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Rush to Judgment: the Saga of Saga #12 [Opinion]

on Wednesday, Apr. 10th

Once upon a time Apple banned a comic book from their app store. For depicting gay sex!

There was a hue and cry in the land. (Do the twitter search, people.)

Until it turned out that it wasn’t Apple at all, but ComiXology, who pre-banned the comic from its app. Which is a bit different, but could still be motivated by the chilling effect that the removal of 1500+ French comics from an app owned by comics distributor Izneo last month had on ComiXology’s thinking.
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Creative Common image by Juergen Trunz

PREDICTIONS 2013: SAVVY AND SILLY

on Monday, Dec. 31st

Two weeks ago I was jazzed about making predictions for 2013. Now, with less than 12 hours to go, I’m a but less enthused. What was looking like a strong end to a rough but decent year has turned into full on “wheels have fallen off the bus” moment.

Yet the point of predictions– and resolutions if you look at them the right way– are to invest a little hope into the world. An exercise, if you will, in exerting our wits and will on the oh-so-mercurial future.

So here are five predictions, serious– or at least as serious as prognostications about the creative economy can get–and silly alike for the year we call Twenty Thirteen.

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Google’s Copyright Stance Leads to Dark Irony

on Friday, Sep. 14th

Opinions in Game of Buzz posts are those of the author alone.

This is the world we live in.

With violence spreading across the Middle East triggered by a ham fisted video posted to YouTube by an individual whose resume is littered with felony drug convictions and fraud, Google has begun to block access to that video in the countries that are seeing some of the most damage.

What’s hardest to wrap the mind around is that if the video- a trailer for a “film” called Innocence of Muslims (it’s more complicated than that, but for the sake of argument lets run with it)- featured a snippet from a pop song or footage from a television broadcast it would have been pulled automatically by YouTube’s relentless copyright defending robots. (more…)

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Pair: An App For Intimacy, An Excuse For Snark

on Thursday, Jun. 28th

Opinions in the Game of Buzz belong to Noah Nelson and Noah Nelson alone. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

The other day, while openly musing on Twitter, I asked if anyone had used the Pair app. This is an app that attempts to create a “social network for two” if you will. Begging the question of “who needs this when we have text messaging?” Pair has at least one, kinda, nifty feature: when you and your S.O. are on the same page you can see a ghost of their thumbprint. Touch your thumb to theirs and both phones vibrate. Thumbkiss. Aw. (Barf.)

Anyway, I was wondering about this because: a) I had never heard of this. Easy to overlook when there are a half million apps in the world and b) it was being used by people from Glassboard– which I had heard of months ago– to describe what they were bring to accomplish with their Glassboard 2.0. Glassboard also uses Path as an example for what they are trying to do. Path is another struggling social app.

Perhaps Glassboard should stop trying to compare itself to other social apps. I’m just sayin’ is all.

Long story short: someone heeded my cry for attention plea for help. Vehicle Media, an interactive marketing firm, sent me a write-up on Pair. Can’t say for certain that they are a neutral party– marketing firm, heyo!– but there’s a proper portion of snark in the blog post:

Can you Pair with multiple people? Yes, you just need more than one email address. You can sign in and out of the app with one or several emails. So, if polyamory (or cheating) is your thing, it is possible. Just don’t get confused and send a doodle to or Thumbkiss the wrong person!

The moral of the story: Twitter works. This other stuff… eh…

Now kindly GET OFF MY LAWN!

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Is it Just Me or is the Nexus Q Plain Wrong?

on Wednesday, Jun. 27th

Opinions in the Game of Buzz belong to Noah Nelson alone.

Let me get this straight:

Google has jumped into the space already shared by the Roku box and the Apple TV, both of which retail for under a hundred dollars with a $299 gizmo that needs an Android device in order to access media content or be controlled?

Huh?

Talk about doing it wrong. As excited as I am to see Google Glass become something beyond an X-treme Sports Tech Demo, I really have to just wonder if Google understands the consumer market whatsoever. These guys are great at building search engines and have a way of seducing OEM partners, but when it comes to delivering the goods to Joe Gadgetlover. Oof.

The Nexus Q might have audio outputs that allow it to act as the replacement for a stereo amp, but this thing really feels like… well it just underwhelms. They haven’t even announced Netflix support for it. Doesn’t Samsung make a refrigerator that does Netflix? No? Time to call the patent office.

In their video for the box semi-sphere they sort-of paint the picture of a music listening party with your friends where everyone can share music to the speakers and anyone can change the order of the playlist. Great. A jukebox where the order can fought over in passive aggressive fashion. Just want I never wanted.

Sergey: for the love of Philip K. Dick, please learn how to ship a usable product.

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An Open Letter To Facebook

on Wednesday, Jun. 27th

Opinions in Game of Buzz are those of the author alone.

Time to grow up, guys.

You just got spanked by Wall Street for your over-hyped IPO. Why? Because your product way underperforms. I’m not talking about how poor your iPhone app is– although don’t think I didn’t notice that you’re having to rewrite that– or the way that you keep changing the rules for how your social network works. I’m talking about your real customers: businesses. They keep abandoning you.

