Thursday, May 31, 2007

Spam King Arrested in Seattle

The man who was nicknamed the "spam king" because he set up untold numbers of zombie computers to send out millions of junk emails has been arrested in Seattle. Robert Soloway, 27, has been indicted on charges of mail fraud, identity theft and money laundering. He's the same guy who lost a civil suit that Microsoft filed which was levied a pretty penny against him. Because of the Federal statutes and identity theft laws broken, it looks like jail time for him.

Just keep him away from internet access in the prison library.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

TV Commercial Measurement vs Web Ad Reports

Get ready for a bit more give and take when it comes to your commercial consumption. You digest sales and advertisement all the time on billboards and signs on your way to work, in the magazines and newspapers you read and in the radio you listen to. Still, according to Todd Chanko, an analyst with market research firm Jupiter Research, "Even today, the easiest way for an advertiser to reach a broad number of potential customers is through network television".

But the game is getting a bit trickier and adjustments are taking place. Starting this week, Nielson Media Research begins offering ratings for commercial breaks, instead of just the shows themselves. Soon advertisers will know who decided to stick around for their product pitch.

This has become necessary for a few reasons, two of the most compelling being the widespread adoption of DVRs into an estimated 17% of households (growing quickly) and the accelerating spending on web advertising. CNN has an interesting article on how TV networks are getting sneakier about commercials. In that piece they also provide that nearly half of viewers 18 to 49 years old are watching recorded programs instead of live ones.

With web advertising you can get a far more complete picture. You can get total number of views, you can adjust the message based on profiles of the viewer, you can recognize any action they take on the message and you can even, in some cases track them all the way from exposure to purchase.

That is a pretty hard solution to compete with when you are primarily a passive entertainment venue like television. In the short term, network television has a few ideas. Product placement is one. Interactive programs and exclusive offers within the commercials is another.

In the long run, television will have to increasingly become more like the web, as the web has created entertainment offerings the compete in the same programming space. With Google and Microsoft providing ad engines and video readily available online it will be interesting to see where they converge.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friends, Family and Digital Recording

It is a long weekend and I hope you get plenty of outdoor activity. I would also like to recommend three books for you to read if you are interested in the darker or more critical view of the escalating data store being kept on all of us.

First, "A World Without Secrets" by Richard Hunter. A short snippet from Publishers Weekly describes the book as "The warning bell about our rapidly disappearing privacy is sounded again albeit none too stridently in this study of new technologies and their impact. Hunter... wants to sketch out how the omnipresence of computers affects every last centimeter of modern human existence. His first chapter, "Why Won't They Leave Me Alone?" is most to the point, asking, on the subject of Internet commerce, "Is the convenience of being known everywhere worth the risk of being known everywhere?"

Second, "The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?" by David Brin. This was highly recommended to me by a professor at the Institute of Technology, UWT. The following is lifted from Amazon.com's Editorial Review. I didn't take the Publishers weekly snippet because (full disclosure) it was not complementary.

"David Brin takes some of our worst notions about threats to privacy and sets them on their ears. According to Brin, there is no turning back the growth of public observation and inevitable loss of privacy--at least outside of our own homes. ...Brin asserts that cameras used to observe and reduce crime in public areas have been successful and are on the rise. There's even talk of bringing in microphones to augment the cameras. Brin has no doubt that it's only a matter of time before they're installed in numbers to cover every urban area in every developed nation.

While this has the makings for an Orwellian nightmare, Brin argues that we can choose to make the same scenario a setting for even greater freedom."

I left in the extra sentence as he mentions the Orwellian nightmare. This is my awkward segue to the third recommendation. Take out, check out or buy, then (re)read the George Orwell classic "Nineteen Eighty-Four".

Because Big Brother is watching you, and we are Big Brother.

Here are three current celebrity examples. (Thank you for pointing out the first on your blog Lynneta and thank you Adrian for the Romanian example in class).

David Hasselhoff is drunk to a complete lack of coherence. He struggles, shirtless and slurring, to eat a hamburger and talk at the same time. It is posted for the entire world to see on YouTube and elsewhere.....by his own fourteen year old daughter.

Alec Baldwin is heard berating his daughter and calling her a selfish pig on a recording he left on her phone answering system. Kim his ex-wife denies she or her lawyers in their custody case leaked it to the press.

