Maybe Sony’s Image Can Be Restored – PS3 Chief Fired!

Ken Kutaragi has finally been demoted out of Sony. Kazuo Hirai is taking his responsibilities. Kutaragi is now an “honorary chairman and senior technology adviser.” His role as an official mouthpiece of the PS3 and Sony is finally over. This follows up recent news when he lost his title as CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment (a sub-division of Sony Corp). The current CEO of Sony Corp., Stringer, might have seriously demoted him, but Kutaragi, was seriously an idiot:

According to an interview with Stringer in the Wall Street Journal, Kutaragi surprised his boss by exceeding production budgets. In one particularly illustrative moment, Kutaragi startled management with an impromptu 20% price cut for the Japanese 20GB PlayStation 3 model.

Wow? I would have fired him right there! Anybody who takes a brand from loved #1 to a loathed #3 overnight should be fired.

Kutaragi was long known for his emphasis on hardware. But Stringer has been pushing for a software reform. If executed properly, this could significantly threaten Microsoft in everything but the OS – from digital media, home entertainment, to gaming. This is because Stringer wants to integrate the many isolated divisions in the company into one cohesive operation. I mean, you have no idea how much time my roommate wasted trying to get a DVD to play in his PS3 on his Sony flat screen — apparently they weren’t fully compatible!

Finally, someone who understands the value of software. Hardware is nothing without great software, and it was Kutaragi’s thinking that made IBM overlook an opportunity to buy out Microsoft.

Now Sony has to clean up Kutaragi’s mess. With all of the piss-poor decisions Kutaragi made, let’s hope Sony can recover their gaming division before it’s too late. Right now they are #3 and it doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

The Blogosphere is Stalling – How You Can Avoid Succumbing

While Internet users have been rising rapidly over the past few years, it seems blogs have not kept up. Sure, there’s been tons of new blogs, but it seems for every new blog that started up, another one died. Thus, in the same one year period, the number of blogs tracked by Technorati (such as this one) have stayed nearly the same.

I’m going to guess this is due to the:

  • Emergence of spam blogs, and the subsequent realization that spam blogging isn’t really worth it (abandoned)
  • Darwinian nature of blogging (see next paragraph)

Blogging is all about visibility. People blog because they want to be heard. If nobody is hearing you, then you might feel less inclined to update, which in turn would cause your blog to go inactive. Thus, I’d speculate that a small sliver of blogs out there have virtually all of the traffic, making it highly discouraging for new-comers. That, and most people are shitty writers, so they automatically get weeded out. 😛

The number is staying constant because it represents X + Y, where X is the constant “elite” bloggers who are around month after month, and Y are all of the people who try and fail to get market share. Y is the revolving door of bloggers. At least, that’s my take on this.

This also tells me that people who blog aren’t in it for the right reasons. 🙂 After a year, they give up if they aren’t gaining readers.

Here’s my advice for bloggers who aren’t doing it just to vent steam:

  1. Pick a niche
  2. Blog about it, a lot
  3. Write original content; as in, don’t just link other blogs because then you’re bleeding visitors to the places you link without gaining any readers yourself.
  4. You will eventually get search traffic
  5. Figure out which posts get the most hits, and blog about related topics more
  6. Critically assess your writing to improve it and make it more eye-catching
  7. Don’t write about things that a stranger can’t follow (like, say, your relationships)
  8. Promote your RSS feed 😉

My niche is not just tech news; I also try to cater to programmers. My most popular posts are an even split between my predictions (such as about Google or Apple) and JavaScript tips. Most of my search traffic relates to JavaScript, but most of my subscribers seem to be interested more in the news posts. 🙂

What’s your niche?

Adobe Shares Flex

It seems Adobe is really embracing the open source business model — they plan on releasing major components of their Flex framework in the coming months under an open source license. They will be releasing:

  • The compiler
  • The debugger
  • An automated testing framework
  • Core libraries (with Apollo components)
  • Build scripts

Flex is an application framework for developing “rich” Internet applications — like AJAX, except it uses Flash instead of JavaScript. An example of Flex in action can be seen on Google Finance.

What they’ve done is make the guts of of the technology available. Their intention is to continue selling their development tools, much like what they do with their PDF and ActionScript technology. So while competing tools might emerge later, they’ll have a nice long head start and the brand recognition.

This was also necessary due to the fact that AJAX is already out there, and it is based entirely on open standards. So while Flex is technically more able, the added cost of going proprietary would have likely stunted its growth. Adobe needed Flex to take off soon because Microsoft is expected to release its own proprietary competitor in the coming months called Silverlight. Open sourcing this was the best way to ensure their technology could take off — an important prerequisite in selling their development tools. 😉 

While this is good news, it’s probably a nail in the coffin for OpenLaslo, which is now competing directly against Adobe.

