Running the 2008 Idiotarod in New York City

Yesterday (January 26h) I ran the Idiotarod in New York City for the third time in four years - Ari and I headed up our third team (we were joined by Mike, Andrew, Angela and Jackie), with no repeat runners with exception to our team mascot.  This year the race organizers were on top of their game - running the whole thing via text messages, warning us of rout changes and check-in booths.  The race was also much longer this year - we started under the Manhattan bridge, ran up and over it, and down through Brooklyn (check out the route), totally 4.5 miles and the actual finish line might have been farther away; at every check point, there were competitions/challenges that you had to complete before getting the next checkpoint- for example the entire team had to complete spinning around ten with your head on a bat and then running down a basketball court.  At the third check-point, there were so many events that we didn't have time to finish all before needing to head home.  All in all the race was fun as usual, with hilarious costumes, but I was dead tired by the end and covered in milk, flour, paint, and everything else that saboteurs were throwing (I could definitely do with that aspect).  Check out my pictures and my recap from the past two races and I'll try to post some video footage soon.


NBA Players Say Kwame Brown Does the Least with his Talent

The Sports Illustrated Players Poll last week (1/21/08 issue) was interesting - of 242 NBA players surveyed, 17% said Kwame Brown is the player that "gets the least out of the most talent." Kwame Brown if you remember was the 1st pick in the draft by Michael Jordan when he headed up the Washington Wizards organization - and the first high school player to be drafted number 1. People often attribute that pressure and Michael Jordan returning to the NBA to play with him in order to 'win now' for stunting his growth. Years later Jordan is retired, Kwame Brown is on the Lakers, and is averaging under 5 points per game.

Other players on the list - Tim Thomas (10%), Eddy Curry (7%), Vince Carter (6%), Darko Milicic (5%). I guess my question is - for Kwame, Curry, and Darko - do players really see flashes of brilliance in them that should make us believe they have the talent to excel, just as scouts did, or are they just going on hype? Also the Vince Carter mention is particularly poignant given numbers he's put up over his career. Still, he was a joke in Toronto when he decided not to care, and his success in any game seems to come down to if he's interested in the game or not. When he wants to, he's unstoppable, but when he chooses not to drive to the basket, and sit outside jacking shots, he's underwhelming. I guess everyone in the NBA seems to notice.

I wonder if players read Sports Illustrated...

Photo: Lakers vs. Clippers 11/21/06
Originally uploaded by Vaguely Artistic.


Yesterday's post reviewed: Web, Tech, Music, and Entertainment Analysis

Yesterday's post ended up being much longer than expected, so I wanted to sum up the major points made in the numerous sections:

  1. We should be able to make purchases, initiate downloads, and more via text messaging.  Pizza Hut and Papa John's are doing it now.
  2. Facebook continues to work on the news feed to improve it's value but it needs to open up to more sources of information.
  3. Google Reader has a ways to go to become an information hub, and the first place it should look for features is gMail, and then ReadBurner.
  4. Musicians need to stop fixating on the album and start embracing the single; the target audience has.
  5. Video games are going the way of television and music in the modern era  - free, ad-supported.
  6. HBO needs to speed up its embracing of streaming online to keep up with competition and cut off illegal downloading.

Love to hear your comments and thoughts on all of these points.  Read the whole thing here.

