Mom reviews Gawker, finds it wanting

Not my mother, of course — a freelance writer who was approached about a writing job at the flagship blog in Nick Denton’s sarcastic and bitchy media empire. He mentioned it to his mother, who summed up the site far better than I’ve seen anyone else do, despite plenty of effort:

“Well, I had more time to investigate this [name redacted].com. It seems to be a melange of stupid news that no sane person would peruse. Having said that, I can see it may be popular. Most of the comments I read were by people thinking they are too smart by half. So I presume their audience is 19-29 persons who think highly of themselves. You are probably perfect to write for this crowd.”

Brilliant. You gotta love that last line too 🙂 Found (where else) at Gawker, where it was posted by none other than the Dark Lord himself.

Chatback widget from Google: About time

I may not be the best one to follow in this regard, since I have a fondness for widgets and plugins (yes, Brent, I know my page is really loading slowly), but I think the Google chatback applet is a great idea. Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch seems less than impressed, and wonders why anyone would want random people visiting their blog to send instant messages through Google Talk. I see it as just another way for people to ping me about something — even if it’s just to see if I’m around, or to ask a quick question. I’ve already used it several times, and it’s only been a day or so.

Obviously, if people ping me through the widget and I’m busy, then I just won’t answer. But if it’s someone asking a quick question, or telling me something interesting, then I’m happy to hear from them. Some people like to leave comments, some people are happier with an IM message. And I like the idea that my blog becomes the central point of contact for people who may not be able to remember my email, or don’t know whether I’m using GTalk or Skype or MSN. Rafe Needleman doesn’t think much of the widget, but I think he’s being a little harsh.

Rafe mentions Meebo as a better option, and I tried it — in fact, I used it a lot before I found a way around the firewall at work. And I tried the Meebo Me blog widget for awhile too. But you have to keep Meebo open in a browser tab all the time, and it’s hard to know when there’s a new message. I like GTalk because it’s integrated into my Gmail, which is always open. I used Plugoo for awhile because it integrated with GTalk and it worked great, but now that there’s a Google widget I don’t need it.

Divx and Stage6: Chock full of fail

I’ve been dying to use that headline for days, ever since I saw someone use it in a comment on a Read/Write Web post about Google Docs, and if even half of what Mike Arrington says about the closure of Stage6 is true, then Divx deserves the “epic fail” tag for sure. After writing about business for almost 20 years, I’ve heard a lot of dumb stories about boardroom sideshows, corporate intrigue and personal vendettas and this one appears to rank right up there with the worst.

Stage6 was a popular and widely-respected video hosting site, one of the first to offer full, high-definition video. Launched as a showcase for the Divx compression standard, it wasn’t designed to be a money-maker, but after it got a lot of attention the company apparently decided to spin it off, and Divx co-founder Jordan Greenhall took it over with some staff from the company and prepared to launch with financing from VCs and other investors. And then the train seemed to leave the tracks.

Despite the fact that the spinoff would bring in revenue for the company, and get the cost of streaming all that HD off its books, Divx apparently decided at some point to cancel the deal and keep Stage6 in-house. Now, even more inexplicably, they are shutting it down — presumably because it was costing too much money to run. What a waste. It’s possible that Stage6 might never have actually made it as a business, but to yank people (and investors) around like that is a pretty childish way to run a company. Whoever is responsible should be ashamed.

Lance Ulanoff’s death spiral has begun

I hate to pick on someone — unless they deserve it, of course — but I’m willing to make an exception in Lance Ulanoff’s case. He’s the PCMag editor whose piece on Facebook got picked up by Fox News, primarily (I’m assuming) because of the headline, which says “Facebook’s death spiral has begun.” The actual column is a sort of drive-by critique of the social network, in which Ulanoff cobbles together reports about how it used to be hard to quit Facebook, and about how it had some problems with the news feed back in 2006, and about how it reminds him of America Online back in the day. Sounds like a death spiral, doesn’t it?

When I finished reading the piece, I checked the byline to see who wrote it, and the name Ulanoff rang a bell. Then I remembered: Lance is the same guy who wrote a piece about digital-rights management and music not that long ago, which I also wrote a post about and called “staggeringly dense.” A commenter took me to task for that — and other things — but I’m going to stick by it. For a blogger, both of these pieces would be forgiveable; for a guy whose bio says he is the editor-in-chief of the PCMag Network and has 20 years of journalism experience, it’s pretty sad. Who said bloggers were the only ones to deliberately stir up controversy just to get readers?

Finally, Yahoo is doing something

I don’t know whether Yahoo’s new Buzz feature will actually get any traction, or whether it will be lost in the sea of other Yahoo stuff, or whether it will be orphaned or otherwise screwed up in some way (in the past, any of those options would be a safe bet), but at least the company seems to be trying to do something interesting, which is worth a round of applause all by itself. I think the Digg gang can probably sleep safe at night for a little while, but Yahoo could turn out to be a strong competitor (Stan Schroeder doesn’t think so).

To me, there are two interesting aspects of the service: One is that most-Buzzed-about items will feed into Yahoo’s main news page, and the second is that search results will help determine what moves up the Buzz rankings. Those are two things that Digg can’t really offer — unless it does some partnership deals with Google, of course, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. It’s true that Digg recently signed a deal with the Wall Street Journal, but I don’t think that’s going to do much to affect the placement of news stories over at WSJ.com anytime soon.

There’s no question that a story on the Yahoo News page can push a gigantic amount of traffic because of Yahoo’s size. It’s still one of the top three news pages on the Web, after all. And it’s possible that having Buzz-worthy stories on there will prove to be a big boost for some blogs and other sites — although Yahoo is starting with a fairly small group of 100 sources. As with Digg, of course, there’s also the risk that Buzz could be gamed. But it’s an interesting experiment nonetheless.