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Why Is This News – Live NYE Spotify US Launch Countdown Edition!

December 31st, 2010 12:55 admin View Comments

It’s fair to say that, of all of the writers at TechCrunch, we’re the ones who have been most skeptical about Swedish music startup (and newly-minted verb) Spotify.

And for what reason? Because the company lied to us on multiple occasions? Because they routinely brief journalists with off the record half-truths, and then later deny those same reports? Because CEO Daniel Ek (pronounced “Eek” – he’s Swedish) still refuses to go on the record with us? Sure, those are all good reasons. But really our most consistent beef with Spotify has been the company’s inability to launch in the US, despite briefing reporters for the past TWO YEARS that such a launch is imminent.

“Spotify… aims to start U.S. operations in the third quarter. The Stockholm-based company, which has 7 million users in Europe, is in talks with unidentified U.S. Internet and mobile-phone service providers about partnerships, Senior Vice President Paul Brown said in an interview yesterday.†– Bloomberg (March)

“Spotify‘s SVP of strategic partnerships Paul Brown is to leave the music streaming service this week for a new startup outside of the digital music space.” – TechCrunch Europe (August)

Don’t get us wrong – we’ve no beef with the company’s inability to launch in the States, per se. Securing licensing deals in multiple territories is really, really hard – just ask Pandora, which closed down its European service back in 2007. No, our issue with Spotify is that they won’t admit that they have no clue when – or if – they’re going to be able to sign deals with enough US labels to launch over here. Instead Ek constantly talks up the service’s imminent launch, and scoffs at those who doubt him.

“We’ve always said we wanted to launch in early 2010. We still hope that will be the case,†[Spotify CEO Daniel] Ek said in an interview with the Times following his keynote. “That said, I don’t think it matters for us if it’s two or three months later. The U.S. is the world’s biggest market. And to use an American phrase, we really want to hit it out of the park.†- LA Times

Meantime, the European tech press (including, it has to be said, our esteemed colleagues at TechCrunch Europe) has continued to echo Spotify’s spin, keen as the continent is for another huge success, a la Skype.

“Yesterday, Billboard, a US music industry magazine, reported that Spotify’s “licensing negotiations with the major [US] music labels have reverted back to square oneâ€, citing multiple sources. However, Spotify, talking to The Telegraph, has denied the allegations in the report, saying the service is still on course to launch by the end of 2010.” - The Telegraph

And yet, and yet… in the past couple of months, even the cheerleaders have started to lose their voices. Compare the breathless coverage from the Telegraph newspaper back in March explaining how “Spotify will definitely launch in the US this year and there will be a free element to the service” with this lede from two weeks ago…

“Spotify can no longer commit to a 2010 US launch date, despite publicly declaring its commitment to go live stateside by the end of this year several times over the last six months”

Meantime, during Paul’s recent trip back to London, he spoke to several reporters and commentators who had previously been bullish on Spotify, but who know consider the company’s bluster to be “essentially a running joke”.

“Spotify had a £16.66m loss in 2009 – a rumoured US launch is now imperative” – TechCrunch Europe (November)

All of this should of course make us feel a little smug. We love the Spotify app – and would genuinely love to see it launch in the US – but as we’ve written before, the best way for them to achieve this is to learn a little humility and to boast less, and negotiate more.  The thing is, though, watching so many former Spotify fan-boys turn on Ek has actually made us feel kinda sorry for him.

What’s more, technically speaking, Ek hasn’t failed yet. There are still a few minutes left of 2010 and there’s still time for Spotify US to launch and for Ek to prove us all wrong. And, given that no-one else seems to have faith that he’ll do it, apparently it falls to us to pick up the pro-Ek banner and wave it for all it’s worth.

Here, then, is a very special live New Year’s edition of Why Is This News? where we excitedly wait for Spotify’s triumphant, and much-promised US launch before the end of 2010.

We’re sorry we doubted you Daniel – we have our hats and slices of humble pie ready to be eaten in 10… 9… 8….

Source: Why Is This News – Live NYE Spotify US Launch Countdown Edition!

Micro-USB Cellphone Charger Becomes EU Standard

December 31st, 2010 12:11 admin View Comments

An anonymous reader writes “The European Commission has put into effect a June 2009 agreement stating that major cellphone manufacturers should standardize their charging/data connection ports to the popular Micro-USB format. CEN-CENELEC and ETSI provided the standards by which these 14 companies will abide by to make cell phone recharging and data transfer easy.” Apple may even bring the next-gen iPad along for the ride.

