Thursday, July 31, 2008

China Limits Web Access During Olympics (news)

Since the Olympic Village press center opened Friday, reporters have been unable to access scores of Web pages - among them those that discuss Tibetan issues, Taiwanese independence, the violent crackdown on the protests in Tiananmen Square and the Web sites of Amnesty International, the BBC's Chinese-language news, Radio Free Asia and several Hong Kong newspapers known for their freewheeling political discourse.
The restrictions, which closely resemble the blocks that China places on the Internet for its citizens, undermine sweeping claims by Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, that China had agreed to provide full Web access for foreign news media during the Games. Mr. Rogge has long argued that one of the main benefits of awarding the Games to Beijing was that the event would make China more open

(from The New York Times).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Western Spaghetti by PES (flash)

The stop-motion preparation of spaghetti (rated PG).

Ode To Joy - Beaker (flash)

The Muppet's Beaker sings Ode to Joy (rated PG).

$1.50 Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake Today (news)

The Cheesecake Factory is offering slices of cheesecake for $1.50 today to celebrate their 30th anniversary; it's for real.

Participation is Everything in Social Media

The normal case of social software is still failure; most of these experiments don't pan out. But the ones that do are quite incredible, and I hope that this one [a Brazilian Wiki crime map] succeeds, obviously. But even if it doesn't, it's illustrated the point already, which is that someone working alone, with really cheap tools, has a reasonable hope of carving out enough of the cognitive surplus, enough of the desire to participate, enough of the collective goodwill of the citizens, to create a resource you couldn't have imagined existing even five years ago

(from [offline as of May 2012]).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

LA quake catches Twitter user in ladyparts exam (news)

A 5.4 earthquake hit Tuesday while Verdell Wilson was having an exam in her gynecologist's Los Angeles office.
Given it was her first earthquake experience, Wilson did what comes naturally - she twittered it.
As soon as I got dressed, I twittered my experience from my cell phone, Wilson said. I usually twitter to 80 friends, but I now have 274 messages from people commenting on it.
(from CNET News, via

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (flash)

Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day in Joss Whedon's three act supervillain musical: Dr. Horrible (rated PG).

Clubbed To Death - Rob Dougan (flash)

Clubbed To Death music video (rated PG-13).

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Process (flash)

What if there were no stop signs... and a major corporation was charged with inventing one: What if a big corporation designed the stop sign (rated PG)?

Explode Your Content Online - Hulu

Video sites that explode their content online will succeed. I know from personal experience that giving users the ability to embed and otherwise share your content, off of your site, gives you views and exposure that can't be attained any other way. Even some big studio ventures are figuring it out:

One of the reasons Hulu caught on so quickly was the ability for users to embed full-length TV episodes and movies on their blogs and personal pages. Hulu says that its content has been distributed on 27,000 sites and over 500,000 individual embed players. Now the company is taking that distribution one step further and rolling out new widgets that expand those embedding options
...CTO Eric Feng also talked a little about Hulu's upcoming implementation of Facebook Connect on the video site, which will launch in August. Facebook users will be able share their activity with friends and track each other’s activities on the site


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Muddy Moose Bar and Grill

The Muddy Moose Bar and Grill sign inside Sportsman's Lodge in Studio
City, CA.

iPhone Line at Apple Store

The line outside the Apple Store at The Grove is still long two weeks
after the iPhone 3G was released.

Friday, July 25, 2008

FBI Turns 100 Tomorrow (news)

On July 26, 2008, the FBI will celebrate its 100th anniversary as a national security agency

(from The have put materials online for use in publicizing FBI history and no permissions are needed; please just credit the FBI.

