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August 2007

Nokia GoPlay in London

Music CaveALONG WITH SEVERAL hundred other journalists, I spent most of Thursday day at Old Billingsgate in London, watching Nokia GoPlay unfold (that's the Old Billingsgate cave at left), playing with different handsets (not all of them Nokia phones), and talking with managers as well as product developers. Throughout the day, I listened to the back channel chatter and learned other perspectives from Jaiku, IRC, direct text messages and Twitter. Those back channels gave me an indication of what Nokia could do with its positioning as an internet services company. I waited until midnight to wade through an inch of product descriptions, then I wrote this blog post while sifting through commentary from people about Ovi, the door to social media that Nokia wants people to use. What rambles below the break consolidates these thoughts.

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Espresso Please

Spot the ObviousPLENTY OF PEOPLE whose musings I enjoy reading don't like the way a lot of online conversation has started to babble in places where it's difficult to follow the streams in easy ways. Facebook is one of the guilty parties. Euan Semple (in the photo) calls it "the cappuccino of social networking. Loads of froth and chocolate shaken on the top. Give me a double espresso any day." Then there's Twitter, whose infrastructure seems to randomly lose, regurgitate, and then upstream multiple posts well beyond the time of the author's initial posting. If I had nothing else to do, I might agree to hang out and watch the stream of content percolate at Facebook or Twitter but I don't have the patience to watch paint dry in either of these social networks. As a result, I'm resigned to flicking through photos and group conversations on Facebook the way I do with Flickr--days later in many cases. Facebook and Twitter are effective precursors of activities or simple places to hatch ideas serendipitously but hardly worthy of replacing well-written blog posts that connect thoughts together. Blog posts give me sustenance because they come with RSS feeds that bubble up on my mobile phone. I know I follow the flow of online conversation more with a mobile phone than with a laptop. I get little text updates from Jaiku that aggregate titles from blogs. Jaiku also sends me summaries of social bookmarks and occasionally small thumbnails from recent Flickr photos. That kind of information feels like the espresso of social networking to me.

Euan Semple -- "Facebook"


Full-Circle Copyright

CHRIS THE JEDI Knight crossed swords with Viacom when the entertainment giant claimed that Knight violated Viacom copyright "by posting on YouTube a segment from its VH1 show Web Junk 2.0, which VH1 produced--without permission--from a video that I had originally created". Knight explains "Viacom used my video without permission on their commercial television show, and now says that I am infringing on THEIR copyright for showing the clip of the work that Viacom made in violation of my own copyright!" Christopher Knight's video was deleted by YouTube, at Viacom's insistence.

Christopher Knight -- " Viacom hits me with copyright infringement for posting on YouTube a video that Viacom made by infringing on my own copyright"


FastLadder Speeds

FastLadderWHEN IN LONDON, my 3G office has failed to deliver the same speeds as I got in Ireland. Speed is the most important aspect when reading large number of web sites through news aggregators. I read with Google Reader, with Bloglines and with FreeNews. On my 3G laptop, when speeds dip to GPRS levels, Bloglines and Google Reader are too slow. That's partially because I have more than 1000 feeds registered with each of the main services used to trawl web sites. I also use Fastladder (albeit for fewer feeds) and now in London at reduced network speeds, it's obvious that FastLadder is snappier than anything else I'm using. It boots faster into the XML feeeds, pre-fetches quicker and is smoother with keystroke commands. Recommended, if you don't mind losing some of the Google Reader command set.

What is FastLadder?


Fondling Phones in Public

Loadsa N95 phonesON SOME OCCASIONS, I publicly fondle things--like phones. Nokia GoPlay offers just that opportunity and as the big event unfolds in Old Billingsgate, I think I'll make a special effort to find and fondle the beefed-up Nokia N95 (stack of the first edition displayed here). I think the new edition results in the N95 getting more memory, a sharper screen and a more distinct housing. And although Nokia will unveil plenty of other interesting items at the GoPlay launch, the mainstream press will probably give more coverage to the iPhone being unlocked through a clever hack instead of Nokia offering a clever way to update music, podcasts, and phone software over the air. Some business and technology writers easily forget that Nokia sold 40m smart phones in 2006--half of the market. The company may reach a 40% share of the entire mobile phone market by the end of the fourth quarter of 2007 and that would be remarkable if it occurs during the same time frame that Apple's iPhone debuts in Europe. Unlike the iPhone, Nokia does not tie its users into only a browser window to engage with content. Nokia's 900m established customers seem to appreciate simple and intuitive interactive experiences that run on the phones themselves, not through an open browser connected to a mobile phone's network. Time will tell if Nokia has correctly groked the evolving multimedia phone marketplace. The financial analysts think the company is headed in the right direction. Within a few days, I'll have some of my own reflections, based on first-hand observations and interviews with Nokia staff.

