Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Top 10 Favorite Online Media Blogs: From Mathew Ingram to Deep Jive

Growing up on Long Island, it was my daily ritual to grab whatever part of Newsday I could get my hands on to read during breakfast. These days, I have my laptop and while I do a cursory scan of the news headlines (and typically get a shot of politics via's The Note), it's the online media blogs that have emerged as the places I spend most of my reading time.

Compiling a Top 10 list was both easier and more difficult than I thought it was going to be. My favorite of favorites were quick plucks, but near the bottom of the list it got rough going as to who would make the final few slots.

This list of course reflects my own interests and passions, which include: online media and the web 2.0 world in general, blogging-as-profession, the blogosphere, social news, social networking, the MSM-blogospheric convergence, start-up culture, and online entrepreneurship.

I'll try to update this list over time to see what additions and changes may be warranted.

#1 - - Mathew Ingram
Ingram, a technology writer with The Globe and Mail in Toronto, combines the best elements of journalism with the best of the blogosphere, making for a smart, interesting, and opinionated take on news related to a wide range of online media- and tech-related issues. I find I most often agree with Mathew's takes, which occasionally are controversial, so more than anything this is the case of an online publication that perfectly suits me, the reader. That more than anything is a wonderful endorsement of the blogosphere and online media as Long Island (and, now, Pasadena) is a long way away from Toronto!

#2 - The Jason Calacanis Weblog
Jason Calacanis is fun to follow. Former CEO of Weblogs Inc. and "relauncher" of Netscape as new styled social news engine, Jason is for the moment an "Entrepreneur in Action" for Sequoia Capital. He also can't help but write brief, passionate, and decidedly outside-the-norm opinions on a wide array of subjects. From following his blog babies from Weblogs to strategizing the LA housing market (no easy feat!) to making an impassioned blogospheric plea regarding the Genarlow Wilson case, this is a must read blog for ambitious bloggers and online media cultists.

#3 - TechCrunch - Michael Arrington
TechCrunch has become something of the daily online newspaper for all things web 2.0. This is the preeminent place to find out what start ups are up to and what moves the big guys are making in the online space. Arrington is opinionated and occasionally self-inflated, but the information that he pumps out day-after-day makes TechCrunch an absolute must to stay afloat in the 2.0-ish rapid currents.

#4 - Mashable! - Steve Cashmore
Mashable! has evolved into a TechCrunch for those interested in social networking and the massive changes going on in that space. No one else keeps up with the dizzying myriad of social networking, widgeting, and third party add-ons like Cashmore and Mashable!

#5 - ProBlogger Blog Tips - Darren Rowse
Yet another must read for bloggers, this is Blogging 101 for bloggers who are serious about increasing readership and making money from self-publishing online content (extremely difficult feats, both). It helps greatly that Darren is relentlessly positive and upbeat and provides a steady stream of tips, updates, and strategies for the blogging life. He's also deeply enmeshed in the community side of things, which is certainly leading by example!

#6 - BC Magazine – Sci/Tech - Phillip Winn, Daniel Woolstencroft, Steve Wild, Raoul Pop, Diane Kristine, Bruce Kratofil, John Vaccaro, and many others!
I can't leave out my brethren and sistren over at BC Magazine's Sci/Tech section. Each day you can find a great variety and diversity of news and opinions on the tech and online media worlds.

#7 - How to Change the World - Guy Kawasaki
On his about page, Guy boils down his entire mission statement to two words: empower entrepreneurs. And that's what each post gives you: tightly focused advice on how to reach the next level, whatever that might be. Again, I must gravitate toward positive and forward-thinking personalities, and Guy is nothing else if this. Inspirational and practical stuff both.

#8 - Publishing 2.0 - Scott Karp
Scott is unmatched in shedding "web 2.0" and the current state of online media in a philosophical and intellectual light.

#9 - Blog Maverick - Mark Cuban
Self-made millionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is delightfully blunt and compelling on a myriad of subjects, from the massive repercussions of the shift from TV to the Internet, to why men shouldn't wear ties, to how NBA referees should do a better job, and that's just for starters!

#10 - Deep Jive Interests - Tony Hung
I discovered Tony through a recent guest blogging stint on ProBlogger, and he's quickly become one of my favorites. The good doctor goes deep on all aspects of blog-world, from the blogger v. journalism debate, to the use of widgets, to linkbaiting, and onward.

Honorable Mention
There are many, but I'll hold to just two:

* Micro Persuasion – Steve Rubel
* Mapping the Web - Aidan Henry

Update: None other than Mathew Ingram was kind enough to point out to me that I mistakenly labeled the great Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 as Steve, not Scott. Sorry Scott!

How Niche Can You Get? Or: How Niche Is Too Niche?

Interesting report from an AlwaysOn panel over on Between the Lines with regard to "Power Blogging" (I guess not even blogging is immune from becoming hyperbolically super or powerful!).

I particularly fixated, as I am wont to do, on Peter Rojas' (of Engadet fame) comment that bloggers should choose "a niche or area you want to focus on. Find the smallest area you can find and own that niche."

This discussion always makes me wonder if bloggers who want to be successful – which we can define as gathering a reasonably sized audience around some type of content – are "allowed" to post outside of whatever niche they happen to choose. For instance, in 2007 I've focused (nearly) exclusively on discussing "web 2.0" topics, blogging, social news, and how the mainstream media is adapting to the online environment. Does that mean that I can't or shouldn't post about my favorite campus comedies of all time, or the 2008 presidential election? Would that alienate whatever small audience I had just won over by focusing on some notion of a niche?

Or should bloggers drill down further than that. I could in theory write exclusively about strange MySpace blogs (an absolutely killer idea for a standalone site, by the way, in my view) to the exclusion of everything else. Unfortunately my restless nature prevents me from doing that, but that's a free one for all of you niche-seekers out there.

Lots of questions on a late Tuesday's eve. For a final shot of good times, Elizabeth Spiers of Dead Horse Media recommends that power bloggers post somewhere between eight and twelve times per day.

So much for sleep, and power on, bloggers!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Economist Tinkers With Blogs to Expand Free Online Offerings

A subject area that I've paid increased attention to of late is how traditional media companies – large media companies who predate the Internet era and are now online – are looking at ways to adapt and stay relevant in the ever evolving and revolving online world. Recently, I've looked at how Reuters is utilizing blogs and presented my theory for how Netscape has spearheaded the drive toward the future of news online, what I call hybrid social news. Finally, news came out last week that media jobs overall in the U.S. have shrunk by a whopping 88% in 2006 while, at the same time, it seems that blog traffic at top U.S. newspapers is exploding.

