Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Orlando No Mas

CTIA was good. Lots of meetings. Lots of progress. I mistakenly thought I was flying out at 6AM this morning and I left the MTV party a wee bit too early. When I got back to the hotel I checked my flight and had a moment of regret before I realized that getting a good night of sleep was probably in my best interest. I didn't see anything earth shattering but I did see a lot of friends. I have some thoughts and observations about Orlando but I think I should just keep those to myself. For better or worse, CTIA is going to be there again next year...

Monday, March 26, 2007

CTIA - Mobile Entertainment Live

Orlando? I get Vegas, New Orleans, even Atlanta. Orlando is a place for theme parks. I flew across country yesterday and got in somewhere in the middle of the night. I missed the first part of Greg Clayman's keynote but did catch the second half. I probably won't blog much here as I am mostly in meetings. Hopefully there are some really interesting/products or announcements this week.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

New Media Degree Programs

Last week this time I was on a plane bound for Wisconsin. Back in October I had been at a college football game and the husband of one of my wife's friends had talked to me at the game about the school he was teaching at in Wisconsin. Anthony knew I worked in the high tech industry and I knew that he was a professor in a technology department at that school.

I have to admit that I couldn't entirely figure out how an English PHD would be able to, much less be allowed to teach in a technology department but that wasn't my issue. At the time he asked me what we were doing with Flash and I described how I thought that it was one of the important technologies we would be working with over time and how it was something we use a lot in sales presentations.

We talked a little bit about how I visit colleges several times a year to talk about technology and how media is being transformed. He asked me if I would ever consider coming out and talking to his students. I told him that I try to stick to LA, NYC, Boston, SF and other cities where I am doing business but I would consider it if asked.

Fast forward several months and there I am headed to Wisconsin to visit the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Earlier this year Anthony had reached out and asked me if in fact I could come out but not necessarily to speak. The University was undergoing a review process on his department and they wanted to have representatives from industry as well as other universities to gain a broad perspective. I have to admit that I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but I agreed to go.

The degree program I was asked to review is the Bachelor's degree in Web and Digital Media Development. The link to the department can be found here. My fellow reviewers and I spent the better part of two days looking at the curriculum, met with faculty, students, community business representatives and university administration.

I have to say that it was a fascinating experience. The degree program they have developed is a fascinating blend of technology and design. When I think about how much time I spend in front of a computer, it makes perfect sense to me why an English professor who can program in Flash would be in a technology department. I personally walked away with a lot of admiration for this school to create a program that today is hard to find but is certainly one that will be widespread in the coming years. It will be interesting to see how they will expand on what they have started and whether or not they will be able to assume a leadership position in a new category.

Two big takeaways for me. One is that it is interesting to see how universities have to grapple with the emergence of new disciplines, especially in areas with rapidly changing technologies. It is not unlike the emergence of computer science degrees out of math departments many years ago. Two, it will be interesting to see how students who are trained in interdisciplinary studies (technology, design, psychology, English, human computer interaction) will impact and contribute to technology in the coming years.

One of the feedback points that I gave to the students when I spoke with them was that although they are doing some pretty amazing stuff with Flash on computers, the opportunities that I see that are significant to me are how will design conform to devices that aren't computers. There are more mobile handsets in the world than computers and as I head to CTIA this weekend one of the devices in my bag has some pretty amazing Flash prototypes that we are working on. Other devices like the Chumby are built around Flash as a core piece of their value proposition and the desire to leverage the large installed base of Flash developers.

I hope that the University of Wisconsin continues down they path they have started on and I can say that I am personally going to try to see how I can help this fledgling department interface with some of the people I know who are working at the intersection of design and technology. Thanks for having me out and best of luck.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bones in Motion Part 2

Enrique Ortiz saw my previous posts about Bones In Motion and pinged the founder of Bones In Motion Jon Werner to check it out. He sent me a nice email last night and pointed out one technical issue that was present in the post that contained the map. When I was running in downtown Los Angeles there was an apparent wavy motion on my running path, and no I wasn't stumbling through the streets. He explained that dense buildings distort some of the signal and that was what you can see. I frankly thought nothing of it at the time but did notice that while running at the beach, the lines were completely smooth.

Below is an example of that. Unfortunately you can't see with really great detail but when I zoomed in you can even see the ever so small loop that I intentionally did at the turnaround point to see how precise it was and I was very impressed by the accuracy.

I am clearly a new found convert to some of the specific vertical application of LBS technology and Bones can count me as a long time future customer.

