Saturday, April 21, 2007

The two reasons people say no to your idea

"It's been done before" "It's never been done before"

Even though neither one is truthful, accurate or useful, you need to be prepared for both.


Ramp generates electricity from cars passing over it

Mark Frauenfelder: 200704181449 Here is a proposal for an energy generation system. The idea is to pump a generator when a car drives over panels attached to the generator.

I hope the people who came up with this idea realize that the energy they get from the generator will be less than the extra fuel the car must to burn to drive the generator. Link Jon-o says:

Mark mentions that this will just result in more gas being burned by cars, completely offsetting any power generated, but cars spend a lot of time *braking* as well -- if a device like this was put near the bottom of a downward slope, or somewhere else where cars need to slow down, it would be making use only of energy that would otherwise be wasted as heat in the brakes.
(Would this work for hybrid and electric cars that use regenerative braking, too? -- Mark)

Daniel says:

My first thought at seeing the title of your post on the electricity generating ramp was that it would be energy inefficient, but then I realized that if it were on a downhill where you would be breaking anyway, it doesn't matter if it slows your car down - it's a little side benefit and less wear on your breaks. Their YouTube video of it is stupid and wasteful, but the idea doesn't have to be. Also, using it as a speedbump as implied by the article is another bonus, in areas where that's necessary.


US exposes 1000's of SSNs for years in web-accessible database

Xeni Jardin: Tens of thousands of social security numbers belonging to Americans who received loans or financial assistance from the government were exposed for years in a publicly accessible database. Snip from New York Times article:
Officials at the Agriculture Department and the Census Bureau, which maintains the database, were evidently unaware that the Social Security numbers were accessible in the database until they were notified last week by a farmer from Illinois, who stumbled across the database on the Internet.

“I was bored, and typed the name of my farm into Google to see what was out there,” said Marsha Bergmeier, president of Mohr Family Farms in Fairmount, Ill.

The first link that appeared in the search results was for her farm’s Web site. The second was for a site that she had never heard of,, which provides a searchable database of federal government expenditures. The site uses information from the Census database.

Ms. Bergmeier said she was able to identify almost 30,000 records in the database that contained Social Security numbers. “I was stunned,” she said. “The numbers were right there in plain view in this database that anyone can access.”


Reader comment: Gabriela says,

I saw your post on BoingBoing about the USDA privacy breach that The New York Times reported and wanted to let you know The Sunlight Foundation just unveiled a new project -- Real Time Investigations – that also had exclusive coverage of this story and blogged about it moments before the Times piece ran.

Real Time Investigations is an open source journalism effort that reveals the behind-the-scenes research involved in petitioning the federal government to make its information more accessible to citizens, constituents and journalists. We first learned of the extraordinary privacy breach by the USDA when a user of, an online database of government spending created by OMB Watch and funded by us last year, reported it to OMB Watch late last week.


Download Multiple Flickr Pictures in a Batch [Original Images, not Resized Thumbnails]

Allagappan from NIT Trichy is looking for some Flickr mass downloader tools to help him choose and download Flickr images in bulk from website to the hard-drive. It's so surprising that Flickr doesn't provide an official tool for downloading images from their website but thanks to the API, Flickr enthusiasts have developed some excellent Flickr Photo downloading tools and our favorite is Downloadr. Download Flickr Pictures in Bulk Think of Downloadr as an offline browser for Flickr photos. [Get Downloadr Windows only, ~300kb zip] With Downloadr, you can search, browse and batch download multiple Flickr pictures based on image tag (s), Flickr username, Groups Pools, Flickr user sets or even Interesting Flickr pictures of any particular day. Images are fetched only from public Flickr photostreams though you have an option to authenticate and download your private Flickr pictures via Downloadr. The developer homepage is in German but the tool itself has an English interface. More discussion on the Flickr groups. If you are using Flickr, Downloadr is a must have utility. Related Flickr search tools - FlickrCash, Flickr Leech
© 2007 Digital Inspiration - Technology, à la Carte | Subscribe | About Us


Friday, April 20, 2007

Google Web Conferencing Software has Full Screen Video and Application Sharing

Google has officially entered the turf of WebEx, Microsoft Live Meeting and Adobe Connect with the acquisiton of Marratech, a web and video conferencing company based in Sweden. There's a possibility that Google will integrate Marratech web conferencing features into Google Apps Primer and Google Office to make these "virtual office" offerings more complete and compelling for the corporate world. The Marratech video conferencing client is done in Java and available for Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. But it is possible to participate in Marratech meetings via the web browser without downloading the Marratech client. Currently, the Marratech client is free while companies are required to license their server software. Like other web conferencing software, Marratech allows users to hold virtual e-meetings and share application sceens, webpages, images and documents in the Whiteboard area. Participants can use annotation tools like pointers and markers to highlight presentations or draw on the screen. Marratech video conferencing client allows participants to see other in real time using web cameras. All participants can record and playback the entire net meeting including voice, video and whiteboard.Download Marratech brochures - Client, Server
© 2007 Digital Inspiration - Technology, à la Carte | Subscribe | About Us


ImageKind Scores Partnership With Flickr

When we wrote about Photo printing site ImageKind in February, the company said they were close to announcing a large portal distribution partnership.

