Archive for August, 2008

The Case for an Apple iNetwork: Welcome to the Social

27 Aug
Muhammad Saleem via ReadWriteWeb shared by 4 people

There has been a lot of speculation recently about an impending update to iTunes. Version 8.0, among other things, is supposed to finally bring a recommendation engine to the digital media player application. While that's interesting from a music discovery perspective, it is even more interesting to consider what this could mean in terms of an iTunes+iPhone based social networking experience.

iTunes (launched 2001) and the iTunes music store (launched 2003) have come a long way since they were first launched. The application has gone through various iterations, gaining significant features such as podcasts (2005), videos (2007), games, and applications (2008) along the way. In the process, selling billions of songs, millions of movies, and over 10 million applications in the first week of the app store's launch. Needless to say Apple has built an experience that with all it's parts combined is unparalleled in both its features and the breadth of its catalog of content.

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The Software Side

While most of that is common knowledge, what most people overlook is the glaring lack of any community aspect to iTunes. There are millions of people, many of them with similar tastes, flocking to the same destination every day, yet they never interact with each other... because they can't. If Kevin Rose is to be believed, however, (as discussed on TWiT 157) that all is about to change with iTunes 8.0.

He says, '... the one thing I hear about iTunes 8.0 is that it's gonna do something along the lines of, um, looking at your music, and, uh, kind of recommendations based on certain things.' In other words, the next version of iTunes will monitor your media purchasing and consuming habits and correlate them with everyone else using the system to figure out which songs you will probably like but haven't bought/listened to. If you're a fan of collaborative filtering systems or internet radio (Pandora,, etc), you're probably familiar with the idea already and that iTunes may be considering implementing this doesn't come as a surprise (I found myself wondering why this wasn't introduced 2-3 years ago).

While this feature itself isn't social and can be implemented entirely on the back end, the implementation required for that functionality is so close to a networked experience (monitoring of habits and correlation across users) that they might as well take a small next step and add a visible social layer with which those users can interact. In fact, if you look at the results from a 2006 iTunes survey, you will see the people want to be able to see what people with similar interests and tastes (i.e. friends) are purchasing and consuming, so they can experiment with and pick from the same selection. More specifically, consumers want:

  1. The ability to view a friend's wish list, with permission.
  2. The ability to view what a friend is currently listening to, with permission.
  3. The ability to view a friend's playlist, with permission.
  4. The ability to view a friend's recent purchases, with permission.
  5. The ability to view a friend's favorite artists, with permission

What's also interesting about this approach is that it reaches the exact opposite conclusions of EMR's UK social networking study [PDF]. The study implies that social networks will be the content distribution channels of tomorrow, but the relationship may actually work better in the other direction. With the addition of networking and recommendation features to iTunes, the application could become the most efficient, most engaging, stickiest (always-on), and most profitable social network almost overnight.

But Apple's social networking potential doesn't end there. Remember Microsoft's 'welcome to the social' campaign that centered around the launch of its Zune digital media player? If you don't, you're not alone. The goal behind the campaign, 'to create a shared, social experience that will be shaped by the collective imagination of consumers and will inspire discovery of new music and artists,' was actually a formidable one. Unfortunately an inferior device, coupled with disasterous software integration made the campaign a $100 million failure.

Enter Apple.

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The Hardware Side

With a formidable install base, great hardware and one of the most versatile mobile operating systems around, the iPhone is ready to herald in the future of mobile social networking. Furthermore, with 3G/EDGE/WiFi/GPS capabilities, the iPhone is a great tool for both networking as well as wirelessly sharing digital media like the Zune promised (but failed miserably at). Not only does the device work seamlessly with the iTunes software, but Apple's DRM is more consistent and perhaps more forgiving that Microsoft's (which was partly responsible for crippling the Zune's ambitions).

