Thursday, November 06, 2008

Technology in an Obama Administration

I first got excited about Barack Obama because of his technology policies. Of course I got more excited the more I got to know him. But reading his newly-released White Paper on Technology and Innovation (or the Technology Agenda on his new website), I’m excited that we have the right guy with the right policies to get this aspect of our country done right.

The highlights:

  • Net Neutrality was the first thing Obama mentioned in his plan. He understands that the Internet has been successful because of its open nature. That openness needs to be protected.
  • Safeguarding personal privacy in a digital age is important – and we need to rewrite our laws to make sure this happens. Specifically, we need to rewrite our surveillance laws to maintain national security while not spying on our citizens.
  • Government data needs to be free – both free as in beer and free as in speech. Obama even calls out blogs, wikis, and social networks as important tools for sharing information. This expands the excellent Coburn-Obama bill from 2006.
  • Obama will appoint a national CTO (and there’s been much speculation about who that person is) to oversee government infrastructure and transparency efforts.
  • America needs a new telecommunications infrastructure, with faster broadband Internet available to everybody. This is important because our country is lagging globally in delivering high-speed Internet to its citizens.
  • Obama will use technology as a tool to help his Healthcare initiative (pushing Electronic Medical Records), Education (greater access to the Internet), and Energy. He will double federal science and research funding for clean energy projects to help our nation wean ourselves from oil.
I was hoping the CTO role would be more extensive, being the person to make decisions to promote all of Obama’s Technology agenda; sadly, it looks like the role will be focused just on the Federal Government. While that’s a start, I’d love to see this individual drive truly national technology policy and oversee the FCC.

Here’s the whole thing, for those interested in reading more:

Barack Obama's technology policy - Get more Information Technology

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ted Stevens Convicted

I'm fascinated that, looking through previous posts of mine to link to, I hadn't gone off on a rant on Ted Stevens. I don't think I need to do it again - but I will let the New York Times do my talking for me. And I'll dig up an old Jon Stewart bit for the fond memories.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Change Congress. Since The Internet = Politics

In the early days of the web, the joke seemed to be that all the Internet was good for was porn. As it grew as a communication tool though, it started to become a major force in political campaigns. In 2004, Howard Dean seemed to truly understand the nature of how the Internet could be used to rally people around various candidates or issues.

Now it seems like all the Internet is good for is politics. Which is great - in many ways, it's the most democratic communication tool ever devised. Barack Obama has his own social network (I've got a page). My favorite blogs like Signals vs Noise and TechCrunch weigh in about the websites for various candidates. My friend Dan has his own political blog - though we don't agree on most things. My current favorite is Twitter's Election Center - if that isn't democratic communication, I don't know what is.

And Lawrence Lessig's got Change Congress.

Change Congress is a movement to end corruption in America's congress, centered around 4 principles:

  1. No money from lobbyists or PACs
  2. Vote to end earmarks
  3. Support reform to increase Congressional transparency
  4. Support publicly-financed campaigns
These are all good things that everyone should be able to get behind. Now, they're (we're) trying to get as many congressional candidates to explain where they stand on these four issues. And true to the Internet, we're hoping everyone can help out by pestering people running in their districts to do so.

Want to help? Here's what you do:
  1. Visit
  2. Find people running in your district. It's a long list, so I'd recommend clicking Ctrl-F to find your district number. If you still need help the homepage has a nice map.
  3. Click "Pester" to send an email or phone call. Don't worry, there are suggestions for what to say.
It's pretty easy. I got to help pull all the data for this together (it's surprisingly hard to find contact info for candidates who aren't incumbents!), so hopefully you'll take advantage of how easy it is to get involved in the democratic process.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Voting Democrat for Technology Sake

When we think about our biggest issues as a nation, technology policy rarely surfaces to the top of people's lists - it's typically things like foreign policy, the economy, or education. And rightly so, since they're important topics. But when you really think about it, the way our country approaches technology has a profound not only on our daily lives, but on who we are as a country.

Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford Law professor and technology advocate (not to mention personal hero) has a fantastic video about two major issues and why we need to care.

