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Today, Google announced its intention to buy Motorola Mobility. That’s the division of Motorola that makes smartphones, tablets, DVRs, settop boxes, Bluetooth stuff, and a whole bunch of other products that connect people together. Which is right in Google’s sweet spot. After all, Google makes the Android operating system (another company they bought), and Motorola makes devices on which Android runs. No-brainer, right?

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Okay… before we get into this, let me remind you that I Am Not A Lawyer (IANAL). I don’t even play one on television anymore. So there.

In a nutshell, Viacom sued Google for copyright infringement under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Viacom wanted Google to take down every copyright-infringing video on YouTube (yes, Google owns YouTube). Which, in and of itself, is fair and reasonable. However, Viacom didn’t want to have to tell Google which videos violated their copyright; they just wanted Google to take them all down.

The judge (Judge Louis J. Stanton, God bless him) was, however, a reasonable man with a firm grasp of both the law and common sense (a rare combination these days). He ruled that Google qualifies for DCMA Safe Harbor protection. Basically (IANAL), the Safe Harbor provision means that the service provider (in this case, Google) is not liable for what other people put up on the site. That sort of makes it like the phone company. You can sue a person for making an obscene phone call, but you can’t sue the phone company for providing you with the service that made that call possible.

What this means (IANAL) is that, should Viacom provide Google with a listing of infringing videos, Google is obliged to take them down, but Google doesn’t have to look at all the millions of videos on YouTube and magically infer which ones violate Viacom’s copyright.

In point of fact, when Viacom send a take-down notice including 100,000 or so videos, Google had ‘em all gone by the next day. I’d say that proves Google’s a pretty reasonable company to deal with for all this.

Here’s the fun part, though: For years, apparently, Viacom has been secretly uploading stuff to Google themselves! They’ve been doing it from Kinko’s and other places that don’t flag at Google as having come from Viacom. They opened phony YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. They deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen. In fact, their efforts to disguise the fact that these things came from Viacom worked so well, that their own employees couldn’t keep track of these things. In fact, there were apprarently quite a number of occasions in which Viacom demanded Google take down infringing videos, only to have to turn around and sheepishly ask that they be put back again.

Given all of that, there’s no reasonable (IANAL) way Google could have known which infringing videos Viacom wanted taken down, and which infringing videos Viacom wanted left up. And Judge Louis J. Stanton (God bless him) recognized that.

Of course, Viacom will appeal. This is America; it’s what we do. My only hope is that the judges up the line have that same grain of common sense that Judge Louis J. Stanton (God bless him) has. Good luck on this one, Google – from the state of our judicial system today, something tells me you’re going to need it!

AT&T announced new pricing plans for their 3G network. iPhone and iPad users are now facing the fact that they can (allegedly) pay less for data, but they’ll have to start counting megabytes.

Or, maybe not. According to AT&T, about 65% of their smartphone customers user fewer than 200M of data per month, and about 98% use fewer than 2G. Which means you can get away with $15/mo for 200M on your iPhone (or 250M on your iPad), or$25/mo for 2G on either device.

Sounds like a heck of a savings. And, indeed, AT&T estimates that the majority of their customers will save between $5 and $15 per month.

Of course, we’ll start hearing screams from the outliers. Those who, say, listen to streaming radio (give it up, Pandora and XM – AT&T doesn’t want you on their networks), or subscribe to many newspapers (what’s that oh-so-pretty, picture-filled subscription to the New York Times going to cost you iPad owners when you factor in the data plan?). And you can just uninstall those multiplayer games you’re so proud of right now.

But that’s no problem for those of you who only use your iPhone and iPad the way AT&T approves: Make calls. Send text messages. And maybe get the weather report every day – but no video! Podcasts? A few, I guess. Streaming audio? Not too much; go out and buy the album! Come to think of it, what’s the point of the iPad if you’re not streaming video and audio?

Meanwhile, I’ll stick with my Droid, thanks. I’ll let Google guide me around the country while I listen to Pandora or XiiaLive, check stuff out on the Web, amaze my friends with voice search, and never think about it twice.

