Jason Salas' WebLog

On-air and online: making people laugh, making people think, pissing people off

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The undesirable social impacts of a Web 2.0 world
An image instantly popped into my head as I reviewed the impressive list of the major participants of this year's Web 2.0 Conference - their polar opposites. I saw in my mind the generation of Dot-Com busts.  One of the collateral things that I hope doesn't arise when Web 2.0 really starts to take off with the masses is the insane rush by any and every would-be entrepreneur to get involved with it, as was evident with the web gold rush of the late 1990's (I'm referring to the legion of failures, not those listed in the Conference).  

The one quality that made the e-commerce industry such a great thing - limitless opportunity - I believe also caused, in part,  its downfall. 

Remember how things were in those days?  Everyone who claimed to be "a FrontPage expert" or passed the MCSE exams or knew at least three IT acronyms, regardless of formal education, proper training or business savvy, and whether they really "got" what being on the web meant, wanted to start their own company and instantly appoint themselves CEO.  Each one of these people wanted to turn their communities into the next Silicon Valley, and were quick to let you know that (there were tons of guys like this in Guam...stress the "were").  Or, barely with a year of college under their belt, they wanted to work for a company on the verge of going public and worship at the altar of the almighty IPO and retire by 30.  As a result, we've got a generation of misinformed wannabes who are still to this day still struggling to make it, now too proud to humble themselves and work for someone else at entry level; a result of their own lack of focus, lack of vision and lack of effort.

The biggest business hurdle in the Web 1.0 world was translation - understanding how to express logistical models in a purely online environment.  If you could bullshit your way around this to a customer or venture capitalist, you'd be a part of something special.  Today and going into the future concepts and models that are much more complex are the governing dynamics.  Things like public APIs, syndication, open source models, social networking, harnessing the true power of data, loose coupling, The Long Tail, and distributing software as services aren't for the faint of heart and won't tolerate being managed by the ill-advised or improperly motivated.  Hopefully, this complexity will produce a de facto shakedown enough to only allow the truly worthy in the club.  At least initially.

The Web 2.0 economy is going to be way too intricate for such foolishness, and even in a capitalist macroeconomy we can't afford to permit the same mistakes.  I'm hoping for a self-policing structure that mandates the right people get in on the action first, lest we be inundated with a community of semi-learned fools mucking it all up. 
Posted: Oct 09 2005, 07:16 PM by guam-aspdev | with 2 comment(s)
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Accessing Word documents programmatically with an ASP.NET web form
I'm trying to incorporate a new feature into my company's CMS that doesn't require population of form fields in a web page.  Basically, the system will read a DOC/RTF file from a directory and programmatically extract data to be inserted into a database, based on a predefined structure within the document (title, author, body).  Sounds like the perfect candidate for BizTalk Server, doesn't it?  Unfortunately, I'm not that lucky.  So, I'm attempting to do so by hand.

It's simple enough to do, but examples don't exactly abound on the Web, so I'm doing some testing of some new concepts I've developed about reading/extracting the contents of such a binary file and using it via an ASP.NET web form.  This is going to further automate an already-speedy proces for getting news from our newsroom management system to our CMS to the public World Wide Web.

Pretty geeky way to spend a Sunday night, eh?
Posted: Oct 09 2005, 07:06 PM by guam-aspdev | with no comments
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Gold star for Writely

I finally figured out what everyone has known for awhile - Writely rules.  I've setup an account and have been messing around with it in between taping my sports show this afternoon.  I've previously used the roaming collaborative environments Basecamp and WriteBoard from 37Signals before with the Podcast Specification Working Group, and those were really fun.

I see it as a mash-up of the wiki concept of community-editable documents with RSS feeds to track document changes chronologically.  It's amazing how simple the concept is.  I prefer Writely mainly for the fact that I can (take the product tour):

  • Import files (Word documents, images, HTML)
  • Apply tagging and share documents
  • Post straight to my blog
  • Export to Word
  • Generate/subscribe to RSS feeds

I think this app is in need some of sort of mobile support, but it's way cool.  I've already added this to my list of Firefox tabbed start pages.

A local IT guy thinks this is neat, but won't start using it, citing similar functionality within SharePoint Services.

Posted: Oct 09 2005, 04:30 PM by guam-aspdev | with 1 comment(s)
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Finding your voice: recording tips for mic-shy podcasters

A friend that I got interested in the podcasting revolution wrote me and gave giving recording time-shifted digital audio a try.  Not surprisingly he was sheepish and self-critical not only about the finished product, but of the voicing process in general.  Take it from me, because I do it all - recording for the first time, or the 1,000th time, can be a daunting experience if you're not comfortable with yourself. 

