Category Archives: blog

Out with the Old…

We’re knocking on the door of a new year, so it’s list season, for better or worse. Rather than swim against the current, I’ll join in. In my opinion, it’s high time for a list of things not invited back to 2010. Here are my let’s-leave-it-in-2009 candidates. Enjoy.

  1. Cable television

    Comcast, you and me are through. Oh, I know, you’ve provided me with years of passable high-speed internet service, but you know what? I just shaved 65% off of my combined phone/internet/TV bill by ditching your useless Crippled Basic Cable TV service and all-you-can-eat long distance digital voice. My 21st-century-rabbit-ears-and-government-subsidized-digital-tuner handle the former, and my mobile phone handles the latter, just fine, thanks.

    Furthermore, as you may or may not have noticed, anything and everything I could want to watch in the way of TV shows is now available online or on Netflix, at my convenience and on my schedule. There’s more to watch than there is free time to watch it. It’s just that *almost none* of it is on your crappy basic cable channel lineup. Channel surfing is so 20th century.

    And you know what else? I know exactly what you’re up to when you buy NBC-Universal the same day that you start a “voluntary pilot program” metering bandwidth use in Portland. I can see where this is going, and I don’t like it one bit.


  2. Old Media Whining about New Media Eating Their Lunch



    Pick one.

    “Complain” is not on the list. (Nor is “summon monsters”, so don’t go running to Congress trying to get your antiquated business model protected as a historic structure or something cute like that).

  3. “Information overload”

    There is no more “information overload” now than there was pre-Internet. The problem is that our filters are broken or not properly configured.

    For generations, we’ve been processing the equivalent of terabytes of unwanted data in the form of billboards, radio and television commercials, bad stand-up comedy, and interminable anecdotes from co-workers. Despite this deluge, we’ve managed to adapt psychological coping mechanisms that have kept most of us out of the looney bin.

    To complain that having a few inboxes to check and text messages to respond to is some kind of hardship is a rather entitled and self-centered point of view. Rather, consider thanking the bright folks who keep coming up with new ways for you to filter all of this wonderful content coming your way — they’re making it easier to ignore the sources of noise mentioned above. And I don’t know about you, but being bombarded by a stream of information from people I know and care about that forces me to ignore the stream of information from people trying to sell me something is progress in my book. Bring on the overload.

  4. “Marching orders”

    We are not in the military. The client is not a general (thank god).

  5. “Social Media Strategy”

    I don’t want to “engage” with your “brand”. I want to buy shit from you. Maybe. We will, in time, look back and laugh at the notion of corporations spending good money trying to buy a soul in the form of “social media strategic consulting” from some expert.

    Oh, hell. Why wait. Let’s laugh now.

  6. Big, ugly, plastic sunglasses. On men.

    Seriously. Can “sleazy chic” die forever now? Because it’s really, really just sleazy.

  7. Cutesy Job Titles, Descriptions, and/or Requirements

    Let us have no more posts seeking “Ninja” this or “Rock Star” that, unless they involve, respectively, killing people, or playing the guitar and dating supermodels. Because you know what? Building Flash-based websites requires neither the use of throwing stars, nor Marshall stacks.

    OK, throwing star push pins, maybe. But lets keep it non-lethal, kids…

OK, that’s it. I’m done complaining, and I’m ready for the rush of pure joy as we turn over the odometer, clean the slate, hit the reset button, and retread all the tired old renewal metaphors once again. Breath in, breath out. Wax on, wax off. See you on the other side.

Ninety Percent Perspiration

Disclaimer: As someone who makes his living implementing technical systems, I’m naturally biased towards the “implementation” side of the idea/implementation equation. Notwithstanding the foregoing, I also spend a fair amount of professional time ideating, and assure my readers (both of you) that I am sympathetic to both sides.

In the course of my professional life, I am presented with a great many richly-detailed and enthusiastically-presented ideas (but of course — who on earth can help but think that their child is the cutest?). Sometimes, the presentation of these ideas is preceded by the traditional Kabuki of the non-disclosure agreement (NDAs are a topic for another day… don’t get me started or I might violate one by accident…), sometimes not. Regardless of relative secrecy, the idea-presenters typically have one thing in common — they almost always think that their brainchild is unique and special, while simultaneously holding the belief (frequently without benefit or burden of technical training necessary to determine so) that the details of its heretofore imaginary implementation will amount to a list of relatively simple tasks to be executed… by someone…

In short: The idea is unique and special. The implementation, however, should be “easy”.

(I have trained myself, in the interest of decorum, to refrain from jumping in at this point in these conversations and inquiring as to why the parent of the brainchild in question has yet to implement it themselves.)

This misconception can often lead to a concomitant and proportional misconception as to the appropriate relative weighting of interest in a proposed enterprise, but that, like NDAs, is a topic for another day.

The topic for today, rather, is a pair of related rules that I would like to propose:

First, the “Math is hard” rule:

The unique specialness of a given idea varies directly with the difficulty of its implementation.

and second, the “Underpants Gnomes” rule:

The value of an idea varies directly with the amount of its implementation that has been completed.

