January 2008


TV Shows January 31st, 2008 by HMTKSteve

John Locke - Lost Season One - copyright ABC Television

Last night I watched the season three finale on TV. Yes, I have the season three DVD box set (and seasons one and two) but i still watched it on TV. Why? Because they added show notes to the bottom of the screen and I was curious to see if they would reveal anything new.

I will admit right now that I was not happy when ABS decided to stretch the last 48 episodes of the show over three 16 episode seasons. I was even more upset after the writer's strike hit and I heard that this may end up being an eight episode season! If that does come to pass don't expect me to pay the price of a full season when this one hits DVD. I'll pay one third the price for an eight episode short season or two thirds for a 16 episode short season but not full price.

So, back to the subject at hand...

As I was watching Lost last night (that was a long wait) some of the old questions began to surface in my mind. A few possible answers also entered my mind and I'm going to share those thoughts now.

Who is Naomi?

After thinking this over for a few months and reading through the lines of Ben's dialogue I have come to the conclusion that Naomi is a member of the DHARMA Initiative. I think Ben is scared because he has been keeping DHARMA off the island since he caused the purge all those years ago. He thinks that when DHARMA comes back to the island they will round up and kill the Others as revenge for killing off the DHARMA members.

What is the Black Smoke Monster?

I think the Black Smoke Monster is the incorporeal form taken by the spirit of the island (Jacob) before it scans a person and generates a proper form to take.

Why was DHARMA still dropping supplies on the island for the Swan Hatch?

This one comes into partial conflict with the the Naomi question above. Why would DHARMA continue to make those supply runs if the island had been fully taken over by the Others? If DHARMA was still able to make supply drops why could they not send in more people to take back the island? I don't have an answer for this one just yet.

I am looking forward to watching this new season. I expect it to consist of the DHARMA folks off shore coming ashore and Locke becoming the new leader of the others. Ben will be captured right away (he's tied to a tree at the potential landing site) and Locke will make his way back to the Other's camp.

So, what does everyone else think?

Social Media January 30th, 2008 by Stephen

I have recently been reading an excellent book by Matt Mason titled The Pirate's Dilemma. This book talks about how youth culture is reinventing capitalism.

The book is very well written and researched. The core theme behind the book is how the culture of piracy (that’s you and me) causes change in the capitalist world. While entrepreneurs expand existing markets Pirates create new markets. It is then up to the established businesses to decide whether or not to compete or destroy the Pirates.

For example, should a designer hand bag company try to compete with a knock-off manufacturer? If the designer bags sell for $2,000 each and the knock-offs sell for $25 then the company is better served having law enforcement shut down the counterfeiters because the clientele who can afford a $2,000 handbag are unlikely to be willing to purchase a knock-off.

Another good example is made in regards to the RIAA and file sharing. We all know how that is turning out. The only one who is making money in the digital music space is Apple because they launched iTunes to compete (rather than litigate) the competition.

This article is not going to focus on the entire book but on one small section found in chapter 5. In this chapter (on page 167) Matt Mason lists The Four Pillars of Community. The text is written to apply to open source systems but it can be read to also apply to social media. After all, is Digg not the epitome of open source news? Many users contribute to make the site work, without those members contributing content what would Digg be?

Pillar 1: Altruism – Inspire your Audience to Help You Start Something.

When Digg began it was all about getting great content on the site. Back then it was strictly a tech site and the user base consisted of a large following that came from Kevin Rose’s days on TechTV.

Kevin had a vision. He wanted to harness the Wisdom of Crowds for the purpose of spreading great content to a multitude of users all over the web. If there was a money making system at work no one saw it back then. Many members wanted to see Digg succeed because they felt it was the wave of the future, putting the power of the media back into the hands of the common man.

Pillar 2: Reputation – Let Your Audience Create New Identities and Distinguish Themselves.

MegaDeth had a song in the 80’s, “Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying?” Even the most altruistic of people like to have a modicum of recognition for their deeds. Many Internet forums are run by volunteer administrators. They do not do it for pay they do it as they see personal value in it. Having the title of admin on some forums gives you a title equivalent to King or Queen. It is something you have earned and others respect.

