The New York City Waterfalls are coming and they'll be all over

Back in January I wrote about how a New York City public art project will be building 120 foot tall waterfalls under the Brooklyn Bridge. Well by the end of the month (June 26th) they will be here, and they're apparently coming in groves. The project map shows four locations for waterfalls, and construction photos are available at the project website. I'm psyched for these, It's going to a very cool site to see. [thanks @calacanis]


Colbert Takes on MLB and their ridiculous copyright demands

For more information check out Techdirt's article


A lot of Windows 7 Eye Candy but is it enough?

This week saw the unveiling of a handful of early screenshots of Windows 7, the next-gen Microsoft Windows that should replace Windows Vista by 2010. My first reaction is that the new Windows looks beautiful, a significant jump towards an operating system that is actually enjoyable to use. But I'm sure that my initial reaction to Vista was the same thing, and a lot of what what was meant to be in Vista never happened. Additionally, much of Vista that exists is slow and unfriendly, so in the end it didn't turn out to be much of a revolutionary step for Microsoft Windows. At this point, another potentially false promise of a powerful Windows operating system probably won't keep me from finally purchasing a Mac as my next computer.


Reading Inside Steve's Brain - a book about Steve Jobs' product design brilliance

Yesterday I started reading “Inside Steve’s Brain” – a book about Steve Jobs, but more importantly about how he is a master of consumer product design. I’m over a third of the way in and I feel like I’m learning something on almost every page – about him, about successful business practices, about consumer foresight, or about user experience insight. These topics, among others, are rounding out a biographical story not only about what makes Steve Jobs so brilliant and successful, but why Apple is such an intelligent and successful company overall (which is really a reflection of him overall). As I read it, I am also more and more certain that I will finally cave in and buy a Mac laptop come the holidays (I need to sure up my apartment situation first). Among the many things I didn’t know about Steve Jobs…

Starting with his personal life:

  • Steve Jobs was adopted (his birth parents must think they gave away a winning lottery ticket
  • He’s a college drop out who survived by collecting bottles for pocket change
  • He once tried an all apple diet because he thought it would keep him from needing to shower

His business savvy:

  • After he was ousted from Apple back in the mid 80’s, he was determined to crush Apple by developing two companies
  • He found NeXT, a cutting age computer company meant to compete against Apple head on. He later sold NeXT to Apple for nearly half a billion dollars and indirectly the seat back on top of Apple as CEO
  • He bought a computer graphics company for $10 million George Lucas when Lucas needed cash for a divorce, and then sold it to Disney years later for $7.4 billion dollars after a string of hits including Toy Story
  • As once-again CEO for Apple, he cut a deal with Bill Gates to drop his lawsuit against Microsoft for copyright infringement in exchange for a 5 year commitment to building Microsoft software for Apple, including Microsoft office, the key software that almost every consumer uses
  • When he took over Apple the company had an estimated 6 months left of falling profits before bankruptcy
  • His core talent was recognizing the need for simplicity in business and design, which is apparent in many of Apple’s successes
  • Along with his predecessor, he cut Apple’s product line down from hundreds to only 4, in order to focus the company towards what it could do best and where it could make money; these products, a consumer desktop and laptop, a professional desktop and laptop, were Apple’s only focus for years to come
  • Pixar employees are strongly encouraged to take 4 hours per week of continuing education in film, animation, etc, in an on-campus university, regardless if their discipline, to help ensure that employees continue to develop and rank at the top of their game; this has a feel to the much more highly publicized 80/20 rule that Google has pushing employees to continue to experiment on their own projects

His influence on simplicity within Apples products:

  • When the Mac Air came out and lacked a CD-Rom it was widely controversial, but this wasn’t the first time Jobs made such a decision; the iMac was the first computer to come without a floppy drive; Jobs recognized this as a fading importance that just added unnecessary bulk to his computer
  • The first iPod had the capability for FM radio and voice recording, but Jobs wanted to maintain focus on the ease and functionality of the core purpose of the product, music listening
  • Packaging was a critical component – he designs each product packaging so that unpacking the box introduces the consumer to the product in a clear and conceptual way
  • Packaging around products like the iPod is meant to showcase the product as if you are buying art


Where is interesting content being posted on the web?