  1. In relation to other countries, the U.S.has terrible broadband penetration. We now rank #22 in the world. Republicans (including McCain) have pushed through policies that do little to incentivize large, monopolistic providers to offer better service and access to everyone.
  2. Internet Service Providers want to control how people use the Internet. Republicans (including McCain) have fought Network Neutrality, which would give consumers the right to use the Internet as they want.

I believe that we need a change in direction in Internet policy. We need to provide everyone access to the world's greatest resource. We need to preserve our freedoms for choosing how to use the Internet.

We need a president who doesn't call himself "computer illiterate," even after leading the congressional committee that writes technology policy.

For more...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Xobni and LinkedIn Integration

Xobni = Inbox (backwards). Clever, huh? It's an Outlook plugin that tries to make your email experience a little more "social." Or as they describe,

Xobni offers a new way to organize and search your Outlook email. Xobni creates profiles for each person that emails you. These profiles contain relationship statistics, contact information, social connections, threaded conversations, and shared attachments
I came across Xobni some time ago when they were quite they private beta thanks to my coworker Luke. The app spread like wildfire around the office since it looks so cool, but died down a bit when it seemed a little useless. Their most recent release seems to have taken Xobni past the "product tipping point" (I'm referencing a great idea/article by R/W/W about FriendFeed here). They added two important things, LinkedIn integration and Folder Selection.

The LinkedIn integration worked well enough. Especially at Zecco, plenty of people have LinkedIn profiles set up, so now when I get an email, I get to see their picture and a couple relevant facts from their public LinkedIn profile. Awesome.

Even better are the stats. Now that I can select which folders Xobni looks at, I can include "Deleted Items." That's great because 90% of my emails end up in the trash (after I've dealt with them, of course). This makes all the stats it calculates a bit more accurate, meaningful, and interesting - if still a little dubious.

For example, I can see that Purni responds to me faster than anyone else at Zecco. Which I believe, though doubt that her average response time is actually 4 minutes.

And I can see my relative mail traffic over the course of a day (though I find it a little odd that my sent-mail patterns is so closely correlated to received).

Anyway, it's cool stuff - and I can see the potential for this improving the way I operate at work. Anything that can make email more efficient is OK by me. Else we'll all be declaring email bankruptcy soon.

More about Xobni...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tony Leach on Google

I made two New Years resolutions this year. The first was that I wouldn't eat lunch at Song's Cafeteria (the place right across the street from the office) more than once a week. Not that it's that bad, it's just easy to get sick of.

My second resolution was to propel myself from being unknown-by-Google to being the #1 result on a Google search for "Tony Leach." Maybe that sounds vain, but I wanted to accomplish two things. 1) Establish myself as someone of at-least-minor-importance online, since it could possibly help my credibility at work, and 2) learn about Search Engine Optimization.

I'm not sure whether or not I really accomplished either of the goals. I suppose I did learn about the importance of using proper titles for things. Regardless, it happened. I beat out Anthony Leach of Penn State (.edu domains are tougher to beat) and And I supposed I'm proud of that.

Who knows how long it will last. For posterity:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hulu, Colbert, Daily Show, and Cookie Monster

OK, so I've been a little too busy to update this blog in a while. It happens.

Watching Colbert tonight though, I suddenly realized that it (along with the Daily Show) had been added to the Hulu lineup. And watching this segment, I knew I'd have to share it. It's worth a watch, for sure, even if there's an ad attached (sorry, it's long, but Hulu's great and they have to make money somehow).

My favorite quote:

Me have crazy times in 70's and 80's. Me like the Robert Downey Jr. of cookies.

Other people talking about the best (fake?) news on Hulu:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Zecco Bay to Breakers Float

It's always really exciting to share something you've put a whole day of hard, physical work into. And I don't get to do it that often.

So here it is - for this year's Bay to Breakers race, we have a float for some refreshments that we'll be pulling along. Here's a quick photo we snapped off - and check out the full Flickr stream if you want.

Thanks a ton to Mitch (@mitchellwfox, for helping out majorly with all the design and prep work. And to Ellaine (@ellainemariano) for helping out as well.