Details in the post above.

Route:--Elev. Avg:67 ft
Location:Encinitas, CAElev. Gain:-16 ft
Date:03/18/07Up/Downhill: [+134/-150]
Time:09:31 AMDifficulty:1.5 / 5.0
Weather:Overcast with Haze
 54F temp; 86% humidity
 54F heat index; winds SE 6

Distance: 3.02 miles
Speed:6.27 mph
Pace:9' 34 /mi
Elevation (ft.)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
19' 35+0' 016.3-0.0+53 ft
29' 44+0' 106.2-0.1-20 ft
39' 20-0' 146.4+0.1-49 ft
end10' 50+1' 165.5-0.70 ft
Versus average of 9' 34 min/mi

Posted from

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bones In Motion

Last year almost to the day, I was at SXSW and spoke at the Austin Mobile Monday event. I was presenting Rabble and there were a number of LBS providers doing demo's as well. One of the coolest sounding applications, although for what I would consider a specialty market, was Bones In Motion. In a nutshell the idea is to use the GPS in your phone to track your fitness performance. In general I have been skeptical of GPS performance in phones until last weeks Telenav experience. I decided to check out some other LBS applications to see what else might be cool. While going through the Sprint catalog I found the Bones In Motion application.

Last night I stayed in Los Angeles at The Standard Hotel before I head up to Hollywood for the iHollywood forum. The ambient noise from downtown woke me up around 4 AM so sometime after 5 PM I grabbed the sneakers and my phone and headed out for a short run. Downtown LA is a great place for a jog as the topography is generally flat with the exception of Bunker Hill which is where the Disney Concert Hall and MOCA are located. I figured out a short loop that would include that as it is fairly close to my hotel and off I went.

The Bones In Motion application kept track of my time and speed and told me when I had hit the mile mark. At the end of the run I saved the relevant data and returned to my room. I went online to check all the details (which were also available on my phone and thought it would be nifty to have it automatically publish to my blog. Note the integration with maps and the mapping of the elevation gain around Bunker Hill. I can't wait to try this out some more.

I am checking out the Bones In Motion LBS application and wanted to see what this looks like on my blog.

Route:--Elev. Avg:322 ft
Location:Los Angeles, CAElev. Gain:+7 ft
Date:03/13/07Up/Downhill: [+167/-160]
Time:05:50 AMDifficulty:1.4 / 5.0
 57F temp; 61% humidity
 57F heat index; winds Calm

Distance: 2.04 miles
Speed:6.00 mph
Pace:10' 00 /mi
Elevation (ft.)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
110' 54+0' 545.5-0.5+82 ft
29' 11-0' 496.5+0.5-72 ft
end8' 45-1' 156.8+0.8-3 ft
Versus average of 10' 00 min/mi

Posted from

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Bag Of Shame

I have been traveling a lot this year and it doesn't look to be letting up anytime soon. Early in the year I had decided I would just buy certain products when I arrived in my city of choice and go from there. Specifically I thought that my hair product of choice came in a container that was just a wee bit too big.

I use products from American Crew whose website is here. One of my favorite products is their Fiber product which is like super glue for hair without the sheen. The container it comes in is 3.53 ounces which was something I wasn't clear on until today.

About a month or two ago I gave up the orchestrations I needed to deal with when I landed and just packed my very own bag of shame that I can carry with me dutifully while the beloved TSA keeps me safe. I rummaged through the pantry and grabbed a clear plastic bag and threw together the stuff I needed that seemed to be small enough. I though the American Crew stuff was just about in the zone and figured if they made me throw it away I would adjust my strategy.

Fast forward through several trips (actually I think 7 flights) and we arrive at today. My plastic bag has developed an interesting sheen that I can only imagine is the collective residue of toothpaste and shaving cream with some amount of evaporation from the left over water. After exiting the bus, I commented to Shawn how I had to make sure I fetched out my bag of shame that contains my various personal items. I told him that I thought it would be an interesting experiment to put in a variety of rubberized products that were either offensive or strange and see if it would elicit a response from the TSA. An idea we had tossed around was a 32 oz bottle that said 2 ounces on it in big bold letters.

We had many good laughs and I should have realized that I had just crossed the threshold of karmic balance in the universe that was bound to backfire on me. After going through the X-ray in my smelly socks with all my electronic gadgets and other metallic devices strewn across three plastic buckets, the TSA agent asked me if my bag of shame was in fact mine. I said, yeah, thinking that he was going to make fun of my over used razor blade. He pulled out my fiber container and looked very closely at the label which said 3.53 ounces. (refer to joke above about mislabeling...mental note...delete labels that document size).

