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Tag Archives: Op-ed

The Federated Media Conversation And The Duplicitous Motivations Of Its Opponents

By David Ponce

Over the last five days, a small tempest has been brewing in some tech blogging circles. I’m going to talk about it here because I’m indirectly involved. And also because, frankly, I’m somewhat pissed.

It involves our advertising agency, Federated Media (who also represent sites like Digg, BoingBoing, Techcrunch, GigaOm and others) and an inflammatory article posted last Friday on tech gossip blog Valleywag. The controversy revolves around allegations of bribery and ethical misconduct. Two camps have formed over this issue and pointed arguments have been flung back and forth for the past five days, with Microsoft caught in the crossfire. Some could say that I’m inherently biased here, as Federated Media represent us. Maybe. But I’m entitled to an opinion too, and if you care to hear it, keep on reading.

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Air Powered Car, Round 2: Fuel Vapor

By Evan Ackerman

FuelVapor Ale

Yesterday I wrote about an Air Powered car, and based on the, uh, popularity of that post (which I will address in due course), here’s another type of vehicle that uses air to increase fuel efficiency. The new tech under the hood is called Fuel Vapor, and it’s able to increase the fuel efficiency of any gas engine by up to 20% while at the same time decreasing CO2 emissions by 30%, all without a catalytic converter. This is all apparently made possible by mixing air with fuel at a ratio of 20:1, as opposed to 14.7:1, which is standard for most cars.

Although the Fuel Vapor system can be installed on any gas engine, it’s flagship platform, the alé (that would be “allay,” not “ale”), is no slouch. The alé has a 180hp Honda engine and can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds, with an electronically limited top speed of 140 mph. It corners at 1.7g on street tires, and at 92 mpg, can drive from Canada so San Francisco without refueling. Furthermore, it emits 75% less CO2 than your average hybrid. The initial run of these cars will be hand built and cost $75,000 (Canadian), with mass production predicted to bring the price down to less than half that in 5 years. A video, and more commentary, after the jump.

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Tragedy Strikes My Electronics Family

XBox  360 Ring Of Death (Image courtesy Spoon Monkey via Flickr)By Andrew Liszewski

That’s right, it seems my XBox 360 has met with the same fate as many of its brothers and sisters have via the infamous red ring of death.

As the story goes, I had a rare bit of free time on my hands last night and felt that the old 360 had become a bit neglected since its newly adopted brother the Wii had been brought home. So I dusted off the controllers, fired it up and after a few minutes of poking around the dashboard the system froze on me. After a quick reboot and a few more minutes it happened again. Sadly by the 3rd reboot instead of seeing the green ring of LEDs come on they instead turned red. Now I’ll admit that I’ve occasionally seen the red LEDs come on over the past 6 months but the console always came back to life after that (I know the red lights indicate different problems depending on what quadrant doesn’t light up) so I wasn’t too worried about it. But this time it looks like it’s officially game over.

The best part of the story is that my 360 seems to have taken its final breaths about 20 or so days after the one-year warranty expired which means I’m going to have to pay up in order to get the unit fixed. Hooray! I should probably be angrier than I am but like I mentioned since the Wii arrived my 360 has gone largely ignored so getting it back in running order is not exactly a pressing issue for me. From what I can tell as long as I get it fixed in time for GTA4 I should be ok…

The Experimental Open Mic Friday

open mic

By David Ponce

Here’s hoping that we’ll be able to remove the word “experimental” one day. That of course depends entirely on you guys. “Open Mic Friday” is an invitation to get some sort of discussion going right here in the comments. The more feces are flung, the better, though we’d definately appreciate it more if instead of feces, you could fling love, passion and speculation for all things technological.

Of course, we realize that trees don’t grow without seeds, so let me fling you (see, we’re flinging too) a couple of topics that might arouse a conversation or two.

Or not.

– Is Digg’s Kevin Rose really worth $60 million?

Women prefer Plasmas to diamonds! Has hell frozen over?

– Gizmodo calls: touchscreen video iPod due out in November. Any baseless opinions?

Google screams Bloody Murder! at the “genericide” of its brand name. Shouldn’t it be happy its gotten so popular, Google is now a verb?