Friday, May 02, 2008

jamiekleach - My Sister's Art on Vimeo & Flickr

I love that my sister's starting to put her work online. She's a Boulder, CO (and soon SF, CA)-based artist who does really great stuff. It's awesome, cause I can finally share her awesome genius with other people I know. For starters, make sure you check out her entire portfolio at

Her Flickr pool shows off some of her photo art. Really great stuff - she does this one where she merges siblings into each other over a course of 16 photos. Nothing's more trippy to see a Tony-Jamie mashup. It definitely freaked out our mother...

Jamie-Tony Morph

And then there's this video, which she says is "about addiction to technology and the recent emergence of personal electronic devices. These things make us so available and dependent on things that were not even a part of everyday life 5 years ago." Very true - and hits a little close to home!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

BrightKite & More Location-Based Services

I just got hooked up with a BrightKite account, which made me happy since I love trying new things. It's kinda nice - the point is basically to share location information with others, and post notes/photos from those locations. It's almost like twitter knowing where you are.

I love that they're Colorado-based (like Lijit, which I mentioned before) - even though I'll be in the bay area forever, it's good to see an innovation hub in the place I grew up. They're one of the TechStars companies, which has born IntenseDebate and SocialThing. They've integrated well with twitter, which is great for posting location-sensitive photos and having them show up in your twitter stream.

They've also integrated well with Fire Eagle, which I mentioned liking before. Playing nicely with these guys - and any others doing location-based services - is very important. It's not clear to me whether Fire Eagle or BrightKite actually owns the master location, or what happens when I update one place and not the other.

Unfortunately, like a lot of sites launching recently, it's hard to immediately see the point. The site doesn't integrate terribly well for mobile, relying on SMS and email rather than a web app. To me, a good designed-for-mobile site is necessary for location-based services.

Location-based services like these will be absolutely killer when I don't have to tell it to update my location. Shoot, I've got GPS on my phone and the Loki toolbar on my browser - there's no excuse for these guys to force me to update my location for them. It'd be really cool to trace your path - and share it with others. And get ads based on where you go - or something.

More from...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jing, The New Screenshots

I use screenshots & screengrabs a ton for work. If I see something I like, or want to change something on the site, I do a screenshot.

Most of the uber-cool (apparently) utilities are for the mac, sadly. Skitch and SnapWeb sound like great tools, but until Zecco gets me a Macbook instead of a Dell, I'm stuck with a PC. So I was happy when swissmiss pointed me to Konigi, who in turn pointed me to Jing.

For the basics, you can easily (one-click) get screengrabs of a section of a window, or an entire window. With the screengrab, you can mock up the image with arrows, text, boxes, or semi-transparent boxes so easily I wanted to cry - especially knowing how much time I've spent in paint. When you're done, save the image locally, or upload to Flickr (as I did) with one click.

What blew me away was the videos. It takes the same idea & ease-of-use as the screen grab, but lets you create video walkthroughs. Check this out below, or click here.

I won't say it's perfect, and the ability to resize videos is a must-have that I couldn't figure out. But for the most part, this really rocks!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Data Portability – The Internet As Movement

Attending this past week’s Web 2.0 Conference & Expo, I was struck by a number of concurrent themes. I touched on many of them at a high level in my company blog, ZeccoPulse, but wanted to delve into this one in a little bit more depth to help flush out my own thoughts. Matt Jones (Dopplr) and Tom Coates (Yahoo! Brickhouse, Fire Eagle), who seemed to be two of the stars of the conference, led a session called “Polite, Pertinent… and Pretty,” which talked about how to display people’s information to them – or, as they called it, “Instrumenting Your Life.”

What stuck out most was the idea of Web As Movement. As Matt and Tom envision the world, information flows to where you need it, just in time. This isn’t a new idea, but struck a chord with me once I saw the simplicity – and the integration – of Dopplr and Fire Eagle.

Fire Eagle does nothing other than store where you are at a given time – information it pulls from Dopplr, Loki, your GPS phone, or manually via their site or Twitter. There’s no personal history or social features (yet). But what it does with you information is provide a single place for other applications to see where you are – which could be fun and powerful, if you choose to be open.

So learning from these guys, it sounds like people are envisioning a world with single-purpose apps that fit in a much wider ecosystem with related apps. No one can control the whole thing, since they all interact with each other via open standards. There's no longer a need for a single company providing everything (Sorry, Google), or even a single platform/web OS to host all the world's apps (Sorry, Facebook). And that could be a great thing, allowing many people to participate and contribute, each playing a unique role in a happy utopia.

