Monday, August 23, 2010

WikiReader -- good enough technology?

Last month I was in a big box store and came across this product -- the WikiReader. It offers offline access to 3 million plus articles from the english version of Wikipedia. It does this without a wifi or 3G connection. But rest assured, you can get updates via a computer that will let you update an SD card. The whole thing runs on a few batteries that last about a year.

As I sit in my office surrounded by a laptop, iPhone and iPad - I think the product is kind of silly but maybe it has utility for some. For example, before the Apple/Gizmodo stolen phone brouhaha came up, the term "apphole" referred to one of those people who was always checking their phone to answer questions that came up in coversation. Maybe peoplie like that would buy it. In a similar vein, I read years ago that the Guinness Book of World Records was devised to resolve bar bets. Perhaps the WikiReader may serve the same purpose in watering holes without wifi or 3G.

Perhaps this is the device version of the "just good enough" competition we sometimes see in the content space. Users will trade off cost for a cheap or free version because what they need is not mission critical. I don't think this business is all that scalable in that no one wants a slew of extra devices connected to their belt but maybe they can find enough of a market somewhere.

If you are interested, you can buy one from Amazon for $73.58. I'll be sticking with my iPad.

Monday, June 28, 2010




Ken Doctor, in his book entitled NEWSONOMICS: 12 New Trends That will Shape the News You Get, adds some great points to the debate about the future of news. He weaves in interesting facts and figures and interviews many industry thought leaders. He’s been a frequent speaker and contributor to SIIA events so it was interesting to get his take on the topic. A few points that really jumped out at me include:

How much influence will be exerted by whoever pays for the news in the years ahead? He reminds us that “Someone always pays for the news, and the support has always spawned debates about who news organizations favor or fear.” As news organizations experiment with hyperlocal coverage at The New Haven Independent or the non-profit business model of The Texas Tribune, we get some perspectives on how that news will get paid for and delivered.

Ken also points out that “News is unlike any other business. It balances profit-making and public service at it score. Citizens across the globe depend on the business of news to find out what’s going on. Who brings us the news matters.” This “follow the money” approach reminds the reader as to how this business works and Doctor does a nice job of providing examples with real numbers to illustrate these points.

By interviewing lots of people I know and respect like Patrick Spain of Newser, Rafat Ali of PaidContent and Larry Schwartz at Newstex, Ken gives a balanced perspective on what we should expect in the future. At the end of the book he points out that “just as we pay for cable programming and broadband Internet and support all kinds of community and global organization, we can support news and information. As a representative of many paid content companies– I could not agree more.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Do You Know How to Make Your Spoken Content Memorable?

A few months ago I had the chance to speak at a panel at the O’Reilly Tool’s of Change conference. As part of the attendee registration package I was given a copy of the book Confessions of a Public Speaker, by Scott Berkun. It was a great read packed with humorous insights as well as useful tips that the author has honed over the years. I enjoyed it so much that I took it as one of my vacation books back in March. Here are a couple of highlights:

1. Good Discussion of the Practicalities of Public Speaking – Berkun has been on his own making a living by speaking and writing. As a result he’s compiled a lot of best practices and tips that come from his extensive experience. Some are obvious like showing up early while others are clever like wiring the microphone through your shirt so the cords are not swinging while you are speaking.

2. Tools of the Trade – Berkin writes about what kind of equipment to have, what kind of back-ups to use and shares an extensive bibliography for further study. He also gives valuable advice on slide design – very appropriate given the recent article in the NY Times about use of PowerPoint in the military.

3. Exhortation to Practice – This was the biggest reminder for me. Too often I wait until the last minute to finish up my slides. Sometimes that means writing them on the plane enroute to your destination. Since Berkun charges to speak and is taking up a lot of people’s time, he makes sure to practice over and over until he has the presentation right. His encouragement is for all public speakers to do the same.

4. Tips for when things go poorly – Let’s face it, we can’t always hit the ball out of the park when we speak and sometimes you have to just get through the presentation. He shares some of his experiences and how to cope with them if they happen to you.

5. Confessions – one of the most memorable sections of the book was the end where he compiled confessions of other public speakers. Most were humorous examples of where presentations went off track or did not go as planned. It was a nice ending and helped put the rest of the book in perspective.

It’s a quick and valuable read so get your hands on a copy – it will make your next presentation go much more smoothly.

(This is a copy of my Amazon Review)

Monday, February 08, 2010


Paid Content on "the office"

I was catching up with some episodes that I had recorded and saw the entitled The Office Murder. Michael Scott, Regional Manager for Dunder Mifflin, hears some bad news about the company from his boss who cites an article in "The Journal" that talks about impending doom for the company.

Michael and the staff rush a nearby computer and look up the article, only to be stopped by a pay wall! Michael shrugs it off with an "oh well". One of his staffers pulls out a credit card so they can access this important story that gives them details on the impending bankruptcy.

As more news sites ponder the pay wall, pay ramp and pay ladder approaches -- these vignettes may play out in lots of offices. We will undoubtedly start to see more password sharing.