"This container is too large sir, you can check your bags or surrender your fiber." I said, "Are you serious?"

"Regulations specify that you can only carry containers of a certain size sir." I contemplated telling him that I had been carrying that fiber in my bag of shame for many flights and he was the first one to actually read the label but decided this wouldn't help me. "Well, can you open the container so I can decide how much it is worth to me to check the baggage versus giving it to you." He didn't seem too pleased by this request as he might have thought it was a trick. He reluctantly opened the container to reveal that there was less than 10% of the product remaining. My math says that's about .35 ounces.

I was faced with two choices. I could ridicule him for his poor math skills, specifically as it related to measurement of volume, or I could tell him to throw it away calculating that there was about $2.00 worth of hair care product remaining. As the first course of action would probably only serve to get me on a list which would require extra checks in the future I told him that he could keep my fiber. He sort of sneered at me which I can only assume was based on the fact that HE wasn't going to keep my fiber and that he was going to throw it away.

Shawn started laughing hysterically which really underlined the absurdity of the whole process when the TSA agent told me, "Sir, by the way, your bag is a gallon bag and you can only carry a quart bag."

"Ahhh. Thanks. I was in need of replacing my bag so I will make sure I get right on that before my next trip."

Something Kafkaesque tells me that my unintentional civil disobedience, while personally very funny to me, doesn't really take into account the actual risks that are present. Hopefully this noise is an unfortunate byproduct of some really tight security and processes that are keeping the skies safe. One can only hope.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Media Next - Introduction

I am not a long form blogger but for the last several months, maybe even almost a year there have been a number of ideas and issues swirling around in my mind that warrant a long discussion which is not something that I am prone to do. I like punchy or personal. Sometimes that isn't the right approach to address a topic or some specific subject matter.

One of the things I started pushing on at work over the last year wasdoing outreach to colleges to talk about the lessons I have learned over the last several years and to talk about the things that I think are important to share with those who will hopefully determine the future of media and content. I have spoke at a number of schools and have a handful set up for this semester that have really been the catalyst for this post and a series of posts that I want to write in the coming months.

Although different classes have different subject matter and I generally try to tailor what I am saying to the specific audience, there are some recurring themes that I find myself repeating over and over and I realized in the process that these are things that I assume other people consider and that I have never formally put structure around my thoughts. Acknowledging that there is not an original thought, I think we do each synthesize a combination of our experiences as well as material we have encountered in our journeys. The things I plan to cover in the coming weeks or so will be a combination of my experiences and things/thoughts I have encountered in the past. I hope to give proper attribution where I can remember.

So here I am four paragraphs in and I haven't made any meaningful points...

CDs were an incredible invention. As a consumer I recall that I was excited about the idea of a form of media that wouldn't get eaten by a tape machine or melt on the dashboard on my car. So much for vision on my part. What I didn't get at that time way back in the early 80s was that the promise of crystal clear digital sound was the seeds of massive change in what the future would hold for the media and content businesses.

Over a decade later while working at I would experience firsthand the intersection of technology and content and watch as both sides grappled with what would come next and what would the future hold as consumers marched rapidly into unchartered territory. A big reason for this was that very same digital CD format that was transformed by the rise of personal computers.

Again almost a decade later the changes continue to come and still the clear cut impact or rather the clear outline of what is to come next is not obvious to me or many others who watch the media and content space. To me there are a number of historical things that are worth exploring and discussing as they give hints to what has transpired and hopefully may give some indications of what the future might hold. I don't pretend to have any answers but I think that a good hearty discussion of the issues might point to some future possibilities.

My goal in the coming weeks is to hit on the following specific topics: The role of scarcity in the creation and maintenance of value in media and content, the rise of personal distribution and publication platforms, the rise of inexpensive content production tools, the differences between open and closed networks, and possibilities for future business models. I don't expect to have any divine revelations but I do hope to get a handful of people engaged in a conversation, if not now, hopefully soon.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Talking Head

I am hitting a stretch of travel and speaking over the next 6 weeks. Next week I am speaking at the iHollywood Forum on Tuesday. Details here. I am on a panel entitled "From Mobile Networks to Mobile Networking". Paul Smith from Mpulse, who I spoke on a panel with at SXSW last year will be there as well as Michael Grossi from Helio. I have been particularly excited by some of the new Helio phones as well as an apparent move towards the early adopter, gadget freak consumer which is what I thought they were going to originally go for when they launched.