Source: Micro-USB Cellphone Charger Becomes EU Standard

A List Of The Best Of The Best Meme Lists Of 2010

December 31st, 2010 12:55 admin View Comments

In this decade the Internet replaced television as our primary mode of disseminating culture. Many people more familiar with Antoine Dodson’s “Hide your kids/Hide your wife” than any catchphrase currently on television (Remember the days of being able to say stuff you heard on TV like “No soup for you” or “Don’t have a cow, man” and have other people actually get what you mean?).

But there’s only so many times you can write posts around the theme “Hey, the Internet is now important” without inciting commenter revolt or a punch in the face.The sheer amount of meme round-ups found online today is testament to the fact that the web has won. So instead of making a list of my favorites, I’ll post some of the best lists of memes out there. Because I can and because it’s the only way to win. And because, like any connoisseur of memes knows, you can’t have viral culture without recursion.

The Atlantic’s “The 12 Best/Worst Memes of 2010″

Alexis Madrigal’s list made the cut for brevity and for lack of helpful context. Also because the focus on the catchphrases, which made people want to share these things in the first place, was pretty spot on.

Know Your Meme, “2010 Year In Review”

The keepers of the most comprehensive database of Internet memes in existence, the folks at Know Your Meme have boiled the entire year in Internet culture down to 90 seconds. They also seem to really have enjoyed “Deal With It.”

Urlesque’s “2010′s Memes in the Mainstream – How Bed Intruder, Bros Icing Bros and Old Spice Guy Broke Through”

Urlesque actually gives out awards for this, called the Urlies but I was more impressed by their list of memes that had gone mainstream (Bed Intruder, Bros Icing Bros, Old Spice Guy). And namely for this little piece of wisdom, “News outlets have seemingly had fewer things to report on, so they’ve started playing “viral videos” to fill the fluff stories niche at the end of their broadcasts.” Ha.

Jay Irwin’s “Top 10 Memes of 2010″

Props for introducing me to CAPTCHA Art and for being as humble and homegrown a memes list as possible. Double plus one for not including any videos. Enjoy the traffic Jay!

Buzzfeed’s “Top 50 Most Viral Posts of 2010″

Sure we’ve poked fun at them in the past, but if a meme happens on the Internet, and it doesn’t hit Buzzfeed, does it make a sound? From “24 Best Chatroulette Screenshots” to “Hitler Without A Moustache” here’s everything you clicked on this year while bored at work, in semi-infographic form.

The Huffington Post’s “The Best Internet Memes Of The Decade: Chuck Norris, Rickroll, Lolcats And More From 2001-2010″

Bonus points to HuffPo for slideshow format and spanning an entire decade. Minus points for quoting the New York Times’ definition of a meme in the first graph.

Memeburn’s “Outstanding Memes of 2010″

Bonus points for quoting The Urban Dictionary’s awesome definition of a meme “The thing that’s on your mind when nothing else is and your fingers are on a keyboard” in the intro graph. Minus points for the phrase, “Rosetta Blog.”

Chicago Sun Times’ “Year In WTF!?”

“Of course we’ve all heard of Paul Vasquez and Antoine Dodson by now, ’tis the wonder of the interwebs.” Thank you Chicago Sun Times. This is what I’m going to send my parents if I ever need to explain to them what a meme is.

Houston Press’ “The Year in Static Memes”

An addendum to the Houston Press’ “Year In Video Memes: What Do They Mean?” this caught my eye because of all the references to being drunk on Four Loko (in and of itself a meme) while writing it. You get an A for effort Houston Press. A for effort.

Ranker’s “The Top 25 Greatest Internet Memes of 2010″

That’s right count ‘em 25 in the most thorough list I’ve read so far. Did anyone else find the time to list 25? Nope. Enough said. Also, I’m really impressed that this guy has written more text explaining these memes than I’ve written in my entire blogging career.

Honorary mention: Rex Sorgatz’s “List of Lists”.

While not technically a list of memes, this is on here simply because “End of the Year” lists are in and of themselves a meme.

—————-

Okay now my head hurts. Happy New Year!