Between the top digs users list and the DiggNation podcast Rose and company offered a valid reward system to get members involved; fame.

Many of the top Diggers on the site grew to have followings. They became social news celebrities in their own right. Becoming a top Digger was not something that was handed to you. Oh no, it is something that you had to work your ass off to achieve.

Pillar 3: Experience – Give Your Audience a New Experience and the Chance to Improve Their Skills.

Not all users of Digg are in it for the fame. Some of them just want to learn a thing or two about how social media works.

I know, from my own personal experience, that my involvement in Digg has been rewarding because I have met many new friends. People I would have never met outside of Digg are now people that I can call friends.

Not only have I met new people but I have also been able to debate my ideals and sway others (or been swayed myself) all because of Digg. Outside of home, work and my small circle of local friends I do not encounter many people who do not share my ideals and way of looking at things. Thanks to Digg (at least in the early days) I was able to learn things that have changed my point of view on various subjects.

I have found myself to be a better writer and debater because of the time I have spent on Digg.

Pillar 4: Pay Them!

I am not talking about cash money here (wouldn’t that be nice!) but about paying back the Digg user base for, without them, Digg is nothing.

Digg does still give back in the form of the DiggNation podcast but, they dropped the top Digger list. Not only have they dropped the list but they have turned the site upside down by making harder for the top Diggers to stay in the game. They have created an un-level playing field by forcing the more popular members to acquire more Diggs on a story before it gets promoted to the front page.

I understand that Digg wants to attract new members but what about all those people who made Digg big in the first place? If I, as a new user, am told that I am only welcome to submit content to the site until I hit a certain popularity threshold than why should I invest any time at all into the site? Digg is effectively telling me that they are scared of influential members using the site.

It has long been said that good managers hire good workers while bad managers hire bad workers so that they will not be shown up. Is that where Digg is headed?

Conclusion

I can’t help but think that Digg was once built on all four of these pillars and doing very well for itself. They were the Pirates of social media. They created a whole new business and it flourished like a wildfire. Then, something happened. They sold out.

By selling out I mean that in the literal not figurative sense. It is no secret that Digg is looking for a buyer right now. No one wants to invest a large sum of money into a business that is based on the whim of a few users, a few users who control what appears on the site due to their massive following. Because of this change in direction Digg has been forced to go from being a free-wheeling Pirate-style site to a suit and tie corporate entity.

Digg can succeed but I fear it may be destroyed if it is sold. Digg may have been first to market but it is no longer alone. Apple was not the first one to market with MP3 players yet they dominate the MP3 player market today.

Digg IS Kevin Rose. It was built on his ideas and the more it seems that he is removing himself from the ideals behind the site the more its users grow nervous. The only way Digg can survive being sold is if it sets its foundation firmly back onto the four pillars mentioned above.

UPDATE

I was recently contacted by David Title who has posted an interview with Matt Mason on his blog.

Movies January 29th, 2008 by HMTKSteve
Next

I just finished watching this one (Thank you Netflix) and I have to say I liked it... a lot!

The movie stars Nicolas Cage as Las Vegas magician Frank Cadillac (real name Chris Johnson) who just happens to be the real thing hiding out in plain sight. Julianne Moore plays a very obsessive FBI agent named Callie Ferris. Rounding out the main characters is Chris's love interest Liz Cooper (played by a very mature looking Jessica Biel). The supporting cast is good and there is a special appearance by Peter Falk.

The movie is based on the Philip K. Dick story The Golden Man in which a golden skinned mutant has the power to see every possible outcome of every possible action he does. Think of it as the computer Deep Blue living inside a person. The movie is not an adaptation of that story but a new story based on the ideas of the original story. Once you understand that you will better be able to enjoy the film.

The basic plot for the film is that agent Ferris is working on a case that involves a nuclear bomb being smuggled into the USA via a certain California port city. She has also been watching Johnson for a while and she thinks he has the power to see into the future. She surmises that if she had him around he could tell them where the bomb is. Though she does say some heavy handed things about the good of the many outweighing the freedom of the one she tends to be more talk than action on those thoughts.

