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How To Sell Bitcoins · In 2013, I bought a few Bitcoins from a dude in a coffee shop, paying with hundred-dollar bills. Later that year I sold enough to get my money back. Then I forgot about them, Bitcoin’s price gyrations occasionally registering in a corner of my mind. But earlier this month I decided to find out if the remainder could be turned into real actual money, and it turned out they could. Here’s how ...
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Working at Amazon · Sometimes when we’re trying to hire a senior employee, I get asked to do a “sell call”, tell them what it’s like to work here. Since I’m coming up on three years and haven’t quit, I guess the supposition is that I’ll be positive. Since these candidates are outsiders and some of them don’t come to work for us, nothing I can say can be a secret. So why don’t I tell everyone? ...
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Map Review Fear · My daughter had a swollen infected face on a holiday morning, so I looked up nearby walk-in clinics on Google Maps. The one I picked was deserted, efficient, and kind. Afterward, without even thinking about it, I tapped a good review into the map. Then I wondered if I might be part of a really big problem ...
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MLB Fan · I was in New York last week, and got to make a call on MLBAM, a really smart customer of AWS, where I work. The first three letters in MLBAM mean baseball, of which I’m a devotee; and also a happy five-year subscribing customer of MLB.tv. So I was feeling sort of multi-level fannish. It was super-fun, and I got a cute picture ...
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Things about re:Invent · The AWSpalooza took me to Vegas for four nights, with thirty thousand or so other cloud-heads. Herewith notes and sparkly Vegas pictures ...
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Twitter Numbers · I still think Twitter’s interesting; it informs me and pleases me in ways no other service comes near. Also, it lets me talk to the world, and when you do that, you find yourself asking “is anyone listening?” Fortunately, Twitter will tell you. The numbers are big enough that the stats might be of general interest. Of course, Social Media Professionals all have known all this stuff for years, but most of us aren’t those ...
 
Inside Amazon · Gosh, it seems that my employer’s at-work culture is the talk of the Internet. Don’t know if I should share on the topic, but I feel the urge and bloggers with the urge gotta blog ...
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Online Photos · I’d like to have my pictures online, and I’d be willing to pay for service. Here’s what I want; I don’t think any of the Cloud Photo services provide it, but I’d be happy to hear I’m wrong. [Update: There are lots of promising tools on offer.] ...
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Internet.org · All sorts of people are denouncing Internet.org, but it looks OK to me. Maybe I’m wrong. If someone convinces me that I am, then I’ll update this post with an explanation of why it’s a bad thing, and of course link to the evidence ...
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On Hating T-Mobile · If you are a visitor to the USA, you can expect TMO to be stupid and abusive ...
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T-Mobile Fired Me · I like using the Internet while I visit the United States, which I do often. T-Mobile used to offer a service that worked well for people like me; I was a cheerful customer, but now they’ve told me to go away ...
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I Sold Some Bitcoins · I held the flimsy scrap of printout up to the Bitcoin ATM’s scanner, tapped its screen, and ten crisp hundred-dollar bills shot into the delivery tray at the bottom. Maybe Bitcoin is real? ...
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Ads In Front of Things · They’re bad ...
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FC7: Users vs Apps · When a person signs into an app, that’s a transaction, and value is exchanged. Who comes out ahead on the deal? ...
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On Medium · Last week I wrote Texas Politics about the legislative-gamesmanship theatrics around Wendy Davis’ filibuster. It did OK on the blog, nothing special. Evan Hansen of Medium reached out asking if I wanted to republish there. I couldn’t think of a good reason to do that, but then I also couldn’t think of a good reason not to. So here’s a blogger’s-eye view of being a Medium author ...
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The Scalzi/Amazon Trap · I kind of liked The Android’s Dream and Redshirts by John Scalzi. A couple weeks ago I needed some light-ish reading so I picked up Old Man’s War, and the jaws closed on my wallet ...
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I Bought Some Bitcoins · On Tuesday evening I gave an envelope full of hundred-dollar bills to a friendly long-haired young man I’d never met in an undistinguished coffee-shop in an undistinguished neighborhood. By the time I got home, the Bitcoins I’d bought were worth noticeably less than I paid ...
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Card Update Degree of Difficulty · In Hawai’i I left my credit card behind where we ate lunch on the way to the airport. Called ’em from the departure lounge and told ’em to cut it up and throw it out. Called Visa and told ’em to send me a new one. Really pretty easy. Then there’s switching over all the pre-authorized payments ...
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Blog 4 $ · Andrew Sullivan, one of the world’s most visible bloggers, is going indie and will try to make a living at it. I wish him luck, but I think maybe he’s thinking about it wrong ...
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Sandman Pricing · Back in September I recommended (albeit in a sort of snotty tone) Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. Shortly after that, I found out that it’s not just a book, it’s a series. I’ve been reading it but I’ve stopped because I think Amazon’s robbing me ...
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On Being the New Boss · There’s been a lot of linkage this week to David Lowery’s Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss? Lowery is a music-biz insider, and says he’s also a geek; and he really, really hates people like me. He makes some really interesting points; unfortunately, he comes across as a jerk ...
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Panties for Sale! · For years, whenever I linked to a book, I included my wife’s Amazon Associates code; she’d started in on that first, and it made sense to pool the family rewards. But I’ve started using my own because it’s our family book-buying pool. This has some surprising side-effects ...
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Data Pricing Sanity Maybe? · I’m hearing refreshing outbursts of sanity recently on mobile-data pricing (and puzzlingly, grumbling from people I normally agree with). Usage-based data pricing is inevitable. Just because the rumblings are coming from phone companies doesn’t mean they’re wrong ...
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Story Pricing · What happened was, this week’s Economist had a rave review of something called Dogs at the Perimeter, by a Madeleine Thien of whom I’d never heard but who turns out to be from Vancouver. And to have created a Dogs at the Perimeter Tumblr, which is full of severe formal beauty. So I thought I’d buy it, but the Kindle version was $18.03 and that bothered me ...
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Not Piracy · Sites all over the Internet are going dark to show that they object to legislation currently before the US Congress. I’m not American but these words are coming at you from a server in LA, so I guess I can weigh in. I’ll limit my discussion to one word, “Piracy”; what the “P” stands for in SOPA ...
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Bits as a Service · It is true, if inconvenient, that information wants to be free. Which fortunately doesn’t mean we’re done with Art or Journalism or the other services embodied in bits ...
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Ex Twitter · Back in 2010, I disclosed that I’d become the owner of some Twitter shares. I sold them this week. The story provides a look into the world of public trading of private-company shares. This is a space that was new to me and I found interesting; maybe you will too ...
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Reading the Economist · I mean The Economist, which persists in referring to itself as a newspaper even though it physically appears to be a magazine. Well, it does indeed deliver news and is printed on paper. Oops, maybe not. The mobile app version is out, and it’s noticeably better than the one involving dead trees ...
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Who Follows? · Anyone who’s been on Twitter for a while and has built a following occasionally wonders how many of them are real people; because plenty aren’t. So I took some measurements ...
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Cheap Laughs · Reading the tech news of the day, I was moved to sneer at one story, and the Internet piled on in a way that gave me a few chances to snicker, so here they are. [Warning: Adult language.] ...
 
