Monthly Archive for June, 2005

Going to NYC this weekend…

ipod_subway.JPGI’m going to NYC this weekend… it’ll be the first real vacation I’ve had since summer started. Besides eating and shopping, Penny and I will be visiting the MOMA and a few other points of interest… mostly to soak up the energy of the city. So far I’ve been to NYC twice, and I get bored of the usual touristy spots.

If you have any recommendations of where to check out, do tell!

This trip will also be special because it’ll be the first time I’m meeting a fellow Singapore blogger. Furthermore, he’s no ordinary blogger… he’s the guy previously known as Acid Flask, who’s original blog was closed under pressure from a certain Singapore government-related organization. Either way his new blog looks spankin’ sweet and he writes eloquently as well (see Singapore is to Bonsai as…).

Incidentally, he seems to have a better itinerary than me though so I might just shadow some of his stops. I wonder if there are any blogger meetups in NYC this weekend…

The Criminal Blogger: From Opinion Leader to Shill

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Some of you might have read the Shufflesome review I did a few days back and thought no better. Few of you however, do know that this isn’t the first time I’ve received freebies as a result of articles on my tech-centric blog. In fact, when I used to run a Mac-centric web site (lost my technohappymeal.com domain name to a very evil web hosting company whom I shall not name), it would be commonplace for us to receive samples of Mac hardware or software for review (which we get to keep).

So what’s the big deal then since I’m doing the same thing, except this time on my blog?

Bloggers as Opinion Leaders
Bloggers are popularly seen as opinion leaders since they naturally articulate their experiences well for others to see. However this edge we have as opinion leaders can be subject to abuse. As a result, Dr. Halavais pointed out whether it was really appropriate for bloggers to accept gifts. In his own words, “Obviously, Kevin has done nothing wrong here, and neither has the company. The issue is, how far do they have to do before they (either Kevin or the company) move from opinion leadership to shilling?”

For the rest of us, the Oxford American Dictionary states that a shill refers to “an accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others”. Ivan Chew noted a shill as “posing as a satisfied customer to dupe bystanders into participating in a swindle.”

Bloggers as Shills
Indeed, I agree such reviews can be deceptive. Exactly one day after Dr. Halavais posted his thoughts, The Boston Globe produced an article which hit the nail on this issue, entitled “For a fee, some blogs boost firms“. Investigating such bloggers, journalist Jenn Abelson revealed that paid bloggers do not work in complete isolation, as there are more than 2,000 bloggers whom marketer USWeb enlisted to hawk products and services. You can say that the marketing industry recognizes the power of bloggers when USweb claimed that their business client doubled its sales in the first three months and shot up to the top of Google’s search list.

How it works
Given the Google loves blogs because blogs are link-savvy (unless you’re into the nofollows link attribute), it’s no surprise blogs are targeted for boosting the prominence of a business on the Internet. Even though paid bloggers do it more elegantly, the deception game they play is more deadly than say blog spammers who’s intentions are obvious, recognizable and even stoppable. Given that motivations of paid bloggers and blog spammers are for profit, the real threat really comes from such paid bloggers who hide in sheep’s clothing to consequently further distort and damage the credibility of fellow bloggers with their indiscriminate actions. Granted, this free expression is a natural affordance of the Internet, but without some form of check and balance, the usability of blogs as a source of reference diminishes…

Why Blogs had credibility
BloggersCreed_TIMES.jpgThe importance of blogs was examplified in The Blogger’s Creed, a must-read article for bloggers available as scanned PDF / Full-Text). In his cultural passage reflecting our era of democratized media, Andrew Sullivan defends bloggers’ credibility by explaining that “[t]he genius lies not so much in the bloggers themselves but in the transparent system they have created. In an era of polarized debate, the truth has never been more available. Thank the guys in the pajamas [referring to bloggers]“. He cites how several bloggers have been instrumental in keeping the media in check, whistle-blowing on scandalous political and corporate leaders (e.g. Instapundit.com & Drudge Report). While the critics of blogs cite their lack of professionalism, Andrew felt that journalism itself isn’t really a profession, but more like a craft. All you need is a telephone and a conscience, and you’re all set.

