Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The magic of music - captured forever

I may be late to this party -- and what a party it was! -- but I've just watched Festival Express and I've got to tell somebody about it.

I've been on a bit of concert-movie binge lately. It started when I dug out my old copy of The Last Waltz, probably the best concert movie ever made. And I'm not the only one that thinks so, either. If that's what it says in Wikipedia, it must be true, right?

Wikipedia has become a constant companion when I'm watching these concert events. It's amazing how much the background articles can add to the movie. Try it out yourself.

That lead me to Heart of Gold, Jonathan Demme's homage to rocker Neil Young, shot in Nashville's legendary Ryman Auditorium as part of Young's Prairie Wind tour.

The other day, I picked up Festival Express at my local DVD rental place. The guy who owns it is a musician and he's got a great selection of concert videos. I'd heard of Festival Express when it was released in 2004, but I'd never actually seen it. (I've also got Bird and The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack queued up.)

I wasn't prepared for how powerful this movie is. It features some absolutely stunning performances from legends like Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, the Grateful Dead - and the list goes on.

The Festival Express was a unique musical adventure which took place over a week in July, 1970. (Here's a more complete piece on the tour itself.) It was an amazing time. It was the summer after Woodstock and music, drugs and love were everywhere.

The footage comes from three outdoor concerts - in Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary, culled from the day-long events in each city. But what made the Festival Express unique was that instead of flying from one city to another, the tour organizers chartered a train to carry the performers. And it turned into "the longest party in rock-n-roll history," as the movie poster attests.

It's a priceless slice of musical history. Janis Joplin's "Cry, Baby" (just three months before her death) rates as one of the most powerful performances I've ever seen. You can really understand why even today her legendary status is still untouchable.

There are other memorable moments from artists who are no longer with us, like Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Jerry Garcia. But thanks to this amazing footage, their music and their part in this unique event will live on forever.

Thank goodness that someone documented this event and others, like The Last Waltz. It lets us all share in those special moments. As Sylvia Tyson says, "It was a totally unique experience. I've never had one like it before or since."

The power of music to affect us is undeniable. That's why strict regimes prohibit it and why it thrives in adversity. When that power is paired with a stunning visual experience, we all benefit.

What about you? What are your most memorable musical experiences? Perhaps it was that Meatloaf concert you never got over, or the first time you saw K.D. Lang performing in her Patsy Cline get-up at the student union building. Let me know. The comment box is always just a click away.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

More on that missing Help Disk video

Last week, I told you about a funny video about an early Help Desk that had shown up on YouTube, then disappeared.

Well, it appears that the video with the English subtitles is back up. You can see it here.

But there's more to this story, thanks to Adam Angst, who publishs the popular TidBITS newsletter for Mac fans. He was the one that pointed me to the video in the first place.

In the most recent TidBITS newsletter, he has a post about how the whole thing came about. I'm going to include the full text of his note here, because I'm not sure how to send you to the posting directly.

It's an interesting story, and it illustrates how important it is for companies to be aware of what can happen to their content, even years after it's produced. It's all part of the Long Tail effect, which can be a real benefit for content providers.

But if you're not prepared for it, you can also get bogged down in legal mumbo-jumbo that won't do anyone any good.

Here's Adam's post:

Early Help Desk Video Gone and Back Again

by Adam C. Engst

The day after I wrote it up in TidBITS (see "Early Help Desk Video," 2007-02-19), ZrednaZ, the user who posted the Early Help Desk Video with English subtitles removed the video, generating a flurry of squawks from TidBITS readers who wanted to see it. Some additional searching on YouTube turned up a handful of identical videos, all with Danish but not English subtitles. Then I noticed that one of the people leaving comments had found another copy with English subtitles, and shortly afterwards, ZrednaZ reposted the video, with a few additional seconds at the end (unfortunately, the reposted video is much darker than the other copies, though it has better subtitles).

