What’s in a name?

Sony has introduced new wireless televisions, consisting of a transmitter and a touch sensitive LCD screen. Instead of just calling them wireless, they have been dubbed LocationFree

Phantom Google results?

Lately when I’ve been using Google my results have included one or two spyware removal companies. Curious, I clicked ondard for how to set the time? At this point I’d even be happy to only be dealing with three competing standards.

This is an awful lot of work for millions of people to go through. Let’s just assume there are roughly 300 million people in North America, so perhaps 75 million households, at just 10 minutes per household, this comes out to about 1426 person-years of effort twice a year. All so that we can pretend we have an extra hour each day? Seems like a lot of effort to me. I’m looking forward to having a little atomic clock in all of my stuff so I never have to change the time again.

Funny Canadians.

Driving home tonight CBC Radio Canada (sort of a Canadian NPR) was broadcasting an excerpt from a “town hall” session of prominent Canadians discussing the upcoming American election, and comparing attitudes of people on both sides of the border. Unfortunately I didn’t catch who the participants were, but one woman commented that “Canadians can imagine what it is like to be from Idaho, but Idahoans can’t imagine what it is like to be from Canada.”

The meeting became unintentionally hilarious when the same woman stated that “The difference between Canadians and Americans is that Canadians know the difference.” The resulting peals of laughter from the studio audience suggested that they found it humorous as well.

Paying more. Getting less.

In Canada the monthly price for my mobile phone service is nowhere near the advertised price. Among the fees added on is a $6.95 charge per month per phone. So with my four phones I pay about $28 for that item alone. When I moved to Canada I was led to believe that this was yet another government tax; there are so many it would not be surprising. Apparently the fee is a levy to cover network costs, licensing fees and other regulatory costs. Shouldn’t that be covered by my monthly charge? To put this in perspective, voice mail ($8) and call display ($7) are in addition to my basic charge as well.

Apparently some people got tired of being charged the fee, and being misled as to what it was for. They have filed a class action lawsuit against Canada’s four biggest cellphone carriers. Those operators will make more than $800 million from the special fee this year alone.

This wouldn’t be so bad if Canada at least had some decent choices in mobile phones, but we are perennially behind what is available in other countries. I have to suffer through reading all about Robert Scoble’s new Audiovox phone without any idea when, or if, I’ll be able to get one.

The sociology of blogging.

I was thinking about Robert Scoble’s comment that “watching blogs gives you an indication of what the greater society is doing and talking about”. I made an earlier comment that bloggers represented a younger well-educated group, not indicative of society at large. Loic Le Meur provides an excerpt of an eMarketer report with the following statistics:

“Exactly 61% of the blog readers that responded to the survey are over the age of 30, and 75% make more than $45,000 a year. In fact, nearly 30% of the respondents are between the ages of 31 and 40, and over 37% spanned the ages of 41 to 60. And nearly 40% have a household income of $90,000 or higher.”

While this is merely a sampling, it is clearly not representative of the average person. Bloggers are generally articulate and feel that they have something to say. They also exhibit a propensity for constant learning, as well as sharing that information with others. And as a purely personal opinion with no factual basis, they seem to be overwhelmingly Democrats. The well known bloggers seem to be either technologically or politically focused.

Both of my kids have grown up on the internet. The communicate with friends and acquaintances via email or instant messaging. They use the web for everything. Yet the oldest one is just beginning to use blogs, I’m guessing because he now feels the need to share thoughts with friends. A few of them have blogs too. But they don’t blog the way I do; theirs are mostly personal as opposed to commercial or political.

I also haven’t seen a lot of discussions about supermarket prices, factory work, or other non-media non-technology work, yet this is certainly well represented in the society at large.

The browser becomes my world.

David Weinberger proposes how Google might build a browser – a world browser he calls it. To quote David:

It would not be a Web browser. It’d be a world browser. It would find pages on the Web, of course, but it’d also find the ones on my desktop (Google desktop). It would know about my email (Gmail). It would know that my own photos are categorically different from all the other jpgs on the planet (Picasa). It would let me browse the physical earth (Keyhole) and show on a map the documents that talk about any particular place (Keyhole + Google Local).

He also says that it would need a File Manager, and mentions that it could replace current browsers. Let’s go further though. A file is just an abstraction, or metaphor, that leads us to believe that we are dealing with a document rather than some collection of bytes somewhere. We go to great pains to organize these in some intelligent directory structure, or in a content management system. If we are global, then we also have the issue of where the authoritative copy is. But Google specializes in finding stuff, so imagine that I no longer have to organize things. Google will find what I a looking for wherever it is. With Keyhole they could even tell me where on the planet it is. I can also share what I want to with others through Blogger and Picasa – a publishing model.

