Archive for December, 2010

Goodbye 2010, it was a blast

December 31, 2010 1 comment

It’s often tough when things are going full tilt to sit back and take stock of everything that’s going on, which is why I always look forward to the Christmas-New Year’s period. With the world generally shutting down for a week or two, it’s a good time to catch one’s breath, reflect on the year that was and plan for the year that will be.

There’s no doubt that 2010 was a great year for me - it was simply chock full of highlights. Obviously the two biggest were finally achieving my life-long goal of publishing a book, and getting engaged. There were so many other things too: visiting New Zealand again, being interviewed on The Hour and CNN, doing talks with Authors @ Google and TEDx, getting to the point of career independence, finally getting a good deal on a cellphone.

There were, of course, some low lights - like being part of Australia’s worst PR disaster of the year - but those were hugely outweighed by all the positives.

The coming year looks to be promising too, with Sex, Bombs and Burgers finally hitting the U.S. I’ll also be spending a good portion of the year working on my top-secret book #2. I’m definitely looking forward to 2011.

I heard a joke the other day on the radio from comedian Louis CK, where he mocked people who complain about airplane delays. He pointed out that it’s pretty clear we’ve forgotten about the miracle of human flight: “You’re sitting on a chair in the sky!” Why are we complaining?

Exactly. I know I sometimes complain too much (especially when it comes to airplanes), so I’m grateful for these chances to put things in perspective. The challenge will be to try and remember just how good things are once the speed of life ramps up again.

I hope everyone had a great 2010 and here’s hoping that 2011 turns out to be fulfilling, happy and fun!

Categories: Uncategorized

Top posts of 2010: less porn, more filling

December 30, 2010 Comments off

It’s that time of year again: the top 10 posts of the year. I loves me my Google Analytics, as I can go back and see exactly which posts were viewed by how many people, where they were when they looked at them, and even which web browser they used. Indeed, I’m still trying to figure out how to get Analytics to work on my new WordPress site,, which is the only reason that over  on Blogger is still active.

In any event, here are the ten most viewed post of the past year, with some thoughts following.

10. Milking the golden cow that is porn

I obviously had a lot of posts about porn over the past year, so the fact that this one made the top 10 is somewhat surprising. It was about advertising firm M&C Saatchi winning the account for ICM Registry, the company that will run the .XXX domain name.

9. The challenges of finding ethical porn

Oh look, another porn post. Shocker! This one came out of a Globe and Mail article for which I was interviewed, and the headline is pretty self-explanatory.

8. Adult industry watching YouTube closely

Another porn post. Is there a pattern here? This was about Google’s victory over Viacom in the YouTube lawsuit.

7. Pirating Sex, Bombs and Burgers

The first non-porn post in the top ten. My book hit BitTorrent sites in June (or at least that’s when I became aware that it had) and overall, I don’t really mind.

One of two food-related posts on the list, and strangely it’s from 2009. Proof that things live forever on the internet.

5. UK wireless versus Canada

Who knew that bitching about cellphone prices in Canada would attract so much attention? Will I be doing more of this in 2011? Does a bear take an ARPU in the woods? (That’s an in-joke in industry parlance.)

4. Raven Alexis on porn and tech

Getting back to porn, my interview with the adult starlet (pictured) got quite a few views.

3. Musical training at Wendys

I can actually explain the traffic on this post - it got mentioned on Fark. Which is funny because I originally saw it on the National Post website and simply rehashed it.

2. Gmail voice about future search not free calls

When Google announced free phone calls in Gmail, I mused that the company was looking to compile a huge database of voice samples to improve search results. Google denied it, but not before the post was mentioned on Techmeme and syndicated by Gizmodo.

1. Porn producers anxious for Palm Pre

This is the one that shocks me because not only is it from 2009, it was also my top post last year. It was mentioned on some Palm user forum, which is the only reason it keeps getting traffic. I think it’s very bizarre that people still care about the Palm Pre. I can’t complain, though, because more people have probably become aware of my book through their interest in mobile porn than any other topic.

Speaking of last year, there’s been a noticeable change in the overall results. In 2009, 8 of my 10 most-viewed posts were porn related. I’m pleased to say that’s down to 5 this year. I don’t think that’s because I’ve talked about porn any less, but it probably does have something to do with expanding the topics I blog about, which is something that will continue in 2011.

Thanks very much to everyone for reading! I find it amazing that an ever-growing number of people keep tuning in to my silly ramblings, which is more than enough reason to keep going.