Here's what happened. The original video aired in 2001 on a show called "Oystein og meg" ("Oystein & I") from the Norwegian television network, NRK, but it seems to have shown up on YouTube only recently. Another YouTube user recently posted a short clip from NRK News (with English subtitles added) that discusses the situation. It turns out that the version uploaded to YouTube became one of the most viewed videos on YouTube, generating about a million views. The news report goes on to say that it's illegal to upload NRK content and that NRK's lawyers are now investigating the case. Upon hearing about the NRK lawyers, ZrednaZ got cold feet and pulled the video from YouTube, but after numerous requests and seeing the many other copies elsewhere on YouTube, reposted it.

It will be instructive to see how NRK's lawyers react. Yes, the reposts on YouTube were done without permission. But it's unclear who, if anyone, has been harmed. The work was done 6 years ago, and presumably entertained many Norwegians at the time, but my bet is that it has essentially been ignored ever since, neither making money for NRK nor advancing the careers of the creators. Now, thanks to YouTube and the viral nature of humor on the Internet, it's at least bringing the creators some attention. One of them is quoted as saying, "This is probably the closest we are getting to a world wide launch, and we are very pleased so far." The fact that NRK wasn't prepared to turn that attention into revenue or something constructive is a missed opportunity, but not a reason to employ heavy-handed legal tactics. The lesson is that you never know when or where lightning will strike, but if you can be ready for it or move sufficiently quickly, you just may be able to animate your very own Frankenstein with all that power.

Although I was a touch worried, I don't think we were responsible for the video coming to the attention of the NRK's lawyers. I heard about the video clip on 13-Feb-07 from a friend whose librarian sister-in-law sent it to her, and I posted the story to ExtraBITS on that day. The video had been making the rounds in the librarian community, apparently, and on 14-Feb-07 there was a post on The Chicago Blog about it. I suspect that many of the YouTube views came before my piece ran in TidBITS, given that the NRK News story about the situation apparently aired on 19-Feb-07, the same day as that TidBITS issue went out.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Building the new

This is kind of cool. Todd Maffin, who does the offical CBC blog, is having a session here at Northern Voice, where he's letting the geeks attending tell the CBC what the new CBC website should look like.

Todd is recording what people think would be good to see on the site. Then he's going to post the recording on the blog, as well as passing it along to senior folks at the CBC, who will be paying attention.

It's an interesting use of all this talent that's in this room.

The recording should be up on Inside the CBC later this afternoon.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Friday fun for Feb 23, 2007

I'm going to be attending Northern Voice, a blogger's conference in Vancouver, this Friday and Saturday, so I may or may not be putting up some posts over the weekend.

But I couldn't resist posting this great video for our Friday fun piece, especially because I've been on a bit of a customer service kick this week.

You might think that the concept of the "Help Desk" is relatively new and only started with the advent of computers in the workplace. But as you'll see, it's got a much older pedigree. Once thing that hasn't changed, however, is the basic question "How does this thing work?"

Unfortunately, the video that I was going to point you to has been pulled from YouTube, so I'll show you the original version, which is in Norwegian. If you understand it, great. If not, you'll still get the gist of it. But the English subtitles on the other one were nice.

The gist of the video is that the one guy can't figure out how to get his book open. Then he's worried about whether he'll lose the text inside if he closes it. Etc. Fortunately, the help desk guy is able to show him how things work.

Watch the video by clicking on the picture below, or use this link.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

John Battelle interviews Michael Wesch

A few weeks ago, I linked to a great video, which featured a 5-minute tour of the history of Web-based communications.

It's fascinating to watch and very well done.

So I was intrigued to find this interview with Michael Wesch, an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University and the man who put that video together.

The interview is posted here on John Battelle's Searchblog. Wesch has also agreed to answer questions through the Comments area on Searchblog.

If you like stories that dig into a topic, rather than just skimming the surface, you'll enjoy reading this.

