February 28, 2004
1996 vs 2004Hard to believe in 1996, Well.com was ranked #10 in terms of highest audience-reach websites, at a time when Microsoft was 26th.
Posted by brian at 10:12 AM
February 27, 2004
3D PrintingSomeone on The WELL mentioned Stratasys as a stock they just bought. I'd never heard of the company before so went to their homepage to check 'em out.
What they're doing is very cool: three-dimensional "printing" of prototypes. I'm reminded of the scene in the movie Fifth Element, where the robotic arms literally "stitch together" the fifth element, played by Milla Jovovich, who gets one of the greatest screen introductions of a film character since Omar Sharif came out of the horizon on camel.
First, be sure to check out the video of the "FDM process" they use to build stuff.
One wonders what the chemical and solid wastes are that these machines create over time.
Posted by brian at 07:19 AM
February 25, 2004
Denounce vs The OnionI noticed today over at Jason Feifer's Happy Scrappy blog, in the "Monday, Feb.23" entry, a reference to the Pricekut / Chicago Tribune thing. Then I noticed the oft-repeated phrase describing Denounce Newswire: "an Onion rip-off website". I emailed Jason to let him know Denounce precedes The Onion, and thought afterwards, heck, might as well blog this so I don't have to keep emailing folks who don't know Denounce's history relative to other satire media sources. (Jason emailed back, and mentioned he posted an update on his blog. Thnx Jason.)
Still, there is a common myth floating around the Web, that Denounce Newswire is, take your pick:
Here are the facts.
The Onion was created, as far as I can tell, in 1988, as a satirical newspaper by then-students Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. According to this historical article on The Onion, it had about 1,000 readers and three staff members in its first year. It was eventually sold. The founders now do other things. The Onion went on and got big. Nuff said.
Denounce was created in 1980, by me, at the University of Delaware. It was an online phenomenon from the very beginning --- no steenking newspaper origins here, thank you very much! :-) Denounce was a notesfile created on Delaware's PLATO computer system, designed to spoof the very official "announce", a notesfile maintained by the system staff to announce new PLATO system features and software revisions. Denounce adopted the exact same tone as "announce", but unlike "announce", its announcements were purely fiction. The notesfile became very popular, and I won an award (a trophy made out of styrofoam with a Big Mac attached on top, and all of it spraypainted gold) for "best humor notesfile" by the PLATO staff in 1980. In 1981 I expanded "denounce" to exist on more PLATO systems, including CERL and various Control Data systems. All the files were interlinked. By 1983 Denounce had thousands of readers all over the world thanks to the expanding PLATO network. However, I moved on from PLATO after 1984, and could not longer manage the "denounce" notesfiles so they died off.
In 1996 I decided to revive the Denounce idea, this time for the World Wide Web, the companies behind which I felt were in dire need of some serious spoofing. I took on Yahoo, Amazon, Netscape, Microsoft, all the usual suspects. Yahoo liked Denounce so much it was Pick of the Day in November 1996. One Yahoo staffer even emailed me to wish I would write their press releases. Between 1996 and 1998, the site got lots of recognition (remember in the old days of the web, when everyone was passing out medals?).
In 1999-2000 I was very busy in startups and had zero time to write new denouncements, and so the website went idle for nearly 18 months. During that time, BBSpot and SatireWire emerged, and from my perspective did a great job in filling the hole left by the idle Denounce. SatireWire went further, offering parodies of general news, not just the computer/Internet industry. SatireWire even managed to get a book deal, something I'd thought about doing for Denounce but didn't have enough time. (Seems SatireWire's founder also lacked the time: he stopped writing new material for the site in 2002, and the site sits unchanged since then. BBSpot's doing boomin' business and has become a full-time gig for its founder.)
It was around 1998 that I first heard of The Onion. It's a great website. To this day I've still never seen a print version of the thing, but I read the online version occasionally but not regularly.
Around early 2002 (as far as I can tell) Sebastian Mendler, a user of The WELL, started Plausible News, another site of ficticious news stories.
Denounce continues to focus on the computer and internet industries. Once in a while it gets Slashdotted, or mentioned in the newspaper, and traffic goes through the roof. The past year has been the best in Denounce history in terms of readership, thanks mainly to blogs.
I've been thinking of adding a new feature to Denounce: The Denounce Interview. Kind of like the famous "Rolling Stone Interview" from years ago, except instead of rock stars and movie celebrities, the subjects would be CEOs and ubergeeks from the computer industry. Oh, and it'd be entirely fictional. We'll see. In the meantime, I've got too much real work to do . . . which reminds me. . . back to work . . . .
