Web Directions South : Tickets Going Fast!!

John Allsopp

Web Directions South is going to have about 600 attendees this year according to John Allsopp. Wow. This internet thing must be good.

Discount pricing of $895, $100 off, ends this Friday at midnight. Hurry up and grab your tickets. http://www.webdirections.org/

Nominations for the second McFarlane Prize for Excellence in Australia Web Design also end Friday http://mcfarlaneprize.com/

Follow the Eyeballs. And the Money.

Breakfast Bytes

At the Hill and KnowltonSurviving and thriving in the next decade – Technology PublishingBreakfast Bytes this morning, a group of eminent panelists in picture above, from the left:

  • James Tuckerman – Publishing Editor, AntHill. New relatively magazine about ideas, money and skills. Previously more print than online, but adding new online projects later in 2007.
  • Heather Craven – Director of Marketing & Communications, Circulations Audit Board,
    Australian Circulation Bureau. Sub-committee researching digital.
  • Brian Haverty – Editorial Director, CNET Networks Australia : Readers first, video and text style publishing.
  • Tony Sarno – Editor, APC. Adding new online APC projects later in 2007.
  • Peter Roberts – Managing Editor, BRW. Part of the Fairfax group, around since 1857. Noted that http://www.afr.com/ relaunched this week, and closed content model AFR Access continues.
  • Andrew Kirk, Hill and Knowlton: Chair

The theme from the morning’s panel and Q&A is that “there will be a mixture of online and print” and that “online and print” readers are treated as different readers by the big-names. My perspective as a corporate online/citizen journalist is slightly different.

Like the quintessential investigative journalists: Woodward and Bernstein learnt: follow the money. In the above listing of panelists, notice where their stated investment is going. It’s online.

From a traditional publisher’s perspective, the business is about employing journalists to gather hidden facts, connect, analyse and write stories. People buy the paper (atoms) to read the stories and maybe their eyeballs will stray onto an advertisement. The marketing groups of companies buy these positions on the paper in the hope that the right eyeballs are enthralled by the product and/or service – and buy the product. The core of a publisher’s job is managing the compelling content such that a specific audience is created that advertisers value.

The web is no different, except that anyone can be a publisher, and outsource the revenue side (advertising) to Microsoft or Google. Large publishers, such as Fairfax, are unhappy that their expensive infrastructure is subverted online: Peter Roberts mentioned twice that Google made $200 million in Australia without investing in the content-side.

Peter Roberts also commented on one of his competitors, Alan Kohler’s Eureka Report, having only an online mechanism but successful business model. My perspective is that Alan’s business is successful as he is seen as a respected and independent entity within Australia’s financial community. Alan Kohler is a trusted brand.

The Gadget Guy, Peter Blasina’s question near the end summarised the morning for me: What does the future really look like? Each of the represented panelist’s organisations (maybe with the exception of cnet) have their business strategies weighted toward print, and the brand-value that print brings.

Peter Blasina comes at this with credibility as a true multi-channel brand and personality: print, online and TV – and surmised that the coming generation will change the face of the print publisher’s world. And they know it.

The future for publishers is where the eyeballs are. And eyeballs are not going to be in print, it is going to be online. Eyeballs stay longer where this is trusted value, and most importantly where there is a community. Reading a magazine is an almost high-latency feedback medium; where two-way interaction is slow if attempted at all.

Demographics of the eyeballs are changing to more online: younger readers being digitally native and older generations having more time to explore online; with more females than males desiring a community and interaction rather than passive acceptance; high bandwidth connection to permit TV, Radio and Print being equal online mediums.

Whilst I have no research to back this up, I am going to state it here. A common refrain from print publishers is that “Radio did not replace newspapers, and TV did not replace radio” as their backwards looking perspective on why online will not replace these old media. My argument is that the internet can replace the media styles: with web pages, podcasts and vidcasts. As Rupert Murdoch is quoted as saying: “Big media no longer controls the conversation” 

James Tuckerman knows his readers, and I think has a plan to create value in Anthill’s community. He understands the emotional connection that he has with his readership. James also stated there are “population lumps” at birth-years of 1949, 1974 and 1985. According to the ABS, there is another population lump in the 2005-7 range too. My suggestion is to watch Anthill as a publisher. They are starting a conversation with their community.

