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March 16, 2005

Yahoo 360 Described [7:39 pm]

As a longtime MyYahoo!er, I wonder if Yahoo! will let those with blogs NOT hosted by them play at this game? Yahoo Tests Blend of Blogging, Networking [pdf]

Yahoo Inc. is preparing to introduce a new service that blends several of its Web site’s popular features with two of the Internet’s fastest growing activities - blogging and social networking.

The hybrid service, called “Yahoo 360,” won’t be available until March 29, but the Sunnyvale-based company decided to announce the product late Tuesday after details were leaked to The Associated Press and other news outlets.

[...] The service is designed to enable Yahoo’s 165 million registered users to pull content from the Web site’s discussion groups, online photo albums and review section to plug into their own Web logs, or blogs, the Internet shorthand used to describe online personal journals.

Yahoo also is making it easier for the service’s users to connect with others who share common interests and friends - a practice known as social networking. Participants can either choose to open their blogs to the entire world or restrict access to people invited through e-mail.

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The ShasPod [7:29 pm]

2,000 Talmud Tapes, or One Loaded IPod

Participants in the Daf Yomi - who number, worldwide, in the hundreds of thousands - study a page a day of the massive compendium of Jewish oral law, culminating in this celebration, known as the Siyum HaShas.

At the door, handing out leaflets beside the Jews for Jesus and the teenage collectors for Jewish charities was a 23-year-old entrepreneur named Yehuda Shmidman. Mr. Shmidman was passing out glossy brochures showing a bearded, black-hatted Orthodox Jew, lighted in silhouette, wearing a pair of white ear buds.

His product, the ShasPod, is a solution to a vexing question: how does a commuter study a 2,711-page book?

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Looking at the Subscription Model Value Proposition [7:28 pm]

Music Buffet: Loading Up for Takeout

But the commercial raises a good question: Will you rent albums the way you rent TV programming? If it makes financial sense - and if, armed with that knowledge, you can avoid the competing allure of iPod style and the Apple brand - you just might.

[...] Parents with children ages 10 to 20 know how costly the digital music revolution can be. If you look the other way as they download music using … let’s call them gray-market techniques, your PC becomes irreversibly crippled by spyware. But when you try to encourage them to pay for music instead of stealing it, you quickly discover that even a two-album-a-month allowance adds up.

When used to its fullest extent, Napster to Go lays iTunes flat, financially speaking. For the $15 monthly fee, you’re allowed unlimited downloads. You can put them on up to three compatible portable players, and log in and listen on up to three PC’s. (Napster to Go does charge by the song, however, to burn music to a CD.) Sure, there’s an initial investment, and in homes with more than three listeners they’ll have to share, but for a low fixed price they can all download as many songs as they want, most of which they will soon forget about anyway.

The value proposition is in place. I know I can get tons of music, but can I get tons of good music? There are bands not yet online at all, like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. But with Napster to Go there is a new discrepancy: songs you must purchase outright, ones that aren’t part of the all-you-can-have subscription deal.

I hit Napster thinking that maybe half of the tracks I’d want would be “buy only.” To my amazement, it was less than a tenth. [...]

{…] For the most part, however, the software and the players do their jobs. So let me ask a question that some may consider heresy: How necessary is the iPod?

[...] Though it seems like a lopsided deal - paying less than what Target charges for a CD and getting almost any musical wish granted instantly - the record industry is lobbying hard to make subscription services the next phase in the digital revolution. The labels are using them to get the attention of 15- to 25-year-olds, the group most responsible for the sharp decline in CD sales over the last few years (not to mention the rise of illegal file sharing).

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Decency At The Chair? [7:20 pm]

Bush to Promote F.C.C. Commissioner to Chairman

Kevin J. Martin, a telecommunications lawyer who became known for his pragmatic and independent streak as a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, was chosen by President Bush today to become the 26th chairman of the agency.

[...] Mr. Martin has taken some of the more aggressive approaches in indecency cases, dissenting from a series of opinions in which the agency either found no violation or did not issue what he believed was a significant enough punishment. For those votes, he was strongly endorsed for the job by some conservative organizations that have pushed the agency to come down harder on radio and television broadcasters.

[...] In the politics of the commission, Mr. Martin has distinguished himself for being the Republican foil of Mr. Powell, and the two men have had a chilly relationship.

The relationship broke down two years ago, when Mr. Martin voted with the Democrats to largely leave in place rules that are meant to foster local telephone competition by requiring the four regional Bell companies to lease their local networks to their rivals at low prices set by state regulators.

But in recent months, Mr. Martin had the political savvy to patch relations with the Bell companies, and Bell executives have said in recent weeks that he was their top choice.

The Washington Post: Martin Picked for FCC Chairman [pdf]

Later: The NYTimes’ A Deal Maker Named by Bush to Lead F.C.C.

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Viral Marketing Games [7:35 am]

New Dr. Who Leaked on Purpose?

The pilot episode of the BBC’s highly anticipated new Doctor Who series may have been intentionally leaked onto file-sharing networks to generate buzz, a source who instructed the network on viral advertising told Wired News.

Earlier this month, the 45-minute premiere episode, entitled “Rose,” showed up on BitTorrent. The appearance of the episode generated a flood of discussion in online forums, blogs and the mainstream media. As a result, interest in the show, which debuts March 26 on BBC One, has skyrocketed.

See earlier It’s Not Just Movies; see also Catching the Online Cartoon Virus

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More on the Admission “Hacks” [7:24 am]

Harvard Needs More Hackers

It may seem an obvious lesson. But it bears repeating during the current controversy over the 200 or so students who used the Internet to try to find out (before the official announcements) whether they had been accepted to business school. The Internet may entice honest folks to take risks they would probably never dare in the purely physical world, and it can complicate assessments of the seriousness and impact of those actions.

[...] Lost in this technologically enabled drama is a sense of proportionality. Nor is there recognition that a basic human attribute - simple curiosity - combined with the familiarity and detachment of a glowing computer screen at home, can easily lead to relatively minor transgressions that don’t deserve such harsh punishment.

On the scale of “hacks,” this incident barely makes the needle quiver. Yes, the students shouldn’t have done it, since they presumably realized that they were trying to gain access to information that wasn’t intended for their eyes at that moment. On the other hand, they also knew that they were using their own accounts and would be looking only at their own status. They weren’t trying to alter files or gain access to others’ data.

American business schools are hardly bastions of ethics (although they have made progress in recent years), and in technology especially, the level of ethics instruction is abysmal. Yet this hasn’t stopped several deans from grandstanding. [...]

[...] This isn’t to suggest that these students be held blameless. They showed a lack of judgment - as do the legions of us who insist on touching surfaces clearly marked with “wet paint” signs. But the punishment should fit the crime, not some kind of institutional public-relations strategy.

See earlier posting

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