Sunday, April 29, 2007

Where did User Generated Media start? My vote: Cheap Gear.

When I look at what's happening to the old media world (disintermediation, collapse of classified ad cash cows, loss of editorial control, erosion of readers/viewers/listeners under 30 etc., etc.) and think to myself, why is this? What's the base cause for it.. I come up with alot of possible answers. Things like low cost high speed internet connection, opensource software making it reasonably easy (and cheap) to start new businesses but, more than anything, I think it's Cheap Gear my mom can use.

I know this sounds simplistic, but I like to get to base causes. What's the one thing that we had to have before all the Web 2.0 magical poofy things that sucked in millions of average people with a computer was possible? My conjecture: It's Cheap Gear.

It's that hardware interface that takes life and turns it a mishmash of words, pictures, sounds and videos.

I'm looking at around my office and I have what's really a recording and video production studio. Nothing new there, but, what IS new is that this stuff is fairly easy to use and damned inexpensive by historical standards.

Here's a partial list: USB Mixer with digital effects, $149 and studio quality powered speakers: $199. Professional quality condenser microphone $69. Studio headphones, $19. 3CCD Digital hard disk camcorder, $499. Two 22" flatpanel monitors $600. 1 dual core desktop with 2GB RAM and a 500GB HD $800. Total cost? $2336.00. Software? Free opensource recording with Audacity and basic sound processing with Levelator. Video? Drop $50 for Vegas Movie Studio and you've got the equivalent of an AVID video editing bay from 10 years ago. If you have a Mac, all that software comes with it.

Not super cheap, but I can record a band, make podcasts, create and edit a video, all at a quality level as good as anything on the internet today and, with rich media, almost as good as the quality of about 1/4 of what you find broadcast today. Print pubs? I'm on par.

And you can do it with a lot less gear than I have (take out the computer.. you've got it anyway) and the real cost of the gear to create comes down to below $1000. A few hundred if you push it. Cheap Gear.

I have a full blown 'fits in the palm of my hand' recording studio (the Zoom H4) that can record a live concert at the same quality as about 80% of the professional live recording setups today. I just hit a button and point. It encodes it as an MP3 on the fly. I just plug it into my computer, and upload it to ClickCaster, iTunes or my blog. Instant concert recording system. Cost? $299. The first step in the system? Cheap Gear.

I've got a 6 Megapixal camera (Casio Exilim) that weighs 2 oz, takes semi pro level photo's and VGA (broadcast TV) level video (a couple of hours worth per 2GB SD card) that I can shoot a video with, take some snapshots and record an interview with that cost me $200. Same as the last paragraph, rinse, repeat.

I can set up and run a blog with my friends on any subject we happen to be reasonably versed in that can rival any 'professional' publications website with relative ease. All I need is free blog software, an internet connection and a $600 laptop. Cheap Gear.

Every musician I know has the ability to record themselves at home with cheap gear, make their own podcast and use YouTube, Google, MySpace and similar sites to promote themselves.

It all started about 6-7 years ago with really usable Cheap Gear. It's accelerated in the last 24 months. The power of the microprocessor embedded into low cost tools just about anyone can buy with high enough quality to rival 'the pro's'. And the kids (literally, kids.. like, 12) know how to use it.

Imagine what would happen if groups of regular people with a passion actually started combining all this media into print, pictures, recordings and video and gave it some relevant editorial perspective? Decided they could be a hybrid local newspaper/tv station/radio station for their local town? We used to say at Apple that the power of the press belongs to those that own one (picture of a LaserWriter Printer)... the ideas been around, but the tools, finally, have caught up.

The infrastructure and software tools that give them a radio station/TV station and newspaper all rolled into one are pretty much here too. The monetization tools for incorporating advertising are getting close to being real. It's like pirate radio stations, but it's legal and it's more. It's Pirate Media stations.

And it all started with cheap gear.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The story line is getting old

I have friend who's a 24 (the TV show) fanatic. He just posted that it got boring.
The Day 24 got boring. April 23, 2007. Another 24 fanatic just came in my office and announced that to me. Unfortunately I agree. I watched it last night with Amy, Jason, David, and Jill and we all had that ho-hum look on our face when it ended. Oh well – it’s rare that a show makes it six years anyway before it loses it.
I think this is a great example of how being in a state of constant tension, regardless of how thrilling the tension is, eventually, gets old.

