Video interlude: The Pirate’s Dilemma

Matt Mason, author of the book The Pirate’s Dilemma — which takes a look at how what has been called “piracy” throughout history has actually created new technologies and new industries — has put together a video that goes through some of the themes in the book, with the help of a couple of staffers from and the executive producer of the TV show Heroes. We were planning to have Matt as a keynote at mesh 2008 in May, but he ran into visa problems and couldn’t make it. We’re still hoping to be able to get him up here to talk about his book.


Powerset: a Hail Mary pass for MSFT?

Matt Marshall over at VentureBeat says he has it on good authority that Microsoft is planning to make an offer for Powerset, the “semantic search” startup that has been in stealth mode for quite awhile now, popping up only long enough for a party or two, and recently poked its head out with a small-scale demo of its technology as a Wikipedia search engine. The rumoured dollar value for this deal? $100-million. If true, that would be a hell of a payday for something that hasn’t really shown much in the way of spectacular results so far, and is based at least in part on 30-year-old technology that the company licensed from Xerox’s PARC labs. TechCrunch says the deal could still be derailed by the Microsoft-Yahoo mess.

Of course, for a company like Microsoft, $100-million is chicken feed — Bill and Steve find that kind of money stuffed under the couch cushions when they vacuum the Microsoft HQ. And the idea of an acquisition has been around before, with rumours floating here and there. It’s a painfully well-known fact that Microsoft’s search is a distant third place to Google and Yahoo, which is one of the main reasons the software behemoth continues its on-again, off-again (currently on-again) pursuit of Yahoo’s search business. If it could use Powerset to add natural-language search tools to its arsenal, that might help to close the gap with Google — although as Danny Sullivan has noted many times, we’ve been around this particular racetrack many times before.

Kara Swisher owns the Yahoo story

Or at least she does as far as Techmeme is concerned. She has been breaking elements of the Microsoft and Yahoo saga for awhile now, but this is the first time I’ve seen her name appear more than four times on Techmeme — as the lead item for the top cluster, then the lead item for two secondary clusters of links, and then as an item in the subsidiary links in two of those clusters (there’s another link below the bottom of the image which I didn’t have room to include). In any case, she has been owning this story pretty much from the get-go.

Click the image for a larger size, or click here (in the interests of full disclosure, I consider Kara a friend).

Israel and Feldman: High school 2.0?

In what has to qualify as the longest-running bitchmeme — or blogosphere soap opera — in recorded history, Loren Feldman of 1938media and “social media” guru Shel Israel (who co-authored the book Naked Conversations with Robert “Scobleizer” Scoble) continue to fight their bizarre feud throughout the battlefields of new media: Twitter, blogs, YouTube and FriendFeed. Their weapons? Injured pride, hand puppets and righteous indignation. And to some extent, we who follow them on the various social networks are the audience, the judge and jury, a variation on the Greek chorus yelling advice, and occasionally just amused bystanders, unsure of what the heck is going on.

So what is going on? A quick recap: Shel is a social-media consultant and Loren Feldman is a former actor who started a video-production business called and began doing video blog posts about some of the personalities in the blogosphere — Michael Arrington, Jason Calacanis, Dave Winer, etc. Loren has a New York accent and attitude, and doesn’t pull any punches either in language or delivery, looking straight into the camera and calling people out if he thinks they need to be called out. It’s refreshing, and it’s often pretty funny — but it is also occasionally kind of mean-spirited, in that “Hey, you’re a moron, and your mom dresses you funny” kind of way. Think Don Rickles with video.

Loren’s videos “taking the piss” (as the Brits say) out of Mike Arrington and Jason Calacanis got him a lot of attention, and he has wound up becoming friends with both of them — and as far as I can tell is now working on doing the same with Julia Allison (here’s the two of them discussing what is okay and what isn’t okay as far as parody goes). One of the places where Loren made friends with Mike was at mesh 2007, when Mike was a keynote and Loren was on a panel about video, and for the record Loren was polite and funny and a pleasure to have as a panelist. I did a video with him, and he was a real pro.

Over the past few months, Loren has been making fun of Shel and his video interviews, which until recently Shel was doing through (where Scoble now works). The early videos were fairly painful to watch, and Loren sent a lot of Twitter messages and so on around about how bad they were — and then came the puppets. In a flash of evil genius, Loren came up with the idea of doing interviews with a puppet version of Shel, and has since done them with a number of people, some of whom Shel knows. I confess that I find the videos pretty funny — even though Shel has made it clear that he doesn’t, and that he resents people like Mike Arrington supporting Loren, and resents friends who are playing along with the joke.

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Don’t worry, media: Old people love you

Amid all the doom and gloom about the decline of the traditional media business, whether it’s books, magazines, television or newspapers, it’s nice to see a ray of hope like the one contained in a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis of the industry, which boils down to (and I’m paraphrasing here): “Old people still like you.” According to a description of the report from MediaPost, while the “Net generation” is focusing on digital and online forms of media:

“consumers over the age of 50 are creating a balance in the industry by devoting significant amounts of attention to the more traditional media of their generation.”

And while the number of media consumers under the age of 25 amounts to as much as 40 per cent of the population of some countries such as India, China and Brazil (it’s 34 per cent in the U.S.), the consulting firm says that the number of older consumers continues to grow, thanks to the demographic bubble created by the Baby Boom. PricewaterhouseCoopers says that the 50-plus population:

“will see double digit growth rates and globally, this population will increase from 1.1 billion to 1.25 billion, a 13.1% rise through 2012. This growth will help sustain traditional formats.”

So there’s your business model for traditional media in a nutshell: the growing population of geezers. In other words, lots more ads for — not to mention feature stories about — hip replacements, adult-incontinence products and luxury cruise vacations. Hurray.