Friday, October 31, 2008

Why Hulu misses the mark...

Hulu won me over early on, but I've come to realize that they have missed the mark. In all fairness, it's probably not Hulu, rather the suits at the networks.

There is an interesting new show on Hulu called Sons of Anarchy. I saw some ads, so I watched the pilot. Not too bad. I wanted to watch more. Then I notice that they pull down the episodes 22 days after they are put up. So right now you can watch episode 1 & 2, and then it jumps to episode 6. You're just out of luck for 3-5.

I'd really like to mee the person who made this decision, and ask them why they think it's a good idea. Because it's not. There are two outcomes in this scenario.

Outcome #1 - I go to bittorrent and download the missing episodes, and probably the rest of the episodes, just beacuse it's easy. I get to watch all of them, commercial free.

Outcome #2 - I get discouraged, tell myself I'll wait until they come out on DVD (Netflix, I never buy), and I may or may not remember to check them out. What will probably happen is I'll end up never getting around to watching them again. I won't become a fan of the show, and won't watch the Hulu version with ads that generate revenue.

Isn't there data out there that show people still buy DVDs, even if they've seen the shows on TV, or watched them on the internet? Or that even if they don't buy DVDs, doesn't the ad revenue make up for that? A recent article on wired quotes Hulu as they will "dramatically exceed initial forecasts" regarding revenue.

I am willing to watch commercials to watch TV. I'm not willing to ignore my family at a certain time, and on a certain day, to watch a program. Watching TV when it is broadcast is so 20th century. If I'm in the mood to watch something at 1:39 in the morning, then by golly, I'm going to watch it then, not at 7:30 on a Thursday.

Hulu is close to the mark, but sites like the Pirate Bay will always be there, and will always be a viable alternative, until the Networks understand that they need to give consumers what they want.

Winter is coming, nothing else to do but twitter away...

I've had a twitter account for some time now, but have just started using it. Lots of fun. If you've got one, let me know so I can follow you. If you're so inclined, you can follow me here...

You heard it here first...

The recession is over. That's right, it's officially over. Oh sure, you can wait for the Wall Street Journal to call it, but the old media is far too slow. I'm calling the event here, based on a single economic indicator.

I work with a great, albeit shrinking, group of people. Every once in a while the group likes to live high on the hog, and go down to Sam's club to buy a polish dog combo. Hot dog and soda, $1.62. Can't beat that deal.

I've been trying to lost a bit of weight over the last few months (I'm down 7 pounds and counting), so I usually pass on the meal, but I like to ride with these guys because the conversation is always so stimulating. While they are buying their combos (and after I've drunk my strawberry slim fast), I walk around the aisles, performing my 'hunter gatherer' routine. I hit every sample station in the place because...well, I have no pride.

That being said, I've noticed that the bounteous harvest has been anything less than bounteous, as of late. In fact, at the height of the stock market crash, I went there one day and there were only three sample stations set up. I had to drink a lot of water that day, and eat some grass.

However, today, that has all turned around. Sam's Club must be on the way up, because this was my hunter gatherer experience today. Behold, the fruit of my labors:

Hot cider
Chicken salad on a club cracker
Meatball dipped in alfredo
Part of a fiber one bar
Black forest ham
Chicken in BBQ sause
Ghirardelli chocolate
Diet juice
Part of a cinnamon roll

Now, you may wonder how I hope to lose weight with all that food, but remember, this comes in servings about the size of a quarter.

If Sam's Club can afford to put out a spread like this, then you can rest assured, the hard times are almost over.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quote of the day...

The following took place on IM:

Mom: "Call us please
Dad: "Lose the phone again?"
Dad: "Calling."
Mom: "Again, please."
Dad: "Calling."
Mom: "Again."
Dad: "Calling."
Dad: "Calling again, still no luck?"
Mom: "Got it, we found it hidden in Spencer's pocket."
Mom: "No wonder we couldn't trace the sound, it kept moving."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Great News...

As far as I'm concerned, this is great news.

"Google Inc. and five major book publishers have reached an agreement that will allow the search-engine titan to make millions of in- copyright books and other written materials available online."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Closest yet...

