The Phillies WIN !!

From k. b. skobac

This was an amazing team to watch through the end of the season and the playoffs.  Every player came through in one way or another, every player contributed to the team in a big way.  Jamie Moyer’s epic effort on the eve of his 46th birthday, Cole Hamels going undefeated entering the playoffs after only his 2nd full season, the defensive plays, the big hits by just about everyone – it was amazing.

(for more pictures, see the ESPN Gallery)


Gmail Experimental Features Make Gmail More Interesting

If you haven't noticed yet, Gmail opened up a "labs" page a while back that allows you to turn on experimental features within your gmail interface.  It had gotten little attention until the new beer goggles protection feature that was added two weeks ago.  Well I hadn't really felt the need to turn on any features until this morning, when Google added the ability to integrate Google Calendar and Google Docs directly into Gmail, as well as any additional Google Gadgets (though others are done through a hack and are not yet entirely meant for integration) you like.  At that point I turned on 6 features - Google Calendar, Google Docs, Chat to the right, Labels to the right, drag and drop modules, and pictures in chat.  Now all of the sudden Gmail looks like a much more powerful dashboard, and the only thing I really feel missing right now is a to-do list (which I could really take care of by pumping a remember-the-milk module into the left bar via the gadget hack).  I've grabbed a screenshot of my Gmail as it stands right now - if you want to turn on these features, sign into gmail and go to the settings link, then over to the labs tab.


Donors Choose - Transparent Local Fundraising for Education

DonorsChoose.org is an organization that helps raise funds for education. But instead of donating money to the organization and wondering where the money is going, DonorsChoose creates challenges where individual schools and classes post what they need money for, and groups try to raise money to complete each fundraising challenge individually. Not only do you know what the money is going for, but you know what class and what teacher has requested the money - at that level, you can probably go right to the school and confirm the fundraising initiative!

Right now the major tech blogs are having a competition to see which tech blog community can raise the most money for the needs of public schools - I donated money to help fund laptops for a middle school journalism program, and musical instruments for another class - both New York City schools. Afterwards I received a thank you note from the teachers:
Dear Kevin,
I cannot thank you enough for your generosity in donating money towards the laptop computer. The students will be using this laptop with such gratitude and appreciation. We have been sharing laptops with other clubs, saving documents on flashdrives which is very time consuming. This laptop is going to be such an asset and will make our school newspaper even better. The students were so excited when I told them and could hardly wait for it to come. It is great to know there are generous people out there and people who are willing to give money to the education of the great students here at our school. Once again, we are so appreciative of your generous gift. Thanks
If you want to help out, the tech blog fundraising effort is going on for another week. I'm embedding a widget here for you to donate to Fred Wilson's challenges (where I donated as well):


Tonight I had the Honor of Meeting Art Spiegelman

Tonight I had the opportunity to meet Art Spiegelman, the author of Maus, as he took time to speak at a nearby Barnes & Noble about his new book Breakdowns (an auto-biographical graphic novel that touches on how he came to write graphic novels and how he came to write Maus). 

Maus, for those not familiar, is one of the most well read books about the Holocaust, known for it’s distinct graphic novel style and it’s portrayal of the the world as animals.  It’s also a story written by Art Spiegelman looking at his father, who was the survivor (rather than say Night, which Eli Weisel wrote about himself the survivor).  The perspective of the son and the post-survivor generation is different, and intense in it’s own way. 

I’ve read Maus (it’s actually a two part series, Maus I & II) several times, and always it has been incredibly intense and emotional; my Grandfather is a Holocaust survivor, and many many of my relatives died in the war, so thought it is not my family’s story, it is in a way their very story.  Everything about the victims and the survivors is tied to every other, and the emotions of Spiegelman himself as a 2nd generation is just one more layer that survivor families can relate to.

I had not expected for tonight to impact me as it did; I knew that Maus wasn’t particularly the subject at hand, and so I expected more to hear about the graphic novel industry.  He was also not who I had imagined from reading the books – he’s jovial, boisterous, comes off almost as a jolly professor (his talk is filled with literary reference) rather than the burdened tired man I envisioned.  If I hadn't known what he wrote about, I probably wouldn't have expected it from him.  Still, the few images he presented of Maus and his time writing it reminded me that regardless of how he carries himself out in the open, Maus the story and more importantly Maus the life of his father was the defining influence on his life.   His pictures were small peaks into what's deep inside him and what lies embedded in the history of all of our families.

Standing in front of him, I was humbled and thankful – the book he wrote may have been cathartic for him, but it is also incredibly important to my family as survivors, as it is I’m sure for all of us that have ties to the Holocaust.  As he signed my book, I thanked him for the difficult work he did that is so significant to all of us, and told him that as a family of survivors we are thankful for it.  He asked if my grandfather was still alive, where my last name comes from (it’s modified from polish origin), and finished the inscription from above.  It was a short meeting that followed a talk meant more to be humorous and informative, but I walked away from it shaking and emotionally exhausted, in ways that I can only begin to describe here. 

