11.25.2009

The Tenuous Future of Search (or how Rupert Murdoch & Microsoft are Evil & Foolish)

The web world discussion is preoccupied this week with news that Rupert Murdoch & Fox corp. are threatening to pull all of their content from Google's index, and to fuel the fires Microsoft is rumored to be offering a bounty for the exclusive rights if they do. Here's what I think:

Unless most of the world is going to pull their business from Google, this isn't going to work for Fox. No one in the "fastest to the newest story" business is going to be able to charge readers, since there's too much competition. Most of the news from Fox news sources that users are finding on Google is going to be easily found at another source. And even if it's something proprietary to a Fox source, most likely thousands of free bloggers will be writing about it and pointing to it, so searchers would find their way to Fox's content through Google via an alternate (albeit circuitous) path. It's the same reason NYTimes.com turned off their pay wall- in this world of endless news content there's no room for a full subscription, and enabling users to discover your content is key.

So what should Fox do? They should invest heavily in distributing their content through social media, making it easily shareable & social, and monetizing the leads that come in. Twitter & Facebook leads are paying huge dividends for content producers. Clearly, social media and peer recommendation are going to play just as big a roll, if not bigger, in search in the next decade. Plus, readers are clicking through on recommended articles more often because Twitter links don't give as much summary as some search results. Maybe Fox could take a cue from NYTimes.com, who packages incoming leads from various sources and sells them to sponsors; advertisers can be the sponsor, for example, for any reading session on NYTimes that came from a Digg'd article or a Facebook brand page link.

They can also pursue freemium models where they offer deeper, less timely content similar to how GigaOm is selling long form content at a premium and playing the page views / ad game with their smaller more rapid posting. They could provide a better reading experience too, like how the NYTimes is selling it's access via TimesSelect.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is being terrible for even entertaining this, and I believe it would cost them in the long run. Unless they can cause such a stir in the information landscape that it alters the dynamic of information discovery, they'll ultimately lose out incrementally for every bit they invest in purchasing traffic rather than investing in forward-thinking products (for example: launching Bing itself was a forward-thinking product and it did more for their search traffic than any of their deals, be it of the cash-back kind of the yahoo kind). And if for some reason the information search landscape became about making deals across the board, they'd lose at least as many as they won, putting them back where they started. Not to mention, they've finally been gaining some brand credibility back with the Zune HD and Windows 7- making the web confusing and complicated for consumers is just going to make them look more like the big bad wolf they've often been known to be (or as Gizmodo would put it, like Montgomery Burns).

10.30.2009

Early Thoughts on the (Latest) New Facebook Re-Design

The latest new Facebook re-design has been public for a few weeks now, and of course it's been accompanied with the usual chorus of complaints. I for one actually really like the updates that they've made. It's a short sample set, but I feel like this new format is instigating a lot more interaction. Since the "News Feed" is curated with Facebook's secret algorithm (a combination of your interaction habits and the breadth of connections you share), the stories I'm seeing on the front page really seem to be ones I'd want to engage in. Also, because they stick around longer more people seem to jump into the conversation around a piece of content, which is pretty cool. And when I want to take more time to browse my larger social graph, it's a quick click over to the "Live Feed", which even tells me how many stories I've missed since last checking.

Also now there's more useful utility above the fold in the sidebar - suggestions for interaction with lost connections, visible birthday reminders again, both things that lead to re-engagement with the broader friend circle. All together the site seems impressively more optimized for consistent interaction with your closest friends and assisted re-connection with your extended network. And really you can't overlook how important this is; Each day we add more connections and share more content inside Facebook. People already complain how much I share and I'm fairly conservative when it comes to social media hyper-users. Without aid from platforms like Facebook there is no scale to the future of social media. That's why Facebook is constantly trying out new methods of organization and optimization. I hated the previous move that turned the front page into a Twitter rip-off, but I'm liking this more Friendfeed-esque layout so far.

So what does everyone think? What was your first reaction, and if it was negative, is it growing on you? Or do you hate change? And if so what else do you think Facebook could do to prepare us for the future?

10.25.2009

Review: The Android G1 vs. the iPhone 3GS

It’s been a month since I switched to the iPhone 3GS from the Android G1 and it seems worth giving my reflections. When I had the G1 I loved it. The Android operating system is awesome- Google’s effort in opening up the mobile phone is very impressive, and they’ve proven over the last year they’re committed for the long haul. Here’s what it does well: The interface is great, much more like a computer operating system. Simple things like an information bar, which makes it more like Windows, may seem unnecessary to Apple but the reality is status updates like new email & text message alerts are important and often lost on the iPhone. Also, the Google apps integration is fantastic, and for the world outside of work (i.e. Microsoft Exchange) that’s much more exciting. You can sync Gmail and Google Calendar to iPhone, but it’s not native and it kills some of the reasons I joined Gmail in the first place, like threading. Also Android lets 3rd party apps plug in to the OS, which is important for things like taking a picture with the camera and then having your choice of where to upload to, rather than on the iPhone where you have to pre-select which program you are going to use to upload even before you take the picture (or after you exit the camera all together).

Other features of Android like desktop widgets are cool but I don’t really find them necessary. iPhone lets apps do small updates through the icons, and leaving widgets on the G1 had two huge side-effects- it killed the battery life, and slowed the OS significantly. This is also my feeling on multitasking; in most cases, you really don’t need it. If iPhone apps were a little better at holding your place when exiting and re-opening them, and there was a normal info bar for push notification & other message alerts, I can’t see many reasons I’d need multitasking, especially considering the likely trade-off between that and battery life.

