Microsoft Popfly – and some humour..

So, Microsoft now has a widget/feed/mashupificator. Interesting.

I like the picture of the ducks.

I don’t really understand what it does – seems like hosted “feeds+configurable_widgets”, but then I’m not as yet one of the chosen Alphites on the test 😉

In the FAQs though there’s a neat bit of humour (or “you-more” as our American friends say): when ‘asked’ “Why did you call it Popfly?” the answer was:

Well, left to our own devices we would have called it “Microsoft Visual Mashup Creator Express, May 2007 Community Tech Preview Internet Edition,” but instead we asked some folks for help and they suggested some cool names and we all liked Popfly.

No doubt this is staged, but it raised a smile with me – and smiles plus coloured ducks is as good a start to any new business as I can think of…

The Guilloche artist – Centre Culturel de la Haute Horlogerie

A wonderful short film on the art of guilloche – mechanical engraving. In an age of mass production or computer-controlled manufacture it’s too easy to forget the ‘original’ hand-crafting – it’s too easy to assume that it was ‘just done by a machine’.

Guilloche does something to me and I can meditate upon a fine watch face for hours (yes, I know I need therapy) so it’d lovely to see this passionate film by a suitably brown-overcoated Frenchman, clearly in love with his draft.

Check out Watchismo’s article for links to other videos in this lovely series.

Jonas Moore: comics (oops – graphical novels) for the ipod age

Courtesy of The Unofficial Apple Weblog, we have hailed a ‘reinvention of the graphical novel’. I’m not sure that there’s much reinventing of the GN itself, but we’re certainly seeing some ‘non-video’ applications for those desirable little screens.

The site will explain better than I can the mix of animation, still, game play and community contribution (in story ideas, at least). There’s also a clear sign of the sponsorship opportunities here with the whole exploit being ‘brought to us’ in conjunction with Triumph (the manly motorbikes, I assume, not the bra company…).

I’ve noticed that with the greater accessibility of video playback devices we’re seeing a return to the slide show. One good example of late are the videos on InStyle magazine (click on videos). These use voice-overs and rostrum camera work (or “set to cheesey” slideshow transitions) to turn a set of ‘behind the scenes’ stills from a fashion shoot into a pretty neat 2-minute “video”.

My favourite recent discovery though – and enough to put a video ipod on to my ‘list of toys’ – are the photo essays by the Magnum photo agency – “Magnum in Motion“. These are just wonderful. Photojournalism at its best: depth, connection with the human condition, intimacy and empathy yet with an objective position. These are beautifully produced and – in the web versions – offer an ‘essay’ (interview, podcast, audio track), image slideshow and rich captioning. I watched Philip Jones Griffiths’ “Point and Shoot” piece three times – images, voice then captions. Riveting and moving.

This put me in mind of the glory days of the colour supplement and the recent exhibition at the Guardian Newsroom of Ian Berry’s work, developing the colour supplement as we once knew it. Ian Berry of course is a member of Magnum.

So, from graphic novels to Magmum in Motion, new twists and energy for ‘old’ communication mechanisms. Who’d have thought that those 2″ screens would be facilitating something other than blockbuster movie trailers and episodes of “Lost”…

Amazon.com acquires dpreview.com: Digital Photography Review

So Amazon’s getting ahead of the Yahoos and Googles in acquiring content-community sites…

We’re proud and excited to announce that Dpreview has been acquired by the worlds leading online retailer, Amazon.com. Started as hobby site in 1998, dpreview.com has grown to be the number one destination for anyone interested in digital cameras and digital photography. Each month dpreview.com has seven million unique visitors (over 22 million sessions) who read over 120 million pages. “We’ve worked very hard over the last eight years to deliver consistently high quality content to our readers”, founder Phil Askey said. “It will be fantastic to be able to expand and build on that without compromising our quality or independence. With the support and resources of Amazon we can achieve this.”

Phil: Today marks an exciting milestone in the history of dpreview.com, everyone here is very much looking forward to being able to do more with Amazon’s help. We’re aiming to expand our product coverage and deliver new site features for our readers and our daily community.

Interesting. I’m a massive fan of DPReview and find that their combination of news and excellent reviews is persuasive and compelling. I never feed my obsessive compulsion for digital cameras without checking with them and their RSS feed has a prominent and much-visited place in my reader.

From Amazon’s perspective it’s also interesting. Now that they “own” shopping on the web (in some categories, at least 😉 ) and also pioneering on-site recommendations, it’s interesting to see them moving “outside their brand” into an ‘acquisition’ model.

In buying DPReview Amazon is buying the rights to the ‘watering hole’: the place that all animals big and small gather. This will add to Amazon’s rather patchy and price-led digicam credibility, but could also form a model for ‘perimeter expertise’ – niche, expert, deep sites that focus on contents and reviews and lead to a later purchase.

The business model for DPReview (affiliate sales commission on the models they review) will morph easily into the “buy this on Amazon now” approach. There will also likely be room for specialist photography retailers to advertise as now or – goodness! – get a Marketplace@Amazon retailer account, even at Amazon’s high commission rates.

I wish the DPR team all the best and will continue to read with interest for as long as the editorial remains excellent and unbiased. We can now start scanning the horizon for other possible targets for Amazon, while adding them to the club of purchasers of niche businesses.

Flickr’s “Camera Finder”

This is a great use of metadata by Flickr. I think I’m hooked.