At least, not until Verizon kills their all-you-can-eat buffet, too. I’m sure somebody at Verizon is already getting a little twitchy.

I’ve been a fan of eReaders since the original Rocketbook (which, like so much other hand-held technology did not successfully pass the Patented Francesco Drop Test). The ability to have hundreds of books on hand was great. Everything from light reading to textbooks could fit in my eReader and be ready for me.

Then along came the Kindle and its clones. The next generation. I could dogear pages, highlight, and take notes, sure, but I could even Google and click links! But, still, what I was reading was mostly text. Even in magazines.

Now comes the iPad generation of eReaders. And, so far, we’re still stuck with books that haven’t changed that much since Gutenberg stopped making mirrors to “capture holy light from religious relics,” and turned his hand to something legitimate. More importantly, books haven’t change that much since Ted Nelson coined the words “hypertext” and “hypermedia” in 1965. He also coined the words transclusion, which is relevant, and teledildonics, which isn’t. But I digress.

For generations, books have been edited for length, not just to trim bad material, but to fit a specific binding format or accounting plan. Now, I agree with B. R. Myers, who said “Half of good writing is knowing what to leave out.” But while that may be true for fiction, in my opinion, non-fiction in general and, certainly, textbooks in particular, should have all the additional material they can cram in.

The bad news is that you can’t cram that much stuff in to a book (remember, page counts!). But eBooks are a whole new genre. Because they link to the net, they can have as much stuff as you can “cram in” to the Internet! All sorts of supporting material is available on the Internet (mostly via the Web). Having live links to interviews, source articles, videos, audio, etc., can make an educational experience so much richer. Of course, that just means editors will be more in demand than ever. In the vein of the B. R. Myers quote above, William James said “Wisdom is knowing what to leave out.” And God knows there are writers who can run off at the mouth! Editors know what to leave out – that’s their job – and their skill sets will grow from grammar and spelling and… well… wisdom, to artistic sensibilities in knowing what will look good on various devices.

I get that the first sets of eBooks were just electronic books; the technology really didn’t lend itself to much else. But as we have devices that do audio and video as well as print; as we have devices that are attached to the Internet; as we get more and more people (particularly students) who are both “tech savvy” and comfortable with multiple simultaneous sensory inputs, eBooks can grow from something that, at its base, Gutenberg would have recognized, to something Ted Nelson would like.

I had a great time talking Social Media with the Berry Company folks here locally today. We had a terrific, far-ranging discussion, and I’m delighted to say these people clearly got it. They asked intelligent, cogent, sharp questions with incisive follow-ups.

This talk helped me further clarify and solidify my Unified Theory of Social Media. These are smart people, and they kept me on my toes. I came away invigorated and excited all over again about the possibilities of Social Media.

One of the things I was most intrigued with is that dawning realization on the part of my audience that selling via Social Media is, as I said in my Unified Theory, a “long, slow slog,” and how each person deals with that internally. It definitely takes time, it definitely takes effort, and it definitely takes dedication. You don’t become the Expert until other people think you’re the Expert. And they won’t think it until you prove it to them. But once they know you’re the Expert, it becomes their idea to come to you for help, and you win.

I have to find a better word than Expert. We had a disconnect, until I explained that you don’t have to actually know everything about a topic; you just have to know where to find out about it. For example, you don’t have to know everything about widgets or doo-dads or wangdoodles, but if you’re the person who finds – and posts – interesting articles about new wangdoodle technology, or novel uses for wangdoodles, or information about the world-wide wangdoodle market, then you’re the Expert. Maybe “Editor” is a better term. Hmmm…

What we lose, with the death of newspapers and good news programs, is the editor. The person who says “this is good, put it on – this is crap, toss it.” We get a mixture from mint to manure, and we have to sort it out for ourselves. If, however, you’re known as the Editor – and a good Editor – then people will happily and confidently use you as their filter. And you win.

