RSS Adoption: Why it is and will be slow

Here's a nice summary on Why RSS adoption is low.

Let's push this through a bit further: Recall the 5 product factors that impact the adoption rate of a new tech? No? Well, here they are:
  1. Relative advantage. In what ways is RSS better than existing ways of acquiring information? For informnavores, RSS is a life-saving, life-saving tech. For non-informnavores, RSS is a big, "so what?" Overall negative.
  2. Compatibility with current work-flow and other ways of acquiring information. RSS currently requires developing new habits. Overall negative.
  3. Complexity. How difficult is it to use? RSS requires a separate program or going to a specific web site. Overall negative.
  4. Communicability. How easy is it to communicate the benefits? The benefits are easy to communicate. Whether someone values those benefits is another issue. Mild positive.
  5. Trialability. RSS is easy to try if you are one of the small number of folks using FireFox. Otherwise, trial of RSS requires adopting Bloglines, or a dedicated feed reader. Overall negative.
Four negatives and one mild positive. Not encouraging.

This raises the question: Will RSS remain a niche info delivery method?

Branded Nation: Another View

Brand Autopsy brands James Twitchell's Branded Nation a worthless read:
Twitchell examines how the seemingly non-commercial worlds of colleges and universities, churches, and museums have become commercialized by embracing the religion of marketing. The book reads like a series of long-form white papers with general and somewhat interesting observations, but no actionable takeaways. I should warn ya … Twitchell is extremely verbose … he carries on from page-to-page like a know-it-all who doesn’t know when the reader has had enough.
I agree that Twitchell avoids the contempory business book bullet point style; a style exemplified by the Change This manifestos. Yes, Twitchell does like to delve into myriad nooks and crannies as he explores the terraign of his chosen topic. That, I'll concede. At half its length, the book would perhaps be more effective.

As to "no actionable takeaways," BrandAutopsy has perhaps misjudged the book's target market. True, Twitchell says little that is news to marketers. However, Twitchell's pounds home a message that many in higher ed desperately need to hear and absorb into their DNA if their college or university is to compete in today's environment. The take-away is not a laundry list of tactics, rather the take-away for those in higher ed is a reframing of their value offering. Many in higher ed (and churches) could benefit from this reframing.

Twitchell's book is well paired with John Seely Brown's The Social Life of Information, especially the chapters dealing with higher ed as credential granting institutions. Those in church would do well to pair Twitchell's book with Callahan's Small Strong Congregations

Dell FireFox Hostile

I discovered today that Dell.com is FireFox hostile. While searching support at Dell.com to find out why my Dell DJ-20 (origional version) is not compatible with Audible.com, I tried Dell's "find you service tag number." No can do, it spat back. "Incompatible Browser or Operating System" read the error. Hmm ... OS is WinXP. FireFox is the browser. Yep, Dell is FireFox hostile. I gave up. Two punts on Dell's "customer service" in one sitting.

Dell Punts on DJ's Incompatibility with Audible.com

I explored Audible.com yesterday, thinking audio book downloads would ease the pain of my daily commute. To my dismay, I learned that my Dell DJ-20, portable music device, is not included among the devices compatible with Audible.com. Oddly, two of Dell's PDA's are "Audible.com compatible," but none of Dell's portable music players are compatible.

So, I contacted "Dell Chat":
Welcome to Dell Chat. Please wait for an available agent. You will be notified when your chat is accepted by an agent.
The session has been accepted.

{Paul 1:57:56 PM} Thank you for contacting Dell Consumer Customer Care Chat. My name is Pradeep, but you may call me Paul. How may I help you today? [WTF ... I typed in a question already, why can't "Paul" see it??]

{ 1:58:29 PM} audible.com does not support the dell dj
{ 1:58:54 PM} is a software update planned so the dj will work with audible.com?

{Paul 1:59:56 PM} Please allow me a moment to review your question.
{Paul 2:02:28 PM} I apologize for the delay in responding to your question. Due to the high volume of chats, I will be answering questions in the order received. Thank you for your patience. [So nice to know that Dell values my business.]
{Paul 2:03:09 PM} As I understand that you would like to know why the particular web site is not supporting Dell DJ. Is that correct?

{ 2:03:31 PM} yes ... two dell PDAs are supported. the DJs are not. very odd.

{Paul 2:03:58 PM} Rob, I suggest you Chat with our technical support as they would be the best people to assist you with this issue. You can contact our tech chat queue at http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/en/chat?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs or you can call them at 1-800-624-9896, extension 66955. They are open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Toggling to the URL provided, I discovered that the tech support folks are all too busy to help me. Sigh.
{ 2:05:34 PM} um ... none of those folks are available.
{Paul 2:08:04 PM} The above mentioned link is Chat link for the tech support, sure they will be glad to assist you with this issue, you can select any session for tech support chat.
Sigh ... I gave up.

