HDTV: Too much information?

Last year I made some observations about the role the pornography industry has played in the establishment of emerging technologies. I won’t go into detail here, so here’s the link to the original post if interested.

I couldn’t help but think back to that little gem when, browsing the NY Times this morning, I found a great article entitled: In Raw World of Sex Movies, High Definition Could Be a View Too Real. The upshot of the article is that, despite leading early adoption of that technology, producers are fast reaching the conclusion that HD-porn really isn’t that great an idea.

You could probably take all you need to know from the article by reading a single quote, taken from one Ms ‘Stormy Daniels‘:

I’m not 100% sure why anyone would want to see their porn in HD

Good point, and one which leads to some interesting questions.

Since Sony still stands by their policy not to mass-produce pornographic movies (the policy that prompted the adult entertainment industry to adopt HD over Blu-ray in the first place), many have speculated that this would lead to HD dominating in the same way that VHS killed Betamax in the early 80’s. Personally I think a better question is whether either format is really that much of an improvement (in terms of viewer enjoyment) on the status quo.

If you look at the big new media technologies of the 20th Century, they’ve all given us something new that we really wanted: 8mm let us take movies home; VHS let us make home movies without having to use a film lab; ditto the Polaroid’s impact on photography, and to a greater extent the digital camera; the Walkman let us listen on the move; and the mobile phone meant that lonely people didn’t have to stay at home all night waiting for the phone to ring (now they can do that anywhere). What previously un-fulfilled need is either new DVD format really meeting?

A good question to ask with any new toy, I suppose: Just because it’s bigger, faster, louder, brighter – does that make it better? Sometimes, but not always. In the meantime I think I’ll stick with my regular old DVD player till my box-set of the Star Wars trilogy turns to dust. Or I do.

The Venice Project unveiled: Joost is here

I’ve been contacted a few times this week regarding recent references I’ve made to The Venice Project – mostly people wondering what what on Earth I was talking about. There’s so much more to this than I can (read: ‘have time to’) say now, but here’s the low-down.

Remember Kazaa? Well, the two guys who set up Kazaa went on to set up Skype. Anyone who doesn’t know what Skype is should stop reading now, go to http://www.skype.com, follow the install instructions and come back later. My Skype ID is stuart_g_parker – feel free to drop in any time.

You’re back? Excellent. Anyhoo, having sold Skype to eBay for about a gazillion dollars, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis returned to the big idea they’d had all along – an Internet TV platform based on P2P technology and delivering near-TV resolution images. The working title for this was ‘The Venice Project’, casually applied after the initial kick-off meeting for the venture, which was held in a hotel room in Venice. Now preparing for launch, the service will henceforth be known as ‘Joost‘.

I was fortunate to be included as a Beta tester quite early on, and from what I’ve seen this is going to be phenomenal. Seriously. Imagine SKY Digital with no subscription fees or ‘rain fade’. Imagine free-to-air TV with more and better choices and nowhere near as much advertising (and what ads there are are actually relevant to you). Imagine really fast, realiable Video On Demand. Actually, don’t imagine it – go to Joost.com and sign up. It’s not open to the public right now, but they are gradually expanding the pool of Beta testers so odds are you’ll get an invite soon.

If you really can’t wait, drop me a line. I still have a few invites left, and may be persuaded to part with one. For the rest of you, here are a few screenshots of the Joost interface to tide you over.

Navigation Information My Joost Channel list Program information Overlay My Joost Overlay

File-sharing site to buy its own island nation

It looks like Sealand is up for sale again. This time the front-runner is Pirate Bay, the world’s biggest Torrent search engine and arch enemy of the MPAA. With an asking price of around half a billion clams I’d be surprised if they manage to pull it off, but then again – anyone who says crime doesn’t pay has obviously never heard of online gambling.

