mesh 2008 ticket window is now open

Despite a distinct lack of spring weather in Toronto, there’s definitely something in the air — and it’s the warmth of an approaching mesh conference! A lot of people have been emailing and Facebook messaging and Twittering and so on in recent weeks, asking us when we were going to start selling mesh 2008 tickets, and the answer is: Right now.

Hopefully you have the dates (May 21st and 22nd) blocked out in your calendar already, and now is your chance to lock up those tickets. The sales window is open, and tickets are $469 each, which we at mesh humbly believe is pretty competitive for a two-day Web conference. We’ve also expanded the number of student tickets to 30 this year.

Right now, we can tell you about several keynotes:

  • author Matt Mason, whose new book The Pirate’s Dilemma looks at the implications of digital piracy.
  • Club Penguin co-founder Lane Merrifield, a Canadian who helped build a virtual world for children that was bought by Disney for $350-million.
  • and Ethan Kaplan, the head of technology at Warner Brothers Records, who is intimately involved in the evolution of the modern music industry.

We also have some great panelists and speakers lined up, including:

and a host of others to come. We’ll be adding more as we get closer to the conference, so be sure to keep checking the site for new names and photos.

As mentioned before, we’ve also added a new feature to mesh this year called meshU, a full day of hands-on workshops and panels for startups, web designers and developers of all kinds. It’s on May 20th, the day before mesh. We’ve got some great speakers and workshop leaders lined up for meshU as well — including Avi Bryant of DabbleDB, Pownce founder Leah Culver, Ryan Carson and John Resig. For more details and a link to where you can buy tickets, check out the meshU site.

Mesh on!

FriendFeed: Like a news feed on steroids

What if you took the Facebook news feed and removed it from Facebook? That’s kind of what FriendFeed is like. I’ve been using it for awhile now, courtesy of my blog friend Louis Gray, and I have to say it’s become quite addictive. As Eric Eldon notes at VentureBeat, the site — which just launched publicly — is so simple and easy to use that it’s hard to resist. It pulls whatever your friends are doing from dozens of sites such as Twitter, Flickr, Google Reader and others.

But it does a lot more than that as well. You can comment on the items that your friends have posted, you can watch video clips they’ve posted to YouTube right in the feed, you can click “Like” and give an item the thumbs up, and the site continues to add new features almost every day. For example, I just discovered today that you can even create what FriendFeed calls an “imaginary friend” — someone who doesn’t use FriendFeed, but whose activity you want to track (my feed is here).

The ease of use and the relentless addition of new features isn’t surprising when you find out that Paul Buchheit and a team of former Googlers are behind FriendFeed. Paul launched and developed Gmail, among other things (and is also apparently responsible for coming up with Google’s “don’t be evil” slogan). As TechCrunch points out, Paul and co-founder Sanjeev Singh also participated in the funding round, which raised a total of $5-million and includes Benchmark Capital.

As Jason at Webomatica notes, one big competitive threat on the horizon is Facebook itself, which recently announced that users can import items from outside services into their news feed. Given Facebook’s massive size relative to FriendFeed, this is obviously an issue for the service, but comparing the two also makes it obvious how much more seamless and easy to use the feed at FriendFeed is. But will that be enough?

Want a Google health scrapbook?

Someone over at The Deal, a site that tracks venture capital activity, sent me their latest scoop: a move by Google to enter the health field in a major way is in the works (although as the site points out, “the product is in developmental stages now and there is no certainty that it will be launched”), with something codenamed Google Health Scrapbook. This would gogo well beyond the Google Co-op targeted search-functions that were revealed earlier this year.

According to The Deal, Google executives have already met with WebMD in New York to bring them in as a partner for the new service (with plans for other partners in the future), and the company has also been talking with Intuit, the software company, which has a program that lets users keep track of their medical expenses. The idea appears to be that users would be able to log in with their Google account information and do things such as adding a new medical provider, tracking their medical records or even paying their medical bills.

The Deal says that Google Health Scrapbook would also provide information about hospitals such as the frequency that a hospital performs a specific type of procedure. And the person in charge of the rollout appears to be Missy Krasner, a project manager who joined Google earlier this year and before that was a senior official in the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Search results and even email might be one thing, but are consumers prepared to have a Web giant like Google track and maintain their entire health records? I think health information and tax data are the two hotspots for many people, and it’s a bit of a stretch to think that they would want to send all that over the Web just because Google says it’s going to add value to it somehow. It will be interesting to see how this one flies — or if it flies. More comment at Inside Google and Google Blogoscoped.

Apple make something bad? Say it ain’t so

I’d just like to say right off the top that I like Apple a lot, and they make some great products – in fact, product design and marketing are really the company’s stand-out skills in many ways, I think. But given the obsessive, almost fetishistic, love that some geeks have for Apple and anything that comes out of the head office in Cupertino or out of Steve Jobs’ mouth, it’s nice to see them fall flat now and then too. And as far as I can tell they have done just that with the Hi-Fi accessory for the iPod.

Yes, it has the iconic Apple white sheen, but even with the iPod attached to the top it’s still just a giant, squarish speaker box. As more than one person has pointed out, it makes no sense as a “boombox,” even if people still wanted such a thing, since it has no radio, no CD player and if you tried to carry it your iPod would fall off. Here’s a selection of comments from the more than 200 that are attached to a post on the new product at Engadget – more than 90 per cent of which I would say are negative. And remember that these are from gadget lovers:

“Umm… I’m not sure it’s large enough. I mean, make it 2, maybe 3 times bigger and it could also replace my sofa.”

“How can this bring music to the masses. It is expensive, large, and ugly. Disappointing…”

“Watch as Apple’s design team hits a boombox with an ugly-stick. only $349 per ticket!!!”

“This is the dumbest idea ever.”

“I am a total mac fanboy and this made me die on the inside.”

“Wow, hideous. Absolutely terrible. Looks like a toaster oven.”

And what about the Mac Mini with the souped-up processor and digital outputs – a glimpse of the much-anticipated Apple digital entertainment hub? Definitely closer than the first version, since it now has enough guts to be a media server, and has DVI and digital audio outs as well as Front Row – but Thomas Hawk makes a good point: it’s missing PVR functionality, which would easily make it a killer product. But let’s put it this way – it’s a heck of a lot better than that gigantic monstrosity called the iPod Hi-Fi.