We also talked about blogging from the nuts-and-bolts perspective. Let’s face it, blogging’s a time-consuming thing. But what worries most people is that whole “grammar, syntax, spelling” thing. One of the things you have to remember is that blogs are only semi-formal as a means of communication. Sure, you should make sure that your grammar, syntax, and spelling are correct, but if they’re not perfect, you’re unlikely to be ostracized for it. It’s your ideas that people are looking for. Besides, that’s why God made spell checkers! Additionally, if you have a corporate blog (like, oh, say, the Saunders blog!), no one person has the pressure to blog every day. It’s the conglomerate blog that’s important. Sure, you have one person who’s known as the Editor for widgets, and another who’s known as the Editor for doo-dads, and a third who’s known as the Editor for wangdoodles, but as a whole (particularly if they reference relevant points in each others’ blogs – you know, like a network?), the company becomes the Expert/Editor. And you win even bigger.

I’ll certainly be following The Berry Company’s local foray into the world of Social Media with a lot of interest. But no pressure, gang!

I was originally going to call this “Some Thoughts on Social Media,” but that’s a comparatively weak title. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a unified theory of Social Media, and what I do have may only generously be categorized as “thoughts,” but that’s certainly never stopped me before.

I just attended a great seminar hosted by Emily Carpenter and Mike Krause called “Social Media Means Business.” There were three excellent speakers (and me), and their information and the discussions we had in the schmoozing part of the seminar led me to think more organically on how Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. all go together to make you money. Which is pretty much the point, isn’t it?

The basic goal, of course, is that you want to become Known as an Expert, so that people will feel comfortable giving you money because you know things, or can do things, or can find people who know or can do things. The important phrase in that sentence is “feel comfortable giving you money.” Nobody hires somebody sight unseen unless it’s an emergency.

If I have a foot of water in my basement, I’m going to grab the Yellow Pages and call the plumber with the biggest ad. But if I’m adding an extension on my house, I’ll start asking around about a good, reliable plumber. I’ll start noticing ads about plumbers. I’ll start noticing billboards about plumbers. My friends will tell me about plumbers they like (and dislike). Eventually, I’ll pick one that I feel comfortable giving my money to. And the reason that I feel comfortable giving my money to that plumber is because a lot of people I trust said she’s okay.

Or say I’m interested in car insurance. I see a billboard with a lizard on it, that pretty much means nothing to me. But I see that billboard every day. Then I see other billboards like it. Then I hear a series of 10-second commercials on the radio. Then I see a bunch of 30-second commercials on television. I see lizards, I see cavemen, I see stacks of old bills with googly-eyes on them. Eventually, I get comfortable with the notion of giving Geico my money. It’s all about that comfort level.

Twitter is that billboard. Nobody buys anything based on a single billboard. But when they see that billboard time after time, when they see billboards just like it over and over again, it becomes like a little rubber hammer tap-tap-tapping on the back of your head until you Get It. There’s no big sledgehammer/anvil-drop moment; just that tap-tap-tap until you feel comfortable.

If Twitter is a billboard, then Facebook and LinkedIn are your 60-second commercials. Here you can develop your content more, and present it better. Again, you want to make sure there are enough of them to get people comfortable with you, but not so many that they get turned off.

Not to get crazy with the patafor, but that makes your blog the half-hour infomercial. This is where you shift down a gear and get serious. This is where people really get comfortable enough with you to give you money. In a blog post (and, in fact, in the whole blog over time) you can develop your ideas more clearly and establish your bona fides more precisely. This is where you get the best exposure for your ideas; where you can put the time into developing them and explaining them and getting your content just right.

But without those billboards (Twitter) and those commercials (Facebook, LinkedIn), nobody’s going to come see your infomercial (blog). Nobody’s going to get comfortable enough hearing your name to give you money. It’s the combination of all those social media (and many others), all working together, that creates in other people the knowledge that you’re an Expert on a specific topic. And that’s how they get comfortable with you, and that’s when they’re willing to give you money to be their Expert.

You have to realize that this is a long, slow slog to your goal. There’s no magic bullet here; it takes time, and it takes effort, and it takes dedication. But it works. You can become the Person People Want to Hire, but you have to work at it.