That’s all great - I like happy utopias and all - but I’m still left with two questions. How would any of these single-purpose apps make any money, even if they’re tremendously valuable? And when does this approach to the web get to be such a big, messy clusterf%$k of information and “standards” that one single company buys everything up, control it all, and improve it – like Apple did to PC’s?

For more...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Simultaneous Illegal U-Turns

Without admitting any kind of wrong-doing, I want to share something beautiful that happened to me this morning. I made a nice little U-Turn - "flipped a bitch" as it were - as I sometimes do early in the morning trying to find a parking spot in front of my neighborhood Peet's. Funny thing is, some other guy did the exact same thing, at the exact same time - coming the other direction! it looked something like this (I'm the blue car):

One might think this could be incredibly dangerous, especially if there were people around or lots of traffic. As the detailed diagram shows, however, it's not if it happens the right way. And it resulted in something I consider beautiful - two people without any knowledge of each other, doing some in sync (yet possibly illegal), resulting in a mechanical dance around an intersection.

Kinda like BitTorrent, or Napster in the early days. Or Wikipedia.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Netvibes Ginger - Can It Replace iGoogle?

I've been a huge fan of iGoogle since it launched. It so easily integrates with all the other Google services that I use, it's hard to justify a switch. Gmail, Calendar, Reader, and my own Google Finance portfolios are all in one plane, with very minimal setup. Plus Docs, and some Facebook notifications as well.

I tried Netvibes a while back since it's so well-regarded, but quickly gave it up when I found that I liked Google's better. Now I'm checking out Netvibes Ginger, and... well actually I'm waiting for my account there to be "activated." Guess I'll put this post on ice for a bit.

As it turns out, signing up for a new account is an easier way to get started... So I did that, and started trying to replicate my iGoogle page. Gmail was easy (though it will ONLY show unread mail), and Calendar as easy as grabbing my iCal link - though I could only choose one of my 5 calendars whereas iGoogle lets shows them all. The Facebook widget is pretty sweet, and I added the Twitter app for the hell of it - very nice.

How about importing some feeds? I grabbed my OPML file out of Google Reader and uploaded it into Netvibes pretty easily. The result? I can create individual widgets for each of my 153 (and counting) feeds. Maybe that's fine for the average blog surfer, but not for folks like me...
So we continue. I checked out some of the pre-configured tabs, since their "Universes" feature doesn't look like it's available yet for Ginger. Nothing really new here - and as much as I like the idea of users creating their own tabs and sharing them with everyone else, I had difficulty finding any that really added value to me - especially beyond customizing pages myself.

In general - the design is much better than iGoogle, but the tradeoff is the simple synchronization with all the other Google services I use. I'll give it a try for a while as a start page though - the new design may win me over in the end. For more info about Netvibes and Ginger...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Grand Central - Love the Idea, But Does it Matter?

I've been using Grand Central for about 6 months. And in general, I really like the idea - it's a great application that gives users more control over their phone calls. It gives people a free phone number that can be kept forever. Users can control which phone will ring when someone calls me (like work, cell, or home), screen callers more efficiently, greet people differently, or manage voicemail online.

They recently released a feature where you can embed a widget to let people call your Grand Central number from a web page, which works just like Google's old "Click to Call" idea. Mine's on the right - go ahead, try it! That's great stuff, because it lets you connect your Internet world with your real world, and control how. For example, any call placed through my widget will go straight to voicemail as I experiment with it.

Generally, this kind of control is exactly what I would want. So why haven't I really used it? It's still harder to use than the current system:

  • I can get my normal voicemail with my normal voicemail
  • Won't work with my phone system at work (it's ancient and I have an extension)
  • I have to press (1) once I answer the phone when receiving a Grand Central call
  • Difficult syncing process from my phone to the Grand Central address book
So Grand Central doesn't really save me time or money in any way. It just gives me more control - and as someone who doesn't really need the extra control, how important is it? I really hope that Google can find a clever way to integrate Grand Central with its excellent Mobile Apps package. That could be the tipping point, at least for me.

