Archive for March 2007

Photowalk in Carpenteria � Photowalk: Carpinteria Tide Pools Trevor Carpenter is putting together a photowalk to shoot the Carpenteria tide pools this afternoon. I won’t be able to make it from San Francisco, but if you are around there and want to do some shooting, by all means, check it out.

Giant Burgers to Go

Giant Burgers to Go

The Beauty of Morning on the Western Coast

The Beauty of Morning on the Western CoastThe Beauty of Morning on the Western Coast Hosted on Zooomr

So it Looks Like Is Going to Be a Jackass and Sue Statsaholic

Alexa – Web Discovery Machine: Alexaholic/Statsaholic Just got done reading what I thought was a pretty lame blog post over at the Alexa blog. Alexa, for those of you who don’t know, is a subsidiary of Amazon bought Alexa for $250 million in stock back in the hey day. It was originally started in part by Brewster Kahle, the hero who took a bunch of his money and built the Internet Archive… but I digress.

Let’s suspend the debate for the moment about how lame Alexa is because it doesn’t include Firefox data, how erroneous there numbers are, etc. etc. etc. It’s free and it’s what we have to live with for the time being.

What’s got me pissed off today is that Amazon is threatening on their blog to sue some small time guy who built a really cool mash up of their service.

The site in question is statsaholic (formerly alexaholic) created by Ron Hornbaker and it’s a far better way to browse Alexa graphs than Alexa themselves.

From the Alexa blog:

“Alexa doesn’t take the decision to bring legal action lightly but will do so when required. We’ll pursue this issue aggressively and intend to recover the Alexaholic URL and to ensure that Mr. Hornbaker is held accountable for misappropriating our graphs and data.”

I’m a customer of — at Zooomr we use their S3 and EC2 service. And as a customer I have to say that I think these kind of hard handed tactics from a $16 billion company put Amazon in a bad light. Lots of start ups use the S3 and EC2 service and maybe it’s just me but I can’t imagine many of them would want to be put on the receiving end of that blog post.

The thing I think that gets me the most is that basically Alexa is built on free labor. It’s built on the dreaded “user generated content.” Alexa has suckered tons of IE users — perhaps easier to sucker than Firefox users 😉 — into installing their toolbar and basically providing them free research. Are the toolbar users compensated for this data? No.

But then Amazon wants to take that data and in turn restrict who can pull data from their site to repackage it in a better way. And then to top it off they want to bash a small time company publicly from their blog. Very unbecoming of a company that is courting many small companies for business with S3.

If Amazon were smart they would work things out with Ron. By shining this kind of attention, by the way, it only makes his venture that much more successful. I also blogged yesterday how with a simple Firefox tweak you can get statsaholic back.

Amazon is being a bully on this one and I think it’s going to backfire.

Update: Mike Arrington has a post out on this as well.

10-second Fix to Get Your Alexaholic Back

(now called Statsaholic) is a much superior way to browse Alexa graphs than on Alexa itself. Recently though Alexa decided to block Alexaholic from their graphs.

Maybe instead of spending so much time screwing with Alexaholic, they should just develop a better interface on their own site themselves.

Anyways, if you use Firefox Ron Hornbaker has a post on a 10 second fix to get your Alexaholic/Statsaholic graphs back.

Thanks Ron!

The Beauty of Neon Signs

Cheating HeartsCheating Hearts Hosted on Zooomr

Super Signage I found this website today called Super Signage. One of my most favorite things to shoot is neon signs. I’m currently working on building the largest personally shot collection of neon images in the world. I’m sure that there are many people out there with significantly larger collections than I have, but I’m just getting started on this project really. It’s part of my longer-term goal of collecting a finished library of over 500,000 photographs before I die.

To see a start of this project for me, you can check out this set of mine called “Neon Days and Neon Nights” on Flickr.

Anyways, this site has chronicled many of the greatest of the vintage neon signs that are out there. If you like neon signs it’s definitely worth checking out.

Another place to check out some fantastic old signs is tspauld’s set on Flickr of “Other California Signs.”

Photbucket Profiled by Fortune

Photobucket is the most popular picture site online – Mar. 28, 2007 Photobucket is a pretty amazing machine. They purposely avoid the community stuff that places like Flickr and Zooomr look for while focusing pretty much exclusively on hosting images — many of which end up on MySpace and Facebook.

Fortune profiles the company and what they are up to at the link above. Arrington says that Lehman brothers is trying to sell the company for $300 to $400 million. I’d think Fox Interactive would be the most logical buyer.

Just last week Tabblo (another photo sharing site) was purchased for an undisclosed amount (likely north of $6 million) by HP.

Three Ways to Make Microsoft’s Media Center Better

Earlier today I wrote about the superiority of Microsoft’s XBox 360 as a home media delivery device over Apple’s iDongle. Media Center does still need some work and following are three suggestions on how they can make their platform even more kick ass.

1. Fix the problems that MCE has with large audio mp3 collections (people’s music collections are getting larger and larger). This has been an ongoing problem for years.