A Question about SecondLife, the current “craze” in Australia potentially due to a visit in meatspace by a Linden Labs persona, resulted in Tony Sarno saying that “many PBL management have visited SecondLife”. I fear it is because of the gambling dens rather than the community aspect. About 20% of the audience of largely PR and technology industry attendees had logged into SecondLife, of which most had logged in once.

So, in industry parlance, what is the tip-on for online? It’s the community. Community is the new Brand.

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Gadget Geek Journey; Desintation 1: live.com

Time to get serious on my resolutions. Well, at least one anyway; I’ll start the waist shrinking/walking later. It’s Thursday Geekout time!

Inspired by Robert Scoble’s Podtech.net live.com gadget posting, and a general feeling that gadgets are where it is at for non-professional programmers like myself.

So, first port-of-call http://gallery.live.com/ then on to the Developer center

Decision time: what to gadget up? A Cricket gadget is underway. I am sure that one of the various national religions of football will follow come March. For weather I can use my real window to look outside. (note: growing up on a farm, you learn to read the weather by looking through the window at the clouds). Neil Finn Lyrics!

So, there is some magic back-end code that is pulling the data from a small database, and rendering text smartly onto a random Neil Finn image. This will be the first step. No need to confuse myself with too much shenanigans just yet.

Off to the Developer’s Guide, and download the examples from the .zip. Oooh, css xml javascript. Easy. I have a localhost web server running, so that’s no stress. Text editor open, coding music in the ears.

How to test out the gadget? OK, I need Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2005. Now is a good time as any to test it out. There is a method of harnessing your local gadget to Internet Explorer and the live.com servers to test out before embarrassing yourself publicly! Hmm, seems like you can directly access the test harness with the correctly formed URL. There are three versions of this URL that I can find.

OK, it seems that the live.com gadget testing Javascript harnesses, Internet Explorer 7 and cross-site scripting are in the midst of a conspiracy to stop testing. Time to hit the production servers with the code.

This posting on the new Gadgets forums helps: just go straight into live.com, cross your fingers!

Works first time! After an hour of cleaning up and renaming things as per the recommendations, here it is:

Click: live.com Neil Finn Lyric Gadget

Further comment live.com gadgets are simple to create. XML file manifest, or list of what’s important; a CSS file to style your content and the Javascript. This Javascript contains the logic of your gadget which is essentially inserting HTML into the stream. It can gather text externally to generate this HTML into something more interesting than a picture.

Moore’s Law and Compounding Interest

In deploying the small Ruby on Rails application on an old Dell 8200 running Debian-sarge, I decided to see how the application would perform under load.

Apache comes with a great little application meekly called ab. ab is a small command-line tool that slashdots your web application, and gives you a nice measure (in pages per second, amongst other things).

Measuring the performance of the Dell 8200 using the Mongrel web server vs. my Mac Book Pro running the same versions of all the stack of software (except, obviously the OS) – the speed difference is 16x. Now as these machines are about 4 years apart from each other in the Intel-world, 16 is exactly what you would expect: the performance doubles every year. Very wise prediction from 1970 that continues to drive this whole crazy industry.

What has this to do with Compounding interest? Exactly 22 years ago one of my kind, late great-uncles started a bank account for be with the grand deposit of AU$200. Which I’ve subsequently forgotten about.

Mum found the Deposit booklet somewhere, and sent it to me. Today that account is worth about $640. This is a compounded interest rate of 5.4%. In another 22 years it will be worth AU$2,023 at the same rate.

Now, if it had compounded at Moore’s Law over the last 22 years: the amount in the bank would be a grand $6,276,211,921,800.

Now I know why I work in IT, not finance!