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Lessons in Niche Blogging Part 2: Give'em What They Want

The Blog That Jane Likes isn't niche blogging in the sense that the target audience is small (AntsMarching.org, perhaps the biggest of the aforementioned communities has 118k members, a little less than twice the subscribership of TechCrunch ;)), but because the amount of topics covered are relatively small. I maintain only three "real" categories: Shows, Downloads (Audio and Video), and Lyrics. The site is extremely content-rich. Each post has something readers want. There are no musings or links to funny sites or anything to distract readers from the content they came to get. It's been said many times, and that's because it's important: Focus is key.

Contrast that to what I've done here on occasion. I feel that only ill effects have come from posting about DMB on here. The people who view this as a tech blog are uninterested in the DMB content and the people who come here for the DMB content are uninterested in the tech talk. I lose out on both sets of readers because neither are interested enough in the other content to stick around. No one has time to read a blog where only 75% of the content is what they want when there are hundreds of other blogs that'll give them 100%.

While there is no way I would have made all the posts I've made on BTJL on here, I probably would have made a lot more posts about the new tour than the handful I've made. By starting this new blog I've been able to satisfy my DMB blogging fix while still being able to keep some kind of focus on this blog.

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Does anyone read Slashdot any more?

I'm pretty close to unsubscribing from the Apple Slashdot RSS feed. In the age of Digg, del.icio.us, Newsvine, etc, having a service model where an editor picks what to post just seems so antiquated. This is a perfect example of the pre-filtering vs post-filtering that Chris Anderson talks about in The Long Tail. For what it's worth, the Apple Slashdot site has had only 8 posts in the past seven days and pretty much all of them brought news that I saw hours or even days before they showed up in my Slashdot feed.

The most recent example is Phill Ryu's fake Leopard screenshot contest results, which were announced Wednesday 7/26 at 1:44PM. While I did see it straight from his blog no more than 30 minutes after it was posted, had I not been subscribed to his feed, Digg picked it up less than 90 minutes after so I would have seen it then. If I happened to miss either of those two sources (highly doubtful, considering one is the primary source) a link to the blog post appeared on many, many other Apple-related blogs. When did it show up on Slashdot? Tonight, Thursday 7/27 at 10:54 PM. It's "only" a day in real world time, but in blogosphere time that's an eternity!

And what about the tens or even hundreds (on a good week) of Apple stories that showed up in the past week? There's no mention of them anywhere on Slashdot. They bill themselves as "News for nerds. Stuff that matters." but there's a lot more that matters in a week than 8 stories. But I suppose that tag line became as irrelevant as Slashdot itself did a long time ago.

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Ze Frank's Words of Wisdom

I've recently begun to think Ze Frank is the funniest man on the internet. I'm catching up on old shows since I just subscribed to his video blog/vlog/video podcast/vidcast/videoqjtnbmkjg a few days ago, when I stumbled across this gem from the July 11th show:

I run out of ideas every day! Each day I live in mortal fear that I've used up the last idea that'll ever come to me. If you don't wanna run out of ideas the best thing to do is not to execute them. You can tell yourself that you don't have the time or resources to do 'em right. Then they stay around in your head like brain crack. No matter how bad things get, at least you have those good ideas that you'll get to later.

Some people get addicted to that brain crack. And the longer they wait, the more they convince themselves of how perfectly that idea should be executed. And they imagine it on a beautiful platter with glitter and rose petals. And everyone's clapping for them. But the, but the, but the, but the bummer is most ideas kinda suck when you do 'em. And no matter how much you plan you still have to do something for the first time. And you're almost guaranteed the first time you do something it'll blow. But somebody who does something bad three times still has three times the experience of that other person who's still dreaming of all the applause. When I get an idea, even a bad one, I try to get it out into the world as fast as possible, 'cause I certainly don't want to be addicted to brain crack.

Absolutely brilliant. And the song right after it is amazing as well (though it's not for kids if you care don't want them to hear "bad" words).

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Why You'll Never See Lossless Audio For Sale

Paul's post yesterday about why he pays for music made me realize something: no legitimate online music store will ever sell music in a lossless format. I originally posted this as a comment to his post, but I think it was important enough to share here:

Sadly, I don’t think we’ll ever see DRMed lossless music without serious CD-burning restrictions (read: no burning whatsoever). Once you get into the lossless realm, burning/ripping to/from CD doesn’t cause any degradation like it does with lossy formats, so it would be trivial to strip the DRM from a lossless file at the cost of a CD-R (and maybe not even that if you want to get fancy with disk images and such).

So while I do think we might get incremental upgrades in quality from iTunes et al (a small bump to 192kbps), we won’t see lossless from them because lossless = DRM-free.

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A Technical History of Apple's Operating Systems

Amit Singh, author of the upcoming Mac OS X Internals: A Systems Approach, has posted an uncut version of the Intro chapter of the book. About 70% of the chapter, which details the history of the Mac OS from the Apple I OS to the current OS X, was cut from the already-huge 1,680-page print version of the book. Because of all the research Amit put into the writing of the chapter, he didn't want it to go unread and so he posted the 140-page uncut version on his website.

The uncut chapter and for that matter the rest of the book isn't for everyone, though, as he states on the site:

I hope you enjoy reading this document and the book. Just as this document provides a super-detailed history of Apple's operating systems, the book itself is super-detailed on the internals of modern day Mac OS X. It is not at all a book about using Mac OS X—it is about the system's design and implementation. Therefore, I expect it to appeal to all operating system enthusiasts and students.