2. Offer more robust long tail integration with online video offerings. What I mean by this is that I should be able to subscribe to various online video content (Scoble’s Podtech shows, Look Shiny, Chris Pirillo, etc.) and this content should (optionally) actually be aggregated in with my content recorded from my TV. Just like I get a season pass to the Sopranos on my Media Center PC, I should also be able to get a season pass to Scoble’s video content and see this programming on the same recently recorded video screen.

As part of this initiative Microsoft should offer a new publishing platform for free similar to TiVo’s Home Movies option that they announced yesterday.

3. Microsoft needs a “discover” section in Media Center. Discover would consist of three new areas. Discover Video, Discover Music, and Discover Photos.

Discover Video would be used in conjunction with Soapbox and possibly other video services (Digg Video, Vimeo, YouTube, etc.) and would use open APIs and your social data around your user experiences on these sites to suggest interesting video content that you might want to consume.

Discover Music would be used in conjunction with Pandora or LastFM (or a similar Microsoft built system if they could build one) where you could essentially tune into interesting new music on your Xbox 360. Microsoft should buy either Pandora or LastFM by the way.

Discover Photos. Ok, here I’m obviously biased because I run a photo sharing site, and in the interest of not coming across as sounding like I’m suggesting to Microsoft to buy Zooomr, lets just say that there are some very interesting things that Microsoft could do to serve up fantastic photos to viewers.

One of the problems with photos on the MCE platform at present is that they are just limited to *your* photos. There is a lame pay GalleryPlayer option to get great digital art for slide shows, but content as good could be aggregated through a photo sharing site for free. Microsoft should either build this or buy this.

A cool photo sharing site could run on it’s own through MSN but could also provide optionally highly personalized wall art for the high def plasmas that are filling up our home. The key is to aggregate this art in such a way that each user is uniquely served up photos and art through a slide show (to go with the great music recommendation service from Pandora or Last FM). This would go a long way towards automating a pretty cool audio visual discovery experience on the Media Center PC.

Remember Back in November When Thomas Hawk Said the XBox 360 Would Be How Microsoft Would Own Your Living Room?

Microsoft Unveils Xbox 360 Elite: Premium black console includes 120GB hard drive and line of new accessories. Remember back in November when Thomas Hawk (yes that’s me) wrote that the XBox 360 would represent Microsoft’s Trojan Horse (in a good way, not in a virus way) into your living room?

Well today Microsoft took one step closer towards their master plan of living room domination with the powerful secret weapon in their popular XBox 360 gaming unit, it’s extender functionality. Today Microsoft announced the upcoming availability of the XBox 360 Elite which will include a 120GB hard drive and will increasingly be marketed and positioned as an entertainment hub even more than a gaming machine.

And I have to say it’s brilliant. I’m glad to see Microsoft taking a more aggressive position with regards to the XBox 360 as a home media distribution platform. I’m sure that in part this marketing message has been crafted to counter Apple’s recently released iDongle for your TV.

So what’s the major advantage that XBox 360 has over AppleTV? It’s simple really. 90% of it comes down to HDTV. People continually underestimate the importance of HDTV. Microsoft is much further ahead than Apple in the ability to deliver HD content to your living room. Apple’s picture quality looks like crap. And there seem to be no obvious plans for Apple to begin offering a cable/satellite based DVR solution for their Apple TV initiative any time soon.

Microsoft, on the other hand, will very shortly have available new Vista machines (and upgrading with a new PC is probably the best way to upgrade to Vista) that work with CableLabs approved HDTV tuners. These HDTV tuners will allow you to record premium HDTV content from your cable provider to your Media Center PC and then ship this high quality programming to any TV in your house equipped with an XBox 360.

What’s more, best I can tell, there will be no additional charges from your cable company beyond the typical service charge to distribute to multi rooms in your house.

At present, although Apple may be sexy and have marketing and advertising prowess that Microsoft can only dream of, they just can’t compete with the superiority of the XBox 360 as a home media hub.

And even if you don’t want HDTV, the XBox 360 will work with any XP or Vista machine equipped with a standard definition TV tuner. Since most people already pay a cable or satellite provider for TV service, recording this content on your Media Center PC involves very little additional cost. Getting this content to your living room without having to buy it and pay additional to iTunes represents real value.

Although a lot of people talk about a la carte pricing being better than cable or satellite monthly bills, very few people are abandoning their cable or satellite provider yet. And because the Media Center PC / Xbox combo can use your existing cable or satellite signal your content effectively becomes free vs. paid at Apple.

On top of it all, the XBox 360 is a kick ass gaming platform. I never thought I’d appreciate this as much as I do now that I own one.

Negotiating the Sale of Your Photographs

Dan Heller’s Photography Business Blog: Negotiation 101: start with “who owns what”: Dan Heller has a great write up on how to negotiate the contracts and playing field that comes along with selling your photographs. A great read if you’ve sold or plan on selling your photos in the future.