24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot (flash)

Jack Bauer saves the world with AOL 3.0 (rated PG).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Facebook Connect Could Socialize Everything Online

Yesterday Facebook announced Facebook Connect which allows you to ...integrate the power of Facebook Platform into your own site. This means any site can have visitor behavior appear in that person's profile news feed on Facebook, but also opens up how much information people may be putting into Facebook's systems:

You are essentially telling Facebook's proverbial brain what topics - blogs or specific posts [or other sites] - with which you like to engage. In other words, you just told the system a little bit about yourself. Now imagine such information coming from dozens of Facebook Connect partners.
Each service adds a few more data points about you inside the Facebook brain, which is quite aware of your activities inside the Facebook ecosystem. The brain can then crunch all that information and build a fairly accurate image of who you are, what you like and what might interest you. With all that information at its disposal, Facebook can build a fairly large cash register


Explode Your Content Online - Feeds

Remember when mobile phones didn't exist, and you actually knew your friends' phone numbers? And then you got your little piece of tech and entered all of them into the memory and now you can't even remember your own number? That's what RSS does to my brain. If I like your site and put it in my reader, I will forever keep in touch with the things you are doing and come to your site to comment on articles. But if you don't give me that ability, I will immediately forget your address and never find you again

(from Work hard).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MySpace Half Adopts OpenID

MySpace today is announcing support for the OpenID identify platform. This means users of services that let you log in to them with OpenID will be able to use their MySpace credentials for the login. As TechCrunch pointed out, though, this appears to be a "land grab for user identities," since MySpace isn't allowing users to log in to MySpace with an OpenID account from another identity provider

(from CNET). They do plan to be a site that recognizes other OpenID logins (i.e., ones created on a site other than MySpace) soon.

Twig Covered Store

A store covered in brush on Melrose.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Don't Ask 'How Does This Help Us?'

Many are looking for how social media, social networks and things like viral videos can help them and their business. Seth Godin points out that the internet doesn't rely on marketers, and doesn't need to help you, or bow to your business needs, like more traditional ad supported media does. Since things like radio, tv and newpapers are supported by advertisers they must serve advertisers and marketers, but:

...the Net is different.
It wasn't invented by business people, and it doesn't exist to help your company make money.
The question to ask is, "how are people (the people I need to reach, interact with and tell stories to) going to use this new power and how can I help them achieve their goals?"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cement Plant

Cement plant and cement trucks in Hollywood, CA.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Explode Your Content Online - NPR

Exploding your content means allow your content to be accessed in whatever way and place anyone wants, whether they are human or machine. Now that the NPR API is live, other content providers should follow suit. They need to build APIs, many feeds and other technologies to explode their content onto the internet everywhere.

History has shown that the audience will find your content with or without your help. The audience wants to be entertained and they will go elsewhere if they can't get it from you. The audience wants to watch what they want, where they want, when they want. If you work with them you have some influence on how. If you don't, they'll track down the pirated version instead.

The audience wants to pay you, and engage with you. Let them and make it easy.

Fail to let them buy from you, and they'll still get your content, but not from you, and not from someone working with you (like not from a site using your API).

It's still your content no matter where it ends up. With feeds, APIs and allowing embedding you can monitor use, see what the audience likes and dislikes and wants to mash up. Making it easy for the world to get your content from you, even if it's in a new context, keeps you in the conversation.

If you try to keep total iron-fisted control over the how and when your content is accessed, you have two options:

  1. Fight a future that is already here.
  2. Lose your audience.

Working with the reality that the internet is designed to share information gives you many options and keeps your audience engaged with you (and not engaged with a pirate). It lets you do things like integrate an easy way for your ads to still be shown with the mash ups and new creations; you still can make money everywhere your content was going to to end up anyway.

With your content accessible in many forms, it can actually be made more valuable too, to both your bottom line and the world. Imagine:

  • a radio show player that integrates real time twitters from Twitter's search (formerly Summize), keeping the conversation about NPR in NPR's reach
  • a service that puts all of NPR's content together with others, filters and informs the content using Yahoo's BOSS, AideRSS's Postrank or other services
  • this is the tip of a very big iceberg

You can choose, as NPR has, to be ..looking forward to the inventive ways that you will use our content (from

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Journey At The Center Of The Earth

Black 20's funny changing of a single two letter word (rated PG).