So, maybe I do have a Semi-Unified Theory of Social Media after all. No one Social Medium is going to get you anywhere. If you’re twittering without a business/monetary goal, then feel free to go back to typing with one hand, because I’m not talking to you. But if you’re looking to leverage Social Media into some form of business model (part-time or full-time), you need to be involved with multiple Social Media at once, and you need to have a clear picture of your roadmap, and how each Medium fits into that roadmap, because they work together to create that unified whole that results in cash in your pocket.


By: Nick
Filed Under: Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

Passwords have been very much in the forefront of my mind these last couple of days. First, RIT is requiring everybody to change their DCE (yes, I know that’s not the official term anymore, but everybody still uses it) password. The password must be between 8 and 15 characters long (that’s inclusive, but they don’t tell you that), it must contain a mix of upper and lower case letters, start with a letter, contain no recognizable words or dates, not contain your username, and – here’s the kicker – consist solely of letters and numbers. No special characters.

Let’s back up a sec. There are a lot of ways to create tough passwords, but one of my favorites is this: Take any phrase – from a poem, a song, a quotable movie line, whatever – and then use the first letter of each word. Massage it a little bit, and hey, presto! you’ve got your difficult-to-crack password.

Here’s an example: One of my favorite poems is “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service. It starts out:

There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold

Take the first letter of each word, substitute a ’1′ for the ‘i’ in “in,” capitalize Midnight Sun, substitute a ’4′ for “for,” and there’s a great password:


Oh – before you get all excited, all of the samples I use here are NOT passwords I use anywhere real, so calm down.

I have used a number of examples over the years:

A!wyccd4y-Awycd4yc (Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country – ! for “not” is a programmer’s thing)

Mhall,1fwwas – Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow

SIct2asd? – Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

B,s!Wltywb?- But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? (actually, I don’t like this one as much, as there’s no easily remembered number in it)

Notice that all but one of these have special characters in them. All of my real passwords have special characters in them, too; it makes them much, much harder to crack when you factor in the permutations involved in adding the whole special character set to the regular alphanumeric characters. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, RIT wants no special characters. Well, that’s not a big problem; I just selected a suitable phrase. But I wasn’t so lucky on Twitter.

My Twitter password has several special characters in it. Works great. But now I’m setting up some blogs. WordPress has a great plugin called “Twitter Tools.” It automatically tweets whenever you post a new blog entry. Cool, right? But it won’t work for me, because Twitter Tools escapes my special characters (makes them safe for passing to a database, even though nothing gets passed to a database), and then Twitter won’t take them. I have written to the creator of the application to see if he has a simple solution, although I don’t expect to hear back from him. I am now faced with the choice of changing all of my Twitter passwords (one Twitter account, and several applications each on my work computer, my home computer, my work laptop, and my home laptop), or tearing through the code trying to figure out a simple, clean way to pass the password unedited. The first is not difficult, but I’m annoyed at the prospect of having to do it, simply because a programmer didn’t think people would have special characters in their passwords.

On an entirely separate note, have you ever watched someone when you told them they had to change their passwords? People who give four-hour off-the-cuff lectures to a roomful of students, present papers to thousands of colleagues at meetings, and will talk for hours when you pass them in the halls, freeze up at the mere thought of having to create a new password. These people, who can keep a zillion esoteric facts in their heads for years, firmly believe that they are totally incapable of remembering a password! And, therefore, as with all self-fulfilling prophecies, they are.

Google Chrome

By: Nick
Filed Under: Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock on Mars, you already know that Google just released a new Web browser: Chrome. This is not a review of the browser itself. I’ll let Thom do that. He’ll do a much better job than I would, anyway. Besides, I just downloaded it seven minutes ago, for Pete’s sake! This is just my initial thoughts, as a Systems Administrator, as it downloaded and installed.

Sure, it’s just another Web browser. Sure, it’s just another open-source project. Sure, it’s just another thing Google’s throwing at the world. Doesn’t mean a thing. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Actually, this browser is kinda scary. Google already knows what you write(Docs), what you email to whom (Gmail), who you associate with (Groups), what you look at (Picassa), what you read (Google Reader), where you’re going to be (Calendar), and even what you think (Blogger). They know what’s on your hard drive (Desktop Search), what you buy (Checkout), where you’re going ( Maps), what you’re researching (Scholar), what you’re building (Patent Search), and even how you’re feeling today ( Health).