The Flex web site can be found here. If you’re really interested, you can check out Microsoft’s Silverlight page. Of course, you have to have it installed to be able to view their video about it. Yep, Microsoft being dumb as usual. Really makes me want to deploy it in my application (not).

Meanwhile, Google Gets Ranked #1 on the Web

Google is now the most visited website in the world, at least according to comScore Networks. Previously, the title was held by Microsoft, which heavily benefits from everybody who has to go to their website for updates.

How good is this assertion? Well, according to Alexa, Google is #3. However, Alexa’s statistics are notoriously inaccurate due to a strong self-selection bias — as in, the people that have Alexa toolbars tend to be of a specific demographic.

I was observing the Alexa numbers and noticed another interesting point. Google’s traffic seems to be highly reliant weekday cycles, whereas Yahoo’s is relatively flat. I guess Google users tend to have jobs.

Just kidding.

I think the most interesting factor here is Vista. That’s right, Microsoft’s new operating system. In reality, traffic to Microsoft.com must be going up right now due to all of the added users who just installed Vista. Alexa shows this trend (traffic is up 19% in the last 3 months). It seems ComScore’s stats omit this type of user activity since it’s rather fishy that Google would outstrip Microsoft during this rather obvious traffic spike.

Still, beating Yahoo or Microsoft seemed impossible only five years ago. The net sure changes fast, huh?

Google Gives a Big Damn about Google Apps

I’ve never gotten an email from Google that I didn’t specifically ask for. Ever. Until today.

I got an email from them explaining that Google Calendar may experience some outages tomorrow. Not just one email, but two. Normally, they use their blog to talk about this sort of stuff, but this time they sent it directly to my inbox. Their second email (see below) seems to address common questions that may have been raised by the much shorter first email.

In general, Google never sends out emails like this, especially for its free services, such as Google Apps (I use the free version). This underscores the priority Google is now placing on its “Google Apps” brand, the presumed competitor to Microsoft’s Live Office.

Server-side application are commonly misunderstood as less secure, less available, or less powerful than desktop counterparts. Google is fighting tooth-and-nail to fight that presumption, and this email proves it. And they’re crossing into new territory to do it. Of course, it’s also possible that Google’s applications rarely go down so such emails are extremely rare, but I’d argue that the second email from them proves they aren’t taking this lightly.

Here the first email:

Hello Michi,

We wanted to inform you that we are planning to conduct routine maintenance to Google Calendar between 8AM and 9PM on Thursday, April 26th, 2007 . During this time, this service may be unavailable to some of your users. Please inform your users about this planned maintenance appropriately. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience as we work to improve Google Calendar.

If you have any questions, you can contact the Google Apps Support team through the Google Apps Help center (http://www.google.com/support/a/).

Sincerely,

The Google Apps Team

Here’s the second email (12 hours later) that seems to be addressing some FAQs that got:

Dear Michi,

Earlier an email was sent regarding your michikono.com Google Apps account, notifying you that we are planning to conduct routine maintenance to Google Calendar between 8AM and 9PM PDT on Thursday, April 26th, 2007 (3PM GMT on April 26th to 4AM GMT on April 27th). We understand that maintaining the highest level of reliability and uptime is critical to your organization and to your end users. Thus, we want to provide you with additional information about the upgrade and explain in detail the impact it may have on your users — specifically, that only a subset of your users will be affected, and only for a few minutes each.

Why are we doing an upgrade?
We are updating some of our servers as we continue to improve Google Calendar. This is a normal maintenance update, and as with all updates we look to minimize the impact to our end users.

How will this impact my end users?
The impact to your users should be minimal. Only a subset of your users should be affected by the upgrade. These users may have trouble accessing their Google Calendars for a short period of time, generally less than 5-10 minutes each.

Will Google Calendar be down from 8AM to 9PM PDT?
No. This is the window of time that the maintenance upgrade will take place. During this time some users will experience issues accessing their calendar, but only for a short period of time each.

As always, we continuously look to improve our communication with our administrators. If you have any feedback or any additional questions regarding this maintenance upgrade, please feel free to contact the Google Apps Support team through the Google Apps Help center (http://www.google.com/support/a/).

Sincerely,

The Google Apps Team

So either Google’s taking this maintenance extremely carefully, or someone got fired for writing a crappy email that required a follow up. 🙂

Why AT&T Needs to Not Sell the iPhone

AT&T is hoping to target corporate clients with the upcoming iPhone. The most surprising bit is that they should know better. The iPhone is clearly designed as an entertainment device, a huge stumbling block in convincing employers to buy it for their employees.

