Sunday, May 30, 2010

How to Geotag Your Digital Photos for Flickr, Google Earth, etc...

On a recent overseas voyage, I was struck by a new technology that has apparently become commonplace... integrated GPS devices on digital cameras.

The idea is simple. New medium- and high- end digital cameras allow you to add-on a small GPS attachment that locks directly onto the camera itself. Its purpose is to tag all of your photos with the exact location in which they were taken, and that data can then be played around with on a myriad of websites and through programmable APIs.

It's a fabulous innovation for digital photography geeks. And there's still more. You don't even necessarily have to buy a GPS device for your camera. While that's still the most convenient way to "geotag" your photos, you can also use some online tools to do it for you after the fact.

For instance, take a look at this map of geotagged photos - created just for the purposes of demonstration, and in under 10 minutes. You can click on a location and see the pictures from that particular place.

How can you do this? The easiest way is to actually buy the GPS attachment. Check out this product list of reviews. Most cost between $75 - $125.

The other (and free) method of geotagging is to upload your photos to Flickr. I recommend this terrific step-by-step tutorial by MAKE magazine, which is a little outdated but still very helpful for newbies. It also explains how you can integrate your geotagged photos with Google Earth.

Once you're pictures have been uploaded, Flickr makes the rest super-easy by including a link for each photo labeled, "Add to My Map". Just click it, find your location, and you're done. For Google Earth, there is the additional step of having to include tags for latitude and longitude coordinates.

Geotagging might become additionally valuable looking forward as developers can engineer even more useful apps by programming with the relatively open APIs of Flickr, Google, and other websites. If you're a big photography buff, you probably stopped reading this post after the first paragraph because it's such "old news". But some of us - myself included - hadn't yet been clued in.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Does MG Siegler Write About Anything Except the iPhone?

The following article was written by an anonymous contributor and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Nerfherder.

Does TechCrunch's MG Siegler Write About Anything Except the iPhone? The answer is yes - he also writes about Google, Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. But not a ton else. As of yesterday, May 24, MG Siegler had written just over 500 articles in 2010 for TechCrunch. Of that bunch, approximately 65% of his articles had some mention of Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook and/or Foursquare (or some derivative of these companies) in the title. Here's the breakdown:

Surprisingly, at least to me, Google edges out Apple (iPhone, iPad, etc.). I could have sworn the dude wrote more about the iPhone than anything else, so it turns out this investigation was not all done in vain - I learned something new.

Probably the second stand-out point is the disproportionate attention paid to Foursquare, a startup who is building a mobile location-based social network. Sure Foursquare only occupies 7% of MG's mind share, but the company is only one-year old. Its significance in the tech world pales in comparison to the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook and even Twitter. In his own words, MG Siegler is giving Foursquare a "big, wet kiss".

Numbers aside, here are some of my personal favorites served up by MG in 2010. He has a special knack unlike any other for smashing buzz terms into a title for the purposes of link-baiting:
In fact today's article entitled To Top Off A Busy Day, Yahoo Acquires Foursquare — Well, The Asian Foursquare makes me chuckle. The article is about Yahoo's acquisition of Koprol, not Foursquare. But who cares? It's all about linkage.

I'll close out on one other favorite where MG wrote about Bloom Energy the day after a piece ran on CBS' 60 Minutes. The article garnered nearly 150 comments (and counting). Is MG an expert on green technology? Of course not, but his timing was impeccable. Web surfers were eager to read more about Bloom Energy on Monday morning, slamming the search engines for content only to end up at TechCrunch - the site with the latest and greatest article with information pertaining to Bloom. And MG made sure to mention "Google" in the article's title. Well done sir!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

MakerBot Homebrew 3D Printer Products

About a year ago I had the pleasure of turning on the head Nerfherder on to the insanely cool world of 3D printers.

3D printers are one of the big "signs of the future" and they have the potential to completely alter the traditional production process for hard goods of all shapes and sizes.

One of the cooler 3D printer options available for home-use is the MakerBot, a DIY 3D printer that can get you in the game for around $1000.

A recent contest held by Make: Online resulted in some sweet designs, like these stereoscopic viewers:

(this is a guest post from David Title)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mass Appeal vs. Cult Appeal :: Jay Leno vs. Team CoCo

Internet analysts and Web entrepreneurs have been arguing over this for quite some time. Is it better to have huge amounts of traffic or a significantly smaller, but more loyal, number of followers? Or, to put it another way, when it comes to your audience, is it better to have quantity or quality?

A lot of my readers, immersed in online social-networks and contributing to websites based on user-generated content, might assume that quality is the answer. The digerati wisdom suggests that 50 very loyal followers are more valuable than 5000 daily random page hits. But actual website owners and blog authors who obsess over their analytics each night and rely on Google Ads to make their money might sometimes disagree.

The late-night TV wars bear these arguments out as well. James Poniewozik writes in Time Magazine this week that Jay Leno represents "the last of the big-tent comics, dedicated to the principle of something for everybody". Meanwhile, like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Conan O'Brien and his "Team CoCo" have now come to embody the niche-media model, where success is measured by the intensity level of your followers, not the absolute number of them.

Conan and TBS are betting it is better to have a smaller group of fans who care intensely about what you do than a bigger number who care just enough to not change the channel. It doesn't apply only to comedians. More people watch Brian Williams every night than Glenn Beck; that doesn't make Williams more influential.