Earlier this month a reader suggested to us that the partnership might be with Flickr based on some code that appeared on the ImageKind site that accessed the Flickr API. Today, that reader turned out to be right - Flickr launched integration with ImageKind. Flickr users can now create very high quality framed prints of their photos for themselves, or sell them through an online store. More information on the Flickr partners page where they also show the moo, qoop and Zazzle integrations…

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Groundbreaking Study estimates size of Stock Footage Industry at $282 million

(source: ) ACSIL Global Survey of Stock Footage Companies 2007 provides an inside look at footage industry

New York, NY, April 2, 2007. The Association of Commercial Stock Image Licensors (ACSIL) has completed the ACSIL Global Survey of Stock Footage Companies 2007, a comprehensive and detailed examination of the issues and challenges faced by leaders in the footage-licensing field.

Coming in at 259 pages, the report covers a broad spectrum of critical topics including:

  • the state of digitization;
  • the nature of current license agreements and rights packages;
  • the emergence of new markets and customer types;
  • changes in order volume; and
  • current approaches to marketing and new business development.

In addition to survey data collected from 67 key footage companies, the Global Survey includes an analysis and index of the global stock footage industry by estimated revenues, content type, web-functionality and region.

"This report allows individual companies to understand their own performance within the context of the broader industry," said ACSIL Co-President David Sheehan. "And to have so many participants share information is one of the many delightful outcomes of commissioning this study."

The Global Survey takes a bottom-up approach to estimating the dollar size of the total footage industry, focusing specifically on a group of 355 active, commercial footage companies/departments identified as part of the study. The estimate of total industry annual revenue ($282 million) is built from the sum of the individual revenue estimates applied to each company.

"There is so much information in the report and the synthesis is really a joy to read," said Peter McKelvy, Vice President of Footage and Music Services, Discovery Communications Inc. "For me, educating an executive team in a large company about the footage sales business, this report will be invaluable."

The industry was also analyzed based on a variety of other aspects including geographic distribution. For example, 48% of the companies analyzed in the Global Survey are based in the United States, accounting for $170 million in gross revenue or 60% of the global market. 24% are based in the UK, accounting for $63 million.

Please visit for more information on obtaining a copy of the report.


Founded as a non-profit trade association in early 2003 by a group of leading stock footage companies and news agencies in the United States, ACSIL is focused solely on the commercial interests of the stock footage industry, and meeting the demand for market data on this industry is central to ACSIL's mission.

About Thriving Archives

Thriving Archives is a market research and business development consultancy focused on addressing the unique challenges faced by stock footage companies.


Publishing site Lulu partners with Getty Images

Published: April 19, 2007, 7:02 AM PDT, a site that lets members publish, print and sell their own books, has entered into a multiyear agreement with stock-photo giant Getty Images.

In this deal, Getty will provide its royalty-free--but still copyright-protected--image database to Lulu so that its members can use the contents in their self-published books, photo books and calendars. Lulu has emphasized the copyright-friendly nature of the agreement, explaining in a release that the high-resolution version of a Getty image is not "married" to a Lulu book until right before production. This way, according to Lulu, digital rights management restrictions on the stock images are honored.

Partnering with a company that specializes in copyrighted images is somewhat unusual for a company like Lulu, whose roots are definitively open source. The self-publishing site was founded by Robert Young, who co-founded Red Hat Linux along with Marc Ewing in 1994.

In addition to offering self-publishing on demand to members, Lulu has also sold titles from the Internet Archive's Open Library, considered by some to be an open-source equivalent to Google's controversial Library Project.

ulu touts 200,000 recently published titles with more than 5,000 additions each week. In addition to selling self-published books, the site also offers e-books, CDs, DVDs, and music and software downloads, with editorial and copyright control in the hands of the individual publisher. There's no fee to publish on Lulu, but the site does take a commission from each sale.

The Getty database will be available to Lulu members beginning this summer.

FlickrCash similarly offers FREE, LICENSED images from Flickr TODAY


VA Tech shootings: world perspective

News veteran and media sage Dan Gillmor has a thoughtful op-ed online today about online, "conversational media" response to the Virginia Tech shootings, and what's different this time. Snip:
I didn’t turn on my TV yesterday except in the evening, to watch a national network’s news report. I wanted to see a summary of what a serious journalism organization had to say about what it knew so far.

Instead, during the day, I used the online media — including the major news sites — to get the latest information, sifting it, making judgments about credibility and reliability as I read and watched and listened. That, too, is the future in many cases. It’s also worth noting that the citizen media component of this terrible event is not a new to the digital era. When President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas back in 1963, Abraham Zapruder caught the gruesome killing on a home movie camera — footage that became an essential part of the historical record. But the difference between then and tomorrow is this: In 1963, one man with a camera captured the event on film. In a very few years, a similar situation would be captured by thousands of people — all holding high-resolution video cameras — and all of those cameras would be connected to high-speed digital networks.


