July 29, 2003

A New Blog: Coconut!

From the "As If He Didn't Have Enough Blogs Already" Department:

Announcing the launch of a new blog: The Coconut Blog. Covering news, happenings, issues, people, and stuff from ... where else, but wherever coconuts grow! This is an offshoot of the old (and now only interesting to web archaeologists) Coconut.com website, long overdue for a major content and design overhaul. This blog is the first stage of that major overhaul. Stay tuned.

Posted by brian at 09:57 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2003

The Tango Commuter Car

Ok, this is cool. Aside from the fact that it does zero-to-60 in under four seconds, with a top speed of 130 MPH. It's just cool. The Tango from Commuter Cars, Inc. of Spokane, WA. And no, that's not a distorted image. It really is that narrow. Click and see for yourself.

Posted by brian at 10:47 AM | Comments (1)

July 27, 2003

The Far Side of Domain Names

The new trailer is up on the Apple Quicktime site for the upcoming film depiction of (what one supposes are the first of several) Patrick O'Brian historical novels, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Many have remarked how rich the language is in the O'Brian series, but, methinks the Hollywood marketroids went a little bit overboard with the domain name for the Official Web Site for the movie:


Prediction: someone (not me) is going to set up minor-typo versions of that domain, and point them at a web site full of banner ads, to try to cash in on the user errors...

Posted by brian at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2003


A new kind of currency: cultural tender called Noney. An art project from Rhode Island. Each bill has a value of 0, but an aesthetic value to be determined by the parties in any given transaction. There's a URL on the back of each bill, and, in the same spirit as the famous Where's George? site, people are encouraged to track the circulation of the bills as they make their way around the world. (Thanks to kafclown for mentioning this.)

Posted by brian at 08:45 PM | Comments (0)

Star Wars Kid

Over 23000 people have signed the petition to Lucasfilm to give The Star Wars Kid a cameo role in the upcoming Episode III.

Of all the remixes on the JediMaster site, this one's my favorite. (WMV format)

The saga continues: the parents of the Kid himself have filed a $160,000 lawsuit against the classmates who posted the original video on the Net.

Posted by brian at 11:52 AM | Comments (2)

Oldest Code Still Running

Probably the oldest code still running and arguably the best ever written. Very few bugs, but hacker and virus attacks are a constant strain. Worth reviewing every once in a while for ideas and inspiration.
UPDATE - 10/10/2012 - the link on the House site now is a PDF: http://uscode.house.gov/pdf/Organic%20Laws/const.pdf.

Posted by brian at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

Denounce Takes on The RIAA

Huge Compound Can Handle 3 Million File Sharing Suspects and Their Supporters


Posted by brian at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2003

Electronic Voting Machines: Threat or Menace?

Highly recommended reading: a new article (in PDF format) entitled Analysis of an Electronic Voting System by Kohno, Stubblefield, Rubin, and Wallach. It's mentioned in an article on the perils of electronic voting systems in today's NY Times.

Is it any surprise that Senator Hagel (R-Nebraska) has financial ties to ES&S, a company that makes more than half the electronic voting machines in the U.S., and a company that will probably play a significant role in the 2004 selections, er, elections?

Posted by brian at 02:33 PM | Comments (1)

July 23, 2003

FOAF gets denounced

With a name like FOAF, it's bound to be denounced.

Posted by brian at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2003

Some Absolutely Perfect Music

From a 2002 topic called "Absolutely Perfect Music" in the Music conference on The WELL, people were invited to list songs they considered absolutely perfect. Here's part 1 of a list of songs that came to mind that I considered and still consider absolutely perfect. The list is in no particular order:

       "Theme from Shaft", Isaac Hayes
       "Overture", The Who (on the Tommy LP)
       "To The End of the World", Pat Metheny 
       "Good Vibrations", Beach Boys
       "Kind of a Sid and Nancy Song", the Ex-Idols
       "Crying", k.d. liang (off her live album)
       "Disenchanted", Gigantic
       "Watching the Detectives", Elvis Costello
       "Adagio for Strings", Samuel Barber
       "Is This Love", Bob Marley
       "Scheherazade", Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
       "Sana", Kanda Bongo Man
       "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", U2
       "La Mer", Debussy
       "Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey", Paul McCartney
       "Georgia On My Mind", Ray Charles
       "Father and Son", Cat Stevens
       "Pushin' Too Hard", The Seeds
       "Reeling in the Years", Steely Dan     
       "Make Use", Robert Pollard
       "Tangled Up in Blue", Bob Dylan
       "Tequila Sunrise", The Eagles
       "New World Symphony", Dvorak
       "Beetlebum", Blur
       "Light My Fire", The Doors
       "America", Simon and Garfunkel
       "Say It Over and Over", John Coltrane Quartet
       "Without You", Nilsson
       "Gayane Ballet Suite (Adagio)", Aram Khachaturian
       "It Was a Very Good Year", Frank Sinatra
       "Stairway to Heaven", Led Zepellin
       "The Kids Are Alright", The Who
       "Bernadette", The Four Tops
       "Chain Gang", Sam Cooke
       "Beware of Darkness", George Harrison
       Side 2 of Abbey Road LP, The Beatles
       "Happy", The Rolling Stones
       "Legend of a Mind", Moody Blues
       "Surf's Up", The Beach Boys
       "Soul Sacrifice", Santana
       "Beautiful Day", U2
       "What's Going On", Marvin Gaye
       "Sultans of Swing", Dire Straits
       "Lies", The Knickerbockers
       "Suzanne", Leonard Cohen
       "Dreams", The Cranberries
       "Across the Universe", The Beatles
       "Fat Man in the Bathtub", Little Feat (from live LP)
       "Don't You Forget About Me", Simple Minds
       "Victoria", The Kinks
       "The Sensual World", Kate Bush
       "Detouring America With Horns", Yo La Tengo
       "Little Fluffy Clouds", Orb
       "Wondrous Stories", Yes
       "The Rock", The Who
       "Avalanche Aminos", Guided by Voices
       "Norwegian Wood", The Beatles
       "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", Richard Thompson
       "Go to Montecito", The High Llamas
       "River", Joni Mitchell
       "Spy In the House of Love", Was (Not Was)
       "Talk", Phish
       "Pictures at an Exhibition", Mussgorsky
       "Won't Get Fooled Again", The Who
       "Sango Ya Mawa", Patience Dabany & Tabu Ley Rochereau
       "The Warmth of the Sun", The Beach Boys
       "Black Muddy River", The Grateful Dead
Posted by brian at 08:22 PM | Comments (1)


Doc has some comments about TV advertising that I don't in principle disagree with. He quotes a 1998 David Strom article which reads, in part:

Let's face it: there are only two kinds of advertising demanded by their consumers: yellow pages and classifieds. It's not coincidental that they're both ugly. Beauty isn't a value when the only purpose is to answer the simple demand for useful information.

In terms of print advertising, I would have to disagree. I value print advertising in magazines and newspapers. In fact I prefer the print edition of the WSJ to the online edition, because I like knowing who's spending $150k (or whatever today's rate is) to run a full-page ad. When I read the WSJ, I scan the ads as much as I do the stories. Same with technical magazines, be they MacWorld, Linux Journal, or InfoWorld. Even WIRED.

I like when there's a clear delineation between ad and editorial content. With WIRED, that line is often blurred (thanks, Conde Nast) which decreases the value of the publication for me.

As for television: if you don't like it, why watch it? Indeed, considering the very few channels I watch, I would prefer to rent my TV programs thru Netflix. For example, having all of C-SPAN's "BookTV" programs available thru Netflix would be fantastic. As well as Comedy Channel's "The Daily Show". You listening, Netflix?

Posted by brian at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2003

Today's Idea: Wishlist Raffles

I was just looking at my Amazon Wish List. It's three pages long, full of wonderful books I'd love to buy and read. The total value of all the 61-some-odd books in my wish list comes to around $967.00.