Millions of Hovels · There’s a really interesting piece in the New York times about black-hat SEO, The Dirty Little Secrets of Search. Normally I’d just tweet a link, but it has this wonderful paragraph that totally captures the sad part of the Internet, the way I see it. I read it three times in a row, nodding all the while ...
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Paying For Books · Last evening I reviewed a book by Charles Stross. Today, I’d like to encourage you to read his essay The monetization paradox (or why Google is not my friend). It’s got me thinking about how we can ensure that writers still write books. And also measuring: I discovered that, since 2003, I’ve written 1.22 million words in this space. Yow ...
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Photos For Sale · What happened was, someone wanted to buy a print of one of the photos here, and doing that turned out to be fun and have fringe benefits, so now anyone can ...
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SEO Still Sucks · My eye was caught by Scoble’s recent 2010: the year SEO isn’t important anymore? I thought most of what he said made sense, but the fact is that they’re still out there and what they’re selling is mostly bogus ...
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Music and Money · Here are some questions: ...
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Tab Sweep — the Web · I’ll follow-up yesterday’s mostly political tab sweep with one that’s a little closer to home for (I think) most readers: Pieces about the Web and how we do and should live on it and use it ...
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Kindle Yourself · The publication you are currently reading is now also an Amazon.com product. This means that for $1.99 a month you can read it on your Kindle in black & white ...
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Cloudy Days · I see the much-ballyhooed Open Cloud Manifesto is now on the air. IBM’s Bob Sutor says some unsurprising things in When you choose your clouds, don’t make foggy choices. The standardization drums are throbbing in the political undergrowth; does it mean anything? ...
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The Shape of the Cloud · There’s an interesting argument going on about the business-structure futures of the Big Cloud that everyone assumes is in our future. Some links in the chain: Hugh Macleod, Tim O’Reilly, Nick Carr, and Tim again. A few points about this seem obvious; among other things, Amazon Web Services is reminding me powerfully of Altavista ...
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Working As Intended · This is a simple story of an online purchase that went well despite a problem. The fact that this is sufficiently rare to make me want to write about it is sad, but that’s how it is ...
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Mobility Blues · These days, I’m gloomier and gloomier about the prospects for the mobile Internet; you know, the one you access through the sexy gizmo in your pocket, not the klunky old general-purpose computer on your desk ...
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Not an OS · Last Thursday I tweeted: “I strive to maintain an open mind when nontechnical people talk about the ‘Internet OS’ or ‘Web OS’. Sometimes it's tough.” I got some grumbles by email and I think the subject is worth more discussion. Let me be more specific: Neither the Internet nor the Web is much like an OS. And even if it were, that’d be the wrong way to think about what’s going on right now ...
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Twitterbucks · I like Twitter. I hope it lasts. So I want it to have a business model. This week, I was in a discussion on that subject with really smart people, some even with useful experience. Afterward, I had a really radical idea for a business model: Ask people to pay for using it. Read on for discussion, and a survey ...
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Sharecropper Alert · One of the most interesting pieces of the new Google App Engine is the identity piece ...
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Feeling Sad · I’m feeling sad about the M/Y! deal. (Which I expect to sail through—from the Yahoo! management/investor point of view, what’s not to like?) You see, Yahoo! was the first actual real successful Internet business. And Microsoft, well, they’re a bunch of things, but they’re not an Internet company ...
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2008 Prediction 5: Social Networking · This is the fifth of five predictions for 2008, expanded from the short form generated on short notice as described here ...
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Flat Rate Considered Harmful · Lots of people, including for example my CEO, say that the hand-held mobile is going to be a crucial, maybe a dominant, way for people to experience the Net; particularly on the other side of what we now call the digital divide. Only there’s an economic problem ...
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Facebook Error · Yesterday I asked if there were a way to update my online status in Twitter & Facebook & my chat client all at once. Yesterday, there was (on the Mac anyhow): MoodBlast. Today there isn’t; Facebook apparently shut ’em down. It strikes me as always wrong, as couldn’t-possibly-be-right, to take an action which decreases the quality of the user experience with your product. Well, for now, I still have the good old MoodBlast. But I gotta say, a couple more experiences like that and I’m just not gonna care about updating Facebook.
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Subscribing to Music · Like a whole lot of people who care about music and the Net, I read the recent Times Magazine piece The Music Man, about how Rick Rubin is trying to save a big piece of the Music-Biz-That-Was, in part by (gasp!) increasing product quality. He also talks about moving from away from a ship-the-disks model to a subscription-based business (this starts about halfway down page 5 of the piece). John Gruber scoffs at the idea. I think they’re both wrong; but that subscriptions will be a big deal ...
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Tab Sweep — The World · Tonight we have the great Audio Conflict of Interest, eBay Pain, Iranian politics, Chinese macroeconomics, new Israel/Palestine horror, men vs. women, and the big debt problem. Unifying themes are for weaklings; the world’s not like that ...
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Jerry Yang · Yahoo’s new CEO sure hasn’t been getting much respect, I’m not gonna link to the put-downs but you’ve probably seen them. I think most of these people don’t know Jerry. Back in the mid-Nineties, I got to know him pretty well when my then-employer Open Text had a Yahoo partnership. I quickly became convinced that even if he hadn’t stumbled into the Yahoo directory rocket-ride (it used to be a directory, anyone remember?) Jerry would have had a brilliant business career. He’s smart and a good communicator and open-minded and really understands the Web better than any dozen grizzled senior business types. In terms of generic-executive skills, probably he learned a lot from Semel and his predecessor Tim Koogle. I think a bet against Yahoo and Jerry might not be very smart right around now.
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Technorati! · Wow, a whole lot of news by/about/from Technorati recently. [Disclosure: I have a conflict of interest.] First, a company snapshot. I really don’t know what “media company” means, but the traffic numbers are decent, and my experience matches with Scoble’s: they’re ahead in live-information search, this month anyhow. I have no inside information about the money. Second, the State of the Blogosphere Live Web; the world needs Technorati to exist if only for these reports; fascinating, deep, stuff. Finally, Dave’s thinking about stepping sideways. I did exactly this with two startups, and it worked once. I have no fear whatsoever that Dave will drop off the radar.
 