Weekend Web, Tech, Commerce, Music, and Entertainment News from the Reader

It seems like there were a lot of small, interesting, news stories that came up in Google Reader (My RSS Reader) in the last three days, so I thought I'd lay them out briefly:
  • Fred Wilson calls for companies to implement purchasing through text messaging, noting that texting is now a primary way that most people communicate, and small things like movie/song purchases could easily be activated through SMS. Jott is showing how much can be done via short voice and SMS. Interestingly I read in the same weekend that Pizza Hut and Papa Johns are now accepting pizza orders via text message; I don't advocate eating their pizza, but if sub-par fast pizza chains can leverage modern technology, I'm sure other commercial companies can take the next step.
  • Facebook continues to refine the way information is added to the newsfeed, and what rights 3rd parties (applications) have in interacting with users en mass. I'm a big fan of the information stream (I wish people leveraged social resources more), and expect that it will change in a big way this year. Companies like friendfeed are showing more interesting progress, and that same technology could be used in Facebook to make the newsfeed more all-encompassing and more valuable. In any case it's good to see that Facebook is continually looking to improve user-experience and information value. [see my friendfeed page here or at the right of my blog or left of my facebook profile]
  • Google Operating System has an interesting article outlining how Google Reader could benefit from features that exist in Gmail. All of the suggestions are strong, could leverage long term value out of Google Reader (similar to how adding search functions changed the information store value of Google Reader), and when you think about it, seem obvious. Another interesting web application, ReadBurner, is leveraging the shared item function from Google Reader to create a Digg competitor of sorts; this seems like an obvious application that Google could do natively stronger than ReadBurner could do, and I don't see how they can stay out of this space. Hopefully innovation rolls out in a big way in Google Reader this year.
  • Mark Cuban wrote about how musicians need to let go of the concept of the music album, and recognize the success of micro-payment / micro-purchasing, i.e. the $0.99 cent single. He says 27 single tracks sold more than 100k times in a single week, which shows how big the single is, how big our threshold for small, inexpensive purchases is, and calls for bands to start offering subscription-type single track models. It's a good idea, and the next in a long line of suggestions that are being made across the web about how the music business could reform to fit the changing digital entertainment sales landscape. The larger point is this - the music industry is not dead; there is a lot of money to be made, all it takes is recognition that making money will require flexibility and innovation.
  • EA announced they will begin offering games to be downloaded and ad-supported. This is newsworthy because it's the first real venture into ad-supported video games beyond the Pogo / Real Arcade / etc. free online casual games subset. EA is recognizing that there can be more engaging, higher-level games that fall between the casual game and the hard-core game, which will attract players if the price is right, which means if the price is free. By offering these games by online download, it also means that they can sell dynamic advertising to be streamed in like Massive does with XBox360, and that's a valuable opportunity for advertisers, which means it's a valuable proposition for EA. This could be a market-changing move by a company that has traditionally relied on a few big key franchises that come out at a significant price year after year to the same fans.
  • HBO has started testing an online offering where HBO subscribers can access content via streaming broadband. On-demand movies seems like a must, with Netflix, Apple, and others offering it. The real question, though, is how they are going to combat piracy. Networks are finding that offering free content with ad-support online is a great alternative revenue stream and alternative offering to make illegal downloading less worthwhile (it is often about content accessibility). HBO isn't addressing this problem by only having offerings for their current subscribers. Ultimately all content that people can get for free somewhere (legally or illegally) needs to be unlocked and offered via value proposition to the masses.


NYC to have 120 foot waterfall beneath brooklyn bridge

Apparently a 120 foot waterfall is being installed underneath the Brooklyn Bridge in the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn during summer 2008. The new art project will live from July through October, cost $15 million, and is projected to draw $55 million in tourist revenue. To give you an idea of how high this will be, think the size of the Statue of Liberty. The public art project, funded by private donations to the New York City public art Fund, is along the same vein as the Gates project in Central Park, which drew over 1.5 million visitors.


CES Trend #2: Blu-ray Wins over HD-DVD (and Both Lose...)

This is second of my posts on trends that were illustrated by announcements at CES 2008:

1. Blu-ray Wins over HD-DVD - Blu-ray takes a substantial lead over HD-DVD, but it becomes clear that both will lose eventually to streaming media.

The day before CES began, Warner studies made the unexpected announcement that they will be moving exclusively to Sony's Blu-ray format over HD-DVD. With Warner moving, most of the movie studies will be selling their movies either exclusively or jointly on Blu-ray, and Blu-ray has over 70% of the content expected to hit market (irregardless of Blu-ray player market share). This is enough that most experts believe HD-DVD will disappear, as few people will buy players that have no content.

