CN Converstions

After one week, 5.2% of the registered members of IT Conversations have take advantage of the offer of free membership in The Conversations Network through March 31. One reason that number isn’t higher might be that as many as half of the members are inactive, but I’m sure we can get the number up to 10% by the end of the month. If you haven’t converted your membership, here’s your chance.

IT Conversations News: January 10, 2006

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

New Programs Last Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • Robert Denaro – Driving the Mean Streets (too late for ratings) For the last 18 years, NAVTEQ’s employees have driven the national road system to capture real-world information about its layout. In the last year alone they drove about 10,000 miles every day – for a total of over 3 million miles – to capture the existence of 120,000 dividers and 50,000 gates that couldn’t be seen in satellite images. In this presentation from O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference, NAVTEQ Vice President Bob Denaro discusses his company’s tools, practices and business model.
  • Tim Bajarin – Looking Back on 2005 (rated 2.5 by our listeners) January 1 is just a date on the calendar but it’s a good time to look back and look forward. And who better to reflect and prognosticate than Tim Bajaran, one of Silicon Valley’s leading tech analysts? In this brief podcast, Tim and host Larry Magid talk about how consumer technology and media is evolving and what we can expect in 2006 and beyond.
  • John Hanke – Google Earth (2.5) Google’s suite of location tools includes local search via mobile phone or the web and rich mapping applications at Google’s site. The granddaddy of Google’s mapping tools, though, is Google Earth – a downloadable client that allows the user to virtually fly over the world and view satellite imagery from almost anywhere. Prior to its acquisition by Google, John Hanke was CEO of Keyhole, the company that built the application that is at the core of Google Earth. In this talk from Where 2.0, he demonstrates some of the secrets of Google Earth.
  • Jerry Paffendorf – Brave New Virtual Worlds (4.0) What would it be like if the Internet were a 3D immersive experience, if browsing the internet felt like walking down the street in a virtual town? In this introduction to the Exploration sessions at Accelerating Change 2005, Jerry Paffendorf discusses the convergence of 3D modelling and Internet interactivity. Programs like Google Earth and games like Second Life offer a glimpse of what the internet may be in the future.
  • Bran Ferren – Web 2.0 High Order Bit (4.0) Bran Ferren believes that there are still many things that ‘suck’ in Web 2.0 but that many of these will suck a lot less by the time we reach Web 3.0. In a stimulating short talk from this year’s Web 2.0 conference, Ferren explains why he believes the computer revolution has not yet started.
  • Barry Diller – In Conversation at Web 2.0 (4.5) Owning 34 Internet brands offers as many opportunities for failure as for success. In a freewheeling and provocative conversation, Barry Diller – legendary media mogul, chairman of Expedia and CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp – explains his own recipe for success and speculates about the future of business on the Internet.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s pick is from August of 2004:

  • MGM v. Grokster MGM v. Grokster: On August 19th, 2004, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided whether distributors of peer-to-peer filesharing software, such as Grokster and StreamCast, could be held liable for the copyright infringements of their users. The court said that, under the circumstances, no. The case has many ramifactions for technologists and innovators. Ernest Miller discusses the decision with four leading legal analysts, including Fred von Lohmann of the EFF, who argued the case.

The Conversations Network New Site is Up

We launched the new site for The Conversations Network on schedule today. Not without bugs, mind you, but now 12 hours post-launch, I think we’ve swatted the worst of them. Special thanks to David and Francis at Loomia, whose new recommendation engine we integrated as part of the process, Tim McNerney who’s aweseome work as our sysadmin saved endless hours by having great backups of everything, Dorothy Yamamoto for her beautiful graphics, and the rest of our Team for their testing and feedback. It was a soft launch, with no press releases or hype machine, but already a few thousand folks have found it and are exploring its nooks and crannies.

The reaction so far is about 97% favorable, mostly ethusiastically so. The other 3% aren’t happy about the new paid-membership model even though it’s not a tollgate to the content. More on that topic in the next few days, after I’ve had a chance to get some sleep. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of what you can expect on the new site.

  • Paid Membership. We closed the IT Conversations Tip Jar, which was being distributed every month to Team ITC, those 40-or-so volunteers who do all our post-production work in their spare time. As we looked at growing the network to 12 channels by the end of the year — IT Conversations will become just one of those channels — we realized we needed something more structured than a tip jar. Like U.S. public radio, membership will be one cornerstone of our revenues, the rest coming from grants, underwriters and commercial sponsors. But we’re serious about listener-supported audio on the web, and that means listener supported. We surveyed thousands of our listeners prior to this decision and learned a lot about how many people would be willing to pay and how much. Basic membership is US$50/year or US$5 per month. Student memberships are available for half those amounts. To ease the transition, and to allow our faithful listeners a chance to evaluate the benefits for themselves, we’ve given every previously registered member of the IT Conversations web site a free basic membership through March 31, 2006.
  • Personalization. The primary benefits of membership (other than knowing you’re supporting our vision) are all based on knowing who you are. Registered members can opt-in to a variety of features such as our newsletters, email ballots, etc.
  • Recommendations. With nearly a thousand progams in the catalog and more than that number coming in 2006, this is where Loomia comes in. Our members can rate programs in a variety of ways, and those ratings are used both to provide so-called community ratings for all, as well as personalized recommendations using Loomia’s proprietary algorithms.
  • Forums. We’ve long wanted a place for our members to discuss our more thought-provoking programs. Two years ago I tried (unsuccessfully) with forum software. I think we just didn’t have enough listeners and the integration of the forum software was weak. This time the software and integration are better by far and we have many, many more listeners. Everyone can read the forums. Only registered members can post messages.
  • Personal Program Queues (PPQs). This feature was previously available on the IT Conversations web site, and we’ve preserved everyone’s queue contents for the port to The Conversations Network. This is the only case of charging for something that used to be free to all, but since we decided that personalization was the point at which the tollgate would be errected, PPQs become the one feature that shifted to the other side.
  • Infrastructure. This will only interests the geeks, but perhaps the greatest benefit of the new site is its architecture for the future. We’ve abstracted the identity issues, and created single sign-on for the main site (based loosely on WordPress), the forums (punBB) and the individual channel web sites, such as IT Conversations. All of the features such as recommendations, PPQs and forums, will operate across all of our channels and are entirely distributed. You’ll get recommendations from all channels, and a single PPQ can likewise be populated with programs from different sources on our network. Considering that each web site and the forums can live on different servers, this was no small feat, and I’m personally quite proud of the design. We’ve managed to put into place the building blocks on which we can now roll out a virtually unlimited number of channels on as many topics.

If you want to learn more, I suggest checking out our mission, our Recommendation/Queue system tutorial, the new IT Conversations forum, membership info, our Team (and information about our new apprenticeship program) and our FAQs. And of course, I look forward to your feedback and continued support.

Tips and Techniques Podcast

A few weeks ago James Polanco and I were interviewed by Jack Harrington, author of Podcasting Hacks, all about podcasting audio gear and techniques. Geeky stuff. We used an ISDN studio-to-studio link. I was here in The Conversations Network Studio 2 (my second bedroom), and Jack was in the studios of KQED-FM in San Francisco.