I never thought I'd be interested in a site that hosts documents (I'm talking PDF's, Powerpoint files..), but lately I'm finding that a lot of really interesting content is showing up on sites like SlideShare.
I'm a big proponent of continuing education - and for the post-college work-force world that often means conventions and conferences where people smarter than ourselves are speaking, giving talks, showing presentations. Unfortunately conferences are too expensive, and most of us aren't in a position to have our company fund day or week long conferences (this is a gripe of mine because while the value isn't instantly visible by production, the education aspect, the increased knowledge and motivation from the conference, goes a long way for the duration of your career - not enough emphasis is put on continuing education in the advertising world I live in).
But these days I'm finding great talks and presentations are showing up on sites that I didn't think I'd ever care about. I now follow links to Scribd and Slideshare, and am noticing that the more interesting videos of live presentations are showing up on Viddler, a more feature rich video site than YouTube that allows for in-video notation and higher def video streaming. So my question is, where are you finding smart content lately, where are you reading or watching the things that make you smarter?

My profile on SlideShare (only one document saved so far)
My profile on Viddler (only two clips saved so far)
My profile on Scribd (only one document posted so far)

[update: I'm saving a list of interesting presentations / talks on Del.icio.us here]

Hopefully my saved content on these sites will grow considerably after this posting, 5/25/08. Meanwhile here's the document I posted on Scribd - screenshots of a new ad campaign my client is running in XBox360 - AboveTheInfluence ads streaming via Massive into NBA Live 2008.

Ever wonder what Google's strategy is?

Every time you read that a new product is being released by Google with no seeming reason but to give yous omething for free, http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/
Google Operating Systemever wonder what their strategy is? Google Docs, Google Earth, Picasa, Sketch-up, etc, everything Google releases is a product that gives the consumer something they always wanted for free.
"Google has a long-term strategy for its search engine and for the other services. "Our goal is to develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible. In pursuing this goal, we may do things that we believe have a positive impact on the world, even if the near term financial returns are not obvious. For example, we make our services as widely available as we can by supporting over 90 languages and by providing most services for free," wrote Google's founders in the IPO letter" [via Google Operating System]
Now sure, eventuallly Google finds a way to make money (Ads are finally coming to Google image search and iGoogle some time in the next few months). And gaining market share by giving something away for free is classic undercutting. And giving us things for free actually gives them significant returns beyond finances (think of the custom maps we've built in Google Maps and the custom architecture developed with Sketchup and the world photos in Panoramio). But sometimes it feels like they're just good guys doing it out of their own good heart, trying to change the world one product at a time because they can afford to do the right thing.


Google Sites revealed, another redundant product

Google Page Creator

Google finally unveiled Google Sites to the public, the reformatted product that leverages the JotSpot wiki technology they purchased almost two years ago.  My first question is, how is this different than Google Page Creator?  Sure, it's more shareable for open editing, which is the main focal point of a Wiki, but after watching the Google overview video for their new Sites product, it really feels like they're billing this as an easy website design tool, which is basically what Page Creator was.  Now Page Creator has some additional features, such as easy implementation of Google Gadgets, and Sites has some additional features such as shared editing, but for the most part this could have been one product.  Just because Nobody really uses Google Page Creator doesn't mean they should just leave it open and separate and lingering.

More worrisome is the continued developing trend of Google tossing redundant products out into market without a clear focus of how they will grow and become more useful.  This is especially clear in the bookmarking sector, where Google now has Google Notebook, Google Bookmarks, Google Share, and Google Reader Notes.  Now some of these are more social, some of these are more personal, and some of these are more about research, but in the end there is likely a way for Google to combine many of these products, leverage the interesting features from each, and create something more powerful for the user.  Right now this is both confusing and unorganized, as I never know what to share how and when, and whether I'll be able to remember where to find it again.  Yes that's because I haven't set rules for my own use, but I shouldn't have to if they have a clear vision.

Other places Google has redundancy?  YouTube and Google Video come to mind right away.  If Google Video is meant to be exclusively a video search engine, then they should migrate our uploaded videos from Google Video to YouTube and let us have our files in one place, with the added features that Google is rolling out for YouTube such as viewer statistics.  Not only do these features not exist on Google Video, but in some fashion they did in the beginning, only Google has let Video linger and many features don't work anymore.  That's almost a joke for them.



Collective Soul Plays an Acoustic Set in My Office and I sit Front Row

So my company does these really random "Brown Bag Lunch Concert Series" sessions where artists basically come in and perform 3 to 4 songs acoustic in an open area in my office. My company lures that are looking for doors in to the advertising/media world, and in the past we've seen Richie Sambora (from Bon Jovi) and Hanson (who are actually pretty good now) play, among a myriad of others.