Because for the biggest social network, the largest single aggregator of human attention on the planet, you do a hideous job of actually communicating with your users. Which begs the question: if you don’t know how to communicate with your own captive audience, how the hell is anyone supposed to believe that they can talk to your user base using your own system,

Look at the rollout on Timeline. Sure, you tried. You thought you were pulling an Apple when you made your f8 announcement. That you were giving everyone a good head start on getting ready of the change. What did you get in response? Ridicule, parody and anger. The conventional wisdom is that you blindsided your users with the change. Not guys like me, mind you, I was ready and excited. Guys like me are the exception. We’re tech geeks for the love of Kibo, always on the make for the latest and greatest. I’ll spend all day ridiculing Google’s Project Glass today while simultaneously salivating over the prospect of strapping that thing to my face. My cousins? Not so much.

My cousins are the important people here. They need to be informed. Have some of the old fashioned marketing mojo used to get them excited about the prospect. This is something that you should be thinking about with your own products. Hard. Your users shouldn’t wake up on a Monday to find out that their contact information has been changed without their consent. That’s a juvenile move. It shows a lack of respect for your user base. The one group you should fear.

And fear them you should. You may have tapped into a winning formula for aggregating attention, but the platform has fallen far from its potential for aggregating action. Point to the Arab Spring and Egypt if you want. That’s change that doesn’t seem to be lasting, and while I won’t lay the failures there at your feet I don’t think anyone should be celebrating your role either. Too much of a double-edged symbol.

You’ve fallen into a classic Internet trap: you’ve become more noise than signal. Where you should be discovering new ways to help us manage our digital shadows, instead you’ve been pioneering new ways to clutter up our virtual shelves. Putting a premium on the dredging up of our electronic ids so that we can be manipulated better by those who have a bird’s eye view on the data.

If you really, really want to last you’ll flip the script here. Take a page from Apple and realize that the big sustainable marketplace is to be found in running the marketplace and taking your cut of the game. Quit trying to drag everyone into the Facebook dashboard. It’s become a horrible place to be. Become the air. Be invisible. If you want me to have a Facebook email let me access it the way I get to the rest of my email.

If any of you read this take this part to heart: learn how to use Facebook to communicate with your users. Do that, and at the very least you’ll stop bleeding advertisers.

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Our Multi-Device Future Comes Into Sharper Focus

on Tuesday, Jun. 26th

Opinions expressed in Game of Buzz are those of the author alone.

If there is one part of the technology sphere that really gets me rumbling these days it’s the multi-device entertainment zone. (Apologies, the grammar is caffeinated.) For reference see our articles on Fourth Wall Studios (including the Marketplace piece), and Microsoft’s Smart Glass. I’m firm in the belief that the interplay between tablets and TVs is our unavoidable destiny… and as The Verge reveals today I’m not alone.

Brightcove, online video platform for everyone from Showtime to the White House, is “betting big” on Apple TV, as reporter Ben Popper puts it. The company announced today that they are creating a developer tool kit for Apple’s AirPlay system, which allows for a seamless interface between the iPad and the Apple TV device.

If you’ve played around with the feature you know it works pretty well, even allowing games to be played on the TV from the tablet. If anything I haven’t been giving Apple it’s due for innovating in this space, lately. More than once I’ve thought about the possibility that our next game console might just be a tablet computer with AirPlay-like features.  Nor is Brightcove alone at thinking that AirPlay is the big play in the next battle for dominance in the living room:

Avner Ronen, CEO of the connected TV company, Boxee, also believes Apple is the leader right now in the race to master all elements of the digital hub, a connected living room where multiple devices can interact with different screens. “AirPlay is the most interesting by far,” says Ronen. “But we are excited by everything that is happening with Apple and Smart Glass. It’s going to bring a new wave of apps and consumers to the connected TV market, and that is a good thing for Boxee.”

Popper’s article is thrilling. Go read it and then find me on twitter and yammer with me about it.

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Klout: Still Weird, Maybe Useful At Some Point

on Wednesday, Jun. 20th

I’m writing this because I added the Klout app to my phone last night and started playing around with the social media– what is it a ranking service?– site again. Excuse me for sounding like an old man for a moment, but I’m still not sure I entirely “get” Klout. Which can be dangerous, because some companies are using Klout as a hiring metric.

Insane, since it likes to randomly attribute qualities to it’s users. Did you know, for instance, that I am influential about VHS tape? I sure as hell didn’t. I’m actually disappointed that I appear to no longer be influential about Batman. Scratch that: I’m devastated that I’m not influential about Batman anymore. Maybe if I got everyone to RT my shouting BATMAN! on Twitter.

Strangest of all is the Klout site itself, which gives you Klout points to play with for visiting, which you can use to boost friend’s ratings in certain topics. At a quick glance it is not clear where the points come from or how you get more. A little digging in their FAQ section did clear up the questions either, and I’m too caffeinated to accept anything other than a fast, clear, and up front explanation today anyway.