XHTMLized Turns Your Design Into Code

xhtmlizedBy David Ponce

You’re a Photoshop guru, but CSS, XHTML, microformats and semantic markup elude you? You can put a web design together, but detest stringing coherent code? Well, startup XHTMLized might be able to help you out. You send them your design, in any format, and 5 days later, they return a fully validating, cross-browser tested template. All for as little as $150. You don’t like the result? You don’t have to pay.

They achieve this magic by outsourcing your design to any of 12 coders scattered worldwide, though the bulk of them reside in the US. It is possible for you to request to have your design rendered faster; obviously it does not take five days to code a site, but the five day figure is provided as a buffer. Don’t go thinking this is a sweat shop either. Coders make a good living, and you can go here for the official line on this.

For once, I’ll chime in with an opinion. I think this is a great service. I’m convinced there’s a niche out there that these guys will quickly fill. At the same time, their service seems to have pissed a lot of people off. Why? Jealous freelancers? Quite a few have said that they could do this themselves for free. I bet that’s true. And you could do your own plumbing, your own car repairs and your own laser eye surgery, yet many people pay others instead. Opinions, anyone?


More On Blogging/Journalism Ethics, And Engadget – Fun Stuff

ethicsBy David Ponce

If you’re invited to a press event, and you bring cameras… do you have to get everyone in the room who might wander into your footage to sign a consent form? Specifically, if you go to E3, and you’re in a non-exclusive (read, many other people present), invite-only interview with Peter Moore, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, Interactive Entertainment Business… do you have to ask around to make sure everyone in the room consents to being filmed, including other press crews?

Cause if you listen to everyone’s favorite Managing Editor, Ryan Block from Engadget… you better. And if he doesn’t like you, he’ll say “Get Bent!” Hell, I’m not gonna dwell on this cause there’s only so much he says/she says crap anyone can be interested in, but if you care to find out more about just the kind of people the Engadget posse is, head on over to this Andru Edwards personal blog entry to read about the latest debacle between the world’s larget gadget weblog gang, and your everyday friendly neighborhood schmoe. Or, what about this article, from Valleywag?

Anyway… next thing you know, you’ll be hearing of Engadget’s entourage getting in a scuffle with J.Lo’s bodyguards over release forms and fur coats. What fame does…

[Engadget’s Consent Crisis]

Airing Dirty Laundry: Engadget’s Exclusionist Tactics Are NOT An Isolated Incident

I fully expect this post to take on a life of its own. So, I’d like to start it with a disclaimer. Peter, Ryan, Jason… if you end up reading this, know that I respect all of you tremendously. I believe you pour your hearts and souls into what you do, and deserve every bit of success that’s come your way. Well, almost every bit. Know that I bear no hard feelings, but the time has come for the truth to come out, and this is my contribution to that end.

For the last nine months or so, I have harbored a dispute with Engadget, and until now I have kept relatively quiet. This is the gist. I believe (I’m convinced beyond doubt, really) the writers at Engadget maintain a blacklist. They will obstinately refuse to credit any story that originates (in the relatively fuzzy meaning that the word “originates” has in the Blogosphere) from one of the sites on the blacklist, often preferring to wait quite some time until the same story pops up elsewhere, and then crediting that non-blacklisted site. Sometimes, they will go to even greater lengths to uphold the ban, stepping out of the realm of the unpleasant and squarely into the realm of the unethical. This has happened recently to DAPreview, and lucky for them, they have proof.

What do I mean by unethical? Well, in this particular case, the guys at DAPreview went to CeBIT, and took some pictures of digital music players. They then posted about these on their site, with added watermarks. Well, it seems a writer at Engadget picked up on one of these, and presumably not having been briefed by Ryan or Peter, credited a site on the “blacklist”: DAPreview. Well, some time later, the story was “corrected”: the watermark was removed (through cropping), and the story was re-credited to another site. And, the beauty of this is, DAPreview has proof consisting of a before and after picture of the article in question. This article has been linked to on several sites, such as Digg and Fark.