Dub, Baby · What happened was, I got a note from my friend Adam “Vudu” (MySpace) about his new CD echo :: dubstyle. I have a soft spot for dub and liked the samples, so I hit the “Buy” button. The record is good, a huge bargain at $12.97, go get it. But the buying experience was out of the ordinary ...
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Smart Music · The Times writes about the music labels toying with the idea of selling products without poison oops I meant DRM. Chris Anderson takes it further, arguing that the economics of music favor performance over recording. (I’m not sure about that, I still think selling recordings is a good business). Andrew Orlowski over at the Reg has a lengthy and instructive interview with music management maven Keith Harris covering related territory. But the future is already here ...
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Hold Still! · The animation in Web display ads is outta control, outta control, I tell ya! They slither and shake and squirm and flash and jitter and morph and I’m gonna start bleeding from the eyeballs. I’ve always eschewed ad-blockers and Flash-blockers, because advertising should be part of the ecosystem; but things have gone too far. Ads in magazines don’t offend me in the slightest, I even enjoy some, have even been informed about something I might buy. But on the Web... my instinct tells me that these things not only hurt my brain, they can hardly be achieving the intended effect.
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Metered Approval · What happened was, as we were getting ready to leave the apartment in Frankfurt a bunch of comments showed up, and when I clicked “Approve” the Net had gone away for some reason and we had to leave. At the airport, I noticed they had lots of these hokey Internet-by-the-minute kiosks; I’d never used one. While writing ongoing fragments requires an intricate web of technology and a solid ssh connection, the comment system is pure browser-based simplicity. The kiosk interface is slick, it lets you enter a URL and doesn’t ask for money until you say ”Go“. So I slapped in a €0.20 coin and started struggling with the German keyboard, which makes the “Y” and “/” hard to find. Eventually I reached the approval page and got logged in and saw the comments again. I was about ready to hit the button when this thing popped up on the screen, “Your time is running out in 30 ... 29 ... 28 ...”, quite nerve-wracking in fact. I dove into my pocket and found another double-Euro-dime with seconds to spare, giving me time for the approval to complete and to use the “logout” button. What a weird feeling. I wonder if these things are profitable?
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Grass, Tea, Church, Search · I gather there are people out there—lots of people—whose livelihood more or less depends on their Google search rank. Herewith some thoughts on why this is scary ...
 
