Category Archives: Technology

Google Plus Hangout Meme Template

Google Plus gave us hangouts, and a meme was born.

Here’s the template if you want to make your own. Right-click, save as. It should be editable in Fireworks.
The poster’s image thumbnail is 48×48. The hangout members are 32×32. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

Some of my examples:

Why Are We Still Consuming News Like It's 1899?

We’ve witness a torrent of nature- and man-made news in 2011. And if I were a betting man, the range and impact of the events to come will make news even more essential to all of us. But reading all this news started to bother me, not only because of what was happening in the world, but because the experience of consuming news sucks. For the past new months, I’ve been thinking about this problem (unconnected to Cheezburger).

As my friend Dan Sinker said: “We’re still delivering the news in the same way since the Civil War.” He’s right. The pace of news may have gotten almost real-time (radio, TV, social media), but we still consume the same basic product.

News Sites Are Limiting Themselves
Currently, news sites have many problems. The limited amount of space on news homepages and their outmoded method of presentation poses big problems for the distribution of news as well as consumption by the public. Even though it’s been more than 15 years since the Internet became a news destination, journalists and editors are still trapped in the print and TV world of message delivery.

The traditional methods of news-writing, such as the reverse pyramid, the various “editions” of news pose big limitation on how news is reported and consumed. Unfortunately, internet-based changes such as reverse-chronological blogging of news, inability to archive yesterday’s news, poor commenting quality, live-blogging, and others have made news consumption an even more frustrating experience.

The Problem With News

I’ll take on just three of the major issues I see with the way news is presented today:

1) Editors Don’t Know What We Already Know
Having read the last 10 updates on the efforts to cool Japanese spent fuel storage pools, I’ve noticed a very annoying problem. After the initial 3 paragraphs that contain the latest update, the rest of the article is just a regurgitation of the previous 24-hours worth of stories that I’ve ready 9 times before. Why can’t the reporters just write a short update on the latest news? If you don’t understand what’s happening, the update makes no sense. But if you’re like me and are following the news closely, I feel like I wasted my time. This update-the-last-story practice is a leftover from the days of printed newspapers and wire updates. There’s no need for this today.

2) News, Not Front Pages
The front-page of a newspaper is an iconic symbol. One that sums up a generation’s influences and chronicle life-defining events. But more than ever, those front pages, ported to the web, don’t fit the way we use the web.

Walking through the hallowed halls of the New York Times, the front pages of the Gray Lady on historic days call out like a collective social memory. Unfortunately, news site front pages have lost the cultural benefit of archiving our collective memories — I have no easy way of knowing what the homepage of CNN.com looked like on September 11, 2001. And at the same time have become less influential due to the rise of social media — we’re much more likely to dive directly into the story from a friend’s Tweet as I rely more and more on social filters to tell me what’s worth reading.

3) One Front Page For All The News That Fit’s to Print
6 billion people can’t agree on a single perspective — let alone fit an entire world of news on one homepage. Talking to news editors, it’s clear that their job performance is more and more tied to generating traffic and news front pages are their drug of choice. The more traffic you can draw off a homepage, the better you are at your job. That’s a very poor way to use very talented editors.

The web can do much than this. Techmeme is a great example of a front page for mainstream tech news. Hacker News is a great example for a developer community front page. The list of examples can go on and on. By curating the news that appears on the front page, editors and curators set a powerful tone and setting for future coverage.

Not Your Mother’s Google News

The solution isn’t Google News — even though it’s an excellent service, it’s still a thin layer of aggregation technology atop a traditional model of news and sections. When I compare Google News against the amazingly fast-shifting landscape of the news world, Google News’ strength are aggregation and distribution, not presentation.

The Thrill of the Hunt

What I’m proposing to build isn’t going to solve all presentation problems for all types of news. I am interested in tackling the most exciting part of journalism: the Big Breaking News. If you’ve ever been a journalist, you know the exact feeling of a big news hunt. This is the Moby Dick of news, the big game that turns you into Ahab.

The Moby Dick Project*

I am trying to create a dialog to raise awareness to solve this problem. This project’s goal is to create discussions around how and what we can do to solve the problems we face with news presentation today. I’m no more qualified to lead this discussion than an average news junkie. It’s been too long since journalism school and I don’t work in the news, but I would like to bring together great minds and passionate people around this problem.

Unsure But Curious?

I can’t fully explain the solution in this brief post — and I don’t have all the answers. But I hope that I have outlined the serious problems that are currently being ignored by the news sites of today.

If you’re curious to see how you can play a part in solving this problem, I can be reached at benhuh+mobydick@gmail.com.


P.S.: A reporter asked a Cheezburger employee if I was leaving the company to work on this project. The answer is a clear, resounding “No.” I love my Cheezburger and we’re just getting started. Journalism is a personal passion of mine and I would love to see others spread the message of this problem.

