Consumers are in Charge, Got It?

Pete Cashmore said this today in relation to the fact that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences pulled all the clips of the Oscars from YouTube:

“Here’s the problem for you, content providers: you’re no longer in charge. The consumer is. And they’ll watch your content where and when they want, or they won’t bother watching it at all.”

YouTube Viewers Would NOT Like to Thank the Academy

Totally 100% agree, now how long do think till they actually get what that means? Right now I am not seeing that they do or are even close to even knowing how it can affect them. Nice one Pete.

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Learning Firefox; Start Here

I found that I did not have to learn how to use Firefox as such. But since I have discovered the power that you have when tweaked I have learned to manipulate it to what I want. But you have to start somewhere. Learn Firefox is such a place to start and hopefully a destination to have some walk through’s for power tweaking.

I think that Firefox is very intuitive and easy to use. But then that is me. Sometimes people have a hard time doing simple things. True, Firefox does things differently to IE. I use IE as an example because I would argue that a lot of Firefox users come from there. You have to stop thinking that you use Firefox in the same manner. They are chalk and cheese. IE is a steel box, Firefox is plasticine by comparison. So where am I going with this?

Basically, Learn Firefox is a site attached to CyberNet that has been created as a visual “how to” guide to Firefox. They have started simple, for example how to set your homepage, make it your default browser and such. But there are more advanced features that are presented in an easy to follow format that makes it simple to do. Because it is simple, most customisations are very simple. But the functionality of Firefox can be daunting for some people, or they find it difficult to get started. This is an excellent place to get over those initial humps. It is also a great place for people that have used Firefox for a while but want to adapt it to their needs.

Everything is set out as headings and sub-headings. I am sure that most people will find what they are wanting help with very quickly and easily. One thing that I just thought of is that this service is a great way for people that don’t use Firefox to have a look at Firefox see what it can do and how it can be manipulated to what you need and want.

What I would like to see is some tips for power users such as tweaking the about:config page. Installing and using extensions like Greasemonkey and such. I know that it was not until I did these advanced tweaks that Firefox really became a powerful productive tool. Not that it is not that way to start with but I feel that tweaking it my way has made it mine. In actual fact I have tweaked it to the point where I think some users would have difficulty using it! That said they have just got the site up and going and this is the best place to start, basics.

Great job and if you are just starting out with Firefox or are thinking of using it; check out Learn Firefox. For more advanced users; keep an eye on it because I think this has huge potential to be the site to learn and tweak Firefox.

For those advanced users of Firefox check out CyberNet’s Updated Guide On Firefox 2 Tweaks as a great place to start tweaking and making Firefox your own.

Learn Firefox Homepage

Add Platial Maps Widget to Your WordPress.com Blog

As you can see there have been a few changes around here. I found some motivation from somewhere and decided to update the widgets and ended up with a whole new look. I am still working on a few things but if you find something that isn’t quite right let me know. Since I was editing the widgets for the new theme I came across a new widget for WordPress.com users. It looks like I got the hop on the WordPress guys on this one as they are yet to release it.

You will notice in the sidebar widgets that there is now a Platial Mapkit widget available. Add it to your sidebar and it will show a mini map of the starting location that you specify when you set it up. Cool, but it gets better, you can add places with placemarks and readers can add their own with comments. Tag placemarks, add users as buddies and more.

Platial Mapkit Widget SampleThe Widget displayed is the one you see here. My options have been included but you can make yours up to whatever you wish. You will have to create an account if you wish to use the widget in your blog. I have also added a placemark for the approximate location of this blog’s HQ, so you can see what they look like.

The map is powered by Google Maps and therefore includes either a map view a satellite view or a mix. As well as zooming in and out and all the usual Google Map goodness. I also noticed a Google Earth link on my homepage map I set up on Platial to take a look at it.

I have not added the widget to this blog, I’d rather keep the lines that I do and not stuff it full of other stuff. Plus it is another thing I have to keep track of if it was here. Although the map I created is available to view, you can see it here. Platial is not only open to WordPress.com users but all bloggers and site designers. So if this is your cup of tea then take a look. The design is simple and to the point and the size is good for a blog, it will fit most if not all blog sidebars. I had not heard of the service before now but it looks pretty good and a bit of fun.