A bunch of friends and acquaintances will be there as well including Jim Kaskade from Eyespot, Joe Hurd from Video Egg, and Matthew Evans from NBC/Universal who worked with me back at Vivendi.

A couple of weeks later on March 26th I will be speaking in one of the Ask the Experts sessions at Billboard Mobile Entertainment at CTIA. Link the the show here. Other friends and acquaintances in attendance include Greg Clayman from MTV, Ted Cohen, Paul Palmieri from MillennialMedia, Craig Thole from Boost, Rio Caraeff from Universal Music, and Bryan Biniak.

Later in April I will be speaking at the Dow Jones Wireless Innovations Conference. Details here. More details on that later.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Rental Cars, LBS and Cellphones

Sometime last week I received an email from the Sprint Ambassador program soliciting feedback for the Phase 2 timeframe. I have to say that I have really dug the program and it has forced me to evaluate things I wouldn't normally look at in the course of my information ferreting process. After giving my feedback I fired up my phone and did some deck cruising to see some of the things they have that I may not normally look at. Combing through the record crates as it were.

For some reason, that is mostly historical, I usually rent cars from Budget. The primary reason I think is that I really like the guy who runs the Budget franchise at Union Station in Los Angeles and he always takes care of me when I am in LA. Beyond that I really am on the fence about Budget, especially the outfit at the airport in Seattle. those people are a case study in miserable customer service.

So yesterday I headed up to San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a busy day of meetings. While booking a car late at night on Monday, budget was sold out at SJC, which happens more than occasionally. Big sigh. I went over to Hertz and found a bunch of cars and went ahead and booked.

The next morning while picking up the car, I was asked if I need satellite radio or GPS or anything special which I declined but I realized that I had a little bit of all those things in my Sprint phone, which is an LG Fusic.

I have to admit that the thought of GPS navigation on my cell phone for the car seemed really ridiculous. I recalled from my previous digging around that there was an application I had subscribed to called TeleNav Navigator. I fired up the application and set it up for directions to San Francisco. I know how to get to San Francisco but I wanted to see how well it works.

As I exited the Hertz parking lot the phone started barking out directions to the city. Very cool. The speaker could be a bit louder but the experience was as good as what I have seen pre-installed in cars with the exception of the sound volume. While flying up the 280 I pulled out the phone and was blown away by the really cool 3D representation of my car cruising up the coast route.

I spent the better part of the day making the application map my directions and all in all it was really good and surprisingly kind to the battery. At $10 a month for an application like this I have to wonder what sort of threat this poses to the guys charging $2000 to load this stuff directly into cars. If I can do a bluetooth connection to a car speaker system I can get the sound piece worked out and I am good to go. Just a thought. I will come back to some other implications of this shortly as it relates to the mobile relevance of applications or not in a post I am working on assuming I actually finish it.

Friday, March 02, 2007 Data Mining Revisted

Over two years ago I wrote a post about some of the data mining we did at and then Vivendi Universal that you can find here. To this day I find that entire exercise fascinating and one of the things that I enjoy the most is that the story only gets better with time.

Back in that post I referenced Rick Walker who worked with me trying to identify opportunities to sell data to the record labels back in 2003-2004. The previous post talks about some of the mechanical specifics but it doesn't really do a good job showing what he had developed.

Around the end of the year last year we needed to bring in a new finance person for our current company and coincidentally Rick became available. It's been great having him on the team and we like to talk about how cool that project was and how far ahead of it's time the data was. This is especially poignant as we have seen bands that were essentially baby bands at that time that have blow up in a big way. On the other hand there are also a bunch that became roadkill. This morning I uploaded a sample of the report that we were sharing with A&R folks before Vivendi divested the assets of the various music properties I oversaw. Here is a link to the National chart and some of the larger markets. You can find three other pages here, here, and here. Take a special note of the top band in Chicago in 2003.

Thanks to Rick for dropping this blast from the past on my desk this morning. I have been chewing on a post for a couple of weeks ever since I had a pint with a BBC producer in New York who spoke with me at length on the challenges they face in the future in terms of getting paid. I don't know that I have any answers to that question but I think the framework of my thinking to describe the key drivers and point to some potential ideas is almost complete. As there are a lot greater minds than mine thinking about that problem I don't expect to break any new ground but I think this past experience when colored with some of my current experiences will at least be worth sharing or start some discussions.