On the eve of a book revolution

December 29, 2010 2 comments

I was recently invited to give a talk at the Toronto Reference Libary to staffers from around the city, with a fairly wide mandate of what topics I could cover. In an effort to discuss something that would be relevant to them, I thought I’d share my experience of going through the book-publishing process and where I thought the industry is headed. I was pretty nervous in talking about the subject because, while I do have some experience in the field, I certainly don’t deal with books on an every-day basis like many in the audience did. I felt sort of like a Johnny-come-lately trying to tell them about stuff they knew intimately, and better than I did.

After giving the talk, I wondered if attendees thought I was crazy because I spoke of revolution and how everything about how books are made is going to change dramatically in the next few years. I’m fairly sure some people in the audience agreed with me, and I’m equally sure that some thought I was full of it.

My thoughts on the subject are probably familiar to anyone who reads this blog regularly. In a nutshell, the book industry hasn’t seen as much impact from the digital revolution as the music and video businesses have as of yet, largely because reading electronic books hasn’t really been that easy. E-books have been around for ages, but reading them on a computer screen has just been too painful to even consider.

With the advent of e-ink and the Amazon Kindle three years ago, the game changed. Indeed, the Kindle is revolutionizing the book business in the same way the iPhone did the phone business (ironically, they were released in the same year). Just as 2010 saw real competition finally arise for the iPhone in the form of Android, so too did the Kindle finally get good rivals with the likes of Kobo and others. But the devices are only half the story - they’re also attached to new distribution systems. Amazon’s is easily the best as the Kindle’s “WhisperNet” feature lets you buy books via cellular connection wherever you may be, but there are also a handful of other good, big competitors with their own e-book stores, including Kobo, Sony, Apple and Google.

So, the revolution in how books are read and sold is already well underway, and e-book sales are skyrocketing as a result. The other revolution - the more interesting one that I talked about at the library - is in how books are written and created, and this part is only just now beginning. All of the online bookstores also offer authors - established and budding - the opportunity to self-publish their work. I’ve gone into the merits of this before, where self-publishing is potentially more lucrative for an author than having their book sold by a big-name publisher, so I won’t rehash it here.

The Los Angeles Times, however, has an excellent story that covers off almost everything I talked about at the library, which makes me feel considerably less crazy. The reporter talked to a number of authors who said they plan to self-publish all of their work going forward because it’s simply a better deal. The traditional publishing system holds very little appeal for them. “If an author has the choice of two distribution models, one that costs nothing and has no gatekeeper and the other has lots of gatekeepers and costs a lot of money, a lot of people will go with the free one,” said Seth Godin, a best-selling author who has become something of a self-publishing guru.

I’ve talked about gatekeepers before - to get a book published and ultimately sold, a writer has to go through a network of agents, editors, bookstore buyers and finally the media. Self-publishing largely removes all of those, which is why the Times story concludes with the thought that the only gatekeepers left will be the readers. I couldn’t agree more.

Crime novelist Joe Conrath takes it further in the story: “If a traditional publisher offered me a quarter of a million dollars for a novel, I’d consider it. But anything less than that, I’m sure I can do better on my own.”

That’s exactly my plan for my second book. Not that I’m going to hold out for a cool quarter-million, but if I don’t get offers that I like - or any offers at all, for that matter - I’ll be perfectly happy to give it a go myself on Amazon and the others. There are many downsides to self-publishing - you have to get your own editors, designers and publicists - but ultimately it comes down to only one thing: brand versus brand. If an author has a strong enough name recognition, as many established writers do, there’s actually very little they need a traditional publisher for. The rest can be done for a fraction of the price that publishers currently charge.

The challenge is for those of us who are not household names, and who are not yet trusted “brands” comparable to Random House or HarperCollins. But just as today’s bands and film makers also have to be entrepreneurial to get their work noticed, so too will writers have to become more enterprising. There are plenty who will be happy to stick with the old system of gatekeepers, but there are also many of us - as evidenced by the Times story - that are just dying to do it for ourselves. Sooner or later, the traditional book industry is going to have to take notice of that fact and implement dramatic changes to how it does business with its important customers: authors.

Categories: amazon, books, ebooks, kobo

Adult firms get smart with CES press

December 28, 2010 Comments off

I’ve been watching the recent weather woes, first in London and now in the eastern United States, with great interest, given that a week from now I’ll (hopefully) be on a plane to Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. I’m pretty nervous about my flight given that I have a stop-over in Chicago, which isn’t exactly renowned for its good weather.