Scam Spam · I don’t know about you, but in recent weeks I’ve been hit with high volumes of spam promoting penny stocks. They are elaborately crafted and go through my spam defenses like a hot knife through butter. When I was off the net for 72 hours last week, the volume actually filled up the POP inbox at one of my accounts and my mail started bouncing. By the way, you can find the people who do it with a search for “Stock Promotion” (G, Y). As a consequence of living in Vancouver, long a headquarters for penny-stock promoters, I have some personal exposure to how incredibly devious, energized, and unprincipled these people are; it’s like trying to root out cockroaches in a warm climate. Part of the problem is that there is apparently an inexhaustible supply of suckers ready to march smiling into the jaws of these bottom-feeders. This could be the straw that finally breaks the back of email as we know it, the kind that costs nothing to send and something to receive.
 
Magnificent Silliness · In the wake of the passing of Syd Barrett, Roberto Chinnici pointed out that you can see a compendium of Barrett video at YouTube, and I spent the best part of an hour watching some. Ah, YouTube, feels like the Napster glory days; beyond any doubt a life-enhancer. Colby Cosh has innocent fun searching it by date. And, like Napster, it feels doomed. Pumping video around the Net isn’t cheap for anyone, and I just don’t see how it gets paid for. For more Internet video negativity, see Mark Cuban. And speaking of magnificent silliness.... Syd. Bye, Syd. He never made it out of the Sixties and I had a few friends not make it out of the Seventies, you can burn the candle at both ends and in the middle too, but not for that long. I looked into the record collection and didn’t find anything with Barrett on it, so last night I listened to Atom Heart Mother, which is not far off. It’s hard to know what to think of PF these days. Their later work is far too much on the radio; suddenly about the time of the execrable The Wall, the world flipped and they were a symptom of everything wrong with Rock; Johnny Rotten was picked out of his London gutter wearing an “I Hate Pink Floyd” T-shirt. Still, I’m quite sure that the music will remain loved by many long after we’re all dead; but I bet most of them will never have heard of Syd.
 
Dabble DB, Check It Out · Paul Kedrosky broke the story: Vancouver’s own Dabble DB has taken some investment money and are open for business. I get pitched by a lot of startups, and Dabble DB is the best I’ve seen in years. It’s Software as a Service; an online personal database. Millions of of people in businesses large and small around the world do this kind of thing via Excel kludges, sometimes with some Access and Outlook in the mix. Only Dabble doesn’t need any software on the desktop and still has a better user interface than anything Microsoft ships. In fact, one smart person told me it didn’t matter that much what Dabble did, because its authors Avi Bryant and Andrew Catton are such great UI designers they could make a cemetery scheduler interesting. But it does matter, because Dabble is in that magic category where it does something that you realize you need after you’ve tried it, and there’s nothing else that does it. Go check it out; but if you like it, you’ll have to pay (not much) to use it; what a concept! Disclosure: Avi and Andrew and I have bought each other lots of lunches. I advised them, repeatedly, not to take VC money, arguing that there’s a deep disconnect between venture investing as it’s currently done, and the realities of Web-based businesses. Paul Kedrosky and Ventures West are making a determined attempt to prove me wrong; I can’t talk about the details but I’m really impressed at the creativity they’ve brought to the table. I couldn’t in good conscience advise the guys to pass on the deal; but I did ask if I could take a piece of it.
 
Stop the Metaphors! · Rich McManus says the Web is a platform, and reports that per Arrington, it’s an OS. I think this whole menagerie of metaphors around the Web has never been helpful and we should just stop dreaming them up. The Web isn’t a platform or a database or an API or an OS a cloud or a clickstream or any other of those things. In fact, the Web isn’t even a thing, it’s a mesh of agreements with a nice straightforward engineering rulebook. Play by the rules and you can be part of it and build something great, struggle against them and you’ll look lame and you’ll fail. But don’t try to analogize it; sometimes the world has new things in it and you just have to deal with them as they are.
 
anne 2.0 · I’ve had Anne Zelenka’s Content’s Divorce from Advertising open in a browser tab for days, thinking about it and trying to find something to expand on or disagree with. Nothing comes to mind, but I’m still thinking. Great-looking site, good writing on lots of lots of other important stuff too. Highly recommended.
 
