comingzune in Edmonton on May 16th

The iPod still has a lock on the market for portable media players, but at least Microsoft is doing some interesting marketing. Over the weekend I was notified about the comingzune parties happening in seven Canadian cities (it seems Montreal was a late addition).


The Edmonton event takes place on Friday night at 9pm at The Artery, which Sharon tells me is an up and coming venue in our city. Here’s the map of the location.

I love the band name – The Wicked Awesomes! Never heard of them before though. They are five local guys, apparently influenced by devo. Take from that, what you will.

Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair – so what?

Allow me to stray from my usual meanderings for a moment to the media storm du jour – Miley Cyrus’ so-called “racy” photo in the June 2008 issue Vanity Fair.

miley cyrus The photo that has everyone up-in-arms is shown to the right. First of all, let me say that I don’t really like it. There’s something weird with her make-up I think. Maybe it’s because I like blondes, or maybe it’s because Miley is only fifteen years old, but I’d rather look at Lindsay or perhaps Keira and Scarlett. Vanity Fair has definitely produced some excellent stuff over the years.

I don’t see what the big deal is with this photo, yet everyone is yammering on about how it sets a bad example. And of course, Miley and her handlers are playing the blame game. Here are some things to consider:

  • Since when do tweens read Vanity Fair? I realize the photo is splashed all over the place now, but seriously, it’s not like she posed topless on the Disney Channel or anything. Parents, do your jobs.
  • She now says she’s embarrassed? Disney says she was manipulated to sell magazines? Bullshit to both. I have to believe Whoopi – everyone knew what was going on. These sorts of things don’t just happen by mistake.
  • Vanity Fair will likely sell a ton of magazines thanks to this shoot. They’re also not hiding anything – they’ve put a behind-the-scenes section online, and a video of the shoot.

Here is what Miley originally said when asked if she was “anxious” about the photo:

No, I mean I had a big blanket on. And I thought, This looks pretty, and really natural. I think it’s really artsy.

And here’s what she said in a prepared statement:

I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.

I feel sorry for Miley – her “handlers” are now telling her to say things she doesn’t mean. They should have supported her instead.

miley cyrusAnd here’s my biggest question of all – how come no one has a problem with the second photo, of Miley and her Dad? In my opinion, that’s a much more disturbing photo. If you didn’t know any better, would you look at that and think, “oh what a lovely father-daughter photo”? I sure wouldn’t.

I wanted to post this so that I can look back on it one day when I’m a father, to see if my opinion has changed at all. At the moment, I have no issue with the photo. I think it’s up to Miley’s parents to ensure she is comfortable with the shoot, and it’s up to the parents of her fans to make sure they set a good example, talk with their kids, and not leave their copy of the magazine lying around the house. Just my two cents.

By the way, I dedicate this post to Justice, the biggest Miley fan I know! 😉

Read: Vanity Fair

The conversation will take place with or without you

conversation I don’t often make “reactive” posts, but I did on Friday when I posted about local radio station Big Earl 96.3 switching formats and becoming Capital FM. I had noticed a lot of incoming traffic to an old post of mine about Big Earl, and decided I’d figure out why. I learned that the radio station “flipped the switch” on the new format that afternoon, and as a result, hundreds of listeners took the web to find out what happened. I posted about it so that others would learn the answer as well.

Now both posts are getting lots of traffic, and the new one has received a bunch of comments too. There are two questions to be asked here: why are people coming to these posts, and once they arrive, why do they comment?

My old post is the #1 result for the “what happened to big earl” search query, and my new post is #2 when you search for “96.3 capital fm“. Until today, it was actually #1, ahead of the radio station’s own website. The top five search queries that people used to find the posts yesterday were “capital fm edmonton”, “96.3 capital fm”, “big earl 96.3”, “big earl fm”, and “big earl”. In the last 24 hours alone, those two posts have been viewed more than 300 times.

So the reason that my two posts are getting lots of traffic is that they are ranked very highly in Google, and the reason people are searching is that they were given no notice about the switch. I guess that’s the way the radio industry works, you can’t really prepare people for a complete 180. As a result, lots of people were curious.

Once they arrived, why did they comment? I think the answer is very simple – Newcap Broadcasting simply isn’t participating in the conversation. Some listeners are happy about the switch, and they want to let the station know. Others are very unhappy, and they too want to voice their opinions. Aside from a very cumbersome “Members Club” section of their website, Capital FM doesn’t make it easy for their listeners to communicate. I think it’s a shame, really.