UPDATE: 11:40am: Here's another case of exactly what I mean, a story by Brandon Stahl, about "the many, many knock-offs" of The Onion. Heck, he doesn't even mention Denounce . . . I've emailed him a link to this blog entry.
February 24, 2004
I Duped JD Lasica"Veteran journalist" JD Lasica wrote about the Denounce/Pricekut/Tribune-goof story in an article entitled "I Duped the Chicago Tribune" in his New Media Musings blog yesterday.
Here's how JD starts:
He goes on to assert that someone named Rick Ellis wrote my Denounce article. Here's JD:
Turns out Rick Ellis, managing editor of AllYourTV.com, devised a fictitious article four weeks ago on the Denounce Newswire. For some reason, the Trib writer and editors thought it was legit. Perhaps this graf should have clued them in:
Who is Rick Ellis, and how did JD Lasica come to believe that he wrote something in Denounce? That's a new one.
And then JD finishes his article with this:
JD, my name is Brian Dear, my blog is called "brianstorms" -- you know, it's a twist on brainstorms. If your name was "Brian" you'd know how many people misspell your name "Brain".
JD, I am the author and owner of Denounce. I don't even know a Rick Ellis.
I hope these facts reduce your flummoxity. :-)
I am curious: will JD Lasica now issue a correction of his own, followed by either modifying his blog, or deleting the 2/23/2004 story altogether? The whole world is watching . . .
You know what? There's something seriously wrong with the SXSW Conference if the question of the day has to do with Pricekut and Denounce.com....
Tribune Issues CorrectionThe Chicago Tribune issued a correction today regarding the story on online social networks that appeared in last Saturday's paper, blogged here on Saturday. The article with the mention of Amazon's new Pricekut social network. The social network that doesn't actually exist, but was made up by yours truly for a satire piece in Denounce Newswire.
Not only did the Trib issue a correction, they made a correction in the online version of the article. It no longer mentions Amazon or Pricekut or includes the quotes from Tom Anderson of Myspace.
By the way, I was contacted by a New York Post reporter yesterday who said he was doing a story in today's edition on the Trib goof, but I haven't seen anything on the NYPost website yet. Maybe the NYPost editor nixed the artcle?
Also, another update: I heard back from Tom Anderson of Myspace again, and he confirmed that the reporter Kraig Kujawa contacted him. Anderson said this: "Kraig did send me some questions via email, and apparently I commented on his question about Amazon starting a friend network type service. I just don't remember it. I get interviewed quite a bit. :-)"
(Since the whole Pricekut thing has only been around for some three and a half weeks, it's interesting that he doesn't remember commenting on it to a reporter.)
But wait! There's more!: The weirdness continues here . . .
February 22, 2004
Dean-CountersI've heard Dean called the "dot-com candidate." Well, his spending may have been dotcommish, but his grassroots membership growth curve sure wasn't. Dot-com curves are not supposed to level off the way Dean's did.
I started collecting the Dean counter images off of Blog for America back in mid-September 2003. Why, I don't know. I guess I had a hunch something interesting might emerge from looking back on the numbers.
Well, the numbers are rather interesting, once graphed. I would argue there are three interesting moments in time on this graph: point A, point B, and point C.
Point C is easy: The perfect storm of Iowa, the "I Have a Scream" Speech, and New Hampshire. Enough to take the wind out of the sails, causing the dreaded leveling-off of the growth curve. Just watching this curve all during late January and the first week of February, it was clear something was very, very wrong: this was a rocketship without enough thrust to get into orbit.
Point B: I'm not so sure about: I'm guessing the buildup before Iowa. (I welcome other opinions.)
Point A is the one I'm wondering about. If whatever happened that first week of October hadn't happened the way it did, Dean might have 1,200,000 + grassroots members by now. What the heck happened?
February 21, 2004
Chicago Tribune DupedWow, I duped the Chicago Tribune.
They ran a story in today's paper (21 Feb 2003) about social networks, and it mentions that Amazon is getting into the business, with its new "Pricekut" network.
Only one problem.
I made Pricekut up as a joke, in a story I wrote in Denounce.com:
What's more, the Tribune even gets this guy "Tom Anderson", president of something called Myspace, to comment on Amazon's new Pricekut. Here's a clip from the Tribune story:
Amazon.com will join the fray when it rolls out PriceKut, a social network where customers can meet each other to discuss bargains, but only after first purchasing something at the site.
