yet it boasts 17 million visitors a month (and rising) and was recently purchased for over $580 million by News Corp.

…The community is what makes MySpace. If you ask someone why they are on MySpace 9 times out of 10 you will get this reply: That’s where all my friends are.

…This is the same reason why people usually only use Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger or AIM (yes I know there are apps that allow the usage of all 3 at once). If you get the community then you win the game

…I would suggest you read Malcolm Gladwell’s classic The Tipping Point for a better understanding of how events reach critical mass. In any case you have to reach the so-called Connectors in the community. Blinksale did this perfectly. If you don’t know who the Connectors are then you don’t know your audience.

…. Trying to navigate the MySpace UI is frustrating at best. So why does it work? Besides the community I think it’s the fact that you can customize your pages and if you explore the community you will see some crazy designs going on. 90% of them you can’t even read the content, but people love it.

…the design sucks them in. In a way it also causes a bit of lock-in. Once you learn the interface that is time invested that you don’t want to lose. That’s why many people will never leave MovableType because they understand how it works inside and out.

It empowers people to get their message out and make connections (emphasis mine – Karl). That’s the only way I can put it. Same reason why Xanga, FaceBook and LiveJournal are crazy popular. Get a community together where people can communicate easily and you have yourself a winner. Ask Amazon.

Besides all of that, the site sucks and I never use it, but I know that doesn’t matter much when I can enter a club and the first question out of a woman’s mouth is: Are you on MySpace?

Check out the rest of this great piece. Paul is looking for feedback. I think he’s on to something.

Google Talk is Out

Google Talk is out (review at DownloadSquad) and while it doesn’t do all that much to convince users to switch from Yahoo! or AIM, under the covers it is radical for how it works – using an open protocol. XMPP is a messaging/presence protocol that has been around for a long, long time (work was announced way back in January 1999) and has recently been ratified as a standard by the IETF (I think just last year). During that time, numerous instant messaging systems have come along that utilize the protocol, for example Gaim and Gush. The Jabber Software Foundation, has been the main organization that has educated developers as to what it is and be used for, has been an avenue for extensions to be built for it, has promoted it as an alternative to the closed solutions that big three have been promoting, and has helped it thru the standardization process. Yahoo! employee Russell Beattie had this to say about the protocol this morning:

You don’t send individual XML documents per message, instead you open up a socket and start writing one XML document keeping the socket open the entire time, as you need to send more messages, you keep adding XML stanzas to the document. You do this both on the up and down stream. To end the conversation, you simply end your document’s root tag. Now think about this – if you’re really just sending a never-ending XML document as the way to make a conversation, then extending this protocol is drop-dead simple. You just add another namespace and include new tags for that namespace in the document. *Poof* – extensible instant messaging and presence. They’ve got a ton of extension proposals already in the works, including sending forms, multi-user chat, and geolocation. I mean, it’s very cool.

I’m not sure how scalable XMPP is, or why Yahoo! hasn’t switched to it yet, but I’d love to see us put an XMPP gateway at Y! and start letting people access Yahoo! IM via Jabber as well as via our custom client. Our IM client is amazing (with integrated Music, Search, Webcam and Voice), but choice is always better – and then ISVs could start piggybacking on our stuff as well. You still need a Yahoo! ID, so it’s still a win for us… I’m not sure where the decision is kept, but it’d be neat if this turn of events prompted us and MSN and AOL to open up a bit.

Dave Winer has experimented with XMPP in the past and was happy to hear the news.

A while back I read a great book from O’Reilly – (looks like it needs an update) – “Programming Jabber” – that made it trivial to roll your own instant messenger.

Google made a smart choice.