The Gold Medal Men’s Basketball Game was one for the Ages

If you’re a basketball fan and you didn’t stay up last night to watch the Men’s Basketball Gold Medal Game between USA and Spain, you missed something amazing.  It was an incredible game that contained highlight-reel plays literally in every minute, from both teams.  The guys on USA were determined not to see another game go up in smoke like the previous losses of in the Worlds and the Olympics for the last 8 years; the guys on Spain were determined to show that they could win even after a 30+ point loss the previous time the two teams met. 

You can watch the highlights from the USA side, and you can pretty much see every amazing play (albeit without context) that Team USA had, but it’s a joke that this video doesn’t include anything from Spain.  Not only was their determination inspiring, but they had some plays that took me out off my couch, including a monsterous dunk by Rudy Fernandez over Dwight Howard, and some amazing clutch plays by the Gasol brothers.  When you watch the NBC highlight reel you think the game was a blowout, but keep an eye on the score and you’ll see that Spain was within two during the 4th quarter, and within 4 at 2 minutes left- this was a game down to the wire.

One quick note – it’s great that NBC broadcast all of the Olympics streaming free online, but their tight control over the content is a joke.  I couldn’t embed the highlights here (they could have included advertising in the embed); I couldn’t even embed a photo from them.  Also, Yahoo! Sports and ESPN essentially have no visual content available, which I presume is do to lockout.  The best you can get in terms of pictures is the great photo journals over at Newsweek (where all these pictures are from).

Photosynth Turns Photos Into Immersive Environments

This week, one of Microsoft’s impressive lab products Photosynth was finally opened for personal use after 2 years of being only a technology demo.  Honestly even after two years I never expected it for public use given it’s seeming unheard of photo analysis technology, but this weekend I was able to dive in and start using Photosynth for myself.

Photosynth takes batches of photos (20+ photos at bare minimum) and analyzes them for overlapping content and views, and then builds them into a 3D environment where you can click into photos and see the objects within from different views, as well as to continue to move around environments as if all of the pictures are one. 

It’s hard to really comprehend until you start to use it, so I’ve embedded a photosynth above that I built of Mirror Lake in the Wallowa Mountain Range in Oregon (pictures and more from my recent backpacking trip).  When you upload pictures, Microsoft Photosynth tells you how “synthy” they are, which basically reflects how well your photos really connect with each other to build an environment.  You can see my Wallowa photosynth is 59% synthy, so it’s actually a pretty good collection of 44 pictures, but they split out into a few seperate groups and a few pictures can’t be connected.

One thing to note – Microsoft Photosynth is very buggy.  You may have to install it numerous times, and often when I return to the site it cannot detect  that I’ve already installed the plug-ins.  At any given time, either Firefox or IE doesn’t allow me to actually view the photosynths.  Hopefully over time the site will become much more stable, which is necessary for it to scale.

I’ve also built one from pictures I took of the Taj Mahal on my trip to India, see both of my photosynths here.

Skydeck Turns Your Mobile Phone Call Data Into a Social Network

Skydeck Logo

Tonight I decided to give Skydeck a try - it's one of those social utilities you probably haven't heard of but might really enjoy using.  You connect it to your mobile phone company's website, and it scrapes your phone bills to build out a social network around your call and text information.  From here you can see who your true contacts are ranked by the amount of time you spend communicating with them.  It's on the growing list of social utilities that takes your every day behaviors and unlocks the social value, as well as http://mashable.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/skydeck-address-book.pngthe deeper personal utility, behind the data.  Think about how Xobni organizes your outlook info, how Last.FM leverages your music listening habits, and Mint organizes your financial data.

Skydeck has a lot of potential - it's sitting on very personal and very revealing information that speaks directly to how a majority of people do most of their communicating - their mobile phones.  However, right now it's missing many of the features that would make it great. I'd like to see more data - for example, where are trends?  I want to see minute and text usage per month, as well as per day, and per hour.  I would love to see recommendations on how to improve my phone bill, such as "most of your calls are nights and weekends, lower your day-time calling", or "you consistently go over your txt message allocation".  It needs to take a cue from Mint in terms of features.

Also, Skydeck highly touts its ability to connect with other social tools to merge with the rest of your important contact data beyond the phone number.  However, it currently really only connects with desktop tools and Plaxo, which means it's more for the business class.  The people I email with using Outlook are rarely the same people that I contact with my cell phone, so I need Skydeck to connect with Facebook, where most of my friends update a significant ammount of their contact information.  It could also potentially work well with Linkedin, just as Xobni does.