The Cloud

With a firm grasp on the software side with iTunes and on the hardware side with the iPhone, Apple is in good shape. Their killer app, however, could end up being the cloud. Apple already operates MobileMe (previously .Mac) which faciliates the management of contacts, calendars (events), email, photos, and any other files or digital media. Admittedly the service has been an utter failure since launch, but Apple has acknowledge the failure and is on the path to fix its shortcomings.

The previously discussed iTunes social networking and collaborative filtering (recommendations) system, coupled with the iPhone's versatile wireless communication and media sharing capabilities, topped off with media and information management (and sharing) in the cloud, the combo is no doubt ready to be our digital life (and relationship) manager. The only limitation of the network, however, (and it will be a deal breaker for many) is that unlike every other social network today, the experience will come at a steep cost. Knowing Apple though, I have no doubt it will be an experience worth the cost (especially considering what they had to deal with at the MobileMe launch).

This is a guest post by Muhammad Saleem, a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites. You can follow Muhammad on Twitter.

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A Clinton Masterpiece

27 Aug
Andrew Sullivan via The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan shared by 5 people


Readers know my personal disdain for Bill Clinton. But longtime readers will also know I have always defended his solid centrist, smart record in office and defended him against his most over-reaching enemies. Tonight, I think, was one of the best speeches he has ever given. It was a direct, personal and powerful endorsement of Obama. But much, much more than that: it was a statesman-like assessment of where this country is and how desperately it needs a real change toward reform and retrenchment at home and restoration of diplomacy, wisdom and prudence abroad. Yes, he nailed it with this line:

"People around the world have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."

I don't buy his evisceration of everything the Republican party has done in the last quarter century. I think the GOP did a great deal to rescue this country in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In fact, I think Clinton would have failed as a president without the foil of the Gingrich GOP. But since 2000, the worst aspects of Republicanism have crowded out its once necessary virtues. The reflexive impulse to use force over diplomacy, to use aggression over persuasion, to spend and borrow with no concern for the future, and to violate sacred principles such as the eschewal of torture with no respect for the past: these must not just be left behind. They have to be repudiated.

The United States needs this repudiation, as does the world. McCain, alas, cannot provide it. He may once have. But his party is too far gone, and his moment passed. His use of fear and deception and brattish contempt in this campaign have sealed the deal for me. But Clinton reminded all of us of what is more broadly at stake. He did it with passion and measure and eloquence. And surpassing intelligence.

We've seen the worst of Bill Clinton these past few months, Tonight, we saw the best. And it's mighty good.

(Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty.)

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27 Aug

Unobtainium is any very rare, expensive, or impossible material needed to suit a particular application.

Engineers have long (since at least the 1950s) used the term unobtainium when referring to unusual or costly materials, or when theoretically considering a material perfect for their needs in all respects save that it doesn't exist. By the 1990s, the term was widely used, including formal engineering papers. (As an example, Towards unobtainium [new composite materials for space applications], by Misra and Mohan describes how the ideal material (unobtainium) would weigh almost nothing, but be very stiff and dimensionally stable over large temperature ranges.)

(via migurski)

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How to Read | Copyblogger

27 Aug
Brian Clark via RSSmeme shared by 4 people

Shared nine times Tagged Content Marketing (109)

Open Book

Who needs to learn how to read?

After all, we all learned how to read fairly early in life, usually in elementary school, right?

But do you know how to really read?

More importantly, are you really reading?

Reading can make you a better writer, as long as you’re paying attention and leaving time to actually write. But what we’re talking about here is what you say, rather than how you say it.

If you haven’t noticed, competition in the world of online content is fierce. Anyone playing to win is searching high and low for information that others don’t have, which for many means subscribing to a ridiculous number of RSS feeds.

While seeking out novel information from a wide variety of sources is admirable, it doesn’t necessarily give you an advantage. The ancient Greeks had a label for those who were widely read but not well read—they called them sophomores.

As in sophomoric… not a second-year college student (I suppose there’s not really much of a distinction).

Scanners and Pleasure Seekers

We know that people don’t read well online. They ruthlessly scan for interesting chunks of information rather than digesting the whole, and they want to be entertained in the process. This is the reality that online publishers deal with, so we disguise our nuggets of wisdom with friendly formatting and clever analogies.