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More on Customer Service

Clearly, I'm not the only one who is hoping to start a bandwagon about the need (and the good business sense) for keeping customers satisfied.

Kathy Sierra, who writes the blog "Creating Passionate Users" has a wonderful post called "What tail is wagging the "user happiness" dog?"

She's writing about the problems that arise when the needs of the company overrule the needs of the customer.

You can't swing a poodle in business without hitting a tail-wagging-the-dog scenario, where some process, policy, procedure, or program controls user happiness. Where we become slaves to the needs and demands of the IT department, efficiency, accounting, PR, legal, marketing, next-quarter's results, Upper Management, etc.

She's got a great idea for anyone who needs to keep things in perspective. Just put a picture of a dog up on the wall, to keep everyone thinking about who's tail is doing the wagging.

Kathy also points to a really well-written post by Joel Spolsky, the CEO of Fog Creek Software in New York.

He writes about his small company's methods for making sure that they respond to the needs of their customers and how much they've benefitted by doing so. It's a great story and one that I recommend highly.

As a bootstrapped software company, Fog Creek couldn’t afford to hire customer service people for the first couple of years, so Michael and I did it ourselves. The time we spent helping customers took away from improving our software, but we learned a lot and now we have a much better customer service operation.

Here are seven things we learned about providing remarkable customer service. I’m using the word remarkable literally—the goal is to provide customer service so good that people remark.

The seven items he lists are:
1. Fix everything two ways

2. Suggest blowing out the dust

3. Make customers into fans

4. Take the blame

5. Memorize awkward phrases

6. Practice puppetry

7. Greed will get you nowhere

Of course, he's got a lot more detail and some great stories behind those seven points. But I'm sure that if more companies thought along the same lines and truly put the needs of their customers' first, the benefits for everyone would be astounding.

It's a simple idea - and perhaps that's the problem. We've allowed our companies to become so complex that we can't believe that so many problems can be alleviated by making sure that we practice good manners and be polite to people. It just seems so obvious we can't believe it could work.

Sad but true, apparently, as Air Canada exhibits so regularly.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Sheepwalking - A new (and kind of sad) buzzword

Customer service (or the lack of it) has been a hot topic in our family for awhile.

This past summer, we had a run-in with Air Canada, when my nephew's hockey equipment went missing on it's way to Toronto from Norway. It's a long, sad story that I've heard way too often recently.

It's always frustrating when the service levels you get are way, way below what they should be. Air Canada always springs to mind when I think of bad customer service, despite their fancy TV ads.

So I was intrigued by this recent post from Seth Godin. (It's actually been around awhile, but I'm still catching up on my reading.)

He introduces us to his latest creation -- sheepwalking:

I define "sheepwalking" as the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them a braindead job and enough fear to keep them in line.

You've probably encountered someone who is sheepwalking.

The TSA 'screener' who forces a mom to drink from a bottle of breast milk because any other action is not in the manual. A 'customer service' rep who will happily reread a company policy six or seven times but never stop to actually consider what the policy means. A marketing executive who buys millions of dollars of TV time even though she knows it's not working--she does it because her boss told her to.

It's ironic but not surprising that in our age of increased reliance on new ideas, rapid change and innovation, sheepwalking is actually on the rise. That's because we can no longer rely on machines to do the brain-dead stuff.

We've mechanized what we could mechanize. What's left is to cost-reduce the manual labor that must be done by a human. So we write manuals and race to the bottom in our search for the cheapest possible labor. And it's not surprising that when we go to hire that labor, we search for people who have already been trained to be sheepish.

His argument strikes a chord with me. Especially his summing up:

Step one is to give the problem a name. Done. Step two is for anyone who sees themself in this mirror to realize that you can always stop. You can always claim the career you deserve merely by refusing to walk down the same path as everyone else just because everyone else is already doing it.

The biggest step, though, comes from anyone who teaches or hires. And that's to embrace non-sheep behavior, to reward it and cherish it. As we've seen just about everywhere there's been growth lately, that's where the good stuff happens.

