Monday, August 29, 2005

Smart Groups

The two hottest online communities got major ink in the past couple of days. The New York Times profiled MySpace, a vibrant community for the 20-something set that recently surpassed Google in number of monthly hits (that's right -- they surpassed Google), while The San Jose Mercury News took a close look at, the new rage on college campuses that already boasts several million members. The common theme: both sites have learned to serve well-defined communities with easy-to-use, easy-to-implement social tools. And they have also learned how to replicate, or complement, ideal social rules that may or may not exist in the non-digital world. As Merc reporters Matt Marshall and Anna Tong observe, "Facebook has firmly rooted itself in the offline lives of its members."

So what's next? A vibrant online community for the senior set? Don't rule it out: it's the demographic that everyone is moving toward, and it is becoming more and more Web-savvy.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Google Talk

Open a new chapter in the ongoing story about convergence. Google has unveiled Google Talk, a text chat-plus VoIP application that, according to Wired, has the neither the features of the leading services in text chat, nor the capabilities of Skype. Does it matter, with Google's massive share of the personal computing world? We're going to try it ourselves, and get back to you.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Wikis Wule the Woost?

This ran a couple of weeks ago, but worth rerunning here. InformationWeek looks at the use of wikis in the corporate setting, and discusses its value in the KM ecosystem:

Content management systems will always have their place in the publishing world, but they've never been the best tools for business collaboration. A simple open-source app called the wiki may soon rule the knowledge management roost.

The article also discusses Eastwick client Socialtext.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Bounced and Blogged from Berkeley

Last night, at one of the season's most amazing local performances, we were reminded of the vulnerability of marketing in the post-TiVo world. The event was The White Stripe's opening night at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. The haute cool rockers are on tour, promoting their latest disc. Toward the end of an exhilirating set, indie station KCNL tossed a promotional beach ball into the pit. Lead man Jack White's reaction was swift. Here's how the Contra Costa Times reported it today:

"Hey, is this some (expletive) radio station promotion?" he asked, hurrying over to retrieve the ball. "What the (expletive) is that?" he said, tossing it off stage. At that point, it was the most he'd said all night. He looked like he was kidding. Maybe. Even after the song, he was still stewing, musing about facing blacklisting by the station for his outburst. "I would like to let them know that I would like a written apology from them tomorrow for interrupting my song."

But the CC Times neglected to note how the crowd howled and cheered after each of these remarks -- in fact, it was one of the high points of the evening. And it was a super embarrassing moment for the radio station, which clearly failed to read the artist and the audience. It wasn't long before some fans started blogging about it (like here and here). Doubt we'll be seeing any more beach balls in Berkeley (for a while).

UPDATE, Sunday, August 14: Well we were wrong -- the beachballs are back in Berkeley -- just one day later -- and this time they might have gotten the better of Jack White. Lesson? Everyone needs to read and respect the audience -- not just marketers.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Google Blacklist?

In an otherwise innocuous story about the famed Google cooking crew (amazing this stuff gets coverage) , CNET reporter Elinor Mills writes,

Google could not be immediately reached for comment. (Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.)

That previous story was a hard-hitting look at Google's alleged ability to collect and store confidential data from its users. Following the story, CNET ran an important correction:

The original article incorrectly implied that Google Desktop Search can track what's stored on a user's PC. The service does not expose a user's content to Google or anyone else without the user's explicit permission.

Was this the cause of Google's anti-CNET policy? And does this mean that CNET will be forced to report on safer subjects, such as the sample Google menu featured on a company blog and in Elinor's last story ( "Ahi Tuna & Avocado Poke, Calypso Rice Salad, Roasted Pork Loin and Hazelnut Shortcakes with Plum Compote")?

See the thread on Slashdot.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

MSN Filter

We saw this one coming a mile away. MSN has introduced a new service called Filter, where bloggers separate (i.e., "filter") the wheat from the chaff, based on user suggestions. Filter is a fitting metaphor for the post-TiVo age, where users -- for better or worse -- have greater control over what they listen to, watch, and read. But we're wondering if the folks at MSN got this one wrong, at least from a new-media perspective. Why should users get excited about delegating the job of filtering to someone else? Don't we have that model for info management already? Stay tuned ... other ideas are fast approaching.

The Wittiness of Crowds

Check out David Weinberger's post re: Philipp Blom's Enlightening the World, a recent book about the 18th Century French Encyclopedia. Weinberger laments that Wikipedia's commitment to a neutral voice of view gets in the way of style, one of several things that distinguished the French project. He concludes, "I guess that's the price we pay for Wikipedia's approximation of neutrality." We agree -- and we agree it's a price worth paying for Wikipedia -- but something else may be at work here. Is is really possible to write anything witty by committee? The thing about style: the individual voice.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Library of Tomorrow

See Stefanie Olsen's (CNET) article on innovations in search for the library market. Interesting follow-up to our post about libraries and OpenCourseWare. Stefanie mentions Eastwick client Groxis, which is working with Stanford and other universities to connect the academic community with many different content sources -- all through a single search box.

Stanford is one of the universities working with Google, and it will eventually digitize the university's entire 8.7 million-volume collection. It's also working with the search technology company Grokis (or Grokker), which makes software that graphically depicts data and its relevant relationships. The university is testing Groxis software plug-ins for access to 350 different data sources, and it hopes to one day have hundreds of plug-ins available for students.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Cogito, Ergo Blog

We have a new favorite radio show – Philosophy Talk, an hour-long program that airs locally on KALW (FM). Today’s show focused on "one of the great moments in philosophy": Rene Descartes's Discourse on Method, the 17th century philosopher's harrowing journey into doubt, which happily concludes with the most famous of Latin quotes, “cogito ergo sum” (“I think therefore I am”). Hosts Ken Taylor and John Perry (professors at Stanford University's Department of Philosophy) agreed on at least one point: despite the Frenchman’s political motives – to keep the Catholic Church at bay by constructing a reason-based (versus faith-based) foundation for accepting the existence of God -- the cogito (they actually say things like that; it's like Car Talk for the soul) is a reminder to everyone to take that occasional retreat, and subject your most cherished assumptions to doubt. A fitting lesson for the age of new media.... And yes, of course, the show does have a blog.

Through a Glass, Lightly

See this week's issue of The New Yorker for a terrific review of Tom Standage's "A History of the World in Six Glasses." Standage, a technology reporter for The Economist, takes readers on a magical history tour through the glassy lens of six different beverages: beer (ancient Egypt), wine (Greece/Rome), distilled spirits (middle ages), coffee (17th century), tea (British empire), Coca-Cola (the American empire). What drink is next on the historical horizon? Water, says Standage, noting that Coca-Cola is already earning greater margins from Dasani than from its classic brew. But The New Yorker worries that bottled water will fail to inspire the great social and political experiments that make Standage's book such a fun read (quoting Horace: “No verse can give pleasure for long, nor last, that is written by water-drinkers.”)