Durham Herald-Sun: Welcome to the 21st Century

January 29, 2008

When will local newspapers and those stuck in the “old” web ever learn. I tried to read a story about UNC basketball today in the local newspaper, the Durham Herald-Sun. I’d forgotten that every single story that you try to read on the DHS requires you to have a user name and password.

So instead of seeing my story, I got this screen.


Sure, I could have taken the time to create a user name and password. But undoubtedly I would have forgotten the password and also would have been hit with all kinds of Herald-Sun “offer spam”. It’s bad enough when old guard news/content companies require a login for premium content – and much worse when you have to do so to get a simple article.

I never made it past the inane password wall – no pageviews from these eyeballs – potential revenue thrown away b/c an old school newspaper company can’t reinvent itself. Remember Herald-Sun – open and free always wins.

It’s not 1998 anymore…


Xobni: First Impression Feedback

October 31, 2007

I spend a ton of time everyday in front of a computer. As an analyst in Durham, NC supporting two bankers who live and work in the New York Metro region, my daily lifeblood is heavily rooted in email.
So when I came across a company called Xobni which launched at TechCrunch40 and vows to make one’s inbox simpler and more efficient, I had to try.

By placing a little Xobni badge in my blogroll, I was able to secure a private beta version. I’ve been testing it out for about a week and love a lot of the functionality.

Below I’ve copied some thoughts I sent to the Xobni folks as feedback. I’ll let these comments do the talking for now. I’ve showed it to a couple colleagues here at the Bank and the response has been the same from everyone – “That’s awesome. How can I get that?” If that’s not a stamp of approval for a consumer facing tech company, I don’t know what is.

Pros (aka “things I love”):
– The search functionality that allows me to see the most recent history with a particular contact. I was using Google desktop search to find similar information before, but have found in a very short time that I’m changing my behavior and beginning to rely on Xobni. That’s such a key part of any consumer facing tech company, and I was amazed at how quickly I have become attached to Xobni Insight.
– The fact that when I highlight a contact, it gives me a list of documents that we’ve exchanged. Sort of a tangentially related part of the above point, but I think it’s such a huge value that it deserves its own bullet point.
– Email contact rankings – they’re just cool.
– The analytics – it’s been really insightful for me to see my email consumption and outflow patterns. I haven’t even scraped the surface of ways to use this data to create efficiencies – at this point it’s in the “wow, that’s cool…cool enough that I need to figure out how to make the most of this” stage, but will be a big part of how I hope to use Xobni Insight in the future.

Cons (aka “things I don’t love as much”)
– during the first couple days I noticed a bit of slowdown in Outlook performance and Outlook froze up 2-3 times; the freeze ups may or may not be related to Xobni, but seemed to correlate to when I installed. Haven’t had as much of a problem yet, and it’s more of a headache than a huge deal in my eyes. I’m sure this stability will only improve (likely exponentially) over time.
– The analytics – as much as I like seeing the numbers, I find myself hungering for more. More specifically, how do I take this data and somehow make sense of it all? Surely, the bulk of this falls on me as the user, but to the extent that the analytics can be beefed up – not necessarily with data, but with functionality (i.e. how do I make my Outlook life even better) – the stickier the solution becomes for everyone. This is not a complaint at all, more of a suggestion for where to throw some development work.

I’ll keep thinking and using – great stuff. Keep up the good work…


I’m Tumblin’

October 24, 2007

Signed up for the Tumblr service.  Basically it’s blogging lite, with an emphasis on ease of use.  They make it super easy to post short thoughts, links, videos, photos, etc.  And you can add feeds from your other web “properties” – i.e. this blog, your videos, your pictures, etc.

Testing it out to see how I like it.

Thoughts from LaGuardia

October 11, 2007

I’m stuck in LaGuardia airport right now, the victim of two different delays in attempting to get back to RDU. It’s still raining now, and I see an ominously large amount of flights on the big board with the unfortunate red letters “CANCELLED” next to them. Hoping that I won’t be the next victim…

I was somehow able to find a hit-and-miss wireless network in the food court area, which is the only thing that’s keeping me sane. I was able to get online and do a bit of work while waiting, but now my network connection to the Bank is down. So I tried catching up on last week’s episode of the Office. I had heard that NBC is allowing free full episodes on its website for a lot of its shows. Sure enough, I was able to fire up last week’s episode.

My connection is pretty spotty, which makes for several delays per minute – which can actually be kind of funny. See the screen shot below – it turned kind of pop-artsy, but still pretty cool.


Alas, I think my connection’s giving out on me 6 minutes into the episode…i’ll be working to get it back, and hoping even more to see RDU before midnight!

Facebook/Microsoft and “Truth Happens”

October 3, 2007

Apparently Steve Ballmer of Microsoft thinks that Facebook is a fad. And he’s not alone in this thinking.

While there’s certainly a lot about Facebook that is inherently faddy, the driving force behind Facebook (relationships…aka the social graph) is about as un-faddy as you can get.

Love Marc Andreesen’s thoughts on Ballmer’s view.

“I think these things [talking motion pictures] are going to have some legs, and yet there’s a faddishness, a faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people.”

“I think these things [televisions] are going to have some legs, and yet there’s a faddishness, a faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people.”

Reminds me of this great Red Hat video – indeed, Truth does Happen.

Jawbone – Making Bluetooth Cool Again

September 11, 2007

I’m not the biggest fan of Bluetooth headsets. It’s not so much that I dislike the headsets themselves (there’s certainly something to be said for the utility of hands free calling); rather, it’s the people who wear the sets in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or to the movies. Inevitably, these jokers end up talking into thin air (or at least that’s what we think!) and generally make everyone around them miserable.

Yet, I can’t help but think that Jawbone is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while. Basically it’s a souped up bluetooth headset that uses some sick technology developed for DARPA to rid ambient noise from the calling experience.

I didn’t know what to believe until I saw this demo.

It’s not cheap – I think around $120 – but definitely cool. Here’s to hoping this doesn’t create a new class of Jawboners willing to wear their earpieces while mowing their yards!

Nintendo Power

November 29, 2006

Nintendo is making a big push back into the console market – as my buddy Eller so astutely alluded to in a previous post.

It seems that even if consumers can’t pronounce the name of the new console, they’re happy to buy it. Nintendo has sold more than 600,000 consoles in the first 8 days of release in the Americas. Sets are being sold on eBay for 3-4 times the MSRP. And Nintendo has its supply chain in order and will be able to ship more consoles for the holiday rush than rival Sony.

Priced at less than half the price of the new PlayStation3, the Wii is banking on its unique motion sensitive controllers that allow users to become a part of the games. For a guy who grew up on the 8-bit Nintendo with it’s directional pad and two buttons, the idea of trading in an XBox or PS3 controller and it’s endless amounts of buttons for a motion sensitive controller is appealing. I saw a commercial this morning and would love to try it out.

It will be fun to watch the console wars play out over the next year.