More importantly, the iPhone has a camera. This is a feature that is often specifically requested to be removed from corporate phones (see Blackberries) due to security or trade secret concerns.

The same marketing spin that makes the iPhone so desired will be what will kill it in the enterprise. With such a strong emphasis on video and music, why would any corporate client want to buy such distraction machines? Perhaps the most damning feature, or lack there of, is the inherit disadvantage in linking up to Outlook.

This is why AT&T needs to let Apple do its job. Clearly Jobs designed the phone with regular Joe in mind — especially since regular Joe’s market is huge when compared to the far more competitive business phone market. How many teenagers do you see with smart phones? How many non-executives do you see walking around with Blackberries?

There’s a reason the iPhone will be big: it isn’t trying to become the next Blackberry. Jobs may be the only CEO in the world that uses an iPhone over other established smart phones, but he really doesn’t care. Apple is trying to redefine the smart phone market as something for the regular consumer. There’s no way you can effectively target both the consumer and corporate market at the same time. Not to mention Apple would prefer to completely dominate the consumer market and lose the corporate market than share both with meager shares.

The Smartest Thing Most People Never Do: Buying a Domain Name

Do you have a relatively unique first and last name? Then buy your first and last name .com domain now (no spaces). Is your name relatively common? Buy a variant of your name (that you use), a shortened version, last name first, with dashes, with your middle name, last name first, or if all else fails, buy about[your name].com. Now. I can’t stress this enough.

If you are one of the following, you have no excuse:

  1. You are employed
  2. You are about to enter the work force within the year
  3. You have your resume online somewhere
  4. You have published material (including academic or research)

Not convinced? Allow me to explain why this is one of the most important things you can do for your long term image and career. Here are the five reasons in summary format:

  1. You’ll be the first result for your name
  2. Having a result is better than not
  3. Controlling your image is actually possible
  4. The Internet is still young
  5. Maintenance is easier

Note: Before I get into any of this, I want to make one other point: Whatever you do, make sure the domain name you purchase matches up with whatever name you decide to use in the work place and on your resume. Three things I implicitly suggest in this article are:

  1. The importance of an online image — Keep in mind that society is evolving to accept “online” as a second “real life.” This is evident in the growing number of people who date people they met online. This was nearly unheard of only five or six years ago. I am confident that this convergence will only continue, and thus I place a high priority on taking control of your online “self” sooner rather than later.
  2. People will search for you — While I can’t say I’ve always searched my bosses, I can say I’ve always looked up potential employees. I hope that speaks for itself.
  3. Make sure you link to your website — Otherwise search engines may never find it. Simply use it as your “homepage” on various sites. As always, be careful where you mention your site since that can be used to find stuff about you (by searching for the domain name itself) that wasn’t meant to be associated with you.

Reason #1: You’ll be the first result

The words in the domain are one of the most important aspects in determining if a result appears first in a search. Thus, if you search for Michi Kono, you’ll see my personal web site comes up #1, despite this blog having far more inbound links and content (this blog is #3).

The last thing you need is for an employer to search for your name, and the first result is some jerk that happens to be similar enough that he or she could be mistaken as you. If that guy says dumb stuff in his blog, writes inaccurate information, or otherwise acts immature, your name and reputation are at risk.

Even if such jerks exist, if you own the domain name, your web site will come up before theirs, which will help convince the employers that the first result is likely the one and only valid one.

Reason #2: Having a result is better than not

Having a web foot print is better than not having one at all. This was the topic of an article a few months back; the point is that when an employer looks up your name and finds nothing authoritative about you, you are just another number in the stack. A result helps put a personality, picture, or persona to the application.

This is amplified if you are applying for a technical position. How am I to feel comfortable with someone’s technical abilities when they don’t even have an online presence? Are they afraid of the Internet? Do they know how to run a blog? Do they not know HTML? The point is, it’s pretty much expected that a highly technical person would have some sort of web foot print. Not having that might raise concerns.

You don’t need to put much on your site. A simple copy of your resume (with highly sensitive information removed) is sufficient. Or perhaps a professional blog (as in, no posting about your party adventures, relationships, or other personal stuff). The point is, have something there.

Reason #3: Control your image

Are you already all over the web? Is it relatively simple to find your junior high blog and your Myspace profile when searching your name? Well, most people can look past those if they are also shown a professional side of you. Unfortunately, if that side of you isn’t available, then they have only those embarrassing pictures and immature posts to judge you by.

By carefully choosing what is on your site, you are decreasing the likelihood that someone will continue to click on the next search result, since they’ve already found what they were looking for. By controlling the top few results on your name, you can dramatically change your online “image.” Everybody has a personal life, but it’s important that you convey a strong professional side — something that is sorely lacking from your Myspace and Facebook profiles.