So what the iPhone 3GS in the face of this? Well as much as I loved the G1, I really haven’t turned it on since getting the new iPhone. There’s a lot to love about Android, but the 3GS is by far and away a better phone. First a caveat, it would definitely be fairer to compare the new iPhone to a more modern Android phone, but I don’t have that luxury. So after a month of using an phone that is all together faster in every way, from using applications to browsing the web, I can’t imagine having it any other way. Also for all of the suckiness of OS lockdown, it’s amazing how beautifully consistent every experience is on the 3GS. Every time you open an app loads just as quickly, and the usability of many applications is also comforting. What I really miss the most about the G1 is the keyboard, which in all honesty I’d take on the iPhone in exchange for a bit thicker phone. But the iPhone’s typing auto-correction is actually pretty impressive, making onscreen touch-typing much more functional than on Android.

So in the end it comes down to this. From my experience, the iPhone 3GS does the things I care about the most significantly better than the G1. That probably means that Android needs to be installed on a phone that’s worthy of its breadth of functionality, which it looks like the upcoming Verizon Droid will do. If that happens, then Apple needs to take the iPhone OS to the next level to compete. If not, then I’m sad to say I’ll take less functionality for an overall better experience, as much as I didn’t want to come to that realization.

10.21.2009

A Huge Day for the Big Web Players


It's been a huge day for the major web companies, news pouring out every hour, so I thought I'd recap and offer some thoughts:

Music
  • Facebook users will soon be able to gift each other songs, web-streaming copies for 10 cents or downloadable DRM free files for 90 cents, powered by lala.com (paid thru Facebook credits)
  • Google is expected to unveil a music tie-in next week that lets users stream songs and potentially purchase them right from the search engine, powered by i-Like and lala.com
  • MySpace will now be housing a full library of music videos from the major music labels, and also providing Artists with deeper analytics of how fans engage with their content
Clearly this all points to one thing - multimedia content is rapidly becoming available everywhere. The entertainment industry is learning the only way they can fight piracy to offer easy access at fair costs. Also, I think the ability to gift Facebook friends songs could be a huge money maker for all parties if it's easy for the user and the music is easily played back as a library. And I want to see if users buy their own songs to house on their own profile for easy listening. Also, its amazing a full mp3 is cheaper than the virtual gifts people can send now. Finally, it's impressive that Lala was able to get themselves into both the Facebook and Google music deals, taking them from relatively no-name to top-tier player in a matter of hours.
Myspace's announcement is them trying to hold onto their claim as the best place for Musicians to set up their home-base website as they watch more and more of the grassroots marketing move to Twitter & Facebook. They're doing a pretty good job as an Entertainment portal, but this helps them with actual artist relations.

Social Search
  • Microsoft cut deals with Twitter and Facebook to incorporate their content streams in real-time into their Search index. Microsoft unveiled an early beta of their Twitter search engine at http://www.bing.com/twitter , which not only shows recent updates but popular links being shared around a search term
  • Google announced a similar deal with Twitter (no Facebook for now), but hasn't yet incorporated the content fully, with more details expected in a few weeks
  • Google announced a separate product called Social Search which will enable users to search their own social graph for content. Google will create a personal index of content for a user based on the social profiles attached to their Google profile, helping users surface content such as friend's Flickr photos and profile info
The social search space, also known as the real-time search space, is heating up big time. The major search engines Google and Bing are realizing that more and more users will start their web searches with their social graph and want the latest information that their social graph is highlighting as valuable. Microsoft's early search site shows how it will try to take on the memetrackers and the real-time search engines at once, a space that's currently being owned by new web start-ups Tweetmeme and OneRiot.
It's clear Google will jump into this space as well, but their personalized social search product is separately very interesting. Helping users to unearth their own personal information from their own individual social graph is potentially even more important than a broad real-time search engine. The key here though is what content Google will be able to index - given that Facebook especially is behind a wall. The great thing about FriendFeed was that you could add RSS feeds to supplement the content that was already being indexed, a way to overcome the Facebook walls. Will Google be able to do this?

Photos
  • Flickr announced people tagging on their photos similar to Facebook's features, but with more privacy controls. Users can choose who exactly can tag them in photos.
This is a feature that's made sense for a long time, but I don't think by itself it will matter much. Not enough people have Flickr profiles for it to matter, and because of the upload caps not enough people will ever choose to upload to Flickr. If this was done through Facebook connect it would be totally different (similar to PolarRose's offering). Also I would really like to see some integration with Apple's iPhoto, since they are working on syncing their products already and I've invested the time in tagging my friends on my desktop computer. This would be a good rivalry to the sync'd tagging of Picasa and Picasaweb. Finally, since serious Flickr users have been stockpiling photos for years, Flickr really needs to integrate Facial recognition on the site - both to keep up to par with competitors, and to make tagging less daunting of a task.

10.04.2009

Foursquare Will Be a Big Deal, Trust Me

I don't think I've hyped anything in a while, so here I go: That Foursquare thing I've been talking about? It's going to be big. And this isn't like Twitter, where I'm asking you to take my word for it. Foursquare is taking the best attributes of mobile, social networking, and gaming and rolling them into one, and it's making it all really easy at the same time. But the real reason it's going to be big? Using Foursquare is going to be loaded with incentives. Not only does it help you find your friends, but it also tells you what's great to eat at a new restaurant, what's cool nearby, and starting now offers discounts at places you could go to next (seeing the screens above when I checked in to Foursquare yesterday made it clear ot me that Foursquare is going to be a big deal). Foursquare takes social media and lays it out onto the physical world in a simple and valuable way.

