there are 14 posts from April 2010

April 30, 2010

what i like about lala

Eric Case asked on Twitter this morning...

Hey music fans, what were your favorite features on Lala?

I love that question -- thanks, Eric! But I'll be pedantic and refuse to use the past tense until they actually shut the thing down on May 31st. Here are my favorite features on Lala:

  • Search. Their search is great. The suggest / autocomplete on the form element is logical, the search results are smart, the search result pages are well designed, and all of that makes it fast and easy to find what you're looking for.

  • Ability to play a song once all the way through without paying a dime. 30-second clips don't cut it; a good song is the perfect preview of itself. (Whoa.) I love being able to search for something a friend had mentioned, hit play and enjoy the whole damn thing. The single-play-for-free is also logical from a user's perspective; enjoy it now...if you want to hear it again, pay up.

  • The wallet. Throwing $50 on Lala every once in a while is a great way to make music buying an impulse thing. With money in your wallet buying that random track for me, a friend or someone on the family is a no-brainer.

  • Simple downloading. How you downloaded tracks was up to you. Click to download through your browser, or use the Music Mover to get things into the right place on your desktop.

And here are features that I wish I loved more than I do.

  • The library. I had the music mover scan my library and give me digital rights to stream all the music I owned (cough) on my local machine. But I never use it. Instead I play it from iTunes, or stream radio from Pandora. If they had actually released their iPhone app and that gave me access to all of my music while away from home, that would have been great.

  • The Music Feed. It's a great idea, but I don't have enough friends there doing enough sharing to make it worthwhile. Instead, it's just an OK place to keep up with recommendations from Pitchfork.

But there's one major feature that I love more than all the others: I love that Lala is on the web. From any browser on any machine I can sign in and search, sample and buy. It's easy to share a song on Facebook or Twitter. I can grab embed codes for any track and post them on my blog. Lala -- more than Pandora, more than iTunes, and in my opinion even more than -- is of the web and for the web. Which is why I'm hopeful that Apple (with its deep love for HTML 5) is poised to do something ambitious with

April 28, 2010

siri to apple

Every once in a while I get lucky and actually state the obvious. Here's a bit from my post on Siri back in February:

Since Apple won't let users customize what's triggered with a long press of the iPhone's home button, they should just buy the company and turn this into the default Voice Control app.

I'm very happy to read this morning that Siri's been acquired by Apple. Congrats to the Siri team (yay Harry!); this makes perfect sense for both companies. And if you haven't tried Siri -- go get it now.

April 19, 2010

creative vision, leadership and pixar

Huge thanks to Scott Berkun for transcribing some of the most interesting bits from Martin Giles' interview with Pixar president Ed Catmull at The Economist's innovation conference. The interview is a great view into the culture of Pixar, and how they balance the creative vision of a filmmaker with the need for highly collaborative work from large teams of crewmembers.

Here are two quick excerpts that connect the dots...

I do believe you want a vision, so you start off with a person who has a vision for a story. And we do things to try and protect that vision and its not easy to protect it, because they feel these pressures. They also have misconceptions about the creative process sometimes. We do have these people who we give a chance to on the belief they’re right, and can rise to the occasion, and we are wrong sometimes, because we can’t see what goes on in their heads. And our measure, because we can’t see inside people’s heads, is the team. If the team is functioning well, and healthy, it will solve the problem.

And another about what happens if things go south.

We will support the leader for as long and as hard as we can, but the thing we can not overcome is if they have lost the crew. It's when the crew says we are not following that person. We say we are director led, which implies they make all the final decisions, [but] what it means to us is the director has to lead.. and the way we can tell when they are not leading is if people say 'we are not following'.

If this is up your alley, Ed Catmull had a piece in the Harvard Business Review back in September 2008. Ostensibly the piece is about creativity...but it's really about collaboration and teamwork. A good chunk of it is available online, including this wonderful paragraph:

A movie contains literally tens of thousands of ideas. They’re in the form of every sentence; in the performance of each line; in the design of characters, sets, and backgrounds; in the locations of the camera; in the colors, the lighting, the pacing. The director and the other creative leaders of a production do not come up with all the ideas on their own; rather, every single member of the 200- to 250-person production group makes suggestions. Creativity must be present at every level of every artistic and technical part of the organization. The leaders sort through a mass of ideas to find the ones that fit into a coherent whole—that support the story—which is a very difficult task. It’s like an archaeological dig where you don’t know what you’re looking for or whether you will even find anything. The process is downright scary.

Can't wait to see the results of the archaeological dig called Toy Story 3.

April 12, 2010

promoted tweets and platform reach

I'm sure Claire Cain Miller's piece in the New York Times about Twitter's ad program will be combed over by, well, thousands and thousands of experts with fine-toothed combs. I'll just comb over this particular paragraph.

Once Twitter figures out how to measure the number of people who read posts other than on, it will also allow third-party developers to show ads and share revenue.

I bet we hear more about this piece of the puzzle this week at Chirp. The strength of Twitter is in its reach as a platform...but from an advertiser's perspective the weakness of Twitter is in the (current) inability to measure the actual reach (vs. potential reach) of a message. So if I'm reading Miller's paragraph correctly (and she's transmitting correctly), the bargain for third-party developers is pretty clear: you share stats about who's seeing what tweets when and where, and we'll share ad revenue with you.

