Australian entrepreneur with FanFooty (alive) and Tinfinger (dead) on his CV. Working on new projects, podcasting weekly at the Coaches Box, and trying not to let microblogging take over this blog.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Who is pmeme's Gareth Butler?

I finally cottoned on today to pmeme, the name-based blog aggregator, which has popped up only in the last week or so. It's fresh out of the vats so it would be churlish to critique it at this early stage, especially considering Tinfinger isn't finished yet either! Suffice to say that he's on a good track there.

The man behind it is appears to be an Englishman by the name of Gareth Butler, who doesn't seem to have any information about him on the Internets that specifically links him to pmeme other than the pmeme.com domain registry records and a link to tokyo26.com which has his name in the title. Is it the same Gareth Butler who was/is a producer for the BBC? Is it the same Gareth Butler who co-wrote a book on politics? Is it the same Gareth Butler who got made redundant in December 2004 and became a $10,000/month freelancer? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Top 5 Aussie consumer tech blogs?

I was asked by a friend today to give my opinion on the top five Australia consumer technology bloggers who are not also journalists. After consulting Gnoos, Paul Woods' TechTalk Top 25 (which uses Technorati) and other sources, this is the list I came up with:

- William Pramana, wpram.com
- Darren Rowse, problogger.net
- Mitch Denny, notgartner.com
- Long Zheng, istartedsomething.com
- Stephen Withers, homepage.mac.com/swithers/iblog/

I don't think anyone could argue about the first two, and I think the second two are also pretty solid. I would like to see other peoples' lists though, as I am sure there are other worthy candidates of whom I haven't heard. Also, in compiling the names, it struck me that there is a distinct pro-Microsoft bias in the names that keep bobbing up, which is a tribute to the influence of Frank Arrigo in fostering the local blogger community, especially through TechTalkBlogs. However, there still seems to be a gaping hole where there should be more local tech blogs, especially those covering non-Microsoft issues. Or maybe I just haven't seen them yet. Tell me about them!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sweat of the brow beaten by lazy footy scrapers

Thanks to Leslie Nassar for alerting me to last Monday's Media Watch, which featured a segment on live Australian sports scores, something close to my heart with my FanFooty business. The piece (transcript, video) detailed a sting operation that statistical provider Sportsdata played on two of its rivals. In short, Sportsdata put bogus data in its XML feed and then caught Sportal and Cadability with the same bogus information on their customer Web sites. They sent the smoking gun to Media Watch and let them off the leash with exchanges of correspondence with accusations of plagiarism and conflicts of interest flying everywhere.

Quite what Media Watch was doing in the middle of this is a bit of a question, seeing as it had nothing to do with journalism or plagiarism. As Cadability pointed out in its reply, Australian case law has established that facts and figures are not copyrightable. The only thing that has been broken here is the oft-mentioned 2003 "agreement" for its competitors not to scrape data from Sportsdata's servers. That agreement is based on a guess as to what the law would be if it went to court, since there is no Australian law that applies directly to the issue of whether live sporting statistics have more protection under IP law than the same statistics after the games have finished.

It may be that Sportsdata does hold some copyright over that data according to the "sweat of the brow" doctrine re-affirmed in Desktop Marketing Systems Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Limited, which has been obsolete in places like America for a while but still holds sway in European and Australian law. But then again, it may not. And this may just be a case of a grubby commercial spat being played out in the media by a bunch of cut-throat businesses where nobody can claim the high moral ground, and Media Watch has allowed itself to be used as a pawn in their sordid little game.

Not happy little Vegemites, it's Prohibition 2.0

I find it highly offensive that the US allows its citizens to carry all manner of deadly weaponry and explosive ordnance, yet now bans them from carrying Vegemite. Perhaps Cameron Reilly will rethink his Californian sojourn? They obviously saw him coming.

I ask you, did a crazy man ever walk into a school and kill handfuls of people at a time armed with a jar of Vegemite? No, no they did not. Also, are they really going to search you for Vegemite at airports? Is Vegemite more dangerous than the kind of ceramic knives that the 9/11 terrorists used (and which could also be used for spreading said Vegemite on a bit of toast)?

I am researching the feasibility of starting a Vegemite-running operation out of Tijuana. We'll smuggle the folic goodness across the border in the dead of night, screw the prohibitionists. We'll set up spreadeasies right under the noses of the PB&J-guzzling freaks, where expats will gather in secret to commune with the national food of their fatherland. Viva Vegemite!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mistakes, I've made a few

I start a perfect 12 for 12, and 17 and 18 are locks. The only ones I haven't made are because my business isn't big enough yet, but I have faith that I can make them when the time comes. Or, as my buddy None-1a said: "You need to make mistake 13 then run".

Gotta collect 'em all!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cameron Reilly to move TPN to the US

What should we call this criminal lack of venture capital for early-stage Australian consumer Internet businesses? Capital cringe? Comes word from Builder AU, of all places, that Cameron Reilly is upping stumps as of October 22 and moving The Podcast Network to the US.

"I've been talking to investors for the last 12 months in Australia," he told Builder AU. "There's been a high degree of interest, but the challenge that we had was the valuations that we get given by Australian investors is a at significant discount."

The reaction by journalist portal ITJourno, in its daily Epitome article which was written today by ex-Industry Standard writer Ian Yates, was rather schaedenfreude-laden.

