Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Web 2.0 and Internet Democracy

The Vidfest conference programme took place today. Some of the topics included social media, Web 2.0 and Internet democracy. It was all pretty engaging, but the discussion seemed to dwell on issues of identity and trust. Nothing much on the bigger issues like Net neutrality. In any case, I was most impressed with how the Canadians are moving video and film productions onto the Internet.

Following are video webcasts of the first 5 sessions of the day.

Opening Keynote with Ori Brafman
Wisdom of Crowds: Web 2.0 Democracy or Mob Mentality
MyFace, YourSpace: Maximizing Your Online Identity
Baby, You've Been Branded
Find Some Sanctuary

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sci-Fi in Lo-Fi and HD

Tonight I was fortunate to attend a really special screening of two independent Canadian films.

Infest Wisely was produced by science fiction writer Jim Monroe for only $700. It is a low-budget sci-fi constructed in an unusual and engaging multi-director format. There were 7 episodes, each directed by a different person, but with the same cast acting out segments from the same storyline. And what a story, about a nanotech experiment in behaviour modification, a 'performance enhancer' with unknown side-effects, that begins propogating faster than a computer virus. This film is full of futuristic ideas, and you can watch it online.

Next up was Sanctuary, billed as "the first broadcast quality, High Definition dramatic series designed specifically for the internet". Sanctuary was created by Sci-fi writer/producer Damian Kindler (Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis). Financially, Sanctuary is the opposite of Infest Wisely. It was awarded a Guinness World Record for "Highest Budget Television Production Direct to the Web".

At the screening were Kindler, director Martin Wood and actresses Amanda Tapping (who plays Helen Magnus) and Emilie Ullerup (as Helen's daughter Ashley Magnus). This richly illustrated series plays like a graphic novel, and is surely headed to cult classic status. You *must* view an episode of this film, which you can buy and download in high res, or view free episodes online in low resolution (Chinese subtitles are available).

From Cinema to Cellphone

I'm attending Vidfest in Vancouver. This is a digital media festival with a difference: the event combines a conference, HD video screening, games showcase, awards ceremony, career fair and business partnering forum. The focus is convergence, and it attracts a broad range of talented game designers, film & television producers and mobile media companies.

That breadth is rare in my experience. In Singapore for example, these are different folks each with their own vertical events. Vidfest is intentionally blurring the lines and creating lots of opportunities for new media content producers, distributors and network operators, from cinema to cellphone.

I am impressed by the quality of the companies who are attending and participating in Vidfest. The PopVox awards held last night attracted lots of entries, most of international standard, and over 500 guests. The winner of the Video Game Competition - MindHabits Trainer - received a (huge) check for $500,000 paid by sponsor Telefilm.

There was a special category for British Columbia entries, won by MaidMarion's project Sherwood Dungeon (a MMORPG).

After the awards, I attended a gala cocktail and dinner and ran into old friend Warren Franklin, formerly from Lucasfilm and Collosal Films, but now CEO of Vancouver animation specialist RainMaker. I also ran into Jeremiah Owyang, formerly from Podtech.net, who's here to speak on social media.

More later... going to see some video FX films tonight.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

TechCrunch Day 2

Attending the second day of TechCrunch. Looking forward to the Google product launch. It's a full house again today, with many luminaries present, including Esther Dyson. Met Heather Harde, CEO of TechCrunch, in the lobby. She's very nice and seems in charge of all the company and personal networking.

- First presentation in the Productivity and Web Apps session is Xobni (inbox spelled backwards).
- Next is Orgoo, an email collaboration & personal communications cockpit.
- App2You has an authoring tool for quickly creating Web2.0 applications
- Kerpoof has an application and destination site for kids learning, featuring a lovely 3D interface with drag & drop capabilities
- Google's big announcement is the launch of Presentations (a PowerPoint competitor) for Google Docs, that supports collaboration. It's based on technology from the Google acquisition of Tonic Systems
- First presentation in Revenue Model session is Spottt, a free advertising business something like Link Exchange (circa 1998)
- Clickable is a advertising revenue model business based in NYC that helps answer the question, "how are my ads doing?". Much better interface than Google Adwords.
- GotStatus is presenting an application they describe as 'Google Analytics for server backend', solving an important problem for sys admins
- ZocDoc helps you find a doctor nearby, and integrates scheduling and appointments
- The panel on getting funded was very interesting, with luminaries Jay Adelson (Digg), David Sacks (Geni), Roelof Botha (Sequoia), Sumant Mandel (Clearstone), George Zachery (CRV), Hank Barry (Howard Rice), and Jeff Clavier (SoftTechVC). They spoke about how important it is to be located close to Silicon Valley, but also that it's more important to be able to get great engineers (which is difficult in the valley).
- The first presentation from the Rich Media and Mashups session is very impressive. Xtreme Reality presented their 'Wii without a handset' software interface for computers
- BroadClip shows MediaCatcher a Facebook application that searches for and aggregates MP3 files to iTunes
- Two lovely ladies presented mEgo, an application that allows you to create your own avatar, and then use it to post your personal profile in an animated way on any social networking site. It was a very lively presentation, obviously a hit with the judges.
- Wixi users share audio and video. It is designed with a very rich interface. Leave it to the French!
- BeFunky is a company which cartoonizes stills, and animates videos. You can make 'youatars' or personal avatars. Impressive.
- The panel on Rich Media and Mashups (with musician MC Hammer) offered an interesting discussion of the IP issues (and shot down some of the business models). Definitely more edgy than some of the earlier panel discussions.
- The session on Entertainment included Flowplay, MetaPlace, WooMe, Zivity, and an unnamed wildcard company from the demo pit (a competition among companies that didn't get to present)
- Kaltura is the lucky company that won the demo pit competition (voted by the TechCrunch attendees). It's an Israeli company which provides collaborative creation (eg- editing and mashups) of rich media. There are very good community sharing features, that allow building Kaltura media into other sites.
- The overall winner of the TechCrunch 40 competition was Mint, a personal financial application. The winner receives $50,000.

Check out video of the Rich Media & Mashups Session or the Panel on Getting Funded. Both were excellent!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

TechCrunch Day 1

Attending TechCrunch in San Francisco. Arrived a bit late (lunchtime) from Singapore, but caught the tail end of an interesting keynote session with David Filo (co-founder Yahoo!), Chad Hurley (co-founder YouTube) and Marc Andressen (founder Netscape and Opsware, co-founder Ning). I am shooting video which I will upload and share at some point.

Met Marissa Mayer (apparently Google is going to present a new product here) and thanked her for her support of iX Conference in Singapore. She had recommended Douglas Merrill as a keynote for iX, and he did a fantastic job.

- Mike Arrington mentioned that Yahoo bought Zimbra today for US$ 350m
- Storyblender and MusicShake are most popular from Session 3, copyright seems to be a big concern for the VCs, there's a lot of interest in video media, some comments about the viability of Flock (in competition with Firefox)
- AOL launches Bluestring, a new site that allows you to "pull in all your image, video, and audio content from across the web and mix them together into a slide show" presentation
- Cake Financial presents a way to share investment information with your community (or benefit from what the people like you are investing in), without disclosing dollars or private financial information
- DocStoc has given a good presentation on their applications that helps users share professional documents, followed by Teach the People, doing the same thing with educational videos that you share with your community (they call it eBay for learning) - get the idea - it's all business ideas targeted at community building online
- during the panel discusion, Yossi Vardi mentioned Teddy Rosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech at Sorbonne, a sort of ode to the entrepreneur (read the highlighted bit or search for 'arena')
- Mike Arrington interviews Mark Zuckerberg, young CEO of Facebook - which is *THE HOT* community site (70m monthly users, 40m active users, 4x growth in the last year, 50% international)
- there are real 'platform' issues about applications (about 4k apps so far, 80k registered developers), who owns them, whether Facebook will buy them, exploitative hacks, etc
- Mark Zuckerberg announces a US$ 10m fund called FB Fund (backed by Excel and Founders Fund) - they will grant (not invest) 25-250k in companies that are creating applications for the Facebook platform (send email to 'platform@facebook.com'), wow!

Here's a video recording of Mike Arrington's chat with Mark Zuckerberg. It's in Windows Media, and lasts 40 minutes. The audio quality is a bit poor (no audio feed, just the camera mic).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tsunami Alert

Reuters, Channel News Asia and others are reporting a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in Sumatra. BBC has a full writeup. CNA says it is a double quake, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has issued a tsunami alert throughout the Indian Ocean. I felt it in Singapore. Get more on National Geographic Survey website.

Update 12 hours later: Only a minor tsunami. Magnitude revised to 8.4 on Richter Scale, followed by a 7.8 quake a bit further north. It may take days to quantify the damage and loss of life.

The Medium is the Message

Well, we got through September 11th without incident, didn't we? Gotta admit that Al-Qaeda has a good communications department. Slick videos, and they never miss a deadline. Asia Times has a must read (humorous if it wasn't so scary) op-ed piece on the face off between Osama and General Petreaus titled: Sheikh Osama and the iPod General.

For the geeks, there's an absolutely marvelous post on Best Article Every Day about 10 Future Web Trends to watch for. Thanks to Ming Yeow for sharing it with me - it's brief and not too techy. The description of each trend contains well-written insights, but I especially like the one about Online Video & Internet TV. You can be sure that Osama is thinking about how to exploit this particular trend.

Oh yeah, the list of Future Web Trends neglected to include Cyberwar. Cyberwar is in the news a lot lately, with USA, England, France, Germany, and New Zealand all pointing fingers at China for hacking their defence IT systems.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Gone to Melbourne

My dear friend Marc Baptista has moved to Melbourne. It was a big move for Marc and his family, who'd lived in Singapore since around 1991.

Marc is an excellent film maker, videographer, and animator. I will miss him very much but hope to see him in Melbourne one day. If you need someone with his skills for a production in Australia, I highly recommend him!

Internet to be Overwhelmed by Video

USC Professor Paul McCloskey predicts in an article in Campus Technology that the Internet will soon be overwhelmed by video, and calls for quality of service changes. QOS is designed to guarantee delivery of time-based media such as video programmes, delaying less time-critical information like emails.

Apparently, the source of this concern is a white paper by ABI Research. The primary issue raised in the study is the bandwidth consumed by uploading of videos to Youtube and similar hosting providers. Some of these concerns and the role of new IPTV services in driving usage is discussed in another article titled "Web TV sparks bandwidth crisis fears". That article mentions the BBC's iPlayer, an IPTV service only available in the UK due to licensing restrictions.