Indeed, it is certainly possible that the right cult audience can generate an outsize influence. But in the debate over mass appeal vs. cult appeal, let us remember that while the loyal cult audience is a highly romanticized notion, it rarely translates into greater monetization. We'd all rather celebrate the local microbrewery that doesn't water down its taste to the lowest common denominator, but nevertheless it's still Budweiser that rakes in the big bucks.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ham Radio Versus ChatRoulette

There has been an endless stream of commentary about the explosion of popularity for ChatRoulette - a service which allows you to make brief, random connections with strangers all over the world. At first, it seemed likesomething wholly unique to this age of the internet but then I had a flash of recognition - ChatRoulette is really just a modern-day equivalent to amateur, or "ham" radio.

In the dark days before the internet shined its bright light into all of our lives, my cousin was an avid ham radio user.

Here is how Wikipedia describes "ham radio" -

Amateur radio, often called ham radio, is both a hobby and a service in which participants, called "hams," use various types of radio communications equipment to communicate with other radio amateurs for public services, recreation and self-training

In the early-1980's, when my cousin was in his teens I would watch in awe as he would send and receive morse code with people around the world. He had just passed his big license test - yes, you had to be licensed and prove your morse code ability - and had made up his own postcards which he would trade with other hams. Before long he had advanced to the level of actual voice communications and to this day I remember the call-sign since he would broadcast it in that special phonetic code - "Kilowatt Alpha Two Indigo Tango Sierra" or KA2-ITS.

All night he would sit at his massive rig and try to reach further and further around the globe, tweaking the dial to cut through the white noise and sonic glitches. Sometimes, if the sun-spots were just right he could reach all the was to Australia and beyond. Strange voices would crackle out of a tiny speaker (or over headphones if it was late) and call-signs would be exchanged. These conversations rarely lasted longer than a couple of minutes - it was all about making new contacts, seeing how far you could reach.

Sure, ChatRoulette has upped the ante with images (and appearance of male genitalia) but in many ways, the impulses driving users are not so different from what drove my cousin and his fellow hams.

The biggest difference, in fact, was that the bar for entry was much higher for hams - you needed special, often expensive, equipment and you needed to be fluent in morse code. This kept out the casual user and made for a more intense sense of community.

Ham radio persists even today and while ChatRoulette can offer you a 1-in-a-1,000,000 chance to see a topless girl, nothing can beat the mystical enchantment of a strange voice reaching out over the radio waves.

(this is a guest post from David Title)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Political Habits of Blog Readers...

With the ascendency of cable news and the internet as political forums over the past 15 years, the buzz-phrase, "echo chamber", has become a familiar description of how people gravitate towards TV shows and websites that accord with their existing political beliefs. The thinking has been that liberals frequent liberal media outlets, and conservatives follow those that are conservative, as a means of reinforcing their positions, ultimately leading to people becoming more firmly entrenched in their views, and also, consequently, more polarized.

But is this characterization of political echo chambers accurate?

There is plenty of research in support of it. Most recently, in an article by Eric Lawrence, John Sides, and Henry Farrell titled, "Self-Segregation or Deliberation? Blog Readership, Participation, and Polarization in American Politics", in the Perspectives on Politics academic journal, new data is presented that demonstrates the following...

  1. Blog readers do, indeed, gravitate towards blogs that accord with their own political beliefs.

  2. Few read blogs on both the left and right of the ideological spectrum.

  3. Those who read left-wing blogs and those who read right-wing blogs are ideologically far apart.

  4. Blog readers are more polarized than either non-blog-readers or consumers of various television news programs, and roughly as polarized as U.S. senators.

  5. Blog readers also participate more in politics than non-blog-readers.

  6. Readers of both left- and right-wing blogs and readers of exclusively left-wing blogs participate at similar levels, and both participate more than readers of exclusively right-wing blogs.

It's this type of data that has led pundits like David Brooks of the New York Times to wonder if, instead of a public square, we could end up with a collection of information cocoons, and others like Cass Sunstein to question whether the internet is really a blessing for democracy at all.

However, another recent study contradicts those findings, and with it, the conventional wisdom. Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, both of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, published a recent study on ideological segregation and found that, yes, a person who visited only Fox News would have more overlap with conservatives than 99 percent of internet news users, and a person who only went to The New York Times’s site would have more liberal overlap than 95 percent of users. But the core finding is that most internet users do not stay within their communities. Most people spend a lot of time on a few giant sites with politically integrated audiences, like Yahoo News.

Even when they leave these integrated sites, they often go into areas where most visitors are not like themselves. People who spend a lot of time on Glenn Beck’s Web site are more likely to visit The New York Times’s Web site than average Internet users. People who spend time on the most liberal sites are more likely to go to than average Internet users. Even white supremacists and neo-Nazis travel far and wide across the Web.

It is so easy to click over to another site that people travel widely. And they’re not even following links most of the time; they have their own traveling patterns.

Gentzkow and Shapiro found that the Internet is actually more ideologically integrated than old-fashioned forms of face-to-face association — like meeting people at work, at church or through community groups. You’re more likely to overlap with political opponents online than in your own neighborhood.

This study suggests that Internet users are a bunch of ideological Jack Kerouacs. They’re not burrowing down into comforting nests. They’re cruising far and wide looking for adventure, information, combat and arousal. This does not mean they are not polarized. Looking at a site says nothing about how you process it or the character of attention you bring to it. It could be people spend a lot of time at their home sites and then go off on forays looking for things to hate. But it probably does mean they are not insecure and they are not sheltered...

If there is increased polarization (and there is), it’s probably not the Internet that’s causing it.

Blog readers as "ideological Jack Kerouacs"?! That fabulous line is nothing short of a complete re-characterization of this entire political dynamic.

I suppose the thing to take away from all of this, besides just a few interesting talking points for cocktail parties, is that the jury is still out. The truth is that there is indeed a "paucity" of research on political blogs, and a primary task for academics will be to understand the causal impact of reading them. But certainly, we should at least question our basic assumptions on this topic.