I remember Wired ran a piece on Sealand years ago, during the halcyon days of the dotcom boom. Some genius figured that a former British navy platform 7 miles offshore would be an ideal place for hosting ‘sensitive’ data and applications. Now if you want my opinion, a cold, damp, windy, rusty and fire-damaged platform in the North Sea isn’t the ideal environment for storing millions of dollars’ worth of servers, routers etc. Be that as it may, HavenCo has been running a data centre there since 1999. I have to admit that I find it truly astonishing that they could actually sign up any customers. Here’s my take on how how a typical sales call would run…

Rep: Good morning sir, have I reached the offices of the Medellin cartel?
Underling: Si?
Rep: I have a great offer for you from HavenCo.com. Please may I speak with el Hefe?
<Minutes pass. Shouting and gunshots heard in the background, followed by roaring laughter>
Pablo: This is el Hefe. What you wan’?
Rep: Good morning Mr Escobar, this is Janice calling, from HavenCo.com. We have a great offer on right now, where we can safely store all of your sensitive commercial data – customer and supplier contact details, transaction data, and production and shipping information – all for the low monthly price of $19.99. PLUS, if you sign up right now we’ll throw in five email accounts and your very own personalised domain name for free!
Pablo: Who is this? DEA? CIA? Interpol? I don’ know you. You got wrong number. Prank caller, prank caller, prank caller! Don’ call here again!

Now it’s Pirate Bay’s turn and on this I’m even more sceptical. The Sealand vendors continue to assert that they are a sovereign state and can do whatever the hell they like. Problem is, all this confidence stems from a UK court decision in 1968, and sovereignty isn’t what it used to be – look at Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Afghanistan for examples.

It’ll probably be fun while it lasts, but if I could presume to offer some sage advice to any Pirate Bay investors who might be reading – demand dividends daily, and in cash.

On another note, check this out. One down, nine to go!

The Oracle has spoken

A number of notable bloggers out there have recently posted their predictions as to what 2007 will hold for this whole crazy Interweb-type thingy.

Now, my New Year’s Eve clairvoyance is typically limited to picking 10 celebrities most likely to shuffle off their mortal coils over the following 12 months, but (as my lawyer will tell you) I’ll try anything once. Better late than never, as my (late) Grandfather used to say, so here it is – behold my predictions for 2007…

  1. Theresa Gattung will be fired, and replaced with a man in his late 50’s or early 60’s. First thing he does is pull the plug on Ferrit, earning plaudits for a no-brainer call that should have been made ages ago.
  2. More big brands will abandon big-budget TV production altogether, in favour of targeted interactive marketing. My pick for first up: Air New Zealand.
  3. At least one new (or existing, but currently inconsequential) non-tech company in NZ will come from nowhere to achieve dominance in their sector, largely due to a well-conceived and executed interactive strategy. Their old-school competitors will be astonished and yet still do nothing.
  4. Google will acquire or form a close strategic alliance with KodakGallery.com or one of the other online digital image services (not Flickr). Google will then integrate the image service and YouTube’s features with Blogger’s offering so that users can access all of those tools via a single interface.
  5. A substantial ‘adjustment’ will take place in tech stocks. That’s right kids, we’re headed for another crash (we had them in ’87 and ’97, why not ’07?). Google will take a big hit, down to $400 US or below.
  6. The Venice Project, launching in March, will change broadcast television – content and advertising – forever.
  7. The next evolution in Web 2.0 / CGM will be in content filtering / selection, rather than creation of or access to content. (We have access to content now – the issue is gaining access to content we want to see without having to browse around all day looking for stuff we like). Several new media brands will rise as a result of this, using a format that is essentially a blog with a steady stream of audio, video, text and image content selected from all over the Web. Kind of a cross between DrudgeReport.com, YouTube and SKY TV. Think of them as uber-blogs (kinda).
  8. The big new development of the year will be a new revenue model for content creators. Creators of new CGM content – however lame or amateurish it might appear – will receive a revenue share from advertisers – this will also include bonuses for product placement (e.g. create popular CGM containing Mountain Dew and you’ll get some cash from PepsiCo). In essence, the content creator will be getting a cut of the ad rev share that currently goes exclusively to the publisher (e.g. the blogger).
  9. TradeMe will face a backlash from its user-base as Fairfax continues to meddle with its service offering and revenue model. Either Zillion or a new entrant will experience significant gains as a result – in terms of user numbers, traffic and revenue – but will not seriously threaten TradeMe’s position… yet.
  10. 2007 will see the launch of a GOOD (useful and intelligent) search engine / portal focusing entirely on CGM.

Ps. Useless buggers at MobileFoneRepair.com / Motorola NZ still haven’t sorted out my crappy phone. As a matter of fact, now they’ve lost it. Any Telecom Mobile reps reading this want to give me a call?