Archive for November, 2007

The excitement of the launch

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

When I started my career, the Internet didn’t yet dominate publishing to the extent that it does today. There was a lot more paper being pushed around, and my first two “real” jobs – at Let’s Go travel guides and Network World magazine – were both print-based.

Let's Go USA 1997The thing that I liked the best about both of these jobs was the feeling of accomplishment that I got when something was finished. At Network World, we put the magazine to bed every Friday afternoon, and were free for the weekend. Monday morning, the issue would appear in the office, all our hard work evident in the print publication. Let’s Go was much the same way, although on an extended scale. We would work through the spring semester and summer, and at the end of the year, the updated and improved travel guide book would be released. An entire book, with your name on it, to prove that you worked hard and produced something great. (I just checked and now that book is 10 years out of date and available to buy for $0.35!)

With my current work, I relate this publishing experience to launching a new Web site. Or a new feature on a Web site. Or a redesign. Or a blog post. There are so many more milestones with the Internet because things are fluid – if something isn’t working, it can be changed easily, so I am quicker to approve and launch something. But there is still a thrill that I get when I create something new and see it live.

Today I get to tell you about some new stuff – and I am excited. I hope that you check everything out and let me know what you think.

16th Letter header
First, my blog has been redesigned. If you are reading this post on RSS reader, come to the site and check it out. The redesign was done by Allyson Nickowitz – she’s great and incredibly talented. Not to mention that she managed to get me to sit through a photo shoot!

Pure Incubation logo
The Web site for my new company is now live, as well. I hope that this helps explain a bit more about what I’m doing with my business for anyone who is curious.

Cara Austin logo
I have been lucky enough to be involved in the Cara Austin music project from the beginning, and Cara’s first song is now available for free download at her Web site. The CD should come out sometime in December.

There are other projects that I have in process, but they are not yet ready for prime-time. More announcements on future launches will be coming soon.

TechCrunch Meetup in Boston

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

TechCrunch logoI made it to the TechCrunch Meetup in Boston on Friday night, and it was a lot of fun. I appreciate the hospitality from the folks at TechCrunch (there was open bar for the duration of the event) as well as the sponsors. I managed to talk about half of the vendors who were there, as well as a lot of random folks who, like me, just wanted to network and see what was going on with start-ups in Boston. Personally, I got a lot more from the people who I talked to than from the exhibitors (and I think that they had better products and projects in the works). But here’s my take on the exhibitors that I chatted with:

Mzinga – B2B social networking, is how they explained it to me. What I don’t get about this service is that they launched at the event, but they already have 2.7 million registered users, according to TechCrunch. That’s a pretty solid user base for a newly launching product. Where did those users come from?

CoreBlox – The president & CEO did a very brief demo but had a hard time because his co-worker nearly spilled water on his laptop before someone else tripped on the wire and unplugged it, but my takeaway is that they are offering a free customer support tool that can be used by businesses. I didn’t get a good sense of the quality of the tool.

Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment – The people at this “booth” (I am not sure that it could be called a booth – cocktail table is more like it) were really knowledgeable and kind, especially since I don’t know much about online gaming, specifically MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role playing games). The thing that really shocked me, though, was that this company is two years, $40 million dollars in, and has 100 employees and a solid management team (from the looks of its Web site), but it doesn’t yet have a live game. My conversation with them went like this:

Me: What’s your biggest game?

Them: Stargate Worlds.

Me: How many people are playing it?

Them: Oh, it’s not live yet.

Wow. $40 million in, they must be sweating it a bit. – Live Webcast search is all I got from the demo before Erick Schonfeld (from TechCrunch) came over and the folks there spun around in a neat little circle to talk to him.  

A personal note, my favorite part of the event was that I managed to drag along my good friend Denise Dubie. Denise and I worked together years back, but I haven’t attended a work event with her in years. It was so fun for me to see what a celebrity she has become in the IT world (she is a senior editor at Network World). For example, we walked by the Perkett PR booth and a couple of her story headlines were flashing on their screen, and at one point, I noticed some other people ducking and whispering about her before they came over to introduce themselves and shake her hand.

One of the guys in that group was Ross Levanto from Schwartz Communications, who was chatting with us for awhile. Our conversation was interrupted by some announcements by TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington and Schonfeld. One of the things that they did during that set of announcements was draw a winner to play in an online game by Moola for a chance to win $5,000. Ross’ name was picked. He went, played and ended up winning the cash. He celebrates in the picture below (sorry for the bad photo, I was using my iPhone in a dark and crowded room):

Ross Levanto Wins

Fortune cookies and the Internet

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

On Friday night, after the TechCrunch event in Boston, my friend Denise and I headed to P.F. Chang’s for some late-night dinner. It was definitely some of the most delicious Chinese food I have ever eaten. I recommend the chicken lo mein for all you noodle lovers!