Romanian President Traian Basescu was approached by the journalist, Andreea Pana, in a Bucharest supermarket. At this time, Romanians were voting on whether to impeach him for alleged constitutional abuses. While the reporter was asking him about the ballot and trying to film him with her cell phone, Basescu angrily snatched the phone from her. He kept it with him and when alone in a car with his wife he called Pana a "stinky Gypsy." What he didn't know was that the phone continued to record his conversations. When the phone was returned, the conversation was released. The President has apologized.

There is a maxim about the web. Don't party with friends who have digital cameras.

Have a good read this weekend and ponder that.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Completely Non Virtual

For all the time I spend thinking, talking and writing about technology and the virtual world, you might wonder where a tangible world balance comes in.

Balance is about work/life, yin/yang, give/take.

For me, the quest for something tangential comes through live theater and musical theater in particular. When doing theater you are at a heightened state of the senses for a predetermined period of time.

You are hyper aware of everything around you because you are being counted on to hear the cue, sing the song, grab the prop, move the scene around and quite often (gasp) dance. Picking up the pace or the dropped line requires you think on your feet and that you can understand visual cues from the other actors. I would mention the taste and smell aspects of it, but if anyone has been backstage in a crowded dressing room you know I don't need to go there.

Most of my experiences come from shows at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse. Though I have been in other shows in different venues, I consider that stage my home base. I hope that my good fortune in being cast in shows there continues.

Currently, and for one more weekend, I am in the Tacoma Children's Musical Theater production of The Fabulous Fable Factory as Wadsworth, the Word Worker (and Lion, and Ant and Mouse). A bonus goes to the fact that Cassie, the Character Conceiver (my wife) is in the show with me. Not to mention the cast and director are great to work with.

If you're in the South Sound and have small children, bring them on by for one of the two remaining matinees. If you are interested in knowing more. The Volcano and the Tacoma Weekly both have reviews posted.

That is not to say that technology and the web haven't changed how theater is sold, supported, managed and produced. But that's for another time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Visit from Kevin Freitas

The Living and Working class had the honor of another guest lecturer yesterday. Kevin Freitas, of www.kevinfreitas.com and www.feedtacoma.com, got to share his experiences starting, running and aggregating blogs in and about the South Sound and Tacoma. Kevin works as a developer at SiteCrafting and has hand built the blogs that he writes and manages.

Most recent of the projects and one with great momentum and potential is FeedTacoma. A marriage of RSS feeds, South Sound blogs, a plethora of photos and photo adventures, discussion groups and an event calendar, it also boasts one of the few political and subversive cartoons in the Tacomic.

The general nature of the aggregation of the blog postings from several divergent sources (with common themes and differing perspectives) strikes me as being similar to an Associated Press or United Press International offering. It is the new South Puget Sound news feed, with the news being highly localized, personal and frequently unabashedly biased. Nothing wrong with that.

"Hey, what's going on in Tacoma?"

"I don't know, let's see what's come across the Blog wire."

Kevin has an open source sensibility and allows for postings to come from a multitude of sources. With 21 one current contributors, including this blog, that allows for many postings per day. But unlike traditional blog postings, this are titles with first paragraphs of the noted post acting as the synopsis.

As it grows and as more blogs contribute, it will be interesting to see how it can maintain its focus, or whether it will have to further break down and categorize the copy as it rolls in.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

6% Budget for Web at Voice of America

I will have to go back through my notes to remember who gave this bit of information out. I'm just back from Washington, DC where I attended among other events Congressman Adam Smith's 9th district day. It was an engaging array of speakers and excellent information. I also got to walk the whole of Washington Mall from the Capital Building to the Lincoln Memorial.

But the information that was given was that the Voice of America has 6% of their budget assigned to online and internet communication. If true, then I think that is too low. The Voice of America (VOA), is the official external radio and television broadcasting service of the United States federal government.

As they describe themselves...
"The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 115 million people."

I'm not making a content judgment. It could even be argued that their charter is for radio and television communications, and therefore budget considerations for the web are secondary. It might also be pointed out that they do allow for some podcasts and internet streaming.

But is that enough? The web has emerged as its own media source, outside the repurposing of traditional media programming. Much of what we see is consumer generated, organizationally provisioned messaging as well as programming specifically created for the web.

