Mknac’s Weblog

Diving into the shallow pool of Web 2.0 and Social Media head first!

I’ve gone MAC and I’m not going back

I’ve had an IPhone for some time and swear it’s the best phone I’ve ever had which eventually lead me down a new path. A couple months ago I was using my HP Windows Vista Dual Core processor with 2 gigs of ram PC at home and life was good. The next evening I turn my PC on and I get a Microsoft error message saying that my copy of Windows Vista was unauthorized. WTF you say? Those were my thoughts exactly. (At least it was a change from the Microsoft blue screen of death.)

Apple IMac

So I call the evil empire help desk. Too bad dude your copy of Windows Vista is out of warranty but you can pay us big bucks to try to talk you through it on the phone. I don’t think so Darth. Other wise you can go to a Micrsoft users help blog. Here try to copy this URL down. I don’t think so Darth.

Anyhow I was so mad the next morning I take my happy ass down the Apple store in Montgomery Mall. Did you know they don’t even have check out counters in a Apple store? It’s like when you turn in a rental car. They have those same scanners and scan your purchase where you are standing, swipe your credit card and print your receipt on the spot. But I digress.

So I buy an IMac just to stick it to the man. The new really cool brushed aluminum ones with a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse. Needless to say for all you MAC users out there my relationship with my MAC is completely different than what I had with my PC.  Come to think of it I didn’t have a relationship with my PC. Now I kind of feel about my IMac the way I feel about my Trek 1500 road bike; I love it.  It’s like that movie a few years ago where everything was in black and white. Then people started seeing in color.

Even the visualizer in ITunes is much more vibrant than my Windows Vista PC.  I’m computing and surfing the web in color now and won’t be going back to black and white. I didn’t notice or appreciate the differences immediately but now that I’ve been using a MAC for some time now I can’t believe anybody actually puts up with Microsoft’s operating systems. We’ll that’s your problem, I’ve got a IMac.  Anybody need copies of Microsoft software?

Hey maybe Apple will see my blog and ask me to do a commercial for them?

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Are you a Google or a Yahoo?

The Search; How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture” by John Battelle is a book that provides a fascinating look into how Google became the largest media company in the world today. Battelle also provides insights into how search engines work and the differences between major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, AltaVista and many others.

“The Search” uses numerous examples of people, companies and events that have been transformed along with Google’s rise to the top of the search engine pile. Ultimately the search engine battle I feel boils down to two issues. Which companies can better develop a business model to generate revenue from searches and which companies can provide search results that are closer to your intent.

I’ve always been a Yahoo person myself as my experience is that I’m able to more easily find what I’m looking for on Yahoo rather than Google. Could people be predisposed to a search engine because its algorithms more closely approximate your thinking? Based on the statistics I guess I’m in the minority on this issue as more people use Google than any other search engine. Based on revenue, Google has developed a business model that’s clearly out producing its competitors.

The amount of services that Google provides is incredible. Just to think that a few years ago many of these services that we now rely upon every day didn’t exist. Google is mining our digital clickstream to develop services that they want to provide all covered with ad producing revenue.

Google has certainly achieved many remarkable goals and provided convenient and useful services and programs to its users. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad to have so much market power and information in the hands of one company. Could you argue that Google is a monopoly? I don’t think you’d win that argument at this point.

Although Google may have a “do no evil” ideology they certainly have done evil; whether it was intentional or on purpose is debatable. The old saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” might be of value here.

Why do we trust Google with this much information about us and control over that information? Is it a matter of time before the ideology of “do no evil” is absolutely corrupted? Only time will tell if Google is able to maintain the trust it has built with its users.

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exposed – does podcast viewing say anything about you?