I sure wish I could go buy out the whole list in one swell foop. However, my book-buying annual budget is but a mere fraction of that amount, so my Wish List continues to grow faster than I can deplete items from the list. Nor do I know anyone willing to suddenly just up and buy me everything on my wish list. :-)

So, what to do. Well, how about a Wish List Raffle? Well, here's the good news:

Imagine: WishListRaffle.com... The way it would work is, you pay $1 to buy a "ticket" (and you could buy as many as you wanted) that enters you into the raffle. The raffle "pot" would be capped out at a certain amount, a cap of say $500 or $1000.

As soon as the pot hit its cap, a random "ticket" would be selected, and that ticket holder would be deemed the winner. The winner would then win not the cash in the pot, but the contents of their Amazon wish list, or at least up to the cap's worth of items on the list, including shipping and handling. WishListRaffle would be the "person" identified as buying all the items on the winner's wish list. (It'd be nice if Amazon provided a direct API to WishListRaffle.com, so that WishListRaffle.com knew the exact value -- including shipping and handling -- of the whole wish list. Otherwise, WishListRaffle.com would have to "scrape" the Amazon site and, well, thinking about going that route gets ugly quickly.)

As soon as someone won the raffle, a new raffle would start all over again.

If the winner's wish list had less than the cap amount, say the winner's wish list had $193 of value in it, then only the first 193 tickets would be applied to that particular raffle, and the remaining tickets and the dollars behind them would be allocated towards a new raffle, generated automatically on the fly. So if you buy a ticket, and don't win in round 1, you might still win in round 2, or, theoretically round 3 to n (the number of carryover rounds determined by the combined values of all the winner's wish lists).

You'd want to place a restriction on winners --- if you win, you're disqualified from participating and your Amazon Wish List is disqualified from being selected in any future raffles for a certain number of days or weeks or months, whatever makes sense. The idea would be to let lots of people have a chance to win, and build in safeguards against abuse and fraud (I know, a tall order, but still doable, no?).

Seems to me a WishListRaffle service like I've described would be a win-win-win for everyone involved: Amazon, the raffle participants, and WishListRaffle, the raffle operator:

  • Amazon wins because it generates more attention on its wish list, and more active participation --- people who currently use Amazon's Wish Lists would probably add more stuff to their lists, and people who don't use the lists would probably be more inclined to start using them.

  • The raffle participants themselves have a good chance to win the contents of their wish list.

  • WishListRaffle wins in that they generate substantial revenue and, one assumes, a "small processing fee" that provides for a reasonable profit.

Heck, maybe good social causes win too --- perhaps a portion of each ticket price also went to good causes and charities.

I figure a WishListRaffle service would take off rather quickly, given its viral nature. Let's look for a moment at how many possible raffles there might be in a given day:

Say the idea catches on quickly, and after a month, there's 100,000 tickets in play at any one time. If each raffle "pot" has a cap of $1000, then you're talking about at least 100 raffles fully subcribed at any given time (but in reality, many more than 100, since the average person's wish list would have a value far less than $1000 --- at least for a while :-). Theoretically there'd be several raffles closing per hour, perhaps even many per hour, every day, every week, every month of the year. (Theoretically, if this took off fast, a given raffle's cap might be reached in seconds, meaning there'd winners every few seconds, 24/7/365! Thousands and thousands of people would "win" their Wish Lists!)

As this scaled, the volume of wish list buyouts at Amazon would become rather astonishing if you think about it. It would probably add hundreds of millions of dollars to Amazon's annual revenue. The hypothetical WishListRaffles, Inc., would potentially stand to gain tens of millions in annual revenues. Not bad for an eBay-like business that simply sits back, collects fees, and sends money to Amazon.

I've used Amazon throughout simply as an example. The same thing could be applied to Barnes and Noble and every other online ecommerce site that offers wish lists. And one could extend the model further to include raffles for gift certificates or outright cash or big-ticket items like cars, vacations, homes, etc. Why, there could even be a "Win It Now" option added to eBay itself, a la its existing "Buy It Now", and you could "take a chance" on winning an auction by putting $1 down on the item.