Academy Award-winning film released under Creative Commons

A reader writes, In 1997, a Dewey-Obenchain film crew accompanied an Interplast volunteer surgical team to An Giang province in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. The filmmakers donated their services to document the team's experiences and produce "A Story of Healing," which earned the 1997 Academy Award for best documentary, short subject. The 28-minute film is followed by a short epilogue (after the credits) which follows-up on two patients 16 months after their surgeries.

Ten years later, Interplast is proud to announce that "A Story of Healing," has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommerical-No Derivatives license (by-nc-nd) and is available for free online.

It should be a no-brainer, especially for mission-driven non-profits, but this is the first time that an Academy Award winning film has been licensed under any Creative Commons license.


Moo launches notecards

Moo, the killer printers who make custom, kid-sized business-cards from your Flickr stream, Second Life, or Habbo stuff, have just launched a new product: note cards.

Moo Note Cards are little note-sized cardboard sheets, with envelopes, that are printed with your Flickr pix. Just like with Moo Cards, you can pick a different image for every card. I ran out of business cards a couple months ago and switched to my Moo Cards and I've never gotten so many compliments. The print quality is superb, and I love that each one has a little story for the picture I took for it.

Well, to put it bluntly, we miss mail. Not email - we get that by the bucketload - but real post. Post that isn’t a utility bill or something boring. So we dreamed up NoteCards - square prints made from up to 16 of your own photos or designs. They have a magic folding-flap down one side, to make them stand up proudly on your bookshelf or windowsill, and they’re the perfect size to mail to friends...

You can personalise the back of your cards in two different ways. There’s 6 lines of larger text for a main message, and at the bottom of the cards, there’s 4 lines of small text, for things like a photographers credit, the name of the photo, or your website url.


Google Makes It Easier For Sites To Cut Off Free Publicity

Google's found itself on the end of some lawsuits from people who aren't happy that it links to their web content, usually making the off-base accusation that Google's somehow stealing their content, rather than realizing it makes it more valuable by making it easier to find. While a robots.txt file or the use of meta tags already gave web masters a relatively simple way to keep their content out of Google and other search engines, that apparently wasn't enough, so Google has beefed up its site removal tools, giving webmasters several new ways and options to control how their pages are indexed and displayed in its results. Will this stop the lawsuits and complaints? That's doubtful, since the existing ability for site owners to get themselves taken out of Google's results wasn't enough. Furthermore, it seems like this could open up a new avenue of complaints for Google, since it gives third parties the ability to have pages removed from Google's cache or have pages that contain personal information removed from the index. Anything Google does is unlikely to make much difference, since its power and riches makes it an attractive target for lawsuits. Meanwhile, it would also seem that anything Google does won't make some site owners understand how it and other search engines are their friends, not their foes.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

VA Tech Tragedy Response Reveals Force of Web

It’s been impossible not to spend hours following links to all the publicly accessible sources of information about the Virginia Tech shootings over the last couple days. Facebook and MySpace pages, LiveJournals, and Flickr give us back story and the unfiltered play-by-play.

Social web tools are a way of life for young people. And amidst ad hoc discussions on Fark, Digg, and many blogs, Facebook in particular emerged as a hub for transmission of information. “Social network” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Hard news is hard to come by, and except for the press conferences, big media outlets are getting their information from scouring the same web pages as we are (and now, “multimedia manifesto” packages received in the mail). As NewTeeVee writer Jackson told me, “I daresay that for the most part I wasn’t any less informed or up to date than your average anchormonkey.”

User-generated content and traditional media work well together in some cases — MSNBC’s profiles of victims, many based on comments left on its own site — and seem totally screwed up in others — CNN buying the “exclusive” rights to Jamal Albaughouti’s campus cell phone footage (as reported by Jeff Jarvis).

Dan Gillmor writes, “We used to say that journalists write the first draft of history. Not so, not any longer. The people on the ground at these events write the first draft.” It actually sounds pretty similar to Mark Zuckerberg’s idea of Facebook as the new publisher.

Tools like Facebook have been so closely ingrained in young people’s lives, they’ve made expressing yourself online feel innate. And on Monday, they were where students, facing jammed cell phone networks and disperse networks of people who care about them, announced they were alive. “I’m ok” is probably the simplest, most primal form of communication there is.

“Since the launching of Facebook, there’s probably nothing that has impacted the college audience as this has,” Facebook spokesperson Brandee Barker told the Los Angeles Times.

In many cases this happened through groups that are publicly accessible, in part so people who don’t attend Virginia Tech could see them. And on these same message boards on the highly organized and easily searchable site, reporters arrived looking for sources, and were derided — appropriately, in many cases — as vultures looking for a soft spot of a carcass.