Let's look at why Foursquare is so addictive and potentially incredibly valuable:
  • Foursquare is basically status updates, but it tells your local social graph something useful - where you are and what you're doing that they could be doing too
  • Foursquare i actually mostly worth while from your phone, which is much more accessible more often than your home computer
  • Foursquare lets you add and review 1-line tips for locations such as what food to get or when to arrive so it isn't too busy, which while not as thorough as Yelp is much easier to contribute to and browse for suggestions
  • Foursquare is now letting restaurants add deals for players, so when someone checks in to a nearby location they are served a "deal" that they could take advantage of if they visit another place after
  • Foursquare is an oddly addictive game, showing you where you rank in points weekly, where points are generated from visiting places, adding places no one has been to, and completing challenges that unlock badges (like visiting 3 bars with photo booths in them)
Mobile social networking has been a buzzword for about 5 years, but nothing has picked up. It just didn't seem simple enough or valuable enough for people to want to use it. But gaming, reviews, and discounts are 3 things that people really enjoy, and with Foursquare making it really easy for everyone involved it's only a matter of time before it's huge.

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9.28.2009

Using Bookmarklets to Turn Your Browser Into a Powerhouse

When Firefox first came out I was pumped about extensions. I loaded up the browser with everything I could find, and all of the sudden my Firefox had add-on buttons and functions that did just about everything. But over time the extensions were adding up and opening a new browser started to feel like opening 5 programs at once. On new computers it's not so noticeable, but on an old one it can mean minutes sitting around waiting before you can even use the browser. So when Google's Chrome browser came out I took the opportunity to hit reset and start clean - a browser without any extensions. To use any of these, drag the link to your bookmarks bar:
  • Aviary - Take a screenshot of a web page, edit it, and publish it, all in your browser window
    also try using Picnik
  • Posterous - Snag a picture or video, blog it, and syndicate it, all without leaving your page
    also try blogging on Tumblr
  • Delicious - Bookmark a site easily on delicious.com, no reason for their browser extension
    also try posting to Digg or FriendFeed
  • Google Realtime Search - Do a quick real-time google search for web content posted in the last ten minutes
  • Google Document Viewer - Click this before you click on any PDF or PPT links on a webpage and the links will open using Google's light-weight web-based viewer
  • Bit.ly - Create a short URL for the page you're on that you can send to friends or push to Twitter, and track how many people read it
    also try using Share-in
  • ShareThis - Simple all-in-one sharing / bookmarking / printing to any service shortcut
  • Evernote - Clip a selection of a page or even an entire page for archiving on your own online database
  • Instapaper - Push the text of the webpage you want to read over to your iPhone for easy reading later (this takes an iPhone app as well)
  • F2FB - Move a selected picture from Facebook to Flickr (instructions here)
  • Zemanta - Add suggested images, related articles, and content tags to your blog post through semantic analysis
  • Sphere - Search for blog or news posts related to the page you're currently reading
Have any other bookmarklets you're using to enhance your browser? Let me know in the comments. Note, i'm making incremental edits to this as I discover more bookmarklets.

9.25.2009

Getting to see U2 live


Last night I got the chance to see U2 perform live at Giant Stadium; it was their last show before the stadium is torn down, and it apparently set a record for the number of people in attendance (not sure how this could be bigger than another sell-out, but). I've been to in-door stadium shows before, but nothing ever in a huge stadium packed like this; the energy in the crowd was crazy, and U2 played it up down to the last second. They put on an awesome performance, one I'm going to remember.

Oh and I made the above video in about 3 minutes using iMovie - I didn't want to take time to crop or anything, I just dropped everything into the tray, chose a transition theme, and published it. I know with some effort it could be much better, I don't know about starting with that weird clip about Bloomberg, and the missing end-title is shoddy, but I'm impressed with how quick from start to finish it was. There are 8 or so clips in there, catching different songs and different energy levels - I think it gives a pretty good feel of the show!

9.06.2009

An Eating Experience at Ali's Kabab Cafe


pictures from @jaymc

Last weekend a bunch of us went to dinner with Jan (@jaymc) to achieve one of his 101 Goals in 1001 days: Eat a dish made with animal brain. The restaurant he found to achieve this was Ali's Kabab Cafe in Astoria. Given the goal and the random hole in the wall place we ended up at, I had low expectations for actually enjoying the meal. By the end, though, I can say that Jan's adventure gave me one of my favorite (and most delicious) eating experiences in a while (minus the brain, which I'll never do again).

What makes the Kabab Cafe so great is the personal experience with Ali and his cooking whims. When we sat down, Ali came over to say hi and to introduce himself & his restaurant. He asked if we would like to start with some platters to get an idea of his flavors, while we think of what we might like. He also asked if we had any particular allergies or aversions, or if we were open to sampling his fair. The first few dishes were minced lamb & egg, fava bean falafal & hummus, and an avacado apple salad. After we began eating, Ali returned to ask which meats we'd prefer, and if there were any particular tastes we were interested in. We asked for pomegranate, lamb, and chicken; he came out with marinated lamb chops & chicken, both made with variations of pomegranate, and a plate of mixed vegetables & rice. All of the food was incredibly delicious.

I really loved getting to speak with the person cooking the food, and getting to eat the dishes he really wanted to make. I didn't have to worry about what to order, and I got to be suprised by the flavors with each dish. I would gladly return and expect a different but equally delicious meal.

Oh, and the brain dish? I can say I tried it and cross it off the list, but I won't be doing it again.