If you haven’t read Maus, make sure you do – it will not take long.


Forget it and Enjoy Life

This is a great quote that is worth thinking about:
I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.
I want to leave a mark on the future for people that follow me, be it family or in organizations I care about, but I think that's different - it's seperate from spending all my time trying to earn more money, or prove to people I'm better - it's about feeling like the time I have here is being spent on worthwhile endeavours, and paying forward the great things that people before me have done for me.  The point stands though, don't lose site of enjoying life for what it is while we have it.

(re-blogged from FredWilson who quoted Andrew Lahde)


Disturbing Notice About the Water at Work

Internal notice received today at the office:

A new announcement has been posted for 100 West 33rd Street:
Brown Water in Restrooms
Please be advised that the brown water in the restrooms is a result of the DEP opening and closing certain valves in the street which caused sediment to shift in the water. 
The DEP is stating that the water is safe but it will take a couple of days for the water to clear. 
Oct 17, 2008 9:00a

Eminem coming out with a new album

Didn't expect to see this - Eminem is apparently coming out with a new album soon, after basically disappearing for a while (Here's a single from it).

Supposedly it will be coinciding with the release of new Dr. Dre and 50-cent albums as well:
Eminem’s album forms part of a “three-headed monster,” to be released alongside his new album, ‘Before I Self Destruct,’ and Dr. Dre’s much anticipated ‘Detox.’
I wonder if I'll like any of it or if it wi'll feel old and tried at this point?


What I learned from Michael Eisner about the online video industry

Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney, formed Vuguru in 2007, a studio designed to develop video exclusively for online and mobile applications.  On October 7th, he spoke at the VEOH Insights: Watching The Web presentation about the future of the online video industry.  He came off as funny and insightful, and he's betting big on the future of online video, so it's worth paying attention:

On Hulu and video portals: 
Hulu is a "middle game" - it's not content produced for the web, leveraging the web, though what it does it's done very well.

MySpace has the audience and the streams to dominate in online video, but they don't have a clue how to make it all work.

On online video advertising:
The industry needs to lead the advertisers - it can't let them define their own ad executions that don't fit into the content.  Show them why it will work your way, everybody has to be convinced.

Audiences are conditioned for commercial pods.  They will accept a :15 sec interruption.  Interruptions need to scale to the show length.

Post-roll is dead, it's like watching the credits.  A targeted contextual offer at the end that ties well to the content could be a fruitful alternative.

Behavioral targeting is like when a guy marries the same woman over and over.  It's the Amazon model of assuming a person wants the same thing he just purchased.  But most people aren't that predictably consistent.

On quality of content:
South Park and other low resolution shows are essentially radio, they leverage the elements of good radio to be successful.

On the web video industry:
Video right now is lead by the distributors - the people looking for eyeballs, worrying about screens.  Cable came into it's own when it started producing it's own content.

Online video needs professionals, not automation, to really take off.

TV may be the big guy at the party for the next few decades, but the idea of 'on demand' is the future.

Shows that are cultural phenomenons (Seinfeld for example) took commitments by the networks.  They failed early, but the networks believed and gave them time to win the audience over.  An online property needs to have that presence of mind - it's got the capability, it has the audience and the ability to syndicate instantly.

In any business, you can be too early or too late - we're not sure yet for the online video landscape where we stand.

On Back On Topps and Vuguru:
Back on Topps is a new show by Vuguru.  It's exclusive for a 12-hour window on Fox Sports.  Windows are a TV model that defines length of exclusivity before pushing into syndication.

Back on Topps has in-show ads for Skype that have been made funny; Reeses Pieces was made by Speilberg doing the same thing (inclusion in E.T.).

Back on Topps will ultimately be a half-hour show rather than just 5 minute episodes.  Vuguru is committed to testing the limits and longevity of the show.

Prom Queen was translated and pushed out to international audiences, and saw success.

For an example of his recent work, check out Back On Topps
Cross posted on my Advertising Blog


NYTimes.com Becomes Social

Last week the New York Times slipped a social layer right onto the NYTimes.com website, with fair little fan fair.  What they call TimesPeople now appears as a floating bar atop NYTimes.com as you read articles, enabling you to friend other NYTimes.com readers, see a feed of articles that your friends or the community at large has recommended, and submit articles yourself to the TimesPeople community.  It’s the kind of social layer that all professional content sites can benefit from – and a key example of how “social” really is just ultimately going to be an underlying part to most of our everyday experience (rather than “social networking” requiring specific sites of their own).

