When YouTube is TheirTube

CNN hosted a YouTube debate for GOP presidential candidates this week. I’ve not paid much attention to any of the debates, from either party, YouTube or otherwise, given that so little is revealed given the constraints of the debate format. The YouTube series has been promoted as giving voice to the average person through submitted questions that are then answered by the candidates.

As is often the case with political theatre many of the questions are just dumb, but more to the point of why these debates are based on a false premise, instead of an online meritocracy where the audience determines what questions will be asked the questions are screened and vetted by CNN and reflect their own political agenda.

It seems more “plants” are being uprooted with each passing day. Almost a third of the questioners seem to have some ties to Democratic causes or candidates. Another questioner worked with Democratic Senator Dick Durbin’s staff. A former intern with Democratic Rep. Jane Harman asked a question about farm subsidies. A questioner who purported to be a Ron Paul supporter turns out to be a Bill Richardson volunteer. David McMillan, a TV writer from Los Angeles, turns out to have several paens to John Edwards on his YouTube page and has attended Barack Obama fundraisers.

When a significant number of the so-called average joe questioners turn out to be Beltway insiders or campaign volunteers working for the other party, just how much trust should anyone place in the debate itself and in CNN? CNN has claimed ignorance despite almost universal disbelief that the producers were truly unaware of the backgrounds of the questioners they selected and paid travel expenses for, given that Google searches revealed the participant backgrounds.

What is ironic is that is has been the bloggers, often the real average joes, who have unmasked CNN. Perhaps instead of answering questions from their peers, who in this case are largely silent despite overwhelming evidence of a rigged debate and serious flip-flopping by CNN executives over just what they knew and didn’t know, CNN executives should host a YouTube press conference to respond to their critics.

Just Stop Digging….

Sometimes I wonder why corporate chiefs just don’t state the obvious when it is in fact obvious… as opposed to trying to spin it. Paula Wagner, of United Artists, said this about the studios first major film, Lions for Lambs:

“Wagner said that “Lions” represents everything that the revitalized UA stands for, and that its importance extends beyond just box office haul. She said the film helped UA secure the Merrill Lynch fund.”

“Represents everything that the revitalized UA stands for”? Like, for example, making crappy films? Wagner would look better by just coming out and saying “Lambs didn’t meet expectations, but it didn’t suck as bad as Redacted did”.

And if that one film helped them secure $500 million in financing, led by Merrill Lynch, well maybe we have some explanation for how screwed up the credit markets are right now. Perhaps the German finance minister is right in referring to “snooty” investment bankers.

Wagner says in the next graph that:

“We do recognize that it hasn’t performed as well as we would have liked, but we don’t regret making it. I think it’s very important that a film company be judged by a slate of films, not just one film,””

Okay, judging on an entire portfolio is a fair point but she can’t really expect anyone to believe that they don’t regret at least a tiny little bit making a film that bombed badly and put a spotlight on them for something they would rather not have attention drawn to. Again, why dig the hole deeper?

The thing I’ve always found curious about Hollywood is that it really is like the venture capital business in many ways. A studio develops a portfolio of assets, in their case films instead of companies, and those assets then go on to generate returns through growing an audience, achieving multiple distribution options, and hopefully developing a durable franchise. Also, like VC, the equity holders get paid at the end.

Hollywood is a trend business, similarly with venture capital, where a major hit sees many imitators. In recent times it appears that Hollywood badly read the trend but instead of going in the other direction they insist on judging the product by it’s importance rather than by it’s financial return. In tech and with venture capital no one will suggest that a failed company was important in spite of it’s failure… in our world the body gets buried and nobody talks about it anymore.

But I’m sure that Merrill Lynch is comforted by the fact that UA’s bomb is an important bomb to someone.

More on this topic (What's this?) Read more on Under Armour at Wikinvest

Facebook Foodfight

“I’m seated in a good spot, between Jeff Nolan and David Spark. Spitting distance opposite me is Dave McClure, another favorite of mine. Unfortunately our end of the table is not very well behaved, in fact, most of the table fights for some of the conversation versus our esteemed panel, some of whom are paying for our dinner [which made for a fun evening].” [From MSFT: Setting Up Facebook For Failure?]

I went to a dinner on Tuesday night hosted by The Conversation Group, social networks were the topic of the evening. Tom’s description of most of the table fighting throughout the dinner is an understatement, but it was also good natured fighting (I would hope).

There are some real disagreements among people about the nature and impacts of social networks, social graphs vs. social networks, user thresholds for privacy, the impact of advertising and monetization, and how many of these things the market can support.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and look forward to this discussion heating up in the months ahead in various venues. I will say now that I have two concerns, the first being saturation and the second monetization.

Right now it feels like people are racing to try new networks but ultimately not doing anything substantive on them. Even Facebook feels like it’s fallen into a rut (and it only took the summer to get here) where everything is more of the same and I’m still not fundamentally altering the way I interact with other services and systems as a consequence of using Facebook.

Gartner calls this the Trough of Disillusionment, step 3 of the modern hype cycle.

3. “Trough of Disillusionment”

Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.

I don’t know if we are yet in the trough of disillusionment but we are certainly in step 2, the Peak of Inflated Expectation.