Despite the fact that students were expressing themselves to the world, they didn’t want someone else to come in and retool those expressions for another venue. Despite the utter lack of privacy of the public forum of user-generated content, mourners expected to be left in peace. And the standard brusque “no comment” was expressed in a public forum, accessible to all. It’s a strange dynamic, one that will no doubt figure into the future of both news and personal expression.


Amazon sues Alexaholic…everyone loses!

April 18th, 2007
posted by Alan Graham @ 2:02 pm

Imagine this scenario…

You're CEO of a $16 billion company and you've just given a warm and fuzzy sales pitch to thousands of up and coming Web 2.0 developers, trying to convince them to use your new web services. The presentation goes swimmingly well and you sit down for a congenial chat with a legendary web maven. The next thing you know, you've gone from friendly chat to facing what could possibly turn into a hostile audience, all because you have a little secret…


As Tim O'Reilly closed his Web 2.0 Q & A session with Jeff Bezos, the folks in the audience were treated to what could be called a "cringe moment" as O'Reilly asked Bezos point blank about the whole Alexa versus Alexaholic (now Statsaholic) controversy.

O'Reilly, being the egalitarian champion of new and disrupting technologies, did the right thing and asked Bezos why a company like Amazon couldn't just embrace Alexaholic and find a way to simply "get along?"

Bezos seemed to be caught completely off guard by this question and tried to explain Alexa's stand with that age old "intellectual property" and "trademark" line. It was clear that all O'Reilly wanted to see was a shift in Alexa's policies, to be more open with the Web 2.0 community, and to hopefully foster an amicable solution for a service that he really liked and respected. That being Statsaholic.

However, what no doubt made Bezos so uncomfortable, is that he wasn't really sure what the next question out of O'Reilly's mouth might be, or where he might be going with this topic. Could O'Reilly know what he knew, that only a handful of people were even aware of? That Alexa had filed a lawsuit against Alexaholic and its creator, Ron Hornbaker, on March 26th in a Federal District court?

[Note: The link to download these documents can be found at the end of this piece.]

Who can blame him for being uncomfortable? Here he is sitting in a room full of small developers who depend on open APIs and mashups, and at any moment the crowd could learn what Bezos already knew…that a small Web 2.0 developer, like many in the audience, was about to be legally spanked into oblivion to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Not really the audience you want to have turn on you when your own business strategy relies on the support of these smaller companies.


Let's step back a little bit for some perspective.

Back in February of 2006, Ron Hornbaker, who was frustrated by how clumsy and clunky Alexa's website was, created a more efficient DHTML and Alexa graph data mashup and dubbed it Alexaholic. As word spread throughout the web community, Alexaholic started to gain a reputation as an excellent tool, and was for many a representation of what Alexa should be like.

Two months or so after the launch, Hornbaker got a call from Geoffery Mack, the Product Manager at Alexa. He felt a bit of dread wondering if he had drawn the ire of the mighty Alexa and even mightier Amazon. Was he about to be shut down? Much to his surprise, Mack was very complimentary of what Hornbaker had put together and went so far as to even give a bit of a backhanded compliment to Alexaholic in their corporate blog, saying:

"Our enhancements may not be as cool as Alexaholic, but they are a significant improvement."

One commenter on the post even went as far as to ask:

"Is there a way (API) to get the info from Alexa in order to create a site similar to Alexaholic?

Does Alexa share this info"

There was no reply.

In the meantime, Alexa continued to make improvements to their site, many of which were seen to be directly copied from Alexaholic.


Flash forward to March of this year and Alexa's attitude had cooled towards Alexaholic. Trouble in paradise became apparent to many on the web when Alexa filed a URDP complaint with ICANN to get the domain taken away from Hornbaker because it contained the word "alexa" in it.

Thinking he could resolve this problem with a simple domain name change, Hornbaker changed the site to Statsaholic. This didn't seem to appease Alexa, who began to disrupt Statsaholic services by blocking Alexa graphs from appearing on the site. Not content to simply shut off access to Hornbaker (who admittedly was playing a defiant game of cat and mouse with Alexa), Alexa and Amazon upped the ante by filing a lawsuit against Hornbaker in Northern California District Federal court (Case number - C 07-01715 RS).

At first glance, it does seem that Alexa has a decent case to make when it comes to taking their IP and trademarked materials. However when you read the 43 page complaint, some interesting things pop out and make you wonder if this is really such a cut and dry case of infringement?

One excerpt in particular that catches my eye is:

"Unfortunately, Mr. Hornbaker has refused to stop trading off the Alexa name. And he has deliberately circumvented every attempt by Alexa to block him from stealing its traffic graphs."

a few lines later we have:

"Through this lawsuit, Alexa seeks to force Mr. Hornbaker to stop infringing Alexa's trademarks and to stop pirating Alexa proprietary data."