Contests, Are they Social?

Contests can be social, especially if they are discussed and presented through "Social" means. They can be social (i.e., doing things that only social media and social netowrking allow on to do), but social or not, contests can be a good way to involve your audience, even if they are similar to old school web 1.0 ones like web contests of the 1990s. Engaging your audience is the key, whether or not it's in a fundamentally new way or not.

Like Beyond the Rhetoric's Win a Box of Stuff Contest photo editing contest. I learned about it through Michael Kwan's Twitter. Ten years ago I might have learned about a contest like this through an email, web site or offline. It may have asked people to email the pictures or put on them their web page, instead of now asking participants to add it to their blog or flickr account. While the contest itself isn't especially social network-y, it's still fun, builds him some links and engages his audience.

In fact it's engaged me enough to spend a few moments on it; here's my entry to the Beyond the Rhetoric contest:

Invisible PDA

Social Media is a Conversation

An example of how social media is a conversation, even for companies, is how JetBlue uses Twitter to interact with customers and the public. Their tweets range from the expected weather delay updates, tech travel tips and general announcements but the key is they reply to comments and respond to complaints in a genuine, honest way. JetBlue is speaking with, not to, their customers.

While the JetBlue Twitter account may not be maintained by a single person, they are doing a lot of things right whether it's a team or a person:

  • listening and responding to people
  • posting selectively and not too frequently or becoming noise
  • being honest, even when it's not self serving in the short term

This airline is having a conversation with their audience; you don't have to be in the internet or entertainment industries to use social media well.

Knowing What You're Talking About

Go Big Always has a series of graphs about return on investment, my favorite is probably the one about hot air.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Americans Viewed 12 Billion Videos Online in May 2008

That's a lot of video views. There were probably about 6 million new videos uploaded online during May as well.

Online Picture Editing

If you're away from your computer, using an online picture editor to resize, crop or otherwise do light image editing can save you having to find, install and use a graphics program on an unfamiliar computer. This can be especially useful if you are using another online tool that makes image files. For example, if you make a flowchart online, you can save it, and then use an online picture editor to make additional changes (like make a title, notes, etc.).

If you're using a public computer, like in a library, computer lab or internet cafe, email your files to yourself when you're done. Then delete the local copies of your images off of the public machine. It makes no difference what kind of computer you are use to connect to the internet, since many of these tools work the same in most browsers and on most computers (though it might need to be a relatively modern computer and browser to use some online tools).

Here is a list of image editors that show promise:

This is Why I'm Hot - Deployed Style (flash)

The song "This is Why I'm Hot" sung by air force pilots in the UAE (rated PG).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Facebook Bigger than MySpace

A couple weeks ago Facebook surpassed MySpace to become the largest global social network (from

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Support iPhone with YouTube Videos

You should be supporting iPhones with the YouTube videos on your web site. Link to the YouTube video page as a standard link, don't only embed it. iPhones have a YouTube application that will be launched by a link on a web page to the YouTube video page, but iPhones don't yet support flash, so they can't display the embedded videos right on the page in Safari, yet.

Including the link with also help search engine crawlers find the videos and better understand what is on your web site. Here's an example of how to support the iPhone when embedding YouTube Videos.

iPhones Matter for Online Video

If you aren't supporting the iPhone in your Social Media and Online Video projects, you might want to start (my emphasis added):

  • 67% of US iPhone users are male (compared to 48% of all mobile subs)
  • 55% of iPhone owners are under 35 (compared to 34% of all mobile subs)
  • 63% of iPhone users earn above $75k (compared to 38% of all mobile subscribers)
    24% of iPhone owners are Hispanic
  • 9.7% of streaming video users and 4.9% of mobile internet users own an iPhone

(from Nielsen Mobile).

Even before the release of the 3G model yesterday, almost a tenth of streaming video users owned an iPhone. They likely also blog and otherwise share things, like videos, online. Research suggests that of those male under 35 iPhone owners:

  • 35-39% create material online themselves
  • 39-46% critique online content

Neglecting them means missing out on a lot of audience, feedback and word of mouth.