Secondly, why is it that everyone summarily dismisses subscriptions as a monetization model? The problem with advertising driven monetization, in my opinion, is that we are getting to the point that companies are hoping to get a slice of a slice of a slice. The advertising market is not expanding enough to accommodate the full spectrum of mechanisms for delivering advertising, so something is going to have to give.

While on the topic of advertising, in hearing the various pitches I am struck by how little focus on ROI there is as a means of justifying the cost, or more importantly, providing an apples-to-apples comparison by which advertisers can prioritize their spend based on platform efficacy and head-to-head cost comparisons.

Converting the Faithful

When I joined NewsGator I understood that the company was not only a big Windows shop but also relied heavily on Microsoft foundation technologies. I also established early on that I wasn’t leaving my MacBook Pro at home, so the company’s Mac user population doubled overnight (Brent Simmons is, obviously, a Mac user).

Well I’m happy to report that not only has the population of iPhone users been growing within the company in recent months, but Mac users as well. Mr. Microsoft himself, NewsGator founder and CTO Greg Reinacker has been sporting a brand new MBP around the office.

And if that alone were not enough, Greg writes today that he has moved his blog over the WordPress. It’s like the clouds are parting to let the sun shine through.

Now if only Apple would be so enlightened as to feature our iPhone RSS reader as a default link in the browser!

NewsGator’s OpenSocial Webinar on 12/5

NewsGator is hosting a webinar on Wednesday Dec 5 at 2pm EST / 11am PST to discuss the basics of OpenSocial. Brian Kellner and Walker Fenton, both from NewsGator, will join Kevin Marks from Google for the call.

You will learn ways to take advantage of the inherent social capabilities of OpenSocial’s hosts like LinkedIn, Salesforce, Friendster, Plaxo and developers (like our own Widget Framework), which take advantage of users’ ability to send, share and interact with text, video and audio content even more broadly and easily that we can do with Facebook today.

Brian has been writing the OpenSocial Developer Journal series of posts on our EnterpriseRSS blog, I would recommend that you read these posts for detailed information on the ins-and-outs of building social applications in OpenSocial.

Walker leads our syndication services business and understands in great detail how leading brands, including media companies, are using widgets to extend their reach and provide additional monetization opportunities.

If you are a brand manager, have responsibility for marketing or advertising, manage content in new and/or old media, or are generally interested in the mechanics of OpenSocial, I would recommend this webinar.

Reality Distortion Fields

So he’s basically saying “well if you ignore the actual results, our predictions have been excellent”.

”The seasonal forecasts are quite good,” said Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead seasonal forecaster. “Last year, we over-predicted and this year we over-predicted, but our track record, I think, is excellent.” [From Hurricane predictions miss the mark – 11/26/2007 – MiamiHerald.com]

OLPC Stumbles Badly

I met one of the OLPC guys at an event recently, I’m reluctant to write this now because the ambitious goals of group really are noble but the guy I met was so incredibly condescending and self-righteous that I found myself disliking the organization because of my interactions with him alone. Having said that, if nothing else this group has served as a catalyst for the broader marketplace in the quest to bring technology to parts of the world that otherwise don’t have the economic resources or infrastructure to support school age children with modern technology.

This WSJ piece is pretty damning of the initial promises that Negroponte made and the ability of his group to follow through on them. I couldn’t help notice that Negroponte gets pretty close to saying at several points “if I didn’t have competition I’d be able to deliver”, which certainly doesn’t help his cause.

But nearly three years later, only about 2,000 students in pilot programs have received computers from the One Laptop project. An order from Uruguay for 100,000 machines appears to be the only solid deal to date with a country, although Mr. Negroponte says he’s on the verge of sealing an order from Peru for 250,000. The first mass-production run, which began this month in China, is for 300,000 laptops, tens of thousands of which are slated to go to U.S. consumers. Mr. Negroponte’s goal of 150 million users by the end of 2008 looks unattainable. [From A Little Laptop With Big Ambitions – WSJ.com]

Microsoft’s BFD

Hey, it’s their description of the offer.

I am disappointed that we’re almost 2 years from the date that Apple first started shipping Intel chips in their computers and Microsoft has yet to come out with a universal binary version of Office; opting instead to roll the Intel compatible version with a big feature upgrade. How ironic is it that Microsoft is pretty much the last holdout among major Mac app publishers to have an Intel version? I still can’t reliably open OpenDocument file formats that are created by my yet-to-convert-to-Mac brethen, and that converter they made available doesn’t even support Excel OpenDoc format.

More to the point, given the slow performance that comes with running Office 2004 for the Mac, I think it’s reasonable to suggest that Microsoft should give away the upgrade to compensate the faithful for putting up with the hassle and not converting to something like NeoOffice.

Memo to Microsoft:

Speaking for a large percentage of your customer base, I am sick and tired of your big upgrades and 4 year long product cycles (5 in the case of Vista). Give up the “shock and awe” strategy and follow Apple’s lead of rolling out incremental but significant upgrades every 18 months, peppered with frequent online upgrades that do more than fix bugs.

I feel the romance has left our relationship and you just don’t try anymore. We’ve been together for a long time and it shows, the spark is gone. I’ve been doing all the work in this relationship and that has to change. It’s time for you to start going to the gym and shed a few pounds, get a makeover and a new wardrobe, and learn how to dazzle me like you used to. I am telling you this because I care, I know it’s not easy to hear but it’s for your own good.