There are two things I find interesting about these statements. First, thousands upon thousands of websites link to Alexa graphs, which is one reason their site is so popular in the first place. Looking over large sites like O'Reilly and Paul Kedrosky's (who called Alexaholic "marvy") Infectious Greed, I found several "stolen" traffic graphs. Will Alexa now target anyone who places Alexa data in their sites?

However the biggest thing that bothers me about this whole situation is that Alexa gets all of its statistical and proprietary data that it uses for its graphs from volunteers. Millions of people have voluntarily downloaded and installed the Alexa toolbar in their web browser. To quote Alexa's own site:

"Alexa could not exist without the participation of the Alexa Toolbar community. Each member of the community, in addition to getting a useful tool, is giving back. Simply by using the toolbar each member contributes valuable information about the web, how it is used, what is important and what is not. This information is returned to the community as Related Links, Traffic Rankings and more."

So this magnanimous statement of fact that Alexa could not exist without the help of…well essentially us…slaps in the face of common decency when you take into consideration that millions of people who give that data to Alexa, essentially don't have the right to use it, especially if we do it in a way that displeases Alexa, like say, building a better Alexa. This doesn't really foster a sense of goodwill, and makes me wonder: with this attitude, why does anyone give them anything?

Without volunteers, they simply don't exist as a company. As for Amazon, you have a multi-billion dollar company trying to convince smaller companies who are in the business of open APIs and mashups, to use their web services. But it can't sit well with these smaller companies that they could be paying Amazon money and are only one acquisition away from becoming Amazon's next legal target.

More from the court documents:

"1. This is a complaint for an injunction, damages, and other appropriate relief to stop Mr. Hornbaker from:

a) using Alexa's name and trademarks, without permission and in bad faith, to profit from the website linked to the Internet domain name ; and

b) stealing Alexa's proprietary data by disregarding the rules for Alexa's Web Services–through which Alexa makes certain proprietary data available in exchange for a fee–and instead simply taking the data and graphs he wants without permission."

According to Hornbaker'a blog, after learning about the URDP filing by Alexa, he switched the domain to Statsaholic, and re-directed Alexaholic to the new domain. He later learned from his attorney that the redirect was a sticking point for Alexa, so he took out the redirect and instead left a web page that simply said:

Alexaholic is now Statsaholic

Please find Statsaholic at

What bothers me here is that Mr. Hornbaker changed the name of his site from Alexaholic to Statsaholic before this lawsuit was filed, and the simple fact that Alexa is now saying anyone who takes a graph without permission is a thief. Well that makes thousands…perhaps millions of people around the world, thieves.

Another interesting claim in the suit:

"Upon information and belief, Defendent's registration and use of Infringing Domain Name is designed to capitalize on the goodwill associated with the Alexa trademarks"

I would go as far as to say that Alexaholic earned its good will in spite of Alexa. It is clear from numerous postings around the web, that Alexaholic was an outstanding service. In fact, to many people, more useful than Alexa itself.

Then there is this:

"65. Defendants conduct has caused and will continue to cause damage to Alexa and an illicit gain of profit to Defendant, and is causing irreparable harm to Alexa for which there is no adequate remedy under the law."

Excuse me? Little Ron Hornbaker…is causing giant Alexa irreparable harm? And the question that really begs to be asked is that why all of a sudden, over a year later, when Alexa had ample opportunity to address this issue, did they decide to do it now? The simple fact of the matter is that Ron Hornbaker built a better Alexa and as soon as it started to gain traction, and Alexa had already borrowed all the ideas it wanted from Alexaholic, they no longer needed it. Essentially, what Alexa wants from the lawsuit is to take ownership of the Alexaholic domain, stop Ron Hornbaker from accessing their site without written permission, damages which will go well into the hundreds of thousands, pay their legal fees, and crawl into a hole somewhere and never show his head again.

Is this how we work together in this shiny new world of Web 2.0? Now I know that Alexa will take the position that they have certain intellectual property and a trademark issue. They will claim that people will mistake Statsaholic with Alexa. But the simple fact that we've seen time and time again is that companies that lock themselves behind walls fail, and companies who open their technology in the spirit of cooperation succeed. Can you imagine the state of the internet today if Google had kept all their API's hidden from the world, impossible to access and mashup? What if, as Tim O'Reilly postulated…Google had gone left instead of right? What if instead of saying "cool" when the first mashups started popping up, Google instead called in their lawyers? What would the web look like now if that had happened?