It just strikes me that if your mission is to provide information that is effective to a global audience, the piece of the budget pie for web based communications needs to be greater than a percentage in the single digits.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Virtual World Travel Agencies

Looking for a very different Summer job? Are you an avatar with great communications skills?

When the web matured into more than a marketing and communications network, and started to introduce applications based on expert systems, enterprise level software and personalization, many support level occupations went on a steep decline. Travel agencies in particular took a hit from the likes of Expedia, Vacation Planning Segments of Airline web sites and even Disney's very complete tickets and reservations programming.

Translation services, financial planning and personal shoppers are now more likely digital than corporeal.

But you never know what opportunities will spring up from this new environment. Travel agencies have surfaced in an unexpected place, the complex and expanding online universe.

Synthravels calls itself the fist online virtual travel agency. It is "the first organization to offer a complete guide service to all the people who want to make a tour in virtual worlds without knowing these new realities, even if they have never put their feet in these strange, synthetic grounds."

These virtual worlds include Second Life, Worlds of Warcraft, Horizons, the SIMS online and many others. It is the product of two forward thinking savvy Italian entrepreneurs who developed their idea with expertise in travel planning.

I just visited Leavenworth and loved it. I am heading to DC tomorrow and Chicago later this year. But these guys promise "you will see exotic landscapes where among prehistoric trees break out bizarre surrealistic architectures, strange fantasy regions where the elves built astonishing temples, synthetic deserts covered with post-atomic ruins, seas of pixels where float ghostly vessels, organic architectures that conceal undercover avatars."

Sweet.

I understand that they are even hiring skilled avatars as guides.

“We’re flying…., we’re flying….., we’re flying….. Now we’re stoping. To your right is the palace of Zandar the Eater of Worlds, to the immediate left is the Lollipop Forest where we will be stopping for lunch.”

Monday, May 14, 2007

Catching a Domain Name

Back in the early 90's there was a bit of a gold rush mentality when it came to domain names. I knew folks who made a business out of registering as many domains as they could and then turning around and selling them, sometimes for huge profits. Often times this is known as "Cybersquatting". It refers to the purchase of a domain name in bad faith. Usually this is done with the intention of reselling that domain name back to the legal copyright holder. This is now legally recognized as a violation of the trademark of the holding company. Of course there are legitimate disputes both online and in the real world. The World Wrestling Federation (WWF) had to change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment after a dispute with the World Wildlife Fund. McDonalds settled with a high school student early on over mcdonalds.com.

Here is an item of interest on the local front. Where would you go to find the Humane Society? Also consider that the Humane Society is an international organization.

If you were to use the .org extension, www.humanesociety.org resolves itself to The Humane Society of the United States. If you were to use the .com or commercial extension to go to www.humanesociety.com it would take you to The Humane Society of Canada. If you tried www.thehumanesociety.com using the .COM or commercial extension it would take you to the web site of Pet Ark. I would have to consider that a bit confusing.

However, of all the locales possible, Tacoma/Pierce County is the home page owner of www.thehumanesociety.org which has the correctly used .ORG or organization extension for a non-profit. I guess that makes The Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County "THE" Humane Society.

For those interesting in adopting or volunteering, their real world address is ..

2608 Center Street
Tacoma, WA 98409
Phone: (253) 383-2733

----------------------------

I once considered buying the old domain of Free Range Media back (www.freerange.com), three years after Luminant Worldwide bought the company and subsequently closed its doors. Someone had snapped it up and wanted 12,000 dollars for it.

Any good domains out there that are still available?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Blogging as Focus at South Sound Conference





I have posted over on Tacoma Tech Connect about saving the date for the next South Sound Technology conference on Dec 7th. I was Chair, Co-chair or emcee for the conference for the last five years but am retiring to ex-officio chair status this year.

However I still am involved in and enjoy planning for the event. At this time the topics of Security and Technology as an Economic Driver are two of the major focal points for the day.

I am ready to add a third topic for the afternoon speaker and panels and am looking for interest out there in making it happen. There seems to be a real strength in the blogging community in the South Sound. Truthfully, I am not sure if it is the same in every metropolitan area or not, but I suspect that we have many unique qualities specific to our region.

This is to name just a few.

