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Olson’s Observations

Technology. Innovation. Science. VC. Media. :: by Eric Olson

Archive for January, 2007

Widespread Adoption of Feeds is Coming

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Read/Write Web put out a great piece today regarding the adoption of web 2.0 services by mainstream media. The good news is it looks like the mainstream media companies are adopting the new ideas and it looks like Time is leading the pack. Now that the mainstream media is using web 2.0 services it will be interesting to see what the usage of those services by their readers looks like but that’s a whole other post. In this post I’d like to discuss the feed side of things.

As you can see from the Read/Write web chart below, feeds seem to be the most prevalent of services with every site surveyed having at least one.

Since just about every mainstream media company now has feeds the automatic Internet Explorer 7 upgrade from a couple months ago and the launch of Microsoft Vista are even more significant.

Both IE7 and Vista have built in feed reading platforms meaning that many of the worlds’ computer users will now be shown feeds for the first time. In fact, IE7 has a great way of presenting and describing feeds that treats them more like bookmarks which people can easily understand (yes, I know firefox has done this for a while but more of the mainstream audience are IE users and have not seen that).

As we all know, the value proposition of feeds is a no brainer so once these users give them a shot they will likely be hooked (hopefully so hooked that they start looking at independent content as well and subscribing to it).

It is looking like 2007 will be the year of the feed in terms of mainstream audience adoption which gets me very excited since I sleep and live and breathe feeds, syndication and distributed media every day at FeedBurner. We’re just about across the chasm now and it feels good (there has to be a song in there somewhere).

Written by Eric Olson

January 30th, 2007 at 11:08 pm

Posted in Media, Web 2.0

Movie Review: Saw I, II and III

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SawThe trilogy is complete and I loved every minute of it. For those that don’t know, the Saw franchise is a horror franchise. Yes, a horror franchise. I know what you’re thinking and no the films are not gory-for-no-reason horror films like you’re used to. The Saw films are actually quite intelligent and well put together (and are also very gory - you’ve been warned).

The first Saw film is the best of the series which is usually the case with most trilogies. What I loved about the first Saw film was that the writer and director were forced to come up with a movie that didn’t cost a lot of money so they thought they would write and produce a film that took place essentially in one room. The film that came out of this low budget situation was incredibly done. The plot was intricate, the pacing was great and the puzzle was mind blowing. The film also had a message, which in horror films is rare, and the message was that you should not take your life for granted.

The next film in the series carried on many of the same traits but was definitely done with a larger budget. That said, I was pleasantly surprised after I watched Saw II. The filmmakers didn’t let success get to them and they put together another solid film that brought us deeper into Jigsaw’s warped mind (Jigsaw is the mastermind in the films). They also broke out some more fascinating “traps” (the devices Jigsaw uses to get people to appreciate their lives or die trying).

When Saw III came up on the radar I was still a little unsure these guys could pull off another engrossing film but they did. As I said above, the first movie was the best by far but Saw III certainly tied up some loose ends and capped off the trilogy nicely. You were able to learn more about Jigsaw and his helper Amanda as well and how their relationship had progressed throughout the films.

The Saw films are completely fascinating and I hope you won’t let the gore factor stop you from watching them. They are a treat in terms of cinemaotography, creativity, writing and acting and you’ll no doubt find yourself trying to piece together the puzzles Jigsaw lays out before it’s too late. I don’t think you’ll make it though. They are some tough puzzles to crack. Just be happy you’re not really in the game.

Written by Eric Olson

January 30th, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Posted in Movie Reviews

Always Think Relationships

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I recently went through an experience that left me wondering what the other party was thinking so I thought I would share. The background is this: I signed a contract with said party a while ago. The person I did the deal with left the company and erased all deals from the computer systems meaning the rest of the organization didn’t know about my deal. I called to check in on things and received the back-story on what happened and then proceeded to recount the deal and fax over the contract. Here’s where things get interesting.

The owner of the establishment proceeded to tell me I needed to pay all sorts of other charges that were not on the original contract in order to get the space I needed. When I informed the owner that I had a contract she still proceeded to try to get me to pay for a lot of extras that “are supposed to be on all contracts” but the employee that left the business did not include them (precisely because I negotiated them off the contract). After a half hour of arguing with me the owner gave me what I wanted and what I had contracted for and actually made the evening quite pleasant. I was honestly impressed with how things went in the end of the day.

Here’s the question: If you are going to appease the customer in the end why fight them? In this situation I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth even though the outcome was great. I probably won’t do business with this establishment again because of this interaction. If the owner had simply agreed to fulfill my contract in lieu of the employee issues I would have been greatful even though she was just doing what she was obligated to do and I would have went back to her in the future.

