tymshft

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Archive for the month “October, 2012”

The Daily Beast and the Week’s News

Medacity linked to an item in The Daily Beast that was printed – I mean electronically published – several days ago. It concerns The Daily Beast property, Newsweek. I didn’t even know that Newsweek was part of The Daily Beast. For slow people like me, the history was briefly recounted.

Four years ago we launched The Daily Beast. Two years later, we merged our business with the iconic Newsweek magazine—which The Washington Post Company had sold to Dr. Sidney Harman. Since the merger, both The Daily Beast and Newsweek have continued to post and publish distinctive journalism and have demonstrated explosive online growth in the process.

But what does online growth mean to Newsweek, the long-standing print publication? After December 31, everything.

Newsweek will transition to an all-digital format in early 2013. As part of this transition, the last print edition in the United States will be our Dec. 31 issue.

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Is the ad purveyor model all that ridiculous?

Here’s the flip side to something I posted in my Empoprise-BI business blog on Monday regarding Microsoft Surface.

I was reading the print edition of InformationWeek, and I saw the following statement in a letter to the editor:

Google is, when you get down to it, just an ad purveyor. Anything else it does is simply to amplify its ad business. This isn’t a model that any sane enterprise should hang its hat on.

Of course, this argument has been raised before, especially during the first dot.com boom – and bust. All of those big and small businesses who base their entire revenue plan on selling ads. Ridiculous.

And I’m sure that all of these naysayers got a lot of coverage on the radio and TV.

See where I’m going here?

Google and the rest of the tech sector aren’t the first batch of companies to create a business plan that consisted of giving the product away to consumers for free, and by selling ads to businesses. That business model has been around for years, and can be found in over-the-air TV and over-the-air radio. When I hear ads on my free version of Spotify, it’s not because Spotify is copying Google – it’s because Spotify is copying Clear Channel.

Perhaps someday Americans will have to watch the Super Bowl via pay per view, but as of now there’s no move to make viewers pay to watch the Super Bowl. Why not? Because the NFL and the networks make too much money from the current system, in which the television and radio broadcasts are provided to as many people as possible, the NFL makes its money by selling rights to these television and radio broadcasters, and the broadcasters themselves make their money by selling 30 second ads for millions of dollars.

Why would any sane enterprise want to follow the stupid ad purveyor model?

Hurricane Sandy – are we better off than we were four hundred years ago?

It is currently election season in the United States, and at this time we Americans often ask ourselves the question that Ronald Reagan asked during his campaign against President Jimmy Carter in 1980 – are we better off today than we were four years ago?

We can ask the same question in other areas, and for other time periods. The tymshft blog does exactly that.

Four hundred years ago, people here in the Americas and throughout the world were often at the mercy of the weather, or other natural events. A severe storm, hurricane, earthquake, or volcanic eruption could play havoc with people.

And it isn’t much better today.

As I write this, Hurricane Sandy is approaching the east coast of the United States. Airline flights in the area are at a standsill. Local mass transportation services in Washington, New York, and other areas are shut down. Many government offices, as well as private businesses are shut down.

Do we know exactly what’s going to happen to the east coast over the next few days? We haven’t the slightest idea. My employer’s travel service sent out a bulletin yesterday (Sunday) that included the words “Weather is difficult to predict.” And that’s just the weather – there’s no way to predict exactly which tree will fall on which power line, or which car will slam into which power generator.

In one way, we are worse off than we were four hundred years ago. If a severe thunderstorm hit Virginia in 1612, California was unaffected. Today, I know someone who is having problems accessing video on one of her websites. The error message that appears when she tries to access the videos happens to include the name of a well-known cloud provider in its URL. And it’s not just this particular website that’s threatened:

The entertainment industry is heavily reliant on online infrastructure for a wide variety of tasks from promoting movie titles to carrying out daily communication. Many millions of websites hosted on the U.S east coast are housed in a few large data centers, that will have to cope with a fierce hurricane.

Remember how all of the movie companies flocked to Hollywood because of the good weather? Well, at least some entertainment properties are apparently in harm’s way – and even if all of the industry’s servers were located here, they could easily be taken out in an earthquake.