Grand Central, Around the Web:

Sniitter - My New Twitter Desktop Client

I really wanted Google Desktop to meet all my needs. And by needs I really mean provide a ton of great desktop widgets like Macs do. Specifically I'd look for Twitter updates, Facebook updates, stock quotes for my portfolio, and maybe some custom RSS feeds. But I was disappointed, since stock quotes aren't synced with my portfolio in Google Finance, RSS feeds aren't synced with my Google Reader, and the Twitter client was too buggy to use reliably. Which is all odd, since iGoogle does all these things really well.

So I felt forced to use standalone apps for all this stuff. The stock quotes are fairly easy, since I can just use my real-time streaming quotes app from Zecco for those. And I can do without the Facebook and RSS feeds on my desktop (for now). That really just leaves Twitter - so I started using Snitter today.

Snitter's built off of Adobe AIR, so unlike Twitterific it runs on my work PC. So far I like it, since it's made a lot of standard Twitter features easier to use:

  • Single clicks to @-reply or send direct messages
  • Easy to resize, reskin, and hide
  • Pop-up notifications of new posts - like getting new emails
Generally, I like it. It's better than my IM client through Google Talk or going to the website all the time. And it's making my life a little easier by connecting with my Twitter friends more efficiently. If that actually makes my life easier... For more ways to use Twitter to make life easier, I'd really recommend my friend Thomas' post on Twitter Tips and Tricks.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Stanford Eliminates Tuition for Lower & Middle-Class Families

I normally post about technology and how it makes life better. This might be a bit of a stretch. But when I got this in my inbox this morning (and realized that I haven't written a post for a while), I decided that this made a nice topic.

Under the new program, parents with incomes of less than $100,000 will no longer pay tuition. Parents with incomes of less than $60,000 will not be expected to pay tuition or contribute to the costs of room, board and other expenses.
This follows on the heels of similar announcements by Harvard. It's a fantastic thing to be able have the kind of endowment to completely do away with tuition for those who can't afford it.

So how does technology play a role in this? While the endowment is certainly a well-managed, well-diversified portfolio, Stanford's role in building the Silicon Valley has also helped tremendously. Many of the Valley's innovations have come from students doing research at Stanford, and the school does benefit financially when the innovations turn into successes. You don't have to look very far: Google, Sun, Cisco, and Yahoo are all companies built by students coming out of the school. With Google, Stanford owned about $250 M in GOOG stock - at the IPO price.

So it's not hard to see how much technology is going to be helping many young freshmen over the next several years.

More on this:

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Plaxo Pulse, Google Social Graph API, and Looking for Profile Aggregation

I've been doing more and more things online, and think I'm creating new profiles different places on at least a weekly basis. Some are short-lived (I don't think I'm ever going back to Moli, for instance), and some I'm so drawn to that they become daily habits. But they grow to so many that I keep losing track of them and stop participating. And for sites that I want to keep coming back to - like wikinvest, for example.

I've tried Spock, but it's fairly limited to just what Google can find. And there're usually the news feed-like updates that you can get via RSS/E-mail or whatever. Tumblr takes a great first step towards this, but then it's limited to contributions to a few places. But really I'd like to be able to see all my activity in one place.

One interesting approach is Mahalo's multi-profile view (see Mashable coverage). It gives you tabs for a number of social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn, so you can view your profiles on a number of different sites. And while that's great, I don't think that's Mahalo's goal.

I'm encouraged about the recent announcement of Google's Social Graph API - though discouraged at the same time because Open Social didn't really get anywhere. I'm not going to get into details about it since it's been covered so much elsewhere. But I'm excited to see how someone (hopefully someone smart) uses this to make my life easier and consolidate all my activity into one place. It looks like Plaxo's making a great start with Pulse (their widget is in the sidebar), and I look forward to seeing what they can put together beyond the first release.

What I like so far:

  • Lots of options for different social networks
  • Easy integration
What they need to work on:
  • Public display has too much white space
  • Adding lesser-known social networks (like wikinvest) - this is very important, since it's the main problem I'm trying to solve

I spent some time with Plaxo Pulse - check out the result at

More on Google Social Graph API:

Thursday, January 31, 2008

GPS And Google Maps On My Blackberry

So I was quite fortunate this week. After managing to break my last Blackberry Curve after about 6 months of (heavy) use, I got a warranty replacement - and was quite surprised to find it to be GPS-enabled. So somehow I got a little upgrade to the 8310 version (CNET review) for my trouble, and should thank AT&T just this once for that.