 At the end of the meal, I opened my fortune cookie to this lucky number surprise:

Lucky Numbers in a row

I had never seen such a thing, nor had anyone that I showed this weekend. So I went on an Internet research mission to find out the source of the lucky numbers that are in fortune cookies. No surprise – according an article from The New Yorker,  Cookie Master, a computer picks the numbers. But there is a real guy – or real guys at this point – who write the fortunes.

And in case you’re wondering if anyone actually pays attention to the lucky numbers, they do. The same article recounts a story of the lucky numbers actually turning up lucky:

“…in March, five of six lucky numbers printed on a fortune happened to coincide with the winning picks for the Powerball lottery, a hundred and ten people, instead of the usual handful, came forward to claim prizes of around a hundred thousand dollars. Lottery officials suspected a scam until they traced the sequence to a fortune printed with the digits “22-28-32-33-39-40.”

I guess I won’t be the only one coming across this unusual sequence of numbers.

Domain speculators are "whack jobs," according to CNN's Cafferty

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Jack Cafferty
I happened to catch a story on CNN’s The Situation Room a couple of days ago about some Joe Biden-related domain names. Turns out that the domains and are owned by Fallon O’Brien from Indiana. Apparently, O’Brien tried to sell the domain names to the Biden campaign, but they didn’t want to pay. From a campaign spokesman:

“We we not going to overpay for a domain. We already have one we’re quite happy with. That’s, and people find us just fine.”

What is O’Brien doing with these domains? He isn’t using them for any kind of negative ads about Biden, nor is he monetizing those pages. Instead, he’s simply redirecting them to his candidate of choice. Currently, that’s Mit Romney. (He used to send the traffic to the Barack Obama Web site, but he changed his mind on who he is supporting.)

The story ended and Wolf Blitzer sent the newscast back to Jack Cafferty who remarked:

“No shortage of whack jobs out there on cyberspace.”

I don’t disagree with the sentiment, there are a lot of whack jobs out there, but I really don’t think that a domain speculator who is supporting a presidential candidate qualifies.

Full transcript here

Recommended reading: Web design blogs

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

If you want to learn more about Web design, follow the experts. Here are some blog resources that I would recommend:

web design blogs

Some interesting facts about Web design

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Tim Berners-LeeModern Web design was (sort-of) founded at M.I.T. In 1994, after founding the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee (pictured here) founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science. The group was founded to help create Web standards, a need that arose after various vendors were offering different versions of HTML. One HTML standard was eventually agreed upon, after which, the W3C was formed, and Web design history was made.

Web design has become what is it largely because of the W3C. The W3C may not have put together the first HTML specification, but it has been behind many of the technologies that have advanced Web design beyond its original form. A few examples:

  • October 1996 – The first W3C recommendation is Portable Network Graphics (PNG) 1.0, a cross-platform alternative to the graphics formats most prevalent at the time.
  • December 1996 – Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Level 1 is published.
  • February 1998 – Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 is released, promoting interoperability and domain-specific markup, and later serving as the basis for dozens of standards.
  • August 2000 – Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.0, a language to describe 2D graphics in XML is released.
  • May 2005 – Mobile Web Initiative is launched with the mission of making Web access from a mobile device as simple as Web access from a desktop.

The first Web site design was created by…You guessed it, Tim Berners-Lee. I guess we don’t hear too much about this because if you could put on your resume “Created the World Wide Web,” you might leave out the part about creating the first Web design. This site was created using HTML, went online on August 6, 1991, and was educational, providing information about what the World Wide Web was, how someone could own a browser and how to set up a Web server. The first version of the site no longer exists (no one thought to take a screenshot of it, perhaps?) but you can see a version from 1992 here. We’ve come a long way.

FutureSplash Animator (aka Flash). Flash didn’t arrive on the Web design scene all at once, it was developed over time by a group of people (more here about the history of Flash). And it was news to me that Macromedia didn’t develop the first version of Flash, rather, in December 1996, it acquired the vector-based animation software from FutureWave. At the time the software was called FutureSplash Animator. In 1996, Macromedia released the software as Flash. (How much better is that name?!)

Google’s ground-breaking Web design.Lots has been said about Google’s minimalistic Web design and how it greatly enhances the search experience. But the early Google designs came about due to some serious luck, at least according to 16 Interesting Facts about Google. According to the article, the Google founders didn’t know HTML and they just wanted a quick interface – hence, the spare design. In early user tests, however, they found that people would just sit and look at the screen, not taking any action. When they probed as to why, the testers would claim that they were “waiting for the rest of the page.” To combat this perception, the Google copyright message was inserted to act as the end-of-page marker.

