Apparently, rap music is dead or dying. Who knew. This reminds me of when the TV show Friends was coming to an end and I had never seen a single episode. Social phenomena seem to pass me by. Do they make summary compilations for people like me? Three decades of rap for the out-of-touch and clueless.

whipcoral_blog.jpgAccording to the Silicon Valley Watcher,  speaking engagements can be quite profitable.

Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine and the author of the book about the “Long Tail” gets paid about $34K for a speaking engagement.

This should get Tom Slee’s knickers in a knot as he continues his critique of the book with his post The Long Tail 5 – The Producers. I especially like the Lonely Island case study because it makes me break out in song…. “Ronery, I’m so ronery”.

Subliminal Slots

February 28, 2007

CBC reports that Konami Gaming has slot machines that show subliminal winning messages:

The games flash winning jackpot symbols at players for a fifth of a second, long enough for the brain to detect even if the players are not aware of the message, some psychologists told CBC News.

Konami has made a statement that they will pursue legal action against CBC.

Happy Flowery Thoughts

February 27, 2007

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Soon, oh so very soon, the ground will unfreeze and my happy little plants will do what plants do. And I will do what I do… take pictures. So be forewarned, Canada has two seasons, winter and construction, and during the construction season this will probably turn into a garden photo blog. OK, maybe not exclusively… I will probably blog photos of non-garden flowers…. and bugs, I like bugs. Maybe sunsets and sunrises…. I like those too. And trees. Construction is truly a wonderful time of year.

Israel is considering an organ donation credit for those that sign their donation cards.

The move that I have initiated calls for giving the signatory of a donor card credits concerning his placement on the waiting list of candidates for transplants, if one day he is in need of such an operation. In order to discuss the implications of such a step, which for the first time introduces a non-medical criterion to the list of medical criteria that determine a patient’s place on the list, the National Transplant Center set up a special forum in which several of the best minds in the field of ethics and law in Israel participated. After a penetrating discussion, the following proposal was accepted by a majority: Every list of candidates for an organ transplant will be headed by those candidates who signed a donor card at least a year before being listed (the exact order will be determined according to the currently accepted medical criteria). Candidates who did not sign a donor card in time will be placed further down the list, according to medical criteria. 

According to the article, Israel lags other western countries in organ donation agreements (45% vs. 95%) and organ donation card signatories (8% vs. 30-40%). I wonder what accounts for the difference.

Iowa State University anthropologists report tool use by chimpanzees in Senegal.

Chimpanzees forcibly jabbed tools into hollow trunks or branches multiple times and smelled and/or licked them upon extraction. Only two of the 22 reported cases were seen as playful — in the case of an infant male — or exploratory in nature. In all other cases, chimps were judged by the researchers to use such force in inserting the tool that prey within the tree could have been injured. They witnessed just one case in which a chimpanzee extracted a bushbaby — a smaller primate — through use of the spear.

The chimp was reported saying “mmmmmmm…… bushbaby.”

Leafy Filefish Behavior

February 26, 2007

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I took a photo of this beautiful Leafy Filefish on a dive in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. I normally would not have to mention “on a dive” but the results of a quick Google search made me think twice. I searched on “behavior leafy filefish” and the top results contained information for aquarium owners. Sigh.

Tom Slee’s critical analysis of The Long Tail continues with Chapter 3 – A Short History of the Long Tail.

The Sears Catalogue has several parallels to the online world that Anderson calls “the ultimate catalog”. One that he does not mention is that it was not easily mimicked. Once there is a big catalogue, a second big catalogue doesn’t help much. The cost of keeping an item on the virtual shelf — whether that be a catalogue or a web server — is small, but the cost of building a virtual shelf in the first place is actually pretty big, and once someone’s built a good one it is difficult to compete with them.

I completely agree with Tom on “the cost of building a virtual shelf” but I would challenge the claim that it is “difficult to compete with them” once the catalog is in place.

It is easy to mimic an online catalog, what is difficult is finding a way to add customer value over what exists. Amazon has stayed on top of the online book business because of execution. Their dominance does not come from being first on the block. The only piece of the puzzle that gives Amazon monopoly-like power is the review writing user base.

Back to the cost of the virtual shelf. One of the biggest issues I have with The Long Tail is the idea that the cost of building and running an online catalog is negligible. The costs of running an online store/catalog are different than running a brick-and-mortar operation but that does not mean the new costs are negligible.