In the midst of all this change, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at The Economist, a venerable print magazine that is well known for publishing serious and intelligent economic and political news and analysis with a global focus. Like Reuters, The Economist has only relatively recently branched out to incorporate blogs with its online offerings. It is also trying to find the right balance in holding some of its content behind a paid subscription wall, putting it in league with the likes of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

I spoke with Daniel Franklin, The Economist's Executive Editor and head of online content, late last week by phone. has recently made more of its content available to unpaid members, Daniel said, in an attempt to draw in new online readers while still maintaining a benefit for having a subscription to the print magazine.

At present, The Economist maintains two blogs, Free Exchange and Democracy in America.

Free Exchange espouses to be a forum where Economist journalists can interact with readers about economics. Interestingly, whereas most blogs today are personality driven, The Economist's blogs maintain the same anonymity as their other offerings (the print magazine has no bylines). So while Free Exchange has a bloggy look (time stamped pieces published from newest to oldest, with comments area on each post) the content reads more like traditional magazine copy.

So instead of a conversation between individual journalists and readers, Franklin and The Economist think of reader comments as more as "letters to the editor," a new realm for reader feedback. Indeed, looking at the few posts I could find with more than one or two comments, it seems that the anonymous poster "" does not respond to reader comments. It should be noted that Free Exchange's commenters are highly literate and well mannered, a rare treasure to be cultivated within the blogosphere. It will be interesting to see if The Economist's blog authors will at some point be unleashed or prompted to interact directly with readers.

Democracy in America was launched during the run up to the 2006 midterm elections, but Franklin deems it such a success that they're keeping it around for the long run. Overall, Franklin is happy with's blogs in terms of readers and numbers, and is thinking about expansion, with a European-focused column next on the horizon.

While Franklin was engaged and enthused about the importance of blogs in helping to fill out The Economist's online offerings, their implementation is somewhat cloaked at present. For example, I was made aware that a blog or column called "Democracy in America" existed as part of, but it took me quite some time to figure out that I had to click a link underneath "Today's Views" on the home page to find it. If blogs are to find their full-throated potential in The Economist's online future, they will need to be given better promotion within (a search for "Democracy in America" does not bring up any relevant results!) and the blogs themselves will need to provide fuller interaction between writers (anonymous or not, and hopefully not) and readers.

Overall, Franklin's online strategy for The Economist is sound. "We're trying to reach a global audience who are curious and interested in the world," he said. Online, The Economist is attempting to expand upon its traditional readership by providing content that appeals to specific interests. Blogs are a natural tool to help achieve this strategy, and it will be interesting to see how The Economist evolves its blogging strategy over time.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Where Do You Store Your Online Valuables?

I'm not talking about diamonds and greenbacks and mink stoles (e-mink stoles?) or even corporately valuable documents and business silos of data and such, but about the ever burgeoning amount of web addresses, login/usernames, passwords, PINs, codes, and on and on that are necessary to support our modern online life.

I'd bargain that an increasingly annoying eater of wasted time (there should be some kind of metric for this) involves sitting in front of a typical login screen (take your pick, from online banking to shopping to social networking to blogging to gaming and back around again) while one's face becomes redder and angrier and steamier as a message is returned again and again that says something to the effect of: Sorry, your username and/or password is forgotten and/or lost to the e-winds.

One of my geekier obsessions is content and information aggregation. There should (and likely is) a great solution out there, a simple web-based interface that simply and elegantly gathers all the maelstrom of usernames, passwords, and, well… crap that's needed to get things accomplished online nowadays.

I'll walk through my own personal journey and current (so so) solution with the hope that some cutting edge folk out there know about something better. A perfect comment to this piece, therefore, would be: Haven't you been using (or some such), it saved my life back in the day (read = Christmas, 2006), n00b!

Phase One: I tried to remember stuff
This didn't work out so well, as you might imagine.

Phase Two: I tried to write stuff down
This yielded marginally better results, though I ran into the age old problem of having to remember where I wrote stuff down. Since I'm typically online in one of several locations throughout the day, the problem became having to remember where my stuff was written down at any given time.

Phase Three: I got (sort of) organized
Finding 37 Signals was a great help. I used Backpack for a spell as a way to organize lists and information. It worked fairly well, but at the time the interface was a little bit clunky and glitchy (this was back in the spring of '05, so I imagine it's much improved by now), so I abandoned it and slipped back to Phase Two befuddlement for a spell.

In early 2006, I moved onto Basecamp, another 37 Signals product. It's basically very simple project management software, in the best possible sense (anyone familiar with the term chronogram will know what I mean!). The great thing about 37 Signals is that they try to KISS (keep-it-simple-smarty).

So I now use Basecamp's writeboard feature as a general dump for all the URLs (including multiple social networking profiles, work-related login information, blogging software tools, etc.) I need in my day-to-day online experience. No matter what computer I'm in front of, I can easily login to one website (allowing me to simply remember one web address and password instead of dozens!) and gather all of the information I need at any time.

Some things that used to drive me batty are now much easier to deal with. A great example is Wine Country Gift Baskets, an absolutely stellar place to find gifts and quickly ship them to anywhere in the country. However, they force you to provide a unique customer ID of their own choosing that is an eight- or nine-digit number. Basecamp has provided me with a way to continue to utilize this service without losing the last remnants of my sanity.

However, I'm convinced that something better is out there or in the process of being developed. I'd like to be able quickly search the first few letters of "My URLs" (or whatever) to instantly bring up the web address, login information, and password that can aid me in plugging into and out of the wild array of websites and interfaces that make up a typical day online.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Are You Following The Genarlow Wilson Story?

I was in the dark about it myself until I read Mark Cuban's brief coverage of it over on Blog Maverick.

I then quickly swung over to Blogcritics and picked up on the great Sal Marinello's coverage:

…the horrific story of how Genarlow Wilson, a then 17-year-old high school football player, was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl who admittedly initiated the act.

Wilson was an outstanding student who was his school's homecoming king; he was a hard-working kid and a football and track star who was on the path to attend an Ivy League school. Everybody liked him. He never got into any trouble.

Now, as his future has been robbed from him, he rots in jail. Doing hard time with hardened criminals.

Everyone messes up from time to time, particularly when you're young. A 17-year-old having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old at a party may not be something to tell the grandkids about later in life, but it's certainly not something to command hard prison time for.