As you’ll know, virtually every image taken digitally will have an EXIF file attached, giving information to applications on the camera, settings, exposure etc. This data is often seen trivially in applications like iPhoto where you can see date, some exposure information and add to that data with your ratings and tags. Some applications can use the data for colour profiling and copyright management, or (excitingly – if you have a Nokia N95 or GPS-capable SLR) the geographical co-ordinates where the image was taken.

Flickr has made much of this metadata available via its API, but this is a very neat packaging of that data: the images uploaded – by camera model. This links to the aging (but venerable) Nikon D1, but you can find virtually any camera. You can also see an overview by manufacturer too.

This is a great resource when considering a new camera (a persistent state in my case!) as well as new way of exploring image-making. It also shows how to take data and render it as an engaging offering. A lesson to us all.

Scene7: Acquired by Adobe

This is interesting news. Scene7, probably the most developed ‘rich media delivery service’ has been acquired by the hairy old-timer on the imaging block, Adobe.

Unless you’ve used Scene7 it’s difficult to explain, but most of the rich trickery/magic you see on retail sites has their fingerprint on it: detailed image zoom and rotate, colour swatching (where the images changes colour/pattern/material as if by magic) and marking up room-set images so that you see individual products (say chairs, sofa, lamp) from within the scene linked to the individual product page. They also do behind-the-scenes things like image management, optimising, streaming and caching, but it’s the visual magic that catches the eye.

Adobe – who are dominant in on-screen, portable imaging and “layered” images (photoshop etc) – have been very active of late getting into dynamic imaging and web. Their advances with Apollo and Flex and Flash have positioned them well for the Web2.0, rich-interaction web trends.

The addition of Scene7 fills the gap between creating images (Photoshop) and widgets (Flash) and on-site behaviour (Dreamweaver and Flex) with an image management layer for “everything else”.

Scene7 will benefit from the addition scale of Adobe (to support their growth) and hopefully (please, please!) Adobe can wave a magic wand over the S7 backend and admin systems which – when falling from the Ugly Tree – hit every branch on the way down. Hard. 🙂

Adobe has a good record of maintaining the relative independence and creativity of acquired companies (eg Macromedia) and so there’s every hope that the energy that Scene7 have showed of late will continue into the new structure.

As an aside it’s also an interesting time from the business side too. After a disruptive period during which the Big Beasts looked a little off the pace, we’re seeing a resurgent, focused Adobe; Apple combining flair with solid commercials; Microsoft releasing Silverlight (nice Sony-like logo, bits of open source, Python and Ruby allowed…)…. In all, the world’s a more interesting pace and the ‘big guys’ are waking up and getting good better.

Anyway, to return to a semblance of a point, it’ll be interesting to see how S7’s competitors respond and – even more pertinently – how Microsoft and others will respond to a confident S7 linked to a competitor for the crown of King of the Rich Internet.

Rich, of course, being the operative word 😉

PlanHQ – Basecamp meets business planning

This looks interesting. It is a ‘living business plan’ service that helps you create a business plan (nice layout), collaborate with your team (comments, a nifty “confidence monitor” – thank goodness it didn’t use smileys…) and assessment of financial performance against goals. It’s all dressed in that attractive rounded-edges-and-pastel ‘web2.0’ look that Basecamp has ‘made its own’ (as Simon Cowell might say).

The problems with static business plans are clear: no sooner is it printed than it’s out of date; the milestones need to go into one application for tracking; the targets and financial model go elsewhere; further tools are used for discussions and developing strategy… In all, it’s a humongous effort simply to create the document and then link it to everyday business.

This software looks like a good attempt that will work well for small teams or those currently unencumbered with existing systems – provided you’re in the US of course… The system is US-oriented and (of course) there’s no thought of international options. I can’t imagine a UK business denominating their activities in US dollars just because the software looks neat 😉

EVENT: Innovation Forum: Soapboxes in cyberspace: how can the media facilitate debate online?

Innovation Forum: Soapboxes in cyberspace: how can the media facilitate debate online?

I’m pleased to be able to announce the second Innovation Forum event, being organised by Nico Macdonald with some small input from me. Nico and I are collaborating on a Future Media Summit and these events support our research, develop debate and the roster of issues we’ll cover as well as giving us some insights into formats that can work over and above the traditional lots-of-people-in-a-hall-with-powerpoint paradigm (that’s frankly exhausting just to contemplate!).

Nico says:

The recent debate around the call for a Blogger’s Code of Conduct highlighted the growing importance of the online ‘political commons’. Historically the political commons has been shaped by political parties, civic organisations, and news and current affairs media. Increasingly people cleave to the latter for engagement, but its ability to facilitate a political commons — from the BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’ to the Guardian’s Comment is Free — is not yet proven. Is this a challenge of business models or technical constraints? Lack of understanding of users or failure to design the right kind of spaces? Or the product of broader social phenomena we have yet to understand? We are taking the debate offline — and invite you to come and contribute.

The Guardian are kindly hosting the Forum at their newsroom so I’m looking forward to that. There’s a £15 charge to cover wine etc afterwards, but I do have 3 tickets available as freebies for the needy/budget-less: give me a good reason for a freebie by email!

Once we have people registered then we’ll be soliciting questions in advance (Question Time stylee) so that we can ensure that the debate is focused, sharp and covers the role that the media can play in facilitating online debate – rather than having a general ‘jam’ about blogging and UGC (zzzzz).