This underscores the importance of having your domain name. By having [your full name as it appears on your resume].com, you are cherry picking web results for your employer to see since the first result will be your domain. This means keep the web site professional, and don’t publish personal writings, photos, videos, or other material that could some day in the distant future be taken out of context against you (see #5).

Reason #4: The Internet is still young

What will the Internet be like in 10 more years? Who knows. Web sites might become the next business card. People might ask for your web site much like people today ask for people’s AIM screen names. It may become the norm to look up someone when determining if they are worthy of a date. You just don’t know.

As it becomes increasingly accepted that everybody has a personal space on the web, you will likely look back and regret not taking that domain name when it was still available. Now, whenever someone meets you and looks you up, they find a result of some random party animal. Or maybe now it’s a porn website. Nice. It certainly doesn’t help your image, doesn’t?

You could have been 100% certain that someone looking for you would have instead seen your professionally designed web site resume and links to your published works.

Are you that certain a future employer won’t look you up? Are you that certain society won’t become focused on web name searching? Are you that certain you plan on staying 100% off of the net?

Reason #5: Easier to keep up to date

As your life changes and your career or family situation evolves, having only one central location to edit will make things easier. Right now, those of you without your own domains have no authoritative image “source.” As in, to find out what kind of person you are, one must search for you and piece it all together. Some of those pieces might be months or years out of date, which can be damaging when that piece also happens to be contrary to your professional self.

By controlling the first and most relevant search result for your name, you are able to keep your online image fully updated all the time. Someone without the edge will never have a fully accurate online image. This could be an issue when you suddenly decide to enter politics, become a manager, or maybe randomly decide you want to be a more private person. The point is, what’s “okay” to you today, might not be tomorrow. At least with this, you can adapt much quicker.

Conclusion

It’s less than $10 a year.

  • If it keeps you from losing even one interview, it paid for itself.
  • If it helps you land even one date with someone who looks you up, it was worth it.
  • If you ever become involved in politics, it may easily save you tens of thousands of dollars worth a lot of trouble.
  • If you ever decide to start a blog, you will be very happy.
  • If you ever become a famous CEO/actor, you will be angry when you don’t have it, but someone who hates you does.
  • The email address alone might be worth it.

Lastly, don’t bother with the other domain extensions unless it’s a last resort. The .com extension is everything since that’s what everybody tries first. Maybe .net if you’re feeling brave.

What are you waiting for? Go buy your domain name right now. If I still haven’t convinced you, I’d love to hear your reasons (post a comment below).

Opacity, Jagged Edges, and Header Tags in IE

screwed up textI discovered a bug in IE today. If:

  1. You have headers (as in <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc) and…
  2. That header appears above another transparent area and…
  3. That headers has any transparency effects itself then…
  4. You get jagged edges

This is compounded by the fact that the area I was dealing with was a white box on top of the transparent text, so by all means the area “behind” the headers weren’t transparent. See screen shot to the right.

This is retarded. I have a simple fix for this problem. Simply add this to your CSS code:

  1. /*
  2.  * this is a necessary work around for transparency to work with h tags. 
  3.  */
  4. .container h1, .container h2, .container h3, .container h4, .container h5, .container h6 {
  5.     background-color: white; // or whatever color you are working with
  6. }

Replace “container” with whatever area you need to fix.

This is only a problem in IE; Firefox handles things just fine.

Want a Dell? Hate Vista? They’re Listening… To Some People

It seems Dell is caving to public demand rather than Microsoft’s will. They are going to begin offering XP again… well, for their business customers.

Interestingly, they got this idea from their recent Digg clone, which they use to figure out what their customers want by using a open suggestion and voting system. It appears having XP was the top request among its customers. Still, it blows that they ignore their non-business customers who might be interested in XP.

This is an important move for Dell since a recent report pointed out that it was losing market share to all of its rivals. It lost 14% of its US business in a period where the industry grew 3.6%. (side note: Apple grew the fastest in the same period at +30%.)

It was rather amazing that computer makers would switch to Vista so suddenly, knowing full well that business consumers aren’t interested in the latest and greatest.

This all paints an interesting picture for Microsoft: they worked so hard on Vista, but nobody really wants it. Sure, XP has its problems, but it works. And since Vista pretty much requires a new computer the cost of adopting the new operating system is higher than any previous version.

Microsoft made some critical mistakes when it was deciding on how to upgrade its operating system. By focusing on the visuals instead of performance, they’ve made the system less appealing to business consumers. And since they faked the whole security model upgrade, it hasn’t exactly impressed the technical people who might have jumped the gun for it. We’ll see how this plays out this year as Microsoft increases its pressure on its retail distributers to sell more Vista machines.