A Phrase I Hate · I heard this over and over again at ETech, and it sticks in my craw like a sour lump of food gone bad: “User generated content”. Feh. I am not a user, I’m a person. And you know, I don’t put in all this time and work and obsession to be a cog in anyone’s business model. Just saying.
 
On the EFF, Email, and Syndication · Paul Hoffman’s The future of some email may not use email is a short but closely-argued piece which is fairly harsh to both AOL and the EFF, and says smart things about email and syndication. Worth a read.
 
Frontier Justice · Being administered, in this case, by Google’s Matt Cutts. I think I approve: I suppose there may be some decent, honorable, intelligent people in the SEO business, but everyone also knows there are also despicable scum. Talking to Dave Sifry and Rob Scoble today at Northern Voice, I learned about some horrible black-hat SEO techniques that deserve the Instant Internet Death penalty. I’ve repeatedly heard the Net compared to the Wild West, before the law came to town. Until Wyatt Earp gets here, there’s gonna be some vigilante justice happening. Whether it’s a good idea or not.
 
Fat Pipe, etc. · I gather that David Isen gave a rousing talk at the recent O’Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference, which involved chanting a little mantra about how network providers should behave: Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way! David generously credits me with inventing the phrase, which is true, see Fast and Always On, an otherwise-forgotten fragment from March 2003. David’s performance art got noticed. I’m not entirely a fan of David’s poetry, but the Freedom to Connect event that he was promoting looks darn interesting.
 
Dell Monitors · Just to prove that I can say nice things about Dell: Mom visited us over Christmas, and is thinking about replacing the the mouldy old 15" CRT plugged into her new Mac mini. So we walked around the local electronics megamart and looked at the HP and Samsung and LG screens, which seemed much of a muchness. At home, we went over to the Dell Canada monitors page, and wow, they were slaughtering the big-box store; way better specs for noticeably less money. I’ve seen the Dell screens and they’re good, and decently styled too. I told her the old trick of bookmarking the page and monitoring the price every day or two for a few weeks until you learn to spot the patterns and strike when there’s a deal, and I bet Dell gets her business. [Update: I wrote this last week, then saw Jeremy Zawodny’s anguished Dell-hell howl; I’ve decided not to shriek “Stop!” at Mom because, after all, most of the screens aren’t going to arrive broken.]
 
On Selling Art · Increasingly, the products of artists are digital; thus subject to essentially-free copying and sharing. Artists, just like accountants and ambassadors, need to get paid. How best to arrange this? (Provoked by a long talk with Cory Doctorow at ApacheCon; my thanks to him, but the fallacies are my own.) ...
 
The Future Search Market · Recently, I learned that search providers pay for traffic, which makes all sorts of sense in a world where they’re offering approximately equal levels of service. So, where to from here? I can see the opportunity to build a near-perfect market. (Please note for the record that in this piece, I agree with Nicholas Carr) ...
 
Search For Sale · In response to yesterday’s Buying Search Traffic, Russell Beattie (who works for Yahoo) writes: Search is already determined by who pays the most for it! Everywhere you see a search box with a Google logo, be sure that there's a competitor out there that will pay for the same spot—because search advertising is so monetizable. Google is everywhere because they're paying for it. Wow, I had no idea. Now, this is just one person’s voice, but I’m running it because I think Russell is probably in a position to know, and is honest in my experience. Anyone else want to confirm or refute? [Ah, Om Malik was on the story back in September.]
 
Google Analytics · Herewith a report on a fairly-typical week of Google Analytics numbers. I was going to work this into the regular weekly statistics report, but I’m not at all sure I’m going to go on running analytics, so as a separate post this will remain available either way. [Update on screen sizes.] ...
 
Buying Search Traffic · On impulse, I just twiddled the ongoing software on my staging server so that when you do a search in the little box up at the top, it goes to Yahoo not Google. I ran a bunch of searches, and in terms of result quality, there was nothing to choose from between them. Yahoo seemed a little fresher; on this Sunday it had Friday’s entries pretty well indexed, while Google was only half there; they’re both OK for Thursday. So, at this moment in time, my search box, and a zillion others like it, are pointing to Google just because that’s the way we set it up, and it’s actual real work to go changing production systems, and the competition so far isn’t significantly better. I have no idea what the proportion of search coming through this kind of thing is, as compared to the volume going through the search-engine home pages. I bet that if you count the toolbars on the browsers, it’s getting up there. Via Google’s AdSense For Search, you can already get paid for sending searches to Google. I won’t use it, though, because if I read the terms and conditions correctly, you have to include a Google logo. Screw that; I like my minimalist little search box, and nobody but me and my employer get any branding here. I’m sure Yahoo has a competitive offering, but I haven’t tracked it down. I’ll tell you one thing for sure though; if the search engines retain their quality-of-service parity, pretty soon the traffic will be dealt out totally based on who’s willing to pay the most for it. Where can I buy shares in Firefox?
 