Consider online music. The original Napster was an enormous success because it avoided the costs of paying music royalties and and it used a peer-to-peer file sharing approach to avoid bandwidth costs. The peer-to-peer file sharing was also Napster’s way around the legal aspects of music sharing but their central database turned out to be their legal Achilles heel. Kazaa then made everything peer-to-peer, avoiding the central database, giving them a legal edge over Napster.

Then came the legal offerings. The iTunes Music Store went through all the necessary legal hoops and tackled the bandwidth cost and succeeded partly because of tight integration with the iPod music player. Microsoft originally took the open market approach, betting on 3rd party vendors for music players and music stores, built around their digital rights management infrastructure. Based on the success of past flat-fee subscription based models this approach was promising but the 3rd party vendors failed to provide value-added products/services. Out of frustration, Microsoft has recently taken the proprietary iPod/iTunes approach with their Zune player/store. The barrier to entry in “The Long Tail of Music” is the enormous cost. The costs are just different than those facing HMV or <fill in the name of your favorite bricks-and-mortar music store>.

RIM’s Jim Balsille recently said that music on cell phones will once again change the online music landscape.

Apple has done us an enormous favour by saying you should expect music on your cellphone, [but] I think it’s 10 if not 100 times harder to do the communications aspect onto an MP3 player than to do the mass media player onto a communications framework. I think we’ll absolutely nail it before some new entrant comes even close. You know, everyone’s brave in the locker room. Let’s get it done.

It is unclear whether this will come to pass but what is clear is that the delivery of online music is still very dynamic. What hasn’t changed is the same fundamentals that govern every company/market: minimize costs while maximizing value to the customer.

The Rex on The Goracle

February 24, 2007

Rex Murphy ponders The Goracle’s celebrity status:

“It’s like a boy band or something coming to town . . .” The lady who said that was right. Al Gore is bigger than ‘N Sync used to be. In the global warming game, there is no one who can command the crowds like Al. David Suzuki, who’s been on a rock-star-like bus tour, can certainly generate a buzz. But David is an opening act, a crowd-warmer, a John the Baptist to Al Gore’s messiah. Toronto was just a minor stop on the Gore tour. He’s due in Hollywood for the Oscars on Sunday. He’s nominated, and seriously so, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Apparently this is quite the transformation.

He was so very recently the stock joke of U.S. politics as the most wooden, boring politician since Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge was so boring, Dorothy Parker, on hearing he was dead, asked: “How can they tell?”

Boring? Calvin Coolidge? The man behind The Coolidge Effect?  Say it ain’t so.

Google vs. Microsoft

February 24, 2007

Google announced the premier version of Google Apps (formerly Apps for your Domain) and Wired News asks Should You Switch?

Google Apps Premier Edition is a collection of office tools for businesses — word processor, spreadsheet, e-mail, calendar and web page creator — all of which are accessible through a web browser. Pricing is set at $50 per user per year, less expensive than Microsoft Office but with much the same functionality. Microsoft has its own web-based suite of tools in Office Live, but the company’s offering doesn’t match Google’s. And Google isn’t going after Office Live, it’s going after Office.

Huh, why Microsoft Office and not Microsoft Windows Server and Exchange? From my perspective, the real value of Google Apps is E-Mail/Calendar. Talk, Docs and Spreadsheets, and Page Creator are like MS WordPad and Paint. I use them occasionally and I’m glad they are there but I wouldn’t pay for them.

Exchange is different though. Google Apps Premier is game changing. No need for fault tolerant server hardware,  backup solution, Windows Server license, Exchange server license, IT e-mail specialists, and internal help desk for e-mail. The value-added of Google Apps Premier over the standard edition is 24/7 phone support and enterprise single sign-on integration.

What am I missing? Does using Microsoft Office imply that an Exchange server is used as well?

The Goracle

February 22, 2007

Ah, this explains the rush to ban light bulbs, The Goracle was in town.The Goracle

Ontario is considering a ban on incandescent light bulbs.

No one in Ontario should underestimate the importance of replacing standard bulbs with more energy-efficient ones, Ms. Broten added. By Premier Dalton McGuinty’s estimate, replacing every old-fashioned bulb with an energy-efficient one would allow the province to shut down one coal-fired power plant.

No one should underestimate the willingness of politicians to implement overreaching policies.

Kiwis Ban Spanking

February 22, 2007

A bill prohibiting parents from using physical force to discipline their children passed a key vote in the New Zealand parliament Wednesday.

Read the full article.