Basically, we are at the mercy of the weather today. In fact, our technologically advanced society is probably subject to more weather disruptions than the society of four hundred years ago.

P.S. Sharp-eyed readers will recall that I discussed this same issue back in June. There truly is nothing new under the sun, even in the tymshft blog. Ann Landers would have had a field day writing for this blog.

Songs of the young, and songs not of the young

I recently attended a high school choral concert. Normally such concerts consist of classical and/or popular tunes that many of us have heard before. At this particular concert, however, one of the songs was an original composition, performed as a vocal/piano solo by the student who wrote it.

The song was beautiful, honest, and touching.

It was also very obviously written by a teenager. The sentiments expressed in the song included idealistic absolutes that one would usually expect a teenager to say. However, as I mentioned, the song was honest, and I certainly commend it.

Some songwriters try to write songs that express the feelings of younger people, and some of those efforts are less than successful.

My favorite example of this is a song by the electronic band Client entitled “Diary of an 18 Year Old Boy,” or, as I put it, “Diary of a 30 Year Old Woman Pretending to be an 18 Year Old Boy.” I happen to love the song, both in the electronic version on the Client album, and on a more acoustic version that I heard once. But the lyrics themselves are the funniest thing this side of the Pet Shop Boys.

I’ll confine myself to two hints that this song was not written by an 18 year old boy. The first one is right in the title – no 18 year old male, in Great Britain or anywhere else, would refer to himself as a “boy.” The second hint can be excerpted from the lyrics – I cannot think of any 18 year old man who, even in his secret diary, would write the words “Make me tremble.” Sounds like a 30 year old woman there.

Some songwriters, of course, are very capable of capturing the moods of the young. Perhaps you’ve heard of a singer named Justin Bieber. (If you use Klout to keep track of yourself, then you want to BE Justin Bieber.) One of his recent hits is a song called “As Long As You Love Me.” It appears that Bieber himself wrote the non-rap lyrics in the song, but whoever wrote the lyrics deftly captured the idealism and devotion that someone who was Bieber’s age would exhibit. Here’s an excerpt:

As long as you love me
We could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke
As long as you love me

These are the same types of absolute, idealistic emotions that were expressed in the original song that I heard at the choral concert.

And idealism, at times, can be a good thing.

The body of musical knowledge, from Gore to Drake

As the decades pass, bodies of knowledge are built up that later generations can reference. If I want to understand possible future changes in the United States, I can study the history of England, or of Rome, or of one of the Greek city states. If I want to understand science, or our lack of understanding of science, I can look at past scientific experiements and theories – some of which are still viable, and some of which are not. (I assume none of you have been treated with leeches lately.)

And if I want to understand a particular phrase in a song, I can look at songs that were sung a half century ago.

I had my car radio on, and was listening to a Drake song that I had probably heard a dozen times before. But this time, I was suddenly struck by a particular line that Drake sang:

It’s my birthday, I’ll get high if I want to

The line in and of itself is not that monumental of a line, but if you take a moment, and think about the rhythm of the words, and then think of a different melody that was sung a half century ago, you end of with the chorus of Lesley Gore’s biggest hit of a half century ago – her song “It’s My Party.” (Note: Lesley Gore is unrelated to Martin.) It’s a completely different story – in Gore’s song, the protagonist has lost her boyfriend to a girl named Judy. But the rhythm of the words nearly echoes that song that was a hit before Drake was born.

So did Drake intentionally mimic Gore? According to one commenter at rapgenius.com, he did not:

It would be clever if he was taking this line from back in the day and using it as an excuse to blaze. However, he’s actually interpolating Fabolous’s line in This is My Party from his Street Dreams album (2003)

And if you look at the Fabolous song, you’ll see that it was Fabolous that was recalling Gore.

But this is my party
Stroll by if you want to
Or ya’ll can stay home
But why would you want to?

Thematically, this is even more divorced from Gore’s original. In the 1960s version, the protagonist is the only one who is having a bad time at the party, but by the time Fabolous was singing, everybody was (if I may quote Wang Chung) having fun tonight.