WordPress.com users need to click the link on the widget when it is selected in the set-up. The link is in the text “Making maps at Platial is free”.

Create an account and configure it as you wish. It is fairly simple and straight forward. You can edit these settings easily after you have joined as well so don’t worry too much if you make a mistake.

The last bit is a bit tricky, since I had no “instructions” from the guys here at WordPress I had to work it out. The widget asks you to type in the “Platial Map Id:”. This is the last digits that you see at the end of the Bookmark for your map widget that you have created. That is the Map Id that you need to enter into the widget field and hit submit.

Once that is done just slide the widget into place on your sidebar and save the changes and your done. WordPress we have maps!

Platial Screenshot

Top Blogs on WordPress

WordPress LogoMany things attracted me to WordPress. Many things I discovered when I got here have kept me here. One of the things I discovered when I got here was the “Top WordPress.com Blogs of Today” that is displayed on the dashboard. It gave everyone the chance to be “featured”. I feel this is now a thing of the past.

The top blogs of the day feature is great and it used to be better. It used to be that anyone with a blog hosted on WordPress had the chance of being featured right there on the “homepage” when you logged into WordPress. I was excited about the fact that anyone could end up there and you did not have to be an “A-List” blogger. I am interested in what people have to say, especially that which is well written or of note. Now the list of the top four blogs on WordPress.com are usually VIP Blogs that are popular because of who they are.

[Note: Non WordPress.com readers can see the top blogs for today on WordPress here.]

Scoble and his blog Scobleizer has been hosted on WordPress for some time. WhenTop Blogs on WordPress Screenshot I joined it was always on the top, everyday. It doesn’t matter what he wrote it was on top. But, every now and then one of us not so well known bloggers piped Scoble off the top dog spot. These were the posts that really got me interested, mainly because it was because the content was worth looking at. It got my attention. So what has changed?

In late September WordPress started to off a new service for VIP bloggers. For $500 setup and $250 per month the WordPress team will set up a blog, maintain it and you get some nice VIP features. You become a VIP blog on WordPress. This is attractive for companies and “A-List bloggers” that make their income from blogging. They need a reliable service, with WordPress they get that. WordPress is a great service and offers great reliability and stability along with expertise that keep everything going and always rolling out new features. It can also handle the bandwidth required if a post ends up on Digg or Slashdot. So how does that affect me?

Now that we have VIP bloggers on WordPress like Anousheh Ansari’s “Space Blog”, Om Malik’s Web Worker Daily and more recently the Official Linden Blog, they are the Second Life people, they are always featured on the top blogs of the day. The sheer popularity and reach of these players now make the possibility of anything that I write have zero possibility of getting on the top blogs list.

I do not resent the fact that WordPress is inviting VIP’s to blog on WordPress, it makes very good business sense and I appreciate that it gives them exposure and respect within the blogosphere. But I don’t want to see a top blog list of bloggers that I could go to Techmeme and see! I want to see the “average Joe” have the opportunity to be listed as a “Top Blog”. I could not care if I never got on the list again, but I would like to think that there was always the opportunity that I could be. At this present time I have zero to none chances of making the cut. In addition this list should be dynamic and change all the time. At the moment it is like “Ground Hog Day”! Same blogs there day after day with no change, or very little. So what do I think should be done?

I think that the answer might be for the great guys at WordPress to make another list on the dashboard. Sure keep the “Top WordPress.com Blogs of today”, make that for everyone, who knows we might be able to get the traffic required to get on the list with the “A-listers”. Have another list that is formulated by taking out the “A-List” blog factor. That is; a list for the rest of us. At least then it would feel fair and not impossible to be a “Top WordPress.com Blog”.

How do other WordPress.com users feel about this idea? Is it something that you think you would appreciate? If so let the WordPress guys know and maybe we will see it. I do not think that it would be that hard to do. So how about it?

Facebook Privacy Issues: I Don’t Get It

This last week saw a huge problem blow up at Facebook the social networking site “…an on-line directory that connects people through social networks”. Basically two new features were rolled out; “News Feeds” and “Mini Feeds”. From what I can gather they are like any News Feed aka: RSS type of deal, as you might have for a blog. These features allowed users to see what their friends were up to such as; items added, pictures, comments and the like. What Facebook did not realise was the outrage this would cause from users.