And now, the one last piece – Google now knows what you’re doing when you’re not using any other Google product.

Now, let’s not get all “second browser on the grassy knoll” about this. The whole point here is not to spy on you (I hope), but rather to give you more directed advertising. And I don’t really have a problem with that, as long as they don’t know I’m me, but rather that I’m the anonymous individual who’s been looking at new cars recently. After all, the more money Google makes off ads, the more free stuff they’ll be willing to write. Free is good.

But here’s the part that gives me pause: I installed it under Vista (because they haven’t got the Linux browser done yet – slackers). When I installed it under Vista, it didn’t ask me to Allow or Deny the install! It seems (with just a few minutes’ detective work – I could conceivably be wro… not entirely correct) that it’s not installing as a standard application. In fact, when I reinstalled it as Admin, none of the other users on that machine could see it. Seems like it’s local to the user, which means any user can install it at any time on any machine.

Now, that’s fine, I guess, for the normal home user. But for me, as the Systems Administrator for a college, it has massive implications. If anyone can install it anywhere without special permissions, where is my security? Where is my control over what apps (psst: Gears!!!) are running on my machines? How do I protect my machines from people throwing whatever crap they want on them? Sure, I know – Chrome has a million little jails and security features and stuff. But, now, Google is asking me to hand them the security of my entire network.

Maybe there really is a second browser on that grassy knoll…

It’s no longer enough for us to be able to write something that the entire world can (notice I didn’t say “will”) read. So…

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

See what I mean?

A lot of “legacy” Windows software won’t run on Vista. And it likely never will. Companies that have been putting out the same old code base for the last umpteen years are not going to want to rewrite their code to work under Vista. People who have been complacently (and often illegally) copying the same old software from machine to machine will now have to buy a new version. But is that Microsoft’s fault?

Now, please – don’t get me wrong. I am not a Microsoft apologist. Far from it! My desktops at work and home are Ubuntu. My laptop at work is a Mac. The only Vista box I have is a second system at work so that I can test products (which mostly don’t work) and play with the OS to learn it. But I’ll never use it for production work!

Even so, it both amuses and bemuses me that Mac people in particular are so childishly – and nastily – triumphant because so many programs don’t work under Vista. Have they forgotten OS X? Have they forgotten the brouhaha that resulted in all of their beloved Mac OS programs suddenly becoming so many bits of rust on a platter? Yes, there was some compatibility, but that’s where Vista stands now, isn’t it?

Frankly, I’ve always said that I applaud the guts it takes to say to your happy, contented user base that everything they know is about to become wrong. To say “We’ve taken this OS as far as it can go; time for a new generation, new programmers, and new code. And if the old stuff breaks, well, that’s sad, but it won’t hold us back.” That’s what Apple did with OS X, and that’s what Microsoft did with Vista.

Of course, there were two major differences. First, Apple’s sheep love them. Second, Apple announced they were doing this. Microsoft’s users, by and large, barely tolerate the company. And I can’t recall a single announcement that said most applications would be broken.

So, once again, Microsoft shot itself in the foot publicity-wise. The programs that are designed for Vista work fine. Some older programs work, too, but that’s serendipity. Had Microsoft come out and said they were creating a new operating system with only limited support for older software, there would have been grumbling, but nothing like the way people are now holding Vista up to ridicule.

Again, please don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to dislike about Vista. And once again, Microsoft has outpaced hardware, so that it’ll take another generation of computers to truly catch up to Vista and make all the eye candy work, and take away the excruciating wait for something – anything! – to happen.

But you oh-so-smug Mac people need to lay off the hypocrisy. You applauded when Apple did it; at least don’t vilify Microsoft for doing the same thing. You’re not that superior; you have nothing to be smug about.

Now, you Linux people, you go ahead and be smug. Who better?