News

Facebook sorry, Hulu the future?, New Airline Tech, 10 rules for startup success, Tetris iMaxMaxMax

Facebook Apologises
Facebook’s Beacon advertising model has drawn the ire of privacy campaigners since its announcement last month. The controversial Ad model, which effectively enables facebook users to share their web activities with friends and thereby give advertisers another viral marketing angle, was not able to be switched off by users until today. Via a blog posting from CEO Mark Zuckerberg he today apologised saying “About a month ago, we released a new feature called Beacon to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web. We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.”

Hulu the future of online video?
Still in Beta, invite-only stage, the joint venture between NBC and News Corp has offered high definition full-screen (H.264) video to its beta testers for the first time, without the need for standalone viewers (e.g. Joost) and using compression that is suitable for broadband speeds. With this kind of backing we might be peeking at not only the future of online video, but of home entertainment in general.

New Airline Tech
Courtesy of Engadget, Continental airlines will trial Mobile phone boarding passes from next month.

10 Rules for Startup Success

Courtesy of TechCrunch and the Financial Times, Loic Le Meur has released his Ten Rules for Startup Success. I couldn’t agree with them more, and they are:

  1. Don’t wait for a revolutionary idea. It will never happen. Just focus on a simple, exciting, empty space and execute as fast as possible
  2. Share your idea. The more you share, the more you get advice and the more you learn. Meet and talk to your competitors.
  3. Build a community. Use blogging and social software to make sure people hear about you.
  4. Listen to your community. Answer questions and build your product with their feedback.
  5. Gather a great team. Select those with very different skills from you. Look for people who are better than you.
  6. Be the first to recognise a problem. Everyone makes mistakes. Address the issue in public, learn about and correct it.
  7. Don’t spend time on market research. Launch test versions as early as possible. Keep improving the product in the open.
  8. Don’t obsess over spreadsheet business plans. They are not going to turn out as you predict, in any case.
  9. Don’t plan a big marketing effort. It’s much more important and powerful that your community loves the product.
  10. Don’t focus on getting rich. Focus on your users. Money is a consequence of success, not a goal.

Tetris iMaxMaxMax
This is genius. Those wacky Finnish students are at it again, converting an entire university dorm building into a giant Tetris game.

– Ben Prendergast

More gadgets for Christmas.

I had so much fun browser-window-shopping last week I thought I’d follow up with ten more favourites.This time, they may not fit under your tree or within your budget, but here goes:

1. Dreamcade Arcade Cabinet:
http://www.dreamarcades.com/100inch.shtml

Sate your inner 8-year old with this baby! Compatible with projectors and most consoles.

2. Star Wars USB flash drives from Mimoco
http://lab.mimoco.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=13

3. Sphericle Speaker Set
http://www.partsexpress.com/projectshowcase/Sphericles/index.cfm

4. The Amazon Kiundle – eBook Reader – The Literal iPod.
http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-Reading-Device/dp/B000FI73MA

5. Another Sadistic Alarm Clock:
http://www.americaninnovative.com/products/neverlate-exec.php#

Set 7-days worth of specific wake-up times, including which station/buzzer to set off, and an anti-snooze function.

6. A Philips Hi-Res CT Scanner
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7112688.stm

At this time of year its time to take a look deep-inside ourselves.

7. Noon Solars Solar powered Backpack – Get your geek-on and your gadgets charged.
http://www.engadget.com/2007/11/26/noon-solars-stylish-bag-collection-charges-your-gizmos/

8. Akai Headrush – Guitar loop/memory pedal, for the digital one man (or woman) band.
http://www.dolphinmusic.co.uk/page/shop/flypage/product_id/5529
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIO2qpSsUTA

9. A hard core macbook metal jacket
http://www.kkshimura.com/export_pc_price.html

For when you’re designing, say, a logo for the Taliban.

10. Christmas night Carols, replete with plasma screen and surround sound.
http://www.engadget.com/2007/11/26/media-center-meets-piano-results-are-questionable/
“Gather round kids, and we’ll play oh come all ye faithful, followed by some Bluray Die Hard!”