All in all, I'm looking forward to seeing how Skydeck develops - if it can add more features and create more utility, it will be a killer application.


Newsweek's Olympic Photo Journals

Newsweek has very cool photo journals of the Olympics, an interesting way to experience the personal experiences and emotion of the athletes.


Theater Was Once Afraid of Radio

Sticking on the theme of Old Media needing to learn how to adapt to and embrace New Media, techdirt has a hilarious post reminding us that at one point, Theater companies were afraid of Radio broadcasters mentioning their upcoming play on air:
Once upon a time, complimentary theatre tickets would come with a
covering note like this: "Dear Sir, The Management of the ------
Theatre will be much obliged if you will very kindly co-operate with
them in safeguarding the enclosed invitation from being used for the
purpose of broadcasting a notice of the play from any station of the
British Broadcasting Corporation. The invitation is intended to meet
the convenience of legitimate journalism, exclusive of broadcasting."
Dated 10 October 1929 and quoted in Ego: The Autobiography of James
Agate (1935)

Just helps to put the current music and movie evolution that we're going through, and the ongoing battles of the RIAA and the MPAA, in perspective.


Mark Cuban Tells the Motion Picture Association to Smarten Up

This is such a good post from the Mark Cuban that I couldn't help but reproduce the important part. He's certainly in a position to speak on this, since he has $1B invested in the movie business:
The MPAA is staring right in the face of a paradox and they must make a
choice. They can continue to invest in the war on Digital Piracy (as
opposed to physical DVD piracy, which can be monitored and slowed by
confiscating actual DVDs and duplication equipment), or they can invest
in promoting the fun of going to the movies.

Invest in a
positive message that can get people more excited about their member
products and the unique experience offered in theaters, or send a
message that your customers are crooks and pirates. Invest in a message
that could generate more revenues for your members, or invest in the
cost of trying to close the "analog hole" which costs taxpayers money
as you waste legislative time, consumers money, as you waste the time
and money of cable, satellites and telcos who will fight this effort or
spend millions having to adopt it, and of course drive up the cost of
the movie going experience because of all the above.
Hopefully the movie industry hears him loud and clear - trying to fight pirating will have you going down swinging, slowly bleeding from a fight that wasn't worthwhile in the first place. Spend time improving your product (the "going out", theater experience) and marketing it to its audience, and you'll increase sales, just like anything else. The MPAA has the advantage of having had a front row seat to the music industry's debacle - now it should learn from their mistakes and usher in a new era of movie going experience, rather than trying to defend obsolete ones.


Backpacking the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon

Backpacking the Wallowa Mountains Oregon Summer 2008 by you.

I finally got around to fully posting my pictures from this summer’s backpacking trip to the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon.  The highlight of the trip was reaching the top of Eagle Cap summit, 9,600 feet above sea level, after camping 4 days.  Overall we hiked around 45 miles and 10,000 feet vertical over a 6 day period, saw temperatures from 85 degrees down to 35, and went swimming in lakes that were filled with barely melted glacier water.  This trip, as always, was incredible, serving as my every-other-year de-tox from technology, the city, and every day life in general.  It was also one of the most strenuous weeks of my life!

My pictures from the Wallowa Mountains

A video of Ari and I playing the first ever “rock bocce” game (ESPN, if you’re watching, this is ripe for a top 10 highlight on sports center)

The daily details of my six day trip itinerary


USA Mens Basketball Redeems Themselves With Win Over Greece

LeBron James

This is what a resounding victory looks like over Greece after being devastated by them 2 years ago at the Worlds.


Google unveils "Insights For Search", more advanced search trend data and tools

Google has turned on a new property Google Insights for Search, which is essentially a more granular and powerful Google Trends tool that enables you to see search data, not only as it trends over time, but also search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames. They offer a sample use for the car manufacture industry to see what features are most important for consumers:

I have also been using the tool to see popular trend data in comparative years over time of searches for Marijuana in the United States, a more relivant search for my own job purposes. Overall there's been a decrease in search for marijuana year over year since 2004, suggesting a decrease in interest in popular culture, and ideally reflecting a decrease in the use of marijuana overall.

A link to this tool is now provided in the Media Tools section of this site.

[cross posted on my KBS: Advertising World blog]