The people of the state of Georgia should demand that Genarlow Wilson be freed straight away.

You can find an online petition here.

RSS subscription notes and Feedburner diagnoses

I've spruced up the side nav ever so slightly, adding various ways to subscribe to Dumpster Bust via RSS, including e-mail subscription. It also took me a bit of time to diagnose the fact that two RSS feeds appear to exist for this URL. Perhaps Blogger switched over from RSS 2.0 to Atom at some point?

In any event, I burned the Atom feed (which is available way far down at the bottom of DB's front page and for some inexplicable reason cannot be deleted using Blogger's interface!) using Feedburner, so I now have two Feedburner feeds for Dumpster Bust:


It will be interesting to see what the difference will be between the two. Of course, neither will be very much hopping as I spent most of 2006 concentrating solely on Blogcritics, but perhaps that will change in time!

Friday, January 26, 2007

As U.S. Media Jobs Slashed, Online Media Takes Another Step Into the Spotlight

Cuts in U.S. media jobs rose by 88 percent in 2006, 17,809 positions slashed versus 9,453 in 2005, according to a new Challenger Gray & Christmas survey. Large traditional media organizations such as The New York Times Company and Time Inc. were cited as having to reduce staff in order to compensate for reduced revenue from print publications.

This year will likely be little different, with large, traditional media companies scrambling to beef up and modernize online media offerings in order to stay relevant and solvent. The idea of a newspaper publication going to online-only production is no longer a joke (though some old school ink-stained newspaper cats may laugh bitterly at the notion) and it's not outside the realm of possibility that 2007 will see a major U.S. newspaper do just that.

As eyeballs continue to drift away from paid print offerings to free online publications, as advertisers slowly but surely realize that the online medium is a much more efficient way to reach target markets, and as content publishers optimize the ways in which they can monetize their offerings, the "new media" or online media takes another step toward being the dominant force in how information and entertainment is transmitted in people's daily lives.

This process will play out over a number of years. Print publications will forever hold some role (nothing can ever replace the tangible feeling of reading a book in your favorite comfortable chair or ruffling through a newspaper on the subway) but that role will become a niche one, meeting the needs that can't be met by online media.

Online media will always have its bumps and roller coaster rides, of course. There will be layoffs and screaming of bubbles bursting and "the end of web 2.0" and market shifts and rumors of imminent collapse and advertising market crashes and other such talk. But we can safely say now that the dark years of 2001 – 2003 are over. They one day may be seen as akin to those early years of the automobile industry when cars were derided as the latest fad.

Online media ain't no fad.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

MyBlogLog Integrates Flickr Features: Is A Social Networking Powerhouse For Bloggers On the Rise?

I'm a big fan of MyBlogLog, a simple and barebones social networking community that wields considerable power through its use of widgets and its appeal to the innate desire of bloggers to promote themselves.

A quick signup process gives bloggers a simple MyBlogLog profile where they can add sites that they author or co-author. Site members can then add other people as contacts or associate themselves as fans of site communities. Every member profile and site community profile has a widget that shows the thumbnail profile picture of site members who have recently visited.

That's where things get interesting, and viral. Widget code allows bloggers to place widgets on their "outside" blogs, allowing site authors and visitors to see the profile pictures of recent visitors. From there, it's an easy step to click on profile pictures, add new contacts, leave new messages (messages can be left privately or publicly on MyBlogLog). This is a simple, elegant, and powerful way to get bloggers talking to and connecting with one another, and will soon be a must-have keeper widget on blogger real estate.

Yahoo! appears to agree with this assessment as it recently acquired MyBlogLog for the reported sum of $10 million. The speculation surrounding this acquisition included questions about how Yahoo! would utilize and integrate its growing list of "web 2.0" properties.

We're now starting to see the beginning of what Yahoo! may be planning for MyBlogLog's future. The MyBlogLog Blog announced yesterday that Flickr features are now integrated with MyBlogLog profiles. The coolest part about the new tool is that all MyBlogLoggers are required to do is to click a button called "Click Here to Automatically Show Your Recent Flickr Photos" and the newest additions are constantly updated to the profile page.

I think Yahoo! senses that they have a real winner on their hands here, and will subtly nudge MyBlogLog into a position where it will be the defacto "MySpace for Bloggers." And that could just be the beginning.

Could a integration be next?

Update: Check out Mashable's coverage here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Does Google Search Dominate Your Blog?

We all know that the power of Google is omnipresent, right? That's a given. Zillions of people search googillions of times a day, creating search engine-driven traffic to sites and blogs the world over. That many millions of dollars exchange hands due to these actions, via Google Adwords and Adsense and advertising on referral websites, is a mysterious thing and a fountain of wealth for those who get it right.

People find websites in many other ways, of course. The best ways for publishers include being popular and well thought of enough that large numbers of regular visitors know a URL by heart, have a site bookmarked and visit it often, or are subscribed to one or more site RSS feeds.

TechCrunch, through its CrunchNotes site, has provided an unusual level of detail as to how people wound up at the popular site during December, 20006.

Traffic from the Google universe dominates, which is normally something of a given but striking in that we see that even for a well known site with thousands of devoted regular readers looking for news, reviews, and analysis of the tech and Internet industries, Google search and related products still sit in the number one and four positions. (There is an interesting discussion in the comments area about what the difference is between "Google – Organic" and " – Referral," with ideas floated about search traffic, Google Reader, and paid AdWords placement.)

In a way it's a little disheartening to know that even a broadly popular site like TechCrunch receives a significant percentage of its traffic through search engine referrals. It's enough to make you think that it's possible to hang up your blogging hat to craft perfect search engine friendly titles (Google's Sex Scandal Causes Paris Hilton to Leave Iraq), write some gobblygook, and reap the search engine-derived rewards. In fact, this is pretty much what sploggers attempt to do, causing Google and other search engines to crush the page rank (or relative position within its search rankings, some call this Google Juice) of any site that smells of non-legitimacy.

For real websites trying to get real traffic – and not tempted to join the dark forces of cyber crime as I am – getting hammered by Google is a very real and frightening concern. In essence it's like being a supplier of goods that is wholly dependent on Wal Mart for business survival. No matter how good or bad the quality of goods being produced, Wal Mart can always move onto another supplier, and then you're shut out of the largest marketplace with no recourse.

