YouTube has never been this exciting. And I don't mean the puppy videos. The video-sharing site is frenetically experimenting with every imaginable form of advertising, from prerolls to rollovers to overlays. There's even that staple of late-night television — headache pills! For this, we can thank Ben Ling, the product manager who recently returned to Google from Facebook to figure out how to make money on YouTube. But surely the most absurd ads we're seeing right now are the adaptations of Google's familiar text ads displayed on Web search results. A blog post featuring two cat-with-head-trapped-in-bag videos — a staple of YouTube users' contributions to the world of cinema — has ads "by Google" slapped on top of them. In Japanese.
Celebrity chef Thomas Keller will not deign to acknowledge the existence of Yelp. But the New York Times has. While individual writeups on the user-written restaurant-reviews site may be goofy, biased, or contrafactual, on the whole they give potential diners a good idea of what to expect. And they are vastly more prolific than the pros: Megan Cress, a Yelper, has written 300 restaurant reviews in three years. Times critics take twice as long. We wonder: Did the editors think the beancounters who are eyeing the Times's dwindling cash balance wouldn't read this article? (Illustration by John Hersey/New York Times)
Nothing brings out a boss's penchant for doublespeak and obfuscation like a layoff. Take, for example, eBay PR boss Alan Marks's instant-classic "simplification" memo. Cutbacks are sure to continue as companies agonize over just how deep this recession will go; so, too, will the self-contradictory jargon and false logic which only makes bad news worse. Send in the worst layoff memos you've seen, and we'll publish them here.
The Valley's pundits believe that partisan bias is damage, and that the Internet can route around it. That's the conclusion I arrived at after hearing about Ameritocracy.com, a new startup aiming to have Internet users factcheck soundbites for free. Esther Dyson, the writer and startup investor, has joined it as an advisor, just in time for the vice-presidential debate Thursday night. "It bothers me to see people's random statements spread around the world with no quality control — and I like Ameritocracy's decentralized approach to providing that quality control," Dyson says in a press release. So that's what's plaguing politics — a lack of quality control! Dyson, who also invested in Flickr, is deluded to think crowdsourcing will work with opinions as well as it does with photographs. Anyone who's spent time on Wikipedia knows that a decentralized approach doesn't lead to the elimination of bias — it just guarantees that whoever has the most time to waste wins.
How sad: General Motors has a "social media manager" — a person charged with appeasing bloggers, coddling tweeters, and enabling commentards. Natalie Johnson, said manager, explained that the company was compelled by mysterious forces on the Internet to launch GMnext.com, a new website where users generate the content: "It's hard to put a specific dollar value on this, but it's something we have to do." Actually, GM didn't.Johnson argues that the company needed the site to speak to young users. Well, sure: The site may well generate a lot of talk, and let young, spoiled millennials feel like a big, bad car company cares about them. But will keeping youngsters glued to their computers, complaining about their latest slight, move cars off dealers' lots? Affordable, energy-efficient cars that don't suck would speak far louder. We suggest a new slogan for the venerable car brand: "Keep America trolling."
If there's a successful business model in the whole "user-generated content" revolution, it's in compnies getting for free services they used to pay for. Google is planning to let users rerank search results for it. Digg's users already do something like this for news headlines — likely why Google was interested in buying the well-trafficked geek-popularity contest. So why pass on it? By applying similar techniques to search results instead of news, Google doesn't have to worry about charges of copying Digg. Rather than beg Digg to sell, better to borrow functionality — and steal free labor from users.Kudos to Google for recognizing that machine intelligence hasn't quite become our overlord yet, and that there's value in aggregating human effort — and for doing it more elegantly than Amazon.com's overcomplicated Mechanical Turk. Still, at least the Turk offered users a nominal fee. Google only offers the possibility of better search results to appeal to your self-interest. The plan also offers opportunities for all sorts of bad behaviors, from harassment to mob rule. Just like Wikipedia! If you thought that Googlebombs mocking our current President, George Bush, were bad, wait until the public is allowed to vote bros up and hos down. Best-case scenario? We at least get a switch to toggle between the algorithm's tyranny, the wisdom of the crowd, and the self-affirming homogeneity of our social circle. (Photo by AP/Ric Francis)
Cube-dwelling funny pages favorite "Dilbert" from Scott Adams has a redesigned website, sporting the now-ubiquitous "beta" label, offering widgets and buying into the user-generated content fad — you can now create "mashups" and work out your own corporate-minion frustrations within the confines of speech bubbles. [CNET]
eMarketer predicts the number of people who create so-called "user-generated" content will rise from 77 million in 2007 to 108 million in 2012. More baffling yet, the ranks of people who consume this content will only rise from 94 million in 2007 to 130 million by 2012. Why don't we just junk our computers, attach ourselves to IV drips and stare at mirrors instead? That seems more dystopian.