Mr. Anderson, according to this link is "a graduate of University of California, Berkeley with two Bachelors Degrees’ in English and Rhetoric. Anderson later received his Masters Degree in Film Theory at the University of California, Los Angeles." I wonder if he took a class on satire and parody? I've emailed him for more comments about Pricekut. This should be interesting.
Here's the Tribune story in full:
(That link, unfortunately, requires registration, but it's free and relatively painless.)
Also, I learned today that on February 4th, someone registered the pricekut.com domain. Now, if only Amazon would sue, my work would be complete...
February 20, 2004
DriveCam VideosThe "no seat belt" driver video thing that's making its way around the web (but seems to have been shut down, prolly because of bandwidth issues) is, I believe, from DriveCam, a very cool little San Diego company that built an amazing business with like a dozen employees. Their cameras are used in fleet vehicles all over the country now. Insurance companies love 'em, as it catches not only drivers lying but also innocent drivers who otherwise might have been blamed for causing an accident.
If you go to drivecam.com they have a bunch of videos, including another sleeping pickup truck driver (dual cameras!). Classic "oh s---" look on the driver's face as he looks directly at the camera after nearly running off the road.
And the video of the bus driver losing control of the steering wheel, with the bus going straight off the road, over a berm, over the roofs of some cars in a parking lot... it's amazing. Also amazing is how cool the passenger is in the bus: falls to floor, gets up, and gets the hell off the bus as fast as he can...
February 19, 2004
DenounceFirst there was the shocking news that tilting Pepsi bottles 25 degrees revealed whether there was an iTunes song code under the cap . . . now Denounce Newswire reveals the shocking news that Tilting Diebold Voting Machines 25 Degrees Reveals 1 in 3 Are Rigged . . .
February 18, 2004
Film Review in MiniatureTouching the Void (trailer, official site) is a new documentary/dramatization about two mountainclimbers and their harrowing struggle for survival when a Peru expedition that started off fine goes bad.
It is a remarkable film. Go. See. It. Now.
Grassroots Campaign PrivacyOne of the more interesting questions posed to Joe Trippi at last week's Digital Democracy Teach-In was this (taken from the transcript of the Q&A):
Audience: I'm Micah Sifry with The Nation Magazine and my brother, David, is the founder of Technorati. He's speaking tomorrow. In 1993 Ross Perot created something very much like what you're describing, United We Stand America. At its peak it had 1.2 million, 1.3 million dues-paying members, $15 a person, but he owned the list. He wouldn't let his volunteers get a hold even of the names and phone numbers of the people in their county or whatever. We all know what happened to that. My question is who owns DeanForAmerica.com? Who owns the list? Who keeps the servers going when the campaign folds?I see the Deaniacs have started an online petition to make sure DFA does not give their information away. Prediction: the DFA people will give the info away. We'll see. Or maybe we won't.
From the "Great, Just Great" Dept.Latching On to a Horror: an article in today's Los Angeles Times... the subhed: Scientists fear a pandemic if the deadly avian flu virus, which hooks into victims' cells, mutates and spreads between humans...
Paging Bruce Sterling...
TurnTideSo THAT's what Josh and Co. have been up to... an "anti-spam router".... Josh's "Placeholder, Inc." turns out to be TurnTide, Inc..... making its debut at Demo 2004 this week.
February 10, 2004
iRobot Keynote at ETechHelen Greiner, president of iRobot gave a keynote session this morning on what her company is doing in the consumer and government/military space.
In the consumer space, iRobot has become well-known for its Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. I wanted to ask a question, raced to the microphone, but didn't get there fast enough, and they only took two questions (one of which wasn't even a question). My question to iRobot:
Vacuuming the floor is interesting - but what about the walls and ceiling? what about curtains? I remember the "robotic blimp" that floated around the MIT Media Lab in the 1980s --- so attach a little vacuum "straw" to it, and turn your home into a virtual aquarium, with the "housefish" as a sort of robotic "algae-eater", going around and sucking the walls, the corners, the molding, the ceilings, the curtains --- getting all that dust. I'd like that more than the Roomba, to tell you the truth.
The other thing I noticed is that iRobot doesn't have a stairs solution. Roomba doesn't do stairs. Again: stairs are more of a pain, to me at least, when it comes to vacuuming. There ought to be a RoombaPlus or something that can handle stairs and vacuum them reliably and thoroughly as well.