Quicken Upgrades Cause Hissey Fit

Boingboing launched a hissey fit over a letter they received from Quicken. /. jumped into the frey. The blind started leading the blind down a path of Quicken bashing. Anonymous Coward finally offered some words of reason. Jeesh! Quicken

Missed in the entire discussion is that fact that Quicken is phasing out QIF import format for checking accounts switching to OFX support. Quicken spins the discontinuation because QIF "was designed for technical support purposes, it was not for transaction download." Hmm ... QIF seemed to work fine for that purpose.

In contrast, " OFX offers customers an easier, faster and more accurate download experience." Um, OK.

Reading between the lines, the key reason Quicken introduced the change is that it allows Intuit a bigger hammer to entice banks to become a partner.

On a personal note, I first became of the changes when I received in the mail a package from Intuit containing a disk with Quicken 2005 Premier. A free upgrade! That's good.

A consequence is that I can not download transaction data from either of my financial institutions-- First Federal or Sky Financial; neither supports the OFX format. I've called and emailed First Federal's online banking support folks several times over the past 6 months enquiring about their timetable for updating their system. I'm still waiting for a target date. Meanwhile, I'm without the ability to download checking account transactions. What a PITA!!


A Concise Summary of the Iraq War

Cold Fury offers a concise summary of why U.S. troops are in Iraq.

US consumer Electronics Sales

Here's a fascinating round-up of US consumer electronics sales data.

Student Government Campaigning: New Media Style

Clearly, some college students were tuned into the important communication advances modeled during the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Email and Blogs complement face-to-face campaigning. Check out this email from a student:
Hey everyone. I'm going to take this opportunity to ask for your support for the 2005 ROCA-SMYER student senate presidential and vice presidential campaign.

You can read about our platform on our online blog at http://tribex.typepad.com/rae_anns_blog/
If you have already visited the site, feel free to visit again as it is updated frequently.

Justin and I have great vision for this campus, especially regarding diversity needs. As each of you know, our hearts are huge and our dedication, motivation and inspirational abilities are even bigger.

Also on our blog, you can find the link for voting, which will begin Monday at 8am and run through Friday at 7pm. Voting is all online and is 24 hours.

You can help us by:
1) voting for us.
2) telling your friends, greek brothers and sisters, aquaintances, classes and memberships about our campaign.
3) putting our info in your instant message profile and away messages.
4) letting us know where more fliers, signs and posters should go.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have ANY questions, please don't hesitate to ask us or post it on our blog and we will answer ASAP.

Thanks again.

Impressive tactics on a campus of 3300 students. It will be interesting to see if and whether the other candidates respond in kind. Will blogswarms emerge? We'll see.

Creative Problem Solving: Thinking Outside the Bottle

This Slovak gent found a very creative solution to a life threatening problem.


iPod Business Model

Cringely offers an interesting meditation on the iPod business model. Speaking of iPods. In class yesterday I used iPods as an example. One student asked, "What's an iPod?"

Cyborg Consumer?

Here's new new lingo for CB texts:
The cyborg consumer, Giesler said, is one that uses several different technologies -- from cell phones to Viagra -- and is highly connected, technically and socially.
Hmm ... do I sense a flavour of "Star Trek: The Next Gen"? Jeez, what's new here? Shibutani made a similar point 50 years ago.


Pew Internet Reports: The Web is the "New Normal"

A new report from Pew Internet & American Life Project chronicles the internet's impact on daily life:
On a typical day at the end of 2004, some 70 million American adults logged onto the Internet to use email, get news, access government information, check out health and medical information, participate in auctions, book travel reservations, research their genealogy, gamble, seek out romantic partners, and engage in countless other activities. That represents a 37 percent increase from the 51 million Americans who were online on an average day in 2000 when the Pew Internet & American Life Project began its study of online life.

For the most part, the online world mirrors the offline world. People bring to the Internet the activities, interests, and behaviors that preoccupied them before the Web existed. Still, the Internet has also enabled new kinds of activities that no one ever dreamed of doing before–certainly not in the way people are doing them now. For example, on a typical day, 5 million people post or share some kind of material on the Web through their own Web logs (or “blogs”) or other content-creating applications; at least 4 million share music files on peer-to-peer networks; and 3 million people use the Internet to rate a person, product, or service.


View the full report here (pdf)

Walking the Walk

Dana, over at AMAblog, has an affirming response to my earlier observation that the AMA sponsored "hot topic" seminars on blogs was blogless. Dana kindly points me to the subsequently launched AMAblog.* Walking the walk, indeed. Whew!

Dana clarifies:
. . . our target market here is not "THE BLOGGER", but rather the professional marketing practitioner who is interested, but not yet on the bandwagon. The final 'pull onto the wagon' is our job, and now that we've got them here, we can segue into the blog world, hence the blog you're reading now.
Indeed. I have echos of Web 101 seminars of days gone by. The spirit of exciting new frontiers unfolding has returned. And it is fun.

