Scoble’s Achilles heel is video

Video is the future of the Internet, right? Everybody knows that — Google buys YouTube, the Skype boys launch Joost, video blogs are the bomb, etc., etc. And there’s no question that a well-done video clip can be incredibly affecting, and moving. But is it a great information-delivery tool? I would argue that it is not. Visual? Yes. Emotionally powerful? Yes. Packed with information that is easily understandable? No — or at least very rarely.

In a nutshell, I think that is part of Scoble’s much-talked about problem with Engadget. Forget about whether Engadget has a policy of not linking to blogs, or has it in for Scoble, or is getting too big for its britches and thinks it is part of the mainstream media now, or whatever the former Microsoft blogger is getting at in his rant about how Engadget didn’t link to his “scoop” about Intel’s new chip process.

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Stay with me here. Scoble initially said that Engadget ignored his video for Podtech, but as Engadget writer Ryan Block describes it in his long post on the topic, an Engadget staffer looked at Scoble’s video and didn’t see enough newsworthy content to justify a link. The bottom line, I think, is that Scoble basically toured Intel’s plant and got some video of employees in clean-room “bunny suits,” etc. and a comment about the new 45-nanometer process, and that’s pretty much it.

Is the new process important for the future of computing? Sure it is. But the fact is that the New York Times story, which Scoble craps on everybody for linking to instead of him, does a better job of explaining why it’s important than Scoble’s videos do. In a lot of ways, his videos make a nice accessory to the story — but they don’t *tell* the story. At least not for me. But then, I’m a word guy, so maybe I’m biased. But James Robertson agrees with me (and so does SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill), and TDavid thinks Scoble could use some time with a video editor (although Robert disagrees in the comments below).

A call goes out: Pay the Tubers!

Like many others in the blogosphere — including Ashkan Karbasfrooshan at HipMojo, Allan Stern at CenterNetworks, Fred Wilson over at A VC, and my pal Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 — I’m intrigued by Chad Hurley’s comments to the crowd of tall foreheads at Davos that YouTube plans to start paying users. The only questions that remain, of course, are a) pay whom? and b) How?

According to the Beeb, billionaire surfer dude Hurley said that YouTube is planning pre-roll ads, possibly as short as three seconds — something iFilm and some other sites do, and a solution I don’t think is that bad, despite all the moaning and hyperventilating from some quarters about how this would ruin the YouTube “experience,” etc., etc. Will the site offer AdSense and other monetization tools as well, or tiers of service of some kind?

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Scott seems to think that it’s hypocritical of YouTube to build a gigantic enterprise based on other peoples’ content, then make a boatload of money by selling it to Google, and then start doling out nickels and dimes to those who actually own the content. To which I would respond: So what?

The people who had that content weren’t maximizing the use of it on the Interweb, so YouTube saw a market need and filled it — and thereby created value that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. Good for them. Now they can help those content owners monetize their content more easily. Everybody wins.

And I would have a tendency to agree with Chad when he says in the video clip that YouTube decided it was better to hold off paying people until the community had developed first. Introducing commerce too early would likely have given YouTube a much different feeling, and likely would have stunted the growth of the site as the go-to spot for uploading and sharing video. But ultimately, it had to happen. It will be interesting to see how YouTube does it.

Happy birthday to the computer virus

Wow, time really flies, doesn’t it? It appears that today is the 25th anniversary of the first computer “virus” to be observed in the wild. And we know that because Rich Skrenta — now co-founder and CEO of Topix — got a call from an enterprising reporter who remembered that Rich created that virus, the legendary “Elk Cloner” virus, when he was a 15-year-old high-school kid goofing around with an Apple II. Yes, you read that right: irony of all ironies, the first virus found in the wild infected Apple computers.

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According to the Wikipedia entry, Elk Cloner would hide in the RAM on an Apple machine and wait for a floppy disk to be inserted, then copy itself to the disk. On the 50th boot from that disk, the screen would be wiped clean and the following message would appear to taunt the user:

Elk Cloner: The program with a personality

It will get on all your disks
It will infiltrate your chips
Yes it’s Cloner!

It will stick to you like glue
It will modify RAM too
Send in the Cloner!

Mention of the virus made it into Scientific American magazine and even Time magazine. Since there were no anti-virus programs, the virus spread relatively rapidly. The only way to immunize a disk was to manually stamp the virus’s ID onto a particular sector of the disk (track 2 around sector 8 according to this page at Skrenta’s site). And the PC virus? Came along four years later — the so-called “Brain” virus, courtesy of two brothers from Pakistan.

A Wikipedia dedicated to shopping

Although it often gets dismissed as a boring, Web 1.0 retailer at heart, Amazon has been doing a lot more innovative things than it gets credit for — including its very Web 2.0-ish S3 distributed storage service (which more startups should make use of) and its EC2 virtual server offering. And now, Amazon has jumped into the wiki business as well, with the “Amapedia,” a wiki devoted to products, which was discovered by the resourceful Rogers Cadenhead.

It’s still so new that there’s very little content in the Amapedia, but it has a very clean interface — arguably even cleaner and easier to follow than Wikipedia’s. There’s a featured product on the landing page, and then a big “tag cloud” of keywords. When you click on something like “camera,” you get taken to a main page with a description of the product, and on the left-hand side there is a breakdown of the cameras in various sub-categories.

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Obviously, there are going to be issues with something like Amapedia, as there are with Wikipedia, which has been involved in all sorts of scandals that have to do with accuracy, vandalism, and accusations of elitism. As a small example, the Amapedia entry for camera says the word is “Italian for room.” Close, but no cigar. Camera is actually Latin for room, although Italian is derived from Latin.

With the Microsoft/Wikipedia kerfuffle so fresh, I wonder how long before companies start paying people to make entries in Amapedia (I give it about a month). The new service is apparently an expansion of the “product wikis” that Amazon launched awhile back, and the info from them has already been incorporated into Amapedia, according to Read/Write Web.

Rogers Cadenhead, meanwhile — who says that in honour of having discovered Amapedia first, he should be made king of this new fiefdom and addressed as “Amazimbo” — wonders whether Amazon will compensate those who contribute the most to its entries, with a discount coupon or some variation thereon. Not a bad idea. And does it matter that a product-oriented wiki already exists?

Hillary Clinton gets her Web 2.0 on

Either someone smart is working with Senator — and would-be POTUS — Hillary Clinton, or she is a lot hipper to the Web 2.0 jive than I might have thought. According to Search Engine Journal, Hillary (or someone from her team) posted a question about health-care on Yahoo Answers, and last time I looked she had gotten more than 33,000 responses in just a little over 24 hours.

The question she has asked is this: “Based on your own family’s experience, what do you think we should do to improve health care in America?” Underneath the question, the site makes it clear that hosting the question isn’t meant to express support for any particular party (maybe Barack Obama should post a question asking “Should I change my name or sue CNN for calling me Osama?”). This is interesting stuff — call it Politics 2.0.

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Obviously, there’s some publicity value to having the question appear on Yahoo Answers, since I would imagine other people are going to notice it and write about it other than Search Engine Journal, Greg Sterling of Screenwerk and me. Incidentally, as far as I can tell Ms. Clinton now holds the record for most responses to a question on Yahoo, beating both Oprah and physicist Stephen Hawking, whose flirtation with Yahoo Answers I wrote about on my media blog awhile back.

Still, apart from the pure publicity value, and the street cred she gets for being down with the Web 2.0 kids, I would agree with Greg that there is definitely something interesting going on here. Where it will lead (if anywhere) remains to be seen.