Like newspapers, radio stations are on the decline. Listeners are abandoning the airwaves for the web and iPods. And companies like Newcap aren’t doing much to reverse the trend. Which would you prefer – a radio station that suddenly starts playing completely different music than what you’re used to and basically says “tough luck”, or a radio station that changes its tune and also tells you to “have your say on our Facebook page?” It’s a no-brainer (even if your opinion won’t change anything, you’ll feel better about being able to share it).

CKRA has changed formats so many times now that you’d think they’d be better at it than they are.

It’s a different world than it used to be. Fifteen years ago, if a radio station switched formats, an article in the local paper would probably be about the only coverage it would get. Today, the web makes it easy for anyone to chime in.

As the comments on my post illustrate, the conversation will happen anyway. Newcap would be wise to join in.

UPDATE (4/1/2008): They’ve created a Facebook group! You can check it out here.

Big Earl 96.3 is now Capital FM

I never listen to the radio anymore, so the only reason I know about this news is because I’ve seen an influx of traffic to one of my old posts about Big Earl 96.3. Back in December of 2005, the radio station switched formats from “96X” which was hit music, to “Big Earl” which was country music. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

If you’re scanning the radio dial here in Edmonton, you’ll notice we have a new station. Or, more accurately, an existing station that has for the thousandth time changed formats.

They’ve done it again. Big Earl is out, Capital FM is in. Here’s what they say on their website:

Finally Edmonton has a radio station that plays all your favorite songs from the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s.   Welcome to the NEW 96.3 Capital FM, Edmonton’s Greatest Hits!

Yeah, because we don’t have that already? Whatever.

I have to agree with the verdict at the Edmonton Radio Ratings site:

It needs to be said. Someone has to take this lame horse of a station to a corner of the pasture and shoot it. Two’s company but three’s a crowd with the greenhorn seemingly regulated to always be on the outside looking in over the fence of the country radio market.

It remains to be seen how much longer Newcap general manager Randy Lemay can sustain the misery before accusations of radio cruelty can be levelled. Exactly five years ago the 96.3 frequency enjoyed a fifth-place 9.6 share … what was somebody thinking?

If you check out the ratings archive, you’ll see the clear decline. I guess they think that yet another format change will save them. Once again however, they’re going up against a Corus radio station that has been very successful for a long time (Joe FM at 92.5).

Currently, the Wikipedia entry for CKRA-FM still identifies the station as Big Earl. The latest switch is the station’s fifth since 1995.

Capital FM? Even the name is completely uninspired. It’s like a terrible car accident happening in slow motion that you just can’t look away from.

UPDATE: This Edmonton Journal article has more information.

UPDATE (4/1/2008): They now have a Facebook group – check it out here.

All Macked Out – Unlimited Magazine

paramagnus No, I didn’t come up with the title. But it’s sorta catchy, no? Anyway, that’s the title of an article in this month’s issue of Unlimited Magazine, part of a column called Look Who’s Teching. The column takes a look at the “wired west” and the growing number of individuals dabbling in technology here:

There’s momentum now, agrees John Bristowe, a development advisor with Microsoft Canada in Calgary. Bristowe, who talks to developers throughout Western Canada, noticed the shift in 2004. “I don’t know what happened,” he says, “but the tech community really began to take off.” Case in point: Calgary. “We’ve always had a vibrant developer community,” he says, “but what you’re seeing now is a growing interest in venture capital, entrepreneurship and the sort of things you only hear about down in Silicon Valley.”

The column introduces topics like “the unconference”, “tagging”, and “agile software development”, and profiles a number of individuals, myself included:

When Mack D. Male co-founded a software company in Edmonton at age 16, his goals were clearly and rigorously defined. One: fame. Two: fortune.

Eight years later, his ambitions have matured, and Paramagnus has grown in step.

mack in unlimited I can’t say I’m incredibly pleased with the photo – it’s kind of an awkward pose! That said, I think it’s pretty cool that they made the three photos look very similar, considering they were taken by different photographers in different cities! I haven’t yet seen what it looks like in print, but the photo online is pretty high resolution. The photographer I worked with was great too. He did his best to stick within the strict guidelines the magazine gave him.

I am quite happy with the article. I think Tyler managed to capture our conversation at Starbucks very well. He also did a really great job of ensuring he had the technical details of podcasting correct. I would however like to clarify one comment Tyler made:

Suddenly more money was going into podcast creation than was being made, and Paramagnus was left to search out the next big hit.

We’re always keeping an eye out for what’s new and cool, but that doesn’t mean that we’re ignoring Podcast Spot. We’re long overdue for an update, but we’ve still been working on it. And yes, we have something new in the works also.

