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Newspapers and Magazines by Home Computer

From the video:

Engineers now predict the day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by home computer, but that's a few years off. So for the moment at least, this fellow [video of a newspaper vendor] isn't worried about being out of a job.

Twenty-eight years later, he's finally starting to worry.

(via NSLog();)

CD Baby's Shipment Confirmation

CD Baby's shipment confirmation:

Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CDs into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved "Bon Voyage!" to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Monday, January 5th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as "Customer of the Year." We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sigh…

Companies with personality ROCK.

iPhone App Gold Rush

With 100,000 iPhone SDK downloads, the relative simplicity of the platform and the popularity of the iPhone, there's no doubt we'll be seeing tons of iPhone applications being released as soon as the App Store goes live. But will those apps be any good?

Brent Simmons, author of NetNewsWire, thinks we'll see a ton of to-do lists and Twitter clients. He's right: Apple has failed to provide a to-do list app for iPhone OS (or Mac OS X, for that matter) and people have complained about it since June 29, 2007. Twitter is also the love du jour of techies everywhere and an iPhone app would be much better than the web interface (look no further than Iconfactory's Twitterrific on the desktop for proof). I am personally working on an app that combines the two ;-)

Brent also thinks that the money is in the Cloud. He states that standalone iPhone apps are easy and cheap enough to write and too boring to use. The most interesting apps will be those that sync to the cloud. It's the development, maintenance and scaling of the server apps that will be expensive, and that's where he sees much of the iFund money going. Time to become an expert on NSURLConnection!

I can't help but agree. One app I'm working for will tie into a web app we've written internally - the API isn't currently there, but it will be. Blossom (as we call it) won't be the most revolutionary iPhone app out there, but it is a good testing ground for client-server iPhone apps. I've got ideas for other apps too, and the thing they have in common is that they all tie back into the Cloud. The 1st iPhone "SDK" (web apps) was far from perfect, but if it did anything, it helped developers focus their attention on where it should be - the Cloud.

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More on "Lessig for Congress"

Ars Technica has a great article today on Professor Lessig's potential run for Congress that I mentioned yesterday. The article does an excellent job of outlining Lessig's platform in far better detail than the one sentence I gave it. What's particularly interesting about his position is his desire to build a Creative Commons in Congress, where "[i]f politicians begin foreswearing PAC money, the theory runs, voters may come to see the failure to refuse lobbyist dollars as a badge of shame rather than simply the way things are done." This sounds like a very necessary change and requires the proverbial "Washington outsider" to really get going - Lessig is that outsider. Further, the article elaborates on the difference between Lessig and his greatest rival in the race, Jackie Speier. Lessig mentions that there aren't many differences, but that a focus on technology would give him an edge and that even though many prominent California Democrats have thrown their support behind Speier, the rush to consolidate support has frustrated voters who want more options. As I said yesterday, I can't wait to see how this plays out.

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Lessig May Run For Congress

I wrote about Professor Larry Lessig's shift in focus from Free Culture to corruption in Washington when he gave his last Free Culture talk. Since then, a seat has opened up in Congress as a result of the death of California Congressman Tom Lantos. Lessig posted on his weblog earlier today that a Facebook group and the draftlessig08.org website have caused him to actually consider running.

I think Lessig has a great chance of winning thanks to support from the tech community. Having him in Congress would not only be excellent for his next project, but would also help along causes that current Congress members are either too tech illiterate or too influenced by money to really address the right way (one such cause being Net Neutrality).

There's no word on when he'll make a decision, but along with the rest of the tech community, I wait with bated breath.

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Microhoo: Microsoft Offers $44.6B to Acquire Yahoo

Yesterday I was meaning to write about Amazon's $300 million acquisition of Audible, a match made in heaven, but today comes news that Microsoft is offering $45 billion for Yahoo, which pretty much eclipses the relatively straightforward Amazon/Audible deal.

There were no shortage of rumors regarding a MSFT/YHOO merger/acquisition in 2007, but no formal proposal was actually ever made public and Yahoo came out and said that a deal didn't make sense on account of the potential upside of the restructuring and strategic initiatives set for 2007. As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer states, a year has passed and the competitive landscape still hasn't changed. Indeed, Project Panama has done little to improve Yahoo's situation in the advertising space and search seems to be in the place that it's been in a while - an ever more distant #2 to Google. Perhaps even more indicative of Yahoo's true status, however, was this week's announcement of plans to layoff 1,000 employees.