You should read the whole post.

I'm off to a blogger's conference this weekend in Vancouver, called Northern Voice. I'm very excited about it, because I know that I'm going to meet a lot of passionate people. Passion is critical for bloggers and podcasters. This isn't just a job. It's got to be something we care about.

I care about this blog, even if there are times when I fall behind on the "daily" part of it. But I've been blogging for nearly three years now and it's become something that's pretty important for me.

We need to put passion back into our workplaces. It's important. I think I'll add it to my mission statement right now.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Friday fun for Feb 16, 2007

Cool Things You Discover

One of the things that's great about YouTube and Google Video is how often you find things you've never even heard of, let alone had a chance to appreciate. Today, we'll look at a few of them.

Ever heard of sand art? And not the castles on the beach kind...I haven't heard of it either, but this woman does some amazing things with it. Click on the video below, or use this link.

And here's another art form that I doubt very much you will have heard of before. I certainly haven't. Again, click on the video below, or use this link.

This clip is not very artistic, but it's very funny. And yes, strange but true, the guy in these videos did go on to become the most powerful man in the world. Watch it on video below, or use this link.

And finally, here's something that does double duty for me. It's something that you have probably never seen before - a harp guitar? - and it's a guitar video!

Enjoy. Click on the video below or use this link.

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How to join the conversation

Blogging has been light (OK, nonexistent) this week, as I've been away taking care of some family business in Vancouver. (Happy birthday, Elaine!)

But recently, I've had some questions from readers about how they can add comments to this blog, as I occasionally urge you all to do. So I figured it would be a good idea to offer a brief tutorial on how to do it. Those of you who already are comfortable with this can just skip over the rest of this post.

OK. The first thing you should know is whether you're on the front page of the blog, or in one of the pages dedicated to that post.

The easiest way to tell is to just look at the URL in your address box at the top of the browser window. If it says...

...then you're on the front page.

If there's more information after the .com/ part, like this...

...then you're on one of the inside pages, which are dedicated to one post per page. Those pages are also called "permanent links" and they're where you get sent when you're searching for a particular post.

The difference between these two pages, as far as comments go, is that if you're on the front page, you won't see the comments for that post. At the bottom of the post, you'll see these options:

See the button that says "0 Comments"? If there are any comments to this post, it will display the number. And if you want to read them, or leave a comment, just click on that button and you'll be taken to the page where you can see any comments that are already there, or leave your own.

If you're viewing the post on one of the inside pages (the ones with all the information after the .com/) you just need to scroll down a bit to see the comments, or add your own.

Either way, you'll be in the comment section. Just look for the button that says "Post a comment" and click on that. You'll see this box:

Now all you need to do is type in your comments, then choose your identity and publish. If you have a blogger account, you can choose that identity (I think Blogger will put that up there for you) or just click on Anonymous. If you want to check out what your comment will look like before you publish it, use the preview button.

I hope that helps clarify things. If it doesn't, why not leave a comment to this post, so we can help you sort things out?

Either way, I look forward to lots of comments from here on in...

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday fun for Feb 9, 2007

I've got something a little different for today's Friday fun. If you're only interested in laughing like crazy, you might want to look elsewhere, like here, perhaps.

Today, I'm posting links to two videos. Neither is really "funny" so I'm straying a bit from my own guidelines on what a Friday fun piece should be.

But this past week, I've been working a fair bit on trying to establish just what is meant by the term Web 2.0, especially around how the software tools and on-line communities that it's spawned can be used by communicators in their day-to-day activities.

So both of the videos I've got try to explain what Web 2.0 is.

I've posted them together because they also demonstrate how powerful a presentation can be in helping you make your point. Or more accurately, how two presentations on the same subject can be so different.

The first video is a fairly complete overview of Web 2.0, based on the information contained in the now somewhat-dated Wikipedia entry on Web 2.0, as of Feb 23, 2005.