[my review on Yelp] [Kabab Cafe on the Map]

8.17.2009

The Economics of Free

Trying out the Zemanta reBlog plug-in to share an interesting conversation happening over at Union Square Ventures about the economics of Free:

Free is not a pricing strategy, a marketing strategy, or the inevitable consequence of a market with low variable costs. It’s a symptom of a much more fundamental economic shift. Until we agree on what resources are scarce and have a framework for how they will be allocated in the future we are not just talking past each other, we are talking about the wrong things

Services are not offered for free at all. There is an exchange of value between users, the creators of the raw material - data, content, and meta-data, and the network where that data is converted into insight. This exchange is still governed by the basic laws of economics but the currency is not dollars, it’s attention. avc.com, A VC, Aug 2009
For me, time and attention is the by far the biggest scarcity. I constantly give up sleep to consume more, which means I'm paying a price in health and also making choices on how to pay out the scarcest resource. But how is our time and attention to be converted into value for the content producer? Something I'm thinking a lot about because I'm someone who's constantly looking for "free" alternatives, and working in a business (advertising) that is increasingly underwriting content production.

8.04.2009

The Big Experiment * Run For Your Lives 2


This weekend I ran in an adventure race that my brother and his friends put together. The event was their 2nd "Run For Your Lives" event, part of their "The Big Experiment" series; the race was a 2.5 mile trail run, an 8.8 mile street biking route, and 4 wall climbs. The distances don't sound intimidating until you hear the course- The run as through the woods, a full mile running through a river, climbing over fallen trees, and crawling under ropes army style. Then once your legs were good and tired from trudging through water, you had to bike uphill, carry your bike across the river, and up flights of stairs. Finally you hit the house where you had to climb/bolder 4 routes on various walls.

It was a challenge for me, but I loved it It took all my effort, but the course was really fun and the race itself was exciting. The Big Experiment team did an awesome job planning it out and manning the course so it was organized and safe at all times - and during the climbing they bbq'd and did custom prints on shirts for a personalized reminder of the day. Thanks to the guys and I'm psyched for another! There will be more pictures as they come, but in the mean time check out the commercial below they produced after the event

7.22.2009

Music Blogging With BLIP.fm

Lately I've been getting into music blogging on BLIP.fm. The premise is simple - search for a song you want, add a 1-line comment, and post it to your page. You can listen to all of the songs the entire BLIP.fm community is posting, or you can follow specific users and listen to a continuous stream of songs posted by your friends.

The music is powered by imeem and YouTube, so you I'm able to find most songs (or videos) I'm looking for. And if the song exists somewhere else online, you can provide a URL to add the song to the library.

For the last few years I've been moving more and more to the web and social music communities for my music listening. Pandora is great for streaming radio, and Hype Machine and Tumblr (specifically music-oriented blogs) are pretty good for new band discovery. I haven't tapped into MySpace or iMeem much yet, but I'm sure I will over time. Right now I'm following friends as they post music daily to their BLIP.fm microblog, and I'm loving the variety of music that I'm listening to daily.

Listen to my radio station below or add me on BLIP.fm here.

7.20.2009

Shakespeare in Battery Park


A few weeks ago I went with a bunch of friends to see a performance of King Lear. It wasn't in a theater on Broadway, though - the play was performed across the grounds of Battery Park. New York Classical Theater is "a group dedicated to reinvigorating and creating audiences for the theatre by presenting free productions of popular classics and forgotten masterpieces in non-traditional public spaces throughout New York City." King Lear was performed scene by scene in different areas of Battery Park. Each scene lasted about 5 to 10 minutes, and after one ends the entire audience is rushed behind the cast to a new environment. Backdrops such as the old fort, the river, and the forest were all included as an impressive substitute for set change. The performance itself was great, and the experience was pretty cool. We brought blankets and food, but it was a bit difficult since we were constantly moving. Also some environments were easier to view and hear, though the cast always tried hard to project their voices. Next time I see a theater in the park performance I'll read up on the story before hand so I can fill in the plot gaps when I miss a scene or two to the outdoors. Otherwise, it was a really fun night and a very interesting spin on theater. And if this sounds interesting, I also suggest checking out Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.


7.09.2009

The CrunchPad Touch Tablet Web Computer and Dreaming Big

In a few weeks Michael Arrington, leader of TechCrunch, is going to unveil his biggest project ever - the CrunchPad. The CrunchPad is a touch-sensitive tablet computer that loads directly to the web browser. It's low-powered and low on features, but completely optimized for web applications. It's designed to be the computer you keep on your couch to check fantasy sports on, to read email on, to look up IMDB on. It will have a USB drive so you can plug in a keyboard if you need, and it may end up having a web-cam for Skyping, but other than that it's likely everything you see in front of you. In a few weeks Arrington will unveil the CrunchPad at a press event and it is expected to go on sale soon after for less than $300.

Whether the CrunchPad ends up being everything we are hoping and everything we are expecting from the visionary Michael Arrington is really not the story. Arrington went from being a lawyer to a blogger to the leader of a blog & web development empire. But a year ago he decided to set his sights on something bigger; he wrote a call to arms saying he was tired of no one building the perfect and affordable web-optimized tablet. He put a call out to anyone who was interested in helping him achieve the vision, put together a team of partners, and embarked on a journey to build a piece of hardware. One year later he's days away from achieving his lofty goal, testament to his dreams, his work, his cunning, and his work ethic, regardless of his lack of prior experience. This from a lawyer-turned blogger. So despite the product that we see, or whether it succeeds, the fact that he dared to undertake it and see it through is really what's important.

Oh and if it means anything, today's Google announcement is at least a vote of confidence for his vision.

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7.08.2009

The Fabled Google OS Arriving Soon to Conquer Windows

Big news from the Google empire this morning! Team Google, never choosing to sit on the sidelines when they see an opportunity to make something better (see: browsers, mobile phones, TV advertising, etc, etc), has announced that they're currently building an operating system offshoot of their lightweight web app optimized browser Chrome- called Chrome OS. The operating system will essentially boot directly to a browser and run applications designed for the web. It will be open source so anyone can build off it and focus on web standards so applications that work on Chrome OS could work in any modern browser (meaning, at least today, most browsers not named - Internet Explorer). It will be clean, safe, and streamlined for optimal use on lower powered machines such as netbooks.