Roomba right now is at the Pong level of innovation, or maybe Pac-Man. I want it to get to the Doom level. Roomba works only in 2 dimensions. Where's the Z axis? A house is not just a floor.
I'm going to hold off commenting on the government/military implications/applications of iRobot's technology --- suffice to say, it's scary, and Helen did nothing to indicate her company has any concerns or policies in place regarding the inevitable abuse (arming her robots, spying-on/firing-on/bombing civilians, protesters, etc) that's going to come because of these devices.
February 09, 2004
With Friends Like These, Who Needs Strangers?Classic Orkut moment today at the Digital Democracy conference.
Bumped into the one, the only, Marc Canter who, as far as I know, has the most "friends" within Orkut-space: 433 at last count, and who, as far as I could recall, I was meeting for the very first time at that moment (even though we're connected as "friends" in Orkut-space). I actually didn't even recognize him at first; but he seemed to recognize me right away, letting out a hearty "hey!" and shaking my hand vigorously. Told me he was putting together a party this evening. Before we could talk more, he got pulled away for a moment by someone else who wanted to tell him something.
When he came back, he says, "I keep meaning to get up there to Vancouver some time, maybe soon, there's this guy who's doing a project up there ---" and I cut him off.
"Vancouver?" I ask.
He looks at me, puzzled.
"I don't live in Vancouver. I live here in town, in La Jolla," I tell him.
His jaw drops, his face blank. Think of the database activity furiously going on in his head: searching through those 433 "friends", trying to place me. . . trying . . . failing . . . nope, nothing. Face blank.
Classic Orkut moment.
Digital DemocracyI'm attending the Digital Democracy Teach-In that's part of O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference here in San Diego.
Half the audience is busy typing away, lots of people blogging what's going on here. So far the sessions have been tended to be a bit boosterish about the marvels of technology (the digital being more emphasized than the democracy, although there have been some interesting exceptions).
Best panel comment so far today, in my opinion, was from Jay Rosen on the journalism panel. A question from the audience: "What does digital democracy look like?" Jay Rosen came back with (I'm paraphrasing): "I think a better question is, what does a democratic culture look like, and how do we use digital technology to improve that culture?" Thank you Jay for saying that.
February 07, 2004
Wretched Excess: A Walk Through What's Left of MP3.com
First, put on The Beatles' "Revolution", and then click this link and walk through the 130 images of the video games . . . You say you wanna revolution . . . absurd couches, foosball games, expensive wall decorations, . . . well, you know . . . studio equipment, mixing boards, 100s of Herman Miller Aeron chairs, . . . we all wanna change the world . . . fancy desks, more couches, more fancy designer chairs, . . . You say you got a real solution . . . light fixtures, dead Macintoshes, dead PCs, . . . Well, you know . . . notebooks, racks and racks of servers and EMC storage arrays, . . . We'd all love to see the plan . . . fax machines, copiers, monitors, video projectors. video cameras, washing machines and dryers, exercise equipment, ping-pong tables, pool tables, shoe autographed by Master P, and more equipment. . . . But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Michael . . . you ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow . . .
It's all being auctioned March 10th and 11th.
Never could figure out what those two things were in the above photograph. I'm sure they cost a lot of money to build. I always suspected they were props from This is Spinal Tap. They belong in the Museum of Excessive Dot-Com Spending. Oh. Wait. This is the Museum of Dot-Com Spending.
. . . Don't you know it's gonna be alright . . . all right . . . all right . . . all right . . . all right . . .
February 06, 2004
Orkut Invitation ScalpersDon't know anyone who'll invite you into Orkut? There's always eBay, where you can find people selling invitations to join the service. One seller (who has some serious negative feedback ratings, the most recent comment being "Horrible Seller!") describes his auction this way: You know what it is.. you know you want it... Get your Orkut membership here!!
Afraid of getting your invite from a no-name fly-by-night eBay huckster? Well, there's always baggie_billie (88 feedback points), who's selling Orkut friendship specifically for those seeking "a reliable Ebayer!". $5.50 and it's yours (but note that "Buyer pays for all shipping costs"...)
Or, if you already are a member but need more "karma", there's even someone selling Orkut Karma Ratings:
Already part of the elitest social network on the internet? Want to increase your personal stock value and make yourself look as good as possible to a potential love interest or business associate? Then I can help! For a small fee, I will become your friend and give you maximum Orkut Karma ratings. I'll even be your personal "fan" if you so desire!