That's what's happening in America's political climate right now. You can say 'terrorist!' only so many times before it stops working and, man, has it stopped working. Interestingly, he infers that 6 years' is a good run. Isn't that about how long Bush has been beating a story line very much like 24?

I agree with him, it's getting old. Time for a new story.

Apologies for using his blog post as a political metaphor, but I suspect he doesn't mind.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I'm going Mac, why? DRM.

I never thought I'd be saying this but I've decided that all my computer purchases in the future are likely to be Mac's. The reason isn't intuitively obvious either because it's DRM.

From The Inquirer article: Avoid the Vista Badge, it means DRM inside.
He who controls the DRM infection controls the market. DRM is about preventing you from doing anything with the devices without paying the gatekeeper a fee. This is what MS wants, nothing less than a slice of everything watched, listened to or discussed from now on. DRM prevents others from playing there, thanks to the DMCA and other anti-consumer laws.
The article goes on to reflect on just some of the evils of DRM built into hardware. I suspect we'll see more (and more) compatibility and ease of use issues as more people buy a new PC with Vista enabled hardware over the coming years.

Oddly, Apple, a company I used to work for and adore, then lost respect for and who I've bashed more than a few times here, largely about DRM with their iTunes software, is the good guy. Also, oddly, my one Mac, a dual core intel laptop, is my favorite machine for running Windows (and Linux). And yes, I have many machines (8 between two offices and home).

Using multiple OS's on an Intel based Mac is wonderful. It's simple to set up, simple to switch between OS's and fast as hell. And, when you look at the cost, it's only slightly more expensive (the XP license) and you get a great OS, OSX, thrown in for free.

The vast majority of my time spent on computers nowadays is using something on the internet. Virtually all my productivity software lives online (currently provided, mostly, by Google via gmail, googledocs, etc.). What OS I'm using isn't overly important anymore, as long as I've got FireFox on the box.

So, thank you Apple. Man....who'da'thought that the king of proprietary hardware/software systems would be the best 'open' PC choice (at least for me) available in the market today?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Time to start a next generation local media & news portal in Chicago, LA, Balimore and 13 other cities

And the battle begins. Sam Zell is buying the Tribune Company (16 newspapers including the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun). In a recent Washington Post story. From the WP story:

In conversations before and after a speech Zell delivered Thursday night at Stanford Law School in Palo Alto, Calif., the billionaire said newspapers could not economically sustain the practice of allowing their articles, photos and other content to be used free by other Internet news aggregators.

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"If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content, how profitable would Google be?" Zell said during the question period after his speech. "Not very."

Wow. I wonder if he knows the demographics of the newspapers he just bought very well? Has he asked any of his under 30 (hell, under 40) grandkids if they subscribe to a newspaper? Just one? I doubt it.

Now would be a very good time to start putting together a web based locally focused online media startup for each of these 16 cities where the Tribune is, apparently, going to turn off (or try to start charging somebody) for the online component of their newspapers.

It's too bad he's not thinking of newspapers for what they are: The best source of LOCAL content available in a community (regardless of where the community gets is- paper or online) vs. a ground up tree with ink smeared on it.

Companies have been experimenting with local online communities that were supposed to replace newspapers, radio and TV for years. I think the window to start really focusing on it may have just opened up.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Microsoft died in 2005.

I just read a great essay by Paul Graham that made me stop dead in my mental tracks and go oh yea... damn! I love Paul's writing. He's generally dead on with his observations and this one's right in line with that trend.

His claim? Microsoft died in 2005.


1) Google. Need I say more?

2) XmlHttpRequest- Created by MS for Outlook, Mixed with JavaScript you get AJAX and that was the beginning of the end for desktop applications. This made it possible to move applications to the web. One of the first was Gmail. Now you can get photoshop functionality on a webpage.

3) Broadband internet. The faster your connection, the less you need the desktop.

4) Apple. Ever check out anyone working on what's next? Chances are he or she's on a Mac. Windows? For grandma.

Read the whole thing. It's here and by Paul Graham standards, fairly short. Anyone who's been around for awhile will go.. oh, yea... that's it. Damn!

So, I finally cleaned up my domain name/URL act procured the URL and pointed it at this blog. From now on, even though blogger is where I'll keep my blog for now, when I change my platform, the URL will stay the same. So, if you care about stuff like this, take out the blogger URL for this blog and put in

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

  As you know, I once was an evangelical megachurch pastor and my pastoral career stretched over many years. Eventually, I could no longer t...