The honeymoon phase of blog-as-marketing-communication-tool will be very short and abrupt. Unlike the early days of the web, blogging tools (software) and infrastructure (broadband) are in place. To top it off, blogging tools are easier to use (and understand!) than any publishing toolkit yet to appear. The elements are aligned for meteoric ascent.

Then what? Surveys of other domains suggest that blogging's simplicity will reveal unexpected complexities; simplicity will yield complex structures with capabilities both unpredictable and previously unknown. The 2004 U.S. presidential election cycle afforded a sampling of the potential.

Strategy that harnesses and guides this potential is a pressing task. For example:
  • How do individuals and organizations maximize the potential of this new communication media?
  • How are blogs best integrated with other tools the marketing communication mix?
  • For what marketing communication objectives are blogs best suited?
  • What unknown marketing communication tasks will blogs make apparent?
  • Will swarm management become a staple skill required to execute an integrated marketing communication program?
  • etc.
I suspect the next 6 to 12 months will prove enlightening.

* Don't get me started on AMA's bizarre branding strategy ... AMA stands for: American Medical Association, Australian Medical Association, American Management Association, American Motorcyclist Association, Academy of Model Aeronautics ... ? Beats me. And I've been a member of AMA (American Marketing Association) for about 20 years.

Google to Branch into voIP?

Intriguing speculation that Google may be set to offer free voIP calls:
Mr Hewitt added that search results could be linked to its Net phone service, which allows customers to call a company by clicking on a link. Netimperative suggest that there are many ways for Google to extract value from this service. These range from charging users by the minute to employing their AdSense model, where companies pay the cost if a customer calls from a Google advert.
Organizing all the information in the world, indeed.

Business Models for Digital Archive Access

Dan Gillmor advocates that a keyword-advertising based business model replace subscription, pay per access, or piece-rate business models for newspaper archives. I suppose Dan's logic could be extended to stock photo, and other digital archives. Dan suggests an ad-based business model may yield greater revenues and influence for the media firm. That hypothesis should certainly be tested empirically.

This has me dreaming: what about an effective automated micro-payment system, instead? Content providers would be compensated directly by those that consume their content. A dream system would enable the content creator to specify rights that are then auto negotiated. For example, a content provider might allow a journalist (or other blogger) rights to use their content for no fee. Logic? Such use amounts to promotion for the content. The system could also be configured to reward such promotional use. Perhaps the system could be configured to automatically pay, or otherwise credit, the blogger's account. This isn't too far-fetched. The "karma" counters built into some p2p networks implement a similar scheme.

Versioning offers another alternate business models. Under a versioning strategy, individuals desiring access to the latest & greatest content could pay at a rate higher than those accessing content at a later date.

A keyword advertising based business model is certainly simpler. Yet, an advertising based business model perpetuates the illusion of free content. a business model viable in the long-run?


Blogs: A New Arrow for the Marketing Communication Quiver

Some features of blogs as a marketing communication tool:
  1. Blogs are disruptive. Dan Gillmor makes a strong case that blogs are a disruptive technology reshaping business models and value chains in the news industry.
  2. Blogs are viral. RSS (i.e., XML formatted files slurped up by a reader client) speeds transmission to any and all interested.
  3. Blogs bust the richness/reach tradeoff (see also Evans & Wurster 1997 HBR) that have traditionally bounded word of mouth communications. Blogs also break the reach constraint that typified most discussion groups and usenet news groups: group membership defined the audience size and breadth of resources available. Blogs published to the web are visible to anyone with an internet connection.
  4. Blogs leverage Reed's law. Each blogger--due to his/her singular perspective-- adds unique value to the network.
  5. Blogs empower smart mob swarming. Blog swarms enable self-organized word-of-mouth buzz intensity previously unknown.
  6. The blogosphere occupies an inherently invisible mindspace.
  7. Blogs are a "high involvement" media that require relatively high levels of motivation, opportunity, and ability to process. Blog creators and readers are not not your average golden retriever.
  8. Blogs compete with all other media and non-media diversions for individual's finite attention.
  9. Blog swarms achieve visibility to the nonblog-obsessed when (if) their theme feeds back to traditional media channels.
Simplified ability to create, distribute, and identify newly created content are the features central to the blog value proposition. As a marketing communication tool, blogs afford a channel for proactive communication of timely content with strikingly little effort at exceptionally low cost. Imagine how useful blogs would have been to Johnson & Johnson when negotiating their trial by cyanide. Or for announcing product recalls. Or for announcing new products. Yes, simple announcements. Or, like Bob Lutz, as a tool for cultivating a direct link between top management and a companies end-users.

Yet, these efforts nibble around the ankles of traditional marketing communications efforts. Or do they?