Monty Python's Life of GrahamHere's your chance to be in the movies! Play one of the young members of the Monty Python's Flying Circus troupe as they were 30 years ago, for Gin and Tonic, "a comic-drama based on the life and memoirs of late Python Graham Chapman."
You can read the whole audition notice here in Craig's List.
Time to Stick The Fork In?Out of curiosity I went to Dean's Blog for America website. It's interesting to browse through the massive list of XYZ for Dean sites listed along the left margin all the way down the page.
Despite the continued boosterism from the main site (it's reminding me of the dotcom days more and more --- "things are fine, and our next quarter's going to be the best yet, you'll see"), diving deep into Deaniac territory frequently reveals either abandoned websites or gloom and doom:
February 05, 2004
Yet another book goes online for freeThis has been a good week for free books. First Cory's latest novel, and now I see that Stphen Wolfram has put his 2002 opus online: A New Kind of Science. High-resolution GIF images of every page of the book. It's an excellent demonstraton of how a printed book is still better -- if you just want to read it. As a searchable reference, it's nice to have online.
Posted by brian at 10:51 PM
States VisitedToday's fad: make your own map of what states you've visited. Saw this on Doc's blog (and have to admit, when I first glanced at Doc's version of the map, not knowing what it represented yet, I thought: "They like Dean in Kentucky?")... Here's my map:
One of these days I've got to explore those four remaining states...
Posted by brian at 01:52 PM
February 03, 2004
Wanna Bet Who Got It?Didn't take very long:
"Sorry. The plate you have chosen is not available."
Posted by brian at 02:17 PM
February 02, 2004
Frank Rich on Marriage and Media in the U.S.I found this piece in yesterday's NYT to be a very compelling rant, especially in light of yesterday's wardrobe-removal program-related activities.
Posted by brian at 11:52 AM
If I Were Building a Tribe or OrkutWeinberger brings up some valid complaints about Orkut. Rather than complain about it some more, let me take a different perspective. If I built an Orkut or a Tribe.net, how would I do it?
The first thing I would do is design it as a desktop application. Browsers are simply too slow and too dumb, or they force designs that are too slow and too dumb. Orkut's fast, which helps a lot, but the design is still stuck in browserthink.
I'd have a local app that caches everything, including volumes of RSS and FOAF and other XML feeds. Presence galore. P2P capabilities galore. IM built in. Multiplayer games and conferencing built in. Conference topics and metadata all cached. Bottom line, you would subscribe to a social network feed, that's constantly giving you updates from all of the folks in your network and in the communities you belong to.
Until then, we'll be stuck with hopelessly inadequate designs that hide too much information or reveal the wrong information (Orkut's community forum topics for instance).
What these social networks are doing that is good, in my opinion, is they'e bringing to the forefront the notion that personal computing is not about files and documents, it's about people and your interactions with them. (I like the idea of good interaction design being that you're trying to increase the transparency of and therefore disintermediate the tools so people can interact more directly or at least think they're interacting more directly with each other). Desktop operating environments are still so file/folder based. There ought to be more ways of viewing your information, including your all of relationships and ongoing conversations with other people.
It's funny, look at Apple's iLife product. iLife should be ALL ABOUT PEOPLE, STUPID. But instead it's all about FILES. Very 1990s. 1980s even! The flagship application of iLife should be a social network iApp. Perhaps one that is embedded within all of the other iApps.
Imagine: open up iTunes, and suddenly there are affordances leading you to all kinds of info about who among all the people you know also likes this artist or song, along with message forums, and artist info a la MusicMoz or AllMusic. Then open up iPhoto and there's options to share photos with your social network friends, built in. Or see the photos of taken by any of your friends, just a click away. iChat, well, that one's obvious: your buddy lists and your social network friend lists should be merged into one. Then open up GarageBand and it explore what everyone else in your social nets has done with GarageBand tricks, instruments, mixes, etc. And of course, AddressBook and Mail would likewise be deeply integrated with your social nets. In the end, your computer is no longer a pile of random applications and files, but a single app that manages your day-to-day interactions and transactions with all the people you know and all the people who know you.
That's what iLife ought to be. Who'd need Orkut of there were an iFriends app (maybe call it iContact!) that did it all a thousand times better, and that was deeply integrated with all of your desktop file and media creation tools?
February 01, 2004
Orkut ObservationsSpending way too much time in Orkut. Might as well start jotting down observations.
I'm going to keep updating this topic from time to time and let the observations pile up.
Posted by brian at 09:25 AM
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