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On The Inefficiencies of Charity Work

Alex Tabarrok over at Marginal Revolution links to an article stating why charity runs and races are very inefficient economic activities (a part-time job where you donate all your income will generate much more for the charity) yet other aspects of the activity make it a better money-raiser than more efficient means. A few hours after I read that post, an email appeared in my inbox that was sent to everyone in the office:

Greetings,

I am riding in the Delaware MS Bike to the Bay with my daughter [name], a high school senior!

This is my 11th year of riding and fund-raising for MS.

My other kids are not available this year as my oldest daughter [name] is running a marathon in October and Scott is studying in China.

We are preparing for the 150 mile weekend by cycling more often and for longer periods of time.

Last year we contributed $3,531 to MS! The same as the previous year. You are all extremely generous. This year I am going back to the significant goal of $3,500.

[name] is again our honorary rider as we dedicate our ride to her. Others we know with MS are honored too.

Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable disease that randomly attacks your nervous system, wearing away the control you have over your body, e.g., numbness, paralysis and blindness. The research is making great progress and the local services are helping many.

It takes more than half of [the company's employees] to reach our goal, please help those with MS.

Sign up now — E-mail reply or use kitchen sign-up sheets. Checks to "MS Society" or cash can be submitted now or in late September.

You can use your credit cards as several did last year. www.msdelaware.org -> Epledge icon

Thanks,

[name]

(Names withheld to protect privacy; I left the donation link in there in case you're feeling generous :))

Isn't it great when economic theory works in real life? And this particular incident is especially great because it only took a few hours to prove the theory. Instant gratification!

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I Told You So, Google Talk Not Doing Too Hot

Google Talk's one year anniversary is approaching, and a report has come out saying that it's not doing too hot, just as I predicted. The fact of the matter is, there's no use competing in the textual IM space anymore; the market is saturated. Everyone is pretty much ingrained in what their social circles will use and no amount of smilie packs or client skins will change that.

What AOL/MSN/Y! and Google should be concentrating on is audio (though this market is pretty much consumed by Skype) and video chat. Making an excellent service centered around great audio or video chat and being the first to release it will practically guarantee you market share. There's only so much you can do with text, but the possibilities are endless for audio and video. We already see Skype bringing people together from all over the world to record audio podcasts, but imagine being able to do the same for video. Or have your recorded conversations be easily posted to your blog or YouTube. The numbers YouTube is showing prove that video is the next (current?) killer app of the internet. As broadband gains even more traction and companies like Apple make webcams ubiquitous by building them into their machines, video is poised to find its way into more application "genres" than what we currently see.

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First Flickr, Now MySpace

There's been a power outage at the MySpace data center. To keep our minds off of it, they've included a Pacman game for us to play in the meantime.

So who wins? Flickr's coloring contest or MySpace's Pacman?

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The Perils of Life on the Web

Flickr is down. According to FlickrBlog:

We've had a temporary storage failure affecting a sizable chunk of old Flickr photos and are moving about 20 terabytes of photos across a few thousand miles (between two of our data centers) to ensure consistency and smoothness. ALL PHOTOS AND DATA ARE SAFE AND NOTHING HAS BEEN LOST.

Even though nothing was lost, this event does bring up a serious issue now that a lot of people are keeping the bulk of their lives online instead of on their local machines. Giving in to a false sense of security, I'd venture to say that a large majority of people are even more lax about a backup strategy than they were when most of their stuff was kept locally. The ease of starting up a website is a double-edged sword; it's a by-product of the fact that most websites are hosted on commodity hardware – largely the same stuff that sits on your desktop.

The only difference is that you aren't in control of the backup strategy. Flickr may have a great backup strategy or they may have gotten lucky. We don't know and we probably won't. But hopefully this little incident will push people to order DVDs of their Flickr photos or download their GMail to POP or even to create utilities that'll get your data back in your control.

Now that we're practically placing our lives in the hands of others, we just need to decide just how much actually trust that those hands won't drop us.

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Lessons in Niche Blogging Part 1: Talk Is Cheap

Background
Just about 50 days ago, on May 30, on a whim I started a blog dedicated to the Dave Matthews Band titled The Blog That Jane Likes. This series of entries deals with some of the things I've learned after running the blog for a mere 50 days.

While there are strong communities centered around several message boards, there really are no real DMB blogs out there. In addition, most one-shot audio recordings (as opposed to full-length lossless recordings) are shared via yousendit and other ad-supported downloading sites. Since these sites are bandwidth or download-limited, most popular files need to be re-posted ad infinitum. It's a huge pain and a rather unreliable form of file propagation. With over 1TB/month of bandwidth and 25GB of storage to spare, I set out with the goal of making BTJL the place to download songs from the current tour.

The site has been a huge success, exceeding all my expectations. In the month of June, I've had 397 thousand requests to the site; July has had 150 thousand so far. I served 316 GB of data in June and 149 GB in July. All of this has been at zero incremental cost aside from the $7 domain registration.

I've made more from AdSense in the first few days from BTJL than I have in the year and half I've run this blog. Granted, I've peppered that site a bit more with ads than this one, which only had one ad until the latest redesign where it now has zero. While there's no way I could live off of the AdSense revenues, they will most likely cover my hosting costs for the year, which is good enough for me. I'm doing the site more for the fun of it than for any monetary reward.

Without incurring any costs, I had little to lose on a failed BTJL. Though I was in a bit of a unique situation with pre-existing hosting, there are plenty of free options (Wordpress.com and Blogger, for instance) for anyone who wants to start a blog. I don't know what those sites' policies on placing AdSense is, but I'm sure you can get away with Amazon referrals and the like.

Even if you do have to spend a bit, how's this for an idea: do it for fun and compare the cost to the price of a movie ticket, sporting event, video game, etc. Which one do you think will come out ahead? Talk is cheap, do it.

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