Now, where do I fit in with all this? Well, it seems that Engadget’s and Weblogsinc’s chosen PR strategy has been to put an interesting spin on things. They are claiming this is an isolated incident. That it’s an unfortunate mistake. That there’s no such thing as a “blacklist”. And I, for one, believe this to be false.

Here are the official statements from all involved, posted in the comments of the Digg article, for background. First from Peter Rojas. Then, Ryan Block, directly after the article in question, on Engadget.

Note from Ryan Block, Managing Editor: due to my own misunderstanding I mistakenly changed the source attribution and image on this post, but it has since been restored to its original form. I apologize for any harm or wrongdoing from this error, and respect DAPreview’s rights, content, and understanding.[Read]

And finally Jason Calacanis.

It’s not a mistake guys. The mistake was getting caught.

Let me tell you why I believe this. When I started blogging seriously, in April of 2005, I decided my “edge” was going to be stranger, quirkier gadgets, not found on big sites like Engadget or Gizmodo. I went to great lengths to find these items, sometimes spending as much as six or seven hours a day on dark and poorly frequented sites, looking for something unique. And, still unfamiliar with proper blogging etiquette, I emailed Peter Rojas directly with tips. Looking back, if I’d have to pick a reason for why I think this whole thing started, I’d have to guess it was that. He responded quite tersely to use the tip form (and I think quietly added me to “The List”).

So, I used the tip form, and something strange started happening. Engadget started writing about many things I was tipping them on… but only a few days after I sent the tip, and crediting other sites. At first, I thought nothing of it. I mean, hey, this can happen, I guess. Then, I get an email from Peter, telling me not to bother sending in tips, that I’m on their RSS reader.

Okay, fine, I think. I’m on their reader, great! Only a matter of time until they link to me. Yet, time and time again, the same thing would happen: I’d write about something strange and obscure… and a few days later, once other sites had picked up on it (sometimes even from me) they’d post about it, crediting them, and not me.

This was frustrating, yet I was willing to accept that perhaps, through sheer coincidence, they really did find all these posts on the other sites, somehow missing them on mine when they appeared (sometimes weeks before they “found” them elsewhere). And then, I came across this Gearlive post and suddenly found out I wasn’t alone. And not only was I not alone, but apparently Peter was in the practice of actively, perhaps even aggressively squashing any allegations of consistent misattribution. To give Andru support (you have to read that post to understand), and perhaps to vent a little, I entered the record in his comment section. Well, sure enough, a while later, Peter came around and flamed me for even saying anything. Check out the comments, they’re priceless.

Finally, you can read this article. It’s somewhat relevant, and quite entertaining as well. Oh, and this.

Of course, I don’t have any hard proof that this is happening. Only my impressions of what looks like a pattern. Believe me, in this business, you know when you’re being ignored. And I believe Engadget chooses to ignore news originating from certain sites, sometimes (like now) getting themselves in hot water in the process.

Now, don’t get me wrong. What Engadget has chosen to do with me is not unethical. It is unpleasant for me, but not unethical. Any site faces countless editorial decisions daily, and choosing which site to credit for a story is their prerogative. If they choose to consistently ignore one site as a source, preferring to wait until the story comes out elsewhere, then… well, it sucks for the sites being ignored, but there’s nothing technically wrong with that. But, when you push it to the point where you infringe on someone’s copyright (by removing a watermark), you’ve commited an unethical act.

To be fair, the Engadget staff has apologized for this, and I commend them for stepping up to the plate like that. Whether they would have done anything at all had DAPreview not had proof is a question better left unasked. However, what bothers me is the persistent denial that they have any sort of “blacklist”. Hell guys, you’re not fooling anyone. It’s ok to have a blacklist… you’re allowed. It sucks for us small guys if you do, but well, there’s nothing technically wrong with it. But if you choose to exclude a portion of the blogosphere, for whatever arbitrary reason, then at least be open about it. Don’t go around on every critical site, claiming this was a one time incident. Don’t make me sound like I’m crazy, stupid and paranoid.

I’m not.

You have a blacklist. You enforce it’s application. Sometimes you go too far in this enforcement. And this time, you got caught. You’ve already apologized, and that’s great.

Now don’t go and ruin it by denying it.