Strangely though, with the occurrence of paid bloggers, we seem to be back at square one. Could Jonathan Klein, a former senior executive of 60 Minutes on Fox News (Yup… FOX) be inadvertently correct when he said… “Bloggers have no checks and balances. [It's] a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas”? Thus, we as bloggers are thrust back into the vicious cycle of checks and balances.

What’s real then?
While it’s common for bloggers to check in on stories by the media, perhaps it’s time for bloggers to check in on fellow blogs, which is what bloggers should be doing in the first place to maintain the bloggers’ dialogue. Meta-blogs (i.e. blogs about blogs) are very popular and all bloggers always blog one another. Taking meta-blogging further, we could do our blogosphere a civil service simply by leaving your comment on in his/her blog. I take it that you are commenting as regularly as you should be aren’t you?

A second and more standard approach may take its cue from the realm of trust online. Trust is a big issue on the web and a few companies such as Verisign and Thawte offer pricey digital certificates that authenticate secured eCommerce sites. A more relevant example would be BizRate which offers consumers a way to rate businesses online. Though militaristic, applying the same rating and provision of trust certificates to reputable bloggers would allow for anyone to immediately determine the trustworthiness of a given blog.

Concluding statements
I think the authenticity of a blogger’s review really depends on the his or her reputation. Such reputable is determined only by the faithful set of readers to one’s blog, so they would know better when someone’s going out of line. Given the time and energy taken to establish good reputable online, it’s less likely that the blogger would put up untruthful reviews. Finally, never ever trust just one review or reference. Make it a habit to check a few sources so you can make the better judgement of what’s out there.

Food for Thought: Where do blog entities such as Engadget and Gizmodo stand since they are also (in a way) paid to blog? How do they demonstrate impartiality?

Today’s Links (you’re not invited)

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iTunes Upgrade with Podcasting Support Ships

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UPDATE: Now you can download Apple’s Chapter Tool to add chapters to your podcast.

UPDATE 2: OPML2iTunes is an appleScript to import OPML podcast subscriptions into iTunes. Makes life easier for those transitioning from other podcast clients to iTunes 4.9

“Select subscription options and download your favorite podcasts automatically”… that’s the premise of the new Apple iTunes 4.9, which is now available for download for both the Macintosh and Windows. With the major feature being subscriptions to podcasts, this new iTunes should really get podcasts out to the rest of the Internet / iPod users who haven’t been exposed to the world of podcasting. Together with ODEO, podcasting should be set to shake up the music and radio industry.

In related news, Apple shuffles up an revised line of iPods… nothing really new except price drops everywhere, including a the 1gb iPod Shuffle for $129 and a 20gb iPod Photo for $299. U2 iPod having a color screen really bores me… lame. What’s lamer? All iPods are now marketed as “Podcast Ready“… like they weren’t?

I HATE APPLE!
(ok, I take that back…)

Supersize Me for a Free PSP…

Getting my daily PSP news fix, I became quite worried when PSPhacker reported on how McDonalds recently announced their new plan to make people fat(ter). Teaming up with Sony, you can now go to McDonald’s and eat with a mission: a free PSP.

Starting this July 5th, each Big Mac or Large Fries you munch on will give you a game code you can check here. You will have until the 25th of July to eat as much as you can and not kill yourself.