Source: A List Of The Best Of The Best Meme Lists Of 2010

EU Wants Power To Block China’s Tech Buying

December 31st, 2010 12:04 admin View Comments

itwbennett writes “In an interview with German daily paper Handelsblatt, the EU’s industry commissioner Antonio Tajani said he wants the power to block China from buying up European tech companies. Tajani envisions an authority along the same lines as the United States’ Committee on Foreign Investment and would determine ‘if the acquisition (of a company) with European know-how by a private or public foreign company represented a danger or not.’”

Source: EU Wants Power To Block China’s Tech Buying

An iPhone Lover’s Take On The Nexus S

December 31st, 2010 12:58 admin View Comments

There’s a scene in Iron Man 2 in which Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) shows off the mechanical soliders he has been working on — his would-be “Iron Man-killers”. Unfortunately, while they may look somewhat impressive, his machines malfunction and the demo goes horribly awry. His knock-offs are junk. This scene reminds me a lot of what the first Android phone, the G1, was like when compared to the iPhone. Luckily for Google, things have improved substantially since then — and without the help of a Russian Mickey Rourke. Well, presumably anyway.

We’ve already done a big, comprehensive review of the Nexus S, the latest and greatest Android device. But as I like to do (see: the bottom of this post), I’m going to look at it from the angle of an iPhone diehard. After all, this is widely considered to be the best Android device yet. So will it be enough to make any iPhone user jump ship? And since this is currently the only device running Android 2.3 “Gingerbread”, what’s the overall state of the OS?

First of all, the Nexus S is a great smartphone. I’ve been using it for a little over two weeks now and I think I can safely say that in a world where there was no iPhone, this is the device I would use. While I like a number of fundamental things about Windows Phone more, Android is more mature. And more importantly, the ecosystem is far more built-out. Plus, the Google apps on the device are enough to entice anyone.

Previously, I’ve held firm on my belief that the Nexus One was the best Android phone out there. In my mind, this was true even as dozen of other Android phones came to the market more recently. The Nexus One was the best because it was pure Android. Unlike the Droids or the EVO, it wasn’t loaded up with crapware from the carriers. And they weren’t able to manipulate the core experience of Android with their awful skins. The Nexus S is the second “pure Android” phone. But it’s faster. And so it takes the crown from the Nexus One.

Hardware

Having said that, I still prefer the build quality of the Nexus One (HTC-built) a bit more than the Nexus S (Samsung-built). Like the Windows Phone model I used (a Samsung Focus), the Nexus S feels a bit too plastic-y for my taste. It’s the same reason I liked the original iPhone design more than the iPhone 3G and 3GS. The plastic backs just feel cheap to me. And they’re awful to try to remove. It feels like I’m ripping the phone apart each time.

I am glad the Nexus S doesn’t feature that stupid ball that many Android phones (including the Nexus One) used to like to include. And the main feature of the device, the screen, is clearly nicer on the Nexus S versus the Nexus One. (Though the AMOLED display is still far too hard to read in sunlight, in my opinion.)

I’m not sure why the Nexus S feature a small nub that jets out of the back. I assume it’s for ergonomic reasons, but it seems pointless and looks silly, in my opinion.

The camera is great on the Nexus S. Not iPhone 4-great, but I’d say the second-best smartphone camera I’ve seen yet. Plus, the Nexus S also has a front-facing camera, something the Nexus One did not.

This is the fastest Android device I’ve used yet, but it’s not clear if that has more to do with the hardware specs (1 GHz Hummingbird processor) or because of Android 2.3. Scrolling seems smooth and I haven’t noticed any major lag aside from a few apps, which for now I’ll assume is more their own fault.

The touchscreen on the Nexus S also easily seems to be the best I’ve used on an Android phone so far. That has been one of the little things that the platform hasn’t been able to nail when compared to the iPhone. But here, they come very close. (Again, it’s hard to know if that’s the hardware or Android 2.3 in particular — likely a combination of the two.)

Sadly, perhaps the coolest hardware feature of the Nexus S, Near Field Communication (NFC), doesn’t have much use yet. But when it does, that could be huge for things like payments. Something tells me Apple might be deploying that feature as well in the future.

The few calls I’ve made on the Nexus S were rock solid. Unlike the iPhone, I didn’t experience any dropped calls, even when going indoors. Of course, the Nexus S is on T-Mobile while the iPhone is on that carrier that shall not be named. So it’s hard to compare the two.