What Alexaholic/Statsaholic did was take a service that many people complained about and made it useful again. Alexa was suffering from a reputation that its data was not a really good reflection of what went on on the web. However, Ron Hornbaker had challenged that idea and actually championed Alexa. In Alexa's own suit they have a screen shot of this text from the Alexaholic Site:

Five Reasons to Like Alexa Traffic Data

Some criticize Alexa traffic data, saying that since it comes only from users with the Alexa toolbar installed, it must be worthless. While making sense on the surface, this line of thinking is misguided. Here are five reasons you should like Alexa:

  1. Alexa is currently the best source for free and public comparative Web user traffic data.
  2. Newbies with the Alexa Toolbar are not the only source of data. Firefox users with Craig Raw's cool SearchStatus extension should note that their browsing behavior is similarly being phoned-home to Alexa, and included in the statistics you see here.
  3. Statistical significance is attainable with only a small subset of the population – ask a pollster or a high school math teacher.
  4. Alexa's blazing-fast graph rendering engine absolutely rocks. Think about the mountains of data Alexa is working with on the backend, and all the possible permutations of graph content and size that prevent widespread caching, and I think you'll agree that their engineers brought their A-game to this one.
  5. The key is "comparative" traffic data. If you want to know exactly how many page views and visitors your site is getting, get a good webserver log analysis tool. But if you want to quickly compare your site's traffic to your competitors' sites' traffic, Alexa is your friend.

Does this sound like someone to you who wanted to cause Alexa irreparable harm? I'd say it shows a person who wanted to share something great with the world and in fact what Alexaholic did for many people was to change their view of Alexa data. If anything, Ron Hornbaker may have saved Alexa from a lot of continued skepticism.

What this situation smacks of isn't simply another David and Goliath IP and trademark issue. As Om Malik has pointed out, it is likely we are looking at the end Web 2.0's Age of Innocence. While Alexa looks on the surface to have a pretty strong case, it is Alexa and really Amazon who loses in the court of public opinion, as it becomes harder and harder to sell your services to people who could likely earn your ire.

In the end there does seem to be a bit of hubris in standing up in front of a crowd of potential customers at a conference about being "open," tell them how great you are, and ask for their money…while you happen to be suing one of them for being better at your business than you are.


My final thought in all this is simple. Yes, Alexa probably has a very strong case here, and if taken to the logical conclusion, could win, not only shutting down Statsaholic, but also taking out Ron Hornbaker in the process. And this just doesn't sit well with me since Alexa basically asks the world to volunteer data to their services, which they in turn sell back to us. No volunteers, no Alexa. I think when you expect the door to only swing one way, you are asking for a fair amount of bad karma from the Web 2.0 community…and you deserve it.


eBay Just Reports Great Q; May Be Acquiring Stumbleupon

stumbleupon.png TechCrunch and Gigaom are speculating that eBay is on the verge of acquiring tool bar company Stumbleupon for $40-50M. As it happens, eBay just reported a great quarter and Meg Whitman will be on CNBC and other channels where we might hear here discuss Stumbleupon if indeed that goes down.

StumbleUpon is a simple bar that suggests sites based on your surfing habits and how they compare to other StumbleUpon users. If indeed eBay bought Stumbleupon the reason would most likely be access to a rapidly growing user base. Users could Stumbleupon products for sale on eBay. Already the company embeds sponsor sites in some of its search results. With Stumbleupon's user base doubling large numbers so frequently $40M could become a cheap customer acquisition spend. We would also expect eBay to marry Stumbleupon with Skype.

Calgary-born, SF-based StumbleUpon had raised $2M in angel funding from Google board member Ram Shriram, and angels Ariel Poler, Mitch Kapor and Ron Conway.

eBay seems to have a spring back in its step. Today, its first-quarter profit surged 52%, helped by higher average selling price of goods sold and more growth at Paypal. Skype saw revenue more than double to $79M.


Which Color Do You Prefer?

augustine fou dr augustine fou Just for fun... made by Create Your Own WIRED Cover Tool


Nifty and dangerous: FlickrCash

from StockPhotoTalk | Special Interest Blog by Andy Goetze

Flickrcash One of the tools for Flickr I noticed recently but then lacked the time to dig deeper into is FlickrCash, finally online since March 03 this year. Here´s a quick roundup.

As FlickrCash´s founder Augustine Fou puts it, using Flickr´s API "FlickrCash turns Flickr into the world´s largest stock image marketplace by helping image buyers more efficiently find images and image owners to sell them, by accepting payments for them and archiving licenses for public inspection".

To get the basic idea, you can view here for example the impressive Sunset Lightbox of FlickrCash´s developer Jesse Skinner, or watch the FlickrCash demo.

read more at StockPhotoTalk


smashed through 200,000 on Alexa, 1,000 registered users


Monday, April 16, 2007

Coghead Announces 17,000 Developers Building Applications Visually

from TechCrunch by Michael Arrington
Silicon Valley based Coghead is making a bit of a splash today at the Web 2.0 Expo. They’re officially launching, although it’s largely ceremonial: they’ve been open to the public since October 2006. I wrote in detail about Coghead last year. The company competes in the “online access” space (a reference to Microsoft Access). We’ve written about Coghead competitors in the past, including Dabble DB, Zoho Creator and WyaWorks. The primary use of these products is to create business applications that deal with everything from task tracking through to purchase orders. What is special about CogHead is that users building applications with the product require less technical skills because the process is (mostly) all drag-and-drop and visual. CogHead is unique because of just how easy it is to create forms, views and apps - the design view allows users to create fields by dragging and dropping them onto a form. The user can lay the fields out and place them on the page, making the application they build more user friendly and easier on the eyes. Building the logic behind the forms is also a graphical process, the user takes objects and actions and drags them into a flow chart that is similar to a data-flow or logic diagram. There are a number of starter applications to help users get comfortable with the platform. Coghead is also announcing today that 17,000 developers are now working on the platform. The company has raised $11.2 million in two rounds of venture capital from American Capital Strategies Ltd., SAP Ventures and El Dorado Ventures. They have 21 employees in their Silicon Valley headquarters and another 15 in China.