I never quite understood how cool having GPS on your phone would be. And when the phone tried to force me into paying for the built-in Telenav application, which looks exactly like a Garmin interface on your phone, I quickly declined to pay the extra cash.

Then, almost without thinking, I installed the most recent Google pack - a pleasant experience - and went about my business. The next time I loaded up some maps, however, I was pleasantly surprised to see a little blue dot showing me where I was driving, right across the San Mateo bridge. Pretty sweet.

I wanted to test this out, and I was hungry and need of something quick. After a quick search for "Quiznos" (without any other modifiers like zip code, which I was used to), I was immediately given the 10 closest Quizno's restaurants to the San Mateo bridge. Sweet! Selecting one of them, I was then given step-by-step directions to get there from where I was.

What does make me angry is the built-in telenav, and how AT&T tries to force it on users who don't know enough to use the Google version. That's why I support the OHA so strongly, and am very interested to see what happens with the ongoing FCC spectrum auction.

I'm sold on GPS. And I'll never get a new phone without it - it makes the mobile maps that much more powerful and useful. And sorry, iPhone - you're cool, but I'll take my iPod Touch and my Blackberry. More info from the good folks at Google here:

More on the spectrum auction and the OHA:

Note: I hold stock in Research in Motion (RIMM), but not Google (GOOG). Validated by ZeccoShare.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fun With Chumby

For Christmas I was very fortunate to receive a Chumby as a gift (my dad's pretty hip). Not too many people have heard of the things, and many of my officemates were confused (perhaps a little disturbed) when I brought it in to the office and placed it on my desk.

The Basics
Chumby describes their device as a "personal Internet player." It essentially plays a host of widgets, including twitter, weather, stock updates, simple games, and Flickr feeds. How does it work?

  • Connects to any available WiFi network (don't worry, you can enter passwords for locked-down networks).
  • Touchscreen controls let you interact with many widgets, including scrolling to read.
  • Connects to an ipod via USB to play music (very cool). It'll recharge your ipod while it's at it.
  • Motion sensors let you move/shake the thing to control some widgets, especially games.
  • Streams videos from YouTube, pictures from Flickr, and anything with an RSS feed.
  • Widgets are managed from chumby's website.

The Usefulness

It's not useful, in the sense that it doesn't solve any problems. I like having it for the "what the hell is that?" reactions from coworkers. But also because it streams headlines without taking up valuable monitor space. I especially like the stock tickers, since that's important info for me personally, and I don't have to go anywhere to keep checking current prices.

There's a community around the things, apparently. But since I don't really know anyone else who has a chumby, it's hard to gauge how useful it is. So if you get one, let me know and we can be "chums" (my chumby is tonyleachsf, of course).

Other reviews:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Something Cool From Facebook

I've complained a bit about Facebook's targeted ads, and how if you say you're a single male interested in women you get spammed with "Meet Girls" ads that are very annoying. So to balance that criticism, I wanted to share something I discovered this morning and thought was really cool.

If you type a link into a private message, Facebook will automatically go fetch some metadata from that page and display a snippet of information alongside your message. It's pretty slick, and easy to remove if you want. Only works for the first site you enter, but that's fine. Basically it pulls in:

  • The first image on the page
  • The page title
  • The meta description for the page
It'd be great if this sort of feature was available for blogs, emails, etc. - or even for sites like

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lijit Personal Search

I've got a couple cool widgets on this page and at my Tumblr at I like the ShareThis, which lets people send links to friends via email & to various social media sites very easily. Recently I added Lijit search (inspired partly by Chris Anderson), just to see what it's all about. It's the pink bar on the right.

From the user perspective, Lijit seems to be basically personal search. It takes the same angle as Tumblr, which I like, because it pulls from various sources (like the social networks I belong to) and aggregates the results into a single display. You can refine the results to show everything from my blog, from my online contributions to Digg, from sites in my "network," or from the web as a whole. Give it a try - search for something like "Tumblr" or "Apple" or "Zecco."