So it’s quite possible that Drake was channeling Lesley Gore via an intermediary. Maybe Drake had never even heard the Lesley Gore song when he wrote “Take Care.”

The same thing happens in other fields, in which a politician may quote Thomas Jefferson, who may have been quoting a 17th century philosopher, who may have been quoting an ancient Greek.

The intriguing part is that what I consider modern popular music – in other words, anything after Bill Haley – has now been around for over 55 years. And that’s a lot of songs that new songwriters can reference.

How Maximum Rocknroll was produced in 1983

It all seems so long ago, perhaps because it was.

Back in the late 1970s and the 1980s, I was involved in several publications. I wrote a newspaper for my Reed College dorm called the Eastport Enquirer, back in the days in which its namesake the National Enquirer was decidedly unfashionable. (This was decades before the national paper broke real news in the John Edwards story.) A year later, I was working on the “real” college newspaper, the Reed College Quest. Several years after I left college, I wrote a local southern California zine called SHUFFLEBOARD!, a poor cousin to more highly-regarded zines such as From Ears and Mouth and The Bowl Sheet.

Before the monumental year of 1984, such publications were produced in ways that most people wouldn’t recognize today. Production of printed newspapers in those days often required the use of a typewriter, an Exacto knife, and lots of patience.

Back in those days, one of the leading zines was Maximum RockNRoll. It was clearly for the hardcore enthusiast; the one thing that I remember from those days was an impassioned letter that declared that the Beastie Boys (who had emerged from the hardcore movement before moving into rap) could not be regarded as true hardcore artists because of the rampant sexism in their lyrics. (For some, the so-called freedom of punk just meant that you had to adopt a new straitjacket.)

But that zine would crank itself out every couple of months. As part of a 30 year retrospective, John Marr (not the guitarist) describes how each issue was put together in those days.

The first thing to realize in looking back at these early issues of MRR is the unbelievable crude production methods we used. This was when the hot new Apple product was the IIe computer with dual 5¼” floppy drives and desktop publishing but a mad software engineer’s dream. We had no scanners, no computers, no laser printers. We did have an electric typewriter that could, in a jaw dropping display of 1983 technology, print out a justified column of copy.

After additional descriptions of the production methods, Marr states:

During the week, a steady stream of volunteers pounded in every letter, every scene report, every interview into that damn typewriter. (And you wonder why there are so many typos! Spell-check too was on the to-be-invented list.)

Nowadays Maximum Rocknroll is still, if you’ll pardon the term, old school. How? They still sell printed copies.

However, I don’t think they use Exacto knives any more.

The Color Purple, the school edition (ditto)

Since I’ve been talking about the printed word recently, I might as well add another gem.

Recently I had to print a school assignment for a young cousin of mine. This involved going to her school’s website on my computer, downloading a file, and (because it was an odd paper size that I didn’t have at home) sending the print job to a local print shop chain.

Needless to say, I couldn’t do that for my assignments when I was her age. I had to be physically present in school to receive the assignment.

And, more than likely, the assignment was purple.

You see, most elementary schools in the 1960s and early 1970s did not have access to photocopiers, so they used one of two competing technologies. One of those technologies, the ditto machine, produced the purple assignment papers. Harmon Jolley remembers:

[T]he ditto machine used no ink. The user typed, wrote, or drew on a ditto master sheet which was backed by a second sheet of paper coated with a dye-impregnated, waxy substance. The inscribed image appeared on the back of the ditto sheet in reverse. The ditto machine used an alcohol-based fluid to dissolve some of the dye in the document, and transferred the image to the copy paper.

Though other colors of ditto sheets were available, purple was commonly used. In elementary school, I remember that the teacher would distribute drawing sheets for us to color. The sheets had been through the ditto machine, which gave purple outlines to the drawings of fruit, animals (mostly lions and tigers and bears), letters, numbers, and everything else that we were asked to stay within the lines while we colored.

The output of the ditto machine had a special aroma. Students could tell when a class assignment was hot out of the machine by the strength of the odor of the pages. The smell came from the ditto machine’s duplicating fluid, a mix of methanol and isopropanol.

