Yearly Archives: 2012

iTunes and Podcasts

Apple’s Podcasting Stroke of Genius | Cult of Mac:

The rumor and/or speculation is that Apple will spin podcasts out into a separate app (but keep it in the desktop version of iTunes). This prediction is supported both by funny business in the app, and also inside information from unnamed sources “close to the company.”

The prediction that Podcasts will get their own app sounds reasonable. But the interesting part is: Why?

Why would Apple put music, movies and TV shows all together in one app, but create an entirely separate app for podcasts? Sounds dumb, right?

Actually, if Apple is doing what I think they’re doing, it’s a stroke of genius.

This single change could align Apple’s organization of services on iOS with multiple strategic objectives at once. Here’s what I think Apple intends to accomplish.

Make ‘iPodcasts’ a Brand

Interesting idea, but I think it’s wrong. My guess is the reason for this is a lot simpler.

Back in the day, I had a conversation with one of the people who put podcasts in the iTunes store. At the time, nobody had a clue whether podcasts would be huge or not; it definitely wasn’t about driving revenue — but they knew they could help drive awareness of podcasts this way, and if podcasts did turn into something big, they didn’t want to risk having iTunes aced out of the discussion. 

I think it’s fair to say podcasts have become a moderate success but not a world changer, and that iTunes helped drive their acceptance some, but I wouldn’t give it primary credit. I also think this whole space is still growing into maturity — if you look at what 5×5 and Geek and Sundry and what Adam Savage and the folks on Tested are starting to do, there’s a lot of innovation happening, in part driven by improved inexpensive video tools and in part by the growth of broadband making video more practical. So maybe podcasting has made it to teenaged status; it’s definitely still growing up.

But to be honest, I’d be stunned if Apple chose now to try to brand or trademark this stuff, or try to make this a big deal or a serious promotion. If there was interest in doing that, it would have happened long ago.

I think the real answer is a lot simpler than that: it’s iCloud.

We are continuing to see tighter integration of iCloud and IOS and MacOS. Starting with iTunes Match, Apple began a migration where your content lives there instead of on your hard drive, and I see that continuing and expanding to all kinds of consumable media. 

I think Apple’s ultimate goal is simple: if it lives in iTunes, it lives on iCloud. 

Is Apple going to offer that status to podcasts? My bet is no. And since they won’t, podcasts are exiting iTunes for their own app. That app will store and sync settings to iCloud, but not the actual podcast content. 

Some content — your music, your videos, your eBooks — is going to be hosted by Apple using iCloud, and that content will be managed by iTunes (or whatever replaces it in its next generation). 

Other content — podcasts, for instance — is going to be hosted by others, and apple will reference and coordinate access, but not actually manage its storage directly. As long as podcasts aren’t a licensed content the way music and videos are, I expect podcasts to be treated like this. 

And since Apple doesn’t license the podcasts for redistribution (and I see no reason why they might consider doing that), they won’t host it on iCloud. And if it’s not in iCloud, it won’t be in iTunes.

And that’s why I think you’ll see a Podcast app in IOS 6. It’s a way to make this transition without abandoning podcasts, and also without kicking the existing podcast app developers in the knee too hard. 

Not as much fun to speculate on, but I think it’s a lot more likely, given how Apple thinks about these things…

 

Wilson trades for Stuart’s rights: not surprising but kind of odd

KuklasKorner : Petshark: Talking Stick : Wilson trades for Stuart’s rights: not surprising but kind of odd:

News that Doug Wilson had traded a conditional 7th round pick and talking rights with Andrew Murray for talking rights with Brad Stuart was met with general approval by Sharks tweeters. To me it seemed odd. When I say “odd” I don’t mean wrong or crazy, just less straightforward than it appears to be.

Brad Stuart will be a free agent on July 1, unless he signs a contract with the Sharks before that.  If, as was strongly rumored, Stuart had expressed a specific desire to come back to San Jose, why did Wilson have to trade anything at all to talk to him before July 1?  Why did he have to officially talk to him before then?  Because the market would swallow Stuart up with grand offers? 

This is a good deal for both sides. The Sharks get a couple of weeks to work out a deal with Stuart without time pressures. Stuart gets a chance to figure out if that deal can be made, since he clearly wants to avoid free agency if he can.

The Sharks give up Andrew Murray, an older July-1 free agent depth player that the organization wasn’t going to re-sign anyway, and if they sign Stuart, a 2014 7th round draft pick. That’s a minimal expense for a chance to take this deal off of July 1 and get it squared away ahead of time.

Think about this from the organizational standpoint, and it’ll be obvious why they did it. As of midnight July 1, the Sharks are going to have a number of players they’re contacting, and each of those players will have a number of teams contacting them. It gets really insane really quickly — not difficult to see them trying to coordinate talks with six agent/player combos all at once, and deals with some of those players contingent on what’s going on with other deals (or non-deals) with other players. 