In addition to other benefits, putting your videos on YouTube, and maybe also allowing them to be downloaded in iPhone/iPod friendly formats, makes sure these iPhone owning people in the audience can see your videos wherever and whenever they want.

Fail: Direct TV ads on Hulu

Advertising your offline product online, using an online alternative to your product makes no sense. While watching TV on Hulu, the studio backed online video site who's slogan is Watch your favorites. Anytime. For free, I saw a commercial for Direct TV, the satellite television provider. If I'm already choosing to watch TV online, and not with cable, satellite or through the air, then why would I have any interest in subscribing to a satellite TV service?

I wouldn't. A dish would be installed at my house, so I couldn't watch other places, like I can with Hulu or dozens of other online video sites. So if I'm already using a service that allows me to watch anywhere, and anytime, and it's free, why would I be interested in paying to have to stay in one place, and unless I used a DVR or VCR, watch on their schedule? Again, I wouldn't be interested.

Am I, and the rest of Hulu's audience, really such voracious consumers of video content that I'll sign up to pay Direct TV every month for something I can get for free and more flexibly from the company I'm already using (Hulu)? Did I care about high resolution very much when I was watching if I'm watching on Hulu? Is there any good reason to fail to make an ad relevant to the viewer when then technology exists to match ads by geography, context and other factors (both Google and Facebook are making most of their money doing just that)? Again, no, no and no.

I think there are other reasons this ad appeared many times during the show.

I think this ad was possibly thrown in as a "freebie" during the sale of more traditional TV commercials. However, this "freebie" may be worthless to Direct TV in terms of getting more subscribers. Being able to say "we're advertising on online television too" won't help the stock holders' investment grow no matter how good it might sound in an annual report. Someone might even blog about how mismatched Direct TV's media buying is to the marketplace ;-).

This matters because once Screen Actors Guild negotiations are done, all the actors will likely have joined the writers and directors in being owed money when their work is used online. Like in a commercial. Even if the ad makes the advertiser no money and makes the advertiser look sloppy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Amelia Earhart Statue

Statue of Amelia Earhart in North Hollywood, CA. Sculpted by Ernest

Social Networks Can't Be Bought... Sort of

Promoting anything through social networks is not a simple or cut-and-dried as a media buy. There are firms and people that will tell you it is, but they are bending reality a little, sometimes enough to break from it all together. Social networks do allow for a certain amount of purchased attention, but really require a judicious use of both budgets and know how to maximize effectiveness.

Successful social networking is predicated on:

  • conversations
  • transparency
  • honesty

And unlike many other forms of media, social networking doesn't react well to force or spamy tactics.

Nasa Poked Mars

The Mars lander poked Mars with a fork. You can see it for yourself (from JPL).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Popular Blog Posts Are Made Tues - Fri 10am - 2pm PT

Posting to a blog at different times affects the popularity of the post. Bookmarking that post at different times also impacts its popularity. There may be a "blog-cycle," like a news-cycle, for making blog posts popular.

According to some research, Thursday early afternoon and early evening may be the best times to seed blog posts into social bookmarking and social media sites. Others say that between 1pm and 3pm PST (after lunch) or between 5pm and 7pm PST (after work) are the best times and Thursday is the best day.

Social Profile of Your Audience

Forrester's Social Technographics put people into categories of how audiences use social media and social networks. Their Profile Tool can help you figure out how much of your audience is in which groups.

Small Differences Make a Big Difference

Small differences can magnify and snowball into different results. If yesterday a certain layout on a given social networking profile resulted in 1% of visitors choosing to play a video, and today a change in the profile layout made by you makes 2% of visitors choosing that same video, it deceptively seems minor. However, changing from 1% to 2% ends up doubling the number of views that profile is generating.

