Category Archives: Technology

Deadspin Was A Good Website

Yesterday, I lost one of my favorite websites, Deadspin.com.  As my good friend Dave Harrell pointed out, it was also the 4-year anniversary of the loss of another beloved site, Grantland.

As has been pointed out many other times online, this isn’t the true death of Deadspin, which will likely exist as a zombie website in order to catch SEO search views and serve tons of ads to those who click on the links.

I have been reading the website since Will Leitch was the Founder and Editor-In-Chief.  It served plenty of sports, but also a quirky and bizarre set of side pursuits that had little to do with sports.  Where else can you get upset by some incredibly bad takes on cereal?  Or follow the monthly drama of Oddibe McDowell’s water bill?  I miss Bear Friday.  Just a small selection of a lot of content that I truly enjoyed as a tangent from sports.  You don’t have to Stick To Sports.

The writing was always fantastic.  The writers were always allowed to expand on the sports they were most passionate about.  I learned more about Premier League and La Liga because of the expansive write-ups by people like Greg Howard and Billy Haisley, even though its a sports where I only have minor interest.  I loved reading it.

Nobody wrote about Donald Trump better than David Roth, and nobody made better Stephen A. Twitter jokes.  I could go on about so many more writers, and of course, how could the website exist without Drew Magary?  I suppose we will find out.

The writing has been on the wall, as they say, for Deadspin’s demise.  After Gawker Media was litigated out of existence, the site lived on (with it’s sister sites) with Univision.  When Great Hill Partners bought Gizmodo Media, Deadspin’s days were numbered.  It’s doubtful that the new owners really did their homework.  Anybody who actually read Deadspin knew that they were committed to journalism and not taking things too seriously.  The “Stick To Sports” confrontation only had one way to go.  Even a newly created union did little to stop the site’s demise.

I suspect this is what Great Hill Partners wanted in the first place.  Free of expensive, experienced, writers, they can now explore the SEO underbelly that actually powers the internet.  They already inserted awful Sponsored Taboola links, which are nothing but garbage.  The controversy over auto-play video just to try to hit Farmer’s Insurance viewership goals made things obvious.  User experience meant nothing.

Crap Content is The Present, and Future

This is the reality of writing on the internet.  There are easy ways to boost traffic.  Content farms are supposed to be downgraded on Google search, but it’s obviously not working.  Current G/O Media boss Jim Spanfeller once bragged about posting 5,000 Forbes.com articles a day.  That isn’t writing or journalism, that is a virus.  This is, if you will, the Bleacher Report method of content.

This method also uses unpaid or low-paid writers, opening up a host of issues.  I don’t know G/O Media and GMG Union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the fact that Deadspin was still using freelancers makes me believe it didn’t protect its workers as well as it should have.  Sites like Fansided and SB Nation (not coincidentally investigated by Deadspin’s own Laura Wagner) have created hundreds of “team sites” selling the dream to unpaid people that they too can become a professional writer (they won’t).  My Google News is filled with hundreds of these team sites I have had to manually remove from search results.

Then, there is the lousy content itself.  Evidence of bad content being uploaded with little to no oversight are too easy to find on the internet for me to link to.  Turns out, having a good Editor helps.  Fill every space with obnoxious ads, spammy Sponsored Links, and cross-site cookies means you can do the illusive:  make money on the internet.

But here’s the thing.  Deadspin was a profitable franchise!  Some of the best writers, many young but already skilled, curated by good editing, and you had a website worth reading several times a day.  There was a dedicated commentariat that even the writers themselves got to know.  Off-the-wall content was actually one of the reasons to go back to the site when you had a break or a lunch hour.  Great Hill Partners needed to do nothing, literally nothing, to keep the site working and profitable.  That they only knew to cut costs and strip all parts from G/O Media shows that they had no business buying the company in the first place.  Now that they fired Barry Petchesky and watched the entire staff resign one-by-one, what do they have?  Who wants to buy G/O Media now that its been stripped down to bare parts?

That’s where Deadspin’s future as a zombie lies.  Somebody will buy it, and they will either add a lot of lousy, unpaid, content, or they will just use the existing SEO to generate advertising money.  Deadspin will live, but it won’t exactly be alive either.  In that respect, I have a little more respect for ESPN holding Grantland.com in stasis, the articles allowed to rest in peace.