Of course, many will argue that if you create great and consistent content, if you network and market your site effectively, then readers will come and stay. And this may be true to a certain extent. But the truth is that the true and truly consistent traffic numbers flow from Google (and other search engines but a far lesser extent). High quality links and regular readers can help to increase your visibility and page rank within Google's search algorithm, but in the end the equation is the same.

So what are ambitious bloggers to do, those who want to write about things they're passionate about and attract lots of repeat visitors at the same time? The simple answer is stick to the basics: find an area of expertise, write about it consistently, market and network the best you can, and then hope that the Google Love in the end outweighs the Google Evil.

One growing area for consistent traffic may come in the form of social news referrals. Digg and Reddit sit at number three and number nine on TechCrunch's list, respectively. Social news referrals are essentially a result of an algorithm driven – in theory – by site visitors themselves. Get enough votes or diggs and you hit the jackpot of getting your story placed on the front page, where a story will reap the benefits of potential thousands of site visits.

Social news sites have their own issues, but it will be interesting to see if, as they continue to grow, they may begin to rival search engines in driving traffic to particular kinds of sites.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Social Networking Blog Mashable Seeks to Pay Its Readers to Write Good Stuff

Mashable, a blog that tags itself with the line "social networking 2.0," has emerged as a leading source for news and analysis of the hyperactively growing nebula of web products and services that fall loosely under the handle of "social media" or "web 2.0" (think everything from social networks to widgets to new fangled web communities to analysis of web start-ups and everything in between).

Mashable is now issuing an intriguing offer to its readers, which it calls Mash 10: write a well written story that reviews start-up companies in a given space (Mashable honcho Pete Cashmore uses the examples of "19 Ways to Make Social Sites Pay" and "MySpace Layouts Top 10") and get paid around $.07 per word for doing so.

When done right, this kind of story has the chance to become very popular. Blog readers love Top Whatever lists, and followers of online media deeply appreciate sources that can break down the explosive growth of the industry and help to define and parse what is going on in various sub-spaces. For example, there are hundreds and perhaps even thousands of start-ups hoping to achieve some glimmer of MySpace's popularity. Who is going after the Austrailian market, though? Are college football fans being tended to? What about Star Trek convention peoples?

These are all areas that are potentially worthy of exploration (along with several trillion others) and it's intriguing that Mashable is seeking research and writing from its own readers for help in doing this. The money part is also a rather fascinating experiment. Let's say that Mashable pays a reader $70 for a 1,000 word piece. Will the site make that money back and more in advertising revenue generated around the popularity of one story? It's certainly possible. More likely though is that if 100 stories are bought and paid for, three or five or ten of them may help to bring the site increased long term readership and help to bring it closer to the TechCrunch range in terms of popularity.

The most challenging part about this experiment, I imagine, will be fielding responses from writers, discarding the junk, helping the good stuff to shine, managing the relationship with writers, and handling the money exchange. In other words, organizing and running any kind of editorial operation – particularly where money is involved – is labor intensive.

I hope that Mashable reports back on how Mash 10 plays out. If it manages to harness the skills, intelligence, and research powers of its own readership, look for other ambitious and growing sites to try something similar.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Blog Traffic At Top U.S. Newspapers Explodes As Mainstream Media-Blogosphere Convergence Continues Breakneck-Like

People are reading them blogs. More than ever before, many probably don't even realize it.

Unique visitors to the blogs published by the top 10 U.S. newspapers has more than tripled year-over-year (1.2 million in December '05, 3.8 in December '06), according to Nielsen/NetRatings, accounting for 13% of traffic to these sites.

Five years ago, very few people knew had heard the word blog. Today, it's a household term but many misconceptions still surround it (it's all dreary ramblings about lovelorn teens, or political hack rants, etc.). The flexibility and morph-ability of blogs is proven out by their steady integration into online mainstream media properties. "Professional-level" blogging means high quality writing, interesting stories, personal observations, unique coverage, and a friendly, engaging, and interactive style that was until recently sorely lacking in the mainstream media.

Taken historically, audiences have been bleeding away from the staid and stodgy network television broadcasts to the more colorful cable news stations for many years. For some time, print publications simply republishing online was good enough. But no more: there's simply too many ways to access a teeming galaxy of observations, opinions, spins, alleys, crannies, and nooks for traditional media companies to stand pat.

Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion notes that Dave Winer predicted some time back that The New York Times would one day become "one big blog." This somewhat echoes my own observation that the future of mainstream media websites lies in embracing what I call hybrid social media platforms, a mixture of user submitted content, editor-selected content from all over the Internet, and "original coverage" that encompasses straight news and news plus alike (more on this below).

This transformation is already happening, and that's a good thing for traditional media and the blogosphere both. "Straight news" reporting is essential and always will be, but the hunger is out there for what I call "news plus," which equates to all the vibrant, funky, diverse, and kaleidoscopic offerings that the blogosphere brings to the online table.

The biggest winners of all are news readers and consumers, who more than ever before are dictating the kinds of media they want and are getting it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Netscape Represents the Future of News

The jury is certainly still out on whether or not the "new" – revamped into what some would herald as an innovative experiment in social news and others would deride as yet another Digg-clone wannabe – is a success or not.

But it doesn't matter in the long run. I like to think of the Netscape model as a hybrid approach to social news, as it builds upon the "Digg model" of user submitted stories + everyone votes for their favorite stories = a user controlled front page of your "online newspaper." Netscape has a strong social news base (in terms of how they feature and emphasize this form of people power) and also employs Netscape Navigators, human editors who submit their own stories, make some stories "sticky" by featuring them in an admin-controlled area on the front page, and commenting, friending, and generally taking an active social networking-style role on the site that is diametrically opposed to Digg's human-hands-off-way-off style.

Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 asks if news is a fundamentally shared, social experience. I would argue that it is… to a certain extent. Scott is right in saying that people enjoy sites like Digg and Techmeme because they offer the prospect of interesting stories that you didn't even know you would be interested in (Reddit is my favorite site that falls into this category, by the way). This activity is akin to the traditional experience of browsing through part or the full of the newspaper over breakfast, isn't it? In both cases the consumer is browsing a trusted news source. Of course, one is selected by professional journalists while the other is selected by the audience, or some combination of editors and users.

I believe that there is a great potential audience for a hybrid social news approach that Netscape spearheaded, and much sooner rather than later many sites – mainstream media and "web 2.0" social news sites both – will adopt a model roughly along the following lines.