Reconfiguring the Primary Ed Value Chain

Here's an intriguing way to reconfigure the primary education value chain:
A Welsh primary school is considering whether to supervise its pupils with electronic tags due to a shortage of teaching assistants.

Under the proposed system, an alarm sounds if any of the 350-pupils leave Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Lonlas Primary School, Swansea, at any point during the day.
Hmm ... I suppose supervising kids on recess is a form of inventory management.


Humor: Microsoft's AntiSpyware Tool Removes Internet Explorer

BBspot reports:
Many Microsoft Windows users who downloaded the recently released AntiSpyware program from Microsoft, or had it installed through an automatic Windows update, woke up to a surprise. Unintentionally, the heuristics of the software detected Internet Explorer as spyware, and removed the program from their systems.

AntiSpywareMicrosoft has pulled the program from its website until the problem can be corrected. Elias Weatherbee, a Microsoft representative, said the program was 'only in beta' and that 'a fix was forthcoming.' >>more>>
Ah, were it only true.


Future of Internet News?

A Slashdot thread on the Future of Internet News. Nothing too profound, but the comments provide a nice survey of the territory. I think they are missing the big point which is that an increasing number of news consumers expect customized news, something traditional dead-trees news channels can't provide.


Blog Irony: Promise vs. Practice

The American Marketing Association (AMA) has announced a "AMA Hot Topic Series" seminar titled Blogs: Marketing Beyond the Website. Despite promises to " show how to incorporate the newest internet-based strategy into your organization’s marketing plan." Seminar promotion relies on old media (web and direct mail). Visit the promotional web page (yes, literally a page) and you find standard promotional boiler plate.

What's missing? The seminar organizers don't leverage the tools the seminar claims they will show participants how to use: where is the (pre) conference blog? the RSS feed? Where is evidence the conference organziers are applying the techniques the promotional pieces claim are so essential to success in today's business environment? Absent. Rather, the message is: "do as I say, not as I do."

Spend your time more productively: read Hugh Hewitt's Blog or Dan Gillmor's We the Media..


Pew Internet Reports on Internet Evolution

Here's a round-up of Pew Internet studies on The Future of the Internet and its evolution.

Pew's biggest prediction is the expectation that the internet will be the target of massive attacks. Attacks that will prove ever more disabling as internet capabilities become further integrated with daily activities. How cheery.

The Future (and Past) of the Internet

Hmm ... now this is intriguing: Imagining the Internet - Predictions Database A real live crustal ball! Kinda.

OpenURL 1.0 TO Google Scholar Firefox Extension

I've been intrigued by Google Scholar, yet frustrated. Like a horse led to water and want's to drink: Google Scholar leads me to many interesting articles; most of which I cannot access directly. Rather, I must use my university account to log into EBSCO or other article databases, locate the articles there, then download them. Apparently, others have shared my frustrations:
OPENLY ADDS OpenURL 1.0 TO GOOGLE SCHOLAR PLUGIN: "Bloomfield, New Jersey - January 11, 2005 - Openly Informatics, Inc. (http://www.openly.com/) today announced that it had added OpenURL 1.0 support, along with several other user-friendly features, to an Open Source browser plugin extension that adds linking to web pages in the Google Scholar service.

The plug-in software, called 'OpenURL Referrer', works with the Firefox Web Browser (http://www.getfirefox.com/) and was inspired by a 'proof-of-concept' released by Peter Binkley, a librarian at the University of Alberta Libraries. Although Google Scholar can very useful for identifying the title, author, and other bibliographic information associated with an article, very often users can't use Google Scholar to access the full text of an article. This is because Google Scholar links to many articles in restricted databases that require a subscription or payment to access the full text.

Users that have installed OpenURL Referrer see added 'OpenURL' links on Google Scholar web pages. These links work with library linking systems to provide access to full-text licensed by libraries. Because OpenURL is standard developed by the scholarly information community with the support of NISO, it works with linking systems developed by many different vendors."
The OpenURL Referrer extension is free and is available under open-source license http://www.openly.com/openurlref/.

I can't wait to give it a try. Stay tuned for a user experience report.

Hat tip to ResourceShelf.

Do I Smell a MSRaT?

Microsoft released an antispyware tool last week. Today, MS released a "Malicious Software Removal Tool" which, interestingly, acronym's down to MSRat. On the one hand, it is encouraging that MS has (finally!) adopted a proactive response to the myriad nasties targeting MS's bug-laden OS and office productivity suite.

On the other hand, does MS's advance into antispyware and antivirus solutions further the MS monoculture in a way that makes systems running MS software ever more, rather than less, susceptible to disabling attack?

Disabled Chicken

Dinner tonight featured a Purdue disabled chicken. What I thought was a whole chicken turned out to be leg-less and wing-less. It did have monster breasts. Go figure. I've never seen anything like it.

On the Meaning of "This Call Will be Recorded" ...

