Make sure you wash your hands after reading that e-mail


So from our “always on” world comes this little tidbit:

AOL Mail’s survey of 4000 users aged 13 and above revealed that 50% of users check their e-mail while driving. Two-thirds check from bed, and 15% even tap away while in church. (Don’t they realize that God is the ultimate cloud computer?)

And 59% say they check e-mail while in the bathroom. Unless they have waterproof PDAs, that can only mean one thing. And that one thing does not make for a pretty picture.

Interactive TV: UPDATE

Well that was fast. We just posted about whether or not the future was finally here as it pertains to interactive TV. Less than three weeks later comes this:

“Tivo announced they have teamed up with Amazon to provide consumers with the ability to purchase physical products from on their TV sets using their Tivo remote control.”

So Tivo, which was once viewed as the TV advertising killer is now sleeping with the enemy and becoming a potential advertising savior. The word “Tivo” has become consumer shorthand for any DVR, just like Band-Aid or Kleenex. But while Band-Aid and Kleenex pretty much own the boo-boo and booger spaces, everyone and their brother makes a DVR and Tivo’s market share has been steadily declining. They are only in about 4 million homes. As we noted before, this idea has failed many times in the past, largely because stopping to buy something while you’re watching TV interrupts the experience you had settled in for: watching TV. Tivo may have figured out a way around this. If you choose to buy an advertised item, Tivo will record the rest of the program (duh, it’s Tivo!), so that you can go back and watch it after you’ve made your purchase.

On another topic, I can’t help but notice that some of the posts we make here on the Clearcast blog have been jumping onto the front pages of the NY Times or other more, shall we say, traditional forms of media shortly after we write about them. Jill Bolte Taylor, the dancing guy and now this (to name just three). I am certainly not saying that there is a causal relationship. All I am saying is we seem to be on a hot streak, so if you want to know what’s next, stay tuned here. Oh, and please tell a friend (or two).

The Internet and the presidential election

A recent study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project assigned some concrete numbers to what most of us expected: 46% of Americans have used the internet, e-mail or text messaging to get news about the campaign, share their views and mobilize others.

The internet certainly makes it easier for people to get involved, check voting records, verify candidates’ claims, organize themselves and, perhaps most importantly, influence others. People use the web to forward comments and videos, donate money, feel more personally invested in the campaign and organize on a grassroots level.

The internet being the internet, however, also means that mis- and disinformation is magnified along with every gaffe and misstatement. What struck me was that the level of engagement almost doubled from 2004 during the primary season (8% of adults in Spring 2004 compared to 17% of adults in Spring 2008) , traditionally a time when only the most hardcore voters seem to be paying attention.

A few highlights:

  • 40% of all Americans (internet users and non-internet users) have gotten news and information about this year’s campaign via the internet
  • 35% of Americans say they have watched online political videos, nearly triple the figure of 2004
  • 10% say they have used social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace to gather information or become involved
  • 6% of Americans have made political contributions online

And many users are digging deeper to circumvent the mainstream media and their soundbite driven business model to more fully form their own opinions about Messrs. McCain and Obama.

Greater involvement is great for the republic. So we’ll leave the predictions about Election Day chaos for another day.

Google/Viacom update

It seems as if privacy concerns have carried the day when it comes to the court ruling that handed over to Viacom highly detailed YouTube user logs. After hackles were raised online and elsewhere, Viacom maintained they had never requested information that could have been tied back to individual users. (Not true.)

A new court order allows YouTube to substitute anonymized data in place of user IDs, IP addresses and visitor IDs.

It’s probably a good idea to keep a close eye on this case as it winds its way through the court system. All is clear for now, but things have a way of changing. They already have once, right?

TED Talks

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an annual convention that began back in 1984. It is
an exclusive gathering and it sells out a year in advance. They realize that most of us will not be attending anytime soon, so they graciously make the content available on their website or in iTunes. “Free knowledge and inspiration,” as they call it.

I have featured a couple of TED Talks here on the blog, and I encourage you to poke around. The topics are wide ranging, they do not exceed 18 minutes and just about any topic you can imagine is covered. I urge you to subscribe.

To get you started, here are a couple of my favorites. Have a nice weekend.

Sir Ken Robinson on how schools kill creativity.

Arthur Benjamin does “Mathemagic.”

Benjamin Zander and our untapped love for new possibilities.