The future of news sites will comprise three kinds of content, which will be mixed and matched and meshed together in all kinds of dizzying ways:

* User submitted content – This is the backbone of any social news site, and I expect that its popularity will only increase. User-controlled sites are, in the end, all about the community that springs up around the news/voting platform so I suspect that niche social news sites – based upon specific subject areas, interests, geography, or beliefs – will thrive over the next few years.

* Admin submitted content – This is the area that Netscape has innovated in. Netscape Anchors take on a variety of roles on the site: they post stories they find interesting or compelling (stories not yet submitted to the Netscape system or stories they themselves find elsewhere on the Internet), they have the ability to feature stories in the above-the-fold "Netscape Anchors Recommend" area, and they can conspicuously insert themselves on story pages to add pertinent information, provide relevant links, or explain why they feel a given story may not be right for Netscape at all.

* "Original" content – This is the new frontier to create a true hybrid social news experience. Imagine what The New York Times online edition may look like a few years down the road: original NYT content merged with a user generated submission/voting system (which may include NYT content and anything else from around the Internet) and editor selections. So The New York Times would still be The New York Times (by featuring its own content prominently in a similar fashion to how it does this now online), but it would incorporate both user submitted and admin submitted content into its model.

It also should be taken as a given that the future of news online is a full-on multimedia experience, with photo imagery, audio clips, and particularly video all grappling to take away the spotlight from the written word.

Netscape's hybrid model takes on two of these three areas. And just recently it has delved into the third with Netscape Reports, an area of the site devoted to "original reporting by the Netscape Anchor Team."

Look for a major, mainstream media news site to experiment with a hybrid social news approach within the next year or two. And then we'll know that the future of news has truly arrived.

Monday, January 15, 2007

SponsoredReviews: A New Assault on the Blogosphere's Credibility

In the blogosphere, credibility and transparency is everything. Why should you believe me? Because hopefully what I've written in the past is fundamentally reasonable and, even when you the reader disagrees with me, it's because there's an honest difference of opinion and no cause to delve into potential ulterior motives exists. Sure, I tend to like and enthusiastically yak about social news sites (Digg, Reddit, Netscape, etc.) more than pure social networking sites (MySpace, Friendster, etc.), but it's hoped that that bias is born of my eccentricities and interests and not because I'm getting paid by Kevin Rose, Conde Nast, or the departing C.K. Sample.

SponsoredReviews represents a new assault on the blogosphere's credibility, on the heels of the commotion and controversy caused by PayPerPost's arrival on the scene. The scenario is basically the same: sign up and get paid to write about advertiser's products on your blog. Now, it's possible, maybe, for this sort of service to be a relatively innocuous scheme where writers are encouraged to experience new products and services and write about them in exchange for some kind of compensation. However, Michael Arrington gets right to the heart of the matter in diagnosing SponsoredReviews as nothing more than a linking scam: "While none of the other sites will admit that search engine rankings is a big part of these scams, SponsoredReviews lists it right on their home page as a benefit to advertisers. At the end of the day, these advertisers won’t care all that much what exactly these blogs say, as long as they are linking back to their product."

Tony Hung brings up the somewhat bizarre but nonetheless plausible notion that companies may even directly bribe bloggers, politician- or star-athletic prospect style, writing, "More recently, there was a bit of a stir in the blogosphere when Microsoft sent 'gifts' of Ferrari-branded laptops to bloggers to review Vista, as it was thought that Microsoft was bribing bloggers with gifts."

If readers will not be able to know which results in search rankings are from unbiased writers, that represents a huge credibility problem for the blogosphere. That could lead to a massive retreat of readers to those sources they feel they can trust, namely large and traditional media companies. These of course are the very same sources that millions spread out from in the first place, looking for new and fresh and vibrant information sources and communities in the form of the blogosphere.

Whether we like it or not, it seems that SponsoredReviews and PayPerPost or their ill bred offspring are not going away. The question is: how will the blogosphere defend its credibility in the coming days? Perhaps a third-party eBay-like service will emerge that will allow readers to assess "credibility points" in some form. Or maybe blog networks that proudly assert their independence will increase in fashion.

Strunk and White, in The Elements of Style, assert that it is incumbent upon the writer to throw a lifeline to readers to save them from the swamp of uncertainty. SponsoredReviews and the like are new creatures in the blogosphere's murky depths that must be actively confronted.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Apple iPhone Hubbub Impacts the Non-Gadget Cultist Set

I'm a web cultist, as I proudly declare on the side nav, but I'm not really much of a gadgets person. If someone plops the latest whiz-gizmo in my hand, I'll usually check it out and declare genuine enthusiasm, but I'm not of that core tech-geek cares-how-the-mechanics-work demeanor that is essential to flip out over the latest hardware and mechanical design achievements.

That said, the hubbub over Apple's new iPhone cannot be ignored.

So for all of us non-gadget cultists out there, I would love to see someone write an easily digestible piece about:

* what the best mobile communications devices are (and iPhone certainly seems to be up there!)
* what that means in terms of setting up phone and mobile access plans
* what it costs
* and how to get out of current contracts to get on board with the cool kids!

Further, a "nonpartisan" web-based service that for a small fee helped you figure out exactly the best mobile phone to meet your needs and then aided you in the process of switching over would really perk up my e-ears.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

WoW: Blizzard Heralds World of Warcraft Hitting Eight Million Worldwide Subscribers

If you know what MMOPRG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game) means, then you almost certainly bow down to the WoW. World of Warcraft, an online role-playing game set in an immersive world replete with guilds, alliances, beasties, and hordes, is built on the engaging concept of completing quests to gain experience and rewards within the game.

So engaging, in fact, that Blizzard Entertainment has announced that World of Warcraft has surpassed eight million subscribers worldwide.

The gaming world is enormous and online and growing and will influence all of the next wave of Internet development, from blogs to social networking to what is referred to in shorthand as MMOs (or massively multiplayer online). The convergence of "gaming" with what we tend to think of as socializing or networking is already happening, and will become much more commonplace in 2007.

All of this really struck home for me around a year ago when I heard an NPR report about gold farming, which just about blew my mind.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Reuters Blogs: Where New Media Touches the Wire

I usually like to call out wire stories as nearly something of a hazard for news seekers online. Sure, it's hard news in the purest form, "just the facts, ma'am," and so on, but it's sometimes arduous to weed your way through the very sameness of the coverage (for a current example, search for "Bush to send more troops to Iraq" in Google News) to find something interesting, compelling, or unique. The desire for new, fresh, and diverse angles and perspectives on the news is a large factor in the blogosphere's elevation beyond its roots in naval gazing-style journaling (somewhat ironically, the naval gaze lives on long and strong in the teen-centric social networks these days, MySpace chief among them!).