You've likely become accostomed to hearing "this call may be monitored for quality assurance" or some such phrase when you dial into a telemarkting or telesupport center. Here are some insights into what, exactly, that means. Hat tip: SlashDot.

New Fruit Announced at MacWorld

New fruit just announced at MacWorld.

Women in Video Games

Have you ever wondered if it is possible to design into a video game "a strong female character without the requisite augmented body and sexual references. 1UP.COM does .


NPR Magic Creates the Signature NPR Sound

Brand Autopsy reveals what happens behind the curtain at the land of NPR:
Have you wondered how everyone on National Public Radio (NPR) sounds so smooth, so perfect … and so amazingly articulate?

I have.

And thanks to John Solomon of NPR’s On the Media, we now know the dark room magic tricks NPR uses to make everyone sound so smooth, so perfect, and so articulate. [You can stream the audio (real media file) or read the transcript.]

Whew! I don't feel so inarticulate now.

Attention as a Social Fact

Many2Many provides a nice primer on Attention as a Social Fact.

NYT Makes Another Shocking Discovery: Frat Boys Drink. Oh, my!

Show casing the journalistic excellence characteristic of the NYT's post Jason Blair era, Benoit Denizet-Lewis discovers frat boys (and girls) still drink. Hmm ... call me stunned.

SMS Addiction: The next "it must be caused by the genes" disorder?

A front page headline in today's NYT proclaims: Young Cell Users Rack Up Debt, a Message at a Time (link requires free reg). I have to wonder: is it just a matter of time before SMS Addiction becomes the next "major" genetic disorder?


Does Internet-Connectedness Drive serendipity?

From SocialSoftwareWebLog;

In an latimes.com article dated January 9, 2005, Lynell George quotes Friendster’s Jonathan Abrams as saying that Friendster offers ways to “proactively influence serendipity.”

Hm, not my experience of Friendster but, Jonathan goes on to say: “You can be manipulating serendipity to make more efficient use of your social time…. Instead of looking for women who are this height and are ‘equally comfortable in jeans as in a cocktail dress,’ you can stumble upon people by their interests. You can drive serendipity.”

Drive serendipity?
Judith is sanguine, suggesting that our internet-connectedness is constrained by our email address book, buddy list, virtual office connectees, etc. I suppose. This suggests that a degree of membership openness is necessary for externally infused serendipity. Yet, I think Judith under-estimates (or is so embedded in that she can't see) the power of our various social networks running through the same medium. I IM with students, other faculty, friends, my wife, and my kids. Each of those networks is often active on my desktop simultaneously. That yields the potential for me to experience serendipitous connections.


Microsoft Product Announcement Bigfoots Symantec and McAffee Share Prices

While I take it as good news that Microsoft is offering Anti-sphere Tool:
The biggest software company in the world made a trial version of its free anti-spyware tool available on its website in a bid to increase the security of its dominant Windows operating system. Next week, it was expected to release a virus-removal program to round out the security package.

The anti-spyware software eliminates programs that generate unwanted pop-up ads and secretly record a computer user's activities, often crippling computer performance. The program was developed by Giant Company Software Inc., which Microsoft acquired last month.

Shares of the two largest computer-security-software vendors, Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc., fell sharply after Microsoft released details of its plans.
I am less excited about Microsoft entering the antivirus market. On the one hand, they can't afford not to, given the myriad weaknesses of MS Windows and Office. OTOH, by entering the anti-virus space, Microsoft furthers the mono-culture that has proven so suspectible to compromise. Put that way, maybe it isn't such a good idea for Microsoft to enter the anti-spyware space either.

UPDATE: MotleyFool echos my concerns:

Ultimately, the irony would run thick if Microsoft does manage to make a splash in the antivirus space. Not only is its operating system more susceptible to virtual misdeeds than Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL), but now it finds ways to profit from those deficiencies.

Ouch. That inoculation needle hurts!

Ouch, indeed! Ironically, by offering anti-virus software with update subscriptions Microsoft has incentive to make its operating system and other software even more vulnerable.

CNNMoney hits the nail in raising possible resistence by consumer and business markets:

But will consumers pony up to buy anti-virus software from the same company whose own operating system is so vulnerable to security lapses in the first place?

"For more sophisticated users, it's a small price to pay to get security that you know works from a vendor who has been doing it for 15 to 20 years. It's a different ball game for Microsoft who is not known for security," said Gregg Moskowitz, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group.

Kevin Trosian, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities, adds that large business customers will be skeptical of a Microsoft security software product because of the high number of security problems that have plagued corporate networks during the past few years.

"The disdain and contempt that enterprise customers have for the security lapses means it is likely they will not be rabid adopters of a Microsoft anti-virus product," Trosian said.