Hmm well we’ve got to write about the podcasts I listen to / watch. Perhaps I should lie? Since social media and blogs are about being real I’ll tell the truth. I’ve actually been all over podcasts for some time. I only really watch two podcasts regularly. I tried many such as Rocketboom etc when there was some buzz still attached to it but found its pinko commie leftist BS to be a bit much. Bottom line here is I feel so bombarded by news that by the end of the day I’m not really looking for more news when I get home. Or maybe better said I’m only looking for news I’m interested in. Also with podcasts and particularly audio only podcasts if I don’t get hooked within the first 5-10 seconds I don’t have the tolerance to listen for 5 minutes to find out what its about. With a blog you can quickly determine if you want to keep reading. My podcast viewing is really limited to entertainment.

Tiki Bar TV

My favorite is Tiki Bar TV. This comedy podcast is great and is produced monthly. The acting, camera angles and scripts are first class. I must warn potential viewers that like all things comedy some episodes are better than others. When they are on you’ll have tears coming out of your eyes because you’re laughing so hard. Other times you could say their humor goes over your head. It focuses on three people in a tiki bar in an apartment. Some problem always arises and the resident doctor prescribes a custom cocktail. Everyone drinks the cocktail and the problem is solved — just like in real life.

Hot for Words

My other guilty pleasure is Hot for Words staring Marina. This podcast produces a new episode a couple times a week. It’s one of the most downloaded podcasts on You Tube, so I read. For those who don’t know, Marina is philologist; someone who studies linguistics and etymology. In each show Marina discusses the history and meaning of a word submitted by her viewers. On the surface that sounds pretty boring. However Marina is a pretty blond from Russia. Using her good looks, accent, personality and humor she’s hit a market for sure based on the number of downloads. As we discussed in class most of the popular podcasts seem to have a pretty lady associated with them.

I do catch some other random podcasts and those associated with the sports teams I follow. There are so many webpages, blogs and podcasts to view and limited time. What to do and why would anybody turn to a ninja for non-ninja advice?

June 14, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Long Tail”

I recently read “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson. In this book Anderson describes an Internet business model that many e-retailers, such as Rhapsody, Itunes, and Amazon, are successfully using. Further the author describes old brick and mortar business models and provides some context and history on the evolution of business models.

I totally agree with Anderson’s ideas. In fact Anderson’s “The Long Tail” explains what I think that I and most others inherently understand about why e-businesses are able to make a profit and provide goods at a lower cost than a brick and mortar store. However there is one key aspect of the long tail I didn’t get until reading “The Long Tail;” volume in the long tail.

The Long TailThe long tail is a statistical curve showing the probability of sales. Rather than looking like a bell shaped curve the long tail is skewed to the left with a declining long tail to the right that never reaches zero. What this means is that although some items aren’t high volume sellers they do sell consistently over time at a low volume. What you lack in individual sales volume you can more than make up for in overall volume of items in the long tail.

If an e-music retailer has hundreds of thousands of songs that sell say 4 times a year that’s significant money as opposed to the current hit of the week. Considering that the digital storage cost of those low purchase songs in the long tail is next to nothing this isa great deal for the e-retailer. A brick and mortar store can’t afford to stock old songs that only sell once a quarter.

The other day, I now realize, I found myself buying a song in the long tail. I was surfing Itunes and came across Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” I thought here’s a great old song so I purchased it. Clearly this song is a niche market in the long tail. Not selling at high volume but selling consistently in the long tail.

The long tail concept can be applied to many other products. I thought that the example of Lulu.com, a book self- publisher, and Amazon’s print-on-demand books intriguing. When somebody buys a book from Lulu or specific Amazon books the digital file is then printed and shipped. The product exists only in digital format until purchased so there are limited storage costs. The company only incurs a cost (printing and distribution to the buyer) when it gains the revenue from the purchase.

I had a long tail epiphany at work today that reading “The Long Tail” made possible. I was looking at trends of my organization’s Intranet site; specifically our newsletter. Our newsletter is a long tail product. When an issue comes out there is heavy consumption of it then it slows off. I did a quick check of past issues out to six months and all had a long tail. Although an issue was old people are still occasionally downloading it.

If you’re reading this there is a good chance that you too have bought or have products in the long tail but just didn’t realize it.

Reference:

Long Tail Graphic: Anderson, C (October 2004) The Long Tail. Retrieved June 12, 2008 from the World Wide Web.