I already had several years of mainstream broadcasting and new media experience under my belt voicing radio & TV scripts when I did my first podcast, and I still was very uneasy with the whole thing.  The biggest hurdle to overcome is the fact that you're talking into a lone PC with no one else around.  Being a marketing guy, this was particularly unnerving for me, with my public speaking comfort zone being in front of hundreds of people, whose reactions I could read and feed off of.  Being all alone in a room with no feedback mechanism was very...scary.  For others, this is better.

But regardless what type of public speaking you're most comfortable with, consider the following hints to making your podcasts sound better, to the enjoyment of your audience/subscribers.

  • Just be yourself.  This is so often said, but realistically the hardest thing to do if you're new behind the mic.  But think about it: what better way to be comfortable than to be yourself?  Use your own voice, your own humor, your own personality, and let that be the presence you establish in the podosphere.  If doing this still is bothersome, you might want to try the following two tips...
  • Don't talk like you would in real life.  Often, broadcasters will develop a new, more authoritative James Earl Jones-ish voice when they're on the air, and the same principle applies for recording a podcastable MP3.  You get used to sounding like some other person, which psychosomatically makes you an "actor" (I used this approach early on in my career), and you lose the self-consciousnes that limits yoiu from truly being yourself during a recording session.  Just like writers who assume a ghost name, you create an alter-ego of yourself and be that person.
  • Copy someone you like.  Find a podcaster or mainstream broadcaster who's voice you'd like to emulate and do just that (when I got started, I copied my favorite communicator, former ESPN and current MSNBC host Keith Olbermann).  There's nothing wrong with trying to copy someone else's style, especially if they've been successful at it - they're probably doing something right.  When you do this, you're own personality will slowly start to come out, and inevitably take over.  Then you'll have a voice and style all your own.
  • Be arrogant when you read.  You may feel weird acting pompous, but being a little vain when you read comes off sounding like confident.  In my experience, 90% of vanity is in facial expression & body language, so ego is more present in visual mediums like video than audio and in print.
  • Be sarcastic when you read.  If you're the type of person who has natural humor and ask a lot of intriguing and natural questions, it doesn't hurt to factor this into your dialogue.  It'll sound better for the inquisitive stuff.
  • Posture makes a difference.  When you record, sit properly & upright.  This allows air to flow more freely through your esophagus and projects your voice better.  It also lets you take longer, deeper breaths and reduces the saliva flow to your lower lip (I've learned this through practice).
  • SMILE!  This sounds so Care Bear-ish, but a positive attitude does make a difference in your cast.  It also does improve the intonational quality of your show if you force yourself to smile while reading or saying something.  Doing so makes your voice brighter and more authoritative.
Little orange nightmare: Microsoft's new state-mindful RSS iconography
Microsoft announced a series of icons under consideration to represent various states of an RSS feed in IE7, perhaps in addition to using the proposed "Pod" graphic.  I've got to say I like this idea in theory...although it's certainly subject to mass overuse/misuse.  I hope they not go overboard with too many states (see the second option below...exactly what is "movement around a feed"?).

Quoting from MSDN:

We took a look at the prevalent icons used today but none of them fit our principles.  The Firefox icon is close, but it lacks the rectangular dimension (principle #2).  Here are some of the ideas that we’ve been playing around with:

    1 – We use a variation of the gleam to convey that feeds are updatable.
               

    2 – The ring illustrates movement around a feed.
               

    3 – This is a spark to show new information being broadcasted.
               

    4 – We use waves to show broadcasting of content.
               

    5 – This is the Beta 1 icon with our new requirements.
               

Posted: Oct 09 2005, 10:04 AM by guam-aspdev | with 1 comment(s)
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Chicago podcasters sought for on-demand network sports shows
The Chicago Sportscast Network is soliciting new podcasters to become frequent audio-on-demand contributors to sports programming for the Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox and Bulls.  The intent would be to give podcasters a break in the mainstream broadcasting market, production support from the network (meaning interviews, attending press conferences, media credentials, etc.), while retaining total creative control of their show. 

Curiously, nothing mentioned about covering the Cubs...could this be a southside-only thing?
Google Reader fallout (aka, "The Day After")
I was one of several hundred people who blogged their first-run reactions to Google Reader, the company's new RSS aggregator.  Proving the marketing concept that the vast majority of people satisfied with a product will remain apathetic towards it while people wishing to complain will do so in great numbers, the blogosphere was flooded with comments from people voicing their stark opposition to the aesthetics, program design, features, instructions (or lack thereof), performance, and all sorts of things about Google Reader.