Stretch a little further and think that Google could also find locate services either locally or remotely and connect me to them. Services could be applications like Word, my intranet, or my VPN. I could locate a report, view, comment, and then save it. And of course Google remembers the services I use typically – my preferences.

So I could find information wherever it was, and select the appropriate service to work with it wherever I am – remember we’re in a browser here – why would I need my traditional Windows desktop at all? And as someone who switches machines all too frequently, think of your entire environment traveling with you, without the pain of installing an configuring applications yet again. With access to services, for a price of course, like software subscription services.

With the purchase of Keyhole I also think it would be a great opportunity for Google to sell location-based services, like giving me the closest selection of hotels when I’m traveling somewhere, or where the closest five star restaurant (or Jack in the Box) is located based on proximity to where I am. And perhaps the friendliest bloggers nearby to chat with.

Branding is dead. Really?

Over at gapingvoid, Hugh “branding is dead” Macleod says that branding is dead. In fact, it’s his middle name. He bases this proposition on the fact that companies that support blogging suck at branding while companies with superlative brands suck at (or don’t even allow) branding.

I don’t agree that branding is dead. Branding is really all about creating a set of feelings and beliefs about a product. It takes a great deal of money and effort to do that, and it only works if the company continuously maintains the image. Tylenol’s brand could have been destroyed years ago (long before blogging) when product tampering occurred, but through swift decisive action focused on customer safety they maintained their product image. I haven’t seen blogs build a full scale brand yet, although they have certainly contributed to raising awareness of the good or the bad of some products. Even recently created brands like Google have were not created by blogging, although bloggers are certainly working to keep them honest.

He also quotes Robert Scoble on the subject. Robert says:

One, watching blogs gives you an indication of what the greater society is doing and talking about (if you read enough of them and they are randomly enough selected — I’m not there yet, but I’m getting close).

Two, blogs can feed the conversation and amplify it. Look at all the talk about Audiovox cell phones in the past five days. Did you notice that AT&T is sold out? I did.

We need to realize that blogs don’t represent what the greater society is doing and talking about. Blogs represent a well-educated technologically aware, and probably younger, demographic as opposed to an unbiased cross-section. And one with the desire and wherewithall to go out and invest in new technology. There are lots of companies that maintain excellent brands every day without blogs. Will Anheuser-Busch, Nike, Gap, or Heinz Ketchup sell any more if they have a blog? Would blogging make any difference to their brands? My kids will still buy Nike either way.

The purity of blogs.

I’ve noticed a number of discussions on the subject of using blogs to advertise suggesting the influential blogs will help to push your products. Robert Scoble thinks its fine as long as the blogger declares that they are advertising. Marc Canter and David Weinberger are having a discussion as to how unbiased a blogger can afford to be when someone else is paying the freight.

Following the Cluetrain Manifesto concept that markets are conversations, then the value of blogs is that they present honest personal opinion – something other people trust. Regardless of how pure you remain, if you take money from a company there will certainly be some level of perception that your honesty my be less than total. And if you are brutally honest, yet not supportive of the company paying you, then that relationship may not last.

To reuse the Kryptonite example that Robert suggested, it would have been really intelligent for Kryptonite to buy space on an influential blog even if they were being portrayed negatively, and used that to get their solution out to the public. Unfortunately there are very few companies who are willing to be honest about themselves. And until companies start to take themselves less seriously, then ads on blogs may suggest a lower reality quotient, even if the advertisement is clearly identified. Halley Suitt calls it a very slippery slope.

Unreasonable search and seizure?

Freedom of speech on the internet tends to get blurred by the laws of different regions. on behalf of Swiss authorities, the FBI paid a visit to the Seattle law office of Devin Theriot-Orr, a member of Indymedia, the Independent Media Center. A week later over 20 Indymedia Web sites were taken down when the London office of Texas-based Rackspace Managed Hosting servers hosting them were seized in Britain. The case involves undercover Swiss police officers posing as protesters at an anti-globalization rally, posted in response to groups like the Swiss police posting images of protesters, labeling them “troublemakers” and asking for information about them. There was some question as to who has issued the order, as the original order was sealed.

Keith Bankston, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who is fighting to unseal the order, had this to say:

“The significance of this is that apparently, a foreign government, based on a secret process, can have the U.S. government silence independent news sources without ever having to answer to the American people about how that kind of restraint could happen. Every press organization should be asking, ‘Am I next?”‘