there are 11 posts from October 2004

October 27, 2004

tsr on naive and sentimental music

The Standing Room has a great review up of Saturday’s SF Symphony performance of John Adams’ 1999 piece Naive and Sentimental Music. He blames guest conductor Allen Gilbert for a lackluster performance…

The whole thing felt disjointed and lacked all forward motion. The second movement ground to a halt. The various cogs of the third movement never came together to create that wondrous Adams machine. And that poor first movement melody was shapeless and flaccid, because everyone seemed so concerned about counting. Frankly, I don’t think he got the piece at all.

How disappointing. As TSR also reports, I’ve seen MTT conduct Adams’ Harmonielehre, and Adams conduct the SF Symphony himself for the debut of El Dorado, and both times they blew the roof off the place, and had the audience rapt. That said, I saw an SF Symphony violinist acquaintance of mine Saturday afternoon (before the show), and he was not looking forward to the evening. I think his exact words were “I hate this piece.”

Midori would have been something to see, though…

October 21, 2004

yahoo buys stata labs

Oh, man things are getting interesting in the Google v. Yahoo v. Microsoft battle.  Gotta believe that Yahoo didn’t pick up Stata Labs for their Windows spam assassin client, but rather for the search tech that’s inside Bloomba.  It’s not hard to imagine them building a rich client for email and feed reading that complements the online experience that I’m sure they’re building with what they picked up from Oddpost.

The other interesting thing about this is that the Outlook-alternative market is once again wide open.  It’s now down to Eudora and Thunderbird, neither of which have decent email search tools, nor offer any significant “intertwinglyness” that modern communication clients so desperately need.

October 20, 2004

talk about the weather

See that big red spirally thing hovering over Japan? That’s where I am. The rain is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, but supposedly this typhoon “isn’t that bad” since the winds haven’t picked up. But my God, the rain. Buckets and buckets; the four of us returning from dinner stopped in our tracks to marvel at an alleyway that had become a river.

(Update: I blog weather photos, ‘cause my SD slot is on the fritz. Mie blogs photos and videos of the actual event. She gets the prize.)

(Update 2: “isn’t that bad” my a**.)

October 19, 2004

shift the store to the device

Billboard’s reporting that [Apple will ship iPods preloaded with U2’s new record.]( “Music Article”)

Step one of the “next gen iPod” strategy that I mused about in July of last year. Not that anyone with half a brain couldn’t have generated that strategy on their own. (And, after all, it’s all about execution.)

Anyway. Good stuff.

October 16, 2004

the jukebox has a long tail

Chris Anderson’s piece The Long Tail, already linked to shreds, brought a smile to my face with a quote from Ecast’s Robbie Vann-Adibe. Robbie and I worked together at Viant, and I was on the Ecast team when Viant put together Ecast’s original business plan, operating model and working prototype of their digital jukebox…

Meet Robbie Vann-Adibe, the CEO of Ecast, a digital jukebox company whose barroom players offer more than 150,000 tracks - and some surprising usage statistics. He hints at them with a question that visitors invariably get wrong: “What percentage of the top 10,000 titles in any online media store (Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, or any other) will rent or sell at least once a month?” … Most people guess 20 percent, and for good reason: We’ve been trained to think that way. … But the right answer, says Vann-Adibé, is 99 percent. There is demand for nearly every one of those top 10,000 tracks. He sees it in his own jukebox statistics; each month, thousands of people put in their dollars for songs that no traditional jukebox anywhere has ever carried.

I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Captured in there is the whole point of Ecast: thousands of tracks, delivered transparently on demand, giving barflys access to nearly whatever they’d want to hear at any time. And the jukebox is the perfect place for a long tailed catalog – at one point we had modeled (inebriated) people paying slightly more for tracks that they typically wouldn’t find in a corner bar.

And layered on top of the “any song, anywhere” benefit for users is the data component. Back in 1999/2000 when Ecast was blazing contractual trails with the major labels (“You’re going to distribute digital versions of our catalogs to bars?”), the folks on the other side of the table didn’t quite get the value of the data Ecast would be collecting. I have to believe that’s changed: Ecast is sitting on geographically tagged social purchase data. As the hit business both concentrates and dissipates, being able to predict the lifetime value of a recording means more rational investments in artist development. It may not be as richly detailed as the data from Soundscan or the iTunes Music Store, but if I were in A&R or artist marketing at a major label, I’d sure as hell want to layer jukebox stats into my forecasting models. Music spreads socially, after all…and what’s more social than feeding a fiver into the jukebox?

October 15, 2004

feeddemon style

I’ve been an avid FeedDemon user since Nick Bradbury announced the 1.0 beta.  One of its best (and least-exploited) features is its user-customized newspaper styles:  FeedDemon uses XLST to create different views of feed data, which end up rendered in an IE control.  I’ve been building a newspaper style based on the “Savvy” style that uses a some simple JavaScript to show/hide news item details on click.  Install this style, maximize the browser control (F11) and voila – a streamlined 2-paned reader instead of (IMHO) an overdesigned 3-paned “Outlook style” reader.