UPDATE 2: Flexbeta compares MS's new toy against Spy-Bot and Ad-Aware and concludes:

Though still in beta, Microsoft AntiSpyware was able to detect more infected files than the current leading anti-spyware applications in the market today, Ad-Aware and SpyBot S&D. AntiSpyware’s user interface is better looking than both SpyBot and Ad-Aware, not to mention much easier to use than SpyBot. Though Microsoft AntiSpyware was able to use better detection than both Ad-Aware and SpyBot, there is still the difference of cost between the three. Ad-Aware and SpyBot offer great performance for free, yet when Microsoft debuts its AntiSpyware application, it will require a subscription fee. Is Microsoft AntiSpyware really worth the subscription fee when there are currently good spyware removal applications out there that will do it for free? My answer to that question would be, if you can afford the fee, it is absolutely worth it; however, if you chose to use Microsoft AntiSpyware as your spyware removal tool, you will still need to run other tools such as Ad-Aware and SpyBot.

Blogs Replace Static Newsletters

What a great idea! Georgia State University Library reports on their use blogs to replace static newsletters:
To deliver information about library news, services and resources to the science faculty and students at Georgia State University, several librarians developed a blog, Science News. Despite the increasing popularity of blogs (or weblogs), few libraries have taken advantage of what they offer. Blogs can be updated easily, frequently and continuously, making them an appealing alternative to static newsletters. This article summarizes the librarians? rationale for moving to this dynamic format, how the technology was balanced with the needs of the librarians and patrons, and the issues and challenges that are being addressed to ensure that this will be a viable and successful newsdelivery system.' Article by Teri M. Vogel and Doug Goans will appear in Volume 10, Issue 1 of Internet Reference Services Quarterly, expected publication in March 2005.
Blog as newsletter substitute could generalize to all sorts of applications.

Has the Internet Disintermediated Libraries? Apparently Not

Internet threat to libraries analyzed
"A major national study conducted by the School of Informatics and the Urban Libraries Council found five years ago that increased Internet use in the U.S. had not produced a reduction in the public use of libraries. The study presented a new consumer model of the U.S. adult market for library and Internet services, one that consisted of "information seekers" who used both resources, but in different ways. With Internet use continuing to grow by leaps and bounds, the UB researchers now are poised to undertake a much larger national study to see what, if any, changes have taken place over the past five years." Hat tip to ResourceShelf.

Wacky Warning Label Contest Winners

Some consumer warning labels are so well done that they deserve special awards: Consider the label attached to a toilet brush that admonishes: "Do not use for personal hygiene.". Um, yeah. Or the "This product moves when used" label fastened to a scooter. I'd sure hope so. Then there's the oblique "Once used rectally, the thermometer should not be used orally." Unclear is whether the converse is admissible.

Thanks to the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch for sponsoring this educational contest. Have you found a wacky warning label? Submit it here.

Jeff Bezos on Amazon's Anti-Wal-Mart Strategy

Wal-Mart's strategy is to sell what sells: high volume SKUs stay on the shelves, low volume SKUs are discontinued. In contrast, hard-to-find low-volume products are Amazon's bread-and-butter (and why I love Amazon.com). Check out this excerpt from Wired magazines interview with Jeff Bezos:
WIRED: Does Amazon actually create demand for hard-to-find products?

BEZOS: Absolutely. We not only help readers find books, we also help books find readers, with personalized recommendations based on the patterns we see. I remember one of the first times this struck me. The main book on the page was on Zen. There were other suggestions for Zen books, and in the middle of those was a book on how to have a clutter-free desk. That's not something that a human editor would have ever picked. But statistically, the people who were interested in the Zen books also wanted clutter-free desks. The computer is blind to the fact that these things are dissimilar in some way that's important to humans. It looks right through that and says yes, try this. And it works.
Read the rest of the interview.

Are Citizen Consumers Writing a Brand's First Draft?

Are Citizen Journalists Writing History's First Draft? Dan Gillmor thinks so:
We used to call mainstream journalism the 'first draft of history.' Now, I'd argue, much of that first draft is being written by citizen journalists. And what they're telling us is powerful indeed.
Switch contexts to grassroots product evangilism, and we have the makings for a transformed marketing landscape in which citizen consumers create a product's the first (and continuing?) story. Will branding ever be the same?


CDs: Preferred Format and Growing Sales More Talent or Fewer P2P Grannies?

The BBCreports:
US CD sales rose by 2.3% in 2004 - the first rise in four years - despite the growing popularity of legal digital music downloads.

The CD format still accounts for 98% of the 666 million albums sold, according to research company Nielsen Soundscan.

A total of 140 million digital tracks were legally downloaded last year, equivalent to 14 million albums.

R&B star Usher was the biggest-selling artist with his album Confessions selling eight million copies alone.