Anyway, give the article a read and let me know what you think! There’s lots of other interesting things in “The Tech + Media Issue” too, so be sure to check it out.

Read: Unlimited Magazine

Happy Birthday Podcast Spot!

Post ImageThe big news today of course is the launch of Halo 3, but it’s also important to me for another reason. It’s kind of hard to believe, but it was on this day a year ago that we launched Podcast Spot. We had no idea what to expect for our first year, but I think we can call it a success. Not a massive success, but a success nonetheless. Here’s what I wrote back in 2006:

That said, it’s just the first step, and there’s still a long way to go. We’re eager and excited to continue improving the podcasting experience, with Podcast Spot and other products too.

I’d say that still holds for today. We’re going to spend some time going through what we’ve learned over the last year, and combined with our ideas and plans, we look forward to making our second year even better.

As I said on the Paramagnus blog, thanks to everyone who has supported us and especially to the podcasters who call Podcast Spot home. It’s still pretty cool to me that people are using something I’ve built.

Read: Paramagnus

Flash, Silverlight and H.264

Post ImageAdobe launched a new version of Flash on Monday. The update is codenamed “Moviestar” because it adds support for H.264, a video compression codec. The release is significant because it allows Flash to play really high quality video. Adobe expects the final version to be ready this fall.

I think it’s clear that Adobe added H.264 support to Flash as a way to compete with Microsoft’s Silverlight and VC-1. SmugMug’s Don MacAskill thinks the announcement gives Adobe the edge:

Silverlight 1.0 is focused almost entirely on video, including HD, and clearly gunning for Flash. So why wouldn’t they go right for Flash’s big Achilles heel – no H.264 support?

Oh well – that opportunity is now lost, and I believe this basically nails Silverlight 1.0’s coffin shut.

Don goes on to say that he had high hopes for strong competition among Rich Internet Application frameworks. I really value Don’s opinion, and I think he’s a really smart guy, but I think his comment is somewhat misleading and I have to disagree with him here. Why? Because it’s only August 22nd, 2007, that’s why.

I realize that Don specifically mentioned “Silverlight 1.0” but I wouldn’t fault you for skimming over the version number, and that’s what needs to be addressed. First of all, Silverlight 1.0 hasn’t even been released yet. Secondly, the first real release is going to be Silverlight 1.1, which is currently in alpha. There’s a lot of time left before the final version of 1.1 is released. Who knows, maybe Microsoft will even add support for H.264 before that time (though Don says he has been told by MS employees that no more codecs will be added).

The point is that it’s still early. Don’t count Silverlight out just yet. Lots can happen between now and the final releases of both Flash “Moviestar” and Silverlight. I think it’s safe to say there won’t be a lack of competition in the RIA framework space.

I completely agree with Don’s last statement though:

You’re going to see a massive boom in the online video space shortly. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Exactly. Lots to come still. It’s an exciting time!

Read: SmugBlog

Some Thoughts on the Association for Downloadable Media

Post ImageLast week a new organization calling itself the Association for Downloadable Media launched. The ADM aims to provide standards for advertising and audience measurement for episodic and downloadable media. From their press release:

The ADM will focus primarily on the world of podcasting, downloadable media and portable content monetized by advertising and sponsorship. The ADM will create a landscape that facilitates the commercialization of this growing audience.

Monetization of podcasts is a growing opportunity for these parties, and the ADM supports the momentum of this channel through the collective mindshare of its members.

They have sixteen organizations already on board, including Apple and NPR. Individuals can join for $150/year, for corporations the price is $1000/year.

First of all, I’m not sure the organization is needed. Where are all the content creators and advertisers complaining about the lack of standards? Furthermore, none of the member companies are bound to do anything anyway. They can, however, point to the ADM as an example of how they are “participating in and improving” the industry. Take the five “initial” committees they have already created – isn’t it kind of early to have such committees? Probably, but it makes them look more legitimate.

More importantly, will the ADM really be able to accomplish anything? Aside from Apple and the NPR, the organizations currently on board are small fish in the grand scheme of things. Yes even venture-backed companies like Podshow, PodTech, and Revision3. What happens when NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox jump into the downloadable media market? Or perhaps even other media outlets like the New York Times? The ADM will drown in the ensuing splash, that’s what. The big fish will be able to do whatever they like, regardless of what the ADM has already “standardized.”

One other thing – downloadable media is a fairly broad term, don’t you think? Fairly ambitious of the group to proclaim themselves the association for such a thing.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope the ADM will accomplish great things. I don’t think it’s going to happen though. I suspect the ADM will be nothing more than a distant memory come this time next year. Time will tell!