Boonty: The Casual Gamer's Playground

Boonty brings a new wrinkle to the crowded online video game space. Somewhat surprising, the most avid consumer of online games is the 25-45 year old female demographic. These long time causal gamers have taken their gaming habits online. Boonty accommodates them with a free, multiplayer platform that lets individuals enjoy retail-quality games in a community atmosphere with advanced features, such as in-game chatting. Most of these features are integrated in the recently launched beta version of Boonty's treats each game as a social opportunity. The site's library comprises high-quality casual games specifically designed to feature maximum community functionality. Membership is free, and players can enjoy private and public game rooms, multiplayer chat, and personalization capabilities such as avatar creation and item-level purchases for game play enhancement. With one billion people online worldwide, Boonty CEO Mathieu Nouzareth believes his market is enormous and plans to monetize the platform by selling virtual goods.'s gold-coin microtransaction economy provides a clever ay to monetize the social networks springing up around specific games. When players run out of lives or turns, want to harass an opponent, or stock up on additional ammunition , they can purchase additional goods. The business model lets the teeming masses further growth without demanding up-front subscriptions or full-game purchases. Micropayments are the quarters of the virtual game-playing world. (source:


Fotowoosh Will Turn Any Picture Into A 3D Image

from TechCrunch, written by: Michael Arrington Fotowoosh, a new service from Maryland-based startup Freewebs, will turn any image (preferably an outdoor image) into a 3D model. They went live on Friday. Examples of what the service can do are above (along with the original 2D images. A video is here which shows more examples.

The 3D image is constructed in Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) format, meaning you currently need a VRML reader to see it (future browsers will likely build this functionality in). In a week or so, the company say, users will be able to upload a picture and have a 3D animated image returned to them in a Flash widget that can be embedded on any website. When you upload an image to Fotowoosh, their software tears it apart and distinguishes the sky, ground and vertical elements within the photo, then cuts and folds it into a 3D model: Our system automatically constructs simple “pop-up” 3D models, like those one would find in a children’s book, out of a single outdoor image. The system labels each region of an outdoor image as ground, vertical, or sky. Line segments fitted to the ground-vertical boundary in the image and an estime of the horizon’s position provide the necessary information to determine where to “cut” and “fold” in the image. The model is then popped up, and the image is texture mapped onto the model. This is the creation of Derek Hoiem, a PhD candidate in Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, who’s now working with the company. Additional information on the intellectual property behind Fotowoosh is here and here (these links auto-download a pdf and a powerpoint document). Microsoft is working on something related to this in their Live Labs group called Photosynth (more information here). The product will construct a 3D model based on lots of photos of the same thing or general area from different angles. Freewebs raised $11 million in venture capital in August 2006 from Columbia Capital and Novak Biddle. The company’s main product is a website building tool that draws 18 million or so visitors per month. Shervin Pishevar, the company’s president, say that Fotowoosh will be a standalone service, and they’ll also integrate it with offerings from partners as well as the Freewebs service itself.


Google gets big company disease?

from Scobleizer - Tech Geek Blogger by Robert Scoble The two guys who started Dodgeball leave in a hissy fit. Google bought Dodgeball in mid-2005. Dodgeball was the pre-cursor to Twitter and Jaiku (albeit a bit more focused on just cell phones than either of those newer services are). Last summer it was the rage with many of the San Francisco cool kids, er, influencers. I remember Irina and Eddie using it almost non stop on our trip to Montana. So, why didn’t Google get it enough to give these two more resources? Easy. Same reason I couldn’t convince Microsoft to buy Flickr before Yahoo did. It’s a small thing. A stupid thing. A lame thing. Big companies have trouble grokking small things like Dodgeball. Heck, how many of you have called Twitter “really lame” in the past two months? Tons! More evidence that Google is having difficulty getting small things? I heard a rumor that Google executive Marissa Mayer almost killed the Google Reader team because she didn’t think it would get popular. Feed readers are still “small things.” Seeing business value in them is difficult. It seems that management is trying to get a handle on the chaos that is Google but in doing so is removing some of what made Google attractive to entrepreneurial developers. What are you hearing from your Google friends?