Other top sellers of the year were Norah Jones, Eminem and country stars Kenny Chesney and Gretchen Wilson.
Hmm ... did 2004's extra abundance of compelling talent entice more folks to purchase CDs this year? Nah. It must be because the RIAA has now sued enough grannies to stem the flow illegal file sharing. Yep, that must be it.

The Register weighs in:
CD sales rebounded for the first time in four years in the United States in 2004, according to Nielsen Soundscan, defying the predictions of big label executives. Overall music sales rose 1.6 per cent over 2003 but CD sales, which account for 98 per cent of all new music sold, saw a 2.6 per cent increase.

The new music stores contributed next to nothing directly: just 0.033 per cent, or 1 in 3000 album sales were Net downloads. Nielsen says 140.9 million tracks were sold through the "Nappletizers" - new music stores such as Apple's iTunes Music Store, and Napster, compared to 666.7 million physical CDs. Universal and Sony BMG accounted for 58.7 per cent of internet downloads between them.

But such figures are dwarfed by the P2P networks: over a billion tracks are downloaded each month, according to some estimates.

Is there a correlation between the new music services and a renewed interest in buying CDs? Are downloaders getting physical?

Evidence in the UK suggests that 92 per cent of people who bought from an online store preferred CDs. Hardly surprising, as the real thing sounds better, allows you to share the music with friends and you have something tangible at the end of the day. That's a lot of advantages to something that costs about the same, or in the case of discount CDs, is much cheaper.

Who wants to pay more to get less? ®

iTunes SOV Bites Apple

Apple's remarkable share of voice (SOV) in the portable digital music player space has attracted my comment before (here and here). BBC NEWS reports that Apple's SOV has ironic consequences:
A user of Apple's iTunes music service is suing the firm saying it is unfair he can only use an iPod to play songs.
This claim is central to the filing:
Apple has turned an open and interactive standard into an artifice that prevents consumers from using the portable hard drive digital music player of their choice,"
Could Apple's amazing (and unjustified IMO) SOV be responsible for this bloke's apparent belief that iTunes is the only source for digital music downloads; that he appears unaware that non iPod centric online music stores exist? Ironic indeed.

Pardon me while I download Brian Wilson's newest album Smile from Wal-Mart's music store and load it onto my Dell DJ20.

Microsoft Goes SpyWare Hunting (free beta)

Feeling the heat, Microsoft made available today Free AntiSpyware (caution beta). Can a Microsoft branded anti-virus solution be far behind?

It is about time Microsoft assumed responsibility for the vulnerabilities in the Windows and IE software that empower spyware and viri. But, is it too late? Has the accumulated aggravation reached such a crescendo that those of us migrating to alternate platforms (e.g., Firefox) will never migrate back? OTOH, after swearing off Windows Media player when it was in version 1 or 2, I'm now a reconvert. The tipping point? When MusicMatch--my previous jukebox steady--delivered a very buggy version 9 which crashed incessantly.

Women Will be Women and Men will be Neanderthals

A reminder that gender stereotypes run deep -- Diets - a guy and girl thing?:
When men watch their weight, they may do it differently than women.
But the recent low-carb revolution has changed the diet landscape, argues Amy Bentley, an associate professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. Bentley says high-protein mania has made dieting politically correct for men. A guy feels manly if he can go out in public and carve up a hunk of red meat at dinner.
Yep, the men as Neanderthals stereotype lives on. Sigh.

US Consumer On-Line Spending for Christmas: $23.2 Billion

Online Spending Christmas 2005:
US online consumers blew $23.2bn in the run-up to Christmas - a rise of 25 per cent from a year ago. Most of the cash went on clothing, toys, video games and consumer electronics, while items like jewellery, flowers and computer gear made big gains.


Photo Convergence: Kodak Integrates WiFi into Digital P&S Cameras and Printers

Imagine a digital camera with unlimited picture capacity. It's here! Kodak has introduced a WiFi enabled digital p&s camera: "The new Kodak Easyshare-One camera allows users to e-mail pictures directly from the camera via Wi-Fi ((802.11b Wireless LAN). In addition to this, users can also view online albums directly on the 3' touch screen display. The images can be stored on the Kodak Easyshare Gallery service, the new brand for Kodak's Ofoto service. An automatic software update service will also be available so users can update their cameras on-line."

With reveneus from film, processing, and prints declining rapidly, Kodak is striving boost the number of prints folks make from their digital snaps. Integrating WiFi is an intriguing approach to narrowing the chasm between pressing the shutter and hard-copy prints.

Another report here.

Granted, Canon introduced WiFi capabilities for the EOS 1Ds Mark II Digital SLR body a year ago, but to have WiFi embedded in a p&s is startling.

UPDATE: DP Review has more.


Can Blogs Survive w/o the MSM?

While contemplating the critiques of the MSM by Dan Gillmor and others, this random thought passed through my brain: An enormous volume of blog posts on social and political issues pivot off of articles published in MSM outlets. Given this, would blogging on social and political issues be as rich were it not for these foils?