* Project Moby Dick was originally a US program designed to gather news and intelligence on the Soviet Union using high-altitude photography. I think it’s pretty fitting.

Hello, I'm an iPod Nano Wristwatch. (Review)

iPod Nano, the watch

8GB Silver iPod Nano, clipped to a replacement watch strap.

After struggling to find a watch that was inexpensive and interesting, I asked the Twitterverse for suggestions. One idea jumped out: wear the new multi-touch iPod nano as a watch.

Doing a little search reveals that this idea isn’t exactly original, but since I have never met anyone else wearing an Apple watch, it met the interesting part of my criteria. And at $149, it would be cheaper than many watches. So I picked up a silver 8gb model, paired it with a $10 watch replacement strap and voilà! I now wear the painfully geekiest watch of all time.

I have now worn the watch for about a week, and here are my observations from experience.

THE GOOD:
- It actually looks pretty good. Several strangers commented that my watch was beautiful, without even realizing that It was a nano. It’s about the size of an oversized men’s watch, so it does look awkward on women’s wrists.
- No need to plug your headphone into the iPhone in your pocket. Having the iPod attached to the wrist, where it is far more accessible makes using the iPod features that much easier. Also, I’ve broken at least one iPhone headphone jack by sitting awkwardly on the phone.
- I was afraid that the nano would not hold securely enough to the wrist strap. But so far, no problems.
- The nano contains a pedometer, a stopwatch, photo album, and a radio (with time-shifting functionality). Pretty cool for a watch. 
- The multi-touch navigation is very intuitive and makes one-handed use efficient. If you are a lefty, wearing it on the right wrist will help.
- There are two choices of watch faces: the white dial and the black dial.

THE BAD:
- Its not waterproof, or scratch resistant. In fact, we probably take the waterproofedness of our watches for granted when we wash our hands or walk in the rain. I don’t know how much moisture or splashing the nano can take. I’m not in a hurry to find out. 
- Since it’s clipped on, the nano sticks out about 1/2 an inch above the wrist. Which makes it highly prone to scraping against something. It also gets snagged often when I’m trying to put on a jacket or a shirt.
- In order to see the time, you have to press a button to wake the display. It’s a necessary throwback to old school digital watches, circa 1960s. But when the display is off, the all-black face does look nice.
- While the battery life has been exceptional, it’s not going to last 2 years without a recharge. I now have yet another device I have to plug in at night. If I don’t use the iPod features, the nano will last 3 to 5 days without a charge. I have yet to need to recharge in less than 24 hours despite all the demos I have given.
- A wire that runs from your wrist to your ears feels quite strange. Give it enough slack or you could yank the earphones out while making some hand gestures. 
- While the nano is using the iPod features, the nano will automatically show you the iPod screen when awaken (even when the iPod is paused). It takes at least two swipes to see the time on the home screen. It’s not intuitive to know how to make the nano display the clock app on wake. PRO-TIP: To “close” the iPod app, the playlist must end. In other words, pick a single song to play and skip to the end.

WISHLIST 
- I’d love to be able to buy apps made for the nano. Digital watch face? Voice recorder? Tamagochi?
- Bluetooth. Less wires sticking out of my wrist, the better. I am not Spiderman. Also, how about an app that allows me to see who is calling on my iPhone on my nano watch? Bluetooth would be a requirement for that.
- Search by gesture. Instead of scrolling through hugh lists of song names, I’d like to be able to write the letter on the surface to input words into a search field.  
- I’d gladly pay for a wristwatch case for the nano that would remove the clip and make it a little less likely to scratch.

BOTTOM LINE:
I may still be more interested in the nano watch’s novelty than it’s practicality, but I would absolutely recommend this idea. And I’ll be counting the minutes until Apple adds nano apps to the app store.   

From an iPad (Sry 4 teh typoz)

Ben Huh
CEO & Founder
Cheezburger Network

http://cheezburger.com/sites

Italy, the Ostrich Republic

Italy’s courts convicted 3 Google execs in absentia for a video posted by a user using their service showing bullies beating up an autistic boy. Thanks to the video, the bullies were caught and justice was served. However, Italy’s criminal justice system also prosecuted Google who hosted the video until the investigators asked them to take it down.

The term Banana Republic is a pejorative term originally used to refer to a country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt clique. (via Wikipedia)

I’d like to introduce the term Ostrich Republic to describe countries like Italy who bury their heads in the sand* when faced with freedom of information. The more we restrict access to information, the more we are likely to stay ignorant.

The prosecution of an Internet host for posting evidence of a crime has a deep chilling effect on the people of Italy. Some have argued that Google should monitor all content posted to its sites and make sure that material like this doesn’t get posted and that it’s just a matter of money that Google doesn’t’ want to spend.