In the eyes of most consumers, both Microsoft and Yahoo provide second-rate products. In the operating system space, especially with the lukewarm reception Vista received, Microsoft only has their incumbency to stand on. In the internet space, MSN is to Yahoo what Yahoo is to Google, if that. Yahoo does have some great properties, but they aren't the cash cows that search and advertising are, and receive both media and internal attention according. The growth opportunities of the workhorse properties, however unglamorous, are still growth opportunities and still have yet to be harnessed and perhaps this deal is the only way that these properties will get attention.

The deal makes sense to me from a competitive perspective, but does it make sense internally? Can these two behemoths really merge operations and culture well enough to come out a stronger entity? Or will their internal focus distract them so much that Google will be able to distance itself even more from Microhoo? I don't know enough about the internals of Yahoo or Microsoft, but I know that the success of this merger will depend on a few factors, including the compatibility between the cultures and structures of both companies and the appropriate handling of redundant properties.

In the end, I look forward to this deal going through. I think it will revitalize both companies, which appear to have been operating at less-than-full capacity over the past few years. In this sense, although fewer competitors in a market tend to decrease competition in that market, I think we'll see the opposite here. Though there's a very subtle feeling out there that since both are so behind the competition, both Microsoft and Yahoo are about to, or should, give up. This acquisition will give the resulting entity a much better leg to stand on against the competition.

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Larry Lessig's Last Free Culture Talk

Larry Lessig will be giving his last talk on the topic of "Free Culture" in about an hour. I had the pleasure of seeing Professor Lessig give this talk in September of 2006 as part of the Penn Reading Project and I think the ideas he presents are fascinating and have had a great impact on me. We've come a long way in some areas, such as in the slow death of over-restrictive DRM, but we're still a ways to go in other areas, such as the predatory litigation undertaken by the music and movie industries. As the blog post announcing the talk mentions, Professor Lessig will begin focusing on corruption in Washington, a topic I'm admittedly less interested in.

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Monday Morning YouTube Videos

Stumbled across two great videos this morning. What a great way to start off the week!

Gabe and Max's Internet Thing

via Marc Andreessen, who also posted this gem about rogue trader Jerome Kerviel.

Google Maps Street View Extreme™

via Paul Robinson

Hating to Love Facebook

The blogosphere just hates to love Facebook. It took almost three years after it's launch for people like Mr. 5000 to notice it, (although in all fairness only a year after it became open to the public) and now the second something newer and shinier comes along people to start proclaiming that Facebook is dead.

Guess what? The 99% of Facebook users who don't care that Facebook is closed as long as it's not exclusive won't switch away; I also doubt that the 1% who do care won't switch either. App developers won't suddenly leave Facebook because OpenSocial is more widely supported; at best, an OpenSocial (curiously OS for short) app will supplement an existing Facebook app. Apps follow users and the users are still (and still will be) on Facebook.

Users may be fickle in their taste, but so many of them have invested too much of themselves in Facebook (by way of routine, photos, videos, wall posts and other content) to go running for the doors even if something tremendously better came along. The lag between the introduction of a better alternative and the abandonment of the old is long enough that Facebook will have time to react; just look how long AOL stuck around despite much better alternatives in both content and connectivity. Facebook's lock-in, while fragile, is in no way as big a disadvantage as everyone makes it out to be.

If OpenSocial does take off, Facebook can adopt it without much hassle and we're pretty much back to where we are now. If it doesn't take off, then it's probably because of Facebook and Zuckerberg and the gang have nothing to worry about.

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Turned To Crap

Paul Stamatiou on his thoughts on the state of the blogosphere:

The larger tech sites/blogs have “turned to crap” to quote an older friend in the field. Everyone’s got an agenda and a quota to fulfill; there aren’t too many “free spirits” when it comes to tech writing, which is why sites like John Gruber’s Daring Fireball receive so much acclaim.

His thoughts pretty much echo mine, and though I've mentioned in passing how much I hate the larger tech sites, this quote does a great job of summing up what I've been meaning to explicitly say for a while. The scale has been tipping to quantity over quality for a while now and shows no signs of stopping.

Some sample stats: Google Reader says that Engadget has averaged 40 posts/day. When I started the media fast experiment, all my feeds were read. It's been a week since that started and that amounts to roughly 280 posts. The current Engadget unread count is 272. That I've found 3% of those posts worthy of my attention is telling. In contrast, Daring Fireball averages 10 posts per day and I've read all of them without hesitation.

The "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" approach was fine when I didn't realize how much time was wasting looking at things I wasn't reading nor cared to read. Now things have changed. The large tech blogs have gone the way of mainstream media in their attempt to increase eyeballs. I am avid fan of a handful of TV shows, but you'll never find me sitting on the couch channel flipping; the chances I'll find something worthy of watching are so slim it's not even worth it. The quantity over quality approach doesn't work on me for mainstream media and I've come to realize it isn't going to work in the blogosphere either.

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