Google is providing no pictures right now, but they are in discussions with partners and the more information will be out soon. And around this time next year we should expect to be able to buy some Google Chrome OS powered netbooks from major manufacturers.

Whatever you think of Google and their quest for world domination, you have to give them this - when they enter a market, they go strong and they go big, and they look at how they can push the boundaries, make it better. Booting directly to a web OS isn't new (I'll write more about it later today), but Google will surely bring a polished idea to the table in a big way leveraging the clout and relationships they already have. This will likely push Microsoft hard to re-think Windows in terms of the new landscape. It remains to be seen how successful Windows 7 can be but if it's not able to maximize the effect of lower powered computer then Microsoft could lose that market by 2010.

7.02.2009

gdgt is a gadget community built by the tech obsessed for tech lovers


After months in the works, new tech community gdgt from tech legends Peter Rojas and Ryan Block launched. gdgt is a site for gadget lovers. You can create a profile, build a portfolio of gadgets that you have or had, review them, and start discussions around them. It's also designed to be the most detailed knowledge-base of gadget info and specs around - if a gadget isn't there yet, you can add it, or you can add specs to any existing product through wiki-like approach. Jump to a product page and you can see reviews, discussions, and more all in one spot; and not just from gdgt, but pulling in reviews from across populare tech sites like engadget and gizmodo (the old homes of the gdgt founders). One feature I think might be interesting on the product pages is a twitter search feed around the product; when I was trying to decide whether to buy the new Macbook Pro, I spent a while just watching the sea of twitter posts around the product for some community commentary.

gdgt as a brand has been around for a year or so, with Peter and Ryan giving a weekly podcast and running the best live blogging of big tech events (like the Apple keynotes) around. The podcasts, the live blogging, and some editorial will be continuing, and they promise many more features added as they role out their vision for the world's greatest gadget community site around.

Above is what my portfolio looks like right now - more gadgets will be added as the pages I submitted are approved (my Dell 20.1'' monitor, and my canon SD700 IS camera). Once you join, friend me here: http://user.gdgt.com/kskobac/


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6.23.2009

The High Line Curse (the Ghost of the High Line)



This weekend Angela and I made it over to the High Line park - a brand new park built on the old high line tracks high above the ground. The park runs right now from Gansevoort Street & Washington to 20th street & 10th Avenue, but it will eventually run all of the way up to the end of the tracks on 34th Street. The history of the park is pretty cool:
The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan's largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Friends of the High Line works in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park.
Even on a rainy day the High Line was filled, and like everyone else I'm pretty excited about it. People were lounging in the chairs built right out of the rails and the overlook that hangs right out over 10th avenue. The view out onto Hudson River is nice as well.

BUT, we may never get to enjoy the park without grey clouds and rain, because it turns out the High Line is cursed. According to Train Jotting blog, the ghost of the West Side Cowboy, who himself died falling from the Train tracks in 1934, came to visit the pioneers of the High Line 2 years ago in a dream threatening that "he’d make it rain every day if the place of his death was trampled upon by the masses." Pretty much every day since the park has opened there has been rain, and the forecast for as far as the weather forecast goes says there will be rain as well. As long as people are happily climbing their way up to the park in the sky, will we ever have sunny skies?

(by the way, how much more am I impressed with the legendary West Side Cowboy from the 1930's than I am of the Naked Cowboy that romes Times Square today?)

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6.12.2009

Where are you Living and Learning Online?



Lately I've been somewhat overwhelmed with how many place there are to consume content now online. On a given day I make my way to Google Reader, Twitter, Friendfeed, Tumblr, Facebook, and Yammer all just to read content. Some of it is news, some of it is editorial, some of it is friend content (pictures, videos, etc), some of it is recommended links, etc. And, yeah, there is a lot of overlapping content in all of those places, but there is also a great deal that is unique to the environment. There are hyper-users (I'm one) who post content everywhere, and I'll probably be reading their stuff several times on each stop, but a lot of people have their spot and they stick to it. Also, more interestingly, each place has its own culture and voice. Jump over to Tumblr, for example, and it's mostly people sharing interesting pictures and music a few times a day. Friendfeed, on the other hand, is all about comments and conversation.

I usually find something great in each community that I wouldn't have found anywhere else every time I visit, so I can't stop.

The other half of it is also interesting. I syndicate my blog, my Google Reader items, and my Flickr photos all over the place, and I share some links in each of these communities. But for my specific group of friends, most of the time when I share content the only place I see a reaction/response (comments) is on Facebook. On the other hand, most articles I write here or at UsableClicks receive a majority of their traffic leads from Twitter.

So where are you spending time, where are you getting your information, where are you experiencing true community?
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5.08.2009

The NYC 5 Boro Bike Tour and the Leatherman's Loop



Over the last few months I've been training for two events: The Leatherman's Loop Trail Run, and the NYC 5 Boro Bike Tour.  Both of them were goals for me.  First up was the Leatherman, a 10K terrain race through rivers, woods, and hillside.  Angela and I pushed through the whole race together, on a rough 90 degree April morning.  The course was awesome, and the community of runners around the yearly event was cool to be a part of.  I wish I'd gotten pictures of the race and us, but I was worried about carrying a camera.  We ended the run covered in mud and dirt, and had to throw out our shoes, but it was definitely worth it.

