Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage

Jul 31

The Economist Looks for Aliens in California

Posted: under Uncategorized.

A quick shout-out to my friends in Berkeley who work for SETIyou guys made the Economist. Nice graf here about how hard your job is:

a single mobile phone located on the moon would give off a much stronger signal than almost every astronomical object in the radio sky. In addition to its sensitivity, the ATA also views a large patch of the sky all at once. Most other radio telescopes are like telephoto lenses, zooming into a tiny region of space. The ATA, however, is the first that can take snapshots with a wide-angle lens.


Black holes, exploding stars, clouds of swirling hydrogen gas light-years across the galaxy—this is hallucinatory stuff. Yet if the little green men finally arrive, San Francisco—built as it is on science, tolerance and the counterculture—would seem like a natural first port-of-call.

I guess that means that now that you’ve received official recognition in the guidebook for international investors, you can start planning the IPO for your Alien Overlord Hedge Fund — the one that seeks to preserve investor’s market capitalization in the event of an invasion by multi-tentacled, drooling aliens. 

Here’s a graf, no charge, for you to use in your prospectus:

“While others weep over their formerly robust Roth IRAs amidst the shattered rubble, you’ll be secure in your underground bunker, watching your share prices skyrocket! The AOHF’s forward-thinking portfolio of conductive metals (sure to be used in shock collars for surviving enslaved humans) and spices to make Soylent Green palatable will keep you on top of the world, even as you’re herded into interstellar transport ships.”

Hey, it makes as much sense as investing in the Countrywide fund that’s trying to buy up the worthless mortgages that it foisted on us only a year ago

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Jul 24

AP Installing Software to Track “Content Thieves” – This Should Work Out Just Fine

Posted: under Digital Migration, new media, Newspapers.
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At the risk of having some tort-toting barrister slithering under my office door, here’s a link to a NY Times story about the latest salvo in the growing war between Traditional Media and online news aggregators/commenters.

The Associated Press said Thursday that it would add software to each article that shows what limits apply to the rights to use it, and that notifies The A.P. about how the article is used.

Tom Curley, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it.

I hardly know where to begin here. If you’ve been following the war between Online & Traditional, as it’s reached the screeching desperate frenzy this year, the most-repeated shibboleth is that the news industry committed the “Original Sin” of making its content available online for free, and that everything would go back to the fat profit-margin salad days if only we could roll back the clock and stop the distribution of news & information via that damn intertubes thingy. If we can just track and control who uses what we produce, maybe we can choke off all the “freeloaders and leeches” who are competing for ad dollars without actually doing any work themselves.

So the newspapers, watching the traditional paper iceberg slowly melt around them, put the vise on the AP to Do Something. Anything. The problem is, we’re still short of solutions.  I’ve been working in New Media for more than 12 years now, and I’ve done as much original research and case studies on the Economics of News, and I’m not sure. We’re fumbling towards something, though, and the last few months have actually made me cautiously optimistic that we’re going to be able to reinvent how news & information flows in our societies, in ways that actually benefit the average citizen. That is, the citizens are informed of stories about, say, how the subprime mortgage market is not such a good long-term idea, or that the aftermath of conquering Iraq might be messier than the bespectacled Secretary of Defense claims.

Yeah, I know, those stories did appear in the media and on the boob tube. But what’s attracted the biggest, heaviest coverage these last few weeks, as we’ve sought to retool our health care system, turn around a losing war in Afghanistan, and fact-check how trillions of bailout money was spent?

That’s right. Michael Jackson.

The Original Sin of journalism & newspapers was not to make its content available on the web. The Original Sin was when we looked the other way as our media outlets were snarfed up and transmogrified into revenue-producing subsidiaries.  The consequences of that have had far greater import and impact than our little measly stunted careers (although on a personal level, I’m obviously less than thrilled & have taken quite a hit myself).

So forgive me if I’m not doing the Snoopy Dance over a scheme to erect paywalls to ensure that control over the national conversation remains in the hands of the over-leveraged corporate entitities that got us into this predicament in the first place.

If I’m running a growing network of web-based local news producers, I’m ordering Dom Perignon by the Methuselah today. Why?

1. Every conference I’ve been at for the past two years, the big advertisers say that they’re shifting their budgets to digital/online
2. The AP and newspapers are walling themselves off, and will presumably soon be implementing a RIAA-type model of suing people who infringe on their content
3. The bloggers & aggregators will quickly link to whatever competition provides the same information without all the hassle (or just use the freshman book-report strategy of paraphrasing without linking)
4. Traffic will flow to the competition. Ad dollars will follow.
5. Oh yeah – and the one type of content that is original & can’t be remixed is video… where even if a blogger/aggregator embeds or downloads/transcodes, your logos and your advertiser’s messages will still appear…

I thought that the news and the music business were at about the same point on the evolutionary timescale. It appears that the news business is bound and determined to take a step backward.

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Jul 16

Interview with Joel Kramer of about Real-Time Ads

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This is the bookend interview I did for the story on Real-Time Ads.

Joel Kramer explains how is using Real-Time Ads to build up business with local advertisers by giving them a product that they can’t find anywhere else.

However, he goes on to explain that the media business has irrevocably changed, and that the “gravy train of advertising” will never again support newspapers. His solution to the revenue crisis facing news organizations can be heard starting at about 7:10 into the interview.

Download Interview with Joel Kramer editor of MinnPost about Real-Time Ads

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Jul 16

Interview with Brad Flora of about Real-Time Ads

Posted: under Uncategorized.

The following is an interview with Brad Flora, editor of, about the Real-Time Ad product they’ve launched.

Download Interview with Brad Flora of WindyCitizen re Real-Time Ads

Brad Flora explains in more detail how came up with Real-Time Ads, how real-estate businesses were already coming to the site to try to promote themselves, and how they became determined to offer their clients something more useful than banner ads.

At about 8:05, we also have an interesting discussion about the future promise offered by doing more robust targeting of the ads, so better match the advertiser with the user by means of leveraging the personal user data that a quasi-social networking site like can gather.

At about 13:30, we address how to strike the balance between too much control of the conversation on a site vs. allowing things to get out of hand. He talks about the “broken window” theory of policing the site of a niche aggregator.

At 18:00 we talk about how crucial it’s going to be for sites to have simple, self-service ways for your users to buy advertising and give you money. At about 26:10, we address the issue of whether or not Real-Time Ads could ever grow to the point where they would start replacing the revenues newspapers have lost to Craigslist.

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Jul 10

Why I live in Los Angeles…

Posted: under Uncategorized.

One in an occasional series.

Friday Night Jazz at the LACMA.

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Jul 08

Terry Gilliam’s Giant Foot

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Try as you might, you cannot look at this thing without hearing that squashing raspberry sound in your head….

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Jul 08

Opening Night at Spamalot

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Living up to the title…

… best if we do not go there. It is a very silly play.

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