The prototype for a community based, editorially driven blog in Exit133

A major newspaper that has made a direct and aggressive effort to make blogs part of their content in the Tribune. Not to mention leadership in "new journalism" efforts.

A community driven effort to aggregate from a variety of blogs all things Tacoma in FEEDTACOMA.

A strong civic communications driven effort through blogs by the Chamber of Commerce.

A blog built from scratch that balances everyday life and the technology community itself in Keven Freitas and the efforts of Jamie at Thrice All American.

An online comic syndicating itself through the South Sound blogosphere.

An eclectic mix of artists, parents, companies, publications and baseball fans all contributing to the cross pollination of information, promotion, advocacy and instigation. So many that I am certain I have overlooked quite a few. I apologize to you all. Feel free to describe your blog and post links in the comments.

My question to you. Is there enough here to build a program around? I believe so. What would the program look like? You tell me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Holding a Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Today will be fun for me as I am holding a virtual scavenger hunt. It is something I have done for the last couple of years and I have always enjoyed organizing. Now it isn't quite as fun as a "run around the globe" scavenger hunt like the classic movie "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)" or the not as good but funny "Rat Race (2001)" or even the not so good "Scavenger Hunt (1979)". The fact is you really don't need to run anywhere, because the hunting is all done online. A list of items that you need to acquire using different methods of search and application usage is handed out with a time frame for which they all must be discovered, created, recovered and printed out or emailed with links to the results.

It might be a shopping cart full of three very different and hard to find items, or the total box office receipts of a movie with Peter Sellers in it with the only information provided being three supporting characters or an email response from your local government official. It might be.

In this case, there will be teams of three competing and yes you will be graded. (prizes too)

For those in my Living and Working in a Virtual World class who read this blog. You have just been given a head start. Prepare your strategy and form your team so you can be ready later today.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Online News Association Event

With about one quarter of visitors to newspaper web sites coming from search engine results, ( according to data released last week from a custom Nielsen/NetRatings study for the Newspaper Association of America (NAA)), it is no wonder that "search engine optimization" was one of the discussion groups at the ONA event last Friday. The ONA is the Online News Association and their event sold out here in Seattle with over 90 journalists in attendance.

The News Tribune's Mark Briggs was there and shares a little of his experience on his Online in the South Sound blog. What is also heartening is that he reports around ten or so of his cohorts from the Trib were there as well.

Mark is the Assistant Managing Editor of Interactive Media at the paper, where he has been since 2004. Prior to that he was New Media Director at the Herald in Everett for four years. In the bio for the event, they mention a book he has written that is coming out soon. The title is "Journalism 2.0: A Guide for Journalists to Survive and Thrive in the Digital Age". (I have heard from Mark and if all goes well it will be out in June)

It is another example of how the South Sound is very representative of how media, news and information is changing.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

CaringBridge and Linking Families through Virtual Community

If you have ever been affected by a tragic event or encountered a trial in your life that sometimes seems insurmountable, then you know the feeling of aloneness that can accompany it. In 1993 Howard Rheingold wrote about feeling a connectedness online in his book Virtual Communities, Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. (There is also a revised 2000 edition).

People who were looking for answers found friendship, advice, shared sorrow and support with others who they never physically had met. Their conversations and communications formed a kinship that became the basis for calling the geographically dispersed citizens members of the same community.

At CaringBridge, they embody the best of this phenomenon with their web services that allow for "A place to heal, celebrate and share."

CaringBridge is a nonprofit organization which offers free personalized Web sites to people who through life's circumstance and significant events need it most in order to stay in touch with family and friends. Their mission as stated is "to bring together a global community of care powered by the love of family and friends in an easy, accessible and private way."

On May 11, 2006, Jayna Bean Doll was born. In very short order her family found out that the right side of Jayna's brain was larger than the left and had not developed correctly. She was given Phenobarbital and was air lifted to Children's Hospital in Seattle.

It became clear after many seizures that surgery would be necessary and at just 28 days old, she was handed to surgeons who performed a functional hemispherectomy.

This week she celebrates her first birthday.

Her story and the families can be found of the CaringBridge site at Jaynabean, the area her family has been using to keep everyone up to date. The site allows for the blogging a journal, a guestbook, photos, links, tributes and administrative log in for the author(s) of the content to keep everyone updated.