– Ben Prendergast

How to spend $100 on the guy who has everything

On my wife’s side of the family we do this Kris Kringle type deal each Christmas, where you pull a name from a hat and spend $100 on that person. Being the kind of guy that doesn’t really wait for Christmas before buying that must-have accessory, my annual gift is usually marked “Dear Impossibloke, buy less stuff next year mkay? Love Kris Kringle”. This year however we’re nominating some gifts (kind of like a gift exchange program, I don’t know why we don’t just buy ourselves a $100 gift each year, but I digress).

Admittedly I thought this would be a difficult undertaking, but sure enough Google was quick to direct me to 10 gifts that would sate my little scientist. If you know someone like me, or me, buy us one of these.

1. A Polar RS100 Heart Rate monitor – For those who like to measure pain incrementally.

2. FIFA 08 for xbox360/ps3/wii (NOT FIFA 2007, FIFA 08! There’s a difference) for when your thumbs need a workout.

3. Armani Attitude Pour Homme mens cologne – Via Strawberrynet.com, Another great fragrance from Armani.

4. Black Leather driving gloves- The one thing I couldn’t find anywhere on the web. Little Help?

5. Kenneth Cole Watch

6. An Eco Sphere – Seamonkeys for big boys

7. An Ebay BMX
That’s right, every good boy deserves an old school mongoose, complete with padding and optional spokey dokeys. Seriously though, all blokes should have a knock-around bike, even if just to “ghosty” into the christmas tree

8. A sadistic looking knife-block (We have these knives, they’re actually really good).

9. An alarm clock with an anti-snooze facility (read: it runs away)

10. A SOG multi-tool (Insert satisfied male grunt here)
For when you absolutely, positively have to cut/saw/squeeze/measure/pinch/poke/open/repair/kill something.

– Ben Prendergast

Leopard, more readers online, Facebook Ads, Digg for sale.

News from the IT world doesn’t come any bigger this week, here are some of the top stories:

Apple Launches Leopard, no kitten!
I won’t review the new features here, other than to say the new version at $150 bux is well worth the coin, in terms of personal efficiency you can’t beat Time machine for keeping your info safe, Quick Look for speeding up review of files, Mail improvements for bringing your to-dos into line, Spaces for keeping your various work roles split neatly, Boot Camp for running those pesky Windows apps. But in addition its the little things like having wikipedia entries linked to your dictorianary (apple click any word anywhere to gain clarity) or being able to quickly google map an address book entry. While some criticize the update as being a service pack, I’m here to say Apple are still the leaders in inspired software development.

NY Times says: More readers trading Newspapers for Web Sites
That’s right, treehuggers should be happy to note that newspaper sales are on the decline while online readership is on the up. Now if only I can get a raise.

Facebook Ads – Having your cake and feed your friends too.
Big news on the Facebook front, with the social media company announcing an ambitious new ad infrastructure that will allow advertisers to target specific demographics whilst presumably (it will be launched tomorrow morning our time) allowing a brand-based referral network. While social referral isn’t new, the notion that the estimated 25 million daily users of facebook be presented by brand messages from their trusted friends offers a new and potentially highly profitable revenue stream, akin to Google Adwords or YouTube’s embedded ads. This morning, there’s already a backlash

Digg, the online news ranking site close to sale
One of the internet’s more popular blog ranking site is close to a US$300-$400m sale to a ‘major media player”. Rupert? Is that you?

– Ben Prendergast

Oink, GoogleNielsen, MicroFace, more

A menagerie of musings this week, if you’ll indulge me:

1. Things heat up in the war on Piracy, Oink in a Sty.

Aurgh me matey, or should I say Oink! In certain circles the Oink online file sharing service was a well known source for pirated record releases, often pre-release albums that were available to invited users only. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry some 60 albums were provided this year alone. Given the closed nature of the service, it was difficult to pinpoint any wrongdoing, however after being infiltrated by Dutch/UK officials (seemingly by performing a Whois query on the domain name to determine the proprietors address, funny that!) a 24 year old has been taken into custody and the site has been suspended.

2. Holiday Shopping heats up, according to Hitwise, but which are the more popular online categories?

I love the Hitwise guys (an Aussie entrepreneurial success story in its own right) and in this analysis they look at the popular online shopping categories leading up to the holiday season, with some predictions for 2007.