For those who read this blog religiously, you've known every month or so I go on and on about geo-related content. Organizing content by geographic location, user generated content, linking wikipedia to locations, etc. I've been talking about it for years, but since I'm completely impotent when it comes to writing code, I've never been able to actually build anything. And never been able to convince anybody that the idea is good enough to invest time/money into it.

Well, now somebody has officially beat me to the punch. A very cool demo over at, a Utah company. It's pretty much everything I've ever talked about, and I'm excited to get a chance to play with it, once they open it up to the general public.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I'm a meanie...

I ran my first 5k today. However, as it turns out, USU doesn't know how to measure. It was only about a 4.25 k. My wife, who has been very consistent in her times (within 10 seconds or so), finished the race 7 minutes early. We went to Google maps, and sure enough, the race was way off. We were nowhere close to 5k.

Anyway, I discovered today that I'm a mean person. The race was hard for me because I have only run once in the past month. But I buckled down, and ran the entire, 4.25k without stopping to walk. In the final stretch, my wife was about 40 yards ahead of me, and two girls were about 30 yards behind. Well, right at the end I could hear the girls making their move. They were getting closer and closer. I picked up the pace, and so did they. By the very end, they were right behind me, but I managed to stay ahead of them, and finish in front.

It kind of felt good, but then I realized these poor girls had probably said to themselves, 'let's beat that guy in the green shirt. They had set a simple goal, and I had to go be a stinker and keep them from achieving that goal. I probably ruined their day. I really felt pretty bad about it, I could have slowed up and let them pass me.

So there you have it, revelation of the night. I'm a stinker.

But, I'm no longer angry. The final play was tonight. And I will miss it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Welcome Aboard...

Live in Utah? Got a kid going into the 9th grade? Want that kid to be part of an online, completely open High School? Want use of a free laptop for the duration of their studies?

Then the Open High School of Utah is the place for you. Applications are now being accepted.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


If anybody reading this is an online educator, or any educator for that matter, you need to stop reading this, go to Wal-Mart, buy World of Warcraft, and play it for 2 months. It's homework.

I can not believe how engaging this game is. There has to be some way to figure out how a game can take boring, meaningless tasks, and make them fun, engaging, and dare I say, educational.

Blizzard, the company that makes World of Warcraft, just came out with a patch. They updated the game, and now there is something called 'achievements'. Basically when you do something (usually something boring), you get a virtual 'star' for it. Usually you get 10 points (you can't turn those points in for anything), and a message goes out to your guild saying, 'Herman just did X'. And that's it. That is all there is to the achievements. It's nothing more than a way to record what you did.

The crazy thing is that everybody is doing them. Like mad. One achievement is to discover every area in the game. I think there are close to a thousand areas. So you hop on your little mount, and ride around the country. You just run around, trying to find all of the zones. It's mind-numbingly boring, and takes hours, but it seems like everybody in my guild is doing it. Every 10 minutes I get a message that says something like, "Magicatak just discovered Western Plaguelands!"

Many of these achievements will take weeks, if not months to do.

Maybe this whole 'student confidentiality' thing is wrong. Maybe instead of giving grades, we should give students levels, and make it public. You're at level 7 math, level 9 reading, and level 15 writing. You could have achievements like knowing your 7 times table in 8 seconds or less. We'd keep track of it on some social network, and you could proudly display all of your achievements to your, class.

Sound like a crazy idea? That is because you're still reading this, and not playing World of Warcraft, like I told you to. Go. Go and see if you can figure out how Blizzard seemed to pull off the impossible. They have got me baffled.

Monday, October 20, 2008

CMS, meet the Great Outdoors

I'm a big fan of mashups. A mashup is where you take one tool, combine or mash it up with another tool, and you're left with an altogether brand new toy to play with. I like mashups because they bring together experts in different content areas. A good example is Flickr's geotagging tool. You have people who take pictures, and you have people who love fiddling around with GPS devices. You mash these two people together, and the next thing we know we're all geotagging our photos.

It's been over a year since a post I wrote hit slashdot on the subject of linking content to location. I've been thinking about the topic for probably over 3 years. It occurred to me that a good way to visualize the system I'm proposing, is by understanding how a content management system (CMS) works.