The battery life of the Nexus S is pretty good, but not great. While it’s nowhere near as bad as the EVO, the Nexus S still seems to use way too much juice when it’s idle. Others have noticed this as well. As far as I can tell, this is a result of certain apps running the background. Android 2.3 brings improved app management, but that’s not a good sign if it’s still not killing processes in a way to preserve battery life.

Software

And let’s talk about the Android 2.3 Gingerbread software. While we had heard this past Summer that that Android team was “laser-focused” on improving the user experience of Android with 2.3, it would appear that this work has been pushed until Android 3.0 instead. Why do I say that? Because Android 2.3 really doesn’t look that much different from Android 2.2 at all.

Sure, there’s a little bit of polish here and there, but overall it’s the same Android you all know and tolerate.

To me, the key to Android 2.3 is that it does seem to run significantly smoother than its predecessors. And that’s saying something because Android 2.2 ran significantly smoother than Android 2.1. The Android team is clearly making good improvements in this regard quickly. Overall, the system is still not iPhone 4-smooth. But it’s getting very close.

In their review, Mike and Jason talked a bit about the keyboard improvements with Android 2.3. There is no question that the keyboard is better. But it’s still well behind the iPhone keyboard, in my opinion. It’s also behind the Windows Phone keyboard. It’s a little baffling to me that Google still hasn’t nailed this feature that is so key (or why they just haven’t bought a company like Swype).

And it’s not just typing. It’s the fact that they software keyboard often pops up over key portions of apps and doesn’t do a good job of directing you to the next input box which is probably being covered. I’ve seen this happen time an time again in Android. And 2.3 is sadly no different.

Also annoying is the lack of an orientation lock. Just about every app (besides games) I use in portrait mode. Yet when I’m using the Nexus S and walking, the device seems to love to kick me into landscape mode for no good reason. It has led to me swearing while I walk a lot more. Thankfully, that’s a pretty normal occurrence in the streets of San Francisco.

Sure, these may seem like little nits (and they are), but they are annoying little aspects that would stop me from switching from the iPhone to an Android phone. Apple is very good at nailing the small stuff. Google, it seems, is still working on overall larger polish and hasn’t moved on to many of the little things. Hopefully by Android 3.0 we can expect some of that.

The Google-made apps continue to be the killer apps of Android. Gmail, in particular, continues to be better than it is on the iPhone simply because there is no native iPhone Gmail app (though the rich mobile web version is very good). Things like Navigation and Voice Search also give you capabilities that you can’t get on the iPhone. Google Voice finally just came to the iPhone, but it’s still much better on Android because it’s seamlessly integrated into the entire system.

And then there’s the newest version of Google Maps. This is perhaps my favorite aspect of Android now. The latest version, which includes 3D buildings and the ability to spin maps around, runs loops around the iPhone version of Maps (which also uses Google Maps).

With the speed of Nexus S + Android 2.3, games seem to run more smoothly than ever on Android. I’ve tested out several popular games like Angry Birds, SliceIt, and Fruit Ninja, and all basically look and perform like they do on iOS. I will say that there is some lag though on games like Fruit Ninja for no apparent reason. Also in that game, it drives me insane when I swipe my finger across the screen and hit the soft home button on the Nexus S, dumping me out of the app.

A couple of the apps I use the most on my iPhone: Twitter and Foursquare, still lack to polish of their iOS counterparts. Twitter, even though they’ve made it look more like the iOS version, is still far behind it in terms of usability. The same is true with Foursquare. It just feels slower and I find myself hesitant to use it because of that. Instead, I dig for my iPhone. That’s not a good sign for Android.

The Android browser, meanwhile still suffers from weird zooming issues. Whereas when you double tap an area in Mobile Safari and the iPhone gracefully zooms in, on Android’s browser, it seems to stutter-step in. Further, I don’t get why Google still includes those silly plus and minus soft buttons for zooming into webpages. I get that it was for one-handed use, but you should be able to double-tap an area with your thumb to zoom just like you can on the iPhone.

All in all, the browser, while a million times better than the awful browser bundled with Windows Phone, still lags behind Mobile Safari.

My favorite part of the whole package from a software perspective may be the “off” animation. You click the side power button, and the screen shuts off as if it were an old television set. Pretty cool.