Because of the wild success of blogs – the most popular of which employ an accessible, friendly, and engaging style, with a comments area where the author converses with readers – mainstream media sites have scrambled over the last few years to add blogs to supplement their more traditional news coverage. This convergence between traditional and new media is a good thing for everyone, I'd argue, and will help to continue to raise the bar for transparency, quality, and value for blogs and traditional news sites both. Everyone is continuously encouraged and compelled to compete for eyeballs, and that's a good thing.

It's intriguing then that Reuters, as major a wire news service as they come, has a pretty sizeable section devoted to Reuters Blogs. It's pretty clear at first glance that blogging is taken seriously by the leaders of the organization as the most recent post (a week old, already ancient by blogging standards!) under the Reuters Editors blog is written by Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger. Mr. Schlesinger doesn't go so far as to respond to those who took the time to comment, but he must be given credit nonetheless for putting in the effort.

Clearly, some areas of Reuters Blogs are more active than others. MediaFile, where reporters Eric Auchard and Ken Li hang "hang out at the corner of Media and Technology," appears to be the most vibrant, with frequent updates and nice tidbits of geeky coolness like the Spark stationary bike, which enables you to race against your friends on an LCD screen while you get your workout on.

Other blogs are looking a smidge less than active. It's a Wrap, a blog that covers entertainment news, looks to be relatively wrapped as the most recent post is dated December 12th. I'm as big a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen as they come, but Borat movie news seems kind of 2006 already, doesn't it?

There are also blogs that provide links and some pictures associated with Reuters audio interviews and one called From, which is supposed to be a place where "we invite readers to post comments on major events and send questions to newsmakers and our correspondents on the frontline" but is pretty difficult to tell what it actually is in practice. There are several diaries from a "video embed" scattered in the midst of a reporter embedded with the British army in Afghanistan, which may well be a wonderful and much needed bit of personal reporting from the warfront, but it's unfortunately buried among other stories that don't seem all that related to one another.

It will be interesting to see how Reuters plays out its experiment with blogs. One reason why Reuters Blogs seems to be less frequented and updated than it might be is because its blogs are not integrated with the rest of the site and its torrent of up-to-the-minute wire story reports. The New York Times, on the other hand, does a really nice job of mixing its article pages with links to its blogs.

What's Your Favorite Go-To Downtime Site?

One of the dirty little secrets of the Internet is that a great deal of the browsing and clicking and reading and interacting are done at the office, on the boss' dime. And when you've hit that post-lunch lull and you'd like nothing better than for your desk to auto-magically transform into a luxuriant cot, scanning around your favorite sites can usually tide you over to when the mid-afternoon caffeine buzz kicks in with attitude.

Of course, there's no end to diversions online. But interestingly, there are relatively few sites that constantly update. As in, hit refresh and see something different appear. That's likely why social news sites such as Digg and Reddit have become popular, as you can watch a diverse array of stories getting voted onto the front page and take part in the community-powered action.

One of the indications that my personal viewing habits had entered the "2.0" era was when I started browsing around Reddit instead of refreshing Drudge Report during idle moments. While I disagree with Drudge's political slant, it was and remains a great place to find a strange and often striking block of up-to-the-minute news links. However, Reddit's clean design, interesting selection of stories, and social news features (I maintain that there's very few things online more satisfying than voting down someone you disagree with) make it a compelling downtime attraction.

For breaking news junkies, Google News is an easy choice, and one of the best places to search for information about a story or issue that may have been covered over the last few days. Getting confirmation on breaking news is usually best served by looking out for what's usually a red bar running across mainstream media news sites like and And for those with a taste for the truly tasteless and sophomoric, Fark is a standby, with specially crafted news headers like "New Jersey is all 'whoever smelt it, dealt it.' New York is all 'whoever denied it, supplied it.'"

Checking RSS feeds is a great and efficient way to quickly check up on what's going on in the subjects areas you're interested in. I've recently made a significant shift away from - a nifty little service that sends RSS feeds directly to your e-mail account - to Bloglines, a more traditional RSS reader. Bloglines is great because the functionality is simple and the interface very clean.

Finally, one of the biggest time spenders/wasters of them all should not be overlooked. One of the keys for social networking juggernaut MySpace is that people have an innate desire to express themselves and connect with one another. As social networking tools and companies grow more sophisticated and savvy, niche and themed social networks are developing that are geared toward older (read = above 21) audiences.

Monday, January 08, 2007

MyBlogLog Gets Acquired By Yahoo! And It Was Good

The best ideas are almost always the simple ones, and usually the hardest to come up with and execute effectively! MyBlogLog, a barebones social network with huge appeal and upside for bloggers, clearly did both and was rewarded with a $10 million acquisition by Yahoo!

In relation to the inflated valuations we’ve seen recently, I think this is a pretty smart if not risk-free acquisition. I’m a big fan of MyBlogLog because it’s a simple and clean tool that appeals to bloggers’ self interest (getting read, making connections, yakking about areas of expertise) in much the same way the most popular social networks appeal to teens’ desire to express themselves and connect.

The killer app is a MyBlogLog widget that bloggers install on their side nav. When MyBlogLog members visit a blog, their profile picture shows up in the widget. This is a powerful and visual way to let bloggers know they're being read by actual humans (something Matt McAlister calls distributed identity). Clicking a profile picture takes you to a MyBlogLog profile, where you can add contacts, join communities, and send private or publicly viewable messages. Quite simply, there’s nothing cooler for publishers than spending time crafting a piece and then seeing the thumbnail profile picture of those who are checking out your story.

And that's basically it. The features that the MyBlogLog site offers will undoubtedly get buffed out by team Yahoo!, but I hope they don't go too crazy with the bells and whistles. MyBlogLog could become the "MySpace for bloggers" in all the best ways that can be meant, namely huge potential users and traffic figures.

Until recently, bloggers came to the Internet able to easily publish, engage and interact with readers in the comments area of each post, and distribute wares easily via RSS. Now a new front in stimulating communication and networking comes in the form of MyBlogLog-style widgets (and the simple social network that backs it) and may represent a new key element for online communities.

Finding Blogging Focus

Just as writers write for many different kinds of reasons, bloggers create blogs with all kinds of purposes and goals in mind: from taking the blogosphere by storm by reporting on the latest in Quantum Leap memorabilia shows to keeping Aunt Tilly and the kids up to date about barbeque shindigs up by the lake, from musing about personal crises and day-to-day events to raging against the political machine.

