Monthly Archives: June 2006

When In Phoenix

If you have ever been to Phoenix in July, then you know it’s not the optimal time to enjoy the city.  I had to fly out for a meeting in our offices, but I decided to stay the weekend to hang out with some of the USWeb people there.

I have made it a tradition to always hook up with my friend Chris and grab some dinner and check out some clubs.  If you are ever in Phoenix, do yourself a big favor and check out Char‘sChar’s is a blues club in Phoenix which is amazingly good.  I have also had some success at the Rainbow Room, but Char’s is hands down the best blues club I have been to.  And if you really want to do it right, try to check it out on a Tuesday or Thursday when Lady J is playing.  It will change your life.

And if you’re looking for a good place to eat in Phoenix, try Ruth’s Chris or Oreganos.  These are my two favorite places to eat in Phoenix.  I must also give Pita Jungle an honorable mention, and those of you that have been there will know why.  I am forever in debt to my friend Rodrick for introducing me to that place.  He is a man with great taste.

This trip was a multi city event that also included a short trip to San Diego, where I got to hang out with Russ and his wife for dinner.  We went to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, which is always amazing.  We have an internal argument over which steak house is better, Ruth’s Chris or Flemings.  I have to say that my vote, and also the vote of most the people at USWeb is that Ruth’s Chris is the better bet.  The week before I got to try out Manny’s in Minneapolis, which was pretty damn good as well.  They are definitely pretty serious about their steaks there. 

I had some downtime in between city’s so I got to catch up on some reading.  I got to finish up A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby.  It was fantastic.  Nick Hornby also wrote About A Boy and High Fidelity, (also wrote Fever Pitch, but I don’t think the US movie says a lot for him), but I am really looking forward to seeing how they do with a movie for A Long Way Down.

I’m looking forward to heading home.  I miss Michael and feel bad that I have been gone nearly a week.  I’m heading to Vegas next Sat. and will be gone for 5 days, and then I’m off to Houston for 2 days.  I’m going to try to take the remainder of July light and spend some of his summer with him. 

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Seth Stevenson is a Dweeb

In a recent article on Slate.com, Seth Stevenson voiced his odd opinion on the new Apple commercials starring Justin Long and John Hodgman. First off, he has a problem with using Justin Long as the “Mac”, he thinks Long comes off as a “smug little twit”. But I think Long does a great job representing the casual Mac users. Mac users are just more relaxed about their computers, because like Long says, “everything just kinda of works with a Mac”.

This brings me to my second issue with Stevenson’s article. He takes offense as a PC user to accusations that most digital cameras won’t work right, and that the set up for a new PC is a long process. To that I say, are you nuts? For the past few years I have owned a Mac as my main computer, and a PC as an evil necessity (which by the way is no longer required thanks to Boot Camp and Parallel Workstation), so I have had the opportunity to try to hook up digital cameras, camcorders, and even external hard drives to both. I can’t think of a single issue I have ever had with a Mac hooking up with one of the devices. For example, after years of reliable service, my HP G85 OfficeJet died on me. I decided against a new all-in-one printer and opted instead for an Epson Inkjet and a seperate fax machine. I came home and plugged the Epson into the Mac, and like magic it worked. But I decided that I wanted to go one step further and print wirelessly. I plugged the USB from my printer to my Airport Extreme, and like even more impressive magic, it worked again.

I would love to see a video of a side by side comparison with Windows vs. Mac on this set up. Of course Windows users would shout that it wasn’t fair because Microsoft has no real control of the manufacturer of the wireless router. But that would be the point precisely. Apple maintains control over every aspect of their computers. When you hook Apple products up to a Mac, the just work. When you hook up an approved product to a Mac, they just work as well.

As for Stevenson’s last comment that these commercials will just irritate a PC users, it should. Go to the nearest Apple store, play with a Mac, try out some of the same software you use now, plug in your digital camera, update your iPod, hook up a printer to a wireless router, and if you don’t immediately make a purchase after witnessing the power of a Mac, that you are like Seth Stevenson and the annoying PC guy, you are a dweeb.

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War of the Video Sites

It looks like video is really starting to become the next battlefield online. With YouTube becoming the next MySpace, and Google pushing out their video site, the war has started.

I haven’t yet contributed video to the Web, although I plan to, but I have gone through and looked at a lot of videos. I used to visit Break.com (formally Big-Boys.com). But my new Macbook Pro cannot support WMV yet, and that’s just about all Break.com offers. So, I started checking out YouTube a lot more. YouTube has a definite edge when it comes to the video sites. They encode everything in Flash video, which means that every browser, on just about every OS can view the video content.

Yahoo has of course come to the party, and they are as usual a day late and dollar short. Their video site is is not only not in Flash (you have to load up whatever the native file format is), but the file is also served from a third party server, which has already opened up the floodgates for Spam.

What I find most interesting about this is the way things are moving in entertainment. There are already some great segments on YouTube, and some video directors are already starting to stand out and become known, at least in the YouTube community. It has become clear that very soon someone will make something in very high quality for very little money and publish it through YouTube. Much like digital filmmaking, this is exciting become it’s really going to come down to talent. No one watches The Office, or John Stewart, or any Kevin Smith movie for the impressive special effects or high end filming. It’s just talent (mostly writing) that makes these shows or movies entertaining.

Wired also just has a great article on Crowdsourcing. Soon you will be able to shoot a scene with a mid-level camera with a decent microphone, and digitally send that footage to a group of people who will filter the sound, correct the color, and even add the special effects. How the first shows may be like a The Office, within a couple of years you should see shows the quality level of a 24 or Sopranos. Sound like I’m delusional? Maybe I am, we’ll see. But check out Soup of the Day and tell me if you see this slowly happening.

I think the big question that will need to be answered is “who is going to pay for this?”. Paid content is not going to do well on the Web. I know many people want that to work, but it simply will not work long term. It’s going to have to be add based. The problem with ad based video content on the Web is the perception of value. For some reason when Ford advertises on “24”, they don’t really track the hits to their website (at least not with any great interest), and they don’t expect to see instant gratification. With online advertising, clients have gotten spoiled in the ROI abilities of the Web, as well as the analytics. Companies will have to learn to accept the idea of ads having a branding value, not an ROI on Web videos. But just like the early days of cable, it will be the direct marketers that will fund the initial push of content. Direct marketers are usually better with taking calculated risks with more manageable budgets.

This may also be a great time for a company to start putting together some video ideas for their own branding. How about a home repair realty show from Home Depot? Or maybe a weight loss (Biggest Loser style) show from Nutrisystem? Or a dating show from Match.com? Companies have a short window of opportunity to become the content, not just advertise on it.