June 12, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Georgetown University Is Hard To Get To

As a graduate student at Georgetown University (GU) I’ve discovered Georgetown (Gtown) and GU are hard to get to.  There is no Metro station in Georgetown.  Over the years of working in DC occasionally you see articles about why there is no metro station in Gtown.  I don’t know if they’re true but at this point that doesn’t matter; only the reality that there is no metro stop counts.  So if you don’t live or work within walking distance you’re out luck.

The available options to get to Gtown are driving, DC Metro Bus, Georgetown Circulator bus, taxi or bicycle.  There are some Gtown specific buses that run from Gtown to the Dupont Circle metro and Rosslyn metro, but they have the same issues (see below) as the Metro and Circulator buses.  Also GU has some type of bus system but I’m not familiar enough with the university’s buses to discuss them.

As far driving goes the parking in Gtown is a nightmare.  Driving yourself is the most convenient way to get to Gtown.  Of course you have to fight the DC rush hour and drivers should be wary because the DC meter maids are always out in force generating additional revenue for the city to waste.  They love Gtown because the parking is so bad and residents have special stickers for parking in Gtown.  Take a local spot for more than two hours and you’re likely to have present from the district on your windshield after class.
Georgetown terrain map by Google
Taking a DC Metro Bus or the Georgetown Circulator bus is great for getting to Gtown but not GU.  When I don’t drive to GU I usually take one of these buses from work.  All in all you can’t beat the price of a bus ride on either Metro or the Circulator to Gtown.  However if you ride either of these buses you have to deal with buses where the air conditioning may not work, be packed in the bus like an Army cattle bus and believe it or not sometimes unsavory DC co-riders.  The real problem with the bus is where it drops you off.

You can usually get off either of the various buses some where on M Street or Wisconsin Avenue.  That’s great if you’re going to Gtown.  If you’re going to GU being dropped off at M or Wisconsin isn’t so great.

At GU the term “Hill Top” refers to many things, for good reason.  If you haven’t been to GU when you go there you’ll discover GU is on top of a sizeable hill.  If the bus drops you off at say M and Wisconsin, a popular drop off point, you’ve got a 15 minute walk up hill to GU.  The season really affects the quality of the walk.  Now in the summer, with the typical DC heat and humidity, it’s terrible.  I have to wear a suit to work.  ☹  By the time I get to GU I’m soaked.

Taking a taxi is great because you get dropped off where you want and don’t have to walk up any of Gtown’s hills.  But as you might guess it’s the most expensive way to get to Gtown/GU.  Ten dollars (from the vicinity of the White House) compared to one dollar on the Circulator and I believe one dollar and thirty five cents on the Metro bus.

Being a cyclist myself I’d love to ride my bike to Gtown.  Gtown has a thriving bike community and several high end bicycle shops on the western end of M street for all your biking needs.  However biking from home to work to GU in my suit or bringing a change of clothes and carrying my books and laptop just isn’t going to work so that’s out.

Well it just isn’t easy but is always an adventure trying to get to GU / Gtown.  Too bad Gtown wasn’t included as a stop when the Metro Rail system was built.

June 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Blogs Blogging and Bloggers is there a rhyme or reason?

I had time to reflect today upon my fledgling blog and those of my classmates. What I noticed is that many of our blogs to include mine, although new, weren’t focused on one subject that we may be or hope to be an SME in. My blog’s first three entries covered an assignment, some of the reasons I don’t like or consume traditional news media products and brushless electric motors for RC car racing. That last one sure diverged from the first two.
So what is the purpose of this blog? Although I mentioned this in my “about me” link generally as a graduate student at Georgetown University working on a masters degree in Public Relations and taking a social media class, social media and the digital disruption, this blog is for me to experiment with blogging and other Web 2.0 and 3.0 platforms. The hope is that I’ll learn to understand how to incorporate Web 2.0 into my various communications functions in the work environment.
So between blog assignments for class I’ll blog about what ever things or events of interest I come across throughout this semester. So if my posts seem a bit random they will be. The good news is you won’t know what’s over the next hill. So stay tuned.