You’re Being Watched · I just signed up for Google Analytics and installed the code, but only on the home page, which many (most?) regular readers never see. Among other things, it downloads a 17K (!) chunk of JavaScript. I’ll report back on whether it does anything useful, and if so, will consider deploying it on more pages. I currently have a pretty rich set of Perl scripts that tell me a lot of useful stuff, but there’s certainly more to know. I don’t think they claim to do anything to track the people who read this via RSS/Atom, which means that it will become less useful with time until they address that, which I’m not sure is possible. I write this because my more paranoid readers (and there’s no doubt about it, they are out to get you) will probably object to having Google track what they read, so now is the time to start cooking up Analytics-blocking GreaseMonkey scripts, or equivalent. [OK, it’s working now, I was fooled by the fact that it’s broken in Safari. So I republished the whole site with Analytics turned on, and I’ll publish the pretty graphs next Sunday after it’s had a week to run.]
 
Shopping, Dell vs. Apple · The other day when I was writing about my new Ultra 20, I thought I’d visit the competition and check prices. So I headed over to Dell, which I’ve always thought of as the canonical example of a great online store. When I used to buy their servers, it was convenient, linear, and fast: start with your form factor and processor, then pick your memory, disk, network cards, and click “Buy”. But I haven’t been there in three or four years, and things have changed. First of all, I had to choose whether I was a large or small business or a consumer (Huh? I just want to buy a computer, OK?) then picked a reasonable-looking Xeon. The defaults were about right except for I wanted a 250G disk. Nasty surprise; the customizer is nowhere near as good as it used to be; awkward, confusing and slow, and you have to page way down to get to obvious stuff. And I totally failed to configure the disk; there are all these options about the number of disks and kinds of connects that seemed to be interrelated, and when I picked one of the 250G disks, it declared my configuration invalid, and in ten minutes of fiddling around I couldn’t make it go. I also recently visited Apple’s online store; my 2003 PowerBook is pretty well out of steam and I’m not switching to a Solaris portable until there’s Ubuntu or equivalent for it. So I ordered a new Mac; that took like 4 minutes elapsed, start to finish. Maybe an Apple PowerBook has less options than a Dell desktop? But not that I care about; I bumped the default memory and disk on the Mac, which more than I wanted to do with the Dell. I’m shocked; I always thought that Dell’s #1 competitive advantage was that they were easy and quick to configure and buy (Granted, they’re reasonably cheap and well built, but not really ahead of the pack on those fronts). Maybe they’re no longer interested in the high-end consumer? Maybe I just had bad luck? If not, this is a big deal. [Update: Wow, I got a flurry of email saying “No, it’s not bad luck” accompanied by further complaints about, well, everything, but mostly pricing and complexity. So I think it’s a real news story.]
 
Blog Pricing · Tristan Louis has a nifty write-up on the AOL-Weblogs, Inc. deal. He works backwards from the deal value (reports range between $25M and $40M) and pro-rates the value of the various blog properties, using reported Technorati links as a metric. An interesting number that falls out is the value of a single Technorati link, which ranges from $565 to $903. Hmmm, that would imply that the humble blog you are now perusing is worth between $2.5M and $4.1M. Which is just silly, and it’s not for sale anyhow.
 
Stones · Hey, good on the Stones for posting the tracks from A Bigger Bang. There were some quality-control problems getting them to play on my Mac yesterday, but they’re working now. Yeah, I could steal ’em, and some people will, but the Stones no longer play for a “What can a poor boy do?” demographic, they play for people who can buy the songs they like. The last Stones record I bought was whatever Miss You was on, damn I loved that song, that’s a decade or three back. I might pick this one up because I like their Internet Marketing Mojo, but ya know, there are some decent-or-better tunes here. I particularly like Back Of My Hand, straight blues, and This Place is Empty, a sentimental piano ballad with Keith on vocals. Dangerous Beauty is a pretty good rocker. Don’t think I’ll go see the show though, because I don’t want to pollute the golden-glow memory of singing Happy Birthday for Keith Richards a few years back.
 
Podcasting and Patricia · I got a nice email this afternoon from PatriciaBarber.com, letting me know that there’s a new concert DVD for sale, and inviting me to drop by the A/V section for a sampler. So I did, and you might want to also, the video’s good and there are some pretty nice audio tracks there for download. I’ve written about Ms Barber before, I’m a real admirer. So, here’s a gifted artist out there in the Long Tail with a moderate but devoted fan base, here’s this hot new podcasting thing running up headlines everywhere... am I the only one wanting to connect the dots? Right now I buy all of Ms Barber’s disks, which I think is less than one a year on average; so given record-company economics, she’s making maybe $10/year net from me. Would I sign up for a bi-weekly podcast for a couple bucks a month, recent live performances and so on? In a flash! She could double or triple her takings from this typical fan, and the costs of staging the stuff wouldn’t be that much. Yeah, there’d be piracy, but a Long Tail performer like this might even welcome it, because a certain number of illicit-recording recipients are going to become devoted fans and want to sign up; what I believe they call “marketing”. What am I missing?
 