Rubel's ramblings on Web 2.0 are getting old – and more dramatic (if possible)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

I don’t personally know Steve Rubel, but I do read his blog, and enjoy his perspective on things. As a former technology editor, I realize the fine line that PR folks (or people who are senior vice presidents at the world’s largest PR companies) have to walk with journalists, as Rubel experienced first hand when he pissed off Jim Louderback by posting a negative comment about PC Magazine on Twitter earlier this year.

However, I have to say that the recent over-the-top posting by Rubel about the death of Web 2.0 – all stemming from his post that featured the image of a drunk kool-aid guy – is getting out of hand. Not because of the point he is making, but because of the terrible turns of phrase that he is using to stir up drama. Here is a small sampling:

-The Web 2.0 World is Skunk Drunk on Its Own Kool-Aid (10/29)

-Advertisers, Only You Can Save Web 2.0 (10/31)

-Five Simple Sobriety Steps for Web 2.0 Kool Aid Boozers (11/5)

-Help Wanted: Warm Bodies That Can Spell Web 2.0 (11/13)

It was this last post that pushed me over the edge. Not because of the point he was making or even the title. But because of this quote:

“I will leave this to you to decide if this is a sign of a bubble or not. However, on the surface, it all looks very reminiscent of a bygone era. To quote Prince, ‘Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1999.’ “

I can’t believe he pulled out Prince.

One thing I do have to say, though – hire Rubel to do your company’s PR. He’s clearly demonstrated a talent for finding a successful angle and going with it. These posts have been incredibly popular.

Americas about to fall behind in information industry

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Outsell LogoIf you haven’t caught the hint yet, there is more news today that the global market is gaining in importance. According to a press release from Outsell, the information industry revenue that is generated in Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) is ready to overtake North, South and Central American revenues within one to two years. And things are already heading that way. Currently, American information industry revenues are 53% of the worldwide total, with EMEA and Asia at 47%.

The other bit of information, which was buried in the middle of the release, is that during a presentation today on “The Global Industry Outlook” at Outsell’s Signature Event, Chief Analyst Leigh Watson Healy offered up Outsell’s 10 predictions for the information industry in 2008. One of note: the firm expects the next evolution of the Internet experience to be Web 3D.

Whenever a company makes a prediction, I like to see how they did with their past prophesies. If you’re interested, Outsell’s 2007 predictions are available in a free report. Some of what they suggested would happen this year has happened, but one item in particular seems to be a false reading on the market: “Google, Yahoo, MSN, publishers, advertisers and auditors will establish standardized third-party audit and certification processes to validate clicks and battle click fraud.”

So far, this hasn’t happened – but there is still a little more than a month to go before we ring in 2008.

Q3 2007 Internet advertising numbers

Monday, November 12th, 2007

This is an update to the Q2 statistics on Internet advertising that I posted awhile back. Today the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers released the Internet advertising numbers for the third quarer. According to the release:

“Internet advertising revenues exceeded $5.2 billion for the third quarter of 2007…a $1.1 billion increase, or 25.3%, over Q3 2006. The results…are nearly 3% higher than Q2 2007, itself the last record-setting quarter. Revenues for the first nine months of 2007 totaled $15.2 billion, up nearly 26% over the $12.1 billion recorded during the first nine months of 2006.”

Ancient art in color

Monday, November 12th, 2007

This goes into the “something I never thought of or learned, but probably should have” category.

This weekend, I was reading Harvard Magazine, and came across the article “Dazzlers: Ancients reborn in bright array,” about a recent exhibit at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. This exhibit, Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity, is showcasing the fact that the Greek and Roman sculpture – you know, the famous white sculptures that you’ve seen a million times – all used to be in color. They were painted!

After reading the article, this seems like something I should have known or realized or learned along the way, but I really didn’t. It did make me feel a little better to find that other people were discovering this for the first time, too. According to the article “Athenians in long lines were fascinated and shocked” when the exhibit was in town. And Susanne Ebbinghaus, Hanfmann curator of ancient art at the Harvard University Art Museums, had this to say: “I knew, of course, that Greek and Roman sculpture was once painted, but there is a big difference between this abstract notion and actually attempting to imagine what the sculptures might have looked like.”

The color versions of the sculptures are based on scientific analysis of the traces of paint remaining on them, assisted by the use of ultraviolet light. There is more information about the process that was used in the press release, and the exhibit has two instructional videos about the testing and examination process if you want to understand more of the science behind the art. But I’m more fascinated by the images.

“Alexander” Sarcophagus – how it looks today
Alexander Sarcophagus

Alexander Sarcophagus in color, detail
Alexander Sarcophagus in color, detail

The three versions of this grave stele represent the current sculpture, the way it may have looked when it was created, and how it appears under ultraviolet light.

There’s another cool before and after here.