Well, they’re absolutely right. Google could spend lots of money and screen all content that comes in, but freedom of expression should not only be available for those with the funds. This ruling affects everyone, including individual bloggers, universities, non-profits. Will they have the resources to screen every user comment? Or will this ruling just shut down public discourse on Italian websites for the fear of possible liability?

Unfortunately, Italy is not the only Ostrich Republic to apply the laws of the last century to a new world. The fundamental belief in the freedom of expression on the Internet assumes that the user, and therefore society, is made better by it and that we do not need to be protected from information.

(* I know that that’s a myth about ostriches. But work with me here.)

The Zappos Tour and Us

Ben Huh at the Zappos Tour

One of the fundamental changes that technology brings us is a change in the way we do business. One of the least-understood impact of such change is a change in culture.

When I went down to Las Vegas for CES, I was invited on a tour of Zappos by two Vegas social media starlets Bill Cody and Chris Rauschnot. I started the Zappos tour with a healthy dose of skepticism: “they can’t really love working there that much, could they?”

I’ll cut to the chase: I walked out a believer with a handful of business books from their free library and an appreciation for the blank slate technology has given entrepreneurs like us.

The most important thing I learned is that Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, had an opportunity to reinvent the way shoes are sold as a result of the Internet revolution. But rather than using technology to define the business, he used the technology to enable a new culture in customer service — by re-examining every little detail. (If you want to read more about the Zappos culture, I would recommend that you Google it. There’s been enough written about it to fill several books. Then go take a tour and see for yourself.)

The most direct reaction from my revelations at Zappos would have been to run to the airport, draft a long email on the flight and implement the practice by edict. Wouldn’t that have been easy and effective? But most importantly, it would have been a waste of time. Cultural changes don’t work that way.

Coincidentally, for weeks before visiting Zappos, I have been obsessed with finding The Cheezburger Way to do recruiting and hiring. It’s been priority #1 for me for weeks.

So, on the way home from Vegas, I took a deep breath and decided that culture was best built by the people who work here — so I started asking our team questions about what kind of a company we wanted Cheezburger to be and we started experimenting on our recruiting process, because that’s where it all starts.

It may be subtle and hard to notice, but this job listing for a “Supercharger” is the result of 6 weeks of interviews, research and soul-searching. Can you spot the difference?

My Last Upgrade

I upgraded this blog from WordPress v. old.old to the latest version (which means I no longer need to do manual upgrades in the future). Every time I interact with Automattic’s products I am very impressed by their ability to translate technical prowess into effectiveness. It’s something that we try to emulate at Cheezburger.

Kudos, Automattic.

The Glamor of Trans-National TV Interviews

I appeared as a guest on The Morning Show for Australia’s Seven network.

What looks like this on TV:

I'm a talking head!

Actually looks like this from the point of view of the talking heads:

It’s amazing what you can do on TV. Also, Aussies are just so adorable!

Is this crowdsourcing?

Rob Walker, the guy behind Murketing, asks the question if the Sour video (after the jump) qualified as crowdsourced:

If the crowd’s job is basically to follow orders from well-funded visionary authorities… and kinda look all crowdy-like while doing so — then what, exactly, does crowdsourcing mean?

I love Rob’s question. I think most other people miss the big underlying reason why the video was so amazing and enjoyable to watch. There’s been a trend and pattern among viral videos that leverages “Obsessive Houdinism”. (I’m going to call it that.) “Obsessive Houdinism” is the theory that by using technology and a big helping of obsessive coordination, we can transform what appears to be an impossible feat into an entertaining event.

The Sour music video almost maximizes this theory by using amateurs and hence people’s awe of “amateur aesthetic”. I say almost because if the video had been performed by the users’ puppies and kittens, the Houdini act would have been more impressive.

That video is not crowdsourced. Just massively awesome.

Turning the question upside down also raises an interesting question. Consider Hollywood, where millions of struggling amateur writers are creating new shows and some get made, is that crowdsourcing? If not, what about American Idol?

Read the rest of this entry

I'll be in LA. Let's do launch.

I’m on my way to LA to be the first guest on my friend Christian Lander’s show PC Hookup. Check it out live on Wednesday at 9:30 pacific at justin.tv/pchookup

Watch the promo video where Christian dresses up for the first time in his life:
Watch live video from PC Hookup on Justin.tv

And next Tuesday at noon eastern, I’ll be on MTV’s It’s On with Alexis Chung.

If you don't believe me now, you will after this.

We’re living in a time of profound change and upheaval. What we build and spread here and now will impact the world for generations to come.

<goosebumps>

</goosebumps>

Via Dweebist.

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