YouTube cofounder Steve Chen worries about graphic rape clips on YouTube. But not enough to do something about it, because he thinks it is important for uploaded videos to be available for immediate viewing. Also, given that 10 hours of content is uploaded every minute, it would be impossible to screen each video before displaying it on the site. Chen told the Sydney Morning Herald that YouTube has to "rely on the millions of eyeballs from the community rather than the hundreds that we have [internally] on the site." YouTube is also developing a technology to prevent a clip which was deleted from being uploaded again. The TV and movie studios whose clips helped give Chen's YouTube a $1.65 billion payday don't have a problem hiring people to review content on the site. Stopping depictions of violence against women, though? Leave it to the servers. Google has plenty of them. (Photo by ideali)
We asked which man most deserves Pownce founder Leah Culver's attentions: Googler Andy Smith or Flickr's Cal Henderson? In a late rally, Smith advocates won out. His 48.4 percent of the vote displaced the early leader, none-of-the-above option "cupcakes to face for both," at 43.5 percent. Now a pair of tipsters confirm Culver has, in fact, selected a new man. Has she heeded the wisdom of the crowd?
With ICQ lending its name to an Israeli toothpaste manufacturer and Google trucking branded ice cream bars to its Mountain View headquarters, no wonder Jimmy Wales is thinking about how Wikipedia can cash in on brand licensing. The only problem: Wales's marketing ideas are as dull as his sexual fantasies. Board games? Discovery Channel specials? Boring!
Almost every digital camera captures both pictures and movies. This reality has seemed lost on Flickr for four years. Cofounder Stewart Butterfield reportedly told attendees at a fourth-birthday party last night that Flickr, now owned by Yahoo, will introduce video uploads next month. At this point, Yahoo might as well launch the service on April 1 — the delay has become that much of a joke. Yahoo Video has already relaunched, with its own movie-upload features. So why bother?
So much for the notion of cheap, user-generated content. Current Media, the operator of the Current TV cable channel and Current.com, hopes to raise $100 million in an IPO. Last year, the company, cofounded by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, had revenues of $63.8 million and lost $17.1 million. Current's website isn't generating significant advertising, and the company makes most of its money in an old-fashioned way: fees from cable providers. The company is desperately short on cash; as of December 31, it had $2.2 million, and this month, it opened up a $50 million line of credit from JPMorgan Chase, in exchange for the right to take the company public. But the most puzzling thing in the prospectus is this: Current spent $31.4 million on programming and production in 2007. Isn't it supposed to run entirely on submissions from viewers?
Barely a year after its launch, MTV is shutting down Flux TV. The U.K. channel was the network's attempt to bring social media to the telly. Users determined which music videos the channel would broadcast, as well as upload their own media. But alas, the audience, used to sitting back and being fed entertainment, didn't care to lean forward. Which brings us to Current, the San Francisco-based cable channel founded by Joel Hyatt and Al Gore.
Yes, there's some truly bad man's-inhumanity-to-man stuff going down in Kenya. No, Robert Scoble and his echo chamber are not morally obliged to figure out some tech angle and post about it. The fallacy made by political correctards is that if Robert Scoble doesn't blog about something, he either doesn't know or doesn't care about it and neither do his readers.