The basic idea behind a CMS is that is solves the problem of too much data. Let's assume you have a lot of stuff, like electronic text, images, links, video, and more. You have all this stuff that you want to share with others. You could just put it all on one really big massive html page, but what if you have 10,000 items? People would have a hard time sifting through all the content to find the one thing they want to view.

Enter a CMS to save the day. With a CMS you can upload all your stuff to the system, and then choose how you want to display it. You can display information hierarchically, where content is stored in categories and sub categories. Or you could do it linearly, where people first see one topic, then move on to a more complex topic. Or you could sort it by date created, file type, keyword, etc. The beauty of a CMS is that you can have thousands of pieces of content, and then sort it by one or even all of these methods. One person can view the content by date uploaded, while another person could browse the same content from the same repository, but do it by topic.

A good example of a CMS is the site I work on, USU's OpenCourseWare site. We have thousands of pieces of content, but it's sorted by topic and by lesson, and is easily navigated.

So, how does this pertain to the geo-content idea? We just mentioned that a CMS allows you to sort information based on several methods. Now imagine that the earth itself becomes a CMS, with users access the information via their GPS enabled smart phone. This Global CMS would display information based on your location. Instead of sorting by date or file type, it sorts by where you are on the planet. If you're driving on a freeway it might display information found on wikipedia's site regarding the freeway system. It might also display information about the city/state/country you are currently in. It might display information about the flora, fauna, and wildlife in the area. It could tell you about the history of the region, or famous people who were born, or passed through this part of the world. This information would be useful and relevant because of your location, not based on something you searched for. You would find 'hidden knowledge' that you were not aware existed.

You can go out and buy a CMS. Or there are a lot of really good ones that are open-source (USU uses educommons, which is open-source). What we don't have is a system that would allow us to create and access this global CMS. We have WordPress for blogs, we have Plone for a web based CMS, but I think it's time we get ourselves a CMS capable of building a Global CMS.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A social network I'd like to see...

Last night I was working on a little outdoor project. I was trying to get them to help me, but of course, none of them would.

A neighbor girl came over in her roller blades. She's only 7 or so, and she scares me to death, because she can barely stand up in these things. She asked me what I was doing, and I told her. She proceeded to help me for about 45 minutes. Working harder than all of my boys put together.

I thought to myself, my boys must just not know how to work.

Then, today, one of my sons goes over to another neighbor's house. He spent an hour raking their leaves into a big pile. It's not that they don't know how to work, it must be something about doing something different.

So, I need a social network site that allows you to swap kids. I'll send my kids over to your place, and you send yours to mine. They will all work happily, and we'll get a lot done.

So, there you go. Somebody code that puppy. I'll see if '' is available.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ward DVD Music

A friend of mine posted a request to her blog, looking for music for their ward DVD. I wrote in her comments, but it started to get a little too link heavy, so for a cleaner version, I'm posting my suggestions here.

For a ward DVD, you can never go wrong with Camper Van Beethoven's "Take the Skinhead bowling". Bowling and skinheads were never given such a snappy rhythm and catchy tune.

And don't get hung up on his funny name, Gogol Bordello does a great job with "Start Wearing Purple". Although this shouldn't be confused with any of the Prop 8 stuff going on in California. Ward DVDs should be apolitical.

And then of course, no ward DVD is complete without Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire', just to remind everybody of hellfire and damnation. I prefer Wall of Voodoo's version.

And if you have any ward Christmas pics, and need a good Christmas song, then make sure to include "Get behind me, Santa." by the very talented Sufjan Stevens.

And finally, if you had any ward activities surrounding the Bronze Age, and really, what good ward doesn't have a ward activity surrounding the Bronze Age, then don't pass up They Might Be Giants "Mesopotamians".

Of course, using this selection depends a lot on whether or not you want to be asked to do the ward DVD again next year...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Very interesting...

Those interested in OpenCourseWare will find Tom's post interesting. Coursefeed has hooked up Facebook and Blackboard together to provide students a way to collaborate even after the course is finished. Not surprisingly, the folks at Coursefeed are running into all sorts of privacy and proprietary issues. However, to me this is interesting for several reasons.