I will, however, stop right there because I learned my lesson earlier this year about trying to forecast my flying experiences. Let’s just say I’m working on plans B and C to get to Las Vegas in time for the show, just in case.

I’m actually very much looking forward to CES this year, largely because I won’t be on a deadline to cover the big headline stuff. This year, I’m going to be combing the floor for the stuff that isn’t likely to get as much attention, and perhaps looking for tech that’s going to be big in the near future, not necessarily right now. Aside from that, I’ll also be looking at the main stories from a bit of a different perspective. CES thus looks to be a very different - and potentially fun - experience for me this year.

For the last couple of years, I’ve also dipped my toes into that other show, the Adult Entertainment Expo - for professional purposes, of course. One thing I’ve wanted to do in previous years out of pure curiosity but haven’t is check out the big Adult Video News awards, also known as the Oscars of porn. This year, I’m finally going as part of a story I’m writing for I may never go to the real Oscars, so this is going to be the next best thing. I’ll have full reports here, of course.

One interesting trend I’m already seeing is how adult companies are ramping up efforts to court reporters covering CES, although not in the ways you’d expect. We all know that a porn expo isn’t exactly a hard sell to the nerds who cover technology, but this year porn companies are getting practical. One of the typical problems with CES are the facilities set up for media to get their stories out - there often aren’t enough computers or internet connections for laptops in the press rooms, and the wi-fi is crappy at best.

To that end, I’ve seen invitations from at least two AEE exhibitors - Pink Visual and sex toy maker Fleshlight - offering up their facilities to journalists looking for a hook-up. (An internet hook-up, that is.) If the CES press room is full, these companies are telling reporters to come on over and use the connections at their booths.

That’s actually very smart. If you can’t lure the nerds with porn, why not give ‘em what they really want: internet access.

Categories: AEE, AVN, CES, internet, Pink Visual, sex

Top tech stories of 2010

December 27, 2010 Comments off

I hope everybody had a nice and restful Christmas (even those people who don’t celebrate it). I know I did. It was a welcome break from the madness of the past few months.

Speaking of which, were I still working at the CBC, I’d likely have my hands full right now putting together my top story list of 2010, just like everyone else in the media. I don’t like to feel left out, so I thought I’d compile my own list and present it here. So, with no further ado, here are what I considered to be the 10 most important technology-related stories of the past year.

10. Privacy, privacy, privacy

It seems like every web business got nailed for some sort of privacy violation this year, especially here in Canada where we have a bulldog for a privacy watchdog. Whether it was Facebook and the convoluted system it has for sharing people’s information, or Google accidentally gathering such data with its Street View cars, internet companies really skirted the line of what is considered public and private in 2010. Personally, this isn’t an issue I really cared about that much because I’ve long believed that if you put a piece of information on the internet, you should expect it to be public - and permanent. My feeling is that society’s general view of privacy is changing to reflect this reality and we’ll probably stop caring so much about websites are doing and more about what we’re actually giving them. But there’ll be more on that in my 2011 predictions, coming soon.

9. Antennagate

The media loves to build things up and tear them down, and Apple got a good taste of it this year when it released the iPhone 4 in June. While the device formerly known as the “Jesus Phone” could previously do no wrong, suddenly it was having connection problems thanks to a redesigned antenna. Again, it’s another situation that I found dramatically overblown, but it did ultimately help open the door for competing smartphones - particuarly Android - which is probably a good thing.

8. Video games escape the ghetto

Games have typically been the domain of teen and adult males, but this year they really exploded to a much larger audience. The move actually started in earnest four years ago with the release of the Nintendo Wii, which brought many women and young children into the equation, but 2010 saw both Microsoft and Sony get into the action with the Kinect and Move motion systems, respectively. The duo have only been out a short time but it’s clear the video game market is much bigger than those males, and all the big hardware makers are now going after them. Social games also exploded, with Facebook recently saying that nearly half of its 500 million members log on to the site specifically to play games such as Farmville. Video games have never been bigger and there’s no end in sight to their growth.

7. 3D TV flops - or does it?