Now this morning I came into the office and an email was waiting saying Collective Soul was playing - a random rare gem in the slew of nameless monthly concerts. A little history here, I actually paid to see Collective Soul play last summer as part of an awesome concert with Live and Counting Crows out doors in a minor league baseball stadium. So when I heard Collective Soul would be in the office, I made sure to grab my camera and head up a little early to ensure a seat in the front.

Collective Soul was represented by the two brothers - the main singer, and the guitarist. They played 3 songs acoustic: December, The World I Know, and a 3rd song that I hadn't heard before. Afterwards they stuck around to give out and sign CD's (I have the newest album signed for my father), take pictures, and even offered to connect us with back-stage passes if we make it to a show this summer. It was a really cool, really intimate concert experience that I never expected.


Panoramio is another confusing Google product that makes us wonder where GDrive is

In all of the discussions that come up around Google's missing long-rumored G-Drive, no one ever mentions Panoramio.

Google's storage strategy has always been confusing - at this point we have free about 6GB on Gmail, 1GB on Picasa, 200MB on Google Page Creator, as well as some storage on Google Docs (I can't remember how much off the top of my head). The product that never seems to get mentioned, though, is Panoramio - a location-based photo sharing site that Google owns now for around a year (purchased June 1 '07) and has integrated into Google Maps and Google Earth heavily (you can view geo-tagged photos from Panoramio on both of those products). I was surprised to find that Panoramio allows for 2GB of storage, more than Picasa, Google's main photo sharing site. One of the few things that keeps me from using Picasa more often is that lack of storage, and I would certainly be happy with the extra gig or two.

More importantly, there is still the main question of how come we can't share the nearly 10GB of storage Google is offering in its many products as we see fit? And how come we can't see all of our files across all of Google's owned and operated properties in one "storage" location? AOL and Microsoft both have products that offer 5GB of free storage of any sort - I am not sure exactly how integrated the storage is into the rest of their products, but it doesn't matter much - I don't really use them. With Google, I have some content spread across almost everything they operate, and I'd like to keep track of it, share it, manage it, and appropriate it easily and as I see fit.


Why aren't facebook users obsessed with Twitter yet?

Every time someone asks me about Twitter I wonder how come more people aren't interested in using it. Facebook has obviously blown up - everyone of every age is on it, and using it often, whether they claim to like it or not. People love to write on each others walls, update their statuses, and comment to each other about both. So in that case, why don't people start using twitter? Aside from the fact that through twitter you can update your Facebook status, it's essentially a combined Facebook wall and Facebook status, but through texting via a cell phone, which almost everyone I know is also obsessed with. It takes many of the things that people do on Facebook and makes them faster- your friend updates his status, and you know immediately. And if that status is "out at a particular bar" then you might find you're in the area and make your way over when it matters, not when it's too late three hours later. Your friend writes on your wall and you know immediately, and you can respond just as fast. So if Twitter in it's most basic form combines many of the things that people I know love, how come no one is using twitter?

As I'm writing this, I'm thinking - maybe it's because all we really care about on Facebook are the pictures.


Piclens is the best Firefox extension ever invented and changes photo viewing

I have to thank Galen for repeatedly telling me to try Piclens - it's by far the coolest Firefox extension ever designed (and yes I know I'm in a small minority that think any are cool). If you ever look through flickr albums, search google images, or browse youtube, installing Piclens will completely change your experience. Instead of using whatever interface those sights has, Piclens allows you to zoom in and out seamlessly through all of the images/videos available in a slick interface that is easy and entertaining to use. It actually can't be explained without seeing or trying it, but if you use Firefox you should be taking the suggestion and trying this extension right now. If you head over to the product page and watch some demo videos that can't really do it justice.
Another Firefox extension that I use often is ScribeFire, a blogging platform that builds right into your browser. It was helpful but buggy in the beginning; now it has gotten a million times stronger in recent months with support for blogger categories, much more customization, integrated image search and formatting, among other things. If you blog via a web-based blog tool like blogger or wordpress.com, it's probably going to make your life a lot easier.


Using Jott to send emails from a phone call

You don't need a blackberry to have a multimedia phone - lately I've gotten in the habit of using a voice tool called Jott. Jott enables me to call in and voice a command of a location, such as "myself" or "calendar" and then leave a voice message. When I hang up, a transcription of the message (and a link to the message recording) is sent to the location I directed. Through the Jott website you can link email addresses, calendars, blogging tools, and more. Right now I have it set so when I call Jott I can leave a message for myself and it sends an email to my work e-mail address. This way when I am out at night and remember something I need to do the next day, I make a quick phone call and have it waiting for me in the morning. You can also set up a text messaging option, for when you can't make a phone call. On Jott itself you can keep track of your to-do's that you've sent to various locations, listen to your messages, organize them, set reminders, and more.