It is possible to designate a friend as an influences on a certain topic and add that topic to their profile at the cost of a whopping +5K. Which I did for one friend who shares a passion for donuts with me. That was fun. I have no clue what it gets me or him. I’m hoping that it gets us free donuts… this is where I should probably disclose that I got a Klout perk one time from a car company. I think it was for free iTunes money. I don’t really remember which car company it was. Jokes on them! They tried to bribe me and it was mostly forgettable!

Look: I could see Klout being useful. Somewhere between Cory Doctorow’s idea of “whuffie” from his sci-fi classic “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”: a measure of social influence that grants one access to benefits based on the numerically tracked esteem of others. That’s kinda neat. Dynamic meritocracy for math nerds. Heck, I’d be happy with it if it just gave me recommendations for who would be useful to follow if I was, say, looking for people who knew a lot about how to get a sci-fi novel published.

Yet right now it just seems like a giant pissing contest that is being used to: a) market crap to us we can’t use and b) give us an excuse to ignore/revere people because a computer told us to.

There’s got to be more to this than that. Right?

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Maybe Amazon Isn’t an Indie Author’s Friend

on Thursday, Jun. 14th

Opinions expressed in Game of Buzz are the sole responsibility of the author.

Here’s a piece that has the blood boiling today: travel writer Andrew Hyde gives a full breakdown on demand, sales, and take home for the digital release of his new book on the major e-book services.

The shocker of shockers: while Amazon and Apple both say they charge 30%, Amazon slips in some “hidden fee” action:

Avg. Delivery Cost ($) 2.58.

So for every $9.99 book I sell I, the author, pay 30% to Amazon for the right to sell on Amazon AND $2.58 for them to deliver the DIGITAL GOOD to your device.  It is free for the reader, but the author, not amazon, pays for delivery.

Check out the rest of the math. Shamefull.

via Daring Fireball

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Off The Cuff Thoughts About Apple’s WWDC Announcements

on Monday, Jun. 11th

Opinions in The Game of Buzz are the author’s alone.

It’s the first time in ages where I haven’t kept close tabs on an Apple press conference as it unfolded, and I think I might not go back! Today I learned that it is far more fun to just get a sense of the Twitter chatter and then swoop in and scope out what the wizards of Cupertino have wrought once all the facts are in.

New Hardware

I’m not in the market but ai-yi-yi that Retina Display Macbook Pro is pretty. I’m not entirely sold on the aesthetics of having a bunch of dongles flapping off the side of my laptop, but I suppose if I think of the Thunderbolt to Ethernet converters as “really ugly cords” and not “really inefficient plug designs” then I can get over it.

Siri Grows Up

A little. Still, look what our toddler an do: a full end run around Google by pulling in all the stuff people go to search engines for on a regular basis: sports stats (Oh those baseball-card style layouts!), restraint recommendations and reservations, movie times. About half the apps on my phone that I regularly use will become irrelevant when I upgrade this fall. Which I totally will, because Apple just stole whatever curiosity I had about the Windows Phone platform away.

Maps

Hoooo boy! Did Apple just gut Garmin, Tom Tom, and Google all with one fell swoop? Turn by turn in the lock screen? YES, PLEASE! I know there is a lot of chatter because of this that Apple is messing with the livelihood of third parties, but look: this is the pattern. Innovation starts out at the edges and soon becomes an expected feature in the core. So long as Apple doesn’t lock the whole system down with a hermetic seal (and I’m sure some within Apple would love to do that) there will be room for developers to do things differently than Apple does.

Facebook Integration

This all boils down to one question: how does the Events integration with the calendars work? It’s unclear from the live blogs if Facebook events will come into the Calendar app via the invite inbox or if they will automatically populate in the calendar. If it’s the latter then Apple is opening the doors to a mountain of spam. Facebook should be a great social management tool, but it isn’t. If anything FB is an agent of social chaos, with spammy event invites and friend requests from stalkery weirdos.

Yet if Apple can nail the flow of managing Facebook communications right into the Cloud system they will have pulled off something Zuckerberg and co have so far failed to do.

I wouldn’t put it past them.

More anon as the Apple World Wide Developer Conference picture gets clearer.

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Simple Machine Announces Micro-Festival Grants

We’ve been keeping up with Simple Machine, the independent film curation tool for festival and art house programmers, since running across their booth at South By Southwest last year.

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Transmedia Beat: Bernie Su’s “Emma Approved” Monetization Secrets

Disclosure: I’m one of the organizers of Transmedia LA, so take any excessive positivity with a grain of salt.

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First Ever Crappy Awards Target SF’s Tech Industry

Inspired by the sly tradition of the Razzie Awards, which commemorate the worst of Hollywood, San Francisco fair housing advocates are kicking off “The Crappy Awards” tonight in the city’s art’s district.

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Image Disruptor: Flag Looks To Upend Photo Printing Through The Magic of Free

Flag, a photo printing start-up that is holding a barnstorming 14-day Kickstarter campaign right now, turned up on my radar this week thanks to John Gruber’s Daring Fireball.

Image: Shepard Fairey for "A Total Disruption"

Taking “A Total Disruption” Open Source

Sundance winning documentarian Ondi Timoner isn’t in the habit of doing things in half-measures.

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