But that doesn’t mean you should read that way.

If you’ve been publishing online for even a small amount of time, you’ve seen someone leave a comment that clearly demonstrates they didn’t read or understand the content. Even more painful is when someone writes a responsive post that clearly misses the entire point of the original article.

While it happens to all of us from time to time, you do not want to consistently be one of these people. Credibility is hard enough to establish without routinely demonstrating that you fail to grasp a topic that you’ve chosen to write about, whether in an article or a comment.

Plus, if you’re doing nothing but scanning hundreds of RSS feeds and reading purely to be entertained, you’re at a disadvantage. Someone in your niche or industry is likely reading books and reading deeper to become the higher authority.

Or they will after they read this article.

Information vs. Understanding

People often think of learning as an information-gathering and retention process. But being able to recall and regurgitate information is low-level learning compared with insightful understanding.

Bloggers are big on regurgitation. These cut-and-paste creatives add value to the world through a mash-up of sources, right? Maybe, but without the ability to understand and communicate what it all means for the reader, you’re simply passing on your reading obligations to others, and that’s not giving people what they look for in a publication.

On the other hand, if you understand everything you read upon a casual once over, are you truly learning anything new? The material that gives you an edge in the insight department is the stuff that’s harder to understand. In other words, the writer is your superior when it comes to that particular subject matter, and it’s your job to close the expertise gap by reading well.

You do that by moving beyond learning by instruction, and increasing your true understanding by discovery. For example, you read a challenging book full of great information, and you understand enough of it to know that you don’t understand all of it.

At that point, you can dive into the book again and read more carefully. You can go to supplemental resources. You can read other books. All that matters is you do the work rather than asking someone, and I guarantee you’re really learning in the process.

For example, next time you read a challenging blog post and you’re not clear on a point, your first inclination might be to ask a question in the comments. Instead, read the post again. If it’s still not clear, go do some research on your own to see if you can figure it out. Then when you finally do ask a question, you’re on an entirely different level of understanding and can likely engage in a meaningful dialogue with the author.

Instruction is important and beneficial. But true understanding comes from your own exploration and discovery along the path.

The Four Levels of Reading

Back in 1940, a guy named Mortimer J. Adler jolted the “widely read” into realizing they might not be well read with a book called How to Read a Book. Updated in 1973 and still going strong today, How to Read a Book identifies four levels of reading:

  • Elementary
  • Inspectional
  • Analytical
  • Syntopical

Each of these reading levels is cumulative. You can’t progress to a higher level without mastering the levels that come before.

1. Elementary Reading – Aptly named, elementary reading consists of remedial literacy, and it’s usually achieved during the elementary schooling years. Sadly, many high schools and colleges must offer remedial reading courses to ensure that elementary reading levels are maintained, but very little instruction in advanced reading is offered.

2. Inspectional Reading – Scanning and superficial reading are not evil, as long as approached as an active process that serves an appropriate purpose. Inspectional reading means giving a piece of writing a quick yet meaningful advance review in order to evaluate the merits of a deeper reading experience.

There are two types:

  • Skimming: This is the equivalent of scanning a blog post to see if you want to read it carefully. You’re checking the title, the subheads, and you’re selectively dipping in and out of content to gauge interest. The same can be done with a book—go beyond the dust jacket and peruse the table of contents and each chapter, but give yourself a set amount of time to do it.
  • Superficial: Superficial reading is just that… you simply read. You don’t ponder, and you don’t stop to look things up. If you don’t get something, you don’t worry about it. You’re basically priming yourself to read again at a higher level if the subject matter is worthy.

Stopping at inspectional reading is only appropriate if you find no use for the material. Unfortunately, this is all the reading some people do in preparation for their own writing.

