The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming.

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Russia has gone from a poor country to an increasingly wealthy one. Why? Oil prices. Now that oil is sitting around $100 a barrel Russia is sitting on a gold mine. Er, oil wells. And the cash is pouring in. One problem? They need to diversify and increase the number of companies that don’t have anything to do with energy. So, they are starting up a bunch of Venture Capital efforts.

I get the skinny on all this with Yuri Ammosov, a senior policy officer of the Russian Government in charge of venture capital and high tech development programs, talks with me about how Russia is flush with cash thanks to the rising energy prices (they are one of the world’s leading oil producers) and are working with Silicon Valley venture capital firms to diversify its economy. We talk about some of the smart people and smart companies that are popping up in Russia and tons of other stuff too.

I like his honesty. He told me that being an entrepreneur in Russia today is like being an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley in the 1960s (when Silicon Valley was still largely a farm town).

Can VuVox save photojournalism?

On Friday I met one of the San Jose Mercury News’ photojournalists, Richard Hernandez. He’s worked there 13 years and showed me a project he’s worked on for the last few weeks. I shot this video with my cell phone, I’ll have a longer, more-professional interview up with both Richard and VuVox’s CEO up later this week.

This floored me as a way for photojournalists to cover news stories and other things in a new way.

What did Richard do? An interactive photocollage for today’s newspaper. Well, it’s not in the newspaper. But it goes along with an article that was done for the newspaper on one of Silicon Valley’s famous neighborhoods, Willow Glen.

This is the kind of stuff that bloggers rarely, if ever, do. It requires too much of an investment. Richard worked for a couple of weeks making images, collecting archive photos and videos and audio clips, and putting those together using VuVox‘s new unreleased photo collage software. Richard used a pre-release version of the software to create this photo collage.

So, what is it? It’s a strip of photos. You drag it back and forth with your mouse. When you see an icon or a frame on top of one of the photos you can click and play the media that’s there. Sometimes it’ll be an audio story. Sometimes it’ll be another, more detailed, picture. Sometimes it’ll be a video.

I found myself mesmerized by the ability to tell a new kind of story.

Imagine going to a fire and taking an overall image and then laying on top of that video, audio, text (links to other stories) and having a much more complete photo story there.

Or, putting up a picture of a map where something happened and then linking audio and video off of that?

Or, for me, just a new way to show you my baby pictures?

Anyway, the longer video which shows how he built this will be up later this week. Richard also said he’d love to come along on a future photowalking and teach us a few things. Can’t wait!

Will this save photojournalism? Well, I imagine that this will draw new kinds of audiences to the Mercury News’ pages. Those audiences will stick around a long time (I’ve already spent 10 minutes playing around with it this morning, and I’m not even 1/8th of the way through it all). And they’ll be likely to click on advertising experiences (none are in Richard’s work, but he showed me how he could link off to Amazon, or other eCommerce sites and get an affiliate fee. Or, advertisers could just pay to have their brand included in the photo collage.

Nice to see the San Jose Mercury News is investing in new technology. I know they are having a rough time (Richard even hinted at it in the video when he joked he still has a job) but it’s things like this that will bring audiences back to newspaper brands and will give advertisers a new thing to engage with the Mercury News’ salespeople on.

Can’t wait to try it myself.

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Amazon does yet another thing Microsoft wanted to do (my April Fools turns out to be true)

Newsweek has the scoop. I’m held by NDA until tomorrow.

But, I know that the Sony Reader was an object of Bill Gates’ attention. He wanted to do one of his own. It’s maddening to me that Microsoft hasn’t been able to turn its Tablet PC team into a team that can build a world-class device like this.

All I’ll say until tomorrow is you gotta try this device. It’s not perfect, but for long-form reading it is a wonderful device. I am going to buy one of my own. It’d really be great to have on our trip to Europe for the plane ride next month cause my Mac’s batteries only last two hours each (I have two of them) and the flight is 10 hours.

Oh, and you should go back and read my April Fool’s joke on April 1 of this year. In that joke I predicted a device that almost matches Amazon’s new reader almost word-for-word.

The comments there are HILLARIOUS to read in comparison to today’s news. Here’s some of the funnier ones:

JR writes: “This is so implausible that you should have waited a few hours to post it. That way you could at least claim it as an April Fool’s joke.”

Adrian writes: “Took me a while though, maybe halfway down the post. You should have stopped at “Much easier than going to Borders and picking up a physical copy.” Um, it IS easier to use than going down to Borders and picking up a physical copy.

Mike writes: “Nice story, Robert, but no one takes a product to Half Moon Bay to use it in sunlight.” Um, this device is the first screen I’ve used (Sony Reader uses a similar screen) that works BETTER in sunlight than in low light. And it’s sunny out in Half Moon Bay right now. It’s not ALWAYS foggy here!

Evan writes: “Man, you clearly have no idea how to tell a proper lie.” Well, that’s true cause now it’s a lot closer to reality than a made-up story.

Tom writes: “Not being an Apple fan I did not catch the little clues. But I was about to become one. If Apple is smart they’ll make this product. After all, you’ve created the demand at no cost to them.” My April Fools joke was actually a prediction that Apple would do this. Turned out that Amazon did it first and did a kick-ass job on it.

Dave writes: “I was right with you up until the “tiny balls” part.” Um, you do realize that that’s EXACTLY how the Sony and Amazon Reader’s screen works, right?

Michael writes: “Critique: I prefer a post of this genre to to hew closer to the line of plausability. This one piled the doo doo higher and higher till it collapsed of its own weight.” Heheh, well, now Michael, what do you think? Nearly everything in my April Fools’ joke came true, albeit from Amazon.

polyGeek writes: “Since Amazon almost always screws up and releases product information prematurely I’m sure they will have a purchase page for this April Fools iReader by noon today. :-)” Amazon actually was amazingly able to keep Apple-like secrecy on this project. Yeah, some pictures leaked, but not much else. There’s still some details to come tomorrow too.

Lena writes: “Chris Carfi just told me it was an April Fool’s joke. But, seriously, I want this product. I’m bummed.” Now you can have it!

Anyway, talk to you tomorrow.