HTC subsidiary will sell 3.5G data cards

from Engadget by Evan Blass
Not content with simply making some of the best smartphones on the planet, Taiwanese powerhouse HTC is now looking to get into the data card game, with the company prepping a new HSDPA card through its BandRich subsidiary. The C100, as it's known, will offer download speeds up to 7.2Mbps where available, and is said to be just the first of many mobile modems BandRich is planning. DigiTimes is reporting that the C100 will be priced north of €200 ($269), so although we don't yet know when/where these are gonna drop, it looks like you'll have to part with at least a few C notes if this model lands in your neck of the woods.[Via jkOTR]


Most sophisticated Flickr/CC mashup yet

from Creative Commons, written by Mike Linksvayer, April 15th, 2007

FlickrCash uses the Flickr API to search by CC license, build lightboxes, and keep a record of licensed photos you intend to use.

Augustine Fou, creator of FlickrCash, tells us:

I created FlickrCash because I found many really beautiful photos on Flickr but could not use them for “commercial” purposes like design work for clients, because there was no way to document I had a license to use it. FlickrCash is BOTH a search/find interface to more quickly find images on Flickr, and also a way to document that you have a license to use a specific image.

Sample of image search (currently only searches Flickr repository):

Sample of archived license, available for inspection at any time:

With this publicly archived license the image buyer can definitively prove they have the right to use a specific image for a specific purpose — so they can use it for client design work. Both image owner and image buyer are named signatories to the agreement, and an official date/time stamp is obtained from the NIST Atomic Clock to document the exact time the license was executed.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Is Digg the Result of Cumulative Advantage?

April 15, 2007 — 05:13 PM PDT — by Pete Cashmore

The NYTimes has a fascinating piece today about how the “rich get richer”, or popular media gets more popular. In other words, things rise to the top not because they are better quality than the alternatives, but because people copy what their friends do: a tiny rise in popularity an early stage can mean massive popularity further down the line.

This has some really obvious applications in social media. Digg is the premier example: its “network of friends” system inevitably results in users Digging what their friends Digg, often blindly. So while quality stories still have a marginally better chance of rising to the top, this “follow the leader” effect means that users are more likely to amplify the decisions of other users than go against them, even if the stories being Dugg aren’t very good. Digg could prevent that by removing Digg counts and friend networks entirely, but that would counteract its own aims: growing as quickly as possible so it can report huge user numbers. To paraphrase the butterfly effect: one 13 year-old in Illinois can decide whether a news story becomes the most popular item of the day, or falls into obscurity.

But the theory has much deeper consequences when it comes to the success or failure of startups themselves. We love to think that there’s some kind of magic formula for the perfect social site, but the results seem far more random: if you rerun history, it could turn out that a whole different set of startups rise to the top. That’s because the first few users influenced the final outcome of those startups, and as soon as one site hits “critical mass”, everybody gravitates towards that site. So imagine a world in which Reddit had a few thousand more influential users than Digg: it may have won in the long term. This theory also tells us that Digg will never hit the mainstream: it is so heavily seeded with geeks that it will continue to attract that demographic and alienate non-geeks.


Atari Gets Into the User-Created Online World Game

from GigaOM by Wagner James Au In the future, everyone will be in the virtual world business for fifteen minutes. UK game industry pub MCV reports that Atari, the venerable company that launched the videogame industry, is now developing a user-created online social world of its own. With Atari’s announcement, there are now at least eleven upcoming virtual worlds which emphasize user-developed content, or at least cite Second Life as a role model. For those keeping track: Atari is joining an already overflowing roster that includes Sony’s Home, Viacom’s as-yet-unnamed world, along with start-ups Areae, Croquet, HiPiHi, Kaneva, Multiverse, Ogoglio, Outback Online, and Whirled. (SL blogger Onder Skall just posted a marvelously helpful guide to most of these worlds and more.) With the market so crowded, nearly all of these projects are almost certainly doomed to fail, or just as likely, modestly succeed as niche metaverses. And why are three major multinational media corporations trying their hand in this upstart genre at all? Used to be, the term “user-created” gave game companies hives, terrified as they are with legal liability. And Second Life, while popular, is still far off from having the numbers of paying customers that companies like Sony and Atari (now a division of EU publishing giant Infogrames) are used to dealing with. What we’re seeing, I think, is game publishers slowly learning to apply the logic of Web 2.0 on their own medium. Creating content is expensive, and with the sole exception of World of Warcraft (8 million users and still growing), involves an increasingly futile struggle to retain subscribers. Traditional online worlds require a large team of designers and artists constantly adding new content, for fear that players will quickly churn through the existing experiences, get bored, and leave. (Subsequently, most MMOs spike in growth, then quickly plateau and begin declining.) Going the user-created route means new content on a regular basis, produced by subscribers, with the company only spending money to foster and police it. That aside, the next question is whether these companies will allow their customers to retain IP rights to the content they create. While young and hungry startups can dare to do that, a la Second Life, major corporations are institutionally unwilling to cede any rights. Then again, with the competition already so fierce, they’re likely to start rethinking that assumption soon.