The movie begins with Johnson doing one of his shows and then going to a nearby casino to earn some extra money using his special "two minute into the future" sight. While in the casino we are treated to the casino security forces talking about him and wondering how he is cheating. Johnson's voice narrates as he explains that he always keeps his winnings low in an attempt to avoid detection. Clearly this idea is not working as the casino security team is about ready to take him in for questioning when his spider senses warn him.

While trying to cash out his chips he catches a glimpse of a crime that is about to result in two casino workers getting shot. He intervenes and the chase is on. The next few minutes, as he evades capture in the casino, is a great indicator of just how useful being able to see two minutes into the future can be. I do not want to spoil how he gets out but it is just amazing to watch.

Johnson has a few run-ins with Ferris but he always does it during his future sights. By doing so he is able to learn what she wants without having to actually meet her. It is just prior to one such encounter, while he is playing pool with Peter Falk's character that we learn that he has gotten a vision of a girl he is supposed to meet at a diner. He knows the time of day but not if it is AM or PM so he goes there, twice a day, everyday, in an attempt to meet her.

Nicolas Cage and Jessica Biel

When she eventually does show up he pulls a bit that reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day where he keeps trying different approaches until he hits on what that works. They hit it off and head to Flagstaff together. No, they never make it that far.

It is about this time that the movie turns into an action flick as the people who have the nuke also want Johnson as they see him as a potential threat to their plan. I do not want to spoil the rest of the movie so all I will say is WOW!

Nicolas Cage is a great action star because he does it in such a nonchalant way. He does it in that, "what, you mean this is not normal?" way he did the National Treasure movies. Couple this with Jessica Biel (I did not realize it was her until much later) who pulled off a great job acting like a young woman with a real head on her shoulders, and you have some great chemistry between the two.

The movie is short, clocking in at a mere 96 minutes, but it is also very good. If you like "low key" action movies i suggest you check this one out.

Funny thing is that I used to look at Nicolas Cage movies as if they were crap but now I am finding that there is a certain something about the movies he makes that makes them very enjoyable.

Internet January 28th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

I got a canned email from MyBlogLog telling me that I only have a few days left on my service and that I have to renew if I want to keep my historical data and tracking going forward. This got me to thinking...

I have never really liked MyblogLog all that much. The tracking data it provides is so-so and easily replaced by so many FREE tracking solutions that I also use.

The one thing that got me interested in paying for their service is the fact that they track AdSense clicks. I used this data in the past to try to audit Google's reporting. After seeing a large discrepancy I dropped AdSense for a few months. I added them back in and everything seems to be working fine again.

Right now they are saying I need to pay up or lose access to my historical data and this I have a problem with. The way I see it I have already paid for this historical data when i paid for my one year of tracking service last year. Just because I choose not to re-up with them should not mean that I lose access to data that I have already paid for. I can understand them cutting me back to the limited account format that my other blogs use (do you think I would pay $20 per blog for their service?) but why should I lose access to historical data?

I'm not even sure what the original intent of the MyBloglog service was. Was it meant to drive traffic? Generate new readers? What was it supposed to do?

I no longer know and I no longer care. Once I get a free minute I will be removing their tracking code from my various sites and be done with them.

Games January 24th, 2008 by Stephen

Nintendo released their 9 month FY 2008 report today and lo and behold, they have broken the 20 million mark on Wiis!

Wii hits 20 million

In other Nintendo financial news...

Nintendo finacial 2008 news

Their hardware sales are up 103.8%.
Their software sales are up 57.7%.
Total electronic entertainment sales are up 84.9%.

Can you believe they still sell playing cards? That business is up 29.3%.

Other Highlights

During the nine-month period ended December 31, 2007 the nintendo DS enjoyed robust sales, selling a total of 24.5 million units (64.79 million lifetime sales). DS software was led by titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Mario Party DS, Pokemon diamond and Pearl, Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day as well as long time favorite Nintendodogs.

In the console department the Wii reached total sales of 14.29 million units worldwide for the first three quarters of the year and exceeded 20 million in life to date sales, which is slightly over one year. Wii software titles such as Wii Fit, Super Mario Galaxy and Mario Party 8 enjoyed robust sales.

