Geek events coming

Are you in Chicago on Thursday evening? They are having a TechCocktail.

On August 6th we’ll be meeting in Emigrant, Montana, for the “Off-the-Grid” campout.

Anything else geeky coming soon? BlogHer, but that’s sold out. Friends Of O’Reilly, but that’s by invitation only (I’m not). The Apple developer event is coming in August, but Patrick and I will be in Montana (no Apple stores, so the credit cards are safe, heheh).

Know of something else? Post it here. We need a geek event wiki. Google isn’t bringing anything up for me.

Lead engineer at Amazon recommends Atom over RSS

DeWitt Clinton has a long, and thoughtful, post on RSS and Atom today. If you’re a geek/developer it’s worth reading and thinking about. Thanks to Niall for linking me to it.

It’s interesting that the Atom side of the fence hasn’t done what it takes to get the world to flip over to its format: build both a publishing tool and an aggregator that demonstrates Atom’s advantages over RSS.

Users don’t care about specs, or arguments about formats. When you understand that you’ll understand how RSS got so big in the first place. Dave Winer evangelized RSS by building a publishing tool (Manila and later Radio UserLand) and an aggregator (Radio UserLand and later Share Your OPML.

Where’s the Atom publishing tool and aggregator that demonstrates Atom’s superiority?

Reading the Long Tail with the Head Tail

I just watched Italy beating Germany in the World Cup. That’s about as head of tail experience as we’ll probably have this year. What’s the global audience for that game? Big.

But, today I’m reading Chris Anderson’s new book, the Long Tail. Chris sent me a signed copy and said good luck on my new venture. So, this post was bought and paid for. I’ll give this book away too, probably at BlogHer later this month.

It was a good book for me to read at this point in my life (I just finished it, interesting read).

I’ve experienced many of his points first hand, so the book really reasonated with me. Even my own book, which is hovering around 2,400 on Amazon’s best seller list makes that point. That’s not bad, right? After all there’s millions of books.

But, that only garners a few hundred sales a month. Yes, it’s glorious but we’re not getting rich.

Turns out that the only ones who do very well in the book business are those in the head of the tail. That’s the first 100 books and, really, the first 10 books.

That said, what Chris points out in his book is that Amazon is doing pretty darn well off of books like mine. Why? Because of the aggregate of millions of books most will sell at least a few (he shows that even deep into the tail books and music still sell a few copies). The authors don’t get rich. But if you build the right kind of business you can gather a lot of value.

So, as I head into the content business I’m thinking a lot. What’s valuable today? Owning a Google keyword.

Let’s practice this and brainstorm some more about what this means for podcasting.

What opportunities are there for podcasting? Well, how about travel? Let’s pick a specific city. My favorite is Paris. How many people will fly to Paris today from all over the world? Let’s say it’s 5,000. First of all, that tells you something. It’s a micro audience.

Second, of those 5,000, how many are tourists? I’d guess 10% (the rest live there, or are going there to do business, or are regular visitors so don’t really apply to what I’m thinking here).

OK, now, why are tourists interesting podcasting consumers? Well, for one, regular media can’t reach them efficiently. Most airplanes have video screens now, but only a few channels that are recorded in advance. Only a couple of lame radio stations, also recorded in advance. JetBlue has DirectTV, true, but how many JetBlue planes go to Paris? Not many.

That leaves us with the folks who have iPods or Creative Zens or other portable media players. Some computer users too, but a 10-hour-flight isn’t exactly good for computer users cause your batteries will die.

Now, what kind of content might a tourist heading toward Paris need?

1) Overview of the city.
2) Tour of each top tourist destination. (Paris has at least 10 things you MUST see).
3) Some language skills (how to read a French menu, or how to ask for a bathroom).
4) History of each section of the city.
5) Shopping guide.
6) Restaurant guide.
7) Granular guides to subsets of the tourist destinations (there could be a video podcast on the Impressionist room at the Musee d’Orsay, for instance).
So, let’s go to Google and do a search for “Travel to Paris podcast.” Why? Cause you know that podcasts are audio shows you can put on your iPod. Your iPod has 60GB. I was asking around Gnomedex how much people had on their iPods. The average answer was 2 to 9 GB. That leaves 50GB free.

Hell, if I had an iPod and was going to Paris, and all the above were available, I’d download that AND tons of other stuff.

But it isn’t available yet. Look at the Google results, there are SOME but not many podcasts about Paris and the ones that are there aren’t ranked, put in a directory, or made easy to download and put on your iPod.
Now, there are SOME podcasts available for Paris, but not many. And if Paris doesn’t have many there’s no hope for Shanghai or Tokyo or San Francisco or Las Vegas or Moscow or London or Cape Town.

That’s where the power of the Internet will come in.

It’ll be someone who can connect subject area experts in each city (the best ones are gonna come from the Amatuer podcasting ranks, not from the pro ranks like Rick Steves, who has an awesome PBS series on traveling to Europe).

Maybe Rick will be able to do it, but I doubt it — he’d have to see the value in working with amateurs who might not have the best video or audio equipment or production values. I have a feeling it’ll be a new kind of business produced by the word-of-mouth network itself (you, if you haven’t figured that out yet).

Could we do a Travel Podcast Wiki? That might be very interesting. I wonder if Chris Pirillo and Rick Segal’s community funding ideas might help us all make a few dollars a day off of the long tail?

Oh, and don’t you DARE think there’s no money in this concept.

Restaurants, hotels, entertainment shows, and more would LOVE to spend some targetted advertising dollars on this stuff.

Anyway, there’s a lot of opportunity left in the Long Tail yet to come. Buy the Long Tail, dream a little, and blog your ideas.

Geeks’ private hells

At my party on Sunday you’d think that the crowd was the luckiest of the lucky. There were people there that had made millions of dollars and judging from the cars in my driveway there was quite a bit of wealth that walked through my door. The crowd looked happy if you just looked at it superficially.

But, if that’s all you saw you might have missed these stories. I almost did too.

As I was meeting my friends that I’d invited I’d ask “how have things been going lately?”

It’s usually a good way for partiers to tell me about how their careers have been going, or maybe bring up something personal like they have a baby on the way, etc. Usual small talk.

But one guest answered: “well, I couldn’t afford rent on my home, got kicked out, and have been living in homeless shelters for several months.” He actually started out by saying “things have been getting better” because he found a place to stay outside of the shelter world. He has a wife and cute daughter.

I suddenly felt very small as I looked over at my $4,000 HDTV.

A few minutes later some food was spilled and I really didn’t care. Thanks to that conversation I had been reminded just how lucky I was.

You might have missed another couple who was sitting in my family room with their son. He has Downs’ Syndrome. He’s 21. They’ve never been able to communicate with him. If you just met the couple I’m talking about you’d think they have the most perfect lives. They own a huge home near Bill Gates. The guy has a marvelous career (is at the top of his field in Seattle). They seem to have it all.

Yet they’d trade it all to be able to talk with their son.

Are you going through a private hell you aren’t sharing with other people? In America today is Independence Day. Why don’t you tell someone your hell and we’ll see if we can help?