Deadspin was one of the first websites I loved.  At various times, I also loved Baseball Prospectus, Grantland, and a few others.  Arstechnica is still going strong, and I do hope its owners allow the site to continue unimpeded.  There isn’t much good journalism left.

The future of writing is bleak.  The future of reading is bleaker.  Just go to cnn.com and read up.  How many articles are news and how many are just opinion?  Our own instincts are powering this behavior.  Purple journalism isn’t new, so anybody worried about Clickbait should read up on newspaper publishing.  They are only serving us what we engage with, and it isn’t straight-up, no compromise, journalism.  Great Hill Partners knows that, and that is why Deadspin had to die yesterday.

 

WordPress Plugin To Disable Gutenberg

I have been reading about WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg, which will be launching very soon (current WP version is 4.9.5).  Gutenberg appears to be a huge upgrade with an interface that is jarring, difficult to use, and can be difficult to work with due to the block-level elements. Continue reading

Facebook Advertising

Facebook Advertising

Facebook advertising sucks

Seriously, just buy this book!

Recently, I co-authored the Photographers Guide To Joshua Tree Natuonal Park with my long-time friend and colleague, Jeremy Long.  We decided to use Facebook Advertising to make sales.

One of the challenges in our first experience with self-publishing is simply letting the world know our book exists.

Jeremy and I both have Facebook Pages for our photography. This would be a great start, if not for Facebook’s notorious algorithm. Facebook architects the Pages in a manner that appears to push users to favor Boosting posts, which costs money.

Jeremy and I spent $ 60.00 combined and the results were:

  • 15,000 post views
  • 200 “Likes”
  • 100 “Clicks”
  • 1 Person clicked the purchase link, which may have been one of my friends
  • 0 Purchases of our Book

For that money, we essentially got views and Likes, none of which actually succeeded in selling our offering.

Jeremy and I both took care to target our audience.  I targeted people from mid-20s to late 50s with an interest in Joshua Tree, photography, California, and San Diego (since that is where I live).  Jeremy expanded his audience to people with photographic interest from Europe, since Joshua Tree gets a lot of tourists from across the pond.

Is it possible out ads were subpar?  I suspect they were okay, judging by a lot of similar sponsored content I see on Facebook.

I have no issue with advertising and do not begrudge Facebook the right to sell advertising.  With a reach past 1 billion users, the possibilities to reach a huge audience are incredible.

I do question the value of Facebook advertising though.  Large corporations and organizations can still reach a vast audience with such low rates of Likes, Clicks, etc.  Small businesses don’t seem to have the same ability because of the dreaded Facebook algorithm.

Our next stop is a few buys with Google Adwords, and I look forward to posting the results.

Websites I Manage

Websites I Manage

www.tmschultze.com
This is my personal website.

www.sdphotoclub.com
This is the website for the San Diego Photo Club.

www.oldhighway80.com
I made a separate photography website just for my Old Highway 80 photography project.

www.jtphotoguide.com
This website is for the Photographer’s Guide To Joshua Tree National Park that I co-wrote with friend and photographer Jeremy Long.

www.jeanniehouse.com
This is a website that highlights my Grandmother’s paintings (Jeannie House).

www.area4history.com
I have continued this BSA OA History Project from Tom Tabb’s original Area 4 History.

Google Is Finally Changing The Mobile Industry

Google Is Finally Changing The Mobile Industry

Google’s Android operating system already enjoys a majority market share among smartphones, but with their Google Project Fi announcement, they are also finally making last changing to the mobile industry.

Android, as an open-source operating system, has been an industry success adopted by a large portion of the telecom industry.  While establishing itself as the rival to Apple’s iOS, Android has also not been as influential in changing the status quo.  Android is fragmented by various mobile carriers, who are able to install their own software and layers that sit on the true Android experience.  Their open system comes at a cost.

Google has long had it’s Nexus line of smartphones, which have the claim of being a true Android experience, making the product line seem to be following what Apple does for every phone they have ever made.