As a result, net sales were up 1,316.4 billion yen (up 84.7% 7/7), operating income was 394 billion yen (up 135.1% y/y), income before taxes and extraordinary items was 430.8 billion yen (up 95.2% y/y), and net income was 258.9 billion yen (up 96.3% y/y) respectively.

Apple January 23rd, 2008 by Stephen

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SimulScribe, LLC., a co-defendant with Apple, Inc.(APPL:NASDAQ) in the patent infringement lawsuit recently filed by Klausner Technologies, has settled the litigation and has licensed the Klausner Technologies visual voicemail patents. Other defendants in the case include ATT, Inc. (T:NYSE), Comcast Corporation (CMCSA:NASDAQ) and Cablevision Systems Corp.(CVC:NYSE).

The license covers SimulScribe’s visual voicemail service, which allows subscribers to selectively retrieve voice messages from a mobile phone or computer display. SimulScribe is the latest defendant, in a series of lawsuits brought by Klausner Technologies over visual voicemail, to sign a license with Klausner. Current licensees include Time Warner’s (TWX:NYSE) AOL and Vonage Holdings, Inc. (VG:NYSE), among others.

Under the patent license agreement with Klausner Technologies, in addition to SimulScribe’s visual voicemail service, its new ‘SimulSays’ visual voicemail application for RIM BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones is now licensed in the US, Canada and Europe. ‘SimulSays’ enables users to scroll through voicemail messages on a mobile phone’s display and select which voice messages to access and in what order. It integrates with the phone’s contact book, enabling users to respond to voice messages by email, SMS or phone, directly from the application.

"We are happy to add SimulScribe to our growing list of licensees. SimulScribe’s visual voicemail for mobile phones and computer inboxes is an excellent example of our patented visual voice messaging technology, letting consumers view and select voice messages in a similar fashion to the way they view and select e-mails," said Judah Klausner, CEO of Klausner Technologies.

The lawsuit was filed by the California law firm of Dovel & Luner in a federal court in the Eastern District of Texas. “We have litigated this patent successfully on prior occasions,” said Greg Dovel of Dovel & Luner, counsel for Klausner Technologies. "With the signing of each new licensee, we continue to receive further confirmation of the strength of our visual voicemail patents.”

Weird January 23rd, 2008 by Stephen
Alison Levine Becomes First American to Complete Historic Journey Across Antarctica (Photo: Eric Philips, IceTrek Expeditions)

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Renowned adventurer Alison Levine has become the first American to follow a remote route to the geographic South Pole pioneered by legendary Italian explorer Reinhold Messner. Levine, a San Francisco resident, left in early December for the Ronne Ice Shelf in west Antarctica and finished the arduous 574-mile journey in just 38 days. Since Messner’s expedition in 1989, only two Norwegian teams have completed this route – until now.

Levine endured some of the harshest conditions known to man including -50°F temperatures, icy winds and dangerous crevasse fields covered with snow bridges that have been known to collapse under pressure. The extreme weather made the trip especially hard for Levine because she suffers from Raynaud’s Disease, a neurological disorder that affects her extremities in cold weather. As a result, she often lost the use of her hands and was forced to ski without poles because she could not grip the handles. In addition, she was born with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a life-threatening heart condition and had two surgeries to correct the problem.

“Antarctica definitely showed us her teeth,” said Levine. “The wind and the cold really beat us up at times. My hands would freeze whenever I stopped for a short break which meant I would have to ski and haul all of my gear without using my poles, and that was pretty tough. In these kinds of situations, you have to keep pushing day after day. You have no choice. It’s not like you can just pop into a ski lodge for a cup of hot cocoa. There is no escape. It’s just you against the elements – but that’s how I like it.”

At 5’4, 112-pounds, Levine skied 10 hours a day with a sled containing 150 pounds of her own gear and supplies harnessed to her waist. Despite eating 5,000-6,000 calories a day, Levine lost 15 percent of her body weight due to the physical demands of the journey.

Levine, who served as the deputy finance director for Arnold Schwarzenegger in his successful bid to become Governor of California, received congratulations from Governor Schwarzenegger and First Lady of California Maria Shriver. “We were thrilled to hear the news of our friend Alison’s safe arrival at the South Pole,” said First Lady of California Maria Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a joint statement. “We admire her sense of adventure, and we hope she will inspire all Californians and all Americans to pursue whatever they are passionate about.”