3. Microsoft and Facebook get cosy

This week penultimate social networking site Facebook expands its advertising deal with Microsoft to cover international markets. In addition, Microsoft will take an equity stake in Facebook (now valued at US$15b) and in doing so will gain access to Facebook’s nearly 50 million users. Do you have a facebook account? I must admit I’ve found it more valuable than I would have thought, perhaps not professionally (LinkedIn is my preferred choice there) but certainly in reconnection with old friends.

4. Can Google Track TV Audiences like never before?

Google and Nielsen Company will strike a deal this week to create a ‘vivid and more accurate snapshot’ of how many people are viewing commercials in real time, along with who those people are. A marketers dream, a libertarian’s nightmare, the natural progression in my mind might be to screen a Holden Ute commercial during Renevation Rescue and if the viewer is a tradesman book them in for a test drive. Or something. Oh I know, how about canceling shows like Viva Laughin BEFORE the first adbreak? Now theres some viewing democracy right there!

5. NASA Sat Pictures of the Southern Californian Fires

Courtesy of Treehugger blog and NASA, The National Interagency Fire Center reports that 12 large, uncontained fires have burned over 335,000 acres in Southern California.

6. A little design sexiness, Aaron Tang’s “Wall Stairs”

You know I’m a sucker for a well thought out idea, and here Aaron has created a simple pull out stair case. I want one! It doesn’t even have to go anywhere.

– Ben Prendergast

In Rainbows, and other pots of gold.

18 October 2007

In Rainbows: Hows it doing?
Radiohead this week released their online-only record “In Rainbows”, pricing it at US$as-much-as-you-want-to-pay, and subsequently took in an estimated US$9m in sales (average of 4 GBP per download) in its first few days. This might not sound like much, but it is, when you consider that most major artists only make around $1-3 per record. I love these guys, just a really great band, kicking it with a really great album, representing a cause (record industry reform) just as vehemently as their rock-and-roll forefathers might have. It does beg the question though, was the album named for an available domain name? Life imitating art imitating domain name registration.

iPhone to be opened for third party apps.
Chalk one up for the customer today, with Apple announcing they will offer a Software Development Kit for the iPhone by February. After months of negative feedback on the closed-system, its great to see another step toward an open mobile computing infrastructure.

Skype hits 10m concurrent users, partners with MySpace
Global IP-Phone giant Skype this week announced a partnership with MySpace, allowing 110 million active users to make free calls. Also this week I hear mention of Naked ADSL plans. The decline of the home phone? I know I recently canceled my home phone line in favour of a Melbourne-based Skype number ($12 per year sounds like a good phone plan?).

Facebook all set to take on LinkedIn
Facebook this week announced it will be targeting commercial users looking to network, which represents a fair challenge on the commercial networking site LinkedIn.com

Wooster Collective – This week represents Melbourne Street Art
I thought I’d also add some light-hearted street-art culture to this here tech blog, courtesy of the fantastic Wooster Collective blog.
This week they bring us two Melbourne corporate crate-people attempting to go AWOL (Liberal Party Front benchers?). Also checkout the drain-people piece, inspired!

– Ben Prendergast

Small things, CrossFit, Popurls, etc.

This week I thought I’d take a look at another round of web oddities:

1. http://www.popurls.com
Always last to hear of that great new internet site/story/video/drama/fad (if you can’t make it to my blog that is)? Popurls is like a Top 40 chart for interpop-culture.


2. Check out Nokia’s Small World Contest, A Gallery of Beautiful Tiny Things



3. http://www.crossfit.com
Gym junkies, Pilates Prophets, you have been warned! CrossFit is what the US Navy Seals use to keep in shape (the human kind, not the bomb-diffusing trained sea-lionss), these workouts are H.A.R.D. HARD, woot!



4. http://www.poodwaddle.com/worldclock.swf5
Poodwaddle, because sometimes you just need a real-time clock showing Global warming, HIV infections and other global abominations.


5. Giotto Premium Coffee Machine = Uber sexy caffeination
Although currently on detox, I’d give my left-kidney to get back into coffee-culture. When I do get back on the caffeine pony it will be with the sexiest Coffee machine on the planet.

– Ben Prendergast

Halo 3 – Parallels with the Film Industry

On Tuesday morning we saw the release of the latest installment of Bungie Lab’s future-war simulation, Halo 3 – Believe. Early sales reports for the title suggest opening day takings of around US$140M which is akin or in most cases eclipses the equivalent Hollywood blockbuster. Check out the website devoted to the game (especially the unique and resplendent model demonstration) and you’ll see it looks strikingly like a blockbuster film site.

