Razor & Blades

The business model for Amazon’s Kindle is very interesting to me.  It’s one of few products I can think of that offers free access to the cell phone network, even if you are using it to line Amazon’s coffers just a little more.

The wireless market is so proprietary and inaccessible in the US that any way of utilizing it that doesn’t involve a two-year contract looks like a breakthrough.  We’re also seeing little pinpoints of light in Verizon’s open data network and unlimited calling plan.  Of course, pulling off iPhone’s Visual Voicemail was also a jaw-dropping accomplishment, even if the concept was blindingly obvious to everyone who ever hears about it.

Are we nearing the end of the wireless phone carriers, and (finally) heading to wireless data pipes, as we need to?  Once we unbundle the device from the network, I think we’ll start to see lower prices and better availability.

Then, the real fun begins.

Media Management: Still a Hard Problem

I’ve spent the last couple of months working on evaluating CMS solutions for a large intranet project I’m a developer on. I think our goal is fairly straightforward: let web publishers edit the content of their pages without having to worry about knowing any HTML. However, what seems like it should be a simple problem is surprisingly complex.

We are close to standardizing on ExpressionEngine since it gets us 85% of the way there. It gives us the flexibility of defining forms to allow complex data sets to be represented cleanly, but there’s no WYSIWYG editor built in.

But by far, the most conspicuous absence has been an open-source, comprehensive image asset manager. I’ve searched long and hard for a system that makes it easy for a media organization to handle images flexibly, with no success. I’ve looked at Gallery and Coppermine, as well as the built-in media managers in WordPress, Movable Type, Joomla, and more.

Here are the basic requirements:

  • Open source
  • Preferably built in PHP (that’s what the rest of our code base is)
  • Web-based UI when it’s feasible to do so
  • Importers from the variety of packages our photographers use
  • Extensive metadata support
  • Derived images that are linked to a master original
  • Automated scaling and crops according to a specified image size, using focal points to automatically crop a picture off-center
  • Version control
  • Easy exporters to integrate with a variety of CMS packages.

Am I missing something obvious? Why hasn’t a tool like this achieved greater market share?

People Living Worldwide

Twitter started as an experiment to strip away all the complexity of social networking sites. At its core, it’s a micro-blog: a tiny line of text updated as often as every few minutes with the thoughts and goings-on of ordinary people worldwide.

Today, a new mashup combining Google Maps and Twitter was released. Twittervision is like a birds-eye view on the mundane. You can watch people going to bed, shopping at the supermarket, holding twittersations with people on the other side of the world, and more.

I wonder what would happen if somebody launched a mashup of journaling and Twittervision. Could it be a new way to share insights from devotions? A new way to stay accountable?

Holding the Keys

Web 2.0 start page Netvibes released a developer preview of its new Universal Widget Architecture (UWA) today. The system combines a new widget format with small amounts of glue code that help the widget run in Google IG, Apple Dashboard, and soon Opera and standard web pages. The new universal widgets were compelling enough that I signed up for a Netvibes account after playing with it anonymously for about a year.

There is still a barrier to overcome, however, and it’s not Netvibes’ fault. Continue reading

Permit & Proceed

In sharp contrast to the thousands upon thousands of cease and desist letters sent by angry lawyers, Second Life owner Linden Labs took a slightly unorthodox approach to http://www.getafirstlife.com/ – they sent a permit and proceed letter.

As a result, they’re going to get so much positive publicity that it’ll make Microsoft’s collective heads spin.

Also, see “Blogger Gets ‘Un-Cease-And-Desist’ Note.”