Flickr Pro no longer makes me happy

:(Flickr just told me I need to extend my Pro account because it will expire soon.

I’ve been using Flickr for over 4 years now. I’ve been paying for a pro account for 2 different accounts, and was happy to do that. Flickr made me happy.

But this time it was different. I did pull out my credit card, typed in the details and hit submit. But this time, it was with a heavy heart.

Flickr no longer makes me happy.

Continue reading Flickr Pro no longer makes me happy

Of Breweries and URL Shorteneres

handsome boxesI know nearly nothing about brewing beer. But I’ve been thinking lately about “how all the major brewers responded to the influx of microbrews. They simply brewed up their own small-label brands or bought existing ones, and kept their own brand in very tiny print deep in the label where most beer drinkers can’t be bothered to look“.

Obviously, while these brands may “conceal the parent’s branding, they still benefit from its distribution network“.

So, knowing nothing about brewing beer, I turned my thoughts to the beer distribution network. Of which I also know nothing.

But one can imagine that these beer bottles are packaged into boxes, which are then loaded into trucks, which then distribute them to big and small retailers that deliver them to the end-users consumers.

Now, for the sake of the beer industry, I am hoping that these trucks that pick up the boxes and deliver them down the chain are reliable. Knowing nothing of beer distribution networks, I imagine that these trucks are owned and operated by the beer company itself, or by another reliable company with which they have a solid business relationship.

I mean, I am guessing they wouldn’t allow just anyone with a truck to just stop by the factory entrance, pick up a few boxes of beer and drive off with a vague promise to deliver them to their destination. That would’t make sense. If a beer company was to use such unreliable delivery mechanism, they might find that these truck owners went out of business, or their trucks broke down, or decided to keep the beer for themselves, or were taken over by the mafia!

I really know nothing about beer distribution. But I am guessing that if I was in the business of premium beer (or Coke?), setting up my own reliable distribution network, run by my trusted op folks, connected to my BI systems, leveraging my business relationships and assets, etc, would be high on my list.

But then, I really know nothing about brewing beer or beer distribution networks.

iXF

The end of a long day

I received a call last night from Tanya Epstein, my former colleague and mentor-in-many-ways in SmarTeam, a company I used to work for. This brought back memories from my enterprise software days, which led me to think of iXF.

iXF was one of my favorite undertakings in SmarTeam, which at that point was a subsidiary of Dassault Systemes, and now no longer is at all. In a nutshell, iXF was a data format designed for storage and exchange of structured data.

How do you represent an object in XML? There are so many to do that. How do you represent a class in XML or XML Schema? SOAP perhaps? That’s a good start. But SOAP is slightly too flexible, resulting in potential incompatibilities when trying to map it back into relational database format. How do you represent the concept of a class interface though..? How do you represent revisions to an object, revisions of classes and interfaces, and all the other goodies needed to provide full fidelity, rich and yet interoperable data model?

While expressed in XML and XML Schema (duh!), iXF went way beyond these basics and defined formal, extendible representations for many useful concepts, like:

  • Tabular data
  • Structured object oriented data
  • Schema versioning and forward compatibility
  • Object versioning and change tracking
  • Associating files with objects
  • Packaging data, metadata and extended data into a single archive format
  • And, most important, a formal extension mechanism for adding additional concepts without creating backward, forward and inter-systems compatibility issues.

Many of the concepts described in iXF were formalization of concepts we’ve implemented before, either in the series of applications based on the HADAR platform I’ve created before SmarTeam (together with Eran Tromer, Eitan Yaffe and many others), or in the incredibly flexible data model Tanya Epstein designed in SmarTeam.

Other concepts, like namespacing the class behaviors, the de-coupling of domain behaviors from class names, the change tracking mechanism and others were adapted from other domains (for example, interface declarations in programming languages), or invented specifically for iXF.

The result was an interesting beast. It was a format based on open, well defined standards (XML, XML Schema, SOAP, SOAP Messages with Attachments, XML Namespaces, MIME and ZLIB), which proved versatile enough to be used in multiple use cases, from data modeling to inter-vendor data exchange to database generation to inter-machine communication and more.

While there were a number of people signed on the iXF spec, much of the credit for in depth thinking, alignment with existing specs and creative ideas should go to a then-young software engineer named Noga Atsil.

SmarTeam no longer exists, and the original ixfstd.org web site is no longer available on the web. But being the sentimental fool that I am, I figured I’ll leave this little post behind, as a small tribute to the efforts that went into this work.

The original iXF 1.0 specifications (later revisions existed but are not salvageable anymore).

Exercising my right to change my mind

So, it’s been 3 months since I’ve decided to stop following Dave Winer.

It wasn’t easy to keep to my word, since given my areas of interest, it’s nearly impossible not to run into Dave’s writing. Plus his response was a classy example of how to respond to an unfollow :)

Today I am giving up. It was Dave’s post from yesterday, “Gartner’s curve”, that finally broke down my resistance. It was simply too good – the most pragmatic, down to earth, unhyped description of what happened so far, what’s happening right now, and what will have to happen next.

I am once again following Dave Winer. His thoughts and opinions are obviously too valuable to ignore.

@Twitter: Can I has a “follow unless there is a war in the middle east” button?

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Internet & Mobile Bootcamp @ Tel Aviv

The Bootcamp folks are holding a – surprise – Bootcamp in Tel Aviv on March 16. If you’re a startup looking for useful feedback and / or funding opportunities, be sure to check it out. I participated as a “Drill Sergeant” (their term, not mine…) on the panel in the November event in Herzeliya and found it to be a fast paced, effective format.