So these new features were rolled out and there was a revolt. Here are some of the actions taken by users:

In my effort to try to understand what all the fuss was about I have found some of the reasons that users have issued as to why the new features are unwanted. I do not have a Facebook account myself so this is all I have to go on: Here are various quotes taken from a few sources and since they seem to be talking for the masses…

“It damages what privacy was left on Facebook. Before Feeds, it was already easy enough to stalk anyone at your school, and everyone on your friends list; but with the advent of Feeds, it is now nearly impossible not to be “stalked” or to “stalk””

“Without even trying an individual now knows the changing relationship status of individuals on their friends list”

“It is almost impossible now to keep your information to yourself…”

“Before Feeds there were steps that could be taken to prevent your information becoming everyone’s property; now there is literally no option to prevent your information from going completely public.”

“This feature was not requested by the users”

“People that I have spoken with are perturbed by the overwhelming collection of personal information that is displayed about friends, acquaintances, and other Facebook buddies.”

“Despite the fact that this does not “violate the privacy policies already in place,” we feel that it is invasive and directs us to information that we are not normally interested in.”

While not ranking too high on the priority list, there were issues raised about the aesthetics of the additions.

“There are other reasons users are complaining, ranging from the fact it takes away the time-wasting aspect of Facebook to aesthetic complaints about the new look.”

I am not sure if this is truly representative as there are 9.5 million users of Facebook. But there are reports that there are 100 thousand users belonging to the “Students Against Facebook News Feed” group. So that is a fairly large representation and not to be ignored. So I will assume that the anti-feed lobby is a fairly universal feeling among users.
This all created a huge buzz, resulting in an issue that has become much talked about until steps were taken to subdue the masses on Facebook. Indeed the CEO himself responded personally to the negative reaction that the features received.

The issue seems to be resolved in so much as the Facebook people have developed a bunch of privacy controls to give the user control over what is put into feeds, if anything; and who can see them. That sort of thing anyway.

While I do not criticize users for the way that they feel. I would also argue that any company should put the users first and listen to them. I would also say that if they feel this way, even with the exaggerated responses that are inevitable that there must be truth in their concerns and these should be addressed.

But here is the bit I just do not get. News feeds within the blogging community are valued and relied upon as a useful tool and an accurate indicator of just how many real readers you have. It also helps you disseminate information. For me I would be devastated if I lost the feed from my site. Indeed the changes were reviewed favourably by some. But to me the reaction by Facebook users flys in the face of contemporary feeling and sentiment of the Internet community and information sharing. To me it is the equivalent of me asking WordPress to allow me to have privacy controls over my RSS feed and allow some people to access it and not others. Sure this can be done with secured RSS feeds that require passwords but I have not set up a public blog to do that. Maybe that is not the case on Facebook.

I am not criticizing the users of Facebook for the way they feel. Certainly there looks to be a generalised fear of “stalking” and harassment. Perhaps even assault in real life, but this was not stated. This may be a genuine fear and well founded. However it does seem a little “school playground” type mentality in so much as they seem to want to stick to their “clicks” and groups and maintain their privacy within those groups. This is a strange concept to me, seeing it in on-line communities. It could be argued that it comes accross as immature, but that is from the outside looking in. Not sure if this is a reflection of the demographic or not but I would expect that there was a large school-aged user base, given that these are the groups where Facebook started; colleges, schools, areas, regions etc.
Adding to that it looks like you could belong to a group within Facebook that was your school. I can see how some information getting out could be damaging to an individual at that level. However that in turn would cause me to ask why is that people are putting that sort of information in a public space on the web.

So that is what I see and how I have seen the whole Facebook fiasco. I am quite open to being corrected in regards to the finer points of Facebook. However, I am looking at it from an information sharing and the comparison to RSS feeds and the differences that can make in a tight community. The prompt action and changes made by Facebook are to be commended.

Odeo Cripples Functionality

Odeo LogoOdeo seem to be updating and improving their services every other day of late. However, it is not every day that you see such a great service actually remove a feature and make it harder for users to utilise their service. They have indeed done so and perhaps in doing so shooting themselves in the foot.