Lijit's powered by Google custom search, which makes sense. And while that gives legitimacy to its results, it also makes the results slightly less unique. Fortunately, Lijit makes it easy enough to use, manage, and install the widget as a publisher/blogger that it makes it uniquely valuable. Some highlights from the publisher perspective:

  • You can customize your search widget across several dimensions, and make something that is fairly unique and similar to your own page.
  • Customizing the widget from the Lijit site automatically makes the changes to your own site, once you've installed the javascript
  • The "Lijit stats" page is very interesting, telling you where your readers/viewers are coming from. It's much better than FeedBurner or MyBlogLog stats
What's more? They're based in my hometown of Boulder, CO. It's great to see cool ideas come out of the place you grew up!

Some more thoughts:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tony's Tumbles - Tumblr and Tumblogs

Tumblr is one of those things that will change the way people interact online.

I've been online since the creation of the Internet. It started with pine-based email, playing games on CompuServe (and being blown away by the amount of time people must put into those games to get the top scores), and playing card games in the early days. Then it was chat rooms, Napster, Amazon, and CDnow (not in that order though, I guess. Google came along and made everything easy to find. Nothing could really capture my attention though and keep me coming back on a daily basis, and the Internet was mostly a distraction.

Two things happened. First was Facebook/social networks, which somehow made active participation online not just for the uber-geeks. The next was discovering Google Reader. The idea that I could automatically pull (and manage) a ton of interesting content into one place and read through it like email introduced me to the blog world. Now I have hundreds of sites I track on a daily basis - millions if you count by RSS-ized alerts.

As a result, I've somehow found myself participating in dozens of places online. There's a snipper on the right showing those I can think of. Twitter, Digg, Delicious, Facebook, LinkedIn (I promise this isn't link bait, I'm just making a point), Zecco of course, Serious Eats, Flickr,, Yelp!... There's too many to keep track of - not only for me, but for others as well. Of course, that's only given the assumption that anyone would want to follow me to all these different places.

That's where Tumblr comes in - it's like Google Reader meets Facebook. All my participation, commentary, even blogging, gets pulled into one place that I can control. (Well, currently only 5 points of participation, but who's counting? I'm sure that will increase.) People who are really interested in me as a person can follow that. People interested in me as an eater, or as an investor, can follow me on those places, or simply let my contributions get summed up into the aggregate.
Why I'm excited:

  • People can follow my Diggs, Delicious saves, Twitters, and blog posts from one page. They don't have to go to lots of different sites or services.
  • I have full control over what's displayed. There are predefined types of posts, like links, photos, videos, quotes, even conversations, and I can decided how each of them appears.
  • I interact with other people using Tumblr. Reblogging posts & following people is very easy on the dashboard - for now. I could see some scale issue here in following much more than 5 active people.
  • I can see them building better, more direct, and faster API integration with more services. Upadates will become quicker. And each "post" could potentially have an icon indicating its source. All version x.0 sorts of things, I'm sure.
Anyway, check it out if you get a chance. It certainly makes it easier for me to pull the online "tonyleachsf" all into one place.

Other people agreeing:
(p.s. I'm glad they don't allow comments. That's not the point. Comments are for blogs).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Apple Movie Rentals Review - Apple Drops The Ball

UPDATE: I should apologize. I wrote this post the night this all was announced. iTunes music store clearly wasn't working at 100%. Checking out the rental offerings this past weekend has been a much better experience. Many more movies are available to rent (even more than to purchase). The ITMS experience is fine - it's easy to find movies and browse the offerings. I'll try to wait a while and get a chance to play with things for a couple days next time I write a review. Still, I'm not the only person let down by Apple on Day (or Week) 1.

HOWEVER, my complaints about lack of HD for macs are still valid. Hopefully Front Row and ITMS upgrades are just a Mac conference away.

Also - a playlist feature that works like the Netflix queue would be awesome for the rentals. Just sayin...

The world's abuzz with talk and recaps from the "Stevenote" fronting this year's Macworld conference. After some poking around with the new software, I have to say I'm disappointed. And I'm not the only one - AAPL stock dropped 5.5% today, and more after hours.