Exit AdSense · The ads are going. Herewith an explanation of why, an apology to BlogAds, and thoughts on advertising in general ...
 
AdSense For Feeds, Say What? · I was going to investigate Google’s AdSense For Feeds, because I’m keenly interested in economic models around self-publishing. But take a second and follow that link, there are a couple of seriously weird things going on. [Update: Another triumph for the blogosphere.] ...
 
Search Optimization (Low-Rent) · In Vancouver, as in most cities, the poles that hold up the traffic lights and streetlights and, well, anything, are plastered with posters advertising soon-to-be-famous rock bands and tarot readers and, well, anything. Search Engine Optimization, too ...
 
Free No Longer · I visited Technorati on Friday and we had a talk about the business side. Among other things, I argued that they should shut down their free service. I’m surprised that this is controversial ...
 
SideTrack and eSellerate · At Antipixel I saw a pointer to a nice-looking little piece of Mac shareware called SideTrack so I downloaded and tried it and it’s wonderful. Anyone running OS X who uses the mouse a lot, follow that pointer and give it a try. Apple will probably intervene, because this gives a standard Mac laptop in effect a two-button mouse with dual scroll-wheel, which Apple doesn’t think Mac users should want. So I said “that’s worth $15” and hit the Buy button, and it popped me off to eSellerate and boy, is that a slick operation. First of all, it noticed I was in Canada and charged me in C$. Then, when I filled in the form, it redirected over to a page from my own bank that asked a couple of other questions to make sure I was who I said I was, then gave me a nice printable receipt. This is what all the dot-com crazies claimed e-shopping would be like, at the height of the bubble. They were right... but it took another five years to get there.
 
Maria Schneider · She is a musician but unusual both in her musical and business approaches, and I think you might enjoy her ...
 
Syndication By The Numbers · I spent today at a conference, speaking and listening. The best listening was to a guy named Dave Morse, who helps run a big chunk of network behind a particularly thick firewall. He’s saving time and money big-time using syndication and he can prove it ...
 
Yahoo Update · Not long ago I wrote a really cynical piece about Yahoo’s Paid Search program. Well, I got some people mad at me, and follow-up is in order ...
 
Magnatune · I was poking around the iTunes radio stations looking for something a little more stimulating than the usual brain goo, and gave “Magnatune Renaissance and Baroque” a try. It’s awfully good music, with the regular interruptions by the musicians plugging their recordings only mildly irritating. And the interruptions worked, convincing me to visit Magnatune online, whose motto is: We’re a record label. But we’re not evil. It looks like a pretty compelling idea, and their music (the Renaissance/Baroque subset anyhow) is pretty sweet. Check it out.
 
Yahoo Paid Search, Translated · Via the invaluable John Battelle, a pointer to this Search Engine Watch piece on the advent of Paid Search over at Yahoo. It contains some remarkable examples of marketingese, and I thought it would be helpful to provide a translation ...
 
You Can Get Paid For This · One month ago, I turned on the Google Ads here at ongoing. It’s gone pretty well; herewith a report with some more detail, and some observations on how the system is apt to influence those who use it ...
 
Vancouver Candid · The recent Startup Candid piece reflected the lovably-scruffy ethos of a company just getting off the ground. But it’s not always like that, and I have the pictures to prove it ...
 
Startup Candid · Pitching in today at a hot startup; the scenario is classic, check the picture: wires draped over the walls, O’Reilly books on the tables, Doc Searls in the back room ...
 
Blogs + MLM, Argh · There was this message on the phone wanting to talk to me urgently; which has been happening a lot since I’ve been job-hunting. It was a fellow high up in EcoQuest International, who sell air-fresheners. He had a deal for me: he’s planning a “Dealer Education” tour up here in Canada, and if I could drive people to some of his sessions, he’d put me upstream from them in the MLM food chain. What’s old is new again. Or something.
 
Pricing Craziness · I’m visiting the Valley next week in connection with the what-next project, flying on some of the hundreds of thousands of points I’ve built up on some bankrupt airline or another, but I needed to rent a car out of SFO. A bit of Internet shopping produced what I thought was a fairly mind-boggling result ...
 
Ads Again · I turned on the ads again (from Google AdSense); this puppy’s monthly bill is starting to make it a pricey hobby. As with my previous experience, they’re no trouble in setting up and everything seems to Just Work. I’m a bit disappointed that the front page is apparently served exclusively with blogging-related ads [Update: a day later, the front-page choices are much better], but the selection on the other pages is quite intelligent. If anything has broken, do please get in touch. I’ll report back in due time on whether a fairly-popular blog can be made at least self-sustaining. [Update: it can.] [Update: they’re screwing up my layout.] ...
 