One of the great features that is available to Odeo users is to have an "inbox". If you were to place a button on your website, be it blog or some other site you have enabled your readers to leave you audio comments by clicking the link. They get taken to a page that has a recording interface, which is simple and easy to use and the result is great audio. You as the user of Odeo get that recorded audio in your inbox once it is sent to you. You are notified of this by an email.

Another great feature is that you can subscribe to an RSS feed of your own inbox! So this is a great way to receive feedback on anything. Including podcasts. Seb and I saw it as a great way to get feedback for Global Geek Podcast, so we set up an account. The advantage of getting audio as feedback is that you could go to your inbox once you were notified and click the new Odeo comment that was left for you. You can listen to it. But the biggest feature was that you could click a "download as MP3" button and download the audio comment and insert it into a podcast! The result was excellent and we loved it.

The ability to download the MP3 has been removed from the play window! So what the hell is Odeo thinking in removing this key functionality. It means that it is impossible to download the audio from the page to your local machine. Rather it makes it a pain in the butt to do it.

I found that there is a work-around but it is messy: Open Audacity, set the source to "stereo mix" get ready to hit record… Open the Odeo message that you want to record. Flip back to Audacity and hit record, nip over to the Odeo page and click play. Go back and hit stop on the recording when it has finished. As I said messy. In addition the audio that you end up with is less than ideal and requires a bit of editing.

I am utterly dismayed as to why Odeo have removed this from their site. The only thing that I can think of is that they want users to listen to audio, only from them and not from another source. Perhaps they were not aware that the service was being utilized in this way and they have done it ignorantly, I just don't know. Sebastian has suggested that perhaps they are beginning to think about implementing a pay service and this has something to do with it. But since when has any site reduced their services as opposed to offering more. We are not the only podcast doing this. I can honestly say that if this situation remains as it is; the blogging and podcasting community could deliver some negative press, big time.

Global Geek Podcast has mentioned Odeo on every show that we have done. Not only that there is a link on the Global Geek Podcast website to Odeo, there is a link to Odeo on Rooster's Rail, Seb's Random Thoughts and we have plugged them for their service and functionality since utilizing their service. It is not like we have not given back to Odeo. This I feel is the thanks that we get.

Global Geek Podcast have sent off an email to Odeo in regards to this issue and we await a response, I will let you know what we get back from them when and if we do.

Update: Please check out the Follow-up Story

Microsoft Internet Explorer Seems More Broken than Ever

IE LogoI know that I rant about the uselessness of Internet Explorer and the virtues of Firefox. That has not changed but it would seem that Internet Explorer is more broken now than it ever has been.

You might be wondering why I have said that. Since my discovery of Firefox I have not used Internet Explorer, for anything. I mean nothing, if a site does not let me view their content in Firefox; I don't bother. Or if I really have to I use the IETab extension for Firefox. So lately I have had cause to test a webpage using Internet Explorer and a few other things, much to my disgust. What I have noticed is that there are so many images, icons, logos, pictures and other elements that just will not load in Internet explorer, they display the box with the red X in the top. The big one being the cool new player we have on the podcast homepage fails to load! When the majority of people surfing the web are doing it in IE that's a big deal!

Is this because the Microsoft boys are concentrating on the up and coming release of Internet Explorer 7 and neglecting this version. Or perhaps it is the fact that the sites that I frequent are sites that "geeks" use and therefore the sites are optimised for Firefox. I just have no clue really. I will say that when I was writing the Global Geek Podcast Homepage, it was much easier to code it for Firefox than Internet Explorer, by a long shot. We are currently doing a rebuild of the site and that continues to be the case. Suffice to say that the site will be optimised for Firefox, yes you will be able to load it in IE but it will not be as pretty.
Having said all that the things that refuse to load in IE are not critical to the site but eh, it is a browser; it is supposed to do it! This is however what we have com to expect from this browser.

So to this just adds to reasons not to use IE, along with the fact that Firefox is a superior browser, both for functionality and form. In addition to the fact that it is highly customisable and is more secure.

Be smart, make the switch.

Firefox Bar