Most interesting photos taken at Nokia GoPlay throughout the world. And the Nokia photos too.


Tiling Over Problems

White Cube ProjectFRANK MCDONALD AND KATHY SHERIDAN keep writing about Irish property developers who have saved €260m in stamp duty through a loophole in tax laws. Another tax break allows investors in developments to write off all but the site costs of an apartment or townhouse against their total rental income for the first year, including rents from other properties owned, with any unused tax relief being carried forward indefinitely. This is happening all around us and it's overheating the Irish economy. Underneath the surface, there are some really rough spots that no amount of financial smoke and mirrors will tile over. Take the contracts for difference (CFDs) that Brian Cowen is allowing to run unbridled on the Irish Stock Exchange. Brokers use CFDs to bet on oscillations in share prices. They can take fees they would normally earn only on real purchases. Traders in the Irish Financial Services Centre are pumping up their bank balances with CFDs and it's not productivity, just gambling on the stock market.

We're actually too small to play in this kind of market but from the outside looking in, there's nothing underneath these creative financial dealings. We're just tiling over problems that are going to surface later on.


Learned at Camp Bread

VISITORS TO IRELAND need to experiment with scones made by different Irish bakers because as the Bread Bakers Guild in the Bay Area discovered, all is not the same with the almighty scone. But as in all "camps" dotted on the knowledge-sharing map, Camp Bread involved learning from generous bakers. An all-day seminar on "Irish Ethnic Baking" let some of the secrets of the High Street Baker leak into mainstream American media. I've noted some of those secrets below and we have started experimenting with scone-baking sessions at home. We like messy scones so every session is a lovely opportunity to enjoy freshly baked sensations.

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Following Conversations

[Editor updated post six hours after publishing to clarify that the issue of "followership" originated here. The editor (me) is the one failing to follow best practise. Screen shot removed from post.]

I THINK IT'S GOOD form to listen before speaking, to consider before expounding and to follow threads of discussion long after contributing to them. In relatively new communications systems like Jaiku and Twitter, some people are throttling might miss part of the conversation by limiting the synergy that unfolds during short give and takes. This happens to me several times a month. I've missed parts of conversations when I jumped in the deep end and accepted the text messaging component of microblogs directly onto my mobile phone. It proved unmanageable. In the middle of a Twitter conversation today concerning the State monitoring people who have not committed crimes, the part of the conversation most likely to contain a learned legal perspective got parked in a cul de sac because one of the respondents had shut down followers to the conversation. When you don't follow anyone, you have to look at a public timeline to spot comments made back to you because most other methods fail to get the information flow since Twitter often stagnates. Not following people is tantamount to closing comments on a web site. Not following the conversation is not connecting with people. More significantly, I have seen dozens of people doing this and while I understand some of the rationale, I also wonder if they know they're cutting out the response side--the most important slice--of social media. It does not seem to be normal to cut out people who want to add relevant thoughts to an engaging conversation.

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Opening a Car That Locked Itself

I AM FLATTENING the charge on our two electronic key fobs because I have seen cars lock themselves when the fobs are totally charged. Although I have never experienced this problem, I watched a 2005 VW Passat lock itself on the main street of my town today. The problem got complicated because a three-month-old child was strapped in the back of the car. It got more complicated when the distraught mom did not have a spare set of keys anywhere on the continent. And then matters got as bad as they could when the local locksmith was more than 50 miles away at a wedding. A local policeman could not smash the driver's window with his baton. A friendly handyman offered a claw hammer and within five whacks, the street was filled with fresh glass shards. This is not an unusual occurrence.

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