My big problem - there was plenty of love for the Apple TV. There's HD movies, movie rentals, and great new software. The love for the Mac Mini? Nowhere. I updated my iTunes software this evening as soon as I got home, and eagerly tried to find a movie to download. Here's what I think:

  • The interface: Poor. The browsing is not intuitive, if I'm not looking for something in particular (I wasn't). The movie selection leaves a lot to be desired - it doesn't look like anything has improved for Apple in this respect.
  • The content: Poor. Steve Jobs claimed participation from most studios, which they seem to, but not for high-quality content. This will be a major problem until Apple finds a way to make the studios play nice.
  • The speed: Poor. Downloading a movie took about 30 minutes, not the 30 seconds the Steve-inator proclaimed.
  • The renting: Where? I looked around the movie section for a long time, and could only find Robocop as something to rent. Everything else was for purchase only.
  • The HD: Non-existent. I couldn't find ANY HD content to purchase on my Mac Mini. Neither could the good folks at Ars. There was some stuff I'd never heard of in HD (podcasts, etc.), but was only available for the Apple TV. Not for the mac/pc users, which I'm sure greatly outnumber the Apple TV. At the very least, it'd be a great marketing tool for the Apple TV, since once someone sees the video quality on their monitor, they'd get a Apple TV for their television. This seems like a very odd choice to me. It can't be a technical limitation, as my low-end Mac Mini can play HD content from Hulu. I can only imagine Apple's choice.
I've been pro-Apple for a long time. As you can see on my ZeccoShare profile at Zecco, I hold some AAPL stock, primarily since I believe in the strength of their products. This is the first time that they have not only failed to blow me away, but have actually let me down.

Other announcements from today that were generally bad: iPod Touch users have to pay $20 to get their software upgraded, while iPhone users get the updates for free; an Apple external hard drive (the wireless is cool) that costs much more than competing products.

I can only hope that the coming months will bring some fixes that will restore their greatness in my mind.

OH, and I'm not the only one who thinks so:

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hulu transforms (again) the way I watch television

OK, here's the timeline:

  1. I move to college. I'm not willing to pay for cable because TV is crap, so I don't.
  2. I finish up college. I subscribe to cable since that seems like the right thing to do, but hate how much it costs.
  3. I get TIVO. My viewing habits are transformed, and I can now follow my favorite shows. Since I don't have to schedule my life around the networks, I fall in love with The Daily Show, 24, and shows like Scrubs and The Office.
  4. I get an HD TV. To watch HD programming, cable bills skyrocket. Their service stumbles, and out of frustration I cancel my service.
  5. I discover that I can get good-enough quality television online. Since my computer (a mac mini) is plugged into my HD TV, I can watch it all in huge-screen glory. For free (mostly). I haven't found a show I wanted to watch that I haven't been able to get online, other than the Food Network, sadly.
Most people that I talk to know all about how to watch mainstream television online - meaning full-length shows distributed by major networks. They think of or iTunes, which actually work out great. I can really get anything I want there, either for free or paying for a show subscription, like $10/month for the Daily Show.

Using Hulu, despite its mixed initial reactions, has been awesome for my online-TV experience, and gives me more and more confidence that the Internet is already replacing cable as a distribution channel for content.
  1. The HD Gallery is amazing. Sure, it's only movie trailers now, but the proof-of-concept is that all content will be able to stream in HD within a few years.
  2. They continually add shows. I was initially skeptical of Hulu because of their close affiliation with the NBC and FOX networks. But the amount of content there now and added since I joined has been very compelling.
  3. Browsing and playing shows is easy.
  4. Ads are there, but they're well-embedded into the player. No need to adjust anything when the ads are done like the network's sites.
  5. The playlist feature is awesome. I can queue up shows (like a Netflix queue) and play them all, back-to-back. It's a great way to get into new shows from the start, like Chuck or Heroes.
I particularly like that though they're building a great site, they're also making it easy for people to embed the videos different places (like this clip below). That open approach is surprising from a site so close to the networks, but will help Hulu's success immensely. Now numerous video sites are supported by Hulu's content - and I'm guessing that Hulu gets a cut of the ads embedded in the content.

Anyway, enjoy Hulu...