With regard to the computer gaming industry, I think we’re currently witnessing something akin to the introduction of Talkies (Movies with sound) in the 1930s, which brought about massive changes to the entertainment industry. At the time the ‘new’ technology of talking pictures resulted in a changing in the guard for leading actors (who were still merely the salaried property of the studios they worked for, and in many cases foreign language actors who simply couldn’t work any longer once dialogue was introduced) as well as a general shift in the popularity of the medium which had until that point been a poor-man’s-theatre.

As the technology progressed, the interest (and thus the revenues) were provided not by those infatuated with the tech itself, but rather the artistry that was offered. In other words, by the time we were done with Buster Keaton and Shirley Temple, we were whetting our inner-thespian appetites with Brando and Hoffman. Similarly, as the technology behind today’s games progresses, the genre of the story and the spine-tingling plot points are moving units. In Halo 3, each of the bad guys you face has an artificial intelligence including some 10,000 rules that they abide by, creating some of the most eerily realistic game-play to date (not to mention the formidable online component of the game which pits you against other humans).

Now while the introduction of talkies did indeed kill the silent movie, and despite Halo’s takings making Spiderman 3 look like a failed Sundance Indie flick about a nun fostering a goat, It would be silly to suggest the death of TV or Film was nigh. Rather I think what we’re witnessing is the embryonic stages of an entirely new media platform (I say this being fully aware that the gaming industry is some 30 years old), one that represents the convergence of internet and TV, gaming and internet, and Australians and their living rooms. It’s just that now our theaters just happen to be the Xbox 360s, Playstation 3s and Nintendo Wii’s of this world. Again, I’m not talking about a mainstream shift here, but it must be significant when revenues like US$140M are in the offing.

In the 1930s the end-goal for the studios was to own their own theaters, and draw retail revenues from these while keeping their ‘talent’ costs to a minimum. However twenty years on – as speaking-stars like Clark Gable and Gary Cooper came to popularity and hugely determined box-office takings – the same studios were court-challenged by these actors to be free to work on other studio projects, thus giving birth to ’star power’ and shifting the balance of influence in Hollywood. As a result of this (and a downturn during the second world war) the studios divested themselves of the theaters they owned, and thus introduced licensing fees (and later merchandising).

I wonder, short of an AI character breaking free and demanding equal pay, what kind of challenges the gaming studios of the 2020’s will face.

– Ben Prendergast

What gets measured gets managed.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk of late, a special project I’ve been working on for almost a year has come to its conclusion, I’ve taken on a new non-caffeine/sugar/alcohol diet (yes I know I’ve previously espoused the virtues of said stimulants) and I’m at a point in my career where paranoia and anxiety usually meet opportunity.

I know it’s not uncommon to feel displaced or “spread-thin” when there are so many changes in ones professional life, I’ve been here before and I’ll be here again! However this week I went back to basics and adopted the business school mantra “what gets measured gets managed” to get a sense for how my life was tracking. And it worked! But how do you account for life? Is there a Personal Profit and Loss? Yes there is, you just need to measure the oblique.

Measure your Success

- When was your last career-defining moment?
- When was your last personal victory?
- You were just out of high school, how close have you come toward your aspiration?
- Remember that tyrant boss (you know the one), do they cast the same mental duress they once did?

Measure your Career
- What % of your income is derived for a source that makes you smile (in one way or another?)
- How often do you converse with customers (or at least someone on the front line) and resolve real issues?
- How often do you sit and work through your current personal/business promotion (advertising, resumes, bios, folios), and account for its success?
- Are you now in a position you lusted-over five years ago?

Measure your Efficiency
- Do 20% of your customers take 80% of your unpaid “support” effort?
- What % of your weekly to-do list is checked at the end of the week?
- Do you spend more than an hour a day in idle break-time?
- Are you working more than 80 hours a week, when 60 will do?

Measure your Mind/Body balance
- What % of your time is spent on physical vs mental exertion?
- Is your waistline over the diabetes-risk limit?
- What % of your lunch/dinners are with friends vs customers vs staff?
- What % of your time is spent on your “other passion” (you have one, yes?)

