This camera gets a lot of lion traffic but this is the first time we’ve seen a side view — usually the cats are walking directly towards the camera. Our guess is this one is about six feet long and probably a male.
We moved the camera that took these shots about 50 feet west to get a better view of the clearing where we’ve seen a lot of deer and more than a few mountain lions. Today, we collected a series of shots from around 7pm last week that I was able to turn into a video of sorts. The mountain lion walks in, plops down, gets up, lies down again and then walks away.
Our guess is that it’s a male about 30 inches tall or so (based on size comparisons to people in the same place) but we really have no idea. Update: a friend who knows better believes it’s the same female from the previous shots we got in this area.
I set up more cameras on our property in the woods a few months ago and over Christmas weekend caught more shots of our local mountain lions. Unfortunately they walked a bit too close to the camera so I didn’t get the best shots (I’ve since moved this particular camera to a better vantage point) but still these are by far the best mountain lion shots we’ve gotten yet.
Best we can tell, this is a mother with two one-year or so old cubs. I’ve included a few shots from the series.
Sorry things have been a bit quiet here but I’ve been blogging a bit more over on American McCarver of late and a lot of the quick sports hit stuff that might have showed up here is over there. It’s a great blog, you should read it if you enjoy people funnier, smarter and more blog savvy than me. You can recognize their posts because they usually have about 10x more comments (or whatever Tumblr calls them) than mine.
Marco Arment has a great piece about the whole Twitter xAuth/OAuth thing. This blog is hardly the place to describe the technical issues, but at a high level Twitter is making a change that is going to require a bunch of app developers to jump through hoops in a very short time frame. The app developers are pissed. But Marco (developer of Instapaper and Tumblr) plays the devil’s advocate:
Twitter can do whatever they want.
It’s the simple, brutal truth. Twitter must do what’s best for Twitter. They owe us nothing.
It’s not a public good. It’s not a right. It’s a private, entirely centralized service with no meaningful competition and a massive network-effect barrier to competitive entry. Twitter has all of the power in its relationship with users and developers.
I’ve always believed that business is about the very simple value proposition of the quid pro quo, literally “this for that.” An equal exchange of goods makes for two happy counter parties. Mostly to show off my amazing Latin skills, it was my go to phrase when we launched HotWired back in the early 90’s in the face of criticism that you couldn’t/shouldn’t put advertising on the internet. Our trade was that we were creating all sorts of original content for the new medium of the web and that it was fair to ask our readers to accept advertising in exchange. Needless to say, it worked.
This phrase has been about as close to religion to me as anything and was (not surprisingly) one of the reasons I chose it for the name of this site as well. When a company gives something away for free, it is requesting your attention back in exchange. While not charging may lower the “ask” in return, you still have to give people something they want and plenty of free sites have failed as a result.
Which brings me back to Marco’s post and my complete agreement with his position. Twitter can do whatever it wants, change whatever technical standard it uses and force whatever discipline it wants on its ecosystem. Right now, Twitter has a product that everyone wants to use — in fact, I would argue that for five years the company has given far more than it has received. Twitter is now spending against that deficit and while that might piss people off, it won’t make them leave. Does Twitter have infinite “quid” to spend? Of course, not... no one does and eventually their trade will even out. But until that time, either quit complaining or go build your own sine qua non.
The last 10 years has seen the complete disassembly of all we know in media. Google — that great indexer in the cloud — turned integrated media sites into a collection of entries in its large content database. Remember the battles of yesterday to protect the home page? Companies actually tried to prevent a deep link to a single page inside a website, bypassing the almighty front page. Now rather than fighting it, media companies hire SEO experts to help grow their traffic and do everything they can to optimize around Google’s crawler.
The social web has only exacerbated this trend: every Tweet/Like/Stumble button is a small cry for traffic. Writers are paid on their ability to get their stories to go viral and much time is spent picking just the right link bait headline. In the same way that iTunes put the final nail in the coffin of the album (why buy the whole thing when you only want the one song?) the web has taken away media’s job as arbiter of importance… and given it to an entirely new set of players.
Unless you’re ready to turn media over to the robots. Google News is pure algorithm — find a story, cross reference a bunch of other related stories, add some meta data, link, rinse and repeat. It’s the Google of aggregation, natch. Krishna Bharat, the father of Google News, was recently quoted as comparing his product to the Yellow Pages, not exactly an example of a great media product. On the other hand, I think his analogy is dead on and explains why Google News just doesn’t work for me (and increasingly others).
All of the really interesting aggregators are powered by people, not software (although software certainly helps out a lot). Hacker News fits into the Slashdot/Digg/Reddit mold of crowd sourcing the problem. TechMeme and its sisters are heavily assisted by human intervention. Flipboard and the new wave of aggregation apps let my friends be my editors. The fact is, there’s just way too much content out there to trust software to do the job, especially if serendipity is high on your list of important things. My own favorite aggregator is a person — Jason Hirschhorn — who happens to wonder about a lot of the same things I do but with a much more voracious appetite for reading.
Aggregation is only interesting when it starts to have a point of view, there’s way too much content out there already and I want a filter not a data dump. In the newspaper industry, the front page meeting used to be the most important meeting of the day — what are the critical stories that go above the fold, what is the headline that is going to sell the paper. Can software really be trusted with that job?