IP does not stand for “Internet privacy”

In the United States, civil liberties and privacy protections have been under siege for some time now. While this is
not a political blog, there are some scary things happening out there that affect virtually everyone who has ever used a computer. (This means you.) The recent ruling did not get as much press as it might have, largely because it happened right before the July 4th holiday. So, in case you missed it:

Viacom sued YouTube awhile back for allowing distribution of their copyrighted materials. On July 2, 2008, a US District Court judge issued a ruling requiring YouTube to turn over massive amounts of user data to Viacom, a notoriously litigious company. This data includes YouTube usernames, IP addresses and every video that users may have viewed. The judge, who is 87 years old, dismissed the privacy concerns as “speculative.” (I point out his age for a reason. Digital issues are different from analog ones and I believe it is fair to question whether someone who was graduated from law school in 1955 is the best person for the job.)  Regardless of whether you agree or disagree, this is setting up to allow Viacom to come after individual users, just like the RIAA did when people downloaded music. The point is, by releasing all this data, it oversteps the parameters of the lawsuit, in which Viacom seeks to understand the popularity of copyrighted vs. non-copyrighted material. (To be clear, I am not suggesting that Viacom should not protect their copyrights. They absolutely should. Copyright laws in a digital age are far from perfect, but for the moment, they’re all we have and artists need to be protected.)

Google/YouTube, for its part, has shown no backbone and thrown all of us poor users under the bus. That means you, that means me, that means everyone who has been on YouTube, which is virtually everyone who has ever logged onto a computer. Did you realize you might have been violating the law way back when you might have checked out last night’s Daily Show on YouTube before all their episodes were moved to their own website? Of course not.

Viacom can fight this suit with anonymized logs and Google/YouTube ought to have more spine. They’re Google for God’s sake. I think they can afford lawyers. They should be defending their users’ right to privacy.

Today (8 July 2008), the US Senate will be voting on the FISA bill. FISA might seem far removed from your day to day life. Your not a terrorist, right? You’ve got nothing to hide. WRONG!

Phone companies should not be sharing what calls you make/take. Video stores shouldn’t share what movies you rent (anyone here old enough to remember failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork?). And YouTube should not be rolling over so easily and giving up its users’ information.

There is still time for Google/YT to reconsider, of course. But this ruling, and scores others like it over the past 7 years, have a chilling effect on our rights. Nothing you do online is private. Nothing.

Interactive TV: Is the future finally here?

It has been said that interactive TV is the future of television- and it always will be. The most commonly used example to explain what it makes reference to “Rachel’s sweater”, as in Rachel from “Friends”, which gives you another idea about how long people have been talking about it.

Imagine you’re watching “Friends” and you could click on Rachel’s sweater and be able to find out who makes it, where it’s available and maybe even buy it right there on your TV. That, in essence, is a key feature of interactive TV. Boston- based Backchannel Media is expanding a test into three New England markets. It will offer viewers programs and ads that feature on screen icons that they can click. Each click sends a signal to the viewer’s personal portal which aggregates all the things they have previously expressed an interest in. The next time they go online, they can look up more info. Presumably, this would not just be for commerce but offer the ability to drill down deeper about the content of participating shows.

Online advertising is held to a much different standard than traditional advertising because of its vaunted ability to track engagement and interaction. This might be the first step for television viewership and advertising to be measured in the same way. Fair is fair, right?

So you think you can’t dance?

I'm not sure why this video resonated so strongly with me on an emotional level, but it did.

The story goes that Matt is a self-described "deadbeat from Connecticut" who back in 2003 quit his job in Australia and traveled around Asia. He created a site to keep his friends and family informed of his whereabouts. One day, someone videotaped him doing this goofy dance he does. Well, the goofy dance video got noticed a couple of years later by the people at Stride Gum. They paid for him to travel around the world AGAIN doing the goofy dance (and handing out gum, I guess). The response was so great that Stride sent him around the world a third time, but this time Matt invited all the people who had e-mailed him to do the goofy dance along with him.

If you want more details, you can find them here or here. In the meantime, this video has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube. Not bad for a goofy guy doing a goofy dance. Not bad for Stride Gum. Maybe this internet video thing is for real, huh?

Is change the only constant?

I heard a quote from author John Naisbitt the other day that keeps echoing in my head. Naisbitt is the author of the 1982 bestseller “Megatrends.” The observation that stuck with me was, “We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge.”

In the past few days I have also come across several blog posts deriding, sometimes quite humorously, the way the internet might be changing the way we read and learn. There is even a cover article in The Atlantic entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The basic premise of the article is that because there is so much information out there and since text is so prevalent on the internet, we now “power surf” instead of read in depth. (Are you doing it right now? No skipping to the end!)

Undoubtedly, the shift to online everything has changed the way we do lots and lots of things, including read. With e-mail, texting and personal web apps, a case could be made that we actually read MORE than ever before. More, but less. With any change, there is sometimes a natural tendency to demonize that change and long for the good old days. Nonsense. The basics in life do not change and haven’t for centuries.

I can’t help but go back to a post I made almost a year ago from one of my favorite authors, Chuck Klosterman. Check it out.