Intangibles

When Jason heard I was getting a Nexus S to try out, he (half) jokingly asked if I had already decided what I wouldn’t like about it. The truth is that I do try to go into using these devices with an open mind — but I also realize it’s an inherently biased one. I’ve been using the iPhone for well over three years now. I’m so accustomed to doing certain things on it that it is hard to try and do some things the “Android way”.

But I’m well aware of that. And I’ve logged plenty of Android hours. Sure, I’m more accustomed to the iPhone, but I could switch anytime I wanted to. But that’s the thing, I don’t want to. The iPhone experience is still overall a better one in my mind. It’s that simple.

Nexus S and Gingerbread continue the trend of Google improving Android as a steady pace, but they are still behind where Apple is with iOS 4.2 and the iPhone 4. This is true in both hardware and software. On paper, the devices line up nicely. In use, they still do not. As I said above, there are still too many small things that the iPhone nails that Android doesn’t even seem to think of at all. Google still seems more focused on getting the larger areas (like the Market) up to speed. Maybe that will change with Android 3.0 before the iPhone 5 hits, maybe it won’t.

Again, the Nexus S is a great device. And I would highly recommend it to any and all people who want an Android phone. One of the most striking things about it to me is just how much better it is than the crappy Android experience on devices like the EVO and Droid 2, compliments of the carriers.

In fact, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone would choose an Android device other than the Nexus S. Having a physical keyboard is the only excuse I can somewhat see. Maybe Verizon’s network — maybe. Otherwise, this is absolutely the one to get. Don’t buy the bullshit Verizon Droid marketing.

Droid doesn’t does. This does.

Well, it does against everything except the iPhone 4, of course. Maybe Russian Mickey Rourke can help with that.

More:

Source: An iPhone Lover’s Take On The Nexus S

‘No Refusal’ DUI Checkpoints Coming To Florida?

December 31st, 2010 12:02 admin View Comments

schwit1 writes “With New Year’s Eve only days away, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expects this to be one of the deadliest weeks of the year on the roads. But now a new weapon is being used in the fight against drunk driving. … Florida is among several states now holding what are called ‘no refusal’ checkpoints. It means if you refuse a breath test during a traffic stop, a judge is on site, and issues a warrant that allows police to perform a mandatory blood test.”

Source: ‘No Refusal’ DUI Checkpoints Coming To Florida?

How Space Jam’s Website Went Viral. Space Jam’s 1996 Website, That Is.

December 31st, 2010 12:53 admin View Comments

A couple of days ago Reddit user Jeff Ubelhor was talking to his friends about something or other and Space Jam, the movie starring Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan, came up (he swears they weren’t stoned). They checked on the website and realized that it hadn’t been touched since 1996. “From there I decided to post it on Reddit,” says Ubelhor “Because I thought it was hilarious, not only the design, but just how different Internet marketing was 14 years ago.”

The rest is Internet meme history. On December 29th, artist, professor and FAT Labs member Steve Lambert was given a link to the site by a student in his Hacking 101 class, posted it to the FAT Labs email list and tweeted it out as “The original Warner Brothers “Space Jam” movie website has been left untouched since 1996,“ his one time student, Buzzfeed founder and most viral human alive Jonah Peretti retweeted it, without giving him credit.

Both tweets were retweeted hundreds of times and the next thing you know Lambert was receiving emails like this:

From: “XXXXX”
Date: December 29, 2010 4:23:21 PM EST
To:

Subject: CBC News: SpaceJam tweet

Hi Steve,

I’m a reporter/anchor with CBC TV news in Toronto. Your SpaceJam tweet was trending locally for a couple of hours in Toronto, and was spread widely through our office. We’re going to a bit about it on our local supperhour newscast tonight.

Just wondering, do I credit you (through one of your students) as the originator of the tweet? Any comments on how many retweets you’ve generated?

Thanks,

XXXXX

And it wasn’t only Canadian TV stations that showed an interest. Since the Reddit post the site has been picked up by Buzzfeed (obviously), Huffington Post, Boing Boing, Geekosystem, Yahoo Sports, Slashfilm and countless others. Sister blog Urlesque, taking the phenomenon as evidence of a resurgence in interest in old movie sites, just published a post called “Old Official Movie Sites – Titanic, Air Bud, Event Horizon and More.” Sigh.