The big news, however, wasn't the Blu-ray over HD-DVD announcement, but rather the tech announcements that hinted to how quickly the physical disc movie market may become obsolete. Within a few short weeks, several big moves into on-demand movie downloads were made by major companies:

1. Netflix is now offering unlimited movie downloads on the PC
2. Apple is now offering HD movie download rentals directly to the TV via AppleTV
3. Sony announced they will offer downloads of movies via Divx to PS3 or PC
4. Tivo announced additional deals beyond Amazon unbox to download movies to the TV

All of these announcements lead to it being easier and easier for home movie watchers to get a movie on-demand without even a cable service. The Apple announcement in particular is important a) because it's as mainstream and media download companies get right now and b) it's HD quality capable, which means as far as most people can tell the quality will nearly match their DVD potential. All in all, in-and-around CES the theme was Blu-ray may be Sony's first format win after they lost betamax and minidisc, but it may all be for naught in the near future.


k b skobac mobile revisited

I have a mobile version of my blog that there really isn't a purpose for, and I'm sure no one is visiting it, but for the sake of experimenting in the space it's still live. Now my mobile website provider Mofuse is allowing you to demo the mobile site in a simulated cell phone interface (see the picture above) - so I figured at the very least I'd share that demo link so if anyone is curious they can try out the site and it's features without actually jumping on from a cell phone.


Steve Jobs Macworld 2008 Keynote leaked ?

This is potentially big news - Apple is usually a locked vault when it comes to information leaks - what gets launched at Apple press conferences is completely secret until the moment Steve Jobs gets up on stage. It looks like a real version of Steve Jobs' keynote has been leaked to the web, though. The leak is being given increased scrutiny because it landed on Wikipedia first, a site that protects anonymity. The details all seem to fit with early rumors as well. If this is true then I'm sure Steve Jobs will be screaming his head off at fear that his age of secrecy is over, and will be hunting hard for the source of the leak (he is known to go after rumor mills, including suing for the shutdown of rumor websites). Assuming these are the facts, then we can expect to see launched tomorrow:
  • 16 GB iPhone
  • support for 3rd party apps
  • launch-day apps from Twitter and Last.FM
  • a new MacBook that is only 0.8'' thick
  • YouTube support inside iTunes (download files)
Even if the keynote leak isn't real, a lot of these things might show up anyway. One thing that wasn't mentioned was iTunes movie rentals, which is widely expected.
[read original here]


CES Trend #1: Open Platforms

This is first of my posts on trends that were illustrated by announcements at CES 2008:

1. Open platforms - everything is opening up and everyone wants to own the platform.

At Yahoo's keynote talk, Jerry Yang (who just this year returned to serve as the CEO of Yahoo after years away) showed off two new open platforms - one just launched and one as a concept for the future.1 2008 Consumer Electronics Show CES 039

Yahoo! Go 3.0 - Yahoo! has offered a rich visual interface for download onto mobile devices and easy access to Yahoo's most popular tools for a while now.  With Yahoo! Go 3.0 Yahoo has standardized the mobile widgets on an open platform, and allowed other brands to build widgets for download and integration directly into the mobile platform.  Advertisers will also be able leverage the platform by designing ads that utilize the Yahoo! features such as maps.  Yahoo opening their mobile platform is a direct response to Google's announcement of Android, the open mobile platform that was announced in 2007 and we'll likely here  more about at the Mobile World Congress next month.  Verizon Wireless has also announced that they'll open up their famously closed network by the end of the year.1 2008 Consumer Electronics Show CES 057

Yahoo! Social Mail (concept) - Yahoo! also showed a conceptual design for a new Social Mail  program built out of their popular online mail client.  The Social Mail concept would be turning Yahoo! Mail into an open platform for communication, allowing other companies like MySpace and eVite to integrate directly with Yahoo! Mail, as well as all of the other Yahoo! properties that would not be integregated, such as Maps and Flickr.  It would start by turning the Mail startpage into a life-stream of all of your contacts, letting you know when you friends updated flickr, facebook, sent you a text message, IM, or e-mail.  All of your contacts across all of your properties would be integrated, sync'd, and ranked based on your overall communication levels.  Then you would be able to leverage all of the integrated programs. 