3. Analytical Reading – At this level of reading, you’ve moved beyond superficial reading and mere information absorption. You’re now engaging your critical mind to dig down into the meaning and motivation beyond the text. To get a true understanding of a book, you would:

  • Identify and classify the subject matter as a whole
  • Divide it into main parts and outline those parts
  • Define the problem(s) the author is trying to solve
  • Understand the author’s terms and key words
  • Grasp the author’s important propositions
  • Know the author’s arguments
  • Determine whether the author solves the intended problems
  • Show where the author is uninformed, misinformed, illogical or incomplete

You’ll note that the inspectional reading you did perfectly sets the stage for an analytical reading. But so far, we’re talking about reading one book. The highest level of reading allows you to synthesize knowledge from a comparative reading of several books about the same subject.

4. Syntopical Reading – It’s been said that anyone can read five books on a topic and be an expert. That may be true, but how you read those five books will make all the difference. If you read those five books analytically, you will become an expert on what five authors have said. If you read five books syntopically, you will develop your own unique perspective and expertise in the field.

In other words, syntopical reading is not about the existing experts. It’s about you and the problems you’re trying to solve, in this case for your own readers. In this sense, the books you read are simply tools that allow you to form an understanding that’s never quite existed before. You’ve melded the information in those books with your own life experience and other knowledge to make novel connections and new insights. You, my friend, are now an expert in your own right.

Here are the five steps to syntopical reading:

  • Inspection: Inspectional reading is critical to syntopical reading. You must quickly indentify which five (or 15) books you need to read from a sea of unworthy titles. Then you must also quickly identify the relevant parts and passages that satisfy your unique focus.
  • Assimilation: In analytical reading, you identify the author’s chosen language by spotting the author’s terms of art and key words. This time, you assimilate the language of each author into the terms of art and key words that you choose, whether by agreeing with the language of one author or devising your own terminology.
  • Questions: This time, the focus is on what questions you want answered (problems solved), as opposed to the problems each author wants to solve. This may require that you draw inferences if any particular author does not directly address one of your questions. If any one author fails to address any of your questions, you messed up at the inspection stage.
  • Issues: When you ask a good question, you’ve identified an issue. When experts have differing or contradictory responses to the same question, you’re able to flesh out all sides of an issue, based on the existing literature. When you understand multiple perspectives within an individual issue, you can intelligently discuss the issue, and come to your own conclusion (which may differ from everyone else, thereby expanding the issue and hopefully adding unique value).
  • Conversation: Determining the “truth” via syntopical reading is not really the point, since disagreements about truth abound with just about any topic. The value is found within the discussion among competing view points concerning the same root information, and you’re now conversant enough to hold your own in a discussion of experts. This is what the “online conversation” was supposed to look like according to early bloggers, and sometimes, it does. But mostly, the online conversation looks like the unqualified, unsubstantiated opinions of the ill-informed, and you’re not looking to be part of that scene.

Be a Demanding Reader for the Win

Reading, at its fundamental essence, is not about absorbing information. It’s about asking questions, looking for answers, understanding the various answers, and deciding for yourself. Think of reading this way, and you quickly realize how this allows you to deliver unique value to your readers as a publisher.

If you think all of this sounds like a lot of work, well… you’re right. And most people won’t do it, just like most people will never blog or publish online in the first place.

That’s why your readers need you. They need you to do the work for them, because they don’t want to become an expert. So, it’s your job to understand the complex and grasp the essentials, then make it simple, easy to read, and entertaining.

You’re on it, right?

Performancing Ads

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Feeling of Security

27 Aug

"Feeling of Security"
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Kennedy Space Center

27 Aug

"Kennedy Space Center"
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Nuclear Test

27 Aug

"Nuclear Test"
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no description

27 Aug

"no description"
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Cosas visuales: diseño gráfico

27 Aug


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Back on “Great Day Houston”!

27 Aug

I was back on the show yesterday to promote Fit. We were nominated as one of the best gyms in Houston! I think my self-defense move would have looked a little more convincing if they had gotten a shot of us from the waist down (I was kneeing him and stepping on his feet!). You can check out the video HERE

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