Just one week after knocking down the 10K came the 5 Boro Bike Tour.  The ride would end up being around 44 miles through the streets of New York hitting all 5 boros including an intense ride up the Verrazano Bridge before ending in Staten Island. The day is awesome because streets, highways, and bridges are all shut down for bikers for the day, and you get to see a ton of the city. Every 8 miles or so there are rest stops with food and water provided by the sponsors, and there's a celebration at the end.  However, by the time we (I road with 6 friends) were in the final third of the race, there was a serious downpour, and it was a pretty misserable ending riding wet and cold.  Still, it was much farther than I'd ever ridden at once, and it was a great experience.  Luckily there were tons of photographers along the way, and my friend Benn brought a camera, so there is much more documentation of the day.

I plan on doing both of these events next year - it was a great time, and I'm pumped that I was able to accomplish them both in a week.



5.04.2009

Google Profiles Suck, But You Need One Anyway


Google Profiles have been around for a while, but they never seemed to matter. Think of them as a fairly uninspiring social network profile: they're filled with links to your other social web presences, a single picture feed, an 'about me', and a map of where you live. The profiles are linked to in Google Reader, Google My Maps, and a few other places, but they do a poor job all together of tying together your Google presence.  Why after a year and a half in development do they not promote your recent Google content?  

Look at all of the huge opportunities that aren't leveraged here: They don't publish your Google Maps restaurant reviews (think Yelp), they don't publish your Google Chat status updates (think Facebook or even Twitter), they don't publish your most recent shared Google Reader articles (think Friendfeed), and they don't publish your most recent blog comments (think Disqus).  All together, it seems like Google is sitting on hundreds of things they could do well with Google Profiles to make them actually interesting, but they haven't done any of it.



However, despite all of that, Google Profiles has recently become incredibly important, for one reason - they now show up in Google Search.  Now once someone has activated their Google Profile, they can appear in a special "Profile results" one-box (pictured above) right on the first page of the Google results.  It's really the most direct way you have of influencing your Google search exposure, which in these days is increasingly necessary.  Your web profile is becoming your forward face to the world, and it's most easily accessed through search.  Virtually any time you go for an interview, the employer is probably looking you up in Google.  With Google Profiles (and I would also strongly recommend LinkedIn) you can now direct anyone who is looking for information on you to exactly what information you want them to discover.  You can make your Google Profile a very unexciting but powerful digital resume.

What should you put in your Google Profile?  What should Google do with the Profiles in general?  Will you activate yours?  What do you think of how I've decided to use mine?

4.30.2009

Hoping for a Verizon Android Phone Soon

My phone account is up in May and in this day and age that's a pivotal moment - my decision right now effects the next two years!  What service and what phone do I go with?

I'm on Verizon, which is generally considered to have the best service but the worst options for phones.  Over the last few months I've had the opportunity to test the Google G1, which is on Sprint.  Since using it I can't see myself walking away from a smart phone with a tangable keyboard.  However, I don't want to be on Sprint, and the G1's lack of Microsoft Exchange support may be too much in the long run.  On the other hand, I love the application support, as minimal as it is compared to the iPhone.

So what about the iPhone?  It has exchange support, the best application platform, and is generally an impressive phone.  However, the touch keyboard doesn't seem like it would suit me; I type too much full content on the phone.  Also, Singular is still considered a questionable service.

So where does that leave me?  As boring as it sounds, I may just need to settle for a Blackberry.  Slowly the applications are coming, there is a full keyboard, and I can stay on Verizon.  It's not interesting, not boundry pushing, but it will give me the most capability without loosing the features I need (service, a keyboard, and applications).

Or, Verizon could put out an Android phone.  The Boy Genious Report is suggesting that the phone pictured above is a Motorolla Android phone that has been built for Verizon.  It is slick, has a slide-out keyboard, and runs the Android interface.  Right now it's a rumor, but if it's real then Verizon may just have me sold on a new contract.  If not, then the new iPhone that is expected to be announced in June at the Apple developer conference has a shot at moving me to Cingular, or I'll find the best Blackberry available at that time.

4.23.2009

Why I Use Twitter, and Some of It's Uses Beyond the Status Update

Recently a bunch of friends of mine started pushing me to explain why I use Twitter, and to clarify how exactly it isn't a waste of time. They saw it as a watered down status update that is enough as it is on facebook. Below is my response, which I'm calling "Why I use Twitter, and Some of It's Uses Beyond the Status Update"

Its hard to easily understand Twitter without investing time with it. Twitter at its core is an information platform; twitter.com itself has little do to with what it can be or what it will become. Its essentially a decentralized communication system that is designed to pull in short messaging via many methods and allow the information to flow in just as flexible a manor. It can be communicated with via SMS, IM, RSS, web, or desktop application. In its simplest form it appears as a giant status feed, but its simplicity means that endless amounts of information will be pushed in and the power will come from pulling it out.