June 10, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Brushless Revolution Has Arrived

For the last 18 months I’ve been involved in Remote Control Car Racing (RC) with my son. As it turns out I’m the owner, kind of like Joe Gibbs racing or Andretti Green racing. I’m also the pit boss and pit crew; my son is the celebrity driver.

RC is really a spectacle if you haven’t seen it before. We race 1/10 scale touring cars with electric motors on an indoor asphalt track. After 18 months of racing twice a month we’re finally competitive with the “pros” and others who have been involved in this hobby for a long time. That’s not to say we always win but now we win occasionally but more importantly we are usually in a position to be able to win at the end of the day.

Xray T2 008 touring sedanThe age range of the people at our track goes from kids to people in their 60’s. We race a Xray T2 008 touring car. The learning curve in RC is steep. You have to learn how to assemble your car and then set up your car for the track; such things as over steer, under steer, toe in/out, camber etc. This also requires all manner of tools and equipment.

Anyhow when we first started we started with the less expensive lower end equipment, car chassis, battery packs, chargers, gears etc. Over time as your experience and need for speed increases you start buying better equipment. One of the key items in electric RC car racing is the motor in your car.

Each has unique characteristics that affect the performance of your car. Initially and until recently we were using brushed 27 turn motors; specifically the Trinity CO27 Pro Tweaked Stock Motor. This is a great motor however we never had the acceleration or top end speed of the fast guys at our track. Eventually we learned how the fast guys tweaked and rebuilt their brushed motors by truing the com, replacing brushes, lubricating and otherwise re-building the motor.

The problem with brushed motors is that the brushes maintain contact with the com to complete the electrical circuit. The friction that results from this contact wears the com and the brushes. As the com and brushes wear the performance of the motor drops. So you have to frequently true the com and replace brushes. Unfortunately I was not very good at this aspect of the hobby so our car’s performance usually suffered.

The brushed motor is continually declining in performance. In the course of a 5 minute race the difference between a maintained motor and one with several runs on it is amazing. The guy with a couple runs on his motor doesn’t stand a chance.

Xray T2 008 touring car chassis

We recently upgraded to a Novak 17.5 brushless motor, PROBLEM SOLVED. The brushless motor has no brushes or com. Another purpose of the com is to mechanically flip the electric charge on the armature so that the magnets in the can produce the rotation resulting in the mechanical force that turns the pinion gear against the spur gear.

With a brushless motor there are no brushes or com. The armature contains the magnets instead of the can and the coils are in the can. The flipping of the current is controlled electronically by the speed controller rather than mechanically.

The end result is that with a brushless motor minimal maintenance is required. Generally just blowing dirt off with the air hose and perhaps lubricating the bearing where the axle comes out of can. (where you attach the pinion gear) But more importantly because there is no wearing of the com and brushes the output the motor is consistent run after run assuming you are using the same battery packs. The brushless motors run like they’re brand new out of the box each time. (Of course over time some maintenance and loss of performance will occur but not comparable in any way to a brushed motor.)

With the new brushless motors new comers have motors of equal capabilities as the “pros” who know how to tweak the brushed motors for all they’re worth. You no longer need to have a couple motors rebuilt for race day. Time usually spent on motor maintenance can be spent in car set up or practicing.

After some initial problems, mainly not having the correct gearing we got our Xray geared properly. Using a 90 spur gear and 44 pinion gear with our 1.7 diff we managed to get our gear ratio down to 3.48. (3.50 is recommend by Novak for this motor)

The combination of increasing driver skills and a competitive motor has made all the difference on race. Now instead of settling for finishing a race we’re usually in the top three fighting for pole position for the main and then the top spot of main itself.

So I’m declaring the brushless revolution as here and now. I’m not sure why anybody is still running brushed motors. Some of the “pros” where we race are still using brushed motors. But they’re experts at tweaking the motors. They’re still hanging on to the brushed motor because they think they have an advantage using it. To be honest they did when everyone had brushed motors, but not now. Eventually they’ll have to change to keep up with all of us who have gone brushless. The use of brushless motors in RC is going to increase as the motors get better. At some point the old “pros” will switch when they feel that they don’t have an advantage.