If, for instance, the profile generated 25,000 views yesterday, but generates 50,000 today, that may lead to a threshold being crossed: recently some have suggested that 50,000 views of a video in the first 24 hours on YouTube will place the video at the bottom of the YouTube site-wide most viewed page. This can snowball into even more views since the most viewed pages are commonly used to find new videos. Now it seems that 1% can make a big difference. Since the reverse can also happen, every view and detail can make a large difference. Just like each person can. Many details together can make for even bigger differences.

Facebook Cracks Down on TOS Bending Applications

SpeedDate's Facebook application was shut down temporarily as the latest application to be penalized by Facebook for either violating the Facebook Terms of Service or getting very close. This confirms my point that best practices for social media change quickly.

Facebook Chat on iPhone

Facebook has released a new version of the Facebook application for the iPhone which is available to be installed tomorrow at the launch of the new iPhone. The application includes chat which means you will be able to chat with all of your Facebook friends while on the go

(from allfacebook).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Yahoo Opened Their Search Technology to Third Parties

BOSS allows developers to submit queries (and their associated parameters) via an API to retrieve up to 50 web, image, news, or spelling results in XML or JSON format at a time (from TechCrunch).

Yahoo Opens Up Their Search Infrastructure to Third Parties

Yahoo! Inc. today introduced a new open Web services platform, Yahoo! Search BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service), which gives third parties an unprecedented level of access to Yahoo! Search Technology, including the ability to re-rank and control the presentation of Web search results.
Today, developers can begin using the BOSS API and the mash-up framework tools and see examples of how they could deploy BOSS on their sites by visiting the Yahoo! Developer Network site,


Domain Registration Length Affects Rankings

How long you register a domain name for impacts its search engine rankings. Pagerank is essentially the first claim of US Patent 220050071741 (which is held by many people including some Google employees). It states:

A method for scoring a document, comprising: identifying a document; obtaining one or more types of history data associated with the document; and generating a score for the document based on the one or more types of history data.

Claim 38 says (my emphasis added):

The method of claim 1, wherein the one or more types of history data includes domain-related information corresponding to domains associated with documents; and wherein the generating a score includes: analyzing domain-related information corresponding to a domain associated with the document over time, and scoring the document based, at least in part, on a result of the analyzing.

And claim 40 specifies some of the domain-related information they are referring to (my emphasis added again):

The method of claim 38, wherein the domain-related information is related to at least one of an expiration date of the domain, a domain name server record associated with the domain, and a name server associated with the domain.

Therefore, amongst the over 100 factors used in determining a page's pagerank and its ranking in search engine results is the expiration date of the domain of the page. Reason suggests more legitimate web sites are committed to their domain names and would register them for the more time than fly-by-night sites. Google sums it up best in the patent's 99th claim (my emphasis added once again):

Certain signals may be used to distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate domains. For example, domains can be renewed up to a period of 10 years. Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year. Therefore, the date when a domain expires in the future can be used as a factor in predicting the legitimacy of a domain and, thus, the documents associated therewith.

Web Design in Different Browsers

Sometimes it's useful to see a website in many browsers to be sure the design looks good to all of the site's visitors. Short of installing many different browsers on different computers, there are some websites that can help.

Social Networking Best Practices... Right Now

Like the rest of the internet, things change quickly in the social media world; one day a tactic may work well, the next the same tactic may get a profile terminated, undoing the accomplishments of spent time, energy and money. Using best practices means best practices of the instant and place they are used.

Layout and other changes are made to the various social networking and social media sites every day, sometimes more than once a day. A small location shift, or new feature addition, may change user behavior drastically, and affect the outcome you seek. Each site has a different user-base and what works on one site may fail on another.

For instance, in late March 2008 there was no Facebook chat available, in April 2008 there was, and it meant users are now receiving notifications in a new place in addition to where they had been before. This affects how users interact with the notifications and the applications that send them, and in some cases changed how often and how users use specific applications. Social networks that do yet have a chat function that pulls in application's notifications may not need the tweaks to widgets or applications that Facebook may need.