Things I have done with Twitter:
  • By using Twitter as a routing system I was able to text message Noor in India without incurring any fees. Sure you can email but she spent much less time on a computer there than she did on the phone, so texting was key to us keeping in touch.
  • By using Twitter I've participated in ad-hoc discussions with conference attendees around particular subjects at marketing conferences. Twitter made this possible even though people didn't know each other because we were all able to post messages, append them with hash tags (a name for short codes in tech prefixed with a # sign), and pull out feeds of any relevant posts via search or RSS. We even sometimes collaboratively take notes on presentations by using hash tags.
  • By using Twitter I have looked up feedback and reviews on netbook computers for Dannie, restaurants for myself, and more. 
  • I've also had discussions with people I've never met about products, news stories, and more by searching the public feed and messaging people I know have had personal experiences with those things.
  • I was able to follow live play-by-play of the 2008 baseball home run derby while we were all at ConeyIsland.
  • I learned about a major California earthquake last year 25 minutes before CNN broke the story on the web by following an alert of fast rising keywords on the Twitter feed.
  • I use Twitter to route messages to my blog, facebook, and other social locations all at once. Some of you may not feel the need to do that but I actively participate in many social web environments so scale is necessary.
  • I use Twitter to pass content to work message boards again by using hash tags. I can also use this method to update my to-do list, save pictures and text to word documents for storage, and much more.
  • I can learn about when the dessert truck or waffle truck move locations, when GMail is having service issues, when the NASA mars rover has a discovery, and more - all as soon as it happens.
  • I get CNN breaking news alerts, tech news alerts, even new york restaurant review alerts all in one easy to digest stream however I want it.
  • I can have discussions with entrepreneurs and marketing directors that I would never have access to.
  • I watched the election debates on CurrentTV spliced with filtered feeds of people's reactions and input to the candidates as they spoke.
This is still just a small sample of what you can do with twitter - it gets a lot more complex. The communication platform is leveraged now by thousands of companies, and over 10 million people or contributing information. Some of it useless but a lot of it is valuable. People contribute because they want there to be valuable content in the information pool - just like they do with yelp, or digg, or YouTube, or the tons of how to sites, etc. just like Bruce pointed out, you can post to twitter for the some reasons you can post to yelp, or anywhere. To get something out of it though you have to spend time and want to discover. You have to add a hundred or two people or companies that actually use twitter, not five friends who signed up once. You have to do searches for information, you have to post content so people want to engage you, you have to message other people and start conversation. I post normal life updates, but I also write mini reviews, post links to interesting content, post images, take notes on conferences, and more. you may have to use phone or desktop apps that make it easier to do all this. If you don't want to put in time, and you don't want to contribute, and you don't want to discover, then it probably isn't for you yet. You can go to CNN.com for your news (though I read today that people who follow the CNN twitter feed read twice as many articles a day on average than the people who go right to the website because they get more updates about new content and they are people who want to discover and consume more), and communicate with smaller circles of people. Eventually either facebook will finish ripping off the twitter features (its already started) or a product you like will come along and integrate twitter in a way that it works for you. But the point is - twitter isn't simple or stupid - and it will probably change communication and/or media consumption for all of us, in ways we don't even realize, if it hasn't already.

4.10.2009

do we publish too much too often about our lives?

Recently I was at a bar having a very challenging conversation with a friend about the state of our lives now that we are connected in so many ways.  He looks at facebook and flickr and twitter and yelp and youtube and blogger (and more) and challenges me to explain just how life has gotten better now that I am actively recording, updating, blasting, publishing, posting just everything I do.  And not only do I do it, but I often do it in real time- as it's happening.  He thinks people like me have lost the ability to really enjoy anything because we are too busy recording everything and telling everyone about it.

Its a troubling question- mostly because I spend a gross amount of time and effort doing it all.  By some counts I'm active in over 40 social networks (depending on definition), and I'm often the one stopping to take out a phone or camera or,when I have nothing else, a pen and paper.  In my friend's estimation, this means I am not really enjoying anything as much as I could be, not getting as much out the moment as I could be.  I'm never as happy as I could be because at any given time I'm half checked out somewhere in my mind and being.

The more I thought about it, however, I simply couldn't agree with his assessment.  I don't agree because his measure of utility, his definition enjoyment, is too one demensional.  To him it seems you can only enjoy the moment you're physically in.  For people like me though, the moment itself is just the beginning. 

To begin, we do things we like, we enjoy it.  But then we record and comment on it.  We start to think about it deeper.  We revisit it, find more reasons to appreciate it and enjoy new levels of appreciation from ourselves.

And we start conversations.  We talk about our activities with other people, unlock things we didn't know, learn about things similar that we might like that we never would have known about.  Or we make new friends that we never knew enjoyed similar things.

And we enjoy the platforms we share on.  We explore them too, discover their value, help them to expand and grow and develop for the betterment of others.  We gain satisfaction and a sense of worth by contributing for society benefit.

In short, we take a simple moment and expand it into a cascading sequence of experiences that continue to enhance and add value to our lives.  While any one might be less than the other, together they may far exceed.

Post: I wrote this before seeing "we live in public"; i'l have to regroup and add more thoughts including response to the film

3.27.2009

Where'd my writing go? Introducing UsableClicks

So I never took the time to write on this blog about my new project, and where the majority of my writing has gone lately.  Most of the people reading this blog probably already know it by following me on Twitter, Facebook, etc, but I started a joint venture project with a few old co-worker friends.  The new website is called UsableClicks, and the focus is on actionable marketing strategy and tactics.  Ultimately it will be a combination of our writing, recommending reading of marketing content out on the web, and resource pages such as all you need to do your own blog & buzz tracking.  This doesn't mean I'll stop blogging at my personal blog here, but lately it's meant I haven't had much time for it.  Again, I hope that I find better balance.  In the mean time, you can follow UsableClicks three ways (besides visiting the site):

Rss , Email , Twitter 

My most recent article "Why do we waste our time (and why you should do the same)" is a personal introspective into why we care to be early adopters and spend hours playing with new products that give us very little in return.  It meant a lot to me to write; if you have thoughts on it, feel free to comment or discuss over at UsableClicks.

Oh, and if you have any interest in writing about marketing strategy, let us know - we'd love to have some guest writers.