Next increasing performance through better driving and vehicle set up. Its much more fun being competitive!

June 10, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Decline of Traditional Big News Media

Here are my top ten reasons for finding alternative news sources rather using the traditional print, radio and television news media.

1 – Stories are always biased.

2 – Stories are always biased but they believe their story is balanced.

3 – Today’s traditional news media doesn’t do their research, before, during or after the story. (Maybe some old school journalists did this once upon a time. Pick up any newspaper or watch any broadcast news show today and you’ll see this isn’t the case.)

4 – Consequentially the media gets it wrong frequently.

5 – The media has a herd mentality. The media isn’t smart enough to develop their own stories so they all write the same story over and over.

6 – The media believes all the other media stories are accurate and true.

7 – Consequentially when the media uses another’s story as facts for their story they get it wrong again and perpetuate the mistakes.

8 – The news media can’t get a quote correct even if they record it or you email it to them.

9 – On the rare times the news media actually gets a quote correct the news media usually manipulates the quote by using a partial quote or the quote out of context to support their bias.

10 –The news media thinks their shit doesn’t stink.

I could go on but I’ll stop at 10. Why anybody believes anything they read, see or hear from the news media is beyond me. Engage your critical thinking skills whenever you read, listen or watch something from the news media.

June 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

“We the media”

Well for my first real blog entry I’ve been encouraged to highlight what I think is the main point, in my case two main points, of Dan Gillmor’s book “We the media.” The author is certainly an advocate for freedom of the Internet, creative freedom, freedom of speech and transparency in government, media and the corporate world.

I feel that Gillmor’s book can be broken down into two sections that show his main points:
• The Internet and its associated networks and software have brought about drastic changes in how we communicate; similar to the effect of the printing press.
• Big media, the entertainment industry and other corporations are aggressively attacking the freedoms inherent in the Internet and individual freedoms through lobbying at the federal and state level to pass laws restricting the creativity of the individual to sustain their outdated business models that are no longer practical/profitable in the global networked world.

The first two thirds of “We the media” talks about the advent of the Internet and weblogs, Internet use-groups and other such networks and software that has shown the weaknesses in the way big media does business. Gillmor advocates that the media consumer has now become the media creator. With big media looking to bloggers for stories the individual now is the creator of news not just the consumer of news. Additionally the individual is no longer subject to the traditional top down big media news mentality.

The individual now, when consuming news, go to Internet sites or portals or has media content delivered to them through push technologies such as RSS they trust or from a prospective they want to hear. This is the exact opposite of the way big media works deciding what they think is news and telling us what news they see fit for the individual to know.

One of big media’s strangleholds on individual media was the barriers to entry to get into the media communications business. This basically fell into two areas; costs of production and distribution. With the Internet we have basically seen these barriers of entry to the individual disappear. Today a person can write an article or produce videotape or digital news segments for very little money. Access to the Internet now allows distribution of this content worldwide instantaneously at very little cost. Gillmor calls this phenomenon for individuals to produce and distribute news content by the Internet “participatory journalism.”

The last third of “We the media” looks at how traditional big media and other industry monopolies that rely on controlling ideas, individually and creativity are reacting to these changes in the market place. Basically they are afraid of the freedom and transparency of information and alternative viewpoints that this new bottom up – consumer generated news reporting is creating. Specifically what they are afraid of is the collapse of their industry or company due to reliance on outdated business models that haven’t grasped the potential of the Internet and the subsequent transparency and freedom of information the Internet has created.

So rather than adapting they are attacking these emerging models of individual participation and freedom through legislation at the state and federal level. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly our elected representatives usually side with big business against the individual in these cases. Gillmor provides many examples such as peer-to-peer file sharing and copy rights law about how the freedom of the Internet has already been reduced by past and pending legislation.

June 2, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment