Archive for the ‘product reviews’ Category

Well, I got a comment on my last RIA post and saw the news on techcrunch that the RIA platform space just got a little more crowdedAppcelerator Titanium is an open source platform for building rich desktop applications using web technologies like HTML, CSS, Javascript as well as Flash and Silverlight.

Cool RIA engine

Titanium apps can be built using the Appcelerator SDK – our open web platform, or you can use any third-party Ajax library or framework. We want to make sure you are able to realize the benefits of Titanium without being locked into a particular web framework.

I’ve been toying with it for a little bit today.  Pretty easy SDK and very slick default app to show you around.


  • Works on Windows and Mac, both dev tools and deployment
  • No special IDE or language requirements
  • Slick integration with OS
  • No downloads other than the final application for users
  • Good documentation


  • It’s not going to provide you an easier way of doing really integrated desktop apps
  • No 3d libraries or capabilities (though you can extend the platform yourself)
  • The name is pretty bland and doesn’t really provide much insight into what it is
  • Confusing (to me) on whether I should use Titanium or their other product Appcelerator

And continuing my earlier argument, I just don’t know yet whether these RIA platforms are worth farting around in too much for bigger development projects.  If you’ve got a real app to build, you’re going to need to use Objective C, Java, .NET or C/C++ and the harder core IDEs like XCode, VisualStudio, Eclipse.

The more I toy with this stuff the more I think it’s going to be stuck in widget making land, simple games, and website extensions.

Then again, who knows where it all goes…

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Last time I wrote a huge, esoteric post on why traditional media is in for a rough time. Perhaps you read it, perhaps it was too old school or boring or long.

I can show you better than tell you.

Here is the culprit of the trouble in old media:

see more crazy cat pics

Why is this cat to blame?

That’s right icanhascheezburger.com, a collection of LOLCAT (funny cat pictures), has over 2,500,000 unique users each month and over 10,000,000 visits generating 40,000,000 pageviews. And it’s a blog. Yup, built right on a blog service, WordPress.com.

[Note: 12/15/2008 – look how this sucker continues to grow.  and look at how big brands have flailed recently.  the cat is out of the bag.]

That’s a top 1000 site. That’s right out of the millions of sites, brands, products on the internet… funny pictures of cats beats 99.9% of them.

Is there money in that? Yup. Real money.

They probably get at least a $1 effective CPM on all the banners, text links and backfill. That’s at least $39,000/mnth in backfill.

“Right, Russ, but real brands would never advertise there!”

Oh, right, IAMs, Budget Rent-a-Car, and Showtime (just what’s showing today and is TARGETED)… those aren’t brands.

Also, how big is the pet industry? $10+ billion. Think there are any CAT OWNERS AND LOVERS ON THIS SITE? How about other demos? http://www.quantcast.com/icanhascheezburger.com/demographics

skews RICH and EDUCATED and YOUNG = a marketers dream. Yet, the advertisers and media buyers go to places like PEOPLE.COM which has a much smaller visit amount and an Older, less educated audience.

Ok, let’s not look just at the ad revenue side. let’s look at the COST of this.

The average LOLCAT is 35KB. Storage amount each month

35 kilobytes * 39 000 000 = 1.27125531 terabytes

The size of the page itself is about 200-350KB with all the scripts and what not so you are looking at almost 13000 GBs transfered per month

Using amazon s3 pricing as a basis you get to around 3000/mnth to host this site.

There’s probably 1 or 2 FTEs running it at about $7-10K per month

Net Profit: $10-20K per month.

Other interesting costs to think about:

  • Cost of bandwidth and storage at corporations where the pictures are cut and pasted and emailed 100s of times a day
  • Loss in productivity from people creating and trading these

Now, consider that iCanHasCheezBurger contributes 5% to WordPress.com Unique user traffic, slightly more of its visitor pie. WordPress raised nearly $30,000,000 in financing, so we can losely say LOLCATs are worth 5% of that, or $1,500,000.Real money. Real value. Undervalued really when you think about the marketing opportunity and the fact that you can consider over 50% of the audience on the site as “addicts” – very aggressive consumption.

What’s so hard for old media to grasp is how this can happen. You can’t budget it, you can’t model it, you can’t plan for it. 30 years of building brands can’t compete with it.

Contemplate that for awhile as you wonder how to make money on the internet.

see more crazy cat pics

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The Amazon Kindle inspired great anticipation in me.  It almost boiled over when I didn’t get one until late January 2008.

Unfortunately, the anticipation didn’t match the reality.  The Kindle isn’t bad.  In fact, it’s really awesome. Really awesome.

