That Darned Computer

While I’ve been trying to work over the past day, my last post here on Microsoft’s PR backpedaling on the laptops they sent out to some bloggers has seen more than 60,000 page views (in case you were wondering). I’ve been called some incredible names, some quite funny. Inbound links were perfectly pleasant but many nasty comments. I probably deserved some of that criticism, the tone of the post was pretty obnoxious – but I stand behind it. It was a PR blunder for Microsoft to say “keep them as long as you like,” then after one day of criticism urge people not to keep the laptops. Whatever. I’ll make sure the thing is put to good use, either by myself or by someone who needs a laptop more than I do. Quite a few people emailed me to ask me to give it to them.

Ok, back to work.

**Some more thoughts on this after further reflection – and fresh traffic from a BBC link, strangely to this post and not the previous one.

Sending laptops to select bloggers to test out Vista seems like a perfectly viable PR strategy. Telling them they can keep them as long as they like increases the likelihood of software being installed and a more serious personal investment being made in giving the hardware a serious look. Sending out hardware for review is a very common practice but it clearly upsets some people who believe it to be an unfair, illegitimate use of resources and a shot at bloggers’ integrity. (I’ve said that if your integrity can be bought for a laptop, then you don’t have much integrity in the first place.) None the less, it’s a tough catch 22. Backing down after a day of criticism and not having a clear position at any point was Microsoft’s biggest problem in my mind. Did I mention that I don’t like Windows, too? That’s just how it goes. I’m not terribly happy with my Mac either, for what that’s worth. Get me to the web and let me use my web aplications.

PR in a changed media landscape is tough and I’d love to see some more examples of big, old companies doing a better job of it. What a strange episode this has been.

Now Microsoft Wants Its Laptop Back

Microsoft and AMD sent out a pile of very expensive (yet trashy looking) laptops to a number of bloggers over the past week. We were told we could keep them – now after a day of minor outrage by some people they are emailing us back with the following request that we not keep them after all! And to think, I almost smashed mine in the middle of the street 10 minutes into trying to use it! I did figure out some of the basics after awhile, but it’s still nothing life changing. Ok, so obviously I’m being a bit snotty here and am in a position of ridiculous privilege to get one of these things for free – I just don’t think it’s anything to get your knickers in a twist about given the state of the world.

My point is: the PR backpedal here is just silly. The original email read” “you are welcome to send the machine back to us after you are done playing with it, or you can give it away to your community, or you can hold onto it for as long as you’d like.” Now this follow up:


No good deed goes unpunished, right? You may have seen that other bloggers got review machines as well. Some of that coverage was not factual. As you write your review I just wanted to emphasize that this is a review pc. I strongly recommend you disclose that we sent you this machine for review, and I hope you give your honest opinions. Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding of our intentions I’m going to ask that you either give the pc away or send it back when you no longer need it for product reviews.

Thanks for your understanding, and happy reviewing,

Aaron ***

Ha ha ha – the snazzy laptop I got in the mail from Microsoft yesterday was the only way I was ever going to use Vista anyway. And I’m certainly never going to take a laptop with a stupid looking Ferrari logo on the front anywhere but home and my cube at work.

The computer itself doesn’t retail for $2k plus for nothing – it’s fast. Windows is so annoying and (to me, a Mac user) so counter-intuitive, that I’d never buy a Windows machine. My partner won’t touch the thing. I’m going to set it up to look pretty, take incoming news as if it was the 2nd half of a super large monitor and work on my Mac. Not that I’m super happy with the crash-happy, Flash-hating Macbook I have either. (That said, Parallels is a great program for testing Windows only applications.) See also oops – no new podcasts caught by iTunes for a week.

Ultimately all these companies are probably a lot like cell phone providers. Which is the least ugly one in the room? I wouldn’t chose at all if I didn’t have to.

I can’t believe they are telling me not to keep it now. What kind of blogosphere reaction were they expecting?

Sharing Websites with Not This Week You’re Not

Update: Three cheers for team – this problem has been fixed!

While is getting some much deserved credit for the release of an intriguing looking API today, one of the most standard and valuable features of the system hasn’t been working all week. Specifically, none of the tags applied by users have been updated for 3 days! This means that if you are subscribed to a particular tag, you’re not getting updates. If you go to a tag page to see what the most recent items given a particular tag have been – you’ll see that there’s nothing new for the past 3 days on any tag. Popular is still working, but I hope that the individually tagged items will get fixed asap. It’s an important line of communication for many distributed groups and the last 3 days have been a real loss.

Apparently this is news to the team at The most recent comment on the official blog is from site founder Joshua Schachter, in response to a previous commenter complaining about the problem:

“This shouldn’t be happening, please send a bug description (what urls are are stuck, your userid, etc) to joshua at via email…

Posted by: joshua | Dec 20, 2006 11:03:42 AM”

The Hunt for a New RSS Reader

I’ve just posted a long review of ten top RSS feed readers and their handling of video, audio and images over at the SplashCast blog. It was one of those posts motivated by personal need – I need to find something better than NetNewsWire for my new video-intensive job. I believe that online video and audio are going to become an increasingly important part of what almost everyone does on the web – so this was intended as more than just a post on what’s out there now.

I won’t be writing here about all the posts I make at SplashCast, but this is one that I think is of relatively general interest and could help folks out in making decisions about RSS readers for themselves.

Switching readers can be done at any time, of course. The secret code word is “OPML.” Any decent feed reader will let you export and import a list of all your subscriptions in OPML format. Most will require you to download the file to your desktop then upload it elsewhere, but some readers give you an URL of your subscriptions in their service that you can just point to when you want to put those subscriptions in another reader. It’s a little tricky with Bloglines, but if you’re a long time Bloglines user you should make sure to try out some other tools. Desktop readers in particular. Bloglines users have to import from their desktop, following this path: MyFeeds, Edit, Import (see very bottom of left sidebar).

If you want to practice importing OPML files, try this one out. See that link next to the orange OPML icon? Right click (or cntrl click on a Mac) and save the link to your desktop. They you can import it into your feed reader and sha-pow – you’re subscribed to all of these at once. Bloglines won’t respect your folder, but other feed readers will put all of these together in their own folder titled “Big Pic Eco News.” Enjoy!

Big Picture Eco News

Not local, not issue specific, not necessarily from any particular perspective but big picture, popular news from folks who focus on environmental issues.


  1. Popular recent items tagged “environment” in
  2. Environmental News Network
  3. Gristmill, the blog of
  4., using maps and pictures to examine eco troubles world wide
  5. Tree Hugger, eco news for the hip and urban – I think.
  6. WorldChanging, a great group blog on many issues including eco solutions.

I’m Joining Splashcast

I’ve been offered and have decided to accept a full time position as Director of Content at a pre-launch Portland startup called Splashcast. Splashcast is a multimedia platform that I believe is going to change the web in some important ways. TechCrunch broke the news. Here’s my new boss’s post on my joining. When TechCrunch and I parted ways, I intended to go independent – but this is a job I couldn’t pass up.

In the position, I’ll be highlighting the best groups of videos, photos, audio and text feeds from around the web, engaging in conversations about technology trends and online media news and co-ordinating guest editors from more niches than can be imagined. It’s a totally meta gig 😉 I hope to break some news, too. Along the way, I’ll help raise the profile of Splashcast’s show-stopping good product. The company has an enterprise software background and I have great confidence in our ability to execute.

I think it will be a great place for me to combine my public interest concerns with the fast pace of the for-profit startup world. From independent journalism to modern dance performances to photo slide shows of train yard graffiti set to the music of emerging underground hip hop artists – Splashcast is going to be a great way to spin out channels of thematic media content. I’m excited to demonstrate how it can be done by creating and co-ordinating channels like that myself. I hope that many people will want to use the Splashcast media sharing system but I intend to create a premier destination for highlighted User Generated Content that will be worth visiting regularly for anyone online.

Here’s the feed – I hope you’ll subscribe and join us for the ride.