I still don’t get content apps but I think I finally understand why. I was reminded recently of the early days of the internet when a number of companies were created to build online shopping malls. It was a classic situation of bringing the wrong metaphor online. In the physical world, a real estate company builds a big building, gets a lot of retailers to take space in that building and then people come in droves. But in the online world, aggregating the merchants didn’t add any value — the hard part was aggregating the consumers. These internet malls died very quick deaths whereas the portals which had built the most popular front doors (Yahoo, AOL, MSN) collected the most amount of influence with consumers and were able to send traffic to any merchant willing to pay.
We’re seeing the same thing happen with content apps and that is why they will all fail. Back in the days of printing presses and physical distribution costs, a magazine or newspaper made sense as an aggregation of content. If I’m going to pay for one package on my doorstep every morning, it better give me news, sports, weather, stock quotes, comics and a bunch of other stuff (even if I don’t read most of it). Easier to send me a lot more than I want and let me pick.
But now thanks to micro payment models for content, we’re able to buy just what we’re interested in and useless aggregations of content around a generic brand are much harder to sustain. We’ve already seen what the disaggregation of content has done to the music business, I won’t rehash that story here. But with very few exceptions, all of the content apps I’ve played with are heading down that same path.
As is no secret to people who know me or read this site (although I’m pretty sure those two cohorts overlap completely), I’m a huge fan of all forms of journalism. It pains me that the web is still trying to figure out how to be a good medium for much of the trade — we’ve spent so much time optimizing for Google that long-form writing (over 10,000 words) just hasn’t found a place. What works great in a magazine (this piece by Neal Stephenson from December 1996 is still my favorite Wired article ever) hasn’t really worked on the web yet.
Byliner’s mission is to produce great stories by great writers, stories that can be read in a single sitting. Byliner Originals, the startup’s digitally published works of nonfiction, are available for $2.99 each as Amazon Singles and are readable on most tablets, ereaders and mobile devices.
Three Cups of Deceit, by esteemed author Jon Krakauer was Byliner’s inaugural story. It proved this unconventional publishing paradigm works. The story, a bonafide instant hit, exposes Three Cups of Tea author and self-professed humanitarian Greg Mortenson as a fraud who lied to his readers and misappropriated millions of dollars in donations for his own personal gain.
What I liked most about Byliner (besides the great team behind it) is that they are treating this like an editorial product, not a marketplace. They will be assigning stories and editing them — how novel — and have a strong connection with many of the best names in long-form journalism and a great pipeline of stories to come next. Today, they released their second story Into the Forbidden Zone about post-earthquake Japan by William T. Vollmann. The stories hope to be both timely yet timeless.
I hope Byliner is a wildly successful investment. But more importantly, I hope the company helps long-form journalism establish itself on the web. It’s a format we can’t lose.
In start-ups as in life, expectations setting is the name of the game. Under promise, over deliver. I’ve said it before, one of the biggest advantages a start-up has is that no one expects anything from it, giving the team ample time to tweak until the product is right. It’s easier for a big company to overpay to buy something else that’s already working because it will never get the chance to iterate on its own out of the spotlight. I think this is the primary reason M&A has become R&D for Silicon Valley.
And the worst thing a start-up can do is overhype itself, thus losing the ability to innovate while lacking all the resources of a larger company. I can’t think of a single example where that strategy has worked and Color — the most recent offender — doesn’t seem to be disproving that.
With that as the backdrop, I was amused at this weekend’s reading. First Michael Arrington:
“The team here at TechCrunch will give Color all the mulligans it wants to get things right. They can swing and miss all day and we’ll still be here in the stands, rooting them on.”
In response, Jason Calacanis opined:
“...[Y]ou’re way off base that their [sic] not doing the right thing by trying everything under the sun. Swinging and pivoting is the name of the game.”
The punditry at their best! Arrington — who as much as anyone in tech blogging embodies the promote/dump cycle of the last few years — telling Color to buck up and keep at it. Calacanis — who as much as anyone in tech blogging has perfected blogging for blogs sake — telling Arrington to quiet down and let Color be Color. No information content was harmed in the logrolling but I’m sure they both got some page views.
Too bad they didn’t catch bin Laden earlier in the weekend.
Friend of the show Narendra Rocherolle did a great interview with Jeff Probst published on TechCrunch yesterday, I highly recommend reading it. I’ve written a lot about my love of reality TV lately and Survivor is in many ways the grand daddy of the genre. Yes, there were other reality-based shows before but Survivor broke the genre wide open on major network television. It’s still a must watch show in our household and Jeff Probst has over the years become the main reason to watch. His development from moderator to provocateur has been a large part of the show’s on-going success in my mind.
My favorite quote from a media perspective is midway through when Jeff talks about the fact that CBS had no idea he was real-time tweeting with the show — a classic situation of the talent being far ahead of the distribution. But as a long-time viewer of the show, my favorite back and forth had to be the last question:
Q: While I have you on the spot, a truly pressing question. Over the years you have settled on an incredibly awkward gesture in conjunction with “Survivors ready…Go!” It is this strange double armed thing where you always look like you aren’t quite sure that you are going to get it right. What gives? How about waving a flag or no gesture at all?
A: Very fucking funny. Finally somebody said what I’ve been feeling for years. It all started on episode one, season one when I had to let the first group of Survivors know when to start a challenge. They were way out in the water and so I threw up my hand and dropped it as a signal. It stuck. Not my greatest idea. Then again had I known we’d be on 12 years later I might have chosen a different wardrobe too!
Fucking funny indeed.