It's a bit dry but it covers the topic. If you're up-to-speed on Web 2.0, you might want to skip this first one and just go straight to the second video.

To watch this one, click on the picture below, or use this link to YouTube.

The second video covers some of the same ground, but does it by demonstrating, in a creative way, the power of the new software. I think you'll agree that it's a lot more powerful and makes you appreciate just how significant some of these advances have been as we've moved from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.

To see this one, just click on the image below, or go here to watch it on YouTube.

So what do you think? Which version do you prefer? Post your opinion in the comments and we'll see which style appeals to TheDailyUpload readers.

And what the heck, just to make sure you're not too disappointed in my Friday fare, here's a guitar video, just because it's Friday. "Come Together" seemed appropriate, given that the Beatles and Apple have finally settled their trademark differences. Hopefully, we'll soon see the Beatles music available on ITunes!

Have a great weekend!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Will global warming speed the rise of digital papers?

Since global warming has taken over as the top concern for Canadians, it got me wondering what some of spin-off effects of this attention might be. Some of those I've heard recently:
  • We might end up paying more for gas for our cars.
  • Industries that have struggled to go mainstream, like solar energy and wind power, may get a renewed lease on life.
  • Air travel could slide, as people reduce their travel to save the planet. (Really?)
  • Electric cars might not be dead after all.
  • The earth's temperature is going to rise, along with sea levels.
  • Weird weather might become the norm.
  • And a whole host of other things...
But one thing I haven't seen discussed much is what will happen to newspapers.

Think about it. Every day, about 40,000 trees are cut down in Canada to provide the newsprint for Canada's daily newspapers (according to this website.) That's a lot of natural resources for something that has a shelf life of about a day.

Add in the transportation costs to deliver, the productions costs to print, etc. and you can see that printing newspapers is not a climate-friendly operation.

Now factor in the fact that newspapers are already fretting about what the growth of the wired world means for their continued existence and I don't think it's much of stretch to believe that the time has come for e-readers to take on a renewed life.

By e-readers, I don't mean reading the news on your computer. An e-reader, like this one from Sony, are small devices, similar to handheld computers, but instead of a bulky LCD screen, they've got a thin display that shows the printed page. They really do look like a book, if that's what they're displaying, or a newspaper page. And unlike your PDA, the batteries last a long time.

Although e-books have been around for a long time, they've never really caught on. Same thing with electronic versions of newspapers. You can read an on-line version of the printed paper, but so far the experience hasn't been that great for most people.

But a renewed concern over climate change might be just the push necessary for this new technology to really take off. Could this be the "next big thing?"

If you're interested, here's an interesting article from the IEEE's Spectrum on-line edition, (the IEEE is one of the world's largest professional technology associations). The article examines the current state of digital delivery of newspapers and predicts that mainstream acceptance may be closer than we think.

Currently, several major news organizations in Europe and Asia are participating in test projects and several plan to move into a full subscriber implementation. Perhaps what's happening is not unlike what's happened with wireless phones, where Europe and Asia are well ahead of North America in terms of usage, especially in new applications, like SMS.

What makes it all possible is a revolutionary new product from E Ink Corporation, a spin-off from the famous MIT Media Lab. It's a flexible display technology that has been talked about and thrown around for years and now looks like it's going to take off in all kinds of ways.

I know there's something warm and fuzzy (and practical) about the current version of the daily paper. But I'm willing to consider that a lightweight, up-to-date version that I can carry with me all the time might be a good alternative.

What about you? Are you willing to give up paper in the morning?

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Steve Jobs goes directly to the people

An interesting item appeared on the Apple website today.

It's a piece written (supposedly) by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, called simply "Thoughts on Music."

In it, Jobs responds to recent suggestions, primarily from some European countries, notably Norway, that Apple needs to get rid of the DRM (digital rights management) software that it puts on all the music you buy through Apple's on-line ITunes store. The DRM means that purchased music can only be played on Apple's Ipod music players.