Ditto machines have long since gone out of style, although they may still be used somewhere. Jolley notes that (as of 2006) you could still get ditto and mimeograph machine supplies from Presstek. I was unable to locate either item on Presstek’s site today, however.

Probably just as well. Eric Zorn reminds us that you could get high on the stuff. But Zorn does note that the cost of ditto duplicating was very low – around a quarter of a penny. Perhaps it would be higher if ditto machines were still common today, but it appears that it would still be much cheaper than the photocopying processes commonly in use. (I recently ran up a bill of about $800 printing some emergency documents at a copying center. No, it wasn’t for my young cousin.)

No wonder people have been clamoring for the paperless office.

(empo-muvei) Whither the Day-Timer? It’s not pining for the fjords just yet.

PLEASE READ THE FTC DISCLOSURES REGARDING THIS POST.

Tony Wong’s ebook, Mooove Ahead! Of the Corporate Herd, draws upon Wong’s years of experience in the corporate world. And based upon the timeline provided in the book (he was at San Jose City College at the same time that Bruce Jenner was preparing for the 1976 Olympics), his corporate experience exceeds mine.

Because one of his two target audiences is those just entering the workforce after graduating from college, Wong occasionally has to explain some things in his ebook. For example, the Prologue includes this explanatory text:

…it was essentially a small binder calendar and very popular in the late ’80s…

Wong is speaking of the Day-Timer, the organizational tool that Wong was encouraged to use at that time. He then goes on to say:

At some point, technologies such as calendar software on smartphones and personal computers made the manual DayTime and similar products obsolete….

Tony Wong may not be using a Day-Timer any more, and I may not be using a Day-Timer any more, but SOMEONE is still using them. The Day-Timer company website still lists a variety of physical planners and accessories that can be purchased. And they have no intention of stopping sales of these items.

Day-Timer products are widely available through many resellers and distribution channels including the company’s online retail site and catalog, office supply superstores, major retail outlets, commercial contract dealers and wholesalers throughout North America. Day-Timer products are also available internationally through Day-Timer of Canada, Day-Timer UK, and Day-Timer Australia/New Zealand.

But what about electronic products? According to Lance Ulanoff, Day-Timer actually sold planning software for a while, but discontinued the software by 2002. I’m not sure why.

Day-Timer’s corporate parent, Acco, recently acquired the company that manufactures DayRunner and AT-A-GLANCE, two products that compete with Day-Timer. So perhaps this June 2012 news was not surprising:

Under intense competition from the Internet, the company is shuttering its headquarters and moving operations out of state, corporate parent Acco Brands Corp. of Lincolnshire, Ill., told employees this week.

Most employees refused to talk to the media after the closing was announced. Perhaps they were rushing to appointments. But Rich Nelson of corporate parent Acco did talk:

“It no longer makes economic sense to keep both,” Acco spokesman Rich Nelson said of Day-Timer and MeadWestvaco’s redundant manufacturing capabilities.

The Day-Timer brand will live on, however. While Nelson acknowledged the impact of the Internet, he also insisted that paper office products remain “a very robust business.”

“There are quite a few people who prefer the paper calendar format,” he said.

The “quixotic” nature of free wi-fi in 2005

As long as I’m looking at technology business posts that I wrote several years ago, let’s look at another post from that period.

I began that post as follows:

This is being posted from Rico Coffee, 2320-A Foothill Blvd., La Verne, CA 91750. (Hey, it’s not as automated as Where’s Tim Hibbard, but it works.)

Before continuing, let me interject something. Back in 2005, if you wanted to say where you were writing your online content, you normally had to manually add the location. The idea that you could automatically register the location of some online content – or, better still, the idea that there would be entire SERVICES dedicated to automatically sharing your location – was several years in the future. (Where’s Tim Hibbard, incidentally, no longer exists.)

Back to my post.