Guest blogger Tony Hung over at ProBlogger takes a look at five prerequisites to blogging success. Among them is the need to write and publish consistently and well, the need to publicize the blog far and wide, and to be interesting. The points that I found to be the most interesting had to do with knowing your audience and then creating a blog aimed at this group that is "focused like a laser." Particularly striking is this line: "Blogs that are wishy-washy, who don’t know who they are, who change their kind of writing 'voice' repeatedly, who vascillate [sic] on their opinions, who introduce nonsensical and unrelated topics are blogs that will find it difficult to succeed."

I suppose this hit home for me because focusing on one topic or even subject area is something that I've never had great success in doing. For some time I relegated myself to writing (mostly) about politics, television, and the doings of the Internet world. However, over time I realized that my time was too limited to hope to keep up with even these three subject areas in such a way that I could write about all of them consistently and with a level of expertise that allowed me to write something unique and compelling and valuable to readers.

I've probably also been influenced by reading some number of marketing-related blogs of late, many of which advise bloggers to come up with your "elevator pitch," the quick answer to the question, "So what's your blog-thing all about then?" Guy Kawasaki has a wonderful elevator (and life) pitch, by the way: empower entrepreneurs.

So there's always an interesting convergence between artistic expression and commerce, creativity and marketing. The Internet is a wonderful place for many things, one of which being that it's a space to ramble on into the electronic night if that's what does you. When you start to try to figure out how to write about something you're passionate about and that an audience will find interesting and follow is when the scenario gets far more interesting.

And intriguing. It's a fascinating game, one that boils down to how to do something you love (writing and the online medium) while finding people that will come along for the ride. I've long thought that writing (and all forms of creative expression, really) is an ego-driven form: you must possess the firm belief that the words that you create and get (somehow) in front of another's eyes will be something of value to that other person.

Whether I end up focusing mostly on Internet and "web 2.0" doings or encounter some mini-revelation down the road (I simply must tell the world about the latest in circus sideshow technologies!)… which, whether I like it or not, seems to happen every so often, I'll endeavor to keep some focus and do whatever it is I do consistently and well.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Free WiFi Coming to San Francisco While Pasadena Waits Nobly, Impatiently

Google, in partnership with EarthLink, will provide free WiFi service for the city of San Francisco. This may well be a landmark development in lowering the digital divide and allowing that much more access – rich and poor, majorities and minorities – to the Internet. I think it's great for those lucky San Franciscans who can happily tell their overpriced ISP to shove it, and it's good for the Internet in general (and of course Google knows this: more people online equals more Google searches, etc.).

It's also good for the continued development and maturation of what Richard Florida dubbed The Creative Class. Cities that offer free WiFi service will do much to attract the young, the hip, the creative, the geeky, the artists and entrepreneurs and aspirers who breathe life and business and spending into the urban. Because the cost of founding a start-up is so much lower than ever before, it's no longer necessary to park yourselves near the venture capital stronghold of Silicon Valley. Therefore, San Francisco is very smart to offer free WiFi to all of its inhabitants. Start ups will mimic Forrest Gump and say, "Free WiFi? Great, one less thing!"

San Francisco's offering of free WiFi to its citizens will likely compel other cities who consider themselves cutting-edge and tech savvy to do the same. Austin, Boston, Los Angeles, San Jose, New York, and Washington DC are now certainly on notice to step up. Free access to the Internet by more people will inevitably foster more innovation. The acceleration of Thomas Friedman's flat world within the United States will ignite more competition, which will cause some to fail but will create winners who will provide better services, create better products, write better software, and enable the best forms of collaboration, communication, creation, and interaction in the world.

Now, on a much more self-serving note, it's time for the Powers That Be (I have Season Five of Angel on in the background just now, as luck would have it) in Pasadena to beg and worship and plead with Google/EarthLink to bring some of the free WiFi love to Pasadena. One day I'll write the long and sorrowful tale, but suffice to say that I haven't had a reliable Internet connection in four long months now. Months 1-3 were spent wrangling with Charter Communications over my increasingly intermittent cable broadband connection. I finally dumped them for DSL, only to encounter problems stemming from some other hell dimension. Hopefully yet another visit from the phone company will straighten out whatever needs to be straightened. I'm kicking off 2007 with optimism, at any rate.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Can Feedburner's StandardStats Lead the Way to Better Internet Traffic Ranking?

Feedburner has launched a new service that tracks both site traffic and RSS subscribers in one place. While many publishers use one service (such as Site Meter) to track on-site page views and another to track RSS subscribers, this is the first time a comprehensive service has been offered that allows publishers to get a bird's eye view of all site visitors in one place.

Publishing 2.0 is forward-looking enough to posit a future where we can finally drop the vocabulary that often confuses conversations about how "popular" a site is and move to "a new metric called 'content views,' which is agnostic to where or how content is viewed."

Achieving a standard definition of measuring how many people view a website would have profound repercussions for online media companies. Conversations between publishers and advertisers would be vastly simplified, for one. A new wave of services that rank sites according to content views could also then potentially emerge to compete with and perhaps surpass the likes of Alexa's traffic rankings.

While most people seem to respect Alexa's rankings, no one really likes them or agrees that they're anywhere near accurate. This uncertainty can affect things such as site valuation, funding, business development deals, advertising, and so on. A quick Google News search brought up this anguished plea: "'s indexing of website popularity is fatally flawed. All you need to do to verify this is compare your own internal website analytics with the tracking provided by Alexa."

A common definition of site traffic coupled with a standard way to measure all of the ways that people view Internet content – and Feedburner is in the best position to do this for the time being – may open the door to a better way to rank Internet traffic.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Mochila, AP Stories, and Avoiding the Company of Sameness

Do a search for a current news story at a popular news aggregator/search engine, and you're likely to get a large number of results. But the catch is that most of the results are likely to be the same or very close to the same, because all the news sources that have picked up the original Reuters or Associated Press wire story (and basically republished it for your convenience) are usually listed near the top.

And that's great for when you want to get a quick sense of a story or the very latest on a breaking news event. My take on the blogosphere is that it has the potential to take the reporting of major news sources and wire stories and add on-the-scene "citizen journalism," personal opinions, much needed analysis, and a glorious and occasionally stinky concoction of conversation, arguing, pontificating, punditizing, and storytelling along route.

Now a company called Mochila offers a service that allows bloggers to republish AP stories, with a three-way split of any ad revenue that results.