Google has struggled to reign in carriers.  The original Nexus line challenged the carrier-supported purchase model, with users buying a smartphone at full price and taking their phone to the carriers for activation.  In theory, this model held promise if the carriers were willing to stop subsidizing smartphones as a loss leader to make larger profits providing service.  That change never happened, and seems unlikely in the near future.

Google Fi does stand a chance.  Using the Nexus line, Google is offering network compatibility with the 3 platforms of mobility:  CDMA, GSM, and WIFI.  This fourth platform not only uses the previous 3, but it also offer seamless interconnection between them.  As a user, the phone can switch from Sprint’s network, to T-Mobile’s network, to their home WIFI network all during one phone call.  This is powerful technology that the industry will follow.

The other fundamental shift is how users pay and spend for service.  In the current model, users pay for cellular phone service, minutes, texts, and cellular data.  Google Fi has a chance to change the model.  Their service is priced in line with most of the Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).  However, they key value is driven by the fact that the data the user doesn’t use will be credited back.  People who purchase huge family share plans but only use a portion of their data stand to gain serious money back every month, and could be potentially hundreds of dollars every year.

If this plan is successful, the mobile industry will gain a new source of competition, better prices for users, and more flexibility for users in how they use their data.

Compared to wireline service, the mobile industry is still in it’s infancy.  The landscape will change in the years and decades to come, and users finally have a chance to win in the marketplace.

Mandatory-Tech Website

I wanted to take a moment and recommend you subscribe to my friend’s website at Mandatory Tech.  The website is available at www.mandatory-tech.com.  My friend’s name is William Murphy and he covers technology, gadgets, and various issues in the industry.

His latest post concerns Smart Automation at home, a field that is going to become even more important in the future as the Internet of Things becomes a reality.  This technology is going to be about a lot more than digital thermostats.  Imagine having total control over your home’s energy usage, even when you are not at home.  As energy remains the most important issue facing a 21st century world, efficiently using the energy you have is paramount.

He posts new updates in the fast-changing smartphone industry as well, and his annual buyer’s guides are extremely popular.

The pace of change in technology continues unabated, and this is another source for you to keep up!

When you have a moment, take a look and let him know what you think about his site!

Thoughts On The Hyperloop

Thoughts On The Hyperloop

By T.M. Tracy Schultze

Yesterday, Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk open-sourced the idea of the Hyperloop (PDF of the entire idea is located at This Site).

By now, anybody with an interest in technology has read about it. As an idea, it is thought-provoking (see the excellent Ars Technica breakdown of the Hyperloop idea at This Site).

Elon Musk has done this before, turning the idea of the electric car into a viable company that appears destined to be a force in the vehicle market for the rest of this century. So while the idea seems fanciful, I don’t feel it can be ignored.

There is, however, the question of feasibility exists and there are some significant drawbacks. Here are some of the issues that immediately came to mind:

  • The $6 Billion dollar pricetag is impossible. In saying that, I am referring to the cost of the idea from study, to planning, to engineering, and construction. The out of control costs related to the California High Speed Rail.
  • Project show that we have limited ability to truly project current and future costs for such large projects.
  • One of the ideas from the project was to use the Interstate 5 right of way to control costs. While this seems reasonable on it’s face, it ignores the significant engineering costs related to property easements, underground cabling and piping, aqueducts, rivers, and a whole assortment of
    other issues. Significant rules for keeping lanes open during construction are required because the freeway is part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Even after using available Interstate 5 easements, significant Eminent Domain would be required, a process that often ends up in litigation.
  • The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) would be a massive regulatory undertaking, something that would take years to complete for the entire line of the Hyperloop. The Diablo Range Crossing for the California High Speed Rail Project is an example of just how difficult it is to build these projects quickly while respecting State and Federal enviromental laws.
  • The fantastic speeds being reported only relate to “flat” areas of the Central Valley. The speed of the Hyperloop through communities and mountain ranges will be much slower.
  • Another item missed in a lot of articles is the fact that this is a one-way, non-stop ticket. Need to stop in between? Not going to happen. You have Los Angeles. You have San Francisco. And you have a number of pneumatic tubes in between.

This is not a crackpot idea. I distinctly remember my parents using pnuematic tubing at the drive-through lane at the bank. It is well thought out, well conceived, and a provocative idea. However, it is just not a realistic or feasible idea.

I suspect this is one reason that Musk open-sourced the project. He is a great entrepreneur, and if this project was feasible, I suspect he would have moved forward with it himself.

I would just give pause, and hope everybody doesn’t get their hopes up, because this project will not be built in our lifetimes.

Further Reading

T.M. Schultze Technology Pages

Thoughts on Google Drive

Yesterday, the worst-kept secret in technology came out with Google’s new “Drive” product.

I am not going to review the product per se, there is no shortage of reviews on the internet.  See http://mandatory-tech.com/2012/04/24/google-drive-is-here/ for a friend’s initial take on the product.

To clarify, I will not be using this product at all.

Google’s quest for worldwide domination of data knows no boundaries.  The only safe haven has been your personal data, stored locally under your watch in your home.  So what does Google Drive do?  Well, it gives Google what they ultimately want which is more access to your data.

Think Google won’t be indexing your personal files?  Take a look at their new unified policy:

http://www.google.com/policies/privacy/

“We collect information in two ways…information you give us…information we get from your use of our services.”

While Google has specific product practices for Google Plus, Wallet, and Books, there was no update yesterday to clarify their use of your data on Google Drive.  I find their silence to be deafening.  Their privacy policy still has not been updated since the March 1 roll-out.

This is what I find so incredibly mystifying about Google.  I don’t believe Google is in any way a technology company.  They are an advertising company, first and foremost.

There has also been a lot said about Dropbox, the market leader on the consumer side.  Google’s pricing structure appears to be aimed straight for Dropbox.  While Dropbox’s CEO say he isn’t concerned (See Here), I sure am!  Google has dropped very tough to match pricing on the field.  While Microsoft was able to restructure pricing for SkyDrive, I haven’t seen any changes in the last 24 hours from Dropbox.

While I completely support a market and competitive economy, I feel that Google can afford to drop their pants for storage pricing because they will leverage the data you provide to advertisers.  Google does not have a search or web-ad monopoly, but they command an overwhelming and dominant market share that is not going to change dramatically very soon.  To me, this smacks of a company using their dominance in one industry to take over another.  Remember that company that had lots of court time with the DOJ and EU (hmmm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft and hmmm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_Microsoft_competition_case)?  I hope DOJ and EU are taking a close look at Google’s online storage intentions.

I have never seen a Google product I found to be intuitive or easy to use.  The people I know who are big Android supporters talk constantly about “rooting” their phone…it sounds so much like a Linux desktop support group.  My experience with Google products is that they are difficult to use, clunky, and awkward to navigate.  Because Google Drive appears to just be window-dressing for Google Docs, I will relate to that experience.  Yes, you can play around with a Word Doc or Excel spreadsheet, and yes, two people can access at once, but I find it to be an awful tool to use full-time.  I appreciate the changing paradigm, from desktop-centric software to app or cloud applications, but I still don’t think the chicken’s been cooked to 160 degrees yet.

Is Dropbox perfect?  Heavens no.  I wish the sync speed for multiple files was faster, and up until this week I could only share an entire folder with another person, not a single file (disclosure:  I have not used the new ‘Get URL’ featured rolled out on the 23rd, will soon).  I also wish, again because personal data is so important, that there were more sophisticated encryption options (Spideroak is the new player on the street and they are touting privacy as their most important feature).  Dropbox’s own privacy policy is extremely vague regarding the information they share with 3rd parties (see https://www.dropbox.com/privacy).  Not to mention that their data retention policy is also worrisome.  I may very well move my data to Spideroak as a result.

So what is the difference?  Well, the difference of course is Google’s track record of being completely evil when it comes to the privacy of their users.  From Google Buzz, Street View, Logging Wifi data without disclosure, the examples of Google hostility to privacy is well-documented (See here for more examples:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_privacy).

And let’s face it, I want to see the little guys make it in the technology field.  Microsoft proved why a homogenous technology field is bad for consumers.  Yet here we are, not too far in the future and while the market is becoming more and more heterogenous every day, it still seems like Google, Amazon, and Apple are swallowing the entire market.

Competition is great.  Having more than a couple competitors is even better.

Let’s all hope the Dropbox’s of the world don’t become the next Netscape.