These are older posts. Some on TV (up until 2010 or so). Before that they are mostly about starting up Foneshow.

Entries in badness (17)


Google is Leaving Radio

Google is bailing on radio.

I predicted this in this blog post a few weeks back.

I actually predicted
Google would fail with CPM based radio ads exactly two years ago.


Text Message Spam

Text messaging is a core part of the Foneshow experience. Text message notification of new programming and leveraging that as a menuing system is key to how Foneshow works and is better than our competitors (it's also where we have our patents). To use the short code system in the US the cellular carriers insist that you have to adhere to some very specific rules about sending messages as far as verifying users and not sending unsolicited texts. We spend a lot of time and energy jumping through hoops that the cellular carriers put up to protect their subscribers from SMS spam.

So yesterday when I read that AT&T sent unsolicited text messages to a "significant number" of it's 75 million mobile subscribers reminding them that American Idol (a show that AT&T sponsors) I was pretty surprised. The previous Idol voters who got texts I understand, I'm sure that in the fine print of Idol voting you opted in for those. But AT&T also sent Idol texts to "heavy texters" who had never participated in American Idol. That is simply spam.

AT&T claims the fact that they don't charge for the text and that you can then opt out means it's not spam. That's bullshit.

If we we started sending unsolicited texts to users who had not opted in they'd shut us down so fast it would make your head spin.


Washington Post Borked

The Washington Post just borked their RSS feed resulting in subscribers to the series to get duplicate notifications for shows they had already received.

The RSS spec defines something called a GUID (Globally Unique Identifier). We publish things we see new GUIDs for. Podcast publishing systems tend to use file path as GUIDs. This is a horrible idea because if you change your file system structure, all your subscribers download additional copies of old shows.

We're going to rework this and create our own GUIDs from the audio file itself.

Sorry about that to all the WaPo subscribers



HT to Seth Godin.


ATT Hates Trees

Submitted with no further comment.



The New York Times had a great article today about the ongoing ConnectU/Facebook kerfuffle (pdf). There are many lessons here for those starting up a technology company.

They quote R. Scott Feldmann, an intellectual property lawyer and a partner at Crowell & Moring.

Ideas, Mr. Feldmann explained, are protected either by trade-secret contracts or by patents and copyrights. “Trade secrets may be maintained indefinitely,” he said, but “it does not appear that ConnectU had Zuckerberg sign a nondisclosure agreement, and disclosing a trade secret to someone without doing so would ordinarily result in loss of any trade secret status.”

At the same time, Mr. Feldmann said, “copyright will not protect ideas themselves, only their expression” — in a Web site’s underlying source code, for instance. But if Mr. Zuckerberg was an unpaid, casual worker at ConnectU, and not an employee, then “he owns the code,” Mr. Feldmann said. Thus, even if the ConnectU plaintiffs can prove that the codes of two social networking sites were similar (an argument that Facebook seems confident it can refute), the Winklevosses might have no claims on Mr. Zuckerberg.

“On the surface, it appears ConnectU will have some challenges,” Mr. Feldmann said.

Given all the sturm und drang this case has kicked up on the blogosphere (now also in the offline press), the thing that keeps running through my head is the old Peggy Lee song...


My New Start Page

My Yahoo! has been my browser start page since the summer of 1996.

As of this morning, My Y! no longer my start page. This morning I switched to the customized iGoogle start page.

The overwhelming reason is speed. The new, improved, version of My Y! is just plain slow. They've redesigned stuff to add more graphics and to look all "Web 2.0", but in the process they've killed the usability. My Y! was a great start page because it had everything I wanted and it was wicked fast. Perhaps My Y! just became a mismanaged anachronism of the pre-RSS revolution.

iGoogle on the other hand just rocks. It's really fast, there are lots of modules, and the design is clean. Most importantly, it's open, if I need a module that doesn't exist, I can just write it myself.

There's a lesson to be learned here for all startups (including Foneshow) about user centered design and targeting your platform.


Amp'd is Going Down

It's been a long slow death, but barring a miracle, today is Amp'ds final day.

Here's the core problem; People don't live in verticals. People aren't only music fans or sports fans or whatever. People live in horizontals. An individual has a breadth of interests. The affinity groups a successful MVNO has to appeal to cannot be vertical interest based. Vertical interest credit card affinity groups work because people carry more than one credit card. People generally don't have more than one cell phone.

While MVNO's are an intrinsically broken model, I can think of some cases where they could work well. Being a "hip cellular carrier" is not one of them.