Given that my feeling was that Dean Lombardi in LA was likely to be one of those July 1 bidders, and playing for the Kings isn’t quite as convenient to the family as playing for the Sharks, but it’s still pretty darn convenient (especially if the team gives him permission to visit family on off days and miss some of those practices), a team like the Kings or the Ducks could potentially force the Sharks to pay more for Stuart, or steal him away completely. 

So for minimal cost, Wilson brings Stuart in, gets him signed, or knows he can’t get the deal done, and on July 1, he’s reduced the number of players he’s chasing and simplified the strategy for the team so he can focus on other key needs. In return, Stuart gets what he wants — a return to San Jose — probably at some discount to what he’d get if he offered himself to all bidders, but he can settle in and not worry that something else might pop up and make a return to San Jose impossible. And since he wants to come back to San Jose, he loses nothing by doing this because he’s under no pressure to sign a deal he wouldn’t be willing to sign on July 1. Since he has the option to just go to July 1 and see what happens, Even if the deal doesn’t get made, it’ll set a floor value for him to use July 1, and that’ll help his agent if they need to find another team to work with. 

This deal is not a “hockey deal”, in that it’s not really about trading for talent. it’s about shifting time and risk around they make July 1 a less crazy day for the team management, which means they can (hopefully) focus more on solving other needs that day as well. 

So this deal works in small ways for everybody. We shouldn’t over think it, since it’s really the Sharks trading some mostly-disposable assets to make their life easier on July 1. It just happens Brad Stuart is at the center of that, but this deal isn’t about Brad, it’s about dealing with the business of July 1. 

Why him? Why not me? Are you even in the game?

Street Photography :: Photography Is An Enigma 

Zack Arias brought it up –

Someone recently said of me on a forum something that went along the lines of…

“I don’t know how he (speaking of me) has so many followers. His photography isn’t all that special. There are so many other photographers doing real work out there yet this guy (again, speaking of me) has everyone thinking he’s great.”

That’s not a direct quote but it’s close. To whomever you are… There’s a lot of truth in your sentiment. I agree with you. It’s what continues to push me deeper into photography.

Back around 2006, I decided I wanted to be a professional photographer and set off to become one. I knew (at least I knew this much!) that the first thing I had to be was a good photographer. In the years since, there were two or three times when I thought “I’m there”, times when I now look back with some embarrassment at my naiveté about my own capabilities.

Along the way, “going pro” stopped being a priority. Life is like that some days. There’s an entire month of essays in trying to explain this.

This is a long-way-around explanation to the guy questioning why Arias has a lot of followers, and the other guy doesn’t. One of the things I learned along the way is simple, but I think it’s profound: being a good photographer won’t make you a success, and won’t get you lots of followers. There are millions of really damn good photographers out there looking for jobs and sales and followers. 

Being a good photographer just gets you in the game. If you don’t have that, nothing else matters. That’s the starting point, not the finish line.

The reason Zack has me as a follower and you don’t is simple: Zack talks to me. He opens up a vein and pours it out all over his blog. At some point, I realized if I read one more piece on the rule of thirds or how to use a Grad ND filter that I’d puke. I don’t need to be told how — I’m beyond that. I know how.

I’m not looking for the geeky bits. I got those down. I’m trying to find my voice, sharpen my vision. I can press the shutter, but I’m still learning how to see. And so a year or so ago, the photographers I followed changed radically from photographers that were telling me how to do things to photographers that sat down and talked about what it was like being a photographer. There are very few photographers out there willing to open that vein and be real in public.

Chances are, dude, you’re showing me some really great photos on your blog — that look a lot like the photos on a thousand other blogs. And writing blog articles that are really similar to blog articles found on a hundred other blogs (like my blog; I’ll happily damn myself to my own words here, but at least I’m aware of it).

There’s only one Zack. And Zack doesn’t just point at a Grad ND and tell me how it makes water flows, he talks about what it’s like being Zack, in all its glory and successes and failures and insecurities and flaws. 

And not only is that a major reassurance, to have someone like him express these worries and let me know that I AM NOT THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD that goes through these recurring crises-in-faith, but as he does so, he teaches me about the attitudes and mindset needed to become someone like Zack, someone who’s successful at what he does — sometimes despite himself. 

Just like me, and what I hope to be some day.

that’s why I follow Zack, and owe him many beers if I ever meet him (and David duChemin, and Kirk Tuck, and Chase Jarvis). Because he’s real. Because he’s not afraid to be real. Because after a while, it’s not about how to take photos, it’s about how to be a photographer. and that’s not something you do with screenshots of lightroom or pushing a shutter. It’s something you do by talking about being you — and I know that’s a seriously scary, risking thing to do, because it opens you up to criticism you can’t easily shrug off, because it’s about what you are, not about what you do. 

And I expect the reason Zack has many of his followers is because they’re like me and listen to Zack for similar reasons. At some point, it’s not about the camera, or the workflow, or the process. It’s the voice, it’s the vision, it’s about being a photographer. And that’s what Zack talks about. And that’s why I’m listening and learning. 

Are you this person? I honestly want to encourage you to stop talking about being a photographer for a little while, pick up your damn camera, and go be a photographer for awhile. Find a personal project to work on. Find an organization you can donate your time to and don’t just shoot their fund raising galla. Don’t wimp out and shoot portraits of the executive committee. Do something unique. Do something difficult. Do something really different then what you’ve done before. Prove not only to this industry that you still have your chops but prove it to yourself.

Early this year I made a strategic decision to do things other than shoot — it’s June, and I’ve only picked up the camera and gone shooting nine times so far this year. I knew the start of this year was going to be rough for free time, and I had all this infrastructure stuff that was an albatross around my neck; it mattered to me. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but it did. So I put the camera down and when I had time, went geeking instead of shooting. 

Still, the additions to my collection for the first six months of this year are about 80% of the number of images I added in the same periods in 2011 and 2010 — I’ve shot a lot less, but accomplished a lot more in those shoots. And I’m coming out the back side of this infrastructure work, meaning soon I’ll be able to do more camera and less code.

And the yards will be weeded, and a lot of house projects will be done, and I won’t have to feel guilty about grabbing camera instead of rake; not being a full time photographer makes all of this even more challenging, in that it sometimes has to squeeze in around work and life and family and weeds and all of that.

If there’s a criticism I can make at full-time photographers who push the rest of us forward in our craft, it’s this: I think if you live full-time with a camera it can be hard to understand how tough it can be for those trying to do this while fitting it in around the edges of their lives. It’s tough enough doing this stuff on a daily basis when it’s your profession. now, suck out another 50 hours a week for the non-camera profession and try it. So some of the advice goes sideways and i think it can be damaging to photographers who try to follow it despite it being unrealistic in their situation. It took me a good while to back off and realize that a lot of my frustration was because I was trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip and that I had to make it work in the context of my life and my available time. Once I did that, things got a lot less stressful for me.

A final reason I put down the camera: A year or so ago, I sat myself down to have a long talk with myself. I asked myself the question all photographers shudder at: “how do your pictures differ from those snapshots everyone is taking with their point and shoots?” 

I couldn’t answer it. And answering that question is the core of finding that voice, that vision. Wtihout it, I’m just taking holiday snaps. And that isn’t what I wanted my imagery to be. so while I was struggling to find an answer to that question, I went off and worked on other stuff instead. 

and I must say, fighting out what seems like a simple question was a real bastard, because I had to go down to the core of my motivations and drive, and I didn’t like some of the things I found down there in the sub-basement. 

And now I’m back. And maybe I have the answer. Only time will tell…. and it was worth it.

(I think). 

 

When Open Space Isn’t

When Open Space Isn’t | Venture Chronicles:

These parks were here long before the state government deemed it necessary to deploy park rangers to all corners of the state, and the parks will remain here long after we are gone. Public spaces are just that, public spaces! We do not require services or supervision in order to enjoy them so the argument that parks will close without taxes is itself a red herring… what will happen is that the state will close off public spaces because their full employment is not ensured.

A reasonable compromise for a state with no money would be to remove the padlocks and open public spaces like parks and lock the doors on facilities that require staffing, such as visitor’s centers. If concession services are available then contract with private entities and remove the state from the providing of services to one of managing contact vendors who render a concession fee to support oversight.

So ask yourself, why is it necessary for a park ranger to be at his/her post in order for me to use a park that is by definition owned by the People of California.

  • Because someone needs to maintain the trails so they are safe and usable, and fix them when they get washed out or damaged.
  • Because someone needs to deal with the trash, because the visitors won’t.
  • Because someone needs to clean the toilets, or get the pit toilets drained. 
  • Because when someone gets lost, they expect to be found.
  • Because when someone gets hurt, they expect to be rescued.
  • Because when the large party of loud, drinking teenagers shows up and raises their rabble, the people expecting peace and quiet expect it to be dealt with.
  • Because the idiot who builds a campfire in a risky area and doesn’t watch it needs a babysitter to come by and save him from himself, before he burns the whole place down.
  • Because when someone does do something stupid and start a fire, we demand it get put out,

Before you start thinking rangers are optional in these areas, you ought to sit down with a few and get to know them. 

Some notes on the Phoenix Coyotes situation

Glendale shares details of deal with potential Phoenix Coyotes buyer:

A proposed 20-year agreement with a likely Phoenix Coyotes buyer may cost Glendale more than $45 per resident each year over the life of the deal. The city appears poised to pay a group led by former San Jose Sharks chief executive Greg Jamison nearly $325 million over 20 years to operate and make improvements to the city-owned Jobing.com Arena.

[….]

But such success may not translate into smaller payments for Glendale. A Republic analysis revealed that even if the Coyotes went to the Stanley Cup Finals for the next 20 seasons and the arena booked 30 sold-out concerts each year for the next 20 years, Glendale could still expect to lose about $9 million annually.

Among the many pieces that have been written about the Coyotes, one thing typically missed is that even if the Coyotes leave Glendale for another city, the arena stays, and with the arena, the debt the city took on to build it. That was $180 million of a $220 million price tag (Look at this article for a good overview of the building financing and the assumptions and dreams of the time).

Looking back at the deal through hindsight, it’s clear now that the deal was a combination of bad assumptions and this dogged belief that somehow the deal had to be made. One key assumption that was made (and Glendale and the Coyotes ownership at the team wasn’t alone in this) was that the economy would never stop growing — no air pockets allowed or planned for. Once the economy went into recession and notes’ other businesses faltered as well, all hell broke loose (this is not the first time this has happened in the NHL, either. Peter Pocklington’s ownership of Edmonton ended when his oil businesses faltered, and that was part of his reason he traded Gretzky; the old Atlanta Flames team failed primarily because of the owner’s other businesses faltering as well).

The old Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix with everyone seeing the potential, but they needed a new building. Glendale decided they’d build the building, but the ability for everyone involved to find a deal everyone could live with — this was a difficult set of negotiations before everyone had numbers they could sign a deal one. We realize now that deal was a house of cards; everyone just kept rolling the numbers until they “worked”, but at some point, they moved into “unworkable” territory. The first economic windstorm toppled the whole charade.

In reality, it seems clear now the Glendale building shouldn’t have been built, and the Coyotes, after a stay in Phoenix, should have relocated again. That goes against so many of the built in assumptions of deals like these that it didn’t happen, and now everyone is paying for it, and will continue to. It’s a great case study of how NOT to make these deals happen; at some point, someone needed to pull the plug and say “this can’t work”. but nobody did, not within the City, not within Noyes’ management, not within the league. If there’s a lesson to learn here, it’s that “make a deal at any cost” usually leaves you with a cost you regret.

But knowing that now doesn’t fix the problem. And nothing will. If the city of Glendale decides to cut the Coyotes loose, that doesn’t make the building go away, and doesn’t remove the debt from their obligation. They could, I suppose, default on the bonds, but that creates other massive problems for them that I can’t see a city wanting to face.

So the question in Glendale really isn’t about “do we pay to keep the Coyotes or not?”, it’s “Will we lose less money if the Coyotes stay or if they leave?” — will having an NHL team cost more or save more? Either way, the debt on the building exists and has to be paid, and all the wishing you can upgrade parks won’t make those bonds disappear.

They way an arena makes money is light dates — how many events does it have a year? A decent building might have 150 dates a year, a really busy building over 200, maybe closer to 230. A hockey team fills 40 light dates a year. The big question for Glendale is really whether they’ll net more money with or without the Coyotes. If you replace 40 Coyotes games with 5 monster truck rallies and two weeks of RV flea markets, the answer is going to be a major “no”.

To make money in an arena, it needs to be managed by a team that knows how to fill those light dates, and more importantly, fill them with higher value, higher-grossing events. That doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes understanding the business of booking events, and having the right connections to bring in the right events.

Being here in San Jose, I got to watch Greg Jamison and his team make the San Jose Arena work. Over the years, I ran into Jamison at times and we would talk, and I even interviewed him once (there are some interesting comments in there that give some illumination to how he’ll work to improve things in Glendale if he ends up there).

My belief is that if Greg Jamison thinks he can turn the arena around, they should let him. The core to build that around is a major sports team, so you won’t get someone like Jamison or his management team in there without a sports team. This looks to be a 3-5 year process of adding events, boosting revenue surrounding the team, and stealing higher profile and profit events from the other arena in the city. Oh, sorry. not stealing, convincing them to come to Glendale.

If you don’t have someone like Jamison running the operation, that’s going to be difficult to impossible. If you don’t have the Coyotes, you won’t have someone like Jamison. If you don’t have Jamison, you’ll still have the bills; will you have a team in place that can get the revenues up to pay for them?

That’s the big issue here — not whether the Coyotes stay or go, but that there’s a big wad of financial pain in Glendale, and how can the city put things in place to limit that pain and hopefully over time create enough revenue for those bills to get paid. Decisions made ten and more years ago have come home to roost, and the Coyotes are not the answer no matter what they do; but the Coyotes might be part of an answer that brings in a team that can, over time, figure it out.

And I know from watching Greg Jamison and how he managed the San Jose Arena that if he thinks he can figure out how to fix the Glendale Arena, it’s probably worth a shot to let him try.