3.11.2009

THRU YOU | Kutiman mixes YouTube

If you like Girl Talk, or anything in the style of remixes of music and video, you're going to like THRU YOU.  It's a full album put together by overlaying YouTube videos of people playing individual instrument tracks or singing, to come up with a full robust song out of the individual pieces.  It's really pretty impressive, and depending on your taste you'll find at least a few songs you really like - they're all different.  Listen to the album here THRU YOU | Kutiman mixes YouTube or check out a sample video below:

3.02.2009

My Favorite Coffee Spot Right Now in New York City

Abra├žo  

Category: Coffee & Tea 
Neighborhood: Manhattan/East Village

5 star rating
 3/1/2009 
One of my 2009 resolutions was to spend less time in Starbucks and more time in local coffee shops.  In pursuit of the best true coffee spot, I landed at Abraco.  Abraco is a whole-in-the-wall spot that, from what I can tell, always has the jovial gray haired neighborhood man acting as Barista.  There's room for maybe 6 people to stand by the window after ordering, and a small bench and standing table as well.  There's no wi-fi, no casual place to read, and few food options (though the cookies and small sandwiches look good).  It's all about the coffee.  I can only speak to the latte's, but they're the best I've had hands down.  They're rich and creamy - fresh ground beans, made to order.  There's no option for caffeine free.  it's delicious till the last drop.  It's one of those out of the way secrets on 1st Ave that you would walk past 5 other coffee places to get to, and it's worth it.
[this and other reviews can be found on my Yelp profile]

Loving Today's Dr. Suess Google Logo

3.01.2009

Microsoft Envisions the World in 2019

<br/><a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=a517b260-bb6b-48b9-87ac-8e2743a28ec5" target="_new" title="Future Vision Montage">Video: Future Vision Montage</a>
This is a pretty cool video that Microsoft pushed out showing how they envision our world in 2019. Some of this stuff you can see the seeds of now, or at least the discussion forming.

2.19.2009

Speaking Through Pictures

Digital Marketing Strategist Brad Kay has an interesting series going on over at his blog The Third Place called "Speaking Through Pictures."

This one in particular stood out to me... I tend to agree that the most interesting people are the ones that are the most interested in learning about other things.


2.16.2009

The Rural Alberta Advantage at Pianos


One thing I really missed out on writing about in January was the night I headed over to Piano's (map) to see The Rural Alberta Advantage, a band I'd never heard of before outside of a recommendation by Fred Wilson.  There are several reasons why this was an awesome night:
  1. The RAA are awesome - I went from never listening to them to listening to them almost exclusively for the last month (check out Edmonton and The Ballad of RAA posted over on Tumblr by Fred Wilson)
  2. Piano's was a great place to see live music.  I went there at 10PM on a Tuesday, saw a pretty interesting opener The Loom that I'd also never heard of, and then a great show by The RAA. The small room was packed to the edges, but it wasn't so bad.  The crowd is there for the music, which is something you just can't say anymore about the crowds at Webster Hall etc., and even when you're in the back you really aren't very far from the stage.  Pianos is the kind of place I want to see more bands at, and spend more time at.  It's nights like these that make me love music again.
  3. I actually ended up getting to meet Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist / New York & new music evangelist who's reading I've been absorbing diligently for the last few years.  I wasn't the only one who ended up at the concert because of him, but he was happy to meet everyone - and a lot of us ended up trading stories about the concert the next day right on his blog.
You can check out a few more videos I took of Rural Alberta Advantage over on YouTube.

My Personal Blogging Hiatus

I've been silent for a over a month now on my personal blog k.b.skobac - it wasn't necessarily intentional, but it's just that I've been dedicating my time to different projects.  For starters, as the recession has slowly taken over my company as much as others, it seems like everyone has more work to do (in addition to leading the online planning for the Office Of National Drug Control Policy, I am also now on Fisher Price Friends and Patanase Nasal Spray).  Also, I've been spending time writing for another project that I hope gets unveiled soon - I'm excited about it.  In the mean time, I really want to get back to writing more here again, about non-work related things.

1.08.2009

Liking What You Do

:en:Seth Godin

Image via Wikipedia

Seth Godin contrasts his conjecture "It's more important that you be passionate about what you do all day than it is to be passionate about the product that is being sold" with his statement "All that statement "I've never met a great marketer who wasn't passionate about what she sold. In the case of marketing, it's not just a nice combination, it's a requirement". What do you think; can you be really great at a job that you are exceptionally skilled at but really don't care about the mission? A lot of really skilled people fail to accomplish great things because they just don't care about what they're working on - I'm guessing more often than not, lack of interest and passion in your product will overshadow your ability.
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1.04.2009

Picture of the Day: Santa Cruz Birds Watching


California Summer 2008
Originally uploaded by kskobac.

This picture I took at Santa Cruz Beach in California. I'm always amused by the reverse perspective - instead of us bird watching, it seems as if the birds are watching us (in this case the surfers).

Working on Being Greener (Part of my ‘09 Resolutions)

I got a head start on one of my new years resolutions tonight – I am trying hard to get rid of all of the wasteful paper that comes to me in the mail from banks, credit cards, etc.  I turned off all monthly paper printed statements for Chase here and switched to Paperless Statements on my Amex through the account options.  I also emailed my investment manager to request that he turn off my monthly statements as well.  As far as I can tell, I won’t be receiving any monthly financial statements in print mail in 2009.

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Making My Parents a 2009 Calendar

Every year my brother and I make a calendar for my parents for the upcoming year.  We post pictures on Flickr from the year previous, trying to capture photos of the two of us with and without our parents, cousins, etc.  Then print the calendar from Qoop.  Qoop is easy to use and the quality is really pretty good, and with shipping the cost of 2 printed calendars is under $37.  It’s fun to go back through the whole year’s photos, and my parents love it – one for my kitchen and one for my dad’s office.  It’s a great Channukah gift.

Here’s the photos Andrew and I chose this year:

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