Levine retraced Messner’s traverse to the South Pole as part of an international five-person team that included an Australian, who led the group along with adventurers from Canada, Norway and Holland. A record of her blog and pictures can be found here: http://www.kepplerspeakers.com/Levine/2007/11/track_alison_levines _progress.asp.

Internet January 23rd, 2008 by Stephen

Now that 2007 has come to a close a lot of articles are popping up all over the Internet talking about video game sales and which games came out on top. There is but one problem with some of these articles.

Example 1: World of Warcraft Reaches New Milestone: 10 Million Subscribers [link]

Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. announced today that subscribership for World of Warcraft®, its award-winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), has continued to climb, recently passing 10 million worldwide. Interest in the game has remained high in all regions, with thousands of new and returning players signing up through the holiday season. World of Warcraft now hosts more than 2 million subscribers in Europe, more than 2.5 million in North America, and approximately 5.5 million in Asia.

Example 2: Halo 3 knocks Wii Play out of top selling spot for 2007 [link (one of many)]

Today's NPD sales numbers reveal that Bungie's Halo 3 was the best selling game in the United States in 2007, with a whopping 4.82 million copies sold. Nipping at Master Chief's heels was Nintendo's own Wii Play. It sold through a staggering 4.12 million units to the masses.

Which of the above two articles has the more accurate headline? The first one of course. The second article proudly proclaims one thing but, in the first line of the write-up they add in the qualifier that they are talking about video games sold in the USA. You could chalk this up to an editorial blunder but I see it happening far too often (in video game news) to see it as such.

The Numbers Game

If you massage numbers enough you can make the numbers say anything you want them to.

In more recent political news there was a US Presidential primary held in Nevada. On the Democrat side one candidate one the popular vote while another won more delegates (delegates count in primaries) yet the news reported the popular vote winner as the winner. Did the media learn nothing in 2000 when the popular vote winner (Al Gore) did not win the actual (Electoral College) Presidential vote?

The same thing goes on in video games news, it's all about the headline and many people in the industry do not care if the headline is wrong if it paints them in a good light.

Two Groups of Numbers

We currently have two major players in the video game sales number game; NPD Group and VGChartz. The NPD Group is often considered more credible while VGChartz is often painted as a bunch of kids sitting around a computer making up numbers. Both of these groups have good an bad qualities to them but we need both to get a good picture of what is going on.

The one chief failing of NPD is their limited market. They only release data for North America when talking about video game sales. This is fine when your audience is strictly from North America but, with many websites having global audiences you need to make it perfectly clear that the article you are writing is based on only a small portion of the gaming world. If we look at the success of World Of Warcraft we quickly see that only 25% of their paid members reside in North America. I know it is not scientific to use the data from one company to prove a trend but... Why is the reverse being done?

VGCgartz has this to say about their number tracking system:

Unlike many other websites (which use manufacturer shipment figures and reports to estimate current console sales), VG Chartz collects data directly from retailers all over the world. Retailer sample sizes are small compared to professional tracking services, but are large enough to provide very accurate projections of the latest console sell through figures worldwide. We are the only provider anywhere in the world of weekly American sales charts and are expanding our data collection and coverage all the time.

NPD says this:

We collect global point-of-sale (POS) information from more than 600 retail partners – representing about 140,000 stores worldwide that have agreed to provide us with their sales information. This retailer network spans all key distribution channels: department stores, distributors, national chains, specialty stores, mass merchants, and more.

The funny thing about NPD is that they routinely mention that they get worldwide data yet all we ever see is North American data in regards to video games. What's up with that? Further, what is the deal with reputable video game news sites making misleading headlines about video game sales?

Well, Kotaku may not be as reputable as they once were. They did have the tubgirl incident last year, not to mention what their sister blog Gizmodo did at CES this year with turning off monitors in vendor booths while vendors were doing presentations. Yeah, real professional there.

I try to pull data from as many sources as I can or, if I am pulling from only one source I try my best to make it clear what source I am pulling from and leave it up to you, the reader, to decide on how valid the data is. I also try my best to only use world wide data because I simply do not believe that the world ends at the border of the USA.

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