Monday, May 26, 2008

Free tools for working with Flash video files

Flash (.flv), probably the most common Internet video format, is used by Youtube and many other sites. If you download a video, you you might want to convert it to another format, strip off the audio as an .mp3 file, or edit it. Check out this list of free tools for processing Flash video.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Senator Lieberman objects to terrorist video on YouTube

We saw earlier that al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades were using Google Earth to site targets. Terrorist organizations also use the Internet for recruiting, logistics, propaganda, etc.

Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked Google, the parent company of the YouTube, to "immediately remove content produced by Islamist terrorist organizations" from the site and prevent similar content from reappearing.

Google, refused stating “While we respect and understand his views, YouTube encourages free speech and defends everyone's right to express unpopular points of view.”

A spokesperson for Lieberman then stated that the senator found the response unsatisfactory and was troubled that the company "does not appear willing to change its guidelines to prevent foreign terrorist organizations (as designated by the State Department) from posting videos used to radicalize followers and incite them to violence."

Evidently Lieberman feels that the Islamist organizations have a right to free speech in the US, but that Google does not have the obligation to publish their speech.

Every nation makes some attempt to control Internet content. Some ban pornography, others the sale of Nazi memorabilia, etc. Do you think Google should comply with Lieberman's request? What are the moral considerations? The practical business considerations?

Monday, May 12, 2008

User supplied content and network effects

We discuss the value of user-generated content. An early example was, which beat a better established competitor, Barnes and Noble, by encouraging people to submit reviews of books.

Wikipedia and Craigslist are two other well known examples. The Wikipedia Foundation, which runs one of the most visited sites on the Web, had only 14 employees as of March 2008. Craigslist had only 23 employees in October 2006 yet it was one of the ten most visited Web sites, as we see here:

This list may be exaggerated -- other companies like the BBC and Disney have diverse interests going far beyond their Web sites and revenue at Craigslist is far below the other companies on the list -- but it makes the point that providing a uniform place for users to post their content is sufficient to build a very valuable service.

Ebird provides another example. Ebird is not commercial -- it is a citizen science site, operated by the Audubon Society and Cornell University, where bird watchers can submit their observations. Ebird gives individual bird watchers a secure, handy place to store their observations, and the collected data may be analyzed for scientific purposes, as we see in this map showing the US Osprey population:

Services which, like these, grow in value as the number of users (content contributors) grow, are said to enjoy network effects.

Can you give examples of other services that rely on users for content and enjoy network effects? Can you think of such a service that might be of value to students on our campus? To students world wide?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Clearwire, Sprint, Intel and Google shoot for mobile Internet access

We discuss mobile connectivity. Today, third generation cellular is the most common means of mobile connectivity, but wireless communication using WiMAX technology is becoming available for both fixed and mobile applications.

Sprint and Clearwire have planned WiMAX deployment for some time, but they have now formed a new company and taken in strategic partners Intel and Google. The new venture, also called Clearwire, plans to be available to between 120 and 140 million people by 2010. That is only about 40 percent of the US, but it is significant.

Intel is a leading WiMAX hardware vendor. Today's laptops usually have WiFi radios for local area connectivity, and Intel wants tomorrow's laptops to also have WiMAX chips for wide area connectivity. Google is interested in mobile computing and wants their applications, Youtube videos and ads to be on every cell phone and mobile Internet access device.

If you could get high speed mobile access using a handheld device like an Apple iPhone, what would you use it for? How much would you be willing to pay for the mobile service? Would you want your phone to be separate from your Internet access device?

Clearwire hopes to be available to 40% of the US population by 2010 -- which areas will get service first?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Abilene Christian converts to Google Apps for Education

We discuss the pros and cons of using Internet services, and have seen that several universities are using Internet services for some of their IT applications.

Abilene Christian University is a recent convert to Google Apps for Education. The "easy", "no brain" decision has saved them $100,000 per year while improving service, security and reliability. The savings came from eliminating servers and one position, but rather than cutting staff, they re-assigned the position from administrative computing to development in support of instruction.

The primary applications have been Google email, shared documents, and shared calendar. They are also pleased that the Google applications are compatible with the iPhone and iTouch Internet access devices incoming freshmen receive.

You can read more here and here or watch CIO Kevin Roberts describe their decision, the conversion process, the applications and advantages in this four minute video clip.

What are the advantages of Google's Gmail over our current campus email system? What would be the drawbacks or risks of converting to Gmail and other Google applications?