I need to check my work e-mail before 8:00 Pacific time to see if I received an important e-mail from the East Coast, and for personal reasons I find myself in the La Verne area. After a bit of hunting, I was able to locate a free wi-fi location (well, if you don’t count the medium coffee and the blueberry muffin, but it’s still a lot cheaper than six dollars an hour or whatever the going rate is).

Granted that La Verne, California isn’t San Francisco, California, or even Hermiston, Oregon, but even here we have a potential challenge to the business model of Wayport and the rest that charge large amounts for wi-fi access.

A clarification – the reference to Hermiston, Oregon is about something that was discussed in another post about a 700 square mile wireless hotspot.

In my post, I then quoted extensively from an article that talked about this free wi-fi idea. Here’s a sample:

The free hotspot movement may seem a bit [naive] and quixotic, but it does pose a serious threat to the business case of the for-pay hotspot movement.

Today, that naive notion of free wi-fi is taken for granted; especially now that you can walk into any Starbucks and get free wi-fi access.

And Rico Coffee? It went out of business several years ago.

Some things never change – what I said during Oracle OpenWorld 2005

I just realized that I have an excellent source of inspiration for posts in this tymshft blog.

Some of you may not know this, but I have been blogging for a long time. This month marks my ninth anniversary of blogging. I’ve written in a variety of blogs, some of which have been retired, and at least two of which no longer exist (a collaborative Bible study blog, and a biometrics blog that was behind the Motorola firewall, back when I worked for Motorola).

But a lot of the things that I’ve written over the years have had to do with technology, business, or the technology business. And in that industry, nine years is a lifetime.

Every once in a while, I’d like to take the opportunity to look at some things that I wrote several years ago (mostly written under my then-pseudonym, Ontario Emperor) and see how things have changed – or haven’t changed – since I wrote the pieces in question.

Since Oracle OpenWorld 2012 is going on this week, I wanted to kick this off by looking at what I wrote around the time of Oracle OpenWorld 2005. That was so long ago that we weren’t even using hashtags to mark our Oracle OpenWorld posts.

Back in those days, Oracle was acquiring a lot of companies. (They still do so today, of course.) On September 14, 2005, I wrote about Oracle’s pending acquisition of Siebel Systems, and the impact that this acquisition could have on other players in the market.

You see, at the time Siebel Systems was a close partner of IBM, and they had launched a joint endeavor called CRM OnDemand Service. Now that Siebel was being acquired by an IBM rival, there was some question about the future of this service.

In fact, one tech person was quoted as saying:

“Siebel on Demand, a joint venture between Siebel and IBM, will be the first to be buried….Siebel on Demand is written exclusively on DB2 and Websphere and runs in IBM data centers. Oracle will kill it. Oracle does not sell DB2.”…

So who was taking the opportunity to slam Oracle?

Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff.

Some things never change.

But some things do. I also wrote a post that listed all of the keynote presenters scheduled for that year’s Oracle OpenWorld. There was no Sunday night keynote that year, but there were keynotes throughout the rest of the week:

Monday, September 19
— 9:00 am – 10:30 am PT — Charles Phillips, Oracle President will
deliver a welcome keynote and introduce the keynote from Paul
Otellini, President and Chief Executive Officer, Intel.
Tuesday, September 20
— 8:30 am – 10:30 am PT — John Wookey, Oracle Senior Vice President
will present a keynote on adaptability and insight and introduce the
keynote from Mark Hurd, Chief Executive Officer and President, HP.
— 1:45 pm – 2:30 pm PT — Scott McNealy, Chief Executive Officer, Sun
Microsystems.
Wednesday, September 21
— 8:30 am – 10:30 am PT — Chuck Rozwat, Oracle Executive Vice
President, Server Technologies will deliver a keynote about Oracle’s
leadership in grid computing and service-oriented architecture (SOA)
and introduce the keynote from Tom Mendoza, President, Network
Appliance, Inc.
— 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm PT — Larry Ellison, Oracle Chief Executive Officer
will present a keynote entitled, “Doing Business in the Information
Age.”

Well.

Charles Phillips no longer presents at Oracle OpenWorld, but Mark Hurd does.

And Sun Microsystems is no longer an OpenWorld sponsor.

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