(There is a third rule, probably more apropos of a post on NDAs — the “infinite monkeys” rule — which states that any idea good enough that you’ve started trying to implement it is also being worked on by at least two other people you’ve never met, but I’ll leave that one for another day as well).

To recapitulate my disclaimer, and armor myself against the pitchfork-toting hordes quick to label me a techie snob: I am not dismissing the concept of the value of an idea, and certainly not the value of inspiration. I’m simply applying a sensible discount to the value of a given idea, based on a couple of measurable factors: how hard is this to implement? And how much have you already built? If the answer to these questions are “trivial” and “nothing”, I contend that the value of the idea naturally approaches zero.

This is not a bad thing.

Unless it’s your idea, and you’re trying to trade it for an equity stake in something. Then it might be bad for you.

But it’s still good for the commons. As long as you don’t over-value it or hold on to it too tightly.

This was made clear and plain to me in a blog post that made me smile — participants in a recent startup weekend event came up with 999 business ideas (naturally, they’re of varying value) — and unceremoniously loosed them on the world, free for the taking, to be implemented as the reader sees fit. Or not.

Awesome. I wish I had time to do some of these.

And there, my friends, is the rub — the single most precious non-renewable resource in the universe is time. Execution, not inspiration, is the rate-limiting step, in nearly all cases.

In that vein, I present the first (of many, I hope) freely-offered no-strings-attached idea, yours for the taking. Do with it what you will. Or not. If you take this one and run with it, send me a postcard or something.

I’ve been pondering this one since i saw the following:

I couldn’t agree more. Particularly since Amazon started blowing out great albums at $5 a pop, so much of my music is purely digital now. With my vinyl records and CDs, I can — sometimes — scratch the “who played that amazing part?” itch by going to the shelf. With MP3s, I’m left guessing too frequently.

Furthermore, as an admitted, unrepentant, unreconstructed music and recording snob, I frequently want to know not only who played on an album, but who produced it, who engineered it, where it was recorded, and as much of the minutia, myth, and legend surrounding its creation as I can find. The 33 1/3 book series is absolutely fantastic for this, but the obvious problem here is one of scaling — there’s no way that 33 1/3 will ever cover a significant portion of my record collection (nor should they), so these exegeses are a rare treat (particularly the volume about Paul’s Boutique… but I digress).

It seems to me that, in iTunes or the equivalent, I ought to be able to source this kind of metadata for any track playing. I mean, I’m connected to the Internet all the time, right? And this information is out there.

So, the idea — it’s pretty simple, really — a comprehensive online database of metadata regarding the personnel, recording staff, and circumstances surrounding the creation of each album and single out there. Much of this data already exists in Wikipedia, particularly for better-known albums, but it’s not necessarily structured. A “placeholder” for each album could be gleaned using the Wikipedia API, and user-generated structured data could be added, much in the same way that the Gracenote CDDB was originally created. Over time, the crowd could refine and add to this structured pool of music metadata, which would be linked to tracks and albums similarly to how CDDB track listings are linked (based on track index / track time). The CDDB could even serve as the base of records from which to start.

As this pool of data is added to, the experience of each album could become that much richer, perhaps allowing for addition of user-generated imagery.

I have no idea how anyone would make money from this. But I know it would be incredibly useful to me, and the legions of other music freaks out there.


Surviving a Twitter Outage

Twitter will be down for scheduled maintenance for a full hour tonight (Friday June 5 2009) at 8PM Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t live without my Tweetz!”, “How will I survive?!?”, “What, for the love of God, will I *do* with all of my opinions if I can’t tweet them??!?”.

Settle down. You’ll be fine, as long as you don’t panic. Panic is the first refuge of the uncreative.

Below are a few suggestions for surviving tonight’s planned apocaly^H^H^H er… maintenance. I certainly hope this is helpful to the more addicted among us:

While you’re wishing you could tweet, you could:

  1. Go out to dinner: I mean really, the outage is planned for 8PM Friday — prime date-night dinner-out time. And it’s rude to tweet from the dinner table anyway. You knew that, right? Right?
  2. Go see a band play and save your review for after the show: Seriously. I hear you can still enjoy a concert even if you can’t tweet the setlist — and how cute the bass player looks — in real time. Try it.
  3. Turn your mobile device off and get in an hour of cardio : This one needs no explanation.
  4. Nap: I mean really — you don’t tweet your dreams in real time, do you? Do you!?
  5. Punt: If you get really desperate, type out or write down all of your tweets, and send them all out in a flurry at 9:01PM. Or, you know, you could just express your opinion to the person closest to you (physically, I mean).

Hope this helps at least a few of you avoid being curled up in a ball shaking and sweating between 8 and 9 tonight…

Got anymore suggestions? Share ‘em here…


Dust off those rusty strings just one more time…

It’s been way, way, way too long, so once again I’m stepping out to lend a hand to Earl & the Reggae Allstars in Portland this Sunday:

Sunday, June 7 6PM-9PM
Thirsty Lion Pub, SW 2nd & Ash, Portland
Free, *All Ages*

As always, it’ll be an evening of good old fashioned reggae, dancehall & dub, and the kids’ll love it!

See you there!