This post today is an interesting way for Jobs to get his message out, without any media filters. He doesn't do a lot of interviews and Apple is notorious for clamping down on any unauthorized messages. And since the company doesn't have any official blogs, their website is their chosen medium.

What's especially interesting is that Jobs says that Apple will sell DRM-free music immediately, if the record companies will agree to it.

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

We'll need to watch this one develop. Somehow I doubt the record companies will accept his offer.

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Hoaxes have a proud tradition

So have you heard about the bride who cut off her hair on her wedding day, freaked out, then posted the whole episode to YouTube?

Or what about the Boston bomb scare that resulted from a failed (?) attempt at guerilla marketing for a TV cartoon? (Some argue that paying a $2 million fine for that kind of publicity is cheap!)

These stories have been all over the media in the past week, so I’m assuming that you know the background. If you don’t, you can follow the links above or do a Google search to find out more.

What’s interesting to me is the way the stories have played out in the mass media.

Journalists seem to be falling over themselves to cast the “perpetrators” as the bad guys and are suggesting that what they are doing is a bad thing, or at least something that we should be wary of.

But are they? And should we be? Wary of them, I mean?

It seems to me that most marketing campaigns (and here I’m using “Marketing” as opposed to “PR”, although I’m not sure that the distinction means much to anyone) are built around the idea of trying to get us to accept some premise which might be doubtful, at best, or an outright lie (at worst) and then adjust our behaviour accordingly.

For example, if I see a bunch of young, dynamic people having fun while drinking beer, I’ll naturally want to buy and drink the same brand of beer to have the same experience.

Or if a well-known actor tells me that her skin stays soft because she’s using a particular face cream, shouldn’t I believe her? After all, why would she lie? Just because she’s paid money to do so? Is she lying?

Last weekend, we went through the annual spectacle of the Super Bowl ads, where people willingly sat down and watched some very creative visions of reality which are trying to influence their buying decisions. Companies spent millions of dollars to get their ads in front of as many people as possible.

But I didn’t hear anyone complaining about a company pretending that apes can talk and plot to ambush a Bud Lite delivery guy. So how come people are so upset at a video that purports to portray a bride that cuts her hair off?

I wonder if people are more offended by the fact that a company pulled off a stunt like that, or by the fact that they were taken in?

Marketing hoaxes are certainly nothing new.

Consider the “Paul is dead” affair from 1969, when Paul McArtney supposedly died, and the album Abbey Road became a roadmap to his death. It’s quite a tale, (here’s a link to a Wikipedia article about it) and some suggest it was an elaborate hoax perpetrated to sell more records.

Or, more recently, there's the tale of Platinum Weird, a real music group but with a fictional prior existence that’s been documented in print and a television documentary. It’s an interesting story and also involved “taking in” the mass media.

More sinister examples of hoaxes (and the outcry that surrounds them when they’re exposed) include The Bush administration’s claims that Iraq had plenty of WMD’s (Weapons of Mass Destruction) and that Saddam Hussein was planning to buy uranium from Niger.

When I look at the stuff that fills the airwaves and newspapers these days (and is considered legitimate) I can’t get excited when someone manages to sneak something by us. It’s kind of cool, actually.

OK, I admit that the problems in Boston were unfortunate, but isn’t it interesting to consider that in the other nine or 10 cities that the same gag was done, it passed without incident? Perhaps it’s not the marketing people that should be investigated, but the ones who are supposed to be protecting us.

YouTube was created to help liberate messages and ideas. Ordinary people can post their videos and people all over the world can see them instantly - without filters or payment or censors.

If the price of that freedom is the occasional campaign that isn’t actually what it appears to be, that’s OK with me. They’re often the most interesting.

I think we need to get a grip.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

A newbie's look at Second Life

Have you heard of Second Life?