OpenCourseWare has none of these issues. We could set up learning environments around courses, and people could join if they wished, and leave when they want. We've wanted a social aspect to OCW for years, and this could be it.

The other interesting aspect to all of this is what happens when faculty realize they can put their content in OCW, and have all their learning tools in Facebook. Who needs an LMS when you have this setup? The natural next step seems to be to ditch the fee heavy, tech support heavy LMS, and move to what students are already using...

Friday, October 10, 2008


My problem is that I'm an idea man. I come up with ideas, but am completely powerless to do anything with my ideas. I've been pining for years about how the publishing industry is behind the times, runs on a very closed model that is harmful to everybody but themselves, and that writing can be, and in many cases, should be, a collaborative effort.

"Why doesn't somebody create a web site where people can write collaboratively, share their books, and then vote on the best book to be published? Why can't royalties be shared among authors, editors, and those who give feedback?"

Well, enter Webook. Get it? Webook? Isn't that clever? It's like We-book (we write a book), and web-book (a book on the web), all at the same time. Ha ha, zany!

Anyway, if I had sat down and designed a site that met all of the things I've been whining about, Webook would be it. You can start a project, collaborate in an open or closed environment, work on other projects, or just give feedback. Projects are voted on, and Webook already has their first published book out. And their terms of service looks pretty decent.

I can understand that many authors, especially those who have already been published, might be a little bit leery. But let me take the risk for you. I've already signed up, and posted chapter one of a book I'm working on. If you'd like to give it a try, please feel free to drop in. Or maybe you have a book that is out of print, and not doing anything? Post it!

Now, let me say up front, you may go there and find a lot wrong with the site. There is a lot of content that is very rough. It's the first draft attempted by somebody who probably has no experience with writing. But what better way to learn than through a community of similarly struggling writers. Person A may know nothing about hooks, but can write a good scene description. Person B is a hook master, but struggles with descriptions. Put the two together and they start to learn and grow. Those familiar with, know this is a healthy process, and one that should be encouraged.

So, if I've piqued your interest, sign up. And if you do, make sure to let me know, and add me as a friend.

And finally, let me leave you with a quote from the founder of Webook. One that I could not possibly agree with more.

"[Webook's] biggest challenge is to contribute to the evolution of the traditional publishing business, which is still dominated by a few large publishers who wield enormous control over the titles that reach the bookstores. While in the past decade the music, software, travel, financial, and other major sectors have shifted the power from the few to the many, publishing continues to function as an exclusive, traditional business."

I, for one, wish them good luck.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


This was breakfast at my house...If you click on the picture, you'll get to see things up close. Just don't drool on your keyboard.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Quote of the day...

Dad is opening his hand-drawn birthday cards.

Dad: "Very nice! Is that a birthday cake?"

Boy # 4: "No, that is a monster eating a kids arm off. But it doesn't go down to his stomach, it goes up to his brain, ha ha!"

Dad: "Oh I see it."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Difficult Questions...

This photo shoot kind of shook me up. It is at once beautiful and haunting.

Number 18 shows the resilience of youth. It warms the soul.
Number 20 shows the face of somebody who is beginning to learn just exactly how life is, but still clings to a bit of hope.
But it's number 8 I can't stop looking at. It's number 8 that breaks my heart, makes me think.

Part of me wants to say, "See? This is why we should buys stones made in a lab". So people aren't forced to toil away their childhood, scraping at the walls of a shaft, looking for stones that are sent to 'civilized countries' so we can look pretty.

But if we do that, there will be no more demand left for these stones. And where would the miners be then? How will they feed their children if their livelihood is taken away?

I think the thing that burns me up the most is that these people are the ones wasting and wearing out their lives, they are the ones losing their childhood, and working long hours to find the stones, only to have a bunch of middlemen make all the money. From the guy who sits behind the bars and buys the stones, to the guy that gets them to the 'western world', to the jeweler down the street who then charges hundreds of dollars more to 'make his cut'. That is the part that makes me sick, and I want no part of it.

I would love to buy one of these stones, and I would love to pay full price, but I want the money to go to the person, or more likely the family, that is doing the work.

Why, in this so called 'flat world', can I not do this?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008