Rumours of the demise of mainstream media by the self-boosters of the Web 2.0 brigade may be a tad exaggerated. In this instance a “tad” is approximately the size of an A380 and just as likely to get off the ground any time soon. To confirm the delay comes news of Australia’s own podcast poster-boy, Cameron Reilly, decamping to the USA because local venture capitalists “undervalue” his business. Oh dear, how sad, never mind, better get a real job, eh?

I am sad to see Cameron go, though I don't blame him. I'm getting a new passport myself this week. This decision would have been made more difficult for Cameron since he has a wife and two young children to contend with, so the gamble he's taking has stakes higher than those for unladen single blokes like myself and Tony at Tinfinger, or Ben Barren at Feedcorp. I wish him luck, and I look forward to him presenting his own thoughts on the matter in one of his blogs.

UPDATE: Cam apparently broke this news himself in the last edition of his G'Day World podcast last week, as discussed by TPN member Rooster. Shame on me for not listening!

PPS: Josh Gliddon interviewed the usual suspects for a Bulletin piece on the capital cringe issue.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

CNET dying the death of a million blogs... or is it?

TechCrunch today details a Jeffreys & Company report which "points to a third quarter 50% drop in CNET traffic compared to the same period in 2005, including a whopping 69% drop in traffic at WebShots". In the comments, opinions range from distrust of Mike Arrington's motives, to complete agreement, to skepticism about the Jeffreys numbers (which are not available to the public). The long-term Alexa graph is instructive, though of course flawed. That spike in late 2005 corresponds with their last major relaunch, but since then it's been all downhill. Given that the relaunch was a year and a week ago, those year-on-year Jeffreys numbers sound awfully suspicious, or at least misleading because they most likely use figures from just before that spike. Nevertheless, the dribbling away of traffic has been more pronounced in 2006 that in previous years.

Mike blames CNET's traffic woes with the rise of tech blogs, and while the numbers might be overstated by Jeffreys, that argument sounds credible. I have particular interest in this given that I wrote a blog for CNET's ZDNet Australia site for a while. No one can accuse the CNET people either here in Australia or back in the US of ignoring the blog phenomenon, and ZDNet US has a large stable of blogs which are rarely unrepresented on TechMeme.

The people I feel sorry for are the CNET people in Sydney, some of whom are friends of mine. I can say from personal experience that through no fault of their own, foreign subsidiaries of American companies always catch cold when their parent company sneezes. It appears that while saying that CNET has the flu is a tad premature, they're starting to sound sniffly and it won't be long before the phlegm backs up. And I think I'll end this entry before I get too far into that analogy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Squattocracy vs aggregatocracy

After the latest Arringtonpile during the week, I have been thinking back to my conversation at the Influence 2006 conference with the Australian IT's Stuart Kennedy. One aspect of the argument I made to Stuart defending the 2.0 scene against his accurate criticisms that has only now matured in my own mind is this: the MSM should be worried about 2.0 because it represents an alternative methodology by which the audience identifies merit in the people they want to bring them their news.

Both the MSM and 2.0 "industries" are meritocracies (no sniggering by you journos at the back), but they differ in their methods for choosing people who do the reportage. In the MSM, you need a degree from a journalism school, or at least something in the humanities. Then you need to convince the crusty old incumbents that you follow their rules of conduct - as well as having the requisite skills of a reporter - before they will entrust you with the keys to the T-Bird. In the blogosphere everyone can publish, but due to the zeitgeist-forming influence of news aggregators like Digg and Google News, only a select few rise to the top of the A-List. Both industries create a power law distribution of audience reach for their publishers, where the blogosphere's graph has a very long and thin tail but nevertheless contains a short rump of A-listers - but the MSM has a very tall rump and no tail at all.

In the MSM, it is taught in journalism schools that it is good to be a generalist. The majority of the journalists working on IT sections in major newspapers would rather be working in the main news section, and many do graduate out of the IT ghetto to that lofty post, as my contemporary Simon Hayes did at the Oz recently. Or they move on to travel magazines, or bridal brochures, or anything that pays better than technology. In the blogosphere, specialisation is encouraged. Domain knowledge is what gets you respect. Poor writing skills can be excused if the blogger's ideas are interesting.

As for news-gathering skills, journalists are trained to do things that bloggers do all the time: off-the-record briefings, leaks, even a bit of pretexting now and again are part and parcel of the blogger's communication-saturated life. And bloggers start from in front, because it's not their job to know about their industry, it's their industry. The audience didn't care how Mike Arrington got the info that Google would buy YouTube, they only cared that he got it before the New York Times, which is why TechCrunch is all over the aggregators when big stories in its beat are broken.

So if you pit bunches of journalists against a group of people representing the 2.0 industry part of the blogosphere - coders, startup execs, consultants, an excommunicated journo turned entrepreneur or two - who would win in a commercial battle of publications? Let's see.

GooTube is real, and Arrington told me first

Reuters reports that Google has paid US$1.65B for YouTube, with confirmation by Google adding the detail that it is a stock-only deal. The announcement follows days of speculation across the blogosphere, started by Mike Arrington at TechCrunch and taken up by the New York Times in the interim. It took the NYT report for most pundits to take the rumour seriously, which just shows the double standard that blogs still have to fight against. Mike can laugh in their faces now. Of course, he's not exactly batting a thousand on the rumour front, but this is one that he can notch up for the TechCrunch honour roll.

Haters, keep hating. Mike, keep reporting.