One of the the things I picked up on from reading analysis of the service was that, "Reader also employs algorithms that learn your content preferences and prioritizes content accordingly."  This is something we'd naturally have to pickup on over time as the program adapted to our personal usage styles and patterns, so the jury for the moment is out on how this will play with the community, but it's a neat gimmick in theory.  That's something neither Litefeeds nor RSS Bandit do for me at the moment. 

I also wondered about the "relevance" sort option, thinking that this would be more grouping by feed than by actual correlation between the often disparate content in my feeds.  And I still maintain that we should be able to mark items as unread en masse, not being forced to page through them or read them to get them out of our unread list.  I also think the ability to tag someone else's feed is neat - allowing you to add a new layer of metadata to that which may already have it.

I've taken the time to learn how to use the program a bit better, and while it's still a bit of a shift in how I'm used to getting blogs, podcasts and Flickr photostreams.  It may be momentarily awkward, but change ususally is.

The community has brought to painful light the single glaring flaw: Google Reader's one hiccup seems to be inordinate waiting times while the program imports an OPML list.  But that'll hopefully be fixed.  I've also discovered several features since then, like being able to preview a feed before permanently subscribing to it, and  pretty neat support for podcasts - being able to listen to a file within an embedded player (as a streamed MP3/Flash audio) or download its source MP3 directly.

Having suffered through the first criticism salvo, let's now let cooler heads prevail and curb the subjectivisim with which we present our feedback.  If you absolutely loathe the service and are willing to compose multiple paragraphs to express it, write at least one other to offer remediation strategies.  Show how good of a user/developer you are by recommmending a fix.  One of the things that's common when people react to a product is to be overly negative, just to prove they can, without suggesting a strategy to get better.  Complaints are still valued in product development, but pure bitch-fests lose their weight over time.
Posted: Oct 09 2005, 09:27 AM by guam-aspdev | with 2 comment(s)
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Initial reactions to Google Reader
The server went down for a little bit today during the 2.5 hours I've been playing with Google Reader since 5am Guam time (EST +17), and friends in the mainland said it's been like that on occasion throughout the day since it went live.  I'm not sure if this is due to surge from its premiere post-Web 2.0 Conference, or just ultra-demand from the blogosphere/podosphere/Flickrsphere. 

Ben's harped a little bit about the service in his photostream, but my big thing is not being able to mark an entire feed or several items within a feed as read.  Shouldn't the "Read Items" button say "Unread" as Pip mentions, meaning only the itesm not already selected can be displayed?  Maybe I'm used to other programs and thus ignorant, but this confused me.

Having said that, I do like the fact that feeds aren't cached (it would seems) for an inconvinient amount of time, such that I'm a few hours behind everyone else.  This is cool.  I also of course, dig the roaming ability of the RSS aggregator being integrated to my GMail account, which I previously mentioned was a big win for me.  I've also blogged about wanting to export subscribed RSS feeds from my Google portal page either directly into Google Reader or as an OPML file.
Posted: Oct 08 2005, 10:25 AM by guam-aspdev | with no comments
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Suggestion for Google's/Microsoft's portal start pages
One thing I think would be cool for Google's personalized homepage and Microsoft's Start.com, the merits of which I pontificated about previously, would be to have an option that would read through the web parts content areas displayed on a customized page, and export them as a single OPML file (or alternatively in Google's case, imported directly into Google Reader) .  OPML would be more universal a solution for use in other apps and situations, but either way, it'd be neat to not only import content en masse into a portal, but also to have a portal export subscribed content for other uses, integrated or not.
Posted: Oct 08 2005, 09:56 AM by guam-aspdev | with no comments
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My big project: Guam's first broadband channel
A rumor's been making its way around the island lately about the possibility that I might be working on plans to develop Guam's first broadband channel.  Why hide it...yep, 'tis true!  I'm developing the architecutre, infrastructure, revenue model and delivery format(s) for a new KUAM collection of multimedia content, accessible over a variety of digital devices and platforms (desktop, web browser, MP3 players, PSP, wireless/mobile/PDA).  It'll feature rich, high-quality, archived/live video, audio, podcasts, downloads and more through a really slick interface. 

That's all for now!
Posted: Oct 08 2005, 09:45 AM by guam-aspdev | with no comments
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