The site operates through donations from the families who use CaringBridge and from healthcare sponsors and corporations

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Quote Takes Flight in Cyberspace

“So, you never know how what you do will bloom into something new because of this technology”. That’s what Elana Lindquist wrote to me after I asked her about a story she had mentioned over the arts listserv.

Elana is a watercolor/sumie artist who began to paint as a way to relax and as she describes “discovered along the way, how much fun it is to create beauty using color and shape.”

In the mid 90’s Elana had also discovered and explored the power of the Internet as a way to network, learn and empower people and artists. She began writing about it online for several small publications. Like this blog, she starting addressing how artists could promote their talents on the Internet and published her thoughts and the thoughts of other creative entrepreneurs in an e-newsletter called “Fun with Success”.

It went offline about seven years ago, but another seed was planted in the process. In that publication she wrote once that...

“Success means fulfilling your own dreams, singing your own songs, dancing your own dances, creating from your heart and enjoying the journey, trusting that whatever happens it will be OK. Go and create your own adventure”.

Just last year, she googled her name and was a bit taken aback. That quote had taken up a life of its own. She had been quoted all over the place and in five different languages no less. What a pleasant surprise to find that a sentiment recorded in a newsletter read by a thousand or so had merely been the launching pad for something greater. The quote had become an inspiration for the afewlinesmore, awordtothewise.info, apricotisland among many, many other online communities as well as an e-newsletter of September of last year.

If you would like a chance to meet Elana and see her work, she will be at the Peninsula Public Library on May 8th at 7:00pm.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Vanity Search and the Social Meter

The quick and dirty of a vanity search is to search one's own name on an Internet search engine such as AltaVista, Google, Yahoo or whatever. But to sort through the inevitable onslaught of extraneous information, you have to refine your search. It can be a fun exercise as well. What about your civic side? Search on your name and your city. What about your artistic side? Search your name and your art form. What about your civic arts side. Search your….. OK, you get it. Wait, one more. Search on your name with your middle initial for your formal side.

One of the benefits, or risks, is discovering how many people in the world happen to share your name. Depending on how common or unique your name is, you can be buried or exposed if someone is looking for information about you. For me, it was a bit of a shock back in the early-mid 1990’s when I found a gentleman with my name, my occupation and some of my former work experience (we were both at Microsoft at one time) living in the same city as me. We didn’t overlap entirely in our profession but enough so that I would have the occasionally confused client.

Specialty vanity style searches are becoming more prevalent. If you are into research paper references then check out scholar.google.com to see who is referring to your work. Perhaps you are interested in where you may have appeared in print. Check out books.google.com.

For those into blogging I have a great site for you to check out. If you are a blogger who is interested in knowing where you fall on the popularity scale, check out www.socialmeter.com. The aggregator site counts up references and mentions of your blog and blogging then adds them up to a total score. There is no accompanying rating system that goes from “nobody notices me” to “omigod I'm soooo popular”, but is an interesting tool none the less.

Local Tacoma blogs that fare very well include many linked to from this page. Both www.exit133.com and www.kevinfreitas.net score over a 1000. With this post I will have increased their scores by one. This blog, Living and Working, is pretty new and relatively narrow in scope. That's how I can handle my score of 3. For now. (I linked to myself to see if I could make it a 4.)

UPDATE It appears as if SocialMeter is no more. It was always more a project than a product and the domain name now resolves to www.engrade.com.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Introducing iGoogle - at two years old

Lots of thoughts swirling around the introduction of iGoogle. Too many to remain focused within a blog entry so instead some random thoughts and a likely return to the topic later.

Two years in the making, the Google Personalized Home page is now officially iGoogle.

What do the Apple folks think about that?

It strikes me as getting closer to the services discussed in the short film EPIC. If you haven't viewed EPIC, where have you been? Funny that the impact of this short online feature has diminished because so many of its predictions have already come true, and that the remaining predictions are some of the most far fetched.

If you want to check out how to make your own home page go to. www.google.com/ig

I find it interesting that this story shows up on my radar right after I mentioned vanity searches in the previous blog. You can set the page up to bring you all the news about you!!

Love the different widgets and their ease of installation.

This is just one more way in which we will be putting ourselves out there for everyone to see.