And now the bad news: all of this would apparently be illegal in every state in the U.S. Why? Because there are strict laws about who can run a raffle and what can be raffled and when and how and how often and where.

I suppose a WishListRaffle.com service would be considered gambling. I suppose a WishListRaffle.com service would be considered a "game of chance." I have my doubts about whether the laws on the books are there to protect the public from itself (fears that the addictive nature of gambling would cause a ripple effect in such large numbers as to actually harm the economy... and in the end, harm tax revenue collection), or there for moral reasons (playing games of chance is a Bad Thing), or because of the potential for fraud (there's tons of fraud going on at eBay and Paypal right now, yet they have still managed to create a $36 billion corporation).

Bottom line, I sure would love to win all the items in my Wish List. I'd love to hear from anyone with ideas on how the concept of WishListRaffle.com could work in such a way that a) it's legal; b) it's fraud-proof; c) sufficient controls are built in to prevent overuse or overparticipation by easily-addicted people (yet, think about it --- once again, eBay thrives on the addiction of "winning" auctions... witness the whole phenomenon of sniping and how people spend hours on eBay trying to "win" as many items as they can ... things they don't need, but just want to win for the sake of winning).

Posted by brian at 05:14 PM | Comments (1)

July 16, 2003

Internet Explorer Foundation

Well, it didn't take long: what with today's announcement of the Mozilla Foundation carrying on the work of Mozilla open-source browser development, it only took a few hours for news of the Internet Explorer Foundation to circulate. :-)

Posted by brian at 12:54 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2003

Ignorance is Bliss

"There is nothing new under the Sun, for what is, is only what hath been before."

I like the term "social software" less and less these days. Here we have this group of pundits suffering from hyperneologism who coin yet another term, this time "social software," and begin speaking and writing about it over and over and over and over again until it sticks, until the media starts using the term, until, one assumes, customers start saying, "hey, my company needs social software." D'oh!

Brilliant marketing, maybe, but the term is so empty and generic (all software is social, in my book) and ignorant of history.

Here's Clay Shirky, from is A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy speech at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference on 24 April 2003:

We've had social software for 40 years at most, dated from the Plato BBS system, and we've only had 10 years or so of widespread availability, so we're just finding out what works. We're still learning how to make these kinds of things.

Hmm, where to begin:

  • "We've had social software for 40 years at most, dated from the Plato BBS system" . . . PLATO (note: it's an acronym) was not a BBS, although in time BBS-like applications were written for it. I've found no evidence of any software used to facilitate communication among people emerging in any significant way until 1972-73, which is 30 years. It began to emerge on PLATO and ARPAnet in the very early 1970s. (However, like in any technological innovation, someone somewhere had something rigged up for a small isolated group of tinkerers years earlier, possibly the 50s, certainly the 60s. But things didn't take off until PLATO and ARPAnet came along, as far as I can tell.)

  • "We've only had 10 years or so of widespread availability" . . . Let's see: PLATO, NovaNET, The WELL, The Source, CompuServe, Prodigy, BiX, thousands of BBS's, USENET, FidoNet: I'd say there was pretty damn good availability of social software in the 1980s.

  • "so we're just finding out what works" . . . Who's "we"? I suggest the first thing "we" ought to do is find out what already worked. A tall order, I know, considering this is the Emerging Technology Conference, not, say, the Conference on Technologies That Emerged Long Ago, but still...

  • "We're still learning how to make these kinds of things." . . . "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -- George Santayana.

Some more from his speech:

...there is a revolution in social software going on. The number of people writing tools to support or enhance group collaboration or communication is astonishing.

I disagree. I don't think the number of people writing tools to support or enhance group collaboration or communication is that big, considering how many people across the world are now online. I suspect the ratio is about the same as it's always been, three decades and counting. A tiny fraction of the total number of people with online access become builders and producers rather than simply users and consumers.

What is extraordinary is the scale. The scale that a worldwide Internet brings is unprecedented. So the number of people building communication tools is much bigger, but I suspect the ratio is about the same or perhaps even a bit smaller than the ratio of 30 years ago.