Aussie Cluefulness · We’re taking a vacation to Australia in February. You can’t just hop on a plane, you have to get a visa. This used to mean, if you were in a big city with a consulate, going down there with a picture and spending time waiting, or if you were away from such a city, mailing them your passport. So last night, Lauren suggested checking their online presence, and what do you know, it’s excellent. You can get a year’s visa for A$20 by giving them your passport number and a few basic vital statistics, and the whole thing takes maybe five minutes. Good on ya, Aussies!
 
Ambient Internet Brain Goo · Anyone who isn’t running Apple’s iTunes is missing a chance to improve their quality of life (or is on Linux). Although I feel another flame over iTunes’ egregiously broken Web addressing coming on, this post is just an expression of wonder. I had iTunes quite a while before I opened up the “Radio” part of the menu, and here’s all these radio stations broadcasting nice no-charge music, many of them ad-free and in fact narrative-free. I am totally baffled by the business model, setting up one of these things must involve some nontrivial investment. For during dinner and when company’s over, I tend to select one of the “ambient” stations and let the sweet-sounding slow-moving audio cotton candy fill in the sonic gaps. Go back a few years and survey the prognosticators; I can’t remember anyone ever having predicted free endless ambient brain goo being a plausible use of the Global Information Superhighway. There you go. [Update: Kiran Jonnalagadda writes to tell me that the iTunes radio stations are the same as those you get at shoutcast.com, so WinAmputees and penguinistas using XMMS can already get ’em.]
 
RSS, Advertising, Cheating · I recently started reading the RSS feeds from Infoworld, which contain advertising, my first experience with this. Some general impressions and a complaint, but I think this may be the future ...
 
Laptop Fun · Lauren needs a new laptop. She inherited my 1998-vintage Toshiba Portegé when I switched to MacLand way back last April, and it’s really past its best-before date (e.g. it’s now an “oshiba”). The take-away is that the laptop vendors of the world are in a vast conspiracy to keep you from finding out about their products, and once you do find out, to keep you from getting one. And she still doesn’t have one ...
 
Sharecropping Redux · One nice thing about being slashdotted, as happened with my recent The Web’s the Place, is the quality and depth of feedback you get. Herewith a little bit more coverage of the issues. I made a couple of corrections in the original piece, ain’t the Web great? Also notes on sharecropping, the agricultural variety ...
 
The Web’s the Place · I’ve been following some discussions about the future of software applications, and a phrase that came up in my dinner with Robb Beal has been echoing in my mind. What it comes down to is this: if you want to develop software, you can build for the Web and/or Unix and/or OSS platforms; or alternatively, you can be a sharecropper. Your choice, but I think it’s an easy one. Especially since the users out there want you to do the right thing. (Updated to fix a couple of inaccuracies. See here for details.) ...
 
Pay For Placement · Adam Curry posted a note on Monday that I found pretty surprising. In the future, will you have to pay to get into RSS aggregators? Ouch ...
 
$$$$! · Yesterday I wrote about signing up for Google’s AdSense program, and started actually displaying some ads on that essay last night some time after 9 PM. Below is Google’s admirably-clear report on my first day in the Internet Advertising business. It’s interesting and, you know, there might be some money in this ...
 
Google Ads · Interesting write-up chez Zawodny about the Google AdSense program; pretty well anyone can sign up and put Google ads on their site, and get paid when someone clicks on the ads. So I signed up, although I don’t plan to run ’em for the moment. Except on this essay right here, along with some commentary on the program (soundbite: looks pretty reasonable so far) ...
 
On Apple's Music Store · Business-wise, it seems pretty sound. I'll pay 99¢ a pop for tunes if they stay out of my face about how I use them. This has to be seen as good news, and evidence that Apple is a little smarter than your average computer company. Herewith some pros and cons of this (I think) important new offering. (Updated 4/29 with comments on pricing and Web Architecture.) ...
 
How to Pay for a Good Read · Some blogger somewhere pointed at an interview with John Brady Kiesling, online at Salon. Sounded interesting - all I knew was that he was a US diplomat who had quit over the run-up to the war, and indeed it was interesting, I recommend reading it, but I hadn't been to Salon recently and was also interested in their “payment options”, which maybe point the way to the future of online publishing ...
 
Webthoughts in Wartime · I'm sitting at home in a daze induced by the worst cold of my life - the few operating brain cells mostly sucked up in aimless Web meandering trying to understand the War and the world better, but mostly I'm learning things things about the Web instead. To a ghostly soundtrack of Baghdad night sounds (cars and their horns mostly) from the teeny MSNBC Baghdad Cam in the screen's corner, I wonder if Yahoo is dead, and maybe publishing too, and what it is we're making up here as we go along? ...
 
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