1 2008 Consumer Electronics Show CES 060 For example, say you were IMing friends via Yahoo! Messenger inside your Yahoo! Mail program, and everyone decided to go out to dinner tonight.  You'd be able to click the Yahoo! Maps tab and see everyone's favorite restaurants ranked via Yelp!  Then you'd be able to send out an eVite with the names of the people you are IMing, the highest ranked restaurant across all of your friends preferences already added on, and the event assigned to your calendar.  Afterwards, all of the pictures your friends took at the dinner would show up in your life-stream in-box.  Google, again, is expected to reveal a similar integrated email program in the near future, at the very least leveraging more Google properties.  Mail is the most social application we have, regardless of the spread of MySpace and Facebook, and both Yahoo! and Google are expected to leverage this into a more powerful social application in 2008.

Here is a small portion of video footage I took of the talk where Jerry Yang shows the friend rating, mapping, and eVite features.

My CES Recap

1 2008 Consumer Electronics Show CES 008 I'm back from CES (the international Consumer Electronics Show) and there is a lot to digest, but I'm going to try to put everything I've learned into a few key insights.  The convention itself was very cool, but overwhelming - supposedly 150,000 people attended, and there were thousands of companies spanning miles of convention hall floors.  I don't think there were any game-changing announcements, but there were many things that illustrated major progressions that will likely take place over the next year.  Over several posts I'll address these trends.


If I write some restaurant reviews...


View Larger Map

If I write some restaurant reviews, where should I do it - YelpGoogle Maps?  I've already been saving all of the restaurants that I eat at in New York on a few different maps (restaurants w/ reps, restaurants w/ Angela), but I think I'm going to start writing some actual comments.  Yelp is popular right now, and has a passionate community, but I'm guessing Google will slowly build out their maps as a social network, even more-so than they are doing now, and that will lead to more integration with online resources, and more traffic.  You can already see the profile being built out, as my first review, maps, and a profile, are all laid out together.

My first review is of Black Hound, an amazing bakery that Angela took me to.

AOL Instant Messenger calls innovation what ICQ did years ago

Real-Time IM

I don't know how many people used ICQ back when it was big, but ICQ was the client I started using in college in 2000 to trade movies with friends.  At the time it had better file transfer options than other instant messaging clients, and it also had this kind of cool but dangerous feature where it showed what someone was typing as they were typing, and then removed the typing if they deleted before sending.  This could be fun if you wanted to make underhanded comments without committing to them, but it meant you also couldn't rethink what you were saying before you sent it.  Well now AOL has released a beta of AOL AIM 6.8 featuring "Real-Time IM", which is the only major feature update for AIM 6.8.  It's kind of sad that this innovation existed at least 7 years ago in a now almost extinct IM client that had features apparently way ahead of its time.


Kevin Goes to CES (The Consumer Electronics Show)

I am about to head out to Vegas for a quick 48 trip to see the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  Over three thousand companies from all over the world will be there showcasing the new technology that should come out in 2008.  I will be attempting to post pictures and notes on a mobile blog that you can find here during the Monday and Tuesday walk through (I only have tickets to the floor, not the main talks).  Check it out, leave messages, and I'll be in touch soon!

(and ignore the crappy test posts and all the junk below)

Using Pandora and Hulu Outside of the U.S.

For all of my friends abroad, TechCrunch has a nice little feature on how to access Pandora or any other site that's usually blocked from outside the U.S. I haven't tried this obviously but:

"HotSpot Shield is a plugin for Windows or OS X that offers a free VPN service. There is a catch, it rather annoyingly adds a banner ad to the top of every page you visit, but at the ultimate price point of $0 most people will be able to live with it…well, at least whilst getting access to sites that were currently blocked, and the ads can be switched off on each page, but only after they have appeared."

[HotSpot Shield via TechCrunch]


I'm working on a new blog design

You can check it out over at my test site.  The reason is mostly because I couldn't correct this template's view in Internet Explorer (although it isn't so bad in IE7).   This is based off a normal blogger template, so all of the links work correctly (there were bugs you might not have noticed if you went from page to page).  Give me your thoughts - what do you like, not like miss, don't miss - anything you think might be worth having?