This is not the first time we’ve seen a print publisher attempt a transition of their website; in March ‘07 the USA Today re-launched with a social framework.  However, the USAToday.com was such a drastic overhaul that it was almost difficult to grasp for the audience; just a few months later, TechCrunch highlighted their stagnant traffic.  Looking at the figures today, there’s been strong growth in the year since that review, but it may have been a difficult transition for the USAToday.com audience to make.

NYTimes.com has taken a more subtle approach that does little to change the overall user experience, but definitely enhances it considerably.  You browse NYTimes.com like you always do, but now you easily submit and see the best articles from your friends.  It’s a valuable social layer that personalizes the “most popular stories” module we’ve been used to seeing on news sites over the last few few years.  It seems like the perfect way to introduce such social features to a traditionally older web browsing audience.

TimesPeople isn’t the only sign that the NYTimes.com designers are serious about embracing social media in a smart way.   They’re also one of the first to embrace the new canvas-style layouts of iGoogle, which provides a full front page of NYTimes.com directly inside your iGoogle page, without having to leave your homepage to browse the headlines.

It’s great to see the NYTimes.com try to embrace change, develop their site for the better, and introduce a thought out, engaging social layer to the site.  It needs work for sure (I can’t see the bar or share articles from David Pogue’s NYTimes.com blog), but it’s a great start.  If you are a NYTimes.com reader, connect to me here, and start sharing.

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A Rarely Before Seen Image in the History of Philadelphia Phillies Baseball

I liked it so much I had to re-blog it:


Thanks to Balls, Sticks, & Stuff for the post.

The New York City Food Trucks are all Over Twitter

You can follow several of the popular New York City food trucks on twitter - keep up on where they're parked, what their specials are, even receive coupon codes for free stuff (like toppings on your waffles):

You can also follow Midtown Lunch, though they haven't made any updates yet.

Any other good New York City finds for Twitter?


How to re-create the Show Desktop icon on the Quick Launch toolbar

In case this actually happens to someone else like it happened to me this morning, I’m going to post the notes to re-creating the “Show Desktop” icon that in your Quick Launch toolbar on a Windows computer:

Manual steps to re-create the Show Desktop icon on the Quick Launch toolbar
The Show Desktop icon is not an ordinary program shortcut. If the icon is deleted, the procedure for re-creating the icon is not obvious. To manually re-create the Show Desktop icon, follow these steps:

Click Start , click Run, type notepad, and then click OK.

In Notepad, type the following text on individual lines:


On the File menu, click Save As, and then save the file to your desktop as Show Desktop.scf.
Note Notepad might automatically append a .txt extension to the file name. Remove this extension if present. The file name should be Show Desktop.scf.

The file must now be moved to the correct folder in the user profile to appear in the Quick Launch toolbar. To manually do this, use one of the following methods.

Method 1

Use the mouse to drag the Show Desktop.scf icon to the Quick Launch toolbar or another location where you want the shortcut to appear.

Click Move Here.

Method 2

Use Windows Explorer to locate the following folders:
Microsoft Windows 95 and Microsoft Windows 98
Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch
Microsoft Windows NT, Microsoft Windows 2000, and Microsoft Windows XP
C:\Documents and Settings\Username\Application Data\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch
Note Username refers to the account name where you want to put the icon.

Use the mouse to drag the Show Desktop.scf file to the Quick Launch folder.

Click Move Here.

Note By default, the Application Data folder for Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP is a hidden folder. You may have to unhide this folder by using the Advanced Settings in Internet Explorer. Click the Show hidden files and folders option.

You can also find this at the Microsoft support site.


The new single from The Killers

I have posted the new single from The Killers over at my Tumble Blog, listen and see my comments Human - The Killers

Back on Topps: An Unexpected (and Kind of Funny) Scripted Show

I stumbled upon the most random scripted web TV show a few days ago, and even after watching the first episode, as well as a handful of teasers, I still can barely believe it’s real.  “Back on Topps” is an online show that follows Leif and Leyland Topps, played by the apparently semi-famous Sklar brothers (see links below), as they learn that Topps was actually bought out from under the family by another company, and adjust to life under management (for those who don’t know, the Topps company has dealt with a similar shareholder descent in recent years).  Given how niche baseball cards are, and how few people probably know any history about the industry, it’s a very surprising topic to cover in a comedic show.  However, the teasers are filled with athletes (anyone from David Love to Dennis Rodman), and I think they’re actually pretty funny and attention grabbing for sports fans.  The first episode is up on the show’s website BackOnTopps.com, and you can find the teasers (which are worth watching) on Fox Sports Video, which has exclusive syndication rights.  I will definitely be checking in on the show over the next few weeks, and will let you know how I think it progresses – I’m excited for it.

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