We've had things like mailing lists and BBSes for a long time, and more recently we've had IM . . .

Actually, "we" have had IM since 1973. It was called TERM-talk.

All members are equal, but some members are more equal than others:

The second thing you have to accept: Members are different than users. A pattern will arise in which there is some group of users that cares more than average about the integrity and success of the group as a whole. And that becomes your core group, Art Kleiner's phrase for "the group within the group that matters most."

Kind of like how a group of bloggers and online writers arises that cares more than average about the integrity and success of blogging in general? Kind of like the core group of speakers at technology conferences, for instance? Conference after conference, there they are, the traveling roadshow of the same names, writing about each other, speaking about each other, creating controversies amongst each other, taking pictures of each other, linking to each other, generating traffing amongst each other, all of it as if to solidify their long-term position as the core group, the thought leaders, the A-list.

I believe the group matters most, not the group within the group. Does a speaker make any sound if nobody attends the conference? Does a company last long if its customers never materialize? Does a government last long if its citizenry ignores it?

Posted by brian at 07:22 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2003

Banning AOL Bloggers

New on Denounce Newswire: U.S. Senators Propose Bill That Would Ban AOL Blogs.
Posted by brian at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2003

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

If you get a chance, be sure to see the newly-restored 3 hrs 3 min print of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Saw it yesterday at the Ken Theatre in San Diego. They've restored 20 minutes of never-before-seen footage, and the print was in fairly good condition. A wonderful event when the theatre is full of people (perhaps many who have never seen the movie before) cheering, laughing, and clapping as the story unfolds. What a contrast to watching, say, the DVD or a broadcast-TV version of the film at home. This kind of movie simply has to be seen on in a big theatre on the wide screen. I was amazed that they even did a 10-minute intermission --- when was the last time you went to a movie that had an intermission? Compared to the crappy Hollywood fare currently in theatres, well, there's no comparison. This was the best moviegoing experience this summer so far.

The San Diego Union's James Hebert seems to agree. See his article 'Good' as Gold.

Posted by brian at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2003

Ringo.com: Who Are You?

And now, just when you thought there wouldn't be any more clones of Friendster and Ryze, here comes Ringo.com, a website that encourages you to "expand your circle of friends."

I heard about Ringo.com from Marc Canter's blog entry which was in turn about Clay Shirky reviewing Ringo.com at Corante. I agree with the concerns Clay and Marc raise about this new website.

I've got an additional concern about Ringo.com: who's behind it? No way to know, since they don't identify themselves. Go to Ringo.com's About Us page, and there's nothing there about who the founders are, who's behind the company, where it's located, nothing. Try the Contact Us link, and you get a form to fill out rather than an email address.

Think about it. Ringo.com is a website designed to bring people together, expand circles of friends, and generally be an "easy way to meet people." How does it do this? By inviting people to join as members. What's required to join? Personal information, including First and Last Names, an Email Address, and Gender. Oh. Wait. There's more. Once past the first short signup page, Ringo.com hits you with a much more detailed page. Now they want Date of Birth, Marital Status, Children, Occupation, Country, and Zip Code.

Don't you think that the people behind Ringo.com should identify themselves, and practice what they preach? Does Ringo.com really think people are going to cough up all their personal information when they don't know who the hell they're coughing it up to?

The site's got a copyright notice that points to a company called Birthday Alarm, Inc. Okay, so follow that link and surprise, surprise: it's a mystery site as well, with an equally cryptic About Us page.

The privacy policy and the terms of use pages are of no help either, except at least we can infer (from looking at the Governing Law clause) that these people are located in California.

The only other hint is that the site has a "Designed by" credit linking to SowdenDesign (which is a beautiful website, by the way). A Whois of Ringo.com reveals that the domain is owned by Morgan Sowden, San Francisco, CA. So Morgan: are you Ringo.com?

UPDATE, 10:30pm PST:: I emailed Morgan Sowden to ask him about the questions raised in this blog. Here's his reply:

Hi Brian,

No big mystery intended.