Read: ADM

Edmonton's local media should embrace the web

Post ImageEarlier this evening I attended a panel event called Edmonton’s Image in the Media: A Fresh Perspective. The event was put on by Next Gen Edmonton, and took place at City Hall. I find myself becoming more and more interested in the Next Gen project, so I decided to check out the event. The panelists included: Bridget Ryan from CityTV, Mari Sasano from the Edmonton Journal, Jason Manning from Sonic FM, and Ted Kerr who is a freelance writer/photographer. Allan Bolstad from MacEwan moderated.

The subtitle was the only place a “fresh perspective” could be found at this event. I went in hoping for some great insight from these professionals, and instead I heard a bunch of mainstream media representatives who simply don’t get it. I twittered my disappointment – not that I’d expect any of the panelists to have a clue as to what Twitter is. I completely understand that Twitter is a fairly niche product at the moment, but the panelists talked about email like it was a brand new invention. It took over 45 minutes before anyone mentioned the web – Ted talked about blogs and websites in response to an audience question.

Some of the questions the panel was supposed to explore incuded: Is Edmonton portrayed fairly in the media? How could we improve Edmonton’s image to the outside world? Do Edmontonians themselves need to be educated about their city? What could the media do to help?

I took some notes during the event; here are my thoughts:

  • Jason loves Edmonton but apparently isn’t capable of answering a question without referencing “the music scene.”
  • Bridget thinks the media is doing a great job and is afraid to walk downtown alone at night.
  • Mari wants you to do her job for her – send her information about your events! She also was extremely annoying to listen to.
  • Ted claims his “online reading capacity” is no more than a single page.

Event organizer Daniel Eggert asked the last question, and it was about what kinds of media the “next generation” uses and trusts. He explained he was thinking about the web – “blogs, YouTube, Wikipedia, and others.” The panelists did an excellent job of not answering his question. Such a waste.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with Edmonton’s image in the media is that Edmontonians themselves don’t know enough about the city. How many Edmontonians, for example, know that Edmonton is the cultural capital of Canada? Probably not very many. I think the only way to solve this problem is through the web. Television and radio are great, but audiences are slowly disappearing, and the “next generation” spends far more time online. Newspapers are considered archaic by myself and many others my age (note to newspaper companies: move the content online, ditch the horrible format).

The local media and the city itself both need to embrace the web – they simply aren’t doing their jobs if they don’t. The Journal launched blogs a couple months ago and dropped the pay-wall, but there is lots of room for improvement. The City of Edmonton website contains lots of information but is a complete mess. In addition to fixing what’s already there, why not explore the unknown? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a City of Edmonton sponsored group on Facebook and use it to create events. There are, after all, over 140,000 Edmontonians on Facebook.
  • Even better – endeavour to make one de-facto online event calendar.
  • Build a local news aggregation site – kind of like TechMeme for tech.
  • Learn how to use RSS effectively to monitor what’s going on in the city.
  • Make it easier for citizens to submit photos, videos, and other content all using the web.

To be fair, online local news and resources are a big problem everywhere (except for huge cities like New York). Embracing the web would not only educate Edmontonians and improve our image around the world, it might even make us a leader and trendsetter.

What do you think? I’ll post more on this later after I’ve given it some more thought.

Bloomberg for President?

Post ImageI don’t know about you, but when I think of “Bloomberg” I generally think of money. Maybe that’s because Bloomberg L.P., the company that current New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg started back in 1981, is the largest financial news and data company in the world. Or maybe it’s because Mr. Bloomberg is filthy rich! Either way, it takes more than money to run for President doesn’t it? Okay, okay, money is important. Still, that’s pretty much all the press has to go on at the moment:

The announcement by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent was made after nearly two years in which his aides had laid the groundwork for a potential independent run for president.

Oh no, not the aides laying groundwork! That means he must really be planning to run for President! Nevermind that he made it clear he wants to finish his term as mayor:

“My intention is to be mayor for the next 925 days and 10 or 11 hours,” he said. “I’ve got the greatest job in the world, and I’m going to keep doing it.”

Ah I can just imagine what the reporters were thinking – he has money, so he must want to run for President, let’s find information that proves us right! Maybe I am just being naïve, but if he says he isn’t running, don’t you think there’s a small chance he is telling the truth?

Bloomberg becoming an independent is interesting, for sure, but I find it kind of comical that the media want to make becoming an independent mean running for President. Perhaps Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have become boring?