Recent reports suggest 3D TV, launched with great fanfare at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, have been a big flop, with sales in the low single percentages. That may be true, and the reasons for it are many: people have either recently bought new HD TVs, there’s little 3D content available for them, and people hate wearing the glasses. But, two things are happening: glasses-free technology is improving and all of it is getting cheaper every day. Like I said in January, 3D is likely to soon become a standard feature of all TVs - like the “gaming mode” they all currently have - and will not incur any premium. The media has a habit of pronouncing many technologies dead, but the reality is they often seep into everyday life without our even noticing. Such will be the case with 3D.

6. Ebooks (and tablets) explode

I wrote a little while back about how ebooks were growing exponentially and 2010 was really the year things caught fire. I can’t wait to see what the final numbers will be for the year - I wouldn’t be surprised if ebooks account for as much as 25% of all books sold. The iPad is fuelling at least part of that, and things are really going to get crazy next year once you’ve got a flood of competitors for the device. I’m told there will be up to 80 new tablet computers introduced at CES next week. Ebooks are a key app for these tablets, so sales of them are going to skyrocket even faster next year.

5. Google, Verizon and net neutrality

Google drew a lot of heat in the summer for becoming a “surrender monkey” on net neutrality by proposing a set of rules in conjunction with telecom company Verizon. Those rules were pretty much adopted to the letter by U.S. regulators last week, and it’s certain we haven’t heard the last of it as the proposal must now go through government, where Republicans have vowed to kill it. What was most noteworthy about U.S. efforts to protect free speech and innovation on the innovation is how bogged down and watered down they became once the lobbyists were set loose.

4. Broadband becomes a right

On a related note, a few countries - notably Finland - enshrined access to high-speed internet as a legal right for their citizens while other countries such as Australia moved to build their own publicly-owned access networks. The past year saw some pretty clear ideological lines drawn between those that believe in government having the best interests of the country at heart, and those that think businesses do. As far as broadband and innovation goes, we’ll see in a few years who turns out to be right (I suspect it’ll be the former).

3. The fight for copyright

After a long consultation process across the country, the Canadian government in the summer introduced Bill C-32, the copyright modernization act. Pretty much nobody was happy with it. Entertainment industry lobbyists didn’t like that the bill created a lot of rights for Canadians to copy material and artists didn’t like that there were no new compensation schemes suggested. What really riled most every-day people, though, was a clause that prevents the picking of digital locks placed on devices and content. That means if a record label decides it doesn’t want you to copy your CD onto your iPod, tough noogies. Internationally, the U.S. pushed ahead on getting consensus on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which has been characterized as just as restrictive as C-32. One possibility under ACTA is that border guards would be able to search your iPod for pirated music. Yikes. Obviously, both efforts were hugely controversial in 2010. It’ll be interesting to see how they play out in 2011. C-32, at least, has the possibility of dying if an election is called in Canada.

2. Facebook as a social phenomenon

Okay, personally, I still think Facebook will ultimately prove to be fad. Yes, the website makes lots of money and has tons of users, but I just don’t see the real value proposition. Maybe I’m just not among the target users. Regardless, I also can’t remember movies made about Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, much less good ones that will likely garner a few Oscar nominations. While watching The Social Network, one thought kept recurring to me: I can’t believe that a website (and web coding) is the central focus of a movie. Regardless of anything else Facebook is or isn’t, it has propelled technology to the forefront of pop culture like few other things have, and that’s a pretty big accomplishment. More amazing is that people actually went in droves to see a movie that was mostly about coding and litigation.

1. Cell Wars: A New (Wireless) Hope

Like several hundred thousand Canadians, I almost wept when I kissed my old cellphone provider (Rogers-owned Fido) goodbye and said hello to my new one (Mobilicity). I officially shaved $12 off my bill, but more importantly I added a whole ton of value with unlimited data, texting and calling - including North American long distance. Mobilicity is just one of several new independent wireless carriers that have sprung up over the past year - with Wind Mobile, Public Mobile and Videotron being the others. In their short existence, they have done wonders in breaking the stranglehold the big three - Bell, Rogers and Telus - have had on Canadians and brought prices down significantly to where they’re almost comparable to what users enjoy in much of the rest of the world. Even the big guys have flinched and are starting to lower their prices or change their terms, so the arrival of real competition is finally having an effect. I want to end my top-10 list on a good note, but I do have to bring up the long-smouldering issue of foreign ownership restrictions, which was one of the biggest bad-news stories of 2010. With the government continuing to waffle on lifting these onerous restrictions, there’s already talk that some of the new entrants - particularly Public Mobile - are in financial trouble. If the ownership rules don’t change quickly, one or more of those new carriers surely won’t be around this time next year.


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