Virgin America is in beta.  On our flight back from San Francisco, we couldn’t find a working power outlet, the satellite signal routinely broke (it didn’t work at my seat at all on our way out, and there are many features of the “Red” interactive service just not working yet.  But these are small complaints.  Virgin is embarked on a bold, user-centric rethinking of air-travel, and I’m sure they’ll overcome the problems.  I’m rooting for them.

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An article in The Financial Times points to the growing criticism of the peer review process.  If you don’t know, peer simply review means that specialists in the field determine what research gets funded and what results get published.  The problem is these peers have agendas, egos, vested interests and jealousies that add up to make scientific research, innovation, and discovery itself political.  And when politics and science meet, science always loses.   We need to find ways to encourage and incentivize challenges to orthodoxy.  That’s why the  Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is creating a new grant process that bypasses peer review, and scientists are increasingly publishing directly to online outlets like “Case Reports.”  These are encouraging developments which should be praised and supported.

I Love Slingbox

June 13, 2008

We’re in San Francisco, and the Yankees played at Oakland last night.  Inexplicably, the hotel TV didn’t carry the game, so we watched from our cable back in New York.  The Yankees won 4-1.

One of the great stories of personal computing over the last 25 years is the empowerment of the creative individual. By digitizing processes that used to take rooms full of equipment, computers have enabled authors, musicians, photographers, movie makers, artists, and countless creative professionals to directly execute their visions. Helping individuals create without requiring the investment or organizational hurdles of a team gives those individuals a freedom to invent new thinking in all these fields. What other fields will this great empowerment transform?

Video on the web is a great thing. It’s hard to overestimate the importance and joy of instant access to ever-growing libraries of both professional and user generated content. There’s something for everyone and the quality of delivery continues to rapidly improve. But something’s missing: where’s the interactivity?

Internet video today is largely just one big VOD service. You can argue that’s interactivity, (and right you are) but, I mean, is that it? A typical web page is much more “multimedia” than web video. Web pages typically have some combination of text, pictures, links, interactive AJAX forms, advertising, RSS, e-commerce, etc. Video, by comparison, is a monomedia (just made that up). You can watch it, but it’s largely cordoned off from the web.

Why is that? Probably many reasons, but how about this one: video has one dimension you don’t find on web pages: time. A web page is a pretty static experience: all those media elements there for you to look at in any order you want. Video by comparison is a linear journey over a fixed period of time designed by the creator of the video. It’s a much more guided experience.

But what if video could interact with the other media types on the web? How would it be different? Whatever the interactivity is would need to address the time dimension. Sounds like interactive TV right? The saga of iTV is a long and grisly story of failure I won’t go into here.  But hope abides.  Many have sought to add interactivity to web video (notably: overlays, conversations enabled by Seesmic, commenting tools like viddler and overlay.tv).  The Internet is the most promising medium for interactive video, but unless you can synchronize parts of the video to the media types available to the simplest web pages, video will remain for the most part a lean-back experience on a lean-forward medium.

My new kicks

April 5, 2008

The Other Format War

March 9, 2008

One of the ways the music industry screwed itself was to allow the SACD vs. DVD-A format war to go unresolved: a mistake Sony understood it could not repeat in the video market.  Most music lovers who have made the comparison agree that CDs don’t sound better than the vinyl that preceded them, and it could be argued that had the music industry lined up behind a better sounding format, consumers would have been less satisfied with the further-degraded audio quality of the pirated mp3’s that have destroyed the marketplace.  With consumers used to CD’s at the high end and low bit rate mp3’s at the low end, the art of recording has suffered considerably as those consumers have lost their taste for music that isn’t compressed and processed to the absolute limit.   But now that the high definition video format war is officially over, can we please have high resolution audio – either DVD-A or SACD (the latter more likely since it was more popular and it’s Sony’s format) on our Blu-ray players?  It’s inevitable that we’ll end up with a higher quality digital format for music eventually, so please, please can we seize the moment to settle this now?