HarperCollins Poised for FAIL with Jeff Jarvis Along for the Ride

American journalist Jeff Jarvis at the 2008 Wo...
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While I realize that the publishing industry is struggling in this digital age I just don’t see how HarperCollins is hoping to make things better with what they are calling “VBooks” or Video Books.

Basically, this entails an author sitting in front of a white wall giving one samples and highlights from their actual book.

A few problems I foresee:

1) This is not a promotional device.  Their first offering, a Vbook by Jeff Jarvis, costs ten bucks and it isn’t even the whole book being read.

2) This format does not add anything of value to the actual book.  Not only is there less information provided but it is impossible to notate, link, copy & paste or do any of the other things with like to do with books and E-books.

3) Few authors are truly compelling enough in this sort of setting to be much more than a cure for insomnia.

4) Maybe it’s just the combo of Jeff Jarvis and the white background but I keep thinking, while watching the sample, that this is just a big ad for E-Harmony.

All-in-all, I rate this as a big old waste of time and resources.

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Big Brother is Watching You Watching TV

Image representing TruMedia as depicted in Cru...
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Been hearing about different versions of TV that watches you and here is the latest, via PSFK:

TruMedia Technologies and Studio IMC have developed technology that enables electronic advertisements to evaluate the age and gender of their audiences and track how long individuals are watching these ads. The technology utilizes small sensors or cameras that are embedded in or around video screens in combination with facial recognition software that manufacturers claim can accurately determine gender 85 to 90 percent of the time.

The question becomes, not when these technologies will be in homes, but what it will take for people to opt-in to using the “service.”  What would your cable provider need to offer you so that they could watch your every move and the moves of anyone who dares enter your living room?

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Fox News Tries to Bully Bloggers – We All Fight Back

Fair & Balanced graphic used in 2005

I have been following the story of Progress Illinois, a group that has posted a number of videos that criticize FoxNews and, under the well-accepted legal concept of fair-use, include clips of the FoxNews programs in question.

Via TechDirt:

The YouTube account had been taken down following multiple DMCA takedown notices from Fox, leading YouTube to institute its usual policy of shutting such accounts down. Progress Illinois sent a counternotice, and after Fox failed to sue the activist group, the account was turned back on. Paul Alan Levy points us to some more troubling details about the discussions between Progress Illinois and Fox. Apparently, Fox sought to have Progress Illinois waive its fair use rights on all future Fox material and demanded that it be allowed to run ads on the Progress Illinois site in exchange for allowing the content to be placed on YouTube. On top of this, Levy notes that Fox is apparently preparing a deal with another video site (that will include its desired ads), which Fox will apparently demand sites use in reporting on Fox News reports.

In support of Progress Illinois, embedded below is one of their videos including a FoxNews clip.  Hey Fox, why don’t you come after me, too? I’m just itching to counter-sue someone…

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Gotta Get the Gist!

It isn’t often I get excited about a contact manager but everything I read about Gist makes me want it and want it bad!

According to the guys at JoshSpear:

Gist combines all your important information by combing through Outlook, Gmail, LInkedIn and Twitter to create a happy place where your data and relationships integrate in a logical order, making all the elements of your electronic life easier to manage. For instance, if you’ve been emailing with Josh, and he’s been tweeting, and then he appears in a news story, Gist aggregates all of that info and puts it at your fingertips.

Of course, I have tried other info-aggregators and ended up finding them to be more work than help so it will all come down to the user-interface and automation.

Come on, Gist, let me into the private beta…

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Today’s Crime: Watching Top Chef On My iPhone

Bravo Logo
Um, Bravo?

I have to shake my head in utter bewilderment when it comes to how the networks are fighting to come to grips with distribution in the digital age.

While sites like Hulu and apps like Boxee are great steps, they still make it impossible to watch shows outside of a stable WiFi hotspot.  What is this great fear of portability all about?  Why can I watch the show on my computer but not my iPhone. Why can I watch it in my apartment but not on the subway.

Obviously, there is a pretty simple way for me to solve this problem: if I want to take a show with me I download it from a BitTorrent site like PirateBay.  There I can get the complete episode in an open format that I can covert easily and move to my iPhone.  I also get the episode completely commercial-free.

What leaves me baffled is why the networks don’t simply offer a downloadable version with embedded ads.  Sure, I like ad-free but I’d rather get my entertainment through approved channels if possible.  Just like I, and many others, are happy to put up with ads on Hulu in exchange for free content, the same would go for content I download.

Instead, in some vain attempt to, um, protect their DVD sales(?) they force me to go get content from a “pirate” site and lose the potential ad revenue, too.

Silly networks…

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Dear Honeyshed – Hate to Say I Told You So, But…

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Well, it’s official – Honeyshed, the QVC for Generation Why, is officially no more.  According to AdWeek the site is shuttering due to a lack of new funding from Publicis.

I was skepticle but willing to wait and see back in March but by November I was feeling even less positive about what was a pretty bad idea given poor execution.

From AdWeek:

At its relaunch in November, Honeyshed projected the site to reach 550,000 visitors a month after launch, 1 million by February and 2 million at the end of 2009.  All told, Honeyshed promised advertisers it would generate 9 million content views in that time.

According to comScore, Honeyshed drew 117,000 visitors in December before trailing off the next month. Griefer said the site drew about 15,000 unique visitors per day after the relaunch, supported by a heavy marketing campaign, but saw those numbers dwindle when it cut back on advertising.

I honestly don’t know who thought this was ever going to be a good idea but it became painfully clear it was doomed to fail when they decided to try and sell a bunch of over-priced and relatively unwanted products to a fickle and savvy audience.

So, farewell Honeyshed.  Few knew you were evert here and maybe that’s for the best.

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Technology for Government Ok, Not for Citizens

Logo of the anti-RFID campaign by German priva...
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There has always been an uneasy relationship between technology, government and citizens.

With each technological advance there is always a strong government push to regulate and control but the advent of the internet has created a world where it seems almost comical to watch various attempts to clamp down on, say, pirates.

However, governments can and do severly limit citizen access to technology and information, usually for reasons that actually make little or no sense.

Take, for example, a recent Indian court case that hopes to limit access to GoogleEarth because it is believed that the Mumbai terrorists used the service to chart their attacks. (via)

As awful as those attacks were I fail to believe that they simply would have given up if they didn’t have access to GoogleEarth.  This kind of response not only demonstrates a general lack of understanding of the technology but it means that the Indian government would rather remove a fantastic public resource from its own population that give potential terrorists access to the same information that can be gleaned from a good roadmap.

On the flip-side of the coin is governments thinking that they can control technology and use it to track and control its own citizens.  One very scary example of this is the continued push to make us all carry RFID-enabled passports with a chip containing all of our personal information.  The problem is that these chips are completely insecure, as clearly demonstrated by Chris Paget:

Using a $250 Motorola RFID reader and antenna connected to his laptop, Chris recently drove around San Francisco reading RFID tags from passports, driver licenses, and other identity documents. In just 20 minutes, he found and cloned the passports of two very unaware US citizens. (via)

So, the government is willing to trade your personal privacy for their own convenience.  Nice work, guys.

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