The original Reddit thread has over 2015 votes and 686 comments, including such meta and self-aware gems as “I wonder if we’re DDOSing a weakling 1996 server in an abandoned building somewhere right now” and “Browsing this on my droid x while moving 70mph. 1996 just shit their pants.”

Since Peretti and Lambert’s tweets, the bit.ly link has received over 57K total clicks, over 40K in one day. And that is just clicks on the link Peretti tweeted out which are nowhere near the traffic the site probably got all in all.  Peretti estimates that the Space Jam site could easily have garnered around 500K views since hitting the front page of Reddit shortly after midnight on Wednesday morning, and gleaning from my web editorial experience I’m pretty sure that number is in the right ballpark. I’ve reached out to Warner Bros for the exact traffic stats.

A lot changes in 14 years and some things don’t. While the site’s original designer Jen Braun is “still working on the web,” Assistant to the Designer Andrew Strachler is now VP of Interactive Marketing at Warner Bros.

In 2010, computers are faster, monitors are thinner, social networking has exploded and we are now browsing the web on our mobile phones, among other things. But we’re all still staring at this silly looking website from 1996.

You could just chalk up this week’s explosion of the Space Jam site to an extremely slow holiday news cycle, but it’s much more than that. We’re now in the very last hours of the most fast-paced decade ever technology-wise, and that is a little scary. In this era of Word Lens and Self-Driving Cars, perhaps some of us are more than a little nostalgic for simpler times when having a website, no matter how bad, was an achievement in itself.”

Source: How Space Jam’s Website Went Viral. Space Jam’s 1996 Website, That Is.

My 23-Year-Old Self Was Wrong About Salon.com. Like, Really Wrong.

December 31st, 2010 12:12 admin View Comments

A few hours to go until 2011, and I’m busy drawing up my list of New Year’s resolutions. A major one: to stop writing about TechCrunch commenters. After all, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, it’s like wrestling with a pig: you both get dirty and the pig enjoys it.

Still, that leave me just enough time – eight hours, and counting – to sneak in one last journey over to the dark side. And perhaps it’s fitting that the final salvo in my war against trolls has a happy ending. A Christmas miracle, even.

It began this past Christmas day when I wrote a short post wishing TechCrunch readers a merry Christmas. Sure enough, within a few hours, the usual rag-tag band of trolls, freaks and illiterates who skulk around in the TechCrunch commentsphere arrived. One responder jumped in to call me “A TOTAL f c k i n g RIGHT WING N U T C A S E†(caps theirs), adding “the twat doesn’t know shat about tech and worse doesn’t care for ‘PEOPLE’â€. Another (now deleted for reasons that will become clear in a moment) stood out for a couple of reasons: firstly, for addressing me as “bro†and secondly for his wish that I would “die a non-journalistâ€.

Wishing someone to die – journalist or not – struck me as a particularly un-Christmassy wish; so un-Chrismassy infact, that I felt driven to reply, pointing out the various misspellings in his comment and offer seasons’ greetings to TechCrunch’s “illiterate college student readership.â€

And that would normally be that. Generally speaking, anonymous trolls, like cockroaches, tend to scurry away the moment you shine a light on their idiocy.

But this is where the Christmas miracle kicked in. An few hours later I received an email – via the contact form on my personal website – from the commenter in question. I’m not going to tell you exactly what he wrote, suffice it to say that he wanted to say sorry. No, really.

Moreover, he wrote to say that, prompted by my sarcastic reply, he’d been driven to read some of the things I’d written in the past about trollishness and Internet anonymity and, more generally, my struggles with drinking and trying not to be a complete and total bastard. The result of his this reading had been a complete change of heart: the one-time troll felt like crap for being mean on the Internet, much like I feel bad for all the people I hurt while I was drinking.

I read the email at least half a dozen times before I could even start to think how to reply. Somehow our relationship had flipped on its head: now it was me who felt bad for being so quick to swat down his trollish comment. After all, even the most unpleasant little anonymous troll comment could have been written by a fundamentally good person who is having a bad day.

I sent my new friend a preview PDF of my new (to be published in 2011) book, partly as a way to say “apology accepted†but also to reassure him that, no matter how much of a shit he feels for wishing me dead on TechCrunch, he still has a long way to go before he can compete with me on the dickish behaviour front.

As I say, a Christmas miracle. And a reminder for everyone involved that the people we write about online are actually real people.