Check out the new format here


Google Spurs Change

Google Operating System has an interesting post called "winning even when you lose" where they discuss how Google spurs change in industries regardless of if it loses the apparent arms race.  The few examples given, of which there are likely many more, are:

Email - 2004 - Gmail launches with 1GB of free storage compared to Yahoo's 4MB of free storage.  In response, Yahoo grew to 100MB, then 1GB a year later, and finally, is now uncapped, while Google is only at 6GB for free (although it's growing at all times)

Instant Messaging - 2005 - Google Talk launches as an open standards chat program meant to exchange IMs with all open IM clients (although at the time that meant none of the big 3 competitors - AIM, Y! Messenger, or MSN Messenger).  In response Yahoo and Microsoft teamed up to link their IM services later that year.

Mobile Phones - 2007 - Google announced that it would bid for the 700MHz spectrum in the US, declaring four conditions of open applications and devices.  Later that year Verizon Wireless finally announces that it will open its wireless network to 3rd party devices and software.

Social Networks - 2007 - Google launches OpenSocial, an open widget application platform, and a month later Facebook announces it will open it's widget application platform for use on other social networks.

Jay-Z and Apple Forming Record Label ( Apple Rumors) ?

Here's a rumor that's gotten big really fast - Jay-Z, who stepped down as President of Def Jam records last month, is apparently set to announce a new record label in conjunction with Apple.  The big yearly Apple expo conference is only just over a week away, so big news is going to come one way or another. [Rumor comes from Boy Genius Report]

Download or capture streaming music ( free music )

Today is all about free music two tools were brought to my attention today that make it really easy to download or capture streaming music from Pandora, Seeqpod, Last.Fm, or even a random website that has music in the background.

TechCrunch profiled today a seemingly great new tool called Freemusiczilla that lets you download "download free music from Imeem, Last.fm, Pandora, Myspace, eSnips, Mog, iJigg, Radio.blog.club and almost all social music services" with just the touch of a button. Free music is limited to 10 songs per day, but presumably this will be unlocked with a paid version in the near future.

My friend Dave pointed me to Freecorder today, which enables you to record via a browser toolbar any sound that plays through your pc speakers - i'm not sure of the technology behind it, but he said all sounds are aggregated, so if you receive an IM during a song playing that you're recording, the IM sound will be pulled in. He said it works great, though, and he's using it to record website soundtracks.
I haven't used either of these yet so let me know how they work, and if they live up to their reviews (and please use legally, however that may be).

Atmosphere gives out free album as a holiday present

I've been a big fan of Atmosphere since Benn introduced me to them in college - since then I've seen them and Brother Ali perform 3 times, in Boston and New York City (come back - why do you avoid the city on tours?!). I rarely check MySpace but today work called for it, and I noticed that Atmosphere has put out a free album as a holiday present to their fans. They also apparently release single tracks for free download under the title "sad clown bad _____" where "summer", "fall", etc fit in the blank - check out this page of Rhymesayers albums for links to the tracks. I haven't listened to any of the above yet since I'm at work but leave a message if you do and let me know how it is!

Doing more marketing posts in 2008: Using Google News Archives to tell your brand's story

I'm going to try to do more marketing-related posts this year on a separate website: KBS Advertising.  My first article is about using Google News Archives to tell the story of your brand over time.  These posts will usually be about brand monitoring and measurement, and usually are spurred by PR Guru Steve Rubel, whom I read religiously.

Dear Rhapsody: We want our YottaMusic back

According to this post YottaMusic was taken down at the request of Rhapsody.  YottaMusic was a better interface that offered easier, quicker access to music, with more interesting social integration (twitter and last.fm).  It gave hard-core Rhapsody users features they wanted, and many Rhapsody evangelists swore by it.  There are too many music subscription services, and brand loyalty is all you can bank on - if this is true, Rhapsody needs to listen to it's users and give us a YottaMusic back - hire the founder, purchase the product, implement its features, embrace the innovation - listen to your passionate users!  Will we see anymore of YottaMusic, will Rhapsody answer these questions?