Word to the wise, make the customer happy especially if they are, in fact, right and you’ll reap the dividends for years to come. If you always look at each customer interaction as a potential long term relationship rather than just a single sale your business will have a higher chance of success.

Written by Eric Olson

January 30th, 2007 at 10:05 pm

Media 2.0 Workgroup Launches

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Media 2.0The Media 2.0 Workgroup launched today and I am happy to be a part of it. The group will include people from many different perspectives including the people fighting hard to bring large media companies into the future, people who work to build tools for new media, people who have built new media empires from the ground up and the list goes on from there.

My site definitely pales in comparison to others in the group including Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0, Ian Forrester of the BBC, Jeff Pulver of Pulver Media and Stowe Boyd of /Message which are good reads. I am also honored to be in the company of good friends like Frank Gruber of AOL who co-founded TECH cocktail with me and writes a great blog. I know I am going to learn a lot form the members of the group and I only hope that I can add some insight into the mix.

From the release:

“The Media 2.0 Workgroup is a group of industry commentators, agitators, and innovators who believe the phenomena of democratic participation will change the face of Media Creation, Distribution and Consumption. Join the conversation…”

Joining the conversation is what it’s all about so get in there and start participating and learning with the rest of us!

Written by Eric Olson

January 29th, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Media, Web 2.0

Quick Thought: RSS and TiVo

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Feed Icon with HeadphonesI had the pleasure of participating on the Internet and Interactivity panel today at the Chicago Motion Graphics Festival. As most of you know I have become very interested in video on the net after I met a lot of smart folks at PodCamp in Boston back in September so it was great to spend time with a lot of video producers and talk more about what is going on with video on the net and about feeds (which were new to a lot of folks).

The quick thought I want to share with you came from a co-panelist of mine, Nick Schmidt. We were talking a bit about how feeds are enabling the distribution of video on the net and Nick brought up a nice comparison to describe feeds. Nick described feeds to the audience as something similar to your TiVo.

Nick went on to say that, like your TiVo, through feeds you can tell programs like iTunes what content you want by subscribing to the feed of that content and the feed will bring you the latest content as it comes out. It’s a great way to think about feeds and I thank Nick for the comparison.

What’s also interesting about TiVo and feeds is that I believe you can now subscribe to content via feeds with your TiVo. Hopefully that will open up web based content and feeds to a whole new group of people. In the end of the day feeds allow you to get only the content (text, audio, video) you want and consume it when and where you want. Pretty sweet, eh?

If you like your TiVo and haven’t given feeds a try I urge you to do so. Plus, the vast majority of the content is free so there’s nothing to lose. Check out Network2 for some great web video you can subscribe to.

Written by Eric Olson

January 28th, 2007 at 9:16 pm

I Love Robots: iRobot Roomba Sage

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iRobotI had been looking at iRobot Roombas for a long time since I hate vacuuming (I say that like I ever do vacuum). I was hesitant to pick one up because I was unsure of how well they worked and what kind of replacement parts I would need to buy. After doing a lot of research and talking to some friends who own them I decided to pick one up.

I chose the Roomba Sage v2.1 because I needed something that wasn’t basic but I also didn’t need the top of the line model. The sage came with enough accessories to make sense for me. The only thing I would have liked that I didn’t get in the package was the homebase charging station but I can live without that for now.

I received my Roomba Sage this past week and put it into action today. I was very impressed with the results. The Roomba covered my entire apartment and even went under the couch, chairs, bed, and table. Simply amazing. Even if I did get up and vacuum I never would be able to be that thorough without moving all the furniture.

Roomba SageOne of my favorite features of the Roomba Sage is the Dirt Detect mode. When the Roomba detects more dirt than normal it circles that particular spot on the floor for a couple seconds to make sure it is fully clean. Now that’s a great feature. I noticed Dirt Detect come into effect in the places you would assume it would like near the doorways and other high traffic areas.

The Roomba, thus far, is worth every cent and I would highly recommend purchasing one if you have the means. The only thing I would like to see improvement on is the level of noise. It isn’t any louder than a regular vacuum and is actually quieter if anything but it would be great if iRobot could make the Roomba almost silent so you wouldn’t even know it was cleaning.

I grew up reading sci-fi classics by writers like Asimov and even writing some short stories myself so the idea of robots doing my cleaning is incredible. It’s a childhood fantasy fulfilled. I just hope the Roomba doesn’t revolt against me and try to vacuum me up in the middle of the night. We’re probably a long way off from that though. It’s not that smart, or is it?

Side note: For you robot guys and hackers out there iRobot now offers a “developers kit” of sorts. You get a basic robot and can program it to do whatever you’d like. It’s pretty slick. These developer kits would also be great for the classroom.