How To Start A Blog

A very nice series on How to Start a Blog: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV. What you do from there is up to you.

Hat tip to Instapundit


Digital Cameras are Mainstream

According to the recently completed 2003-2004 PMA Industry Trends Report: Retail Markets
digital camera sales are estimated to have grown 30 percent in 2004 to 25.1 million units and accounted for 67 percent of all camera sales. Digital camera penetration is expected to be slightly above 40 percent of the U.S.household population compared to almost 30 percent in 2003.

That' s impressive!

The summary continues:
Adoption of printing services lagged behind that of digital cameras, but as consumers became interested in printing their digital images a variety of home and retail printing options have emerged and the number of digital prints made has rapidly grown. In 2004, digital prints are estimated to have reached 4.9 billion prints and are projected to grow 51 percent in 2005 to 7.4 billion and account for 28 percent of total print volume. Total print volume-which includes home printing-was down in 2004, but in 2005 it is expected to remain flat at 26.3 billion prints. Printing of traditional film and digital prints at retail, however, will fall from 23.2 to 22.4 billion prints. So, while retail digital printing will grow it will not offset retail volume losses of traditional film processing.

Looking to the future, after digital camera sales peak, retailers will need to continue to focus on sales of consumables and accessories. And as digital cameras become the primary camera for most households, continuous innovation of printing and services will be necessary for retailers to continue to generate revenue. In addition to growing the number of prints made, retailers will need to stimulate usage of unprinted images through new sharing and custom product options. If retailers do not continuously improve their offerings, some images will go unused and more consumers may choose to print at home.

With online photo sharing (e.g., www.flickr.com), email, the ability to view photos on portable devices (e.g., PDAs), internet enabled photo frames, etc., I predict the number of prints made will decline significantly before it plateaus out; people have fewer reasons to make prints than before. (UPDATE 17 Jan 2005: More on Photo Sharing Sites from Wired and SocialSoftwareWeblog).

I predict increasing sales of products customized with a digital image (e.g., calendars, mugs, shirts, etc.) because it is easier to have these products made than before. OTOH, I suspect these products yield better profit than prints.


Blogs: The Killer App?

Are blogs the killer app we've been waiting for? The app through which the potential of the internet as a communication medium makes a quantum leap? All the hoopla directed at blogs lately (quick round-up here, quantified here with more here) suggests a killer app blogs may be.

To be clear, the blog per-se isn't the killer app. Rather it is the software--Blogger, Bloglines, movable Type, Gray Matter--that make blogging relatively simple that is the true engine. The ease of creating and maintaining a blog has increased dramatically. Opportunity for further simplification is still rampant, to be sure. One still needs to have rudimentary HTML knowledge, for example, to manage a blog. As blogging and feed aggregating software approach the ease of use that characterize MS Word or a typical web browser, blogs will be well poised to achieve saturation.

Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

Check out Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. While you are at it, check out his philosophy, too. Wonderful stuff.

VoIP Assessed and Predictions

Curious about the recent past and predicted future of VoIP? Check out One Look Back, Two Steps Forward A user's guide to the VoIP revolution.

How fast will TVoIP sprout?

When Manufactured WOM Goes Sour

What happens when a manufactured word of mouth (WOM) campaign is wounded by a weak product? Brand Autopsy dissects BzzAgent.

Dan Gillmor Practices What He Preaches

In We the Media, Dan Gillmor outlines the virtues of blog-enabled grassroots journalism. Effective the beginning of this year, Dan left his "tenured" job at the San Jose Mercury News to pursue the emergent self-organizing journalism outlined so well in his book. Here's what Dan says about the transition. Best of luck Dan!

I wonder: is grassroots value creation on the horizon?

The State of Blogging

Pew Internet has released their report on The State of Blogging. Here's the : abstract:
"By the end of 2004 blogs had established themselves as a key part of online culture. Two surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in November established new contours for the blogosphere: 8 million American adults say they have created blogs; blog readership jumped 58% in 2004 and now stands at 27% of internet users; 5% of internet users say they use RSS aggregators or XML readers to get the news and other information delivered from blogs and content-rich Web sites as it is posted online; and 12% of internet users have posted comments or other material on blogs. Still, 62% of internet users do not know what a blog is.

The full report is available here (pdf format).

Is Broadband Microsoft's Biggest Threat?

Is the expanding adoption of broadband Microsoft's biggest Threat? Mike Thinks so:
More users than ever use broadband connections at home these days. Though it will take time, these connections will do nothing but get faster. With companies figuring out seemingly every day how to cram more information down the same pipes, and new options like fixed wireless and fiber to the door becoming available, connectivity options for the average consumer are ever-expanding, and with them, the speeds available.

This spells the doom of the modern computer, and the modern operating system as we know it
Read the rest. Hat tip to Slashdot.