I think this idea is a loser in several respects. As I mentioned, there are already countless ways to get your eyeballs on AP stories. In fact, it's hard to avoid them sometimes! As a consumer of news, I want there to be fewer and better organized places to read AP stories (Newsvine is a pretty great solution if you're a wire story hound and you're looking for a community to hang out with at the same time), not more.

Further, legitimate bloggers will seldom feel compelled to republish entire articles. What's the point, aside from grabbing 30% of potential extra revenue? As Techdirt rightly points out, a prime source of business for Mochila may well be nefearious sploggers who are looking to flood the Internet with oceans of AP stories in an effort to snag search engine traffic.

I think that smart traditional media companies who will survive and thrive in the web 2.0 and post-web 2.0 era will actually eschew wire stories (because they're pervasive and therefore don't add a great deal of unique value) in favor of niche coverage, unique coverage, and value-added coverage. In other words, the traditional media world – both print and online – will co-opt the best aspects of the blogosphere. And that competition will in turn be good for the blogoshere, and so on it will go.

Therefore, my advice for bloggers is: don't get hoodwinked by the promise of a few extra cents on top of your adsense revenue. It's not worth it, and it really isn't what you got into the blogging game for in the first place. Avoid the company of sameness. Stick to writing about what you're passionate about and add something good and glorious and bold to the Internet conversation.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I'm digging the MyBlogLog

I’ve been an active user of MyBlogLog for some time now, and find myself increasingly impressed with what it can offer to a growing blog or blog community. The key is its simplicity and adaptability to existing platforms: it gives you the ability for readers/active users of your site to do a couple of key things: add contacts, send in-site e-mail (thus tying your users that much more tightly to the community you’ve created) but most importantly it’s a great way for your users to become more “visible” by having their profile pic show up on your site. Some might find this slightly intimidating or annoying (i.e. I don’t want people to know that I keep refreshing a post to see if anyone responded to my spectacular comment!) but overall I find it to be a great and fun feature, the best way to add web 2.0 functionality to an existing community.

Anyway, I know that Dumpster Bust was abandoned for about six months and only resurrected recently, but I added MyBlogLog on the sidebar here for shits and giggles, as my old pal Dan in Queens likes to say.

Digg Front Pagers

I've spent a lot of time studying social news sites over the last year or so, particularly digg, netscape, newsvine, shoutwire, and reddit. Trying to figure out how to get "your" story on the front page of one of these sites is a tantalizing art, a frustrating science for any publisher. And short of flat out paying top social news users to promote your stuff (which is a significant problem right now apparently for digg) it's nearly impossible to say if a particularly story will be successful or not.

Diane Kristine's Blogcritics piece is on digg's front page right now, which is what brings all of this to mind. The digg community is fascinating, right down to the commenters. There's a debate going on about whether or not Diane is justified in declaring herself a "non-techie." Hilarious!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

TechCrunch's Michael Arrington Announces Web 2.0 Companies "I Couldn't Live Without"

Influential tech blogger Michael Arrington announced the "Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn't Live Without" for 2007 today. The list of 15 web services – including Digg, Flickr, Gmail, Skype, Techmeme, Wordpress, and YouTube – is interesting as a collection in several ways.

My first thought is that while most of these services didn't exist two or three years ago, they really are indispensable to the daily life of many web users as 2007 dawns. And that's striking because it shows you what a flattening force technology (and "web 2.0" as its modern Internet equivalent) really is. I can look at the list and know that I use many of the same information-gathering and communications tools as "influential tech blogger Michael Arrington," for instance.

If e-mail was one of the Internet's earliest (and some might still argue only) "killer apps," I agree with Mr. Arrington that Gmail is just about its perfect web-based incarnation. The ability to tag messages (you can put label a message however you like and have it saved to multiple folders), instant refreshing (messages pop up without you having to do anything), and threaded messaging make it an essential everyday tool.

Two of the selections – Amie Street and Pandora – are music related. I've intrigued by a service called eTunes of late, which has kind of an "early beta" look to it but is a really easy way to gather music online and then stream it at will.

While I think that Digg is probably the best current incarnation of the new breed of "social news" sites (though I think the future lies with hybrid models spearheaded by the Netscape, a meshing of an editor- and user-controlled experience), I'm partial to Reddit because of its simplicity and the mere fact that it casts its net to a range of stories that I happen to find interesting. Reddit's innovation to allow users to vote stories "down" may actually be its worst feature as it encourages active news submitters to vote stories down. However, voting comments down, which Reddit employed before Digg added the feature, is great. Nothing's more satisfying then clicking a down arrow on someone you disagree with!

While Mr. Arrington uses NetNewsGator and NetVibes to read and organize RSS feeds, I'm partial to a combination of Bloglines and RSSFwd. NetVibes, part of the new breed of "web 2.0 start pages," is a great product but the prospect of staring at a bunch of boxes crammed with news headlines doesn't quite work for me in general. That said, I'm nearly awed by what a super-cool product yourminis is.

The other things that I use everyday include Basecamp, project management software put out by the 37 Signals folk, and AIM for instant messaging.

What's finally intriguing is that there is not one social networking product on Tech Crunch's (or my!) list. I wouldn't be surprised if this will change in the next year or two, as companies fall all over themselves developing more sophisticated social networks that cater to an older/more mature demographic and an ever wider array of specific interests and lifestyles.

Comedy Break: Airplane! and Black Coffee

What makes something funny? To even ask the question begins down an academic road that inevitably pours sour egghead-laced water over the roaring flames of hilarity. Maybe a better question is: why do I (and in this case feel free to direct "I" to yourself or to yours truly, your humble comedic tour guide) find something to be funny?

I've always been a fan of the absurd, the ridiculous, the strange. This condition was probably was fueled by a childhood filled up with reruns of Monty Python's Flying Circus, '80s era Saturday Night Live, and perhaps above all, The Kids In the Hall.

The '80s and early '90s was also a ripe era for screwball comedy at the movies, with films like The Naked Gun, Back to School, Bachelor Party, Real Genius, and Revenge of the Nerds bringing comic delight and joy to adolescent lads across the comedy nation. (Anyone remember Moving Violations, by the way? That's a good one to see if someone is in sync with my particularly bizarre-tastical ancient comedic groove.)

In any event, I give you a classic moment from a truly screwball and classic film, Airplane!. In this scene, a most proper young lad offers a fine young lady coffee, and… well, explaining it kind of ruins it, doesn't it? Check it out for yourself: