Posted tagged ‘Jason Kincaid’

Textecution: No Text For You!

December 23, 2008

Ok, so it was funnier on Seinfeld.

Textecution is a G1 application that will not allow you to send a text message while driving.  The application taps the G1’s GPS, and if your vehicle is traveling at more than 10 miles per hour, it kills text messaging from your mobile.

Very interesting, but will it work? I guess it won’t matter here in California now that texting while driving is illegal as of January 1.

From TechCrunch:

Texting while driving is incredibly dangerous – perhaps moreso than driving under the influence according to some studies – yet it is a widespread habit that is socially acceptable, especially among younger crowds. Some states are finally beginning to outlaw the act, but as with the recent legislation mandating Bluetooth headsets, this will be difficult to enforce.

The solution may wind up coming not from the lawmakers, but from the phones themselves. Technology firm eLYK Innovation has created a $10 application called Textecution for Google’s Android mobile platform that will sit in the background and use the phone’s GPS system to detect whenever the phone is moving faster than 10 MPH, at which time the app will deactivate the phone’s SMS capabilities. Once the phone comes to a standstill (say, at a stop light) the driver will be allowed to text again within a few seconds.

The application has been designed primarily for adults looking to keep their teens (who are apparently most prone to the behavior) in check. When parents install Textecution on their child’s Android phone, they are asked for an ‘admin phone number’, which will be contacted if the child ever needs to temporarily deactivate the app (like if they’re on a train or in the passenger seat). To grant the exception, the parent simply sends an SMS message saying “Allow”.

Unfortunately while Textecution has admirable goals (namely, keeping everyone safer), it has some serious flaws. For one, children can easily remove the application without needing any administrator approval (though the developers are considering implementing tighter restrictions). The exception system is also far from perfect – any teenager who frequently rides trains or as a passenger in a car will be constantly assailing their parents with exception requests and will probably be more likely to simply disable to application than constantly check in for approval.

TechCrunch Hands PR Embargoes a Death Sentence

December 17, 2008

As a PR professional in the Silicon Valley, I found this post on TechCrunch very interesting and the discussion which follows in the comments section is well worth reading.

It seems that Michael Arrington and TechCrunch will no longer be accepting embargoes from PR firms. In this post, Arrington discusses the relationship between the media, bloggers and the PR industry and explains to his readers that PR firms are out of control and he plans to fight the chaos.

I’ve seen this from both sides. I’ve been the PR person pitching the story, but I’ve also been the blogger who has received the pitch. Lucky for me, on the blog side, I have never really broken news. I leave that up to the professional journalists and bloggers who do this for a living on a daily basis.

I’ve always thought that since this is a hobby of mine, I will just bring the news that’s out there to readers who may find it interesting at well. If I find it interesting, there must be someone else out there who would share in my interest, right?

You can find a bit of the post below but check out the site for the entire string of comments.

From TechCrunch:

Today we are taking a radical step towards fighting the chaos. From this point on we will break every embargo we agree to.

Tech companies are desperate for press and hammering their PR firms for coverage on blogs and major media sites. That in turn means that PR firms hammer us to get us to write about their clients. Gone are the days of polite pitches and actual relationship building. Today, PR firms email a story to us as many as 20 times, and call every TechCrunch writer on their cell phones repeatedly. If we say we won’t write a story (which is most of the time), things often turn nasty (check out Lois Whitman at HWH PR/New Media for a fine example).

For the most part we’ve dealt with the problem quietly over the last couple of years, other than the occasional lashing out on Twitter. Others, like Wired Magazine’s Editor In Chief Chris Anderson, have been more public with their frustration.

But now a new problem has emerged that we won’t ignore.

A portion of the stories we write are “embargoed” news items. They aren’t stories that we’ve dug up ourselves. Instead, PR firms have pre-briefed us on the news and have asked us to write, if we choose to, no earlier than a set time.

A lot of this news is good stuff that our readers want to know about. And we have the benefit of taking some time during the pre-briefing to think about the story, do research, and write it properly. When embargoes go right, we get to write a thoughtful story which benefits the company and our readers.

But there’s a problem. All this stress on the PR firms put on them by desperate clients means they send out the embargoed news to literally everyone who writes tech news stories. Any blog or major media site, no matter how small or new, gets the email. It didn’t used to be this way, but it’s becoming more and more of a problem. As the economy turns south, PR firms are under increasing pressure to perform and justify their monthly retainers which range from $10,000 to $30,000 or more. In short, they have to spam the tech world to get coverage, or lose their jobs.

One annoying thing for us is when an embargo is broken. That means that a news site goes early with the news despite the fact that they’ve promised not to. The benefits are clear – sites like Google News and TechMeme prioritize them first as having broken the story. Traffic and links flow in to whoever breaks an embargo first.

That means it’s a race to the bottom by new sites, who are increasingly stressed themselves with a competitive marketplace and decreasing advertising sales.

A year ago embargo breaks were rare, once-a-month things. Today, nearly every embargo is broken, sometimes by a few minutes, sometimes by half a day or more.

We can’t continue to operate under these rules.

Our New Policy

The reason this is becoming a larger problem is because there is no downside to breaking embargoes. The PR firm gets upset but they don’t stop working with the offending publication or writer. You get a slap on the wrist, and you break another embargo later that day.

There are a few (very few) exceptions. One is Waggener Edstrom, who handles PR for Microsoft. Their embargoes don’t break because they’d unleash hell on the offender. Another is Google. The few times they’ve had problems they’ve chosen the nuclear option and banned the offender for as much as a year. As you can imagine, Google and Microsoft embargoed news doesn’t break early.

We’ve never broken an embargo at TechCrunch. Not once. Today that ends. From now our new policy is to break every embargo. We’ll happily agree to whatever you ask of us, and then we’ll just do whatever we feel like right after that. We may break an embargo by one minute or three days. We’ll choose at random.

I’ll also be publishing a blacklist on TechCrunch listing every firm, company, publication and individual writer involved whenever an embargo is broken. Of course, given our new policy, I’ll be putting us at the top of that list.

TechCrunch: Can We Predict The Outcome of The Presidential Election With Each Candidate’s Traffic Data?

August 29, 2008

“Yes We Can!”

Very interesting post by Jason Kincaid on TechCrunch today about predicting the Presidential election based upon a candidates Web site traffic. Hitwise, an Experian company which provides internet traffic analysis, has published recent data on the traffic that both the Obama and McCain campaigns have seen in the last month. While the results may not shed much light on the upcoming election’s outcome, they have revealed a few interesting trends.

New York Times

Credit: New York Times

From TechCrunch:

Hitwise has ranked each state by two criteria: its contribution to each site’s total traffic, and the the overall likelihood that a user in the state will visit the candidate’s site (called the Representation index). If either metric is applicable to the election, it will be Representation Index, which indicates the candidate’s popularity on a per-state basis and isn’t affected by the state’s population.

Unsurprisingly, California represents the most traffic share for both candidates, accounting for 13% of Obama’s total traffic and 12% of McCain’s. But both candidates have also seen a similar Representation Index from the state, which means that a similar number of Californians have visited each site. Given the state’s Democratic history, this is surprising – apparently Californians are interested in learning about the opposition. Conversely, in left-leaning New York, McCain’s site has only seen about half as much traffic as Obama’s.


Credit: Hitwise

Hitwise also notes that the highest Representation Index for Obama came from Maryland, Colorado, New Mexico, Georgia, and DC, while McCain’s come from Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, and Louisiana. More of McCain’s states are “battlegrounds”, but there’s no way of knowing if people are visiting these sites because they like him or hate him – perhaps the traffic stats from McCainSpace would be a better indicator.

Yahoo and Intel to Offer Interactive Widgets For Television Sets

August 21, 2008

Intel and Yahoo have announced that they are teaming up to bring Web-style interactive applications to television sets. The companies are working together to create software that will give televisions the ability to display the Web without interfering with the programming.

From Reuters:

After years of false starts aimed at bringing the Web to TV sets, Yahoo Inc said on Wednesday it is working with Intel Corp to create Web computer channels that run alongside TV shows.

The Web company and world’s largest chipmaker are working on what they call the “Widget Channel,” which will enable TV viewers to interact with and watch a dynamic set of TV widgets — small Web-based applications that complement TV shows.

Widgets will appear in the corner of a TV screen and work something like a picture-in-picture window of advanced TV sets. These small windows let viewers chat with or e-mail friends, watch videos, track stocks or sports teams or keep up with news headlines or weather by using a TV remote control.

Widget TV services are being designed to run on a new class of Intel chips for consumer electronics that enables high-definition viewing, home-theater-quality audio, 3-D graphics, and the fusion of Internet and TV features.

From the New York Times:

At Intel’s conference for developers in San Francisco, Intel unveiled a new “system on a chip” meant for consumer electronic devices like set-top boxes and digital TVs. Yahoo will provide a software platform that will allow small programs, called “widgets,” to run on those devices.

Yahoo already offers a software platform that allows developers to create widgets for PC desktops and cell phones. The small programs allow people to track news, weather or sports scores, receive e-mails, watch Web videos or photos, or bid on eBay auctions, for example. The software for the Intel systems will be based on the same platform.

From TechCrunch:

The two companies envision a library of small widgets that will be included alongside standard television content. For example, a user could use an eBay widget to monitor the current prices of their active auctions, or a sports widget to keep track of current scores.

The TV Widgets Channel continues to blur the line between a television and a computer with a big screen – it probably won’t be long before the distinction no longer exists. And while I could see some of the widgets coming in handy, they might also turn off a lot of users. For many people, television is an escape from the constant alerts and messages of today’s society. Interactive TV is a neat idea, but sometimes people just want to kick up their feet and relax.