Measure your Perceptions

- What % of your dealings with customers are praise/criticism?
- When were you last talked about?
- Do you overstate your import with customers/staff/colleagues?
- Are you a David Brent or a Tim Canterbury?
It doesn’t take a mid-life crisis to galvanize action, all it takes is a little creative criticism to put things in perspective.

– Ben Prendergast

Tomorrow’s Sexy Cars

I’d like to make a confession this week that potentially jeapardises my eco-warrior status. I hope you can all forgive me, but you see I’m a seriously mad car nut.Nary a weekend passes where I haven’t tinkered, reengineered, raced, or polished my current weapon of choice (a highly-tuned Subaru STi), much to the chagrin of my wife (and conversely the excitement of my two young boys). I’m sure that this obsession with modifying my car stems from my little-scientist leanings, and while my car was already capable of face-reshaping torque from the factory, I just like to push things to their limits. I’m sure I’m not alone, the club I’m involved with has around 700 Members.

However, I’m also seriously mad for my planet, and herein lies the dilemma. Should I wish to continue to feed by petrol-headed-inner-child (I call him Gavin), I’ll need to either a) reengineer the Earth, or b) find greener motoring alternatives. The latter is the option I’m considering, so whether you’ll be buying a fleet for your staff, impressing your hippy girlfriend, or just want to get ahead of the curve, I present you the Ben Prendergast Approved Face-Mashing Whips for Tomorrows Entrepreneurs ™

1. The Tesla Roaster
http://www.teslamotors.com/
0-100 in 5 Seconds
250km range
180kw & a constant 220nm torque
1 hour charge time on 3-phase
3 hours charge on grid power

Kicking off is the Tesla Roadster, championed by the Governator himself, with sexy curves and a 0-100 time of around 4 seconds, you can cruise hollywood boulevard safe in the knowledge you’re not contributing to LaLa’s smog.

2. The Venturi Fetish
http://www.venturifetish.fr/fetish.html
0-100 in 5 Seconds
250km range
180kw & a constant 220nm torque
1 hour charge time on 3-phase
3 hours charge on grid power

Ahh the French, who create cars as they would a fine Creme Brulee (deliciously sweet innards with a fiery exterior), and who then use names befitting a car that pre-adolescent boys might pin on their wall. Take for example the Venturi Fetish, an all carbon-fiber electirc car with an electric-tuned chassis that places the engine in the back and the heavier batteries in the middle for better weight distribution and presumably handling. And just look at those curves, even the bonnet looks like a map of Tassy, mon amie!

3. Lightning Electric Car
http://www.lightningcarcompany.com/
0-100 in sub 4 seconds
400km range
520kw power
250kph+ Top speed

And where one frenchman treads there’s usually a Brit in tow, most often with a stiff upper c-panel. From the mother-land comes the Lightning Electric car, a 313 kilowatt beast with its design origins somewhere between TVR tuscan and Jaguar XLR. You can certainly see that that the Lightning mimics its petrol-fed predecessors, and rightly so given the car will catapult you to a top speed of 250 K/PH after dispensing with the first 100 in under 4 seconds. Hey, what!? I seem to have misplaced my colon back on the M4 good chap!

4. Audio R10 Lemans Bio Deisel
Audi World
BioDeisel
0-100 in 3 Seconds
300km range
180kw & 220nm torque
Charge time: as quick as your pit crew

You’re not likely to lease a fleet of these for your sales team, but perhaps you the CEO might consider a bum-frying race-track monster to ferry the Mrs in? I’ve included this because just as the technology of Formula One cars trickle down to the humble sedan, the R10 will attempt the next Lemans race on bio-diesel at the end of the month and as a result we might find that the interim class of green cars come to fruition via the bio-deisel path before their electric cousins.

5. The Zap-X
Zap Cars
0-100 in sub 4 seconds
563km range
480kw power
250kph+ Top speed
10-Minute Charge Time

Which brings us to the ZAP-X. Promising “one of the most advanced electric cars ever developed”, the Californian-based ZAP (Zero Air Pollution) has teamed with Lotus Engineering to produce the ZAP-X. With a range the envy of your great aunts Mazda 121 and a 10-minute charge-time the ZAP-X would be the first electric car to mirror the capabilities of the family sedan (e.g. interstate trips).

Should it look anything like the Lotus Exige, I’ll take mine in Black, and work on getting some extra batteries in there somewhere…

– Ben Prendergast