What I didn’t expect is how not ready I am to move from books to ebooks.  My experience with books is so profound it’s going to take awhile for me to move on or add on to my reading behavior via the Kindle.


  • Books don’t break down or need resetting.  It’s not horrible on a Kindle to reset or anything, it’s just you NEVER have to do that with a book.  Try sitting in an airport for 3 hours with no book on hand and your Kindle goes wonky.  Argh!
  • Finding your last place is so easy in a book.  Heck, finding random places in a book is so easy.  On the Kindle you have all sorts of ways to bookmark, store and arrange things but none of them come close to just folding the corner of a page, jotting a side note, leaving the book open
  • Shopping for books is NO FUN and NOT EXCITING AT ALL in the Kindle Store.  For an avid book reader, there’s no greater experience than being among stacks of books – the spines calling out to you, the cover summaries juicing you, the smell intoxicating your mind. 
    • A lot of this is recall from childhood.  And that’s a big factor with Kindle – I have no experiential anchors to it.  Perhaps the next generation, the generation that grows up with a Kindle, will have experiences of the Kindle that will excite them like bookstores do for me now.
    • The electronic store is bore to navigate.  There’s no real discovery process.  It’s so single modal it’s painful.  How can a small print book by a no name author really catch your eye in the kindle store?  there are no color covers, no handwritten reviews from the local bookstore owner,  the preview chapters are not up to you (you can’t just flip to a page and read)
    • Prices, Prices, Prices.  They are just in your face.  Bookstores have prices as the third or fourth piece of data.  Kindle store book pages have 2 or 3 prices on them reminding you that you really don’t want this book as much as you think
  • Ownership – the Kindle experience is very “rental”.  You get no sense of owning the materials.  In fact, if I wanted to bequeth a book to someone or let them borrow it for a day, how can I do that?  Heck, you can barely hand someone the Kindle to say “you have to read this!” and let them take a peak.  They have to know how to use the thing.
  • Page turning as a sign of progress.  I measure my reading progress by page turns.  Kindle has “page buttons” and measures things by “locations”.  It’s not anything like pages and page turning so my sense of progress is way out of whack.
  • Technical books stink on the Kindle.  Images are not good and if you need math or code samples they do not format well on this thing.  Fiction, Paperbacks and essays work well.
  • Note taking is hard.  Typing random thoughts is tedious.  You can’t doodle, circle, cross out, draw arrows or personalize anything in the next.  You can “clip/highlight” and add SMS like notes.  They are search-able, and that’s cool, but i can’t type fast enough to make enough use of them
  • Hand position – i don’t hold a book anything like you need to hold a kindle.  I have tons of nervous habits when i read and holding a Kindle for me is like telling a 2 year old to sit still.  It’s hard to read it for long stretches because of this.
  • Escapism, negative.  Bezos pitched it like it disappeared like a book.  It just doesn’t.  It has a freakin’ keyboard on it.  The page turning is slow/delayed because of the repainting of the eink screen.  It just reminds you that it’s digital and a device.  You can’t just escape into the story because the device is such a new experience and new way of holding this type of information you can’t help but notice everything
  • Worrying about power source and wireless connectivity is weird.  I know, it’s just my own hang up but I am concerned about running of juice.  It’s just like how cell phone conversations are always more terse than land line conversations.  We just know that our phones only last so long so we hurry to say things.  Now I hear to read or only scan.

You see how much behavior, feedback looping and schedules of reinforcement are tied up in my basic experience of reading?  The Kindle is so disruptive to so many of those data points it makes it hard to transition to the Kindle reading experience.  For anyone who knows me, that’s a rarity for me to say about a device.

Again, the Kindle is amazing. 


  • 100,000 books at your digital fingertips
  • Tiny.  This thing weighs nothing and eliminates backbreaking weight from backpacks
  • Search functions – this thing searches over wikipedia, the books on your device and your notes (that’s a killer app in my opinion)
  • No need to connect to computer – well publicized feature lives up to the hype.  I hate syncing my ipod more than anything, which is why i still buy CDs.  the ipod touch now has wifi store access, and I almost never buy from itunes on the desktop anymore.  Kindle has that experience built right in from the beginning
  • Blogs and Newspapers aggregation.  Heck, I used to love newspapers.  Then I hated how they piled up by the trash can so we stopped getting them.  Now I can get them again without the trash!  Again, another killer app for this thing.  Timely, scanning friendly content does well on the Kindle

No doubt this thing is a winner.  It’s not replacing my physical catalogue anytime soon.  Not because it couldn’t. …….. I’m just not ready.

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