Ringo was founded by Michael and Paul Birch, two brothers from London, and myself, also English but raised in Milan. We are in our early thirties, love developing websites, and live in the Bay Area. Over the years we have worked on a number of projects, including:


We're tireless entrepreneurs hoping to do well in life :)

You got as far as finding my name in WHO IS, a quick Google search would probably quickly lead you to my bio at www.morgansowden.com.

Thanks for the nice blog, and feel free to email me for further clarification.

Warm Regards

Posted by brian at 08:11 PM | Comments (1)

Google Elections

If Google results determined the 2004 presidential election, and the election were held today...

Bush 2004 913,000
Dean 2004 577,000
Clinton 2004 371,000
Graham 2004 300,000
Edwards 2004 266,000
Gore 2004 155,000
Kerry 2004 144,000
Braun 2004 89,100
Lieberman 2004 54,100
Townsend 2004 47,500
Daschle 2004 39,900
Gephardt 2004 38,100
Sharpton 2004 21,500
Kucinich 2004 20,900

Posted by brian at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

Winer and Pilgrim: Get a Room

This silly Winer vs Pilgrim stuff is just that, silly. Which means it must be swiftly and firmly denounced.

Posted by brian at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2003

Netflix Revisited

Added another installment in the ongoing series of reviews and thoughts of life-as-a-Netflix-customer over at the Nettle blog.
Posted by brian at 05:12 PM | Comments (1)

Lunch With Buffett

I dunno. Lunch for eight with Warren Buffett, next May, in New York? Is it worth $78,000?

That's the current bid (there are 115 so far) at the eBay auction.

UPDATE: As of 6pm PST, the bidding is over $200,000.00.......

Posted by brian at 07:45 AM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2003

MSFT To Do What?

New story at Denounce: Microsoft to Replace Employee Stock Options With eBay Stock. :-)

Posted by brian at 03:35 PM | Comments (0)

Mars Exploration Rover videos

Fascinating computer-animated video of what the just-launched Mars Rover mission will be like. It's a 9-minute Real Video.

Other NASA animated videos of the Mars Exploration Rover are also available at the NASA site.

Posted by brian at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2003

Dolphin or Shark?

Photographer Kurt Jones took an amazing surfing photo of what one can't help but first think is a shark, but what he insists is a dolphin. Click on the thumbnail image to see the full-sized picture at Jones' site.
Posted by brian at 03:58 PM | Comments (66)

Lotsa Luck

LotAuctions thinks it has a better way to do certain types of group auctions than eBay. Founded by Glenn Hauman, who previously founded Hell's Kitchen Systems (bought by RedHat for $85 million back in 2000), LotAuctions is currently a ghost town: 7 items are listed on the site, five of which are "test" items. Hauman's doing a soft launch of the site, and expects sellers to start posting items later this year. In his blog entry announcing the new company, he says, "When none of the big players nibbled, I decided to go and build the thing myself."

Thing is, when should an idea for a feature become a company and when should it just stay a feature? The whole concept of LotAuctions swirls around the idea of a better way to do lot auctions --- auctions where sellers try to sell a collection of items rather than a single item. Maybe it is a better way to do it. Maybe sellers will be intrigued to try it out.

But what about buyers? Where are they going to come from? What comes first, in terms of must-haves for sellers, in an online marketplace: buyers, or seller features? I think it's buyers. We'll see.

Another interesting twist to LotAuctions.com: the death of sniping. "Sniping" on eBay is the age-old tradition of holding out to the very very last possible second and then bidding on an item. Some users hate it, some love it. Sniping is a way of life at eBay. LotAuctions proposes to kill sniping once and for all by extending the end of an auction by 20 more minutes if there are any bids made within an auction's final 20 minutes. Now, as a seller I might like this because it forces bids higher. But as a seller I might hate this because it means potentially an auction could go on, and on, and on. Seems like a technically interesting feature, but from a market perspective, potentially deadly for buyer enthusiasm and patience.

I'll plan on revisiting this site later this year to see how it's doing.

Posted by brian at 02:54 PM | Comments (2)
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