How Much To Advertise

Alan Rimm-Kaufman writes about determining how much to advertise. Key points include the more you advertise, the more you suffer decreasing returns to scale and that sales increase with the square root of advertising, or rather, your last advertising dollar spent makes you less than the first.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Social Network Etiquette Counts

The British video Facebook in Reality highlights comedically how etiquette still should count online and on social networks.

Broader Social Media, Video and Internet Ideas

I've started a separate blog about Social Media, Video and the Internet on which I'll discuss less specific or tip related things. Dave Tips is about how to, and Guerue is more what can be done and why.

Social Media Happens in Someone Else's Sandbox

With many different companies running the many sites any social networking or social media project is running on, one must remember that you are playing in someone else's sandbox so you must not only follow their rules today, but abide by the changes they make in both the rules, but also how they enforce them. One example is in 2006 at one time MySpace did not react negatively to some very aggressive friend requesting behavior. In a study I conducted in spring 2008, it became clear that same aggressive behavior accepted in 2006 will now result in profile termination.

Getting a profile killed undoes all the work you did before. Being too aggressive was probably a bad idea anyway: annoying people is hardly a good plan in any situation, and certainly isn't a way to make friends or build a business.

Internet Keeps Us Connected, Forever

Social Networks allow people to reconnect with people they've lost touch with over time. The internet in general keeps people connected to each other whether they want to be or not:

someone i used to live with has a video on cute overload today. weird how geeks are the only exes that never move out of your neighborhood.

(from thaumata's twitter).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Facebook in Reality (flash)

What would it be like if Facebook was actually played out in real life (rated PG-13).

Friday, July 4, 2008

Candy Marilyn

Candy Marilyn statue in It's Sugar at Universal Citywalk in Universal
City, CA.

City Loft at City Walk

City Loft, entrance to Howl at the Moon and Rumba Room, at Universal
City Walk in Universal City, CA.

Muppets Stars and Stripes Forever (flash)

Sam the Eagle presents a musical salute to America (rated PG).

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Search Results Vary Based on Country

Google localizes search results based on the country from which you are accessing Google. This is intended to give the most relevant results based on where you are. You can choose which country's results you want to see, but you must use some sort of proxy. The international version (what the United States sees when searching) is accessible from outside of the US using a proxy, or proxy website that is located inside the US.

Dialing-up or otherwise connecting to the internet through an ISP located in a different country should also work. You can compare what different countries see in Google results using a geotargeted search comparison.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

IM with visitors - Make a Google Talk Chatback Link

To let visitors chat with you, using Google talk, create a Google Talk chatback badge and place it on your website, blog or profile.

You can customize what the badge looks like, from just a link, all the way to a fully built out iframe. You need a Google Talk account to use this (you probably have one if you use Gmail).

MUTO (flash)

Wall-painted animation by BLU (rated PG).

Project Make McCain Exciting: Gray Ambition (flash)

Madonna's Vogue with John McCain, an entry from Stephen Colbert's 'Project Make McCain Exciting' (rated PG).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pretty Facebook Sharing

When someone shares a page on Facebook, the webmaster can specify the title, the description and the default thumbnail image.

The title doesn't have to be the same as the the page's title tag, and is specified with:

<meta name="title" content="different page title"/>

The description is taken from the standard description meta tag:

<meta name="description" content="page description"/>

The thumbnail used for Facebook sharing, and other places too, can be specified with:

<link rel="image_src" href="[your thumbnail's web address]"/>

Place the code in the head section of the web page replacing "[your thumbnail's web address]" with the URL to your thumbnail image, and both the title and description with what you want to have appear when the item is shared on Facebook.

Update: Note that for the image, thumbnail's width or height must be at least 50 pixels, and cannot exceed 130x110 pixels. The ratio of both height divided by width and width divided by height (w / h, h / w) cannot exceed 3.0. For example, an image of 126x39 pixels will not be displayed, as the ratio of width divided by height is greater than 3.0 (126 / 39 = 3.23). Images will be resized proportionally.