The format:

    • 30 Second Elevator Pitch
    • 8 Minute Investor Presentation
    • Network with targeted c-level investors in an intimate & interactive environment
    • Receive on-the-spot feedback from leading angels, under-the radar-funds and venture capitalists from the US, Israel and Europe

The panelists on the March Bootcamp are Arik Czerniak, Yaron Samid, and Eilon Tirosh, so it should be interesting and useful.

More details and application form here.

Tin Foil Hat For Your Media Center

So, I finally got the living room “media center” working again.

The setup is really cool now. We have 2 set-top satellite boxes hooked up (yes, 2. don’t ask.), one goes directly to the TV and the other one hooked through an infrared blaster to the HTPC running Vista with the Windows Media Center.

(And yes, I will ignore any comment about how bad Vista or Windows Media Center are, and recommending that I switch to Ubuntu with XBMC. Mentioning Boxee is ok though).

And so, when she couldn’t watch Desperate Housewives “live”, I told her with great confidence – hey, what’s the problem, you can simply *record* it.

Only a day later did we discover that despite contrary claims made with a piece of duct tape, switching channels using the remote control for set-top #1 is also switching channels in set-top #2 – the one hooked up to the media center. The one that was recording Desperate Housewives. Oops.

So, how does one make sure that the remote control only affects set-top #1, and the IR Blaster affects only set-top #2?

Initially I figured that if duct tape didn’t do the trick, what I need to do is to apply more duct tape. I quickly found out that I own a remote control on steroids – one that can penetrate through any number of layers of duct tape:

v1

If duct tape isn’t enough, I figured, then the solution is obvious. I need to add cardboard to the equation. I cut out a piece of thin cardboard and attached it (using duct tape of course) over the IR sensor area.

Alas, my super-remote-control blasted its powerful infrared ray through the cardboard and into the sensor.

Now, given the stakes at hand, I knew this is a battle that must be won, regardless of the casualties. And so I set out to build the ultimate IR defense system, made of lots of duct tape and lots of cardboard:

v2-front

The ray still went through. But now not only my wife, but also my 7th months old daughter was looking at me with a puzzled look. Failure was not an option. So I added more cardboard:

v3-back

And still it went through.

Suddenly, failure *was* an option.

And then it hit me. If tin foil hats are powerful enough to stop aliens from peeking into our brain, they must be able powerful enough to stop the super powerful infrared ray! And so I set out to build a tin foil hat that will, at the same time, encapsulate the IR blaster and protect the IR sensor from the evil bionic remote control infrared ray:

v4-back

Phew. This actually worked.

v4-final

The lesson? Tin Foil Hats are a must for early adapters. Who knows when you’ll need protection from an extra strong evil infrared ray.

Who knows, maybe I am just an innovator and soon enough every house hold will have its own anti-infrared-set-top-tin-foil-hat!

EVM 2009

EVM - European Venture Market

Esther Loewy from Bootcamp Ventures reached out to me and shared the details on the European Venture Market event. It will take place on 19-20 May in Berlin. Esther says that the event generated over 25 deals in 2008.

I’ve participated as a panelist in the November Bootcamp Ventures forum in Herzeliya, and found the format to be interesting and effective. You may want to check out the Berlin event.

For more details:

White as a colour

Photographers for …
By Sophie Addison

Sophie Addison sent me a note to let me know that her “White as a colour” book is out, and that one of my photos is included in it.

Sophie was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis a few years ago, and this book is one of the many ways in which she’s fighting it.

All proceeds from the sale of this book go to Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

Sophie, thanks for giving me an opportunity to help!

Pretty CoolFlick and Flickriver’s soul

Hokusai drowning the deaf

Just added the CooFlick embed (found through ReadWriteWeb) to my photography page.

CoolFlick looks great (just like its parent service, Cooliris). And while it may not be immediately obvious, it’s possible to get it to embed the Flickr stream of a specific user or even a specific set.

To embed a specific user photostream, use http://www.coolflick.org/index.php?user=flickr-user-id (e.g. http://www.coolflick.org/index.php?user=17796222@N00). If you’re not sure what’s your Flickr User Id, you can use idGettr etc.

To embed a specific set, use http://www.coolflick.org/index.php?set=flickr-set-id (e.g. http://www.coolflick.org/index.php?set=72157606799413297). The Set ID is the number at the end of your set URL (e.g. http://www.flickr.com/photos/yanivg/sets/72157606799413297/).

However, speaking of copyright, there is no obvious way to navigate from the CoolFlick version of a photo to the original version on Flickr, which goes specifically against the Flickr Community Guidelines. This is not cool, specifically from a service that obviously refers to Flickr in the service name.

Contrast that with Alex Sirota’s wonderful Flickriver, which goes to great pain to play nice with Flickr, including clear links back to the original entity for each and every entity (user, image, set, …), and a 1-1 correspondence between Flickr URLs and Flickriver URLs – basically, take a Flickr URL, change flickr -> flickriver, and you get the corresponding Flickriver URL.

CoolFlick may look good, but it’s these little things that give such a service a “soul”. Flickriver has a soul behind it, while CoolFlick, at this point, is just a pretty face.

I will promote Flickriver whenever I get a chance, but will ditch CoolFlick for a prettier face when an opportunity arrives.

SocComm ’09

SocComm09 Jeff Pulver is well known for his keen interest in social communication. He’s spending a lot of time and energy thinking and re-thinking the new rules for the this still-new frontier of human communication.

Jeff is often hosting “breakfasts” and other events designed to tie the offline social and professional networking world with the online social communication world. These events are often experimental in nature, attempting to merge online and offline behaviors and conventions.

Jeff is now taking his interest in this to a new level by hosting SocComm ’09 – the social communications summit. It will take place on Feb 10th in NYC. Take a look at the agenda, looks interesting!

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