Prizes however aren’t limited to the PSP alone, you can also win:
1 of 5,000 PSP Units
1 of 6,750 PS2 Units
1 0f 5,000 PSP Games
(Ape Escape: On the Loose, ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin’ Trails, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee, Twisted Metal: Head On, or Wipeout Pure)
1 of 15,000 PS2 Games
(Gran Turismo 4, World Tour Soccer 2006, or Rachet And Clank: Up Your Arsenal)
1 of 20,000 PS2 Greatest Hits Games
(ATV Offroad Fury 2, Jak 2, or Rachet And Clank: Going Commando)

However, if you value your life too much you can send in here for a free game piece:
MCDONALD’S SONY PSP PROMOTION GAME CODE REQUEST
P.O. Box 49468
Strongsville, Ohio 44149-0468

For Sale: My Mac Geek Stash

On the speed at which technology changes, my dad once joked about how we’d all buy computers and at the end of every cash register, there’d be a huge trash bin so you can immediately dump your newly outdated purchase.

That said, I’ve decided to be zen-like in my computing approach by minimizing the amount of gadgets I own. My loss is your gain so the more you buy, the more you SAVE! Some the items for sale include:

  1. iPod mini brand new (unopened). 2nd Generation silver 4gb version. I’m selling it for $180 or best offer.
  2. Maxtor 250GB 3.5″ 7200rpm IDE hard drive for sale at $90.
  3. Pioneer DVR-107 dvd internal burner for sale at $50.
  4. Khypermedia 52x CD writer = $15.

Prices are negotiable, but if you live far from Buffalo, NY, shipping will be pegged at $10. If you need anything not listed here, feel free to ask. I might have something you need.

SafariOnAcid

Want Safari to run lightning fast? Take SafariOnAcid. Don’t worry, it launches a second Safari so there’s no permanent damage done if you wish to try it. Hat tip to Peter.

Wired NextFest 2005

Argh! I can’t believe I missed the Wired NextFest 2005. I saw bits of it on Discovery Channel’s MythBusters. I would have totally worked as a volunteer or as an extra there, in Chicago.

Shufflesome: Wicked designs for iPod Shuffle

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Not too long ago, I mentioned how I had found the best-looking iPod Shuffle sticker designs made by a company called Shufflesome. Just last week, Alex Schneider of Shufflesome contacted me and today I have two sets of Shufflesome stickers on hand. Gotta love the Internet!

I decided to dress up my iPod Shuffle with the “Barbaloo” sticker set (the one with the “Kill Bill” girl as Alex describes). Placing the stickers was quite easy as the thin but strong vinyl material allowed me to easily remove and re-position the stickers. I noticed that although the Shufflesome stickers wrap around the entire iPod Shuffle, it’s not easy to get rid of the gap between the iPod unit and the cap (as seen in the third photo), so it’s something you have to live with.

As seen in the fifth photo, the iPod’s LED status light is visible through the Shufflesome sticker, however the iPod Shuffle’s serial number on the back will be covered. There are other ways to get the serial number other than peeling the sticker, including the use of iPod Updater 2005-11-01 or later. I took a photo of the “Shufflesomed” iPod together with the iPod Shuffle Armband just for kicks.

On the whole, I love the quality of the print and the beautiful design on my little mp3 player. It looks so good, it looks as if it were printed on the iPod Shuffle itself. Now if Apple could sell U2 iPods, why not specially designed iPod Shuffles?

UPDATE: Dr. Halavais made an example of me for an interesting take on bloggers receiving gifts…

Video: A sneak peek at ODEO (it’s like flickr for podcasts)

Everyone’s talking about ODEO. I only heard about ODEO yesterday from the MAKE blog and decided to try my luck at getting an invite. I received the invite soon after and was pretty convinced of the potential ODEO has for anyone to start podcasting. IT’S FINALLY THAT EASY!

If you’re too busy to sign up for an invite, check out my screencast (computer screen video recording) where I take a sneak peek at ODEO, give a brief background as well as explain the potential impact it has for the podcasting world.

Watch the video review:
Large version (640 x 480 / 50mb) via Ourmedia.org or direct link

Small version (320 x 240 / 15mb) via Ourmedia.org or direct link

Update: MAKE blog has better screenshots of ODEO’s “Create” section, which includes the browser based podcast recorder and phone tool.