And you know what? This is just like every other online ad network. And this is a good thing; it's a value exchange that's easy to understand. Take AdSense, for instance. Every microsecond of every day publishers give Google real estate on their sites. Google gets to learn all sorts of things about their traffic patterns -- who reads what pages when and from where; in return the publisher gets a cut of the advertising revenue that Google generates in that real estate. Data for revenue.

I also think this puts the Blackberry and iPhone client moves last week in context. Now that they have Twitter-branded clients on two large mobile platforms, they have healthy chunk of owned & operated mobile inventory. Which means they don't need to negotiate the revenue cut with any third party developers for the initial launch, and they can take a while to learn -- gather data, observe the user experience, gauge advertiser reaction, etc. And it will give them an opportunity to develop a set of best practices for clients about how to report this kind of data back to Twitter.

They're doing this right. The tweet's a natural ad unit, and they're finding the right ways to introduce them into the user experience. Search first, tweet stream on their own O&O properties next, then out through third party clients. Evolve the right way to make it a net positive for the ecosystem. Evolve the "resonance" algorithm. Get a handle on the reach of the platform. And all the while encourage new types of applications.

Here we go.

April 08, 2010

there's no place like home

In case you need more proof that I suck as an Apple prognosticator, this one's for you.

About a month ago I wrote a post about smartphone home screens and notifications, comparing the wide open field of development in Android-land with what's available on the iPhone. I had foolishly hoped that iPhone 4.0 would improve the home screen / notification experience, predicting with "Likelihood: High" that Apple would provide an "out-of-the-box solution for notifications and glanceable home screen summaries of messages, events, social network notifications, etc." No such luck.

That said, there are improvements to the OS in 4.0 that could make something like this possible in the future: local notifications, push notifications, task completion and background location. Combine all of those with a service like FourSquare, and you can imagine a home screen app that periodically updates with information about what friends are near you, tips for locations nearby, and if any of your friends are mayors of those locations....while showing your calendar, your next todo item, any recently recieved text messages, top news headlines, tweets from your friends, messages from Facebook, etc.

But nope! More popups. But hey! Look on the bright side -- at least now we can get those popups -- and act on them! -- while listening to Pandora. (Speaking of which, Pandora presented today...and no sign of what's up with Lala?)

April 05, 2010

what dave said.

I wanted to quickly fire up the on-screen keyboard and start making 140 character pronouncements about what this device means for the future of newspapers, magazines, gaming, movies, television, computing, reading, writing, communicating and life itself, but then I realized it had already been out in the marketplace for nearly fifty-one minutes. It was way too late to still have a meaningful opinion on any of these topics.


Just one of many bloggable grafs in Dave Pell's latest.

April 05, 2010

and it begins!

image from

April 04, 2010

undo is the hardest operation of all

Finally got around to reading Clay's latest piece about the economics of the media business. This bit is going to stick with me...

Bureaucracies temporarily reverse the Second Law of Thermodynamics. In a bureaucracy, it’s easier to make a process more complex than to make it simpler, and easier to create a new burden than kill an old one.

Bureaucracies just don't have a CTRL-Z function.

April 04, 2010

he's also tall, dark and handsome

The New York Times plants a wet one on David Remnick, literary super hero.

He reports, writes and edits, a player-coach combination that works in magazine about as often as a Bill Russell shows up in the National Basketball Association; his families, writers and advertising clients feel like they are his focus; and he counts pennies at one of the most luxe publishing companies in the world.

In addition to editing The New Yorker, Remnick has a 672-page biography of Barack Obama coming out this week. Just the thought of reading that book makes me exhausted.

April 03, 2010

namaste, fake steve.

image from

April 02, 2010

your favorite animated gif for the next five minutes


Thank you, Timothy Buckwalter.

April 02, 2010

popular science+

Really looking forward to Popular Science+ on the iPad, which is based on the Mag+ concept that Bonnier developed in concert with BERG.


The blog post on BERG provides some interesting details...

We found little games to play with the reader, having them assemble infographics in the act of scrolling, and making pages that span multiple panes, only revealing themselves when the reader does a double-finger swipe to zoom across them.

And they not only designed the front-end app, but the editorial and production workflow to produce it next month. And the month after that. And the month after that.

The story, for me, is that the design work behind the Mag+ concept video was strong enough to spin up a team to produce Popular Science+ in only two months. Not only that, but an authoring system that understands workflow. And InDesign integration so art directors are in control, not technologists. And an e-commerce back-end capable of handling business models suitable for magazines. And a new file format, “MIB,” that strikes the balance between simple enough for anyone to implement, and expressive enough to let the typography, pictures, and layout shine. And it’s set up to do it all again in 30 days. And more.

Congrats to Matt Webb, Jack Schulze, Matt Jones, Tom Armitage of BERG and Sarah Öhrvall at Bonnier. Shipping trumps all.

April 01, 2010

peanut butter and jelly bread


Important: this is not an April Fool's joke. This is a very real recipe from Serious Eats and it deserves to be taken seriously. Seriously.

April 01, 2010

mmmm, donuts

Brand New's remake of the Dunkin' Donuts brand is great. What would have been better is if Dunkin' Donuts had announced that they were expanding aggressively into California. That would have been a cruel April Fool's joke.