Tracfone (an MVNO for people with poor/no credit) seems to be doing just fine. If WalMart had an MVNO, I bet it would do well too. They could regularly push SMS or MMS coupons to users. They could trigger custom messages on in-store displays via bluetooth. The mind boggles at what WalMart could do with an MVNO.

Update: Amp'd users get to live for another week



I just got email from a user letting me know that we haven't got a map of keypad functions up anywhere on the site or the blog.

Um. Whoops. You're right. Sorry.

We shall immediately ameliorate the situation.

Click on it to make it bigger...


You've Just Got to Love the Cellular Carriers

From the New York Times

The companies will waive the early termination fee if you die. Pretending to be dead, however, does not work well as a way to break a contract. Sprint Nextel, Verizon and Cingular, for example, may ask for a death certificate. T-Mobile says it does not. “They want to take people at their word,” said Graham Crow, a spokesman for the company.
HT to Jason at Skydeck.


Internet Radio is in Big Trouble

Internet radio is in big trouble. The Copyright Royalty Board judges just denied to hear an appeal from web broadcasters to reconsider the new rates for internet broadcast of music.

The business model in internet radio was dodgy to begin with, as incremental listeners incur incremental expenses in a linear fashion. In traditional radio, the entire listener base offsets a large capital expenditure for the infrastructure and the FCC license. But once you have the infrastructure, 1 listener costs the more or less the same as a million listeners. Once your advertising revenue covers servicing the capital expenditures everything else is gravy. The more listeners you have, the better your margins.

In internet radio each listener incurs additional fixed expense -- server overhead, bandwidth and licensing. So if your revenue per user is lower than those expenses per user, adding users just means losing more money. Under the new license rates I can't see how rev/user ever gets higher than expenses/user.

I didn't blog about this when it first happened, but there was no shortage of coverage. I think there is a larger question here of whether there is a business model for online music at all.

Many people suggest that the RIAA was driving this (the RIAA, justifiably, is a favorite whipping boy) but if you follow the money, the NAB has much more to gain by the new rates than the RIAA.

Edit: Replaced blocked image


Twitter is Opening Their Messaging API?

Lots of folks are talking about Twitter opening their SMS messaging API.

Let's leave the economic issues alone for a moment.

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has a set of guidelines (pdf) about acceptable uses of Common Short Codes. Does not Twitter risk losing their CSC if some random person using their API promotes drug use, pornography or hate speech (or any of the other things MMA or the carriers find unacceptable)?

What am I not understanding here?


R.I.P. Fonpods

Today we mourn a fallen competitor.

As apparent fallout from the Qwest suit against Voice 2.0 companies that were using the CLEC loophole as a biz model, the Fonpods site is now controlled (i.e. shut down) by Qwest.

I despise this type of legal bullying. It's one thing if a lone crazy person threatens a frivolous lawsuit; you can either fight those people, pay off their blackmail, or just ignore them. It's another thing if a multibillion dollar corporation with hundreds of lawyers on retainer actually sues you. Now I don't know if Qwest's claim was frivolous or not, but at the end of the day, it's moot.


Busted by CDDB

Here's a fascinating story from Gramaphone magazine about how CDDB exposed someone trying to pass off the work of others as their own.

It's sad that people feel the need to try to misappropriate creative work and pass it off as their own. One wonders what kind of bizarre psychology drives people to do that kind of thing. Greed? Hardly, under the best of circumstances there's little money in classical music. Ego? Maybe, but it's not actually your own work. I suppose it's really just a delusion of grandeur.

It's a good thing when these frauds are exposed.

HT to Andrew Sullivan


Finally Back in Maine

JFK was a mess. I spent 12 hours there yesterday.

JetBlue had a really bad day. They screwed up. The refreshing thing is that instead of getting defensive and making excuses, they readily admit they screwed up.

I finally get home to Maine this morning and the plows had plugged my driveway with a four foot deep snowbank. I get my shovel out to dig out the end of the driveway...

and my shovel handle breaks in two.


Off to the hardware store and then some meetings.


Unclear on the Concept

You have to log in to read this blog. I think there are ways around this, but it's not often you see the sentence "Please Sign In to Read the Blog".


What not to do

I've been getting SMSes for the past few days that look like this: Mike Wills (Minneapolis / St. Paul, MN) has requested to add you as a friend. Reply 'a' to add, or 'info' to get profile. That's all. I have no idea what service is sending them; they each come from a different generated number like "32665301". I'm certainly not going to reply to them.

Someone designed and implemented that. Did they never test it?