If you listen to the premier PR podcast, For Immediate Release (FIR), hosted by PR podcasting legends Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson, you've likely heard plenty.

Shel and Neville were among the first PR types to tout the benefits of this brave new world. In fact, Crayon, a new PR "virtual" agency that they've set up with Joseph Jaffe and CC Chapman (two other well-known podcasters) is headquartered in Second Life. (The pic above was posted by Second Life resideny Cleon Goff, whom I believe is CC Chapman in the real world. That's CC on the right.)

Those guys think that there is a world of opportunity for businesses in Second Life and they seem to be having a great time getting involved. They've begun a special Thursday morning session called "Coffee with Crayon" where anyone can drop by their Second Life office lobby and hang out. Sounds intriguing (although I've not tried it out myself.)

Now I should admit right here that although I've read a lot about Second Life, I'm not a member. I haven't tried it myself. I am intrigued, but so far, I haven't found a convenient time to sit down and invest some of my own time in learning about it.

I do spend a lot of time on my computer(s). My wife is always after me because I'm developing a hunch from sitting here all the time. And my dogs figure I spend way too much time in the office, instead of out walking them.

But I've never had much interest in video games, especially role-playing games, which seems to be the genre that Second Life has evolved from.

So while my RL (real life) doesn't include SL (second life), I'm interested in what's going on there, especially if it something I need to keep abreast of in order to be able to help my clients make sense of it.

One of the things I've been noticing more and more is how the mainstream media is starting to pay attention to things like Second Life, a natural outgrowth of their growing awareness of Social Media activities.

This past weekend, the London Review of Books published an article by novelist Jenni Diski about Second Life called "Jowls are Available." She takes a humourous cruise through the offerings available, from a distinctly non-techie point of view.

In late October, the Observer newspaper also featured the site. Their intrepid reporter spent a week in-world and reported back to those of us in the real world in an entertaining piece called Goodbye, cruel world ...

There are plenty of other reviews out there (as a Google search will reveal) as well as the first how-to book: Second Life: The Official Guide.

I don't have any valuable insight to offer into this phenomenon. But I suspect it's worth watching. The rapid rise of Second Life is just the prelude to a revolution in how we interact with each other using the Web. It's going to be a wild ride, and while we won't all be actively participating, the beauty of the Web is that we all get to watch.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday fun for Feb 2, 2007

It's Groundhog Day. So it only makes sense to refer you to several write-ups about this historic day, beginning with Wikipedia:

Groundhog Day is a traditional festival celebrated in the United States and Canada on February 2. It is a cross-quarter day, midway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox.

In traditional weather lore, if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end. If the groundhog sees its shadow because the weather is bright and clear, it will be frightened and run back into its hole, and the winter will continue for six more weeks.

Hmmm...not quite the deep, belly-laugh-inducing quote I was looking for.

If you want more detail, check out "The Official Site of the Punxsutawney Grounhog Club."

Or, better yet, read what Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog) actually said this morning. (You can find anything on the Internet, can't you?)

For the record, all the various groundhog-sages consulted this morning predict an early spring.

Other diversions

If you've had enough of puzzling over the weather, here's a site that will let you puzzle over other things.

Mighty Optical Illusions is a website that publishes various optical illusions and usually goes on to explain them. It's not particularly deep but it does provide some useful options for procrastinating.

I don't particularly like all the ads that are wrapped around everything, but if you can get past that part -- there's some interesting things in there.

I'm particularly fond of the Stereogram type of illusion, where you have to let your eyes relax and then suddenly you see a 2-D object in 3-D, sometimes with startling results. Here's an example.

If you like these things enough to see them every day, there are a couple of widgets available that you can download to have a new illusion show up on your desktop every day. Here's how to get one for your Google homepage, and here's a link to a Mac widget. (And here's an explanation of widgets, if you need it.)

And finally, have you ever wondered what people that work at home do to celebrate casual Fridays? Well, now you know.

Have a great weekend.

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