Written by Eric Olson

January 28th, 2007 at 8:52 pm

TECH cocktail 3: Wrap-up and Thank You

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TECH cocktailI am happy to report that TECH cocktail 3 was a huge success (although I am a bit biased I suppose). More people than ever, close to 600 or so, piled into Amira at the NBC Tower for TC3 and I think we can safely say it was the largest gathering of great people and great tech ideas/companies in Chicago history (or at least since the bubble burst).

I personally met a lot of new people and got to catch up with a lot of entrepreneurs I already knew who are doing some great stuff (,, etc.). In fact, I did so much talking that I completely forgot to get a drink, get food or take pictures! If you took some please let me know and make sure to tag them techcocktail3.

I won’t go into a description of the night since, quite frankly, many people have done a better job than I could. Check out these posts for an unbiased look at TC3:

Chicagoist - WindyBits - Networking Insight - Two Bit Operation

There are a lot of people I need to thank for making TECH cocktail 3 possible and the list starts with my girlfriend and her friends Lisa and Felicia who worked the registration booth all night. You guys were great and the event would have been a mess without you. Laura and I owe you both dinner soon!

Next up - our sponsors:

SingleHop: These guys do some serious web hosting and also have some serious fun. Without them TECH cocktail 3 wouldn’t have been the same. From the ice frogs dispensing martinis to the covering that vast majority of the bar tab these guys make it happen big time for the Chicago tech community.

Please make sure to get your dedicated servers from them since your purchase helps them to continue to build a successful business and to support the Chicago tech community like no other company. Thanks again guys!

MK Capital: The MK guys have been supporters since TC2. These guys are very community focused and they continue to be helpful to entrepreneurs in the midwest and around the country. If you’re looking for money to fund your company please let me know and I can get you hooked up with them.

Liquid Talk Networks: Dave Peak - the CEO of Liquid Talk - is a great guy and approached me because he wanted to help the community in Chicago grow. I love situations like this where new companies can help the community and we can help them get exposure. For anyone looking to make their corporate knowledge mobile please give me a shout and I’ll connect you to Dave.

Digital Bootcamp: These guys not only help the community time and time again they also teach people how to use the tech we all love. They are single handedly raising the nerds per capital ratio. If you want to learn a new program or brush up on one you used to know Digital Bootcamp is the place to go.

Chicagoland Entreprenurial Center: Jason Jacobsohn has been a great help and has also brought the CEC in make TC3 possible. These guys help entrepreneurs of all kinds all day so they were logical partners for TC. If you ever need any help, connections, etc. while starting your business please check out the CEC. They are there for you.

Origin Ventures: These guys are first time TC sponsors and we are glad to have them aboard. If you are a super early stage company and need some cash to get your business going definitely talk to Origin. The guys are great and I would be more than happy to hook you up with them.

Handler, Thayer and Duggan: These are the guys that brought you roulette and are flying one of you to Vegas. Enough said there right? HTD is a law firm here in town so please check them out if you need some lawyering (is that even a word?). Seriously though - check these guys out. They are a lot of fun (which is rare for lawyers) and can help your business.

Frost, Ruttenberg and Rothblatt, P.C.: These guys make stuff behind the scenes at TC go smoothly. They help Frank and I with our TC tax returns and all that fun stuff. If you are looking for a great accounting firm for your business please check these guys out. They are supporting our community and we should support them.

Next up - The Entrepreneurs

I won’t go into too much detail here due to the fact I want to keep this post under a million words but check these guys out when you have a chance. They were showing off some great tech last night so if you missed it here’s your chance to catch up!

SwapSimple: Used Book, DVD and Video Game Exchange based right here Chi-town. Check them out if you’re looking for some good entertainment and have some to swap.

Weave the People: They create social networking components for your enterprise, association or events. If you’ve ever wanted your own social networking site let these guys do it for you. It’ll be a lot easier!

Neuros OSD: These guys have put together a slick open source media center. I’ve gotta get me one of these! Not much I need to say here. NBC5 is working to put together a great new media experience for you guys so please check them out.

JobCoin: If you’ve ever wanted a job board of your very own JobCoin is the way to get one. We’re working with them to spruce up our job board as I write this. If you’re going to buy something check these guys out first. If you but it through them they’ll send some of the commission they get from the sale back to you so it’s a win win. Saving some coin is always a good thing and these guys will help you do it.

Planypus: Planning an event for your friends but want to play it by ear? Planypus lets you do just that in an organized fashion and will get you off your couch and out in the city more often.

Last, but certainly not least, a big thank you to the Chicago tech community. Frank and I simply get the space and you guys make the event what it is. last night was a blast and I am very happy to see the Chicagoland tech community coming together in a big way. Thank you all again for coming and I look forward to seeing you at TC4 (coming soon)!

Written by Eric Olson

January 26th, 2007 at 6:17 pm