All of which got me thinking about my own trollish past, and reminded me that I still owe a correction – an apology even – for something I wrote almost eight years ago, back in 2003, during my very first stint writing for the Guardian. At the time I was 23 years old and so, of course, I knew everything there was to know, not just about media and technology but about the Whole Entire World. And it was with that authority that I wrote an 800 word column about how Salon.com – then a mere eight years old – was struggling to attract enough paid readers to break even. They’d spent an impressive $81 million dollars to attract a relatively modest 60,000 subscribers – $1,300 per ($30 a year) subscriber as I cockily pointed out.

How many Salon.com editors does it take to change a lightbulb? Ten. One to change the bulb and the other nine to piss $81m (£50m) up a wall. Not funny, but true.

And my mocking didn’t stop there. I went on to suggest that it was time for Salon to accept reality – that they’ve failed to prove that people want to pay for their particular brand of unremarkable journalism, and so should get out of the way and let other online publications have a chance to shine. Other online publications like the one, back in 2003, I just happened to be in the process of launching.

Even by my own 23-year-old standards, the column was screamingly disingenuous and mean spirited; spurred far more by my competitive instincts than by any honest appraisal of their prospects or standards of journalism.

“If you listen carefully you can almost hear the sound of money gurgling away. Advertisers’ money, investors’ money, subscribers’ money. Glug, glug, glug. It’s fair to say that had [Managing Editor, Scott] Rosenberg been the star of Brewster’s Millions, the film would have ended after about eight minutes.”

And so it’s appropriate then that over the next seven years, Salon enjoyed a near-constant succession of last laughs. Despite various false starts with paywalls and part-paywalls and “please help save independent journalism†pledge drives, they had their first profitable quarter in early 2005 and have kept their heads above water ever since. Not only that, but their journalism – both the quirky lifestyle stuff and their harder news reporting – has got better and stronger with every passing day. The publication reached another high point two weeks when Glenn Greenwald wrote a searing critique of the treatment of PFC Bradley Manning in Quantico. A week later, the United Nations announced an investigation into Manning’s treatment.

Along with Gmail, Arts and Letters Daily, the BBC and – oh, please – TechCrunch, it’s one of the five sites that I check every single day without fail. With 2011 looking sure to be the year of the iPad and ebook reader, it’s easy to see Salon.com becoming even more popular – and profitable – in the coming months.

So, yes, prompted by the Damascene conversion of one of my own former critics, I figured it’s about time I made amends for the trollish behaviour of my early-20s self. Sorry Salon, you were right and I was dramatically wrong and the landscape of online journalism is all the better for that fact.

Ok?

Ok.

Happy New Year everyone.

Source: My 23-Year-Old Self Was Wrong About Salon.com. Like, Really Wrong.

Four IT Consultants Charged With $80MM NYC Rip-Off

December 31st, 2010 12:09 admin View Comments

theodp writes “It’s I-told-you-so time for Slashdot commenter frnic, who smelled a crime last March after reading that New York City had dropped $722 million on its still-under-development CityTime Attendance System. Nine months later, US Attorney Preet Bharara charged ‘four consultants to the New York City Office of Payroll Administration … for operating a fraudulent scheme that led to the misappropriation of more than $80 million in New York City funds allocated for an information technology project known as “CityTime.”‘ Three of the four consultants were also charged — along with a consultant’s wife and mother — with using a network of friends-and-family shell corporations to launder the proceeds of the fraud. Dept. of Investigations Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn called it a shame that ‘supposed experts hired and paid well to protect the city’s interests were exposed as the fox guarding the hen house.’”

Source: Four IT Consultants Charged With $80MM NYC Rip-Off

OMG/JK: Shiny Hats And Crystal Balls

December 31st, 2010 12:35 admin View Comments


It’s time for a special New Years-themed edition of OMG/JK, and we’ve really gone all out with our costumes. From shiny hats to incredibly cheap kazoos, we’re ready to ring in 2011 with a bang. Oh, and we’ve got some technology to talk about.

Because there hasn’t been much major news in the tech world this week, we decided to spend most of the show discussing some of the big trends that are inevitably going to make headlines throughout 2011. From Apple’s likely push to the cloud to the consumer launch of ChromeOS and Android’s arrival on tablets we’ve got a lot to look forward to — and we’re not afraid to make some predictions.

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Source: OMG/JK: Shiny Hats And Crystal Balls

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