Even though about five of you will know/care what the hell I’m talking about, I give this to you.

> Download Sippey.fdxsl (9.2K)

October 15, 2004

blowing the opt out opportunity

You’d think by now – more than 10 months after CAN-SPAM went into effect – that companies doing legitimate business via email would have their act together about opt-out language and workflow. 

Not so much.

That thumbnail (click for a bigger version) is a just-captured screenshot from Jet Blue’s unsubscribe page.  The language reads…

To unsubscribe from our mailing list, please confirm the information below and click submit.
Email address:  michael@the…
Unsubscribe:  ( ) IN     ( ) OUT

Do I choose “in” to “opt-in” to their unsubscribe list?  Or do I choose “out” to opt out of their subscription list?

Now, under a strict interpretation of the law, Jet Blue is probably in compliance.  Their message contained a clear and conspicuous method of unsubscribing – a link to this unsubscribe page; and the law doesn’t specify any ease-of-use requirements for the web-based opt-out process. 

That process, by the way, should be considered an opportunity to thank the customer for their business, not to confuse and obfuscate the unsbuscribe process.  Companies that do it right use appropriate copy and design to (a) try to convince the customer to dial back their subscription preferences instead of unsubbing entirely, and/or (b) thank them for the privilege they’ve had of landing in their inbox, and apologize for disappointing them.  Despite the millions of dollars of investment in a “friendly” brand image, all Jet Blue manages to do here is further annoy an already annoyed customer.

October 11, 2004

blatant spousal promotion

Late last year Traywick Gallery morphed into Traywick Contemporary when Trina moved her business from her gallery space on Gilman in Berkeley into our house, gracefully making the shift from “retail” to “private” dealer.  We installed flat files, turned a massive closet into art storage, buffed up the home office…and now she’s doing just what she did before – representing her artists and connecting them with collectors – in a different environment. 

While she’s been doing a few private events and artist talk type things at the house, it’s not all wine and brie.  Back in March she took over the basement space of Crown Point Press (formerly occupied by the dearly-departed Refusalon) for a month-long show of Susan Martin’s sculpture (reviewed here by Kenneth Baker).  Starting this Thursday the 14th she’ll be in the 49 Geary building in downtown San Francisco for five weeks with a show of Charles LaBelle’s compound photographs

If you don’t know LaBelle’s work, you should.  He takes thousands of photos while traveling, cuts 1 inch square pieces from contact sheets, and assembles them into large (think 3 by 6 foot) tapestries.  They’re absolutely stunning.  If you’re in San Francisco Thursday night, come by:  5-7 pm, 49 Geary, 5th Floor.  The show runs from Wednesday - Saturday, 11-5 from October 14 through November 20.

October 06, 2004

i had a dream

Being at this conference is a little bit like stepping back in time. Eight years ago, in one of the few pieces I wrote for, I had a dream

A dream of mythic proportions. A dream that began with the first kill file I ever wrote. A dream of declaring myself independent of this so-called “online community.” I want to become one of the Freemen of the Internet.

With all the talk of personalized search results, custom-spliced RSS feeds and APIs that will give me programmatic access to just the right set of products, their prices and their reviews, the dream is just starting to come true.

October 05, 2004

web 2.0: contrarian search bet from snap

At Web 2.0… Bill Gross just introduced Snap, a new search site from Idealab. I’ll contribute to the blog pile on with a few quick notes…

1) Snap is a big contrarian bet against Google aesthetic. Search results are presented in a very rich, reasonably heavy set of controls that enable the use to filter and sort results. They’re going to enable advertisers to create rich presentations for their products – bucking the “text ad” trend that the goog pioneered.

2) Snap is a huge bet on increasing user sophistication. The current version of the UI is, shall we say, advanced. (If you like X1, you’ll like Snap.) Depending on what you’re searching for, the system could return results in two panes – one where they’re trying to be reasonably smart about what you’re looking for, the other for more “raw” results. (Try it on a search for “new car,” for example.) The type-ahead filtering is slick, but I don’t see my Mom “getting it” initially.

3) The transparency thing is intriguing… They’re making public all of their user stats, including search volume, page views, number of advertisers, paid clicks, and revenue. If it works, it could provide the incentive for ad buyers to buy on Snap. If it doesn’t work, it will provide a fantastic dashboard for journos and bloggers looking for a quick stat… Battelle brought up an interesting point, that Idealab company Overture pioneered transparency in cost per click, and people hated that for the first year of its life…

4) Oh, and I almost forgot this one. Isn’t Snap a very Web 1.0 name? Think back…way back.

October 05, 2004

ev leaving google

Congrats to Ev on leaving Google. I owe him a debt of gratitude for inviting me to join Pyra’s advisory board back when I thought Pyra was the killer app. Boy was I wrong….if he and Meg had listened to me, they’d probably have ended up up on the trash heap of enterprise software ASPs. Thankfully, they were smarter than that, and helped create, shape and seed a new market and a new medium.

And hey! Now we can have lunch and not worry about talking business.