New restaurants I love in New York City

This Sunday I ate at two fantastic restaurants:

Flea Market Cafe, New York NY Flea Market Cafe for brunch
Il Corallo Trattoria, New York NY Il Corallo Trattoria for dinner

Both meals were delicious, and both were incredibly well priced. I've reviewed them on Yelp and on Google Maps, which is redundant, but I haven't given up yet on Google Maps as a community. Until I see a clear winner, I'll be double-posting.


Miguel Tejada never watched Baseketball, promises sick child a homerun

Apparently before last night's Astros game, Miguel Tejada promised a sick child with muscular dystrophy that he would hit him a home run in the night's game, and he actually made it happen- the first home run in a back-to-back-to-back string of 3 home runs in 3 hitters along the way to a 7-4 win over the Brewers.

Watch the clip on ESPN and see the child repeat Tejada's promise

All I can think is how this sounds right out of Baseketball, where the Southpark guy promises a kid he'll hit him 3 home runs, doesn't get it done, and then fears his let-down will cause the kid to be so dejected that he doesn't come through his heart transplant. Luckily Tejada only promised one, and was able to deliver!


Google's outdoor art show in the meatpacking district

Last night Angela and I stood out in the rain (she's a good sport) around 9PM to see Google turn the buildings on 9th ave and West 12th Street into art canvases. The event was done in celebration of their new online exhibit that allows you to skin your iGoogle homepage with famous artist renderings, from the likes of Marc Ecko, Radiohead, and more. I grabbed a few videos that don't really do the event justice, so if you're interested you can check it out yourself tonight (5/2/08) or tomorrow night (5/3/08) at the same spot.

Iron Man Gets Rave Reviews

I went to see Iron Man on Wednesday, a few days early as part of the Marvel premiere in New York City, and loved it. Sometimes comic movies come out cheesy, lack plot, and go so over the top that you can't get immersed into film whatsoever (Fantastic 4, Electra, etc..). Sometimes, though, they get it right, and the movie is compelling and engaging - X-men 2 and Spiderman 2 in particular were fantastic. Iron Man was the first film Marvel produced by itself, without another studio's partnership - it has good directors and good actors (I'm a big Robert Downey Jr. fan for some reason), and given that it was Marvel itself, I have to guess that they stuck well to the comic vision. I didn't love the final battle, if only because I tend to feel the endings of these things are usually anti-climatic, but the rest of the movie was great and I was completely engaged the entire time. Also, Stan Lee makes a great a great cameo, as he always does in his films.

RottenTomatoes Reviews (95)
MetaCritic Reviews (80)


Content Is Becoming a Commodity - ReadWriteWeb

ReadWriteWeb has an interesting article discussing the commoditization of content, which essentially means that online content (think blogs, etc) is going the way of music, where since anyone can produce it and anyone can (more or less) copy it, there is an economic drive towards of supply and demand leading all content itself to be valued at zero. Bloggers, then, are increasingly facing what musicians are facing, which is that they need to bring more to the table than just content itself. Some things that bring visitors back: the resources, the community, the first-to-print, etc. This is a powerful principle that is changing and tearing down traditionally monopolistic industries in the digital age.

"I believe in god but not in religion organized by man"

"I believe in god but not in religion organized by man. And I think the men (and women) who have cloaked themselves in the name of god have often done great harm. Religion is not the root of all evil but the people who traffic in it sure can be"

This is a very poignant quote by Fred Wilson that I will be thinking more about today.

Fighting Spam

After changing my password a couple of times, this blog has still been hit with a significant amount of post spam. I wrote blogger twice about it, but they have yet to respond to my inquiries, in really poor taste. Yesterday I noticed the spam posts were suggesting you open the attached file, which suggested that the post was actually an email. Blogger actually has a feature which allows bloggers to post articles via an email to a secret email address, and I had turned that feature on years ago but never used it. Yesterday I turned off that feature and set all incoming emails to save as a draft, hopefully cutting off the source of spam postings. For any of you who follow this blog regularly, sorry about the trouble, and if anyone has suggestions that might help, definitely leave me a comment.